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Palay, corn prices up in end Feb By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 


MANILA, Philippines - The average farmgate prices of palay (unhusked rice) and white corn grain rose in the last week of February and first week of March, while farmgate prices of yellow corn grain fell, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS). In its latest commodity price report released late Friday, BAS said the average farmgate price of palay rose to P19.56 per kilogram (kg) from Feb. 26 to March 4, up 1.77 percent from the previous week’s level and 21. 34 percent from the same period last year. The average price of white corn grain rose 1.61 percent week-on-week during the reference period to P15.13 per kg. A price decrease of 7.41 percent was noted from the same period last year. Farmgate prices of yellow corn grain quoted at P12 per kg fell 0.58 percent from the previous week but was higher by 0.67 percent from last year. Price gains were also noted in the average wholesale and retail prices of well-milled rice during the reference period. The average wholesale price of well-milled rice at P38.27 per kg during the reference period rose 0.84 percent week-on-week and 16.50 percent year-on-year. The average retail price of well-milled rice quoted at P40.63 per kg rose 0.64 percent week-onweek and 15.03 percent year-on-year. Upward movements were also noted for both wholesale and retail prices of regular milled rice. Wholesale price of P35.58 per kg rose 1.51 percent from the previous week and 19.88 percent from the previous year.

Retail price of P37.38 per kg was up 0.73 percent from the previous week and 16.70 percent from the previous year. Both wholesale and retail price of yellow corn grain fell during the reference period. The average wholesale price of P16.36 per kg was down 1.09 percent week-on-week but was higher 4.07 percent from the same period last year. Retail price of P21.96 per kg was lower 0.68 percent last week and 1.39 percent year-on-year. The average wholesale and retail prices of white corn grain during the reference period, meanwhile, remained constant from the previous week’s and last year’s quotations at P15.78 per kg.

De Lima hits NFA rice import policy By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has confirmed taking a position against the policy of the Department of Agriculture (DA) on rice importation. De Lima admitted there has been a leak of a letter she sent to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala where she stated that the government’s quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice importation under World Trade Organization (WTO) agreement are still binding. “It was just a letter and not a legal opinion,” she said. De Lima, however, expressed dismay over how the supposedly confidential letter was leaked to the media. In the 12-page letter last December but which was only reported last month, De Lima said the National Food Authority (NFA) has no power to extend the imposition of QR following the expiration of government’s commitment to the World Trade Organization-General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (WTO-GATT) in June 2012. She explained that while the agreement already expired, it had provisions saying extension of the QR on agricultural products “shall only be by agreement after the conduct of negotiations.” De Lima believes such provisions are binding. “To renege on this agreement, consent to which was manifested by the act of both the President and the Senate in accordance with the Philippine Constitution, is beyond the power of a mere implementing agency like the NFA, which must exercise its rule-making and regulatory powers in accordance with, and not contrary to, applicable laws,” read the opinion issued upon request of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala. “The WTO provisions on the lifting of QRs as well as their exceptions, and the provisions on negotiations for its extension are already effective and should be complied with. It is not for

nothing that the Philippine government gave its consent to the WTO agreement,” added the DOJ opinion. De Lima said the government is presently negotiating for the extension of the QR to 2017. “There is thus no existing agreement to extend such authority (or, more accurately, grant a new one since the first one had already lapsed), the Philippine government should honor and implement the effect of the expiration of the period granted to it, under the principle of pacta sunt servanda (agreements must be kept),” she stressed. The DOJ legal opinion, however, was not made public yet as De Lima said they would issue a more definitive legal opinion after considering varying interpretations. Charges against judges The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (SINAG), an umbrella organization of 33 federations and organizations of various sectors of the agriculture industry, filed last Friday four separate administrative cases against three judges before the Supreme Court for knowingly rendering unjust judgment involving seized rice shipments. SINAG chairman Rosendo So filed one case each against Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. of the Regional Trial Court National Capital Judicial Region Branch 11, Manila, Judge Eutiquio Quitain of RTC-Region IV, Branch 5, Lemery, Batangas and two separate cases against Judge Maria Paz Reyes-Yson, RTC National Capital Judicial Region-Branch 54 Manila. The complaints were received last March 7 by the Office of the Court Administrator Docket and Clearance Division, copies of which were furnished The STAR. The issue against Jurado emanated when the District Collector of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the Port of Manila seized the rice shipment in 480 shipping containers owned by Danilo G. Galang who is conducting business under the firm Hildegard Grains Enterprises. Quitain’s case started when the district collector of the Bureau of Customs for the Port of Batangas seized the rice shipments of Ivy Souza who was using Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise. Reyes-Yson’s case started when the BOC in the Port of Manila seized the rice shipments of Starcraft International Trading Corp., represented by Eugene Pioquinto. Another case also involved the rice shipments of Marvin Mendoza under the name Silent Royalty Marketing. SINAG said in its complaints that the BOC refused to release the rice shipments considering that the importation was made without permits from the NFA.

Onion farmers smell stench of smugglers GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

Onion growers are crying for swift government intervention. The crop price has dropped by as much as 60 percent in only one week. It’s harvest season, but the growers can’t sell their produce. Warehouses are bursting in the seams, piled high with hundreds of thousand sacks of smuggled onions. Price monitoring by the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura (Sinag) confirms the growers’ crisis. Farm gate rate of white onion has dropped from P25 a kilo to less than P10, and red onion from P40 to P18. Thousands of farmers in Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, and the Ilocos region are worst hit. Consumers are happy, but it can’t be for long. Prices will rise again after the smugglers buy up and hoard the cheap domestic onion, and the disheartened farmers switch to other crops. “We’ve only started to harvest, yet the bodegas already are full,” notes Berting Dimalanta, an onion planter in Bayambang, Pangasinan, and one of Sinag’s founders. “With hardly any buyers, we are forced to sell at loss.” Close to 400,000 bags, or 8.8 million kilos of white onion were sneaked into the country last September to December, Sinag says. Most reportedly came from New Zealand and The Netherlands. This is not the first time that onion farmers have been hurt by smuggling right during harvest time. In the late 1990s the Philippines became China’s dumping ground. The newborn domestic onion industry nearly collapsed, as Nueva Ecija farmers quit the crop en masse. The industry is only now reviving, but smuggling will kick it back down. The modus operandi is the same then and now, sources reveal. Smugglers get past bribed Customs men, with contraband unexamined by food safety inspectors. High in chemical fertilizer and pesticide, the smuggled stuff is risky for consumers, Sinag warns. “What will farmers do with their surplus harvest of onion?” wonders Rosendo So, Sinag chairman and former sectoral congressman. “What happened to those court cases filed by the Customs before against onion smugglers?” Best to have a Senate inquiry on the matter, like in rice smuggling, Dimalanta adds, for it’s the only thing that prods the authorities to act.

By Sinag’s calculations, the smuggled onion is a fifth of the annual domestic produce of 44,000 metric tons, or 44 million kilos. *



Ex-Speaker Arnulfo Fuentebella says he’s being blamed for his bitter political rival L-Ray Villafuerte’s legal woes. That’s why the latter, a former governor of Camarines Sur, keeps raking up in public raps that he can’t prove in court. So reacts Fuentebella to an item about them in last Friday’s Gotcha. Villafuerte had filed a supplemental complaint to an earlier plunder case against Fuentebella, and his politician-wife and sons. It’s Villafuerte who should be preparing for court defense instead of looking for scapegoats, Fuentebella says. The Sandiganbayan ordered Villafuerte’s arrest last month for three counts of non-bailable plunder. Fuentebella says he had no hand in the order, as it stemmed from the Ombudsman’s indicting of Villafuerte on the strength of evidence. Villafuerte had lost in the May 2013 congressional race in his district, while Fuentebella won in the adjacent “Partido district.” The case against Villafuerte concerns, among others, P22 million in ghost purchase of fuel by the provincial capitol during his governorship,. Other materials worth tens of millions more allegedly were procured without public bidding. Camarines constituents had filed the raps. The charge against the Fuentebellas was by Villafuerte no less. It concerns the diversion of P80 million in pork barrel and public works funds into a family resort in 2011. Fuentebella at the time was congressman, the wife and a son were mayors of adjoining towns, and another son the head of the state-owned Partido Development Authority. Fuentebella’s creation as Speaker, the PDA is unique as a national government corporation that exists solely for one congressional district, the Fuentebellas’. Villafuerte says it is the source of corruption for the family that has been in political power for a century in the poor district. Fuentebella says the PDA’s mission is to improve health, energy, water, education, agriculture, livelihood, and infrastructures. Its most significant work is the construction of a district-wide modern potable water system. Funded by an interest-free Danish government loan, the waterworks serve 16,800 households in the Partido area. Before that, Fuentebella says, only 3,300 homes had water connection. Three Camarines local officials are seeking the PDA’s inclusion among a dozen government corporations to be abolished for complicity in the P10-billion pork barrel scam. Last year a House bill proposed to decommission the PDA and 34 more “non-performing” firms. Political horse-trading supposedly has since halved the number, and the PDA no longer is in the list.

A lawyer of Fuentebella counters: “The PDA is such a success that so many lawmakers have tried to replicate it for their locales. They have tried to enact a district planning and development agency, yet many find themselves still trying.� *



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De Lima advised Alcala to honor PHL’s commitment on rice QR Category: Economy 09 Mar 2014 Written by Joel R. San Juan JUSTICE Secretary Leila de Lima has admitted issuing a confidential 12-page document addressed to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, which contradicts his position that the National Food Authority (NFA) can still impose the Word Trade Organization (WTO) quantitative restrictions (QR) scheme on rice importations despite its lapse in June 2012. However, in an interview this week, de Lima clarified that she “only sent a letter and not a legal opinion.” The “letter,” marked “confidential,” was dated December 16, 2013, and addressed to Alcala. This is in response to Alcala’s “request for opinion” on whether or not the expired QR can still be enforced by the government through the Department of Agriculture and the NFA. In the said document, de Lima said the Department of Justice (DOJ) believes that the lifting of the WTO’s QR should be observed. “Therefore, it is our opinion that the WTO provisions on the lifting of QR, as well as their exceptions, and the provisions on negotiations for its extension are already Effective and should be complied with,” de Lima said. The WTO first granted the Philippines a 10-year “special treatment” for rice starting in 1995. Prior to its 2005 expiration, an extension was negotiated and granted in 2004. The said extension lapsed on June 30, 2012. Even before the current negotiations for a second extension until 2017 were launched, the country had been denied twice on its appeals for postponement of the special treatment’s expiration. De Lima’s letter was not made public as she said they would issue a more “definitive legal opinion” after considering “varying interpretations.” Stakeholders in the rice industry have been waiting for the legal opinion of the DOJ on the matter, which, they said, would serve as a guide for the courts in resolving petitions for injunction filed by rice importers. “Since the Philippines’s request for the extension of its QR on rice until 2017 is still pending, and there is thus no existing agreement to ‘extend’ such authority [or more accurately, grant a new one since the first one had already lapsed], the Philippines’s government should honor and implement the effect of the expiration of the period granted to it...” she wrote.

However, Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza took a different stand on the issue when it filed a petition before the Supreme Court seeking to stop a Davao court from enforcing the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction it earlier issued ordering the Bureau of Customs to release rice imports it earlier seized due to lack import permits. Jardeleza insisted that the authority of the NFA to require import permits for rice importations did not cease upon the expiration of the special treatment. "With the ongoing negotiations for a waiver, there is effectively acquiescence by interested WTO member-countries to the continued imposition of quantitative restrictions on rice by the Philippines,� the petitioners stressed.

BAR says 11,000 agri-workers in communitybased research Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega THE Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR) announced on Sunday that its Community-based Participatory Action Research (CPAR) program has benefited 11,291 agriculture workers. In a statement issued on March 9, the BAR said these project participants represent 549 sites across the country as of end-December 2013. Of these project sites, 200 focus on agriculture, while the remaining are on fisheries, the BAR said in a statement. It added: “To date, 11,291 farmers have benefited from CPAR, consisting of 6,005 farmercooperators, who are directly involved in the project, and 5,286 farmer-adopters who have embraced the technology introduced to their localities through CPAR.” The BAR explained that the CPAR “targets the development of a modernized agriculture and fisheries through efficient and effective community-based R&D systems [sic].” “It highlights the participatory nature of research and development [R&D] and technology demonstration and adoption that are responsive to the specific needs of farming and fishing communities. Together with an identified team of researchers, CPAR gathers the community members and enables them to decide and act on their needs identified through a participatory method.” The BAR added that the community will validate the type of intervention once it is determined for possible wide-scale adoption. “In CPAR, specific technologies and interventions are being introduced and taught to the farmerbeneficiaries, particularly, in applying effective total farm productivity within the context of a sustainable production and farming system approach,” BAR Director Nicomedes P. Eleazar was quoted in the statement as saying. “Through this initiative, farmers are able to optimize the use of their lands and ensure available and affordable food for the family through the integration of crops, livestock and aquaculture production into the farming system,” Eleazar added. The BAR cited successful CPAR projects include the Cagayan Valley’s Peanut MAGIC, which uses the CPAR approach toward enhanced productivity in cereal-based areas in the region.

Maria Israel, a farmer-cooperator from one of the project sites in Peñablanca, Isabela, was quoted in the statement as saying she was able to harvest 2,266 kilograms of peanut per hectare. She said that before, she was only able to harvest nearly three times less than that, or 850 kilograms per hectare. “I didn’t think yields would grow at low production cost,” Israel was quoted as saying in Filipino. According to Rose Mary Aquino of the Cagayan Valley Integrated Agricultural Research Center, the farmer-cooperators from the rest of the four project sites have also demonstrated good results. “Peanut MAGIC,” according to the BAR, was launched in the province in April last year. To date, the project is being sustained through collaborations and expansion among peanutgrowing regions outside Cagayan Valley, the BAR said. Alladin S. Diega‐commodities/28698‐bar‐says‐11‐000‐ agri‐workers‐in‐community‐based‐research                           

Microhydro plant from irrigation to supply electricity to a municipality in Isabela Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega

A microhydro project at the Lateral B Canal of Magat River Integrated Irrigation System (MARIIS) in Barangay San Marcos in San Mateo, Isabela, is set to supply electricity for some 500 households in Barangay San Marcos and nearby Barangay Villafuerte, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). A first in the country and to be completed in November of this year, the project will serve as a pilot for soon-to-be-undertaken DA-National Irrigation Administration (NIA) minihydro water projects, the DA said over the weekend. Funded through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), the project is being jointly undertaken by DA-attached agency NIA and the Department of Energy (DOE). According to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, the project “is an effort of the government to augment the high cost of electricity and insufficient power supply, under the convergence program, which usually consists of two and more government agencies working for a particular program of the government.” In an energy forum hosted by Shell company last month, Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho L. Petilla said that alternative power-generation sources are part of the energy road map of the government, including renewable energy. The hydroelectric power using irrigation water to be hosted by a small farming community in Isabela, Cagayan Valley, is expected to generate 45 kilowatts of power, which is equivalent to 236,000 kilowatt hours (KWh) annually. Petilla was quoted as saying that the plant will be a run-off river power generation using two Japanese-made turbines to be installed in the irrigation canal, “demonstrating the viability of sourcing hydropower from low-head irrigation canals commonly found throughout the country.”

“We will be able to see how water used in irrigation will be utilized for energy,” Alcala said in vernacular during the same forum, and added that as hydro remains one of the cheapest source of energy, the project would be a great help to boost the already limited supply of electricity. Under the project’s participatory concept, farmer-members of MARIIS cooperative will ultimately manage the facility, and the members can use their earnings from power generation to purchase new farm equipment and other production inputs so they become more productive and earn more, Alcala said on March 8. NIA official Claro Maranan said late Friday that besides MARIIS, there are 147 other sites nationwide the agency initially identified as possible location for minihydro dams. All together, these can generate an estimated 28 megawatts of electricity, Maranan said at the launching ceremony held last week. “These projects will be undertaken through joint venture agreements with both local and foreign investors, possibly Koreans, Germans and the Chinese, with whom NIA has been talking to,” Maranan said, adding that within MARIIS itself, the NIA is looking at developing 17 more potential sites. Microhydro power plants are those generating less than 100 kilowatts of electricity, according to documents from the energy department. The DOE documents said that by way of comparison, a minihydro plant generates about a megawatt, or 10 times as much energy as the biggest microhydro power plant. In 2012 DA-NIA announced its intention to establish minihydro power plants at major irrigation facilities all over the country, in a bid maximize the use of water resources before reaching the farmlands. Facilities such as that will also give highland farmers the opportunity to avail themselves not only affordable electricity but also reliable irrigation and potable water supply. Alladin S. Diega

In Photo: Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala (left) leads the groundbreaking ceremony of the minihydro power plant project at San Mateo, Isabela, on March 7. With Alcala were (from left)) Hiroshi Kobayashi, project engineer and consultant of the Japan International Cooperation Agency; Claro V. Maranan of the National Irrigation Administration; and San Mateo, Isabela, Mayor Crispina R. Agcaoili. (Photo courtesy of the Department of Agriculture)‐commodities/28697‐microhydro‐plant‐ from‐irrigation‐to‐supply‐electricity‐to‐a‐municipality‐in‐isabela     

United Nations calls for more investments in rural areas Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega THE United Nations (UN) calls on the governments to maintain the balance in allowing businesses to produce wealth by engaging in agribusiness, and the fundamental rights of the small-scale farmers and their communities. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Director General Graziano da Silva asked the international community for commitments to encourage more investment in the rural areas, and policies that will protect the interest of the small-scale farmers and fishermen. The UN high-ranking officials announced their appeals to win the fight against hunger during the celebration of the International Year of Family Farming in Budapest, last week. Ban said the international year of family farming being celebrated this year calls “for commitments” in a message relayed by Graziano da Silva to the Global Forum and Expo on Family Farming in Budapest. “Governments can empower family farmers, especially women and youth, by creating policies conducive to equitable and sustainable rural development,” Ban said in the statement, adding that the proposed development includes better infrastructure to reduce the amount of food lost after harvest when small-scale producers are unable to store, process and transport their goods. The UN chief also encouraged public and private lenders to provide vital financial services such as credit and insurance, and warned that small-scale family farmers are particularly vulnerable to climate-change events such as extreme weather, droughts and floods. Da Silva underlined that family farmers, fishermen, forest-dependent people, pastoralists and traditional and indigenous communities are key for food security in most countries but, at the same time, are among the world’s most vulnerable populations, during the forum. A recent study conducted in 93 countries shows that family farms account for over 90 percent of all farm holdings, da Silva said, adding that family farmers also manage most of the world’s farmland, including 63 percent in Europe. “Apart from producing a high proportion of the food we eat, family farmers are by far the biggest source of employment in the world, and serve also as the guardians of the world’s agrobiodiversity and natural resources,” Ban also said in the statement.

The FAO chief also underlined the importance of protecting family farmers from rising threats to their traditional access to land posed by insecurity and land-grabbing. “The Committee on World Food Security’s approved Voluntary Guidelines on the Responsible Governance of Tenure, as well as its Principles on Responsible Agricultural Investments, currently being negotiated are of great importance to keep these threats in check,” he said. Saying that large private-sector investments in agriculture exist and will continue, whether we like it or not, the FAO chief also explained that “it is paramount that there is a common understanding on how to invest in ways that are sustainable and protect the rights of family farmers and poor communities.” Meanwhile, there is an emerging concept in developing countries to develop the livelihood of small-scale and traditional farmers under the so-called Blue revolution in agriculture. Sjarifudin Baharsjah, an economist and former agriculture minister who played a key role in advancing agricultural and rural development in Indonesia said that there is need for the agriculture sector in Southeast Asia to undergo a Blue revolution, citing the experience in his country. In a lecture early this year, Baharsjah, called on the need for a new agricultural policy that takes into account availability of natural resources and best agricultural practices, and to turn back to farmers as change agents to achieve agricultural success. Alladin S. Diega‐commodities/28696‐united‐nations‐ calls‐for‐more‐investments‐in‐rural‐areas                     

Crackdown on rice smuggling to benefit farmers  (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Putting an end to rice smuggling would directly benefit at least 18,391 farmers, and millions of poor consumers who would have more to buy from the National Food Authority at the current price of P27 per kilo as against the prevailing annual average retail price of P36.74 for the regular milled. This assessment was made by Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala in endorsing to the Senate the position of the NFA against rice smuggling. In a letter to Senate Agriculture and Food Committee chair Cynthia Villar, Alcala said that the P8 billion funds lost to smuggling yearly could be given to the NFA for the procurement of an additional 459,770 metric tons from 18,391 individual farmers at the current buying price of P17.40/kg inclusive of incentive, enabling them to benefit from the P2.7 million net profit. Consumers would also gain net savings of some P2.9 billion from the consequently more affordable and available NFA rice at P27/kg compared to the retail market’s P36.75/kg annual average price.At the same time, the NFA would realize interest savings of about P380 million, if it would borrow the P8 billion.The country reportedly lost between P8.4 billion to P10 billion in forgone revenues in 2012 due to rampant rice smuggling involving some 800,000 to one million metric tons.The amount was assessed from the base rate of P21/kilo of rice and the current duty of 50 percent for imported rice without a permit from the NFA. This development stemmed from the Senate inquiry into rice smuggling allegedly perpetrated and controlled by suspected “rice smuggling king” Davidson Bangayan alias David Tan. Bangayan was pinpointed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the one in control of rice smuggling nationwide. “His (Bangayan’s) face is all over town. Everybody knows him. He is a central figure in rice smuggling in this country. Anyone who wants to import rice, they go to David Tan. He has the line to Customs. He has a line to everyone. He is the real financier. So everybody who wants to import rice will have to go to him. He has the stranglehold (on rice importation). That’s why his name keeps surfacing – David Tan, David Tan. There are three David Tans. He is the only one. He is the central figure. Everyone, here in Manila, maybe Davao, if you want to go into the rice business, you go to him. You pay,” Duterte said.

VSU improves ‘ube’ production using micropropagation Category: Agri-Commodities 09 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent AGRICULTURISTS at the Visayas State University (VSU) announced on Saturday they have improved the production and availability of yam tubers as a source of food and planting materials even during off-season by resorting to tissue culture. Locally known as ube, the purple yam (Dioscoreaalata L.), is a high-value crop given its export potential and the various locally processed products that can be made out of it. “At present, there is a high market demand for the purple yam, whether domestic or for export. However, the production of yam is very seasonal, usually once a year,” Villaluz Acedo of the Philippine Root Crops Research and Training Center (PhilRootcrops) said on March 8. It is in a fertile area in Baybay City, Leyte, where the PhilRootcrops-VSU initiated a project titled “Improvement of Yam Production System through Tissue Culture Derived Plantlets and Microtubers and Breaking Tuber Dormancy for Continuous Production of Planting Materials.” The project, according to Acedo, was funded under the Department of Agriculture-High Value Crops Development Program through the Bureau of Agricultural Research. The project was successful in mass producing viable plantlets using tissue culture techniques, by breaking the tuber dormancy which normally lasts for three to four months after the tubers were harvested, Acedo was quoted in a statement as saying. Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reveals a declining trend in ube production where the production of 30,074 metric tons in 2006 dramatically decreased to just 15,799 metric tons in 2012. Few years ago, Catholic nuns from the Good Shepherd Convent in Baguio City have started to look for alternative sources for yam, to sustain the material need for their well-known halayang ube. “This is attributed to the highly seasonal nature of production mainly due to tuber dormancy. The tubers cannot be germinated immediately after harvest due to dormancy,” Acedo explained. The requirement for planting material also results to less volume of tubers in the supply chain and therefore contributes to the limited supply for domestic and export markets, Acedo said adding that “with conventional planting, farmers usually reserve 20 to 40 percent of their harvest to be used as planting materials for the next season.”

“With the tissue culture protocol that we have developed earlier, large volumes of planting materials which can be made available any time of the year, is capable of producing plantlets in two weeks ready for potting out and subsequent hardening prior to planting in the field,” Acedo said. He added that the technique is effective in removing disease-causing microorganisms, which results in clean planting materials. From years of field trials, the tissue-cultured plantlets yielded only an average of 600 grams of tubers per plant, mainly due to the absence of tuber piece in the plantlet similar in the conventional planting materials, which is normally 150 to 200 grams per tuber piece or sett, which serve as food reserve to support growth of the developing sprouts. Recent commercial planting trials by farmers in Davao and General Santos City using tissuecultured plantlets as starting planting materials revealed better-than-average yields increase, ranging from 1.5 to 2 kilogram (kg) per plant, Acedo said. The researcher added that trials are now being undertaken to increase the survival of tissue-cultured plantlets in the field as part of the project. He explained that through the micropropagation technology, they further found out that microtubers can be produced by plantlets maintained in vitro (an artificial environment outside the living organism). One plantlet can produce several microtubers, which can serve as both a source of micropropagules and as initial planting materials for field planting, Acedo said. “The presence of even a small tuber piece in the planting material produced through this method is thought to increase field survival of tissue-cultured plantlets.” According to Acedo, an important component of the project is the improvement of techniques for breaking the dormancy of ube to enable planting at any given month and thus spread ube production throughout the year. This is an alternative to the traditional growing season from June (field planting) to December (harvesting). “With the breaking of tuber dormancy, yam can be planted any time of the year. Thus, production can be programmed depending on the market demand,” the project leader said. In the experiment, 8 to 10 grams tuber setts (minislices) of purple yam variety “VU2” were subjected to certain treatments right after harvest when they were supposed to be dormant. Initial results show 80-percent to 100-percent germination after using the treatments. The minislices can be treated right after harvest and can be planted the next month. First-generation yield of 500 grams of tubers can produce a minimum of 50 planting materials, instead of only 2-5 through the conventional method.

Medical food, supplement tested for dementias YOUR DOSE OF MEDICINE By Charles C. Chante, MD (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 9, 2014 ‐  12:00am 

Medical foods and supplements designed to support neural health and function may soon expand treatment options for common forms of dementia based on the results of two studies. In the first trial, Souvenir II, The VU University Medical Center in Amsterdam, and colleagues studied 259 patients from multiple centers in Europe who had mild Alzheimer’s disease, with mini-mental State Examination (MMSE) score of 25 or greater. Patients were randomized evenly to receive Souvenaid (125 Ml orally once a day) or a control drink for the first 24 weeks. Souvenaid contains special formulation of omega-3 and a -6 fatty acids, Choline, Phospolipids, B vitamins, and antioxidants designed to promote the formation and function of synapses. “Synapse dysfunction is . . . critical to causing symptoms in Alzheimer’s disease. It’s not the amyloid load that causes memory problems — it’s the loss of synapses and the loss of neurons that do so.” In a subsequent 24-week extension period, all patients received souvenaid. Rates of serious adverse events did not differ between groups, and there were no new safety signals during the extension period. At 24 weeks, patients in the souvenaid group had a significantly greater improvement from baseline in z scores for the neuropsychological Test Battery memory domain (P=.023) and marginally better total composite scores (P=.053), as recently published. In additional results, there was a significant improvement between 24 and 48 weeks in the z score for the memory domain of the neuropsychological Test Battery among both patients who started and continued on souvenaid and patients who started on the control drink and switched to souvenaid. The effect size in the study was 0.21, “exactly on the order of the cholinesterase inhibitors.” Citicoline for vascular MCI In the second trial, known as IDEALE, a geriatrician with the ambulatory Center for Dementia in Cantanzaro, Italy, and his colleagues enrolled 349 patients in Italy, at least 65 years of age who

had evidence of vascular lesions on neuroradiologic imaging, and either an MMSE score of at least 21 or subjective memory complaints. The patients were assigned in a 3:1 ratio to open-label treatment with citicoline (500 mg twice a day) or a control condition (no treatment). “Citicoline has number of different properties.” “For example, it inhibits apoptosis associated with cerebral ischemia. And it’s able to inhibit several models of neurodegeneration. It’s able to potentiate neuroplasticity. And it is a natural precursor of phospholipid synthesis.” Trial results showed a nonsignificant increase in MMSE scores over 6 months in the citicoline group (from 21.5 to 19.6) scores differed significant between groups at 3 months and at 6 months.

DAR to validate IPs to determine legitimacy of CLOA cancellations Category: Nation 09 Mar 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga THE Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) will conduct a comprehensive validation of individual B’laan tribe members within the mining tenement of Sagittarius Mines Inc. in South Cotabato in connection with a petition for the cancellation of Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOAs) issued to five groups of beneficiaries under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). Agrarian Reform Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said the validation will be “wide ranging” and will be “a long process.” Parungao said Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes deemed the conduct of a comprehensive validation of individual indigenous peoples (IPs) in the area a must to arrive at a just decision. The DAR was already in the process of reviewing a draft resolution on the petition for cancellation of the CLOAs but in the course of the review of the case, the DAR chief determined that on-site validation would be necessary, he said. “To arrive at a just decision, there is a need to validate the situation of each IP concerned whose titles may be canceled. Marami-rami sila. The NCIP is considering joining us,” he said. NCIP stands for the National Commission for Indigenous Peoples which has mandate and jurisdiction over IP issues and concerns. An activity proposal and budget is currently being prepared by the DAR as part of the plan, he said. Parungao said a joint activity by the DAR and NCIP is also practical to save costs and speed up the process. “It will mean savings in terms of resources and time. Otherwise, gagastos din sila for the same activity,” he said. He said the suggestion to join the DAR was relayed by the NCIP. “We are currently studying if it is feasible,” he said, adding that other than expediting the process, a joint DAR-NCIP activity may strengthen the resolution whether to grant or deny the petition.

The petition for cancellation of the CLOAs was filed on September 7, 2011, by the Danlag Tribal Council led by Dalena M. Samling, also the tribal chieftain leader and one of the leaders of the collective CLOA holders. The petitioners said the lands covered by the CLOAs are exempt from CARP coverage on the grounds that the lands are more than 18-percent slope; the lands are timberland; and they are the ancestral domain of the petitioners. The DAR had issued a total of five collective CLOAs involving properties within the mining tenement in May and July 2008. Based on SMI’s letter to then-Environment Secretary Lito Atienza dated September 26, 2008, these CLOAs were issued to the groups of Ric A. Magbanua with 343 beneficiaries; Pruto M. Sebua with 196 beneficiaries; Samling with 118 beneficaries; Gloria Magbanua with 491 beneficaries; and Redgelito E. Restura Sr. with 297 beneficiaries. All five collective CLOAs cover around 3,921 hectares in five different barangays in Tampakan, South Cotabato, the area where SMI intends to operate its open-pit mine to extract copper and gold ores. Except that of Samling and his group, all sought their CLOAs to be canceled, covering an aggregate area of 3,078 hectares. The existence of CLOAs issued to CARP beneficiaries within the proposed Tampakan mine site is one of four major issues hounding the $5.9-billion Tampakan copper-gold project in Southern Philippines. Other issues are the ban on open-pit mining method imposed by the provincial government of South Cotabato, the consent and approval of the communities, including IPs in the area which has a certificate of ancestral domain title over the land. The project is potentially one of the biggest gold projects in Asia. It is owned by GlencoreXstrata and will be operated by SMI. Jonathan L. Mayuga

Senate hopes to pass FOI bill this week By Christina Mendez (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  MANILA, Philippines - The Senate hopes to pass the Freedom of Information Act (FOI) within the week before the 16th Congress goes on recess from March 15 to May 4, Sen. Grace Poe said yesterday. Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public information and mass media, is optimistic that the Senate will be able to approve the measure in a bid to strengthen transparency in government. She expressed hope that the House of Representatives will also expedite approval of a similar measure at least before Congress goes into sine die adjournment in June. The Senate version of the measure is a consolidation of 12 bills, including the indirect petition of the advocacy group Right to Know, Right Now! Coalition. The FOI measure shall allow every Filipino citizen to request and be granted access to any record or information that is under control of the government, subject to reasonable exceptions. “This measure gives us a right to look into the transactions in government. If this has been enacted for a long time, we may not have the pork barrel scam and even the housing scam,” Poe said. The senator clarified that the FOI measure respects the presidential communications privilege and the separation of the three branches of government. Executive privilege remains sacred under the law. “However, there are circumstances when the public can scrutinize any final document before it is signed (by the president),” she explained.

Tax-to-GDP ratio rises to 13.3% Category: Top News 09 Mar 2014 Written by David Cagahastian The country’s tax-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio has improved to 13.3 percent in 2013, compared to 12.9 percent in 2012, as the collections by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) also improved. The improvement is indicative of a nation better able to finance its growth, as more of its collections are applied on growth-boosting programs like the buildup of infrastructure or support health and education measures that ensure the long-haul welfare of Filipinos. The ratio compares favorably against that, for instance, of Indonesia, whose tax-to-GDP ratio averaged only 11.8 percent, but lower than Malaysia’s 16.1 percent. Some of the world’s wealthiest nations, like Denmark, have tax-to-GDP ratios above 33 percent, while Sweden owns a ratio last reported at around 54 percent of GDP. “Our revenue collections have been the main driver of growth this past year, as led by exceptional efforts by the BIR. The year 2012 was the first time the BIR hit over P1 trillion in collections and the bureau has improved on that even more this past year,” Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said in a statement. “The first year of implementation of the ‘sin’-tax reform has also been largely successful, with incremental excise-tax collections at P51.5 billion, exceeding the expected amount by around 50 percent. With our weekly Tax Watch advertisements, 29 of which have been released to date, along with the BIR’s Register File and Pay [RFP] campaign, we have been actively convincing the public to pay the right taxes,” Purisima added. Although the BIR missed its collection target for 2013, its total collection of P1.217 trillion improved by 15 percent from revenue collections in 2012. The BOC’s collection for 2013 also reached P304.5 billion, an improvement of 5 percent from 2012. The Bureau of the Treasury and other government offices contributed P81 billion and P113.9 billion to the national coffers, respectively. Purisima said the increased revenue collection by the BIR and the BOC is traced to policy reforms under President Aquino in the area of transparency and good government. “One can draw a line before and after the reform program was rolled out and see stark improvements in collections. Cash collections of the BOC grew only by 4.8 percent in the prereform period from January to October while it grew by 19.3 percent in the reform period from November until January,” Purisima said.

He said more reforms will be implemented by the Aquino administration, such as the increase in spending in infrastructure projects and agriculture. He said the government also wants to capitalize on the Bangsamoro peace agreement to develop Mindanao which accounts for 25 percent of the population but only 20 percent of GDP. “Our key priorities for legislative reforms—such as the amendments to the BOT [Build-OperateTransfer] law, amendments to the Foreign Investment Negative List and fiscal incentives rationalization—which we hope to pass this year, will make it much easier for us to achieve our goals and for people to do business,” he said. David Cagahastian‐news/28716‐tax‐to‐gdp‐ratio‐rises‐to‐13‐3                                       

Government to measure red tape in over 1,000 agencies Category: Nation 09 Mar 2014 Written by Cai U. Ordinario THE Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) has granted a clearance to conduct a survey to measure the compliance level of various national and regional agencies to the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007. The PSA said it would conduct the Anti-Red Tape Act Report Card Survey (ARTA RCS) which targets 1,243 government offices all over the country. For each of the offices, 30 clients will be selected as respondents. Data collection will be from April until October 2014. Total budget allocated for the survey is P3.54 million or P94.99 per respondent. “Results of the 2014 ARTA RCS will be released in February 2015. In light of promoting better and improved government frontline services, concerned government agencies are enjoined to respond to the survey,” the PSA said. The PSA said the survey will obtain feedback on how these agencies follow provisions in their corresponding Citizen’s Charter which refers to an official document that communicates the service standards or pledge of an agency on the frontline services being provided to its citizens. It said the survey also aims to obtain estimates of hidden costs incurred by clients in accessing the frontline services, as well as rate the agencies’ performance in delivering the frontline service and fulfilling the provisions of Republic Act (RA) 9485 and its implementing rules and regulations (IRR). The ARTA RCS was granted clearance by the PSA through the Statistical Survey Review and Clearance System (SSRCS). The SSRCS is a mechanism implemented by the PSA by virtue of Rule 28 of the IRR of RA 10625. The SSRC aims to (1) ensure sound design for data collection, (2) minimize the burden placed upon respondents, (3) effect economy in statistical data collection, (4) eliminate unnecessary duplication of statistical data collection, and (5) achieve better coordination of government statistical activities.‐government‐to‐measure‐red‐ tape‐in‐over‐1‐000‐agencies   

DTI seeks more funds for MSMEs By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is seeking more funds to implement programs to support the growth of micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) in the country. “We’re pushing that in 2015, we can get additional budget to support MSMEs,” Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo told reporters. For this year, the DTI has allotted up to P1 billion for programs aimed at helping MSMEs grow, with the bulk or P770 million to be spent for the Shared Service Facilities (SSF) program, which involves the rollout of equipment to improve quality of goods. Domingo said the DTI wants to get additional funding as it plans to implement the Livelihood Seeding Program which seeks to encourage the creation of more small businesses in the country. The program which will require around P600 million worth of initial funding, will involve providing training to individuals that would want to become entrepreneurs. At the end of the training, participants will be assessed and those who pass the evaluation will be given P2,000 worth of goods which they will have to sell. Once the goods are sold, the individuals can come back to the DTI to purchase new supply of products for sale until they have obtained goods amounting to a total P5,000. By that time, Domingo said the individuals are seen to be ready to start their own business. He said the model does not only apply to putting up a small store but also to other businesses such as hollow block making, garments, handicrafts, as well as food processing. The DTI wants to implement the program to support the growth of MSMEs. The department is already providing MSMEs access to equipment through the SSF and training through the SME Roving Academy. He noted that only two percent of the required financing to the small businesses is available at present. “What we really need is about P50 billion a year for three years and then P30 billion thereafter. Those are the volume of loans for SMEs that we need to push into the system, additional, on top of what the system is producing now to be able to fill up that SME financing gap,” he said. While RA 9501 or the Magna Carta for MSMEs mandates all lending institutions to set aside at least eight percent for micro and small enterprises and at least two percent for medium firms, of their total loan portfolio based on their balance sheet as of the end of the previous quarter, MSMEs, particularly the small businesses still find it difficult to get access to financing.‐seeks‐more‐funds‐msmes 

Sun Life Foundation donates new boats to Iloilo fishermen  (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am  In photo (from left): Assisi Development Foundation project coordinator Chaya Go and foundation  president Benjamin Abadiano;  Sun Life Foundation executive director Joub Miradiora and Board of  Trustees member Karen Casas.   

MANILA, Philippines - Sun Life Financial-Philippines Foundation Inc. is donating boats worth over P2.5 million to fishermen in Iloilo as part of its commitment to help in the rebuilding efforts in Super Typhoon Yolanda-affected areas. Partnering with Tabang Visayas, a coalition of civil society organizations and international aid agencies, Sun Life Foundation is financing the construction of 120 boats which will be distributed to fishermen in 11 different barangays in the said province. The project is being supervised by Tabang Visayas’ accredited arm in Iloilo, the Assisi Development Foundation, a loose coalition of 22 member organizations from the private sector working for relief, recovery and rehabilitation in the Visayas. According to data gathered by the group, fishing is the main source of livelihood in many barangays in Iloilo, and one boat could support the livelihood of up to three fishermen. “When Typhoon Yolanda struck and destroyed their boats, the fishermen were left with no means to support their families,” Sun Life Foundation Executive Director Joub Miradora shared. “Providing them with boats, the main tool they need in their livelihood, means helping them long-term, and that is very much in line with what we rally for in Sun Life Foundation – which is sustainability.” Sun Life Foundation Board of Trustees member Karen Casas added that the company considers itself a partner of the Filipino people in nation-building. “We want to be very active and involved in the process of rehabilitation after the major calamity that the Philippines experienced,” she said. Consultation meetings have been conducted with the beneficiaries of the project, while materials have been sourced locally to maximize the fund donated by the foundation. The boats will be tested for sea-worthiness before the turnover to the fishermen scheduled in March. The president of the Assisi Development Foundation, Benjamin Abadiano, expressed gratitude for Sun Life Foundation’s help. “Their assistance certainly allows us to reach more fishermen in need as we continue to extend post-Yolanda recovery and rehabilitation

interventions throughout the Visayas. Such collaborations among our organizations is truly valuable in optimizing the impact in our partner communities,” he said. Sun Life Financial is represented in the Philippines by its life insurance arm, Sun Life of Canada (Philippines) Inc. (SLOCPI); its mutual fund manager, Sun Life Asset Management Company Inc. (SLAMCI); and its pre-need company, Sun Life Financial Plans Inc (SLFPI). Sun Life Financial-Philippines Foundation. Inc. is the philanthropy arm of SLOCPI.‐life‐foundation‐donates‐new‐boats‐iloilo‐ fishermen                                       

Work starts on JICA‐funded microhydro power project By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The government, through a Japanese grant, has initiated a microhydro power project that could supply the electricity requirements of a small barangay in Isabela, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced during the weekend. The DA and the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) have started work on a microhydro power project at the Lateral B Canal of the NIA-Magat River Integrated System (MARIIS) in Barangay San Carlos in San Mateo Isabela. The facility is targeted for completion in November this year. The project is being funded through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) but is being carried out by DA, NIA and the Department of Energy. The microhydro plant is a run-off river power generation facility that could produce 236,000 kilowatt hours (Kwh) of power annually. It uses two turbines installed in the irrigation canal. “It will showcase the viability of sourcing hydropower from low-head irrigation canals commonly found throughout the country,” the DA said. Upon completion, the plant could provide electricity to around 500 households in Barangay San Carlos and nearby Barangay Villafuerte. The microhydro power plant would also serve as a pilot project for other projects that would be undertaken by DA and NIA.‐starts‐jica‐funded‐microhydro‐power‐ project               

BIR unfazed by black market of small miners’ golds Category: Regions 09 Mar 2014 Written by Manuel T. Cayon / Mindanao Bureau Chief DAVAO CITY—Internal Revenue Commissioner Kim Jacinto-Henares said the agency was unfazed by blames that its tax enforcement on excise tax led to black-market control of the gold production of small-scale miners. But Davao Regional Director Glenn Geraldino said he was awaiting the bureau’s approval of his request for more enforcement teams to start cracking down on black-market buyers in the goldrich Compostela Valley area and corner back the gold in favor of the government. “They should not blame us. We are just enforcing government tax laws,” Henares shot back when asked to comment about the blame thrown at the BIR by the mining sector, after the BIR enforced in 2012 the excise and withholding taxes on mining operation in small-scale mining areas. She said the BIR would not balk at its duty to collect taxes from mining despite an appeal from local miners and local government mining authorities to relax on the collection of the withholding tax. She said the BIR was “just a collection agency” and until the mines-sharing bill is enacted into law, “we will be collecting what they should be paying.” Henares said she was not yet familiar with the bill. Geraldino said the volume of gold sold to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) was “still at a very low level, about 10 percent of what used to be about P100 billion in the past.” “It’s still at that level,” he said. Henares bared the drop in collection during the meeting of the Davao Regional Enforcement and Coordinating Council on mining taxation and proceeds in June 2012. Director Edilberto Arreza of the Davao regional office of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) disclosed to reporters then that Henares told the council meeting that “gold sold to the BSP reached more than P800 million in February [2012] but plunged to only P75 million the next month.” Both Arreza and former Presidential Assistant for Mindanao Jesus Dureza ascribed the drop to the disdain of small-scale miners and buyers over the collection of the withholding tax that was not collected previously.

Arreza said the drop began shortly after the BIR collected the withholding tax. Arreza said BIR Revenue Regulation 7-2008 required collection of a 2-percent excise tax and a 5-percent withholding tax on gold that miners produced and sold to the BSP. The regulation was crafted in 2008. Also during that mining forum, Artemio Disini Jr., president of the Chamber of Mines, said the drop in gold sale to the BSP should raise concern, “especially that small-scale mines now constitute 70 percent of gold production in the country.” A law has also required small-scale miners to sell to the BSP gold they excavated, which would be refined and included in the country’s gross international reserves. He said it was “expected the gold may have been sold to the black market.” Geraldino concurred the black market cornered the bulk of the gold produce. While finance and collection authorities, including local government officials, agreed to clamp down on the black market’s control of gold from small-scale mines, Geraldino said enforcement failed to take off “because of the atmosphere of fear.” “Everybody could sense it, that they fear [retaliation],” he said, referring to the violence that prevailed for decades in the small-scale mining areas in Diwalwal in Monkayo and in Boringot in Pantukan, all in Compostela Valley. Geraldino said it should have been the MGB that should enforce compliance to the government regulation, including taxation, but he said the BIR would soon form its own collection teams to enforce collection. “I need at least 50 additional personnel to form these collection teams soon,” he said.‐bir‐unfazed‐by‐black‐market‐of‐ small‐miners‐golds               

Subsidies to GOCCs up 56% in 2013 By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 10, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Subsidies to government-run companies swelled by 56 percent last year, largely due to the infusion of additional funds for programs on electrification, housing and healthcare. Data from the Department of Finance showed that the government extended a total of P66.33 billion in subsidies in 2013, significantly higher than the P42.64 billion spent the previous year. The biggest recipient was the National Electrification Authority, which got P14.03 billion or more than a fifth of the total amount of subsidies granted last year. In December alone, NEA also received the highest funding support, cornering P8.14 billion or almost a third of the entire P27.55 billion extended by the government during the period. NEA is tasked to provide electricity throughout the country. The second biggest beneficiary was the National Housing Authority, accounting for P13.34 billion of the total. The funds were used to relocate informal settlers living in disaster-prone areas, particularly near waterways in Metro Manila. The third biggest recipient was the Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) which received P12.65 billion. The amount was used to provide health care services to more than 10 million indigent families across the country pursuant to the amended National Health Insurance Act of 1995. This law is aimed at ensuring that all Filipinos, especially the neediest, will get health insurance coverage from PhilHealth. Other state-owned firms that received more than P1 billion in subsidies were the Philippine Coconut Authority (P5.11 billion), National Irrigation Authority (P3.02 billion), National Food Authority (P2.32 billion), Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (P1.88 billion), National Transmission Corp. (P1.5 billion), Light Rail Transit Authority (P1.3 billion), and the National Kidney Transplant Institute (P1.28 billion). The jump in spending for subsidies partly drove the increase in overall government expenditures in 2013. Total public spending reached P1.88 trillion, up year on year by six percent as the government continued to prop up the economy to sustain the strong pace of growth. The increase in state spending, however, was below the target set by the government, which was P1.98 trillion.‐goccs‐56‐2013 

Lingayen residents ask Ombudsman to stop black-sand mining in their town Category: Regions 09 Mar 2014 Written by Joel San Juan ANTI-BLACK sand mining leaders and residents of Lingayen, Pangasinan, have asked the Office of the Ombudsman to speed up the resolution of the criminal complaint they filed against provincial officials, led by Gov. Amado Espino Jr. and officers of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures and Xypher Builders Inc., for the alleged illegal black sand or magnetitie mining operations in the municipality. “We hope there will soon be a resolution to the case we filed in January 2012. We want a legal precedent that black-sand mining cannot be allowed in our province,” said Vicente Oliquino, one of the complainants and president of the anti-mining group Aro Mo Ako Sambayanan (Aromas). Oliquino, a member of the council of Barangay Sabangan, Lingayen, lamented that he and his fellow complainants have been waiting for the Ombudsman’s ruling for more than two years now.The petitioners noted that reports from the ground had indicated a continuous extraction of black sand along the Lingayen shore to this day. In their 12-page complaint in 2012, the village officials and residents said officers of the firms Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures Inc. and Xypher Builders Inc. were liable for violation of mining laws. The complainants accused Espino, Lingayen Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, consultant Eric Acuna, Pangasinan housing officer Alvin Bigay and several village captains of conspiring to allow the illegal-magnetite mining. Espino gave Xypher a gratuitous permit but the document specifically disallows the extraction of materials in onshore areas within 500 meters from the coast and 200 meters from the mean lowtide level along the beach. The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Ilocos region already ordered Xypher to pay P50,000 as penalty for operating without an environmental compliance certificate. The DENR has also issued a cease-and-desist order against the four black-sand mining operations of Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders along the coastal areas of Lingayen Gulf in barangays Sabangan, Malimpuec, Capandanan and Estanza. Joel San Juan‐lingayen‐residents‐ask‐ombudsman‐ to‐stop‐black‐sand‐mining‐in‐their‐town 


Carabao not ending up in slaughterhouses By Anselmo Roque  Inquirer Central Luzon   8:13 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014  


FARMERS in Barangay San Jose in Mabini town, Bohol province, show off their crossbred carabao. They want their barangay to be known as the “carabao crossbred capital” in the Visayas to underscore their success in improving their native carabao for more benefits. PHOTO BY ANSELMO ROQUE/INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON PRESIDENT CARLOS P. GARCIA, Bohol—Worry not about the country’s beast of burden. Though threatened by the Filipinos’ fondness for “carabeef,” the fate of the carabao is not ending up in slaughterhouses, according to an official of the Philippine Carabao Center (PCC) in Central Visayas. “We are improving the breed of native carabao… [by] crossbreeding them with the purebred Murrah (curled horn) buffalo,” said Dr. Caro Salces, director of the PCC at Ubay (Bohol) Stock Farm. The Murrah buffalo are the “dairy type” and yield 4 to 6 liters a day, with the best of their kind producing more than 12 liters a day during peak season. On the other hand, the native carabao are the “swamp type,” noted for draft power but not for milk production because they yield an average of only 1.2 liters a day. “Over time, our native carabao will attain the qualities of a purebred. As such, farmers will not lead them to slaughterhouses but to milking barns,” Salces said. The PCC official accompanied the Inquirer recently to this island town (population: 28,000) in Bohol province to see the agency’s efforts in preserving the native carabao. “We have made our town a sanctuary of the native carabao,” President Calos P. Garcia Mayor Tesalonica Boyboy said.

The municipality has signed a memorandum of agreement with the PCC for the conservation, improvement and use of the native carabao. The PCC at Ubay has also given 13 quality native carabao bulls to service the females of the 772 carabao owned by local farmers. “We are selecting the best from the male and female animals for continuous breeding,” said Gaudencio Lagura, municipal agricultural officer. In Barangay (village) Busiao, Desiderio Dumaplin and his wife, Liselle, are proud that their native carabao had borne a calf, ensuring the continuity of the local breed. “We named it Landa. She was born when Super Typhoon Yolanda whipped our province,” Dumaplin said. “She will not be slaughtered. She is beautiful and will help us.” Vanishing herd According to the PCC, the carabao, the beast of burden that has helped farmers provide food for generations of Filipinos, was introduced by the Chinese between 300 BC and 2000 BC. Records from the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development showed that the carabao population in the country in 2008 was 2.34 million heads, down from 2.82 million in 2007. The 2013 inventory in 2013, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics, was 2.88 million heads, or 1.62 percent lower than the 2012 level. In 1962, the country had 3.5 million heads of carabao but the figure went down to 2.83 million in 1980 and 2.76 million in 1992. At present, many livestock auction markets in the country are laden with carabao for sale. PCC officials in northern Luzon recently raised the alarm on the slaughter, citing the dwindling population in Pangasinan province. The provincial government has enacted an ordinance regulating carabao slaughter to preserve the local breed. Republic Act No. 7307, or the Philippine Carabao Act of 1992, mandated the establishment of the PCC as an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture. The PCC headquarters and gene pool are based in the Science City of Muñoz, Nueva Ecija province. “The native carabao then was declining in size and weight,” said Dr. Libertado Cruz, former PCC executive director.

“Among other factors [of the dwindling population], there was no strong breeding program to improve its breed. The good males were being castrated, leaving the task of propagating its kind to inferior bulls,” he said. Cruz said the PCC had strong and working programs for carabao development. Among these are genetic improvement, carabao-based enterprise development, social training for farmers and research and development. Cruz retired on Jan. 9 after 20 years as PCC head. His deputy, Dr. Felomino Mamuad, was appointed officer in charge and is continuing the projects. Carabao breeds Since 1994, the government has imported more than 5,500 American, Murrah, Brazilian and Italian buffalo so that these can be used to develop better carabao breeds. The animals were distributed as institutional herds to the 13 PCC stations and entrusted to farmer-beneficiaries for the incubator dairy modules. The PCC’s upgrading of the native carabao program is carried out mainly through bull loans, artificial insemination and, to some extent, embryo transfer technology, or what is generally known as a test tube procedure. The offspring of the crossbreeding are called crossbred carabao, but farmers prefer to call them buffalo to differentiate them from the native carabao. In San Agustin town, Isabela province, PCC records counted more than 2,000 crossbred carabao. Mayor Virgilio Padilla has adopted carabao development as the banner program of his administration, aiming to make his town the crossbred carabao capital of the country. San Agustin holds the annual Nuang Festival in which the crossbred carabao are paraded and the best of them selected for an array of titles—biggest, best milk producer, fastest, most intelligent, best bull and most beautiful. Not to be outdone, farmers in Barangay San Jose in Mabini town, Bohol, want their village to be recognized for raising crossbred carabao to highlight their efforts in upgrading the native stock. They now have 250 crossbred carabao, with only 15 natives remaining in the village. Wide market The Philippines has a wide market for locally produced milk. Government records showed that 98 percent of the country’s milk and milk products supply is imported. Of the 5 million kilograms of animal milk produced in the country, 63 percent came from cows, 36 percent from carabao and 1 percent from goats.

This augurs well for carabao-based enterprises, especially milk production. For local farmers, carabao milk is considered a “daily gold rush.” “We made a net income of P14 million from the milk and milk products we sold in 2013,” said Edgar Mangahas, manager of the Nueva Ecija Federation of Dairy Carabao Cooperatives (Nefedcco). Mangahas said the federation bought the milk from member-cooperatives, which collected it from individual farmers. “We bought the milk for P42 a liter and it is processed and sold as raw milk and milk products, like ‘pastillas’ (milk candy), flavored drinks, ‘leche flan,’ ‘polvoron’ and others,” he said. Aside from Nefedcco, the big buyers of carabao milk in Nueva Ecija are the newly established Milka Krem, the village-type processing plants and outlets of the PCC headquarters, the PCC station at Central Luzon State University in Muñoz, and the Gatas ng Kalabaw enterprise in Talavera town, also in Nueva Ecija. A number of traders also supply raw milk to San Miguel town, Bulacan province, for its pastillas industry.   Read more:‐not‐ending‐up‐in‐ slaughterhouses#ixzz2vWIQ20Zr   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                     

FDA recalls IV solution By Jocelyn R. Uy  Philippine Daily Inquirer   6:56 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014  


photo from MANILA, Philippines—The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has directed all pharmacies and healthcare professionals to discontinue selling 8.4% Sodium Bicarbonate Solution for IV infusion manufactured by German pharmaceutical company B. Braun Melsungen AG, which made a voluntary recall of the product with batch numbers 131558021, 124638022 and 121148021. “The reason for the recall was due to aluminum salt precipitation in the solution caused by the fluctuation in the quality of bromobutyl stopper, which resulted in the leaching of aluminum compounds,” the FDA said in an advisory. The product is a prescription drug registered with the FDA. It is used in the treatment of metabolic acidosis arising from various disorders such as diabetic coma, diarrhea, kidney disturbances and shock, according to the agency. The FDA also ordered the recall of all products manufactured by a pharmaceutical firm based in Valenzuela City due to “poor compliance” with good manufacturing practice. In the advisory, the FDA warned the public against purchasing products manufactured by Compact Pharmaceuticals Corp. from January 2012 up to the present, saying these posed a risk to safety and health. Critical, major The FDA, however, did not describe the products and Compact’s website did not list what it produced.

The FDA said its regional field inspectors noted “critical and major” deficiencies in the firm’s manufacturing facility and poor compliance with good manufacturing practice. “[These] indicate there is no assurance the manufactured products are of good quality… the affected products present a safety risk and potential adverse health consequences,” said the FDA. It directed the firm to stop manufacturing its products and its distributors to discontinue selling the products. “All drug retail outlets are ordered to discontinue offering these products for sale [and] all consumers are advised not to purchase or use the affected products,” said the FDA.   Read more:‐recalls‐iv‐solution#ixzz2vWIgqDlh   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                   

People’s initiative vs pork pushed By Gil Cabacungan Philippine Daily Inquirer  7:31 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Bayan Muna is pursuing a people’s initiative to forever ban the pork barrel in all its mutations—from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). Bayan Muna Rep. Carlos Isagani Zarate said the group had decided to take this route proposed by former Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno because the government and its congressional allies had taken steps to go around the Supreme Court’s ruling last November that declared the PDAF unconstitutional. Under a “people’s initiative,” proponents of a constitutional amendment need to gather the signatures of at least three percent of the qualified voters in each congressional district and at least 10 percent of the total voters nationwide. “The purpose of the people’s initiative is to forever ban the pork barrel system because it’s the main source of corruption and political patronage,” said Zarate. Special purpose fund “The SC decision pertains to the PDAF only as part of the President’s Special Purpose Fund. But if you examine the budget, it is still full of lump sums, especially under the Office of the President,” said Zarate in a text message. In December, various antipork groups and personalities held the first national assembly for the abolition of the pork barrel system through a people’s initiative led by the broad alliance, #Abolishpork Movement. Based on initial discussions, Bayan Muna Rep. Neri Colmenares said the proposed law would seek the removal of lump-sum discretionary spending and off-budget items and the return of all unobligated and unreleased funds to the General Fund to avoid a repeat of the DAP. Both Colmenares and Zarate pointed out that the Supreme Court has yet to decide on the legality of the DAP, which was concocted by the Aquino administration as a means to transfer funds to other agencies and pet projects of lawmakers.

New ozone‐depleting gases found in atmosphere Agence France-Presse  4:14 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

ARIS—Worried scientists said Sunday they had found four new ozone-destroying gases in the atmosphere, most likely put there by humans in the last 50-odd years despite a ban on these dangerous compounds. It is the first time since the 1990s that new substances damaging to Earth’s stratospheric shield have been found, and others may be out there, they said. “Our research has shown four gases that were not around in the atmosphere at all until the 1960s, which suggests they are man-made,” the team from Europe and Australia wrote in the journal Nature Geoscience. They analyzed unpolluted air samples collected in Tasmania between 1978 and 2012, and from deep, compacted snow in Greenland. “The identification of these four new gases is very worrying as they will contribute to the destruction of the ozone layer,” added a statement from the team. “We don’t know where the new gases are being emitted from, and this should be investigated.” Three of the gases are chlorofluorocarbons (CFCs)—a group that includes chemicals traditionally found in air conditioning, refrigerators and aerosol spray cans but banned under the Montreal Protocol. The fourth is a hydrochlorofluorocarbon (HCFC), part of a closely related group of compounds, which replaced CFCs but are being phased out. More than 74,000 tonnes of the four newly identified gases had accumulated in the atmosphere by 2012, said the team. This is very small compared with peak emissions of CFCs in the 1980s of more than a million tonnes per year. Riddle of the source “However, the reported emissions are clearly contrary to the intentions behind the Montreal Protocol, and raise questions about the sources of these gases,” the team wrote. Two of the gases, one CFC and the HCFC, are still accumulating. Previously, seven types of CFC and six of HCFC were known to contribute to ozone destruction.

CFCs, the main cause of the hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica, are man-made organic compounds made of carbon, chlorine and fluorine. They were phased out from 1989, followed by a total ban in 2010. HCFCs, CFC-like compounds that also include one or more hydrogen atoms, are less ozonedamaging but contribute to climate change by trapping more of the Sun’s heat in the atmosphere. The ozone layer comprises triple-atom oxygen molecules that are spread thinly in the stratosphere. It plays a vital role in protecting life by filtering out ultraviolet rays that can damage vegetation and cause skin cancer. In high latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere, where the ozone layer is damaged or subject to seasonal fluctuations, people are advised to cover exposed skin and wear sunglasses. Possible sources for the new gases include chemicals used for insecticide production and solvents for cleaning electronic components, said the researchers. Concentration differences between the samples suggested the dominant source was in the industrialized Northern Hemisphere, they added. Study co-author Johannes Laube from the University of East Anglia’s School of Environmental Sciences said the ozone layer stopped thinning from the late 1990s and there were signs of it starting to recover. “As many ODSs [ozone-depleting substances], and especially CFCs, take a long time to break down once released into the atmosphere, it will be many decades until it will fully recover,” he told AFP. “Provided we do not have further unpleasant surprises.” Martyn Chipperfield, a professor of atmospheric chemistry at the University of Leeds in northern England, said the low concentrations of the four gases “do not present concern at the moment.” But, he added, “the fact that these gases are in the atmosphere and some are increasing needs investigation.”—Mariette Le Roux

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Literacy program empowers Lanao Sur village in voting, trading, legal processes By Nash B. Maulana Inquirer Mindanao  7:01 pm | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

MADAMBA, Philippines – In a village where there is neither school nor electricity, a women’s literacy program is empowering the community. According to Jamilah Alodino, vice-president of the Mamisa People’s Organization, women in Barangay (village) Balagunun here believe that they can do better empowering their own people and community with the right tool— education, and being on track to development through participatory consultation. Schools close to Madamba town center are just too far to walk to from Balagunun, a village overlooking Lake Lanao from its now concrete section of the lake’s Circumferential Road. Children would have to go 15 kilometers downhill to the nearest primary school in Cabsaran— which explained a prevalent low literacy rate, Alodino said. Only about 10 percent of the barangay’s close to 2,000 residents are able to read and write in English, and about that number in Arabic, according to Alodino. There is not a single TV set in a household, but transistor radio gets getting signals from Marawi, Iligan, Ozamiz, Cagayan de Oro and Manila bring in information and media-generated influence, particularly, language (Visayan and Tagalog). In late 2012, the village’s women, many of them mothers, participated in a social survey conducted by development facilitators and volunteers trying to determine what the residents collectively needed most to improve their lot. Barangay assemblies followed, forming part of social preparations in poor villages in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, which were mapped earlier for development intervention by the World Bank-supported ARMM Social Fund Project (ASFP). Volunteers and local facilitators translated residents’ exchanges in assemblies into workable community proposals and were later integrated with the barangay development plan (BDP), said one of the facilitators. With Learning and Livelihood Food Sufficiency (LLFS) program as the residents’ first choice for an all-women educational activity, the ARMM’s Department of Social Welfare and Development, in partnership with the ASFP, designed a three-month training program on basic literacy and numeracy, coupled with livelihood education on household entrepreneurship for female residents.

ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman might soon hold community forums with Balagunun residents, but he assured the public that school building programs have been in place for more villages in the region, said lawyer Jamar Kulayan, ARMM’s education secretary. Literacy also strengthens democracy in Balagunun. After graduating from the LLFS integrative module, 70-year old Pauli Misug is proud to say that in May 2013 and in the more recent barangay elections, she could already read and shade the ovals across the names of candidates of her choice on the ballot, without turning to a polling aide for help. Suhaimin Cosain said more than writing her name, she and fellow LLFS graduates Diamond Diso and Fatima Malangkat have also learned basic numeracy, which they have been using in small trading activities to be able to add costs of stocks and expenses, and to subtract them from total market sales to determine a profit margin. After graduation, the ASFP gave P1,000 to each of the 20 or so beneficiaries to help them collectively establish a capital build-up for their people’s organization, or to individually engage in any income-generating activity (IGA) of choice, said ASFP Manager Aba Kuaman. Alodino said women’s participation in barangay assembly consultations (shura) added weight to the clamor for local development initiatives. Next to learning, the consistent “ijma” (consensus) is for the barangay to have a common solar drier and a multi-purpose shed for its agricultural products. “We now have both, and also latrines, and a Day-Care Center, so our grandchildren will no longer experience what we had gone through, failing in our early quest for knowledge,” she said in mixed Tagalog and Visayan. Baby Mindalano, an LLFS graduate, said the men among them helped as laborers in construction works. They also won the World Bank’s support, through the ASFP, for the concreting of a farm pathway, which used to be a muddy passageway to and from fruit-bearing marang trees in Balagunon’s sub-villages of Poblacion I and II, and Raya I and II. A concrete pathway is an easier access route for traders and local laborers in harvesting and truck-loading the seasonal marang fruits to roadside. Ustadz Zainudin Abdulwahab, an Islamic lecturer who accompanied the Philippine Daily Inquirer, said numeracy would enable Moro women to learn further their specific rights under the Muslim Law on Inheritance, as prescribed in a Qur’an chapter called An-Nissa (The Women). Abdulwahab said sufficient skills in numbers would protect Moro women and orphans from injustice. Many of them do not know that there are more female sharers than males in their succession rights to ancestral properties, using specific fractions mentioned in Chapter 4 of the Muslim Holy Book, according to Abdulwahab. “It is not true that women are ‘often prevented from participating in decision-making’ or that they are discriminated against, because of ‘multiple factors, including their gender and religion.’ Many, even among educated Moro women, do not seem to recall that we have had women leaders like (Lanao Sur) Governor Princess Tarhata Alonto-Lucman, Princess Tarhata Kiram of

Sulu, and even the historic Sultana Nur’ul Azam, who reigned Sulu when most western nations were far from recognizing women’s right to suffrage. Still, we have many of them today in the political leadership. So how could they be prevented from participating in decision-making or be discriminated against?” Abdulwahab asked.

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Blackout hits most of North Cotabato as power transmission conks out By Williamor A. Magbanua Inquirer Mindanao  4:44 pm | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

KIDAPAWAN CITY, North Cotabato, Philippines — Most of the province of North Cotabato was in the dark Saturday evening following the tripping off of the 69KV power transmission line in Barangay (village) Paco here. Vicente Baguio, spokesperson of the Cotabato Electric Cooperative (Cotelco), said their whole service area experienced “total blackout” due to the tripping, which was reported at around 4:15 p.m. “We had difficulty locating the damaged area that we needed enough time to restore power in our service area,” Baguio told the Philippine Daily Inquirer in a phone interview. The power outage prolonged the agony of consumers in the province, which have been experiencing six to seven hours of rotational brownout daily. The total power outage on Saturday reached at least 10 hours. “Power had just been restored after six hours of rotational brownout, and yet after five minutes, there was again a brownout,” fish vendor Cleofe Parenas said. “We are losing at least P150 a day for buying ice just to maintain the freshness of our merchandise,” Parenas said. Rickson Ajero, a radio station technician here, has challenged Cotelco to tell the truth whether it could still supply power to their consumers. “Why can’t Cotelco say sorry to their consumers and admit that they cannot bear the burden of supplying power?” Ajero said. Baguio, however, said they should not be blamed as the problem was with the National Grid Corporation in the Philippines (NGCP), which supplied them with little power, thus the rotational brownout.

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Know your rights, book tells indigenous women By Maurice Malanes Inquirer Northern Luzon  9:28 am | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

BAGUIO CITY, Philippines—The United Nations has provided women with more than enough convenants to protect their rights.

But these remain abstract notions unless women get to know about these rights so they could be asserted, according to a new indigenous women’s rights handbook that was launched here in time for International Women’s Month this March. “A Handbook on the CEDAW: Realizing Indigenous Women’s Rights” seeks to help indigenous women “know what their rights are and how to claim and assert them,” according to its authors, Eleanor Dictaan-Bang-oan and Helen Tugendhat. The authors said covenants like the 1981 International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women or CEDAW, which codifies international legal standards for women, “remain abstract if they are not claimed and exercised by the rights holders.” The 222-page book was jointly published by the Asian Indigenous Women’s Network, the United Kingdom-based nongovernment Forest Peoples’ Program which focuses on forest peoples’ rights in various parts worldwide, and Tebtebba, a Baguio-based NGO concerned with indigenous peoples’ rights and development. The book seeks to help indigenous women wade through the maze of the UN bureaucracy. It stresses the need for the “voiceless” such as indigenous women to tap international human rights mechanisms as platforms for airing their grievances. “Decisions and recommendations from these human rights mechanisms also carry significant moral and political force and can be used successfully at the national level to push for real change,” according to the handbook. For example, to seek redress for grievances, the book advises indigenous women to familiarize themselves with two types of human rights bodies: Charter-based human rights bodies and treaty-based bodies. The first type includes the Human Rights Council and the Universal Periodic Review. It tells women that there are 10 treaty-based bodies, which monitor implementation of nine core international human rights treaties. These are the Human Rights Committee; Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination; Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women; Committee against Torture; Subcommittee on the Prevention of

Torture; Committee on the Rights of the Child; Committee on Migrant Workers; Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; and the Committee on Enforced Disappearance. Indigenous women can use both charter-based bodies and treaty bodies “to raise their concerns and pressure governments to account for the neglect or violation of their human rights and freedoms,” said the authors. Before they can even start, indigenous women need to confront the problems of accessing these mechanisms “and these require resources that indigenous women’s organizations cannot afford,” the authors say. The book says IP women’s groups all over the world need to collaborate in order to “engage these mechanisms.”

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Arroyo ally says raps instigated by mayor By Tonette Orejas Inquirer Central Luzon  8:15 am | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO—A close ally of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the plunder complaint filed against him was the handiwork of a Liberal Party mayor who was among the 23 people charged by the National Bureau of Investigation in connection with the alleged misuse of the P900-million Malampaya fund. Former Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo said he had reason to believe his successor, Mayor Rene Maglanque, was behind the plunder case filed by several Candaba residents led by Arnold Canimo. He said Canimo, a former barangay captain, was now in the employ of the municipal government. “Maglanque thinks I worked to have him included in the Malampaya plunder case. I didn’t have any hand in that,” Pelayo told the Inquirer by phone on Saturday. Maglanque did not reply when the Inquirer sought him out for a reaction. He has denied benefiting from the proceeds of the Malampaya gas project. In June last year, streamers were put up in Candaba welcoming now detained alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. Napoles has been accused of operating a network of bogus nongovernment organizations to facilitate the receipt of hefty kickbacks for lawmakers, who supposedly financed projects using their Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel. Dennis Cunanan, director general of the Technology Resource Center who faced a Senate inquiry last week concerning his part in the scam, said Maglanque accompanied Napoles to his office in 2008. Canimo and the other complainants filed the plunder charge against Pelayo in the Office of the Ombudsman. They accused the former mayor of conniving with several individuals and corporations to embezzle over P120 million in government funds in his nine years as mayor.

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Iloilo league gets flak for plan to hold convention in Manila By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Inquirer Visayas  12:07 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

ILOILO CITY—The provincial chapter of the League of Barangays (villages) in Iloilo has drawn flak for its plan to hold its convention in Manila amid the massive devastation of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” in the province. An organization composed of survivors and those helping them decried the “unnecessary spending” for the meeting set to be held at Mall of Asia in Pasay City, which it said could be held anywhere in the province. “It’s unconscionable and the height of insensitivity to spend public funds for an out-of-town meeting while victims are still crying out for food and livelihood assistance,” Hope Hervilla, coordinator of Task Force Buliganay-Panay, told the Inquirer. Hervilla said money spent for the meeting would be better spent for the replacement and repair of houses, farmlands and fishing boats that were damaged or destroyed in Nov. 8 last year. “Where are our priorities? Is it holding a meeting in a giant mall in Manila when thousands still do not even have homes and livelihood?” she said. Provincial Board Member Jeneda Salcedo-Orendain, president of the chapter, could not be reached through her mobile phone. Repeated calls to her office at the provincial capitol were unanswered. The league, with 1,721 members, plans to hold its convention at SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City on March 22 to 24. The registration for each participant will reportedly cost about P16,000. The participants are also expected to be given per diems from their respective municipal governments. The northern towns of Iloilo were among the worst hit by the supertyphoon that battered the Visayas on Nov. 8 last year. The supertyphoon left 131 dead, 12 injured and four missing in Iloilo. It also destroyed 83,327 houses and damaged 85,622 others. Assistance, mostly from international and local private organizations and donors, has been given to the victims but even international relief organizations admit that more assistance is needed for the victims to recover.

Even Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor has advised the village chiefs to hold their convention in the province to save on expenses. The late Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo issued a memorandum circular on April 25, 2011, advising local government units and officials to observe austerity in holding meetings and other activities. Robredo, in his memorandum, had “strongly discouraged” local government officials and employees from conducting training sessions, seminars and meetings “outside of their territorial jurisdictions.” The practice of holding meetings and seminars outside of the jurisdiction of the officials and using government funds “impact on local government units’ [capacity] to finance desirable development programs,” according to Robredo in his memorandum.

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PH sugar industry to survive, says exec By Carla Gomez Inquirer Visayas  12:01 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

  BACOLOD, Philippines—“We are not afraid of 2015, we are confident that the Philippine sugar industry will survive,” Francisco Varua, president of Philippine Sugar Millers Association and Philippine Sugar Research Institute (Philsurin), said on Monday. Under the Asean Free Trade Area agreement, the tariff on imported sugar entering the Philippines will drop to a nominal 5 percent next year. “We have been preparing for 2015,” Varua told the Inquirer, citing sugar mills retrofitting their facilities to produce ethanol and to cogenerate power, and efforts to increase production in farms and mills. A lot of tariff barriers could also be set up, he said, but refused to specify what they are. “We do not want to telegraph our punches to the competition,” Varua said. Other sugar-producing countries are using non-tariff barriers, there is no reason we should not use them ourselves, he said. Varua also cited efforts of Philsurin that have enabled the country to produce high-yielding varieties of sugarcane to improve production. The expected 5-million-metric-ton oversupply of sugar worldwide has also dropped because of weather conditions, and, by the next crop year, a balanced production against demand is expected, Varua added. The demand for sugar from China and Indonesia is also expected, and they are expected to source their supply from the Philippines and Thailand, he said. That is because freight cost for sugar from Brazil is rising, making it a more expensive commodity by the time it reaches Asia, he said. In fact, 40 sugar mills in Brazil have closed down to cut their losses, he said. On the other hand, the price of sugar in the world market is rising, he added. “We are confident the Philippine sugar industry will survive 2015, if we survived the Nasutra (National Sugar Trading Corp.) days under Ferdinand Marcos, this is nothing,” he said. Meanwhile, Varua said he hoped Congress would approve the proposed Sugarcane Act soon. The government has not provided any help to the sugarcane industry. “We are not asking for subsidy, we are asking for infrastructure help to boost the industry,” Varua said.‐sugar‐industry‐to‐survive‐says‐exec 

Semirara Island residents oppose relocation By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Inquirer Visayas  12:02 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

FARMERS in Sitio Poocan in Barangay Tinogboc, Semirara Island, in Antique province, block a bulldozer of Semirara Mining Corp., which was used by the municipal government of Caluya in taking over a disputed property being claimed by the farmers. Police dispersed the protest and arrested the group’s leader on Feb. 28. PHOTO COURTESY OF PAKISAMA ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Hundreds of residents on Semirara Island in Antique province are opposing their relocation by the municipal government of Caluya, according to the Commission on Human Rights (CHR). Lawyer Jonnie Dabuco, CHR regional assistant director, said the residents of Sitio Sabang in Barangay (village) Tinogboc told a CHR team they did not want to leave their community and transfer to Sitio Poocan in the same village. “[The] majority, if not most, of those we have talked with are opposing their relocation,” Dabuco told the Inquirer. He said the villagers feared the loss of their livelihood, which was based on fishing and seaweed-gathering, and their source of water. They also did not want to dislocate their children who are studying in an elementary school in their community. Municipal legal officer Voltaire Gumban denied that the majority of the residents of Sabang were against the relocation. “We simply could not leave this project, which is a free housing project, in the hands of some disgruntled few who, for one reason or another, have incited some quarters in opposing this lofty endeavor of the [town],” Gumban said in a text message. Caluya plans to transfer more than 100 families to a 5-hectare relocation site in Poocan where new houses will be constructed by the town and Semirara Mining Corp. (SMC). Semirara Island hosts SMC, which is operated by David M. Consunji Inc. and is one of Asia’s biggest coal mines. It is one of the nine islands comprising Caluya in Antique at the northern end of Panay Island. Caluya Mayor Genevive Lim-Reyes said Sabang residents would have to be transferred to Poocan because the land they were occupying had been reverted from the municipal government to the private donor.

The municipal government will provide facilities and a livelihood project in the relocation site, Reyes said. It has also offered to compensate them for the plants and trees that would be affected, she added. A group of Poocan residents led by the farmers group Sabang-Poocan Farmers, Fishermen Association Inc. (Sapoffa) is also opposing the proposed relocation site, which they claimed would include their farmlands. “We have been living and farming here for as long as 30 years. Why are they forcing us to leave?” Angie Ysug, Sapoffa spokesperson, said. Gumban said these claims over farmlands were “baseless.” The municipal government is claiming ownership of the property, which Reyes said included 3 ha donated by the Janairo family and another 2 ha bought by the town from the same family. On Feb. 28, police stopped the protest of Poocan residents and arrested Sapoffa president Bernard Magdaug for illegal assembly. The Antique 6th Municipal Circuit Trial Court found probable cause for the offense against Magdaug but ordered his release on March 3 without bail. Bulldozers and other heavy equipment of SMC have started clearing the 5-ha property. Reyes and Gumban had earlier denied talks that the vacated property in Sabang would be utilized by SMC. The mayor, whose husband is a scion of the Consunji clan that owns SMC, said her personal relations had no bearing on the relocation project.

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‘Safer Philippines’ road show kicks off in Pampanga Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:03 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

CLARK FREEPORT—Natural disasters, like devastating typhoons and storm surges, cannot be stopped but potential risks can be mitigated through the help of science, Science and Technology Secretary Mario Montejo said here recently. In his speech during the kick off here of the Department of Science and Technology’s 13-week program, “Iba na ang Panahon! Science for Safer Communities,” Montejo said studies on climate change show that severe weather events, from heavy rainfall to periods of drought, throughout the country would be more frequent in the future. The DOST is implementing the program in cooperation with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD). Montejo said mitigating disaster risks by applying scientific data would result in minimum loss of lives and properties and speedy recovery. He told officials in Central Luzon, who attended the program’s workshop, that more preparations are needed because the safety of their communities lie in their hands. Vicious cycle “We are one with President Aquino in saying we don’t want to be trapped in this vicious cycle of destruction and reconstruction, disaster after disaster. The Philippines faces an average of 20 typhoons per year, along with associated floods and storm surges as well as earthquakes,” he said. Montejo said science and technology could be used to better understand and improve disaster preparedness in communities. He said through scenario-based strategy, information on a specific event could be forecast. “Eventually we will not be forecasting only the weather. We will be forecasting scenarios—flood scenarios, storm surge scenarios. And based on these scenarios, we can prepare the contingency plans,” he said. He cited as example the need to open the Angat Dam in Bulacan province during a typhoon or when heavy rainfall occurs. He said the impact of such situation, like what would happen to downstream localities like Pulilan town or Malolos City and how many residents or property would be affected, should be anticipated.

Project Noah, Dream The program aims to help local governments prepare and cope with calamities through science and technology and related data and information, including those coming from the DOST’s Nationwide Operational Assessment of Hazards (Project Noah) and its component, Disaster Risk Exposure Assessment for Mitigation (Dream). Montejo said through hazard maps and information gathered by Project Noah and Dream, storm surges would be forecast two days in advance. Local governments, he said, would be armed with information to deal with disasters by making prompt action, predicting damage, and identifying safe areas for evacuation. The DOST program will run until May 23. A seminar-workshop was set for Calabarzon region officials on March 6 to 7 in Batangas province. Jun Malig, Inquirer Central Luzon

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Power restored by March 31–Petilla By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Inquirer Visayas  12:08 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

ILOILO CITY, Philippines—Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla said electric cooperatives were working to fully restore power supply in areas ravaged by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” by March 31. “Slowly we are restoring power. I suggested a deadline of March 31 (to electric cooperatives) and a lot of them have committed,” Petilla said on the sidelines of the groundbreaking of a 150-megawatt coal-fired plant expansion project of Panay Energy Development Corp. here last Friday. About 70 to 80 percent of power supply had been restored in areas hit by the supertyphoon in Iloilo, Antique, Aklan and Capiz provinces and around 50 percent in Leyte and Samar provinces, according to Petilla. He said the restoration efforts were primarily the responsibility of electric cooperatives but the government was helping because of the magnitude of the damage. The supertyphoon that hit mostly the Visayas on Nov. 8 last year toppled thousands of electric poles and destroyed transmitters and other facilities. In Capiz alone, about 30,000 poles were toppled, according to Capiz Electric Cooperative (Capelco). Repair crews from electric cooperatives from Mindanao and Luzon have been helping in the restoration efforts through the “Task Force Kapatid” of the National Electrification Administration (NEA). But electricity could not be restored in houses without roofs and those replaced with tents due to safety concerns, Petilla said. The government had initially released P3.9 billion through the NEA as assistance to electric cooperatives but this was below the initial estimate of the P5-billion cost of damage, he added. The amount of assistance will depend on the damage incurred by the cooperatives and the available funds. The fund would cover the partial cost of damage, he clarified. “These are government funds for privately operated cooperatives. We need to follow [the defined process],” Petilla said.

Capelco alone had reported P670 million in damage due to the supertyphoon and was assured of a P505-million grant from the government, said Capelco general manager Edgar Diaz in an earlier interview. Capelco consumers earlier raised the concern that the cost of damage due to the supertyphoon could be passed on to consumers who are already hit hard by Yolanda.

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What Malaysia can learn from PH By Karim Raslan Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:04 am | Monday, March 10th, 2014

PETALING JAYA—Philippine President Aquino is a dynast who means what he says. I first interviewed Aquino back in 2010 while he was still on the presidential campaign trail, and he impressed me immediately. However, many observers had only harsh views of him and dismissed him as little more than a callow political princeling—though the son of the nearsainted former president Cory Aquino and assassinated former senator Benigno Aquino Jr. But something about him struck me. Perhaps it was, as I wrote back then, his “quiet determination and self-confidence, an inherently rational and deliberate mindset and a determination not to become indebted to entrenched business and political interests… his integrity and intelligence may well propel the Philippines forward and surprise its neighbors.” Last Feb. 28, listening to him speak in Kuala Lumpur, Mr. Aquino clearly hasn’t disappointed. Speaking of his election, he noted: “The people told us… it’s time to once and for all realize the vast potential of the Philippines.” I think Mr. Aquino has delivered on this score and more. Indeed, Malaysia can learn a lot from the Philippines. First, the republic’s economy has been transformed. The Philippines has soared in the World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report rankings, from 85th in 2010 to 59th in 2013. Its GDP grew by 7.2 percent in 2013 despite the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: “Haiyan”). Moreover, its business process outsourcing (BPO) industry generated $13.3 billion in revenues and by 2016 is expected to employ 1.3 million people. The Philippines is also emerging as a tourism hub, having attracted some 4.6 million international visitors in 2013, and raking in $4.8 billion in revenues. This is no accident: Back in that 2010 interview, Mr. Aquino identified BPO and tourism as “critical growth areas” for the Philippine economy. He also mentioned the need for better infrastructure and he has increased spending for this from $7.16 billion in 2013 to $9 billion this year. Separately, in 2013 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) sent $22.5 billion in remittances back home. Of course, the large numbers of OFWs (estimated at nearly 10 million) represent a substantial cost to the nation—the republic’s best and brightest working in other countries, most often leaving behind their children, and in not a few instances resulting in broken families.

Nonetheless, the Philippines will be entering a demographic “sweet spot” in 2015, when the majority of the population will reach working age. Admittedly, corruption remains a major problem. But Aquino has never shied away from taking on those who abuse power. He has not spared even his predecessor, Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Whatever the merits of the charges against her, her prosecution proves beyond a shadow of doubt that Aquino holds no one above the law. Under his presidency, the Philippines’ Corruption Perception Index ranking improved from 134th in 2010 to 94th in 2013. Aquino has also defied powerful religious interests, specifically, the Catholic Church, on the controversial Reproductive Health Law, to provide universal access to contraception. This measure is desperately needed given that the Philippines has the highest population growth in Asia at 1.9 percent, exacerbating its poverty. But his impact has been more than economic. Mr. Aquino’s tenure could see an end to the four-decade-old southern Philippine insurgency. Thanks to a Malaysian-brokered peace deal, plans are afoot to expand the existing Muslim autonomous region there into a “Bangsamoro” entity with more devolved powers, in exchange for the disarmament of the rebel group Moro Islamic Liberation Front. Of course, the deal still needs the approval of Philippine Congress; and another rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front, maintains a recalcitrant attitude toward the latest peace agreement. But the establishment of the Bangsamoro will be a big boost to security not only in the southern Philippines but also in Sabah. In agreeing to this development, the overwhelmingly Catholic Philippines has shown generosity and innovation in dealing with its minorities. I’m not saying everything is rosy there. The country’s continuing defiance of China over the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea) issue may be unwise, especially with the political tension in the region heating up. Still, it would be foolish to dismiss the Philippines’ latest feats. Mr. Aquino has shown great foresight, but more importantly, courage in sticking to his bold plans for transformation. This hasn’t been easy for him, and opposition is also coming from his own class, but this hasn’t stopped him or forced him to backtrack from pursuing what he envisions for his country. In his concluding remarks in Kuala Lumpur, Aquino said: “The Philippines, once the laggard of Asia, is now entering into a sustainable cycle of empowerment and opportunity, and a trajectory of growth where no one is left behind.” I have a feeling we will be hearing a lot more of the country going forward. The Nation/Asia News Network

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Loan sharks prey on ‘Yolanda’ victims Storm survivors turn to lenders in absence of gov’t help to repair homes

By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Inquirer Visayas 12:23 am | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

WHAT BUNKHOUSE? A resident rebuilds his home in Barangay Anibong in Tacloban City almost a month after Supertyphoon “Yolanda” and its storm surge flattened communities in the Visayas and killed thousands of people even as a beached ship remains in the area. NIÑO JESUS ORBETA ILOILO CITY—Survivors of Super Typhoon “Yolanda” have fallen prey to loan sharks and small lending businesses for the repair of their houses amid the delay in government assistance, according to urban poor groups on Panay island. Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) Panay-Guimaras said the delay in government assistance had worsened the plight of the victims, most of whom had also lost their means of livelihood. “It has been four months after Yolanda. Where is the P30,000 for destroyed houses and P10,000 for damaged houses promised by P-Noy (President Aquino) and [Interior Secretary] Mar Roxas?” said Junard Francisco, secretary general of Kadamay-Capiz, an urban poor group on the island. The supertyphoon, which packed winds reaching 300 kilometers per hour, destroyed 241,740 houses and damaged 256,356 others in Western Visayas, according to a Dec. 12, 2013, report of the Office of Civil Defense. It also destroyed wide areas of farmland and at least 9,744 fishing boats in the region. The government had assured the victims that those whose houses and livelihood were destroyed or damaged would be given assistance as part of a comprehensive rehabilitation plan. Ruciebelle Galila, a member of the women’s group Gabriela and a typhoon victim in San Dionisio town in Iloilo province, said many houses that were destroyed and damaged by Yolanda had not been repaired. “We have received food assistance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development and the local government, but most of the help have come from nongovernment organizations and private groups,” she said. Kim-Sin Tugma, chair of the Aklan chapter of Kadamay, said many victims who lost their homes were forced to turn to money lenders despite high interest rates payable up to three months.

“We have no choice because we cannot just leave our houses in shambles while waiting for the promised assistance,” he said.

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Davao finds place on cocoa world map By Germelina Lacorte Inquirer Mindanao  12:21 am | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

ASKINOSIE’S website showing Davao “tableya” GERMELINA LACORTE DAVAO CITY—On its website, Missouri-based Askinosie Chocolates features an enticing picture of Davao-made “tableya.” In 2009, it was a photo of a Philippine dark chocolate bar, 77percent made from Davao cocoa. “Dry, like a full-bodied well-aged red wine,” Shawn Askinosie, founder of the world-famous Zingerman’s Deli, was quoted as describing the Davao chocolate, which came from the first high-quality fermented cacao beans exported by Puentespina Farms. “It was the first ever cacao bean export in the country after several years,” said Charito Puentespina, a chocolate maker from Davao City’s Malagos District and a former orchid grower, as she recalled how she broke into the export market in 2009. It was Mars Chocolates that helped her tie up with Askinosie. “I was able to ship 8 tons in a 20foot van, and so far, I never had any refusal,” Puentespina said. Not just bananas Today, Davao’s chocolate makers are striving to make the place known for its best-tasting chocolates and not just for bananas. The market for cacao is so promising that Peace and Equity Foundation (PEF), which has the country’s largest endowment fund of P2 billion, picked cacao among the commodities with high potentials of uplifting the living standards of farmers and depressed communities. Industry estimates pegged the domestic demand for cacao at 40,000 metric tons per year and total production of only 10,000 MT. This means that the Philippines is importing 30,000 MT for its cacao needs.

At the prevailing market price of $3,000 per ton of cacao, one could easily translate this unmet demand to a P4-billion untapped market for cacao growers, industry sources said. “Why would we give that market away to Indonesia and Vietnam instead of getting hold of it ourselves?” asked Pacita Juan, one of the PEF board members, during a Good News Kapihan forum last month at a hotel in Davao City. Priority commodities With its endowment fund, the foundation plans to help out social entrepreneurs going into cacao and four other commodities listed among its priorities—coffee, coconuts, cane sugar and “climate-smart” commodities, which include rice, camote (sweet potato) and other root crops. “In 2011, we shifted vision to help build sustainable communities, or communities that don’t just rely on help but make use of it to roll into enterprises that can help many people,” Juan said. “Although we have helped lots of people through the loans we extended in the past, we have changed direction to create more sustainable households by funding projects that can help the communities.” Roberto Calingo, PEF executive director, said the project was in line with the government’s thrust for inclusive growth. “We realized that the number of employed does not match the rosy economic picture that our economy is painting,” he said. “By supporting social entrepreneurs, we can bring about changes in the communities because what they’re making can spread the economic benefits. Assisting social enterprises will open up support to entrepreneurs who have very strong links with the communities, helping a lot of households,” he said. Huge world market Dante Muyco of Chokolate de San Isidro said the world market for gourmet chocolates was so huge that it appeared almost unlimited. Even if the country met the challenge to plant 100,000 cacao trees by 2020, growers would serve only a limited portion of the market, which was growing about that much each year, he said. “There are so many orders that keep coming in; we can hardly supply them, even with the many new entrepreneurs coming in,” Muyco said. Puentespina stressed the need to focus on and maintain quality as a requisite toward commanding a higher price for Davao chocolates in the market. “We should be able to grow the quality beans required in the market to command a good price for our products,” she said. “Selling low quality beans will push us back to history,” she said, recalling the low prices that Davao cacao beans used to fetch in the market. Juan saw the need for growers and exporters to constantly promote their products and to zealously guard against attempts to associate these with cheap, low quality ones.

Value-adding Value-adding of chocolates and tableya products also tended to create a stir in the market, giving the impression that the Philippines was also a “chocolate country,” Muyco said. Cacao producers agreed that even with a huge unmet demand for chocolates in the local market, they still had to go into export to promote the single-origin Davao chocolates. “The chocolate-making market is out there and it’s not really here,” Puentespina said. “At the same time, we want to tell the market out there that we exist,” she said. “Among cacao producers, our passion is one big strength we should be holding on to,” said Josephine Ramos, coauthor of the book, “Cacao Bean to Bar.” “Not only attached to our culture and cacao tradition, bean exports also reintroduce the country to the world’s cacao map,” Ramos said.

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DA chief to lobby for eased import tariffs on bananas By Germelina Lacorte Inquirer Mindanao 6:16 pm | Sunday, March 9th, 2014

COMPOSTELA VALLEY, Philippines – Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala has told banana exporters he will personally lobby for the lowering of tariff for Cavendish banana in Korea and Japan. Alcala said he would raise the issue with Korea, which had just approved the permit to import chicken from the Philippines, during his scheduled visit this month. “I will bring this up personally, ako po ang magla-lobby (I will do the lobbying),” Alcala said after Stephen Antig, executive director of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), complained about the high tariff rates that Korea and Japan have been imposing on Philippine Cavendish bananas. Antig said during Thursday’s dialog with Alcala and banana growers and exporters in Nabunturan, that countries like Peru have been able to export their bananas to Korea at zero tariff, in exchange of the country’s commitment to import Korean cars. “The Philippines has also been a major importer of Korean cars, so, we will also take that (the tariff issue) up with the Koreans,” Alcala said. Antig also said Japanese banana importers have already asked their own government to lower the tariffs on Philippine bananas, and that the “ball is now in the hands of the Philippine government to make some moves.” Alcala said the country would take the issue on Japanese tariff on Cavendish bananas during the bilateral talks with Japan in April.

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Cold weather may briefly return — PAGASA  March 9, 2014

Cold weather-associated northeast monsoon or hanging amihan may come back within the next two to three days, bringing lower air temperatures over some parts of Northern Luzon this week, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said Sunday. However, PAGASA weather forecaster Gener Quitlong said the effects of northeast monsoon, which may only prevail over some parts of Northern Luzon, may briefly comeback as the country transcends toward the summer season. The warm and humid air or easterly winds coming from the Pacific Ocean will continue to affect Bohol, Cebu, Negros Oriental, Siquijor, Leyte, and Mindanao. These areas will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms. Meanwhile, Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. Quitlong explained that the prevalence of the easterlies is a manifestation of the transition period from cold weather to summer season in the country. He noted that the northeast monsoon usually ends between the second or third week of February. By Wednesday, the eastern sections of Visayas and Mindanao will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms. PAGASA said some passing light rains are expected over Northern Luzon. However, good weather conditions will continue to persist over Metro Manila and the rest of the country. By Thursday, the eastern sections of Visayas and some parts of Mindanao will be cloudy with light to moderate rain showers and thunderstorms. Metro Manila and the rest of the country will continue to experience fair weather conditions with chances of afternoon isolated rain showers or thunderstorms. (Ellalyn B. De Vera)‐weather‐may‐briefly‐return‐pagasa/     

Senate to probe more NGOs linked to ‘pork’  scam  by Mario Casayuran March 9, 2014 (updated)

Manila, Philippines — Bogus non-government organizations similar to the fake 10 NGOs identified with businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles that reportedly got P2 billion from the P10billion pork barrel scam are the next target of the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. Sen. Teofisto L. Guingona, committee chairman, said the probe into the new fake NGOs might be undertaken in conjunction with the upcoming inquiry into the alleged involvement of 12 Napoles NGOs in P900 million of the multi-billion-peso Malampaya fund under the Arroyo administration. A separate investigation may also be an option.

By the time then President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo left office in 2010, the Malampaya fund was P70 billion. As of June, 2013, the fund went up to P132 billion. Guingona said he will consult his committee members on what move to take after he initially stated that he was more into finally shifting the committee probe from the P10-billion pork barrel scam to the Malampaya fund mess. The ninth Blue Ribbon Committee hearing into the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) case was held last Thursday. In that hearing, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago, chairman of the Senate Constitutional Amendments Committee, had suggested that the panel look into the non-Napoles NGOs after grilling Dennis Cunanan, director-general on leave of the state-owned Technology Resource Center (TRC). Doubts were raised on Cunanan’s claim that he did not benefit financially from

the pork barrel allocations of lawmakers his office had processed and referred to Napoles’ NGOs. Cunanan was recently accepted by the Department of Justice (DOJ) as a provisional state witness against Senators Juan Ponce Enrle, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and more than 30 others in a plunder case lodged with the Office of the Ombudsman.‐to‐probe‐more‐ngos‐linked‐to‐p10‐b‐pork‐scam/                                           

Livelihood programs for Agusan tribes  by Mike Crismundo March 9, 2014

Loreto, Agusan del Sur – The local government here launched a livelihood program in an effort to uplift the living condition of the tribesmen in the remote communities of this municipality. During the first-ever Indigenous People’s (IP’s) Peace and Development Conference that was held here recently, the leaders from the Manobo, Banwa-on, and other ethnic tribes, including the former New People’s Army (NPA) rebels who surrendered to the government, received various livelihood programs and other sustainable livelihood interventions under the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps). During the summit, unit commanders of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) discussed the peace and order situation in the area, turned over livelihood programs to the former rebels, the ancestral domain, livelihood and economic sustainability of the IPs, utilization of forest products, and the forest industry economic cluster of this town. To boost the economic development of the area, the municipal government said it is now developing additional agricultural areas. Aside from the existing 1,000-hectare banana plantations of individual farmers, the municipal government is set to help other farmers to utilize some 7,000 hectares for rice and corn farming, and banana plantation. The municipal government said it will also help the tribesmen and the farmers in utilizing the 15,000-hectare land for rubber plantation, and another 10,000 hectares for palm oil tree plantation.‐programs‐for‐agusan‐tribes/               

Foreign investment influx seen in Bangsamoro  region  by Ali G. Macabalang March 9, 2014

  Cotabato City – People in the soon to be established Bangsamoro region can expect the influx of foreign  investments once the Government of the Philippines (GPH) and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF)  complete negotiations with the signing of a Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB), the  Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said.  Undersecretary Jose Lorena, OPAPP Bangsamoro Office head, disclosed that the ARMM’s economy is  kept afloat over the years by a combination of local and foreign investments that are expected to  magnify once the Bangsamoro region has been set in place.  “In fact, the ARMM (that will be replaced by the Bangsamoro region) has a more vibrant trade  relationship with the neighboring countries of Indonesia, Malaysia, and Brunei than the capital Manila,”  he said.  Once the CAB is signed, Lorena noted that investments from these neighboring Muslim countries are  expected to increase in several folds under the Bangsamoro political entity replacing the ARMM.  Malaysia, which brokers the GPH‐MILF peace talks, is close to the ARMM’s island‐provinces of Tawi‐ tawi, Sulu, and Basilan.  Goods from Malaysia have been flowing to these areas ever since, and vice versa with mainly seaweeds,  copra, and high‐value fish products, among others, from the local side.  The ARMM’s mainland provinces of Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur have been posting heavy  investments in massive production of banana, oil palm, and rubber trees in billions of pesos, a record  from the Department of Trade and Industry in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (DTI‐ ARMM) office showed.‐investment‐influx‐seen‐in‐bangsamoro‐region/         

Isabela hydro plant to power 500 homes  by Ellalyn De Vera March 9, 2014

A microhydroelectric power plant that will generate power through irrigation canal will be constructed in San Mateo, Isabela to address the high cost of electricity and insufficient power supply in Cagayan Valley (Region 2), the Department of Agriculture (DA) said. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and officials of the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) and Department of Energy (DoE) launched the microhydro project at the Lateral B Canal of NIAMagat River Integrated Irrigation System (NIA-MARIIS) in Barangay San Marcos in San Mateo, Isabela. Funded through a grant from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), the project is being jointly undertaken by DA-NIA and DOE. The microhydro plant is expected to generate 45 kilowatts (kW) of power, which is equivalent to 236,000 kilowatt hours (Kwh) annually. Cheap and efficient, it will be a run-off the river power generation using two Japanese-made turbines to be installed at the irrigation canal, Alcala said. As such, it will prove the viability of sourcing hydropower from low-head irrigation canals commonly found throughout the country. The project is expected to be completed by November this year, where around 500 households from Barangay San Marcos and nearby Barangay Villafuerte will be able to get affordable electricity from the facility. DA said the facility is the first in the country. Besides MARIIS, there are 147 other sites nationwide initially identified by NIA as possible locations for minihydro dams, which can generate altogether an estimated 28 megawatts of electricity, NIA Administrator Claro Maranan said.‐hydro‐plant‐to‐power‐500‐homes/         

Mindanao newsbits for March 10, 2014  March 9, 2014

  Vegetable Supply  Butuan City – Local officials here said the supply of fresh vegetables in the city is now abundant  following the regular delivery of agricultural products from the local farmers. This development came  out during the recent meeting here of local vegetable farmers, market group leaders, marketing  business leaders, and other major farm retailers. The Vegetable Farmers’ Market Encounter was also  participated in by the Caraga Vegetable Growers Network (CarVeGrowN), VROSS Meatshop, and Berry  Happy Mart. The encounter was organized by the Department of Agriculture‐Regional Field Unit Caraga,  and the Region‐13 office of the Department of Trade and Industry, with the participation of the Butuan  City Chamber of Commerce and Industry Foundation, Inc. (Mike Crismundo)        Surigao Tourism  Surigao City – In line with its tourism master development plan, the city government here is fast‐tracking  the construction of various multi‐million‐peso development projects that are expected to link the  various tourism sites. These infrastructure projects include the road improvements leading to the  various known tourism sites in the area, like the rod going to the Mabua‐Ipil Pebble Beach, the lovely  pebble beach of Looc; and the famous Punta Bilar Dive Site, which will cost around P140‐million.  According to City Tourism Official Roselyn B. Merlin, the city government is also eyeing to develop the  Bitaugan Whirlpool, a place where one can witness the roaring might of the sea, a scene to behold with  its enthralling spinning seawater. (Mike Crismundo)        New Facility  Malabang, Lanao del Sur – The 2nd engineering district office here acquired a new structure in  replacement of an oft‐flooded building, drawing approval from neighboring residents that had long  complained about the “poor state” of the old structure. “It is a glad tiding, exuding assurances of better  services,” Cairo Macabato, a neighboring village leader, said of the completion and inauguration of the  building. Lanao del Sur Governor Mamintal “Bombit” Adiong Jr. and Autonomous Region in Muslim  Mindanao Governor Mujiv Hataman jointly inaugurated on March 5 the new edifice built on an elevated 

part of the oft‐inundated portion here of the highway linking Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur. (Ali  Macabalang)        Power Supply  Pagadian City (PNA) – The Zamboanga del Sur Electric Cooperative‐1 (Zamsureco‐1) has lifted Friday the  implementation of the daily six hour rotational blackout here. Zamsureco‐1 information officer Liberal  Cabatcha made the announcement over the weekend, citing the cooperative is now receiving a  complete supply of power from its suppliers. “The electric cooperative is very happy to inform the  electric consuming public that the power load of 34 megawatts (MW) needed for Zamboanga del Sur is  already available as of today after the normalization of operations of the power generation and of the  National Grid Corporation of the Philippines,” Cabatcha said.‐newsbits‐for‐march‐10‐2014/                               

Luzon newsbits for March 10, 2014  March 9, 2014

Pusit Festival San Antonio, Zambales — The two-day “Pusit Festival” in Barangay San Miguel, this town, kicked off yesterday with exciting activities like the biggest squid contest to give San Miguel recognition as the “Pusit Capital” of Zambales. Organizer and Barangay first lady Beth Ablog said that street dancing, beach volleyball competition, a brass band concert called Pusinerata, zumbathon, cooking contest, a barbecue, a videoke challenge and a live band concert were all part of the festivities. San Miguel Barangay Chairman Antonio Ablog also showed the winner in the competition for the biggest pusit catch, a huge pusit that weighed 8.5 kilos. (Jonas Reyes)

Tobacco Kings Narvacan, Ilocos Sur — A total of 20 tobacco farmers were honored recently by the National Tobacco Administration (NTA) for their exemplary efforts in tobacco growing. Administrator Edgar D. Zaragoza said “the Tobacco Growers of the Year (TGY) contest showcases tobacco farmers’ innovativeness, efficiency, compliance with Good Agricultural Practices (GAP), and protecting the environment while practicing their profession and getting the maximum income from their labor.” “The awardees were able to demonstrate application of science and technology-based knowledge which made the production of tobacco a profitable enterprise,” he added. (Freddie G. Lazaro)‐newsbits‐for‐march‐10‐2014/             

Ending smuggling to benefit 18,391 rice farmers  – Alcala  March 9, 2014

Putting an end to rice smuggling will directly benefit at least 18,391 farmers, and millions of poor consumers who will have more to buy from the National Food Authority at the current price of P27 per kilo as against the prevailing annual average retail price of P36.74 for the regular milled, according to Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala. Alcala stated this as he endorsed to the Senate the position of the NFA against rice smuggling. In a letter to Senate agriculture and food committee chair Cynthia Villar, Alcala said that the P8 billion funds lost to smuggling yearly can be given to the NFA for the procurement of additional 459,770 metric tons from 18,391 individual farmers at the current buying price of P17.40/kg inclusive of incentive, enabling them to benefit from the P2.7 million net profit. The consumers will also gain net savings of some P2.9 billion from the consequently more affordable and available NFA rice at P27/kg than the retail market’s P36.75/kg annual average price. At the same time, the NFA will realize interest savings of about P380 million, if it will borrow the P8 billion. The country reportedly lost between P8.4 billion to P10 billion in forgone revenues in 2012 due to rampant rice smuggling involving some 800,000 to one million metric tons. The amount was assessed from the base rate of P21/kilo of rice and the current duty of 50 percent for imported rice without a permit from the NFA. This development stemmed from the Senate inquiry into the treasonous crime allegedly perpetrated and controlled by suspected “rice smuggling king” Davidson Bangayan alias David Tan. At the Senate inquiry, Bangayan was pinpointed by Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte as the one in control of rice smuggling nationwide and whom he had vowed to shoot and “would gladly kill” as a matter of duty and for the country. He explained that for lack of money, the farmers and the cooperatives had to deal with Bangayan for importation.‐smuggling‐to‐benefit‐18391‐rice‐farmers‐alcala/ 

Global Power mulls biomass investments  by Myrna Velasco March 9, 2014

The next investment foray of Global Business Power Corporation (GBPC) will be in a biomass facility with initial proposed capacity of 50 megawatts and potential expansion up to 100MW. Global Business Power chairman Francisco Sebastian said the project will be sited in La Carlota, Negros Occidental. It will be utilizing bagasse as its fuel for electricity generation. The company indicated that its partners at Global Power will also be heavily involved in the biomass project, primarily Orix Corporation of Japan which has vast experience in renewable energy developments. “Orix has expertise in geothermal and renewable energy, we may give them bigger share in this project,” Sebastian said. He further asserted “the capacity is between 50 to 100MW, so like for La Carlota, they can invest more…maybe we will go down and they will increase their stake, For Meralco, that’s possible also.” Orix cornered 20-percent equity on Global Power last year; while Meralco Power Gen took the other 20-percent shareholdings. Global Business Power executive vice president Jaime Azurin said the investment cost for biomass is set at $2.5 million per megawatt. And for the scale that the company has been eyeing to develop, he noted that the capital outlay may reach $125 million to $250 million. Azurin noted that they have been analyzing at least two parameters when it comes to their planned biomass investment: if they can improve efficiencies for the facility and if the fuel source can be sustainable. Sebastian emphasized that after gaining investment traction in Visayas, the company has been scouring for prospects in the two other grids. “We’re looking at opportunities. I think we have done well in the Visayas. We used these opportunities to turn them into viable businesses, so now there are areas where there are needs, of course Luzon is one…and Mindanao,” he said. Over the long-term, the company plans to install 300 to 600MW to add to Luzon grid’s capacity needs; and at least 300MW for Mindanao grid – with siting being eyed in the northeast corridor.‐power‐mulls‐biomass‐investments/ 

Values are institutionalized human virtues  by Bernardo M. Villegas March 9, 2014

Those trying to improve governance in both the private and public sectors highlight the importance of such values as integrity, fairness, transparency, solidarity and humility. Even before they state the mission-vision of their respective organizations, leaders are asked to articulate their so-called Core Values. In addition to the above-mentioned “values,” the other most common core values enumerated are social responsibility, trust, excellence, patriotism, and concern for the environment. As I mentioned in a previous column, these values are actually found more frequently in family rather than non-family enterprises. As John Ward of the Kellogg School of Management in the US wrote in “Family Values and Value Creation,” family firms, as contrasted with those who are not, emphasize collectivity more than individuality; they give stress to past and future orientation to time more than a present orientation; they have a stronger belief in the “natural goodness of man.” In a survey he conducted differentiating family from non-family enterprises, he found out that the former assign the highest priority to such human qualities as courage, dignity, reputation, fairness, hard work, empathy, curiosity discipline, prudence, loyalty and sincerity. In contrast, the non-family firms give more importance to results-oriented goals: innovation, performance, change, leadership, profitability, efficiency, continuous improvement, customer service and entrepreneurship. I must point out, however, that values that are found in an organization are only products of the institutionalization of the individual human virtues lived and nurtured by the founders of the enterprise. The values that contribute to the long-term growth and development of a business, such as integrity, transparency and generosity, would not have arisen had they not been first lived in the flesh by the founding entrepreneur and those who worked with him at the start of the enterprise. In other words, only virtuous persons can “build to last” (to use the expression of Jim Collins) businesses. These virtues or habits that have been formed through constant repetition of certain good acts (say, acts of courage or sincerity) have shaped the corporate culture or ways of doing things in an organization. Alexander Havard in his book “Virtuous Leadership”, following the example of the Greek philosophers, lists four main human virtues: prudence, justice, courage, and self-control. To quote from his best seller: “These are the so-called cardinal virtues, from the Latin word cardo, or ‘hinge.’ These are the virtues upon which all other human virtues hinge. Each of the non-

cardinal virtues is bound up in and depends on one of the cardinal virtues…We must mention two other virtues – magnanimity and humility. Both are fundamental, though are not considered cardinal by tradition. For the ancient Greeks, humility depended on the cardinal virtue of selfcontrol and magnanimity on the cardinal virtue of courage.” In this article, I will borrow the succinct definitions given by Mr. Havard of the cardinal and fundamental human virtues. It must be stressed that all these virtues can be cultivated by any human being independently of his creed or religion (or no religion). The definitions are as follows: Prudence: to make right decisions; Courage: to stay the course and resist pressures of all kinds; Self-control: to subordinate passions to the spirit and fulfillment of the mission at hand; Justice: to give every individual his due; Magnanimity: to strive for great things, to challenge myself and others; and Humility: to overcome selfishness and serve others. To illustrate the importance of one of these cardinal virtues, prudence (considered the queen of all the virtues), in the long-term survival of a family enterprise, let me cite one of the major mistakes in succession practices identified by Guido Corbetta in the same volume “Family Values and Value Creation.” This mistake has to do with the failure of the leaders to understand the difference between ownership, governance and management. Quoting Corbetta: “Family members involved in the company can play three different roles: they can be owners, directors or managers. In many businesses, especially in first and second generation and in small companies, these roles often overlap because the same people may carry out more than one. Failing to understand that these roles differ in content, that they require specific structures and professional skills, and that they are transmitted according to different rules, can make generational transitions more complicated.” Founders of family enterprises that have passed the test of time have been exemplary in their avoiding this mistake because they cultivated the virtue of prudence. As Havard explains in “Virtuous Leadership”, prudent decision-making consists of three steps: deliberation (gathering information so as to establish a yardstick); judgment (the evaluation of that information); and actual decision making. The deliberative aspect is directed towards the real circumstances, whereas the judgment aspect and ultimate decision making have to do with will and action. Without any formal management training, the prudent founders of businesses are able to intuit the differences delineated by Corbeta through the virtue of prudence. They know how to distinguish among the roles of the owners, the members of the board of directors and the professional managers. It is the cardinal virtue of prudence that enables a founding entrepreneur to establish the foundation for the sustainable growth of the enterprise that he started.

Another example of how one of the cardinal virtues facilitates the long-term success of a family enterprise is suggested by Miguel Angel Gallo who contributed the article entitled “Power as Service in Family Business” to the same publication cited above. According to him, “the exercise of power as service requires that those positions of power recognize the influence of their personal preferences and the subjectivity of their judgments. It also requires a willingness to be more objective and to accept that the community may require them, in the exercise of their strategic responsibilities, to do things that go against their personal preference.” In other words, the tyrannical use of power by the founder can lead to the eventual failure of the business he founded. It is obvious, therefore, that the human virtue of humility, which is a corollary virtue to self-control, is essential to the long-term viability of a family enterprise. These are just a few examples of the main point of this article: that enduring values within family-owned businesses are the human virtues of their founders institutionalized or enshrined in the corporate culture. For comments, my email address is‐are‐institutionalized‐human‐virtues/                             

World Bank cites PH ‘sin tax’ law  by Chino Leyco March 9, 2014

The World Bank has cited the Philippine government’s “win-win policy” in the tobacco and alcohol tax regime following the first year of successful implementation of the reformed excise tax law as it noted the law’s “seven wins” for the youth, the poor, health, economy, farmers, governance, and the future, and for which are now raising the interest of other countries in the Asia Pacific region. In a statement, Jim Brumby, World Bank sector manager for poverty reduction and economic management said this was the central that emerged from the recently-concluded East Asia and Pacific Regional workshop on Tobacco and Alcohol Tax Reform in Manila. Brumby said the new excise tax regime in the country is an effective measure to reduce smoking incidence and raise additional revenues for the government. Brumby noted that the Philippines’ sin tax law is now raising the interest of international organizations and other governments in the Asia-Pacific Region. “I would like to acknowledge the monumental success of the Philippine government in pushing through with the sin tax reform. Tobacco [and alcohol] taxation is truly a win-win policy. A win for revenues, and a win for public health,” Brumby said. According to the World Bank, tobacco kills 5.4 million persons worldwide every year. Unless urgent action is taken, the annual death toll can rise to more than 8 million by 2030. Meanwhile, Health Secretary Enrique Ona also lauded the first year of implementation of Republic Act 10351 for bringing about the “largest financing growth in the history of the department”— a 57.9 percent expansion in the agency’s 2014 budget over that in 2013. “It is still too early to determine the public health impact of RA 10351, but this has greatly increased excise tax collections translating into a significant increase in funding for our health programs,” Ona said. “The future looks bright for our program of universal health care. The expanded fiscal space for health has already allowed us to enrol an additional 9.5 million families for 2014 to the National Health Insurance Program,” he added. Finance Undersecretary Jeremias Paul Jr., meanwhile, said that while the Philippines’ sin tax law was passed in a specific context, common lessons can be drawn by other governments in the region hoping to adopt this kind of policy.

“One of the first lessons is that it is crucial to aim high, in order to reap the maximum possible gains for health and fiscal space,” Paul said. “After the first year of implementation, the gains of our sin tax reforms have also been quite encouraging on the financial side: revenue collections have far exceeded government expectations, and good governance has been promoted in a tax scheme once notable for its loopholes and leakages,” he added. Ona and Paul’s statements on the lessons and gains of the sin tax law were also affirmed by Action for Economic Reforms (AER), the government’s main civil society partner in the passage of the measure.‐bank‐cites‐ph‐sin‐tax‐law/                                     

Land Bank to focus domestically  by Lee C. Chipongian March 9, 2014

While the country’s big private lenders are under scrutiny and pressure to beef up operations when the region’s banking community or the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework (ABIF) begins next year, state-owned Land Bank of the Philippines is choosing a more domestic focus. The Philippines’ largest government financial institution and the fourth biggest of 36 universal and commercial banks, is expanding to areas no bank has ever been before.

“As a government bank, we want to saturate first the local market,” said Landbank president and CEO Gilda E. Pico. Pico said their objective is to serve the unbanked municipalities in the country. In a 2012 report, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) noted that there are still 609 unserved municipalities out of 1,634 which cover about 15.2 percent of the population. In the next several years, the plan is to increase the financially-served municipalities by more than 230. The BSP said that based on a demand study on domestic payments, of the 55 percent of the population, about 95 percent which are classified as either poor or very poor now have access to banking transactions such as remittances and payments. “We have a lot more unserved and unbanked areas in the Philippines,” said Pico. “Our priority is financial inclusion by 2018 (and) we will be present, not really with branch, but conduits in all the municipalities in the Philippines.” The expansion of banking networks can be in the number of branches, the automated teller machines and other financial providers such as non-bank financial institutions including pawnshops. Banks can also choose to expand their coverage through scaled-down branches such micro-banking offices or through the e-money platform.

Pico said Landbank is in a good position to be the bank that will have presence all over the country. The bank is the official depositor bank of some 85 percent of all local government units. In terms of LGU loans, they cover more than 50 percent. The bank’s current branch network is 349 and about 962 ATMs nationwide. For this year, Pico said Landbank is opening 10 more branches. “We plan to put up 10 branches every year.” Pico said for the banking sector, 2014 will be more challenging than last year. “In 2013, we had a very good income from investments because the investment climate was good but this year is not as good as 2013.” Pico said most banks took in fairly large earnings from the investment side but the same is not expected to happen this year. Landbank channeled 79 percent of their loans to the priority sectors in 2013, surpassing the target of 75 percent. “This year our target again is 75%, that’s a minimum, but we can go higher than 75 percent like last year,” she added. In 2013, the bank posted an income growth of nine percent year-on-year to P11.7 billion Last year’s profits exceeded the bank’s internal target of P10.5 billion. Total assets went up by 22 percent to P841.8 billion while its capital base remained strong at P72.3 billion.‐bank‐to‐focus‐domestically/                         

Palace asks all gov’t officials to file SALN by  April 30  by Genalyn Kabiling March 9, 2014

Malacañang has called on government officials and workers to submit their Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN) with due diligence and honesty. Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said they hope the public servants can accomplish the form prior to the April 30 deadline.

Malacañang urges public officials to file their truthful SALN before the April 30, 2014 deadline. “We must follow the law. We must file our SALNs completely, truthfully at the proper time. We hope everyone concerned will comply,” Coloma said in Filipino over government radio. Under Republic Act No. 6713 or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees, all public officials and employees are required to declare under oath their assets, liabilities, net worth, and financial and business interests as of December 31 of the preceding year. The SALN must be filed on or before April 30 of every year. The Palace earlier said the President is expected to submit his SALN to the Office of the Ombudsman before the April 30 deadline. In his 2012 SALN, President Aquino’s net worth decreased to P65,128,604 from P65,130,264 in 2011. The slight decrease in the President’s assets was reportedly due to the sale of his 2005 Ford Everest in 2012. Despite appeals for increased transparency, Malacañang has rejected the voluntary release of the President’s SALN to the media or in his official website. Instead, written requests should be addressed to the Malacañang records section for the document, which may take some time.‐asks‐all‐govt‐officials‐to‐file‐saln‐by‐april‐30/     

De Lima argues rice import quotas lifted under WTO agreement •

Written by Benjamin B. Pulta

Monday, 10 March 2014 00:00

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima has made a draft letter thumbing down the Department of Agriculture (DA)’s position on the expired World Trade organization (WTO)-granted “special privilege” allowing the Philippines to impose quantitative restrictions (QR) on rice importation. De Lima pointed out that she “only sent a letter and not a legal opinion.” The “letter,” marked “confidential,” was dated Dec. 16, 2013 and addressed to DA Secreaty Proceso Alcala, in response to the latter’s “request for opinion” on whether the expired QR “can still be enforced by the government, through your DA and the National Food Authority (NFA)...” In it, De Lima wrote that the “comments and observations” rendered by the Department of Justice (DoJ) in the document were only for the DA’s “information and guidance.” She, however, then proceeded on a point-by-point legal rebuttal of all DA-NFA arguments on why QR should remain in effect despite its expiration on June 30, 2012. “We are also quite aware that said law also gives the NFA (such) power(s) … However, in the exercise of such rule-making power, the NFA cannot close its eyes to the provisions of the WTO Agreement, which, by the acts of both the President and the Senate, became part of our body of law,” the DoJ wrote in response to DA’s position that the Agricultural Tariffication Act (RA 8178) allowed the NFA “continuing authority” to impose QR. “It (NFA) cannot pick and select which to honor and which to disregard. It cannot derogate from the terms that the President agreed to and the Senate concurred in,” De Lima lectured Alcala. The Justice secretary concluded: “it is our opinion that the WTO provisions on the lifting of QRs as well as their exceptions, and the provisions on negotiations for its extension are already effective and should be complied with.” The WTO first granted the Philippines a 10-year “special treatment” for rice starting in 1995. Prior to its 2005 expiration, an extension was negotiated and granted in 2004. The said extension lapsed on 30 June 2012. Even before current negotiations for a second extension until 2017, the country had twice been denied appeals for postponement of “special treatment’s” expiration.

The DA and the NFA, however, insist that the authority to implement QR remains in effect during the course of the negotiations and unless challenged by WTO member countries — a position that De Lima had rejected in her letter.‐section/de‐lima‐argues‐rice‐import‐quotas‐lifted‐under‐wto‐ agreement      

RP solons seek help of US on tobacco industry probe • •

Written by Tribune Monday, 10 March 2014 00:00

The House of Representatives has sought the assistance of the United States government in its investigation into the alleged underpayment of excise taxes and other related illegal trade practices of cigarette manufacturer Mighty Corp. In separate letters to American embassy officials in Manila, Representatives Estrellita Suansing (1st district, Nueva Ecija) and Jonathan de la Cruz (Abakada partylist) said information provided by the US government on the importations of Mighty Corp. of tobacco materials from US-based suppliers would aid the House in determining whether the Philippine excise reform tax law was being properly implemented and serving its purpose of increasing revenue collections in the domestic tobacco industry. The law, Republic Act 10351, significantly raised excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco, collectively known as “sin products” for a period of five years starting in 2013. Suansing and De la Cruz cited that Mighty Corp., owned by the Wongchuking family, is now under investigation by the Bureau of Customs (BoC) for suspected “serious violations of tariff and customs laws.” Mighty, which has head offices in Manila and manufacturing facilities in Bulacan, is also the subject of an upcoming probe of the House ways and means committee for “alleged fraudulent reporting of volumes of tobacco and cigarette withdrawals.” Suansing, addressing her letter to US Ambassador Philip Goldberg, asked for data on Mighty’s imports of tobacco and non-tobacco materials from American suppliers “particularly on information pertaining to the import volumes and actual prices of tobacco leaf and acetate tow for the years 2011 thru 2013.” These US-based suppliers include Golden Leaf Tobacco Co., Lancaster Leaf Tobacco Co., Richloam Tobacco Co., Burley Tobacco Growers Cooperative, Universal Leaf North America, Eastman Chemical Co. and Celanese Acetate LLC. “Again data from your end on import prices or invoice prices from the US is also a key to establishing whether (Mighty) has been truthfully declaring import values for correct payment of duties and taxes,” Suansing said in her letter to Ambassador Goldberg. Suansing noted that data cited by the Department of Finance show that Mighty imports different types of tobacco from different countries which are all priced the same at 68 US cents per kilogram.

The firm also imports acetate tow, a material used in cigarette filters, for only 30 US cents per kilogram regardless of its country of origin. De la Cruz pointed out the same questionable import volumes in his separate letters to Philip Shull and James McCarthy, the agricultural counselor and commercial counselor, respectively, of the US Embassy in Manila. These prices, Suansing pointed out are only “a fraction of the invoice price of other Philippine importers of both tobacco leaf and acetate tow.” De la Cruz noted that other tobacco importers declared invoice prices ranging from $3.39 to $6.75 per kg of tobacco leaf and $5.36 to $7.45 per kg for acetate tow. Suansing also cited reports that Mighty applied last October for an increase in volume of its importable raw materials by 194 percent. In its application before the BoC, Mighty indicated that its current production capacity is at least 378,000 cases per month or 4,536,000 cases annually which is equivalent to 2.268 billion packs, Suansing said. She, however, noted that Mighty paid excise taxes on only 334 million packs in 2011 and only 518 million packs in 2012, showing a huge discrepancy in terms of capacity versus tax-paid volumes. “The issues against Mighty stem from its alleged under-declaration of cigarettes it manufactures and withdraws from its facilities for which excise taxes are payable to government. If such volumes of withdrawals are wrongfully declared, then it also follows that the value-added tax and income tax payments are also less than what is rightfully due the government,” she said in her letter. Suansing also pointed to the company’s suspicious low-pricing policy for its discountpriced brands “Mighty” and “Marvels,” which, based on computations, would yield substantial losses and not “low profits” as claimed by its spokesman. She also said the Embassy might be interested to know “that Mighty together with other Philippine corporations were reported to have been held liable to pay up to $21 million for failing to set aside a portion of their sales in favor of a health fund for smoking victims.” In his letters to Shull and McCarthy, De la Cruz also mentioned these lawsuits versus Mighty. “Finally, we will also appreciate if your office can provide information regarding recent newspaper reports stating that Mighty Corp. was penalized with fines in three states in the United States for ‘acts of unfair competition’ as well as violation of the California Health and Safety Code.” “We trust that working together with your Office, we will be able to get the much needed

information to assure government of the attainment of the basic objectives in the crafting of (the excise tax reform) law, determine the performance of the manufacturers of what are generally known as ‘sin products’ and reduce if not completely eliminate reported illicit trade in tobacco and other ‘sin products’,” De la Cruz said in his letters.‐solons‐seek‐help‐of‐us‐on‐tobacco‐industry‐probe                                          

Posted on March 09, 2014 10:01:41 PM

BSP raises alarm over bitcoins THE BANGKO Sentral ng Pilipinas has warned against the use of bitcoins, saying these virtual currencies remain unregulated and could be exploited by those involved in money laundering. The controversies surrounding bitcoins, a digital currency, have alarmed regulators in Japan, U.S. and now, the Philippines. -- Reuters In an advisory dated March 6 and posted on its web site, the banking regulator has raised the alarm over what it said was the emergence of exchange platforms that trade bitcoins -- a form of digital money that is not issued or guaranteed by a central bank. “It has recently come to the attention of the BSP that virtual currencies like bitcoins are now being exchanged in the Philippines,” the warning advisory read. “There are no existing regulations which would specifically protect consumers from financial losses if an organization that exchanges or holds virtual currencies fails or goes out of business,” it added. The BSP’s warning was released as regulators, particularly in Japan, have moved to outline rules on bitcoin trading, including barring banks and brokerages from handling the digital currency, after some bitcoin exchanges like Tokyo-based Mt. Gox collapsed. Created in 2008 by a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoins can be used as a medium for paying some goods sold through the Internet. Some investors also use the crypto-currency as an investment, which can provide them high returns given the high risks involved. Any individual can buy and sell bitcoins. Various ways to participate in bitcoin trading include: tapping the services of bitcoin dealers -- these are brokers who will look for good deals for a bitcoin investor, allowing the latter to take advantage of the swings in bitcoin’s price valuation; going to bitcoin exchanges -- an establishment that allows bitcoin holders to directly buy and sell the virtual currency; participate in a “mining pool” -- a group of individuals with top-of-the-line computers that can solve complex math problems to unlock codes in exchange for a

bitcoin; or look for someone to trade cash or goods for bitcoins. Bitcoins, however, were designed to have limited supply in cyberspace, like other commodities such as gold or other precious metals. There are only 21 million bitcoins that can be “mined.” The BSP explains that bitcoins are very different from electronic money, “which is backed by cash for 100% of its stored value”, because these virtual currencies are not backed by any commodity like cash, gold or silver. “Rather, they are merely valued subjectively according to one’s ability to exchange them for goods... There is no assurance that the value Bitcoin or any virtual currency would be stable. In fact, its value can be highly volatile,” it added. The BSP didn’t identify the bitcoin traders, dealers and exchanges in the Philippines. LOCAL BITCOIN EXCHANGE Justin Jung, chief executive officer of MetisEtrade, Inc. that is a bitcoin dealer, said in a recent press briefing that bitcoins are slowly getting the attention of Filipinos. “We have talked to other exchanges in the Philippines and they confirmed that there is growth in demand and interest from investors for bitcoins,” Mr. Jung had said. One internet site called said it buys and sells bitcoins locally and as of this writing, it has valued the buying price of a bitcoin at P28,831.30 and the selling price at P26,080.56 apiece. The online site did not answer requests for comment. In an email, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said those engaged in virtual currency trading could “lose their money...through outright fraud; system failure as trading would be exchange-platform dependent and there have been a number of cases reported where the trading platforms have gone out of business or failed; or thru the users’ own mistakes, this is when the virtual currencies are ‘stolen’ from the users ‘digital wallet’ by hackers.” To address the risks that virtual currencies bring, the BSP is “studying the appropriate regulatory approach to this innovation,” Mr. Tetangco said. “The BSP will be closely monitoring developments on these virtual currencies particularly on their possible use for money laundering and other illegal purposes, and will adopt appropriate measures as needed,” the BSP’s advisory read.

Mr. Tetangco said the central bank is “trying to better understand the intricacies of [the bitcoin] its use and implications on consumer protection. This innovation could possibly offer a low cost remittance solution, but we would need to have some level of confidence that the weaknesses could be addressed.” -- Ann Rozainne R. Gregorio‐raises‐alarm‐over‐ bitcoins&id=84491                                       

The economy is strong–despite the President March 9, 2014 11:09 pm 

by RICARDO SALUDO “The economy is doing well, even though he’s really incompetent.” That was how a multinational executive summed up the Philippines and its leader in a talk with a Southeast Asian business and political consultant visiting Manila recently on his regular assessment trips around the region. Despite the failings of President Benigno Aquino 3rd, growth is high, macroeconomic fundamentals are sound, and businesses are upbeat. The executive says he can’t explain the discrepancy. Let’s give it a try. In the decade-long Arroyo administration, the Philippines broke out of the mediocre gross domestic product growth of below four percent a year, accelerating to five to seven percent in 2007-10, excluding the global recession year of 2009. Hence, when President Aquino took over in mid-2010, the economy was already doing well. From perennial GDP laggard in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, the country was among the leaders since 2007, even managing to grow nearly one percent in 2009 while most major ASEAN economies shrank. And since that slowdown, the economic momentum as resumed. Aquino inherited a healthy economy One big reason for the GDP turnaround were the painful fiscal reforms enacted despite the Hello Garci political turmoil and global oil price spiral in 2005. The higher valueadded tax rate of 12 percent and the imposition of VAT on oil and electricity, along with other revenue measures, cut the once-burgeoning budget deficit to near-zero in 2008. That boosted investor confidence, the peso and the economy. And it would have eliminated the budget shortfall in 2009 or 2010, but for the global recession, which required deficit spending to maintain growth, as urged by development institutions.

Besides improving public finances, the Arroyo administration expanded infrastructure and instituted policies to boost agriculture as well as two major dollar-earning sectors: tourism and business process outsourcing. In the 2004-2010 Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), no less than then-President Gloria Arroyo herself toiled overnight to recast the road-building program, shifting billions of pesos in outlays to the Mindanao countryside. That spurred more crop production by linking farms to markets. Even more growth-boosting than farm-to-market roads, however, was the nationwide Nautical Highway of roll-on-roll-off ports linked by first-class tarmac. Besides laying the groundwork for unprecedented levels of domestic tourism, which continue to set records today, the RO-RO system enabled islands to trade directly with one another. By cutting out Metro Manila middlemen, producers got higher prices for their goods while buyers in nearby islands enjoyed lower costs. The 30-40 percent drop in transport costs thanks to RO-RO also lifted agriculture, industry, and the overall economy, while curbing inflation. Arroyo BPO spurs Aquino property On business process outsourcing, at the start of the Arroyo administration in 2001, the entire call center industry had about 2,000 seats. By 2010, all of BPO employed some half a million Filipinos and generated foreign exchange earnings of $7 billion a year, while creating mammoth demand for office, retail and residential property. And one big boost to the industry was Arroyo’s push for less costly international telecom connections and her Cyber Corridor plan to encourage BPO hubs in cities outside Metro Manila. Moreover, the National Competitiveness Council created in 2007 brought together public and private sectors to make the country more attractive to business. Foreign policy was also geared to lift the economy. Among its tenets: enhancing ties with ASEAN and the rest of Asia, including China; forging agreements to protect the rights and incomes of overseas Filipino workers; and pitching the country to investors all over the world, including the World Economic Forum in Davos. Net foreign direct investment hit a record of nearly $3 billion, a level the current administration has yet to reach. It helped that despite political unrest, the economy showed itself largely unaffected. And come 2010, media and opposition warnings of failed elections proved unfounded. Even rice production was engineered toward self-sufficiency by 2013. That was the target of the five-year FIELDS program begun in response to the spike in international grain prices in 2008. Indeed, rice imports would have declined year after year if the main Luzon harvest in September 2009 had not been destroyed by Ondoy and Pepeng floods, forcing the country to import over two million tons the following year.

Thus, when President Aquino succeeded Arroyo on June 30, 2010, he took over an economy that was on a robust growth path with healthy fundamentals and shielded from political winds. While counter-cyclical spending bloated the deficit, it was bound to fall as GDP rose with the global recovery. And BPO, tourism, and overall economic expansion were spurring the stock and property markets as well as construction—a leading source of growth in the past three years. Building on past gains Despite his well-known disdain for the past administration, President Aquino made sure to build its economic strengths. He reappointed Bangko Sentral Governor Amado Tetangco and tapped Arroyo-era Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima. Rather than scrapping the increased VAT much maligned by the opposition, Aquino named Kim Henares to head the Bureau of Internal Revenue, where she was a leading official in the past government, and boost VAT and other collections. One time in 2011, Aquino tried to tinker with the economy by slashing public spending in 2011 in a bid to zero the deficit and win credit rating upgrades. It backfired. Growth halved, and PNoy learned his lesson, leaving the economy and the deficit to the technocrats. With government spending no longer presidentially constrained, Philippine growth resumed its upward trajectory since 2007. Bequeathed a healthy economy he did not need to fix, President Aquino had a great opportunity to focus on his two campaign thrusts: fighting corruption and eradicating poverty. Sadly, smuggling and pork barrel have trebled under his watch, and anti-graft cases have focused on political rivals. Meanwhile, poverty, hunger and unemployment have improved little despite high growth. Still, the Aquino administration continues to enjoy mostly positive media coverage which lifts their survey ratings. Now, that’s a discrepancy tough to explain.‐economy‐is‐strong‐despite‐the‐president/81318/                

Ilocos region’s ‘tuwid na daan’ March 9, 2014 11:06 pm 


Tita C. Valderama Thanks to the budget airline’s airfare promo; I have found the “tuwid na daan.” Strangely, it’s in the Ilocos region, home of the Marcoses. The late president Ferdinand Marcos, probably the most hated and perceived as the most corrupt Philippine president, seemingly remains well-loved and remembered by his fellow Ilocanos, as reflected in the victory of his wife Imelda, daughter Imee, and son Bongbong in their candidacies since they came back from self-exile about two decades ago. It may sound ironic that “tuwid na daan” is the campaign slogan of President Benigno Aquino 3rd against corruption. It is a mantra that was meant to help restore people’s faith in politics and politicians. In spite of claims of success in bringing about reforms in curbing corruption and regaining investor confidence in doing business in the country, critics find more reason to harp strongly on the administration’s anti-corruption campaign. Let me make it clear that the “tuwid na daan” I saw during a recent three-day road trip around Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur was the physical straight, smooth path to the areas frequented by tourists. Ilocos Norte, where Imee Marcos is governor, is obviously being developed as a choice destination for tours, and conventions or seminars. The roads are well paved and smooth. Vehicular traffic flows with ease even in the town centers. Training and convention venues abound, and more are under construction. President Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” slogan refers to personal and moral values, which are beyond the physical aspect. Physically, we have not seen much infrastructure projects built under the present leadership. Complaints about bureaucratic red tape and

corruption in government deals still abound, and none of those charged in court has been convicted. It is indeed unfair and improper to compare the physical “tuwid na daan” in the Ilocos region and President Aquino’s “tuwid na daan” anti-corruption slogan. I am not doing that. I was merely impressed with the good road network in the neighboring Ilocos provinces. However, my friends and I wondered why the international airport in Laoag City is still in such a dilapidated state. While waiting in line for check-in, a first-time visitor from Bacolod City complained about the crowded and untidy departure area. She remarked that while the roads in Ilocos were notable because it made her group’s long travels less tiring, the airport’s physical state somehow lessened her good impression of the province. She said that her group of 30 persons went to Laoag from Manila on a luxury bus provided by Governor Marcos. The travel took the group 12 hours with a few stops for meals and call of nature. Before reaching Ilocos, it was a bumpy ride, she said. In some provinces and cities, the government had built new and bigger airports like in Davao, Iloilo and Cagayan de Oro. But their road networks are far from the wide and smooth highways of Ilocos. It was probably a choice for the local leaders between road and airport for priority infrastructure development. When I was younger, my father used to share his admiration for Marcos for prioritizing roads and schools in his infrastructure development projects while Imelda took care of projects involving the arts and culture. My father, who served as barangay secretary for 20 years during the Marcos administration, said that residents somehow feel progress when the roads in their community are well paved and that the children are more motivated to learn when they are not cramped in classrooms. Besides, he said, the road is the first thing that a visitor notices when setting foot in a new place. Perhaps, building good roads to progress was a legacy that Marcos had left behind and that his children are continuing in their reign of the province. That could also be President Aquino’s vision when he adopted the “tuwid na daan” mantra. In a speech before Chinese investors in Shanghai in 2011, the President explained what “tuwid na daan” means. He said it was to ensure a level playing field that requires undoing the mistakes of the past. “In some instances, this means reviewing contracts entered into without particular care for due process,” he told participants and delegates to the Philippine Eastern China Business Forum in the Chinese city. This was also the reason that Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson gave when he cancelled several contracts in 2010 after discovering that necessary processes like

public bidding and other provisions of the procurement law were either broken or totally not followed. Sadly though, errant officials who tolerated or encouraged anomalous deals have not been punished and may even be still in business with government agencies. The President is viewed as being soft on corruption especially in dealings involving his allies in the Liberal Party. Critics cite the multi-billion peso misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) as a political tool for the President to malign and pin down political foes while he shields those who aligned with him. If the investigation and litigation process on those charged in connection with the PDAF scam continues to drag on, we may wake up one day seeing them in higher office, and the “tuwid na daan” slogan would prove to be just a campaign watchword. At least in Ilocos, there is a “tuwid na daan” one can travel on without hitch.‐regions‐tuwid‐na‐daan/81314/                                

Rice perks expired, DOJ tells Agri chief By Rey E. Requejo | Mar. 10, 2014 at 12:01am 

Justice Secretary Leila de Lima admitted that she sent a letter to Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala taking a contrary position to that of the Department of Agriculture on the “special privilege” granted to the Philippines by the World Trade Organization. That WTO-granted privilege allowed the Philippines to impose quantitivate restrictions on rice importation but had expired, de Lima said, warning her Cabinet colleague that a violation of the WTO pact would be inviting world sanctions. In an interview, de Lima clarified that she “only sent a letter and not a legal opinion.” The 12-page letter,” marked “confidential,” was dated December 16, 2013 and addressed to DA Secretary Proceso Alcala, in response to the latter’s “request for opinion” on whether the expired QR “can still be enforced by the government, through your Department [DA] and the National Food Authority (NFA)...” De Lima wrote that the “comments and observations” rendered by the Department of Justice (DOJ) in the document were only for the DA’s “information and guidance.” She, however, then proceeded on a point-by-point legal rebuttal of all DA-NFA arguments on why QR should remain in effect despite its expiration on 30 June 2012. “We are also quite aware that said law also gives the NFA (such) power(s) … However, in the exercise of such rule-making power, the NFA cannot close its eyes to the provisions of the WTO Agreement, which, by the acts of both the President and the Senate, became part of our body of law,” the DOJ wrote in response to DA’s position that the Agricultural Tariffication Act (RA 8178) allowed the NFA “continuing authority” to impose QR. “It [NFA] cannot pick and select which to honor and which to disregard. It cannot derogate from the terms that the President agreed to and the Senate concurred in,” de Lima lectured Alcala. “Therefore, it is our opinion that the WTO provisions on the lifting of QRs as well as their exceptions, and the provisions on negotiations for its extension are already effective and should be complied with,” De Lima concluded.‐perks‐expired‐doj‐tells‐agri‐chief/     

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