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Dairy sector output up By Ronnel W. Domingo

Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:20 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

Efforts to beef up the stock of dairy animals and pump up milk production are paying off as the dairy industry was the fastest-growing component of the domestic livestock sector in 2013. According to the National Dairy Authority, milk output grew by 5.5 percent to 19.46 million liters in 2013. In terms of value, the dairy industry chalked up a 5.8-percent growth to P592.17 million. The NDA, which celebrated its 19th anniversary last week, said milk production had grown by 35 percent over the last five years from 14.41 million liters in 2009. Similarly, the population of dairy animals increased by 30 percent to 44,374 heads in 2013. In 2009, the number was pegged at 34,217. NDA documents show that the “modest growth” of the dairy industry was attributed to the increase in the number of milk-producing animals, including cows, carabao and goats, especially in NDA-assisted areas. In such areas, the number of milking animals went up by 15 percent to 7,861 heads in 2013. This growth, in turn, led to a 7-percent increase in milk production, which reached 14.42 million liters last year. “Efforts to expand dairy animal inventory and milk production paid off based on the continued growth as [small-scale] dairy producers across the nation now contribute 74 percent of the total national milk output,” the NDA said. Also, commercial farms now participate in government programs by supplying dairy producers with animals, the agency added. Based on the 2010-2016 Dairy Road Map, the government wants to expand the dairy herd to 55,000 heads; create 22,000 jobs; and involve 100,000 families in dairying. Further, the road map is aimed at enabling domestic producers to supply 43 percent of the demand for ready-to-drink milk. Currently, local producers account for just 21 percent of the demand, which is pegged at 92.57 million liters. By 2016, demand is expected to reach 109.68 million liters, which means that local suppliers should be able to produce at least 47.16 million liters. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

EDC takes next step in drafting export plan Philippine Daily Inquirer

12:18 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

The Export Development Council (EDC) expects to issue by the end of the month the first draft of the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) 2014-2016, which will outline the targets, as well as product and market strategies, to boost export growth. EDC executive director Senen M. Perlada said in a phone interview that the draft would have to undergo another revalidation among stakeholders and key export business support organizations through a consultation to be held next month. This will be on top of the consultations held previously while the new three-year PEDP is still being drafted, he added. But Perlada declined to reveal ahead of the Philippine Economic Briefing on Tuesday whether the group retained the target to double the country’s exports to $120 billion by 2016. Observers believe that the goal has become harder to achieve. Philippine Exporters Confederation (Philexport), however, remained optimistic. It expects export revenues for the merchandise and services sectors to still reach $92 billion and $28 billion by 2016, respectively. Philexport president Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr. said last month that the share of the services sector could improve to 23 percent by 2016, while the share of the merchandise goods to total exports could be slightly lower at 77 percent. This year, the goods sector is positioned to reach $75.59 billion for a share of 78 percent of the total exports, he said. The PEDP 2014-2016 is expected to outline the export revenue targets within the three-year period in consideration of the problems affecting local and international markets. The current Philippine Export Development Plan 2011-2013, which was approved in July 2011, focused on several core product and market strategies. Key focus sectors are information technology and business process outsourcing; electronics; agribusiness, including fresh, processed, and marine food products and coconut; minerals; shipbuilding; motor vehicle parts; garments and textile; home style and dÊcor, and wearables. In terms of product strategies, the roadmap sought to enable exporters to move up the value chain, participate in higher-value processes in the global supply chain, and develop linkages for organic, natural, and certification-based offerings. Amy R. Remo

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DENR: Conserve water, boost power By DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:36 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

  MANILA,Philippines—Saving water saves electric power and vice versa. The country’s observance of World Water Day on March 22 will focus on the link between water and energy consumption, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said on Saturday. The local theme this year is “Water Is Power” with the celebration bringing together the country’s water and power sectors to raise public awareness of the close link between water and energy consumption, Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said in a statement. “We wish to highlight the important link between water and power and how they are highly dependent on each other,” Paje said. He noted that producing energy uses water and providing fresh water needs energy. Both processes, he said, face growing limits and problems. “In fact, much of our generated power relies on water while many Filipinos rely on electrical power for their domestic water supply,” he added. Paje said that aside from providing Filipinos access to clean water and electricity, “the efficient use of both water and power is also an urgent issue the government is trying to address.” Based on government statistics, around 17 million Filipinos have no access to safe drinking water while over 15 million have no access to electricity. The DENR and its attached agencies have prepared a weeklong series of activities that will kick off Monday at the Angat hydroelectric power plant in Norzagaray, Bulacan. On March 18, the DENR’s Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) will hold a daylong World Water Day Exhibit at the activity center of Glorietta 2 in Makati City. This will be followed at 5 p.m. by a free four-hour concert that will feature pop and alternative rock artists to draw attention to current efforts to revive Manila Bay and major rivers and creeks in Metro Manila. On March 19, the EMB will hold an on-the-spot poster-making contest for elementary and high school students at SM North Edsa while their teachers will undergo a water education workshop at the Air Quality Training Center in the DENR compound in Quezon City. The DENR will also host the “Water Is Power” lecture series in selected schools in Pateros and the cities of Quezon, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan and Taguig from March 18 to 20.

All activities will culminate on March 21 at the SM Mall of Asia where a two-kilometer walk will be held to raise awareness of various water-related issues. The celebration of March 22 as “World Day for Water” was declared in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly. This year’s international theme is “Water and Energy.”

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83 lawmakers tied to agri pork racket Nabcor told to give P1.7B to bogus NGOs

By Nancy C. Carvajal Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:27 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Four senators and 79 representatives coursed a total of P1.7 billion of their pork barrel allocations during a three-year period through state-operated National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor), with orders to funnel the funds to questionable nongovernment organizations (NGOs), official documents showed. Nabcor, which is under the Department of Agriculture (DA), was the favored implementing agency of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon Revilla Jr., who had downloaded P392 million of the combined amount of their allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) from 2007 to 2009. The three are under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-billion PDAF scam said to have been engineered by detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The amounts they channeled to Nabcor were among those under investigation by the Ombudsman. The documents were submitted by former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal to the Office of the Ombudsman, a summary of which was made available to the Inquirer. The two are among 38 people under investigation, including Enrile, Estrada and Revilla. The fund releases to Nabcor and NGOs were subsequently reviewed by the Commission on Audit (COA). The papers showed that Sen. Edgardo Angara also used Nabcor as his implementing agency for P20 million of his PDAF allocation and endorsed the NGO Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to carry out a project with Special Allocation Release Order (Saro) No. ROCS-09-05619 issued in November 2009 intended to buy seedlings and farm implements. Angara is not among those under investigation by the Ombudsman. He was not immediately available for comment. Enrile, Estrada and Revilla have denied wrongdoing. Some members of the broadcast media also benefited from the bonanza from Nabcor, according to the papers. Enrile, Estrada and Revilla allegedly endorsed dummy organizations controlled by Napoles— Masaganang Ani para sa Magsasaka Foundation and Social Development Program for farmers—through Nabcor.

Enrile, also reportedly authorized the release of P15 million with Saro No. 09-04956 of his PDAF to KKFI, where the transactions were later questioned by the COA special audit team. Anomalous papers The KKFI, both endorsed by Angara and Enrile, was found to have submitted faked receipts and lists of ghost beneficiaries in their liquidation papers, the COA said. According to the COA report, Angara did not reply to the team’s request for confirmation, while Enrile had confirmed the signature of his former chief of staff, Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes, in the memorandum of agreement (MOA) covering his project. Revilla also endorsed to Nabcor as recipient of his P10-million pork barrel the St. James the Apostle Multipurpose Cooperative with office in Betis, Pampanga province, which the COA report showed submitted useless results to help small farmers and fishermen. Based on the MOA involving Revilla, Nabcor and the NGO, the amount involved the identification of agricultural livelihood projects in strategic provinces nationwide through research and study. The COA report showed that Revilla confirmed the authenticity of his signature in the MOA, contrary to his statements to the media. Estrada also separately endorsed P21 million to Pangkabuhayan Foundation Inc. supposedly to purchase farm implements and seedlings. In the same COA report, the agency said receipts, suppliers and beneficiaries were fabricated. Estrada also did not comply with the confirmation requirement of the COA audit team. Scapegoats The Inquirer was furnished copies of original documents, vouchers, checks and records that detailed how the billions of pesos for projects that passed through Nabcor were released “with undue haste,” as described by Mendoza, then vice president for finance, and Cacal, head of general services. In a series of interviews, the two Nabcor officials said bogus organizations were personally endorsed by legislators to either then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap or Nabcor president Alan Javellana. Mendoza said Nabcor became an implementing agency for PDAF projects beginning in 2007. She said she was sacked in 2011 because “she knew too much.” In January this year, Cacal resigned after he was ordered by Javellana to answer allegations in the plunder case. “I think I would be made the scapegoat,” he explained. Mendoza also said that an estimated P5 billion worth of projects came from the DA’s attached agencies, such as the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, Bureau of Soil and Water Management, and the Bureau of Posts Harvest Research and Extension.

The two officials said they realized the seriousness of the Nabcor operations after whistleblowers, led by former Napoles employee Benhur Luy, revealed the shenanigans that led to a complaint filed by the National Bureau of Investigation and the Department of Justice in the Office of the Ombudsman. “The paperwork for the cash trail seemed to be all in order that it was really difficult to pin down a person, but in your gut you know something was really, really wrong,” Mendoza told the Inquirer. “It was only after Benhur Luy came forward and exposed Napoles in the P10-billion pork barrel scam that it became crystal clear to us the modus operandi to siphon government funds, and one of them was through Nabcor,” she said. P544M to Napoles NGOs Mendoza said she had met and talked to Luy several times when he picked up checks for the Napoles NGOs. She said that Luy also introduced her to Napoles when she attended Mass at the JLN office in Ortigas, Pasig. Cacal said he talked with Luy several times, but never met Napoles. The two named Javellana, who is likewise facing an investigation, as the conduit for PDAF kickbacks. “We were instructed by Javellana to process payments and released checks with undue haste to nongovernment organizations and suppliers without proper bidding and without complete documentary requirements, despite numerous reminders to him that those were not within the agency guidelines,” Mendoza said. They added that the “undue haste” in the release of checks only made sense to them after Luy came forward and exposed the alleged conspiracy between lawmakers, heads of implementing agencies and Napoles to defraud the government of funds meant to ease rural poverty. Mendoza, in her affidavit, also said that apart from Javellana, Yap also allegedly pressured her to expedite check releases to NGOs. Mendoza’s records showed a total of P544 million of the PDAF funds went to the Napoles NGOs. As Nabcor vice president for finance, Mendoza was a cosignatory to the checks until she was fired in 2011.

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PH offers US use of bases Final deal seen before Obama visit next month Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:53 am | Saturday, March 15th, 2014

The Philippines has agreed to allow the United States access to the country’s military bases under a new security deal being negotiated by the two allies, amid mounting concern over China’s increasing assertiveness in the disputed waters of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). The offer was made during a sixth round of talks held in Washington last week on an accord that will allow increased US military presence in the country, officials said on Friday. The two sides hope to finalize terms for an “Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation” before US President Barack Obama embarks on a visit to Asia, including the Philippines, next month. Philippine officials said negotiators hurdled a major obstacle in the negotiations at the Washington talks last week. Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, the head of the Philippine panel, said the US negotiators have agreed that Philippine authorities can have access to US facilities set up inside local military bases to show Philippine control over these areas, a sensitive issue concerning sovereignty among Filipinos. Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin has said that disagreements over the issue of access and control had been delaying the negotiations on the new accord. “Access has always been a primordial concern” for the government, Batino said, adding that the deal was “80 percent” done. “It is safe to say that there will be language that will provide that the Philippine authorities would have access to the areas provided to the US armed forces,” he told a news conference on Friday. “As a concept, access is assured, being within Philippine military bases, and also the right of the base commander to have access to specific areas shared with them has already been agreed in principle by both panels,” said Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine panel.

China factor

The Philippines is seeking a stronger defense cooperation with the US as its territorial dispute with China over areas in the South China Sea intensifies. The United States plans to “rebalance” its forces in the Asia-Pacific region, and has similar arrangements with Australia and Singapore, as part of its strategy to counter China. Negotiations began last August on an agreement that would allow larger numbers of US troops to have temporary access to Philippine military camps and bring in aircraft, ships and humanitarian equipment. Hundreds of US troops have already been deployed in the country’s south to provide counterterrorism training to Filipino soldiers since 2002. US military access in the Philippines is currently limited to annual joint exercises and port visits. Nearly a century of US military presence in the Philippines ended in 1992 when the United States closed its bases, including what were then among the largest overseas US military facilities. The Philippine Senate voted a year earlier not to renew the lease on the bases. While that ended a special relationship going back 40 years between the United States and its former colony which won its independence in 1946, an alliance has endured. No US bases The Philippine negotiators did not say whether there will be any limit to the number of US troops or their length of stay. Batino, however, said any US military facility will not be “a base within a base.” The Constitution disallows foreign military bases unless under a treaty approved by the Philippine Senate. Opponents of the new accord say it is a way to permanently station US troops in the country to circumvent the constitutional prohibition on foreign bases. Batino said the agreement would be legally binding but would not require ratification by the Senate, which could delay the actual US deployment. Under the draft accord, the Philippines will allow US forces joint use of facilities in several military bases like those in Manila, Clark, Palawan, Cebu, Nueva Ecija and La Union, said a military official with knowledge of the negotiations. “We are only offering US military forces access to fewer military bases,” said Malaya. The Philippines refused a request for use of civilian airfields and ports, like Subic Freeport Bay, Laoag and Davao international airports, according to the military official. Philippine and US negotiators are set to hold a seventh round of talks in Manila at the end of the month.

Malaya said specifics such as “who would secure what area” would still have to be hammered out. He said that the Philippines has maintained its position that the agreement’s duration “would be shorter than 20 years.” The officials declined to set an April deadline for the talks, citing the need to ensure that language was in line with Philippine laws and yielded the maximum benefits for the hosts. “If the negotiations are successfully concluded and that happens before the arrival of President Obama, then we will be happy of course,” the officials said. US presence a deterrent The Philippines sees hosting more US forces as an important part of its strategy to counter an increasingly assertive China in an escalating dispute over rival claims to the South China Sea, and to help provide humanitarian assistance during natural disasters. “It will not stop China from its bullying tactics, but it will become more cautious and might exercise self-restraint due to the US presence,” said Rommel Banlaoi, an analyst at the Philippine Institute of Peace, Violence and Terrorism Research. “The Philippines will also benefit from more exercises and more assistance from the US and it will elevate the Philippines to a major non-Nato ally in the Pacific,” he said. Friction between China and the Philippines and other states in the region over disputed territories in the South China Sea has increased since last year despite diplomatic efforts to forge an agreement on maritime conduct. The dispute revolves round competing claims over the Spratlys, a group of 250 uninhabitable islets spread over 165,000 square miles, and other groups of shoals and islets that the Philippines claims as part of its territory as they lie well within its exclusive economic zone (EEZ). Just a working title On Sunday, three Chinese Coast Guard ships stopped two Filipino civilian vessels from delivering food, water and construction materials to troops based on a ship that was deliberately run aground on reef in the Spratlys, the Ayungin Shoal, in 1999 to reinforce the Philippines’ claim. The Philippines called the Chinese actions “a clear and urgent threat to the rights and interests of the Philippines.” The framework agreement was previously referred to as an “Agreement on Increased Rotational Presence,” which Batino said was “just a working title.”

The change to “Enhanced Defense Cooperation” as a title just manifests the fluidity of the negotiations because during the constant discussions, “language may be changed from time to time,” he said. “We also believe Enhanced Defense Cooperation captures the essence of the agreement which is to elevate robust cooperation with us to a higher level owing to the shared history between the two militaries and conduct of training activities under the VFA (Visiting forces Agreement) for 15 years. It’s just time even for a further enhancement of our cooperation,” Batino said. Nikko Dizon

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Free-for-all gold hunt in Surigao Small-scale operators use open-pit method, destroy hectares of farms Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:44 am | Saturday, March 15th, 2014

BAROBO, Surigao del Sur—Supposed small-scale operators allegedly with a permit from the province’s governor have turned to open-pit mining, turning vast tracts of farmlands in a goldrich village in this town into what looks like craters the size of coliseums. The mining operations are being financed by Taiwanese investors and have ceased briefly in the past, but have resumed in the gold-rich mining village of Tambis. The unabated mining operations, which are taking place just 200 meters from the national highway, have resulted in excavations that have gone as deep as the bedrock of several hectares of farms, destroying these in the process. Villagers reported seeing Taiwanese miners using backhoes and high-pressure water pumps to dig deep into the farms. The operations resumed in the last few weeks. The mining operations attracted other small-scale miners who have started their own excavations in what appears to be a free-for-all hunt for gold in the village. Talk about how the village is so rich in gold that one miner can get as much as 100 grams of gold per day added to the frenzy. The mining operations were unchecked and even supported by a so-called temporary smallscale mining permit signed by Surigao del Sur Gov. Johnny Pimentel and issued to a certain Gecel Bahalla, a resident of San Francisco town in the neighboring province of Agusan del Sur. Provincial administrator Efren Rivas, however, denied that the governor issued such a document allowing small-scale mining operations in the village to Bahalla on March 5. “Normally, important documents like that one always go to my office for me to countersign before the governor signs for approval,” he said, denying seeing a similar document. Danny Lumapas, councilor of the town and chair of the council’s environment committee, said Bahalla might just be a front for Taiwanese financiers. Lumapas identified the Taiwanese financiers as Jennifer Wen, Jo Wen and a certain Nick Hsu. According to Lumapas, the three foreigners rented several backhoes and high-pressure water pumps for processing ore. Gold is being separated from other minerals in sluice boxes the size of cars, according to Lumapas. Pimentel, in a cease-and-

desist order issued last year, stopped the mining operations of Hsu in the community of Kauswagan, also in Tambis. A check at the Bureau of Immigration office in Butuan City showed that Hsu no longer had a record as an alien residing in the Philippines. The check also yielded information that Jo Wen holds a tourist visa and that Jennifer Wen did not renew her tourist visa to extend her stay in the country. Lumapas said he would file a motion in the council during its regular session on Tuesday to call for an investigation on the recurrence of destructive small-scale mining activities. He said the mining activities had already caused heavy damage to the farms and were posing a threat to a million-peso, 2-kilometer farm-to-market road concreting project. Chris Panganiban, Inquirer Mindanao

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Senate clash seen over US bases access By Amando Doronila Philippine Daily Inquirer  4:41 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, chair of the Senate foreign relations committee, warned on Friday that a new security agreement with the United States, which would expand US forces’ access to Philippine bases, would run into a head-on clash with constitutional restrictions on American military presence in the country following the closure of US bases in 1992. Santiago issued the warning after the Aquino administration announced that Filipino negotiators had offered the United States wider access to Philippine military facilities to counter China’s increasing aggressive actions in enforcing its maritime claims on disputed territories in the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea). In a communiqué issued during the sixth round of talks in Washington, Philippine officials announced that the two sides hoped to finalize terms for an “Agreement on Enhanced Defense Cooperation” before US President Barack Obama embarks on a visit to Asia, including the Philippines, next month. This will be Obama’s first visit to Manila since his reelection, indicating the heightened strategic role of the Philippine bases in rebalancing US forces in the Asia-Pacific region. The rebalancing is part of the US “Pivot Asia” doctrine in the midst of the rising economic and military power of China in East and Southeast Asia, and the intensification of maritime disputes between China and its neighbors in the region. Stronger cooperation The new military pact seeks to forge a stronger defense cooperation with the United States and represents an attempt to expand its military ties with the Philippines. The military ties have been largely moribund since 1991 when the Philippine Senate voted not to renew the lease on US military bases in the country, leading to the closure in 1992 of the naval base in Subic Bay and the Clark Air Base—two of the largest US overseas bases during the Cold War. The announcement prompted Santiago to issue the warning, apparently in an effort to preempt the conclusion of a new agreement during Obama’s visit. She pointed out that before an agreement could be finalized, the issues of constitutionality, such as the concurrence of the Senate, which is the treaty ratifying chamber of Congress, should be resolved.

Santiago is raising these issues prematurely even before the text of the agreement has been released. She has contended that US access to Philippine bases under a new agreement should be covered by a treaty that would be scrutinized and concurred in by the Senate. Real issue The senator argues that the deployment of US forces and hardware is not a minor matter that may be covered by an executive agreement, as claimed by the Department of National Defense. Until the text of the agreement is published, it is pointless to start a great debate over constitutional issues raised by Santiago. The only useful function it serves is that Santiago has served notice that the Senate and the government are heading toward collision on an issue involving Philippine sovereignty vis-à-vis the United States. The collision course diverts attention away from the real issue of de facto Chinese infringement of Philippine sovereignty as a result of incursions into areas claimed by the Philippines as part of its national territory. Real enemies This shift of focus on US derogation of Philippine sovereignty under the new status of forces agreement away from Chinese encroachments raises the fundamental issue to Filipinos. Who are our real enemies in light of Chinese depredations—the Chinese or the Americans? Why are we less concerned with China’s de facto annexation of Philippine territory than we are over the Senate intervention in the assertion of its constitutional power to review and ratify treaties? In trying to conclude a new basing agreement with the United States, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is using it as a tool of hard-nosed diplomacy to back Philippine diplomatic initiatives with US military power deployment in Asia-Pacific under the 1951 Philippine-US Mutual Defense Treaty. Pending publication of the text of the new agreement, this much has been disclosed by negotiators: The agreement seeks to allow larger numbers of US troops to have temporary access to Philippine military camps and bring aircraft, ships and humanitarian equipment. Existing agreements have allowed the deployment of US troops in Mindanao to provide counterterrorism training to Filipino soldiers since 2002. Inadequate US military access in the Philippines is restricted to annual joint exercises—a participation which Philippine and US defense officials consider inadequate to respond to the growing threat of the expansive Chinese military power to the security of the region, especially smaller countries with rival claims on territories.

Under the draft accord, the Philippines is reported to have allowed US forces joint use of bases like those in Manila, Clark, Palawan, Cebu, Nueva Ecija and La Union. “We are only offering US military forces to fewer military bases,” said Ambassador Eduardo Malaya, a member of the Philippine panel. No base within a base Philippine negotiators were unclear whether there will be any limit to the number of US troops or their length of stay. Defense Undersecretary Pio Lorenzo Batino, head of the Philippine panel, said the US negotiators had agreed that Philippine authorities could have access to US facilities set up inside local military bases. Any US military facility will not be a “base within a base,” Batino said. The Philippines has been hardening its position and flexing its muscles in the face of Chinese blandishments over the past few days. On Friday, it rejected China’s demand to pull out a grounded Philippine Navy ship from the disputed Ayungin Shoal in the South China Sea. The DFA issued a sharp statement reiterating Philippine ownership of the shoal, in the disputed Spratlys, saying it is part of the Philippine continental shelf. Blocked China earlier blocked two Philippine ships bringing supplies from reaching a small contingent of Filipino soldiers stationed in a rusty ship at the shoal. The DFA called the action provocative. It said the BRP Sierra Madre, a naval vessel, was placed on Ayungin Shoal in 1999 to serve as a permanent Philippine government installation in response to China’s illegal occupation of Mischief Reef in 1995, also claimed by the Philippines. The DFA issued the statement in response to Beijing’s assertions that that it was right in driving away Filipino ships from the shoal, known as Ren’ai Reef in China. It accused the Philippines of carrying materials to “China’s island.” Provocative act On March 12, the United States expressed concern over China’s “provocative” act of blocking Philippine vessels on a resupply mission to Ayungin Shoal, as it called for respect for international laws and freedom of navigation in disputed waters. The US Embassy’s Chargé d’Affaires Brian Goldbeck said the Chinese action “is a provocative move that raises tensions.” These acts of harassment appeared to have been fueled by belligerent statements of Chinese President Xi Jinping on March 12, calling on China’s armed forces to staunchly defend national interests. Speaking to military delegates to China’s National People’s Congress, Xi said the military shouldn’t shy away from defending China’s interests.

His remarks “came amid concerns in Asia over the rise of Beijing’s military and strategic assertiveness,” The Wall Street Journal reported, referring to the territorial dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea that “has set parts of the region on edge and severely strained relations” between Asia’s two largest economies.

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Sounding Board

The Charter change train By Fr. Joaquin G. Bernas S. J. Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:09 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

It looks like the Cha-cha (Charter change) train is running in earnest and even President Aquino, who initially opposed it, is now leaving it to Congress. That is the way it should be; but, of course, he can always express his preferences to his people in Congress. The main interest of those sponsoring Cha-cha is the national economy aspect of the Constitution. It is being said that only the economic provisions of the Constitution and none of the political provisions will be touched. That, however, is not for any individual to decide. I know that some lawmakers have signed a pledge that only economic amendments will be proposed. But there is no constitutional authority that can dictate what amendments may or may not be taken up. Once the process is opened and a political amendment is proposed, Congress will have to discuss it, vote on it, or reject it outright. Until all noneconomic amendments are rejected, one can still slip in. Only Congress has the final say. Let me also make the observation that not everything about the national economy has been set by the Constitution. Under the Constitution itself, Congress has been given ample power for setting the balance of economic interests between local and foreign investors. The power of Congress on this matter is in Section 10 of Article XII. It will be recalled, for instance, that the meaning of the 60-40 rule for public utilities was not set by the Constitution but by the Foreign Investment Act. Perhaps Congress should even now explore what else it can do about the balance of economic powers without having to wait for a constitutional amendment. Even as there already is talk about what amendments to initiate, there is no definite decision yet on how the amendatory process will be done. This is a matter for Congress to decide. It is therefore important to know what options Congress has. I have written about this before but it seems to be a live issue again. In general, amendments or revisions may be proposed either by a constitutional convention, or directly by the people, or by Congress. Which procedure to use depends on Congress. No one seems to be thinking of calling a constitutional convention or leaving the proposal of amendments to the people. We are therefore left with Congress as the agency to do the job. What procedure should Congress follow? On this subject, the Constitution is barren of details. It simply says: Section 1. Any amendment to, or revision of, this Constitution may be proposed by: (1) The Congress, upon a vote of three-fourths of all its Members;

It will be noticed that the Constitution imposes on Congress only one restriction, namely that any proposal be approved by three-fourths of all its members. This means that aside from the requirement of a three-fourths vote, Congress is free to decide how it will go about the task. What are the options? First, the two houses of Congress might come together in joint session for the purpose of proposing amendments. This has been done before. The Constitution says that a three-fourths majority is needed to approve a proposal. But the Constitution does not say whether the two houses vote jointly or separately. That is for Congress to decide. The normal procedure would be that they vote separately since Congress consists of two separate houses. The decision to have two houses was based on the argument that decisions should be reached not once but at least twice. Because of this reason for having two houses, separate voting is the general rule and joint voting is allowed only when the Constitution says so. Second, both houses might decide to do it the way they pass ordinary legislation, that is, as they are, where they are and voting separately, but by a three-fourths majority of each house, and only coming together, the way they do in ordinary legislation, to reconcile differences. Several years ago I proposed this second method and theoretically it was accepted by members of Congress, but it was never used. I am informed that at least the House of Representatives is considering using this method. But does the Constitution allow it? My usual answer to such a question is: If it is not prohibited, then, whether stupid or wise, it is allowed. In this case, I believe it is wise. How so? For a number of reasons. First, the Constitution says that Congress may propose amendments but leaves much of the details of how to do it to the wisdom of the illustrious members of Congress. Second, it is wise because, among other reasons, it will allow for a focused debate and avoid rambling discussions. It will also allow Congress to prioritize urgent matters and have them approved in a plebiscite earlier, and give it the satisfaction of having something to show to the people they serve. The current Constitution was drafted and ratified in 1986-1987 in the wake of the People Power Revolution. All these years it has remained virginal. It has been praised but also criticized for various reasons, among them being that it was drafted by 48 people handpicked by President Cory Aquino. Changes have been proposed from time to time, but none has ever reached the plebiscite stage. Will change be achieved during the presidency of President Cory’s son? There still are about two years before his term ends.

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World Bank sees 6.6% growth for PH this year By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:38 pm | Monday, March 17th, 2014

  MANILA, Philippines — The World Bank continues to see the Philippine economy growing within the government’s targets for 2014 and 2015, despite the destruction caused by Super Typhoon “Yolanda” last year. In a statement released on Monday, the World Bank said the Philippine government’s postYolanda reconstruction program—estimated at $8 billion—would help reduce the typhoon’s negative impact on economic activity. This year, the World Bank sees the Philippine economy growing by 6.6 percent, followed by a stronger 6.9-percent expansion in 2015. These projections are slower than the country’s 7.2percent expansion in 2013. “Over the coming years, a comprehensive agenda to support the revival of agriculture and manufacturing will further strengthen the country’s resilience to calamities,” World Bank Philippines country director Motoo Konishi said. “Reforms to secure property rights, enhance competition, simplify regulations, and increase investments in health, education, and infrastructure will make this happen,” he added.

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Poland tourism execs arrive in PH for trade Philippine Daily Inquirer 4:29 am | Sunday, March 16th, 2014

CLARK FREEPORT, Philippines—Officers of the Poland Chamber of Tourism (PCT) arrived at Clark International Airport here on Friday for a five-day Philippine familiarization tour. The delegation, led by PCT president Pawel Niewiadomski and vice president Grzegorz Chmielewski, arrived on board Qatar Airways Flight No. QA930. The chamber officers were accompanied by Krzysztof Steiman, account manager of Qatar Airways in Warsaw, and some officials of Polish travel agencies. The Polish delegation was welcomed at the airport terminal here by Philippine Ambassador to Poland Patricia Ann Paez and officials of Clark International Airport Corp. and the Central Luzon regional office of the Department of Tourism. Paez, in a statement, said the first visit by the Polish tourism chamber in the Philippines would open the door to tourists from Poland. She said Qatar Airways now has a direct flight from Warsaw to Manila. The Polish delegation is particularly interested in Vigan City in Ilocos Sur province, a world heritage site, and Boracay Island in Aklan province. It is set to visit the two places during their familiarization tour. Reynaldo Catacutan, Clark International Airport Corp. vice president for airport operations, said the Polish were impressed by the warm and friendly reception they received. “We took good care of the Polish delegation,” he said. The delegation is scheduled to meet with representatives of Philippine travel agencies on March 18 to establish partnerships and promote the Philippines as a travel destination for Polish tourists. Jun Malig, Inquirer Central Luzon

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EU committed to be PH’s largest investor – Palace 5:58 pm | Saturday, March 15th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—The European Union remains committed to pour in foreign investments to the country in the areas of trade, energy, governance, urbanization and migration, a Malacañang official said. “We continue to receive commitments from European companies which we hope will convert to actual investments following our recognition as an investment destination of choice by the EU,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a statement. He attributed EU’s business interest to the “administration’s efforts to curb corruption and improve the ease of doing business in the country.” According to the Department of Trade and Industry, EU is the country’s largest investor by stock with total investments of P440 billion which created about 400,000 jobs. The net foreign direct investments (FDI) flow from the EU also amount to $174.22 million (P7.764 billion) in 2012 while total FDI stock in 2011 was at $10.35 billion (P461.26 billion), according to the Board of Investments. “(T)op EU officials pledged to President Aquino increased investments in recognition of the significant reforms implemented by the Philippines to strengthen transparency and good governance which are vital in making the Philippines a preferred investment venue,” Coloma said. “With the Philippine economy gearing for sustainable long term growth, partnership with European companies can be a crucial factor in enabling the country to reach an inflection point and achieve more breakthroughs,” he added.

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Building better cities Philippine Daily Inquirer  12:30 am | Sunday, March 16th, 2014

With extreme weather disturbances now the new normal worldwide, it’s but appropriate for governments to seek “best practices and new approaches” to bringing about “livable cities” that will ensure the wellbeing, indeed the very survival, of their constituents. It takes bold thinking as well as an open mind. In the Asia-Pacific, the modern city also needs to be “resilient”—meaning capable of surviving not only the natural disasters that regularly come our way but also the unnatural blight brought about by unchecked urban growth. This was the essence of the 2nd Annual Pacific Cities Sustainability Initiative (PCSI) Forum held last week in Manila, where foreign and local experts in urban living and sustainability shared their thoughts and discussed possibilities concerning such life-and-death issues as disaster preparedness, recovery, integrated planning, housing, investment, and good governance. The idea was to engage and share ideas within the community of nations, according to the reality that is climate change. The PCSI was launched in 2009 as a collaboration between the influential think tanks Asia Society and Urban Land Institute (ULI) in partnership with other leading organizations and schools. It is aimed at fostering meaningful discussion among the Asia-Pacific countries toward such goals as reducing energy use, protecting the environment, adapting to climate change, and building smart, livable cities. The Asia-Pacific region regularly experiences all manner of natural disasters from typhoons to earthquakes to tsunamis. The Philippines continues to suffer the effects of the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon “Yolanda/Haiyan” in November 2013. In many frightening ways we have been made aware of the wisdom of preparing for the worst, and of the utter folly of haphazard preparations. In welcoming the delegates to the PCSI Forum, ULI Philippines chair Carlos S. Rufino said it was a privilege for the Philippines to host the conference “given our own most recent experience” with Yolanda/Haiyan. He said that “despite the geographical vulnerability and environmental challenges in this age of climate change, the Asia-Pacific region has never been more resilient.” Asia Society Philippines Foundation chair Doris Magsaysay-Ho said the PCSI Forum would provide city mayors and their administrators with “the chance to draw out ideas and principles from the experiences of the gathered expert participants.” And along with the timely exchange of ideas, the conference also laid down the groundwork for the 2015 Philippines Livable and

Resilient Cities Competition. Twenty-one Philippine cities—from Angeles to Zamboanga—will vie for top honors in best urban planning and disaster risk reduction to meet the challenge of climate change. The competition thus promises to be an opportunity to apply the lessons learned from the conference—a significant learning experience that cannot but lead to better lives. “We are confident that the PCSI Forum will serve as a platform for key leaders to engage in constructive dialogue, share valuable experiences and practical solutions to promote international partnerships, help each other become more prepared, and plan together sustainable and resilient communities for the next generations,” Rufino said. Applying the lessons requires both ambition and devotion. And it has been done. After the terrible earthquake that leveled Christchurch in 2011, New Zealand lifted interest rates last week after a three-year moratorium due to its booming economic recovery. Such bullishness was also exhibited in 2012 by Auckland, New Zealand’s largest and most populous city, when it launched a 30-year blueprint to turn itself into the world’s most livable city. The PCSI Forum highlighted the urgent need for concerted thinking in battling the dangers besetting the planet. If our cities are to survive—and flourish—in this changing world, then it is imperative to buckle down to work. It is only through working together that humankind will survive. At no time has the adage “no man is an island” been more resonant than now.

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East West nets P2.1B in 2013 By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:10 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – East West Bank expanded its net profit last year by 13.2 percent to P2.1 billion on above-industry loan growth and margins as well as growth in other core businesses. This translated to a return on equity of 11.1 percent and return on assets of 1.6 percent, the bank disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday. The bank increased its loan book by 32.1 percent to P95.6 billion for the year. Consumer loans grew by 29.4 percent to end the period at P48.9 Billion as credit cards, auto, mortgage and personal loans businesses all expanded at a double-digit pace from the previous year. Lending to top-tier corporations also jumped by 35.1 percent to end the year at P46.7 billion. The expansion in loan book was supported by a 21.9-percent increase in total deposits to P111.2 billion, driven by the expansion in its branch network. In 2013, East West opened a total of 55 new branches to end the year with 300. As of March 17 this year, the consolidated branch store network of EastWest Unibank and EastWest Rural Bank stood at 369. Low-cost current account and savings account deposits grew by 27.9 percent, outpacing the 14.4 percent rise in high-cost deposits. The improved ratio of low-cost to total deposits resulted a 15.3 percent decline in the bank’s interest expense. While the bank grew its loan book at a faster pace than its peers, it also posted an aboveindustry net interest margin (NIM) of 8.4 percent, the highest in the bank’s history. This NIM increased by 37.9 percent year-on-year.

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Unionbank offers to acquire Export Bank Group of uninsured depositors back rehab plan By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:23 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

Aboitiz-led Union Bank of the Philippines has offered to come in as the white knight of Export and Industry Bank (EIB), proposing a framework to revitalize the shuttered bank as part of the universal bank’s strategy to grow in preparation for the Southeast Asian economic integration. Unionbank’s prospective entry as a strategic investor in EIB is backed by the bank’s uninsured depositors. EIB has about P10.7 billion in uninsured deposits, a majority of whom—holding a combined deposit of P8.2 billion—had given special powers of attorney to a group called “Coalition of EIB Uninsured Depositors” seeking the rehabilitation of the bank as an alternative to liquidation. In a telephone interview with the Inquirer on Saturday, UnionBank president Victor Valdepeñas confirmed that his bank had “formally” expressed interest to come in as a “strategic investor” in EIB. The bank had written the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to present its offer. “It’s part of our strategy moving forward toward integration. You need to be of good size because in the future, maybe in the next decade, as the Asean integration takes foothold, competition will become more intent and as the regional market becomes enlarged, you need bigger players,” he said. “We look forward to opportunities for us, to expand both organically and inorganically,” Valdepeñas added. “Acquisition, as part of strategy, is more compelling now because of the prospects and fast developments as far as the economic blocks are concerned.” Union Bank has had experience in mergers and acquisitions in the past two decades, having taken over City Savings Bank in 2013, International Exchange Bank in 2006 and The International Corporate Bank in 1994. “We are encouraged by the expression in interest of Unionbank to participate in the rehabilitation of EIB. We forged a general agreement with Unionbank wherein a portion of our uninsured deposits in EIB will be converted into the bank’s equity while the remainder will be treated as deferred time deposits that will earn interest,” the coalition of uninsured depositors said in a letter to the BSP dated March 3. The coalition said they had chosen to partner with Unionbank, the latter being “one of the leading universal banks in our country that can sufficiently meet the capital requirements to rehabilitate EIB.” In its letter to the BSP, the coalition appealed to banking regulators to seriously consider Unionbank’s offer.

“When before we only had our personal savings and retirement funds to think about, now we share each other’s worries of losing the deposits of cooperatives, small-scale businesses, scholarship foundations, mutual fund associations and nonprofit institutions,” the coalition said. Industry sources said Unionbank was ready to come in under a framework for financial assistance almost similar to what the BSP had approved in 2010 when Banco de Oro Unibank was about to take over EIB’s assets and liabilities. The central bank had agreed then to extend from 10 to 25 years the coverage of the P10-billion financial assistance originally granted to EIB in 2005 after its merger with Urban Bank. This P10-billion financial assistance was used to buy government securities, with the interest earnings providing income support to EIB, which, unfortunately, continued to suffer losses. The bank was shut down by the BSP in 2012 and ordered to be put up for liquidation last year. BDO backed out of the EIB deal due to concerns on a lawsuit against EIB’s brokerage unit, which would have made its takeover very costly. The case referred to a lawsuit filed by a group affiliated with businessman William Gatchalian against EIB’s stockbrokerage unit. A regional trial court ordered EIB’s brokerage unit to pay P1.5 billion in damages to the group. But the Supreme Court later resolved the debate on the so-called “piercing of the corporate veil of corporate fiction.” The high court ruling said the doctrine might be applied only “to determine established liability, not to confer jurisdiction that was never acquired.” This was believed to have removed the overhang on EIB in case a white knight comes in although by that time, EIB had already been padlocked by the BSP. Asked whether he was concerned about the Gatchalian case, Valdepeñas said: “This will form part of our due diligence. If ever that the MB will consider our interest as a strategic partner, it is normal that we conduct our own due diligence that will consider not only financial aspects, but legal aspects.” Meanwhile, the uninsured depositors have gone as far as Congress to seek assistance. Last Feb. 20, House Resolution 869 was introduced by Representatives Ronald Cosalan, Romero Quimbo and Jesulito Manalo directing the committee on banks and financial intermediaries to conduct an inquiry, in aid of legislation, on the plight of depositors of EIB and other closed banks.

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BSP: Islamic finance may be key to Mindanao dev’t By Paolo G. Montecillo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:21 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

  Islamic finance may prove to be a boon for the Philippine economy, particularly in Mindanao—a geographically significant part of the country that has unfortunately lagged in terms of development. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has made it clear that it is high time for the country to develop the Islamic banking sector and maximize Muslim Mindanao’s vast resources. “Although Islamic banking could also cater to those outside the Islamic faith, we can begin looking at market needs and opportunities … of Muslims in the Philippines today,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said last week. Conventional banks have barely penetrated the country’s Muslim population, most of whom are residents of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Tetangco said during a closed-door workshop on Islamic finance hosted by the central bank. The BSP is now drafting a proposal to Congress for the creation of a new regulatory framework to cover Islamic finance in the country. The BSP, as part of the proposed amendments to its charter, also asked Congress for the authority to craft rules on Islamic banking. Unlike conventional banking, Islamic banks comply with the Shariah law, which prohibits lenders from charging interest for loans. Instead, Islamic banks rely on the principle of risk-sharing, which forces borrowers to take banks in as partners when taking out loans. Another key trait of Islamic finance is that financial transactions should be supported by genuine productive economic activity that subscribes to the ethics of the Islamic faith. This limits the industry’s participation in financial markets dominated by conventional banks and financial institutions. “Notably, this principle can serve to reinforce links between finance and the real sector, reducing the perils of unbridled innovation and excessive risk taking,” Tetangco said. “In this context, it contributes to the financial stability of the system.” With just 20 banks and 28 automated teller machines present in the region, only 8 percent of the municipalities in the ARMM have access to banking services.

This is an unfortunate state of affairs, considering that the ARMM is a resource-rich area with vast potential. “It is one of the country’s top sources of marine and fish products. It also holds large mineral deposits, including copper and gold,” Tetangco said. “There is therefore a significant untapped market opportunity, not just for conventional banking, but also and more importantly for Islamic banking.” Data from 2012 showed that ARMM’s economy grew by just 1.2 percent that year. This was much slower than all of Mindanao, which grew by 8.2 percent. The entire country also grew by 6.8 percent in 2012. Tetangco said the Islamic banking industry may take several forms. He said new Islamic banks could be established by the private sector. Existing banks in the country may also choose to put up separate subsidiaries or affiliates that specialize in Islamic finance. Currently, the country only has one Islamic bank, Al-Amanah Investment Bank, which was established in 1973. The bank is currently owned by state-run Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). The prevailing General Banking Law passed in 2000 prohibits the creation of any other Islamic bank in the country—a limitation the BSP wants to address, first through amendments to the central bank’s charter and, eventually, with the passing of a new law focusing only on Islamic finance.

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Even village heads must bare their SALNs in Senate FOI bill By TJ Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 6:01 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines—Barangay (village) chairpersons, including those in remote areas, aren’t exempt from uploading their statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) on the Internet under the Senate’s version of the freedom of information (FOI) bill. Senate Bill No. 1733 mandates the President down to members of constitutional commissions and offices to upload their SALNs on their official websites. The bill likewise requires every government agency to post the SALNs, as well as the monthly income of all public officials with Salary Grade 27 and above or heads of office. While barangay chairpersons aren’t covered by the salary grade system, they are heads of office, and hence are required to disclose their SALNs, said Sen. Grace Poe, sponsor of the key legislation that grants public access to government records. Twenty-one senators voted to approve the bill on the floor last Monday. “The barangay chairs are not part of the pay grade system but they’re heads of office. So they’re still included in our version. They should disclose their SALNs,” Poe said in an interview. An association of barangay chairs will be in charge of uploading their SALNs on their website, she said. Nondisclosure of his peso and dollar accounts in his SALN cost then Chief Justice Renato Corona his job in 2012. Corona was convicted by the Senate sitting as an impeachment court in May 2012. Apart from the President, the bill mandates the Vice President, Cabinet members, senators and representatives, justices, constitutional commission members, and military officers of general and flag rank to comply with Section 17, Article 11, of the Constitution. This states that a public officer shall submit a declaration under oath of his assets, liabilities and net worth upon assuming office. SB 1733 imposes a penalty of imprisonment from one to six months and a fine of P10,000 to P100,000 on any government official or employee who conceals information that is subject to disclosure. Malacañang balked at the President certifying the bill as urgent, deferring to the public to pressure the representatives to follow the senators’ lead in approving it.

Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr. vowed the House version of the bill would be passed during his term, which ends in 2016. The Senate took less than a year to pass the measure in the first regular session of the 16th Congress. The House has between now and June 2016 to do this. The FOI bill was passed by the Senate in the 15th and 14th Congress, but it failed to hurdle deliberations in the House. Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano had said it was now imperative that the House pass the measure. “In a time when our citizenry is already so sick of corruption, abuse of power and deception, we need to pass a measure that would ensure our people a government that is truly for the people,” he said. Poe had said she was more worried about the passage of a weak FOI law than its non-approval by Congress. The bill recognizes every citizen’s right to access information of public concern in a government agency. It covers all agencies and puts the burden on these offices to prove by “clear and convincing evidence” that the information requested falls under the exceptions. The exceptions include information pertaining to national security and foreign affairs; minutes of decision-making or policy formulation; information on internal and external defense, and information on human security; drafts of orders, resolutions, decisions and audit reports.

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SC tells Makati court: Hands off Cocolife case By Tetch Torres-Tupas

3:38 pm | Sunday, March 16th, 2014

  MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court stopped the Makati City Regional Court from acting on the case filed by United Coconut Planters Life Assurance Corporation (Cocolife) against the government to cash in their claim on the over P1.6 billion worth of shares in San Miguel Corporation. In a resolution, the high court also gave Cocolife 10 days to answer PCGG’s petition. PCGG through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said the Makati Court committed grave abuse of discretion when it denied the government’s bid to dismiss the case filed against it by Cocolife. It explained that in acting on the case filed by Cocolife to stake its claim over portions of the 24 percent block shares in San Miguel Corporation, the lower court “effectively reviewed the consolidated decision of the Honorable Court declaring that CIIF (Coconut Industry Investment Fund) companies, the 14 Holding Companies and the CIIF block of SMC shares are owned by the government to be used only for the benefit of the coconut farmers and for the development of the coconut industry.” Assuming that there is still no Supreme Court ruling, Jardeleza said the Makati Court has no authority to hear ill-gotten wealth cases. He said only the Sandiganbayan has that authority. “PCGG is entitled to the relief demanded which consists in restraining respondent Judge from further hearing the case. Indeed, respondent Judge encroached on the exclusive authority of the Sandiganbayan to hear cases involving ill-gotten assets,” Jardeleza stated in the petition. Cocolife wanted the amount be deducted from the coco levy fund, which the high court already declared as belonging to the government. But the government insisted that the case has dragged on for 25 years, saying “Cocolife should have taken the necessary steps and made known its alleged interest” and not wait for the case to reach the high court and become final and executory. Cocolife wants to be declared a proportionate owner of the CIIF companies, the 14 CIIF Holding Companies and the CIIF block of SMC shares. The Sandiganbayan, in its ruling, said that the 14 CIIF holding companies used borrowed funds from United Coconut Planters Bank to acquire the SMC shares in the aggregate amount of P1.656 billion.

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5.4-magnitude quake hits Surigao del Norte By Kristine Angeli Sabillo 2:14 pm | Monday, March 17th, 2014

MANILA, Philippines – A 5.4 magnitude earthquake shook Surigao del Norte on Monday afternoon, the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) said. Phivolcs said the quake, with a depth of 19 kilometers, hit 15 kilometers southwest of Malimono town in Surigao del Norte at 1:30 p.m. It was felt at Intensity III in Butuan City, Intensity IV in Surigao City and Intensity V in Placer, Surigao del Norte.

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Dry spell stalking Maguindanao, Albay farms Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:06 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

Farmers in Maguindanao province have been suffering from the brunt of a dry spell and complained that their farmlands were getting drier every day. Maguindanao, one of five provinces in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), has not experienced rainfall in the past three weeks, with the sun giving excruciating heat. In Albay province, disaster officials are bracing for the onset of a dry spell that could trigger power outages, a drop in agricultural production and a rise in heat-related diseases, Gov. Joey Salceda said last week. The dry spell has slowly inched its way into the province, affecting close to a thousand hectares of rice fields in Daraga, Camalig, and Polangui towns, Salceda said. Rainfall dependent Mosa Saligan, a farmer in Datu Odin Sinsuat, Maguindanao, said farmers could not replant rice because the rice fields have remained dry since last month. In fact, the Liguasan marshland was almost dry, with what used to be the riverbed exposed due to lack of water. Saligan said most of the rice fields in Maguindanao were not irrigated and depended on rainfall. “There are some areas that are irrigated but most in the upland [areas] are without irrigation. We rely on rain that we have not experienced in a long time,” said another farmer, Kali Usman, from nearby Upi town, Maguindanao. Lawyer Makmod Mending, regional secretary of the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the ARMM, said his office had sent teams to monitor the state of farmlands in Maguindanao so that action could be taken. “We expect this to happen, especially [because] summer is just around the corner,” Mending told reporters. He said he had yet to receive reports from municipal and provincial agriculturists on the situation in their localities. But he admitted that ordinary people could easily see the drying rice fields that may result in an increase in the prices of rice. “In anticipation of the effects on agriculture, we are sending teams to various towns and provinces to determine the extent of the drought,” Mending said. Meanwhile, the Department of Trade and Industry in the ARMM is closely monitoring the prices of rice in the market. Mending said the effect of the dry spell on the prices of agricultural products could take two to three months before it is felt by the buying public. Albay Quoting a provincial agriculture service (PAS) report, Salceda said the dry spell had so far affected some 996 hectares of rain-fed rice land in Daraga (700 ha), followed by Camalig (196 ha) and Polangui (100 ha). The governor said he had convened the Provincial Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council to immediately prepare urgent countermeasures to cushion the negative impact of the dry spell on agriculture, health and sanitation, and power. Since the beginning of this year, rainfall has been “way below normal,” he said, quoting an advisory from the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa). This was confirmed by Lilian Guillermo, Pagasa officer in charge here, who said that in January, the actual rainfall in Albay was

114.3 milliliters, or less than half of the 311.7-mm normal threshold for this particular month. In February, the rainfall was also way below normal, with only 47.8 mm versus the 236.4-mm normal rainfall projected in the province for the month. She explained that one criteria in declaring a dry spell was three consecutive months of below normal rainfall, which would mean that they would need to wait until the end of March to determine if a dry spell has already been experienced in the province. The normal rainfall for March in Albay is 193.8 mm but with the experience of the past two months, the usual “above normal” reading of rainfall in the province would be revised to “below normal,” she said. Ernesto de la Torre, provincial agricultural officer, said in a phone interview last week that the production loss brought by the lack of rainfall in the last two months was placed at 2,490 metric tons, equivalent to P23 million. However, he said the damage was only three to five percent of the agricultural output of the total 25,400 ha of rice lands in the province. Irrigation The dry spell concern was compounded by an irrigation system problem because Agos-Sta. Cruz Dam in Polangui was not operational and needed repair, said Cristina Mesias, provincial chief of the National Irrigation Administration. Mesias said the irrigation dam served water to 160 ha of irrigated rice lands in Polangui. She said it would need about P80 million to repair the dam but that the fund was not available this year. As a countermeasure, Salceda said the PAS would provide seed assistance to affected farmers, propose to farmers alternative crops to be planted, repair and maintain shallow tube wells, and provide fuel assistance to farmers with irrigation pumps. Salceda also raised the concern that the dry spell may bring power outages, which would immensely affect business and trigger spikes in the prices of basic commodities. He explained that power outages on a nationwide scale would occur during the dry spell because some of the hydro-powered power plants would stop operations due to lack of water supply. In 2010, a dry spell destroyed 6,000 ha of agricultural lands in the six towns and two cities of Albay, forcing disaster authorities to place the entire province under a state of calamity. Edwin O. Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao, and Mar S. Arguelles, Inquirer Southern Luzon

Japan’s NEC to supply P440-M system to Phivolcs By Ben O. de Vera Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:14 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

Japanese technology firm NEC Corp. will supply the Philippine government with about one billion yen or P440.9 million worth of disaster prevention system that will provide local government units (LGUs) clear-cut data on earthquakes. “NEC Corp. has been selected to provide the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) with a wide-area disaster prevention system to detect volcanic and seismic activity by using seismic intensity meters and tide indicators, as well as offering disaster countermeasures,” the Tokyo-based company said on its website last week. According to NEC, this project is funded by a grant aid from the Japanese government’s Improvement of Equipment for Disaster Risk Management program. The company “will supply almost one billion yen worth of the system throughout the Philippines,” Mari Takahashi, in charge of media relations at NEC Corp., told the Inquirer in an e-mail on Friday. The disaster prevention system to be supplied by NEC, which will use very small aperture terminal (VSAT) technology, will be operated starting February next year. “The wide-area disaster prevention system gathers sensor data recorded by the strong-motion seismographs and tide indicators located throughout the Philippines in the servers at the Phivolcs via satellite-based communication (VSAT),” NEC said. “More specifically, seismic intensity meters will be located in approximately 40 locations and tide indicators will be located in approximately 20 locations all over the Philippines, and these sensors will use photovoltaic solar cells so that they can send data constantly. The data on oscillation and the tides will be gathered in real time, enabling the constant monitoring of volcanic and seismic activity,” the company added. “After this project is completed, each local city in Philippines where the meters were installed will get to know the earthquake intensity locally when it occurs [so] local governments will be able to take actions immediately in case an earthquake occurs. Currently, all the information is collected by Phivolcs, then conveyed to local cities via central government,” Takahashi explained. “This kind of disaster prevention system has already been put to practical use in Japan. The technology and performance of the system is proven,” he added. Both the Philippines and Japan lie in the “Pacific Ring of Fire,” where earthquakes and volcanic eruptions frequently occur.

In October last year, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Central Visayas, which leveled a number of tourist spots in Bohol as well as disrupted operations of business process outsourcing (BPO) companies and ecozone firms in Cebu. The government had pegged the earthquake’s damages to infrastructure in Bohol and Cebu at P2.26 billion. Through the modern disaster prevention system to be supplied by NEC, Phivolcs “aims to reduce the impact of natural disasters by communicating with the relevant ministries and agencies immediately after an earthquake or tsunami is detected and making use of changes in the sensor data to predict volcanic eruptions,” the company claimed.

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Gov’t eyes new round of foreign bond exchange Move seen to temper impact of rising interest rates By Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:17 am | Monday, March 17th, 2014

After its successful $1-billion bond exchange in the international market in January, the Philippines may consider a similar activity in the coming months to temper the impact of rising interest rates. National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said that increasing yields of treasury bills and bonds have raised the potential need for another initiative that would help sustain the government’s declining debt burden. “We have to look into some liability management initiatives to lower our debt service,” De Leon told the Inquirer. Bond exchange is a major liability-management strategy the Philippine government conducts to reduce the cost of servicing its outstanding debt. In the international bond exchange in January, investors took $1 billion worth of freshly issued Philippine global bonds in exchange for sovereign debt instruments they bought previously. The new bonds fetched a coupon rate of 4.2 percent, which the Bureau of the Treasury said was lower than the rates carried by the retired debt paper. “We always have to look for options [to manage liabilities],” De Leon said. Since the mid-2000s, the share of interest payments in the country’s national budget had been on a decline due partly to improving tax collection and debt-management strategies such as the bond exchange. From more than a third of the national budget, the share of interest payments had consistently dropped, settling at 17.2 percent last year. For this year, the government has set a goal of further reducing the share of debt service in the national budget to just 15.6 percent. De Leon admitted, however, that sustaining the decline would be more difficult this year than in the past few years because of rising interest rates and the depreciation of the peso. After hitting record lows of less than 1 percent last year, treasury bill rates across all tenors have moved back to above 1 percent this year. Based on estimates of the Bureau of the Treasury, interest payments of the government rises by P2 billion for every one peso depreciation of the local currency against the dollar.

Earlier this year, the peso broke into the 45-to-a-dollar territory following the outflow of portfolio capital away from emerging markets. It has strengthened back to the 44 level, closing at 44.655:$1 last Friday. The latest exchange rate, however, was still weaker than the 44.36:$1 on the last trading day of 2013. De Leon also said the likely higher borrowing requirements of the government for this year posed another challenge to the goal of reducing the debt-service burden.

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Farm‐to‐market road benefits Bongao villages  by Philippine News Agency March 16, 2014

turnover of the 1.5-kilometer concrete road in project in Tawi-Tawi under the Transition Investment Support Plan-Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (TISP-DAF) farm-to-market road program. The P10-million road project was implemented from Barangay Tubig Basag to Barangay LakitLakit in Mandulan, Bongao. Hataman said the farm-to-market road project materialized through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Bongao Mayor Jasper Que and DAF-ARMM Secretary Makmod Mending Jr. ARMM Public Works and Highways Secretary Emil Sadain, who also joined Hataman during the inauguration, said the DPWH-ARMM will continue the project with an additional three-kilometer road, which will start next week. The local government of Bongao will implement the road project through a MOA with the DPWH-ARMM regional office, Sadain said. The additional road project is expected to cost P23.3 million. Joining Hataman during inauguration were ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman Jr., Mending, Education Secretary Jamar Kulayan, Tawi-Tawi Governor Nurbert Sahali, former Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali, and other local officials.‐to‐market‐road‐benefits‐bongao‐villages/             

Experts bat for dev’t of Pinoy technopreneurs  by Jomari Guillermo March 17, 2014 (updated)

Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) Chairperson Patricia Licuanan said they are ready to draft new rules to boost entrepreneurship and innovation in the country. During Monday’s IDEA Global Entrepreneuship Symposium 2014 held at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City, Licuanan, who was one of the speakers, said that a CHEd technical panel has listed recommendations to improve the current situation. “We can enhance the BS Entrepreneurship program by focusing more on science and technology,” she said in her speech. She said that students should be given more electives related to science, technology, and mathematics. Licuanan revealed that the country is lagging in Asia due to the low quality of research and low number of students who want to be technopreneurs. University of the Philippines (UP) President Alfredo Pascual said during the panel discussion that the country is way way behind other Asian countries such as Vietnam in terms of the number of MA and Ph. D. engineers produced. He said that UP can create a program that gives students the right to choose to take up undergraduate and graduate school simultaneously. Another problem raised during the discussion was that there are highly Filipino trained engineers but most of them are not entrepreneurs. Licuanan then said that the government can develop a hybrid program that combines science, technology, and entrepreneurship. She also said that Filipinos should be exposed to entrepreneurship seminars and workshops. PhilDev Chairman and Tailwood Venture Capital founder Diosdado “Dado” Banatao said that it is just a matter of training. “We lack training. We learn the same concepts – Mathematics, Science, Physics – all are just theories,” he said. “In different countries, students get to design first. We need more programs,” he added. Banatao said in a separate interview that the country has been really lagging behind other countries. The engineering program that most schools in the country offers, he said, must be developed.

“We really need to put excellence in training if we want to catch up,” he told reporters. “It will not be easy but it can be done. Yes, we are getting there but it is slow, but we’re there,” he added. Banatao, who is known as the “Filipino Bill Gates” said that what needs to be done is to encourage and to let government, academe, and private sectors to participate.‐bat‐for‐development‐of‐technopreneurs/                                       

Disaster management covered by new  Philippines‐US deal  by Ron B. Lopez March 17, 2014 Disaster preparedness, reduction and response will be part of the new Philippines security deal with the United States, presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said. In his Monday press briefing in Malacañang, Lacierda called this security coverage as “one of the biggest improvements [in the deal]” as the country is highly vulnerable to tempests and other natural calamities. The Philippines has so far allowed the US to access its military bases based on the new agreement which will significantly increase the presence of US military troops in the country. The deal is still under negotiations. Lacierda said the government saw the importance of US military’s presence in disaster response when it helped the Philippines during the devastation of super typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) in November 2013. The US is among the major countries that offered military and humanitarian services to the victims of Yolanda, the strongest typhoon that left more than 6,000 dead. The new agreement also covers US military sharing knowledge to Philippine troops in terms of combat skills and technology use, Lacierda said. He asked the public and Congress to wait for the final agreement before they make any comments, stressing that it is still under negotiations. He said the Philippine panel has been very cognizant in drafting the agreement in order not to violate the Philippine Constitution. Lacierda brushed off speculations that the new deal will let the US troops build their military bases in the Philippines, a provision not allowed by the Constitution unless provided under a new treaty, which will then require the ratification of the Senate. He said the new deal is only made under the previous two agreements, the PH-US visiting forces agreement and mutual defense treaty, which have been ratified by the Senate.‐management‐covered‐by‐new‐philippines‐us‐deal/           

Entrepreneurship, innovation pushed by DTI  by Jomari Guillermo March 17, 2014

There is a lot to be done for the country to achieve a globally-competitive and sustainable entrepreneurial ecosystem. This is what Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Secretary Gregory L. Domingo emphasized in the IDEA Global Entrepreneuship Symposium 2014 held at EDSA Shangri-La Hotel in Mandaluyong City Monday. Domingo, who is one of the key speakers in the event, said during his speech that the country needs more entrepreneurship and innovation programs as these are core aspects in achieving inclusive growth. “We have a lot of programs to boost entrepreneurship. DTI has already been pushing for these programs and the government has already showed its support to these programs,” he said. One of these programs, he said, includes the development of small and medium businesses (SMEs). He also said that there are also laws and policies that have been pushed to support these programs. He cited the Go Negosyo bill filed by Senator Bam Aquino which has already been passed in the Senate committee. This bill he said focuses on improving entrepreneurship and programs through markets, mentorship, and money. However, he said the country is lagging in terms of innovation. “I admit there’s still no umbrella plan by the government in terms of having one big innovation program and policy to push innovation. We need to craft a bigger and more concerted effort,” Domingo said. He said that a strong government commitment is needed to support science and technology and innovation industries. He said that the country needs to change the business environment through easier registration processes for businesses and draft laws and programs that can encourage more ventures startup. A strong research and development program is also needed, he said. BIGGEST CHALLENGE

One of the biggest challenges that the country needs to focus on, Domingo said, is on how we can produce highly educated graduates. “Philippines needs to produce MA (Masters) and Ph.D graduates to sustain innovation. This is something we need to do,” he said. Domingo said in a separate interview that he hopes that a concrete government plan and action can be drafted at the end of this symposium. “We need high level education like MA and PhD particularly in Science and Engineering. That’s what we need for a faster and continued innovation,” he said in an interview. He said that one of the solutions he sees is to provide scholarships to talented and excellent Filipinos. He however said that this step needs a big budget. Domingo meanwhile lauded the “change of culture” in Filipino families. He said that more young Filipinos are now more hyped to pursue careers in entrepreneurship and business. “The future is bright for entrepreneurship but what we really need to develop now is innovation,” he said.‐innovation‐pushed‐by‐dti/                       

House panel approves bill amending Sandigan  law  by Charissa Luci March 15, 2014

Manila, Philippines — The House committee on justice has approved a measure seeking to amend the Sandiganbayan law to speed up the resolution of cases pending before the anti-graft court. The panel, chaired by Iloilo Rep. Niel Tupas Jr., passed the consolidated bill which seeks to amend Presidential Decree No. 1606 or the Sandiganbayan charter to allow a justice to sit and receive evidence, instead of requiring the presence of three justices before a case is heard and evidence is accepted. “We already approved amendments to the Sandiganbayan law,” Tupas told the Manila Bulletin. He said the consolidated bill “was principally based” on his House Bill 4108, which seeks the transfer of the anti-graft court’s jurisdiction over “minor cases” to the Regional Trial Courts (RTCs). Tupas said they added the provision pushed by siblings Cagayan de Oro Rep. Rufus Rodriguez and Abante Mindanao Rep. Maximo Rodriguez under HB 1392 that calls for the creation of two more divisions to be stationed in Visayas and Mindanao. During the panel’s recent hearing, Presiding Justice Amparo M. Cabotaje Tang expressed the Sandiganbayan’s opposition to the proposal of the Rodriguez brothers. “There’s this concern that witnesses may be harassed by a local official,” she told the Tupas panel. But generally, “majority of the Sandiganbayan Justices” supported the measure seeking to introduce the “Justice-designate” concept to expedite the disposition of graft cases as well as the transfer of jurisdiction over “minor cases” to the RTCs, Tang said.‐panel‐approves‐bill‐amending‐sandigan‐law/       

Sarangani aims for zero open defecation by 2016  March 17, 2014

ALABEL, Sarangani – The provincial government of Sarangani aiming for zero open defecation by 2016 as it becomes the recipient of Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) funded by World Bank. Gov. Steve Solon has created a task force that will undertake the program in a bid to eradicate open defecation within the impoverished villages of the province. “With the creation of a task force, we hope to achieve a zero-open defecation status in Sarangani,” Solon said. Provincial health officer Arvin Alejandro said poor families who are mostly residing in geographically isolated villages in the province are the ones practicing open defecation. Many of these families do not have sanitary toilets which caused the prevalence of food and water borne diseases in their communities. “Open defecation triggered high rates of under-five morbidity across the province as evidenced by food- and water-borne diseases specifically acute gastroenteritis as the leading cause of admission in government hospitals from 2007 to 2013,” Alejandro stressed. He said the provincial government has tapped non-government organizations and private sector partners in the provision of low-cost sanitary facilities to poor households. (Joseph Jubelag)‐aims‐for‐zero‐open‐defecation‐by‐2016/                 

Sanitation Program pilots in Sarangani  by Nonoy E. Lacson March 16, 2014

Zamboanga City – The multi-donor partnership and World Bank (WB)-administered Water and Sanitation Program (WSP) is piloting the Sarangani together with other selected provinces in the country for its sanitation and hygiene program. The challenge comes in the wake of global efforts to hit the 2015 Millennium Development Goal (MDG) on sanitation to cut by half the proportion of people who practice open defecation, and those without universal access to improved hygiene. The WSP also named the provinces of Quezon and Negros Oriental as testing areas. The WSP supports poor people in the countryside in obtaining affordable, safe, and sustainable access to water and sanitation services. It tapped local and national government units, non-government organizations (NGOs), and the private sector to scale up sanitary conditions in the target areas. Leo De Castro, WSP project coordinator, has deemed scaling up rural sanitation as challenging because significant percentage of the population still practice open defection among poor households in the outskirts. In a report, Sarangani provincial health officer-in-charge Arvin Alejandro said some 6.1 million poor people and three million others who are extremely poor out of the 9.4 million people in rural areas in 2006 have no access to improved sanitation in the country. He said “absolute number of people living in rural areas are using unimproved toilets and defecating in the open.” This has been a phenomenon among the poor, Alejandro added. In a global scale, around 2.4 billion people live in unsanitary conditions, where 630 million of them are from the East Asia. In the Philippines, according to Alejandro, Region-12 has contributed 24.8 percent of the total rural populace practicing the habit. Sarangani shared about 18.5 percent in the region.‐program‐pilots‐in‐sarangani/     


Farm‐to‐market road benefits Bongao villages  by Philippine News Agency March 16, 2014

Cotabato City – Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Mujiv Hataman on Saturday led the turnover of the 1.5-kilometer concrete road in project in Tawi-Tawi under the Transition Investment Support Plan-Department of Agriculture and Fisheries (TISP-DAF) farmto-market road program. The P10-million road project was implemented from Barangay Tubig Basag to Barangay LakitLakit in Mandulan, Bongao. Hataman said the farm-to-market road project materialized through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between Bongao Mayor Jasper Que and DAF-ARMM Secretary Makmod Mending Jr. ARMM Public Works and Highways Secretary Emil Sadain, who also joined Hataman during the inauguration, said the DPWH-ARMM will continue the project with an additional three-kilometer road, which will start next week. The local government of Bongao will implement the road project through a MOA with the DPWH-ARMM regional office, Sadain said. The additional road project is expected to cost P23.3 million. Joining Hataman during inauguration were ARMM Vice Governor Haroun Alrashid Alonto Lucman Jr., Mending, Education Secretary Jamar Kulayan, Tawi-Tawi Governor Nurbert Sahali, former Tawi-Tawi Governor Sadikul Sahali, and other local officials.‐to‐market‐road‐benefits‐bongao‐villages/           


Exporters Buoyant over growth expectations  by Malou M. Mozo March 16, 2014

Cebu City, Cebu – With the easing of economic problems in Europe and the United States, exporters in Cebu are optimistic that orders will start to perk up this year. “The major export markets are already declaring the end of recession so we are confident that 2014 could be a positive year for Philippine exports,” said Philexport-Cebu Executive Director Fred Escalona. According to Escalona, the local export organizations are projecting a 10-percent increase in merchandise exports this year after major global economies are showing signs of stability. “It is good to note that this year, orders are again being made,” he said in an interview. In January, the country’s merchandise exports rose nine percent compared to the same period in 2012 with latest value coming to $4.382 billion from $4.011 billion, according to the latest report of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Growth was attributed by the PSA to the positive performance of electronic products which posted double- digit growth at the start of the year, and to the growth of six other commodity groups. Revenues from outbound shipments of electronic products are up by 22 percent, reaching $1.793 billion in January, 2014. Other manufactured goods logged export revenues amounting to $600.25 million this year, or a 100 percent increase from total gains of $300.92 million in 2013. The PSA noted that Japan remains the country’s top market for exports, with revenues reaching $1.150 billion, up 50 percent from income totaling $769.04 million in the previous year. Escalona said in Cebu, food is one of the strongest export products with three big Cebu-based companies exporting processed food like dried mangoes globally. Improvement is also seen in the furniture, fashion accessories and home decors. “Growth is mild but steady,” he said, referring to the increase of export volume in Cebu. Cebu exports grew by five percent in 2013. Department of Trade and Industry in Central Visayas (DTI 7) Asteria Caberte also echoed Escalona’s buoyant view on exports saying that while not everyone in the export sectors have noted significant increase in orders, there are already some like the gift toys and housewares (GTH) indicating movement in their inventories. Caberte said the establishment of a shared service facility (SSF) for the Cebu-GTH sector is seen to boost further the performance of the local players.

She said the common facility will offer a high-tech packaging facility for GTH exporters for them to improve on their product presentation. The SSF for the GTH sector here is expected to be operational by the second quarter of 2014.‐buoyant‐over‐growth‐expectations/                                             

Trading centers start buying tobacco  by Freddie G. Lazaro March 16, 2014

Laoag City, Ilocos Norte — Trading centers in Virginia tobacco-growers areas in the Ilocos provinces have started buying farmers’ products as early as the third week of February, a National Tobacco Administration (NTA) official said over the weekend. The NTA also announced that the trading season for Burley and native tobacco begun early this month. “Tobacco farmers in Northern Luzon are now ready to reap the result of the hard work they have put in the farms as the 2014 tobacco trading season starts,” Edgardo D. Zaragoza, NTA Administrator said. NTA expressed optimism on the success of the farmers especially with the P6 increase in the floor prices of all grades of Virginia tobacco variety and from P3 to P10 increase for the Burley and native tobacco. The rate of high-grade Virginia leaf (AA) is now P78/kg while Burley and the native variety are bought at P61/kg and P66/kg, respectively. Tobacco trading centers in Ilocos also buy flue-cured Virginia tobacco leaves higher than the approved floor prices. Initially, the tobacco buying rate at the Ilocos Sur trading centers reached as high as P86 per kilogram for the prime grade of full-flavor type tobacco. The NTA has also approved the opening of 11 trading centers in the early weeks of the trading seasons in Ilocos provinces.‐centers‐start‐buying‐tobacco/         


Dairy program targets 46% local milk sufficiency  over 3 years  by Melody M. Aguiba March 15, 2014

A 38 percent milk sufficiency is targeted by the National Dairy Authority (NDA) by end-2014 with 37.02 million liters of milk production as NDA strengthens partnerships with multiplier farms and continues to help put up milk processing plants. The target is part of a program to raise domestic milk sufficiency to 44 percent in 2015 and to 46 percent in 2016. This milk production comes from a 21 percent milk sufficiency rate at 19.46 million liters in 2013, according to NDA Administrator Grace J. Cenas. “The main objective is to gain significant sufficiency level in the Ready-to-Drink milk market from 20 percent to more than double or to 46 percent in 2016,” Cenas said at the NDA anniversary celebration. The targets will be achieved as the agency aims to raise dairy herd to 55,000 heads and involve 100,000 dairy families. NDA also just entered into a partnership with 63 dairy multiplier farms. It assists these multiplier farms in the production of local dairy animals, in linkages with local government units and foreign institutions in the provision of technical assistance on dairy production. Five milk processing plants have been put up in 2013 in Sta. Maria, Bulacan, Baguio, Sorsogon, Camarines Sur, and Albay. “Efforts to expand the dairy animal inventory paid off as milking animals grew by 13 percent. As milk production increased, local dairy producers’ earnings from sale of milk also increased,” said Cenas. The country’s milk production grew by 35 percent for the last five years. This is from 14.41 million liters in 2009, 15.86 million liters in 2010, 16.45 million liters in 2011, 18.45 million liters in 2012, and 19.46 million liters in 2013. Moreover, importation was at 48.48 million liters in 2010, 45.48 million liters in 2011, 34.73 million liters in 2012, and 46.59 million liters in 2013. Last Dec. 13, 2013, NDA renewed a P200-million credit facility with the Land Bank of the Philippines under which dairy cooperatives, farmers and other industry stakeholders may avail of a loan.

NDA also received a grant funding for the five-year Philippine New Zealand Development Project worth NZ$4,530 million (around P170.82 million). This project with New Zealand is focused on the development of dairy farms in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, and Quezon). Up to 2016, NDA is setting up a P300 million dairy cow program. Projected jobs to be generated will be 22,000. Dairy animal inventory in the Philippines was at 44,374 heads as of 2013. The National Economic Development Authority has put NDA’s Milk Feeding Program as a top project in the 2013 National Priority Plan. Farmers coming from 14 dairy associations benefitted from the program as they supplied milk for feeding a total of 112,345 children nationwide.‐program‐targets‐46‐local‐milk‐sufficiency‐over‐3‐years/                                 


Purissima u urges h higher Germ man inv vestmeents  by Chino Leyco March 16, 2014

Finance Secretary Cesar C V. Puriisima has pu ushed for gre eater Germa an investments in the Philippine es and urged the European Union to o view the u pcoming AS SEAN integra ation starting g next yearr as an upsid de. In his add dress to Gerrman Asia-P Pacific Business Associa ation (OAV) in Hamberg, Germany, Purisima stressed the need for greater g trade e and investm ment collabo oration betwe een the worrld’s fourth larrgest econom my and the Philippines. P

Mr. Jürge en Fitschen, Chairman of o the Germa an Asia Pac ific Businesss Association (OAV) and d CoCEO of Deutsche D Ba ank AG, resp ponds to Phiilippine Fina ance Secreta ary Cesar V. Purisima affter his speec ch at the OA AV Liebesma ahl, pushing for greater G German inve estments in the Philippin nes. Purisima added that the creation n of a Germa an house sim milar to those e of Singapo ore and Vietnam would he elp reach outt to German companies.. “German ny has alway ys been a strrategic partn ner of the Ph hilippines, be eing one of tthe country’ss top 10 trading partners, the t second largest l touris st market in Europe, and d the biggesst source of lloans and gran nts,” Purisima a said. Germany y accounts fo or 3.3 percent of Philipp pines’ total tra rade from 20 008 to 2012, which were mostly in n electronics. It is also th he country’s 12th largestt tourist markket, with 70,949 arrivals in 2013, gro owing by 5.8 86 percent frrom 67,023 in i the previo ous year. Meanwhile, the Philip ppines’ overrseas develo opment aid frrom German ny amounted d to $1.2 billion 61 to 2011, mostly m focused on poverrty reduction , conflict ressolution in M Mindanao, an nd from 196 climate change. c

“We have created greater fiscal space to invest in infrastructure and our people, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society. Indeed, we have shown that with good governance comes good economics, and this virtuous cycle is what we aim to institutionalize,” Purisima said. Furthermore, the finance chief pushed for Germany and the EU to view the upcoming ASEAN integration in 2015 as an upside. Taken collectively, ASEAN would be the third largest community with a population of about 600 million and an average age of 27, and with a gross domestic product (GDP) of $2.1 trillion, the seventh largest in the world.‐urges‐higher‐german‐investments/                                       

Importation of rice is government-togovernment–DA Category: Agri-Commodities 16 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent THE impending importation of 1 million metric tons (MMT) of rice for this year will be under the government-to-government procedure, despite the massive volume of rice needed to arrive before the start of the lean season, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said. Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said on Friday that the government is not abandoning its rice self-sufficiency program, despite the decision to import rice earlier as announced earlier last week. Saying that “we will still try to be sufficient,” Alcala said during awarding ceremonies for rice achievers that the agency is also enhancing the production of other staple crops like white corn. Asked when the government would be giving the go-signal for the entry of the 800,000 MT, Alcala explained that the inter-agency committee of the National Food Authority (NFA) is still deliberating the matter. The target importation is part of the 1 MMT of rice the government plans to procure from abroad. The agency will give its final recommendation after pertinent data on the rice harvest for the dry season cropping are obtained, according to Alcala. The DA official added “he is hoping for a final decision” on the arrangement of procurement that will be “made available” by the third week of this month. Currently, only three countries, Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam, have existing rice purchase agreements with the Philippines. The 800,000 MT was an attempt on the part of the government to halt the climb of prices of rice in the local market. Economists have noted inadequate supply has put inflationary pressures on the grain. Government economic managers have proposed the importation to back-stop the 200,000 MT balance of rice buffer scheduled last year. “Several reports from the regional directors [of the DA] are very positive,” Alcala said, adding that Iloilo for instance, registered a 17-percent increase on their harvest for this cropping season compared with last year.

“I have asked undersecretary Dante [Delima] for reports from other regions, to know, which of the areas are not yet self-sufficient,” the DA chief added. Alcala said the rice production target for this year should be not less than 19 MMT. However, the exact figure, he said, could only be acquired after the dry-season cropping. Shortly after that, the agency will conduct a survey on planting intentions for the wet season cropping, according to Alcala.‐commodities/29065‐importation‐of‐ rice‐is‐government‐to‐government‐da                                     

Many Pinoys have no access to water, electricity–DENR Category: Agri-Commodities 16 Mar 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga ENVIRONMENT Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje on Sunday underscored the need to conserve water and electricity, both being precious economic resources, which remain inaccessible to millions of Filipinos. Citing statistics, Paje said 17 million people in the Philippines still have no access to water and 15 million people still have no access to electricity. Hence, Paje said the Department of Environment and National Resources (DENR) will embark on a set of weeklong activities that will bring together the country’s water and power sectors to raise public awareness on the close link between water and energy consumption. This was Paje’s message ahead of celebrations of World Water Day on March 22. Paje said this year’s celebration, which has a local theme of “Water is Power,” will focus on the growing awareness that saving water may be one of the most effective ways to save energy—and vice versa. Paje noted that producing energy requires use of water while providing freshwater uses energy. He said both processes face growing limits and problems. The DENR chief said “much of the country’s generated power relies on water, while many Filipinos rely on electrical power for domestic water supply.” Paje said that aside from providing Filipinos access to clean water and electricity, “the efficient use of both water and power is also an urgent issue the government is trying to address.” He announced that the DENR would host lecture series in selected schools in Pateros and the cities of Quezon, Marikina, Pasig, San Juan and Taguig from March 18 to 20. The celebration of March 22 as “World Day for Water” was declared in 1993 by the United Nations General Assembly. This year’s international theme is “Water and Energy.” Jonathan L. Mayuga‐commodities/29064‐many‐pinoys‐ have‐no‐access‐to‐water‐electricity‐denr 

DSW WD to identiify poorest oof pooor in n new surv vey By Rainierr Allan Rondaa (The Philippine Star) | Up pdated Marchh 17, 2014 ‐ 112:00am 


MANILA A, Philippinees - The gov vernment willl hold a secoond nationw wide survey tthis summer to identify the t poorest of o the poor families. fa Social Welfare W Secreetary Corazo on Soliman said the Natioonal Househhold Targetinng System foor Poverty Reduction R (N NHTS-PR) or o the “Listah hanan” was scheduled inn the secondd quarter. The onslaaught of Sup per Typhoon n Yolanda last Nov. 8 preevented the Departmentt of Social Welfare and a Develop pment (DSW WD) from holding the Lisstahanan in tthe last quarrter of 2013 as its personneel were mobiilized for thee massive rellief and recoovery effort iin Eastern annd Central Visayas. Almost 32,000 3 field enumeratorss will be hireed to look foor the pooresst families naationwide to identify those t needin ng assistancee of anti-poveerty program ms and servicces led by thhe Pantawid Pamilyan ng Pilipino Program P (4Ps). They willl be equippeed with andro oid tablets for fo data gatheering, and too be aware of dole-outs aand other gov vernment asssistance giveen under the DSWD’s coonditional caash transfer pprogram. Soliman said: “The use u of tabletss as data colllection tool aand encodinng device willl minimize tthe risk of lo osing the fam mily assessm ment forms (F FAF) during shipment annd expedite tthe data collection n process in urban areas.” Howeverr, enumerato ors assigned in rural areaas will continnue to use paaper and penncil due to thhe absence of o reliable In nternet connection. The seco ond Listahanan seeks to update u the in nformation m managementt database buuilt up in 200092011 to identify i and assess the po oor, and locaate their wheereabouts. The Listaahanan aims to build an updated dataabase showiing comprehhensive inforrmation abouut poor fam milies nationw wide.

It will be for the use of national government agencies and social protection stakeholders. The assessment will cover 15.3 million households estimated from the 2010 census of population results for rural areas. The DSWD conducted the first assessment in 2009 involving 10.9 million households. It resulted in the identification of 5.25 million as poor using the proxy means test (PMT), a statistical formula estimating family income based on observable family characteristics. Beneficiaries of government programs like the 4Ps, National Health Insurance Program, Social Pension Fund were taken from the 2009 database of Listahanan. In preparation for the upcoming assessment, the DSWD will be hiring 47,644 field staff comprised of 31,908 enumerators for one month, 6,383 area supervisors for two months, 1,277 area coordinators for three months, 4,038 encoders and 4,038 verifiers for one month. They will undergo rigorous training and will be deployed in different provinces and municipalities and cities nationwide. Another innovation is the inclusion of the barangay community characteristics derived from the 2009 census of population and housing as determinants of poverty status in the new PMT model. Among these are access to mobile phone signal, availability of commercial establishments and recreational facilities. The new PMT model will also use non-income variables such as housing features, family assets and access to water and sanitation facilities, among others which were sourced out from 2009 Family Income and Expenditure Survey and Labor Force Survey as income predictors. Listahanan will classify occupation of family members into 431 specific categories consistent with the Philippine Standard Occupation Classification. The 2nd Nationwide Assessment has a total budget requirement of P1.9 billion, including the cost of service of field staff, procurement of IT equipment, production of FAFs, and conduct of validation activities, among others.        

Faith-based groups pitch call for govt action on climate change Category: Agri-Commodities 16 Mar 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga LEADERS and representatives of faith-based groups are pitching calls for government to address the challenge of climate change within the context of sustainable development, social justice and teachings of their various faiths. They want the government to shift to clean, renewable energy as a climate-change mitigation and adaptation measure in lieu of fuel-based energy production. These sentiments were collectively expressed through a Declaration at the conclusion of the 2nd Interfaith Dialogue on Climate Change held in Malacañang on Friday. In the declaration, the conference participants “call on our leaders at every level of government to exercise greater responsibility, nobility, discernment and patriotism as stewards of our national treasure and patrimony.” Those who signed the Declaration are from the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches (PCEC), Catholic Climate Change Congress of the Philippines (CCCP), the Philippine Center for Islam and Democracy, Christian Congress for Good Governance, and the Buddhism Society of the Philippines. Co-organized by the Climate Change Commission, the Second “Interfaith Dialogue on Climate Change” became a venue for leaders and representatives of the faith-based groups to air their commitment and responsibility to help address the challenge of climate change. They encourage the government and the country’s national leaders “to take all necessary steps to safeguard and care for Creation in ways aimed at significantly cutting greenhouse gases.” “We call on our government to recast our development vision toward sustainable development. We firmly believe that overcoming poverty and climate change requires decisive societal reforms from the center,” Cagayan de Oro Archbishop Antonio Ledesma of CCCP said. Ledesma, the conference’s co-convener, lamented that the poor are the worst affected since they do not have the land, the means and resources to hurdle the impacts of climate change, of one typhoon after another. “There should be intergenerational justice for all, decisively and immediately,” he said.

The members of various denominations also expressed their strong condemnation of the “grossly immoral and wasteful use of scarce public funds, particularly the unconscionable theft of state funds” by national leaders who have been elected or appointed that, according to them, “has deepened the poverty of the environment.” Jonathan L. Mayuga‐commodities/29063‐faith‐based‐groups‐ pitch‐call‐for‐govt‐action‐on‐climate‐change                                         

Environment-friendly gold mining technology unveiled By Rainier Allan Ronda (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 17, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Science and Technology (DOST) has unveiled a newly developed environment-friendly gold milling process that eliminates the use of mercury and cyanide and is seen to benefit the country’s 300,000 small-scale miners. Herman Mendoza of the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Department of Mining, Metallurgical and Materials Engineering (DMMME) in the College of Engineering said their Better Mines project had already completed the gold-copper integrated mineral processing pilot plant, revealing the mercury and cyanide-free process that has been shown to result in improved gold recovery. The pilot plant was presented to a group of lawmakers led by Sen. Cynthia Villar on Wednesday by Science Secretary Mario Montejo and the chiefs of the agency’s various research and development institutions as one of their flagship projects that has seen completion. Mendoza said they were excited to roll out the technology innovation to the country’s 300,000 small-scale gold and copper miners. “It is very clean... It is also pro-poor because it is for small-scale miners who can avoid doing the old process using mercury and cyanide, which, aside from being destructive of the environment, is also hazardous,” Mendoza said. “Initially, we will deploy this in four areas, namely Baguio, Bicol and two other areas in Mindanao,” Mendoza said. The Bicol region’s Camarines Norte province has known gold-rich areas, particularly in the town of Paracale, and Jose Panganiban, the former Mambulao town. Albay province is home of the foreign-operated Rapu-Rapu mine. Mendoza said they will also deploy the gold ore milling process in Compostela Valley and Davao del Norte. He said the actual ore processing they have done in the pilot plant showed the process resulted in a 90-percent recovery of gold. This was far better than the usual 40 to 50 percent recovery from the traditional milling process used by small-scale miners that use cyanide and mercury, Mendoza said. The pilot plant is located at the UP DMMME building.

“This is environment-friendly,” Mendoza stressed. He said the impact on the Philippines of the massive adoption of the process innovation could be huge. “Our small-scale miners make up 70 to 80 percent of the country’s gold production,” Mendoza said. “The Philippines is a gold area,” he pointed out. The Philippines is estimated to sit on about $1 trillion worth of minerals such as gold, copper and nickel, but is prevented from tapping into this vast mineral wealth due to the huge capital requirement to conduct large-scale mining, apart from a vocal anti-mining lobby.‐friendly‐gold‐mining‐ technology‐unveiled                                 

Investment pledges drop 69% Category: Top News 16 Mar 2014 Written by Catherine N. Pillas THE Board of Investments (BOI) has recorded a significant 69-percent drop in approved fresh investments in the first two months of 2014 compared to the same period in 2013. For the period, investment pledges from both local and foreign investors sharply fell. According to documents, the total cost of newly registered projects from January to February 2014 nosedived to about P30.1 billion, down 68.7 percent from the P97-billion committed investments during the same period in 2013. Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal said the drop in investment pledges at the start of the year was due to the stricter monitoring of compliance with the terms and conditions in availing incentives, as well as the pre-registration requirements. “It is also just the start of the year. It will pick up by the second quarter,” Cristobal added. The local component of the January-to-February investment figure was pegged at P28.8 billion, a 64-percent decline from P79.6 billion in the same period last year. Investment pledges from foreign groups, meanwhile, plummeted to P1.3 billion, down 92 percent from 2013’s P17 billion, during the period. By sector, no new investment was recorded in the agriculture, forestry and fishing, human health and social work, and waste-management activities. The sectors of electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning, transportation and storage, and accommodation and food service registered double-digit negative growth. On the other hand, construction, administrative and support services, financial and insurance activities, real-estate activities, information and communication services, and professional, scientific and technical activities all registered positive growth. The information and communication services sector was a bright spot with a 646-percent increment in fresh investments in 2014. The top two approved projects in terms of project cost are in the real-estate sector and the electricity, gas, steam and air-conditioning supply activities, each costing P6 billion. They are seen to generate 1,150 jobs.‐news/29076‐investment‐pledges‐drop‐69 

DENR won’t issue permit to 2 mining firms in Pangasinan Category: Nation 16 Mar 2014 Written by Joel R. San Juan THE Environmental Management Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) in the Ilocos region has recommended the disapproval of a permit to operate a mineral-processing plant in Lingayen, Pangasinan. The DENR denied the application of Xypher Builders Inc. for an environmental compliance certificate (ECC) after it found out that the latter is extracting black sand and shipping the minerals to Sual despite an existing cease-and-desist order (CDO) from the DENR. “Xypher has no ECC to operate the plant. Neither does it has an ECC for its marine-loading facility where, at least 1,000 metric tons of black sand have been shipped out,” EMB Regional 1 Director Joel Salvador said. “This is in violation of the existing cease-and-desist order on black-sand mining along the Lingayen shoreline. And because of this, we will not approve Xypher’s pending application for an ECC for its processing plant,” he said. The DENR earlier issued the CDO against Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders to prevent magnetite or black-sand mining along the coastal areas of Lingayen Gulf in barangays Sabangan, Malimpuec, Capandanan and Estanza while constructing a golf course. Aside from the CDO, the DENR also directed Xypher to pay a fine of P50,000 for operating without an ECC, which the company eventually secured for the golf-course project but not for the mineralprocessing plant. Salvador said during their recent inspection, Xypher’s magnetite stockpile was found to have been shipped outside the golf-course project area. “So this [non-approval of pending ECC application for the processing plant] is the best punitive action we can do,” he said. “If the company continues with the extraction of black sand, then we will be forced to issue another cease-and-desist order.” Salvador has already sent a two-page report to the EMB head office in Metro Manila on March 12. In his report, Salvador said they discovered Xypher’s unauthorized activity from an anonymous phone call confirming the continued black-sand mining on March 3. Former Party-list Rep. Teddy Casiño of Bayan Muna earlier urged Environment Secretary Ramon J.P. Paje to investigate the allegations after he also received a text message last year that a wall has been erected along the shoreline, where the alleged magnetite-mining activities take place.

Village officials and residents of Lingayen have earlier urged the Ombudsman to hasten the resolution of their criminal complaint against provincial officials, led by Gov. Amado Espino Jr., for allowing the illegal black-sand mining operations. 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 violating 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.‐denr‐won‐t‐issue‐permit‐to‐2‐ mining‐firms‐in‐pangasinan                                   

Women warned vs toxic chemicals in imported cosmetics products Category: Nation 16 Mar 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga ENVIRONMENTAL and health advocates on Sunday called on women consumers to be on guard against beauty products tainted with toxic chemicals. High levels of mercury were detected on 11 brands of imported skin-whitening creams bought from retailers in the cities of Manila, Parañaque and Pasay City on March 15.

Costing P60 to P180 each, the unregistered products that supposedly came from China, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Indonesia and Malaysia were found to contain mercury up to 15,900 parts per million (ppm) in gross violation of the threshold limit of 1 ppm under the Asean Cosmetics Directive. “The ruthless sale of these cosmetics loaded with mercury goes against the basic right of consumers to be protected against hazards to health and safety. Pregnant women and young children are most at risk to the adverse effects of mercury,” said safe-cosmetics campaigner Aileen Lucero. Citing information from the World Health Organization, Lucero said mercury in skin-lightening creams and soaps can harm the kidneys; cause skin discoloration, irritation and scarring; and weaken dermal resistance to bacterial and fungal diseases. “The incomprehensible product labels in Chinese characters, the nondisclosure of mercury content, the misleading beauty enhancement claims, the lack of legal redress and the eventual contamination of the environment further violate the consumer bill of rights,” she added. These rights are protected under Republic Act 7394, the Consumer Act of the Philippines, and other laws, and are covered by the United Nations Guidelines for Consumer Protection, Lucero said. “To protect themselves and their loved ones against mercury poisoning, we urge our women to insist on duly registered, properly labeled, nontoxic cosmetics and to fight for consumer justice,” she said. Ten of the 11 mercury-laden skin-lightening products being sold in beauty-product shops and Chinese drug stores were among those banned by the Food and Drugs Administration during the last three years while one (Mifton) is not yet on the banned list. These 11 products and their mercury levels as screened by a portable X-Ray Fluorescence (XRF) device are as follows:

1. Yu Dan Tang Ginseng and Green Cucumber 10 Days Whitening Speckles Removed Essence, 15,900 ppm 2. Erna Whitening Cream, 10,400 ppm 3. Mifton 7 Days Beauty Freckle Whitening Repair Set, 4,587 ppm 4. Jiaoli 7 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle AB Set, 3,664 ppm 5. The Flower Woman 7 Days Whitening and Spot Day and Night Set Cream, 3,615 ppm 6. S’zitang, 3,338 ppm 7. Jiaoli Miraculous Cream, 3,119 ppm 8. Sara Glutathione Sheep Placenta Whitening and Anti-Aging Cream, 3,117 ppm 9. JJJ Magic Spots Removing Cream, 1,981 ppm 10. Jiaoli 10 Days Specific Eliminating Freckle Cream, 1,490 ppm 11. Sanli Eliminating Freckle Cream, 1,371 ppm Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago is pushing for a Senate inquiry into the continued sale of banned skin-whitening products laden with mercury. Jonathan L. Mayuga‐women‐warned‐vs‐toxic‐ chemicals‐in‐imported‐cosmetics‐products                   

Ukraine crisis no impact on local flour prices–Neda Category: Economy 16 Mar 2014 Written by Cai U. Ordinario THE unrest in Ukraine, one of the major suppliers of wheat in Asia, will not adversely impact on local flour prices, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda). Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda Director General Arsenio M. Balisacan told the BUSINESSMIRROR that the Philippines can easily source wheat from other countries. “It’s not really as problematic as rice. Rice is very thin in the global market, that’s harder to handle. I don’t think it can [affect us]. Besides, you have little trade with Ukraine and it will not rattle the global market,” Balisacan said. The Philippines imports a mixture of wheat and feed wheat from Ukraine. In recent years the country has been steadily relying on Ukraine for feed wheat, which is used to manufacture animal feeds. Bloomberg reports recently said global wheat prices are poised to register the biggest quarterly growth since 2012 as tensions in Ukraine could delay wheat shipments from the Black Sea. Data showed that wheat futures for the May delivery already increased 2 percent to $6.8725 at the Chicago Board of Trade on March 15. A Bloomberg report noted that the price grew 5.1 percent last week and 14 percent since December, which could be the biggest increase since September 2012. Local flour millers import an average of 2 million metric tons of wheat, which they process into soft or hard flour. Hard flour is used for making bread products such as pan de sal, while soft flour is used for baking cakes and pastries. According to the March 2014 United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network report, the Philippines’s major food- and beverage-processing industry included flour and bakery products. The USDA said the bulk of the US’s agriculture exports to the Philippines includes wheat.‐ukraine‐crisis‐no‐impact‐on‐ local‐flour‐prices‐neda     

ARMM execs open new farm-to-market road in Tawi-Tawi By John Unson ( | Updated March 17, 2014 ‐ 11:47am 

COTABATO CITY - Public officials opened over the weekend a newly-concreted portion of a farm-to-market road straddling through Moro enclaves in Bongao town in Tawi-Tawi. The concreting of the 1.5 kilometer farm-to-market road (FMR) that connects Tubig Basag, Lakit-Lakit, and Mandulan areas in Bongao was funded out of the Transition Investment Support Program (TISP) through the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. The FMR project was implemented by the office of Bongao Mayor Jasper Que through a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with DAF-ARMM under Regional Agriculture Secretary Makmod Mending Jr. ARMM Gov. Mujiv Hataman who led the launching of the road project along with Mending and the region’s public works secretary, Engineer Emil Sadain, said they will extend by three more kilometers the newly-concreted FMR via another MOA between Bongao’s municipal government and Sadain’s office. Hataman said the DPWH-ARMM will allocate P23.3 million for the continuation of the FMR, to be drawn from the 2014 infrastructure funds of the department. The launching of the concreted portion of the FMR was witnessed by provincial officials led by Tawi-Tawi Gov. Nurbert Sahali. Que and Hataman said they are grateful to Sahali for his extensive support to the efforts of the ARMM and the Bongao LGU in putting up projects needed to boost the local economy and generate more livelihood opportunities for the local Samah and Tausog communities. While in Bongao, Hataman, Que and Sahali also inspected the on-going rehabilitation of the old Chinese port in the municipality. The port project, which also has a bridge connecting the facility to the mainland, costs P60 million. The port is the main berthing spot for small fishing and commercial boats that comes from surrounding island towns in Tawi-Tawi, according to Sadain. The DPWH-ARMM is now restoring the old historic port using regional funds.‐execs‐open‐new‐farm‐market‐road‐tawi‐ tawi 

Producers Bank to open 21 branches in 2014 Category: Banking & Finance 16 Mar 2014 Written by Genivi Factao PRODUCERS Savings Bank Corp. has pushed forward with its branch-expansion program designed to tap into the small and medium enterprise (SME) market and take advantage of growth in agri-based food production in the countryside. Producers Bank Vice Chairman Edmundo Medrano, also the president and chief operating officer, said the bank is on track with its plan to open 21 branches this year. “We are the largest stand-alone thrift bank in terms of branch network in Luzon. We opened our 107th branch, recently. We intend to open 20 more this year,” he said. Medrano said they will open two branches in Davao, two in Cebu and one in Cagayan de Oro. The bank also has licenses to open branches in Caloocan, Marikina and Valenzuela. The bank has invested P3 million to P4 million per branch, including funds for personnel training and for the purchase of automated teller machines (ATMs). Producers Bank has two branches in Metro Manila. Its head office is in Ortigas, Pasig City. With its acquisition of the New Rural Bank of Victorias Inc., which was based in Negros, the bank now has 12 branches in Negros Island and 10 in neighboring Panay Island. “We are also looking to acquire a bank. We have track record of acquiring rivals. We have completed a merger with Iloilo City Development Bank last year. In 2012 we consolidated with New Rural Bank of Victorias Inc. so that now our branches have grown to 107,” he said. The bank posted net income of P140 million last year, up 60 percent from 2012 as a result of the consolidation with the Bank of Victorias. Genivi Factao‐finance/29057‐producers‐bank‐to‐open‐ 21‐branches‐in‐2014   

BSP urges all sectors to work together to prevent ATM fraud By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 17, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  1 googleplus0  2  

MANILA, Philippines - Banks, law enforcers, and consumers should all work together to minimize losses from stolen information from automated teller machine (ATM) cards, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said. “This kind of loss should be approached as a shared responsibility,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in an e-mail to reporters over the weekend. “Banks are required to take all prudent measures to minimize the risk. Customers should be careful in handling their ATM cards. Police authorities should be running hard after the criminal syndicates,” he said. Tetangco made the comment when asked if banks should be required to provide insurance products to cover losses from ATM fraud or scams. “Without these in place, insurance will be a costly and counter-productive proposition. Customers will ultimately bear the cost either in higher fees or more restrictive services,” Tetangco said. The central bank has estimated losses to ATM fraud at P220 million in 2013, Vicente De Villa III, director at the BSP’s Supervisory Data Center, told a Senate hearing last month. Thieves have resorted to skimming, in which information stored in one’s card is stolen through devices installed in an ATM, the BSP chief said. “A skimmed card by itself will not work unless the PIN has also been compromised. So a related issue is how the password is stolen with the skimmed card,” Tetangco said. “In the past, it was the hidden camera that was the solution. Banks could validate who and when people withdrew from which ATM machine. It turns out that not all ATM machines have the camera [because] a machine normally has a 10 year life and legacy machines still operating don’t have the camera,” he added.‐urges‐all‐sectors‐work‐together‐prevent‐ atm‐fraud     

SEC issues new accreditation rules for credit rating agencies By Neil Jerome Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 17, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - Credit rating agencies (CRAs), hired to assess the creditworthiness of companies and debt issuances, will be subject to stringent accreditation and operational requirements. In a memorandum, the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) said it came up with guidelines on the accreditation, operations and Reporting of CRAs “to increase transparency and improve the integrity of credit ratings.” CRAs are tapped by corporations that plan to offer of issue commercial papers of debt securities like bonds. Such firms perform credit evaluation of corporations and business projects or of debt issues, assessing the overall creditworthiness of the borrower as a guidance to the investing public. Under the guidelines, SEC said a CRA should be a stock corporation with a paid-up capital of at least P10 million, which will increase to P15 million after the third year to cover operational improvements. CRAs should be composed of qualified and independent officers and personnel to conduct rating activities. For the application for annual accreditation, CRAs are required to submit a list of shareholders and corporate affiliation, other business activities, a written code of conduct, rating scale and criteria, operating procedures, and copy of written agreement with issuers. Prior to rating the creditworthiness of an issuer or debt security, the CRA should sign a contract to render assessment services. Local debt watchers include Philippine Rating Services Corp. and Credit Rating and Investors Services Philippines Inc. The top three global credit raters are Fitch Ratings, Standard & Poor’s and Moody’s Investor Service.

BSP mulls Islamic window for banks By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 17, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas plans to allow banks to have windows dedicated to Islamic banking as it works on the creation of rules governing Islamic finance in the country. “While the BSP would like to promote an increase in the number of Islamic banks that operate alongside conventional banks, the BSP is also looking at an open approach whereby conventional banks can operate Islamic banking windows,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said last week. At present, there is only one operating Islamic bank in the country, the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines, established in 1973. No other Islamic banks have been established or allowed to operate in the country because of legal constraints, and this is what the BSP hopes to change. “We are currently in the very early stages of drafting a general law for the creation and regulation of Islamic banks,” Tetangco said. “Consistent with this, we have included in our list of proposed amendments to our charter, a provision that will enable the BSP to develop regulations for the extension of financial facilities to Islamic banks,” he said. The central bank is planning to put in place a responsive Islamic banking system set on five principles, the BSP chief said. “First, the system must allow for a critical mass of market players under a competitive but well regulated environment... Second, appropriate linkages, including inter-bank markets that cater to the unique characteristics of Islamic banking, must be present,” Tetangco said. The third principle, he said, will be creating a regulatory and supervisory framework that encourage a level-playing field allowing Islamic banks to operate alongside conventional ones. “Fourth, the regulatory environment must encourage the provision of innovative products and services to address the distinctive needs of Islamic finance. Islamic financial players should be encouraged and not inhibited from introducing Islamic finance products,” Tetangco said. Lastly, he added: “the regulatory framework must help build a broader customer and asset base by increasing investor awareness and acceptance, while ensuring consumer protection.”‐mulls‐islamic‐window‐banks   

Tapa King to build facility in Laguna  (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 17, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  3 googleplus0  0  

MANILA, Philippines - Coming off its 25-year anniversary, Tapa King has set out on an aggressive marketing thrust. The company has laid down the groundwork by setting up its own production plant and commissary located at the Laguna Techno Park. With the growing trend towards health concern, the company also sources its meat produce from small-scale farmers who practice organic farming methods just to make sure there are no chemicals ingrained in their supplies. This not only encourages healthy farming but also provides employment to the minority, another positive business practice by Tapa King. Alongside a new store look and new product offerings, the company sees the opportunity to increase market share and strengthen consumer loyalty. As an integral part of its marketing drive, the company has set in motion the initial phase of its business-network expansion program. Tapa King has just opened a store in Iba, Zambales and will soon open its doors in Farmers Market, Cubao and San Fernando, La Union. With a store already in operations in Singapore, the company recently inked franchisee agreements for stores in Queens NYC, Rome, Italy and in Dubai. The Dubai franchise is handled by LMZ Cuisines. LMZ Cuisines is part of the Landmark Zenath Group, a leading business house of UAE, based in Dubai, with interests in real estate, hospitality, restaurants, engineering & construction, trading and media throughout the Middle East and India. The company will soon open a corporate store in Las Vegas, Nevada. Tapa King continues to be one of the industry’s fastest rising brands. With it’s rapid expansion both in the domestic and international markets, Tapa King a 100 percent home-grown home-style food chain recognized for its high quality food and service, is surely a worthy investment at its current affordable franchise package.‐king‐build‐facility‐laguna       

Agrri chieef pinss blam me on pols,, rice smu ugglerrs By Chrisstine F. Herrrera | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am AGRICU ULTURE Secretary Procceso Alcala on o Sunday acccused the ssmugglers off agriculturall products of being beh hind the “demolition job b” against him m, includingg the filing oof a string off plunder, graft and corruption and d malversatio on cases agaainst him. Alcala allso blamed th he expose off the “Quezo on mafia” onn local politiccs.

Alcala He said he h had angerred the smug gglers and lo ocal politicianns because hhe was able tto stop their illegal acctivities and frustrate theeir bid to prolong their sttay in office.. Alcala saaid the smug gglers were funding f the filing f of a strring of plundder cases agaainst him beefore the Ombu udsman, parrticularly by Sanlakas law wyer Argee Guevarra annd the militaant Kilusang Magbubu ukid ng Pilip pinas. “I can say y it with a sttraight face. The smuggllers are behinnd Guevarraa and the KM MP,” Alcala told the Maniila Standard. “The smugg glers are fun nding them too do a demoolition job aggainst me because the t smugglerrs wanted me m out of offiice so their illlegal activitties could coontinue.” Alcala saaid the smug gglers had lost their very lucrative buusiness whenn he initiatedd a total crackdow wn on massiv ve smuggling of rice, po ork and poulttry products,, fish, vegetaables, onion,, garlic and d other crops. He also initiated i a top p-to-bottom revamp wheen the hog raaisers and pooultry groweers threateneed to mount a “pork holidaay” in 2012. Guevarraa and the KM MP denied Alcala’s A accu usation, sayinng the Agricculture Secreetary had to rresort to name-calling to ev vade the issu ues of corrup ption raised aagainst him aand his provvince mates tthat he had ap ppointed to various v strateegic and key y positions uunder the Department off Agriculture.

Guevarra filed plunder charges and used the Commission on Audit report as evidence against Alcala on the unliquidated and missing P5.78 billion in the National Agribusiness Corp. or Nabcor. “Alcala had to resort to name-calling. That’s the best he’s got because he could not answer the question raised by COA on the missing public funds,” Guevarra said. Alcala brushed aside insinuations that he named the DA executives from his province to head various agencies to form a mafia or a syndicate to dip their hands into the national coffers. “My province mates are among the best performers in the department and managed to revive the ailing agriculture industry. The smugglers are hell-bent on keeping us all out and are desperate to unseat us,” Alcala said. Alcala recited the achievements of each official from Quezon and commended them for “doing a good job” such as National Food Authority Administrator Orlan Calayag, Bureau of Plant Industry Director Clarito Barron, DA Undersecretary for administration and finance Jose Antonio Fleta, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Asis Perez, National Irrigation Administration chief Claro Maranan, Philippine Coconut Authority Administrator Euclides Forbes, DA Assistant Secretaries Salvador Salacup, Ophelia Agawin and Edilberto de Luna and DA head executive assistant Ariel Manalac. He said from P68 billion in rice imports in 2010, the NFA under Calayag only imported some P14 billion worth of rice in 2013. “We may not have met the 100 percent self sufficiency program on rice but we were able to improve our self sufficiency from 82 percent in 2010 to 96 percent in 2013. And this we have achieved despite the onslaught of Yolanda and other powerful typhoons and calamities,” Alcala said.‐chief‐pins‐blame‐on‐pols‐rice‐smugglers/                 

Bigger tax share for LGUs pushed By Macon Ramos-Araneta | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Local governments stand to receive a P500-billion windfall in their shares from national taxes in the “Bigger Pie, Bigger Slice” bill filed by Senator Aquilino Pimentel III. Pimentel, chairman of the Oversight Committee on Local Government Code, is seeking to expand the tax base to include collections by the customs bureau under his proposed new scheme called Shares in National Taxes (SNT). The SNT would replace the Internal Revenue Allotment or IRA as LGU shares from the national government are called. His proposal in Senate Bill 2045 pegs the LGU shares from the national taxes at 50 percent.At present, LGUs get 40 percent of the national internal revenue taxes and the national government 60 percent.“Our proposed bill seeks to equalize the division of the collected national taxes, 5050, or simply put, hating kapatid,” he said. “Can this be done? The answer is yes. We anchor our legislative efforts on this proposed bill on the express provisions of the 1987 Constitution itself,” said Pimentel, president of the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino Lakas ng Bayan (PDP Laban). SB 2045 is in tune with provisions of the constitution that provide for a just share for LGUs in the national taxes, Pimentel told local officials attending the 32nd founding anniversary of PDP Laban at Makati Palace Hotel in Makati City. He said the phrase “national internal revenues taxes” would be replaced by the more appropriate term “national taxes” once the bill becomes law. He explained the phrase “national taxes” would now include “taxes” collected by the Bureau of Customs that are called by different names under existing laws although these are synonyms for “taxes” like “tariffs” and “duties.” “This simple change in the language of the law will have a significant effect on the present capabilities of our LGUs,” Pimentel said, emphasizing that the additional sources would comprise the “Bigger Pie” portion of the proposed bill.” Aside from duties collected by the BOC on imported goods, the SNT would cover value-added tax (VAT) and excise taxes, as well as national internal revenue taxes collected by the Bureau of Internal revenue (BIR).‐tax‐share‐for‐lgus‐pushed/   

Leyte tea acher shines in S Spain,, winss tilt By Maniila Standard d Today | Mar. M 17, 2014 4 at 12:01am m A FILIPIINO teacher from Palo, Leyte, L was among a the grrand prize w winners of a ““Learn-a-thoon” in which teams were asked to creeate a learnin ng activity ab about the United Nationss Millennium m Developm ment Goals in i the just co oncluded Miicrosoft Educcation Globaal Forum in Barcelona, Spain.

Grand G prize winner. w Filippino teacher Ernani Hernandez H is shown here attending g the Microsoft Educatio on Global Forum in Barrcelona. Ernanie Fernandez, F 36, 3 a technollogy and liveelihood educcation facultyy member att Palo Nationnal High Sch hool, teamed d up with Ku urt Socer of Austria, A Tam mer El Kady of Egypt annd Michio Innaba of Japan to win the to op award in the poverty category, beeating out cloose to 20 othher teams. Global Forum m chooses onnly three: There aree eight milleennium development goaals and the G sustainab bility, povertty and gendeer equality. For F 24 hourss, teachers w were tasked too prepare a learning activity on the t chosen th heme. The leearning activvity must shoow the use oof technologyy and how stud dents develop p 21st centurry skills. Each cateegory had th hree winners: a 2nd runn ner up, the firrst runner upp and the graand winner. “I’ve learrned a lot fro om this glob bal experiencce. I met the expert educcators in the world... theiir innovativ ve strategies in teaching and of coursse since it is Microsoft, tthe innovativve strategiess mean thee use of techn nology in teaaching. We exchanged e i deas,” said F Fernandez, oone of two Filipino teachers t who o joined the Global Foru um this year.. “I can say y that I contributed a lott for the succcess of my teeam,” Fernanndez said, nooting that hee focused on o the conten nt of the learrning activitty and how itt would be ppresented to the panel off judges, from fr the objeectives down n to the taskss that studennts would be expected to perform.

Fernandez added that he learned much from his teammates and the other participants, particularly on the use of technology. In 2012, Fernandez was recognized as one of the innovative teachers in the country during the 7th Search for Innovative Teachers Leadership Award of Microsoft Partners in Learning. Fernandez recalled how he was almost unable to join the forum after super typhoon Yolanda devastated his home town on the same day the results of the qualifying exams were posted on the Internet.‐teacher‐shines‐in‐spain‐wins‐tilt/                                     

Gov vernm ment of o crim minalss By Maniila Standard d Today | Mar. M 17, 2014 4 at 12:01am m

FAR from m living up to t his boast of o leading us on the straaight path, Prresident Aquuino has giveen us a governm ment of crim minals. The crim minality begin ns close to home, h with th he Budget seecretary, a coonfidante off the Presidennt in the ruling g Liberal Parrty. In his deepartment was born the D Disbursemennt Accelerattion Program m (DAP), a mechanism m aimed at ussurping the congressiona c al power of tthe purse, annd providing funds to bribe b lawmaakers into ou usting a troub blesome chieef justice of the Supremee Court. Under this President,, too, we hav ve seen a sub bversion of j ustice in whhich influential persons accused of o serious crrimes are cod ddled, and in n which law enforcers w who do their jjobs in defiaance of their corrupt c superriors are relieeved. We haave learned oof a high-rannking Liberaal Party officcial making a phone call to the chief of the National Police, oon behalf of a real estatee businessmaan who is acccused of billking taxpay yers of P6.6 billion b in houusing funds.. Then we heear the Palacce blithely claim c there was w nothing irregular abo out the phonne call. We see an a Agriculturre secretary who faces not just one, bbut three pluunder cases oover allegatiions that he an nd his close associate, th he administraator of the N National Food Authority,, approved governm ment-to-goverrnment rice importations i s that were cclearly overppriced. This ssame secretaary has famo ously failed to t curb rice smuggling, s which w hurts tthe national coffers and Filipino farm mers alike. When traagedy strikess, we have seeen time and d again the ccriminal negllect of a Soccial Welfare secretary y who seems more conceerned with heer public imaage than brinnging relief to the victim ms of natural caalamity. Wee see an administration th hat is the reccipient of gennerous aid fr from all overr the world, bu ut shows relu uctance abou ut using it to o directly bennefit its suffe fering constittuents. We see internatio onal agenciees doing morre for the peo ople, than thheir own govvernment, annd we see a rehabilitaation czar wh ho, despite the t outpourin ng of internaational aid, w wants privatee corporationns to

take the lead in rebuilding the storm-battered areas of the country. The same official was appointed to his post, despite his track record as a fugitive from justice, when he fled the country to avoid arrest instead of facing the murder charges against him in court. Worst of all, we have a President who defends all the criminal activities swirling around him, pretending to be a righteous leader of substance when, he is in fact and in deed, the exact opposite. In our day-to-day lives, where we seem increasingly vulnerable to an epidemic of violent street crime, we need only look at the examples set by our leaders in government to understand why criminals feel so emboldened. If our leaders do not respect the law, can we really expect others to do so?‐of‐criminals/                                 

1,200 mayors to attend LMP national assembly By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am About 1,200 municipal mayors of the 1,491 municipalities in the country were expected to attend the general assembly6 of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) at the Manila Hotel on March 18, LMP national president Leonardo Javier said. Javier, municipal mayor of Javier in Letye, said President Aquino, who will be the guest of honor, will also induct the officers of the League of Provinces, League of Cities, League of Vice Governors, and Liga ng mga Barangay. “We expect to break the attendance record. More than 1,200 of 1,491 mayors have confirmed their attendance,” Javier said. The mayor were expected to discuss all-inclusive growth, budgeting process with the participation of civil society groups, and identification of projects that will be include the national appropriations act. Other issues include poverty alleviation, achieving universal primary education, peace and order, infrastructure support, disaster preparedness and response, universal health care and micro, small and medium enterprises development. Other officials, who were expected to attend, were Interior and Local Government Secretary Manuel Roxas, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Education Secretary Armin Luistro, Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla, Public Works Secretary Rogelio Singson and Social Services Secretary Dinky Soliman.‐200‐mayors‐to‐attend‐lmp‐national‐ assembly/             

Govt sets 6% exports growth goal By Othel V. Campos | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am The government set a growth target of 6 percent for merchandise exports this year, faster than the 3.6-percent increase in 2013. The Development Budget Coordinating Committee also expects merchandise exports to increase 8 percent in 2015 and 10 percent in 2016. Services exports, which include business process outsourcing and tourism, are projected to grow faster at 15 percent in 2014 and 16 percent in 2015 and 2016. Merchandise exports in 2013 grew 3.6 percent to $53.978 billion from $52.1 billion in 2012. They rose 9.3 percent to $4.4 billion in January 2014, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The Trade Department said that while it agreed with the DBCC’s general growth forecast, it was looking at better export prospects with merchandise sector growing 7 percent in 2014.Bureau of Export Trade Promotion director Senen Perlada said the department, which chairs the Export Development Council, had yet to seek the outlook of the private sector on exports. The council, which is composed of private and government agencies, is currently drawing up the Philippine Export Development Plan 2014-2016.“We expect to have the first working draft by end-March,” Perlada said. The BETP said it was still keeping the previous target to double the country’s total exports to $120 million by 2016, which was earlier considered a “stretched” target.“It is a stretched target but we have better exchange rates and strong interest in investments and trade in the country. For 2014-2015 alone, we are on a big radar [among investors],” Perlada said. Data from BETP said Philippine export of goods and services grew 7.2 percent year-on-year to $75.8 billion in 2013. Exports of services increased more than 20 percent to $21.6 billion last year while merchandise export revenues hit close to $54 billion. Revenues from business process outsourcing alone are expected to reach $18 billion in 2014, according to the Information Technology Business Process Association of the Philippines, up from around $15.5 billion in 2013. International tourism receipts are also projected to increase from $4.4 billion recorded in 2013, as the Tourism Department aims to attract more than six million tourists this year.‐sets‐6‐exports‐growth‐goal/   

Banks, police told to stop ATM fraud By Julito G. Rada | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am The Bangko Sentral has encouraged banks to take more measures against the skimming of ATM cards, following reports that P220 million worth of hard-earned money were lost to ATM fraud in 2013. Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said customers and the police should also have a “shared” responsibility to minimize the risks of people losing their hard-earned money due to the skimming of ATM cards. “This kind of loss should be approached as a ‘shared’ responsibility. Banks are required to take all prudent measures to minimize the risk. Customers should be careful in handling their ATM cards. [And] police authorities should be running hard after the criminal syndicates,” Tetangco said in an e-mailed message to reporters over the weekend. The Bangko Sentral earlier said about 1,272 incidents of ATM fraud took place last year, involving around P220 million, up from P175 million lost to the scam in 2012. “Without these [measures] in place, insurance will be a costly and counter-productive proposition. Customers will ultimately bear the ‘cost’ either in higher fees or more restrictive services,” Tetangco said. Tetangco said a skimmed card by itself would not work unless the PIN was compromised. “So a related issue is how the password is stolen with the skimmed card,” he said. He said in the past, it was the hidden camera that was the solution, but many old ATM machines had no camera.‐police‐told‐to‐stop‐atm‐fraud/               

PH woos German investors By Jennifer Ambanta | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima urged German investors to come to the Philippines to take advantage of the country’s business environment. Purisima, in his address to over 500 key German business executives of the German Asia-Pacific Business Association at the OAV Liebesmahl event in Hamburg, Germany on March 7, pushed for increased German investments in the Philippines. “Germany has always been a strategic partner of the Philippines, being one of the country’s top 10 trading partners, the second largest tourist market in Europe, and the biggest source of loans and grants,” he said. Germany accounted for 3.3 percent of total Philippine trade from 2008 to 2012, which were mostly electronics. It is the country’s 12th largest tourist market, with 70,949 arrivals in 2013, up 5.9 percent 67,023 in 2012. Overseas development aid from Germany amounted to $1.2 billion from 1961 to 2011, mostly focused on poverty reduction, conflict resolution in Mindanao and climate change. “We have created greater fiscal space to invest in infrastructure and our people, especially the most vulnerable sectors of society. Indeed, we have shown that with good governance comes good economics, and this virtuous cycle is what we aim to institutionalize.” Purisima stressed the need for greater trade and investment collaboration between Germany and the Philippines. He added the creation of a German house similar to those in Singapore and Vietnam would help reach out to German companies. “There is much room for the Philippines and Germany to work together. In fact, in spite of Germany being the fourth largest world economy, it is only the Philippines’ eighth largest trading partner,” Purisima said.‐woos‐german‐investors/           

Islamic banks have big potential — Tetangco By Julito G. Rada | Mar. 17, 2014 at 12:01am The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas sees a big potential for Islamic banks to flourish in the Philippines, especially since conventional banks have been unable to fully tap the resource-rich areas of Mindanao, including the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao. “Is there a place for Islamic banking in the Philippines? I believe the answer is yes... Conventional banking has been slow to cover the ARMM. With just 20 banks and 28 ATMs present, only 8 percent of the municipalities of the ARMM have a banking presence,” Bangko Sentral Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in his speech during the recent Islamic Banking Finance Workshop held at the central bank. “This is an unfortunate state of affairs, considering that the ARMM is a resource-rich area with vast potential. It is one of the country’s top sources of marine and fish products. It also holds large mineral deposits, including copper and gold. There is, therefore, a significant untapped market opportunity, not just for conventional banking but also and more importantly for Islamic banking,” Tetangco said. He said while Islamic banking could also cater to non-Muslim individuals, the system should look at the market needs and opportunities in the millions of Muslims in the country, who mostly reside in the ARMM. “The latest available regional [gross domestic product] data [2012] puts the real GDP growth in the ARMM at only 1.2 percent. But when we consider broader Mindanao, the number rises about sevenfold to 8.2 percent. This tells us that there is an enormous potential in the Mindanao region in general, and the ARMM in particular,” he said. Tetangco said the banking system must allow a critical mass of market players under a competitive but well-regulated environment, adding the public must be provided with appropriate choices to suit their risk appetite and financial needs. He said the regulatory and supervisory framework must encourage a level playing field where the Islamic banking system could operate alongside conventional banking. “In other words, the privileges that are available for conventional banks must also be available to Islamic banks. In the same vein, the prudential requirements that cover conventional banks must also apply to Islamic banks. The design and implementation of standards, of course, would need to take into account the particular characteristics of Islamic finance,” Tetangco said.‐banks‐have‐big‐potential‐tetangco/ 

Hog raisers to use new technologies March 16, 2014 8:07 pm   by GABY B. KEITH BAGUIO CITY: The City Environment and Parks Management Office (CEPMO) through its Wastewater, Waters and Ambient Air Management Division (WAMD) is encouraging hog raisers in this city adopt alternative technologies to protect the city’s inland waterways. One of the problems hounding the quality of the city’s waterways is the disposal of solid wastes in the city’s creeks. Some households along the waterways also connect their sewage lines to the waterways.The wastewater that converges at the city’s waterways drains into the Balili River greatly affecting the quality of water. In efforts to address the problems of water pollution, CEPMO head Cordelia Lacsamana said they are promoting, particularly to hog raisers in the city, to shift to vermi-composting and use portable biogas digester technologies to dispose of pig manure.The CEPMO, with the help of the Baguio Vermi Growers, recently demonstrated how vermi-composting works to the first batch of hog raisers this year. “The vermi-composting is a good method of composting waste especially pig manure to convert it to an organic fertilizer using worms. The earthworm called African nightcrawler or Eudrilus Euginia will eat the waste then it will produce a nutrient-rich soil,” said Baguio Vermi Growers President Moren Macay.The voracious worm can also eat different wastes such as animal waste, sewage sludge, crop residues, industrial reuse, community waste and household refuse. “Vermi-cast is the end product of the breakdown of organic matter and it is an excellent organic fertilizer and soil conditioner. Vermi-cast also builds nutrient-dense black soil which has a high content of good bacteria. It helps the plants grow in the garden with high vitality and nutritional content making it safer to consume,” he explained. The CEPMO also gave the hog raisers a quarter kilo of African night crawlers to use for composting solid wastes and start vermicultures to increase the number of worms.Biogas digesters, meanwhile, are equipment meant to store biodegradable materials to produce biogas.‐raisers‐to‐use‐new‐technologies/83018/         

BSP alarmed over card fraud cases March 16, 2014 9:33 pm   by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO REPORTER Banks, customers and the governments should have a “shared” responsibility in addressing rising ATM card fraud cases in the country, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said over the weekend. Various modes of ATM fraud include putting a skimming plate on top of keypads to copy personal identification numbers (PIN) of depositors and illegally withdraw money from bank accounts. ATM fraud also involves placing a card reader with a memory chip, which copies data from the ATM card, and installing a camera to acquire the cardholder’s PIN. In an e-mail to reporters over the weekend, BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said that banks tried different solutions to prevent ATM fraud, like using hidden cameras to validate who and when people withdrew from which ATM machine. However, Tetangco said that it turns out that not all ATM machines have a camera, and people now use hats to cover their faces so cameras have become ineffective. “Our solution then [from a technology perspective] is the chip-based card to replace the magnetic strip. You cannot ‘skim’ a chip which is physically embedded in a card but not in its replica,” he said. The BSP governor noted that in August last year, the central bank issued guidelines to strengthen electronic retail payment network and protect against ATM and credit card fraud such as skimming and cloning. Under the new regulations, the BSP required its supervised institutions to adopt end-to-end Triple Data Encryption Standard (3DES) for the whole ATM network by January 1, 2015, and shift from magnetic stripe technology to more secure EMV chip-enabled cards by January 1, 2017. EMV, a technology developed by Europay, MasterCard and Visa, uses a chip that contains information needed to use the card for payment, and is protected by various security features. The BSP said that about 1,272 incidents of ATM fraud took place last year involving about P220 million, which was well above the recorded P175 million lost to scams in 2012.

“This kind of loss should be approached as a ‘shared’ responsibility. Banks are required to take all prudent measures to minimize the risk. Customers should be careful in handling their ATM cards,” Tetangco said. “Police authorities should be running hard after the criminal syndicates. Without these in place, insurance will be a costly and counter-productive proposition. Customers will ultimately bear the ‘cost’ either in higher fees or more restrictive services,” he added.‐alarmed‐over‐card‐fraud‐cases/83064/                                       

Posted on March 16, 2014 10:23:34 PM

Manila sets gov’t-to-gov’t deal for rice THE PHILIPPINES’ planned importation of as much as 800,000 tons of rice will be undertaken  via a government‐to‐government deal in a tender that may be held before the end of March,  its farm minister said late on Friday.    "It is the government that is importing and there will be a bidding," Agriculture Secretary  Proceso J. Alcala told reporters. "I hope we can make a final decision [on the tender] before the  end of the month."    Purchases by the Philippines, one of the world’s biggest buyers of the grain, could support  falling rice prices elsewhere in Asia, with Vietnam and Thailand likely to compete aggressively  for any new deal.     A rice trader in Vietnam has said the Philippines’ state grains procurement agency, the National  Food Authority (NFA), was expected to hold the tender as early as Monday, but NFA officials  said nothing had been finalized as of Friday.    The NFA can buy rice from Vietnam, Thailand or Cambodia ‐‐ the only three countries with  which it has government‐to‐government supply agreements.    "We will not import more than what is needed," Mr. Alcala said when asked whether a volume  of 800,000 tons would be enough to meet the desired buffer stock and curb increases in local  rice prices.    The NFA aims to boost its buffer stock, which in February was below the mandatory 15‐day  requirement, before the lean cropping season from July to September, when the requirement is  a minimum of 30 days of national consumption.     Since late January, the NFA has doubled the amount of rice it has been releasing into markets  from stockpiles most days to curb increases in retail prices that have driven up food inflation.    Rice prices in some local markets, including in Metro Manila, started falling last week, Mr.  Alcala said.    The Philippines missed its end‐2013 rice self‐sufficiency and inventory targets following natural  calamities including strong typhoons late last year. 

As a result, the Southeast Asian country was forced to import 500,000 tons of the grain in a  government‐to‐government deal in November with Vietnam, the world’s number two rice  exporter after India.    The Philippines’ overall rice stockpile fell 5.7% to 2.0 million tons as of Feb. 1, good for 59 days  of national usage, from 2.12 million tons at the start of the year.    Stocks in commercial warehouses fell 18.7% and those in households dropped 15.6%, the data  showed, also as the government clamps down on smugglers looking to avoid paying a 40%  tariff.    While bumper harvests elsewhere have built a global rice glut, prices in the Philippines had  climbed around 4% between November and February as its stockpile hit the lowest in the last  four months. ‐‐ Reuters‐sets‐ gov%E2%80%99t‐to‐gov%E2%80%99t‐deal‐for‐rice&id=84814                           

Posted on March 16, 2014 09:39:50 PM

ILO raises $8.9 million for post-typhoon livelihood recovery TACLOBAN CITY ‐‐ The International Labor Organization has raised $8.9 million for a livelihood  recovery program for the survivors of Yolanda.     Jonathan Price, chief technical advisor for ILO emergency employment and livelihood recovery  for typhoon Haiyan, said the amount represents 23% of the total requirement for the one‐year  response project."So far ILO has raised $8.9 million for the response to Haiyan. This includes  internal funding from ILO’s general budget, funding from Norway, DFID (Department for  International Development of the United Kingdom), International Maritime Employers’ Council  and most recently Japan," Mr. Price said in an e‐mail to BusinessWorld.  Yoshiteru Uramoto, regional director of the ILO regional office for Asia and the Pacific, earlier  voiced optimism that they would raise $38.37 million this year given the commitment of several  countries and organizations worldwide.  The ILO estimated that the livelihood of some 5.2 million workers was disrupted in Yolanda’s  aftermath. Among these, 2.3 million were already in vulnerable employment positions and  living in poverty before typhoon Yolanda struck.  The ILO has several ongoing projects in central Philippines designed to restore the income of  affected workers.  Among these are the $3.24‐million repair and reconstruction of shelters using local resource‐ based approaches, and a $5.16‐million early economic recovery project through immediate  income generation by providing emergency employment and skills training.  These two projects, which kicked off last December, reached 61,000 workers in the provinces of  Biliran, Eastern Samar, Southern Leyte and Samar.    The ILO is also rolling out $30‐million region‐based projects for emergency jobs and  reestablishment of livelihoods. The projects will run through December this year. Of the total,  $15.24 million is for Eastern Visayas, $10.08 for Central Visayas, and $4.63 million for Western  Visayas. ‐‐ Sarwell Q. Meniano‐raises‐$8.9‐million‐ for‐post‐typhoon‐livelihood‐recovery&id=84795     

Posted on March 16, 2014 09:53:54 PM

DuPont planning farm school US‐based E.I. DuPont de Nemours & Company, Inc. plans to put up a learning facility in the  country to educate farmers and encourage more people to go into agriculture, a top Philippine  official of the company said in a recent interview.  Education is considered key to improving farmers’ productivity. ‐‐ AFP    “We have plans of putting up a learning center for farmers. That plan is going to happen  hopefully this year or next year,” Ramon S. Abadilla, country managing director of DuPont Far  East, Inc. Philippines, said in a March 6 interview at Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center  Manila in Pasig City.    Mr. Abadilla said the company ‐‐ which has similar facilities in Malaysia and Indonesia ‐‐ wants  to impart expertise and share technologies with farmers in the Philippines to make them more  productive.    “Our target will be corn and rice farmers and other interested community members. The  technology that we could bring in terms of agricultural practices is very important,” Mr.  Abadilla said.    “If you don’t provide good support in terms of education to the farming community, it will not  be productive in the long term. So to be able to sustain it, you need to have education as part  of it,” he added.    The official also said that since agriculture is an important aspect of food security, enticing  people to get into the sector through proper education is also part of the goal.    The learning center will be located somewhere in the Visayas and is also intended “to help the  development and recovery of the area from the impact of the typhoon Yolanda (international  name: Haiyan)” that struck on Nov. 8.    Azham Zahid, DuPont corporate communications leader for Malaysia and Philippines, for his  part said the learning facilities in Malaysia and Indonesia have been successful.    “We partnered with the government to help provide knowledge in agriculture for farmers in  Indonesia and Malaysia,” Mr. Zahid explained. 

“We are very happy how it turned out in Indonesia and Malaysia and we want to do the same  here.”    DuPont operates three major facilities in the country: a crop protection plant in Laguna as well  as corn production plants in Tarlac and South Cotabato.    “DuPont’s commitment in the Philippines has been tested through the years. If you look at our  profile here, our strength is in the agriculture side that’s why we have production plants here,”  Mr. Abadilla said.    As part of the company’s goal to boost the agriculture sector, the company also operates  research facilities in the country.    “We had also invested in a few research stations, which work very well for us and our host  communities. It is important that you have that... because agriculture is very localized,” Mr.  Abadilla said.    “A seed in the Philippines might not work in other countries. That’s why we find it necessary to  put our research stations here. They have been established for a while already,” he added.    These research centers, according to the same official, are located near its production plants in  South Cotabato and Laguna.    “The one in Laguna is very nice because we have a strong partnership with IRRI (International  Rice Research Institute). Also UP (University of the Philippines) Los Baños is there so we could  get all possible resource persons to aid in research,” said Mr. Abadilla.    DuPont is a science‐based products and services company that was established in 1802. The  company offers a wide range of products and services for various markets including agriculture  and food; building and construction; communications; and transportation across 70 countries,  according to its Web site. ‐‐ Claire‐Ann Marie C. Feliciano‐planning‐ farm‐school&id=84809     

Posted on March 16, 2014 09:52:41 PM

Banks to snap up 7-year bonds FRESH seven‐year Treasury bonds up for sale on Tuesday’s auction could fetch an interest rate  aligned with secondary market rates, as banks try to buy a debt paper that’s hard to come by,  bond dealers said over the weekend.  A man walks in front of the Palacio Del Gobernador, the main office of the Bureau of Treasury,  in this photo taken on September 30, 2012. ‐‐ Jonathan L. Cellona    Tomorrow’s auction would be the first time since November 19 that the government is  offering 7‐year T‐bonds. The debt paper fetched 2.997% during the last successful sale.  Tomorrow, 7‐year bonds could yield a higher 3.65% to 3.9%, but still mirroring the 3.6727%  quoted at Friday’s trading, traders said.    “Investors are going to ask for premium given the illiquidity of the market,” a trader said in a  phone interview.    The bond trader said chances are banks would want to buy as much as double or thrice the P25  billion worth of debt papers the government plans to sell.    FULL AWARD  If successful, Tuesday’s auction would mark the second time in 2014 that the government  raised in full the amount of borrowing it had programmed.    The government had been rejecting or, at best, partially awarding T‐bills and T‐bonds in the  past two months, owing to its healthy cash position and after raising $1.5 billion from its first  global bond sale in over a year.    But at a Feb. 18 auction, it made its first full award of T‐bonds for the year, allowing the interest  rate of reissued 5‐year papers to rise.‐to‐snap‐up‐7‐ year‐bonds&id=84807       

Posted on March 16, 2014 09:51:17 PM

Peso headed for a volatile week THIS WEEK maybe a volatile one for the peso, traders said, with initial results of Crimea’s  referendum greeting investors today and the US Federal Reserve announcing later in the week  where US interest rates are headed.  The peso lost 0.6% week‐on‐week to close at P44.655 to the     dollar last Friday ‐‐ its losses blamed for the most part on  worries over Ukraine that hurt investor sentiment towards  emerging market assets.    Crimeans are voting on whether to leave Ukraine for Russia in a referendum Sunday. Balloting  ends at 8 p.m., and traders said they will be closely watching how the developments there  would pan out.    “The demand for dollar‐based assets may have also been affected by continuing tension as  Crimea is set to vote this weekend on its secession from Ukraine to join Russia. This event will  contribute to greater volatility to the currency pair next Monday.” MetisEtrade currency  strategist Yroen Guaya B. Melga said last Friday.    The Fed, meanwhile, begins its two‐day policy meeting on Tuesday, with an announcement  expected Thursday.    “I think market will be focusing on next week’s FOMC meeting. So we will start P44.40 to  P44.70, but post that, around P44.50 to P44.90,” a trader said.‐headed‐for‐a‐ volatile‐week&id=84805           

ERC chief should quitnow, says lawmaker Written by  Gerry Baldo   Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00   The chief of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC), Zenaida Ducut, should now vacate her post due to her failure to protect the millions electric consumers from abuses committed by power firms. According to Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello, Ducut is facing administrative charges for gross neglect of duty. He also noted that the recent order to recall the power rate increase was another sign that she has fumbled in her duty as the head of a body that is supposed to protect the consumers. “We welcome the order as it factually points to the failure of both the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira) to create a competitive market free from unreasonable market prices, and Ducut to protect power consumers by exercising ample leadership in ensuring that the regulatory body carries out its regulatory functions,” Bello said. Bello underscored Ducut ‘s failure to look closely into petitions for a power rate hike. “We all know that Ducut is using the order as a political deodorizer to expunge her putrid reputation as a negligent energy regulatory chief. However, it’s too late for Ducut to play hero. There is no other recourse but to go,” he said. Bello said the latest ERC order also proved that Epira is a massive failure, which only succeeded in cementing the domination of a few power players. “Conscious or not, the order is a slap in the face against the privatization of the electric industry,” he said. He said the recent events should give Congress a cue of the need to amend or totally scrap Epira.‐chief‐should‐quitnow‐says‐lawmaker               

NFA probes ‘Yolanda’ rice sold in market Written by  Tribune   Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00   Well-milled rice labeled as “Yolanda” sparked suspicions that relief stock intended for typhoon victims landed on enterprising individuals, again, tainting the reputation of the government’s relief effort. Reports had it that Yolanda rice has been spotted at Cogon market with P37 per kilo on the price tag. In response to such concern, National Food Authority (NFA)-Bohol manager Peng Evasco assured a probe into the reports. The NFA has to verify if, indeed, the stock labeled as Yolanda rice were those relief stocks intended for the typhoon victims other than just trend label to catch attention. Evasco clarified that it would be unjustifiable to convert rice supply intended for disaster survivors into commercial stock, saying that the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) purchased rice from the NFA for relief operations. In fact, DSWD had withdrawn 650,000 bags of rice for Typhoon Yolanda victims in Region 8 alone. Earlier, NFA national officials already clarified that no spoiled rice had been supplied to DSWD for relief operations. Meanwhile, Evasco confirmed that 10,000 bags of Thailand rice donated by China had been allotted for earthquake survivors in Bohol. The donation was coursed through the Asean Plus Three Emergency Rice (APTER). In a turn-over ceremony on March 12, representatives of the People’s Republic of China handed the supply to APTER, along with officials of the Department of Agriculture, NFA and DSWD. The rice supply for Bohol will be distributed to affected families in the 17 hardest-hit towns. Loon will get their share upon the launching of the program here. PNA‐probes‐yolanda‐rice‐sold‐in‐market           

Revised WTO agreement on gov’t procurement takes effect Apr. 6 Written by  Tribune   Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00   By Ed Velasco The revised World Trade Organization’s (WTO) agreement on government procurement (GPA) which provides businesses greater access to international markets will take effect on Apr. 6, 2014. The schedule is two years after the protocol amending the agreement was adopted. WTO Committee on Government Procurement chief Bruce Christie confirmed that the threshold of acceptances by two-thirds of the parties, which is required for the revised agreement to come into force, had been met. “This is a very welcome achievement. The revised WTO Agreement on Government Procurement will open markets and promote good governance in the participating member economies,” said Roberto Azevêdo, WTO director general. The WTO, in a statement sent to select business reporters, said the revised agreement streamlines and modernizes the text, for example taking proper account of the widespread use of electronic procurement tools. It provides gains in market access for the member countries’ businesses that have been estimated in the range of $80 billion to $100 billion annually. This results from the addition, to the agreement’s scope of application, of numerous government ministries and agencies and the coverage of new services and other areas of the public procurement activities. The amendment also incorporates improved transitional measures that are intended to facilitate accession to the agreement by developing and least-developed economies. The GPA is a plurilateral treaty that aims to open up, as much as possible, government procurement markets to international competition and to help eradicate corruption in this sector. “The fact this has been achieved so quickly shows the importance that the Parties attach to the GPA and is further evidence, after the successful Bali Package, that the WTO is back in business,” Azevêdo said. The Bali Package reached at the WTO’s 9th Ministerial Meeting consists of 10 ministerial decisions, foremost of which are those on trade facilitation and agriculture.‐wto‐agreement‐on‐gov‐t‐procurement‐takes‐ effect‐apr‐6     

MURANG INCOME TAX, TYPE DIN NI PNOY Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00 Written by Dindo Matining Kumpiyansa ang isang senador na susuportahan ni Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III ang panukalang ibaba ang income tax rate sa bansa. “Sa palagay ko, si Presidente, I think ‘pag nagustuhan n’ya ‘yung isang panukala at nakita n’ya na talagang makakatulong ito,” pahayag ni Sen. Juan Edgardo Angara, author ng naturang panukala sa panayam sa radyo kahapon. “I think, bibigyan n’ya ng konsiderasyon ito dahil ang battle cry o ang sinisigaw ng Malacañang ay ‘yung inclusive growth o ‘yung paglaki ng ekonomiya na hindi naiiwan ‘yung mga laylayan ng lipunan,” dagdag pa nito. Sa ilalim ng Senate Bill No. 2149 na inihain ni Angara, layunin na babaan ang rates ng individual income tax at i-adjust ang individual income tax brackets. Sabi ni Angara, nais niyang ibaba na lang sa 25% ang individual income tax rate sa 2017 mula sa kasalukuyang 32%. “We must do everything we can to help them and I think this is one way we can look at,” sabi ni Angara kasabay ng pagsabing malaking tulong ito sa mamamayan lalo na’t 30% hanggang 40% sa kanila ay nasa poverty line. Umaasa rin si Angara na tatalakayin ni Aquino sa kanyang susunod na State of the Nation Address (SONA) ang panukalang ito. “Sa atin, long term ang ating pananaw, at naintindihan natin ‘yung short term roles ng ating gobyerno pero dapat isipin natin ‘yung pang-matagalan,” ani Angara.

Drug test mula sa presidentiables pababa Monday, 17 March 2014 00:00 Written by Boyet Jadulco Upang mapigil ang paghalal ng adik na presidente, bise-presidente, senador, congressman at iba pang lokal na opisyal ng gobyerno, kailangan silang sumailalim sa random drug test bago ang halalan. Ito ang itinulak nina Cagayan de Oro City Rep. Rufus Rodriguez at Abante Mindanao partylist Rep. Maximo Rodriguez sa inihain nilang House Bill No. 3698. Ayon sa panukala ng dalawa, mayroong dalawang testing method na gagawin sa mga tatakbo sa halalan. Una ay ang screening test upang malaman kung positibo o negatibo sa paggamit ng ilegal na droga ang kandidato at para malaman kung anong uri ng iligal na droga ang ginamit. Ang ikalawa ay ang confirmatory test para lang kumpirmahin ang positive screening test. Nakasaad din sa nasabing panukala na sorpresang drug test ang isasagawa ng gobyerno sa mga high school at college student gayundin sa mga nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno at pribadong sektor.

Rice smuggling ‘worst’ under PNoy Published : Monday, March 17, 2014 00:00   Written by : Paul M. Gutierrez   RICE smuggling has become rampant in the first three years of the Aquino administration, dwarfing the record under the last full year of the administration of President Gloria MacapagalArroyo and putting to shame President Benigno Aquino’s slogan of “matuwid na landas.” Data gathered by the Senate Committee on Agriculture chaired by Sen. Cynthia Villar showed that from 126,019 metric tons (MT) of estimated smuggled rice in 2009, the last full year of the Macapagal-Arroyo administration, this shot to 960,619 MT in 2012 under the present administration, for an estimated surge of about 700 percent. As requested in previous committee hearings by Villar and Sen. JV Ejercito, agriculture officials headed by Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary Proceso Alcala and National Food Administration (NFA) chief Orlan Calayag finally submitted last Tuesday the data on smuggled rice dating back to 1986, under the administration of President Aquino’s mother, the late President Corazon Aquino. On the average, the data showed that between 1986 and 2012, 229,620 MT of rice was being smuggled into the country each year, with the total volume of smuggled rice placed at 6,199,728 MT. Significantly, official data also showed that rice smuggling was also rampant under Mrs. Aquino, spiking to 91,333 MT in 1991, the last full year of her term, compared to just 1,195 MT when she became president in 1986. Showing the same pattern, rice smuggling was also very profitable under the administration of President Fidel Ramos who succeeded Mrs. Aquino. From just 456 MT when Ramos assumed the presidency in 1992, rice smuggling peaked to 571,417 MT four years later, in 1996, before easing to 271,172 MT in 1997 and then surging again to 565,418 MT in 1998, Ramos’ last six months in office and the start of the administration of President Joseph Estrada. In 1999, Estrada’s first full year in office, rice smuggling was still a serious problem with an estimated 554,133 MT of the country’s basic cereal being brought in by smuggling syndicates. However, this drastically dropped to 41,647 MT the next year, 2000, which was Estrada’s last full year in office. In 2001, when a power grab toppled Estrada from office and he was replaced by Mrs. Arroyo, his vice president, rice smuggling again shot up, with a record of 256,657 MT brought into the

country. The high point of rice smuggling under the Arroyo administration was in 2004, an election year, reaching 410,078 MT and in 2005, when smuggled rice surged to 698,575 MT. This figure is nearly identical to the 694,151 MT of smuggled rice recorded in 2011, the first full year of President Aquino’s term. Based on the figures cited, more than 1.5 million MT of smuggled rice were brought into the country in the first two full years of President Aquino, which is the worst record by any administration. The figure does not include the more than 600,000 MT of smuggled rice allegedly brought in last year by smugglers.

PH may be a ‘dangerous country for children’ Published : Monday, March 17, 2014 00:00   Written by : Cristina Lee‐Pisco   Places with armed conflicts including the Philippines, Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic and other countries, have become increasingly hazardous to grow up in, a top United Nations child rights official has warned the Human Rights Council. Leila Zerrougui, Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict, has pledged to keep reaching out to conflict parties and mobilizie the international community to better protect children. “In Syria, South Sudan, Central African Republic, but also in other countries, thousands of children are recruited, killed, maimed, raped and kidnapped,” Zerrougui told the Geneva-based Council. “The survivors are often deprived of lifesaving humanitarian assistance and denied their basic human rights,” she added. Zerrougui stressed the grave violations against children are being committed by government forces and opposition groups. “I urge all parties to respect international humanitarian law and put an end to all violations against children, including - but not limited to - the killing and maiming of children, recruitment and use of children, as well as to cease all attacks on schools and hospitals and allow unimpeded humanitarian access,” she said in her statement. Noting the number of children affected by the Syrian conflict has more than doubled over the past year, she said: “Syria has become one of the most dangerous places to be a child.” Six and a half million people in Syria are internally displaced, and half of the 2.5 million refugees are children, she noted. Of particular concern is the use of education facilities in the country, as well as in several other places, for military purposes. “In 2013, we have witnessed an increasing and worrying number of attacks on schools in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria,” said Zerrougui. “We have to join forces, we must ensure that the essential role of education in emergencies is

fully recognized and that children’s right to education is protected even in times of conflict.” In addition, the office of the Special Representative is preparing to launch guidelines on monitoring and reporting of attacks against schools and hospitals. This will contribute to improve the accountability of perpetrators, in line with Security Council resolution 1998 on attacks against schools and hospitals adopted in 2011. Recently, the Special Representative and the UN Children’s Fund launched, and the Security Council endorsed the “Children, Not Soldiers” campaign to end the recruitment and use of children by government armed forces in Afghanistan, Chad, Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), Myanmar, Somalia, South Sudan, Sudan and Yemen by 2016. The governments of these countries have committed to the campaign, and Zerrougui has asked Member States, UN and NGO partners in Geneva to also support the efforts.

Cigarette warning pressed Published : Monday, March 17, 2014 00:00   Written by : Bernadette E. Tamayo   THE proposed Graphic Health Warning (GHW) Bill will not outlaw the local practice of selling cigarettes by “tingi” or by the stick in sari-sari stores and by “takatak boys” or street cigarette vendors. Sen. Pia Cayetano made this remark in reaction to the observation of Sen.Francis Escudero that it is only in the Philippines where cigarettes can be purchased by the stick. “In fact, one of the reasons why perhaps smoking has proliferated among the youth is that it is only in this country that you can buy cigarettes by piece,” he said during the deliberation of the passage of the GHW bill or Senate Bill No. 27. SBN 27, authored by Cayetano, requires locally sold cigarette packs to bear highly visible, fullcolor picture-based health warnings showing the hazards of smoking and second-hand smoke. Cayetano shared Escudero’s concern. “It has been my position that for this to be truly a health measure, we should stop selling by the stick, (but) I believe that the manufacturers will question this as interference with their commercial discretion on how they sell,” she said. “What we recommend is that any type of packaging must contain the graphic health warning. In other words, if they are still selling by ‘tingi-tingi,’ then they must pull it out of a packaging like this. They cannot take it out and put it in a separate container. It still must be in this kind of packaging. And if they hand one (stick), then they can hand one,” she said. “I do not like it that way, but until we disallow the sales by ‘tingi-tingi,’ then it has to be in that packaging on display in the hand of the ‘takatak boy,’” Cayetano said. She also said cigarette products produced abroad and brought into the country would also have to comply with packaging requirements under Senate Bill No. 27. She said the GHW requirement would not be considered a non-tariff barrier to trade under international economic treaties to which the Philippines is a party, such as the World Trade Organization (WTO) and the Japan-Philippines Partnership Agreement (JPEPA). “The fact is, in many of our neighboring countries, (the graphic health warning) is already the requirement (of their governments) as well,” she said. Cayetano is willing to accommodate amendments to the GHW bill that would “reasonably” adjust the periods of compliance for cigarette manufacturers to place picture-based health warnings in the packaging of their products.

Ban prime time ‘telenovelas’ Published : Monday, March 17, 2014 00:00   Written by : Ryan Ponce Pacpaco   TO protect local entertainment, former Manila City mayor-turned party-list lawmaker Rep. Jose Atienza Jr. has proposed a ban on the showing of foreign television series during prime time. “Foreign teleseryes have been eating into the primetime schedules of television companies, and thereby push the Philippine-produced shows to unfavorable timeslots,” said Buhay Hayaang Yumabong Rep. Atienza, a member of the House independent minority bloc led by Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez. Atienza is author of HB 3839 or “An Act prohibiting the broadcast of foreign television series, also known as teleseryes, during prime time, while the local television industry is recovering, and for other purposes.” Primetime is the peak time slot of television broadcasts, usually between 6 p.m. to 10 p.m. Atienza stressed that it should be the policy of the State to protect the local entertainment industry, and to promote creativity needed to spur production and increase employment. “Not only are locally produced TV shows pushed to unfavorable timeslots but, worse, local producers have ceased making original productions for television,” Atienza said. Atienza pointed out that while it is entertaining to watch television shows from neighboring countries such as South Korea, Japan and Taiwan, the proliferation of such shows reduces the time available for Philippine-produced shows. “I know that my proposal will cause controversy, but there is need to regulate the entry of foreign teleseryes into primetime programming to promote local creativity and empower Philippine producers to create content and employ more local talents,” Atienza stressed. The bill has been referred by plenary to the House committee on public information for its appropriate consideration and action.


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