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Palace orders DA to explain COA report by Genalyn Kabiling  March 18, 2014 (updated)  

Malacañang has directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to explain a Commission on Audit (COA) report showing its alleged misuse of government funds.

DA Secretary Proceso Alcala The audit agency reportedly discovered the agriculture department had unlawfully spent around P30 million for the bonuses of the board of directors of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) as well as the hiring of a financial advisor. “The allegation cites the 2012-2013 COA report. The Department of Agriculture is required to explain the findings of such report,” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. Coloma said the agriculture department must also inform COA of the actions it will take to address such findings. “We will let the Department of Agriculture respond to the findings contained in the COA report,” he added. In the COA report, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala allegedly approved the release of some P23.6 million in bonuses for the NABCOR board in April 2012 despite the company’s financial losses. The agriculture department also supposedly hired a private lawyer to serve as financial advisor for P10.3 million without rendering actual services. COA reportedly claimed such transaction was irregular and unnecessary. Alcala has reportedly denied any knowledge of the alleged irregularities but promised to look into such transactions.‐orders‐da‐to‐explain‐coa‐report/

Agri sector seen to grow 3.2%‐4.2% this year By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The Agriculture sector is seen to grow between 3.2-to 4.2-percent this year, driven by the crops, livestock and poultry subsectors. In a briefing paper , the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the three farm subsectors are expected to exceed year-on-year growth rates. The crops subsector is expected to register a growth rate of between four- to five-percent this year against 0.09 last year. The livestock subsector is expected to grow between 1.2-to 2.5percent this year against 1.75 last year, while the poultry subsector is seen to grow any where from 4.2- to 5.2-percent against 4.20 percent last year. This year’s farm growth target is higher than the actual growth rate of 1. 15 percent in 2013, but lower than the original growth target of three-to five-percent previously set. “We’ve set this growth target considering the abnormal changes in climate and the need for greater investments in infrastructure. Considering these, accomplishments in agriculture cannot just leap frog,” said Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic briefing in Pasay City yesterday. In the briefing paper, NEDA said the Philippines would be able to attain 100 percent selfsufficiency in rice by 2015 with a total palay (unhusked rice) production of 20.50 million metric tons (MT). The Philippines’ target of attaining self-sufficiency in the grain last year was derailed by a series of strong typhoons that demolished large tracts of rice production areas. The livestock and poultry subsectors are seen as bright spots in the farm industry as these remain free from animal diseases like foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and avian influenza that warrant international trade restrictions. Such diseases continue to plague neighboring Asian countries like Thailand, South Korea, China, and Hong Kong. The Agriculture department sees this as an industry asset that would enable the sectors to be competitive when free trade within Southeast Asia is enforced by 2015. In its recently-released Swine Situation and Outlook for 2014, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) said domestic demand for pork is expected to rise 5.17 percent this year from a year ago.

Expectations of robust demand becomes encouraging for animal raisers. BAS forecasts pork supply this year to rise by 3.25 percent from a year ago. BAS said that a pork surplus of 925 MT is expected in the first quarter of 2014 which is likely to be followed by a deficit of 6, 027 MT in the second quarter. Surpluses of 13, 955 MT and 23, 671 MT expected in the third and fourth quarters respectively. Hog production in 2013 was placed at two million MT in live weight, up 1.95 percent year-onyear. This year, production is expected to grow 2.46 percent from last year. Broiler production, which has been continuously high, is expected to outpace demand this year. As such, retailers continue to enjoy low farmgate prices. In its broiler Situation and Outlook for this year, BAS said a surplus of 68, 994 MT is seen this year as “the expected growth in broiler supply is much higher than the expected growth in demand.” This year, total broiler meat supply is seen to reach 967, 768 MT while demand may reach 898, 824 MT.‐sector‐seen‐grow‐3.2‐4.2‐year                          

Kudos to the Department of Agriculture Category: Opinion 18 Mar 2014 Written by Susie G. Bugante

A WEEK ago the Social Security System (SSS) signed an agreement with the Department of Agriculture (DA) for the social-security coverage of selfemployed farmers and fishermen. Under the agreement, the DA, through its Agricultural Training Institute (ATI), which is mainly responsible for carrying out the training and extension provisions in the Agricultural and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997, shall subsidize in full the monthly SSS contributions of qualified members of rural-based organizations (RBOs) and community extension workers (CEWs), based on the initial salary credit of P3,000. The RBO and CEW are made up of farmers or fishermen who have been trained by and are strategic partners of the ATI in the holding of extension and training activities. This is a welcome development for members of rural-improvement and 4H clubs; pambansang mananalon, mag-uuma, magbabaul at magsasaka ng Pilipinas; farmer-scientists; and indigenous peoples—all considered RBOs—as well as CEWs, whose incomes are oftentimes seasonal and, thus, making it difficult for them to sustain their contributions to the SSS as self-employed persons. Since 1992 farmers and fishermen have been included as compulsory members, but as of end-2013 less than 76,000 have been recorded as paying members. The main reason for the slow growth of membership in the agricultural sector, I surmise, is the seasonality, as well as the generally low income. Thus, this agreement between the SSS and the DA will surely boost the membership of self-employed farmers and fishermen, who, as SSS members, will now be afforded social-security protection in times of sickness, disability and old age, among others. They will also have access to loan privileges, such as salary and housing loans, for as long as they meet the qualification requirements. It is, indeed, commendable that the DA had committed itself to this undertaking, which will help improve the lives of agricultural workers. In his speech during the signing ceremony on March 14, SSS President Emilio S. de Quiros Jr. said, “Farmers and other agricultural workers are equally in need of social protection as the formal-sector workers, especially since their livelihood and incomes are often at the mercy of nature’s temperament.” According to him, there is a

potential of about 200,000 farmers who could be enrolled in the SSS under the agreement. This means 200,000 families who will potentially benefit from the social-security protection that the state provides. It is about time that the welfare of agricultural workers, particularly self-employed ones, be given serious support by the government through programs like social security. Considering the benefits that the covered farmers will get as SSS members, the contribution subsidies to be paid on their behalf will certainly be money well-spent. **** For more information about the SSS coverage of farmers and fishermen, call the SSS 24-hour call center at (632) 920-6446 to 55, Mondays to Fridays, e-mail or visit the SSS website at Susie G. Bugante is the vice president for public affairs and special events of the Social Security System, where she has worked for close to 24 years handling the agency’s public-information and public-relations activities. Send feedback about this column to‐kudos‐to‐the‐department‐of‐ agriculture                          

Payoffs to media bared 2 broadcasters got checks from Nabcor   By Nancy C. Carvajal  Philippine Daily Inquirer   4:04 am | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014  

A prominent TV and radio personality received P2 million from Nabcor president Alan Javellana on the instruction of then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap “as payoff to stop criticisms of a Nabcor project,” Nabcor official Rhodora Mendoza has claimed. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The payoffs, in the guise of “advertising expenses,” included prominent broadcast journalists. Erwin Tulfo, a television news anchor, and Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang, a radio talk show host, were allegedly among the beneficiaries of the diversion of congressional allocations from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) coursed through state-owned National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) and subsequently to ghost projects of bogus foundations, according to checks and accompanying documents made available to the Inquirer. Former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vic Cacal said that a check for P245,535 was issued to Tulfo on March 10, 2009, drawn from a Nabcor account at United Coconut Planters’ Bank (UCPB), Tektite Branch PSE Center, Ortigas, Pasig City. Three checks were separately issued to Magdurulang by Nabcor in 2009—on April 27, May 14, July 6—totaling P245,535—all drawn from the same Corporate Account No. 00196-000848-4 in UCPB, they said. The checks were described in the accompanying vouchers as “advertising expenses,” according to documents submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman and made available to the Inquirer. Mendoza and Cacal have sent documents to the Office of the Ombudsman purporting to show that Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon Revilla Jr. and Edgardo Angara and 79 representatives coursed a total of P1.7 billion in PDAF allocations through Nabcor, which then

channeled the monies to dubious nongovernment organizations (NGOs), during the period 2007 to 2009. The lawmakers have denied the charges. The Ombudsman is investigating 38 people, including Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, in connection with a complaint involving the alleged diversion of P10 billion in PDAF allotments to phantom projects and kickbacks. Mendoza also told the Inquirer that another prominent TV and radio personality received P2 million from Nabcor president Alan Javellana on the instruction of then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap “as payoff to stop criticisms of a Nabcor project.” “Nabcor shoulders the under-the-table expenses of DA (Department of Agriculture) on the instructions of Secretary Yap,” Cacal said. Mendoza, Cacal and Javellana are among the 38 people under investigation in connection with the P10-billion PDAF scam. Mendoza and Cacal have applied to become state witnesses.

Cacal said that a DA project to build a total of 708 kilometers of farm-to-market roads and 200 units of market-related infrastructure was the subject of the supposed “advertisement.” Tulfo and Magdurulang are known as hard-hitting broadcast personalities whose shows cater to assisting aggrieved listeners. Contacted by the Inquirer, Tulfo denied he received money from Nabcor and said he did not enter into any transaction with Javellana. “Somebody could be using my name, I want to investigate who cashed the check and what bank,” Tulfo said in a telephone interview. Magdurulang, who uses Melo del Prado as his name in his broadcasts, said when reached by phone, “Strict masyado ang GMA diyan. Ayokong magsalita (GMA is strict. I don’t want to talk).” Then the phone went dead. “Except for a voucher that justified the processing of the payments, no other documents passed our desk to justify the expenses for media men,” Cacal told Inquirer. Apart from the broadcasters, Nabcor also hired the services of such media outfits as MEDIAaffairs Inc. and Full Circle communications for the food terminal project of DA, Mendoza said. Mendoza 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.

Originally posted: 10:23 pm | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014 Read more:‐show‐media‐men‐got‐pork‐barrel‐money‐ from‐nabcor#ixzz2wNo9THrZ   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                         

Rice smuggling still persists, says Alcala By Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

DAVAO CITY, Philippines – Rice smuggling continues amid the government’s effort that even resulted in a congressional inquiry that led to identifying the supposed leaders of a syndicate involved in illegally importing rice into the country. “We can never stop rice smuggling unless we are able to lower the cost of producing palay,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said. The production cost of palay is reportedly much higher than importing rice from other countries. Alcala arrived here yesterday for the assessment meeting of the World Bank-assisted Mindanao Rural Development Program. Alcala said that the only way to make rice smuggling no longer inviting for unscrupulous traders is to invest in irrigation system. “We already have the technology and our only problem is the irrigation system,” Alcala said. Government lost more than P10 billion in revenues due to rice smuggling in the past 10 years. Alcala said the government is now considering an open bidding scheme under which bids from other governments and private sector entities would be entertained. “This is one of the options being considered (by the government),” Alcala told reporters during the Philippines Economic Briefing in Pasay City yesterday. The Philippines currently has rice procurement agreements with Vietnam and Cambodia. Thailand has not yet renewed its supply agreement with the Philippines that expired on Dec. 31, 2013. National Food Authority (NFA) chief of staff Dennis Arpia said Thailand’s parliament still has to legislate the renewal of its supply agreement with the Philippines. Thailand is currently gripped in a political crisis, preventing the passage of many trade-related measures.

This comes at a time when the Southeast Asian nation is prepared to unload its excess rice stock at low prices. Without renewing its supply agreement with the Philippines, Thailand cannot participate in the bidding for the supply of around 800,000 metric tons of rice for buffer stock this year. Arpia said the NFA has already informed Thailand of the need to renew its procurement agreement. The NFA council is expected to release the official notice for this year’s importation as soon as the dry season harvest figures are in. An open bidding would allow any government and private sector entity to vie for rice supply rights to the Philippines. “This mode of procurement may be done especially with a large volume involved,” said NFA spokesman Rex Estoperez. In Cagayan de Oro City, the price per kilo of rice from the NFA has increased from last week’s P27 per kilo to this week’s P33. Helen Fernandez, president of the Cogon Market Rice Retailers, said the increase is due to the better quality of rice. She added the price of rice, both NFA and commercial, has been steadily increasing since last year. Commercial rice sold in Cagayan de Oro come from Bukidnon where the price is from P1,880 to P1,900 per sack of 50 kilos. When sold in the city the price per sack is marked from P1,950 to P2,010 because of trucking and other expenses. Fernandez said the NFA has also decreased its allocation to the rice retailers. She said they are now getting an allocation of only 35 sacks per week. In other places, the retailers get 100 sacks per retailer, she added.– With Czeriza Valencia, Gerry Lee-Gorit

Supreme Court stops release of illegally imported rice By Tetch Torres‐Tupas   10:29 am | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014    

The Supreme Court building in Manila. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines–The Supreme Court stopped the implementation of the Manila Regional Trial Court’s order allowing the release of 189,540 bags of rice that arrived last year in Manila port without the proper documents. In a resolution released Wednesday, the high court en banc said the restraining order is “effective immediately and continuing until further orders from this Court.” The high court issued the resolution following a petition filed by the Office of the Solicitor General on behalf of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Aside from stopping the release of the “hot rice,” the high court also prohibited Danilo Galang of St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises and Ivy Souza of Bold Bidder Marketing from “undertaking any and all shipments with respect to the rice shipments…” Aside from Galang and Souza, other consignees that imported the rice via the Port of Manila in 2013 without import permits are Starcraft Trading Corp., Intercontinental Grains, Medaglia De Oro Trading, and Silent Royalty Marketing. But the BOC ordered a seizure of the imported rice for lack of the necessary permits. Galang filed a petition with the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) to question the seizure.

Galang, in his petition before the lower court, also pointed out that the Philippines is a signatory of the World Trade Organization General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (WTO-GATT), which had lifted the country’s special treatment on quantitative rice restrictions effective June 30, 2012. The lower court ruled in his favor. The BOC and the DA went to the Supreme Court and questioned the order of Manila Judge Cicero Jurado. In a 78-page petition for certiorari, the DA and BOC through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza urged the high court to uphold the validity of National Food Authority Memorandum Circular No. AO-2K13-03-003 and the NFA Council resolution No. 670-2013 requiring rice imports to be covered by import permits despite the lifting of the World Trade Organization’s special treatment on quantitative restrictions for rice last June 30, 2012. Government lawyers said Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. abused its discretion when he issued his orders dated Jan. 23, 2014 and Feb. 27, 2014 and his amended order dated Feb. 28, 2014 that stopped the BOC and the district of collectors for the ports of Manila, North Harbor (Manila International Container Port) and South Harbors from alerting, seizing, and holding not only the rice shipments of St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises but also of Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise owned by Ivy Souza, the original consignee of the rice shipments. Jardeleza said only member states may bring suits in relation to any violation of the agreement and not a private entity. He also insisted that the authority of the NFA to require import permits for rice importations did not cease upon the expiration of the special treatment. The government noted that the Philippines had already submitted a third revision of its request for waiver relating to special treatment for rice of the Philippines. Jardeleza noted that since they requested for a waiver, nine interested WTO member states have initiated negotiations with the Philippine government. “Currently, the Philippines’ formal request for a waiver of its WTO obligation or the extension of the special treatment on rice importation remains pending with the WTO. To date, the country’s request for extension has not been denied,” the Solicitor General said. Read more:‐court‐stops‐release‐of‐illegally‐imported‐ rice#ixzz2wNJIQpPf   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

Farmers cry foul over use of agri sector in pork scam By Michael Lim Ubac  Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:20 am | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014  

MANILA, Philippines—An association of farmers has cried foul over what it described as a “shameless act of using the sector as direct beneficiaries of the anomalous” Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP). “The unbridled referral of farmers and farmer foundations as beneficiaries of the PDAF/DAP ignominy has given a bad light to the sector,” Sonny Domingo, national chair of the Kapisanan ng Magsasaka, Mangingisda at Manggagawa ng Pilipinas Inc., said in a statement. Labeling the sector as so-called “direct beneficiaries” of pork barrel since, he said, “has totally damaged their image into oblivion in any future assistance by the government and other agencies.” Domingo was reacting to an Inquirer report on Monday that linked 83 lawmakers, including four senators, to the release of P1.7 billion of their PDAF to questionable groups through state-owned National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) from 2007 to 2009. Nabcor, which is now up for abolition along with other state-owned firms embroiled in the P10billion pork barrel scam, is an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture. The DAP is a little-known impounding mechanism for government savings created by President Aquino in 2011 primarily to stimulate the economy. Since March 2012, however, some DAP funds have been used as a source of additional funding for the senators’ development projects on top of their annual P200 million PDAF allocation. Sectoral parliament “Now they (farmers) are starting to doubt the legislators as to whether they are representing the farming sector, or are just out to enrich themselves, their staff or their family members and friends,” Domingo said. He said the group was now calling for a “sectoral parliament.” “Perhaps, the flawed democratic representation in Congress by political districts must now be reviewed, and (effect a) change (in) the Constitution to conform with an honest to goodness representation,” he said.

Domingo then quoted excerpts from a book, “Birth of a New Republic,” which he said called for a “new politics.” “National Leaders will now come from the masses (not from the thoroughbred of the traditional politicians). This is done by asking the purok (the smallest part of a village) leaders to choose from among themselves who will be kagawad (village official) following the number required by law. The kagawad will then choose by consensus who among themselves will be the barangay (village) chair with a recall system,” he said. Read more:‐cry‐foul‐over‐use‐of‐agri‐sector‐in‐pork‐ scam#ixzz2wNNLxSKO   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 

WB rural program in Mindanao to end by December; PRDP to start next year Category: Agri-Commodities 18 Mar 2014 Written by Manuel T. Cayon / Mindanao Bureau Chief DAVAO CITY—The Department of Agriculture (DA) and its detailed experts in the World Bank (WB)-funded rural development program in Mindanao said it would stamp with terminal dates the remaining but slow-moving projects of the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) to meet the year-end deadline, as the WB is set to begin a similar program to be applied nationwide. Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala told reporters here on Monday that it would ask all recipient local governments and organizations to hurry up the completion of their projects that were supposed to be finished by the middle of this year. Alcala said projects that were unlikely to meet the year-end grace period would be asked to terminate their implementation. “We may ask some projects to implement up to 60 percent, or up to 90 percent, only of their target completion if they are not able to finish it by year-end,” he said in a news briefing at the end of the first day of the joint evaluation by the DA and WB of the MRDP. As the MRDP comes to a close, it has already attained 85.81 percent of its physical accomplishment targets in rural infrastructure, livelihood, and natural resource-management components. Arnel V. de Mesa, MRDP deputy program director, said the program has more than P4 billion in excess funds worth of projects that were both in the process of implementation or have been designated in identified projects. An MRDP statement quoting MRDP Director Lealyn Ramos told a meeting of contractors and local chief executives on Tuesday “to fast-track project construction and must ensure that it will be completed before June 2014.” The meeting followed the WB Implementation Support Mission meeting on Tuesday, which assessed the performance of the MRDP’s various components and subprojects including rural infrastructure. The bulk of the MRDP projects were tied to rural infrastructure, with P4.51 billion worth of subprojects completed in various provinces in Mindanao. An MRDP statement said these subprojects consisted of farm-to-market roads (FMRs), single-lane bridges, construction and

rehabilitation of communal irrigation facilities, potable water-supply systems and post-harvest facilities It said 855 kilometers of FMRs were completed at a cost of P1.96 billion, and 466 kilometers were still under various stages of construction and completion. Sixteen bridges were also completed, with aggregate length of 496.2 linear meters and a cost of P156.74 million. Ten more bridges were in various stages of completion. Communal-irrigation systems finished could cover 2,242 hectares of rice lands, costing P116.71 million. The MRDP also spent P246.55 million for the 47 potable-water systems, while four other systems costing P62.66 million were still being implemented. “Around P22.85 million of other infrastructure projects have been completed which consists of post-harvest facilities like rice milling and solar-drying facilities,” the MRDP said. MRDP is a five-year special project under the DA and jointly funded by the WB, the national government and local government units (LGUs). It was first started in 2000 and was given another extension after showing significant contribution to raising rural income and accessibility to production areas. The second phase in 2007 was supposed to end in December 2012 but was given a two-year extension by the National Economic and Development Authority Board. “We are also reminding LGUs and contractors engaged in the program of their commitment to finish the project on the agreed timeline. Otherwise, they should complete the remaining works at their own expense,” Ramos said in the MRDP statement. She said rural infrastructure “is a priority intervention of MRDP because this enhances the productivity of our farmlands and is instrumental in linking our farmers to the markets where we can sell their produce.” “Currently, actions are being taken to address materials quality issues in some of the rural infrastructure [RI] sub-projects. Quality assessments are also scheduled to address various implementation issues of ongoing subprojects,” she said. The RI component of MRDP is also conducting a revalidation of sub-projects that are potential candidates for termination. “If contractors do not comply with quality assurance standards and specifications even after attempts to correct the erroneous measures in implementation, the sub-project will subject for termination,” Ramos said.

Felizardo Virtucio Jr., MRDP task team leader, said the team would put up strategies “to ensure the full utilization of the funds and to assure also that all the reforms made in the implementation of the projects would be carried out by all recipients.” The MRDP would step aside next year for the implementation of the Philippine Rural Development Program, that would be carried out in almost all the country’s provinces.‐commodities/29170‐wb‐rural‐ program‐in‐mindanao‐to‐end‐by‐december‐prdp‐to‐start‐next‐year                                        

DA, BOC ask SC to stop release of rice imports sans permits Category: Agri-Commodities 18 Mar 2014 Written by Joel R. San Juan THE Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) on Tuesday filed another petition before the Supreme Court (SC) this time seeking to prevent the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Manila from implementing its orders allowing the release of 189,540 bags of rice that arrived last year through the ports of Manila without the required import permit. In a 78-page petition for certiorari, the DA and BOC through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza also asked the Court to affirm the validity of National Food Authority Memorandum Circular AO-2K13-03-003, as well as NFA Council resolution No. 670-2013- which require rice imports to be covered by import permits despite the lifting of the World Trade Organization’s special treatment on quantitative restrictions for rice last June 30, 2012. The OSG, likewise, sought the High Court’s dismissal of the petition filed by Galang before the RTC in Manila. Jardeleza said Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. committed grave abuse of discretion amounting to lack or excess of jurisdiction in issuing his orders dated January 23 and February 27 and his amended order dated February 28. In the assailed orders, Jurado restrained the BOC and the district of collectors for the ports of Manila, North Harbor (Manila International Container Port) and South Harbors from alerting, seizing, and holding not only the rice shipments of Galang but also of Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise owned by Ivy Souza, the original consignee of the rice shipments. Galang, who owns the St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises, claimed he bought Bold Bidder’s rice shipment. The businessman initiated the complaint before the RTC in Manila after the BOC refused to release the said shipments as thy were imported without securing the proper import permits from the NFA. The OSG said Jurado committe grave abuse of discretion as he derpived the government of due process when he issued the writ of preliminary injunction not only in favor of Galang but also of Bold Bidder, which is non-party in the case before the lower court. “Indeed, Bold Bidder Marketing and General Mechandise did not participate in the proceedings. Thus, it is perplexing that respondent Judge would issue an order granting relief to a person not even asking for it,” the OSG pointed out.

“The respondent judge in issuing the questioned order, violated a very basic rule when he issued the writ of preliminary injunction in favor of a nonparty. It is basic that no man shall be affected by any proceeding to which he is a stranger, and strangers to a case are not bound by judgment rendered by the court,” the OSG added. The OSG argued that Galang cannot claim any rights from the expiration of the Special Treatment under the WTO agreement with regard to import quotas. Jardeleza said only member-states may bring suits in relation to any violation of the agreement and not a private entity such as Galang. He also insisted that ther authority of the NFA to require import permits for rice imkportations did not cease upon the expiration of the special treatment. The government said the Philippines had already submitted a third revision of its request for waiver relating to special treatment for rice of the Philippines. Since it requested for a waiver, Jardeleza said nine interested WTO member states have initiated negotiations with the Philippines government. “Currently, the Philippines’s formal request for a waiver of its WTO obligation or the extension of the Special treatment on rice importation remains pending with the WTO. To date, the country’s request for extension has not been denied,” the Solicitor General said. “With the ongoing negotiations for a waiver, there is effectively acquiescense by interested WTO member-countries to the continued imposition of quantitative restrictions on rice by the Philippines,” Jardeleza said. On February 25 the SC issued a TRO enjoining the Davao RTC from enforcing the writ of preliminary mandatory injunction it earlier issued ordering the BOC to release rice imports it earlier seized due to lack import permits. The TRO covers the December 12, 2013 order injunction which restrained the BOC District Collector of the Port of Davao from seizing respondent Joseph Ngo’s rice shipments. In issuing the TRO, the Court found meritorious the arguments of Jardeleza regarding lack of adequate representation of the BOC during the hearings conducted before the RTC and the lack of legal standing of Ngo to sue. The TRO was issued based on the petition filed by the DA and the BOC which also sought to uphold the validity of the NFA’s decision to continue implementing the quantitative restriction on rice importations.‐commodities/29169‐da‐boc‐ask‐sc‐to‐ stop‐release‐of‐rice‐imports‐sans‐permits

Beer brewers turn to cassava Category: Agri-Commodities 18 Mar 2014 Written by Marvyn N. Benaning

THE lowly cassava is now literally the toast of brewmasters, with San Miguel Corp. (SMC) resorting to the use of the crop as a supplement to malt, Dr. Candido B. Damo says. As the National Cassava Project Leader at the Department of Agriculture (DA), Damo is charged with raising cassava output nationwide and assuring ample supply for manufacturers of animal and aqua feeds. Damo explained that “good ang result ng cassava sa beer brewing. Hindi malayo sa malt, and it is now accepted as a supplement to malt [the result of cassava in beer brewing is good and it now accepted as a supplement to malt.]” He added that San Miguel Corp. (SMC), the country’s leading beer brewer, has also demonstrated the viability of cassava as a basic ingredient to beer, which depends on good water, hops, malt, yeast and wort to produce quality beverage. “The company has made a presentation about the significance of cassava in beer making,” he added. In the 1980s, SMC also implemented a contract-growing scheme for cassava in Isabela and in Cagayan, with farmers believing that the crop would not only be used for the feed mills of the company but also for its beer brewing operations. Today, Damo added, Ginebra San Miguel (GSM) also resorts to cassava in producing gin. “This happens,” Damo said, “when the price of molasses is high. GSM resorts to using cassava to produce the alcohol for gin.”

He predicted an increasing demand for cassava not only from beer brewers and gin manufacturers but also from feed mills that supply the livestock industry and aquaculture ventures nationwide. Nonetheless, the cassava expert trained at the University of the Philippines at Los Baños (UPLB) said that “no less than 70 percent of the annual cassava output goes to the manufacturers of animal and fish feeds.” Cassava and corn are the alternatives to feedwheat that the country imports from strife-torn Ukraine, Kazakhstan or Turkey, aside from traditional suppliers like the United States, Canada and Australia. About 250,000 metric tons (MT) of dried cassava are needed for feeds at any one time, Damo disclosed. The Philippines produced 2.36 million metric tons (MMT) of cassava last year, better than the 2,233 MMT harvested in 2012. In 2011 the country’s output was only 2.21 MMT, slightly better than the 2.101 MMT registered the previous year. An important food item, 15 million Filipinos consume it for breakfast and snacks, according to a survey undertaken in 2008. In 2011, the country exported 1,098 MT of cassava valued at $1.557 million, with the average price at $1,418 per MT. While it may appear that cassava is a lowly rootcrop, a total of 217,000 Filipino farmers depend on its cultivation for their livelihood. A durable crop, cassava tolerates low pH and grows well in soils where others do not survive, Damo said. Nonetheless, cassava takes its toll on soil fertility since its roots consume huge amounts of nitrogen and potassium from the soil, with the roots alone accounting for the loss of 67.1 kilos of nitrogen from one hectare of soil at a yield of 28.87 MT per hectare. It also fritters away 11.2 kilos of phosphorous from the soil at that level of yield per hectare. A total of 88.1 kilos of potassium are lost per hectare from the same volume of harvested cassava. “Since it takes away a big volume of nutrients from the soil, it is necessary to replace them. This explains why we are pushing for a combination of organic and non-organic fertilizers to replace the nutrients lost,” Damo disclosed.‐commodities/29168‐beer‐brewers‐ turn‐to‐cassava

Government mulls over open bidding for purchase of 1 MMT of rice Category: Agri-Commodities 18 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent THE government is considering conducting an open bidding to include private suppliers, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said. “This is one of the options being considered by the NFA Council,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said on the sidelines of the 2014 Philippine Economic Briefing on Tuesday in Pasay City. An open tender would allow as many foreign private entities outside the current bilateral agreement to bid for the supply of the country’s rice requirement. Earlier, the Philippines said it is exporting a total of 1 million metric tons (MMT) of rice this year, with 800,000 metric tons (MT) specifically intended to ease inflation from decreasing stock, while the remaining 200,000 MT was the balance from last year’s buffer stock. The Philippines is also considering buying rice from other foreign suppliers as Thailand’s ricesupply agreement with Manila expired last year. It still has to be renewed. Dennis Arpia, chief of staff of National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Orlan Calayag, said Thailand’s rice-supply agreement with the Philippines expired in December 2013 and has not been renewed since. “We have already written a letter informing the Thai government of the renewal of the ricesupply deal. But as of today, they have not yet issued an application to renew the executive agreement,” Arpia said in a telephone interview. Failure to renew the rice-supply agreement may disqualify Thailand from joining Manila’s planned government-to-government rice transaction this year. “We will consider any good offer from Thailand, but they will need to renew the supply agreement before the deadline,” Arpia said. Several foreign suppliers and government-run grains agencies have already expressed interest to join if the Philippine government decides to push through with an open bidding, he said. Thailand is suffering a four-month old political crisis which already paralyzed its government’s functions, including the much-needed Congress approval for the renewal of trade agreements. Earlier, Bangkok offered to sell rice at a huge loss to be able to pay farmers under its riceintervention scheme.

At present, only two countries, Cambodia and Vietnam, are left with existing rice-purchase agreements with the Philippines. “We continue to remain open for submission of applications [for the rice procurement] whether by government-to-government or by open bidding,” Arpia said, adding that the NFA has yet to make an official announcement for this year’s importation, including the terms of the tender. Used to be the world’s biggest rice importer, the Philippines has allowed importation of a record 2.4 million MT of rice, but this was reduced to 860,000 MT in 2011. This was further trimmed down to 500,000 MT in 2012. For 2013, the country approved 205,700 MT of rice imports under the omnibus minimum-access volume for rice, plus the 500,000 MT of rice from Vietnam. The additional volume of rice was meant to replenish the country’s buffer stock following continuous drawdown for relief operations made necessary by the devastation wrought by Supertyphoon Yolanda in November 2013.‐commodities/29167‐government‐ mulls‐over‐open‐bidding‐for‐purchase‐of‐1‐mmt‐of‐rice                              

Government gives up on export goal Category: Top News 18 Mar 2014 Written by Catherine N. Pillas The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is looking to adjust downward its export-revenue target of $120 billion under the 2014-2016 Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP). The DTI said even with the recovery of the electronics industry, which has been on a decline the past two years, the growth from both services and merchandise exports will not be enough to hit the original target. “There’s a need to adjust the target in the PEDP. For me, I don’t want to mention a target that’s not likely to be reached,” admitted Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo at the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing held on Tuesday at the Philippine International Convention Center. Domingo co-chairs the Export Development Council (EDC). The EDC is a public-private agency that oversees the implementation of the PEDP, the export component of the government’s Philippine Development Plan. The PEDP for 2014-2016 aimed to double export revenues to $120 billion from a previous base of $60 billion. Domingo added that even if the robust performance of the services sector would continue and grow at 20 percent each year until 2016, export revenues will still fall short of the target. Now working from a baseline of $70 billion at end-2013, Domingo said to achieve the additional $50 billion, the combined services and merchandise exports need to grow 71 percent over a span of three years, or an annual growth of 25 percent. However, the exports industry can still achieve the 10-percent to 15-percent growth each year, especially with the turnaround of the electronics export sector expected this year until next year, Domingo said. Domingo stated that the proposal for a downward adjustment has already been incorporated in the government’s proposal, but is yet to be integrated in the actual PEDP. The PEDP will still go through a consultation process with the private sector in the Export Development Council epresented by the Philippine Exporters Confederation (PhilExport). Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., Philexport president, earlier said the $120 billion is a “wish target” and that the export sector should simply maintain an annual growth of above 11 percent.‐news/29189‐government‐gives‐up‐on‐ export‐goal

BSP readies measures vs anticipated cost of funds Category: Top News 18 Mar 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) vowed on Tuesday to take prompt and appropriate steps that will help shield the Philippines from the economic fallout expected from an increase in the cost of funds, as the Federal Reserve (the Fed) progressively winds down its monetary- stimulus program. “With the Fed tapering, the expectation is that global interest rates are bound to go up at some point. So we should bear that in mind such that if there is going to be an adjustment later, it is not going to be an abrupt adjustment. If we take action early enough, the adjustment can be gradual and less destructive,” Tetangco said at a news conference following the conclusion of the biannual Philippine Economic Briefing held at the Philippine International Convention Center on Tuesday. Tetangco did not specify the kind of action the BSP will pursue as counterpoint to the anticipated rise in global interest rate, but identified the Fed’s future quantitative-easing measures as emerging threats to the country’s macroeconomic stability. “We see continued uneasiness among global investors from uncertainty on the next steps of the Fed. This may cause capital outflows and, with that, greater financial market volatility,” Tetangco said. Other risks the BSP governor cited as threats to the resiliency story of the Philippines include expectation of slower growth in the region seen impacting on intra-Asian trade and the risk of escalation of political tensions in the Ukraine resulting to higher international commodity prices. In terms of domestic risks, Tetangco said the Philippines must be mindful of disaster-risk management missteps that could affect the long-haul sustainability of the country’s growth. He also said the anticipated upward adjustments in domestic utility rates could impact inflation expectations and exert still more pressure on commodity prices already under some duress. These risks notwithstanding, the central bank governor said the BSP will continue to focus on keeping prices stable and help keep the peso competitive relative to currencies in the region while ensuring the continued health of the banking system. Tetangco said these measures should be enough for now as local growth will always be that reaching the broader number of the Filipino masses.

“We need to make sure that our exhibited resilience, which has given us this strong macroeconomic base from which to leap, translates to a palpable improvement in the welfare of more, if not all, Filipinos,” he said. Tetangco further said a crucial initiative in bringing robust growth to broader sections of the country is by improving the access of Filipinos to loans and similar financial services, especially for people or enterprises in the low-to-average earnings spectrum. Tetangco also cited advancements in attaining fair and open access to credit by Filipinos, such as the expansion of economic financial and learning programs and stronger financial consumerprotection initiatives. In the open forum, Tetangco also said the lifting of the anti-usury law and the establishment of so-called credit surety funds also helped deliver proper financial services to more Filipinos. “The anti-usury law proved that mandated interest rates usually fail. In fact, banks and other lenders would go around this anti-usury law, follow what is provided for under the law on paper but then they will have other charges. The effective cost of borrowing then is actually higher than what the ceiling is. What we have done is to clarify the computation of interest for transparency. We issued an interpretation of the truth in lending act: How the interest rate is computed, and this is how it should be explained to the borrower,” Tetangco replied, after being asked on whether the lifting of the anti-usury law caused higher interest charges for borrowed funds. “In addition to that, you mentioned collateral. We have a program with the BSP that we call the credit-surety fund. Now, this program removes the requirement of the borrower of having to provide a collateral,” he added. The credit-surety fund acts as a guarantee fund for eligible borrowers, lowering the cost of borrowing for households and businesses looking to take out a loan from any number of thrift or rural banks in the countryside. The central bank’s latest move with regard to policy settings is to keep all rates on record lows on the back of stable assessment on inflation. The BSP will hold its next policy stance meeting on March 27 this year. Market expectations from private banking institutions show that the BSP will not yet raise interest rates this meeting, as economists expect the rate hike to come in the second quarter of this year.‐news/29188‐bsp‐readies‐measures‐vs‐ anticipated‐cost‐of‐funds    

Bill sets strict regulation of NGOs Category: Nation 18 Mar 2014 Written by Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz TO prevent fly-by-night or bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) from preying on legislators and government agencies, two lawmakers filed a measure creating a regulatory body that will manage the system. House Bill (HB) 3938, filed by Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino Rep. Rufus Rodriguez of Cagayan de Oro City and Party-list Rep. Maximo Rodriguez of Abante Mindanao, seeks to regulate NGOs through the proposed the National Commission on Nongovernment Organizations (NCNO) to be composed of five full-time members from nominees of various NGOs. Under the bill the NGOs may submit their nominees to the Office of the President within 60 days after he bill had been signed law, and the President shall appoint the chairman of the commission and its four commissioners from the nominees. The bill said the chairman and the commissioners must be Filipino citizens who have knowledge or experience in people’s organizations for at least 10 years and must not have been candidates for elective positions in the immediately preceding election prior to their appointment. The full-time chairman shall hold office for a term of four years, the two commissioners for three years and another two commissioners for two years. The chairman and the commissioners shall have the rank of department secretary and undersecretary, respectively, the measure added. The bill also provides that P50-million sourced out of funds in the National Treasury, will fund the initial operations of the commission and, thereafter, the necessary appropriations shall be included in the national budget. In filing the bill, the lawmakers noted that NGOs play significant roles in the national development process because of their accessibility and accountability to grassroots groups, saying they represent the organized and voluntary effort of the people to assist the less fortunate sectors of society by direct delivery of basic services. “This bill also seeks to promote professionalism, accountability and transparency among NGOs and prevent the fly-by-night NGOs or other organizations established solely for the benefit and self-interest of individuals or groups under the guise of social development,� the authors added. The lawmakers said rapid increase in the number of NGOs has prompted the need for government to regulate these organizations and ensure that the resources they received are actually used for the goals and objectives of their organizations.

“Foremost, we don’t want NGOs, as what appears to be happening now, to be convenient conduits for corruption and plunder of the people’s resources,” the authors concluded. The HB 3938 is now under consideration jointly by the House Committees on Government Reorganization and People’s Participation.‐bill‐sets‐strict‐regulation‐of‐ngos                                          

5 Nicobar pigeons to be released back to wild in Mindoro ( | Updated March 18, 2014 ‐ 8:00pm 

MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The government will release back into the wild this week five Nicobar pigeons (Caloenas nicobarica) that have been rehabilitated for the last six years in an attempt to augment wild population of the critically endangered bird, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) said today. The Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB) of the DENR said the three female and two male pigeons will be released at the world-famous Apo Reef Natural Park (ARNP) in Occidental Mindoro as part of the national observance of the first-ever World Wildlife Day on Thursday. BMB Director Theresa Mundita Lim said the Nicobar pigeons were rescued from poachers by operatives of the DENR-Region 3 in Pampanga in 2008. The birds were then admitted and rehabilitated at the Wildlife Rescue Center inside the Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center in Quezon City, Metro Manila. Lim said the 34-square kilometer protected area off Sablayan town in Occidental Mindoro is an ideal breeding site for the pigeons. A native of Southeast Asia, Nicobar pigeon (locally known as Siete colores) is named for an archipelagic island chain in the eastern Indian Ocean. The regal-looking bird, considered as one of the most beautiful of the many species of doves, is classified as "near threatened" on the Red List of the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) and listed under Appendix I of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (CITES), which prohibits international trade in specimens of such species.‐nicobar‐pigeons‐be‐released‐back‐wild‐ mindoro            

Bill seeks to require establishments to have CCTV cams By Dennis Carcamo ( | Updated March 18, 2014 ‐ 12:28pm 

MANILA, Philippines - A former police official turned legislator has filed a bill, requiring government offices, schools and business establishments in the country to install CCTV cameras in their premises in a bid to prevent crimes. ACT-CIS partylist Rep. Samuel Pagdilao said House Bill 3835 also aims at solving crimes since CCTV cameras will record the incidents that have happened and may be used to identify offenders. "A potential criminal who becomes aware of the presence of CCTV cameras may prevent or deter such person from committing a criminal act," Pagdilao said. The proposed measure covers banks, department stores, shopping malls, colleges and universities, gasoline stations, pawnshops, lending institutions, convenience stores. Pagdilao said the bill also mandates the local government unit to install CCTV cameras in government buildings, public markets, terminals, plazas, parks and main thoroughfares. The CCTV cameras should be maintained in proper working condition during office hours or even 24 hours under the discretion of the management or officials, he added. Under the bill, the business establishments and LGUs shall retain the recorded digital images for 30 days for review and reference purposes and shall be preserved for one year. The use of video recording as evidence in any civil or criminal case shall be allowed upon written order of a court. Business establishments with P50,000 to P500,000 capitalization are required to put up one digital video recorder, four CCTV cameras and one Infra Red camera with 50 meters range in their premises. Those with P500,000 to P1 million capitalization are mandated to install one digital video recorder, eight CCTV cameras and Infra Red camera with 50 meters range to monitor outer perimeters. Those with capitalization higher than P1 million are required by the measure to install one digital video recorder, 16 CCTV cameras, Infra Red camera with 100-meter range. Violators face a fine of P10,000 and suspension of its business permit while local officials shall be considered as nonfeasance and shall be subject to the proper penalties.‐seeks‐require‐establishments‐have‐cctv‐ cams

National government debt lifts 5 percent in January to P5.59 trillion Category: Banking & Finance 18 Mar 2014 Written by David Cagahastian The national government reported outstanding debt totaling P5.59 trillion as of end-January this year, an increase of P259.27 billion, or 4.9 percent, from figures a year ago. The indebted state of the national government, however, represents a diminution by 1.5 percent or by P87 billion from figures registered at end-December 2013, then totaling only P5.68 trillion. The number is an important indicator of the government’s ability to pay maturing obligations down the line and for this reason is keenly watched by the country’s commercial and bilateral lenders. It is also a closely monitored by all three major sovereign rating firms that include Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s Investor Service and Fitch Ratings. Of the total debt, 35 percent or P1.97 trillion came from foreign creditors; while 65 percent or P3.62 trillion was sourced from domestic creditors. Domestic debt decreased by 3 percent, or P113 billion, from the recorded level as of the end of 2013 which was P3.73 trillion. External debt, meanwhile, increased by 1.3 percent, or P26 billion compared, to the recorded level as of the end of 2013 which was P1.95 trillion. The increase in foreign debt was attributed to currency adjustments. The total national government guaranteed debt amounted to P479 billion, which is 1.6 percent or P9 billion higher than the figures registered by the end of 2013. The Bureau of the Treasury said the higher national government guaranteed debt is due to currency adjustments to the external debts, while a net repayment of P1 billion offset such currency adjustments to arrive at the P9-billion increase in national government guaranteed debt. Hence, domestic national government guaranteed debts remained unchanged from December 2013 to January 2014, while foreign national government guaranteed debts increased by P8.6 billion. Year-on-year, national government guaranteed debt decreased by 1.6 percent from P487.28 billion in January 2013 to P479.49 billion in January 2014.‐finance/29175‐national‐ government‐debt‐lifts‐5‐percent‐in‐january‐to‐p5‐59‐trillion

NCotabato gets award for exceeding rice target ( | Updated March 18, 2014 ‐ 5:28pm 

Moro and Christian rice farmers in North Cotabato have exceeded their production targets in 2013 with  the use of high quality seeds, modern farming techniques, and with the improving security situation in  its 17 towns, and in its capital Kidapawan City. John Unson 

NORTH COTABATO, Philippines – The Department of Agriculture has conferred North Cotabato the “Rice Achievers’ Award” for having exceeded production targets for 2013. The award was also given as a recognition of the provincial government’s promotion of the use of high quality rice seeds and modern farming technology by local peasant communities, according to the DA's Region 12 office in Koronadal City. North Cotabato Gov. Emmylou Taliño-Mendoza , in an emailed statement, said she was delighted by the award as the province won it through the cooperation of various stakeholders. The governor said credit also has to go to the regional office of DA in Region 12 for supporting the provincial government's rice sufficiency programs. Engr. Elly Manglinawan, chief provincial agriculturist, and Renato Cabaya, an incumbent member of the provincial board, received on Friday the award from the DA, with corresponding P4 million worth of special grant for local rice-production projects. Three North Cotabato towns – Tulunan, Midsayap, and Mlang – also got the same awards from DA for having exceeded their respective municipal rice production quota for 2013. The office of Manglinawan, also received an additional P25,000 incentive from DA as North Cotabato surpassed its rice production target for last year.

The local government units of Tulunan, Mlang, and Midsayap also received P25,000 each as reward for municipal agricultural technicians and DA’s field workers who worked to improve the production of rice in their respective areas of assignment. The provinces of Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Kalinga, Mindoro Occidental, Laguna, and Lanao del Norte have also received the Rice Achievers’ Award, based on the volume of rice produced by local farmers last year. - John Unson‐gets‐award‐exceeding‐rice‐target                                        

‘Worst’ teacher schools named; closure urged By Dona Z. Pazzibugan  Philippine Daily Inquirer   9:36 am | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014    17  1676  1636  

Screengrab from MANILA, Philippines—None of their graduates have passed the teachers licensure exams for many consecutive years yet these 17 teacher schools continue to operate. The 17 schools were among 140 teacher schools that had been called out as the “worse and worst-performing” for their consistent low passing rate in the biannual Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET). The schools posted a below-20-percent passing rate in the LET from 2009 to 2013, based on analysis by the Philippine Business for Education (PBEd). The so-called worse and worst-performing schools made up 12 percent of about 1,200 teacher schools in the country. Of the 17 so-called worst-performing schools, mostly private nonsectarian schools, 11 are in Mindanao, two in the Visayas and four in Luzon including one in the capital, Manila. According to the PBEd, four of these schools continue to exist while 10 could not be contacted at their listed phone numbers. Four others had been closed although one of them was reportedly contesting the closure order. The four existing schools are the Universidad de Zamboanga-Ipil (Zamboanga Peninsula) and Unda Memorial National Agricultural School (ARMM) which fielded graduates in the LET elementary division, and the Southern Capital College (Northern Mindanao) and Dr. P. Ocampo Colleges (Soccsksargen) in the LET secondary division. The 10 schools that could not be contacted were the South Upi College (ARMM), Sultan Kudarat Educational Institution (Soccsksargen), Camarines Norte State College-Labo (Bicol)

and the Camarines Sur Community College (Bicol) in the elementary division; the Datu Mala Muslim Mindanao Islamic College Foundation Inc. (ARMM), Southwestern Mindanao Islamic Institute (ARMM), Southern Bukidnon Foundation Academy (Northern Mindanao), Dansalan Polytechnic College (ARMM), Southway College of Technology (Caraga) and the Wesleyan College of Manila (National Capital Region). Those that have been closed are the Asian College of Science and Technology-Dumaguete (Central Visayas), La Consolacion College-Biñan (Calabarzon) and St. Joseph College Inc.Amaya (Calabarzon) which has reportedly contested its closure. Alarmed at the study findings, the PBEd urged the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to close down the programs of teacher education institutions (TEIs) that have consistently performed “poorly” for five years. Read more:‐teacher‐schools‐named‐closure‐ urged#ixzz2wNJrPgyn   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                               

Asean integration seen to benefit Phl banks By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Philippine banks are expected to benefit from the financial integration program of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) set for full implementation by 2020. “We think this is going to lead to greater market opportunities, (and) at the same time will generate more competition,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in an economic forum. “This will also allow greater exchange of technology and innovation and lead to more efficient banks,” he said. The Asean aims to create an integrated economic community by 2015. The Asean Banking Integration Framework (ABIF), which aims to achieve parity of rules and regulation across the 10 countries of the Asean so that banks in the region can begin to operate not as foreign banks but as local banks in any of the 10 Asean jurisdictions, is expected to be implemented by 2020. “The objective of the ABIF is to come up with strong, well-managed banks in the Asean region and one of the things that would help do this is to allow greater competition and greater access to markets within the ASEAN region and even to markets outside member jurisdictions,” Tetangco said. Philippine banks have been raising capital and aggressively expanding in preparation for the Southeast Asian banking integration. However, local banks still pale in comparison with other Asean banks in terms of assets and capital. BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo earlier said the assets of the top three Philippine banks are only as big as that of Thailand’s Bangkok Bank, and half of the assets owned by Malaysia’s Maybank.

The Philippine banking system’s total assets, meanwhile, amounts to only about 70 percent of Singapore’s DBS assets. In terms of capital, the top three Philippine banks’ figure is again about the same as Bangkok Bank’s total capital. The entire Philippine banking system’s capital, meanwhile, is only slightly above that of DBS’ and Maybank’s. There is also a Qualified Asean Bank Framework being studied and this refer to those banks allowed to operate in other jurisdictions subject to conditions. Tetangco in December stressed the BSP will ensure a level playing field between local banks and bigger foreign banks in line with the upcoming regional banking integration.‐integration‐seen‐benefit‐phl‐banks                                 

Islamic banking rules to be released this yr By Kathleen Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - Guidelines on Islamic banking may be released by the central bank as early as this year, a Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas official said yesterday. “We’re trying to fast track it. It’s hard to commit to a date... (but) definitely within the (BSP) Governor’s term. Much sooner than that,” central bank Deputy Governor Nestor Espenilla told reporters yesterday. “The initiative is something that’s a priority so we want to be supportive of that process,” he added. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr., whose term ends on July 2, 2017, last week said the central bank is already drafting a general law for the establishment and regulation of Islamic banks in the country. Islamic finance is based on the Shariah or Islamic Law and one of the main differences of Islamic banking from conventional one is doing away with interest or fees for loans. Espenilla explained that the central bank is continuously validating “assumptions” contained in the draft in order to take into account markets’ expectations. “You need a financial product that’s credible and that’s responsive to the target markets. To be able to achieve this, you need to reach out to the grassroots because it’s important for them,” Espenilla said. “Principles that need to be embedded in this and the sensitivity to the religious requirements need to be factored in... There are prohibited activities that are contrary to religion. Those need to be factored in,” he continued. The BSP is working on a draft regulation for Islamic banks as the law only allows for one, specifically the Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines, to operate in the country. The central bank believes creating a responsive Islamic banking system will also help support economic development in the country especially in Mindanao. “Islamic banking is not just for Muslims. There’s something for non-Muslims who may like the value proposition of Islamic banking products,” Espenilla said.

DoubleDragon tapping debt market to raise P3B By Neil Jerome C. Morales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 19, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

MANILA, Philippines - The soon-to-be-listed property firm of Mang Inasal founder Edgar “Injap” Sia II and Jollibee Foods owner Tony Tan Caktiong is tapping the debt market to raise at least P3 billion in the next few months. Fresh capital from the bond and notes issuance will bankroll majority of the firm’s programmed P6.35-billion capital spending this year, its top official said. “A few months after the listing, we will be working with underwriters again to possibly offer bonds, notes or a combination to raise the P6.35-billion funds needed for the CityMall project,” Sia said. “We’re looking at the first tranche of P3 billion in the next few months,” he said. DoubleDragon will sell 579.73 million primary shares at a maximum price of P2 apiece, allowing the company to raise P1.15 billion. Excluding costs such as listing and underwriting fees, the company expects to raise P1.03 billion. DoubleDragon is jumpstarting this year its P24-billion program to become the largest community malls chain in the Philippines. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1  

“For this year, we need P6.35 billion and a total of P24 billion for the next five to six years,” Sia said. DoubleDragon aims to reach one million square meters (sqm) of total leasable space portfolio by 2020, of which 700,000 sqm is expected from the planned 100 CityMall community malls, mostly in the Visayas and Mindanao. Sia said the initial public offering (IPO) will increase the desirability and rates for DoubleDragon’s bond or notes. At a 12 to 15 percent annual yield for its community malls, DoubleDragon can easily pay the debts with interest rates of four to five percent, he said. In the medium term, recurring income through the office towers and CityMall will account for 70 percent of earnings, Sia said. In 2013, DoubleDragon’s net income jumped 32 percent to P126.63 million from P92.48 million, almost entirely coming from residential sales.

“The demand is strong even up to the high side [of the indicative IPO price],” said Eduardo Francisco, president of underwriter BDO Capital & Investment Corp. Unicapital Securities Inc. and RCBC Capital Corp. are also facilitating the IPO. “We seek to give back to our shareholders by adopting a dividend policy of up to 30 percent of unappropriated and unrestricted net income after tax,” Sia said. DoubleDragon was initially created as Injap Land Corp., the real estate arm of Injap Investments Inc., in 2009. In July 2012, it was renamed DoubleDragon as it became a 50-50 joint venture between Injap Investments and Honeystar Holdings Corp. of Tan Caktiong.‐tapping‐debt‐market‐raise‐p3b                                    

Angara denies giving P20M pork to fake NGO Philippine Daily Inquirer   5:18 am | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014  

Former Senator Edgardo Angara. FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Former Sen. Edgardo Angara on Tuesday denied allocating through state-run National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) P20 million of his pork barrel funds to an allegedly fake nongovernment organization (NGO). Angara was one of the senators named in the official documents that former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Vicente Cacal submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman purportedly showing that P1.7 billion in pork barrel allocations was coursed to Nabcor for funneling to dubious NGOs from 2007 to 2009. “We take exception with the mention of former Sen. Edgardo J. Angara in a recent news article as having endorsed the bogus NGO, Kagandahan ng Kapiligiran Foundation Inc., and having allegedly allocated P20 million of his Priority Development Assistance Fund to KKFI,” Angara’s chief of staff Mina Pangandaman said in a statement. “That story is a rehash of earlier unverified COA assertions, which we have already categorically refuted,” she said. Pangandaman said Angara was in Brussels to attend a conference. “Speaking as the senator’s chief of staff at the time, I clearly state that we have thoroughly reviewed our documentation of PDAF allocations from 2009 to 2010. None show that any release was made to a Davao-based NGO through Nabcor—let alone one amounting to P20 million,” Pangandaman said. “We are curious as to how a big sum of money got credited as part of our PDAF, and supposedly for an organization that we did not even know about,” she added.

Pangandaman said Angara and his office were not involved in any wrongdoing and that “the assertions made in the news article are outright falsehoods.” “The Commission on Audit had already been informed of this sometime last year. For the sake of truth and fairness, we request to rectify this misinformation,” Pangandaman said. Former ABA-AKO partylist Rep. Leonardo Q. Montemayor explained in an e-mail to the Inquirer that the P10 million that was downloaded to the Federation of Free Farmers Cooperatives (FFFC) through Nabcor did not come from his PDAF allocation. He recalled that on June 30, 2009, then Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap allocated P10 million out of the Department of Agriculture’s livestock, crops and fisheries program to support integrated livelihood projects. Montemayor admitted he had endorsed the project as the “representative of the ABA-AKO party-list coalition of small farmers and urban poor organizations in the (previous) 14th Congress.” He said that implementation of this particular ABA-AKO project was undertaken by FFFC. Established in 1966, the FFFC is registered with the Cooperative Development Authority and is certified as a national secondary cooperative “in good standing,” he said.—With reports from Norman Bordadora and Michael Lim Ubac Read more:‐denies‐giving‐p20m‐pork‐to‐fake‐ ngo#ixzz2wNORMEJp   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                     

DA asked to explain P30M Nabcor bonus by Genalyn Kabiling  March 19, 2014 (updated)  

Manila, Philippines — Malacañang has directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to explain a Commission on Audit (COA) report showing its alleged misuse of government funds. The audit agency reportedly discovered the agriculture department had unlawfully spent around P30 million for the bonuses of the board of directors of the National Agribusiness Corp. (Nabcor) as well as the hiring of a financial advisor. “The allegation cites the 2012-2013 COA report. The Department of Agriculture is required to explain the findings of such report,” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. Coloma said the agriculture department must also inform COA of the actions take to address such findings. “We will let the Department of Agriculture respond to the findings contained in the COA report,” he said. In the COA report, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala allegedly approved the release of some P23.6 million in bonuses for the NABCOR board in April 2012 despite the company’s financial losses. The agriculture department also supposedly hired a private lawyer to serve as financial advisor for P10.3 million without rendering actual services. COA reportedly claimed such transaction was irregular and unnecessary. Alcala has reportedly denied any knowledge of the alleged irregularities but promised to look into the questioned transactions. Meanwhile, Senator Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara yesterday expressed confidence that his father, former Senator Edgardo Angara, would face allegations against him stemming from release of his Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) through the National AgriBusiness Corporation (Nabcor). Angara noted that his father’s name cropped up in the revelations of two former Nabcor employees about the questionable release of PDAF allocations of more than 80 lawmakers to dubious non-government organizations. “I’m concerned but I’m pretty confident that he can answer these charges against him,” Angara said in an interview over ANC.

“His name came out in the full report, but the COA commissioner said just appearing in the COA report is not evidence of criminal involvement,” he said. The former senator is among the legislators who allegedly funneled their pork barrel funds to questionable NGOs. But so far only incumbent senators—Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce-Enrile and Senators Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. have been accused of plunder over allegations they received kickbacks from their pork barrel funds allocated to bogus NGOs controlled by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. According to Angara, his father is out of the country but assured he is not “hiding.” “He was one of the first to have a school-feeding program so he got very respectable people. He was able to raise funds for the program,” he said. “I’m confident he can answer them, these issues,” Angara said.‐asked‐to‐explain‐p30m‐nabcor‐bonus/                              

Santiago wants 2 ex‐Nabcor execs to testify in pork probe By Maila Ager   4:19 pm | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014  

Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago. AFP FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago wants the two former officials of the National Agri-Businesss Corporation (Nabcor) summoned into the Senate blue ribbon committee’s investigation on the “pork barrel” scam. The two are Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal, who had reportedly executed affidavits pertaining to the P1.7 billion “pork barrel funds” that had been allegedly funnelled by four senators and 79 representatives to questionable non-government organizations through Nabcor. “Mendoza and Cacal should appear before the blue ribbon committee’s ongoing hearing on the pork barrel scam, to testify and submit documents on the criminal involvement of the lawmakers implicated in the scam,” Santiago said in filing Senate Resolution 575, directing the committee to immediately summon Mendoza and Cacal. “They can also testify on how the loopholes in the disbursement of government funds are exploited in order for public officials to plunder public funds,” the senator further said in the resolution. Santiago filed another resolution, also directing the committee to include in its ongoing investigation on the pork scam “the expenses involving public funds with the detention of Janet Lim-Napoles.”

Napoles, who has been detained at the Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna, is the alleged mastermind of the P10 billion pork barrel scam. Santiago had earlier noted that the government was spending P150,000 a month for Napoles compared to a measly P1,612 being spent for a regular detainee. She then urged the government to compel Napoles to choose either to stay in an ordinary jail at government expense or stay in an “enhanced facility” but at her own expense. Read more:‐wants‐2‐ex‐nabcor‐execs‐to‐testify‐in‐pork‐ probe#ixzz2wNSE2IkP   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                     

New Zealand donates $2.5M for ‘Yolanda’ hit farmers by Roy Mabasa  March 18, 2014  

New Zealand will provide $2.5 million to the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) to help farmers recover from typhoon Yolanda (Haiyan). According to New Zealand’s Civil Defense Minister Nikki Kaye, who is currently visiting the Philippines, the contribution will help restore the livelihoods of 128,000 vulnerable households in rural areas affected by the killer storm that devastated parts of the Visayas in November last year. The donation will support FAO’s program which focuses on crops (rice and corn), coconuts, forestry, livestock (pigs, poultry and buffalo) and fisheries restoration, said Kaye. It will see seeds, tools and livestock distributed to farmers, as well as providing training in agricultural techniques. “Over time the aim is to increase agricultural production, secure and diversify food sources, improve technical knowledge and establish a pre-emergency level of income for affected households,” the New Zealand official said. Kaye’s announcement bring New Zealand’s total contribution to the Philippines following typhoon Yolanda to around $7.5 million. “Typhoon Haiyan was one of the most devastating storms in recent history and it is estimated that almost 6 million workers’ livelihoods were destroyed, lost or disrupted,” Kaye said in a statement. “New Zealand knows first-hand how hard responding to natural disasters can be. We also understand that supporting individuals to restore their livelihoods is critical to the long-term recovery of communities,” she added. Kaye will head to China after her visit here. She is scheduled to return to New Zealand next weekend.‐zealand‐donates‐2‐5m‐for‐yolanda‐hit‐farmers/      

Vietnam eyes Philippines’ rice demand by Reuters  March 18, 2014 (updated)  

Vietnam is now eyeing the Philippines’ plan to import as much as 800,000 tonnes of rice via a government-to-government deal in a tender that may be held before the end of March.

Demand from Philippines, one of the world’s top rice buyers could support Asian prices of the grain, with Vietnam and Thailand likely to compete aggressively for any new deal. (File photo by Mark Balmores) Purchases by one of the world’s top rice buyers could support Asian prices of the grain, with Vietnam and Thailand likely to compete aggressively for any new deal. Vietnam’s 5 percent broken rice edged up to $380-$385 a tonne, free-on-board basis, on Monday from $370-$375 last week, thanks to the government’s approval of the stockpiling plan and the possible purchase by the Philippines, traders said. Several traders in Vietnam said Manila could open the tender this week, but a spokesman at the National Food Authority, the Philippines’ state grains procurement agency, said it was still waiting for government approval and has yet to finalise any dates. Manila, the biggest buyer of Vietnamese rice so far this year, is expected to take delivery of the grain between April and June, a trader in Vietnam said, before the Philippines’ lean growing season from July to September. The winter-spring crop in southern Vietnam, incorporating the Mekong Delta food basket, is expected to yield 11.7 million tonnes of paddy, up 1 percent from last year, according to the Agriculture Ministry.‐eyes‐philippines‐rice‐demand/

Sin Tax Law has reduced tobacco use by Jenny F. Manongdo  March 18, 2014  

The sin tax law has significantly reduced tobacco consumption in the Philippines, particularly among young Filipinos, a coalition of health, medical and youth groups yesterday revealed. The 24 groups that supported the passage of the Sin Tax Law or RA 10351 said as early as last year, cigarette volume removals from tobacco manufacturing plants declined by 15.5 percent from 5.8 million Packs in 2012 to 4.9 million packs in 2013 as revealed by Finance Undersecretary Jeremias Paul in a recent congressional oversight committee hearing. The coalition cited the words of National Tobacco Administration head Edgardo Zaragoza during the hearing who affirmed ‘the best indicator as to the consumption of cigarettes will be the removals, because that will be the demand side.” The groups that supported the passage of the sin tax law include Action for Economic Reforms, Philippine Cancer Society, Philippine Rheumatology Association, Woman health Philippines, University of the Philippines, Philippine College of physicians, Philippine Society of Nephrology and the Philippine College of Chest Physicians among others. In a statement, the groups also cited a tobacco survey conducted last December by the Department of Health National Epidemiology Center and AER that revealed the decrease of weekly cigarette consumption among 304 Cotabato City smokers.‐tax‐law‐has‐reduced‐tobacco‐use/                    

Pangasinan black sand mine case: NBI help sought in probe Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:03 am | Wednesday, March 19th, 2014  

PART of the stockpile of magnetite sand found by environment authorities in a private port in Sual, Pangasinan province, and which was transported allegedly without permits. Photo was taken on March 10. CONTRIBUTED PHOTO Environment Secretary Ramon Paje said his department would definitely support the recommendation to deny the application for an environment compliance certificate (ECC) by Xypher Builders Inc. “In the first place, they are not mining. They are only building a golf course, so why are they applying for a [permit for a] mineral-processing plant?” he said. Paje said the magnetite extracted from the construction was only incidental and not a result of an approved mining operation, and “thus the minerals should be turned over to the state.” He further noted that no mining would actually be allowed in the area as it was on the shoreline, and therefore a “no go zone.” “That shipment to Sual was illegal. I want to know who gave the permit for the shipment to leave the port,” Paje said. The Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) in northern Luzon discovered that Xypher Builders, which was tapped to build a golf course in Lingayen as part of a provincial ecotourism project, had shipped out magnetite from its stockpile to a private port in Sual.

Paje said the Anti-Illegal Mining Task Force of the National Bureau of Investigation would spearhead the investigation. “That will form part of the NBI probe. Xypher does not have the environmental compliance certificate to operate its mineral-processing plant as well as for its marine-loading facility,” he added.

The shipment to Sual was made despite an existing cease-and-desist order from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) on black sand mining within the Lingayen golf course project. The DENR earlier issued the order against Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders to prevent magnetite, or black sand, mining along the coastal areas of Lingayen Gulf in Sabangan, Malimpuec, Capandanan and Estanza. It also ordered Xypher to pay P50,000 as a penalty for operating without an ECC, which the company eventually secured for the golf course project but not for the mineral-processing plant or for its marine-loading facility. “If the company continues with the extraction of black sand, then we will be forced to issue another cease-and-desist order,” said Joel Salvador, EMB Ilocos regional director, in a report to the head office of the EMB on March 12. Xypher admitted that it transferred 1,000 metric tons of black sand to a private port in Sual town, but said there was nothing irregular about the activity. “[There was] one, single instance when the transfer of 1,000 MT of materials was effected in August 2012. After that, there was no other subsequent transfer of any kind of material from the ecotourism zone in Lingayen,” the firm said in a statement. But in examining Xypher’s property, the EMB discovered the stockpile of black sand. In a March 11 memorandum to Paje, the EMB recommended the investigation of Xypher because of the magnetite stockpile. Salvador also recommended the denial of Xypher’s ECC application. “That particular transfer was made only after a field verification report was conducted by the Mines and Geosciences Bureau, which served as basis for the payment of required taxes, and consequently, the issuance of an ore transport permit (OTP),” said Belen Rocheford, Xypher Builders president, in the company statement distributed to reporters by the Pangasinan provincial information office on Monday.

Salvador said the existence of the stockpile indicated that the company had been operating a mineral-processing plant before it applied for permits. Reports from DJ Yap in Manila, and Yolanda Sotelo, Inquirer Northern Luzon Read more:‐black‐sand‐mine‐case‐nbi‐help‐sought‐in‐ probe#ixzz2wNdNfjZf   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                         

Eastern Samar displaced fishermen assisted by Nestor L. Abrematea  March 18, 2014 (updated)  

Dolores, Eastern Samar – Fifty fishermen from three barangays of this coastal municipality facing the Pacific Ocean will soon be able to revive their damaged livelihood from the new pump boats and fishing equipment they are set to receive. Mayor Emiliana P. Villacarillo said the local government of Dolores has received a P2- million assistance from Eastern Samar Rep. Ben P. Evardone for the purchase of fishing boats and equipment intended for the 50 fishermen whose fishing boats were damaged at the height of super typhoon Yolanda last November 8, 2013.

HOPE FOR THE HOPELESS – A fisherman from Barangay Hilabaan, Dolores town in Eastern Samar, shown in photo with his sons, fixes a fishing net while on a fishing boat donated by the Rotary Club of Makati-Dasmariñas through Mayor Emiliana P. Villacarillo and the latter’s daughter, Atty. Aika Villacarillo Alday. The fishermen is one of about 100 from Barangay Hilabaan who lost their fishing boats and nets, and thus, their livelihood when super typhoon Yolanda. Nestor L.Abrematea Villacarillo said the amount was sourced by Evardone from the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) in Manila to help victims of the super typhoon revive their livelihood. She said the beneficiaries of the fishing boats and equipment will come from the island barangays of Hilabaan, Tikling and Kaybani, all which are coastal barangays facing the Pacific Ocean. Villacarillo said the Dolores local government unit will assist them as fishing is their only livelihood and they will also undergo gardening to raise vegetables which can augment their income to support them when they encounter bad weather.

Earlier, 499 fishermen from Barangay Hilabaan, Dolores town were also made beneficiaries of fishing boats and equipment donated by the Rotary Club of Makati- Dasmarinas (RCMD) after their houses were washed out at the height of the super typhoon.‐samar‐displaced‐fishermen‐assisted/                                            

$123.90‐M Development projects up in 225 Mindanao towns by Alexander D. Lopez  March 18, 2014  

Davao City – The World Bank (WB) is now reviewing the programs and components of the Mindanao Rural Development Program (MRDP) to fast-track the process of implementation, and record the progress of the initiative. The MRDP is a poverty alleviation initiative being implemented by the Department of Agriculture (DA) in the 225 towns of Mindanao – with a total funding of $123.90 million. The MRDP’s funding is sourced out from the $83.752-million loan portfolio from the WB, and the equity share of the national government and partner local government units (LGUs). The information office of MRDP said the bank’s review will look into the implementation of the various program components under the MRDP. “This is the 11th review mission of the World Bank since we started in 2007. This is conducted semi-annually to report our progress and see how we fare in the implementation based on our targets, and further look into means to improve and fast-track the completion of the subprojects,” MRDP Program Director Lealyn Ramos said. Previous review missions of the WB had given the program satisfactory ratings, citing better disbursement systems and on-track implementation of various subprojects. “The review mission seeks to continue assisting the DA in achieving the project objectives by assessing the projects performance status, and trajectory as the program is expected to end by December, this year,” Ramos added. Ramos said the MRDP program aims to boost the income and productivity of the small farmers and fishermen. The MRDP also assists various LGUs in Mindanao in improving their capacities to deliver basic agricultural services to their constituents. It was learned that the program already achieved 85.26 percent overall physical accomplishments of its implemented program components. Among the achievements are in the field of rural infrastructure with 84.25 percent, the community fund for agricultural development with 87.55 percent, and the natural resources management with 88.87 percent.

SC asked to stop Manila court from releasing rice imports without permit By Tetch Torres‐Tupas   8:35 pm | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014  

Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) asked the Supreme Court to stop the Manila Regional Trial Court from implementing its orders allowing the release of 189,540 bags of rice that arrived last year in Manila port without the proper documents. In a 78-page petition for certiorari, the DA and BOC through Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza also urged the high court to uphold the validity of National Food Authority Memorandum Circular No. AO-2K13-03-003 and the NFA Council resolution No. 670-2013 requiring rice imports to be covered by import permits despite the lifting of the World Trade Organization’s special treatment on quantitative restrictions for rice on June 30, 2012. Government lawyers said Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. abused its discretion when he issued his orders dated Jan. 23, 2014 and Feb. 27, 2014 and his amended order dated Feb. 28, 2014 that stopped the BOC and the district of collectors for the ports of Manila, North Harbor (Manila International Container Port) and South Harbors from alerting, seizing, and holding not only the rice shipments of St. Hildegard Grains Enterprises but also of Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise owned by Ivy Souza, the original consignee of the rice shipments. The importers initiated the complaint before the Manila RTC after the BOC refused to release the said shipments for failure to produce the required import permits. Jardeleza said the lower court, in allowing the release of the shipments has deprived the government of due process especially that Bold Bidder is not even a party to the case.

“Indeed, Bold Bidder Marketing and General Mechandise did not participate in the proceedings. Thus, it is perplexing that respondent Judge would issue an order granting relief to a person not even asking for it,” the OSG pointed out. “The respondent Judge in issuing the questioned order, violated a very basic rule when he issued the writ of preliminary injunction in favor of a non-party. It is basic that no man shall be affected by any proceeding to which he is a stranger, and strangers to a case are not bound by judgment rendered by the court,” the OSG added. Jardeleza said only member-states may bring suits in relation to any violation of the agreement and not a private entity. He also insisted the authority of the NFA to require import permits for rice importations did not cease upon the expiration of the special treatment. The government noted the Philippines had already submitted a third revision of its request for waiver relating to special treatment for rice of the Philippines. Since it requested for a waiver, Jardeleza noted that nine interested WTO member-states have initiated negotiations with the Philippine government. “Currently, the Philippines’s formal request for a waiver of its WTO obligation or the extension of the Special treatment on rice importation remains pending with the WTO. To date, the country’s request for extension has not been denied,” the Solicitor General said. “With the on-going negotiations for a waiver, there is effectively acquiescence by interested WTO member countries to the continued imposition of quantitative restrictions on rice by the Philippines,” Jardeleza said Read more:‐asked‐to‐stop‐manila‐court‐from‐releasing‐rice‐ imports‐without‐permit#ixzz2wNl70wlD   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 


P30‐M Bridge in Ilocos Sur promises agri dev’t by Ellalyn De Vera  March 18, 2014  

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has turned over a P30.45-million bridge project to farmer-beneficiaries in Ilocos Sur, expecting it to provide a faster and more convenient transport of agricultural products in the region. Provincial Agrarian Reform Program Officer (PARPO) Christianne Suguitan said the infrastructure project, called Binnuyog Bridge, has a span of 71.70-meters connecting Taclin agrarian reform community (ARC) in Banayoyo to Salvador ARC in Candon, Ilocos Sur. The project was jointly funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), DAR and the local government of Banayoyo implemented under Agrarian Reform Infrastructure Support Project (ARISP). The farmers said the bridge will give them better access to basic services like health, technology, and education. Likewise, DAR launched the construction of a warehouse facility worth P5.9 million for the agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) of Rizal, Cagayan. The post-harvest facility will consist of a 60-square meter warehouse with a 2,000-cavan capacity, a 48-square meter office, and a 450-square meter solar dryer. DAR Regional Director Marjorie Ayson said the farmers had suffered spoilage of harvested crops due to lack of proper storage facilities. Ayson added that during summer, it takes at least two days for the farmers to traverse the rough roads to bring their produce to the market. It takes them longer days during the rainy season when the roads are deep with thick mud.‐m‐bridge‐in‐ilocos‐sur‐promises‐agri‐devt/          

New rules in excise tax benefit tobacco farmers by Freddie G. Lazaro  March 18, 2014  

Laoag City, Ilocos Norte — The national government has assured more benefits to tobacco growers once the enhanced rules on the use of tobacco excise tax collections are completed for implementation. National Tobacco Administration (NTA) Administrator Edgardo D. Zaragoza said yesterday that the rules on Local Government Units’ (LGUs) availing of their shares from the excise tax collection is aimed at making the implementation of programs and projects more transparent. “With the new rules and regulations in the release and utilization of funds, the farmers and other industry stakeholders are given the chance to provide input in the preparation of the master plan for the development of the industry,” he said. Last Friday, Zaragoza met some local executives and other public officials at the Ilocos Norte Provincial Capitol in Laoag City. Zaragoza clarified the LGUs are still the ones that will choose the programs and projects they want and implement them. “That discretion is not taken away by the new Sin Tax Law and its implementing rules,” he said, adding that the LGUs will still directly take charge of the funds. But Zaragoza told local chief executives that the procedure for the release of the funds could have been changed based on the guidelines on the release of funds set by the national government. Part of the IRR mandates the Department of Agriculture (DA) and the NTA to institutionalize mechanisms to monitor the utilization LGUs share in terms of benefits derived in accomplishing the purposes for which the tobacco excise tax was created. “Our consultation with the local leaders is an initiative to ensure that tobacco excise tax funds are properly implemented benefitting the tobacco farmers more, which further assures that these tobacco funds would really propel the progress of the tobacco-producing areas and at the same time this would sustain the industry,” he said.‐rules‐in‐excise‐tax‐benefit‐tobacco‐farmers/    

Smuggling may mask PH vulnerability Credit Suisse flags trade, current account data  By Paolo G. Montecillo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:07 am | Tuesday, March 18th, 2014  

Rampant smuggling in the economy may be hiding weaknesses in the country’s current account surplus, which economic managers have repeatedly cited as one of the domestic economy’s main shields from turbulent market conditions abroad. In a new report published this week, financial giant Credit Suisse said the country’s wide trade deficit may be being masked by unreliable data on imported goods, which may give policymakers a false sense of comfort. “We found that there is a sizeable difference between the trade balance numbers as reported by the Philippines and some of its trading partners, with the latter generally recording a larger trade deficit than the former,” Credit Suisse said. “In addition, the trade balance gaps have been widening since 2007 for some trading partners such as Japan, Korea and Taiwan. One potential, but perhaps incomplete, explanation for this divergence in trade numbers lies in the presence of significant smuggling activity into the Philippines,” it said. The bank said discrepancies between the export numbers reported by several trading partners and imports from those same countries as reported by the government was a “valid” cause of concern.

The country’s current account—or income from trade of goods and services with other countries, and remittances from overseas Filipino workers —has repeatedly been cited as one of the main strengths of the domestic economy. The current account surplus for 2013 likely reached $11.3 billion based on projections by the Development Budget Coordinating Committee. This year, this surplus is expected to narrow slightly to $10.4 billion. A surplus means more money entered the country than came in. This surplus helps ensure the availability of foreign exchange in the economy, which reduces the need for companies to buy dollars from abroad to pay for their foreign-denominated expenses. Credit Suisse said the country’s recent economic boom, driven largely by domestic consumption, should have led higher imports, which should have put pressure on the country’s trade balance.

Last year, the Philippine economy grew by 7.2 percent or better than the 6.8-percent growth the year before. Domestic consumption accounts for about two-thirds of domestic output. Read more:‐may‐mask‐ph‐vulnerability#ixzz2wNmr1hJ7   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook                                             

More jobs in factories, farms to reduce unemployment by Senator Manny Villar  March 18, 2014  

The updated Philippine Development Plan (PDP), which sets targets on economic growth for the next two years, identifies manufacturing and agriculture as two areas that are expected to contribute significantly to generating employment and reducing poverty. To achieve these targets, which have been revised downwards, may be difficult given the time constraints. However, in my view, promoting agriculture and industries, particularly the manufacturing sub-sector, should be a continuing program because of the impact of these sectors on employment and consequently, on the poverty problem.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) had earlier cited the contribution of the industry sector in the 7.2 percent growth of the Philippines’ Gross Domestic Product (GDP), which measures economic performance, in 2013. NEDA said that in the industry sector, manufacturing served as the frontrunner, posting a 12.3 percent growth in the fourth quarter, more than twice the 5.5 percent growth in the same quarter in 2012. For the whole of 2013, manufacturing grew by 10.5 percent. Manufacturing also contributed to the 9.3 percent growth of merchandise exports in January 2014 and helped offset the decline in exports of major commodities. The value of merchandise exports, according to NEDA, increased to $4.4 billion in January, 2014, from $4 billion in the same month last year. Earnings from manufactured goods like electronic products, machinery and transport equipment, garments, and other products amounted to $3.8 billion, up 15.3 percent year-on-year. Agriculture, on the other hand, is the key to reducing the hunger and poverty rate, which is one of the United Nations’ eight Millennium Development Goals. The latest report on the unemployment problem has added significance to the need to focus on industry and agriculture. Based on the Labor Force Survey (LFS) of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the country’s unemployment rate worsened to 7.5 percent in January, 2014, from 7.1 percent in the same

month last year. This translates to 2.969 million jobless Filipinos in January, 2014, compared with 2.776 million in January, 2013. Workers in the services sector comprised the largest proportion of the population who are employed: 54.1 percent of the total 36.42 million employed as of January, 2014. Workers in the agriculture sector comprised the second largest group or 30.0 percent, while workers in the industry sector made up 15.9 percent of the total employed. Workers in the manufacturing subsector comprised 53.3 percent of workers in the industry sector, while those in construction accounted for 40.5 percent. The LFS did not identify the number of unemployed workers based on the three major categories. Based on educational attainment, however, the survey showed that 34 percent of the unemployed were high school graduates, 13.3 percent were college undergraduates and 19.8 percent were college graduates. Most of the jobs offered at the fairs sponsored both by government agencies and the private sector are from call centers and other business process outsourcing companies, and most of the applicants who flock to these fairs are college graduates or undergraduates. Jobless people who finished high school, as well as dropouts, usually look for jobs in manufacturing, like machine operators, or jobs that require only physical health and which provide training on simple processing tasks. Jobs in the agriculture will have basically the same educational attainment, except for the highly technical positions like those in engineering or research and development. Thus, reducing unemployment in manufacturing and agriculture should be easier than in sectors that require college or even master’s degrees. This is significant considering the high unemployment rate in the industry and agriculture sectors, and the high poverty rate among people in the farms and fisheries. (To be continued) (For comments/feedback email to: or visit‐jobs‐in‐factories‐farms‐to‐reduce‐unemployment/              

KUNG SABAGAY: Ikulong kung nagkasala        Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00 

        written by  Amado Macasaet 

Ipinahahayag ni Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima sa pamamagitan ng advertisement sa mga diario na halos lahat daw ng doctor ay nandaraya sa buwis. Wala naman siyang matukoy na pangalan. Ibig sabihin wala siyang ebidensya ng pandaraya laban sa kahit isang doctor. Halos lahat daw sila ay nandaraya sa buwis. Sino sila? Walang matukoy na pangalan si Purisima. Si Purisma ay marunong na tao. Naging secretary of finance din siya ni Gloria Arroyo pero umalis kasama si Dinky Soliman dahil hindi niya matiis ang kurapsyon sa pamahalaan ni GMA. Hindi siya naging mabangis sa pagsingil ng buwis noong panahong iyon. Marahil alam niya na babaligtarin siya ni GMA kung may magreklamo na mga professional lalo na ang mga doctor. Sobra ang lakas ni Purisima kay Pangulong Aquino. Pinababayaan siya na iligtas sa pananagutan sa buwis ang Mighty Corp. samantalang tinutugis ang mga doctor. Ang tamang proseso ay bulatlatin ang libro ng kita at gastos ng lahat. Kung lumabas na nandaraya sila sa pagbabayad ng buwis, singilin sila kaagad. Kung hindi magbayad, ilitin ang mga ari-arian kung ito ang desisyon ng korte, ang Court of Tax Appeals.

Sinabi ko sa isang column sa Business Insight na puwedeng mademanda si Purisima ng libel sa ginagawa niya. Mali pala ako. Walang doctor na may karapatang magdemanda ng libel dahil hindi tinutukoy ni Purisima ang kanilang pangalan. Sa palagay ba ni Purisima, kusang aamin ang mga professional na nandaraya sila sa buwis kahit hindi naman binabanggit ang kani-kanilang pangalan? Marami rin daw sa mga nagle-lechon ang hindi nagbabayad ng tamang buwis. Wala ring matukoy na pangalan. Kaya wala siyang ma-ireport na nagbayad. Si Purisima mismo ang nag-utos sa Bureau of Customs at Bureau of Internal Revenue na imbestigahan ang maraming report na nandaraya sa buwis ang Mighty Corporation, isang cigarette maker na biglang lumaki sa panahon ng mataas ang buwis. Sinuway ang kanyang utos. Hindi siya nagalit. Kaya hanggang ngayon walang nakakaalam kung nandaraya nga o hindi ang Mighty Corp. Ayaw malaman ni BIR Commissioner Kim Jacinto Henares. Sinuspendi ng customs ang lisensya ng Mighty na mag-operate ng customs bonded warehouse. Sinabi sa akin ng isang tagaloob ng Mighty na matagal na raw hindi ginagamit ng Mighty ang bonded warehouse. Ano ang sinuspendi ng customs? Wala. Gumagawa ng drama para palabasin na tumupad ang customs sa utos ni Purisima. Lumalabas na protektado ni Purisima at ni Kim Jacinto Henares ang Mighty. Pinababayaan ni Purisima na magtamasa ang Mighty sa proteksyon. May record na pinagmulta ang Mighty ng tatlong states sa United States sa paglabag sa kanikanilang batas. Hindi man lang pinansin ng pamahalaang Aquino ang sinasabing pandaraya. Nakakahiya! Maraming impormasyon na nandaraya ang Mighty sa buwis sa Pilipinas. Para maging matibay na ebidensya ang impormasyon na iyan, ‘di ba dapat imbestigahan ang Mighty? Ayaw kumilos ang BIR. Ayaw ring pilitin o utusan ni Purisima si Mrs. Henares na mag-imbestiga. Mga doctor at iba pang professional ang pinagbibintangan na nandaraya sa buwis. Bakit ganito ang nangyayari? May isang kumpanya, ang Mighty Corporation na sinasabing nandaraya sa buwis. Ayaw bulatlatin ni Mrs. Henares ang libro nito para mapatunayan na nandaraya nga o hindi.

Ang tinutugis at inilalagay sa malaking kahihiyan ay ang mga doctor. ‘Di ba dapat tugisin ang sino man tulad ng Mighty Corp. na sinasabing nandaraya bago habulin ang mga doctor at pagbintangan na nandaraya kahit walang pruweba? Ayon sa congresswoman ng Nueva Ecija, aabot daw sa P27 billion ang nadaya ng Mighty sa buwis. ‘Di ba dapat ang Mighty ang usigin bago tugisin ang mga doctor? Malaking “milagro” ang nangyayari. Sino ang nakikinabang sa ‘di pag-uusig sa Mighty?‐kung‐sabagay‐ikulong‐kung‐nagkasala.html                                    

HIRIT NA: PAL (PNoy Always Late)   Wednesday, 19 March 2014  

        Written by  Arnold Clavio 

Kung ang terminong PAL ay nakilala sa pagiging late ng biyahe ng eroplano ng isang kumpanya, ngayon may iba na itong kahulugan -- PNoy Always Late!!! ng isang oras... Noynoy sa graduation rites ng Philippine Military Academy (PMA), ‘late’ si Pangulong Linggo, Noong na pinag-uusapan sa PMA. mainit ang ang pagiging ‘late’ ni Cadet Cudia Nakakatawang mga pinuno ng local government units (LGUs), late na naman siya ng may 20 minuto... ng Kahapon sa naging pagtitipon pinaghintay ni Pangulong Noynoy si PM Najib Rasak sa kanilang joint press conference. Sa pinakahuling trip niya sa Malaysia, ilang minutong cabinet meeting ngayong taon.” unang sa “PNoy, late ang 2011, headlines taong Noong Sa naging event ng Department of Science and Technology (DOST) event in Taguig City noong nakaraang taon, late siya ng 30 minuto. “Hindi ko inaasahan, ma-traffic everywhere,” sabi ni PNoy sa kanyang talumpati sa inauguration ng Advanced Device and Materials Testing Laboratory sa DOST compound. Napagalitan pa si MMDA Chairman Atty. Francis Tolentino.

Hindi na biro ang ugaling ito ng ating Pangulo. Dapat mahiya siya sa mamamayang Pilipino na nagpapasuweldo sa kanya. Nakakawala ng respeto ang taong ‘di tumutupad sa usapan. Kung hindi mo kayang pahalagahan ang oras ng iba, paano ako makatitiyak na ‘di mo rin binibigyang-halaga ang sarili mo? Kung ang iba ay nagbibigay ng dagdag na pagsisikap na makarating ng mas maaga sa itinakdang oras, bakit hindi ikaw? nagmamalasakit ang mga taong nakapaligid kay PNoy, marapat lamang na gisingin nila ito ng may panahon pang makapaghanda -- maligo at magbihis. Kung Matagal nang panahon na negatibo ang imahe ng mga Pilipino pagdating sa pakikipagkasundo sa oras. Maraming bagay ang nasasayang higit sa lahat ang oras ng iyong kausap. “the LATE President Benigno Aquino III!” siyang na ipakilala biro ng magandang ehemplo ang ating Pangulo bago pa maging tampulan ng magpakita Makakabuting‐hirit‐na‐pal‐pnoy‐always‐late.html                    

Expanded ‘pork’ scam, DAP probes set •

Written by Angie M. Rosales

Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

DBM’s Abad to lead list of resource persons on DAP inquiry Two Senate committees will have their hands full with investigations into both the use of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), commonly referred to as pork barrel, that is claimed to have been disbursed by the implementing agencies (IAs). Another committee will be holding an inquiry into the Disbursement Accleration Program (DAP) fund which was distributed by Malacañang through the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) which is claimed to have been used by President Aquino to bribe senators and congressmen in convicting ousted Chief Justice Renato Corona. An expansion of the coverage of the ongoing pork barrel scam in the Senate was formally sought yesterday, to include the 79 congressmen and former Sen. Edgardo Angara, on their alleged anomalous funding of agriculture-related projects that has accumulated to P1.7 billion. Central to the issue are former Department of Agriculture (DA) secretary who is now Bohol Rep. Arthur Yap (3rd District) and former National Agri-business Corp. (Nabcor) president Alan Javellana who already was recently implicated by two of those accused before the Ombudsman for plunder and other serious charges. Yap and Javellana, according to the respondents applying to be state witnesses – former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal – were allegedly in cahoots with bogus non-government organizations (NGOs), including those not associated with Janet Lim Napoles, in squandering the lawmakers’ PDAF. This latest development came a day after one of those being accused in the PDAF scam, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, dared the Department of Justice (DoJ) to pursue as well the findings of the Commission on Audit (CoA) on the alleged involvement of 80 other

lawmakers in the pork barrel scheme of Napoles. But even as Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, who effected the filing of resolution No. 575 directing the Senate blue ribbon committee to immediately summon Mendoza and Cacal as resource persons in the ongoing inquiry into the alleged Napoles-led pork barrel scam, Sen. Juan Edgardo “Sonny” Angara expressed alarm over the dragging of his father’s name in the PDAF mess. “I’m concerned but I’m pretty confident that he can answer them— these charges against him. His name came out in the full report (of the CoA). The CoA commissioner said that just appearing in the COA report is not evidence of criminal involvement,” the younger Angara said in a television interview. “(I’m sure) he’ll be able to answer it,” Sen. Sonny added. In the CoA special audit report covering the period 2007 to 2009, state auditors claimed that some P20 million of Sen. Edgardo Angara’s PDAF allocation went to a nonNapoles NGO called Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation Inc. (KKFI) to carry out a project intended to buy seedlings and farm implements. Senator Sonny did not waste time in defending his father on the issue, saying that the former Senate president had already addressed the matter in media interviews in the past when the CoA report first came out and dismissed any involvement in the said questionable NGO. “He was one of the first to have a school-feeding program so he got very respectable people. He was able to raise funds for the program. I’m confident he can answer these issues. I’m sure (of that),” the son said. Although the retired senator is currently abroad and won’t be back to the country within the next two weeks, Senator Sonny assured that his father will be willing to air his side on the charges against him. “He’s not hiding,” he said. In the revelations made by Mendoza and Cacal, Nabcor was allegedly the “favored” implementing agency not only of Estrada, Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile, Sen. Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. but also Angara and 79 other congressmen. While the three senators, with the exception of Angara, are currently now under investigation by the Office of the Ombudsman in connection with the alleged P10-billion pork barrel scam of Napoles, some of those congressmen mentioned by Mendoza and Cacal were not among the 38 individuals in the charge sheet filed by the DoJ. Mendoza used to be the vice president for finance of Nabcor, while Cacal was previously head of general services. Both were those facing charges before the Ombudsman for plunder, malversation, bribery, and graft and corrupt practices by conspiracy.

Mendoza and Cacal reportedly said in media interviews that bogus organizations were personally endorsed by legislators to either Yap while he was still DA secretary or their immediate superior, Javellana. The two allegedly witnessed Yap exerting pressure on Javellana on various occasions to expedite the release of checks to questionable NGOs despite inadequate documentary requirements. Cacal alleged in his sworn statement that Javellana threatened to fire him if he did not immediately process the release of the funds despite lacking the required documentation while Mendoza claimed she was sacked in 2011 because “she knew too much.” Cacal resigned from Nabcor in only last Jan. for fear of being made as a scapegoat as he was allegedly ordered by Javellana to answer allegations in the plunder case. Santiago said the two respondents now applying as state witnesses, should appear before the blue ribbon committee and be made to testify and submit documents on the criminal involvement of the lawmakers implicated in the scam. “They can also testify on how the loopholes in the disbursement of government funds are exploited in order for public officials to plunder public funds,” she said. Also yesterday, Santiago sought the inclusion in the blue ribbon proceedings the matter of the expenses that has been incurred so far by the government, particularly the Philippine National Police (PNP), in keeping Napoles in detention in Fort. Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. The senator took note of news reports on the PNP spending excessive public funds in the detention of the alleged pork barrel scam mastermind, estimated at P150,000 monthly compared to P1,612 for ordinary prisoners. Also, it was reported that the PNP spends P120,000 each time Napoles travels for her trials in court, appearance in Senate Blue Ribbon committee hearing, and her medical check-ups. It was also reported that the PNP shouldered the P 3,000 cost of Napoles’ medical examination in the Camp Crame General Hospital last Feb. 26 and the PNP also rented for the medical examination a 2D transvaginal ultrasound machine costing the police organization P5,000, Santiago said in her resolution No. 574. “If Napoles, as a person in interest, refuses to cooperate with the DoJ and the Senate Blue Ribbon committee by providing information which she apparently possesses about the scam, there is no acceptable reason government should single her out for special treatment among the more than 70,000 detention prisoners in the country,” Santiago said. “If Napoles wishes to avail of protection for her security and safety, then the obvious

legal remedy is for her to apply to the Witness Protection Program administered by the DoJ .Otherwise the PNP should immediately bill Napoles under a Cost Recovery Program,” she said. But that is not the only Senate inquiry that is being readied. The Senate is already poised to conduct an investigation into the controversial DAP, a fiscal stimulus package of the Executive that was also alleged to have been the source of “incentives” given by Malacanang to some senators and congressmen in overseeing the conviction in the impeachment trial of former Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona in 2012. The Senate finance committee is already eyeing three successive public hearings on the matter, according to its chairman, Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero. Escudero said they will set the exact schedule of the proceedings the moment the DBM submits all the needed data, particularly those funds released from DAP. DBM Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad will lead the list of those to be summoned by the said committee, it was gathered yesterday. Sen. JV Ejercito filed resolution No. 287 in Oct. 14 last year, some two weeks after his older brother, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada divulged in a privilege speech the release of at least P50 million to senators’ projects following Corona’s conviction. Abad later confirmed that 20 out of the 24 senators received additional pork barrel amounting to P1.107 billion months after the Corona impeachment trial and identified the source of funds as the DAP. Besides the allegations that the DAP funds were being used as a bribe or incentives to lawmakers who voted to convict Corona, Ejercito noted reports that the projects allegedly funded by Malacanang were not included in the General Appropriations Act (GAA). Also, he said, there were allegations that the funds used in the DAP were not actually taken from the savings of the government but from discontinued or slow-moving projects in 2010, thus a clear violation of the provisions of the Constitution on the use of taxpayers’ money. While underscoring the need to inquire into the alleged incentives given to lawmakers, Ejercito said the inquiry should also examine the administration’s DAP in order to formulate policies and regulations on the proper use of savings and budgetary augmentation of the government.‐pork‐scam‐dap‐probes‐set  

‘I’m ashamed of Noynoy’s under performance’ — Osmeña Written by Angie M. Rosales Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

A few days after blasting President Aquino as an “awful manager,” Sen. Sergio Osmeña III was at it again in censuring what is obvious to many which is the “underperformance” of Aquino and his Cabinet members for the past four years. Osmeña yesterday unleashed more tirades directed at the leadership of Aquino, saying that the “under-performance” of his administration, if it does not make a strong rebound in Aquino’s remaining two years, Malacañang should brace itself for the people’s wrath when election time comes. “A lot of people are disappointed with the way the administration is managing the affairs of the country because there are a lot of things they could have done, but did not do,” he said. Osmeña admitted that he’s among those disenchanted with the lack of direction under Aquino and feels “embarrassed” for the nation, which according to him was the reason for bringing up his concerns on the shortcomings of the government. The senator tossed back to Aquino his advice to the public, at a recent forum before high school students, to be wary of what he called as “ampaw” (rice puff) presidential candidates in 2016 saying that Aquino’s own administration has the same characteristic. “We are all guilty of being ‘ampaw’ (being empty inside) in a little way, or in a big way. I think that the Aquino administration might also be called ‘ampaw’ due to those things that they could have done but failed to accomplish,” he said. “If we rate his administraion in a report card, what would be obvious will be the poor grades as a result of missed projects that should have been ongoing by this time, or last year, or two years ago. That is the performance of the PNoy administration. And any delay in any infrastructure means no progress. Do not delay when you can speed up,” he said. The much-touted public-private partnership (PPP) flagship projects of Aquino that he boasted would bring in significant economic gains has not produced even a single

result, the senator said. Osmeña could not help but rebuke the administration’s penchant for tossing the blame on the previous administration for whatever mess it creates, saying that Aquino would soon be entering his fifth year in office and cannot lay the blame on others but himself. “He should have done something in 2010 to alleviate the power problem in 2015,” the chairman of the Senate energy committee said, citing the fact that the lead time in providing a solution to the supply problem has a lag time of four to five years as it takes about 39 to 56 months to build a major power plant. The senator has been pressing the administration to address the concerns of the energy sector immediately after Aquino assumed office when Mindanao was already plagued with rotating brownouts due to power supply problems. “I told him energy supply is a basic necessity, if you don’t do it today, it will not happen. Any shortage, is still being blamed on (former president and now Pampanga Rep) Gloria Arroyo even if his administration is entering its fifth year. By next year, it would be hard to blame anybody else but the Aquino government,” he said. “Somebody will have to be candid and tell the nation that nothing has been done. 2010, nothing. 2011, again nothing. 2012, still the same. I am exaggerating a little bit but everybody can look at Mindanao, 2010 there is already a power shortage, 3 to 4 hours of daily brownouts. So, we have to resolve this problem, we have to move faster,” he said. “I told them, wait, the opportunities are passing us by. We can do this and we can do that. Well they did wait and they are doing that until now,” he said. Otherwise, Osmeña said, political rivals of Malacañang would have a field day in highlighting to voters the so-called non-performing assets (NPAs) and whatever gains achieved by the President in fighting corruption which has lured a number of investors, will be overshadowed by the administration’s non-achievements. Osmeña also admitted that while he remains firm in his pronouncements that he has no regrets in supporting the candidacy of Aquino in 2010 presidential elections, he has had a number of differences with the President. When he was asked if Aquino still listens to his advice just like in 2010, the situation had already changed, Osmeña said. “That was over since 2010, after that it was all his classmates, shooting range buddies, relatives, those are who he listens to now,” he said. Still, Osmeña said he has no regrets because up to this time, looking at the batch of candidates available in 2010. “I think he was still the best candidate. And if I have to make my decision all over again, I would have come to the same decision,” he added. “But I am also very disappointed, I am ashamed for the nation about his

underperformance. If you can drive a car up to 80 mph, why insist on going 30mph? That is my question,” he said. “It’s a pity because we have certainly the talent in this country to do a better management job and we’re not doing it,” he added.‐m‐ashamed‐of‐noynoy‐s‐under‐performance‐osmena                                         

Group slams Cojuangco-Aquino company for ‘militarization’ of Luisita sugar estate Written by Charlie V. Manalo Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

Party-list group Anakpawis yesterday slammed the deployment of armed security group to secure the illegal fencing and bulldozing activity of the Cojuangco-Aquino owned Central Azcarera de Tarlac or CAT to an estimated 200 hactares of farmlands in Barangays Mapalacsiao and Parang in Hacienda Luisita which started last March 5. “It is an alarming trend in Hacienda Luista that farm lands supposed to be distributing to farmer beneficiaries are being excluded through dubious, illegal, immoral and violent means led by different Cojuangco-Aquino corporation. Now it is the sugar mill’s turn in which the president younger sister Kris Aquino is presently occupying a seat in the board,” said Anakpawis party-list Rep. Fernando Hicap. “Using the influence of his big brother, the youngest among the siblings of Cory and Ninoy put her mark on Hacienda Luisita their family’s signature styled land-grabbing escapade to deny the farm workers, the real owner of Hacienda Luisita, their farm lands,” the lawmaker added. “Like the Tarlac Development Corp. (Tadeco), the CAT has no right to claim or exclude farm land for distribution. The Supreme Court recognized the farm workers ownership of Luisita because it’s theirs in the first place. The Cojuangco-Aquinos in the first place don’t own even a plot of land in Hacienda Luisita,” Hicap pointed out. The miltant solon also accused the Department of Agrarian Reform of sowing the social unrest in Hacienda Luisita. “The DAR or the Department of Aquino land Reform served its purpose on the interest of the President’s clan. It implemented a chaotic, confusing and an absolutely questionable land reform distribution process by way of tambiolo system. While it is silent on Tadeco and CAT’s land-grabbing escapade, it turns deaf and blind on the latter’s legal action filing trump-up charges against the farm workers,” Hicap said. “We have a land reform program designed to complement the interest of the land owners in which the Cojuangco-Aquinos are brazenly used to continue their manipulative and violent means over Hacienda Luisita. Its closure is far from over. In these trying times, the farm workers have no option but to assert their right to land and life through their collective militant action,” Hicap said.

“They should also press for the enactment of HB 252, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill, as it push for the free distribution of all agricultural lands including Hacienda Luisita to poor and landless farmers,” he added.‐slams‐cojuangco‐aquino‐company‐for‐militarization‐of‐luisita‐ sugar‐estate                                            

Gov’t handling of foreign donations for ‘Yolanda’ survivors chaotic — CoA Written by Angie M. Rosales Tuesday, 18 March 2014 00:00

President Aquino have every reason to admit shortcomings of the government in responding to the needs of supertyphoon “Yolanda” victims as accounting of donations received by the administration showed there concerned agencies were indeed disorganized and the situation was really regrettable and chaotic. That was how Commission on Audit (CoA) Chairman Grace Pulido-Tan described yesterday before finance committee chairman Sen. Francis “Chiz” Escudero the observations they “highlighted” in the interim report due to be released by the agency anytime soon. “The coordination was really something regrettable, if I would say. There was no gatekeeper. People were just going to the ground. There was really no one calling the shots or doing some kind of coherent coordination,” Tan was quoted as saying, adding that it was forgivable given the situation at that time “but we have to bring that matter up.” On the matter of donations, some were not turned over directly to the national government, especially those which came from abroad as only a handful were coursed through the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) than those given to the Philippine Red Cross, she added. Tan relayed the information to Escudero when the senator inquired on whether the CoA is looking into the issue of funds donated to the government. “A lot are in pledges. We will include it in our report kaya ang aming audit ay nag focus na lang sa systems and procedures, not on financials or mga hindi nadala rito or mismanaged funds. Even the LGUs (local government units)who are already on the ground, they didn’t even know also who helped them and what kind of help they got. It was crazy on the field,” she said. With the outpouring of support from the international communities and organizations, Tan said that they recorded an incident when the Tacloban airport was reopened, there was no one managing or issuing directives as to how the relief goods will be distributed.

Aquino, last week, issued a public apology for the slow government response to Yolanda survivors. “I apologize if we couldn’t act even faster,” the President was quoted saying during an open forum with high school students in Manila, adding that it should not have taken them days in providing immediate relief to typhoon victims but the magnitude of the damaged caused by Yolanda was unprecedented. DSWD Secretary Corazon “Dinky” Soliman who happen to be also present during the Senate hearing defended the administration although admittedly, they were disorganized in receiving donations in cash and in kind at that time. Soliman said they wasted no time in setting up a “one stop shop” in the airports in Cebu and Manila to receive the donated relief goods. The DSWD chief also corroborated the explanations given by Tan on the issue of some of the reported foreign donations not being were handed over directly to the government. The DSWD received only more than $80 million and P80 million from foreign donors while pledges were made to the PRC and local partners or counterparts of some nongovernment organizations (NGOs) and agencies of the United Nations. With the numerous fund-raising events from various sectors including those from the entertainment industry, celebrities and politicians, Soliman admitted the need to come up with a systematic approach to make an accounting of the donations, possibly by requiring accreditation and seeking permit to raise funds from the DSWD. “We are actually reviewing penalties to those raising funds without permit,” Soliman said, adding that the fine they are considering of imposing it at P1,000. “Does the DSWD have that lista that include foreign donors as well?” Escudero asked. “We have the list of those who donated to DSWD, cash in dollars and in pesos but there were also donations that went to the DFA (Department of Foreign Affairs) which is being managed by the DBM (Department of Budget and Management),” she said.‐t‐handling‐of‐foreign‐donations‐for‐yolanda‐survivors‐chaotic‐ coa        

PNB gets better rating from S&P Written by Tribune Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said yesterday it revised its rating outlook on Philippine National Bank (PNB) to positive from stable. “At the same time, we affirmed our ‘B+’ long-term and ‘B’ short-term counterparty credit ratings on the bank. We also affirmed our ‘axBB’ long-term and ‘axB’ short-term Asean regional scale rating on the bank,” it said. “The outlook revision reflects gradual improvements in PNB’s asset quality, underpinned by more stringent credit underwriting standards, and the bank’s capital strengthening from a recent equity injection,” said Standard & Poor’s credit analyst Chris Lee. The affirmed ratings reflect the bank’s weak asset quality by domestic and international standards, despite recent improvements. As of the end of September 2013, the bank’s nonperforming assets (NPA, including nonperforming loans, foreclosed assets, and restructured loans) has fallen to 9.98 percent of total loans from 16.9 percent in 2011, but that level remains weaker than the industry average of 5.6 percent. “PNB’s merger with Allied Banking Corp. (Allied Bank) in February 2013 also helped PNB improve its NPA ratio because Allied Bank’s loan quality was better than PNB’s,” said Lee. This merger, along with a capital injection of P11.6 billion in February 2014, boosted capitalization, which may provide some buffer for the bank against bad assets. “The positive outlook on PNB reflects our expectation that the bank’s asset quality could keep improving, given the bank’s effort to improve its underwriting standard. However, PNB’s pursuit of higher loan growth after its merger with Allied Bank could test the capabilities of its risk management infrastructure.

BAP: mergers, acquisitions best ways to strengthen UKBs Written by Ed Velasco Wednesday, 19 March 2014 00:00

The Bankers’ Association of the Philippines (BAP) emphasized yesterday one of the most effective ways to strengthen a country’s banking system is growing it organically or through mergers and acquisitions. The association of 34 universal and commercial banks (UKBs) in the country assured this as banks need to focus on its core strengths given the tough competition brought by the start of Basel 3, the global banking reforms that put additional capitals for all UKBs. “Growth through organic or mergers and acquisitions makes sense,” Lorenzo Tan, the association’s president, told The Daily Tribune shortly after arriving from Oman to attend the Asian Bankers Association where he is also the chairman. Tan gave the statement in relation to the model that encourages banks to develop solidly either by acquisition or merger so that at least 80 percent of the assets of the UKB industry are concentrated on known, solid and stable banks. He said it is only through being solid with at least seven to eight UKBs per each country that its UKB industry will strengthen and not on so many players with some not in solid financial state. Tan, the president and chief executive officer of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said with the start of Basel 3 last Jan. 1, 2014, there will be stiffer, tougher competition among banks. Those that are not in rock-solid state will have difficulty in meeting the additional capitals. The three additional capitals are the 1.5 percent for common equity tier 1 and total tier 1, making the minimum ratio at 7.5 percent and six percent, respectively. Another adjustment is the 2.5 percent for systematically important financial institution. Basel 3 also ruled out tier 2 as part of banks’ capital. “Basel 3 regulation will focus most banks toward consumer, small and medium enterprise lending and fee-based banking,” the BAP president added.‐mergers‐acquisitions‐best‐ways‐to‐strengthen‐ukbs 

‘P1b DA funds part of team PNoy 2013 poll kitty’ By Christine F. Herrera | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am SOME P1 billion of the P5.78 billion in unliquidated funds of the Agriculture Department became part of the campaign kitty for the administration’s senatorial candidates in the 2013 elections, including the son of Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, a lawyer and a former mayor said Tuesday. Sanlakas lawyer Argee Guevarra, who filed plunder charges against Alcala, said the Agriculture secretary even hired Sanlakas members as ward leaders to mount a massive campaign push for the administration’s Team Pnoy senatorial slate. “We were told later on that the funds used to hire a lot of people in Quezon, including our chapter members, were supposed to have come from allocations for several projects nationwide that turned out to be ghost projects,” Guevarra told the Manila Standard. Alcala could not possibly liquidate P1 billion of National Agribusiness Corp. or Nabcor’s P5.78 billion in unliquidated funds being questioned by the Commission on Audit because he may have hired our leaders and some farmers but the jobs were not related at all to agriculture or farming,” Guevarra said. “In the DA’s books, our Sanlakas chapter members and other farmers were tapped to do agriculture-related projects but instead, they were made to distribute leaflets, campaign materials and sample ballots for Team Pnoy, the Liberals and his son,” Guevarra said. “Our members and some farmers later on learned that they were hired to do ghost projects with multi-million-peso allocations,” Guevarra said. “PNoy [President Benigo Aquino III] should ask his long-time friend Alcala: ‘Saan ka kumukuha ng kapal ng mukha?’ Since PNoy appears to be coddling Alcala, the President could be lending his own kapalmuks to Alcala,” he said. Guevarra said the P1-billion campaign kitty figure came from LP originals and Team PNoy senatorial candidates, who complained of getting only a “token” P5 million and P10 million in campaign funds from Alcala’s coffers. “These local and national candidates had set aside P1 billion for the LP and Team PNoy campaign but there were given mere tokens,” he said.

Guevarra refused to name names so as not to compromise his sources who feared possible reprisal from the President and the LP leadership, but he said he was ready to identify them in an executive session of a Senate inquiry. He dared Senate President Franklin Drilon, an LP stalwart, to initiate the congressional probe of the P5.78 billion in the Agriculture Department’s unliquidated funds. “After digesting the corruption within the DA, I now realize that PNoy’s daang matuwid (straight path) is paved with bulls—t. PNoy’s anti-corruption campaign is nothing but pure ‘ampaw’,” Guevarra said, using the President’s term for a politician who is sweet but lacking in substance, like the Chinese rice puff. Former mayor Ramon Talaga Jr., in a graft complaint against Alcala before the Ombudsman, presented sworn statements from farmers who were supposed to be recipients of the P3.25 million livelihood assistance to 65 farmer-beneficiaries in four towns in Quezon province. Alcala, who claimed that Guevarra’s campaign against him was being funded by smugglers, denied all of the lawyer’s charges. Of the four plunder charges filed against Alcala and the members of the so-called Quezon mafia, one plunder charge also included the President, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Budget Undersecretary Mario Relampagos. The plunder case against the President stemmed from the P191 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund of the lawmakers that allegedly went to the spurious non-government organizations owned by the alleged mastermind of the pork barrel scam, Janet Lim Napoles. Four months after the KMP plunder case, which was filed against the President and the others, the Ombudsman has yet to send them copies of the complaint. Guevarra and the KMP lashed out at the Ombudsman for sitting on the four plunder, graft and corruption and malversation cases. Even before Alcala and Nabcor president Honesto Baniqued could account for the unliquidated P5.78 billion, President Aquino abolished the state-owned corporation in January this year. Alcala said if he had really used so much money to fund the administration candidates, his son would not have lost the elections. Alcala said local politics was also contributing to the smear campaign against him. He said Talaga, the defeated mayor, was getting back at him because he lost his re-election bid to a Liberal Party candidate. Alcala said Talaga was misleading the public for claiming that 16 of the 65 farmers did not get the P50,000 in livelihood assistance.

Alcala said the farmers thought they did not get the money because another non-government organization handed over to them the money, without telling them that it was from the DA. Guevarra said the Agriculture Department under President Aquino broke the record of the same department under the previous administration in terms of missing funds. From 2008 to 2010, he said, Nabcor accumulated P5.4 billion in unliquidated funds. “But the P5.4 billion was for three years. In the case of Nabcor under Alcala and Aquino, they broke the record in just one year during the run-up to polls. The amount involved, based on the COA report was P5.78 billion from 2012-2013 alone,” Guevarra said. Guevarra reiterated his call for the President to fire Alcala and the members of the Quezon mafia. “I cannot help but ask the President, how much ended up in your pocket for you to keep Alcala, who cannot explain where the P5.78 billion in Nabcor funds went,” Guevarra said. “That’s all I could think about as the main reason for the President to continue to coddle Alcala and the Quezon mafia.” But Alcala said his province mates were the best performers who reversed the decline of the agricultural sector. “Statistics don’t lie. My province mates are best performers and so the President is not easily swayed by the smear campaign,” Alcala told the Manila Standard.‐p1b‐da‐funds‐part‐of‐team‐pnoy‐2013‐poll‐ kitty‐/                

Mindanao irrigators lead rice achievers awards By Jessica M. Bacud | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Irrigation Administration head Claro Maranan recognized the 10 outstanding irrigators’ associations led by Mindanao groups at the Agri Pinoy Rice Achievers awarding rites on March 14, 2014 at Resorts World Manila in Pasay City. Ligaya IA of Santiago, Isabela, and SAFIMCO of San Antonio, Camarines Sur, were joined by LOW TIP TAM IA (Lower Tiparak, Tambulig, Zamboanga Del Sur), MAKABASAKPA IA (Curvada, Kapatagan, Lanao del Norte), Dujali Poblacion FIA (Dujali, Braulio, Davao Del Norte), WEBAMSI (Maygatasan, Bayugan, Agusan del Sur), Labrador-Timualag-Katurog IA (Labrador, Buug, Zamboanga Sibugay), San Juan Impasug-ong La Fortuna IA (La Fortuna, Impasug-ong, Bukidnon), Lower Marber IA (New Clarin, Bansalan, Davao del Sur) and Samahan ng Roque ISA (Madrid, Surigao del Sur). In his 7-point program after President Benigno Aquino III appinted him in lasat year, Maranan laid emphasis on a bottom-up approach in rice sector development, support to farmer-irrigators particularly in the operation and maintenance of systems on a full commitment to good governance and transparency. Also commended were rice achivers among local government units, Small Water Impounding Systems Associations, Agricultural Extension Workers (CAR-RFO IVB) and Outstanding Extension Workers (RFO V-DAF ARMM).

Alcala told to explain Nabcor perks Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am   By Joyce P. Panares and Macon R. Araneta Malacañang on Tuesday ordered Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala to explain a Commission on Audit report that directors of the National Agri-Business Corporation were awarded with hefty bonuses, per diems and allowances - costing taxpayers P30.6 million - shortly before the agency went bankrupt. The CoA report was included in the charge sheet against Alcala, who, along with Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and President Benigno Aquino III were charged with plunder allegedly for channeling P191 million in Priority Development Assistance Fund of lawmakers – mostly allies of the President and members of the Liberal Party – to non-government organizations identified with alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles. The complainants, led by the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas, cited a report of the Commission on Audit showing that the pork barrel funds were channeled through Nabcor. Nabcor was abolished in January for being a non-performing Government-Owned and/or Controlled Corporation operating at a loss. “The allegation cites the 2012-2013 CoA report. The Department of Agriculture is required to explain the findings of such report and inform CoA of actions taken to address such findings,” presidential spokesperson Sonny Coloma said. As this developed, Senator Miriam Defensor-Santiago filed a resolution directing the Senate Blue Ribbon committee to summon former Nabcor officials Rhodora Mendoza and Victor Roman Cacal to testify in the Senate probe on the alleged diversions of lawmakers’ pork barrel funds to fake NGOs put up by Napoles. Coloma, meanwhile, reminded the complainants who have included the president in the plunder charge that the chief executive is immune from any criminal suit. “The President is immune from suit while in office,” Coloma said. Coloma said, however, that Abad and Alcala can take care of themselves in facing the case filed before the Ombudsman. “Secretary Abad and Secretary Alcala are capable of answering the allegations against them,” Coloma added. Abad, for his part, said he has yet to see the latest plunder case filed against him.

“Which one? I am already facing several plunder cases,” Abad said in a text message. “It’s my first time to hear it. I have to get a copy. Ang buhay ko: kung hindi plunder case, demolition job. Palit-palit lang. Mahirap! (My life: if it’s not a plunder case that I face, it’s a demolition job. It’s just one or the other. It’s hard!),” Abad added. Meanwhile, under Santiago’s Senate Resolution No. 575, Mendoza and Cacal are directed to appear in the Blue Ribbon committee hearing to testify and submit documents on the criminal involvement of the lawmakers implicated in the scam. “They can also give their testimony on how the loopholes in the disbursement of government funds are exploited in order for public officials to plunder public funds,” Santiago said. Mendoza was former vice president for finance while Cacal was former head of general services. Both applied with the Department of Justice to become state witnesses along with former Technology Resource Center Director General Dennis Cunanan and Ruby Tuason. The two former Nabcor officials earlier said four senators and 79 members of the House of Representatives coursed a total of P1.7 billion of their PDAF allocations to questionable NGOs through the government-owned and controlled Nabcor. They 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 since 2007. Mendoza and Cacal allegedly witnessed Yap, now Bohol representative, exert pressure on Javellana on various occasions to expedite the release of checks to questionable NGOs despite inadequate documentary requirements. Nabcor, under the Department of Agriculture (DA), was allegedly the favored implementing agency of Senate Minority Leader Juan Ponce Enrile and Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla, who are facing plunder complaints in the Ombudsman filed by the NBI and Atty. Levi Baligod, the resigned counsel of pork barrel principal whistleblower Benhur Luy.‐told‐to‐explain‐nabcor‐perks/        

2013 investment pledges hit P754b By Jennifer Ambanta | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am Investment commitments from foreign and local investors hit P754 billion in 2013, up by 8 percent from P698.3 billion in 2012, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Tuesday. The PSA said the figures were based on projects approved by seven investment promotion agencies, including the Board of Investments, Clark Development Corp., Philippine Economic Zone Authority, Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, BoI-Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao and Cagayan Economic Zone Authority. “The bulk or 63.7 percent of investments approved during the period came from Filipino investors valued at P480 billion,” the PSA said. It said while approved investments from Filipino nationals climbed 17.4 percent year-on-year, the amount of committed foreign investments decreased by 5.4 percent. Total foreign investments approved by the seven agencies in 2013 fell 5.4 percent to P274 billion from P289.5 billion in 2012, as commitments slowed in the fourth quarter. The PSA said in the fourth quarter alone, foreign investment approvals plunged 42.7 percent to P132 billion from P230.2 billion year-on-year. Total investments of foreign and Filipino nationals in the fourth quarter also dropped 28.6 percent to P235.7 billion from P330.1 billion a year ago. Pledges from Filipino nationals stood at P103.7 billion in the fourth quarter.‐investment‐pledges‐hit‐p754b/                

Govt pursues tourism target By Lailany P. Gomez | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am International visitor arrivals likely exceeded 500,000 in February, on track to reach 6.8 million in the whole of 2014, based on “very good” indicators, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez said Tuesday. “It looks like we will exceed last year which means that the arrivals for February would have exceeded 500,000. We’re targeting to surpass the 1-million mark in the first quarter,” Jimenez told reporters at the sidelines of the year-end Philippine Economic Briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center. Visitor arrivals reached 1.27 million in the first quarter last year and 4.68 million in the whole of 2013. Jimenez said the growth in arrivals softened in the fourth quarter of 2013, but indicators pointed to a recovery in the first quarter this year. “Our recovery for the semester after softening in the last quarter last year were coming in very strong. If you look at the January to February results, although not yet final, the numbers are very strong,” he said. Jimenez said the department was optimistic it would reach the target of 6.8 million tourist arrivals this year, on the back of aggressive marketing campaign here and abroad. “We were supposed to close 2013 with 5 million but we ended at 4.7 million. We need a little push and we’re sticking to our 6.8 million tourist arrivals target this year, because our capacity is really 6 million, so we’re going to push for that,” Jimenez said.

DTI: Export goals unrealistic By Othel V. Campos | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am The government has abandoned the target of increasing the size of merchandise and services exports to $120 billion by 2016 from about $70 billion in 2013, given the slow trade growth recorded last year. “We still need to set an ambitious but a more realistic target. $120 billion is not achievable by any means, unless there is a miracle,” Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo said during the Philippine Economic Briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center in Manila. Domingo said despite the continued growth of both merchandise and services exports, the 2016 target was way off the charts, as the country ended 2013 with only $54 billion worth of merchandise exports. “Even if you add services at $17 billion, the total would be slightly over $70 billion and we only have less than three years to go,” he said. Merchandise exports grew by 3.6 percent to $54 billion last year. Domingo said exports should be growing by $18 billion annually, if the government would stick to the 2016 goal. He said to achieve the 2016 goal, both merchandise and services exports should grow by 25 percent annually from 2014 to 2016. Domingo said based on the ongoing revision of the Philippine Economic Development Plan, the Trade Department reduced the annual export growth target to $10 billion a year until 2016, which was a more “realistic” target. He advised the technical working group to adjust the PEDP to the new targets. “If you look at services, even if we increase that to 20 percent a year, that’s $3 billion. We are to get $14 billion, and that’s not going to come from merchandise,” he said. Domingo said the electronics sector was expected to turn positive this year and next year, which would help boost merchandise export. He said this would not be enough to make up for the shortcoming in previous years. Ongoing talks on bilateral and free trade agreements are expected to boost trade in the near term, he added.

BSP closely monitoring liquidity — Tetangco By Julito G. Rada | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is closely monitoring movements in the domestic liquidity because of its potential impact to the inflation rate in the future, Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said Tuesday. “We have seen an increase in domestic liquidity due to adjustments in the special deposit accounts… We are watching behavior in the liquidity spike but it is going to be non-permanent,” Tetangco said at the sidelines of an economic briefing.The Bangko Sentral in May barred the entry of investment management accounts in the SDA window beginning Jan. 1 this year in a move to flush out funds in the facility.“[Domestic liquidity] is going to slow down during 2014… [But it’s] prudent to take an eye on domestic liquidity level,” he said. Domestic liquidity as of end-January this year expanded 38.6 percent to P6.9 trillion from P4.984 trillion year-on-year due to higher demand for credit in the domestic economy.The increase was faster than the 32.7-percent expansion recorded in December 2013. The central bank said the higher M3 growth in January also reflected statistical base effects given the slower 8.8- percent growth in domestic liquidity in January 2013.Tetangco said the Bangko Sentral’s policy stance remained appropriate amid the uncertainties in the global markets.Tetangco said inflation would continue to move within the target range of 3 percent to 5 percent this year, although he conceded the leg room for policy stance was “narrowing.” “The last forecast showed that inflation would settle at an average of 4.25 percent this year, but within the target range. The room is narrower now given that last year we were at the lower end of the range [of 3 percent],” he said.He said the latest inflation forecast took into recent global developments.The Bangko Sentral earlier said the inflation environment remained manageable prices in February slowed to 4.1 percent from 4.2 percent in January, which was within the forecast range of 3 to 5 percent this year. The February inflation settled within the central bank’s forecast range of 3.8 percent to 4.6 percent for the month.The Monetary Board during its first meeting for 2014 kept key interest rates steady at 3.5 percent for overnight borrowing and 5.5 percent for overnight lending on account of a benign inflation environment. The board also froze the interest rate on special deposit account at 2 percent across all tenors.

Treasury says govt debt falls to P5.59t By Jennifer Ambanta | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am The Bureau of Treasury said Tuesday the outstanding debt of the government stood at P5.593 trillion as of end-January 2014, down 1.5 percent or P87 billion from the end-2013 level. Foreign creditors accounted for P1.973 trillion, or 35 percent, of the total debt while domestic institutions cornered P3.620 trillion or 65 percent. Domestic debt decreased 3 percent or P113 billion in 2013 due to a net redemption amounting to P114 billion. The payment was slightly tempered by the P1-billion increase in the peso value of debt due to the appreciation of the US dollar, which affected the value of multicurrency retail treasury bonds. “Meanwhile, external debt increased by 1.3 percent, or P26 billion, compared to the end-2013 level due to currency adjustments and a net repayment amounting to P13.5 billion,� the agency said. The total government debt as of end-January this year increased 4.9 percent, or P259 billion, year-on-year. Domestic and external obligations rose 6.1 percent and 2.6 percent, respectively. Total guaranteed debt amounted to P479 billion, 1.6 percent or P9 billion higher than the end2013 level.

Growth requires P4.2t By Jennifer Ambanta | Mar. 19, 2014 at 12:01am The government and the private sector should invest P4.2 trillion to support growth in the medium term, Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said Tuesday. “The total estimated public investments are about P4.2 trillion. More than half is for infrastructure development, followed by social development [21 percent], agriculture and fisheries [15 percent], and sustainable and climate resilient environment and natural resources [5 percent],” Balisacan said during the Philippine Economic Briefing. Balisacan said most projects would be started before and probably finished by 2016, but some might extend beyond the Aquino administration. He said of the investment targets, about 80 percent would be funded by the national government at P2.7 trillion. “With these strategies, we strive to sustain our economy’s growth over the medium term. The economy is targeted to grow by 6.5 to 7.5 percent in 2014, 7 to 8 percent in 2015, and 7.5 to 8.5 percent in 2016,” he said.

BSP PREFERS GRADUAL TO DRASTIC RATE ADJUSTMENT AMID HIGH LIQUIDITY March 18, 2014 10:45 pm   by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Tuesday hinted that it would rather act early and make a gradual adjustment in interest rates if the financial environment calls for it, than be forced to take drastic action later and hurt the economy. At the moment, the central bank’s policy stance continues to be appropriate despite its higher average inflation forecast for 2014, BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said. The central bank said in February that average inflation this year may settle at 4.25 percent, still within the government’s target range of 3 percent to 5 percent, but higher compared to the 3- percent full-year inflation rate recorded in 2013. At a press conference after the Philippine Economic Briefing held at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Tuesday, Tetangco said that despite the within-target inflation projection, the monetary authority’s room for maintaining its policy rates is narrowing.

Meralco overcharged P1.72/kWh in Dec 2013 March 18, 2014 10:24 pm   by Madelaine B. Miraflor Reporter and Joel M. Sy Egco Senior Reporter A week after the Energy Regulatory Committee (ERC) voided the high wholesale power prices in November and December 2013, the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) found that the rate adjustments imposed by the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) late last year were, indeed, excessive. After reviewing the computations of the regulated prices for the two supply months, the PEMC said the average price rate on the spot market in November should be P6.007/kWh instead of P25.404/kWh and P6.24/kWh for December, not P28.367/kWh. If the recalculated rates are followed, the P4.15 per kWh increase that Meralco But PEMC President Melinda Ocampo said Meralco will determine the final rate adjustments that it needs to charge its customers, subject to approval by the ERC. Ocampo said her agency will submit its report to the ERC. Last week, the ERC voided the power rates seen on the spot market late last year, saying they were excessive. It directed the PEMC, the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), to calculate and implement the regulated prices in the revised WESM bills of the affected distribution utilities in Luzon. However, the ruling did not cover Meralco because of the temporary restraining order issued by the High Tribunal on the utility firm. Larry Fernandez, head of Meralco’s Utility Economics, said the company will consult the ERC on the proper computation of the new rates. Energy Secretary Jericho Petilla said there was a huge discrepancy between the rates imposed during the months when the Malampaya plant was shut down, and the regulated rates. “The recalculated rates show a big gap [with the previous rates],” he told reporters on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Forum held on Tuesday. He said Meralco’s price hikes should be lower. Meralco had claimed that its price adjustment, the highest in history, was a result of high electricity rates on the spot market. It said the cost of power shot up when the Malampaya natural gas plant was shut down for its annual scheduled maintenance.

The ERC said there was a “market failure” during those months because several power producers violated the “Must Offer Rule” (MOR). Under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira), power generators are required to offer all of their available capacity on the market to prevent an artificial shortage of electricity, which could spike up prices. “The dispatch schedule and the prices during the November and December 2013 supply months reflected an inefficient allocation of resources contrary to the aspirations of WESM. This was brought about by the tight supply condition arising from the participants’ failure to abide with the MOR,” the ERC said. For the coming summer months, Petilla said power supply will be tight because demand will be higher and several plants that provide power in Luzon will be shut down for scheduled maintenance. He said electricity rates may eventually go up. The Ilijan plant of Kepco Philippines Corp., will only be able to provide 600 megawatts instead of 1,200 megawatts. The San Lorenzo power plant of First Gas Power Corp., which produces 500 megawatts, will be out for upgrade from April 9 to May 16. Also on Tuesday, Malacañang criticized Meralco for warning that power rates may again go up because of tight supply. “Instead of drawing scenarios that tend to sow fear, it is better to focus on positive steps like what the government is now undertaking to ensure stability of supply and ensure that there will be no power outages. That is the focus of government,” said Presidential Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. The Palace official reacted to the warning of Meralco Chairman Manuel Pangilinan that tight supply might trigger price spikes on the spot market that would be passed on to consumers. “There is a perceived, if not acceptable, narrowing gap between reliable capacity and growing market demand, aging generating plants and increasingly severe climate changes,” Pangilinan said on Monday. Other Meralco officials said that this summer, several plants are scheduled to go offline for maintenance. Pangilinan and other Meralco officials likened the possible hikes to the situation in October to December last year when spot market prices rose following the scheduled shutdown of the Malampaya natural gas facility. The problem was compounded by the shut down of other plants. Coloma dismissed claims of tight supply. “Luzon and Visayas have enough supply. There is no tightness of supply in Luzon and Visayas compared to Mindanao,” the official stressed.

“If there is stable power supply, we will not have unusual spikes on prices. That is why the government is tightly monitoring the situation, which is very dynamic. It is not static. DOE [Department of Energy] monitors it hourly,” Coloma added. The Palace spokesman also advised the public not to worry about Meralco’s statements because the government is doing everything to ensure steady supply of electricity. “We are not alarmed by those reports. We need to bear in mind that we are doing everything [and] players in the power industry are doing their part to have enough supply,” he said. The DOE, according to him, has been tasked to closely monitor developments in the sector not only in Luzon but all over the country. He said the Energy department has been keeping tabs on the performance of base load plants and their peak loads. This helps the government determine the “augmentation” efforts that should be done. “Monitoring is on a 24-hour cycle . . . It is possible to have a balance perspective that will not result in baseless fears or public discomfort,” Coloma told reporters. He also called on power industry players to help government prevent power outages. “Instead of talking about what’s lacking, why not focus on how to have enough, right?” he asked. Coloma said the Malaya plant is being readied for commissioning as part of preparations for the onset of the summer season when demand for electricity is expected to shoot up. “The DOE continues to monitor the power situation nationwide to ensure stability of supply and electric power rates, especially during the summer months. Government is exerting maximum efforts to prevent power outages or brownouts,” he said. But observers noted that even with the Malaya plant running, prices of electricity may still spike because besides being “slow,” the plant runs on the more expensive diesel fuel. These were the reasons why the plant was ordered shut down. Petilla has said the government was prepared to run the Malaya plant for up to 70 days to boost supply during the hot months.

Bataan still under shellfish ban March 18, 2014 10:19 pm   by ERNIE ESCONDE BALANGA City, Bataan: The ban on the harvesting, transporting, selling and eating of shellfish has not been lifted and remains in effect in Bataan, the provincial agriculture office in Balanga City announced on Tuesday. Provincial agriculturist Imel–da Inieto said the ban—first imposed by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) on November 5, 2013 due to the red tide—is still being raised in the towns of Orani, Samal, Abucay, Pilar, Orion, Limay, Mariveles and the city of Balanga. Results of the latest laboratory test on shellfish samples taken from Bataan released by BFAR showed a toxin level of 120 unit grams Saxo Toxin per 100 grams of shellfish meat as compared to the tolerable limit of 60 ugSTX/100g shellfish meat. “Bagama’t napakahirap para sa mga nasa shellfish industry, sana makipagtulungan pa rin na huwag munang mag-harvest, magtinda at kumain ng shellfish dito sa Bataan,” Inieto appealed. However, she said that the toxicity level of shellfish samples showed a decreasing pattern. From 347 ug STX/100g shellfish meat last February 27, 2014, the latest figure is down to 120, the agriculturist said. At the Balanga City public market, crabs were found on one of the stalls that used to sell shellfish.

Ilocos Norte rice production recognized March 18, 2014 10:19 pm   For the second time, the Province of Ilocos Norte was recognized as one of the Top 12 AgriPinoy Rice Achievers in the country for its commitment in attaining high rice self-sufficiency. In addition to a trophy, provincial agriculturist Norma Lagmay said the province received a check for P4 million to purchase hybrid seeds and fertilizers to sustain its rice production and gradually cut its dependence on rice importation. The award was given by Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Rice Program Coordinator and acting Undersecretary for Field Operations Dante Delima on Friday, March 14 at the Resorts World Manila. Laoag City and the municipality of Vintar were also in the list of the Top 48 Rice Producing Cities and Municipalities and each received a check for P1 million. Other winning provinces include Pangasinan, Isabela, Nueva Ecija, Nueva Vizcaya, Kalinga, Bulacan, Laguna, Bukidnon, Lanao Del Norte, North Cotabato and Mindoro Occidental “Behind the outstanding performance of the province are outstanding personalities,” Lagmay said, referring to 12 Ilocanos included in the list of National Outstanding Extension Workers in the Philippines who received P20,000 each.

BENGUET CELEBRATES STRAWBERRY FEST March 18, 2014 10:18 pm   by GABY B. KEITH LA TRINIDAD, Benguet: See the biggest strawberry or taste the sweetest strawberries in town as Benguet celebrates its 34th Strawberry Festival till the end of the month. Mayor Edna Tabanda said highlights of the event are the opening of the One-Town, One-Product (OTOP) Strawberry Lane at the Municipal Park and the Agro-Fair at the La Trinidad Public Market. The OTOP Strawberry Lane will showcase different varieties of strawberry products like cakes, pastries, bread, wine, shakes, ice cream, preserves, soaps and cosmetics. The Agro—Fair will feature the agricultural produce and cut flowers of La Trinidad as well as other food and nonfood products.

Aquino warns 43 ‘delinquent’ LGUs March 18, 2014 10:17 pm   by Joel M. Sy Egco Senior Reporter PRESIDENT Benigno Aquino 3rd on Tuesday warned 43 “delinquent” local government units (LGU) in provinces devastated by typhoon Yolanda that the funds intended for their rehabilitation will be given to other beneficiaries if they fail to submit the required program of works. Aquino issued the warning during his meeting with League of Local Government Units and League of Municipalities of the Philippines (LMP) at the Manila Hotel on Tuesday. “Remember back in school, the teacher says ‘finish or not finish pass your paper’,” the President said in jest. “So, I call on the 43 [LGUs] to complete their program of works [and] go through the process.” According to Aquino, the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) expected to receive 271 requests from Yolanda-hit areas in Central Visayas. So far, only 228 have submitted the required paperwork. The President explained that P600 million will be released to rebuild municipal halls, public markets and civic centers. “To those that have already submitted their documents, the DILG commits to release the funds in 10 days after it was filed,” Aquino promised. His only problem, he said, are the remaining 43 LGUs “who have the right not to submit the requirement if they don’t like to get the funds.” “It’s okay. We can share this to others who need [the money],” Aquino said.

SC stops release of ‘hot’ rice March 18, 2014 10:15 pm  

by Jomar Canlas THE Supreme Court (SC) stopped a Manila court from releasing a shipment of rice suspected to have been smuggled through the Port of Manila. The High Court issued a temporary restraining order on Tuesday halting the implementation of the ruling of Manila Regional Trial Court Judge Cicero Jurado Jr. allowing the release of the rice shipment. According to a well-placed source, the SC en banc decided to halt Jurado’s order because of the urgency of the petition and to prevent any irreparable injury that it may cause to the government. The High Court also ordered Jurado and the owners of the shipment to comment on the tribunal’s order. The District Collector of the Bureau of Customs (BOC) for the Port of Manila seized 480 shipping containers owned by Danilo Galang under the trading name of Hildegard Grains Enterprises. The BOC refused to release the shipment because the importation was made without permits from the National Food Authority. However, Jurado ordered the release of the staple, forcing the government to elevate the case before the SC. Recently, Jurado was charged administratively before the SC by the Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura headed by Rosendo So. The group is an umbrella organization of 33 federations and organizations.

Foreign investment pledges fall 43% March 18, 2014 8:21 pm   by Voltaire Solano Palaña, Reporter Foreign investment commitments approved by investment promotion agencies (IPAs) in the fourth quarter of last year shrank by nearly half compared to the previous year, indicating that the government’s investment attraction efforts may still need a lot of work. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said that approved foreign investments in the fourth quarter last year amounted to P132.0 billion, 42.7 percent lower than P230.2 billion investment commitments in the fourth quarter of 2012.Meanwhile, total approved foreign investments (FI) for the full year reached P274 billion, down 5.4 percent from the P289.5 billion of pledges recorded in 2012. Foreign and Filipino ventures approved by the seven IPAs during the fourth quarter are expected to create 46,997 jobs, 4 percent more than the previous year’s projected creation of 45,198 jobs. Of the anticipated employment, 82.1 percent or 38,567 jobs would come from projects with foreign interest, the PSA said. The seven IPAs are the Board of Investments (BOI), Clark Development Corporation (CDC), the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), as well as the Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan (AFAB), the Board of Investments-Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (BOI-ARMM), and the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA).The PSA said the British Virgin Islands was the top source of approved FI in the fourth quarter as it contributed 35 percent or P46.1 billion of the total foreign investment commitments. Japan and the Netherlands occupied the second and third places, respectively. Japan pledged P29.4 billion or 22.3 percent and the Netherlands committed P14.4 billion or 10.9 percent of the total approved FI during the quarter.Projects in the transportation and storage sector garnered the largest amount of FI pledges for fourth quarter as it stood to receive P53.1 billion or 40.2 percent of the total FI committed. Manufacturing came in second with investment pledges valued at P51.7 billion, accounting for 39.2 percent, followed by administrative and support service activities with P14.5 billion pledged or an 11.0 percent share. Approved investments of foreign and Filipino nationals in the fourth quarter totaled P235.7 billion, 28.6 percent lower than the P330.1 billion posted in the same period of the previous year.Meanwhile, pledges from Filipino nationals stood at P103.7 billion, which accounted for 44 percent of the total approved investments during the quarter.

Posted on March 18, 2014 11:19:00 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Senior Reporter

Policy room ‘has narrowed’ THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP)’s policy stance remains appropriate, its chief said  ahead of next week’s policy meeting, even as room to keep rates steady has "narrowed" as  inflation continues to hover near the upper end of the target range.    "Based on our assessments, inflation remains manageable. Our forecast runs show that, over  our policy horizon, average annual inflation will settle within the government’s target range,"  central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said at yesterday’s Yearend Philippine  Economic Briefing.    "Therefore, there continues to be room to keep rates steady ... although the room for keeping  stance of policy has narrowed," he added.    The Monetary Board ‐‐ the BSP’s policy‐setting body ‐‐ will meet to discuss policy next  Thursday, March 27. During its first policy meeting for the year last Feb. 6, the board kept the  BSP’s overnight borrowing and lending rates at record lows.     Overnight borrowing and lending rates have been at 3.5% and 5.5% since October 2012. Rates  for all special deposit account (SDA) maturities have also stayed steady at 2% since June 2013.    Mr. Tetangco explained that the room for maintaining policy rates was now narrower as  inflation has ticked up.    "[L]ast year, we were at the low end of the target range. If you recall, average inflation last year  was around 3% and the target was 3‐5%. This year the target is also 3‐5%, but the average  forecast is at the midpoint," he said.    The BSP expects inflation to average 4.3% this year. Last February, inflation eased to 4.1% from  January’s 4.2%.    Even as inflation is expected to stay within the target range this year, Mr. Tetangco noted that  the central bank needed to take into account global developments as well as the domestic  monetary situation.   

"We all know we are moving into a higher interest rate environment globally. With the Fed  tapering, the expectation is that global interest rates are bound to go up at some point," he  said.    "So we should bear that in mind such that if there’s going to be an adjustment later, it’s not  going to be an abrupt adjustment. If we take action earlier now, it will be gradual and less  disruptive."    Locally, meanwhile, the country has also seen an increase in domestic liquidity ‐‐ which is  something the central bank is keeping an eye on, Mr. Tetangco said.    "Of course we have explained that this is really due to the operational adjustments that we’re  doing to the SDA facility," he noted.    "But this also needs to be watched, and we are doing that right now. We’re watching the  behavior of liquidity," he added.    "The expectation is that the spike is not going to be permanent. We expect the growth rate to  slow down during the course of 2014. Nevertheless, we think it’s prudent to keep an eye on the  behavior of liquidity."

Posted on March 18, 2014 11:16:44 PM

Aquino gov’t pushes bid for ‘lasting change’ THE AQUINO administration is making a renewed push for inclusive development with just a  little more than two years left to its term, with officials yesterday vowing to build on gains  achieved so far to ensure the economy remains resilient and growth sustainable.    Officials told a yearend economic briefing that amid a changing global and domestic  landscape, it is important for the Philippines to continue boosting its competitiveness and  increasing adaptability.    However, more work needs to be done as the country, despite posting a 7.2% gross domestic  product (GDP) growth last year, still faces high unemployment and poverty and increasing risks  from climate change.    "Our economy is progressing better and faster than before ... Yet we know there is much to be  done in ensuring growth benefits everyone," Budget Secretary Florencio B. Abad said.    "We want to introduce lasting change, to move our country to a new trajectory of sustained  growth. We will use the remaining 800 plus days of this government for the pursuit of inclusive  development, one where growth translates into equal opportunities for all," Mr. Abad added.    This, he said, will require shunning the "trickle‐down" concept.    "We cannot implement in a business as usual manner ... We must constantly improve on  reforms we have been rolling out, and engage people throughout reform process to enable  them to deepen their ownership of this country," Mr. Abad said.    Socioeconomic Planning chief Arsenio M. Balisacan noted that inclusive development required  going beyond fast economic growth.    He said that while growth targets remained attainable, given the country’s macroeconomic and  political stability, economic managers were mindful of opportunities for further improvement.    "As we strive to sustain our economy’s growth over the medium term, ultimately, the goal is to  increase inclusivity through addressing the twin problems of unemployment and poverty," Mr. 

Balisacan noted.    Investments, he added, need to be placed such that these directly benefit those most in need  and develop sectors, such as manufacturing and agriculture, that can yield high‐quality jobs.    Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima also underlined the role of good governance and sound  economic policies.    "Better governance has allowed us to gain more confidence from the financial markets. This  increased confidence has resulted in lower borrowing costs, which have allowed us to redeploy  more resources to investing in our people and our infrastructure," he noted.    Making local industries more competitive will also give the Philippines an advantage, especially  once ASEAN becomes one economic community by next year, Trade Secretary Gregory L.  Domingo said.    "We are not only exploring different procedures, but also considering changing laws and  regulations to make sure that the Philippines remains competitive relative to its neighbors," Mr.  Domingo said.    Economic managers noted that the need for improved resilience had become more important  given downside risks to growth.    "[W]e need to be watchful, among others, of our own disaster risk management efforts that  could affect sustainability of our growth performance, and potential upward adjustments in  domestic utility rates that could affect inflation expectations as well as any risks to financial  stability," central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said.    The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, he said, will continue to build resilience that will lead to "stable  prices, a relatively competitive exchange rate and a sound banking system."    Super typhoon Yolanda, which battered several provinces in central Luzon last November, had  opened the door towards resilience and sustainability, Presidential Adviser for Rehabilitation  and Recovery Panfilo M. Lacson said.    "We want to build back better. This tragedy ... has allowed us to consider reforms in order to  prevent another one like it. These reforms are also in line with the government’s economic  development priorities," Mr. Lacson said. 

Public Works Secretary Rogelio L. Singson and Transportation Undersecretary Rene K. Limcaoco  noted that the government was moving to implement the Structural Resiliency Program (SRP),  which involves upgrading infrastructure design standards.    Building resilience at all levels, the Budget department’s Mr. Abad said, will help result in a  virtuous cycle.    "Resilience means strengthening the economy’s foundations. All these efforts ... are all in line  with our inclusive development agenda," Mr. Abad said. ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc

Posted on March 18, 2014 10:55:33 PM

SC urged to junk order against rice seizure GOVERNMENT OFFICIALS have asked the Supreme Court (SC) to void an order stopping the  Bureau of Customs (BoC) from seizing rice imports that lacked the requisite permits from the  National Food Authority (NFA).  In a 75‐page petition for review, Agriculture Secretary Proceso     J. Alcala and Customs Commissioner John Phillip P. Sevilla  sought to nullify a Manila regional trial court (RTC) injunction  stopping the Customs bureau from seizing rice shipments owned by a certain Ivy M. Souza of  Bold Bidder Marketing and General Merchandise.    The bureau earlier seized Bold Bidder’s shipments, which were in 480 container vans, for  allegedly lacking the requisite NFA import permits.    The bureau also decided to seize the said shipments for allegedly violating the Tariffs and  Customs Code of the Philippines (TCCP).    Danilo G. Galang, the buyer of Bold Bidder’s shipment, asked the Manila RTC to stop the bureau  from taking control of the said rice shipment.    Judge Cicero D. Jurado, Jr. subsequently issued a writ of preliminary injunction that effectively  ordered the release of Bold Bidder’s shipment, prompting government officials to seek relief  from the high court.    GRAVE ABUSE  In the petition, the officials accused Mr. Jurado of acting with grave abuse of discretion for  issuing an injunction even if the bureau was allegedly not properly represented in court.    Also, there was "no clear and unmistakable legal right" that should be protected regarding the  seizure of the rice shipment involved in the case, petitioners claimed.    The officials maintained the NFA has the authority to issue permits despite the expiration of the  special treatment granted by the World Trade Organization‐General Agreement on Tariffs and  Trade (WTO‐GATT). 

The NFA, in a memorandum circular, limited import volume last year to 163,000 metric tons  (MT) from Thailand, China, India and Australia. Importers from the private sector have to  secure permits from the NFA before they can conduct business. Imported rice shipments that  lacked the requisite permit are considered "smuggled goods."    "Regardless of the status of the quantitative restrictions, the NFA still has the sole authority  import rice in the Philippines and to authorize private entities to import rice," the petition  stated.    Last month, the SC issued a temporary restraining order against the release of around 3.3 tons  of imported rice in Davao City that also lacked the requisite permits. The TRO was based on  another petition filed by Messrs. Sevilla and Alcala questioning an injunction order of Davao  City Judge Emmanuel C. Carpio. ‐‐ Mikhail Franz E. Flores

Posted on March 18, 2014 09:47:55 PM By Carmencita A. Carillo, Correspondent

Davao firm inks deal to ship Peking duck to Japan DAVAO CITY ‐‐ Maharlika Agro‐Marine Ventures Corp. (Maharlika) inked on March 7 a one‐year  sales contract with Japanese firms Daigo Tsusho Co., Ltd. and Aono Fresh Meat Co. Ltd. for the  distribution of Maharlika brand Peking duck in Japan, beginning this month.  PEOPLE look at ducks at the Bureau of Animal Industry, Quezon City, in this February 2013  photo. Peking ducks raised in Bukidnon will soon be shipped to Japan. ‐‐ Jonathan L. Cellona    The Japanese firms want Maharlika to supply them with up to 50 tons of premium‐cut duck  meat, including breasts and legs, every month.    Maharlika supplies up to 20 tons of Peking duck to Manila restaurants every month. The  company, however, declined to provide the projected amount of the product to be shipped  over the one‐year period.    Founded in 1974, Daigo Tsusho Co., Ltd. is a company engaged in the export and domestic sales  of food‐related equipment and packaging materials and is known for its role in the eel farming  and processing business in Japan. Aono Fresh Meat Co. Ltd., on the other hand, is based in  Shizuoka, Japan, and engaged in the retail and wholesale of food and beverages.    "We had a trial shipment earlier this year to familiarize with the customs, regulations and  export procedures of Japan," Vicente T. Lao, chief executive officer of Maharlika, said. The  company was told that the Peking duck shipment was well‐received by the Japanese market.    Representatives of the Japanese companies as well as Japanese customs officials visited the  country last year to check on the areas where the ducks are being hatched and processed and  have approved the sanitary and other safety and quality requirements.    Japan currently sources most of its Peking duck products from Europe and the United States but  is now looking at alternative sources from Asia since the cost of shipping is much cheaper. Mr.  Lao said this is a great opportunity for the Philippines, considering its bird‐flu‐free status.    Maharlika sources 3,000 duck breeders from Cherry Valley Peking Duck ‐‐ a company in the 

United Kingdom said to control 85% of the duck market ‐‐ every three months for breeding in  Bukidnon.    Peking ducks are native to northern China and thus need a cool area to breed, ideally at a  temperature of 18 to 20 degrees Celsius.    The chicks are grown in Manolo Fortich, Bukidnon, and in Arakan Valley, between the boundary  of Davao City and North Cotabato. The ducks are then processed in Cagayan de Oro City,  pending the completion of the company’s processing plant here, in the Tamugan district.    Mr. Lao said Maharlika Peking ducks in Bukidnon outperformed in tests against their  counterparts in the UK. He said the ducks in Bukidnon are less stressed because of the two‐ season weather in the Philippines, compared with the four seasons in the UK. Since the ducks  are less stressed, they keep on laying eggs.    "There is no competition because all of South Asia is affected by bird flu, and even Thailand,  with the biggest poultry‐producing company, is trying to go here because we are the only bird‐ flu‐free country in this part of the world," Mr. Lao said.    With Maharlika’s plan to put up a total of 14 houses in Manolo Fortich and Arakan, to house  15,000 ducks each or a total of 210,000 chicks, this is expected to create more employment for  locals as 300 people are needed per shift for the dressing plant alone.    "Our goal is to one day make possible that every Filipino family will be able to enjoy roasted  duck for dinner," Mr. Lao said.    Maharlika is presently negotiating with major shopping malls in the city for the supply of duck  meats.

Posted on March 18, 2014 09:43:38 PM

Zamboanga rubber co‐ops to get more SSFs ZAMBOANGA CITY ‐‐ More shared service facilities (SSFs) will be turned over by the  Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to rubber growers’ cooperatives and associations next  month in Zamboanga Peninsula, particularly in the province Zamboanga Sibugay.    Sitti Amina Jain, DTI regional director, told local media that the agency’s help "will continue to  nurture the rubber industry through further trainings and the provision of SSFs for rubber  farmers".  Ms. Jain said there will be coordination with members of the Philippine Rubber Benchmarking  Mission to India for technical assistance that can be extended to local rubber growers. A local  delegation, headed by Ms. Jain, will be leaving for India on March 23.    Alfonso Jack Fran Sandique, chief executive officer of Platinum Rubber Development Corp.,  based in Makilala, North Cotabato, said during a rubber production seminar here last week that  modern technologies should be applied in production and processing.  In order to gain higher returns on investment, Mr. Sadique said mechanization could be the  key. Most rubber farmers in Mindanao, he said, still rely on traditional methods and old‐ fashioned technologies. This leads to low yield as well as poor quality of rubber produced,  falling below international standards.    Based on data gathered by Platinum Rubber, the current system of production on the island  brings farmers only P5,000 per hectare monthly. Efficient rubber farming could bring in up to  P21,000 per hectare monthly, or four times the return on traditional farms in terms of  investments.  Mr. Sandique said he hopes that local government units and other concerned agencies are  assisting the growers in the region, just as the provincial government of North Cotabato  supports rubber farmers by providing new technologies.  Ms. Jain said she would spearhead a benchmarking mission to Mr. Sandique’s Platinum Rubber  farms, tentatively in June, to be participated in by interested local rubber growers. ‐‐ Karel B.  Mellanes

Posted on March 18, 2014 09:41:43 PM By Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Reporter

WTO arbitration over cigarette taxes again likely THE PHILIPPINES will likely hale Thailand back to arbitration should the pending tax evasion  case against the Bangkok‐based unit of Philip Morris International, Inc. negate a World Trade  Organization (WTO) decision in 2011, a Cabinet official yesterday said.    The case, filed last August by Thailand’s Department of Special Investigations against Philip  Morris Thailand Limited, is preventing the cigarette tax dispute between the Philippine and  Thailand from being put to rest, Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo yesterday said, on the  sidelines of the Philippine Economic Briefing at the Philippine International Convention Center  in Pasay City.    "There is a period in the case against Philip Morris Thailand which covers the same period in our  case against Thailand at the WTO. If that will be affected, yes we will go back to arbitration,"  said Mr. Domingo, adding: "We have to force compliance if they do not comply."    The Trade chief also said: "We have to look for some other forms of compensation." He  declined to elaborate.    Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal, Jr. said last month that "[t]here is no threat to exports  of tobacco from the Philippines to Thailand anymore."    "Customs valuations, excessive taxes... these have already been settled," he then said.    "But, there are pending charges in their Attorney‐General’s office against Philip Morris  Thailand, which involves some of the customs transactions during the period covered by the  case with the WTO. So, we are looking for assurance that the entire WTO decision is respected  not just now but also in the future," he added.    Bangkok Post reported on Aug. 18 last year that Philip Morris Thailand was being accused of  under‐declaring the value of its cigarette imports between 2003 and 2007, thereby avoiding  about $2 billion in duties and import taxes.   

Mr. Cristobal had said it is important that these developments in Thailand "will not negate  decisions made at the WTO."    "If that happens, the WTO decision now becomes useless," he then said.    Bilateral meetings between the Philippines and Thailand over the latter’s compliance with the  WTO ruling have been ongoing since May last year. Thailand has been required to implement  reforms after it lost, in 2011, a case involving claims of the unfair taxation of cigarettes from the  Philippines.    To comply, the Geneva‐based WTO said Thailand had to, among other things, implement a  general rule for customs valuation of imported cigarettes, use the same computation for the  maximum suggested retail prices of both imported and locally made cigarettes, and establish  independent review tribunals or processes for the prompt review of customs valuations.    The case stemmed from a 2006 complaint filed by the Philippines on behalf of Philip Morris  Philippines Manufacturing, Inc., claiming a bias against imported cigarette brands in Thailand.    Thailand was found granting less favorable treatment to imported cigarettes by exempting  similar domestic cigarettes from administrative requirements like filing tax returns, filing  revenue and expense reports, and related sanctions for the failure to report.    The original deadline for the reforms was October 2012, but the Philippines allowed Thailand  some leeway as some changes may require legislation.    If the Philippines is unsatisfied with the implementation of Thailand, WTO rules state that the  country can seek further arbitration or ask the Geneva‐based agency to impose limited trade  sanctions.

Posted on March 18, 2014 09:18:44 PM

Peso steady ahead of Fed THE PESO was almost unchanged against the dollar yesterday ahead of the results of the US  Federal Reserve’s two‐day policy meeting that began Tuesday.  The peso closed at P44.685 per dollar Tuesday, half‐a‐centavo     stronger than Monday’s P44.69‐to‐the‐dollar finish. It traded  within a narrow range of P44.58 to P44.70 against the  greenback.    About $611 million worth of dollars were traded, about a fifth thinner than Monday’s volume.    “The volume shows lackluster trading. We’re still waiting for the FOMC (Federal Open Market  Committee) meeting,” a trader said in a phone interview.    MetisEtrade’s Yroen Guaya Melgar said: “The Fed is expected to change the tapering rate on  asset purchases. A reduction in asset purchases of more than 10 billion USD will indicate more  confidence in the US economy and will most likely drive the dollar higher.”    The peso’s slight appreciation “could be a minor correction after the dollar’s gains during the  height of the Crimean crisis,” she added.    Most emerging Asian currencies extended gains on Tuesday as the threat of immediate military  conflict in Ukraine appeared to ease, but a weaker Chinese yuan and caution before the Fed’s  policy meeting limited their gains.    The Fed is expected to keep sticking to reductions in its monthly asset purchases by an  additional $10 billion, and could also alter its forward guidance in its post‐meeting statement.    Any hawkish stance could again bolster worries about capital outflows from emerging Asia. ‐‐  with Reuters

Posted on March 18, 2014 09:20:38 PM

Treasury raises P25B from T‐bond sale THE BUREAU of the Treasury has raised P25 billion from the sale of fresh seven‐year Treasury  bonds yesterday, marking the second time it made a full award for the year.    The newly issued T‐bonds were awarded at a coupon rate of 3.5%.    Its average rate of 3.426% was up 47.3 basis points from the 2.953% awarded the last time  government sold seven‐year bonds at a November 19 auction.    In a briefing after the auction, National Treasurer Rosalia V. de Leon said the T‐bonds’ rate was  in line with market rates. The seven‐year papers were quoted at 3.5079% at the secondary  market by midday yesterday.    Asked about the Treasury’s decision to issue bonds at higher interest rates, Ms. De Leon  explained that it was not so much a matter of the Treasury “allowing” interest rates to rise, but  rather, the results of the auction were plainly driven by market conditions.    “We’re just aligned with market conditions, market rates... And it’s really a fact [that] rates are  really moving up, given the [US Federal Reserve] taper,” Ms. De Leon told reporters.    “What’s good about today’s auction, though, is that we have a very strong demand. It’s two‐ and‐a‐half times greater than the offering,” she added.    Banks had wanted to buy as much as P69.204 billion of the new seven‐year bonds. The  government had programmed borrowing for the day at just P25 billion.    A bond trader interviewed by phone echoed Ms. De Leon’s remarks, saying that the auction  results were expected.    “There were rumors earlier in the day that the rate would be at 3.25% to 3.375%,” the trader  said. “There was good demand for that, so it’s many times over the [Treasury] offering.”    The government is offering the seven‐year bonds auctioned off yesterday through the  Treasury’s tap facility window today, at a yield‐to‐maturity rate of 3.426%. The announcement  was made through a memo published on the Treasury website.   

Pressed about the Treasury’s short‐term plans to raise money for the government, Ms. De Leon  said a debt exchange program is one option. She did not elaborate.    “We’ll just have to see, because if I say, ‘We’re doing debt swaps in the second half of the year,’  that’s like it’s already certain,” she said in Filipino.    Ms. De Leon said Treasury officials have yet to decide on second quarter debt auctions.    “We’ll see if we’ll do some re‐openings, or if we’ll be issuing new [securities]. We haven’t  decided it yet.” ‐‐ R.L.B. Aquino

Posted on March 18, 2014 09:19:57 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Senior Reporter

Islamic banking framework ready within BSP chief’s term THE BANGKO Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is working to hasten the creation of a regulatory  framework for Islamic banking to take advantage of the relatively untapped sector, a central  bank official yesterday said.    “We’re trying to fast‐track it (the framework). It’s hard to commit to a date, but these are the  ASAP (as soon as possible) projects. Definitely within the [BSP] Governor’s [Amando M.  Tetangco, Jr.] term,” BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla said on the sidelines of  yesterday’s briefing by economic managers of the Aquino administration.    “We already have a draft but we are still validating the assumptions there because we are going  to situate the law against the market’s expectations. By that, I mean, we need to establish what  our market is looking for by way of Islamic banking. We need to align that,” said Mr. Espenilla.    Mr. Tetangco last week said that the central bank is in the “very early stages” of drafting a  general law for the creation and regulation of Islamic banks in the Philippines.    This regulatory framework, the BSP chief had said, must be crafted to not only conform with  the principles of Shariah, but also to ensure that the regulatory environment is conducive to the  growth of a “responsive” Islamic banking system.    Mr. Espenilla yesterday noted that Islamic banking warrants the creation of financial products  that factor in “the sensitivity to the religious requirements.”    “Interest is something that’s not acceptable. Gambling is not acceptable, as well as elements  that could be construed as gambling. There are transactions that might be construed as  gambling,” he explained.    “There are certain activities that should not be funded by Islamic funds. There are prohibited  activities that are contrary to the religion. Those need to be factored in,” said Mr. Espenilla.    An Islamic bank adheres to laws based on the Koran. It does not charge interest but instead 

earns by acting like an equity investor to borrowers by forging partnerships, lease‐to‐own deals  and other similar arrangements.    “Also, what’s the right structure? Pure Islamic banks or creating Islamic windows within  conventional banks? These are some of the considerations,” he added.    Asked who will be in charge of regulating Islamic banks, Mr. Espenilla said that under the  Constitution, the supervision of banks has to be with the country’s central monetary authority.    “For Islamic banking purposes, though, some form of coordination might be necessary because  products need to be judged to be Shariah‐compliant but the BSP is not a Shariah law expert,”  he noted.    “There are a lot of operational elements still being ironed out... The initiative is something  that’s a priority so we want to be supportive of that process. Islamic banking is not just for  Muslims. There’s something for non‐Muslims who may like the value proposition of Islamic  banking products as it’s participative in nature,” said Mr. Espenilla.

2014 03 19 quedancor daily news monitor  
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