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Ex‐Nabcor execs bare P5‐B agri scam By Edu Punay (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 26, 2014 ‐ 12:00am 

  Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor vice president for administration and finance, and Victor Roman  Cacal 

MANILA, Philippines - Two former officials of state-owned National Agri-Business Corp. (Nabcor) bared to the Department of Justice (DOJ) yesterday another P5-billion scam involving non-pork barrel funds. Rhodora Mendoza, former Nabcor vice president for administration and finance, and Victor Roman Cacal, former general services supervisor, met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima behind closed doors and submitted affidavits detailing alleged misuse of funds for nine agricultural projects that the firm undertook during the previous administration. Speaking to reporters, lawyer Levito Baligod, who represents the two, said he expects the DOJ to file new plunder charges against officials whom he did not name based on the new evidence. “There was irregular release of funds because there was no public bidding conducted as required by law on projects worth over P50,000,” he said. “The checks were released without supporting documents. We have evidence to show that the head of agencies signed even without the signature of the subordinate officials.” Baligod said one of the projects involved P300 million in funds from the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) rice program in 2009 that Nabcor handled under the Department of Agriculture (DA). “For example, there was P105 million for technical studies meant for 10 NGOs (non-government organizations) but it appeared that the payments were remitted to a Nabcor official,” he said. “The DA had good programs for our farmers, but the problem is when it comes to implementation they (officials) themselves sabotage these projects.”


The affidavits of Mendoza and Cacal also cover projects involving post harvest facilities, Barangay Food Terminal and Agricultural Competitive Enhancement Fund. Baligod, former lawyer of Benhur Luy, said Nabcor issued checks in the names of broadcasters Erwin Tulfo and Melo del Prado. “I am not ready at this point to comment if it was legitimate or not,” he said. Baligod said they just submitted the affidavits and supporting documents to the DOJ. It would be up to the DOJ who among the officials involved would be charged before the Office of the Ombudsman, he added.

Probe questioned President Aquino was questioned yesterday for ordering an investigation into another potential pork barrel scam involving about half a billion pesos coursed through the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF). Sen. Sergio Osmeña III said it is “another proof of an awful management” under the Aquino presidency. “I don’t like that idea and I am suspicious of it,” he said. “Why will he ask Peter to investigate Paul? Why wouldn’t he get an outsider to investigate it?” The chairman of the Senate committee on banks, financial institutions, and currencies doubts that Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Budget Secretary Florencio Abad and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras, whom Aquino ordered to to submit a comprehensive report on the issue, will be able to come out with a fair report on the matter. “See? What does it say?” he asked. “It means that there is corruption regardless of how honest PNoy is. It’s a matter of management, if you don’t have proper management control in place, these things will always happen. “Even in ordinary private corporations, if you don’t have the right auditing or control procedures, you’ll get scammed. Whether you own BPI or PDLT.” Osmeña said any congressional inquiry would depend on individual lawmakers because it takes just a resolution to call for an investigation. “How would you ask Abad when it is supposed that it was Abad who released the money?” he said. Osmena said the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) should do the investigation.


“Why don’t they call the NBI? They should not be the ones. They are not the investigators. That bothers me that they are not trained investigators.”

Scam denied NCMF head Mehol Sadain, a former elections commissioner, denied yesterday that the agency was involved in a multi-million-peso pork barrel fund scam. In a letter to The STAR, Sadain, who is also a member of the government peace panel dealing with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MNLF), took issue with the paper’s story that auditors have noted irregularities in the use of P515 million that two senators and 38 members of the House of Representatives had allocated to NCMF and ended up with 18 foundations and nongovernment organizations (NGOs). The story was based on the 2012 Commission on Audit (COA) annual audit report on NCMF. It is posted on the COA website under the Office of the President (OP), since the NCMF is an OP agency. Sadain said the report was meant as “internal communication between the resident auditor and NCMF for justification and submission of documents required by the resident auditor.” “It is not even a final audit of the funds as the resident auditor has suspended the audit to await the documents due by end of April this year,” he said. His letter is dated Monday, the same day Aquino ordered Ochoa, Abad and Almendras to look into the audit findings on NCMF. Aquino indicated he did not know that NCMF was a Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) implementing agency, and that lawmakers had allocated hundreds of millions in PDAF to it. PDAF was the official name of the congressional pork barrel. In its annual audit report for Sadain’s agency, the COA said NCMF received a total of P515 million in 2012 in pork barrel funds. Of that amount, the audit commission classified P25 million as having been sourced from Malacañang’s controversial disbursement acceleration program. In his letter, Sadain said NCMF has been a PDAF-implementing agency since 2011. He denied that some of the 18 foundations with which the P515 million ended up were identified with suspected pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. He admitted that the lawmakers endorsed the foundations and NGOs, but that NCMF has adopted an accreditation process that required these entities to submit 15 documents “to prove their existence, eligibility and capability to undertake the project.”


In fact, he said he has disqualified Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation, “which had projects under the previous administration.” However, the 2012 annual audit report for the Muslim commission showed that Kapuso’t Kapamilya was allocated a total of P64 million through NCMF by seven House members, including a party-list representative who gave it P37 million. The other NGOs and the amount of funds they received through the commission were Focus on Development Goals Foundation, P30 million; Livedures Foundation, P37 million; Kaagapay Magpakainlanman Foundation, P160 million; Maharlikang Lipi Foundation, P67.7 million; Rich Islas de Filipinas Foundation, Inc., P62 million; Kagandahan ng Kapaligiran Foundation, P25.170 million; Kabalikat sa Kalusugan Foundation, P17 million; Kaisa’t Kaagapay Mo Foundation, P3 million; Workphil Foundation, P1 million; Kaakbay-buhay Foundation, P3.5; Pangkabuhayan Foundation, P5 million; Coprahan at Gulayan, Inc., P14 million; BL Personal Touch Foundation, P11 million; UF Multi-purpose Corp., P1.1 million; and Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation, P10 million. Some of these foundations are among NGOs that figured prominently in the COA special audit report on billions of PDAF disbursed between 2007 and 2009. For instance, Kabuhayan at Kalusugan Alay sa Masa Foundation received P526.7 million, according to the special report, while Pangkabuhayan Foundation, which has been linked to Napoles, received P396.1 million. Some P107.5 million went to Kapuso’t Kapamilya Foundation. “The audit team was informed that the concerned lawmakers were the ones who identified the NGOs/POs (people’s organizations), and not NCMF, as evidenced by the letters of the lawmakers to the secretary of the NCMF,” the NCMF annual audit report said. “It is our view that the selection of NGOs/POs should be undertaken by NCMF because the funds were released to NCMF, and therefore, the same agency is duty-bound to account for the funds to the government and/or beneficiaries,” the audit team said. – With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/03/26/1305191/ex-nabcor-execs-bare-p5-b-agri-scam


Livestock producer to export duck meat to Japan Category: Agri-Commodities 25 Mar 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent A PEKING-DUCK producer from Davao is set to export regularly raw-duck meat to Japan starting this month. Maharlika Agro-Marine Ventures Corp. signed on March 7 a one-year sales agreement with Daigo Tsucho Co. Ltd. and Aono Fresh Meats Ltd. for export of duck meat to Japan, the Philippine Embassy in Japan reported in its web site, on Tuesday. The agreement was a culmination of a successful trial shipment of duck meat by Maharlika on January 12 this year. No specific volume of export was provided, but in December last year, Maharlika Chairman Vicente Lao said the Japanese buyers require him to supply 50 tons of meat every week. Under the deal, the Shizuoka City-based companies will become the sole distributors of Maharlika’s duck-meat products in Japan, the embassy said. The Philippine Embassy said, “Japanese importers took notice of the high quality of the Philippine variety and found it more than satisfactory in meeting the discriminating taste of Japanese duck connoisseurs.” The Japanese firms are also considering exportation of whole ducks, premium breast meat, boneless leg meat, bone-in leg meat, wings and fillets. “The export of duck meat to Japan opens crucial business and livelihood opportunities for Filipinos, especially in the Mindanao area,” Ambassador Manuel M. Lopez reportedly said, adding that the contract is an important breakthrough to ensure Philippine duck meat will continue to make significant inroads in the lucrative Japanese market. Last year the export of duck meat to Japan was strongly pushed by Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, who said that unlike its Asian neighbors, Philippine poultry products continue to enjoy bird flu-free status. Maharlika’s production facilities in Manolo Fortich, has seven buildings, and two additional facilities were being constructed in the Arakan Valley area, where the company is planning to construct five additional buildings, with each building capable of housing 15,000 ducks. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/29527‐livestock‐ producer‐to‐export‐duck‐meat‐to‐japan 


Alcala says lawyers needed at DA Category: Agri-Commodities 25 Mar 2014 Written by Marvyn N. Benaning / Correspondent IDEALISTIC, hardworking and dedicated lawyers are needed at the Department of Agriculture (DA.) Less than a week after law graduates of the University of the Philippines (UP) dominated the top 10 placers in the Bar examinations, Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala issued an appeal to the new barristers to work for the benefit of farmers and fishers. “The Office of the Secretary, the legal division and other offices offer several plantilla positions for lawyers, and fresh Bar passers are definitely most welcome to apply,” Alcala said. The DA itself needs internal investigators and watchdogs to nip irregularities in the bud, with top officials admitting that even with the strict rules of the Commission on Audit and the Department of Budget and Management, some parties continue to take advantage of the funds dedicated to small farmers and fishermen. Alcala’s chief of staff, Undersecretary Emerson U. Palad, is a lawyer, along with Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources Director Asis Perez and National Corn Program Coordinator and Assistant Secretary Edilberto de Luna. Alcala asked the new lawyers to help the DA protect the interest and promote the welfare of small farmers and fishers. “It’s a noble act to do, especially that our small farmers and fishers are among the weakest members of the society, at least in terms of legal support,” he said. Alcala said interested applicants may get in touch with the Office of the Chief of Staff at OSEC or e-mail eup_osec@yahoo.com. The DA is also rationalizing the department and hiring new personnel to achieve higher efficiencies and ultimately provide better service to the public. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/29526‐alcala‐says‐ lawyers‐needed‐at‐da       


Meralco pushes 45 cents per kwh rate hike By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 26, 2014 ‐ 12:00am  

  MANILA, Philippines - An additional 7.5 centavos per kilowatt-hour will be imposed in the monthly generation charge of electricity consumers for a period of six months after the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) sought to recover unbilled charges for January amounting to 45 centavos per kwh. On March 20, Meralco asked the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for permission to recover the 45-centavo unbilled amount for a period of six months or 7.5 centavos per kwh every month to start immediately upon approval. This followed the ERC’s March 3 order voiding the November 2013 and December 2013 rates at the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), which affected Meralco’s December 2013 and January 2014 electricity bills. Originally, Meralco’s January 2014 generation charge rose to P10.23 per kwh, but the power distributor pegged it at only P5.67 per kwh in deference to the the Supreme Court (SC)’s temporary restraining order (TRO) last year on Meralco’s December 2013 generation charge. On March 3, ERC ordered market operator Philippine Electricity Market Corp. (PEMC) to void the rates at the WESM for the November 2013 and December 2013 supply months and to recalculate the charges using regulated rates. In response, PEMC said the re-calculated rates are P6.2 per kwh for the December 2013 supply month. Following the re-calculated rates, Meralco said the revised January 2014 generation charge is now P6.118 per kwh instead of the original P10.23 per kwh. Meralco proposed “to bill its customers an incremental generation charge of P0.0751 per kwh every month for a period of six months or until the P1.309 billion is fully recovered.” The P1.309 billion is the unrecovered generation cost of Meralco for power purchased from US power company AES Masinloc and San Miguel’s Sual coal plant, based on the re-calculated PEMC rates.


Meralco told the ERC: “With respect to the December 2013 supply month, the reduction in the WESM bills to Meralco and the corresponding adjustment in the cost of replacement power of AES-Masinloc and SMEC-Sual resulted in a reduction of P9.765 million in the total generation cost, which translates to a revised generation charge for January 2014 of P6.1180 per kwh. Since recovery for the January 2014 billion to Meralco’s customers was pegged at P5.6673 per kwh, there remains a total unrecovered amount of P1.309 billion. “Accordingly, Meralco proposes that it be allowed to bill to its customers an incremental generation charge of P0.0751 per kwh every month for a period of six months or unlit the balance of P1.309 billion is fully recovered,” Meralco also said. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/03/26/1305207/meralco-pushes-45-cents-kwh-rate-hike

                                 


Police seize P4‐M smuggle rice at Zamboanga wharf By Roel Pareño (philstar.com) | Updated March 25, 2014 ‐ 5:08pm 

ZAMBOANGA CITY - Police forces have intercepted a motor launch loaded with 4,000 sacks of smuggled rice in a private wharf in this city, an official said Tuesday. Chief Inspector Ariel Huesca, commanding officer of the Zamboanga City Public Safety Company (ZCPSC), said the smuggled rice was confiscated from M/L Princess Sibutu which came from Tawi-Tawi. Huesca said his team, backed by the elements of the 3rd Mobile Company of the Regional Police Safety Battalion 9 (RPSB) led by Chief Inspector Nazier Alonzo Halil, launched the operation after detecting the motor launch suspiciously unloading several sacks of rice (of 25-kilo each) at the Petron wharf in Baliwasan Seaside. He said the raiding team confiscated at least 4,000 sacks of rice with brand name “AAA” reportedly shipped by a certain Alnezar Usman, who failed to present pertinent documents to the authorities. The police official said the smuggled rice has an estimated market value of P4 million. He said the owner of the seized motor launch identified as Jul-Arab Akan, who is a resident of Bongao, Tawi-Tawi province, also failed to present a manifest of the cargoes. The seized smuggled sacks of rice have been turned over to the Bureau of Customs. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/03/25/1305005/police‐seize‐p4‐m‐smuggle‐rice‐zamboanga‐ wharf               


Banana firms move to solve ‘pole-vaulting’ issue Category: Companies 25 Mar 2014 Written by Cha Monforte / Correspondent REPRESENTATIVES of large banana corporations have expressed agreement to settle the issue of pole-vaulting of contracts made by small banana growers and grower cooperatives in Davao del Norte. During the session of Davao del Norte Sangguniang Panlalawigan on Monday, Stephen Antig, executive director of the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA), said there is a need “to strike a win-win solution” to the pole-vaulting of contracts practiced by small banana growers. Antig said that pole-vaulting is one of the problems facing the country’s banana industry alongside the continuing threats of Panama and Sigatoka diseases that give pestilence to banana plantations. “Those offering high prices are spot buyers who come in during good times and then leave and abandon [small growers] during good times,” Antig said. He added that it has become that way because “spot buyers have no investment, unlike corporate farmers.” “Pole-vaulting confronts the banana industry in the last six years and, so far, we found no solution to it,” he told members of the provincial board. Antig, however, said the buying price of banana is “supposed to be negotiated every year,” adding that there is a need to revisit contracts between the banana companies and small banana growers. Large banana companies have been facing an issue that they have tied up small growers in contracts with in low buying prices for too long a time that resulted to miserable economic plight of small growers and landowners. In early 2000s, landowners in Davao del Norte and neighboring Compostela Valley started growing their own bananas after the contracts to lease their lands directly to large companies expired. Their produce were contracted out to big banana companies which provided funding and technical support. Some banana growers, however, “pole-vaults” from their long-term contracts and sell to spot buyers offering higher prices. Antig asked the local government of Davao del Norte to enact an


anti-pole-vaulting ordinance, similar to the ordinance criminalizing pole-vaulting in South Cotabato. “The other ordinance I would like to request is an ordinance against fly-by-night banana packing houses as these affected the quality of our bananas. In the last three years, there is a tremendous reduction of the volume of bananas that is accepted in China. Penalizing backyard packing houses is a big boost to the industry,” he said. Board Member Alan Dujali, however, defended the small banana growers saying that the entry of new buyers “gives good prices” for bananas. He questioned the situation faced by banana grower cooperative producing in 200-hectare land with a buying price fixed to only $3 per box of bananas without adjustment in five long years. He said if the buying price is fixed at $2.80 per box, of which 70 cents go to value-added tax, making small growers in difficult financial straits to pay their loans. “Small growers should be given technical support, facilities, supplies including the chemicals and they should be given a good price that they can continue producing. They are just negotiating prices enough to feed their families. A win-win solution that is fair on both sides is really needed,” Dujali said. Vice Gov. Victorio Suaybaguio Jr. said the legislative body is willing to accommodate the two parties settle the pole-vaulting issue as the banana industry that has made the province great as provider of incomes and thousands of jobs has to be protected. There are more than 300 small banana growers cultivating in at least 1,500 hectares of land in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley provinces. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/companies/29524‐banana‐firms‐move‐to‐ solve‐pole‐vaulting‐issue                 


BSP reform issues Category: Banking & Finance 25 Mar 2014 Written by Mercedes B. Suleik

First of a series The proposal, under House Bill 3112, to revise the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) charter, which was last revised in 1993 (mandated under the 1987 Constitution to establish an independent central monetary authority), has received quite a bit of flak over some of the suggested changes. This article will pick up some of the issues raised, but one must start from the premise that the bill’s objective is to strengthen the BSP’s three important mandates, viz., (1) monetary stability; (2) financial stability; and (3) its corporate and financial stability. Among the more contentious issues raised by various stakeholders are on amendments that pertain (a) to the perceived broad coverage of the BSP’s authority to obtain data by including the private sector; (b) to the proposed expansion of the coverage of BSP examination to include parent and other affiliate companies of a bank; and (c) to the proposed authority to inquire into bank-deposit accounts. On issue (a), that is, to the perceived broad coverage of the BSP’s authority to obtain data by including the private sector, the data and information to be obtained refer to statistical aggregated data/information, which are primarily needed by the BSP for policy-making purposes. The quality of the policies that the BSP adopts depends on the relevance, timeliness and comprehensiveness of the information it uses. Such data would help improve forecasting, better assess developments in the economic environment, identify vulnerabilities which may affect the financial system and overall financial stability, and provide a more sound basis in the conduct of a forward-looking monetary-policy framework, in particular, inflation targeting. For instance, in order to be able to fully assess the quality of bank exposures to certain sectors of the economy, aggregated financial statement information on a representative sample of large corporate bank borrowers would allow the BSP to determine the extent of the banking system’s vulnerability to a downturn in an economic sector, as well as channels of risk or contagion (e.g., real estate subject to bubbles). Other examples of information requested are those included in the BSP surveys, which are intended to capture external transactions not covered in the BSP’s


bank reporting system and/or those that cannot be sourced from the regular submission of company financial statements to the Securities and Exchange Commission. Such data serve as inputs to the compilation of the Balance of Payments, International Investment Position, and Flow of Funds statistics. In ensuring the stability of the financial system, a challenge faced is that it is dynamic and is interconnected with other economic sectors, which could result in risks that could emerge in complex sequences. The grant of authority for the BSP to have access to information from the nonbank private sector will greatly improve the coverage and quality of data for monetary-policy formulation, and be more reflective of developments pertaining to the nonfinancial corporations. Specifically, information on cross-border transactions would help the BSP to manage and curtail external threats to the Philippine economy and its vulnerability to global shocks. Needless to say, the statistical and aggregated data that may be gathered by the BSP shall be handled with utmost responsibility and be used only for the purpose of policy-making. The BSP is bound to maintain the confidentiality of information it receives. This is a safeguard that assures that whatever information may be obtained by the BSP shall not be used for purposes other than those in support of monetary and financial stability functions. The exercise of this authority shall also be subject to such guidelines as may be issued by the Monetary Board. The second and third issues concerning the proposal to reform the charter of the BSP shall be covered in the succeeding article. merci.suleik@gmail.com                    


BFAR to add 100 more patrol boats By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated March 26, 2014 ‐ 12:00am   0  0 googleplus0  1 

 

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is adding 100 new patrol boats of various capacities to its existing fleet to strengthen its patrol functions in Philippine coastal boundaries nationwide. Fisheries director Asis Perez said 27 units of 43-footer vessels are being constructed this year, some of which would be commissioned in June. Each unit costs P6 million. Seventy-one units of 30-footer patrol vessels costing around P1.3 million each are also being constructed. Some units would also be deployed in June. The smaller vessels would be used for patrolling in municipal waters. Slated for construction within the year and deployment by next year are two units of 55-meter boats to be used in high seas patrol duties. Each unit would cost P180 million each. For security reasons, the number of patrol vessels in BFAR’s existing fleet could not be disclosed. Perez said the budget for the new patrol vessels came from the previous year’s allocation, while some would be obtained from this year’s allocation. He said the heightened patrol functions would not be limited to disputed waters such as the Panatag Shoal where hostilities with Chinese maritime entities are reported from time to time. The side of the country exposed to the Pacific Ocean, for instance, is vulnerable to poachers because of less economic activity and less presence of Philippine vessels. BFAR personnel, he said, would also implement stronger monitoring of municipal waters during closed seasons. BFAR recently imposed stricter trading and gathering regulations for several species like blue swimming crabs and sea cucumber, requiring increased monitoring. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/03/26/1305123/bfar‐add‐100‐more‐patrol‐boats       


Pork-barrel scam ‘crying ladies’ Category: Opinion 25 Mar 2014 Written by Ed Javier

THIS is not to appear insensitive, but if alleged pork-barrel queen Janet Lim-Napoles and beleaguered Agriculture Assistant Secretary Ophelia Agawin think they can keep getting away with murder, they have another think coming. Last week these two ladies were seen crying on television news programs, pleading for mercy from the legal court and from the court of public opinion. In an emotional scene straight out of a teleserye, Napoles tearfully begged the judge of the Regional Trial Court in Makati City for permission to be transferred to St. Luke’s Medical Center in Bonifacio Global City to seek medical treatment for her intrauterine tumor, or myoma. She was subsequently sent by the court to the Ospital ng Makati, where a government doctor who saw her declared that her illness was not that serious. Agawin was also in tears last week when she implored the public to spare her family from vilification for her alleged role as the gatekeeper of department funds that were channeled to bogus non-governmental organizations (NGOs) controlled by Napoles. As people of the Christian faith, we couldn’t help but be moved to pity for these two women. However, we quickly caught ourselves. After all, a whopping P10 billion of taxpayers’ money is involved in the pork-barrel scam. Therein lies the rub. What about the poorest of the poor who should have benefited from the pork-barrel funds stolen from public coffers? The farmers and fishermen in far-flung provinces are the rightful beneficiaries of these funds, not crooked politicians and government functionaries. It pains us to think that the simple, unlettered folks in the agricultural sector living a hand-tomouth existence were exploited to the hilt by devious individuals in their grand design to enrich themselves.


If the Napoleses and Agawins of this world ever hope for the public to grant them mercy, they must first show some remorse and confess everything they know about the scam. They should admit to their wrongdoing and be willing to be held accountable for what they have done. Perhaps, only then can Napoles be allowed to go to the hospital of her choice to seek medical treatment. Maybe only then can Agawin’s family be spared from further condemnation by a public thirsty for justice. After all, it is said we Filipinos are a forgiving people. But on the contrary, Napoles consistently feigns innocence on her participation in the scam before the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee. This, even as we saw on social media the extravagant lifestyle of a daughter with no apparent source of income. Napoles steadfastly refuses to cooperate with authorities and thinks she can take us for a ride. And, yet, we continue to shoulder the high cost of maintaining her security forces at Fort Santo Domingo in Santa Rosa City, Laguna province, and the convoy of police personnel who accompany her to court appointments in Manila. Maybe now would be a good time to send Napoles to the Makati City jail, together with other female prisoners. Perhaps, she would change her mind when she sees that the government is hellbent on not giving her any more special treatment. Frankly, the behavior of thieves caught stealing vast sums of money from the government is getting a tad predictable: They perform a “perp walk” before the media, get sick in jail, are brought to court in a wheelchair and seek medical arrest in a high-end hospital in air-conditioned comfort. But the poor individual caught stealing a can of milk is immediately thrown into jail and made to wait for years and years before his or her case is even heard in the proper court. Even when it comes to crime, the rich are different from you and me. Rice harvest for ‘Yolanda’ victims AMID the controversies hounding the Department of Agriculture (DA), here’s some positive news. We were informed that rice famers in areas affected by Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan) are all set to harvest a bumper crop this month after using the emergencyseed supplies provided to them by the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the DA late last year. The timely distribution by the FAO of some 1.76 million tons of seeds ensured the second harvest of the season. The group was able to utilize its $1.2-million fund to purchase certified seeds last November to augment the needed input at the start of the planting season.


According to media reports, the FAO has declared “that not only will the farmers be able to feed their families, they will also be able to sell the surplus and generate extra income, which is crucial for them to fully recover.” The rice harvest should yield enough rice to feed 800,000 people for more than a year. The FAO hopes that the government can ensure that farmers get a good price for their harvest. Relative to this, the DA instructed the National Food Authority (NFA) to buy all the rice produced by the farmers. Funds have also been released for the repair of NFA warehouses destroyed by the typhoon. The government should build on the assistance and goodwill of the private sector in helping Yolanda victims. It is imperative for NGOs and private groups to believe that our government is doing its part in rebuilding the lives of the people in the Visayas. This can-do attitude will encourage them to help more. At the end of the day, the government should be the one wielding the baton and orchestrating the massive rehabilitation work in areas affected by Yolanda. http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/opinion/29531‐pork‐barrel‐scam‐crying‐ladies                               


A general disconnect By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am

NEVER one to pass off an opportunity to twit his critics, President Benigno Aquino III this week told businessmen there seemed to be “a general disconnect between the front page and the business page.” Quoting his Budget secretary, he noted “how so many business groups are gung-ho about the Philippines, while others just stop short of prophesying doom.” “You have my gratitude for recognizing and acknowledging the great strides the Philippines has made,” he told business leaders gathered at the Palace for their oath taking as the new officers of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, the Employers Confederation of the Philippines, the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. and the Anvil Business Club. But at the same occasion, the President created a disconnect himself by praising his administration’s public private partnership (PPP) projects, despite the snail’s pace at which these are moving. Almost four years into the President’s term, in fact, the administration has issued notices of award to the winning bidders of only six projects involving the construction of highways and classrooms, the privatization of a government hospital and an updated fare collection system for the light railway system in Metro Manila. Of these projects, only 2,879 classrooms and about 32 percent of a four-kilometer toll road have been completed. But facts never got in the way of rhetoric for this President. “A lot of you have put your money where your mouth is. Notice, for example, the spirited competition that our private-public partnerships have attracted-redounding to a system where


government and enterprise can work together to fulfill the promise of our country,” he told the businessmen, showing off his skills at hyperbole. Certainly, there is also a serious disconnect between what the President says his government is doing for the victims of super typhoon Yolanda, and what the survivors themselves are saying. How, after all, can we reconcile the claims of his Social Welfare secretary about the efficiency of relief operations under her watch, and reports that food aid that has been allowed to rot in warehouses is being buried in dumps, or worse, being distributed to the survivors? The President’s claim that the reports are being investigated by the Social Welfare secretary border on the ludicrous, and creates yet another disconnect. Is it right that the accused in a crime be asked to investigate his own case? This President seems to think so. Finally, there is also a disconnect between the advocacies that this President claims to support and what he has done—or not done—in office. While he advocates free speech, he constantly complains about his critics, has shown only tepid support for a freedom of information bill, and has signed into law a draconian measure to punish online libel. The general disconnect between what this President says and what he does brings to mind a Mark Twain quote that seems singularly appropriate to Mr. Aquino and his administration: “Action speaks louder than words but not nearly as often.” http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/a‐general‐disconnect/                         


Irrigation earns P4 billion By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am National Irrigation Administration chief Claro Maranan said the agency generated P4.0453 billion in revenue for calendar year 2013, an increase of P492 million compared to P3.5535 billion in CY 2012. Based on the Financial Performance Report from the Deputy Administrator for Administrative and Finance Lorna Grace Rosario dated March 20, 2014, the increase was due to improved collection of Irrigation Service Fees amounting to P204 million (P1.4456 billion in CY 2012 to P1.6478 billion in CY 2013); decrease in 10 percent discount on ISF of P2million and increase in loss-on-sale of palay of P.122 million; increase of P197 million in Subsidy income from the National Government, specifically in 5 percent Management Fee (P984.36 million CY 2012 and P1.187 billion in CY 2013 less decrease of P5.5 million in Management Fee). The report also cited the increase of P12 million for CIP/CIS/Pump Amortization and Equity; increase of P75 million in Water Fees and Energy Delivery Fees; increase of P12 million in Rent Income and Penalties; increase of P7 million in Miscellaneous and other fines and penalties; and decrease in interest income of P15 million. The improved revenue likewise resulted from Agency’s effort to achieve financial viability through the performance of Regional Directors, Project and Irrigation Managers who worked hard in attaining targets, collection and remittance of irrigation fees. The expected dividend to be remitted to the Bureau of Treasury is P17,010,429.66. The final amount of dividend is computed based on the Audited Income Statement under the Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations of Republic Act 7656, or An Act Requiring GovernmentOwned and Controlled Corporations to Declare Dividends to the National Government. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/irrigation‐earns‐p4‐billion/               


50-centavo fare increase junked Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am By Lailany P. Gomez and Rio N. Araja The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board denied for lack of merit a 50-cent fare increase sought by the transport sector.LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez said “the board based it from verified data provided by a leading oil fuel company and from the Department of Energy.”The agency cited a report submitted by Petron Corp. in a public hearing last February 21, which showed that prices of diesel fuel in Metro Manila since May 2012 until January 4, 2013 have not breached the P45 per liter level. “Under Section 16 [c] of the Public Service Law, it is the duty of the board to take into account and balance the rights of the commuting public and the rights of the operator-grantee. We are aware that any fare adjustment creates a direct effect in the rise of cost of living, which in return affects both the commuting public and goods being transported,” Ginez said.Last February 15, transport groups filed a motion to hike rates by at least 50 centavos for the first four kilometer. On March 20, 2012, the board granted a provisional 50-centavo adjustment on jeepney fare when the diesel fuel price reached P57 per liter. LTFRB recalled the Order on May 14, 2012 when the diesel prices was reduced to P45 level.Earlier this month, a series of rollback on fuel prices was announced by various oil companies and, as of March 4, had effected a decrease of 30 centavos per liter on diesel fuel. Last week, oil firms again reduced fuel prices due to downward adjustments in the international market, with diesel prices trimmed by an additional P0.70 per liter.With the series of oil price reduction, the year-to-date net decrease for the week of March 18 onward for diesel was pegged at P1.35 per liter.Ginez said that with the diesel fuel price remaining below the P45 per liter level, board declined to grant the transport groups’ request for provisional fare hike. He added that the LTFRB will continue hearings on the transport groups’ petition for PUJ fare increase on March 28, April 4 and 11.The group filed a petition for fare hike on December 11 to increase the minimum fare to P10 from the current P8 and an increase of 35 centavos for every succeeding kilometers in Metro Manila and Central Luzon and Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-RizalQuezon area. “We knew the condition of our jeepney drivers, but we also appeal to them to follow our decision. Otherwise we will be forced to impose sanctions on transport groups that will defy the board’s order not to increase minimum fares,” Ginez said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/50‐centavo‐fare‐increase‐junked/   


Red Tide alerts raised in some provinces, lifted in other places By Anna Leah G. Estrada | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) raised red tide alerts on Tuesday against shellfish and alamang collected in various coastal areas of the country, which officials said were unsafe for human consumption. BFAR Director Asis Perez warned consumers of red tide contamination in the coastal areas of Bolinao and Anda in Pangasinan; Dumanguillas Bay, Zamboanga del Sur; Mariveles, Limay Orion, Pilar, Balanga, Orani Abucay and Samal in Bataan. “All types of shellfish and alamang gathered from these areas are not safe for human consumption,” Perez said. But fish, squids, shrimps and crabs are safe when fresh and thoroughly washed, and the internal organs such as gills and intestines are removed before cooking, Perez said. BFAR has declared the following areas free the toxic from red tide: Cavite; Las Pinas; Paranaque; Navotas, Bulacan; Alaminos City, Wawa and Bani in Pangasinan; Masinloc Bay in Zambales; Milagros and Mandaon in Masbate; Sorsogon; Puerto Princesa and Taytay, Palawan; Capiz; Bacolod; Surigao del Sur and Camiguin Island. BFAR also lifted the red tide alert in Murcielagos Bay in Zamboanga del Norte and Misamis Occidental. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/red‐tide‐alerts‐raised‐in‐some‐provinces‐ lifted‐in‐other‐places/               


The lure of Mindoro fishermen’s ancient ways By Robert A. Evora | Mar. 25, 2014 at 12:01am MAMBURAO, Occidental Mindoro—Marginal fishermen in Mindoro Strait are on a roll in the the world’s yellow fin market, attracting buyers with their ancient practice of slapping the sea with their lines and beating expensive commercial operations using modern equipment such as sonars, sensors and nets. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) said the handline fisherman, who roam the Strait on outrigger boats, catch 70-kilo yellow fin tuna using “kawil” (hook, line and sinker), attracting pelagic fish such as tuna, marlin and mahi-mahi (dolphin fish) in their “payaw” or fish aggregating device.

Weigh in. Fishermen weighs their yellow-fin tuna catch from the Mindoro Strait. ROBERT EVORA “Tuna buyers from European and Middle East countries as well as Japan and the United States are coming to Mamburao in droves. Mamburao is now the de facto tuna capital of the Philippines,” said Joselito Tiongson, site manager of the WWF.Commercial fishing operation involved catching tuna in large volumes using powerful boats and nets. But the large quantity and the manner of hauling in the fish result in lacerations and bruises.The Mindoro handline fishermen, the typical lonely figures in the open sea, rely only on their wits and their kawil to pull in the fish. Their payaws, bamboo rafts attached with palm or coconut fronds and tethered to the sea floor with concrete blocks, provide shelter to the fish and within reach of their lines. Tiongson said the flesh of yellow-fin tuna caught by “kawil” remain intact and because each fish is caught individually it hardly has any bruises on the body — buyers from different parts of the world swear they taste better.“Foreigners do not buy yellow fins caught by commercial fishermen using nets because their flesh are damaged. They are usually caught in big quantities,” Tiongson said.General Santos City in Mindanao still holds the title as “tuna capital” because it hosts six of the eight tuna canneries in the country but the area is “overfished” and commercial


fishers have to go to the high seas of Solomon Islands, Fiji, Papua New Guinea, Timore Leste, and Indonesia to look for yellow fins, Tiongson said.He said General Santos has the canneries, cold storage and infrastructure facilities, but” Mamburao is the tuna growth area and the first municipality in the Philippines to receive a certification from the European Union for conforming to its standards for tuna exports.”Municipal Agriculturist Sunshine Singun said Mamburao makes an annual harvest of 600,000 metric tons, which makes it the fifth among the top 10 tuna producers in the world.The WWF and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR)said Mamburao should serve as model for its use of handline fishing, which could be one of the best ways to sustain fish population in the seas.“Using nets can lead to over-fishing because even the baby tuna are trapped and pulled in,” BFAR Director Asis Perez said.

Personalized handling. A fisherman carries on his shouldera 70-kilo yellow-fin tuna to the collecting station. ROBERT EVORA Roberto Cueto, 45, of Barangay Tayamaan, who has been fishing at the Mindoro Strait for the past 29 years, said he catches 70-kilo bariles from a shallow depth of 20 to 30 meters.“We usually fish within 15 kilometers off Mamburao’s municipal waters within the Mindoro Strait. If we’re lucky, we go home the followng day with a good catch of 200 kilos of tuna,” said Cueto, who is Vice president of the 200-member Tuna Fishers Association of Mamburao. Cueto said their catch is not good during full moon because Bariles is spread out, and the fishermen have to go out as far as the West Philippines Sea, 70 nautical miles from municipal waters, to look for tuna. “If we fish within the municpal waters, we return home the following morning. If we go as far as the West Philippines Sea, we stay there from five to six days,” Cueto said.Mamburao Mayor Voltaire Villarosa said the town holds an annual “Tuna Tonelada Festival” as part of their tuna sustainability program, which coincides with the Lenten Season when Filipinos eat only fish and vegetables during Lenten fridays.“Aside from being the top five of the world’s fishing nation, the Philippines is a responsible fishing nation,” Villarosa said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/25/the‐lure‐of‐mindoro‐fishermen‐s‐ancient‐ ways/     


Imports surged 22% to $5.8b in January By Jennifer Ambanta | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am Imports jumped 21.8 percent to $5.8 billion in January, the highest in five years, on higher orders for petroleum products, transport equipment, consumer goods and raw materials, the Philippine Statistics Authority said Tuesday. The PSA said imports in January climbed from $4.7 million a year ago and $5.4 billion in December. It was also the highest monthly tally since imports hit $5.9 billion in July 2008. “The three-month moving average growth in January 2014 suggests that imports could be trending upwards in line with the expected recovery in exports,” said Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan. The robust growth of imports, coupled with the 9.3-percent expansion of exports amounting to $4.4 billion, resulted in a trade deficit of $1.4 billion in January, up from $716.3 million a year ago. “Raw materials and intermediate goods and mineral fuels and lubricants largely contributed to the robust import growth during the month,” Balisacan said. Imports of raw materials and intermediate goods hit $2.2 billion in January, up by 27.3 percent from $1.8 billion a year ago. “This was due to increased payments of semi-processed goods that grew by 37.5 percent during the period,” the PSA said. Shipments of consumer goods also expanded 23.2 percent to $766.9 million in January from $622.4 million a year earlier. Sales of capital goods grew 7.9 percent to $1.5 billion. Petroleum imports increased 33 percent to $1.2 billion while inbound shipments of transport equipment climbed 87 percent to $691.67 million. “This positive performance may be reflective of the optimistic outlook of businesses on their own operations as their next quarter outlook index [second quarter] is higher,” said Balisacan. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/imports‐surged‐22‐to‐5‐8b‐in‐january/         


BAP: Banks to face lower equity returns By Julito G. Rada | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am The Bankers Association of the Philippines expects local banks to review their business models because of a likely reduction on their return on equity with the implementation of Basel 3 in the country. “There are a lot of studies done where Basel 3 will reduce return on equity of EU and US banks by 3 to 4 percent. Some Asian banks probably [by] as much as 10 percent to 11-percent reduction in RoE,” BAP president Lorenzo Tan told reporters in an interview. “So back to basics. Basel 3 will force you to change business models because they require you to have a lot of capital, less leverage. And then you will start seeing a lot of consumer protection rules that will limit some of your fees,” Tan said. The Basel 3 implementation started in the Philippnes on Jan. 1 this year. But Tan said the good news was banks would be safer although it would be hard for them to enjoy the old levels on return to equity because of limits on leverage and liquidity. Tan said the average RoE for Asian banks was around 15 percent to 16 percent, while EU and US banks posted around 10 percent to 12 percent. He said there were some banks making a 25-percent RoE because of trading income. “So those banks will see significant reduction in RoE,” he said. “Most banks are preparing for that. You have to start reading about global banks laying off thousands of people, global banks spinning off subsidiaries because now they try to ring-fence foreign operations. No more due to, due from. Foreign operations in the Philippines must have their own capital just like local banks,” he said. Tan said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had done well to prepare local banks for Basel 3 implementation in the country. He said most of local banks started raising their capitals a year ago. “And those raising capital this year are doing it to fund future growth. But in terms of qualifying under Basel 3, I think, as far as I know, we’ve all qualified,” Tan said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/bap‐banks‐to‐face‐lower‐equity‐returns/     


New P5-b Nabcor irregularity bared By Rey E. Requejo | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am THE lawyer of two former officials of the state-owned National Agri-Business Corp. who are seeking admission to the Department of Justice’s Witness Protection Program on Tuesday bared another P5-billion anomaly. Levito Baligod, counsel for Nabcor’s former vice president for administration and finance Rhodora Mendoza and general services supervisor Victor Roman Cacal, said the two had met with Justice Secretary Leila de Lima and submitted affidavits detailing the alleged misuse of funds from nine agricultural projects handled by Nabcor during the previous administration. “There was an irregular release of funds because there was no public bidding conducted as required by law on projects worth over P50,000,” Baligod told reporters. “The checks were released without supporting documents. We have evidence to show that the head of agencies signed without the signatures of subordinate officials.” As a result, Baligod said, he expected the Department of Justice to file new plunder charges but declined to name those who would be pinned down. Baligod said the projects involved P300 million in funds from the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani rice program in 2009, which was handled by Nabcor under the Department of Agriculture. “For example, there was P105 million for technical studies meant for 10 NGOs, but it appeared that the payments were remitted to a Nabcor official,” Baligod said. “The DA has good programs for our farmers, but the problem is when it comes to implementation they [the officials] themselves sabotage these projects.” Baligod, who once served as a lawyer of principal whistle blower Benhur Luy, confirmed that Nabcor issued checks bearing in the names of broadcasters Erwin Tulfo and Melo Del Prado, but said “I am not ready at this point to comment if [those were] legitimate or not.” On Wednesday, President Benigno Aquino III downplayed the plunder case filed against him for allegedly allowing the misuse of pork barrel funds channeled through Nabcor. He likened the plunder case to the “absurd” solutions sometimes being offered by his critics, such as those opposing the Skyway III project because of the heavy traffic it would cause. “I am curious: What did I supposedly gain from this [pork barrel misuse]?” Aquino said.


“Because one element of plunder is you have to have personal gain. So what did I, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, or Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala gain?” Aquino made his statement even as the Department of Justice on Wednesday said it will investigate the allegations that some members of the media received payoffs from Nabcor in connection with the alleged P10-billion Priority Development Assistance Fund scam. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima said she will look into the reports that radio anchors Erwin Tulfo and Carmelo del Prado Magdurulang each received P245,535 from Nabcor. “I will look into that,” De Lima said. “I will evaluate first the sworn statements of the Nabcor whistle blowers.” Nelson Borja, Tulfo’s lawyer, denied that Tulfo was involved in the PDAF scam. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/new-p5-b-nabcor-irregularity-bared/


Keep bank secrecy law untouched, says Palace By Joyce Pangco Panares | Mar. 26, 2014 at 12:01am Malacañang is wary of the proposal of the Bureau of Internal Revenue to lift the Bank Secrecy Law in an effort to run after tax evaders. “The Bank Secrecy Law is very important and that proposal will have wide-ranging implications. “A lot of people have a stake on that issue,” Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma said. “We expect the BIR and the Department of Finance to do consultations as well as a thorough study on the full implications of such a proposal,” Coloma added. BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said lifting the Bank Secrecy Law will put the Philippines in line with countries establishing a single and consistent global standard in tracking tax fraud. The bank secrecy law is a special legislation that allows and requires banks and financial institutions to protect and keep confidential customer information from third parties, even if these are government or tax authorities. The breach of bank secrecy is a criminal offense for any bank employee to divulge all types of personal and financial data, including deposits and number of accounts or transactions except in the case of the gravest crimes, which does not include tax evasion. Even administration allies in the Senate were lukewarm to the proposal. Senator Francis Escudero, chairman of the Senate committee on finance, said existing laws, including the bank secrecy law and the Anti-Money Laundering Act, already authorize the BIR to conduct financial probes on certain individuals for tax purposes. Senator Grace Poe-Llamanzares said Henares’ proposal might adversely affect the banking industry. She warned the public might lose faith in banks if their accounts are opened for scrutiny by the BIR. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/03/26/keep-bank-secrecy-law-untouched-sayspalace/


Meralco eyes staggered Jan rate hike collection March 25, 2014 11:22 pm   by Madelaine B. Miraflor Reporter THE Supreme Court has yet to issue a ruling on the legality of the P4.15 per kilowatt-hour (kWh) increase that the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) imposed late last year, but the utility firm has filed a revised petition asking the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to allow the collection of a 45-centavo/kWh hike for the month of January 2014.Meralco said it is willing to collect the rate increase on a staggered basis.The company determined the amount of the price increase based on the recalculated cost of power on the electricity spot market for the supply month of December.In its amended application, the power firm asked the ERC to approve the collection of higher rates based on its proposed power rate hike over a period of six months. Thus, if the 45 centavos per kWh increase is paid in six installments, Meralco customers will pay an additional P0.075 per kWh every month for six months. If the new rate adjustment is imposed, households consuming an average of 200 kWh a month will find a combined increase of P90 in their electricity bills for the entire six months or P15 each month.The ERC earlier ordered the Philippine Electric Market Corp. (PEMC), the operator of the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), to recalculate the average power rates in November and December 2013 after the regulatory body found that there was a market failure during that time when the Malampaya plant went off the grid for its scheduled maintenance. The tight power supply was compounded when other power producers also shut down their operations. Meralco claimed that it had to collect a record P4.15 per kWh increase from its customers because it had to buy electricity on the spot market at higher rates. It also agreed to collect the record hike in three tranches but was stopped by the Supreme Court.The power utility firm said it will wait for the ERC’s action on its new hike petition before adjusting its rates for the month of January.Last week, the PEMC said the rate adjustments imposed by Meralco in late 2013 were excessive. After reviewing the computations of the regulated prices for November and December, the PEMC said the average price rate 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 wanted to collect starting in December last year should be lowered to P2.43 per kWh. http://www.manilatimes.net/meralco-eyes-staggered-jan-rate-hike-collection/85422/


More young Filipinos HIV-positive March 25, 2014 11:20 pm   by Ghio Ong and Reina Tolentino Reporters THE Philippines is one of nine countries where the number of human immunodeficiency virusacquired immunodeficiency syndrome (HIV- AIDS) cases is growing. But what is more alarming is that many of the new victims are teenagers, with some as young as 15. Based on a study conducted by the Department of Health (DOH), more young Filipinos have acquired the HIV. Data from the Philippine HIV/AIDS Registry showed that in January this year alone, 118 of the new HIV patients belong to the 15 to 24 age bracket. They are among the 448 fresh HIV cases reported for the first month of the year. Half of the 448 victims, or 224 patients, are from Metro Manila, while 16 percent come from the Calabarzon region, seven percent from Davao region, and four percent from Western Visayas. The rest of the regions recorded less than one to two percent of HIV cases this year. From 1984 to January 2014, 36 people below 15 years old were infected with HIV. For the same period, 429 people aged 15 to 19 acquired the virus, as well as 3,467 in the 20 to 24 age bracket. The United Nations Children’s Fund (Unicef) has also noticed this disturbing trend, saying new HIV infections “now occur at a younger age.” “In some areas, one in three persons most at risk are in the 15-17 age group,” Unicef said. Experts attribute the spike in HIV cases to unprotected sex. The sharp increase in HIV cases started in 2008. Teresita Bagasao, Country Coordinator for the UN Program in HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), said there is a decline in infection and death figures worldwide. However, the Philippines is on an upward trend. “Sad to say, we are included among nine countries with over 25 percent new reported infections. It’s worrisome because the new infections that have been reported have come only in the last three years,” she said. The other countries where HIV/AIDS is on the rise are Bangladesh, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Kaszakhstan, Kyrgystan, Republic of Moldova, Georgia, and Guinea-Bissau. From 2008-2012, there was a 538 percent increase in new cases of HIV in the Philippines, according to the National Epidemiology Center of the Department of Health (DoH).


Bagasao said when the first infection was reported in 1984, HIV/AIDS was considered a slow and hidden disease. But since 2007 when one HIV case was reported every three days, the disease has been on a “fast and furious” rampage. Now, one HIV infection is reported every two hours or 30 cases a day. According to a 2013 study of the University of the Philippines Population Institute (UPPI), premarital sex among the youth rose to 32 percent from 18 percent in 1994. The study showed that in 2013, 6.2 million Filipino youth had premarital sex, and more than half of this number— 4.8 million young people—indulged in unprotected sex. Of the 6.2 million, 7.3 percent engaged in casual sex (one with no relationship or payment involved, and happened only once or twice), and 5.3 percent of males had sex with other males. However, only 40 percent of these youth aged 15 to 24 are aware of sexually transmitted diseases. However, 80 percent are aware of HIV/AIDS. “This means that the youth are not able to connect AIDS with sexually transmitted diseases,” UPPI Dean Joy Natividad said. She described the findings as “shocking” because these are youth who have graduated from high school and college but they do not understand STDs. The study noted that unprotected sex could heighten the risk of pregnancy or acquiring sexuallytransmitted diseases. Infections among the youth, which comprise one-fourth of the total number of cases, increased tenfold in 2013, with 995 reported infections from 44 in 2006. The estimates exclude unreported cases. Natividad said unprotected sex remains to be the main cause of HIV infection. “There is a heightened, bolder and wider range of sexual behaviors including those that use the new high speed technology,” she pointed out. She said the study also looked into how many people found sex partners from texting and the Internet and found that ways of interaction can lead to risky behavior among the youth, such as casual, regular, non-romantic same-gender and extramarital sexual experience. Meanwhile, Jeffrey Acaba, co-convenor of the Network to Stop AIDS-Philippines (NSAP), said migrants, transgenders, homosexuals and other vulnerable sectors are also at high risk. “The question is, how do we give them access to HIV testing?” he said. He added that even if condoms are now sold openly, there is still a “social stigma” on the person purchasing them. Amendments The alarming increase of HIV cases prompted lawmakers to call for the amendment of RA 8504 or the National AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1998.


According to the Philippine Legislators’ Committee on Population and Development (PLCPD), the law’s provisions “no longer respond to the current challenges of the concentrated HIV epidemic in the Philippines.” Rep. Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bikol said despite advances in medical treatment, the DOH reported that people seek treatment when it is too late. He said the proposed amendments seek to promote HIV testing of minors even without parental consent. “It’s reality. No one tells their parent if they had sexual experience or if they have sexually transmitted disease or HIV. When parents got wind of it, they usually get angry. The child gets ostracized, stigmatized,” Batocabe said. He proposed that minors aged 15 and above who may be infected with HIV should not ask for the consent of their parents before being tested. He said a compassionate approach in counseling and support should be given to the young HIV victims. “Ito po ay significant change in the law in order for us to help and reach out to a population where incidence of HIV and AIDS is growing, and to have a compassionate approach to their treatment,” Batocabe said. But this remains a contentious issue in Congress, and lawmakers have yet to iron out other issues such as whether the parents should be informed immediately of the HIV test results. HIV testing costs at least P1,500 in private clinics and is free in public hospitals. The DoH is trying to improve testing by finding ways to quicken the process, thereby reducing the cost. Batocabe said the government can shoulder the costs of HIV testing. http://www.manilatimes.net/more-young-filipinos-hiv-positive/85420/


Congress eyes individual income tax cut by P11,000 March 25, 2014 8:17 pm   by LLANESCA T. PANTI REPORTER As much as an P11,000 reduction in annual income tax dues for individuals earning at least P15,000 a month has been proposed in the House of Representatives. The proposal was made in House Bill 4099 filed by Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo of Valenzuela City (Metro Manila) that seeks to lower the current 32 percent income tax for individuals and the current 30 percent income tax for corporations. Under Gunigundo’s measure, the income tax rates for individuals will depend on the amount of their net taxable income while the corporate income tax rates will be pegged at 15 percent of the company’s gross profit. This means that an individual, who is either single, married or head of the family, with no dependent and has an annual net taxable income of P130,000, would only have to pay P9,500 in income tax per year—an amount P11,000 less than the P20,500 collected by the government at present. A married person with one dependent and an annual net taxable income of P105,000, on the other hand, would only have to pay P7,000 in income tax per year—an P8,500 reduction from the existing P15,500. The annual income tax rates for individuals further go down as the number of their dependents increases. A married person with two dependents would only have to pay an annual income tax of P4,500 instead of the old P10,500. A married person with three dependents would only have to part with P4,000 in income tax instead of the old P6,250. A married person with four dependents would only have to pay P1,500 in annual income tax instead of P2,500. Also, the annual income tax rates will be lower for those who earn P280,000, P430,000, P580,000, P730,000 and P1 million a year. A uniform annual income tax rate of 15 percent from a company’s gross profit, Gunigundo said, would streamline the process and encourage those in the informal sector to join the mainstream circle and even foreign investors to put their capital in the country.


Under the current system, the annual income tax expense of a company is computed by subtracting a number of items from its gross profit such as selling and administrative expenses, interest expense and other financing charges, interest income, income from acquisition of assets at fair value, reversals on impairment of non-current assets-net, other net incomes and income before income tax. Gunigundo, however, conceded that his proposal will reduce the government’s tax collection by as much as P90 billion. He, however, said P90 billion cannot be treated as government loss “because we can revise our (revenue collection) targets.� http://www.manilatimes.net/congress-eyes-individual-income-tax-cut-by-p11000/85315/


Business groups press for RH Law immediate implementation March 25, 2014 8:14 pm   by RITCHIE A. HORARIO Various business groups on Tuesday pressed for immediate implementation of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) Law.Among the groups that expressed full support for the RH Law are Employers Confederation of the Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of the Philippines and Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry. “We, the undersigned business groups, reaffirm our strong support for the immediate implementation of RA [Republic Act] 10354, the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012,” the business groups said in a consolidated statement.The implementation of the RH law was temporarily stopped after the Supreme Court (SC) issued an injunction against it. “In our goal to attain sustainable and inclusive growth, the RH Law must be fully and properly implemented without delay,” the business groups said.They maintained that the proposal “reflects the true will of the people.”But the business groups reiterated their “unequivocal opposition to any measure that condones abortion in any way and limits free choice.” The same statement was issued by the business groups in August 2012 and October 2010. “The RH Law successfully hurdles these concerns. In fact, we strongly believe that the law protects and enhances the people’s constitutionally-enshrined rights to life and good health, freedom of choice, and a living wage and income,” the groups said. While the High Court is yet to resolve the constitutionality of the RH law, the business groups expressed belief that it could be used as strategy for poverty reduction. They said the RH Law is a complement to current and proposed initiatives to address longstanding challenges to the country’s development. The groups called on supporters of the RH Law to continue to publicly express support for the law’s immediate implementation. http://www.manilatimes.net/business-groups-press-for-rh-law-immediateimplementation/85306/


P10-million livelihood program for returning OFWs March 25, 2014 8:10 pm   by ROBERTZON F. RAMIREZ THE Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA) will provide P10 million for the livelihood program of 14 returning overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz said the budget was allocated by the government for the livelihood assistance to the OFWs who wanted to begin a small business in the country.“The OWWA in Region 9 is providing our returning OFWs the assistance that they deserve, proof positive that when we put our hearts in what we do, we make impact,” Baldoz said.Baldoz has cited reports from OWWA Region 9 Director Hassan Gabra Jumdain. Jumdain said the OWWA regional office gave P30,000 to three former OFWs under the National Reintegration Center.OWWA had helped sustain and maintain the small business of nine entrepreneurs of former OFWs with a P10 billion fund from the Landbank of the Philippines under the P2-billion National Reintegration Program. Two more OFWs got P19,618.85 for two livelihood projects under the OWWA’s Enhanced Livelihood Assistance Program (ELAP), bringing the total number of jobs created and sustained during the three-month period to 14.In addition, the OWWA has endorsed to the LandBank 75 more projects, which are currently in the pipeline. Meanwhile, Jumdain said that the some 26, 434 OFWs in region 9 had availed the assistance program of the government in the first three months in 2014 after they were repatriated from Sabah.“They [OFWs] were temporarily housed at the One-Stop Shop Processing Centers [OSPCs] in Bongao, Tawi-Tawi and in Zamboanga City,” Jumdain said in his report. Under the DOLE’s program the OWWA has trained 174 OFWs and 2, 731 were oriented on the legal processes of overseas employment. He added that the OWWA has been conducting Pre-Departure Orientation Seminar (PDOS) and the Comprehensive Pre-Departure Education Program—a language and culture familiarization for Middle East-bound workers twice a week since January. A total of 814 OFWs attended these two orientation seminars.Also in January, OWWA Region 9 paid P185, 815 for the education of its 20 scholars under the SESP and P150, 000 for 15 scholars under the ODSP. http://www.manilatimes.net/p10-million-livelihood-program-for-returning-ofws/85295/


MMDA TO ROLL OUT TWO NEW BIKE LANES March 25, 2014 8:00 pm   by Ritchie A. Horario TO encourage commuters to try other alternative modes of transportation, the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) is set to open more bicycle lanes in the metropolis. MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino said two more bike lanes will be opened on Wednesday along Epifanio de Los Santos Avenue (Edsa). The first bike lane is from Ortigas to Santolan (northbound) Edsa and the second will stretch from White Planes to Temple Drive. He said it is more convenient to use bicycles amid the monstrous traffic gridlocks caused by the overlapping construction of 15 major road projects. http://www.manilatimes.net/mmda-to-roll-out-two-new-bike-lanes/85394/


Taxpayers not necessarily tax evaders, BIR told March 25, 2014 6:44 pm   The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) is wrong in assuming that taxpayers are tax evaders with its drastic proposal of lifting the Bank Secrecy law in running after tax evaders. Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo made the stance in connection with the proposal of BIR Commissioner Kim Henares to nix the Bank Secrecy law since it hampers BIR’s efforts in going after tax evaders. “The BIR is not thinking out of the box. The problem with their attitude is that they treat taxpayers as tax evaders. Taxpayers are nation builders. They should be treated with dignity and respect,” Gunigundo said in an interview. Under the Bank Secrecy law, bank officials are prohibited to disclose the information of their clients to third parties, even law enforcers. Such secrecy is only waived if the client gives the bank the consent to divulge his or her account details or if the client is being prosecuted for grave crimes such as plunder. The grave crimes, however, do not include tax evasion. “When Congress drafted the Bank Secrecy law in the 1950s, there was a debate on whether do we run after tax evaders or prevent individuals from hoarding money. What carried greater weight is the effect of individuals hoarding money in our economy. That is why bank records are absolutely confidential,” Gunigundo, a lawyer like Henares, added. A good tax regime, Gunigundo cited, has to impose simple tax policies instead of stifling the taxpayers. “Tax payers should not be lumped together as tax evaders. Otherwise, who would put money in our banks? People will keep their money to themselves. Money won’t circulate. Worse, foreign capital will go out of the country,” Gunigundo stressed. Earlier, Reps. Giorgidi Aggabao of Isabela and Rodel Batocabe of Ako Bicol party-list opposed Henares’ proposal like Gunigundo, saying that lifting the Bank Secrecy law in going after the tax evaders is would be an overkill. “The solution of the BIR to ferret out tax dodgers by lifting the Bank Secrecy law is akin to using a sledgehammer to kill an ant. The solution is extreme and grossly disproportionate,” Aggabao, one of the Deputy Speakers in the House, said in a text message. “I am not in favor that we lift our Bank Secrecy policy because it will erode the confidence of the public in our banking system. It is not the job of the banks to go after tax cheats. The only way for banks to help the BIR is thru the AMLA,” Batocabe, also a lawyer, added.


Batocabe was referring to the Anti-Money Laundering Council which automatically puts a red flag on transactions amounting to P500,000 and beyond. But for Rep. Rodito Albano of Isabela, Bank Secrecy law should only cover private citizens, not public officials. “The waiving of Bank Secrecy is for government officials because if you are a public official, you should be open to the scrutiny of the public. If there is nothing to hide, why fear it? Privacy is for private citizens,” Albano , also a lawyer, said in a separate talk. “It’s the criminals who won’t benefit if the Bank Secrecy Act is lifted,” Albano added. LLANESCA T. PANTI http://www.manilatimes.net/breaking_news/taxpayers-not-necessarily-tax-evaders-bir-told/


Congress eyes income tax reduction for individuals by as much as P11,000 March 25, 2014 5:27 pm   As much as an P11,000 reduction in annual income tax dues for individuals earning at least 15,000 a month has been proposed in the House of Representatives. This developed after Rep. Magtanggol Gunigundo of Valenzuela City filed House Bill 4099 which lowers income tax for individuals and corporations which is currently pegged at 32 and 30 percent, respectively. Under Gunigundo’s measure, the income tax rates for individuals will be dependent on the amount of their net taxable income while the corporate income taxes will be pegged at 15 percent of the company’s gross profit. This means that an individual who is either single, married or head of the family, with no dependent and has an annual net taxable income of P130,000, would only have to pay P9,500 worth of income tax per year—an amount P11,000 less than the present rate of P20,500. A married person with one dependent and an annual net taxable income of P105,000, on the other hand, would only have to pay P7,000 of income tax per year—an P8,500 reduction from existing rate of P15,500. The annual income tax rates for individuals further go down as their dependents increase. A married person with two dependents would only have to pay an annual income tax rate of P4,500 instead of the old P10,500. A married person with three dependents would only have an annual income tax rate of P4,000 instead of the old P6,250. Last but not the least, the married person with four dependents would only have to pay P1,500 annual income tax rate instead of P2,500. Likewise, the annual income tax rates will be lower for those who earn P280,000, P430,000, P580,000, P730,000 and P1 million per year. “This reduction in income tax rates will stimulate the economy by providing individual taxpayers more after tax income or disposable income which they can either save or spend in the engagement of services or purchase of goods that are subject to Value Added Tax (VAT),” Gunigundo said in his explanatory note. “If people would have more resources to spend for taxable goods, there will be a demand. With increased demand comes the need for more supply. In coming up with enough supply, we create jobs,” Gunigundo told reporters in a separate talk.


A uniform annual income tax rate of 15 percent from a company’s gross profit, Gunigundo underscored, would streamline the process and encourage those in the informal sector to join the mainstream circle and even foreign investors to put their capital in the country. Under the present system, the annual income tax expense of a company is computed by subtracting a number of items from its gross profit such as: selling and administrative expenses, interest expense and other financing charges, interest income, income from acquisition of assets at fair value, reversals on impairment of non-current assets-net, other net income and income before income tax. “With a simplified system, you only have to deduct 15 percent of a certain company’s gross profit and you already got your annual income tax rate for them to pay. End of story. We don’t need to be circuitous,” Gunigundo pointed out. Gunigundo, however, conceded that his measure will reduce the government’s tax collection by as much as P90 billion pesos. The Valenzuela City lawmaker, however, argued that P90 billion cannot be treated as government loss. “There will be no losses because we can revise our [revenue collection] targets. Initially, there will be P90 billion peso drop in government revenue targets. But we should not look at it that way because this measure increases the individuals’ after tax income, a disposable income. We can’t be myopic and only think of targets because there are other factors to consider,” Gunigundo stressed. “They can choose to spend or save it. It’s up to them. There are those people who don’t want to pay taxes because of their mistrust on how the government handles the taxes. Well, let us let them manage their money with this measure,” Gunigundo added. LLANESCA T. PANTI http://www.manilatimes.net/breaking_news/congress-eyes-income-tax-reduction-forindividuals-by-as-much-as-p11000/


PH, SPAIN EXTEND ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT TIE-UP BY 4 YEARS March 25, 2014 8:54 pm   by Kristyn Nika M. Lazo The Philippines and Spain signed an agreement on Monday to extend their development partnership by four years to 2017, under which the Philippines will receive a 50-million euro grant to pursue programs focused on good governance, the rule of law and disaster-risk management. The projects for funding are outlined in the Philippines-Spain Country Partnership Framework (CPF) for Development Cooperation 2014-2017. The 50-million euro fund will be coursed through the country’s national government agencies, multilateral cooperation through United Nations agencies, and cooperation through Filipino-Spanish non government organizations partnership. According to the NEDA, additional funds for financial cooperation and program-based aid will also be considered, if needed. http://www.manilatimes.net/ph-spain-extend-economic-development-tie-up-by-4years/85333/


Posted on March 25, 2014 09:56:46 PM

Implementation of RH law pushed BUSINESS GROUPS yesterday called for the "immediate implementation" of the so‐called  Reproductive Health (RH) law that has been suspended by the Supreme Court (SC) more than a  year ago.  In a joint statement, the Employers Confederation of the     Philippines, Makati Business Club, Management Association of  the Philippines, and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and  Industry yesterday said Republic Act (RA) 10354 or the Responsible Parenthood and  Reproductive Health Act "is a complement to current and proposed initiatives to address long‐ standing challenges to the country’s development."    "As such, in our goal to attain sustainable and inclusive growth, the RH Law must be fully and  properly implemented without delay," the groups said.  Critics of the law argued that RA 10354 promotes promiscuity such as mandating the teaching  of sex education in schools and use of contraceptives.    The business organizations, however, reiterated their position that RA 10354 "protects and  enhances the people’s constitutionally enshrined rights to life and good health, freedom of  choice, and a living wage and income."  "We urge opposing parties to see the pragmatic wisdom behind this critical piece of  legislation," they added.    The groups noted that the RH Law is a direct means to address not only maternal deaths but  also a way to reduce poverty in the country.  RA 10354 was signed by President Benigno S.C. Aquino III on Dec. 21, 2012 and was supposed  to be implemented on March 31 last year amid strong opposition from the Catholic Church.    On March 18 last year, the SC, in a 10‐5 decision, issued a four‐month freeze order against RA  10354 and set oral arguments on consolidated petitions against the law in July. The high court  has issued an indefinite stay order on the law since July 16 last year.   The SC is expected to make its final deliberations on the RH Law on April 8 in Baguio City. ‐‐  DEDS   http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Nation&title=Implementation-of-RHlaw-pushed&id=85242


Posted on March 25, 2014 10:45:40 PM

Peso strengthens ahead of BSP policy review THE PESO extended its gains against the dollar yesterday amid market anticipation over  Thursday’s policy review by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas  (BSP).  The local currency closed at P45.06 per dollar, five centavos stronger than its P45.11 finish the  previous day.    The dollar’s weakening is still part of the “technical correction” analysts had expected after  soaring last week as the US Federal Reserve’s hawkish remarks signaled a recovering US  economy.    Local traders, however, have their eyes fixed on the BSP.    “The medium‐term direction of the peso would depend on the [BSP Monetary Board] meeting,”  a trader interviewed by phone said yesterday. “I think we will be trading at a thirty‐centavo  rate, P45.00 to P45.30, ahead of the meeting.”    The trader said that “medium‐term” would mean four to six weeks.    “If the BSP doesn’t do anything on Thursday, we would be testing and breaching the P45.00  level,” the trader said. “If they do hike interest rates, I think we would be testing P44.30. If they  just tweak the [special deposit account] rates ‐‐ P44.80.”   http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=Peso-strengthensahead-of-BSP-policy-review&id=85250


Posted on March 25, 2014 10:45:11 PM

BSP mulls options as it crafts rules on bitcoin trading THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) is considering requiring bitcoin intermediaries to  become reporting entities as part of initial discussions on the how to regulate the trade of the  virtual currency, an official said.    “That’s an option,” BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. told reporters at the sidelines  of the Bankers Association of the Philippines’ annual cocktails held at the Makati Shangri‐la  Hotel late Monday when asked if the central bank will mandate bitcoin trading platforms to  report their operations.    “Our first statement regarding bitcoins was basically just an advisory...we’re still studying  whether or not we have to go further and regulate specifically,” Mr. Espenilla said.    BSP, in an advisory dated March 6, raised alarm over what it said was the emergence of  exchange platforms that trade bitcoins ‐‐ a form of digital money that is neither issued nor  guaranteed by a central bank. The advisory warned that there are no existing regulations to  protect consumers from financial losses if an organization that exchanges or holds virtual  currencies were to fail or go out of business.    Following the release of the advisory, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. noted that those  engaged in virtual currency trading could “lose their money...through outright fraud; system  failure as trading would be exchange platform‐dependent and there have been a number of  cases reported where trading platforms have gone out of business or failed; or thru the users’  own mistakes ‐‐ this is when the virtual currencies are ‘stolen’ from users’ ‘digital wallet’ by  hackers.”    GLOBAL CONCERN  The BSP’s warning was released as regulators abroad, particularly in Japan, have moved to  outline rules on bitcoin trading ‐‐ including barring banks and brokerages from handling the  digital currency ‐‐ after some bitcoin exchanges like Tokyo‐based Mt. Gox collapsed.    Created in 2008 by a programmer known as Satoshi Nakamoto, bitcoins can be used as a  medium for paying goods sold through the Internet. Some investors also use the crypto‐ currency as an investment, which can provide high returns given high risks involved. 


Mr. Espenilla said that money laundering “has always been one of the concerns” regarding  bitcoins.    “That’s why we’re studying what kind of regulations, if any, are necessary,” he said. “We  understand there’s a bitcoin exchange operating locally as well, so we’re initiating a dialogue  with them just so we can see the situation...It’s very hard to just come in with regulations. We  have to understand first how it works.”    Any individual can buy and sell bitcoins. Various ways to participate in bitcoin trading include:    • tapping the services of bitcoin dealers ‐‐ brokers who will look for good deals for a bitcoin  investor, enabling the latter to take advantage of the swings in bitcoin’s price valuation;    • going to bitcoin exchanges ‐‐ an establishment that allows bitcoin holders to directly buy and  sell the virtual currency;    • participating in a “mining pool” ‐‐ a group of individuals with top‐of‐the‐line computers that  can solve complex math problems to unlock codes in exchange for a bitcoin; or    • looking for someone to trade cash or goods for bitcoins.    According to the BSP, bitcoins are different from electronic money because these virtual  currencies are not backed by any commodity like cash, gold or silver. Hence, these are valued  “subjectively” and can be “highly volatile.” ‐‐ Bettina Faye V. Roc   http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Finance&title=BSP-mulls-options-asit-crafts-rules-on-bitcoin-trading&id=85249


More action needed on global overfishing Published : Wednesday, March 26, 2014 00:00 

Ministers from some of the world’s largest fishing powers, including the EU, the  US, Japan, Indonesia and the Philippines recently gathered at a high‐level international conference in  Greece, where they reiterated commitments to reduce global fishing capacity and to ensure accurate  information on fishing is readily available, including the creation of a global record of vessels.    Excessive fishing capacity drives overfishing and illegal fishing, displaces coastal communities, causing  environmental harm and making fishing fleets economically unviable.     The EU fishing fleet, for example, is able to catch two to three times more fish than is sustainable in  most fisheries.    The Philippines has had its exemption to commercial purse seine tuna fishing access in the high seas  pockets in the Pacific extended again at the last Western and Central Pacific Commission Meeting in  Australia last December.      The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources has admitted that we have nearly finished up all the  tuna in our waters and this is the reason why we now need to send the commercial fleets all the way  to the Pacific high seas.      If we only took care of our own resources and fishing grounds, then there will be more than enough  fish to feed our people. We must reverse the current trend of overfishing in the Philippines and around  the world. Better management of fishing capacity is critical and long overdue.    Across Southeast Asia, many fishing grounds are already either depleted or currently being overfished.   The capacities of the fishing fleets ‐‐ specifically the larger commercial vessels ‐‐ are decimating the  marine resources to the detriment of coastal communities. Governments in Southeast Asia should take  the lead in this global effort to restore the health of our seas by managing the ability of their own  fleets to fish, in line with the state of fish stocks.     These countries must also ensure that they develop their fishing capacity in a way that is sustainable,  benefit their coastal communities and is based on low‐impact gears and best available practices.   Greenpeace however has warned that it is high time for governments to turn words into effective  action to ensure a healthy future for fisheries and fishermen around the world.    Greenpeace has asked the Philippines, Thailand and Indonesia to start by scrapping the largest and 


most destructive industrial fishing vessels, initiating a shift towards small‐scale low‐impact fishing,  which is more environmentally sustainable and creates jobs to support local communities.   http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/opinion/69544‐more‐action‐needed‐on‐global‐overfishing                                            


Highest priority ni PNoy ang ‘pork’ probe Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:00 

Written by  Bernard Taguinod 

Isa ngayong ‘highest priority’ ni Pangulong Benigno ‘Noynoy’ Aquino III ang imbestigasyon sa isa na namang ‘pork’ scam na natuklasan ng Commission on Audit (COA) na idinaan sa National Commission on Muslim Filipino (NCMF). Ito ay matapos italaga ni Aquino sina Executive Sec. Paquito ‘Jojo’ Ochoa Jr., Cabinet Sec. Rene Almendras at Budget Sec. Florencio Abad na pangunahan ang imbestigasyon. “Kaya makatitiyak po tayo na aalamin at tututukan ang lahat ng mga importanteng pangyayari hinggil sa alegasyong ito para magkaroon po ng ganap na paliwanag sa ating mga mamamayan,” ani Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. Patunay umano ito na walang kinikilingan ang Pangulo kung mayroong mang sangkot at mapatunayang nagkaroon ng anomalya sa P514 milyong pork barrel ng mga senador at congressmen na idinaan sa NCMF na nasa ilalim ng Office of the President. Matatandaang naglabas ng “audit observation” ang COA ukol sa nasabing pondo na dumaan sa NCMF kaya tungkulin umano ng nasabing ahensya na magpaliwanag, partikular si NCMF chairman Mehol Sadain. “Syempre po, kasama po siya (Sadain) doon sa accountability process dahil siya po ang puno ng ahensya,” dagdag pa ni Coloma.   http://www.abante.com.ph/k2‐tags/news/nat/item/2370‐highest‐priority‐ni‐pnoy‐ang‐pork‐probe.html   


Hirit ni Kim vs bank secrecy, tablado sa palasyo Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:00 

Mistulang bumangga sa pader ang hirit ni Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chairperson Kim Henares na lusawin ang Bank Secrecy Law para mapatatag ang paghahabol sa mga tax evaders. Ang rason: mismong ang Malacañang ay matabang sa ideya. Sa press briefing kahapon sa palasyo, sinabi ni Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) Secretary Herminio ‘Sonny’ Coloma Jr. na, “Napakahalaga po ng bank secrecy law at ang kanyang panukala ay malawak ang magiging implikasyon.” Dahil dito, pinayuhan ni Coloma ang BIR at maging ang Department of Finance (DOF) na magsagawa muna ng masusing pag-aaral at konsultasyon dahil maraming masasagasaan sa nasabing panukala. Masusing pag-aaral din sa panukala ang opinyon ni Sen. Grace Poe Llamanzares sa nasabing panukala ni Henares. “Kailangang pag-aralang mabuti ‘yan kasi halos lahat naman ng bansa may bank secrecy,” reaksyon ni Poe-Llamanzares kahapon. “Siyempre, confidence also of investors, baka naman sa ginagamot nating isang sakit natin, lumala naman ang sakit ng kabila. Importanteng balansehin dahil meron din namang privacy laws din tayo,” dagdag pa nito.   http://www.abante.com.ph/k2‐tags/news/nat/item/2372‐hirit‐ni‐kim‐vs‐bank‐secrecy‐tablado‐sa‐ palasyo.html      


Serge accuses Noynoy of pork scam cover-up Written by Angie M. Rosales Wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:00

ON PALACE PROBE ORDER OF ADJUNCT NCMF A cover-up is what President Aquino, ordering a Palace probe on alleged pork barrel scam involving an agency directly under the Office of the President amounted to, according to an erstwhile staunch Palace ally Sen. Sergio Osmeña III yesterday as he raised serious mistrust over Aquino’s pronouncements. “I don’t like that idea and I’m just suspicious of it. Why would he ask Peter to investigate Paul? Get an outsider to investigate it if he really wants,” he said. Osmeña criticized Aquino’s directive to concerned officials such as Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr., Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Florencio “Butch” Abad and Cabinet Secretary Jose Rene Almendras to look into the Commission on Audit (CoA) findings on National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and submit to him a comprehensive report on the issue. Aquino said he already ordered an investigation even before the concerned officials could give their answers to the issue. “They will just cover up their own (tracks). How will you ask Abad, suppose Abad was the one who released the money?” Osmeña pointed out. Some P515 million of Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of some lawmakers that was coursed through the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF), an agency under the Office of the President in 2012, was distributed to 18 alleged bogus non-government organizations (NGOs) identified with Janet Lim Napoles. The CoA said P25 million of the fund releases allegedly came from the Palace’s equally controversial Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) and the bulk was from the PDAF of some senators and congressmen, reports said. Osmeña, who last week called President Aquino “an awful manager”, said the move of the Chief Executive is another proof of an “awful management” style being displayed by the present administration. “What does it say? It means there’s corruption regardless of how honest PNoy (Aquino) is. It’s a matter of management. If you don’t put a proper management controls in place,


these things will always happen. Even on ordinary corporations, if you don’t have the right auditing procedures, control procedures you will get scammed,” he said. “Why would they be the ones to investigate? Why don’t they call the NBI (National Bureau of Investigation)? No, they should not be the ones, they’re not investigators. That bothers me because they’re not investigators. There’s a way to investigate these things. Here in the Senate most senators are having a hard time because we’re not trained investigators. If you give it to the NBI, they can do things in one week which can take me one to two months to do, if at all,” Osmeña said. The government also opposed a petition of key whistleblower Benhur Luy to lift a freeze order in his accounts citing his immunity from criminal prosecution thus exposing many of his and Luy’s relatives unexplained assets. Luy through his lawyer argued that being a government witness his assets cannot be subjected to forfeiture. Among those the government ordered held were Luy’s bank accounts with the Bank of the Philippine Islands with account/policy number 4034-0090-61 with a deposit of $15,008.90; a Metrobank account with P2,867.79 deposit and two separate accounts in Metrobank and the United Coconut Planters Bank; a 2007 model Eastworld Mox Motorcycle; a 2010 Mitsubishi Montero Sport G and a 2004 model Toyota Corolla Altis. The government said Luy’s assets are not immune from civil forfeiture proceeding. “Benefits under the Witness Protection Program may only be invoked in criminal proceedings while the forfeiture case is civil in nature,” Solicitor General Francis Jardeleza said. Also ordered held was an account of Arthur Luy, a brother of Benhur, who works as a seaman. He said as a seafarer, he earns $7,000 monthly to justify the amount deposited but the Solicitor General said Oste Crewing Philippines Allotment Slip showed that his monthly income is only $3,483. “This cannot explain the huge amounts transacted in Arthur Luy’s account during the material dates of the pork barrel scam that reached up to P1 million in one banking day,” Jardeleza said. Funds in Benhur Luy’s mother, Gertrudes, was also traced from Micro-Agri Business Citizens Initiative Foundation Inc which is among the non-government organizations (NGOs) of pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim Napoles. The senator said it will only take a single member of either the Senate or the House of Representatives for Congress to get into the picture and dip its fingers into the affairs of the Executive and its attached offices. “It depends on the individual congressman or senator because it takes only one senator


or congressman to file a resolution calling for an investigation (on the issue),” Osmeña said. http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/serge‐accuses‐noynoy‐of‐pork‐scam‐cover‐up                                          


Palace vows to probe Roxas, Austrian contractor over overpriced fire trucks Written by Paul Atienza wednesday, 26 March 2014 00:00

The Palace yesterday said the Aquino administration would be transparent on the investigation into the alleged Austrian loan contract overpriced 76 imported units of fire trucks intended to the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) which was reportedly approved by Interior Secretary Mar Roxas with worth P20.14 million each instead of P7 million that was published in 2012. “There’s every willingness on the part of the government to fully discuss and explain the procurement of these fire trucks,” Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said. Coloma said that he sought basic information from the senior officials of the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) before the press briefing about the matter. “The entire procurement process went through the Neda (National Economic Development Authority) process, meaning, all the way up to the Neda board as this involves Official Development Assistance. And the ODA has two components, a loan component and a grant component, and we need to take into account that the grant component is significant. I was told it is up to about 60 percent of the total amount,” Coloma explained. The Palace official said if the administration would consider the DILG explanations, “then what remains, as our obligation under the loan portion, would be a lesser amount than what may be thought of at this time.” “So there is every willingness and readiness on the part of the government to be transparent, and to reveal all of the important parameters of this as this has gone through the Neda process, which, as you know, is very thorough and comprehensive process involving all of the major agencies of government,” he said. Lawmakers belonging to Abakada partylist Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, Bayan Muna Rep. Antonio Carlos Zarate and former Agham Rep. Angelo Palmones warned Aquino and Roxas against importing 300 more fire trucks from the same source, Rosenbauer of Austria. De la Cruz said that the Rosenbauer fire trucks were priced even higher than those


contracted by the previous Arroyo administration. In 2010, after Aquino assumed office, Roxas questioned the loan concession that the Arroyo administration had signed with Rosenbauer in 2008 or 2009, alleging that that the contract price of each unit, at P16 million, was excessive. Then Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo had tagged the loan contract “onerous,” prompting the Aquino administration to renegotiate the deal, government to government. Robredo announced that the renegotiation was successful and that the Philippine government had managed to obtain a 40 percent grant from the Austrian government that supposedly lowered the price of each truck from P16 million to only P7 million. According the lawmakers, the DILG, the BFP and the contractor should be made to explain first before proceeding with the purchase of 300 additional fire trucks. If there explanations are not satisfactory, if need be, these people should be penalized instead of proceeding with the total purchase.     http://www.tribune.net.ph/nation/palace‐vows‐to‐probe‐roxas‐austrian‐contractor‐over‐overpriced‐ fire‐trucks                          


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