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AFTA to kill PH agri industry in 2015, says neophyte senator By Juan Escandor Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon 2:11 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014 DAET, Camarines Norte—Neophyte Senator JV Ejercito raised concern that the country’s agriculture sector would be devastated when the Asean Free Trade Agreement (AFTA), which lifts all tariffs on agricultural products among the 10 member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, is enforced in 2015, or less than a year from now. Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on economic affairs, said he would move for the suspension of the AFTA enforcement because Filipino farmers cannot compete with the prices of agricultural products like rice and sugar from Asean countries like Thailand and Vietnam that are expected to flood the local market when the tariff barriers are lifted. “It will kill the agriculture industry,” Ejercito said on April 15 at the sidelines of the province’s 94th founding anniversary celebration where he was the guest speaker. Similar to EU Asean was founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Singapore, later joined by Brunei in the 1980s (the so-called Asean-6) , and by Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam in the 1990s. The regional body envisions an economic integration process similar to that of the European Union that would expand the market and business opportunities for member countries. The plan involves the liberalization of trade in goods through the reduction and elimination of tariffs under the Asean Free Trade Agreement of 1992 (AFTA). The plan is to achieve zero tariff for all products by 2010 for the Asean-6 countries, and 2015 for the remaining four, according to Asean information documents. Ejercito said sugar-producing provinces are expected to be affected with the expected entry of Thai sugar, which is cheaper than Philippine sugar, claiming Thailand subsidizes agricultural production in its country. Subsidy to agri Contrary to existing Philippine free trade commitments, Ejercito now proposes to subsidize agriculture. He said they have initially discussed in his committee where to get funds to subsidize agriculture and he proposed to partake of the budget for the conditional cash transfer (CCT), a government program that grants monthly cash allowances to poor families to boost education and health care for children.


Ejercito noted the Aquino administration started with a CCT budget of P20 billion, increased it to P39 billion, and at present pegged it at P60 billion. “The P60 billion budget is huge. That is, looking at it from all angles, it is dole out. Twenty-five percent of the CCT budget could do much to subsidize fertilizers, upgrade post-harvest facilities, modernize and mechanize farm system,” he said Ejercito said it was only last year that the preparation for the AFTA enforcement was brought out during the budget hearing. Not satisfied He said he had asked Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, during the budget committee hearing and on several other occasions, about the government’s preparation for the enforcement of AFTA but was not satisfied with his answers. “(I am not) satisfied (with their) preparation. (Because when they talked about it), it seemed like 2015 is three years away… It’s just seven months from now,” said Ejercito. He said the government has to act with urgency and it must have a deadline. Ejercito said he filed the Sugarcane Bill which aims to modernize aging sugar mills, most of which are 50 years old, resulting in high production costs. “I will push to ask the World Trade Organization to extend to delay the enforcement of AFTA especially for sugar and rice. We need this because our industry is not prepared for the entry of cheap products from Thailand, Vietnam and Cambodia,” he said. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/595914/afta-to-kill-ph-agri-industry-in-2015-says-neophyte-senator


DAR urging Luisita farmer-beneficiaries to set up organizations By Rhodina Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) is urging farmerbeneficiaries in Hacienda Luisita to set up organizations that will make it easy for them to access support services from the government. DAR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Anthony Parungao said these farmers’ groups will also in effect help DAR become more effective and efficient in channeling the department’s support service programs and resources. “We are assisting the farmer-beneficiaries in making their transition to owner-cultivators. We are helping them organize themselves so they are able to better organize farm production and marketing of their produce,” he said. Parungao said these organizations will also make it easier for the farmer-beneficiaries to access credit because financial institutions are more inclined to provide loans and financial support to organizations rather than to individual farmers. The DAR provincial office has been able to assist farmer-beneficiaries in setting up organizations in eight of the 10 barangays in Hacienda Luisita. Parungao said the DAR has also encouraged the voluntary physical grouping of contiguous lots so the use of farming machinery such as tractors would be more efficient. The DAR earlier expressed confidence that it would be able to meet its target of “monumenting” the lots – or placing of boundary markers or “mujon” – and installing the beneficiaries of the Hacienda Luisita estate in the coming weeks. As of April 7, Parungao said 5,947 farmlots, or 86.32 percent, have been “monumented.” Of the number, 4,478 or 65 percent have farmer-beneficiaries already installed. The DAR is confident that it could meet its self-imposed deadline of “monumenting” the lots and installing the farmer-beneficiaries by next month. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/04/21/1314117/dar-urging-luisita-farmer-beneficiaries-setorganizations


DA turns over P6.5-M Masbate nitrogen plant By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus1 0

NDA administrator Grace Cenas (right) inspects the newly-installed mini-liquid nitrogen plant in Masbate. MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) turned over recently to the local government of Masbate a mini-liquid nitrogen plant for storing genetic material for cattle breeding. The P6.5-million mini-nitrogen plant was established this month inside the Masbate Fish Complex and Bus Terminal. Masbate, a province in the Bicol region, is known for its robust cattle industry. It aims to become a producer of organically grown beef by 2020. The availability of liquid nitrogen is one of the logistical components of the Artificial Insemination (AI) Program of the DA as it is vital for proper storing and transporting of animal semen. Artificial insemination is one of the strategies to improve the breed of native cattle which is used for meat and dairy production. The agriculture department also committed to release around P3 million for the establishment of an animal diagnostic laboratory in the province where semen of bulls would be examined for viability. Proposed as locations for the laboratory are the Don Emilio B. Espinosa Sr. Memorial State College of Agriculture and Technology (Debesmscat) in Mandaon and the DA Breeding Station in Asid, Masbate City.


Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 The establishment of a liquid nitrogen plant in Masbate would significantly reduce the cost of transporting semen tanks to the province. Masbate also has the potential to become a top producer of dairy products in the country if the breeds of milk cattle are improved, said the National Dairy Authority (NDA). NDA administrator Grace Cenas said livestock breeds for meat production may be crossbred with dairy breeds for superior milk production. NDA may then buy the offspring of these breeds for lending to dairy farmers. “And later when there are enough dairy animals in the island, the establishment of milk processing or dairy plants will subsequently follow,� said Cenas. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/04/21/1314191/da-turns-over-p6.5-m-masbate-nitrogenplant


NMIS completes P10-M Capiz slaughterhouse By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - The National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) has turned over to the local government of Capiz a P10-million AA-rated slaughterhouse for hogs and cattle. The slaughterhouse located in Brgy. Pantalan in the municipality of President Roxas was completed last October but the turnover was postponed to this month after Super Typhoon Yolanda damaged several parts of the abattoir. The slaughterhouse meant for producing meat cuts for domestic consumption houses a main cutting floor and a holding pen for animals. The Department of Agriculture (DA) has pipelined the construction of several slaughterhouses for both livestock and poultry in key animal raising areas to balance out the supply of meat products in the provinces and prevent price spikes in locales that are far from processing areas. New slaughterhouses would also give animal raisers the means to add value to livestock and poultry through processing, making them less reliant on middlemen for market access outside their municipalities. DA is encouraging the country’s livestock raisers to conform to the Good Animal Husbandry Practices (GAHPS) to produce safe and quality meat products especially now when the livestock and poultry sector needs to become competitive in time for economic integration within the ASEAN region by 2015. Slaughterhouses are classified into three kinds: A-rated, AA-rated and AAA-rated. AAA slaughterhouses are abattoirs with the proper facilities for export production while A and AA slaughterhouses are equipped to serve the domestic market. A-rated abattoirs have a lesser production capacity than AA-rated ones. AA-rated slaughterhouses for livestock can usually process up to 100 hogs per day. Public slaughterhouses serve the tolling needs of hog and poultry raisers. The local government hosting the slaughterhouse provides the land and the manpower for the operation and management of the abattoir while the DA provides the funds for the construction in the form of a grant. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/04/21/1314212/nmis-completes-p10-m-capizslaughterhouse


What should come with mechanization  Pastor Apollo Quiboloy Apr. 21, 2014 at 12:01am   Share on facebook Share on twitter Share on email Share on print More Sharing Services 0  

The Amorsolo-esque rendition of farm life—smiling damsels in colorful bandanas winnowing the palay with a carabao languorously chewing grass in the background— is gone. It in its place is a box-like shredder spewing hay and a coterie of sunburnt hired hands dressed in a quiltwork of retasos funneling the grains into sacks. The rural landscape is now crawling with new machines – and old people. Mechanized implements have invaded farms while young people—more interested perhaps in Farmville than in real farming—have joined the exodus to the city. Likewise, the new beast of burden is no longer the four-legged half-ton animal who loves mud baths. It is now a gas-fed engine (whose strength is measured, to the carabao’s chagrin perhaps, in horsepower) which in turn drives the attached contraptions—plow, harrow, reapers , blowers — and sports a Japanese name. While these machines are new, the average age of a Filipino rice farmer in contrast is about 57 years old , which is one year past the retirement age in the military. But for those who feed the nation, there are no retirement parades. They must soldier on. Lands can lie in fallow and the carabao put out to pasture, but the farmer’s boots must always be on the ground. Some say that the impact of the greying of Philippine agriculture is somewhat eased by the entry of farm machinery. If you go to a rice-growing barrio nowadays, you will find the agrarian version of the Transformers.


There’s the farm tractor with wheels as tall as a man which can plow in hours what a carabao could in days. There are automated rice planters which punch a neat row of seedlings into the soft soil. The ancient way of harvesting palay one stroke of a scythe at a time, and then separating the grains from the stalk by either flaying it on a hard surface or trashing it with the feet, which if done by a group of farmers makes it look like they’re dancing the barnyard version of The Twist, and finally winnowing away the dried grass by rhythmically tossing the palay in a bilao, is now done by one machine only. True to its multitasking ability, this machine, which looks like a large lawnmower, is simply called a “combine.” It can harvest and bag the palay in minutes. The rice-centric Department of Agriculture has been doing roadshows on what an assortment of farm machinery can do. Backed by a P6-billion fund for farm mechanization and a newly-minted law creating the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization or PhilMech, the DA has been scouring the countryside for its mechanized version of a dog-and-pony show.

With the tenacity of a used-car salesman, DA officials are pushing farm machinery to farmer’s groups to the point of shouldering 85 percent of the cost. Viewed another way it is like having a subasta of tractors priced at 85 percent off. Also being distributed are rice processing centers, which cluster under one roof mechanical dryers, mills and storage space. DA’s overall aim is to raise the farm mechanization level from the present 1.23 horsepower per hectare to 2 horsepower per hectare before the bachelor-occupant of Bahay Pangarap leaves it for the last time. The DA says farm mechanization improves yield and cuts post-harvest losses. The latter presently hovers above the 14-percent region which is not surprising in a country where many of its highways are actually palay-drying pavements pretending to be roads. Though commendable, this mechanization rush shouldn’t not be pell-mell charge. Farm mechanization per se is not agricultural modernization. There are aspects of farming which have to be brought out of the Dark Ages. For example, what is the advantage of having mechanical harvesters when usurers are still at the end of the production line waiting for their onerous shares?


There is also the need to inoculate this program against Napoles-like shenanigans. We can’t have tractors with the strength of Lego blocks or rice dryers whose operating life is shorter than cooked rice. And the proverbial carabao in the living room is this: What will government do with the farm labor displaced by farm machinery? Mechanical harvesters do not only cut palay, they also cut jobs, and yes in the same massively efficient fashion. The farm sector employs one in ten workers. While most farmers are three years shy of getting 20-percent discount cards, farms are home to a large army of young people. Will it be a march to the big city or die proposition for them? The question is: What will become of them? Hopefully, the drive to mechanize must come with the program to retrain. Perhaps, this can be addressed in the tech-voc component of the K-12 program by training a pool of workers who will service the needs of the farm mechanization era, from metalcraft to fabrication to engine troubleshooting. In short, to retain them, the government must retrain them. http://manilastandardtoday.com/mobile/2014/04/21/what-should-come-with-mechanization/


DA, IRRI to develop new rice varieties Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 Apr 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent   THE Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) and the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) will  collaborate to develop more advanced rice varieties out of the existing top‐of‐the‐line cultivars, PhilRice  said over the weekend.  PhilRice, an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), will work with the IRRI for the next  five years, for the mutual protection of elite breeding lines of rice, which includes varietal improvement  and  the  development  of  rice‐based  technologies  to  enhance  rice  productivity  and  profitability  in  the  Philippines,  IRRI  said  during  the  signing  of  a  memorandum  of  agreement  (MOU)  between  the  two  agencies.  “Elite  breeding  lines  are  next‐generation  rice  varieties  that  contribute  to  feeding  half  of  the  world’s  population—more than 3.5 billion people and counting—who rely on rice as a source of sustenance and  livelihood,” IRRI said in its statement.  The  international  research  agency  also  said  “these  varieties,  bred  to  help  address  the  world’s  most  pressing food‐security challenges, have desirable traits, such as high‐yielding ability, disease resistance,  flood, drought, heat, or salinity tolerance.”  PhilRice  Executive  Director  Eufemio  Rasco  and  IRRI  Director  General  Robert  Zeigler  signed  the  agreement  that  maps  out  another  five  years  of  collaboration  between  the  two  institutes,  earlier  this  month, at the headquarters of PhilRice in Nueva Ecija.  “Without  IRRI,”  Rasco  said,  “we  could  not  have  done  our  work  in  the  past,”  adding  that  his  agency  is  looking forward “to break new grounds of research with IRRI.”  The  two  agencies  will  also  continue  to  jointly  develop  personnel  capacities  through  training  and  postgraduate studies support for their respective staff, the DA official said, adding that the agreement  includes “seminars on intellectual property, publications and exchange of breeding materials, as well as  a business continuity plan that includes providing mutual back‐up of elite breeding lines in off‐site seed  storage,”  In an interview, PhilRice said the agency is currently helping select  groups of rice farmers throughout  the  country  to  develop  rice  seeds  using  their  own  existing  improved  varieties  of  rice,  for  improved  yields. 


The skill will be taught eventually to all other interested rice farmers, as part of the DA’s effort to food‐ security program which will reduce rice importation, PhilRice said. 

http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri-commodities/30832-da-irri-todevelop-new-rice-varieties


DA campaign to encourage organic farming in Sorsogon Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 Apr 2014   Written by Oliver Samson / Correspondent   THE organic‐farming consciousness among farmers in Sorsogon rose as a result of the Provincial Agriculture  Office’s  (PAO)  campaign  to  introduce  more  local  farmers  to  organic  agriculture  in  the  last  two  years,  a  provincial agriculturist told the BUSINESSMIRROR in a recent interview.  In each of the two years, no less than 10 seminars were conducted year‐round, where the value of organic  agriculture to human health and the environment was introduced, provincial organic agriculturist Felina B.  Angeles said.  The  seminars  were  conducted  for  various  sectors,  including  farmer‐leaders,  the  elderly,  persons  with  disabilities (PWD), youth and students, she said.  In February about 150 students at Sorsogon State College (SSC) learned from Angeles’s half‐day lecture on  organic‐crop raising as a potential livelihood for young entrepreneurs.  Roughly 1,000 local individuals in the province were estimated to have undergone seminars since Republic  Act (RA) 10068, or the Organic Agriculture Act of 2010, was implemented in 2011, she said.  Currently, about 100 farmers across the province are engaged in organic farming, Angeles said. A fraction of  this number undertakes conversion from non‐organic crop raising to zero chemical use.  From  Bulan  town  in  the  southwestern  part  of  Sorsogon,  Linda  Corsiga  has  been  dispatching  volumes  of  organic coco‐nectar vinegar across the seas, Angeles said.  An increasing number of organic farmers in the town of Castilla, in the northwestern part of the province, are  also growing vegetables, rice and fruit‐bearing trees.  In line with the national government’s push to stimulate and accelerate organic agriculture across the  country,  the  seminars  encouraged  local  tillers  to  grow  crops  on  natural  fertilizers  and  insecticides,  Angeles said.  Technology for organic farming was introduced to the local tillers, she said. Equipped with the proper  know‐how, the farmers can completely dispense chemical use in two years. 


The  use  of  composts  and  natural  bug‐repellents  does  not  only  produce  crops  safe  for  human  consumption, she said. The practice is also cost‐efficient and eco‐friendly.  Organic  agriculture  pursues  to  help  hold  the  environment  from  moving  in  a  tailspin  to  destruction,  Angeles added. Nature would be happy to see the practices involved in organic agriculture applied.  Organic‐crop raising helps manage and control human and environment wastes, she said. Human refuse  and trash are sent back to earth as natural soil enrichers.  More than that, the exposure of farmers to the health hazards during the application of artificial fertilizers  and  pesticides  would  be  avoided,  Angeles  said.  Pesticides  particularly  possess  a  hazardous  impact  on  farmers’ health.  Insect  repellents  also  eliminate  “beneficial  bugs,”  which  are  valuable  to  farmers  in  managing  and  controlling pests, she said.  The  Department  of  Agriculture’s  (DA)  organic‐farming  campaign  covers  training  of  farmers  on  production  of  natural  bug‐repellents,  Angeles  said.   This  includes  citronella  and  marigold,  which  are  capable of repelling insects for their smell and can be cultivated around the farm.  Pests can also be managed and controlled by putting sacrificial plants along dikes, okra for one. Insects  swarm on them, sparing the crops.  The long tradition of non‐organic farming has rendered the soil dependent on chemicals to grow crops,  Angeles said.  These chemicals deplete soil microorganisms that are valuable to crop‐raising, particularly organic, she  said.  After beneficial microorganisms and soil nutrients are restored by way of re‐conditioning the earth, the  yield from organic farming can parallel non‐organic harvest, Angeles said.  The consumer‐awareness campaigns conducted by the DA on the harmful effects of chemical residue on  crops have also contributed to the growing organic‐farming consciousness in the province.   Health  practitioners  have  also  been  warning  people  on  the  harmful  effects  to  human  health  of  crops  grown on chemicals to human health, Angeles said. This resulted in local demand for organic products’  growing due to the rising number of health‐conscious people, she said.  http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/30831‐da‐campaign‐to‐ encourage‐organic‐farming‐in‐sorsogon   


DOLE, PA to boost chili production in Davao Oriental Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 Apr 2014   Written by Sherwin B. Manual / Correspondent  

DAVAO  CITY—The  chilling  horror  of  Typhoon  Pablo’s  aftermath in  Davao Oriental has been replaced with the booming income from chili production of the  province’s farmers.  Now, production is getting even “hotter.”  As  part  of  the  recovery  interventions  of  the  Department  of  Labor  and  Employment  (DOLE)  in  the  province, a livelihood project amounting P711,000 was granted to 197 farmers, indigenous peoples (IPs)  and women to boost chili production.  “This  is  part  of  our  resource‐based,  innovative,  technology‐driven  and  sustainable  enterprise  development  under  the  DOLE‐DOST  [Department  of  Science  and  Technology]  convergence  program  together  with  the  DA  [Department  of  Agriculture]  and  the  Department  of  Trade  and  Industry  [DTI],”  DOLE  Davao  Region  Director  Joffrey  M.  Suyao  said.   “We  are  also  glad  that  our  partner  in  the  ground  implementation is the Philippine Army as this [project] also contributes to the peace‐building efforts of  the government.”  The International Labor Organization (ILO) is also putting in a P1.59‐million counterpart to cover salaries  and wages of the farmers who will do the land preparation.  Labor Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis‐Baldoz in her recent statement said this is one of the first livelihood  projects funded by the DOLE under the DOLE‐DOST Convergence on Technology‐Driven, Resource‐Based  and Sustainable Livelihood. 


“Our  regional  office  in  Davao  evaluated  and  found  chili  production  and  processing  to  be  viable  and  sustainable. The livelihood banks on chili as a main material resource and a potential‐income provider  for the people in the area,” Baldoz said.  The chili production and processing livelihood is expected to benefit 120 IPs and women in barangays  Batawan,  Mahan‐ub,  Ban‐ao,  Binondo,  and  Salingmacot,  in  Baganga;  and  77  farmers  in  barangays  Maglahus, Mainit, San Miguel, Abejod and Aliwagwag, in Cateel, all in Davao Oriental.  Chili production in the area will cover approximately 50 hectares.  The  agricultural  area  of  Baganga  and  Cateel  towns  were  heavily  devastated  when  Pablo  struck  in  December 2012, depriving residents of their steady source of income.  “My  hopes  are  great  that  this  livelihood  project,  properly  nurtured,  will  be  a  boon  to  peace  in  these  areas,” said Baldoz, who directed Suyao to closely monitor the progress of the project.  Baldoz,  who  was  in  Davao  City  recently,  personally  presented  the  Certificate  of  Entitlement  to  Maj.  General Ariel Bernardo, commander of the 67th Infantry (Agila) Battalion of the 10th Infantry Division,  Philippine Army.  Baldoz  and  Science  Secretary  Mario  G.  Montejo  signed  in  January  the  DOLE‐DOST  Convergence  on  Technology‐Driven,  Resource‐Based   and  Sustainable  Livelihood  aimed  at  addressing  the  need  for  sustainable  livelihood  and  employment  opportunities  through  technology‐based  and  innovation‐led  entrepreneurship in the country.  Under the agreement, the DOLE, the DOST and other partners work together in a convergence program  designed  to  assist  local  workers,  overseas  Filipino  workers  and  victims  of  natural  calamities  in  their  livelihood undertakings.    In Photo: Regional Director Joffrey M. Suyao (center) of the Department of Labor and Employment in  Davao  (DOLE)  hands  to  Col.  Krishnamurti  Mortela  of  the  67th  Infantry  Battalion  the  first  tranche  of  DOLE  assistance amounting  to  P499,900  to  boost  chili  production  in  Cateel  and  Baganga  towns.   Joining them are (from left) PA officers, Assistant Regional Director Venerando Cebrano, Chief Labor  and  Employment  Officer  Allan  Baban  and  DOLE  Davao  Oriental  Employment  Focal  Joseph  Vingno.  (Sherwin B. Manual)  http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/30830‐dole‐pa‐to‐boost‐ chili‐production‐in‐davao‐oriental   


BAS: Agri exports’ value for 2013 up by 25% Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 Apr 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent   HELPED by a decline in importation, the Philippines agricultural exports earned for the country some  $6.3  million  last  year,  according  to  data  recently  released  by  the  Bureau  of  Agricultural  Statistics  (BAS).  In comparison, “2012 agricultural export amounted to $5 million, or 25 percent higher in terms of  revenue” the BAS, in its annual “Agricultural Trade Performance,” reported last week.  The  BAS,  along  with  three  statistics  agencies  of  the  government,  makes  up  the  Philippine  Statistics  Authority.  “The share of agriculture to total exports grew by 21.04 percent from 2012, while the county’s total exports  earnings increased by 3.61 percent at $53,978.27 million from $52,099.52 million during the previous year,”  according to the update.  The BAS said on the average, “monthly exportations for the whole year of 2013 were higher compared  with 2012, December registering the highest level at $664.75 million,” it said.  The total value of agricultural imports in 2013 recorded a decline by 4.49 percent from the previous  year’s  value,  the  BAS  said,  adding  its  agricultural‐import  share  to  total  imports  was  down  by  3.45  percent.  The agency, “monthly importations were observed lesser compared with 2012 records except for an  upswing in December at $784.55 million.”  The growth in exports and the slowdown on imports of agricultural commodities resulted to a 52.6‐ percent decrease in agricultural trade from $3.13 billion in 2012 to $1.48 billion in 2013.  The  BAS  also  said  the  country’s  trade  in  agricultural  commodities  with  Japan  recorded  a  surplus  of  $794.11 million, in favor of the Philippines.  “Trade with the European Union likewise recovered this year by 34.63 percent or from $279.82 million  to $376.72 million,” the agency said, adding that “compared with the 2012 level, trade deficits with 


Australia,  US  and  the  Asean  narrowed  down  by  56.86  percent,  42.13  percent   and  27.47  percent,  respectively.  Coconut  oil  maintained  its  lead  as  the  country’s  biggest  export  earner  with  $950.55  million,  while  registering a negative growth of 8.73 percent in terms of volume.  Income from the top 10 agricultural exports at $4.225 billion is also an improvement of 25.78 percent  from $3.359 billion in 2012, the BAS said.  Overseas earnings from shrimps and prawns also improved by 279.14 percent which made it land to  the top, with centrifugal sugar posting an increase by 129.6 percent.  Copra  oil‐cake,  manufactured  tobacco,  tuna,  fresh  banana,  and  seaweeds  and  carrageenan  all  posted positive growths from 30.4 percent to 92.49 percent, the agency said.  http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/30829‐bas‐agri‐exports‐ value‐for‐2013‐up‐by‐25                           


Searca holds meetings in 4 countries to beef up crop‐resiliency campaign Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 Apr 2014   Written by Marvyn N. Benaning / Correspondent   THE Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca) has held  consultative meetings in four nations from February 2014 to March 2014 to hasten the development of  climate‐resilient rice and other crops.  Searca Executive Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. said the meetings held in the Philippines, Cambodia, Lao  PDR and Vietnam along with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), Deutsche Gesellschaft  für  Internationale  Zusammenarbeit  (GIZ)  GmbH,  were  meant  to  neutralize  the  negative  impact  of  climate change on rice and other food crops.  Saguiguit  said  the  meetings  were  conducted  under  the  auspices  of  the  Asean  Network  on  Promoting  Climate  Resilience  of  Rice  and  Other  Crops,  a  project  funded  by  the   Asean‐German  Program  on  Response  to  Climate  Change  (GAP‐CC/GIZ)  to  support  the  regional  initiatives  of  the  Asean  Technical  Working Group on Agricultural Research and Development (ATWGARD).  The project covers Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam.  Searca was commissioned by GAP‐CC to coordinate and facilitate national consultative meetings and  regional  workshops  which  aim  to  promote  common  understanding  and  exchange  of  experiences  on  climate  change  and  agriculture  focused  on  selected  crops  (i.e.,  rice,  corn  and  cassava);  identify  successful  practices  and  policies  for  tackling  these  climate  change‐related  threats  that  can  be  promoted and intensified, and; identify common concerns and capacity needs, and propose regional  support strategies and instruments to address these in a coherent manner.  In the Philippines Searca facilitated the First Philippine National Consultative Meeting held on February  17 by the Bureau of Agricultural Research (BAR).  The BAR is the Philippines focal agency for ATWGARD, which is represented by BAR Assistant Director  Dr. Teodoro S. Solsoloy.  Participants  came  from  the  Department  of  Agriculture,  BAR,  National  Economic  and  Development  Authority,  Philippine  Statistics  Authority‐Bureau  of  Agricultural  Statistics,  Philippine  Rice  Research  Institute,  Philippine  Center  for  Postharvest  Development  and  Mechanization,  and  the  National  Corn  Program, as well as the University of the Philippines at Los Baños. 


Resource persons were Dr. Solsoloy, Dr. Felino Lansigan, and Dr. Romeo Labios, National Team Leader  for the Philippines.  Dr. Labios facilitated the workshop, the outputs of which include identification of good practice case  studies for climate adaptation of rice and corn that can be emulated across the Asean.  Searca  and  the  National  Agriculture  and  Forestry  Research  Institute  (Nafri)  conducted  the  First  Laos  National Consultative Meeting on February 21 at Nafri in Vientiane, Laos.  Nafri  is  the  focal  agency  of  the  ATWGARD,  represented  by  Pasalath  Khounsy,  deputy  of  the  Research  Management Section, Planning and Cooperation Division.  The  meeting  brought  together  national  agricultural  research  think  tanks  from  the  Department  of  Agriculture,  Climate  Change,  Agriculture  and  Food  Security/International  Rice  Research  Institute,  GIZ  Land  Management  and  Rural  Economic  Development  Programme  (GIZ/LM‐RED)  and  the  Provincial  Agriculture Offices of Xayabouri and LuangPrabang.  Lansigan  and  Dr.  Outhai  Soukkhy,  deputy  director,  Northern  Agriculture  and  Forestry  College  and  national  team  leader  for  Lao  Peoples  Democratic  Republic  (PDR),  served  as  resource  persons  and  facilitators.  In  Cambodia,  Asean,  GIZ,  Searca  and  the  Cambodian  Agricultural  Research  and  Development  Institute  (Cardi)  convened  the  First  Cambodia  National  Consultative  Meeting  on  February  21  at  Hotel  Golden  Sand, Preah Sihanoukville, Cambodia.  Cardi is the premier government agricultural research and development institution in Cambodia and the  country’s focal agency for the ATWGARD, represented by Dr. Ouk Makara, Cardi executive director.  The meeting gathered key officials from Cardi, the Plant Protection and Soil Resources Departments of  the General Directorate for Agriculture, Provincial Department of Agriculture of Sihanoukville and Takeo,  Center  for  Livestock  and  Agriculture  Development,  United  Nations  Development  Program  Cambodia,  Royal University of Agriculture, Preak Leap National School of Agriculture, and CelAgrid, a private firm.  The resource persons were Makara; Myriam Fernando, GAP‐CC senior advisor; Dr. Lope B. Santos  III, Searca program specialist and officer in charge of the Project Development and Management  Department, and; Dr. Men Sarom, RUA vice rector and national team leader for Cambodia.  In  Vietnam,  Asean,  GIZ,  Searca,  and  the  Institute  of  Policy  and  Strategy  for  Agriculture  and  Rural  Development  (IPSARD)  convened  the  First  Vietnam  National  Consultative  Meeting  on  March  11  at  IPSARD in Hanoi, Vietnam. 


IPSARD is under the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development and serves as the focal agency for the ATWGARD, represented by Nguyen Kim Chien, specialist, Technology and Environment Department. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri-commodities/30828-searca-holdsmeetings-in-4-countries-to-beef-up-crop-resiliency-campaign

 


Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas Associated Press 2:01 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014 WASHINGTON — A study paid for by the federal government says biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term. The research published in the journal Nature Climate Change challenges the Obama administration’s conclusions that biofuels are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help fight climate change. The study is being criticized by the biofuels industry and Obama administration as flawed. Corn residue is one of the most promising ways to make cellulosic biofuels. Biofuels have struggled to reach the volumes required by law. The administration and biofuel supporters claim biofuels are better for the environment than are gasoline and corn ethanol. A 2007 law requires that they release 60 percent less carbon than gas to qualify as renewable fuel.

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Palace renews appeal to plane passengers to test for MERS—CoV By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 4:31 pm | Sunday, April 20th, 2014

Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Malacañang’s appeal to all passengers of Etihad Airways flight EY 0424 last April 15 to undergo medical tests grew louder on Sunday. It stressed that they need to be tested for the Middle East Respiratory Syndrome-Coronavirus (MERS-CoV) as precaution. “Tinatawagan naming muli lahat ng mga pasahero, lahat ng mga nalalabing pasahero ng EY0424 na hindi pa nako-contact, na kailangan silang makipag-ugnayan ngayon sa Department of Health sa pamamagitan ng mga sumusunod na 24-hour hotline: 711-1001; 711-1002; 0922-884-1564; 0920-949-8419; at 0915-772-5621,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said in a Palace press briefing. (We are calling on the passengers, the remaining passengers of EY 0424 who have not yet been contacted, they need to coordinate with the Department of Health through the following 24-hour hotlines: 711-1001; 711-1002; 0922-884-1564; 0920-949-8419; at 0915-772-5621.) The government earlier revealed that a male nurse who tested positive for MERS-CoV arrived in the Philippines on April 15 through that flight from United Arab Emirates (UAE). However, the nurse was already on the flight when the results came out in UAE. Authorities were able to track the group already on their way home. The nurse did not show symptoms of the disease and when he was checked by the DOH he tested negative. Nevetheless, he is believed to be a carrier of the MERS-CoV.


“Kaya bilang pag-iingat, kailangang magsagawa sa lahat ng mga naturang pasahero ng EY0424 ng simple at libreng nose and throat swab sa pinakamalapit na ospital ng Department of Health. Sa pamamagitan nito, may mabilis na paraan ng pagtiyak kung sila nga ay apektado at nangangailangan ng paggamot,” Coloma said. (As a precaution, all passengers of EY0424 have to undergo a simple and free nose and throat swab test in any nearby hospital under the Department of Health. Through this, we will be to check if they were infected and in need of medical care.) Coloma said it will only take them half a day for the results to come out. He warned the passengers that people close to them may also be infected if they indeed have MERS-CoV and have yet to be treated. Although a Filipino paramedic had already died of the virus earlier this month in UAE, the spread of MERS-CoV is not yet considered an epidemic. The MERS-CoV is a deadly virus related to the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS). Its symptoms include fever, cough, shortness of breath and diarrhea. According to the World Health Organization, there were 238 confirmed cases of MERS-CoV infection all over the world. Of the said cases, as many as 92 people died from September 2012 to April 16, 2014, according to reports. Malaysia, on Wednesday, reported the first death attributed to MERS-CoV in Asia. The victim recently went on a pilgrimage to Saudi Arabia, media reports said. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/595799/palace‐renews‐appeal‐for‐plane‐passengers‐to‐test‐for‐mers‐cov                     


Rains loom in Surigao as LPA nears By Frances Mangosing INQUIRER.net 12:53 pm | Sunday, April 20th, 2014

MT Satellite image April 20, 2014, 12:01 pm. Screengrab from http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/ MANILA, Philippines– A low pressure area was tracked near Surigao City which will cause possible flashfloods and landslides, the state weather bureau said midday Sunday. “This weather system will bring cloudy skies with moderate to occasionally heavy rains and thunderstorms over Eastern Visayas particularly Eastern and Northern Samar,” the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration said. Seaboards of Eastern and Central Visayas will be moderate to occasionally rough. Gladys Saludes, weather forecaster of Pagasa, told INQUIRER.net that the LPA will likely dissipate. But another LPA located 1,220 kilometers east of Guiuan in Eastern Samar, is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility by Sunday night or early Monday. Saludes said the LPA is likely to intensify into a tropical depression. This will be named Ester once it becomes a cyclone. Based on forecast models, Saludes said the weather disturbance will affect Bicol region. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/595744/rains‐loom‐in‐surigao‐as‐lpa‐nears       


Aquino: ‘Doubting Thomases’ now contributing to PH recovery By Kristine Angeli Sabillo INQUIRER.net 11:26 am | Sunday, April 20th, 2014

President Benigno S. Aquino III. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Seeing is believing. In the case of the Philippines, those who used to question the government are now believers, according to President Benigno Aquino III. Aquino, in his Easter message likened Jesus Christ’s suffering and resurrection to the country’s economic revival. He said Christ’s resurrection allowed mankind to bask in the light, with many people regaining and strengthening their faith. However, there were also others like the apostle Thomas who doubted it. “Gaya po ng landas na piniling tahakin ni Hesukristo, nanindigan at muling bumangon ang ating bayan mula sa malubhang katiwalian at kahirapan,” he said in a five-minute video message released Sunday. (Like the path chosen by Jesus Christ, our nation made a stand and rose again from corruption and poverty.) Aquino then enumerated the achievements of his administration, from the expanding scope of social services, through the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program and PhilHealth, and to the thousands of Tesda (Technical Education and Skills Development Authority) scholars who have found work in various sectors. He assured that students were receiving quality education while shortages in chairs, books and classrooms have been addressed.


The successful signing of the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro by the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front was also mentioned as a start of good relations and peace in Mindanao. Aquino said the Transition Commission has already submitted the draft bill creating the new Bangsamoro political entity and that it will soon be sent to Congress for approval. “Ilan lang po ito sa mabubuting balita ng pagbangon ng ating bayan. Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa mga naniwala, at patuloy na naniniwala, gayundin sa mga nagduda noong una, at ngayon ay nakikiambag na sa ating mabuting agenda,” he said. (These are just some of the good news on our country’s continued recovery. We thank everyone who believed, and continue to believe, and those who first doubted it but are now contributing to our good agenda.) The President promised to devote the remaining years of his term to strengthening the institution, making accountable corrupt individuals and uplifting the lives of the Filipino people. He reminded the people of Christ’s challenge to shun evil and live by His example – of doing good, loving, and caring for others. “Dahil sa ating pagdadamayan, lumiliwanag na ang kinabukasan ng ating bansa. Bilang inyong pinuno, may hangganan po ang ating termino at serbisyo. Tungkulin po nating ipagpatuloy ang ating magandang nasimulan, at gawing permanente ang tinatamasang transpormasyon ng ating lipunan,” Aquino said. (Because of our cooperation, the future of our country is becoming brighter. As your leader, my term and service has its limitations. But it is our duty to ensure that what we had started will continue, and that the transformation of our society will become permanent.) Aquino said that as long as people care for each other and let God guide them, the nation will achieve the fulfillment of its prayers and aspirations. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/595723/aquino‐doubting‐thomases‐now‐contributing‐to‐ph‐recovery               


Clouds to bring slight relief from summer heat By Bong Lozada INQUIRER.net 7:09 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014

MT Satellite image April 21, 2014, 6:32 am. Screengrab from http://www.pagasa.dost.gov.ph/ MANILA, Philippines – As a low pressure area (LPA) is brewing more than a thousand kilometers east of Guiuan, clouds will hover the country on Monday to take away some of that summer heat. According to the 5 am weather bulletin of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa), the LPA was estimated at 1,010 km east of Guiuan at 4 am. Pagasa said Eastern Visayas will have cloudy skies that will bring light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms. Metro Manila will also experience partly cloudy to cloudy skies and isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms in the afternoon or evening.

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New plant to boost supply of clean energy By Daxim L. Lucas  Philippine Daily Inquirer   3:39 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014  

 

President Benigno S. Aquino III . FILE PHOTO BY RYAN LIM/MALACANANG PHOTO BUREAU The Philippine economy has been growing robustly in recent years mainly as a result of President Aquino’s transparency policies and the flood of cheap funds made available globally by the United States to revive its own economy. For the Philippines to sustain this upward momentum, however, it has to have a stable supply of electricity, which is critical in attracting fresh local and foreign investment. To this end, three companies—all leaders in their fields of expertise—have come together to develop a clean energy project that will help ease the country’s tight electricity supply. From Malampaya platform First Natgas Power Corp., a subsidiary of the Lopez-owned First Gen Corp., and Siemens broke ground earlier this year for a natural gas-fired, 414-megawatt (MW) power plant beside the Sta. Rita-San Lorenzo natural gas plants in Batangas City. The P28-billion project—to be built by Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp.—will be finished in 2016, and will use natural gas from the Malampaya platform and eventually imported liquified natural gas. The Filipino-German partnership calls for the construction of two more gas-fired plants starting 2017 to bring the total new power output to more than 1,300 MW.


Surplus capacity President Aquino thanked the consortium during the groundbreaking ceremonies “for their faith in our country and in our economy, which they have expressed not merely in words, but in [actual] investments.” Mr. Aquino said it was expected that the Luzon grid’s energy demand would rise to about 11,000 MW by 2016 from the present demand of 10,294 MW. Since power plants take two to three years to build, the government is laying the groundwork now for new plants, he said. The goal, he stressed, “is not simply to meet demand, but to surpass it.” Mr. Aquino emphasized that demand for natural gas is growing, with its share in the country’s total primary energy supply expected to grow from 8 percent to 14 percent between now and 2030. Clean energy Natural gas-powered generators emit only half as much carbon compared to coal-powered plants, resulting in cleaner energy that fulfills the country’s commitment to mitigate the effects of climate change. Named San Gabriel, the new power plant will also use Siemen’s state-of-the-art sea water cooling structures, designed to provide safe, highly reliable, efficient and low-cost electricity.

Mr. Aquino said that while the plan to guarantee sufficient energy for the country “may just be a single item in the catalog of things to be done in the grand and collective task of nationbuilding,” projects such as San Gabriel are fitting symbols of the country’s economic success. Local partner Siemens and First Gen contracted Sta. Elena Construction and Development Corp. to build the entire power plant, including the cooling towers, citing its expertise and track record in delivering projects despite tight deadlines. “Sta. Elena’s expertise in delivering major infrastructure projects and their unblemished track record made the consortium confident that we were making the right choice in a local partner who could deliver the project up to specifications and in a timely fashion,” Siemens Philippines president and CEO Jacky Chan said. The Lopez group currently generates 1,500 MW of electricity from its Sta. Rita and San Lorenzo plants. With the new plant, it will increase its output to more than 2,800 MW. End to power outages


“Without new power supply, consumers in the Luzon grid will suffer from rotating brownouts and or pay for running more costly and less efficient oil-fired plants,” First Gen president Francis Giles Puno said. “The shortage will also disrupt the country’s positive growth momentum and hamper the government’s efforts to create more jobs,” he added. The new plant, which will start commercial operation in 2016, will augment the power supply on the Luzon grid. First Gen chair Federico Lopez said the San Gabriel plant was the first of three additional power generators planned for the site. “Our vision is to build an additional 1,342 MW between now and 2019,” he said. “Adding more capacity like San Gabriel will lessen our dependence on expensive oil-fired peaking plants and have the effect of taming opportunistic behavior that can ensue from tight supply conditions.” Other investors The rising demand for electricity is drawing other conglomerates to invest in power generation. Ayala Corp. has said it wants to complete a 405-MW coal-fired power plant in Lanao del Norte by 2018 to help reduce the supply deficit in Mindanao. The construction of the power plant, whose capacity could be expanded to 540 MW, is expected to start by the second half of this year after the conglomerate completes financial closing and obtains permits. $1.5M-$2M for 1 MW As a rule of thumb, it costs anywhere from $1.5 million to $2 million to build one MW of generating capacity, suggesting a total minimum investment of about $600 million for the Ayala group. The conglomerate has tapped GNPower Ltd. and Quezon Power as partners for the development of the project, located in Kauswagan town in Lanao del Norte province.   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/595948/new‐plant‐to‐boost‐supply‐of‐clean‐ energy#ixzz2zTluYYmF   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook     


CL job fairs on Labor Day to offer 19,000 jobs By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 SAN FERNANDO, Pampanga , Philippines – Some 19,000 local and overseas jobs will be up for grabs during the 112th Labor Day job fairs to be held in key sites across Central Luzon on May 1. Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) regional director Raymundo Agravante said the jobs are for managers, supervisors, customer service representatives, sales and office clerks, production workers, machine operators, service workers, engineers, administrative assistants, cooks, waiters, construction workers, plumbers, and factory workers. The job fairs will be held in SM malls in Baliuag and Marilao in Bulacan; Clark and San Fernando in Pampanga; Tarlac; Olongapo City; and Cabanatuan City as well as at Camp Servillano Aquino in Tarlac, the provincial capitol grounds in Baler, Aurora; and the President Ramon Magsaysay Sports Complex in Candelaria, Zambales. Agravante said job fairs are also slated at the provincial capitol compound in Cabanatuan City on May 2, Bataan People’s Center in Balanga City on May 6, and Talavera municipal gymnasium in Nueva Ecija on May 12. A total of 404 companies, of which 84 are based overseas, have confirmed their participation in the job fairs. “We urge jobseekers to bring multiple copies of their resumés, certificates of employment, transcript of records, clearance, photos, and other pertinent pre-employment documents needed by employers. Before going to the site, we advise them to pre-register at www.Phil-Job.net,” Agravante said. He said government agencies such as the Social Security System, National Bureau of Investigation, Department of Foreign Affairs, PhilHealth and Philippine Statistics Authority will also render services to applicants and residents at the different venues. http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/04/21/1314115/cl‐job‐fairs‐labor‐day‐offer‐19000‐jobs         


Former solon, 2 others sanctioned for unfair labor practice By Gervie Kay S. Estella Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:13 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014

A five-member council tasked to protect the rights of government employees has sanctioned former Surigao del Sur Rep. Prospero Pichay Jr. and two other former officials of the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) for unfair labor practice. The Public Sector Labor-Management Council (PSLMC) ruled that Pichay, former LWUA chair, as well as the agency’s former administrator Daniel I. Landingin and retired internal control manager Manolo A. Kagahastian committed unfair labor practice under Section 1 (d), Rule XVI of the Amended Rules and Regulations of Executive Order No. 180. The ruling said administrative sanctions will be imposed on the officials, who are also liable for criminal prosecution. The decision promulgated on March 14 was made by Civil Service Commission (CSC) chair and PSLMC head Francisco Duque III, Labor Secretary Rosalinda Baldoz, Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, as attested by CSC Director Alan Alegria, head of the PSLMC secretariat. Acts of reprisal The LWUA Employees’ Association for Progress (LEAP), through its president, Melanio Cachupin II, filed a complaint of oppression, harassment and unfair labor practice against the three officials on Feb. 11, 2011, for what they claimed were “acts of reprisal” after the union filed a plunder complaint in the Office of the Ombudsman against Pichay and other LWUA officials in 2009. LEAP exposed the agency’s unauthorized P780-million investment in the now defunct Express Savings Bank in 2009, causing the dismissal of Pichay, Landingin and former LWUA acting deputy administrator Wilfredo Feleo in 2011. Since Pichay was already dismissed prior to the release of the administrative case on unfair labor practice, Cuchapin told the Inquirer that LEAP was planning to turn the charges into a criminal case. “This should serve as a warning to corrupt officials not to harass employees who are trying to expose their corrupt practices,” Cuchapin said.


LEAP said the bank purchase and the creation of a private subsidiary known as LWUA Consult Inc. (LCI) would duplicate the main functions of LWUA and endanger the security of tenure of the agency’s employees. ‘Disrespectful behavior’ “To protect the interest of the employees of LWUA, Cuchapin wrote several letters to Landingin to stop the creation of the said private corporation,” the PSLMC ruling said. “However, Pichay and Landingin continued to create the LCI.” LEAP said Pichay and Landingin then issued memoranda and office orders that led to the suspension of Cuchapin and other key union officers, citing the union heads’ alleged failure to register with the CSC the approved agency collective negotiations agreement for 2007 to 2010, as well as for their “disrespectful behavior” during a mass action in June 2010. The Inquirer tried to get a comment from Pichay but he could not be reached. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/595918/former‐solon‐2‐others‐sanctioned‐for‐unfair‐labor‐practice                               


High levels of toxic lead found in 5 local watercolor sets By Jeannette I. Andrade Philippine Daily Inquirer 2:02 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014 An environment and consumer safety watch group has found high levels of toxic lead in five locally manufactured brands of watercolor sets bought from various stores in Metro Manila. Following its finding, EcoWaste Coalition reminded parents to buy only nontoxic materials that their children can use in summer art classes and workshops. The group bought early this month 22 samples of watercolor sets from three school supply stores in Manila, Makati and Quezon cities, and screened the samples for toxic metals with a portable X-ray fluorescence device. According to EcoWaste Project Protect coordinator Thony Dizon, out of the 22 watercolor set samples, five brands, which were manufactured by a Malabon Citybased company, contained high concentrations of lead particularly in the yellow cake, while the rest had low or nondetectable levels of the toxic metal.

Dizon said a laboratory analysis conducted by SGS, a testing company, confirmed that the five samples had from 5,900 parts per million (ppm) to as much as 37,000 ppm in their yellow cakes. The use of lead in the manufacture of school supplies is prohibited by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), he stressed. “Lead enters a child’s body when it is inhaled or ingested. It can also be transferred from the mother across the placenta to the fetus. Permanent damage to health can happen when lead, even at low levels, is used by a child’s growing body to make brain connections, bones and muscles, instead of calcium and other vital nutrients,” he explained. He cited a World Health Organization report which said, “Children are particularly vulnerable to the neurotoxic effects of lead: Relatively low levels of exposure can reduce IQ scores, and cause learning disabilities, poor school performance or violent behavior, and result in reduced lifetime earnings.” EcoWaste said it requested on April 7 and April 15 the manufacturer of the lead-tainted watercolor sets to recall its products but has not received a response. The group has informed the DENR, as well as the health and trade departments, of its findings.

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Study: Fuels from corn waste not better than gas By Dina Cappiello (Associated Press) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 5:37am 0 0 googleplus0 0

This undated combo photo, provided by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, shows corn residue after grain harvest, left, adjacent to a field section where corn residue was baled and removed after grain harvest in Jefferson County, Neb. Biofuels made from corn leftovers after harvest are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a cleaner oil alternative from the start and will help climate change. (AP Photo/The University of Nebraska-Lincoln)

WASHINGTON — Biofuels made from the leftovers of harvested corn plants are worse than gasoline for global warming in the short term, a study shows, challenging the Obama administration's conclusions that they are a much cleaner oil alternative and will help combat climate change. A $500,000 study paid for by the federal government and released yesterday in the peerreviewed journal Nature Climate Change concludes that biofuels made with corn residue release 7 percent more greenhouse gases in the early years compared with conventional gasoline. While biofuels are better in the long run, the study says they won't meet a standard set in a 2007 energy law to qualify as renewable fuel. The conclusions deal a blow to what are known as cellulosic biofuels, which have received more than a billion dollars in federal support but have struggled to meet volume targets mandated by law. About half of the initial market in cellulosics is expected to be derived from corn residue. The biofuel industry and administration officials immediately criticized the research as flawed. They said it was too simplistic in its analysis of carbon loss from soil, which can vary over a single field, and vastly overestimated how much residue farmers actually would remove once the market gets underway.


"The core analysis depicts an extreme scenario that no responsible farmer or business would ever employ because it would ruin both the land and the long-term supply of feedstock. It makes no agronomic or business sense," said Jan Koninckx, global business director for biorefineries at DuPont. World ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Later this year the company is scheduled to finish a $200 million-plus facility in Nevada, Iowa, that will produce 30 million gallons of cellulosic ethanol using corn residue from nearby farms. An assessment paid for by DuPont said that the ethanol it will produce there could be more than 100 percent better than gasoline in terms of greenhouse gas emissions. The research is among the first to attempt to quantify, over 12 Corn Belt states, how much carbon is lost to the atmosphere when the stalks, leaves and cobs that make up residue are removed and used to make biofuel, instead of left to naturally replenish the soil with carbon. The study found that regardless of how much corn residue is taken off the field, the process contributes to global warming. "I knew this research would be contentious," said Adam Liska, the lead author and an assistant professor of biological systems engineering at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. "I'm amazed it has not come out more solidly until now." The Environmental Protection Agency's own analysis, which assumed about half of corn residue would be removed from fields, found that fuel made from corn residue, also known as stover, would meet the standard in the energy law. That standard requires cellulosic biofuels to release 60 percent less carbon pollution than gasoline. Cellulosic biofuels that don't meet that threshold could be almost impossible to make and sell. Producers wouldn't earn the $1 per gallon subsidy they need to make these expensive fuels and still make a profit. Refiners would shun the fuels because they wouldn't meet their legal obligation to use minimum amounts of next-generation biofuels. EPA spokeswoman Liz Purchia said in a statement that the study "does not provide useful information relevant to the life cycle greenhouse gas emissions from corn stover ethanol." But an AP investigation last year found that the EPA's analysis of corn-based ethanol failed to predict the environmental consequences accurately. The departments of Agriculture and Energy have initiated programs with farmers to make sure residue is harvested sustainably. For instance, farmers will not receive any federal assistance for conservation programs if too much corn residue is removed. A peer-reviewed study performed at the Energy Department's Argonne National Laboratory in 2012 found that biofuels made with corn residue were 95 percent better than gasoline in greenhouse gas emissions. That study assumed some of the residue harvested would replace


power produced from coal, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, but it's unclear whether future biorefineries would do that. Liska agrees that using some of the residue to make electricity, or planting cover crops, would reduce carbon emissions. But he did not include those in his computer simulation. Still, corn residue is likely to be a big source early on for cellulosic biofuels, which have struggled to reach commercial scale. Last year, for the fifth time, the EPA proposed reducing the amount required by law. It set a target of 17 million gallons for 2014. The law envisioned 1.75 billion gallons being produced this year. "The study says it will be very hard to make a biofuel that has a better greenhouse gas impact than gasoline using corn residue," which puts it in the same boat as corn-based ethanol, said David Tilman, a professor at the University of Minnesota who has done research on biofuels' emissions from the farm to the tailpipe. Tilman said it was the best study on the issue he has seen so far. http://www.philstar.com/world/2014/04/21/1314382/study‐fuels‐corn‐waste‐not‐better‐gas                               


Potential typhoon closely monitored by weather bureau By Jeannette I. Andrade Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:58 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014 The weather bureau is closely monitoring a low pressure area (LPA) somewhere east of Eastern Visayas that is expected to enter the Philippine area of responsibility (PAR) on Monday. Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Admnistration (Pagasa) forecasters said that as of 4 p.m. Sunday, the potential tropical cyclone was estimated at 1,120 kilometers east of Guiuan, Eastern Samar but remains outside the PAR. Forecaster Meno Mendoza said he expects the LPA to be well within the country’s area of responsibility before it intensifies into a tropical depression, which will be named “Ester.”

“An LPA near Surigao City, which dissipated Sunday afternoon, has virtually become an extension of the approaching LPA and will still bring rains over the Visayas,” Mendoza said. According to Pagasa’s forecast for Monday, Eastern Visayas will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rainshowers and thunderstorms, while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms mostly in the afternoon or evening. Moderate to occasionally strong winds will prevail over the eastern sections of Central and Southern Luzon and over the Eastern Visayas where coastal waters will be moderate to occasionally rough. Elsewhere, light to moderate winds will prevail over the rest of the Visayas, Luzon and Mindanao with slight to moderate seas.

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Japan Tobacco seeks 3-mo transition period By Zinnia B. Dela PeÑa (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Japan Tobacco International Philippines (JTIP) Inc., which produces Winston and Mild Seven cigarette brands, is seeking a transition period of at least three months to affix the new tax stamps on its products. In a letter to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), JTIP president and general manager Manousos Koukourakis said while the company fully supports the government’s stamp tax project, a reasonable transition period is necessary for imports as well as for products manufactured here. “Under the current scheme, a lead time of at least three months is needed for (JTIP) to import its products. This period includes the placement of product orders with our overseas manufacturer/supplier, the advance requisitioning and pre-payment of tax stamps for sending abroad, stamp affixture on our products as the place of production as well as shipment and arrival of the products in the country,” Koukourakis said. The BIR hopes to implement the use of secured tax stamps for cigarettes beginning this month in order to closely monitor product supply and sales. The official tax stamps on products indicate that all tax obligations of the manufacturer have been settled. Stamp size was also a concern for JTIP, which raked in revenues of $12.3 billion as of the end of December 2013. Koukourakis also asked the government to take into account “practical realities, such as the lot size order, total industry production and the printing plant’s production capacity.” “We assume that the government designated printer will be able to accommodate the entire industry’s demand,” JTIP said. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/04/21/1314195/japan‐tobacco‐seeks‐3‐mo‐transition‐period           


Phl banks urged to scale up for Asean integration By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Philippine banks need to further scale up ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) banking integration in order to compete with bigger lenders in the region, Standard & Poor’s Ratings Services said. “Philippine banks are at an important crossroads. They’re riding the tide of one of the fastestmoving economic upswings among emerging-market economies, and the banking system has sufficient capitalization and ample liquidity to take advantage of this growth,” the debt watcher said in a report. However, S&P added: “It remains to be seen whether Philippine banks can emerge as regional champions ahead of the impending Asean 2015 integration, which envisages a single market and production base.” “Philippine banks will need scale to deal with more intense competition from potential new entrants, in our view, and it will be a tough balancing act for Philippine banks to defend their market share while pursuing growth,” S&P also said. Asean members have been working on creating an integrated economic community (AEC) by 2015. Part of this is the ASEAN Banking Integration Framework (ABIF), which members are targeting to achieve by 2020. Since the ABIF’s objective is to create strong and well-managed banks in the region, exposing banks to brisker competition and allowing them access to bigger markets are being eyed under the framework. S&P pointed out that as member countries have begun liberalizing restrictions for their own banking sectors, Philippine banks face tougher competition given the size of other banks in Asean alone. “Some doubt exists as to whether all the facets of the AEC will kick in by 2015. In our view, the precise timing and pace of the rollout are beside the point: Banks will need to be prepared for the rollout,” the credit rating agency said. “Those with regional ambitions need to invest in building a presence and strong franchise in foreign markets to gain market share. Those that plan to remain domestic players might have to defend their home turf from a growing number of regional players in the coming years,” S&P continued. It further added: “We believe the Philippine banks belong to the latter category.”


With a credit-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio of 40 percent, Philippine banks have enough domestic growth opportunities seen, decreasing the need for them to expand in the region. “That said, we believe greater scale is essential for banks to deal with the more intense incoming competition. Even the largest domestic banks are relatively small compared to banks in Singapore and Malaysia banks,” S&P said. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas last month has said local banks have been raising capital and aggressively expanding in and out of the country in preparation for the regional integration. The central bank has also said ABIF will benefit local banks as this presents them with more opportunities despite a big discrepancy in the size of Philippine banks and other lenders in the region. Illustrating this, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo in February said the assets of the top three Philippine banks are only as big as that of Thailand’s Bangkok Bank, and half of the assets owned by Malaysia’s Maybank. The Philippine banking system’s total assets, meanwhile, are only about 70 percent of Singapore’s DBS assets. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/04/21/1314197/phl-banks-urged-scale-asean-integration

                         


No go-signal for cutting of trees on Iloilo road By Nestor P. Burgos Jr. Inquirer Visayas 1:04 am | Monday, April 21st, 2014 ILOILO CITY, Philippines—The City Environment and Natural Resources Office (Cenro) has not approved a plan to cut or remove decades-old trees on a major street in Iloilo City due to a road-widening project. Cenro head Noel Hechanova said no application had been filed at his office on the plan to remove trees on an elevated concrete strip dividing General Luna Street. “Under a city ordinance, the cutting or removal of trees needs permission from the Cenro,” Hechanova told the Inquirer. He said the Cenro also usually conducted technical or public consultations if there was strong opposition on the removal of trees. While some trees could be removed in development projects, he said the Cenro usually allowed the cutting of trees only if these posed risks to life and property, Hechanova said. The planned cutting of trees has drawn the attention of city council members and environmentalists due to an ongoing road-widening project on General Luna Street.

The project being implemented by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) involves the widening of the street by removing about half a meter from each side of the concrete strip to widen the road into six lanes, as part of efforts to ease traffic in the city. But work on the concrete strip has exposed the roots of the trees. The DPWH has also confirmed plans to replace the trees with royal palm trees. The city council has passed a resolution protesting the cutting or removal of the trees that, it said, have served as a landmark for Iloilo and Ilonggo folk. Hechanova said he had called the attention of the DPWH and the project contractor on the city ordinance on the cutting or removal of trees. The 1.7-kilometer General Luna Street is a fourlane thoroughfare stretching from the University of the Philippines Visayas campus to Arroyo Fountain in front of the old Iloilo provincial capitol. It connects Molo District and Sen. Benigno Aquino Jr. Avenue, the city’s new commercial, lifestyle and entertainment center, to the central business district and government centers, including the Iloilo provincial capitol and the Iloilo City Hall.

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Gov’t drafting legal framework for Islamic banking in the country By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - The government is speeding up work on the draft legal framework for Islamic banking in the country to further spur economic growth. Islamic banking offers the same services as conventional banking system except that it strictly adheres to the rules and values set by Islamic Shariah. It is also known as interest-free banking system as the Shariah disallows the acceptance of interest rate for the accepting and lending of money. Finance Undersecretary Jose Emmanuel Reverente said the Aquino administration remains committed to promoting and nurturing Islamic financing in the country. Reverente said Malaysia remains keen on assisting the Philippines in developing its Islamic banking and finance sector as well as promoting halal products between the two countries. “There is strong interest from Malaysians to promote Islamic banking in the Philippines. The government is working closely with them. I believe President Aquino and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak discussed that during the Prime Minister’s visit to Manila last month,” Reverente said. The Philippines is struggling to develop Islamic banking, which has been growing at around 10 to 15 percent annually across the globe. There is approximately $700 billion to P1 trillion worth of funds within the Islamic finance system, attracting some of the largest capital markets in the world such as London and Singapore to develop financial products and services to take a slice of this lucrative market. Al-Amanah Islamic Investment Bank of the Philippines, the country’s first and only Islamic bank, is operating on a limited scale because of limited capitalization, thus needing a new investor group with financial muscle and technical expertise.According to World Islamic Banking Competitiveness Report 2013 of Ernst & Young, global Islamic banking assets jumped from $1.3 trillion in 2011 to $1.8 trillion with the top 20 Islamic banks posting a growth of 16 percent in the last three years. There are 1.8 billion Muslims worldwide, accounting for more than 20 percent of the global population. They are expected to rise at 1.8 percent a year. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/04/21/1314200/govt-drafting-legal-framework-islamicbanking-country


PHL sets sights on WTO pact on govt procurement Category: Top News   20 Apr 2014   Written by Catherine N. Pillas   THE government is looking at initially acquiring an “observer status” in the revised World Trade Organization  (WTO)  Agreement  on  Government  Procurement  (GPA),  a  plurilateral  pact  that  gives  signatories  access  to  a  huge market of about $80 billion to $100 billion annually.  “We  are  studying  the  possibility  of  acquiring  observer  status.  We  are  studying  the  possible  benefits,  conditions and implications,” Trade Undersecretary Adrian S. Cristobal told the BUSINESSMIRROR.  Cristobal said the matter is being reviewed and accession to the agreement, which the Philippines may opt  to pursue should it become an observer country, will be considered next.  For  the  country  to  acquire  an  observer  status,  a  request  should  be  sent  to  the  WTO.  The  Philippines  government also needs to adhere to the basic transparency requirements outlined in the agreement.  The GPA is a deal ensuring fair competition between foreign and local suppliers of products, services and  goods in public procurement, a tricky arrangement for governments that generally choose local suppliers  in pursuit of domestic policy goals.  In  the  Philippines,  private  sector  groups  such  as  the  Federation  of  Philippine  Industries,  Philippine  Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Filipino‐Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry  have been advocating for a “Buy Filipino” policy in government procurement.  They  want  the  national  government  to  compel  all  agencies  to  prioritize  locally  made  products  for  their  requirements.  This  means  government  agencies  can  only  import  goods  when  locally  made  counterparts are not sufficient in quantity and quality.  The  GPA  is  the  only  legally  binding  agreement  of  the  WTO  on  the  matter  of  government  procurement.   Government  procurement  in  most  countries  comprises  10  percent  to  15  percent  of  a  country’s  gross  domestic product.  Parties  to  the  agreement  stand  to  benefit  from  expanded  market  access  of  the  revised  version  to  an  estimated amount of $80 billion to $ 100 billion annually, according to the WTO. 


The  gains  from  such  an  agreement  will  come  from  numerous  government  entities  (ministries  and  agencies)  being  added  to  the  scope  of  the  GPA  and  from  new  services  and  other  areas  of  public‐ procurement activities being included in its expanded coverage.  The revised text now includes standards related to the use of electronic procurement tools, new guidelines  for  the  prevention  of  corrupt  practices  in  public  procurement  of  parties  and  technical  provisions  on  the  conservation of natural resources.  Sought  for  comment,  Ambassador  Donald  Dee,  PCCI  vice  chairman,  said  government  procurement  that  ensures  enhanced  competition  between  foreign  and  local  suppliers  will  be  requested  not  just  in  WTO  agreements but even in other free‐trade deals (like the Trans‐Pacific Partnership.  In either case, the PCCI vice chairman is confident that national interest will prevail. 

Should the Philippines decide to be a party to the revised GPA, he said the government should implement the provisions on the basis of national interest. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/top-news/30855-phl-sets-sights-on-wtopact-on-govt-procurement

                         


Another power rate hike in May? by Myrna Velasco  April 21, 2014 (updated)  

Electricity consumers could continually gnash their teeth with soaring electricity bills on forecasts that tight power supply could drive up rates again this May.

 

BEARING THE HIGH COST OF POWER. Meralco customers line up to pay at the power company’s payment center. (Photo by Alma J. Buelva) Unfortunately, there is no magic wand that could ease such dilemma because even longer term power supply is a big problem that the government cannot seem to solve for now – partly due to wobbly policies in the energy sector. And the rashness of such policy and regulatory impositions may have long-run negative impacts on the industry, primarily on the entry of new power investments.

 

Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla Energy Secretary Carlos Jericho Petilla indicated that May prices will be “anchored on tight supply” as could be gleaned from outcomes of trading in the electricity market. The energy chief said he “is not dictating prices” – but that is with the exception of course of the recent decision of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) on “regulated rates” for the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), a trading place which should have been governed by market forces rather than whimsical and post-event regulator-dictated prices.


In these summer months, regulators and the Department of Energy (DOE) are acknowledging tight supply conditions, but they view the November-December shutdown of the Malampaya facility differently when more plants had been on scheduled shutdowns and with the other facilities on forced outages. Petilla said he does not have an inkling of the level of rates that Manila Electric Company (Meralco) would pass on to its customers next month, although he noted that there have been some projections. “I do not know (the rates), because I do not dictate the prices. We never dictate the price. It’s going to be a tight supply,” the energy chief stressed. He added “we cannot really tell the prices but projections can be made and projections have to come from Meralco because they hold the portfolio.” On the persistent criticisms thrown against electricity pricing in the country, Petilla noted that motions for reconsideration can be filed with the ERC. And in the case of the opposing advocacy groups, complaints may also be lodged. The surge in prices during the November-December Malampaya shutdown reached as high as the echelons of the Supreme Court, with a temporary restraining order (TRO) on the December rates of Meralco still due for resolution. http://www.mb.com.ph/another‐power‐rate‐hike‐in‐may/                         


BSP official: Christians support economy By MST Business | Apr. 20, 2014 at 12:01am 

Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo, a preacher, says Christians should have an active role in developing the Philippine economy. “Filipino Christians can be critical, constructive partners of government in inspiring hope, dynamism and entrepreneurial spirit among our people,” says the man in charge of Bangko Sentral’s monetary stability sector. “Christians should take heart from what the Scriptures say: to help transform the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of God. This is not esoteric; it is simply an exhortation for Christians to promote good moral values not only in the Church but also in the government, banks, academe, culture, the marketplace,” he says. Guinigundo, the head pastor at The Fullness of Christ International Ministries, says today’s code of good governance is nothing but a mirror image of what God wants to prevail in society. “Risk management is very well addressed in Genesis and Proverbs. Delegation of authority may be seen in the advice of Jethro to his son-in-law, Moses. The call for good debt management is in Proverbs and those who do the will of God are promised a very encouraging future: they will no longer borrow, but they will lend, they will no longer be the tail but the head,” he says. Guinigundo said the book of Nehemiah challenges public officials to a higher level of public service which is to uphold God’s law and good governance without collecting salaries and emoluments like what the Governor of Judah did after the rebuilding of the broken walls of Jerusalem. “In short, we should prove to the world our culture is not damaged. Christians should not stay away from the market or from politics. Christians should transcend the four walls of the church and start engaging themselves in public affairs so that we can achieve greater moral order with spiritual anchor,” he says. Guinigundo says the Philippines needs more qualified, spiritual members of society to get things done in the country without so much fiscal drag. “It is about time that we give our people a new deal in public service. We need to redeem the time. We need to catch up with our neighbors. We need to be one and put the crabs behind us,” he says. Guinigundo says Christians should pay proper taxes to the government. “The Scriptures prescribe that we should give to Caesar what is Caesar’s. This means we should pay the right amount of taxes and duties to the government. We should comply


with rules and regulations, respect property rights. Bribery is out. On a broader scale, Christian tenets uphold the rights of individuals to life, property and even dignity,” he says. He says law-abiding Christians can help boost the economy. “Good spiritual values breed good economics: having law-abiding citizens can reduce the cost of governance, law enforcement and in the process shift social resources to infrastructures and social services including education and skills training,” he says. “A situation such as this can accelerate the pace of economic development and extend the reach of economic opportunities to the grassroots level. We need to have a more inclusive economic growth model. Christians in general can also uphold the integrity and sanctity of the ballot in the context of selecting those who will govern. If we can resist the temptation to sell our votes and vote only according to the dictates of good governance and merits, perhaps we can hope for a country that is governed by laws and enlightened minds,” he says Guinigundo believes that the Philippines has a very challenging role in global affairs. “We occupy a very strategic spot in Southeast Asia. We were the first Republic which won its independence from the colonialists. We produced young heroes who fought Spain, Japan and the US and whose credentials are beyond reproach. Today, we are one of the biggest source of skills and expertise for many major markets in the world,” he says. “We have one of the biggest business process outsourcing industries in the world. We have a large population and market. We are one of the fastest-growing emerging markets in the world. This being the case, the Philippines should play its cards well. We should sustain our twenty years of implementing key structural and policy reforms so we can keep our growth momentum. This is an important lesson in economic development and this is the role of establishing institutions in society and economy,” he says. Guinigundo says the Philippines seems to be on the right track to achieving economic growth. “We are moving in the right direction because somehow, we got these institutions in place: monetary, banking and fiscal reforms, deregulation of both the oil and power industries, implementation of the expanded VAT, etc. We shall not fail if we get it right moving forward,” he says. He says the Philippines can also be a role model in Asia. “We should also provide thought leadership in the region. We have so much to share in terms of our experience in economic governance and regional integration. Yes, we have so much to learn, and there are indeed many challenges but we equally have so much to share. Most important, we have a strong spiritual mooring that can fortify our resolve in doing things right. I believe that we should not grow weary in doing good things because our labor will never, never be in vain,” he says.


Guinigundo says the Filipino people have a very exciting and promising future. “The economy is growing without as yet the cost of such impressive economic performance. Our potential capacity has expanded, thanks to recent efficiency and productivity gains. The point now is to sustain our policy initiatives, avoid the pitfalls of a middle-income country and start providing our good economic and political policies with strong spiritual anchors,” he says. RTD   http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/04/20/bsp‐official‐christians‐support‐economy/                                      


Journalists to file case vs GSIS over Manansala mural April 20, 2014 2:09 pm 

The National Press Club on Sunday vowed to file a counter suit against the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) after a Manila court junked an estafa case filed against its officers in 2008. NPC President Benny Antiporda said the club has been vindicated by the March 17 ruling of Branch 22 Regional Trial Court Judge Marino dela Cruz. The case stemmed from the allegation of then GSIS president Winston Garcia, that the insurance company owns the NPC property in Intramuros, including the land, building, and the famous Manansala Mural that adorned the wall of the restaurant on the fourth floor. The NPC officials, under former president Roy Mabasa, decided to sell the mural of the late National Artist Vicente Manasala for P10 million in order not only to raise much needed cash, but to save it from deterioration. The money was used to settle gargantuan maintenance bills, while some P6 million was used for the construction of a housing project in Bulacan. Dela Cruz ruled that NPC did not commit any crime, citing a decision of the Court of Appeals in a related case. The judge added that the NPC officials did not benefit personally from the sale of the mural. “We consider this decision as a vindication, a victory not only for the officers and members of the NPC, but for press freedom itself,” said Benny Antiporda, the present NPC president. “I guess it’s time to set the record straight, and turn the table against out accuser,” he added. The issue as to who owns the NPC properties was settled by the Supreme Court in its landmark decision on August 13, 2012 that junked with finality the claims of GSIS. With the High Court ruling, the Department of Justice motu propio withdrew the complaint in behalf of the governement.     http://www.manilatimes.net/journalists‐to‐file‐case‐vs‐gsis‐over‐manansala‐mural/90549/ 


Go after other lawmakers linked to PDAF scam, Sen. Guingona April 20, 2014 11:03 pm 

by ERWIN TULFO The Senate blue ribbon committee, headed by Sen. Teofisto Guingona III, should not stop its investigation of the priority development assistance fund (PDAF) scam, with plunder charges having been filed against three of his colleagues and Janet Lim Napoles. To pull off the scam, Napoles was said to have created 82 fake non-government organizations (NGOs), based on a report of the Commission on Audit (COA) to the blue ribbon committee. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada, and Ramon Revilla Jr. are accused of channeling their respective PDAF or “pork barrel” to Napoles’ equally bogus foundations running the NGOs and holding P10 billion in total PDAF. One wonders if Guingona will still continue investigating the misuse of the people’s money after finding the three senators culpable of abusing the public fund. Well, he should! Napoles’ foundations only received P10 billion but 71 other bogus NGOs got over P100 billion of “pork” funds from several more lawmakers in both Houses of Congress. So, why stop now? If Sen. Guingona does not know where to start or continue with his committee’s inquiry, he can always check the list of the bogus NGOs given to the Senate by COA. The Pangkabuhayan Foundation, reportedly owned by a certain “Miss Gay Tang,” is the second top beneficiary of PDAF funds amounting to almost P400 million, according to the same COA report. My informant from COA, who begged not to be identified, said a “Cong. U” from the Bicol Region, “Cong. C” from a partylist of inmates, “Cong. S” of Sulu and a “Cong. S.” of Camanava allegedly were the benefactors of “Miss Tang’s” foundation.


These members of Congress channeled most, if not all, of their PDAF to the Pangkabuhayan Foundation, even if they were aware that it will just go to “ghost” projects, according to my informant. And just like Napoles, who had Benhur Luy to pay off the lawmakers, Tang’s foundation has one “Aling Evelyn Mirinda” to do its dirty job. The same COA informant fears that if the blue ribbon panel would really want to go after crooked lawmakers, there may no longer be quorums in both Houses of Congress after the committee’s investigation. Several other senators and a dozen more congressmen have also diverted their PDAF to the 71 other NGOs, said my spy at COA. So, if Sen. Guingona is really bent in going after corrupt officials of the land, his committee should continue with its inquiry no matter if those who will be found to be involved in the scam are his or the administration’s allies. As former Manila Mayor Fred Lim puts it, “The law applies to all, otherwise none at all.”   http://www.manilatimes.net/go‐after‐other‐lawmakers‐linked‐to‐pdaf‐scam‐sen‐guingona/90686/                             


Court ruling on RH law: Big, big trouble for Aquino April 20, 2014 11:16 pm 

by RIGOBERTO TIGLAO First of two parts If the Supreme Court decision on the constitutionality of the Reproductive Health Law (Republic Act 10354) were setting a precedent, this year could be President Aquino’s annus horribilis. The decision by the Court majority and the opinions issued by the justices on the RH law reveal how they think, and will decide in two pending crucial cases: First, on Mr. Aquino’s Disbursement Acceleration Program that gave him huge funds to bribe Congress to convict Chief Justice Corona; and second, the Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) he struck with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to create a substate for the Islamic insurgents. Read on and it will be quite obvious how the Court will decide on these two crucial issues. It could be a case of poetic justice. In his first years in office, Mr. Aquino assaulted the Supreme Court when he undertook a campaign to have its Chief Justice removed on obviously flimsy grounds really, showing that he detested him for being an appointee of the previous president. In Aquino’s last years in office, it will be the Supreme Court that will strike back and raise high the torch of reason in this country darkened by a thick yellow fog. It will likely deal the two fatal blows on his rule. Once declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court, the President’s two policy monsters—the Disbursement Acceleration Program and the CAB’s dismemberment of the Republic —would start a chain of events that could topple him.


For starters, we have to reiterate several points made in my column April 14 (“SC ruling on RH law entrenches Catholic dogma”) to debunk the amazingly dominant but outrageous yellow media misinformation that the Court upheld the constitutionality of the RH law, and that it is a victory for Aquino. The headline by a broadsheet, “SC upholds RH law” is a complete hogwash. The SC struck down as violating the Constitution seven of the RH Law’s crucial provisions and a very important one contained in its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR), made by Aquino’s officials headed by its Heath Secretary.


With these provisions declared unconstitutional, the RH law adds little to the five population-control laws in effect these the past five decades, among them R.A. No. 6365 of 1971 (“An Act Establishing a National Policy on Population, and Creating the Commission on Population), Marcos Presidential Decree No. 79, and R.A. No. 9710 of 2009 (“The Magna Carta for Women”). Among other roadblocks, these laws’ biggest problem is the lack of funds for purchasing and distributing contraceptives. It is still the biggest problem despite the new RH law. Struck down by the Court as unconstitutional was a provision that required those in the health industry, whether private or government, to provide birth-control information and the means, even if they didn’t agree with these for religious or other reasons. The Court also ruled that the approval of both spouses is required for their irreversible birth-control procedures as vasectomy and tubal ligation. However, the most crucial provision the Court declared unconstitutional was an item in the law’s implementing rules which could have, because of a single adjective, allowed government to undertake an effective population control program. Section 3.01 of the law’s IRR inserted the adjective “primarily” to define an abortifacient: “Abortifacient refers to any drug or device that primarily induces abortion… or the prevention of the fertilized ovum to reach and be implanted in the mother’s womb.” It was a clever move by the pro-RH proponents to skirt the Constitution. IUDs and other contraceptives indeed have the primary effect of preventing spermatozoa from reaching the egg. But these also have the fail-safe (secondary, or even third-level) effect: These weaken the uterine wall’s lining so the fertilized egg can’t be implanted there and therefore dies. The law’s IRR would have therefore allowed government to distribute such a device and drugs, which elsewhere in the world has had the biggest impact on containing population growth. The Court saw through the pro-RH law’s proponents’ ruse and struck down that provision as unconstitutional on grounds that it violated the Constitution’s article II, section 12, which actually was a Catholic dogma smuggled into our basic law: “(The State) shall equally protect the life of the mother and the life of the unborn from conception.” Much of the SC decision, as well as the nine concurring and dissenting opinions, expounded on the implications of this provision, that it means that any action to stop the fertilized egg from developing is against the constitution. This is contrary to the views of modern medical science, other religions, and of most jurisprudence in the world that life beings only when the fertilized egg has implanted itself on the uterine walls, since only at that time is it viable. That the SC ruling was a total defeat for Aquino, and a de facto rejection of the RH law, is obvious in how the justices voted.


Out of the 15 Supreme Court justices, eleven concurred with the decision as written by the ponente Associate Justice Jose Mendoza. Coincidentally or not, all these eleven justices were appointed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Justice Mariano del Castillo wrote what was titled a “Concurring and Dissenting Opinion.” He dissented however only on minor technical matters, but agreed on six of the eight points the ponente struck down as “unconstitutional” and remained silent on the remaining two items. He even asked the Court to issue specific directives that would make sure the Food and Drug Administration and the Health Department complies strictly with the Court’s decision. Justice del Castillo had been bullied since 2010 by Aquino’s media and Congress forces, and threatened with impeachment for alleged plagiarism on a decision he wrote. The pressure on del Castillo was so intense that Court sources said it affected his health severely that he had to undertake a quintuple coronary by-pass surgery in 2012. Court insiders had alleged that it was a move by Aquino’s camp to force del Castillo to side with the President on cases before the High Tribunal. If that allegation were true, the pressure obviously did not work. Coincidentally or maybe not, the four justices who wrote dissenting opinions to disagree one away or another with the ponente’s decision were all appointees of Mr. Aquino: Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, Bienvenido L. Reyes, Estela Perlas-Bernabe and Marivic Leonen. What should worry Aquino though is that while officially they “dissented,” two of the justices he had appointed to the Court, most notably Chief Justice Sereno, actually backed the majority’s decision—i.e., that of the Arroyo appointees—that drastically watered down the RH law. Aquino is losing hold on the justices he appointed. After all, they’ll still be in the Court long after Aquino has become all but forgotten except as a mean-hearted, incompetent president. Sereno for instance retires only in 2030. Only Leonen toed in its entirety Aquino’s party line, and voted that nothing in the RH law was unconstitutional. Leonen was appointed to the court only in November 2012, right after the Bangsamoro pact with the MILF was inked. It was apparently his reward for heading Aquino’s negotiating panel with the MILF—or, as his critics at the UP Law School allege,or his agreeing to the grossly unconstitutional provisions of the pact. More on the SC decision on the RH law and why it could be the start of Aquino’s downfall.     http://www.manilatimes.net/court‐ruling‐on‐rh‐law‐big‐big‐trouble‐for‐aquino/90693/  


Knowing when to die April 20, 2014 11:09 pm 

by TITA C. VALDERAMA During a homily in one of the Masses I attended last week, the priest asked Mass goers if they would want to know when they would die. Only two of about a hundred people present mustered the courage to raise their hands. It may be a simple question, but a tough one to answer. Wouldn’t you want to be given time to repent for your sins and to do good to prepare for a happy death and be welcomed in heaven? On the other hand, knowing the date of your death would probably stress you out and cause you anxieties that could further complicate situations and advance your passing. Obstetricians know how to compute the birth date of a child, based on the calculation of the mother’s ovulation period. I am not convinced though that doctors can tell when a patient will die, regardless of the severity of illness. The priest’s question reminded me of our long-time family doctor’s advise to the daughter of a patient who was diagnosed with lung cancer. Trying to hold back her tears, the daughter asked the doctor how longer her father would live. The doctor said he couldn’t tell. He related a story about a lady who was told by another doctor that her husband would only have three months at most to live because the cancer was rapidly spreading in his frail body. The wife went out of the hospital. She was devastated. They have four young children and she was jobless. The husband’s hospital bills were increasing by thousands of pesos each day and the couple’s savings accounts had been depleted. While crossing the highway, a speeding truck hit her and she died instantly. That was a true story, the doctor said. The wife who was healthy died way ahead of the seriously-ill husband who lived longer than three months.


My sister and I were next to the patient who asked the doctor about her father’s fate. We were there to settle the doctor’s fee. That was a few days after we buried our father in November 1996. Tatay had emphysema. He battled with the disease for about 20 years. He was a chain smoker in his younger days. He inhaled pesticides, insecticides, fertilizers and other toxic substances while farming. The farm was our only source of livelihood. We were 11 siblings that he had to feed and send to school so he really had to work hard, spending at least 12 hours a day in the farm every day. Tatay stopped tending the farm when he was around 60 years old and Kuya was old enough to till the land. Kuya had to stop schooling after finishing Grade 6 to assist Tatay in the farm while Ate and Ditse were staying with our mother’s cousin and helping in the household chores in return for the free full board. Since the time I heard the doctor’s story, I never asked when somebody would die. I don’t believe doctors who predict a patient’s death. I put my trust completely in the Lord for He is the only one who knows when to take back the life that He had lent us. When Ate was diagnosed with Stage 4 gingival cancer in August 2011, we constantly prayed and begged that she be restored to full health although we knew the cancer was at a terminal stage already. We believed and we trusted in the magnificent powers of prayer and in God’s mercy. We still do so even after He had taken back Ate into his arms after two years and two months since she was diagnosed with the dreaded cancer. We keep the same faith even when Ditse was diagnosed with Stage 2 breast cancer barely three months after Ate passed on last October. We trust that the Lord will keep Ditse in His graces and grant her Divine Healing in His time. Early this year, I, too, was advised by a naturopathic doctor to watch over my health as cancer cells were beginning to form in my pancreas. Contradicting findings from different doctors were confusing and stressful. Alternative medicines cost a fortune so I stopped taking any after spending almost all of my salaries for two months to tablets, capsules and powders that did not seem to make a progress on my health. I just took a switch in my eating habits and tried to handle stressful situations with prayers. I just take vitamin supplements to address my nutritional deficiencies and I try to stay away from cancer-causing food. Now I feel better. The Holy Week that passed gave me time to reflect on my life better. It strengthened my belief that the difficult trials coming our way are mere challenges, and never intended as punishment for our wrongdoings.


As my father uttered in his death bed, I believe that these trials are opportunities to help Jesus carry the cross. Only God knows when one should join Him in His Kingdom. How about you? Would you want to know when you will die?     http://www.manilatimes.net/knowing‐when‐to‐die/90688/                                       


PH banks ‘need scale’ for 2015 April 20, 2014 9:41 pm 

by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO Philippine banks are riding the tide of one of the fastest-moving economic upswings among emerging-market economies, but they will “need scale” to deal with more intense competition ahead of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Economic Integration in 2015, debt watcher Standard & Poor’s (S&P) Ratings Services said. “Philippine banks are well positioned to meet the new Basel III requirements, with capital ratios that are comfortably above the regulatory minimum,” said S&P credit analyst Ivan Tan said in a commentary. Basel III is a framework designed to strengthen the banking sector’s capacity to absorb shocks, enhance the management of risk, and increase transparency. The central bank has ordered universal and commercial banks in the Philippines to comply with Basel III’s 10 percent capital adequacy ratio standards with Tier 1 common equity and Tier 1 capital ratios of 6 percent and 7.5 percent, respectively. “Philippine banks also benefit from healthy funding positions and maintain a sizable amount of liquid assets, the bulk of which is in the form of cash and domestic government bonds,” the analyst added. But while local banks are sufficiently capitalized and there is ample liquidity, there are structural weaknesses that must be addressed if these banks are to compete against potentially bigger and stronger new entrants from other Asean countries. For example, S&P noted that consolidation in the Philippines’ overcrowded banking system has been an uphill task because of its closely held family ownership structure. It said bank lending is heavily skewed toward corporates, particularly to large local conglomerates, to the extent that banks face significant concentration risks to the same handful of conglomerates which follow broadly similar business models. S&P’s Tan added that a narrow revenue profile and high operating costs constrain the profitability of Philippine banks. “Philippine banks depend heavily on interest income from domestic corporate lending, with little diversification in terms of geography and business lines such as bank assurance and wealth management,” he said. According to S&P, it remains to be seen whether Philippine banks can emerge as regional champions ahead of the Asean integration as member countries have gradually started to progressively liberalize restrictions in the region’s still-protected banking sector.


“Philippine banks will need scale to deal with more intense competition from potential new entrants,” it said. Included in the principle of the Asean Economic Community integration in 2015 is the Asean Banking Integration Framework, which will determine qualified Asean banks (QABs). These banks can operate within Asean jurisdictions on equal terms as domestic banks of that jurisdiction, subject to certain prudential and governance standards. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earlier said that the Asean integration opens up a bigger regional market for Philippine banks as it will have a base of some 600 million potential consumers. It added that the prospects for banks in the country appear to be very strong, but the attractiveness of the prospect is also catching the attention of bigger banks and most banks in the Southeast Asian region. The central bank said that the Philippine banking system as a whole is relatively small compared to the rest of Asean, and that is why there is a real need for the banking industry to scale up, expand, and increase the size of its institutions for it to benefit from the heightened competition coming out of the Asean financial integration.     http://www.manilatimes.net/ph‐banks‐need‐scale‐for‐2015/90669/                       


PH stocks to trade higher on optimism over economy

April 20, 2014 9:40 pm by MADELAINE B. MIRAFLOR MadePhilippine shares are seen trading higher this week following the market’s strong close on Wednesday ahead of the Lenten break, with sentiment bolstered by positive economic indicators. “Unless certain negative developments surface, this momentum should carry over to next week as the market closes in on the first quarter earnings cycle roughly three weeks down the line,” Accord Capital Equities, Corp. analyst Jun Calaycay said. He also cited the strong gross domestic product (GDP) forecast for this year and next as another factor that should boost Philippine shares over the long term, plus the fact that inflation has been kept under control, easing to 3.9 percent in March from 4.1 percent in February. “It has been our contention that the strength of the domestic macro-economy should trump the negative influences sentiments borrow from abroad – not the other way around as a good number seemingly subscribe to. The evidences are in the numbers,” Calaycay said. “Note that government targets a 2014 GDP pace of between 6.5 percent and 7.5 percent; inflation rate of 4.0 percent plus or minus1.0 percent; 7.0 percent to 8.0 percent export growth boosted in part by a slight weakening of the currency; and import growth seen at 10 percent,” he added. On Wednesday last week, the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) closed higher at 6,671.18, up by 49.52 points or 0.75 percent. This was the record closing high for this year. According to Calaycay, Wednesday’s stock market performance also marks the first back-to-back days that the index closed above 6,600. “Investors took their cue from an extended rally in US stocks to push the local measure to a second day of advance, closing out the three-session week with gains of 0.4 percent,” he noted. Philippine markets were closed Thursday and Friday in observance of Lent. On Tuesday, positive global developments fueled buying in Philippine shares, helping the index close above the 6,600-mark after a two-day correction.   http://www.manilatimes.net/ph‐stocks‐to‐trade‐higher‐on‐optimism‐over‐economy/90667/  


60 quarters of growth to win credit upgrade By Julito G. Rada | Apr. 21, 2014 at 12:01am 

A Bangko Sentral official said the 60 consecutive quarters of strong growth since 2002 will win another credit rating upgrade for the Philippines within the next 18 months. Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo told reporters in an interview the sustained growth since the first quarter of 2002 would be enough to convince Moody’s Investors Service, which has a positive outlook on the Philippines, to upgrade the country’s sovereign rating. Moody’s gave a positive outlook when it upgraded the Philippines’ credit rating to investment grade on Oct. 3, 2013. “What other proof they need, that the economy is more robust and resilient? [That’s] 60 consecutive quarters of growth…,” Guinigundo said. He said the Philippine economy showed resiliency and sustainability over the past decade. “How do you define resiliency and sustainability? Other countries managed to sustain growth four to five quarters. But the Philippines sustained growth for about 60 consecutive quarters,” he said. He said over the last seven quarters, the economy grew around 6 percent to 7 percent, amid the stable inflation environment. The gross domestic product grew 7.2 percent in the whole of 2013, surpassing the government’s target of 6 percent to 7 percent.     http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/04/21/60‐quarters‐of‐growth‐to‐win‐credit‐upgrade/              


2014 04 21 quedancor daily news monitor  
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