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Another NFA anomaly: P1-B hauling rate overprice GOTCHA By Jarius Bondoc (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am With marching orders to “clean up the agriculture department,” new Presidential Assistant Francis Pangilinan must look into this: The National Food Authority, an agri-agency placed under him, is into another multibillion-peso scam. In importing 800,000 tons of rice from Vietnam, it has assigned the hauling to a favored firm in Manila. Cargo handling is more than double the usual rate. There’s kickback of P1.08 billion, NFA insiders murmur. Masking the racket is a new policy called “Cost + Insurance + Freight Delivered, Duty Unpaid.” The scheme is supposed to save the NFA money. Whereas the agency before undertook the hauling, it now transfers the responsibility to the supplier. That way the supplier — no longer the NFA — would absorb such risks as short landing, wet bags, short weight, and spoilage. The NFA used to lose $5-$7 per ton due to those unforeseen factors, the Commission on Audit has red-flagged. Now here’s the catch. In recently bidding out the 800,000-ton rice import, the NFA stated that it would assign whom to handle the cargo. This is restated in the subsequent contract with the sole bidder for the entire 800,000 tons, Vinafood (Vietnam National Food Corp.). “The Supplier shall utilize the Cargo Handler appointed by the Entity for the unloading and delivery of the cargoes from the disport to the designated warehouses, for the Supplier’s account,” the contract says. “The scope of work of the Cargo Handler is subject to the conformity of the Entity.” Signing the contract were NFA Administrator Orlan Calayag and Deputy Ludovico Jarina, with Vinafood Director Le Xuan Minh and Deputy Phan Xuan Que. Calayag issued Minh a Notice to Proceed on Apr. 30, 2014. Deliveries shall be made this May to Aug., to six Philippine ports near NFA warehouses. A further catch. The NFA assigned to Vinafood its sole accredited cargo handler. That shipping firm is the only one certified because of the NFA’s tailor-fit rule. Applicants must have at least five years experience in handling its rice imports. The Manila-based firm exclusively has been serving the NFA for over a decade. In 2009 businessmen in Cebu, the country’s shipping capital,


questioned the Manila firm’s monopoly of NFA cargoes even to the island-province and nearby Bohol. Competitors had asked the Ombudsman to investigate. The NFA used to spend $27.50 per ton for self-cargo handling. The prevailing market rate during the recent NFA bidding-contracting was $24 max. Yet the imposed rate of the NFA to Vinafood was $54 — or overprice of more than double: $30 per ton. Multiply that by 800,000 tons, then by P45:$1, and the overprice is P1.08 billion. Pangilinan would find the smoking gun embedded in the contract for the first 200,000 tons to be delivered before month’s end, insiders say. The deal is for a total of $439 per ton. Vinafood’s basic price of rice is $409 per ton – inclusive of the $358 cost of goods, $27 standard insurance, and the $24 freight at the time of the bidding. There’s “tong-pats” (kickback) of $30 per ton. Vinafood and Thai rice sellers know only too well the “kalakaran” (S-O-P): they must give to the crooks at NFA. Overpricing used to be in the cost of goods. But that’s now easy to check, as world traders post daily prices online. That’s how the NFA was caught last year padding by P3.4 billion the import cost for 705,200 tons from Vinafood. Along with the private broker of the deal between two rice state agencies, Calayag and Agriculture Sec. Proceso Alcala are under investigation. Apparently the crooks have shifted the kickbacks to the freight. *

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Most of Boracay’s seafood and souvenirs come from Romblon, 50 minutes away by speedboat, two hours by ferry. Trekkers from the white sands of the former invariably discover there’s even more fun at the latter’s nature and history sites, bistros, and famed marble works. Romblon province consists of three main islands. Gov. Ed Firmalo knows each one well, to promote to divers, game fishers, spelunkers, culture buffs, and shoppers. A doctor, he values environment care, for health, food supply, and tourism. Tablas, the biggest island, has the Looc Bay Marine Preserve, designated in 1999. It is home to over a hundred marine species, including the giant starfish, turtle and clam, and rare octopus, eel, and lionfish. Beside the century-old lighthouse, a floating kiosk features picnic lunch, fish feeding, and snorkeling. A P100-entrance fee includes the short boat ride. Sunsets are breathtaking, at Looc’s Villa M, cliff-side Resort by the Sea in Santa Fe, or the two-kilometer beachfront in Odiongan, the airport-seaport town. In Calatrava are rock formations; in Ferrol, a turtle sanctuary near Binucot Sunset Cove Resort; in San Agustin, the “blue hole” dive zone 75 feet deep, where mantas dwell. Legend has it that in Sibuyan Island was found on a mountaintop a colossal oyster three meters in diameter. Scientists say it truly was undersea millions of years ago. Sibuyan’s allure is for mountain climbers, waterfall trekkers, cave explorers, and zip-line thrill-seekers.


On Romblon Island, the capital, are the 400-year-old St. Joseph Cathedral and bell tower. Under restoration are the ruins of Fort San Andres, a Spanish-era pirate lookout, up the cliff. At the town center is the province’s heritage houses, of gobernadorcillos of old. Everywhere are marble sculpture shops. For eats and treats, topmost is Dream Paradise Mountain Resort. Nearby are resort towns: Cobrador, Logbon, and Alag, favorites for angling, diving, and feasting on native cakes and seafood. Luzon, Negros, and Cebu mainlanders can reach Tablas and Romblon via 2GO Travel ships (www.2GO.com.ph). Highlight of the half-day hops: dolphins swimming astride. *

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Catch Sapol radio show, Saturdays, 8-10 a.m., DWIZ (882-AM). Gotcha archives on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/JariusBondoc/1376602159218459, or The STAR website http://www.philstar.com/author/Jarius%20Bondoc/GOTCHA E-mail: jariusbondoc@gmail.com. http://www.philstar.com/opinion/2014/05/21/1325490/another‐nfa‐anomaly‐p1‐b‐hauling‐rate‐ overprice 


Grow Asia Agriculture Forum opens today (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am

Alcala MANILA, Philippines - Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala will deliver the welcome remarks at the opening plenary of the Grow Asia Agriculture Forum today (May 21, 2014) at the New World Hotel in Makati City, in a run-up to the 23rd World Economic Forum on East Asia. Around 150 government, business and thought leaders – including agriculture ministers from other Southeast Asian countries such as Malaysia and Indonesia – are expected to explore ways to accelerate sustainable agricultural growth and achieve food security through market-based multistakeholder initiatives, under WEF’s New Vision for Agriculture (NVA) framework. Through its NVA initiative, WEF has been bringing together agents from private, public and civil sectors to work on market-based solutions to the development of inclusive and sustainable agriculture in the region. Spotlight is on Southeast Asia, one of the world’s most economically dynamic regions and also home to vast numbers of the poor. The inaugural staging of Grow Asia will therefore serve as a venue for experts and stakeholders to explore opportunities for investment and partnership for agri-fishery development in Southeast Asia and will also serve as a venue where participants can share best practices and innovations. “We each face the emerging challenge of globalization of markets, climate change, dwindling natural resources and growing population in our march towards sustainable prosperity and a food-secure future,” Secretary Alcala said. “To prevail over this challenge, we must respond with greater synergy to the realities they present. And we must do so in a manner that benefits our smallholder food producers through innovative approaches and strategies.” Grow Asia will include sessions on what it calls “key enablers to agricultural development,” such as Raising Farm Productivity; Applying Innovative Financing Models; Increasing Efficiency in Food Value Chains; Developing Climate-Smart Agriculture; Strengthening the Enabling Environment; and Leveraging Information and Communication Technology. Grow Asia is an adjunct event of the 23rd WEF on East Asia, which runs through May 21-23, 2014 at the Shangri-La Hotel, also in Makati. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/05/21/1325385/grow-asia-agriculture-forum-opens-today


DA preparing for dry spell By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Agriculture (DA) is employing various mitigation measures in preparation for the dry spell that is expected to adversely affect the farm sector in the fourth quarter of the year. Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala yesterday said the preservation of water sources and irrigation infrastructure is crucial to the growth of the farm sector this year. “We are putting in place policy initiatives, water management and conservation measures, as well as modern and innovative farming and fishery technologies to somehow soften the effects of the dry weather,” he said. The weather bureau forecasts that El Niño may start affecting the country by June and will peak by yearend. Alcala said the DA has been introducing drought-tolerant crop varieties to farmers such as sorghum, cassava and sweet potato. Rice farmers have also been advised to plant droughttolerant varieties. The DA is also looking at the provision of subsidies to farmers who will plant rice in the next cropping cycles. “The National Rice Program is studying this. We can identify locations that would be suitable for growing hybrid rice so that production would not suffer,” Alcala said. Alcala added that the country will have enough rice buffer stock for the lean season of July to September as rice imported by the National Food Authority from Vietnam will start arriving this month. The farm sector, however, is challenged by dwindling water supply in major reservoirs. The water elevation at the Angat dam further dipped to 177.69 meters above sea level as of 6 a.m. yesterday and the downpour on Monday night hardly contributed to increasing water levels of local dams, the National Irrigation Administration said. As early as March, the Bureau of Soils and Water Management had carried out cloud seeding operations to induce rainfall in major watersheds. “This is to ensure water reserves across the nation, especially in agricultural areas and provinces,” Alcala said. This month, cloud seeding operations will be undertaken in Bulacan, Nueva Ecija and Isabela to raise the water levels in Angat and Magat dams.


The Diocese of Malolos is also set to hold a simultaneous prayer for rains on Sunday as daily temperature is expected to peak this week. Alcala said repairs of damaged irrigation dams and canals are also underway as well as the construction of additional shallow tube wells, small water impounding projects, diversion dams and other small-scale irrigation projects. Other defenses against the prolonged dry spell include the buffer stoking of seeds and early planting of crops. The DA needs an initial budget of P1.61 billion for these interventions, of which P764.3 million is readily available while the remaining P842.6 million will be sourced from the Department of Budget and Management. As of this month, damage and losses to the crop subsector as a result of moisture stress is valued at P823.28 million, covering 34,057 hectares in Cordillera Administrative Region and Regions II, IV-B and V. Crop damage is attributed to moisture stress covering rice, corn and vegetables. – With Dino Balabo http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/05/21/1325475/da-preparing-dry-spell


El Niño damage to crops: P503M By Ronnel W. Domingo Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:49 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

AP FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines—Crops valued at a total of P823.29 million have so far been lost to the early effects of a looming El Niño phenomenon, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). Based on a preliminary assessment by the DA’s field units, corn farms were most affected by the dry spell, with P583.6 million worth of losses, involving 28,105 hectares with foregone harvest equivalent to 45,729 metric tons of corn. The dry spell has also taken its toll on rice farms and vegetable farms at P221.28 million and P18.41 million, respectively. Some 12,200 tons of palay from 4,618 hectares of farms have been lost, as well as 1,190 tons of vegetables from 242 hectares of land. According to the DA, the most affected region was Cagayan Valley, which accounted for losses worth P426.5 million. The Cordilleras reported P216.95 million, Mimaropa, P168.85 million, and Bicol, P10.96 million. Agriculture officials said the DA is providing affected farmers with seeds and other production inputs as well as promoting water-saving measures among rice farmers and pushing for the adoption of modern farming and fishery technologies to mitigate the effects of the anticipated long dry spell. “The DA will need an initial budget of P1.61 billion (for all these efforts),” Roy Abaya, officer in charge of the DA’s field operations service, said in a briefing.


Abaya said that of the total amount, P764.3 million is already available while the remainder is still being requested from the Department of Budget and Management. Nearly half of the total, or P729.9 million, is intended for stocking and distribution of inputs, P340 million for the construction of small-scale irrigation facilities and P199.9 million for crop insurance. A total of P159.8 million is earmarked for the repair and rehabilitation of irrigation systems and P41.8 million is meant for cloud-seeding operations. “We are calling on rice farmers to use water-saving technologies such as controlled irrigation. We also urge them to implement crop-shifting and closely monitor the incidence of pests and diseases,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said. He said government interventions include introducing farmers to drought-tolerant rice varieties such as the “super green rice” and the plating of alternative crops like sorghum, cassava and sweet potato. “Aside from these, the (DA) has installed efficient and innovative agri-fishery technologies such as the construction of dike peripheral, deepening of fishponds to allow tidal intrusion and the use of aqua species that are tolerant to saline water,” he said.

Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/603920/el-nino-damage-to-crops-p503m#ixzz32JBjoooi Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


PH palay output estimated to increase by 3.9% in H1 By Ronnel W. Domingo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:06 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 Local palay output is expected to grow by 3.9 percent to 8.31 million tons in the first semester this year despite the early effects of an anticipated dry spell, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority. The PSA attributes such forecast to expectations that total harvest area might expand by 2.8 percent to 2.1 million hectares, while yield per hectare might rise by 1 percent to 3.95 tons. In the first quarter alone, paddy rice production rose 3.3 percent to 4.31 million tons. For the second quarter, the PSA has pencilled in a 4.6-percent increase in output to reach 4 million tons, based on standing crop. Also this quarter, total harvest area is expected to continue expanding while yield is seen recovering. “The high price of palay encouraged more plantings thus, shifting from white corn to palay was noted in Ilocos Region, and motivated farmers particularly in Nueva Ecija to immediately plant after the first quarter harvests,” the PSA said in a report.

The expected overall increase in yield was attributed to the availability of irrigation water and rainfall, more utilization of hybrid and certified seeds and other high yielding seed varieties and increased fertilizer application due to lower prices. Agriculture officials have reiterated that the effects of the expected occurrence of the El Niño phenomenon on crops may not be felt until the fourth quarter and would be reflected in the harvest of early 2015. On Monday, the Department of Agriculture announced that crops valued at a total of P823.29 million have so far been lost to the early effects of a looming El Niño phenomenon. Based on preliminary assessment by the DA’s field units, corn farms were most affected with P583.6 million worth of losses. These involved 28,105 hectares with foregone harvest equivalent to 45,729 metric tons of corn.


Agriculture officials said the DA would provide affected farmers with seeds and other production inputs. The DA would also promote water-saving measures among rice farmers and, push for the adoption of “modern and innovative farming and fishery technologies� to mitigate the effects of the anticipated long dry spell.

Read more: http://business.inquirer.net/171001/ph-palay-output-estimated-to-increase-by-3-9-inh1#ixzz32JhdBZod Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


Private partners sought for Mindanao projects WB‐supported P27.5‐B rural development program  By Ronnel W. Domingo  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:04 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014  

The Department of Agriculture is rallying private sector partners to promote agri-businesses through the World Bank-backed P27.5-billion Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP). Arnel de Mesa, PRDP national deputy program director, said in a statement that one of the first projects to be done under the six-year program would be the development of a banana plantation in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao. “(Banana grower) Unifrutti is collaborating with (us) for the development of at least 3,000 hectares of banana plantation in the Maguindanao and Lanao del Sur provinces,” De Mesa said. He said that one of the stumbling blocks related to this project was the poor road network and that the PRDP intended to build a P273.8-million farm-to-market road in the area. The planned project will include a 12-kilometer road in Marader, Maguindanao, and a 14-km road that will connect the towns of Guingulungan and Lambayao in the same province. The PRDP is also arranging marketing contracts between the Philippine Calamansi Association Inc. (PCAI), a group of buyers and processors of calamansi fruit products, and farmers in Oriental Mindoro where 75 percent of nationwide supply is grown. “One of the constraints is the low farmgate price during peak season,” De Mesa said. “With PRDP’s help, farmers are encouraged to form clusters and enter into marketing contracts with PCAI (and) to engage in assembling, transporting, and processing.” He said that this year, some 200 calamansi farmers were expected to deliver some 8,000 to 30,000 kilos weekly at prices negotiated with PCAI. In Albay, the PRDP has tied up with Juboken Enterprise, a pioneering producer of geonet or nets made from coco-coir, which the Department of Public Works and Highways will use in bioengineering to prevent the erosion of mountain slopes. The PRDP is also partnering with Kennemer Foods International in setting up cacao demonstration farms and nurseries as well as plantations in the provinces of Davao del Norte, Davao Oriental, Palawan, Southern Leyte and Bohol. : http://business.inquirer.net/170997/private‐partners‐sought‐for‐mindanao‐projects#ixzz32JidO61B   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 


Recto shows DAR certification to belie he’s on Luy’s list By Maila Ager INQUIRER.net 3:36 pm | Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO MANILA, Philippines – Senate Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Tuesday released a certification from the Department of Agrarian Reform that would belie a report linking him into the “pork barrel” scam. “This is to certify that per available records, the DAR Office of the Secretary has not received a letter from Senator Ralph G. Recto dated 30 August 2010,” said the one-page certification issued on May 14, 2014 and signed by Justin Vincent La Chica, head executive assistant of the DAR’s Office of the Secretary. “This certification is being issued for whatever legal purpose it may serve,” it further said. The certification, according to a statement from Recto’s office, clarifies a Philippine Daily Inquirer report that the senator was among those who supposedly transacted with alleged “pork” scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles. The report, quoting an alleged digital records of whistleblower Benhur Luy, mentioned a “letter supposedly from Recto dated Aug. 30, 2010, for Agrarian Reform Secretary Virgilio de los Reyes in which he requested P10-million for agrarian reform projects nationwide.” “No other record on Recto appears in Luy’s files,” the report said. “This certification further proves that Senator Recto never dealt with Janet Lim-Napoles, Benhur Luy, their agents or any NGOs (non-government organizations),” said a statement from Recto’s office. http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/603686/recto-shows-dar-certification-to-belie-hes-on-luyslist#ixzz32JGn6IF8 Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook


Abuse in coco levy fund use assailed Conflict of interest seen in cases handled by board member’s law firm  By Delfin T. Mallari Jr.  Philippine Daily Inquirer   12:02 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014  

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—A group of coconut farmers in Quezon slammed the questionable use of coco levy funds by the government, including for a law firm that is partly owned by a member of the board appointed by the government at a bank that is claiming ownership of portions of the levy. “There should really be a law that would address the issue on how to dispose of the coconut levy fund,” said Jansept Geronimo, spokesperson of Kilusan para sa Repormang Agraryo at Katarungang Panlipunan (Katarungan)-Quezon, in reaction to the hiring of a law firm owned by a member of the board appointed by the government at the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB). Geronimo called on President Aquino to publicly make an accounting of the coconut levy fund now estimated to be more than P71 billion. Coconut farmers from Quezon are believed to be the biggest contributors to the coco levy, which was imposed by the Marcos dictatorship from 1973 to 1982. The UCPB board of directors is under fire for hiring the law firm owned by the governmentappointed member of the UCPB board in what a group of consumers said was a case of conflict of interest. UCPB filed two cases in Makati City against the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) and has asked the courts to declare a total of P15.6 billion of the P71 billion worth of coco levy fund shares as owned by UCPB. Lawyer Oliver San Antonio, National Coalition of Filipino Consumers legal counsel and spokesperson, said UCPB officials should disclose the cases “outsourced” to the law firm owned by the board member.

Geronimo maintained that the coconut levy fund belongs to the farmers and not to the government or any of its entities for them to spend. He demanded the immediate release of the coco levy funds to help thousands of coconut farmers in Eastern Visayas who are still reeling from the effects of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” six months ago.


“Instead of spending the funds on questionable corporate expenses with intention of again robbing the farmers of their hard-earned money, the government should use the funds to combat the coconut scale insect menace that could destroy coconut farmlands across the country,” Geronimo said. He said the coconut farmers were afraid the funds had already been plundered by thieves in the government. “In the interest of transparency, we would like to know: One, why the firm of an incumbent member of the board was tapped as external counsel,” said San Antonio in a statement. “Given the huge amounts involved in the cases…it would not be surprising if the law firm (owned by the board member) charged millions (of pesos) in legal fees,” he added. “We must keep in mind that what’s involved here is a government-sequestered company that handles funds already declared by the Supreme Court to be public money,” San Antonio added.   Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/603846/abuse‐in‐coco‐levy‐fund‐use‐assailed#ixzz32JTNUixo   Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook 


How can we strengthen food security in Southeast Asia? By Kavita Prakash-Mani and Tania Tanvir (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - This week at the World Economic Forum on East Asia, held in the Philippines, the region’s governments and senior leaders will explore ways to accelerate sustainable agricultural growth and achieve food security through market-based multistakeholder initiatives. Home to 600 million people, Southeast Asia has enjoyed vibrant and fast-paced growth. The member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) form the eighth-largest economy in the world, with region-wide GDP growth at five percent. The region comprises highly developed economies such as Singapore and Brunei, growing middle-income countries such as Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, and emerging economies such as Cambodia, Laos and Myanmar. The one thing they all have in common is that, on average, more than half of their population lives in rural areas (rising to 80 percent in Laos) and primarily depends on the agriculture sector for employment as well as income. While millions in the region have been lifted out of poverty, a third of the population still lives on under $2 a day and food security remains high on the agenda. The region is blessed with unique ecosystems like the Mekong Delta and the rainforests of Sumatra, Kalimantan and Borneo. Many of these are under threat from population pressures, pollution and increasing demands on resources. In addition, climate change has caused numerous natural disasters in the region, including droughts, typhoons, tsunamis and cyclones – all of which devastate agricultural production and uproot farming communities. Smallholder farmers dominate Southeast Asia’s agricultural landscape, with about 100 million smallholders operating in the region. Farming on less than two hectares of land, at the mercy of changing weather patterns and commodity prices, with very low access to technology, information and markets, these farmers form the bulk of the poor and food-insecure. In an effort to survive, they overuse land and water resources, extend their farms at the expense of forests, use low-quality inputs and technology – all of which have high negative consequences. Raising more people out of poverty, securing nutritious food for all and ensuring the natural environment is protected – these will all require a change in smallholder agriculture. And it will require joint efforts and a new commitment from companies, governments, NGOs, researchers and farmers. The World Economic Forum’s New Vision for Agriculture initiative has been bringing together agents from private, public and civil sectors to work on market-based solutions to the


development of inclusive and sustainable agriculture in the region. With local leadership from governments and companies, these partnerships have been active in Vietnam and Indonesia, and are being defined in Myanmar. Anchored in the country’s national agriculture strategy, they focus efforts to strengthen priority value chains – ranging from crops such as rice and potatoes to palm oil, coffee, tea and cocoa – and aim to increase farmer productivity and profitability while reducing detrimental environmental effects. They also address specific issues such as supplychain inefficiencies, access to agri-finance, and how to attract investment and boost the use of technology. Some remarkable results are already visible. For example, in Indonesia’s rice partnership, a successful first trial resulted in 17 percent higher yield and income for farmers while reducing water usage by 20 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 0.04 ton of methane per hectare. The program aims to reach five million rice farmers on more than one million hectares by 2020. The coffee project in Vietnam includes companies such as Nestle, Yara and Syngenta, NGOs such as IDH and 4C, and research agencies. It is jointly led by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. It has helped farmers increase yield by 10 percent and profit by 14 percent, while reducing water use by 40 percent and greenhouse gas emissions by 54 percent. Based on this success, the government is now aiming to institutionalize the program and take it to more districts, while also linking processing, trade, finance and sustainability to coffee production across the country. Building on this model for multi stakeholder partnership, with the support of the ASEAN governments and in collaboration with the ASEAN Secretariat, the World Economic Forum aims to launch a new regional initiative called Grow Asia. This will serve as a platform to catalyse action that contributes to food security and sustainable, inclusive agricultural development in support of national and regional priorities in the ASEAN region. Country-led and locally driven, Grow Asia will support market-based scalable solutions with measurable positive impacts on inclusive and sustainable agricultural growth, especially focusing on smallholder farmer development and the environmental sustainability of agriculture. In 2015 we will see the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community (AEC) and ASEAN’s fiveyear strategy for improving the region’s food security. Aligning with regional priorities, as well as bringing in the voice and resources of the private sector and the support of civil society, Grow Asia aims to contribute to sustainable economic growth through agricultural development. The region is poised for growth. Now is the time to be part of this exciting transformation and ensure that this growth is inclusive. Authors: Kavita Prakash-Mani is a special advisor at Grow Asia and Tania Tanvir is senior project manager at the New Vision of Agriculture Initiative http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/05/21/1325386/how-can-we-strengthen-food-securitysoutheast-asia


DA to temporarily ban fishing in Davao Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 May 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent   FOLLOWING the success of the closed season in Zamboanga last year against overfishing, the Bureau of  Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is closing fishing activities in the entire Davao region this June.  “We are enforcing a closed season for the Davao gulf from June to August of this year, to allow for the  small pelagic species like the galunggong [roundscad], hasa hasa and sardines,” BFAR national director  Asis G. Perez told reporters on Monday.  An attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, the BFAR is still studying the case of Palawan.  But for next year, a similar temporary ban on fishing will be declared also in the area, according to Perez.  A pelagic zone refers to an area in a sea or lake that is neither close to the bottom nor near the shore,  which hosts important commercial fish species.    The sardine closed‐season bid in Zamboanga peninsula has significantly increased sardine catch since its  implementation three years ago, Perez said.  He added that for the last three years, his office has been receiving reports of an increased volume in  sardine  production.  Perez  based  this  on  testimonies  gathered  by  his  staff  from  fisherfolks,  as  well  as  sardine operators.  “The measure will also protect the tuna population because tuna feeds on small pelagic [species],” Perez  explained,  noting  the  decline  in  tuna  production  in  the  Davao  gulf  in  the  past  three  years.  However,  when asked to comment on the 3.25‐percent contraction in the fisheries subsector in the first quarter of  2014, Perez pointed to Supertyphoon Yolanda.  The  storm  wrecked  havoc  last  year,  destroying  thousands  of  fishing  boats  and  gears,  hence,  the  reduction in fisheries output, the BFAR chief explained. With 74 percent of the coastal towns and cities  in  the  Central  Philippines  affected,  reduced  production  was  noted  among  all  species,  except  the  skipjack,  based  on  the  first  quarter  agricultural  report  by  the  Bureau  of  Agricultural  Statistics.  BFAR  estimates Yolanda’s damage to the fisheries sector at almost P2 billion.  “We are still lucky that the contraction is not that big despite 26 percent of our total production areas  affected by Yolanda,” Perez said.  http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/32415‐da‐to‐temporarily‐ ban‐fishing‐in‐davao 


Scientists near end‐stage for 200 new rice varieties Category: Agri‐Commodities   20 May 2014   Written by Alladin S. Diega   TO  help  improve  the  rice  production  amid  growing  global  demand  for  the  major  grain  commodity,  scientists  from  Japan  and  the  Philippines  are  now  in  the  last  stages  of  developing  a  new  disease‐ resistant,  high‐yielding  rice  varieties  under  the  project  of  the  Japan  International  Cooperation  Agency  (Jica).  Known  as  Wonder  Rice  Initiative  for  Food  Security  and  Health  (Wish),  the  rice  research  project  is  expected  to  be  completed  next  year  by  researchers  from  Jica,  Japan’s  Nagoya  University  and  the  International Rice Research Institute (Irri) in Los Baños, Laguna.  “We are working closely with Filipino scientists in transferring disease‐resistance and high‐yielding traits  to existing rice varieties in Africa and the Philippines,” Motoyuki Ashikari, rice expert and professor from  Nagoya University, said on Monday.  Ashikari added the project shows potentials that will support Jica’s integrated program to enhance rice  production and solve the food shortage in many countries.  According to the statement, the scientists involved in the project have used conventional cross‐breeding  technique,  “in  which  desirable  traits  such  as  grain  number  and  size  from  different  varieties  are  transferred to recipient varieties, then were backcrossed the resulting line thrice to retain the inherent  trait of the existing variety, while collecting the target trait from the donor.”  “Said  technique  recovers  93.75  percent  of  the  background  of  the  recipient  rice  varieties,  resulting  in  better rice varieties,” the statement added.   Ashikari, who had been collaborating with local scientists in the Irri for the project, explained that the  goal is to come up with at least 200 lines of new varieties of rice by end of the project.  He  added  that  the  team  is  also  developing  other  location‐specific  breeding  techniques  that  other  countries like Kenya and Mali in Africa, for instance, can adopt.  The  research  team’s  leader  also  noted  that  the  Philippines  proved  to  be  a  viable  location  for  the  research, owing to its climate, available facilities and scientists, including long history in rice production. 


The first two crosses of rice varieties were developed in Nagoya University, and samples were sent to  the  Irri  for  backcrossing,  ensuring  that  the  recipient  rice  varieties  successfully  acquire  the  traits  from  donor varieties.  Next  year  the  new  rice  variety  under  Wish  will  be  propagated  and  distributed  to  other  parts  of  the  world.  To recall, Jica has launched in 2008 the Coalition for Africa Rice Development, a consultative group of  bilateral donors and international and regional organizations with the goal of doubling rice production in  Africa to 28 million tons yearly by 2018, and has partnered with the Irri and the Philippine Rice Research  Institute.  The Irri also participated in the so‐called Asian miracle in the 1960s, when rice research and technology  helped address massive starvation in poor countries, the statement also said.  http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/32414‐scientists‐near‐ end‐stage‐for‐200‐new‐rice‐varieties   


3 more forecasters leave Pagasa By DJ Yap Philippine Daily Inquirer 8:08 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration has lost three more very competent weather men who have left for greener pastures or fairer skies abroad, according to its employees’ union. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/RICHARD A. REYES MANILA, Philippines—The country has lost three more very competent weather men who have left for greener pastures or fairer skies abroad. The Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) union said two of the three were weather forecasters and one was a communications engineer. Ramon Agustin, president of the Philippine Weathermen Employees Association, said the three left for Qatar last Sunday. He identified them as forecasters Bernie de Leon and Ralph Ricahuerta and communications engineer Ralph Soquila. They were hired by the Qatar Bureau of Meteorology as airport forecasters and communications specialist, respectively, Agustin said in a statement. Agency’s promise The union leader said the three had actually planned to leave Pagasa last year but “they were prevailed upon to stay, hoping there would be improved economic benefits at the agency as promised.” Pagasa employees had not received their hazard pay for almost six months now, Agustin revealed. “Two other benefits, namely, the longevity pay and the subsistence allowance would be given only until June this year because the Department of Budget and Management has not yet released the funds for the next semester from July to December,” he said.


‘For love of job’ The longevity pay and subsistence allowance are mandated under the Magna Carta for government science and technology employees. Agustin admitted that other Middle East countries had attempted to pirate seven forecasters from Pagasa last year, including the three who just left. So far, the other four have opted to stay with Pagasa, “for love of the job and prayerfully hoping for improved economic compensation,” Agustin said. Last year, Pagasa employees were promised their Magna Carta benefits would no longer be delayed as they would be sourced from the Mutual Personnel Benefit Fund in 2014, he said. Agustin said the perennial delay in the payment of benefits could only be solved if the funds for the purpose were included in the annual national budget or General Appropriations Act. He described the departure of the three weather men as “truly a big loss to Pagasa.”

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Private hospitals urged: Honor PhilHealth benefits By Sheila Crisostomo (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Health Insurance Corp. yesterday warned members of the Private Hospitals Association of the Philippines Inc. (PHAPi) against pushing through with its plan not to honor the benefits of PhilHealth patients. “I hope they won’t do that because we will really act on that. We will sanction them, one way or the other, maybe through fines, suspension or (cancellation) of their accreditation with PhilHealth,” said Alex Padilla, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer. He said hospital owners would be doing a “greater disservice” to their patients if they do not recognize their PhilHealth membership. He said it would also violate the “Performance Commitment” that hospital owners have executed when they were accredited by PhilHealth. PHAPi president Rustico Jimenez said they would ask patients to pay PhilHealth’s share of their hospital bills and apply for reimbursement directly with PhilHealth. Jimenez complained that it takes at least six months for PhilHealth to process their claims, gravely affecting hospital operations. Padilla, however, said the delay in reimbursements to private hospitals was due to some “connectivity problem” with the implementation of the “case-based payments,” which started in January. “We admit that we had connectivity problem in some regions but we are addressing that. We had an emergency meeting and we promise to release their payments within 60 days or less, depending on the problem,” he said. In a letter to The STAR, Padilla said PhilHealth had been “experiencing technical challenges that are part of the innovation’s birth pains.” “But rest assured that we are working double-time to address these glitches and save our partnerproviders from further inconvenience,” he said. Padilla said PhilHealth is keeping its lines open for PHAPi to “further discuss the matter with us, in the confines of our working environment.” http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/05/21/1325476/private‐hospitals‐urged‐honor‐philhealth‐ benefits 


171 private colleges, universities allowed to increase tuition; 141 pending with CHED By Dona Z. Pazzibugan Philippine Daily Inquirer 5:55 pm | Tuesday, May 20th, 2014

THE FIGHT against rising tuition and the perennial lack of subsidy to state colleges and universities are the main rallying cries of students in their protests, like this group that held a rally in the Commission on Higher Education office in Quezon City. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/ARIANNE BERMUDEZ MANILA, Philippines—About 300 private colleges and universities out of the 1,700 private higher education institutions (HEIs) in the country are expected to increase their tuition and other fees this school year. This is considerably less than the 354 tertiary schools that were allowed in 2013 by the Commission on Higher Education (CHEd) to raise their fees. CHEd officials said they do not expect any of the 223 state colleges and universities to raise their tuition. As of Tuesday, CHEd has approved the fees increase application of 171 private colleges and universities and turned down the application of 190 others that failed to support their planned increase. The number will go up when CHEd releases its decision on the application of 74 private colleges and universities in Metro Manila (National Capital Region), 46 in Calabarzon (Region 4A); nine in Cagayan Valley (Region 2) and 12 in SOCCSKSARGEN (Region 12). No data was given for private colleges and universities in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM). The approved tuition hike so far ranged from 15 per cent to 4 per cent, or an average at 9 per cent.


Meanwhile the approved increase in other school fees ranged from 26 per cent to 6 per cent, or an average of 14 per cent. None of the 81 private colleges and universities in Eastern Visayas (Region 8), which suffered the most from Super Typhoon “Yolanda” (Haiyan) last November will increase their fees, according to CHEd. In Central Visayas (Region 7, which was struck by a powerful earthquake in October before killer typhoon Yolanda slammed in November, 13 private tertiary schools were allowed to increase their fees. In Western Visayas (Region 6) which also felt Yolanda’s destruction, 25 private tertiary schools were allowed to raise their fees. Meanwhile among private elementary and high schools, at least 1,299 schools in 13 regions were allowed by the Department of Education to proceed with their planned tuition increase. This includes at least 322 private elementary and high schools in the Yolanda-battered Visayas region. Based on partial data as of last week, DepEd disallowed the planned fee increase in 178 other schools that failed to complete their documentary requirements. Unlike in the tertiary school sector, more private elementary and high schools will raise their tuition this school year. Last year, 1,199 private schools were allowed to do so. DepEd has not yet released reports from Central Visayas (Region 7), the Davao region (Region 11), the Cordillera Administrative Region and the ARMM.

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Gas prices up, diesel price down By Iris Gonzales (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Oil companies raised gasoline prices by 60 centavos per liter effective midnight last night but reduced prices of diesel by 35 centavos per liter, local petroleum players said in separate announcements yesterday. Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp., a major oil player, was the first to announce the price adjustments that took effect yesterday morning. Caltex Philippines and Petron Corp., the two other major oil companies, as well as the independent oil players, also issued similar announcements. “PTT Philippines will implement a P0.35 per liter rollback on the price of diesel effective at 1 p.m. today, Tuesday, May 20, 2014. Prices of gasoline, on the other hand, will increase by P0.60 per liter effective 12:01 a.m. Wednesday, May 21, 2014 to reflect movement in international market,” said PTT Philippines, the local subsidiary of Thailand’s biggest oil company. Similarly, Phoenix Petroleum Philippines announced that it has increased the price of gasoline by 60 centavos per liter and decreased the price of diesel by 35 centavos per liter effective yesterday morning. “This is to reflect the movements in the prices of refined petroleum products in the world market,” Phoenix said. Prices of diesel range from P42.40 to P45.80 per liter while diesel prices range from P42.40 to P45.80 per liter. In its latest oil monitoring report, the Department of Energy (DOE) said rising oil exports by Libya, though still far from earlier levels of near 1.4 million barrels per day, have been contributing to the drop in prices. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/05/21/1325477/gas‐prices‐diesel‐price‐down             


Las Piñas City launches its own food fest Philippine Daily Inquirer 3:39 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014 MANILA, Philippines—The newest food festival was launched last week in Las Piñas by the Villar Sipag (Social Institute for Poverty Alleviation and Governance) and with the support of the city’s 20 barangays (village), schools and parishes. “Filipinos are natural food lovers. Here in Las Piñas, we also take pride in our culinary heritage and our local residents with world-class cooking skills,” said Sen. Cynthia Villar, managing director of Villar Sipag.

Her son, Las Piñas Rep. Mark Villar, formally opened the activity. In his opening remarks, he thanked the participants and guests for attending what he described as another important fiesta celebration in the metropolis. The festival kicked off with the inter-barangay cooking competition with 20 teams submitting a dish with tahong, labong or inihaw na manok as the main ingredient. The winning dish, which was declared the city’s “Official Native Dish,” was the relyenong labong of the Pulanglupa 2 team composed of Fatima Ebina, Leizel Cagaanan and Joanne Quines. They received P20,000 in cash and gift items.

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Heirloom dishes shine in food tour By Tonette Orejas Inquirer Northern Luzon 12:01 am | Wednesday, May 21st, 2014

LILLIAN Borromeo of Cucinang Matua (Old Kitchen) prepares a Kapampangan delicacy, the “Panecillos de Saniculas” or the San Nicolas de Tolentino cookies. PHOTOS BY TONETTE OREJAS Either for nourishment or pleasure or both, spend the last days of summer sampling heirloom recipes in Pampanga province. It won’t take much of your time. The food trip prepared by the Culinarium of the Museo ning Angeles last week as part of the International Museum Day celebrations took less than a day. The tour, done with a lot of tasting and eating, began at an old house in Barangay (village) San Jose in Sta. Rita town. This was where Felisa Ocampo-Lansang had made turrones de casuy and sans rival since the 1920s, a skill she learned from a Dominican nun from Spain who shared the recipes with her and several women. It was the nun’s way of thanking them for sewing the priest’s vestments for free. The tradition of making these pagmayumu (sweet snacks or desserts) continues because she had trained a nephew, retired Salesian teacher Ramon Ocampo, before she died at age 97 in 1998. Now, Ocampo, 73, has 15 employees who prepare the sweets by hand using the original recipes. Turrones de casuy is a bar of cashew and milk wrapped in thin sheets made from egg white and flour, very much like the ostia (host) received during holy Masses. Sans rival, topped with cashew, still uses the same brand of butter spread over a baked layer of cashew and milk. “Even Mt. Pinatubo’s eruptions [in 1991] did not stop the people’s craving for turrones de casuy and sans rival. We just had to ring this house with sandbags to protect it from lahar,” Ocampo said.


The next stop is the patku and burquillos by Miriam Mercado who lives in the same village. Adela Galang, her grandmother, handed down the recipe to her. Patku, a child’s mispronunciation of pasku (Christmas), can be likened to a native crepe. Mercado’s patku is made of carabao milk, lemon, butter, cheese and grounded rice. These ingredients produce a wrapper that, when cooked, is filled with young shredded coconut. In making the burquillos, she uses a small metal apparatus, an improved version of Galang’s tool. Mercado also makes uraro cookies, special pan de sal, tsokolateng batirol, okoy, atchara, panara, bibingka, puto bumbong, empanada, mamon tostado and masa padrida. Lunch was at Cucinang Matua (Old Kitchen) of Lillian Mercado-Lising Borromeo beside the Hizon-Lorenzo bale maragul (ancestral house) in Barangay Parian in Mexico town. Her place has no signboard whatsoever so it’s better to watch out for the second street to your left before reaching the town proper. Before the meal, she showed her guests how to make the Panecillos de Saniculas (San Nicolas de Tolentino cookies). Borromeo is among the few last makers of these delicacies. She has modified the recipe but still uses antique wooden molds.

Nostalgic feel

BURQUILLOS is best eaten with ice cream. There’s a nostalgic feel to the place because the demonstration is done in her family’s museum of kitchen utensils, cooking wares and tools. Borromeo has all these in her care because she’s the only woman in a brood of four. She has prepared sisig matua, bulanglang bangus, kilayin, tidtad, pindang babi, bobotung asan, paku salad, bringhi, buru and gule baryu, ningnang asan, paksing demonyu from recipes learned from her mother Francisca and grandaunt Maura Lorenzo. Borromeo said she hasn’t kept the recipes to herself. She has published the second edition of “Atching Lillian’s Heirloom Recipes (Romancing the Past through Traditional Calutung Capampangan).”


Aside from 200 or so recipes, the book includes the first local translation of Dr. Jose Rizal’s “Mi Ultimo Adios.” Rizal and Borromeo’s grandfather, poet and revolutionary Don Monico Mercado, are cousins. The culinary tour ended at Camalig Restaurant in Angeles City where two varieties of Armando’s Pizza were served with buko sherbet and sago’t gulaman. Rich culinary traditions The Philippines has rich culinary traditions, Felice Prudente-Sta. Maria, who has over 40 years of active heritage and cultural work, said in a lecture organized also by the Museo ning Angeles. Filipinos, she said, enjoy eating with others, customize their food, relish new food and drinks, and have traditions for rice, kakanin, lumpia, spaghetti and adobo. “Every generation relearns from the elders. The challenge now is to establish criteria,” she said. Food, she said, provides signs of the nobleness and honor of a race, evident in how people handle hunger, treat food producers and compensate food sources and services. “Your tummy tells you that it’s great being a Filipino,” she said. Chef, writer and artist Claude Tayag said the Kapampangan did not claim to be the best cooks around. Outsiders who tasted local food bestowed the title, he said. The destinations of food trips in Pampanga can be varied. One can go to Tayag’s Bale Dutung, also in Angeles City, at Abe’s Farm in Magalang town, Everybody’s Cafe in the City of San Fernando or to several restaurants offering specialty dishes. [For food tours on weekends or weekdays, summer or rainy days, contact Joy Cruz of Museo ning Angeles at 0943-2623950 or Poch Jorolan, 0917-5108961 and 0999-9948634.] : http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/603842/heirloom-dishes-shine-in-food-tour#ixzz32JVjT2DW Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook              


BSP reviews BOP targets By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is reviewing its balance of payments targets to take into account recent developments abroad that had an impact in investments and trade, among others, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said yesterday. “We have to review the balance of payments projections to take into account the worries and developments... and see what are the prospects for the different accounts particularly in the capital and financial transactions account, in particular with respect with the foreign portfolio flows,” Tetangco said. The country recorded a BOP deficit of $4.493 billion in the first four months of the year, a reversal of the $1.811-billion surplus recorded in the same period a year ago. The central bank expects the BOP position to settle at a surplus of $3 billion this year, 41 percent below last year’s $5.085-billion surplus. Tetangco said that apart from revisions in the capital and financial account of the BOP position, the current account projection will also be revisited. “There might be some changes also in the current account but I don’t foresee significant changes. But there could be because we have to review the export projection, the import projection,” Tetangco said. “But I would say that changes there would be, most likely going to be smaller than potential changes in the capital and financial transactions account,” he said. The cumulative BOP deficit in the first four months of the year has been due to the net foreign portfolio investment outflows, which was a result of market’s reaction to the US Federal Reserve’s tapering of stimulus. Net hot money outflow amounted to $1.967 billion in January to April, a reversal of the $2.218billion net inflow a year ago.


But Tetangco noted that there have been signs capital has been returning to the country amid “calm” in the markets. “If you look at the volatilities in financial markets in May of last year and September of last year and then [compare it with] early this year, the volatilities have already gone down. This would indicate that there’s some calm that is returning to the markets,” Tetangco said. This is due to “better communication” coming from the Fed after they announced the reduction in their monthly asset purchases in December and the actual decrease implemented in January. At the same time, Tetangco said there has been differentiation among markets so those economies with better fundamentals are faring better, as opposed to emerging markets being treated as one asset class. “We have strong marcrofundamentals. That’s why you have seen some returns. Some capitals returned to the countries they fled. But right now the markets are relatively calm,” Tetangco said. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/05/21/1325369/bsp‐reviews‐bop‐targets                               


Asean urged to accelerate integration of bank system By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 21, 2014 - 12:00am

Purisima MANILA, Philippines - The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) should accelerate the integration of its banking systems and financial markets to better withstand external shocks, the region’s finance ministers said yesterday. “We need to accelerate the financial integration in the region… our ability to withstand situations such as (the US Federal Reserve’s) tapering will also be improved,” Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima said at the 10th Asean Finance Ministers’ Investor Seminar in Makati City. Purisima said that an integrated banking system will better facilitate the flow of investments within the region. At the same time,Purisima said the combined current accounts surplus and the total level of international reserves held by the Asean will shield the region from external crises especially those arising from liquidity shocks. “There is a major opportunity in integrating the Asean… but there still exists a gap in standards, skills, and governance so there will be a need to address these,” Purisima said. Asean plans to build an integrated economic community by next year. Under this is the financial integration, which includes the banking integration framework eyed for implementation before 2020. Bambang Brodjonegoro, Indonesia’s Vice Minister of Finance, for his part stressed that ASEAN members have already strengthened their economies since the Asian Financial Crisis of 1998. “I believe the Asean has the capacity to deal with crisis that will come in time. Looking at 1998, and especially after (the global financial crisis of) 2008, I believe Asean now has some resilience to deal,” he said. This is due to the nations’ macroeconomic stability built through the years, and such is expected to be sustained in the future, he continued. Despite the different stages of economic development in the region, Josephine Teo, Singapore’s Senior Minister of State, Ministry of Finance and Ministry of Transport, said that as a whole, Asean will attract more foreign direct investments. “It is fair to say that FDI flows to the region have been due to the macroeconomic stability and that has boosted investor confidence,” Teo said. http://www.philstar.com/business/2014/05/21/1325379/asean‐urged‐accelerate‐integration‐bank‐ system 


President promises sustained funding for state schools by Genalyn Kabiling  May 20, 2014  

Manila, Philippines — With a few weeks left before the start of a new school year, President Aquino has vowed to sustain financial support and other incentives to state universities and colleges (SUC) to improve their quality of education. The President also disclosed that education authorities would keep a tight watch on schools and close down medical schools that perform poorly in licensure examinations. Aquino emphasized that education reforms remain a priority of his administration during the inauguration of state-run Bicol University’s new Health Sciences building in Legazpi City, Albay last Monday. “We will continue our support for the state universities and colleges. We will provide funds to improve their facilities, raise the quality of education, and provide financial support for the students,” the President said in his speech. “I believe it is the obligation of our state universities and colleges to contribute to the growth of our communities. It is proper to give incentives to those performing well in the academe and public service,” he said. Aquino said his administration seeks to ensure that the Filipino youth, regardless of their profession, would have the capacity to take care of their family and contribute to society. On the issue of substandard schools, Aquino said the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has been “religiously” monitoring medical schools and closing those that fail to produce a decent passing rate in license exams. Aquino said they would not allow institutions that “do not have the competency to continue victimizing our countrymen.” He recognized that the sacrifices endured by a student to complete his education. He noted that students of medicine usually pay high tuition to complete their course, and after graduation, must still pay for a review for the board exam. “Since we assumed office, we did not let this kind of system continue. We have directed CHED to monitor and hold accountable schools with low passing rate in different courses and poor quality of programs,” the President said.


Aquino noted that the crackdown on substandard schools is an important step to ensure the funds would be put to good use and not go to waste. More than 200 nursing schools and programs have reportedly been closed down by CHED due to poor performance in recent years. Another issue being addressed by the Aquino administration is the mismatch between the jobs available in the market and the skills of the Filipino workers. “We checked the needs of companies to resolve the lack of jobs of Filipinos even though there are many vacancies,” Aquino said. The President said the labor and education agencies have stepped up efforts to resolve job-skills mismatch and ensure the graduates have the necessary skills to meet the labor market. In contrast to substandard schools, the President hailed the “world-class” excellence of Bicol University, particularly citing its 100 percent passing rate for nursing graduates. He also lauded the state university’s new health sciences building as well as the new masteral course on public administration that would educate more Filipinos. “It is clear that education is one of the foundations of our agenda for change. Each square meter of this building is concrete proof of our pledge to raise the level of education in the country,” he said. http://www.mb.com.ph/president‐promises‐sustained‐funding‐for‐state‐schools/                         


Skills mismatch, red tape hinder PHL SME growth Category: Economy   19 May 2014   Written by Catherine N. Pillas   Small  and  medium  enterprises  (SMEs)  in  the  Philippines  face  greater  challenges  than  some  of  their  Association of Southeast Asian (Asean) counterparts in integrating into the single economic market, said  the Asian Development Bank’s lead economist for regional economic integration who also cited several  key hurdles facing local SMEs that must be addressed.  “[In terms of survival rate], the Philippines is somewhere in the middle. The SMEs here are a bit more  mature  than  the  newer  Asean  countries,  but  they  face  greater  challenges  than  the  original  Asean  member‐countries,  because  of  particular  challenges,”  ADB’s  regional  economic  integration  lead  economist, Jayant Menon, told the BusinessMirror.  The founding members of Asean are Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines.  Local  SMEs  face  increased  competition  as  a  result  of  the  Philippines  market  being  opened  up  and  allowing  greater  access  for  exporters  within  the  region,  Menon  said  and  so  particular  constraints  to  SMEs must be addressed.  “There  are  fundamental  and  underlying  constraints  that  must  be  overcome  so  that  SMEs  may  take  advantage of the opportunities in AEC [Asean Economic Community] 2015,” Menon said.  One of the constraints identified is skills mismatch among SMEs since there is a disparity��between the  skills required in the private sector and what is being produced by training institutions.  Another constraint that should be resolved, Menon said, is the layers of bureaucracy confronting SMEs  in complying with registration requirements.  “We  have  to  ensure  that  SMEs  are  burdened  less  by  administrative  requirements  and  all  this  legal  requirements and paper work. SMEs are less able to deal with these kinds of requirements than large  firms because of limited number of support staff, so that needs to change.  The AEC will deliver some of  those  changes  but  we  need  national  reforms  as  well  to  improve  the  investment  climate  for  SMEs,”  Menon said.  Notably,  Menon  highlighted  that  in  the  Philippines,  access  to  financing  to  SMEs  is  a  major  constraint  because of the “high level of risk‐aversion” of lending institutions in the country, especially toward non‐ collateralized loans. 


Menon  mentioned  that  lessening  the  risk  of  risk  aversion  is  needed  as  SMEs  face  a  very  high  cost  of  finance.  The lead economist also pointed out that lending is more easily provided to unproductive sectors in the  Philippines,  saying  “a  lot  of  lending  is  provided  to  a  lot  of  unproductive  sectors  such  as  real‐estate  development, rather than productive sectors like manufacturing, small‐scale firms and service exports,  and hopefully this will be addressed.”  “A lot of the impact of the AEC will depend on how SMEs respond to both challenges and opportunities  it creates. The SMEs have a big role to play. To take advantage of the opportunities, these fundamental  and underlying constraints must be overcome,” noted Menon.  Access to financing has been identified as a problem as well by the Trade Secretary Gregory L. Domingo  during the Philippine Economic briefing early this year.  As such the trade head is aiming for a bigger budget for SME support through a livelihood program with  an initial funding of P600 million that he aims to start in 2015.  For 2014 the bulk of the P900‐million budget of trade department for SME support has been allocated  to Department of Trade and Industry’s (DTI) Shared Services Facilities project.  Domingo  noted  that  while  access  to  training  and  access  to  materials  have  been  addressed  through  programs such as DTI’s SME Roving Academy and Shared Services Facility, there is a missing link in terms  of financing.  Domingo, likewise, noted that lending institutions must be prepared to spend and lose a little money as  well to support and develop SMEs, who are often deemed not credit‐worthy and who lack collateral to  secure loans.    http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/economy/32392‐skills‐mismatch‐red‐tape‐hinder‐ phl‐sme‐growth               


Angat saves Pampanga farmlands by Freddie C. Velez  May 20, 2014 (updated)  

Baliuag, Bulacan — Pampanga farmers thanked the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) based here for granting their request for water to save their crops, which are almost ready for harvest. Roding Manansala, who represents a group of farmers, also expressed their gratitude to Angat Dam officials who released water to irrigate agricultural fields in Pampanga. Reportedly, 80 percent of agricultural farmlands in San Luis, Candaba and Mexico, all in Pampanga, depend on Bulacan for irrigation.

 

LUCKY FARM — A parched ampalaya farm in Barangay Sabang, Baliuag, Bulacan, gets some relief yesterday as water released from Angat Dam, upon the request of Pampanga farmers from the National Irrigation Administration, irrigated this four-hectare area. (Freddie C. Velez) “We whole-heartedly thank you (NIA) for irrigating our farms. If not for your swift action, we would have lost our crops and our children will have to stop schooling,” Manansala said in the local dialect. But dam authorities said the water supply for farmers in Region 3 is just temporary and that by the first week of June, the dam supply will be diverted to Bulacan farmers as the 2nd cropping season of rice begins. Yesterday, some parched farmlands in Baliuag got a pleasant surprise when their fields were irrigated as a result of the releasing of water upon the request of nearby Pampanga. Dan Binuya, barangay councilor of Tangos in Baliuag, said it was like an answered prayer when he saw the irrigation canal in their place filled with water. Bulacan Governor Wilhelmino M. Sy-Alvarado said majority of the crops in the province were saved from the drought when farmers harvested the rice and corn a month before the shortage of water became a problem,


Still, there are some areas which still need irrigation like in the town of Bulacan and some parts of San Miguel and San Ildefonso, which Alvarado is set to inspect soon. He said the Provincial Agricultural Office, headed by Gloria Carillo, has prepared a package of plans and programs to help adversely affected farmers. http://www.mb.com.ph/angat‐saves‐pampanga‐farmlands/                                           


Sea warming eases, chances of El Niño less By Astrid Santos | May. 21, 2014 at 12:01am THE possibility of having an El Niño phenomenon his year has lessened by 20 percent due to the easing of the warming trend in the Pacific Ocean, the state weather bureau said on Tuesday. Forecaster Rufy Abastillas said the probability of having an El Niño—the warming of sea surface temperatures in the Pacific—had dropped to 50 percent from over 70 percent this year because the warming of the ocean had been slowing down. The weather phenomenon brings drought to some areas and heavy rain to others. Abastillas said there could only be three outcomes to an El Niño forecast this year: El Niño will not happen, it may happen in June, or it may be delayed and happen in August. He made his statement even as of the nine major dams in Luzon, only Binga Dam in Benguet and Pantabangan Dam in Nueva Ecija increased their water elevations on Tuesday. The water level of Angat Dam in Norzagaray, Bulacan, which supplies 97 percent of the potable water to Metro Manila, dropped to 177.69 meters from 177.92 meters on Monday. The water level at Ipo Dam in Bulacan went down to 99.66 meters from 99.67 meters, La Mesa Dam in Quezon City to 77.80 meters from 77.86 meters, Ambuklao Dam in Benguet to 740.86 meters from 740.90 meters, San Roque Dam in Pangasinan to 236.55 meters from 236.8 meters, Magat Dam in Isabela to 167.42 meters from 167.79 meters, and Caliraya Dam in Laguna to 286.79 meters from 287.02 meters. Meanwhile, the Independent Minority Bloc in the House of Representatives on Tuesday slammed the Aquino administration’s “band-aid” solution to the recurring blackouts in Mindanao and other parts of the country. The bloc’s leader, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, expressed fears the country might experience the same problem during the Ramos administration, which signed onerous deals with independent power producers that increased the cost of power. He criticized the government for the absence of a comprehensive plan that will provide a longterm solution to the power problem. Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz, a member of the bloc, said the power problem had been getting worse.


Some areas in the Visayas suffered up to one-hour rolling blackouts on Tuesday due to a lack of power resulting from the shutdown of three power plants, the Department of Energy said. “There was rotating brownouts of 30 minutes to one hour in Iloilo, Antique, Negros Occidental, Bohol and Cebu at 1 pm to 2 pm, Energy Undersecretary Raul Aguilos said. The weather bureau said the established threshold of Sea Surface Temperature Anomaly for an El Niño phenomenon was 0.5 degrees Celsius or higher during a three-month period. Two weeks ago Landrico Dalida, director for operations and services of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration, said the sea surface temperature anomaly in the Pacific reached 0.4 degrees Celsius in April and was expected to reach the 0.5-degree threshold by June, but this was now harder to achieve due to the fluctuating warming trend in the Pacific. Although there is a chance the Niño phenomenon may not happen, people should continue to prepare for it by conserving water as well as energy, according to Abastillas. “They still need to do the usual preparations for El Niño,” Abastilla said. “Part of the mitigating measure is water and energy conservation especially for those who are relying on hydroelectric power because there might be a shortage during El Niño. With Rio N. Araja, Maricel V. Cruz and Alena Mae S. Flores http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/05/21/sea‐warming‐eases‐chances‐of‐el‐ni‐o‐less/                       


Banks’ exposure to real estate tops P1t, breaches 20% limit By Julito G. Rada | May. 21, 2014 at 12:01am Banks’ exposure to the real estate sector topped P1 trillion for the first time last year and breached the 20-percent limit set by the Bangko Sentral, as more property developers took out loans to start new residential and commercial projects. The Bangko Sentral said real estate exposure of universal, commercial and thrift banks hit P1.006 trillion as of the fourth quarter of 2013, up 7.1 percent from P939.8 billion in the third quarter. The figure represented 21.8 percent of the banks’ total loan portfolio, exceeding the 20-percent limit set by the Bangko Sentral. The regulator requires banks to observe an aggregate limit on real estate loans to not more than 20 percent of their respective total loan portfolio in a bid to reduce risks. The Bangko Sentral said it “monitors various segments of the credit market in its continuing effort to assess and address potential concerns that may undermine the stability of the financial system.” Data from the Bangko Sentral, however, showed that real estate loans represented only 83.8 percent of the banks’ real estate exposure in the fourth quarter. These loans grew 7 percent only a quarterly basis to P843 billion from P788 billion in the third quarter. “Sixty percent of the RELs was granted to commercial entities such as land developers and construction companies while the rest of the RELs was extended to borrowers acquiring residential properties,” the Bangko Sentral said. Investments in real estate securities increased 7.8 percent to P163.6 billion as of end-2013 from P151.8 billion in the third quarter. Investments in RE securities comprised the remaining 16.2 percent of the real estate exposure. Bangko Sentral said non-performing real estate loans remained manageable amid the increase in real estate credit. Non-performing real estate loans accounted for 2.8 percent of the total real estate loans. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/05/21/banks‐exposure‐to‐real‐estate‐tops‐p1t‐ breaches‐20‐limit/     


PDIC pays depositors of closed Cavite bank By MST Business | May. 21, 2014 at 12:01am Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. will pay the insurance claims of depositors of closed Cavite Rural Banking Corp. starting today and tomorrow. PDIC said in a statement it would pay the claims at the rural bank’s head office at M. H. del Pilar St. corner Kiamzon St., Silang, Cavite and at the premises of the bank’s branches at Buho, Amadeo and Poblacion, Amadeo, respectively. Depositors are advised to proceed to the branch where they maintain their accounts. Depositors with validated deposit balances of P50,000.00 and below, with complete mailing address found in the bank records or updated through the mailing address update form, and without any outstanding obligation with the bank, do not need to file claims. Those whose accounts have balances of over P50,000 and who have outstanding obligations with the closed Cavite Rural Bank regardless of type of account are required to file their deposit insurance claims. PDIC said the announcement on the claims settlement operations of Cavite Rural Bank is posted at the head office and the branches and on the PDIC Web site, www.pdic.gov.ph. PDIC advised depositors to personally present their duly accomplished claim form, original copy of evidence of deposit and two valid photo-bearing IDs with signature of the depositor. Depositors may also file their claims through mail and enclose the same set of document requirements. Depositors who are below 18 years old should submit either a photocopy of their birth certificate issued by the National Statistics Office or a duly certified copy issued by the local civil registrar as an additional requirement. Depositors who are not able to file their claims during the settlement operations period may submit their claims either through mail to PDIC, or personally at the PDIC Office, 4th Floor, SSS Bldg., 6782 Ayala Avenue corner V. A. Rufino Street, Makati City starting June 2, 2014. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/05/21/pdic‐pays‐depositors‐of‐closed‐cavite‐bank/       


Govt sells P25-b bonds By Jennifer Ambanta | May. 21, 2014 at 12:01am   The government sold P25 billion worth of three-year bonds Tuesday, even as interest rates climbed 47.6 basis points to 2.875 percent from 2.399 percent in January. National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said the bonds were three-times oversubscribed as tenders reached P76.689 billion, from the original offer of P25 billion. “It’s coming because of the [credit rating] upgrade and expectation of a good first quarter growth and of course the liquidity and all the nice things being said about the Philippines,” De Leon said. De Leon said the rates for the three-year debt instruments were at par with the previous transactions in the Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corp. at around 3.2 percent. “Based on our interpolated analysis, it should really hover around that area right now. It’s even about five basis points lower,” De Leon said. De Leon said investors were looking for shorter-term investment vehicles, given the volatilities and other expectations in the market. “The appetite is really on the short-term end,” she said. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/05/21/govt-sells-p25-b-bonds/


Fishing ban set in Davao By Anna Leah G. Estrada | May. 21, 2014 at 12:01am The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources will ban sardine fishing in Davao Gulf for three months starting June 1. BFAR director Asis Perez said the closed season at Davao Gulf will start on June 1 and will last until Aug. 31 this year. “We were inspired by the success of the closed season in Zamboanga. This is also meant to protect the tuna population because tuna feeds on small pelagics. Tuna production in the Davao Gulf is not as good as before,” Perez said. “In Davao there are also small pelagics like galunggong, hasa hasa, and sardines. The closed season will cover Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur,” he said. BFAR earlier said the closed season in Zamboanga Peninsula had significantly increased sardine catch, since its implementation three years ago. Perez said that the closed fishing season aimed to increase fishery production, following a 3.15percent drop in catch in the first quarter. http://manilastandardtoday.com/2014/05/21/fishing-ban-set-in-davao/


Hope for the poor? May 20, 2014 11:28 pm   by The Manila Times Reportorial Team All eyes are on Manila as about 600 delegates from 30 countries converge here today for the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) to discuss how the rapid East Asian economic growth could distribute its benefits more equitably among its 600 million people. The three-day meeting of representatives of business, government, civil society and academia convenes against a backdrop of not only impressive growth rates in the economic bloc, but also persistent disparities in competitiveness and development. President Benigno Aquino 3rd and his team will be joined at the meeting by Nguyen Tan Dung, Prime Minister of Vietnam, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono, President of Indonesia, and U Nyan Tun, Vice-President of Myanmar. Under the meeting’s theme, Leveraging Growth for Equitable Progress, participants will discuss the opportunities to promote greater inclusion across East Asia, with a three-point agenda: achieving equitable progress, advancing models for sustainable growth and realizing regional connectivity. Big buzz phrases like “Asia’s next economic miracle” and “a dream of 600 million fulfilled” will not be in short supply when the 600 thinkers discuss the Asean Economic Community (AEC) during the event. The AEC, a long cherished dream among 10 Asean countries that is expected to launch next year will be a common market with a combined gross domestic product of about US$2 trillion, according to a report by McClatchy Tribune Information Services (MCT). By January 1 next year, tariff and non-tariff barriers across South-east Asia will be removed, and restrictions on services, investments and labor mobility eased. “This brings unprecedented opportunities for partnership, trade and foreign direct investment,” said WEF managing director Philipp Rosler. On the ground, however, economists and bureaucrats are carefully managing expectations, saying this “dream” is likely to arrive as a “series of little bangs” rather than a seismic shift. Neither would the AEC upend the way business is conducted. Gradual integration “Integration is a process. It is not going to be a big bang,” said Philippine Finance Secretary


Cesar Purisima. Europe, he pointed out, is still integrating more than three decades since the European Union was formed. For Philippine Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo, the “big bang” already happened four years ago, when nearly all tariff lines in South-east Asia were rolled back to zero or near-zero. The big shift will be in non-tariff barriers that could see countries such as the Philippines easing limits on ownership of key industries and opening up more sectors to foreign competition, he said. Already, big lenders from abroad, including Singapore-based Bridge Financial Services, are anticipating a law that will allow them to own 100 percent of Philippine banks, Edward Garcia, former president of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines, told The Straits Times. While this week’s WEF meeting will focus on the economic promises of Asean 2015, rising geopolitical tension in the region will not be far from the minds of the delegates. China, which has seen its territorial dispute with the Philippines worsen in recent months, is apparently snubbing the host by sending just a token delegation to the forum this year. Aquino sent invitations to Chinese President Xi Jinping and Prime Minister Li Keqiang, but both did not even bother to reply. The closest to a state official that China will have in Manila is an executive dean of Peking University. Vietnam and China are also locked in a tense stand-off over a giant oil rig the Chinese towed into waters claimed by both countries. Despite the growing tension, delegates expect the over-arching message from the forum to be one of pragmatism. “My belief is that pragmatism rules, and a pragmatic view of the situation would suggest that peaceful resolutions of these issues would be made,” said the EU-Asean Business Council’s Donald Kanak. PH back from the brink Guillermo Luz, private sector co-chairman of the National Competitiveness Council (NCC) and former executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC), said the forum could showcase the Philippines as a viable economic, financial, and investment hub for foreign visitors. Chief market strategist Jonathan Ravelas of BDO Unibank, Inc. said the Philippines, being the host country, has reached an important milestone.


“Our economic ‘back-from-the-brink’ story is one of the best, if not the best, in recent years, being an economy with the youngest population in Asia, and with sustainable growth ranging from 6 to 7 percent,” Ravelas told The Manila Times. However, aware that the country’s growth rates are high, what the WEF is likely to want to check out during the forum is the sustainability of that growth, said Alvin Ang, economist at the University of Santo Tomas. “The forum will be an opportunity for the Philippines to say ‘yes, growth will be sustainable,’” Ang said. The private sector plays a big part in that growth, particularly in job generation. “We should raise the point that WEF member countries can help the Philippine economy grow by investing in it, in the productive sectors that could create jobs to sustain the current growth path,” Ang said. Manufacturing offers many possibilities, he said. The sector needs more foreign direct investment so it can be more integrated into the Asean market. Presenting what the Philippines has to offer to the global investment community with a stronger, broader, deeper participation from the both the private and public sectors will help Filipinos better understand the concerns of the investing community and be able to act on these concerns as soon as possible, said Jun Neri, Bank of the Philippine Islands chief economist. The country has a big chance of success in vying for a share of the global market in services, but will have a more difficult time competing in agriculture and manufacturing if the current productivity does not improve, Neri said. Luz underscores the country’s advantage in terms of manpower. “In the area of people, we have an advantage—but only if we educate and train our people,” he said. “We will also have the largest working-age population [ages 18 to 64] over the next 30 to 40 years. If we educate and train our people for high-value jobs here or across Asean, that places the country in a strong position,” Luz said. Local private industries and corporations that have been preparing and will continue to prepare for the 2015 target date for AEC will be able to compete better in areas that have not yet been liberalized. “Those who do not prepare will suffer,” Neri added. MAY CARABALLO, MADELAINE MIRAFLOR, VOLTAIRE PALAÑA, RITCHIE HORARIO WITH MCT http://www.manilatimes.net/hope-for-the-poor/98058/


PH rice self‐sufficiency remains a pipe dream May 20, 2014 11:23 pm   by CONRAD CARIÑO [Editor’s Note: The second part of this series discussed possible solutions that can help the Philippines attain increased rice production, like developing higher-yielding seeds for use by small farmers, and making sure public funds for the agriculture sector are properly utilized.] Conclusion The Department of Agriculture (DA) does not see rice self-sufficiency merely as a production issue, because it has to take into account rice farming which employs from 3.5 million to 7 million people based on the ratio of two farmers tending one hectare of farmland. “The objection to [rice] self-sufficiency overlooks certain realities of trade. First, countries can be held hostage [by] some economic, political and/or ideological reasons even in a highly globalized world. In particular, the world rice trade is subject to political decisions of governments who are the biggest players in the market. It is politically risky to rely entirely on the private market to ensure food security and to stabilize prices,” the DA’s Food Staples Sufficiency Program (FSSP) stated. “Moreover, [rice] exports are highly concentrated, with the top five countries accounting for 80 percent of total exports. Importing countries become vulnerable to export bans or restrictions,” it added. To its credit, the DA has succeeded in increasing annual palay (unmilled rice) production to record levels during the past three years. In 2013, the DA placed the country’s rice selfsufficiency level at 98 percent. Palay production for 2013 reached 18.44 million metric tons (MT), up from the 2012 production level of 18.03 million MT. An unprecedented increase in palay production from 15.77 million MT in 2010 to 16.68 million MT in 2011 was also achieved. For 2014, the DA is targeting 19.32 million MT of rice, or a 4-percent increase over last year. The increasing rice production in the Philippines has also been noted by the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), which has been helping the country raise its rice output. “President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala have been pushing rice self-sufficiency, and in support of this goal, IRRI has put its science capacity and results at the


disposal of the [Philippine] government, in a series of research projects,” said IRRI Director Dr. Bruce Tolentino. “All these efforts have been paying off. In recent years, even at this early stage in the programs, we are already seeing at least a modest increase in yields in the Philippines,” he added. Despite attaining record palay yields in the past few years, the Philippine farming sector has to face serious challenges, such as a growing population and the effects of climate change. Also, the impact of aging farmers on the country’s agriculture sector has not been fully assessed. Other measures The FSSP boldly advocates the consumption of alternative crops that can be easily grown or are readily available. Dr. Saturnina Halos also sees the need to curb rice losses, which is also stipulated in the FSSP. According to data from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice), Filipinos waste an average of 2.5 tablespoons of rice daily, which results in P6.2 billion worth of rice being thrown away every year. This is enough to feed 2.6 million Filipinos every year. President Aquino declared 2013 the National Year of Rice, which, among other objectives, aims to reduce wastage of rice at the table. But when it comes to easing pressure on domestic rice supplies, encouraging the increased consumption of other staple crops looks very promising. For Halos, mixing easy-to-grow white corn and rice can help reduce pressure on rice supplies. “Since white corn production is very efficient, white corn may be cheaper than rice and hence the rice-white corn mix should be cheaper and more accessible to our people,” she said. A statistical analysis of the DA showed that about 20 percent of Filipinos in the Visayas and Mindanao already eat white corn as their main staple. In the Visayas, the price of corn is cheaper than rice by P2 a kilo. Besides white corn, the FSSP advocates increased consumption of cassava and saba (cardaba banana) and the humble kamote (sweet potato). Advocating the increased consumption of other staples besides rice is a wise move because based on an ongoing experiment by the IRRI, rice yields can decline because of climate change. In an article posted at eco-business.com, the Long-Term Continuous Cropping Experiment (LTCCE) conducted by the IRRI over the past 52 years indicated that rice yields can be adversely affected by climate change.


“If we take the weather data that come from [IRRI’s] Meteorological Station, plug that into crop simulation models, and estimate the potential yield that’s driven by the germplasm and the climate, what we find is that the potential yield over the last 10 to 15 years has been declining,” Dr. Roland Burech, one of the scientists managing LTCCE, was quoted as saying. http://www.manilatimes.net/ph-rice-self-sufficiency-remains-a-pipe-dream/98048/


BFAR to implement 3‐month fish ban off Davao Gulf May 20, 2014 8:42 pm   by James Konstantin Galvez Following three consecutive years of successful implementation, the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) will implement anew a three-month ban on fishing of sardines and herring off the Gulf of Davao. BFAR Executive Director Asis Perez said a closed season—covering the entire Davao Gulf, Davao del Norte and Davao del Sur—will be implemented from June 1 to August 31 as part of the agency’s conservation efforts of small pelagic fish species, as well as tuna population. “We are inspired with the success of the implementation of closed fishing season in various parts of the country,” Perez said, citing the rising trend in fish production since they have started implementing closed fishing season three years ago. Perez said the agency is now looking at implementing similar scheme in Palawan, saying that they expect to complete feasibility study by September this year. At present, closed season is still enforced in Zamboanga Peninsula—covering the East Sulu Sea, Basilan Strait and Sibuguey Bay.Perez’s announcement came at the heels of a 3.25 percent contraction in fisheries subsector in the first quarter of 2014. Reduced production was noted among all species, except skipjack. Perez said the reduction in fisheries output is attributed to the devastation caused by Super Typhoon Yolanda, which wrecked havoc to about 74 percent of the coastal towns and cities in the Central Philippines. BFAR estimated the damages caused by Yolanda to the fisheries sector at nearly P2 billion. “We are still lucky that the contraction is not that big despite 26 percent of our total production areas affected by Yolanda,” Perez said. He is hopeful that the fisheries sector will bounce back sooner as the agency starts the second phase of its Ahon! Rehabilitation Initiative, which aims to provide assistance to some 30,000 fisherfolk beneficiaries in major fishing areas affected by the storm. It can be recalled that BFAR also postponed the implementation of the closed season in the Visayas to jumpstart the municipal fishery sector in typhoon-stricken areas. http://www.manilatimes.net/bfar-to-implement-3-month-fish-ban-off-davao-gulf/97975/


Mindoro farmers to benefit from agriculture program May 20, 2014 8:42 pm   by TINA GANZON THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is partnering with the private sector and local government units (LGUs) to promote various commodities into agricultural enterprise. Through the Philippine Rural Development Program (PRDP), DA aims to provide key infrastructure, facilities and technologies to boost farm production. PRDP tapped the Philippine Calamansi Association Inc. (PCAI), buyer and processor of calamansi fruit products to enter into a marketing contract with farmers in Oriental Mindoro. Calamansi is indigenous to the Philippines and about 75 percent of the country’s production comes from Oriental Mindoro. It gross about P23 million in annual export earnings. “One of the constraints is the low farmgate price during peak season. With PRDP’s assistance, farmers form clusters and enter into marketing contracts with PCAI. The program has also encouraged farmers to engage in assembling, transporting, and processing,” said PRDP national deputy program director Arnel de Mesa. He said 39 farmer members of Oriental Mindoro Farmers’ Association have delivered 58,712kg of calamansi to PCAI during last year’s pilot run of the calamansi trading enterprise. “This year, some 200 farmers are expected to deliver from 8,000 to 30,000 kg per week at prices negotiated with the farmers,” he added. De Mesa said the priority commodities in each province were identified based on the value chain analysis and the provincial commodity investment plan (PCIP). http://www.manilatimes.net/mindoro-farmers-to-benefit-from-agriculture-program/97976/


Scientists discover why olive oil lowers blood pressure May 20, 2014 5:40 pm   WASHINGTON: The secret to the Mediterranean diet may be in the salad. Eating unsaturated fats, like those in olive oil, along with leafy greens and other vegetables creates a certain kind of fatty acid that lowers blood pressure, scientists said on Monday. These nitro fatty acids are formed when consuming spinach, celery and carrots that are filled with nitrates and nitrites, along with avocado, nuts and olive oils that contain healthy fats. Nitro fatty acids appear to inhibit an enzyme known as soluble epoxide hydrolase, which regulates blood pressure, said the research in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, a peer-reviewed US journal. The study was based on experiments in lab mice, and was funded by the British Heart Foundation. “The findings of our study help to explain why previous research has shown that a Mediterranean diet supplemented with extra-virgin olive oil or nuts can reduce the incidence of cardiovascular problems like stroke, heart failure and heart attacks,” said Philip Eaton, professor of cardiovascular biochemistry at King’s College London. While most experts agree that the Mediterranean diet—which consists of lots of vegetables, fish, grains, red wine and fatty nuts and oils—brings health benefits, there has been little scientific consensus about how or why. Some have touted red wine as a driving force behind the ability of Europeans to eat high fat cheeses and meats while maintaining better overall health than Americans. But research published last week found that a key antioxidant in red wine, resveratrol, did not help people in Italy live longer or avoid cancer or heart disease. AFP http://www.manilatimes.net/breaking_news/scientists-discover-why-olive-oil-lowers-bloodpressure/


No need for prudential measures at this time – BSP May 20, 2014 9:58 pm   The Philippine central bank has no plans to implement macroeconomic prudential measures at this time despite the likelihood of rising interest rates as a result of the US Federal Reserve’s decision to continue to taper its bond-buying program. “We will have to continue to monitor the situation. At this point in time there are no plans,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said on the sidelines of the Financial Times-First Metro Investment Summit held on Monday. Tetangco said that emerging market economies like the Philippines have been able to adjust to the impact of the US tapering, noting that volatilities in financial markets have already gone down since the announcement of the Fed move last year and the actual start of the tapering early this year. “This would indicate that there’s some calm that is returning to the markets. I think this is at least in part because of what the market saw when the announcement was made and then the actual tapering started. In other words, we have more information now as to how markets will possibly react . . . So this has had a calming effect in the market,” he said.The US Federal Reserve in April announced that it would continue cutting its monthly purchases of US Treasuries and mortgage-backed securities by a further $10 billion to $45 billion from an original $85 billion a month.Tetangco also said that despite the tapering, emerging markets like the Philippines remain an asset class for investors. “This seems to be supported by the argument of differentiation, the differentiation argument. Markets or economies with better fundamentals are likely to fare better. And markets with certain vulnerabilities are expected not to perform as well as markets with strong market fundamentals,” he said. “And the Philippines belongs to the first group. We have strong macroeconomic fundamentals. That’s why you have seen some returns. Some capital returned to the countries they fled from,” he added.Tetangco cited the improvements seen in the Philippine equities, bond and foreign exchange markets. “Exchange rates have recovered, equities have also gone up and bond yields have started to somewhat go down. I think if there are no unexpected shocks, these could signal that we’ll most probably have a more manageable transition into more normal interest rates among the emerging economies,” he said. MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO http://www.manilatimes.net/no-need-for-prudential-measures-at-this-time-bsp/97998/


PH should strengthen banking, agriculture May 20, 2014 9:56 pm   The Philippines should strengthen its macroeconomic fundamentals in the key areas of banking and agriculture and take advantage of its positive demographic structure to be able to compete with larger markets in the upcoming Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Economic Integration in 2015, the country’s top government officials said. “Our own goal has always been to keep our own house in order and strengthen it so that when shocks do occur, we have buffers to shield us. Recently, our efforts to keep our house in order have gained more urgency in light of our preparations for Asean economic and financial integration,” said Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. during his keynote speech at the Financial Times-First Metro Investment Summit held on Monday. Tetangco said that the central bank recognizes the potential of integration but also remains cognizant of the challenges that the initiative may bring, such as in implementing the Asean Banking Integration Framework or ABIF. He said that the BSP has prepared the groundwork by creating a stable macroeconomic environment and putting in place a sound regulatory framework consistent with the global reform agenda. Tetangco said the central bank has proposed amendments to the law liberalizing the entry of foreign banks into the country so that foreign banks can establish their own branches or subsidiaries here in the Philippines. The BSP governor said that the central bank has also started discussions with various banking organizations, which should provide further clarity and level expectations among their memberbanks and give them the chance to craft their respective forward-looking competition strategy. “The ongoing rebalancing of growth across the globe as well as the challenge of preparing for greater integration with our Asean neighborhood will require continued vigilance on the part of the BSP and more active involvement from our banks,” he said. For its part, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) underscored the importance of agricultural productivity in strengthening the country’s competitiveness ahead of the Asean integration. “Agriculture is so crucial to our social development programs because a large proportion of our labor force—about one-third of our labor force—depends on agriculture,” NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan noted during a panel discussion.


He said that although agriculture is a small part of the Philippine economy, improving agricultural productivity remains an important factor for growth. “Improvements in the income of people in the agriculture sector would help a lot in reducing poverty and even accelerating the growth process, especially since agriculture is interlinked with our industry and services sectors,” Balisacan said. “However, we are looking at the entire economy. We would want to have improved productivity in all sectors but the importance of agriculture is even more recognized because of the dependence of more people on that sector,” he added. Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima highlighted the Philippines’ positive demographic structure as an advantage in the upcoming integration. “The Philippines is poised to be the second largest country in terms of population in Asean. By next year more than 50 percent of the country’s population will be in working age,” he said. Purisima said that the demographic profile of the country is important as the youth is considered to be the prime engine for consumption. “The challenge for the Philippines is to make sure that we educate and invest in our people through increased investments in education and health care. We need to continue what we have been doing in the past years to make sure that we will be able to realize the potential of the young population,” he said. MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO http://www.manilatimes.net/ph-should-strengthen-banking-agriculture/97996/


Billions lost in ‘ghost’ deliveries at DepEd during Lapuz’s term? May 20, 2014 11:08 pm  

  by ERWIN TULFO If you thought that the Department of Agriculture (DA) is the only department plagued with corruption during the Arroyo administration . . . think again. A Department of Education employee who requested anonymity sent me an email on Monday disclosing the billions of pesos in “ghost” deliveries of textbooks and computer hardware from 2008 to 2010, and wants the Commission on Audit (COA) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) to investigate this scam at DepEd. The same employee claims that during those years, several billions of pesos were released by the Department of Budget and Management under Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to DepEd to purchase books and computers for public elementary and high schools throughout the country. The source said a “negotiated bidding” followed and a handful of suppliers were chosen to deliver the needed learning aids. But for reasons known only to then DepEd Secretary Jesli Lapuz, he never bothered to check if the books and computers were really delivered by the suppliers to the beneficiary schools, which were mostly in Mindanao. Some of the known suppliers at the time, Pelta Books, Souvenir Publication and Mayland Enterprises, allegedly failed to deliver hundreds of millions worth of textbooks and computers to various public schools, added my tipster. These companies and top DepEd officials were never investigated or charged in court for the “ghost deliveries” because they reportedly bribed Commission on Audit (COA) officials. A certain “Fred Masamba Jr.,” also a contractor, was said to have been the one who paid off COA auditors and at the same time acted as alleged bagman for the top officials of DepEd.


The PNoy administration should go after these corrupt former DepEd officials and unscrupulous suppliers. Who is ‘Romy Aquino’? “Romy Aquino” is said to be a big-time contractor of the Department of Public Work and Highways (DPWH) and a DepEd supplier during the Arroyo administration. He made his fortune through alleged substandard road projects and overpriced textbooks and computer hardware delivered to various public schools from 2001 to 2010. An official of the DPWH who requested that his name be withheld said “Romy Aquino” cornered almost a billion in road construction and maintenance projects during those years in cahoots with corrupt DPWH officials. Aquino however, reportedly struck it rich when he and another supplier won the P750- million contract from DepEd to supply computers to several public schools in Davao region. The computers were delivered but they were overpriced by as much as P350,000 each, according to my mole at the DepEd. “Romy Aquino” is now said to be enjoying his wealth in his luxurious mansion in Baguio City while his alleged benefactor, former President Gloria Arroyo, languishes at the Veterans Memorial Medical Center. So you see, Janet Napoles is just one of those who became filthy rich at the expense of the people’s money—the priority development assistance fund or PDAF. “Romy Aquino” should be charged for plunder, too!!! http://www.manilatimes.net/billions-lost-in-ghost-deliveries-at-deped-during-lapuzs-term/98023/


Posted on May 20, 2014 10:11:14 PM

PDP fisheries target seen beaten THE PHILIPPINES is expected to surpass its fisheries production target in 2016 if the 10‐year  production trend continues, according to a report by the Asian Development Bank (ADB).    According to “Economics of Fisheries and Aquaculture Production in the Coral Triangle,”  released earlier this month, the Philippine target of 6.62 million tons “can be realistically  achieved,” based on industry performance in the 10 years to 2010.    The Philippine Development Plan 2011‐2016 (PDP) set sector targets of 1.45 million tons for  commercial fishery, 1.64 million tons for municipal fishery, and 3.54 million tons for  aquaculture.    “Using the historical trend from 2001‐2010, predicted capture fisheries production for the  country in 2016 will reach 3.14 million tons, which is close to the target of 3.08 million tons of  combined commercial and municipal fisheries production,” the ADB said in its report.    Aquaculture production, meanwhile, is expected to surpass the government’s target by 3% to  reach 3.62 million tons, bringing the total fishery output well above the target.    However, the report cautioned that if the production trend from 2008‐2010 will continue, the  government will fall short of its 2016 targets due to the sharp fall in the annual growth rate of  fisheries production.    The rate declined by almost half, plunging from a 6.7% average for 2001‐2007 to 3.1% for 2008‐ 2010.    “If this three‐year trend persists, per capita supply of fish is projected to decline from the 2010  estimate of 37.2 [kilograms]/person/year to 30.6 kg/person/year by 2030,” the report read.    Production would also fall short of the government’s 2016 targets for capture fisheries by  309,000 tons and aquaculture by 580,040 tons, according to the ADB. ‐‐ AMM   http://www.bworldonline.com/content.php?section=Economy&title=PDP-fisheries-targetseen-beaten&id=87733


‘List of dishonor’ Published : Wednesday, May 21, 2014 00:00 Article Views : 80

It took the crook 238 days from her surrender last Aug. 28, 2013 to finally admit her guilt, when she submitted to the secretary of Justice -- last April 21, 2014 –- a list of people involved in the P10 billion PDAF scam. The list is validated by the woman’s signature, as well as thumb marks. Not surprisingly, in a span of less than a month, there came out three more versions of such a list, bringing to four the number of what the press termed as the “Napolist,” but which I’d rather call a “list of dishonor”. The first one that the public was made conscious of -- on April 22, but released to the public only on May 16 -- is to me questionable, with respect to its sincerity and accuracy. Why? Because as it turned out, it has already been given earlier (i.e., the previous month) to someone else, which contradicts my personal impression that it was the first time that such list was made when handed over to the Justice Secretary. The list’s accuracy is also made doubtful by the adjustment – considering its being a very delicate matter – that was made afterwards. The second list, made public on May 8, I consider as incredible, and even dismiss as of insignificant value because, firstly, its source is not identified – although some friends and I have a good guess on who the person is. And secondly, because of the absurd spin given it by the list’s claimant; i.e., a manic-like effort to destroy the credibility of the Justice secretary, and worst, preposterously alluding to the involvement of the President in a clandestine effort to intimidate. Such spin, given what I’ve read, is based on conjectures, and to my mind, not only way off the mark, but also insulting, as it redounds to treating the public as simpletons who would just accept such claims. The third list I consider intriguing because of the circumstance of the list’s claimant, and whose task in government, unlike that of the Justice secretary whose involvement is on account of her mandate, is far detached from the


issue. There is also reason to question the said list’s accuracy because given that it unquestionably came from the same source as that of the first list, there is a disparity in the list of persons, particularly that of the senators. The fourth and last list supposedly came from Benhur Luy, who denied preparing such a list. So what does the existence of the conflicting lists mean? Well, this, to my mind, shows that powerful people -- whose interests and future are linked to how the resolution of the Napoles PDAF scam would turn out -- are working hard to muddle the issue, so that the credibility of the “true list” would be put into question. And it seems that they have achieved their objective; but not really, as far as I am concerned, because what has really been clearly –- and more significantly -- gained with respect to this particular battle against corruption is that we already have a confessed culprit involved in the P10-billion PDAF scam and whose conviction as a plunderer, even by the reasoning of the simple-minded among the public, should be forthcoming. And this gain, to my mind, should bolster the credibility of Benhur Luy -- the case’s primary whistle blower – whose “10-year data base” on the Napoles operation in the same manner assumes enhanced credence, thereby making it a more potent asset in getting convictions for plunderers charged before the Sandiganbayan. Understandably, our democratic orientation provides every one of the personalities dragged into the scam – by the “list of dishonor” -- the opportunity to clear their names; and more so, given that the lists’ credibility has been rendered questionable. But although it seems possible that some of the names may have been maliciously included, I believe that there are those who are dead-set guilty, and who should be identified, charged of the crime, and relentlessly prosecuted until convicted – and jailed. Our experience with our justice system says that it may take a long time for convictions to happen, but we are at least sure of already having snared a major culprit, which should serve as a lesson that should make those who still have inclinations of “robbing the public and the nation” to think twice before engaging in such crime. The end of this journey against corruption that has been actively undertaken under the leadership of President Noynoy, to my mind, has its end still at the


horizon, for the tentacles of this malady – despite the positive achievements – unfortunately, are still firmly embedded across the depth and span of the country’s institutions and society. This to me would mean that it would still be a sort of “roller coaster ride” whose turnout would really be dictated eventually by what the Filipinos of the next few generations would prefer their lives to be. And the public has witnessed in the last four years the ability of a “leadership and governance model” that due to the uprightness and integrity of its head – as manifested by his being untainted with corruption and his determined effort to do good for the country – has succeeded in bringing about, despite the imperfections of our institutions and society, laudable achievements for the nation that could serve as real and stable foundations on which changes that would improve the quality of life of Filipinos could be set. My thinking, therefore, says that the path that today’s “leadership and governance model” – despite its imperfections -- is the one that the country should continue to take. And such can be made possible only by the public’s choosing as the country’s leader someone whose uprightness and integrity – despite some imperfections -- is unquestionable, and not someone whose corruption-tainted reputation would qualify him/her for inclusion in the “list of dishonor”.     http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/opinion/72824‐list‐of‐dishonor                     


Why tax poor Filipinos? Published : Wednesday, May 21, 2014 00:00 Article Views : 70

SOMETHING is wrong with the Bureau of Internal Revenue. And the way it’s behaving lately, the BIR appears to be desperate. I don’t understand why the BIR now wants marginal income tax earners, such as fishermen, farmers, neighborhood sari-sari store operators, tricyclefor-hire drivers and small carinderia owners to keep a book of accounts, issue receipts and invoices and file income tax returns. Even President Aquino’s cousin, Sen. Bam Aquino, finds the BIR move kind of off. The thought of taxing these “microentrepreneurs” who earn very little income has made the young senator cringe that he has swiftly filed a bill exempting them from the BIR’s anti-poor directive. He was quoted as saying, “Imposing income tax on our small businessmen is tantamount to confiscating what little income they are able to make on a daily basis.” I can only agree with Bam because instead of “confiscating” from lowincome earners who barely make ends meet, the BIR should rechannel its efforts toward big corporations, which earns billions of pesos annually but manage to tweak their books to evade paying the correct amount of taxes due the government. Not far is where the BIRs should take the cue. It should follow its sister


agency that also generates revenues for the government, the Bureau of Customs, which has now started collecting from a cigarette firm it found out incurred tax liabilities amounting to P853 million. Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said the total of P852,904,552.09 it demanded from Mighty Corporation, a cigarette company based in Bulacan, covers only the initial reassessment done by the BOC on the firm’s customs bonded privilege. Said figure mirrors Mighty’s tax liabilities involving its importations of raw materials for cigarette manufacturing, such as tobacco leaf and acetate tow, through its customs-bonded warehouse. In his report to the Senate Tax Study and Research Office (STSRO), Sevilla revealed that, “At present, the BOC’s audit and investigation on Mighty continue, and these could lead to findings of more tax liabilities of Mighty.” The report was Sevilla’s response to the STSRO’s request for official data in connection with Senate Resolution 326, which calls for an investigation in aid of legislation on the implementation of Republic Act 10351 or the Sin Tax Reform Law. The law, implemented starting January last year, imposes higher excise taxes on tobacco and alcohol products. What’s interesting is that the BOC’s reassessment could uncover even larger amounts of taxes and duties that Mighty should pay the government because P853 million is barely one-fifth of what the Department of Finance estimates is the firm’s total liability, which is around P4.4 billion. This is for the first six months of 2013 alone. The BOC and BIR, which is conducting a parallel probe into Mighty’s business practices, will also investigate Mighty’s tax records for the years preceding 2013. And guess what, Mighty Corp. did not even dispute the BOC’s findings and readily paid up. This kind of behavior does not reflect well on Mighty. It gives the impression that the BOC made the right decision in padlocking Mighty’s customs bonded warehouse (CBW) last January 17, based on the initial report of the agency’s task force showing that the company “committed serious violations of Tariff and Customs law, rules and regulations resulting to huge revenue losses for the government.” Isn’t Mighty’s silent acceptance of the BOC’s reassessment indicative of guilt on the company’s part? It was learned that BOC’s demand payment of P853 million stemmed from its ongoing probe on Mighty, which the agency found out has been making “highly irregular” imports of “unusually large volume[s]” of raw materials for


cigarette manufacturing, Sevilla informed the STSRO in a report. Sevilla could be really taking the probe seriously as he noticed such “unusually large volumes” brought in through Mighty’s CBW because the firm could not have possibly re-exported finished products corresponding to the huge volumes of its imported raw materials. “Most of Mighty’s importation of raw materials were for the manufacture of cigarettes intended for export (indicated as ‘warehousing entries’) with a minimal or ‘nil’ amount reported for local production (indicated as consumption entries),” he said. “An initial check of the customs value used in the declaration in covering import entries (of Mighty) show that the same may not be in accordance with the Transaction Value system,” Sevilla told the STSRO. For our readers, transaction value refers to the price actually paid or payable for goods which are exported to the Philippines. The price that appears on the accompanying commercial or sales invoice issued in the country of origin or exporting country is used by the BOC for computing the amount of customs duty that should be paid by the importer. So the customs bureau can really find out if the declared value of an imported article is accurate by comparing the transaction value of identical or similar goods which entered the country at around the same time as the imported material being checked. But in the case of Mighty, the discrepancy between its declared value and those of similar or identical goods is glaring. Remember BOC’s print ad published two months ago? They listed the import values declared by tobacco importers. The list showed that for Virginia flue-cured leaf, Philip Morris Fortune Tobacco Company (PMFTC) imported 11.27 million kilograms of Virginia flue-cured leaf with a dutiable value of P2.44 billion based on its import price of P216.33 per kg. It paid a total of P131.55 million in customs duties in 2013. Further, other cigarette makers such as the Associated Anglo American Tobacco Company (AAATC) priced its Virginia leaf imports at P150.62 per kg. and paid P7.6 million in taxes for importing 721,364 kgs. La Suerte Cigar and Cigarette Factory reported its value at P202.51 per kg. and paid P3.86 million for imports amounting to 291,634 kgs. while Universal Leaf, a top leaf importer, was able to import at P159.92 per kg. and paid P3.57 million for 319,475 kgs.


In contrast, Mighty Corporation imported more than double the amount of Virginia leaf brought in by PMFTC -- 26.88 million kgs., yet its dutiable value was only P980 million because it valued its imports at an incredible price of only P36.46 per kgs., As a result, it paid only P68.60 million in customs duties last year. Absurd right? Here’s more. While PMFTC valued its burley tobacco at P163.63 per kg., Mighty quoted a price of only P81.70 per kg. Universal Leaf imported at P150.15 per kg., La Suerte at P180.12 per kg. and AAATC at P112.73 per kg. Mighty had an import value of only P81.70 per kg. but it paid only P14.24 million in duties to the BOC for bringing in 2.49 million kgs. of burley tobacco in 2013. Data also showed that tobacco stems also appear to be grossly undervalued by Mighty. PMFTC quoted a value of P57.91 per kg. and La Suerte, P52.15 per kg. Mighty reported that it was able to import tobacco stems at only P26.23 per kg. It is not hard to understand why the BOC’s decision to suddenly publish the import values declared by cigarette manufacturers. It wanted to expose before the public those who comply with the law and those who don’t. In sustaining such move, the BOC demanded from Mighty what it should have paid the government in terms of duties and taxes. So why can’t the BIR follow BOC’s lead and start going after big companies like Mighty, instead of taxing subsistence income earners which is a far cry from the Aquino administration’s goal of “inclusive growth.” Are you reading this BIR commissioner Kim Henares?     http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/opinion/72804‐why‐tax‐poor‐filipinos        


Noy, Abad likely dragged in fertilizer fund scam probe Written by Angie M. Rosales Wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:00

In pressing for the expansion of the blue ribbon committee investigation on the pork barrel scam, the probability exists that the names of President Aquino and his now Budget Secretary, Florencio “Butch” Abad, along with their closest allies, will crop up in reopening the fertilizer fund scam probe sought by Senate Majority Leader Alan Peter Cayetano. Cayetano, in filing yesterday resolution No. 655, was prompted by news reports quoting alleged information by pork barrel scam key whistle-blower Benhur Luy that the fertilizer fund scam was allegedly designed by Janet Lim Napoles, the alleged brains of the pork scam and that it is the precursor of a scheme misusing nearly P10-billion pork barrel funds of lawmakers. Senate documents and records show that no less than then resigned Education Secretary, now Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Abad, in an impromptu testimony before the committee on agriculture and food hearing in Nov. 17, 2005, admitted that his name and congressional district were

included in the list prepared by the alleged “architech” of the the fertilizer fund scam, former Department of Agriculture (DA) Undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante as an attachement for the release of the the special allotment release order (SARO) and notice of cash allocation (NCA) under the fertilizer fund. Abad, who had by then resigned as education secretary of then president Gloria Arroyo, was not invited in the hearing called by then chairman Sen. Ramon Magsaysay Jr., but attended the proceedings in support of a friend and fellow public servant, the late DBM Secretary Emilia Boncodin. Abad’s name was dragged as project proponent of DA when he was still a member of the House of Representatives as Batanes congressman. In the committee report No. 54 submitted by Magsaysay, it said Abad had denied that


he had a request for such or was a proponent in the P728-million fertilizer fund. Accordingly, his name and congressional district were included in the list prepared by Bolante even if he claimed he never made such request for allocation nor received fertilizer or farm inputs for his legislative district. The report said that he even demanded an explanation from the DA but did not receive any and arrived at a conclusion that his name was merely used. “Abad further mentioned that among the members of the House of Representatives whose names were used in the fertilizer fund scam were (then) Representatives Noynoy Aquino of Tarlac and Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon. Senator (Rodolfo) Biazon was also added to the list. Muntinlupa Rep. Ruffy Biazon as not among the proponents of any project under the fertilizer fund,” the committee report said. A deposition-taking conducted by the committee led by Magsaysay on Boncodin, attested to the release of some of the funds to the DA. The committee learned that this was upon the “request” of the DA to the DBM and SAROs released in three tranches, containing a listing of 105 congressional districts, 53 provinces and 23 municipalities. It appears that Boncodin’s testimony then now bolsters the claims of Senators Jinggoy Estrada, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. and Juan Ponce Enrile that the implementing agencies are indeed the ones overseeing the funding of projects of some lawmakers as in this case. Estrada, Revilla and Enrile are being accused of misusing their Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and are alleged to be involved in the Napoles’ purported scheme. Boncodin’s deposition was executed in her hospital room while she was still confined in National Kidney Institute (NKI) in Oct. 26, 2005 before the Magsaysay committee. She said the Arroyo government indeed funded the P728 million farm inputs of the Department of Agriculture and actually charged the amount against the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Program (AFMA), a continuing appropriation under the 2004 national budget. Boncodin admitted that the DBM effected the release of P728 million for the purchase of farm inputs of the DA under a special allotment release order (SARO) dated Feb.3, 2004 and on the same day, the budget department released the amount of P291.2 million to the Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank), the amount representing 40 percent of the allotment under the AFMA. “The releases were made by the DBM upon the request of the DA based on a formal


request submitted to the DBM. In that request, the attachment that is reflected as Annex ‘A’ in the SARO was incorporated and that same schedule or attachment was incorporated in the SARO as Annex ‘A’ which contains a listing of 105 congressional districts, 53 provinces and 23 municipalities. “Subsequent releases for the NCA were made also upon the request of the DA either as a separate NCA or as part of the common fund that is usually authorized the agencies on a regular basis. “I would like to state that the release made by the DBM was for farm inputs which, in our understanding, could incorporate fertilizers, seeds and even insecticides. But the actual purpose for which this is used will, of course, depend on the DA. So I am making this statement of facts to be able to clarify and validate the releases pertaining to the P728 million, AFMA fund,” Boncodin said. In substantiating her claims, the late DBM chief submitted to the committee a written statement. In his resolution, Cayetano noted that Napoles’ alleged initial company, Jo-Chris Trading supplied overpriced fertilizers to foundations the latter set up such as the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc., Philippine Agri and Social Economic Development Foundation Inc., and the People’s Organization for Progress and Development Foundation Inc. Napoles was in fact previously summoned to appear before the blue ribbon committee, when the fertilizer fund scam was re-investigated in 2008, but managed to elude the upper chamber’s subpoenae. Alongside this development, blue ribbon vice chairman Sen. Serge Osmeña noted the possible involvement of more names once the committee reopens the PDAF scam probe especially when Luy’s “hard drive” or information contained in is already in the hands of the committee blue ribbon committee. Committee chairman Sen. Teofisto “TG” Guingona issued a subpoena duces tecum Thursday last week, May 15, for the soft copy of the digital records of Luy relating or relevant to the PDAF scam. “Remember the hard disk drive, it’s (supposed to cover the period) since 2001, that’s a lot of information...The most meaty part would be the hard disk of Benhur,” Osmena said. Meanwhile, Press Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. downplayed the possibility of the inclusion of his principal in the affidavit of alleged pork scam brains Napoles as one of the lawmakers who may have benefited from the plunder of the Malampaya fund and the anomalous Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) or pork barrel.


Aquino was a Tarlac representative for nine years, and a senator for three before he became President in 2010 when the allotment of pork barrel funds to the members of Congress was in full swing. “Our focus is on the search for truth and justice regardless of what certain individuals would like to do or will plan to do. That’s why we have sounded a call for our people to stay focused on the search for truth and justice,” Coloma said. To cover the inefficiency and long delay in finding material evidence and with his allies now implicated in the pork scam, Aquino lashed out at the opposition, saying that there is an attempt to “bring the whole house down” through muddling of the pork scam issue. Coloma said the Aquino administration remains confident that it will not be toppled by the “Napoles Gate”. “The government stands from the support and trust of the people. We have a process of democracy that adheres to the rule of law,” Coloma said, adding the usual claim of the Aquino administration’s role is to implement the law and insure stability from threats that would weaken the government institutions. “The administration remains strong in maintaining order in our society, reforms have to continue and prevent those who may attempt to create disorder,” Coloma said. Aquino he stressed, has no intention to erase the names of his allies listed by Napoles, it was claimed by Coloma, saying that Aquino has been exerting effort to fulfill his mandate and to institute reforms in the system of governance. “The most important principle in governance by our government is the principle in the Constitution stating, “sovereignty resides in the people and all government authority emanate from them,” Coloma said. Aquino said he expects the Ombudsman to act on what would be necessary by “carrying out its mandate in a proper and timely manner,” in relation to having the three opposition senators charged, arrested and detained. “The Department of Justice has completed work on two PDAF-related cases and one on the alleged Malampaya fund scam. The Ombudsman issued a resolution last month finding probable cause against those accused of plunder, and is now reviewing motions for reconsideration,” Coloma said. Coloma said that the strategy “burn the house down” that was “being resorted to by some quarters that might lead to tracking misleading information and dissipate case build-up efforts in the remaining two years of the current administration”.   http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/noy‐abad‐likely‐dragged‐in‐fertilizer‐fund‐scam‐probe  


3 Palace targets ready for imminent Sandigan battle Written by Angie M. Rosales Wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:00   The three Palace‐targeted senators in the pork barrel controversy said they are ready to face and prove  as false the allegations made against them after Ombudsman Conchita Carpio‐Morales said that all the  motions regarding the P10‐billion controversy will all be settled once she returns from a “study tour” in  the United States next month.  Senators Jinggoy Estrada and Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr. yesterday sounded resigned to their fate, which is that of being served with a warrant for their arrest anytime soon over the so-called pork barrel scam, as talks that have been circulating insinuate that their supposed detention cell are being readied as well. It’s a far cry from the stance shown by Minority Leader Juan Ponce

Enrile as he even expressed confidence in overcoming the allegations in court. “I’m confident that in fair trial, in a fair court, I’m sure that if our courts are going to be fair about this, I’ll have a fair chance of winning the case,” Enrile told reporters in an interview before the afternoon plenary session. Revilla, in another interview, revealed that he and his family appear to be subject of


“casing” and “surveillance” operations by unidentified men who have been sighted tailing him and casing his house. The incidents, which he and his camp noted to have taken place the past two days, could be in connection with the report on his and two other embattled colleagues’ supposed impending arrest and detention. “I don’t know if it’s related but even in our house, we see strangers casing the area as early as 6 a.m. including two vehicles full of male individuals,” he said. “This was yesterday and there are those who tail us. A car of one of my staff was even stolen. I am not familiar with the scenarios they are trying to play. For me I’ll leave it all up to God,” Revilla added. When reporters tried to get more details especially on the alleged carnapping incident, Revilla declined and requested that he be given more time before he presents the facts surrounding the incident. “As I have said previously, I’m ready. If they will put me in jail, I’m ready but I will prove in court that I am innocent of the charges against me. It’s hard but I have to face it. I am not afraid for myself but my fear is on the country because I don’t where we are heading. A lot of people are being affected, good names are being tarnished. My only aim is for the truth to come out and for those guilty to be made accountable and not turned into state witnesses,” he said. Estrada said it no longer came as a surprise to him if indeed their supposed detention facility is already in the process of being constructed. “I am not surprised since it already happened during the time of former President Gloria Arroyo even if the cases had yet to be filed, the detention facility for me and my father (former President and now Manila City Mayor Joseph Estrada) was already being completed at Fort Sto. Domingo in Sta. Rosa, Laguna. It is the same situation now. No case has been filed yet at the Sandiganbayan but I don’t know why preparations are already being made at the Philippine National Police (PNP) (headquarters in Camp Crame),” he said. “It’s up to the Sandiganbayan if the information is filed, where to commit us. It is not for us to choose,” he said. “It is clear that they’re really hell bent on jailing the three senators. When it comes to us the three target senators, the stories of Janet Napoles, Benhur Luy are all accurate but when it comes to the administration allies, evidence is needed and Napoles and Benhur’s are lies. Everybody can see through the selective justice being employed. My only recourse is to slug it out, to fight it out before the proper courts,” he added. In Enrile’s case, the Senate leader said he does not even get offended in hearing such


news as he’s ready to defend himself inside the courtroom. “Pardon me for not discussing the case and what I am going to do in the event that a case is filed against me. I’ve been trained in that art, the same way that you are trained in your art. All of us are practitioners,” he told reporters. “I’m not thinking about where I will get arrested. They’ll arrest me, period. If the case is filed, I think they’ll have to determine whether there’s probable cause or not because that is mandatory under the Constitution so I leave it to the courts,” he said. “You know, I’m thinking about all the possibilities. As a lawyer, when you study a case, you study it in total, in whole. Don’t study your case half-baked so that you will avoid pitfalls and surprises,” he said. When asked if he’s bracing for the worst, the minority leader gave this reply: “I am confident that we will win this case. .. I will not tell you (how).” “As I have told you, if I have a case, I keep quiet. I have studied my case and I am quite confident in a fair court, in a fair trial that I can handle our case,” he said. “List or no list, it does not matter to me. So what if there is a list? I have a case pending against me, So I will attend to that case and I will deal with that case, I will study it and as I said, I’m confident that in a fair trial, in a fair court and I’m sure our courts will be …. I’ll have a fair chance of winning the case,” he said. Enrile said he has not talked to Presidential rehabilitation czar, former Sen. Panfilo Lacson, since the latter assumed the post until he hogged the headlines for supposed securing a copy of the so-called Napoles list. The same is true with his former office chief of staff, lawyer Jessica Lucila “Gigi” Reyes who has returned to the country last April to face the charges or even have an idea on her present whereabouts. “I have not had any contact with her,” he said. Enrile said the issue on PDAF scam, despite the numerous allegations against him, has not caused him sleepless nights. “I sleep for nine hours. I exercise in the morning, I eat my breakfast, I wake up at 9 o’clock,” he added. “You get stressed out only if you are guilty. Why should I get stressed out? I know myself. I know what we did. My office, I think, is blameless although I respect the position of government. Some people have been talking about this thing for more than a year now and still they are muddled,” he said. “Could they say anything more derogatory about me? All my life I have been subject to malignment. I’m still around and alive,” he said. In another development, if the Right of Reply (ROR) bill had difficulty in gaining


headway during the past Congresses, now it could get the support of those implicated in the pork barrel scam, Deputy Speaker Giorgdi Aggabao, said. He is now inclined to push for the passage of the RoR to give public officials equal opportunity to defend themselves when they are wrongly implicated by media in any wrongdoing. “With what is happening now, public officials are flayed left and right. So we may just have to revisit [RoR]. I think it’s very apropos and relevant. I think we have to discuss that,” Aggabao said. Aggabao said he was originally against the RoR but changed his mind because of the Napoles issue. “So for me personally, this RoR, I’ve been ignoring it—it has been filed in several Congresses in the past—uniil I saw the need for it. Because It is needed. There should be a mechanism to clear your name. “Of course it’s not a guarantee that you’ll be able to totally clear your name with RoR, but at least there is an institution,” the Deputy Speaker said. Aggabao and Batangas 3rd district Rep. Nelson Collantes and Mindoro Oriental Rep. Reynaldo Umali, who were at the forum, are all listed in either one of the alleged Napoles and Benhur Luy lists. All three lamented their being included in the list. “The common complaint is that, you heard Rep. Collantes, he wanted to reply because his name was dragged in an adverse newspaper report, but his denial did not appear,” Aggabao said. Gerry Baldo   http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/3‐palace‐targets‐ready‐for‐imminent‐sandigan‐battle                  


Minority slams Belmonte for blocking pork probe

Written by Charlie V. Manalo Wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:00

Members of the House independent bloc yesterday lashed at the decision of the chamber’s leadership not to pursue a parallel probe into the alleged scam involving the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF), saying they will have to appeal the decision. “We will definitely appeal the decision of the House leadership regarding the investigation on the alleged pork scam,” Abakada Rep. Jonathan de la Cruz told the Tribune in a telephone interview. “We will not countenance any illegal activity,” he stressed. Earlier, at a press briefing, the bloc took turns in lashing out at the administration-led House majority for blocking proposals for the conduct of a parallel probe with the Senate on the alleged multibillion-peso pork scam. The Senate blue ribbon

committee, the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Office of the Ombudsman are conducting separate probes on the pork barrel scam issue but so far, none had touched on the allegations of involvement of administration allies. Interestingly, all investigations have zeroed in on three opposition senators, Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Esrada and Bong Revilla.


The blue ribbon committee has even failed to subpoena documents from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Department of Agriculture, both agencies highly suspected of being involved in the scam which was allegedly engineered by businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles. The administration has to come out once and for all and let the chips fall where they may to settle this issue, bloc leader, Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez said. “Releasing the so-called Napoles List on a staggered basis would only lead to more questions, so, the administration is not doing much to lessen the confusion by its method,” said Romualdez. The Leyte solon said it was a odd that the whole issue had centered only on Enrile, Estrada and Revilla for the last eight to 10 months the controversy had dragged on when there were more than a hundred lawmakers supposedly involved. “The people will start to question, the longer this thing takes place because there is full concentration for the better part of last year or this past eight to 10 months on the three senators when in fact, there more who are involved, including administration allies,” Romualdez added. “This is not adding any stability nor transparency so I think the administration that is leading all of this and behind all of this should really take up the cudgels and provide clarity once and for all,” said Romuldez. At the same time, Romualdez dared the Napoles camp to bare all, at the soonest possible time, the names of those involved in the scam. “We are challenging Napoles to come out now with the added names which her lawyer says will be included in her second affidavit. Instead of next week as her camp has threatened, we say do it now, today, ASAP (as soon as possible),” said Romualdez adding that the latest pronouncement of the Napoles camp might be nothing more than another form of blackmail for her to get what she wants, which is immunity from prosecution. “Napoles’ lawyers said they will substantiate her second affidavit first before they release it, and that their first affidavit was just a general statement. So if that’s the case, why did they release the first affidavit and the names on it to a lot of people? If they’re not trying to blackmail certain individuals, why did they not fully substantiate the first affidavit before giving out copies of it?” said Romuladez. “This is why we strongly reiterate our call to the House leadership for an immediate inquiry on the ‘Napolist’ and the pork barrel scam,” he stressed. “We can no longer take the continued damage being inflicted on the reputation of all the members of the House by the publicity gimmicks of Napoles,” he added.


Romuladez said they are disappointed by the categorical pronouncement of Speaker Sonny Belmonte that the House will no longer conduct its own probe of the pork barrel scam. “We hope the Speaker will reconsider since the allegedly 100 or so congressmen in the list must be given the right to confront their accuser and defend their honor and integrity,” Romualdez said. “For the sake of the innocent, the ‘Napolist’ circus must be stopped now,” he stressed. Buhay Rep. Lito Atienza agreed with Romualdez’s position saying recent developments indicate the DoJ had in its possession the list of other lawmakers allegedly involved in the scam but had opted to withhold it. “The whisteblowers led by Benhur Luy had already submitted the list even at the beginning of the probe on the scandal,” Atienza added. “And then Napoles gives her testimony in her hospital bed or hospital room just before undergoing surgery so you have to give credence to that. Again, a five-hour meeting took place between her and Secretary (Leila) De Lima where she confessed everything that she knew,” said Atienza. “So, what is Secretary De Lima and this administration still waiting for? They should have filed the cases already, they should have filed it long long before after the confession of Napoles with the documentary proofs submitted by Benhur Luy,” the party-list solon stressed. Atienza also called for a parallel House probe on the issue with some safeguards to prevent those being accused from using the situation to influence the proceedings, in the process, unduly clearing their names. “I am proposing the creation of an independent body to conduct the probe with no one among those accused being made a part thereof,” Atienza said. De la Cruz also could not contain his frustration on the way the administration-led House is blocking their efforts to start a probe. “Up to now they have not given us the record of the primary evidence regarding these particular issue. What are these records? They include the SARO number, SARO issuances, funds that have been released, who are the recipients of the funds, where are the other documents pertaining to these particular projects,” De la Cruz said. “And yet we have gone to the extent of abolishing offices, agencies that are at centers of these problems. They, the TLRC, Nabcor, Philforest, according to them. They have abolished all the agencies related to the so-called Napoles problem. So, where are the records up to now? And yet they are trying to say that there is a big, big thing that they are coming out of a revelation,” he lamented.


Nonetheless, the House independent bloc expressed their support to the pronouncement of President Aquino rejecting Napoles’ bid as state witness. “The House Independent Minority Bloc fully supports the rejection by President Aquino of state witness status for suspected ‘pork barrel’ scam brains Janet Napoles,” said Romualdez. “We are in total agreement with the President that it was next to impossible for Napoles to say she’s not the most guilty in the scam since she was the link to all those allegedly involved in the scam,” he added. Meanwhile, United Nationalist secretary general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco accused Malacañang of employing the old trick of presenting several versions of the tale to further confuse the public and protect the administration allies who benefitted from the P10-billion pork-barrel fund. “It’s funny that even without any investigation yet, Malacañang has already cast doubt on all the Napolists, but is very consistent in clearing allies of any involvement,” Tiangco pointed out. He added that the content of the “Napoles List” has cast doubt in the “tuwid na daan” having identified Department of Budget and Management Secretary Butch Abad as the “Pork Barrel King” and the brains behind the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) scam. Tiangco said that the propagation of the list has entered a dangerous phase and has reached a highly-charged Cabinet-level crisis with Abad being identified as the “mastermind” behind the PDAF scam. “The ultimate goal is to protect Administration allies and to cover up the tracks leading to the DBM until 2012,” said Tiangco. With three versions of the “Napoles List” now circulating, Tiangco said the administration has a convenient exit scenario to use by claiming that the names in the list are dubious and fabricated. “Whichever list Malacañang would want to use, the Palace cannot rely on the people’s support. The public can now connect the dots and can smell which one is genuine and which one is spurious,” he said. According to Tiangco, the Administration will continue to spread misinformation to confuse the public and obscure any attempt to follow the money trail that is likely to stop at the doorsteps of DBM and Malacañang.   http://www.tribune.net.ph/headlines/minority‐slams‐belmonte‐for‐blocking‐pork‐probe   


CoA tells SSS execs: Return P6.18million bonus for 2005 Written by Charlie V. Manalo wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:00

The Commission on Audit (CoA) has affirmed a 2010 ruling ordering officials and employees of the Social Security System (SSS) to return the P6.18 million unauthorized incentives they granted themselves nine years ago. In a decision issued May 8, 2014, CoA Chairman Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan and Commissioner Heidi Mendoza rejected the petition of the SSS seeking reversal of the decision of the CoALegal Services Sector that affirmed the notice of disallowance on the pensions fund’s payment of “Counterpart Collective Negotiation Agreement (CNA)” incentives in 2005. Records show the SSS passed Resolution No. 259 on July 6, 2005 granting P20,000 CNA incentives to all regular rank-and-file employees, including those who were already working for at least three months at the time of the approval. For those who were not covered by the employment period cut-off, SSS paid counterpart CNA benefits. The recipients were identified as “confidential, co-terminus and contractual employees, lawyers and executives.” However, CoA disallowed the latter disbursement for violations of Administrative Order No. 103 and Executive Order (EO)180 (1987) limiting payment of CNA incentives only to rank-and-file personnel. “High-level employees who are not considered party-in-interest to the Collective Negotiation Agreement are not entitled thereto,” CoA stated in its report. But the SSS management countered the payment of counterpart CNA incentives was not covered by EO 180 and Administrative Order 103 since it was not exactly CNA. CoA disagreed, saying the change of name was simply used as a ruse to get around the restrictions. “Notwithstanding the nomenclature given to the incentive, it is the purpose/source of the grant which will determine its very nature. Indeed, the nomenclature appears to be merely a design to circumvent existing rules governing CNA and the same should not be countenanced,” CoA declared.


CoA has yet to release its findings on the P10 million bonus SSS executives extended to themselves last year.   http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro‐section/coa‐tells‐sss‐execs‐return‐p6‐18‐million‐bonus‐for‐2005                                              


Group urges Palace‐appointed UCPB board to disclose legal fees paid to Divina Law Written by Benjamin B. Pulta Wednesday, 21 May 2014 00:00

A consumer group has criticized the United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) board of directors for hiring the law firm of one of its members and paying millions of pesos in legal fees. National Coalition of Filipino Consumers (NCFC) legal counsel and spokesman Atty. Oliver San Antonio said officials of the UCPB should “disclose the cases outsourced to Divina Law and the amount of legal fees the firm has received for its services.” The law firm was founded and managed by Atty. Nilo Divina, presently a member of the UCPB board of directors. San Antonio said: “We already know of two cases — cases that involve billions of pesos — currently being handled by Divina Law. In the interest of transparency, we would like to know, one, why the firm of an incumbent member of the board was tapped as external counsel; two, how many other cases are handled by this firm, and three, how much it has received in compensation.” “Given the huge amounts involved in the cases, Divina has filed for UCPB against the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG), it would not be surprising if his law firm charged millions in legal fees. We know of course that in the legal profession, the parties can agree on whatever amount of legal fees is acceptable to them — it can be free, it can be just a few pesos, it can be millions. But we must keep in mind that what’s involved here is a government-sequestered company that handles funds already declared by the Supreme Court as public money,” San Antonio added. UCPB has filed two cases in Makati against the PCGG and has asked the courts to declare a total of P15.6 billion of the P71- billion coco levy fund shares as owned by UCPB. The former officer of the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) had earlier questioned the designation of Divina as external counsel for UCPB in the bank’s cases, “a likely case of conflict of interest unbecoming of the dean of one of the most respected law


schools in the country.” “The board approves the engagement of external counsel and the fixing and payment of fees of that external counsel,” explained San Antonio. “In this case, the actions of the board and Dean Divina can be considered ethically questionable. Why did they outsource these cases to one of their own members? Why did the good dean accept these engagements? He could have said no out of delicadeza and the board could have elected to give the cases to another firm; they could have done these out of delicadeza, to avoid even the perception of impropriety,” the former legal ethics teacher stressed.   http://www.tribune.net.ph/metro‐section/group‐urges‐palace‐appointed‐ucpb‐board‐to‐disclose‐legal‐ fees‐paid‐to‐divina‐law                                  


2014 05 21 quedancor daily news monitor