Ecija pork case tagged bigger graft precursor By Anselmo Roque Inquirer Central Luzon 12:26 am | Saturday, May 31st, 2014
Janet Lim-Napoles. RYAN LEAGOGO/INQUIRER.net CABANATUAN CITY—The Office of the Ombudsman may have failed to act on one of the first reported anomalies involving a congressman’s pork barrel, according to farmers and politicians in Nueva Ecija. Had the anomaly been addressed, the public would have been alerted much earlier to the massive skimming of pork barrel projects attributed to detained businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles, said former Nueva Ecija Vice Gov. Edward Tomas Joson. He filed a complaint in 2008 over overpriced fertilizers intended for farmers in the towns of Gabaldon and Gen. Natividad in Nueva Ecija, but the complaint dragged on for years. The anomaly involved the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of then Rep. Aurelio Umali of the 3rd district of Nueva Ecija. Umali, who is now governor, had disputed the charge, saying the purchase was made solely by the Department of Agriculture (DA). Foot-dragging is tantamount to inaction by the Office of the Ombudsman, which aided in the misuse of PDAF, Joson said. “Because of the Ombudsman’s inaction, the procedures I exposed [which led to] the misuse of the PDAF were [concealed] from concerned officials and the public,” he said. Joson filed graft and corruption charges against Umali for violating the government procurement law when P15 million of Umali’s PDAF financed “overcharged fertilizers which allegedly cost 15 times their actual price.”
Napoles NGO Joson said the purchase was coursed through a bogus foundation, the Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka Foundation Inc. (Mamfi), that turned out to belong to Napoles. A copy of the complaint showed that Joson’s complaint was received by the records section of the Ombudsman for Luzon on June 2, 2008. The Inquirer also obtained a copy of the counteraffidavit of Umali filed in the Office of the Ombudsman. In his complaint, Joson said the mayor of Gabaldon and the municipal agriculturist of Gen. Natividad received 7,920 bottles of liquid fertilizers bearing the brand name “Nutro Ocean Fish Liquid Fertilizer.”
He said the fertilizers were secured for a “production assistance project” that was facilitated by the DA office in Central Luzon and Mamfi through a memorandum of agreement signed by its president, Marina Sula, and by then acting DA regional director, Renato Manantan. Each fertilizer bottle was valued at P1,500 per liter. Umali’s PDAF purchased P11.8 million worth of the fertilizers. The PDAF, which was released to the DA Central Luzon in 2005, also financed the Mamfi administrative support staff amounting to P120,000. Affidavits from farmers appear to support Joson’s claims. In their notarized affidavits, four farmer-beneficiaries in Barangay Tagumpay in Gabaldon said they paid P50 each for the liquid fertilizers “as contribution to their town government.” The farmers, Romeo Abesamis, Nathaniel Balajadia, Andy Cando and Ernesto Fernandez, said they have an unsigned receipt from the people who distributed the fertilizers. “The fertilizers were a big help for us because of the high cost of farm operations,” they said in their affidavit. But they said they soon discovered that the fertilizers were “overpriced by 10 to 15 percent.” Attractive price “We did not hesitate to pay the P50 as it was much less than its price in the market,” the farmers said. Cesario Dayao, Pablo Pangilinan, Nicanor Santos and Crisostomo Soriano, farmer-beneficiaries from Gen. Natividad, said in their joint affidavit that they received free bottles of fertilizers from their municipal agricultural officers. Like the Gabaldon farmers, they said the fertilizers they received were being sold in the market for P100 to P150 per liter.
“I did not know then that Mamfi was among the bogus foundations of Napoles. I will also file charges against Sula,” Joson said. In another complaint, Joson said Umali’s PDAF was used for “technical assistance for livelihood projects and for the supply of irrigation pumps.” It was implemented through Samahan ng mga Manininda ng Prutas sa Gabi Inc. with a funding of P3 million. “The cost of the diesel and water pumps ballooned to P120,000 each which was beyond the actual price of P45,000 to P55,000 each,” Joson said. Not his fault In his reply to the Ombudsman, Umali denied involvement in the anomalies. “The memorandum of agreement (between Mamfi and DA) would reveal that I have not participated nor did I commit any single [violation] of the law [against corrupt practices of public officers],” he said. “The only role of a representative is to recommend priority projects,” Umali said in his counteraffidavit.
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WB sounds alarm on rising global food prices By Ted Torres (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 31, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Global food prices between January and April increased by four percent from year ago, driven mainly by drought in the US, unrest in Ukraine and rising demand in China, a report from World Bank’s Food Price Watch showed. “This spike in prices puts an end to a downward trend sustained since August 2012,” the World Bank said. The report said the leap was led by wheat and maize, up 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively. As a result, international food prices in April were only two percent lower than a year ago and 16 percent below their record level in August 2012, the bank’s quarterly food price report said. “Increasing weather concerns and import demand – and, arguably, to a lesser extent, uncertainty associated with the Ukraine situation – explain most of the price increases,” the report said. The surge in wheat and maize prices took place despite last year’s bumper harvest as well as projections of record grain harvests this year. Rice prices increased in Myanmar and Somalia, but declined in Thailand (28 percent) and Cambodia (11 percent). In the Philippines, rice prices rose by 27 percent for regular milled variety in Metro Manila, visà-vis national average increase of 18 percent for the well-milled variety. The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) said low imports and stocks plus the high cost of oil and electricity had also played a role in jacking up food prices in the Philippines. The average global price of crude oil rose three percent to $104 a barrel. The World Bank said the global dry spell, particularly in the US, as well tensions in the Ukraine would have more impact on food prices in the coming months.
“Over the next few months, we must watch these prices carefully, making sure that any further increases do not put additional pressure on the least well-off around the world,” said Ana Revenga, WB acting vice president for Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. Ukraine, the world’s sixth-largest wheat exporter, saw domestic wheat prices jump by 37 percent, driven in part by currency depreciation. “Geopolitical tensions in Ukraine have not disrupted exports so far, but might have effects on future production and trade if uncertainty increases,” the report said. Overall, international wheat prices soared by 18 percent quarter-over-quarter. “Such a steep price increase had not occurred since the months leading to the historical peak in the summer of 2012,” the report said. While local prices have largely been stable, those in other countries have experienced fluctuations. Monitored markets in Ukraine, Ethiopia, Sudan and Kyrgyzstan saw some of the sharpest wheat price increases, while in Argentina and Pakistan, prices decreased. Maize prices went up considerably in Ukraine and Russia, but fell sharply in Mozambique. In its report, the World Bank also called for closer monitoring of food prices to prevent food riots and ensure stability. According to the lender, 51 food riots have occurred in 37 countries since 2007, most of them linked to a jump in food prices and aimed at local authorities. “Food price shocks can both spark and exacerbate conflict and political instability, and it is vital to promote policies that work to mitigate these effects. Adequate monitoring is the first step in that direction,” the World Bank added. Last year, the World Bank Group committed $8.1 billion in assistance to agriculture and related sectors. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/05/31/1329327/wb-sounds-alarm-rising-global-foodprices
Coco pests used to justify farmers’ eviction By Delfin T. Mallari Jr. Inquirer Southern Luzon 12:22 am | Saturday, May 31st, 2014
] LIFE is a vicious cycle for the coconut farmers of Quezon province. DELFIN T. MALLARI JR/INQUIRER SOUTHERN LUZON LUCENA CITY—Landowners are taking advantage of the coconut scale insect (CSI) infestation now plaguing coconut farms nationwide, using it as an excuse to evict their tenants. A coconut farmer from Candelaria town said some landlords did not want their farms to be rid of the pest. “In fact, they want their whole plantation to die so that their tenants will be forced to leave,” said the farmer, who requested anonymity for fear of retaliation from his landlord. The farmer said owners of coconut plantations in the towns of Sariaya, Candelaria and Tiaong were allowing CSI to devour their trees. Roberto Gajo, provincial agriculturist, said his office had been receiving the same reports. “This is the concern of local government units (LGUs),” Gajo said. He said LGUs should pass ordinances to protect farmers.
According to figures gathered by the provincial agriculturist’s office, at least 115,000 trees in 17 towns in Quezon province have been infested with CSI. Claro Talaga, former Quezon board member and known coconut protection advocate, has joined the battle against CSI. He transformed his former mushroom culture production area in Lucban town into a wood/bamboo/coconut husk vinegar processing facility. The concoction, which Talaga distributes for free to farmers, has been proven effective against CSI.
“Now is the time for President Aquino to release the coconut levy fund, or at least a portion of it, to help coconut farmers and victims of CSI and other calamities,” Talaga said. Lito Mallari (not related to this correspondent), proprietor of Mallari Distillery in Tayabas City and one of the biggest producers of the coconut-based liquor “lambanog” in the province, said he had also been spraying his coconut farms with his own antipest mixture. “The battle against the pest should not be left alone to the government,” Mallari said in a phone interview. The provincial government has established a “biological control rearing station” in Pagbilao town. The facility, the first in the Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) region, provides biological organisms, like “coccinelid beetle,” in affected areas to combat CSI the natural way. Quezon is one of the biggest coconut producing provinces in the country.
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Number of PHL dairy animals up in 2013 but milk imports still high Category: Agri‐Commodities 30 May 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent THE inventory for dairy animals grew last year and is 3.21 percent higher than the headcount in 2012, according to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS). “As of January of this year, the total dairy animal population [stands at] 40,322 heads, with dairy cattle stocks improving by 2.55 percent while dairy carabao and dairy goat population growing by 2.84 percent and 15.26 percent, respectively,” according to the BAS’s 2013 livestock and dairy report released recently. According to the report, dairy cattle population was 21,605 heads, or 0.86 percent of the country’s total cattle population, while dairy carabao population stood at 16,829 heads, which is 0.59 percent of the total carabao population. Dairy goat population, on the other hand, reached 1,888 heads or 0.05 percent of the total goat population. Slowly but consistently, the agency’s efforts in improving the dairy sector of the country are showing results, National Dairy Administration (NDA) Administrator Grace J. Cenas said in an interview. “We have now 61 dairy multiplying farms across the country,” Cenas said, adding that this number excludes those that are privately owned or under government’s public‐private partnership project. Last year, milk production in the country was 19.5 million liters, which is 5.59 percent higher than the 2013 level of 18.5 million liters, the Bas report said. The report noted that from the total, 12.7 million liters, or 65 percent, were cow’s milk; 6.6 million liters (33.6 percent) were carabao’s milk and 0.28 million liters (1.4 percent) were goat’s milk. The volume of dairy imports in 2013 was also lower by 0.5 percent, the BAS report said, with 1.945 million metric tons (MMT) compared to the 2012 level of 1.955 MMT. The total number of dairy animals on the milk line, the Bas reported, went up by 10.17 percent. “Dairy cattle count increased by 4.60 percent while dairy carabao and dairy goat on the milk line, grew by 2.15 percent and 120.22 percent, respectively.”
However, fresh milk imports last year remained a staggering 99 percent in terms of total milk supply, the report said. The total value of dairy imports last year was $857.19 million, about 12.22 percent higher than the 2012 imports of $763.84 million. Of the total milk imports, around 90 percent were classified under milk and cream while the rest were butter, cheese and curd, according to the BAS report. New Zealand and the United States were still the leading suppliers of the country’s dairy products, supplying a total of 1.238 MMT or 63.6 percent of the total dairy imports of the Philippines. On the other hand, the Philippines exported last year some 48,520 metric tons (MT) of dairy products, a volume lower by 63.31 percent compared with the previous year’s record of 132,240 MT. There was a total value drop of 33.49 percent. Milk and cream comprised 91 percent of the total dairy exports, while the rest were butter and cheese. The main countries of destination for dairy products from the Philippines were Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia, which are all members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. Malaysia and Indonesia accounted for 47 percent of the total volume of the Philippines dairy exports in 2013. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/32987‐number‐of‐phl‐ dairy‐animals‐up‐in‐2013‐but‐milk‐imports‐still‐high
Activists demand stronger polices for sustainable fishing Category: Agri‐Commodities 30 May 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga and PNA CLOSE to a thousand activists marched to Malacañan Palace on Friday to ask President Aquino to convene a crisis team that will address what they allege is the deteriorating condition of the country’s marine resources. The activists under two groups submitted their proposal they crafted in November last year. An employee of the Office of the President received the document. Dennis Calvan, executive director of NGOs for Fisheries Reform, said they held the march to express alarm over the deteriorating state of the country’s fishing grounds. Ten of 13 of the country’s fishing grounds have already been depleted, Calvan told reporters. He accused the Aquino administration of “not doing anything to address the situation.” “We ask that policies, such as the National Land Use, be passed to ensure that land development will not contribute to further degradation of marine ecosystems to guarantee the sustainability of our seas.” Compared to the 1960s, only 10 percent of fish populations remain, according to Calvan. “This has a direct impact on small fishermen who are left with lower incomes but incur more costs and risks when they travel greater distances to catch fish.” Calvan said Filipino fishermen remain the most marginalized, with the sector having a poverty incidence of 41.4 percent. He cited the report by the National Statistical Coordination Board released nearly six years ago. “Fisherfolk who are supposed to be feeding the country are going hungry. We can’t even feed our own family with our fish catch,” activist Pablo Rosales said in Filipino. “It’s no surprise that our numbers are dwindling. If nothing is done to reverse the fish decline, there won’t be fisherfolk left in 10 to 20 years,” Rosales added.
The protesters want the government to manage the country’s fishing capacity, improve conditions of critical ecosystems; promote the well‐being of people reliant upon our seas and strengthen and streamline the management functions of government that deal with the country’s seas. “We ask President Aquino to oversee the government’s transition into an administration that champions the marine environment,” Vince Cinches, oceans campaigner for Greenpeace Philippines, said. “To end overfishing, there must be priority access to resources for small‐scale fisherfolk and a reduction in overall fishing capacities, most especially in the industrial scale commercial fishing sector. Government must also establish a network of marine reserves large enough that will protect our marine ecosystems from current and future threats, including climate change,” he said. LGU fishery code MEANWHILE, two groups not aligned with those who marched to the President’s palace launched a campaign to campaign for the updating of the local fishery codes of local government units (LGUs) in Negros Occidental. The state news agency reported that the Negros Occidental Small Fishers Alliance (Nosfa) and the Philippine Rural Reconstruction Movement (PRRM) launched the campaign via a news conference in Bacolod City on Friday. A joint statement quoted the groups as saying many coastal LGUs in Negros Occidental have not yet updated their fishery code to align with the national fishery code. That is why they cannot combat illegal fishing, the Philippine News Agency reported the group’s statement as saying. Nosfa officials said the fishing grounds in the province are already saturated due to illegal fishing. They added that small fishermen now have meager fish catch with only about 6 to 8 kilos a day from an average of 30 kilos per day in previous years. The PRRM and Nosfa officials said they were hopeful when the National Fishery Code, or Republic Act 8550, was enacted in 1998 because it seeks to protect the small fishermen. Under the fishery code, zero to 10 kilometers within the territorial waters of each locality is supposed to be reserved for small fishermen. But encroachment of medium and large fishing boats are still rampant, the group’s statement said.
Local law enforcers also lack the legal support to pursue cases against illegal fishermen, the group claimed. They said the PRRM and Nosfa will take up more of their concerns during the celebration of National Fisherfolk Day today where they will also demand for more fishery and aquatic reforms. Jonathan L. Mayuga and PNA http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/32986‐activists‐demand‐ stronger‐polices‐for‐sustainable‐fishing
Davao del Norte investors to fund mass production of Samal ‘munggo’ Category: Agri‐Commodities 30 May 2014 Written by Cha Monforte A Davao del Norte businessman said a group of local investors are pooling funds for massive production of the famous Samal munggo (mung beans) through organic farming. Gregorio Sarmiento, owner of Seagrass Beach Resort in Peñaplata District, said a private support group he coordinated with would be funding the mass propagation of munggo, which is known to grow as “quality grain when produced in Samal Island.” He said the plan is now being finalized with the cooperation of several interested barangay councils. Sarmiento said the support group, composed of socially concerned private businessmen of a civic organization, would complement the munggo production with support programs and incentives for farmers. Some of the incentives he cited include providing appropriate organic farming technology, product marketing assistance, fuel discount cards and educational support for farmers’ children through their organizations. Barangay Guilon Chairman Edgardo Bastillada said they are optimistic of the plan.We expect the initiative to spread like wildfire, Bastillada said. The initiative would greatly complement and help marginal and indigent farmers in the island through intercropping with their already existing plants, he added. “The Samal munggo is known to have the best taste as it is so milky and oily when cooked.” Bastillada added munggo is the island’s second best crop after mango. Sarmiento said the first planting of munggo farmers under this initiative is in August. He didn’t say how much the local investors’ group would pool for the project. Cha Monforte http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/32985‐davao‐del‐norte‐ investors‐to‐fund‐mass‐production‐of‐samal‐munggo
Militant farmers hit plan to convert idle lands into palm‐oil plantations Category: Agri‐Commodities 30 May 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga FARMERS belonging to the Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) and Coco Levy Funds Ibalik sa Amin (CLAIM) on Friday assailed the plan to convert the country’s idle lands into palm‐oil plantations. In a statement, KMP and CLAIM, which are composed mostly of coconut farmers, said the plan would lead to land‐grabbing and displacement of landless farmers across the country. KMP was reacting to reports quoting Environment Secretary Ramon JP Paje’s pronouncement during the Mindanao Barangay StraTreegic Forest Project recently held in Cagayan de Oro City. Paje was quoted as saying that the country was losing P800 billion each year in production opportunities because of lands that are left idle. “It appears that Paje, with the blessings of President Aquino himself, is auctioning off 8 million hectares of land to local and foreign agribusiness for oil‐palm plantation projects. It’s a public notice to oil‐palm giants that 8 million hectares are up for grabs,” KMP Chairman Rafael Mariano said in a statement. Mariano was referring to reports that a company is eyeing 30,000 hectares for palm‐oil production in Davao Oriental. Another big corporation whose foreign partner is allegedly a large palm‐oil trader has reportedly signed an agreement to invest $1,000 per hectare to plant coconut, oil palm, rice and sugar, the groups added. Mariano warned that Paje’s proposal “would lead to widespread and chaotic land‐grabbing,” saying that productive agricultural lands occupied by farmers would be the most likely targets of foreign agricultural companies. Jonathan L. Mayuga http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/business/agri‐commodities/32984‐militant‐farmers‐ hit‐plan‐to‐convert‐idle‐lands‐into‐palm‐oil‐plantations
Jeepney fares go up by 50Â˘ on June 14 â€“ LTFRB By Reinir Padua (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 31, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Starting June 14, jeepney commuters in Metro Manila, Central Luzon and Calabarzon will pay a minimum fare of P8.50. The Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) granted a P0.50 increase in jeepney fares for the first four kilometers and P0.10 for every succeeding kilometer, or from P1.40 to P1.50. In a joint petition in December last year, jeepney drivers and operators asked that the minimum fare be hiked from P8 to P10 for the first four kilometers and from the P1.40 rate per succeeding kilometer to P1.75. LTFRB chairman Winston Ginez warned jeepney drivers to strictly observe the conditions in implementing the minimum fare adjustment. Under the new fare matrix, children less than one meter in height shall be transported free of charge, and those from 1 to 1.30 meters in height shall pay half the fare. Operators shall provide an adequate place in jeepneys for the necessary markings to verify the height of children entitled to free or half fare. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Qualified senior citizens, students and persons with disability must be given a 20 percent fare discount. The LTFRB will issue and distribute copies of the approved fare matrix to all heads of transport groups for distribution to their members, including jeepney operators and drivers.
At Malacañang, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said the LTFRB considered the rights and welfare of commuters, as well as those of the jeepney operators and drivers before deciding to grant the 50-centavo fare increase. The LTFRB also sought the assistance of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Energy (DOE) in ascertaining the factual basis for a reasonable increase, he added. Ginez said complaints and reports can be posted in LTFRB’s Facebook page through “LTFRB Citizen Enforcer” or they can tweet the chairman for comments at @LTFRB_CHAIRMAN. “We strongly urge the commuting public to report drivers who fail to conspicuously display the new fare matrix,” or those who over-charge, he said. Ginez said a NEDA analysis showed that the P2 hike would result in an increase in the prices of other commodities in the affected areas. “As part of the Board’s authority to regulate transport fare, we considered not only the welfare of the PUJ drivers but of the general public, especially the low- and middle-income classes who will be directly affected the most,” he said. Transport groups Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations in the Philippines and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations welcomed the LTFRB decision. Adopting a formula in computing the fare increase using a cost recovery method and combining it with NEDA’s socioeconomic analysis, the LTFRB found factual basis for a reasonable increase in jeepney fare rates. As of early this month, the DOE monitored the average diesel pump price based on the lowest retail prices at P43.44/liter, indicating an increase in average diesel pump price of P5.69/liter from 2011 to 2014, the LTFRB said. Based on the cost recovery method of computation, jeepney engine fuel consumption is approximately pegged at 6 km/liter and at an average of 10 passengers per trip. The calculation shows that an increase of P.379 for the first four kilometers is necessary to allow jeepney drivers to recover the additional expenses in fuel. Ginez said they used these figures to balance the interests of both the jeepney operators and drivers and the riding public. The calculation validates NEDA’s analysis that a reasonable adjustment in the minimum fare amounts to P0.50, the LTFRB said. – With Aurea Calica http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/05/31/1329326/jeepney‐fares‐go‐50c/june‐14‐ltfrb
Palace OKs P62B for big infra projects By TJ A. Burgonio Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:56 am | Saturday, May 31st, 2014
President Benigno S. Aquino III MALACAÑANG PHOTO BUREAU President Benigno Aquino III has approved a whole raft of infrastructure projects worth P62.3 billion to improve the supply of water to the capital and adjacent areas, increase the capacity of mass transport systems, modernize one Manila hospital and upgrade some of the country’s airports. However, only two of these major undertakings will even get started by the time Mr. Aquino steps down in 2016. Among the big-ticket items are the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project designed to produce 600 million liters of water a day, and a P5.8-billion project at Angat Dam to improve the transmission lines of the facility that supplies about 90 percent of the raw water requirements of Metro Manila. Only the Light Railway Transit (LRT) 2 maintenance project in Manila and the P10.6-billion rapid bus transit project in Cebu City will have gotten off to a start by the time Mr. Aquino’s term ends in 2016. Only 2 years left “We are determined to speed up the implementation of these vital projects, given the fact that by the end of this month, this administration will have exactly only two years left of its term,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said at a press briefing on Friday. The projects were green-lighted by the President and the Cabinet officials who sit on the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) board at a Palace meeting that lasted 11 hours, ending close to midnight of Thursday. Mr. Aquino chairs the Neda board.
Water projects The two water projects designed to address the long-term water supply requirements of Metro Manila and adjacent regions are the P18.7-billion Kaliwa Dam project and the P5.8-billion Angat Dam water transmission improvement project, Coloma said. The former entails the construction of a dam that will produce 600 million liters per day and a water conveyance tunnel with a capacity of 2,400 million liters per day in anticipation of the future Laiban Dam, he said. The project will cover portions of Tanay, Antipolo, and Teresa towns in Rizal province, and General Nakar and Infanta towns in Quezon province. It will be implemented through the public-private partnership (PPP) program, under what Coloma called “variants of the build-lease-and-transfer scheme.” It’s expected to be completed by 2020. The Angat project is aimed at increasing the reliability and security of the facility’s raw water transmission system by rehabilitating the existing conveyances from Ipo Dam to the La Mesa treatment plant. To be financed by a $60-million loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the project will start this year and will be completed in four years, Coloma said. Countryside projects Moving to the countryside, the President and the Neda board approved the Local Water Utilities Administration’s (LWUA) project to rehabilitate and expand its distribution networks, develop the raw water supply and sustain its operations. With a $60-million (P2.7 billion) loan from the ADB, the LWUA is seeking to upgrade 60 local water districts across the country, including Koronadal City, San Fernando City in Pampanga province and Bulacan province.
Also approved was a project to double the impounding capacity of Malinao Dam in earthquakestricken Bohol province to sufficiently irrigate “unserved” and “underserved” areas at a cost of P653 million, Coloma said. The upgrade will be carried out between now and 2016 using funds from the budget of the National Irrigation Administration. The Neda board also approved the bidding out of the P16.5-billion LRT 2 new operations and maintenance concession contract under the PPP scheme, Coloma said. The project seeks to raise the operating efficiency of the
LRT 2 fleet from the present 67 percent to 95 percent, he said. The government has set the submission of bids for October this year. The P10.6-billion bus rapid transit project in Cebu City, which is expected to deliver “fast, comfortable and cost-effective mobility” on a segregated right-of-way infrastructure, was also approved. Funded by loans from Agence Française de Développement and the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development-World Bank, the project will be completed by 2017. The board also approved the P4.1-billion upgrade of the Busuanga airport in Palawan province from a turbo-prop to a jet-capable airport by realigning its runway and modernizing its facilities. This is to be implemented between 2015 and 2017 and is to be funded from the national budget. “This is expected to boost tourism growth even further, given the 47-percent average annual growth in passenger traffic in Busuanga and Coron, Palawan,” Coloma said. Elsewhere in northern Luzon, the board gave the go-signal for the Department of Public Works and Highways’ P1.18-billion Laoag Bypass Link Road Project that will entail the construction of an airport road link to provide easier access to the Laoag City international airport and the Currimao port. This is expected to be completed by next year and is to be funded from the national budget. Lastly, the Department of Health got the nod to expand Jose Fabella Memorial Hospital, the country’s largest maternity care and birthing facility, from a 447-bed capacity to a modern 800bed hospital at a cost of P2 billion. The project, also to be funded from the national budget, is targeted for completion in two years. The idea is to meet the country’s Millennium Development Goal of reducing the rate of infant and maternal mortality, Coloma said. The board also approved the master plan for the Clark Green City project of the Bases Conversion and Development Authority. It entails institutional, mixed-use and industrial development of a sprawling property covering Tarlac City and Bamban in Tarlac province. No budget was mentioned. “The recent groundbreaking of the proposed University of the Philippines campus in Clark is part of this initial implementation phase,” Coloma said.
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Sin tax found effective vs smoking–SWS By Tina G. Santos Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:54 am | Saturday, May 31st, 2014
FILE PHOTO The sin tax law has proven to be effective in reducing tobacco consumption among the youth and the poor, according to a survey conducted by Social Weather Stations (SWS). The results of the Department of Health (DOH)-commissioned survey were released on by the health department as part of the observation of World No Tobacco Day today. The survey, conducted in March and involving 1,200 respondents nationwide, was aimed at assessing the effects of Republic Act No. 10351, also known as the sin tax law, more than a year after its implementation. Reduction seen The study showed that the prevalence of smoking for those belonging to socioeconomic Class E, or the very poor, dropped from 38 percent in December 2012 to 25 percent in March 2014. Across age groups, smoking prevalence among those belonging to the 18-to-24 age group was also reduced from 35 percent in December 2012 to 18 percent in March 2014. “Although we’ve been only a year into the implementation of the sin tax law, we are glad to already see a decrease in smoking prevalence among the youth and the poor, the main groups that we aimed to protect through the law,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said in a statement. Insignificant decrease The survey, however, also showed that while there was a reduction in cigarette consumption among population sub-groups, the overall smoking prevalence in the country had not significantly decreased since the law took effect.
Among smokers belonging to socioeconomic Class ABC, smoking prevalence went down from 25 percent in December 2012 to only 20 percent in March 2014 while Class D even went up from 26 percent to 27 percent during the same period. There were also insignificant changes in tobacco consumption among other age groups, the survey showed.
Shifting brands Health authorities said one possible reason for this could be the smokers’ shift to less expensive brands. Based on the survey, 45 percent of smokers switched to another brand of cigarettes when prices increased. Almost seven out of 10 (67 percent) Filipino smokers buy cigarettes per stick, making it more affordable than buying per pack. According to the survey, the median price of cigarettes per stick in the country is P3 in spite of the price increase.
“Reducing overall prevalence of smoking in the country will take some time. The implementation of the sin tax law is in its initial stages and we are very hopeful that it will reach its goal of reducing overall smoking prevalence in the country, as tobacco taxes continuously increase each year,” said Ona. The DOH has expressed confidence that the effect of the sin tax law will also be felt later among other socioeconomic classes and age groups. Raise taxes some more The World Health Organization (WHO) is urging governments to raise the taxes on tobacco products. “You increase the prices of tobacco, you will decrease the number of people smoking and decrease the number of deaths,” said Julie Hall, WHO country representative for the Philippines. “The sin tax law that was passed is a great and very important piece of legislation. It will save lives. It will also increase taxes, which can be used for health benefits for all and particularly the poor,” Hall told a press conference yesterday. Hall said the WHO was looking forward to January 2017, when unitary taxation on tobacco products will take effect.
The law provides for a gradual shift to unitary taxation to simplify the current multitiered structure for tobacco products and liquor by 2017. “Once the single tax rate system is already implemented, we can expect a more successful effect of the sin tax law,” Hall said. According to WHO data, tobacco constitutes one of the biggest public health threats, as it kills nearly six million people a year, with more than five million the result of direct tobacco use and more than 600,000 the result of nonsmokers being exposed to secondhand smoke. Share of sin tax The DOH said the sin tax law was now providing health benefits to Filipinos by contributing additional funds for the implementation of the DOH’s Kalusugan Pangkalahatan (universal health care) program. The sin tax law mandates that a portion of the revenue collected from sin taxes should go to health care and the improvement of medical facilities nationwide. Part of the revenue is also to be allocated to projects for the benefit of tobacco farmers and workers nationwide. The DOH has a computed share of P45.1 billion from the actual 2013 sin tax revenue collections. The agency spent its share of the revenue on the expansion of PhilHealth (Philippine Health Insurance Corp.) coverage to 14.7 million poor families. The rest of the funds will go to upgrading state health facilities, officials said. The sin tax law, which increased the taxes on tobacco and alcohol—the so-called sin products— was passed by Congress on Dec. 11, 2012, and signed by President Aquino about a week after.
Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/607037/sin-tax-found-effective-vs-smokingsws#ixzz33Rn0vl4K Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
No Cabinet revamp– Palace By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 31, 2014 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Malacañang denied yesterday that a Cabinet revamp involving Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima was in the offing. Reports circulated yesterday that Abaya would replace Gazmin while Purisima would join the camp of Vice President Jejomar Binay. In a press briefing, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said President Aquino had been “regularly asked this question at practically every opportunity, especially when he has an official trip abroad and there’s coffee with media.” But Aquino said in Myanmar early this month when he attended the Association of Southeast Asian Nations leaders’ summit that he had no plans to replace his Cabinet at this time. Coloma said Cabinet members “serve at his pleasure and they are subject to the President’s trust and confidence, but as far as I can see, there is no imminent plan of a Cabinet reshuffle or revamp.” He added that it would be best not to preempt the President and allow him to just make a decision or announcement if there would be any. He also said there were no indications that Purisima was unhappy with the President and his administration. The finance chief joins the President in almost every foreign trip and there is no reason to take seriously a report about his unhappiness, Coloma said. Irritated at meeting? Meanwhile, people inside the Aguinaldo state dining room in Malacañang yesterday could not figure out if the President was joking or mad when he said that Cabinet members who were late for the meeting on Thursday afternoon should be given “10 more questions” after their respective presentations.
The meeting included members of the National Economic and Development Authority board. The President, according to those present, arrived on time for the 1 p.m. meeting and then asked that the door be closed when “around seven seats” remained empty after more than 10 minutes. “He said they should take note of those who were late and give them 10 more questions,” a source said, adding the President was generally in a good mood when he came in. “I think he was irritated but was trying to smile. But we know how he is when he is smiling when he is really happy or just wanting to keep his cool,” one source said. The sources said Aquino kept looking at his watch and the wall clock inside the hall before saying that Cabinet members had “last two minutes” – a basketball term – or the door would be closed. But Coloma said he did not hear anything from the President after that and they proceeded with the meeting. During the press briefing, Coloma said nine major projects in infrastructure, transportation, water supply and health care totaling P62.3 billion, among others, were approved by the President and the NEDA board. The marathon meeting began at 1 p.m. and was adjourned at nearly midnight. Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, who was implicated in the pork barrel scam by alleged mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles, led the prayer before the meeting. Asked if Abad was feeling embattled, Coloma said not really, explaining that it was the budget chief’s turn to lead the opening prayer. http://www.philstar.com/headlines/2014/05/31/1329319/no‐cabinet‐revamp‐palace
DepEd scraps 3-day school week in Metro By Helen Flores (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 31, 2014 - 12:00am MANILA, Philippines - Amid widespread criticism, the Department of Education (DepEd) has scrapped its plan to implement a three-day school week in congested public schools in Metro Manila – at least for this school year. “We will not implement the three-day school week because we have not finished our study,” DepEd Assistant Secretary Jesus Mateo said yesterday. “We didn’t change our mind, we said the three-day school week is one of the options to handle these overcrowded schools,” he said. DepEd-National Capital Region director Luz Almeda issued a memorandum yesterday regarding the suspension of the plan. Last Monday, Almeda told reporters they are looking at implementing a three-day school week in some schools in Metro Manila to address overcrowding. Mateo said they are taking into account the possible impact of the scheme to the students’ learning, possible violations of the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers and the requirement of additional resources. Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 Under a three-day school week, classes will be held on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays and Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Almeda said only a small number of public schools will be affected by the three-day school week and it would only be implemented as a last resort. The Division of City Schools-Caloocan had issued a memorandum on May 13 about the implementation of the three-day school week. “The memo was in preparation for its implementation should we decide to push through with it,” Mateo clarified. The official said the DepEd, in coordination with some local government units (LGUs) in Metro Manila, will provide free transportation to students who will be compelled to transfer to other schools due to congestion. In Valenzuela City, he said 140 pupils from the Malinta Elementary School Pinalagad-Annex will be ferried in four to six vans of the school and the Valenzuela Division Office to Karuhatan West Elementary School.
The LGU will shoulder fuel expenses, he added. Mateo said they are still coordinating with the city governments of Caloocan and Quezon City about the free bus service for public school students. “We trust the LGUs on the safety of the buses and the principals will take care of the children,” DepEd Assistant Secretary Tonisito Umali said. Tuition hike in Region 2 Meanwhile, the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) has approved the petition of 11 private colleges and universities in Region 2 to increase their tuition by 10 percent this coming school year. Nestor Galvan, CHED Region 2 education supervisor, yesterday said only one school’s petition for tuition hike was disapproved. The CHED approval came after a series of consultations with universities and colleges from Isabela and Nueva Vizcaya that applied for tuition hike, according to Galvan. He said the tuition increase will be allocated for personnel and staff benefits (70 percent), improvement of school facilities (20 percent) and school’s return of investment (10 percent). – With Raymund Catindig
Who can we trust now? By Ramon Tulfo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:17 am | Saturday, May 31st, 2014
It’s understandable that Sen. Grace Poe used the Senate floor to denounce the electoral fraud during the 2004 presidential election which supposedly made President Gloria win over close rival Fernando Poe Jr., the senator’s father. Poe recalled the purported phone conversation between then President Gloria and then Election Commissioner Virgilio Garcillano allegedly to rig the results of the election. “Understandable” because it’s Poe’s filial duty to take up the cudgels for her late father who, many believe, was cheated of the presidency. But even without the “Hello Garci” conversations between Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and Garcillano, GMA would have won in that election, albeit by a smaller margin over FPJ. Why? Because FPJ, a neophyte politician, was up against a dyed-in-the-wool politician who learned the ropes as a child. FPJ was an unwilling presidential candidate who avoided entertaining local leaders and ordinary people seeking to be photographed with him on the campaign trail. Even a close friend of FPJ’s, who was always with him during the campaign, said he could not have won the 2004 election with his cavalier attitude towards ordinary people. GMA, on the other hand, was generous with her smiles and handshakes and photo-ops while on the campaign trail even if she probably wasn’t sincere. The macho FPJ showed irritation in public, even towards reporters covering him, and this was not lost on the voters. How many times did the elder Poe scold a reporter on stage for him as he delivered his speech? Many voters were turned off when their idol, whom they thought was the epitome of humility and patience, showed he was human after all.
That’s why in vote-rich Cebu city and province, GMA won over FPJ by more than 1 million votes. The one-million vote margin would have upset the victories FPJ had over GMA in other provinces and cities. *** To Poe and Mr. Aquino: Stop using your power to hound the ousted president, who’s already down and out. You should be forgiving since both of you won because voters sympathized with you over your respective parents’ deaths. *** “To my parents, brothers and sisters: I am very sorry. Hindi ko na kaya (I can’t bear it any longer). Don’t pity me. I am sorry for everything. I do not know what to do anymore. It’s a very big burden for me to handle all this. I love you very much. I am so sorry. Love, Philip.” Those were the words Ensign Philip Pestaño wrote in his suicide note. The note was declared authentic by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), the police Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG), as well as the Western (Manila) Police District. But Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and the Court of Appeals rejected the findings of suicide by the three law enforcement agencies. Pestaño’s superiors were later charged with murder for his death on the BRP Bacolod City in 1995. If the Ombudsman and the appellate court don’t trust the findings of our law enforcement agencies in a criminal case, who can we trust now? Read more: http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/606973/who‐can‐we‐trust‐now#ixzz33RwpqPsC Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook
Gov't deploy monitoring system for coral reef conservation (philstar.com) | Updated May 30, 2014 - 11:00pm MANILA, Philippines (Xinhua) - The government dispatched today a monitoring equipment to evaluate the health and changing status of reefs on three pilot sites, and help improve the protection of all coral reefs. Department of Environment and Natural Resources-Biodiversity Management Bureau (DENRBMB) Director Theresa Mundita Lim said the agency's scuba divers simultaneously installed the devices on three underwater sites. The device is mostly made up of polyvinyl chloride (PVC) material, secured to coral reefs with metal weights that can mimic coral reefs and, over time, attracts or collects small reef animals referred to as cryptic reef biodiversity, said the official. "A group of ARMS (the device) installed in a specific area could provide a systematic and consistent method of monitoring marine life forms," said Lim. "They also provide data on how climate change impacts such as ocean warming and acidification affects them, or how marine ecosystems develop and maintain their resilience to these impacts."
P100M fish port, power plant inaugurated in MILF community in Tawi-Tawi (philstar.com) | Updated May 30, 2014 - 5:30pm ZAMBOANGA CITY, Philippines - Former combatants of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) lauded the establishment of fish port complex and diesel-fed power plant in a residential community in the remote island town of Languyan, Tawi-Tawi, a statement from the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process (OPAPP) said. The projects, expected to be operational within the year, were serve as efforts of the government to continuously engage with the MNLF community as part of the 1996 final peace agreement, according to OPAPP Secretary Teresita Deles. The combined cost of the two projects is about P100-million. The projects were formally inaugurated by the local government unit of Languyan town, Tawi-Tawi, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) - Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), together with OPAPP officials under the PAMANA or (Payapa at Masaganang Pamayanan or Peaceful and Resilient Communities). The PAMANA program, an inter-agency effort headed by the OPAPP, began its projects upon the assumptionof President Bengino S. Aquino III in 2010. The program implements developmental projects in areas that have been adversely affected by previous armed conflicts that resulted in economic depressions. Kublai Elias, an MNLF junior officer and the leader of Languyan’s fisherfolks, was elated over the new fish port terminal, saying it will bring more economic opportunities to the people in their town, which only gained noticed sometime in 1992 when it was identified as among the areas in Asia that would witness a total solar eclipse. Elias said his vision on improving the economic plight of their communities has been reinforced by the government intervention as a result of the peace agreement. Nation ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 “These economic interventions in our town show the sincerity of both parties (government and the MNLF) for us to benefit from the fruits of the peace agreement. It indicates a genuine engagement that the two sides can work together for the interests of those people who have suffered during the armed conflicts,” he said. Languyan Mayor Yshmael Sali said the fish port will turn the town as one of the top producers of marine products in the country.
The local chief executive was also optimistic that in energizing the town it will also attract investors to put up fish canneries and other processed marine production plant. Sali said there were intentions before by investors to put up plants. However, due to the lack of power supply and insufficient infrastructure all the plans were left out. “Thanks to PAMANA as we can revive those investment intentions,” Sali said. ARMM-BFAR Secretary Janice Musali said the fish port in Languyan is the biggest infrastructure project they appropriated under the PAMANA program for the entire ARMM region for this year. Musali said Languyan has huge potential as many commercial fishing vessels are operating in the high seas off Languyan. “The island province of Tawi-Tawi is rich with marine resources in addition to the pristine and unspoiled beaches and diving sites that it naturally possesses,” she said. Elais said socio-economic investments are needed to shore up progress and development, especially in areas that have lagged behind due to security-related issues. “The bottom line here is to transform these depressed areas into better communities where economic growth and peace reign. And that’s the ultimate goal for the Bangsamoro people,” Elais said. - Roel Pareño http://www.philstar.com/nation/2014/05/30/1329130/p100m‐fish‐port‐power‐plant‐inaugurated‐milf‐ community‐tawi‐tawi
BANK LENDING GREW 20.9% IN APRIL TO P4.14T Category: Top News 30 May 2014 Written by Bianca Cuaresma CREDIT growth in the country accelerated further in April, as local banks continued to pour in more cash into the productive sectors of the economy, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Friday. Bank lending in the country grew by about 20.9 percent in April to hit P4.14 trillion, up from the 20‐ percent growth seen the month before. The loans for production activities remained the driver of bank lending during the period, which comprised about 80 percent of the banks’ aggregate‐loan portfolio. “The continued expansion in bank lending across sectors is expected to support the growth momentum of the economy,” the central bank said. Lending to economic‐production sectors expanded by 18.9 percent in April, up from the 18.1 percent seen in March this year. Loans for fishing grew the fastest during the period, posting a 47.6‐percent expansion in April. The hotel and restaurant sector also contributed to the growth during the period, expanding by 41.1 percent. Loans for construction also grew at a rate of 40.6 percent. Loans to public administration and defense decelerated for the third consecutive month during the period, shrinking by about 1.2 percent in April. Meanwhile, in terms of share to the total lending portfolio, the real‐estate sector still had the lion’s share to the total portfolio of the banks during the month, with about P715.6‐billion loans during the period. This was seconded by the manufacturing sector, with about P618 billion and wholesale and retail trade at P564.7 billion. Loans for household consumption grew at a slower pace during the period, from 11.7 percent to 10.7 percent the month before, as credit‐card loans and auto loans slowed down during the period. “The BSP will continue to closely monitor credit and liquidity conditions and deploy appropriate measures as necessary to ensure that the monetary environment remains consistent with its price and financial‐stability objectives,” the central bank said. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/top‐news/32996‐bank‐lending‐grew‐20‐9‐in‐ april‐to‐p4‐14t
JICA helping improve Pinoy technical know‐ how Category: Top News 30 May 2014 Written by Cai U. Ordinario
JAPAN is helping the Philippines’s vocational and technical offerings to help Filipinos become more competitive in the global marketplace. The Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) and the Department of Education (DepEd) have entered into a technical‐cooperation agreement for the project “Supporting Senior High School Modeling in Selected Technical Vocational High Schools.” The project aims to support the government in the implementation of the K‐to‐12 curriculum, particularly in technical‐vocational education. “The ongoing assistance to the DepEd is part of Japan’s support to help the Philippines become more competitive in the employment market by equipping students with technical skills that industries need,” Jica Philippines Senior Representative Takahiro Morita said. Jica recently visited Bataan School of Fisheries, Floridablanca National Agricultural School, and Opol National Secondary Technical School in Mindanao. Interviews with administrators showed that upgrading curriculum, teacher skills and facilities are crucial in implementing the K‐to‐12 curriculum, and raising the standards of technical‐vocational education. An earlier 2001 study by the Asia‐Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec), a group of 21 Pacific Rim economies, pointed similar challenges in bridging skills shortage in the country’s key industries, including manufacturing. The assistance can help young Filipino workers obtain skills that are needed by firms nationwide or abroad. With better skills, Filipinos will have a higher chance of getting employed. Based on the January round of the Labor Force Survey, data showed that the country’s unemployment rate was at 7.5 percent and the underemployment rate was at 19.5 percent, which are among the highest in Asia.
Meanwhile, some vocational schools visited by Jica reported linking with garment industries in the Subic Bay Freeport Area, Bataan Freeport Area, key food‐ and‐beverage companies, and meat‐processing industries, thus enhancing the students’ opportunities for work after graduation. Aside from the ongoing technical assistance to the DepEd, Jica has been supporting the country’s education sector since the 1960s. The construction of school buildings and procurement of school equipment in the poorest provinces of the country was facilitated through Jica’s assistance on the Third Elementary Education Project and the Secondary Education Development and Improvement Project.
Further, a Japanese grant-aid program supported the construction of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority Women’s Center. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/top‐news/32992‐jica‐helping‐improve‐pinoy‐ technical‐know‐how
Mines chamber tells govt not to hike mine‐ industry tax Category: Economy 30 May 2014 Written by Jonathan L. Mayuga THE Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) said the government could increase its take in mining without necessarily increasing taxes that would eventually “kill” the mining industry. “If the government wants a bigger take from mining, there are many other options it can explore before increasing the tax on mining, which is a step that will likely kill the industry,” said Ronald Recidoro, COMP vice president for Policy in a statement. Recidoro said the government could encourage local investment and development linkages to supply and interconnect with mining projects. He said the government can also revive idle or abandoned mines to generate new employment and revenues. Last Recidoro said the government can enforce taxation of small‐scale mining projects and nonmetallic or quarry operations for stones, sand and gravel. “Any of these options will result in increased revenues for government without imposing an additional burden on an already heavily taxed industry,” he said. Imposing higher tax on mining projects will have an enormously negative effect, he said. “With very few projects far down the pipeline, an increased tax on new projects will not immediately result in a bigger take for government. But what it will definitely do is make the Philippines uncompetitive—killing investor interest and inhibiting the growth of the sector. In effect, increasing the tax will kill the goose that lays the golden eggs,” he said. Since the issuance of Executive Order No. 79 in July 2012, a moratorium on new mining projects has been put in place by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, while the Mining industry Coordinating Council (MICC) looks into how it can increase government’s share in mining projects. Nearly two years later, the mining industry is still in limbo, Recidoro said.
In a letter to President Aquino on March 2014, the Joint Foreign Chambers (JFC) expressed concern over the proposed revenue scheme and said that “such a fiscal regime will have an extremely negative impact on future investment in the minerals sector.” The JFC said that “mining investments generate jobs, and multiply those jobs into other jobs. They build infrastructure. They inject money into communities. In short, they create inclusive growth—which is so much needed in these economic times of the country’s development.” “Given the chilling effect increased taxes will have on investments, COMP suggests that the key to increasing the mining industry’s contribution to the economy lies in increased mining investments and in enhancing the local backward and forward linkages in the sector—essentially maximizing mining’s multiplier effect, especially in the areas where mines operate. At the 2013 Mining Philippines Conference in Manila, Dr. Michael Stanley, lead expert, Sustainable Energy, Oil, Gas and Mining Department of the World Bank commented that, to get more from mining, government should focus more on economic linkages. “The more that you embed that mine in the local community and have more regional economic development around the mine, the more goods and services come from small‐to‐medium enterprises around the mine, you get a more robust tax take overall. It’s actually a better curve to be on than the mine curve itself,” Stanley said. “With proper linkages programs created by the government coupled with transparency in tax collections and disbursements, the Philippines mining industry can go a long ways in helping deal with poverty and be an example of inclusive growth,” said Jesse Ang of the International Finance Corp. (IFC), adding that mining “can be a strong catalyst” for the country if managed properly. “With a proper linkages program, with proper transparency—you know where the [tax] payments are going to make sure that money goes to the communities,” Ang said. The IFC official said mining as an industry can help government drive infrastructure projects to greater levels so the Philippines could move up to the next stage of economic growth beyond that driven by consumption. By encouraging local source and supply linkages, the mining industry’s most valuable contribution to the country’s growth could come from its ability to generate further benefits to the domestic economy through productive linkages with other sectors. If interconnected with the mining project, local suppliers of goods and services needed by the mine and its employees will grow as the mine operation progresses—encouraging inclusive growth and yielding even more tax revenue for government.
“For backward and forward linkages to have the desired impact, it is not enough that [the] government impose local content and value‐addition conditions on mining contractors, and provide incentives for investors to structure projects. “Government needs to come up with complementary strategies to create the business environment and public sector institutions that encourage growth and deepen the integration of mineral projects into national and regional economies,” Recidoro said. Government must make mineral processing a viable investment, developing upstream capital goods and service industries. It must create and improve needed infrastructure, particularly power and transport, he said. As such, the COMP official said policymakers need to maximize the beneficial spillover effects of infrastructure triggered by mining by planning around resource corridors. “Policies should encourage the collateral or integral use of the minerals produced by other economic sectors. Expanded infrastructure will also promote rural development,” he said. http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/economy/32968‐mines‐chamber‐tells‐govt‐ not‐to‐hike‐mine‐industry‐tax
System can provide 6‐hour warning for impending floods Category: Regions 31 May 2014 Written by Ramon Efren R. Lazaro / Correspondent THE government is expected to complete the integrated flood‐warning system (IFEWS) on the 18 major river systems in the country and install 1,000 automated weather sensors along rivers and watersheds in the next two years. This was the message of Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on Friday during the “Iba na ang Panahon: Science for Safer Communities‐Early Warning, Early Action” forum. The secretary said IFEWS could provide local government units (LGUs) and communities at least a six‐ hour warning for impending floods and noted the inroads the Aquino administration made in the field of disaster‐risk reduction and management (DRRM) through the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in response to President Aquino’s policy to tap science‐based tools to reduce the impacts of calamities in the country. The DOST, in partnership with the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), started the information, education and communication campaign in the National Capital Region as part of efforts to enhance the capacity and ability of LGUs and disaster managers in disaster‐risk reduction and mitigation in the face of the increasing occurrence of mega disasters like last year’s Supertyphoon Yolanda. The completion of IFEWS is crucial in providing DRRM officers, LGUs and communities the ample time to prepare and a graphical understanding of the full extent of the floods that may come their way, he said. Additionally, Ochoa said the DOST has established its Intelligent Operations Center (IOC) to give a dramatic lift in the government’s national capability in making forecasts more timely and relevant in terms of predicting impacts on communities. Through the IOC, a storm’s path can be projected and laid over thematic maps containing vital information that can give a view of the potential damage a storm would bring to affected areas. “This will be helpful in arriving at a forward estimate of how much relief goods need to be prepositioned or even how many GI sheets need to be in stock even before a storm arrives,” Ochoa said.
Ochoa noted the establishment of the Philippine National Earthquake and Tsunami Monitoring and Communication System by the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) which is deemed to serve as an early warning protocol using state‐of‐the‐art equipment. To date, Phivolcs has 69 seismic networks covering the entire country. This number will be increased to 85 by 2016, supported by smart sensors for earthquake monitoring. Under the tsunami early warning system are the tsunami scenario database, tsunami hazard mapping for Metro Manila, Bolinao Tsunami Detection, Lingayen Warning System, Corregidor Tidal Gauge Station and the sea‐level detection sensors. “We continue to find better solutions for an effective disaster risk‐ reduction management system. To be successful in our efforts to mitigate disasters, we must remain steadfast and proactive by bringing down science‐based knowledge products to the communities at risk,” Ochoa said. Ochoa challenged LGU executives and local DRRM officers to continue to play their crucial roles in times of disaster and crisis. “Now, the challenge rests on our shoulders. We now have all these science‐based tools and technologies. But these are all nothing if we do not use them,” he said. “Remember that you perform dual responsibilities: that you are the first receiver of information and you are also the first responder in times of crisis.” http://businessmirror.com.ph/index.php/en/news/regions/33026‐system‐can‐provide‐6‐hour‐warning‐ for‐impending‐floods
Australia risks organic export growth as it struggles to coexist with GMO by Reuters May 30, 2014
Sydney - A landmark GMO contamination ruling in Australia could usher in lower organic farming standards, stripping the country of its premier status and threatening organic exports in an industry set to double in size by 2018. Australia currently does not allow any trace of genetically modified organisms (GMO) in its organic produce.
A women selects apples at a supermarket in Sydney, March 10, 2014. REUTERS/Jason Reed But when an Australian court ruled on Wednesday against an organic farmer’s damages bid, after GMO canola seed heads blew onto his property, causing him to loose his organic licence, many believe the zero GMO standard will now be watered down. A move to a European Union model, which allows up to 0.9 percent, is being mooted to prevent farmers falling short of the required Australian organic standard and against a backdrop of increased GMO sowing in Australia. However, a watering down of the regulations could limit Australia’s organic exports to some key markets. Andrew Monk, chairman of Australian Organic Ltd, the country’s largest certifier, said he did not believe the standard needed changing and warned of the dangers of doing so. “We would be really shooting ourselves in the foot in terms of future supply into markets like Asia and Europe for what are high valued, premium products,” said Monk.
RISE OF THE GMO After the Supreme Court of Western Australia rejected Steve Marsh’s bid for damages from his former friend Michael Baxter, after winds carried harvested seed from Baxter’s Monsanto Roundup Ready canola crop on to Marsh’s farm, legal experts said Australia’s zero tolerance towards GMO will difficult to maintain. “If any organic food consumers or producers want to maintain a strict and rigid GM-free standard for their organic products, the judgment means it will be harder to do this,” said Joe Lederman, Managing Principal, FoodLegal. “It is not impossible but there will be a huge cost in doing so.” GMO crops accounted for about 15-20 percent of Australia’s 3.2 million tonne canola crop in 2012/13, according to the Australian Oilseeds Federation (AOF), and the proportion has been growing. Australia is the world’s second-largest exporter of canola, with approximately 50 percent of its sales to the European Union, but it profits from being largely non-genetically modified, unlike market leader Canada, said Nick Goodard, Executive Director, AOF. The EU has a strong preference for non-GM canola, he added. The Australian Bureau of Agriculture, Resource Economics and Sciences forecast canola production will grow 6 percent a year over the next five years, underpinned by increased use of GMO varieties. SLOWING THE GROWTH OF ORGANIC Should Australia keep its organic standard, it risks having to decertify farmers and increasing the oversight impositions on growers, deterring farmers from producing organic produce.Whatever course Australia chooses, analysts said the Marsh vs Baxter ruling will challenge Australia’s rapidly growing organic market. Australia’s organic market was seen as a A$655 million industry in 2013, according to a report by IBISWorld, having grown at 12 percent a year over the last five years, and it is set to top A$1 billion by 2018, driven by soaring prices. While the market has grown substantially, the IBISWorld report says Australian industry has already struggled to attract significant increases in organic farmers, despite the attractiveness of profits. According to a International Federation of Organic Agriculture Movements 2011 report, a total 37.2 million hectares of global agriculture land was devoted to organic farming in 2009, with Australia having the most organic agricultural land with 12 million hectares used for organic farming. http://www.mb.com.ph/australia‐risks‐organic‐export‐growth‐as‐it‐struggles‐to‐coexist‐with‐gmo/
Mini clustering as a strategy by Zac Sarian May 30, 2014
While reading the press statement of Agrilink, particularly where it advocates the clustering of facilities along the value chain as a strategy to achieve agribusiness competitiveness, examples of mini clustering that work came to mind. Agrilink cited the case of the tuna industry as a very good example of clustering that benefits the different players and stakeholders of the industry. Of course that is an example of big business. What came to mind are the small cases of clustering that are doable even by small-scale players. First that came to mind was what Dr. Frisco Malabanan explained to us in an interview when hybrid rice was just starting to be popularized. Dr. Malabanan, of course, was the lead man in the rice production program during the presidency of now Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.
MECHANIZED CASSAVA DIGGER – Engr. Raymund Macaranas of the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization (PhilMech) shows the tubers of KU‐50 cassava variety that were dug from the soil using a cassava digger attached to a tractor. Macaranas and his team of agricultural engineers from PhilMech’s Agricultural Mechanization Division have developed a prototype of a cassava digger which can be attached to a 45‐hp to 90‐hp tractor for efficient harvesting of cassava tubers. The prototype can dig up to 30‐centimeter deep in a single row and can harvest up to three hectares a day. The cassava digger, which is currently undergoing field tests at a cooperator’s farm in Pampanga, can reduce harvest losses down to two percent.‐‐Melpha M. Abello
Dr. Malabanan motivated the farmers in a barangay in Santo Domingo, Nueva Ecija, to plant hybrid rice as a group or cluster. The advantages? With the cluster, the government provided the farmers with technical assistance. The National Irrigation Administration fixed the irrigation system and even the road network. Later, the group was also provided with a rice dryer for free. As a group, the farmers were also able to market their harvest to buyers at a fairly good price. SAN MANUEL CORN FARMERS – The other cluster that came to mind was the group of Juanito Rama of San Manuel, Tarlac. What Rama did was to form a small cooperative at first. Then he saw to it that the co-op was profitable through his strict but transparent leadership. Because of his successful operation, more and more farmers joined the cluster so that today 18 other cooperatives in Tarlac have joined his group.
Rama has imposed strict rules that the members have to observe. Anyone who violates the rules is immediately yanked out. But there are very few who dare violate the rules because the members receive a lot of benefits. The co-op provides financing for production payable with the harvest. Financing is in the form of inputs. If the farmer needs money to buy his inputs, the co-op will lend him the seeds, fertilizers or pesticides needed. As a group, the farmers sell their harvests through the co-op and it is usually at a better price than the one prevailing among traders. But Rama is strict in seeing to it that the corn sold through the co-op has the right moisture content. Quality is observed so that they can get a good price. And what is the result of the clustering by Juanito Rama? The co-op has been able to give yearly dividends equivalent to the tune of at least 50% of the share capital of each member. What is also very important is that members are updated on the latest techniques in corn production through seminars and the like. The members are now following the zero-tillage system which is more economical and profitable than the conventional system of plowing the field for planting. They plant Bt corn on no less than 8,000 hectares in one season and the yield could be 8 to 10 tons per hectare. Juanito Rama has shown that he can produce much more. In fact, a few months back, he was able to harvest 20.6 tons of corn grain at 13.5% moisture content per hectare. The harvesting was witnessed by the regional corn coordinator of the Department of Agriculture. BACKYARD KANGKONG GROWERS – A few years back, we also witnessed an interesting mini clustering of backyard kangkong growers in Liloan, Cebu. We were brought to the place by the East-West Seed Company because they wanted us to see a mini cluster that works. In that small village in Liloan, more than a dozen households are producing upland kangkong, some on just a hundred or a few hundred square meters. The backyard growers are supplying the daily requirements of a stallholder in the Carbon market who happens to be from the place also. Every day (or night because she operates from 10 p..m. to near dawn), the stallholder buys 150 to 200 kilos from her barriomates at P15 to P20 per kilo at the time of our visit. She resells the same at P25 to P30 per kilo to her regular customers. The villagers are happy because they can make a regular income from their backyard gardens. And that is a case of a mini clustering. ****
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Special eligibility program Published : Saturday, May 31, 2014 00:00 Article Views : 75 VARIOUS quarters acknowledge that barangay officials, elected and appointed, are the country's only public servants who work almost 24 hours a day throughout the year, including Saturdays, Sundays and even official holidays. Despite this, a village official, unlike permanent, temporary, casual and contractual government employees, in many parts of the country just receives a monthly honorarium not even enough to buy a sack of NFA (National Food Authority) rice. That's why the government, through concerned offices and agencies, should go out of its way to ensure that qualified incumbent and former barangay authorities avail themselves of a privilege qualifying them for a special eligibility program. Under the program, elected and appointed village officials, including Sangguniang Kabataan (SK) chairpersons, may apply for the Barangay Official Eligibility (BOE), which is issued by the Civil Service Commission (CSC). Unknown to many, the special BOE is equivalent to a career service subprofessional eligibility suitable for first level positions in the government service or job positions which involve clerical, trades, crafts and custodial service. Barangay officials who have rendered at least one term of office are qualified to apply for the BOE. If the services rendered fall short of the completed term, he/she may be considered for the grant if the deficiency is not more than 15 days. Village executives who completed their term of office before Aug. 1, 2012 may file their application for the BOE until Aug. 1, 2014. After that, the CSC will no longer issue BOEs to applicants with completed terms before Aug. 1, 2012. However, village officials and SK chairpersons who completed their term of office on or after Aug. 1, 2012 may still apply for the BOE beyond Aug. 1, 2014. The government, through the CSC, is on the right path in granting special eligibility to elected and appointed village officials. And it's one way of honoring and rewarding these lowly but dedicated men and women in the government service. http://www.journal.com.ph/index.php/news/editorial/73487‐special‐eligibility‐program
Assumptions in the order of society By Rod Kapunan | May. 31, 2014 at 12:01am
President Noynoy Aquino at the World Economic Forum in Makati said that good governance results in good economics. The problem however is it is easier said than done because the “sound bite” is nothing more but for propaganda than for real. In fact, what he said is no different from his debut slogan that “kung walang kurap, walang mahirap.” Aside from the hard truth that corruption has nothing to do with poverty, still many of our people after four years remain deeply mired in poverty, and corruption having seemingly overtaken us. If one will analyze what PNoy said, he might just think PNoy is some kind of a nut. His sloganeering of good governance equals good economics is nonsense because he simply lifted that from basic philosophy called syllogism. We know that syllogism will not help us solve our problems occurring in real life. While the two premises are logically correct, that would not necessarily result in a logical conclusion or be taken as true. We say this because good governance and good economics have their respective parameters to arrive at their respective objective. More often they clash because they are incompatible. Take the Pareto principle. That principle lays down the premise that the advantage of one could result in the disadvantage of the other. That principle has partly been influenced by the Marxian economic principle about the growth of capital. A good case is the theory of freedom. Unequivocal freedom in politics is interpreted by most libertarians as an inalienable right that cannot be taken away from us. While applying freedom to certain economic principles may be good to a handful few, that may not necessarily be good to many of our people because of its tendency to deny many of the things they need for their basic survival. As bestselling author Ha-joon Chang wrote in his book Bad Samaritans, the egalitarianism of socialism deprives one of the initiative and the incentive to be creative. It may result in good governance, but certainly bad to economics. The same can be said of absolute freedom stretched to the realm of economics, for ultimately it is bound to end up in a dysfunctional political freedom. In our recent history, we saw the intense clash of paradox ideologies. The ideology of Marxist socialism advocated for the observance economic equality through the state
ownership of the means of production. It is to them a good economic principle that could lead to good governance. However, that attempt to justify the imposition of a regimented society to keep itself intact failed to bring about good governance because it failed to satisfy the dynamic needs of the people in a society they envisioned. The opposite are those advocating for free enterprise. They believe that freedom is the key to good governance, and it is likely to end up in good economics. They would not care less about the inequality it would entail because the success of democracy would usher in economic success. It is this economic policy that is being advocated by the theologians of neoliberalism. Alas, the Soviet Union would not have imploded, and China would not have survived to become the most successful economy in our modern time had it not revised its Maoist version of egalitarianism. The United States, for all its arrogance as the bastion of freedom today, stands as the biggest debtor state in recorded history. In other words, its formula of good governance failed to bring about good economics. Those countries that remain beguiled to the neoliberal ideology like the members of the European Union (EU) are today on the precipice of economic collapse. Spain, Portugal, Greece, and Italy saw their economy sliding fast despite the belief that privatization, deregulation and free trade were good to their economy. Thousands were thrown out of work, stripped of their welfare, and saw their standard of living reduced by one third. Even if we give it to President Aquino that because of his good governance he managed to come out with good economics, many are asking, what is good governance if the majority is deprived or has no access to enjoy the bounties of his so-called economic success? We are not exposing the fallacy of his syllogism, but simply requesting him to stop insulting our people by his cheap propaganda antics only his yellow claptrap could appreciate. Even if the countryâ€™s GNP grew by an unprecedented rate of 7.7 percent, that good economic point has become one of bad governance because alongside with it, poverty remains at 24.89 percent. The same can be said of the P2.265 trillion budget that was appropriated in 2014. What good would that be if the country was saddled up with a P164.1 billion deficit that pushed us deeper into foreign debt? For that matter, our foreign debt of $127.67 billion jumped by 4.5 percent or equivalent to P5.681 trillion in 2013. These figures betrayed the logic, for normally, increased government budget is assumed to be the result of increased productivity. The increased GNP was further exposed as plain nonsense because labor surveys as of January 2013 showed that 7.5 percent or an estimated 2.9 million individuals are unemployed. Many were astounded because 41.7 percent of our workforce in agriculture, 41.1 percent in the service sector and 17.2 percent in the industry sector are underemployed. Stated differently, more than one half of our labor force is now paid below the minimum wage, thereby making a sham of the law on minimum wage.
On the other hand, while our non-agricultural workers in the national capital region are getting P466.00 a day and P429.00 for the other private sector that does not mean anything if one will add by pro rata his 13th month pay, SSS, PhilHealth, employeesâ€™ compensation, Pag Ibig Home Savings Fund. That will chalk up to about P550 daily wage which our employers will have to scrounge just to pay their employees. Because our workers have to hurdle more to pay for their rent, electricity and water bills which now stand as the highest in the world, that certainly has the effect of bad governance to fallacious economic success, but wholly good to the few who savor with much gusto the blessings of economic freedom which PNoy claims to be the result of his â€œgood governance.â€?
Messy times By Elizabeth Angsioco | May. 31, 2014 at 12:01am
Any which way I look at it, the country is in a mess. The crusade against corruption via “matuwid na daan” has been turned into an extravaganza, a circus if you will. I do not doubt that when President Benigno Aquino started his term, he meant well and really intended to fight corruption in government. Two years before his term ends, it’s obvious that political realities and alliances are making it quite difficult even for the best- intentioned in this administration to make a real difference. The ongoing pork barrel scandal is a make or break issue that the country should be able to weather and resolve in favor of transparency and accountability in governance. No matter who is involved. We know the President as a loyal friend and ally but a bad enemy. He must be struggling at this point when some of his closest friends such as Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, and Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa, Jr. are implicated as operators, or mentioned as possible recipients of financial largesse from Napoles following the release of records from Benhur Luy and Napoles herself. The deletion of certain files from Luy’s digital records turned over by the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee Chair TG Guingona speaks volumes. Reports have it that besides naming more politicians, deleted files included those with titles “PINOY Request”, and “Ochoa”, letters to the DBM and Executive Secretaries dated as early as December 1, 2011 and June 12, 2012 and were last accessed on January 22, 2014. The questions begging to be asked are, who deleted the files and why were they removed? The “PINOY Request” file naturally intrigues people because the President is popularly called PNoy. The Filipino people is also collectively called pinoy. So, was the file referring to the President? Was it a request addressed to him? Only Benhur Luy can say.
Well, anyone can write the president and the secretaries. It does not mean anything. After all, they are public officials. They must be receiving hundreds of letters daily. It’s part of their public life. However, the fact that these files were deleted make people raise questions. Was the deletion done purposely? And if yes, why? What was extra-sensitive about these files? Reports have it that most of the deleted files were last accessed on January 22, 2014. The scandal began in July 2013. Luy first testified in the Senate Blue Ribbon Committee on September 12, 2013. Because the files were last accessed in January, it is reasonable to think that the files were still intact when Luy appeared in the Senate. Yet there was no mention of the names in the deleted,v files whatsoever. It will be interesting to find out from him what these files were, why he never talked about the politicians mentioned therein, who deleted them and why. Napoles surrendered to Pres. Aquino in the evening of August 28, 2013 after hours of “meeting”, and appeared in the Senate hearing on November 7, 2013 where she professed to know nothing about the scam. After spending months in jail when there was an almost news black out, she began talking while in hospital. Now, friends and foes of the President are dragged into the scandal. Someone should do a timeline of events on this scam. It might reveal some interesting “coincidences”. Now that Napoles is back in jail, I wonder what will happen next. Fact is, the Filipino people is furious and want a closure to this. However, such closure must be based on justice, not on political alliances. This pork barrel scam involves billions of people’s money. We were robbed big time. While this is happening, Yolanda victims, after more than six months, are frustratedly still waiting for government to appropriately respond to their situation. A mother and her children recently died from a fire that gutted the tent city where they were staying. Tacloban remains largely unattended to by the national government. Many thousands of people remain homeless and without livelihood. This despite the fact that billions in donation were poured in Yolanda-hit areas. What really is the cause of the snail-paced government action in these areas? Does political partisanship play a role here? Mindanao is reeling with a power crisis. Many places have at least eight-hour brown outs almost daily. Power is very expensive. The rest of Luzon is unaffected by the TRO issued by the Supreme Court against MERALCO’s bid to increase prices, and thus, have no other option but pay higher electricity costs. And we hear of an impending power crisis that will not spare Metro Manila. This is messy. As we try to deal with the problem of climate change, we learn that our weathermen and women are reduced to pawning their ATM cards to survive. This is beyond inhumane
especially at a time when the country boasts of economic growth. Can we blame those who have flown out of the country to become OFWs instead of working here? We were just warned of a possible intensity eight earthquake that might hit Luzon. Our weathermen and women are crucial at a time like this. We don’t want to find them pawning their ATMs when they should be providing service to the people. But they won’t be able to do it on empty stomachs. Lastly, let us not forget our problem with China. We cannot allow China, or any other country to encroach in our territories and take our land and waters. China’s aggressive posturing cannot be ignored. We are Filipinos and our country is the Philippines. Our patrimony, our sovereignty must be protected at all cost. It is a tough time for us. It is messy. But still, we, as a people, need to see this through.