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Leyte: Agriculture cuts poverty rate By: Ernesto M. Ordoñez - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:18 AM January 13, 2017

In Leyte, the poverty level dropped from 31 percent in 2012 to 23 percent in 2015. This was inspite of “Yolanda,” which dealt the province a heavy blow in 2013. How did this happen? Leyte Governor Dominico Petilla provides a one-word answer: “agriculture.” Continuing the agriculture emphasis in his second term, Petilla aims to see the poverty go down further to 15 percent in 2019. If this happens, Leyte will have less than half of the rural poverty rate of the Philippines, less than the rate of Vietnam (19 percent), and almost as low as Thailand and Indonesia (both at 14 percent). Petilla continues: “I disagree with the emphasis of agriculture development being on things such as seeds, fertilizers, tools, and mechanization. Though these are all important, the emphasis should be more on people, than on things. ADVERTISEMENT

Four pillars Petilla’s emphasis on people rests on four pillars: health; education and skills, character and values; and increased incomes. Farmers cannot work if they are not healthy. Consequently, information programs on health habits to prevent sickness are given to the farmers. When farmers get seriously ill, there are eleven hospitals in various parts of the province that cater mostly to farmers. Education is also given on basic agriculture in the elementary and high schools. However, even those who are illiterate are provided with programs on agriculture production. These people can achieve skill levels in production even higher than the literate people. They should therefore be harnessed rather than ignored.

But even if a farmer is healthy, educated and skillful, he can be a liability rather than an asset if he does not have strong character and the right set of values. Petilla addresses this with programs such as a three-day workshop called “Sons and Daughters Encounter.” This is where farmer parents and their children discuss the appropriate values needed for success. Examples are integrity, discipline, hard work, team spirit and generosity. With the combination of health, skills and values, the fourth pillar is to harness these traits in an income generating venture that will take the farmers out of the poverty trap. This involves knowing the business aspects, such as a defined market, the correct production technology, and the appropriate partners and contacts. From violence to prosperity At Barangay Villa Conzoilo in Jaro, Leyte, there was much unrest because of the poverty level. The military and NPA engaged in frequent battles. Selling votes was rampant because people were poor and needed money. For this barangay, Petilla solicited the help of government agencies and the private sector to introduce livelihood activities such as organic vegetable farming. With the added three pillars of health, skills and the right values, povery significantly decreased. In this barangay, 36 formerly poor farmers now collectively earn P12 million in annual revenue. Petilla’s strategy is to do this agriculture program for the whole province, but he will use a barangay by barangay strategy. He will have 300 nucleus barangays by 2019 in different parts of the province. They will provide the impetus and models for inclusive growth in the surrounding areas. To help ensure that agriculture development will be a priority for each municipality, Petilla has gotten the support of Leyte’s municipals mayors. To address the problem of many municipalities where the agriculture extension workers do work other than agriculture because of directives from misguided mayors, there is a comprehensive monitoring system to keep track of each municipal agriculture extension worker’s performance. This has a corresponding reward and penalty system.

Leyte has shown how agriculture can overcome poverty. Its provincial planning head, Cora Alvero (0917-83861230), can provide details on making Leyte a possible model to follow. The author is Agriwatch chair, former Secretary of Presidential Programs and Projects, and former Undersecretary of DA and DTI. Contact him at

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Officials in 2 scams barred from gov’t service By: Vince F. Nonato - Reporter / @VinceNonatoINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:45 AM January 13, 2017

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales has ordered the perpetual disqualification from government service of several former officials of the National Commission on Muslim Filipinos (NCMF) and Department of Agrarian Reform for their alleged involvement in the pork barrel and Malampaya fund scams. For officials who are already out of government service, the penalty of dismissal would be converted into fines equivalent to a year’s salary. The six NCMF executives were dismissed for their roles in the alleged misuse of Sen. Gregorio Honasan II’s P29.1-million Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) allocations in 2012. Also dismissed was Honasan’s former political affairs chief, Michael Benjamin. ADVERTISEMENT

The Ombudsman ruled that the officials, led by former NCMF secretary and chief executive officer Mehol Sadain, helped process allegedly irregular livelihood projects for Muslim communities in Metro Manila and Zambales province. Senator’s endorsement Investigation showed that in 2012, Honasan endorsed Focus Development Goals Foundation as a partner nongovernment organization for the projects. The NCMF officials allegedly prepared disbursement vouchers even before the NGO was declared qualified and without a memorandum of agreement signed by the senator’s office and NCMF as the implementing agency.

Morales held the NCMF officials administratively liable for grave misconduct and conduct prejudicial to government. She said NCMF officials were not performing just ministerial acts when they signed the disbursement vouchers and checks to release the funds. Acting chief accountant Fedelina Aldanese, who is now acting Finance and Management Services director, is also among the dismissed officials. Other dismissed former officials were director III Galay Makalinggan, NCMF chief Sania Busran, acting NCMF chief Aurora Aragon-Mabang and cashier Olga Galido. The Ombudsman in September found probable cause to press criminal charges against the NCMF officials and Benjamin, along with Honasan and two Focus officers.

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P1B in budget to help get rid of loan sharks By: Tarra Quismundo - Reporter / @TarraINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:26 AM January 13, 2017

As the government moves to clear the country’s streets of unregulated loan sharks, an alternative is available for entrepreneurs: a P1-billion budget for interest-free microfinancing. Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate committee on finance, made this disclosure yesterday as she welcomed President Duterte’s crackdown on Indian lenders, who lure borrowers into easy, no-paperwork loan schemes but charge interest of as much as 20 percent. These “5-6” moneylenders, mostly Indian nationals, are popular in the informal economy, serving as a last resort source of microcapitals to the country’s vendors and other small entrepreneurs. The President this week ordered the arrest of these loan sharks, noting that they operate without permits and do not remit taxes to government. “We put in a P1-billion microentrepreneurship development fund [in the national budget] so people won’t have to succumb to loan sharks,” Legarda told the Inquirer in an interview. Not matter of race “We’re against usury. It’s not a matter of race or religion or creed, [whether you’re] Indian or what, but just the usury practice. That’s why in the budget, we put a billion [pesos] collateral-free, interest-free loans to microentrepreneurs,” she said.

The fund, she said, would be available through Small Business Corp. (SB Corp.), the financing arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and one of the smallest government-owned and -controlled corporations. SB Corp. serves as the government’s chief agency for “small enterprise development financing and small credit delivery systems,” according to its website. Legarda said the fund, approved under the 2017 national budget through the support of the President, Congress and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), aimed to support “microentrepreneurs who need capital assistance.” Easy terms SB Corp. is expected to draft and soon enact implementing rules and regulations (IRR) detailing mechanics on how Filipinos could avail themselves of state microcapital support. “They can go to Small Business Corp., which is under the DTI. They will be provided collateral-free, low- or no-interest loans depending on final IRR of SB Corp.,” Legarda said. “This will prevent them from falling prey to usury practices,” she said. The goal next year is for the government to make available a P1-billion fund for each of the country’s 18 regions. “By 2018, we hope to fund P1 billion per region for micro-enterprise development. This is a project and advocacy of the President, which both DBM and Congress support,” she said.

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Palace gives go-signal for P1,000 increase in SSS pension Philippine Daily Inquirer / 01:07 AM January 13, 2017

Despite an outcry from legislators and workers, Malacañang will proceed with the 1.5percentage point increase in the contributions of Social Security System (SSS) members, saying President Rodrigo Duterte carefully studied the matter before approving it. The premium increase is scheduled to be implemented in May, or three months after the P1,000 increase in the SSS pension of retirees this month. The adjustment will increase the monthly contributions of active SSS members to 12.5 percent of their monthly salary credit, the maximum level of which was raised from P16,000 to P20,000. ADVERTISEMENT

The increase in contributions will range from P15 to P740 a month, to be shared equally by the pension fund member and the employer, according to the SSS. Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Mr. Duterte did not arrive at the decision lightly. Premium increase “The President has carefully weighed both sides to solve the SSS impasse and he has already made a decision,” Andanar said in a statement. Sen. Franklin Drilon questioned on Wednesday the premium increase, saying the SSS charter does not allow it to raise premium rates to increase benefits.

Other groups also bucked the idea of burdening workers with higher premiums to fund the increase in the retirees’ pensions. Investment revenue But according to Andanar, the 1.5-percentage point increase in contributions in May would be used to improve the Investment Reserve Fund so it could generate higher yields for investments. The increase is also intended to strengthen the overall viability of the pension fund so that it could meet future obligations, he added. The increase in the monthly pensions of retirees, on the other hand, will be financed by current contributions and investment income, said Andanar. A 1.5-percentage point increase is to be implemented every year until the contribution rate reaches 17 percent. Another P1,000 pension increase is expected in 2022. An across-the-board pension increase of P2,000 was a campaign promise of Mr. Duterte. SSS officials said earlier that reforms were underway in the pension fund for workers in the private sector to make collection of contributions more efficient and its investments more sound. Labor unions They are also seeking additional powers from Congress and an executive order from the President to boost the SSS campaign to improve collections and widen its contribution base. The Associated Labor Unions (ALU) and Trade Union Congress of the Philippines lauded Mr. Duterte for approving the increase in the pensions of some 2.3 million pensioners of SSS.

“This will help pensioners to cope with some of the burdens caused by rising prices of basic commodities and cost of services,” ALU spokesperson Alan Tanjusay said in a statement. However, ALU argued that the government should have fixed the system first and instituted reforms within SSS before requiring new contributions from 14 million paying members out of the 34 million registered members. Tanjusay also called on SSS management to trim down excessive bonuses and introduce reasonable perks to all its top executives. —REPORTS FROM LEILA B. SALAVERRIA AND TINA G. SANTOS

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Demolition up in Baguio Dairy Farm Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:50 AM January 13, 2017

A Department of Agriculture employee inspects an area occupied by illegal settlers in Baguio Dairy Farm. —EV ESPIRITU SUAL, PANGASINAN—The Baguio City government is demolishing over 300 houses built without permits on the 94-hectare Baguio Dairy Farm, but Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said informal settlers may still be housed in bunkers if they are eligible to work for a proposed modern dairy facility there. The demolition of 344 illegal structures is scheduled this month. The settlers began building concrete homes and setting up unlicensed businesses at the farm in 2013, asserting their claims after the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples granted an Ibaloy family a certificate of ancestral land title (CALT) over the area. ADVERTISEMENT

The Department of Agriculture (DA) had asked the courts to cancel the CALT. Piñol, however, said informal settlers could be tapped as workers once the DA introduces modern milk processing technology to the farm.

“We have a plan to develop that area into a real dairy center … [The DA is] looking at the Cordillera right now as the dairy center of the Philippines, [so] we will have to include [the illegal settlers] in the planning,” said Piñol in a recent visit here. “We are not [granting them ownership of the Dairy Farm] because it is a government property. It is not mine to give … We can build them bunkhouses where they can stay,” he said. A Cordillera police intelligence report indicates that some of the settlers were not Ibaloy families, suggesting that portions of the land covered by the CALT have been sold to businessmen or migrants. The demolition is being undertaken based on a municipal court decision, said Baguio Mayor Mauricio Domogan. In a statement, he said, “We will not tolerate such act by enterprising individuals because we want to protect our reservations.” —GABRIEL CARDINOZA WITH A REPORT FROM VINCENT CABREZA

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Acquisition of air quality monitoring stuff aboveboard–EMB Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:14 AM January 13, 2017

This refers to the article titled “DENR hit over ‘costly, idled’ air pollution monitors” (Metro, 1/7/17). The Environmental Management Bureau, which is under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, welcomes the call of advocacy groups—Coalition of Clean Air Advocates of the Philippines (CCAAP) and the United Filipino Consumers and Commuters (UFCC)—for an audit on the purchase by the agency of air quality monitoring equipment. Several articles have been published in various newspapers questioning the accuracy and cost-effectiveness of the acquired monitoring equipment. We would like to reiterate that the purchase of such equipment was aboveboard and free of corruption, following step by step the procurement and bidding rules. ADVERTISEMENT

The procurement of the equipment went through the standard bidding procedures and through competitive public bidding in accordance with Republic Act No. 9184, or the Government Procurement Reform Act. From 2011 through 2015, the EMB acquired air quality monitoring equipment for its central and regional offices. The purchase included both Open Path Differential Optical Absorption Spectroscopy (DOAS) and Particulate Matter Stations (PM 10/PM 2.5). The purchase cost was only around P290 million, and not P1 billion as CCAAP and UFCC have claimed.

We would also like to stress that the monitoring equipment procured by the EMB falls under the equivalent methods certified by the United States Environmental Protection Agency. The Open Path DOAS is one of the advanced technologies that can be used by the country for ambient monitoring. The technology offers spatial representation of a geographical area, with probable capability of capturing measurements of local sources of emissions. JACQUELINE A. CAANCAN, in charge, Office of the EMB Director and concurrent assistant director, Environmental Management Bureau

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Health problems due to Bataan coal plant’s ash fall? DENR probes SMC Prez denies link between coal power plant and ailments, but commits to foot the bill By: Jaymee T. Gamil - Reporter / @jaymeegamilINQ Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:31 PM January 12, 2017

San Miguel Consolidated Power Corp. coal-fired power plant in Limay, Bataan (PHOTO BY TONETTE OREJAS / INQUIRER CENTRAL LUZON) MANILA — Are the health problems of residents in Limay, Bataan caused by ash fall or a spill from a byproduct storage facility being used by the San Miguel Corporation’s (SMC) subsidiaries in the area? The national government is set to settle the matter once and for all with a study to be conducted this week by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR). In a dialogue with anti-coal power plant protesters and Bataan residents at the DENR national office on Wednesday, DENR Secretary Gina Lopez asked the stakeholders to give the DENR one week to be able to coordinate with the Department of Health and validate the complaints. Limay residents, particularly those in Barangay Lamao, started complaining late last year of skin and respiratory diseases, as well as pollution in the air, rivers and along

coastlines. They blamed it on windblown and soil-seeping ash coming from the stockpile of byproducts from the SMC Consolidated Power Corp. (SMCCPC) plant and a coal-fired plant of the Petron Bataan fuel Refinery. Both SMCCPC and Petron Corp. are subsidiaries of SMC. Due to the complaints, the DENR has issued directives stopping the dumping of ash in the shared stockpile. “Our problem with the health data is that not all residents go to health centers for checkup,” said Derek Cabe of the Nuclear-Free Bataan Movement and the Coal-Free Central Luzon, who has been coordinating closely with the affected communities. “But if you ask around the drugstores in the areas, the ‘bestsellers’ are [medicines] for respiratory problems. We noticed that started when the plants started to operate, and now it’s been getting worse. Where else would you attribute the diseases?” But SMC President Ramon Ang denied these reported illnesses have been caused by the SMC-affiliated plants. “I was there yesterday…there is no smoke, no pollution there. A lot of these things, like those pictures being shown of “galis” [scabies], are hearsay,” Ang said, when Lopez called him up and put him on speakerphone to answer the protesters’ issues on the spot. “I will not allow anybody to suffer. I toured media around the refinery area, [Barangay] Alangan and everywhere. There is no smoke, no dust…We’re committed to help the environment,” Ang said. “Please tell them not to jump to conclusions. If it’s scabies, don’t blame it on us. Nevertheless, I will pay for it, whether it’s scabies, whatever their illnesses are,” Ang said. Ang denied that the SMCCPC plants have been producing coal dust, noting that the first of four plants only started to run this year on a “commissioning” basis using diesel. “This is a new type of power plant that does not dump anything on the ground,” Ang said.

Meanwhile, Ang said the byproduct of the Petron plant was only lime powder. “The material is limestone. That is what’s being fed to the four units of Petron boilers.” As for the byproduct stockpile shared with Petron, “All these materials will also be used to mix cement,” Ang said. The only thing missing is a permit from the DENR to transport the materials out of Bataan and to the cement factories, a permit Lopez committed to issue as soon as she receives an application for the permit. “I want to remove the ash. It’s a mountain there and the fact is it may be this mountain that is causing all the health problems,” Lopez said. Lopez said the ash should always be transferred to an enclosed lot. The collection of the byproducts will also be done through suctioning. Lopez hopes to see a demonstration of the process before she issues a permit to transport the materials. Lopez also said the DENR would ask the Department of Health to validate the health complaints. “We follow scientific processes committed to integrity. We gave [the SMCCPC] a show-cause order [which they have] until Friday [to answer]. And on top of that, we will go to the [Department of Health], we will go [to Limay] and we will conduct a study. Give us one week. I have to follow due process but I want to tell you my heart is for you,” Lopez told the protesters. In an interview with the Philippine Daily Inquirer on Tuesday, Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) officer-in-charge assistant director Jacqueline Caancan said air quality “sampling” around the plants has started. Lopez has also threatened DENR officials in Central Luzon: “Any EMB official under my watch allowing suffering of the people, you’re out.” SFM/rga

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Ombudsman sacks 2 DAR execs over Malampaya scam By: Marc Jayson Cayabyab - Reporter / @MJcayabyabINQ / 02:15 PM January 12, 2017

Ombudsman, Quezon City INQUIRER PHOTO / NINO JESUS ORBETA The Office of the Ombudsman has dismissed from service two agrarian reform officials for their alleged involvement in the Malampaya fund scam. In a statement on Thursday, the anti-graft office said it found Director Teresita Panlilio and Ronald Venancio, both from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), guilty of grave misconduct. They were also perpetually disqualified from public office. In case of separation from the service, the penalty is convertible to a fine equivalent to respondents’ salaries for one year. ADVERTISEMENT

The two were among the 25 respondents in the plunder, malversation and graft charges ordered filed by the Ombudsman for the alleged P900-million Malampaya fund scam.

The Ombudsman earlier cleared former President Gloria Arroyo and her executive secretary Eduardo Ermita from the charges, but found probable cause to file plunder, graft and malversation charges against Arroyo’s budget secretary (now Camarines Sur congressman) Rolando Andaya Jr., former agrarian reform secretary (now mayor of Masiu, Lanao del Sur province) Nasser Pangandaman, and 23 others for the alleged scheme of diverting royalties from the Malampaya gas plant into ghost projects. READ: Malampaya mess: Arroyo cleared, 25 charged At least P900 million Malampaya royalties intended for victims of storms “Ondoy” and “Pepeng” in 2009 were allegedly coursed through DAR then diverted to alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles’ bogus foundations that implemented ghost projects. The Ombudsman also found that the respondents manufactured lists of farmerbeneficiaries and forged the signatures of the recipients. Ruby Tuason, the state witness in the Napoles pork barrel scam against former senators Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile, was also ordered charged for plunder over the Malampaya scam. She was accused of cooperating with Napoles to facilitate the Malampaya fund release through her brother Remy, a contact in Malacañang, and for allegedly receiving P242.775 million kickbacks at her house. Plunder is a non-bailable offense of accumulating at least P50 million in ill-gotten wealth. JE/rga

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San Miguel group earmarking P281B for expansion in next 3 years By: Doris Dumlao-Abadilla - Reporter / @philbizwatcher Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:24 AM January 13, 2017

Conglomerate San Miguel Corp. expects to spend some P281 billion to expand traditional and new businesses in the next two to three years, deepening its participation in the domestic economy. In an investor briefing for SMC’s bond offering of up to P20 billion, conglomerate chief finance officer Ferdinand Constantino said the capital outlays would be made from the fourth quarter of 2016 through 2018 to 2019 as the group expands both old and new businesses. This forms part of the group’s P543-billion expansion program set out two years ago, of which P262 billion had already been spent through end-September. ADVERTISEMENT

“We want to enhance established businesses and continue to grow beverage, food, even to a certain extent the packaging businesses,” Constantino said. At the same time, he said SMC wanted to diversify and invest in its new businesses like power and fuel and infrastructure businesses. For 2017 alone, spending this year will amount to P63 billion, Constantino said, the biggest bulk of which will be for the energy sector. The P281 billion capital outlay expected in the next two to three years will be spent mostly in the Philippines. It will include the building of a new brewery somewhere in Mindanao which will be San Miguel Brewery’s seventh in the country, he said.

Moving forward, the capital outlays will be for the completion of new infrastructure projects such as tollroads (Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway, Skyway Stage 3, Naia Expressway, South Luzon Expressway expansion), modernization of Boracay airport, Metro Railway Transit 7 and the Bulacan Bulk water supply project. The food business is also “exciting,� Constantino said, with close to P60 billion programmed to be spent in next few years.

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PH economy seen to ‘stand out’ in Asia By: Doris Dumlao-Abadilla - Reporter / @philbizwatcher Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:30 AM January 13, 2017

British banking giant HSBC sees the Philippines standing out as one of Asia’s top performers, with gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year seen to remain robust at 6.5 percent. Although slower than the nine-month average of 7 percent in 2016, HSBC’s growth forecast for the Philippines this year is higher than the market consensus of 6.3 percent and also better than the forecasts for other markets in the region. The average GDP growth for Asia, excluding Japan, was projected at 5.8 percent for 2017. The forecast growth for the Philippines is the same as HSBC’s growth projection for China. Also, HSBC expects the inflation rate in the Philippines to rise to an average of 3.6 percent this year from 1.8 percent last year. This is still within the inflation-targeting central bank’s goal of 2-4 percent. “The economic outlook for the Philippines is robust, underpinned by resilient domestic demand. A number of reforms, including the tax reforms and other constitutional reforms, will likely be undertaken in 2017,” said the HSBC research note by economist Joseph Incalcaterra. HSBC said investment growth would likely remain robust as the government was targeting a 3-percent deficit in the 2017 budget, with infrastructure investment upwards of 5 percent of GDP, eventually reaching 7 percent by the end of the Duterte administration. The economist said this would significantly boost the contribution of investment to the economy’s growth. “Fortunately, fiscal consolidation in recent years allowed the government to pursue fiscal expansion, and low debt levels suggest it is sustainable for now. Moreover, the

government is hoping to accelerate PPP (public-private partnership) projects to co-opt more financing from the private sector,” the economist said. “There are various headwinds on the horizon for the regional economy next year and, while the Philippines is not completely spared, the economy remains relatively insulated,” Incalcaterra said. For instance, the economist cited fears that investment from the United States—the largest contributor of foreign direct investment (FDI) in the Philippines—might fall under new US economic policies. However, he noted that China’s investment commitments of $24 billion recently could partly offset the potential decline in FDI from the United States. “In any case, the Philippines will continue to see significant changes in the balance of payments dynamics. We forecast the current account continuing to moderate through 2018, but a pick-up in capital inflows following potential FDI reform could partly offset the weaker current account,” he said. HSBC expects Philippine GDP growth in the first quarter at 5.9 percent, rising to 6 percent in the second quarter and 7.3 percent in the third quarter. It is, however, seen to ease to 6.8 percent in the fourth quarter. On the tax and constitutional reforms espoused by President Duterte, although he remains popular among the people with 80-85 percent rating approval, the economist said this might depend on how the reforms would be implemented. “On the other hand, the outlook for manufacturing exports does not look too bright outside electronics, which might lead to a continuation of trade deficits in the Philippines. Elsewhere, the Philippines remains highly vulnerable to weather trends. Fortunately, risks stemming from the onset of La Niña after El Niño are relatively contained, thanks to government efforts which are likely to ramp up rice imports in 2017,” he said. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

6 more foreign banks keen on PH By: Ben O. de Vera - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:34 AM January 13, 2017

The number of foreign banks with full operations in the country may reach at least 15 this year amid rising interest in the growing domestic market, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said. “We are happy to report that nine [foreign] banks have entered the Philippine banking industry thus far, with six more banks expressing interest,” Tetangco said in a speech during the annual reception for the banking community Tuesday night, as he noted Congress’ support for the eventual passage into law of Republic Act (RA) No. 10641. Signed in 2014 by former President Aquino, RA 10641 allowed the full entry of foreign banks. ADVERTISEMENT

So far, the BSP allowed the following Asian banks to fully operate in the country: Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corp.; Singapore’s United Overseas Bank Ltd.; South Korea’s Shinhan Bank, Industrial Bank of Korea, and Woori Bank; as well as Taiwan’s Cathay United Bank, First Commercial Bank, Hua Nan Bank and Yuanta Commercial Bank Co. Ltd. BSP Deputy Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. later told reporters that while the six foreign banks mentioned by Tetangco had yet to formally file their respective applications, they were deemed serious in considering establishing operations in the country. Espenilla said all six banks could apply for entry this year.

The six lenders were from countries in regions near the Philippines, although one bank came from a region outside the East and Southeast Asian regions that were home to the nine initial entrants, Espenilla said. Tetangco said RA 10641 and RA 10574, which allowed the infusion of foreign equity in the capital of rural banks, helped the country “reposition to better manage crossborder commerce” after it achieved investment grade credit ratings.

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Legislator: Duterte order to dismantle fishpens on Laguna de Bay ignored By Jovee Marie de la Cruz January 12, 2017

HOUSE of Representatives Deputy Minority Leader Lito L. Atienza on Thursday called the attention of President Duterte on the nonimplementation of his order to immediately dismantle all fishpens from the Laguna de Bay by the second week of December last year. “It’s been almost a month since the President gave the order for the immediate dismantling and clearing of all fishpens and illegal structures from Laguna de Bay. All we are hearing from the Laguna Lake Development Authority right now are alibis for [its] failure. If the LLDA is the President’s only source of information, his directive will go nowhere, because the LLDA is the main culprit. Nothing was done for the past years under the watch of General Manager Neric Acosta,” Atienza said. Atienza pointed out that the LLDA is the main reason the Laguna de Bay has been overrun by fishpens and illegal structures, leading to its steady degradation. “The LLDA has allowed the proliferation of these fishpens. These fishpens and the waterlilies clog the Laguna de Bay, and prevent it from serving as a catch basin for the free flow of rainwater. This causes massive flooding in Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog. Moreover, they deprive the small fisherfolk of their livelihood, leaving our fisherfolk the poorest sector of society,” Atienza added.

Atienza, a former three-term Manila mayor and environment secretary, earlier welcomed and expressed full support for Duterte’s directive to dismantle fishpens and illegal structures in the Laguna de Bay. Since he was Manila mayor and until now as a representative, representing the Buhay party-list group, he has consistently advocated the cleaning and clearing not only of Laguna de Bay, but all other bodies of water, such as the Manila Bay, Taal Lake, Lake Buhi, Lake Sebu and the Lake Lanao, among others. At the same time, Atienza pointed out that, clearly, the LLDA is not giving an accurate picture of the problem. According to the agency’s records, only 13,000 hectares of the Laguna de Bay are occupied by fishpens, or about 12 percent of the lake’s total area of 99,000 hectares. “The truth is, one quick pass over the lake will give a clear picture—over 60 percent is occupied by fishpens, leaving only a fraction of open water for thousands of fishermen,” Atienza added. Image Credits: Nonie Reyes‐duterte‐order‐to‐dismantle‐fishpens‐on‐laguna‐de‐bay‐ ignored/                            

Coco-levy fund release possible in Q1–PCA By Jasper Y. Arcalas January 12, 2017

The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) on Thursday said it is confident that the P75-billion coconut-levy fund would be released within the first quarter of the year. In a news briefing, PCA administrator Avelino Andal said the Confederation of Coconut Farmers’ Organization of the Philippines (Confed) decision to withdraw its petition before the Supreme Court (SC) to halt the fund’s release would fast-track its distribution to farmers. “I have already sent my message to the President, through the Cabinet secretary, the intention of the Confed to withdraw their petition,” Andal said. The PCA chief said the Confed has already started the process of withdrawing their petition before the SC. Confed filed a petition before the High Court in May 2015 seeking the nullification of Executive Orders (EO) 179 and 180 that dwell on the inventory and privatization, as well as the reconveyance and utilization, of coco-levy assets, respectively. The SC ruled in favor of Confed, issuing a temporary restraining order (TRO) in the use, control and release of the P75-billion coco-levy fund. The TRO in favor of Confed orders the halting of EO 179 (Providing the Administrative Guidelines for the Inventory and Privatization of Coco Levy Assets) and EO 180 (Providing the

Administrative Guidelines for the Reconveyance and Utilization of Coco Levy Assets for the Benefit of the Coconut Farmers and the Development of the Coconut Industry) both issued on March 18, 2015. Andal said it was the confidence in both his and President Duterte’s policies and vision for the coconut industry that convinced the Confed to withdraw their petition. “Based on my understanding, it is automatic that when the TRO is lifted the EOs will take effect because the TRO is based on their petition,” Andal said. “With the lifting of the TRO, the door is now open for the President to access the funds,” he added. Duterte had promised to dispose the entire coco-levy fund within the first 100 days of his administration. The coco-levy fund was collected from small-scale coconut farmers from 1973 to 1982. Andal said beneficiaries who still have their original proof of receipt will get cash directly from the government. Those who cannot produce a receipt will benefit from the fund via the allocation to their respective farmers’ association. Coconut farmers that have registered with the PCA have reached 1.5 million, according to Andal. The PCA said this figure could go up to as high as 1.9 million once it concludes the national registration of coconut farmers and farm workers by the end of February.‐levy‐fund‐release‐possible‐in‐q1‐pca/                

VCAs to boost competitiveness of farm products By Noel T. Provido January 12, 2017 The Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) has identified strategic interventions for six priority commodities through its value chain analyses (VCA) report. PRDP is a special project under the Department of Agriculture (DA), with funding assistance from the World Bank, national and local government. The project adopts the VCA approach as to guide local government units and other key stakeholders in crafting investment plans for identified priority commodities. VCA is the whole sequence of activities required from production to marketing to produce a product or to provide a service. The DA in Region 11 is conducting rounds this week in various provinces and key cities in the region to present the VCA report on six commodities: coconut (fiber and peat); green coffee beans, fresh mango, processed bangus, swine and chevon. Speaking in the VCA presentation in Davao del Sur, DA OIC-Regional Director Ricardo Oñate Jr. said these VCAs identify leverage points and key strategies to improve competitiveness of these commodities with regional and national importance. Oñate, who is also the concurrent PRDP project director for Mindanao, said VCAs will serve as valuable reference for the local government units (LGUs) and proponent group in crafting their respective commodity investment plans. The competitiveness directions identified by the VCAs include organized farm clusters, diversified farming, improved farm-to-market links and standards, improved infrastructure, postharvest facilities, and review existing policies and regulations. “PRDP will only fund project proposals through the LGU’s provincial or city investment plan based on the results of the VCA. In this way, needed infrastructure, equipment, or enterprises are identified through science-based data,” he said.‐to‐boost‐competitiveness‐of‐farm‐products/

British agency taps IRRI to develop rice seeds By Jasper Y. Arcalas January 12, 2017 The United Kingdom-based Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council (BBSRC) has tapped the expertise of Philippine-based International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) for six projects aiming to develop rice seeds, including the country’s indigenous heirloom rice. “Several research projects that ensure the long-term sustainable production of rice, one of the world’s most important food crops, received financial support from the Biotechnology and Biological Sciences Research Council [BBSRC],” the Irri said in a statement. “The projects cover a wide range of important issues, including rice quality; resource use and photosynthetic efficiency; resilience to pests, diseases and environmental stresses; and novel research tool and technology development,” it added added. The Newton Fund’s Sustainable Rice Programme will fund the 13 identified projects by the BBSRC, in collaboration with research teams in China, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam, according to the Irri. Six of 13 identified projects will be undertaken in collaboration with the Irri. The total funding for the six rice-focused researches is £3.417 million, or around P179.193 million, according to BBSRC. The amount will fund these projects: • • • • •

Molecular characterization and genetic analysis of nutritional components of Philippine indigenous pigmented rice germplasm (£644,834); Real-time deployment of pathogen resistance genes in rice (£479,403); Enhanced Rice quality for Health (EnRicH) (£493,525); Rhizo-Rice: a novel ideotype for deeper roots and improved drought tolerance (£325,299); Developing rice with increased resistance to salinity and drought (£684,773) and climateready rice; and Optimizing transpiration to protect rice yields under abiotic stresses (£789,275).

“In the context of meeting the global sustainable development goals, it is crucial to accelerate science and explore possible innovations from sharing of resources, data and information,” said Achim Dobermann, Rothamsted Research director and former deputy director general for research at IRRI.

BBSRC is one of seven research councils that work together as Research Councils UK and provides a range of funding opportunities to enable individuals and groups to pursue world-class bioscience research, according to the IRRI. In 2015 and 2016, it invested £473 million in bioscience, people and research infrastructure.‐agency‐taps‐irri‐to‐develop‐rice‐seeds/                                      

DENR firm on stand against Coral World Palawan resort project 6 SHARES Share it! Published January 12, 2017, 10:00 PM by Madelaine B. Miraflor The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) stood by its position that local and foreign tourists will still flock around Coron, Palawan, one of the most beautiful islands in the Philippines, sans the presence of American children’s television network Nickelodeon in the province. This, after Coral World Park Undersea Resorts, Inc. confirmed on Thursday that it will indeed develop resort in the area, while denying that it will be an underwater development. To build the resort, Coral World will partner with Viacom International Media Networks (VIMN), a unit of Nasdaq-listed media company Viacom, Inc., the company behind multimedia entertainment brands such as MTV, Nickelodeon, Comedy Central and Paramount Channel. DENR Undersecretary for Legal Affairs Maria Paz Luna said in a text message that the agency is yet to receive any application from the joint venture. “We can’t pre-empt a decision on this until we see what they are proposing. But suffice it to say that generally for now, our natural wonders are already there to see. The secretary is inclined to have the people onsite benefit from any interventions but ruining natural environments to highlight nature will not work,” Paz told Business Bulletin. “No application here yet so I cannot speculate, hence, general principles is all I can share with you. Proponents cannot ruin natural environments to highlight nature. Ecosystem disruptions to teach ecosystems will be denied,” she added. In a statement, Coral World Park Marketing & Communications Director Susan Lee said “there will be no theme park development in Palawan” only a “resort and attraction of which we are designing as an undersea attraction with an ocean conservation focus.” Palawan is now home to two UNESCO World Heritage-listed sites, a subterranean river and the Tubbataha coral reefs. “I will never allow our biodiversity to be killed for money that some people want to make,” Environment Secretary Gina Lopez said on Thursday.‐firm‐on‐stand‐against‐coral‐world‐palawan‐resort‐ project/

Only 175,000 farmers will receive direct cash from coco levy fund 19 SHARES Share it! Published January 12, 2017, 10:00 PM By Madelaine B. Miraflor Out of the 3.5 million coconut farmers that were wrongly taxed during Marcos dictatorship, only 5 percent or 175,000 of them may receive direct cash from the controversial P75-billion coconut levy fund. Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) Administrator Billy Andal said yesterday that bulk of the coco levy fund will be distributed as bundled fund for several coconut farmers associations and processors, while only a few farmers will receive cash from it. The Coco Levy Fund Scam was a controversy from 1973 to 1982 involving the former President Ferdinand Marcos and his cronies. During the Marcos dictatorship, the government taxed coconut farmers, promising them the development of the coconut industry and a share of the investments to be made using the funds. Over a nine-year period, the coco levy fund was collected by PCA from millions of coconut farmers through various Presidential Decrees. A levy of P20 to P76 was automatically deducted from the farmer for every 100 kilogram of copra of the first sale. Later on, funds earned from this scheme were used for Marcos and his cronies’ personal profit particularly in the purchase of United Coconut Planters Bank (UCPB) and majority stake in San Miguel Corporation (SMC), to name a few. As of now, the present administration is doing all the “legal works” to fast-track the release of the controversial coco levy fund so that it could be finally distributed back to the farmers. However, Andal said that only less than five percent of all the farmers that were actually taxed during the dictatorship may directly get something out of the disputed funds. This, as most of them already lost the proof of payment (or receipt) that they indeed paid excessive taxes that time. “According to PSA (Philippine Statistics Authority), there are 3.5 million farmers. But we are reaching the end of the registry period (set by the government for coconut farmers) and we are

estimating only 1.9 million registered farmers by February,” Andal said in an interview on Thursday. “And of this 1.9 million, maybe only or less than five percent has a receipt or any proof (that they contributed to the fund),” he added. Andal also said the release of the coconut levy fund may finally happen within the first six months of this year as Confederation of Coconut farmer’s Organizations of the Philippines (CONFED) decided to withdraw its petition against the utilization of the controversial fund. Andal said that CONFED will withdraw its petition before the Supreme Court (SC) — which had resulted to the imposition of Temporary Restraining Order (TRO) on the distribution of highly disputed funds — next week. To recall, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the TRO is the only legal bottleneck preventing the administration to distribute the coco levy funds. The CONFED is the unified group of coconut farmer’s organizations nationwide that includes the Philippine Association (formerly National Federation) of Small Coconut Farmer’s Organizations (PASCFO), the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Samahang Magsasaka at Manggagawa sa Niyugan (PKSMMN), the Coconut Producer’s Federation (COCOFED) and their many allied farmers’ organizations representing all together more than ninety-five percent of the organized coconut farmers sector in our country.‐175000‐farmers‐will‐receive‐direct‐cash‐from‐coco‐levy‐ fund/                  

DA willing to export poultry products to bird flu-hit South Korea 27 SHARES Share it! Published January 12, 2017, 6:05 PM By MB Online The Department of Agriculture offers to export eggs, ducks and other poultry products to South Korea in a bid to assist the East Asian country following the recent bird flu outbreak.

EGG FARM – Veterinarian Andrew Sacramento who supervises the Etan’s Poultry Farm in San Isidro, Isabela takes a look at freshly laid eggs in one of the barns in town. The farm practices organic farming. (Ceasar M. Perante) Manila Bulletin “On January 16, a team from the Bureau of Animal Industry led by Asst. Sec. Enrico Garzon will leave for South Korea to formally ask the South Korean government to give the Philippines market access for hatching and table eggs for both chicken and ducks,” agriculture secretary Manny Piñol wrote on a Facebook post. Piñol said the department’s South Korea-based agriculture analyst Maria Alilia Maghirang notified him of the immediate requirements to export chicken and duck eggs. Maghirang, in her report, said the South Korean government “recently announced the lifting of tariffs on eggs and egg products temporarily starting January 3, 2017 due to the supply shortage of eggs and skyrocketing prices of eggs brought about by the mass culling of about 30 million chicken due to the spread of the H5N6 and H5N8 strains of the avian influenza virus in the country.”

She also quoted a newspaper report saying the South Korean government decided to facilitate the import process for eggs and egg products and will also subsidize the freight cost from overseas. For Piñol, this opportunity to help the Asian neighbor will also help boost the Philippines’ poultry industry abroad. “I intend to conduct further negotiations with the Ministry of Agriculture of South Korea and convince its officials to look at the Philippines as a steady and reliable partner which could supply their country with eggs, chicken and ducks in view of the recurrent outbreak of Bird Flu,” Piñol wrote. Tags: bird flu, chicken, DA willing to export poultry products to bird flu-hit South Korea, Department of Agriculture, egg, Manila Bulletin, Manny Piñol, poultry products‐willing‐to‐export‐poultry‐products‐to‐bird‐flu‐hit‐south‐ korea/                            

Bird flu-plagued South Korea agrees to buy US eggs 7 SHARES Share it! Published January 12, 2017, 1:21 PM By Associated Press South Korea is in the throes of a bird flu outbreak has asked the United States to ship it shell eggs, marking the first time the Asian country has sought to buy large quantities of fresh U.S. eggs.

FILE – In this Dec. 26, 2016, file photo, health officials wearing protective suits carry a sack containing killed chickens after they were slaughtered at a chicken farm where a suspected case of bird flu was reported in Incheon, South Korea. (Yun Tae-hyun/Yonhap via AP, File) | Manila Bulletin The demand is good for a U.S. egg industry that’s awash in the product, having replenished its flocks after the 2015 bird flu outbreak and ending up with an oversupply that sent domestic prices to industry lows — about 79 cents a dozen earlier this month. South Korea had been one of a few nations that issued a blanket ban on egg and poultry imports during the U.S.’ 2015 outbreak that resulted in the deaths of 49 million turkeys and chickens. But it seeks help now that it has lost about 26 million chickens — and a third of its egg-laying hens

— to the H5N6 strain since November. It’s South Korea’s worst bird flu outbreak surpassing the 14 million birds killed in 2014. The agreement to export shell eggs was announced Friday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which kept prices from sliding further, according to Urner Berry protein market analyst Brian Moscoguiri. Although deals are still being signed, Moscoguiri said he is aware of contracts for three or four airline flights of eggs — equivalent to as many as three or four million eggs. “We had never shipped shell eggs there before so we did not have a formal protocol between our two governments,” said Jim Sumner, president of the U.S. Poultry and Egg Export Council, an industry trade group which promotes the global export of U.S. poultry and eggs. Some of the eggs are coming out of Iowa, which is the nation’s leading egg producer. Marcus Rust, the CEO of Rose Acre Farms, which supplies the second-most eggs in the U.S., says that the demand comes at a good time for producers, who usually see a lull in the first few months of a new year. The U.S. has been called upon to help because it remains free of the bird flu in commercial poultry production. But the disease is a problem in Asia, Europe and other locations. Birds have died in Bulgaria, China, Iran, Japan, Nigeria and Taiwan, and at least three people have died and 19 people are sick in China from infections of H7N9 strain. The bird flu is still a threat in the United States, however, with the USDA saying this week that a wild mallard duck in Montana tested positive for the H5N2 virus. “This finding serves as a powerful reminder that there is still avian influenza circulating in wild birds, and producers and industry need to continue to be vigilant about biosecurity to protect domestic poultry,” said Dr. Jack Shere, USDA Chief Veterinarian, in a statement. Tags: Asia, bird flu, chicken, egg, export, H5N6, Manila Bulletin, outbreak, shell eggs, South Korea, US Department of Agriculture‐flu‐plagued‐south‐korea‐agrees‐to‐buy‐us‐eggs/            

9 NCMF, DAR officials sacked posted January 12, 2017 at 10:01 pm by Rio N. Araja The Office of the Ombudsman on Thursday ordered the dismissal of nine executives from the National Council for Muslim Filipinos, Department of Agrarian Reform and the chief for political affairs of former senator Gregorio Honasan for their involvement in the Priority Development Assistance Fund and Malampaya fund scams. The anti-graft court convicted NCMF Secretary Mehol Sadain, acting chief accountant Fedelina Aldanese, Director III Galay Makalinggan, Sania Busran, Aurora Aragon-Mabang, and Olga Galido; as well as Michael Benjamin, Honasan’s political affairs chief. Sadain, a former commissioner in the Commission on Elections, was appointed NCMF secretary in 2012 by former President Benigno Aquino III. Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales also ordered their perpetual disqualification from holding public office. Sadain and company “participated in the preparation, processing and approval of the memorandum of agreement and the PDAF documents governing the project implementation and fund releases to Focus Development Goals Foundation, as non-government organizationpartner,” the Ombudsman resolution read. The Ombudsman found that in April 2012, the Department of Budget and Management released P30 million as part of Honasan’s pork barrel funds to the NCMF as implementing agency. The fund was intended to finance small and medium-scale enterprises or livelihood projects for the benefit of Muslim Filipinos in communities in Metro Manila and Zambales. In June 2012, Honasan endorsed Focus Development as the NGO-partner even if it did not comply with procurement regulations. The Ombudsman said a check dated May 30, 2012 and a disbursement voucher approving the payment “were prepared by public respondents in favor of Focus Development even before the NGO was informed that it was found qualified to undertake the project on 04 June 2012; before a memorandum of agreement was signed by the Office of Senator Honasan, NCMF and Focus; and before Honasan authorized the release of funds to Focus.” The Ombudsman said Honasan and the rest of the accused facilitated and approved the payment in favor of Focus via two tranches totaling P29.1 million. In a separate decision, the Ombudsman also ordered the dismissal from the service of DAR officials Teresita Panlilio and Ronald Venancio.

The two were among the 25 respondents facing two counts of plunder and multiple graft and malversation charges after the Ombudsman established their indispensable acts of participation in the illegal diversion of P900 million from the Malampaya funds. The P900 million was downloaded to DAR and distributed to 12 NGOs of pork barrel scam queen Janet Lim Napoles. Ombudsman investigators found that the fund was used to implement ghost projects as the documents were all fictitious and there were no deliveries of agricultural kits or packages.‐main‐stories/top‐stories/226587/9‐ncmf‐dar‐officials‐ sacked.html                                  

PCA: Release coco levy funds in next 6 months posted January 12, 2017 at 10:01 pm by Anna Leah E. Gonzales Philippine Coconut Authority administrator Billy Andal said they are hoping for the release of the coco levy funds within the first half of the year. “It could be in the first half. We already sent a message to the President through the Cabinet Secretary that the Confederation of Coconut Farmer’s Organizations of the Philippines will withdraw their petition with the Supreme Court,” Andal said. Confed is the unified group of coconut farmer’s organizations nationwide that includes the Philippine Association (formerly National Federation) of Small Coconut Farmer’s Organizations, the Pambansang Koalisyon ng mga Samahang Magsasaka at Manggagawa sa Niyugan, the Coconut Producer’s Federation and their many allied farmers’ organizations representing all together more than 95 percent of the organized coconut famers sector in our country. The P75-billion coco levy funds were supposed to be for the construction of projects for coconut farmers but were used instead to purchase the United Coconut Planters Bank and majority stake in San Miguel Corp. Former President Benigno Aquino III earlier issued two executive orders that will pave the way for the immediate transfer of the coconut levy assets to the government so these could be used to support the local coconut industry. The Supreme Court, however, issued a temporary restraining order against the two EOs due to a petition filed by Confed. “The withdrawal of the petition is on Confed and they will start the process already. I don’t know how long this will take for the Supreme Court to stop the TRO or withdraw the TRO,” Andal said. “The President is focused on the issue of the coco levy because he is concerned on our coconut farmers. Also, he considers coconut exports as the number one agricultural export in the country,” Andal said.‐main‐stories/top‐stories/226589/pca‐release‐coco‐levy‐ funds‐in‐next‐6‐months.html    

Abe vows $ 40-million worth of aid for PH within the next 5 years posted January 12, 2017 at 05:34 pm by Arlene Lim Visiting Prime Minister Shinzo Abe has promised to send to the Philippines assistance worth 1 trillion yen or equivalent to about 40-million US dollars within the next 5 years. This is through Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) program. Abe and President Rodrigo Duterte have just delivered their joint statements in Malacañang late Thursday afternoon.In his speech, Abe vowed to support the Duterte administration’s campaign against illegal drugs. The Japanese leader has also made a commitment to help in the Philippine government’s fight against terrorism. He noted that Japan will provide to the Philippines high-speed boats for use in counter-terrorism operations.Abe hailed Duterte’s position to seek a peaceful resolution to the South China Sea dispute with China. Both heads of state also expressed opposition to North Korea’s missile program. Abe also said, he backs the peace process in Mindanao. He also plans to send aid for the flood control project in Davao City. During his speech, Abe gave special emphasis to his high regard for Duterte. Tonight, he is going to Duterte’s hometown. He took pride in this trip to Duterte’s home, saying, “I am the first head of state to do so.” Abe also said, he sees the Philippines as a very important ally and this is why he made it the first country that he is visiting this year.After the joint statement in front of the media, Abe and Duterte headed to a meeting between Filipino and Japanese businessmen in the Palace. A state dinner will be held for the Japanese Prime Minister, before he flies to Davao City a few hours from now.‐main‐stories/226539/abe‐vows‐p‐40‐million‐worth‐of‐aid‐ for‐ph‐within‐the‐next‐5‐years.html  

Meralco cuts January electric bills posted January 12, 2017 at 12:07 pm by Arlene Lim Power Distributor Meralco announces a reduction on its customers’ electricity bills this month. The cost of power will go down 27 centavos per kilowatt hour (kWh). For households consuming 200 kWh each month, this will translate to a decrease of P 54 in their bills. For those who are consuming over 300 kWh, the cut is about P 81. For those who are using over 400 kWh per month, their bills will be P 108 less than the regular amount. Meralco cites a decrease in the generation charge as among the reasons for the price movement. Due dates will also be reset for January bills.‐main‐stories/226525/meralco‐cuts‐january‐electric‐bills‐ .html                        

Palace denies pressure to pass death measure By CATHERINE S. VALENTE, TMT on January 13, 2017 Top Stories   Tweet   Malacañang on Thursday denied reports that President Rodrigo Duterte has been pressuring Congress to pass a bill seeking to restore the death penalty. Presidential Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said Duterte is keeping his hands off deliberations on death penalty, noting that Congress is a co-equal branch of government. “The revival of death penalty is a campaign promise of President Duterte and part of the priority legislative measure of his administration. The President respects the independence of Congress as a separate co-equal branch of government,” Andanar told reporters. “He trusts the wisdom of our lawmakers to see that the enactment of such law would benefit the nation not only by instilling respect for the law among our people but also by ending impunity and ensuring that those who commit heinous crimes are prosecuted to the full extent of the law,” he added. Andanar issued the statement following Buhay Party List Rep. Lito Atienza’s claims that Duterte has pressued lawmakers to approve the proposal to revive death penalty. “Ito ay initiative ng administrasyon, hindi naman ng Kongreso. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. Kaya kaming mga congressmen, sad to say, ay under pressure. Lahat ‘yung sumasasama sa kanilang mayorya at ito ay halo halo ng mga pulitikong sumasama sa mayorya ay susumunod lang sa utos ng nakakataas [This is an initiative of the administration and not of the Congress. The death penalty is an imposition of the leadership of this administration. We, congressmen, sad to say, are under pressure. Those who joined the majority were obliged to follow orders],” Atienza said. Duterte last month said that five to six people will die every day once Congress approves the revival of death penalty. The death penalty in the country was abolished under the 1987 Constitution but was reinstated under President Fidel V. Ramos in 1993. It was again abolished under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo in 2006. Even before being elected in the 2016 polls, Duterte has been pushing for the revival of the capital punishment, saying it would serve as retribution for those who committed heinous crimes.

A bill seeking to reinstate the death penalty has recently been approved at the sub-committee level in the House of Representatives. Sen. Manny Pacquiao filed Senate Bill 185 proposing that death penalty be reimposed and the penalties be increased for heinous crimes involving dangerous drugs in October. The bill has been opposed by the Catholic Church, human rights groups, and some lawmakers who asserted that death penalty does not deter crime.‐denies‐pressure‐pass‐death‐measure/306688/                                    

Atienza slams LLDA inaction over fishpens on January 12, 2017 Regions   Tweet   Buhay party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, also senior deputy minority leader, called the attention of President Rodrigo Duterte on the non-implementation of his order to dismantle all fishpens on Laguna de Bay in December last year. “It’s been almost a month since the President gave the order for the immediate dismantling and clearing of all fishpens and illegal structures from Laguna de Bay. All we are hearing from the Laguna Lake Development Authority (LLD) right now are alibis for failure. If the LLDA is the President’s only source of information, his directive will go nowhere because the LLDA is the main culprit. Nothing was done for the past years under the watch of General Manager Neric Acosta,” Atienza said on Thursday. He pointed out that the LLDA is the main reason why Laguna de Bay has been overrun by fishpens and illegal structures, leading to its steady degradation. “The LLDA has allowed the proliferation of these fishpens. These fishpens and the waterlilies clog Laguna de Bay and prevent it from serving as a catch basin for the free flow of rain water. This causes massive flooding in Metro Manila and Southern Tagalog. Moreover, they deprive the small fisherfolk of their livelihood, leaving our fisherfolk the poorest sector of society,” Atienza said. The lawmaker, a former three-term Manila mayor and Environment secretary, earlier welcomed and expressed full support to Duterte’s directive to clear all illegal structures on Laguna de Bay. He said the LLDA is not giving an accurate picture of the problem. Based on the agency’s records only 13,000 hectares of Laguna de Bay are occupied by fishpens – or about 12 percent of the lake’s total area of 99,000 hectares. “The truth is, one quick pass over the Llke will give a clear picture – over 60 percent is occupied by fishpens, leaving only a fraction of open water for thousands of fisherfolk,” Atienza said.‐slams‐llda‐inaction‐fishpens/306572/     

Transport groups warn of steep fare hike By The Manila Times on January 12, 2017 The Latest News, Today's Breaking News   TRANSPORT groups on Thursday warned that the minimum jeepney fare of P7 would go up to P12 if the plan to slap excise tax on fuel products pushes through. The Pinagkaisang Samahan ng Tsuper at Operator Nationwide, Unified Organization of Drivers and Transport Operators Nationwide, Kilusan sa Pagbabago sa Industriya ng Transportasyon, Federation of Jeepneys Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines and Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations said imposing an additional excise tax on fuel products will trigger fare because the price of diesel and gasoline will go up by P6.75 per liter and P5.65 per liter, respectively. With such a huge price spike, they said the fare for jeepneys may go up to as much as P12 for the first four kilometers. “With the increase in transport cost, labor organizations will ask for wage increases which will in turn result in an increase in prices of basic goods and services,” a manifesto prepared by the groups said.They urged President Rodrigo Duterte and the Department of Finance to scrap the plan to collect additional excise tax, saying there are more efficient ways of raising revenues without compromising the welfare of the transportation sector. The groups also sought the ouster of Land Transportation and Franchising Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chief Martin Delgra whom they accused of inaction on their concerns. The groups complained that the LTFRB is too slow in processing applications to replace old jeeps, taxis, and bus units. “Such inaction and delay is also true in cases of petitions for extension of validity of franchise, fare adjustment hearings, response to simple letters and other processes of the LTFRB with no explanation whatsoever as to the cause of delay,” they said. “LTFRB officials seem to have forgotten that “a public office is a public trust and public officers must as all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, and efficiency,” they added. The FEJODAP threatened to hold a massive strike nationwide if the LTFRB will continue with its inaction on their concerns.The Manila Times tried to get Delgra’s reaction but he could not be reached. Jing Villamente‐groups‐warn‐steep‐fare‐hike/306586/ 

Study shows the way stress may harm your heart By The Manila Times on January 12, 2017 The Latest News, Today's Breaking News   PARIS: Scientists said Thursday they may have uncovered a biological explanation for the long suspected link between stress and heart disease. People with a highly active amygdala—a region of the brain involved in stress processing—also have a higher risk of heart disease and stroke, the researchers revealed. A hard-working amygdala was also linked to increased bone marrow activity and inflammation of the arteries, which may explain the higher heart disease and stroke risk, the team said. The data suggested that stressed amygdala may send signals to the bone marrow to produce extra white blood cells, which may in turn cause arteries to narrow and become inflamed, causing cardiovascular problems. The potential link “raises the possibility that reducing stress could produce benefits that extend beyond an improved sense of psychological well-being,” said lead author Ahmed Tawakol of the Massachusetts General Hospital. Published in The Lancet medical journal, the study entailed PET and CT scans of the brain, bone marrow and spleen activity, as well as artery inflammation, of 293 patients. The group was surveyed for 3.7 years on average, during which time 22 suffered “cardiovascular events”—including heart attack, heart failure, stroke and narrowing of arteries, said the study. “Those with higher amygdala activity had a greater risk of subsequent cardiovascular disease and developed problems sooner than those with lower activity,” said the researchers. In a sub-study, 13 patients with a history of post-traumatic stress disorder were tested separately. “Those who reported the highest levels of stress had the highest levels of amygdala activity along with more signs of inflammation in their blood and the walls of their arteries,” the team found. The amygdala are almond-shaped neuron clusters deep in the brain thought to regulate emotion, fear, anxiety, pleasure and stress. Commenting on the study, Ilze Bot of Leiden University in the Netherlands said the data identified chronic stress “as a true risk factor” for cardiovascular diseases.

Given the increasing number of people suffering from job or social stress, doctors may have to include it when they assess an individual’s risk for cardiovascular disease, she said. A 2014 study said chronic stress may trigger an overproduction of white blood cells which clump together on artery walls, restricting blood flow and encouraging clot-formation, to raise heart attack and stroke risk. AFP AFP/CC‐shows‐way‐stress‐may‐harm‐heart/306530/                                    

1-M hectare target for hybrid rice faces delay Posted on January 13, 2017  THE Department of Agriculture (DA) may delay its 2017 plan to cultivate hybrid rice on one  million hectares of farmland to next year amid lack of financial resources for the rice  program. 

The Department of Agriculture may delay its 2017 plan to cultivate hybrid rice on one million  hectares of farmland. The project is one of the main initiatives of the agency to attain rice self‐ sufficiency by 2019. ‐‐ AFP  Engineer Roy M. Abaya, Director at the DA’s Field Operations Service division, said that the  agency initially estimates the cost of Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol’s hybrid rice project at P15  billion, factoring in the average cost of hybrid rice seed at P5,000 per bag, which is sufficient to  plant one hectare.    The project is one of the main initiatives of the agency to attain rice self‐sufficiency, which  translates to 21.67 million metric tons (MT) in palay output by 2019.    Mr. Abaya said that the Operations division will propose that the implementation of the hybrid  project be moved to next year as it will cost more than the DA’s rice program budget of P9‐ billion fund.    If one million hectares is the directive, it will be difficult, Mr. Abaya said, “because the decision  is not just up to the secretary. There is also the GAA (General Appropriations Act). Congress has  already identified where funds may be used,” Mr. Abaya added.     If Mr. Piñol intends to push for the project to commence this year, the agency will have to 

justify its request for realignment of funds from one allotment class to another which requires  prior approval of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM).    “We will need to justify a fund realignment with DBM. So that will be a process,” Mr. Abaya  added.    For 2018, during which the rice output target is 20.34 million metric tons ‐‐ an 8.70% jump from  the 2017 target of 18.57 million MT, the government will need P21 billion.    “Again the issue is if we will be granted the funds. This is what the Secretary will fight for,” Mr.  Abaya said.    Mr. Piñol earlier pushed for a P71 billion budget for this year, an expansion of some P17 billion  from the 2016 budget. The request was not approved by President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s  economic managers. ‐‐ Janina C. Lim‐m‐hectare‐target‐for‐ hybrid‐rice‐faces‐delay&id=139070                         

Gov’t must clarify private sector’s role in universal health care -- study Posted on January 13, 2017  THE GOVERNMENT must have a comprehensive plan to accommodate private investment in  its bid to achieve universal health care coverage, according the Philippine Institute for  Development Studies (PIDS).  Public‐private investment partnerships (PPIP) will allow businesses to co‐finance, engineer and  operate public health‐care facilities.    “Through this partnership, it becomes possible for the government to deliver high‐quality and  affordable preventive and curative care at the same, minimal, or zero out‐of‐pocket (OOP)  expense to citizens who were availing of the service from previous poorly run public facilities,”  according to the PIDS policy note “PPP options for universal health coverage in the Philippines.”    Three approaches should be considered by the government for better health service  development and delivery. These are primary care, hospital‐based care and an integrated  health‐care system.    “A comprehensive health plan clarifies the role of PPPs in the health system and in attaining  UHC (universal health coverage). A long‐term plan will guide the government on what projects  they should be prioritizing and who they should be collaborating with,” read PIDS policy note.    Moreover, a legal framework is seen to protect both public and private sectors and to give  them accountability for contingencies in health programs as these guidelines will map out how  partnerships will operate as well as ensure that private investors will have sufficient incentive  to cooperate.    “Furthermore, both public and private sectors must share the risks and benefits and maintain  an open dialogue on the design, scope, and details of the partnership,” said the local think tank.    PIDS also suggested a regulatory framework to monitor projects, keep track of partners and  technical assistance for the partnership.    “An independent body is also needed for an unbiased and consistent monitoring and evaluation  of projects,” said PIDS. 

Both public and private sectors must be well‐equipped to enter into long‐term universal health  care investment partnerships, PIDS said.    “This means that the public sector should have the capacity to handle the technical  requirements of the project, including regulation and enforcement, while the private sector  should meet the quality standards so as to achieve better health outcomes,” said PIDS. ‐‐  Danica M. Uy‐must‐ clarify‐private‐sector&8217s‐role‐in‐universal‐health‐care‐‐‐‐study&id=139068                                 

National Greening Program created 3.3 million jobs in 6 years -- PIDS Posted on January 13, 2017  THE National Greening Program (NGP) generated about 3.3 million jobs in the first six years of  its implementation, but continued to miss its target survival rate for planted seedlings, the  Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said.  “As of Nov. 30, 2016, the program has generated approximately 3.3 million jobs and employed  462,066 persons in upland and rural communities,” PIDS said in a policy note.    In “Taking stock of the National Greening Program six years hence,” PIDS said employment  generated by the NGP increased from 2011‐2014, slowing down slightly in 2015 and stagnated  last year.    “The data revealed that the employment performance of the NGP may have significantly  decreased in 2016 relative to its performance in the past years,” said PIDS.    Meanwhile, the program continued to miss its target survival rates for seedlings planted in  2011‐2015.    According to the PIDS, the survival rate of seedlings was only 83% in 2011‐2014 and only 82% in  2015.    “While the program targets an annual survival rate of 85%, the actual figures have remained  below it. From 2011 to 2015, for instance, the annual survival rate nationally has been 83%  except in 2015 when the program registered a survival rate of 82%,” the think tank said.    However, according to PIDS, the NGP will result in “favorable and increasing output effects in  the economy” over the years.    Output is expected to increase 0.3% in 2020, 1% in 2030 and 2.5% in 2050 with forestry  expected to reach as high as 5.5% of the total NGP output in 2050.    NGP also has the potential to increase household income and decrease poverty.    “The income effects are progressive, with the lowest decile having real household income 

improvement of 1.4% in 2030 and 3.3% in 2050, while the highest decile having positive real  income effects of 1.2% in 2030 and 3.0% in 2050,” said PIDS, adding that poverty incidence will  decrease 2.7% in 2030 and 6.34% in 2050.    While PIDS observed positive effects of the NGP on the environment, the design and tree  species planted by the NGP are not always appropriate to the sites.    “These fast‐growing (soft‐wood) species may have been intended to help the people’s  organizations earn money in the shortest possible time and address their income and poverty  concerns. However, on the environmental side, these species may be of less help as they are  shallow rooted and vulnerable to landslides,” said PIDS.    PIDS therefore proposes that the national government review the design of the program in  terms of species planted, tree spacing and other technical matters.    The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) must also identify vulnerable  areas in its mapping and planning stage in order to match species with sites.    PIDS also recommends that the government revisit its computation of the survival rate and  other technical aspects in monitoring the program.    Additional incentives such as harvesting rights, livelihood support, long‐term financing and  correction of tenure issues must be provided to communities to sustain plantations in the long‐ term.    PIDS also suggests additional funds for organizational development and capacity building of the  people’s organizations as well as strengthen the DENR to effectively carry out reforestation and  rehabilitation.    “The national government should place the ultimate responsibility for all reforestation  initiatives on the FMB (Forest Management Bureau)... Alternatively, the creation of a new  agency tasked only with reforestation, possibly answering directly to the president, should be  considered,” said PIDS. ‐‐ Danica M. Uy‐greening‐ program‐created‐3.3‐million‐jobs‐in‐6‐years‐‐‐‐pids&id=139067 

Gov’t can implement RH law—SC Written by  Benjamin B. Pulta   Friday, 13 January 2017 00:00  

Malacañang may proceed with the implementation of provisions of the controversial Reproductive Health (RH) law since there is no restraining order blocking its way, the Supreme Court (SC) yesterday clarified. SC spokesman Theodore Te made the statement after President Rodrigo Duterte signed Executive Order 12 which enables government action in providing universal access to RH programs. The strengthening of the RH Lawimplementation is part of the Duterte administration’s 10-point socio-economic agenda to “enable poor couples to make informed choices on financial and family planning.” “I’ve already clarified many times that there is no TRO (temporary restraining order) against the RH law,” he stressed. According to Te, the August 24, 2016 decision of the High Court that sustained the TRO earlier issued on the acquisition by the Department of Health (DoH) and distribution of contraceptive products Implanon and Implanon NXT to the public did not refer to the RH law. He noted that the High Court gave a deadline for the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to comply with the ruling and suggested that RH advocates should instead follow up such compliance with the said agency. The SC has also ordered the DoH, for its part, to formulate rules for purchase and distribution of the said products and generate the complete list of government’s programs and services under the RH law for distribution to all health care service providers. Te stressed the DoH should also be asked about its compliance with such order. The ruling issued by the High Court’s second division rejected the bid of the Health department to proceed with the procurement and distribution of contraceptive implants. The SC also struck down the certifications and re-certifications issued by the FDA on 77 contraceptive drugs and devices — including Implanon and Implanon NXT – for violation of constitutional requirement of due process. Implanon and Implanon NXT are thin rods inserted under the skin, which release hormones that

prevent pregnancy for up to three years. The high tribunal has found that the agency certified and administered 77 contraceptive drugs and devices “without the observance of the basic tenets of due process, without notice and without public hearing, despite the constant opposition of petitioners.” “The court is of the view that the certifications and re-certifications and the distribution of the questioned contraceptive drugs should be struck down as violative of the constitutional right to due process,” read the ruling penned by Associate Justice Jose Mendoza. The Supreme Court issued the TRO on the distribution of the said drugs in June 2015 for an indefinite period following the petition of Alliance for the Family Foundation Philippines Inc., which claimed that such contraceptives have abortifacient character. The order covers “procuring, selling, distributing, dispensing or administering, advertising and promoting” the said products. The halt order also stopped the FDA from granting pending applications for contraceptives and other reproductive products. The SC issued the TRO a year after it upheld the legality of Republic Act 10354, or the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012. The DoH, through the Office of the Solicitor General, earlier sought the lifting of the TRO, arguing that it would result in the waste of the supply already purchased by the government and being kept in warehouses due to expiry date of the drugs. It also argued that the continued restraint would result in depleted supply of contraceptives in both public and commercial market. This, the DoH alleged, may increase induced abortion and maternal deaths in the country.‐t‐can‐implement‐rh‐law‐sc                      

BSP prefers fewer but stronger banks Written by  Ed Velasco   Friday, 13 January 2017 00:00   Incentives for banks to merge are meant to strengthen the country’s banking system, the regulator of banks and other cash-disbursing entities, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. It can be recalled that the BSP reinstated the list of incentives for banks that will merge to lead towards a leaner but stronger banking country similar to other countries. In other parts of the globe, 80 percent of assets of banking industry are captured by big but wide ranging players. “We are formally reinstating list of possible incentives available for bank mergers, consolidations and acquisitions,” the central bank’s deputy governor for supervision and examination sector Nestor Espenilla told the Daily Tribune. On top of this, the program that aims to save ailing rural banks, the strengthening program for rural banks plus (SPRB+), is also still active. The program aims to encourage mergers among RBs, the smallest bank in classification under the BSP. SPRB+ has been extended twice since it was first institutionalized in 2013 in an aim to widen its scope and let more RBs go under it. Those availing are subject to financial subsidy up to P50 million from the BSP and Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. Whatever the programs, Espenilla said, strengthening banks regardless of classification is the BSP’s main concern. “(This is) to send strong signal of BSP preference for market-based industry rationalization characterized by fewer but stronger banks with highly expanded networks,” he said. Meanwhile, the BSP is observing the forecast of a robust commercial banking this year, according to one investment banking affiliated with a top universal bank. According to First Metro Investments Corp., big lending operations will be profitable this year as most firms will require banks’ help in funding project expansions. Syndicated loans, the type of lending where many banks are involved, will be among the most preferred this year because of the big funding needed by most companies, especially those that have stake in hybrid Public-Private Partnership projects.‐prefers‐fewer‐but‐stronger‐banks           

Libreng kolehiyo, isasabatas By Boyet, Boyet Jadulco January 13, 2017  Kahit P8 bilyon na ang nakalaan para sa libreng tuition sa mga mag-aaral sa State Universities and Colleges (SUCs) ngayong taon, titiyakin naman ng Senado ang taunang budget nito sa pamamagitan ng pagsasabatas ng panukala hinggil dito. Sa isinagawang caucus ng mga senador nitong Miyerkules ng gabi upang desisyunan ang mga panukalang batas na mauuna sa pilahan sa pagbabalik ng sesyon ngayong Lunes, isa ang panukalang ‘Free Higher Education for All’ sa mga napagkasunduan na agarang aprobahan ng Senado. Ang budget para sa libreng edukasyon sa kolehiyo ngayong taon ay naisakatuparan lang matapos na ilipat ni Sen. Panfilo Lacson sa Commission on Higher Education (CHED) ang P8.3 bilyong pork barrel fund ng walong kongresista sa Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

2017 01 13 quedancor daily news monitor  
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