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Recto to Senate: Summon agri, energy officials by Mario Casayuran June 9, 2014

Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph Recto on Monday asked the Senate leadership to summon agriculture and energy officials to brief senators on their plans on how to mitigate the effects of El Niño. Recto said that officials from the Department of Agriculture (DA) and Department of Energy (DOE) should be summoned especially that the United Nations (UN) warned that an impending El Niño this year would be the worst in 17 years. Recto said that this is a “hotter issue” than the pork barrel scam. “Although it doesn’t create burning headlines, El Niño is a threat which we must confront now,” said Recto. The UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (UN-OCHA) raised concern that with prolonged dry spells and stronger storms expected to hit the country this year, tropical cyclones are projected to affect the north with increased intensity. In Senate Resolution No. 645, Recto wants the Senate to summon responsible DA and DOE officials who should be in the forefront of drafting and implementing the measures that will cushion the effects of the feared dry spell. “There are three areas of concern: food, power and drinking water,” he said. “Will there be enough irrigation water for our farms? What’s the fallback if hydroelectric dams run out of water which will power turbines? What is being done so our taps won’t go dry?” Recto asked. Recto said it “would be better if the Senate takes a proactive stance and demand what is being done at present, who’s minding the store, than do a post-mortem of a probe months from now after the supposed El Nino plans had ended up in fiasco.” Early this year, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Service Administration (PAGASA) warned of an El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon which could begin in June 2014 and last until early 2015. “We want the government to come up with province-specific plans that would cover Misamis Oriental, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Aurora, Bataan, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac, Zambales, Cavite, Rizal, Occidental

Mindoro, Palawan, Capiz, Iloilo, Negros Occidental, Zamboanga City, Zamboanga del Norte, Zamboanga del Sur, Zamboanga Sibugay, Bukidnon, Davao Oriental, Abra, Apayao, Benguet, Ifugao, Mountain Province, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Batangas, Laguna, Quezon, Romblon, Sorsogon, Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Samar and Davao City,� Recto said. The Senate resolution stated that the upper chamber would also request information on water conservation measures that will protect customers of the two Greater Metro Manila water concessionaires and the almost 900 water districts in the country.

IRRI pushes measures to blunt effects of climate change By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - The International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) is urging the government and private sector to adopt water saving measures and use of stress tolerant rice varieties to blunt the adverse effects of climate change to the rice sector. During a recent forum hosted by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Philippine Agriculture Journalists, Inc. PAJ) on the economic effects of climate change, IRRI principal scientist Dr. Reiner Wassmann said that as global temperature rises by an average of one degree Celsius every year, the Philippine rice sector is challenged by conditions that make it harder for farmers to sustain the level of production needed to meet demand. As temperature rises, increased water evaporation in rice paddies would require more water and power to sustain irrigation, putting a strain on domestic water and power sources. “There are a number of things that can be done that can ease the effects of climate change (to the rice sector). One of these is clearly, saving irrigation. It is something that the Philippines can think about for the long-term,” said Wassmann. At the peak of the summer season, the operator of the Angat Dam in Bulacan cut the supply of water for irrigation to farms in Bulacan and Pampanga to preserve the supply of water to Metro Manila. As dictated by protocol, water supply for irrigation is the first to be cut if the water level in the dam falls below the critical level followed by power if the water level in the dam continues to fall. The Angat Dam irrigates about 22,000 hectares of rice paddies in Bulacan and Pampanga, and provides 90 percent of the water requirements of Metro Manila. It also powers the Angat Power Plant. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 “Saving water in Angat is therefore critical, “ said Wassmann. As temperature increases and sea level rises, rice farms are also vulnerable to heat stress and increased water salinity. These factors have contributed to decreased yield even in high-yielding varieties from about 10 metric tons per hectare to only eight metric tons per hectare. “Rice is a tropical crop but it does not mean that it is not afflicted with heat stress,” said Wassman.

IRRI, which is based on Laguna, has been developing varieties that can survive extreme weather conditions such as drought and excessive rainfall. It has also developing varieties that can tolerate high salinity environments. “Heat is now a pressing problem in the Philippines. We now anticipate a continued rise in temperatures and so can also think about distributing stress tolerant varieties. We have to invest in research and development now so that when these seeds are needed, we would already have them in the pipeline,” said Wassmann. A key component in climate change adaptation for the local rice sector, he said, is educating farmers on the use of these varieties. In pilot areas where IRRI tests their new varieties, its extension workers incorporate traditional community extension work and technology. Farmers are provided technical assistance and farm management tools through direct consultation and through mobile phone applications. “We can also provide better information to farmers to prove the reliability of our varieties. But we also have to work with their planting preferences so they would plant new varieties,” said Wassmann.


Making farming ‘sexy’ again By Doris C. Dumlao Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:05 am | Monday, June 9th, 2014

About seven billion people live on this planet and the population is expected to increase to 9.5 billion by 2050, putting pressure on the global community to raise food production by 50 percent over the following decades. It is against this backdrop that “Grow Asia”—a new initiative focusing on the agriculture space under the World Economic Forum (WEF) and fully backed by the agriculture ministers of Southeast Asia—was launched during the East Asia Summit meetings hosted by the Philippines in late May. Nandu Nandkishore, executive vice president for Asia, Oceania Africa and Middle East at global food and beverage giant Nestle SA and co-chair of the Grow Asia initiative, said this was a platform to bring together the government, the private sector, farmers, the academe and civil society in a partnership to identify key issues in and seek solutions to the often-neglected farm sector. “Alongside the rise in population, as people emerge out of poverty and gain consumer affluence, they all want to consume more animal protein because they want to get away from the carbohydrate-rich diets, which are the staple of the poor,” Nandkishore said in an interview with the Inquirer. Around 150 government, business and thought leaders—including agriculture ministers from other Southeast Asian countries like Malaysia and Indonesia—explored ways to accelerate sustainable agricultural growth and achieve food security through market-based multistakeholder initiatives, under WEF’s New Vision for Agriculture framework. Nandkishore said “Grow Asia”, which President Aquino himself said he fully supported, was inspired by the “Grow Africa” initiative, a program born out of this new vision for agriculture that started in Davos, Switzerland, where the WEF holds its annual members’ meetings. He noted that Grow Africa was successful in mobilizing investments into the agricultural sector in African countries like Tanzania. Grow Asia, on the other hand, is initially focused on the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) region but is expected to expand to other parts of Asia. “It is an important initiative to focus attention and investment and public policy into the agriculture sector to revitalize it,” Nandkishore said.

“We each face the emerging challenge of globalization of markets, climate change, dwindling natural resources and growing population in our march toward sustainable prosperity and a foodsecure future,” Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala said. “To prevail over this challenge, we must respond with greater synergy to the realities they present. And we must do so in a manner that benefits our smallholder food producers through innovative approaches and strategies,” he said. Grim reality In a bid to double food production between now and 2050, the world needs four things—land, sunshine, water and people. In the case of land, Nandkishore said this finite resource was fast decreasing because of urbanization and land degradation. The same was true for water, which was decreasing because the world was using 10 percent more fresh water than the renewable sources could replenish every year, Nandkishore said. About 70 percent of all fresh water used by mankind was used for agriculture but the bad news was that 70 percent of that water was actually wasted through evaporation, transpiration, runoff and other kinds of losses, he said. He noted that the current usage patterns in irrigation tended to be quite inefficient. The fourth factor in food production, people, is likewise seen as a big challenge with the trends in urbanization. In the year 2010—for the first time in the history of mankind—one in every two human beings now lives in the city. “This means a huge demand for food and food supply chains. And that’s the second problem with people, because farmers are aging and their children want to move to the cities. They don’t want to be farmers,” Nandkishore said. “Why do they not want to be farmers? Well, life on a farm is hard. You’re working out in the sun, it’s physically uncomfortable. Second, it can be unremunerative because small farmers are exposed to the weather, to market forces, to climate change, or a typhoon, or whatever that comes, and suddenly they have no safety net. So it’s very precarious—and they have no access to technology, to productivity gains and improvements. It’s a tough existence. No wonder their children are seeking to move to the cities,” he said.

Way forward For Nandkishore, the good news is in fact hidden inside the bad news. For instance, if 25 to 30 percent of food production gets wasted in the supply chain—whether through spoilage or pest attacks—he said it was possible that the same quantity could be preserved using modern and efficient practices.

The second upside is seen in productivity levels, which tend to be quite low. “So if we can improve productivity levels to best-in-class worldwide, between these two, even with the reduced availability of land, we can in fact double food production between now and 2050. So it is possible to do,” he said. What the initiatives must focus on should thus be water and people, Nandkishore said. “The first thing to do is to make sure that agriculture prices are stable and remunerative and that there is some kind of financial instrument that provides a safety net for small farmers, whether through insurance schemes or financing schemes,” he said. In real terms throughout the 20th century, Nandkishore noted that agricultural prices had fallen from 1900 to 2000, declining every single year such that farming became “progressively unremunerative.” But since 2000 to 2010, farming prices have been trending higher and will likely continue in this trajectory for the next 30 years, especially as speculators join the fray. “So that creates already a definitive market price outlook that can make agriculture interesting once again for agricultural entrepreneurs. But of course you would need to put in technology to raise productivity, and to improve the working conditions of people who are enthused to go back,” Nandkishore said. In a recent research, British banking giant HSBC shared the upbeat view on investment opportunities in agriculture. “We expect the global commodity prices ‘super-cycle’ to be more ‘super’ and less ‘cycle,’ leaving commodity prices structurally high. As emerging economies continue to grow faster than Western economies and remain in the ‘commodity-intensive’ stage of their development, we expect demand for commodities to continue to rise, supporting prices,” the HSBC research said. He said technology could also help minimize and control the water usage in agriculture to have more efficient productivity. In boosting efforts for agriculture, he said a multistakeholder approach is needed to tackle issues and drive solutions. There had been success stories, Nandkishore said, citing Vietnam, which in the last two decades had become the world’s biggest producer of Robusta coffee beans today. In 2013, Vietnam produced about 1.5 million metric tons of Robusta coffee beans, generating $3.5 billion in export receipts. The Philippines, formerly a net exporter of coffee, produced only 25,000 metric tons in the same year. Another success story is that of Indonesia where a private-public partnership on the production of cocoa, coconut, dairy and palm oil is creating what Nandkishore describes as a “sustainable revolution in agriculture.” Sustainable meant one could not burn forests or degrade the land in farming, he said.

“Why is this important to the Philippines? Why is this important to Asean? Because today, across Asean, something like 37 percent of people earn their livelihood from the farm center, directly or indirectly. It’s also true in the Philippines and unless we address the issue of farm productivity, remuneration and attractiveness of the sector, you aren’t going to be able to revitalize the sector,” he said. Nandkishore could not agree more with Gawad Kalinga founder and Ramon Magsaysay awardee Tony Meloto, who believes in supporting agriculture through social entrepreneurs who can make farming attractive again, economically as well as in terms of imagery. Gawad Kalinga’s 14-hectare Enchanted Farm located in Pandi Angat Road, Angat, Bulacan, for instance, is a platform to raise social entrepreneurs, help local farmers and create wealth in the countryside. It is envisioned to be a farm village university, a Silicon Valley for social entrepreneurship and a Disneyland for social tourism rolled into one. In the words of Cherrie Atilano, the young co-founder of GK Enchanted Farm Agricool (who is part of WEF’s community of Young Global Shapers), it’s all about “making farming sexy again.” Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Q1 fisheries output down by 3.25% Category: Agri-Commodities 08 Jun 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent STILL reeling from the effects of Supertyphoon Yolanda (international code name Haiyan), total fisheries production posted a negative growth of 3.25 percent during the first quarter of 2014, the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS) reported recently. According to the BAS, “among the major seven species, skipjack tuna was the only gainer for the quarter with an increment of 4.62 percent.” Loses in other species were also considerable, such as the roundscad (galunggong) which is down by 6.9 percent, seaweeds with a 3.86-percent reduction, milkfish at 2.11-percent loss, and yellowfin tuna and tilapia with 2.69-percent and 0.14-percent losses, respectively. With a 22.18-percent contribution to the total fisheries production for the reporting period, the commercial fisheries registered a 3.43-percent production shortfall this quarter, the BAS report said. An attached agency of the Philippine Statistics Authority, the BAS also said “catch of several species showed reduced output compared with same quarter last year.” The BAS noted that aside from roundscad and yellowfin tuna, production of other species such as the Indian and fimbriated sardines, Indian and Indo- Pacific mackerels, big-eyed scad, threadfin bream and eastern little tuna all fell short of last year’s level. Another major sector, the municipal fisheries also registered a negative 5.64-percent growth during the reporting period, while sharing 26.58 percent to the total fisheries output for the quarter. “Decreasing volume of catch from marine waters by municipal fishermen was evident for the past three years,” the BAS observed. Despite the 7.12-percent increase in inland fisheries, limited catch of Indian sardines, fimbriated sardines, Indian mackerels, Indo-Pacific mackerels, squid, blue crabs and threadfin bream and other species brought down the performance of the sector. Aside from Yolanda, a series of weather disturbances in the Visayas and Mindanao regions last year disrupted the overall fishing operations of sustenance fishermen. Aquaculture, another major sector, posted a 1.58-percent growth lower compared with same quarter last year.

The top five species of the sector—milkfish, tilapia, tiger prawn, seaweed and mudcrab—posted production decreases this quarter. These species accounted for 96.74 percent of the total aquaculture production. The sector contributed more than half, or 51.24 percent, to the total fisheries output. In an interview, Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources National Director Asis G. Perez said the areas affected by Yolanda, specifically Eastern Samar and Leyte, Eastern Samar and Leyte, produce some 25 percent of the total national production of fisheries.

Perez added that he sees fisheries production bouncing back in the succeeding quarters of the year.

Probe land reform program, farmers ask Church leaders Inquirer Southern Luzon 5:50 am | Monday, June 9th, 2014

LUCENA CITY, Philippines—The militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) has called on the Catholic Church leadership to not just focus on government land reform statistics but to look into the use of billions of pesos in government funds in Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP). “We challenge the Catholic Church hierarchy to go beyond monitoring the so-called land distribution under CARP. We challenge them to show solidarity and link arms with CARP victims, to live with those who continue to suffer CARP-sponsored landlessness and violence,”KMP chair Rafael Mariano said in a statement Saturday. Mariano said the Department of Agrarian Reform accomplishment figures were “fabricated lies.” Mariano urged the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to look into where the huge agrarian reform budget went with P192 billion so far paid by the government to landowners from 1988 to 2012 for land acquisition and distribution. Another P150 billion was budgeted from 2009 to 2014 but vast tracts of land still remained undistributed, Mariano said. CBCP president Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Socrates Villegas had earlier announced that the Church would monitor the distribution of land to ensure that they would to go to their intended beneficiaries. Villegas had said the government’s task should not end with the distribution of the land but that it should ensure that the farmer-beneficiaries enjoyed their newly acquired properties and made them productive. The bishop lamented that many beneficiaries who did not have the means to make their land productive had resorted to selling their property due to the lack of government support. Mariano urged the CBCP to also look into the land distribution records in the Department of Agrarian Reform of the Cojuangco-owned Hacienda Luisita in Tarlac, several big haciendas in

the Bondoc peninsula in Quezon, Hacienda Looc in Batangas and other huge estates in other parts of the country. After 26 years of CARP, Mariano said the big landlords continued to control vast haciendas and he believed “it is high time to replace it with a new, radical and genuine agrarian reform program.” The KMP has been pushing for the passage of House Bill No. 252, or the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (GARB), which seeks the free distribution of land to landless tillers.–Delfin T. Mallari Jr. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

BFAR set to get more power vs poaching By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - A bill seeking to strengthen the law enforcement and anti-poaching powers of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) has been approved on second reading at the House of Representatives. House Bill 4536 aims to increase the fines and periods of imprisonment for violations of Republic Act 8550, the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, to protect the country’s marine resources and comply with all international commitments on fishing. It seeks to comply with the country’s commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to exercise state control over distant water fishing fleet, strengthen coastal state responsibility to manage highly migratory stocks and support state responsibility to refuse port entry of boats engaged in illegal, unreported and unregulated fishing. Cebu Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, House committee on aquaculture and fisheries chairman and one of the bill’s authors, said the bill seeks to amend the whole Chapter VI (Prohibitions and Penalties) to increase fines and periods of imprisonment and adopt a wide array of accompanying administrative penalties to ensure that sanctions are dissuasive and have a strong deterrent effect. “RA 8550 is replete with penalties that are not commensurate to damage caused, the economic value lost and habitat destroyed. In exchange for large sums of money, violators only find these penalties inconvenient. This defeats the deterrent function of the penalty,” he said. Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves, another author, said the bill seeks to provide an automatic escalation clause for the fines to compensate for inflation and to maintain the deterrent function. Other key provisions: Introduction of additional terms that are used in international conventions and agreements such as Illegal, Unreported and Unregulated Fishing and Port State Measures; and Introduction of the concept of community service for municipal fisherfolk offenders and strengthening the administrative powers of the DA and the Director of BFAR.

DA orders probe on garlic supply, price movements Category: Agri-Commodities 08 Jun 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega THERE is enough supply of garlic, the Department of Agriculture (DA) announced in a statement over the weekend. The announcement was in response to concerns over the increase in prices of the most used commodity in Philippines cuisine. “It [DA] will look today [Sunday] into the alleged overpricing of garlic in supermarkets and groceries in Metro Manila and other areas,” the statement said, assuring the public that the country has an adequate supply of the commodity. Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said he has ordered an investigation over reports that prices of imported and locally grown garlic increased to as much as P290 kilo and P180 per kilo, the statement said. “I don’t see any reason prices [of garlic] should go up, unless there are some people who are trying to manipulate the prices. This is unfair for the farmers who have successfully revived the garlic industry,” Alcala was quoted as saying. The agriculture chief said he is willing to sit down with retailers and wholesalers to clarify reported change in prices. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that the national harvest of garlic increased in 2013 to 8,650 metric tons from 8,490 MT during the same period last year.

Alladin S. Diega

Scientist says Calabarzon coco-scale insect infestation began in 2010 Category: Agri-Commodities 08 Jun 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega / Correspondent SHORTSIGHTEDNESS is being blamed for a widespread coconut scale insect infestation threatening Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal, Quezon (Calabarzon), and even Basilan in Mindanao. This was expressed by Candida B. Adalla of the University of the Philippines Los Baños’s (UPLB) College of Agriculture, after President Aquino declared on Friday afternoon a state of emergency in areas infested by wind-borne coconut scale insects. On June 6 Mr. Aquino signed Executive Order (EO) 169 to address the infestation in Calabarzon, where more than 1 million coconut trees are in danger of dying, and the threat of infecting neighboring areas are very real. Presidential Assistant for Food Security and Agricultural Modernization Francisco Pangilinan recommended the filing of the order. Part of the three-page EO reads “if the spread of this invasive pest is not contained, it may wipe out the coconut industry, not just in Calabarzon but eventually in the rest of the country.” Initial estimates of possible loss to the Philippine coconut industry can reach as high as P33 billion, if the infestation remains untreated, the EO said. But Adalla said the infestation started in 2010. However, efforts to contain it have failed, she added. Asked how the destructive insect arrived in the country, the scientist suspects “through ornamental coconut plants imported from the neighboring countries.” The coconut-scale insects, known as Aspidiotus destructor Signoret (Hemiptera: Diaspididae), are small insects which are plant parasites, and cause yellowing or chlorosis, wilting, premature nutfall and low yield because it continuously siphons off the plant sap with their specialized mouthparts.


ACCORDING to the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics (BAS), annual production of coconut dropped by 3.3 percent, from 15.86 million metric tons (MMT) in 2012 to 15.34 MMT last year. In its latest Non-Food and Industrial Crop Quarterly report, the BAS included the infestation of coconut trees in Batangas by scale insects as one of the reasons only 4 MMT of coconuts were harvested for the period of October to December 2013. That figure is 6.1 percent lower compared with the 4.26-MMT production during the same period last year. Supertyphoon Yolanda, which battered coconut trees in Eastern Samar last year, and Typhoon Pablo in Mindanao in 2012, were also listed as major contributor to the drop in the production. Adalla said another reason of the spread of the infestation “is that we cannot expect the farmers to spray insecticides because many of them still believe that coconut trees are self-sustaining and do not need any input, much less insecticides, and hence, this infestation.” Reportedly, scale insect and coconut leaf beetle (brontispa logissima) are now threatening the Bicol region, with estimated 650,000 hectares planted to coconuts.

Insecticide LAST month, Adalla announced she has developed a botanical insecticide, “which is as effective as any chemical treatment.” She told reporters that “a few years ago, several sections in the [coconut] industry has refused to immediately address seriously the problem of the scale insect.” However, Adalla said “the problem is not that yet alarming and that nature will heal itself.” A former head of the biotechnology program of the Department of Agriculture and currently the head of the crop protection cluster of the UPLB, Adalla developed the botanical insecticide from Gliricidia sepium, locally known as kakawate or madre cacao. The study claims the botanical insecticide proved to be effective with 97-percent mortality rate for the insect scale. It can be sprayed to coconut trees once every quarter until the infestation became manageable. “For years, the standard pest control against scale insect in coconut trees has been the concoction of coconut oil and dishwashing liquid or the cochin oil, but experience has shown that the insects are somewhat resistant, and in many instances, the spraying of the oil during daylight burns parts of the coconut trees,” creating more damage, according to Adalla. Right now, “there is a strong pressure to me to release the product to the market but the Food and Drug Administration has yet to release an approval pending toxicology test,” Adalla said.

The budget of the research, around P500,000, was provided by the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), under its small enterprises technology-upgrading program. The test for the botanical spray was conducted at the Lipa Agricultural Experiment Station and at the Philhybrid Makapuno Farm, also in Lipa, Batangas.

Cautions ADALLA cautions on the possible use of chemical insecticides to prevent a full-blown infestation in the region. She explained that “the main reason why our coconut water, virgin coconut oil, and coco sugar are indemand at the world market is the fact that we do not use chemical fertilizer or insecticides.” Chemical fertilizer or insecticides are only effective at the “crawler” stage of the young scale insect, and can only be safely administered for young palms and seedlings, according to Adalla. “In fact, our farmers, as a practice, do not even fertilize their coconut trees, organic or otherwise, resulting in the declining health of the tress over the years, and hence, the effect in production, with or without small scale insect.” Under EO 169, only the Philippine Coconut Authority shall have the exclusive authority to grant permits for transport or movement of coconut planting materials from and to any points of the country.

The PCA was tasked specifically to cooperate with Pangilinan, along with other government units like the DA, DOST, Department of the Interior and Local Government, UP Los Baños and the National Crop Protection Center.

Govt setting up contour farming demo in Visayas, Mindanao Category: Agri-Commodities 08 Jun 2014 Written by Alladin S. Diega THE Department of Agriculture (DA) is establishing contour farming techno demo sites for corn in the Visayas and Mindanao under the Sustainable Corn Production in Sloping Areas program and also as part of the government’s soil erosion and climate-change adaptation measures. Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the DA has already identified several sites in Iloilo, Bukidon, Davao and Cotabato for the techno demo sites. “Contour farming is the practice of planting across a slope following contour lines, thus creating a water break which reduces the formation of gullies and rills caused by cascading water, which is a major cause of soil erosion,” a statement from the DA said. Agriculture Assistant Secretary Edilberto de Luna said that “as per Philippine protocols, planting in areas above 18-percent slope is prohibited, but in reality, it is easier said than done, because farmers who have already planted in the uplands will certainly refuse to give up their source of livelihood.” De Luna, who is also the national coordinator for the government’s corn program, noted: “It’s clear to us that they [farmers] should not go and plant and cultivate in those areas, but we also have to consider that these people have to have a source of sustainable livelihood.” He added that the win-win solution, referring to the contour farming, “is proper farming practice, in this case. With the help of CropLife Philippines, a Singapore-based crop organization advocating sustainable agriculture, the DA has already established contour farming techno demo sites in the provinces of Isabela, Quirino, Nueva Vizcaya, and Cagayan in Region 2. The results, according to de Luna, “are very encouraging and many farmers are expected to follow suit.” He also addressed the fears that if farmers engage in corn farming, part of their harvest will be lost. “What they may lose in corn, they will certainly gain in other cash crops,” de Luna said.

Contour farming has been practiced for centuries in other parts of the world where irrigation farming is important. Although in the United States the technique was first practiced at the turn of the 19th century, straight-line planting in rows parallel to field boundaries and regardless of slopes long remained the prevalent method. The practice is closely related to permaculture, a concept developed in Australia, in which shallow canals are dug along the contour of sloping areas. The canal improves the water-absorption capacity of the soil, and in time, mini-water streams are then developed along the area. The concept encourages sustainable agriculture practices such as multi cropping and the use of livestock and trees. Permaculture is advocated in the Philippines by a local non-governmental organization, CabioKid, based in Nueva Ecija.

Alladin S. Diega

Wet season looms By Jeannette I. Andrade Philippine Daily Inquirer 7:12 pm | Sunday, June 8th, 2014

INQUIRER FILE PHOTO/Marianne Bermudez MANILA, Philippines — The summer heat will soon be gone as the weather bureau expects temperatures to drop gradually with the looming onset of the rainy season. The forecasters of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) could declare the start of the rainy season this week provided that all the criteria are met, although the habagat (southwest monsoon) has set in. Forecaster Fernando Cada said that people could anticipate days to grow cooler with the start of the rainy season expected to be declared anytime within this week. “The Pagasa cannot yet say that the wet season has started because not all of the criteria have been met,” he said on Sunday. The habagat is only one criterion and that the amount of rainfall is also taken very much into consideration, according to Cada. There should be at least one millimeter of accumulated rain measured in at least five of the bureau’s type 1 climate stations in Laoag City; Vigan in Ilocos Sur; Dagupan City; Iba, Zambales; San Jose, Mindoro Occidental; Metro Manila; Ambulong in Batangas; and Iloilo City. Type 1 climate areas have two seasons: dry and wet. In Metro Manila, the one millimeter-accumulated rainfall should be simultaneously recorded in weather stations at the Pagasa Science Garden, the Port Area in Manila; and in Sangley Point, Cavite.

Cada said that Sunday’s highest temperature in Metro Manila was at 34.3 degrees Celsius at around 1:50 pm. In other areas, temperatures measured at around 2 p.m. were: 35.5 degrees in Tuguegarao City; 36 degrees in Cabanatuan City; 34.9 degrees in Sangley Point, Cavite; 33.4 degrees in Mactan, Cebu; and 35 degrees in General Santos City. The highest temperature recorded this year was at 40.4 degrees in Tuguegarao City, located at the northeasternmost tip of Luzon, on June 1. Metro Manila was hottest at 36.7 degrees on May 24. “We can observe that temperatures are starting to go down because of the increasing cloudiness,” the Pagasa forecaster told the Philippine Daily Inquirer, adding that it was among the usually observed weather conditions before the start of the rainy season. Other indicators are the increased humidity and the daily occurrence of rainshowers and thunderstorms in the afternoon or early evening. The trough of a low pressure area (LPA) affecting extreme Northern Luzon has also been bringing rain although there is little chance for the potential tropical cyclone to enter the country’s area of responsibility. The LPA is somewhere near Taiwan. In Pagasa’s forecast for Monday, the regions of Ilocos, Cordillera, Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon will have cloudy skies with light to moderate rains and thunderstorms while Metro Manila and the rest of the country will be partly cloudy to cloudy with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms. Light to moderate winds coming from the southwest will prevail over Luzon and the Western Visayas and from the south to southwest over the rest of the archipelago where coastal waters will be slight to moderate. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Ilocos folk block bid to lift ban on black sand mining Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:07 am | Monday, June 9th, 2014 2 14 12 LAOAG CITY—Representatives of church groups and schools and residents have opposed a proposed resolution that would lift a ban on black sand mining in Ilocos Norte province. The groups gathered on Friday at a committee hearing of the provincial board, which addressed the draft provincial resolution that would rationalize the position of the Ilocos Norte government on black sand mining. The measure was sponsored by Board Member Joel Garcia, a lawyer from Batac City. The initiative would have overturned the board’s October 2013 resolution banning black sand mining in Ilocos Norte and urging the recall of permits already issued. The resolution also voided all endorsements by local government units to mining applications. In a March 24 letter to Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos, the provincial environment and natural resources office suggested that the “ban should cover only the stretch of the coastline municipalities of Ilocos Norte, excluding rivers and creeks.” But at the hearing on Friday, Tony Pugyao, a village councilor of Cacafean in Marcos town, Ilocos Norte, said, “We, from the indigenous peoples’ communities living at the foot of the mountains and along rivers and creeks are the ones to be primarily affected should the black sand mining ban exempt ventures at rivers and creeks.” “Sand mining aggravates riverbank destabilization and Laoag City, San Nicolas, Sarrat and Piddig sit along a meandering river. What they do upstream will affect everything downstream,” said Shermon Cruz, who represented the group Center for Engaged Foresight. “Sand mining activities will surely increase Ilocos Norte’s vulnerability to climate change impacts,” he added. Retired American serviceman Oscar Visitacion from Bacarra town said during the hearing: “It is good to make money, but is it worth [the damage to] the environment?” Citing a previous quarry site, Arthur Valente, fishery regulatory coordinator of Ilocos Norte, said the fish habitat and several coral polyps died when a quarry operation was allowed at Barangay Masintoc in Paoay town. Leilanie Adriano, Inquirer Northern Luzon Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Numbered Makiling trees raise alarm By Maricar Cinco Inquirer Southern Luzon 12:03 am | Monday, June 9th, 2014

ARTISTS, environmentalists, photographers, professors and students of Los Baños join a march on Sunday protesting the cutting of trees in Mt. Makiling to give way to road widening. AL BENAVENTE/CONTRIBUTOR LOS BAÑOS, Laguna—Markings on at least 300 trees in Mt. Makiling have alarmed the local arts community here, raising fears that these will be cut down to clear the way for a government road-widening project. Both the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in the province confirmed on Sunday that the trees were numbered as part of an “inventory” of trees blocking the ongoing widening of the 5.6-kilometer road in Barangay Timugan that crosses through Makiling. An inventory is required before the DENR in Calabarzon (Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon) issues a permit to clear the road to the DPWH, the project’s implementing agency. DENR-Laguna director Isidro Mercado said in a phone interview that the department marked the trees last week but could not give an exact figure as he had yet to receive a copy of the record. He was quick to downplay environmental concerns, saying his office would still assess if the tree cutting is necessary.

The numbers on the tree trunks were painted red. Seasoned photographer and Los Baños resident Alex Baluyut said he counted up to 300 trees that were “numbered.” On Sunday morning, about 50 photographers, artists and members of the academe marched from the municipal hall to the project site to oppose the tree cutting.

They camped under some shade for poetry reading and discussions on the issue. Some, with children in tow, painted over the markings “hearts” and messages to stop the tree cutting. “We are looking at a series of events to let them know that we are keeping an eye on this project,” Baluyut said. University of the Philippines Los Baños professor Emmanuel Dumlao said concern for trees was but natural for poets like him. “When trees are cut, they are cutting you up, too,” he said. The arts community reacted strongly against the P16-million road-widening project upon learning that 19 kapok trees (Ceiba pentandra) were felled in March. The DENR stopped the project when it learned that the initial batch of trees were cut without clearance from the agency. This also prompted municipal Councilor Norvin Tamisin to sue Timugan village chief Florencio Bautista and a number of DENR and DPWH executives for abuse of authority. In a separate phone interview, also on Sunday, DPWH Laguna second district engineer Joel Limpengco said he would hold consultations with stakeholders before taking any further action on the roadwork. Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Growth prospects still positive – BSP By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine economy is still expected to grow within the government’s 6.5-to 7.5-percent target, although the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said it may be slower than last year’s 7.2-percent expansion. “Prospects remain positive, we may still be able to achieve the government’s target, although growth could settle at a more moderate pace,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in an e-mail to reporters. He noted this will be “partly due to waning base effects.” Growth settled to a lower-than-expected 5.7 percent in the first quarter from a 7.7-percent growth in the same period last year. It was also a deceleration from the revised 6.3 percent seen in the fourth quarter last year. “Favorable business and consumer confidence readings, robust credit growth, stronger export demand due to a pickup in global growth, and fiscal stimulus from reconstruction and rehabilitation spending could provide a boost to domestic activity,” Tetangco said. “The sustained growth in investments also indicates that domestic demand conditions are firm, and this could help the economy regain some momentum,” he said. The disappointing first-quarter economic growth was blamed to the effects of the natural disasters that hit the country late last year, especially to Typhoon Yolanda. “The outlook for the domestic economy, however, is not without risks,” Tetangco warned. “Global financial conditions could tighten as the US Federal Reserve continues to taper its quantitative easing program. Slower growth in China could impact regional supply chains and pose challenges to Philippine export growth,” he added.

The BSP, mandated to ensure financial and price stability support economic growth, has kept inflation within target for five consecutive years now. Tetangco last month also pointed out the central bank remains ready to “act preemptively� should the inflation target of three to five percent for the year comes at risk of being missed. Monetary authorities, during the first three policy meetings of the year, have kept key rates steady amid expectations inflation will remain within target and strong economic growth will continue.

Lawmaker pushes health warnings on food labels By Zinnia B. Dela Peña (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 9, 2014 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0 MANILA, Philippines - Similar to graphic warnings on cigarette packets, sugary and alcoholic drinks and junk food should be labeled with health warnings as well, a lawmaker said. The Senate health committee and demography, chaired by Senator Pia Cayetano, is considering enacting a law that would require manufacturers of fizzy and other sugary beverages to post warning labels on their products in an effort to educate the public about the health risks associated with overconsumption of these drinks. The committee is also open to placing graphic warnings on high fat, low nutritional foods or junk foods that medical experts say are largely to blame for obesity and being overweight. Cayetano said the proposed bills would be tackled once both houses of Congress pass the picture-based Health Warning Act, which is aimed at “increasing the awareness of the cigarette consumers on the harmful effects of smoking.” “But it is very likely that the Committee on Health and Demography would be entertaining similar bills that would address other health issues including harmful practices and harmful products. I would believe that the committee would be open to that,” Cayetano said. Cayetano noted that the prevailing practice in US and Europe is to also put some warning labels and pictures on food products that have high calorie, sugar and alcohol content. “Should everything that we ingest be regulated? To some extent, yes,” she said. Business ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1 According to Cayetano, developed countries like the US and Europe now require labelings on food products for babies as well as on food items consumed by the general public. Even fast food chains and restaurants are now required in some foreign countries to disclose the calorie and sugar contents of their menus, she pointed out. “In the United States, there is a requirement that alcoholic beverages have some kind of statement that “Drinking may be injurious to pregnancy”, something like that. A United Nations investigator last month called for efforts to launch negotiations on a global pact to tax unhealthy products or food high in saturated fats, salt and sugar amid a greater risk to health.

Belgian professor Olivier de Schutter, who has held his post of special rapporteur on the right to food since 2008, said unhealthy diets have now become a “greater threat to global health than tobacco.” Senator Juan Ponce Enrile earlier noted that if the state policy is to impose PHWs to safeguard the health of its citizens, the government must also consider adopting the same on other indigestible “disease-causing products.” The proposed bill is expected to be passed on third and final reading this week while the House health committee of the House of Representatives has come out with a report that was adopted by its members.

Worst dry spell in 17 years looms PH warned of impact of El Niño, strong cyclones By Ronnel W. Domingo Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:50 am | Monday, June 9th, 2014

The United Nations is keeping an eye on the possible impact of “what could be the worst El Niño in 17 years” even as it follows through on efforts to rebuild in the aftermath of Supertyphoon “Yolanda.” In its latest bulletin on the Philippines, the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha) raised concern that with prolonged dry spells and stronger storms expected to hit the country this year, tropical cyclones were projected to affect the north with increased intensity. “The Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) has warned not only of drier conditions and decreased rainfall, but also of stronger tropical cyclones once the rainy season begins in June,” the UN office said. “According to Pagasa, the paths tropical cyclones follow this year could shift to the northern part of Luzon,” the agency added. The UN Ocha also noted that an occurrence of the El Niño phenomenon in 1998 affected nearly 74,000 hectares of agricultural lands in 18 provinces in the Philippines. Citing data from the Department of Agriculture, the agency said that the country’s rice and corn production during the first half of 1998 were reduced by 27 percent and 44 percent, respectively. Back then, Central Visayas bore the brunt of a prolonged drought that took a toll on some 900,000 people. “In Mindanao, 74 people died and more than 450,000 agricultural families faced severe food insecurity because of the drought caused by El Niño,” the UN Ocha said.

Regarding post-Yolanda efforts, the agency said that only 56 percent of the $788 million that the UN requested from international donors has been funded so far. Last May, the DA reported that crops valued at a total of P823.29 million have so far been lost to the early effects of a looming El Niño dry spell.

Based on a preliminary assessment by the DA’s field units, corn farms were most affected with P583.6 million worth of losses. These involved 28,105 hectares with foregone harvest equivalent to 45,729 metric tons of corn. The dry spell has also taken its toll on rice farms and vegetable farms, causing damage worth P221.28 million and P18.41 million, respectively. More than 12,000 tons of palay from 4,618 hectares of farms have been lost, as well as 1,190 tons of vegetables from 242 hectares of land. In a bid to mitigate the effects of the anticipated long dry spell, agriculture officials said the DA needed an initial budget of P1.61 billion to be able to provide affected farmers with production inputs, promote water-saving measures among rice farmers and push for the adoption of “modern and innovative farming and fishery technologies.” Read more: Follow us: @inquirerdotnet on Twitter | inquirerdotnet on Facebook

Bill to amend fisheries code approved by Charissa Luci June 8, 2014

The House of Representatives has approved on second reading a measure seeking to strengthen the implementing and enforcement powers of the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources of the Department of Agriculture (BFAR-DA) to protect the country’s marine resources. House Bill 4536, which seeks to amend Republic Act 8550 or the Philippine Fisheries Code of 1998, slaps hefty fines and longer periods of imprisonment against the violators. Cebu Rep. Benhur Salimbangon, chairman of the House committee on Aquaculture and fisheries and one of the authors of the bill, said HB 4536 amended the whole Charter VI (Prohibitions and Penalties) to increase fines and periods of imprisonment. The measure adopts a wide array of accompanying administrative penalties to ensure that sanctions are dissuasive and have a strong deterrent effect, he said. “RA 8550 is replete with penalties that are not commensurate to damage caused, the economic value lost and habitat destroyed. In exchange for large sums of money, violators only find these penalties convenient, a pint in their business investment pie. This defeats the deterrent function of the penalty,” Salimbangon said. Salimbangon’s fellow author, Negros Oriental Rep. Pryde Henry Teves said their measure seeks to give more teeth to the 16-year old Fisheries Code. He said HB 4536, which is a consolidation of 12 measures, also introduces the concept of community service for municipal fisherfolk offenders. “It also aims to comply with the country’s commitment under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to exercise flag state control over distant water fishing fleet, strengthen coastal state responsibility to manage highly migratory stocks and port state responsibility to refuse port entry of fishing engaged in illegal, unreported, and unregulated fishing,” Teves said. Among the authors of the bill are Reps. Arthur Yap (3rd District, Bohol), Gloria MacapagalArroyo (2nd District, Pampanga), Lucy Torres-Gomez (4th District, Leyte), Pedro Acharon, Jr. (1st District, South Cotabato), Florencio Garay (2nd District, Surigao del Sur), Ma. Theresa Bonoan (4th District, Manila), Walden Bello and Ibarra Gutierrez III (Party-list, AKBAYAN), Mark Villar (Lone District, Las Piñas City), Abigail Faye Ferriol (Party-list, KALINGA), Pryde Henry Teves (3rd District, Negros Oriental), Benhur Salimbangon (4th District, Cebu), Fernando Gonzalez (3rd District, Albay) and Wilfredo Caminero (2nd District, Cebu), respectively.

Editorial: Pukpok. Gawa. Resulta. Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00 Written by

Ni Romy Buen Sabi kahapon ni Communications Sec. Sonny Coloma, hindi dapat pinapayagang mamayagpag ang kriminalidad sa lipunan. Reaksyon n’ya ito sa nangyayaring kaliwa’t kanang patayan. Pero teka, itong ganitong reaksyon ay dapat asahan sa ordinaryong mamamayan at sa mga kritiko ng gobyerno, hindi sa nakapuwesto sa pamahalaan. Hindi komento at opinyon ang gustong makita ng taumbayan sa mga nagpapalakad sa gobyerno. Kung mga komento lang din at opinyon, sagana niyan sa social media. Lahat ay ganito halos ang sinasabi.

Hindi sapat na ganito rin ang sinasabi ng mga nakapuwesto. Obligasyon ng pamahalaan, lalo na ng mga nasa executive branch na pinamumunuan ng pangulo ng bansa, na siguruhing napoprotektahan ang kapakanan ng mamamayan, lalo na ng mga sibilyan. Sapat naman ang batas. May mga ahensya rin na ang trabaho ay pangalagaan ang kaayusan at katahimikan

komunidad at higit ang kaligtasan ng publiko. Ito ang tinatawag na mga alagad ng batas o law enforcement agencies.Ang pagpatay o pananakit ng kapwa ay isang krimen. Dapat lang na hulihin at papanagutin sa batas ang sinumang gagawa nito. Ang problema, napakaraming kaso ng pamamaslang ang nananatiling ‘unsolved’. Karaniwang kumikilos lang nang pukpukan ang mga awtoridad, lalo na ang pulisya, kapag natutukan ng media ang krimen. Kapansin-pansin na bumibilis ang pagtukoy at paghuli sa mga suspek oras na uminit ang mga balita patungkol sa partikular na krimen. Hindi tama ito!

Dapat ay pare-parehas ang pagsisikap ng pulisya at iba pang law enforcers sa pagresolba sa iba’t ibang krimen. Maliit man o malaki ang mga sangkot, nabalita man sa tri-media o hindi, kailangang pantay ang pagtatrabaho sa bawat kaso.

Sana lang, sa susunod na bubuka ang bibig ng mga taga-Malacañang ay mas may saysay at hindi basta magkomento lang na parang ordinaryong taong tagamasid sa mga pangyayari.

Dapat ay action-based ang pahayag. May aksyong kasama. May utos. May pukpok sa mga ahensyang sangkot. Pagbaba ng utos, dapat ay tutukan ang inutusan kung talaga bang nagagawa nito ang pinatatrabaho sa kanya. Hindi satsat ang kailangan ng taumbayan kundi gawa. Dahil sa pag-aksyon lang makakakuha ng magandang resulta.

Tama ‘yan! Kalusin ang mga utak-pulbura pero hindi na ‘yan kailangang sabihin pa ng mga taga-Malacañang. Dapat ay inaaksyunan ‘yan!

PRANGKAHAN: Ang himutok ng taumbayan Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00 Written by Ellen Tordesillas

Published in Prangkahan

Karamihan sa mga sulat na natatanggap ko ay nagpapahayag ng inis sa pamamalakad ng pamahalaan. Kaya sila sumusulat sa mga dyaryo ay sa inis nila at wala na silang mareklamuhan. Kung sa mismong opisina ng gobyerno sila pupunta, hindi rin sila papansinin. Lalo silang maiinis. At malaking gastos at perwisyo din para sa kanila ang mag-file ng complaint.

Itong natanggap ko sa isang taga-Maynila ay tungkol sa pagkuha ng police clearance. Hindi ko babanggitin ang kanyang tunay na pangalan. Tawagin na lang natin siyang Tonyo.

Sabi ni Tonyo:

“Ako po ay isang concern citizen at ako ay taga-Maynila. Dalawang beses na po akong kumuha ng police clearance dyan sa Western Police District sa Maynila. Mabilis pong makuha ang resulta pero magbabayad ka ng 50 pesos na walang resibo.

ang nawawala sa pera ng gobyerno na napupunta lang sa mga pulis. Walang nagrereklamo sa kanila kasi kung aantayin mo pa, babalik ka pa para lang kunin ang resulta.” Malaki araw-araw. kumukuha ang po “Marami Sana mapansin ito ni Mayor

Joseph Estrada at ng Bureau of Internal Revenue. Si Stephen Delos Santos naman ay galit sa mga pulitiko na magnanakaw. Sabi niya, tandaan sila para hindi na bobotohin sa susunod na eleksyon. Sabi ni Stephen: “Kelan po kaya magigising ang mga Pilipino na lahat ng mga pulitiko ay magnanakaw, biruin mo milyun-milyon ang kanilang ginastos sa eleksyon. Papaano nila mababawi ‘yan kung sahod lang ang pagbabasehan kaya sigurado lahat sila dumidiskarte. “Magkapera o magkaroon ng lagay ‘di natin nakikita ‘yan pero ‘wag tayong magbulag-bulagan, lahat po ng kakandidato sa Pilipinas. “Pagbabago ang gusto nating mangyari para umunlad. Ugat ng problema ay ugali nating mga Pilipino. Wala tayong disiplina. Magaling tayong magingay, manisi, ituro, mandamay. Magyabang, dyan tayo sikat pero kung sakripisyo na ang pag-uusapan wala tayo niyan. “Mga nagtatrabaho sa gobyerno, kahit saan, pera ang katumbas. Kaya ang pagbabago ay malabong mangyari sa atin.” Nakakalungkot naman. Itong nagpadala ng sulat sa akin na bibigyan ko ng pangalang Rocky, ay sinusuportahan ang pagsampa ng kasong plunder sa tatlong senator: Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada at Bong Revilla. “It’s about time this three comedians are going to jail. We should have no mercy on politicians who are stealing money away from our own people specially those who are in need. “Enrile has been stealing from our people for a long time now and it’s got to stop. I’m curious of how much more money he needs to take to his own grave. So greedy he totally disconnected himself from a person with compassion and caring for poor people. I don’t feel sorry for him -- as the saying goes – ‘what you reap is what you sow’ -- and now he’s facing the consequences of his own actions. Bad Karma!”

Heartless Government Written by Tribune Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00

What kind of government is it that takes pride in near balanced budget in the first trimester of 2014 (budget deficit of P3.3 billion out of cash budget of P2.3 trillion) amid serious joblessness, poverty, and massive deficiencies in public infrastructure? President Aquino’s fiscal managers proudly announced that the budget deficit from January to April was P 3.3 billion, a measly 1.2 percent of the 2014 full year budget deficit target of P267 billion. Thus far, the Aquino adminis-tration has been “heartless”. It has put more weight on fiscal optics — small deficits and lower debt-to-GDP ratio — than in addressing the needs of a growing economy and its impoverished people. The Aquino administration has chosen to underprovide essential public services to its people in the quest to have lower-than-appropriate budget deficits. It has failed to invest enough in physical infrastructure and human capital. It has reneged on its responsibility to build better and stronger communities in preparation for future disasters owing to climate change. The underspending in the first trimester of the 2014 is no dif-ferent from the Aquino adminis-tration’s underspending in its previous three years in office. Mr. Aquino and his men continue to underspend when it should be spending more vigorously and purposively to reduce the country’s massive infrastructure deficiency relative to its Asean-5 peers, to speed up the reconstruction of the Yolanda ravaged areas, to fortify calamity-threatened territories, and to address the worsening lack of school facilities. Seven months after the Eastern Visayas area was ravaged by super typhoon Yolanda, very little has been done by the government to reconstruct, build better and sturdier facilities, and uplift the lives of typhoon victims. With the forthcoming typhoon season, the lives of these victims, an overwhelming majority of whom are still living in tents and makeshift facilities, will be put in jeopardy. This is not the first time that the Aquino administration has budgeted less for, then underspent in, public infrastructure. In 2011, it allocated P170 billion (1.9 percent of GDP) for public infrastructure but it only spent P152.1 billion (1.6 percent of GDP). In 2012, it allocated P215.2 billion (2 percent of GDP), but spent only P186.1 billion (1.8 percent of GDP). In 2013, the Aquino administration set aside P265.7 billion (2.2

percent of GDP), but spent on P222.5 billion (1.9 percent of GDP). In 2014, the Aquino administration is authorized to spend P365 billion for infrastructure and other capital outlays [not exactly comparable to previous numbers] but during the first quarter, it has only spent P77 billion or 21.1 percent of total public infrastructure and other capital outlays. If spending for public infrastructure were on target, some P91 billion should have been disbursed and 25 percent of total projects should have been completed. The consensus is that given its massive infrastructure deficiency, the Philippines has to spent the equivalent of at least 5 percent of GDP, or roughly P625 billion annually, for public infrastructure in order to sustain growth of 6 to 7 percent for many years into the future. Good-bye dry months The first few months of the year – January to May — are ideal for public construction, while the third quarter months (July to September) are the worst because of the onslaught of the rainy season. Everyone, including government authorities, knows the seasonality of public construction. Yet, they failed to implement government projects during the dry months. The spillover of public construction from the underspending in 2013 and the reconstruction efforts as a result of typhoon Yolanda and other major calamities should have resulted in stronger public infrastructure spending in the first six months of 2014. Yet, no such massive construction took place. Despite the fact that much has been appropriated for school buildings during the last three years, the lack of school facilities remain unaddressed, especially in Metro Manila and the typhoon damaged areas. Decent housing for Yolanda and the Zamboanga siege victims has yet to be built. There appears to be a huge divergence between pronouncements by the Department of Budget and Management and the real situation on the ground. There is a big difference between press releases that funds (actually authority to contract out projects) have been released by the DBM and the actual start and completion of projects. Press releases don’t create jobs and move the economy; actual construction activities do. Opportunity costs of project delays

There is an opportunity cost for every passing day that government plans and projects do not take off the ground. The potential beneficiaries of government services —the farmers who benefit from farmto-market roads, the urban dwellers who benefit from efficient and reliable mass transit system, the school children who benefit from new or reconstructed school buildings, the calamity victims who benefit from new and decent housing, and so on — are denied the benefits while these funded projects are delayed or, in some cases, not implemented. For a labor-surplus economy like the Philippines, the opportunity costs of failing to create decent jobs for some 3 million unemployed and some 7 to 8 million underemployed Filipinos is tremendous. Think of the many idle workers who were denied employment opportunities because government projects were delayed or not implemented. What’s worse is when fiscal managers try to masquerade failure as success: trying to get ‘brownie points’ for underspending and taking pride in generating smaller-thanprogrammed budget deficit. Dr. Diokno is a former Secretary of Budget and Management.

‘Pork’ raps part of Aquino’s Sona, says Malacañang

Written by Tribune Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00 Aquino has already started preparing for his fifth State-of-the- Nation Address (Sona), which he will deliver next month, and is expected to include the pork bar-rel scam, a Malacañang official yesterday said. While Presidential Com-munications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. admitted the Chief Executive has already discussed with his writers the outline of his forthcoming speech, he, however, stressed the filing of graft charges against opposition Senators Ramon Revilla Jr., Jinggoy Estrada and Juan Ponce Enrile and alleged scam mastermind Janet Lim-Napoles over the multibillionpeso scam was not rushed for the Sona.

“It (filing of pork barrel scam cases) will certainly be discussed

because the President will report the performance of the administration on its important programs and priorities under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP),” he said in a radio interview. “I would like to clarify that having a speech or the Sona was not the reason (for the filing of plunder cases.” Coloma added there is an apparent effort to divert attention from the real issue. The annual Sona is a way to inform the public about the state of the country, the accomplishments and promises by the Chief Executive. It is delivered every fourth Monday of July at the Plenary Hall of the Batasang Pambansa Complex in Batasan Hills, Quezon City. The President delivered his first Sona in July 2010, the second in 2011, the third in 2012, and the fourth in 2013. “Part of the priorities of the government (Aquino administration) is good governance and anti-corruption,” Coloma said in Filipino. The PCOO chief

further said that good governance and anti-corruption campaign are both part of the PDP. Estrada over the weekend said the filing of the plunder charges against him and his two opposition colleagues was railroaded at the Office of the Ombudsman to rush their being behind bars as a showcase when Aquino delivers his Sona. But Coloma Jr. said the charges came from the Office of the Ombudsman and that the investigation on the three senators’ alleged involvement in the pork barrel scam had been going on since last year. PNA

Plunder raps props for Sona — Estrada Written by Tribune Sunday, 08 June 2014 00:00 OMBUDSMAN RUSHED FILING OF PORK CHARGES

The Office of the Ombudsman’s filing of plunder cases last Friday against three Palace-targeted senators and their imminent arrest were all meant to act as backdrop for the penultimate State of the Nation Address (Sona) of President Aquino next month, one of the accused, Sen. Jinggoy Estrada, said yesterday. Estrada said in a radio interview the filing of the plunder charges against him and his two opposition colleagues, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile and Ramon Revilla Jr., was railroaded at the Office of the Ombudsman to rush their being behind bars as a showcase when Aquino delivers his Sona. Estrada said that as early as last month when Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales was still in New York for a “study tour” she had announced there was enough evidence to prove the guilt of the three legislators that made it “very obvious” Morales rushed the filing of charges upon her recent return to the country. “Morales had said that she still needed to study the motions for reconsideration (filed by the senators). How then can she immediately file the cases with the Sandiganbayan the moment she returned to the country? Isn’t it too obvious that she rushed the cases for filing with the Sandiganbayan,” he said. “It is but obvious that the target is for (the three senators) to be detained before the Sona of President provide a showcase for his anti-corruption drive,” he added. Estrada said he will voluntarily surrender himself to authorities once an arrest warrant is issued against him. He said that he wouldn’t being arrested inside the Senate grounds. Senate President Franklin Drilon said he would not allow authorities to make the arrest during a Senate session, invoking courtesy among the three branches of government. “That would be fine with me (an arrest inside the Senate grounds). I will voluntarily

surrender. They only have to tell me where I should surrender. I am easy to talk with... I will not escape arrest,” Estrada said Estrada, nonetheless, maintained his innocence over the charges being leveled against him. “My conscience is clear,” he said. He, however, asked that authorities spare the senior Enrile from being jailed due to his old age. “He is 90 years old and it would be a great torment if he is detained. Let me and the others be placed in jail but spare Manong Johnny,” he said. Estrada again raised the selective justice being administered by the government as it “never lifted a finger to even investigate the allies of the administration.” “Why only us? That is a hard pill to swallow,” he said. Cabinet members close to Aquino were also linked to the scandal including Budget Secretary Butch Abad, Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Director General Joel Villanueva. Abad was even pinpointed by pork barrel scam brains Janet Lim Napoles in her sworn affidavit as being her mentor in the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF )scam. “In the midst of recent misinformation brought about by dishonesty and politicking, the administration remains firmly committed to unearthing the facts,” Deputy presidential spokesman Abigail Valte said. Valte said the administration has been prepared for any political repercussions should there be an arrest that would have to be issued by the Sandiganbayan. “Of course, in this case, the court will issue an order of the arrest. The executive will be the one to be tasked to carry it out. So in that case, as in any high profile case that involves high profile personalities, we will do what is necessary as ordered by the court,” Valte said. Valte said the execution of arrest would not be done in the Senate hall as Drilon has already made his appeal to the arresting officers. Valte shrugged off Estrada’s allegations that the filing of the plunder charges was meant as a Sona backdrop. “I think the Ombudsman has given enough time to review and to consider all the pieces of evidence that was submitted by the DOJ (Department of Justice). It took months before the Ombudsman has issued a resolution on this case,” Valte said. Valte stressed that the Office of the Ombudsman is an independent constitutional commission or creation apart from the executive. “The office of the Ombudsman is not controlled by the executive,” Valte said. Valte said the proposal of the Ombudsman to the Sandiganbayan to create a special division that should try and hear the plunder case can only be decided by sitting justices

of the anti-graft court. “That is a matter that will be left up to the decision of the Supreme Court and hopefully, whatever their decision may be, it will help in making sure that the trial or the proceedings are conducted in a timely manner without any delay,” Valte said. In a letter submitted by Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales to SC Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, the Chief Ombudsman asked the High Court to create “at least two special divisions in the Sandiganbayan to exclusively try and conduct continuous trial” of the recently filed plunder cases in connection with the alleged illegal channeling of the lawmakers’ Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) to the bogus nongovernment organizations (NGOs) of businesswomen Janet Lim-Napoles. “National magnitude of these cases, the complexities of the issues involved, the number of accused and the far-reaching consequences of these cases,” Morales said in his letter. Invoking the Constitution and the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan, the letter cited as precedent the SC’s January 21, 2002 Resolution in A.M. No. 02-1-07-SC where the SC created a Special Division of the Sandiganbayan to hear, try and decide, with dispatch, the plunder case and all related cases filed against former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada and his co-accused. “Section 5, par. 5, Article VIII of the Constitution states that the Supreme Court has the power to “promulgate rules concerning x x x pleading, practice, and procedure in all courts,” the letter stated. Morales also cited Section 3, Rule III, Part I of the Revised Internal Rules of the Sandiganbayan that provides for the creation of a special division “where compelling reasons and the interest of justice so require.” Last Friday, the Office of the Ombudsman filed before the Sandiganbayan three separate plunder raps against Napoles, Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon “Bong” Revilla Jr., Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada and their respective co-accused for allegedly channelling hundreds of millions of pesos of their PDAF allocations to fake NGOs created and controlled by Napoles for the implementation of ghost projects. The lawmakers allegedly pocketed public funds through kickbacks and or commissions in the amounts of more than P172-million, P242-million and P183-million, respectively. The other charges for violation of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act are set to be filed against the same personalities next week. On the part of the Ombudsman, Morales bared she had formed a special prosecution panel composed of three teams to handle the first set of criminal cases filed in connection with the PDAF controversy.

The Prosecution Panel is co-chaired by Deputy Special Prosecutor John Turalba and Acting Deputy Special Prosecutor Manuel Soriano Jr. The panel’s first team is composed of Acting Director Janina Hidalgo as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Edwin Gomez, Jennifer Agustin-Se and Annielyn Medes-Cabellis as members. The second team is composed of Acting Director Danilo Lopez as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Christina Marallag-Batacan, Anna Isabel Aurellano and Peter Jedd Boco as members while the third team consist of Acting Director Joefferson Toribio as team leader with Assistant Special Prosecutors Jacinto Dela Cruz, Lyn Dimayuga and Emerita Francia as members. The Anti-Graft court is reportedly will conduct a special raffle of the case this Tuesday. Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, whose investigators prepared the case against the opposition senators, said she was confident they had enough evidence. “We are confident that there is enough evidence to support conviction and we continue to strengthen the evidence,” she told AFP. The evidence included testimony from whistleblowers involved in the alleged corruption and documents from government agencies showing that funds were syphoned off, she added. If convicted, the three could face life in prison. Enrile, 90, has outlasted four previous presidents and was chief enforcer of martial law under Marcos in the 1970s. Estrada, 51, is the son of former president and movie star Joseph Estrada while Revilla, 47, is a showbiz star as well as the son of another movie star-turned-senator. De Lima said the executive branch was awaiting word from the court on when to arrest the three, adding that this could come within two weeks. She denied there were political overtones in the case, saying the evidence simply pointed to the trio. Five of their staffers and a businesswoman, Janet Lim-Napoles, who allegedly masterminded the scam were also indicted. The three senators with the help of their aides and Napoles are alleged to have allocated millions of dollars from their official “pork barrel” funds to bogus nongovernment organisations which then gave them huge kickbacks. Aquino’s spokeswoman Abigail Valte said the indictments were just the start and that more people would eventually be named in the massive corruption scandal that has riveted the nation for months. The accusations, which surfaced last year, triggered a firestorm of outrage over the

“pork barrel” system whereby legislators get huge amounts of money which they can use on pet projects. Thousands marched in protested against the practice, which the Supreme Court outlawed in November. Other officials have also been named as involved in the scandal including allies of Aquino. Spokesmen for the three senators could not be contacted for comment but Estrada and Revilla were quoted by radio station DZMM as saying the charges were unfair. “They want (Aquino) to be able to say that he jailed three senators as part of his anticorruption drive,” said Estrada. Valte told reporters that the executive branch, which would be in charge of arresting the three, would respect the Senate and would not have the senators arrested in the Senate building. Meanwhile, sources in the national police headquarters said that space was being cleared at a special “custodial centre” for high-profile inmates to make way for several big-name arrivals. The centre currently hosts 72 inmates including top communist insurgents, suspected drug traffickers and police officials linked to graft and major human rights abuses. However it should ideally hold only 60 inmates, the sources said. By Charlie V. Manalo, Paul Atienza and AFP

Numb Written by Dinah S. Ventura Monday, 09 June 2014 00:00

If you consider the way our system of government works, you can really think it has moved too fast in the context of the Priority Development Assistance Fund misuse allegations. Case in point: graft and corruption allegations against former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo have been there for almost as long as President Noynoy Aquino has sat in power, yet nothing much has happened to the cases. In fact, one case — the Fertilizer fund scam — has figured somehow in the much more massive controversy involving businesswoman Janet Lim-Napoles and her NGOs. And I suspect that if we dig deeper, we may uncover a whole world of corruption made up of highways and byways that likely intersect at many points. Meanwhile, just over a year since the pork barrel mess whipped out so much dirt and plastered it on all these politicians’ faces, three senators now face jail time as the papers for their indictment have been released by the Ombudsman. Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada and Bong Revilla are in the hot seat, and they say they will not run away from the problem. Even now, when the whole government is threatened by collapse — maybe not literally, but in terms of the people’s regard — politicians are trying to preserve what decency they can keep. They ask that no arrests be made in Senate. They ask that the position be respected, just as two former Presidents had been accorded when they were accused of corruption. Granted, the issues are not exactly the same, but are they not related and just as potentially damning as the other, or even just as powerfully cataclysmic for our country were they to be dealt with properly? And, of course, why are the three senators in particular getting stellar billing when it has become quite obvious that many more may also be vying for Famas awards? When

you consider the sheer number of leaders past and present that have been linked to the Napoles way of doing business, then the fact that three senators have received more exposure makes it all appear unfair somehow, and the timing suspect. Is it for show; is it to boost an image, never mind if a few others take all the muck for everybody’s sake? Is this feeling of doubt, distrust and uncertainty stemming from the fact that we have just become less gullible now? Then again, the public reaction to the pork barrel scam has seemed a little bit lukewarm. There was a time it didn’t take too much or too long for people to want to organize and gather to make their protests heard. Nowadays, the bigger the shockers, the more numb we seem to get. The million people march is a case in point. I don’t think the public sentiment is much different against any corruption case that is revealed, but years of failed attempts to reform the system by first trying to weed out individuals we had perceived to be bad seem to have conditioned us to stop trying. Or is it because we had stopped believing in the possibility of reform? The Aquino government invested so much in establishing its reputation for anti-corruption. The people anticipated major actions because corruption allegations had practically flourished under the previous administration, yet were never pursued. The people never had the satisfaction of seeing justice run the full course, whatever that means. Just a “sorry,” just the words “rule of law” waved the issues away. It’s not as if the situation has changed. If we have “Tanda,” “Sexy” and “Pogi” today, there were Jose Pidal and Jose Velarde (and thankfully no Jose Rizal) used as aliases for suspiciously fat bank accounts. The story has worsened yet stayed the same, only because we have not transcended the cause. Someone — a reader — recently posted a question to this column: what is happening to your country? I had written about the recent issues troubling our nation, and for someone who doesn’t live here, it may have sounded terrible indeed. For those of us who emerged from childhood stupor and into the “Edsa” consciousness, it may certainly feel like we have lain at the cusp of change since then, always aiming to leap yet never quite making it. It may feel like we had been waiting forever, yet nothing had really changed, just faces and places. Perhaps our problem is that we that we keep waiting for or expecting change to happen, maybe even served to us on a silver platter, not knowing that it is possible right now if we only see things from a different perspective. So what if the pork barrel case is too fast or as slow as the traffic, as long as we see it through fairly and squarely? Change will come if we stop waiting and start doing.

Posted on June 08, 2014 09:56:35 PM

M3 growth slowdown ‘within the expected path’ Posted on June 08, 2014 09:56:35 PM

APRIL’S LIQUIDITY growth result was in line with expectations of a gradual normalization following recent policy moves, the chief of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. “The M3 growth slowdown [in April] is within the expected path projected by the BSP,” central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said in an e-mail to reporters over the weekend. “As the twin RR (reserve requirement) adjustments continue to work their way, we see M3 growth reaching normal levels in the second half of the year.” M3 -- the broadest measure of money in the financial system -- grew by 32.1% in April, the slowest pace since September 2013’s 31.3%. It was also slower than the revised 34.7% seen in March. The data reflected the impact of a March 27 Monetary Board decision to raise bank reserve requirements by one percentage point, effective April 4. Reserve ratios were raised by another percentage point last May 8, effective May 30. Each one-percentage-point hike, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said late last month, is expected to mop up some P60 billion-P64 billion in liquidity from the system. Monetary authorities have said that the adjustments are meant to rein in excessive growth in both money supply and credit, with the expansion in liquidity seen slowing to 15%-18% by the next semester. Money supply growth has stayed above 30% since July last year, propelled mainly by banks’ move to pull ineligible funds from the BSP’s special deposit account. The facility was tweaked last year in a bid to free up cash to support the economy.

Meanwhile, bank lending -- counting out overnight placements with the BSP -- rose by 20.9% year-on-year in April to P3.9 trillion, outpacing March’s 20%, which was the fastest since November 2011. Mr. Tetangco said robust credit growth was among the factors that could propel domestic economic activity this year following the slowdown recorded in the first quarter. January-March growth came in at 5.7%, slower than the 7.7% recorded in the comparable year-ago period as well as the 6.3% notched in the last quarter of 2013. “Favorable business and consumer confidence readings, robust credit growth, stronger export demand due to a pickup in global growth, and fiscal stimulus from reconstruction and rehabilitation spending could provide a boost to domestic activity,” the central bank chief said. “The sustained growth in investments also indicates that domestic demand conditions are firm, and this could help the economy regain some momentum,” he added. Prospects moving forward remain “positive,” Mr. Tetangco said. “[W]e may still be able to achieve the government’s target, although growth could settle at a more moderate pace, partly due to waning base effects,” he said. “The outlook for the domestic economy, however, is not without risks. Global financial conditions could tighten as the US Federal Reserve continues to taper its quantitative easing program,” he added. “Slower growth in China could impact regional supply chains and pose challenges to Philippine export growth.” The government is targeting GDP growth of 6.5%-7.5% this year. In 2013, the economy expanded by 7.2%, beating the official 6%-7% goal. -- Bettina Faye V. Roc

Posted on June 08, 2014 09:57:33 PM By Bettina Faye V. Roc, Senior Reporter

IMF to revise outlook following Q1 slowdown THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund (IMF) is looking to revise its 2014 growth forecast for the Philippines following a worsethan-expected first-quarter slowdown. “Overall, growth could be somewhat lower than the 6.5% projected before but will remain robust and the forecast will be revised with the Article IV report and next WEO (World Economic Outlook) revision on July 9,” IMF Resident Representative Shanaka Jayanath Peiris said in an e-mail. Mr. Peiris noted that the first quarter easing to 5.7% was “slightly more than expected,” adding that this “was also an emerging markets phenomenon related to weaker exports.” The multilateral lender currently sees Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) expanding by 6.5% this year and 2015. The figure was bared at the end of an Article IV consultation in March as well as during the release of the first WEO report in early April. The government is targeting GDP growth of 6.5%-7.5% this year and 7%-8% in 2015. In 2013, growth was an above-target 7.2%. The IMF said in March that the Philippines’ potential growth was only around 6.25%. The above-potential 6.5% outlook, Mr. Peiris then explained, was partly based on expectations of a “fiscal stimulus” coming from reconstruction activities in calamity-hit areas. Mr. Peiris yesterday said rehabilitation efforts would still be among the drivers of growth. “Going forward, we expect the economy to gradually pick up as exports rebound with the global economy but the trajectory would partly depend on the pace of reconstruction spending and need for monetary tightening,” the IMF official said.

Mr. Peiris noted that the 4.5% inflation recorded in May also emphasized that the need for accommodative domestic monetary policy had waned. “[A]s noted in the press release for the Article IV mission, tighter monetary conditions would help mitigate potential second-round effects,” he said. At its May 8 meeting, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) policy-setting Monetary Board kept overnight borrowing and lending rates at 3.5% and 5.5%, respectively, for a 12th straight meeting, with monetary authorities noting that the inflation environment remained manageable. Special deposit account rates were also kept steady at 2%. However, reserve requirement ratios for universal/commercial banks and thrift banks were raised by one percentage point effective May 30. The ratio refers to how much as a percentage of current deposits banks need to keep with the BSP. A one-percentage-point increase was previously ordered during a March 27 meeting. The latest adjustment brought the reserve ratio for universal and commercial banks to 20% and that for thrift banks to 8%. The higher reserve requirements, monetary authorities have said, are meant to help keep both growth in liquidity and credit in check. The Monetary Board next meets to discuss policy on June 19. v

Yields track auction results Posted on June 08, 2014 09:57:44 PM GOVERNMENT securities traded in the secondary bond market rallied last Friday, with prices on short-dated debts shooting up, tracking the results of the Bureau of the Treasury’s auction of Treasury bills. Yields, which are inversely related to prices, fell by 4.15 basis points (bps) on the average week on week, according to Philippine Dealing and Exchange Corp. data as of May 6. On a monthly basis, yields also declined by 31.65 bps on the average. “The market was basically influenced by the last auction,” said Jonathan L. Ravelas, BDO Unibank, Inc. chief market strategist.

“The short-end headed south in reaction to the lower rates seen at last week’s primary auction while the recent appreciation spell of the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) also helped drive demand for the short dates, with investors expecting the peso to continue appreciating,” said Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa, market research officer at BPI Financial Markets Group. At the June 2 Treasury auction, the 91-, 182-, and 364- day T-bills respectively fetched 1.035%, 1.481%, and 1.754%. The 91-day T-bill rate was 31.1 basis points (bps) lower than the 1.346% accepted at the May 5 auction while those on the six-month and one-year papers were 21.5 bps and 21.8 bps lower, respectively, than the 1.696% and 1.972% accepted at the April 7 auction, the last time they were sold.

Meanwhile, the peso closed six-and-a-half centavos stronger at P43.815 last Thursday after the BSP said “the room to keep rates steady has narrowed” following the release of data showing inflation had climbed to a 30-month high of 4.5% in May. Higher interest rates are expected to attract foreign money, which will drive up demand for the local currency. At the secondary market, the yield on the 91-, 182-, and 364-day T-bills respectively fell by 5.50 bps,

45.05 bps and 17.81 bps to 1.015%, 1.2995% and 1.7719%. That on the 10-year Treasury bond (T-bond) slid by 10 bps to 3.8%. On the other hand, the yield on the two-, three-, four-, five- and seven-year T-bond rose by 4.62 bps, 2.87 bps, 3.63 bps, 4.61 bps and 1.35 bps to 2.3452%, 2.6624%, 3.0123%, 3.3015% and 3.4975%. The 20- and 25-year T-bonds respectively gave 4.85% and 5.0403%, up by 6.50 bps and 9.18 bps. “The higher inflation print hurt the longer maturity papers more than the shorter dated bills. This was why the yields on the long-end rose,” Mr. Mapa said. For this week, Mr. Ravelas advised investors to “expect interest rates to move sideways to upwards.” BPI Asset Management, in a report released last Friday, said: “[W]e expect upward pressure on the yields of government securities as market players anticipate monetary policy tightening at the BSP’s upcoming meeting... especially after the higher-than-expected inflation print.” The policy-setting Monetary Board will next meet on June 19. The BSP’s key rates have been kept at record lows of 3.5% for overnight borrowing and 5.5% for overnight lending since October 2012. -- K. I. O. Cera

Posted on June 08, 2014 10:06:05 PM

Weak peso expected after US jobs data A SOLID US jobs report released over the weekend would be a major headwind for the peso this week, traders said, noting a lack of fresh catalyst to drive the local currency.

Already, the dollar rallied against the euro and other major currencies last Friday after the May non-farm payrolls data pointed to growth in the world’s largest economy. Before the release of that jobs data, the peso strengthened to a near three-week high against the dollar on news of the European Central Bank’s implementation of new monetary stimulus. The peso hit P43.635 per dollar in intraday deals on Friday, its strongest since May 19’s P43.625-to-the-dollar finish. It closed softer at P43.65 per dollar last Friday but still gained 1.68% so far this year. “The peso will likely trade between P43.60 and P43.90” to begin the week, said BDO Unibank Inc. chief market strategist Jonathan L. Ravelas. Absent other major data releases this week, traders said the US jobs data is likely to influence trading. US employers created more than 200,000 jobs for the fourth straight month in May, the Labor Department said Friday. A net 217,000 positions were added, nearly all by the private sector. Though a hair below expectations, the report generally showed the recovery in the labor market was steadily improving. The unemployment rate held steady at 6.3% after dropping from 6.7% to that level in April. In an email over the weekend, MetisEtrade currency strategist Yroen Guaya B. Melgar said that US jobs data would be “among the first movers of next week’s USDPHP trading.” “A correction to the dollar’s winning streak for the past few weeks could happen if [non-farm payrolls] data is below the expected 214,000 and if the unemployment rate is above the expected 6.9%,” her email read. In its weekly report, BPI Asset Management said that “lacking any major domestic catalysts,” investor sentiment partly based on the non-farm payrolls data would “spill over into the upcoming week.”

Kathy Lien of BK Asset Management said the jobs report showed the ailing US labor market was improving but not strongly enough to push the Federal Reserve to reconsider its current monetary policies, including the measured reduction of its asset-purchase program. “The data only reinforces the central bank’s cautious approach to unwinding stimulus. While there was enough improvement for the Fed to continue tapering it will be some time before the central bank considers raising interest rates,” Ms. Lien said. FT Advisors economists said the “solid” jobs report reinforced their expectations of “continued Plow Horse gains” in the coming months that will push the jobless rate below 6.0% later this year. “In turn, this will help put pressure on the Federal Reserve to move up short-term interest rates in the first half of 2015,” they said in a research note. Mr. Ravelas agreed that there is little local data to initially dictate trading this week. “Actually, there’s not much news locally. It’s more a question of how the dollar will perform,” he said. “And how the market will deal with the negative rate in the euro - over the long term we might see weakness in the euro.” BPI Asset Management also noted that trading may be light in the run-up to the June 12 Independence Day holiday. -- R.L.B. Aquino with AFP

Posted on June 08, 2014 09:52:18 PM

DA to probe garlic price increases

THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) said yesterday that it will probe a supposed price increase for garlic sold mostly in Metro Manila and other areas, noting an increase in the volume of garlic harvested last year. Prices have been blamed on garlic traders. -- BW File Photo In a brief statement yesterday, the agency noted that it will investigate a reported price increase for both imported and locally grown bulbs to P290 and P180 per kilogram (kg), respectively. “I don’t see any reason why prices [of garlic] should go up, unless there are some people who are trying to manipulate the prices,” DA Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said, adding that he wants to discuss the price hike with retailers and wholesalers. Mindoro Allium Growers Multi-Purpose Cooperative General Manager Lamberto C. Punsalan said that the Philippine Council for Agriculture and Fisheries will discuss the issue with stakeholders tomorrow afternoon at a meeting in the DA’s head office in Quezon City. In a phone interview, Mr. Punsalan said that varieties were priced at P100/kg for the bototoy garlic variety, P130/kg for tercera, P150/kg for segunda; P180/kg for primera; and P200/kg for extra large. “We have sufficiency until mid-July,” Mr. Punsalan added, claiming that the situation was an “artificial shortage” designed to create tension amongst consumers to fuel more imports of the commodity. Mr. Punsalan added, however, that higher garlic prices were justified. He asked the public to be more patient as the industry picks up following a decade of contending with garlic smuggled from overseas. “The problem lies with traders, not on the farmers and the situation,” he said in a text message. “They are taking advantage, and I think there is a malignant ploy to discredit us together with the DA and our NGAT (National Garlic Action Team) group.” He also slammed politicians for “dabbling” in a “political mileage issue,” and vented his ire at the subsector’s middlemen. “Napakahalang at ganid ng kaluluwa ng mga mapagsamantalang traders at smugglersna nagcre-create ng ganitong hysteria, upang maobliga kayo na katigan sila (Amoral and greedy are the

souls of the abusive traders and smugglers creating this hysteria to force you to sustain them). They have all the power and the means,” he said. “We keep on bringing goods to different markets; the problem is that there seems to be connivance amongst vendors not to accept and support our products,” he added in Filipino. Mr. Punsalan noted that there is a “modest” annual consumption of 1.42 kg per capita per annum for the Philippine population, exclusive of institutional buyers. In its annual agricultural performance report for 2013, the Philippine Statistics Authority -- Bureau of Agricultural Statistics reported a 1.88% increase in the volume of garlic harvested last year to 8,650 metric tons from 8,490 MT in 2012. It added that a 62.46% price cut last year to P34.24/kg on average from P91.21 /kg was due to the large volume of imported garlic, ultimately causing a 61.75% year-on-year decline in gross receipts. Mr. Punsalan noted that the five top garlic-producing provinces were Ilocos Norte, Ilocos Sur, Occidental Mindoro and nearby Lubang and Looc islands, Batanes, and Nueva Vizcaya. -- Anton Joshua M. Santos

Posted on June 08, 2014 09:53:29 PM By Daryll Edisonn D. Saclag, Reporter

Bread, biscuit, noodle prices to rise

PRICES of bread, biscuits, and noodles in the provinces are expected to rise by as much as 15% next month as a result of more expensive Turkish flour, which recently was slapped with higher import duties. “I don’t think there is any price increase in Metro Manila. But those who are buying Turkish flour and producing affordable flour-based products like pancit canton, biscuits, and bread in the provinces -- these will be the users that will be affected,” Ernesto Chua, president of both Philippines-Turkey Business Council and flour importer Malabon Longlife Trading Corp., said on Friday, referring to a Department of Agriculture (DA) order imposing higher tariffs on imported flour from Turkey. “In July, we [Turkish flour importers] will adjust our prices accordingly. The average rate of increase will be 8-15%, depending on who your exporter is. But, I’m sure those with high dumping duty will no longer import because they cannot be competitive anymore,” Mr. Chua said. On April 23, the DA said it had found positive evidence that dumping of wheat flour from Turkey occurred throughout 2012 and slapped provisional tariffs on top of the current 7% regular import duty on flour: 35% tariff on hard flour used for making bread, 39.26% on flour used for biscuit bread, and 35.21% on soft flour used for pastries and cookies. These took effect last month. Dumping takes place when a product is imported at prices much lower than in the home market and is causing injury to the importing country’s domestic industry. The Tariff Commission is currently determining whether the provisional duties should be made definitive. It expects to announce its decision in September. The petition for anti-dumping duties stemmed from a complaint filed by Philippine Association of Flour Millers (PAFMIL) in March last year, claiming that Turkish wheat flour was making locally produced flour uncompetitive since it was being sold at prices lower than in Turkey. PAFMIL’s members are Liberty Flour Mills, Wellington Flour Mills, General Milling Corp., Pilmico Foods Corp., RFM Corp., and Universal Robina Corp. Officials from the Turkish Embassy in Manila have said the higher duties are expected to create “negative repercussions” on trade between the two countries. section=Economy&title=Bread,-biscuit,-noodle-prices-to-rise&id=88789

Smoking gun of Aquino’s complicity in pork-barrel scam

June 8, 2014 10:31 pm

by RIGOBERTO D. TIGLAO In his attempt to demonize the Estradas so there won’t be an “EDSA Tres” backlash when Senator Jinggoy Estrada is thrown to jail this week, President Aquino may have inadvertently provided us with what is nearly the “smoking gun” of his complicity in the pork-barrel scam, or at least of his closeness to Janet Lim-Napoles. This is Napoles’ letter last year to Aquino asking for his “assistance” in fighting the extortion attempt against her and her brother by the National Bureau of Investigation officers together with one at-that-time obscure lawyer Levito Baligod and ex-general Rodolfo Diaz. The letter was dated (and received by Aquino) April 17, 2013. This was more than three months before Napoles’ staff-turned-rat Benhur Luy, with his office-mates and accompanied by Baligod as their lawyer, went in July to the Philippine Daily Inquirer to begin their trial-by-publicity barrage against the alleged “pork-barrel queen.” Aquino on June 5, last week, read one portion of it referring to ex-general Diaz, to imply that the Estradas were involved in the extortion try through him, as he was Presidential Security Group commander during President Estrada’s administration. Aquino had his aides photocopy the letter he had read. They distributed it to the press. The letter is actually very revealing, a virtual smoking gun not only showing Aquino’s closeness to Napoles, but also pointing to the grand plan to nail down leaders of the opposition while portraying it as his promised campaign against corruption.

The pork barrel probe can worsen corruption June 8, 2014 10:26 p

by RICARDO SALUDO With the indictment of Senators Juan Ponce Enrile, Jinggoy Estrada, and Bong Revilla, along with alleged pork barrel scam operator Janet Lim Napoles, many Filipinos weary of the corruption cancer consuming the country, are sighing in relief and vindication. And President Benigno Aquino 3rd can rightly claim that his Tuwid na Daan campaign is bringing top politicians accused of graft to justice. Detractors will point out that no one in the ruling camp has ever been sanctioned for pork barrel or other anomalies. But a few big fish in the net is better than none, right? Sadly, it could make things worse. For the drive against sleaze isn’t helped if most pork barrel grafters get away. Then the lesson they take away from the senatorial indictments is that it pays to be in the winning side. With that in mind, the corrupt will just stay close or sidle up to the powers that be. Senators and congressmen, even some in the opposition, will take care never to attack the President, and a good number will begin singing the Palace tune more loudly and frequently. And in 2016, they will switch to the winning side. That’s what they did in 2010. And over the past year of pork barrel controversy, a good number of those who got kickbacks from Priority Development Assistance Fund outlays have been thankful they joined the yellow camp. When the Department of Budget and Management gave PDAF records for 2007-09 to the Commission on Audit in 2010, DBM withheld documents for two-thirds of the pork, mostly for administration lawmakers, despite repeated COA requests. And when Justice

Secretary Leila de Lima released Napoles’s recent testimony and list of erring lawmakers, there were again many sighs of relief among Aquino allies. Battle for survival in 2016 What’s worse, having seen what Malacañang can do to adversaries, all sides will fight for the presidency with even greater intensity, ruthlessness, cheating—and, of course, guns, goons and gold. Now, the losers don’t just get frozen out of power for six years; they could be maligned before the nation and jailed for life for past sleaze—all documented in state agencies — even as their winning opponents continue to gorge on present and future anomalies. Hence, expect the next elections to get even tougher, dirtier and bloodier than ever, especially if a foolproof electronic system isn’t found in time and polling goes manual again. And in the years to 2016, the scramble for vote-rich allies, multi-billion-peso funding, and nationwide name recognition will be much more driven, if not desperate. With PDAF outlawed, other schemes will be tried, confident that if anyone in the ruling camp gets caught, the Palace has always been the first to downplay the anomalies, if not defend its allies outright. President Aquino even paid the bail for two fellow Liberal Party stalwarts on trial for corruption. If the Disbursement Acceleration Program is ruled to be lawful and constitutional, then DAP-style presidential recasting of the budget could become a top source of partisan outlays. Plus there’s always jueteng and smuggling, not to mention the hugely lucrative bidding for public infrastructure like the Metro Rail Transit. In the intensifying maneuvers for election advantage, the opposition is looking beleaguered. Besides plunder cases against Enrile, Estrada and Revilla, the government is reviving graft charges against the family of Vice-President Jejomar Binay, who leads both the rival United Nationalist Alliance and voter preference polls. The removal of UNA-aligned Laguna Governor ER Ejercito may be followed by moves to take out or win over chiefs of other vote-rich provinces now with the opposition. And special PDAF courts, if created, would make pork-tainted UNA legislators think about switching and enjoying the virtual immunity from prosecution shielding Aquino allies. Clearly, the 2016 elections is now a battle not just for power, but for survival. What the nation can do If the opposition is decimated by pork barrel cases and intimidation, even as the ruling camp is largely protected in past and present sleaze, the emerging political scene looks set to replicate the near-total dominance of Ferdinand Marcos’s Kilusang Bagong Lipunan during his dictatorship. And with mainstream media mostly supportive of the administration while the judiciary is run by a loyal Chief Justice, and Washington backs Malacañang, the resemblance between the FM and PNoy eras grows even more. The nation is now faced with two choices: go along with the campaign to crack down on the opposition while sparing the administration, further cementing the LP-led ruling

coalition’s hold on power; or to push for a non-partisan investigation and prosecution of PDAF corruption. Most people will prefer the path of less resistance and let the government jail some crooks while letting off those in its camp, especially political chieftains with hefty voting constituencies to deliver in 2016. At least some grafters go to jail, the least resisters surmise, trying not to think about the mass of sharks swimming in protected waters. That would be expedient and convenient—until the growing power of the ruling coalition and its cronies inevitably leads to gross abuse and corruption that will be impossible to hide and even harder to tolerate. That eventually happened under Marcos, when some of its powerful factions thought they could kill an opposition leader traveling with a planeload of media, and pin the blame on a lone communist gunman already dead before the airport killing. Administration backers will insist that the Aquino regime will not go the way of the Marcos dictatorship, even though the constitutional checks and balances and the fiscalizing media needed to restrain abuse are getting weaker and weaker. And looking at the rival politicians raring to replace the current crop, most Filipinos may well let the Aquino camp have their way. But those who truly believe in democracy would prefer to trust not the unbridled power of a few, but the sovereign people’s demand full truth and impartial justice. As Lord Acton said, absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. Still, it remains to be seen if Filipinos care to make that demand. Most probably don’t. And that’s why we’re in this mess.

Abad tagged as ‘missing link’ By Christine F. Herrera | Jun. 09, 2014 at 12:01am

Brand, connection to ‘pork barrel king’ all lies — Palace ANTI-PORK activists on Sunday said Budget Secretary Florencio Abad was the “missing link” that could unmask President Benigno Aquino III as the Pork Barrel King, a charge that the Palace dismissed as a lie and a deception.

Getting ready. This file photo shows Budget Secretary Florencio Abad preparing his notes before the start of the third oral arguments on the Disbursement Acceleration Program at the Supreme Court.

The 6.12.14 Coalition, which will mount a nationwide indignation rally on June 12, said this was the reason the President was covering up for Abad, two other Cabinet members and allied lawmakers. “Aquino, by filing cases solely against political opponents, seeks to divert the public outrage against his government and cover up his role as Pork Barrel King,” said Vencer Crisostomo, Anakbayan chairman and co-convenor of #AbolishPork Movement. The coalition demanded that the government make public the details of the dealings between alleged pork barrel scam mastermind Janet Lim Napoles and Aquino’s allies. “The youth are not ignorant of the national government’s budget process. Congress legislates the budget, and the President – through Department of Budget and Management -- approves the release of funds. Therefore, we firmly believe that Secretary Abad is the missing link that would

connect the pork barrel scam to the Pork King himself, President Aquino,” said Youth Act Now spokesman Victor Villanueva. “In fact, we were not surprised at all when Aquino defended Abad and several other Cabinet members involved in the scam. It is not in the interest of justice, but it’s because the President is afraid that the scam is getting too close to him for comfort,” Villanueva said. But Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma waved aside the accusation. “Detractors should stop misleading the public with lies and deception,” Coloma said in a text message. “President Aquino’s decisive leadership in instituting good governance has earned the continuing trust and confidence of the Filipino people,” Coloma added. Aquino earlier insisted that Abad is innocent until proven guilty, after Novaliches Bishop Emeritus Teodoro Bacani called for Abad’s resignation last week. Napoles and two whistleblowers in the pork barrel case, Benhur Luy and Merlina Suñas, tagged Abad as among the early conspirators in the scam. Villanueva noted that Napoles she claimed in an affidavit submitted to the Justice Department that Abad mentored her in the practice of using bogus non-government organizations to secure government funds. “Even in the sworn affidavits submitted by Napoles, she explained that she cannot operate without the help of those that approve the release of government funds,” Villanueva said. “But we find the Napoles affidavit to be lacking an essential part – the details of her operations during the Aquino administration,” Villanueva added. Bagong Alyansang Makabayan secretary general Renato Reyes said despite the filing of plunder charges before the Sandiganbayan, various groups were determined to push through with protest actions on June12 as the legal actions still have not included allies of the President. “Bayan will join the #AbolishPork movement in Liwasang Bonifacio at 3 p.m. before holding a torch march to Mendiola,” Reyes said. He said those who have signed on for the June12 rally for accountability include the Victims Against Crime and Corruption, the Concerned Citizens Movement, the Whistleblowers Association, Youth AcT Now, Artista Kontra Korapsyon, Babae Laban sa Katiwalian, the UP Faculty vs Pork as well as religious leaders Mo. Mary John Mananzan and Archbishop Oscar Cruz. “All those involved in the scam, including allies of the President should be made accountable. The Pork Barrel King himself should be held accountable for the illegal and unconstitutional Disbursement Acceleration Program and for the cover-up of the Priority Development Assistance Fund scam involving his allies,” Reyes said. Crisostomo said the people’s outrage and the continuing protests against pork barrel pushed the Aquino government to file charges against several senators and accomplices involved in the pork scam.

“These past months have exposed Aquino’s role in defending the pork barrel system and covering up cases of corruption. It was revealed that Aquino already had prior knowledge about lists of those involved in the scam, which included Aquino allies like Butch Abad, (Agriculture Secretary) Proceso Alcala and key leaders of the ruling Liberal Party,” Crisostomo said. He said the President has not abolished congressional pork and has defended his own DAP. “Aquino has retained a trillion-peso pork fund and has covered up kickbacks amassed through anomalous Public Private Partnership deals like the MRT train bribe try,” Crisostomo said. He said Filipinos will no longer be fooled by Aquino’s “empty anti-corruption posturing” targeting political opponents while exempting party mates and Cabinet members. Villanueva said the youth group has launched a series of “Black Friday protests” in several cities throughout the country. Last Friday in España Boulevard in Manila, Villanueva said members of Youth Act Now held a protest action at around 5 p.m. to call for the prosecution of everyone involved in the pork barrel scam. “Just as we join the call for the prosecution of everyone involved in the pork barrel scam, we also call on Napoles and everyone in the know to divulge more details, especially the modus operandi of pork scammers during the Aquino administration,” Villanueva said. “We are very close to exposing the large-scale corruption that is operating, we believe, until the very present. We should not let ourselves be blinded and stuck with Napoles’ version of the truth. For there is more to this issue than what she has already divulged,” he added. Villanueva said Abad’s alleged involvement in the multibillion peso pork barrel and Malampaya scams takes the case one step closer to the Palace and President Aquino himself. Villanueva also said his group would join the multi-sectoral anti-pork rally on June 12. “On Independence Day, the youth will once again show our indignation against this corrupt government that continues to cover up its wrongdoing and pilfer billions of public funds. The youth will stop at nothing to ensure that everyone involved would be prosecuted,” Villanueva said. “As the Aquino rule continues to be exposed as corrupt and rotten, the people’s desire to oust Aquino and change the rotten, corrupt system gains strength,” Crisostomo added. – With Joyce Pangco Pañares

News monitor june 9, 2014  
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