Saturday, 12 April 2008

President inaugurates Monday unique Cancer Institute in Batangas

SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008 | HEALTH
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20578

There is a new hope for patients who suffer from cancer and other deadly ailments with the establishment of a first-of-its-kind medical facility in Sto. Tomas, Batangas. The hospital offers a holistic approach to medical problems through the integration of advanced medical treatment with complementary healing therapies.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is going to inaugurate this medical institute on Monday morning in Sto. Tomas.

The cancer institute features a modern Image-Guided Radiation Therapy, a first of its kind in the Philippines and a Chemotherapy Section set amidst a healing garden to ensure a holistic environment for patients.

The Cancer Institute is an expansion project of the St. Frances Cabrini Medical Center (SFCMC), one of the 35 tertiary hospitals servicing the CALABARZON area.

Included in the medical center's expansion program is the construction of a hospital building to increase its present 100-bed capacity to 200.

An apartelle will also be made available for patients from other provinces who need to stay a week or two to complete their treatment.

The medical center is the Philippines' first proclaimed Medical Tourism Special Economic Zone.

Established in 1998 to cater to the 8,000 employees of its affiliate company, the Yazaki-Torres Manufacturing, Inc., the medical center, at present, has become the preferred health services provider of over 220 companies in nearby industrial parks.

After the inauguration, the President is scheduled to tour the expansion facilities of the Yazaki-Torres Manufacturing, Inc. plant in nearby Calamba, Laguna.

A joint venture of the Yazaki Corporation and industrialist Feliciano Torres, the company is the biggest producer of automotive wiring harness in the Philippines and has been exporting its products to Japan, Europe and the United States.

Now employing 11,000 people, the company has been the Philippines’ biggest exporter of automotive products over the last 15 years.

With an annual revenue of P13 billion, the company produces exports of $290 million a year, generating a net foreign exchange earnings of $60 million annually.

The first Far East company awarded with its QS 9000 Certification, the Yazaki-Torres manufacturing company has become an industry benchmark in quality and productivity and a showcase among joint venture firms in the government's campaign to attract foreign investors.

Presidente Arroyo to witness the initial unloading of plentiful summer rice harvest of Mindoro

SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008 | AGRICULTURE
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20570

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will witness the unloading of plentiful Mindoro summer rice harvest initially from five trucks (or about 2,500 sacks) at the port of Batangas City on Monday, April 14.

The five truckloads of commercial rice represent a portion of the second harvest ("palagad") output from April to May of the rice-producing island of Mindoro, considered as the rice granary of southern Luzon.

The start of the second harvest season in many rice producing areas is expected to beef up the the country's rice inventory.

Earlier, the President directed the National Food Authority (NFA) to procure palay from farmers to beef up its rice inventory that would include eventually the expected entry within the next three months of some
750,000 metric tons of rice from the United States and Vietnam.

NFA Batangas provincial manager Alejo Tamayo said Oriental Mindoro produces five million sacks (250 million kilos) of rice annually including those coming from Mindoro Occidental.

At present, there are 31 Roll-On Roll-Off (RORO) ferry trips daily between Batangas and Calapan City of Montenegro Shipping Lines and Starlite Ferry, aside from the four RORO trips from Abra de Ilog and one from San Jose in Mindoro Occidental that transport rice and other agricultural products to neighboring provinces.

Alejo said Mindoro supplies the rice requirement of Metro Manila, Batangas, Laguna, Rizal, Quezon and even of Panay Island through the RORO ferry system between Roxas, Oriental Mindoro and Caticlan, Aklan.

To ensure supply and stable prices of rice, the President has ordered decisive measures against rice hoarders, and people engage in the diversion of NFA rice to the commercial market, rehabilitation and construction of irrigation facilities and farm-to-market roads, investing in planting, agricultural modernization, and provision of rice subsidies for the poor.

The President said her administration's near-term objective is focused on putting food on every table as the current global rise in the prices of basic commodities like fuel and rice is putting a strain on all hardworking Filipinos, especially the very poor.

PGMA to release P290-M to complete “monument to corruption” bridge in Abra

SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008 | INFRASTRUCTURE
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20580

The upland Cordillera province of Abra – the 10th poorest country in the Philippines – got an unexpected P290-million bonus from President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo when the Chief Executive flew to this province Thursday (April 10) to address the peace assembly in the capital town of Bangued.

In her speech at the Provincial Capitol’s social hall where the peace assembly was held, the President announced that she had instructed the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to complete the half-finished bridge that has been towering for more than a decade over banca-riding commuters crossing the Manabo River in hinterland Manabo, Abra.

“A few days ago, and I'm so glad that (DPWH Secretary) Jun Ebdane is here, because I instructed Secretary Ebdane to complete the long-unfinished Manabo Bridge, a monument to corruption…” the President revealed to the audience’s applause.

The President continued: “A monument to corruption where you spent on infrastructure, and then you'll just leave it alone, no matter what, you know, never mind what happens.”

The President then revealed that she had earlier resolved to do something about the bridge that looks like a suspended rainbow of concrete over the Manabo River that residents cross with bancas to this day.

“(Construction started) many administrations ago, standing half-built. I've been looking at that since I was a senator and I said, someday, when, you know, when I started to think of running for President, I said, that's one of the things that we have to work on.

“And Jun Ebdane said it needs 290 million pesos for its completion but we will do it (applause).”

The President also assured the participants to the peace assembly that the Arroyo administration “would want to bring a lot of development projects” to Abra.

Also in the peace assembly in Bangued were Philippine National Police chief Avelino Razon, National Security Adviser Norberto Gonzales, Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, and Peace Process Adviser Jesus Dureza, among others.

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye: From Usec Edwin Enrile in Geneva

SATURDAY, APRIL 12, 2008 | HUMAN RIGHTS
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20569

Glad to report that the presentation of the Philippine delegation led by Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita this Friday afternoon before the UN Human Rights Council which has pioneered a universal periodic review of the human rights situation of all 192 member countries was quite successful.

The Philippines was praised by most member countries for having given a comprehensive and candid picture of the human rights situation in the country. In its presentation, the delegation highlighted our achievements in the field of human rights and the reforms and measures we continue to pursue, even as we also acknowledged the challenges our country face, and we welcomed the recommendations and all forms of cooperation from the international community.

Our presentation touched on the whole spectrum of human rights issues, violence against women and children, children in conflict with the law and in detention, human rights education, poverty, corruption, unexplained killings, civil and political rights, economic social and cultural rights, rights of migrant workers, disabled persons, and indigenous peoples, our accession to human rights treaties and protocols.

After the presentation, the delegation was openly applauded by the human rights council; an applause is not quite usual for such presentations.

Finding a scapegoat--will fewer people create more wealth?

Click on table for bigger image.



It is too easy to blame problems on perceived overpopulation. But take a look at statistics of different countries above comparing population density, arable land, and the development of the cited countries.

Poverty or starvation is caused by continuous wars, poor organization, mismanagement and incompetent and corrupt governments and not by too many people.

Senate ready to assist Palace on rice budget

Fel V. Maragay, Romie A. Evangelista, Roderick T. dela Cruz, Roy Pelovello, Jing Villamente
The Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=news2_april12_2008

THE Senate is ready to pass a supplemental budget that may be required to support President Arroyo’s new initiative to attain rice sufficiency, Senate President Manuel Villar said yesterday.

He made the statement a week after Mrs. Arroyo declared a P43.7-billion program, called FIELDS, to raise farm productivity to insulate Filipinos from rising food prices.

“The best option for the Executive department is to send a supplemental budget bill to Congress so new funds for new projects can come in and make FIELDS a true program, not an empty acronym,” Villar said.

He said if the P43 billion was not enough to meet the program’s objectives, the Senate would find ways to provide more funds for it.

At the House, Manila Rep. Trishia Bonoan David urged the government to come up with a “poverty map” to make sure cheap government rice went only to those who could not afford commercial rice.

“With a poverty map, the government can ensure that cheap NFA [National Food Authority] rice will only go to the poorest of the poor,” she said.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap ordered the NFA to intensify the distribution of government-subsidized rice to 12 depressed areas.

President Arroyo reminded the Anti-Rice Hoarding Task Force to focus on profiteers instead of suspected smugglers.

“We have liberalized the importation of rice, so we’re barking up the wrong tree if we’re going against smugglers,” she said.

She also made a surprise visit to the National Bureau of Investigation to check if its agents were busy going after rice hoarders and price gougers.

“She just wanted us to intensify our efforts in getting rice hoarders,” NBI Director Nestor Mantaring said.

France awaits RP response on final immigration pact

By CHARISSA M. LUCI
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080412121679.html

France looks forward to the Philippine government signing of a "final" immigration agreement with it within two months so its doors would be open to thousands of competent and talented Filipino workers, including nurses and information technology professionals.

French Ambassador Gérard Chesnel said his government is still awaiting the response of the Philippine authorities on the proposed agreement, which was espoused to address France’s labor market needs.

"We are waiting for the Philippine government (to act on the agreement). If they say we agree, we’re hoping that it will be signed in June or July, as soon as possible," Chesnel said.

The parties involved in the signing of the agreement are the French Ministry of Immigration, Integration, National Identity, and Co-Development, and the Department of Labor (DoLE) and the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) of the Philippines.

The French senior official said discussions are under way on the agreement but his country needs an answer from the Philippine government whether to pursue or not the immigration pact.

The French government already signed the letter of intent to sign the formal agreement this year.

"We still need an answer from the Philippine government," Chesnel said.

He expressed confidence that the immigration deal would be beneficial to both countries.

The Philippines is among the Asian countries qualified under the third category quota policy set by the Attali Commission. Countries in the third category are those with which France has "traditional links," including several Asian and African nations.

Chesnel said once the agreement is signed, he expects more Filipinos working in France. But, he was quick to add that their new policy is "not to make brain drain."

"If they find job in France, we will provide them visa and working permit. They will also come with their family, but after years of training, they need to go back to the Philippines," he said.

Under the new immigration system, the Filipino workers will leave 20 percent of their salary with either their employer or government and they will get it when they go home.

There is also certain condition under the new scheme that they have to use the money to create their own enterprise.

Needed in France are those engaged in electronics, IT professionals and nurses.

10% pay hike for gov’t workers

In time for Labor Day celebration on May 1 10% gov’t pay hike to take effect July 1
By GENALYN D. KABILING
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080412121674.html

President Arroyo will issue on or before Labor Day, May 1, an executive order granting a 10 percent increase in the basic pay of national government employees starting July 1, Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said yesterday.

The secretary said the President has directed him to hasten the crafting of the EO, which will include the scope and dimensions of the pay hike for soldiers, policemen, teachers, and other government workers.

"The EO will be ready for signing before Labor Day on May 1. Our instruction is to rush it," Andaya said.

The budget secretary said the government will spend some P12.05 billion for the wage adjustment of government employees from July to December. "A full year requirement, which will be factored in the 2009 budget, will be around P24 billion," he said.

For the first six months, the P12 billion compensation fund will come from the P41-billion allocation for "Miscellaneous Personnel Benefits Fund" in the 2008 national budget.

He said this fund can be used for "any salary adjustment and associated benefits as may be authorized by law or by the President of the Philippines."

Of the P12 billion, Andaya said, P9.2 billion will be allocated for the 10 percent increase in the basic pay of 898,849 national government employees for six months.

A similar increase in the basic pay of an estimated 277,905 soldiers, policemen, firemen, jail guards, and Coast Guard personnel will cost an additional P2.84 billion for the same period, Andaya said.

In 2009, Andaya said the total cost of the three salary increases would reach around P60 billion a year, "which speaks volumes on how this government has treated with concern the welfare of its personnel."

Once the July pay hike takes effect, a Teacher I, which occupies Grade 10 in the 33-grade government pay scale, will get a basic salary of P12,026 to P14,297 a month . A first lieutenant in the Army and his counterpart in the Philippine National Police, an inspector, will see his basic pay rise to P18,343 a month.

The coming pay increase will be the third in 30 months in the public sector. The first PHP1,000 across-the-board grant in "additional allowance" took effect on January, 2006.The "second installment" was a 10 percent increase in the base pay which took effect last July 1, 2006.

President Arroyo had earlier explained that pay increases were part of the "social payback" that was made possible due to her administration’s "sturdy fiscal house, solid program of good governance, and political stability under the rule of law and criminal justice."

Secretary Andaya said he will submit before May 1 a recommendation to President Arroyo on "the scope and dimensions" of the pay hike.

Andaya said his office is now drafting the executive order, similar to the one issued by President Arroyo in March last year which granted a 10 percent increase in the basic salary of civilian employees in the national government, and a P1,200 hike in the monthly subsistence and other allowances of policemen, soldiers, and other uniformed personnel.

"The EO will be ready for signing before Labor Day," Andaya said.

Lagman files bill for 10% increase in gov’t workers’ pay
By Edmer Panesa

Albay Rep. Edcel Lagman, chairman of the House Committee on Appropriations, filed yesterday a bill seeking to grant an average 10-percent increase in the base pay of some 1.1 million government workers starting May this year.

Lagman said he filed House Bill (HB) 3819 entitled "An Act Authorizing Compensation Adjustments to National Government Personnel" to help government employees confront the high costs of prime commodities.

He noted that although the Philippine economy registered a 7.3 percent growth last year, "the continuous upward adjustments in the prices of both food and non-food commodities and volatile oil prices exert pressures on the consuming public even as the looming rice crisis compounds the consumers’ predicament."

HB 3819 proposes a 10 percent pay increase for all government employees, whose positions are covered by the Compensation and Position Classification System under Republic Act 6758.

Also covered by the increase are members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, all uniformed personnel under the Department of Interior and Local Government, Philippine Coast Guard, National Mapping and Resource Information Authority, state universities and colleges, government-owned and controlled corporations, government financial institutions, and local government units.

Lagman wants the increase to take effect on May 1 to serve as a Labor Day gift for state workers. He said government workers can no longer wait for the passage of the projected Salary Standardization Law III that would address the distortions and inequities in pay under the current system.

Friday, 11 April 2008

UN sets $120-million grant for agri infrastructure in 20 poorest provinces

http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/today.htm#UN%20sets

The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) of the United Nations (UN) is set to give the Philippines a total of $120 million in grants over the next four years for the construction of agricultural infrastructure projects in the country’s 20 poorest provinces.

This was revealed by Kevin Cleaver, assistant president of the UN-IFAD’s programme management department, who called on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning in Malacanang.

In an interview with members of the Malacanang Press Corps following his courtesy call on the President, Cleaver recalled that the UN agency had given the Philippines $126 million in the past.

UN-IFAD has also a new project in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) in Northern Luzon, he said.

“This main Cordillera (project) which covers six provinces will be $66 million. And probably in the next four years another $60 million for other projects. And so you’re talking about another $120 million,” said Cleaver.

Cleaver explained that UN-IFAD has other donor partners, including the OPEC (Organization of Oil-Producing Countries), Asian Development Bank (ADB) and World Bank.

“So we’re just one amongst a number (of donors),” he said, adding that “IFAD focuses on the poorest regions of countries, including the Philippines. We deal with the poor, the poorest 20 provinces. We deal with agriculture and our whole focus is on investing in rural agricultural production.”

“We intend to help. For example, we are going to finance a $66-million agricultural and rural development program covering the entire Cordillera region which is a very poor region. But it is an agricultural region,” he added.

Cleaver said the UN-IFAD also has two agricultural projects in Mindanao; and that “next year, we intend to finance a project in the coastal region, with fisherfolk.”

Aside these projects, Cleaver said the UN-IFAD will also have “a natural resource management project – we will be preparing with the government to look at environmental issues.”

“One of the problems that you have is erosion and deforestation. And that has an immediately negative impact on agriculture… But it is also filling up the dams, which is producing the amount of water for your irrigated areas. And that maybe the most important thing to rice production is to make sure that irrigation is functioning. And to rehabilitate irrigated lands that have become debilitated, taken out of production because the infrastructure has not been maintained,” he said.

Presidente Arroyo receives IFAD delegation


IFAD DELEGATION--President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo receives the delegation of the evaluation committee of the International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) Executive Board led by Kevin Cleaver (left), assistant president of IFAD program management department, who paid a courtesy call on her Friday (April 11) at Malacanang's Reception Hall. With the President at right are Agriculture Secretary Arhtur Yap and Philippine Ambassador to Italy Philippe Lhuiller. (Edwin Paril/OPS-NIB Photo) (http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/photos-apr2008/photo1-041108.htm)

Excerpts of Malacanang media interview with Kevin M. Cleaver

FRIDAY, APRIL 11, 2008 | COMMENTARY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20566

Mr. Kevin Cleaver, Assistant President, Programme Management Department International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD) United Nations

(Event: courtesy call on President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo at the Reception Hall of the Malacañan Palace)

… WE ARE VERY TOPICAL RIGHT NOW BECAUSE THERE IS A WORLD FOOD CRISIS. IT IS HIT. AND IT IS REFLECTED RIGHT HERE IN MANILA BY HIGHER PRICES.

THIS IS HAPPENING ALL OVER THE WORLD. AND FOOD RIOTS IN MANY, MANY NATIONS. AND THE U.N. IS ESTIMATING THAT IN SOME 33 COUNTRIES, THERE IS CIVIL DISTURBANCE, FOOD RIOTS CAUSED BY FOOD SHORTAGES AND HIGHER PRICES. SO THIS IS ONE OF THE SUBJECTS WE DISCUSSED.

YOU DON’T HAVE THAT KIND OF INSTABILITY IN THE PHILIPPINES BUT YOU HAVE PEOPLE SUFFERING BECAUSE THE PRICE OF RICE AND FOOD HAS INCREASED…

NOW WE DISCUSSED A LITTLE BIT WHAT TO DO ABOUT THAT. IN A NUTSHELL, IT IS TO PRODUCE MORE AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE.

QUESTION:….
… WELL, TWO THINGS. ONE, IFAD FOCUSES ONLY ON THE POOREST REGIONS OF COUNTRIES, INCLUDING THE PHILIPPINES, SO WE DEAL WITH THE POOR, THE POOREST 20 PROVINCES. WE DEAL WITH AGRICULTURE AND OUR WHOLE FOCUS IS ON INVESTING IN RURAL AGRICULTURAL PRODUCTION.

SO WE CAN HELP AND WE WILL HELP. WE INTEND TO HELP. FOR EXAMPLE, WE ARE GOING TO FINANCE A US $ 66 MILLION AGRICULTURAL AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT PROGRAM COVERING THE ENTIRE CORDILLERA REGION WHICH IS A VERY POOR REGION. BUT IT IS AN AGRICULTURAL REGION. WE HAVE TWO PROJECTS IN MINDANAO. AGRICULTURAL PROJECTS, ALSO PRODUCING AGRICULTURAL…

NEXT YEAR, WE INTEND TO FINANCE PROJECT IN THE COASTAL REGION, WITH FISHERFOLK… FISH , NOT RICE BUT IT IS NUTRITIOUS… SO THE EFFICIENT PRODUCTION BY FILIPINOS OF FISH IS ALSO…

WE ALSO HAVE A NATURAL RESOURCE MANAGEMENT PROJECT. WE WILL BE PREPARING WITH THE GOVERNMENT TO LOOK AT ENVIRONMENTAL ISSUES.
ONE OF THE PROBLEMS THAT YOU HAVE IS EROSION AND DEFORESTATION.
AND THAT HAS AN IMMEDIATELY NEGATIVE IMPACT ON AGRICULTURE…
BUT IT IS ALSO FILLING UP THE DAMS, WHICH IS PRODUCING THE AMOUNT OF WATER FOR YOUR IRRIGATED AREAS.

AND THAT MAYBE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING TO RICE PRODUCTION IS TO MAKE SURE THAT IRRIGATION IS FUNCTIONING. AND TO REHABILITATE IRRIGATED LANDS THAT HAVE BECOME DEBILITATED, TAKEN OUT OF PRODUCTION BECAUSE THE INFRASTRUCTURE HAS NOT BEEN MAINTAINED.

THE GOVERNMENT, THE PRESIDENT TOLD ME THAT THEY HAVE AN IMMEDIATE PROGRAM… WE ARE NOT FINANCING IT.. BUT THE PROGRAM IS THE REHABILITATION OF IRRIGATED, DEGRADED IRRIGATED FACILITIES . THIS WILL BE THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN PROVIDING MORE RICE FOR THE NEXT YEAR.

IN THE MEANTIME, WE HAVE A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM. IT IS DIFFICULT TO CURE A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM WITH PRODUCTION THAT COMES A YEAR FROM NOW…

I FEEL FULLY CONFIDENT THAT IN THE IMMEDIATE TERM, THIS WILL BE TAKEN CARE OF BY THE GOVERNMENT.

BUT THE PHILIPPINES, LIKE EVERY OTHER COUNTRY IN THE WORLD, HAS A SHORT-TERM PROBLEM. AND GOVERNMENTS ARE NOT MAGIC FAIRIES. THEY CAN’T JUST SWING A WAND AND MAKE THE RICE APPEAR.

CORDILLERA PROJECT:
INCLUDES A LOT OF RICE PRODUCTION. BUT THE CORDILLERA IS ALSO A BIG VEGETABLE PRODUCER. RAIN FED AND IRRIGATED. BUT THEY DO HAVE A LOT OF IRRIGATED RICE. AND WE ARE REHABILITATING IRRIGATED INFRASTRUCTURE, AND ROADS, AND MARKET FACILITIES. THAT REGION NEEDS EVERYTHING, ACTUALLY, MICRO-FINANCE.

IT IS NOT YET PRODUCING RICE DIRECTLY. WITH NO ROAD TO TRANSPORT IT, IT IS VERY DIFFICULT. NO TRAMLINES TO TAKE IT FROM THE VALLEYS TO THE ROADS. SO WE ARE FINANCING ALL OF THOSE THINGS.

Q: DID THE PRESIDENT GIVE YOU A BRIEFING ABOUT HOW WE ARE ADDRESSING THE RICE PROBLEM?
WE TALKED ABOUT THE MEDIUM AND LONGER-TERM, TO TELL YOU THE TRUTH, BECAUSE THAT IS WHAT WE THOUGHT…
AS WE INVEST IN AGRICULTURE AND RURAL DEVELOPMENT, TYPICALLY INVESTMENTS DON’T HAVE AN IMMEDIATE IMPACT. IMMEDIATE, MEANING, TOMORROW, BECAUSE I READ IN THE PAPERS THAT IN THE PHILIPPINES, YOUR NEED IS AN IMMEDIATE THING. NEXT YEAR. OR EVEN IN SIX MONTHS.
THAT IS WHY I SAY AM VERY CONFIDENT THAT IN THE IMMEDIATE AND LONG-TERM, THIS PROBLEM COULD BE HANDLED PRETTY EASILY BY THE PHILIPPINES.

IN THE SHORT TERM, EVERY COUNTRY IN THE WORLD IS STRUGGLING WITH THIS. I UNDERSTAND THAT THE PHILIPPINES HAS CREATED A COMMISSION TO LOOK INTO THE PROBLEM OF RICE PRICING, RICE POLICY…

IN THE LONG-TERM, I CAN TELL YOU THAT YOU HAVE ALL THE POTENTIAL IN THE PHILIPPINES TO DO THIS. THIS IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE… AND IT WILL BE DONE…

Q: WHAT DO YOU THINK SHOULD THE PHILIPPINES DO…?
IN THE MEDIUM AND LONG-TERM, NEXT YEAR INVESTMENT IN IRRIGATION, REHABILITATION, INVESTMENT IN INFRASTRUCTURE IN RURAL AREAS, INVESTMENT IN RURAL FINANCE, INVESTMENT IN INSTITUTION BUILDING,
BUILDING A LOCAL MUNICIPAL GOVERNMENT, LOCAL GOVERNMENT, FARMERS ORGANIZATIONS SO THAT THE FARMERS CAN DEAL WITH THESE PROBLEMS THEMSELVES. INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURAL PROCESSING AND MARKETING, INPUT SUPPLY.

THERE ARE WAYS OF DOING THIS. HANDLED BY THE PRIVATE SECTOR, IF WE FIND PRIVATE/COOPERATIVE SECTOR TO MANAGE IT, THE BETTER. BUT THE GOVERNMENT HAS A BIG ROLE IN PROMOTING INVESTMENT IN THESE AREAS.

THE GOVERNMENT’S POLICY IS VERY MUCH ON TRACK. AND PRETTY MUCH CONSISTENT WITH WHAT I’VE SAID.

WHAT HAPPENED IS THAT THE WORLD HAS BEEN TAKEN BY SURPRISE.. NOT JUST THE PHILIPPINES.
VERY FEW PEOPLE, WE IN THE IFAD, WE HAVE BEEN PREDICTING A PROBLEM AS MUCH AS TWO YEARS AGO…
BUT MOST OF THE WORLD HAS BEEN COMPLACENT.
THE FOOD APPEARS IN THE SUPERMARKET. PEOPLE WERE EATING IT.
SO NOBODY REALLY PAID MUCH ATTENTION TO AGRICULTURE.
AND ALL OVER THE WORLD, YOU SEE DEGRADED INFRASTRUCTURE.
FARMERS WERE BEING NEGLECTED.
THE POOREST PEOPLE IN MOST COUNTRIES ARE FARMERS.

Q: ARE WE WORSE?
YOU ARE NOT THE WORST OFF BY ANY STRETCH OF THE IMAGINATION.
SOME ARE REALLY IN DESPERATE CONDITION.

I DON’T KNOW ALL THE DETAILS. AND I AM NOT HERE TO DEFEND YOUR GOVERNMENT… BUT YOU HAVE A GOVERNMENT THAT IS CONCERNED. THE NEWSPAPERS THAT YOU PRODUCE EVERYDAY, THE GOVERNMENT IS TALKING ABOUT IT. IMAGINE A GOVERNMENT THAT IS NOT CONCERNED AT ALL..

SHE (PGMA) IS APPROPRIATELY CONCERNED. VERY CONCERNED ON A DAILY BASIS. BUT I THINK SHE (IT IS MY FIRST TIME TO MEET HER), SHE IS A VERY, VERY CONFIDENT PERSON. VERY MUCH IN CHARGE. KNOWS WHAT SHE WANTS TO DO. AND WHAT SHE SAYS MAKES GOOD SENSE TO ME…

OUR CONVERSATION WAS WITH SOMEBODY (PGMA) WHO IS CONCERNED,
KNOWS WHAT SHE IS DOING AND SHE IS DOING ALL THE MEASURES THAT SHE CAN.

Q: FOOD RIOTS ALL OVER THE WORLD; DO YOU THINK THIS SCENARIO WILL HAPPEN IN THE PHILIPPINES?

IT HAPPENED IN EGYPT ONLY YESTERDAY.

I THINK THAT THESE MEASURES SHOULD DEAL… WITH THIS SITUATION… SUFFICIENTLY TO AVOID THAT…

FOOD RIOTS OCCUR WHEN PEOPLE ACTUALLY CAN’T GET… FOOD FOR THEIR FAMILIES. WHEN YOU GO TO BED HUNGRY, YOU START THINKING ABOUT RIOTING, WHICH IS NOT HAPPENING IN THE PHILIPPINES.
THE GOVERNMENT IS ENSURING THAT THERE’S FOOD SUPPLY…

THE PRICES WILL GO UP… AND PEOPLE WILL HAVE HARDSHIP… THAT’S WHAT HAPPENS WHEN PRICES GO UP. THERE IS NOTHING THAT THIS GOVERNMENT CAN DO ABOUT IT. EVERYBODY IN THE ENTIRE PLANET IS SUFFERING FROM THIS. EVERYBODY. NOT JUST FILIPINOS.

BUT WHAT THE GOVERNMENT CAN DO IS TO UNDERTAKE MEASURES TO AVOID STARVATION…


Q: IFAD OVER-ALL FUNDING FOR THE PHILIPPINES:

IFAD HAS PUT US$ 126 MILLION DOLLARS INTO THE PHILIPPINES IN THE PAST. THIS MAIN CORDILLERA PROJECT WHICH COVERS SIX PROVINCES WILL BE US$66 MILLION.

AND PROBABLY DO IN THE NEXT FOUR YEARS ANOTHER 60 MILLION U.S. DOLLARS FOR OTHER PROJECTS. AND SO YOU’RE TALKING ABOUT ANOTHER US $120 MILLION…

BUT THERE ARE OTHER DONORS WHO ARE PARTNERS.

OPEC FUNDS. THEY CO-FINANCE PROJECTS.

THE ASIAN DEVELOPMENT BANK. WE ARE IN PARTNERSHIP WITH THE WORLD BANK. SO WE’RE JUST ONE AMONGST THE NUMBER…

WE BECOME POPULAR BECAUSE WE ARE AGRICULTURE… AGRICULTURE GREW IN THE SUPERMARKET AS FAR AS MANY PEOPLE ARE CONCERNED… NOW IT HAS BECOME VERY TOPICAL..


Q: DID IFAD FORESEE CRISIS?
THE IFAD PREDICTED ABOUT 16 MONTHS AGO… VERY, VERY RAPID FOOD PRICE INCREASES. I DIDN’T REALIZE THAT THERE WOULD BE THIS LEVEL OF A CRISIS. THERE WOULD BE PRICE INCREASES. AND YOU KNOW WHY?
SIMPLY DEMAND AND SUPPLY. DEMAND IS INCREASING. VERY, VERY RAPIDLY IN ASIA. INDIA AND CHINA. POPULATION INCREASED. INCOME INCREASES.
PEOPLE ARE EATING BETTER.

AND THE WHOLE WORLD IS NEGLECTING INVESTMENT IN AGRICULTURE.
WHAT HAPPENS WHEN DEMAND IS INCREASING AND SUPPLY REMAINS RELATIVELY STAGNANT? WHAT HAPPENS? PRICES GO UP.

ELEMENTARY ECONOMICS. THAT IS WHAT IS HAPPENING.
RIGHT? AGAIN IT IS NOT ROCKET SCIENCE.
YOU DON’T INVEST IN AGRICULTURE?
IF YOU DON’T INVEST IN MICROCHIPS, YOU THINK YOU ARE GONNA GET MICRO CHIPS?

AGRICULTURE… REQUIRES INVESTMENT…

Seagate Global to invest $100M in RP

By Max V. de Leon
The Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/0411&122008/companies03.html

CALIFORNIA-based asset manager Seagate Global Advisors LLC is placing $100 million in direct investments in the next six months.

Its top executive said the country’s economy will continue to improve in the coming years.

William J. P. Lawton, Seagate Global chairman and chief investment officer, said they would invest in alternative energy, mining, real estate and services—particularly business process outsourcing and tourism.

Lawton recently visited the country. His company is now in the process of establishing a representative office here.

He said the Philippines was able to establish strong economic fundamentals in the past 10 years and this would enable the economy to keep on growing.

“Our forecast for the Philippines is it will continue to improve because its long-term fundamentals are strong,” he told the Business Mirror.

Seagate Global manages funds of endowments, pensions and investments of high net worth individuals from London and Geneva, as well as the US.

Lawton said the Philippines will be its next concentration in Asia after China, where it has invested over $600 million.

“Our focus country in Southeast Asia is the Philippines,” he said.

Lawton said China’s growth has helped the Philippines grow because the country is providing the Chinese with mineral needs “and other things it can provide like tourism.”

Here, Lawton said the company is particularly interested in Cebu because of the provincial government’s strong support to the private sector in terms of infrastructure and over-all business environment.

Aside from the $100 million, Lawton said its soon-to-be established representative office will also be managing multiple funds.

This is a good time to focus on the Philippines while most people haven’t yet noticed the positive developments here.

That is why prices of shares traded on the Philippine Stock Exchange are still relatively low, he added.

Britain is the Philippines' largest 2007 investor

RP, China are ideal BPO, IT sites
By Estrella Torres
The Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/0411&122008/companies01.html

TOP British companies are eyeing the combined strengths of China and the Philippines as better sites to India for multibillion dollar investments in business process outsourcing (BPOs) and information technology (IT).

Britain’s latest investor Strategic Back-Office Solutions (SBS) led by Stephen Lipton, chief executive officer made the assessment at the opening Thursday of the firm’s $1.5-million facility located at the McKinley Hill in Taguig City.

“For the last 12 years, we’ve been doing work for the world’s largest investment banks and financial institutions. We are very grateful to open our facility here in the Philippines... the combination of the Philippines and China is an absolute [alternative] to India,” said Lipton at the opening ceremony held at the SBS office in McKinley Hill in Taguig City.

SBS is a BPO and IT arm of Britain’s Strategic Systems Solutions (SSS), a global consultancy and outsourcing company with key offices in the United Kingdom—Leeds, Nottingham, Preston, Newcastle and its main office in Liverpool. It has also far shore offices in Horsham, US, Hangzhou in China, Singapore and now the Philippines.

Stuart Waters, SBS director for business development for Asia said the company has set up IT support services in China in 2002 and 2003. “But our first choice for BPO operations is the Philippines because of the English proficiency of the Filipinos and experience in dealing with the Western culture,” said Waters in an interview.

British ambassador to Manila Peter Beckingham noted that Britain is the Philippines’ largest investor in 2007 both in foreign direct investments and portfolio investments.

British direct investments in 2007 in the Philippines reached $446.5 million and portfolio investments amounted to $4,428.951 billion in the same year.

Beckingham said British companies continue to look into further investments in the Philippines because of the excellent English language skills of the Filipinos and their IT skills.

He noted that British outsourcing companies make prompt implementation for their investments in the Philippines citing that SBS made the decision in June 2007 and has now established its facility in McKinley Hill.

The successes of large British banks in the Philippines like HSBC and Standard Chartered continue to attract more investments from the United Kingdom, Beckingham noted.

“We are also happy to note that the British Ashmore Group has won the bidding in the sale of 40 percent stake of Saudi Aramco in Petron for $550 million,” Beckingham added.

PAL to buy 9 small aircraft, eyes tourist spots with small airports

Marian Grace S. Ramos with Reuters
BusinessWorld Online
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW041108/content.php?id=041

PHILIPPINE AIRLINES (PAL) will buy up to nine small aircraft manufactured by Canada’s Bombardier Aerospace to tap into the growing interest in the country’s top tourist destinations.

In a statement, the Lucio Tan-owned flag carrier said the turbo propeller fleet would consist of three 50-seater Q300s and six 76-seater Q400 aircraft, to be delivered in four to six months at a cost of $150 million.

A PAL official who wished to remain unnamed said the company would use its own cash plus borrowings to pay for the new planes.

"The $150-million total investment would be sourced through a combination of borrowing from banking institutions and internally generated cash," the official said.

The Philippines’ flagship carrier presently focuses on international routes and larger domestic destinations served by jet aircraft.

But many of the Philippines’ top tourist destinations, including the resort island of Boracay and the deserted tropical coves of northern Palawan are served by smaller airports accessible only by turbo-prop aircraft.

Last year was a record for Philippine tourism with over three million arrivals, and the outlook is bright as increasingly wealthy tourists from nearby China seek warmer climates.

Singapore’s Banyan Tree Holdings said late last year it was investing $70 million to develop two top end hotels on Dinaran Island, northern Palawan.

In a phone interview, PAL Corporate Communications Manager Rene C. Soliman said PAL’s return to areas it had served before its June 1998 rehabilitation would create more revenues.

"This is a major development for PAL. It will expand our market or network to points we are not currently serving, which will translate to more revenues," he said.

He added that the market for destinations that PAL is going to service again have since developed.

The airline was forced to go under rehabilitation a decade ago because of a labor problem. Its graduation from rehabilitation last year was a first in the history of the corporate regulator.

PAL’s rehabilitation plan called for the retirement of smaller planes, forcing it to focus on jet operations in high traffic areas, Mr. Soliman said.

The company’s investment in the small aircraft came when jet fuel prices are skyrocketing. Jet fuel price has gone up by almost two-thirds to $135 per barrel, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA).

"The local [aviation] market is somehow insulated [from higher jet fuel price]. Our structure with shorter routes plays to our advantage," Mr. Soliman said. He added that the company was aware of the fuel situation. "But if you want to expand your business, you have to make the necessary investments."

PAL is also due to take delivery of five A320 jets this year and six new Boeing 777-300ER jets starting in 2009. It is presently operating a 36-aircraft fleet consisting of six Boeing planes and 30 Airbus airplanes.

PAL’s arduous path back to financial health was due mainly to Mr. Tan, its majority shareholder and chairman and one of the country’s richest tycoons. The tobacco and beer magnate played a pivotal role in averting what was poised to be the country’s biggest corporate failure less than a decade ago.

He assembled a group of foreign companies that infused capital worth $200 million into the company in June 1999.

The seed money helped sustain debt payments to PAL’s creditors at a time when it was suffering losses. This was after fuel prices shot up following the terrorist attacks in the US on Sept. 11, 2001 and the outbreak of the severe acute respiratory syndrome (SARS). —

Gov’t looking for new NAIA-3 contractor, says Takenaka definitely out

REPEAT REFRAIN
BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW041108/content.php?id=004

JAPANESE FIRM Takenaka Corp. is definitely out of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) picture, with the government aiming to bid out within the month the contract to finish the long-mothballed facility.

Interested parties, said Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) Assistant General Manager Tirso G. Serrano, have until today to submit their letters of intent to participate in the bidding.

"We have to move forward. We published the bid notice last week for the general contractor who will undertake completion and remediation works in the terminal. We want to do the bidding within the month," Mr. Serrano said.

He said less than 10 companies had been pre-qualified to bid but declined to be more specific. He said these were a mix of local and foreign companies and that there were "big names" involved.

Takenaka has had a testy time with the government regarding NAIA-3’s completion. Malacañang last year declared that it had dropped the Japanese firm following disagreements over the scope of work involved and compensation, but later backtracked.

Last February, the government again announced that it had axed Takenaka, but the firm filed an appeal in March.

Takenaka officials were not immediately available for comment.

"We tried to work with Takenaka’s proposal but it was just not acceptable with regard to safety and structural issues," Mr. Serrano said.

The Joint Foreign Chambers, which has long called for NAIA-3’s opening, is taking on a wait-and-see attitude.

"There are indications that the terminal could be opened within the year but we are taking that with a grain of salt," European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Vice-President Henry Schumacher said

Mr. Serrano said the MIAA was pushing for a yearend opening. — Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo

RP bananas in great demand in Middle East

By BONG REBLANDO
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080411121587.html

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — Philippine bananas are now in great demand in the Middle East due to tight supply triggered by floods that devastated huge banana plantations in Ecuador, the world’s biggest banana producer.

And this short supply of bananas from Ecuador and Costa Rica sparked a price war in Mindanao, particularly Davao Region, the banana capital of the Philippines, as Middle East trading firms compete in buying for their markets in the Gulf countries.

An estimated 80,000 hectares of Ecuador’s banana plantations were damaged by floods last month. Hardest hit were farms in Guayas region where vast plantations were covered by water for more than a week.

"Bananas could survive flood for a maximum of 48 hours, after which the fruits could not pass export quality. If flood water remains for more than 72 hours, banana fruits are totally spoiled and are then dumped," an industry source said.

Experts say the devastation in Ecuador quickly caused a shortage of not less than 200-million boxes in the export market.

"Consequently, banana prices shot up supply lines, tightened and created a huge demand forcing independent traders in the Middle East, like Abbar and Zainy (ANZ) to come to Davao City and engage in spotbuying for bananas," the source said.

The banana business in the Middle East is controlled by small players and ANZ is one of them.

Multinational companies that supply Cavendish fruits in North America, Europe and Middle East are also buying bananas from Davao’s 50,000 hectares of Cavendish farms.

"Owing to shortfall of banana production in Ecuador, ANZ was forced to look elsewhere for bananas to meet the demands of their seven major retail cold stores since their competitors resorted to spot buying in bananas countries in Latin America pushing prices to all- time high," he said.

He said this claim on "corporate social responsibility" by the new players in the banana industry like ANZ is nothing but empty rhetoric, since they knew that 99.9 percent of banana growers in the Philippines have existing marketing contracts.

ANZ officials led by its chairman Sheik Adnan A. Zainy claimed in Davao City last week that they are not into price war with other traders operating in Davao but this only cast doubts on their sudden emergence in the area.

With banana growers bound by marketing contract, ANZ and Unifrutti firm have to lure growers to sell or pole vault their bananas by engaging in spot price nearly twice the prevailing contract price ranging from .30 to .40 to as high as .95 to .50 per 13-kilogram box.

But ANZ Chairman Sheik Adnan A Zainy declared during the opening of ANZ buying station here, Aztropex, Inc., that the "price war is a myth," which ironically, got the support of Vicente Lao of the Region 11 Development Council. Lao owns Maharlika Agri-Ventures, Inc., one of the buying fronts of ANZ.

Lao’s company, which is engaged in poultry, is new in banana trading. Apart from RDC, Lao also chairs the Mindanao Business Council.

He announced that he has 200 banana contract growers, which the Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association doubts, although, the group said Lao might have contracted a few small independent growers.

The Philippine Banana Growers and Exporters Association is alarmed that the black market created by the price war might backlash in the long run.

Gov. Rodolfo del Rosario of Davao del Norte, who once ran the biggest banana plantation in the province, warned the "price war is alarming."

"I have nothing against new investors but ideally they should develop new plantations so that this will translate to new production output, more job openings and revenue for the government," Del Rosario stressed.

"Governor Del Rosario is right. For the new players just conveniently wait in the bend for grower’s marketing contracts to expire and scuttle the renewals by outbidding the present trading partners partakes of piracy and unethical business practice," another industry source said.

Apart from the Middle East market, new export markets for bananas have opened up in China and Russia.

New areas have to be developed to guarantee supplies.

He said the Middle East markets looks good at present but Ecuador will rehabilitate its damaged banana farms and in two years their production would stabilize.

ANZ and other banana traders in the Middle East are expected to again source out Cavendish from Ecuador.

"I doubt whether ANZ, despite its claim, would develop new banana farms. I suspect that the -million they are bragging they would invest in bananas would just be earmarked for buying and trading. In the black market, -million is merely 12 million boxes," the source added.

700,000 more tons of rice coming; price hike plan deferred

By MARVYN N. BENANING & GENALYN D. KABILING
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080411121582.html

The proposed increase in the price of rice sold by the National Food Authority (NFA) has been put "in abeyance" pending consultations, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said yesterday as the government announced that 700,000 metric tons more of imported rice are coming before the traditional lean months from July to September.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap and National Food Authority (NFA) Administrator Jessup Navarro said that with this additional shipment, there will be ample supply of the staple for the entire market.

The importations, Yap and Navarro said, are on top of the current national inventories of 1.94 million metric tons — which are almost 30 percent higher than the 1.52 million MT for the same period last year – and the summer harvest projected at 7.1 million metric tons, which should come in late this month or weeks later.

These figures were bared by officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA) and NFA, along with executives of the Ginintuang Masaganang Ani (GMA) Rice Program, during DA’s "Open House" with senators and representatives this week at the Bureau of Soils and Water Management (BSWM) convention hall in Quezon City .

Among the legislators present were Sen. Loren Legarda and Rep. Abraham Kahlil Mitra, chairman of the House Committee on Agriculture.

GMA Rice National Coordinator Frisco Malabanan pointed out that this year’s production targets for the summer harvests remain on track.

To attain rice production targets this year, Malabanan said, the GMA Rice Program will carry out the following intervention measures:

1. Provision of hybrid seeds for 317,169 hectares and certified seeds for 1.361 million hectares.

2. Planting of certified seeds during the wet season in an additional 600,000 hectares of rainfed-lowland and low-yielding irrigated areas.

3. Restoration and construction of irrigation facilities for 66,000 hectares, which will be planted with hybrid and inbred certified seeds.

4. Provision of 700 units of post-harvest drying facilities.

5. Iinsertion of a third cropping season for 92,000 to 100,000 hectares of fully irrigated areas, using hybrid and certified seeds under the Quick Turnaround (QTA) Program.

Meanwhile, the proposed increase in the price of rice sold by the NFA has been put "in abeyance" pending consultations, Press Secretary Bunye said.

NFA rice is now being sold at PHP18.25 per kilo, compared to the PHP24 per kilo and above for commercial rice, resulting in long lines of people buying the cheap NFA rice. Secretary Bunye would not say how much the government is willing to incur in losses due to the rice subsidy.

Malacañang is reportedly looking to cut rice supplies to public markets to allow parishes to distribute the rice directly to the poor.

Secretary Bunye said NFA Administrator Navarro told him that the proposal to increase the price of NFA rice is still under study. News reports have quoted Navarro as saying that the price of NFA rice would definitely go up although the actual increase has yet to be determined.

"He said in effect that his statement has been taken out of context," Bunye said. "He said this is still under study and a lot of consultations will have to be made before any increase is actually implemented."

Bunye said government agencies involved in solving the rice crisis will meet to determine the impact of any possible increase in the price of NFA rice and whether such increase should indeed be effected with the NFA’s ballooning deficit.

Agriculture Secretary Yap said that the government has lost at least PHP40 billion just to keep the price of NFA rice low. "I think what NFA is doing now is consulting with other agencies. We would like to really determine the impact of any possible increase in the price of NFA rice. We have to get inputs from other agencies because they will know the full impact of any adjustments in rice prices," Bunye said. (with a report by David Cagahastian)

Hanjin has not violated any rules--Arreza

Arreza explains South Korean project in Subic
By BEN R. ROSARIO
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080411121581.html

Administrator Armand Arreza of the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority yesterday admitted that several other business enterprises have built structures near the protected rainforest at the former US naval facility in Zambales but none of them, including the Korean firm, Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, have violated strict rules for the protection of the environment.

To prove his point, Arreza showed journalists photographs indicating that the site was used by the US Navy since 1968.

"Business entities can avail of the site provided they passed the environmental impact assessment (EIS) and are issued the environmental clearance certificate (ECC) which Hanjin was able to secure," Arreza said.

Arreza showed up in a news forum in Quezon City yesterday to inform Metro Manila-based newsmen that Hanjin and other firms have not violated any environmental issue as claimed by several administration and opposition senators.

Senators known to be advocates of environmental protection issues have sought a legislative inquiry into allegations that Hanjin had cleared a portion of the rainforest at the Subic Freeport to give way to a multi-level, 184-unit apartment project.

Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri and Loren Legarda have issued separate statements chiding the SBMA and Hanjin for the alleged destruction of the one of the country’s remaining rainforests.

Arreza countered that contrary to reports published in a national daily, Hanjin did not clear a portion of the rain forest, adding that the area had already been cleared even before their construction project commenced.

"Although Hanjin’s apartment project is inside the rain forest, it is located within the area allotted for sustainable development having been cleared before by the US Navy when Subic still housed the US Naval Base and by some business entities which have used the area before Hanjin," Arreza said at the Usaping Balita News Forum at Serye Cafe, Quezon City.

The SBMA chief noted that aside from the apartment project, the site offers other uses for recreation and industrial purposes.

Aside from Hanjin, other business enterprises located in the vicinity or which have used the area are: Acom Manufacturing (a supplier of (Acer) from 1996 – 2001; W Star (warehousing of licquor) from 2001 to present; Polar Marine (assembly of tank cleaning equipment for ships) from 1996 to present; and Subic Apex Sales, Inc. (motor vehicle trading company) from 2000 to 2006 prior to lease by Hanjin.

Arreza vowed to demand the revocation of the ECC of these business enterprises if investigation would prove that they failed to comply with the provisions of the permit.

Meanwhile, two congressmen representing districts covered by the Subic Freeport assailed alleged plans of government critics to use the Hanjin issue as part of anti-Arroyo propaganda.

Reps. Mitos Magsaysay (Lakas, Zambales) and Albert Garcia (Kampi, Bataan) described the controversy involving the project "as one of the best examples of how politics have been ruining the country, particularly the economy."

Magsaysay warned that the unwanted propaganda could be a major turn-off to the country’s investment climate.

"The very shrill protests of non-Subic residents over the Hanjin condos borders on OA (overacting). From their statements, one would get the impression that the project would cause the end of civilization," Magsaysay said.

She noted that one public official even exaggerated the issue by painting a "doomsday scenario" that the project would hasten global warming."They made a conclusion which no scientist and not even Al Gore have reached : that the project would hasten global warming, as if two buildings in a small patch of logged over land have stretched wide the ozone hole," Magsaysay said.

Magsaysay, whose husband, J.V. Magsaysay was a former SBMA official, chided politicians and environmentalists for raising a howl over the construction project without determining the truth about their allegations.

"The image that has been seared in the public mind is that a whole forest was sacrificed when, in fact, this was not the case," she said.

Sharing the same observation, Garcia noted that even if Hanjin had, indeed, cleared three hectares of rainforests, the firm could be forgiven for pouring into the country over P200 billion worth of investments and for creating 20,000 jobs for Filipinos, in the process.

"Would it have been a reasonable barter for a mega-shipbuilding complex in a land constantly bypassed by foreign investors? My answer is yes. We have to moderate our rage and look at the big picture - and the latter includes a dirty Manila Bay and the dirty Manila skyline which day in and day out are seen by occupants of Senate offices," Garcia said.

Thursday, 10 April 2008

Crime rate down in Philippines -- PNP

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://newsinfo.inquirer.net/breakingnews/nation/view/20080410-129606/Crime-rate-down-in-Philippines----PNP

MANILA, Philippines -- The number of crimes around the country declined in the first quarter of the year compared to the same period last year, the Philippine National Police said Thursday.

PNP spokesman Senior Superintendent Nicanor Bartolome told reporters in Camp Crame that the total crime volume in the first three months of the year went down by 6.44 percent compared to that in 2007.

The PNP recorded 16,653 crime incidents during this period against 17,800 in 2007.

Bartolome attributed the decrease to the programs of the PNP, including increased police visibility and the “downloading” of PNP personnel from desk jobs to street patrols.

“The efforts of the PNP to further reduce crime incidents through increased police visibility, downloading of more personnel for patrol duty, equipment upgrade and community support are all paying off,” Bartolome said.

SMBs in the Philippines to spend US$3B on ICT in 2008

Gerry Liao
CNet Asia
http://asia.cnet.com/blogs/infochat/post.htm?id=63003098&scid=hm_bl

Small and medium businesses (SMBs, or companies with up to 999 employees) in the Philippines are set to spend more than US$3 billion on info-communications technology (ICT) this year, up 12% over 2007, due to a boom in the overall economy and a rise in the number of SBs (small businesses, or companies with up to 99 staff). This comes from the latest study by New York-based Access Markets International (AMI) Partners, Inc.

“Spending on telecommunications will take the largest piece of the pie, while spending on IT computing – comprising PCs, servers, and printers – will contribute to more than 25% of the total ICT spend,” says Ruth Garin, Singapore-based Research Analyst at AMI Partners. “SMBs comprise up to 99% of all businesses in the Philippines and are a significant contributor to technology spend.”

SMB spending on computing is set to cross US$800 million by the end of 2008, the bulk of it on desktops. “As the first priority, SMBs’ computing investment will go to desktops,” Ms. Garin says. “Small businesses will extend this investment by adding more notebooks to cater to growing mobile employees while medium businesses will spend more on servers.”

Traditional telephony will continue to account for a large majority of the telecom spending and is expected to remain so in the next few years. The close association of reliability with traditional telephony is one of the key factors driving its continued growth. IP telephony, meanwhile, has also started to make inroads into the SMB market, with growth expected to be highest in the mid-market segment.

In applications, security and storage will see the fastest growth in the Philippines this year. “Both technologies are expected to register high annual double-digit growth, in excess of 20%,” Ms. Garin says. “The growing volume of email and use of digital media will be the top drivers for adopting or enhancing storage infrastructure. Security threats and the growing online population of the country will see growth in security software spending.”

In addition, companies see business applications such as ERM and CRM as important to their businesses – whether or not they are currently using it. “SMBs may not have deployed such enterprise software but they recognize its strategic importance to their business,” Ms. Garin says. “This is a crucial first step to their adoption of such applications.”

Though SBs and MBs behave differently, both are on the same footing when it comes to competition. Both cited strong competition as the topmost challenge for this year. “SMBs recognize IT’s role in maintaining a competitive edge and are prepared to build competencies around technology,” Ms. Garin says. “The effective use of technology in product and services delivery is a key differentiator among a very competitive market.”

Understanding how SMBs behave, their purchase cycle and who influences their purchase decision, channel preferences, and their top investment priorities would be key to nailing this market. The study reveals that there is a huge opportunity that vendors can tap on the Philippine SMB market.

BIR collections up 13.9 pct in Q1

ABS-CBN News
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/storypage.aspx?StoryId=114653

Collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) went up by 13.9 percent to P163 billion in the first quarter of the year.

BIR Commissioner Lilian Hefti said Thursday the P163 billion collected from January to March was higher by about P20 billion than the P143.1 billion take during the same period last year.

Hefti attributed the higher tax collections to the reforms the bureau has implemented in order to achieve its target of P845 billion this year.

Tax collection in the first quarter was P7.9 billion higher than the agency’s internal target of about P155.11 billion. It was, however, P18.7 billion lower than the P181.73 billion initial target set by the inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee.

For the month of March alone, preliminary figures showed that the agency’s tax take inched up by 6.3 percent to P55.4 billion from P52.13 billion in the same month last year.

For his part, BIR Deputy Commissioner for Operations Nelson Aspe said the BIR tried to sustain the growth registered in the second semester of last year.

“We tried to maintain the momentum in July to December last year,” Aspe said.

Aspe also noted that the tax take of the Large Taxpayers Service from large corporations continued to post double digit growth in the first quarter of the year.

President Arroyo appointed Hefti to replace former BIR chief Jose Mario Bunag last July after the agency’s poor performance in the first half of last year.

This year, the BIR is tasked to collect P845 billion, or 18.4 percent more than the P713.6 billion it collected in 2007. The BIR missed its P765.9 billion collection goal last year by a hefty P52.3 billion.

The agency has stepped up reforms to boost collections this year. The BIR said it would step up its campaign against tax evaders through Operation RATE (Run After Tax Evaders) by filing of criminal cases before the courts.

The agency also vowed to strictly monitor the tax payments of six major industries including manufacturing, banks and other financial intermediaries, insurance, real estate and trading, utilities and transportation, and other services.

Foreign Direct Investments Net Inflows in January 2008 Higher at US$133 Million

Media Releases
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1796
04.10.2008

Foreign direct investments (FDIs) in January 2008 posted net inflows totalling US$133 million, higher by 15.7 percent compared to the level recorded in the same month in 2007. All FDI components registered net inflows during the month.

The expansion in FDI net inflows was due mainly to higher equity capital infusion, which amounted to US$93 million, a reversal of the US$9 million net outflow in January last year. In particular, gross equity capital placements more than doubled to US$126 million. These were channeled largely into banking and investment firms, manufacturing (ship building and repair), services (radio and television studio production), construction (hotel and resort development), real estate and mining industries. The bulk of these inflows came from the U.S., Japan, Malaysia, and South Korea.

Net inflows of reinvested earnings reached US$23 million in January 2008. This however, was only half of the level recorded in January last year, as local banks repatriated more of their profits to their foreign investors.

The other capital account—which consists largely of intercompany borrowing/lending between foreign direct investors and their subsidiaries/affiliates in the Philippines—also registered a net inflow of US$17 million. This was, however, lower compared to the net inflow of US$79 million in January 2007 due mainly to the repayment by subsidiaries of loans to their parent companies.

PGMA launches sustainable upland agri development program in Abra

THURSDAY, APRIL 10, 2008 | PROGRAMS/PROJECTS
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20554

PILAR, Abra – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo launched today the Abra Sustainable Agriculture Development (ASAD) program, a priority government project designed to restore and transform degraded and marginal areas into self-sufficient upland farming communities.

The President “switched on” the rehabilitation-construction of the communal irrigation systems (CIS) that will benefit the four neighboring upland municipalities of Pilar, Las Paz, Lagayan and Manabo.

Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr., Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Abra Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin, Rep. Cecille Luna of the lone district of Abra, assisted the President in the ceremonial “switch-on.”

In her impromptu speech, the President explained that the key objective of the ASAD program is to help upland farmers like those in Abra increase their production through the application and utilization of modern agricultural methods and infrastructure facilities, including the communal irrigation system (CIS).

Another important aspect of the program is to develop the watershed areas in the province, educate the resident on upland farming by using genetic and organic fertilizers and the putting up hydraulic pumps to pump water in tandem withthe irrigation systems network.

The President has released at least P100 million for the operation of ASAD. The CIS is expected to cover thousands of hectares of upland farmlands, and thereby help generate jobs in the area.

“Sana makatulong ito (ASAD) sa Pilar at sa buong probinsiya ng Abra,” the President said.

The ASAD program is an integrated approach to communal upland farming which requires land use planning and the application of appropriate soil/water conservation technologies to restore and transform degraded and marginal upland areas into self-sufficient farming communities.

The program also integrates water resources development through the rehabilitation and construction of CISs.

Shortly upon her arrival here, the President led the groundbreaking ceremony for the P4-million, two-storey, four-classroom school building at the Pilar Central School.

Construction of the additional classrooms is expected to be completed by July 2008, or one month after the opening of classes of school year 2008-2009.

After the groundbreaking ceremony, the President distributed grocery packs to about 5,000 indigent residents of Pilar, and awarded 25 scholarship vouchers of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), and 10 certificates to operate Tindahan Natin to Pilar Mayor Rolando Somera.

She also distributed 50 Buntis Kits of the Department of Health (DOH) containing multi-vitamins and other items for pregnant women, two certificates to operate Botika ng Barangay and tool kits for the Galing Mekaniko Ako and Galing Masahista Ako.

The President also presented conditional cash transfers (CCT) worth P1,400 per family. The CCT will be used by the qualified family as monthly allowance for the education of their children.

A certificate of award for various small-scale irrigation and market access facilities, production support equipment and post-harvest facilities were also awarded by the President to Abra through Gov. Eustaquio Bersamin.

The certificate of award is the manifestation of the government’s concern to provide all necessary production and agri-infrastructure and equipment support to the farmer-beneficiaries in the production of rice, corn, and high value commercial crops.

A separate certificate of award for the 28 kilograms of assorted vegetable seeds was also distributed to the farmers of Pilar in support of the government’s hunger mitigation program -- Programang Gulayan ng Masa project.

The President also presented to Mayor Somera P5 million worth of checks from the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to be used in the construction of a farm-to-market road in his municipality.

Exports rise 10.7% in February as US shipments recover

By Enrico dela Cruz
Thomson Financial
http://business.inquirer.net/money/breakingnews/view/20080410-129459/Exports-rise-107-in-February

MANILA, Philippines -- (UPDATE) Merchandise exports rose 10.7 percent to $4.12 billion in February from a year earlier as shipments to the United States increased. Economists, however, say the rebound could be a blip, and should weaken in the coming months.

The increase was faster than the 6.0-percent rise in January and the 7.9-percent growth in February 2007.

Electronics exports, which accounted for nearly 60 percent of total receipts, grew 4.7 percent to $2.46 billion after rising 1.6 percent in January, the National Statistics Office said.

Exports to the United States, the biggest market for Philippine products with a share of 17.4 percent to total shipments, increased 10.0 percent to $717.14 million. Manila's exports to the world's largest economy dropped 1.0 percent in January.

"It's quite reassuring that Philippine exports are holding up well," said Frederic Neumann, economist at HSBC in Hong Kong.

"But electronics, which strengthened a bit, remained generally quite weak, reflecting the Philippines' eroding competitiveness."

Korean investors slam ‘trial by publicity’ of Hanjin

Senator Legarda: are you listening? Or just posturing?
Non Alquitran
The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Headlines&p=49&type=2&sec=24&aid=2008040995

South Korean investors have decried the “trial by publicity” of Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Ltd. in connection with allegations that the conglomerate violated Philippine environment laws with its construction of a multi-level two-building apartment complex for its Korean personnel in the rainforest of the Subic Freeport.

In a statement, the Korean Chamber of Commerce Philippines Inc. (KCCP) said local media and some politicians raised the accusations against Hanjin “without due process and protection.”

“This incident against Hanjin is dampening the foreign investors’ attitude toward the investment climate in the Philippines,” the statement read.

It said the controversy “betrays the real situation in the Philippine investment climate” where the “sanctity and stability of contracts are not protected.”

“In an incident such as this where a foreign investor complies with all the required government processes and permits and yet is made vulnerable to attacks and accusations of law breaking, who would dare to venture an investment in the Philippines?” KCCP asked.

KCCP said Hanjin has “never violated any Philippine law” and that its $1.65-billion investment in Subic has generated 10,000 local jobs and will create 10,000 more “when operation is in full swing.”

It said Hanjin is building the largest shipbuilding facility in the Philippines and is “seriously considering” a similar but bigger investment in Mindanao.

“This has been cited as a big achievement for the Philippines economically,” KCCP said. “With this issue, the KCCP is alarmed that investors like Hanjin heed the Philippine government’s invitations, but in the end is merely tagged as a brazen violator of public order and is exposed to unwarranted attacks and cloud of suspicion without proper verification,” KCCP said.

KCCP, through its president Jae J. Jang, said the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority itself said that Hanjin secured the necessary environmental and building permits before it began constructing the two-building complex.

“These permits were applied for observing the procedures and processes required by the respective governmental agencies,” KCCP said. “Everything has been in order and legal.”

KCCP said even media reports admitted that the construction site had long been cleared of trees before Hanjin’s construction work began and that it used to be an ammunition storage facility of the US Navy. “It is highly uncalled for to say that Hanjin has disregarded environmental laws by constructing the two condominium buildings,” it said.

“As such the KCCP condemns the reports which have implied that Hanjin has had no regard for the environment and calls for balanced and objective reporting.”

KCCP said the accusations were ill-timed because the project being questioned is almost finished.

“If the underlying issue has always been environmental protection, then any issues regarding the construction should have been raised at the onset of the building activities, not toward its conclusion,” it said.

“Why is the issue raised only now when the buildings are already 95 percent complete? If the environmental implications of the construction are pressing and urgent why wait over a year before raising it?” KCCP asked. “The protest against it could have been raised from day one.”

It said “concerned parties” should resolve the issue “in the most efficient manner, without creating any more damage” to Hanjin and in “an unbiased and non-partisan approach.”

KCCP said the high-rise condominium, which is almost complete, will house Hanjin’s Korean personnel who “are also tasked to train and educate Filipinos to be world-class shipbuilders.”

Site no lush forest

SBMA deputy administrator Ramon Agregado said Hanjin’s condominium project poses no danger to the environment and is being built over an existing structure.

“It has minimum environmental impact,” Agregado said of the project, which is located at an old US Navy ammunitions depot. Subic was the biggest US naval base outside the continental US until 1992 when the Senate abrogated the RP-US military bases agreement.

“The area has been zoned and developed. The construction is two kilometers away from the core forest area,” Agregado said at a press briefing at Club Filipino in San Juan City. “It is an abandoned bunker previously used by the US Navy,” he said, adding that a building used to stand there but it was underground.

Agregado showed reporters photos of the apartment complex being built on a three-hectare land at the former naval magazine site.

The SBMA official said indigenous people were on hand to help preserve the area.

He said no entertainment establishments like nightclubs or videoke bars will be constructed around the apartment complex.

“Amenities like convenience stores catering to Korean goods and entertainment facilities like nightclubs or karaoke bars are already included in the planned apartments,” he said.

He said that SBMA, in a memorandum of agreement signed with the Department of Environment and Natural Resources in 2006, supervises the issuance of environmental clearance certificates for “critical” non-environmental projects.

He said Hanjin undertook a full-blown environmental impact assessment and secured environmental clearance certificate and zoning clearance from the SBMA. He said the Korean company even secured a height clearance from the Air Transportation Office.

Agregado said Hanjin has been required to plant 700 trees to replace the 28 camachile, guava and jackfruit trees at the project site that it uprooted.

The apartment complex comprises a 22-storey building and a 10-storey building to house 5,000 Hanjin personnel, mostly Koreans. The project is expected to be finished by April next year.

In a press statement, SBMA administrator Armand Arreza said Hanjin has assured authorities that the 13,357-square-meter apartment complex will be managed in conformance with environmental laws. “We cannot, and we won’t put Subic environment at risk, because that’s what makes it unique,” Arreza said.

“Subic’s environment is precisely what makes it tick with investors,” he said.

Meanwhile, a doctor who holds offices at Greenpark Village overlooking the Subic watershed area also belied reports that the Hanjin project encroaches on the watershed and threatens the forest reservation.

Dr. Jose Cesar Cabrera said the project occupies only less than one percent of the forest reservation.

“Besides, Hanjin’s $4-billion investment in Subic contributes greatly to the economy in Olongapo and the whole country,” Cabrera said. –

Geothermal energy waiting for Congress nod

Geothermal dev’t roadmap pushed
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS20080410121494.html

A roadmap for the development of the country’s geothermal energy sector was one of the key proposals put forward by the National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP) in a recently-concluded general assembly of stakeholders.

They noted the geothermal industry roadmap must be aligned with the aspirations for wider utilization of renewable energy as a way to enhance the country’s energy independence and as part of the strategy for climate change risks mitigation.

The vision being advanced by NGAP would be to position the Philippines "to be the world leader in geothermal energy production and utilization," to be complemented by initiatives such as the establishment of centers of excellence in geothermal technology and services.

After the development of the first geothermal energy facility in the country in 1971, development initiatives progressed significantly over the years that current generation from geothermal facilities now reach 1,978 megawatts.

The Philippines is currently the world’s second largest geothermal energy producer, next to the United States. But assessing its resource potential, experts noted that the country has a big chance to take the lead in geothermal energy development.

Yet for these goals to move forward, the government must first do its share in laying down the right policies to entice investments in the sector. The appropriate initial step seen would be the passage of the Renewable Energy Bill, which remains pending in Congress until now.

In a manifesto issued by NGAP during the general assembly which tackled "Emerging Challenges and Opportunities in Renewable Energy", the organization stressed that it "stands resolutely behind current efforts among the key stakeholders in government, the power sector and civil society to promote the exploration and development of Renewable Energy."

First Gen and Philippine National Oil Company-Energy Development Corporation director Peter D. Garrucho Jr, who was the keynote speaker at the event, cited as a significant development the fact that geothermal resources are now recognized as renewable energy by global energy organizations, such as the International Energy Agency, the World Energy Council and the United Nations Environment Program.

With First Gen’s current acquisition of the majority shareholdings of geothermal firm PNOC-EDC, Garrucho also outlined the major thrusts of the company in the renewable energy industry which include the development of new geothermal fields and possibility of overseas expansion, starting in Indonesia.

NGAP president Lauro F. Bayrante, on the other hand, pledged that the organization will "champion geothermal as a viable, clean and indigenous energy form."

The group has formally handed over the manifesto to Renewable Energy Coalition Convenor Catherine Maceda, who reiterated call on policymakers to prioritize the passage of the Renewable Energy Bill.

The measure is expected to provide various incentives to prospective investments in renewable energy; which are seen to eventually translate into reduction in the delivered price of electricity generated, primarily those from geothermal resource. (MMV)

Guam to hire 20,000 skilled Filipino workers

Roy C Mabasa
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080410121500.html

Guam will hire more than 20,000 skilled Filipino workers to facilitate the construction of an expanded US military base on that island, the mayor of the US territory’s capital said the other night.

During a testimonial dinner tendered for him by the Philippine International Sisterhood and Twinning Association (PHISTA) in Makati City, Agana Mayor Paul McDonald said this matter will be discussed when Guam officials meet with their counterparts from the Philippines at the first Annual Pacific Mayors’ Conference to be held on April 19-23, 2008 in Agana, Guam’s capital.

McDonald said it is only practical to hire Filipino workers whom he described as "hardworking, skillful and, most importantly, proficient in English language."

"Communication and our shared culture are practical reasons why we prefer Filipino workers over other nationalities," McDonald said in an interview.

McDonald, who is in Manila on consultations with his Filipino counterparts, was accompanied by other Guam officials led by Mayor Francisco "Frank" C. Blas of Tamuning-Tumon village.

The forthcoming conference, which is the inaugural event of the Association of Pacific Island Local Governments (APILG), will be attended by mayors from the host island Guam, the Philippines, and the Commonwealth islands of Palau, Rota, Tinian and Saipan. APILG was established in Manila on Feb. 27, 2007 with then Manila mayor and now Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza as its vice president.

The opening of new job opportunities in Guam for Filipino workers came following the impending relocation of thousands of US military personnel and facilities from Okinawa, Japan to Guam.

At present, 33,453 US military personnel are stationed in Japan, while another 5,500 American civilians are employed there by the US government.

McDonald said an estimated $ 13 billion will be spent for the construction of various facilities and housing for US military personnel in the span of four years.

In response, PHISTA officials led by Aurora Mayor Annabele Tangson and Tagudin, Ilocos Sur Mayor Roque Versoza, Jr., president and treasurer respectively, thanked McDonald for giving priority to Filipino workers.

"This is a great opportunity not only for our workers and their respective families, but to the Philippines in general," Versoza said, noting its potential benefits to the country’s economy.

"Act local, think global would be one of our guiding principles in PHISTA. We hope that this is the start of exchanges of good practices not only in the realm of culture but also in terms of economic and social development. We will continue to work hard to make the partnership prosper and develop into something concrete. When I say concrete it means that our people will feel the benefits of the exchanges," Tangson said.

Both Tangson and Versoza will be part of a delegation of Filipino city and municipal mayors who will participate in the Guam conference.

According to McDonald, the mission of the conference is to "conduct an international event that reflects the objectives of the association and showcases the culture of its members."

The conference will likewise tackle the organization’s other objectives such as the ongoing military buildup in Guam, labor opportunities, cultural exchanges, networking among Pacific neighbors, business and investments, affordable health care, agriculture and education.

He said they have invited officials from various agencies of the US government to speak about relevant issues, including the guidelines for the entry and hiring of foreign workers.

Among those who were invited to speak in the conference were US Congresswoman Madeleine Bordallo (Guam), US Department of Labor Administrator Greg Massey, US Navy Capt. Robert Lee, Acting Guam Speaker Edward Calvo, Immigration lawyer Melinda Swavely, realtor W. Nicholas Captain, and Guam contractor John Robertson.

McDonald said they will also discuss with all the participants other issues such as investments, cultural exchanges, networking with Pacific neighbors, affordable health care, agriculture and education.

He noted that aside from its rich labor market, the Philippines is also the leading destination for medical tourism in the Asia-Pacific region.

"You have excellent doctors, nurses and hospital facilities here which are affordable and accessible to us in the Pacific," he said.

Guam is only about a three-hour plane ride from Manila. Guam, an island in the western Pacific Ocean, is one of five US territories with established civilian governments. It is the 32nd largest island in the United States. (Roy C. Mabasa)

Wednesday, 9 April 2008

Petron's world-first facility inaugurated

PETRON’S NEW FACILITIES UNVEILED--President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo shakes hands with Petron chairman and chief executive officer Nicasio Alcantara after she led the uneveiling of the inaugural marker of the Petrofluidized Catalytic Cracking (PFCC) facilities and Propelyn Refinery Unit (PRU) plant of the Petron Bataan Refinery Wednesday (April 9) at in Barangay Alangan, Limay, Bataan. The PFCC unit at Petron is the first of its [kind] in the world. Also in photo are (from left) Saudi Arabia Ambassador Mohhamed Ameen Wali, Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, and other Petron officials. (Rolando Mailo-OPS/NIB Photo) (http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/photos-apr2008/photo2-040908.htm)

CONTRACT SIGNING—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo witnesses the contract signing between Petron Corporation and its first propylene buyer, Mitsui Corporation, in ceremonies held Wednesday (April 9) after the inauguration of the Petrofluidized Catalytic Cracking (PFCC) facilities and the Propylene Recovery Unit (PRU) plant of the Petron Bataan Refinery in Barangay Alangan, Limay, Bataan. Signing the contract are Petron president Kamal Al-Yahya (right) and Mitsui general manager Masayasu Nagai (left). Also in photo are (standing from left) Bataan Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr., Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes, and Petron chairman and chief executive officer Nicasio Alcantara. (Rolando Mailo/OPS-NIB Photo) (http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/photos-apr2008/photo4-040908.htm)

INAUGURAL RITES—President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo applauds after switching on the "touchscreen” of the Petrofluidized Catalytic Cracking (PFCC) facilities and the Propylene Recovery Unit (PRU) of the Petron Bataan Refinery in Barangay Alangan, Limay, Bataan Wednesday (April 9). At left is Petron chairman and chief executive Nicasio Alcantara. (Rolando Mailo-OPS/NIB Photo) (http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/photos-apr2008/photo5-040908.htm)

President Arroyo: Put food on the table not politics on the front page

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2008 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20540

PILAR, Bataan, April 9 (PNA) -- Noting that the people need food on the table more than just political bickerings, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday lashed out at her critics for continuing to engage in "political jockeying" amid the problem on the rising fuel and rice cost in the world market.

In her speech at the 66th Commemoration of the Araw ng Kagitingan held at the Mt. Samat Shrine here, the President said "Our near-term objective is to focus on putting food on the table for our people. The global rise in the price of basic commodities like fuel and rice is putting a strain on all hardworking Filipinos and veterans, and others who live on fixed pensions and especially our very poor."

"We aim to prevent these strains on individuals and your families by preventing these strains from becoming a crisis by taking decisive action," she said.

President Arroyo said it is essential for the country's political leaders "to join hands and close ranks" to meet this challenge.

"This is no time for political posturing. We need food on the table, not headlines in the newspapers. We must invest, not just investigate. It is time for action, not political wrangling," she stressed.

"The people deserve that we focus on a positive agenda, not get wrapped up in political jockeying. No endless investigation will put rice on the table, a computer in a classroom or a health clinic in a barangay. We must put the interests of the individual Filipino above all else and make sure to reassure our people that we are providing steady and strong leadership at this critical point in time. To repeat: We must put rice on the table and not politics on the front page," the President said.

Opposition senators vowed to continue with their investigation of the national broadband network (NBN) scandal and also the swine fund scam.

On the other hand, United States Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenny, in a chance interview, said her government will continue to help the Philippines in easing its rice problem through continuous supply of the staple and research.

She said her country is "ready to make (rice) available as much as the Philippines (will) need."

"We will always make our supplies available for export if the Philippines needs rice supply," she added.

The government recently imported about 50,000 metric tons (MT) of rice from the US, which it sold at a subsidized-price of P25 per kilo.

Kenney said the US is also contributing to the country's rice research to help develop a variety that she said was more nutritious and more disease-free.

"We are very excited to be part of that so yes, you can count on us," she said. (PNA)

PGMA inaugurates Petron refinery’s “first of its kind” facilities in Limay

http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/today.htm#TOP

LIMAY, BATAAN--President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will inaugurate here tomorrow the Petro-Fluidized Catalytic Cracking (PetroFCC) and Propylene Refining Unit (PRU) facilities of the huge Petron Refinery in this town.

The oil refiner, through the PetroFCC, the very first of its kind in the world, and the PRU facilities can now convert black products such as fuel and bunker oil to "white" products such as liquefied petroleum gas, gasoline, diesel, among others, and to extract the petrochemical feedstock propylene.

The PetroFCC has a conversion capacity of 19,000 barrels per day while the PRU will produce 140,000 metric tons of propylene a year. The two units were commissioned in February and March of this year, respectively.

Examples of propylene's numerous end uses include automobile components, carpets, CDs, clear film food wrap, eyeglasses, polyurethane foams, impact-resistant and bullet-proof windows, moulded plastic goods such as buckets, nitrile rubber hoses, paints and protective coatings, grocery bags, synthetic fibres, watercooler bottles, and wood products such as plywood.

The PetroFCC and the PRU are core components of the first phase of the company's $300-million Refinery Master Plan, which also includes a BTX unit that would produce aromatics namely benzene, toluene, and mixed xylene. The BTX unit is scheduled for completion in the first quarter next year.

Gov’t financial institutions present to PGMA their respective rice and other pro-poor plans

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo presides over the Joint National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) Cabinet Group and National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) Meeting Tuesday (April 8) at Malacanang's Aguinaldo State Dining Room. Also in photo are Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap (left), and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita. (Rey Baniquet/OPS- Photo)

http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/today.htm#Gov%92t%20financial

Government-owned-and-controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial and social security institutions presented today to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo their rice and other pro-poor plans and programs in compliance to Administrative Order 225 signed by the Chief Executive last April 1.

AO 225 or “Harnessing Idle Resources to Uplift the Poor and Boost Rice Supply to Cushion the Country from Price Spikes,” directs the GOCCs and GFIs to allocate five percent of their 2007 surplus for projects in rice, low-cost consumer and medicine outlets and microfinance.

They included the Government Service and Insurance System (GSIS), Land Bank of the Philippines, Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC), Social Security System (SSS), Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP), National Power Corporation (NPC), National Housing Authority, Transmission Company (TRANSCO),among others.

These GOCCs and GFIs had a combined surplus of P100 billion last year and the President urged them upon her arrival from a three-day visit to Hong Kong, to allocate five percent of their surplus for rice production and other pro-poor projects.

For rice/food, the plans/programs include rice production loans, loans for construction and repair of irrigation systems, sale of appropriate SSS properties for agriculture under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program, establishment of more Tindahan Natin in poor areas, rice distribution to electric cooperatives, among others.

For low-cost consumer goods/medicine outlets, more Botika sa Barangay would be established and the PhilHealth coverage would be widened by enrolling more poor families.

Loans for micro,small and medium entrepreneurs would be made more available through SSS, LBP and DBP.

Other pro-poor plans include the GSIS’s financial assistance to government employees and pensioners; PNOC to provide solar home systems per household to off-grid barangays; land donation for Gawad Kalinga program to benefit families in Rosario ,Cavite; loans for housing projects in the north Luzon, Central Luzon and squatters in the Southrail project.

A summary of the GOCCs and GFIs pro-poor programs and projects for this year does not only amount to P5 billion but P98,208,962,600.

For Rice and Food, some P22.3 billion was allocated; low-cost consumer and medicine outlets, P200 million; health insurance, P4.5 billion; microfinance and micro-enterprise, PP27.3 billion; other pro-poor programs, P43.9 billion.

PGMA inks RA for WW II Veterans Welfare and Benefits Act of 2008

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 9, 2008 | CONSTITUTION AND LAW
http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=20539

PILAR, Bataan, April 9 (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on Wednesday signed into law the World War II Veterans Welfare and Benefits Act of 2008 in commemoration of the 66th Araw ng Kagitingan and Dambana ng Kagitingan held at Mt. Samat Shrine here.

In her speech, the President said the new Republic Act (RA) titled "An Act allowing Filipino World War II Veterans to continue receiving Philippine Government Pensions and Benefits, amended RA 6948 signed in April 1990.

In signing the new RA, the President upholds the policy of the State to "recognize and reward the courage and heroism of Filipino WW II veterans by granting them pensions and benefits even when similar pension and benefits are already provided for by the United States Government."

Under the new law, a veteran who is at least 65 years old shall be paid an old age pension of P5,000 monthly for life, unless he/she is receiving a similar pension for the same consideration from other government funds.

In case of death of WW II veteran, the surviving spouse shall, regardless of age, be paid a pension of P5,000 until he/she remarries or dies.

Since last year, President Arroyo said the government has doubled the allocation for old age pension for WW II veterans.

She said this amounted to P3 billion so that payment of arrears for the WW II pensioners will be fully paid this year.

There are a total of 240,000 pensioners all over the country who will benefit from the new law.

The President arrived this morning at the Mt. Samat Shrine in a helicopter.

She was received by AFP Chief of Staff Hermogenes Esperon Jr., Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr., Tourism (DoT) Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, Education (DepEd) Secretary Jesli Lapus, Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Interior and Local Government (DILG) Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Rolando Andaya, Bataan Gov. Enrique Garcia Jr. and other local officials.

The President was accorded with full military honors upon her arrival after which, together with United Sates Ambassador Kristie Kenny and Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura, were ushered to the Collonade for the wreathlaying at the memorial. (PNA)

U.S. Pledges Rice to Philippines as Price Near Record (Update1)

By Francisco Alcuaz Jr. and Glenys Sim
Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20601087&sid=aTfiso9MvrpQ&refer=home

April 9 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. vowed to supply the Philippines with as much rice as the world's biggest buyer of the cereal needs after some of the largest exporters cut sales to safeguard domestic stockpiles.

"You are assured absolutely," Kristie Kenney, ambassador to the Southeast Asian country, told reporters in Bataan province, west of Manila today. Philippine President Gloria Arroyo announced yesterday plans to purchase 1 million tons of the grain and said she would jail anyone found guilty of "stealing rice from the people."

Rice, the staple food for half the world, has doubled in price in the past year as China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, representing more than a third of global shipments, reduced sales to secure domestic supplies. The price of the cereal in Chicago rose 1.7 percent today to $20.825 per 100 pounds, below the record $21.60 per 100 pounds yesterday.

"You might see another 10 or 20 percent move to the upside," said Vijay Iyengar, Singapore-based managing director of Agrocorp International Pte., a commodity trading company. "Prices will be sustainable."

The Philippines is tightening controls over domestic sales and boosting overseas purchases to curb price rises and avoid the kind of unrest experienced by some African countries. The government plans to buy more rice at tenders in April and May.

The Southeast Asian nation may raise imports of milled rice by as much as 42 percent to 2.7 million tons this year from 1.9 million tons in 2007 to discourage speculation by local traders, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said March 26.

More Shipments

U.S. rice exports, the third largest behind those of Thailand and Vietnam, were forecast to jump 22 percent to 3.58 million tons in the year ended July 31, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said March 11.

The cost of rice exports from Vietnam may rise by as much as $200 per ton to $900 in the next two months because of world price gains and the end of the winter-spring crop, Truong Van Anh, director of Long An Food Co., said by telephone from the Mekong-Delta farming region today.

Commodity prices are posting their seventh year of gains. The UBS Bloomberg Constant Maturity Commodity Index of 26 raw materials more than tripled in the past six years as global demand led by China outpaced supplies of metals and crops.

Global food prices increased 57 percent last month from a year earlier, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization said on its Web site. The rise comes from higher meat and grain prices, including rice, corn and wheat, it noted.

Poverty, Hunger

"Food price trends are likely to increase sharply both the incidence and depth of food insecurity," John Holmes, United Nations under-secretary-general for Humanitarian Affairs, said in a speech in Dubai yesterday. "Price rises will also result in lower school attendance rates, poorer health care and asset depletion."

Soaring prices could lead to increased unrest, such as in Haiti recently, the United Nations said in a report April 7.

"What we see in Haiti is what we're seeing in many of our operations around the world -- rising prices that mean less food for the hungry," the report said, citing the United Nations World Food Program's executive director Josette Sheeran.

Burkina Faso, Cameroon, Egypt, Indonesia, Ivory Coast, Mauritania, Mozambique and Senegal have also experienced unrest in the last several weeks related to food and fuel prices, according to the report.

North Korea

Rising food prices are making life tougher in North Korea, said Daniel Pinkston, a Seoul-based senior analyst and non-proliferation expert with the International Crisis Group.

In the spring the past few years, North Korea has asked South Korea for fertilizer and food assistance and this year they have not made this request, said Pinkston.

"I think they believe this would be a sign of weakness," he said. "The sad part of this story is that ultimately the North Korean people will pay the price, so we could see a looming food crisis coming later this year."

In Thailand, the world's biggest rice exporter, hypermarket operators will lower retail prices of the cereal between 3 percent and 10 percent next week to control inflation, the Bangkok Post reported.


To contact the reporter for this story: Glenys Sim in Singapore at gsim4@bloomberg.net