Friday, May 16, 2008

Philippine SSS Amnesty Program for Loans

By Rey Anthony Chiu
Philippine Information Agency

Joining the government in packaging benefits to the people to help them cope with the rising prices, the Social Security System (SSS) is now implementing an amnesty program for loans which took a due, April 30.

  Starting May 1, penalties accumulated by members' delinquent payments of salary, emergency and calamity loans could be condoned, if members avail of the offer, says Jerry Redulla, information officer of the local SSS.

  Earlier, SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Corazon de la Paz-Bernardo reported that the pension fund would condone penalties on loans of members who would avail of the amnesty, one she admitted is part of the non-wage benefits package offered to workers to mark Labor Day.

  "This is an excellent opportunity for delinquent borrowers to settle their unpaid accounts at a huge discount," she said. 

  Under the amnesty, they would only pay the principal and interest, with their penalties written off by the SSS, she added.

  Meanwhile, during a phone interview, Redulla said unpaid loans may have accumulated penalties in time, discouraging borrowers from payments. This year however, SSS offers writing off the penalties for unpaid loans.

  He stressed that borrowers who avail of the amnesty would only pay for the borrowed amount plus the interest while penalties for delinquency in payments could be staved off, if the application for amnesty gets approved.

  In other words, the amount of penalties to be condoned would be proportionate to the arrears, or the outstanding principal and interest paid by the borrower, he hinted. 

  To keep the payments easy, SSS also accepts partial or in full payments with in the amnesty period. 

  However, according to the senior SSS official in Quezon City, the payments have to be made within the amnesty period. 

  "If only half of the arrears are paid during the amnesty, then only half of the penalties would be condoned, while the balance would continue to accumulate penalties," De la Paz-Bernardo said.

  "This is why we urge borrowers to fully pay their delinquencies within the amnesty to enjoy 100 percent condonation of penalties." 

  The SSS in Bohol has transferred to a new location and it has continued its services in its new place along Putong street this city, Redulla reported.

  Borrowers intending to avail of the condonation could come and visit SSS so they could file for amnesty applications right away, he said.

  The SSS said it expects to collect P2.62 billion in principal and interest from about 620,000 delinquent short-term loan borrowers who had accounts starting 2006.  The amnesty would end on April 30 next year, SSS added. 

  The SSS has been granting salary loans to actively-paying members with at least 36 contribution payments. Previous loans granted to members include calamity, emergency, educational, study now-pay later, vocational/technical, Y2K, stock investment and privatization fund loans.

  More than 540,000 delinquent borrowers benefited from five amnesty periods for SSS short-term loans, the last of which was from January to June 2007. The SSS also has an ongoing amnesty for housing loan borrowers, an SSS press statement said.

Travel from Bohol to Camiguin Island Boarding RoRo Boat

Written by Rey Anthony Chiu
Philippine Information Agency

Launching a missionary roll-on roll-off (RORO) route to link Jagna Bohol to Mambajao Camiguin is not a political gimmick.

Doubting Thomases saying that the Central Nautical Highway, especially the Bohol Camiguin segment was just launched to accommodate President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo (PGMA) and the government RoRo caravan's one-way trip could now be proven wrong.

This as Asia Marine Transport and Shipping (AMTS) Services put up its Super Shuttle Ferry 1 (SSF1)  to serve the route daily starting May 8. 

Earlier, critics said the Jagna-Camiguin RoRo route which PGMA and her cabinet tested in a caravan of tour buses and support vehicles is just for show for the route is one up to drain investors of precious fund.

Not for AMTS, which fielded SSF 12 and 8 to load the presidential party on their maiden voyage last week.

In an interview a few minutes before Marine Industry Authority (MARINA) issued the Certificate of Public Convenience to AMTS, Business Development Manager Lowell Elim said it would be a missionary route at first.

He however revealed that they did a study on the profitability prospects of the trips, which he said the market could respond in time.  

In fact, he admitted that the company is also getting support from the government, one they count for sustainability as the market picks.

Regular Jagna-Mambajao RoRo and passenger trips leave Jagna at 1 pm daily and sails back to Jagna at 8 am, with fares at P300 per person, reports said. 

Shippers with rolling cargo also expect that the trips would lower rates compared to commercial shipping lines.

The Strong Republic Nautical Highway, which was pulled out from the shelved Development Bank of the Philippines projects in 2002, boasts of slashed-transportation rates. 

PGMA, while sharing the RoRo story in Cagayan de Oro said "in 2002, during a Cabinet planning conference in Clark, I presented a work program -- actually, eight work programs -- one of them was a program to reduce transport costs from the food basket of Mindanao to the large consuming market of Luzon. 

She said DOTC Secretary Mendoza, then Agriculture Secretary Cito Lorenzo and Philippine Ports Authority head Al Cusi were seeking ways of lowering handling and wharfage costs of farm products from Mindanao to the greater market in Luzon.

She said she then instructed the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) to lead in drawing various measures, including financing logistics, storage and port facilities in Mindanao to carry out the RO-RO concept.

President Arroyo then recounted how she started implementing the "obscure" RO-RO plan from a DBP Program with a P20-billion fund portfolio for long-term lending. 

In 2003, the Dapitan, Zamboanga del Norte to Dumaguete, Negros Oriental route, and the Roxas, Mindoro Oriental to Caticlan, Aklan route was completed and allowed people to enjoy Boracay with just P500 bus ride from Manila compared to the P5T plane fare," she said.

"So we launched the trip and we baptized what we rolled on -- what we traveled on -- as the Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SR-NH), a 900-kilometer seamless stretch of road and ports that cut travel time by 12 hours," she added. 

Like what is probably an unprofitable Jagna-Camiguin route, the President said the Dapitan-Dumaguete (route), was also unprofitable in the beginning. 

Dapitan-Dumaguete however grew with nine trips a day now, she claimed. 

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The Philippines Must Have A Balanced Budget in Congress

By Rey Anthony Chiu
Philippine Information Agency

Even with the economic crunch that had the country's plans to attain a balanced the budget in the bind, the Departmen of Finance through Secretary Margarito Teves is still hoping the plan is on track.

With first quarter revenues still less than the programmed collection, Teves said "we can actually tell by the end of the second quarter how far off we are."

"Our present focus is on the need to equalize," the key government finance adviser said during a press conference minutes before President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the RoRo caravan arrived in Jagna. 

Intent on attaining the country's fiscal liberation aim, he added that right now, the government is contemplating on finding other sources of revenues to hit the goal. 

"Our revenue projection is just enough to support our original budget, and with the oil price hikes, inflation, rice problem, we need to find other sources of revenues to fill in the gap," he said during a press conference minutes before the president was to meet her cabinet on board the ferry to Mambajao in Camiguin, April 29. 

"It is still way too early to tell but regular sources of revenue is still on," he reported to the media when asked about the status of the plan to balance the budget by the year end.

Intent on keeping the plan on track, Teves said they are also planning to sell on the government assets not included in the 2008 program of generating P30B.

Selling of government assets could be a contingency but we would need the Congressional support, the former economic development authority added. 

It is Congressional support that we badly need to allow us such a move, Teves claimed.

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Bisaya News: Wage Increase For Filipino Workers Demanded

By Rey Anthony Chiu
Philippine Information Agency

Wala magtuo ang National Wage and Productivity Board (NWPB) nga ang gipaabot nga pagtaas sa suholan sa mga minimum wage earners sa Hunyo makahatag ug dautang epekto sa mga negosyo samtang magdugang sa pagtaas sa inflation rate. 

Una na nga gikahadlokan sa mga ekonomista nga ang pagpatas sa suholan sa mga nag-sweldo ug inadlaw maoy maka-ingon sa halapad nga pagpamapha sa trabaho o ba hinuon sa permanente nga pagpang sira sa mga negosyo.

Gipaabot nga sa sunod buwan, ipatuman na ang pagtaas sa suholan sa mga minimum wage earners, ug matud sa ni Labor Secretary Marianito Roque.

Mituo ang NWPB nga dyutay ra ang epekto niini sa mga negosyo kay 2.7M ra ang mga minimum wage earners sa nasud.

Sa usa ka pagtuon sa National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), ang across-the-board wage increases ang may delikado nga epekto sa mga negosyo. 

Gibanabanan nga halos 9 milyones ka trabahante ang mataktak sa trabaho kon may across-the-board wage increase nga ipatuman.

Dugang pa, kasamtangan pa nga gituki sa mga regional wage boards ang hisgutanan sa pagtaas sa suholan ug, dugang ni Roque, labing dugay na ang Mayo 15 nga mahipno sa RWBs ang tanan.

Nagkinahanglan pa usab og laing 15 ka adlaw alang sa pagpatik sa pahibalo diha sa nasudnong mantalan sa dili pa kini ipa-tuman, ni Sec. Roque pa.

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The First Bol-anon Appointed by Pope Benedict as Apostolic Nuncio

By Betty D. Balatero
As published by the Bohol Chronicle

Pope Benedict XVI appointed the first Boholano to assume the post as Apostolic Nuncio, an appointment which to the lay man means Ambassador of the Vatican State to a state with which it maintains diplomatic ties. He is the 4th Filipino to be appointed to such high position in the Church

Church diplomat Monsignor Bernardito C. Auza, 48, from Talibon town, was until recently First Counsellor or Deputy Head of the Permanent Observer Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in New York, was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to the independent republic of Haiti in the Caribbean. Haiti occupies a third of the island of Hispaniola which it shares with the Dominican Republic.

His stint in New York from 2006-2008 involved preparations for the highly successful visit of the Holy Father to the United States last month. Earlier in 1999-2006 Mons. Auza was assigned Counsellor at the Vatican Section for Relations with States (Foreign Ministry). Now as Apostolic Nuncio, he is bestowed the dignity of an Archbishop. From New York the 48-yr old diplomat flew to Rome after his recent appointment was published by the Holy See. He is to prepare for his consecration which may take place early July.

Archbishop Barney was born on June 10, 1959 in Balintawak, Talibon, Bohol to the couple Meliton G. Auza and Magdalena P. Cleofas, the 8th of twelve children. Having finished Elementary Grades in Talibon, he entered the Immaculate Heart of Mary Seminary in Taloto, Tagbilaran. After high school, he proceeded to the University of Santo Tomas Central Seminary, finishing his Philosophy studies in 1981 and his Theology in 1986. Aside from obtaining his Licentiate in Philosophy and Theology, he also obtained the degree of Master of Arts in Education in the same year 1986.

His ordination as priest of the Diocese of Tagbilaran in 1985 was held in San Francisco, California where most of the Auza siblings migrated. Not long after, the young priest joined the Diocese of Talibon during its foundation in 1986 but did not stay long. As scholar he was sent to the University of St. Thomas (Angelicum) in Rome where he obtained the Licentiate in Canon Law in 1989 and to the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy (Vatican Diplomatic School) where he finished his Diplomatic Studies in 1990.

He served as Secretary to the Apostolic Nunciature in Madagascar and Mauritius in 1990-93 and in Bulgaria in 1993-96. He was Counsellor in Albania in 1997-98 with a stint in the United Kingdom as Charge d'Affaires of the Apostolic Nunciature in London.

Gradually, his diplomatic skills were noticed by the Holy See which assigned him to more sensitive missions. His present appointment to the troubled French-speaking republic of Haiti where 80% of its population is Roman Catholic is obviously a mission of great importance.

Archbishop Auza is the fourth Filipino appointed by the Vatican to head a Nunciature. The first to be named Apostolic Nuncio is Archbishop Oswaldo Padilla, now in Korea.

The third is his younger brother, Archbishop Francisco Padilla, now in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands. The second is Archbishop Adolfo Yllana currently in Pakistan.

Bohol's Famous Loboc River Offers Night Boating Tours

By Kit Bagaipo (The Bohol Chronicle)

Scenic Loboc River in Bohol has something new to offer for guests who want to experience the rustic environment that has popularized river cruising in this town which is fast-becoming a tourist destination.

The Bohol provincial government's aggressive promotion of eco-tourism, along with the benevolence of Chinese businessman and Philippine Special Ambassador to China Carlos Chan, has made possible night cruises aboard floating restaurants on the Loboc River.

Aptly dubbed by town Mayor Leon Calipusan as "Nature by day, boulevard by night", the river lighting project, which costs P13.5 million, is said to be the first of its kind in the country.

As the project's main feature, some 450 lampposts and floodlights were installed along the lush green riverbanks, stretching 2.85 kilometers from the frontage of the centuries-old Loboc Church towards Busai falls.

The Jesuit built old stone church itself is beamed with floodlights creating a spectacular reflection on the river's calm water while two bailey bridges crossing the river are likewise lit up.

The play of lights lends a romantic air to the night cruise while one enjoys a buffet dinner of native food aboard the floating restaurant.

The night cruise is slated to officially commence in June, according to Mayor Calipusan, as the Loboc LGU will be coordinating with existing floating restaurant operators in the town. However, due to the forthcoming fiesta, the lights at the jumbo bridge will be switched on from May 15 to fiesta day on May 24.

Known as the music capital of Bohol, the municipality of Loboc is home to the world-acclaimed Loboc Children's Choir. Home grown entertainers will serenade the tourists while cruising.

This music-loving town started the river cruising aboard floating restaurants business some 13 years ago. It became a favorite lunch date for those going to the world-renowned Chocolate Hills.

Now, tours would not miss the experience of Loboc River Cruise as the town lies along the path from the popular resorts of Panglao Island going to the Chocolate Hills.

According to Calipusan, the daytime river cruise attracts an average of 800 guests daily. The volume made it hard for the floating restaurant operators and the municipal government to manage the traffic and congestion at the river.

A year ago, a floating restaurant operator introduced a downstream cruise, to get away with the congestion on the regular upstream route.