Monday, July 14, 2008

Crisis Time: How Bohol Can Survive

With the country bracing for the worst times as central bank authorities now apprehensive of the country's inflation jumping to 11% in July-September this year, a local trade and industry officer says the situation may not be as bleak for Bohol.

While a double digit inflation rate may be the worst case in the country since May 2005. This as the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) noted 8.3 percent inflation rate in April from 6.4 percent in March, this owing to higher food prices.

Consumers who monitor the steady increase in prices of commodities have aired concern just as increases in salaries and wages have been dismal, further aggravating the situation of lessened purchasing power of money.

However, Jose Hibaya, Chief trade and industry specialist at the local Department of Trade and Industry says the effect on prices may not be too harsh in Bohol and in Central Visayas.

"Inflation may not be as devastating in the Visayas, as we have the most efficient channel of distribution, which affects the prices of goods and commodities," he said.

In Bohol in fact, he admitted the presence of key distributors who deliver the goods to the towns, instead of retailers paying for the transport of the same helps keep the prices at bay.

At least, the factor of distribution costs would be out of the equation, he explained over the Kapihan sa PIA Thursday and aired live at station DyTR. 

If there are increases in prices, it would be close to the average rates of .5 to .10%, which the office has monitored since the food and oil price hikes were felt by consumers, he hinted.

He also added, "manufactured goods are not expected to pick up in price following forged agreements with the country's manufacturers." 

He said manufacturers, during a recent meeting, have agreed to absorb the incremental cost of production, which would help soften the impact of prices of goods.

When manufacturers absorb the costs, these are not passed on but are recouped by spreading out the absorbed cost, he revealed.

If the manufacturers do not pass on the cost of production to consumers as agreed, at least in the next three months, we do not see that much spike in prices, he explained.   

Is Bohol Eligible For Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Compact Status?

  Boholanos still hope for fresh anti-poverty funds just as the country prepares a comprehensive, extensive and systematic funding proposals just as the country became eligible for the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) compact status.

  Bohol poverty alleviation program has been streamlined using cost sharing schemes wherein the provincial government puts up its funds while tapping other funding sources as counterparts. The MCC is one opened option, Bohol Provincial Planning and Development Officer Atty. John Titus Vistal said.   

  Atty. Vistal, like Governor Erico Aumentado and the whole provincial council led by Vice Governor Julius Caesar Herrera also believe that Bohol stands a big chance of accessing the funds.

  The MCC, according to MCC bigwig John Hewko, is a United States Government corporation designed to work with some of the poorest countries in the world by giving them grants. He added that it is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom and investments in people. 

  "Its mission is to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth and fighting corruption," Hewko said.

  Local Government leaders here have proposed grants on the Rice Accelerated Emergency Response for rice sufficiency, innovative livestock dispersals, skills training and job generation and highs school internet connectivity.

  Although it may not be ascertained yet if Bohol gets included in the national programmed projects for MCC support, Boholanos have been very positive that any of the proposed local projects get a fiscal boost. 

  At this, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who was in Washington days ago revealed that the Philippines has designated former National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Dante Canlas as head of the team preparing for the comprehensive proposal to be submitted to the MCC. 

  The President, who sat with MCC President Ambassador John Danilovich at a press briefing at the MCC Headquarters here, said formulating the plan has to follow a consultative process. 

  Thus, she added that providing the MCC with a contact -- the contact person who will be putting all these together would be a major step, as she reasoned why Canlas has to be named.

  The President said the Philippine government is taking no chances in its efforts to satisfy the MCC requirements, as she expressed hope that the government's proposal would meet the standards of the US government corporation.

  She added that the crafting of the proposal would be and extensive and in close consultations with all stakeholders. 

  "With the Philippines' population of some 89 million, reconciling the demands and requirements of the country's population is quite challenging. We are very religious about looking at the checklist all the time, making sure all the expectations of MCC are met," President Arroyo said.

Unregulated Entry of Sex Workers Escorting Foreign Guests?

Unregulated entry of sex workers escorting foreign guests has alarmed tourism stakeholders who ask for 'any' government intervention to complement their efforts of putting up the mechanism to control the spread of sexually transmitted diseases.

Sex worker escorts, each time entering Bohol with different foreign tourists, could expose local sex workers to the danger of HIV or STI infection. 

The problem is even compounded as some resort owners admit that some foreign couples swap partners and they feel helpless in stopping them. 

Feeling helpless on their end, stakeholders along the Alona beach bonded to protect their workers from the risk especially with the threat of human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).  

In partnership with Path Foundation Philippines Inc.(PFPI), a non-government organization, resorts have put up volunteer peer educators among workers and organized support groups.

That is to keep resorts safe from STI or HIV, which may conveniently go with escorts to tourists, a resort owner confessed. 

Since we feel helpless against this, we exert efforts on things we can do and hope the government could help us, says Gertrudis Bongo, owner of the Trudis Place, a resort along Alona Bay.

"Our peer educators dispense advice and share information on proper sex habits, adult education and protected sex to keep the threat at bay," she said. 

"We gather resort workers and increase their knowledge on HIV and STI, hopefully to encourage them to seek the right behavior," explains Lawrence Castro of the PFPI, who is organizing communities with higher risks of infection. 

"It's a real threat," agrees Ma. Girlie Bungabong, a peer counselor for the family owned Trudis Place. 

Bungabong, who along with another volunteer regularly shares sex-related issues to their co-workers, said they can never stop foreigners from bringing in escorts who are sex workers from Cebu and Manila.

Meanwhile, to keep the threat contained, Trudis Place, as PATH project partner, displays sex commodities like condoms in their rooms.

On the other hand, posh resort Bohol Beach Club, through human resource manager Joy dela Cruz said the company empowers its in-house workers to report any attempt of guests soliciting sex.

"We are definitely not condoning it, just as we are to seriously look into violations over the standing policy of no going out with guests", she said. 

De la Cruz, who shared she wants more peer educator volunteers for Bohol Beach Club also share a dream of tourism growing with workers protected and respected and responsible. - PIA

The Charter Day of Tagbilaran City, Bohol

Tuesday would be a non-working holiday in Tagbilaran City as it celebrates its Charter Day, July 1, 42 years after it earned it in 1966. 

The declaration is based on Republic Act 8267, which declares the day non-working special public holiday for the City of Tagbilaran

The city, which has gone a long way, after it became a town since February 9, 1742 came by virtue of a decree by Spanish Governor General Gaspar dela Torre.

Formerly called San Jose de Tagbilaran, the town was formally established as a separate town from Baclayon then. 

Historically too, the old settlement of a 15th Century Bohol, the place forms part of the "Bool Kingdom", states the city website.
Sometimes touted as a place called "tinabilan", which means "screened", the city is also shielded on the southwest by Panglao Island and north by Maribojoc mountain ranges. 

Tradition also tells that the word "Tagbilaran" was derived from "tagubilaan", a contraction from two local words tagu (to hide) and Bilaan (a Muslim marauder tribe). Literally, it means a place hidden from the pillaging Muslims. 

On July 1, 1966 by virtue of R.A. 4660, Tagbilaran became a chartered City. 

As a chartered city, Tagbilaran was established by a Congressional act and is then governed by its own charter from where its leaders exact powers rather than look up to the provincial, regional or national laws. It also enjoys a higher Internal Revenue Allotment compared to towns, a political analyst said. 

"This is the main reason," he pointed out, "why by its own charter, the city has achieved a significant level of development in view of the increase in its share of internal revenues." 

Meanwhile, another holiday for Bohol is on the offing. 

July 22, another Tuesday is Bohol Day, and is another special non-working holiday by virtue of Republic Act 7683. - PIA