Friday, April 20, 2012

Bomb Found in Cotabato

Authorities recovered on Friday an improvised explosive device (IED) fashioned from a 60-mm mortar along the Matalam-M'lang highway in North Cotabato, police said.

The IED, according to Chief Insp. Elmer Guevarra of the Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) North Cotabato, was placed in a black bag, while the detonator and the mobile phone as triggering device were placed in a small pack.

"These bags were thrown by four men on board two XRM motorcycles, which we identified as the vehicles to be used by bombers out to plant an IED anywhere in this province, based on the information we got from our informants," said Guevarra.

Early this week, Guevarra and his men received information that another bombing will take place anywhere in North Cotabato.

Authorities, however, hinted the bombing will not take place today.

"This was because the IED was unarmed. The wirings were not yet attached to the bomb," explained Guevarra.

Guevarra said the bombers would come from Pikit town. He used as basis the information they received from their intelligence and civilian agents.

The information also included the type of vehicles that would be used by the suspected bombers.

"When we spotted these motorcycles while we're doing patrol operation along the highway, we tried to run after them but we failed. While chasing the suspects, we saw them throw something along the road," said the CIDT official.

Ilocos Police as Drug Pushers?

by pna
The police arrested a big-time drug pusher in Ilocos Norte during a checkpoint operation in Barangay Lacuben, Badoc town last Thursday. 

Inspector Laurel Gayya, chief of police of Badoc town, identified the arrested suspected drug pusher as one Cecilio Viloria , Jr., a resident of Barangay Gabut Norte, Badoc town, Ilocos Norte.

Lawmen recovered from the possession of the suspect a sachet of crystalline substance believed to be shabu with estimated weight of 7.6 grams and a caliber. 9mm pistol.

Gayya said that the suspect, who is now detained in the police station, had been subjected for surveillance due to his alleged drug pushing activities.

Iloilo Flirts with China

An agreement for the establishment of friendly relations between this city and the Municipal People's Government of Huaibei in Anhui Province, China will be signed here on April 24.

Mayor Jed Patrick E. Mabilog and Iloilo City Lone District Rep. Jerry P. Treñas will lead city officials in welcoming Mayor Niu Nutao and party.

The Chinese delegation is composed of their top city officials and key personalities in business and industry.

"We wish to enhance the mutual understanding and friendship between the Chinese and Philippines, and develop close ties between our cities," Mabilog said.

The signing will be held during a dinner program at Hotel del Rio.

The two cities will carry out exchanges and cooperation in the fields of economy, trade and technology to promote enterprises of both cities.

Iloilo City and Huaibei are also committed to the development of culture, education exchanges and cooperation and advance close relationship through visits, communications and the like.

They will also share information and best practices in the fields of urban construction, environmental protection, tourism management; among others.

Mabilog visited Huaibei in October last year as part of his official trip to China.

Summer Jobs in Cebu, Philippines

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) in Davao is now accepting interested students, college graduates and graduates of vocational courses who are unemployed, to apply for summer jobs under the expanded Government Internship Program (GIP).

Regional director Ester A. Versoza said the DSWD will be hiring 90,865 youths nationwide with a budget allocation of more than P1.3 billion. It is a continuing program being implemented as regular Government Internship Program.

For Davao Region, she said interested applicants can get application forms at DSWD Regional Office at the corner of R. Magsaysay Ave. and D. Suazo St., in this city. Application forms are also available at the city or municipal social welfare offices.

Versoza said the expanded GIP is also open for out-of-school youths who would want to take part in nation-building. It is part of the Aquino administration's efforts to strengthen youth participation in nation-building, expose them to government service, train them on life skills, and contribute to their economic well-being.

Interested applicants, aged 18 to 30 years old, can go to the nearest DSWD office nationwide to submit their applications together with a photocopy of their birth certificate and a barangay certification of indigence.

Under the program, qualified applicants may start work immediately and have to complete 52 days of work.

The qualified applicants can be assigned in the DSWD central office, or in the various regional offices including centers/institutions. Interns will be asked to perform not only actual office work but also assist in the implementation of the numerous DSWD programs and projects. They may also do direct service through field work in communities where DSWD programs and projects are implemented in partnership with local government units.

Canonization of Pedro Calungsod

The thanksgiving activities after the canonization of Beato Pedro Calungsod as a saint on October 21 will not be held at the South Road Properties, but at the Mandaue City reclamation area.

Paul Hubahib, Cebu City Hall's consultant on utilities and corporate relations, said it will cost the Cebu Archdiocese P100 million if it decides to hold the thanksgiving activities at the SRP.

The amount will cover the procurement of filling materials for the 25-hectare entertainment block, among others.

The filling materials are needed so the area will be leveled, he said.

Church officials said they have set aside P60 million for the activities lined up for Calungsod's canonization.

The activities will include, among others, a thanksgiving mass.

Cebu City Mayor Michael Rama, however, remains optimistic and said Cebu City will still benefit, considering most of the hotels are here.

Rama earlier signified that the city is willing to allow the organizers to use the SRP, as the event will bring in both local and foreign tourists.

He said sainthood is not only a religious issue but educational, artistic, cultural and historical as well.

Rama said he expects a lot of Cebuanos to attend the thanksgiving mass for Calungsod's canonization, along with devotees from other provinces.

Calungsod was 18 years old when he was martyred in Guam in 1672, along with a Spanish Jesuit missionary, now Blessed Diego Luis de San Vitores.

Calungsod was beatified by Blessed John Paul ll on March 5, 2000.

Jobs in Philippine Electronics Industry

President Benigno Aquino III has cited the country's semiconductor and electronics industry for employing some 530,000 Filipinos.

He noted that after a decade of accounting for an average of about 65 percent of the country's total exports, the number dropped to around 50 percent last year.

This, he said, contributed to the decline in total merchandise exports, which pulled down the 2011 gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

"Despite this, your industry was able to hire even more Filipino workers—and for that we are eternally grateful. I am told that direct employment in the industry grew by six percent, in spite of the downturn, from 500,000 in 2010 to 530,000 in 2011. Obviously, this is an encouraging sign," he said.

President Aquino spoke Friday afternoon at the 17th World Electronics Forum and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. 108th General Membership Meeting at the Mactan Shangri-La Island SPA and Resort, Punta Engano Road, Lapu-Lapu City.

President Aquino said the Philippine economy is inextricably tied to the performance of the semiconductor and electronics industry, "whose growth and resilience has been nothing short of exceptional" despite the global conditions in the past couple of years.

He told delegates that the educational reforms his administration is implementing are designed to move Filipino workers higher up the value chain.

"The K-12 system, set to begin this June, is a long-term solution that can address our students' goals to become globally competitive," he said.

President Aquino said targeting systems are in place to enable the Filipino workforce to supply more specialists to industries that demand them.

Cebu Governor Gwendolyn Garcia as Senator?

Former Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri said Cebu Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is included in the long list of 18 potential senate candidates under United Nationalist Alliance (UNA).

However, they are still waiting for her commitment, which is expected in July during the governor's State of the Province Address (SOPA).

Garcia was endorsed by National Unity Party (NUP) as one of their candidates for senator.

The governor's father, Deputy Speaker Pablo Garcia (Cebu, 2nd district), is the NUP president.

Zubiri was in Cebu Wednesday to serve as guest speaker of the maritime students of Southwestern University (SWU), where a number of his last batch of scholars graduated.

He also had a luncheon meeting with southern Cebu town mayors in a restaurant in Banilad, Cebu City.

UNA is a coalition between Vice President Jemor Binay's Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) party and former president Joseph Estrada's Partido ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) party.

Reports said it is part of Binay's preparation for a planned presidential run in 2016.

Zubiri said he also hoped to be one of the 12 candidates to be endorsed by UNA, saying his opponent's protest, Sen. Aquilino Pimental III, was considered a stumbling block on his formal entry to Binay and Erap's alliance.

He appealed to Sen. Aquilino Pimentel III to move on, saying they are supposed to help each other because they are from neighboring provinces in Mindanao.

Zubiri got the 12th slot in the 2007 senatorial election but Pimentel protested his proclamation and was eventually declared as winner.

"We were both victims. The witnesses said the instructions did not come from the candidates but from above," Zubiri said.

Zubiri resigned from the Senate in August last year, amid an investigation on allegations of fraud in the May 2007 senatorial elections.

Jobs and Investment in Laguna, Philippines

By Saul E. Pa-a

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna - In reverence to national hero Dr. Jose Rizal's legacy of faith, patriotism and service, Calamba City Mayor Joaquin Chipeco Jr. led city officials, employees and residents here to the austere yet meaningful activities beginning Friday at the Mercado de Calamba on the eve of its 11th Cityhood Anniversary on Saturday. 

The city celebration kicked off with a thanksgiving mass officiated by the Reverend Father Reine Eriga at the city public market assembly hall. Sans the fanfare and extravaganza, the city brass band played the city hymn to start the simple program.

Rallying with the celebratory theme "In the midst of progress…at the start of the New Decade", Mayor Chipeco reminisced the day he authored the cityhood bill in 2001 when he was Laguna's 2nd District Representative. Former President Joseph Ejercito Estrada signed Republic Act 9027 that elevated Calamba into a city.

This birthplace of the national hero was founded as a "pueblo" (town) 270 years ago as largely Spanish friar lands on August 28, 1742 from the town of Cabuyao.

President Benigno Aquino III issued Presidential Proclamation 357 on March 27 this year declaring Saturday, April 21 as a special non-working day as the city marks its 11th anniversary.

By authority of the President, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. signed the presidential proclamation for the city holiday stating "it is but fitting and proper that the people of the City of Calamba be given full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies."

In his State of the City Address, Mayor Chipeco relished at the city's accomplishments citing its Seal of Good Housekeeping Award by the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) as proof of Calamba's good governance, sound fiscal management and adherence to the principles of accountability and transparency.

He said the city's strict compliance with the Anti-Red Tape Act also got the nod from the Civil Service Commission earning a report card survey grade of "Outstanding."

The mayor said "buo ang tiwala na nasa tamang daan tayo ng pamamahala dahil sa mga pagkilalang ating natanggap, patuloy ang ating mga programang pang-kaunlaran."

He took pride for the City College of Calamba which produced 868 graduates in seven courses under the free college education program for Calambeño students. Since, its establishment in 2006, the City College has accomplished eight certified public accountants (CPAs) and 43 professional teachers, with a 100% passing rate for the Licensure Examination for Teachers (LET).

The Mayor also reported the construction of the Calamba City Science High School Building in Barangay Tres to eventually house some 214 students who shared learning venues at the Real Elementary School for the science and technology classes. He also batted to expand the city's Alternative Learning Program, a non-formal education project that has gained the Department of Education (DepEd) Hall of Fame Award.

In cooperation with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Calamba Manpower and Development Center through its 14 free training course and skills development has already produced 11,084 graduates.

Mayor Chipeco also reported the city's agricultural and fisheries development through the support and partnerships with the Food and Agriculture Organization and Oxfam. The high-yielding varieties of rice, corn and vegetables and various livelihood support and assistance to fisherfolks in the lakeshore communities earned the city as Best LGU Implementor in Laguna in the past years.

Chipeco disclosed that the onslaught of typhoons Ondoy and Santi and communities at risk and in danger zones led city Local Housing Board with the support of the National Housing Authority, Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and Gawad Kalinga to formalize the relocation areas to safer grounds known as Calambeño Villes 1 to 3 and Community Mortgage Programs for scores of informal settlers.

The Mayor's report also said Philhealth beneficiaries have been expanded to the city's poor now reaching 6,600. The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) beneficiaries covered 3,291 families while some 6,250 trike drivers benefited from the Pantawid Pasada Program.

Chipeco received the Most Outstanding Mayor Award for Nutrition in 2009 and vowed to strengthen the city's basic health care services and nutrition and feeding program for children.

He also reported that the 100 special children, 75 women victims of abuse and domestic violence, 12 street children and the disadvantaged families and poor children are under the city's care and custody through the social services and youth development units and day care centers.

The city mayor also disclosed that the local government's sports development program was given the singular distinction as Asia's first city recipient in the grassroots football program under the Asian Football Federation and the Federation Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) with the visit of His Royal Highness Prince Ali bin Al-Hussein of Jordan to city in February.

Eleven years hence, Calamba City reaped as Most Business Friendly City finalist in the countrywide search among businesses, investors and locators, and coveted the Hall of Fame Award and Top Regional Performance Award for its employment program record of more than 30,000 jobs.

In his anniversary message, Congressman Justin Marc Chipeco reminisced that Calamba used to be a tranquil town until 11 years ago when it transformed into a bustling metropolis and soars high among Southern Tagalog's premier cities.

The Laguna solon paid homage to Rizal who inspired the youths and urged "this new generation is bequeathed the ardent task and great responsibility to do something for our country." He also thanked national government assistance to the city's educational and health projects.

As the city developed, he said, "we also witnessed how our roads and bridges like in Barangays Mayapa and Makiling have expanded, the rise of the pedestrian footbridge in Calamba Crossing and another soon-to-be constructed footbridge in the commercial row in Parian to decongest and ease out perennial traffic snarls in the area."

The Chipecos also led the distribution of stall awards for vendors and shop owners at the Mercado de Calamba. They also launched the opening of the "bagsakan" center or trading post for market goods, vegetables, fish, meat and other farm produce for the consumers, retailers and wholesalers.

DepEd also hosted the drum and lyre festival at the Rizal Plaza in the morning while the City Government hosts the Testimonial Dinner for Business Partners at the Manila Hotel at 6 p.m. Friday.

Business groups in Mindanao

Business groups in Mindanao are preparing a policy agenda that will help address the power problem in the island and its impact on business.

Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) chairman Sec. Luwalhati Antonino, said the policy agenda would be presented to President Benigno Aquino III during the 21st Mindanao Business Conference (MinBizCon) to be held in Aug. 2-4 in Butuan City.

The drafting of policy agenda is being spearheaded by the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and MinDA with the backing of the US Agency for International Development.

This early, MinDA and PCCI are holding a series of consultations and meetings with local officials and business leaders in the cities of Zamboanga, Cagayan and Gen. Santos.

Antonino said the information and the issues collected during the consultations and meetings would be collated and consolidated and made as basis in drafting the policy agenda.

"These consultations are part of our continuing efforts in policy modification and advocacy to ensure that Mindanao imperatives in key sectors are addressed by the national government," Antonino said in a statement.

Prior to the presentation to President Aquino, Antonino said the draft would be presented to Cabinet cluster for the higher level round table discussion.

The policy agenda also include other issues that affect Mindanao competitiveness and improve the island's economy.

Stop Selling Cebu Condo

by PNA

A joint inspection team has recommended the suspension of the permit to sell condominium units of the developer of 55-storey P1.7-billion Horizons 101, set to become the tallest building in Cebu City. 

The inspection team, composed of representatives of the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HULRB), Office of the Building Official (OBO) of Cebu City and the Environmental Management Bureau (EMB) 7, recommended that Taft Property Venture Development Corp. (TPVDC) be allowed to resume selling only after measures to correct defects at the condominium project site have been undertaken.

In a memorandum dated April 17, 2012, the group required the property developer to submit the names of affected families, a list of immediate corrective measures it will undertake, and a slope protection plan, which OBO approved design calculations.

The team recommended that TPVDC to provide a temporary relocation site for the 10 families whose houses were damaged when a portion of the retention wall at the Horizons 101 project site collapsed last week.

Fe Sadaya, 56, one of the affected residents, said TPVDC offered them to choose which type of assistance they want: a daily allowance without temporary relocation or accommodation at a pension house without an allowance.

All of them get three meals a day from the developer.

Government inspectors have required the developer to submit a compliance report and establish a multipartite monitoring team, as provided in the condo project's environmental compliance certificate (ECC).

TPVDC communications consultant Cerwin Eviota said the company chose not to comment until it had received a copy of the report.

The joint inspection team's report was addressed to Vice President Jejomar Binay, also Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman.

It went through HLURB commissioner and chief executive Officer Antonio M. Bernardo; Ria Golez Cabrera, supervising commissioner for the Visayas; and HLURB 7 director Alizes Roy Lopez.

The report was prepared by engineers Francis Ordeniza, Billy Joseph Requina, Romeo de los Santos, Mark Anthony Lindugan, Ernesto Tan and Godofredo Gulane Jr. of HLURB; Pascual Gimenez Jr. of Cebu City OBO, Brian Gerundio of EMB 7; and Joseph Abellar of the Cebu City Department of Engineering and Public Works.

The government team inspected the Horizons project site on Gen. Maxilom Ave., Cebu City, after the wall's collapse. City Hall also ordered the suspension of the condo's construction.

Twelve out of 15 families living within the 10-meter radius of the condo project in sitio Sta, Teresita, Barangay Cogon-Ramos, chose to leave the area.

But Sadaya chose to a daily allowance of P500 instead of relocation.

"I need the money after my house got damaged," she said.

Sadaya owns a lodging house with five rooms, which she rents for P1,500 . She is staying with a friend who lives near her house.

Edwin Duran, who said a crack appeared on the floor of his house when the retention wall collapsed, took TPVDC's offer to stay in a pension house. But he changed his mind and is now getting a daily allowance.

His neighbors said Duran sleeps on a bamboo bed one meter away from his house, while his two children sleep at their friend's house nearby.

Roberto Pacheco, 62, said he did not have a choice. His house was destroyed when the ground near the collapsed wall slumped.

TPVDC rented a place to store Pacheco's belongings.

Pacheco said he signed a contract with TVPDC, stating he will be given a house after 60 days or less from the day the accident happened.

"They treat us well. We don't complain for now because they have good plans for us," said Pacheco.

Affected residents are made to stay in a pension house, which charges P1,050 a day for a room with two beds, a comfort room, and one TV set.

Philippine Cooperatives Need IT Solutions

The National Confederation of Cooperatives (Natcco) is banking on information technology (IT) solutions in growing the livelihood programs of the organization.

Natcco formally signed a partnership with Cebu-based Ng Khai Development Corp., a carrier of global information technology (IT) brands like Microsoft, in an effort to make technology within the reach of its members.

Natcco president Rey Gandionco said the cooperative is looking at IT solutions to fuel the activities and programs that promote livelihood and other business solutions among member-cooperatives.

"Microsoft gave us a good deal, an opportunity to make our system and services reliable for every cooperative member," Gandionco said.

Natcco is the biggest and strongest federation of cooperatives in the Philippines in terms of geographical reach, membership, financial capacity and services.

It now has 1.9 million individual members and 500 member-cooperatives.

One of Natcco's successful services in IT solutions is the eKoop-Banker Plus, a pioneering accounting and automated teller machine (ATM) system for cooperatives.

The service is an improvement of eKoopBanker, which was an in-house application acquired by Natcco in 2006.

The eKoopBanker Plus runs on Microsoft's Windows Server and SQL server2008 r2.

Under eKoopBanker Plus, member-cooperatives that avail themselves of the service will be able to provide their member depositors with basic ATM services such as withdrawals, deposits, transfers and e-loading for their cellphones, which will be debited from their accounts.

The system also provides read-time interconnectivity for cooperatives with multi-branch operations, and inter-cooperative transactions within the Natcco network.

It will also provide real-time financial reports, a value-added service of co-op leaders.

Natcco has already deployed 30 ATMs in the country.

Gandionco emphasized the importance of IT in financial services, saying it is a valuable investment that would help address the needs of every cooperative member to streamline processes and effectively manage the database and transactions of its growing network.

He also said that the integration of IT solutions in the organization would help them come up with more IT-driven businesses that would, in turn, help expand their market presence.

Natcco also conducts trainings for cooperative staff on current software applications that could boost cooperatives' marketing initiatives.

Case Against Jose Nereo C. Lujan

Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor, Sr. said that he will create a fact-finding committee to investigate the complaint on child abuse against Community Affairs and Public Information Officer Jose Nereo C. Lujan.

Defensor, in a press conference Friday morning, said the provincial legal office would head the fact-finding committee.

A minor complained that Lujan purportedly harassed her when she went to the office of her aunt Ma. Victoria Defensor, who works at the Community Affairs and Public Information Office last March 2.

The complaint against Lujan has been filed by Senior Supt. Marieto Valerio, Iloilo City Police Office director, in behalf of the minor complainant before the Iloilo City Prosecutor's Office last March 13, 2012.

But Lujan has denied the charges against him, saying that he could not ever remember harassing the child.

Iloilo Governor to Join Jojo Binay?

Iloilo Gov. Arthur Defensor, Sr. confirmed that he will have a meeting with Vice Pres. Jejomar Binay this coming Sunday, but that he would not like media to speculate over the so-called invitation for him to join the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban).

"There is yet no invitation for me to join PDP-Laban," Defensor contended. The vice president whose staff has called the governor for a meeting with him is the president of the PDP-Laban and has been going around much in the country purportedly as part of his running for presidency by the next presidential election.

Defensor said that he would meet the vice president for he could not say no to his invitation and in order to accord him due respect. The governor, however, declined to divulge to media where the meeting would be held since Binay would be in Guimaras on Sunday for the Manggahan Festival.

The governor until now belongs to the Lakas-Kampi-CMD (Lakas-Kabalikat ng Malayang Pilipino-Christian Muslim Democrats) Party.

Defensor further contended that the presidential election is still far away and that he believes to become president is a destiny that no matter how one works hard for it if it is not meant for him it could not ever happen.

Empower Filipino Women

By Leonardo V. Micua

Women empowerment is alive and well in the local government of San Fabian, Mayor Irene Libunao enthusiastically reported on Wednesday. 

Libunao, only on her first term as chief executive of San Fabian town, spoke at the 2012 Gender and Development (GAD) workshop of the News and Information Bureau (NIB) of the Presidential Communications Operations Office at PTA San Fabian Resort on the theme "Empowering Women Through Media".

"I am happy to report to you that women empowerment is alive and well in San Fabian. Not only because the chief executive, who happens to be me, is a woman. More important, it is because women have been entrusted with official positions of power and authority throughout the local government organization," she stressed.

Mrs. Libunao took over from her husband, Mojamito, who served as mayor for an unprecedented three straight terms and now a board member of Pangasinan.

In her speech, she took pride in saying that nine out of 12 department heads in the San Fabian local government are all women.

These include the municipal treasurer, accountant, budget officer, planning and development officer, administrative officer, civil registrar, assessor, interior and local government officer and the social welfare officer.

Only three departments of the local government have male heads. These are the Municipal Health Office, Municipal Agriculture Office and the Municipal Engineering Office.

"I am not trying hard not to be biased but in all the eleven departments, except that of the Municipal Health Unit and the Municipal Engineer, all those who are next in line to the department heads, are all women," she said.

She added that as they already have a male municipal health officer, it would be more apt and proper for her to look for a lady doctor to head the soon-to-be-opened Lying-in Clinic of San Fabian dedicated to would-be mothers of the town.

Libunao said that for the rank and file employees of the town government, she encouraged them to organize the Government Lady Employees Active Movement (GLEAM) which has now 125 active members.

GLEAM has become a leading member of the San Fabian Local Council of Women Organizations composed of 13 organizations, which she had organized as the umbrella organization for all women's associations in the town.

"My initiative in pushing for women empowerment in our municipal government, is actually a follow-through or a spill-over, of my personal advocacy as a private citizen before I became mayor of San Fabian," Libunao confessed.

She said when her husband became mayor of San Fabian more than 10 years ago, she organized the San Fabian chapter of the Pangasinan Council of Women Inc. (PCWI). Starting with 50 members, the council has now 5,000 members in 34 barangay chapters.

PCWI San Fabian has established a beauty parlor, a garments and dress shop and fish processing shop, all of which also serve as training centers for women.

The council now produces boneless bangus and bangus sardines, which was awarded on its first year of production as the best OTOP (One Town One Product) in Pangasinan and in Region 1.

PCWI now sells these products, together with other San Fabian women's products, at the PCWI Pasalubong Center located at the San Fabian Town Garden, which is also a project of PCWI, and which also houses the PCWI Multi-purpose Hall, and the PCWI Bigasan ng Bayan, which is the authorized wholesaler and retailer of NFA Rice in San Fabian.

San Fabian PCWI has a multi-purpose cooperative which has grown to become a multi-purpose cooperative.

"Women empowerment is special to my heart. It springs from my personally experiencing the heartfelt aspirations of the women I have met, especially over the past 10 years after I moved over to San Fabian, to live here after my husband was elected mayor," she said.

She recalled that in her visits to the various barangays, almost all the people she met were wives, mothers and daughters who were in their homes because they were unemployed or have no means of livelihood to help their families, no matter how very much they wanted to help financially.

What better proof is there, of the disparity in the opportunities of men and women, than the overwhelming preponderance of mothers, wives and daughters left behind in their homes, while their husbands, fathers and brothers are working, because of the absence of livelihood opportunities for them, the mayor said.

Philippine Temperature in Provinces and Cities

Expect the weather to get hotter and the temperature to go up to 36 degrees Celsius on Thursday as the ridge of high pressure area affects the entire Luzon, including Metro Manila, the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA) said.

PAGASA weather forecaster Nikos Peñaranda said that due to the ridge of a high pressure area, the entire Luzon will continue to experience warm weather.

Peñaranda, however, said that Metro Manila and parts of Central Luzon are expected to register temperatures ranging from 24 to 35 degrees Celsius.

He said that 36.7 degrees Celsius was recorded at 4 p.m. on Wednesday in Cabanatuan City, Nueva Ecija while Metro Manila had 34.8, Tuguegarao city in Cagayan, 35.7, and Clark in Pampanga, 35.

Baguio City, the country's summer capital, was not spared from the warm weather as it experienced 26.8 degrees Celsius on Wednesday.

So far, Clark has recorded this year's highest temperature of 38.4 degrees Celsius on April 13.

In its advisory, PAGASA said the whole country will have partly cloudy to at times cloudy skies with isolated rainshowers or thunderstorms, mostly in the afternoon or evening.

Light to moderate winds from the east to southeast will prevail over Luzon, and coming from the east to northeast over the rest of the country.

About Puerto Princesa Underground River

Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. has directed all government employees and concerned agencies to give their full support and participate in activities recognizing the Puerto Princesa Underground River (PPUR) as one of the New Seven Wonders of Nature (N7WN).

In a memorandum signed on April 12, Ochoa also enjoined local government units (LGUs) to extend assistance to the PPUR-N7WN Campaign Task Force, which will spearhead the inaugural ceremonies at One Esplanade in Pasay City on April 21.

President Benigno S. Aquino III is expected to unveil a 100-kilo plaque from competition organizer New Seven Wonders of Nature Foundation during the event. The Foundation will also turn over a smaller plaque, which will be displayed at the underground river.

"It is only necessary that all of us give due acknowledgment and appreciation to the PPUR, which is now among the N7WN, through an inauguration ceremony," Ochoa said on Thursday.

"Our campaign in making the PPUR as one of the world-famous tourist spots in our country was a success and we anticipate that it will further attract international interest as well as boost tourism and investment that will benefit our country," he added.

The Executive Secretary instructed the heads of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), National Historical Commission of the Philippines (NHCP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), among others, to coordinate with and assist the PPUR-N7WN Campaign Task Force in the inaugural activities.

"Subject to prescribed budgetary guidelines and government auditing rules and regulations, all government agencies concerned are authorized to allocate funds from available sources to cover the operational requirements for the conduct of activities," Ochoa stated in Memorandum Circular No. 29.

Early this year, the Switzerland-based N7WN Foundation officially proclaimed PPUR as one of the N7WN, giving the popular Palawan destination a distinct position in the international tourist map.

Philippine Tobacco Industry

By Joann Santiago

An executive of British American Tobacco (BAT) Malaysia admitted on Thursday that pulling out their operations in the Philippines in 2009 was a wrong move and stressed that they should have fought harder to level the playing field for cigarette manufacturers and players. 

In a briefing, BAT Malaysia Managing Director William Toh said he was the one who recommended for BAT to exit the Philippines' tobacco industry after noting that they were just losing money and "there was no light at the end of the tunnel."

"Obviously it's the wrong call; it's not the right thing to do; we should still continue to lobby, appeal, fight for a level playing field so we made the decision this year to re-enter the Philippines," he said.

BAT closed shop in the Philippines in 2009 because of several factors, one of which is the Supreme Court (SC) decision ruling the constitutionality of the law pegging higher tax on cigarette brands that entered the Philippine market after 1996, which BAT earlier questioned.

An amendment was made in the Sin Tax Law which took effect in 1997 after a survey was made in 1996 regarding market prices of cigarettes in the country, thus, the law pegged cigarette taxes based on 1996 prices.

Toh said they did not experience a level playing field in the 10 years that they first joined the Philippine market.

"All we are asking for is a level playing field, treat everybody the same and let the economic forces compete," he said.

BAT's decision to stay out of the Philippines was changed recently after the company saw that the government is now pushing harder to level the playing field.

Toh declined to answer whether their re-entry to the Philippine market is now for good pointing out that this really still depends on what will happen to the measure now under lawmakers scrutiny on the reforms in excise tax.

Philippine Ambassador to China

President Benigno S. Aquino III has granted the request of Domingo Lee that his nomination as ambassador to the People's Republic of China (PROC) be withdrawn, considering the government's efforts to pursue a peaceful settlement of the Scarborough Shoal issue.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang said during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Thursday that Lee had requested that his nomination be withdrawn by the Aquino administration after the Commission on Appointments (CA) deferred anew the confirmation of his appointment.

"President Aquino has agreed to Ambassador Lee's wish, and therefore, Domingo Lee will no longer be our appointed ambassador to China," Carandang said.

Carandang said Lee made the decision to pave the way for the Chief Executive to find a new nominee who will be more acceptable to the Commission on Appointments.

"Mr. Lee is culturally and politically attuned to the developments in China; he has an extensive list of contacts in China and was eager to become our ambassador there. Unfortunately, the protracted confirmation process (which) Mr. Lee felt was not something that the country could afford at a time when we're addressing serious issues with the People's Republic of China. And so with the national interest in mind, Mr. Lee has requested that his nomination be withdrawn," Carandang said.

With the withdrawal of the nomination of Lee, Carandang said the search for a new nominee has begun. He said the Aquino administration is now awaiting for the list to be submitted by the Department of Foreign Affairs.

"We expect that a new nominee will be announced in the coming days," he said.

Lee explained in his letter to the President that he hopes his decision will ease the burden of the President.

Filipino Caregiver in Japan

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited four Filipinos for their compassion and dedication to their work as caregivers for choosing to remain and take care of their patients at the height of the nuclear disaster scare following the 9.1 magnitude earthquake that devastated Japan in March 2011.

In his speech at the 2nd Ministerial Meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue held at the Sofitel Philippine Plaza in Pasay City on Thursday, the President hailed the caregivers for showing to the world that "wherever Filipinos have work, they have been a force for good."

"They (Filipinos) have had a positive effect on their host countries, contributing their caring and nurturing characteristics to their new environments," the President said.

"One of the examples I can think of is during the height of the tragedy in Fukushima, several brave, compassionate Filipino caregivers and nurses refused to abandon their patients at the height of the crisis," he added.

The four Filipino caregivers, who have been called the "Fukushima Heroes," are Gemma Juanay, Juliet Tobay, Sandra Otacan and Mercedes Joie Aquino.

They were working in the institution for the elderly located in Fukushima Prefecture, some distance away from a no-go zone declared by the Japanese government as an aftermath of the East Japan earthquake and the devastation wrought by the tsunami of March 11, 2011.

What is Noynoying and Jedjeding?

President Benigno Aquino III only promises things he can fulfill, stressed Presidential Spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

"He is definitely not 'noynoying' nor 'jedjeding'," Lacierda told reporters during his visit at the metro Thursday.

Coined by militant groups, the term "noynoying" refers to President Aquino allegedly doing nothing to resolve the country's most pressing problems.

"Jedjeding," on the other hand, is in reference to Iloilo City Mayor Jed Patrick Mabilog, who is allegedly talking too much about things he cannot accomplish. The term, which was first coined in Panay News, also means boasting about one's performance even if it's untrue.

Lacierda said there is no way for the President to do "jedjeding" because he is not the type of person who promises about things he cannot fulfill.

"As a President, he has to speak up...he made promises but only those he can make," he stressed.

For instance, Lacierda cited President Aquino promising to assist the poor during his presidential campaign.

He said right after Mr. Aquino was elected as the country's Chief Executive, he fulfilled his promise by continuing the implementation of the Conditional Cash Transfer program (CCT).

"Instead of waiting for the economy to grow, he directly invested in human capital to help the poor help themselves," he said.

Lacierda reiterated that the CCT, also known as Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), is not a dole-out because the beneficiaries are ought to comply with certain conditions in exchange of the cash grant.

Based on the record of Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the lead implementing agency of the CCT, more than five million extremely poor households have been enrolled in the program, he noted.

Another promise Aquino made was on the universal health care, which the Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) is currently working on, Lacierda also said.

The President's promise to build housing units for the military and policemen also came true following the construction of the project in Luzon, he noted.

The housing project intended for the members of the Philippine National Police, Armed Forces of the Philippines, Bureau of Fire Protection and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology will also commence in Visayas and Mindanao soon, he added.

Lacierda said President Aquino wants only substantive infrastructure projects that will give maximum benefits to the people.

April 21 Holiday in Malabon City

President Benigno S. Aquino III has declared April 21, which falls on a Saturday, as a special (non-working) day in the city of Malabon in celebration of its 11th cityhood anniversary.

In Proclamation No. 366 signed by Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. on April 17, the Chief Executive issued the declaration to give the people of Malabon the full opportunity to celebrate and participate in the occasion with appropriate ceremonies.

On March 5, 2001, then President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law Republic Act No. 9019 converting the municipality of Malabon into a highly urbanized city. The law was ratified after the plebiscite on April 21, 2001.

2nd Ministerial Meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue

President Benigno S. Aquino III lauded the holding of the 2nd Ministerial Meeting of the Abu Dhabi Dialogue (ADD II) in Manila which, he said, provided an opportunity for stakeholders to discuss ways of improving the plight of overseas workers.

The ADD II aims to provide a forum for the discussion of new ideas and concrete activities towards the enhancement of bilateral and regional cooperation and partnerships to bring about maximum benefits of labor migration for the peoples of Asia, including Filipinos.

"This (ADD II) is an excellent opportunity for us, not just to share our visions, or our ideas -- but also to listen to what our counterparts have to say. After all, none of our economies grow in a vacuum; and thus, progress comes not from focusing only on our own people, or only on our own growth; it comes from strengthening partnerships, focusing on each others' growth," the President said in his speech keynoting the ADD II on Thursday in Pasay City.

"Because if everyone grows, then all our capabilities are enhanced, and all our opportunities are greatly improved; and, in the end, it is all our people who will reap the rewards," he added.

The President said that it is important for the dialogue centers to ensure that the workers' safety, needs and wants are properly met.

"What all of us want is clear -- we want the recruitment for our people to be both fair and efficient; we want workers to be treated with dignity; and we want to be able to go back home in a convenient manner, and to be successfully reintegrated in our respective societies," he stressed.

Puerto Princesa Undergroud River in Palawan

By Modesto Antonio G. Ibarra

The Puerto Princesa Undergroud River (PPUR) in Palawan will officially join the world's New 7 Wonders of Nature during its inauguration on Saturday, April 21. 

President Benigno S. Aquino III will be the guest of honor and speaker during the historic event which will take place at One Esplanade, SM Central Business Park in Pasay City.

This was confirmed by Puerto Princesa City Mayor Edward Hagedorn in a press briefing on Wednesday at the Max Restaurant in Scout Tuason, Roxas District, Quezon City.

"The President will be the guest of honor and speaker, and all Cabinet members have been invited to join the Chief Executive. It's all-systems go for the inauguration," Hagedorn said.

The inauguration will also be attended by members of the diplomatic community, key officials from the other six countries that made it to the New 7 Wonders of Nature. Other top government officials, both national and local, will also be present.

"We are holding this historic event in Manila, not in Puerto Princesa City, because this is for all Filipinos and for the whole country," Mayor Hagedorn stressed.

The highlight of the event, according to Hagedorn, will be the unveiling of the N7WN marker and awarding of the same to Puerto Princesa City.

The mayor expressed his sincerest gratitude to all Filipinos, especially the media, for the support given in PPUR's having been chosen as a wonder of nature in last year's worldwide search for the New 7 Wonders of Nature.

The PPUR was the Philippine lone entry to the global search initiated by the Swiss-based organization, the New 7 Wonders of Nature Foundation headed by Dr. Bernard Weber.

Aside from the PPUR, the other six winners include Brazil's Amazon Rainforest, Vietnam's Halong Bay, Argentina's Iugazu Falls, South Korea's Jeju Island, Indonesia's Komodo Island and South Africa's Table Mountain.

Meanwhile, on another topic during the press briefing, Hagedorn was also asked about his political plans.

He said he would take a respite from the political arena to give way to the young promising leaders.

Fight Corruption in the Philippines

By Modesto Antonio G. Ibarra

The Commission on Audit and the Office of the Ombudsman have formed a strategic partnership in the fight against graft and corruption through the launching of the COA-OMB Joint Investigation Team. 

COA Chairperson Ma. Gracia Pulido Tan and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales signed the Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) as they formalized on Wednesday the creation of the joint team tasked to fast-track the investigation and prosecution of cases of corruption in public offices arising from COA fraud audit reports.

Collaborating their anti-corruption initiatives as members of the Inter-Agency Anti-Graft Coordinating Council (IAAGCC), COA and OMB, through the joint investigation team, aim to ensure the efficient and successful filing, investigation and prosecution of cases involving graft, corruption and violations of the Ethical Code of Conduct for Public Officials and Government Employees.

"With the Office of the Ombudsman and the COA working together, we are confident that these cases will finally be resolved, the names of innocent individuals cleared, and the accountable officials meted the appropriate penalties," Ombudsman Morales said.

"We are constitutionally mandated in our respective capacities to ensure accountability and integrity in public office," COA Chairperson Pulido Tan added. "We will thus attend to these cases with the highest degree also of accountability and integrity."

This institutional partnership is part of an ongoing effort to enhance and expand mutual assistance between COA and the OMB under the leaderships of Morales and Pulido-Tan.

Under the terms of the MOA, which will run for three years, the two offices will share resources and expertise in the successful processing of cases under joint investigation.

"We in the COA will do the gathering of facts reported to our office, assess and rectify them, then we pass these to the OMB for the prosecution and filing of cases against the erring public officials," explained Pulido-Tan.

"We are deeply mindful of the 'culture of impunity' which is one of the most impelling factors in the incidence of graft and corruption in the country where it is often bewailed that only 'small fish' get punished and the 'big fish' get away to yet another adventure, emboldening the next-in-ranks to help themselves in adventures of their own until they, too, become big fish, and the cycle goes on. This culture of impunity must go, if we are to restore public office as truly a public trust," Morales and Pulido-Tan said in a joint statement.

"Complaints involving high officials of the land, plunderous misuse of public lands, and other cases highly impacting the drive against graft and corruption, must be attended to with dispatch and investigated with the highest degree of integrity, independence and competence," the two officials added.

"If COA and the Office of the Ombudsman, the two most important agencies, join together, it would bring us to the 'daang matuwid' (straight path)," said Fr. Gerry Orbos in his homily during the Holy Mass that preceded the event.

Fr. Orbos also blessed the new office of the investigation team located within the COA premises after the ceremonial ribbon-cutting led by Morales and Pulido-Tan.

3 Most Wanted in the Philippines

By Philippine News Agency

There is no let-up in the search for high profile fugitives and to bring these persons to the bar of justice, Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said while in this city Thursday.

Warrants of arrest were issued against former Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, former military official Jovito Palparan and Ruben Ecleo of Dumagat Island.

Reyes was accused of masterminding the killing of environmentalist Dr. Gerry Ortega. Palparan was charged for several human rights violations while Ecleo was convicted Friday last week for killing his wife.

Lacierda said the arrest of the fugitives, while facing charges in court, had been given incentives with bounties in exchange for any information leading to their arrest. Tracker teams, he said, were already dispatched to look for them.

Lacierda and Undersecretary Abigail Valte of the Presidential Communications and Development Strategic Planning Office (PCDSPO) based in Malacañang, who are working directly under the office of President Benigno Aquino III, are here today for the PCDSPO Western Visayas roadshow.

The two officials said the President is aware of the issues and charges against the three fugitives and believes on the rule of law. They said the courts would eventually render its decision against these persons who have committed heinous crimes.

Lacierda said that coddlers of the fugitives may also face charges amid reports that some politicians and other influential persons are helping them elude arrest.

Role of Philippine Media in Society

Media practitioners play a crucial rule in achieving gender equality at this time when women power need to be equal to that of the men.

This was underscored by former Director Lucita C. Sanchez of the News and Information Bureau (NIB) who, since retiring from that agency of the Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) in 2007, has championed women's rights in her native town of Victoria, Tarlac as president of the non-government organization (NGO) "Isang Bigkis."

Speaking on the topic "Role of Media in Gender Equality at the NIB Gender and Development Workshop" at the PTA San Fabian Resort here, Sanchez considered the topic very relevant in this age when women power need to be equal to men's, not only by verbal pronouncement "but as natural instinct in the way of life."

Media practitioners, whether male or female, must be the first to realize with full awareness that men are equal to men, which is a universal human right, she said, warning that if there is tilt or imbalance on either side, "the information process and the output story is impaired and may not be an effective media."

She noted that the country is fortunate that the government has institutionalized the recognition of the equality of the two genders in Republic Act No. 9710 or the Magna Carta of Women.

Sanchez implored that in order to be able to come up with newsworthy gender stories that are fair and balanced, media practitioners have to be familiar with the rights of women as embodied in R.A. 9710 and its Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRRs).

Under the law, the state affirms the role of women in nation-building and ensures the substantive equality of women and men. It shall promote empowerment of women and pursue equal opportunities for women and men, ensure equal access to resource and to development.

The state, as the primary duty bearer, shall refrain from discriminating against women and violating their rights; protect women against discrimination and from violation of their rights; promote and fulfill their rights in all spheres, including their rights to substantive equality and non-discrimination, she said.

Sanchez identified that the rights and empowerment of the women include protection from violence, and protection and security in situations of emergency, armed conflict and militarization.

At the same time, she said all government personnel, including appointing authorities, local chief executives of local government units (LGUs), shall regularly undergo mandatory training on gender and human rights.

All barangays too shall establish a Violence Against Women (VAW) Desk. The Punong Barangay shall designate a VAW Desk Person trained on handling gender-sensitive cases.

On the other hand, the Philippine National Police also set up the Women's and Children's Desk in every police station to specifically handle cases involving women and minor children.

She also said that under R.A. 9710, women also enjoy the right to protection when affected by disasters, calamities and other crisis situations and participation and equal representation in all spheres of society, particularly in decision-making and policy-making process to fully realize their role as agents and beneficiaries of development.

Sanchez said gender mainstreaming is a strategy for implementing the Magna Carta of Women, adding that the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women, which is the primary policy-making and coordinating body of the women and gender equality concerns, was renamed the Philippine Commission on Women (PCW) under the Office of the President.

"There is much for media to cover in the implementation of the various provisions of the law which I suppose will take several years or even decades in order to really put in place true gender equality," she intoned.

Addressing the media, Sanchez said there is a great need to help women as they had been deprived most and curtailed of their rights and power for a long period of time to the point of losing their freedom and personal dignity. Yet, without women, humanity cannot procreate and bring human lives to the world.

Traits of Filipinos

President Benigno S. Aquino III cited the invaluable traits of former President Joseph Ejercito "Erap" Estrada that has inspired the Filipinos in times of hardships and trials as he wished the former president the best of health during his diamond birth anniversary celebration.

In his message during Erap's birthday celebration at the Le Pavilion Metropolitan Park in Pasay City Thursday evening, President Aquino acknowledged Estrada's unique character of dealing with the emotions of the common people and giving them hope to surpass challenges.

"Niyakap kayo ng masang Pilipino at malinaw sa lahat ang dahilan nito… taglay ninyo ang kakayahang tukuyin ang kanilang pulso at kurutin ang kanilang puso," the President said.

"Sa panahon na matumal ang pag-asa, marami ang napanghinaan ng loob na magsumikap sa buhay... kumapit ang masa kay Erap. Dahil sa inyo, napanatag ang loob ni Juan dela Cruz, nagkaroon siya ng kakampi upang harapin ang mga pagsubok sa buhay at nagkaroon siya ng Erap na nakatindig at lumalaban para sa katuparan ng kanyang mga pangarap," he added.

The Chief Executive said that the former president's legacy will forever linger in the minds of the people which will push them to strive further to attain progress.

"Kaya naman, sa pagbibigay-lakas at pag-asa sa mga Pilipino, habang-buhay nang nakatatak si Erap sa kanilang isip at puso... sa inyo pong kaarawan, wala kaming ibang hiling kung hindi ang inyong magandang kalusugan at marami pang taon na magbibigay ng inspirasyon sa bayan, muli maraming salamat at maligayang kaarawan po," President Aquino noted.

During the event, President Aquino shared a table with the celebrator Estrada who turned 75, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., Vice President Jejomar Binay, Senator Jinggoy Estrada and Presidential sisters Ballsy Aquino-Cruz, Pinky Aquino-Abellada and Kris Aquino.

New RTC Court in Laguna, Philippines

President Benigno S. Aquino III has signed into law a legislation creating additional regional trial court (RTC) branches in Laguna in a bid to unclog court dockets in the province and speed up the dispensation of justice, Executive Secretary Paquito N. Ochoa Jr. announced on Friday.

According to Ochoa, the President signed on April 17, 2012 Republic Act No. 10162 to amend Batas Pambansa Blg. 129, otherwise known as the Judiciary Reorganization Act of 1980, and address the lack of RTCs in Laguna that impedes the resolution of cases.

There is no RTC in Sta. Rosa City in Laguna, and litigants have to travel to adjacent Biñan City and Cabuyao municipality in order to attend criminal, civil and special proceeding cases.

"There is a necessity for the establishment of the additional RTCs in Laguna, particularly in Sta. Rosa City, in order to free from pending cases the dockets of existing RTC branches in Laguna. Eventually, the addition of two more branches will increase the rate of resolved cases," Ochoa explained.

R.A. 10162 originated from the House of Representatives under House Bill No. 4488, which tasks the Supreme Court to assign the branch number of the newly-created RTC branches in the Fourth Judicial Region.

It also tasks the Chief Justice and the Secretary of the Department of Justice to immediately include in the Supreme Court's program the operationalization of the additional RTC branches. Under the new law, funding for this will be included in the annual General Appropriations Act.

Clark Subic Tax Collection

Tax collections by revenue and customs offices here in the first quarter of the year again surpassed previous records, leading to combined remittances of P1.79 billion in just the first three months of 2012.

The P1.79-billion collection total remitted by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) represented an increase rate of 10.83 per cent, or P174.8 million, over the P1.61-billion aggregate collection for the same period last year, records from the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) showed.

SBMA chairman Roberto Garcia noted that the first quarter collections this year are record highs for both the Subic customs office, which netted a total of P1.46 billion, as well as for the district revenue office, which collected P328 million.

SBMA records also revealed that the uptrend in first quarter revenue collections here began in 2003, when a total of P665.18 million was generated. Over the succeeding years, this record was constantly topped by higher revenue collection figures.

The P1.79-billion first quarter 2012 collection alone is already 22.76 percent more than the revenue collections made in the entire 1998, which amounted to P1.46 billion.

The BOC's P1.46-billion collection was derived from duties and taxes from ship calls, transhipment operations, and the importation of various products and general merchandise.

The Customs collection for the first quarter slightly exceeded last year's P1.37-billion record by 6.47 percent, or 88.76 million.

However, the bureau also slightly missed its P1.52-billion target for Q1 2012 by 3.75 percent, or P53.14 million.

The slight variance, however, was more than made up for by the BOC's total non-cash collection of P191.44 million, indicating a 151 percent increase compared to the first quarter last year.

Meanwhile, the P328-million cash collections by the BIR reflected a 35 percent increase compared to the P241.97 million in the same period last year.

This also surpassed the district's first quarter goal of P274 million by 19.34 percent.

It was also noted that the BIR's overall performance for the first quarter still improved despite the 2010 implementation of a new tax collection scheme allowing the SBMA to directly receive two percent of corporate taxes being paid by locators.

Maternal Mortality in the Philippines

By Jelly F. Musico

President Benigno S. Aquino III urged the local government units (LGUs) on Friday to play major role along with the private sector in achieving the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 5 or reduction of maternal mortality ratio from 162 to 52 per 100,000 live births by 2015. 

"Allow me to use this opportunity to appeal to our partners in the LGUs. Your support means a lot in saving the lives of your constituents," the President said in his message read by Health Secretary Enrique Ona during the 162 to 52 Summit: Accelerating Collective Impact on Maternal and Child Health at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

President Aquino also recognized the continued support and commitment of the private sector to achieve a daunting task of reducing the maternal deaths before the term of the President ends in 2016.

"With just three years left, the Philippines is behind the target maternal mortality ratio. All sectors both in the private and public fields, from government partners and in the civil society, can unite and make strong push to attain MDG 5," the President emphasized.

Aside from improving maternal health, President Aquino said his administration is also determined and committed to reduce child mortality and fight other diseases like tuberculosis, malaria and human immune deficiency or HIV through strengthened vaccination campaign nationwide.

"To achieve these goals, we have formulated a health reform plan that centers on promoting universal health care and we called this Kalusugan Pangkahalatan (health for all) or KP," the President said.

The President revealed that for the last two years, the government has spent P15 billion for the improvement and construction of health facilities, including health centers with operating rooms nationwide to prevent maternal deaths.

President Aquino also said the Department of Health (DOH) hired more than 20,000 nurses and 7,000 midwives to serve in the barrios, including in the far-flung areas where the poorest of the poor hardly get properly medical care.

"We need more equipment, we need more medicines, we need more trained and compassionate, committed people to man our hospitals. The more people manning our health facilities means more lives will be saved," President Aquino said.

Due to the health reform program implemented by the Aquino administration, more than 15 million infants and children have been given proper care all over the country.

The President commended the DOH, the LGUS, private sector as well as the national government organizations (NGOs) for coming out with the multisectoral organization called the "162 to 52 coalition" which is envisioned as the catalyst for strategic, targeted, and innovative public-private partnerships (PPPs) for the attainment of better maternal indicators.

"This coalition needs to prosper for us to achieve MDG 5 and reduce maternal mortality. The bottom line, this is not just about saving the lives of people, we are also saving the lives of our future generation," the President said.

In a press conference, Ona stressed the importance of coming out with updated and accurate data on the real number of mothers who died due to inadequate pre- and post- natal to achieve the MDG 5.

Governor Alfonso Umali Jr. of Oriental Mindoro, president of the League of Governors of the Philippines, agreed with the DOH chief that all the stakeholders should come up with uniform data on the number of the maternal mortality rate.

Based on the data provided by the United Nations Fund for Population Agency, 11 mothers die everyday in the Philippines due to maternity-related causes, leaving more than 30 children motherless.

"As of 2008, the Philippines has an adjusted maternal mortality ratio of 162 per 100,000 live births. This is far from MDG target of 52 deaths per 100,000 live births," Ona said.

"The shortfalls are brought about by inadequate investments in health and not enough political will of our leaders do to what needs to be done to achieve our goals," the DOH head added.

UNPFA country representative Ogochi Daniels said the Philippines is one of 68 countries accounting for 95 percent of all maternal and newborn deaths in the world and "there has been no notable decrease during the last several years."

"The good thing is we know the cures. The solutions aren't complicated. If women have access to Family Planning so she can get pregnant only if she wanted to, we could prevent almost a third of maternal deaths," Daniels said.

Umali vowed to convince his colleagues to support the coalition's goal "to make a it a successful one."

Rafael Cofa, executive director of the Philippine Business for Social Progress (PBSP), also made commitment to continuously support to uplift the lives of every Filipino through responsible business practices in the country.

"PBSP engages companies to promote health in the workplace by integrating health projects and promoting access to health services for employees and communities," Cofa said.

The 162 to 52 Summit has been organized to provide the non-profit sector and the governors a venue to forge partnerships and commit to improve maternal and child health through PPP at the local government level.

Anti NPA Rebels Campaign

In wake of recent extortion, highway robbery, kidnapping, and homicide incidents involving members of the New People's Army (NPA), Philippine National Police (PNP) Director General Nicanor Bartolome on Friday said that police will conduct a "law enforcement offensive" against the communist rebels nationwide.

Bartolome said the move was in line with the PNP's peace and order mission, which calls for the neutralization of lawless groups that threaten the country's security and stability.

"We will no longer take a defensive stance against them. This time we will go on the offensive against the NPA," Bartolome said.

He said the PNP would utilize its provincial security companies in its campaign against the rebels, especially in their build-up areas in the hinterlands while local police would be tasked to secure and protect urban or developed areas from NPA depredation.

"The provincial security companies will act as our first of defense while our local police will defend the developed communities," Bartolome said.

The PNP chief also said that the PNP would initiate an intense intelligence gathering program to prevent the NPA from conducting any surprise attacks.

He also said that they were looking at the possibility of coordinating their operations with the Armed Forces of the Philippines to make their moves more crushing to the rebel forces.

As this develops, Bartolome also instructed all police units in the country, especially those located in the hinterlands to coordinate, beef up security and coordinate with the military closely to ensure that their mutual support in case of rebel attack.

The PNP chief strongly emphasized this reminder, adding that the attack on the Tigbao police station in Zamboanga Del Sur last April 9, could have been prevented had the local police properly coordinated with the military.

Vacant Position for Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon

By Perfecto T. Raymundo, Jr.

The Judicial and Bar Council (JBC), chaired by Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, has shortlisted four names for the position of Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon, which shall be submitted to President Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" C. Aquino III. 

The JBC recently set the public interview with the applicants for the Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon position on March 28, 2012 after it was vacated by Francis Jardeleza because of his promotion as Solicitor General.

After the JBC en banc deliberations on Friday, Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) Commissioner Gerard Mosquera got the highest number of votes with seven.

Mosquera was a graduate of the Ateneo College of Law and belongs to the Utopia Fraternity and has worked before at the Office of the Ombudsman (Ombudsman) during the time of Ombudsman Simeon Marcelo.

Coming in second is Ombudsman Graft Investigator Roque Dator, who is currently assigned at the Ombudsman Field Investigation Office.

Dator got six votes from the JBC.

Among those who were shortlisted, Dator is the only insider who is working at the Ombudsman at present.

He was a graduate of the University of Santo Tomas (UST) College of Law and was a former seminarian.

Commission on Elections (Comelec) Director Ferdinand Rafanan garnered five votes.

Rafanan is a known fiscalizer in the Comelec due to his anti-graft campaign. He was a former Comelec Law Director and a graduate of the University of the Philippines (UP) College of Law.

Tied with Rafanan with five votes is Arthur Melchor Carandang, a consultant of Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales and has worked before with Marcelo during his time as Ombudsman.

The position of Deputy Ombudsman for Luzon has a fixed term of seven years under the 1987 Philippine Constitution being covered by an independent constitutional body.

Others who vied for the position were Marifi Chua, Marivic Balisi-Umali, Geraldine Faith Econg and Victorio Mario Dimagiba.

Other applicants were Ombudsman officials Diosdado Calonge, Jose De Jesus, Rudiger Falcis II and Raul Marifosque.

China is Terrorizing the Philippines

By Jelly F. Musico

Philippine foreign affairs spokesman Raul Hernandez appealed on Friday to China not to aggravate the fragile situation in the Scarborough Shoal following the arrival of a third Chinese vessel at the West Philippine Sea. 

"Let us not aggravate this by any action that would escalate the situation. And we think this is an action that aggravates and escalates the situation," Hernandez said as quoted by international news agency Agence France-Presse.

Hernandez said the DFA would ask China why they had violated its agreement with the Philippines, which might aggravate the 10-day standoff in the Scarborough Shoal.

The Philippines claims its sovereignty over the Scarborough Shoal, which is within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

The arrival of third Chinese military vessel at the West Philippine Sea happened as China rejected a proposal of the Philippines to settle the dispute through International Tribunal for the Law of the Seas (ITLOS).

Hernandez said in a press conference on Friday that the Philippines was preparing to go to the ITLOS unilaterally "if China will not go with us to ITLOS, our legal team will go to ITLOS unilaterally."

The DFA spokesman said the Philippines was not only asserting its territorial rights but also its sovereign rights over the Scarborough Shoal.

The standoff at the Scarborough Shoal, or Panatag Shoal, started when the Philippine Navy found Chinese vessels in the area carrying corals, giants clams and live sharks.

Last Thursday, Senator Francis 'Chiz' Escudero supported the proposal of Senator Ralph Recto for a joint exploration of the Scarborough Shoal "because we might be fighting over an area which has nothing to fight for."

Too Expensive Electricity Cost of the Philippines

President Benigno S. Aquino III said he will ask the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to review whether the 69 centavos per kilowatt increase in the power generation rates is warranted.

"The temporary solution is that we will be making the appropriate… Congress first, then also the Executive will be making the appropriate representations with the ERC to review this particular decision," the President said in a forum during the 17th World Electronics Forum and general meeting of the Semiconductors Electronics Industries of the Philippines Inc. in Mactan Shangri-la Island Spa and Resort here in Lapu-Lapu City.

"We are cognizant of the fact that the price of electricity in this country is a major deterrent to further investments and we are trying to accelerate the process where the benefits under the EPIRA law will be realized the soonest so that we can have more competitive electricity rate structure within the country."

The law that created the ERC was roughly about 10 years old and had become the subject of proposed amendments, the President said.

The industry also was not able to start the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), which is supposed to bring down the prices of electricity in the country.

WESM is a venue where electricity made by power-producing companies are centrally coordinated and traded like any other commodity in the market of goods with a level playing field.

At the same time, the President said they were also encouraging more power generating companies to set up their plants to address the power needs of the country.

Semiconductors Electronics Industries of the Philippines Inc

Mutual cooperation is the key towards sustainable economic growth between countries and this is the current thrust of the government to ensure national progress, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Friday.

The President was asked during the 17th World Electronics Forum and the Semiconductors Electronics Industries of the Philippines Inc. (SEIPI) general membership meeting here on how to strengthen trade relations between the Philippines and the US.

"We have one philosophy and that is all of us, all governments, want to improve the standards of living of their people, and the key to stability is the ability to be able to look at your partners' or neighbors' growth as part and parcel of your own growth," he said.

"So whenever we deal with any other state, with any other country, the drive has to be mutually beneficial. It cannot be starting from what's in it for us, to the exclusion of the other party's interest."

Countries must share knowledge, technologies, best practices and they must be fair in terms of support to their respective industries, the President said.

But the President underscored the need of achieving inclusive growth in the country whenever it deals with another country and as it develops its own industries.

Currently, the government is devoting its attention to education, aiding the poor and empowering the labor force, the President said.

NAIA 3 Airport Terminal Ready for Operation

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal-3 will be fully operational in a year and a half, President Benigno S. Aquino III said on Friday.

"I understand between a year and a half it will be fully operational," President Aquino said during the general meeting of the Semiconductors Electronics Industries of the Philippines Inc. (SEIPI) and the 17th World Electronics Forum at Mactan Shangri-la Island Spa and Resort here.

"There's a memorandum of understanding already with the Takenaka group to finish the portion of the work that has been set aside."

An issue was raised on Friday's event about the need to solve some concerns regarding NAIA-3 so more investments can come in and for tourism to flourish in the Philippines.

The President said that with regards to legal issues that involve NAIA-3 were practically complete.

Recent reports said that at least three foreign airlines were moving their operations to NAIA-3 by 2013, which should free up the congested NAIA-1 terminal.

Among these airlines include Delta Airways, Cathay Pacific and Emirates. They will join local carriers currently operating at NAIA-3.

Philippine Pork Producers Cry Foul

The Aquino government is addressIng the major needs and concerns of the country's hog raisers and pork producers, a Palace official said on Friday.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang made this statement during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Friday following the reported concerns of several hog farmers over pork importations affecting the industry.

Backyard hog farmers said pork imports led to the displacement of some 20 percent of hog farmers in the country in just three years. They said this development has forced many backyard farmers to suspend and even close down operations.

"The DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) is dealing with that and we hope the DTI can resolve these issues at the soonest possible time," Carandang said.

In a bid to make the country's hog industry competitive in the export market, President Aquino earlier said the government and industry stakeholders, along with farmers, should partner to reduce the cost of producing hogs, particularly the cost of animal feeds and its main ingredient, yellow corn.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala relayed the message of President Aquino to the hog raisers during the 21st Annual convention of the National Federation of Hog Raisers and the Pork Producers Federation of the Philippines on Thursday (April 19) in Mandaue City.

President Aquino said the hog raisers should have a direct linkage or partnership agreement with corn farmers. He assured that the government continues to provide assistance to hog raisers by implementing policies.

He also said that hog raisers can avail of the needed capital from the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund.

The President cited other recent policies and initiatives to further prop up the hog industry, including the issuance of the Department of Agriculture's Administrative Order No. 5 and 6.

Administrative Order No. 5 pertains to rules and regulations on hygienic handling of newly slaughtered meat in meat markets, while Administrative Order No. 6 contains the rules and regulations on hygienic handling of chilled, frozen and thawed meat in the market.

He said the two Administrative Orders were issued to further strengthen the country's "food control system" and ensure that meat sold in markets are hygienic and of high quality.

The Chief Executive said meat and animal products should conform with international standards. He instructed the DA to set aside funds to upgrade its national animal diagnostic at meat laboratories, particularly those in major livestock production areas.

There are ongoing negotiations to export chilled and frozen pork to the Middle East, Malaysia, and Japan, and frozen chicken to South Korea, according to the President.

Philippine Island Stolen by China

The Aquino government remains committed to ongoing consultations with the People's Republic of China (PROC) toward a peaceful and diplomatic solution to the Philippine's Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal) situation, a Palace official said on Friday.

Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon Carandang issued the statement during the regular press briefing in Malacanang on Friday following news reports that China reportedly rejected the Philippines' proposal to bring to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) the dispute over the Panatag Shoal (Scarborough Shoal).

"We continue to discuss the issue with the Chinese government. The Philippine government is determined to find a peaceful solution to this," Carandang said.

He reiterated that the country exercises full sovereignty and jurisdiction over the rocks of Bajo de Masinloc (Panatag).

"But we're also equally determined to assert our sovereignty over what is our territory," Carandang said, noting that Bajo de Masinloc is not part of the Spratlys.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of the Philippine territory and part of the Municipality of Masinloc, Province of Zambales. It is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales and is within the 200 nautical-mile Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and Philippine Continental Shelf.

Carandang said the government remains confident that the ownership dispute between the country and China would be resolved through diplomatic, legal and peaceful means.

"And I'd like to add also, while this issue has immediate implications for us and for China, it also has long-term implications for the rest of the region—for stability in the region," he said.

"In the immediate sense, this is an issue between the Philippines and China. But, in the end, this is an issue that has implications not just for the Philippines but also for other countries who are interested in navigating the South China Sea or, as we call it, the West Philippine Sea. So this is really an international issue," he said.

Philippine Stock Market Trends 2012

By Mediatrix P. Cristobal

Philippine shares further slid on Friday, dipping 16.82 points or 0.32 percent to finish at 5,156.46 on shaky US job market data and aggressive trading. 

Volume traded reached 1.80 billion shares valued at P15.59 billion.

Broader all shares slightly improved, adding 4.12 points or 0.12 percent to end higher at 3,429.55 points.

After a five-day rally, the PSEi on Thursday tumbled, slipping 12.92 points, or 0.24 percent, to finish at 5,173.28 while all shares shed 8.28 points, or 0.24 percent, to close at 3,425.43.

The index's week-on-week gain was touted at +1.16 percent.

Meanwhile, three of the six sub-indices were in the green: Financials, Property and Mining and Oil, which climbed 6.95 points, or 0.53 percent; 7.92 points, or 0.41 percent; and 9.95 points, or 0.03 percent, respectively.

Decliners edged out advancers, 87 to 76 while 44 stocks were unchanged.

Disclosure to Philippine Stock Exhcange

The parent firm of Philippine Airlines (PAL) has accepted the resignation of its board of directors after San Miguel Corp. (SMC) acquired a significant stake in the country's flag carrier.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exhcange, PAL Holdings Inc. said the board of directors' in a meeting held Friday accepted the resignation of Jaime Bautista as director and president; Domingo Chua, director and treasurer; Wilson Young, Juanita Tan Lee as directors; Johnip G. Cua as independent director and Ma. Cecilia Pesayco as corporate secretary.

The new elected directors of PAL Holdings include Ramon Ang, Inigo Zobel, Roberto Ongpin, Aurora Calderon and Ferdinand Constantino.

Ang was appointed as president and chief operating officer.

Other corporate officers include Harry Tan as the new treasurer, Estelito Mendoza, corporate secretary, Pesayco and Irene Cipriano as assistant corporate secretaries and Daniel Ang Tan Chai as chief finance officer.

Through wholly-owned subsidiary San Miguel Equity Investments Inc. (SMEII), SMC entered into investment agreements with Trustmark Holdings Corp. and Zuma Holdings and Management Corp., giving the former a 49 percent stake in PAL and Air Philippines Express for US$ 500 million.

World's Former Top Professional Golfer

Australian Greg Norman, the world's former top professional golfer, led the groundbreaking ceremony to establish a world-class golf course at the Dakak Park and Beach Resort in Dapitan City, Zamboanga del Norte.

Councilor Apple Marie Agolong, chairperson of the Dapitan City Council's Committee on Tourism, said Norman, as the planner and designer of the golf course, "is satisfied with what he saw" during an ocular and site planning.

Norman, nicknamed as "The Great White Shark," arrived on Monday in Dapitan City aboard his private-owned aircraft and was accompanied by Zamboanga del Norte third district Congressman Cesar Jalosjos.

Zamboanga del Norte Gov. Rolando Yebes and other officials joined them during the groundbreaking ceremony signaling the start of the project implementation.

Agolong said the completion of the golf course would further boost Dapitan City's tourism industry as it will entice local and international golfers to visit the city.

The Norman-designed golf courses have hosted sanctioned events on the PGA, Nationwide, European, and Australasian Tours.

First established in 1987, the "Greg Norman Golf Course Design" was established in more than 70 golf courses on six continents in the world, Agolong said.

Philippine Electronics Industry

President Benigno Aquino III has cited the country's semiconductor and electronics industry for employing some 530,000 Filipinos.

He noted that after a decade of accounting for an average of about 65 percent of the country's total exports, the number dropped to around 50 percent last year.

This, he said, contributed to the decline in total merchandise exports, which pulled down the 2011 gross domestic product (GDP) growth.

"Despite this, your industry was able to hire even more Filipino workers—and for that we are eternally grateful. I am told that direct employment in the industry grew by six percent, in spite of the downturn, from 500,000 in 2010 to 530,000 in 2011. Obviously, this is an encouraging sign," he said.

President Aquino spoke Friday afternoon at the 17th World Electronics Forum and Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. 108th General Membership Meeting at the Mactan Shangri-La Island SPA and Resort, Punta Engano Road, Lapu-Lapu City.

President Aquino said the Philippine economy is inextricably tied to the performance of the semiconductor and electronics industry, "whose growth and resilience has been nothing short of exceptional" despite the global conditions in the past couple of years.

He told delegates that the educational reforms his administration is implementing are designed to move Filipino workers higher up the value chain.

"The K-12 system, set to begin this June, is a long-term solution that can address our students' goals to become globally competitive," he said.

President Aquino said targeting systems are in place to enable the Filipino workforce to supply more specialists to industries that demand them.

Subic Export

The export volume inside this Freeport has significantly increased in the first two months of the year as compared with the same period last year.

Based on the business updates of the marketing department of the Clark Development Corporation (CDC), it showed that the export volume in January and February this year reached $ 594.2 million as against $ 244.3 million in the same period in 2011.

Records showed that a Korean firm--Phoenix Semiconductor Philippines Corporation-- held the number one position in the first month of the year following an export volume of more than $ 102.1 million.

PSPC is a semiconductor firm with more than $ 1 billion committed investments inside this Freeport zone.

Nanox Philippines, Inc. was placed second in the opening month of the year with more than $ 72.9 million exports volume of the Japanese firm.

But Nanox rebounded from being number two in the first month to number one in February with more than $ 118 million exports on the various semiconductor products being manufactured in Clark.

PSPC, on the other hand, fell to number two in February with $ 96 million exports volume.

Other notable firms with significant exports volume in the first two months of the year were Yokohama Tire Philippines, Inc. with a total exports of $ 54.3 million export products ($ 12.8 million in January and $ 25.5 million in February); Lhuen Thai Philippines (LNT) with more than $ 30.2 million exports volume ($ 13.6 million in January and $ 16.6 million in February); Hld Clark Steel Pipe Co. Inc. with $ 19.5 million exports in two months ($ 6.8 million in January and $ 1.7 in February; SMK with $ 12 million total exports ($ 5.2 million in January and $ 7.2 in February).

Shakey’s V-League 2012

By Alexandria A. Bernabe

Coach Arthur "Ogie" Mamon said on Friday that the University of Santo Tomas (UST) Growling Tigresses is hungry to steal the crown from the team of Coach Fritz Gaston of the Ateneo de Manila University (AdMU) Lady Eagles, during the 9th Season of the Shakey's V-League which opens on April 24 at the Arena in San Juan City. 

At Friday's SCOOP sa Kamayan in Padre Faura, Manila, Coach Ogie said the goal of UST is to grab the throne from AdMU even though they had just returned from a two-year break due to some injuries and for the Tigresses to cope up with their studies.

But Coach Fritz is unperturbed and does not take seriously what Coach Ogie is saying.

"Lahat iyan gustong mag champion. Pagdating sa laro doon lang malalaman kung sino yung malakas," Gaston said.

As defending champion, AdMU only started formal preparations Thursday because their guest player from Thailand has just arrived. Gaston said their Thai player and the rest of the team are already practicing some good plays.

On the other hand, Coach Ogie said the Tigresses has been impressive in their practice, confident their team will really be a strong contender for the Shakey's V-League title.

Philippines Customs Modernization and Tariff Act

By Lilybeth G. Ison

Customs Commissioner Rozzano Rufino Biazon on Friday urged Congress for the immediate passage of the proposed Customs Modernization and Tariff Act to stop smuggling of agricultural products, particularly pork and chicken products. 

Biazon, at the second day of the Pork Summit held at the Cebu International Convention Center in Mandaue City, said the proposed measure, which was approved by the House of Representatives in August 2011 and is now pending at the Senate, would reduce the incidence of smuggling.

He said there was a need to "fix" the system at the Bureau of Customs (BoC) without "loopholes" to eliminate smuggling in the country -- be it outright or technical.

Biazon said the Customs modernization would make procedures comply with those under the revised Kyoto Convention and other international standards.

The measure will also set international standards in customs operations, and make import trade transactions faster, predictable, efficient and transparent, among others.

It will also promote and secure international trade, protect and enhance government revenues, prevent smuggling and other fraud against customs and modernize customs and tariff administration.

Under the proposed bill approved at the House of Representatives, the BoC may adopt non-intrusive inspection based on internationally accepted standards subject to random checking, post entry audit, and under certain conditions to be prescribed by rules and regulations.

The Commissioner may exempt from examination importations belonging to importers accredited as Authorized Economic Operators (AEO), or under any existing trade facilitation program.

The measure also provides that when there is a declaration of a state of calamity, clearance of relief consignments shall be a matter of priority and subject to a simplified customs procedure.

The BoC will promulgate rules and regulations to allow manual and electronic lodgement of export declarations and to make available and accessible all the information of general application to any interested person for legitimate use.

The bill also mandates the BoC Commissioner to submit an annual report to the President, which shall among other things contain a compilation of the quantity and value of the articles imported to the country and the corresponding custom duties, taxes and other charges assessed and collected on imported articles itemized; percentage collection of the peso value of the imports; quantity and value of conditionally-free importations; customs validation over and above letters of credit opened; value and quantity of tax-free imports; and quantity and value of articles exported from the Philippines as well as the taxes and other charges assessed and collected on them from the preceding year.

It also seeks to apply information and communications technology to enhance customs control and support a cost-effective and efficient customs operations geared towards a paperless environment using internally accepted standards.

It also proposes that sea port and airport authorities and private port operators shall provide free of charge facilities like X-ray scanners to help the BoC perform its mandate.

To stop the unabated technical smuggling of pork which translate to government losses of P3.7 billion in revenues, Biazon proposed to have a 100 percent inspection of all reefer vans declared as "offal" with only five percent in duties, instead of the usual 35 percent slapped on choice cuts of pork.

Offal refers to a butchered animal's internal organs, entrails, skin, fats and other leftover materials.

For his part, AGAP party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones said he had filed a bill calling for an investigation on the Top 10 importers of fats, offals, skin/rind if they are paying their taxes based on the volume of their respective importation.

The top 10 importers are: Preo Foods Corp., Kitchen Solutions Corp., DPO Philippines Inc., Fairfield Import Export and Trading Inc., MTDM Trading, MPP Meat Import Corp., Batoy Trading, Sacrecoure Commercial, First Maestro Foodservice Company, and All Meat Foods International Trading.

Philippine-manufactured apparel products

By Gloria Jane Baylon

Three United States legislators have committed to support a U.S. bill that would allow for Philippine-manufactured apparel products using U.S.-made fabrics to enter that country duty free, according to Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario. 

The legislation is known as the Save Our Industries Act (S. 1244, H.R. 238) or SAVE Act.

The Department of Foreign Affairs describes SAVE Act as "an interim measure that will serve as a bridge, as the Philippines prepares itself for eventual membership in the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP)."

Del Rosario identified the three American lawmakers as Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), chairman of the Subcommittee on International Trade, Customs, and Competitiveness; Sen. Pat Roberts (R-KS), senior member of the same Subcommittee; and Rep. Don Manzullo, chairman of the House Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under the Committee on Foreign Affairs.

Del Rosario, accompanied by Philippine Ambassador to the U.S. Jose L. Cuisia Jr., met with leaders and members of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives to campaign for the SAVE Act on April 17 and 18.

He told U.S. congressmen that by helping strengthen the Philippine economy through such arrangements as the SAVE Act, the U.S. is also making itself stronger.

The secretary noted that for a treaty ally such as the Philippines, the SAVE Act is a relatively small preferential trade program compared to existing similar programs for other countries that are substantially more generous.

Various programs provide for more liberal market access for a wide range of countries in the Caribbean, the Andean region, Sub-Saharan Africa and the Middle East for countries such as Egypt, Jordan and Mauritius.

DFA said SAVE Act "would be a major step that would immediately contribute positively to Philippines-U.S. bilateral trade and overall relationship, in support of and in line with the strategic security alliance between the two countries."

Del Rosario, Cuisa's immediate predecessor in Washington, emphasized that the "apparel industry remains a very significant sector economically and politically."

"SAVE Act is mutually beneficial for both the Philippines and the United States because it also provides a significant new export opportunity for the U.S. textile industry.

"This opportunity could account for hundreds of millions in new U.S. textile exports in a short period of time that would translate into thousands of additional jobs for the U.S. textile sector," the secretary remarked.

Del Rosario also met with Senator Daniel K. Inouye, the principal sponsor of SAVE Act in the Senate, "who expressed steadfast and active support for the bill." Other congressmen "gave assurances that they understand both the strategic and economic importance of the bill, and that they will have to examine it more closely."

Del Rosario also had supposedly productive meetings with Senators Max Baucus (R-MT), Chuck Grassley (R-IA), John Rockefeller (D-WV), Mike Enzi (R-WY), Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Robert Menendez (R-NJ), Debbie Ann Stabenow (R-MI), and Marco Rubio (R-FL).