Monday, September 30, 2013

Philippines is frontline in global fight over GMOs, expert says

The war on genetically-manipulated organisms (GMOs) goes on, and the Philippines is its battleground, according to Dr. Wayne Parrott, a plant breeding and genomics expert from the University of Georgia.

 

All eyes were on the Philippines when anti-GMO groups KMB and Sikwal-GMO destroyed a field-testing ground for Golden Rice in a Department of Agriculture (DA) compound in Pili, Camarines Sur on August 8.

Golden Rice is a beta carotene-enriched variety being developed to combat Vitamin A deficiency.

 

The field-testing done in Pili, Camarines Sur was only one of five being done by the Department of Agriculture to ensure that they are suitable for cultivation before being distributed commercially.

 

"The global spotlight is now on the Philippines," Parrott said in a media workshop on September 27.

 

"With the recent destruction of (golden) rice that took place here in the Philippines, you know the center of development has been here. It attracted global attention as it had never attracted it before," he said.

 

"Golden rice had more positive press out of that one act of vandalism than it (ever) had up until now."

 

Worldwide attention

 

The vandalism prompted a change.org petition signed by over 6,000 plant scientists worldwide condemning the destruction of the field-testing site.

 

"No group, regardless of its intentions, has the right to condemn a technology without evidence. It is an unconscionable criminal act to destroy a field trial conducted in accordance to international safety norms," the statement said.

 

Parrott also cited a New York Times article entitled "Golden Rice: Lifesaver?" that featured the destruction of the field trial that "touched a nerve among scientists around the world".

 

"A looming decision by the Philippine government about whether to allow Golden Rice to be grown beyond its four remaining field trials has added a new dimension to the debate over the technology's merits," the article said.

 

A warning

 

What happens to golden rice will be a pivotal event.

 

"Golden rice is seen by many groups, particularly anti-GMO lobbyists, as the one last thing that stands between a world free of GMOs and a world where all the crops are GMOs," Parrott said.

 

Anti-GMO lobbyists will make "every attempt possible" to stop golden rice. And both camps will be fighting for its claims.

 

"Expect more lawsuits, and a lot of very deliberate information and deception," he said. "This is ground zero. This is the frontline." — TJD,

 

GMA News

Corruption linked to $2.1-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant’ Marcos crony goes for Trial: Supreme Court

Herminio Disni, Marcos corny linked to corruption to the construction of the mothbaleed $2.1-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant

 

The Supreme Court Monday gave the Sandiganbayan anti-graft court the "go-ahead" signal to proceed with the criminal case against alleged Marcos crony Herminio Disini.

 

In a ruling made public Monday, the SC's 1st Division denied for lack of merit the petition filed by Disini questioning the jurisdiction of the Sandiganbayan to prosecute him and if the allegation against him has prescribed.

 

Under the law, the Sandiganbayan has jurisdiction over criminal and civil cases of public officers and employees, including those in government-owned and -controlled corporations.

 

However, in its ruling, the SC said even if Disini was a private individual, he can be prosecuted by the Sandiganbayan since the Presidential Commission on Good Government who filed the case against him was allowed by law "to recover ill-gotten wealth and this covered Marcos' immediate family, relatives, subordinates, without distinction as to their private or public status."

 

Disini was charged with a case for corruption of public officials in 2004 for pushing for the construction of the mothballed $2.1-billion Bataan Nuclear Power Plant.

 

He was also charged with a case for violation of the Anti-Graft Law when he allegedly used his connection to then President Ferdinand E. Marcos to request and receive from the Burns and Roe, contractors of the Philippine Nuclear Power Plant in Bataan, $17 million for obtaining the construction contract, which, if not for Marcos' intervention would have been awarded to someone else.

 

The SC added the case can still be pursued because it has not yet prescribed.

 

"The Court is not persuaded to hold that the prescription period began to run from 1974, the time when the contracts for the construction were awarded to Burns and Roe and Westinghouse. Although the criminal cases were the offshoot of the sequestration case to recover ill-gotten wealth, the connivance and conspiracy among the public officials involved and the beneficiaries of the favors illegally extended rendered it similarly well-nigh impossible for the State, as the aggrieved party, to have known of the commission of the crimes charged prior to EDSA revolution in 1986," the SC said.

 

INTERAKSYON

Sunday, September 29, 2013

“Z package” Android hands and Prostheses now part of Philippine govt health insurance program

Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) recently made prostheses (artificial body parts) available for those who have lost a limb.

 

This began as a concept in 2012 when the PhilHealth board was presented national data which showed that an estimated 30 percent of people with disabilities in the Philippines could return to work if provided with an assistive device like a prosthesis for a missing limb.

 

Prosthesis provision was selected as the first rehabilitation service to be covered by PhilHealth, and is called the "Z package" and among the first people to benefit was Alan Santos.

 

In April 2013, Santos, a 25-year-old construction worker hit a live electrical wire while working on a building site and sustained injuries that required amputation of his leg below the knee.

 

His contract did not provide health insurance or hospital benefits but with support from the local government, he was able to subscribe to PhilHealth and become the first recipient of a "Z package" prosthesis this September.

 

He was admitted to the Philippine General Hospital in Manila to be measured for a prosthesis and receive training on how to walk on his new leg. His employer has offered to re-hire him after his discharge.

 

For Santos, the "Z package" has offered a new "lease on life" and not only because it means he can return to work and support his family.

 

"I don't want my child to grow up seeing me without a leg, not being able to run and play with her, and eventually becoming dependent on her when I should be the one taking care of her," he said in a statement.

 

Interaksyon.com

Saturday, September 28, 2013

Congratulations! Miss Philippines wins Miss World 2013; Crowned in Bali Indonesia, Saturday night

Newly crowned Miss World 2013, Megan Young of the Philippines, Center, with second runner-up Miss Marine Lorpheline, left and third runner-up Miss Ghana Carranza Naa Okailey Shooter, smile after they winning the Miss owrld Contest in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Saturday, September 28, 2013 (AP Photo/Firdia Lisnawate)

BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Miss Philippines, Megan Young, was crowned Miss World on Saturday amid tight security on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, where the contest's final round was moved following protests by Muslim hardliner groups.

"I promise to be the best Miss World ever," Young, 23, said after winning the 63rd annual event, as a large number of Filipino fans who traveled with her celebrated by jumping and waving the country's flag.

Despite threats from the Islamic Defenders Front to disrupt the contest, police said no rallies were staged Saturday. The group has demonstrated for weeks, calling for the government to cancel the pageant because members say it shows too much skin and goes against Islamic teachings.

The 127 contestants vying for the crown were introduced Saturday wearing evening gowns shimmering in sequins, many of them with plunging necklines and slits up the leg. Four candidates dropped out earlier, mainly due to illnesses, said Syafril Nasution, one of the local organizers.

Young, who took the crown from Wenxia Yu of China, the 2012 winner, was born in the United States. When she was 10 she moved to the Philippines, where she has appeared in films and as a television host.

Crowned Miss World 2013, Megan lynne Young of the Philippines sitting on her throne

Miss France, Marine Lorphelin, 20, took second place, while Miss Ghana, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter, 22, came in third.

Miss World organizers had earlier agreed to cut bikinis from the swimsuit competition, replacing them with more conservative sarongs. But pressure continued to mount, and more mainstream groups joined in and called for the show to be banned.

Indonesia's government announced three weeks ago that the final would be moved from the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, and instead held on the Hindu-dominated resort island of Bali, where earlier rounds were taking place.

The British, Australian and U.S. embassies issued warnings to citizens planning trips to Bali during the competition, saying there could be large-scale protests or even attacks.

Col. R. Umar Faroq, the Director of Vital Security for Bali provincial police, said thousands of security forces had been deployed to secure the final.

But Faroq said that security was tightened along the north coast of East Java to Bali in anticipation of possible protesters from other islands.

"The success in securing the Miss World final will be a benchmark for the police in securing the incoming APEC Summit," Faroq said, referring to the upcoming Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit on Bali to be attended by world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and thousands of delegates.

Miss World is the latest controversy in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, where most follow a moderate form of the religion. However, a small extremist fringe has become louder and more violent in recent years, attacking Christians and other religious minorities, along with anyone else deemed immoral.

Last year, the Islamic Defenders Front forced Lady Gaga to cancel a sold-out show after branding her a "devil worshipper."

In 2002, Bali was the site of suicide bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Since then, the government has aggressively pursued militant groups, which in recent years have committed much smaller-scale attacks mainly focused on security personnel.

Watch the Video here: http://bit.ly/14S1q2R

Watch the Photos: http://bit.ly/15BGN8k


Congratulations! Miss Philippines wins Miss World 2013; Crowned in Bali Indonesia, Saturday night

Newly crowned Miss World 2013, Megan Young of the Philippines, Center, with second runner-up Miss Marine Lorpheline, left and third runner-up Miss Ghana Carranza Naa Okailey Shooter, smile after they winning the Miss owrld Contest in Nusa Dua, Bali, Indonesia, Saturday, September 28, 2013 (AP Phptp/Firdia Lisnawate)


BALI, Indonesia (AP) — Miss Philippines, Megan Young, was crowned Miss World on Saturday amid tight security on Indonesia's resort island of Bali, where the contest's final round was moved following protests by Muslim hardliner groups.

 

"I promise to be the best Miss World ever," Young, 23, said after winning the 63rd annual event, as a large number of Filipino fans who traveled with her celebrated by jumping and waving the country's flag.

 

Despite threats from the Islamic Defenders Front to disrupt the contest, police said no rallies were staged Saturday. The group has demonstrated for weeks, calling for the government to cancel the pageant because members say it shows too much skin and goes against Islamic teachings.

 

The 127 contestants vying for the crown were introduced Saturday wearing evening gowns shimmering in sequins, many of them with plunging necklines and slits up the leg. Four candidates dropped out earlier, mainly due to illnesses, said Syafril Nasution, one of the local organizers.

 

Young, who took the crown from Wenxia Yu of China, the 2012 winner, was born in the United States. When she was 10 she moved to the Philippines, where she has appeared in films and as a television host.

Miss France, Marine Lorphelin, 20, took second place, while Miss Ghana, Carranzar Naa Okailey Shooter, 22, came in third.

 

Miss World organizers had earlier agreed to cut bikinis from the swimsuit competition, replacing them with more conservative sarongs. But pressure continued to mount, and more mainstream groups joined in and called for the show to be banned.

 

Indonesia's government announced three weeks ago that the final would be moved from the outskirts of the capital, Jakarta, and instead held on the Hindu-dominated resort island of Bali, where earlier rounds were taking place.

 

The British, Australian and U.S. embassies issued warnings to citizens planning trips to Bali during the competition, saying there could be large-scale protests or even attacks.

 

Col. R. Umar Faroq, the Director of Vital Security for Bali provincial police, said thousands of security forces had been deployed to secure the final.

But Faroq said that security was tightened along the north coast of East Java to Bali in anticipation of possible protesters from other islands.

 

"The success in securing the Miss World final will be a benchmark for the police in securing the incoming APEC Summit," Faroq said, referring to the upcoming Asia-Pacific Cooperation summit on Bali to be attended by world leaders, including President Barack Obama, and thousands of delegates.

 

Miss World is the latest controversy in Indonesia, the world's most populous Muslim country, where most follow a moderate form of the religion. However, a small extremist fringe has become louder and more violent in recent years, attacking Christians and other religious minorities, along with anyone else deemed immoral.

 

Last year, the Islamic Defenders Front forced Lady Gaga to cancel a sold-out show after branding her a "devil worshipper."

 

In 2002, Bali was the site of suicide bombings that killed 202 people, mostly foreign tourists. Since then, the government has aggressively pursued militant groups, which in recent years have committed much smaller-scale attacks mainly focused on security personnel.


Watch the Video here: http://bit.ly/14S1q2R

Watch the Photos: http://bit.ly/15BGN8k

Friday, September 27, 2013

Philippines leaps 11 spots in FIBA ranking from 45th to 34th behind CISK

FIBA Asia's Mythical Five (from left) Jason Castro, Kim Mingoo, Lim Chih-Chieh, Oshin Sahakian and Hamed Hadadi.-- FIBA Asia photo by Nuki Sabio


Gilas Pilipinas' monumental run in the 27th FIBA Asia Championship has had the Philippines climbing 11 places higher in the latest FIBA Ranking Men released in fiba.com, the world governing body for basketball's official website.

 

The Philippines, which booked a return to the world basketball stage, leaped from 45th to 34th to become the fourth best team in Asia behind China, Iran and South Korea.

 

China slipped down a spot to 12th after disappointing fifth place finish but remained as the top Asian team while three-time champion Iran, which fought off a shorthanded Philippine side for the gold medal, remained in place at 20th.

 

Korea, which settled for third in the recent Asian meet, also improved its ranking from 33rd to 31st while Japan experienced no change in position at 35th.

 

Asian rivals Qatar and Chinese Taipei on the other hand, slid to 44th and 42nd, respectively. The Qataris, who were led by former Washington Wizards swingman Jarvis Hayes, fell six places while the Taiwanese dropped two spots down.

 

Team USA continues to be the world's number one followed by Spain, which hosts the 2014 FIBA Basketball World Cup, and Argentina. Rounding out the top five are Lithuania and Greece, who switched positions for fourth and fifth, respectively.

 

Philippines nips Kazakhstan to kick off Fiba Asia U16 campaign

 

Philippines kicked off its 2013 Fiba Asia Under 16 campaign with a 90-88 nipping of Kazakhstan at the Azadi Sports Complex in Tehran, Iran.

 

Michael Dela Cruz led the Filipinos with 19 points off the bench, while Andres Paul Desiderio added 16 points and seven boards and Richard Escoto, 10 points and 19 rebounds.

 

The Philippine team, which even slightly outrebounded the Kazakhs, 49-48, and performed better in the paint, snatched the lead with 3:13 left to play on a two- pointer from Escoto.

 

And the Filipinos held on to that slim advantage down the stretch with Kazakhstan missing crucial freethrows and three-pointers.

 

Next on the Philippines' agenda in the preliminary round is Chinese-Taipei.

 

Leonid Voronushkin had four triples for game-high 28 points, but in a losing cause for Kazakhstan

 

Philippines stumbles versus China and Bulgaria in U18 3x3 FIBA Championships

 

In their first game, versus China, the reigning FIBA Asia 3x3 U18 champs saw all of their players foul out, en route to a 20-0 defeat by default. The Philippines then lost a squeaker, 12-11, to Bulgaria, to give them a 3-2 card.

 

Meanwhile the United States continued to dominate Pool B, improving to 5-0. China was close behind with a 4-1 card, while the Philippines fell into a three-team tie with the Czech Republic and Bulgaria.

 

The Philippine campaign in the pool stage wraps up on Saturday versus the Czech Republic and the United States.

 

The team is comprised of Arvin Tolentino of San Beda High School, Thirdy Ravena of Ateneo High School, and La Salle Greenhills students Prince Rivero and Kobe Paras.

 

With report from Inquirer News and GMA News 

Thursday, September 26, 2013

PNR entered ₱300 Million Supply contract without Bidding; DOJ said “VOID” Illegal contract

 

The Department of Justice (DOJ) questioned the absence of public bidding in the supply contract that the state-run Philippine National Railways (PNR) has sealed with a Korean firm for the repair of the PNR's south line .

 

In an 8-page legal opinion, Justice Secretary de Lima cast doubt on the validity of the US$6.77 million (300 Million) Supply contract with Pandrol Korean Limited for the purchase of rail fastening, clips and insulators for the repair of PNR's main line.

 

"A contract granted without the competitive bidding required by law is void, and the party to whom it is awarded cannot benefit from it," De Lima said.

 

De Lima gave the opinion after PNR General Manager Junio Ragragio sought the DOJ's legal position on the contract, which was entered into by the former PNR management in 2009.

 

Ragragio cited the March 2010 memorandum issued by Marilyn Balbin, the auditor from Commission on Audit (COA), after discovering that the contract was executed through negotiation and not through a public bidding, which is required in procurement activities of state-run agencies, like PNR.

 

Safety issues, contract violations

 

In his letter to the DOJ, Ragragio revealed that the remainder of Pandrol's supply contract remains unimplemented and may compromise safety in the operations of the rail system.

 

"In as much as the rail fastening system, the clips and insulators are necessary to provide exceptional holding force, superior dynamic fatigue strength and stable creep resistance necessary to fasten rail to railroad ties (sleepers), and for the purpose of ensuring safe operations, it is imperative that the issue as to the legality of Pandrol supply contract be finally resolved," Ragragio said.

 

PNR records show that out of the 170,000 pieces of rail fastening system stated in the supply contract, only 80,000 sets were delivered and paid by the PNR.

 

To address and maintain the tracks safe for train operations, the PNR entered into a supply contract with a 3rd entity — Nikka Trading — which agreed to supply 50,000 sets of anti-vandal concrete sleepers, rail fastening assembly for a unit price of US$36.60 per set or a total contract price of US$1.83. This is US$8.35 cheaper than the unit price offered by Pandrol.

 

PNR decided to bid out the 40,000 remaining sets of rail fastening system, but Pandrol insisted that it cannot bid them out as it would constitute a violation of their supply contract.

 

Patent

 

Pandrol added that it holds an international patent, which covers the Philippines, in relation to the rail fastening products. It said the product that Nikka Trading supplied is a non-genuine Pandrol product but contains the same patented special feature as that of genuine Pandrol.

 

The matter, according to Pandrol, has already been brought to the attention of the previous PNR board and to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), which oversees PNR.

 

Ragragio said in his reply letter to Pandrol that the requirement to justify the direct contracting for the rail fastening products were not complied with.

 

Ragragio added that Pandrol's claim that the current PNR board favors Nikka is without basis considering that the present management is not privy to the contract with the latter.

 

On the other hand, the PNR chief that Pandrol's assertions that it has supplied for all rail lines in the country such as LRT 1, LRT2, MRT3, PNR South Commuter Line and South Rail, fails to mention that the mode of procurement adopted by concerned agencies was competitive biddings and not direct contracting.

 

The PNR also questioned the composition of the previous board that recommended the alternative mode for the supply of the said items.

 

Ragragio noted that Pandrol was represented by lawyer Jaewoo Chung who is the stepson of PNR's Department Manager for Administrative and Finance, lawyer Lynna Goyma Chung, who was a member of the PNR-BAC that allowed the direct contracting.

 

In light of PNR's predicament, the agency tried to get COA's opinion on whether its findings can be used as valid ground not to honor Pandrol's undelivered rail fastening products.

 

The COA, however, begged off from issuing an opinion on the matter, prompting the PNR to elevate the matter before the DOJ.

 

The project

 

The rehabilitation of the PNR Main Line South covers 443 kilometers along the national railway line in the southern part of Metro Manila running from San Pedro to Legaspi in the southern tip of Luzon Island and involves the procurement and rehabilitation of tracks, bridges and rolling stocks.

 

Given the scope of and cost involved in the rehabilitation plans, which have been in the drawing board since the 1970's, the project was divided. The Korean-funded section covers the Southrail line from Manila to Calamba City, while the Chinese-funded section covers the line from Calamba to Legazpi and further on to Matnog, Sorsogon.

 

According to a report by JICA Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), which granted concessional loans for the project, two rounds of bidding of the different aspects of the project were declared a failure. "Bidding price from all of the companies were close to double the estimates made by PNR based on the detailed design," it said.

 

In the second round of bidding, which the JBIC requested, "various measures were taken to keep project expenses within the amount covered by the loan," JBIC wrote. This was when direct procurement from the Pandrol was first considered.

 

"There were changes to the list of procurement items (signal systems and some of the communications equipment were removed) and changes to procurement methods (Pandrol rail fastening parts were procured directly from the manufacturer)," JBIC said.

 

However, all the resubmitted bids were again rejected "as they greatly exceeded the original estimates by around 1.7 times."

 

Running out of time since "construction needed to be started right away," JBIC said "it was decided that the scope of the project would have to be greatly reduced." The project was limited to the area between Lucena and Naga, "given PNR's budgetary restraints, and effectiveness," and that "direct direct negotiations were started."

 

"As a result, the track improvement project was reduced to the area between Lucena and Naga, contracts were made for the procurement of Pandrol rail fastenings directly from the manufacturer, and installation of signal equipment and station repairs were removed from among the items covered by the loan," the Japanese funder wrote.  

 

With report from Rappler.com

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Philippines to use Coconut oil to replace Diesel for ₱19.6Billion; 5% Biodiesel Blend mandate Q4 2013

 

With the approval of the National Biofuels Board (NBB) to increase the mandated biodiesel blend from 2% to 5%, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), in collaboration with the University of the Philippines − National Center for Transportation Studies (UP−NCTS), PCA launched the road test of (B5) in public transport vehicles using 5% coconut oil Biodiesel blend  held on July 30, 2013.

 

The study will make use of seven (7) in−use jeepneys of operators belonging to transport groups identified by the PCA and Department of Energy (DOE). The tested jeepneys have undergone inspection at the North Motor Vehicle Inspection Center (NMVIC) of the Land Transportation Office (LTO) for assessment of roadworthiness and compliance to emission standards.

 

The duration of this on-road test was 25 days. For the first five days, the test jeepneys make used of the existing blend (B2). In the succeeding 20 days, these jeepneys were fuelled with the 5% − coco methyl ester (CME) biodiesel blend (B5). After the 25−day on−road test, the participating jeepneys were tested for fuel economy and power efficiency. Opacity tests were also conducted to compare emission performance of B2 and B5 biodiesel fuel blends.

 

PCA Administrator Euclides G. Forbes bared that mandated use of biofuels would strengthen the domestic market for coconut which will create a 19.6 Billion − income as B5 means greater demand for CNO. The country would also save as much as 15.5 Billion on fuel displacement.

 

"This aims to reduce the dependence on imported fuels with due regard to the protection of public health, the environment and the natural ecosystems consistent with the country's sustainable economic growth that would expand opportunities for livelihood, " he added. As the CME blend increases from 2% to 5%, about 1,099 CME plant workers, 13,183 coconut oil (CNO) milling workers and 23,070 farm workers will be hired. Moreover, coconut farmers will benefit 4.838 Million per year from the lien collected through the Social Amelioration and Welfare Program (SAWP).

 

Research and experiments on the use of coco biodiesel as fuel were pioneered by PCA in 1983 together with the other agencies such as Industrial Technology Development Institute (ITDI), Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC−ERDC), National Power Corporation (NPC), and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST). In May 2001, PCA together with the Department of Agriculture (DA) launched a Biodiesel Development Project to test the viability of coconut biodiesel as engine fuel wherein test results showed a reduction of around 50% on their smoke emissions.

 

"As to the B5 blend, the visible cloud of black smoke consisting of carbon and sulfur particulates is reduced by as much as 80%," Forbes added. Carbon dioxide (CO2) is a greenhouse gas dominant in automotive emissions which mainly contributes to global warming. In contrast, coco biodiesel has a neutral carbon footprint. Coconut tree, once planted, absorbs CO2 during growing stage (called carbon sink). Every liter of fossil diesel displaced by cocodiesel represents a CO2 reduction of 3.5 kg per liter of fuel used.

 

The Administrator ensures the increased productivity and sustainable supply of biofuel feedstock as PCA continues to implement its massive planting and replanting programs.

 

Philippines' bio-fuel thrust behind coconut oil surge

 

In April this year, coconut oil prices were ruling at a discount to crude palm oil in the global market.

 

Then, coconut oil ruled at $793 a ton and crude palm oil at $800 a ton.

 

But now, coconut oil prices are quoted at about $900 against $721 for crude palm oil.

 

In India, coconut oil prices have increased from Rs 61 a kg in April to Rs 78 now.

 

Prices of copra, from which coconut oil is derived, have increased to Rs 5,500 a quintal from Rs 4,200 in April.

 

During the same time, palm oil prices have ruled almost unchanged at Rs 55 a kg.

 

"The current premium that coconut oil enjoys over palm oil is not justified. It has to drop along with other oils," said Dorab Mistry, Director, Godrej International, at a global vegetable oil conference in Mumbai on Sunday.

 

According to Thomas Mielke, Editor-in-Chief, Oil World, coconut oil began to rise after the Philippine Government announced that it would increase the use of coconut oil as a bio-fuel.

 

The Benigno Aquino Government on September 20 said it has sought comments from the stakeholders.

 

The B5 or five per cent coconut oil blended diesel may be implemented before the year-end.

 

The Philippines had passed a Bio-fuels Act in 2006 making it compulsory to blend coconut methyl ester in diesel distributed locally.

 

It was aimed at making the country less dependent on fossil fuel.

 

Besides, it has abundant sources of alternative energy such as coconut oil.

 

In 2012, the Philippines exported 1.5 metric ton of copra, coconut oil, copra meal, desiccated coconut, coco shell charcoal, activated carbon and coco chemicals a 1.5% increase compared to volume exported in 2011..

 

This year, coconut oil exports from the Philippines increased to 10.23 lakh tonnes during January-May, more than double during the same period a year ago.

 

Exports have increased mainly because buyers feared they could be caught short by the increased use of coconut oil for bio-fuel.

 

"Coconut oil prices are surging since some buyers feel that they are not adequately covered in case of any shortage.

 

"But with the current peak production season on, we have to see how the seasonal support for it is," said Mielke.

Monday, September 23, 2013

IMF Says Philippines Insulated From Eventual Fed Exit; Only Risk is Upside Growth, Thanks to OFWs

WASHINGTON—The Fed's eventual exit from easy-money policies will separate the emerging market wheat from the chaff.

 

One country that can handle the Fed exit is the Philippines, says the International Monetary Fund.

 

"When tapering does eventually begin, the Philippines' strong fundamentals…position the economy to adjust smoothly to the accompanying capital flow reversal and slowdown in regional growth," says Rachel van Elkan, the IMF's mission chief to the country.

 

Like many emerging markets, the Philippines took a hit earlier this year when Fed officials started talking about slowing down their large-scale asset purchases meant to spur the U.S. economy. Seeing a new interest-rate environment ahead in the U.S., investors pulled their capital out of emerging economies en masse, causing currency values to free fall and stock markets to plunge.

 

Although it has since somewhat recovered, the Philippines' peso depreciated 10% from early May to late August.

 

But Ms. van Elkan says the country's strong current account receipts, net creditor status, steady reductions in public debt and low foreign participation in government debt markets have helped insulate the economy against more capital flight. Manila's own Fed, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, can also release funds from its Special Deposit Account to provide a cushion to growth, she said.

 

The fund expects the country's growth to only ease slightly next year, to 6% from its current rate of about 6.75% this year. Inflation isn't expected to be a problem, and the government's budget deficit is manageable.

 

In fact, Ms. van Elkin says risks to the country's growth are to upside.

 

"Absorbing the ample liquidity into productive sectors may prove challenging," she says, after an annual review of the country's economy.  "Part of the liquidity could finance credit that is used to fuel demand for real estate, potentially with a strong procyclical effect on the economy," she added.

 

The Wall Street Journal 

Zamboanga attack as diversionary tactic for 'pork' scam? Two lawmakers think so

Government troopers continue their assault on Muslim rebels, Sept. 12, 2013, in Zamboanga city in the southern Philippines.


Two party-list lawmakers on Monday urged the government to monitor the activities of the people behind the alleged pork barrel scam, saying any one of them could be a financier of the rebel attack in Zamboanga City.

 

"We can say that the financier might come from the people involved in the PDAF (Priority Development Assistance Fund) scam," said Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano at a press conference.

 

"In my own opinion, the people involved in the PDAF scam will not take this issue sitting down. The government should consider counteractions and monitor the activities of the people involved," he added.

 

Citing unnamed sources, Alejano and fellow Magdalo party-list Rep. Francisco Ashley Acedillo said at least 40 million was poured to Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) for the Zamboanga siege.

 

Over a hundred people, most of them MNLF rebels, were killed in the two-week-long crisis that started September 9 when MNLF rebels loyal to founding chairman Nur Misuari attacked several villages and held several civilians hostage.

 

The two lawmakers declined to identify their sources or give clues as to the identity of the alleged benefactor of the fund, saying the media might be able to quickly narrow down the list.

 

Acedillo said a suspect in the pork barrel scam may have seen an opportunity in Misauri's reported displeasure at being left out in peace negotiations to launch a diversionary tactic.

 

"I think they saw an opportunity here because between that and funding another group to destabilization group, this is more urgent and this presented a distinct opportunity for them," he said.

 

"What I've said is, without going to the extent of concluding a grand conspiracy, this was a clear opportunity for them," Acedillo added.

 

The Magdalo lawmakers, both of them former military officers, challenged the government to investigate any leads that may show somebody related to the PDAF scam orchestrating the Zamboanga crisis, noting that other individuals in the past have used similar diversionary tactics to confuse the public.

 

"This is a challenge for the government to investigate this. If you remember in the previous administration when they are big issues here in NCR [National Capital Region] there are diversion issues in other areas," said Alejano, who was part of the group of soldiers that rebelled against the Arroyo administration, without elaborating.

 

— Patricia Denise Chiu/KBK, GMA News

Friday, September 20, 2013

Philippines' Quarter 2 current account surplus $2.5-Billion

 

The Philippines' current account yielded a surplus of $2.5 billion, equivalent to 3.6% of GDP, in the second quarter compared to a surplus of $2.3 billion a year ago, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said in a statement.

 

The current account is the sum of the balance of trade, net income from abroad and net current transfers.

 

The Philippines posted a surplus despite weak exports growth.

 

The country's balance of payments (BOP) position yielded a surplus of $1 billion in the second quarter compared to a surplus of $73 million in the same period last year, due largely to the higher current account surplus and net inflows in the financial account, the central bank said.

The BOP surplus in January to August reached $3.36 billion, central bank data released on Thursday showed. The central bank has forecast a full-year BOP surplus of $4.4 billion.

 

The central bank has said the country's "healthy" external accounts should help support the Philippine peso.

 

The Philippines defies external challenges to notch up growth

 

Strong domestic demand for a broad range of goods and services is galvanizing economic growth in the Philippines, helping the country to buck a regional slowdown. Consumer confidence remains high, buoyed by news that the government plans to roll out several big-ticket infrastructure projects, in part aimed at creating jobs. However, the Philippines remains vulnerable to many of the external factors that are weighing on its peers

 

Consumer Show Confidence

 

The economy expanded at an annual rate of 7.5% in the period April to June 2013, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), marking a fourth consecutive quarter of growth over 7%.

 

Commenting on the figures, which were made available in August, the BSP governor, Amando Tetangco, Jr., voiced his hope that the economic performance would "help further anchor market confidence, and thus support the local foreign exchange and stock markets".

 

"Solid domestic demand should help counter possible negative pressures from global developments," he told the media.

 

The Philippines' economic expansion sets it apart from some other Southeast Asian markets, where stock exchanges and currencies have fallen, largely due to uncertainty over the US Federal Reserve's asset-purchase program. Figures showed that manufacturing output in Thailand fell for the fourth straight month in August.

 

In July, ratings agency Standard & Poor's projected 2013 growth of 6.9% for the Philippines, which it said would be driven by "strong domestic demand". "The more domestically-led ASEAN economies, headed by the Philippines and Indonesia, continue to outperform the more trade-dependent newly industrialized economies," the agency reported.

 

Manufacturing growth rose by 9.7% in the first quarter of 2013 on the back of higher demand for food, appliances, communication and transport. Construction shot up 32.5% in the same period, while services expanded 7%.

 

Companies tap into demand

 

On-the-ground developments across the sectors confirm the key role that domestic demand is playing in supporting the Philippines' economy.

 

Listed beverage bottler Pepsi-Cola Products Philippines plans to tap into strong demand by expanding its facilities. The company's net income for the first six months of 2013 jumped 17% to P657.94m ($15.03m) from P560.41m ($12.8m) in the same period last year.

 

Coffee growers are also being encouraged to increase output, in a market where demand significantly outstrips local supply. Production reached 30,000 metric tons in 2012, less than half the 70,000 MT consumed.

 

Sales of domestic appliances in 2012 were up 19.5% on the previous year, according to research outfit GfK Asia. The firm noted in August that 352,680 major home appliances, valued at $352.7 million, were sold across the Philippines between January and June 2013.

 

"The Philippines has proven it [has] particular strength in mitigating external headwinds because its domestic demand has kept the economy running even as other nations suffered," Vishnu Varathan, a Singapore-based senior economist at Mizuho Corporate Bank, told Bloomberg in July.

 

Infrastructure Boost

 

A promising job market, which has been strengthened by the government's plans to roll out several large infrastructure projects, is proving to be instrumental in sustaining domestic growth. National Economic and Development Authority data released earlier this year showed that the Aquino administration approved P439.15 billion ($10.03 billion) for 42 large-scale ventures in 2012.

 

The initiatives include the P2.59 billion ($60 million) Agus VI hydroelectric power plant, the light-rail transit extension project, valued at P61.53 billion ($1.41 billion), and the P43.33-billion ($990-million) Cavite-Laguna expressway.

 

The projects will play a key part in facilitating a government bid to create 1 million jobs annually. Presidential Communications Secretary Sonny Coloma said in June that the Aquino administration was focusing on boosting infrastructure, together with agriculture and tourism, to achieve its goal.

 

"Sustaining high GDP growth of above 5% will be able to provide good jobs to around 2.2 million Filipinos between 2013 and 2016," the World Bank wrote in May. "However, by 2016, that still leaves 12.4 million Filipinos who will have no other option but to work abroad."

 

Yet money continues to flow in from the nation's overseas workers, with personal remittances reaching $2 billion in April 2013, up 7% year-on-year. "Remittances remained robust on the back of sustained demand for skilled Filipino manpower in various countries worldwide," the BSP said in a statement.

 

Looking long Term

 

Analysts believe the time is right for the government to focus on generating long-term economic stability and reducing poverty by harnessing the heady growth levels. In particular, they highlight the need to improve labour regulations and health systems, which will help address the challenge of long-term poverty. "A unique window of opportunity exists today to accelerate reforms," said the World Bank.

 

With report from ABS-CBN and Businessworld Online

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