APRIL 18, 2009
(STAR) By Ma. Elisa Osorio - Prices of flour-based products like bread, pasta and instant noodles may go down in the coming days as the cost of flour continues to fall, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

The price of pan de sal, a breakfast staple of Filipinos, may also return to P1 apiece after flour millers agreed to look into the possibility of reviving the Tinapay ng Bayan program.

Last December, the Philippine Association of Flour Millers (PAFMIL) proposed the Tinapay ng Bayan program to the government to help consumers cope with the economic crisis.

However, problems with the implementing government agency forced the flour millers to abandon their plan.

The P1 pan de sal was supposed to be sold in the same stores as cheaper rice.

The DTI said PAFMIL is again open to the idea of selling the cheaper pan de sal.

Officials met with the millers yesterday to discuss ways to maintain a reasonable price for flour.

As a result, the flour millers combined their technologies and resources to produce a special blend of flour that is lower in cost yet high yielding.

At the same time, the DTI questioned bakers on why the price of bread remains high in spite of the significant decrease in the price of flour.

Trade Undersecretary Zenaida Maglaya announced that a meeting with the baking industry has also been set to discuss appropriate reduction in the price of bread, especially loaf and pan de sal.

“We want to find out why the cost of bread remains high considering that flour, its main ingredient, has gone down significantly,” she said.

“When the price of flour rose by P13 per bag in August of last year, bakers raised the retail price of loaf bread by P1 and pan de sal by P0.25 per pack of 10.”

“Now that flour prices have dropped considerably from P970 last August to its current price of P880 to P760, what is stopping bakers from implementing a ‘big-time’ reduction?”

Maglaya has promised that the government will continue to keep tabs on flour millers and bakers in ensuring that prices of their products remain stable and reasonable.

“We called them because we are in the process of reviewing flour prices in order to determine if further price reduction is in order given the softening in wheat contract price and implementation of zero tariff,” she said.

The price of wheat as of January this year stood at $310 to $332 per metric ton, almost the same as the August 2007 level when the price of local flour was at a high of P640 and a low of P620, Maglaya said.

Prevailing price of flour monitored last Friday was at a high of P880 to a low of P760.

International price of hard spring wheat began to slide in April and mid-May of 2008 where it stood at $471.70 per ton or about 42 percent below the peak recorded in late February of $818.70 per ton.

Meanwhile, local flour millers have asked for a six-month extension of the zero-duty on wheat importation, saying the lifting of the privilege may result in a rise in the price of bread and bread products.

In a letter dated April 14, 2009 to Trade Secretary Peter Favila, the Philippine Association of Flour Millers said the extension of EO 765, which lifted the three-percent import duty on wheat and is due to expire in June this year, would help to stabilize the cost of bread and bread products in light of the continuing crisis in the global economy.

The zero duty has effected a P20 reduction in the price of a P25kg bag of flour.

Maglaya said that the trade department may recommend the extension of zero tariff on wheat for further review by the Tariff Related Matters (TRM).

“We have to get more information on the impact of the zero-tariff. We will study its effect on the price of flour,” she said.

“We have to weigh its benefit to consumers and the effect EO 765 has on revenue (from tariff collections).

“Why forgo revenue when the impact (of keeping wheat tariffs at 0 percent) on flour prices is not that much?”

Maglaya also met with representatives from Unilever Philippines, Inc. and Monde-Nissin Corp., manufacturers of Royal and Lucky Me instant noodles, to discuss possible rollback in the price of flour-based products such as pasta and instant noodles in the wake of the reduction in the price of flour.

More investments seen to enter Clark freeport By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio Updated April 17, 2009 12:00 AM

MANILA, Philippines - More investments are expected to come in at the Clark Freeport Zone as moves to open the so-called “Next Frontier” is under way.

The Clark Development Corp. (CDC) announced it will submit the blueprint for The Next Frontier to Malacañang. CDC president Benigno Rica-fort said there is only limited space available for investment in the original freeport zone.

The “Next Frontier” is a term coined to describe the vast stretch of lands along the Sacobia Valley which is now the Clark Special Economic Zone, Ricafort explained.

It is being pursued by the CDC in consonance with the Joint Management Agreement (JMA) – a contract signed on Dec. 6, 2007 by CDC, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples 00 of Aeta tribes who have inherent rights over certain areas of the Sacobia Valley under the Ancestral Domain Claims, Ricafort added.

Ricafort said the JMA and the Next Frontier enable the CDC to generate investment potentials in tourism, housing, commercial, institutional and light industry projects in the Sacobia Valley, the undertaking also ensures the recognition and promotion of the overall welfare of the Aeta tribes in the area.

CDC executive vice president Philip JB Panlilio said the master development plan is CDC’s “expression of service” that is in line with President Arroyo’s thrust to transform Clark and Subic, including its contingent environs, as a world-class logistics and services hub nestled at the heart of the Central Luzon region.

“We received positive response from the Clark stakeholders we’ve met during the roadshow. We will, likewise, incorporate their sincere comments and inputs in the master development plan before submitting it to the President next week,” Panlilio said referring to a recently concluded investment mission.

He added that at least six groups have passed resolutions signifying their support to the master development plan. They are the Metro Clark Advisory Council, the Pampanga Mayors League, and at least four Pampanga-based media organizations.

In spite of the global financial crunch, job opportunities in Clark Freeport Zone continue as 3,000 new jobs are about to open after four new lease agreements were signed recently.

Earlier, Ricafort said that job opportunities will continue to remain strong inside the Clark freeport citing the recent signing of four new lease agreements with a committed employment of 3,000 workers.

To date, Clark’s total number of operational firms reached 434 infusing new committed investment of P36.51 billion.

The Freeport’s actual investment have already reached P68.63 billion from various Clark firms that are mostly industrial, garments manufacturing, tourism, IT and electronics, and Business Process Outsourcing industries.

Ricafort explained that his optimism for Clark is anchored on strong investor performance as shown by reports from stakeholders who continue to hold dialogue and consultations with the CDC.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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