RP TO CONTINUE PUMP PRIMING ECONOMY / COLUMN: QUIBBLING IN COPENHAGEN

MANILA, DECEMBER 9, 2009
(STAR) By Paolo Romero - The government will continue its pump- priming activities but on a reduced scale next year to ensure the country meet its three-year deficit schedule while protecting the economy as the global economic crisis has yet to fully abate, officials said yesterday.

Acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos cited cautions from the World Bank and other international financial institutions that economies should continue their stimulus spending as the recovery from the global crisis remains slow and shaky.

Santos briefed the Cabinet at the Palace on the country’s state of economy yesterday where he noted some threats and opportunities.

“We should not be immediately abandoning our accommodative stance and continue our stimulus spending because it may hurt us more,” he told a news briefing at the Palace.

“The Philippines has taken a conscious decision to continue but at a reduced scale. Stimulus (spending) is still there but we are still worried about our fiscal stability,” he said.

The government is projecting a P250-billion deficit this year but it is bracing for the possibility that it might reach P300 billion.

The country is aiming to balance the budget by 2013.

He said among the good news discussed in the Cabinet was that the peso remains very strong due to the weak dollar, huge remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and record foreign exchange reserves of $43 billion.

Another was the projection that the global semi-conductor industry will grow by 13 percent year, he said. About 60 percent to 70 percent of the country’s exports are in electronics.

Santos also noted the initiative of the Obama administration to strengthen its ties with the Asia-Pacific region, of which the Philippines is part.

He noted the country’s unemployment is lower at 7.5 percent compared to the United States’ 11 percent. “The US unemployment is like that of a developing country.”

Quibbling in Copenhagen dangerous DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) Updated December 09, 2009 12:00 AM

I can’t understand why there are still some people who are quibbling about the danger posed by climate change on the planet. It is pretty obvious that something is going on that looks dangerous and while we may not be able to prove to everyone’s satisfaction what it is, it is unreasonable to go on as if nothing is happening.

I understand our country will put up a convincing case for doing something about climate change at the Copenhagen Summit. We will also put forward the case for the developed world to help the rest of humanity deal with it. It is only a pity that all the right messages from the Philippines will be delivered by Ate Glue. Given her horrible international reputation these days, made even worse by the Maguindanao massacre and the declaration of martial law, she will hardly be credible.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, a noted Climate Change advocate, has been calling for the international community to establish timely adaptation mechanisms for developing countries. These, Joey says, are crucial, given our relatively higher vulnerability to climate change.

To make our case in Copenhagen, Joey said the Philippines will highlight the recent devastation caused by two powerful storms. The World Bank has said the economic toll of storms Ondoy (international codename Ketsana) and Pepeng (Parma), which devastated parts of Metro Manila and northern Luzon, totaled $4.38 billion (P206 billion), equivalent to 2.6 percent of gross domestic product.

The two typhoons also killed 956 persons (with 86 still missing), injured 84 others while causing the biggest outbreak of leptospirosis in recent history.

The business sector was devastated with $2.34 billion in damage and losses, felt mostly by micro- to medium-sized enterprises, which normally have limited or no access to credit.

Farmers are reported to have suffered $849.3 million in damages and losses. The country lost 850,000 tons of rice due to the successive typhoons this year. The World Bank estimates we will need $4.42 billion for reconstruction and recovery from damage and losses over three years.

Our recent Ondoy/Pepeng experiences should normally give us credibility when we push for new and additional funds to address climate change and advocate putting up the mechanism for meeting the challenges of this environmental phenomenon. Gov. Joey proposes setting up funds of approximately $400 billion to help address the need to both mitigate emissions and adapt to the impact of climate change, in addition to current development aid.

Greenpeace is calling for $140 billion a year to be transferred from rich nations to poorer ones to help developing nations tackle emissions and deal with climate related problems like rising sea levels. That’s broadly in line with what other analysts expect will eventually be passed, although the breakdown of who pays for what is uncertain. Europe has agreed to contribute $22 to $40 billion a year. In the US, the House climate change bill allocates at least $8 billion a year.

Gov. Joey estimates total funding currently available for climate-related projects at less than $10 billion a year. So far, less than $1 billion has been made available to address the urgent need for adaptation in developing countries, Salceda underscored.

“Developing countries need affordable access to technology” to mitigate emissions and adapt to impacts of climate change” the Albay governor said. This may require an equivalent of the Doha TRIPS Agreement for drugs and medicines, wherein large scale transfer of technology must be accessible via compulsory licensing arrangements, he averred.

Gov. Joey was particularly concerned about the impact of climate change on our growing number of poor people. The 2007-2008 Human Development Report argues that failure to adequately address climate change now will “consign the poorest 40 percent of the world’s population – some 2.6 billion people – to a future of diminished opportunity.”

Citing the Stern Review report, Gov. Joey noted that it warns that warming above 2°C will lead to “major changes in human geography– where people live and how they live their lives.” More importantly, Gov. Joey points out, Stern also cautions that inaction will lead to climate change costing about 20 percent of global GDP.

Climate change will increasingly be a key contributor to morbidity, mortality, and poverty. Our poor are particularly vulnerable because they are resource dependent, have low incomes, and are constrained to adapt by insufficient access to the social, environmental and economic resources needed to adapt.

A treaty following the Copenhagen Summit to reduce greenhouse gas emissions should help mitigate climate change that even now threatens farm production given higher temperatures and changes in rainfall patterns, and increased occurrences of droughts and floods. President Obama sounds optimistic about such an agreement being reached. But given past experience, we can only hope and pray that they do.

Rice

Retired Col. Ricardo B. Macala e-mailed this reaction to a column that tackled the subject of rice supply for next year.

This is in connection with your article in your column “DEMAND and SUPPLY”, The Philippine Star, Nov. 20, 2009 issue where you stated that: “Whoever wins in the May election should launch a better program to vastly improve our country’s ability to feed ourselves. They have to make Rice Farming profitable for our farmers.”

I have sent thru your email the pertinent papers of the project “Grain Sufficiency through Rice Farming in the penal colonies” which I started in 2002 when I was Director of the Bureau of Corrections.

I fervently believed in making the vast tracts of fertile land of our penal colonies productive rice plantations through the use of hybrid seeds. Our national prisoners, 86 percent of whom came from the rural areas, can produce the hybrid seeds needed by all our farmers. The hybrid seeds produced by the penal colonies can be given as subsidy to our farmers to make rice farming profitable.

It is also a very ideal rehabilitation program for our prisoners who lost their dignity and honor as human beings when they were imprisoned. By making us sufficient in rice and provide a little income to our prisoners which they can send to their families, this is a project that will surely be the best and most ideal rehabilitation program.

The Philippine Rice Institute (PHILRICE) which developed the hybrid seeds that triple the yield, University of the Philippines, College of Agriculture and the Department of Agriculture were our partners in the project which was terminated after I was replaced as Director of the Bureau of Corrections in 2003.

There are Iwahig Penal Colony in Palawan, Sablayan Penal Colony in Occidental Mindoro, San Ramon Penal Colony in Zamboanga City, Davao penal Colony in Panubo, Davao and Abuyog Penal Colony in Abuyog Leyte.

Joint session

I don’t know if I am just paranoid but that joint session of Congress today worries me. It could be a ruse to get both houses to convene as one assembly and thereafter get con con going. My fears were reinforced when a friend forwarded a lawyer’s opinion on the matter.

That lawyer commented the Senate should object to convening a joint session to avoid having to approve the rules for joint session, which is probably the only thing GMA wants. The Constitutional provisions in any case, speak only of “may revoke”, which means it is Congress’s prerogative to convene.

In any event, the lawyer opined, since the matter is before the Supreme Court, it is better that Congress leaves it to the Supreme Court to decide, this way they avoid convening a joint session for the ulterior motive of Constitutional amendments. With Ate Glue and her bunch, you never really know what they will try next.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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