AQUINO SIGNS P14.6-B SUPPLEMENTAL BUDGET FOR DISASTER REHAB

Before 2013 ended, Pres. Benigno Aquino III signed the P14.6-billion supplemental budget for the rehabilitation efforts in areas hit by recent disasters such as Super Typhoon "Yolanda," Malacanang said Thursday. Presidential Communications Operations Office Sec. Sonny Coloma said in a press briefing that Aquino signed the budget last December 26. The supplemental fund would be drawn from the unused Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel of the Senate and the House for 2013.

ALSO: Phl slips 3 notches in Forbes business list

The Philippines ranks 90th out of 145 countries in the Forbes’ Best Countries for Business List for 2013, placing ahead of China but behind many of its neighbors in Southeast Asia. The latest Forbes’ list ranks countries based on 11 indicators such as trade freedom, monetary freedom, property rights, innovation, technology, red tape, investor protection, corruption, personal freedom, tax burden and market performance. The Philippines, however, was still behind many of its peers in the region. The same list showed that Singapore was the seventh best country for business, while Malaysia ranked 34th. Thailand got the 74th spot, while Indonesia placed 84th.
 

ALSO:
PNB awarded $23-M FM money

Singapore’s Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) over the $23 million in ill-gotten gains left by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, settling a four-way dispute over the funds. A report from Singapore’s Straits Times said the funds, comprised of $16.8 million and £4.2 million, formed part of Marcos’ fortune that was stashed in Swiss bank accounts. The report said the Singapore’s appellate court ruled in favor of the PNB, dismissing the claims of the Philippine government, five foundations allegedly set up by Marcos to hold the money in Swiss banks, and 9,539 human rights victims of the Marcos era.

ALSO: Visayas rehab prospects dim - E.Visayas Chanber of Commerce

THE Eastern Visayas Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the business sector is still waiting for the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda” on Nov. 8 last year. Group governor Robert Castañares says they are also waiting for the government’s response to their request for loans and the relaxation of some of the rules of the Bureau of International Revenue to help the devastated areas recover. Volunteers. Two mothers and a pupil arrange the chairs in a temporary classroom under a UNICEF tent at the Cabuynan Elementary School in Tanauan, Leyte, for the reopening of classes today. Ver Noveno “In general, the business prospects in Tacloban and other affected areas still look dim,” Castañares said. “The arithmetic is fairly simple as to why business will remain down for quite sometime. Ninety percent of the consumers depend on agriculture for income, but about 60 percent of the rice crop and 40 percent of the coconut trees were destroyed” by the typhoon. Castañares says it will require international and national interventions to restore the population’s household incomes to pre-Yolanda levels, which are not high by national standards.


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Aquino signs P14.6-B supplemental budget for disaster rehab


AP File photo

MANILA, JANUARY 6, 2014 (PHILSTAR) Before 2013 ended, Pres. Benigno Aquino III signed the P14.6-billion supplemental budget for the rehabilitation efforts in areas hit by recent disasters such as Super Typhoon "Yolanda," Malacanang said Thursday.

Presidential Communications Operations Office Sec. Sonny Coloma said in a press briefing that Aquino signed the budget last December 26.

The supplemental fund would be drawn from the unused Priority Development Assistance Fund or pork barrel of the Senate and the House for 2013.

The amount will be tapped to boost the calamity funds that will be used in the rebuilding efforts in the disaster-hit areas.

Few weeks after Yolanda slammed into the country in November 8, Aquino certified as urgent the then proposed P14.6-billion supplemental budget as well as a joint resolution seeking to extend by a year the life of calamity-related funds in the 2013 General Appropriations Act.

The calamities cited in the measures’ explanatory notes include “but (are) not limited to” Super Typhoon Yolanda, Typhoons Labuyo, Odette, Pablo, Sendong, Santi and Vinta, the siege and unrest in Zamboanga City, and the magnitude 7.2 earthquake that jolted Bohol and Cebu.

Phl slips 3 notches in Forbes business list By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 2, 2014 - 12:00am 17 299 googleplus0 1

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines ranks 90th out of 145 countries in the Forbes’ Best Countries for Business List for 2013, placing ahead of China but behind many of its neighbors in Southeast Asia.

The latest Forbes’ list ranks countries based on 11 indicators such as trade freedom, monetary freedom, property rights, innovation, technology, red tape, investor protection, corruption, personal freedom, tax burden and market performance.

The list showed that the Philippines was a better place to do business compared to China which ranked 94th.

The Philippines, however, was still behind many of its peers in the region.

The same list showed that Singapore was the seventh best country for business, while Malaysia ranked 34th. Thailand got the 74th spot, while Indonesia placed 84th.

The Philippines beat other neighbors such as Cambodia which got the 106th spot, Vietnam which placed 113th and Myanmar which ranked 143rd.

Compared to the 2012 list which covered 141 countries, the Philippines dropped three places from the 87th spot.

This, as the Philippines’ rankings worsened in four out of the 11 indicators compared to the 2012 list.

The country posted the biggest drop in rankings in terms of market performance to 63rd in 2013 from 4th place in the previous year. In terms of innovation, the country’s ranking slipped by four places to the 66th spot from the previous year’s 62nd spot.

The country’s ranking also declined by three places to 131st from 128th in terms of red tape, while it went down by two places to the 69th spot from the 67th spot in terms of personal freedom.

The country meanwhile saw its ranking improve significantly in the corruption indicator, jumping by 26 places to the 86th spot from 112th in 2012.

The country also improved in terms of property rights placing at 74th compared to 84th, as well as in terms of tax burden, going up by nine places to reach the 101st spot from 110th.

In terms of technology, the country’s ranking rose to the 74th place from 77th place, while its investor protection ranking improved to 103rd place from 105th place. The country’s rankings were unchanged in terms of monetary freedom and trade freedom at 61st and 86th, respectively.

The top 10 best countries for business in 2013 were Ireland, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Denmark, Sweden, Finland, Singapore, Canada, Norway and Netherlands.

Placing at the bottom of this year’s list meanwhile, were Libya, Gambia, Ethiopia, Haiti, Venezuela, Angola, Zimbabwe, Myanmar, Chad and Guinea.

PNB awarded $23-M FM money By Pia Lee-Brago (The Philippine Star) | Updated January 5, 2014 - 12:00am 1 48 googleplus0 24

MANILA, Philippines - Singapore’s Court of Appeals has ruled in favor of the Philippine National Bank (PNB) over the $23 million in ill-gotten gains left by the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, settling a four-way dispute over the funds.

A report from Singapore’s Straits Times said the funds, comprised of $16.8 million and £4.2 million, formed part of Marcos’ fortune that was stashed in Swiss bank accounts.

The report said the Singapore’s appellate court ruled in favor of the PNB, dismissing the claims of the Philippine government, five foundations allegedly set up by Marcos to hold the money in Swiss banks, and 9,539 human rights victims of the Marcos era.

The court explained that it was compelled to reject the victims’ claims as the documents considered did not have the legal effect of transferring any “proprietary interest” in the funds to them.

The appellate court led by Judge of Appeal Chao Hick Tin and Justices Belinda Ang and Woo Bih Li made clear the rejection would “not in any way deny the moral claims of the human rights victims and acknowledge that the human rights victims deserve redress for the grievous wrongs that they have suffered.”

The Strait Times report, written by its senior law correspondent K.C. Vijayan, also said the appellate court affirmed the Philippine Supreme Court ruling that the PNB held the legal title to the funds as depositor of the money, as well as original account holder with WestLB, the German based-bank that held the money.

The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) yesterday said on the contrary, they view the Singapore decision “in a positive light because it upheld the Philippine government ownership over the $23 million.”

“While the court ruled that PNB has legal title to the account, PNB holds the monies in its capacity as a trustee for the Republic pursuant to an escrow agreement with the government,” PCGG chairman Andres Bautista said.

“It did not effectively junk the government’s claim. The decision said that PNB has legal title to the account. Yet PNB holds such title as trustee pursuant to an escrow agreement with the government. So in effect, the Republic owns the monies in the account,” Bautista told The STAR.

“We have been liaising with PNB on this issue,” he added.

Bautista said the PCGG could technically use the $23 million for the human rights victims during the Marcos regime.

“But we already have the P10 billion appropriated in the human rights compensation law covered by the monies recovered from the Swiss bank accounts,” Bautista added.

For the Commission on Human Rights (CHR), the Singapore court ruling is bad news for victims of human-rights abuses.

CHR information and division chief Marc Titus Cabreros said those that will be affected and are entitled to the money are the Martial Law class suit members.

“These are the more than 6,000 class suit members. It should have been part of what they are trying to recover but they would not be able to get it because of this decision,” he said.

Cabreros said the CHR has simply been assisting class suit members, while also actively working on making possible compensation for the larger number of victims of human-rights abuses under Marcos’ rule both here and abroad, based on the Human Rights Victims Reparation and Recognition Act of 2013.

Cabreros said they are pushing for the creation of the Human Rights Victims Claims Board so that each and every victim will be rightfully compensated.

FROM MANILA STANDARD

Visayas rehab prospects dim By Ronald Reyes | Jan. 06, 2014 at 12:01am


Volunteers. Two mothers and a pupil arrange the chairs in a temporary classroom under a UNICEF tent at the Cabuynan Elementary School in Tanauan, Leyte, for the reopening of classes today. Ver Noveno

THE Eastern Visayas Chamber of Commerce and Industry says the business sector is still waiting for the rehabilitation of the areas devastated by super typhoon “Yolanda” on Nov. 8 last year.

Group governor Robert Castañares says they are also waiting for the government’s response to their request for loans and the relaxation of some of the rules of the Bureau of International Revenue to help the devastated areas recover.

“In general, the business prospects in Tacloban and other affected areas still look dim,” Castañares said.

“The arithmetic is fairly simple as to why business will remain down for quite sometime. Ninety percent of the consumers depend

on agriculture for income, but about 60 percent of the rice crop and 40 percent of the coconut trees were destroyed” by the typhoon.

Castañares says it will require international and national interventions to restore the population’s household incomes to pre-Yolanda levels, which are not high by national standards.

“That is why the Eastern Visayas Chamber of Commerce and Industry is trying to push the rehabilitation task force of [Presidential Assistant for Rehabilitation and Recovery] Ping Lacson to expedite the rehabilitation of agriculture including fishing,” Castañares said.

“It is also not very clear to us what are the specific annual deliverables of the task force. We want to know the specific programs, projects and budget for monitoring purposes.”

Castañares says that, based on the recently concluded Tacloban Rehabilitation Forum at the Asian Institute of Management in Manila, it is apparent that Lacson’s rehabilitation task force is still trying to put the master plan together.

But Castañares says his chamber is willing to work with Lacson during the planning and implementation of the rehabilitation program.

He also urges the media to play “a very crucial role in the success of the rehabilitation program by asking the rehabilitation task force about their specific deliverables in 2014, 2015 and 2016 including the supporting programs, projects and budget.

“By doing so, we would be able to put them on track and it will be easy for us to measure their performance. We should be able to ask the task force their construction schedule of critical structures and the source of fund.”

During the AIM rehabilitation forum with Castañares’ chamber on Dec. 30, 2013, they noted critical observations and suggestions on the government’s so-called rehabilitation and reconstruction plan and pointed out the following:

• The general framework or direction of the rehabilitation plan as presented seemed to be skewed towards infrastructure and housing, maybe because your deputies came from the real estate and construction industry. We observed that the other economic components of the rehabilitation program like agriculture, industry and services appeared to have been given less attention.

• The infrastructure planning and implementation time line as presented was too optimistic. The time needed to prepare a new comprehensive urban plan alone for Tacloban will easily consume two years if you include the procurement of consultants, pre-engineering studies, architectural, engineering and other design disciplines considering its scope, not to mention the time for public consultation that could take a minimum of 3 months assuming there are no objections and social or legal issues. We are not even talking of implementation here.

• A case in point is the proposed relocation, design and construction of a new hospital. The legal and technical aspects of the acquisition of the new site will easily take a minimum of three months, and the procurement process for the consultants and contractors will probably consume another six months at the minimum since they will be done one after the other. If you add the time for actual design, permits and licenses and construction work, the whole process will easily consume two years.

• Another major bottleneck is the intricacies of the sourcing, processing and release of the rehabilitation fund. In conclusion, given the potential bottlenecks, we could not really expect substantial accomplishments by mid 2016 if we only focus on infrastructure.

• Moreover, the impact of infrastructure development to the people’s household income and standard of living is minimal compared to the rehabilitation of agriculture, manufacturing and the retail and trading business, which are the main source of their income. This is not to say that infrastructure development is not important, but we may have to realign our short- and long- term priorities given the constraints if we want to accomplish things that really matter to the victims.

In view of these things, the chamber proposed the following:

• Maybe we need to redefine our goal and concentrate more on effectiveness versus efficiency given the present constraints and the people’s expectations. We also need to consider May 2016 which is the end of PNoy’s term. Being effective means identifying and implementing what can easily be achieved on or before May 2016. Being efficient is planning for the long term or beyond 2016.

• Being effective means harvesting the low- hanging fruits like the instant repair of the Tacloban airport terminal which is the gateway to Eastern Visayas. Knowing the bureaucracy, it will take several months or even years to plan, procure and build the new terminal. We recommend that the good secretary order an immediate repair of the damaged terminal building using reusable prefabricated modular components made of cement board panel for quick installation and disassembling later on. Almost nothing will be wasted with this method because 90 percent will be reusable. It will also have a significant impact on the people not only from Tacloban but the entire Region 8, especially when the repair is completed not later than April 2014, which is the peak of the summer season.

• Another low-hanging fruit is the replanting of coconuts and palay. It is very easy to do and the budget is already available. We can tap the DSWD cash for work fund to pay the farmers at 20 pesos for every tree they plant. We can also ask countries like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam to donate the seedlings of hybrid variety which bear fruit in three years instead of the traditional seven years. The distribution of fishing boats and nets is also a low-hanging fruit. They will instantly provide people with hope knowing that the government is functioning. The farmers will surely be grateful to you for that initiative.

• For the business sector which are mostly traders and retailers, their immediate need is loan restructuring and the grant of additional calamity business loans for the rebuilding of their damaged stores. Perhaps the good secretary can make a representation with the BSP, DBP and LBP. This initiative is very important in jump-starting the economic activities in Tacloban. You will capture the hearts of the business sector by just knowing that you represent them even if the BSP may not totally grant their requests.

• We also want to suggest that the rehabilitation task force organization be expanded to include development officers for agriculture, industry and the services sector. Perhaps the good secretary can request the concerned agencies like DA, PCA, BFAR, DPWH, DENR etc. to assign a full time staff to the task force as agency coordinator.

“The rehabilitation program must be viewed from a bigger economic perspective rather than just look at it as a general infrasand housing problem,” the chamber said.

“In fact, more emphasis must be given to other economic components because they have a direct bearing on inclusive growth particularly on the people’s household income.”

Replying to the chamber’s suggestions and recommendations, Lacson assured the group that “the livelihood component, while not prominently mentioned, will not be neglected.”

“If you didn’t notice, in my keynote speech, among my definitions of a new normal is not neglecting the livelihood component of the rehab and recovery efforts. I’m also aware of the practicality of going for the low hanging fruit against the high hanging fruit which may not be viable considering the higher cost and time constraints,” Lacson said.

“Our minimum must is a safer and better community. The recovery cost of building back better is one major consideration in our rehabilitation and recovery plan.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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