PALACE QUIZZED ON 'ONDOY' AID

SOME 30 lawmakers and civil society groups on Sunday demanded an accounting of some P16.4 billion in foreign donations for cities devastated by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009 to address concerns that the funds were misused by the national government. The call came as Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives, called for an investigation of where billions of pesos in foreign donations to calamity-stricken provinces went after they were hit by a killer earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda last year. Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, president of Global Legislators Organization Philippines and civil society groups demanded and immediate accounting and tracking of climate change finance to ensure better planning and transparency. Yap said the lawmakers wanted to make sure that the foreign funds did not go to dubious projects after tropical storm Ondoy hit Metro Manila four years ago. “We are talking about millions of dollars that could have made a difference in the lives of the people. Knowing how it was spent should be in our list of priorities if we are keen to build strong adaptive capacity to climate change and resilient communities in the country,” Yap said. Angelo Kairos dela Cruz, policy coordinator of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, agreed. “The volume of data that we have gathered so far is... proof that there is money flowing into the Philippines for climate change adaptation. It is the right time that we start asking where it went and how it was spent,” he said. READ MORE...

ALSO: We still trust Binay – Palace

Vice President Jejomar Binay remains a trusted ally of President Aquino despite doubts raised by an administration lawmaker on the VP’s loyalty, according to a Palace official. The lawmaker in question is Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, a member of the Liberal Party, who recently called on Binay to resign from the Cabinet amid his alleged two-faced attacks on the Aquino administration. In a privilege speech last week, the lawmaker said Binay should show his true colors instead of trying to show he is a loyal cabinet member while being a member of the opposition camp. “Ang pagbigkas ng privilege speech ay karapatan ng bawat mambabatas. Iginagalang namin ang paggamit ni Kinatawang Erice sa karapatang ito. Walang partisipasyon ang Tanggapan ng Pangulo sa desisyon niyang magtalumpati [A privilege speech is a right of every lawmaker. We respect Rep. Erice’s use of this right. The Office of the President has no participation in his decision to deliver such speech],” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said over government radio. “Hangga’t walang partikular na pahiwatig o pahayag ang Pangulo, meron siyang pagtitiwala o kumpiyansa sa mga miyembro ng kanyang Gabinete at kabilang diyan si Vice President Binay [Until there is no statement from the President, he has trust and confidence in his cabinet members, including Vice President Binay],” he said. The Palace also has no plans to ask Erice to stop his attacks on the Vice President, Coloma added. Apart from his duties as vice president, Binay serves as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council as well as presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) concerns. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.

ALSO: The fight to retain classes in Filipino may reach Supreme Court; Palace assures Filipino teachers will not go unemployed 

The fight to retain Filipino in classes in college and universities may reach the Supreme Court, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chairman and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario said on Sunday. “There is a possibility we may reach that point. For now, we are discussing matters with college and university officials. Some are just too hard-headed,” Almario said in Filipino in an interview with radio dzMM. Almario was reacting to a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) memorandum that effectively removes Filipino as a form of teaching in the general education curriculum. He explained that under CHED Memorandum No. 20, which was issued as early as last year, old general education subjects taught in both English and Filipino have been removed. The new subjects introduced, however, make the syllabus available only in English. This is a result of the K-12 curriculum as, according to CHED, the old college-level general education subjects, which include Filipino, will be transferred to the K-12 curriculum. “In effect, it’s a violation of the essence of the Constitution. It provides there that we should not just declare Filipino as the national language, we should also ensure that we should spread its use,” Almario said. The writer also cited the need for the “intellectualization of the language,” saying Filipino should not just be used in everyday language, but also in research and intellectual discussions. In Malacanang, meanwhile, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. assured Filipino teachers who may be affected by the changes will not go unemployed. “The welfare of the teachers are important. We will monitor the developments. We will be doing the necessary steps so that they will not go unemployed,” Coloma said. Almario, on the other hand, is awaiting replies from CHED and Congress as to KWF suggestions that other subjects in college be taught in Filipino. “We formally submitted the letters two weeks ago. There is no reply yet,” he said, citing the need for “retooling and reeducation among Filipino teachers.” According to him, the KWF has already created four Filipino syllabi out of the eight subjects that will be taught in the new general education curriculum. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT

(ALSO) Boo Chanco: Garlic, rice and failed agri policies

There has to be a conspiracy in the current shortage of garlic just when we have to exorcise so many demons feeding on our tax money. Come to think of it, we have these problems because those demons we call our public officials can’t seem to manage an effective agriculture policy. This shortage in garlic is an embarrassment to government. Garlic is an important ingredient in the typical Filipino menu from adobo to fried rice. With all the reports of garlic’s health benefits, senior citizens like me take more of it. Those garlic chips I get from a stall at Shopwise Libis are great and better to munch than potato chips. Two weeks ago, I got a shock normally reserved for the electricity bill when I noticed the price tag on fresh garlic at the supermarket was at P340 a kilo. I tried looking at the bright side of it ever so grudgingly. I told myself that at last, the Customs people are being honest and are now able to stop the garlic smugglers. The thought then occurred to me that we must be a sorry people to have to depend on smugglers to keep food prices at reasonable levels. The garlic and rice smugglers have also shown that economic principles are always superior to government policies. It’s nothing new. I reviewed my digital files of past columns and was amused to see this column of February 13, 2008. That time, it was about onions. Here is a portion of that column: I like doing the weekly grocery shopping if only because it gives me a sense of the market. Last Saturday, the cost of onions, local or imported, was P110 a kilo at Robinson’s Supermarket in Galleria, Ortigas Center. It had been in three digits for a number of weeks now. We (with Marichu Villanueva) brought up this problem with Secretary Yap a couple of weeks ago when he showed up at the Tuesday Club. The Agri Chief was disturbed by the report. But he was candid enough to say that it was partly his fault because he agreed to the request of the local onion traders to give the local farmers a breathing spell by stopping the importation of onions. Hence, even the Customs people started stopping onion smugglers with highly publicized raids. Stopping importation to help farmers is one thing. But what is this I heard that they have now allowed importations but the same onion traders are also now cornering the importation of onions? This is a cartel which shouldn’t be allowed if this government is to protect consumers. I can understand helping local farmers but they make no money out of this scheme. Only the already wealthy traders do. You see, guys, it isn’t as simple as supporting our poor farmers and stopping imports. There had been this claimed bias for our farmers for years and somehow, did them no good. The poorest of our people live in the farms. They need more than protection from imports in order to flourish and our clueless bureaucrats haven’t figured that out for decades. CONTINUE READING...


READ FULL MEDIA NEWS REPORT:

Palace quizzed on ‘Ondoy’ aid

30 solons, civil society demand audit of P16-b foreign funds

MANILA, JUNE 16, 2014 (MANILA STANDARD) By Christine F. Herrera - SOME 30 lawmakers and civil society groups on Sunday demanded an accounting of some P16.4 billion in foreign donations for cities devastated by tropical storm Ondoy in 2009 to address concerns that the funds were misused by the national government.

The call came as Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, leader of the independent minority bloc in the House of Representatives, called for an investigation of where billions of pesos in foreign donations to calamity-stricken provinces went after they were hit by a killer earthquake and super typhoon Yolanda last year.

Tarlac Rep. Susan Yap, president of Global Legislators Organization Philippines and civil society groups demanded and immediate accounting and tracking of climate change finance to ensure better planning and transparency.

Yap said the lawmakers wanted to make sure that the foreign funds did not go to dubious projects after tropical storm Ondoy hit Metro Manila four years ago.

“We are talking about millions of dollars that could have made a difference in the lives of the people. Knowing how it was spent should be in our list of priorities if we are keen to build strong adaptive capacity to climate change and resilient communities in the country,” Yap said.

Angelo Kairos dela Cruz, policy coordinator of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities, agreed.

“The volume of data that we have gathered so far is... proof that there is money flowing into the Philippines for climate change adaptation. It is the right time that we start asking where it went and how it was spent,” he said.

The ICSC is leading the Adaptation Finance Accountability Initiative (AFAI), a global effort that seeks to track international funds that are reported to finance adaptation initiatives.

Dela Cruz said AFAI reported that contributor-countries, through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development or OECD, multilateral and bilateral banks provided a total of $367.7 million or P16.4 billion from 2009 to 2012.

Of the P16.4 billion, Dela Cruz said the Philippines under the Arroyo administration in 2009 received $4.1 million or P91.92 million in adaptation-tagged funds.

The rest – or more than P15 billion – was received by the Aquino administration.

In 2010, he said, adaptation finance inflow amounted to $186.4 million. For 2011, adaptation funding was $87.7 million, and $89.5 million in 2012.

“These funds were reported by contributor (also called “donor”) countries through the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development and multilateral and bilateral banks as sources for climate change adaptation initiative funding in the country.

“But what activities were supported? Who were the contributing countries and institutions? Which national agency or organization received adaptation funding? These are important questions,” Dela Cruz said.

Among the donors for the Ondoy catastrophe from 2009 to 2012 were the United Kingdom, the United States, Australia, Japan, Belgium, Germany, Norway, Sweden Switzerland, Finland, Luxembourg, Spain, Korea, New Zealand, European Union (Institutions), Canada, Italy, Ireland and such multilateral financial institutions such as the Asian Development Bank, UN Development Program and the World Bank, Dela Cruz said.

Dela Cruz said the Aquino government has yet to make public the list of projects funded by the P16.4 billion in foreign donations.

He said adaptation to climate change is defined as adjustments made in natural systems to address the potential effects of climate change.

“By their very nature, adaptation initiatives should anticipate projected climatic impacts,” he said.

“Interestingly, the current sectoral distribution of climate finance in the Philippines in 2010 and 2011 shows that almost half of the fund has gone to reconstruction and rehabilitation projects, soon after episodic disasters such as typhoon Ondoy in 2009,” Dela Cruz said.

He said the immediate delivery of services after disasters were critical but climatic impacts comprise more than just episodic extreme events.

Slow onset impacts such as changes in a locality’s hydrology, incremental increases or reduction in precipitation and average temperatures, sea level rise, and ocean acidification -- these already take place throughout the year in many localities, he said.

“Mostly unfelt, without the drama of a calamity, these types of impacts are usually neglected,” Dela Cruz pointed out. “The result: equal, if not more devastating, long-term effects that can be irreparable based on the magnitude and duration of the effect.”

“How much of future adaptation finance will be channeled towards strategic, adaptive initiatives? How much will be deployed towards reactive climate change response activities? What strategies can reduce the many vulnerabilities of the Philippines? What picture will emerge in 2014, once the massive pledges (and to an increasing extent, disbursement) of funding related to the response to super typhoon Yolanda, are taken into account? To what extent will climate change ultimately re-shape the Philippine government’s annual national budget deliberations?” Dela Cruz said.

AFAI based its data on the funds used for financing climate change adaptation initiatives according to contributing countries, international banks, and international organizations. AFAI is ongoing in four countries: Uganda, Zambia, Nepal, and Philippines.

“We all know that impacts from climate change are making things worse for the poorest Filipinos whose vulnerability is continuing to grow day by day,” Yap said.

Yap said the Global Legislators Organization’s mission is to create a critical mass of lawmakers that can agree on and advance common legislative responses to climate change.

Yap called on her fellow legislators to join the effort in tracking funds intended for climate change adaptation initiatives during the launch of the online climate finance portal, Adaptracker.org.

“With AFAI and Adaptracker, we can start a new conversation that would strike the perfect balance between access and fiduciary standards in climate finance sourced internationally and locally, which will put us in the better position to set up and implement plans for adapting to the changing climate,” Yap added.

Adaptracker was showcased in an event co-organized by ICSC and the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department (CPBRD) June 10.

“The findings and data on climate finance is a welcome addition to our office’s resources that we use in our policy work,” said Novel Bangsal, CPBRD director.

“Adaptracker allows us to use climate finance data in such a way that it is understandable and conversational.”

The Philippines, one of the most vulnerable countries to climatic change, has yet to establish its very own climate finance arm through the implementation of Republic Act 10174 or the People’s Survival Fund (PSF).

The PSF remains unfunded to this day even if the law mandates that the national government allocate P1 billion to implement the law.

FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

We still trust Binay – Palace by Genalyn Kabiling June 16, 2014


LAST YEAR'S FILE PHOTO

Vice President Jejomar Binay remains a trusted ally of President Aquino despite doubts raised by an administration lawmaker on the VP’s loyalty, according to a Palace official.

The lawmaker in question is Caloocan Rep. Edgar Erice, a member of the Liberal Party, who recently called on Binay to resign from the Cabinet amid his alleged two-faced attacks on the Aquino administration.

In a privilege speech last week, the lawmaker said Binay should show his true colors instead of trying to show he is a loyal cabinet member while being a member of the opposition camp.

“Ang pagbigkas ng privilege speech ay karapatan ng bawat mambabatas. Iginagalang namin ang paggamit ni Kinatawang Erice sa karapatang ito. Walang partisipasyon ang Tanggapan ng Pangulo sa desisyon niyang magtalumpati [A privilege speech is a right of every lawmaker. We respect Rep. Erice’s use of this right. The Office of the President has no participation in his decision to deliver such speech],” Presidential Communications Operations Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said over government radio.

“Hangga’t walang partikular na pahiwatig o pahayag ang Pangulo, meron siyang pagtitiwala o kumpiyansa sa mga miyembro ng kanyang Gabinete at kabilang diyan si Vice President Binay [Until there is no statement from the President, he has trust and confidence in his cabinet members, including Vice President Binay],” he said.

The Palace also has no plans to ask Erice to stop his attacks on the Vice President, Coloma added.

Apart from his duties as vice president, Binay serves as chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council as well as presidential adviser on Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW) concerns.

FROM ABS-CBN


Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chairman and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario

MANILA -- The fight to retain Filipino in classes in college and universities may reach the Supreme Court, Komisyon sa Wikang Filipino (KWF) chairman and National Artist for Literature Virgilio Almario said on Sunday.

“There is a possibility we may reach that point. For now, we are discussing matters with college and university officials. Some are just too hard-headed,” Almario said in Filipino in an interview with radio dzMM.

Almario was reacting to a Commission on Higher Education (CHED) memorandum that effectively removes Filipino as a form of teaching in the general education curriculum.

He explained that under CHED Memorandum No. 20, which was issued as early as last year, old general education subjects taught in both English and Filipino have been removed. The new subjects introduced, however, make the syllabus available only in English.

This is a result of the K-12 curriculum as, according to CHED, the old college-level general education subjects, which include Filipino, will be transferred to the K-12 curriculum.

“In effect, it’s a violation of the essence of the Constitution. It provides there that we should not just declare Filipino as the national language, we should also ensure that we should spread its use,” Almario said.

The writer also cited the need for the “intellectualization of the language,” saying Filipino should not just be used in everyday language, but also in research and intellectual discussions.

In Malacanang, meanwhile, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. assured Filipino teachers who may be affected by the changes will not go unemployed.

“The welfare of the teachers are important. We will monitor the developments. We will be doing the necessary steps so that they will not go unemployed,” Coloma said.

Almario, on the other hand, is awaiting replies from CHED and Congress as to KWF suggestions that other subjects in college be taught in Filipino.

“We formally submitted the letters two weeks ago. There is no reply yet,” he said, citing the need for “retooling and reeducation among Filipino teachers.”

According to him, the KWF has already created four Filipino syllabi out of the eight subjects that will be taught in the new general education curriculum.

PHILSTAR COLUMN

Garlic, rice and failed agri policies DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 16, 2014 - 12:00am


By Boo Chanco

There has to be a conspiracy in the current shortage of garlic just when we have to exorcise so many demons feeding on our tax money. Come to think of it, we have these problems because those demons we call our public officials can’t seem to manage an effective agriculture policy.

This shortage in garlic is an embarrassment to government. Garlic is an important ingredient in the typical Filipino menu from adobo to fried rice. With all the reports of garlic’s health benefits, senior citizens like me take more of it. Those garlic chips I get from a stall at Shopwise Libis are great and better to munch than potato chips.

Two weeks ago, I got a shock normally reserved for the electricity bill when I noticed the price tag on fresh garlic at the supermarket was at P340 a kilo. I tried looking at the bright side of it ever so grudgingly. I told myself that at last, the Customs people are being honest and are now able to stop the garlic smugglers.

The thought then occurred to me that we must be a sorry people to have to depend on smugglers to keep food prices at reasonable levels. The garlic and rice smugglers have also shown that economic principles are always superior to government policies.

It’s nothing new. I reviewed my digital files of past columns and was amused to see this column of February 13, 2008. That time, it was about onions. Here is a portion of that column:

I like doing the weekly grocery shopping if only because it gives me a sense of the market. Last Saturday, the cost of onions, local or imported, was P110 a kilo at Robinson’s Supermarket in Galleria, Ortigas Center. It had been in three digits for a number of weeks now. We (with Marichu Villanueva) brought up this problem with Secretary Yap a couple of weeks ago when he showed up at the Tuesday Club.

The Agri Chief was disturbed by the report. But he was candid enough to say that it was partly his fault because he agreed to the request of the local onion traders to give the local farmers a breathing spell by stopping the importation of onions. Hence, even the Customs people started stopping onion smugglers with highly publicized raids.

Stopping importation to help farmers is one thing. But what is this I heard that they have now allowed importations but the same onion traders are also now cornering the importation of onions? This is a cartel which shouldn’t be allowed if this government is to protect consumers. I can understand helping local farmers but they make no money out of this scheme. Only the already wealthy traders do.

You see, guys, it isn’t as simple as supporting our poor farmers and stopping imports. There had been this claimed bias for our farmers for years and somehow, did them no good. The poorest of our people live in the farms. They need more than protection from imports in order to flourish and our clueless bureaucrats haven’t figured that out for decades.

In the meantime, this supposed bias for farmers translates to a bias against consumers… the classic rural versus urban struggle for government favors. And the thing is… urban consumers are also struggling and many are barely able to eke out a living.

The typical urban consumer spends more than half his budget on food. Expensive food translates to stronger pressure for higher wages which ends up destroying our labor competitiveness with our neighbors who enjoy lower food prices and whose workers can be paid less.

The fact that garlic and rice smuggling had been thriving despite official government policies of import restrictions shows that the economic gains from smuggling far outweighs the danger of being caught.

Now, it is turning out the garlic and rice smugglers (onions too) aren’t the devils they are made out to be. Indeed, they seem to have done urban consumers a favor. Without the garlic, rice and onion smugglers, the price of food would have been higher.

I realize most of our food producers are scared of foreign competition. But that’s because food production here is more expensive than elsewhere. I blame government for the problem.

Local farmers do not have the same access to cheap and ready credit that farmers in Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam have. Our farmers don’t get the same assistance from government in terms of affordable fertilizers, technology and other production requirements despite the budgets for these. Our farmers don’t have the benefit of good farm-to-market infrastructure that the cooperatives in Taiwan, for example, have.

The solution, I suggest, is not to sacrifice the urban consumer through quantitative restrictions in imports of farm produce we cannot produce competitively. The solution is for government to clean up its act and give our farmers the same quality of assistance farmers in other countries in the region enjoy from their government.

Take garlic, for instance. From news reports the past few days, agriculture officials concede that local producers can only provide for 30 per cent of our market needs. Artificially restricting supply through import restrictions is obviously unfair to the consumers and it won’t make local farmers produce quickly the rest of the 70 per cent the market requires.

Some consumers may still pay the high price for garlic these days but that does not mean it is the right price for the commodity. Indeed, if quantitative restriction to imports is taken away, we can expect the importers to import only enough garlic that the market would buy. If producing countries resort to dumping, it will be obvious and government has the power to act decisively to stop it anyway.

Getting our agricultural producers competitive is something that government must do, in any case. We will soon be part of a common market in ASEAN and those artificial import restrictions will necessarily fall away.

Ironically, Filipino technicians had a hand in making Taiwanese producers world class. Dr Emil Javier of UP Los Banos, for one, worked a number of years in Taiwan helping food growing coops become competitive. Why can’t our technicians do the same here?

What is true with garlic and rice is also true with onions and even with pork and poultry. There was recently a howl of protest when BOI gave investment incentives to a Thai company specializing in pork production. Backyard pork producers say they cannot compete.

Indeed, backyard producers cannot compete unless government manages a better program to integrate backyard pork producers so they can achieve better economies of scale. It would have been better to get the Thais in with their money and technical expertise now and help us become competitive for the ASEAN common market rather than meeting them strictly as competitors in 2015… which is next year.

Liking or not liking globalization is irrelevant. It is a reality and we just have to be competitive unless we want to isolate ourselves from the world economy the way the North Koreans have. That, in any case, is impossible given our archipelagic configuration and our centuries old expertise in smuggling.

Right now, the little that our farm producers earn is dissipated by high production costs. Only the traders make money but that’s only because traders provide farmers the assistance that government should have been providing… financing and market access.

There was a time when I thought something good was about to happen in the agri sector. Then Agriculture Sec Arthur Yap was talking of an integrated farm support system to include not just the usual credit and market access but even refrigerated trucks and cold storage facilities so farmers won’t be forced to panic sell produce to traders for fear of spoilage.

As in any nice plan articulated by idealistic technocrats in the early years of their tenure in government, nothing happened. I guess Art Yap learned how things are done in government soon enough and just went with the flow.

The programs of the agriculture department had been a traditional source of illicit wealth for officials and those close to powerful officials as in the fertilizer scam and the Napoles scam. Besides with powerful guys like that JocJoc Bolante, how can Art Yap say no to those close to then President GMA when even poor Cito Lorenzo failed and ended messing up his good name?

Today, I see nothing good coming out of that agriculture department, Daang Matuwid notwithstanding. I am hoping that Francis Pangilinan will succeed where Sec Prosy Alcala failed and is still failing.

P-Noy must get serious with food security and not confuse that with food self sufficiency. As economist Dr Cristina David puts it, “food security means ensuring household incomes, specially those of the poor, are sufficient to purchase adequate food --- whether imported or locally produced --- at reasonable prices.”


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

© Copyright, 2014 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE