PIDS in the News Archived (October 2015)

MANILA, Philippines - The establishment of an Asean Economic Community, which aims to create a single market and production base, is seen to facilitate the laying down of common standards for genetically-modified crops in the region.
Roehlano Roel Briones, a senior research fellow at the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS, said a regional community would allow the member-states to save valuable time and resources in conducting rigorous testing and crop farming trials as they adopt GM technology.
They dont have to repeat the three to five years of rigorous testing. Maybe they can just undertake a few rounds, or a cropping cycle to test for local conditions, which is actually standard, Briones said.
Ideally, we should have the same standards for labeling and bio-safety, Briones said.
The Philippines led the push for GM corn farming in the region when the Philippine government approved GM corn farming.
Vietnam only started this year its first government-approved commercial GM corn faming, led by multinational agribusiness and seeds provider Syngenta.
Briones, whose expertise is in agricultural economics, said GM crop farming should be taken seriously with the world facing the daunting challenges of food security and hunger in the developing countries.
We have to move to the next frontier and the next frontier is direct manipulation of the genome as well as market- assisted technology, Briones said.//

Author: Rainier Allan Ronda
Date: October 04, 2015
Source: Philippine Star

On 21 July 2015, President Benigno Aquino III signed into law two landmark measures which will play critical role in advancing Philippines readiness for the ASEAN Economic Integration. The Philippines has finally waived its cabotage laws.
The Twin Measures are (i) The Philippine Competition Act, which opens competition on its commercial waterways and (ii) the Foreign Ships Co-Loading Act, which amends the 50-year-old Cabotage law to allow foreign ships carrying imported cargo and cargo to be exported out of the country the ability to dock in multiple ports.
Cabotage is defined as the carriage or transportation of passengers or cargo between two points within a country via sea, air or land transport by a vessel or vehicle registered in another country. The Philippines adopted the cabotage principle from the US Jones Act of 1920 whilst it was under United States colonial control. The Republic Act of 1937 enacted in 1957 continued the adaptation of the said principle. Under the cabotage law, only domestic shipping lines can serve domestic routes.
The twin measures are aimed at decreasing transportation costs, and to allow foreign operators to ship domestic cargoes within Philippines sovereign territories. Foreign carriers will now be able to compete on an equal level with the few local players that have dominated the market, which is likely to improve efficiency.
Foreign shippers, importers and exporters will no longer require engaging the services of a domestic shipper for the transshipment of a foreign cargo from one port to another port within the Philippines. This will enhance the competitiveness of importers and exporters in international trade and reduce the shipping costs of imported and exported cargoes to the benefit of consumers.
Cabotage in the Philippines resulted in high local shipping costs, because of the absence of competition within the local shipping industry. According to a study published by state think tank. The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), the absence of competition has resulted in "high cost of transporting raw materials to manufacturing sites, finished products and agricultural goods to various destinations, and imported products to distribution areas, thereby increasing operational costs that are passed on to consumers as high prices. A study by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines (JFCCP) also showed the high cost of domestic shipping in the Philippines when compared with the cost of shipping via foreign transshipment.
Senate President Franklin Drilon said the new laws would help the country face the challenges and seize the opportunities that would arise from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) market integration in December.
A new anti-trust law and an amended Cabotage law is just what the doctor ordered, so to speak, since our laws and policies need to be more than capable if we are to fully capitalize all the prospects for economic growth that the AEC (ASEAN Economic Community) will bring, Drilon said in a statement.
Under the law, a Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) will be established within 60 days from the signing of the law and the President will appoint a chairperson, four commissioners and an executive director. The independent quasi-judicial body is tasked with vast powers and herculean responsibilities under the law. It will be established to enforce a national competition policy prohibiting anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.
The PCC can impose penalties against entities that engage in unfair business practices with fines reaching up to P250 million, with amounts adjusted for inflation every five years. Offenders may also face up to seven years in prison. However, no penalties will be meted out within the first two years of implementation in order to give firms found guilty time to restructure and reform.
It is evident that both bills create a level playing field and will reduce cost in domestic shipping with everyone now on an equal footing as the law penalizes anti-competitive agreements and abuses by dominant players. More importantly it benefits the consumers in Philippines who will potentially get better goods and services at a better price.
Senate President Franklin M. Drilon is of the view that
"By allowing foreign ships access to other ports in the country, the amendments will spur economic activity in these areas beyond Manila, and help free up space and decongest the port of Manila, which before was the only place in the country where these foreign ships could load and off-load their cargo.//

Author:
Date: October 01, 2015
Source: Lexology.com

Evie Uy, 39, vaguely remembers the moment when her four sons would kiss her on the cheek in the morning before they start off for school. Like a ghost flitting by her childrens doorway at night, she was afraid to touch them lest she rouse them from sleep.

Its the typical story of a mother prevented by work from enjoying moments with her children. Except that Uy is not an overseas Filipino worker, but one of thousands of commuters perennially stuck in traffic in what has become Metro Manilas literal version of the kalyeserye (street series).

Its so hard, said Uy of the daily ordeal she shares with other Filipinos working in the supposedly economic bright spot that is Metro Manila. In the morning, Im half-asleep, I have this passing memory of my sons saying goodbye. When I get home, theyre fast asleep, she said.

Our relationship has changed. We used to be very close and they had no problem opening up to me, said Uy, who travels almost three hours a day for six days from her home in Muoz, Quezon City, to either Makati or Taguig cities, depending on her assignment as marketing representative of Davids Salon.

The mother of four"one in elementary school, two in high school, and one in college"leaves work at 9 p.m. and is lucky to reach home by 10:30 p.m. My usual clock-in time at home these days is 12 midnight. Its crazy. My husband, who works from home, takes care of my sons, but our relationship has also suffered. I want to leave work just so I can be with (my family), but our expenses are getting bigger, Uy said.

Edsas super corridor

A study by the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), led by supervising research specialist Sonny N. Domingo, indicated that travel time [by bus] within (Edsas) super corridor"a 12-kilometer stretch"ranges from 18 to 138 minutes, depending on the level of traffic congestion at certain times of the day.

The average bus delay from Ayala to Guadalupe, all of five kilometers, was estimated at 50 minutes, while the 4.3-kilometer-Guadalupe to Aurora Blvd. route took 43 minutes.

That is, unless the usual irritants of heavy rains and the resulting floods get in the way, as it did on Sept. 8 when Uy and thousands of other Metro Manila commuters found themselves stranded on Edsa because of what many described as a carmageddon. The scenario was bound to be repeated when the possible mother of all carmageddons"the Christmas shopping rush"gets underway.

The same PIDS study, which covered only the bus transport sector, said the foregone wages"or the opportunity cost of wasted time among passengers on the road"amounted to a staggering P4.56 billion a year. The foregone wages of bus passengers daily along the Ayala-Guadalupe route was placed at P11.28 million, while those using the Guadalupe-Aurora corridor was P8.97 million.



New OFWs

The joke going around the business sector is that Metro Manilas workers have now become the new OFWs, Sergio Ortiz-Luis, honorary chair of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (Ecop) told the Inquirer. The reference to the overseas Filipino workers might have a lot to do with the severely constricted time that Metro workers have with their families, but the Ecop official said workers productivity have been affected as well by the long hours they spend on the road.

While Ecop cannot quantify the social and economic costs of traffic at this point, Ortiz-Luis admitted that even the bosses pay the price. They have to wake up earlier than usual to get to work on time, and at the very least, set an example. We can give workers some leeway, like flexi-time, but we still cant allow frequent tardiness, he explained.

Diana Madelo, 26, an art director for a travel magazine, has the luxury of driving to work from Fairview to Ortigas but still finds herself stewing in traffic as choke points block her route.

My work productivity has been affected, my energy drained, she complained. My boss has called me out because Im often late (for work). Telling my boss that traffic is the problem is a lousy excuse.

She sometimes leaves work at 9 p.m. and arrives home an hour later. But on Sept. 8, when flash floods caused monster traffic, Madelo recalled driving past people stranded on Edsa (who) couldnt get a ride home. Vehicles could not pass through.

She added: I just wanted to go home that day. I almost lost my sanity, I broke down and was crying while driving. I arrived home after more than three hours.

Not isolated case

Hers was not an isolated case. Thousands of commuters took to social media lamenting their sorry situation, with some of them spending hours on the road and getting home just before dawn the following day. Others spent the night in cheap hotels, an out-of-pocket expenditure for many.

Madelo said she had no choice and was going to resign soon.

In a separate interview, Dr. Paul Michael R. Hernandez cited the impact of heavy traffic on the health of workers.

Philippine traffic exposes employees to a number of hazards, but some of these hazards are specific to certain workers, said the assistant professor at the Department of Environment and Occupational Health of the University of the Philippines in Manila.

Those using open vehicles are exposed to air pollutants, including carbon dioxide and carbon monoxide, that cause respiratory problems such as bronchitis and other lung ailments, he said.

Prolonged sitting can also cause nerve impingement especially that of the sciatic nerve, leading to discomfort or even pain in either or both legs. There can also be strain on the backbone. Commuters (on crowded buses) who stand for prolonged hours might experience muscle pains in their legs, Hernandez said.

Stress hormones

Truck drivers are exposed to whole body vibration (WBV), or the effect of vibration on the body from the vehicles engine underneath their seats, he said. WBV can cause back problems, urinary concerns and even infertility, according to some studies.

Traffic can also elevate stress hormones. These may manifest as increased heart rate and blood pressure, and sometimes, tension headaches, Hernandez said.

Suggestions have been put forward to minimize the impact of traffic, including a four-day workweek, but employers, among them Ortiz-Luis, balk at the idea. Companies have to time their operations (to coincide) with that of the government and other stakeholders, he said.

Rickety public transport

While Ecop considers decaying urban structures and subsequent maintenance work as adding to the traffic problem, the government has trumpeted the massive developments across the metropolis as part of a booming economy and rising employment.

But analysts think otherwise and said that traffic has doused the economys gains, and exposed an unsafe, rickety public transport system.

According to a Japan International Cooperation Agency study, Manila has been losing P2.4 billion a day in terms of potential income because of traffic jams. This could balloon to P6 billion a day by 2030 if the government fails to put interventions in place, the study added.

My own assessment is that infrastructure projects, real estate construction, and consumption growth (e.g., more vehicles, leisure trips, etc.)"may be representative of economic growth, but the resulting traffic congestion is a sign of mismanagement and lack of advance planning, PIDS senior research fellow Adora Navarro said in an e-mail correspondence.

She urged the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority and local government units in Metro Manila to assess the Metros drainage system and require private firms to conduct a flood impact analysis of their construction-related activities.

Every time I pass by a major road construction project or a new condominium on the rise, I fear that the flood impact analysis of the construction activities is not being given serious attention, she said.

With the Philippine National Police-Highway Patrol Group (HPG) taking over traffic management in Edsa, Ortiz-Luis said one of the many factors colluding to create major bottlenecks at Edsa had been taken off the list. Law enforcement is doing a good job, which leaves us with public works and engineering, he said, noting that road networks around Edsa are covered in potholes and months-old road construction projects. It seems there is no urgency on the public works front, said the Ecop official.

Aside from the perennial problem besetting the Metro Rail Transit and Light Rail Transit systems, there are also too many vehicles"about 80 percent of them private"plying the streets of the Metro.

Oversupply of buses

Studies and common sense tell us that allowing too many private and half-empty public utility vehicles to service the needs of commuters (are) both costly and inefficient, Domingo said. A study by Domingos team also indicated that there was a 50-percent oversupply of buses on Edsas super corridor.

Exhaustive discourse on how to resolve the Metros traffic woes has come from various groups, but Domingo quoted transport experts as saying that what we need is to develop a good public transport system, enforce discipline on our roads, and decentralize economic activities in regions outside the National Capital Region.

As for affected workers like Uy and Madelo, moving to areas nearer their place of work might sound like a good alternative, but there are other factors to consider, they said. Uy, for one, said her present home was near her childrens schools.

Condo developers might have gained from the situation by offering residences at convenient locations, but Ortiz-Luis said this was at the expense of others, winning from the misery of others.

We know the alternative courses of action to address the traffic problem, Domingo said. Though admittedly not easy, its really time for us to seriously commit to a lasting solution to the issue, she added.//

Author: Ira P. Pedrasa
Date: October 05, 2015
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

CABANATUAN CITY"The countrys largest retail operator will open its newest mall on Oct. 9 amid fears of displacement of small and medium enterprises.

The four-level SM Cabanatuan, similar in design to SM North Edsa in Quezon City and sitting on top of an 8.5-hectare property in Barangay Hermogenes Concepcion, will be the 52nd SM mall in the country and the 23rd in Luzon.

The opening of SM Cabanatuan has been delayed for 13 years. Negotiations with the local government have failed due to opposition from local business groups and smaller mall operators, notably, businesswoman Leticia Uy of the NE Group of Companies.

Some sectors fear that the malls inauguration will cause the collapse of small businesses operating in the area especially after SM Prime signified interest to buy existing malls and rebrand them to accelerate its nationwide expansion.

The October 9 inauguration will be led by SMPMI president Hans T. Sy and other SM Prime officials.

Sy said that just like the rest of SM malls SM-Cabanatuan will provide a total malling experience to shoppers from this side of Central Luzon. It will also generate 2,000 jobs for local residents in the mall.

Bien Mateo, SM senior vice president for North Luzon operations, said that the mall offers basement parking with at least 1,000 parking slots which can also serve as catch basin during floods.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies said that while 99.6 percent of Philippine-registered enterprises are SMEs"which contribute almost two-thirds of the total jobs market"the sector remained weak in the past decade due to financial and institutional constraints, lack of support system in the community level and stiff competition with larger enterprises.//

Author:
Date: October 05, 2015
Source: The Standard

For several weeks in August, it was extremely tiresome to go for meetings in Quezon City or Pasig from my residence in Makati. Like many folks in Metro Manila, I have had to cope with horrible traffic especially in EDSA.
I noticed that travelling even short distances in the Metro has become a nightmare, sometimes taking hours, instead of quarter to half an hour, especially during rush hour.
Three decades ago, I used to live also in Makati. I fondly remember that as a high school student, it would take me only fifteen minutes to twenty minutes to reach La Salle Green Hills. Now, doing such a trip from Makati to Ortigas in twice that time is already a very big blessing. There are still some days though, such as last August 21 (as it was a holiday then), when travelling throughout Metro Manila can be a breeze, but normally, one has to endure what Dan Brown calls the gates of hell in (Metro) Manila.
A study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) suggested that in 2012, traffic congestion was costing the country 2.4 billion pesos daily, and this could more than double to 6 billion pesos daily by 2030 unless we come up with a dream plan for Metro Manila and its surrounding areas.
Traffic an effect of prosperity?
What are the reasons for traffic?
The administrations anointed for 2016, a former Secretary of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), asserts that traffic is a mere effect of the countrys new found economic growth prosperity. Is the anointed merely wiggling his way out of this mess that he may have had a hand in or is this really something unmanageable? If there is no way out of the traffic, then what is a DOTC for?
Stating that traffic is a high class problem, i.e., a reflection of economic activity and prosperity, suggests that this is beyond the control of government. The simple logic about the claim is more money means more power to buy cars, and more cars means more traffic.
But this is far too simplistic as there are some places such as Singapore and Hongkong that are far more prosperous than Metro Manila, but while they do experience traffic in those areas, it isnt as bad as what we have to endure daily in the Metro.
Should we make the anointed accountable for this lack of foresight and inaction during his term as DOTC Secretary (that has continued in the current leadership at DOTC), and make him pay by finding someone else for 2016 who has the heart to solve the problem and who has had no experience about it (as against those with experience but have done nothing)?
The current DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, added more harm to this analysis of traffic suggesting that traffic is not fatal anyways, although he later apologized for these nonchalant and insensitive remarks. Recently, he even changed his tune. Medical doctors warn that traffic can actually be bad for our health, and even fatal given the pollution and the stress that we can get from it.

EDSA during rush hour.
Coping with technology, social media
A few years ago, I used to get peeved when people would apologize when they would come late for a meeting because of traffic. I used to think that one merely has to allow for additional time for traffic to arrive on time for meetings. However, these days estimating the time to account for traffic can be quite a feat in itself.
I thank technologies such as the Waze app for guiding me to finding alternative routes, but if everyone were using Waze, then everyone else would be using these same routes. If Waze cant speed up my travel on the road, I, at least, use technology to keep me busy, lurking through posts on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, etc., or check my emails and messages on Viber.
Aside from helping us cope with traffic, social media has also managed to provide us quick information about conditions on the ground. Marciano Gatmaitan, a cousin, took a photo of buses clogging the streets, and posted a Facebook shoutout with the photo : Need to say more why we have traffic?

Private vehicles and buses in a street in Metro Manila.
Government has now started to pay more serious attention to this problem by having Cabinet Secretary Rene Almendras become traffic czar, rerouting southbound buses from EDSA to C5, and making use of the Highway Patrol Group (HPG) for enforcing traffic in EDSA starting last September 7.
The first day of the rerouting and use of the HPG suggested there was an easing in half of the six choke points of Metro Manila. Immediately, I thought this would likely not last long as people are just recognizing there are new rules in the traffic game. When the rules are learned, it may go back to normal. Several people in social media have reported that the other three choke points have not eased up, and new choke points are appearing. The second night September 8, commuters were not any better for traffic. After heavy rains, so many complained that they have been stranded.
My suspicion that traffic would not get any better even with the HPG around is borne from the recognition that while there certainly is evidence of poor road behavior in EDSA, especially among buses, whose drivers behave like this way because they are on commissions rather than wages, this is only part of the entire story.
Confluence of factors
There is really a confluence of factors that lead to traffic, beyond economic prosperity and peoples behavior on the streets. Part of that confluence is the poor public transport system and the volume of vehicles.
The sorry state of public transport gives little alternatives for the middle and upper income classes than to buy a car and take ones vehicle along EDSA and other streets in the Metro. Will one risk taking a long queue for the MRT (which has become even longer because of a systems change, which did not undergo effective transition)?
The other rail system, the LRT, is similarly problematic. Getting a bus will also drive you crazy with bus drivers waiting till eternity for their buses to get passengers, ironically sometimes clogging intersections and even highways, further reducing road space. Finding a taxi can be challenging, although now apps like GrabTaxi help in finding taxis especially for short distances.
Another major issue about traffic congestion is sheer vehicular volume, i.e. the number of vehicles in Metro Manila. Consider the rising number of sales of vehicles (see Figure 1), including passenger cars. Vehicle sales are increasing considerably also because it is now very affordable to purchase (especially with the low down payments).
Of late, there are about 25 thousand new cars every month, and the growth rate for private vehicles is now higher than that for commercial vehicles. Why would someone not want to buy a car, especially if public transport is horrible, aside from the added social prestige of having a vehicle?
Unfortunately, everyone thinks this way, and thus the volume of vehicles, coupled with the lack of public transport, plus poor road courtesy all contribute to the worsening of traffic in Metro Manila, especially EDSA. So, it is not just one issue that results in traffic conditions, and consequently, it is not a single action that will improve traffic conditions.

Figure 1. First Semester Car Sales in the Philippines, includes Passenger Cars and Commercial Vehicles



Bus transport sector
Sonny N. Domingo, Roehlano Briones and Debbie Gundaya, colleagues at the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS), released a discussion paper this year that described and studied the bus transport sector.
The study noted that in Metro Manila, a significant number of commuters use buses over other available modes of transport such as private vehicles, MRT, LRT, taxis, and utility vehicles. The study also pointed out that there are about over 12,500 buses operating within Metro Manila, or from the province to Metro Manila, dispersed over 1,122 bus operators.
Contrast this to the mid 1970s, when there were only 4 private consortia and one government entity (the then Metro Manila Transit Corporation) in charge of bus operations in Metro Manila, which grew to 14 groups by late 1970s, and further expanded in 1989 with the liberalization of the bus transport sector. With the rising congestion in Metro Manila, the government imposed a moratorium on the issuance of franchises for provincial buses in 2000, and a nationwide moratorium on all new buses and new franchises in 2003. But bus operators interviewed for the study claim that new franchises can actually be obtained, especially if they are willing to pay a fixers fee of P150,000 per unit.
The PIDS study indicates that travel time [by bus] within (EDSAs) super corridor " a 12-kilometer stretch " ranges from 18 to 138 minutes, depending on the level of traffic congestion at certain times of the day. The average bus delay from the five kilometer stretch of Ayala to Guadalupe was estimated at 50 minutes, while the 4.3-kilometer-Guadalupe to Aurora Blvd. route took 43 minutes. The study estimated that the foregone wages, i.e., the opportunity cost of wasted time among passengers on the road, was P4.6 billion a year. The foregone wages of bus passengers daily along the Ayala-Guadalupe route alone was estimated at P11.3 million, while those using the Guadalupe-Aurora corridor was P8.97 million.
The study suggested several steps to reform the bus transport sector, including limiting the number of operating buses in franchised routes, and proper enforcement of these policies, especially on franchises agreements; giving incentives to operators for the deployment of the optimal number of buses. It would certainly be important to find ways of paying bus drivers regular wages rather than commissions to improve their road behavior.
Long-term solutions
Should government just build more roads to accommodate the growing number of vehicles? Traffic engineers and urban planners have learned in the last few decades that we cannot really build our way out of congestion. The number of roads themselves is partly causing the traffic.
Ironically, more roads (with the status quo in place) will just mean more cars. Professor Emeritus Josefina Alvarez of New Mexico State University, a mathematician argues quite interestingly that fewer roads lead to less traffic.
Essentially using various paradoxes, this mathematician shows that when there is a new road, drivers try to minimize their travel time and use the new road, and unfortunately, everyone has the same idea, and this affects the road network, yielding to congestion in the new road. Fewer roads, according to Professor Alvarez, would lead to a cooperative strategy of sorts, and ironically less travel time. Many development organizations, including the Asian Development Bank, have likewise also pointed out that solving traffic in urban areas is not merely about having more roads.
It is clear there are a lot of cars on EDSA, and one might be tempted to think that merely removing all the private cars, or minimizing them further with schemes such as those adopted in Jakarta that require vehicles to have at least four passengers would be enough to discourage people from using their cars. Certainly, there must be mechanisms in place to discourage the purchase and use of cars, but what alternative is there in place? We certainly cannot fly like Superman, or use a teleporter as in StarTrek, at least not yet.
A system view should really be taken. Urban planner Benjamin de la Pena points out that government officials should be prioritizing solutions that move more people instead of vehicles, and he encourages us to demand that government solve the problem.
He explains that transportation (is) not a problem of how a car gets from point A to point B. It's a problem of how a person goes from point A to point B. We've been counting the movement of cars instead of focusing on the movement of people. Currently, government has done very little to improve mass transit (both the bus system and rails) that could discourage the use of cars.
The paradigm continues to be purely about vehicle movement. Transportation is ultimately an issue about people, about the need for people to move, and the incentives and disincentives in choosing one transportation mode over the other. Thus, the long term solutions involve public transport, affordable housing, and if I may add, having fewer people in the Metro. In other countries, even schools are purposely established outside of the capital. Here, the locations of schools further contribute to an already bad traffic condition. Just go long along Ortigas, Taft Ave., and Katipunan, during schooldays, and you see what I mean.
Myanmar's example
One of the reasons why I find it refreshing to visit Naypyidaw, Myanmar is that finding 20 vehicles in an eight lane-road in front of major hotels is already considered traffic.

A road in Napidyaw, Myanmar.
Naypyidaw, the administrative capital of Myanmar, is located about 320 kilometers north of Yangon, the previous capital. Established a decade ago in 2005, Naypyidaw was given a formal name in 2006. Government employees and officials are provided residences in the city, although many of them maintain residences in Yangon (as their children continue their schooling in the old capital).
Myanmar is not the only country among our neighbors that has created a new capital. Malaysia also has Putrajaya. Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines have likewise considered the idea of establishing a new administrative capital, but these plans have remained as plans.
In the Philippines, a plan to transfer the government center outside of Metro Manila was actually already developed during the Marcos administration, and resurrected in the Ramos administration, but never put into action.
Decades ago, when Quezon City was established, it was also meant to become the administrative capital of the country. If the plan for a new government center takes more traction, the next question is where. Governor Joey Salceda of Albay, one of a few local chief executives who understands data very well, has recently advocated the transfer of the entire government machinery, including the presidential mansion, the offices of both houses of Congress, and other offices of the national government to Lucena.
I hope government officials really put concrete long term plans into action. Some officials claim that the dream plan for Metro Manila is starting, however, we are far from feeling this.
In addition, the dream plan does not look at volume of cars, which government should address, as has been done in Singapore. Understandably, this dream plan would not look into this as Japanese auto manufacturers would like the growth of car sales to continue. The past sins of omission have already caught up, and are clearly doing us harm.
More can and should be done to improve traffic conditions. If government officials continue to sit on the job, then next year, we will and should consider traffic as an election issue. We should demand better government, as we deserve better. " Rappler.com
Dr. Jose Ramon "Toots" Albert is a professional statistician. He is a Senior Research Fellow of the governments think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies, and the president of the countrys professional society of data producers, users and analysts, the Philippine Statistical Association, Inc. for 2014-2015. He finished a PhD in Statistics from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.

Author: Jose Ramon Albert
Date: October 07, 2015
Source: Rappler.com

MAKATI, Oct. 7 -- The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and Griffith Asia Institute (GAI) of Griffith University recently held a forum focusing on building stronger economic partnership, disaster risk mitigation, and women empowerment regarding issues of mutual interest to both the Philippines and Australia.

With the theme Economic Diplomacy and the APEC Agenda, PIDS and GAI hoped this policy dialogue could contribute in raising awareness of the strong economic partnership between the two countries, and in identifying new areas of cooperation. Both PIDS and GAI are members of the APEC Study Center Consortium that provide opportunities for collaborating in research on APEC issues.

In his opening statement, PIDS President Dr. Gilberto Llanto said PIDS and GAI could work together in producing policy relevant research on a range of development issues, namely innovative resilience and disaster response, and regulatory reforms.

Climate change is one area of sustainability that is prioritized by the Australian agenda that the two countries can continue to work on together.

We could learn from Australias experience in disaster funding in the context of its advanced governance systems. For a country perennially beset by disasters, it is important for the Philippines to develop resilient systems that have the capacity to mitigate adverse shocks, to rebuild after shocks, and to move forward, Llanto added. .

Professor Russell Trood, director of the GAI, remarked that it was a pity most people in Australia and the Philippines normally do not think of each other first when it comes to regional cooperation despite having plenty of common interests.

Towards that goal the GAI, according to Trood, has run a series of policy dialogues with several Asian countries over a wide range of issues.

Australia and the Philippines have already built collaborative linkages in the areas of policy, disaster preparedness, the Mindanao Peace Process, and governance reforms. Beyond government, there has also been an observable increase in the amount of people to people relationship, from academic and professional linkages to tourism.

Ambassador Laura Del Rosario, Foreign Affairs undersecretary for International Economic Relations, buffed up the testimonials for Australias record in the Philippines.

Australia is a moving force, she claimed upon recalling that Australia was the first to broach the idea of APEC.

Meanwhile, Deputy Head of Mission of the Australian Embassy-Philippines Dr. David Dutton said the Philippines is at an interesting time in its history.
The passing of several governance reforms and the continued economic growth averaging at six percent have signified the countrys commitment and readiness to move forward. Australia intends to find out how it can be part of the Philippines path to progress, Dutton said.

The discussions focused on strengthening economic diplomacy between the Philippines and Australia, as well as on the APEC 2015 Agenda on building resilient communities and empowering women. The sterling roster of speakers included Paul Hutchcroft, lead governance specialist from the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, Hon. Joey Salceda, governor of Albay, and Ms. Pacita Juan, president of the Womens Business Council of the Philippines.

Australia also continues to work with the Philippines by focusing its new aid policy on enhancing foundations for economic growth through infrastructure, building stronger institutions for good governance, and participating in issues on peace and stability.

In his presentation, Hutchcroft illustrated the bilateral relations between the Australia and the Philippines. In terms of trade, Hutchcroft stated there are over 200 Australian companies currently in the Philippines. Australian direct investment, which is mainly in information technology-business process management, mining, and oil and gas exploration, has doubled since 2010. Two-thirds of Australian exports to the Philippines are metal ores and food products. The Philippines, on the other hand, exports services in manufacturing, tourism, and education.

Hutchcroft likewise highlighted the areas where the Philippines needs to improve.

Anyone who has worked in the Philippines knows that the country is notorious for underspending. The Philippines also has to resolve issues like providing access to basic resources in rural areas, he commented. He also emphasized the role of knowledge transfer, underscoring how increased information and knowledge exchange can help in these areas, as well as areas like developing small and medium enterprise access to finance, infrastructure, and disaster reduction and risk management.

Dr. Myrnia Austria, professor at De La Salle University, concluded that the main challenge for a country that has experienced significant growth is sustaining that growth and making it more inclusive. Dr. Tapan Sarker, a research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, reckoned that the Philippines and Australia are on the right path in choosing to address resources constraint together.

Australia and the Philippines share a strong history in the areas of security, having fought in World War II together. They are also engaged in bilateral exercises over issues like disaster recovery and rescue, defense and coast watch, and the building up of the Philippines institutional capacity together.

Mr. Julio Amador, deputy director-general of the Foreign Service Institute of the Department of Foreign Affairs encouraged both countries to deepen their cooperation level through enhanced consultations and more regular meetings between ministers over these issues.

Albay Governor Joey Salceda painted the picture of disaster risk reduction and resilience and climate at a local level.

Salceda explained that Albays priority development agenda is characterized by transformative polices and program, a green economy, and the integration of disaster resilience and risk reduction into the cultural fabric.

Disaster risk reduction in Albay is as ordinary as going to the bathroom, said Salceda, who urged policymakers to prioritize the principle of building better, instead of building back better. Albays policy decision and program planning framework are all based on scientific evidence and rigorous risk assessment.

But beyond the planning aspect, Salceda added, The only chance for reforms to take root is if they trust their government.

All sectors in Albay have been nurtured to work together. Dr. Susanne Becken from GAI explained in her discussion how a well-coordinated inter-sectoral action can help create a more resilient industry in all levels of the community.

In the tourism industry, according to Becken, there are four classic levels where disaster response and risk reduction should be improved to make any disaster policy or program effective. Tourists, businesses, destination countries, and national planning must all reflect an alignment of efforts to be able to fully carry out disaster response, resilience, and recovery.

In the final session of the forum, Pacita Juan of the Womens Business Council of the Philippines explored different case studies, showing how empowerment of women can make economic growth more inclusive. Empowerment must go beyond improving womens access to finance, according to Juan. It is important to teach women in business how to make decisions about their finances.

Juan added that leaving women out of the growth machine is a shame because women lead most startups. These are businesses that start out with very little capital. The challenge lies in enabling them to scale up. Local government units have to be guided in creating a more encouraging business environment, as women face more traditional restrictions that are harder to regulate, such as their reproductive role.

Ms. Luzviminda Villanueva, program manager of the Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project II, says the key aspects in creating a more inclusive business environment are in government policies, and in strengthening the decision-making capabilities of women.

Not everyone is into business, and not everyone in business knows what to do to succeed, said Villanueva. What civil society, the government, and the business sector can do is converge and align their policies and programs. (PIDS)

Author:
Date: October 07, 2015
Source: PIA

State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) and Griffith Asia Institute (GAI) of Griffith University held a forum focusing on building stronger economic partnership, disaster risk mitigation, and women empowerment"issues of mutual interest to both the Philippines and Australia.

With the theme Economic Diplomacy and the APEC Agenda, PIDS and GAI hoped this policy dialogue could contribute in raising awareness of the strong economic partnership between the two countries, and in identifying new areas of cooperation. Both PIDS and GAI are members of the APEC Study Center Consortium that provide opportunities for collaborating in research on APEC issues.

In his opening statement, PIDS President Dr. Gilberto Llanto said PIDS and GAI could work together in producing policy relevant research on a range of development issues, namely innovative resilience and disaster response, and regulatory reforms.

Climate change is one area of sustainability that is prioritized by the Australian agenda that the two countries can continue to work on together.

We could learn from Australias experience in disaster funding in the context of its advanced governance systems. For a country perennially beset by disasters, it is important for the Philippines to develop resilient systems that have the capacity to mitigate adverse shocks, to rebuild after shocks, and to move forward, Llanto added. .

Professor Russell Trood, Director of the GAI, remarked that it was a pity most people in Australia and the Philippines normally do not think of each other first when it comes to regional cooperation despite having plenty of common interests.

Towards that goal the GAI, according to Trood, has run a series of policy dialogues with several Asian countries over a wide range of issues.

Australia and the Philippines have already built collaborative linkages in the areas of policy, disaster preparedness, the Mindanao Peace Process, and governance reforms. Beyond government, there has also been an observable increase in the amount of people to people relationship, from academic and professional linkages to tourism.

Ambassador Laura Del Rosario, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for International Economic Relations, buffed up the testimonials for Australias record in the Philippines.

Australia is a moving force, she claimed upon recalling that Australia was the first to broach the idea of APEC.

Meanwhile, Deputy Head of Mission of the Australian Embassy-Philippines Dr. David Dutton said that the Philippines is at an interesting time in its history.
The passing of several governance reforms and the continued economic growth averaging at six percent have signified the countrys commitment and readiness to move forward. Australia intends to find out how it can be part of the Philippines path to progress, Dutton said.

The discussions focused on strengthening economic diplomacy between the Philippines and Australia as well as on the APEC 2015 Agenda on building resilient communities and empowering women. The sterling roster of speakers included Paul Hutchcroft, lead governance specialist from the Australian Embassy in the Philippines, Hon. Joey Salceda, governor of Albay, and Ms. Pacita Juan, president of the Womens Business Council of the Philippines.

On economic diplomacy

Australia continues to work with the Philippines by focusing its new aid policy on enhancing foundations for economic growth through infrastructure, building stronger institutions for good governance, and participating in issues on peace and stability.

In his presentation, Hutchcroft illustrated the bilateral relations between the Australia and the Philippines. In terms of trade, Hutchcroft stated there are over 200 Australian companies currently in the Philippines. Australian direct investment, which is mainly in information technology-business process management, mining, and oil and gas exploration, has doubled since 2010. Two-thirds of Australian exports to the Philippines are metal ores and food products. The Philippines, on the other hand, exports services in manufacturing, tourism, and education.

Hutchcroft likewise highlighted the areas where the Philippines needs to improve. Anyone who has worked in the Philippines knows that the country is notorious for underspending. The Philippines also has to resolve issues like providing access to basic resources in rural areas, he commented. He also emphasized the role of knowledge transfer, underscoring how increased information and knowledge exchange can help in these areas, as well as areas like developing small and medium enterprise access to finance, infrastructure, and disaster reduction and risk management.

Dr. Myrnia Austria, professor at De La Salle University, concluded that the main challenge for a country that has experienced significant growth is sustaining that growth and making it more inclusive. Dr. Tapan Sarker, a research fellow at the Griffith Asia Institute, reckoned that the Philippines and Australia are on the right path in choosing to address resources constraint together.

Australia and the Philippines share a strong history in the areas of security, having fought in World War II together. They are also engaged in bilateral exercises over issues like disaster recovery and rescue, defense and coast watch, and the building up of the Philippines institutional capacity together.

Mr. Julio Amador, deputy director-general of the Foreign Service Institute of the Department of Foreign Affairs encouraged both countries to deepen their cooperation level through enhanced consultations and more regular meetings between ministers over these issues.

On disaster risk reduction and resilience

Albay Governor Joey Salceda painted the picture of disaster risk reduction and resilience and climate at a local level.

Salceda explained that Albays priority development agenda is characterized by transformative polices and program, a green economy, and the integration of disaster resilience and risk reduction into the cultural fabric.

Disaster risk reduction in Albay is as ordinary as going to the bathroom, said Salceda, who urged policymakers to prioritize the principle of building better, instead of building back better. Albays policy decision and program planning framework are all based on scientific evidence and rigorous risk assessment.

But beyond the planning aspect, Salceda added, The only chance for reforms to take root is if they trust their government.

All sectors in Albay have been nurtured to work together. Dr. Susanne Becken from GAI explained in her discussion how a well-coordinated inter-sectoral action can help create a more resilient industry in all levels of the community.

In the tourism industry, according to Becken, there are four classic levels where disaster response and risk reduction should be improved to make any disaster policy or program effective. Tourists, businesses, destination countries, and national planning must all reflect an alignment of efforts to be able to fully carry out disaster response, resilience, and recovery.

Collaboration for inclusive growth

In the final session of the forum, Pacita Juan of Womens Business Council of the Philippines, explored different case studies showing how empowerment of women can evidently make economic growth more inclusive. Empowerment must go beyond improving womens access to finance, according to Juan. It is important to teach women in business how to make decisions about their finances.

Juan added that leaving women out of the growth machine is a shame because women lead most startups. These are businesses that start out with very little capital. The challenge lies in enabling them to scale up. Local government units have to be guided in creating a more encouraging business environment, as women face more traditional restrictions that are harder to regulate, such as their reproductive role.

Ms. Luzviminda Villanueva, program manager of the Gender-Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) Project II, says the key aspects in creating a more inclusive business environment are in government policies, and in strengthening the decisionmaking capabilities of women.

Not everyone is into business, and not everyone in business knows what to do to succeed, said Villanueva. What civil society, the government, and the business sector can do is converge and align their policies and programs.

If you wish to access the studies presented during this event, please visit the following link: http://www.pids.gov.ph/seminarsupdate?yr=2015 and mos=August


Author:
Date: October 06, 2015
Source: Asian Journal Online

Some regulations found to hinder investments, economic development
Think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) is pushing for a review of the regulations being implemented by government agencies to ensure that the countrys policies and laws facilitate competition, innovation, productivity, and growth.
Dr. Danilo Israel, PIDS senior research fellow, said some government regulations hinder, instead of facilitate, economic development.
We have a lot of regulations that are difficult to implement. There are also some that impose fees and charges that are too high. Some have too much red tape. Instead of solving a problem, these regulations worsen corruption, he said in Cebuano during a Philippine Information Agency (PIA) forum last week.

Such regulations should be scrapped, and an efficient regulatory management system (RMS) be put in place to enable the Philippines to take advantage of increased trade and investment under an Asean Economic Community by the end of this year, the think tank said.

Regulatory burdens restrain competition, productivity, and innovation, which can snowball into causing a drop in business confidence, neglect of general welfare, build-up of corruption, and, ultimately, loss of public faith in governance, the think tank added.

An efficient RMS should have a regulatory impact assessment, which is currently not required among government regulatory agencies.

The Asian Development Bank, however, is assisting the implementation of a regulatory impact assessment regime in three government agencies, namely, Department of Tourism (DOT), Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), and the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).

The PIA forum last week marked the culmination of the 13th Development Policy Research Month celebration in September, which was spearheaded by the PIDS.

This years theme, Tamang Regulasyon para sa Patuloy na Pag-ahon (Effective regulations for Sustainable Growth), is a call for improving regulatory quality in the country.

There are regulations in the electricity, transport, and water sectors that are not responsive to both economic and social objectives, and business regulations that are detrimental to the investment climate, Israel said.

He said some investors, turned off by the tedious process of putting up a business, decide to skip the Philippines and go to Thailand instead.

They say its easier to set up a business there (Thailand). The costs (of putting up a business) are not too high and processing is faster, Israel said.

Lawyer Zaide Bation, regulatory division chief of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) in Central Visayas, said they have streamlined their processes and simplified their forms.

She said businessmen used to fill 35 items in a form, but now need only to answer 16 items, provide a photocopy of a government-issued identification card and wait for only 15 minutes for their business name applications to be processed.
Applicants can also check online for the requirements and the procedures before going to the DTI 7 office to save on time.
The department has also set up a one-stop shop to facilitate registration of new businesses. Under the one-stop shop are representatives of government agencies like the Social Security System (SSS) and PhilHealth.

Arnel Tancinco, regional director of the Land Transportation Office (LTO 7), said reforms are being implemented at their office. Registration of a newly-purchased vehicle can now be processed within seven days.

He defended some regulations, saying these are needed to teach erring drivers a lesson and discourage them from committing the same mistakes.
We are not really interested in the the revenues but we are hoping that this will deter them from making the same mistakes, Tancinco said in the same forum.//

Author: Melissa Q. Cabahug
Date: October 06, 2015
Source: Cebu Daily News

The Maguindanao Massacre in November 2009 is the extreme example of why a family should not monopolize political power. With control firmly in place from the governorship down to the lowest posts that matter, free elections are an impossibility; with no checks and balances to oversee governance, corruption takes root and flourishes, one hand washing the other.
In his final State of the Nation Address, President Aquino linked his anticorruption drive to this phenomenon, saying: There is something inherently wrong in giving a corrupt family or individual the chance at an indefinite monopoly in public office I believe it is now time to pass the antidynasty bill.
That proposed legislation seeks to limit the political power exerted by political families by prohibiting relatives up to the second degree of consanguinity to hold or run for national and local posts in successive, simultaneous, or overlapping terms. But, alas, Senate President Franklin Drilon has all but given up on it. There was no more time to consider and approve it, he said recently of the measure that has been languishing in Congress for close to 20 years now.
But then again, can the Senate (currently peopled by a pair of siblings and assorted official kin) or the House of Representatives (truly a den of dynasts) be expected to vote for the diminution, let alone the demise, of political dynasties?
A startling, but by no means rare, example of dynastic entitlement is Makati Rep. Abigail Binays declaration that if her brother, the suspended mayor of Makati, would be barred from seeking reelection, she would run in his stead. Meanwhile it has apparently been arranged that the three-term congresswomans husband, who has no political experience to speak of, would run for her soon-to-be-vacated post. The implication being that Makati can only be Binay turf, never mind that her sister is in the Senate and their father, the Vice President, is in the running for the presidency. (Once upon a time their mother warmed the mayors seat while their father waited out the period of prohibition.)
But thats just one of the more visible families in the Philippine political landscape that, according to the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center, is dominated by dynasties. As many as 70 percent of elected officials in the Philippines belong to dynasties, the study said, among them the Ampatuans of Maguindanao who are charged with the murder of 58 people including media workers escorting members of another clan who had dared challenge their stranglehold on power.
Indeed, with powerful families controlling the resources and political capital in their areas, citizens are discouraged, often intimidated, from challenging their rule. Using patronage and bloodline politics, dynasties thwart the best, the brightest and most qualified for public office, and perpetuate themselves in power through the vicious cycle of using their office to siphon government resources through preferential agreements, special concessions and contracts.
Evidence points to a direct association between the presence of political dynasties and higher levels of poverty, argues economist and Inquirer columnist Cielito Habito.
Dynasties also endow their members with the delusion that they are above the law and can ignore even the basic decency expected of public officials. Again, examples of this are legion, with criminal and administrative charges proving to be no obstacle for dynasts to maintain their fiefdom by bequeathing, like a family heirloom, their political posts to assorted kin and in-laws. Think of the Marcoses, Estradas, Revillas
How to begin to break the dynasts lock on political (and therefore economic) power? An antidynasty law will allow more Filipinos to participate in politics and governance, says the Philippine Institute for Development Studies. Greater access by the people regulates political dynasties [and] will further strengthen our democracy and promote inclusiveness, it says.
Voters have to educate themselves on the candidates who presume to be their leaders. Seek out the service records and the platforms of governance. Look beyond the name recall, the burnished images, the photogenic progeny cynically mouthing serbisyo and taumbayan along with fluff. Go for serious debate and substantive platforms, not the old song and dance that traditional politicians are only too happy to provide.
Its time to cut the ties that bind and blind.//


Author:
Date: October 15, 2015
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

INCREASING food production to feed more than 100 million Filipinos has become more challenging due to changing weather patterns, as well as the continuous conversion of farm lands. The Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) said it doesnt help that farmers also have to deal with the inherent disadvantages of the Philippines.
In Photo: Manuel Chase M. Castao III, science research analyst, Be RICEponsible Campaign; Dr. Calixto M. Protacio, executive director, DA- PhilRice; Jaime Manalo, head, Development Communications Division; and Dr. Santiago Obien, special technical assistant to the National Rice Program, during the BM Coffee Club Forum.
As rice is the staple food of Filipinos, farmers are under pressure to expand rice output every year. Paddy-rice output needs to keep pace with population growth, pegged at nearly 2 percent annually.
According to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), the countrys population increased at the rate of 1.9 percent annually, on the average, during the period 2000 to 2010. This means that there were two persons added per year for every 100 persons in the population.
Meanwhile, annual per-capita consumption of rice was pegged by the PSA at 114.27 kilograms. This means that each Filipino consumes about 2.2 kg of rice per week.
Because of the importance of rice to the Filipinos diet, the Philippines has 2.6 million hectares of land devoted to rice. The average farm size is at 1.04 hectares, while harvest area is at 4.7 million hectares.
Dr. Santiago R. Obien, senior technical adviser of the Department of Agricultures (DA) National Rice Program, said farmers adoption of technological innovations would help them become more productive.
One such technology is hybrid-rice seeds, which would allow farmers to grow more rice and consequently earn more. The countrys hybrid-rice varieties, Obien said, are the best outside of China, as yield could average 8 to 10 tons per hectare, and can reach up to 12 tons.
As a farmers yield increases, his cost of production decreases. This would allow farmers to increase their profits, Obien told reporters and editors during a forum, dubbed as the BM Coffee Club, held recently in Makati City.
Economies of scale
PhilRice Executive Director Calixto M. Protacio and Obien both agree that there should be farm areas consolidated and managed by fewer farmers to again make farming a financially appealing and viable venture.In economically advanced countries, Obien said only about 3 percent of the total population are farmers. Korean farmers in 1960 used to make up 53 percent of their population. Now, there are only 16 percent of these farmers, and they are rich.
Obien also noted that the number of farmers in Thailand is also declining, as many of them are being recruited by factories. Some of these farmers ask their neighbors to take care of their farms.
If one farmer has 4 hectares of land and two of his friends who also have 4 hectares each go into other industries and ask him to cultivate their land, that farmer now has 12 hectares to harvest. With bigger land, that farmer can now buy a tractor and a [vehicle]. It just shows that we need less farmers to be rich, Obien said.
For his part, Protacio said there is a need to achieve economies of scale for farmers to make them more productive and competitive. He said farmers with a small land cannot afford to adopt innovations to make farming efficient and increase their output.
Clustering, or land consolidation, is good. You have to establish economies of scale. In a way, the idea is to go back to the concept of landlords. We are looking at this as a rural-transformation idea. We found that to be able to become a millionaire, a farmer has to have at least 20 hectares of land, he said.
In their study, The Size Distribution of Farms and International Productivity Differences published in 2011, Tasso Adamopoulos and Diego Restuccia focused on the differences in average farm sizes among countries. They found that the average farm size for poor countries is 1.6 hectares, while rich countries have an average farm size of 54.1 hectares.
Richer countries have fewer small farms and more large farms than poorer countries. In the poorest countries, over 90 percent of farms are small and almost none of the farms are large; whereas in the richest countries, small farms account for about 30 percent of farms and large farms for nearly 40 percent, the study read.
A recent study by Krishna H. Koirala and Ashok K. Mishra of the Louisiana State University and Samarendy Mohanty of the International Rice Research Institute, titled Impact of Land Ownership on Productivity and Efficiency of Rice Farmers: A Simulated Maximum Likelihood Approach, revealed that a 1-percent increase in farm size could result in an increase in the value of rice production by about 0.4 percent.
CARPs woes
The Philippine government, nonetheless, still has a commitment to grant landless farmers and farm workers ownership of agricultural lands by the end of the Aquino administration. Farm lands are becoming more fragmented into smaller areas as they are being turned over to small farmers.
Republic Act (RA) 6657, or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, was enacted by President Corazon Aquino in 1988, authorizing the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) to undertake the distribution of an estimated 7.8 million hectares of agricultural lands.
The law was aimed to promote social justice and to establish owner cultivatorship of economic-size farms as the basis of Philippine agriculture.
To this end, a more equitable distribution and ownership of land, with due regard to the rights of landowners to just compensation and to the ecological needs of the nation, shall be undertaken to provide farmers and farm workers with the opportunity to enhance their dignity and improve the quality of their lives through greater productivity of agricultural lands, RA 6657 stated.
However, Obien said the government has failed to follow the distribution of land with the provision of farm inputs and machineries. He said the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) of the government has not served as a plan for productivity.
It [CARP] was simply a social-justice system. Thats the problem. It should not have been that way. It should have been a systematic program so that farmers can become more productive, Obien said.
The government, upon the release of the land, should have also provided the farmers with machineries, facilities, inputs and electricity, among others, so that they can be progressive. The Japanese call it land reformation, not land reform. However, nothing was given to our farmers, he added.
Protacio said the initial idea for the CARP was for cooperatives to take over the farmlands and consolidate them into large units. He said, however, that because of the individualistic nature of Filipinos, it did not work.
In 1996 the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) also published a study, titled Issues in Revitalizing the Philippine Sugar Industry. The study revealed that the sugar industry had to contend with declining productivity.
Implementing the land-transfer scheme of CARP had been slow due to the governments administrative and financial constraints. And then there is the strong opposition from the landowners. Nonland-transfer schemes, which include land lease or rental, profit sharing and corporate stock distribution, have proven to be unattractive to landowners, the study read.
Such delay and uncertainties discourage CARP farmer-owners to invest in farm improvements, lower collateral value of agricultural land, and reduce credit flow to agriculture. In the end, low productivity becomes inevitable, it added.
A study published by the International Society for Southeast Asian Agricultural Sciences (ISSAAS), titled Farm Size and Its Effect on the Productive Efficiency of Sugarcane Farms in Central Negros, showed that average optimum land size should be around 41 hectares, which is lower than the optimum size (50 hectares) stated in the report of the Presidential Task Force on the Sugar Industry.
[Big farms] are also the more favored in terms of technology and access to information and extension services. Modernization of farm practices can improve productive efficiency, however, this is difficult to achieve at present due to the limited financial capability of the farmers, the report read.
To boost the productivity of sugarcane farms, the Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) rolled out a program, which sought to consolidate small farms into larger areas while still preserving individual ownership of the land, in 2012.
Block farming is the consolidation of the management of small farms of less than 5 hectares, into a bigger but contiguous unit of at least 30 hectares for purposes of improving farm productivity, while individual ownership is preserved, SRA Administrator Ma. Regina Martin said in a statement.
Data from the SRA showed that about 85 percent of the sugarcane farms in the country have areas of 5 hectares or below. The SRA said this is due to the natural course of land subdivision by inheritance, sale and the CARP.
According to the SRA, sugarcane is a plantation crop and its cost efficiency is best achieved through bigger farm sizes of at least 30 hectares. However, with the implementation of the CARP, farm sizes were fragmented into small land holdings of less than 5 hectares, wherein farm owners could no longer take advantage of economies of scale.
Present land owners also do not have the financial capability to provide farm inputs, which results in low productivity, the SRA said.
Since its implementation in 2012, SRA said the 19 pilot block farms have registered an average increase of 29 percent in farm productivity in crop year 2013 and 2014. Sugar production in the pilot farms in that crop year reached 65.29 tons cane per hectare, as compared to 50.78 tons cane per hectare recorded in 2012.
This increase in productivity translated to an estimated average increase of farmers income by P39,815 per hectare, at 1.96 50-kilogram per tons cane (LKG/TC) and a composite price of P1,400 per LKG-bag of raw sugar.
Aside from consolidating small farms into an aggregate of at least 30 hectares"through agrarian reform beneficiaries organizations"the SRA also offers coached and guided farm management, technical assistance and capacity building for the farmers in a block farm. The DA also provides irrigation systems, farm-to-market roads and farm inputs necessary for the production of sugarcane.
The program has now become one of the main programs under RA 10659, or the Sugar Industry Act of 2015. The SRA said there are 130 block farms that have enrolled for accreditation to date, with a total area of about 7,000 hectares.
Protacio said the SRAs block farming scheme could also be adopted by other sectors.
Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, for his part, said the DA has also put up block farms for the rice sector. He said, however, that it has not been as successful as the program rolled out for sugarcane farmers.
Whats important is we integrate our palay farmers. We have partnered with the DAR in implementing block farming in some areas, Alcala said.
Agrarian-reform communities should have been created long ago. They should have started block farming long ago. Block farms have the advantage because they have all these tools and resources to use so that they can be progressive, Obien said. //


Author: Mary Grace Padin
Date: October 14, 2015
Source: Business Mirror

Given of limited resources and for practical purposes, the Philippine government is inclined to focus on just three out of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by nations around the world, a top economic official said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a press briefing on Friday that the Philippines will be focusing only on three main goals: meeting poverty reduction, improved universal healthcare, and sustainable education.

These are among the 17 sustainable development goals set globally, in a plan that succeeded the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals.

We have to identify specific indicators that are applicable to us in all of these 17 goals, including the 169 targets with 200 to 600 indicators, Balisacan explained.

For the challenging areas, we need to sustain the effort, he said. We should see a connection in the present, and now were moving away from the poverty reduction, generation of decent jobs, universal healthcare, and basic education.

Balisacan, who is also the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general, stressed that a country or state is not required to equally undertake all these data collection and reporting, and therefore, has freedom to choose what goal is applicable to its country.

For our case, because of limited resources and different levels of importance and intensities of problem, we just have to select the ones that are so crucial to our development efforts, Balisacan said. The goal we have is to develop specific targets and indicators associated with (the challenges we are facing), many of these are also our concerns in the MDGs.

In the former 2000-2015 MDGs, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) website show that the Philippines has had positive performance in five goals out of the eight goals under the MDG, while one was neutral and two goals were not met.

The two goals in which the Philippines has lagged are the maternal mortality (health) and education, which received relatively low funding compared to how fast the population is growing, Balisacan said.

He said this is the reason the Philippines is now focusing on healthcare and education, as well as poverty reduction.

The SDGs are the new global development agenda, replacing MDGs that ended in 2015.
The goals are a share vision of how we wanted to see the world to be in 2030, in terms of economic, social, environmental, and governance conditions, according to Jose Ramon Albert, research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

The 17 SDGs are: ending poverty; zero hunger; good health and well being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; conservation of life below waters; conservation of life on land; peace justic and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

The 2000-2015 MDGs, on the other hand, were comprised of: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environment sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

To be able to achieve the priority goals, Balisacan said the Philippines is focusing on crafting the Filipino 2040, which is an initiative indicating how the Filipinos would want to see themselves by 2040.

The long term initiative is expected to be completed next year, which is a series of scenarios collected from surveys, with guidelines on how to achieve these ideal scenarios for the Philippines, Balisacan said.

The NEDA chief said that by 2016, the Filipino 2040 is seen to be used as a guideline by the government to craft its budget appropriations, laws and policy reforms toward 2040.//

Author: Kristyn Nika M. Lazo
Date: October 23, 2015
Source: Manila Times

In Washington last Tuesday, a report on global child labor cited the Philippines for being among several countries that have gained headway in confronting the problem. The US Labor Department report included the Philippines in a list of countries that achieved significant advancement in recent years in reducing child labor.

A drive around Metro Manila, however, will indicate how much remains to be done. Children sell garlands or offer to wipe car windshields in the streets. In the grimy charcoal-making communities in the city of Manila, many of the workers are children. Outside Metro Manila, teenage boys are busy these days making firecrackers for the Yuletide season under hazardous conditions in makeshift factories.

As the US report came out, the government think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies released its findings showing that approximately 36 percent of Filipino children below 18 years old live in abject poverty. PIDS officials reported that the number of poor Filipino children and severity of their impoverishment have been increasing in recent years, with no indication that there would soon be a dramatic reduction. As of 2009, the number of impoverished Filipino children stood at 13.4 million.

Poverty is linked to child labor. In 2011, according to the PIDS study, 5.5 million children were forced to disrupt their education and work to augment the family income. Its not unusual for parents themselves to sell their children for sex.

Although basic education is free, children from impoverished households are often forced to drop out of school at an early age to help in farms or other marginal livelihood activities of their parents such as fishing or selling small items in the market. Teenagers leave rural areas to work as household helpers in cities, with their earnings being used to send siblings to school.

Such situations make it difficult to stop child labor in developing countries. Governments, however, cannot afford to stop trying. The ideal tack is to create employment and livelihood opportunities so that parents do not need to make their children work. Failing in that, the government must do what it can to protect children from labor exploitation.//


Author:
Date: October 12, 2015
Source: Philippine Star

IT IS HIGH TIME for the government to implement higher consumption taxes in a bid to offset foregone revenues as a result of lowering income tax, an official of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) said.
PIDS President Dr. Gilberto M. Llanto told reporters last Friday the government should consider raising excise tax on fuel, while backing a move in Congress to impose an ad valorem tax on soft drinks.

Nows the time to do it, Mr. Llanto said.

Ang importante sa kanya, broad-based. Kasi ang advantage ng consumption tax, walang makakatakas unlike the income tax na people can hide the income, they can reduce the taxable income (The advantage of consumption tax is that its broad-based. No one can hide from it.), he said.

The government must reform the countrys taxation system to ensure relief for the middle class while providing resources that could be used for more cash transfers for the poor, Mr. Llanto said.

Im not against [the] lowering of income tax. What Im saying is we have to look at it from a more holistic point of view. Its not just a case of reforming, increasing personal exemption. You have to look at the whole system of taxation in the country, he said.

While interest rates remain low, Mr. Llanto noted that the level of official development assistance funds, which can be used for programs to support social reforms, have been dwindling given the slowdown in Japan and Europe.

Our only worry is it looks logical [and] maybe its the right policy. It will reduce the tax intake [but] we have these goals so how do you finance them, Mr. Llanto said, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) -- a sequel to the Millennium Development Goals.

This agenda will adopt 17 SDGs with 169 targets, covering economic development, social inclusion and environmental stability. --


Author: Krista Angela M. Montealegre
Date: October 25, 2015
Source: BusinessWorld

IT IS HIGH TIME for the government to implement higher consumption taxes in a bid to offset foregone revenues as a result of lowering income tax, an official of the Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) said.
PIDS President Dr. Gilberto M. Llanto told reporters last Friday the government should consider raising excise tax on fuel, while backing a move in Congress to impose an ad valorem tax on soft drinks.

Nows the time to do it, Mr. Llanto said.

Ang importante sa kanya, broad-based. Kasi ang advantage ng consumption tax, walang makakatakas unlike the income tax na people can hide the income, they can reduce the taxable income (The advantage of consumption tax is that its broad-based. No one can hide from it.), he said.

The government must reform the countrys taxation system to ensure relief for the middle class while providing resources that could be used for more cash transfers for the poor, Mr. Llanto said.

Im not against [the] lowering of income tax. What Im saying is we have to look at it from a more holistic point of view. Its not just a case of reforming, increasing personal exemption. You have to look at the whole system of taxation in the country, he said.

While interest rates remain low, Mr. Llanto noted that the level of official development assistance funds, which can be used for programs to support social reforms, have been dwindling given the slowdown in Japan and Europe.

Our only worry is it looks logical [and] maybe its the right policy. It will reduce the tax intake [but] we have these goals so how do you finance them, Mr. Llanto said, referring to the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) -- a sequel to the Millennium Development Goals.

This agenda will adopt 17 SDGs with 169 targets, covering economic development, social inclusion and environmental stability. --


Author: Krista Angela M. Montealegre
Date: October 25, 2015
Source: BusinessWorld

Last October 5, which was Teachers Day, our thoughts were again focused on the state of education, specifically at the primary level, and on the plight of teachers and children, many of whom are deprived of access to schooling. As many now know, although the country has done quite well in the attainment of at least five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the three most important ones " poverty, maternal mortality, and education " have yet to be realized. A paper by Briones (Philippine Institute of Development Studies, 2014) had drawn a scenario which showed that the goal for education may be attained by2025, maternal health by 2021. However, the goal for poverty will not be achieved by 2025 (Briones, Philippine Institute of Development Studies, 2014).

About 124 million children and young adolescents are still denied a basic education and millions of others are leaving school without acquiring fundamental skills such as reading and mathematics. This is according to a report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics which also noted that the world will need to recruit 25.8 million teachers to provide every child with a primary education by 2030. This total includes the creation of new posts and the replacement of 22.6 million teachers who are expected to leave the profession. In the country, there are only five teachers per 1,000 pupils in primary education. The Philippines is also among the countries that is experiencing a constant turnover of its teachers especially at the basic education level. Low salary, work load and long hours of work, lack of challenge, and personal circumstances are among the reasons why they do not stay long on the job. Among these reasons, it is the low salary (teachers in the United States are paid 7
to 8 times more than local teachers) that forces them to search for better opportunities. In many cases as we know, they end up getting better salaries as domestics in other countries. Another reason given is that teaching leaves the teacher emotionally drained. Some leave because they feel that teaching profession is less attractive than other professions or that they feel they do not have much control over the work environment. Because frequent turnover of teachers is a critical factor in affecting quality of learning, it is important to further understand the factors that motivate teachers to look at the profession as a long-term career. Awards such as the Metrobank Foundations search for the most outstanding teachers, building an environment that is empowering and one that promotes positive relationship with colleagues and the community, which are as important as financial incentives, should help improve teacher retention.//

Author: Florangel Braid
Date: October 21, 2015
Source: Manila Bulletin

State-run Philippine Institute in Development Studies urged the government to consider an increase in the petroleum tax amid weak global oil prices.

PIDS president Gilberto LLanto told reporters over the weekend now is the best time to increase fuel tax.

Ill grant this [lowering of income tax] but lets find a replacement. One replacement [is] fuel tax. Nows the best time to do it. We have no computation [on fuel tax], but that has a big possibility, he said.

Llanto said aside from fuel tax increase, lawmakers should also look into the possibility of a higher value added tax.

[The bigger revenues is the] consumption based [tax], he said.

Llanto said the consumption tax was transparent, unlike the income tax which people could hide and avoid.

Llanto also recommended the adoption of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals.

There was a big discussion about resources that we would need for the SDGs. The public should not be deluded to think that we can have it very easily, with just the right decisions, he said.

He said the country should not look up into the developed countries to finance the sustainable goals.

The situation is different now. There is a big pitch for more responsible and accountable policies in domestic economies, and concretely, including reforming the tax system, he said.

I am not against lowering of income tax, what I am saying is we have to look at it from a more holistic point of view. Its not just a case of reforming, increasing personal exemption. You have to look at the whole system of taxation in the country, he added.

He said the full study on the possible outcome of tax reform in the country would be published within the week.

Llanto cited that some tax reforms pushed by different sectors just benefitted the middle-income tax payers.

Under the proposed tax reform bill proposed by Marikina Rep Miro Quimbo, those earning below P180,000 annually would be exempted from paying taxes while those with income of P180,000 to P500,000 would pay 9 percent.

Individuals whose annual income averages from P500,000 to P10 million would pay 17 percent, while those exceeding the P10-million mark will have to pay 30 percent.

Sen. Sonny Angara, meanwhile proposed a tax exemption for those earning up to P500,000 annually.

The current law imposes a 32 percent tax on those earning P500,000 and higher.

Meanwhile, the Finance department estimated that the government would lose P29 billion in revenues from the lower income tax rates.

Finance proposed an increase in the value added tax from the current 12 percent to P14 percent and reduced exemptions./

Author: Gabrielle H. Binaday
Date: October 25, 2015
Source: The Standard

Somewhere along the way, we took a wrong turn. We neglected our rail system.

Much of the problems concerning traffic, transport costs and pollution arises from taking that wrong turn.

Each day, 6,500 truck trips are taken to move containerized cargo from our ports. That amounts to about two million truck trips through our battered thoroughfares each year. That is one of the main reasons our economy loses more than P2 billion each day to unnecessary fuel consumption and manhours lost.

If our port was connected to a rail line, traffic would be vastly alleviated. But when the Tutuban station was converted into a retail mall, we began digging ourselves deeper into the hole.

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) recently released a paper titled A System-wide Study of the Logistics Industry in the Greater Capital Region. The paper estimates that the Philippine economy lost P43.85 billion from the impact of the seven-month truck ban imposed by the City of Manila.

Of the core Asean-6 economies, the Philippines ranks last in the World Banks 2014 Logistics Performance Index. Here, 98% of passenger traffic and 58% of cargo traffic used our dilapidated road system. The only way we can begin curing those unhealthy ratios is by acting quickly to expand our neglected rail system.

Climate change studies show that CO2 emissions per unit volume of transport of 152 for trucks for business use, 36 for ships and only 21 for rail. The earlier we shift our cargo volume to rail, the more we will be able to reduce our carbon footprint.

Last week, I enviously viewed pictures of scale models of trains to be deployed in Indonesia soon. They resemble bullet trains with sleek aerodynamic coaches, a far cry from our ancient box-type coaches from what is left of the PNR line. Assisted by China, Indonesia has begun building a fast rail system in the populous island of Java. This is part of the ambitious modal shift in the Indonesian transit system. The same system, if it existed here, would deliver passengers from Laoag to Legaspi in two hours.

The other day, I read a report about India building the same fast rail system from the progressive city of Mumbai. The project, this time, is supported by Japanese aid.

The poor logistical network in the Philippines is a major reason why our exports, made uncompetitive by transport costs, have been declining. It is therefore a reason why we are getting a smaller share of direct investments year after year.

It will not be an exaggeration to say we now have a logistics crisis in our hands. Because government appears too slow to realize the problem, much less to begin acting on it, the private sector has stepped in to do the hard task of finding solutions. On Oct. 28, an important forum will be held under the auspices of the ADR Institute on Greater Manila Transport Infrastructure Solution: Thinking Beyond EDSA.

We can no longer rely on the Aquino administration to do the strategic thinking about our logistics problems. Only nine out of the much-vaunted 59 projects in the PPP pipeline have been awarded thus far. Only three of those nine projects have actually begun construction. The other six are mired in all sorts of issues.

This is the main measure of this administrations failure.
Sasa

One major PPP project apparently mishandled by the DOTC (again!) is the modernization of the Sasa port in Davao City.

The Sasa port project is based on faulty assumptions, making the project extremely expensive because it overbuilds beyond what s economically feasible. It is unlikely anyone would bid on the terms set down by the DOTC for the project.

The PPP tender projects an increase in container traffic at the Sasa Port from 633,000 in 2012 to a whopping 3.1 million by 2040. For 2020 alone, the DOTC projects a 27% increase of 300,000 containers. That projection cannot be supported by any trend in any of the industries using this port.

For example, fully 70% of all the containerized cargo passing through Sasa consists of bananas. Thus an annual increase of 300,000 containers implies an increase of 210,000 containers of banana export. To support that growth in banana exports, approximately 20,212 hectares should be added to banana cultivation in just that year alone. That amount of land is already the equivalent of Mindanaos three largest banana companies.

Which begs the question: Who will be eating all those bananas?

The unrealistic DOTC projection of cargo volumes for the Sasa port is used to justify the equally unrealistic project cost of P19 billion. If anyone is suckered into these unrealistic projections, the private investor is bound to lose money. The only way the winning bidder could recoup losses of less-than-projected actual increases in throughput is to increase the cost of port services. If port service charges are increased, this will make our exports uncompetitive and lead to our losing market share.

In addition to unrealistic growth projections, the Region XI Development Council imposed additional conditions on the winning bidder. These conditions include the acquisition of an additional 6.2 hectares of right-of-way; specify which party shoulder Real Property Tax and ensure not only affordable port services but also the proper resettlement of informal settlers around the Sasa port facility.

Despite its inflated project costing, it turns out the DOTC-packaged PPP project has not secured the prior approval of the Davao City Council. This is indispensable to actually breaking ground for the project.

No wonder so many PPP projects are stillborn. Agencies like the DOTC design these projects to fail.//

Author: Alex Magno
Date: October 24, 2015
Source: Philippine Star

Given of limited resources and for practical purposes, the Philippine government is inclined to focus on just three out of 17 sustainable development goals (SDGs) set by nations around the world, a top economic official said.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a press briefing on Friday that the Philippines will be focusing only on three main goals: meeting poverty reduction, improved universal healthcare, and sustainable education.

These are among the 17 sustainable development goals set globally, in a plan that succeeded the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals.

We have to identify specific indicators that are applicable to us in all of these 17 goals, including the 169 targets with 200 to 600 indicators, Balisacan explained.

For the challenging areas, we need to sustain the effort, he said. We should see a connection in the present, and now were moving away from the poverty reduction, generation of decent jobs, universal healthcare, and basic education.

Balisacan, who is also the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director general, stressed that a country or state is not required to equally undertake all these data collection and reporting, and therefore, has freedom to choose what goal is applicable to its country.

For our case, because of limited resources and different levels of importance and intensities of problem, we just have to select the ones that are so crucial to our development efforts, Balisacan said. The goal we have is to develop specific targets and indicators associated with (the challenges we are facing), many of these are also our concerns in the MDGs.

In the former 2000-2015 MDGs, data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) website show that the Philippines has had positive performance in five goals out of the eight goals under the MDG, while one was neutral and two goals were not met.

The two goals in which the Philippines has lagged are the maternal mortality (health) and education, which received relatively low funding compared to how fast the population is growing, Balisacan said.

He said this is the reason the Philippines is now focusing on healthcare and education, as well as poverty reduction.

The SDGs are the new global development agenda, replacing MDGs that ended in 2015.
The goals are a share vision of how we wanted to see the world to be in 2030, in terms of economic, social, environmental, and governance conditions, according to Jose Ramon Albert, research fellow at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies.

The 17 SDGs are: ending poverty; zero hunger; good health and well being; quality education; gender equality; clean water and sanitation; affordable and clean energy; decent work and economic growth; industry, innovation and infrastructure; reduced inequalities; sustainable cities and communities; responsible consumption and production; climate action; conservation of life below waters; conservation of life on land; peace justic and strong institutions; and partnerships for the goals.

The 2000-2015 MDGs, on the other hand, were comprised of: eradicating extreme poverty and hunger; achieve universal primary education; promote gender equality and empower women; reduce child mortality; improve maternal health; combat HIV/AIDS, malaria and other diseases; ensure environment sustainability; and develop a global partnership for development.

To be able to achieve the priority goals, Balisacan said the Philippines is focusing on crafting the Filipino 2040, which is an initiative indicating how the Filipinos would want to see themselves by 2040.

The long term initiative is expected to be completed next year, which is a series of scenarios collected from surveys, with guidelines on how to achieve these ideal scenarios for the Philippines, Balisacan said.

The NEDA chief said that by 2016, the Filipino 2040 is seen to be used as a guideline by the government to craft its budget appropriations, laws and policy reforms toward 2040.//

Author: Kristyn Nika M. Lazo
Date: October 23, 2015
Source: Manila Times

Last October 5, which was Teachers Day, our thoughts were again focused on the state of education, specifically at the primary level, and on the plight of teachers and children, many of whom are deprived of access to schooling. As many now know, although the country has done quite well in the attainment of at least five of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs), the three most important ones " poverty, maternal mortality, and education " have yet to be realized. A paper by Briones (Philippine Institute of Development Studies, 2014) had drawn a scenario which showed that the goal for education may be attained by 2025, maternal health by 2021. However, the goal for poverty will not be achieved by 2025 (Briones, Philippine Institute of Development Studies, 2014).
About 124 million children and young adolescents are still denied a basic education and millions of others are leaving school without acquiring fundamental skills such as reading and mathematics. This is according to a report by the UNESCO Institute for Statistics which also noted that the world will need to recruit 25.8 million teachers to provide every child with a primary education by 2030. This total includes the creation of new posts and the replacement of 22.6 million teachers who are expected to leave the profession. In the country, there are only five teachers per 1,000 pupils in primary education.
The Philippines is also among the countries that is experiencing a constant turnover of its teachers especially at the basic education level. Low salary, work load and long hours of work, lack of challenge, and personal circumstances are among the reasons why they do not stay long on the job. Among these reasons, it is the low salary (teachers in the United States are paid 7 to 8 times more than local teachers) that forces them to search for better opportunities. In many cases as we know, they end up getting better salaries as domestics in other countries. Another reason given is that teaching leaves the teacher emotionally drained. Some leave because they feel that teaching profession is less attractive than other professions or that they feel they do not have much control over the work environment. Because frequent turnover of teachers is a critical factor in affecting quality of learning, it is important to further understand the factors that motivate teachers to look at the profession as a long-term career. Awards such as the Metrobank Foundations search for the most outstanding teachers, building an environment that is empowering and one that promotes positive relationship with colleagues and the community, which are as important as financial incentives, should help improve teacher retention.
My e-mail, florangel.braid@gmail.com


Author: Florangel Braid
Date: October 21, 2015
Source: Manila Bulletin

Crop insurance is key to security.
It is a natural incentive for farmers to continue growing agricultural produce in the face of risks--pest infestation, natural calamitites, and man made-crises, including armed conflict, that could all ruin or diminish harvest.
In short, crop insurance is simply giving peace of mind to the people who till the land and sustain the never-ending cycle of food production.
This virtuous cycle is the nations guarantee of perpetual food sufficiency in step with a booming population which has now reached more than 100 million.
Thus, Sen. Francis Chiz Escudero said the massive destruction caused by typhoon Lando on agriculture underscores the need to increase the coverage of crop insurance in the country.
As of Friday last week, the Department of Agriculture reported that the cost of the damage has already reached P6.4 billion, covering thousands of hectares of farmlands in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Central Luzon regions.
Escudero said the impact of the typhoon suggests a big loss not just for the agriculture sector, but more so to farmers who rely heavily on farming for their livelihood.
While he urged the Department of Budget and Management to hasten the release of a supplemental budget, Escudero wanted to see a long-term program that will address crop losses by getting farmers insurance coverage from the state-owned Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation.

Helping our farmers get an insurance coverage for their crops will not only save government funds, but more importantly, give farmers a sense of security amid the threat of climate change, he said.

As an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture, PCICs principal mandate is to provide insurance protection to farmers against losses arising from natural calamities, plant diseases and pest infestations of their palay and corn crops, as well as other crops.

In 2014, PCIC reported a 24.3-percent increase in the number of enrollees in the governments crop insurance program, registering 924,343 enrollees in 2014, from 743,589 in 2013.

The PCIC said that rice, corn and high-value crop farmers covered by its insurance program expanded in size to 778,375 hectares, or 53.82 percent higher compared to the 2013 data. On the other hand, insured livestock rose six-fold to 500,568 last year.

Seventy percent of farmers and fishermen who were given insurance protection last year were granted free coverage under various government programs such as the provision of insurance to those listed in the Department of Budget and Managements Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture, PCIC said.

However, a study released by government think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies in January this year found the lack of awareness on PCICs programs in some parts of the country particularly in Cagayan, Negros Occidental, and Davao del Norte.

For 2016, P1.6 billion has been appropriated for the full insurance premiums of subsistence farmers and fisherfolk to cover crop, livestock, fisheries or non-crop agricultural asset.

Thus, Escudero called on the DA to intensify the information campaign on PCICs program to educate farmers on the importance of investing on crop insurance.

The DA should collaborate with local government units not only in educating farmers on the packages offered by the PCIC but also in exploring schemes where a portion of the insurance premium could be shouldered by the local government, Escudero said.//

Author:
Date: October 26, 2015
Source: Journal Online

A Philippine-Japan Workshop series recently focused on the topic Inclusive Finance: from Discussions to Actions. The workshop tackled the problem of the slowdown in growth since the global financial crisis and inclusive growth as a parallel problem, with income inequality likely increasing more in Asia than elsewhere.
Financial integration is necessary to help build financial inclusion, but the challenge lies in regulatory differences hindering progress in Asia.

SMEs are critical because they have strong significant contributions in jobs, exports and GDP, but access to finance is a key constraint, especially for informal SMEs.

A study for the ADB Institute by Ganeshan Wignaraja and Yothin Jinjarak (2015) reviewed the relationship between firm characteristics and borrowing from commercial banks by SMEs in China and selected Southeast Asian economic, including the Philippines. The ADBI study relied heavily on data from the IMF Financial Access Survey as well as from a firm-level World Bank Enterprise Survey (WBES).

In its descriptive review of statistics on outstanding SME loans from commercial banks as a percentage of GDP, the authors noted the absence of relevant data for the Philippines (and Vietnam). The lack of information is significant as it precludes making a thorough evidence-based analysis. Luckily, there are inputs for the WBES as WB-hired surveyors ostensibly gathered them.

The study likewise cited an IFC Enterprise Finance Group database, which reported a total SME credit gap in the Philippines of only $2.0 billion, as compared to $11.8 billion in Thailand, $11.8 billion in Indonesia, $8.0 billion in Malaysia and $4.3 billion in Vietnam. As an SME finance practitioner in the Philippines, this writer finds the estimate way too low given various other studies of Philippine Institute for Development Studies, Department of Trade and Industry and the Philippine Exporters Confederation.

Messrs. Wignaraja and Jinjarak aimed to answer four issues concerning firm characteristics and borrowing: (1) What is the relative importance of internal vs. external finance for SMEs? (2) What sources of external finance matter more for SMEs? (3) What is the link between SME characteristics and bank borrowing? (4) What is the role of collateral in bank borrowing by SMEs?

The study findings are summarized as follows:

1. Credit Type - SMEs use more internal finance and are less likely to have lines of bank credit and trade credit; younger firms use more internal finance and are less likely to have lines of credit; export-oriented firms use less internal finance and are more likely to have lines of credit and trade credit; foreign-owned firms tend to use more credit; firms with more experienced managers tend to use more internal finance; firms with financial audit tend to have lines of credit; and firms with ISO certification tend to use more internal finance.
The results are consistent with data on the sources of finance for investment projects of SMEs in developing Asia.

2. Lender Type - The results suggest that SMEs are less likely to borrow from private commercial banks and state-owned banks, but more likely to borrow from others (excluding microfinance and cooperatives). Firms with more experienced managers tend to borrow from private commercial banks, state-owned banks, and microfinance and cooperatives, whereas firms with less experienced managers tend to borrow from other sources.

3. Collateral Type - Results suggest that SMEs are less likely than larger firms to use property and equipment and account receivables as collateral, while foreign-owned firms tend to use other types of collateral. Older firms, export-oriented firms, foreign-owned firms, firms with less-experienced managers, and financially audited firms tend to have higher collateral/loan value ratios.

4. The economic significance supports the findings that SME status has a large, negative relationship with bank borrowing and line of credit availability.

Having financial audits also help firms in accessing finance, as the audit improves financial education and transparency, which increase the credibility of firms in view of potential creditors. In addition, export participation and firm age are consistently driving both bank borrowing and line of credit availability. As firms grow older, they become (or are perceived as) stable, making bank borrowing and line of credit more accessible.

Studies like this should be a rich source of input on policy intervention necessary to propel growth of small business in the country.

Recently, we read a lot of discussion by Philippine government leaders pushing for support to SMEs in APEC. But is our government doing enough by way of putting the necessary resources to measures in support of SMEs? Clearly, the lower level of capital market development aggravates financial access for SMEs in the Philippines.

This country has SME-oriented development financial institutions, but they are grossly undercapitalized. We have a bigger problem of asymmetric information between SMEs and lenders, with our undeveloped credit information institutions.

The ADBI paper has some initiatives worth considering. In the United Kingdom, the government intervenes with long-term guarantee and credit schemes for new loans, as well as support commercially-managed venture capital funds for providing equity finance. There is cross-country evidence suggesting that governments can support funding of new enterprise through credit guarantee schemes. Japan has developed hometown investment trust funds and better credit risk databases for SMEs.

This authors prayer is that government leaders will see the wisdom in substantially investing in the sector, even by way of some subsidy support. Because the problem of SME access to finance is a failure of free market mechanisms, which call for, a more pronounced affirmative action.//

BENEL D. LAGUA is EVP and Chief Development Officer at DBP. He is an active Finex member and a prime advocate of risk based lending for SMEs. Feedback and comments are welcome at benellagua@alutvmni.ksg.harvard.edu

Author: Benel D. Lagua
Date: October 29, 2015
Source: BusinessWorld

POOR postharvest facilities could cost farmers in at least four provinces some P286.96-million income losses, according to a study released by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (Pids).
In the policy note titled, How effective are our postharvest facilities?, PIDS consultants Nerlita M. Manalili, Kevin F. Yaptenco and Alessandro A. Manilay said these losses were prevented by the rice processing centers (RPCs).
In 2009 the Korean International Cooperation Agency (Koica) gave a grant worth P649 million to establish four RPCs equipped with modern milling and drying equipment.
The RPCs also helped increase farmers income by offering higher buying prices, thereby serving as an incentive to farmers to patronize the facility, the paper read.
The RPCs were in Pangasinan, Davao del Sur, Iloilo and Bohol. The RPCs aimed to increase farmers income through the production of good-quality milled rice and the reduction of postharvest losses.
Data obtained from the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization and the International Rice Research Institute showed that the bulk of the losses worth P166.57 million would have come from rice mills.
Other losses from dryers and poor drying facilities amounted to P82.88 million and P37.53 million, respectively.
Apart from avoiding these losses, the PIDS consultants said the RPCs increased the average buying price for wet paddy compared to the buying price offered by private traders and millers. This was especially the case during the wet season with rice farmers benefiting from price margins of P0.79 to P1.11 per kilogram. The total gain in farmers income due to higher buying prices reached P13.9 million.
The RPCs also provided a safety net for farmers during periods of oversupply [wet season harvest], when private traders do not accept wet paddy or offer very low buying prices. The hindrances were found to be related mainly to project implementation in addition to the lack of working capital, the paper read.
To maximize the benefits from the RPCs, the paper said the government must increase the operating capital of these facilities by P40 to P80 million.
This will allow the RPCs to accommodate increased volume of paddy rice and additional cargo trucks of mixed sizes to pick up harvested paddy and deliver milled rice.
However, the authors said additional investment on these RPCs from the Department of Agriculture (DA) must be subjected to performance evaluation of each facility.
Each facility must produce good-quality milled rice products, healthy financial standing, and have a positive impact on rice farmers.
This can be considered as a second phase of the Koica project to ensure the sustainability of each RPC, the policy note stated.
The evaluation was conducted over a six-month period from October 2014 to March 2015. From the four RPC sites, other facilities funded by other programs of the DA that were within reasonable distance of an RPC.
Food terminals, flatbed dryers and rice threshers were included in the study. Site visits to three municipal food terminals, seven barangay food terminals, three flatbed dryers and threshers were conducted.
The RPCs are one of the ways by which farmers aim to increase their incomes since studies estimated that postharvest losses can reach about 40 percent to 45 percent for cereals, seafood, fruit and vegetables, roots and tubers.
In the country, studies estimated that postharvest facilities can result in losses of 15 percent for rice and 13 percent to 29 percent for major fruits and vegetables.//

Author:
Date: October 30, 2015
Source: Business Mirror

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) favors the lowering of income tax, but points out forecast losses should be replaced by consumption taxes.

PIDS, the government think tank, is a line agency of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

PIDS president Gilberto M. Llanto said the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) requires additional financing which still have to be identified.

Llanto strongly suggests that government can look at consumption taxes to replace the P29-billion losses from reducing income taxes.

He zeroed in on fuel and softdrinks as among the taxable commodities that may replace lost tax revenues, saying these are broad-based and consumption-based.

I am not against lowering of income tax, we have to look at it from a more holistic point of view. It is not just a case of reforming, increasing personal exemption. We have to look at the whole system of taxation in the country, the PIDS chief said.

In the case of funding for the 17 SDGs, Llanto said raising funds from existing budgets must be replaced. Funds removed from the Conditional Cash Transfer (CCT) could work against the poorer segment of society but benefits the middle-income segment.

One right decision is really to focus on how we can replace resources that will finance the SDG. And the big pitch is for more responsible and accountable policies in domestic economies, and concretely, including reforming the tax system, Llanto said the sidelines of a forum co-sponsored by the United Nations Development Program and NEDA.

Meanwhile, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said the Philippines cannot risk losing fiscal sustainability and credit rating by doing piecemeal revenue reducing legislation.

We urge Congress to approach fiscal reform from a holistic standpoint with the goal of making the structure more buoyant, equitable, progressive and competitive, Purisima said.

Marikina Rep. Romero Miro Quimbo said government records have shown 60 percent of professionals and 70 percent of entrepreneurs do not pay their tax dues, unlike fixed-income earners who comprise the tax base of the government.

Records revealed that out of the 23-million earning individuals, only 5.6 million of them pay taxes. The rest are either exempted because they are minimum wage earners or they do not pay taxes at all.

Those receiving salary every 15th and 30th of the month are the ones with 100 percent compliance, but then again, those with minimum wage who are exempted from paying also belong here. As such, only 18 percent of the working population are paying taxes, he added.

Author: Ted P. Torres
Date: October 26, 2015
Source: Philippine Star

SANTA ROSA, Nueva Ecija, Philippines " Philippine rice farmer Francisco Santo Domingos life is in ruins after losing yet another gamble with nature, but the typhoon that destroyed his crops means gleeful loan sharks have again hit the jackpot.

Like thousands of other farmers, Santo Domingo will be forced to go back to the shadow bankers who dominate the nations agricultural economy and take on even more debt at exorbitant interest rates.

My life is an endless cycle of borrowing money to plug more money that I owe, a disconsolate Santo Domingo, 37, told AFP as he looked over crops that were just a week away from harvest but ruined by Typhoon Lando.

This storm will mean we will go hungry for a very long time. We bet everything on this harvest.

The storm brought floods as high as three meters to one of the

Philippines most important rice growing regions, fertile central plains on the main island of Luzon.
Headlines ( Article MRec ), pagematch: 1, sectionmatch: 1

Santo Domingo took out a P60,000 loan " a massive amount for any small-time farmer in the Philippines " just a few months ago to buy rice seeds, fertilizers and equipment.

With zero savings or collateral to offer banks for a loan, Santo Domingo said he had no choice but to seek out a village loan shark and agree to terms of 25-percent interest per month.

If the typhoon had not come, the father-of-three had planned to sell his rice quickly enough to pay off most of the loan, while earnings from other crops would have helped manage the rest of the debt.

Now, he faces going back to a loan shark to try and finance another rice crop.

The loan sharks only have to deal with delayed payments, they will get their money. But us farmers are condemned to die in debt, Santo Domingo said.

According to the central bank, 604 of the countrys 1,600 cities and towns do not have a bank, denying many residents access to formal credit.

It is in these remote and rural environments that backyard credit operations thrive, with scandalous interest rates sometimes reaching up to 20 percent a day, analysts said.

In Santa Rosa, one loan shark admitted to AFP there were seven of them operating in a single government building.

We expect the farmers to come to us for more loans after this typhoon. We are just helping them, the lender, a 43-year-old accounting clerk, told AFP.

Five percent of all Filipino adults owe money to informal lenders, Central Bank governor Amando Tetangco told AFP, adding authorities were trying to encourage banks to lend to the poor.

Many of the farmers who bite the bullet with loan sharks will never recover from debt, according to financial planner Salve Duplito, a celebrity personal finance coach.

The more they get into these schemes, the harder it will be for them to lift themselves out of this debt quicksand, she told AFP.
Crop insurance

Vice President Jejomar Binay has urged the government to revisit the crop insurance program after Typhoon Lando destroyed ricefields in Luzon.

Binay made the appeal after visiting the rice-producing provinces of Nueva Ecija and Isabela that were severely affected by the storm last week.

Lets revisit the crop insurance. I learned that they ask a lot of requirements from our farmers but offer only a small amount, which I think is P2,000 more or less, Binay said.

Created in 1978, the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) is mandated to provide insurance protection to agricultural producers in the country against losses of crops and non-crop agricultural assets due to natural calamities, pests and diseases, and other perils.

The Vice President said he would provide hybrid seeds to the affected farmers.

Aside from the relief goods we distributed to affected families, I also promised to give our farmers hybrid seeds, which are more expensive than ordinary seeds, he said.

In a recent study, state-owned think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said the covered amount of crop insurance extended by the PCIC must be increased.

PIDS said around 97.5 percent of rice-insurance policies of borrowing clients under the regular program have insurance cover less than the average production cost per hectare, which is roughly P40,000 based on the estimate of the Philippine Statistics Authority.

Lando hovered over northern and central Luzon for days, dumping rain and inundating several provinces. At least 47 people died.

Various areas have been placed under a state of calamity, including the provinces of Isabela, Aurora, Pangasinan, Cagayan, Nueva Ecija, Quirino and Nueva Vizcaya.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council said the agriculture sector was hardest hit by Lando, with farmers in the affected regions losing P8.6 billion worth of crops and P1.2 billion worth of infrastructure.

Hardest hit were the agricultural provinces of Nueva Ecija, Aurora, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Ilocos and Pampanga where rice fields and a number of communities were flooded.

Department of Education (DepEd) Region 1 Director Alma Ruby Torio said a partial report indicated that damage to local schools reached P62,405,000.

Torio said a report from Disaster Risk Reduction Management regional coordinator Jose Ritchie Perez showed that schools in the western part of Pangasinan bore the brunt of the typhoon as floods submerged houses and schools.

Torio said the DepEd central office had provided assistance.

The Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) will celebrate its 81st anniversary by assisting Typhoon Lando victims through hospitalization assistance in areas hit by the storm.

PCSO general manager Jose Ferdinand Rojas II said the PCSO board of directors approved to subsidize the bills of patients directly affected by national emergencies and calamities who are being treated at government hospitals and healthcare facilities. PCSO will shoulder the bills of those confined or treated in public hospitals as a direct result of the effects of Lando.

PCSOs Charity and Branch Operations sectors, particularly the Northern and Central Luzon departments, are closely monitoring the situation in Aurora province and surrounding areas, he said.

This calamity assistance policy is applied during natural disasters and national emergencies.

Rojas said this is in line with the agencys charter, Republic Act No. 1169, which mandates that PCSO provide assistance to charities of national character.

Author: Helen Flores, Perseus Echeminada, Eva Visperas
Date: October 26, 2015
Source: Philippine Star

Sen. Francis "Chiz" Escudero said the massive destruction caused by typhoon "Lando" on agriculture underscores the need to increase the coverage of crop insurance in the country.

As of Friday, the Department of Agriculture (DA) reported that the cost of the damage has already reached P6.4 billion, covering thousands of hectares of farmlands in the Ilocos, Cagayan Valley, Cordillera and Central Luzon regions.

Escudero said the impact of the typhoon suggests a big loss not just for the agriculture sector, but more so to farmers who rely heavily on farming for their livelihoods.

While he urged the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to hasten the release of a supplemental budget, Escudero wanted to see a long-term program that will address crop losses by getting farmers insurance coverage from the state-owned Philippine Crop Insurance Corporation (PCIC).

"Helping our farmers get an insurance coverage for their crops will not only save government funds, but more importantly, give farmers a sense of security amid the threat of climate change," Escudero said.

As an attached agency of the Department of Agriculture (DA), PCIC's principal mandate is "to provide insurance protection to farmers against losses arising from natural calamities, plant diseases and pest infestations of their palay and corn crops, as well as other crops."

In 2014, PCIC reported a 24.3-percent increase in the number of enrollees in the government's crop insurance program, registering 924,343 enrollees in 2014, from 743,589 in 2013.

The PCIC said that rice, corn and high-value crop farmers covered by its insurance program expanded in size to 778,375 hectares, or 53.82 percent higher compared to the 2013 data. On the other hand, insured livestock rose six-fold to 500,568 last year.

"Seventy percent of farmers and fishermen who were given insurance protection last year were granted free coverage under various government programs such as the provision of insurance to those listed in the Department of Budget and Management's Registry System for Basic Sectors in Agriculture," PCIC said.

However, a study released by government think-tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) in January this year found the lack of awareness on PCIC's programs in some parts of the country particularly in Cagayan, Negros Occidental, and Davao del Norte.

For 2016, P1.6 billion has been appropriated for the full insurance premiums of subsistence farmers and fisherfolk to cover crop, livestock, fisheries or non-crop agricultural asset.

Thus, Escudero called on the DA to intensify the information campaign on PCIC's program to educate farmers on the importance of investing on crop insurance.

"The DA should collaborate with local government units not only in educating farmers on the packages offered by the PCIC but also in exploring schemes where a portion of the insurance premium could be shouldered by the local government," Escudero said.

Through a partial field validation, the agriculture department said the cost of damage to agriculture in areas affected by Lando has risen to P6.4 billion with the rice subsector sustaining the most damage.

It estimated that the country has already incurred a combined production loss of more than 411,000 metric tons (MT), majority of which came from rice, corn and high value crops.

Of the total, palay accounts for the largest production loss at about 384,000 MT, equivalent to P5.7 billion.//

Author: Chiz Escuadero
Date: October 26, 2015
Source: Senate Press Releases

FOR STATE-RUN Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), it is high time to jack up the taxes slapped on consumption in order to bring down income tax rates.

Although [the proposal is] not popular, nows the time to raise the excise tax on fuel and the tax on soft drinks. The additional taxes should be consumption-based, PIDS president Gilberto M. Llanto told reporters last week, citing a soon-to-be-released study on the impact of the pending bills in Congress aimed at slashing income taxes.

Llanto noted that while some unscrupulous taxpayers might be able to evade income tax payments, everyone would pay the taxes on consumption, including the value-added tax (VAT).

The PIDS official pointed out that reducing income tax rates would entail new revenue sources as the country still needed to fund expenditures for infrastructure development and poverty-reduction initiatives.

The Department of Finance (DOF) had estimated the foregone revenues from income tax bracketing to reach P30 billion a year.

The DOF has been proposing a comprehensive tax reform package, which was being pitched to legislators as early as late last year, aimed at easing the burden of income taxpayers while also slapping new or higher taxes on consumption.

To ensure that foregone revenues would be compensated for in case legislation aimed at bringing down income tax rates progress, part of the DOFs comprehensive tax reform package proposal include raising excise taxes on oil and vehicles as well as expanding the VAT to 14 percent from 12 percent at present.

One of the four objectives of the proposed comprehensive tax reform package was to enhance the administrative capacity of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) to collect taxes.

To do so, the DOF was proposing the enhancement of measures against base erosion and profit-sharing by repealing the bank secrecy law for taxation purposes and the inclusion of tax evasion as a predicate crime to money laundering, as well as providing for automatic exchange of information.

DOF estimates showed that only 400,000 of the 1.8 million self-employed in the country pay the correct taxes. Self-employed individuals should have paid at least P300 billion in taxes each year, but the BIR could only collect P15 billion.

Also proposed by the DOF were enhancements of compliance provisions and strengthening of enforcement measures by increasing fines and penalties; mandatory use of the tax identification number or TIN in transacting with the government; exempting the BIR and the BOC from the Salary Standardization Law, and allowing the two biggest tax-collection agencies to retain a certain percentage of their collections as budget for modernization.//



Author: Ben O. de Vera
Date: October 26, 2015
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Conclusion

TO prop up the countrys rice self-sufficiency level, the Aquino administration has rolled out its Food Staple Sufficiency Program (FSSP) in 2010. The program called for huge budgets to fund strategies for increasing the food supply in the country.

However, the drought caused by El Nio is making it more difficult for the Philippines to achieve its rice self-sufficiency goal.

The expected damage to be caused by El Nio has forced the Philippines to start buying this year its rice requirements for 2016. Last month the National Food Authority (NFA) purchased 750,000 metric tons (MT) of rice via a government-to-government procurement scheme. The volume includes the 500,000 MT of imported rice needed by the Philippines next year in preparation for El Nio.

More than El Nio, however, experts said the Philippine government will have to find better ways to achieve its self-sufficiency target in the next five years in light of the countrys growing population.

Dr. Suthad Setboonsarng, member of International Rice Research Institute (Irri) Board of Trustees, said in his presentation before the Asean Rice Future Forum in Vietnam that the 10.6 million increase in the countrys population in five years could force the Philippines to import more rice.

Global Rice Science Partnership Director of the Irri Bas Bouman said providing incentives for Filipino farmers to adopt best-management practices, land consolidation and strengthening the value chain in the Philippines can help the country increase its farm productivity.

For Bayer CropScience Asia-Pacific Region Head Sascha Israel, public-private partnerships (PPPs) also play a vital role in not only ensuring increased farm income, but food security, as well.

He emphasized that it will be difficult to provide a set of solutions to the challenges in the farming sector, if only one entity, such as the government or a private company, will focus on addressing these problems.

If we [the government, private corporations and farming communities] assemble a set of tools and deploy them effectively to a large farm base, then we can get the maximum impact. It is our [Bayer CropScience] objective to align with the government and develop more PPPs so a lot can be achieved, Israel said at the sidelines of the Asean Rice Future Forum in Vietnam.

Setboonsarng, for his part, said the government should allow the private sector to deliver the food- security objective, as government focuses on policy -making and assessment.

[The government] should give the task of food security to the private sector. Dont do it yourself; make them [private sector] responsible for it, Setboonsarng said.

As an example, he said rice traders in Singapore are mandated to allot 3 percent of their stocks for emergency purposes.

The Philippines, for its part, is rolling out the High Yield Technology Project, a PPP which aims for the provision and utilization of high-quality rice seeds with yield-enhancing inputs to raise farm-level productivity.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary for Field Operations and National Coordinator of the Rice and Corn Program Edilberto de Luna said, during his presentation in the Asean Rice Future Forum, four private seeds companies are targeting to reach 570,000 to 715,000 hectares of land planted with hybrid rice in the next two years.

These companies have already committed to plant as much as 715,000 hectares of land planted with hybrid rice. That is their target for the next two years, de Luna said.

Another example of a partnership among the public, private and other sectors, but on a global scale, is the Sustainable Rice Platform (SRP), which was established a few years ago. Bouman said the SRP is a multistakeholder global alliance among 29 institutions, representing governments, private sector, non-governmental organizations and the international research community.

Early this year, he said members of the SRP came up with a global sustainability standard, which is aimed at strengthening and connecting the rice- value chain.

About 46 requirements in eight sustainability dimensions"labor rights, health and safety, harvest and post-harvest, farm management, preplanting, water use, nutrient management and pest management"were released by the SRP.

We came up with 46 requirements. This is what came out of a global-scale platform. But 46 is still far too many. You cant present smallholder farmers or small groups of farmers with 46 complex requirements. But were going in the right direction, Bouman said.

Bouman added that different stakeholders from the SRP are testing and verifying the standards in their own backyard to see if they can be operationalized in farms.

Rolando Dy, executive director of the Center for Food and Agri Business of the University of Asia and the Pacific, told the BusinessMirror in an e-mail that the country will not be able to reach its rice self-sufficiency target in 2015 due to El Nio and Typhoon Lando. El Nio will also hinder the self-sufficiency goals in 2016, he said.

Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) Roehlano Briones agreed that achieving rice self-sufficiency on the short run looks bleak due to the poor projections on rice production owing to El Nio.

However, Briones emphasized that the reason the Philippines cannot be self-sufficient in rice is the huge gap between the price of rice in the domestic and world markets. He said the high price of rice in the domestic market is due to the high cost of production in the Philippines, as compared to the rice-exporting countries.

He said last year, the consumers in the Philippines were tolerating a cost of rice at P38 to P40 per kilo, double the price in the world market at P20 to P22.

Even then we were still importing, even at a relatively low level. Now we are relaxing that somewhat for 2015 because we are anticipating even more production shortfalls [due to El Nio]. We know that if we continue to fail to import that domestic price is going to continue to spiral up, Briones said.

We can always achieve self-sufficiency, but at what cost? At what cost is the Philippines insisting on being able to produce all of its domestic consumption? Literally, if we are willing to accept P80 per kilo of rice, sure, we can be self-sufficient. But that would be pushing it to extremes. If we want a domestic price which is not seriously misaligned with the world price, then no, we are not going to be self-sufficient, he added.

Briones said the huge gap in the domestic and world prices of rice has also become an incentive for smuggling and an opportunity foregone for poor people to benefit from cheaper rice.

By keeping out the foreign rice, its basically a policy of expensive rice, he said.

In view of the increasing population in the Philippines in five years, which Briones estimates to be about 9.3 million higher, he said the country will need approximately another 1.6 million tons of palay to feed the additional number of people.

But then again, this is falling into the usual trap of matching quantities with quantities. This is exactly what underlies the current self-sufficiency targeting. We are completely oblivious to the difference in prices between domestic and world market, he said.

According to Briones, it is also likely that the Philippines will not be able to close the gap in the prices.

Anything we can do, they can do better. Theyre also not at a standstill. Theyre also applying investments, technological innovations, and so on and so forth. By the time we catch up with them, they already ran ahead, he said.

The countrys geography also puts it at a competitive disadvantage, Briones said. The Philippines, being an archipelago with limited land areas and water resources is at a disadvantage as compared to other rice-exporting countries, such as Vietnam and Thailand, which have large mainland areas and river basins.

Dy, for his part, said the country should focus more on income sufficiency rather than food self-sufficiency.

He said food security has three aspects: affordability, availability and food quality.

Based on the Global Food Security Index 2015 released by the Economist Intelligence Unit, the Philippines currently ranks 72, with an overall score of 49.4, in terms of food security. It is ranked 73rd in affordability, 66th in availability and 68th in food quality.

There are 25.8 million poor in 2014, out of 100 million. They cant buy sufficient food due to low incomes. Even if there is sufficient food supply, they are not affordable to many poor. So if the poor have better incomes, they can afford to pay for food, local or imported, Dy said.

He added that of the 25.8 million poor Filipinos in 2014, 20 million are in the rural areas, where the main source of livelihood is agriculture and fishing. Dy said increasing their farm productivity will increase their income and enhance their buying power for food.//

Author: Mary Grace Padin
Date: October 26, 2015
Source: Business Mirror

Lawmakers appealed to the national government to provide loans and other forms of assistance to farmers devastated by Typhoon Lando (international code name Koppu).

Sen. Juan Edgardo M. Angara said theres an urgent need to help farmers who are now caught in a debt trap following the onslaught of Lando in their areas. Angara said farmers must also be protected from informal lenders.

Lando, dubbed the most destructive typhoon to hit the country this year, caused damage to agriculture and infrastructure amounting to P9.8 billion, with damage to agricultural crops and livestock reaching P8.6 billion, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.

Small farmers in badly affected rice-growing regions were reportedly left with little choice but to resort to loan sharks to recover and try to finance another rice crop but with exorbitant interest rates of up to 25 percent per month, or in some cases, up to 20 percent per day, Angara added.

He said the lack of access to formal credit facilities and excessive interest rates charged by predatory lenders are some of the lingering problems in the agricultural sector.

A study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies showed that despite the proliferation of government-directed credit programs and the significant amount of government funds spent for these programs, the poor farmers or the supposed target beneficiaries still do not have access to credit and are still dependent to informal lenders.

Small farmers who get caught in debt trap take on more and more debt at high interest rates just to minimize the losses suffered from the devastating effects of natural calamities like Typhoon Lando, Angara said.

Sen. Francis Escudero, for his part, urged the government to immediately provide assistance to farmers and fishermen affected by the typhoon.

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said four regions that were badly hit by the typhoon have
incurred a production loss of 389,000 metric tons (MT) of paddy rice. Central Luzon, the countrys rice granary, suffered the biggest production loss for rice at 326,000 MT.

The devastation not only threatens the livelihood of farmers, but also food security, Escudero said.

Meanwhile, the DA said it has given the provincial local governments of Benguet and Mountain Province a total of P18 million in assistance. The two provinces were badly hit by the typhoon.

Agriculture Secretary Proceso J. Alcala said the DA is extending its assistance to the typhoon-stricken provinces in the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR) to help the farmers cope and recover from production losses brought by the typhoon.

These assistance"consisting of certified rice seeds, various vegetable seeds and livestock animals, among others"will help [the affected farmers] restart their agricultural ventures and improve on their production, Alcala said in a statement.

Alcala added that the DA regional office in CAR will soon start assessing damages and other requirements of the agriculture sector in the highlands as part of the nationwide campaign of the government for rural development.

The secretary also recently visited the P656-million Benguet Agri-Pinoy Trading Center (BAPTC), which is nearing its completion.

According to Alcala, the trading center is the biggest and most modern facility of its kind. The project is implemented as a partnership among the DA, the Benguet State University and the provincial government of Benguet.

The DA said the market will serve as an alternative outlet for vegetable farmers who can now directly sell their produce at fair and rationalized prices, ensuring reasonable returns to all farmer-producers.

Once fully operational, the BAPTC is set to provide a market venue for farmers to directly sell their products to traders while eliminating the layer of middlemen resulting to higher gains for the food producers themselves, the DA said.//

Author: Recto Mercene and Mary Grace Padin
Date: October 30, 2015
Source: Business Mirror

POOR postharvest facilities could cost farmers in at least four provinces some P286.96-million income losses, according to a study released by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (Pids).
In the policy note titled, How effective are our postharvest facilities?, PIDS consultants Nerlita M. Manalili, Kevin F. Yaptenco and Alessandro A. Manilay said these losses were prevented by the rice processing centers (RPCs).
In 2009 the Korean International Cooperation Agency (Koica) gave a grant worth P649 million to establish four RPCs equipped with modern milling and drying equipment.
The RPCs also helped increase farmers income by offering higher buying prices, thereby serving as an incentive to farmers to patronize the facility, the paper read.
The RPCs were in Pangasinan, Davao del Sur, Iloilo and Bohol. The RPCs aimed to increase farmers income through the production of good-quality milled rice and the reduction of postharvest losses.
Data obtained from the Philippine Center for Postharvest Development and Mechanization and the International Rice Research Institute showed that the bulk of the losses worth P166.57 million would have come from rice mills.
Other losses from dryers and poor drying facilities amounted to P82.88 million and P37.53 million, respectively.
Apart from avoiding these losses, the PIDS consultants said the RPCs increased the average buying price for wet paddy compared to the buying price offered by private traders and millers. This was especially the case during the wet season with rice farmers benefiting from price margins of P0.79 to P1.11 per kilogram. The total gain in farmers income due to higher buying prices reached P13.9 million.
The RPCs also provided a safety net for farmers during periods of oversupply [wet season harvest], when private traders do not accept wet paddy or offer very low buying prices. The hindrances were found to be related mainly to project implementation in addition to the lack of working capital, the paper read.
To maximize the benefits from the RPCs, the paper said the government must increase the operating capital of these facilities by P40 to P80 million.
This will allow the RPCs to accommodate increased volume of paddy rice and additional cargo trucks of mixed sizes to pick up harvested paddy and deliver milled rice.
However, the authors said additional investment on these RPCs from the Department of Agriculture (DA) must be subjected to performance evaluation of each facility.
Each facility must produce good-quality milled rice products, healthy financial standing, and have a positive impact on rice farmers.
This can be considered as a second phase of the Koica project to ensure the sustainability of each RPC, the policy note stated.
The evaluation was conducted over a six-month period from October 2014 to March 2015. From the four RPC sites, other facilities funded by other programs of the DA that were within reasonable distance of an RPC.
Food terminals, flatbed dryers and rice threshers were included in the study. Site visits to three municipal food terminals, seven barangay food terminals, three flatbed dryers and threshers were conducted.
The RPCs are one of the ways by which farmers aim to increase their incomes since studies estimated that postharvest losses can reach about 40 percent to 45 percent for cereals, seafood, fruit and vegetables, roots and tubers.
In the country, studies estimated that postharvest facilities can result in losses of 15 percent for rice and 13 percent to 29 percent for major fruits and vegetables.//

Author:
Date: October 30, 2015
Source: Business Mirror

THE Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) said on Thursday it has set aside P732 million as risk or insurance cover for farmers affected by Typhoon Lando (international code name Koppu).
PCIC President Jovy C. Bernabe told reporters at a briefing the agencys rapid assessment in seven regions and 34 provinces showed that about 98,600 hectares of insured farms owned and operated by 110,000 farmers were damaged by the typhoon.
Bernabe said the total indemnity payment required to compensate losses incurred by the farmers was estimated at P732 million.
About 110,000 farmers from the rice, corn and high-value crops sector will benefit from this crop insurance. But 98 percent of the indemnity will go to rice, Bernabe said.
Based on the same PCIC report, the rice sector bore the brunt of the damage affecting 89,786 farmers tilling 77,165 hectares sustaining estimated loss of P513 million.
The high-value crops sector followed, with 17,793 farmers and 16,863 hectares reporting estimated losses of over P116 million. Corn came in third, with 391 farmers and over 415 hectares affected and total estimated damage of P1.64 million.
The report said Region 2 topped the list in terms of estimated loss reaching nearly P385.68 million, followed by Region 1 at P126.40 million. Estimated losses in Region 4A was at P81.11 million; Region 2 at P66.65 million; Region 4B at P37.80 million; and Cordillera Administrative Region at P14.59 million.
PCIC Business Development and Marketing Department Manager Rodelia A. Pagaddu said each farmer will receive between P10,000 and P15,000 per hectare, depending on the severity of damage.
Bernabe also estimated each farmer should receive an average of P6,700, except in Nueva Ecija where each farmer were to receive an average of P20,000.
The average insurance for each farmer in Nueva Ecija reached P20,000 because their crops are almost totally damaged after being submerged in floodwaters, he said.
According to Bernabe, farmers listed at the Philippine Statistics Authoritys Registry System on Basic Sectors in Agriculture (RSBSA) will get free crop insurance. He said farmers listed in the registry are poor small-scale tillers.
Other farmers not registered in RSBSA may also avail themselves of the insurance but must pay subsidized premium, he said.
Bernabe said farmers who want to avail themselves of the insurance must submit a notice of failure to the PCIC.
Crop insurance had been identified as a key climate change-adaptation measure by the Department of Agriculture which also exercises supervision over the PCIC.
The PCIC said from less than half-a-million covered farmers some three years ago, it has expanded the number of insured farmers to 917,814 by end of last year and plans to increase further its coverage beyond the 1-million mark this year.
Bernabe added the PCICs budget increased to P1.6 billion in 2016 from P113 million six years ago.
The Samahang Industriya ng Agrikultura earlier urged the government to increase the budget for crop insurance tenfold to P16 billion from P1.6 billion to protect all farmers against losses brought about by natural calamities.
Pagaddu said, quoting a Philippine Institute for Development Studies report, the total appropriation needed to provide insurance cover for poor farmers under the RSBSA ranges from P8 billion to 10 billion.//

Author: Mary Grace Padin
Date: October 30, 2015
Source: Business World

The Senate should help look for ways to protect farmers rendered vulnerable by calamities from predatory informal lenders, to ensure they would not fall into a debt trap that would further worsen their situation, according to Sen. Sonny Angara.
Angara filed a resolution seeking an inquiry on the plight of farmers affected by typhoons who fall prey to shadow bankers that charge high interest rates for loans.
He also urged the government and financial institutions to lay down measures to make them less vulnerable to loan sharks.
He made the call after typhoon Lando wiped out fields of crops, causing P9.8 billion worth of damage to agriculture and to infrastructure. It is the most destructive typhoon to hit the country this year.
He noted that after the typhoon damaged crops that were nearly ready for harvest, many land tillers had to resort to loan sharks to try to recover their means of livelihood. They were charged exorbitant interest rates of up to 25 percent per month, or 20 percent per day in some instances.
The lack of access to formal credit facilities and excessive interest rates charged by predatory lenders are some of the lingering problems in the agricultural sector, he said.
The paradox of our time is that these farmers who produce food often go hungry. They support our country through agricultural production while seemingly little support goes to them especially in terms of available and accessible credit facilities. Something has to be done. We should not let our farmers be trapped in debt until death, he added.
He noted that the Department of Agriculture, through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council. has an existing credit facility" the Agriculture and Fisheries Financing Program" for 40,000 farmers and fisherfolk from the poorest provinces.
The Land Bank of the Philippines also has the Agricultural Credit Support Project, which provides credit and non-credit support to agriculture and agri-related projects that need additional capital.
However, many poor farmers do not benefit from these programs for various reasons, including lack of collateral or non-awareness of the processes, said Angara.
Notwithstanding existing government facilities for low-cost credit to small farmers, many of them do not take advantage of these credit facilities due to various reasons which include lack of collateral to secure loans, and lack of awareness or familiarity with the processes and requirements needed, he said.
He also cited a study by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies showing that despite the existence of government directed credit programs, the poor farmers and other targeted beneficiaries still fail to get access to credit and turn to informal lenders.
With an increasing population and limited agricultural land resources compounded by climate change, the small farmers continue to be vital stakeholders in our countrys development and pursuit for food security. There is an urgent need to address this debt trap that plague the Filipino farmers who remain one of the poorest in the country, he said. AU

Author: Leila B. Salaverria
Date: October 30, 2015
Source: Philippine Daily Inquirer

Senator Sonny Angara has filed a resolution urging the proper Senate committee to look into the plight of farmers who suffered from Typhoon Lando and are now caught in "debt trap" from "shadow bankers," and to reexamine existing policies that can protect vulnerable farmers from informal lenders.
Typhoon Lando, dubbed the most destructive typhoon to hit the country this year, caused damage to agriculture and infrastructure amounting to P9.8 billion, with damage to agricultural crops and livestock reaching P8.6 billion, according to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council.
Small farmers in badly affected rice-growing regions were reportedly left with little choice but to resort to loan sharks to recover and try to finance another rice crop but with exorbitant interest rates of up to 25 percent per month or in some cases, up to 20 percent per day.
"The lack of access to formal credit facilities and excessive interest rates charged by predatory lenders are some of the lingering problems in the agricultural sector. Small farmers who get caught in debt trap take on more and more debt at high interest rates just to minimize the losses suffered from the devastating effects of natural calamities like Typhoon Lando," said Angara, former congressman of the Lone Province of Aurora, where Lando made landfall last week.
The senator noted in Senate Resolution No. 1626 that the Department of Agriculture, through the Agricultural Credit Policy Council, has an existing credit facility known as the Agriculture and Fisheries Financing Program for some 40,000 needy farmers and fishermen in the country's poorest provinces.
Likewise, the Land Bank of the Philippines has credit facilities for farmers called the Agricultural Credit Support Project, which provides credit and non-credit support to agriculture and agri-related projects that need additional capital to increase production or expand operations.
Land Bank's loans to small farmers and fishers increased by 13 percent from P51.6 billion in 2013 to P58.4 billion in 2014, benefitting 793 farmer and fishers cooperatives, 206 countryside financial institutions and 226 irrigators' associations.
"Notwithstanding existing government facilities for low-cost credit to small farmers, many of them do not take advantage of these credit facilities due to various reasons which include lack of collateral to secure loans, and lack of awareness or familiarity with the processes and requirements needed," Angara said.
Furthermore, a study conducted by the Philippine Institute for Development Studies showed that despite the proliferation of government directed credit programs and the significant amount of government funds spent for these programs, the poor farmers or the supposed target beneficiaries still do not have access to credit and are still dependent to informal lenders.
"With an increasing population and limited agricultural land resources compounded by climate change, the small farmers continue to be vital stakeholders in our country's development and pursuit for food security. There is an urgent need to address this debt trap that plague the Filipino farmers who remain one of the poorest in the country," the lawmaker said.
Angara urged the government and financial institutions to step in and extend help to level the playing field for the small farmers and make them less vulnerable to informal lenders.
"The paradox of our time is that these farmers who produce food often go hungry. They support our country through agricultural production while seemingly little support goes to them especially in terms of available and accessible credit facilities. Something has to be done. We should not let our farmers be trapped in debt until death," he added.//

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Date: October 30, 2015
Source: Senate Press Releases