politics

MVP for 2016 VP

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MANNY V. Pangilinan has repeatedly said he is not running for President in 2016. But he could be running for Vice President, instead. That is, if Vice President Jejomar Binay got his way.

Speaking to reporters, the former mayor of Makati City confirmed he is considering MVP as his running mate in the 2016 polls—and with good reason.

Considered as one of the most influential men in the country today, MVP is the perfect running mate for any presidential aspirant since he is at the helm of corporations and industries crucial to the Philippine economy: Philippine Long Distance Company, infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp., Manila Electric Company, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp., Maynilad Water Services Inc., gold producer Philex Mining and the biggest local power player Manila Electric Company. And with vast holdings in media, health services and various other industries, MVP already wields enough power and financial resources to propel his chosen political allies into the halls of power come 2016.

But MVP is not the only person in Binay’s list of potential bets for VP. Last month he was mouthing off the name of another MP—that of Saragani Representative and boxing legend Manny Pacquiao—as running mate. Another potential mate for Binay is Ate Vi, Batangas Governor Vilma Santos Recto. But like MVP, Vilma has also repeatedly stated that she has no plans of seeking higher office in 2016.

With 2016 just around the bend, the Liberal Party is said to have already begun to raise funds for the campaign kitty of its next presidential standard bearer be it Mar Roxas or Kris Aquino. The LP, too, would benefit immensely having a man of MVP’s stature in its corner.

Let’s put ourselves in MVP’s shoes for a minute. Would it be wise to associate with any single political party in 2016? We think it’s not. And MVP knows it very well that for the sake of his business empire it is best to remain neutral and to stay out of politics.

“There is no political blood that runs through my veins,” MVP said back in October. “I believe I can serve our people better some other way,” he said.

Business and politics do not make good bedfellows. By staying neutral, MVP can play all sides of the fence and emerge a winner regardless of the outcome of the 2016 polls.  All he has to do is to spread his bet—put money on the ruling party, on the opposition and the long shots, too. This way, MVP’s business empire is guaranteed to survive and thrive beyond 2016.

(Mis)Taxes For Sari-Sari Stores

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“A bad beginning makes a bad ending” ~ Euripedes

Laoag City – The slow and tedious, not to mention expensive, processes of registering a business and compliance with tax requirements with the Bureau of Internal Revenue make Teresita* question her decision to open a sari-sari store to augment her husband’s, a tenant farmer, income. For the privilege of operating a sari-sari store, she has to issue official receipts and deal with the BIR every month, for percentage tax** among others.

“Issue an official receipt for every sale even if the buyer didn’t ask for it, but if the sale is below P25 and the buyer didn’t ask for one, then you don’t have to issue a receipt,” the BIR officer emphasized during the tax  briefing at the Revenue District Office No. 1 in Laoag City. “If you don’t issue a receipt, you will be fined P10,000! If your customer asked for a receipt and you didn’t give him, that’s a fine of P20,000!” she warned.

“Everything is very confusing,” Teresita told her seatmate at the briefing. “To travel to the city every month to pay taxes, I will spend an additional P184 for public transportation expense,” she added.

Additional transportation expense is not the only additional costs Teresita has to think of is she wants to open a sari-sari store. Not only will she need to pay 3% of her monthly sales to BIR, but she also have to pay for the cost of printing official receipts. For a farmer and a housewife, just the additional P184 in monthly transportation expense is a lot.

Isn’t there an injustice in this tax requirement for sari-sari stores? Is it really fair to ask them to issue official receipts? Is it fair that sari-sari store owners, who are mostly marginal earners, be burdened with monthly tax compliance? Is it fair that people who barely earn enough to buy for their necessities are burdened with additional costs in exchange for the privilege of owning a sari-sari store?

When asked why this so much tax compliance burden for sari-sari stores, the same BIR officer said that the official receipts will help BIR determine if sari-sari stores are truly earning marginally. She added that it is not enough for sari-sari store owners to declare they are marginal earners, but they have to show BIR receipts that they only sold so much.

I understand the country, through the BIR, needs to increase its tax collections so it can improve basic services to the country, but ensuring that all sari-sari stores report their actual sales and requiring them to pay taxes on these sales every month too much of a burden? The combined annual sales of all sari-sari stores in the country couldn’t possibly equal the one year sales of PLDT which, as of 2013, was P 164.1 billions. So isn’t BIR efforts more aptly rewarded if it focuses its efforts in policing the country’s biggest corporations and ensuring that they pay the right taxes?

The cost of ensuring that every single sari-sari store comply with this rule and the additional benefit, increase in tax collections, are clearly not commensurate. Isn’t there a better, less onerous way for the government to collect taxes from sari-sari stores? With the combined brilliance of the people at BIR, I am sure they can think of something.

The tax rules governing tricycle and jeepney drivers and operators are an example of this brilliance. I don’t know how it is in the other parts of the country, but in the boondocks I call home, our neighborhood tricycle driver earns more than the nearest sari-sari store. Why not require sari-sari stores to pay a fixed amount of taxes every quarter? If Teresita is required to pay P750, which is equivalent to a total sales of P25,000, a quarter in taxes, this would still be preferable to spending almost P600 every quarter in transportation expenses for monthly tax compliance.

What is it with sari-sari stores that they are dealt with differently? Could it be that requiring sari-sari stores to issue official receipt with the threat of thousands of pesos in fines if they don’t is a sign of a wider epidemic? Is this the beginning of the slow death of common sense in BIR?

What will be the next result of this slow death of common sense? Maybe, ask the fish vendor at the wet market to issue official receipts, too?

*Not her real name

**Percentage tax is a computed as 3% of total sales and is paid monthly to the BIR

Liza M. Gaspar is a wealth coach and personal finance enthusiast. She also volunteers for the Rotary Club of Makati McKinley (rcmmckinley.org) and the Gerry Roxas Leadership Awardees (grlawardees.org). Engage her in a discussion about anything you fancy at http://www.thegirlninja.com, liza@thegirlninja.com or www.facebook.com/annalizagaspar

 

 

Setting New Sails On Rp-China Relations

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This is in the spirit of “Welcome” to the new Chinese Ambassador Zhao Jianua. I’ll highlight the significant elements from the excellent 4,862 word article written by the Chinese Embassy in Manila’s spokesperson and deputy chief of the Political Section, Mr. Zhang Hwa, in response to the Philippine’s filing of its “memorial” to the Arbitral Tribunal.

China’s Position

The Chinese Embassy spokesman’s paper made ten essential points:

1) The Philippines’ push for international arbitration undermined China-Philippines relations as it disregards China’s position;

2) China does not accept the arbitration because “direct negotiations is the most common and preferred way to resolve such disputes… “ and China has successfully solved the boundary issues with 12 of its land neighbors…. 20,000 kms. Of boundary… In 2000, China and Vietnam equitably delineated the maritime boundary in the Beibu Gulf and …. signed the Agreement on Fishery Cooperation….China sees no reason to abandon such successful practices….” Refusal of arbitration is a right under international law which many invoke, denying China this right is “double standard”;

3) China wishes disputes to be settled through bilateral negotiations … “Forcing the arbitration is not conducive to the settlement … “;

4) China’s Basic Position on the South China Sea issue… “the Chinese side has always adhered to resolving relevant disputes with sovereign states directly concerned…. through consultations and negotiations. … and conforms to the consensus that China and ASEAN countries reached in the DOC (Declaration of Conduct)… “;

5) On “The Nature of China-Philippines Disputes… China…. was the first to discover, name, develop and operate on the Nansha Islands….exercised… sovereign jurisdiction….Philippines’ territory was determined by a series of international treaties,… (that) state that the border line of… .the Philippines is 118° East in longitude.… Nansha … and the Huangyan… do not lie within…”

Distance Is Not Relevant

“Some people believe that these islands and reefs are closer to the Philippines, and therefore they belong to the Philippines. This has no basis in international law. Geographical proximity has never been a criterion that determines the ownership of territory. Many countries in the world possess territories far away from their mainland or closer to other countries. .…” 6) Focuses on previous “Consensus” reached in agreements between China and the Philippines … the Joint Statement-PRC-RP Consultations on the South China Sea …. in August 1995 …. The Joint Statement between China and the Philippines on the Framework of Bilateral Cooperation… in May 2000… In 2002, China and the ASEAN… signed the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties…. (DOC),… adhering to negotiations as the mode and not arbitration.

Territories Lost In R.P. Maps

The 7th, on the Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) issue, the paper states “The Philippines once clearly stated that the island is not within its territory. First, a series of international treaties defining the domain of the Philippine territory provide that the Huangyan Island is outside the territory of the Philippines. The then Philippine ambassador to Germany explicitly stated in 1990 in his letter to German radio amateurs that the Huangyan Island is not within the territory of the Philippines. The documents issued in 1994 by the Philippine National Mapping and Resources Authority …. all confirmed …. The Philippine official map issued in 2011 also marked the Huangyan Island outside the Philippine territorial border limits.”

The 8th point on “The Issue of Ren’ai Reef (Second Thomas Shoal)” recalls the commitments of previous Philippine government administrations to “tow away” the stranded Philippine navy derelict there. But the DFA, China states, “on March 14 openly stated the vessel ‘grounded’ 15 years ago was actually meant to occupy the reef, which proves that the Philippine side has been lying for 15 years….The sitting Philippine government was not the one 15 years ago, but as a country, the Philippines is obliged to honor its commitment. A public denial …. will make it lose credibility to the international community.” The 9th point, “Freedom and Safety of Navigation”, states that the “…South China Sea is the main sealane for China’s trade and transportation .… actions taken by China in safeguarding its sovereignty and maritime interests …. do not affect other countries’ freedom of navigation and overflight….”

South China Sea Peace

The paper ends with a Commitment of China to “a South China Sea of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation”, highlighting a measure it proposes to the harmonious climate over the shared waters: China setting up US $ 500-Million maritime cooperation fund to promote maritime cooperation, science, navigation, safety, connectivity, and combating transnational crime; and establishment of a maritime emergency hotline. It concludes: “So long as all parties earnestly implement relevant consensus, adhere to consultations and negotiations, promote practical maritime cooperation and joint development, the South China Sea will become a sea of peace, friendship and cooperation. “

The winds of change in the China-Philippines relations seem to be rallying on change not only in theory but in reality. The surest sign of this was revealed in the April 2 AIM forum “Understanding 21st Century China: All Under Heaven?” sponsored by such big-named institutions as Asia Society, Harvard Kennedy School Alumni Association of the Philippines, Tufts Fletcher School Alumni Association-Philippines, the hangers-on Ramos Peace and Development Foundation Inc. (where did FVR get the money?), and Former Senior Government Officials (hangers-on to hangers-on-governments dragged along by Uncle Sam). Three speakers highlighted the forum: Prof. Marwyn Samuels of Syracuse University ; Dr. Liping Zheng of the Asian Development Bank; and Chito Sta. Romana , the fountainhead of wisdom on China for Filipinos.

Puzzled Patriots

Public reactions at the forum were emailed to us by Internet journalist Jerry Quibilan: from Alex to Jerry : “I noticed something very different from the forum today compared to the forum of anti-China activist Raffy Alunan, Roilo Golez and President Ramos also at the AIM in December … They got ex-commodores and ex-commanders of the US 7th Fleet to tell us Filipinos we have to prepare for war with China and shed our blood …We got videos on recycled airplanes and ships to buy for the coming war with China… videos on the Korean war where 10,000 Filipinos allegedly killed 40,000 Chinese. Today President Ramos laughed at the Philippines’ decision to buy 12 new jet planes …. That shook me up. My impression is that Raffy Alunan and President Ramos have noticeably lost their belligerence … They were as nice to China as apple pie. Both said Filipinos should try to understand China and restore normal relations soonest. I am quite puzzled to say the least.”

I suggested an answer to Puzzled Alex: The P20-billion deal to buy the used FA-50 from South Korea has already been signed and sealed; and so the syndicate can now relax the propaganda scare-mongering. Then came this quip from one reactor in the forum, Wilson Lee Flores: “We were colonized four times–the Spanish, the British, the Americans, and the Japanese … Filipinos were killed and …. plundered. On the other hand, what have the Chinese done in over a thousand years here? They just traded and gave us siopao, siomai, mami, and lomi.”

(Tune in to “Sulo ng Pilipino” on 1098 AM, dwAD, Tuesday to Friday, 5 p.m.; catch GNN’s Talk News TV with HTL on Destiny Cable Channel 8, SkyCable Channel 213, and http://www.gnntv-asia.com, Saturday, 8:00 p.m. and replay Sunday, 8 a.m., this week on “Meralco siphoning capital out of the country” with Butch Junia and “Consumer protection groups: Unite!”; visit http://newsulongpilipino.blogspot.com; text your reactions to 0917-8658664)

Lawmaker Wants Driver, PUV Info Posted

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A LAWMAKER wants commuters to have access to information about the driver and the operator of the public-utility vehicle they are riding on, to “enhance their safety and protection.”

Based on House Bill 3767, which was filed by Rep. Lorna Velasco (AMA party list), laminated display cards bearing information about the driver, the operator and the vehicle must be posted conspicuously inside all PUVs. The information should also be “visible and readable to all passengers thereof.”

“The information will certainly empower the passengers and ease the process of reporting abuses and crimes committed against them by erring public-transport operators and/or the latter’s agents,” said Velasco. “It is a lamentable fact that, in some cases, the driver himself/herself is involved in the commission of these crimes. Also, a number of PUVs are being used as instruments to commit unlawful acts on a daily basis.”

According to the bill, the laminated display card shall include the complete name and the contact number of the driver, the driver’s picture, his or her license number and its date of expiration, and the complete name and contact number of the PUV’s operator or owner.
The display card shall also bear the PUV’s plate number, body number (whenever applicable), certificate of public convenience license number, authorized route as reflected in the PUV’s certificate of public convenience, and theLand Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board hotline or contact number.
If the bill is passed into law, its violators will be penalized and fined with “not more than P20,000 for the first offense and not more than P50,000 and suspension of the PUV’s franchise and driver’s license for the second offense.”

Japan Commits PHP3.041 Billion For Aid Projects

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Japanese Ambassador Toshinao Urabe and Secretary of Foreign Affairs Alberto F. Del Rosario exchanged notes for three (3) Grant Aid Projects amounting to 6.917 billion yen (approximately 3.041 billion pesos) on March 20/24, 2014 at the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines.

The signed projects focus on rehabilitation and improvement in the fields of infrastructure and communications.

Programme for Rehabilitation and Recovery from Typhoon Yolanda

In the summit meeting with President Aquino last December, Japanese Prime Minister Abe stated that Japan would continue to extend support in the recovery and reconstruction phase. This project amounting to 4.6 billion yen (approximately 2.02 billion pesos) will provide Japan’s reliable disaster-resilient technology and urban planning in the rehabilitation of public infrastructure in Leyte and Samar in order to further the recovery of the people and communities severely affected by Typhoon Yolanda. Through this programme, Japan helps the Philippines to build a resilient society against natural disasters and achieve sustainable growth.

Project for Enhancement of Communications Systems

This project amounting to 1.152 billion yen (approximately 506.5 million pesos) will provide the installation of the VSAT Communication System and the INMARSAT Communication System in the headquarters of the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and its district offices and vessels as well as the establishment of the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) in Cebu’s Mactan Channel. This project aims to improve the communications capabilities of the PCG and enhance the safety, search and rescue activities in the Philippines.

Project for Improvement of Water Supply System in Metropolitan Cebu Water District (MCWD)

This project amounting to 1.165 billion yen (approximately 512.2 million pesos) will involve the installation of flow meters, pressure meters, and water quality sensors that will be monitored using the Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition system (SCADA). SCADA will ensure the efficient and effective water supply management of the MCWD within Metropolitan Cebu.

Owing to the disasters of last year and the relentless efforts of the Government of the Philippines to propel the Philippines toward progress, the Government of Japan sincerely extends its support to a friend in need. Japan believes that these projects will signify its unflagging commitment to the “Strategic Partnership” between the two countries and continue to strengthen the friendship between the peoples of Japan and the Philippines.

DTI Welcomes Indian biz Mission to PH

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The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) recently received an Indian business mission to the Philippines that intends to explore potential business opportunities, and possibly locate and expand their operations in the country.

During the mission member’s courtesy call, Domingo noted the resurgence of the manufacturing sector in the Philippines, and the growth of capital formation in the gross domestic product (GDP) by 18 percent.

The mission was organized through the Philippine Trade and Investment Center (PTIC) in New Delhi and the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FICCI).

Domingo also noted that this mission is his second meeting with the FICCI. The first was during the First India-ASEAN Business Fair and Business Conclave in New Delhi, India in March 2011.

The FICCI is the oldest and largest top business organization in India. The history of FICCI is interwoven in India’s struggle for independence, industrialization, and emergence as one of the rapidly growing economies.

The FICCI has members from India’s corporate sector, including multi-national corporation (MNC), and enjoys an indirect membership of over 250,000 companies from various regional chambers of commerce.

“India is a huge market. The distribution is excellent and you just have to find the right partner,” said Kapil Rampal, deputy head of the delegation and director of the Ivory Education Pvt. Ltd., during the DTI business forum on doing business in the Philippines.

Rampal also mentioned investment interests in pharmaceuticals, bio and thermal energy (From Rampal’s presentation), motorcycles and auto parts, mining, infrastructure, and space and defense related industry.

Rampal added that the possibilities are more than enough, and suggested to look at possibilities of collaboration and be competitive at the global level.

During the business forum, Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP) Director Senen M. Perlada said that both countries can do so much, and noted that Philippine exports to India only accounted for 0.54 percent of Philippine total exports in 2013.

Total trade between the two countries grew by 8.7 percent, export by 8.6 percent, and import by 4.8 percent from 2008 to 2012, according to BETP data.

Perlada also mentioned possible products for promotion in India such as motor vehicle parts, electronic components, sanitary articles of paper (i.e. diaper, toilet paper), personal care products, high-end furniture, and garments.

Likewise, Board of Investments’ (BOI) International Marketing Department Director Angie M. Cayas mentioned the following sectors for promotion to India:  public–private partnership (PPP) projects, information technology and business process management (IT-BPM), tourism related investments, and other areas of investments such as the Special Investor’s Resident Visa (SIRV) and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act of 2000, particularly categories B and D.

In an interview, PTIC in New Delhi Commercial Attaché John Paul B. Iñigo said that the delegation is happy, and anticipates another group coming to the Philippines in the next six months.

The 14-member business delegation is composed of companies from sectors such as agriculture, hotel, hospitality, education, infrastructure, airport, food products and textile.

At present, the following Indian companies have presence in the Philippines: Aditya Birla Minacs Philippines Inc., Hinduja Global Solutions Limited, L&T Infotech, Biostadt India, Lupin Ltd., State Bank of India, The New india Assurance Co. Ltd., Wipro BPO Phils. Ltd., Infosys BPO Ltd., Zydus Cadila, Claris Lifesciences Ltd, Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys Technologies, Wipro, Cognizant, HCL Technologies, Genpact Intelenet Global Services, Tech Mahindra, Aegis Ltd. (People Support), WNS Global Services, Syntel Inc., Apatech Ltd., Headstrong, Interglobe Technologies, Virtusa, and Tata Motors.

Boon or Bane?

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Editorial

The Philippines is not ready for the Initiative for ASEAN Integration (IAI) in 2015. The Initiative for ASEAN Integration refers to reducing various forms of disparities among and within member States where some pockets of underdevelopment persist, which could narrow the development gap in the region.

With the integration, people would be allowed to purchase, sell products and services, work and invest in any of the member countries of the ASEAN with lesser restrictions unlike strict protectionism. This would be enjoyed by all ASEAN member countries.

But according to Asian Development Bank, the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) will likely not be attained by 2015. Although various reasons were cited for the continued difficulties of attaining the AEC targets, what stands out is the unawareness of the private sector.

Since 2010 when this integration was first hatched, the Philippine government failed to prepare for it. In trade relations alone, where products are supposed to be exported to a less-restricted environment, the recipient chooses which products to accept or to reject.   Naturally the more superior product in terms of quality and price are allowed into the member country. How can we export cheaper products when the cost of production is high? Electricity and labor costs, which are factors to production, are high.

Also, promoting greater mobility of skilled workers and better regulation and management of unskilled labor movements are to be addressed. In the Philippines, unemployment and underemployment are pervasive. Skills do not commensurate with job requirements. Can we compete with our ASEAN neighbors in the labor market?

What about our infrastructure?

There are so many things that we have to prepare for in order to be competitive. If we are not competitive, what benefit can the Initiative for ASEAN Integration do for us? Nada.

 

All’s Well That Ends Well

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By Dong Maraya

Recently a Filipino citizen living in Manila has laid claim—as sultan of Sulu—to the Malaysian state of Sabah on Borneo. Jamalul Kiram III’s claim is based on a token rent which Malaysia pays the royal house of Sulu for the use of Sabah. Calling themselves the Royal Army of Sulu, the clan members said they were descendants of the Sultanate of Sulu in the southern Philippines, which ruled parts of northern Borneo for centuries.

The February 2013 invasion by more than 200 Filipinos seemed to take both the Philippines and Malaysia by surprise. At least 60 have been killed in the ongoing conflict. The Malaysian government has been forced to take the worsening situation seriously, and launched an offensive on March 5, which included fighter jet air support.

However, the Sabah intrusion did not damage ties between Malaysia and the Philippines. Nevertheless, both sides should increase their mutual engagement in the business, economic and cultural spheres. The Philippines is maintaining close ties with Malaysia despite the siege.

“There has been no strain with our relationship in Malaysia. We recognize that this was an attempt by a few that should not affect the relationship of the whole,” a Philippine government official said in a news briefing.

Malaysia is a federal constitutional monarchy in Asia. It consists of thirteen states and three federal territories and has a total landmass of 329,847 square kilometers (127,350 sq mi) separated by the South China Sea into two similarly sized regions, Peninsular Malaysia and Malaysian Borneo. Land borders are shared with Thailand, Indonesia, and Brunei, and maritime borders exist with Singapore, Vietnam, and the Philippines. The capital city is Kuala Lumpur, while Putrajaya is the seat of the federal government. In 2010 the population was 28.33 million, with 22.6 million living on the Peninsula.

The independent state of Malaysia came into existence on Sept. 16, 1963, as a federation of Malaya, Singapore, Sabah (North Borneo), and Sarawak. In 1965, Singapore withdrew from the federation to become a separate nation. Since 1966, the 11 states of former Malaya have been known as West Malaysia, and Sabah and Sarawak as East Malaysia.

The country is multi-ethnic and multi-cultural, which plays a large role in politics. The government system is closely modeled on the Westminster parliamentary system and the legal system is based on common law. The head of state is the king, known as the Yang di-Pertuan Agong. He is an elected monarch chosen from the hereditary rulers of the nine Malay states every five years. The head of government is the Prime Minister.

By the late 1960s, Malaysia was torn by rioting directed against Chinese and Indians, who controlled a disproportionate share of the country’s wealth. Beginning in 1968, it was the government’s goal to achieve greater economic balance through a national economic policy.

Since its independence, Malaysia has had one of the best economic records in Asia, with GDP growing an average 6.5% for almost 50 years. The economy has traditionally been fueled by its natural resources, but is expanding in the sectors of science, tourism, commerce and medical tourism. Today, Malaysia has a newly industrializedmarket economy, ranked third largest in Southeast Asia and 29th largest in the world.

Malaysia’s foreign policy is officially based on the principle of neutrality and maintaining peaceful relations with all countries, regardless of their political system. The government attaches a high priority to the security and stability of Southeast Asia, and seeks to further develop relations with other countries in the region.

Malaysia is a relatively open state-oriented and newly industrializedmarket economy. The state plays a significant but declining role in guiding economic activity through macroeconomic plans. In the 1970s, the predominantly mining and agricultural-based economy began a transition towards a more multi-sector economy.

International trade and manufacturing are the key sectors. Malaysia is an exporter of natural and agricultural resources, and petroleum is a major export. Malaysia has once been the largest producer of tin, rubber and palm oil in the world.

In an effort to diversify the economy and make it less dependent on export goods, the government has pushed to increase tourism to Malaysia. As a result, tourism has become Malaysia’s third largest source of foreign exchange, although it is threatened by the negative effects of the growing industrial economy, with large amounts of air and water pollution along with deforestation affecting tourism. In the 1980s, Dr. Mohamad Mahathir succeeded Datuk Hussein as prime minister. Mahathir instituted economic reforms that would transform Malaysia into one of the so-called Asian Tigers.

Beginning in 1997 and continuing through the next year, Malaysia suffered from the Asian currency crisis. Instead of following the economic prescriptions of the International Monetary Fund and World Bank, the prime minister opted for fixed exchange rates and capital controls. In late 1999, Malaysia was on the road to economic recovery, and it appeared Mahathir’s measures were working.

The Malaysian Ambassador to the Philippines Dr. Ibrahim Saad is from the northern state of Penang, a highly developed city also known as the Silicon City of Malaysia. Industrialized as it may be now, Penang is also a recognized UNESCO Heritage Site. Dr. Saad stressed that he has one wife with whom he has two sons and three daughters and he is currently doting on his four grandchildren. Though the family members are based in Malaysia, they make it a point to come once in a while as they love the surfing and diving in the country. In fact, he says, they just love the Philippines.

Dr. Ibrahim Saad is not a career diplomat. He started out in the academe, graduating with a Ph.D. in Education from the University of Wisconsin in America. He later on joined the government as a member of the State Assembly, became a deputy chief minister of and vice governor of Penang before he moved to a higher post in the Prime Minister’s department. Perhaps the call of the academe proved stronger then, because he left politics again and went back to the world of academe, becoming vice chancellor and president of a prestigious university in his beloved city until the government recalled him into active service and he accepted the post of Malaysian ambassador to the Philippines in 2010.

Malaysia is essentially a highly industrialized and developed country, and many tourists come to their shores to shop at high-end stores. They recently launched Luxury Malaysia in the country which extols their relatively cheap shopping because only gas, glasses, drinks, cigarettes and chocolates are taxed.

With a population of 25 million people and an economy that is steadfastly registering a double-digit growth (they have a per capita income of US$8,000) Malaysia needs a lot of manpower which the Philippines can provide. Currently, they have one million foreigners with work permits in Malaysia, and they are in the process of regularizing another one million workers.

DA Honors Top Rice Producers

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THE country’s top rice-producing municipalities, cities and provinces, farmers and irrigators’ associations, and agricultural workers were honored by the Department of Agriculture  in an awarding ceremony  held at the Resorts World Manila, March 14.

This year’s Rice Achievers’ Awards conferred a total of over PhP110 million in prizes from the DA National Rice Program to 12 provinces, 48 municipalities and cities, 10 irrigators’ associations, three small water impounding system farmers’ associations (SWISAs), and 496 agricultural extension workers (AEWs).

For surpassing their palay (unhusked rice) production targets, attaining higher average yield, encouraging more farmers to use quality seeds and appropriate technologies, and prioritizing rice-related projects, the provinces of Nueva Ecija, North Cotabato, Nueva Vizcaya, Isabela, Pangasinan, Ilocos Norte, Bukidnon, Bulacan, Kalinga, Mindoro Occidental, Laguna, and Lanao del Norte were declared as the country’s top rice achievers for 2013.

Each of the provinces’ governors received a trophy and check worth P4 million for rice-related projects from Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala and National Rice Program coordinator and acting undersecretary for field  operations Dante Delima.

The top municipalities and cities, including the exceptional IAs each received P1-million worth of project grants. Outstanding SWISAs got P500,000 each in project grants, while the leading AEWs took home a cash incentive of P20,000 each.

Alcala said the annual contest, now on its third year, is the government’s way of thanking the country’s rice farmers and their respective provincial and municipal officials and AEWs for their continuing efforts and contribution to increase rice production.

“The Agri-Pinoy Rice Achievers’ Awards is part of DA’s interventions and incentive system to encourage LGUs, IAs, SWISAs and AEWs to contribute their share in increasing farmers’ harvest and incomes, to attain national rice sufficiency,” the DA chief said.

The top provinces, cities and municipalities were chosen based on the following criteria: incremental increases in rice harvest and average yield per hectare over 2012 levels, increases over their 2012 targets, amount of budget devoted to rice projects and initiatives, number of farmers benefited, and degree of quality seed utilization, among others.

The combined palay production of the top 12 provinces amounted to  6.65 million metric tons (MMT), which represents about 36 percent of the country’s total harvest of 18.42 MMT last year.

 

BI Reforms-A Boost to Tourism

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Congress can pass a meaningful immigration reform bill – a legislation that promises not only to improve national security, but could also boost our economy due to its positive impact on local communities that rely on travel.

Since early 2010, the travel industry has been a significant source of employment growth for the economy by adding almost a half-million jobs. Moreover, the increase in travel industry jobs has outpaced the rest of the economy. Congress can help improve on this progress by passing an immigration bill with provisions that make our borders more secure, while also encouraging more international travelers to visit our country to enjoy our cities and scenic wonders and conduct business with Philippine companies.

One reform policymakers should consider is the addition of more immigration officers to facilitate travelers upon arrival to our country and speed them on their way safely and securely. In other words, immigration reforms can increase travel to the Philippines at the same time enhance our security.

In the discharge of its broad functions, the Bureau of Immigration through its Board of Commissioners, exercises administrative and quasi-judicial powers over the regulation of the entry (arrival), stay (sojourn), and exit (departure) of foreign nationals in the country; and monitoring of the entry and exit of Filipino citizens in compliance with Philippine laws and other legal procedures.

In view of BI’s function to monitor the entry and exit of Filipino citizens, the new Commissioner of the Bureau of Immigration Siegfred Mison emphasizes that although the right to travel is enshrined in the Constitution and enjoyed by every Filipino, those who want to travel abroad should have their documents in order, particularly their passport and other documents issued by a foreign country such as a tourist or working visa (where applicable), before they are allowed to leave.

Tourists must prove their financial capability for the trip, present proof of work or support in the Philippines, or submit an affidavit of support if they are visiting relatives overseas, to prevent being offloaded from flights. Also, those who do not have the financial capacity to travel or who are accompanied by a foreigner will automatically by subjected to secondary inspection.

The Inter-Agency Council against Trafficking (IACAT) created the necessary measures to protect Filipinos from becoming victims of human trafficking. The “Guidelines on Departure Formalities for Internationally Bound Passengers,” in accordance with Republic Act 9208 or the Anti-Trafficking in Persons Act of 2003, which was subsequently approved by the Department of Justice (DOJ) is one such measure. It took effect last January 2012.

Mison pointed out that offloading “is not a policy but a consequence of the implementation of the guidelines.”

The Immigration’s “strict” memorandum is aimed to curb the exodus of undocumented OFWs abroad as well as protect victims of human trafficking. Mison said immigration has the mandate to “offload” – meaning disallow a traveler to board a plane – but it is not the government’s policy. The BI said offloading, or barring passengers from leaving the country, is not an official government policy but a consequence of the implementation of the guidelines.

The Constitution guarantees the right to travel of every citizen, however, it may only be impaired for the interest of national security, public safety or public health, as may be provided by law, the bureau said.

 

Meanwhile, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) again clarified that showing proof of financial capacity is not a requirement for Filipinos who want to travel abroad. Those who have complete travel documents, such as a valid passport and tourist or working visas, are allowed to leave the country.

He also said the bureau is more stringent in screening those who fit certain “tourist worker profiles”:

  • First time travelers who are going to destinations that are not popular among tourists
  • Tourists with no steady source of income in the Philippines and no benefactors in their country of destination

Mison said the implementation of the guidelines contributed to a decline in the incidents of human trafficking and illegal recruitment.

Under the guidelines, the bureau will automatically subject the following to secondary inspection:

  • Travelers without financial capacity to travel escorted/accompanied by a foreigner who is not related to them
  • Minor traveling alone or unaccompanied by either parent or legal guardian without the required travel clearance from the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD)
  • Previously repatriated irregular workers, in which case, travel may not be allowed without the clearance from the IACAT
  • Partners and spouses of foreign nationals intending to depart to meet and/or marry his/her fiancé without the CFO Guidance and Counseling Certificate
  • Passengers traveling to countries with existing deployment bans, alert levels, and travel advisories and those in possession of a visa to the said countries
  • Passengers who stayed abroad for more than one year during a previous departure from the country as a tourist/temporary visitor, intending to depart for the second and/or subsequent time

Section 6, Article III, of the 1987 Constitution guarantees Filipinos’ right to travel, but it is not absolute. The Constitution states this right may be curtailed for the interest of national security, public safety, or public health.

In a related story, nearly 4.7 million foreigners visited the Philippines in 2013. The Department of Tourism (DOT) said foreign visitor arrivals jumped 9.56% to 4.68 million in 2013.

South Korea remained the biggest source of tourists, rising 13% to 1.16 million in 2013. South Koreans accounted for 25% of the country’s visitor arrivals last year.

The number of tourists from the United States, which make up 15% of the total tourist arrivals, reached 652,626 in 2013, a 3.3% increase from the previous year.

Japan was the Philippines’ third biggest source market with 412,474 arrivals in 2013, followed closely by China with 426,352 arrivals. The number of Chinese tourists surged 69% in 2013, despite tension between the Philippine and Chinese governments over disputed islands.

The DOT expects more foreign visitors to the Philippines this year. The immigration reform bill can provide the tools to make travel to the Philippines easier. Given travel’s increasingly important role as a driver of economic growth, making international travel to the Philippines easier and more secure will pay big dividends in terms of stronger growth and more jobs. By the exercise of its administrative and quasi-judicial powers over the regulation of the entry (arrival), stay (sojourn), and exit (departure) of foreign nationals in the country, the Bureau of Immigration can help immensely our tourist trade.