Filipino people

WAR IN THE PALACE

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Tonypet J. Rosales | Editor   

IT APPEARS the most bloated government department—the Communications Group PNoy—simply can’t get the job done. To arrest the President’s sagging image, the administration is bringing more people into the fray, a move that could spark new hostilities between the Samar and Balay groups in Malacanang.

Since 2010, despite an awesome PR machinery, Malacanang never really got a hold of the public relations game. A series of missteps, snafus, blunders and miscommunications (beginning with the mishandling of the Luneta hostage incident involving a tour bus filled with Chinese nationals) have kept the President’s team of spokespersons and speechwriters busy fending off critics.

Crisis Mode

On Tuesday, a newspaper report by that the Palace is in “PR crisis mode”, hiring the services of a foreign pollster and political strategist to help reinvent the image of the President after the government’s net approval ratings plummeted to a record low.

The report said a crisis management team under Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa Jr. (Samar Group) and a political strategy team under Interior and Local Government Secretary Mar Roxas (Balay Group) has been activated to help refurbish PNoy’s image which has taken hit after hit since assuming the presidency in 2010.

A Palace source said Roxas is bringing back one Paul Bograd, the political strategist said to be responsible for Mar’s “Mr. Palengke” brand which made the DILG secretary No. 1 senator back in 2004. Bograd’s assignment: to fix PNoy’s image which suffered massively because of the Supreme Court’s adverse ruling on the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP).

On the other hand, Ochoa has made changes in the Palace media group starting with the appointment of Presidential Operations Office Secretary Sonny Coloma as presidential spokesperson taking the place of Edwin Lacierda who is identified with Mar’s Balay group.

Ochoa is also said to have reactivated members of the Samar group involved in the 2010 campaign, including television director and PNoy cousin Maria Montelibano. Montelibano served as head of Radio Television Malacanang (RTVM) during the time of President Cory Aquino and was also the designated point-person for media in Noynoy’s 2010 campaign.

While Bograd’s appointment can be considered a slap in the face of Secretary Coloma, observers believe that recent turn of events is symptomatic of a leadership breakdown in Malacanang. The administration is slowly falling apart and may eventually cost the ruling Liberal Party (LP) the 2016 presidential elections.

Seed of Discord

The conflict between the Samar and Balay group started shortly after Mar Roxas lost the vice presidency to Jojo Binay. Balay is the the group that met regularly at the residence of Roxas and its core is composed of the LP leadership together with the Black and White Movement and Ronald Llamas’ Akbayan. Samar Avenue in Quezon City is where Montelibano’s media bureau and Ochoa’s legal team held fort. PNoy sisters Pinky and Ballsy and Sonny Belmonte also regularly joined the Samar meetings.

The difference between the two groups emerged when Balay members started blaming Samar for the emergence of the winning NoyBi (Noynoy-Binay) tandem. In 2010, Mar’s presidential candidacy was floundering (he was usually ranked 4th in the ratings) and things looked up only after he gave way to Aquino and ran for vice president instead.

However, in the last weeks before the elections, Binay eventually caught up with Mar in the ratings.
From sure winner, Roxas became a pathetic loser. The two camps exchanged barbs blaming each other for Mar’s loss with Balay—despite the polls—claiming the Binay win as a fluke. The seed of discord had already planted as early as 2010.

The latest polls showing the President’s net satisfaction ratings at an all-time low, forced both the Samar and Balay groups to reactivate their crisis management teams. The Palace is in panic and by racing to save the President and effect a quick turnaround—Pnoy and company could find himself in even deeper trouble.

Mar’s panic is understandable because his chance of becoming the LP standard bearer and winning the presidency in 2016 is directly proportional to PNoy’s pop ratings. If PNoy crashes and burns, Roxas might as well kiss his presidential aspirations goodbye.

Serious Concerns

Palace insiders say Ochoa is concerned with the way the LP has handled the DAP issue. The August 23, 2013 speech of the President defending the DAP was reportedly the idea of Roxas who managed to convince PNoy to deliver the speech on primetime television despite Ochoa’s protests.

“Ochoa believes the (Senate President Franklin) Drilon and (Budget Secretary Butch Abad are dragging the President down with them,” the Palace source said.

Abad is the architect of the DAP which has been declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, Drilon—who failed on his promise to scrap the Senate pork—tried to make up for his failure with an attempt to salvage the impounded money by circumventing the TRO issued by the SC by having the funds declared as “savings” that the President can use in the event of a calamity. Drilon’s antics reportedly did not sit well with House Speaker Belmonte.

Sister Act

The situation has become a fight for the Aquino-Cojuangco clan’s life that even the “First Bunso” Kris has been put to active PR service.

Kris’ strategy jumps off from PNoy’s recent State of the Nation Address (SONA) where the camera cuts away to the gallery and catches the “Queen of All Media” wiping off her tears as her PNoy mouths off the sacrifices of their parents Cory and Ninoy in his impassioned speech.

On August 1, on the occasion of Cory Aquino’s 5th death anniversary, Kris even hinted on the potential martyrdom of PNoy. “He [Noynoy] can’t do it on his own. We need to stand by him and give him strength. Please pray with us also that he stays alive,” Kris told guests after the Holy Mass at the Manila Memorial Park in Parañaque City.

Kris, of course, was alluding to PNoy’s mentioning in his SONA of certain “dark forces” that were supposedly out to get him. While much of what makes the Aquino dynasty great has something to do with death, the idea of President Aquino dying to achieve a PR bonanza is totally out of the question.
If PNoy dies, then Vice President Binay becomes President defeating the whole purpose of initiating an ambitious PR mode to save PNoy’s neck and the LP from a public hanging.

What remains clear is that the scenario in the Palace remains as chaotic as ever with the administration content in plugging loopholes and providing band-aid solutions to the country’s problems. Common sense dictates that it is never wise to have two captains run a PR ship.

Right now, PNoy and company appear secure and safe—just like the passengers of the Titanic.

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New Paradigm For Recruiting OFWs

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By Archie Almeida

LBS Recruitment Solutions Corporation isone of the prime movers in usingsocial media to recruit OFWs. Its president and CEO, Lito B. Soriano, explained that in social media recruitment, everything is transparent and much better than the classical way of recruitment. There are no hidden terms, unlike in some recruiting agencies where they refuse to divulge information.

During the 1980s, recruiting agencies do their information campaign through major newspapers. The job-seeker’s fingers will do the walking line by line on the pages of the ads section, to look for the right and suitable job position.

Nowadays,withone click of themouse, job hunters could find vacancies for jobs both local or abroad.OFWs no longer face the burden of going back and forth from theirhomes, the office of the agency, and the offices of the government for submitting required documents to look for work abroad.

Modality of Recruitment

The worker-to-employer system is commonly known as direct hiring. Mostly, this kind of hiring deviates from the legal processes and requirements of POEA. The eagerness of the applicant to work abroad can end up in a no-fair-deal.

There are a lot of downsides in this kind of situation. A foreign individual will pose as an employer but in fact he is an agent or recruiter with an agency abroad. When the recruit arrives in the destination of deployment, another contract can be entered in for another employer. At this point the recruit is helpless.

The very prevalent recruitingsystem now for jobs-abroad applicants is the worker-agency-employer. If the applicant is qualified for the job position, he is required by the agency to fulfill all the requirements, which includes passport, diploma, transcript of records, and more.It is duly authenticated by Malacañang and the Department of Foreign Affairs. Afterwards, visa will be processed for departure. Job order is verified by the POEA, alongside all the pre-requisites to be complied with.Usually, recruitment in this system is done through newspaper ads, radio, or TV.

In contrast,with the worker-agency-broker- employer system,an established broker in a foreign country will look for an employer in the local agency.In turn, the agency will look for a qualified applicant to be deployed. Terms and conditions of employment contract are explained to the OFW. Sometimes there are terms and conditionsobscured by the recruiters in the contract that can put the applicant in a compromising situation where he could no longer back off.

The last type of hiring system is the worker-worker’s agent-agency-broker-employer system. Here, the interested Filipino worker will be recruited by an individual who stands in as the worker’s agent, endorsed by the agency, who in turn will contact the broker in the foreign country looking for an employer. More often than not, in this kind of recruitment, the applicant could not do anything but to adhere to the agency’s contract and policy of unconscionable fees, either by immediate payment or salary deductions.

The sad thing is, only a few agencies are using the new hiring method, because there is a need to be transparent in dealing with the applicant. This is because the potential OFW often asks questions on salary, the placement fee, how much will be spent in order to get the job, and other perks.

The New Thrust

The profile of users of social media the country is unevenly distributed. The working force from 18 to 24 years old is around 36% or equivalent to 10.41 million whilethose whose age ranges from 25 to 44 is 6.91 million or 21.5%.

This is why the LBS put a new thrust in the manpower-pooling business by way of utilizing Internet technology, not only for the applicants but for the prospective  employers as well. It uses the worker-agency-employer modality.

“In the advent of fast-paced change in technology, the traditional recruitment channels has changed as well. It’s online and in social media. Gone are days of placing ads in the newspapers in recruiting OFWs.This is the new thrust of the manpower-pooling business,” Soriano says.

Applicants can fill up forms or download it using and easily received updates, notifications on-line anytime and anywhere in the world they are via email and cellphone.

“They can also just sign up for an account with all the profile and resume and requirements, for the job position they are applying for, and we will look for employers. All questions and queries of the applicants are answered in the website e.g. from salary up to minute details of employment. In this way, meeting of minds between the applicants and the agency are done without the appearance,” Soriano adds.

LBS boosted the chain of qualified applicants in its online application system from February 2012 to March 31, 2014.It dramatically reached more than 28,000 users, higher than the past years.

By using mobile recruitment applications in Android and iOS Apple mobile phones, it is easy and accessible for recruits to apply and monitor the status of their applications. There are real-time customer care services for applicants that are immediately responded to as well.It also lessens the burden and costs of marketing, and the number of quality and ethical employers abroad increases.

Digital technology and social media has changed the game of looking for manpower.  It is a new paradigm that other recruitment agencies should adapt. LBS Recruitment Solutions’ use of online sourcing gives the company an edge that other traditional manpower agencies do not have. This is what makes the company a leader and gamechanger in the recruitment business.

(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

 

 

Agricultural Surge

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WITH various controversies and anomalies, Philippines agricultural forecast seems to follow a bright rainbow in the sky.

No less than the government’s Department of Agriculture under its chief honcho –Secretary Proceso J. Alcala, has been in the limelight lately, due to several controversies hounding the country’s precious prime staple food –rice.

In fact, just before the ‘forced’ resignation of former Custom’s chief Biazon, rice smuggling was among those that hugged newspaper headlines from Aparri to Jolo, and whereby top accused rice smugglers rocked the confines of our anti-crime agencies via several high-point Senate-led inquiries.

The Philippine Agricultural Journalists Inc. (PAJ), one of the country’s pioneering news associations (now led by the dynamic Philippine Star business editor and my close friend –Roman ‘Sir Manong’ Floresca,) has been at the frontlines of the nation’s agricultural dimensions since the mid-seventies, dwelling on in-depth articles, research, plus innovations and insights on the latest developments of our society’s prime economic-mover in the 21st century.

And while we are dwelling on our favorite subject –rice, did you know that Ilocos Norte has just received its deserving award for being one of the top 12 rice-producing provinces of the country. No less than Ilocos Norte’s hard-working Governor –Imee Marcos received the “2013 National Rice Achievers”(NRA) trophy from DA Sec Alcala, and national rice production coordinator and the DA’s Undersecretary Dante S. Delima. As per media release which appeared in the PS: “other winning provinces includeNueva Ecija, North Cotobato, Nueva Viscaya, Isabela, Pangasinan, Bukidnon, Bulacan , Kalinga, Mindoro Occidental, Laguna and Lanao del Norte. A total of P117.42 million worth of project grants and cash prizes were given out to the awardees which consisted of 12 provinces, 48 municipalities, 10 irrigator associations (IA’s), three small water impounding system associations (SWISAs) and agricultural extension workers (AEWs).

The addendum report stated that “each province received P4-million worth of project grant, while municipalities received P1-million worth of project grants. The IA’s and SWISAs each received P1-million and P500,000 respectively, while AEWs were given P20,000 cash prize each.” Well folks, that says a lot about the ‘strength’ of our rice-producing provinces.

Just wondering how this ‘good news’ would affect the cash registers of some rice-supporting fast-food establishments like Inasal for example, which is by the way, now under the stewardship of globally-strong Filipino-owned firm –Jollibee Group.

And by the way, what have we here on the latest developments concerning the hotly-controversial National Food Authority (NFA) which was at the receiving end of countless accusations vis-a-vis “anomalies and corruption” that required Senate and  Congressional inquiry for that matter?  In fact, a number of people’s organizations have called for its abolition “citing billions of pesos in debt the government has incurred over the years.”

Latest media reports however has it that no less than the Palace “has stood pat on its position not to abolish the grains procurement agency, saying this will affect millions of Filipino farmers dependent on NFA support price for palay.”

Now we wonder why this present administration is still open to import rice from our neighboring ASEAN brothers, when it has been revealed (as per documented media reportage) that our beloved Philippines has enough rice production to feed our growing millions of Filipinos nationwide.  Let us remember, what the Word states: “…and the truth shall set you free.”

And to think that “to date, NFA’s debts are placed at around P150 billion.” Where do we go from here?

Delusional Patriots

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IT is very natural for people to disagree with one another. Each human is created unique and distinct or, in a real sense: without equal. E.g., take an event, like a basketball game witnessed by a thousand spectators, and you can expect from them a thousand accounts with variances in perception, understanding, enjoyment and what have you.

Differences should never spawn ill feelings. They are like rains that come in cycles alternating with sunshine. Let us welcome them as opportunities for building healthier relationships, resting assured that the laws of God and of Man are precisely the infrastructure of just and orderly societies. Significantly, as there is a “carrot and stick” discipline for homes and schools, so also is there a system of “crime and punishment” in the wider environment beyond their fences.

Let us therefore acknowledge and accept life’s greatest challenge: to doggedly temper irreconcilable differences, to generously give or give in, or otherwise make sacrifices in order to strengthen or preserve the whole of which we are each expendable parts. Given the cited infrastructure, there’s no reason why peace is not attainable in our blighted land.

Eternal patience

Last March 29, the Nationalist People’s Army (NPA), the military arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), somberly observed its 45th Anniversary barely a week after the capture in Cebu of the two highest officials of the CPP-NPA  network, along with 10 others. Apart from being a blow to the morale of the commies, the arrests are certain to set back their calendar of armed operations against government buildings and military installations, not to mention populated civilian areas.

In dealing with communist rebels, not to mention their Moro counterparts down south, civilian and military authorities have demonstrated eternal patience. Indeed, legislating, listening, negotiating, giving carrots and bending backwards to spinal discomforts have long become the norms of official policy. But what happens if carrots do not work any longer? Dialog after dialog has not worked. Ceasefire after ceasefire has not worked. Amnesty after amnesty has not worked. Of late, the peace process has ground to a halt…no thanks to the Reds!

Time for the sticks

My personal reaction to the recent arrest of twelve communists in Cebu, including the CPP-NPA Chair, his wife and five others who reportedly comprise the highest Maoist ruling body in the country today, is: “Good. Charge them all immediately with Rebellion. With respect to leader Benito Tiamson and his wife Wilma, Secretary General and Finance Chair of the Communist Party of the Philippines, against whom warrants of arrest for Murder and Frustrated Murder had long been issued, their criminal prosecution should commence without delay, unless of course the said crimes were committed in furtherance of rebellion, in which case they should be tried only for Rebellion”.

Ringing hollow is their claim that their arrest would only set back the on-off series of peace talks started over 25 years ago, since it is a documented fact that they have cavalierly derailed the peace talks with constant absences from scheduled meetings, not to mention their programmed forays into traditional targets anytime they choose. Should they be treated any differently from a widowed labandera who got 14 years for robbing and killing a businessman so she could feed her six children?

The Valley of Death

Sure, their alleged love of country is aflame with revolutionary fervor — dig those slogans screamed out with clenched fists! — but hey, non-commies like me are also country-lovers, and they need no strident slogans and clenched fists to assemble, debate and make meaningful headways in the quest for social change!  And this they can do as a guaranteed right to use what is known as “democratic free space” — an expanse that includes the polling places, the halls of Congress, the courtrooms, the streets and other open spaces allowed for marches and the airing of grievances.

Revolutionary catchphrases like “Tuloy ang laban!” and “Patay kung patay!” are so scorchingly emotional they set ablaze the valor to “march into the valley of death”; ignominious death, that is, because the struggle of the Tiamsons and their fellow Maoists can never succeed, there having never been a time, ever, when their mindless and unreasonable methods appealed to the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of citizens.

So how can they proclaim themselves “patriots,” when they knowingly and openly oppose the peaceful and democratic ways of the vast number of Filipinos? By doing so, these handful of fully armed commies think they can impose their will upon  a hundred million sovereign people. And to think that CPP-NPA Supremo Benito Tiamson is a UP-bred sociologist! One wonders how such anti-people sentiments could be hailed by him and his followers as patriotism.

DOE Approves Extended Production Tests at Malolos Field

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Gas2Grid Ltd. reported Thursday that it has just received written approval from the Philippine Department of Energy (DOE) to commence the Malolos-1 extended oil production in the Philippines.

The operations will commence as soon as the crew and equipment have been mobilized to the site with likely initial oil production commencing in April. This testing is being carried out in order to confirm the commerciality of the Malolos Oil Field. The DOE had previously extended Service Contract 44 (SC 44) for a 12 month period starting Jan. 29 in order to conduct the tests.

The extended oil production testing program aims to gather sufficient technical information to confirm commerciality of the Malolos Oil Field to justify the Department of Energy awarding a 25 year production period leading to full field appraisal and development. Proving commercial production at Malolos Oil Field will have a very significant impact on the value of the Company and will benefit the Philippine economy.

On Jan. 29 the Company reported a “Contingent Resource” of oil in the two productive sandstones for the Malolos Oil Field between a “Low Estimate” (1C) of 6.8 million barrels and a “High Estimate” (3C) of 68.1 million barrels, with a “Best Estimate” (2C) of 20.4 million barrels of “Total Oil Initially in Place”. This Contingent Resource is in addition to the Unrisked Prospective Resources released to the ASX on Jan. 29. The large size of contingent and prospective resources justifies further exploration within SC 44.

In that respect, the Company is continuing discussions with interested parties for funding the complete appraisal and development work (seismic acquisition, production well drilling and production facilities) at the Malolos Oil Field and additional exploration prospects by a farmout of part of its 100 percent interest in Service Contract 44. In view of the time frame available to the Company for SC 44, it will also consider sole funding some of the work early should farmin terms and agreements take undue time to finalize. The Company is funding the extended oil production testing from existing cash reserves which were raised last year.

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.