Economic planning secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan has recently resigned as director general of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), and immediately appointed by President Aquino to head a new agency, tasked to promote fair and healthy competition among firms in the country.

Officially appointed and sworn in January 2016, Balisacan will serve as chairman of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC), which was created by Republic Act 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act, signed into law, on July 21, 2015.

In a statement, Balisacan said he other PCC commissioners will focus on crafting the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of RA 10667. President Aquino has already appointed the other four members of the PCC, who have yet to be sworn in.

“We must finalize the IRR in the next few months, we need to determine the parameters of the council’s powers and responsibilities,” he said, adding that he is currently for people to man the staff, which would likely be dominated by lawyers or individuals with legal background.

The commission is a quasi-judicial body tasked to enforce and implement the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act, whose goals are to protect consumer welfare and to advance both domestic and international trade and economic development.

It is tasked to ensure an efficient market competition in providing a level-playing field among businesses engaged in trade, industry, and all commercial economic activities.

It is also mandated to conduct inquiries, investigate, and penalize all forms of anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

In the absence of an anti-trust legislation, the commission would in effect be promoting fair and healthy competition among firms thus ensuring that the benefits of growth are properly shared.

Balisacan is temporarily holding office at NEDA in Pasig, until such time that the official PCC office is set up, either at the PPP Center in EDSA, in Makati or in Taguig.

NEDA deputy director general Emmanuel F. Esguerra currently serves as officer-in-charge (OIC).

In an effort to protect the Philippine Eagle and nurture the environment, flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has sealed its adoption of the latest eaglet bred in captivity — with number 26, named ‘Sinag’ — at the Philippine Eagle Center, in Barangay Malagos, Calinan District, Davao City.

The agreement with the Philippine Eagle Foundation (PEF) for the adoption of Sinag was signed at the PAL’s corporate office, in Pasay City, on January 22, 2016.

Under the agreement, one million miles donated by PAL's loyal patrons to the Miles-with-a-Mission-Program, through the PAL Foundation, will be channeled to the preservation of Sinag and towards protecting its environment. The adoption covers a period of six years to nurture the eaglet’s growth.

“The flag carrier will do its share to sustain the growth of our adopted eaglet and ensure that it will someday spread its wings and soar high,” Jaime Bautista, PAL president and chief operating officer, said.

“PAL vows to carry out its role as an adoptive parent so that baby eagle Sinag will eventually becomes an aviator with dignity and strength – traits that are inherent in every PAL flight,” he added.

PEF chairman Carlos Dominguez III for his part thanked the carrier for helping the foundation promote Sinag’s survival and ensure protection of its natural habitat.

Dominguez further said, "Beyond breeding eagles in captivity, the PEF is heavily invested on protecting the species in the wild, restoring forests and working to improve the lives of indigenous cultural communities who share these forests with the eagles. With so much yet to do, we invite everyone to join us in this noble endeavor to save our national heritage - the Great Philippine Eagle."

The eaglet hatched on December 07, 2015, at the Philippine Eagle Center, in Davao City.


The Philippine Eagle

The Philippine eagle, one of the world’s largest birds of prey, is larger than the American bald eagle. It was declared an endangered species in 1965. Locally known as “haribon,” the Philippine eagle stands at about one meter in height, and has a wingspan of about two meters.

The Philippine eagle is endemic to the Philippines, and inhabits the forests in Luzon, Samar, Leyte and Mindanao. It kills macaques and other smaller animals for food. It needs vast tracts of forest as hunting grounds, routinely driving away rivals from their territory.

Nine out of every 10 Philippine eagle casualties recorded by the PEF over seven years are caused by gunshot wounds, diminishing their population over the years. It is estimated that only about 400 adult pairs remain in the country’s forests, where deforestation and poaching also threaten their survival. More than half of them can be found in Mindanao.

The Philippine eagle is protected under Republic Act No. 9147, or the Wildlife Conservation and Protection Act. The law provides a penalty of imprisonment of between six and 12 years or a fine of between P100,000 and P1 million for the killing of critically endangered species.

Since 2008, four of the Philippine eagles released into the wild have been found dead.

The latest victim was Pamana, which was found dead on August 16, 2015, apparently because of a pellet gunshot.

In 2012, a certain Bryan Bala-on was given a sanction amounting to P100,000 after finding him guilty of killing and cooking a young male Philippine eagle.

Another 3-year-old male juvenile Philippine eagle, named Kagsabua (tribal name for ‘unity’) was killed and cooked by a 22-year-old indigenous farmer in Impasug-ong, Bukidnon, in July 2008 – barely four months after it has been released into the wild, on March 6, 2008.

Lastly, among those that failed to survive after having been released into the wild was Kabayan – the first captive-bred eagle released into the wild. It died more than a year after its release inside the Philippine National Oil Co. forest reserves in Ilomavis, Kidapawan City, on April 22, 2004. Kabayan was found perching on a live wire. (With reports from Philippine Daily Inquirer / Opinyon, Rosemarie Señora)

The provincial government of Antique has approved a landmark ordinance to finally prevent the employment of children as migratory sugarcane plantation workers or ‘sacadas.’

The Antique Provincial Board has recently resolved that “no person under 18 years old shall be employed as migratory sugarcane plantation worker – to finally put a stop to the age-old exploitation of children working in sugar plantations.”

Antique has long since been providing migrant workers to sugarcane plantations in Negros Island, the biggest sugar production player in the Philippines.

Authored by Provincial Board member Egidio Elio, the ordinance also seeks special protection for children against “all forms of abuse, neglect, cruelty, exploitation, discrimination, and other conditions prejudicial to their development.”

The workers, locally known as sacada in Western Visayas, are contracted for seasonal work — when additional manpower is needed to harvest sugarcane for milling.

Upon returning home to Antique at the end of their contract, sacadas normally earned wages barely enough for their needs, while some has already acquired debts, forcing them to go back to sugarcane plantation work in the next milling season to pay for them.

In a study by the University of Antique, Elio learned that 76% of Antiqueño sacadas started working at age 14-21.

In public hearings, he also learned that fathers themselves send their children to work as sacadas to pay for the cash advances they had from milling supervisors.

“Working in sugarcane plantations for long hours doing backbreaking labor under the oppressive heat of the sun, using dangerous tools and sharp machetes, carrying heavy loads, [and] being exposed to fertilizer and harmful pesticides is the worst form of child labor,” said Elio.

Working as sacada also deprives children the chance to have appropriate education and gain better employment, said the Chairperson of the Committees on Health and Social Services and on Women and Children.

Under the ordinance, a Provincial Child Migratory Sugar Worker Council will also be created to act receive, validate and investigate reports on child sacada and further conduct rescue and file appropriate legal action with the court.

It also calls on municipalities and barangays to intervene, on behalf of the child, if their parents or guardians allow or are unable to prevent the child to work as migratory sugar worker.

The ordinance said a Barangay Council for the Protection of Children will be mobilized to detect and report cases of child migratory sugar work.

It also requires milling supervisors to secure a barangay certification stating that no one among the recruits from a village is a child, and a Department of Labor and Employment authorization to hire and transport migratory sugar workers.

A rescued child sacada shall be provided with educational, livelihood, and capability-building and skills-enhancement assistance, as well as legal, psychological and psychiatric support as deemed necessary, said the ordinance.

A fine of not more than P5,000 and/or imprisonment not exceeding a year will be imposed on any civilian who violates or fails to comply with the ordinance, and any public officer or employee who willfully refuses to help, support or cooperate in implementing it. (With reports from Philippine News Agency / Opinyon, Rosemarie Señora)

Irrigation services in Vietnam and Thailand are free, so why not do it also here in the Philippines!

Thus is the proposal of former agriculture secretary Arthur Yap, who is now on his term as Representative of the 3rd District of Bohol.

In December 14, 2015, he filed House Bill No. 6333, or Free Irrigation Law of 2015, proposing a “free irrigation program for farmers to effectively and immediately increase productivity and attainment of food self-sufficiency.”

He said other ASEAN countries, particularly Thailand and Vietnam, have been providing their farmers free irrigation. For instance, Vietnam implemented a national policy (Decree No. 67/2012ND-CP) in September 2012, exempting individuals and households from paying irrigation fees if they use water surface for agricultural services. In Thailand, irrigation water supplied to agriculture is free of charge for many decades now.

Under HB 6333 or Free Irrigation Law of 2015, the government shall develop irrigation systems that are free, effective, appropriate and efficient to promote comprehensive rural development through increased agricultural production, sustained productivity, and promotion and development of free irrigation systems.

A policy brief of the Asian Development Bank (ADB) in 2013 concurs with Yap’s proposed bill. ADB said the “irrigation service fee waiver in Vietnam has stabilized the organization of irrigation and drainage management companies, maintenance of irrigation systems, and improved the livelihoods of farmers.” ADB said the said policy can be viewed as the first phase of a long-term plan to renovate irrigation management.

Currently, the collected irrigation service fees (ISF) are used by the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to pay for personnel services, and repair, maintenance and operations of national irrigation systems. If Yap’s proposal is enacted, the total budget for NIA salaries and other operating expenses would be included in the agency’s budget funded under the annual General Appropriations Act.

Hence, HB 6333 will repeal or modify provisions of existing laws prescribing the power and authority of the NIA to collect ISF or other forms of charges for the use of irrigation systems.

Yap said the ISF “are too much and a huge burden for farmers, eating up on their small income. It leads farmers to further shy away from farming and engage in other endeavors.”

In all, he said the proposed bill aims “to increase the farmers’ income and uplift their living condition”, and that “free irrigation will primarily reduce the cost of production and will make our farmers more productive.” (With reports from the Philippine News Agency / Opinyon, Rosemarie Señora)

 

Various properties worth P65.8 million that were acquired by the government from alleged cronies of the late president Ferdinand Marcos will be auctioned by the Presidential Commission on Good Governance in March 2016.

The PCGG said the Privatization Council has approved the proposed sale through public bidding of seven properties in various locations in the country.

It included three properties — a 2,335-square meter (sqm) land in Tagaytay City, and parcels of land in Puerto Galera and Calapan, in Oriental Mindoro — that were forfeited in favor of the government from former National Bureau of Investigation director Jolly Bugarin based on a Supreme Court decision in 2012.

The said properties were supposedly acquired by Bugarin when he served as NBI director during the Marcos administration.

Also up for auction are 5,161-sqm BBC-Legazpi and the 5,952-sqm BBC-Naga properties previously owned by former ambassador to Japan Roberto Benedicto. The properties were surrendered to the government through a compromise agreement between Benedicto and the PCGG.

“Benedicto is a known crony and close associate of former President Marcos, who served as the Philippines’ ambassador to Japan for six years in the early 1970s,” the PCGG said.

The Privatization Council also approved the sale of a property in Caloocan City, which was ceded to the government by former Marcos aide Alejo Ganut in 1994.

The PCGG will also auction the 1,146-sqm Wigwam Compound property in Baguio City, which was ceded to the government by alleged Marcos crony Jose Campos after the fall of the dictator.

Campos also surrendered the 18-hectare Payanig sa Pasig property, which the PCCG tried but failed to auction. The ownership of the property is being contested by BLEMP Corp.

PCGG Chairman Richard Amurao welcomed the approval of the Privatization Council and expressed confidence that they would receive competitive bid offers for the properties.

“For the year 2016, the Commission is targeting to generate a total amount of P383 million for turnover to the Bureau of Treasury,” the PCGG said. It has successfully privatized close to P1-billion worth of Marcos-related ill-gotten assets since 2010.

Among those waiting approval for sale are the jewelry collection seized from former first lady Imelda Marcos.

“We will continue to work even harder in carrying out one of our major tasks, which is to privatize surrendered and recovered ill-gotten assets of the Marcoses and his cronies with proceeds going to its true owners, the Filipino people,” Amurao said.

“PCGG shall remain assiduous in our mandate as long as there is Marcos ill-gotten wealth yet to be recovered,” he added. (With reports from The Philippine Star / Opinyon, Rosemarie Señora)

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