22 OCT 2014

Ombudsman indicts Pangasinan Gov, 13 others for black sand mining
Customs’ anti-smuggling campaign scores
Deles to CSOs: ?Scrutinize and debate on Bangsamoro Bill to ensure ownership
DFA raises alert Level 3 in Yemen, sends Crisis Management Team to Yemen
ASEAN Committee in Seoul hosts ASEAN Secretary General
Private sector companies keen to partner with DOLE to improve PH labor market information system
Agrarian “Peace” Projects to be implemented in Northern Mindanao
DA partners with Nestle in boosting school veggie garden project
World Food Day 2014: There is renewed hope, vigor in the countryside—Alcala
RITM ready for Ebola - DOH
Pag-IBIG Fund Choral bags top prize in CSC Choral Competition
Better absorptive capacity key to solving PHL urbanization woes
Two benefit packages featured in 3rd PhilHealth Kapihan
PH invites N. American companies to grab PPP investment opportunities
President PNOY, Roxas emphasize unity during the Galing Pook Awards
POCB to conduct mission to Cambodia and Myanmar

Ombudsman indicts Pangasinan Gov, 13 others for black sand mining
Source: http://www.ombudsman.gov.ph
The Environmental Ombudsman slammed local government officials of Pangasinan for engaging in illegal black sand mining trade in the Lingayen Gulf area.

Facing two counts of violation of Section 3(e) of Republic Act No. 3019 (Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act) are Governor Amado Espino, Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan, along with Cynthia Camara and Lolita Bolayog of Alexandra Mining and Oil Ventures, Inc ( Alexandra Mining).
Facing one count of violation of Section 3(e) of R.A. No. 3019 are Pangasinan Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Officer Alvin Bigay, Alexandra Mining Directors Cesar Detera, Edwin Alcazar, Denise Ann Sia Kho Po, Annlyn Detera, Glenn Subia and Emiliano Buenavista and Michael Ramirez, Gina Alcazar and Avery Pujol of Xypher Builders, Inc.

In the Joint Resolution, the Environmental Ombudsman cited that Presidential Proclamation No. 1258 ( 1998) declared Lingayen Gulf as an environmentally critical area and expanded the scope of the protected area to cover the barangays of Sabangan, Estanza, Malimpuec and Capandanan, reserving a protected area of 184 hectares for eco-tourism and other sustainable development activities and projects.
Upon assumption as Governor in June 2007, Espino crafted the Site Development Plan that would turn the area into an eco-tourism complex, with the development of two 18-hole golf courses at par with international standards. Immediately after, a negotiated contract was entered into between the local government and Alexandra Mining with soil remediation activities conducted in Barangay Sabangan as pilot area. On 29 June 2011, a Small Scale Mining Permit (SSMP) was issued in favor of Alexandra Mining. Barely three weeks later, Baraan issued a Notice of Cancellation of the SSMP and ordered Alexandra Mining to vacate the area.

On 08 August 2011, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) was entered into between Espino and Xypher Builders for the removal of metallic materials from the sand pile already vacated by Alexandra Mining.
Upon request for investigation made by residents of the affected barangays, the investigating team of the Mines and Geosciences Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources of Region I issued a report on 18 October 2011 recommending that the SSMP in favor of Alexandra Mining be cancelled as it was issued without an Environmental Compliance Certificate (ECC); that Alexandra Mining be penalized for putting up a mineral processing plant sans ECC; and that a Cease and Desist Order be issued enjoining the mining firm from further extracting beach sand pending the resolution of the issue.

Notwithstanding this, almost a week later or on 26 October 2011, the provincial government issued Gratuitous Permit No. 02-02-2011 authorizing Xypher Buildings and the Provincial Housing and Development Coordinating Office to extract and utilize loose and unconsolidated materials, and recover magnetite sand in Sabangan. On 08 December 2011, Espino issued a Mineral Ore Export Permit in favor of Xypher.

In supporting the indictment for graft, the Environmental Ombudsman discovered that both Alexandra Mining and Xypher Builders are not registered contractors with the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board, and the ECC was belatedly issued in favor of Baraan for the Lingayen Golf Course Project only on 02 January 2013. Coincidentally, Alexandra Mining is not registered as a legitimate business establishment in Lingayen.

In approving the Joint Resolution, Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales stated that “there is probable cause to charge respondents Epino and Baraan for violation of Section 3(e) of RA 3019 for authorizing unlawful magnetite extraction activities in favor of an unqualified contractor/mining company,” adding that “by reason of the precipitate and irregular issuance by respondent Espino of the export permit to China, the State lost minerals in the conservative amount of P10.7 million.”

Aside from the criminal indictments, Baraan and Bigay were found administratively liable for Grave Misconduct and meted out the penalty of dismissal from the service, with the accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility, forfeiture of retirement benefits, and perpetual disqualification from reemployment in the government service.

Meanwhile, the complaints against Lingayen Mayor Ernesto Castañeda, Jr., Sabangan Barangay Chairman Hector Fabiana, Estanza Barangay Chairman Mario Navarro, Malimpuec Barangay Chairman Delfin Velasco and Provincial Consultant Eric Acuña were dismissed for lack of merit.

In May 2012, Ombudsman Morales re-activated the Ombudsman Environmental Team to handle cases filed with the office against government officials and individuals accused of violating environmental laws, which team is currently headed by Deputy Ombudsman Gerard Mosquera as Environmental Ombudsman.

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Customs’ anti-smuggling campaign scores
Source: http://www.dof.gov.ph
Courts junk petitions, uphold sentence for traders

The Bureau of Customs (BOC) scored a major victory against smuggling as the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) junked the petitions of the motion for reconsideration of three traders accused of smuggling. The tax court upheld the convictions of Roel Paquit-Sayson, Francisco Billones and Mary Lucille Billones for their illegal importations.

Sayson, owner of Trex Eve Auto Sales and Services, is sentenced to up to 12 years in jail plus an P8,000 fine for the illegal importation of vehicles from South Korea to the Philippines. He was charged for misdeclaring 12 units of Kia Sportage and three Hyundai Gallopers as used truck replacement parts with estimated taxes and duties amounting to P1,779,770.61. Sayson was found guilty by Third Division of the CTA on December 12, 2012. The accused however filed his Motion for Reconsideration and Supplemental Motion for Reconsideration on December 26, 2012 and January 15, 2013, respectively, both of which were denied by the CTA.

The CTA also affirmed the sentences of Francisco and Mary Lucille Billones, both officials of Rubills International for illegally importing 510,000 kilograms of refined sugar from Singapore which they misdeclared as 306 kilograms of soy beans. The accused were found guilty of violating provisions of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines, the Bureau of Food and Drug Rules and Regulations, and Article 172 of the Revised Penal Code and were meted out two consecutive nine-year jail terms plus a P20,000 fine. The accused also have to pay duties and taxes amounting to P5.073-Million.

“The favorable rulings from the courts have encouraged us to strive even more in our fight against smuggling. Our renewed vigor has given us new directions as far as our investigations and litigation goes so that each case we file has a high chance of conviction,” said Customs Commissioner John P. Sevilla.

RTC convicts Indonesian drug-mule

The Regional Trial Court of Pasay, Branch 116 found Francesca Jovian, an Indonesian national, guilty of bringing 3.7 kilos of methamphetamine hydrochloride or ‘shabu’ worth P29.896-Million into the country. Jovian was apprehended by authorities in May 2012 following her suspicious behaviour upon arrival from Hong Kong at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. Customs and airport police found the cache of drugs hidden inside a secret compartment in Jovian’s hand-carried bag. She was found guilty of violating Section 3601 of the Tariff and Customs Code of the Philippines and section 4, Article II of Republic Act 9165 (Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 2002) and was meted a maximum sentence of two years’ imprisonment and a fine of P5,000.00. After serving her sentence, the accused will be deported back to Indonesia.

The Bureau of Customs has filed 182 smuggling-related cases before the Department of Justice (DOJ), of which 130 are pending preliminary investigation at the DOJ, and 38 have been elevated or filed as cases before the courts. The Bureau has also taken significant steps to improve its Run-After-The Smugglers (RATS) program, which includes capacity-building for more effective investigation, case profiling, and case build-up. Established by the Bureau in July 2005 and formally launched in 2006, the RATS program is mandated to detect and prosecute smugglers and other customs and tariff law violators.

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Deles to CSOs: ?Scrutinize and debate on Bangsamoro Bill to ensure ownership
Source: http://www.opapp.gov.ph
DAVAO CITY – Merely urging Congress to pass the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) is not enough, Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos Deles told a gathering of more than 30 civic society leaders ‎in this city as she challenged them to scrutinize the Bangsamoro bill being discussed in Congress and encourage debate among fellow stakeholders.

The BBL “has to be a law that passes scrutiny,” Deles said, urging attendees to raise the bar of the discourse to achieve an all-inclusive law. “The call should be: Let's scrutinize and debate it,” she said in order to ensure "that there is ownership" of the law among the stakeholders and the public.

Deles encouraged peace advocates to beef up their awareness campaigns and carefully study and understand the BBL through social actions until it reaches mass media, opinion shapers, and most especially Congress.

One way, she said, is for the CSOs to help the government educate the public comprehend the intricacies of the Bangsamoro Bill by “proactively engaging in the legal and technical discourses.”

Deles said stakeholders need to help to ensure “the smooth implementation of the law.”

Implementation entails moving forward with the roadmap towards the establishment of the Bangsamoro which means the holding of a plebiscite and going through a transition period next year before the elections for the future Bangsamoro government is held in 2016.

At the latter part of last month, the Philippine Senate and the House of the Representatives began the grueling deliberations on the bill that seeks to create a genuinely autonomous political entity for the Bangsamoro people in southern Philippines. The two houses of Congress vowed to pass the bill within the first quarter of 2015.
 

DFA raises alert Level 3 in Yemen, sends Crisis Management Team to Yemen
Source: http://www.dfa.gov.ph
22 October 2014 – The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) announced that Alert Level 3 (Voluntary Repatriation) has been raised in Yemen due to the threat posed by the continued occupation of the capital city Sana’a by Houthi rebels, and the attacks against civilians by separatists and the members of Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP).

Alert Level 3 is raised when violent disturbances occur in a limited area of a country. Under this Alert Level, the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) imposes absolute deployment ban, and Filipinos who are already in Yemen are strongly urged to return to the Philippines.

The Philippine Embassy in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, which has jurisdiction over Yemen, has re-deployed a Crisis Management Team (CMT) to assist Filipinos who wish to be repatriated home to the Philippines.

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ASEAN Committee in Seoul hosts ASEAN Secretary General
Source: http://www.dfa.gov.ph
22 October 2014 - The ASEAN Committee in Seoul (ACS), led by its current chair, Philippine Ambassador to the Republic of Korea (ROK) Raul S. Hernandez, hosted a dinner in honor of visiting ASEAN Secretary General Lê Lương Minh at the Millennium Hilton Hotel on October 08.

The ASEAN Secretary General, who was met by all the Seoul-based ASEAN ambassadors comprising the ACS for the first time since assuming his position in January 2013, visited Korea on 7-13 October on the invitation of Korea’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs ahead of the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit set to take place in Busan on December 11 and 12.

During the dinner at Taipan Cantonese restaurant, the Secretary General briefed the ASEAN ambassadors on the developments in ASEAN-ROK relations, including the logistic and substantive preparations for the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit.

“The ASEAN ambassadors in Korea would like to convey our support for Secretary General Lê Lương Minh’s proactive leadership and his generous contributions in promoting ASEAN’s goal of establishing a political cohesive, economically integrated and socially responsible and people-oriented community by 2015,” Ambassador Hernandez said at the start of dinner.

“Rest assured that we are all doing our share in strengthening further the partnership of ASEAN and Korea, and in raising the profile of our organization in the hearts and minds of the Korean people,” Ambassador Hernandez said as he led his counterparts in toasting the guest of honor.

Earlier in the same day, the Secretary-General made a courtesy call on President Park Geun-hye to exchange views on overall ROK-ASEAN relations and discuss how to improve them going forward.

He also met with the First Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Minister of Trade, Industry and Energy and the Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism to review the preparations for the ASEAN-ROK Commemorative Summit and to discuss matters concerning the ROK-ASEAN cooperation.

In Seoul, he visited the ASEAN-Korea Centre, which is also commemorating its fifth anniversary this year, the Korea-China-Japan Trilateral Cooperation Secretariat and the Secretariat of the Asian Forest Cooperation Organization before proceeding to Busan to visit BEXCO, the main venue for the Summit.

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Private sector companies keen to partner with DOLE to improve PH labor market information system
Source: http://www.dole.gov.ph

Labor and Employment Secretary Rosalinda Dimapilis-Baldoz yesterday expressed delight that the DOLE’s primary labor market information delivery machinery, the PhilJobNet, is already attracting several private sector companies who would like to partner with the DOLE and help deliver labor market information to the public.

“After we have signed Memoranda of Understanding (MOU) with five private sector partners last September, a number of companies have also sent feelers to partner with us through the PhilJobNet,” said Baldoz.

The DOLE’s Bureau of Local Employment,, which administers the PhilJobNet, has developed a theme for its partnerships with private sector companies on LMI delivery.  This theme, Working Together to Build a Better Labor Market Information System, seeks to highlight the DOLE’s thrust that LMI delivery is not exclusive to the government.

The first companies that has partnered with the DOLE are the SFI Group of Companies, Career Hub Network Corporation, JobStreet Philippines Inc., Quantum X, Inc., and the Now Group Inc.

The five have agreed to assist the DOLE to expand access to career guidance services and improve the enhanced PhiliJobnet for a more responsive LMI system.

“Their voluntary act to partner with the DOLE is part of their corporate social responsibilities and human resource development agenda.  They are willing to cooperate and help us promote employment opportunities for jobseekers and to facilitate employers’ search for qualified manpower.

Director Tutay said the terms of the partnership agreements focus on improving the Enhanced Phil-Job Net (E-PJN) system and expanding access to career guidance as well as labor market information.

“As partner organizations of the DOLE in providing the best career and employment opportunities for jobseekers and facilitating the search for qualified manpower of employers through the E-PJN, these companies have now strategic spots and hyperlinks in the E-PJN’s Partners’ Page.  They will also provide the DOLE and E-PJN spot and location in their respective websites,” Baldoz said, adding:

“These companies shall enjoy non-exclusive and non-transferable privileges of using each other’s logo in providing advocacy and IEC materials that are developed for each other’s clients, as well as sharing relevant LMI and career resources.

In the 14th PESO Congress, Baldoz said the DOLE and one of the five partners, SFI Group of Companies, will already unveil one of the products of the collaboration.

The SFI group will unveil the Philippine Talent Map, which it will administer.  The talent map is designed to assess the skills and competencies of the workforce in each of the country’s local areas.

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Agrarian “Peace” Projects to be implemented in Northern Mindanao
Source: http://www.dar.gov.ph
Italian Assistance to the Agrarian Reform Community Development Support Program (IARCDSP) Project Manager Pabil Marohomsalic recently announced that agrarian reform projects that would boost the economic lives of farmer-beneficiaries in the countryside of Northern Mindanao is in the offing.

“The IARCDSP has something to do with the confidence building and improvements to the lives of the poor people and the less developed areas. The developments in the areas and improved livelihood income, whether they are agrarian reform beneficiaries or not, will strengthen the peace process in the community," Marohomsalic said.

The IARCDSP, which began in February 2013, after a memorandum of agreement was signed by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) and the Italian government, is part of the European Union’s efforts to strengthen the Philippine government’s peace settlement in southern Philippines.

At least 53,000 farming families are recipients of the P2.5-billion assistance from the Italian government to develop poverty-stricken rural communities in Mindanao.

“We have already started validating areas to be covered and consulted the local leaders on the immediate needs of their communities to improve their farms,” Marohomsalic said.

Marohomsalic said they are now at the pre-implementation stage of the project and is hoping that the implementation will start next year.

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DA partners with Nestle in boosting school veggie garden project
Source: http://www.da.gov.ph
The Department of Agriculture-Bureau of Plant Industry (DA-BPI) has partnered with the Nestle Philippines Incorporated to boost the campaign for the agency’s Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan Project that aims to promote vegetable production and consumption among schoolchildren.

On October 20, 2014 BPI Director and DA Assistant Secretary Paz Benavidez signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Nestle Senior Vice President and Head of Corporate Affairs Edita de Leon at the BPI Office, Quezon City for the production and packaging of a harmonized manual on school gardening to be used by DA trainers and school teachers for the school veggie gardening project.

Benavidez said that the partnership confirms that the government and the private sector can collaborate to attain unified objective—in this case, to reduce the number of malnourished children and attain food security in the country.

To come up with the “Masustansiyang Pagtatanim” book, the DA-BPI has formed a technical working group assigned to formulate a single manual which will be used by different regions in training teachers on vegetable gardening.

Nestle on the other hand designed and packaged the manual into a colorful book that contains steps on gardening, making compost, as well as recipes that can help entice children to eat more vegetables.

Benavidez said that it is important for children to appreciate the importance of vegetables in their diet through planting even if there are only small spaces left for gardening especially in urban areas.

According to de Leon, the Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan Project is important to teach children about the importance of nutrition, adding that three out of five children in the country are malnourished.

Based on the reports from the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), the Philippines has the lowest vegetable consumption in Asia, which is about 110 grams per capita consumption in 2008, while the World Health Organization recommends 400 grams daily intake of vegetables or 150 kilograms per year.

“Nestle can contribute to the government’s effort of improving children’s nutrition through this partnership,” de Leon added.

The DA’s “Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan” which started in 2011, targets to establish vegetable gardens in at least 46, 000 public elementary and high schools all over the country by 2016.

BPI Crop Production Chief Dante Fidel said that the DA’s target has reached 83% of the targeted schools and is expected to speed up further with the creation of the new manual.

Through the project, the DA provides gardening tools and vegetable seeds including sitao, squash, eggplant, ampalaya, tomatoes, highland vegetables and indigenous vegetables to public schools through the Department of Education.

“Through the “Agri-Pinoy Gulayan sa Paaralan” initiative we aim to promote, increase production and boost consumption of locally-grown vegetables,” Benavidez said.

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World Food Day 2014: There is renewed hope, vigor in the countryside—Alcala
Source: http://www.da.gov.ph/
Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala led the nation in paying tribute to Filipino farmers and fishers who perform the huge task of feeding a population of 100 million and counting, as the Philippines joined the world in commemorating the annual World Food Day.

In his speech during the celebration at the Liwasang Aurora of Quezon Memorial Circle in Quezon City on Thursday, Alcala also re-affirmed the Department of Agriculture’s commitment to the long-term recovery of farming and fishing and communities hit by typhoon Yolanda in central Philippines.

“Ang pagdiriwang na ito ay pasasalamat po natin sa pagkakaroon ng higit na kasapatan sa pagkain,” said Alcala, highlighting the attainment of 96% sufficiency in rice by end of 2013, from merely 82% in 2010.

He said closer cooperation between DA and its stakeholders made this possible, with DA personnel exerting extra efforts to go down to the grassroots to deliver the needed interventions.

According to Alcala, such favorable condition also encouraged additional and younger entrants into the agri-fishery sector as suggested by separate surveys of the National Statistics Office and the DA-Philippine Rural Development Project. Both surveys point to a changing profile of a typical Filipino farmer, with the nearly-complete results of NSO’s Registry of Basic Sectors in Agriculture and DA-PRDP own’s baseline survey showing 43 and 47-48 as the average of Filipino food producers, respectively.

“At ngayon po, nakikita sa ating mga pamayanan, may buhay po at may kinabukasan sa agrikultura,” he said.

But beyond meeting local requirements, he said Filipino food producers and entrepreneurs should aspire for more profitable markets abroad considering that the country has the resources to become a “powerhouse” in global food exports.

He said DA, on its part, will sustain investments in the sector, not only to help Filipino food producers boost their production, but also to produce commodities of increasingly good quality at lower costs, with absolute guarantee about its safety.

“Isaisip lang po natin, na sa pagbibigay ng pagkain sa ating mga kababayan [at iba pang merkado], hindi lang po dapat sila busog, kundi kailangang din pong malusog,” said Alcala.

The DA chief also expressed appreciation to its World Food Day co-organizer UN Food and Agriculture Organization for its timely assistance for typhoon Yolanda-stricken farmers and fishers in Eastern Visayas and other Visayan regions.

He said FAO’s support, which included replacement palay seeds, farming tools and other production inputs, helped 65% of Yolanda-affected farmers to re-plant one and a half months after the typhoon, and have in fact, enabled farmers to plant again and reap their second crop this current season.

In the same speech, Alcala extended his invitation to FAO country representative Jose Luis Fernandez and UNICEF country representative Lotta Sylwander, who were both present during the event, to join him in his trip to Eastern Visayas on Monday, where he will be taking part in a harvest festival in Naval, Biliran.

Alcala’s remarks, aside from the traditional candle lighting ceremony and recital of the World Food Day pledge, served as one of the highlights of the celebration, which was participated in by hundreds of employees of DA’s attached bureaus and agencies.

The event was the culmination of a weeklong celebration at the DA central office in Quezon City that included the national finals of an on-the-spot poster-making contest for public grade school students and the awarding ceremony for 13 “Outstanding Rural Women.”

Singer-composer and educator Jim Paredes of the Apo Hiking Society fame graced the occassion, where he sang Apo’s hits including “Pumapatak Ang Ulan,” “Tuloy na Tuloy Pa Rin ang Pasko,” and “Piece of the Peace.”

World Food Day is celebrated globally every year on 16 October in honor of the date of the founding of FAO of the United Nations in 1945.

This year’s celebration focuses on the theme, “Family Farming: “Feeding the world, caring for the earth.” (Mac Garcia, DA OSEC)

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RITM ready for Ebola - DOH
Source: http://www.doh.gov.ph
The Department of Health (DOH) today declared that the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine (RITM), the country’s National Reference Center for Emerging and Re-emerging Infectious Diseases, is now more prepared to respond to the threat of Ebola Virus Disease (EVD).

“Having managed previous global public health emergencies, the RITM has become better-equipped with rapid detection technology, laboratory, hospital facilities, and trained personnel in responding to the threat of new infectious disease agents,” Health Secretary Enrique Ona said. Dr. Ona also said that the existing facilities still need to be upgraded to be able to handle diseases like Ebola.

It will be recalled that previously, the RITM was in the forefront of global threats like the SARS Coronavirus in 2003, the Pandemic Influenza H1N1 and Ebola-Reston in 2009.

As part of the DOH’s preparation for the possible entry of EVD in the country, RITM has developed a triage system for suspected cases of EVD. Patient screening and evaluation as well as infection control practices are in place. First-line health workers in the management of cases are being trained in the donning and removing of personal protective equipment (PPE). Adequate supply of PPE is available.

RITM is upgrading DOH’s major laboratory hospitals from Biosafety Level (BSL) 2 to BSL 3 or 4 for the detection, treatment, and containment of potentially high-risk infectious agents. The National Reference Center primarily uses molecular detection methods that ensure sensitive and rapid diagnosis. In addition, its Special Pathogens Laboratory is capable of performing the currently recommended diagnostic tests for Ebola. Its hospital facility has eight negative-pressure isolation rooms, which prevent the spread of infectious agents from cases.

“To bolster its preparations, RITM, in coordination with the DOH and the World Health Organization (WHO), is set to conduct a comprehensive 3-day training course for healthcare professionals in the country,” Ona explained, adding that the training course will include guidelines on infection prevention and control, clinical management and isolation, laboratory diagnosis, with demonstration and hands-on sessions.

The training for the medical community was prioritized after the National Summit on Ebola Virus Disease was held on Oct. 10 this year. The training will done to ensure the readiness of health care workers in government and private hospitals for the potential entry of EVD.

“The training builds on the strong platform of experience already here in the Philippines in the prevention and treatment of diseases such as MERSCoV and H1N1. All health workers must adhere to the protocols provided to keep them and their patients safe. It is very important that the Philippines has designated centers of excellence such as RITM with specialist knowledge and facilities to manage the treatment of any suspected Ebola case,” WHO Representative for the Philippines Dr. Julie Hall said.

There will be three batches of training scheduled on October 28-30 this year for DOH referral hospitals including Philippine General Hospital, AFP Medical Center and PNP General Hospital; November 4-6, 2014 for private hospitals in major Philippine cities; and November 11-13, 2014 for local government units.

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Better absorptive capacity key to solving PHL urbanization woes
Source: http://www.pids.gov.ph
The countrys major challenge in addressing urbanization is low absorptive capacity in government line agencies, according to a study released by state-owned think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

In a study titled Scrutinizing Urbanization Challenges in the Philippines Through the Infrastructure Lens, PIDS senior research fellow Adoracion Navarro said the country aims to increase its infrastructure spending to 5 percent of gross domestic product to address problems brought about by urbanization and poverty.

Navarro said these problems, such as the lack of potable water, poor sanitation, flooding, poor waste disposal and insufficient urban transport, also increase poverty incidence.

In previous years, the major constraint to meeting the target is resource availability but now that the Philippines is experiencing wider fiscal space, more public resources are being made available for infrastructure investments, Navarro said.

At present, it appears that the more serious short- term constraints are the weak capacity of government implementing agencies to absorb more funds and implement projects, she added.

Navarro recommended increasing regional cooperation to address short-term problems on absorptive capacity. It will also require tapping into global best practices and better partnerships between and among government personnel and managers.

Improving absorptive capacity will enable the government to finance much-needed investments in mass transport, highways, bridges, ports, airports, water-distribution networks, electric power systems, and telecommunications and information infrastructure.

Addressing this may require sharing of best practices and innovations in procurement, contractual arrangements, and project management and implementation, the study added.

Improving absorptive capacity to get these infrastructure investments on the ground will attain the recommendations included in the National Urban Development and Housing Framework (NUDHF) 2009 to 2016, formulated by the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, in cooperation with the PIDS.

The NUDHF recommended the improvement of urban competitiveness, such as in the greater Metro Manila area, Cebu and Davao City. This recommendation urges the increase of industrial productivity in urban centers nationwide.

The plan also recommended the reduction of poverty in urban areas by improving urban mobility, encouraging smaller families to help control population growth, and implementing livelihood programs.

Further, the NUDHF recommended addressing the countrys housing backlog through affordable housing and the promotion of sustainable communities by encouraging green building, integrating climate-change adaptation and sustainable planning in cities.

Also, a key recommendation under the NUDHF is to encourage performance-based governance by providing incentives to local governments and making them less dependent on the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA), among others.

The study cited official government data that showed that as of the 2010 census, urbanization in the Philippines was at 45.3 percent. In absolute terms, this means that of the 92.3 million Filipinos, around 41.9 million are living in urban areas.

Navarro also cited United Nations projections that estimated that by 2030, the Philippines will be 56.3- percent urban and by 2050, around 65.6-percent urban.

These projections, the study noted, are not far from the overall urbanization rates projected for Southeast Asia of 55.7 percent in 2030 and 65.9 percent in 2050.//

Date: 21 October 2014
Source: Select Article Source

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Two benefit packages featured in 3rd PhilHealth Kapihan
Source: http://www.philhealth.gov.ph
THE Philippine Health Insurance Corporation (PhilHealth) recently featured the Z Benefit Packages for selected Orthopedic Implants and Peritoneal Dialysis (PD) during its third Kapihan with the PCEO at The Legend Villas in Mandaluyong City.

The event was led by Alexander A. Padilla, PhilHealth President and Chief Executive Officer (PCEO) and attended by media practitioners from various national print, radio and TV stations. Also present were Dr. Israel Francis A. Pargas, PhilHealth OIC-Vice President for Corporate Affairs Group and Dr. Arlene Lamban, Head of Peritoneal Dialysis Unit of the National Kidney and Transplant Institute or NKTI. The NKTI has been PhilHealth's key partner in the government sector in making the benefit for PD possible.

Padilla thanked PhilHealth’s media and medical partners saying that “the latest Z packages for selected orthopedic implants and peritoneal dialysis were developed in collaboration with expert groups and patient-members themselves. Early on, we didn’t cover the cost of the implants, just the procedure but because this hampers a patient’s full recovery, we felt we needed to do something more to be able to help these patients get back on their feet.”

The Z package rate for total hip prosthesis (cemented) for members who are 66 years old and above is P103,400.00 while the Z package rate for total hip prosthesis (cementless) for members who are 65 years and 364 days old and below is worth P169,400.00. For partial hip prosthesis (bipolar), the Z package rate is P73,180.00, inclusive of rates for implants per side, whether left or right, while the Z package rate for hip fixation is at P61,500.00, inclusive of multiple screw fixation 6.5mm cannulated cancellous screws with washer.

The social health insurer also pays for implants needed for pertrochanteric fracture. The Z package rate inclusive of compression hip screw set is worth P69,000.00, while Z package rate inclusive of proximal femoral locked plate is P71,000.00. This Z benefit package, which is inclusive of surgery and implants, are available initially at the Philippine Orthopedic Center.

As for the PD benefit, the PhilHealth Chief said that “we listen to the clamor of our members on this procedure and we hear their voices loud and clear. He also announced that “with the PD package at P 270,000 per year, the elements are all covered and we even increased the package amount to make it more significant for our member indigents. We have to see our patient achieve better health outcomes so that they can go back to society and resume their lives as productive citizens of the country. The mechanism is so designed to encourage patient empowerment.”

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PH invites N. American companies to grab PPP investment opportunities
Source: http://ppp.gov.ph
After encouraging foreign companies in Europe, Singapore, and Japan to invest in the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) opportunities of the country, the government staged an investment roadshow in North America showcasing the various PPP projects in the pipeline.

The PPP Center in cooperation with Philippine Embassies and Consulates in Toronto and Montreal, Canada and New York and Washington DC, USA promoted the PPP Program to the North American market.

After being pitched of the pipeline of more than (fifty) 50 PPP projects with an estimated cost of 20.82 billion US dollars, the participating companies were impressed of the diverse investment opportunities in the country. The roadshow attendees have expressed their interest to engage in the PPP program either as bidders, funders, operators, sub-contractors, or as consultants, among others.

Meetings with potential investors in Canada
The roadshow started with a series of one-on-one meetings with potential investors in Toronto and Montreal last October 14 to 15. Executive Director Cosette V. Canilao discussed with various companies and organizations the Philippines’ PPP Program and projects.

In Toronto, Canilao also met with Canadian Council for PPP (CCPPP) to talk about the role of the private sector in supporting PPPs in Canada. The Council is a non-partisan, non-governmental organization that is a proponent of evidence-based public policy in support of P3s. It facilitates the adoption of international best practices, and educates stakeholders and the community on the economic and social benefits of PPP.

She also had a teleconference with P3 Canada, which may be considered as the PPP Center’s Canadian counterpart. P3 Canada, a federal Crown corporation, provides expertise and advice in assessing and executing PPP opportunities at the federal level. P3 Canada officials and Executive Director Canilao exchanged best practices and country experiences in implementing PPPs and in other areas such as strengthening of the legal and regulatory frameworks and capacity building.

Canilao also had a meeting with Manulife Capital, C&I Constructive Edge, and Ontario Municipal Employees Retirement System (OMERS) to discuss the current investment opportunities in the Philippines.

The next stop of the PPP investments roadshow was Montreal, Canada. On October 15, the PPP Center head met the officials of Caisse de depot et placement du Quebec (CDPQ) and one of Canada’s largest pension investment managers, PSP investments.

Manulife, OMERS, CDPQ, and PSP Investments are keen on assessing possible areas of investment in infrastructure and PPPs most likely through partnerships with local players.

PPP Forum and the US-ASEAN Business Council Meeting
After Canada, the investments roadshow continued in New York and Washington DC. Two fora were set in both cities, both focused on PPP infrastructure investment opportunities in the Philippines.

Over forty (40) participants joined the Forum on PPP Infrastructure Projects in the Philippines: Opportunities for US Investors at the Kalayaan Hall of Philippine Center in New York. Following her presentation on PPP investment opportunities, Executive Director Canilao answered some questions from the audience with Consul General Mario Lopez de Leon, Jr. of the Philippine Consulate office in New York. She also entertained one-on-one meetings with possible investors.

Companies she met with in New York City include UTC-RAS and Globe Connect, Eisner Amper, and Blackrock, a leading global asset manager with offices in North and South America, Europe, Asia Pacific and others. Most of these companies have expressed their interest in vying for the country’s big-ticket PPP projects.

In Washington, CGLA organized a forum on PPP Infrastructure Opportunities held at the Philippine Embassy in Washington DC. Assistant Secretary Arun Kumar of the US Department of Commerce, in his opening remarks, emphasized the need to strengthen the network between American and Philippine companies to increase participation of US companies in our country’s infrastructure supply chain. Post-forum one-on-one meetings with Hill International, Parsons, Tetra Tech and San Jose Construction also took place. In the forum, participants also had the chance to inquire about the country’s PPP program through the question and answer sessions and one-on-one meetings.

Before the CGLA Forum, Canilao had a private meeting with the US Department of Commerce Assistant Secretary and other representatives from the US Department of Transportation, US Trade and Development Agency and Export-Import Bank of the United States.

One of the highlights in the North America PPP Investments Roadshow was the roundtable discussion between Executive Director Canilao, Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Hon. Jose L. Cuisia, and members of the US-ASEAN Business Council. These include companies such as IBM, GE, UL, PACCAR, 3M, Autodesk, Bechtel, Caterpillar, and Medtronic, in Washington DC.

The North America Investment Roadshow is part of the government’s efforts to encourage more foreign players to invest in the country’s PPPs especially that there is now a steady deal flow of investment opportunities and the country’s credit ratings are at an all-time high, as evidenced by major international rating agencies’ successive upgrades.

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President PNOY, Roxas emphasize unity during the Galing Pook Awards
Source: http://www.dilg.gov.ph
Interior and Local Government Sec. Mar Roxas assured local government units (LGUs) of the national government’s support in all their efforts towards good governance.

During the Galing Pook Awards 2014 held at the EDSA Shangri-la Hotel, Roxas said “It takes a village,” meaning that there should be unity to accomplish an objective. He said, “Hindi talaga mararating ang magandang bukas kung solo-solo ang lakad (We cannot have a better tomorrow if we are to work alone).”

He assured LGUs that “Hindi kayo nag-iisa (you are not alone),” emphasizing that the national government will back them up in their efforts to better serve the people “who are our bosses.”

Roxas also donated an artwork which features worn out slippers to be displayed in the Galing Pook office. He said the artwork is a pair, and the other pair will be displayed in his office at the DILG.

He said the artwork symbolizes the “tsinelas leadership” of the late DILG Sec. Jesse Robredo. He said “Para parating sariwa sa atin ang halimbawa na ipinakita ni Sec. Jesse (Robredo), yung kaniyang tsinelas leadership (so we will always be reminded of Sec. Jesse’s tsinelas’ leadership).”

He said there’s no greater satisfaction or fulfilment than “Sa katapusan ng araw ay nakapagsilbi tayo sa tao (at the end of the day we were able to serve the people).”

In a speech read for him by Executive Sec. Paquito Ochoa, President Aquino imparted the same message to the LGUs. He emphasized that a better future can be attained, “Sa sabay na pagsagwan ng nasyunal at lokal na pamahalaan (when the national and local governments paddle together)” which he said “ sinusuklian naman nila ng pagtitiwala (they give their trusts in return).”

He also cited efforts of the Dept. of Trade and Industry (DTI) and DILG to streamline procedures in the business and licensing system in local governments which he said encouraged new investors.

During the event, 10 outstanding programs of different LGUs were given the Galing Pook Awards 2014: the “from arms to farms “ program of Kauswagan, Lanao del Norte; affordable homes for the urban poor of Quezon City; the Grand Central Terminal of Legazpi City; Dipolog Boulevard of Dipolog City; night market program of Tagum City; Lingap kalusugan Para sa Barangay Program of Quezon Province; “Linaw Tingin” program of Tarlac province; Klinika Bernardo of Quezon City; Clustered Sanitary Landfill Project of South Cotabato; and the two million mangroves in one day (2 in 1) program of Quezon province.

Named finalists were the following programs: Land Utilization Program for Sustainable Livelihood of Arakenos (LUPA) program of Arakan, South Cotabato; Re-affirming Ilocano greatness of Ilocos Norte; conservation farming villages of La Libertad, Negros Oriental; Health Barangay Awards of Luba, Abra; High School Extension Class of Siasi, Sulu; Community Enterprise Development Program - Pangkabuhayan Centers (CEDP-PCenter) of Siayan, Zamboanga del Norte and Wireless Access for Health (WAH) Initiative of Tarlac.

Mayor Ramon Piang, Sr. of Upi, Maguindanao was accorded the 2nd Jesse Robredo Leadership award.

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POCB to conduct mission to Cambodia and Myanmar
Source: http://www.dti.gov.ph
The Philippine Overseas Construction Board (POCB) of the Construction Industry Authority of the Philippines (CIAP), in collaboration with the private sector led by the Philippine Constructors Association, Inc. (PCA), will conduct a five-day construction mission to Cambodia and Myanmar on 21-25 October 2014.

Philippine Overseas Construction Board (POCB) Chairman and DMCI Holdings President and CEO Isidro A. Consunji will be the head of mission composed of twenty five (25).large contractors and engineering design/consulting firms,

According to CIAP Supervising Undersecretary Prudencio M. Reyes Jr., this is the second construction mission conducted this year by the POCB. He said that this undertaking aims to strengthen market presence of the Philippine construction industry players in Cambodia and Myanmar, which are potential growth areas in the ASEAN. He also mentioned that this is an opportune time for Philippine companies to explore business and investment potentials of these countries. He announced that the mission is funded by the private sector participants including the use of a DMCI private jet plane that will fly the participants to and from Cambodia and Myanmar at no cost to them and the Philippine government.

Undersecretary Reyes, likewise, took cognizance of the success of the mission in the Democratic Republic of Timor Leste conducted by POCB on 19-21 February 2014 which paved the way to one POCB registered contractor to bag a USD 30-M road project contract.

The mission was organized by CIAP Officer-in Charge, Engr. Sonia Valdeavilla, who joined the delegation as Project Manager.

The CIAP is an attached agency of DTI which accelerates, promotes and regulates the growth of the construction industry. It has four implementing arms namely, the Philippine Contractors Accreditation Board (PCAB), the Philippine Overseas Construction Board (POCB), the Philippine Domestic Construction Board (PDCB) and the Construction Industry Arbitration Commission (CIAC).

For more information, call DTI-CIAP at 895.4424 or visit www.dti.gov.ph. or send a message through ciap@dti.gov.ph.

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