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Archive for October 2008

3% tariff on oil products back Saturday

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:05:00 10/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) The government will re-impose the three-percent tariff on oil products starting this Saturday, as local pump prices continue to go down, amid the decline in world crude prices, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said Friday.

“It’s a policy direction that we have to go back to three percent because the triggers are no longer there,” Teves told reporters in Malacañang Friday.

“It’s effective on November 1,” he said, when asked when the three-percent tariff would be re-imposed.

Asked if the move would push up pump prices, Teves said: “I don’t know if it will affect.”

Calls by to representatives of oil firms were unanswered.

The government slashed tariffs on oil early this year to soften the impact of soaring world oil prices on the local market. A mechanism was set wherein certain “trigger” prices” would determine the size of the tariff reduction.

World prices rose to as high as $140 per barrel, but recently dropped to $60 per barrel. Oil companies rolled back diesel prices by P5-P6 per liter, and gasoline and kerosene prices by P2 per liter.

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Fri+00:002008-10-31T18:26:38+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Fri, 31 Oct 2008 18:26:38 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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Senate has ‘convicted’ Bolante–Angara

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 16:38:00 10/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Senate has “convicted” former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn “Joc-Joc” Bolante over the P728-million fertilizer fund controversy, and thus, there was no need to reopen its investigation into the matter, Senator Edgardo Angara said.

Angara said the Ombudsman, not the Senate, should pursue the case against Bolante, who was deported back to the Manila from the United States after a failed bid for political asylum.

“Sabi ng Senate report, may kasalanan si Joc-Joc. Samakatuwid, parang na-convict na siya sa amin. [The Senate report said Joc-Joc has done wrong. In short, we convicted him],” Angara told reporters in Malacañang on Friday.

Angara was at the Palace to witness President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s signing into law of the Credit Information Act, of which he is principal author.

Angara is head of the Senate committee on agriculture. The former head of the committee, ex-senator Ramon Magsaysay Jr., investigated the fertilizer fund scam in 2006, but Bolante never testified.

Bolante fled to the United States where he was denied political asylum and was detained for two years for possession of an invalid passport.

Angara said Magsaysay’s report had recommended that the case be forwarded to the Ombudsman.

“Tapos na kami e, bakit babalik pa yan sa amin? [We’re done with that, why is it being returned to us?]” he said.

Bolante, who is closely identified with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, allegedly funneled P728 million in fertilizer funds to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s campaign kitty in 2004.

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Fri+00:002008-10-31T09:07:46+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Fri, 31 Oct 2008 09:07:46 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Stronger equities market urged

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:38:00 10/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo urged Congress to come up with legislation that will strengthen the equities market, in coordination with the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), amid the world financial crisis.

The President cited the PSE’s proposals to extend the documentary stamp tax exemption through next year, and the possible reduction of the stock transaction tax by half. These measures, she said, would make the local bourse “more competitive.”

“We acknowledge the proposals of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) to strengthen our equity markets against the current global upheaval,” she said in a speech after she signed the Credit Information Act in Malacanang on Friday.

“We ask Congress to look closely at their suggestions that require legislation,” Arroyo said, as she reminded lawmakers that the measures must be revenue-neutral.

On Monday, the Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) fell 23 percent, its biggest single-day drop since 1987, as world markets spiraled downwards as the United States headed towards recession.

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Fri+00:002008-10-31T09:05:40+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Fri, 31 Oct 2008 09:05:40 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Arroyo: Political intrigue waste of time

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 15:02:00 10/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Faced with a new impeachment attempt, and an impending revival of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the country could not “waste time” on “political intrigue and grandstanding.”

Arroyo said Congress should work on legislation to ease poverty and cushion the impact of the global financial crisis.

In a speech before signing the Credit Information Act Friday, the President said: “We look forward to Congress adding even more gifts to better protect our people. We cannot waste time on political intrigues and grandstanding. Remaining reforms await our action.”

“Let us continue to endeavor to help the ordinary Filipino stretch his paycheck,” she said.

Businessman Jose de Venecia III led the filing of another impeachment complaint against Arroyo last month on charges of election fraud and corruption, including the alleged overprice of the government’s botched $329-million contract with China’s ZTE Corp. for the national broadband network project.

On Tuesday, former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, accused of funneling P728 million in fertilizer funds to the President’s campaign kitty in 2004, was deported back to the country from the United States, where he was denied political asylum.

The House of Representatives will tackle the impeachment complaint when sessions resume on November 10. Senators are still arguing over whether or not its investigation into the fertilizer fund controversy should be revived.

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Fri+00:002008-10-31T08:11:57+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Fri, 31 Oct 2008 08:11:57 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Arroyo signs credit bill into law

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 08:06:00 10/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE 2) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law on Friday Republic Act 9510 or the Credit Information Act, which would consolidate credit information from financial institutions to facilitate creditworthiness checks.

The law will pave the way for the establishment of the Central Credit Information Corp., which will pool data from banks, quasi-banks; and quasi-banks and their subsidiaries and affiliates; life insurance companies, credit card firms, government lending institutions and other credit facilities.

“A credible and comprehensive credit information system run by the Credit Information Corporation will cut credit processing times and therefore lower transaction costs,” Arroyo said in a speech, shortly before she signed the measure in Malacañang.

“It will reduce risk of defaults with better credit information. It will reduce the credit premium charged by lenders and increase lending volumes. It will help expand the reach of credit to small and medium enterprises,” she said.

The principal author of the law, Senator Edgardo Angara, stressed its importance amid the credit crunch in the United States, which has sent shock waves around the world.

“This law came at the most propitious time, because there is some credit shyness among lenders today because of the credit crisis. But with this, I think it will open up the credit store a little bit more,” Angara told reporters at the Palace after the signing.

“The lender already will know with the click of a mouse, the credit history of every borrower,” he said.

The Central Credit Information Corp., which will be headed by the chairman of the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), will provide credit data to financial institutions, those engaged in the business of credit reports and other information services, accredited third party providers which will handle data processing, and the borrowers themselves.

The bill was ratified by both houses of Congress in September, after Malacañang certified it as urgent.

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Fri+00:002008-10-31T07:54:48+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Fri, 31 Oct 2008 07:54:48 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Palace to bishops: ‘Be more responsible’

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:03:00 10/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang called on Catholic bishops critical of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to be “more responsible” with their statements so as not to sow confusion and panic.

On Tuesday, five Roman Catholic Bishops called on the faithful to “rebuild” the country, with the government beset with corruption allegations.

The bishop’s call came hours before former agriculture undersecretary Jocelyn Bolante, the alleged brains of the P728-million fertilizer fund scam, returned to the country after being deported by the United States.

“Anybody is free to say what they want to say. We respect the bishops and the institutions [they represent, but] they should know better kung saan nila dapat iposisyon ang kanilang mga sarili [where their place is],” deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said.

“We have to be more responsible because, as I said, you cannot create confusion or panic especially at this time,” she said.

“I think this is not the right timing to call for destabilization. Such criticism is unwarranted. As I said, we need to be productive,” she added.

At the same time, Fajardo appealed to the public to be “wary of the motives” of people who criticize government.

Bolante allegedly funneled P728-million in fertilizer funds to Arroyo’s campaign kitty in 2004. He is confined at the St. Luke’s Medical Center in Quezon City, under the custody of the Senate, which is set to revive its inquiry into the scandal.

Like the “Hello Garci” election fraud scandal in mid-2005 and the controversy generated by the allegedly overpriced $329-million national broadband network deal earlier this year, Fajardo expressed confidence the Arroyo government would surpass the Bolante controversy.

“We are confident, yes, that we can…We can surpass any issue,” Fajardo said, adding that Arroyo is focused in keeping the economy afloat amid the global financial crisis.

She said the Palace trusts the Ombudsman to investigate the alleged misuse of fertilizer funds.

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Thu+00:002008-10-30T15:11:30+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 30 Oct 2008 15:11:30 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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RP-UN sign peacekeeping pact

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 13:55:00 10/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines and the United Nations (UN) forged a memorandum of agreement (MoA) that will place on standby the country’s military personnel and equipment for the world body’s peace keeping missions.

The MoA on Contributions to the UN Standby Arrangement System was signed by UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon and Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo in Malacañang on Wednesday evening.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo witnessed the signing, held before a state dinner she hosted in Ban’s honor.

Under the agreement, the Philippines will “make available specified resources that could be made available for UN peacekeeping operations within the agreed response time.”

“The commitment could be in the form of military formation, specialized personnel, services, as well as materiel and equipment,” the MoA read.

The MoA “formalized” the commitment of the Philippines to UN-sponsored peacekeeping operations, according to a Malacañang statement released Thursday.

“We are very proud of the signing of the agreement earlier, for a standby agreement with our peacekeeping forces,” Arroyo said in a speech before the state dinner.

The Philippines has 621 peacekeepers in UN missions in Afghanistan, Haiti, Kosovo, Liberia, Sudan, Timor Leste, Koltival, and Darfur.

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Thu+00:002008-10-30T07:59:53+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 30 Oct 2008 07:59:53 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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Palace welcomes oil price rollbacks

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 12:10:00 10/30/2008

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang welcomed the relatively bigger oil price rollbacks on Thursday, but at the same time, pressed oil companies to bring pump prices further down.

The three big oil companies, Pilipinas Shell, Petron Corp., and Chevron, as well as the smaller firms, cut diesel prices by as high as P6 per liter and gasoline and kerosene prices by P2 per liter.

“Malacañang is pleased that oil companies acted upon the appeals of the administration to make the price of gas and other oil products more responsive [to world prices],” deputy presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said in a statement.

“But the Palace will continue to hold discussions with oil companies to further reduce prices. Oil is at a very low $60 per barrel and Malacañang is working to ensure that there [will] be significant reduction also in the prices of major commodities and services,” she said.

The three big oil players rolled back by no more than P1 per liter per week, even as world oil prices dropped from its peak of almost $140 per barrel.

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Thu+00:002008-10-30T07:58:25+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Thu, 30 Oct 2008 07:58:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am10

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PCCI’s Dee ‘scolds’ CBCP head

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 19:44:00 10/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — The chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) claimed to have reprimanded Jaro Archbishop Angel Lagdameo over the phone over reports he called for a change in government due to allegations of massive corruption.

Recalling his conversation with Lagdameo, PCCI chairman emeritus Donald Dee said he told the archbishop: “One statement you made that we cannot accept and will never accept is that we need a new government.”

“Your statement is creating havoc, it divides the people. We did not create this recession. We were just dragged into this,” Dee said he told the CBCP president.

“Beyond that, let me say this very clearly archbishop, that business, we businessmen, need a calm environment to work in. With your statement, you can see that some groups with different agenda are moving,” he told reporters at the Palace, in an interview arranged by Press Secretary Jesus Dureza.

Dee said Lagdameo told him he was referring to preparations for the 2010 general elections.

The business leader said he asked Lagdameo to issue a rejoinder to which the prelate reportedly: “I will try to do it.”

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Wed+00:002008-10-29T14:31:25+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Wed, 29 Oct 2008 14:31:25 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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‘Ratify UN pact on migrant rights’

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By Joel Guinto, Veronica Uy
First Posted 18:01:00 10/29/2008

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo urged world leaders on Wednesday to shield migrant workers from the effects of the global economic crisis and ratify the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of their Families.

Speaking at the 2nd Global Forum on Migration and Development (GFMD), Arroyo acknowledged that countries are “less equipped to protect their people abroad in times of trouble” and worried that the global financial crisis could result in “side effects” such as exploitation, abuse, and ill treatment of migrant workers.

“We must work together to protect our migrant workers in times of financial and economic stress as the world is experiencing now,” Arroyo said, drawing applause from the audience at the Philippine International Convention Center (PICC).

“We urge all countries which have not yet done so to ratify the international convention on the protection of the rights of all migrant workers and members of their families,” she said.

Arroyo also urged nations to “never lose sight” of the “unseen impact” of the world credit crunch on the poor.

She said her government was working to create “appealing employment opportunities” back home, especially in business process outsourcing (BPO), and to “spread the wealth,” so that Filipinos would not be forced to seek greener pastures abroad.

“We long for the day when going abroad for a job is a career option not the only choice for a Filipino worker. Our economic plans are designed to allow the Philippines to break out of this cycle, that is why we remain so stubbornly focused on the economy,” she said.

Arroyo’s appeal was echoed later in the day by Labor Secretary Marianito Roque in his speech opening the general debate of the government meeting.

Roque said ratifying the treaty is the most effective way of recognizing “migrants’ vital contributions to development locally as well as globally.”

As of September 29 this year, only 39 countries have ratified the treaty and 15 have signed it.

Many of those that have ratified and signed the convention are developing countries in Asia, Africa, and Latin America from where migrant workers come. None of the developed countries in Europe and the Americas have done so.

During the civil society days of the Manila Forum, non-government organizations and other migration and development stakeholders repeatedly made the same call.

At the same time, Roque asked the international community to redouble efforts — at the national, regional, and international levels — to combat trafficking in all its forms, particularly of women and children.

“The GFMD is an opportunity for labor-sending and -receiving nations to reaffirm the commitment to protect the rights of workers particularly those under irregular circumstances,” he said.

Roque also said bilateral and regional mechanisms are needed to address vulnerabilities of migrant workers, particularly in ensuring that they receive fair compensation and work in decent working conditions.

The 39 countries that have ratified the UN treaty are: Albania, Algeria, Argentina, Azerbaijan, Belize, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Burkina Faso, Cape Verde, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, Egypt, El Salvador, Ghana, Guatemala, Guinea, Honduras, Jamaica;

Kyrgyzstan, Lesotho, Libyan Arab Jamahiriya, Mali, Mauritania, Mexico, Morocco, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Philippines, Senegal, Seychelles, Sri Lanka, Syria, Peru, Tajikistan,
Timor Leste, Turkey, Uganda, and Uruguay.

Those that have signed it are: Bangladesh, Benin, Cambodia, Comoros, Congo, Gabon, Guinea-Bissau, Guyana, Indonesia, Liberia, Montenegro, Sao Tome and Principe, Serbia, Sierra Leone, and Togo.

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Wed+00:002008-10-29T14:30:29+00:00+00:0010b+00:00Wed, 29 Oct 2008 14:30:29 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm10

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