The insurance coverage for bank deposits has been raised.
During the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Investors’ Recognition Day held Wednesday at the World Trade Center, Pasay City, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed Republic Act No. 3591 that increases by 100 percent the insurance coverage provided by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corporation (PDIC).
With a half a-million peso insurance, depositors are expected to use the banks to protect their money from the impact of the global slowdown.
The signing was attended by the principal authors and sponsors led Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri and representatives Jaime Lopez of Manila, Matt Defensor of Manila, Ferdinand Martin Romualdez of Leyte and Jose Carlos Lacson of Negros Occidental.
Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Bangko Sentral Governor Amado Tetangco Jr. and PDIC President Jose Nograles were also present in the event.
Meanwhile, The President presented awards to 25 PEZA locators that have contributed in the job creation drive, industrial peace promotion and community services.
This year’s winners for the Outstanding Exporters Awards were the Sunpower Philippines Manufacturing Corporation, American Power Conversion Corp. BV, Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp., Panasonic Communications Philippines Corp., Accenture Incorporated, and Convergy’s Philippines Services Corporation.
Locators that were awarded as outstanding employers were Toshiba Information Equipment (Philippines) Incorporated, Nidec Philippines Corporation, Epson Precision (Philippines) Incorporated, Teletech Customer Care Management Philippines Inc., Convergy’s Philippines Services Corporation, Sitel Philippines Corporation, Faremo International Incorporated, and House Research and Development Pte., Ltd.
For the Outstanding Community Project Awards, the winner were Analog Devices General Trias Inc., Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Philippines Corp., Samsung Electro-Mechanics Philippines Corp., Samsung Electronics Philippines Manufacturing Corp., Teletech Customer Care Management Philippines Inc., Sunpower Philippines Manufacturing Ltd., Hitec RCD Philippines Inc., and EMS Components Assembly Inc.
For the outstanding environmental performers, the winners were Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Philippines Corp.; Rohm Electronics Philippines Inc.; Nikko Metals Philippines Inc.; and AGC Flat Glass Philippines Inc.
Locator that were three-time winners in various categories were listed in the Hall of Fame.
The Hall of Famers were Philippine Associated Smelting and Refining Corp. (Outstanding Exporter), Nidec Philippines Corp. (Outstanding Exporter), NXP Semiconductors Philippines Inc. (Outstanding Community Project), Ford Motor Company Philippines Inc. (Outstanding Community Project), Ford Motor Company Philippines Inc. (Outstanding Environment Performer), and First Philippine Industrial Park (Outstanding Environment Performer).
Exporters to get P1-billion support fund from government
Government is expediting the release of a billion peso support fund for the export sector.
“I have instructed Secretary Favila to work with the PMS, DBM and DOT a final evaluation of the various proposals with the intent of releasing the fund soonest,” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said during the 30th National Conference of Employers (NCE) at Manila Hotel.
The president said the fund, which would come from the economic resiliency fund, will help exporters survive the global financial glut.
More than 50,000 local workers were displaced in the export sector and the fund Is expected to help them find new livelihood.
No Mexican Swine flu in the Philippines
The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) assured that the swine influenza that has affected Mexico, US and Canada hasn’t broken through the country.
Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap reiterated Tuesday that there is no swine influenza outbreak in the Philippines and eating pork is safe.
“Consuming meat products continuously to be a safe activity, we’re calling this (virus strain) the Mexican Swine Influenza,” said Yap referring to the local term the NDCC has adopted as the more appropriate reference to the influenza strain (Swine Flu) believed to have originated from farm hogs in Mexico.
Yap added that the Animal Health Organization based in Paris has found no evidence that the influenza virus is transmitted by food.
Instead, as reported by Health Undersecretary Mario Villaverde, there are indications that the virus jumped from one person to another.
“This is new strain (Mexican Swine influenza) is described from cases and deaths from Mexico and several other areas in the United States has not identified previously from animals or humans. The occurrence of illness and the absence of definite pig exposure among the first cases strongly suggested human to human transmission,” said Villaverde.
Being a new strain, there is no vaccine for the Mexican Swine Influenza.
The World Health Organization has raised the pandemic alert to Phase 4 but government is not worried.
“Even though there’s a world-wide declaration of a Phase-4 event, the Philippines is classified as a non-affected country,” Defense Secretary and NDCC chair Gilbert Teodoro said, “But be that as it may, we have take all necessary steps to maintain if not improve our readiness to meet a theoretical pandemic should it affect the Philippines. The Department of Health will issue bulletins from time to time regarding the Mexican Swine Flu.”
Affected countries will have to rapidly contain the illness by preventing those with fever or under febrile conditions from leaving the country while those non-affected must heighten its surveillance, hospital and clinical care, logistics which will include medicines and supply, public information and advocacy.
Yap has ordered the temporary suspension of all hog and pork imports from afflicted areas and has mobilized concerned offices under the Department of Agriculture.
“I have ordered the Bureau of Quarantine to heightened alert in all airports and seaports to ensure that hand-carried meat products are thoroughly screened to prevent the entry of products from afflicted zones and the National Meat Inspection Service to monitor meat establishments and slaughter houses, inter-province movements of live hogs and products to ensure proper safety certification.”
Yap added that even the measures implemented during the height of the Reston Virus infections in Pandi, Bulacan are still operational.
DOH, as reported previously by Secretary Francisco Duque III, activated its surveillance mechanism particularly screening of inbound passengers in international seaports and airports since last week following the WHO announcement that the influenza strain has developed into a public health emergency of international concern.
Villaverde said passengers under “feverish condition” will be isolated and treated to the Research Institute for Tropical Medicine, the San Lazaro Hospital and the Lung Center of the Philippines.
The signs and symptoms of the influenza in Humans include: fever, lethargy, lack of appetite, lack of appetite, coughing, runny nose, sore throat, and nausea/vomiting and diarrhea.
“We have already conducted orientation on the interim guidelines and we are establishing the mechanism wherein we can organize our field hospitals and other emergency operation center,” said Villaverde, “with our experience in the Avian Influenza, for which we remained zero-case, we are quite assured that our readiness is in placed. Also, our experience with SARS triggered most of our preparation now. We are in that stage of readiness. Also, more recently, the Reston Virus. We have conducted some exercises and so many scenarios that will make our health workers and health managers more able to respond to this condition.”
To reduce the risks of infection, DOH has proposed several ways including avoiding places described as afflicted areas; and covering mouth and nose with tissues or handkerchief when coughing or sneezing.
DA orders surveillance of farm handlers vs Mexican swine flu
Yap issued this directive following a Tuesday meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) at Camp Aguinaldo in which it was established that the so-called swine influenza problem now buffeting Mexico, the United States and Canada is no longer an animal health issue but a human health problem.
Hence, he said, the DA will play a supporting role from hereon to the Department of Health (DOH), which is in charge of crafting and implementing a national preparedness and response program against any possible human disease outbreak in the country, such as the “Mexican swine flu” outbreak in Mexico, US and Canada.
Yap said that the BAI will have to report at once to the DOH any illness exhibited by animal handlers and other people in close contact with swine farms.
He said that he has also directed the National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS) to likewise step up its surveillance work with focus on monitoring movements of hogs and pork products and preventing the entry of sick pigs or “double dead” meat in the human food chain.
As declared by the World Organisation for Animal Health or Office International des Epizooties (OIE), the new illness could be called a “North American influenza” because it has human, avian and swine virus characteristics, and had been initially described as swine flu only because hogs happened to be the “mixing vessel” capable of combining all three virus strains into the new, deadlier virus.
The secretary said that keeping tabs with people in close contact with hogs is just a precautionary measure, given that the real swine flu is an ordinary illness that affects swine and from which most hogs recover after a few days of illness, and that this ordinary swine influenza is entirely different from the novel strain that has downed an increasing number of people in Mexico, the US and Canada.
He noted that the OIE has called for urgent scientific research into this novel strain, given that not one of the affected people have had contact with sick pigs and that there has been no outbreak of swine flu among pigs in the affected countries.
Yap reiterated, meanwhile, that it is safe to eat properly cooked pork as the OIE itself declared there is no evidence that the new virus could be transmitted through food.
The DA chief said on Tuesday that the temporary suspension of pork imports from the afflicted zones in Mexico , the United States and Canada will stay pending further scientific evidence that will categorically rule out this disease as coming from swine.
Yap said the government will maintain this policy as a precautionary measure despite the latest pronouncement by the OIE that “there is no evidence that this virus is transmitted by food” and that it is “not justified to name this disease swine influenza” as it is not technically the SI virus but a multi-strain one “which includes in its characteristics swine, avian and human virus components.”
In the absence of any animal disease outbreak in the three countries concerned, the OIE said in its latest official statement that it would be better to call this illness as the “North American influenza” even as it added that “urgent scientific research must be started in order to know the susceptibility of animals to this new virus.”
Also on Tuesday, Yap had a meeting at his Quezon City office with hog industry leaders, namely, Renato Eleria, Eliseo Yu and Arceo Alfonso from the National Federation of Hog Farmers’ Inc. (NFHFI); Dr. Leo Obviar, president of Philippine Swine Producers Association (PSPA): and Dr. Wilfredo Resoso, president of the Philippine College of Swine Practitioners (PCSP).
These groups represent, among others, Foremost Farms, Robina, Monterrey , Holiday Hills and RS Farm.
Director Davinio Catbagan of the DA’s Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) said the Philippines does not import any pork product from Mexico but imports about 50,000 metric tons (MT) from the US and Canada.
He said that the said 50,000 MT will now be sourced domestically, most likely from Mindanao, and from about 10 countries that are free of this virus.
Catbagan said the BAI will coordinate with the Bureau of Customs (BOC) and other airport and seaport authorities to stop the entry of pork products that were shipped out from the three countries following the onset of the human infections.
The DA and BAI said on Monday they were mounting yet another slew of measures topped by more stringent biosecurity and border control steps to prevent a domestic outbreak of swine influenza (SI) in response to the laboratory-confirmed cases of human infections in Mexico and the US.
Last weekend, Yap directed BAI “to measure and to strengthen the monitoring of all the ports to prevent the entry of any hogs/pork from Mexico and the US” and to “augment existing quarantine checkpoints to further prevent movement of sick pigs.”
Yap had also ordered the BAI “to lift the restriction in the use of SI vaccine and encourage hog farmers to regularly vaccinate their pigs against SI as the vaccine will be readily available.”
RP, Brunei seal agricultural cooperation deal
Manila and Bandar Seri Begawan have sealed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) further strengthening bilateral cooperation between the two Southeast Asian countries, particularly in the fields of agriculture and farm-related trade and investments.
This MOU was forged by the Department of Agriculture, on behalf of the Philippines, and the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources, on behalf of Brunei Darussalam, during the third day of DA Secretary Arthur Yap’s April 25-27 official trip to Brunei.
Yap’s April 25-27 trip serves as a follow-up to the visit of His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah, Sultan and Yang Di-Pertuan of Brunei Darussalam, to the Philippines last January and subsequently the DA chief’s first visit to Brunei on March 3-4 2009 with DA Undersecretary for Special Concerns Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, Philippine Rice Research Institute Executive Director Ronilo A. Beronio, and Dr. Justino R. Arboleda, CEO of Coco Technologies Corporation.
During the January visit of the Sultan of Brunei to Manila, he and President Arroyo affirmed their commitment to further deepen and expand the friendly relations between Manila and Bandar Seri Begawan as well as work closer in addressing regional and global challenges.
The agreement was signed on Monday by Yap and Pehin Yahya at the Empire Hotel and Country Club in Brunei Darussalam.
“This MOU provides for a general framework for bilateral cooperation in the field of agriculture for the purpose of fostering sectoral development and with a view of enhancing agri-related trade and investment between the Philippines and Brunei,” Yap said.
Accompanying Yap during his trip were Mr. Marriz Agbon, President of the Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corporation, and Atty. Ronilo A. Beronio, Executive Director of the Philippine Rice Research Institute.
Under the MOU, both signatory-countries committed to strengthen cooperation in the areas of plant science, crops technology, vegetable and fruit preservation, biotechnology, post-harvest technology, livestock, organic agriculture, irrigation and water resources and Halal industry.
Both parties aim to bolster bilateral cooperation in these farm-based areas through the following:
1. Exchange of scientific or technical materials and information in agriculture;
2. Exchange of professionals, scientists, technical experts and trainees;
3. Conduct of studies related to areas of mutual interest;
4. Organization of training workshops, seminars and conference in areas of mutual interest;
5. Conduct of promotional and facilitation activities including agricultural products trade fairs and special exhibitions;
6. Cooperation in the areas of food and commercial sectors and food industries, technology transfer and innovation, implementation of activities related to trading in agricultural products through meetings, seminars and other methods considered appropriate; and
7. Cooperation in other related areas to be identified and jointly decided upon by the Parties, such as sanitary and phytosanitary measures relating to the import or export of agricultural products.
Manila and Bandar Seri Begawan agreed under the MOU to encourage private sector initiatives and partnerships in the said areas.
The two parties will create a joint committee composed of an equal number of designated representatives from both sides to oversee the implementation of the MOU.
This joint panel will meet once a year or every two years, with the venue to be mutually decided upon by the two parties, to study and formulate detailed programs for cooperation in the areas of agriculture and review the progress of the MOU’s implementation.
The committee is required under the MOU to submit a joint report to the DA secretary and the minister of the Ministry of Industry and Primary Resources.
This MOU was given provisional effectivity upon its signing last Monday, and will continue to have effect for a period of five years, with a possible extension of another five years, subject to the mutual agreement of both parties.
Possible investment areas that Yap and other agriculture executives had proposed to Brunei officials and business leaders are in the palay and corn, high-value commercial crops, poultry, marine and Halal subsectors.
Meeting with Yap during his April 25-27 visit was his counterpart, HE Pehin Orang Kaya Seri Utama Dato Seri Setia Awang Haji Yahya bin Begawan Mudim Dato Paduka Haji Bakar, Minister of Industry and Primary Resources of Brunei Darussalam.
A highlight of Yap ’s trip was his joining His Majesty Sultan Haji Hassanal Bolkiah on 27 April 2009 at the Launching Ceremony of Paddy Planting Towards Achieving Self-Sufficiency in Rice Production in Brunei Darussalam, for which the Philippine Rice Research Institute is maintaining a techno-demonstration plot. It was a historic event since it was the first time the monarch personally planted rice in Brunei to clearly bring home the point of food security to his people.
Last February, the DA dispatched a five-man team to Bandar Seri Begawan composed of experts from the Philippine Rice Research Institute (PhilRice) to assess Brunei’s potential for rice self-sufficiency in response to the Brunei Government’s request for Philippine technical assistance to help achieve Brunei’s food security goals.
These areas of investment, Yap said, include rice research and development; agribusiness estates in Mindanao ; corn production and processing; production of high-value commercial crops such as pineapple, banana and mango; marine zone development; poultry farm development and the Halal food industry.
Manila had earlier held discussions with Bandar Seri Begawan on viable investment opportunities in the domestic Halal sector, particularly in Mindanao, which has a comparative edge over other countries in the region because it is free of the foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and the avian influenza (AI) or bird flu virus.