Thursday, 25 March 2010

PIA Dispatch - Thursday, March 25, 2010

Road project improves security, commerce in Basilan terrorists' lair –- PGMA

TIPO-TIPO, Basilan, March 25 - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo found a considerably improved security condition in this former lair of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), during her first visit last Wednesday (March 24) to this town to inspect the progress of a road project.

Some 2,000 town residents, most of them overwhelmed by the first-time visit, welcomed the President as she personally inspected the rehabilitation of 29.3-kilometer portion of the Basilan Circumferential Road that stretches between Barangay Cabangalan in Tipo-Tipo and Barangay Canas in Maluso.

“We are so happy because, for the first time in the history of the province, the President is here to visit us,” said Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun Istarul. He said the Tipo-Tiponians are grateful for the road project because their trip to capital Isabela City, which used to take them six hours, now takes only two hours.

In her message, the President said this road project has improved the peace and order condition in Tipo-Tipo, where some of the recent major clashes between the Abu Sayyaf and government forces have taken place.

“Kuta ito dati ng ASG, dahil walang kalsada, pero ngayon takot na sila,” (Because there are no roads, this town used to be the base of the ASG. But now they are gone),” the President said.

The President also said the road project has reduced the transport costs for products, resulting in the lower prices of commodities.

Basilan Governor Jum Akbar hailed the project as the national government’s manifestation of concern for Basilan and support to the local leadership.

The road rehabilitation here is part of the Basilan Circumferential Road Project, which President Arroyo initiated to spur economic growth in Basilan and its neighboring island provinces.

The Road Project is seen as a major infrastructure initiative to bringing prosperity in Basilan even as government continues its campaign against local terrorism and lawlessness.

The rehabilitation of Tipo-Tipo-Maluso Road Section started last January, with a P2 million starting fund from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The implementing unit is the Joint Engineer Task Force “Kaunlaran Basilan” of the National Development Support Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The task force is composed of the Engineer Maintenance Support Battalion, 55th Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army, and the 1st Naval Mobile Construction Battalion of the Naval Construction Brigade of the Philippine Navy.

Tipo-Tipo, a fourth-class municipality of some 48,500 residents, was the site of gruesome killings in 2007 that included the beheading by ASG members of 14 Philippine Marines soldiers.

In August 2009, government troops suffered 23 dead and 26 wounded as they captured the main ASG camp in the town which was also the nerve center of ASG terrorist operations. Tipo-Tipo also used to be the training ground of ASG female members and children, who were recruited easily into the ASG due to local poverty and illiteracy.

As part of government’s two-pronged peace and development approach in Mindanao, President Arroyo ordered the implementation of programs for the civilian sector alongside military operations.

The Basilan Circumferential Road Project is part of the P2.2-billion road program for Mindanao, funded by a concessional loan extended by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The loan of 75 million Saudi riyals ($ 20 million or P1.078 billion) was extended on October 2005, while government provided a counterpart fund of P1.118 billion.

The Basilan Circumferential Road Project is 135 kilometers long, divided into six sections: Umayam in Maluso; Lagayas and Camalig in Tipo-Tipo; Tumahubong; Canas-Cabcaban-Libug-Benembengan; and Abong-Abong-Pali-Dikit in Sumisip.


FG hospitalized; PGMA cancels appointments

MANILA, March 25 - President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo cancelled her appointments for Thursday to be with First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo who was taken this morning to St. Luke's Medical Center in the Global City in Taguig to undergo "intense medical care."

Press Secretary Crispulo J. Icban Jr. confirmed this development and said the President left a word for event organizers concerned to proceed with holding the activities she is supposed to grace.

He also said the First Gentleman is under continuous monitoring at St. Luke's coronary care unit.

Citing the latest available report from St. Luke's cardiac surgeon Dr. Rommel Cariño, Icban said the First Gentleman developed "dissection of the thoracic aorta and experienced back pains."

"This needs intense medical care to control his blood pressure and heart rate to prevent further re-dissection," he said, citing the doctor's report.

Icban said St. Luke's placed the First Gentleman under close monitoring as Cariño explained a rupture can cause compression of the blood supply to various vital organs.

St. Luke's medical personnel are now controlling the First Gentleman's vital signs and back pains, Icban noted, citing the hospital's report.

The First Gentleman's attending physician, Dr. Juliet Cervantes, is with President Arroyo at St. Lukes, Icban said.

Mrs. Arroyo also accompanied her husband when he was previously hospitalized for heart-related problems.

It was still unclear what triggered the First Gentleman's ailment at present.

"We don't know what brought on this ailment," Presidential Spokesperson Ricardo Saludo said during a Palace briefing today.

He said Malacanang will await word from the President on her future activities, including her electoral campaign for a congressional seat in Pampanga province.

"The First Gentleman's condition will be a major consideration in the President's activities," Saludo said.


Court issues arrest warrants vs. 189 Maguindanao massacre suspects

The Quezon City Regional Trial Court (RTC) on Thursday ordered the arrest of 189 suspects in the Maguindanao massacre that claimed the lives of 57 civilians, including 15 women and 30 media practitioners in Ampatuan town, Maguindanao on Nov. 23, 2009.

Quezon City RTC Branch 221 Presiding Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes directed the Philippine National Police-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (PNP-CIDG) and the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to implement the arrest warrants immediately.

Among those ordered arrested are former Maguindanao Governor Andal Ampatuan, Sr.; Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan; former Acting Maguindanao Governor Sajid Ampatuan, Akmad Ampatuan, Anwar Ampatuan, Tactan Dilo, Ismael Canabia and Maguindanao PNP chief Chief Insp. Sukarno Dikay.

They are now detained at the PNP-CIDG Detention Center in General Santos City.

Datu Unsay, Maguindanao Mayor Andal Ampatuan, Jr., the prime suspect in the multiple murder charges, is still detained at the NBI Detention Cell in Taft Avenue, Manila.

He vehemently denied the charges.

The Quezon City RTC Branch 221 is now hearing the petition for bail filed by Ampatuan, Jr.

Reyes also approved the amended information filed by the Department of Justice (DOJ) which implicated 196 individuals in the case.

Among the victims were Manila Bulletin correspondent Bong Reblando and the wife and two sisters of Buluan, Maguindanao Vice Mayor Esmael "Toto" Mangudadatu, who is seeking the governorship of the province in the May 10, 2010 elections.

Mangudadatu and his lead counsel Nena Santos welcomed the issuance of the arrest warrants.

Santos said this would mean that those in custody would have to be transferred to Manila, and those at large hunted down and arrested.

On Wednesday, the Court of Appeals dismissed the writs of amparo and habeas data filed by Ampatuan Jr. for lack of form and substance.

In his petition, Ampatuan accused police authorities of destroying his property and harassing his family while serving a search warrant.


Magnitude 6.2 quake rocks Metro Manila, nearby provinces

MANILA, March 25 - A magnitude 6.2 earthquake rocked parts of Metro Manila and nearby provinces at about 1:30 p.m., state seismologists said.

Initial reports by Renato Solidum, Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Phivolcs) chief, said the quake was measured at magnitude 6.2.

The epicenter of the tremor was traced some 124 kms west of Batangas and has a depth of 1 km.

Intensity 5 was felt in Quezon City and Lubang Island in Mindoro Islands, and Intensity 4 in Bataan province.

The quake was tectonic in origin and was caused by movement of a fault line in seabed along the Pacific Ocean.

Solidum urged the public to stay calm as they are gathering further reports about the tremor.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

PIA Dispatch - Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Arroyo-formed body moves decisively vs. private armies

The Independent Commission Against Private Armies (ICAPA), the Presidential body created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to look into the existence of partisan armed groups in the country, has directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to step up efforts to dismantle these groups to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections in May.

The directives were contained in two resolutions the ICAPA forwarded to the AFP and PNP through their representatives in simple ceremonies held today at the Conference Room of the Mabini Hall in Malacañang.

ICAPA Chair Monina Zenarosa, retired associate justice of the Court of Appeals, presented ICAPA Resolutions No. 001-10 and 002-10 to Colonel Ricardo Nepomuceno of the Operations Division of the AFP and Chief Superintendent Cipriano Querol, Jr., Executive Officer of the Directorate for Police Community Relations of the PNP.

“Today I am pleased to announce that the Commission after thorough deliberations, interviews, consultative meetings with politicians and other stakeholders have come up with these two resolutions,” Zenarosa said.

Under Resolution No. 001-10, the ICAPA strongly urged the AFP to conduct an inventory of firearms and ammunition issued to Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and to monitor CAFGU and Special Civilian Active Auxiliaries personnel to detect the possibility of them getting involved in election-related violence.

The Commission asked the AFP to report on the matter to the Commission within 10 days.

The Commission also directed the AFP to beef up troop presence in identified security-risk areas, such as Lanao del Sur and Masbate, and to set up more checkpoints in the coastal areas of the two provinces, amid reports of unregulated firearm shipments.

The commission also requested the beefing up of military and police checkpoints in Abra, particularly in the far-flung towns of Tineg and Malibcong, to ensure strict compliance with the gun ban to deter not only political groups but armed insurgents from disrupting the election process.

In the other resolution (No. 002-10), the ICAPA also directed the PNP to conduct a physical inventory of firearms issued to Provincial Jail Guards, Provincial Security Forces, Civilian Volunteer Organizations, police auxiliary units and/or Barangay tanods and to submit a report to the Commission within 10 days.

Part of the directive was for the PNP to regulate the unauthorized use of police and military uniforms and vehicles and to cause the arrest of civilians and unauthorized personnel in violation of such.

The ICAPA was created by President Arroyo’s Administrative Order No. 275 issued by on December 8, 2009. The AO gave further directions to PNP and AFP with an additional impetus in dismantling partisan private armies in the country.

President Arroyo created the commission in the aftermath of the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao that has involved the Ampatuan clan and its private army.

Aside from Zenarosa, other ICAPA members are Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Mahmod Mala Adilao of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, retired Police Deputy Director General Virtus Gil, broadcaster Herman Basbaño, Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and former AFP Lieutenant General Edilberto Adan.


RP economic managers project higher growth for 2010

The Philippines’ economic managers have projected a higher growth rate for the country this year amid reports of an economic rebound already being felt by various industry sectors despite the prolonged dry spell being faced by the country.

Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran Monday told reporters that the country’s growth rate of 0.9 percent last year was not bad.

“It’s still positive,” Beltran said, citing the global economic crunch that has hit major industry sectors and the natural calamities that hit the agriculture sector.

Beltran was among the speakers at the Yearend Philippine Economic Briefing and Press Conference at Cebu City Marriott Hotel hosted by the Investor Relations Office.

Amid the global economic crisis said to be the worst since the Great Depression, Beltran said fiscal spending was still contained, and the country’s budget deficit was equivalent to just 3.9 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP), the amount of goods and services produced by a country.

He said this ratio was not bad and is lower compared to that of neighboring countries, whose deficits are equivalent to an average 4.5 percent of their GDP.

But per capita income dropped because of the increase in the population growth rate to 2.1 percent.

Beltran said the country posted a good savings growth rate of almost 30 percent of the country’s GDP.

”This means our banks have a lot of money to invest and the government can spur spending without much problem because it can issue Treasury bonds to the market,” he said.

While major countries already feel the rebound in the economy, Beltran warned that one big countries with big populations like India and China start returning to their usual growth rats, these countries might push up oil prices, which can impact on the prices of basic commodities.

As the economy recovers, he said, the government aims to bring down the budget deficit to 3.6 percent of GDP this year.

The Finance Department will implement more effective tax administration measures, intensify collections of non-tax revenues, and tighten implementation of the ru7les and regulations of recently enacted revenue-eroding measures.

However, key challenges that may affect the growth of the financial sector this year include the El Nino dry spell, imminent power shortages and volatile commodity price movements.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Acting Director Zeno Ronald Abenoja said the inflation forecast for 2010 is within the target of 3.5 to 5.5 percent.

He said the country was able to survive the global crisis due to its “sound macroeconomic fundamentals—as evident in the favorable inflation environment and strong external payments dynamics –and a sound and healthy banking system.”

Abenoja said the country is positioned for self-sustaining growth with its strong gross international reserves, balance of payments and overseas Filipino remittances.

The average inflation rate of 3.2 percent last year, he said, was well within the target and lower than the 9.3 percent posted in 2008.

Key challenges identified by the BSPO include commodity price pressures and a surge in capital flows which could lead to problems in liquidity management and the timing of exit strategies.

Abenoja said exiting too soon could hurt recovery and exiting too late could lead to inflation and asset bubbles.

Although total government spending skyrocketed from P174.5 billion in 2001 to P1.4 trillion in 2009 and grew at an annual average rate of nine percent, Budget Undersecretary Laura Pascua said this was mainly due to finance infrastructure investments and social services.

This, she said, reflects the government’s thrust of placing infrastructure high in its development agenda.

She said a huge budget was set aside for infrastructure and rehabilitation rather than settling debt obligations.

Agriculture Assistant Secretary Preceles Manzo said the department will continue investing in infrastructure and equipment to address the dry spell faced by the agriculture sector.

He said the department will also make more loans available to the farmers.

With the P48-billion budget last year, Manzo said the government constructed farm-to-market roads, marine culture parks, post-harvest and irrigation facilities: and provided organic fertilizers to farmers.

Manzo said the department will also take advantage of trade liberalization to boost the exposure of Philippine products to other markets.


Storm Agaton enters RP

The first storm this year, tropical depression "Agaton" has entered the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR), but will make no significant impact in parched farmlands facing the Pacific.

"This weather disturbance is still far to affect any part of the country," the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (Pagasa) in its latest bulletin said.

As of 10 a.m., Agaton was seen some 1,000 kilometers east of Catarman, Northern Samar with maximum sustained winds of 55 kms per hour (kph) and moving northwest at 26 kph.

Agaton was first spotted inching its way near eastern Visayas Tuesday night, and was named "Agaton." It had been trying to gather strength as a low pressure area (LPA) in the Pacific Ocean since Monday.

However, the ridge of the anticyclone weather system called High Pressure Area is extending over northern Luzon could hinder Agaton to move near the country, the weather bureau said.

The Pagasa has not raised storm warning signal anywhere in the country.

Farmers in Visayas and Mindanao had been raising their hopes that the approaching weather disturbance would at least sprinkle some rain water in their farmlands hit by the prevailing El Nino since late last year.

But the weather bureau said Agaton is not likely to bring rains, rather chances of isolated thunderstorms and rainshowers can be expected throughout the archipelago.

The Pagasa said impact of El Nino can extend until last weeks of June until early July.


Maguindanao massacre suspect arrested in Davao City

A retired police colonel linked to the November 23, 2009 Maguindanao massacre that victimized 57 persons including 30 journalists, was arrested Wednesday morning in a rented house at Davao Gulf Subdivision, this city.

The suspect, retired Superintendent Piang Adam who is the former provincial director of Maguindanao PNP, escaped from jail in Sultan Kudarat last February 17.

Adam did not resist arrest from the members of Philippine National Police regional intelligence unit.

The suspect was also tagged as among the suppliers of firearms of the powerful Ampatuan clan in Maguindanao.


Palace sees fair justice in Maguindanao massacre case

Malacanang is optimistic the court will render at the earliest time possible a fair decision on the November 23, 2009 massacre case in Maguindanao province.

"We believe in the power and impartiality of the court," deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said.

He expressed such sentiment amid rising public concern over the pace of court proceedings against the massacre suspects who include members of Maguindanao's ruling Ampatuan political clan and several of the province's policemen who are allegedly under this family's control.

The Palace isn't surprised at the rate this case is progressing.

"This is a big case involving many victims and suspects," Olivar said.

So far, authorities recovered from the massacre site bullet-riddled corpses of 57 men and women who convoyed to Shariff Aguak municipality on the fateful day to file Buluan municipality Vice-Gov. Esmael Mangudadatu's certificate of candidacy (COC) for governor of the province.

Among these victims are local journalists who joined the convoy to cover the COC's filing.

Malacanang hasn't monitored yet any efforts to slow down judicial proceedings for the case.

"We've not seen any deliberate attempt to do this," Olivar said.

He noted Malacanang hopes justice can be served before the present administration's term ends on June 30 this year.

Malacanang can only appeal for speedy dispensation of justice as it has no control over the judicial process, however, he clarified.

"It's the court's call," he stressed.

Over 436,000 land jobs in gov’t Emergency Employment Programs

The Arroyo administration has so far provided gainful employment to 436,322 Filipino workers under three emergency programs created to cushion the impact of the global financial crisis on the people.

The figure represented 88.43 percent of the targeted 493,388 people to be given jobs under the government’s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) created under Memorandum Circular 168.

In its latest accomplishment report to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said P10.32 billion, or 75.12 percent of the P13.74 billion allocation have been spent for the three CLEEP employment programs as of last March 12.

Contributory factors to CLEEP’s success are the issuance of Executive Order (EO) No. 782 by the President last year which enjoined government agencies to institute measures to assist workers affected by the global financial crisis and temporary filling up of vacant government positions, as well as EO No. 783 which provided for government interventions “to save and create jobs” as part of the Economic Resiliency Plan.

At least 32,410 workers landed jobs, courtesy of the two EOs, NAPC Secretary and lead convenor Domingo Panganiban reported to President Arroyo.

On the other hand, the Youth National Service program created by EO 788 has recruited a total of 16,546 persons, aged 18 to 24, to undertake a two-year national service commitment with modest stipends through the National Service Corps or the Youth Conservation Corps.

The Philippine National Police (PNP) turned out to be the biggest achiever in this department with 5,293 recruits, about 4,000 of them coming from Metro Manila; followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with 4,495; the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DNR) with 4,390; and the Department of Social Welfare an Development (DSWD) with 850.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) accounted for 1,498, while the Department of Education (DepEd) reported only 20 recruits.

Icban said the three major job generation programs instituted by the President “were extremely relevant considering the fact that not a few multinationals in the country collapsed under the sheer pressure of the global economic meltdown.”



Improved import biosecurity, quarantine protocols to protect agri sector, says D.A.

President Arroyo’s directive on the strict implementation of an improved set of biosecurity and quarantine protocols on imported goods will help the government strengthen its efforts in shielding Philippine agriculture from pests and diseases as well as other environmental and human threats, according to officials of the Department of Agriculture (DA).

DA Secretary Bernie Fondevilla said President Arroyo issued the directive during a recent Cabinet meeting to help the agriculture sector meet the challenges of a new global trading order, which calls for, among others, drastic cuts in tariffs on farm goods traded between and among countries belonging to the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) starting this year.

Besides the Philippines , the Asean groups Indonesia , Malaysia , Brunei Darussalam, Thailand , Singapore , Vietnam , Myanmar , Laos and Cambodia . They also comprise the economies under the Asean Free Trade Area (AFTA).

“In line with the efforts of the Department to strengthen our quarantine and inspection measures on agriculture and fishery products entering our borders, the effectivity of the President’s  directive will efficiently protect the country from the entry of agricultural and fishery pests and diseases as well as other human and environmental threats,” Fondevilla said.  “This is as well, more cost effective and brings about the immediate disposal of problematic goods supposed to enter the country.”

Fondevilla said closer coordination between the DA and the Bureau of Customs in implementing the government’s improved quarantine and biosecurity protocols will not only help safeguard the welfare of  Filipino farmers but consumers  as well.

Such an effort was initiated, he said, on the watch of his immediate predecessor, then-Secretary Arthur Yap.

Last year, the DA issued a “harmonized” administrative order—AO No. 8—to standardize the business processes of DA regulatory agencies in approving the entry of imported goods.

This harmonized AO orders all agencies and bureaus issuing Sanitary and  Phytosanitary (SPS) clearances, formerly known as import permits to use a  single or uniform form for application, clearance, inspection, and confiscation; and ensures that all  import-related business processes will follow a unified procedure.

The harmonized AO was crafted based on the following objectives:

  • to formulate a consistent and adequate legal administrative policy framework for SPS regulations to be effective and supportive of business;
  • to develop transparent, firm-neutral, and simplified processes for enforcing SPS measures effectively; and
  • to institutionalize effective and sustainable organizational, technical, and funding arrangements for SPS enforcement.

Besides issuing this order, the DA has also worked to automate applications and issuances of  SPS Import Clearances,  through the Bureaus of Plant Industry (BPI), of Animal Industry (BAI), and of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR).

Under this automated procedure, the issuance of veterinary, plant and fisheries import permits will be faster through processing via  an Internet-based program.

The new system will use the standardized forms prescribed in the harmonized AO and will reduce the clearance process cycle time by allowing  importers to prepare and submit their applications 24/7 online and allowing as well their subsequent online validation and approval by the concerned agency.

Before leaving the DA early this month, Yap had said the Department’s regulatory agencies will play a critical role in safeguarding the farm sector from pests and diseases, and consumers from unsafe food items, once new tariff cuts take place starting this year under AFTA.

The full implementation of the Common Effective Preferential Tariff (CEPT) scheme in AFTA at the start of 2010, was agreed upon in a series of Asean meetings that started way back in 1992 as a prelude to the proposed creation in 2015 of a single market with a common production base and free flow of goods in the region.

The Asean Economic Ministers (AEM) signed the Asean Trade in Goods Agreement (ATIGA), which consolidated and streamlined all CEPT agreements, in February last year. President Arroyo ratified ATIGA six months later and issued an executive order lifting by January 1, 2010 all customs duties on selected products coming in from, or being shipped to, other Asean member-countries. (DA Press Office)

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

PIA Dispatch - Tuesday, March 23, 2010


New D.A. chief vows to sustain programs for hog industry expansion

Newly appointed Secretary Bernie Fondevilla of the Department of Agriculture  has assured the hog industry that the DA will continue the programs initiated by his predecessor to help the sector sustain its rebound last year, including the implementation of big-ticket projects like a modern slaughterhouse and an egg processing center.

Fondevilla said that just like former DA Secretary Arthur Yap, the country’s hog raisers can count on their open line of communication to him to urgently address pressing concerns that could plague the industry.

“We would like to assure our hog raisers that the programs that our Secretary Yap has started will continue to be pursued,” Fondevilla said at the recent 19th National Convention of Hog Raisers held in Tagaytay City. “Among the projects lined up are the construction of a Triple A slaughterhouse in Marulas and an egg processing plant.”

Fondevilla was referring to the modern slaughterhouse that the DA will help build BAI compound in Marulas, Valenzuela 50 heads per hour capacity and the 900 square-meter (floor area) egg processing center in San Jose, Batangas that will be operated by the private sector.

Also present at the Tagaytay event were Yap, Bureau of Animal Industry Director Davinio Catbagan, and other BAI officials.

On Catbagan’s watch,  total livestock and poultry industry sub-sector  has consistently contributed 26%-28% to the whole agriculture output production increased by 1.49% in 2009 compared to 2008, which is no mean feat given the bureau’s tasks in keeping the Philippines free of the dreaded avian influenza (AI) or bird flu virus, foot-and-mouth disease (FMD) and other threats to the animal industry. 

In 2009, livestock production increased by 1.20% while poultry output increased by 1.82%.  For broiler production, supply is projected to be higher that the demand in the first semester of 2010.

The BAI also efficiently marshalled its resources to prevail over the huge difficulties of two El Niño episodes; the series of powerful tropical cyclones; and the reemergence of diseases such as the Ebola Reston Virus.

It has successfully kept the Philippines bird flu-free, which has allowed the Philippines to export poultry meat and poultry products to Japan, Hong Kong and the Middle East; as well as breeder chicks to Indonesia, Malaysia, Brunei, Nepal and the Middle East.

The BAI also maintained the internationally recognized freedom of Mindanao, Visayas, Palawan and Masbate from the FMD since 2001 and 2002 respectively, and the looming declaration of Luzon recorded a zero incidence from FMD for the last 51 months by the Office Internationale des Epizooties (OIE) or World Organization for Animal Health, which will add to the country’s attractiveness as a reliable source of high-quality livestock products, notably for the global Halal market that the DA is trying to develop.

It was also able to: 

1) eliminate non-effective imported drugs and biologics from the local market through field-testing and validation;

2) develop technologies on the production of local diagnostic antigens as alternative to expensive imported antigens;

3) implement a successful disease monitoring and surveillance system resulting in the non-entry of exotic animal diseases into the country;

4) develop and standardize practical diagnostic tests and protocols for the prompt and accurate diagnosis of disease outbreaks;

5) formulate and validate several cost effective control measures against several parasitic disease problems; and

6)  transfer diagnostic technologies to upgrade the capabilities of the DA-Regional Diagnostic Laboratories. (DA Press Office)

PIA Dispatch - Monday, March 22, 2010

PGMA orders study on fasttracking soldiers' 2010 salary hike

President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo ordered Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to see if government can hike soldiers' salaries earlier than scheduled this year.

"I asked DBM to help us find the means so you can receive it earlier," she told uniformed personnel during the 113th founding anniversary of Philippine Army (PA) at Fort Bonifacio.

DBM must study the matter as President Arroyo said government is shelling out P4-billion a month for its on-going salary standardization program.

"Let's cross our fingers DBM can find a solution," she said.

According to the Chief Executive, she gave DBM the order after hearing about soldiers' request for government to implement before July the salary hike for them this year.

The second round of public sector wage hike under government's latest salary standardization program is due to commence that month.

Under this program, which began in July 2009, government will implement in four annual tranches bureaucracy-wide salary increase to help public servants cope with the times and to make their wages comparable with those in the private sector.

"Due to the Salary Standardization Law, which we worked for, our soldiers can look forward to yearly increases until 2012," President Macapagal-Arroyo said.

Earlier, the President ordered DBM to ensure availability of funds for further increasing this year salaries of public school teachers and other civil servants.

The President recalled that since assuming the presidency in 2001, she continuously worked for making soldiers' basic pay comparable with what public school teachers receive.

"Since then, uniformed personnel had five [rounds of] salary increases," she reported.

She believes this contributed to increased professionalism among soldiers and helped them improve their lives.

For 2010, President Macapagal-Arroyo said soldiers' basic monthly pay will be more than double their wages in 2001.

From P5,500 in 2001, she said basic wage of each private-ranked army personnel will increase to P12,149 this year.

Basic wage rate for the army's private first-class soldiers will also rise this year to P12,993 per month from P5,830 in 2001, she continued.

During the event, President Macapagal-Arroyo thanked the army for helping government address terrorism and other security problems.

She also lauded PA for helping government carry out its infrastructure projects which aim to promote development nationwide.

"As I reflect on the past nine years, I can truly say that in the best and worst of times, the army gave my administration tremendous support," she said.

The President also noted government's ceasefire with Moro Islamic Liberation Front is holding because of the army's help.

"Indeed, the army has achieved much and is expected to do more," she said.

PGMA fetes Pacquiao in Malacañang

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo welcomed back Filipino boxing superstar and WBO Welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao who called on her in Malacañang after arriving from the United States this morning.

Looking dapper in a light blue vest over a striped long-sleeve shirt and dark slacks, Pacquiao, who was accompanied by his wife Jinkee, smiled and waved to photographers, members of the media, and Malacañang employees who waited for him at the foyer of the Palace leading to the Music Room.

Upon his arrival and following the customary photo-opportunity, the President, who was accompanied by First Gentleman Atty. Jose Miguel Arroyo, congratulated Pacquiao for his feat.

“Congratulations! Thank you for doing our country proud,” the President told Pacquiao.

She then presented the boxing icon a three-tiered ginger-barako coffee-chocolate cake especially prepared by Palace chefs Kristen Mae Andres and Lilibeth Biliones.

Each concentric round layer of the cake, which weighed 12 kilos and stood 11 inches tall, was colored red, blue and white to symbolize the colors of the Philippine flag.

A replica of Pacquiao’s welterweight championship belt which has a picture of the champ on it was placed on top of the special cake.

After the presentation, the President and Pacquiao held a closed-door meeting where the boxing champ reportedly regaled the Chief Executive with the highlights of the fight.

Pacquiao retained his World Boxing Organization welterweight title by defeating Ghana's Joshua Clottey in Texas last week.

In a press conference following his meeting with the President, Pacquiao said he would discuss with his family his future plans: whether to continue boxing or hang-up his gloves.

He appealed to everyone not to “confuse” his popularity in boxing and desire for a congressional seat in his home province of Saranggani, saying sports and politics are very different.

“Boxing has brought honor to our people and our country. It has brought about countless opportunities not only for me and my family but for all of us as a race. My wish in joining politics, is to serve the people,” Pacquiao said.

Palace cites proof PGMA will relinquish power on June 30

Stressing action speaks louder than words, Malacanang cited President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's ongoing moves for turnover of government projects to the next administration as manifesting her intention to vacate the nation's highest office on June 30, this year.

"It's proof she'll step down from power then," Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Charito Planas said.

She noted that President Arroyo is traveling around the country and checking on her administration's projects to ensure these are either completed in time for the turnover or progressing as scheduled.

These projects for boosting development nationwide include bridges, airports and farm-to-market roads.

Planas raised the point amid persistent speculations about possible failure of elections this coming May 10 and extension of the President's term beyond what is prescribed in the 1987 Constitution.

"This year's elections will push through," Planas assured.

She noted the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has already put in place measures to ensure the country's first automated polls will be held successfully this year as planned.

These measures include provision of back-up electrical power for the elections.

Comelec Chairperson Jose Melo allayed fears the nationwide elections this year might fail.

"As far as Comelec is concerned, there'll be no failure as preparations for the polls were made already," he stressed.

He said, however, that isolated cases of failure could occur in some precincts if untoward incidents like shooting mar the voting process there.

Melo assured that the poll body sees such isolated incidents as having no effect on overall conduct and results of the elections.

Precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines will count votes cast during this year's automated polls.

If these machines fail to function, however, Melo said votes cast can be counted manually.

Palace lawyer Romulo Macalintal earlier cited this same point, noting voters must still manually shade in the Comelec-provided paper ballots oblong spaces corresponding to the names of candidates who they want to serve in government.

He said these ballots can be counted manually if needed.

Planas reiterated her call for Malacanang critics to propose solutions for the country's problems instead of merely criticizing President Arroyo and everything she does.

"Set aside such attacks -- it's just part of efforts to grab the public's attention," Planas said.

Pacquiao considers retirement

The dream match between world’s best pound-for-pound fighter ring superstar Manny Pacquiao and undefeated Floy Mayweather may no longer take place after the Filipino ring sensation hinted hanging his gloves on the appeal of his mother Dionisia.

”Perhaps there will be no next fight for me,” Pacquiao told the media at the New World Hotel in Makati, moments after arriving from Los Angeles on board PR 103 at the Centennial Terminal of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

Pacquiao said he will use the remaining days before the election campaign for local candidates starts on March 26 to discuss with family members about his mother’s plea to quit boxing.

”My mother told me that she would be on her knees just to make me stop fighting. That word from a parent is difficult to ignore because I respect both of my parents,” he said.

Pacquiao, the only boxer to win seven world titles in seven different weight categories, has been given a hero’s welcome right at the NAIA Terminal 2 for the successful defense of his World Boxing Organization (WBO) welterweight crown against Ghana’s Joshua Clottey last March 13 in Arlington, Texas.

Among the familiar faces who welcomed Pacquiao include: Nacionalista Party Manny Villar, Manila  mayoralty bet Lito Atienza and former Ilocos Sur Gov. Chavit Singson.

Villar said he would respect the decision of Pacquiao if the latter decides to quit boxing.

”We have to leave that decision to him. In fairness to Manny Pacquiao, he has to think of his life after boxing,” Villar said in a media interview.

After his press conference, Pacquiao gave in to the clamor of the photographers and cameramen to raise the hands of Villar whom the world champion endorsed without asking any favor.

”While I’m in the US, my critics said that I received money from senator Manny Villar. That is not true. I endorsed him because I believe in his capability to lead our country,” Pacquiao said.

Pacquiao is seeking congressional seat in the lone district of Saranggani province under the NP ticket.

Villar joined Pacquiao for breakfast before leaving for Cagayan de Oro City and Bukidnon for another Mindanao campaign leg.

Pacquiao is set to hear mass in Quiapo later and afterward, drop by Malacanang for a courtesy call with President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

A motorcade will tour the boxing hero around Metro Manila.

Ex-DOJ chief agrees with SC ruling: PGMA can appoint next chief justice

Former Department of Justice (DOJ) Secretary Raul Gonzalez Sr. expressed his agreement on Monday with the Supreme Court (SC) decision that President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo can appoint the successor of Chief Justice Reynato Puno who is retiring on May 17, 2010.

"I agree with the SC decision that President Arroyo can appoint the new chief justice before her term ends and it's not a midnight appointment because the Constitution is clear," Gonzalez said.

President Arroyo's term will end on June 30, 2010.

By a majority vote, the SC ruled that President Arroyo has the power to appoint the next chief justice to replace outgoing Chief Justice Puno.

The SC also ordered the Judicial and Bar Council (JBC) to submit its shortlist of nominees to President Arroyo on or before Chief Justice Puno's retirement on May 17.

Earlier, the Supreme Court ruling authorizing President Arroyo to name the next chief justice was greeted with a storm of protests by several groups.

"We are all moving around speculations, always thinking the negative things to happen. Why don't we think of the positive?" Gonzalez said.

Gonzalez was a former member of the JBC during his stint at the DOJ from 2004 up to June 15, 2009.

He is seeking the mayorship of Iloilo City in the May 10, 2010 elections.


D.A. takes steps to keep meat, milk, eggs, and fish free from veterinary drug residues

The Department of Agriculture (DA) has put in place measures to ensure that the meat, milk, eggs and fish intended for human consumption are free from the presence of residues of banned veterinary drugs, antibiotics, and other restricted drugs which may cause hazardous effects to humans that may lead to cancer, allergies, anaphylactic shock, drug resistance, cardiac symptoms, difficulty in breathing and other commulative effects.

In the interest of the services and to further promote public health through food safety, the Philippines  has strengthened its Veterinary Drug Residues Control Program through the DA Administrative Order (AO) No. 14 series of 2006: Implementation of the National Veterinary Drug Residues Control Program and Creation of the Inter-Agency Committee.

In a report to DA Secretary Bernie Fondevilla, Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Davinio Catbagan said DA-A.O. No. 24 Series of 2009: The Implementing Guidelines on the National Drug Residues Control Program in Foods Pursuant to A.O.  No. 24 Series of 2006 has been approved by Secretary Arthur C. Yap on the 3rdday of November, 2009. The program is currently implemented by the BAI, National Meat Inspection Service (NMIS), Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), and the National Dairy Authority (NDA). These said DA agencies are now continuously enforcing their respective strengthened activities on drug residue control program.

There are Administrative Orders issued by the Department of Agriculture and the Department of Health on the banning of the following Veterinary Drugs. To wit;

ADMINISTRATIVE ORDER SUBJECT                                          DATE OF ISSUANCE

DA-A.O. No 60 Series of                 Declaring a Ban on the Use of        April 30, 1990           

1990  and DOH A.O No. 91             Chloramphenicol in Food

Series of 1990                                  Producing Animals

DA-AO No. 1 Series of 2000          Banning and withdrawal of               January 11, 2000

and DOH-AO No. 4-A, series          Olaquindox and Carbadox from

of 2000                                               the Market

Joint Administrative Order of           Declaring a ban / Phase-Out of     August 17,  2000

DA-DOH No. 2 Series                      the use of Nitrofurans in

Of 2000                                              Food-Producing Animals

DA-AO No. 14 Series of 2003        Ban on the Use in Food Animals    May 12, 2003

                                                            Of Beta-Agonist Drugs in

                                                            Human as Bronchodilators

                                                            and Tocolytics and Tocolytic Agents

BAI continuously undertakes  the monitoring and surveillance of animal feeds and veterinary drugs and products among the manufacturers, importers, distributors, and outlets for the presence of banned veterinary drugs and  compliance to the Republic Act (RA) 1556 otherwise known as the “Livestock and poultry Feeds Act”, and the RA 3720 (Foods, Drugs, Devices and Cosmetics Act), RA 6675 ( Generics Act of 1988) and other relevant laws.  It had collected  feed samples for laboratory analysis from the accredited  piggery farms in Mindanao   for export  purposes and the results of  which were found to be negative of  banned veterinary drugs.   

The safety and quality of food is a matter of concern for everyone and everywhere. The responsibility for drug residue control and prevention cannot lie solely within the government agency, rather the responsibility must be shared by the government, producers, veterinarians, teachers, academicians, marketing associations and all of us who must strive to produce both healthy and drug residue-free  animals to have healthy animals and safe food for everyone. (DA-BAI)