Monthly Archives: April 2011

Another tales of the Manobo

BusinessWeek Mindanao
April 23, 2011

Exactly four weeks ago the whole Caraga region came to a standstill with surprise episode of a short lived hostage taking. News of the incident caught the attention of the national leadership that is sensitive to a hostage situation that it tries to avoid and handle like a plaque or virus. This time it involved a tribal group of young Manobo’s from the Municipality of Prosperidad in Agusan del Sur. All of the hostage perpetrators were minors. The hostage victims were teachers, parents and innocent elementary school students who were attending a public school graduation in a remote uptown Barangay.

The reason was an offshoot to a government none fulfillment to a previous agreement of land property dispute and inter tribal violent conflagration that incarcerated a tribal leader “for another crime that also resulted to a previous hostage taking of 79 persons in the year 2009”. Legally, there should have been no agreement at all in the first place if there was a crime committed unless innocence is established and resolved by the court.

After a marathon negotiation and nerve trading that sidelines our national government and police officials from their busy schedules in the national capital region, the crisis was resolved without a bloodshed and violence. Not after some concessions and government assurance were signed. All hungry and sickly hostages were released unharmed.

But the incident hugs the headlines for five days and captured the anxiety of the public and the foreign community on the peace and order situation of this country. The national leadership breathed fresh air from the peaceful resolution of the conflict. Never mind if time and government resources were wasted as long as loss of lives were prevented. It was lesson No. 2 for the Aquino government in handling a hostage situation.

What are the concessions agreed and promised? Only those that who signed the documents and received copies really knows until a next hostage taking takes place shall the content of the agreement be made public. Those agreements must either be legal or fulfilled?

But there is logic and reasons that meets the public eye on the background of the issues and treatment of the cultural minorities in Agusan del Sur. The incident could have been prevented if and when the equal protection to our laws and respect to tribal ancestral domain has been resolved in accordance with Article X11, Section 5, of the Philippine Constitution that provides that “the state subject to the provisions of the Constitution and national development policies and progress shall protect the rights of indigenous cultural communities to their ancestral lands to ensure their economic, social and cultural well being”. The implementation of the laws under Republic Act No. 8371, otherwise known as the “Indigenous Peoples Right s Act of 1997” is not clear and resolved in favor of the cultural minorities.

Many of the vast tracts of forest land in Mindanao are awarded to illegal loggers, ranchers and industrial agricultural planters. It has displaced the minorities and left a protracted struggle and agitation for discontent over the deprivation of many of our tribes that lives in the mountains of Mindanao from their ancestral lands. Exploitation of the natural resources and land grabbing often displaced the cultural minorities from their community dwellings and affects their livelihood. A situation most welcomed by the left to expound their cause and gain sympathy and foothold in the countryside.

The Manobo’s are the biggest of the ethnic groups in the Philippines in terms of their relationships and name of groups that belongs to this family of more than 749,042 in population from the 1994 census of the National Statistics Office occupying the areas from Sarangani to the Mindanao mainland in the provinces of Surigao, Agusan del Sur, Davao and Bukidnon.

They have adapted to the various ecological niches in the interiors of Mindanao. Their orientation is upland farming, hunting, handicrafts and gathering of trees for industrial use. Their rich culture in weaving and tapestry are arts to behold and helps connect the present generation of Filipinos to the past. It is a great source of eco-tourism and pride. Ped T. Quiamjot.

Tampakan triggers land speculation

Manila Standard Today
Julito G. Rada
April 18, 2011

GENERAL SANTOS CITY—The Tampakan mining project of Sagittarius Mines Inc. is expected to spur additional investments in the region from local and foreign companies once it becomes operational in 2016, a local official told reporters over the weekend.

“This will definitely transform South Cotabato into an industrial, residential and commercial province. Right now, interested investors are planning of owning properties here in anticipation of more vibrant economic activities in the province once Tampakan commences operations in 2016,” Tampakan Mayor Leonardo Escobillo said.

He said the project had triggered an appreciation in the price of land from P150,000 per hectare to P1 million. “A number of investors have actually started landbanking in the province in preparation for 2016,” he said.

Escobillo said the SM group of retail tycoon Henry Sy had expressed to locate in the province. “Just recently, a representative from SM Cebu inquired for a possible location in General Santos but it did not say if its project would be an expansion of SM malls or if it would be a residential project,” he said.

He said former vice presidential candidate Bayani Fernando had bought a piece of land in Koronadal, the capital.

He said the mining project boosted Tampakan revenues and transformed it from a fourth-class to a second-class municipality in 2010.

Sagittarius Mines earlier said it hopes to obtain an environmental compliance certificate this year. It is preparing a study on the environmental impact of the mining project and start public consultations in the third quarter of this year.

Sagittarius Mines data showed that it had contributed P2.4 billion to the Philippine economy in 2010 in terms of employment, annual wages, government taxes, purchase of goods and services, and community partnerships, sponsorship and donations.

The project is expected to significantly contribute to the economic development of the country. Once operational, revenue stream is estimated at $37 billion, or P1.85 trillion, over the life of the mine.

Central Mindanao expects P500-M investments from Manila food expo

BusinessWorld Online
April 14, 2011

GENERAL SANTOS CITY — A mission to the International Food Exposition (IFEX) scheduled to be held in Metro Manila next month is expected to generate P500 million worth of new investments for Central Mindanao, a regional Department of Trade and Industry official said here earlier this week.

The economic development committee of the Regional Development Council-12 had earlier identified six focus industry clusters as a strategy to further prod economic activity in the area.

Ethel L. Gumana, National Economic Research and Business Assistance Center chief, said in a phone interview that Central Mindanao is among the featured regions in the IFEX, slated to be held on May 12-14 at the SMX Convention Center in Pasay City.

“Our delegates [from the business community] hope to forge joint venture agreements with multinational firms during the business matching activity, ” Ms. Gumana said.

“There will also be project proposals to the different embassies,” she added.

Ms. Gumana said Central Mindanao’s participation in IFEX is in line with efforts to promote awareness of the region’s business opportunities.

It also seeks to forge links between project proponents and potential local and foreign investors, as well as funding sources, she added.

“Hopefully, this would lead to the influx of investments in the region and the creation of employment opportunities for the people of Central Mindanao,” Ms. Gumana said.

Also known as Region XII or Soccsksargen, the region consists the provinces of South Cotabato, North Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Sarangani, as well as the cities of General Santos, Koronadal, Tacurong, Kidapawan and Cotabato.

The six focus industry clusters earlier identified by the regional development council are coffee, muscovado, tourism, processed fish, processed fruits, as well as information and communications technology.

The committee identified the clusters based on their potential market demand, regional coverage and social benefits. Other products that were also recognized to have growth potentials in the region are palm oil, art crafts, crabs, corn, coconut, rice, processed meat and hogs.

Luwalhati R. Antonino, chairperson of the Mindanao Development Authority, had earlier urged Mindanao producers to expand their markets by forging marketing links or trade partnerships.

4 international agencies study Mindanao mountain

By Rudy A. Fernandez
The Philippine Star
April 03, 2011

LOS BAÑOS, Laguna , Philippines  — Four international agencies have joined hand to undertake a study on the biodiversity of Mt. Malindang in Misamis Occidental.

Started last February, the two-year research and development (R&D) project is titled “Ridge to Reef: An Ecosystem-based Approach to Biodiversity Conservation and Development in the Philippines.

It is funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and implemented by the Los Baños-based, Philippine government-hosted Southeast Asian Ministers of Education Organization-Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEAMEO SEARCA), Malaysia-based WorldFish Center (WFC), and Kenya-based World Agroforestry Center (WAC).

The project addresses key issues affecting Mt. Malindang and its environs, which are regarded as among the country’s “biodiversity hotspots” and a priority national protected area.

Also tagged as “extremely high priority” under the National Biodiversity Study Action Plan (NBSAP) of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the mountain is traversed by two rivers (Jangaran and Layawan) that connect its watersheds to the coastal systems.

Langaran River supplies irrigation water to adjacent farmlands but is threatened owing to prevalent quarrying and illegal fishing. In contrast, Layawan River is regarded as the “cleanest and greenest river” both at the national and regional levels.

“The unique features and status of Mt. Malindang make it a strategic site for piloting and modifying biodiversity measures,” SEARCA said.

SEARCA, headed by Director Gil C. Saguiguit Jr., is one of the 20 “centers of excellence” of SEAMEO, an intergovernment treaty organization founded in 1965 to foster cooperation among Southeast Asian nations in the fields of education, science, and culture.

The center had earlier been involved in the “Biodiversity for Research Program Focus on Mt. Malindang” done in 2001-2005 with funding support from the Netherlands government and in partnership with various institutions in the area.

The “Ridge to Reef” project has eight components, including watersheds, effects of agriculture and forestry on coastal aquatic ecosystem, management of critical coastal habitats, capture fisheries, alternative livelihoods for coastal people, resource use and mapping, and capacity building in biodiversity.

“Mt. Malindang is viewed to serve as a model site of a complex environment integrated in one framework for a more sustainable biodiversity conservation,” SEARCA said.

Tax holidays to attract new investments

The Philippine Star
April 02, 2011

The Investment Priorities Plan for 2011 is off the press, so to speak, and is now up for approval in the Cabinet.

The priority projects include Agriculture, Ship Building, Low Cost Housing, Development of Indigenous Energy Sources, Infrastructure, Research & Development, Green Projects (in terms of manufacturing goods and efficient use of energy and natural resources), Tourism and Motor Vehicles. A special criterion has been included –this is Strategic Projects.

For the low-cost housing projects, the Board of Investment (BOI) lowered the cost per housing unit from P4 million to P2.5 million, only for purposes of qualifying under the BOI incentives scheme. For tourism projects, the BOI has considered projects which are otherwise not covered by the Tourism Development Act, which supported only tourism-related projects located in tourism zones. Now the agency is coordinating closely with the Department of Tourism (DOT) to identify worthy projects outside of the tourism zone, so this should be good news for developers who wish to qualify under the BOI laws.

Of course, motor vehicle development is a high priority in the 2011 IPP, and it’s high time we gave the auto industry this much-needed boost. I was in Thailand about a week ago for the all-new Ford Ranger launch and also for the Bangkok Motor Show. Much as I enjoyed the hospitality of my host, Ford Group Philippines, enjoyed Thai cuisine and their shopping, and found the Thais a very friendly people, I couldn’t help but feel pangs of regret that we have not achieved as much as the persevering and hardworking Thai people have in terms of the automobile industry. Thailand is now considered the hub as far as motor vehicle manufacturing is considered in the region, and for good reason. They are not plagued by excessive taxes, have no labor problems, and are not burdened by the high costs of doing business – permits and licenses, power costs, etc. The government has been very supportive of the auto industry and look where they are now.

For the motor vehicle criterion, the BOI is set to give incentives for parts and components locally fabricated as well as use of alternative sources of energy in the manufacture of these. What are these incentives?

The Executive Order (EO) that is still in effect grants zero duty on all importation of capital equipment for projects listed in the IPP. Sadly, this EO ends in June 2011, but BOI, has been pushing for another Executive Order to extend the effectivity of the zero duty on capital equipment. A public hearing has been set through the efforts of the Tariff Commission, but the President has yet to sign the EO.

Another incentive is the Income Tax Holiday (ITH) for these BOI-approved projects under the IPP. The duration of the ITH would depend on whether the project is a pioneering effort or not. If it is, the project proponents can enjoy as much as 6 years holiday. If this pioneering project generates foreign exchange earnings, it earns a bonus of one year in the tax holiday. If the project’s direct labor to capital equipment ration will not exceed $10,000/work force, another one year bonus is earned in the ITH. Further, if the project makes use of indigenous raw materials, about 50 percent or more, in the project, they stand to earn another year bonus in the ITH.

For non-pioneering projects, the Income Tax Holiday is good only for four years. In total, though, a project can only enjoy ITHs for not more than eight years.

This is covered by a Memorandum of Agreement between the BOI and the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), so project proponents can run to the BOI if, while one’s project is still covered, you suddenly find a letter of authorization from the BIR in the mail informing you of an impending audit. The BOI promises to arm you with all the necessary documents to preempt the audit. The BOI will issue a certificate of ITH entitlement for all those qualified under their laws. However, BOI also reserves the right to validate the amounts claimed in the income tax returns of these projects and evaluate the full claims based on their own computations. The BOI annually forwards the list of companies/projects entitled to ITH based on a taxable year.

For 2011, the Board of Investments vows to be more strict and vigilant in granting income tax holidays, presumably because of some abusive companies who have used the BOI as a shield against the BIR. All companies/projects will be advised of the procedures they will have to comply with in order to avail of the ITH. Meanwhile, the BOI clarifies that a single company can have two or more projects listed with the BOi for purpose of availment of incentives. In 2009, for example, there were 844 projects listed, but only 699 companies. The year before that, 924 projects were approved, but only 780 companies were listed.

The BOI laments that some camps view these incentives as revenue foregone for the government. However, there is a fixed duration of these tax holidays, so after 4 to 8 years, these companies will have to pay their regular income taxes. Also, the projects are certain to generate employment for hundreds of thousands of our countrymen. For the 2011 IPP, BOI is targeting one million in employment. There is also the foreign exchange that will be generated by these projects (Note: export projects are automatically included, subject to procedures) and the country can certainly use the foreign exchange.
BUSINESS & LEISURE By Ray Butch Gamboa.