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Monday, March 27, 2017

Opposition leader arrested at Moscow protest

MOSCOW: Hundreds of people including top Kremlin critic Alexei Navalny were arrested on Sunday as thousands of Russians defied bans to stage protests across the country against corruption.
Navalny had called for the marches after publishing a detailed report this month accusing Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev of controlling a property empire through a shadowy network of nonprofit organisations.
The report has been viewed over 11 million times on YouTube, but so far Medvedev has made no comment on the claims.
Sunday’s march in Moscow was one of the biggest unauthorised demonstrations in recent years, with police putting turnout at 7,000-8,000 people.
Police detained Navalny, who has announced plans to run for president in the 2018 election, as he was walking to the protest, putting him in a police minibus.
The crowd briefly tried to block it from driving off, shouting “Shame!” and “Let him out!”
“Guys, I am all right, go on along Tverskaya,” Navalny tweeted from the van, referring to Moscow’s main central street.
Police said about 500 people had been arrested in Moscow, while OVD-Info, a website that monitors the detention of activists, said at least 933 had been detained, as well as dozens in other cities.
The Interfax news agency said 130 people were arrested in Saint Petersburg, where about 4,000 people gathered in the city centre.
“We’re tired of the lies, we have to do something,” Sergei Timofeyev, a 23-year-old protester in Saint Petersburg, told AFP.
A spokeswoman for Navalny’s Anti-corruption Foundation (FBK) said on Twitter than he would be held overnight before being brought before a judge on Monday.
He will face charges of calling a rally that disrupted public order, and could be held for up to 15 days.
From his cell, Navalny posted on Twitter that he was “proud” of the protesters and said the mass detentions were “understandable”.
“The thieves defend themselves this way. But you cannot arrest everyone who is against corruption. There are millions of us,” he wrote.
The United States condemned the arrests as an affront to democracy.
“Detaining peaceful protesters, human rights observers, and journalists is an affront to core democratic values,” acting State Department spokesman Mark Toner said in a statement.
‘They steal and lie’
Thousands of people filled central Pushkin Square, some shouting “Russia without (President Vladimir) Putin”. Some climbed on to lamp posts and the monument to poet Alexander Pushkin, shouting “impeachment!”
Dozens of police vans and rows of riot officers were lined up as a police helicopter hovered overhead.
“We have all seen the movie, it gives specific examples of corruption, and there has been no reaction,” Nikolai Moisey, a 26-year-old factory worker, said of the claims against Medvedev.
“They steal and they lie but still people will be patient to the end. The protest is a first push for people to start acting.”
Police officers moved to detain protesters and clear the square, with some using truncheons and pepper spray to disperse the crowd, AFP correspondents said.
Police also searched FBK offices over alleged incitement to hatred, and “Everyone was detained and brought to the police,” the organisation’s spokeswoman Kira Iarmych said.

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Govt debt payments total P536.65B in 2016

Debt service by the national government rose marginally for full-year 2016 from a year earlier due to higher interest payments, which an analyst traced to weaker peso, data from the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) showed.
Debt payments totaled P536.65 billion last year, up 0.47 percent from P534.14 billion in 2015.
Interest payments, which make up of the bulk or 56.71 percent of the total debt service, rose by 1.6 percent to P304.45 billion from P309.36 billion.
Domestic interest payments eased by 4.7 percent to P205.42 billion, while foreign debt service rose by 5.6 percent to P99.02 billion.
Land Bank of the Philippines market economist Guian Angelo Dumalagan said the value of interest payments on foreign debt likely increased because of the peso’s depreciation.
“The peso began to depreciate significantly since August last year due to expectations of another rate hike by the Fed and bets of faster US growth under the Trump administration,” he said.
In August, the country’s foreign debt was priced at P46.55 to a dollar. It rose to P49.76:$1 in December last year, BTr data showed.
The Philippine peso first touched the P50:$1 level on November 24 last year on expectations of interest rate hikes in the US, which actually happened in December. The peso depreciated by 5.35 percent against the US dollar in 2016.
Dumalagan said interest payments on foreign debt could increase further, given expectations of a weaker peso this year.
The peso depreciated back to the P50:$1 on Feb. 17 and is currently trading at the P50.32 level.
BTr data also showed amortization expense, or 43.26 of the total debt payment last year, was up 3.3 percent to P232.20 billion from P224.77 billion in 2015.
Domestic debt amortization fell to P112.44 billion from P154.72 billion, while foreign debt amortization rose by 70 percent to P119.75 billion from P70.04 billion.
The outstanding debt of the national government stood at P6.09 trillion as of end-2016, up 2.3 percent from P5.95 trillion in 2015.

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Pantawid families get rice subsidy

BENEFICIARIES of the government’s conditional cash transfer program have started receiving their P600 monthly rice subsidy, a campaign promise of President Rodrigo Duterte, the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) said.
More than four million families in the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) got the rice subsidy on top of their regular health and education cash grants.
The DSWD said a total of P2.58 billion was disbursed for the month of March to cover the rice subsidy.
Only households that have met the 4Ps conditions are entitled to receive the additional P600 benefit, said DSWD Secretary Judy Taguiwalo.
“Following the guidelines, DSWD has already incorporated the rice subsidy within the regular payout schedule of the [4Ps],” she said.
“This means the beneficiaries can expect to regularly receive the rice subsidy along with their health and education grants starting this month,” she added.
The DSWD chief also explained that the rice subsidy covered only the January allocation because the March 4Ps payout was for the period December 2016 to January 2017.
In his first State of the Nation Address in July 2016, Duterte ordered the DSWD to provide rice subsidies to 4Ps beneficiaries to help end hunger.
“The President wants that the poor households are able to eat every day, which is why he initiated the rice subsidy,” Taguiwalo said.
The DSWD said it conducts family development sessions to guide beneficiaries and ensure that the subsidies are used properly.

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Probe e-passport project, Congress urged

ORGANIZED labor has called for a congressional probe into the government’s P8-billion e-passport project.
The Philippine Association of Free Labor Unions (PAFLU), an umbrella organization of labor unions, on Sunday expressed concern on the implications of the project amid allegations of overpricing in the contract for the new digital passport.
“Many of the passport applicants are workers who leave their family to work abroad. Data indicates that there are 5,000 Filipinos who leave the country everyday either as tourists, as an OFW and those who immigrate to other countries for good,” said PAFLU president Terry Tuazon.
The old machine-readable passport (MRP) cost only P550, or P700 if the applicant wanted faster processing. Now the DFA collects P950 from each applicant, or P1,200 if processing is rushed.
Tuazon explained that except for the electronic chip embedded in the e-passport that captures data and security features, there was no other enhancement to justify the high cost.
“With 17,000 new applicants (daily) who troop to the various consular offices all over the country that’s a lot of money for the government,” he said noted.
The 10-year contract for the printing of passports was awarded to the APO-Printing Unit (APO-PU), a quasi-government entity. Philippine passports used to be printed at the security plant complex of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).
The group assailed the DFA’s decision to de-commission the BSP, allowing APO-PU to subcontract the project to the United Graphic Expression Corporation (UGEC).
It was estimated that APO-PU and its private partner stand to rake in P25.5 billion from the contract.
The PAFLU slammed the alleged overpricing of the new digital passport for being “anti-worker.”
“The prudent policy is to make life a little bearable for our workers and not to impose additional burden. The abolition of the terminal fee is in line with this policy thrust,” the labor leader stressed.

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Duterte leads online poll for Time’s most influential

DESPITE international criticism, President Rodrigo Duterte is leading early in the online poll for Time magazine’s list of the 100 most influential people in the world in 2017.
Duterte ranked first with four percent of the online votes, beating Pope Francis whom he cursed in the campaign trail for creating a traffic mess during his 2015 visit to the Philippines. The Pope got three percent.
Duterte is also beating Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, who each got two percent of the votes.
Also high on the vote tally are Microsoft founder Bill Gates, former US presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, American gymnast Simone Biles, Women’s March organizers Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez, and Bob Bland;
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg, tennis star Serena Williams, celebrity Oprah Winfrey, Harry Potter series author J.K. Rowling, actresses Emma Watson and Viola Davis, Olympic athlete Usain Bolt, US Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, US Sen. Elizabeth Warren, and business magnate Elon Musk.
The Time poll comes on the heels of the New York Times article titled “Duterte: The Making of a Strongman” that tackled Duterte’s supposed appetite for violence, which Malacañang has dismissed as a “hack job.”
Duterte won the presidency in the May 2016 polls with 16 million votes despite joining the race two months late, overwhelming his closest rivals Manuel “Mar” Roxas 2nd and Sen. Grace Poe by seven million votes.
But for the Time 100, the popular vote is not the clincher because Time magazine’s editors will choose who gets in the final list.
Voting will close on April 16, 11:59 p.m., US Eastern time. The Time 100 list will be unveiled on April 20.
Duterte promised to eradicate the illegal drug trade and corruption in three to six months after assuming the presidency on June 30, 2016, but has since backtracked.
Duterte has said the fight against illegal drugs, corruption and other crimes will continue until the end of his term in June 2022, claiming he didn’t know the magnitude of the problems until he became President.
The President, a former mayor of Davao City, nevertheless remains popular, particularly in the National Capital Region.
A Pulse Asia survey over the weekend showed that 82 percent of Metro Manila residents feel safer as a result of the administration’s bloody war on drugs.
“We are pleased with the latest Pulse Asia survey showing that more than 8 out of 10 residents of Metro Manila now feel safer in the streets as a result of the government’s drive against illegal drugs. The administration’s drug war is well-received by the people on the ground in sharp contrast to the gloom and hopelessness depicted by the President’s critics,” presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said.
“This favorable public sentiment gives us strong impetus to surge ahead in our anti-drug campaign and hope that we continually get the cooperation of the community, and even support of the clergy, especially in the implementation of a rehabilitation program for Tokhang surrenderers,” Abella added, referring to the police’s anti-drug campaign.

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Sunday, March 26, 2017

‘Agriculture and fisheries are our country’s hope’ for faster progress

LIGAO CITY, Albay: Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol has urged Filipinos living in key cities to go back to the countryside to till the land and go into fisheries as these are the ways development can be hastened and food for a continuously growing population can be provided.
“Agriculture and fisheries are the hope of our country. Go back to the countryside because the villages with water sources or even without a water source can be farmed to feed our country. So forget your dreams of going to and staying in the concrete jungle that is Manila because you will end up under the river if [you are]unlucky,” Piñol told farmers here during the recent Farmers’ Day celebration that is part of the 16th anniversary of Ligao cityhood.
The Farmers’ Day is an annual event in this city spearheaded by Rep. Fernando Gonzalez of Albay’s Third District for more than two decades now in partnership with Mayor Patty Gonzalez-Alsua.
To make agriculture profitable, Piñol told the farmers to embrace new technology with the aid of the newly-produced color-coded guide map of the government.
“Two things are needed in our country to beef up agriculture. First, farmers have to embrace technology, then the government must establish a financing and marketing scheme for farmers,” he pointed out.
For the farmers to embrace technology, Piñol said the government will be establishing solar power irrigation facilities throughout the country.
In Bicol, at least 10 solar power irrigations panels will be put up, including one on Cagraray Island in Bacacay town to help the farmers till their land even with the El Niño phenomenon around.
“We don’t need to build a dam to irrigate our farmlands, instead we will put up a solar power irrigation system. Through these facilities, even a waterless farmland could be irrigated as this technology can locate water and siphon it off for six hours, enough to irrigate the land and even provide drinking water to the community,” the Agriculture chief said.
To identify what crops are suitable for planting in any locality in the country, Piñol pointed to the website farmersguidemap.gov.ph that the farmers can use so that they need not do trial and error or resort to guessing when it is time to decide what to plant in their fields.
The color-coded map will not only assist the farmers to identify the suitable crops to plant but also water table, climatic conditions and soil adaptability.
Pinol encouraged the farmers to go into hybrid palay (unhusked rice) to double or triple their output to be able to compete with other rice-producing countries in Southeast Asia.
“Go into hybrid palay because this has been proven in Iloilo. For one hectare alone, rice production is thrice or even more. We need to double our rice production so we will not be left behind by Vietnam. If you go into hybrid rice, your production is three to four times the average yield,” he said.
According to him, development of agriculture in the country is slow because majority of Filipino farmers especially the elderly are hard-headed.
“I would say to our farmers, don’t be stubborn. Trust and believe our young crop technicians for us to produce more crops to feed our increasing population,” he said.
But the problem is not only with the farmers, Piñol added, citing as “[a]nother factor affecting the country’s agricultural and fisheries development [the]policy planners [who]do not trust Filipino farmers enough.”
As a solution to this, the Agriculture secretary submitted a proposal to the House of Representatives to craft a law that would modify the loan assistance for farmers and allow them a maximum loan of P50,000, free from unnecessary bureaucratic requirements, carrying only six percent interest and made available in only three days through money transfer.
“Our problem in this country is that many of our planners in government are very shortsighted. They are building more bridges even without rivers specifically in Manila. They do not give priority to our farmers,” he said.
“When I joined the Duterte government, there was P3 billion available for financing farmers but this was not downloaded due to bureaucractic reasons, numerous paper requirements.That’s why I submitted that proposal to the House,” Pinol added.
He proposed to market farmers’ crops through organized farmers’ cooperatives.
“If our farmers are organized, they can market their own products and sell their rice for as much as P35 per kilo so the P50 to P60 million income of traders will be theirs,” the Agriculture chief said.
After the dialogue with the farmers and fishermen, Pinol handed over P20 million worth of agricultural inputs and equipment to farmer beneficiaries, rural women’s organizations and local government units.
He also gave out over 100 bags of hybrid Palau seeds, 200 bags urea fertilizers and 300 bags of open pollinated white corn seeds worth P420,000 to local officials led by Gov. Al Francis Bichara and Gonzalez.

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6 busted in QC shabu session

THE serving of a search warrant led to the arrest of a notorious drug dealer and six suspected drug users during a shabu session in Quezon City on Saturday morning. Quezon City Police District Director Chief Supt. Guillermo Eleazar said the District Special Operations Unit under Supt. Rogarth Campo arrested Bienvenido Aquino Jr., an alleged notorious drug pusher in the provinces of Bulacan, Pampanga, Lucena and Quezon. Also arrested were Randy Roy Galapon, 44; Allan Jay Sison, 30; Enderson Luna, 39; Dominic Macandog, 22; Maryjane Legaspi, 30 and a minor who was turned over to the city’s Social Welfare and Development. Recovered from the suspects were 15 heat-sealed sachets of shabu valued at P50,000; sachet of dried marijuana leaves; 10 unsealed sachets with traces of shabu; one unlicensed caliber 38 revolver; a caliber 22 pistol; ammunition for various gun caliber, a hand grenade, three samurai swords, cellular phones, a replica firearm, assorted parts of firearms and drug paraphernalia. Cases were filed against Aquino and the five other suspects.

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DSWD initiates free medicine program for poor

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) has urged poor families from various regions to avail themselves of its Libreng Gamot Para Sa Masa (Lingap), where free medicines will be given away by the agency.
Metro Manila (NCR), Central Luzon, Western Visayas, Central Visayas and Davao Region can now obtain free medicines under DSWD’s Lingap program.
Lingap is already implemented in selected hospitals in the said regions through the University of the Philippines-Philippine General Hospital for NCR; Jose B. Lingad Memorial Hospital in San Fernando City, Pampanga for Central Luzon; Western Visayas Medical Center in Iloilo City for Western Visayas; Vicente Sotto Memorial Medical Center in Cebu City for Central Visayas; and Southern Philippines Medical Center in Davao City and Davao Regional Hospital in Tagum City, both for the Davao Region.
The DSWD’s free medicine initiatives is a project of President Rodrigo Duterte that provides P1-billion to fund medicine assistance for indigent Filipinos who cannot afford to buy medication.
Some 984 indigent Filipinos from the said regions, as of March 22, have themselves availed of the Lingap program with a total disbursement of more than P8 million, according to the department.
Lingap’s implementation is guided by the department’s Memorandum Circular No. 02, ensuring an orderly and standard utilization of the P1 billion fund by the Duterte administration.
According to Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo, the Lingap program is a “very good initiative” that will go a long way in providing assistance for poor families.
“It is most heartbreaking to hear stories of impoverished Filipinos dying because they did not have the money to buy the medicine they needed to prolong their lives,” she said.
“With Lingap, we can help a large number of our [fellow Filipinos]get the medicines they need,” she added.
Under the program guidelines, indigents who are either confined in or receiving out-patient treatment from identified hospitals who are in need of prescription medicines are qualified to become beneficiaries of Lingap.
The program’s priorities are families or individuals who are indigent, vulnerable or disadvantaged; informal sectors and poor based on the DSWD list; those who are in a crisis situation assessed by social workers; government employees and contract of service workers working in the government; and beneficiaries of soldiers and police who were killed or wounded in the line of duty.
DSWD said that those who want to get of free medicine should provide a valid ID. A patient’s representative should also present an ID with a written authorization signed by the patient.

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Police, Army foil another Kadamay ‘invasion’

Police and residents foiled the attempt of some 750 members of Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) to occupy another National Housing Authority (NHA) resettlement project in Barangay Bonga Mayor in Bustos, Bulacan on Friday night.
The Kadamay members arrived at Bulacan Heights Housing Project on board 30 passenger jeeps and tried to force their way into the housing units but elements from the Bulacan Provincial Police, soldiers from 48th Infantry Battalion – Philippine Army (IB-PA) and force multipliers blocked their way.
After a peaceful negotiation the Kadamay group voluntarily dispersed at about 2:50 a.m. on Saturday.
On March 8, some 6,000 Kadamay members illegally occupied six housing projects in Pandi, Bulacan and have not left since even after an eviction notice was served on March 20 and the NHA gave the occupants one week to vacate the houses or be ejected.
Militant partylist groups belonging to the “Makabayan block” in Congress on Wednesday announced their support to the Kadamay group and said they will to join them in fighting their eviction.
The Kadamay members have occupied Villa Elise; Padre Pio housing project in Barangay Cacarong Bata; houses previously awarded to Bureau of Jail and Penology employees and Bureau of Fire Protection in Barangay Cacarong Matanda; Villa Louise housing site in Barangay Siling Matanda and the Pandi Heights 2 and 3 projects in Barangay Mapulang Lupa.
Alliance of Concerned Teachers (ACT) partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio earlier said the “Makabayan block” is urging President Rodrigo Duterte and the NHA to recall the March 20 eviction notices and asked the government not to use military force to evict those occupying the housing units.
Tinio said the eviction notice is expected enforced on March 29.

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Saturday, March 25, 2017

‘Stop impeach moves vs Leni’

ONE NIGHT IN BANGKOK President Rodrigo Duterte and members of his official delegation raise their clenched fists in a photo session with a supportive Filipino crowd in Bangkok Wednesday night. Duterte arrived in Manila early Thursday after official visits to Myanmar and Thailand. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

This was echoed by Senate President Aquilino Pimentel 3rd, who said on Friday Congress had “other important works” to attend to.
Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and a group of lawyers, however, were undeterred, and vowed to continue building up an impeachment complaint against Robredo.
The group of lawyers led by Duterte supporter Bruce Rivera accused the Vice President of “betrayal of public trust” for speaking out against the drug war in a six-minute video sent to the UN meeting last week.
In a news conference upon his arrival from a trip to Thailand, Duterte told those attempting to oust Robredo to “lay off” and instead respect the Filipino electorate’s decision to elect her as the country’s vice president.
He said Robredo’s remarks should not be used as basis for her impeachment and that she should be given the right to exercise freedom of speech.
“Look, you know, we just had an election. Guys, lay off. Let’s stop it. You can do other things but do not tinker with the structure of government. I will not countenance it,” Duterte told reporters.
“Elected `yang tao e [She was elected]. So why do you have to [impeach her]? Is it just because she keeps on harping on me? Hayaan mo [Let her be], this is a democracy, freedom of speech. There are no overt acts committed,” he added.
Robredo, a human rights lawyer and a staunch critic of the Duterte administration, alleged in a video message sent to a UN meeting last week that targets of the police in anti-drug operations were often beaten up if they asked for a search warrant.
Alvarez, Duterte’s longtime friend and political ally, earlier threatened to file an impeachment complaint against Robredo for betraying public trust because of the video message.
The President himself is facing an impeachment complaint filed by Magdalo party-list Rep. Gary Alejano over violation of the Constitution, bribery, betrayal of public trust, graft and corruption, and other high crimes.
Speaking before the Filipino community in Thailand on Wednesday night, Duterte made light of his supporters’ claim that Robredo wants to oust him from power.
He joked that perhaps a better alternative is for Robredo to marry him instead.
“Apurado, gusto ako paalisin. ‘Di pa nga ako dumating isang taon dito paalisin mo na ako. Sige, dalaga man siya, sige pakasalan mo ako [In a hurry, she wants me out. I haven’t even reached one year, you want me out. Okay, she’s still young, okay, marry me],” the President said in jest.
“So dalawa na tayo dito, at least hindi ako mawawalan nang ano, bulong nang bulong na lang ako sa iyo [So both of us are here, at least I won’t run out of…I will keep on whispering to you],” he added.
Duterte then asked Robredo to be patient, claiming she has yet to prove herself to the Filipino people.
“Nagmamadali, maghintay ka. Wala ka pang ginawa sa bayan e [You are rushing, you wait. You haven’t done that much yet for the country],” he said.
The President’s statement came just days after he said he “wouldn’t be surprised” if Robredo had a hand in his own impeachment woes.

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Duterte to PNPA graduates: ‘Do it right’

TOP CADET Macdum Enca, the highest-ranking cadet of the Philippine National Police Academy’s Masidlak Class of 2017, hugs family members after graduation rites in Silang, Cavite on Friday. The 22-year-old Cotabato native said he drew inspiration from President Rodrigo Duterte.

SILANG, Cavite: President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday urged the graduates of Philippine National Police Academy (PNPA) “Masidlak” Class of 2017 to remain strong as they begin their law enforcement careers.
In his speech, the President reminded them never to stray from established codes of conduct.

“I hope that you will take to heart the principles of the Philippine National Police Academy that has been imparted to you. In times when your resolve is being tested, always look back what drove you to become part of the police force,” he said.
Ninety-eight members of the graduating class will join the Philippine National Police, 15 will join the Bureau of Fire Protection, and 31 will be part the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology.
The President called on the graduates to be mentally and physically prepared as they join the government in eradicating crime and corruption.
He also reminded them that losses and triumphs were “inevitable.”
“For the Masidlak Class of 2017, the arduous task of keeping our nation safe is just beginning. Never be discouraged, no matter how formidable the odds may be stacked against you,” Duterte said.
The Chief Executive assured the Masidlak Class that it has the vigorous backing of his administration. He also maintained that he would defend and protect them, as long as they “fight for the country [and]do it right.”
“Government will take care over your worries. Yours: fight for the country, do it right. You have been lectured on the rules on how to do it. Do it right,” he said.

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BSP urges greater transparency in remittance transactions

The central bank is requiring its supervised financial institutions that offer domestic remittance transactions to be more transparent in charging fees to make the sender aware of the full cost of the transaction and the exact amount to be received by the beneficiary.
In a circular issued on Friday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the Monetary Board’s newly approved regulation intends to improve the transparency of remittance charges and enable consumers to determine the most cost-efficient means of sending remittances.
“In case of domestic remittances transactions, all fees to the transactions shall be charged upfront by banks from the sender/remitter’s end, with appropriate disclosure to the sender/remitter of the components of the fees being charged,” the circular said.
Explaining the rule, the central bank said the rule does not preclude banks and/or other participants in the domestic remittance transactions from charging service fees.
The regulation only seeks to level the playing field between banks and other non-bank BSP-supervised entities that offer domestic remittance transactions, it said.
“This is in line with the objective of the BSP to foster a robust consumer regulatory environment to enable citizens to make wiser financial decisions and to contribute actively to the promotion of financial stability,” the monetary authority said.
The BSP-supervised financial institutions have until April 21 this year to comply with the new provision.
“This circular shall take effect 15 days following its publication either in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation in the Philippines,” it added.

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Defense chief: Navy to patrol Benham

TO forestall Chinese activities at Benham Rise, the Philippine Navy will now regularly patrol the resource-rich area, Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana disclosed on Friday.

Last week,BRP Ramon Alcaraz, a Navy frigate acquired from the United States, was sent to the 13-million-hectare region east of Luzon said to contain vast mineral deposits.

“The Navy will henceforth regularly patrol Benham Rise partly due to past Chinese activities there but more importantly because it is part of our continental shelf and awarded to us by the UN (United Nations),” said Lorenzana.

The government’s next activity in Benham Rise, Lorenzana said, would be a survey to clearly determine its limits, depths, coral formations and other features.

Buhay Party-list Rep. Jose Atienza on Friday bared plans for a bill that will establish a Benham Rise Protection and Development Authority, saying the area is of great economic value to future generations of Filipinos, based on the massive deposits of metal-bearing nodules found around the extinct volcano ridge.

At the Senate, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian also said it was about time for the country to explore the area, and said he would fast-track the passage of Senate Bill No. 312 or the Benham Rise Development Authority Act, a bill similar to Atienza’s measure.

The National Mapping and Resource Information Authority (Namria), Atienza noted, explored Benham Rise between 2007 and 2008 and found exceptionally high concentrations of manganese nodules on the seabed.

The legislator, a former Environment secretary, said the sea floor around Benham is covered with metal-rich chunks – manganese nodules that also contain nickel, copper, cobalt and other minerals.

Two weeks ago, the Defense chief said Chinese survey ships, were monitored in the Benham region last year.
President Rodrigo Duterte later admitted that he allowed Chinese vessels to explore the area and cautioned against picking a fight with China.

Defend Panatag, Benham

Atienza reminded President Duterte that aside from addressing the drug problem, there is an equally pressing need to defend not only Panatag Shoal but Benham Rise from any foreign incursion.

“It is wrong to say that we can’t do anything. The whole nation is behind him (Duterte) in defending our territorial interests,” he said.

The Philippines sought the inclusion of Benham Rise in the country’s extended continental shelf before the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf in 2009, which was approved in 2012.

Atienza said this gave the Philippines exclusive control over the area, together with the utilization of any and all natural resources within

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Mindanao migrant group urges Duterte to save convicted OFW

THE Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions, Inc. (MMCEAI) in Davao on Thursday, March 23, appealed to President Rodrigo Duterte to save a Mindanaoan Overseas Filipino worker (OFW), who is facing a death sentence in United Arab Emirates (UAE). According to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), 30-year-old worker Jennifer Dalquez of General Santos City has been sentenced to death for allegedly killing her employer last December 7, 2014. The DFA said the Philippine Embassy in the UAE will assist Dalquez in appealing the sentence. The MMCEAI, in an emailed statement to SunStar Davao, said the court will hear the appeal for Dalquez, which will be lodged by her family and supporters under the "Save Jennifer Dalquez Campaign" on Monday, March 27. They are also calling on the National Government to help them. Dalquez, according to the group, is a victim of a sexual abuse. It added that the government, recalling earlier this year, failed to save the life of a Mindanaoan OFW who was convicted for years in Kuwait. Dalquez's family and supporters are hoping that the government will save her. "The Mindanao Migrants Center for Empowering Actions stands with the Dalquez family and friends in their appeal and call to save Jennifer from death row. She was a victim of sexual abuse and poverty, who is now facing uncertainty for her life," the MMCEAI said. Dalquez left the Philippines in 2011 to work in Abu Dhabi to support the needs of her two young children and her parents as well. The family lives in a poor community in General Santos City. On December 14, 2014, Dalquez claimed that her employer attempted to rape her with a knife pointed at her. In her struggle to save herself, she managed to turn the knife on her assaulting employer and fatally wounded him. At the time of her arrest, medical evidence confirmed that Dalquez suffered physical abuse, like bruises and cigarette burns on her arms, allegedly inflicted by her employer. Dalquez also claimed that early in her employment, she had already gone through sexual harassment, mental intimidation, and physical violence. This ordeal placed her in constant fear especially on occasions when she was alone with him in her employer's house. In May 2015, Al Ain Criminal Court convicted Jennifer Dalquez of murdering her Emirati employer. She was sentenced to die for killing the man she claimed to be her would-be rapist, despite pleading that it was an act of self-defense, the MMCEAI said.

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