environment

Senate expresses sympathy to family of Negros Occidental governor

October 14, 2020

The Senate today adopted a resolution expressing its profound sympathy and sincere condolences to the family of environmentalist and former Negros Occidental Gov. Alfredo Marañon Jr. who passed away last Oct 1, 2020 due to cardiac complications. He was 84 years old. Majority Leader Migz Zubiri, who introduced Senate Resolution No. 544, said Marañon catapulted Negros Occidental as a food sufficient agricultural province through his Negros First! campaign and created many opportunities for his constituents. Marañon was an enthusiast of organic agriculture and encouraged farmers to grow their crops the natural way. During his term, as much as 15,000 hectares of land were turned into organic farms with around 12, 920 farmers working on it. “He championed the cause of the environment. In March 2019, Marañon declared Negros Occidental as coal-free as he prohibited the entry of coal-fired power plants in the province,” Zubiri said. He said Marañon also signed an Executive Order declaring that only clean and renewable sources of energy would be allowed in the province. As an environmentalist, Zubiri said Marañon established the 32,000 hectare Sagay Marine Reserve in the 1970s and made Negros Occidental a major ecotourism spot in the country. He said the marine reserve is composed of Carbine Reef, Macahulom and Panal Reef, as well as Molocaboc Daku and Diot islands and the Suyac islet. Tourist visit the area for its sand beaches, various fishes, seas turtles, migratory birds, coral formations and other marine wonders as well as the centuries-old mangrove trees. Born on December 21, 1935, Marañon was a farmer and an engineer. He began his career as a public servant by being a councilor of Sagay in 1964 and later served as vice mayor. He was eventually elected as mayor of the city in 1972 before he went on to become an assemblyman of the Batasan Pambansa. In 1988, Marañon was again elected mayor and in 1992 as vice governor of the province. He ran for a congressional seat in 1995, where he served for three consecutive terms. Marañon served as Negros Occidental governor from 2010 to 2019. “His passing is a great loss not only to his bereaved family and the Negrenses but to the entire Filipino nation as well,” Zubiri said. (Senate PRIB)

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“Increasing local food prod’n is our priority, importation is a last resort" - DA Chief

October 12, 2020

QUEZON CITY, Oct. 11 -- Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Duterte administration continues to put premium on protecting the interests and welfare of the Filipino farmers and fishers, and that sourcing additional food commodities from other countries remains a “last resort” policy.   “Our vision of a food-secure and resilient Philippines with prosperous farmers and fisherfolk remains, amid the COVID-19 pandemic and onto the new normal. We will only allow imports to fill in the deficit or what we cannot produce locally,” Secretary Dar said.   He issued the statement to debunk criticisms and perceptions that the current Department of Agriculture (DA) leadership “made the country food import-dependent” despite abundant land and sea resources capable of producing most of the food requirements of 110 million Filipinos.   In fact, Secretary Dar said the country’s dependency on imported food has been increasing during the past 30 years, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA).   In 2016, import-dependency was at 22.5 percent (%), which slightly inched up to 22.7% in 2017, and jumped to 29.2% in 2018 – as local food production was not able to keep pace with population growth during that three-year period, the PSA said.   In fact, based on PSA’s food balance sheets (FBS), the country’s self-sufficiency ratio (SSR) for aggregated food commodities fell to 79.4% in 2018 from 83.2% in 2016, and 86.8% in 2017.   The FBS provides a comprehensive picture of the country’s food supply during a specified reference period and provides an indication of the adequacy of food supply relative to the nutritional requirement of the population.   Increased food importation saw an annual per capita increase in the supply and consumption of cereals, meat, and sources of fat and protein.   PSA figures also show that the country has been importing several major food items, as a percentage of total national requirement, at varying rates, namely: rice, at 14%; corn, 12%; pork, 14%; dressed chicken, 6%; beef, 39%; onions, 38%; garlic, 91%; coffee, 71%; and peanut – 75%.   This was backed by Dr. Fermin Adriano, former information director of the University of the Philippines System and vice-chancellor of the University of the Philippines Los Baños. He said that low farm productivity should be blamed for the shortfall, as it has not kept pace with the population growth rate.   “While our population growth during the last decade, from 2008 to 2018, averaged around 1.7% to 1.8%, our agricultural sector grew an annual average of only 1.3% for the same period,” he said.   Clearly, there is a big gap, hence the country has been importing additional food to feed the growing population.   “In economic parlance, this is a simple case of local demand outstripping local supply. Thus, importation is a necessary recourse to ensure that our people will not go hungry,” Adriano said.   Nevertheless, to meet the food requirements of the Filipino people, especially in this time of the pandemic, Secretary Dar said that the DA is investing heavily in the modernization and industrialization of Philippine agriculture, which are the cornerstones of his eight-point paradigm shift.   The DA’s “new thinking” in agricultural development veers away from the heavy focus on specific crops towards improving overall resilience, competitiveness, and sustainability of the rural sector.   “Realizing this vision will require dedicated efforts among major agri-fishery industry stakeholders, led by the DA, to continuously empower farmers, fisherfolk, and entrepreneurs, and for the private sector to help increase farm productivity and profitability, taking into account sustainability and resilience,” Secretary Dar concluded. (DA StratComms)  

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BOC monitors Foreign Vessels of Interest

October 9, 2020

MANILA, Oct. 8 -- In line with its mandate to secure the country's borders and prevent smuggling of contraband, including prohibited and restricted goods without permits, the Bureau of Customs intensified its monitoring of ports and territorial waters in coordination with the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG). The effort has resulted to the actual boarding of five (5) Vessels of Interest (VOI) which confirmed the compliance of the vessels to all applicable rules and regulations. Some of the foreign vessels that enter Philippine territorial waters have become Vessels of Interest (VOI) because of observed deviance from original navigational path such as voyaging far from their normal course of operations. Other vessels were also observed to have conducted sudden change of destination, consequent unloading of cargo, and intentional shutdown of their identification system to avoid detection. These circumstances prompted the Bureau of Customs to intensify border control operations by renewing partnership with the Philippine Coast Guard through a Memorandum of Agreement last July 14, 2020. This is aimed at improving intelligence sharing and conduct of joint operations in maritime areas of the country. By virtue of the said agreement, the BOC and PCG will continuously conduct joint operations to board and inspect VOIs in Philippine territory. The inspection being conducted seeks to verify the vessel's completeness of records, safety compliance, cargoes, and other pertinent documents relative to its voyage. Notably, the conducted inspections on 5 VOIs found no discrepancies and confirmed that the vessels' deviations were caused by delays in schedule, delays in approval of crew change, port congestion and force majeure. With all of these proactive actions, the BOC recognizes the continuing challenge of preventing smuggling that may be perpetrated by the VOIs in our country either by shipside discharge, casting overboard of goods and merchandise of any kind, or any form of pure smuggling operations. The Bureau of Customs will continue to implement reforms to strengthen enforcement and security capability and remain committed to its mandate in protecting the country's borders by enforcing applicable laws, rules, and regulations. (BOC)

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First DHSUD Planners’ Forum rolled out

October 9, 2020

QUEZON CITY, Oct. 8 -- Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development (DHSUD) Secretary Eduardo Del Rosario led the launching of DHSUD’s first Planners’ Forum aimed at further empowering the government agency’s planning function. Highlighting a six-part Webinar Series with the theme “Embracing the New Normal In Land Use and Urban Planning Development,” the forum likewise seeks to broaden DHSUD Regional Offices’ role in implementing the BALAI (Building Adequate, Livable, Affordable and Inclusive) Filipino communities program. The initiative is being held in conjunction with the National Shelter Month this October. “Given the strengthened and wider development planning function of our department, we, that is you and I, are faced with an enormous challenge to implement our BALAI Filipino program,” Secretary Del Rosario said in welcoming participants at the forum. “It is our task to build human settlements that are adequate in terms of delivery and access to services; with livable settlements that are safe, risk resilient and environmentally sound, yet, affordable because home buyers are given choices of financial modalities to access their preferred housing unit,” the housing czar stressed. He also noted that the forum is meant to promote further the development of inclusive settlements supported by primary needs such as transport systems, water sanitation and education. Secretary Del Rosario expressed hope that the forum will pave the way for measures meant to raise the awareness of both the government and the public with regard to pushing for the overall progress of the country’s human settlements and urban development, especially amid the COVID-19 pandemic. “I hope that the core of your discussions on the pandemic, COVID-19, will guide you (participants) to assist and lead our local government units, to do the right thing – actions that local leaders should undertake today for a better future in Human Settlements and Urban Development,” Secretary Del Rosario added. The first of the Webinar Series kicked off on Wednesday. Similar forums will be held on October 14, 21 and 28, as well as on November 4 and 11. As the lead government agency in the housing sector, DHSUD is spearheading celebrations for the National Shelter Month in line with its mandate in providing more sustainable, resilient and affordable housing units to Filipinos, especially the underprivileged. (DHSUD)

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Gatchalian raises need to strengthen safeguards vs. sale of counterfeit goods in online market

October 5, 2020

PASAY CITY, Oct. 4 -- Senator Win Gatchalian said the booming online business and growing paperless transactions following the lockdowns across the country due to the coronavirus pandemic has spawned the need to further safeguard against fraudulent traders and sale of counterfeit items. “The very nature of online business which has borderless market, unlike the traditional brick and mortar stores, has practically provided the platform for the sale of counterfeit goods and has now necessitates us to strengthen consumer protection,” Gatchalian said, in defending the enactment of Senate Bill No. 1591 or the proposed Internet Transactions Act. During the Senate’s latest hearing on the said bill which Gatchalian authored, the senator noted the lack of any liability in the country’s laws of online sellers for counterfeit products. “Definitely, we have to find a solution to minimize or totally eliminate the exposure of these counterfeit items in our market and ensure that our consumers will not buy those items,” he said. “This is where the challenge comes in and this is where the problem lies. Anyone can sell and anyone can buy but do we have enough safeguards to prevent counterfeit items to come in to the Philippine market?” Gatchalian asked. Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Ruth Castelo told senators that, currently, they have no means to protect consumers from sellers that are not known in the country or which they have no access with. While the proposed Internet Transactions Act, through the DTI, may be able to address consumer complaints with the registry of all online platforms or sellers in the country, the agency admitted it faces the difficulty in imposing liability to those that cannot be located or do not provide any physical address. Gatchalian’s Senate Bill No. 1591 proposed the creation of an e-commerce bureau, a virtual one-stop shop for consumer complaints and internet transactions and regulatory body for online selling in the country. The senator ensured that the enactment of the measure would be responsive to the needs of the consumers while promoting the growth of e-commerce in the country. (OSWG)

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Green, Sustainability Bond Markets poised for growth

February 12, 2020

The Green and Sustainability debt markets in the Philippines and other members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) are poised for growth, with the “necessary foundations” for their development already in place. In a keynote speech at the ASEAN+3 Bond Market Forum Meeting at the Asian Development Bank (ADB) Headquarters in Manila on February 5, SEC Commissioner Ephyro Luis B. Amatong cited the “notable” issuances of bonds worth more than US$3.8 billion under the ASEAN Green and Sustainability Bond Standards in 2019 as positive indication of the market’s development. Last year’s issuances was six times larger than the $639 million issued in 2018, when the value increased by over 50% from 2017. Sustainability bonds accounted for $1.4 billion or 36% of last year’s total, up 14 times from just $100 million in 2018. “While ASEAN may still be a relatively small player in the global Green/ Sustainability debt market – with $330 billion raised in 2019 – the rate of growth in ASEAN appears to show the necessary foundations for the development of such a Green/ Sustainability debt market have indeed been laid, including the issuance of a clear set of guidelines for issuers to follow and which investors, both international and domestic, recognize as holistic and reliable,” Mr. Amatong said. Where ASEAN stands For now, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand dominate the ASEAN Green and Sustainability bond market. The Philippines has seen 15 issuances worth $3.04 billion by a range of private sector issuers, including renewable energy firms and banks taking advantage of both on- and offshore markets. Philippine banks particularly have had notable success in this market. Among them is Rizal Commercial Banking Corporation (RCBC), which has issued two Sustainability bonds and one Green bond totaling $742 million, of which $442 million is peso-denominated. Bank of the Philippine Islands also issued Green bonds under the ASEAN Standards to raise $300 million and CHF100 million, with the latter transaction achieving a negative yield.  Most recently, state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines entered the domestic Sustainability market, raising $352 million from the issuance of peso-denominated Green bonds in late 2019. In 2016, there were only three Green bonds outstanding in ASEAN, for a total of $252 million. Now there are at least 57 issues under the ASEAN Standards for Green, Social and Sustainability bonds for a total of $4 billion. In the Philippines, the private sector-led foray into the Green and Sustainability capital markets first relied on strategic support from development partners, particularly in the case of renewable energy producers. Overall, seven of the Philippines’ 15 Sustainability transactions have received some form of support or engagement by multilateral development finance institutions, namely the ADB and International Finance Corporation. ‘Necessary foundations’ in place Mr. Amatong cited the issuance of a clear set of guidelines for issuers among the “necessary foundations” for the development of the ASEAN Green and Sustainability debt market. “First, we at the ASEAN Capital Markets Forum (ACMF) recognized early on the potential of green and sustainable finance to attract international investors, who, generally speaking, have had more funds to invest than investible options,” Mr. Amatong said. “We at ACMF see this as an opportunity for ASEAN countries, many of whom have significant infrastructure development programs, to access as yet untapped sources of much needed financing. Resilient and adaptable infrastructure is particularly important to those of us in ASEAN since we are particularly at risk to the impact of climate change.” In this light, ACMF developed the ASEAN Green Bond Standards in 2017, in line with the Green Bond Principles formulated by the International Capital Market Association. Fundamentally, the Standards provide a framework to ensure transparency and allow investors to make informed judgments regarding an offering’s “green-ness” and sustainability. The Philippines adopted the Standards in August 2018, as the SEC issued the guidelines on the issuance of bonds for the financing or refinancing of new and/or existing projects that must provide clear environmental benefits, such as those relating to renewable energy, energy efficiency, pollution prevention and control, environmentally sustainable management of living natural resources and land use, clean transportation, climate change adaptation, and green buildings. The Philippines likewise adopted the ASEAN Social Bonds Standards and ASEAN Sustainability Bonds Standards. In April 2019, the SEC issued the guidelines on the issuance of bonds for social projects aimed at providing or promoting affordable basic infrastructure, access to healthcare and education, and food security, among others, as well as those for social projects with environmental co-benefits. “ASEAN’s commitment to a sustainable future and sustainable capital markets goes beyond the issuance of standards and the debt capital markets,” Mr. Amatong said, as six of the 10 ASEAN members require publicly listed companies to issue sustainability reports. The Philippines, for one, requires publicly listed companies to disclose certain information in relation to their non-financial performance across the economic, environmental and social aspects of their organizations. The SEC issued the guidelines on sustainability reporting in February 2019. Mr. Amatong also cited the participation of five ASEAN members in international initiatives that seek to enhance sustainability risk management and the adoption by seven members of policies to mainstream sustainable finance. In March, the ACMF is expected to adopt a broader sustainable finance roadmap, which it intends to present during the ASEAN Finance Ministers’ meeting for endorsement. “All this is to say, that we think that ASEAN is off to a good start in its sustainability journey,” Mr. Amatong said. “But there is still so much we can do, and so much we need to do, to realize our shared goal of sustainable economic growth in the real economy supported by sustainable capital markets.” (SEC)

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