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Higalaay Uptown Pyro Musical Festival at SM

September 15, 2017

Now on its 9th year, the grandest display of fireworks lit up the sky as SM City Cagayan de Oro sponsored the Higalaay Uptown Pyro Musical Festival 2017 last August 28 at the Pueblo Grounds. More than hundred thousand spectators witnessed the event while pyro musical teams from Manila, Cebu, Cotabato, Bulacan and Cagayan de Oro joined the contest. Team Bulacan emerged as the grand winner. It was indeed a colorful and fun-filled event for everyone as Jenzpeak performed on stage while ABS-CBN’s Jam Bantigue and Joe Romantico entertained the audience with exciting games.  

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Marine bio experts wage solutions to protect corals

September 14, 2017

MARINE biologists and experts recently put forward science-based solutions that address issues in coral protection in the country. Dr. Wilfredo Roehl Y. Licuanan, in his talk entitled “Current Status of PH Coral Reefs and Prospects for the Near Future’”, recommended to “fix the reef first before transplant.” He was speaking at the recent forum on National Coral R&D Program which highlighted the current status of the Philippine coral reefs, the importance of research for the conservation of corals, the exploration of our scientists and researchers of the Philippine Rise and its overall impact to the economy of the Philippines. Organized by the Department of Science and Technology-Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources (DOST-PCAARRD), particularly the Marine Resources Research Division headed by Dr. Mari-Ann M. Acedera, the forum was part of the recent 2017 National Science and Technology Week celebration. “Reefs do not form overnight. They take thousands of years to develop,” he said, adding that the coral reef crisis cannot be resolved by coral gardening as it is expensive and is not practical. Coral gardening is the cultivation of corals for commercial purposes or coral reef restoration. According to him, the method is also risky as instead of actually repairing the damaged coral reef, it might harm the reef even more. Another sad reality is that, he said, 80% of the coral mortality is actually caused by various human activities and not natural calamities. Take for example the case of the minesweeper ship USS Guardian that on January 17, 2013 ran aground on the south atoll of the Tubbataha Reefs, a delicate ecosystem in the Sulu Sea treasured for its rich marine biodiversity. The grounding damaged 2,345 square meters of coral on the reefs, considered a World Heritage Site by the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). “The better thing to do is to take care of the remaining reefs,” he said. Dr. Patrick C. Cabaitan, also a speaker, discussed the topic ‘Sexual Production of Corals and Why Sex is not Enough?’ He said that studying coral reefs is essential to the economy of the Philippines as they also provide for the ecotourism of the country. He emphasized that scientific intervention is an important tool in coral production. “Corals reproduce through asexual and sexual means, but sex is not enough for the corals,” he said. He suggested that researchers or anyone interested in studying corals pursue basic science to understand reefs; consider other ecological processes in conducting reef restoration efforts, and integrate restoration with management efforts. Meanwhile, Dr. Cesar L. Villanoy, in his talk entitled ‘Updates on the Oceanography of the Benham Rise’, discussed his past researches and the importance of understanding the movement of the waters around Philippines. His researches addressed pressing concerns of the country particularly in fisheries, harmful algal blooms, storm surges and other complex dynamics of archipelagic oceanography. He said that it’s vital to understand the movement of the waters and its temperature to be able to formulate policies with regards to management of the country's marine resources. He also reminds everyone to always consider the processes that determine our physical environment in order to explain the ecology of organisms and the observed trends. Dr. Hildie Maria E. Nacorda, in her talk entitled ‘On the Benham Bank Biodiversity: Taking Learning to the Next Step’, discussed the expeditions the Philippines has done to determine the economic potential of Benham Rise, now called the Philippine Rise. Though the two expeditions done in 2014 and 2016 have discovered the existence of marine species in the Philippine Rise, Dr. Nacorda said that further studies are needed to fully understand the potential of the rise. Initial findings of the nationwide assessment of coral reefs In relation to this call to the public of the marine experts to help in the preservation of the remaining coral reefs, DOST and Department of Environment and Natural Resources are working on a coral reef assessment throughout the country to create a National Coral Reef Status next year. This is because despite of the Philippine archipelago being well known for its species-rich coral reefs, there is a lack of updated information on the present status of its coral reefs. The initial findings of the Nationwide Assessment of Philippine Coral Reefs by Licuanan, et al were published in the Philippine Journal of Science last June 2017. Reefs sampled were randomly selected from around the country, with the number of assessment stations for each of six biogeographic regions stratified by the total area of reefs in each of these regions. For two years, 166 reefs have been sampled. Based on live coral cover, more than 90 percent of the sampled reefs are in the poor and fair categories. So far, the mean hard coral cover of the country at 22 percent is comparable with that of the Indo-Pacific region, but much lower than previous estimates for the Philippines. These values indicate a marked decline in the condition of local reefs over the last four decades, thereby revealing the urgent need for the revision and update of conservation and management policies. (Rosemarie C. Señora, S&T Media Service)

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Ship carrying tons of copra held by BOC for falsifying documents

September 14, 2017

CAGAYAN de Oro City--The Bureau of Customs in Region 10 (BOC-10) has ordered a shipping vessel not to set sail unless it could rectify its alleged infraction, which authorities said have falsified its documents just to pay lower taxes and duties to the government. The ship, M/V Jake Vincent Seis, which its crew claimed came from Indonesia, was loaded with 1,450 metric tons of dried copra intended for delivery to an oil mill in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental. Alvin Y. Enciso, chief of the BOC-10 Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service, said the ship’s owner allegedly tried to take advantage of the closer trade relations between the Philippines and three other Southeast Asian countries by reportedly attempting to avoid paying the government some P35 million of duties and taxes. Enciso said the ship passed itself off as a general cargo vessel plying the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia- Philippines East Asian Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) route. He said the ship was en route to an oil milling facility in Jimenez, Misamis Occidental to deliver the copra when a team from BOC-10 and the Philippine Coast Guard boarded the ship on August 28. “Customs then coordinated with the MARINA, which later issued a certification that the vessel’s special permit to operate in the BIMP-EAGA was fake,” Enciso said. The Customs then inquired about the records of the duties and taxes that they paid, but the ship’s 19 Filipino officers and crew reportedly failed to present any proof. According to BOC-10, it found out that the ship’s owner, Villa Shipping Lines Inc., allegedly deceived the government by making it appear that the M/V Jake Vincent Seis was plying the ports within BIMP-EAGA when its operations was only limited to domestic routes in the Philippines. Enciso said the ship’s owner allegedly pretended to use the vessel in plying the BIMP-EAGA route purposely to avail of the privileges of not paying duties and taxes, adding some shipping lines resort to this modus operandi to get away with paying less obligations to the government. If the M/V Jake Vincent Seis is plying within the BIMP-EAGA shipping route, he said, “the ship is covered by the Free Trade Agreement that would allow the vessel to deliver and pick up cargo within the member countries… If it was imported for this purpose it would have been spared from paying the duties and taxes.” “But if the ship was converted to travel only within domestic waters, they would have to get clearance from government agencies such as the Maritime Industry Authority (Marina) and the BOC,” Enciso added. In a separate interview, Jamail Marohomsalic, BOC-10 district collector, said the M/V Jake Vincent Seis was issued with a warrant of seizure and detention by the agency on September 8. “If the ship was not diligently searched, we would not have found out about the bogus special permit they presented in order to legitimize their activities,” said Marohomsalic. In a statement, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña lauded the BOC-10 officials and personnel for this accomplishment, adding that the seizure of the vessel is in line with the directive of President Rodrigo Duterte to stop all forms of smuggling in the bureau. Samson Pacasum, the sub-port collector at the Mindanao Container Terminal (MCT) in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental, said they are on a lookout for vessels that may have falsified its papers or, carrying undeclared or illegal items within its jurisdiction. For his part, Nash Guro, chief of the MCT Assessment Division, said they are intensifying their efforts to ensure that all cargo vessels that dock at the MCT port have the proper permits.

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Palace to Moreno: Answer P79m ‘illegal encashment’

September 14, 2017

CAGAYAN de Oro City--Malacañang ordered Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Oscar Moreno to submit a verified answer (not a motion to dismiss) in 15 days in connection with the charges filed against him involving the missing P79 million, a former barangay official here said Wednesday. William Guialani, the former village chief of Taglimao, an outskirt village of Cagayan de Oro City, the complainant against Moreno, said that he received the copy of the order Tuesday afternoon. The order numbered OP-DC Case No. 17-H-146, furnished The Mindanao Daily News was dated August 18, 2017, signed by Ryan Alvin Acosta, Acting Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs of the Office of the President. Guialani said that he has already signed the return card to prove that he has received the directive. “I don’t know if Moreno, who has the usual denial attitude, has received his copy,” he added. Moreno’s lawyer has denied that the City Mayor has received the Malacañang order. The Malacañang order pertains to the case involving the issuance of eight “unrecorded and unsubstantiated disbursement vouchers” with a total amount of P79 million by the City Treasurer in 2015 in favor of Oscar Moreno as the Payee. The order cited the findings of the Commissions on Audit (COA) in Region 10 dated May 19, 2015, which reported that Moreno along with the city treasurer, city budget officer, and city accountant, “acted surreptitiously in releasing the eight checks.” The checks cover the city government’s account in the Philippine Postal Service Bank, the Philippine Veterans Bank, the Land Bank of the Philippines, and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP). According to the COA findings, the checks were issued and cashed out, but the covering vouchers, payrolls, and their documents were reportedly submitted in violation of COA circulars 2012-005 and COA circular 2009-006. The COA reported that the eight checks were missing, not recorded in the books of account. The Malacañang order involved anti-graft cases filed against Moreno as Cagayan de Oro City Mayor. In the same order, Malacañang dismissed the charges against the City Treasurer, City Budget Office, and City Accountant for the lack of jurisdiction. Last week, Moreno obtained a consolidated temporary restraining order (TRO) from the Cagayan de Oro-based Court of Appeals (CA) in connection with six dismissal order by the Office of the Ombudsman involving graft and corruption cases. His lawyers said that the CA granted their petition to issue a consolidated TRO involving the six dismissal orders of Moreno by the Office of the Ombudsman. The Office of the Ombudsman has also issued a separate 18 dismissal order against Moreno after the City Mayor obtained a TRO against the six dismissal orders. The case stemmed from an anti-graft cases filed when Moreno was then provincial governor of Misamis Oriental before he jumped to Cagayan de Oro City and ran for the city mayor. Aside from ordering Moreno dismissed from service together with eight other city officials (formerly working at the provincial capitol in Misamis Oriental), the anti-graft court also filed 18 criminal cases against Moreno with the Sandiganbayan in August 2017. Moreno is facing 48 anti-graft cases with the Office of the Ombudsman allegedly involving unauthorized and illegal rentals of heavy equipment amounting to P20.5 million considered by the COA as “fictitious.” A month before the local elections in 2016, the Ombudsman had, including the recent dismissal, already dismissed Moreno 50 times from service, but the complainants were dismayed because the DILG always served the order late like when it served the dismissal order only in June, days before the city leadership changed hands in July 2016. However, the DILG was able to serve the Ombudsman order the day before the 10-day period required to serve the order expired. Thus, the then Vice Mayor formally assumed the post as City Mayor. Moreno, however, contested the DILG order and obtained a TRO from the local CA although the dismissal order was already served and the Vice Mayor already officially installed. Since 2016 until 2017, Moreno easily gets TRO and subsequently the writ of preliminary injunction (WPI) from the CA every time a dismissal order by the Office of the Ombudsman is issued against him.

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Business sector sees Asean membership beneficial to PH

September 14, 2017

THE business sector in the country has the lowest appreciation of the benefits that come with its membership in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). This was according to Dr. Sheila Siar, research information director at the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). Siar shared this in her presentation of the Philippine results of the study “What Does the ASEAN mean to ASEAN peoples?” during the Public Symposium on Building the ASEAN Socio-cultural Community held recently in Davao City. The symposium was organized by PIDS and Jakarta-based Economic Research Institute for ASEAN and East Asia (ERIA), in partnership with the Mindanao Development Authority (MinDA) and the ASEAN Society. According to Siar, the ERIA-funded study, which was also conducted in other ASEAN member-states, showed that Filipino respondents from the business sector agree that the country’s membership in ASEAN is important in increasing access to international markets, travel, and jobs, as well as in maintaining peace and stability. These benefits, however, are perceived by the business sector as meagerly impacting the county, she said. Perceptions and challenges Siar pointed out that this response can be attributed to issues related to trade, investment, and regulation that continue to affect the business sector. As an example, she cited a PIDS study conducted by Dr. Erlinda Medalla and Melalyn Mantaring of the PIDS-led Philippine APEC Study Center Network. The study showed the negative effects of nontariff barriers on the Philippines’ trade activities with other ASEAN countries. Corruption also remains a major issue in the ASEAN region. “The fact that corruption is the most pressing problem overall suggests that the respondents see corruption—and related governance problems—as a critical bottleneck to production efficiency, investment attractiveness, competitiveness, and possibly even development,” said Lydia Ruddy, ERIA Director of Communications. Moreover, the business sector reported moderate awareness of ASEAN. Siar said this was also found in other respondent groups, including those from government, academe, and civil society. In general, all of them registered moderate awareness of ASEAN and moderate identification as ASEAN citizens. This can be explained in part by the low media coverage of ASEAN, which also figured in other ASEAN member-states. In the case of Indonesia, Dr. Alexander Chandra, associate fellow of the Habibie Center in Jakarta, mentioned that the media only focuses on domestic or negative news. “ASEAN news is [considered] not controversial, hence ‘not sexy’ for media coverage,” said Chandra. Increasing awareness and appreciation Dr. Ponciano Intal, Jr., ERIA senior economist, emphasized the importance of local and traditional leaders in boosting awareness and sense of community in the ASEAN region. “Perhaps, the sultanates of Mindanao, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia can take the lead in creating certain agreements that support regional ASEAN community-building,” Intal proposed. Elaine Tan, ASEAN Foundation executive director, underscored the need to engage the youth in ASEAN’s activities as they comprise the biggest chunk of the region’s population. Siar agreed with Tan, adding that “maximizing schools as avenues for instilling awareness and appreciation of ASEAN among the youth is important because they are our future leaders.” The respondents concurred with the idea of using school textbooks to educate young people about ASEAN. Building awareness of the association, many expressed during the focus group discussions, should start in primary school. Other recommended strategies include holding cultural heritage activities that emphasize unity in diversity and increased use of traditional and social media.

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Companies agree to settle P2-b unpaid taxes to govt

September 13, 2017

TAGOLOAN, Misamis Oriental--Companies in the government-run Philippine Veterans Investment Corporation (Phividec) in the industrial Ecozone in Misamis Oriental have agreed to pay the unpaid taxes amounting to P2 billion to the national government, a Phividec official said. Franklin Quijano, the Phividec Administrator, said that about P2 billion of unpaid taxes have remained uncollected from the more than 80 manufacturing and service companies in the 3,000-hectare Phividec Eco Zone in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental. Quijano said that he has a meeting with the stakeholders where the discussion was focused on the unpaid taxes that the national government would want to be collected. The unpaid taxes were more on real estate taxes and rentals, which accumulated for over 10 years since the early years of 2000. According to Quijano, the management of the companies has agreed to pay the tax delinquents and promised to restructure the unpaid taxes in order that the payment could be scheduled. Last month, President Rodrigo Duterte ordered a probe of the uncollected taxes in order to pinpoint those responsible for the tax mess, which might drag some government officials into what others believed as a “tax scam.” Former Cagayan De Oro Congressman Benjo Benaldo, who was appointed to the Phividec’s Board of Directors, exposed the alleged tax anomaly when he assumed the post two months ago. Benaldo cited three multi-national companies who failed to pay the tax with the combined total of more than P1 billion. According to Benaldo, the STEAG, managed by German engineers, was among the big three multi-national companies, which have a tax delinquency to the national government amounting to more than P1 billion. The two other companies are the Mindanao International Container Terminal (MICT), whose management was awarded to the International Container Terminal, Inc. in 2006. Benaldo said that the MICT have a tax delinquency of P342,438,335.33, while the third was the Philippine Sinter Corp with a tax delinquency of P131,442,768.66. The combined tax delinquency of the three companies totaled about P1,064,720,370.07. Adding the tax delinquencies of some of the 80 companies in the Phividec Ecozone, the total amount of tax deficiency in the PIE-MO could reach P2 billion, he said. The Phividec, created on August 13, 1974 by Presidential Decree 538 as amended by PD 1491, is owned and controlled corporation of the government of the Republic of the Philippines. Benaldo said that under the charter, the PIE-MO mandates the government to “levy, assess, and collect real property tax on real properties within the industrial economic zone. He said that 50 percent of the tax collected would be remitted to the national government treasury to build infrastructure, build hospitals, construct roads, buy medicines, provide education and livelihood.

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