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Dominguez cites LGUs role in revitalizing economy

October 29, 2020

 Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III has underscored the vital role of local government units (LGUs) in the difficult task of rebuilding the pandemic-battered economy as he encouraged elective executives to make the best use of resources readily available to them to bankroll their recovery programs and help revive enterprises in their localities hardest hit by the global crisis.    Republic Act (RA) No. 11494 or the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2) as well as innovative solutions provided by government financial institutions (GFIs) can help local economies recover quickly from the COVID-19 crisis, Dominguez said.    On behalf of the national government, Dominguez thanked the local chief executives who performed beyond expectations to be able to deliver emergency assistance to marginalized communities and enforce quarantine measures to help curb the spread of COVID-19.    “The local governments did not fail us. We were all unprepared to undertake new and heightened responsibilities in our COVID-19 response efforts. Despite this harsh reality, many LGUs performed beyond expectations. The effects of this pandemic would have been more severe had our local governments and health system not stood resilient. The national government is grateful for all your efforts,” Dominguez said during the webinar hosted by the Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) to mark its 33rd founding anniversary.    Local chief executives led by Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP) president and Quirino Governor Dakila Carlo Cua attended the online event.    Dominguez said that among the credit lines under Bayanihan 2 that local governments can access for their respective economic recovery programs are the P1 billion allocation each to the Land Bank of the Philippines (LandBank) and the Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) for the interest subsidies on new and existing loans secured by LGUs.   Additional capital has also been infused into these government banks under Bayanihan 2 to provide wholesale financing to rural banks and microfinance institutions so that they can expand lending to small enterprises, he added.   Aside from these, the local governments can also access loans from the Municipal Development Fund Office (MDFO), which will be transformed into a more effective and efficient LGU lending intermediary, Dominguez said.    Dominguez also suggested the innovative measure of getting the local governments to enter into an agreement with the Philippine Guarantee Corp. (PhilGuarantee) to secure the loans extended to pandemic-hit sectors in their respective localities as a way to maximize the use of the LGUs’ available funds.    He said that on the part of the Department of Finance (DOF), the BLGF has already sped up the process of issuing the certificates on net debt service ceiling and borrowing capacity to the LGUs through electronic processing to make it a lot easier for LGUs to obtain loans.   The DOF, through the BLGF, has also been conducting training programs to raise the competencies of LGU treasurers, Dominguez said.    “The devolution of services to LGUs highlights the direct contributions of local government finance toward mobilizing resources, bridging financing gaps, and investing for local economic development. The DOF stands ready to help LGUs become better equipped to perform these fiscal functions,” Dominguez said.    He commended the BLGF under Executive Director Niño Raymond Alvina for its hard work in continuously improving local fiscal management and empowering LGUs by, among others, building the financial literacy and revenue generating capabilities of local governments.    Dominguez pointed out that at both national and local levels, the government needs to optimize its revenue generation powers and improve tax administration.    To achieve this goal, he urged LGUs to adopt digital technologies, which will also translate into a more responsive governance and the efficient delivery of frontline services.   “The LGUs are vital in the difficult task of rebuilding our economy. Closer to the ground, they are best positioned to help revive our enterprises hardest hit by the pandemic. They can help pump prime the national economy through local public investments,” Dominguez said.    He also called on LGUs to signify to the Congress the urgency of enacting the 2021 national budget, the proposed Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE), the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer (FIST) Act,  and the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) Act within the year.     Dominguez said these priority legislative measures will help the economy and  businesses  recover from the pandemic by lowering the corporate income tax rate and enhancing the flexibility of the fiscal incentives system;  allowing banks to dispose of non-performing loans and assets through asset management companies so that they can lend more to micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs); and enabling government banks to form a special holding company to support strategically important companies facing solvency issues.    “Be assured that the national government will continue to work with local governments to keep their constituents healthy and their local economies functioning and growing,” Dominguez said.  (DOF)  

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Bong Go lauds PRRD’s renewed call for the creation of the Department of Overseas Filipinos

October 29, 2020

Senator Christopher “Bong” Go lauded the renewed call of President Rodrigo Duterte for the creation of an executive department that will focus on the needs and concerns of overseas Filipinos. In his Talk to the People aired on Tuesday, October 27, Duterte said that he is hoping for the establishment of the Department of Overseas Filipinos that would immediately address the needs of overseas Filipino workers. “There will be a more thorough review of policies for your protection,” Duterte said during his address. The President added that he is considering coming up with another agency for seafarers. Meanwhile, Go praised Duterte’s pronouncements, saying that putting all overseas Filipinos concerns in just one department will be easier for them to seek assistance and services for all their needs. “Nagpapasalamat po tayo sa panibagong panawagan ng Pangulo para sa pagtatag ng Department of Overseas Filipinos,” Go said. “Mas maisasaayos ang mga programa at serbisyo ng gobyerno para matulungan ang mga apektadong Pilipino kung mayroong sariling departamento na mamamahala sa mga pangangailangan ng mga OFWs,” he added. Go has also firmly suggested the need to establish the DOOF because of the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic and to improve government efficiency and effectiveness in the provision of necessary services from deployment. “Ngayon na napilitan silang umuwi dahil sa krisis, dapat lang bigyan ng sapat na atensyon ang kanilang mga pangangailangan para matulungan ang ating mga bagong bayani na makabangon muli,” he said. Filed by Go last July 2019, Senate Bill No. 202 seeks to create the DOOF to improve the delivery of government services to Filipinos abroad by bringing together and streamlining the relevant services scattered across various national agencies. The second iteration of the initial SB 202, SB 1835 takes into consideration the inputs from the concerned executive agencies and has been endorsed by the Office of the Cabinet Secretary and Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to the Senate Committee on Labor, Employment and Human Resources Development. SBN 1835 brings together under one department the Office of the Undersecretary for Migrant Workers’ Affairs of the Department of Foreign Affairs, the Commission on Overseas Filipinos, all Philippine Overseas Labor Offices under the Department of Labor and Employment, the International Labor Affairs Bureau under DOLE, and International Social Services Office of the Department of Social Welfare and Development. In the new version of the bill, the DOOF will exercise administrative supervision over the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration and Overseas Workers Welfare Administration which shall be attached to the envisioned department. Once established, the DOOF will protect the rights and promote the welfare of overseas Filipinos; formulate, plan, coordinate, promote, administer, and implement policies; and undertake systematic national development programs for managing and monitoring the overseas or foreign employment of Filipino workers, among others. “Importante klaro po ang mandato nito at ‘di mag-overlap sa ibang ahensya, tulad ng DOLE at DFA,” Go previously said. The measure proposes that the new Department will be led by a Secretary and four Undersecretaries who shall head the following offices: (1) Administration and Finance; (2) Foreign Employment; (3) Assistance to Overseas Filipinos in Distress; and (4) Policy, Treaties, International Agreements and Special Concerns. Under the measure, the Assistance-to-Nationals offices found in all foreign service posts will serve as the department’s overseas operating arm. They will look after the welfare of Filipinos abroad and provide assistance with regard to problems, such as contract violations, poor employment conditions and exploitation in the work place, among others. In addition, distressed overseas Filipinos in need of temporary shelter, medical aid and other forms of assistance may find them in the Migrant Workers and other Overseas Filipinos Resource Centers that will be set up in every country of destination. The centers will be staffed with psychologists, social workers, and a Shari'a or human rights lawyer as well as case or public relations officers fluent in the local language, laws, customs and practices of the country. The bill also notably directs the establishment of Overseas Filipino Malasakit Centers in strategic locations throughout the country to serve as a one-stop shop for migrant Filipinos and their families requiring clearances and permits, validation of overseas job offers, reintegration services and pertinent seminars and workshops. To support the department’s operations and activities, a computer-based management information system containing all the overseas Filipinos’ relevant information will be created at the department and office level. Duterte has twice called on Congress to pass the priority measure during his 2019 and 2020 State of the Nation Addresses as he recognized the significant contribution of the overseas Filipinos to the country’s economy and emphasizing the need to serve and protect them better. Go, then, encouraged his fellow senators and policy stakeholders to “review eagerly and intently all the legislative measures at hand to improve policies and programs to address their needs at this time.” “Bigyan natin ng importansya na magkaroon ng opisina para sa kanila, para may magtitimon sa kanila, magga-guide sa mga OFWs. Bigyan natin sila ng importansya. Tawag natin sa kanila bagong bayani. Totohanin natin,” he continued. (OSBG)

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Phl welcomes Brazil's poultry import ban complaint

October 29, 2020

All member-countries have an equal right to challenge each other whenever there are trade complaints lodged before the World Trade Organization (WTO). Thus, is the reply of the Department of Agriculture (DA) to a letter received recently through the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) from the Government of Brazil regarding the ban imposed by the DA on poultry products from Brazil based on reports of widespread COVID-19 infection among meat workers and the laboratory detection in China of SARS-COV-2 in imported chicken wings from Brazil. “Although we have maintained an open communication line with our Brazilian counterparts, the Department of Agriculture welcomes the initiative of Brazil to elevate the matter to the WTO,” said Agriculture Secretary William Dar. “We have not yet lifted the ban on poultry, especially whole chicken, as the Brazilian government has yet to furnish the Philippines a report on the rates of SARS-COV-2 infection in their respective Foreign Meat Establishments (FME), where our imports are sourced,” the DA chief said. The report forms part of the protocols of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and the requirements of the DA for a more in-depth risk analysis of the situation. It is within the scope of the importing country to pre-emptively ban FMEs with apparent biosafety lapses until such time that the Philippines is satisfied with the evidence of compliance and/or commitment by the FME concerned, said DA-Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) Director Ronnie Domingo. In fact, he said, “with the receipt of the partial documents from Brazil, the Philippines responded promptly by recently allowing the entry of mechanically-deboned meat or MDM from Brazil.” MDM goes directly to accredited local meat processing plants upon which the Philippine government can impose direct monitoring and regulation. On settling trade complaints and disputes, “the Philippines has always been facilitative of trade and open to discussion on trade issues which may not be acceptable to a trading partner,” said Secretary Dar. The WTO provides an avenue that allows member governments to negotiate and resolve trade issues with other members. “We welcome continued bilateral consultations with the Brazilian government, as we have always been to discuss this matter further towards mutual resolution,” he concluded. (DA)  

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Bicolano Artist to launch “Pagbutwa” online exhibit in honor of artists, cultural workers, and frontliners

October 29, 2020

The Kurit-Lagting, a collective artistic collaboration of Bicolano artists from Sorsogon, Albay, Catanduanes, Masbate and Camarines provinces with art advocacies on human rights and the environment, will be launching the “Pagbutwa” online exhibit on October 31, 2020 via facebook live in partnership with UAPSA Area B District 5 and Sorsogon Initiatives for Culture and Arts Development.  “Pagbutwa, a Bicolano word for emergence or the process of arrival, coming into view, and becoming exposed after being concealed will explore different visual representations by artists that talk about challenges, pain, happiness, and memories from the displacement, dislocation, and temporality brought about by the present health crisis,” said Res Demdam, a Kurit-Lagting member since 2011. It is an online multidisciplinary community art project or an artistic endeavor that features themes about the struggles of artists, workers, and frontliners during this challenging time. It also encourages active participation and creativity in the Bicolano community, through group interaction and self-exploration. “The featured works will be uploaded in Kurit-Lagting’s official social media pages. The works will talk much about the disruption of the artistic process and the artistic product or outcome in the context of containment, and restriction which may be regarded as dialogues between the ecology of production and space,” quipped Robert Marticio, UAPSA Area B District 5 president and Kurit-Lagting honorary member. “The online exhibit will be curated by Bicolano artist-curator, Geri Matthew Carretero. As an artist-curator, he has exhibited his artworks and curated shows in various museums and galleries with themes about migration, displacement, and disability,” added Jhon Fred Manaligod, the newest member of the art collective. In addition, Carretero’s community-based initiatives include working as a volunteer and consultant for communication, branding, advocacy, and networking for NGOs that help children, youth, women, persons with disability (PWDs), and other vulnerable groups. He is presently finishing his Master of Fine Arts Degree at the University of the Philippines, Diliman. (KuritLagting)  

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U.S. Embassy launches Academy for Women Entrepreneurs in the Philippines

October 29, 2020

The U.S. Embassy in the Philippines launched the Academy for Women Entrepreneurs (AWE) by launching a free Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) with more than 150 women entrepreneurs and early-stage business owners in the Philippines. AWE is part of the White House-led Women’s Global Development and Prosperity (W-GDP) Initiative to empower women worldwide to fulfill their economic potential and create conditions for increased stability, security, and prosperity. W-GDP aims to reach 50 million women by 2025. This year, more than 5,000 women from more than 50 countries will participate in AWE. In the Philippines, the American Corners Bacolod and Marawi are facilitating the program. Three more Philippine cities are expected to launch the program in 2021. “AWE comes to Marawi City at the most opportune time,” said American Corner Marawi Director and Fulbright alum Elin Anisha Guro. “AWE is strategically positioned to train, equip, empower, and guide these new and experienced entrepreneurs as they struggle to adapt to a new business normal to achieve their personal and community goals.” “AWE Bacolod will help aspiring young women entrepreneurs, housewives, and out-of-school youth build networks,” said American Corner Bacolod Director Ma. Girlie de Guzman. The first cohort of 160 Filipina AWE students are expected to graduate by the end of the year. (US Embassy in the Philippines)  

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Manila, Tokyo to convene 10th infra meeting online amid pandemic

October 28, 2020

Philippine and Japanese officials will hold high-level discussions tomorrow on the progress of the Japan-funded infrastructure projects under President Duterte's signature  "Build, Build, Build" program,  and this would happen via videoconferencing for the first time amid the travel restrictions resulting from the lingering COVID-19 pandemic. The 10th Japan-Philippines Joint Committee on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation, to be held on Wednesday (Oct.28), will also be the first time that this bilateral panel will convene under the new administration of Japan Prime Minister Yoshihide Suga.  Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III will chair the Philippine side in the committee, while Dr. Hiroto Izumi, the special advisor to Prime Minister Suga, is expected to lead the Japanese side.  On top of discussing the status of Japan-funded “Build, Build, Build” projects, this high-level panel will also provide updates from both sides on Japan’s assistance to the Philippines’ COVID-19 response efforts, the Department of Finance (DOF) said.  Both sides will tackle the impact of COVID-19 on the implementation of the Japan-supported projects and the safety of workers and other personnel involved in their construction.  The Philippines is also expected to share developments on the Mindanao peace process, the ongoing rehabilitation of Marawi City, and the new Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM).   Japan, for its part, will provide updates on its ongoing assistance to Mindanao under the framework of the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD) and other programs designed to help promote stability and economic growth in the new autonomous region.  Among the Japan-funded infrastructure projects that the committee is expected to discuss in the Oct. 28 meeting are the Metro Manila Subway Project (Phase I), North-South Railway Project, Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) Rehabilitation Project, Davao City Bypass Construction Project, and the Cebu-Mactan Bridge and Coastal Road Construction Project.  Before the COVID-19 pandemic struck, the committee met alternately in Japan and the Philippines.   The panel first convened in March 2017 in Tokyo, while its latest face-to-face meeting was in Hakone in December last year. Since the start of the Duterte administration, 15 loan agreements have been signed between the Philippines and Japan worth a combined JPY679.3 billion (approximately P317 billion or US$6.24 billion), of which 11 involve the construction of big-ticket projects under “Build, Build, Build." These agreements also include two loans amounting to JPY100 billion signed this year for the Philippines’ COVID-19 response.  Japan ranks as the No. 1 provider of Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the Philippines, with loan and grant commitments amounting to around US$10.1 billion as of June 2020.  This sum represents   38.53 percent of the country’s total ODA portfolio.  As of June 2020, ODA loans from Japan amounted to US$10.03 billion (40.77 percent of the country's total ODA loans), while grants totaled US$69.45 million. This makes Japan the largest ODA loan provider to the Philippines and the 8th largest in terms of grant financing.  (DOF)  

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