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PNB to acquire bank to boost consumer finance biz

May 3, 2019

THE Tan-led Philippine National Bank (PNB) targets to acquire a bank to further strengthen its consumer finance.     In a briefing Tuesday, PNB president and chief executive officer Jose Arnulfo Veloso said they are on the lookout for a bank that “can bring PNB to the next level”, noting that this is the trend among other financial institutions in the country.     He said PNB has a large customer base in the commercial banking space and local corporate space and most of about two-thirds of their branches are in the provinces.     “We would like to be able to have a good consumer finance business which currently is lower than industry…so if we are going to find a bank that we will be able to acquire, our focus will be a financial institution that would complement that business opportunity that we would like to develop,” he said.     Veloso said this decision was made since “the top end and large corporates are overbanked.”     He said foreign banks are now additional competitors for the large corporates after the industry’s liberalization in 2014.     “The commercial banking space will eventually be challenged and that is where PNB is very strong that is why we are putting the savings bank back into the bank to allow ourselves to have a very good cover of the consumer finance business locally and also to be able to allow our overseas Filipino customers the ability to have a referral back of consumer finance needs into the country,” he said.     He said “on a forward basis, we’ve always been interested to make the Filipino people who are taking the services of money lending investors be a business the PNB will be able to cover on a long term basis.”     He said they aim to have a joint venture with an industry expert to “be able to allow us to have the ability to understand the business, to be able to set up the proper collection and risk taking methodologies (and) to allow us to then be able to be prepared going forward.”     Veloso said they are open to having a strategic partner that will have about 20 to 25 percent share in PNB but clarified that this is not their focus right now.     Veloso said they are set to come out with a digital platform to further reach more customers both here and overseas. (PNA)

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Nueva Ecija welcomes adopted son Bong Go as he vows to promote welfare of farmers

May 3, 2019

The people of Nueva Ecija on Thursday welcomed with open arms their adopted son, former Special Assistant to the President and 2019 senatorial candidate Christopher Lawrence “Bong” Go, on his return to the province.     It could be recalled that last January 14, 2019 the provincial board adopted a resolution declaring Go as an adopted son of the province, citing his work as former special assistant of President Rodrigo Duterte, his role in bringing the concerns of the people to the Chief Executive and his continued support of the province.     Go started his day in Nueva Ecija meeting local farmers and sharing a meal with them in a “boodle fight,” also taking the opportunity to listen to their concerns. He then went around the cities of Gapan and Cabatanuan, met in many places by cheering residents out in the streets, chanting his name.     “Nagpapasalamat po ako dahil isa akong adopted son ng Nueva Ecija. Maraming salamat po sa mga taga-Nueva Ecija sa napakainit na pagtanggap ninyo sa akin, sing-init ng panahon ngayon. Napakataas ng temperatura dito sa Nueva Ecija subalit sa sobrang init ng pagtanggap nila sa akin nakakawala ng pagod at masaya po ako na napapangiti natin sila,” Go said in an ambush interview.     Go assured the people of the province, considered as the “Rice Granary of the Philippines” that agriculture is among the top priorities under his legislative agenda and that he would support all government programs that would not only promote agriculture but also uplift the lives of farmers.     “Gagawin po namin lahat ni Pangulong Duterte in the next three years po kung anong maitutulong namin dito. Especially kanina marami pong mga hinaing ang ating mga farmers dito, (kabilang na )yung patubig. Sabi ko hindi ko po kayo pabababayaan,” Go said.     “Isa po sa aking priority ang agriculture at itong free irrigation program naman po ni Pangulong Duterte ay tuloy-tuloy po ito at susuportahan ko po ito,” he added.     Among others, Go said he would look for means to help provide alternative sources of water for farmers and conduct extensive consultation as well as information dissemination to the people of the province on the status of irrigation projects in the area.     He added that proper consultation and information dissemination are important to ensure that their concerns are properly addressed and they are informed of the governments projects available for them to benefit from.     Go had earlier called for pro-active measures to mitigate the effects of perennial El Niño phenomenon not only through expanded irrigation services but also the conduct of cloud-seeding operations.     The former SAP also said he would look into the concerns the farmers have referred to him.     “May ibinigay po silang sulat at isa po siguro ito sa pag-aaralan natin kung papano nga natin sila matutulungan. Marami po silang inabot na sulat sa akin .…Ang ibinigay kong assurance sa kanila ay ang interest nila ay uunahin po namin ni Pangulong Duterte,” Go said.     As part of his legislative agenda for agriculture, Go is pushing for improved government support for farmers including access to cheaper fertilizers, climate-resistant seeds, as well as low-interest credit facilities through a simplified process.     He is also proposing to conduct agri-entrepreneurship skills training for farmers and their families to open opportunities for additional livelihood instead of relying mostly on farming.     “So rest assured po in the next three years, (kayong) mga farmers po dito sa Nueva Ecija, ako po ang patuloy ninyong magiging tulay kay Pangulong Duterte at marami po akong isusulong na batas sa kapakanan po ng ating mga farmers,” Go said.     Specifically, Go said he would support infrastructure programs of the administration that would be beneficial to the agriculture sector and the farmers not only in Nueva Ecija but in adjacent provinces.     Among others, Go cited the Lower Agno River Irrigation System Improvement Project, a P46-million diversion-type irrigation dam meant to improve delivery of water supply, increase agricultural productivity and farmer’s income and generate employment in the region. Notice to proceed for the project was issued last August 2018.     “Andyan din po ang Dalton Pass East Alignment Alternative Road Project na magdudugtong sa Nueva Ecija at Nueva Vizcaya para mapabilis ang biyahe ninyo at ang pagdadala ng mga produkto,” Go pointed out.     The P4.7-billion project, which calls for the construction of a 60-kilometer bypass road network connecting the two provinces, is expected to be completed by 2025.     Go also pointed to the Central Luzon Link Expressway, a P14.9-million project for a four-lane, 30-kilometer expressway connecting Tarlac and Cabanatuan City, meant to shorten travel time between the two cities from 1 hour and 10 minutes to just 20 minutes. It is expected to be finished by 2020.     The former SAP noted that Nueva Ecija has already benefitted from various projects of the Duterte administration, including the construction and concreting of several farm-to-market roads, and deep-well water system, and the construction of several government buildings.     Go also assured the people of Nueva Ecija of his firm commitment to support President Duterte’s campaign against illegal drugs, criminality and corruption.     “Ipagpapatuloy ko po ang mga pagbabagong nasimulan ni Pangulong Duterte, lalong-lalo na po yung kampanya laban sa corruption, kampanya laban sa kriminalidad, at kampanya laban sa iligal na droga,” Go said.     In addition, Go said that part of his legislative agenda is the effort to improve the delivery of health services in the country, particularly through the establishment of Malasakit Center.     A program of the Duterte administration based on Go’s idea, the Malasakit Center makes it easier and faster for poor patients to avail of medical and financial assistance from the government by bringing together in one room concerned agencies such as DOH, DSWD, PCSO and Philhealth.     “Mayroon na po tayong 34 na Malasakit Center sa buong bansa at isa ay nandito sa Nueva Ecija. Gusto ko sanang maisabatas ito para tuloy-tuloy ang programa kahit hindi na pangulo si Pangulong Duterte at madagdagan pa ang ating mga Malasakit Center sa ibang lugar sa Pilipinas,” Go said.     Other priority concerns Go have identified to be part of his legislative agenda for the Senate include housing for the poor, education, long-term sports development, fire protection and prevention, barangay welfare, creation of a Department of OFW and improved benefits for senior citizens.     The former SAP said he is ready to serve the Filipinos the way he served President Duterte for over 21 years.     “Ang bisyo ko po magserbisyo. Naniniwala ako na ang serbisyo sa tao, serbisyo sa Diyos. Wala po kaming ibang hangarin ni Pangulong Duterte kundi kabutihan ng bawat Pilipino dahil mahal namin kayo,” he said.

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Facebook launches 'Digital Tayo' to train 1 million Filipinos by 2020

May 3, 2019

Facebook in partnership with the Department of Education (DepEd), Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and civil society partners launched Digital Tayo, a nationwide digital literacy program that aims to develop skills that enable Filipinos to create a positive and safe culture online.     Digital Tayo is the local adaptation of Facebook's recently launched 'We Think Digital', a global digital literacy program, with resources aimed at helping people think critically and share thoughtfully online. The program's learning resources are designed to help people whether they're new to the Internet or a digital native who wants to learn more or improve their digital skills. Facebook and its partners from government, civil society groups, and communities aim to conduct online and in-person training sessions for a million Filipino netizens by the end of 2020.     “Digital literacy has traditionally focused on helping people learn to use computers, get jobs, or access information from the Internet. But there is a greater need to consider how we are plugging into a global community and connecting with people, not just information. 'Digital Tayo' is more than digital literacy. It's about ‘digital citizenship'. It is designed to help Filipinos with vital skills such as critical thinking, empathy, and being adept at using tools for online safety and well-being,” said Clair Deevy, Facebook's Director of Community Affairs for the APAC Region.     “We are glad to be one of Facebook's partners in launching Digital Tayo for Filipinos, and to help answer the critical question: “What does it mean to be a digital citizen?” We look forward to working with our partners as we equip our learners, teachers and personnel with the much-needed skills for creating a responsible and safe community online,” says Secretary Leonor Briones of the Department of Education.     The program comes at a crucial time in the Philippines as Filipinos were reported to be spending the most time online worldwide at 10 hours and 2 minutes everyday. Internet users from the Philippines are also the heaviest users of social media, spending an average of 4 hours and 12 minutes, compared to the worldwide average of 2 hours and 16 minutes.[1]      In a recent YouGov survey commissioned by Facebook [2], Filipino respondents were asked about how they deal with negative experiences online. More Filipinos said they were willing to listen and try to understand other people's viewpoints in face to face conversations (58%); but less in an online argument (37%).      When they encountered hate speech, 40% of respondents said that they ignored it, while 28% reported it to social networks.      Digital Tayo aims to further strengthen the Filipinos' understanding of the online landscape and in turn help them become even more informed digital citizens. The program's learning modules are designed to equip people with skills, including the ability to think critically about what they see online, how to communicate respectfully, and engage in digital discourse. These modules will be rolled out in the coming months to students and youth leaders in partnership with DepEd, to Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWs) through OWWA, to local communities through the Department of ICT, and in training programs to be mounted by Facebook's partners from civil society.     Topics that will be covered include privacy, safety, security, digital discourse and knowing your digital footprint, organized in four modules:     •    What Is the Internet? An explanation of the internet and social media, how they work, and the importance of digital citizenship.     •    Your Digital Footprint: All you need to know about safety and security online and managing your digital footprint.     •    Be a Critical Thinker: Helping you to discern different types of information and develop critical thinking and empathy when communicating online.     •    You as a Digital Citizen: Insights into digital discourse and the differences between interacting online versus offline, your rights and responsibilities, as well as internet concepts like netiquette, being a creator, copyright and plagiarism.     To learn more about Digital Tayo and its modules, log on to: https://digitaltayo.fb.com/

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‘Realistic’ wage hike for workers urged

May 2, 2019

THE business sector is urging regional wage boards to come up with a "realistic" wage hike for workers that will ensure improvement of their living conditions but at the same time will not unduly burden entrepreneurs so the inflow of investments can be sustained.     Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) chairman emeritus Francis Chua said labor groups seeking for wage increases must work with the government to arrive at a wage structure that will be amenable to both the business and labor sectors.     “Labor groups should work with the government to come up with realistic wage hike. Any wage increases should be in level with the strong purchasing power of peso for it to become sustainable,” Chua said.     “We are hoping that the tripartite board will be able to come up with a compromise solution on the wage increase issue,” Chua stated as he expressed concern that any wage increases might cause significant inflationary effects that will affect the operations of businesses in the country.     The Philippine Statistics Authority reported earlier this month that the inflation rate for March has declined to 3.3 percent which is the lowest level in 15 months due to easing food prices.     The business leader noted that higher labor costs are a significant factor that the Philippines has lower foreign investments compared to its neighboring countries in the Asian region.     “Investments go to other countries such as China because of lower labor costs,” according to Chua.     The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas recently reported that net inflows of foreign direct investments declined by 38.2 percent year on year to USD609 million in January this year from $986 million in the same period last year due to the worsening trade war between the United States and China which resulted in investors pulling out their funds from local equities markets.     The TUCP stated that minimum wage in Metro Manila will increase to P1,247 per day if their petition is approved by the tripartite wage board.     The minimum wage for Metro Manila workers is currently set at P537 per day.     The TUCP is also set to file separate wage hike petitions in other regions within the week. (PNA)

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Marcos human rights victims get another P78K checks

May 2, 2019

BUTUAN City — Human rights victims at the height of Marcos regime atrocities in the countryside in Caraga region in the 1980s patiently queued at the regional office of the Commission on Human Rights here on Wenesday to claim P78,000 checks each from American human rights lawyer Robert Swift.     The third tranche of distribution of checks were personally handed over by Swift to at least 140 recipients belonging to a group called “Claimants 1081” which he fought for years in Hawaii.     Swift’s law firm has already given individual checks to the human rights victims in 2011 with P43,000 each and in 2013 with P50,000 each from the court settlements of Marcos ill-gotten wealth.     Swift expects about 90 percent of the claimants will come at the CHR office to get their checks which will end at noon Thursday mostly whose ages range from 60 up to 80 years old.     He considered the percentage of response was still enough considering that the notices were sent through the snail-paced Philippine Postal Corporation mail system.     Another problem Swift’s local team faced was some of the claimants never updated their addresses that the notice documents would return to them.     He noted one young recipient named “Jerry” was allowed to get his late father’s claim after he complied the requirements of providing a Special Power of Attorney and a death certificate.     Lucresia Monte, 64, whose younger brother was one of 12 innocent civilians massacred by members of the dreaded “Lost Command”, a private army anticommunist group in June 23, 1983 in the village of Lucena in Prosperidad town  in Agusan del Sur said she never received a letter from the local postal office.     But she was lucky enough that her daughter who works in Manila sent a text message to her that she read a Facebook post about the distribution of checks is set on May 1 for Caraga region claimants.     Some others however went home empty handed.     Norma Montenegro, 62, whose farmer husband Max Victor was summarily executed by the elements of the defunct Philippine Constabulary in the woods in the village of Layog in Tago town in Surigao del Sur in 1983 was not among listed in the claim documents sheets prepared by Swift’s staff.     Leonor Ledesma Jr., Training Specialist IV at CHR Caraga, said Montenegro was among several claimants who came to their office in 2011 and 2013 who were not listed as “Claimants 1081” beneficiaries because of lacking of necessary documents.     A check on her documents tucked on a folder showed only an affidavit from her neighbor  Remedios Azarcon duly notarized by a lawyer testifying that she witnessed how Max Victor was tortured and later summarily executed months later in 1983.     Monte however explained to Montenegro that she had indeed lacked documents like a certification from the Barangay officials to verify that there was a gruesome massacre incident that occurred on the date and a police blotter records from the municipal police station.     “I never wasted time to get these documents in 1983 since I thought this could be useful in seeking justice for the death of my brother,” Mont said.     She recalled her brother Felix who was then aged 24 was frisked by the heavily-armed Lost Command bandits towards the Barangay Hall where he and 11 other civilians purportedly teaching them how to fire a rifle but it turned out that the gunman at the stage peppered the victims with magazines of bullets.     “The gunman who saw my brother still gasping for breath finished him off at his head and even mutilated his organs,” she recalled.     The victims were later hauled off a truck by the National Irrigation Administration and brought at the back of the town hall where they were buried on a mass grave.

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Peace, security contribute to NorMin economic growth

May 2, 2019

CAMP EVANGELISTA – Northern Mindanao ranked seventh among the fastest growing regional economies in the Philippines, and second in Mindanao after Davao Region based on the media forum of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA 10) held April 25, 2019 in Cagayan de Oro City.     The activity was spearheaded by NEDA 10 Director Mylah Faye Aurora Cariño and participated by Wimla Guillen, Assistant National Statistician of the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), PSA-10 chief Janith Aves, representatives from other government agencies in the region and members of the media.     Based on the presentation of Cariño, the 2018 Gross Regional Domestic Product (GRDP) of Northern Mindanao has increased to 7 percent from 5.8 percent in 2017.     “Among the three major economic industries, Services like manufacture, transport and communication remained to have the largest share of the region’s economy with 44.1 percent, followed by Industry 35.6 percent and Agriculture, Hunting, Forestry and Fishing with 20.3 percent," Cariño said.     Also, the poverty of Northern Mindanao drastically decreased from 35 percent in 2017 to 25 percent in the 1st semester of 2018.     Dir. Cariño added that if the region wants to continue with its economic growth, peace and security must be maintained and prioritized.     “Peace, public security and safety must be number one on our considerations in order for Northern Mindanao to continue its growth. If we won’t have public law and order we will lose investors and the economy will significantly decrease,” Cariño emphasized.     Maj. Gen. Franco Nemesio M Gacal, commander 4th Infantry “Diamond” Division said, “I am very happy that the 4th ID has contributed in the increase of the economy of Region 10 in 2018 by upholding peace. We assure our people that 4ID will continue with our mandate in pursuing long-lasting peace and development in Northern Mindanao and in CARAGA region.”     “I am confident that Region's Convergence Areas on Peace and Development (CAPDev) will be able to help Northern Mindanao in its growth into becoming developed and conflict-resilient,” he added.

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