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GSIS, SSS tapped for sovereign wealth fund

A WASH with cash and with the peso exhibiting a worrisome strength vis-à-vis the dollar on the back of a steady stream of remittances, the government economic team is eyeing the creation of a sovereign wealth fund (SWF) that could be marshaled to take care of big-ticket items, like funding infrastructure projects.

There are snippets of information that reveal that while the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) could be tapped to provide the initial funding of about $20 billion from out of its gross international reserves (GIR) of $84 billion, the primary problem bugging the economic team is what agency would be tasked to take charge of the SWF.

Because of this, the possibility of both the Social Security System (SSS) and the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) jointly handling the management of the fund is being bruited about. The SWF’s creation has gained traction within the administration as a measure to take the heat from the strengthening of the peso that is affecting the country’s export drivers.

In the event the SSS and the GSIS are jointly tapped to manage the SWF, the BSP may advance the needed seed fund and with the two government financial agencies later on putting in their contributions for it.  The need for an SWF is occasioned by the surge in the GIR, which, in turn, results in a strong peso. By freeing part of the GIR, the administration could ease the pressure on the peso while ensuring the funding of public-private partnership projects, the majority of which are still in the drawing stages.

 

Brooke’s Point pushed as ecotourism site

BANTAY Kalikasan (BK), an advocacy group promoting the “No to Mining” campaign, is pushing Brooke’s Point in Palawan as its second biodiversity site after its initial success in the Save La Mesa Watershed Project. The group said it was during its mining-campaign caravans that it discovered the stunning site that is Brooke’s Point, which has natural falls, streams and rivers in a sprawling forest within the Mount Mantalingahan range.

Mount Mantalingahan, approximately 120,000 hectares in size, was declared a protected area in 2009, 10 years after the Clean Air Act was passed. It has a spectacular biodiversity with more than 30 watersheds, 17 of which belong to Brooke’s Point. To help protect Brooke’s Point while providing locals an alternative source of livelihood, Brooke’s Point Mayor Narciso “Boy” Leoncio enlisted the  help of  BK for the creation of an Eco-Academy, which would promote Brooke’s Point as an eco­tourism site—where indigenous culture, cuisine and biodiversity will be taught.

Both the local government and BK designated the area of Sabsaban Falls, found in barangays Aribungos and Ipilan, as the official site of Eco-Academy. It is BK’s second Eco-Academy; the first one is in La Mesa Ecopark in Quezon City.  As an expression of their full support to the project, indigenous people (IP) elders performed rituals and gave their blessings during the launch in April 2012.  Moreover, the IP themselves conduct sessions on their culture, one of the modules in the Eco-Academy.

 

‘Toka-toka’ assumes new meaning

TOKA-TOKA, a local word for shared responsibility, assumes new meaning in the partnership between the Manila City government and the Manila Water Co. (MWC), operator of the East Zone water concession area. Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, together with City Engineer Armando Andres and Barangay Chairman Aldrin Lopez, led in the planting of 300 trees along the bank of the Perlita Creek, which runs along Osmeña Highway.

MWC’s toka is to provide 150 units of cleaning materials for the city’s estero cleanup drive, while the city government  marshals its own people and  the barangay residents in achieving an ambitious environmental movement.  MWC has launched the toka-toka movement in its shared responsibility of protecting the environment.

The movement enjoins everyone to do any of four “ownable acts,” which will redound to cleaner rivers and waterways:  connect to Manila Water’s sewer network for areas where there are separate sewer lines; have their septic tanks desludged or cleaned every five years; practice waste segregation and proper disposal of solid waste; and support local and national sanitation  and wastewater programs. As part of its toka, Manila Water is facilitating the construction of more wastewater-treatment facilities in different areas within its concession.

 

Strong peso equals higher consumer goods

THE importation of consumer goods rose by a huge 22 percent to $723.8 million in January-to-November 2012 period from the $593.5 million tallied for the same period in 2011. This big rise shows how the strong peso has contributed to the surge, as it was cheaper to buy the consumer goods rather than produce them here.

An indication of the hefty rise in consumer goods is that the total import of consumer goods, capital goods, and oils and lubricants went up by just 2.2 percent from $5 billion to $5.1 billion for that same 11-month period.

Neda Officer in Charge and Deputy Director General Emmanuel F. Esguerra said, though, that “the overall increase in the importation of consumer goods partly reflected the generally improved confidence of consumers along with positive developments in the domestic economy,” although the strong peso was partly to blame.

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