Talent and Courage

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

TRUTH ADVOCATES:  Under the new Administration, there are emerging – erstwhile unsung – heroes.  These are Filipino men and women risking their lives (families, professions and properties) so that people in government would henceforth walk the straight path.  They are “whistle-blowing” multi-billion graft  perpetrated by unscrupulous public servants – usually in cahoots with or tolerated by auditors (COA).

This column salutes the diminutive COA auditor who braved untold risks to herself as she exposed the financial anomalies within the Armed Forces of the Philippines.  In the middle of the investigation (by the Ombudsman), she was allegedly “dropped” by her COA superiors – advising her to turn over to her bosses the audit files and records which she examined.  These instructions seem to indicate that COA men are also “on the take” or were instructed by somebody up there to handle the cover-up!

CPA MENDOZA:  The new Filipino heroine is Heidi Lloce-Mendoza who hails from Tayabas, Quezon – an alumnae of the Sacred Heart College in Lucena City.  She is a fellow CPA and new member of the PICPA Chapter which nominated me as national president in 1990 and to the 2007 PICPA Accountancy Hall of Fame.  Just last Friday – our chapter resolved to organize the PICPA-QUEZON for HEIDI MENDOZA Movement in support of her anti-graft ideals.

We are also securing appropriate resolution from the QUEZON MEDALYA NG KARANGALAN FOUNDATION (members are awardees during Quezon Anniversary Rites).  As Charter Chairman-President of the Foundation, we will nominate Heidi for the “Medalya”.  Further – our Foundation will spearhead the “QUEZONIANS FOR HEIDI MENDOZA”.  Without public support – her “exposes” will be in vain; with popular backing, her courage will bring positive reformation!

HARVESTS: Agricultural crops are normally harvested on seasonal basis.  For example – citrus fruits are in marketplaces – selling literally “for a song”.  The same thing is happening to bountiful crops of tomatoes and other vegetable crops – thanks to the wonderful weather given to us by God.  Sugar canes are also being harvested now – and officials say the sweet commodity will soon be sold at lower prices.

It is nice for consumers to have ample farm products in the markets.  But if the prices become overly low (at times less than the farmers’ production costs) the farmers may decide to just stop working their farms. Our government should look at their plight.  The elimination of the “greedy” middlemen is appropriate through the provincial “bagsakan” centers.  Processing of seasonal excess harvests must also be done, to  insure continuing supply (and controlled prices) and assure farmers of regular demand for their products.

REALTY TAXES:  Property owners will doubly benefit by paying their realty taxes early – during the first quarter of each year.  Firstly – the big rates of penalties (for late payment) could be avoided, and secondly – the early payers will be granted discounts (usually 10%).  Since interests on bank deposits are as low as 1% per annum, it is financially favorable to just use the funds in settling realty tax assessments.

We must know the payment deadlines and “costs” imposed on late tax payments.  Taxes for transfers (sales, donations) of properties are due within 30 days from documentation.  Documentary stamp taxes thereon are due  within the first five (5) days of the month following date of transaction.  Late payments are subject to one-time surcharge of 25% (even for just one day tardiness) plus interest at 20% per annum for the period of delay.  As “payment” for the criminal liability, the Compromise Penalty is assessed.

PRAYER:  God gifted us with Time, Talent and Treasures.  Let’s use them to aid others in our Lord’s glory.

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Plastics, Log Ban

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

ENVIRONMENT:  We all agree that despite the extreme usefulness of plastics – especially as shopping and grocery bags – they create problems for our environment since they are NOT biodegrable.  Garbage dumps in most metropolitan areas are full of plastic wastes. Also, as garbage disposed of by irresponsible people are returned by the ocean tides – the harmful aftermaths of plastic-usage are visible to all.

The move in certain cities in the Philippines – following the regulations in developed countries – to ban the use of plastic bags and containers is a most welcome sign. The ordinance against the use of plastic bags in Muntinlupa City is a trailblazer in Metro-Manila.  It will now be implemented, after a year’s moratorium.  San Juan City is also passing its own anti-plastic local law, to be followed by other cities along the Manila Bay coast and those near Laguna Lake.

WATER:  Metro-Manila residents (and so with those in Lucena City in Quezon) are suffering from low water supply.  By their own admission – the water distributors are running out of supply.  Aside from those flowing from natural springs, many water districts are now drawing supply from underground tables with the use of water-pump operations.  The handwriting on the wall is precise and clear:  soon, water supply will be a major problem.

Economic use of water must be part of our children’s lessons – in the same light as what Singapore is doing.  Waste water should be treated for possible non-potable usages.  Of course, Maynilad (West Manila water provider) is doing a bigger one. It is treating water from Laguna Lake (at their plant in Brgy. Putatan in Muntinlupa) for distribution to its consumer-customers.  The complementary regulation for this is the strict garbage control for the communities around Laguna de Bay.

SUBSTITUTE:  The common idea is to use paper bags instead of plastics.  Unfortunately – paper comes from trees, and coincidentally – Malacanang has recently announced a possible total ban on logging.  The executive order is being objected to by the foresters’ group and the Philippine Wood Producers Association (PWPA).  Potential loss of foreign investments and the negative effect on employment (to the tune of 650,000 jobs lost) are being trumpeted.

Opinions Unlimited believes that there are available substitutes to plastics other than from trees.  These include farm products like those from bananas and abaca, buri and “buntal” – or even those from bamboo and coconut trees.  Our government should encourage planting of these special crops to respond to the new necessities created by the plastics ban.  The plastics-use issue has long been around – and our failure to remedy (in advance) the situation indicates our lack of foresight.

ECONOMICS:  The record 7.3% (or 7.5%) GDP growth recorded in 2010 is the highest since 1986 (Year of EDSA Revolution).  This means things may be really looking bright for our economy.  It will be foolhardy though, to rest on our laurels.  Recent  natural calamities suffered by almost all regions – which destroyed (in fact, still destroying up to now) our infrastructures and crops will dampen our 2011 figures.

On domestic and foreign investments – the discovered AFP anomalies may frighten away the capitalists.  Another serious item to watch is our inflation rate which escalated to 3.5%.  At the background is the global cost of oil currently being destabilized by socio-political turmoil in the Middle East and Africa.  For all these developments – we have to be united as a people, doing the best for ourselves and our family, and for our country.  As the Lord said – we are the “salt of the earth, and the light of the world”.

PRAYER:  Sharing our excess with our needy brothers and sisters certainly gladdens our dear Lord!

Military Corruption

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

ROTTEN AFP:  Some months back – the previous Administration filed criminal and administrative charges against Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, erstwhile AFP Comptroller.  The hearings would have proceeded naturally until news of the “legally improper” plea-bargaining between the Accused and the government prosecutors came to the fore.  The Senate was investigating said impropriety when – out of the blue surfaced a retired military budget officer.

Without much prodding, Lt. Col. George Rabusa revealed that gargantuan disbursements were usually made by the AFP which eventually lined up the pockets of high-ranking military officials.  The biggest outlay allegedly favored the appointed Chiefs of Staffs – as they assumed office, during their tenure, and as they leave the office.  Specially named was former Secretary of National Defense Angelo Reyes.  Also cited were Diomedio Villanueva and Roy Cimatu.  “Pasalubong” and “Pabaon” are now buzz-words.

HORRIBLE:  The public is awaiting further revelations from the would-be “state witness”.  No doubt – majority of Filipinos are appalled by the greed and opportunism of the military perpetrators.  During the Senate hearing – former military man and now senator Antonio Trillanes III commented that these are the issues that his Magdalo group was fighting for.  Ill-equipped military personnel in the combat zones are dying because the appropriated funds for their use were being pocketed by their seniors!

Had these facts been known to the voters earlier, military activists Gen. Danny Lim and Col. Ariel Querubin would have been elected senators last year – in the manner that Sen. Trillanes was catapulted to the Senate in 2007.  Well – 2013 is not so far away now, the gentlemen still have the chance to make their mark.  With all these new developments – the challenge is on the presidency.  His decision and action on this critical matter can make or unmake him as a national leader.

CAR-JACKING: Most drivers are now fearful of driving alone especially at night – and even along the expressways.  The possibility of ruthless people blocking our way …– or stopping us by bumping our rears or pointing to supposedly problems of our vehicles – are so common.  The security-minded advise us to refrain from alighting from our vehicles until we are sure that it is safe to leave the comfort of our seat.

Other safety reminders include – choosing to park in well-lighted (and secured) locations, and leaving our parked and locked vehicle (and just watching it from a distance).  It is better to shell out a few pesos for parking fees – than losing our “beloved, and being amortized” car or AUV.  From all these – we sigh a deep breath and ask:  “what’s happening to our country, Mr. President?”  It will be overly simple if we will again point the accusing finger on Madam Glo.

COST-OF-LIVING:  The economic scenario is not threatening for the upper crust of our society.  No matter how high our cost of living goes – they have more than enough wherewithal to pay the prices.  But for the middle and lower classes – the increase in costs of commodities (including the now shrunk pan de sal) are heavy burdens the “masa” may no longer be able to carry. The tight situation breeds criminal intentions and eventual perpetrations against property and even life.

Of course, the proverbial remedy for “hard life” is thrift – even with our necessities.  Budget purchases are the orders of the day – as in limiting cooking to just enough.  Eating “Teriaki” (left-overs) may also be resorted to as an economic measure.  The era of the high costs of fuel, water and power – and the upsurge of toll fees and taxes – all these, we pray, will all pass away ……. hopefully still in our lifetime and better yet, during the term of our beloved president.

PRAYER: Our Lord is a God of goodness; He will not allow us to suffer evil forever!

Humanity to Blame

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

DISASTERS:  The whole world is reeling from natural calamities – in Australia, North and South America, certain parts of Europe and even Russia.  These are occurrences in both seasons – winter in the Western Hemisphere and summer in Australia.  Environmental analysts blame it on the destruction of our ozone layer that distorts the differential seasons of hot and cold weather, affecting our ice glaciers.

The Philippines is also adversely affected – not directly by the ozone layer problem but by a more human cause of tragedy.  The killing floods and disastrous landslides in the Cagayan Region, Bicol Region, Eastern and Western Visayas, North and Southern Mindanao are all traceable to the denudation of our forests.  The trees that used to stock rainwater in their roots and provide safeguards for soil erosion are now gone.  The illegal (or greedy legal) loggers have criminally abused our forest cover.

LOG BAN: President Aquino has seen the multitudes of Filipinos who are victims of the natural disasters.  They lost their homes and means of livelihood – and even some family members.  Government aids can be given – including new seeds and seedlings, but these are only temporary palliatives.  The main cause of the natural debacles must be remedied.  The most decisive of these is the strict implementation of a Total Log Ban – say for ten years, and covering all regions of our country.

The “log” ban  should also include the cutting of young trees usually for firewood or for charcoal.  If these small trees are eliminated by unscrupulous charcoal-makers, then we cannot expect new trees in our forests. Tree-planting of course, is the first step.  But the project should not just be “ceremonial” and for purposes of “photo-ops” for politicians and NGOs. The program must require continuing attention and care for the trees that are planted – in the right areas.

SUFFICIENCY:  Agriculture Secretary Prosy Alcala has boldly announced that  the Philippines will be self-sufficient in rice (no more importations) by the end of 2013.  They key is to make our rice-farms more productive per hectare.  Expansion of the arable areas is no longer possible what with the urbanization of some erstwhile palaylands.  To increase farm yields our farmers should be assisted in all aspects of farming:  quality seeds, fertilizer and chemicals, and extension services.

The best encouragement is to give rice producers necessary price protection. The NFA must not be used to dampen market prices, to the detriment of the farm owners and workers.  Filipinos will continue to consume rice if the staple is continually sold at “affordable” prices.  This is the main reason why cheaper vegetables and local fruits are not preferred by our kababayans despite the bad effect on our health. Our cooking recipes must also be adjusted to remove rice dependency.

CHA-CHA:  The debate for now is whether we should amend our constitution that was adopted in 1986 or 24 years ago – and if so, how must we do it!  Majority of Filipinos believe that our organic law can stand some improvements, including land ownership by foreign investors.  There are also major articles and sections that have become useless and inapplicable.  Some say the revisions can be made now since the sitting president has no “extension agenda”.

Objections pertain to timing rather than the need for revisions.  Many of our current eco-social problems which require immediate solutions are not rooted on constitutional provisions.  Since the “Con-Ass” mode is not favored – then the recourse is Constitutional Convention.  This will require national balloting that entails billions of expenses (if it comes to pass).  The election of delegates may just be held in time for the 2013 elections (but this is objected to since the selection process might become political).

PROVERBS: Prudent men foresee difficulties and prepare; Simpletons go blindly, and suffer ruins.

Going Abroad?

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

UNEMPLOYMENT:  Global statistics show that the more industrialized countries (where Pinoy OFWs are believed to be receiving much in terms of peso equivalent salaries) are still reeling from high rates of idle manpower.  As a result, their legislative councils mandated business and industry to prefer their own nationals in the hiring of workers.  This information is vital for our kababayans intending to go abroad to look for jobs.  It will be doubly hard especially for those who try their luck as tourists.

Just like that of the United States – countries of the European Union have yet to solve their unemployment problems brought about by the global economic crisis.  The idle manpower ratio in Europe becomes higher and more complex with the entry into the Union of some developing countries like Poland, Greece and Estonia.  Filipinos should think twice before venturing into those areas in search of the proverbial pot of gold.

TRAINING:  Everywhere our fellow Pinoys go – they are commended for their perseverance, hard work and willingness to work extra hours.  The other positive finding is that our OFWs are trainable – more so for promotional positions.  Whereas before – many of our export workers are domestic helpers and laborers, the present crop of OFWs are in professional fields, more so in medical care and hospitals.

For other technical jobs – including those for drivers, welders, carpenters and other manual labor, there is a need for our departing workers to undergo more intensive training in their lines of work.  They must also be given culture orientation to prevent possible social problems as they associate with their new co-workers.  Situational aberrations also come about when the machines our workers were trained on turned out to be old models while those assigned to them to operate are modern versions.

TESDA:  I heard over the radio that the TESDA now headed by Sec. Joel Villanueva is working on the upgraded training of drivers of buses and other types of bigger vehicles.  There is a counterpart suggestion from the bus companies for the government to just support them in their “Train the Trainors” program and once they have their own expert teachers – they can manage their own company training schemes.

It is about time that our youth be continually oriented on the honor and worth of blue-collar jobs.  Our educational system has been so framed that almost all college students look forward to getting white-collar employment after college.  There is misconception that technical jobs are less-paying.  Another wrong notion is that the less mentally-endowed have no recourse but to take up technical courses and eventually take up manual jobs.  We should rectify these erroneous ideas.

INFLATION:  It is expected that our inflation rate for year 2010 will be higher than that of 2009.  So also, the rate for this year (2011) will be more than 4%.  Opinions Unlimited’s guess is that it may even be higher than that – as we watch cost of fuel and basic commodities consistently go up.  Transport fares will definitely be more and the final “nail” will be the demand for higher wages, hence it will be harder for our business owners to balance their revenues and costs.

One way to fight inflation is to raise interest rates on borrowings.  That means that again, business and industry will have to shoulder the financial costs.  So they might increase the prices of their products to remain profitable.  The hurting cycle will finally hit the consumers who will buy the goods with increased prices.  So how do we remedy this?  The only recourse is thrift – on everything.  There is a saying in the vernacular:  “Kung maliit ang kumlot, ay ‘di mamaluktot”.

THOUGHTS:  Let’s buy only what we need; and if these are costly, to further reduce our needs.

2010 in Retrospect

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

GOOD YEAR?  Philippine economic statistics for Year 2010 are definitely positive.  But the bigger rays are the buoyant hopes in most Filipinos’ hearts and minds.  The last presidential elections which elevated the new administration brought new paradigms in business and industry.  It is expected that the once-prevalent graft and corruption in government will somehow be controlled, if not totally eliminated in the near future.

Leadership by example sets the tone for honesty and good governance.  So far – no one among the new cabinet members has been involved in anomalous deals.  The next stage is for them to institute anti-graft systems down the line.  Government employees should be reminded that “a public office is a public trust” and that they are “servants of the people”.  President Aquino should warn ombudsmen at the LFTRB-LTO, Registers of Deeds and LGU Property Assessors to be vigilant in their day-to-day activities.

PERSONALITIES:  Of course, it was President Benigno Aquino III who led the “stars” of Year 2010 – winning the presidential elections that he did not desire in the beginning.  He currently enjoys highest trust ratings from his “bosses” – the Filipino people. Manny Pacquiao is the other big man for the Philippines and the world – garnering an unprecedented eight boxing crowns – aside from becoming the congressman from Sarangani.

The world-famous “little girl” is no longer named Gloria; it is Charisse – the new darling of the singing world.  We pray that she will remain simple and continually imbued with humility so that her universal successes won’t go to her head.  Other groups of Filipinos who brought the Philippines into global recognition are the UST Concert Singers, the national football team which injected fame into the sport, and our chess players led by our youngest grandmaster.

WEATHER:  For Southern Luzon and Bicol – 2010 weather was kinder, compared with the previous year.  But as we were writing this column, we were informed of the big floods that hit the communities and towns around Mayon Volcano.  Indeed the region is susceptible to flooding with its terrain  – especially starting from the heights of Mayon and down to the nearby coastal areas. Governor Joey should be ready with plans to avert these kinds of situations.

The resort areas (and hotsprings) in Sorsogon are now almost washed out (at least temporarily) – caused by the recent eruption of Mt. Bulusan and the heavy rains that brought down the accumulated ashes.  The resiliency and grit of the Bikolnons are again put to the test. Based on past experiences, those who were adversely affected by the volcanic eruptions will survive, to emerge with energy to fight for another day!

RICE IMPORTS:  Sec. Proceso J. Alcala is steadfast in his programs to reduce if not totally eliminate the need for rice importation. The Philippines was last self-sufficient in rice during the early 1970s with the production gains ushered in by the Masagana 99 Program (99 cavans of palay harvest per hectare). It involved not only financing but also technical provisions of certified seeds, farm chemicals, fertilizers and farm extension services.

It will be harder to replicate that grand success now.  Our rice-farming areas have been reduced (thanks to the mushrooming housing subdivisions (and golf courses?).  But financing support and agricultural extension services can be made available to our farmers.  We have better-yielding varieties and improved irrigation facilities.  Honestly, the primary key to balance our rice supply and demand is for Filipinos to reduce their rice intakes and eat more fruits and vegetables.  Too much carbo is diabetic!

THOUGHTS:  As we ponder about our future, we realize that our future depends on what we do as a people.

Consumer Spending

Opinions Unlimited

by Atty. Tony(APA) Acyatan (Atty. APA – chairman of Acyatan & Co., CPAs-DFK International is PICPA past national president and Accountancy Hall-of-Famer, and past chairman of ASEAN Federation of CPAs).

RETAIL:  The consumer market is definitely on the upswing – more so now that the Yuletide season has come.  The malls and department stores are all busy – with customers trying to buy as much as they can afford – vainly trying to beat the price increases.  All these indicate that the Pinoy consumer power is positive – not only with the spending money they have now, but also with great faith that their credit buying are not only justified, but that they can afford the subsequent payments.

Credit card companies and also the financial institutions are “selling” their credit cards with overly liberal evaluations.  This is outright dangerous.  The delinquency rates of our credit card companies are among the highest in Asia.  The card companies compete with one another to solicit so-called qualified spenders. The banks that back up the credit cards will suffer if and when the credit card holders fail to pay both principal and interests on their purchases.

SENTIMENTS:  Filipino consumers are visibly “upbeat and fairly confident” – convinced that the domestic economy will continue to improve as the new year comes.  There is also anticipation that the local currency will be stronger as against the measuring stick which is the US dollar.  They anchor this view on the continuing inflow of OFW remittances and the growth of our gross international reserves thereby assuring foreign investors of our capability to “pay back”.

For the third quarter and early in this quarter, the overall consumer confidence continued to improve.  This was supported by the higher-than-expected growth of gross domestic product (GDP) which is a high 7.5%.  Despite all these, there are also those who are dissatisfied with their economic status, claiming that they are not benefitting from the economic improvements because they are still unemployed or that the income they are receiving are insufficient for their sustenance.

BANANAS:  The Philippine Council for Agriculture, Forestry and National Resources Research and Development (PCARRD) successfully embarked on a novel program to help small farmers grow bananas by using tissue-cultured cultivars of saba, lakatan and latundan varieties.  One of the areas covered by their experiment is the “REINA” of Northern Quezon which is frequently visited by typhoons.  They claim that bananas are short-term crops and could re-grow right away after being ravaged by bad weather.

Conveniently called Science and Technology Anchor Program (STAP) BANANAS – it utilizes ST-based integrated crop management program and good agricultural practices for growing bananas.  It calls for the use of pathogen-free tissue cultured planting materials, application of fertilizers, and population management and sanitation.  Indeed this project is adaptable in the whole of the Bicol Region and Quezon and Laguna provinces.

EURO IRE:  Some years back – there was this big time plan to dredge Laguna Lake and use it as potential transportation medium from Rizal and Laguna to Metro-Manila.  This was the program dubbed as Laguna Lake Rehabilitation Program (LLRP) which will cost P18.7 billion.  The project was proposed by a Belgian-German firm intended to reduce flooding, revive the lake and stimulate fishery production.

For some logical justifications, the P-Noy administration canceled or deferred the program, thereby shoving aside the proposal and EU proponents. Now the whole European Union is threatening to hit back at the Philippines.  The Europeans have started strict inspections of our coconut oil exports geared to “punish” us for the cancellation of their offered project.  Well – if our oil products are truly “bankable” we should be able to locate new markets that are NOT as demanding as Europe/Belgium.

LESSON:  For this Christmas season, give without remembering, and always receive without forgetting.