3.16.2010

PIA News Service - Wednesday, March 17, 2010

GSIS adds power, benefits to eCard with UMID compliance

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) further empowers the eCard, the all-in-one utility card of its members and pensioners, by making it 100-percent compliant with the Unified Multi-Purpose ID (UMID) System.

The GSIS will soon introduce the UMID-compliant eCard, replacing the eCard Plus. Replacement of the card, according to the pension fund, will be free.

And because it is UMID-compliant, the new eCard will already bear a Common Reference Number or CRN. The CRN is the primary identifier of an individual transacting business or availing of services from any government agency.

With the CRN, the UMID-compliant eCard will serve as a valid identification card not only for the GSIS but also for the Social Security System, Philippine Health Insurance Corporation, the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) and other government agencies. 
The UMID system is an offshoot of Executive Order No. 420 which requires all government agencies and government-owned and controlled corporations to streamline and harmonize their identification systems through the use of a unified multi-purpose ID.

With the use of a single identification system, government agencies, such as the GSIS will be able to get rid of redundant databases. 

The UMID system will also enhance the integrity of state-issued ID cards, facilitate the public’s transactions with the government, and cut costs from producing different IDs.

Since the birth of the eCard in 2004, it has already evolved into the most technologically advanced card in the country today.

The eCard Plus, whose earliest functions was just an identification and an ATM card, is now a transaction card, a hospitalization card, an education benefit card, and a discount card.

Active members can apply for different loan products (Policy Loan, Cash Advance, ConsoLoan), while pensioners can renew their active status (ARAS) and apply for a pension loan using the GSIS eCard through the G-W@PS kiosk.

GSIS members and pensioners can also withdraw proceeds of pension, claims, or loans using any ATM worldwide.
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By also presenting their eCard at any GSIS partner hospital, members and pensioners can get up to 50 percent in discount with the help of the GSIS Hospitalization Support Program (GHSP). 

Recently, the GSIS has also tied up with Pfizer to give eCard holders up to 55 percent discount on selected Pfizer-manufactured drugs if they present their eCard along with their prescription in over 1,800 participating drugstores and pharmacies nationwide.

In addition, the eCard is also now an education benefit card. By simply presenting the eCard, qualified relatives of GSIS members and pensioners, who are going to enroll as incoming freshmen in any STI campus nationwide can already benefit from a twenty percent (20%) scholarship grant on tuition and laboratory fees.  

With compliance to the UMID system, the GSIS adds more power to its pioneer project. All the above features, according to the GSIS, will be retained by the UMID-compliant eCard.

Apart from the GSIS, other government agencies moving into UMID are the SSS, Philhealth, and the HDMF. (GSIS)
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GSIS gives free Personal Accident Insurance to AAOs

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is giving agency authorized officers (AAOs) a free Personal Accident Insurance in recognition of the AAOs’ crucial role in the pension fund’s processing of the loan applications of members.

The System started giving AAOs free Personal Accident Insurance cards at the beginning of the year. 

Among those who are entitled to this free program are principal AAOs and their alternates. They will remain entitled to such as long they remain legitimate AAOs of their respective agencies and registered with the GSIS. The card is renewable every year.

AAOs are the ones that certify the loan applications of employees of their respective agencies through the electronic certification system required by the GSIS. They also submit an agency remittance advice (ARA) to the pension fund, containing the updated data of the member including salary adjustments, change of status, and change of position, among others, in electronic remittance format. The GSIS updates the member’s GSIS records accordingly based on the ARA.
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To date, of the total 16,300 registered AAOs in the country, around 8,000 of them have already availed of the free Personal Accident Insurance card.

All forms of accidents that result in death or dismemberment are covered by the free Personal Accident Insurance, including dog bites and accidental gunshots, among others.  

The policy covers an indemnity of P500,000 for accidental death and dismemberment. For medical reimbursement, the claim is P50,000; for bereavement assistance, the claim is P10,000; and for unprovoked murder or assault, the claim is P50,000.

Under this program, AAOs are covered 24 hours a day, seven days a week, wherever the accident occurred. 

To file for claims, the AAO must file a notice of loss within 14 days to the nearest GSIS servicing office. For those who have not yet availed of their free Personal Accident Insurance card, the GSIS advises them to contact their respective GSIS Membership coordinator or send an email to ragustin@gsis.gov.ph or call 02-4793561 for further inquiries or assistance.  

Under its usual personal accident insurance program dubbed as My Shield, the GSIS covers an individual aged three to 80 years old for a basement-low premium of just P0.40. For just 40 centavos, an individual can already get P1,000 worth of personal accident coverage . My Shield offers a minimum coverage of P50,000 to a maximum protection of P5 million.

The GSIS, by virtue of Republic Act 656 as amended by Presidential Decree 245, is allowed to engage in all kinds of insurance and reinsurance business. In addition, the state-run pension fund is empowered to insure all properties, assets, and interests of the government against any insurable risk. (GSIS)


GSIS disposes of P30-million Davao property

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) recently added P30 million into its coffers with the sale of La Marbella, a four-storey hotel in Davao City. The property was sold to booming real estate developer Woodridge Properties, Inc. (WPI).  

The hotel, an acquired asset of the GSIS, was turned over to the GSIS in August 2008 due to the failure of Metro Davao Agri-Hotel Corp. to settle an outstanding loan amounting P58.48 million. 
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Since the turn-over, the GSIS has been incurring an annual carrying cost of P450,000 to secure the property.  

“The GSIS continues to dispose of non-performing assets (NPAs) to improve the cash position of the pension fund. This ultimately benefits our members and pensioners. We have been successful in unloading many big ticket accounts and with this, such assets are put to use and we are able to boost economic growth,” GSIS President and General Manager Winston F. Garcia said.

WPI will re-open the hotel this year after undertaking several expansion plans, which includes increasing its capacity. The four-storey hotel has a land area of 410 square meters (sqm) and a floor area of 1,640 sqm. It currently has 38 rooms with amenities.

“WPI is currently diversifying thus our entry to the hotel and resort business. We saw the opportunity in La Marbella because its location is very strategic. It is located in J.P. Rizal which is downtown of Davao City,” WPI President and Chief Executive Officer Ernesto T. Matugas said.

Founded in July 1997, WPI has developed more than 230,000 sqm of land and built more than 1,000 house and lot units for the middle income market. At present, it has P4 billion in new and upcoming projects and has a land bank of over 300,000 sqm.

WPI’s main business is into middle-income residential development with several projects in Las Pinas and Cavite. With its diversification, the company is also developing a hotel in Las Pinas and is planning to operate the Puerto Azul Beach and Country Club, also an acquired asset of the GSIS.

“We have expressed our interest in operating Puerto Azul under the brand Best Western, which is an international hotel chain. We also continue to eye for other GSIS properties which we feel will highly contribute to the growth of our business,” Matugas added.

The sale of La Marbella was concluded last week with Matugas, GSIS Senior Vice President for Asset Management Group Cecil L. Feleo, and other GSIS and WPI officials present during the turnover. (GSIS)


GSIS to informal settlers: Let’s strike a deal

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) is encouraging families who for the longest time have been illegally occupying GSIS-owned houses to enter into a purchase agreement with the pension fund to avoid being evicted.
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The GSIS offers these properties at a guaranteed interest rate of 6 percent per annum, the lowest there is in the market, to make housing more affordable for the informal settlers.  

“For as low as P3,500 a month for every P500,000 loan, these families can secure themselves of a good future,” Atty. Joseph Philip T. Andres, GSIS VP for Business Development and Accounts Recovery Office said.

According to Atty. Andres, most of the families who are occupying the said properties are not the original awardees who had entered into a Deed of Conditional Sale (DCS) with the GSIS.

“A significant number of these illegal occupants are victims of a syndicate. There is one group reportedly operating in San Francisco Homes in San Jose Del Monte, Bulacan who offer houses long abandoned by the original awardees. The group reportedly offers the foreclosed houses for a very low price but their titles are fake,” Atty. Andres said. 

“These families end up paying for a property that could never be theirs because the titles are still with the GSIS. The best thing for them to do is to directly deal with the GSIS,” he added. 

The GSIS is offering these houses through its asset disposition program called Garantisadong Mababang Amortization na House En Lot Para Sa’yo or GMA HeLPS.

“The program goes for the original awardees also who have long been in default of their payments and whose DCS have already been cancelled by the GSIS,” Atty. Andres said. 

GMA HeLPS is open to GSIS members and non-members. Interested buyers can log on to the GSIS website www.gsis.gov.ph to see the complete list of houses available under the GMA HeLPS program.

If in case the property being occupied by an interested buyer is not found in the GSIS website, Atty. Andres advises the buyer to coordinate with his office immediately for the processing and completion of the required documentation.

Launched in May 2007, GMA HeLPS offers a guaranteed 6 percent interest rate, fixed throughout the period of the term. The program also offers a repayment term of up to 30 years, giving home buyers more flexibility.  

The program also has easy and multiple payment options, allowing home buyers to squeeze in a few luxuries into their budget. Options include over-the-counter payments, post-dated checks, and salary deductions for members. A three-month grace period is also given before payment of the first monthly amortization.
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Unlike banks which have imposed stricter requirements on home buyers in the light of the 1997 Asian financial crisis, GSIS has also waived the application fee for interested parties and demands minimal documentary requirements.

In addition, the program also offers a 10 percent discount for cash sales and the lowest fire insurance premium in the market for purchase of house and lot on installment.

House and lots under the program are located at established communities with amenities. These homes are in over 70 locations, including key cities in Metro Manila, Bulacan, Rizal, Leyte, Western Samar, and South Cotabato.

The GSIS, under the leadership of its President and General Manager Winston F. Garcia, has been actively re-acquiring properties which payments have long been in default.

In tandem with this, the pension fund is also holding talks with illegal occupants to encourage them to acquire the property to avoid being sued and getting evicted. (GSIS)

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10,000 workers might loss jobs due to worsening Mindanao power crisis 

BUTUAN CITY (March 17) - About 10,000 workers might lose their jobs as major industries, particularly in farming, food, fishing, mining and wood, plan to temporarily trim-down their work force due to severe power problem and dry spell in Mindanao. 

The Misamis Oriental legislative body has even passed a resolution urging the agriculture department to integrate in its list of priorities the implementation of a program that would grant alternative livelihood for farmers adversely affected by the dry spell caused by El Nino weather disturbance. 

The resolution, authored by Misamis Oriental Vice Gov. Norris Babiera, seeks a program similar to the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment program( CLEEP )of the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE). 

The long dry spell in Mindanao is not just affecting the island’s power generation but its fruit tree production as well. 

The Mindanao Fruit Council (MFC) has warned that a prolonged dry spell would kill many fruit trees in affected areas, leading to lay off of fruit tree growers and loss of income of farmers. 

MFC executive Larry Miculob said many trees were now "stressed" because of lack of water and if fruit farmers, both small and big producers, do not have sufficient irrigation system, a lot of fruit trees may die after April 15. 

The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP) on Sunday warned of "severe" job losses in Mindanao, which is now under a state of calamity due to crippling power shortage. 

TUCP secretary-general Ernesto Herrera said the DoLE should step in and find ways to mitigate the upcoming problem of the workers due to severe brownouts currently plaguing the southern island. 

“Major industries might carry out strategies that include fewer work shifts and the rotation of workers," said the former senator. 

Other power-intensive industries being hit hard by the brownouts are steel and cement manufacturing, canning, commercial fishing, food processing, retail trade and telecommunications. 

The power crisis in Mindanao has been aggravated by the prolonged dry spell due to the El Niño weather disturbance, which has reduced the region’s hydropower efficency since late January. 

Last week, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo declared a state of calamity in the entire Mindanao to enable provincial, city, and municipal governments to acquire extra generators without going through the usual procurement process and other mitigating measures. 

Mrs. Arroyo placed the national government’s calamity fund at P10 billion, of which P55 billion were allocated for the power sector and P4.5 billion for agriculture. 

Meanwhile, the National grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) said on its Monday’s advisory that the Mindanao grid would continue to experience generation deficiency of 632 megawatts (MW). 

The NGCP said a lower deficiency could be attributed to a decrease in peak demand. The limited power supply in the island is still caused by the inadequate available capacities from the grid's main power sources - National Power Corp.'s (Napocor) hydro power plants. Almost all of the company's power plants have water reservoirs that are drying up due to the El Niño phenomenon. 

The government is meeting the 33-member cooperatives of the Mindanao Electric Power Alliance (MEPA) to solve the worsening power crisis in the southern island. 

The recommendations from MEPA will be submitted to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today. 

Mindanao grid had been suffering from a minimum of five hours to a maximum of eight hours rotating brownouts since last month. 

NGCP will continue to monitor power grid conditions, the advisory said. 

As this developed, the Mindanao’s 33 electric cooperatives have started negotiations with power producer Aboitiz Power Corp. (Aboitiz Power) for the possibility of aligning some 150 MW of additional power supplies to the critical Mindanao power grid. 

The groups is also exploring the possibility of opening negotiations with Aboitiz Power for the utilization of the additional 50 MW from its diesel-fired power barge stationed in Nasipit, Agusan del Norte province. (muc/PIA-Caraga)
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5,000 hectares of banana plantation expansion set in Surigao del Sur, Agusan del Norte 

BUTUAN CITY (March 17) - Due to its market demand, three banana plantation growers are set to expand at least 5,000 hectares in Surigao del Sur and Agusan del Norte for a wider production this year. 

Dole Philippines is already preparing a 1,000 to 3,000 hectares expansion of banana plantation this year in Tago town, Surigao del Sur. 

The Cabadbaran banana plantation in Cabadbaran City and Tubay banana plantation in Tubay town, both of Agusan del Norte province are also setting up another 1,000 hectares expansion, also this year. 

AMS Farms and AM Soriano in Cabadbaran and Tubay, respectively, and Dole Philippines are eyeing more expansion this year and next year to meet their domestic and foreign market demands. 

 “This is another 2,000 jobs for this year in these areas,” said Northeastern Mindanao Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Regional Director Brielgo O. Pagaran. 

Pagaran also said the US$ 2-billion processing plant of Sumitomo Company is also set to operate this year with 300 new jobs also seen. 

In another development, farm equipments were distributed to municipalities thru the effort of Agusan del Sur Gov. Maria Valentina G. Plaza. 

Components of the equipment include rice drum seeders and knapsack sprayers to the different recipients as per rice cluster municipality like Bayugan with 30 units, Esperanza 15 units, Talacogon 20 units, Prosperidad 10 units, San Francisco, Trento and Bunawan with five units each, Sta. Josefa nine units and a unit for the Agusan del Sur Provincial Agriculture Office. 

The recipient farmer-beneficiaries acquire the actual demonstration and lecture on the direct-seeding technology, operation, care and maintenance of rice drum seeders.
(muc/PIA-Caraga) 
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2 big fires kills 3, razes 630 houses in Butuan City

BUTUAN CITY (March 17) - In less than 12 hours, two big fires of still unknown origin killed two children and an old woman, and gutted 630 houses at residential areas in this region’s capital city. 
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The estimated initial damage of the two big fires was placed at P20 million. 

The first fire at 2:15 p.m. Tuesday razed 600 houses at Puroks 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7 and 9 of Barangay Ong Yui. The fire also gutted a Muslim community mosque. 

The first fatality was a 70-year old woman, identified only as certain “Melody. The victim died during the massive evacuation. 

The fire was placed under control at about 5 p.m. by responding fire trucks from various municipalities in Agusan del Norte province and this city, said Agusan Fire Marshal Pedro Balatero. 

The fire also injured some of the residents. 

The Butuan City Fire Department is still investigating the cause of the fire and the actual cost of the damage. 

In a separate incident, two children died in the 1:45 a.m. Wednesday fire that also gutted 30 houses at Purok 8, Barangay Obrero, this city. 

Authorities identified the fatalities as Dyan Sagado, five years old, and her elder brother Henry, seven, both of Purok 8, Barangay Obrero. 

The charred bodies of the two were found embracing each other by fire rescue team. 

Fire out was declared at 3 a.m. today. 

City Mayor Democrito Plaza already mobilized the city’s social welfare office to assist the fire victims now temporarily sheltered at Barangay Ong Yui covered court and a nearby school and Barangay Obrero Hall. 

The city chief executive ordered the distribution of foods, clothes, medicines and other immediate needs to the fire victims. 

“Everybody must take extra precautions due to severe dry spell, especially that we are observing the fire prevention month,” said Mayor Plaza. (muc/PIA-Caraga)