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Stocks, dollar under pressure after soft U.S. data

Shares and the U.S. dollar dipped on Monday while U.S. bond yields slumped to five-month lows after soft U.S. economic data hurt investor sentiment already frayed by worries over North Korea and coming French elections.

That dwarfed any relief for market players after the U.S. Treasury department did not name China as a currency manipulator, avoiding an all-out confrontation on currencies between the world's two largest economies.

S&P 500 mini futures declined 0.15 percent to 2,324, edging near a six-week low of 2,317.75 touched in late March following U.S. President Donald Trump's defeat on healthcare reform.

MSCI's broadest index of Asia-Pacific shares outside Japan fell 0.1 percent in holiday-thinned trade, while Japan's Nikkei fell as much as 0.6 pct to hit a five-month low before ending up 0.1 percent.

Most European share markets will be closed for Easter holidays.

A raft of Chinese economic data beat market expectations but did not produce notable market reactions as investors had been already optimistic following a recent string of positive China numbers.

China's economy grew 6.9 percent in the first quarter from a year earlier, a tad above economists' forecast of 6.8 percent.

However, mainland Chinese shares fell, with Shanghai Composite Index down 1.0 percent at 3,212, risking a close below its 60-day average at 3,216, seen as an important support by investors and weighed by warning from top securities regulator to combat market misbehavior.

U.S. retail sales dropped more than expected in March while annual core inflation slowed to 2.0 percent, the smallest advance since November 2015, from 2.2 percent in February, data showed on Friday.

That helped to drive down the 10-year U.S. Treasuries yield to 2.200 percent, its lowest level since mid-November from around 2.228 percent on Thursday before a market holiday on Friday.

The yield had risen above 2.6 percent in December and again in March, from around 1.85 percent before the U.S. presidential election, on expectations of Trump's stimulus.

But growing perception that Trump will struggle to push any tax cuts and fiscal spending programs through the Congress has prompted unwinding of the "Trump" trade.

"At the moment, it is hard to see any factors that could drive up bond yields," said Hiroko Iwaki, senior strategist at Mizuho Securities.

"And compared to U.S. bond yields, which have given up much of their gains after the election, U.S. share prices, having gone through a limited correction, look vulnerable given potential developments in North Korea or the French election," she said.

Fed fund futures <0#FF:> rose in price, now pricing less than a 50 percent chance of a rate hike in its June 13-14 meeting for the first time in about a month.

NO MANIPULATION

Trump's administration declined to name any major trading partner as a currency manipulator in a highly anticipated report on Friday, backing away from a key Trump campaign promise to slap such a label on China.

"Concerns about U.S.-Sino trade frictions have eased for the time being," said Naoki Tashiro, the president of TS China Research.

"But this is also thought to be a part of a barter, namely the U.S. wants China to take tougher actions against North Korea in exchange," he said.

There is no sign of easing in tensions over North Korea's nuclear and missile program after the reclusive country's failed missile test on Sunday.

Trump's national security adviser said on Sunday that the United States, its allies and China are working together on a range of responses to North Korea.

"In essence, North Korea made a provocation that would not transcend the U.S. 'red line'. But depending on how China will react, Trump could lose his patience," said Makoto Noji, senior strategist at SMBC Nikko Securities.

Safe-haven gold gained as much as 0.8 percent to hit a five-month high of $1,295.5 per ounce on continued concerns on tensions over North Korea.

The dollar slipped to as low as 108.13 yen, a five-month low and 0.4 percent below its late U.S. levels.

The semi-annual U.S. Treasury currency report maintained the six countries on a "monitoring list" -- China, Japan, Germany, South Korea, Taiwan and Switzerland -- suggesting Washington could put more pressure on those countries to take steps to reduce their trade surplus with the United States in future.

The euro stood at $1.0622, little moved so far, and not far from a one-month low of $1.0570 touched last Monday, with focus on the French presidential election.

Ahead of the first round of voting on April 23, the race looked tighter. Two polls put any of the four frontrunners, including far-right candidate Marine Le Pen and hard-left challenger Jean-Luc Melenchon, within reach of a two-person run-off vote.

The Turkish lira jumped about 2.5 percent to 3.6300 per dollar versus 3.7220 on Friday after President Tayyip Erdogan snatched a victory in a referendum to grant him sweeping powers in the biggest overhaul of modern Turkish politics.

It last traded at 3.677.

Oil prices slipped on signs the United States is continuing to add output, undermining OPEC efforts to support prices. [O/R]

Benchmark Brent crude futures were down 1.0 percent at $55.34 a barrel.

By Hideyuki Sano | TOKYO

(Editing by Kim Coghill and Richard Borsuk)

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PHL reducing poverty in fisheries sector

MANILA –The government is working vigorously to alleviatepoverty and promote inclusive growth in the fisheries sector.

Melanie Guerra,officer-in-charge of the Fisheries Policy and Economics Division (FPED) of theDepartment of Agriculture’s Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR),said her agency implemented various livelihood development programs, projectsand initiatives.

Guerra, during the fish talksforum series on Tuesday, said it provided the fisherfolk appropriate inputs orassistance, capacity building and shared infrastructure support, andfacilitated market linkages in the domestic and export markets.

She noted that under theTargeted Actions to Reduce poverty and Generate Economic Transformation(TARGET) program, livelihood interventions would no longer be given on apiece-meal or stand-alone basis.

“The type of intervention shallbe matched with the type of available resources and its carrying capacity,”Guerra said. “Thus prior to the award of any inputs, profiling of the resourcesand the beneficiary shall be undertaken by the FLDTs (field livelihooddevelopment technicians).”

FLDTs were deployed in coastalmunicipalities with high concentration of fisherfolk and high incidence ofpoverty.

Each FLDT regularly visits andmonitors at least 75 fisherfolk beneficiaries that are registered under theFisherfolk Registry.

Such registry was cross-matchedwith the data of Department of Social Welfare and Development’s NationalHousehold Targeting System for Poverty Reduction (NHTS-PR) and then Departmentof Budget and Management (DBM)’s Registry System for Basic Sector inAgriculture (RSBSA) to ensure that the poorest among the poor are prioritized.

“This strategy is seen tosignificantly reduce the incidence of poverty among fisherfolk to at least 10percent while at the same time maximize production and improve fishsufficiency,” added Guerra.

She further said BFAR shouldalso provide training and/or capacitate fisherfolk beneficiaries for skills andthe local government unit (LGU) for responsible resource governance.

Guerra said interventions forpost-harvest, such as provision of Community Fish landing Center, smokehouse,seaweed/fish driers, and marketing, should also be provided to beneficiarycommunities to ensure product linkage with the markets.

She noted the 2016-2020Comprehensive National Fisheries Industry Development Plan (CNFIDP) targets toincrease aquaculture production in the country over the next five years.

“Production increase of 14.4percent from fiscal year 2015 to fiscal year 2020 is expected to come fromaquaculture interventions particularly on seaweeds, shellfish, food fishes andother high-value species…,” Guerra said.

Moreover, the BFAR official saidit worked also for hike in quantity and value of traded fish and fisheryproducts for domestic and export markets.

She noted the Plan aims toreduce by 10 percent the post-harvest losses which accounts to more than 25percent of total production.

“Improving on quality andreducing wastage would improve the value of fish. Moreover, compliance tointernational standards could also bring in more revenue from products exportedto major international markets,” she added.

Guerra further said effortswould be undertaken to improve regions that were less than 70 percent food fishsufficient, namely Cordillera Autonomous Region, Autonomous Region in MuslimMindanao, National Capital Region and Regions 2, 4A, 8, 9 and 11.

The CNFIDP is implemented by theBFAR with the involvement of the different sectors with the fisheries industry,local government units, non-government organizations, research institutions,academe and other partner agencies.

Its formulation was mandated bythe Republic Act (RA) 10654, which amended the Fisheries Code of 1998. (PNA)

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McDonald’s USA Unveils Next Big Change: Fresh Beef Quarter Pounders

Latest Step in Building a Better McDonald’s Will Bring Fresh Beef, Made-to-Order
Quarter Pounder burgers by mid-2018

OAK BROOK, Ill. (March 30, 2017) – McDonald’s USA today announced that by mid-2018, it will serve fresh beef, prepared when ordered, in all Quarter Pounder burgers across the majority of its restaurants. The fresh beef burgers, cooked right when ordered, are the latest step the company has made to meet customers’ changing expectations. All McDonald’s burgers use 100 percent pure beef with absolutely no fillers, additives or preservatives.

“Over the past two years, we’ve made a series of bold, tangible changes for our customers,” said McDonald’s President and Chief Executive Officer Steve Easterbrook. “Serving All-Day Breakfast, moving to cage-free eggs and testing delivery are all proof of our commitment to build a better McDonald’s. And we are committed to transforming more aspects of our business, including offering a more modern and enjoyable dining experience, adding new levels of convenience and technology, and making more positive changes to the food we serve.”

Delivering fresh beef, cooked right when ordered, in Quarter Pounder burgers is one of the company’s latest customer-led initiatives that builds on several other recent milestones, including:
In 2015, the company announced a number of changes to how it serves and sources its food by offering All-Day Breakfast, committing to only sourcing cage-free eggs by 2025, and committing to only serve chicken not treated with antibiotics important to human medicine* that was completed nearly a year ahead of schedule in 2016.
Last year, the company removed artificial preservatives from several menu items, including Chicken McNuggets and eliminated high fructose corn syrup from the buns used on Big Macs, Quarter Pounders, hamburgers, cheeseburgers, Filet-O-Fish and McChicken sandwiches.

“Today’s announcement is part of a continuing food journey for McDonald’s,” said McDonald’s USA President Chris Kempczinski. “Over the last two years, we have accelerated the pace of change around how we source and serve our food. Delivering fresh beef that’s prepared when our customers order their food is just another example of how we are raising the bar. We’re just getting started, and can’t wait to show you what’s next.”

“This represents a strong partnership between McDonald’s, Lopez Foods and their other beef suppliers to support this initiative and deliver McDonald’s quality standards,” said Ed Sanchez, President and Chief Executive Officer of Lopez Foods. “It was exciting to be part of the test and we look forward to bringing fresh beef to more McDonald’s customers in 2018.”

Quarter Pounder burgers using fresh beef, cooked right when ordered, were initially tested in 325 restaurants across the Dallas/Fort Worth, Texas area and 77 restaurants in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Quarter Pounder burgers include the Quarter Pounder, Quarter Pounder with Cheese, Double Quarter Pounder with Cheese, the Quarter Pounder with Cheese Deluxe and Signature Crafted Recipe burgers.

“We received overwhelmingly positive feedback from customers and employees and we’re proud to have been part of a test that is creating a watershed moment for McDonald’s,” said McDonald’s Dallas/Fort Worth Franchisee Joe Jasper. “This test was driven by the Franchisees, our region and insights from what our customers are asking for when they visit McDonald’s.”

About McDonald’s
McDonald’s USA, LLC, serves a variety of menu options made with quality ingredients to nearly 25 million customers every day. Nearly 90 percent of McDonald’s 14,000 U.S. restaurants are independently owned and operated by businessmen and women. Customers can now log online for free at approximately 11,500 participating Wi-Fi enabled McDonald’s U.S. restaurants. For more information, visit www.mcdonalds.com, or follow us on Twitter @McDonalds and Facebook www.facebook.com/mcdonalds.

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* Farmers still use ionophores, a class of antibiotics that are not prescribed to people, to keep chickens healthy.

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Care Indeed sponsors Avenidas' technology conference for Seniors

Care Indeed was one of the Tech Faire sponsors at the Living Better With Technology Conference held at Mitchell Park Community Center in Palo Alto. The conference included workshops such as "How Technology Can Help Support Independent Living," "Keeping Up with the Grandkids," and "Explorer's Circle." Care Indeed has actively supported Avenidas, a community-based nonprofit organization that supports and celebrates older adults. Photo shows Renata Spangler, one of Care Indeed's Care Managers.

Care Indeed is a leading home care provider in the Bay Area. For more information about their services, please call (650) 328-1001 or go to www.careindeed.com.

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Women Entrepreneurship: Find Funding to Start, Run and Grow Your Business

By: Shuyi Wang, head of Asian segment strategy, Wells Fargo

Women’s History Month is a great time to recognize the important role of women-owned businesses in the nation’s economy. From tech to fashion to healthcare and manufacturing, there are 9.9 million women-owned firms spanning almost every industry, and representing a third of all small businesses in America. And that number is only expected to grow. According to the latest U.S. Census data, women-owned firms increased more than 26 percent from 2007-2012, and had receipts of $1.4 trillion in 2012.

Despite their successes, women entrepreneurs can face the same challenges as all business owners when it comes to obtaining funding for their businesses. This is especially true for new business owners who are just starting out and may have limited business credit history. There are, however, more small business funding options today than ever, and it pays to be familiar with each one.

Here are five types of funding to explore when starting, running and growing a small business.

SBA Loans and Resources – Whether you’re launching a new business or growing an existing business, the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) has a variety of lending products designed to meet the financing needs of businesses of all sizes, including smaller, newer businesses. Through SBA lending, Wells Fargo offers financing to businesses that may not be able to obtain a conventional loan or loan terms that meet their business needs.

The SBA also has a number of programs and resources devoted specifically for women entrepreneurs. A good place to start is with the SBA Women’s Business Centers, which consist of nearly 100 educational centers around the U.S. These centers are dedicated to helping women start and grow their businesses by offering seminars and workshops on various business owner topics, including raising capital.

Business Credit –At some point, most small business owners will see a need for credit as their business evolves and their financial needs change. When used appropriately, credit can fuel opportunities for business growth from helping cover basic expenses to supporting a capital expenditure. There are many types of credit to consider depending on your business financing needs and stage of business. Talk with a business banker to learn what option is right for your business.

Self-funding – Many entrepreneurs fund their businesses themselves, either by tapping into savings, selling assets for cash, or taking on personal debt. While self-funding increases your personal liability, there are several advantages to this method of financing, including having complete control over your business’ financial decisions. As our bankers will tell you, self-funding is also a smart way to show that you are truly committed to succeeding – the more you invest in your business, the easier it will be to secure capital from other sources down the road.

Investors – Another common way to fund a business is through investors. Often, an investor is a family member or friend with the means to invest capital upfront to cover startup costs. While this may seem like a good idea at first, it’s important to set up a formal arrangement to protect your relationship from losses that may result if the business fails. If you want to steer clear of personal connections, then an angel investor may be a better fit. Angel investors are typically affluent individuals or investment groups who are willing to invest in new businesses and ideas. To improve your chances of securing an investor, you’ll need to demonstrate a healthy credit history, and provide a written business plan complete with a strategy for paying back investors.

Crowdfunding –Based primarily online, crowdfunding is the practice of funding a project or venture by raising small amounts of money from a large number of people. While crowdfunding has been around for a long time, social media and online crowdfunding networks comprised of thousands of investors have helped it gain in popularity among entrepreneurs and startups. From donation-based, to rewards- and equity-based options, there are many types of crowdfunding options available. The method you choose may depend on the type of product or service your business offers, cash flow and revenue projections.

As you explore funding options, it’s also important to become familiar with the credit process so you know what to expect – from preparing to apply, applying and managing credit. Wells Fargo’s new Business Credit Center is designed to help inform business owners on the credit process and financing options, and address gaps in their understanding of credit.

No matter how you fund your business, remember that knowledge is power. Take time to arm yourself appropriately so you can confidently navigate the credit journey throughout all stages of your business.

Shuyi Wang is head of Asian segment strategy at Wells Fargo in San Francisco.
http://www.census.gov/newsroom/press-releases/2015/cb15-209.html

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PH trade looking bright despite headlines

MANILA – Despite all the headlines about extrajudicial killings in the Philippines, foreign direct investments (FDI) last year was up by 40.7% – hitting $7.9 billion – compared to 2015.
What’s more, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez pointed out, while the bulk of the improvement came in the first half of the year at the twilight of former president Benigno Aquino III’s term, robust FDI also remained from June to December under the President Rodrigo Duterte.
“They’re all applying to enter the Philippine market. The trust is there," Lopez told Rappler recently.
The Duterte administration is battling criticism here and abroad for some controversial policies such as the war on drugs and the drive to reimpose the death penalty – issues that its Western partners have questioned.
A Philippine lawmaker reiterated the threat that the European Union could remove the Philippines from its GSP+ recipients following the push to reimpose death penalty.
Lopez downplayed these concerns, noting that the government has been "in discussion with [the US and EU] and we’re simply telling them look just continue to engage with the Philippines."
Otherwise, he added, "it gives us more reason to talk to other countries that are also eager [to trade].”
He acknowledged, however, that the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) had to reassure investors following the President’s tough anti-US and EU remarks.
“This pivot to China does not mean that we will forget the west. To understand the President, you have to understand that he wants what’s good for the Filipino people. Investment is good for the Philippines because it creates jobs, so definitely he won’t scare away investors from the US or EU or even China,” he said.
Death penalty is a long shot
Lopez also reiterated the government’s stance that so far, accusations linking the government to extrajudicial killings have not been proven.
“Our appeal to them is please don’t jump to conclusions basing it on some newspaper reports out there. If you want (to do that) you have to conduct your own investigation,” he said.
On the death penalty, Lopez noted that the law has not been passed anyway. “I’m sure there will still be a lot of legal challenges to it and for all we know it could take 10 years before it even comes into effect," Lopez said.
“It's so difficult for them [EU] just to remove [the GS+] based on something that isn’t yet happening,” he added.
Good numbers
Despite this, Lopez is happy with what he's seeing on the trade front. "We’re looking at the numbers and we don’t know where the concern is coming from,” the DTI chief said.
Lopez said the administration has opened new doors in the region’s new giant, China, adding in particular that a $1.7 billion trade purchase agreement had just been signed on the day of his Rappler interview.
“It's like a purchase order coming from different [Chinese] firms and that’s only because the Chinese market has really opened up to Philippine products and that’s because of the tremendous goodwill generated by President Duterte when he visited China,” he explained.
This goes along with the additional billions of dollars in investments China has pledged to pour into the government’s infrastructure program.
That goodwill has boosted tourism, with tourist arrivals up 76.46% or 85,948 people in January this year, based on data from the Department of Tourism, according to Lopez.
The trade chief expressed confidence that this is just the tip of the iceberg. The administration is targeting 1 million Chinese tourist arrivals this year following the recent lifting of a travel advisory against the Philippines by the Chinese government.
This will benefit SMEs, as rentals, restaurants, agricultural products, and souvernis are all SME-oriented, the trade chief added.
“The challenge now is to build more hotel rooms and other infrastructure to accommodate that boom. But the government infra push is pulling that…We’re very bullish on tourism and trade,” Lopez said.
Balancing act
The DTI head pointed out that the county is in a good position to take advantage of the 600-million market in ASEAN. It's a market that could potentially expand to 3.5 billion with the ongoing Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) talks that include both China and India.
“When you look the Philippines, about 75% of our exports enjoy Generalized System of Privileges GSP [with the US] while two thirds of our exports to the EU enjoy GSP+, which means that the tariff rates are 0 and therefore locating in the PH will give [investor] easier access for their projects,” Lopez said.
Beyond dealing with negative perceptions, the trade chief will also have to carefully balance maintaining industry competitiveness with improving the livelihood of individual workers.
The government’s centerpiece reform is the comprehensive tax reform, which is being debated in Congress and aims to lower income tax for the majority of the population as well as corporations.
Doing this will lower much-needed government revenue so the reform includes tapping more revenue-generating programs, one of which is raising excise tax on new vehicles.
But the measure is seen by auto manufacturers as potentially hampering the local auto industry.
This is a concern for trade as one of its main incentive programs, CARS, specifically targets the resurgence of the automotive industry in the country.
“We believe and fully support the tax reform program because that is really something that will correct the current structure. Reducing the income tax for both individuals and corporates will yield more net gain [for both] to be brought back either through investment, R&D or innovation,” Lopez said.
Lopez said that while there were initial concerns, the Department of Finance (DOF) has since adjusted auto tax brackets and they are now consistent with the DTI’s CARS program.
Lopez also pointed out that the new rates are progressive in the sense that the majority of the burden now falls on luxury cars which he believes won’t be drastically affected since buyers in that segment are not price sensitive.
“The bottom line is that for cheaper cars and especially for cars that will be produced here, there will be minimal change in the effective tax rate and price rate… many of the higher-end cars are not manufactured here anyway so it’s not creating employment,” he said.
Protecting workers and cost
The DTI has also been working out a scheme that will give workers more security by ending the much maligned ”endo” system while at the same time allowing firms to manage their costs.
“Our priority here is to still to improve the tenure of workers so what we are simply saying is that [the key] is in the business model. Instead of hiring regular in the principal company, hire regular in the contractor instead,” Lopez said.
The new plan involves contractor firms that serve the personnel needs of principal firms hiring regular employees and crucially, making them permanent.
This way, if the contractor ends a contract with a principal firm, it is then the contractor's responsibility to find another firm to place its workers in.
This is important, Lopez noted, because what usually happens is that workers are let go once a contract ends between a contractor and a principal firm.
The new scheme will also include a grace period of around 3 months before the workers can be let go by contractors, but they will need to be let go with severance packages or retirement benefits.
“That is our stance and has to be in a department order (DO) issued by DOLE. The President simply remanded the DO to be reviewed further to give time for consultations with various stakeholders,” Lopez said. – Rappler.com

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PG&Esets record with $2.85B in 2016 diverse supplier spend

San Francisco, CA -- Pacific Gasand Electric Company (PG&E) this week announced that it spent a record$2.85 billion with diverse suppliers in 2016, accounting for 44 percent of itstotal procurement. For the fifth straight year, diverse suppliers accounted for$2 billion-plus of the company’s spend and more than 40 percent of PG&E’stotal spend for the fourth consecutive year.

In addition, PG&E eclipsed the CaliforniaPublic Utilities Commission’s (CPUC) diverse spending goal of 21.5 percent forthe 11th year in a row.

“For PG&E to effectively meet the needs of ourcustomers in today’s evolving energy landscape, more than ever we need to workwith our diverse suppliers to build a better California together. We’re all inwhen it comes to building on the 36 years of success of our supplier diversityprogram,” said Pacific Gas and Electric Company President and Chief OperatingOfficer Nick Stavropoulos.

In 2016, PG&E achieved new spending records inthe following reporting categories:

CATEGORY 2015 2016 INCREASEFROM 2015
Minority Business Enterprise(MBE) $1.591B $1.828B $237.6M/13 percent
Women Business Enterprise(WBE) $723.1M $797.7M $74.6M/9 percent
Service Disabled Veteran(DVBE) $154.6M $223.8M $69.2M/31 percent

Over the last 36 years, PG&E has been committedto supporting a diverse supply chain. The company has developed one of theleading supplier diversity programs in the energy industry.
In addition to maintaining high levels of spendwith diverse suppliers, PG&E has focused on elevating the quality of itssupplier diversity program by addressing key success factors for suppliers.

For example, PG&E has held multiple workshopsthroughout the year to educate small and diverse businesses on how to competefor utility business. PG&E’s technical assistance and capacity building initiatives havehelped businesses become more competitive.

The company has actively supported the developmentof its diverse suppliers through mentorship, scholarships, opportunityidentification and value chain analysis. In addition, PG&E’s Supplier Development Program has matched 30 diversesuppliers with PG&E senior executive mentors.

PG&E’s Supply Chain Responsibility website contains moreinformation about the program. The site also provides details on how to becomea certified diverse supplier.

In 2016, PG&E received numerous nationalaccolades for its supplier diversity efforts:
·The company received an ‘A’ for its work in 2015from the nationally-known Greenlining Institute, an organization dedicated to racial andeconomic justice.
·The enterprise was named as the Corporation of theYear by the National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce for itssupport and dedication to ensuring fairness and equal opportunity for LGBTsuppliers, customers and employees.
·For the third consecutive year, PG&E was namedto the United States Hispanic Chamber of Commerce’s Million Dollar Club? forits spend with Hispanic-owned businesses in 2015.
·PG&E was inducted into the Women’s Business Enterprise Hall of Fame for its support ofsupplier diversity and women’s business development.
·The company received the Gazelle Award from the National Minority Supplier Development Council foraccelerating the growth of minority-owned business.

About PG&E

Pacific Gas andElectric Company, a subsidiary of PG&E Corporation (NYSE:PCG), is one of the largestcombined natural gas and electric utilities in the United States. Based in SanFrancisco, with more than 20,000 employees, the company delivers some of thenation’s cleanest energy to nearly 16 million people in Northern and CentralCalifornia. For more information, visit www.pge.com/and www.pge.com/en/about/newsroom/index.page.

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Concerns raised on impacts of decreasing copra prices

TACLOBAN CITY -- Global copra price has decreased steadily in the past two months, raising concerns that downward trading value may lose farmers' interest to seriously cultivate coconut in Eastern Visayas region.
The Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said United States' production of soybeans, one of the leading competitors of coconut oil in the international market, has soared since last month, prompting some buyers to shift to alternative oil.
The situation forced Philippine coconut oil producers to adjust prices, according to PCA.
From an average copra farm gate price of PHP39.06 per kilogram, it went down to PHP36.44 in February. In the first week of March, its value further dipped to only PHP30.96.
PCA Eastern Visayas Regional Manager Joel Pilapil is anxious that if prices of copra will continue to drop in the next months, farmers may lose their interest to join in the coconut replanting program and process less productive trees into logs.

The government embarked on massive replanting activities after supertyphoon Yolanda that either uprooted or sheared 16.1 million coconut trees when it struck on Nov. 8, 2013.
“If prices are high, farmers are more motivated to replant, make existing trees more productive,” Pilapil said.
The official, however, noted that this year’s prices is higher than the pre-Yolanda years where it dropped to as low as PHP10 to PHP15 per kilogram.
Copra is the dried meat, or dried kernel, of the coconut used to extract coconut oil. The oil is extracted from it and this has made copra an important commodity for the coconut-producing Eastern Visayas region.
Other competitors of copra in terms of oil extraction in the global market are soya, palm, rapeseed, and sunflower.
A third of the region's farming communities are dependent in coconut production, hence, copra price adjustments have huge impacts to the local economy, according to Pilapil.
Before the 2013 monster typhoon struck, the region has been producing two billion nuts, the second highest in the country. In 2016, the projected coconut production is at 1.6 billion nuts.
The goal is to restore the output to pre-Yolanda level within two years.(PNA)

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Final opportunities to own 2 sought-after Rosedale neighborhoods, homebuyers urged to act quickly

Azusa, CA -- Final opportunities to own in two of Rosedale’s most luxurious neighborhoods are going quickly, and potential buyers are urged to visit this award-winning master-planned community in Azusa today. The two highly sought after collections built by Brookfield Residential are nearly sold out with two homes remaining at Camellia and merely a handful left at Aster Heights.
The last Camellia homes include two superbly crafted single-family residences showcasing timeless architectural style, expansive two-story interiors and desirable indoor-outdoor living spaces. The first is the Residence Two model, a breathtaking home that’s designed for entertaining with open living spaces that include a sleekly appointed gourmet kitchen with island; a large great room and dining area; and a spectacular outdoor room with open-air kitchen. A charming first-floor guest suite is a welcome feature for visitors, while the tranquil library offers a private retreat for work or reflection. The upstairs is also impressively planned with a versatile bonus room, two well-sized secondary bedrooms; and an elegant master bedroom suite with a walk-in closet and spacious covered deck. This home is priced at $1,480,000.


The second and final Camellia offering is the gorgeous Residence Three model, an exquisitely designed five-bedroom home priced at $1,680,000. After stepping through the outdoor courtyard, a dramatic entry foyer leads to open-concept living spaces with a grand great room for entertaining; a gourmet kitchen with

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Villarin: PH to lose $12.8B in EU trade if death penalty returns

MANILA – Akbayan Representative Tom Villarin warned that the government may lose billions of dollars in revenues should the Philippines reimpose the death penalty for heinous crimes.
On Tuesday, February 21, Villarin interpellated Capiz 2nd District Representative and Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro, one of the principal authors of the controversial death penalty measure or House Bill (HB) Number 4727.
Villarin argued that the return of capital punishment will violate the Philippines’ obligations under the Second Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, which bans state parties from reimposing the death penalty.
The passage of HB 4727 into law, Villarin said, has implications for the Philippines’ beneficiary country status for the European Union-Generalized System of Preferences Plus (EU-GSP+) as well.
The EU-GSP+ is a preferential tariff scheme that allows the Philippines to export more than 6,000 products, including fruits, coconut oil, footwear, fish, and textile, to any EU member-country tariff-free.
"One of the prerequisites of us entering into such a trade agreement is the abolition of the death penalty," said Villarin.
"In fact, if we lose this GSP+ trade status and this data is our own data, we will lose up to 200,000 jobs in agriculture and manufacturing, especially in Mindanao," he added.
He said that Philippine export sales to the EU showed exports "jumped to 6.8% to $7.17 billion" in 2015, with the EU considered as the Philippines' 4th largest trading partner accounting for 11.56% of total exports.
"So in effect, if now we will reimpose the death penalty and we will violate the Second Optional Protocol and it will affect the GSP+ international trading status, we will lose roughly around $12.8 billion in bilateral trade," said Villarin.
"Ano'ng kapalit? Wala. Patayan. (What is the price? Nothing. Killings.) Execution…. The death penalty bill has implications that goes beyond what is intended," he added.
Castro, however, refused to respond to Villarin's point, saying that the latter's arguments had already been mentioned by other congressmen in past interpellations.
"This representation is lost and confused because the gentleman from Akbayan has discoursed volumes of recycled issues and matters that have already been discussed by previous sponsors and interpellators. But he has not posed any question," said Castro.
"In any event, Madame Speaker, distinguished colleague, as in by way of reaction, to the discourse to the gentleman from Akbayan, let me invoke the previous answers of the previous sponsors to the same questions and the same issues raised by other interpellators prior to the distinguished gentleman from Akbayan, Madame Speaker," he added.
Reimposing the death penalty for heinous crimes is a priority measure of President Rodrigo Duterte, who is allied with a majority of congressmen.
The majority bloc already decided to water down the bill to only include plunder, treason, rape, and 7 drug crimes. The death penalty debate is also expected to end by February 28. – Rappler.com

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