Philippines Update: November 30, 2017

Philippines Update | November 30, 2017
Authors: Riley Smith
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 
December 11: Welcome Lunch for Philippine Ambassador to the United States, Mr. Jose Manuel "Babe" Romualdez
 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Senate Passes Its Version of 2018 National Budget and Tax Reform Package; Heads to Bicameral Conference Committee with House of Representatives
On November 28 and 29, the Senate passed its version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) act and the 2018 national budget, several months after the House of Representatives passed its versions of both bills.  The Senate’s passage of the TRAIN act – the first of several tax reform packages sought by President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration – and the 2018 national budget, which is officially called the 2018 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), clears the way for the House and the Senate to convene bicameral conference committees to resolve the differences between the bodies’ different versions of both bills.  With Congress scheduled to go on recess on December 15, an imminent deadline to have a reconciled version of the 2018 GAB on President Duterte’s desk by then has prompted calls from the House and the Senate to fast track the bicameral conference committee process.  However, the differences between the House and Senate versions of the TRAIN act are more contentious, and it is increasingly unlikely that both chambers will be able to craft a reconciled version before the end of the year.  The House versions of the 2018 GAB and TRAIN act can be found here and here, respectively.  The most recent, complete versions of the Senate's 2018 GAB and TRAIN are not yet available.

The House of Representatives and Senate versions of the P3.767-trillion (roughly US$75 billion) 2018 national budget differ in a number of ways, but the two chambers have already agreed to fast-track the bicameral conference committee process to meet the December 15 deadline.  If that deadline is not met, then the 2017 national budget is automatically re-enacted.  One of the differences between the House and Senate version of the GAB that needs to be resolved is the P900-million allocated to Oplan Double Barrel, one of the anti-drug operations that was being carried out by the Philippine National Police (PNP).  In an October 10 Memorandum from the President, Duterte removed the PNP from all anti-drug operations and transferred the responsibility for the operations over to the Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency (PDEA).  The P900-billion that was to go to Oplan Double Barrel is instead put towards constructing housing for personnel from the PNP and the Armed Forces of the Philippines along with maintenance and operating expenses for police stations.  However, over the last couple of weeks President Duterte has mentioned putting the PNP back in charge of the anti-drug crackdown, which could complicate efforts to realign funds dedicated to the operation.  Nevertheless, the House and Senate have reportedly agreed to reconcile the differences in their version of the 2018 national budget within a very short timeframe – potentially as short as 24 hours after the start of the bicameral conference committee.

Unlike with the 2018 national budget, the bicameral conference committee for the TRAIN act is likely to be more contentious.  The first of several tax reform packages being pushed by the Duterte administration, the TRAIN act aims to raise a vital P130 billion (US$2.58 billion) in tax revenue to fund the administration’s signature infrastructure development initiative.  However, the House and Senate versions of the TRAIN act differ in key provisions, including the tax rates for automobiles, sugar-sweetened beverages, and minerals and mining products, as well as the proposed zero rating and lifting of value-added tax (VAT) exemptions.  Many of the provisions that differ between the two versions were the source of heated debate during the Senate’s plenary deliberations.  In general, the Senate’s version includes more revenue-generating provisions than the House’s version, which could be a particular point of contention.  Senate Minority Leader Franklin M. Drilon predicts that the bicameral conference committee will be a “real battle,” while members of the House of Representatives have threatened to hold up TRAIN’s passage, saying that the Senate’s “insertions” of revenue-generating provisions is unconstitutional.  In addition, no rules stipulate that the reconciled version of the bill must resemble the House’s or Senate’s version, or be a combination of the two.  This opens up the door to potentially major changes in some of the more contentious provisions, which could draw out the process even longer.  Pressure from the Duterte administration to pass a reconciled version of the TRAIN act will increase as the December 15 deadline approaches.  Presidential Spokesman Harry L. Roque Jr. has already said that lawmakers have been given marching orders to pass TRAIN before Congress goes on recess, emphasizing its necessity for a smooth implementation of the administration’s infrastructure program.  However, given how far apart the House and Senate are on key provisions, it appears increasingly unlikely that the bicameral conference committee will be able to produce a reconciled version of TRAIN before the end of the year.    

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 
As part of the Council's continued advocacy efforts  in the Philippines on its proposed sugar-sweetened beverage (SSB) tax, the Council submitted a letter to Philippine Secretary of Finance Carlos Dominguez III expressing its concerns with the multi-tiered structure of the SSB tax in the Senate's recently passed version of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) act.  A copy of the letter can be found here.  The Council plans to send the same letter to officials in the Philippine House of Representatives and the Senate.  The Council will also be issuing a public statement on the SSB tax in coordination with the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, and the Beverage Industry Association of the Philippines.
 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
U.S. open to free trade agreement with PH

National Affairs
House, Senate agree to fast-track bicam talks on 2018 budget
DoF to draft tax amnesty bill in early 2018
Senate approves 'TokHang-free' P3.7-trillion 2018 budget
Solons won’t let Senate ram through TRAIN ‘insertions’
Senate approves tax reform bill on final reading
Senate sees ‘tough debates’ with House on tax package
Southeast Asia's poorest mostly Filipinos, Indonesians – ASEAN report
Duterte to ask Congress to rush removal of foreign investment limits

Customs
Duty-Free access to US for agriculture, garments pushed
PH Customs in pre-shipment inspection talks with Malaysia, Indonesia
Manila’s turn to host customs meeting in 2018
PH Customs turning to foreign partners for ICT modernization plan

Defense & Security
PH Navy to get first missile system by Christmas
NDF calls for more frequent attacks
AFP: Maute remnants regrouping in Lanao
What’s Next for the Philippines as Duterte Ends Communist Peace Talks?

Economics
Philippine investment boom leaves neighbors in the dust
Peso sustains climb
Spending surge drives Oct. budget gap
Indicators point to faster growth in Q4–think tank
Is the Philippines saving enough to finance its economic growth?
BSP readies tools as risks rise with global interest rates
The Philippines records highest foreign investment growth in ASEAN
Economic growth surges in Philippines despite political risk
Peza investment pledges up nearly 90% in January-October | BusinessMirror
Philippine GDP grows faster than expected by 6.9% in Q3 2017

Energy
Gov’t to start technology procurement for fuel marking
MGB wants to hike mining excise tax based on output
Press Release - PRIB: Senate oks bill cutting red tape in power projects
Duterte rejects MICC proposal to lift open-pit mining ban
Lawmaker seeks clear delineation of powers between ERC and PCC
Volatile coal price seen as risk for PH power sector

Financial Services
ADB approves support for Philippines’ financial sector reforms
BSP paves way for start of repurchase mart
SEC OK’s higher minimum public float
Big banks’ NPLs climb
Singapore, Philippines enter into fintech collaboration deal

Food & Agriculture
PH needs fisheries department, aquaculture experts say
SRA suspends approvals for imports of corn sweetener
PHL meat imports to hit record high–Mita
Govt urged to review plan to let NFA produce other farm products
GMOs as safe as conventional food, beneficial for farmers — scientists
Piñol asks ‘bigger role’ for NFA
Banana sector’s issues to be raised at WTO talks
Group says DAR now moving to hasten land-use conversion

Health & Life Sciences
ASEAN adopts pact on microbial resistance
FDA cites Duque’s role in approval of contraceptives
House OKs comprehensive mental health bill

ICT
Business leaders want open field for telco
Regulations are key to unlock optimal benefits of digital economy–PIDS
Due to heavy traffic, e-commerce in the Philippines is booming
DTI to launch mentorship for digital startups
Gov’t not interested in being 3rd telco player
PCC backs Duterte offer to China to end duopoly | BusinessMirror
‘BPO sector to end 2017 on positive note’ | BusinessMirror
Philippine gov't, Facebook partner for 'ultra high-speed' broadband

Infrastructure
Govt to consider Clark airport plan
ODA hard to refuse because of low rates — DBM
DOTr to renew feasibility studies for regional airports
Be it via PPP or BBB, PHL needs to bridge infrastructure gap fast–experts
DPWH eyes P50-B road project
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

U.S. open to free trade agreement with PH CNN Philippines 16th Nov 2017
The United States is open to a free trade agreement with the Philippines, U.S. Ambassador Sung Kim said Thursday. "The Philippine side has indicated their interest in doing a free trade agreement (FTA) with us. We're willing to consider that possibility," Kim told CNN Philippines' The Source. The Philippines raised the possibility of a bilateral free trade agreement with U.S. during the bilateral talks between President Rodrigo Duterte and U.S. President Donald Trump on the sidelines of the 31st ASEAN Summit and Related Summits. During the meeting, Trump singled out how tariffs were imposed on U.S. automobiles, but not ones from Japan. Tariff reduction for Japan is provided for under the 2006 Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, the only FTA the Philippines has with any country. The Philippines has an existing Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the U.S., which is a requirement for countries working towards an FTA. "We already have an existing trade framework that allows us to discuss economic, trade, investment-related issues. I think that process will continue, but we will explore the possibility of a free trade agreement," said Kim.

National Affairs

House, Senate agree to fast-track bicam talks on 2018 budget BusinessMirror 30th Nov 2017
The House of Representatives and the Senate on Thursday agreed to settle within 24 hours the differences between their respective versions of the proposed P3.767-trillion national budget, or the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA). In an interview following the first day of the bicameral conference committee meeting on the proposed 2018 GAA, Sen. Panfilo M. Lacson Sr. said lawmakers have decided to create two small groups to discuss the contentious provisions between the Senate and House versions of the proposed 2018 budget. The two small committees will be headed by House Appropriations Committee Chairman Karlo Alexei B. Nograles of the First District of Davao City and Senate Finance Committee Chairman Loren B. Legarda. Lacson said lawmakers have at least 24 hours to scrutinize the output of the small groups. Among the contentious provisions in the 2018 budget was the proposed P50 billion under the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). Lacson has moved to cut in the Senate 2018 GAA version the said budget following the issues of right-of-way (ROW) acquisitions. Another issue to be resolved is the P900-million allocation for Oplan Double Barrel under the 2018 budget of the Philippine National Police (PNP). The budget was approved by House of Representatives but was realigned by the Senate for the housing projects of members of the PNP and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). President Duterte is now considering the return to the PNP of his war against illegal drugs. Moreover, Nograles said the Senate and House of Representatives have until December 13 to ratify the 2018 budget and submit it to President Duterte on December 19 for signature. Congress is expected to go on a Christmas break on December 13. The Senate approved on final reading the proposed 2018 national budget on Wednesday and the House passed its version on September.

DoF to draft tax amnesty bill in early 2018 BusinessWorld 29th Nov 2017
THE GOVERNMENT will prepare early next year a draft tax amnesty measure, the Department of Finance (DoF) said. “We’ll start it next year. Early, I mean the process,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III told reporters last week. Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno announced earlier this month that the government may offer the amnesty program next year, noting that the administration of President Rodrigo R. Duterte has proven its seriousness in dealing with big-time tax delinquents.

Senate approves 'TokHang-free' P3.7-trillion 2018 budget Rappler 29th Nov 2017
The Senate approved the proposed P3.767-trillion 2018 national budget or the 2018 General Appropriations Bill on Wednesday, November 29. All 16 senators present voted in favor of the measure after marathon hearings and deliberations. The decision came two months after the House of Representatives approvedthe bill. Minority Senator Risa Hontiveros, for her part, explained that she voted in favor of the Senate version of the budget as it excludes allocation for the drug war of the Philippine National Police (PNP). During deliberations, Hontiveros moved that the P900 million for Oplan Double Barrel as well as the P500 million for the Masa Masid program of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) be realigned. Legarda said the funds for the two programs were realigned for the housing of police and soldiers, as well as body cameras for cops. Both chambers of Congress are set to convene into a bicameral conference committee on Thursday, November 30, to thresh out differences between their versions before President Rodrigo Duterte signs it into law.

Solons won’t let Senate ram through TRAIN ‘insertions’ BusinessMirror 29th Nov 2017
Members of the House of Representatives have threatened to block the passage of the  Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act during the bicameral conference should senators insist on passing provisions that were not included in the approved version of the lower chamber. Minority Leader Danilo E. Suarez of the Third District of Quezon, Party-list Reps. Alfredo A. Garbin Jr. and Jericho Jonas B. Nograles of PBA on Wednesday complained that the Senate version of the TRAIN has provisions imposing excise taxes on minerals, coals and cosmetic products—all absent in the House version. This, they said, made the Senate “insertions” unconstitutional, as the 1987 Charter  provides that all tax measures must come from the lower chamber. Suarez said he would call for the deferment of the approval of TRAIN should the Senate push the passage of its version of the first tranche of the Duterte administration’s tax-reform program. “I am hoping that the bicameral conference committee will adopt the House version of the tax package [or] we will call for the deferment of the [tax reform] if the Senate will insist on its version,” Suarez said. The bicameral conference committee is composed of members from both the majority and minority blocs of both chambers to settle, reconcile or thresh out differences or disagreements on any provision of the bill. The conferees are not limited to reconciling the differences in the bill, but may introduce new provisions germane to the subject matter, or may report out an entirely new bill on the subject.

Senate approves tax reform bill on final reading Rappler 28th Nov 2017
The Senate approved on 3rd and final reading the first package of tax reforms proposed by the Duterte administration, seeking to increase Filipinos' take-home pay while raising taxes on fuel, cars, housing, and sugar-sweetened beverages. Voting 17-1, the chamber passed Senate Bill 1592 or Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) on Tuesday, November 28, after marathon deliberations. Only Senator Risa Hontiveros opposed the passage of the measure. Now that the Senate has finalized its version, it will have to convene a bicameral conference committee with the House of Representatives to thresh out differences. Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon expects a difficult time in the bicam due to the polarizing provisions in the two versions. The Senate version reduced income tax rates of almost all or 99% of the 7.5 million individual taxpayers. Filipinos earning an annual P250,000 and below will be exempt from paying income taxes. This includes self-employed individuals and professionals. The Senate also exempted the first P250,000 annual taxable income and retained the P82,000 tax exemption for 13th month pay and other bonuses. Just like the House, the Senate excluded milk and coffee from being taxed, as well as 100% natural fruit and vegetable juices, unsweetened tea, meal replacements, and medically indicated beverages. The Senate also excluded sweetened beverages that use coco sugar and stevia. The chamber used a 3-tier classification. It lowered the tax rate on beverages using caloric and non-caloric sweeteners to P4.50 per liter and imposed a tax of P9 per liter for beverages using high fructose corn syrup. Senate ways and means committee chairman Juan Edgardo Angara said this violates the World Trade Organization (WTO) rule that prohibits higher taxing of imported products to favor local products.

Senate sees ‘tough debates’ with House on tax package BusinessMirror 28th Nov 2017
The Senate-approved Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) that is targeting to raise P130 billion in fresh revenues to bankroll the Duterte administration’s infrastructure program is expected to encounter rough sailing in bicameral talks when the Senate and House panels meet to reconcile conflicting provisions in the bill.

Southeast Asia's poorest mostly Filipinos, Indonesians – ASEAN report Rappler 19th Nov 2017
Around 90% of the 36 million people in Southeast Asia living below the international poverty line are Filipinos and Indonesians, according to a development report released by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). The report was launched on November 17 in Jakarta, Indonesia by the ASEAN, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and China, and titled “ASEAN-China-UNDP Report on Financing the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in ASEAN: Strengthening Integrated National Financing Frameworks to Deliver the 2030 Agenda.” It noted, however, that extreme poverty in the region dropped to 7% as of 2013 from a high of 17% in 2005. The report focuses mainly how to streamline development financing in Southeast Asia, with a focus on China’s “strengthened” role of financing in ASEAN.

Duterte to ask Congress to rush removal of foreign investment limits Philippine Daily Inquirer 16th Nov 2017
President Duterte is expected to issue a memorandum circular ordering concerned government agencies and requesting Congress to fast-track removal of foreign investment restrictions that require legislation, the country’s chief economist said Thursday. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters that the upcoming presidential order will complement the moves to liberalize the foreign investment negative list (FINL), which is also pending the President’s approval. Pernia, who also heads the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority, said to be removed from the FINL were the eight to 10 sectors, including the following: professions (teaching of foreign professors from foreign universities); public utilities such as telecommunications (except water, sewerage and electricity distribution); and construction, specifically contractors, among others. Last month, Pernia said mass media and almost every sector except land will be further opened up to foreign equity two years from now through an amendment of the Constitution seen pushing through next year. Once the government’s plan to liberalize nearly all industries by 2019 happens, foreign direct investment (FDI) inflows could “easily double,” Pernia had said.

Customs

Duty-Free access to US for agriculture, garments pushed philstar.com 16th Nov 2017
The Philippines will push for duty-free access of garments, textiles, wrist watches and agriculture products to the US as preliminary talks for a potential bilateral free trade agreement (FTA) would likely start by the end of the month.

PH Customs in pre-shipment inspection talks with Malaysia, Indonesia Asia Customs & Trade 23rd Nov 2017
The Philippines’ Bureau of Customs (BOC) is proposing bilateral arrangements with counterparts in Malaysia and Indonesia on goods in transit, including pre-shipment inspection (PSI). BOC made the proposal during the recent 11th Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA) Heads of Customs Meeting in Malaysia, Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña said in a press conference on November 20. Lapeña said the agreement includes implementing PSI to provide the correct values of goods from the port of origin to the port of destination. Lapeña has been calling for the strict implementation of correct valuation, instead of benchmarking, in order to collect the right dues and increase revenue collection. Asked about plans to also implement PSI together with other countries for all containerized cargoes entering the Philippines, Lapeña said “not all countries are in favor of pre-shipment inspection,” which is why BOC is doing bilateral agreements instead.

Manila’s turn to host customs meeting in 2018 BusinessMirror 20th Nov 2017
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) said the Philippines will host a working meeting with the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-Eaga) in 2018, to address social and economic development issues in so-called less-developed areas and enhance economic trade and reforms in the customs-clearing process between the countries. According to the BOC, the Philippines will host the BIMP-Eaga Customs, Immigration, Quarantine and Security Working Group meeting in 2018, as a result of the recently concluded 11th BIMP-Eaga Heads of Customs Meeting held in Malaysia on November 13. At the two-day meeting last week, Customs Commissioner Isidro S. Lapeña proposed before other customs leaders a time-release study (TRS) on port clearance that will measure the duration of shipment arrival at its destination and its exit from ports.

PH Customs turning to foreign partners for ICT modernization plan Asia Customs & Trade 15th Nov 2017
The Philippine Bureau of Customs (BOC) is tapping international institutions for the implementation of its automation project, according to Customs Commissioner Isidro Lapeña. The customs chief, in an interview with PortCalls on the sidelines of the Chamber of Customs Brokers, Inc. 27th National Convention in Davao City held November 4, said he will be meeting this month or the next with World Bank, which is preparing a modernization plan that includes an information and communications technology (ICT) upgrade for the customs bureau. The Washington-based lender said the US$200-million Philippines Customs and Trade Facilitation Project (PCTFP) aims to support export-led economic growth by assisting BOC in reducing trade costs, improving transparency, and increasing revenue collection.

Defense & Security

PH Navy to get first missile system by Christmas Manila Times 21st Nov 2017
THE Philippine Navy announced on Monday said it would mount its first missile system on three of its brand new multi-purpose attack craft (MPAC) by Christmas time.Vice Admiral Ronald Joseph Mercado, the Philippine Navy chief, said there would be a pre-delivery inspection of the Rafael Advanced Defense Systems Ltd.’s Spike ER (extended range) missile systems from Israel on the Philippine Navy’s MPACs. “A pre-delivery inspection is already scheduled. Then a [Philippine] Air Force plane will go to Israel to transport the missiles to the Philippines. All expenses paid by the proponent,” Mercado told reporters in a text message.He added that the tentative fitting of the missile system would be in December. The missile system is capable of penetrating 1,000 millimeters or 39 inches of rolled homogeneous armor and has a maximum range of five miles. Its missile weapons are on anti-ship mode, which means it can engage surface-level targets. It was purchased by the government for P270 million.

NDF calls for more frequent attacks philstar.com 1st Dec 2017
Communist rebels warned yesterday of “more frequent and more intensified attacks” against the government once President Duterte formally tags the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and its armed wing the New People’s Army (NPA) as terrorist groups. The National Democratic Front (NDF), the umbrella organization representing the CPP-NPA in peace negotiations with the government, threatened to wage war if Duterte continues to ignore the peace efforts and officially classifies the rebels as terrorists. Duterte on Wednesday said he has ordered security forces to shoot communist rebels bearing firearms. He revealed an executive order is being prepared to declare the NPA as a terrorist group.

AFP: Maute remnants regrouping in Lanao Philippine Daily Inquirer 30th Nov 2017
The top aide of slain terror leader Omarkhayam Maute has reportedly been recruiting residents, especially young men, in Lanao del Sur province as the Maute terror group tries to rebuild its forces after its defeat following a five-month battle in this provincial capital, a military official said. Col. Romeo Brawner Jr., deputy commander of the military’s Joint Task Force Ranao, said one Abu Dar was among the Maute group’s “second line” leaders who escaped the war and was now trying to reorganize the Islamic State (IS)-inspired group that laid siege to Marawi on May 23. “The [reported] recruitment efforts for training of new fighters of IS-Maute terrorist group were monitored in the towns of Piagapo, Lumbacaunayan and Sultan Domalondong,” said Brawner, noting that he received the information from locals. He said Abu Dar, who carried a P3-million bounty on his head, had been using images of Marawi’s devastation to win recruits.

What’s Next for the Philippines as Duterte Ends Communist Peace Talks? The Diplomat 25th Nov 2017
This week, Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte signed a proclamation terminating the peace process with the communist-led National Democratic Front (NDF). Though it is still too early to determine exactly what this means for one of Asia’s longest insurgencies, the development bears careful watching in the context of the Duterte administration’s evolving governance of the Philippines. Though there have been previous pronouncements which have simply suspended peace talks, Duterte’s proclamation signed on November 23 is different because it formally closes the door for now to the resumption of negotiations. In that sense, it represents an end to the peace process for the first time since 1999, when former President Joseph Estrada issued a similar directive and launched an all-out war campaign against communist rebels belonging to the New People’s Army (NPA).

Economics

Philippine investment boom leaves neighbors in the dust BusinessWorld 30th Nov 2017
CAPITAL INVESTMENT in the Philippines is surging past the rest of Southeast Asia as the government and firms ramp up spending. In the first nine months of this year, net physical assets in the Philippines grew by 10.4% from a year earlier. That compared with a 6.9% increase in Malaysia and 5.8% gain in Indonesia, according to data from statistics offices. There’s reason to remain bullish on the outlook. Philippine government spending jumped by 28% in October, the largest rise in almost a year, with another record budget planned for 2018. President Rodrigo R. Duterte is building a network of railroads and highways across the archipelago in an ambitious $180-billion infrastructure program. Investment firing up adds another engine to the economy, headed for a sixth year of growth exceeding six percent and among the world’s best performers. Mr. Duterte wants to transform the Philippines into an upper-middle income country by the end of his term in 2022, and the cornerstone of his vision is a plan referred to as “Build, Build, Build.” It includes the capital’s first subway and a 653-kilometer railway to the south.

Peso sustains climb BusinessWorld 29th Nov 2017
THE PESO continued to soar against the dollar on Tuesday to hit its highest level in over three months as anticipation over the Philippine tax reform package and uncertainty over the US tax reform grew. The local currency finished at P50.35 against the greenback yesterday, 16 centavos stronger than its P50.51 close on Monday. Yesterday’s finish was also its best level since its P50.16-per-dollar finish last Aug. 8.The peso traded stronger the whole day, opening the session at P50.40, while its intraday low was seen at P50.43. Its best showing for the day was at P50.315 against the greenback.

Spending surge drives Oct. budget gap BusinessWorld 23rd Nov 2017
THE NATIONAL government’s budget gap grew ninefold in October from a year ago as spending surged at its fastest clip in 11 months.According to Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) data shown to reporters yesterday, the government’s budget balance amounted to a P21.8-billion deficit last month from a P2.3-billion gap in October 2016.The national government spent P226.9 billion in October, 28.2% more than the year-ago’s P177 billion. This was the fastest pace since November 2016’s 33% spending growth.

Indicators point to faster growth in Q4–think tank BusinessMirror 22nd Nov 2017
If the third quarter brought a better-than-expected growth, local think tank Capital Markets Development Initiative (CMDI) expects the economy to perform even better in the fourth quarter. In a phone interview with the BusinessMirror, University of the Asia and the Pacific and CMDI Senior Economist Victor Abola said the think tank expects the economy to expand by around 6.9 percent to 7 percent in the last three months of the year.

Is the Philippines saving enough to finance its economic growth? BusinessWorld 22nd Nov 2017
ECONOMIC EXPANSION last quarter beat market expectations, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Thursday, affirming the country’s place among Asia’s fastest-growing major economies and firming expectations among some analysts of interest rate hikes by next year.

BSP readies tools as risks rise with global interest rates BusinessWorld 22nd Nov 2017
THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) is prepared to tweak its policy settings to address market volatility that could emerge from rising global interest rates, the central bank chief said, even as he noted that domestic growth and price dynamics remain sustainable so far.BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. said uncertainty over the pace of monetary policy tightening in the United States and other advanced economies would likely trigger “bouts of volatility” in financial markets worldwide, together with exchange rate movements, concerns on overheating and disruptive financial technology.

The Philippines records highest foreign investment growth in ASEAN Oxford Business Group 22nd Nov 2017
On the back of efforts to encourage more international business activity, the Philippines registered the highest rate of foreign direct investment (FDI) growth in the ASEAN region last year, with the country hoping to capitalise on the global attention generated by hosting the bloc’s most recent summit to enhance trade and investment flows. As regional and global leaders converged on Manila this month for the 31st ASEAN Summit and sideline events, part of the organisation’s 50th anniversary celebrations, the ASEAN Investment Report revealed that FDI to the Philippines grew by 40% between 2015 and 2016 to $7.9bn. This increase, the largest in the association, saw the country become the fourth-highest recipient of FDI in the 10-nation group, up from sixth in 2015. The positive trajectory bucked the overall trend in ASEAN, with FDI to the bloc as a whole falling by 20% between 2015 and 2016. Much of this decline was attributed to a drop in investment flows to Indonesia, Thailand and Singapore, which brought down the overall total.

Economic growth surges in Philippines despite political risk Financial Times 21st Nov 2017
While human rights campaigners are keeping a grim body count of Filipinos killed during Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs, economic managers in the populist president’s government are trying to call the world’s attention to another number: surging GDP growth. The Philippine economy expanded at an annualised rate of 6.9 per cent in the third quarter of this year. The figure was ahead of economists’ consensus forecasts and made it one of Asia’s best-performing economies for the period, just behind Vietnam but slightly ahead of China. Government officials say the expanding economy reflects early results from the president’s 10-point economic plan, nicknamed “Dutertenomics”, which includes a massive $180bn infrastructure programme called “Build Build Build” aimed at pushing spending on building projects to 5 per cent of gross domestic product. The Philippines is now on track to meet the government’s full-year growth target of 6.5-7.5 per cent. An expanding economy will be welcomed by Philippine businesses and foreign investors accustomed to vertiginous swings in the country’s politics that can hit investor sentiment and cause companies to put on hold their business plans for one of Southeast Asia’s most populous countries. While companies are optimistic about the economy, they are also concerned about some of Mr Duterte’s blistering rhetoric and contentious policies towards his rivals. 

Peza investment pledges up nearly 90% in January-October | BusinessMirror BusinessMirror 20th Nov 2017
Investment pledges registered at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) in January to October jumped by almost 90 percent to P203.18 billion, from last year’s P107.34 billion. Figures from the Peza indicated that the Philippines attracted more big-ticket projects during the 10-month period, as the number of projects where investments will be channeled reached 484 this year, slightly higher than the 481 recorded last year. “The increase in investment pledges was driven mainly by the Duterte administration’s pursuit of good governance, incentives given by the Peza and the aggressive marketing and promotion of Peza to domestic enterprises,” Peza Director General Charito B. Plaza told the BusinessMirror via short message service.

Philippine GDP grows faster than expected by 6.9% in Q3 2017 Rappler 17th Nov 2017
Even if government spending and the agriculture sector slowed down, the country's gross domestic product (GDP)grew faster than expected by 6.9% in the 3rd quarter of 2017, the fastest in the last 4 quarters.

Energy

Gov’t to start technology procurement for fuel marking Philippine Daily Inquirer 27th Nov 2017
The government next month will start the procurement process for the fuel marking system to be implemented in the second half of next year as part of the first tax reform package, Department of Finance officials said. Finance Undersecretary Antonette C. Tionko told reporters last week that the terms of reference would be completed this month, to be followed by its publication in a newspaper to invite bidders. “Procurement is expected to start by December. The process will be finished by the first quarter, and we want to implement the system by the second half,” Tionko said. Several parties have expressed interest to bid as supplier of the fuel marking technology, Tionko added. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said they would study what type of technology to use for the fuel marking.

MGB wants to hike mining excise tax based on output BusinessMirror 27th Nov 2017
The Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) is more partial to adjusting the excise tax slapped on mining firms based on their minerals production than peg the increase at a uniform rate. Interviewed during the 64th Annual Mine Safety and Environment Conference (ANMSEC) in Baguio City last Thursday, MGB Director Wilfredo G. Moncano said the agency will soon come up with its proposal for hiking the excise tax on mining firms.

Press Release - PRIB: Senate oks bill cutting red tape in power projects Senate of the Philippines 27th Nov 2017
The Senate approved today on third and final reading a bill which sought to lower the costs of electricity in the country and build a robust energy sector. Senate Bill No. 1439, or the "Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (EVOSS) Act of 2017," sponsored and authored by Senator Sherwin Gatchalian, chair of the Senate Committee on Energy, was approved with 13 affirmative votes, one negative vote and no abstention. The bill was co-authored by Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri. Gatchalian said the bill primarily focused on eliminating "red-tape" or bureaucratic inefficiencies, redundancies and overlaps in the energy sector. He said the bill mandated the establishment of the Energy Virtual One Stop-Shop (EVOSS) under the supervision of by the Department of Energy (DOE). The EVOSS is an online system that "allows single submission and synchronous processing of required data and information and provides a single decision making portal for the evaluation of new power generation projects."

Duterte rejects MICC proposal to lift open-pit mining ban Rappler 21st Nov 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Tuesday, November 21, that he will reject the recommendation of the Mining Industry Coordinating Council (MICC) to lift the ban on open-pit mining. "Ayaw ko (I don't like it) because it is destroying the soil and walang corrective measures kaagad (there are no corrective measures right away)," he told reporters during an interview in Taguig City. Duterte said he would have followed the recommendation if he were convinced that mining companies would be able to immediately rectify the damage to the environment wrought by their operations. (READ: Duterte warns miners: Spend on rehab 'or I'll tax you to death') "'Di na bale sana kung may makita akong (It would have been okay if I saw in the) scraped area, when I go back there to visit the place, I could see a lot of trees growing and the environment corrected of its destruction," the President said. He added that, as a Filipino, he is "hurt" by the impact of mining on the environment, all for the profit of big corporations.

Lawmaker seeks clear delineation of powers between ERC and PCC BusinessMirror 20th Nov 2017
The Senate Committee on Energy is urging  the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) and the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to clearly define their respective roles involving competition matters in the energy sector. Committee Chairman Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian said there has to be a clear delineation of powers between the two. The Electric Power Industry Reform Act  (Epira), the lawmaker said, gives ERC the power to enforce safeguards and promulgate rules and regulations to ensure and promote competition, encourage market development and customer choice, and discourage or penalize abuse of market power, cartelization, and any anticompetitive or discriminatory behavior. The Philippine Competition Act, on the other hand, gives PCC the power to enforce and regulate all competition-related issues. The enactment of Republic Act (RA) 10667, or the Philippine Competition Act specifies kinds of anti-competitive agreements and situations of abuse of dominant position. “Given these two regulatory bodies with seemingly overlapping mandates, stakeholders are in a quandary as to which agency to approach when it comes to competition matters in the energy sector. As such, the ERC and PCC must come together to clarify matters of jurisdiction, which, in the future, prevent inconsistency in rulings,” Gatchalian said.

Volatile coal price seen as risk for PH power sector InterAksyon 15th Nov 2017
The Philippines’ current account deficit could increase by $1.75 billion each year by 2021 because of the doubling in the price of world-traded thermal coal since the start of last year, the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis (IEEFA) said. In a new analysis released on Monday, the institute said at current market prices for benchmark coal of $100 per ton, the Philippines is poised to spend $3.5 billion every year for 35 million tons per annum (MTPA) of imports by 2021 in the International Energy Agency (IEA) Mid-Term Outlook. “The unpredictability of the coal market over the past year will drive higher electricity prices and threatens the industrial strategy of the Philippines,” said Sara Jane Ahmed, an analyst at IEEFA. “The dramatic price spike should signal to the Philippines’ Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) to put an end to the automatic pass-through of costs, which means ratepayers absorb the price increases and utilities have no incentive to adopt cleaner, cheaper renewable energy,” she added.

Financial Services

ADB approves support for Philippines’ financial sector reforms Public Finance International 27th Nov 2017
The Asian Development Bank has approved a $300m loan and a $500,000 technical assistance grant to support the Philippines’ financial sector reforms. The support will help the government’s efforts to develop the domestic capital market finance infrastructure and strengthen the framework for public-private partnerships. Stephen Schuster, the bank’s Southeast Asia department’s principal financial sector specialists, said: “Given the preferred diversified funding mix, the government’s recent initiatives to improve the capital markets are encouraging and well-timed.”

BSP paves way for start of repurchase mart BusinessWorld 25th Nov 2017
THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) Monetary Board has approved a zero-percent reserve requirement on repurchase (repo) transactions ahead of the start of organized market operations on Monday, the BSP said in a statement on Friday. Circular No. 983, signed by BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. on Nov. 23, amended the Manual of Regulations for Banks to assign a zero percent rate of required reserves for deposit substitutes under repo arrangements from four percent currently. The circular takes effect on Nov. 27. “In support of the comprehensive initiative to develop the domestic local currency debt market, the Monetary Board approved the issuance of a circular assigning a zero-percent reserve requirement on repurchase transactions under the Government Securities Repo Program,” the statement read. This latest reform measure is expected to enhance liquidity and deepen the domestic debt market, according to the BSP and the November issue of the Asian Bond Monitor which the Asian Development Bank (ADB) released on Friday. The repo market forms part of the government’s road map for capital market reform that will deepen the local debt market — a plan that will be implemented in phases over the next 18 months.

SEC OK’s higher minimum public float BusinessWorld 22nd Nov 2017
COMPANIES planning to list on the bourse for the first time will now have to ensure that 20% of issued and outstanding shares will be freely available and tradable in the market, double the previous minimum after the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) approved the stiffer requirement. The country’s corporate regulator announced on Tuesday that it has doubled from 10% — in place since 2011 — the minimum public ownership requirement (MPO) of firms applying to conduct an initial public offering (IPO) in order to increase market liquidity.

Big banks’ NPLs climb BusinessWorld 22nd Nov 2017
SOURED DEBTS held by big banks inched slightly higher in the third quarter as total loans surged by a fifth, latest central bank data showed, which allowed lenders to post a modest increase in net profits. Non-performing loans (NPLs) held by universal and commercial banks reached P105.36 billion as of September, up by 7.1% from the P98.398 billion in bad debts posted a year ago and slightly higher than the P104.213 billion logged as of end-August.

Singapore, Philippines enter into fintech collaboration deal Singapore Business Review 17th Nov 2017
The Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) signed a FinTech Cooperation Agreement (CA) at the sidelines of Singapore’s Fintech Festival currently being held on November 13 to 17.

Food & Agriculture

PH needs fisheries department, aquaculture experts say Philippine Daily Inquirer 30th Nov 2017
The government needs to create a Department of Fisheries in order to improve fish production for domestic consumption and for export, leading aquaculture experts said here on Tuesday. Rafael Guerrero, the scientist who developed the sex reversal technology used in culturing all-male tilapia, said the country trailed behind China, Indonesia and other Asian countries in the production of tilapia, bangus (milkfish) and seaweeds. Guerrero, who was honored along with another scientist by the National Integrated Fisheries Technology Development Center here, said the creation of a fisheries department would also enable the country to take care of its waters. The country’s fishery sector is currently administered by the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), which is under the Department of Agriculture.

SRA suspends approvals for imports of corn sweetener BusinessWorld 27th Nov 2017
THE Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said it will stop approving import applications for high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) amid an investigation into the decline of sugarcane prices. The agency was responding to an appeal from the Sugar Alliance of the Philippines (SAP), which is seeking to determine the effect of HFCS imports on the continued decline of sugar prices. According to SRA data, as of Nov. 5, the composite price of sugar was P1,189.98 per 50 kilogram bag, against the P1,270.80 registered at the start of the 2017/2018 crop year. The sugar industry has blamed imports of HFCS, a sweetener used mostly by beverage makers, for the lackluster price of sugar. SAP also requested that the SRA suspend the approval of HFCS imports pending the investigation. SRA estimates that around 373,000 tons of HFCS were imported into the Philippines last year, crowding refined sugar out of the market. At the start of crop year 2016/2017, sugar prices hit highs of P1,720.23 per bag. But prices at the end of the crop year, which runs through September to August, fell to P1,153.90 per bag. — Janina C. Lim

PHL meat imports to hit record high–Mita BusinessMirror 27th Nov 2017
The country’s meat imports this year would hit another record high due to the sustained increase in the demand for processed-meat products, according to the Meat Importers and Traders Association (Mita). Data from the Bureau of Animal Industry (BAI) obtained by the BusinessMirror showed that meat imports from January to September this year reached 510,777.572 metric ton, 7.72 percent higher than the 474,163.290 MT recorded last year. The figure is just 135,726.128 MT short of the record-high 646,503.7 MT purchased by importers last year. MITA President Jesus C. Cham said imports in the October-to-December period would likely exceed 135,726.128 MT. “Demand from consumers continues to grow. In the fourth quarter, there’s strong demand from processors for mechanically deboned meat (MDM), bacon, and boneless pork for their hams,” Cham said in an interview on Monday.

Govt urged to review plan to let NFA produce other farm products BusinessMirror 27th Nov 2017
Expanding the market and distribution activities of the National Food Authority (NFA) by including nongrain commodities could cause the government to incur losses, according to local economists. Rolando T. Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s Center for Food and Agri Business, said the proposal to allow the NFA to procure and distribute nongrain commodities, such as fruit and fish, should be scrutinized. “This proposal [expanding NFA’s role] needs multisectoral review by the public sector and business groups. The government should not be in business,” Dy told the BusinessMirror via e-mail. “In the past, the NFA incurred losses with Kadiwa. It will also compete with the private sector, which can do a better job,” he said, adding the food agency “should just stick to rice-buffer stock management.” Dy said the Philippines should emulate its neighbors in Southeast Asia whose governments did not intervene in their food market. “We must learn from the Asean experience. The private sector and well-organized producers can do better.”

GMOs as safe as conventional food, beneficial for farmers — scientists GMA News Online 23rd Nov 2017
Genetically modified food is as safe as traditionally-cultivated and organic food and has additional nutrients to supplement the needs of common Filipino families, according to scientists. The scientists from the Department of Agriculture (DA), International Rice Research Institute (IRRI), and Biotechnology Coalition of the Philippines (BCP) reassured the public that GMO (Genetically Modified Organisim) food is safe at a forum on Thursday that reaffirmed truths about the controversial subject.

Piñol asks ‘bigger role’ for NFA Manila Bulletin Business 20th Nov 2017
As he expects the country to slowly reduce its dependence on imported rice, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol wants to make sure that National Food Authority (NFA) won’t run out of things to do, which prompted him to ask President Rodrigo Duterte to give the state-run grains agency a “bigger role.” NFA, however, has remained unfazed, saying that whatever the law would say of its mandate, they are willing to follow it. “As your Secretary of Agriculture, I am recommending that the National Food Authority (NFA) be given a bigger role to perform in ensuring stable food supply in the market while at the same time allowing farmers and fisher folks access to the market,” Piñol told Duterte over the weekend. “The NFA should no longer be just a rice importing agency, especially so since we expect to produce enough supply by the year 2020,” he added.

Banana sector’s issues to be raised at WTO talks Manila Bulletin News 19th Nov 2017
President Rodrigo Duterte said the Philippine Government would raise concern during the World Trade Organization talks this December about backchannel negotiations between Filipino banana exporters and countries that are traditional buyers of the Philippine commodity. Speaking to reporters at the Abreeza Ayala Mall Saturday, President Duterte said that this would be raised during meetings with other nations. President Duterte was the guest of honor at the launching of TienDA Farmers and Fisherfolk Outlets, a partnership between the Department of Agriculture and the Ayala Malls (Accendo Commercial Corporation) at the Asian Food Market site of the mall. According to Duterte, Ayala Corporation stepped forward to provide a site in its malls as a “bagsakan” for produce and fresh products.

Group says DAR now moving to hasten land-use conversion BusinessMirror 16th Nov 2017
The Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said they have reasons to believe that the DAR is moving to hasten the process of land-use conversion now that Rafael V. Mariano is no longer in charge of the agency. According to the KMP, the DAR held the National Stakeholders Forum on Land Use Conversion recently. Under the guise of holding a consultative meeting with stakeholders, the DAR aims to hasten the bureaucratic processes on the conversion of lands, the group said. “This is a total reversal of what former Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael  V. Mariano asserted during his term—a two-year moratorium on land-use conversion. The primary disposition of lands should be for agriculture and food production,” the group added.

Health & Life Sciences

ASEAN adopts pact on microbial resistance Manila Times 21st Nov 2017
Leaders of Association of Southeast Asian Nations member-states have adopted the Declaration on Anti-Microbial Resistance (AMR) as an outcome of the 31st Asean, the Department of Health (DOH) announced last week. “With the political commitment to combat AMR gathered from the heads of the Aseam member-states, the Declaration was finally adopted on 13 November 2017 in time for the celebration of the 31st Asean Summit,” the DOH said in a statement. It said leaders of the 10 Asean member-countries have agreed to adopt the “One Health” approach to tackle the pressing issue on AMR that would ensure a holistic, multi-sectoral, and multi-disciplinary approach in combating it at the regional and country levels. “It’s a one health approach because it does not only concern human health but it will also affect animal health. With Asean, our approach is really to integrate different actions coming from both human and animal health sectors,” DOH spokesperson, medical doctor Lyndon Lee Suy, explained in a recent media briefing.

FDA cites Duque’s role in approval of contraceptives Manila Bulletin 21st Nov 2017
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recently lauded the “valuable role” played by newly appointed Health Secretary Francisco Duque in the “timely conclusion of the recertification of the 51 contraceptive products ordered reviewed by the Supreme Court (SC).” In a media briefing recently, FDA Director-General Nela Charade Puno said “Secretary Duque’s acceptance of the health portfolio was well-timed and was a blessing to the FDA.” “In more ways than one, Secretary Duque’s guidance to, as well as his confidence and trust in, the processes and procedures of the FDA, proved to be very valuable as the reevaluation and recertification process came to the homestretch,” Puno explained. The FDA head had earlier hinted that the agency was “under pressure” from various quarters as it reviewed and reevaluated the contraceptive products to ensure that these are safe and non-abortifacient as direct by the SC. “Secretary Duque provided that assurance that the results of the FDA review will stand the scrutiny both of its stakeholders and critics because the review is based on a scientific and technical process,” Puno said. “That assurance boosted our confidence in the integrity of both the process and its results,” Puno added.

House OKs comprehensive mental health bill InterAksyon 20th Nov 2017
Voting 223-0, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading the country’s first Comprehensive Mental Health Care bill, which will aim at giving Filipinos access to free mental health services. If House Bill No. 6452 has the same provisions as the Senate version, which was earlier approved, then the bill would no longer go through the bicameral conference committee meeting but go straight to Malacañang for President Rodrigo Duterte’s signature, Majority Leader Rodolfo Fariñas said. The bill seeks to promote mental wellness, prevent the progress of mental health problems through intervention, and properly address existing mental disorders. One key features of HB6452 is the inclusion of substance addiction in the coverage of the Comprehensive Mental Health Act, such that any person who is covered under the Dangerous Drugs Act shall undergo assessment and examination, and if diagnosed with a clinical condition, shall have the right to mental health care services as provided.

ICT

Business leaders want open field for telco philstar.com 28th Nov 2017
Business leaders have lauded President Duterte’s push to break the “duopoly” in the country’s telecommunications industry, but pointed out this should not be limited to Chinese companies.

Regulations are key to unlock optimal benefits of digital economy–PIDS BusinessMirror 18th Nov 2017
Digital economy is beneficial, but it must be regulated. According to Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) President Gilberto Llanto, the digital economy is “arguably changing the landscapes of job, product, and service markets.”

Due to heavy traffic, e-commerce in the Philippines is booming philstar.com 17th Nov 2017
Such has been the assertion of Inanc Balci, president, co-founder and community chief executive officer for e-commerce portal Lazada, which claims to be the number one marketplace and the seventh most accessed website in the Philippines.

DTI to launch mentorship for digital startups SunStar 16th Nov 2017
FROM offering mentorship programs to traditional micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Cebu expands mentorship to tech startups.

Gov’t not interested in being 3rd telco player Philippine Daily Inquirer 27th Nov 2017
The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) vowed that the government would not establish a competing telecommunications player, saying it could support competition in the sector in other ways. Acting Communications Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr., in a social media post, cited the lessons learned from previous efforts such as the Telecommunications Office, which has since been abolished, and Telepono sa Barangay, which failed to lure critical support from the private sector in the early 2000s. Moreover, President Duterte has signaled last week that he preferred that a Chinese telco company would enter the Philippines to challenge PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom.

PCC backs Duterte offer to China to end duopoly | BusinessMirror BusinessMirror 22nd Nov 2017
The country’s competition body is backing President Duterte’s offer to China to break the duopoly in the telecommunications (telco) industry and liberate Filipinos from the burden of paying relatively high fees for slow Internet service.Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) Chairman Arsenio M. Balisacan said the President did the correct thing in giving China the privilege to enter the Philippine telco industry.

‘BPO sector to end 2017 on positive note’ | BusinessMirror BusinessMirror 21st Nov 2017
The Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines (Ibpap) remains optimistic that the business-process outsourcing (BPO) sector will post positive growth by the end of the year. The Ibpap noted that investment pledges registered at the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) continues to show signs of recovery. Rey Untal, Ibpap’s president and CEO, noted that the proposed Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) has also buoyed the sentiment of major BPO players.

Philippine gov't, Facebook partner for 'ultra high-speed' broadband Rappler 15th Nov 2017
The Philippine government teamed up with Facebook to build "ultra high-speed" broadband infrastructure, which would make the government virtually a 3rd major player in the telecommunications industry. Called the Luzon Bypass Infrastructure, it would involve two cable landing stations connected by a 250-kilometer-long cable network corridor. On Wednesday, November 15, the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA), along with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) and Facebook, signed an agreement for the Strategic Engagement and Collaboration to Undertake a Reliable and Efficient Government Internet (SECURE GovNet) project. "The cable will provide direct connections from Luzon to internet hubs in the United States and Asia," DICT Officer-in-Charge Eliseo Rio Jr said. As the first party to utilize the infrastructure, Facebook would build and operate a submarine cable system that would land in the cable stations on the east and west coasts of Luzon. "In exchange for utilizing the bypass infrastructure, Facebook will provide the Philippine government with spectrum equivalent to at least two million megabits per second (Mbps)," Rio said. The DICT official said this capacity is almost equal to the current combined capacity of Globe Telecom Incorporated and PLDT Incorporated, making the government virtually a 3rd major player in the telecommunications industry.

Infrastructure

Govt to consider Clark airport plan Manila times 21st Nov 2017
An unsolicited private sector proposal to develop Clark International Airport into an international gateway will be considered by the government, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said on Monday. “DOTr and BCDA will thoroughly review the legal, technical, and financial aspects of the proposal within a specified timeline and strict deadline based on the required processes and regulations,” they said in a joint statement. At the same time, the DOTr and the BCDA said they were “on track with the bidding for the construction of a new passenger terminal building in the Clark International Airport wherein 12 local and foreign firms bought bid documents.”

ODA hard to refuse because of low rates — DBM BusinessWorld 29th Nov 2017
OFFICIAL development assistance (ODA) financing for infrastructure is difficult to turn down because of the low cost, and will help bring about a “revolutionary” revival of Philippine infrastructure, a budget department official said. Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Fiscal Planning and Reforms Bureau Director Rolando U. Toledo said during the panel discussion at the second Philippine Construction Congress that recent bilateral agreements have shifted the government’s focus outward. “We have bilateral discussion[s] with China and Japan… so you can just imagine the lower interest rate that is being offered to the Philippines. We cannot just say no to that, to the offers of Japan and China.” “That is probably one of the considerations of the government [in choosing how projects are financed].” Last week, the Philippines signed a memorandum of cooperation with Japan’s Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, Transport, and Tourism. Earlier, the Philippines signed an ODA deal for 10 bridge projects with China worth P146 billion. Mr. Toledo said that with the government’s plan to spend almost P9 trillion from 2017 to 2022, infrastructure spending will rise from 5.4% of the gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017 to 9.3% of GDP by the time President Rodrigo R. Duterte finishes his term.

DOTr to renew feasibility studies for regional airports philstar.com 27th Nov 2017
Renewed feasibility studies for the country’s four regional airports will be conducted before the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the airports can be bidded out, an official of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said. “A proponent cannot do a feasibility study. It has to be us. A feasibility study is only valid for five years,” DOTr Undersecretary for Aviation Manuel Antonio Tamayo told reporters, noting that the previous feasibility studies for the regional airports have already lapsed the five-year period. The new feasibility studies will cover the four regional airports particularly the  Davao, Iloilo, Laguindingan and Bacolod airports. Tamayo said the New Bohol (Panglao) airport would not be part of the feasibility studies, as it is already set to begin operations next year.

Be it via PPP or BBB, PHL needs to bridge infrastructure gap fast–experts BusinessMirror 27th Nov 2017
GIVEN the “chronic infrastructure gap” in the Philippines, the government must look into different modes of funding and project-implementation schemes to improve the speed of the delivery of much-needed infrastructure to Filipinos. This was the consensus among panelists at the infrastructure-funding forum of Euromoney Conferences in Bonifacio Global City on Monday. Asian Development Bank Principal Investment Offer Alix Burrell said her group believes that there is room for all modes of infrastructure-funding schemes in the Philippines—including the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Program.

DPWH eyes P50-B road project Philippine Daily Inquirer 27th Nov 2017
The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) disclosed a plan to pursue a P50-billion road project that would connect Metro Manila to key provincial areas that ring the Laguna Lake. The project was dubbed the Laguna Lakeshore Road Network Project, which would be studied with the support of a technical assistance loan from the Asian Development Bank. Moreover, the DPWH expects the submission of technical proposals for roads and bridges on Dec. 1, 2017. According to the DPWH, the Laguna Lakeshore Road Network would span 90 kilometers and will link Bicutan in Taguig, Metro Manila, to Los Baños in Laguna and several towns in Rizal. The project’s implementation period will start from 2018 through 2026, according to the DPWH. The project appears to bear components of the Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike public-private partnership (PPP) project, a P123-billion undertaking that was shelved last year after private sector bidders backed out.