Philippines Update: April 12, 2018

Philippines Update | April 12, 2018
Authors: Riley Smith and Joyce Lin
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

April 16: BRI Business Dialogue: Navigating Infrastructure Opportunities for Fruitful Collaboration

April 18: First Planning Call for the 2018 ASEAN Directors-General of Customs Meeting

April 26: US-ABC Annual Gala Dinner

May 2-4: Mission to the 2018 to the ASEAN Directors-General of Customs Meeting

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

China’s Role in Marawi’s Rehabilitation to Be Test for Duterte’s Foreign Policy
President Rodrigo Duterte continued with his policy of deepening the Philippines’ economic ties with China during his April 9-12 visit to the country to participate in the annual Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan Province. During his visit, which included a bilateral meeting with President Xi Jinping of China, Duterte witnessed the signing of six bilateral agreements with China, including agreements on economic and technical cooperation. A main focus of the trip was increasing Chinese investment in Philippine infrastructure, including the role that China will play in rebuilding the battle-ravaged city of Marawi. After relations between China and the Philippines risked hitting a new low in the wake of a ruling by the Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague that essentially invalidated Beijing’s South China Sea claims, the Duterte administration has consciously “set aside,” in the words of Duterte, the ruling to instead focus on mending Sino-Philippine relations and attracting greater Chinese investment.

Up to now, the promises of Chinese capital inflows to fund infrastructure projects have been lacking or slow in execution, despite fanfare surrounding the signing of numerous MOUs during Duterte’s visit to China in October 2016. However, China’s expected primary role in rebuilding Marawi, the city in northern Mindanao that was heavily damaged during five-months of intense fighting between the Armed Forces of the Philippines and Islamic State-inspired militants, will be among the most significant tests to date of Duterte’s deliberate shift in foreign policy towards Beijing. By the time of Duterte’s recent visit to China, the Philippines had already chosen a consortium led by China State Construction Engineering Corp. (CSCEC), the largest construction and engineering firm in the world, to assist with Marawi’s rehabilitation, which is estimated to cost P72 billion (US$1.4 billion). Officials expect the contract to be finalized in May. The rebuilding of Marawi was reportedly one of the topics discussed during the bilateral meeting between Duterte and Xi. The two also reportedly agreed to pursue joint offshore oil development in the South China Sea (see the Council’s Take below for further details on this topic), and China pledged an additional P3.8 billion (US$73 million) in economic assistance to the Philippines. China’s role in Marawi’s rehabilitation is likely to move the Philippines’ closer to becoming a more significant part of China’s Belt and Road initiative, a regional infrastructure initiative that has provided public infrastructure in several other ASEAN countries. Both countries are expected to sign an MOU on the initiative, potentially during Xi’s recently announced visit to the Philippines in November of this year. 

However, the increasingly warming ties exemplified by China’s role in Marawi’s rehabilitation are likely to further embolden Beijing to continue its militarization activities in the disputed areas of the South China Sea. For example, just one day after the bilateral meeting between Xi and Duterte, a spokesman for China’s Ministry of National Defense asserted that China has the “natural right” to deploy troops and construct military structures in the Spratly Islands. The remark came after new reports that China had deployed communications and radar jamming equipment on two of its outposts in the Spratly Islands.

Philippines and China Discuss Joint Oil and Gas Exploration in South China Sea
Philippines Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano visited Beijing, China, on March 20 at the invitation of Chinese Foreign minister Wang Yi to discuss a legal framework through which both countries could pursue offshore oil and gas exploration schemes. After the meeting, the Chinese Foreign Minister said that China will prudently advance cooperation with the Philippines on joint oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea, a portion of the South China Sea that falls within the Philippines’ Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ). During President Rodrigo Duterte’s visit to China to participate in the annual Boao Forum for Asia, Duterte and Xi reportedly discussed joint offshore oil development in the West Philippine Sea and subsequently agreed to craft a framework for joint exploration. The timeline for the crafting of the framework is currently unclear.

President Duterte had said as early as May 2017 that he was open to possible collaboration with Beijing in exploring and extracting mineral and gas resources in the West Philippine Sea. In a press briefing on March 5, Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque Jr. recently reiterated that joint explorations with other claimant countries of the South China Sea are allowed by law, and highlighted that it is not the first time countries with contesting territorial claims entered into joint developments of disputed areas. He also announced that the Philippines has identified two areas for possible joint oil exploration with China – sites which were covered by service contracts 57 and 72, exploration permits issued by Department of Energy. He stated that these two areas are both within the Philippines’ EEZ. 

The Philippines and China had earlier convened the Second Meeting of the Bilateral Consultation Mechanism on the South China Sea on 13 February 2018 in Manila, Philippines. At the conclusion of the meeting, Secretary Cayetano said that there is a commitment by China and all parties not to build on uninhabited features in accordance with the Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea. Nevertheless, in early April new reports were published asserting that China had deployed communications and radar jamming equipment on two of its outposts in the disputed Spratly Islands. He also confirmed that Filipino fishermen are once again plying Scarborough Shoal, and stated that the situation in the greater South China Sea has become more stable than in past years. Both countries also agreed to begin negotiations on a Code of Conduct on the South China Sea in early March. No updates on the progress of negotiations have been provided since then. China and ASEAN nations previously signed in 2002 a Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, which has not been implemented, even though both Philippines and China committed to the full and effective implementation of the 2002 declaration during the Bilateral Consultation Meeting.

BSP Exploring RegTech Solutions for Implementation Within the Year 
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)’s Deputy Governor Chuchi Fonacier said on April 2 that the BSP is currently exploring two regulatory technology (RegTech) solutions for implementation within the year. One of these solutions include the Application Programming Interface (API) to connect financial service providers to the BSP and the “chatbot” that would allow financial consumers to submit their concerns to the BSP via SMS, Viber and web portal. The second solution includes a prototype API and clearing house to allow financial institutions to submit data digitally and automatically to the BSP, and enable BSP staff to generate customized, higher-quality reports that would be meaningful for supervisory analysis and policy development. 

The BSP had stated in its 2017 Annual Report (available here) that it is exploring RegTech solutions mainly to streamline supervisory functions, particularly in terms of addressing regulatory compliance and reporting of its supervised financial institutions. The exploration of RegTech solutions is part of BSP’s partnership with RegTech for Regulators Accelerator (R2A), a pioneering project that provides technical assistance for financial sector regulators to develop and test the next generation of digital supervision tools and techniques. The BSP had signed the Project Charter in February 2017 with Bankable Frontier Associates (BFA) Global and the R2A Project Steering Committee. The R2A is fully funded by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, and Omidyar Network.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Duterte nets billion dollar deals, aid from China
Duterte Banks on China Ties to Repair War-Torn Philippine City
Philippines President Duterte says he needs China, 'loves' Xi Jinping
Duterte leaves for meeting with Xi, China forum
US firms hope digitalization will maximize FTA

National Affairs
DOF, PEZA set to clash over TRAIN 2 incentives
Duterte’s satisfaction rating remains ‘very good’ – SWS
National ID rollout seen early May
DOT chief eyes 3 to 4 months of Boracay shutdown
Businesses bracing for Boracay’s closure
Boracay closure seen to have minimal GDP impact
Senators eye ‘constitutional, healing’ BBL by May break
Dureza: Executive action on Bangsamoro Basic Law eyed
Impeachy keen: The chief justice of the Philippines is under attack

Customs
Duterte appoints official linked to drug shipment mess as Customs assistant commissioner
PH Customs defers for 3 weeks order on submission, counterchecking of list of importables
BIR, Customs collections up in first quarter

Economics
World Bank expects Philippine economy to 'maintain' growth in 2018, 2019
PHL needs to focus on new markets as trade war looms
Philippines could be hit worst in Southeast Asia by US-China trade spat
BSP sets ‘measured’ inflation response
S&P sees gradual tax reform benefits
Peso barely moves as inflation picks up
Gov’t raises P10B from three-year bonds
PH debt swelled to record P6.82T

Energy
Department of Energy taps US agencies for renewable energy site mapping
Power supply ‘sufficient’ throughout summer
Duterte, Xi give 'go signal' to craft joint exploration framework
Oil prices roll back this week
Gatchalian pushes review of electrification target
PH miners face stiffer competition in world market

Financial Services
Philippines Department of Finance establishing online payment gateway for government transactions
More lenders seen shifting to digital banking
PH eyes return to ‘panda’ bond market
Bank lending fuels continued growth in money supply

Food & Agriculture
As Philippine rice stock depletes, Duterte places NFA under his office
Agricultural food exports seen flat this year
Halal accreditation delayed over failure to harmonize standards
Philippines eyes bond float to fund agri projects
PH agri exports fell by 3.6% in Q4 2017
Gov’t eyes bond float to fund agri projects
SRA moves to boost sugar supply in domestic market

Health & Life Sciences
Health department needs ‘healing’, says chief physician
Experts press for update on traditional medicine law
CCT, health programs benefit poor Pinoy kids
After Dengvaxia scare, measles cases soar to 598

ICT
DICT lauds oversight committee for entry of 3rd telecom player
The Philippines is aiming to build a city of the future
Duterte aims for higher innovation, creativity rankings for Philippines
DTI and DOST Philippines partner to launch first government e-commerce platform
Philippines to provide incentives to returning scientists, inventors, and engineers

Infrastructure
Govt no longer accepting unsolicited bids for upgrade of regional airports
Operations and maintenance contract bidding slated in August for new Bohol Airport
Diokno ‘not happy’ with pace of infrastructure spending
Filipinos Get a Glimpse of Their Ruined City. The Chinese Get the Contract.
Gov’t targets 2018 OK for all major projects
Official: Marawi rehab to cost at least P72 billion
More major infrastructure projects up for final OK
NEDA body approves San Miguel's Bulacan airport, 8 other projects
Consortium: Government needs an upgraded Naia to make inclusive growth a reality

Manufacturing
TRAIN 2 fears stall manufacturing growth
Feb. factory output growth fastest in nearly 8 years
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Duterte nets billion dollar deals, aid from China ABS-CBN News 11th Apr 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte will come home from China with billions in dollars worth of investment pledges and aid from the Chinese government and businesses there. Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque said the Chinese government pledged to give 500 million renminbi (about P4.1 billion) in economic assistance to the Philippines. Roque made the announcement after the bilateral meeting between Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, where the Filipino leader extended his gratitude for Beijing’s military assistance to Manila as the latter dealt with the Marawi siege last year. Beijing donated some 3,000 rifles to the Philippine military and also pledged to help rebuild the southern city of Marawi, which was ravaged by 5 months of fighting between state troopers and Islamic State-inspired extremists. Duterte also told Xi he would like the Philippines and China to have the “fullest cooperation” in battling transnational crimes and terrorism. “China and the Philippines can do more to boost military and defense cooperation under the framework of the 2004 Memorandum of Understanding on Defense Cooperation,” he said. Duterte also witnessed the signing of letters of intent by Chinese companies eyeing to invest in the Philippines.

Duterte Banks on China Ties to Repair War-Torn Philippine City Bloomberg.com 9th Apr 2018
A resident stands among the rubbles of her destroyed house, as she tries to salvage belongings during a visit to the main battle area in Marawi City, on April 1. China will have a chance to showcase warmer ties with the Philippines if it wins a contract to rebuild a city ravaged by Islamic State-inspired terrorists last year, a cabinet member said. The contract for rebuilding Marawi, the country’s only Muslim-majority city, is expected to be finalized by the end of May, as the two nations seek to improve relations strained by a territorial dispute in the South China Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte’s government initially chose a group led by China State Construction Engineering Corp. to help in the 72 billion-peso ($1.4 billion) effort to rehabilitate the city. Among the five groups that submitted unsolicited bids, four are Chinese and one is Malaysian. “It will be a status symbol for China if they get this project,” Housing Secretary Eduardo del Rosario said in an interview in his office in Makati City, citing the warming relations between the two countries. “They would like to showcase to the Philippines that they are here to help.”

Philippines President Duterte says he needs China, 'loves' Xi Jinping CNN 9th Apr 2018
Speaking in Manila on Monday prior to his trip to China, Duterte said the Philippines needed to deepen ties with Beijing because China is willing to invest in his country. "I need China. More than anybody else at this point, I need China," Duterte said. "I simply love Xi Jinping. He understood, he understands my problem and is willing to help, so I would say thank you China." Every year, China holds a meeting of regional political and business leaders called the Boao Forum in the southern province of Hainan, similar to the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. The controversial Philippines President is expected to hold a bilateral meeting with Xi on the sidelines of the forum, and said on Monday infrastructure investment would be on top of the agenda. "Our destiny lies in Asia, not in the Middle East but they're too busy fighting and they don't have money. If you don't have money, you're not my friend. So I go to China. Plenty of money," Duterte said. It isn't the first time Duterte has spoken passionately about shifting closer to Beijing politically. In October 2016, he unexpectedly announced a military and economic "separation" from the United States during a Beijing trip. While the Philippines leader quickly backed down on his bold declaration, China's Xi nonetheless signed 13 bilateral deals with him on their first meeting, including on trade and investment.

Duterte leaves for meeting with Xi, China forum SunStar 9th Apr 2018
PRESIDENT Rodrigo Duterte on Monday, April 9, left the country to participate in the Boao Forum Asia (BFA) in Hainan, China. Duterte is also scheduled to meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping, in an effort to further bolster bilateral ties between the Philippines and China, and discuss several pressing issues, including the South China Sea dispute. "In our bilateral meeting, we will discuss the full range of the Philippines-Chinese relationships. As friends and sovereign equals, we will review the progress of our efforts and chart ways to ensure prosperity for our nation and region," Duterte said. "Make no mistake: there can be no progress without stability and security of Asia’s lands and waters. There continue to be threats from transnational crime, terrorism and violent extremism, and unresolved disputes. We will do our part as a responsible nation to address these threats into the region’s collective security," he added. Meanwhile, the President said he sees the Boao Forum as an opportunity to promote the Philippines' economic gains.

US firms hope digitalization will maximize FTA BusinessWorld 3rd Apr 2018
US businesses hope to maximize a possible Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Washington and Manila by pushing for seamless digital channels for trade, a member of the US-ASEAN Business Council said. “What we would be looking for mainly is a free and open digital world economy,” Michael W. Michalak, Senior Vice-President and Regional Managing Director of the Council, told BusinessWorld in an interview, when asked about its members’ wish list in an FTA. “We heard from just about every Cabinet official how every department is looking to become more digital, to use the Internet better. Nobody is satisfied with your current Internet,” Mr. Michalak said, recalling his dialogue with the country’s top economic managers during the group’s Philippine Business Mission in early March.

National Affairs

DOF, PEZA set to clash over TRAIN 2 incentives philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
The Department of Finance (DOF) and the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) are bound to clash as the latter vowed to fight for the retention of the current set of incentives it is offering investors amid ongoing moves to rationalize fiscal perks. PEZA director general Charito Plaza remains steadfast in protecting the interest of investors in line with ongoing discussions regarding the second tax reform package. Plaza said PEZA is bent on pushing for a status quo of its incentives under the second tax reform package. She said incentives are the primary reason foreign industries are investing in the Philippines, and the possibility of removal under the second package has caused some companies to hold back on their new investment and expansion plans. In fact, PEZA’s approved investment pledges declined 22 percent in the first two months of the year to P20.99 billion from P26.81 billion in the same period last year.

Duterte’s satisfaction rating remains ‘very good’ – SWS philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
President Duterte’s satisfaction rating remained “very good” in the first quarter of 2018, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) said in its latest survey. The survey, taken from March 23 to 27, found 70 percent of adult Filipinos satisfied and 14 percent dissatisfied with Duterte’s performance. The remaining 17 percent were undecided. This resulted in a net satisfaction rating of +56 classified by SWS as very good, two points below the very good +58 (78 percent satisfied, 12 percent dissatisfied) in December 2017. SWS attributed the two-point drop in the President’s net satisfaction rating to declines of 11 points in balance Luzon and one point in Metro Manila. It, however, rose by 12 points in the Visayas and two points in Mindanao. Duterte’s net satisfaction rating stayed very good in class ABC at +63 in March, three points below the +66 in December. It also stayed very good in class D or the masa at +57, unchanged from December. However, it fell by one grade from very good to good in class E at +48 in March, down by 17 points from +65 in December last year. The non-commissioned survey used face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults, 18 years old and above, nationwide.

National ID rollout seen early May philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
The government is hoping to roll out the national ID system using biometrics of all citizens and resident aliens in the Philippines as early as next month. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Gov. Nestor Espenilla Jr. said the launch of the national ID system supports the central bank’s aspiration for a more digital economy. “Our great expectation is that we will have finally a proper national ID law as early as next month,” he said. Espenilla pointed out the BSP has been a major partner in promoting the adoption of “what we call a foundational biometric ID system.” The Senate approved on third and final reading the bill, “An Act establishing the Philippine Identification System” last month. The House of Representatives approved the same measure in September last year. “There’s a meeting of the minds between the two houses. And we expect the bicameral conference committee to happen next month. The bill has also been certified as urgent,” he added. To significantly catalyze a digital ecosystem, the BSP believes there must be a reliable national digital identification system to address persistent customer on-boarding issues due to lack of acceptable IDs and the highly inefficient paper-based KYC (know your customer) processes. The envisioned national ID system is designed to ensure universal coverage, data integrity and security, and optimum utility and would serve as an enabling platform for the efficient delivery of a whole range of government and private sector services for all Filipinos.

DOT chief eyes 3 to 4 months of Boracay shutdown philstar.com 11th Apr 2018
Despite President Rodrigo Duterte’s approval to close Boracay for six months, the Department of Tourism head on Wednesday said she is working on finishing the rehabilitation work for Boracay within only three to four months. Tourism chief Wanda Tulfo-Teo said she is requesting to hasten the rehabilitation in Boracay so that it would reopen sooner than six months. “That's why I wanted it total closure for us to do it fast. If it’s total closure, no tourist can enter the island so we really have to work fast,” Teo explained in ANC . Last week, Duterte approved the proposal to shut down Boracay for six months to pave way for the resolution of its environmental problems. The order would take effect by April 26. Teo is confident that the world-famous island can be reopened before six months. She said this was despite Interior and Local Government chief’s pronouncement that the island needs six months recovery break.

Businesses bracing for Boracay’s closure BusinessWorld 6th Apr 2018
A DECISION by President Rodrigo R. Duterte to shut the holiday hotspot of Boracay, which he has called a “cesspool”, prompted airlines to cut flights on Thursday, as hotels prepared for cancellations and businesses appeared resigned to a move the government said was non-negotiable. Mr. Duterte late Wednesday ordered the closure of Boracay for six months from April 26 in a bid to rescue from ruin a once idyllic island that drew 2 million tourists and generated over a billion dollars in revenue last year.

Boracay closure seen to have minimal GDP impact BusinessWorld 4th Apr 2018
THE COST of temporarily shutting down Boracay to make way for its rehabilitation will have a “very insignificant effect” on the entire economy, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Tuesday. “Even if the ban extends up to six months… at the macro level, it has a very insignificant effect. We see something like 0.1% of GDP (gross domestic product),” NEDA Director for National Policy and Planning Reynaldo R. Cancio said in a press briefing.

Senators eye ‘constitutional, healing’ BBL by May break BusinessMirror 2nd Apr 2018
A mid fears that Islamic extremists continue to feed on economic woes to recruit and regroup for another well-orchestrated attack similar to the Marawi siege, lawmakers are racing against time to finally craft a law that will ensure lasting peace and development in the South: this time, a version that has been rid of the perceived constitutional flaws of the first Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) bill, and which can stand alongside a federalist setup, should one finally come to pass.

Dureza: Executive action on Bangsamoro Basic Law eyed philstar.com 29th Mar 2018
President Duterte might resort to an executive action if Congress fails to pass the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Jesus Dureza said yesterday. “He said he would go to the extent of exercising his residual powers through administrative directives to fulfill this commitment,” Dureza said, referring to the President. Duterte assured officials of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) during a meeting at the Matina Enclaves in Davao City on Tuesday night that the BBL would be passed before the end of the year.

Impeachy keen: The chief justice of the Philippines is under attack The Economist 29th Mar 2018
IN THE back room of a chicken restaurant famous for its banana ketchup, the small, neat, bespectacled chief justice tells a swarm of journalists that she has done her best “to fight for justice”. Maria Lourdes Sereno has been having to fight harder than usual in recent weeks. Congress is initiating impeachment proceedings against her, while the government is attempting to nullify through the courts her appointment as chief justice almost six years ago. On March 1st she took a voluntary leave of absence from the Supreme Court while she tries to defend herself. It is not yet clear when she will return. Ms Sereno’s detractors have come up with no fewer than 27 complaints against her, from claiming unduly lavish expenses to failing to file all the necessary paperwork during her previous job as a university professor. But many believe the real reason for the campaign to remove her is her outspoken criticism of the government’s violent campaign against drug-dealers and -users and its extension of martial law on the troubled island of Mindanao. Rodrigo Duterte, the president and architect of both policies, has denounced her as “the kingpin of the judiciary”.

Customs

Duterte appoints official linked to drug shipment mess as Customs assistant commissioner CNN 5th Apr 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte appointed former Manila International Container Port district collector Vincent Philip Maronilla, who was previously accused of accepting bribes in the P6.4 billion worth shabu shipment case, as the new assistant commissioner for the Bureau of Customs (BOC). Maronilla is currently the district collector for the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.  In August 2017, Customs fixer Mark Taguba identified Maronilla as one of the officials who accepted bribes for a 604-kilogram drug shipment from China, one of the biggest hauls of smuggled drugs in the country.

PH Customs defers for 3 weeks order on submission, counterchecking of list of importables Asia Customs & Trade 5th Apr 2018
Philippine Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña has suspended for three weeks the implementation of an order he signed on March 27 that required all importers to submit a copy of their list of importable items approved by the Account Management Office (AMO), the Bureau of Customs (BOC) unit that handles the accreditation of importers and customs brokers. That same order had also required district and sub-port collectors, deputy collectors for assessment, chiefs of the Formal Entry Division (FED), FED personnel, importers/consignees, brokers and all other concerned to counter check the approved list before processing an import entry “to ensure that only commodities or items in the approved list is imported by consignee”.

BIR, Customs collections up in first quarter philstar.com 6th Apr 2018
The national government’s tax revenue, as well as disbursements all recorded double digit growth in the first quarter, the Department of Finance (DOF) reported yesterday. According to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III, the collections of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) improved 16 percent and 24 percent, respectively, in the first three months from a year ago. Disbursements, meanwhile, jumped 31 percent over the same period in 2017. This is faster than the forecast made by Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno, who earlier said spending may have grown less than 20 percent during the quarter. Based on computations, BIR collection in the first quarter likely hit P429.66 billion from P370.4 billion in the same period in 2017. The BOC’s collection may have also reached P129.08 billion compared to last year’s P104.1 billion. Expenditures during the three-month period also likely reached P806.17 billion, up from the P615.4 billion posted in the same period in 2017. Dominguez attributed the double-digit growth in revenue to the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act, while the surge in disbursements was driven by the administration’s massive infrastructure program.

Economics

World Bank expects Philippine economy to 'maintain' growth in 2018, 2019 philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
The World Bank expects the Philippine economy to "maintain" its growth rate in 2018 and 2019, adding that the country’s central bank should stay alert and ready to tighten monetary policy settings amid risks of an overheating economy. In its outlook report released Thursday, the Washington-based lender said that in 2018 and 2019, the economy will likely grow 6.7 percent—flat from the full-year growth rate chalked up in 2017—before moderating to 6.6 percent in 2020. “The country is expected to benefit from the global recovery during 2018,” the Bank said. The World Bank’s projections fall below the government’s 7-8 percent target set for this year until the end of President Rodrigo Duterte's six-year term. The Duterte administration plans to spend more than P8 trillion to upgrade the nation’s dilapidated infrastructure and aging ports—dubbed as the “Build, Build, Build” program—to spur gross domestic product expansion until 2022. “Any growth above 6.7 percent would require vigorous investment in physical and human capital to push the economy beyond its current potential output,” the lender said.

PHL needs to focus on new markets as trade war looms BusinessMirror 11th Apr 2018
With exports already down and the looming United States-China trade war threatening to hurt global trade, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said the government should now intensify efforts to diversify the country’s export destinations. Neda Undersecretary Rosemarie G. Edillon identified Russia, Malta, Poland, the United Arab Emirates, Italy, India, Belgium and Mexico as among the nontraditional markets where more marketing and visibility campaigns for Philippine products should be made.

Philippines could be hit worst in Southeast Asia by US-China trade spat philstar.com 6th Apr 2018
Among Southeast Asian countries, the Philippines could be the most affected in the worsening trade spat between the U.S. and China. In a surprise move that could further escalate the trade war between the two economies, President Donald Trump on Thursday said he has ordered the U.S. trade representative to consider imposing an additional $100 billion in tariffs on Chinese goods. Trump’s pronouncement came after China said it plans to slap $50 billion in taxes on American products. In a research note dated April 4, RHB Bank Berhad said the trade war’s impact on Southeast Asia will likely be felt through shipments to China that are used as inputs to Chinese exports. The bank then explained that the Philippines could be most at risk, as 16.9 percent of its total exports are part of China’s value chain, compared with countries like Malaysia (11.4 percent) and Indonesia (10.9 percent).

BSP sets ‘measured’ inflation response BusinessWorld 6th Apr 2018
THE RISE of prices of widely used goods pierced the ceiling of the official 2018 full-year inflation target to clock its fastest pace in at least five years, prompting the central bank to signal a “measured” policy response amid calls for interest rate hikes. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) on Thursday reported inflation in March at 4.3% year on year, faster than February’s downward-revised 3.8% and March 2017’s 3.1%. Headline inflation clocked 3.8% year-to-date.

S&P sees gradual tax reform benefits BusinessWorld 5th Apr 2018
NEWLY ENACTED tax reforms are unlikely to yield significant benefits for the Philippine economy this year as higher levies will likely barely offset foregone collections from lower personal income tax rates, analysts at S&P Global Ratings said, while flagging concerns on changes in the corporate tax scheme now pending in Congress.

Peso barely moves as inflation picks up BusinessWorld 5th Apr 2018
The peso slightly strengthened against the dollar on Thursday, April 5, following the faster inflation print in March. The local currency ended Thursday’s session at P52.115 versus the dollar, almost flat from the P52.12-per-greenback finish on Wednesday. The peso moved sideways throughout the trading session, opening slightly weaker at P52.125. Its worst showing stood at P52.16, while its intraday high was at P52.09.

Gov’t raises P10B from three-year bonds BusinessWorld 4th Apr 2018
THE GOVERNMENT raised P10 billion worth of reissued three-year Treasury bonds (T-bonds) yesterday as yields saw a minimal rise despite persistent concerns on domestic inflation and uncertainties in the global market. The Bureau of the Treasury made a full award of the reissued debt papers, which have a remaining life of two years and nine months. The decision came as offers reached P20.006 billion, double the amount which the government is eyeing to raise. The papers fetched a 4.632% average yield, just some five basis points higher than the 4.5838% rate at the secondary market prior to the auction.

PH debt swelled to record P6.82T Inquirer.net 29th Mar 2018
The national government’s debt stock further swelled to another record-high P6.82 trillion in February partly as the peso further weakened against the dollar that month. The latest Bureau of the Treasury data released Wednesday showed that the government’s outstanding obligations inched up by 1.4 percent from January’s P6.73 trillion as well as increased by a faster 9.9 percent from P6.21 trillion in February last year. As the government still relies heavily on borrowing from local sources mainly through the sale of treasury bills and bonds amid relatively lower yields, the share of domestic debt to the end-February total remained bigger at 64.9 percent. The Treasury has been raising its domestic borrowing program during the recent past quarters to fund the growing national budget as well as finance the Duterte administration’s ambitious “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program.

Energy

Department of Energy taps US agencies for renewable energy site mapping philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
The Department of Energy (DOE) has teamed up with US agencies to map out locations for renewable energy (RE) developments to avoid overcapacity in the grid. DOE Undersecretary Felix William Fuentebella said the RE zoning project is being done in partnership with the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) and National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL). He said the project aims to prevent another overcapacity in a certain grid, like that of Negros Island, to happen again. “The goal is to identify where RE plants should be for the grid not to be compromised,” Fuentebella said. “What we are trying to look at is where should we place RE plants to avoid that problem that happened in Negros.” In 2016, the influx of solar power plant developments in Negros Island following the race to secure feed-in tariff (FIT) incentives created concerns on overcapacity and intermittency due to limited transmission infrastructure in the island. This caused constraints in the Visayas grid and caused major power outages, especially when the Negros submarine cable can only transmit 90 megawatts (MW) to other islands in the grid.

Power supply ‘sufficient’ throughout summer BusinessMirror 11th Apr 2018
Leaders in the power sector say there is “sufficient” supply to meet the demand for electricity during these summer months despite the scheduled shutdown of a number of power plants. But can they assure there will be no electricity shortage if demand shoots up higher than expected, or if major power plants suddenly conk out? “Power supply this summer, based on our latest evaluation, is sufficient to meet demand,” assured Alfonso G. Cusi, secretary of the Department of Energy (DOE). In its latest forecast, the agency said this year’s peak demand would reach 10,561 megawatts (MW) from 2017’s actual demand of 10,054 MW, pegging growth rate at 5.04 percent. The National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) shares the same data. Based on second-quarter reserve profile, peak demand in the Luzon grid will occur during the May 11 to 17 week increasing by around 5 percent, or by 504 MW, from 10,054 MW in 2017 to 10,561 this 2018.

Duterte, Xi give 'go signal' to craft joint exploration framework Rappler 11th Apr 2018
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping have given the "go signal" for their countries to craft a framework for joint exploration in the West Philippine Sea, said Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano on Wednesday, April 11. In a press briefing in Hong Kong, Cayetano said Duterte and Xi talked about joint exploration in their bilateral meeting on Tuesday, April 10. "How important was that statement made by the two leaders? Very important, because it's basically the go signal to come up with a framework, and if it's acceptable to both sides, we could see the joint exploration done soon," Cayetano said. According to Cayetano, Xi said "that China, if that's what the Philippines wants, is willing to discuss and find a solution" in the West Philippine Sea. Duterte, on the other hand, said "it's important that our people see the benefit" of the relationship between Manila and Beijing. The West Philippine Sea is the part of the South China Sea that belongs to the Philippines but is claimed by China. The Philippines won a 2016 Hague ruling affirming its rights over the West Philippine Sea, but Duterte has downplayed this victory in exchange for economic benefits from China.

Oil prices roll back this week BusinessWorld 9th Apr 2018
AFTER TWO straight weeks of big price increases, oil companies this week will be cutting the cost of gasoline and diesel while keeping unchanged the price of kerosene. Gasoline prices will decrease by P0.40 per liter (/L) while diesel prices will be down by P0.30/L. “This is to reflect movements in the international petroleum market,” said Seaoil Philippines, Inc., which will be among the first to impose the price cut at 12:01 a.m. on Tuesday, April 10. The others will be adjusting fuel prices at 6:00 a.m. Last week, oil companies raised the prices of gasoline and diesel by P0.90/L and P1.00/L, respectively. Kerosene prices also increased by P1.00/L during the first week of April. — Victor V. Saulon

Gatchalian pushes review of electrification target philstar.com 6th Apr 2018
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian is pushing for the review of government’s electrification program to faster narrow the electricity access gap in rural areas before the 2022 target. Gatchalian, who chairs the Senate Committee on Energy, has filed Senate Resolution 695 to assess existing strategies in closing the gap in the number of households across the country still without power. The lawmaker said the assessment would be helpful in “achieving total electrification for the welfare of the Filipino people and the development of the nation.”  “We want to check on the status of electrification of the country to assess and possibly revise the national electrification strategy,” Gatchalian said.

PH miners face stiffer competition in world market Inquirer.net 29th Mar 2018
The local mining sector is expecting a tougher business environment this year as the return of Indonesia to the international market is seen to pose stiff competition, said the chief of the Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP). COMP president and Nickel Asia Corp. CEO Gerard H. Brimo said that would be the biggest challenge in 2018, given that Indonesia was known to be one of the most important mining countries in the region with more than 500 mining projects nationwide. To recall, the Indonesian government decided to impose a ban on unprocessed ore exports in 2014 to boost higher-value smelting industries, but the country’s economy faced a substantial budget deficit and missed its revenue target in 2016 by $17.6 billion. With the resumption of shipments, the Indonesian government is hoping to help bridge the budget gap. Brimo is banking on the “continuing strong demand for the metal, in part due to the growth taking place in the battery sector” to keep Philippine nickel exports at healthy levels. The continuing decrease in the inventory of refined nickel in the global market also remains as an indication of the lack of supply of the metal, which Brimo said “should provide strong support to prices.” To recall, the Duterte administration is considering implementing a ban on ore exports to encourage domestic processing. “That Indonesia is suddenly opening up direct ore shipments should also give us a pause on a total export ban. We need to study this carefully and allow time for a full or partial transition and we will also need a properly calibrated policy framework and strong government support to ensure its success,” Alcantara said.

Financial Services

Philippines Department of Finance establishing online payment gateway for government transactions OpenGovAsia 10th Apr 2018
The PHPay system is designed to be a secure and reliable collection system in which government clients can transfer payments online for government services, anytime and anywhere. Complementing this DOF effort, the Bureau of Internal Revenue has minimised the processing time and procedures for paying taxes, registering properties and starting business. The Department of Finance (DOF) in the Philippines is establishing an online-based payment gateway to enable taxpayers and other state clients to remit fees and other charges electronically to government agencies. This is in line with the Philippine Government’s efforts to cut red tape and improve the ease of doing business in the country.

More lenders seen shifting to digital banking Inquirer.net 10th Apr 2018
The era of aggressively building brick-and-mortar presence nationwide is over for some of the country’s largest banks as more clients embrace digital banking while branch network reaches what is believed to be the optimal scale.

PH eyes return to ‘panda’ bond market Inquirer.net 2nd Apr 2018
The Philippines is looking at again borrowing in China through the sale of renminbi-denominated panda bonds following the success of its maiden sale last month, the head of the Duterte administration’s economic team said. Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III said that another panda bonds offering was “most likely.” Quoting a report of Thomson Reuters’ IFR Asia publication, Dominguez noted that the final pricing of 5 percent was a tight spread of 35 basis points over the benchmark three-year notes of China Development Bank at 4.65 percent. “Of the five sovereign panda bond issuers so far, only South Korea has priced at a tighter spread over CDB. Less than two months ago, the government of the Emirate of Sharjah offered a 103-bp premium over CDB for its two-billion renminbi three-year panda at 5.8 percent. The other two sovereign issuers, Poland and Hungary, paid 60 bp and 83 bp over CDB, respectively,” the IFR Asia report noted. In March, the Philippines sold 1.46 billion renminbi or almost P12 billion in three-year panda bonds amid strong demand. The country’s first panda bond issuance generated 9.22 billion renminbi in bids or 6.32 times bigger than the approved issue size. Dominguez had noted that the achieved coverage ratio was the largest all-time among any sovereign panda issuance.

Bank lending fuels continued growth in money supply philstar.com 29th Mar 2018
Money supply continued to expand in February on the back of the sustained growth in bank lending, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported yesterday. According to preliminary data from the BSP, domestic liquidity – also known as M3 – grew 13.5 percent to P10.72 trillion last February from the P9.45 trillion in the same month last year. This pace of growth is faster than the 12.8 percent expansion in domestic liquidity the previous month. The BSP maintained that the growth in money supply remains consistent with its prevailing outlook for inflation and economic activity.

Food & Agriculture

As Philippine rice stock depletes, Duterte places NFA under his office philstar.com 6th Apr 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte on Friday "expressed his intent" to place the National Food Authority under the Office of the President following reports that Philippine supply of its staple grain is at a dangerously low level. The decision came after Manny Piñol, the Philippine agriculture secretary, announced in a radio interview that Duterte had already given the verbal order to abolish the inter-agency National Food Authority Council. "The president expressed his intent to place the National Food Authority (NFA) under the Office of the President," Harry Roque, a president's spokesman, said in a statement. The presidential spokesman said that the Philippine leader was also considering centralizing the approval of rice importation under Bernadette Romulo-Puyat, an undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture, subject to the review of the Office of the Executive Secretary. Roque said that Duterte also pledged to give at least 700,000 sacks of rice to replenish the stocks of the NFA sold at P38 per kilo to be sold at P39.

Agricultural food exports seen flat this year philstar.com 6th Apr 2018
The country’s agricultural food exports will likely be flat this year, but are expected to recover starting 2019. “We don’t expect any significant increase in our food exports due to concerns on competitiveness and availability of raw materials,” Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc. president Roberto Amores told reporters yesterday. Last year, export sales of agriculture and food reached $5.6 billion. “We have to work on how to improve our exports and  the manufacturing sector by partnering with ASEAN since most of our raw materials  are also available in our neighbors,” he said. PhilFoodex is the leading food industry association in the country composed of micro, small, medium and large scale food manufacturers and exporters.

Halal accreditation delayed over failure to harmonize standards BusinessWorld 2nd Apr 2018
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that the accreditation of halal-certifying bodies has been delayed due to a failure to harmonize standards. Bureau of Philippine Standards Director James E. Empeño told BusinessWorld that since the certifying bodies are not accredited, the halal products are not recognized once exported. Mr. Empeño said that instead of sourcing from the Philippines, buyers could turn to other Southeast Asian countries with large Muslim populations like Indonesia. The Philippines exports dried fruits to the Middle East. According to Republic Act No. 10817 or the Philippine Halal Export Development and Promotion Act of 2016, the Philippine Accreditation Bureau is mandated to accredit the halal-certifying bodies to maintain the national standard for the products. Mr. Empeño said that there are currently five halal-certifying bodies that remain unaccredited with the passage of the new law last year.

Philippines eyes bond float to fund agri projects The Nation 2nd Apr 2018
Speaking at the Philippine Agricultural Journalists (PAJ) awarding ceremonies where he was guest speaker, Pinol said that a bond flotation was necessary to complete the agency’s network of FMRs before the end of President Duterte’s term. He said the agency would need 140 billion pesos (Bt83.66 billion) to finish some 13,000 kilometres of FMRs all over the country, while another 60 billion pesos (Bt35.86 billion) would be required to finance the mechanisation of farms and fishing communities nationwide. Pinol said the proposed bond issue was already welcomed by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Nestor Espenilla, along with Eastern Samar representative Ben P Evardone, who chairs the House of Representatives’ bank and finance committee. “Both [Dominguez and Espenilla] said that the measure would utilise the vast resources of private and commercial banks that are required by law to lend 25 per cent of their loan funds to the agriculture and fisheries sector,” Pinol said.

PH agri exports fell by 3.6% in Q4 2017 Inquirer.net 2nd Apr 2018
The total value of the country’s agricultural exports has declined by 3.6 percent to $4.19 billion in the fourth quarter of 2017 from $4.35 billion in the same period in 2016 as the country’s major agricultural exports dwindled. The share of agricultural exports to the country’s total exports also declined to 8.4 percent from 10.3 percent in 2016. The country’s major agricultural exports for the quarter made up almost 95 percent of the total agricultural export revenue of $1.3 billion, which was lower than the $1.5 billion posted in the same period of 2016. These products include animal or vegetable oils and their cleavage products, prepared edible fats, animal or vegetable waxes, edible fruits and nuts, fish and crustaceans, and manufactured tobacco. Netherlands was the country’s top trading partner during the quarter with $306.56 million in imports, while Indonesia and Malaysia led Asean-member countries with a combined imports from the Philippines of $548.03 million.

Gov’t eyes bond float to fund agri projects Inquirer.net 29th Mar 2018
The government is planning to issue bonds to raise funds for the completion of the Department of Agriculture’s farm-to-market roads (FMRs) and its farm and fisheries mechanization program, Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said. Speaking at the Philippine Agricultural Journalists (PAJ) awarding ceremonies where he was guest speaker, Piñol said that a bond flotation was necessary to complete the agency’s network of FMRs before the end of President Duterte’s term. He said the agency would need P140 billion to finish some 13,000 kilometers of FMRs all over the country, while another P60 billion would be required to finance the mechanization of farms and fishing communities nationwide.

SRA moves to boost sugar supply in domestic market Inquirer.net 29th Mar 2018
The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) has issued an order removing its sugar allocation for the world market, reallocating the supply to the domestic market. The move is expected to improve the composite price of sugar, which is used to measure the overall profitability of sugar planters. However, this will put the plan of the sugar industry to look for stable markets outside the United States in the backseat. At present, the country exports sugar only to the United States under a quota scheme. The agreement gives the Philippines an annual sugar import quota of 136,201 metric tons (MT) at a premium price and a relatively low tariff. With SRA’s new sugar order, 94 percent will be classified as “B” or domestic sugar while the remaining 6 percent will be classified as “A” or sugar for the US. In the old sugar order, 93 percent was classified as “B,” 6 percent was classified as “A,” and 1 percent was classified as “D” or sugar for the world market. Reserve or “C” sugar gets allocation only when there is oversupply of the commodity. “Stakeholders requested to do away with the 1 percent ‘D’ sugar as it is too insignificant and just a hassle in the recording of the quedan,” said board member Roland Beltran in a text message. “Also, world market prices of sugar are going down in the past weeks and the disposal of `D’ sugar has become a problem,” he said, adding that the reallocation of “D” sugar would boost domestic supply.

Health & Life Sciences

Health department needs ‘healing’, says chief physician GulfNews 8th Apr 2018
The Philippines health department itself needs healing from the controversies it had endured recently Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has said. During the recent inauguration of the World Health Organisation’s (WHO) Country Office in Manila, Duque said he believes that the Department of Health (DOH) needs to recuperate, apparently from the bad publicity it had suffered as a result of controversies surrounding the agency’s decision to haphazardly procure Dengvaxia, a dengue vaccine manufactured by the French pharmaceuticals giant Sanofi Pasteur.

Experts press for update on traditional medicine law The Manila Times 6th Apr 2018
Botanical experts have pressed for an update of the Traditional and Alternative Medicine Act (TAMA) as they sought support for the potential use of 1,008 Philippines-endemic plant species that can be tapped for novel drugs development. TAMA, or Republic Act 8423, aimed to develop homegrown natural products through research and development. It created the Philippine Institute of Traditional and Alternative Health Care. (1892).

CCT, health programs benefit poor Pinoy kids The Manila Times 4th Apr 2018
Poor Filipino children under the government’s conditional cash transfer (CCT) and health care programs now have better acess to health care, the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said. In a study, the state think tank said the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps) had a positive impact on these children, as it enrolled them in the country’s social health insurance program, and required preventive checkups for five-years-olds and younger.

After Dengvaxia scare, measles cases soar to 598 Rappler 3rd Apr 2018
The Department of Health (DOH) has recorded 598 cases of measles from January 1 to March 17, a huge spike from the figures in the same period last year. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III confirmed this to Rappler on Tuesday, April 3. “We have 598 confirmed cases from January 1 to March 17, 2018. There are 12 deaths,” Duque said in a phone interview. (READ: FAST FACTS: What is measles, and how can it be prevented?) Where the measles cases and deaths were recorded: The deaths were recorded in Davao Region, Soccsksargen, Central Luzon, and the National Capital Region (NCR).

ICT

DICT lauds oversight committee for entry of 3rd telecom player philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
The creation of an oversight committee for the entry of a new major player in the telecommunications industry is a positive development as this would help ensure a transparent process, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT). “We welcome it very much. It will make the selection process for the new major telco player transparent and objective, taking into consideration the concerns of stakeholders, including other government departments,” DICT officer-in-charge Eliseo Rio Jr. said. Under Administrative Order (AO) 11 issued by President Duterte and dated April 6, an oversight committee composed of the DICT as chair, the Department of Finance, Office of the Executive Secretary and National Security Adviser would be set up to oversee the entry a new telco player. The oversight committee would assist the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC)  in coming up with the terms of reference (TOR) of the selection and assignment of radio frequencies.   

The Philippines is aiming to build a city of the future CNBC 10th Apr 2018
The Philippines, home to Manila's standstill traffic jams, is aiming to become known for the "city of the future.' Called New Clark City, the urban project is planned to be a high-tech green city promising science-fiction-worthy technology, from robots to drones to self-driving vehicles. It's located 120 kilometers outside the Philippine capital, and its investors hope it will be the first of its kind in the country: smart, sustainable and resilient to disasters. Of course, many countries are aiming to build their own version of the city of the future, and the Philippines still has a long way to go in its economic development, so the project's financial future is not a certainty. According to its lead developers, the project is mainly funded through public-private partnerships — a move necessary for the cash-strapped country.

Duterte aims for higher innovation, creativity rankings for Philippines BusinessMirror 10th Apr 2018
President Duterte said on Tuesday the Philippines will be joining the top one-third of countries in the Global Innovation Index (GII) by 2022 due to its investments in government processes, technology and human development. In 2017 Philippines placed 73rd out of 127 economies.  In 2016 the country placed 74th out of 128 and 83rd out of 143 economies in 2015. “We will empower more Filipinos with better skills and expertise and, with our Innovation Council under the Department of Science and Technology, we will improve the competitiveness and productivity of our MSMEs [micro, small and medium enterprises],” Duterte said in a speech at the Boao Forum for Asia in Hainan, China, attended by around 2,000, including world leaders.

DTI and DOST Philippines partner to launch first government e-commerce platform OpenGovAsia 10th Apr 2018
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) in the Philippines have joined hands to help micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) expand their market reach online through the OneSTore.ph platform. Sec. Fortunato T. Dela Peña of DOST and Sec. Ramon M. Lopez of DTI signed a Memorandum of Agreement during the Media Briefing and DTI-DOST Synergy Meeting on April 5, 2018 in Taguig City. OneSTore.ph is the first government e-commerce platform dedicated to marketing high-quality Filipino products of MSMEs through the worldwide web.

Philippines to provide incentives to returning scientists, inventors, and engineers OpenGovAsia 10th Apr 2018
The Program will prioritise experts in the fields of space, technology, artificial intelligence, biomedical engineering, energy agriculture and food technology—biotechnology, information and communications technology, pharmaceutical, disaster mitigation and management, environment and natural resources, electronics, genomics, health, manufacturing, nanotechnology, cyber security and semiconductors.  The Philippine Government is expected to enact the ‘Balik Scientist Act’ next month, which would provide more incentives to returning Filipino experts, scientists, inventors, and engineers. The Balik Scientist Act seeks to institutionalise the Balik Scientist Program (BSP) of the Department of Science and Technology (DOST), which encourages Filipino scientists, technologists, and experts to return to the country and share their expertise in order to promote scientific, agro-industrial, and economic development and address development gaps in the Philippines. The BSP also aims to support and strengthen the scientific and technological human resources in the Philippines.

Infrastructure

Govt no longer accepting unsolicited bids for upgrade of regional airports Business Mirror 11th Apr 2018
The transportation department has adopted a policy of publicly soliciting bids for the regional airports in the Philippines, with the P148-billion unsolicited proposal of an infrastructure-development company becoming the first offer to be rejected because of the new direction. Department of Transportation (DOTr) Director for Communications Goddess Hope O. Libiran said the agency has officially informed Aboitiz InfraCapital Inc. of its decision to include the regional airports program on the government’s list of priority infrastructure projects. “We’ve already sent Aboitiz a letter telling them that we cannot accept their unsolicited proposal,” she said in a text message. Aboitiz submitted an unsolicited proposal for the upgrade, expansion, operation and maintenance of Iloilo International Airport, Bacolod-Silay Airport, Laguindingan Airport and New Bohol International Airport (Panglao) last month.

Operations and maintenance contract bidding slated in August for new Bohol Airport philstar.com 12th Apr 2018
The Department of Transportation (DOTr) may start the bidding process for the operations and maintenance (O&M) of the new Bohol (Panglao) Airport before August. Manuel Antonio Tamayo, undersecretary for the aviation sector at the DOTr, said in a telephone interview the agency hopes to begin the bidding process for the O&M of the New Bohol Airport before August. He said the DOTr is now working on the terms of reference for the bidding. Construction of the new Bohol Airport, which started in 2015, is being funded by the Japan International Cooperation Agency. The project is expected to be completed by June and operational by August. It will accommodate two million passengers in its opening year. Apart from the O&M of the new Bohol Airport, Tamayo said the DOTr hopes to pursue bidding for other regional airport projects. “We want the bidding for the operations and maintenance of the new Bohol Airport to be the model for other regional airport projects,” he said.

Diokno ‘not happy’ with pace of infrastructure spending BusinessMirror 11th Apr 2018
Although infrastructure spending has picked up considerably, Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno is still concerned that agencies are not performing up to par when it comes to the implementation of the administration’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) program. Diokno said he is not happy with the progress of the government’s massive infrastructure upgrade program, calling on concerned agencies to further improve the “utilization of funds and the delivery and completion of programs and projects.” Infrastructure spending in January hit P43.3 billion, surging 25.2 percent year-on-year, although this was mainly on account of completed projects of the Department of Public Works and Highways, the disaster-mitigation and lahar-control works in Central Luzon, and the purchase of communication equipment as part of the Department of National Defense-Armed Forces of the Philippines modernization program.

Filipinos Get a Glimpse of Their Ruined City. The Chinese Get the Contract. The New York Times 10th Apr 2018
On Tuesday, President Rodrigo Duterte visited China to discuss the project, worth an estimated $1.5 billion, with President Xi Jinping, among other issues, officials said. Plans to rebuild the city have been coming together slowly. Mr. Duterte announced last week that most of the contract will be bid out to a group of Chinese companies. But it could be months before the actual work can start. On Tuesday, Mr. Duterte seemed to hint at that relationship — and others — as he addressed a business conference on the Chinese island of Hainan, with Mr. Xi in attendance. “As sovereign equals, the Philippines and China are partners in the building of much-needed infrastructure,” Mr. Duterte said, according to a government transcript. “We are building bridges of greater understanding between our peoples.” Over the past year, the Duterte administration has been edging toward closer ties with Beijing. Though the two countries have a territorial dispute over islands in the South China Sea, the prospect of becoming part of China’s Belt and Road infrastructure initiative — which has provided highways, bridges and tunnels to neighboring countries like Thailand, Laos and Cambodia — appears to be moving the Philippines further out of the United States’ orbit. “The Philippine relationship with the U.S. has already changed,” Mr. Banlaoi said. “Duterte doesn’t want the U.S. to lay on the terms anymore.”

Gov’t targets 2018 OK for all major projects BusinessWorld 9th Apr 2018
THE CURRENT ADMINISTRATION hopes to get the green light for all its flagship infrastructure projects by yearend — as it approaches the midpoint of its six-year term in 2019, a chief economic manager said on Sunday. “Of the 75 high-impact and big-ticket projects we have identified, 23 projects have completed the approval process and are now shovel-ready. We expect the rest of the projects to pass the approval process this year,” Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III — who is part of the National Economic and Development Authority Board that gives the final approval for major projects — said in a speech at the April 5 World Bank-Singapore Infrastructure Finance Summit that was attended by Southeast Asian finance ministers and investors. The administration plans to hike infrastructure spending to 7.3% of gross domestic product by 2022, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends his six-year term, from 5.4% in 2017 in a bid to prod GDP growth to 7-8% annually until 2022 from 2017’s 6.7% and a 6.3% average in 2010-2016.

Official: Marawi rehab to cost at least P72 billion philstar.com 6th Apr 2018
The government’s comprehensive plan to rehabilitate war-ravaged Marawi City will cost at least P72 billion, the chairman of the body tasked to lead the reconstruction effort said on Friday. Eduardo Del Rosario, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said that the comprehensive plan was presented to President Rodrigo Duterte during his cabinet meeting on Wednesday. Del Rosario said that between P17 to 20 billion of the amount would be devoted to the rehabilitation of Marawi’s most devastated villages. The remaining P55 billion will be spent on villages outside of the most devastated zone in the Islamic City, Del Rosario said. Del Rosario said that 24 of Marawi’s 96 villages were the most affected areas of the five-month fighting between government forces and militants inspired by the Islamic State group last year. The battle for Marawi last year started when militants tried to take over Marawi City and transform it into the capital of Islamic State group’s capital in Southeast Asia.

More major infrastructure projects up for final OK BusinessWorld 4th Apr 2018
THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committee-Cabinet Committee approved more big-ticket projects on Wednesday last week, including San Miguel Corp.’s proposed airport in Bulacan, a senior official of the socioeconomic planning agency said on Tuesday. “Nine more projects have been approved in the ICC Cabinet, moving to the NEDA Board,” NEDA Undersecretary for Investment Programming Rolando G. Tungpalan said in a press briefing. “These nine projects add up to about P900 billion that are (part of) our big-ticket projects,” he added. “Last Wednesday, the new Bulacan airport and the joint venture project in the property in Davao to be converted into an agro-industrial complex [were approved].”

NEDA body approves San Miguel's Bulacan airport, 8 other projects Rappler 3rd Apr 2018
San Miguel Corporation's P700-billion proposal to build, operate, and maintain an airport in Bulacan – along with 8 other infrastructure projects – has been approved by a National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) body. Approved by the NEDA Investments Coordination Committee (ICC), among others, are the Bulacan airport, Subic-Clark Railway, bridges across the Pasig River, as well as the National Development Company (NDC) 25-hectare agro-industrial estate economic zone in Toril, Davao. NEDA Undersecretary for Investment Planning Rolando Tungpalan told reporters on Tuesday, April 3, that these 9 infrastructure projects, cumulatively worth P900 billion, will now be tabled for final approval by the NEDA Board, which is headed by President Rodrigo Duterte. Once approved by the NEDA Board, these infrastructure projects can now be implemented by their respective agencies. Unsolicited proposals, like the Bulacan airport, will undergo a Swiss challenge. This is when the government invites private groups to make competing offers, while giving the original proponent the right to match them.

Consortium: Government needs an upgraded Naia to make inclusive growth a reality BusinessMirror 3rd Apr 2018
UPGRADING and modernizing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) could generate “inclusive and significant economic growth,” an official of Naia Consortium said on Tuesday, as it renews its pitch to develop the decades-old facility that is currently overutilized but underdeveloped. Naia Consortium Spokesman Jose Emmanuel P. Reverente said a more efficient airport can help drive a country’s GDP growth, citing a 2014 study conducted by Oxford Economics and the International Air Transport Association (Iata).

Manufacturing

TRAIN 2 fears stall manufacturing growth philstar.com 8th Apr 2018
Fears emanating from the second tax reform package continued to drag new investments into the local information technology (IT) and manufacturing sectors. Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) director general Charito Plaza said registration of new IT and manufacturing investments in PEZA-administered zones remained minimal, resulting in a decline of  more than a fifth in the agency’s total approvals in the first two months. “No one is closing or stopping but no new investments in manufacturing and IT until investors know the TRAIN 2 result,” Plaza said. “Foreign chambers and industry locators/organizations are submitting their position paper on TRAIN 2 appealing not to change the incentives because they have seen continuing investments,” she added. Plaza did not disclose figures for IT and manufacturing investments for the two-month period. In January alone, IT investments plunged 73.23 percent while manufacturing investments plunged declined by 46 percent. Total approved pledges dipped 22 percent to P21 billion.

Feb. factory output growth fastest in nearly 8 years BusinessWorld 6th Apr 2018
FACTORY PRODUCTION grew by its fastest pace in almost eight years in February, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported on Thursday. Preliminary results of PSA’s Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries showed that factory output — as measured by the volume of production index — grew 24.8% annually in February. February’s pace was faster than the revised 18.5% in January and the 9.8% increase a year earlier, and was the fastest since August 2010’s 25.5%.