Philippines Update: June 7, 2018

Philippines Update | June 7, 2018
Authors: Riley Smith and Mianmian Fei
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

June 11: Customs Committee Quarterly Call

June 12: Infrastructure Committee Quarterly Call

June 12: Roundtable with Senior-level Philippine Business Executives

June 14: ASEAN Defense Attaches' Speaker Series with Maj. Gen. (Ret.) Jim Hodge

June 14: Roundtable with Deborah Elms, Asia Business Trade Association

June 19: Luncheon Dialogue with Assistant Secretary of Defense Randall Schriver

June 26: ASEAN-US Digital Policy Consultative Forum

June 27 - Manila SME Workshop

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Aiming to Improve Business Environment, President Duterte Signs Ease of Doing Business Law
With the aim of improving the Philippines’ business environment by reducing the processing times for business transactions, President Rodrigo Duterte signed on May 28 Republic Act 11032 (available here), also called the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018. The Ease of Doing Business Act amends the Anti-Red Tape Act of 2007, or Republic Act 9485 (available here), and covers local government units (LGUs), national government agencies (NGAs), and government-owned and -controlled corporations that provide transaction-related services. Among the measures included in the Ease of Doing Business Act are:

  • Cutting the processing time of simple and complex transactions. For simple transactions the processing time is cut from five to three days, and for complex transactions it is cut from 10 to seven days. Highly technical transactions must be processed within 20 days. Permits that are not processed within the specified time frame will be automatically approved.
  • Limiting the maximal number of signatures required for licenses, clearances, permits, certifications and authorizations to three. Electronic signatures will also be recognized, and a Zero Contact Policy will be implemented to avoid improprieties.

The newly-created Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), which will be under the authority of the Office of the President, will be the agency tasked with monitoring agencies’ compliance with the East of Doing Business Act. The Ease of Doing Business and Anti-Red Tape Advisory Council (EODB/ARTAC) will serve as the policy and advisory body for ARTA. Thus far, three seats on the five-seat EODB/ARTAC will be reserved for the Secretary of Finance, the Secretary of Trade and Industry, and the Secretary of the Interior and Local Government. Two representatives from the private sector will fill the other two seats. Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon Lopez is expected to serve in the capacity of EODB/ARTAC Chairman, while the ARTA Director General will serve as his Vice Chair.

The Philippine Government hopes that the Ease of Doing Business Act will increase foreign direct investment (FDI) into the Philippines by enhancing the expansion of foreign companies already operating in the country and encouraging the entrance of new foreign firms. One of the measures intended to improve business competitiveness is the streamlining of procedures at the LGU-level. The Act aims to accomplish this ambitious goal by requiring LGUs to automate their business permitting and licensing systems, set up one-stop-shops for business applications, and come up with an online unified business application form for the issuance of business permits, clearances, and other type of authorizations. Other measures intended to improve business competitiveness include creating the Philippines Business Databank and establishing the Central Business Portal. The former provides LGUs and NGAs access to information to verify data about businesses, while the latter receives and captures application data on business-related transactions.

Duterte’s signing of the Ease of Doing Business Act was accompanied by a sense of urgency, coming on the heels of the release of the 2018 World Competitiveness Ranking (available here), which saw the Philippines slip in the business competitiveness rankings by nine notches, the most significant drop in the region. The Switzerland-based International Institute for Management Development (IMD), the business school that releases the rankings, attributed the Philippines' drop to declines in tourism and employment, worsening public finances, and growing concerns over the education system. The Philippine Government raised doubts regarding IMD’s methodology, with Undersecretary and Chief Economist at the Department of Finance publishing a rejoinder (available here) pointing out that figures for the first months of 2018 showed rising employment and tourism while an upgrade in the Philippines’ sovereign rating by Fitch last December was a vote of confidence for the country’s finances. 

House of Representatives, Senate Pass Respective Versions of Bangsamoro Basic Law
The Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL), the law that would replace the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) in the southern Philippines with a new self-administered region called Bangsamoro, took a step closer to realization on May 30 and May 31 when the House of Representatives and the Senate of the Philippines, respectively, passed their versions of the bill. The bill will next go to a bicameral conference committee comprised of members of both the House of Representatives and the Senate so that differences between the two versions can be reconciled. Aiming to have an agreed-upon version of the bill for President Rodrigo Duterte to sign on July 23, the date of his State of the Nation Address, the bicameral conference committee has agreed to meet during the Congressional recess to expedite the process. Nevertheless, the bicameral conference committee will have to address major differences between both versions, such as how the BBL deals with political dynasties, the territorial boundaries of the newly-created Bangsamoro region (for example, whether Palawan should be included), how much the region should receive from the national government in annual block grants, and how to ensure that the region’s police and security powers do not violate the 1987 Philippine Constitution.    

Passage and implementation of the BBL is a priority for the administration of President Rodrigo Duterte because of its bearing on two key promises from his campaign: his pledge to improve the security environment by seeking to make peace with insurgent groups, and his pledge to better spread the benefits of economic development and growth to underdeveloped parts of the Philippines through federalism. On the first point, the BBL is the enabling measure of the 2014 peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which seeks to end a nearly 50-year-old conflict that has killed more than 120,000 people and displaced up to two million. On the second point, the BBL would abolish and replace ARMM with a new self-administered region run by a government with expanded powers. While not explicitly part of Duterte’s push for a more federal system of government in the Philippines, many view establishing Bangsamoro as a territory to be a pilot project for devolving more powers to regional governments. The successful implementation of the BBL and establishment of the Bangsamoro region would add momentum to efforts in the Philippine Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution and replace the current unitary system of government with one that is more federal in nature.

 
ADVOCACY UPDATE
 
 

Meeting with Chair of Ways and Means Committee to Discuss Private Sector Input for TRAIN 2
The Council and several of our member companies met with the Hon. Dakila Carlo E. Cua, Chairperson of the Ways and Means Committee in the Philippine House of Representatives, on May 31 to discuss the proposed second package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN 2). The Ways and Means Committee is currently deliberating TRAIN 2 and is seeking input from the private sector on how key provisions could affect the business environment. The meeting was a follow-up to a letter that the Council submitted to Congressman Cua that contained member company input on TRAIN 2. A copy of that letter can be found here.  

During the meeting, Congressman Cua emphasized that the private sector should submit clear reasons and data for their criticisms of TRAIN 2, so that they can stand up to scrutiny when compared with the economic data presented by the Department of Finance and the National Economic and Development Authority. The meeting resulted in several follow-ups, including the suggestion that the Ways and Means Committee consider including sector-based incentives, that ROHQs be given a reasonable period to adjust to incentive and tax changes, and that industry-specific incentives include costs for retraining workers. Congressman Cua also said that he hoped to hold another public hearing on TRAIN 2 over the period when Congress is adjourned (June 2-July 22, 2018). 

Meeting with DTI Undersecretary Rodolfo to Discuss TRAIN 2
On May 31 the Council organized a roundtable with Undersecretary Ceferino S. Rodolfo from the Philippine Department of Trade and Industry. Dr. Ceferino S. Rodolfo is Undersecretary for Industry Development and Trade Policy Group (IDTPG) and Vice Chairman and Managing Head of the Board of Investments (BOI). During the roundtable Undersecretary Rodolfo provided an update on the Philippine economy, prospects for a Philippines-U.S. free trade agreement, and the second package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN 2).

Main points from the roundtable include:

  • Update on Philippines-U.S. FTA 
    • Currently, USTR trying to address critical issues under Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) talks
    • Recent U.S. trade actions (imposition of tariffs and restrictions under Section 201, 301, and 232) do not have significant affect on Philippines
  • Update on TRAIN 2
    • U.S. companies can work with Philippine Government to gather specific, actionable data and build the case that removing these incentives could be detrimental to Philippines’ competitiveness 
      • Philippine Government already planning to include many industries in which U.S. companies operate in the SIPP 
      • Registration for menu of tax incentives does not have to be done by company; it can also be done by product/business activity
  • Update on policy reforms to liberalize sectors of Philippine economy
    • Memorandum Order No. 16
      • Directs government agencies to lift or ease existing restrictions on foreign participation in eight areas or activities
    • Public Service Act of 1932 Amendment
      • With amendment, Public Utilities definition will only cover transmission of electricity, distribution of electricity, and water works and sewerage systems

Notes from the roundtable with Undersecretary Rodolfo can be found here.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Regional Affairs
Aggressive’ negative list under review

Customs
PH Customs engages Webb Fontaine to improve electronic-to-mobile system
Duterte fires Customs deputy commissioner

Defense & Security
US military provides new equipment to Philippine marines
SE Asia said to be losing maritime ‘arms race’
What Cayetano missed in justifying South China Sea joint development
Philippines draws three hard lines on China
Philippines says ready for war if troops harmed in S. China Sea

Economics
Government flags inflation concern
Is it time to impose SRPs on farm products?
Finance dep’t disputes fall in Philippines’ competitiveness rank
OPINION: IMD ranking a wake-up call...but false alarm
Businesses warn ill effects of TRAIN Law package 2
‘Bottom Feeder’: Can overhaul of fiscal perks under TRAIN 2 boost PHL business, cut revenue loss?
Inflation uptick not a cause for concern, says ADB
BSP seen introducing another rate hike this year
Tax plan seen hurting small firms

Energy
Cusi welcomes appointment of PSALM chief
Dennis Uy forges partnership with China’s CNOOC for LNG terminal hub
DoE in discussions for CEZA nuclear power plant study
Fuel excise tax suspension not doable for 2018 – DoF
Draft rules to make oil pricing transparent out

Financial Services
SEC gets new chairman
‘Good reception’ seen as RTB sale begins
Does Philippine Licensing Problems Offer an Opportunity to Thailand? – Asean, Philippines
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Regional Affairs

Philippines silently files note verbale against China Rappler 2nd Jun 2018
For the first time in months, the Philippines silently filed a note verbale against China over the latter's recent moves in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Rappler learned from at least 3 informed sources that this note verbale, or diplomatic note, contained a list of incidents in the West Philippine Sea. The Philippines reportedly handed this note verbale to China on Saturday, May 26. Insiders said the note verbale included the installation of missiles in the Spratly Islands. It also covered a Chinese navy chopper's alleged harassment of a Philippine Navy rubber boat on May 11, when the Philippines was resupplying its troops in Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal). On the same day that the note verbale was issued, Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano met with Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Zhao Jianhua. Cayetano himself said this meeting took place on Saturday. Two days later, Cayetano delivered a 37-minute speech at the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), where he identified "red lines" that China shouldn't cross. He said China, for example, should not harass Filipino soldiers on resupply missions.

US-Philippines free trade deal a step forward — DTI philstar.com 25th May 2018
The US and the Philippines are in agreement that a bilateral free trade deal is a step in the right direction moving forward for both countries, the Department of Trade and Industry said. Deputy United States Trade Representative (USTR) Jeffrey Gerrish and his delegation recently visited the country to further trade and investment ties with the Philippines. The USTR meeting with the country’s trade officials also included continuation of the exploratory discussions for a possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the US and Philippines. According to the DTI, the US and the Philippines agreed that an FTA would be a win for both countries. The two countries also acknowledged that there are already opportunities under the current Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that can be utilized to facilitate more trade. “We are looking forward to exploring a free trade agreement with the US. Meanwhile, we can simultaneously pursue low-hanging opportunities like the existing TIFA and the privileges under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP) of the US,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said.

PHL-South Korea trade, defense relations in focus in Duterte visit BusinessMirror 4th Jun 2018
PRESIDENT Duterte is in South Korea for a three-day official visit until June 5, aiming to strengthen the countries’ partnerships in trade and investments, defense and security, and political cooperation, among others. In a media interview prior to his departure, Duterte said South Korea could also assist in Marawi rehabilitation through its investments, especially in agriculture. South Korea earlier donated $100,000 to the Philippine Red Cross.

China, ASEAN enter into new era of bilateral ties in various fields Lee Yeow Chor 5th Jun 2018
BEIJING, China -- An official of the State Council Information Office of the People’s Republic of China said that China and member-states of the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN), including the Philippines, have entered into a new era of mutual cooperation and deeper understanding in various fields. Chen Yao, deputy director general of the International Liaison Bureau of the State Council Information Office, said since China started to open into the outside world, a new era of mutual ties between China and the ASEAN countries evolved in the fields of trade and commerce, tourism and mass communications.

PH, US looking at exploring FTA, bolstering trade and investment ties Asia Customs & Trade 27th May 2018
The Philippines’ Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) met with a delegation from the United States to further trade and investment ties and continue exploratory discussions on a possible free trade agreement (FTA) between the two countries. Trade and Industry Secretary Ramon Lopez and Deputy United States Trade Representative (USTR) Jeffrey D. Gerrish in a recent meeting agreed that an FTA would be a win for both countries, as both officials acknowledged that opportunities exist under the current Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) that both teams can work on to facilitate more trade immediately.

The Philippines' FTA with the European Free Trade Association Enters into Force in June ASEAN Business News 30th May 2018
The Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the Philippines and the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) will enter into force for Switzerland and the Philippines on June 1, 2018. In March this year, the Philippines’ Senate ratified the FTA with the EFTA as part of the country’s strategy to gain a stronger foothold in the European market. The EFTA comprises of some of the world’s wealthiest nations – Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. Once implemented, the agreement will be the Philippines’ second bilateral FTA after the Japan-Philippine Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) in 2008.

National Affairs

Difficult work ahead to reconcile Senate, House versions of BBL Rappler 2nd Jun 2018
"Significant differences" of the Senate and House versions of the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) may mean more heated debates among legislators in the coming weeks. The House of Representatives approved its version of the BBL on Wednesday, May 30, while the Senate approved its own version a day after. In a statement on Saturday, June 2, Senate Minority Floor Leader Franklin Drilon flagged "significant differences" between both versions, starting with the issue of political dynasties. Both chambers will also have to agree whether or not Palawan is "historically part" of the Bangsamoro territory, and if the Bangsamoro people are Filipino citizens, pursuant to Article IV of the Constitution. Drilon also said that both chambers will have to "work hard" to reconcile their differences on how taxes will be collected in the Bangsamoro.

Palace on BBL: Let’s find common ground philstar.com 1st Jun 2018
Malacañang yesterday hailed Congress for passing the Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) and expressed hope that the final version of the measure would withstand legal scrutiny and enable all sectors to find common ground. Presidential spokesman Harry Roque said President Duterte has asked lawmakers and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) to find common ground and come up with a version of the BBL that is acceptable to all. Roque said Duterte asked all key players during a meeting at Malacañang “to work together” for the passage of the BBL. Roque said Duterte, who served as mediator between lawmakers and the MILF during the meeting, had insisted that the Bangsamoro entity cannot have its own military and police. Among the contentious provisions were those on territorial boundaries of the proposed Bangsamoro autonomous region, annual block grants and its police and security powers that senators saw as violating the Constitution.

Duterte cool to TRAIN suspension philstar.com 31st May 2018
Congressmen are pushing for the suspension of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, which they blame for the increased prices of goods and services. But President Duterte, while acknowledging the impact on inflation of TRAIN, said last night he likely would not suspend it. “All the while, we are having problems because inflation is always there. There are many reasons. Actually, one of them is TRAIN. But I need money also to run the country,” Duterte said in a speech at the change of command ceremonies of the Presidential Security Group in Malacañang Park. Opposition Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay is drafting a joint House of Representatives-Senate resolution suspending TRAIN, while Rep. Michael Romero of party-list group 1-Pacman filed Resolution 1919 yesterday.

New law a boon for foreign investments philstar.com 30th May 2018
Foreign investments are expected to further pick up following the signing into law of a measure that would make doing business easier by promoting efficient government services. President Duterte on Monday signed Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018 in hopes of correcting bureaucratic red tape that continues to hound government institutions. Under the EODB/Efficient Government Act, the Department of Trade and Industry explained that businesses can expect streamlined processes, reduced processing times from all government agencies, including government-owned and controlled corporations.  Government agencies shall be made to comply with the prescribed processing time: three working days for simple transactions, seven working days for complex transactions and 20 working days for highly technical transactions. Local government units are mandated to set up Business One Stop Shop to facilitate business permits application. Apart from streamlining, the law also provides for the creation of a Central Business Portal that will receive and capture application data on business-related transactions, while Philippine Business Databank shall provide LGUs and national government agencies access to information to verify validity and existence of businesses.

'Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018' signed philstar.com 29th May 2018
President Duterte signed yesterday Republic Act 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Act of 2018 in an effort to correct bureaucratic red tape that continues to hound government institutions.“This addresses the failure of the Anti-Red Tape Act of (2007) to solve the perennial problem of bureaucratic red tape in our government institutions,” he said during the law’s ceremonial enactment at Malacañang yesterday. The President said RA 11032 enhances business competitiveness and good governance and is long overdue. He pointed out that this would simplify requirements and streamline procedures to “finally spare our people from the intolerable waiting time and long lines in frontline government agencies.” One of the most important features of this law, he added, is the standardization of the processing time for government transactions.

‘Wage hike to drive away investors’ BusinessMirror 29th May 2018
Business groups are urging the government to think twice about giving in to workers’ demand to raise the minimum wage rate, as granting this might make the country’s investment climate unattractive. The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said it will be ill-advised to approve petitions to hike salaries after the Philippines performed poorly in a global survey on competitiveness. PCCI Chairman George T. Barcelon said increasing pay will only pull the country down and widen the gap between the Philippines and its rival economies in Southeast Asia.

Duterte signs Ease of Doing Business Act to boost competitiveness Inquirer 28th May 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte has signed the bill that will reduce processing times of business transactions in government agencies. The President signed Republic Act No. 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business Act in a ceremony in Malacañang on Monday. “This law will introduce simplified requirements and streamlined procedures that will finally spare our people from the intolerable waiting time and long lines in frontline government agencies,” Duterte said in his speech.

Congress to ratify national ID bill today philstar.com 28th May 2018
After three decades of languishing in the legislative mill, the national ID system bill is expected to be ratified by Congress today, the final step before it is transmitted to President Duterte for his signature. First proposed during the administration of former president Fidel Ramos, the national ID bill has failed to take off due to lack of support in Congress and a general fear of the system because of privacy issues. But now, with the backing of Duterte, the bill, which is also dubbed as the Philippine ID system, has been approved by both the Senate and the House of Representatives. The bill has also gone through the bicameral conference committee where a consolidated version has been prepared and would be presented today in both chambers of Congress for ratification.

Aggressive’ negative list under review Business World 29th May 2018
THE PROPOSED 11th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List, which will be more “aggressive” in opening up more economic sectors to foreign ownership or participation, is undergoing careful review to make sure it is legally sound, an economic planning official said in a recent interview. The new list was supposed to have replaced last year the existing roster that took effect in 2015. Asked on progress of the new list, Rosemarie G. Edillon, undersecretary for Policy and Planning at the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), said the document has yet to reach President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s (PRRD) desk. “The 11th RFINL is with OES (Office of the Executive Secretary) for legal review before it is endorsed for PRRD’s signature,” Ms. Edillon said in a mobile phone message last Thursday. Ms. Edillon said that the government is making sure that the proposed liberalization of more sectors does not violate the constitution nor any other law, as the directive of the NEDA Board, led by Mr. Duterte, was to be as “aggressive as possible.”

Customs

PH Customs engages Webb Fontaine to improve electronic-to-mobile system Asia Customs & Trade 27th May 2018
The Philippines’ Bureau of Customs (BOC) Management Information System and Technology Group (MISTG) is implementing projects and measures to enhance the performance of the bureau’s electronic-to-mobile (e2m) system over the next five years. MISTG deputy commissioner Noel Patrick Prudente, in a Lower House Committee on Ways and Means hearing on May 21, said BOC has tapped Dubai-based customs solutions provider Webb Fontaine to do maintenance and upgrade works on the e2m.

Duterte fires Customs deputy commissioner Sunstar 30th May 2018
Following the supposed unauthorized withdrawal of 105 shipping containers from Manila South Harbor's port, President Rodrigo Duterte fired Customs Deputy Commissioner Noel Patrick Prudente effective Wednesday, May 30. Duterte announced Prudente's dismissal in an impromptu speech he delivered Wednesday during the condemnation of smuggled luxury motor vehicles at the Bureau of Customs (BOC) in Port Area Manila.

Defense & Security

US military provides new equipment to Philippine marines philstar.com 6th Jun 2018
The US military has provided new equipment worth P178 million to the Philippine marines, which will provide increased protection for their operations. The US turned over 525 sets of ballistic vests, lightweight ballistic plates, tactical ballistic helmets and accessories to the Philippine Marine special operations group (MARSOG) and inshore boat battalion at Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City last May 31, according to the US Embassy. The personal protective equipment were turned over through the Counterterrorism Train and Equip Program. Having been allies for 70 years, the US has been providing grant assistance and expedited sales of arms and munitions to the Armed Forces of the Philippines. This also assists the Philippine military's modernization goals and urgent counterterrorism and humanitarian assistance and relief requirements. The Philippines and the US recently concluded its annual joint military exercises in the country. American troops were among the first to assist Filipino soldiers when ISIS-inspired local terrorists sieged Marawi City last year. — Patricia Lourdes Viray

SE Asia said to be losing maritime ‘arms race’ Financial Times 1st Jun 2018
South-east Asian nations are locked in a losing “arms race” with Beijing in the South China Sea and must seek compromises or risk a conflict they cannot win, according to Philippines defence minister Delfin Lorenzana. “They can come and go in our West Philippine Sea unimpeded because we don’t have the wherewithal to confront them,” he told the Financial Times on Friday, using the Philippines term for the South China Sea. “China is actually using its military might to intimidate countries.” Mr Lorenzana said he was concerned about China’s recent deployment of missiles on man-made islands in the South China Sea, parts of which are also claimed by Manila, even though he said Beijing had assured the Philippines that its forces would not be targeted. Mr Lorenzana said that the US could have stopped China from building a string of military bases on reclaimed reefs in the Paracel and Spratly Islands had it “exerted more pressure”. Now, the Philippines — and other claimants to the South China Sea, including Malaysia and Vietnam — are faced with a fait accompli and a seemingly inexorable military build-up.

What Cayetano missed in justifying South China Sea joint development philstar.com 31st May 2018
Foreign Affairs Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano cited a 1999 paper in justifying the possible joint development with China in the South China Sea, part of which is the West Philippine Sea. The paper titled "When will conditions be ripe: Prospects for joint development in the South China Sea" discussed the advantages and disadvantages of joint development zones almost 20 years ago, way back when maritime entitlements were unclear. In a Congressional hearing on Wednesday, the Philippines' top diplomat hit back at critics opposing joint development in the contested waterway. Quoting a May 28 Manila Standard article, Cayetano read "A joint oil and gas exploration by China and the Philippines in the West Philippine Sea will 'somehow give up' the arbitration ruling that said Manila had sovereign rights over the disputed areas in the sea, a maritime expert said Sunday."

Philippines draws three hard lines on China Asia Times 30th May 2018
As China relentlessly militarizes contested islands and features across the South China Sea, the Philippines appears to be finally taking a tougher stance on its competing claims. For the first time, President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has issued several seemingly official “red lines” amid China’s creeping presence in Philippine-claimed waters. If Beijing continues to push, it jeopardize its rapprochement with Manila and put relations back on a confrontational track. In a recent speech, Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano set three different “red lines” for the disputed areas. Duterte, the Filipino diplomat claimed, is willing to go to war no matter the consequences if China violated any one of them. The first red line is any Chinese move to reclaim or build on the Philippine-claimed Scarborough Shoal, which lies just over 100 nautical miles from Philippine shores. Duterte’s second red line is any coercive Chinese move against the Philippine marine detachment guarding the Second Thomas Shoal. The final red line is any unilateral Chinese drilling for natural resources, particularly oil and gas, within the Philippines’ exclusive economic zone.

Philippines says ready for war if troops harmed in S. China Sea Bangkok Post 30th May 2018
MANILA: The Philippines is prepared to go to war if military personnel are harmed in disputed waters, a top security official said on Wednesday, firing back at criticism the government was going soft on China and allowing it to militarise the South China Sea. President Rodrigo Duterte has taken flak in recent weeks for not confronting Beijing following news that China had installed missile systems on artificial islands in the busy waterway, including areas within Manila's Exclusive Economic Zone.

Economics

Government flags inflation concern BusinessWorld 6th Jun 2018
Inflation clocked slower than expected in May but still marked the fastest clip in more than five years and kept the year-to-date pace past the government’s 2-4% target for 2018, prompting state economic managers to express concern and assure the public of action in separate statements on Tuesday. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported a 4.6% inflation rate in May, a fresh high in at least five years, but slower than the 4.9% median in a BusinessWorld poll that was also the estimate given by the Department of Finance (DoF) for the month. The pace picked up for the fifth straight month, faster than April’s 4.5% and May 2017’s 2.9%, but matched the floor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) 4.6-5.4% estimate range. Core inflation — which excludes volatile food and energy prices — rose to 3.6% in May from 3.5% in April. The PSA attributed the acceleration to the faster annual gains recorded in alcoholic beverages and tobacco (20.5% from 20% in April 2018); transport (6.2% from 4.9%); restaurant and miscellaneous goods and services (3.7% from 3.4%); as well as furnishing, household equipment and routine maintenance of the house (2.9% from 2.8%).

Is it time to impose SRPs on farm products? BusinessMirror 3rd Jun 2018
AS the specter of steadily climbing inflation continues to spook markets and consumers,  different agriculture industry stakeholders are throwing their support behind the government’s proposal to establish a suggested retail price (SRP) scheme on basic farm products, according to the Department of Agriculture (DA). This emerged after a meeting convened by Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol on Thursday, which was prompted by the increasing retail prices of agriculture products in recent months. The meeting looked into the issue of increasing retail prices of farm products in the domestic market despite sufficient supply. It also sought to discuss the possibility of imposing an SRP on basic agriculture commodities, according to Piñol.

Finance dep’t disputes fall in Philippines’ competitiveness rank BusinessWorld 30th May 2018
The Department of Finance (DoF) on Tuesday disputed the International Institute of Management Development’s (IMD) latest World Competitiveness Rankings report that saw the Philippines’ dropping nine rungs, arguing that this was not consistent with data. In a statement, Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran said the annual report’s latest findings “are not backed up by actual data.” The research group of Switzerland-based business school IMD in its report last week ranked the Philippines 50th out of 63 economies in terms of overall competitiveness, citing weakening in tourism and employment, worsening public finances and concerns about the education system.

OPINION: IMD ranking a wake-up call...but false alarm ABS-CBN News 30th May 2018
According to the 2018 IMD World Competitiveness Report, the Philippines's rating ranked to 50th in a sample of 63 economies, falling by as much as 9 ranks. The apparent crash was resoundingly loud setting off alarms. A wake-up call, isn't it? But no sooner did the alarm set off did level-headed economic managers hit the snooze button. The press release by the IMD explains that the fall in the country's ratings is explained by "decline in tourism and employment, the worsening public finances and a surge in concerns about the education system." All these allegations are not backed up by actual data. First, while IMD says tourism and employment has declined, the country’s employed persons rose 6.1% in January 2018 and unemployment rate dropped to 5.3%, the lowest since the country started compiling unemployment statistics. Also, international tourist arrivals to the Philippines rose by 16.1% to 1.4 million visitors for the period January-February 2018 compared to its level in the same period last year. In 2017, Philippine tourists reached an all-time high of 6.6 million. Second, the claim that the state of public finance is worsening is simply laughable. The statement by the IMD reflects gross research incompetence. We won't go to lengths to dispute such statement regarding our fiscal affairs but would like to refer to other third party assessments--credit rating agencies and the IMF. If the state of our public finance was really deteriorating, credit rating agencies would have taken notice and have downgraded us accordingly. But no, we're still investment grade!

Businesses warn ill effects of TRAIN Law package 2 Rappler 30th May 2018
Some businesses aired their concerns over the proposed package 2 of the Tax Reform Acceleration and Inclusion or TRAIN Law. During the House Committee on Ways and Means’ second hearing on the proposed measure, the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Regional Headquarters Inc. (PAMURI) warned legislators that thousands of employees in the Regional Operating Headquarters (ROHQ) sector will be displaced because of the proposal. PAMURI also said that the removal of incentives would scare away potential foreign investors. The association warned that some companies would migrate their operations to India, Malaysia, Vietnam and Hong Kong.

‘Bottom Feeder’: Can overhaul of fiscal perks under TRAIN 2 boost PHL business, cut revenue loss? BusinessMirror 27th May 2018
THE Philippines has been deemed a “bottom feeder” when it comes to attracting foreign direct investments (FDIs) in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean). The level of the country’s FDIs as of 2015, according to the Department of Finance (DOF), reached only 2 percent of the country’s GDP. This means FDIs could be P266.44 billion in 2015 using current prices. Full-year GDP in 2015 was at P13.32 trillion. This may look impressive since DOF cited Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) data which showed net FDI has been steadily increasing and reached $8 billion in 2018 from only $1.7 billion in 2005. And yet, compared to the rest of the 10-member Asean, the country is a laggard in terms of FDI. Its closest neighbors are Thailand and Indonesia with FDIs reaching 2.3 percent of their GDP.

Con-com’s halftime performance: 80% of work’s done, but how near are we to adopting a federal constitution? BusinessMirror 26th May 2018
RESOLVING crucial political and economic issues that have long bedeviled the country has been the name of the game for the 22-member committee handpicked by the President to review no less than the highest law of the land—the 1987 Constitution. The Consultative Committee (Con-com) is already halfway through its six-month life which started in February. It may look like there is still much time left, but the committee actually has only less than two months to beat its self-imposed deadline to submit the final constitutional draft to the President on July 19. This is days before the Chief Executive’s State of the Nation Address on July 23. Still, Con-com chairman and former Chief Justice Reynato S. Puno told the BusinessMirror that they are already 80 percent done with the draft federal constitution. Although there are still a number of crucial things that are yet to be accomplished, Puno said he is “confident” that the Con-com is on track to beating the July deadline.

Inflation uptick not a cause for concern, says ADB philstar.com 25th May 2018
Multilateral lender Asian Development Bank (ADB) said the faster increase in consumer prices should not be a cause for concern in the Philippines as monetary authorities are doing everything to curb rising inflationary pressures. ADB director general Ramesh Subramaniam said the recent inflation uptick should not be a cause for concern because the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has been closely monitoring the inflation situation. Inflation averaged 4.1 percent in the first four months, exceeding the two to four percent target set by the BSP. The consumer price index leapt to a fresh five-year high of 4.5 percent in April from 4.3 percent in March due to rising oil prices and the impact of the implementation of Republic Act 10963 or the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law. Subramaniam said the current rate remains within range if compared with other economies in the region.

BSP seen introducing another rate hike this year philstar.com 25th May 2018
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas will likely undertake further policy action toward the end of the year to curb rising prices of key consumer items, a research firm said. “BSP has raised policy rates... and with the continued breach of the 4 percent target limit and strengthening US dollar and bond yields, we think that the BSP will raise policy rates again towards the end of 2018 by another 25 basis points,” economists at the First Metro Investment Corp. and the University of Asia & the Pacific said in a May report published Friday. For the first time in nearly four years, the central bank early this month lifted key rates to tame surging inflation. Governor Nestor Espenilla earlier said that in deciding to tweak interest rates, the Monetary Board noted that the latest forecasts have “further shifted higher indicating that inflation pressures could become more broad-based over the policy horizon.”

Metro Manila labor turnover rate slows in 2017 BusinessMirror 27th May 2018
Higher numbers of workers being separated or resigning in agriculture, real estate and manufacturing caused labor turnover rates in Metro Manila to slow in the last quarter of 2017, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). Data from the Labor Turnover Survey (LTS) showed Metro Manila’s labor turnover was at 1.38 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017, from 3.36 percent in the same period in 2016. The PSA explained Labor Turnover as referring to changes in the employment of an enterprise during a reference period resulting from accessions (hiring to replace resignations or hiring to expand) and separations of workers.

Tax plan seen hurting small firms Inquirer.net 4th Jun 2018
The Duterte administration’s second tax package will hurt smaller firms if it gives tax perks based on performance as this will favor only those that are “already successful to grow even bigger.” This was the stand of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), which had opposed some provisions of House Bill 7458, including those that it claimed would be discriminatory against micro, small, and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs). The group said it sent a position paper to Congress voicing its opposition, although it noted that exporters supported the bill’s move to lower the corporate income tax. The bill is the House of Representatives’ version of the government’s second tax package, which seeks to lower corporate income tax while rationalizing the tax incentives the government offers investors. There are a number of conditions that must be met before a company can be eligible for the new set of tax perks under the second tax package. According to the bill, the project must qualify under the list of the government’s preferred business activities, which will be detailed under the so-called strategic investments priority plan (SIPP). On top of that, the company must satisfy “performance targets” that will be decided by the SIPP such as export sales, actual investments, actual job creation and investments in lagging regions.

Energy

Cusi welcomes appointment of PSALM chief Business World 28th May 2018
ENERGY Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi is looking forward to a “productive cooperation” with the newly-appointed head of Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM). On Sunday, PSALM said with the signing by President Rodrigo R. Duterte of Irene Joy Besido Garcia’s appointment papers, its board of directors held a special meeting on May 25 for her election.“PSALM can now move full steam ahead and I look forward to a productive cooperation between our agencies,” Mr. Cusi said, when asked to comment on Ms. Garcia’s as director, president and executive officer of the state agency tasked to privatize the government power generation assets. In a statement, PSALM said Ms. Garcia will lead the agency in “optimizing the proceeds from the sale of power generation and real estate assets, settling the outstanding financial obligations and liabilities of PSALM and administering the Universal Charge among other urgent matters.”

Dennis Uy forges partnership with China’s CNOOC for LNG terminal hub philstar.com 6th Jun 2018
Davao-based businessman Dennis Uy is partnering with China’s largest offshore oil and gas company for a liquefied natural gas project in the Philippines, which could potentially make Uy the first LNG proponent in the country. Uy’s Phoenix Petroleum will enter into a memorandum of understanding with China’s CNOOC Gas and Power Group Co. Ltd. to study, plan, and develop an integrated liquified natural gas (LNG) project in the Philippines, the listed company said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) yesterday. CNOOC Gas is a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. The CNOOC Group is the largest offshore oil and gas company in China and is also one of the largest independent oil and gas exploration and production companies in the world. The planned venture with CNOOC comes just after Phoenix said in April that it is adding LNG to its portfolio, amid the looming depletion of Malampaya gas project.

DoE in discussions for CEZA nuclear power plant study BusinessWorld 6th Jun 2018
The Department of Energy (DoE) has held discussions with a South Korean company which tackled a possible feasibility study for a modular nuclear reactor in an economic zone in Cagayan province. In a statement on Wednesday, the DoE said the modular reactor being considered would have a capacity of 100 megawatts (MW) to be located in an area managed by the Cagayan Economic Zone Authority (CEZA). The Energy department identified the company as Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power, or KHNP, with its president and chief executive officer, Chung Jae Hoon, holding talks with Energy Secretary Alfonso G. Cusi, Undersecretary Donato D. Marcos and Assistant Secretary Gerardo D. Erguiza, Jr. CEZA supervises the development of the Cagayan Special Economic Zone and Freeport in the northeastern Philippines. The freeport includes Sta. Ana town and islands in Aparri town in Cagayan province. It covers around 54,118.95 hectares.

Fuel excise tax suspension not doable for 2018 – DoF Manila Times 29th May 2018
The Finance department has rejected calls for the prompt suspension of higher excise taxes on petroleum products, saying this cannot be done under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (Train) law that took effect at the start of the year. “The DoF (Department of Finance) does not have any plans on immediately suspending the increased rates of excise taxes on petroleum products for 2018 as this is not the mechanism sanctioned by law,” Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick Chua said on Monday. Republic Act (RA) 10963 or the Train law increased taxes on a range of goods and services in exchange for lower personal income tax rates. In particular, it raised excise taxes — or imposed, in the case of items previously not covered — on refined and manufactured mineral oils and motor fuels, to be implemented over three years up to 2020.

Draft rules to make oil pricing transparent out BusinessMirror 28th May 2018
AS continuing price surges have shifted public anger mostly to the TRAIN law that mandated higher fuel excise taxes, the government moved to require a more transparent, unbundled system for informing people of the breakdown of petroleum product prices. The Department of Energy (DOE) has released the draft rules on petroleum price monitoring, meant to guide the consumers in making informed decisions in the management of their fuel oil requirements. The agency wants oil companies or bulk suppliers to submit a report on the computation and the corresponding explanation of the unbundled items comprising the pr ice of all petroleum products.

Financial Services

SEC gets new chairman philstar.com 7th Jun 2018
President Duterte’s lone appointee at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Emilio Benito Aquino, has been named the new SEC chairman, succeeding Teresita Herbosa whose seven-year term ended in March. Aquino, one of the four SEC commissioners, was appointed in December 2016. Like Duterte, the 53-year-old Aquino hails from Mindanao and was also a graduate of the San Beda College of Law. He will serve until 2025. While he was appointed as SEC commissioner just in 2016, Aquino is a veteran in the commission, where he rose from the ranks to become the youngest director of its former Prosecution and Enforcement Department (PED) and Non-Traditional Securities and Instruments (NTD) Department. A Zamboangueño, Aquino headed the SEC Davao and Zamboanga Extension Offices where he launched capital market promotion activities as well as enforcement programs against investment scams in the countryside. By profession, Aquino is a certified public account and lawyer. He taught commercial law subjects at the law schools of Ateneo de Zamboanga and Western Mindanao State University.

‘Good reception’ seen as RTB sale begins BusinessWorld 31st May 2018
The first day of sale of the three-year retail Treasury bonds (RTB) bared strong demand for the debt papers amid ample liquidity in the market. In the first day of the debt sale on Wednesday, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) raised P66 billion in three-year RTBs — against a total tender of P92.8 billion from banks and other financial institutions — with a 4.875% coupon. The strong demand prompted the Treasury to increase its offer from P30 billion initially.

Does Philippine Licensing Problems Offer an Opportunity to Thailand? – Asean, Philippines Thailand Business News 30th May 2018
Philippines has for a number of years found itself in the unique position of being the only country in Asia that licenses online gambling sites, done under the auspices of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), which also runs land-based casinos in the country, along with VIP slots clubs and bingo parlours.

BSP cuts reserve requirement further BusinessWorld 25th May 2018
THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Thursday announced another percentage point cut in bank reserves, marking the second such adjustment this year as the regulator moves to reduce lending costs in the Philippines. In a statement, the Monetary Board announced that the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) imposed on universal and commercial banks will be trimmed to 18% effective June 1 under Circular No. 1004, series of 2018, that was signed by BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. on May 24. BSP’s Monetary Board approved this move on March 22 via Resolution No. 471. This follows a cut of the same magnitude announced on Feb. 15 which took effect March 2.

Food & Agriculture

No deal yet on imports of sugar, says DA chief philstar.com 7th Jun 2018
The Department of Agriculture (DA) maintained that the Philippines would not import sugar despite strong calls from local manufacturers of confectionery products following the surge in domestic sugar prices. “No agreement on sugar importation yet,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said in a text message to The STAR. Piñol, who is still in South Korea, did not elaborate whether he supports the private sector’s call for importation. The Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) is also leaving the decision up to the agri chief. The Philippine Confectionery Biscuits and Snack Association (PCBSA) earlier sought the government’s approval to import sugar, with the goal of ensuring stable supply, enhancing free competition, and ensuring a level playing field. Mill gate prices of sugar jumped 44 percent to P1,802 per 50-kilogram bag as of May 20. The wholesale prices of raw, washed, and refined sugar also went up by more than 20 percent to P1,950 to P2,550 per 50-kg. The continued increase in the price of sugar was attributed to the declining output in the farms despite assurance from SRA that local production would still meet domestic demand.

House leader seeks to revitalize mango industry BusinessMirror 31st May 2018
The decline in mango production in the first quarter has prompted a lawmaker to push for the crafting of policies that would revive the local mango sector. Citing figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority, Deputy Speaker and Party-list Rep. Sharon S. Garin of Aambis-OWA  noted that the production of mango dropped by 9.4 percent to 97,7000 metric tons in the first quarter, from 107,830 MT a year ago. “The recent performance of the country’s mango industry is a call for the government to take action and help improve its standing by instituting far-reaching policies that would genuinely develop the national fruit’s productivity, marketability and viability,” Garin said in a statement. She noted that mango is one of the country’s most important fruit crops in terms of export volume and value. Fresh and dried Philippine mango is widely distributed in the United States, Hong Kong, South Korea, Japan, China, Canada and the United Kingdom.

Delay in shift to rice tariff to hurt farmers, consumers BusinessMirror 30th May 2018
The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) has warned that delaying the conversion of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice into tariffs will be costly for the local livestock sector and for consumers. There’s another reason for the urgency: conversion of the rice QR into tariff, along with the unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) and fuel vouchers, would help ease the impact of inflation on the country’s vulnerable sectors, an official of the Department of Finance (DOF) said. Finance Assistant Secretary Ma. Teresa S. Habitan said scrapping the rice QR would help stabilize rice supply and prices. This, Habitan added, will help the poor as rice accounts for 20 percent of their consumption.

DA’s Piñol says banks’ refusal to lend holding back agriculture BusinessWorld 28th May 2018
Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol said banks are to blame for refusing to comply with Republic Act 10000, or the Agri-Agra Reform Credit Act of 2009, saying that their refusal to embark on lending to farmers is holding back growth in the sector. Mr. Piñol, speaking to reporters about banks that refuse to comply with the 25% legal requirement for the share of agriculture lending, said: “How can you expect growth in Philippine agriculture if banking institutions are avoiding the Agri-Agra law commitments? You’re trying to milk a cow that you’re not even feeding so how can it give you milk?” The BSP said earlier this month it is looking at ways to improve bank compliance with the law, including applying the 25% requirement to all beneficiaries, with no distinction between regular farm loans and loans made to agrarian reform beneficiaries.

Except for mango, fruits robust in Q1 BusinessMirror 27th May 2018
The country’s mango output in the first quarter declined by 9.39 percent to 97,700 metric tons,  from 107,830 MT recorded output in the same period of last year, according to the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA). “The downtrend in mango production with this year’s 9.39-percent drop was due to the occurrence of capsid bug, cecid fly and other fruit flies, and the late flowering of some trees in Ilocos region and Central Luzon,” the PSA said in its recent report on agriculture performance. The PSA said the reduction in the volume of output resulted in a 39.55-percent increase in the average farm-gate price of mango in the January-to-March period.

ICT

PHL shows vast improvement in 4G speeds BusinessWorld 31st May 2018
The Philippines improved in long-term evolution (LTE) availability and speed from last year due to the expansion of services by the telecommunications giants, according to a recent report. OpenSignal, a United Kingdom-based wireless coverage mapping company, said in a website post that both PLDT, Inc.’s Smart Communications, Inc. and Globe Telecom, Inc. showed “amazing growth” in their overall fourth generation (4G) speeds in tests over the last year. From the test period from March to May 2017, to the most recent test period of February to April 2018, Globe’s overall speed grew by 63% while Smart’s overall speed nearly doubled in the company’s measurements.

Long overlooked, the Philippines starts to catch tech investors' fancy DealStreetAsia 31st May 2018
The hunt for bargains in Southeast Asian’s red-hot technology arena is finally driving investors to the Philippines. Galvanized by Alibaba-founder Jack Ma’s investment in payments outfit Mynt, early-stage investors have begun to explore opportunities in one of the region’s fastest-growing economies, which since 2012 has drawn but an iota of Southeast Asian venture capital investment.

Naming third telco hits another delay philstar.com 30th May 2018
Authorities are yet to agree on the final criteria for selecting the Philippines’ third major telecommunications player, causing a delay in the entry of the new service provider that is set to compete with a longstanding duopoly. According to the Department of Information and Communications Technology, or DICT, an oversight committee formed by President Rodrigo Duterte has yet to approve the draft Terms of Reference for the selection process. The DICT said the government-led committee convened last May 28 to zero in on “four key issues” that must be resolved first to ensure that the upcoming telecom player could effectively compete. But acting DICT Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. had reportedly assured the public that the announcement would happen “definitely before the end of the year.”

#ConnectedWomen: how tech allows women to stay in the PHL and start their own business GMA News Online 30th May 2018
While traveling and shooting for a food documentary series, I met a lot of restaurant and local delicacy owners in the provinces. Most of them were women, matriarchs who, wanting to augment their husbands’ income and provide a better future for their families, started their businesses right out of their homes. With determination and grit, these matriarchs have grown their once backyard projects into full-blown businesses with several locations and/or becoming suppliers to businesses in Metro Manila and even abroad.

E-commerce growth expected to drive more brick-and-mortar businesses to the Philippines BusinessWorld 25th May 2018
EXPECT more global brands to find their way to Philippine shores, as traditional brick-and-mortar stores struggle in more advanced economies because of the growth of e-commerce. At the Philippine Retail Summit 2018 in Taguig City on Thursday, Trade Undersecretary Zenaida C. Maglaya said foreign retailers will set up shop in the Philippines at an accelerated pace, buoyed by the country’s young demographics and rising disposable income.

PCC finds Grab a monopoly, cites ‘deteriorating service’ Manila Bulletin 28th May 2018
This Statement of Concerns (SOC) was published yesterday by the PCC’s Mergers and Acquisitions Office (MAO). Basically, the SOC said that the acquisition by Grab Holdings, Inc. and MyTaxi.PH, Inc. of Uber B.V. and Uber Systems Inc. on March 25 has resulted in a “substantial lessening of competition” in the ride-hailing market. “PCC-MAO finds compelling grounds to take Grab to task for its virtual monopoly of both the driver and customer base after the merger,” the anti-trust body said in a statement. Worse, despite the increase in Grab’s supply of drivers, price monitoring data before and after Uber’s app shutdown on April 16, 2018 showed an upward trend in Grab fares and frequency of surge-pricing after the shutdown. PCC also noted that passenger surveys and interviews likewise indicate more driver cancellations, forced cancellation of rides, and longer waiting times. PCC-MAO finds that these harms to passengers are a result of the loss of competition previously posed by Uber on Grab.

Infrastructure

April infrastructure spending doubles to P65.6 billion philstar.com 31st May 2018
Infrastructure spending almost doubled to P65.6 billion in April from last year, driving the jump in total government disbursements during the period, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said yesterday. In a press briefing, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said disbursements on infrastructure projects and other capital outlays in April rose twice as much as the P33.5 billion recorded in the same month last year. This brought cumulative infrastructure expenditures to P222.7 billion in the first four months, 47.5 percent higher than the P151 billion recorded in the same period in 2017. According to Diokno, the strong growth in infrastructure spending is in line with the administration’s Build Build Build program.

Infrastructure, other capital outlays surge BusinessWorld 31st May 2018
State Spending on infrastructure and other capital outlays nearly doubled in April as the government ramped up construction and improvement of roads and flood control systems and bought more equipment for its schools, the Budget department reported on Wednesday. State disbursement data showed infrastructure and other capital outlays grew 95.9% to P65.6 billion in April from P33.5 billion a year ago, and by 3.5% from P63.4 billion in March.

Gov’t spending jumps 43% Inquirer 31st May 2018
The national government’s spending surged by 43 percent year-on-year in April to P261.2 billion, driven mainly by a doubling of expenses on infrastructure, according to the Department of Budget and Management. This brought disbursements for the first four months of 2018 to P1.03 trillion, up 29 percent from P798.4 billion in the same period. Budget Secretary Ben E. Diokno yesterday said in a briefing that disbursements for infrastructure and other capital outlays last month jumped 96 percent to P65.6 billion from P33.5 billion in April 2017.

11,000 jobs available in government infrastructure program philstar.com 30th May 2018
At least 11,000 jobs will be available to Filipinos as government agencies begin to implement “Build Build Build” projects aimed at reaching the country’s “golden age of infrastructure.” The agencies launched yesterday the “Job Portal” website showing thousands of job vacancies for government-related construction projects. Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said during yesterday’s launch that the job vacancies in the website were sourced from 10 contractors. Villar is optimistic that more contractors will be posting job vacancies in the website and the number could soar to 100,000.

Infra spending seen to push Philippine growth up to 8% this year | Philstar.com philstar.com 30th May 2018
The rate of public spending on infrastructure and accelerated pace of project completion would enable the Philippines to post a seven to eight percent growth rate this year, said First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC). In a statement, the investment banking arm of the Metrobank Group said the 32.4 percent growth in infra spending and other outlays in March is an indication that the government’s infrastructure program is “full steam ahead.” “The construction of roads, police stations, and rehabilitation of schools accounted for the strong outlay in infrastructure resulting in a 30-plus growth on total government spending, which is seen to push economic expansion and hit the seven to eight percent target this year,” said FMIC. The firm also noted that total government spending in the first quarter exceeded programmed spending, “suggesting that various reforms and programs are being implemented.”

April infrastructure spending nearly doubles on road projects, momentum of ‘Build, Build, Build’ BusinessMirror 30th May 2018
Government spending on infrastructure rose by 95.9 percent for the month of April to P65.6 billion, driven by road-construction projects being done by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) in line with the government’s “Build, Build, Build” (BBB) infrastructure program, the budget chief said. That April 2018 spending represented a near doubling of the P33.5 billion recorded in the same month for 2017. “Disbursements rose by 43 percent in April 2018,  with the huge jump attributed to strong spending on infrastructure in line with the BBB. Infrastructure spending almost doubled, from P33.5 billion to P65.6 billion, in April 2018. Total government spending is at P1.03 trillion for the first four months of the year, posting a 29-percent increase year-on-year,” Budget Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno told reporters on Wednesday.

Gov’t launches ‘Jobs, Jobs, Jobs’ portal to support infra push Inquirer 29th May 2018
The government launched on Tuesday a jobs portal that will consolidate all employment opportunities for Filipinos under its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program. The online portal, called “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs,” would feature all concessionaires and construction companies involved in the government’s infrastructure projects. “The “Jobs, Jobs, Jobs” portal will serve as a job matching platform between potential employers and employees as the government moves to complement its “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure initiatives with more job opportunities for Filipinos,” Public Works and Highways Secretary Mark Villar said in a statement.

Guadalupe-BGC Skytrain construction seen to start in 2018 Rappler 28th May 2018
The infrastructure unit of tycoon Andrew Tan's Alliance Global Group Incorporated (AGI) expects to start construction of its proposed P3-billion Skytrain in 2018. The two-kilometer Skytrain monorail would link the Guadalupe Station of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT3) to Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig City. With the DOTr's approval, the proposed Skytrain would now be up for review of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board's Investment Coordination Committee. "We can start the project before the year ends and [it] will take us two years to complete it. By early 2021, we can open the Skytrain to the public," said Infracorp president Kevin Tan.

Build, Build, Build to highlight infrastructure, transportation and connectivity philstar.com 27th May 2018
The Build, Build, Build program is the centerpiece of the administration’s claim to reduce poverty incidence from today’s 21.6 percent to 14 percent by 2022. It is designed to modernize the country’s infrastructure backbone by rolling out 75 flagship projects with a combined worth of $36 billion in investments. The project seeks to uplift the lives of more than six million Filipinos to set the economy securely on the road to upper middle income status by 2022 and to a high-income one by 2040. While some critics have questioned the financial sustainability of the ambitious undertaking, the government primarily eyes the enactment into law of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN) to secure its steady revenue flow, totaling a P786 billion over the medium term. This, ideally combined with a prudent fiscal management and the declining debt service payments, is hoped to make this ambitious infrastructure buildup financially feasible.

Aviation dreams soar, but infra constraints could keep clipping airlines’ wings BusinessMirror 2nd Jun 2018
CAPACITY constraints continued to stunt the growth of domestic air travel in Manila in 2017 and unless the problem is properly addressed through infrastructure buildup, development of the overall local aviation market will continue to be stymied in 2018. Based on government data, the domestic air travel market grew by 6 percent to 24.8 million in 2017, the same rate by which it grew a year prior. This, according to think tank Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (Capa), is quite unusual, given that the market grows at a much faster pace than the local economy, which advanced 6.7 percent.

Malaysia

What Mahathir’s victory may mean for relations between China and the Philippines AEC News Today 30th May 2018
Malaysia’s general election result had far-reaching consequences. As Mahathir prepares to loosen ties with China, what does that mean for the Philippines?

Travel & Tourism

Airlines seek fuel surcharge Inquirer 30th May 2018
Reeling from the double whammy caused by surging global oil prices and the weakening of the peso, airline operators in the Philippines have asked regulators for an increase in fuel surcharges, potentially making it costlier to travel or transport goods by air.