Philippines Update: August 2, 2018

Philippines Update | August 2, 2018
Authors: Riley Smith and Mianmian Fei

August 6: Philippines Committee Quarterly Call w/ Briefing on Duterte's 3rd SONA

August 30-September 1: 2018 Mission to the ASEAN Economic Ministers (AEM) Meeting (Singapore)

September 4: Innovation Series: "Augmented Reality/Virtual Reality - Enriching our Perceptions" (Manila)

September 4-6: Powertrends 2018 (Manila)

Duterte Highlights Legislative Priorities in Third State of the Nation Address
On July 23, President Rodrigo Duterte delivered his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) to a joint session of Congress. The full text of the SONA can be found here. Unlike during his previous two SONAs, Duterte largely stuck to his prepared remarks. During his speech, he touched on the recurring themes of his crackdown on illegal drugs and corruption. Duterte also spoke about his administration’s attempts to “re-energize” relations with China, while vowing to defend the Philippines’ interest in the West Philippine Sea. In addition to these topics, Duterte also highlighted several priority pieces of legislation that he urged Congress to pass. Among these priority pieces of legislation were:
  • The Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which establishes the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM). The Bill was signed by President Duterte on July 26. More details on the BOL can be found here and in the Council's Take below.
  • The second package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN 2), which would lower the corporate income tax rate to 25% from 30% but also streamline tax incentives. The first package for TRAIN, which included excises taxes on fuel on other goods, has been blamed for contributing to recent record levels of inflation.

  • The proposed draft Constitution, which would replace the current 1987 Constitution and move the Philippines from a unitary to a federal system of government.

  • The ban on “endo,” which is the practice of hiring and terminating workers in five months so that employers can avoid regularizing them.

  • The creation of the P100 billion (US$1.9 billion) Coconut Farmers and Industry Trust Fund that would directly benefit the country’s 3.5 million coconut farmers.

  • The National Land Use Act, which would allow the national and local governments to determine the specific uses of “land and other physical resources” in the Philippines.

  • The replacement the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council and the Office of Civil Defense with a new Department of Disaster Management. The new Department of Disaster Management would "prepare, integrate, coordinate, implement, supervise, control, monitor, and evaluate all plans, programs, projects, and activities of the government on humanitarian emergency assistance and disaster risk reduction and management.”

  • The amendment of the Agricultural Tariffication Act of 1996, which would replace quantitative restrictions on rice imports with a tariff system.

  • The Universal Healthcare Bill, which would provide every Filipino affordable healthcare by enrolling them in the National Health Security Program.

On August 6, the Council will hold the Philippines Committee Quarterly Call for the third quarter of 2018. During the call Prof. Victor Andres "Dindo" C. Manhit will provide a briefing on the key economic and political issues highlighted in Duterte's third SONA. More details on the call can be found here.

After Duterte Signs Bangsamoro Organic Law, Focus Shifts to Implementation

On July 26, President Rodrigo Duterte signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), fulfilling one of the key promises of his presidential campaign. An overview of the major provisions of the law can be found in the July 19 Philippines Update, which previewed Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (available here). Despite a brief delay in the bill’s signing, which as due to an unexpected leadership squabble in the House of Representatives that saw former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wrest the House Speakership from Pantaleon Alvarez, the next hurdle for the BOL, formerly called the Bangsamoro Basic Law, to overcome will be its implementation, starting with a plebiscite meant to determine which areas will be included in the newly formed Bangsamoro region. The Government aims to hold the plebiscite before the end of 2018, as mandated by the BOL, which requires the vote be scheduled 90 to 150 days following the bill’s signing. If approved in the plebiscite, which is likely, President Duterte can begin appointing members of the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA) by early 2019.

In addition to determining the nominal borders of the new region, Congress will need to allocate funds for the law’s implementation. Even though Duterte urged Congress to prioritize the BOL’s passage last year, the Department of Budget and Management did not include the law’s implementation in its 2019 budget. Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya Jr., who served as the Secretary of Budget and Management in Arroyo's administration, estimated that the new Bangsamoro region would require at least P110 billion (US$2.1 billion) in budgetary outlay, in addition to P50 billion (US$940 million) in increased internal revenue allotment to the local government units in the new region. The Minority Leader in the Senate, Franklin Drilon, has said that adjustments to the current budget will need to be made to include a share of the proceeds from taxes if the BOL plebiscite is held before the end of the year.

Lastly, Duterte has already indicated his willingness to renegotiate aspects of the law, despite his already having signed it, adding yet another dimension of uncertainty, as any revisions would require legislative action. For example, the BOL has met resistance in Sulu, where a significant portion of the local population has historically not been in favor of having their province be part of a Bangsamoro region. Founding Chairman of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), Nur Misuari, has criticized the 2014 peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), which will come into force with the implementation of the BOL. In response, Duterte has said that he would give Nur Misuari autonomy if the MNLF leader were to ask for it, and Presidential Spokesman Harry Roque has said that the Duterte administration is open to discussing further changes to the recently passed and signed BOL. While there is a better than fair chance that any revisions could pass in Congress without much resistance, it nevertheless underscores that the BOL in its current form remains a work-in-progress.

Former President Arroyo’s Election to Speaker of the House Unlikely to Affect Duterte’s Legislative Agenda

In addition to President Rodrigo Duterte’s third State of the Nation Address (SONA), July 23 was bookended by drama in Congress, specifically the ousting of Congressman Pantaleon Alvarez as Speaker of the House by supporters of former President and current Congresswoman Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Following some confusion earlier in the day, a special session of Congress was convened after the SONA to formally elect and swear in Arroyo as the new Speaker. Alvarez reportedly saw his support in the House of Representatives erode after criticizing Duterte’s daughter and current Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte Carpio in February for forming her own regional political party. In the vote to elect Arroyo as Speaker of the House, 184 lawmakers voted for her to replace Alvarez, while 12 lawmakers abstained. The House leadership shake-up not only pushed back the SONA for more than an hour, but also delayed the House of Representative’s ratification of the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL), which President Duterte was set to sign before delivering his SONA.

Arroyo’s ascension to the position of Speaker of the House is a big political turnaround for the former president, who was jailed on graft charges in 2011. Given that Arroyo is also a staunch supporter of President Duterte, the change in House leadership is unlikely to have a negative impact on his agenda, including his push to implement a federal system of government in place of the Philippines’ current unitary system. Rather, Duterte’s agenda is likely to continue unaffected by the leadership change, if not speed up slightly. Senators responded with caution to Arroyo’s election as Speaker of the House, expressing concern that she might push for a unicameral parliamentary system of government, as she did during her time as president. On the other hand, business leaders generally supported Arroyo taking on the Speaker role, citing her background as an economist.

Trade dep’t asks PCC to look into ‘excessive’ fees by foreign shipping lines

Defense & Security
Duterte to intensify defense cooperation with Malaysia

Economic managers say rising revenues to help keep budget gap manageable
Burned by TRAIN, senators seek solid data
Philippines, Asia’s worst equities market, is showing signs of a comeback
IMF: PHL still strong, but higher rates needed
FMIC: 7% growth may be sustained till year-end
Economists see wage-fueled price spikes
PHL growth view steady despite inflation

Petronas keen to invest in Philippine LNG hub
Senate eyeing P204-billion Malampaya fund to cut consumers’ bills
Renewable energy development still not a priority
Industry group advocates for keeping fiscal incentives for geothermal development in the Philippines
DOE to identify RE zones in the country
‘Rollout of key energy projects to boost power supply in PHL’
Proposed energy projects gathering dust
Legarda renews call to pursue renewable energy development in the Philippines

Financial Services
Gov’t rejects all bids for T-bonds
BSP forms fintech unit
Better regulations seen key to more innovation
House OKs P200-billion BSP capitalization
BSP backs creation of payments law
Bank reserve requirement steady for now -- BSP
More Filipinos going cashless
BSP seen hawkish till first half of next year
Banks tighten lending standards amid rising credit growth

Food & Agriculture
Rice stakeholders nix 40% bound tariff, pitch 180%
Rice tariff bill slated for second-reading approval
PNP deploys teams vs rice, food smugglers, profiteers
Philippines wants expansion of Region 8's sweet jack fruit
Typhoons leave P1.8 billion damage to agriculture
Coconut industry pushes 5% biodiesel blend
DoF pushes for improved PH fish output
Banana growers, exporters urge government to expedite FTA with Seoul
Mapping technology being touted to develop mussel farming industry
PHL imports more fertilizers amid dip in local production

Health & Life Sciences
Senators approve automatic PhilHealth benefits for PWD
Feature: Metro Manila fights back malnutrition
ADB to support program enabling more disabled persons to work
Pangasinan dengue cases up by 99%
Duterte urges 'speedy passage' of universal health care bill

Young population, ICT spur growth of PHL’s gig economy
Experts, Koko weigh in on 3rd telco search after Duterte’s pitch
Third telco likely to enter market by mid-2019: Rio
DICT passes major hurdle in search for third telco

ODA use improves

Manufacturing sector beckons to Japanese firms

Travel & Tourism
DOT chief quotes DU30: No casinos on Boracay
Regional Affairs

US trade chief eyes deals on NAFTA, Philippines, sub-Saharan Africa GMA News Online 27th Jul 2018
U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said on Thursday the United States is in the finishing stages of completing a deal to update NAFTA and plans to pursue free trade agreements in sub-Saharan Africa, Southeast Asia and possibly with the Philippines. Lighthizer, testifying before a U.S. Senate Appropriations subcommittee, said he liked the idea of a trade deal with the Philippines as a "good first agreement" in the region. He said a number of sub-Saharan African countries also would make good candidates for bilateral trade deals. "We want to have a model agreement. We want to pick someone where there are clear advantages to U.S. manufacturing and agricultural sales and our hope is that most of what is in that model is something we can use with other people," he said.

China hasn’t delivered on its $24-billion Philippines promise BusinessWorld 26th Jul 2018
Almost two years after China pledged $24 billion in investment to the Philippines, barely any projects have materialized, prompting deepening concerns that President Rodrigo Duterte has undermined the country’s sovereignty with little to show in return. Of the 27 deals signed between China and the Philippines during Duterte’s visit to Beijing in October 2016, China originally agreed to provide $9 billion in soft loans, including a $3 billion credit line with the Bank of China, with a further $15 billion worth of direct investments from Chinese firms in railway, port, energy and mining projects. It didn’t specify a timeline.

Duterte: Visit to 'friend' Trump just a matter of scheduling GMA News Online 25th Jul 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte on Wednesday opened the possibility of embarking on a visit to the United States even as he admitted that long-haul flights would "kill" him. Calling US President Donald Trump his "friend," Duterte said his visit to the US is just a question of scheduling. "He's [Trump] my friend. And well, of course, I have been invited to the United States several times. But you know it’s not because of anybody or any place there. It has something to do with the schedule,” Duterte said during the Asia Pacific Healthy Islands Conference in Davao City. The 73-year-old leader, however, said he "cannot stand long flights anymore."

National Affairs

Andaya is new House majority leader, but minority leadership still in chaos BusinessMirror 30th Jul 2018
A WEEK after the election of Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the House of Representatives on Monday started electing its new officials. During Monday’s session, Deputy Speaker Fredenil Castro of Capiz moved to elect Deputy Speaker and Camarines Sur Rep. Rolando Andaya as the new majority leader to replace Rep. Rodolfo C. Fariñas Sr. of Ilocos Norte. For committee positions, Sagip Party-list Rep. Rodante Marcoleta was elected vice chairman of the House Committee on Rules, replacing Rep. Juan Pablo Bondoc, who also held the position of deputy majority leader. Leyte Rep. Yedda Marie Romualdez was named chairman of the House Committee on Accounts, replacing Batangas Rep. Eilene Ermita-Buhain. House members also elected Ret. Gen. Romeo Prestoza as the new House sergeant at arms, replacing Roland Detabali while Dante Roberto Maling was elected secretary-general, replacing Cesar Pareja. Minutes before President Duterte was to deliver his third State of the Nation Address on July 23, Arroyo was elected as the new Speaker and took her oath in full view of thousands of visitors, ousting Davao del Norte Rep. Pantaleon D. Alvarez.

Duterte signs Bangsamoro Organic Law 27th Jul 2018
President Duterte announced yesterday that he has signed the Bangsamoro Organic Law (BOL) that will allow enhanced autonomy in Mindanao. Duterte made the pronouncement during his visit for the 69th anniversary of Ipil town in Zamboanga Sibugay. He said he will have to go home for the ceremony with Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) chairman Al-Haj Ebrahim Murad and vice chair Ghazali Jaafar in Davao.

Legislative roundup: Duterte's 8 priority bills and Congress' progress so far 25th Jul 2018
The annual State of the Nation Address has historically been a venue for presidents to lay out the priority measures that they want Congress to work on until through the year, and President Rodrigo Duterte's third was no different. Although the House speaker and the Senate president have the power to make their own legislative agendas, these usually coincide with the president's. Here's a look at the eight priority pieces of legislation that Duterte has asked Congress to pass, and the progress that each house has made on them. 

New House leaders vow to push economic bills BusinessMirror 24th Jul 2018
THE new leadership of the House of Representatives on Tuesday vowed to prioritize passage of the economic measures of the Duterte administration. However, some lawmakers asked the new leadership to study the measures well, given the hard lessons from implementing the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, the inflationary impact of which coincided with other factors that economic managers conceded they had underestimated, such as global oil prices rising and rice supply issues. Former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo was elected as the new House Speaker after getting a total of 184 votes and 12 abstentions on Monday.

House formally elects Arroyo as speaker 23rd Jul 2018
Members of the House of Representatives on Monday formally installed Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo (Pampanga) as its new speaker, replacing Rep. Pantaleon Alvarez (Davao Del Norte) in a day of political drama never before seen at a president's State of the Nation Address. Arroyo was elected House leader by 184 lawmakers with 12 abstentions. The vote marks the end of a dramatic Monday that saw the removal of Alvarez, one of the closest allies of the president and a ranking official of the ruling PDP-Laban. Lawmakers from different parties and party-list groups accompanied Arroyo to the speaker's rostrum where she took her oath of office for the second time on Monday. Monday morning was greeted with news that Alvarez was about to be ousted as a speaker, with President Rodrigo Duterte's daughter, Davao City Mayor Sara Duterte-Carpio, supposedly leading the moves.

Gov’t takes stock of performance Business World 20th Jul 2018
A GOVERNMENT SCORECARD that plots the Philippines’ progress in hitting economic development targets bared progress in macroeconomy, justice, human capital and environment, but poor performance in agriculture, housing and governance. According to the Statistical Indicators on Philippine Development (StatDev) 2017, 111 out of the 257 indicators show “high likelihood” of hitting targets by 2022, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends his six-year term.

Sotto files bill on TRAIN 2 covering corporate income taxes, incentives 2nd Aug 2018
Senate President Vicente “Tito” Sotto III filed on Thursday the second package of the government’s tax reforms program. The proposal is contained in an 87-page Senate Bill No. 1906 entitled the “Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Reform Act,” which seeks, among others, to lower the corporate income tax from the current 30 percent to 25 percent. The bill that Sotto earlier promised to file, also expands the tax base by repealing 123 special laws on investment tax incentives. Sotto pointed out, however, that existing investment tax incentives would be “rationalized” only but would not be removed. The Senate leader urged his colleagues to support the urgent passage of the measure. Last January, the government implemented the first package of its tax reforms — the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN). The new law, however, was blamed for the rising prices of basic commodities, power, and food.

House panel approves ‘in principle’ tax reform package ‘2 plus’ 2nd Aug 2018
The House of Representatives’ ways and means committee has approved “in principle” the proposed tax reform package “2 plus” of the Duterte administration, which aims to gradually lower the corporate income tax (CIT) while modernizing incentives for companies. Quirino Rep. Dakila Cua, ways and means committee chair, said the panel would “work double time” to finish the bill, which specifically aims to gradually lower the CIT rate from 30 to 25 percent and modernize incentives for firms. Speaker Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo earlier said the chamber would prioritize the bill. President Rodrigo Duterte has also listed the second tranche of his administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Package as a priority. Cua also said they would work hard to assure that the legislation would have no inflationary impact.


Enhanced Goods Declaration Verification System effective Aug 2 PortCalls Asia 23rd Jul 2018
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) will roll out on Aug 2 the Enhanced Goods Declaration Verification System (eGDVS) also known as “1-Assessment” initially at the ports of Subic, Clark and Batangas. Customs Memorandum Order (CMO) No. 10-2018, the guidelines for implementing EGDVS, was signed by Customs commissioner Isidro Lapeña on July 12.

BOC takes lead in forming multiagency unit on port issues PortCalls Asia 20th Jul 2018
The Bureau of Customs (BOC) is spearheading the creation of an interagency body composed of government agencies and port stakeholders and users that will address issues hounding the private sector. The proposal to create an interagency body followed a two-day port users’ summit conducted by BOC that tackled issues affecting stakeholders and that came up with proposed solutions.

Trade dep’t asks PCC to look into ‘excessive’ fees by foreign shipping lines BusinessWorld 26th Jul 2018
The Department of Trade and Industry has requested the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) to look into “excessive” charges imposed by foreign shipping lines to importers and exporters. “We are requesting the Philippine Competition Commission, through Chairman Arsenio Balisacan, to act on the concerns of business sector regarding questionable destination and origin charges imposed on local importers/exporters,” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez said in a Thursday statement. “These excessive charges and fees are recurring issues that have brought significant negative impact on our local industries.” The issue of exorbitant fees by foreign carriers was again raised by logistics service providers recently, according to the agency. The concern has been tackled in a 2017 study jointly conducted by DTI- Export Development Council and National Competitiveness Council last year.

Defense & Security

Duterte to intensify defense cooperation with Malaysia Business World 20th Jul 2018
President Rodrigo R. Duterte has committed to intensifying Manila’s defense and security cooperation with the Malaysian government to address terrorist threats and terrorism activities in the ASEAN region following his bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Dr. Mahathir bin Mohamad in Kuala Lumpur on Monday, July 16, Malacañang said. The Palace also said the President was set to arrive in Manila on Monday evening after his working visit to Malaysia, which was preceded by his attendance at the fight of Senator and boxing champ Emmanuel “Manny” D. Pacquiao last Sunday at the Axiata Arena in Kuala Lumpur.


Economic managers say rising revenues to help keep budget gap manageable Business World 1st Aug 2018
THE DEVELOPMENT Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) said on Tuesday that government revenues are “strong” enough to help finance a bigger deficit next year, supported by bigger collections as a result of ongoing tax reform. The DBCC presented at a hearing of the House of Representatives Committee on Appropriations the economic assumptions of the P3.757-trillion proposed national budget for 2019 that is slightly less than the P3.767-trillion spending plan for this year. In 2019, the government has programmed a bigger deficit equivalent to 3.2% of gross domestic product (GDP) from three percent of GDP this year in a bid to accelerate infrastructure and social spending, but will revert to three percent from 2020 to 2022.

Burned by TRAIN, senators seek solid data BusinessMirror 29th Jul 2018
SENATORS are still committed to back the Duterte administration’s second round of measures under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN), but signaled they are skeptical of any assurance that impact assessments presented to them can be relied on this time. Responding to a query from the BusinessMirror over the weekend, senators conveyed their intent to seek firm assurances from Executive endorsers of TRAIN 2 about the validity of their assumptions. Lawmakers want to avoid a repeat of the TRAIN’s blindsiding the nation after economic managers underestimated the extent by which “external factors,” such as global oil-price hikes and rice-supply issues, could compound the inflationary impact of the tax-reform law. The senators agreed this miscalculation compounded the inflation impact of  the TRAIN, which took effect on January 1, 2018, and included higher excise taxes on fuel. The resulting costlier petroleum in the country was aggravated by spikes in oil prices in the world market. This, along with price increases in rice—hounded by supply issues on account of the National Food Authority (NFA) failure to import enough stock—were among those that caused inflation to post higher-than-expected levels in April, May and June.

Philippines, Asia’s worst equities market, is showing signs of a comeback BusinessWorld 26th Jul 2018
Philippine stocks are heading for the sharpest monthly gain in more than two years as foreign funds start trickling back into a market that was among the world’s worst performers in the first half of the year. The benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index has gained 6.6 percent in local currency terms so far this month, among the world’s five best performers. The gauge, which tumbled 16 percent in the first half and sank into a bear market in June, has rallied more than 3.9% in three days as overseas investors turned net buyers this week following a record 25 straight weeks of withdrawals. The PSEi index rose 2% to 7,665.85 today. “Foreign funds have started coming back as investors have realized there’s value in the market,” said Alfred Dy, research head at CLSA Philippines Inc., the nation’s largest foreign broker. “There’s still room for more gains because in spite of the bounce there is still value on the table.”

IMF: PHL still strong, but higher rates needed BusinessMirror 25th Jul 2018
THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Wednesday affirmed the Philippine economy’s position of strength in the coming years, but warned that looming near-term risks must be addressed to support long-term growth. Following the IMF’s 2018 Article IV Mission—or the IMF’s annual health check of economies across the globe—IMF staff team head Luis Breuer said the global monetary authority is retaining its 6.7-percent growth outlook for the Philippines for this year. While this projection falls below the government’s ambitious 7 percent-to-8 percent target range, Breuer said their projection is an indication that the country continues to grow strongly and medium-term outlook remains favorable. “The Philippine economy is performing well. Real GDP [gross domestic product] grew 6.7 percent in 2017 and the team projects that this rate will be sustained in 2018 and 2019, underpinned by strong consumption and investment, including public investment,” Breuer said. Breuer’s team visited Manila and Bohol from July 11 to 25 to meet with key officials and assess the country’s overall economic performance. “The Philippines has been one of the region’s strong economic performers over the past years, reaping the fruits of prudent policies and critical reforms,” Breuer said.

FMIC: 7% growth may be sustained till year-end BusinessMirror 23rd Jul 2018
SLOWER inflation and robust infrastructure spending will be able to sustain Philippine economic growth at 7 percent until the end of the year, according to a local think tank. In the latest Market Call report, First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC) and University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) Capital Market Research said public infrastructure spending will continue to post double-digit growth. Inflation will also slow and boost household consumption in the coming months. This is crucial for a consumption-driven economy like the Philippines. “We think the government [particularly, infrastructure] spending will continue to ramp up—double-digit growth over the last eight months—and the manufacturing output expansion at an unusually fast pace, will provide the basis for robust job creation [and consumer spending],” FMIC-UA&P Capital Market Research said.

Economists see wage-fueled price spikes Business World 23rd Jul 2018
BANK ECONOMISTS expect inflation to clock in faster in 2018 and to remain elevated over the next two years, as daily minimum wage increases add to price pressures. A survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) among private sector economists in June showed a 4.5% mean and median forecast for overall commodity price hikes this year, higher than the 4.1% they gave in the March poll. This matches the latest full-year estimate given by the central bank in its June 20 policy review and surpasses the 2-4% target range for 2018. “Analysts noted that risks to inflation in 2018 remain tilted to the upside,” the BSP said in its quarterly inflation report, citing higher, volatile global oil prices, a weaker peso and the impact of tax reform on prices of basic goods among factors.

PHL growth view steady despite inflation Business World 20th Jul 2018
THE ASIAN Development Bank (ADB) retained its growth forecasts for the Philippines despite faster projected inflation in its Asian Development Outlook Supplement published on Thursday. The regional lender kept the 6.8% and 6.9% gross domestic product (GDP) outlooks for the Philippines for 2018 and 2019, respectively, faster than 2017’s 6.7%. GDP grew by 6.8% in the first quarter and economic managers are hoping for at least seven percent expansion in the succeeding three months. The government is targeting 7-8% GDP growth annually from this year up to 2022, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte ends his six-year term.


Petronas keen to invest in Philippine LNG hub The Edge Markets 1st Aug 2018
PETROLIAM Nasional Bhd (Petronas) has held initial discussions with the Philippine National Oil Company (PNOC) to invest in a planned US$2 billion liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub in the Philippines, says the country’s Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi. State-owned PNOC is spearheading the LNG project. “Petronas [has] expressed interest in our LNG hub … to invest in it. It is looking to partner PNOC. We are especially keen to leverage Petronas’ expertise in commercial trading,” Cusi tells The Edge in an interview in Kuala Lumpur.

Senate eyeing P204-billion Malampaya fund to cut consumers’ bills BusinessMirror 30th Jul 2018
ACTING on the initiative of Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, the Senate’s Committee on Energy is now “studying the possibility” of tapping the P204-billion Malampaya Fund to reduce the universal charge (UC) paid by end-consumers on their monthly electricity bills. Sen. Sherwin T. Gatchalian, Energy Committee chairman, estimates that Recto’s recommendation, if adopted, “could result in household savings as high as P2,033.76 annually” from lower electric bills. The Committee tackled on Tuesday Recto’s Senate Bill 924 which, once enacted into law, will allocate the net national government share from the Malampaya Natural Gas Project for the payment of the stranded contract costs and stranded debts of the National Power Corp. SCC and SD are components used to compute the UC imposed on consumers under the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira law) embodied in Republic Act 9136.

Renewable energy development still not a priority 29th Jul 2018
MANILA, Philippines — The Renewable Energy (RE) Act of 2008 has spurred the development of more cleaner energy resources, but not as much as it had hoped to do. The law is pushing the country to achieve energy self-reliance and reduce dependence on fossil fuels through the shift to cleaner and indigenous forms of energy. Harnessing renewable energy will eventually minimize the country’s exposure to price fluctuations in the international markets as these do not need fuel to supply electricity to end-users. But a decade after the law was passed, several measures have not yet been fully implemented and this has slowed the pace of renewable energy developments.

Industry group advocates for keeping fiscal incentives for geothermal development in the Philippines Think GeoEnergy 23rd Jul 2018
During its general assembly held last week, the National Geothermal Association of the Philippines (NGAP) has announced it will seek an exemption for renewable energy (RE) amid plans to rationalize investment incentives in the second package of the tax reform program. Members of the association said they hope to maximize the potential of geothermal development and preserve the status of the Philippines as a prime investment destination for geothermal energy developers. “We need the incentives more than ever,” NGAP President Noel D. Salonga told reporters during the event.

DOE to identify RE zones in the country Manila Bulletin Business 22nd Jul 2018
The Department of Energy (DOE) will be identifying areas in the country that will be specifically developed into renewable energy (RE) zones. The department is currently gathering pace on its public consultation on the demarcation of sites that it calls the competitive renewable energy zones (CREZ) – and such requires parallel study on proposed “Greening the Grid: Solar and Wind Integration.” By mapping out specific areas where the RE facilities will be sited, the DOE opined that it will be easier for it to firm up the Philippine Energy Plan (PEP) as well as for the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) to address transmission bottlenecks associated with these kinds of installations.

‘Rollout of key energy projects to boost power supply in PHL’ BusinessMirror 22nd Jul 2018
The Department of Energy (DOE) is pushing for the implementation and timely completion of key energy projects to ensure reliable, stable, sustainable and secure energy supply in the Philippines. In a report prepared by the agency for President Duterte, who will deliver his third State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, the DOE identified six plans and programs that are up for implementation.

Proposed energy projects gathering dust Inquirer 21st Jul 2018
In addressing the opening joint session of Congress in the past two occasions, President Duterte had barely mentioned the energy sector—briefly in 2016 and not at all in 2017. Having been in office for barely a month, Mr. Duterte in 2016 said the Philippines needed more sources of electricity and that the government should see power generation projects through or at least along the regulatory obstacle course. He had stressed the need for such facilities to support the country’s “industrialization.” And with customarily defiant words against global institutions like the United Nations and worldwide initiatives such as climate change mitigation (about which he later backtracked), he rolled out the welcome mat for coal-fired power plants, saying these provide the cheapest electricity and that such plants use “state-of-the-art” technology—most likely referring to “clean coal technology.”

Legarda renews call to pursue renewable energy development in the Philippines BusinessMirror 20th Jul 2018
Senator Loren Legarda today renewed her call to scale up green initiatives and investments in renewable energy as part of a long-term solution to the growing power needs of the country and to mitigate the effects of environmental degradation and climate change. Legarda, one of the authors of the Renewable Energy Law, made the call during the Convergence for 100% Renewable Energy Philippines, a symposium on Challenges Faced by Stakeholders in Advancing Renewable Energy in the Philippines, convened by the Power to People Coalition.

Financial Services

Gov’t rejects all bids for T-bonds Business World 1st Aug 2018
THE GOVERNMENT rejected all bids for the reissued 20-year Treasury bonds (T-bond) it offered on Tuesday as market preference remains on the short-end of the curve ahead of the August policy meeting of the local central bank. The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) decided to not accept any tenders for its P15-billion offer of reissued 20-year bonds yesterday. This, even as total offers placed by banks and other financial institutions amounted to P20.556 billion, above the amount the Treasury intended to borrow.

BSP forms fintech unit Business World 31st Jul 2018
THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) has formed a new unit to oversee financial technology (fintech) companies, as the regulator keeps up with increased digital payments. BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. said the central bank last month established the new unit alongside another office for cybersecurity under the Financial Supervision Sector. Mr. Espenilla said during a conference on payments and settlements on Friday that the Financial Technology Sub-Sector (FTSS) will “conduct the effective oversight of fintech and other innovative alternatives.” Vicente T. De Villa III, officer-in-charge of the FTSS, said the unit was formed last month. It will handle two offices: the Payments and Settlements Oversight Department and the Core Information Technology Specialist Group.

Better regulations seen key to more innovation Business World 31st Jul 2018
THE PHILIPPINES needs more reforms in the regulations for small businesses to improve the country’s environment for innovation, according to INSEAD business school. “The overall regulatory environment of the Philippines can still be significantly improved, especially from the point of view of labor markets and business environment. With regard to innovation, the examples of GII champions shows that providing a supportive environment for start-ups and venture capital is important,” Bruno Lanvin, executive director of Global Indices at INSEAD and co-editor of the Global Innovation Index (GII), said in an e-mailed response last week to questions. “This includes clear bankruptcy laws, leaving room for the ‘right to fail’. The credibility of courts, and the priority granted to fighting corruption and increasing transparency in business contracts (including public procurement) are clearly key in that context. All of those should translate in higher GII rankings in the future,” he added.

House OKs P200-billion BSP capitalization BusinessMirror 31st Jul 2018
THE House of Representatives on Tuesday endorsed for Senate approval a measure increasing the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) capitalization from P50 billion to P200 billion. This, after 219 lawmakers voted to approve on third and final reading House Bill 7742, or “An Act Reinforcing the Corporate Viability of the BSP, Strengthening its Monetary and Financial Stability Functions and Enhancing its Regulatory Powers, Amending for the Purpose RA 7653 or the New Central Bank Act.” The bill seeks to enhance the administration of the country’s monetary, credit and banking system.

BSP backs creation of payments law BusinessMirror 30th Jul 2018
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has expressed support for the passage of the Payment Systems Act to establish clearer guidelines on the electronic transactions and online payments in the country. The act filed under Senate Bill 178, or “An act providing for the regulation and supervision of payment systems,” is currently pending second reading in the Senate.

Bank reserve requirement steady for now -- BSP BusinessWorld 27th Jul 2018
THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) will not introduce further cuts in required bank reserves this year, its chief said, and may pause until inflation eases back on target in 2019. BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. said two cuts in the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) introduced earlier this year should be enough for now, as the central bank takes stock of rising inflation and related developments in financial markets. “We have already achieved significant progress this year,” Mr. Espenilla told financial analysts on Wednesday afternoon. The BSP chief met on Wednesday with bank economists and other market watchers to “promote better understanding” of the central bank’s mandate. This comes as some analysts have flagged confusing signals from the central bank, particularly on the timing of interest rate adjustments. Since June, universal and commercial banks have been required to keep 18% of deposits as reserves from 20% previously.

More Filipinos going cashless BusinessWorld 27th Jul 2018
MAJORITY OF Filipinos are now eager to pay electronically, Visa, Inc. said in a report, even as it flagged concerns on connectivity and infrastructure. In a press briefing on Thursday, Visa said 69% of the Filipinos it surveyed expressed confidence go cashless in a day, data from the 2017 Visa Consumer Payment Attitudes Study revealed. The survey added that 70% of respondents have gone cashless for at least a few days, citing convenience and safety as primary concerns.

BSP seen hawkish till first half of next year Business World 23rd Jul 2018
DEUTSCHE BANK expects the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to raise policy interest rates until the first half of 2019, taking cue from more “hawkish” statements of policy makers in past weeks. Economist Michael Spencer said the bank expects aggressive policy responses from the Monetary Board as it realizes that inflation will not ease anytime soon, following a fresh five-year-high 5.2% in June and expectations of an uptrend in the next few months. Mr. Spencer pointed out that the BSP’s June 20 policy statement announcing the second straight rate hike in nearly four years hinted a more active approach to temper price spikes, with benchmark interest rates already “too loose.”

Banks tighten lending standards amid rising credit growth Philstar 21st Jul 2018
Philippine banks further tightened credit standards for loans to enterprises and households amid perception of stricter financial system regulations, the deterioration of the profile of corporate borrowers, and reduced tolerance for risks. Zeno Ronald Abenoja, senior director of the Department of Economic Research of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, said the Q2 2018 Senior Bank Loan Officers’ Survey (SLOS) showed a net tightening of credit standards for corporate loans based on the diffusion index (DI) approach.

Food & Agriculture

Rice stakeholders nix 40% bound tariff, pitch 180% BusinessMirror 31st Jul 2018
RICE industry stakeholders are pushing for a 180-percent bound tariff on rice imports once the quantitative restriction (QR) on the staple is scrapped, in order to give the government enough elbow room to impose duties that would protect farmers vulnerable from “cheap” foreign rice. In a position paper, representatives of farmer organizations and cause-oriented groups said they “firmly believe” that Manila must aim for the maximum allowable bound tariff rate it could impose, as stipulated by agreements under the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Rice tariff bill slated for second-reading approval BusinessMirror 31st Jul 2018
THE Duterte administration’s rice tariffication bill is now moving closer to getting approval at the House of Representatives. This, after House Committee on Agriculture Chairman Jose T. Panganiban Jr. of Anac-IP delivered his sponsorship speech on Tuesday and called for the immediate passage of House Bill 7735,  or the proposed “Revised Agricultural Tariffication Act.” Government officials earlier disclosed that they are eyeing to present the rice tariffication law to the World Trade Organization in September. “We will approve this tomorrow [Wednesday] on second reading. . . We can no longer postpone [the passage of] the rice tariffication bill,” Panganiban told the  BusinessMirror.

PNP deploys teams vs rice, food smugglers, profiteers BusinessMirror 30th Jul 2018
THE Philippine National Police (PNP) will join the government’s campaign against rice smugglers and other illegal traders tagged as criminal manipulators of prices of basic commodities in the market. PNP chief Director General Oscar D. Albayalde said police operations are being mapped out with the guidance provided by President Duterte in his State of the Nation Address.

Philippines wants expansion of Region 8's sweet jack fruit Fresh Plaza 30th Jul 2018
The Philippines’ Department of Agriculture is aiming to triple the area planted with sweet variety of jackfruit in the eastern Visayas region by 2022. From the current 1,258 hectares planted with this jackfruit variety, the target is to expand the cultivated area to 4,409 hectares within the next four years. Dubbed as the Eastern Visayas Integrated Agricultural Research Center (EVIARC) sweet variety, the fruit has special features such as natural sweetness, thickness of the yellow fruitlet and elliptical shape, said Dept of Agriculture regional field operations division chief Francisco Dayap on Monday.

Typhoons leave P1.8 billion damage to agriculture 30th Jul 2018
Damage to agriculture in areas hit by recent typhoons climbed to P1.8 billion with the crop industry having the largest amount of losses, the Department of Agriculture (DA) said over the weekend. A report from the DA-disaster risk reduction and management operation center showed that typhoons Henry, Inday and Josie left P1.79 billion worth of damage to rice, high-value crops, livestock and fisheries. Among the crops, rice incurred the largest amount of losses at P1.41 billion, covering 97,016 hectares or about 20,242 metric tons (MT).

Coconut industry pushes 5% biodiesel blend The Manila Times Online 27th Jul 2018
Coconut farmers and oil manufacturers reiterated on Wednesday the need for the immediate implementation of Biofuels Act of 2006 mandating that all diesel fuels sold in the domestic market be blended with 5-percent Coco Methyl Ester (CME) to stabilize domestic copra prices. In a resolution dated July 19, 2018, coconut stakeholders said production of the 5-percent biodiesel blend (B5) can help address the problem of plummeting copra prices. Biodiesel is a blend of diesel fuel and coconut methyl ester, a derivative of coconut oil.

DoF pushes for improved PH fish output The Manila Times Online 27th Jul 2018
THE Department of Finance (DoF) is pushing for technological advancements and a comprehensive seafarming program to bolster the Philippines’ fish yield. In an economic bulletin on Thursday, the DoF said “aquaculture produces more than half of total fish supply in the economy,” but noted that growth has been declining since 2011. According to the Finance department, the value fishing added to the country’s gross domestic product continued to register negative growth, dropping by 4 percent in 2016 and 0.9 percent in 2017.

Banana growers, exporters urge government to expedite FTA with Seoul BusinessMirror 25th Jul 2018
Manila should expedite the forging of a free-trade agreement (FTA) with Seoul that would allow Philippine banana exports to enter South Korea at lower tariffs, and ensure that the country would not lose the East Asian market against South American competitors. The Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association (PBGEA) issued the statement after South Korea signed an FTA that allows five Central American nations to export bananas to Seoul at lower tariffs.

Mapping technology being touted to develop mussel farming industry Business World 23rd Jul 2018
THE Department of Science and Technology (DoST) and the University of the Philippines (UP) are seeking to develop the mussel farming industry using geolocation technology. In a statement by Philippine Council for Agriculture, Aquatic and Natural Resources Research and Development (DoST-PCAARRD), its Industry Strategic Science and Technology program hopes to use geographic information system (GIS)-based mapping to identify suitable sites for mussel culture. “The advent of recent geospatial technologies such as GIS and remote sensing can provide quick and reliable information that can be displayed visually for better management of aquaculture areas,” DoST- PCAARRD said.

PHL imports more fertilizers amid dip in local production BusinessMirror 23rd Jul 2018
PHILIPPINE fertilizer imports this year could rise by at least 8.33 percent to 2.6 million metric tons, from last year’s 2.435 MMT, according to the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA). The FPA noted that the output of local manufacturers could no longer meet the increasing demand of farmers for fertilizer. Farmers use fertilizer to hike crop yields. “Imports would be higher this year compared to last year as local production continues to decline,” FPA Executive Director Wilfredo C. Roldan told the BusinessMirror in a recent interview.

Health & Life Sciences

Senators approve automatic PhilHealth benefits for PWD BusinessMirror 30th Jul 2018
THE Senate passed on third and final reading Monday a bill mandating automatic Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (PhilHealth) coverage for persons with disability (PWDs). Voting 18-0, the senators passed Senate Bill (SB) 1391, introduced by Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto, which provides mandatory PhilHealth coverage for the PWD, who now enjoy medicine and hospitalization discounts at the same level as senior citizens for as long as they are certified as such and carry PWD cards issued by local governments. In sponsoring SB 1391’s approval, Sen. Risa Hontiveros said the remedial legislation aims to expand the benefits granted to  PWDs under the Magna Carta for Persons with Disabilities by including their automatic PhilHealth coverage.

Feature: Metro Manila fights back malnutrition Philippine Information Agency 30th Jul 2018
Nutrition is deeply valued by Filipinos. Every year, educational institutions and local government units gear up to celebrate the much-anticipated Nutrition Month. During its observance, various activities are lined up to be joined and enjoyed by the public; from feeding programs, organic gardening initiatives, poster and slogan-making competitions, seminars and fora, among many others.  In preschool and elementary years, the importance of nutrition has been inculcated in us, the necessity to eat fruits and vegetables and the essence of a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle. Television shows catering to children always have gigantic fruits and big vegetable as characters, to further teach us their relevance to a long and healthy life.

ADB to support program enabling more disabled persons to work 30th Jul 2018
The Asian Development Bank (ADB) said it would support more projects in the Asia Pacific region that would enable more persons with disabilities to contribute to the economy.  In a statement, the bank said it reinforced its commitment to this initiative by signing the Charter for Change during the Global Disability Summit 2018 held recently in London.  The multilateral development bank said capacitating persons with disability is part of its Strategy 2030 which has among its key targets the elimination of remaining pockets of poverty in the Asia Pacific region. 

Pangasinan dengue cases up by 99% 30th Jul 2018
Dengue cases in Pangasinan have increased by 99 percent, provincial health authorities said over the weekend. From January to July 26, a total of 2,589 cases with nine deaths were reported. The figure is 99 percent higher than the 1,303 cases recorded during the same period last year.

Duterte urges 'speedy passage' of universal health care bill Rappler 24th Jul 2018
While the House has passed its version of the bill, the counterpart measure in the Senate is still pending in the committee level MANILA, Philippines – President Rodrigo Duterte urged Congress during his 3rd State of the Nation Address (SONA) Monday, July 23, to swiftly pass the Universal Health Care (UHC) Bill, which aims to ensure all Filipinos will get access to adequate health services.


Young population, ICT spur growth of PHL’s gig economy BusinessMirror 1st Aug 2018
FOOT traffic was already ankle deep when Elias Amurao (not his real name) stopped at an intersection on the way to the train station one rainy Friday evening. He sighed, walked as the crowd did and braced himself for the ride home for an hour inside a cramped train and a jeepney ride. He settled with the thought it would only be school work until Tuesday. Amurao’s a freelancer, one of nearly a million young Filipinos who walk into the cauldron of the labor force every year. Majority of them are under 30. And, as freelancers, most of them form what is called the “gig economy.”

Experts, Koko weigh in on 3rd telco search after Duterte’s pitch BusinessMirror 24th Jul 2018
WHILE the selection process for the third telco has made significant strides over the weekend, experts are now advocating for a tweaking of the draft terms of reference (TOR) to help facilitate a smoother entry of a new player in the market. This, as Senator Aquilino Pimentel III, citing President Duterte’s push for a third telco in his third State of the Nation Address (Sona), prodded government regulators Tuesday to “fast-track the entry of a third telco player.”

Third telco likely to enter market by mid-2019: Rio BusinessMirror 23rd Jul 2018
IT may take a year before the future third telco player could start offering its services to consumers, and start its unwritten mandate of breaking down the duopoly, as the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) aims to start the ball rolling for the official selection process this week. Eliseo M. Rio Jr., the chief of the agency, said his group sees the third telco coming in the market by the middle of 2019, as hurdles on the selection process are consistently being addressed, starting with the official adoption of a draft terms of reference (TOR) which favors the highest committed level of service. Officials decided on adopting the HCLoS as term of reference before the weekend. Rio said one of the major issues raised during the meetings of the oversight committee for the selection process has already been addressed—the concern on frequency spectrum formerly awarded to Bayan Telecommunications Inc.

DICT passes major hurdle in search for third telco 21st Jul 2018
In choosing a new major telco player, the government oversight committee resolved on Friday to drop a proposed spectrum auction and adopt a set of rules that will reward participants seeking to give the highest committed level of service (HCLoS). The decision, seen as a win for the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT)-backed HCLoS model, breaks an impasse that has delayed the release of the final rules for the selection of a challenger to the PLDT Inc. and Globe Telecom duopoly. Eliseo Rio Jr., DICT acting secretary, said in an interview on Friday that the HCLoS model will be used, but with certain conditions. “The auction is no more,” said Rio, who days before threatened to resign outright should the oversight committee vote in favor of an auction, which was being championed by the Department of Finance (DOF). Asked whether he would still resign, Rio said “not yet.”


ODA use improves Business World 20th Jul 2018
USE of official development assistance (ODA) loans improved in 2017 while total aid portfolio actually declined, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said in a statement on Thursday. The government has disbursed about $1.4 billion in ODA loans last year, up 11.5% from $1.25 billion in 2016. Disbursement rate, or the disbursement as a percentage of the target was at 67.21% from 61.12%. “This means implementing agencies are improving their technical capacities and making headway in resolving key issues that cause delays in the execution of programs and projects,” Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia was quoted in the statement as saying.


Manufacturing sector beckons to Japanese firms BusinessMirror 30th Jul 2018
TRADE officials have pitched to Japanese manufacturing firms the advantage of expanding operations in the Philippines, as the government looks to secure more commitments from its top source of foreign investments. In an investment road show in Japan last week, Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez urged an audience of more than 400 firms to do business in the Philippines. He claimed now is the best time to invest here, with the administration pursuing several economic reforms, including the passage of the ease of doing business law, the rollout of the “Build, Build, Build” program and the liberalization of various industries.

Travel & Tourism

DOT chief quotes DU30: No casinos on Boracay BusinessMirror 29th Jul 2018
THERE will be no casinos on Boracay. Period. The Department of Tourism (DOT) sought to reassure the public that President Duterte has not changed his mind on keeping casinos out of Boracay Island, as the countdown to the popular destination’s announced reopening on October 26 has begun. The agency also stressed that only hotels and resorts that have DOT accreditation will be allowed to reopen. “The President recently reiterated to the DOT his earlier position against the entry of casino operations in Boracay,” said Tourism Secretary Bernadette Fatima Romulo Puyat in an interview with the BusinessMirror over the weekend. “This is in line with the desire of the DOT and tourism stakeholders in Boracay to further develop the island as a sustainable and family-oriented destination,” she added.