Philippines Update: December 4, 2018

Philippines Update | December 4, 2018 
Authors: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, Bryan Yeoh, Kim Yaeger
 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

December 4, Philippines General Membership Meeting

December 5, The 1st Asia-Pacific LNG Investment Summit

 
THE COUNCIL'S TAKE
 
 

Philippines launches new Contracting Round for Oil & Gas Exploration

To set a strong “Explore, Explore, Explore” program, the Department of Energy launched the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP) on November 22 officially opening the application period for 180 days. Potential investors may pursue two modes of application. First, applicants may bid on 14 pre-determined areas all over the country — one in Cagayan, three in east Palawan, three in Sulu Sea, two in Agusan-Davao, one in Cotabato, and four in west Luzon. Second, applicants may nominate and publish other areas of interest to them and submit their application at any time of the year subject to a “challenge” period of 60 days. Accepted applications will be evaluated by the DoE’s centralized review and evaluation committee based on the criteria under Department Circular No. DC2017-12-0017, which adopts the PCECP mode of awarding petroleum service contracts and creating the panel.

In October, President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed the first service contract under his term signaling the administration’s push to revive the country’s upstream petroleum industry. Awarded to Israeli firm Ratio Petroleum Ltd, Service Contract No. 76 covers area 4 of eastern Palawan. There are only 23 active petroleum service contracts in the Philippines with the following developers: Shell Philippines Exploration B.V.; Total E&P Asia Pacific Pte. Ltd.; Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp.; Nido Petroleum Pty. Ltd.; Philodrill Corp.; PXP Energy Corp.; and Galoc Production Co. The Malampaya Deep Water Gas-to-Power Project was the most successful contract in the last contracting round.

Philippine Congress approves Tax Amnesty Bills for bicam conference

On November 19, the Philippine Senate approved a tax amnesty bill that would grant amnesty on all unpaid internal revenue taxes, including estate, value-added, and excise taxes, in 2017 and previous years. For estate taxes, taxpayers could avail of a reprieve and pay a rate of 6% based on the total net estate. For other internal revenue taxes, only 5% of the total net worth, or a minimum of tax depending on the subscribed capital for corporations, would be collected. The senate bill also covers amnesty on delinquencies: taxpayers could avail of 40% of the basic tax for delinquencies and assessments which have become final and executory, 50% for those subject of pending criminal cases, and 60% for cases subject of final and executory judgment by the courts.

On November 20, the House of Representatives approved House Bill (HB) No. 8554 on 3rd and final reading with a vote of 213-7-0. The measure seeks to provide amnesty for estate taxes, national internal revenue taxes, and tax delinquencies. HB 8554 would grant amnesty for all national internal revenue taxes for taxable year 2017 and prior years. A taxpayer would only have to pay an amnesty tax rate of 2% based on his or her total assets as of December 31, 2017, as declared in his or her Statement of Total Assets. The House bill would also grant tax amnesty on delinquencies, which would decongest the dockets of the Bureau of Internal Revenue, regional trial courts, Court of Tax Appeals, and the Supreme Court for cases involving cases where delinquent taxes and assessments have become final and executory, tax cases with final and executory judgment by the courts, and pending criminal cases with the Department of Justice or the courts for tax evasion and other criminal offenses under Chapter II, Title X of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997. 

Both bills grant a one-time opportunity for Filipinos to settle their tax obligations and will now go to the bicameral conference committee, where conflicting provisions of the two versions will be reconciled. HB No. 8554 is expected to raise P114.8 billion (US$ 2.1 billion) while the Senate bill could raise P36 billion (US$ 0.68 billion). Both measures propose to establish a tax database or information management system allowing exchange of tax information with up to 43 partner countries. This tax amnesty on estate tax, general tax, and delinquencies or final assessments is part of a broader Tax Reform to enhance revenue collection. The first package of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (“TRAIN” 1), or Republic Act No. 10963, was enacted into law in December 2017 and became effective on January 1, 2018.  The second package, known as TRAIN 2 or TRABAHO (jobs in Filipino), has two versions: the House passed its version HB 8083 on September 10, 2018 while the Senate is currently deliberating its version SB 1906.

Philippines Seeks to Raise Tobacco and Alcohol Taxes to fund Universal Healthcare

On December 3, the House of Representatives approved on third and final reading measures that would increase excise taxes on tobacco products. The measure proposes an increase from P32.50 (US$ 0.62) to P37.50 (US$ 0.71) per pack of cigarette beginning in July 2019. Subsequently, the tax will increase by P2.50 (US$ 0.05) annually until July 2022. Eventually a 4 percent increase would be observed annually starting July 2023.
Additionally, the House of Representatives also approved House Bill (HB) No. 8616 which seeks to increase excise taxes on alcoholic beverages. The proposed increases include a 22 percent ad valorem tax and an annually increasing per proof liter specific tax on distilled spirits. Tax on sparkling wines will be at a rate of P650 (US$ 12.30) plus ad valorem tax of 15 percent. Sparkling wine taxes are expected to increase by 7 percent annually starting from 2023. Still and carbonated wines with lower than 14 percent alcohol content will see a tax increase from P37.90 (US$ 0.72) to P40 (US$ 0.76) while wines with higher than 14 percent alcohol content will increase by P4.10 (US$ 0.08) starting January 2019. Tax rates on fermented liquors were increased from P25.40 (US$ 0.48) to P28 (US$ 0.53) with an annual 7 percent increase. The bill would also increase adjustment of alcohol taxes due to inflation from 4 percent to 7 percent.

Both tax measures are expected to help fund the bicameral committee approved universal health care bill (UHC). If signed into law, the UHC bill will automatically enroll all Filipinos in the National Health Insurance Program and provide access to proper healthcare without worry of exorbitant medical bills. The Department of Health stated earlier this month that about P257 billion (US$ 4.89 billion) is required for the first year of UHC implementation. The Department predicts a funding gap of P164 billion (US$ 3.12 billion) and thus has pushed for higher tobacco and alcohol taxes to ensure the viability of implementing the UHC program. Health Secretary Francisco Duque III has argued that increasing the tobacco tax would not only fund UHC, but also lower smoking prevalence in the country from 21.6% of the population to a target of 15.7%. Duque had previously urged President Duterte to certify the tobacco excise tax Senate Bill (SB) as urgent. Currently, SB No. 1605 on tobacco excise tax is pending in the Senate Committee on Ways and Means. An alcohol excise tax SB is yet to be filed. However, current law RA 10351 Sin Tax Reform Act, signed by President Benigno Aquino III on December 20, 2012 and which took effect since January 1, 2013 covers both alcohol and tobacco. Unless expressly repealed, alcohol excise taxes would remain in place.  

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements
Initial talks on US-PHL FTA seen possible next year
Trade exec sees 20% export hike to 4 European nations with PHL-Efta pact
RCEP negotiations seen finishing in 2019

Regional Affairs
Xi begins visit as PHL, China ink 29 agreements
‘Turning point’ PHL visit by Xi Jinping seen to focus on belt-road initiative
Duterte says China 'already in possession' of South China Sea, tells US to end military drills

National Affairs
Zubiri expects no issues with Senate budget review timeline 
Lucas Bersamin is the new Chief Justice
Locsin confirmed as Foreign Affairs Secretary 
Philippines' Duterte to cut short APEC trip, officials say
Philippines honors fallen soldiers as US announces return of Balangiga bells
Duterte defends taking power naps at Asean Summit, but attends Asean-US Summit, after all

Banking
Moody’s warns of risks in PHL banking system

Customs
House panel approves higher tobacco tax rates starting 2019
House seeks alcohol tax increase to fund universal health care
Philippines in early free trade talks with 2 countries

Defense & Security
DND-SoKor firm ink deal to co-produce armor vests, helmets
This Is How America and the Philippines Can Upgrade Their Alliance
Military rolls out ‘dramatic’ capability upgrade

Economics
Money supply growth at three-year low 
BIR says health card premiums not taxable 
BOI still short of ’18 target by P105 billion
Spending growth to slow — S&P 
DTI may revive mandatory product testing on flat glass
DOF to Peza: Justify big subsidies  for firms, stop attacking tax reform
World's Largest Ikea to Open in Manila as Company Bets on Asia
House approves tax amnesty bill
Diokno cites ‘healthy’ debt-to-GDP ratio on China-loan jitters
Tax amnesty bill gets Senate nod
Foreign share of government borrowing up sharply in Sept.
OFW remittances hit 1-year low in September–BSP 
BSP delivers 5th rate hike in 2018
SMEs cite competition, product quality as top challenges 
Mining industry backs profits-based royalty regime 
T-bills may fetch lower rates ahead of BSP’s policy review 
Tax bureau moves to make refunds easier in ‘simple cases’ 
Gov’t to fine-tune ‘Trabaho’ bill

Energy
Bill adding energy efficiency office to DoE bureau approved 
PHL reforms pushing renewable power growth, Bloomberg research arm says 
PHL lands on top 10 list of ‘most attractive’ markets for clean energy
Philippines biogas facility to produce 50,000MWh energy from fruit waste
‘PHL-China oil deal vital to energy plan’
UN-backed Green Climate Fund pledges in 2014 have yet to reach Philippines
Meralco sees demand for power up 5% this year
Meralco expects electricity demand to ease in 2019 
Fear, cheer greet PHL, China pact on oil, gas
Philippine senators ask Duterte to disclose China energy plan
Greenhouse gas emissions in PH rising: report
DoE to launch new energy contracting round this week 
DoE order identifies sources of Renewable Energy Fund
Duterte gives go-ahead for halting 2019 fuel tax hike

Financial Services
The National Payment Systems Act Enacted
CTRP Package 4 to deepen capital markets, says DOF
Banks required to form task force on payment systems

Food & Agriculture
DILG, BFAR plan to add teeth to inshore bottom-trawling ban 
CARP saga longest-running in Asia, possibly the world, PIDS study says
NFA closes supply deal for 203,000-MT rice imports from Thailand and Vietnam
Philippines, Papua New Guinea ink deal on agriculture cooperation
NFA to ease rice importation process for private sector
Senate approves bill lifting rice import caps
How inflation exposed gaps in the food supply chain 
Rice tariff law to shave 0.3%-point off inflation
Amendments to Seed Law pushed
Philippines mulls tariff on palm oil imports
Department of Agriculture expands Partnership with Ayala Corp
Rice farmers see P60 billion loss under tariffication bill
Government urged to hike funding for agriculture, climate adaptation
Philippines still lags in agriculture sophistication — PIDS
USDA forecasts 10% rise in food exports to PHL
Long-term agri productivity gap: The major cause of poverty
UN agency invests P3.36 billion in agriculture MSMEs
Rice stocks down by 17.9% in Oct
Bam leads turnover of agri equipment

ICT
It’s official: Gregorio Honasan is DICT chief
Mislatel officially declared 3rd telco
NTC declares Mislatel as new major player
Telcos gear up for competition
Disturbing red flags in the 3rd telco selection
Mobile number portability bill clears bicam 
Disqualified telco bidders lose appeal 
Senators oppose China Telecom
Failing cyber security test to cost Mislatel P26B

Infrastructure
More infrastructure project tie-ups coming, says Neda chief, despite warning of China ODA ‘debt trap’
Labor shortage seen in construction
ICTSI opens country’s first container barge terminal
Japan commits P95-billion loan for 2 infrastructure projects
Japan consortium wins bid to build P11-billion Metro subway
China consortium bags Manila-Bicol railway deal
DICT, China Telecom eye submarine broadband infrastructure
FDI inflows, infra spending to support economic growth — DOF

Legislation
DBCC retracts proposal to suspend fuel tax hike
Bill to strengthen PCA awaits Duterte’s okay
House bill to cut ‘red tape’ on power project approval hurdles final reading
9-month tax effort hits 15.2% on TRAIN law
Senators keen on legislation to lure investors, raise FDI 
Senate approves proposed general tax amnesty on 2nd reading 
Corporate Code amendments hurdle 3rd reading at House 

Manufacturing
Double-digit dip in all types of vehicles pulls down January-October car sales

Travel & Tourism
China-funded bridge risks Unesco World Heritage status of San Agustin church, 3 others
PCCI cautions government on plan to shut down El Nido, Coron
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
Multilateral Trade Agreements

Initial talks on US-PHL FTA seen possible next year Business World 25th Nov 2018
The Philippines and the United States may start next year initial talks for a free trade agreement (FTA), in the form of a “scoping exercise” to determine the extent of the future talks’ coverage. 

Trade exec sees 20% export hike to 4 European nations with PHL-Efta pact BusinessMirror 22nd Nov 2018
The country’s free trade agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (Efta) is seen to boost exports to the economic bloc by 20 percent in 2019, a trade official said on Tuesday night. 

RCEP negotiations seen finishing in 2019 Business World 15th Nov 2018
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said negotiations on the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) are expected to conclude next year.

Regional Affairs

Xi begins visit as PHL, China ink 29 agreements Business World 20th Nov 2018
The Philippines and China on Tuesday signed at least 29 bilateral agreements, covering a wide range of development initiatives such as infrastructure, agriculture, trade, monetary and humanitarian assistance, on the occasion of Chinese President Xi Jinping’s state visit to the Philippines. 

‘Turning point’ PHL visit by Xi Jinping seen to focus on belt-road initiative Business Mirror 20th Nov 2018
Amid the maritime dispute in the West Philippine Sea and just after the conclusion of the Asean summit and the Apec meetings where Beijing clashed with the US, Chinese President Xi Jinping will arrive in the Philippines today for a landmark two-day state visit. Malacañang said President Xi’s visit to the Philippines is a “turning point” in both countries’ histories, as this is his first state visit to the country and the first of its kind by a Chinese leader since 2005, reciprocating President Duterte’s earlier visit to China. 

Duterte says China 'already in possession' of South China Sea, tells US to end military drills The Straits Times 15th Nov 2018
President Rodrigo Duterte said on Thursday (Nov 15) China was "already in possession" of the South China Sea, and that military drills by the United States and its allies were creating "frictions" that were derailing efforts to settle rows over these waters between Beijing and its neighbours. "China is already in possession (of the South China Sea). It's now in their hands. So why do you have to create frictions… that will prompt a response from China?" Mr Duterte told reporters on the sidelines of the Asean Summit in Singapore.

National Affairs

Zubiri expects no issues with Senate budget review timeline  Business World 30th Nov 2018
Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said Thursday that he does not expect his chamber’s review process for the P51 billion realigned in the budget by the House of Representatives to delay the approval process. 

Lucas Bersamin is the new Chief Justice BusinessMirror 29th Nov 2018
Justice Secretary Menardo I.  Guevarra on Wednesday confirmed the appointment of  Supreme Court Associate Justice Lucas P. Bersamin as the 25th  Chief Justice. Although he is not the most senior Associate Justice of the SC, Bersamin is considered the most senior among the candidates for the CJ post based on the length of service in the Judiciary. 

Locsin confirmed as Foreign Affairs Secretary Business World 29th Nov 2018
The Commission on Appointments (CA) on Wednesday confirmed Teodoro L. Locsin, Jr. as the Secretary of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Philippines' Duterte to cut short APEC trip, officials say Star Tribune 16th Nov 2018
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte will cut short his participation in the Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Papua New Guinea, officials said Friday. He has come under criticism for skipping some regional meetings earlier in Singapore.

Philippines honors fallen soldiers as US announces return of Balangiga bells philstar.com 15th Nov 2018
The Philippines expressed its appreciation for the United States (US) government after announcing the return of the Balangiga bells, which were taken by American soldiers as war booty more than a century ago.

Duterte defends taking power naps at Asean Summit, but attends Asean-US Summit, after all BusinessMirror 15th Nov 2018
President Duterte said there is nothing wrong with taking power naps during the 33rd Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit here which led him to skip five events on Wednesday, including the 2nd Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership Summit (RCEP). On Thursday, while he initially told reporters he only had tentative plans to attend the Asean-US Summit, he later decided to show up at the event.

Banking

Moody’s warns of risks in PHL banking system BusinessMirror 20th Nov 2018
International credit ratings agency Moody’s Investors Service warned of “apparent risks” in the Philippine banking system that could undermine its stability. Moody’s on Monday released a statement affirming its stable outlook for the Philippine banking system over the next 12 to 18 months. The stable assessment was made on the back of the industry’s good asset quality, strong loss buffers and ample liquidity that allows for the accommodation of rapid loan growth in a growing economy. However, Moody’s said the accelerating inflation is a risk, as well as the banks’ heavy exposure to large conglomerates.

Customs

House panel approves higher tobacco tax rates starting 2019 Rappler 28th Nov 2018
The House committee on ways and means approved the measure that will once again increase the excise taxes on tobacco products.

House seeks alcohol tax increase to fund universal health care Rappler 28th Nov 2018
The prices of alcoholic beverages may eventually increase after the House of Representatives approved on 2nd reading a bill seeking to increase excise taxes on these products.

Philippines in early free trade talks with 2 countries Business World 19th Nov 2018
The Philippines is exploring bilateral free trade agreements (FTA) with two more countries, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said, adding that the talks are preliminary and exploratory.

Defense & Security

DND-SoKor firm ink deal to co-produce armor vests, helmets Manila Bulletin News 15th Nov 2018
Philippine Government Arsenal (GA) Director Daniel R. Casabar, Jr., and SAMYANG Comtech Co. Ltd President Kim Jong Il of South Korea signed an implementing arrangement Tuesday to co-produce Force Protection Equipment (FPE) to support the requirements of the Armed Forces and other law enforcement agencies.

This Is How America and the Philippines Can Upgrade Their Alliance The National Interest 12th Nov 2018
At the heart of the Indo-Pacific region are the disparate nations of Southeast Asia, a dynamic group of post–colonial nations that consciously guard their hard-earned autonomy in a theater of great powers. And at the very core of that pivotal region is the Philippines, which straddles the Western Pacific, the South China Sea, and the interlocking seascapes that constitute the maritime heartland of Asia.

Military rolls out ‘dramatic’ capability upgrade BusinessMirror 11th Nov 2018
The second phase of the capability upgrade program of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is seen to boost its firepower, an area where it has been considered lagging for long years, following the projected arrival and even signing of contracts for land, sea and air assets. Dubbed the Horizon 2 with a “modest” budget of P300 billion, the program should equip the military’s three branches of service with new and additional weapons, aside from ships, war-fighting helicopters and, possibly, even submarines.

Economics

Money supply growth at three-year low  Business World 30th Nov 2018
Money supply growth eased to a three-year low in October, reflecting a decline in foreign assets as dollar reserves dropped further during the month, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said. Domestic liquidity or M3, which is the broadest measure of money in an economy, expanded by 8.2% year-on-year to P11.14 trillion. The growth eased from 9.8% in September, and is the slowest pace logged since January 2015, according to central bank data.

BIR says health card premiums not taxable  Business World 30th Nov 2018
The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has clarified that health insurance premiums are not taxable. The BIR issued on Thursday Revenue Memorandum Circular (RMC) 96-2018, deleting a provision in RMC 50-2018 that says premiums paid to health maintenance organizations are included in the computation of taxable benefits and bonuses above P90,000 per year.

BOI still short of ’18 target by P105 billion BusinessMirror 26th Nov 2018
The Board of Investments (BOI) is now P105 billion short of its annual target, but it hopes to hit its objective with expected registrations of big-ticket manufacturing projects.

Spending growth to slow — S&P Business World 25th Nov 2018
Any increase in household consumption will likely be slower in the year ahead as elevated overall price hikes and higher interest rates dampen demand, while state spending could ease in a bid to narrow the current account deficit, a credit rater said in a report. Analysts at S&P Global Ratings said that inflation appears to have peaked already but will still be elevated in early 2019, which could make gross domestic product (GDP) growth miss the state’s 7-8% target for that year.

DTI may revive mandatory product testing on flat glass BusinessMirror 23rd Nov 2018
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is eyeing to bring back mandatory testing on flat glass products in response to calls from business leaders to do so, the country’s trade chief said on Thursday. 

DOF to Peza: Justify big subsidies  for firms, stop attacking tax reform BusinessMirror 21st Nov 2018
THE Department of Finance (DOF) is asking the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (Peza) to explain to Filipino taxpayers why it insists on subsidizing at their expense the multibillion-peso dividends and profits of large corporations that do not actually need such perks, instead of supporting President Duterte’s directive to fix the corporate tax system.

World's Largest Ikea to Open in Manila as Company Bets on Asia Bloomberg 20th Nov 2018
The world’s largest Ikea store will open in 2020 in the Philippines as the Swedish furniture retailer presses on its bets in Asia.

House approves tax amnesty bill Rappler 20th Nov 2018
On Tuesday, November 20, lawmakers approved House Bill (HB) No. 8554 on 3rd and final reading with a vote of 213-7-0. The measure seeks to provide amnesty for estate taxes, national internal revenue taxes, and tax delinquencies.

Diokno cites ‘healthy’ debt-to-GDP ratio on China-loan jitters BusinessMirror 20th Nov 2018
The President’s budget secretary expressed confidence on Monday that the Philippines’s public debt remains at acceptable levels amid alarm bells raised by US Vice President Mike Pence that Chinese loans could lead countries into a debt trap. 

Tax amnesty bill gets Senate nod Philippine Daily Inquirer 19th Nov 2018
The Senate on Monday approved on third and final reading a measure that seeks to grant tax amnesty to all unpaid taxes imposed by the government until 2017. Senate Bill No. 2059 is an act “enhancing revenue administration and collection, and broadening the tax base by granting an amnesty on all unpaid internal revenue taxes imposed by the national government for taxable year 2017 and prior years with respect to estate tax, other internal revenue taxes and tax delinquencies add cross-border tax evasion and for other purposes.” Once enacted into law, the said measure will allow taxpayers to “avail of a reprieve from all estate taxes on covered taxable years and pay a rate of 6% based on the total net estate.”

Foreign share of government borrowing up sharply in Sept. Business World 18th Nov 2018
Government borrowing rose in September due to an increase in foreign loans, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) said. The government borrowed P43.98 billion in September, up 3.48% from a year earlier. 

OFW remittances hit 1-year low in September–BSP  BusinessMirror 16th Nov 2018
Money sent by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) at the start of the so-called “ber” months this year hit its lowest volume in 12 months, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed. The BSP reported on Thursday that total cash remittance in September hit $2.237 billion, growing by 2.3 percent from its volume in the same month last year at $2.186 billion. 

BSP delivers 5th rate hike in 2018 philstar.com 16th Nov 2018
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) decided yesterday to raise anew policy interest rates by 25 basis points as part of a proactive action to help temper the rise in inflation.

SMEs cite competition, product quality as top challenges Business World 14th Nov 2018
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) cited intense competition as their biggest challenge, topping other factors the need to offer quality products and corruption, according to a study conducted by a Philippine think tank. 

Mining industry backs profits-based royalty regime  Business World 13th Nov 2018
The Chamber of Mines has signalled its support for a royalty system based on profits. House Bill 8400, An Act Establishing the Fiscal Regime for the Mining Industry, will lower the royalty of mining companies within mineral reserves to 3% of gross output from the current 5%.

T-bills may fetch lower rates ahead of BSP’s policy review  Business World 12th Nov 2018
Yields on Treasury bills (T-bills) on offer today are seen to go down a tad as the market see indications a break in the central bank’s monetary tightening, although some upward pressure still remains over slower economic growth. 

Tax bureau moves to make refunds easier in ‘simple cases’ Business World 12th Nov 2018
BIR Revenue Memorandum Order (RMO) 48-2018, dated Oct. 24, now allows the use of a Tax Verification Notice (TVN) to check claims of tax refunds arising from erroneous or double payment of taxes made by individuals and businesses, instead of a Letter of Authority (LoA) that can be issued only by the bureau’s chief.

Gov’t to fine-tune ‘Trabaho’ bill The Philippine Daily Inquirer 12th Nov 2018
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) is in talks with the Department of Finance (DOF) to fine-tune some provisions in the so-called “Trabaho” bill, and ensure it would have only “minimal risk.”

Energy

Bill adding energy efficiency office to DoE bureau approved | BusinessWorld Business World 30th Nov 2018
A Bill reorganizing the agency in charge of promoting energy conservation and efficiency was approved on second reading at the House of Representatives via voice voting. House Bill No. 8629, or the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Act, reorganizes the Energy Utilization and Management Bureau (EUMB) to include an Efficiency and Conservation Enforcement Division (EECED). 

PHL reforms pushing renewable power growth, Bloomberg research arm says  Business World 29th Nov 2018
The Philippines has achieved a “turnaround” in sourcing power from renewable sources with policy innovations that have helped bring down the cost, putting the country sixth among developing nations in the Climatescope 2018 ranking compiled by Bloomberg New Energy Finance Ltd. (BNEF).

PHL lands on top 10 list of ‘most attractive’ markets for clean energy BusinessMirror 28th Nov 2018
The Philippines is one of the most attractive markets for clean energy investments, according to a recent study published by the Bloomberg NEF. This year’s Climatescope Emerging Market Outlook showed the country ranked 6th out of 103 economies with a score of 2.29. 

Philippines biogas facility to produce 50,000MWh energy from fruit waste Asian Power 27th Nov 2018
The Philippines’ Metro Pacific Investments Corporation (MPI) inked a deal with agricultural producer Dole Philippines, Inc. (DPI) to design, construct, and operate facilities that will process fruit waste and produce around 50,000MWh of biogas.

‘PHL-China oil deal vital to energy plan’ BusinessMirror 26th Nov 2018
Amid fears the oil deal signed between the Philippines and China would be disadvantageous to the former, Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto on Sunday said it is, in fact, “off to good start” given the “positive reviews” given by Acting Chief Justice Antonio T. Carpio and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario, that Philippine interests are “safe” and that “nothing is being given away” by the Philippines in its oil exploration agreement with China.

UN-backed Green Climate Fund pledges in 2014 have yet to reach Philippines Asian Power 26th Nov 2018
The Philippines has yet to receive financing from the UN-backed Green Climate Fund (GCF), which has set out pledges worth $10.3b and recently added $1.04b of investment in renewables.

Meralco sees demand for power up 5% this year BusinessMirror 26th Nov 2018
Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) is expecting electricity demand this year to grow by 4.5 to 5 percent from 2017.

Meralco expects electricity demand to ease in 2019 | BusinessWorld Business World 25th Nov 2018
Mani;a Electric Co. (Meralco) expects demand for electricity to ease in 2019 as the year follows two straight years of higher base when relevant economic indicators are relatively tamer, the distribution utility’s top official said. 

Fear, cheer greet PHL, China pact on oil, gas BusinessMirror 22nd Nov 2018
Calls mounted on Wednesday for the Executive to reveal the full text of a cooperation agreement on oil and gas exploration in the South China Sea, signed on the first day of President Xi Jinping’s historic state visit.

Philippine senators ask Duterte to disclose China energy plan Reuters 20th Nov 2018
Philippine opposition senators have demanded President Rodrigo Duterte reveal details of joint energy exploration plans with China, warning such a deal risked affirming Chinese territorial claims that are not recognized under international law.

Greenhouse gas emissions in PH rising: report ABS CBN 20th Nov 2018
The Philippine Climate Change Assessment Working Group 3 Report was launched on Monday during the opening ceremonies of the 2018 Global Warming and Climate Change Consciousness Week in Pasay City.

DoE to launch new energy contracting round this week  Business World 18th Nov 2018
The Department of Energy (DoE) is hoping that a new round of contracting will spur more petroleum exploration ventures and close the resource development gap with regional neighbors. The DoE will launch the Philippine Conventional Energy Contracting Program (PCECP) on Thursday officially opening the application period, which will be for 180 days. 

DoE order identifies sources of Renewable Energy Fund Manila Standard 16th Nov 2018
The Department of Energy issued the guidelines for the operationalization of the Renewable Energy Trust Fund that will be used for the research, development and promotion of renewable energy sources.

Duterte gives go-ahead for halting 2019 fuel tax hike BusinessMirror 15th Nov 2018
The government is holding off the increase in fuel excise tax of P2 per liter in 2019, as President Duterte has given his go-ahead to the inflation-busting recommendation of economic managers. 

Financial Services

The National Payment Systems Act Enacted Baker McKenzie 26th Nov 2018
The Philippines has recently passed Republic Act No. 11127, otherwise known as the "National Payment Systems Act" (the NPSA), legislation intended to promote the safe, secured, efficient and reliable operation of payment systems within the Philippines. Following its publication on 17 November 2018, the NPSA will take effect on 2 December 2018.

CTRP Package 4 to deepen capital markets, says DOF BusinessMirror 14th Nov 2018
The fourth package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program (CTRP) of the Duterte administration will deepen capital markets in the country and enlarge avenues for funding the massive infrastructure needs and key private-sector initiatives, a Department of Finance (DOF) official said.

Banks required to form task force on payment systems Business World 13th Nov 2018
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has required banks and players to set up a task force to ensure that all payment systems will be compliant to global standards on digital financial data. Memorandum M-2018-033 signed by BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. mandates all participants of the domestic payments and settlements system to set up an industry task force to organize Philippine payments.

Food & Agriculture

DILG, BFAR plan to add teeth to inshore bottom-trawling ban  Business World 30th Nov 2018
The Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) signed a joint memorandum circular on Wednesday strengthening enforcement of the ban on bottom trawling within municipal waters. JMC 2018-03 states that bottom trawling disturbs the seabed and destroys the complex structure of benthic habitats by direct removal of biological and topographic features.

CARP saga longest-running in Asia, possibly the world, PIDS study says BusinessMirror 29th Nov 2018
Three decades hence, the longest-running land distribution program in Asia—the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP)—has not been completely implemented, according to the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). 

NFA closes supply deal for 203,000-MT rice imports from Thailand and Vietnam BusinessMirror 29th Nov 2018
After two failed biddings, Manila has successfully secured a supply contract with Thailand and Vietnam for the importation of 203,000 metric tons (MT) of rice to further beef up the government’s stockpile. 

Philippines, Papua New Guinea ink deal on agriculture cooperation Rappler 19th Nov 2018
The governments of the Philippines and Papua New Guinea signed a deal on agriculture cooperation on Friday afternoon, November 16 at Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea, during President Rodrigo Duterte's visit. The memorandum of agreement will formalize cooperation on rice production reasearch and development, and in rice farming technology between the two countries.

NFA to ease rice importation process for private sector The Inquirer 16th Nov 2018
The National Food Authority (NFA) will finally make easier the rice importation process in the country more than a month after President Duterte gave the go-ahead to open the program to more players.

Senate approves bill lifting rice import caps BusinessMirror 15th Nov 2018
Voting 14-0 on third reading, the Senate on Wednesday adopted Committee Report 440 endorsing passage of a law replacing the quantitative import restrictions on rice with tariffs. 

How inflation exposed gaps in the food supply chain | BusinessWorld Business World 12th Nov 2018
LAGUNA — The onset of 6.7% inflation in September disrupted many people’s lives, not least of them the poor, who now have to make do with less. Inflation’s effects are visible to anyone who fills up his car with fuel or puts together a household budget or buys groceries. For those who spend most of their time in the online world, inflation has even become meme-worthy, with the price of the humble sili scandalizing the population and urban legends cropping up about commuters offering to pay their way with chili peppers, once so common as to be given away free at restaurants, now worth their proverbial weight in bus fare.

Rice tariff law to shave 0.3%-point off inflation Phil Star Global 26th Nov 2018
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) lauded Congres’ approval of the rice tariffication bill, saying this would ease food supply pressures and pave the way for the improvement of agricultural productivity.

Amendments to Seed Law pushed Phil Star Global 25th Nov 2018
The Seed Industry Development Act of 1992 (Philippine Seed Law) needs to be amended in order for the sector to thrive, an official of the Philippine Seed Industry Association (PSIA) said. In particular, he said provisions on seed quality control and illegal seeding practices need to be amended.

Philippines mulls tariff on palm oil imports Phil Star Global 25th Nov 2018
Despite the existing tariff-free agreement within the ASEAN region, the Philippines is now mulling to impose duty on palm oil imports amid the possible dumping of the commodity in the country causing a slump in the prices of coconut. The Department of Agriculture (DA) is now investigating the dumping of palm oil in the country after the volume that is being imported has expanded significantly.

Department of Agriculture expands Partnership with Ayala Corp Phil Star Global 22nd Nov 2018
The Department of Agriculture has expanded its corporate farming project with conglomerate Ayala Corp., this time linking local farmers’ vegetable produce with institutional buyers.

Rice farmers see P60 billion loss under tariffication bill Phil Star Global 21st Nov 2018
Local farmers are poised to lose P60 billion every year with the Senate’s version of the rice tariffication bill, a much higher value than the supposed fund to be allocated to improve their competitiveness, a farmers group said.

Government urged to hike funding for agriculture, climate adaptation Phil Star Global 18th Nov 2018
Ifugao lawmaker Teodoro Baguilat Jr. called on the government to increase investments in agriculture development and climate change adaptation and mitigation as the economy continues to be battered by the adverse effects of natural disasters that have a big impact on the farm sector.

Philippines still lags in agriculture sophistication — PIDS Phil Star Global 18th Nov 2018
The sophistication of processed Philippine farm products has not advanced in more than a decade, preventing the agriculture industry from evolving into a high-value sector, according to a new paper by state-run think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS). 

USDA forecasts 10% rise in food exports to PHL Business World 12th Nov 2018
According to the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) Global Agricultural Information Network (GAIN), consumer-oriented food and beverage products including wine are viewed as having the strongest prospects for future export growth driven by consumer confidence in the quality of US goods. 

Long-term agri productivity gap: The major cause of poverty Business World 12th Nov 2018
Why is national poverty incidence in the Philippines more than twice that of ASEAN peers — Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam? It is even magnified in the farmers’ and fishers’ poverty of 34%. Thesis: it is due to broad-based low productivity and concentration on few products. Benchmarking compares yield parameters with “best-in-class” in the ASEAN. 

UN agency invests P3.36 billion in agriculture MSMEs Phil Star Global 11th Nov 2018
The International Fund for Agricultural Development (IFAD), a specialized agency of the United Nations, is investing $63.5 million (about P3.36 billion) in projects that aim to benefit agriculture-based micro and small enterprises in 20 provinces across the Eastern Visayas and Mindanao.

Rice stocks down by 17.9% in Oct The Manila Times Online 10th Nov 2018
The Philippines’ total rice stocks decreased by 17.87 percent to 1.59 million metric tons (MMT) as of October 1 from 1.94 MMT a year ago, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said. 

Bam leads turnover of agri equipment The Manila Times Online 10th Nov 2018
Sen. Paolo Benigno “Bam” Aquino 4th joined the Department of Agriculture (DA) during the turnover of P40 million worth of machinery, equipment and vehicles to farmers, fishermen and women’s organizations for the improvement of their livelihood. 

ICT

It’s official: Gregorio Honasan is DICT chief MSN 27th Nov 2018
President Duterte formally appointed Sen. Gregorio Honasan as information and communications technology secretary a day after the government confirmed Filipino-Chinese consortium Mislatel as the country’s third telecommunications player. 

Mislatel officially declared 3rd telco Manila Bulletin Business 19th Nov 2018
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) -Selection Committee on Monday officially declared Mindanao Islamic Telephone Company (Mislatel) the New Major Player (NMP).

NTC declares Mislatel as new major player GMA News Online 19th Nov 2018
The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) on Monday officially declared Mislatel Consortium as the country’s new major player (NMP) in the telecom industry, 12 days after the bid documents were opened. 

Telcos gear up for competition Malay Business Insight 15th Nov 2018
Philippine Telegraph and Telephone Corp. (PT&T) plans to transform itself into a digital service provider as it forays into cyber security, smart cities and the Internet of Things (IoT) in the future, and will be ready when mobile for 5G comes to the country.

Disturbing red flags in the 3rd telco selection Rappler 15th Nov 2018
Last week, on November 7, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) held a public bidding for the selection of the Philippines' 3rd telco provider. In this article, I discuss a number of red flags that attended the selection process last week – red flags which suggest the situation is less promising than it seems.

Mobile number portability bill clears bicam  Business World 13th Nov 2018
The bicameral conference committee approved on Tuesday the mobile number portability bill, permitting the retention of phone numbers by users that switch providers.

Disqualified telco bidders lose appeal  Business World 13th Nov 2018
The selection committee for the country’s third major telecommunications service provider on Monday denied the motions for reconsideration (MRs) of groups disqualified from the auction last week for deficiencies in their submissions. 

Senators oppose China Telecom The Manila Times Online 13th Nov 2018
The Senate minority bloc on Monday questioned the selection process employed by the government in choosing the Mislatel consortium as the “provisional” new major player (NMP) in the telecommunications industry. 

Failing cyber security test to cost Mislatel P26B BusinessMirror 12th Nov 2018
Provisional third telco player Mislatel Consortium—an alliance between President Duterte’s ally Dennis A. Uy and Chinese state-owned China Telecom Corp. Ltd.—may lose P25.7 billion at the minimum should it fail to deliver on its commitments or if it is found to have caused cyber security breaches that infringe on national security or sovereignty, a Cabinet official said. 

Infrastructure

More infrastructure project tie-ups coming, says Neda chief, despite warning of China ODA ‘debt trap’ BusinessMirror 22nd Nov 2018
With the recent signing of various agreements between the Philippines and China, the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said Filipinos can expect more infrastructure project partnerships between Manila and Beijing. 

Labor shortage seen in construction Phil Star Global 26th Nov 2018
Socialized housing developers are experiencing project delays amid a growing shortage of skilled laborers in the country as more workers opt to go overseas. According to the Organization of Socialized and Economic Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP), industry players are now having a difficult time employing skilled laborers which, in turn, results in project delays.

ICTSI opens country’s first container barge terminal Phil Star Global 25th Nov 2018
The country’s first container barge terminal, the Cavite Gateway Terminal (CGT) of International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), opened on Thursday, the Department of Transportation (DOTr) said.

Japan commits P95-billion loan for 2 infrastructure projects Phil Star Global 23rd Nov 2018
Japan has committed to provide ¥206 billion (P95 billion) worth of loans for two infrastructure projects under the Duterte administration’s ambitious infrastructure program, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

Japan consortium wins bid to build P11-billion Metro subway Phil Star Global 22nd Nov 2018
A consortium of six Japanese companies has bagged the P11-billion contract to build the Metro Manila Subway, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said yesterday. In a press briefing, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said Japanese consortium OCGlobal won the bidding for the construction of the country’s first ever subway system.

China consortium bags Manila-Bicol railway deal Phil Star Global 22nd Nov 2018
A Chinese consortium composed of China Railway Design Corp. and Guangzhou Wanan Construction Supervision Co. Ltd. (CRDC-WACC) has bagged the project management consultancy contract for the 639-kilometer Philippine National Railways South Long Haul project, which is expected to commence construction next year. 

DICT, China Telecom eye submarine broadband infrastructure Phil Star Global 21st Nov 2018
State-owned China Telecommunications Corp. and the Philippine government are looking at the viability of putting up a submarine broadband infrastructure that will directly connect Hong Kong, the US and the Philippines, resulting in faster internet speed in the country.

FDI inflows, infra spending to support economic growth — DOF Phil Star Global 19th Nov 2018
Higher investments and strong public spending on the back of the Duterte administration’s Build Build Build program will help the economy recover its growth momentum despite economic headwinds facing the country, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

Legislation

DBCC retracts proposal to suspend fuel tax hike BusinessMirror 30th Nov 2018
A month after recommending the suspension of the second tranche of the hike in fuel excise taxes next year as a way of reining in inflation, the country’s economic managers said on Thursday that the measure is no longer necessary. Members of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) said they will recommend to the President the continued implementation of the scheduled increase in fuel excise tax to P2 per liter in 2019 under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

Bill to strengthen PCA awaits Duterte’s okay BusinessMirror 30th Nov 2018
A measure to further strengthen the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) is now awaiting President Duterte’s signature.  This, after the House of Representatives ratified late Wednesday the bicameral committee report on House Bill 8552 and Senate Bill 1976, or the proposal to further strengthen the PCA, amending the Presidential Decree 1468 or the Revised Coconut Industry Code, as amended. 

House bill to cut ‘red tape’ on power project approval hurdles final reading BusinessMirror 23rd Nov 2018
The House of Representatives has approved on third and final reading House Bill 8417, or the Energy Virtual One Stop Shop (eVOSS), that seeks to provide a faster and more efficient application and processing time for power-generation projects.

9-month tax effort hits 15.2% on TRAIN law BusinessMirror 14th Nov 2018
The country’s tax effort from January to September this year reached 15.2 percent, with the growth attributed mostly to the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, the Department of Finance (DOF) has reported. 

Senators keen on legislation to lure investors, raise FDI  BusinessMirror 14th Nov 2018
Senators signaled on Tuesday that they are open to address concerns raised by foreign businessmen that it will take more than presidential edict to liberalize the economy, indicating readiness to do their part in relaxing foreign ownership restrictions, among other remedial legislation, to attract more investors to do business in the Philippines. 

Corporate Code amendments hurdle 3rd reading at House  Business World 13th Nov 2018
The proposed Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines, which extends corporate life indefinitely, was approved on third and final reading at the House of Representatives on Monday. House Bill No. 8374, which hurdled the chamber with 165 affirmative votes and zero negatives, will also remove the minimum requirement of five incorporators, thereby allowing single-stockholder corporations. 

Manufacturing

Double-digit dip in all types of vehicles pulls down January-October car sales BusinessMirror 14th Nov 2018
Sales of local car manufacturers in a 10-month period fell 13.3 percent largely due to double-digit declines in the passenger car, Asian utility vehicle (AUV) and light truck segments. 

Travel & Tourism

China-funded bridge risks Unesco World Heritage status of San Agustin church, 3 others The Straits Times 19th Nov 2018
The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco) has warned that San Agustin Church and three other Baroque churches around the Philippines may be delisted from the prestigious World Heritage List as a result of the construction of the controversial Binondo-Intramuros Bridge across the Pasig River in Manila.

PCCI cautions government on plan to shut down El Nido, Coron BusinessMirror 15th Nov 2018
The country’s largest business network on Wednesday told the government to go easy on its plan to close down Coron and El Nido beaches, and recommended that penalties be imposed only on violators of environmental codes.