Philippines Update: April 25, 2019

Philippines Update | April 25, 2019

Authors: Lilibeth Almonte-Arbez, Kim Yaeger, Stephanie Purwanto

 
LOOKING AHEAD
 
 

May 3, 2019: SME Workshop in Philippines: "Strengthening a Sustainable Tourism Model for SMEs in Digital Transformation" 

September 16-18, 2019: Philippines Business Mission

THE COUNCIL'S TAKE

 
 

The Philippines passes 2019 budget after "re-enacted" budget slows down growth

The World Bank on Monday lowered its 2019 Philippine economic growth forecast to 6.4 percent from the previous 6.5 percent, owing to several factors that include the delay in the approval of the national budget and the slowdown of global trade that may lead to weaker demand for Philippine exports. President Duterte signed Republic Act 11260 on Monday, April 15 – almost 3 weeks after the Senate transmitted the budget bill to Malacañang. The 2019 budget appropriated US$ 722.4 billion, a large chunk of which is for the infrastructure program "Build, Build, Build."  For the entire 2019, the  Cabinet-level interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) planned to allow a budget deficit of P624.4 billion, equivalent to 3.2 percent of GDP, in order to fund more infrastructure projects. Concerns were earlier voiced over the House of Representatives realignments and a growing political battle with then Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno who is now Governor of the Philippine Central Bank.

Mid-term elections potential watershed for the Philippines and the Duterte administration   

Campaign season is in full swing as the country gears up for its mid-term national and local elections. The outcome will shape the Philippines' eighteenth Congress, notably a new senate whose constitutional powers together with the House of Representatives could radically change the country's political and economic future through charter change. The House passed a resolution supporting the lifting of restrictions on foreign ownership whereas the current Senate has not shown a similar hand. President Duterte is eager to have a senate fully behind his federalism aspirations as well as economic managers like Finance Secretary Dominguez who would like all 5 tax reform packages pass during this administration. The lower chamber has passed TRAIN 2 or Trabaho bill but the senate did not warm up to the proposed measure calling for more data on the effect on foreign investments and potential job loss. The window for passing such a measure has narrowed to May 20, 2019-June 7, 2019 when Congress resumes its session. Congress is adjourned June 8, 2019-July 21, 2019 and the new 18th Congress will start afresh its 3-year legislative calendar during the state of the nation address traditionally held the week of July 22nd.

 
IN THIS UPDATE
 
 
National Affairs
Monday budget signing canceled; enactment now seen after Easter | BusinessWorld
Sotto says House members trying to avert budget veto | BusinessWorld

Market Development
PHL aims to become top creative economy

ASEAN
Philippines, South Korea to pursue free trade agreement
Philippines Now Among Fastest-Growing Economies In Southeast Asia
Philippines Is Beginning To Pay The Price For Duterte's South China Sea Flip-Flops
US demand not enough to save Q1 Asean exports

Customs
Lopez: Philippines assured of preferential market access to UK post-Brexit

Defense & Security
Palace scores US senators outrageous interference

Economics
Economy resilient, says PH economic team
Trade-in-goods gap grows in February | BusinessWorld
BSP should keep rate cut option–economist
ADB cuts PHL outlook on budget, global woes
Peso strengthens in muted trade ahead of March inflation report | BusinessWorld
Treasury bill rates likely to drop | BusinessWorld

Energy
ERC green lights NGCP transmission project
Antique solar project now operational
Gatchalian reveals possible gas find adjacent to Malampaya
ERC, DOE commit to act on PSAs for power projects
E-vehicles’ roadmap proposed
Mitsubishi sets sights on e-vehicle market
$500-M waste-to-energy plant proposed in Bataan
Senate wants Philippine National Oil Co. to focus on oil, gas
Duterte vows better energy supply in Palawan before yearend
Energy department maintains power outlook but Meralco flags ‘upward’ rate pressure
Energy dep’t issues draft storage rules to support renewables

Financial Services
There Are 41 Crypto Businesses Licensed in Philippines Right Now
Philippine rate cut is on table in May, Governor Diokno says
IMF joins other multilateral bodies in cutting Philippines growth outlook
Philippines among top remittance recipients in 2018 — World Bank | Philstar.com
DOF bares new scheme to evade cigarette taxes
Asian banks assured of state support
Cash remittances, a key economic support, off to strong start
Western Union Integrates With Crypto Wallet to Expand Philippines Remittances
Clark group calls for add'l tax incentives to attract more FDI
Duterte "verbally" appoints acting chief of Budget Department
Hot money outflow hits 30-month high at $739 million
Top ASEAN nations seek to boost investment in local currency

Food & Agriculture
13,000 farmers benefit from P22.9-million DAR projects in Zamboanga Peninsula
Bulk of P10-B rice fund earmarked for farm modernization — NEDA
US, Japan trade talks conclude with agriculture focus
DAR: Rice-centric model will never be successful
Agriculture food exports to drop in 2019 on lower production
Philippines targets up to 8% growth in halal exports | Philstar.com
Gov’t to adopt measures to address El Niño
Water shortage, disasters, poverty, unemployment
DAR distributes farm machinery to agrarian reform communities in Zamboanga Sibugay
Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped – Butil Party-list solon
Provinces urged to craft master plan for agri development
World Bank to aid Philippines in fight against plastic
El Niño damage to rice and corn crop tops ₱5B | BusinessWorld
Palay prices continue to drop at farmgate despite El Niño losses | BusinessWorld

Health & Life Sciences
Dengue cases rise in Western Visayas
Signing of 2019 budget means more funds for Filipinos’ healthcare needs
Creation of Philippine blood disease and transfusion center pushed
DOH: Gov’t hospitals on ‘White’ alert for Holy Week
UNICEF-WHO Philippines: Measles Outbreak, Situation Report 9, 14 April 2019 - Philippines
JV says IRR of universal health care law could be out by June or July
DOH-Calabarzon reminds elderly to be conscious of their health
DOT assures public of medical services in top tourist destinations
WHO urges PHL to invest more in primary health care

ICT
Tower sharing business limited to 10 firms – DICT
PSE moves forward with tech firm plans
NPC cautions offices on personal data protection issues during Holy Week 2019
PH Internet speed improves significantly
Why Cryptocurrency Is Gaining in Philippines Despite 2018 Bitcoin Crash
More Filipinos turning to digital careers
Globe in talks to share towers with third player Mislatel
Dominguez to SSS: Use technology to reduce costs
Globe turns over digital program to Department of Education
DICT urged to look into hacking of AFP, government websites
First Digital Finance eyes 1M borrowers in two years | BusinessWorld
Free internet in terminals bill awaits Duterte signature

Infrastructure
Look inside the new $1.3 billion complex at Singapore's Changi Airport, with a 130-foot indoor waterfall
Most Swedish firms in PHL planning for long-term expansion
Duterte orders review of gov’t contracts
Big infra projects face delays from poll ban

Insurance
Microinsurance sector’s coverage, premiums up | BusinessWorld

Legislation
Zdro duty, tariff on EVs pushed
Tax amnesty set as BIR issues rules
Voting for 1.8 M Pinoys abroad starts April 13
 
ARTICLE CLIPS
 
 
National Affairs

Monday budget signing canceled; enactment now seen after Easter | BusinessWorld Business World 11th Apr 2019
THE 2019 budget could be delayed at least one week more after Palace officials took a ceremonial signing scheduled for Monday off the President’s calendar, saying that the General Appropriations Bill was still under study. At a news conference at the Palace on Thursday morning, the President’s spokesperson, Salvador S. Panelo, said: “Naka-calendar, tapos tinanggal sa calendar… Lahat naman ng schedule niya subject to change without prior notice…. Kinalendar na, pero mukhang pinag-aaralan pa. Eh baka after Holy Week. (It was on the calendar, then it was removed. All schedules are subject to change without prior notice… It looks like they are still studying it. Maybe it will be signed after Holy Week).”

Sotto says House members trying to avert budget veto | BusinessWorld Business World 1st Apr 2019
SENATE President Vicente C. Sotto III said the House of Representatives is making a “last-ditch effort” to save its post-ratification realignments in the P3.757-trillion national budget from being vetoed. House appropriations committee chair and Camarines Sur 1st District Rep. Rolando G. Andaya, Jr., on Monday accused the Senate of sabotaging the government’s “Build, Build, Build” program, after reducing the allocation for the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of Transportation (DoTr), among other agencies.

Market Development

PHL aims to become top creative economy BusinessMirror 4th Apr 2019
THE Philippines has set its sights on becoming the leading creative economy in Southeast Asia by 2030 on the back of strong advertising, film, animation, game development and design industries. The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said in a statement that the draft creative economy road map is now on its table. The draft was submitted by the Creative Economy Council of the Philippines (CECP) last week to gather more inputs before it is approved and implemented.

ASEAN

Philippines, South Korea to pursue free trade agreement Rappler 18th Apr 2019
The Philippines and South Korea, formally the Republic of Korea (ROK), have agreed to pursue a free trade agreement (FTA) in a bid to improve economic relations, according to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). In a statement on Wednesday, April 17, Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said both countries "agreed to put their best effort to conclude the negotiations" by November 2019, just in time for the ROK-ASEAN Commemorative Summit. The Philippines and South Korea will also celebrate the 70th anniversary of their diplomatic ties that same month. In a separate message to reporters Wednesday night, Lopez said that they aim to have greater market access for agriculture exports, as well as better collaboration on trade and investments in technology, such as electric vehicles and electronics. "[This] FTA hopes to be future-oriented, that will differentiate this with other FTAs," Lopez added.

Philippines Now Among Fastest-Growing Economies In Southeast Asia Business Times 11th Apr 2019
The latest data from the Philippines Statistics Authority (PSA) indicated that the country is now among the fastest-growing economies in Southeast Asia. Positive transitions in the country's poverty lines have also started showing according to data from 2018. According to a report published on the agency's official website, the number of Filipinos found to be living below the poverty line in the first half of 2018 reached 21 percent. The numbers are a jump from the 27.6 percent recorded in the same period three years back. It is worth noting that the Philippines has been recording gross domestic product (GDP) growth of around six percent over the last seven years. Economists pointed out that this is proof the Philippine economy is thriving amid external and internal headwinds such as trade issues with its trade partners. "Thanks to sustained economic growth and critical broad-based reforms and investments that have translated to employment-generation and social protection," economic planning secretary, Ernesto Pernia, said as reported by Bloomberg.

Philippines Is Beginning To Pay The Price For Duterte's South China Sea Flip-Flops Forbes 6th Apr 2019
The Philippines is beginning to pay the price for President Rodrigo Duterte’s South China Sea policy flip-flops in the form of repeated challenges to the country’s sovereignty by Beijing. China considers the South China Sea its own sea, all of it. And it seems to be prepared to do whatever it takes to assert control over every tiny island, natural and artificial, in it -- as evidenced by the presence of hundreds of Chinese vessels near a Philippines-administered island in the South China Sea in recent weeks. That’s certainly bad news for neighboring countries -- like the Philippines -- which have competing claims in these territories. And bad news for the future of the economic integration of the region, as it raises geopolitical risks that could eventually turn away foreign investments. The trouble is that Manila doesn’t have a clear and consistent policy to deal with China’s aggression, as evidenced by several flip-flops in Duterte’s administration. Why? Perhaps out of fear of war or the appeal of the Chinese money that is expected to finance his ambitious infrastructure projects.

US demand not enough to save Q1 Asean exports The Business Times 23rd Apr 2019
SOUTH-EAST Asian electronics factories have been hard hit by the US-China trade war, especially amid a Chinese slump, an OCBC economist has said. That’s despite exports to the United States rising in some Asean markets over the same period. Exports from Singapore, Malaysia, the Philippines and Indonesia contracted year on year in the first quarter while Thailand was flattish, according to data compiled by economist Howie Lee. The electronics sector suffered more than others - led by the downturn in semiconductors, which, along with integrated circuits, make up most of the region’s electronics exports. Mr Lee wrote in a recent report that the US may have turned to Asean amid its trade feud with China, either from “a textbook demonstration of substitution effect”, or because the US tends to import finished products - rather than intermediate goods like semiconductors. “China’s ability to engineer a soft landing and establish a bottom will be key in driving an uptick in exports from the Asean bloc and beyond,” he added.

Customs

Lopez: Philippines assured of preferential market access to UK post-Brexit Rappler 12th Apr 2019
The United Kingdom has assured the Philippines of continued preferential market access even afterthe UK's withdrawal from the European Union, Philippine Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said on Friday, April 12. Lopez said in a statement that the Philippines got the assurance from UK officials in 3 high-level dialogues held in the last two months on the Philippines' Generalized Scheme of Preferences plus (GSP+) level market access to the UK. “The retention of the Philippines’s GSP+ level preferential market access to the UK is a huge assurance for PH exporters. For products that are not covered by the GSP+, Most Favoured Nation (MFN) rates will apply," he said. "The Philippines is also actively engaged in negotiations in the WTO (World Trade Organization) for the final MFN bound rates that UK will apply after Brexit to ensure that products of interest for the Philippines will not be prejudiced by any changes,” Lopez added.

Defense & Security

Palace scores US senators outrageous interference Manila Times 9th Apr 2019
Palace scores US senators’ ‘outrageous interference’ BY CATHERINE S. VALENTE, TMT Malacañang on Monday slammed five United States senators for their “outrageous interference,” and rejected their call for the release of Sen. Leila de Lima and the dropping of charges against journalist Maria Ressa. “ “Their resolution is an unwelcome intrusion to the country’s domestic legal processes and an outrageous interference with our nation’s sovereignty as the subject cases are now being heard by our local courts,” he added. Panelo maintained that “no government official of any foreign country has the authority or right to dictate on how we address the commission of crimes.”“The Republic of the Philippines is not under the dominion of the United States of America or any of its high-ranking officials,” he said. US Senators Marco Rubio, Edward Markey, Richard Durbin, Marsha Blackburn and Chris Coons, in a resolution released last week, called on the Philippine government to release de Lima from her two-year detention and drop charges against Rappler and Ressa. The US lawmakers also condemned the arrest of human right defenders and political leaders as well as denounced the Duterte administration’s supposed role in extrajudicial killings (EJKs) under the government’s drug war.

Economics

Economy resilient, says PH economic team Inquirer 18th Apr 2019
For the country’s economic managers and World Bank officials, the Philippine economy remains resilient with the country en route to becoming prosperous by 2040, the government’s Investor Relations Office (IRO) said. “Today, the Philippines is one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. Reaching this milestone is attributable to many years of hard work—especially in building a strong fiscal position and a bureaucracy honed to the task of catalyzing growth,” the IRO quoted Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III as saying during the Philippine Day Forum held on the sidelines of last week’s spring meetings of the multilateral lenders International Monetary Fund and World Bank. “While we rank as among the best-performing economies in this dynamic part of the world, growth is not the final goal of all our efforts. We seek a more dynamic and competitive economy to bring down poverty rates and create more opportunities for our people,” Dominguez said.

Trade-in-goods gap grows in February | BusinessWorld Business World 11th Apr 2019
THE COUNTRY’s trade-in-goods deficit widened in February as exports contracted while imports grew at a slower pace, the government reported on Thursday. Preliminary Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) data showed the February trade deficit at $2.788 billion, wider than February 2018’s $2.537-billion gap. Import payments rose 2.6% year-on-year to $7.966 billion in February, easing from upticks of 3.6% in January and 13.7% in February 2018.

BSP should keep rate cut option–economist BusinessMirror 4th Apr 2019
THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) should consider cutting its rates this year, a local economist said, as threats to the country’s growth numbers are shaping up to be more pressing in 2019. In a research analysis, ING Bank Manila economist Nicholas Mapa argued that although the BSP’s primary mandate is controlling inflation to within-target levels, Central Bank officials should look to support economic growth this year now that the price growth seems to be back on a more subdued track compared last year.

ADB cuts PHL outlook on budget, global woes BusinessMirror 4th Apr 2019
THE delay in the passage of the national budget, as well as the slowdown in the global economy, are some of the reasons that forced the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to cut its growth forecast for the Philippines this year. Based on its Asian Development Outlook report, the Ma-nila-based multilateral development bank now forecasts the Philippine economy to grow at 6.4 percent, slower than the 6.7 percent it estimated in the ADO Supplement released in December 2018.

Peso strengthens in muted trade ahead of March inflation report | BusinessWorld Business World 3rd Apr 2019
THE PESO strengthened against the dollar on Tuesday amid “quiet” trading as investors continue to wait for local inflation data to be released on Friday. The local currency closed Tuesday’s session at P52.44 versus the greenback, 6.5 centavos stronger than the P52.505 finish on Monday. The peso opened slightly stronger at P52.50 versus the dollar, slipping to as low as P52.57 intraday. Meanwhile, its best showing for the day stood at P52.43 per dollar.

Treasury bill rates likely to drop | BusinessWorld Business World 31st Mar 2019
YIELDS ON Treasury bills (T-bill) on offer today will likely decline following the release of the government’s borrowing schedule for this month. The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) is offering P15 billion worth of T-bills on Monday, broken down into P4 billion and P5 billion in three- and six-month papers, respectively, and P6 billion in one-year debt papers.

Energy

ERC green lights NGCP transmission project Philippines Star 11th Apr 2019
The Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) has given the  green light to the transmission project of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP) in Northern Luzon to improve the overall power grid system. NGCP can now proceed with the construction of its La Trinidad-Calot 69-kilovott (kV) line project, which has an estimated cost of P644 million. The transmission line project aims to provide a single outage contingency as required in the Philippine Grid Code (PGC) and improve the reliability and transfer capacity of the transmission line.     ERC chairperson and CEO Agnes Devanadera said the approved project involves the construction of a transmission line using new right-of-way and de-commissioning of some portions of the old circuit line.  “The NGCP’s new La Trinidad – Calot 69 kV transmission line will address the expected transmission overloading and will serve as a back-up in times of contingency or a failure in the transmission system,” she said. The regulatory approval of the La Trinidad-Calot 69-kV line project is subject to optimization based on its actual use and/or implementation during the reset process for the next regulatory period, as stated in the Rules for Setting the Transmission Wheeling Rates (RTWR) and other relevant issuances of the ERC.

Antique solar project now operational Philippines Star 10th Apr 2019
A solar power joint venture project supported by technical assistance from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) is now providing round-the-clock power supply to residents of Malalison island in Antique province. Malalison, a 55-hectare island in the municipality of Culasi, Antique, is one of many small islands in the Philippines where economic growth has been hampered by a lack of livelihood opportunities and limited electricity service, the ADB said. The island’s economy is powered by tourism and fishing, but has difficulty sustaining economic activity as its diesel-powered generators provide power for only four hours a day. Because of the cost and difficulty in transporting fuel, the 160 households on the island pay a much higher tariff for power than those on the mainland where electricity is available 24 hours a day. Under the Malalison Island solar photovoltaic (PV) hybrid pilot project, the existing diesel power plant is augmented by a solar PV system. The solar power generated by day is then stored in lithium-ion batteries.

Gatchalian reveals possible gas find adjacent to Malampaya Manila Bulletin 10th Apr 2019
The projected 2024 end of gas reserves at the Malampaya fields flowing to Luzon through Batangas province may still be extended for another six years. This was revealed Wednesday by Senator Sherwin T. Gatchalian, chairman of the Senate energy committee, who told Senate reporters during an interview in his office that Shell Philippines had briefed him on a possible gas find adjacent to the Malampaya gas fields located 65 kilometers northwest of Palawan. Shell officials had estimated that the life span of Malampaya could still be extended from 2024 to 2030, he added. Gatchalian said the possibility of another gas find near the present Malampaya gas field site was great. Asked on who should spearhead the gas exploration, Gatchalian said it should be the Department of Energy (DOE) and ‘’channel it to the current proponents- Shell and Chevron.’’ Malampaya is Philippine territory, but is near to but not included in the contested West Philippine Sea (WPS) where the United Nations Arbitral Court ruled in favor of the Philippines and rejected the ancestral territorial claim of China over most parts of the South China Sea (SCS).

ERC, DOE commit to act on PSAs for power projects Manila Bulletin 10th Apr 2019
With decrepit infrastructure and lack of firm investment commitments, the Department of Energy (DOE) and Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) have finally been prompted to act on pending power supply agreements (PSAs) for energy projects. In particular, the DOE indicated that it asked the ERC “to expediently work towards the realization of the PSAs of all committed power projects to ensure the security of our power supply reserves.” Notably, the ERC is not strong and determined enough to decide on PSAs that are pending at the regulatory body – primarily the legally-impeded supply deals for power projects that are in contract with Manila Electric Company. It can be culled that two of these power projects – the 1,200MW Atimonan and 600MW Subic are in the “committed power projects” list of the energy department. The ERC is targeting to address such PSA applications after the issuance of verdicts by the Supreme Court on pending cases – and it is looking at mid-2020 as a possible decision timeframe.

E-vehicles’ roadmap proposed Manila Standard 9th Apr 2019
Although the Department of Energy has been promoting the use of electric vehicles,  Senator Win Gatchalian says it has produced only a few policy instruments to support the growth of EVs in the country. Gatchalian,   chairman of the Senate committee on energy, urged the DOE to craft a roadmap for e-vehicle adoption in the country, in coordination with the Department of Transportation, Land Transportation Office, Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, Metro Manila Development Authority, and other relevant agencies. “Moving forward, we want to see research. Of course, this will not be without opposition,” said Gatchalian. There will be opposition, let’s expect that. But we have to clearly explain the advantages of promoting e-vehicles. I expect the DOE—which is a much larger organization—should have that data,” the lawmaker pointed out.

Mitsubishi sets sights on e-vehicle market Rappler 9th Apr 2019
Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corporation (MMPC) announced plans to further tap into the electric vehicle (e-vehicle) market, as demand grows for more environmentally-friendly cars. MMPC president and chief executive officer Mutsuhiro Oshikiri told reporters on Monday, April 8, that they would have to check the feasibility of introducing these new models in the Philippines before they make any commitments. "We need a lot of preparation for infrastructure, taxation, government rules. We have to prepare, then we can do a better job," he added. MMPC vice president for corporate public relations Renato Lampano added that they are working with members of the academe and the Department of Trade and Industry to look into producing e-vehicles for the Philippine market. (READ: 'One million electric vehicles in PH by 2020')

$500-M waste-to-energy plant proposed in Bataan Philippine News Agency 6th Apr 2019
The provincial government announced Friday that a British banker has presented a proposal to build a 100-megawatt (MGW) power plant using solid wastes with funding of USD500 million. Vice Governor Crisanta Garcia said documentation was already ongoing for the proponent’s desire to set up the plant at the Freeport Area of Bataan in Mariveles town. “It will be the first such technology converting solid wastes to energy in Bataan,” she said. Banker David Wood, also the chief executive officer (CEO) of cocopower and who will fund the project, said it will be under the public-private partnership (PPP) but with almost no cost for the provincial government. Mar Supnad, a journalist who introduced the investors to provincial officials, said the provincial government will only provide 15 hectares of land as counterpart. He said that funding is ready and once documentation is finished, the proponents wanted the construction to start this May. Wood said the project, under the state of the art Australian technology, will be the first in Bataan and in the Philippines, which will process wastes to energy.

Senate wants Philippine National Oil Co. to focus on oil, gas Philippines Star 5th Apr 2019
The Senate Committee on Energy wants to streamline the operations of Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) and its subsidiaries to allow the state-run firm to solely focus on oil and gas exploration. With the streamlining of operations, Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian said PNOC could focus on securing the growing energy needs of the country. “For instance, PNOC-Alternative Fuels Corp. (AFC) looked into the development of jatropha as an alternative source of fuel after the passage of the Biofuels Law in 2006. About P1 billion had been allotted for the company to develop the feedstock in 2009. However, the development of jatropha was abandoned in 2011 to look for other alternative sources of fuel. The committee, which Gatchalian chairs, is currently working on a bill that will be filed once Congress resumes. “This is something that we learned when we visited Japan. We’ll file it as a law,” Gatchalian said.

Duterte vows better energy supply in Palawan before yearend Inquirer 5th Apr 2019
Palawan will have better energy supply before the year ends, President Rodrigo Duterte gave this assurance on Thursday night during his visit to the island-province. “I assure you that before the end of the year there’s a reduced rotation in the number of hours and maybe lessening of the inconvenience,” Duterte said during the Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Lakas ng Bayan (PDP-Laban) campaign rally. The President noted that Shanghai Electric is currently conducting a study about the power situation in the province. “Shanghai Electric will be completing its studies and hopefully by the end of the year,” he added. Duterte also lamented the slow the government action, saying that red tape hinders the approval of important state projects. “I must admit that one of the reasons why I am pissed off to no end is really the way government moves. Napakatagal ho talaga (It takes a long time). At minsan napakatagal (Sometimes it takes a long time) because they purposely do it to commit graft and sometimes it is really circuitous thing, a very tedious process of getting the papers to the grid. There is always a monkey wrench,” he said.

Energy department maintains power outlook but Meralco flags ‘upward’ rate pressure Business World 5th Apr 2019
THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) has kept its power demand forecast for the dry season despite four straight days of “yellow” alert notices this week, saying the thinning power reserves did not change its expectations in the coming months. However, distribution utility Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) expects an “upward pressure” in the price of electricity per kilowatt-hour in the monthly bill of consumers for March and April. “Sapat ang supply ng kuryente for our summer outlook (Electricity supply is sufficient for our summer outlook),” said Energy Undersecretary William Felix B. Fuentebella in a press conference at the department’s head office in Taguig City on Thursday. “I don’t think it will change a lot [from our] present outlook. What we are proposing is a weekly update on how we can adjust our actions to address the situation,” he added, describing the yellow alert notices as “isolated” cases. A month ago, the DoE said it expected Luzon to reach a peak demand of 11,403 megawatts (MW) in May. The March-June period, when the country will experience a “weak” El Niño, is expected to see a 30% reduction in hydropower capacity to 983-1,776 MW.

Energy dep’t issues draft storage rules to support renewables Business World 1st Apr 2019
THE DEPARTMENT of Energy (DoE) has released a draft circular covering the regulation and operation of energy storage systems (ESS) after proponents of the technology raised concerns about the lack of a governing policy framework. In its draft rules, the DoE said among the reasons for drafting the circular is the continued load dropping in the Visayas power grid because of the intermittency of the operations of variable renewable energy generating plants in the area.

Financial Services

There Are 41 Crypto Businesses Licensed in Philippines Right Now Fintech Singapore 16th Apr 2019
Philippines has been taking active steps recently to reform its regulation in efforts to position itself a crypto friendly regime . The country’s central bank, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), released its rules for domestic exchange in February 2017, seeking to lay down a foundation for the country’s nascent cryptocurrency space. The rulings require entities offering exchange services to apply for a Certificate of Registration and register with the country’s Anti-Money Laundering Council Secretariat, among other requirements. But the BSP Circular 944 on virtual currency exchanges only covers crypto-to-fiat conversion activities and vice versa, implying that companies providing virtual exchange conversions via automated teller machines (ATMs) must get the central bank’s approval as well.

Philippine rate cut is on table in May, Governor Diokno says The Star Online 12th Apr 2019
The Philippines central bank is on course to cut its key rate as inflation cools, and policy easing will be on the table as soon as the May 9 meeting, Governor Benjamin Diokno said. “It’s not a matter of whether we cut, it is when,” Diokno told Bloomberg Television’s Kathleen Hays in Washington D.C., where officials are gathered for the spring meetings of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund. “We are considering it. I’m sure that will be in the agenda in the next policy meeting.” Consumer prices eased for a fifth consecutive month to 3.3 percent in March from a year earlier, with the average falling within the central bank’s 2 percent to 4 percent target. Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas left the benchmark rate unchanged at 4.75 percent at its last three meetings while waiting for inflation to be firmly entrenched in the target range.

IMF joins other multilateral bodies in cutting Philippines growth outlook Business World 10th Apr 2019
year, slower than the 6.6% forecast given in 2018. -- PHILIPPINE STAR/KRIZ JOHN ROSALES THE International Monetary Fund (IMF) has also tempered its growth forecast for the Philippines this year, in the face of a projected drop in world output. In its World Economic Outlook (WEO) report published on Tuesday, the IMF now sees the Philippine economy growing by 6.5% this year, slower than the 6.6% forecast given in 2018. This mirrors scaled-down estimates given by other multilateral organizations earlier this month, and falls within the government’s lowered 6-7% target. The growth pace also compares to 2018’s 6.2% expansion.

Philippines among top remittance recipients in 2018 — World Bank | Philstar.com philstar.com 9th Apr 2019
The Philippines is among the top recipients of money transfers in 2018, which also saw remittances to poor and developing countries hit a fresh record and should become their largest source of external financing this year, the World Bank said Tuesday. But many banks and money transfer operators charged too much, cutting into the gains of migration, the bank said. In a statement, the Washington-based multilateral lender reported that money sent home by Filipino migrant workers and others rose to $34 billion in 2018. However, growth in remittances in the Philippines was slower due to a drop in private transfers from the Gulf countries, the World Bank said. Aside from the Philippines, other top remittance recipients were India with $79 billion, followed by China ($67 billion), Mexico ($36 billion) and Egypt ($29 billion).

DOF bares new scheme to evade cigarette taxes Manila Times 9th Apr 2019
Recycled tax stamps — gathered by means of a promo where these are exchanged for goods — are reportedly being used by illicit tobacco traders to sell fake cigarettes, the Department of Finance (DoF) said on Monday. A store employee arranges packs of cigarettes inside a convenience store in Manila. FILE PHOTO The scheme was detailed by Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) officials during a recent DoF Executive Committee meeting, the department said in a statement, prompting Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd to order a crackdown.He called for the involvement of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), as it is supposed to give its approval before any promotional scheme is implemented.

Asian banks assured of state support Business World 9th Apr 2019
BIG BANKS in the Philippines and other major Asia-Pacific economies can be assured of “extraordinary” state support like bailouts in times of distress, faring better than peers elsewhere, S&P Global Ratings said in an April 5 report. The global debt watcher said that economies in Asia and the Pacific are more likely to provide “extraordinary government support” for big banks during crisis.“In our view, Asia-Pacific governments remain supportive for private sector systemically important banks in a majority of jurisdictions. What’s more, we consider Asia-Pacific governments to be more supportive toward systemically important banks than governments in other regions,” the credit rater said in a report released last week. S&P’s country risk assessments show 14 of 20 jurisdictions in Asia and the Pacific tend to be “highly supportive” for too-big-to-fail banks in their respective economies: the Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, Taiwan and Brunei in Southeast Asia, as well as larger economies China, South Korea, Japan, India, Singapore, Indonesia and Australia.

Cash remittances, a key economic support, off to strong start Business World 9th Apr 2019
MONEY SENT HOME by Filipinos working abroad grew at the fastest clip in three months as this year began, even as the latest amount was less than December’s record-high inflows, according to data the central bank released on Friday. Cash remittances increased by 4.4% to $2.484 billion in January from the year-ago $2.379 billion, even as the latest inflows were 12.8% less than December’s all-time-high $2.849 billion. “This growth was in line with the increase in remittances from both land-based and sea-based workers”, who sent 2.3% and 12.7% more at $1.95 billion and $530 million, respectively, in January, the central bank said in a statement. Personal remittances, which include transfers in kind other than cash, grew 3.4% to $2.745 billion in January from $2.655 billion a year ago, even though the latest inflows were 13.05% less than December’s $3.157 billion.

Western Union Integrates With Crypto Wallet to Expand Philippines Remittances CoinDesk 8th Apr 2019
Money transfer giant Western Union has teamed up with blockchain startup Coins.ph to enable residents of the Philippines to more easily receive cash remittances. The newly inked deal will see both international and domestic payments made via Western Union’s network arrive directly into the digital wallets held by Coins.ph’s “over 5 million” users, the startup announced late last week. The service aims to offer “quick and convenient access to remittances, in urban and remote underserved areas,” Coins.ph said, adding that linking with Western Union’s digital and retail networks enables customers to receive payments from virtually all nations and territories worldwide. With possibly 10 million Filipinos working and living outside their home nation, the Philippines is one of the top destinations globally for remittances. It’s also a growing industry. Coins.ph cited Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the country’s central bank, as saying that monthly personal remittances from Filipinos living abroad had reached $2.7 billion last July and grown 3 percent year-on-year.

Clark group calls for add'l tax incentives to attract more FDI Business Mirror 3rd Apr 2019
The Clark Investors and Locators Association (Cila) wants a strong link with the local economy as it calls for additional tax incentives to attract more foreign direct investments (FDI).Cila President Frankie Villanueva said uncertainty of the package 2 of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Law (TRAIN 2), now renamed “Trabaho” bill or “Tax Reform for Attracting Better and High-Quality Opportunities,” is driving away FDI. Villanueva made the statements during the Balitaan media forum organized by the Capampangan in Media Inc. (Cami) in cooperation with the Clark Development Corp. (CDC) at the Bale Balita here last Friday.

Duterte "verbally" appoints acting chief of Budget Department Busiiness World 3rd Apr 2019
PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has “verbally” appointed Officer-in-Charge Janet B. Abuel as acting secretary of the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), amid the ongoing appointments ban ahead of the May 13 midterm elections. Presidential Spokesperson Salvador B. Panelo said on Tuesday the Cabinet meeting on Monday night “began with the President’s announcement of the appointment of the Department of Budget and Management Officer-in-Charge/Undersecretary Janet Abuel as Acting Secretary.”

Hot money outflow hits 30-month high at $739 million philstar.com 18th Apr 2019
More foreign portfolio investments or speculative funds were pulled out of the Philippines in March, resulting in a net outflow of $739 million, the biggest in 30 months or since the $807.15 million outflow was recorded in September 2016, according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Based on BSP data, the net outflow of foreign portfolio investments, also called hot or speculative money, last March was a complete reversal of the $1.13 billion net inflow recorded in the same month last year. The BSP reported outflows of foreign portfolio investments surged by 85 percent to $2.47 billion from $1.34 billion, while inflows fell 29.8 percent to $1.73 billion from $2.47 billion. About 66.5 percent of investments registered in March were in securities listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) particularly in holding firms, food, beverage and tobacco companies, property firms, banks, and transportation services companies.

Top ASEAN nations seek to boost investment in local currency Reuters 2nd Apr 2019
The central banks of Thailand, Indonesia, Malaysia and the Philippines will chart out a framework this week to promote trade and investment in local currencies, in a latest move by emerging economies to trim exposure to volatile global markets. The four central banks will sign a letter of intent on a local currency settlement framework on Friday in the northern province of Chiang Rai, Thailand. The finance ministers and central bank governors of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) plan to meet on April 4-5, according to the Bank of Thailand (BOT). “ASEAN currencies tend to move (in line) together, and so we are not subject to foreign exchange rate volatility of major currencies,” BOT Governor Veerathai Santiprabhob told Reuters late Monday. The central banks of Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia had launched a similar framework in 2017, and will involve the Philippines this year. The use of local currencies among ASEAN nations will help save foreign exchange transaction costs for businesses amid volatility faced by currencies in advanced economies.

Food & Agriculture

13,000 farmers benefit from P22.9-million DAR projects in Zamboanga Peninsula Manila Bulletin 17th Apr 2019
The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) has turned over P22.9-million worth of projects and distributed land titles to farmer-beneficiaries in Zamboanga Peninsula. DAR Secretary John Castriciones led the turnover of a total of 43 projects, which include post-harvest facilities, food processing centers, reservoirs, warehouses, potable water systems, and provision of farm machines. “These projects are significant in achieving progress in rural communities. These facilities and farm machines were provided not only to make life easier for our farmers, but also to sustain the development of their communities,” Castriciones said. Most of the assistance was coursed through agrarian cooperatives. The DAR chief said at least 13,000 farmers and residents in the Zamboanga Sibugay, Zamboanga del Norte and Zamboanga del Sur are now benefitting from these projects. Of this number, 5,396 are agrarian reform beneficiaries. Castriciones urged the farmers to strengthen their farm cooperatives, a government prerequisite before any assistance is extended to them.

Bulk of P10-B rice fund earmarked for farm modernization — NEDA Manila Bulletin 17th Apr 2019
The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said that bulk of the rice competitiveness enhancement fund (RCEF) will be used to modernize palay farms and support the government’s goal of increasing the sector’s productivity. Republic Act No. 11203 mandates the establishment of RCEF, which guarantees the rice sector P10-billion financial support annually for the next six years beginning this year. According to the law’s implementing rules and regulations (IRR) recently signed by NEDA, the Department of Budget and Management, and the Department of Agriculture, half of the rice fund, amounting to P5 billion annually, will be used to procure rice farm equipment by the government through the Philippine Center for postharvest development and mechanization (PhilMech). Equipment such as tillers, tractors, seeders, threshers, rice planters, harvesters, and irrigation pumps will be given as a grant-in-kind primarily to eligible farmers, rice farmer associations, and registered rice cooperatives. As a result, the existing outlay of the DA on farm mechanization for rice is expected to have an additional P5 billion allocation from only P1.92 billion in 2018.

US, Japan trade talks conclude with agriculture focus Manila Bulletin 17th Apr 2019
Two days of trade talks between the US and Japan concluded Tuesday in Washington with a focus on the sensitive subject of agriculture, as US negotiators say they want a more open Japanese market. “The United States and Japan discussed trade issues involving goods, including agriculture, as well as the need to establish high standards in the area of digital trade,” US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer said in a statement. The US delegation also mentioned its “very large” $67.6 billion trade deficit with Japan last year. Lighthizer’s statement said he and Japanese Economic Revitalization Minister Toshimitsu Motegi agreed that the two countries will meet again in the “near future” as part of the ongoing trade talks. President Donald Trump has said he wants Tokyo to further open its market to US products, especially in the agricultural sector, though the Japanese have so far appeared reluctant.

DAR: Rice-centric model will never be successful Philippines Star 15th Apr 2019
The country’s aspiration for full rice self-sufficiency will never be successful as several constraints will hinder the Philippines from reaching this goal and it can only settle for 95 percent at the most, according to a former agrarian reform secretary. Speaking at the Economic Journalists Association of the Philippines-San Miguel Corp. Business Journalism Seminar over the weekend, William Dar said there is a need to reinvent the approach in the farm sector as the rice-centered model has not been and “will never be successful.” “Not just in this administration, over the last 30 years, producing rice has been the goal and they did not give a chance for high value agriculture to succeed,” Dar said. “If being rice-centric will still be our model and the goal is still to achieve 100 percent (rice self-sufficiency) then we will have more failures in the future. We need to have this mindset of agri-industrial system, that is the way forward,” he said.

Agriculture food exports to drop in 2019 on lower production Philippines Star 12th Apr 2019
The country’s agricultural food exports will further slide this year amid declining production of raw materials. The Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization Inc. (PhilFoodex) said agricultural exports for 2019 may decline by 20 percent following the rising cost of materials for agriculture produce due to lack of supply. “I think we will still be experiencing a deficit in our trade balance between other countries and definitely the widening gap of agriculture exports and imports will be experienced,” PhilFoodex president Bobby Amores told reporters. “We are hoping that the production of raw materials will be normal, but because of certain issues on pest diseases and climate change, we can only hope that it will be experiencing a flat growth or a slightly lower growth compared to last year,” he added. Last year, export sales of agriculture and food reached $6.04 billion.

Philippines targets up to 8% growth in halal exports | Philstar.com philstar.com 12th Apr 2019
The Philippines wants to grow its halal exports by six to eight percent this year to take advantage of the huge demand for such products in the global market, a trade official said. Abdulgani Macatoman, undersecretary for trade promotions group at the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), said yesterday the Philippines is aiming to become a major player in the halal market particularly in the areas of food, pharmaceuticals, tourism, as well as Islamic finance. DTI-Export Marketing Bureau assistant director Anthony Rivera said the agency would want halal exports to rise by six to eight percent this year from the estimated value of $560 million last year. He said bulk or 90 percent of the country’s halal exports last year were accounted for by food and non-alcoholic beverages. Other major halal exports of the country last year are pharmaceuticals, cosmetics and personal care products. Last year’s halal exports from the Philippines were shipped to countries in the Gulf Cooperating Council countries such as Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman, as well as other markets such as Morocco, Egypt, Jordan, Turkey, Iran, Iraq, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Indonesia, Brunei, Malaysia and Singapore.

Gov’t to adopt measures to address El Niño Manila Bulletin 10th Apr 2019
The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said that the government will be adopting measures to mitigate the effects of El Niño, particularly on the prices and supply of goods in the market. Trade Undersecretary Ruth Castelo made the statement in a press briefing in Malacañang Wednesday. In her press briefing, Castelo said government agencies under the National Price Coordination Council (NPCC) would meet the same day to determine the effects of the phenomenon to agricultural products. “The DTI would convene the National Price Coordination Council (NPCC) on 10 April 2019 to discuss about the current prices and supply situation of basic and prime goods, and its forecast for the upcoming months,” she said. “The possibility of a stronger and prolonged El Niño episode together with the continued rise in global crude oil prices provide upside price pressures over the near term,” she added. According to Castelo, the NPCC intends to come up with mitigating measures to lessen the undeniable effects of the El Niño on the prices and supply of agricultural goods.

Water shortage, disasters, poverty, unemployment Manila Bulletin 9th Apr 2019
In the wake of the recent water shortage that hit the East Zone of Metro Manila, followed by warnings that  the country will  have a very  hot summer because of  the  El Nino phenomenon, last  week’s Cabinet meeting in Malacanang  discussed  several proposals aimed at solving problems  related to water and the weather. A  proposal  to create a Department  of Water was discussed  at  the  meeting. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia, as early as last month, had proposed such a department,  under a plan that would   include all the  various measures designed  to ensure an adequate water supply in the country. The proposed  department would  also attend to  the water needs of Philippine  agriculture which has already suffered damage estimated at P5.05 billion because  of El Nino.  The plan  calls for the dredging of waterways, replacement  of tunnels and  aqueducts,  installation  of water tank systems in government  hospitals,  and funding for the establishment  of water treatment plants. The  cabinet  meeting  discussed a proposal for a Task Force to End Hunger. Cabinet Secretary Karlo Nograles recalled that  the House of Representatives had approved his  Zero Hunger Bill, HB 7193, in August, 2018, but it was too late for the Senate to consider it before Congress adjourned. The administration is now considering the creation of a Task Force to End Hunger.

DAR distributes farm machinery to agrarian reform communities in Zamboanga Sibugay Manila Bulletin 9th Apr 2019
The income of Zamboanga Sibugay farmers is expected to increase after the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) turned over P1.2-million worth of farm machinery to the agrarian reform communities (ARC) in the province. “Our aim in providing these machines is to improve the rubber production of farmers by enabling them to have sufficient production, thereby increasing their income,” DAR Secretary John Castriciones said. The equipment turned over included 37 units of grass cutters, seven fogging machines, and seven augers or drilling devices. These were distributed to the Salipyasin ARC cluster which covers the municipalities of Tungawan, R.T. Lim, Ipil, Titay, Naga and Kabalasan. The Salipyasin ARC cluster is an agrarian area with rubber as its primary crop. Castriciones said the farm machines were purchased and distributed to the ARC cluster through the DAR’s Project Convergence on Value Chain Enhancement for Rural Growth and Empowerment (Project ConVERGE).

Rice Tariffication Law must be scrapped – Butil Party-list solon Manila Bulletin 8th Apr 2019
Filipino farmers are already asking for the abolition of the Rice Tarrification Law, or that vital amendments be made to it, according to Butil Party-list Rep. Cecil Chavez. According to Chavez, farmers were hoping that the upcoming 18th Congress would either work to scrap or amend the law, and in effect stop unlimited rice importation that is at the heart of the statute. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) announced the full implementation of the Rice Tariffication Law over the weekend after all concerned government agencies approved its implementing rules and regulations, or IRR. Chavez bared that farm organizations and rural cooperatives in Nueva Ecija held on Monday a peaceful rally and a motorcade from San Jose City to Gapan to express their opposition to the law, “which is already wreaking havoc in the country’s acknowledged rice granary.” The lady solon said that the farmers in Central Luzon were weary of rice importations, which–coupled with high cost of production and the lack of subsidies and other agricultural support–have been hurting the rice industry and causing economic difficulties to farmers even before the law’s passage.

Provinces urged to craft master plan for agri development Philippines Star 7th Apr 2019
MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Agriculture will craft a national masterplan which will focus on environmental protection for greater food production. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel Piñol said the national program to be launched in May, is aimed at helping provinces craft a sustainable agricultural master plan. “The provincial agriculture master plan will identify the key agricultural infrastructure projects needed by each province so that these could be included in the annual program planning of the DA,” he said. “The agriculture master plan will also include aerial mapping and the updating of database of farmers and fishermen in each province,” Piñol added. Occidental Mindoro, one of the hardest hit areas by the ongoing El Niño, is the first province to accept the offer of the DA for the crafting of an agriculture master plan. The plan will include concerns on forest denudation and massive siltation of its rivers.

World Bank to aid Philippines in fight against plastic Rappler 4th Apr 2019
The World Bank Group said it would help the Philippines in its fight to end plastic pollution by supporting the development of policies and financing critical investments to curb the bane of marine and coastal resources. Prior to this, World Bank portfolio manager Agata Pawlowska said during the Marine Plastics Conference in the Philippines on Thursday, April 4, that they have been working with both public and private sectors in Southeast Asia to address the problem of plastic waste. "We have already mobilized teams to assist our client countries at the global, regional as well as national levels through different financing modalities and investments," she added. Just last year, World Bank launched PROBLUE, a multi-donor trust fund that will support any project addressing marine litter.

El Niño damage to rice and corn crop tops ₱5B | BusinessWorld Business World 3rd Apr 2019
THE DEPARTMENT of Agriculture (DA) said that El Niño crop damage mainly to rice and corn is now estimated at P5.05 billion, on lost volume of 276,568 metric tons (MT), as a result of the dry spell. “Everyday that passes where there is no rain, there will be greater damage, and so the total damage to crops, mainly rice and corn, has breached the 5-billion level,” Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol told reporters Tuesday. The DA estimated Tuesday that the dry spell has affected 177,743 hectares of agricultural land and 164,672 farmers as of April 2.

Palay prices continue to drop at farmgate despite El Niño losses | BusinessWorld Business World 1st Apr 2019
RICE prices continued to decline at farmgate level, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said, despite mounting losses to domestic production caused by El Niño, ahead of the entry into the market of more foreign rice imported by the private sector. The average farmgate price of palay, or unmilled rice, dropped for a fourth consecutive week to P18.98 per kilogram (kg) in the third week of March, down 0.26% week-on-week, according to PSA data released on Monday.

Health & Life Sciences

Dengue cases rise in Western Visayas Manila Bulletin 16th Apr 2019
Dengue cases have increased significantly in Western Visayas, according to the Department of Health (DOH). DOH’s Regional Epidemiology Surveillance Unit (RESU-6) found a 159 percent increase in dengue cases in the region comprising of Aklan, Antique, Capiz, Guimaras, Iloilo, and Negros Occidental provinces. From January to April 6 this year, there were 5,527 dengue cases with 33 deaths.  In comparison, there were only 2,136 dengue cases and 27 deaths for the same period of last year. Maria Lourdes Monegro, DOH-6 entomologist, said Negros Occidental remains to have the most number of dengue cases with 1,863 and 15 deaths. Aklan had the highest attack rate.  It means that out of 100,000 people, there were 129 stricken with dengue. Meanwhile, DOH reminded the public to clean their surroundings and help avoid creating breeding places for mosquitos that carry the disease.

Signing of 2019 budget means more funds for Filipinos’ healthcare needs Manila Bulletin 16th Apr 2019
Reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Tuesday said the signing of the 2019 national budget into law would now pave the way for more funds to spend for Filipinos’ healthcare needs. Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health and demography, said he was glad that funds allocated for the improvement of health services will now be readily available for implementation. “In particular, I am glad that the money can now be spent for our people’s health care, including the P7-billion Human Resources for Health (HRH) program of the Department of Health (DoH) which I fought for during budget deliberations,” Ejercito said. Ejercito had earlier sought the restoration of P30-billion for the DOH’s Health Facilities Enhancement Program (HFEP) in the proposed P3.757-trillion national budget for this year. The senator earlier described the initial zero-funding for the HFEP as “anti-poor and a great disservice to the people.”

Creation of Philippine blood disease and transfusion center pushed Manila Bulletin 16th Apr 2019
Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Raymund Villafuerte has sought the creation of the Philippine Blood Disease and Transfusion Center to cater to Filipinos with hematologic disorders. Under House Bill 8774, Villafuerte proposed the creation of the Blood Center that will offer comprehensive care for patients with blood diseases, including blood transfusion services, for public welfare. “The National Blood Services Act of 1994 or Republic Act 7719, sought the strengthening of voluntary blood services nationwide in the advent of rise of blood-borne infections, HIV threats, and dengue fever. This bill proposes to add to this by making sure that the adequate supply of blood assured by RA 7719 is coupled with appropriate research and laboratory centers for hematologic disorders,” Villafuerte said. He said his bill aims to help decrease the cases of hematologic diseases in the country. The Camarines Sur lawmaker said the Center will be under the direct supervision of the Department of Health (DOH) but managed by its own Board of Trustees for policy direction and control.

DOH: Gov’t hospitals on ‘White’ alert for Holy Week Manila Bulletin 16th Apr 2019
Government hospitals were placed under ‘code white’ alert during the observance of the Holy Week, the Department of Health (DOH) said. Health Undersecretary Rolando Enrique Domingo said code white alert refers to the readiness status of health facilities, assuring the availability of general and orthopedic surgeons, anesthesiologists, internists, operating room nurses, ophthalmologists, and otorhinolaryngologists, to respond to any emergency situation. Health service, nursing, and administrative personnel residing at the hospital dormitories are also placed on an on-call status to enable immediate mobilization. Earlier, the health department reminded pilgrims and penitents to observe measures to avoid heat stroke and other summer-related illnesses. The public is advised to bring bottled water, well-packed foods, and an umbrella for church visits or ‘Visita Iglesia.’ People with high blood pressure and other diseases should take their maintenance medicines.

UNICEF-WHO Philippines: Measles Outbreak, Situation Report 9, 14 April 2019 - Philippines ReliefWeb 16th Apr 2019
Between 1 January and 5 April 2019, 28,362 measles cases including 389 deaths were officially reported through the routine surveillance system from the DOH, with a Case Fatal-ity rate of 1,37% (see Table 1). With a median age of 3 years old, 53% of measles cases are under 5 years of age. 53% of measles cases are male. With a median age of 1 year old, 84% of all deaths are chil-dren under the age of 5, 61% of measles deaths are male. Most deaths are reported from Region III, IV-A, VIII and NCR. As of 5 April 2019, 90% of cases have no documented vac-cination status. DoH data shows that 3% of cases had been previously vaccinated with 2 doses of measles vaccine. The vaccination status of the remainder of cases is unknown.

JV says IRR of universal health care law could be out by June or July Manila Bulletin 15th Apr 2019
Reelectionist Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito said he was delighted to learn that the drafting of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for the Universal Health Care law is right on track. Ejercito, who spearheaded the passage of the UHC law, disclosed that the discussion of four main components of the law have already been completed at the Technical Working Group (TWG) level. These components include the Local Health Systems, Health Financing, Governance, and Regulations and Service Delivery. With the completion of the preliminaries in the ongoing drafting of the IRR, all Filipinos would soon be able to avail of free access to health care services. “I am happy because things are going well in the drafting of the IRR,” said Ejercito in a statement. “As soon as the document is finished and the law is already operational, our people will finally be ‘freed’ from financial stress when seeking primary, curative, and palliative services,” he stressed. “I hope we can have the IRR by June, or July at the latest,” the senator added. Ejercito, who is seeking another six-year term in the Senate, said the next stage of the process is the consolidation of the components and refinement of the final draft for approval of the Department of Health (DOH) and PhilHealth.

DOH-Calabarzon reminds elderly to be conscious of their health Manila Bulletin 14th Apr 2019
The Department of Health- Calabarzon reminded anew the senior citizens in the region to adopt a healthy lifestyle. Regional Director Eduardo Janairo said that it was important for the elderly to exercise regularly to avoid the risk of developing certain illnesses. “Ugaliin ring uminom ng maraming tubig upang maging aktibo at magkaroon enerhiya at napakaimportante at huwag kalilimutang kumain ng mga gulay at prutas dahil ang mga bitamina nito ang makakapagmigay ng lakas sa katawan,” he added. [Always drink plenty of water and be active. It is also important to eat vegetables and fruits as it contain vitamins that will make your body stronger.] Meanwhile, DOH-Calabarzon recently conducted a health summit wherein a total of 160 assistive devices, such as walkers, canes, and wheelchairs were distributed to the different groups of senior citizens in the region. Maintenance medicines for those with hypertension and diabetes were also distributed. It also conducted medical check-ups and lectures on mental health and aging, healthy lifestyle, and updates on their Philhealth benefits.

DOT assures public of medical services in top tourist destinations GMA News Online 10th Apr 2019
The Department of Tourism (DOT) on Wednesday assured the public that it is working to have medical services available in the country’s top tourist destinations. After a recent incident involving supermodel Kelsey Merritt’s boyfriend, who sustained a head injury in Siargao, Tourism Secretary Berna Romulo-Puyat said they have already gotten in touch with the local government unit. “We’ve already contacted local government especially in Siargao. They’ve already instructed all the municipalities, especially all the mayors, na dapat may doctors and nurses available," she said in a news forum. "This is a high tourist season, dapat available siya." Romulo-Puyat said areas of particular concern are Siargao and Boracay because other popular summer destinations — Cebu, Bohol, Palawan — already have hospitals. “With regard to Boracay, they’re already building a hospital, supposedly by June,” she said. Tourism Assistant Secretary Maria Rica Bueno said that in anticipation of the tourist influx this summer, they issued an advisory to their regional offices two weeks ago to “set up the emergency care systems and facilities as well as safety and security measures in these tourist destinations.”

WHO urges PHL to invest more in primary health care GMA News Online 5th Apr 2019
The World Health Organization (WHO) on Friday urged the Philippine government to invest more in a primary health care system and develop a "people-centered" approach to health services. During a press conference on World Health Day, Dr. Takeshi Kasai, the organization's regional director for the Western Pacific, said the tendency of countries to invest more in hospitals "has to change," as primary health care services sit closest to communities. Primary health care includes screening for and treatment of common diseases, vaccination, and family planning -- a range of services that the WHO says focuses on health improvement and maintenance more than the treatment of a single disease. "You don't have to be rich to have a very good primary health care," Kasai said, adding that primary health care is a "very wise investment." The WHO reports that four of five deaths in the region are caused by non-communicable diseases, such as diabetes, cancer and heart disease. "As people live longer and with multiple chronic conditions spanning many years, greater investment in primary health care are needed to promote health and well-being and to help manage disease," the WHO said.

ICT

Tower sharing business limited to 10 firms – DICT The Manila Times Online 22nd Apr 2019
Only 10 players will be allowed to enter the country’s tower sharing business, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) recently said. While the government continues to ink memorandum of understanding (MoU) and entertain potential tower providers, the market will be limited to only 10 companies, acting DICT chief Eliseo Rio Jr. said. Once tower companies (towercos) secure a business transaction with a telco carrier, the DICT will sign a memorandum of agreement under which it will provide support in terms of facilitating government approvals.

PSE moves forward with tech firm plans The Manila Times Online 19th Apr 2019
The Philippine Stock Exchange’s (PSE) plan to establish technology-focused subsidiary has moved forward with the bourse earlier this month inking a shareholders’ agreement setting “forth the terms and conditions with respect to the management” of the IT firm. The deal, the PSE said in an April 5 disclosure, was inked with a certain Mark Joya. It did not provide more details. The bourse in January had announced that its board had approved a firm “for the purpose of providing information technology services and developing software solutions.”

NPC cautions offices on personal data protection issues during Holy Week 2019 Manila Bulletin 17th Apr 2019
The National Privacy Commission (NPC) is reminding public and private offices to be extra vigilant against hackers and data thieves this Lenten break. Privacy Commissioner Raymund Enriquez Liboro said Personal Information Controllers (PICs), Personal Information Processors (PIPs), and Data Protection Officers should ensure personal information under their organization’s care are safeguarded from potential cybersecurity attacks, the likelihood of which may increase during long holidays. “Digital and physical break-ins are more likely to occur during long breaks when there’s minimal staffing in offices,” Liboro warned. “The use of passwords is essential in protecting personal information from malicious intentions. One precaution that PICs, PIPs, and DPOs should do during the long break is password protect or encrypt files and databases on servers, computers, and other devices in their organization. If necessary, change passwords.”

PH Internet speed improves significantly Manila Bulletin 17th Apr 2019
The country’s Internet speed has significantly improved, according to the latest OOKLA’s Speedtest Global Index. The Philippines’ average download speed for fixed broadband improved 143.74% from 7.91Mbps in July 2016 to 19.28 Mbps in February 2019. On the other hand, the country’s average download mobile broadband speed also improved by 94.35% from 7.44Mbps in July 2016 to 14.46Mbps in February 2019. Overall, the Philippines’ Internet speed placed twenty-ninth for fixed broadband and 33rd for mobile out of fifty Asian countries. Out of forty-six Asia Pacific countries, the average download speed of the Philippines ranked twenty-first for fixed broadband and twenty-third for mobile. Among the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the average download speed for fixed broadband of the Philippines registered faster than that of Brunei, Indonesia, Cambodia and Myanmar’s. For mobile speed, the Philippines came out faster than Cambodia and Indonesia.

Why Cryptocurrency Is Gaining in Philippines Despite 2018 Bitcoin Crash VOA 12th Apr 2019
Cryptocurrency exchanges are growing in the Philippines, despite a downturn last year in the value of the virtual currencies, due to growing popular demand and lenience among regulators. Authorities in the developing Southeast Asian country have permitted at least 29 exchanges of cryptocurrency following three that the central bank said it approved this week, according to domestic media reports. That count, which is high for Asia, follows a total of 10 exchanges permitted by the central bank. The Cagayan Economic Zone Authority in the archipelago's far north has issued 19 additional permits, the zone's website said in October. These exchanges feed into the development of a fast-growing financial technology, or fintech, sector in the Philippines, said Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist with Banco de Oro UniBank in Metro Manila.

More Filipinos turning to digital careers Phl. Daily Inquirer 10th Apr 2019
Many Filipinos, even those aged 50 and above, are increasingly drawn to digital career options as a potential fallback to augment income when they reach retirement age.This is based on the 2018 Manulife Investor Sentiment Index (MISI), which revealed that more Filipinos were participating in digital jobs, whether on part-time or full-time basis, compared to most parts of Asia.

Globe in talks to share towers with third player Mislatel Business World 9th Apr 2019
GLOBE Telecom, Inc. and the Mislatel consortium, the group selected to step in as the telecommunications industry’s “third player,” said they are now in discussions to share tower assets to reduce the cost and duration of the infrastructure buildout. In a hearing on common tower policy by the House of Representatives Committee on Information and Communication Technology, representatives from the two telcos confirmed they are looking at possible ways to use Globe’s passive assets. Mislatel Spokesperson Adel A. Tamano confirmed that talks are under way, and that the third player has always wanted a shared tower setup with incumbents Globe and Smart Communications, Inc.

Dominguez to SSS: Use technology to reduce costs Philippines Star 8th Apr 2019
State-run Social Security System (SSS) needs to reduce its overhead expenses by utilizing digital tools to improve the delivery of services to its members, a top official of the Social Security Commission (SSC) said over the weekend. In a statement, new SSC chairman and Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said the state fund needs to be more prudent in managing its expenses as the fund comes from the savings of Filipino workers. As such, Dominguez said the SSS should digitize its systems in order to reduce operational costs.   “The new SSS law has provided the means to beef up the pension fund through contribution rate adjustments. Our role now is to digitize processes that will make it easier for members to access services. Modernizing systems will also eventually save on costs and other operating expenses,” he said. Based on the Social Security Act of 2018, the SSS is allowed to spend no more than 12 percent of total yearly contributions, plus three percent of other revenues for administrative and operational expenses, such as salaries and wages, supplies and materials, and the maintenance of offices of the SSS.

Globe turns over digital program to Department of Education Philippines Star 4th Apr 2019
Telecommunications company Globe has turned over to the Department of Education (DepEd) the management of its Global Filipino Schools (GFS) program, which involves the provision of schools with free internet connectivity and information communication technology tools. “Technology and innovation are major drivers of progress and we recognize their importance in improving performance and facilitating learning of students and teachers,” Globe chief sustainability officer and senior vice president for corporate communications Yoly Crisanto said. “With GFS now under the DepEd, we hope to open doors for more public schools to experience education that is not limited to the four corners of the classroom and not bounded by physical textbooks or paper and pen so that borderless learning can take place,” Crisanto added. During the turnover on Friday, Education Undersecretary Tonisito Umali stressed the importance of equipping classrooms with tools that will enable students to be competent with  21st century skills and knowledge.  “Initiatives like GFS that introduce new ways of educating our youth are very important in helping the country keep pace with the rest of the world. We are looking forward to having more public schools adopt technology through internet connectivity and mobile tech solutions that GFS provides,” Umali said. With the turnover, Globe said the DepEd would be able to closely monitor how technology improves teaching and learning for possible replication in other public schools not covered by the program.

DICT urged to look into hacking of AFP, government websites Philippines Star 3rd Apr 2019
Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian called on the Department of Information and Communications Technology to thoroughly investigate the hacking of several government, military and educational institution websites. Hacking group Pinoy LulzSec hacked several websites, including military servers with database of Filipino soldiers, as an April Fool's joke last Monday. "Isn't it funny and challenging to do when you hacked secured military servers and dump the database?" Pinoy LulzSec said on Twitter. Gatchalian raised alarm that the group was able to hack and deface government websites, including the Philippine Army. "Let us not forget that they are the same group that leaked the Comelec database in 2016, exposing voters' private data to the world wide web," Gatchalian said on Wednesday. The senator said the government should also take steps to secure information structures and government networks. "It bears pointing out that even the official Senate website does not currently use a secure connection," he said.

First Digital Finance eyes 1M borrowers in two years | BusinessWorld Business World 3rd Apr 2019
A NEW financial technology (fintech) player is looking to capture a million Filipino borrowers via their digital platform, banking on both online merchants and buyers to drive loan volumes. First Digital Finance Corp. (FDFC) is targeting one million customers in the next two years, which will come roughly five years after they set up operations in the country. Georg Steiger, co-founder and chief executive officer of First Digital, said their strategy is to fulfill “unmet credit needs”here.

Free internet in terminals bill awaits Duterte signature Philippines Star 2nd Apr 2019
The bill mandating transport terminals to provide free internet services and clean toilets for commuters is now awaiting President Duterte’s signature. Congress recently transmitted to Malacañang Senate Bill 1749, or the proposed “Act to Improve Land Transportation Terminals, Stations, Stops, Rest Areas and Roll-On/Roll-Off Terminals.” The enrolled bill was adopted by the House of Representatives and transmitted by the Presidential Legislative Liaison Office to the Office of the President last March 21. It will lapse into law if Duterte does not sign it after 30 days from receipt. Sen. Grace Poe, chairperson of the Senate committee on public services and principal author of the measure, expressed hope the President will immediately sign the measure as many students are expected to return to their provinces this school break. She also took note of families who spend time during summer in the country’s various tourist destinations.

Infrastructure

Look inside the new $1.3 billion complex at Singapore's Changi Airport, with a 130-foot indoor waterfall Business Insider 18th Apr 2019
Singapore's Changi Airport has already snagged the title of world's best airport for seven years running, and its newest expansion is only tightening its grip on the title. In April 2019, Changi opened up Jewel, a lifestyle hub for the airport. The massive doughnut-shaped building sits between the control tower and Terminal 1. It took more than four years and $1.25 billion to build the glass-and-steel dome that makes up Jewel. Part luxury mall and part indoor rainforest, here's a look inside the complex making layovers more fun. Built on what was once a parking lot, Jewel now covers 1.46 million square feet. It stands 10 stories tall with five stories below ground and five above. Two hundred eighty shops and restaurants circle the perimeter of the glass dome. There's a multiscreen Imax theater, a full-sized supermarket, and a hotel. In the middle of it all is the Rain Vortex. A cascading funnel of water drops seven stories through the core of the building. At over 130 feet high, it's the tallest indoor waterfall in the world. All the water is harvested from rain and recirculated through the waterfall 24-7. At night, it keeps running and acts as a canvas for a 360-degree light show projected on it.

Most Swedish firms in PHL planning for long-term expansion Business World 9th Apr 2019
A SURVEY of Swedish businesses in the Philippines has revealed that most of them are here for the long term and plan to expand accordingly, the Swedish government said. The “Philippines — Open for Business” report published April 3 by Business Sweden, the trade and investment council of the Swedish Government, said it surveyed 13 firms present in the Philippines and 92% said they are planning for “long-term business expansion.” “Results show that overall, businesses remain positive about their prospects in the Philippines. A majority of the respondents are opting to stay invested, and even plan to expand operations in the country in the long term,” according to the report.Near term, 70% of respondents also forecast solid growth, with expectations of 10% growth in sales annually over the next three years.

Duterte orders review of gov’t contracts Business World 3rd Apr 2019
President Duterte has ordered a review of all government contracts with private firms, including foreign-based, in a sweeping directive covering controversial projects funded by China. Duterte instructed all agencies to “check and review” all deals entered into by the government with private firms during a Cabinet meeting last Monday at Malacañang, presidential spokesman Salvador Panelo said yesterday. The Department of Justice (DOJ) said it has formed teams to undertake the review.

Big infra projects face delays from poll ban BusinessMirror 3rd Apr 2019
THE implementation of big-ticket infrastructure projects faces delays as the Commission on Elections (Comelec) has asked for additional documents from economic managers before it could decide on their request for exemption from the public works ban. Economic managers earlier sought exemption from the public works ban, which took effect on March 29, to minimize the adverse impact of a reenacted budget on GDP growth this year.

Insurance

Microinsurance sector’s coverage, premiums up | BusinessWorld Business World 11th Apr 2019
THE INSURANCE Commission (IC) said the microinsurance industry expanded in 2018 in terms of individuals covered and premiums produced. Preliminary data based on the quarterly reports submitted by insurers and mutual benefit associations (MBA) showed the microinsurance sector’s premium production grew 14.45% at end-2018 to P8.14 billion from the P7.11 billion in premiums booked the previous year, the IC reported Thursday. MBAs continued to be the frontrunner in the microinsurance industry in terms of coverage as well as premium production. The sector booked contributions amounting to P4.56 billion, up 16.8% from the P794.19 million recorded the previous year.

Legislation

Zdro duty, tariff on EVs pushed Malaya 10th Apr 2019
Carmakers are pushing for the tariff- and excise tax-free entry of hybrid and pure electric vehicles (EVs) in the Philippines to significantly reduce the cost of these environment-friendly vehicles. Renato Lampano, vice president for corporate public relations of Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. (MMPC), said the industry is appealing for zero customs duties and completely zero excise even for plug-in hybrids EV (PHEV) to make these vehicles competitive. The Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion granted pure EVs zero excise tax but hybrids are still slapped 50 percent of applicable taxes under their individual categories. Both are subject to customs duties. Pure EVs are slapped 30 percent tariff.

Tax amnesty set as BIR issues rules Business World 10th Apr 2019
FILIPINOS with overdue tax payments may start availing of tax amnesty later this month, following the release of the official guidelines by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). The country’s top tax-collecting body published Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 4-2019 on Tuesday which lays down the process to avail of tax amnesty for delinquent accounts up to year 2017. Applications for tax amnesty will be available starting April 24, or 15 days after yesterday’s publication date. Delinquent taxpayers have one year to file their request for amnesty, which will cover accounts seeking compromise settlements as they question the validity of the assessed taxes to be paid, or due to their “financial incapacity” to settle the entire amount.

Voting for 1.8 M Pinoys abroad starts April 13 Philippine Star 10th Apr 2019
The one-month overseas absentee voting (OAV) starts on Saturday with 1.8 million Filipinos, working or living abroad, who are registered voters expected to cast their ballots. The lone representative of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Congress yesterday urged Filipinos abroad to exercise their right of suffrage and vote for candidates who “could best represent and work for their interest and welfare.” Read more at https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2019/04/10/1908743/voting-18-million-...