Saturday, 15 March 2008

Hanjin's supplier to blame for mishap

Jonas Reyes
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/PROV20080315119461.html

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has issued a stern warning to contractors at Hanjin shipyard here to observe strictly occupational safety standards even as Malacañang cleared Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. (HHIC) of charges arising from the fatal accident that happened recently at Hanjin here.

"We will be going after these companies for their utter disregard of the safety of their workers," SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said.

"Once we establish their culpability, we’ll throw all the books at them," he said.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had earlier said, "the Palace doesn’t support a move to suspend Hanjin’s operations because of the accident."

Ermita called up Arreza who told him that the accident did not involve Hanjin, but the company’s supplier and that the company (Hanjin) has no liability.

"The workers were unloading a beam which is part of a 20-ton crane when the crane snapped from its trestle," Arreza told Ermita.

Its supplier, of course, has the liability and not Hanjin, that’s why there’s no reason for the termination of its contract," Ermita said.

SBMA investigators reported that the two workers were hired by a subcontractor in the shipbuilding facility in Subic when the accident happened.

The investigators also reported that the workers were removing the shackles from the crane when the accessory snapped from its trestle, crushing and killing the two workers.

Two other workers were injured in the accident and were taken to the hospital.

Arreza said the ongoing investigation tended to show that some subcontractors and their workers "failed to observe even common-sense safety measures."

"Every industrial jobsite is a potential hazard, that’s why there are clear-cut rules on safety that we require companies to implement strictly," he said.

He said that HHIC Phils. president Jeong Sup Shim had assured him of Hanjin’s support for the investigation, with the end in view of identifying the erring subcontractors and taking appropriate actions against them.

Arroyo to give DA more funds for intensified rice production

Isaac R. Kliatchko Jr.
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MTNN20080315119454.html

President Arroyo will give the Department of Agriculture (DA) additional funds for an intensified rice production program nationwide to make the country self sufficient in rice, possibly before her term ends in 2010.

This was disclosed by DA Region 3 Executive Director Redentor Gatus in an interview at the Tarlac Capitol Thursday where he addressed an agribusiness investment forum of the Tarlac provincial government.

Gatus said the President, very recently, had presided over a top-level meeting with DA Secretary Arthur Yap and DA regional directors to identify measures and strategies that would address a predicted shortage of rice in the coming years, as a result mainly of the continuing "craze" in bio-fuel production.

Earlier, a conference lecturer from the Center for Research and Communication (CRC), Dr. Rene Ofreneo, had warned of a looming rice shortage during a conference-workshop on "Transforming Philippine Agriculture through Balance Rural Development Policies.

"In effect," Ofreneo said "the Philippines and other import-dependent countries would be facing a possible shortage of rice."

To address the expected shortage in the staple grain, the President, Gatus said, had directed Yap to implement a full-scale rice production program nationwide.

Initially, Gatus said the DA will remedy the problem on the scarcity and high cost of high-yielding planting seeds, like hybrid, certified, and registered seeds.

At the same time, the DA will check some of the "mature technologies" that could be put into use in the intensified rice production program.

For long-term sustainability, he said farmers will be prodded into using organic fertilizers to "rejuvenate" the soil and to restore its fertility and potential for higher yield.

All the programs that go with the intensified rice production will be backed by an equally full-scale information and awareness program, to be supported by all agencies and instrumentalities concerned.

"The program’s effective implementation will also depend largely on the support of the local governments, and we think the current models are this province, Tarlac, under Gov. Victor Yap, and of course, Nueva Ecija, and Isabela, which are the top three provinces in the commercial production of hybrid seeds," the DA regional director said.

"We will convert the President’s marching orders into deliverables," Gatus said.

He said other measures include coordination with the Philippine National Police in order that law enforcers would be reminded about the effects of "kotong’ (extortion) to the cost of transporting commodities.

To help bring down the cost of transporting crops, a portion of the additional funds would be channeled to the contruction of more farm-to-market roads, he said.

Gatus said the President has acknowledged the fact that because the country is largely dependent on imported rice to feed its estimated 100 million, it might not have enough stocks of the staple grain once other countries which reduced rice production in favor of bio-fuel crops would suspend rice exports to protect their own food supplies.

According to the CRC expert, the Philippines is consuming 11 million metric tons of rice a year, but local rice production only manage to come up with only nine million metric tons annually.

"We have been importing rice from other countries to meet the demands on rice," Efreneo said.

In a research paper entitled "Healing a Sector in Crises," which he co-authored with Errol Ramos and Melissa Serrano, he said the Philippine Agricultural produce declined in the 1980s when the deregulation program in agriculture was introduced by the World Bank as part of its structural adjustment program in the country.

The decline deepened in the 1990s when the government began implementing the contentious Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

OFW remittances surge 15% in January

By Chino S. Leyco, Reporter
The Manila Times (excerpt)
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2008/mar/15/yehey/business/20080315bus1.html

MONEY sent home by overseas Filipino workers (OFW) hit a fresh record last January, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said Friday.

In a statement, the BSP said remittances coursed through banks increased 15 percent to $1.264 billion from $1.099 billion in the same period last year. Last January’s growth was likewise stronger than the rise seen in the two previous months.

For this year, the BSP expects remittances to reach P15.7 billion. Money sent home by OFWs accounted for about 10 percent of the nominal gross domestic product, the broadest measure of economic activity, last year.

The central bank said monthly remittances have been surpassing the billion-dollar level since May 2006.

To date, the bulk of remittance flows came from the US., Saudi Arabia, UK, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.

“The robust foreign exchange inflows at the start of the year could be traced in part to the acceleration in the deployment of Filipino workers,” the BSP said.

Preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration showed that deployment of workers in January grew 12.4 percent year-on-year.

“Continued preference for and confidence in the professional competence and skills of Filipino manpower support the view that a high level of remittances could be sustained in the months ahead,” the central bank said.

The strong dollar inflows arising from robust remittances had helped lift the peso by 19 percent last year, making it Asia’s best performing currency. This also swelled the country’s dollar reserves, and allowed the government to prepay part of its foreign currency debt.

Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway update photos

Click here for Skyscrapercity.com photos
(http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showthread.php?t=125804&page=34).


Inauguration on Tuesday, 18 April 2008, by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

Friday, 14 March 2008

Water rates slashed anew by April 1

By Marvin Sy
The Philippine Star (excerpts)
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Metro&p=49&type=2&sec=26&aid=2008031378

Malacañang announced yesterday that another round of rate reductions would be enjoyed by water users of the Greater Metro Manila Area (GMMA) starting April 1.

According to Government Corporate Counsel Alberto Agra, who heads the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System-Regulatory Office, the new rate reduction was due to the sustained strength of the peso against the United States dollar.

With the peso continuously moving up against the dollar since the start of 2007, the two water utilities handling the GMMA were able to implement a downward adjustment in its Foreign Currency Differential Adjustment (FCDA) effective next month.

Consumer Sentiment Improves in Q1 2008

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1776
03.13.2008

Nationwide consumer confidence improved


Consumer confidence nationwide strengthened in Q1 2008 after a downturn in Q4 2007 as the number of respondents with positive outlook on the economy and on their financial condition increased while those with a negative outlook decreased. The overall consumer confidence index (CI), while remaining negative, improved to -27.1 percent, or by 6.5 index points quarter-on-quarter and by 6.2 index points year-on-year.

Consumers nationwide were also bullish about their expectations for the next quarter and the next 12 months. The index in Q2 2008 reversed to positive 1.4 percent from the negative levels in the previous quarter and last year. Respondents were even more bullish for the next 12 months as the index climbed to 13.4 percent from 5.5 percent in the previous survey and from 0.8 in Q1 2007 survey.

The high income group remained the most confident among all income groups. The low income group (with monthly income less than P10,000) has been recording consistent improvements in the outlook for Q1 2008 and onto Q1 2009 on the economy and their own financial conditions.

The consumer confidence in Q1 2008 and in the near term (next quarter and next 12 months) was borne out of expectations of better business conditions and additional income for the family due to the increase in the number of employed household members locally and overseas, reflecting the latest employment data for Q4 2007, with the employment rate rising at 93.7 percent from 92.2 percent in Q3 2007 and 92.7 percent a year ago. Meanwhile, consumers cited the increase in the prices of goods as their major concern which would affect negatively their economic and financial conditions.

NCR consumers more optimistic than those in AONCR

The respondents from the National Capital Region (NCR) were more optimistic than their counterparts from the areas outside NCR (AONCR) as the indices on current and future outlook of consumers in NCR were higher compared to those of AONCR. This can be attributed to the higher proportion of respondents belonging to the middle and high income groups in NCR who tend to be more optimistic than their low income counterparts.

Expenditures for next 3 months to rise


More households nationwide expected that their average expenditures on basic goods and services would go up in Q2 2008 but the number of those who indicated that their expenditures would go up declined relative to the previous quarter’s survey.

As in the past survey results, respondents nationwide indicated that their expenditures in Q2 2008 would rise, particularly on food, electricity, fuel, education, and personal care and effects.

Buying conditions for the next 3 months favorable

About 52 percent of the respondents indicated that buying conditions for Q1 2008 would be favorable. This ratio is higher compared to 46.8 percent a quarter-ago and 43.9 percent a year-ago. Over 57 percent of these consumers considered it a fair or good time to buy consumer durables due to cheaper prices of durable equipment, including computers and similar items. Low interest rates on housing loans made the current environment conducive for buying a house and lot according to 56.3 percent of the consumers. Buying conditions for motor vehicles also improved as the number of consumers who considered it a good or fair time to buy motor vehicles increased from 37.9 percent in Q4 2007 to 42.1 percent in Q1 2008 due to the increasing number of traders offering easy installment terms.

Consumer buying intentions for the next 12 months sluggish

Despite the favorable assessment of the buying conditions for Q1 2008, consumers were not in a rush to buy big-ticket items (consumer durables, motor vehicles, and house and lot) in the next 12 months. On average, the ratio of consumers who expressed the intention to buy in Q1 2008 was slightly lower at 19.0 percent from 20.3 percent in Q4 2007 and from 20.7 percent in Q1 2007.

Selected Economic Indicators: Outlook for the next 12 months


More consumers nationwide believed that the peso will continue to strengthen against the US dollar over the next 12 months as the index increased sharply to 22.2 percent from 3.4 percent in Q4 2007. Respondents, in general, expected a rise in unemployment rate and interest rate, although the number with positive response was lower compared to that in the previous quarter. Similarly, prices of basic goods and services were anticipated to increase although the number of respondents who expected that prices will go up decreased relative to those in the previous quarter and last year.

Expenditures of Overseas Filipino Workers for Q1 2008

As in the previous survey results, most OFW households spent their remittances primarily on food and other household needs, education, medical expenses, debt payments, and savings. On average, the number of households who indicated that they allot part of their remittances for various types of investments (i.e., investments in education and health, savings, investments and purchase of house) was higher by 1.6 percentage points than those in Q4 2007 survey (from 23.0 percent to 24.6 percent).

About the survey

The Q1 2008 CES was conducted during the period 15 January - 14 February 2008 with a sample size of 2,522 households (49.6 percent) in NCR and 2,562 households (50.4 percent) in AONCR for a total of 5,084 households nationwide. The households interviewed were drawn from the National Statistics Office’s (NSO) Master Sample List of Households, which is considered a representative sample of households nationwide. The total survey response rate nationwide for Q1 2008 was 97.6 percent.

Coconut oil exports seen to reverse decline with 13% growth

Rosemarie Francisco
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS20080314119355.html

The Philippines expects coconut oil exports to reverse last year’s decline and grow nearly 13 percent in 2008 as most plantations recover from typhoon damage, the head of the country’s main coconut agency said on Thursday.

But despite the expected rise in production, supply is likely to remain tight due to high demand locally and globally, and current market speculation means coconut oil prices could rise as much as 40 percent in the next 12 months, Oscar Garin, head of the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA), told Reuters.

The Philippines is the world’s biggest exporter of coconut oil.

"The number one problem, it may be the only problem of the coconut industry, is productivity. We lack in production," Garin said.

"For 2008, it is projected ... that production will increase because the plantations devastated by the typhoons in 2006 would have recovered, 80 percent of that would have recovered."

Garin said he expects additional production of 130,000 tons of copra — the dried coconut meat from which oil is extracted — this year, bringing total copra output to 2.43 million tons, up 5.7 percent from 2.3 million tons last year.

The country, which exports 80 percent of its coconut oil output, is expected to ship 1 million tons of the oil this year, up 12.8 percent from 886,560 tonnes in 2007, he said.

Coconut oil prices are currently hovering around $ 1,470 a ton on a cost, insurance and freight (CIF) Rotterdam basis, up 8 percent from a month ago, and a whopping 92 percent rise from March 2007.

"The trend is it will still be going up, considering the movement of major oils...especially this first quarter. There has been a very sharp spike," said Arturo Liquete, PCA deputy administrator.

"The high demand for biofuel oils, which is concentrated mostly on palm oil, the increase in consumption in China and India, is pushing the demand, which is now outpacing the supply," Liquete said.

Coconut oil used to trade at a premium against palm kernel oil. But because of the popularity of palm kernel oil, coconut oil has lost its edge.

"If the price will keep on going up, there will now be a tendency for buyers to shift to palm oil because the volume is more assured than coconut. The production of palm oil is about seven times more than coconut oil," Liquete said.

He said hoarding of copra and crude coconut oil amounting to as much as 20 percent of the country’s exports by traders and oil millers hoping to further push up prices was partly to blame for the rapid rise in coconut oil costs.

But the high prices are a boon to small farmers who dominate the industry as they earn so much more now, the officials said.

PGMA directs 10% reduction of SLEX toll rates

http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/mar13.htm#SLEX

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC) to lower the toll rates in the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) by 10 percent to share with the motoring public the benefits of the improving economic conditions in the country.

The reduced toll rates in SLEX, covering the segment from Alabang, Muntinlupa City to Calamba, Laguna, took effect last March 9. PNCC has the permit to operate and maintain this segment of SLEX as approved by the Toll Regulatory Board (TRB).

Over 200,000 vehicles pass through the SLEX daily. It is the most important roadway leading to the bourgeoning suburbs south of Metro Manila and the key transport route for industrial goods coming from export zones and industrial estates, and agricultural produce from the Southern Tagalog Region.

PNCC reduced the toll rates from P0.84/km to P0.756/km. Effectively, the new rates for Alabang to Calamba now reflect a reduction from P24 to P22 for Class 1 or small vehicles; from P48 to P43 for Class 2 vehicles, or passenger vehicles and six-wheeler trucks; and from P72 to P65 for Class 3 vehicles, or container vans and 10-wheeler trucks.

SLEX is in the midst of major rehabilitation works. The Alabang Viaduct is being repaired to [match] international safety standards. The SLEX segment from Alabang to Sta. Rosa, Laguna is being expanded from four to eight lanes and the segment from Sta. Rosa to Calamba, Laguna from four to six lanes.

SLEX will also soon be interconnected with the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) Tollway for a seamless motorist travel up to Batangas.

Construction works have also started to extend the Skyway from Bicutan to Alabang.

Toll rates in SLEX are the lowest among all tollways in the country today, even prior to the latest 10 percent toll fee reduction. The lower toll fee will also serve as a cost cushion to SLEX motorists in the wake of rising global fuel prices.

P200B for education; students thank President Arroyo

Some 1,000 youth and student leaders take “unity walk” for PGMA
THURSDAY, MARCH 13, 2008 | EDUCATION
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20339

Some 1,000 representatives of youth and student organizations rallied today behind President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration as they lauded her programs and projects on education that have benefited hundreds of thousands of youth and students nationwide.

The youth and student organization representatives visited the President in Malacanang early this afternoon to express their weariness of the politics of division and despair.

Streamers and placards echoing the Arroyo administration’s thrust on eradicating poverty through quality education---“Isulong and Karunungan---Panlaban sa Kahirapan” adorned the Palace’s courtyard and the Rizal Hall, where students and teachers alike converged.

Before a short program at the Rizal Hall, the President and the students and youth leaders had a “Unity Walk” to symbolize their unwavering support for the Chief Executive and her policies and programs on education.

In her brief message, the President thanked the students and youth “for visiting me in Malacanang. Your love for your country deserves much admiration.”

“You are a big inspiration to our government,” she said.

“Thank you for expressing your weariness of the politics of division and despair. …thank you for being here. Thank you for demonstrating your commitment to our nation’s stability and investing in the people,” the President added.

The students and youth include those who have availed themselves of scholarships from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), high school education vouchers, Sangguniang Kabataan, National Youth Commission, Youth Stop for Peace, Youth Student Power for Peace, Samahang Ilokano, and numerous university organizations that included those from the Philippine College of Criminology.

P200 B OKd for education
To provide more classrooms, books, teachers
GMA bares education plans for this year

Genalyn D. Kabiling
The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20080314119361.html

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday announced that the government will spend more than P200 billion to upgrade the country’s education system, particularly the provision of more classrooms, books, and teachers this year.

Addressing over a thousand students, teachers, parents, and education officials in Malacañang, the President said education is one of her administration’s priorities, alongside the economy and environment.

Education sector is "taking a front seat" in the 2008 budget, securing the largest allocation in the P1.227-trillion national outlay, she said.

"Dahil sa ating mga reporma sa buwis, mas malaki na ang alokasyon sa mga programang panlipunan kaysa sa pambayad sa utang. Umaabot halos dalawang-daang bilyong piso ang sa edukasyon. Ito rin ang pinakamalaking bahagi ng budget na napunta sa edukasyon sa mahabang panahon," she said in her budget message event on education dubbed "Isulong ang Karunungan — Panlaban sa Kahirapan" in the Palace.

Mrs. Arroyo said her government aims to upgrade the quality of education as well as make learning more accessible to Filipinos, saying it is the best weapon to alleviate people from poverty.

In this year’s national budget, the President said, the Department of Education (DepEd) will get P150 billion for the operations of elementary and high school around the country.

Additional funds have been allocated for Commission on Higher Education (CHED), state universities and colleges, the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), the Department of Science and Technology (DoST), and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

She said the DepEd and DSWD will spend P2 billion in the conversion of daycare into pre-school. Both agencies will also fund the rice subsidies for some 3.5 million pre-school students under the government’s food-for-school program.

The President said the government allocated P6 billion for the construction of 11,000 classrooms and another P1 billion for the training of teachers in Math, Science, and English.

The 2008 budget will also finance the distribution of 35 million books, hiring of additional teachers, and purchase of computers for public high schools, according to the President.

Under the 2008 national budget, the President also announced the government will increase the salaries of public teachers in the middle of the year.

Over 60,000 students from poor families will be given assistance to study in private schools. High school vouchers in National Capital Region will be raised from P5,000 to P10,000 per student, according to the President.

Around P3 billion has been set aside for the vocational training for people interested in business process outsourcing and call centers, while some P700 million will be allotted for college scholarships.

The government also set aside P1 billion for scholarships for students planning to obtain masteral studies in Science and Engineering.

"Marami na tayong nagawa, maraming nalalabing kailangan gawin. Balak nating magtrabahong masipag sa susunod na dalawang taon hanggang sa araw na matapos ang aking termino sa 2010, upang ipatupad ang ating Philippine Reform Agenda," she said.

Prior to the program, the President joined hundreds of students and youth leaders in a "unity walk" at the Palace gardens in a show of support for the Chief Executive amid fresh resignation calls over a corruption scandal.

The students invited to the Palace-initiated education assembly came from several public and private colleges and universities, high schools, and vocational training centers.

Mrs. Arroyo also joined the students in a light merienda and accommodated photo sessions with them during the affair.

Thursday, 13 March 2008

Statement of the President: Millennium Challenge Corporation Announcement


WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2008 | FOREIGN RELATIONS
http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=20322

Yesterday, our government signed a national budget that dedicates itself to investing in our people and lifting up our poor. Today, another piece of good news for the long term prosperity and stability of our nation has been announced in Washington , DC .

The Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC), an official US-government corporation designed to help developing countries fight poverty, announced that the Philippines has been selected as eligible for the MCC compact – an opportunity that can bring hundreds of millions of dollars to our nation to lift our nation out of poverty.

This is a great day for the Philippines and the actions by the Millennium Challenge Corporation offers a remarkable validation of the efforts of our government and nation to invest in our people, fight corruption and encourage economic freedom. These are the hallmarks of my Administration, and I am absolutely thrilled to be so recognized for consideration by this prestigious and serious-minded corporation of the US government.

In making its dramatic announcement, MCC CEO Ambassador John Danilovich said on behalf of the Directors of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, "Congratulations to the Government of the Philippines for its demonstrated commitment to tackling difficult challenges and improving the lives of its people. While eligibility is an essential first step towards a poverty reduction grant from the MCC, selection does not guarantee funding. The Philippines , like all countries eligible for a compact, must maintain its performance on the MCC selection criteria and must now begin a broad-based consultative process with its people to develop a proposal that addresses the country’s barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth. As partners, we agree that ending corruption and finding long-term ways to reduce poverty are urgent priorities that deserve our full attention.”

I am deeply honored and pleased that our efforts are paying off and have been recognized in Washington, DC . I believe that if we can all come together, redouble our efforts and continue to meet the criteria of the Millennium Challenge Corporation, the long term benefit to our nation will be the best gift I can leave this nation when I step down in 2010.

=====

Click here to view Millennium Challenge Corporation website.

Click here to see the Philippine country page in the MCC website.
Click here to read the Fact Sheet.

Weak manufacturing sector; so what?

IS THE PHILIPPINES INFECTED WITH DUTCH DISEASE?
Outside the Box
By John Mangun
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/03132008/opinion02.html

Spent the last couple of days reading various assessments of the Philippine economy. My brain is overheated and my head is ready to explode. I almost consider reading the opinions of economists as my penance for Lent.

In order to maintain even a semblance of sanity, it is necessary to remember what certain gentlemen much wiser than I have said about “economic experts”:

“Economics is extremely useful as a form of employment for economists.”—John Kenneth Galbraith, the economist

“Ask five economists and you’ll get five different answers, six if one went to Harvard.”—Edgar R. Fiedler

“Isn’t it interesting that the same people who laugh at science fiction listen to weather forecasts and economists?”—Kelvin Throop III

And of course, my favorite, “Teach a parrot the terms ‘supply and demand’ and you’ve got an economist.”—Thomas Carlyle

Being “high blood” rather than having “high blood,” the article I read that triggered my annoyance mentioned that the Philippines was facing the “Dutch Disease.” This term refers to an economic situation that occurs when a nation suddenly finds itself much more prosperous and spends its new wealth importing goods rather than manufacturing these goods.

I wrote what I thought was a brilliant analysis of the “Dutch Disease” last November that I thought would put all this foolish talk to rest. Obviously, my analysis was not as brilliant as I guessed since certain economic thinkers are continuing to worry about “going Dutch.”

Economists viewing the Philippines are absolutely convinced that a country cannot prosper without a strong and growing manufacturing sector. The strong Philippine gross national product data from 2007 does not, cannot, will not fit into their model of how the Philippine economy should behave, given the fact that we do not have a vibrant manufacturing base. As a result, these same people downplay and discourage the newly found wealth and employment from outsourcing investment.

The reason this issue is important is that the government plays a crucial role in encouraging certain sectors of the economy to expand. There has been a tremendous amount of anguish from our economists that the Philippines has a manufacturing sector that even shrinks from year to year. Then they question how and why the economy does not fall into the South China Sea.

I wonder how much more progress the nation could make economically, if we did not have these economic experts whining about manufacturing. Their constant whining must have a negative effect on our policymakers.

The basic argument for promoting manufacturing is that the country requires all these manufactured goods that we import. Ok. But how does that imply that we should be making the toys, machinery, textiles, etc. that we import from abroad? And is that importation necessarily and inherently bad for the economy?

The advantages of making these imported goods locally are twofold. We as a nation would not have to spend our money buying from other nations, and we would create jobs here in the Philippines making our own goods.

Every month, I spend a lot of money for pork and chicken. Using their logic, it would make sense to raise a few pigs and set a chicken coop. Like the Philippines with many manufactured goods, I probably could not produce my own food as cheaply as I can buy it from others. The free market and private capital has determined that it is more economical to buy from overseas. I know a man who used to make sewing thread here. He now imports in bulk and repackages because he cannot produce as inexpensively as the Chinese can.

Other people have the space and resources to produce pork and poultry better and cheaper than I can. Why shouldn’t I take advantage of that and buy their production? Likewise, when the piggery owner needs a brilliant business plan, shouldn’t he come to me rather than doing it himself?

“But look at all the money we are spending.” True, but maybe there s a trade off. South Korea exports machinery, oil, steel, transport equipment, organic chemicals and plastics, most of which we do not produce in volume here. Ever buy one of those “soft” toilet seats? Made in Korea as 6 percent of our imported products are.

Yet, almost 40 percent of both foreign and domestic tourists to Cebu come from Korea, and that number grew by 50 percent in 2007. We make “Cebus” better than they do, so they buy from us.

Absolutely, there is a need to encourage more growth in the manufacturing sector. But let me share a secret with the economists. The Philippines was not, is not and never will be a manufacturing powerhouse, even capable of producing most of the goods we need for local consumption. We do other things well and could do all these much better with better government policies in tourism, outsourcing, mining and agriculture. We need to push more for what is realistic and practical, not for what the textbooks says we should be doing.

E-mail comments to mangun@email.com.

Wednesday, 12 March 2008

PGMA deeply honored and pleased with RP’s eligibility for the MCC compact

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 12, 2008 | FOREIGN RELATIONS
http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=20325

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today government’s efforts to ensure sustainable economic development and fight poverty got a big boost with the Millennium Challenge Corporation’s (MCC) announcement that the Philippines is now eligible to apply for an MCC Compact.

The good news from the MCC, an official US government corporation designed to help developing countries like the Philippines fight poverty, douses cold water on a survey that the Philippines is the most corrupt nation in Asia since one of the major criteria for eligibility for an MCC Compact is transparency in policies and has made fighting corruption its highest priorities as it believes that corruption undermines every aspect of sustainable development.

“I am deeply honored and pleased that our efforts are paying off and have been recognized in Washington, D.C.,” the President said in a statement.

“This is a great day for the Philippines and the actions by the Millennium Challenge Corporation offer a remarkable validation of the efforts of our government and nation to invest in our people, fight corruption and encourage economic freedom. These are the hallmarks of my administration, and I am absolutely thrilled to be so recognized for consideration by this prestigious and serious-minded corporation of the US government,” the President added.

The MCC Compact is a large-scale grant funding based on independent indicators that measure good governance, the country’s investments in its people and policies that encourage economic freedom.

The Chief Executive said the P1.227- trillion 2008 national budget which she signed into law Tuesday “dedicates itself to investing in our people and lifting up our poor,” which is in consonance with the primary goal of the MCC.

She added that the selection of the Philippines as eligible for the MCC Compact is “an opportunity that can bring hundreds of millions of dollars to our nation to lift our nation out of poverty.”

The war against poverty is the overarching goal of the Arroyo administration.

The President’s statement quoted MCC CEO Ambassador John Danilovich in his “dramatic announcement” as saying: “Congratulations to the Government of the Philippines for its demonstrated commitment to tackling difficult challenges and improving the lives of its people. While eligibility is an essential first step towards a poverty reduction grant from the MCC, selection does not guarantee funding. The Philippines, like all other countries eligible for the compact, must maintain its performance on the MCC selection criteria and must now begin a broad-based consultative process with its people to develop a proposal that addresses the country’s barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth. As partners, we agree that ending corruption and finding long-term ways to reduce poverty are urgent priorities that deserve our full attention.”

“I believe that if we can all come together, redouble our efforts and continue to meet the criteria of the MCC, the long term benefit to our nation will be the best gift I can leave this nation when I step down in 2010,” the President stressed.

The MCC was established in January 2004, based on the “principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces good governance, economic freedom and investments in people.” MCC’s mission is to reduce global poverty through the promotion of sustainable economic growth.

Countries that have demonstrated significant improvement in policy indicators but do not yet qualify for a compact grant may be eligible for a threshold program, a smaller grant designed to improve performance on specific indicators.

The Philippines was a recipient of some $21-million (P1.1 billion) grant on July 26, 2006, through the Millennium Challenge Account in recognition of the bold steps taken by government to eradicate corruption and attract international investments through the Millennium Challenge Account Threshold Program (MCATP).

The MCATP, which ran for two years, funded programs that was aimed at reducing corruption by strengthening the Office of the Ombudsman, the government agency primarily responsible in prosecuting corrupt government officials, and intensify the enforcement of anti-graft programs of the Department of Finance (DOF), namely, the Revenue Integrity Protection Service (RIPS), Run After Tax Evaders (RATE), and the Run After The Smugglers (RATS).

Under the MCATP, $6.5 million or P338 million was allotted to the Office of the Ombudsman for the training of its employees, the establishment of an information management system and enhancement of its investigative and surveillance capabilities.

The RATE program received $9.4 million (P489 million), RATS, $3.1 million (P161 million), while RIPS was allocated $1.4 million (P73 million).

Under the grant agreement, $250,000 (P13 million) was utilized for the monitoring and evaluation of the MCATP to ensure that it conformed with MCC standards.

The MCC was established by US President George W. Bush at the turn of the millennium to "reward countries that govern well," the President said during the signing ceremony in 2006, adding thus far that only a handful of countries all over the world have qualified for the MCC grant.

Singapore's Chiangi airport, rich Kuwaiti royalty bidding for Clark airport development

By Ding Cervantes
The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Local%20News&p=54&type=2&sec=2&aid=2008031234

CLARK FREEPORT - Singapore's world-class Chiangi International Airport and a royal Kuwaiti family, which Forbes Magazine listed as the 27th richest in the world are bidding against each other for the development of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here.

CIAC board chairman Nestor Mangio announced yesterday that Chiangi authorities are now preparing their proposal for a build-operate-tranfer (BOT) scheme bid for the DMIA.

He noted that apart from the Chiangi proposal, an airport builder from Kuwait, in partnership with an American company, also expressed interest in developing the DMIA, but under a build-lease-transfer (BLT) scheme.

The family of the Kuwait investor, Sheik Loay Jassim Al-Kharafi, is listed by Forbes as the 29th richest billionaire in the world. Luciano and I will inspect the airports in Egypt and Kuwait upon the invitation of the Al-Kharafi Group,"Mangio said.

The sheik arrived on a private aircraft here recently to inspect the DMIA and, during a meeting with CIAC officials, expressed his interest in its development. --

MCC Board Selects Philippines as Compact Eligible

PRESS RELEASE
http://www.mca.gov/press/releases/documents/release-031108-philippines.php

Washington, DC – The Millennium Challenge Corporation Board of Directors announced today at the conclusion of its March Board Meeting that the Philippines has been selected as eligible to apply for an MCC compact. The MCC Board determines eligibility for this large-scale grant funding based on independent indicators that measure good governance, the country’s investments in its people and policies that encourage economic freedom. The Board's announcement followed its decision at last December's annual selection meeting, when the Board requested additional time for review and deeper analysis of the Philippines' passing performance on the eligibility criteria. The MCC Board today noted the Philippines' consistent performance on eligibility criteria and its effective implementation of the MCC-funded Threshold Program focused on helping curb corruption through improved tax and customs administration and strengthening of their Ombudsman's office.

“Congratulations to the Government of the Philippines for its demonstrated commitment to tackling difficult challenges and improving the lives of its people,” said MCC CEO Ambassador John Danilovich. “While eligibility is an essential first step towards a poverty reduction grant from the MCC, selection does not guarantee funding. The Philippines, like all countries eligible for a compact, must maintain its performance on the MCC selection criteria and must now begin a broad-based consultative process with its people to develop a proposal that addresses the country’s barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth. As partners, we agree that ending corruption and finding long-term ways to reduce poverty are urgent priorities that deserve our full attention.”

Countries selected as eligible for a large-scale grant, or compact, have the opportunity to submit a proposal for five-year program to reduce poverty through sustainable economic growth. Once selected as eligible, countries begin a consultation process that includes citizens, nongovernmental organizations, and representatives of the private sector and government to identify the barriers to poverty reduction and economic growth. MCC teams then work in partnership to engage with countries on their compact proposals to ensure that projects meet economic growth and poverty reduction targets. The resulting compact also sets forth how the country plans to manage and implement its MCA program, including how it will ensure financial accountability, transparency, fair and open procurement, and measurable results.

###

The Millennium Challenge Corporation, a U.S. government corporation designed to work with developing countries, is based on the principle that aid is most effective when it reinforces sound political, economic, and social policies that promote poverty reduction through economic growth. For more information about MCC, visit www.mcc.gov.

N.B.: MCC will host a public outreach event to discuss actions from the Board meeting, on Wednesday, March 12, 2008. To register and for more information on this event, visit:http://www.mcc.gov/press/events/documents/outreach-031208-postboard.php.

Tuesday, 11 March 2008

Middle East firms order P12b worth of RP fruits

Roderick T. dela Cruz
The Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=business5_mar11_2008

Several companies in the Philippines [sic] have placed orders for P12.3 billion worth of agricultural commodities and processed food products from the Philippines.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the supply deal initiated the revival of a dormant agriculture and fisheries cooperation pact between the Philippines and the United Arab Emirates during a just-concluded trade mission.

Yap said the orders were made by companies such as Fresh Fruits Co., Del Monte Foods Middle East, Samico and Abbar Zainy Trading.

Fresh Fruits placed an order of 26 million cases for fresh bananas with a value of $117 million and 500,000 cases of fresh pineapples worth $3 million.

Del Monte Foods Middle East placed an order for 15 million cases of fresh Cavendish bananas valued at $76.5 million, while its order for fresh pineapples was two million cases worth $12 million.

Five million cases of fresh bananas valued at $54 million and 500,000 cases of fresh pineapples worth $3 million were ordered by Abbar Zainy Corp.

Another importer, Samico, ordered five million cases of fresh bananas worth $22.5 million while Unifrutti and Saad Tabra Trading placed respective orders for 1.15 million and 1.5 million cases of bananas with a combined value of $11.92 million.

PGMA says RP must keep its guard up vs. challenges facing global economy

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2008 | ECONOMY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20319

While the economy has gained momentum through the implementation of tough reforms, the Philippines must keep its guard up against the gathering clouds on the economic horizon, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today.

In her address during the ceremonial signing of the P1.227-trillion General Appropriations Act of 2008 in Malacanang this afternoon, the President stressed that a lot remains to be done to lift up the people, especially the poor, from poverty.

She said the Philippines is hurting from the global forces that are driving up rice and oil prices, the same forces that are driving down the US and European economies.

“The recent rise in the incidence of poverty is tied to the rising global demand for rice and oil,” the President said.

The Philippine economy posted a 7.3 percent growth last year, the strongest in more than three decades, after the government instituted tough measures, notably the implementation of the expanded Value Added Tax (VAT).

“Our strengthened economic fortunes come none too soon, for there are clouds on the economic horizon that we must guard against,” the President warned.

She said her administration has drawn up a plan to pump-prime the economy to cushion the impact on the Philippines of a US economic meltdown and ensure that the local economic growth momentum would be sustained.

“We have a good budget that is responsive to our immediate and medium-term needs…to achieve our pump-priming, we will increase investments in physical and human infrastructure,” the President said.

“We have the strongest economy in over 30 years as a result of tough reforms we have to break the cycle of despair which has kept our nation back. Part of the plan includes the march toward a balanced budget for the first time in years,” she added.

Discipline dictates, she said, that the government operates within its means. And as a result, for the “first time in a generation, the tough political choices we made have left us with more revenue to invest in our people – that is what this budget is going to do.”

The President has ordered a surge in infrastructure spending to create an investor-friendly environment, enhance social justice, boost support for education, cut red tape and corruption and work for peace and security.

PGMA’s signing of EO 712 ends transport strike

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2008 | ECONOMY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20320

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered today the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to immediately review all existing transport-related orders, rules and regulations issued by local government units (LGUs), and come up with a National Land Transport Policy Framework (NLTPF).

The President ordered the review and establishment of NLTPF in Executive Order No. 712 which she issued today (March 11, Tuesday).

EO 712 directs “the immediate review of existing orders, rules and regulations issued by local government units concerning public transportation, including the grant of franchises to tricycles, establishment and operation of transport terminals, authority to issue traffic citation tickets, and unilateral rerouting schemes of public utility vehicles, and for other purposes.”

Pending the DOTC review, the President ordered the Department of Interior and Local Governments (DILG) to advise LGUs to immediately suspend the following practices:

(1) The establishment and operation of new and existing transport terminals that charge fees and require compulsory use by public utility vehicles (PUVs);
(2) The enforcement of re-routing schemes that violate the authorized routes as provided for in the PUV franchises;
(3) The issuance of new tricycle franchises while respecting those that have been issued already;
(4) The increase in local fees and charges applicable to public transportation;
(5) The implementation of local programs, projects and ordinances that have impact on the cost of operations of PUVs without first coordinating and getting the approval of the DOTC to ensure that these programs, projects and ordinances do not prejudice public interest by way of higher transport fares.

EO 712 also ordered the DILG to establish and implement “uniform truck ban hours that shall be applicable to LGUs located in a common area nationwide.”

For Metro Manila, the President ordered the implementation of a “single ticketing system” that shall be implemented by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), in accordance with Republic Act 7924.

In signing EO 712, the President noted that “numerous transport organizations have complained about the establishment of common transport terminals by the LGUs in their respective jurisdiction, the use of their own traffic citation tickets known as Ordinance Violation Receipts (OVR), rerouting schemes in violation of authorized routes as provided in their respective certificates of public convenience issued by the LTFRB (Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board), and the enactment of various ordinances which result in additional cost to operators and drivers, such as the mandatory purchase of stickers and driver’s identification cards.”

The EO also noted that the transport organizations “have also objected to the continuous issuance of new franchises for the operation of tricycles and pedicabs despite the existence of too many units already operating on the road, and the unsynchronized truck ban resulting in the delay in the delivery of goods.”

In signing the EO, the President stressed that “the operations of PUVs is imbued with paramount public interest, such that factors that increase the cost of operations of PUVs have a direct impact on transport fares, hence local ordinances, programs and projects which require a fee should be coordinated with the DOTC to ensure that public interest is not prejudiced.”

President Arroyo signs into law P1.227-T 2008 national budget

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2008 | CONSTITUTION AND LAW
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20316

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law today the P1.227-trillion General Appropriations Act of 2008 in simple rites held at the Rizal Hall of Malacanang.

In her message before the signing ceremony, the President said that the 2008 appropriations law ''reflects our values and policy priorities for investing in the people.''

She pointed out that this year’s national budget invests in the three E’s: economy, education and environment, the “building blocks of our nation” that will make a difference in the lives of the Filipino people.

The 2008 national allocation, she stressed, “provides a buffer to mitigate the pain of a deteriorating global economy and the accompanying rise in prices which affects food and transportation the most.”

Representatives of various sectors of society, including the legislature, local government units (LGUs), students, academe and urban poor, attended the Malacañang ceremony.

The 2008 budget, the President also said, represents another important step in the economic development of the Philippines and reflects the results of the tough economic reforms implemented by her administration.

Congress’ approval of the 2008 budget only ''proves that members of Congress ... and all parties can come together to work with the Executive Branch to get things done for the nation,” the President said, adding:

“The people are tired of partisan wrangling and want all of us to do our job – which is to work for the interest of the people, keep the nation strong and stable and always moving forward.”

On the first E---the economy, the President said that against the backdrop of global challenges that include oil and rice supplies and the slowing down of world economies, the government has drawn up a plan to pump-prime the economy by increasing investments in infrastructure and the people.

“Our central objective to create more jobs and grow our economy is to invest, invest and invest. We have been doing that and with this budget, the march to modernization through human and physical infrastructure will continue,'' she said.

She pointed out that infrastructure projects are key components of economic investments in an environment in which business feels confident to expand and employ more people, because more jobs means less poverty.

The President also underscored the need to invest in the people through better health care, improved social services and a more productive, modern and profitable agricultural sector, as she underscored the importance of an open and transparent economy, 'free from corruption.''

''This budget invests more and more to clean up the culture of corruption that has plagued this nation for generations,'' she said.

The second E---education, ''takes a front seat in this budget,” the President said, underscoring her belief that education is the foundation of economic prosperity and individual liberty, social justice and self-worth.

''No other issue is as important to Filipinos as the opportunity education affords the generation to be liberated from poverty and live a life of hope, optimism and prosperity,” she said.

Under the 2008 budget, P200 billion was allocated for education, including the allocation for state colleges and universities and the DepEd School building program.

This year, the government has earmarked funds for the construction of 10,000 classrooms, the procurement of 35.5 million new textbooks, the setting up of 920 computer laboratories in public schools, 62,000 scholarships under the Education Service Contracting, increase in the high school voucher from P4000-P5000 to P7000; research and technology and science scholarships.

The government will also increase the college scholarship fund to P400 million and hire up to 10,000 more teachers, while additional funds would be allocated for vocational training, and teacher training for English, math and science.

The last E---environment, refers to the Arroyo administration’s commitment to clean air, water and healthy environment.

The 2008 GAA, the President said, will help fund Green Philippines or the Philippine Master Plan on the protection of the environment.

Growing the economy, she said, must stand alongside the protection of the environment.

These programs, which have a combined allocation of P5 billion, include, among others, include the conservation and the building of more parks and recreation areas, purify water, and cleaning up industrial sites.

Some P274.16 million was allotted to support the efforts of the Department of Energy (DOE) to develop renewable and indigenous sources of energy, and an additional funding of P300 million for reforestation on top of the Philippine National Oil Company’s (PNOC) own budget for the program.

The 2008 budget also allocates P240 million for the conservation of the country's coral reef and beaches as international sanctuary for eco-tourism and scientific research.

"While we have accomplished much, much remains to be done. We plan on working hard the next two years - until the day our term ends in 2010 to fulfill our Philippine Reform Agenda. We must and we will press forward with more reforms. We will fight for the economy, education and the environment," the President said.

PGMA asks Congress to work with Palace on passage of a comprehensive anti-corruption reform act

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2008 | CONSTITUTION AND LAW
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20318

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on Congress today to work with her administration on a comprehensive anti-corruption reform act to address once and for all the problem of corruption that still plagues the nation.

In her address during the ceremonial signing of the P1.227-trillion General Appropriations Act of 2008 in Malacanang this afternoon, the President said that on “our part, we will hold officials accountable if they are found to be corrupt after due process.”

“Let the chips fall where they may as investigations are concluded and friend and foe alike are brought to account for their actions in the proper courts,” she added.

She stressed that the “final pillar of a strong economy is an open and transparent economy – free from corruption.”

The national budget of 2008, the President pointed out, “invests more and more to clean up the culture of corruption that has plagued this nation for generations.”

She said that to ensure transparency of government transactions, she has directed project implementing agencies to submit to the Procurement Transparency Group project and procurement information requested by the PTG.

Her instruction on the submission of documents needed by the PTG covers all concerned national government agencies, government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) and government financial institutions (GFIs), she said.

These agencies, the President said, are also instructed to submit their annual procurement plans requested by PTG for monitoring purposes of major bidding processes.

PGMA's surge in infrastructure-spending gets P200 billion allotment in 2008 budget

TUESDAY, MARCH 11, 2008 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20317

The surge in infrastructure spending ordered by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo as the Philippine economy's firewall from the slowing down of the US economy and other major worlds economies was supported by the 2008 national budget.

The President, in her message during the signing into law of the 2008 P1.227 -trillion national budget in Malacanang this morning, said some P200 billion has been allotted for infrastructure budget this year to serve as springboard to boost the country’s economic growth.

The infrastructure budget also included those from the government-owned and-controlled corporations and local governments.

Some of these projects were mentioned by the President in her July 2007 State-Of-The-Nation Address (SONA), most of which support the infrastructure needs of the super regions.

''Key components of our economic investments include key physical infrastructure projects across the nation to build up roads, bridges and ports,'' the President said.

These projects as enumerated by the President included the construction or repair of various roads and road networks or links in different places in Mindanao, the Visayas, the Luzon Urban Beltway and the Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle.

These national roads include the Surigao-Davao, Davao del Norte-Bukidnon, Lebak-Maguindanao-Butuan-Esperanza in Agusan del Norte, Sibuco-Siraway-Siocon-Baliguian in Zamboanga del Norte in Mindanao.

In the Visayas, which is being developed as a tourism center, the construction of new airports and the rehabilitation and expansion of existing ones are underway.

These include the Sta. Barbara Airport in Iloilo, Caticlan-Pandan-Libertad in Panay, Bacolod to Silay Airport, El Nido-Rio Tuba in Palawan, Esperanza-Aroroy in Masbate and the Caramoan Peninsula road.

In the Urban Beltway, the C5 NLEX and SLEX-link and the Marikina-Infanta road; the Halsema highway, Bontoc-Tabuk-Tuguegarao and Tarlac-Nueva Ecija-Dingalan road in the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle.

Other projects include the continuation of rail projects like the LRT Line 1 North Extension to close the commuter train loop in Metro Manila, and the construction of RORO ports and airports in North Luzon to support rice productivity and anti-hunger programs.

Farm-to-market road and irrigation projects worthP15 billion are also ongoing to ensure increased food productivity.

Other infrastructure projects are the completion of rural electrification, the upgrading of hospitals from primary to secondary and housing projects and the remediation works on NAIA3 to comply with international standards.

''Our central objective to create more jobs and grow our economy is to invest, invest, and invest,'' the President stressed.

Net Inflows of Foreign Equity Capital in 2007 Reach US$2.0 Billion

Bangko Sentral
Media Release
03.10.2008
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1772
Click here to view table.

Net inflows of foreign equity capital reached US$2.0 billion in 2007, higher by 52.6 percent compared to the US$1.3 billion net inflows recorded in 2006. In particular, gross equity capital placements expanded by 28.2 percent to US$2.2 billion during the year. These were channeled largely into manufacturing (electronics, health and chemical products, food, automotive sensor & safety products, decorative crafts and molded plastic products, cleaning products), services (international courier, information technology development, multimedia service provider), construction, mining, real estate, financial intermediation, and agricultural industries. The bulk of these inflows came from Japan, the U.S., the U.K., Germany, South Korea, Malaysia, and Hong Kong. In December, equity capital infusion by foreign investors summed up to US$68 million from US$35 million in the same month a year ago.

The reinvested earnings account during the year also rose to US$567 million from US$485 million a year ago, as foreign direct investors continued to plough back a portion of their earnings into local enterprises/corporations.

Meanwhile, the other capital account—which consists largely of intercompany borrowing/lending between foreign direct investors and their subsidiaries/affiliates in the Philippines—registered a lower net inflow of US$341 million compared to the net inflow of US$1.1 billion same period in 2006. This developed as local affiliates settled loans obtained from their parent companies abroad amounting to US$1.5 billion.

On an aggregate level, therefore, cumulative net inflows of FDI for 2007 reached US$2.9 billion. This was only US$7 million higher than the level posted in 2006 due largely to the repayment of intercompany loans.

3 issues: Environment, economy, education

(Speech delivered at the LAKAS National Directorate Assembly at the Manila Hotel Centennial Ballroom, March 10, 2008.)
By President GLORIA MACAPAGAL ARROYO
http://www.mb.com.ph/OPED20080311119121.html

THANK you, Secretary Ermita, for your introduction. Ed Ermita has been with Lakas since its founding and since the start of his own political career. Thank you, Ed for your reliable and trustworthy work as the primus inter pares of our Lakas-led Cabinet.

President Ramos, beloved chairman emeritus, thank you for your words of wisdom. Thank you for continuing to be the beacon of sobriety, unity and peace not only for our party but also for our country. Every single one party member in this hall finds great relevance and urgency in your challenge and admonition.

And Speaker Nograles, congratulations in your election as president of Lakas. With your leadership, Lakas CMD will be in very able and worthy hands. A bar topnotcher, a leader of Mindanao and now Speaker of the House, you have the qualities, experience, and status not only to uphold the lofty traditions of ourparty but also of our country, congratulations.

Beloved partymates "Tim, Dolfo, Sonny, Migs, Sonny, Botch, Art" and all of you, beloved partymates, thank you for being my steady allies and partners. And thank you for sustaining our party’s eminent role in the life of the nation.

In the last elections, our party’s victory brought us thousands of Lakas officials in the government, including three senators, 96 House members, 41 governors, 38 vice governors, 67 city mayors, 49 vice mayors, 605 municipal mayors, 495 vice mayors and a slew of vice governors, vice mayors, provincial board members, city and municipal councilors.

And now today, I endorse the merger of Lakas-CMD with Kampi. This merger will combine the talents and resources of two great political parties into a powerhouse team of senators, an absolute majority of the House with 143 representatives, 55 governors, 85 city mayors, 945 municipal mayors, and over 7,000 vice governors, board members, vice mayors and councilors.

And let us not forget that the leaders of all our local government leagues are leaders of Lakas. Together with our other coalition partners, our merged-party can create the dominant support infrastructure that is a key to delivering the governance that our people expect and our people deserve. Our merged party will be a colossus that brings to mind Mahathir of Malaysia, whose decade sold dominant political machinery supported by key business groups provided the underpinning for Malaysia development. Similarly, the succession of Ramos, Arroyo and our successor in 2010 will mean a two-decade period, 1992 to 2016, interrupted only by two and a half years of Erap, but outside of that a two-decade period of political leadership by our coalition if we all work together.

With the Lakas-Kampi merger, our energies can be devoted and we can achieve our vision of being ready for first world in 20 years.

With the Lakas-CMDKampi merger, we can devote our energies, to the strong and growing economy which is a central pillar our party has labored to create to help guarantee peace, order and stability in our country.This is our motivation for getting up every day and word hard to focus like a laser beam to fix our economy. Our party has made tough and unpopular decisions to raise revenue and crack down on tax cheats that we could invest in our physical infra and in our people.

When our party’s administration brings investments and creates jobs, our people have a more stable and predictable life. With more investments come more tax revenues that can be invested in schools, roads and bridges in your jurisdictions as well as health care, education and the environment. And over time, everyone will benefit.

Yet we in our party are aware that no matter how much improvement there is at the top of the economic ladder, many of our people still struggle mightily. Our party is deeply aware that many hardworking men and women work hard everyday just to put food on the table and provide adequate shelter for their families.

The high price of gasoline and everyday commodities hits our poor, our constituents, the hardest. While the high world price of oil, and not the high world price of rice, are a global issue outside the control of any one government. Our party’s administration has nevertheless taken and must continue to take actions to reduce the pain on our people of these high prices. We have cut prices. We have started providing targeted cash payments to the poorest of our constituents to help them cope. We are spending billions on seed support, irrigation farm to markets, no frills agri-cargo airports, Roro ferry systems to ensure food security. And we have introduced in Congress an amendment to the EPIRA to protect our citizens from unreasonably high electric rates.

We live in a time of great challenges, and I am very grateful to the excellent management of this directorate meeting that these proceedings had been very smooth even at a time of great challenges. The issues that we champion define our party. We count the fight for a strong economy, to dramatically cut poverty, the fight for clean environment, and the fight for quality education as the highest imperatives of our time. These three issues, the three Es of economy, environment and education are central to lifting up and preparing the next generation of leaders, hopefully many of them from our Lakas-CMD party.

Environment, economy, education. These remind us of what President Ramos said during his administration.We want to be the next tiger, but we want to be a green tiger, and therefore we have continuity in Lakas.

Today I can say with our reinvigorated party-leadership, and with our continuing unity, we can remain bullish on our country, we can remain optimistic about our future, we can be deeply committed to being a force for good. On my part, I am humbled and grateful at having the privilege of serving this nation not only as President of the Philippines but also as chair of our great party, Lakas-CMD.

And as chair I exhort you, let us all work hard on the resolution offered by Rep. Maurice Dumogan. Let us work hard together for the good of the our nation and for our party’s victory in 2010.

With our reinvigorated leadership, with our continuing unity, with our hard work, we look towards 2010 when by the mighty hand of Lakas, and the blessings and support of the Filipino people, I shall pass on the torch of national leadership in a milieu of tranquility, justice, hope and economic well-being for our beloved countrymen.

Mabuhay ang Lakas CMD!

Monday, 10 March 2008

NAIA Manila International Airport Statistics

2007 FIGURES
The NAIA website (http://www.manila-airport.net) reported that in 2007, the airport handled 21,261,133 passengers. This was a 20.4% growth in passenger numbers compared to 2006, placing the airport 59th worldwide in terms of passenger traffic.

2005 and 2006 FIGURES
Meanwhile, Airport Technology (http://www.airport-technology.com) reported that in 2006 NAIA handled an estimated 17.7 million passengers [to be exact: 17,660,697, according to http://www.hlasuj.eu/top100airports.htm.]. This showed an 8.9% growth in passenger numbers from the 2005 figures (16,193,611) and placed the airport as the 72nd busiest worldwide in terms of passenger traffic. (In 2005, it was 77th, and only grew 6.8%, according to http://www.hlasuj.eu/top100airports.htm.)

2004 FIGURES
Google Answers (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=563670) says that in 2004, it handled 15,187,000 passengers, and was ranked 73rd.

For comparative statistics, see Wikipedia's summary from 2000 to 2007.

More Manila Ocean Park shots

At Skyscrapercity.com (http://www.skyscrapercity.com/showpost.php?p=18941861&postcount=206)

Sample:

PGMA signs into law P1.127-trillion nat'l budget for '08 tomorrow

http://www.news.ops.gov.ph/today.htm#P1.127-trillion

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will sign into law in Malacañang tomorrow the P1.127-trillion General Appropriations Act (GAA) for 2008.

The President announced this before some 3,000 participants in the 4th Mindanao Cooperative Summit this morning at the Lim Ket Kai Mall here.

Among those present were local officials led by Misamis Oriental Gov. Oscar Moreno, Cagayan de Oro City Mayor Constantino Jaraula, Cagayan de Oro 2nd District Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, CDO Vice Mayor Vicente Emano, Agusan del Norte 1st District Rep. Jose Aquino II, and COOP-NATCO Partylist Rep. Guillermo Cua.

"Tomorrow we will sign the budget passed by Congressman Cua, Congressman Aquino and their colleagues in the legislature. It is a budget that reflects the will of the government to work together with Congress to invest in the people and keep the economy on a strong, stable path," the President said.

Earlier, the President had announced that 30 percent of the national budget would be allotted to Mindanao, particularly in infrastructure to further spur development in the south.

With tomorrow's signing of the 2008 budget, the government is expecting to attain a zero budget deficit this year, a landmark development and first in so many decades which, the President said, would help guarantee peace and stability.

Last year, the budget deficit was decreased to P63 billion that helped government to also lessen its debt to a manageable level.

"A strong and growing economy is the central pillar that we have labored to create to help guarantee peace, order and stability in our country. This is our motivation for getting up everyday to work hard and focus like a laser beam to fix our economy," she said.

The 2008 national capital outlay, which is P91 billion higher than the P1.136 trillion 2007 budget, includes funding for the Salary Standardization Law for some 1.1 million state workers.

The share of economic services has been increased to 23.4 percent from 21 percent, social services to 30.06 percent from 28 percent, and defense to 5 percent from 4.7 percent.

The government’s infrastructure spending this year is about P116 billion or 3.1 percent higher than the P94.6 billion in 2007.

About 77.8 percent or P90.3 billion of the 2008 outlay for infrastructure will go to the Department of Public Works and Highways (P75.31 billion) and the Department of Transportation and Communications (P14.97 billion) to build the much needed highways, railways, ports, airports and other transport facilities that will link strategic areas and business centers crucial to trade and investments.

“Our prudent approach to spending, involving expenditure rationalization and matching sources of revenues enabled us to grow our economy while keeping a tight rein on our deficit,” the President said.

She said the budget will sustain major infrastructure projects in all so-called super regions, long demanded by local government units and regional development councils, industries and investors, and local communities.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. has described the General Appropriations Act of 2008 as an outlay that will be totally supported by internal revenues as it reflects government confidence in a continued “economic upturn.”

The budget is premised on revenues of P1.236 trillion—P1.108 trillion from taxes and P127 billion in non-tax revenues. Of the tax revenues, the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) will contribute P885 billion and the Bureau of Customs (BOC), P254 billion.

The 2008 GAA has doubled its investment in housing to P7.6 billion and increased funds for economic services to P287 billion from P242 billion, social services to P368 billion from P320 billion, and defense to P61 billion from P53 billion.

Topping the list of recipient agencies of the 2008 budget is the Department of Education with P146 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways, P94.5 billion; National Defense, P56.1 billion; Interior and Local Government, P52.6 billion; Agriculture, P23.8 billion; Transportation and Communications, P22.3 billion; Health, P16.3 billion; Agrarian Reform, P13 billion; Judiciary P10.2 billion; and Foreign Affairs, P10.1 billion. [compare these figures with the ones below]

BUSINESSWORLD Online reported, however, that House of Representatives Appropriations committee chairman Rep. Edcel C. Lagman of Albay (1st District) said ... that proposed funding for slow-moving projects, excess allocations and other miscellaneous allotments totaling P12.638 billion were likewise slashed.

Total cuts amounting to P38.5 billion were realigned to other priorities, including: basic and higher education, higher by P4.829 billion to P158.602 billion; health, up P5.790 billion to P25.847 billion; agriculture, up P1.872 billion to P29.161 billion; infrastructure, up P12.982 billion to P94.729 billion; justice and the judiciary, up P1.236 billion to P16.570 billion; social welfare and development, up P165 million to P4.848 billion; local governance and development, up P3.5 billion to P16.253 billion; public safety and security, up P859 million to P53.242 billion; labor and employment, up P236 million to P6.272 billion; energization, up P600 million to P.922 billion; environmental protection, P184 million for a total new allocation of P8.118 billion; and sports development, increased by P59 million to P360 million.

President renews call for Congress approval of Consumer Bill of Rights

MONDAY, MARCH 10, 2008 | CONSTITUTION AND LAW
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20311

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo renewed today her call for Congress to approve the Consumer Bill of Rights to protect the public from unscrupulous traders, price manipulations and unfair trade practices.

Congressional approval of the Consumer Bill of Rights will go a long way in easing the people’s burden arising from high prices and unfair practices, the President said in her address before some 3,000 participants of the 4th Mindanao Cooperative Summit this morning at the Lim Ket Kai Mall here.

She said the government is also doing everything possible to lessen the impact on consumers of the current high prices of oil and prime commodities, including rice.

"The high price of gasoline and everyday commodities hits our poor the hardest. While the high price of oil and now, the high price of rice in the world market due to global warming and therefore reduced production, is a global issue outside the control of government, we have nevertheless taken and will continue to take actions to reduce the pain on our people of these high prices,” the President said.

She pointed out that as part of government initiatives to reduce the price of oil in the local market despite the continuing increase in the price of the commodity in the world market, the government has reduced the tariff on oil imports.

"We have cut tariffs. We have started providing targeted cash payments to the poorest of our poor to help them cope. And we ask now Congress, Congressman Cua, Congressman Aquino, to help us enact a Consumer Bill of Rights to protect our citizens from price gouging, false advertising and other scams that prey on our people," the President said.

The President has also ordered the National Food Authority (NFA) to help stop the reported irregularities involving the distribution of NFA rice, including the diversion of subsidized rice intended for the Tindahan Natin outlets to commercial markets.

She said the reported diversion of NFA rice is “part of the culture of corruption that we still have to fight."

"And so we have ordered the NFA to prudently and strictly manage the distribution of the subsidized rice packs. And the NFA has begun by putting its own house in order,” the President said.

The NFA is going to file a criminal case against the provincial manager of the NFA in Misamis Oriental for “conniving with unscrupulous rice traders in diverting NFA rice intended for the needy and diverting it to the commercial market," she added.

"In safeguarding our nation's food security, there are no sacred cows," the President pointed out, as she appealed to the cooperatives to help government in reducing the burden of high prices through the bulk buying, bulk marketing and bulk servicing of transportation services.

"And I instruct CDA Mindanao to work with DA, the DTI, and DOTC so that Mindanao cooperatives can do more of bulk buying of inputs, bulk transport and bulk marketing to help everybody get some relief from high prices," she said.

Poor Metro Manila households to enjoy 20% cut in water bill

Alena Gonzales
GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/84157/Poor-Metro-Manila-households-to-enjoy-20-cut-in-water-bill

MANILA, Philippines - Starting Monday, low-income households in Metro Manila who consume 10 cubic meters of water or less will enjoy a 20 percent cut in their water bill, Presidential Spokesman Ignacio Bunye said.

Bunye said on top of this month's water cut, another reduction can be expected next month because of the strong showing of the peso against the dollar.

“Metro Manila residents could expect another round of water rate reduction in April as a consequence of a reduction in April as a consequence of a reduction in the Foreign Currency Differential Adjustment due to the continued strength of the peso against the US dollar," Bunye said in a statement.

The announcement came after the respective boards of the Manila Water Company Inc. (MWCI) and the Maynilad Water Services Inc. (MWSI) agreed to the request made by government corporate counsel Alberto Agra.

"The MWCI, which covers the East Zone, and the MWSI, which covers the West Zone, are voluntary causing the reduction in the current water rates," Bunye said.

In the East Zone, at least 80,000 households or more than 700,000 people will pay P17 less for their water consumption.

This covers residents of Cubao, Marikina, Pasig, Taguig, San Juan, Mandaluyong, parts of Quezon City, Makati, Manila and Rizal Province who used to pay P88 per month and will now only shell out P71.

In the West Zone, P20.50 will be deducted from the usual water bill of residents from the current rate of P116.46 to the reduced rate of P95.96.

This covers low-income consumers from Pasay, Navotas, Caloocan, Malabon, Valenzuela, Parañaque, some parts of Quezon City and Makati City, Imus, Noveleta, Cavite City, Bacoor, Muntinlupa, Las Piñas and Manila.

The reduction of the water rate in the West Zone would benefit 150,000 households, which translates to around 1.35 million individuals.

"Thus, a total of 230,000 households or some 1.5 million people will enjoy the water rate cuts," Bunye said.

"The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System, together with the MWCI and the MWSI, are continually exploring other means of further reducing the water rates," he added. -

President Arroyo on Myanmar

Statement of the President
SUNDAY, MARCH 9, 2008 | FOREIGN RELATIONS
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=20301

It is a sad day for democracy and our region that Myanmar has rejected the proposal put forward by the United Nations for outside observers to the May election. The very integrity of the UN has been rejected by a nation that wishes to be taken seriously by its neighbors and the world.

A central pillar of democracy is a free and fair election. Outside observers are not a threat to any nation’s sovereignty. Rather, the participation of outside election observers is a sign of strength. These observers help show the world the credibility of the election process itself. We have long had observers in the Philippines and they have helped solidify and advance our democracy.

It is not too late for the government of Myanmar to accept the modest proposal by the UN. I call on the government in Myanmar to do the right thing and allow outside observers. It is a small but modest step toward democratization that is long overdue in Myanmar.

Budget inked tomorrow

BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW031008/content.php?id=054

PRESIDENT Gloria M. Arroyo is scheduled to sign tomorrow the P1.227-trillion national budget for this year, Finance Undersecretary Gil S. Beltran said.

"It [national budget] will be signed already on Tuesday," he said in an interview last weekend.

Presidential Legislative Liaison Office head Joaquin C. Lagonera confirmed this in a phone interview, saying "I think the signing ceremonies would be held on Tuesday."

Read more...

Sunday, 9 March 2008

Gonzalez: 3 trillion cubic feet of gas at stake in Spratly deal

GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/83938/Gonzalez-3-trillion-cubic-feet-of-gas-at-stake-in-Spratly-deal

MANILA, Philippines - (Updated 4:58 p.m.) A controversial seismic exploration deal will help the Philippines go after some three trillion cubic feet of natural gas and oil in its claimed portion of the hotly contested Spratly Islands.

On this note, Justice secretary Raul Gonzalez, who claimed the information came from the Philippine National Oil Company, called Sunday for a stop to questions regarding the deal.

"I understand there are three trillion cubic feet of oil found already. That is bigger than Malampaya. Much, much bigger. It will really boost our national economy," Gonzalez told dzBB radio in an interview.

"Dapat sana huwag na nating debatehin masyado para sa kabutihan ng Pilipinas (We should stop debating on this, because this is for the good of the Philippines)," he added.

Though he did not elaborate, Gonzalez said the PNOC got its information from a British corporation.

Gonzalez said that based on the data gathered by the PNOC, the Philippine government will not be financially capable of financing such a huge exploration project, which he referred to as a “seismic survey." He explained that gathering data does not always mean exploration.

"Don't call it exploration, it's a seismic survey," Gonzalez stressed.

On the other hand, he said this should stop debates surrounding the controversial agreement with China and Vietnam on the Spratly Islands.

Senators have sought an investigation into the controversial deal despite Gonzalez's insistence that no exploration has been conducted yet.

"If we end up in exploration, the company that will do the exploration must be 60% owned by Filipinos, or we can enter into service contracts," Gonzalez said.

He also insisted the deal is not a basis for impeachment against President Arroyo, saying there is "no culpable violation, the president did not even sign that."

"How could it be used against the President when she did not commit culpable violation of the constitution? The President did not even sign that," Gonzalez said, adding that critics of the administration should stop using the deal to advance their self-interest.

Gonzalez also said that the President can enter into any agreement for exploration and exploitation of these natural resources, "provided these are private groups, the private groups must be 60% Filipino owned."

Besides, he said that after the survey, the parties that signed the deal will go back to their respective governments for approval.

In a press release of the Department of Justice issued over the weekend, Gonzalez also criticized former Senate President Franklin Drilon for questioning the validity of the tripartite agreement between the Philippines, China and Vietnam in 2004, when as Justice Secretary during the Aquino administration, Drilon actually issued a legal opinion in favor a similar deal between the Philippines and Australia.

Gonzalez was referring to the August 27, 1990 DOJ Opinion No. 157, Series of 1990 where Drilon rendered an opinion in favor of the proposed seismic project to be undertaken by the government and Australia.

In this opinion, Drilon stated that: “The proposed offshore seismic project aims to provide data and expertise to the Philippine government in the determination and development of significant domestic energy resources and to provide training and data gathering, processing and interpretation techniques which would be useful in the future especially to administer petroleum exploration and development activities effectively."

Former Energy, PNOC chiefs uphold legality of Spratly deal

Alena Gonzalez
GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/84004/Former-Energy-PNOC-chiefs-uphold-legality-of-Spratly-deal

MANILA, Philippines - Former Philippine National Oil Company president Eduardo Mañalac and former Energy Secretary Vince Perez have both upheld the legality of the trilateral seismic studies in Spratlys by the oil corporations of China, Vietnam and the Philippines.

In their joint statement Sunday, Perez and Mañalac said the PNOC "was extremely careful and consistent in ensuring the constitutionality of the JMSU" by coordinating with various agencies, including the departments of justice, foreign affairs and energy.

The two former government officials said the agreement was also explicit in upholding the country's claim over Spratlys.

"The JMSU explicitly stated that the signing of the commercial agreement shall not undermine the position held by the Philippine Government over the South China Sea. The agreement is designed to be scientific in nature and does not affect any territorial claims of the Philippine government," they said.

"The JMSU is a commercial agreement between three national oil companies to jointly acquire seismic data. No exploration, drilling and production activities were covered by the agreement. The JMSU is simply a data gathering effort among the three oil companies," they added.

The two former officials also explained that the seismic undertaking agreement is not a treaty that would have to be ratified by the Senate.

The JMSU, which began in August 2005 with a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corporation, Beijing's largest offshore oil producer, being tapped for the seismic studies, would end in June this year.

The two officials explained that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo did not sign the agreement even if government approval was required to make the commercial accord binding.

"The JMSU was supported by the Philippine government to promote regional energy security. It hoped to contribute to the transformation of the South China Sea into an area of peace, cooperation and development and it was part of a strategic alliance to promote regional energy security, to lessen the region's dependence on Middle East oil," they said.

JPEPA: An almost forgotten treaty

FIRST CRACK
Fel V Maragay
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=felMaragay_mar8_2008

One-and-a-half year after it was signed on Sept. 9, 2006, on the sidelines of the Asia-Europe Meeting in Helsinki, Finland, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement is still stuck in the Senate—and nobody knows when it will be ratified by the Chamber.

The agreement, one of the major initiatives of the Arroyo administration to re-invigorate the economy, was supposed to be voted upon by the Senate last December. The schedule of voting was moved to January and later to April this year. But from all indications, the 23-member Senate is unlikely to meet this target again. A disappointed Ambassador to Tokyo Domingo Siazon said it may take the Chamber up to January next year to cast its verdict on the treaty.

There should be no more excuses to further delay the voting on the treaty because the Senate had already wrapped public hearings—seven in all—last month. All the pros and cons of the bilateral accord have been exhaustively discussed with the participation of all stakeholders, including several non-government organizations and industries that would benefit or lose from its implementation.

By now, there should have been a report on the outcome of the series of public hearings on the treaty by the committee on foreign relations and the committee on trade and commerce, chaired by Senators Miriam Defensor Santiago and Mar Roxas, respectively. Their colleagues have been eagerly and impatiently waiting for the report but there is still none, at the moment.

Despite a lot of reservations, Santiago and Roxas have already declared that they would endorse the ratification of the agreement. But without the report, they could not yet file a resolution of concurrence so that the treaty would be calendared for floor debate.

The Senate has been under heavy pressure from Malacañang and the business community to ratify the treaty. And Tokyo is very much dismayed that its ratification is still in a state of limbo.

Why is the Senate being constrained from discharging its duty to pass final judgment on the JPEPA?

First, there are certain constitutional questions in the treaty, such as the supposed grant of most favored national treatment to Japanese investors in some areas of our economy, that remain unsolved.

To address this problem, Santiago has broached the idea of a side agreement in the form of an exchange of notes between Manila and Tokyo.

The side accord will supposedly provide that in case of conflict between the provisions of the treaty and the Constitution and laws of the Philippines and Japan, the latter will prevail. Santiago had reported that Tokyo was receptive to the idea. But have both sides reached a formal understanding on the proposal?

Second, the deliberations on the 2008 national budget and other priority bills pushed the JPEPA into the sidelines. The Senate leadership has promised to focus on the treaty in the first quarter of this year, but it seems the senators are too preoccupied with the investigation into the national broadband controversy, forcing them to shove the JPEPA to the backseat.

Third, many of the senators are still groping in the dark about the contentious issues surrounding the treaty. Usually, they were nowhere to be found in the hearings on the accord because they were busy with work in materials on the treaty in the form of position papers by various individuals and organizations, as well as transcripts of committee hearings. The contents of these materials should be condensed or summarized into monographs or briefing papers for easy understanding by the lawmakers and even the general public. These materials should serve as a guide for providing basic information and addressing objections to the JPEPA, such as those pertaining to importation of toxic wastes, the hiring of Filipino health workers and other professionals by Japanese firms and the alleged grant of most favored nation treatment to Japanese investors.

In complex treaties such as the JPEPA, the information dissemination aspect is very indispensable for drumming up legislative and public support. Unfortunately, it is obvious that this aspect of the ratification process has been overlooked by the people concerned.

At a time of volatile world conditions due to creeping recession in the United States, the bilateral treaty is looked upon as one of the anchors needed by the Philippines to sustain economic stability and growth.

The Senate is called upon to act decisively on the treaty since, after all, the objections and misgivings of various sectors have been sufficiently answered and explained by the authorities.

For instance, on the allegation that the treaty would allow Japan to make the Philippines a dumping ground for toxic wastes, the Department of Trade and Industry sought to disprove this by citing pertinent provisions of the treaty. Article 27, Chapter 2 of the treaty provides: “The parties shall cooperate with each other on the utilization of appropriate mechanism on the conference with the importing party’s safety and environment standards.” It also states that “it is inappropriate to encourage investments... by relaxing environmental measures” and that “each party should not waive or otherwise derogative from such environmental measures” to encourage investments.

The treaty opens up new opportunities for Filipino professionals who wish to work in Japan, such as those in the legal, accounting and health services. The Philippine Nurses Association has been saying that our nurses will be reduced to mere nursing aides in Japan. But our labor officials point out that the nurses, as well as caregivers, hired by Japanese hospitals will be given salaries, allowances and other privileges legally prescribed in that country after a brief training period. Moreover, the Japanese government will shoulder the cost of teaching Nippongo at Japanese language learning center for the benefit of health workers bound for Japan.

As for the claim of the Fair Trade Alliance that the Philippine industries would be placed at a disadvantage with the expected influx of Japanese industrial goods, trade and industry officials say the local industries would in fact benefit from the treaty in the form of expanded exports of manufactured goods to Japan, including auto parts and electronics. Likewise, officials say the agriculture sector would be entitled to greater access to the huge Japanese market for their export products like fruits, vegetables and fish. Under the agreement, about 95 percent of our exports to Japan would be exempt from tariff duties.

The Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. says that with the treaty, the country “should be able to pursue particularly its economic initiatives with Japan, invite Japanese investments and facilitate technical assistance despite the relatively slower progress at the regional and multilateral negotiations.

While the fate of the agreement still hangs in the Senate, our Southeast Asian neighbors like Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia are already benefiting from expanded exports to Japan after ratifying their respective versions of the economic partnership treaty. The Philippines has already lost a lot in terms of additional export earnings, investment inflow and manpower placements as a consequence of the non-ratification of the JPEPA. It is an undeniable fact that the country cannot afford to be left behind because the resulting economic losses are too great to ignore.

Meanwhile, the government is preparing to implement a package of safety nets to mitigate the adverse consequences of JPEPA on certain industries and workers. Trade Secretary Peter Favila reveals that President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has already approved in principle the submission of a supplemental budget to Congress to finance the safety nets. Senator Edgardo Angara, who is instrumental in providing the safety nets, says the amount of the supplemental budget will range from P20 billion to P30 billion. But Senator Santiago says the amount may be lower.

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The Philippine Senate is a liability to the Filipino nation. It ought to be consigned to the history books. --Ed.