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The Philippines and KR big winners from China's slowdown but Fearing Investors for MARCOS Jr bid for 2016 Presidency

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 02:41

The Philippines and South Korea are the big winners from China's slowdown

How panicked were investors last week about China's stock market plunge? Enough to treat the Korean peninsula, a place that was teetering on the brink of war, as a safe haven.

Even as policy makers braced for renewed military confrontation between North and South Korea, the won staged a rally.

It may be time to start counting Korea as a developed nation, rather than an emerging market. 

That's made South Korean assets one of the few bright spots in a dark time for emerging markets. On August 24 alone, investors yanked $2.7 trillion out of developing nations, with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand especially hard hit. It matched the violent September 2008 selloff after Lehman Brothers collapsed.

Back then, Korea was battered so hard that pundits were calling it the "next Iceland" and the "Bear Stearns economy". Now, together with the Philippines, it's one of Asia's only refuges from chaos.

It's not hard to explain why many Asian economies are suffering from China's slowdown. Exporters of commodities, who depended on a humming Chinese market, have especially suffered. But why are there such big outliers among battered emerging markets?

Less like lemmings

The answer is that investors are finally basing their decisions less on herd mentality than nuanced, case-by-case analyses.

"Emerging market investors have become a lot savvier," says economist Frederic Neumann of HSBC in Hong Kong.

"Gone are the days where emerging markets were all lumped into one bucket. Today, countries with stronger fundamentals are able to resist the spread of contagion washing over global financial markets."

Along with South Korea and the Philippines, Neumann notes that even some frontier economies, like Vietnam, "have weathered global financial turmoil with apparent ease".

The common link among the success stories is they've got the basics right since Asia's 1997 financial meltdown. They have healthier financial systems, greater transparency, stronger banks, sober national balance sheets, and reasonable current-account deficits.

Malaysia's reckoning, by contrast, is long overdue.

The ringgit is trading near 17-year lows because scandal-plagued Prime Minister Najib Razak cares more about staying in power than modernising the country's unproductive economy.

Meanwhile, Thailand's military junta is undoing much of the progress Bangkok made since the late 1990s in strengthening the rule of law. And for all its gripes that Indonesia is being unfairly lumped in with Asia's laggards, President Joko Widodo's administration is rapidly losing the trust of investors.

While there's still time to win it back, Widodo's first 315 days in office have been a case study in timidity, drift and lost opportunities.

Korea credible

Korea, by contrast, is on the "more credible side of the spectrum," says economist Marc Chandler of Brown Brothers Harriman.

Even though China's downshift and US interest rate hikes will eventually make a dent, the won was Asia's top performer last week. Its 2.7 percent gain almost matched the drop in the Chinese yuan since August 11.

Meanwhile, Korean bond yields are falling. It turns out that the world's central banks had it right last year when they boosted their Korean debt holdings. In 2014, they made up 45.4 percent of the foreign-held portion of Korea Treasury bonds, up from 41.8 percent a year earlier.

It may be time to start counting Korea as a developed nation, rather than an emerging market. Korea still faces many challenges, not least of which are its rogue family-run conglomerates. But its macroeconomic performance deserves the recognition it's receiving from investors.

The same goes for the Philippines. Since 2010, President Benigno Aquino has steadily improved his nation's debt position (winning investment-grade ratings in the process), attacked graft and drawn in waves of foreign-direct investment.

Last month, reporters asked Philippine central bank governor Amando Tetangco if he's worried about the spectre of economic crisis haunting Asia at the moment.

"There's a herd mentality," he said, "but there'll be differentiation."

So far, he's been proven right. The country formerly derided as the "sick man of Asia" has been standing its ground amid market chaos.

Still risks

Risks abound, of course. While South Korea's economic fundamentals are stable – it's growing at a rate of 2.2 percent with a 3.7 percent jobless rate – its high household debt of $458 billion is a concern.

Manila, for its part, faces an uncertain 2016 election, in which Ferdinand Marcos Jr, son of the dictator who ravaged the nation in the 1970s and 1980s, may make a bid for the presidency. History has shown that emerging markets are often just one bad leader away from relapsing into chaos.

For now, the relative stability washing over Korea and the Philippines underscores that steady leadership and long-term thinking matter. It also shows that global investors are getting better at identifying those factors in Asia. - Bloomberg / The Sydney Morning Herald

Texas Instruments invests $10 million to expand Philippines facility

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 02:24

Texas Instruments is a world leading manufacturer of Integrated Circuits (IC) used for mobiles phones and other electronic gadgets. Image: dallasnews.com

Texas Instruments Inc. has confirmed that it’s investing $10 million to expand its product distribution center in Clark Freeport, the Philippines.

A groundbreaking ceremony took place there last week, according to news reports from the Philippines.

It’s part of an overall $1 billion TI said in 2007 that it would invest in its Clark Freeport facilities through 2017, but it has been increased to $1.3 billion, according to a company spokeswoman.

“Our current product distribution center is overflowing; we do not have enough space do an efficient job on distributing,” Mohammad Yunus, president of TI Philippines, told the Pampanga Sun Times in the Philippines. Last quarter, TI shipped 1.5 billion semiconductor units from the Clark Freeport facility and plans to ship 1.9 billion units this quarter, he said.

“We are currently looking on the 2 billion units which could be a new record for any Texas Instrument site anywhere in the world,” Yunus said in the Sun Times.

TI built its first assembly and test site in the Philippines in Baguio City in 1979. In 2009, it opened a second facility in the Clark Freeport Zone,  doubling the company’s capacity in the Philippines. - The Dallas Morning News

Philippine natural and organic products to be featured in Maryland, USA trade show September

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 02:00

Nine Philippine companies will be joining the Natural Products Expo East, the largest natural, organic, and healthy products event in the US East Coast, from September 17 to 19 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland. STAR/File photo

MANILA, Philippines — Nine Philippine companies will be joining the Natural Products Expo East, the largest natural, organic, and healthy products event in the US East Coast, from September 17 to 19 at the Baltimore Convention Center in Maryland.

The Philippine Department of Agriculture (DA) through the DA-Agribusiness and Marketing Assistance Service (AMAS) organized the following natural product exporters to participate in this event—Brandexports Philippines, Inc., Elemie Naturals Inc., GreenLife Coconut Products Philippines Inc., Nutramedica, Inc., Orich International Traders, Inc., Prime Fruits International, Incorporated, Sweet Pacific Foodfarms Product, Team Asia Corporation, and Tropicana Food Products Inc.

A variety of coconut products will be available to the American public such as coconut water, milk, milk powder, flour, cider vinegar, coconut nutraceutical products, desiccated coconut, coconut sugar, organic extra virgin coconut oil and virgin coconut oil beauty pearls. The coconut is known as the tree of life in the Philippines because of the seemingly endless list of products and by-products derived from all its parts.

Other Philippine products to be featured in the trade show are body products made from pili, handcrafted bath soaps, topical scalp products, vinegar, dried mangoes, noodles, juices and fruit juice drinks, camote (sweet potato) and banana chips, condiments and sauces.

Philippine Ambassador to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. expressed optimism in the growing share of the Philippines in the natural products market and encouraged US buyers to take advantage of the growing demand for such products.

“The Philippines has long been producing natural, organic, and healthy agricultural products as well as nutritionally-dense foods considered ‘superfoods’ abroad. The Natural Products Expo East is the perfect venue for sellers to bring their products to the attention of the US buyers. I am glad Philippine companies, with the help of the Department of Agriculture and our Agricultural Attaché, have penetrated this market. I hope more Philippine businesses will follow soon,” said Ambassador Cuisia.

The 2014 Market Overview of Natural Foods Merchandiser, a leading media source and information provider for the healthy products industry, showed that US nationwide sales of all natural and organic products jumped 9 percent to nearly $99 billion last year.

According to Philippine Agriculture Attaché to the US Dr. Josyline C. Javelosa, this has also led to a growth in the Natural Products Expo.

“More retail buyers are walking the show floor at Expo East than ever before, looking for the newest quality products to bring back to their stores,” Dr. Javelosa said.

The trade show will reportedly bring over 22,000 attendees and more than 1,800 exhibitors, with approximately 30 percent of those exhibiting for the first time and new to the marketplace, according to Natural Product Expo East.

This year, the expo will include for the first time a Farm-to-Market Tour where attendees will have the opportunity to visit some of Baltimore’s nearby farms and retail stores that source from them. - philSTAR

New Malware Breaks 'Impenetrable' Corporate Defenses, Strikes First In Philippines

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 01:40

Quick Heal Technologies has discovered a new form of malware that can bypass sandbox-based gateway appliances. Image: IB Times / Reuters

An antivirus firm has uncovered a new strain of malware that can break through highly secure enterprise networks. This malware is capable of getting past sandbox-based gateway appliances, sold by companies like Fireeye and Fortinet, to land in unsuspecting email inboxes. Its discovery by security firm Quick Heal Technologies is set to kickstart a cat-and-mouse game between appliance vendors and malware makers.

That's bad news for companies depending solely on these appliances to keep their network secure. These solutions can run up to $500,000, and have so far been impenetrable. Farokh Karani, a director at Quick Heal, explained that these appliances are a new trend in a world looking to find the one solution to all security problems. "The latest magic bullet being touted is these sandboxing appliances," he said.

These appliances run virtual machines (VMs) with a variety of different browsers, operating systems, and configurations. VMs are sometimes used by consumers with apps like Parallels to run Mac on Windows. In this situation, VMs are used when an email arrives at the company. The appliance executes the code in these VMs to make sure there's nothing nasty hiding inside.

This new malware, known as APT-QH-4AG15, was able to find its way around the appliance, and analysis reveals that it contained several schemes to get around virtual machines and sandboxes. The malware was first picked up in the Philippines, targeting local financial institutions, but Karani warns that all sandbox-based gateway appliances are effected.

"Our initial findings have taught us that even the most advanced sandbox-based appliance protection can be breached," said Sanjay Katkar, CTO at Quick Heal. "As a result, enterprises need to consider and implement multiple layers of protection to safeguard their networks."

Karani explained that antivirus software inside the network was able to detect the malware, but this spells trouble for companies depending on the appliances for their complete security solution. "It's the flaw in approach of sandboxed appliances, if you're taking it to be the magic bullet to stop all malware from coming in," said Karani.

The reason why these appliances have been secure until now, Karani said, is because malware makers weren't targeting them. Instead, developers focused on attacking traditional servers and PCs, bypassing regular antivirus software.

"The best defense is layers of robust protection – from the network to the endpoints and across all mobile devices, with continuous updates made to ensure that all levels of protection are current," said Karani.

The company's report reveals that the file creation date is just over 10 days old. That means the starting pistol has been fired, appliance developers will need to keep up to date, and the myth that these appliances are a "magic bullet" solution is now suspect. - International Business Times

Silverpack investing ₱500 Million for Philippine plant

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 01:05

In an interview, a Silverpack official said the company plans to conquer Southeast Asia over the next decade through aggressive expansion of its manufacturing facilities and sales office across the region. image: philSTAR

MANILA, Philippines - Multinational packaging firm Silverpack Sdn Bhd is looking to invest ₱500 million to put up its first manufacturing plant in the country in the next two to three years.

In an interview, a Silverpack official said the company plans to conquer Southeast Asia over the next decade through aggressive expansion of its manufacturing facilities and sales office across the region.

"Our plan is to set up manufacturing plants in Asean in 10 years' time. We already have a factory in Malaysia and China. We have sales offices in Singapore, Sri Lanka and Thailand. We also need to set up sales offices in the entire Southeast Asia," Silverpack regional sales director Jeffrey Ng said.

In the Philippines, Ng said the company intends to gather a sizable market share initially before putting up a manufacturing plant in two to three years.

Ng said Silverpack is currently in talks with large food manufacturing companies in the Philippines for the export of its products.

"We are expanding because companies are also expanding. When they do well, we will do well as well," he said.

Silverpack's clients in Philippines are still mostly small and medium enterprises which import about ₱3 million to ₱4 million worth of products a month.

The company is looking to tap large Filipino conglomerates which invest in their own packaging plants for their businesses.

Ng said a candy manufacturer, for instance, spends 10 percent of its total cost for packaging alone while a high value goods manufacturer spends five to seven percent.

Silverpack's packaging materials are used by a wide range of food industries such as coffee, tea, confectionery, milk products, snacks, biscuits, instant food items, oil, seafood, pet food, sweets, jelly top seal, fruit drinks, personal care series, and moon cakes.

The Embassy of Malaysia Trade Office (Matrade) Manila said Silverpack is among the top five packaging companies in Malaysia at present.

Matrade commissioner Nyaee Ayup said Silverpack's expertise in packaging would help support a wide range of food industries in the Philippines.

"Instead of setting up their own packaging division, the food manufacturers in the Philippines can focus on their main line of business, if they will tap Silverpack for their packaging needs," Ayup said. - With Pia Lee Brago @philSTAR

Lakers News: Jordan Clarkson Will Not Play For The Philippines

Wed, 09/02/2015 - 00:40

Jordan Clarkson, a Filipino-American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers. image: turner.com

There’s been a lot of talk over the summer about second-year guard Jordan Clarkson, a Filipino-American professional basketball player who currently plays for the Los Angeles Lakers of the National Basketball Association for potentially playing for the Philippines' national team. Clarkson has expressed an interest in representing his country, but didn’t want it interfering with his commitment to the Los Angeles Lakers.

According to The Philippine Star, Clarkson will not be playing for the national team at this point in time because of his current commitment:

            "In an email to US-based Philstar.com contributor Homer Sayson, Mike Clarkson, Jordan’s father, cited timing as a factor in his son’s decision to pass on the  chance to don the           country’s colors, emphasizing Jordan’s  current commitment  with the Lakers in the NBA. Jordan is in town and has  started working out with the nationals."

Clarkson was initially put on the 24-man preliminary roster for the Filipino squad after being deemed eligible as a natural-born player earlier this month, via Naveen Ganglani of Rappler:

            "The state of the Philippine national basketball team took an unexpected turn on  Monday, August 24, when it was revealed that Los Angeles Lakers guard Jordan  Clarkson actually       acquired a Philippine passport before turning 16-years-old, making him eligible to suit up for Gilas Pilipinas."

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas Director Sonny Barrios told Rappler on Monday in a phone call that reports of Clarkson’s eligibility to play as a “natural born” Filipino player were true.

With Clarkson not playing for the Philippines in international competition this summer, the up-and-comer will get back to focusing on being ready for training camp with the Lakers. The NBA preseason won’t get underway for the Lakers until Oct. 4 against the Utah Jazz in Honolulu, Hawaii. Training camp should get started during the final week of September.

Clarkson will join D’Angelo Russell and Julius Randle as the focal point on a talented young squad with a lot of prove during the upcoming season. Kobe Bryant will lead the pack as usual along with veterans newcomers Lou Williams, Brandon Bass and Roy Hibbert.- Lakers Nation

#AkoSiDaniel Campaign Aims to Empower Children in the Philippines Through Education

Tue, 09/01/2015 - 20:06
#AkoSiDaniel Campaign Aims to Empower Children in the Philippines Through EducationAs another academic year gets into full swing in many countries in the Northern Hemisphere and some parts of the Southern Hemisphere, so too does an education campaign called #AkoSiDaniel in the Philippines. With the aim of getting 1.2 million primary-age out-of-school children in the country into schools and learning, the cause is making headlines with the support of local and international youth leaders, nonprofit organizations, and celebrities united to bring hope to young Filipinos living in poverty.Inspired by nine-year old Daniel Cabrera of Cebu and the global Up For School movement, #AkoSiDaniel, meaning "I am Daniel," was launched in July 2015 by The Philippines Foundation in partnership with international initiative A World at School and American crowdfunding company Crowdrise.A few weeks before, the photo of Daniel studying on a makeshift desk by a McDonald's underneath a lamp post went viral, drawing the attention of online and on-the-ground communities who mobilized to support him and his mother. As a result of their collaboration, they raised over 230,000 Philippine pesos, equivalent to approximately 5,300 U.S. dollars, as well as scholarships that will be financial assistance for his living expenses and schooling.In the spirit of their crowdfunding project, #AkoSiDaniel is anchored to a digital platform, AkoSiDaniel.org. Through this microsite, people across the world can sign the Up For School Philippines petition and donate to The Philippines Foundation, which will support programs devoted to increasing access to quality education for children in the Philippines. At a forum this past May 2015, Min Jeong Kim, Head of the Global Education First Initiative Secretariat, stressed the importance of innovative funding to education. Therefore, partnerships such as AkoSiDaniel.org are imperative for making a positive difference in the lives of youth like Daniel, because, unfortunately, Daniel's plight is only one among many. In the Philippines, poverty, natural disasters, conflict, and shortages in education resources hinder children and their family from pursuing and persisting in school.These challenges have placed the Philippines on a list of nations yet to achieve United Nations Millennium Development Goal 2, which, in 2000, set a global mission to achieve universal primary education by the end of 2015. Today, there are around 59 million primary-age children who are unable to realize their potential through education. As a result, governments have been mobilizing talent and treasure to set an agenda that will afford their young populations an education.To this end, the Philippine government released its own framework for action to accelerate and sustain its efforts in expanding access to primary schooling, in time for approval of the Sustainable Development Goals at the upcoming United Nations Summit in late September 2015, which will call for inclusive and equitable quality education and lifelong learning opportunities for all.With only a month left until the historic conference, #AkoSiDaniel joins the global Up For School coalition bringing hope to children living in difficult conditions, deprived of pencils, books, teachers, and schools. Supporters and strangers alike can join in solidarity by going to AkoSiDaniel.org, signing the petition, donating, and raising awareness among family and friends on social media and in-person. Now is the time to empower current and future generations through education.Benedict Joson is A World at School Global Youth Ambassador for education supporting The Philippines Foundation and #AkoSiDaniel campaign. - Huffing post

Ozu Ong, Famous Masculado Dos Performer shot dead after his Bar Performance in QC, Philippines

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 14:16

‘Masculados Dos’ member slain by carjackers may have known assailants—PNP

A member of the all-male group Masculados Dos who was shot dead in a carjacking incident in Angono, Rizal early on Sunday might have known his assailants, police said.

Marcelo “Ozu” de Guzman Ong II, 30, was dead on arrival in the hospital, after he was shot at around 3:45 a.m.  Sunday (August 2, 2014)

Ong had come from a performance in bar in Quezon City and was about 25 meters from the gates of their subdivision, Primrose Hills, in Barangay (village) Mahabang Parang when the incident happened.

The assailants, on board a car, then took away Ong’s Toyota Hilux with plate number AAO2272.

Superintendent Lucilo Laguna Jr., Angono police chief, said in a phone interview that Ong “must have known his assailants.”

This, he said, was based on a witness’ account who said that Ong had gotten out of his vehicle and had briefly spoken with one of the suspects before the shooting took place.

“There were at least two suspects — the one who shot the victim and another who drove the victim’s vehicle,” Laguna said.

He said they were looking into Ong’s job, which includes “performing in bars.”

Laguna said investigators have spoken to Ong’s live-in partner, Kysillin delos Santos, 28, and she told them that Ong had no known enemy.

According to Laguna, Ong left behind three young children with Delos Santos.

Earlier Sunday, Maryo J. Delos Reyes, manager of Masculados, announced the untimely death of Ong.

“It is in grief and great sadness that we announce the demise of one of our premium artists…,” the Delos Reyes said in a statement.

“His relatives, friends and brothers at Productions 56 are requesting for prayers for the eternal repose of his soul,” he said. “We shall surely miss his very energetic performances…

Ozu Ong's remain is at the Lazarus Chapel B, Transfiguration of Christ Parish Church Columbarium, of Manuel L. Quezon Ext., Antipolo City.” –Maricar Cinco, With a report from Bayani San Diego Jr., Philippine Daily Inquirer and other sources

Photos of the late Ozu Ong

(Grabbed from his Facebook account and Masculados Dos FB Page)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Gilas Pilipinas Philippines' National Basketball team pool announced

Wed, 08/05/2015 - 01:47

Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, Terrence Romeo, and Calvin Abueva are four of the 16 PBA players part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool.

Gilas Pilipinas pool announced

Jayson Castro, Ranidel de Ocampo, Terrence Romeo, and Calvin Abueva are four of the 16 PBA players part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool.

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — The national team pool was finally announced.

A list of 16 players from the Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) were named part of the Gilas Pilipinas pool that will compete in the FIBA Asia Championship in China from September 23 to October 3, according to a post on the PBA's official Twitter account Monday (August 3).

The players Baldwin requested from the PBA are:

Earlier reports said that Tenorio (health concerns), Fajardo (injury), and Pingris (personal matters) won't likely be part of the Gilas pool but the three remained on Baldwin's PBA wishlist.

Baldwin had expressed that the pool is a "working list."

Naturalized Filipino Andray Blatche, who suited up for Gilas in the FIBA World Cup last year, was not part of the list but is expected to be included in the final lineup.

Also missing is Troy Rosario, a Gilas Cadet and one of the top prospects in the upcoming PBA draft.

The journey before FIBA Asia

Baldwin, whose only goal is “to win the gold,” earlier stated that the pool will embark possibly to Turkey or Lithuania for a three-week training camp.

The national team is also slated to compete in a four-nation tournament in Manila in September as part of their preparation for the biennial tournament.

The other participating teams, aside from the Philippines, are New Zealand, Lebanon, and Chinese Taipei.

The competition

The winner of the FIBA Asia Championship will qualify for the 2016 Summer Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.

The silver and bronze medalists, meanwhile, will have to go through the FIBA World Olympic Qualifying Tournament.

The Philippines is bracketed in Group B with Palestine, Kuwait, and East Asian champion (Hong Kong or Mongolia).

Defending champion Iran was put in Group A with Japan, Malaysia, and the South Asia qualifier, while Group C will make up of Korea, Jordan, Singapore, and China.

Chinese Taipei, Lebanon, Qatar, and Kazakhstan are in Group D. - CNN Philippines

World-renowned economist Jeffrey Sachs: Philippines has much to teach world

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 19:28

LAUNCHING. Jeffrey Sachs, who serves as the director of both SDSN and the Earth Institute, launches SDSN's local chapter alongside NEDA Director General Arsenio Balisacan. Photos by Chris Schnabel / Rappler

Jeffrey Sachs: Philippines has much to teach world

The country should be a world leader in sustainable development, says the renowned US economist

MANILA, Philippines – World-renowned economist and bestselling author Dr Jeffrey Sachs wants the Philippines to be one of the world's leaders for sustainable development.

"The country has much to offer, so much to teach the world, and so much to benefit from,” said Sachs, who is in the country to formally launch the Sustainable Development Solutions Network Philippines (SDSN Philippines), alongside National and Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan on Monday, August 3.

In his public lecture Monday titled "The Age of Sustainable Development,” which is also the title of his newest book, he gave a context of the SDSN Philippines and the challenge it faces.

The local chapter will have the responsibility of pulling the country’s leading thinkers to work side by side with NEDA, universities, political and business leaders, and communities to find paths to sustainable development in this country, he explained.

It also comes at a time of optimism in the country and that will be helpful, he added.

Sustainable Development Goals

SDSN Philippines is the local chapter of the United Nations SDSN Network established by UN Secretary Ban Ki-Moon in 2012.

Directed by Sachs, the SDSN’s aim is to help find concrete solutions to some of the world’s most pressing environmental, social, and economic problems to achieve sustainable development.

To achieve this, the SDSN network has set another series of goals called the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). These new goals will formally succeed the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) in September of this year.

LECTURING. Jeffrey Sachs details the Social Development Goals and the challenges that the global community faces in achieving them to an audience of Philippine stakeholders.

Like MDGs, SDGs are a set of goals covering social, economic, and environmental issues spread by the UN for states and international bodies to use in planning and implementing development policy.

Their exact wording was finalized by the UN general assembly Monday.

This time the goal is to end all poverty, not just cut it in half, by 2030, Sachs said.

Unlike MDGs, Sachs explained, SDGs are universal and will need to be adopted by rich and poor countries alike.

They call on all countries to stop the dominant pattern of focusing only on the economic bottom line but to take development in a holistic manner.

Change direction

“It can’t be business as usual. It’s no longer enough to just achieve economic development. We need a change of direction,” Sachs said.

The focus is on pursuing economic development that is also socially inclusive and environmental friendly, he added.

The SDGs also put forward a shared vision of how international leaders want to see the world to be in 2030.

Education is also a huge agenda, one that will be spread over 15 years with a global knowledge base as its core, Sachs said.

Universities, research laboratories, and think tanks are the core of the SDSN, although it partners with business, government, and civil society, he said.

The idea is to think of how the world is going to do this because the scale of the challenge requires new ways of thinking, technology, and training, Sachs explained.

Universities' role

This, he shared, is why universities should play a leadership role in the project.

Educational institutions are incubators of innovation and have the ability to create solutions of a global scale – which is what's needed to solve big problems such as poverty and climate change, according to Sachs.

Sachs cited as examples the economic emergence of South Korea, which focused on a knowledge-based economy, and the creation of the Silicon Valley ecosystem in the US – both of which scaled using innovation.

Transforming the local economy into a knowledge-based one is a key step for the Philippines and other developing nations toward sustainable development, Sachs said.

FEEDBACK. Sachs, alongside Balisacan and former NEDA Director General professor Solita Monsod listen to reactions from stakeholder groups on Sustainable Development Goals.

Lessons from MDGs

With the SDGs, the Philippines needs to learn lessons from implementation of the previous MDGs, Balisacan said.

The Philippines has seen mixed results with the MDGs, with the country fulfilling targets related to universal primary education; lowering infant mortality; reducing malaria incidence; and enhancing clean water access for households, among others.

The country is not on track to meet goals for maternal mortality, AIDS/HIV prevention, reproductive health access, and completion rates for elementary schools.

"Putting timelines in place as we move to 2030, and being more conscious about assigning responsibility especially in government and the academe are some of the things we need to improve on," he explained.

Political will must also be mustered to push through institutional changes needed.

Above all, more financing for sustainable development should be planned and organized, especially in innovation through more funding for universities and research & development centers, Balisacan added.

The tasks are enormous and so are the challenges, he explained.

“The good thing is now that the economy is in good shape, we no longer have an excuse to not invest in sustainable development," Balisacan said. – Rappler.com

Philippines is the world's "most social nation" - software Opera Mini

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 18:45

This file photo shows the Facebook app icon on an iPhone. Facebook remains the most used social media site among American teens ages 13 to 17, according to a 2014 study from Pew Research Center. And, surprisingly, boys visit the site more often than girls. Aided hugely by smartphones and other mobile devices, 71 percent of teens surveyed said they use Facebook, with the same percentage saying they use more than one social network of seven options they were asked about. AP

PH ‘most social nation’–report

The Philippines is the world’s “most social nation” based on social media activity of Internet users, a report by software Opera Mini said on Thursday.

In its State of the Mobile Web Report, the browser software said Internet users in the Philippines have the highest social media activity worldwide.

“The Philippines used to be known as the text messaging capital of the world. Now, with easier Internet access and higher smartphone adoption, our findings indicate that the country has transformed into the most social nation,” the report said.

Opera Mini said social networking sites accounted for 86 percent of page views from its mobile browser users in the Philippines—the highest percentage among 50 countries.

The report attributed the growing social media activity in the country to the popularity of smartphones, saying half of Filipino mobile Web users use smartphones in surfing the Internet.

“With the unstoppable adoption of smartphones, people are spending more time accessing the Web on their mobile devices,” the report said. “The smartphone adoption rate in this country has grown from 41 percent to 55 percent over the past year.”

The browser software ranked Facebook, Google and YouTube as the top three most visited sites in the Philippines. Wikipedia, Yahoo, Twitter, Tumblr and WordPress also cracked the top 10.

The report also noted that local smartphone brands have been catching up with international brands in terms of consumer usage, increasing their share in the mobile phone market in the Philippines.

“A breakdown of the top 100 mobile devices preferred by Opera Mini users shows that Cherry Mobile has overtaken Samsung, with a 27 percent market share. Another local brand, MyPhone, has 8 percent,” it said. “The total market share of these two local smartphone brands is 35 percent, higher than Nokia’s 31 percent.” - INQUIRER

Philippine karate team brings home 4 golds from Thailand Open

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 18:17

MEDALLISTS. Members of the Philippine team proudly show their medals. Photo courtesy of Reymund Lee Reyes

PH team reaps medals at Thailand Karate Open

The Philippine karatekas, who competed against 600 athletes from 30 other countries, win a total of 4 gold, 8 silver, and 12 bronze medals

PH TEAM. The 50-member delegations pulls off a good performance at the Thailand Karate Open held in Bangkok from July 26-30, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reymund Lee Reyes

MANILA, Philippines – Philippine karatekas reaped medals at the Thailand Karate Open Championship held from July 26 to 30 at the Huamark Indoor Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

The Philippine karatekas, who competed against 600 athletes from 30 other countries, won a total of 4 gold, 8 silver, and 12 bronze medals.

David Lay of the Karate Development Art and Sports (KDA) said that the competition provided a good exposure for the young atheletes.

It was only the Philippines' second participation in the competition after 2007."Going to play abroad is always educational for these kids. They get a lot of benefits, learning experiences and at the same time, at a tender age, they are given the opportunity to play for the country, one way to teach patriotism to them," Lay said.

The delegation was led by Alejandro Enrico Vasquez, with team manager Raymund Lee Reyes. The head coaches are Ali Parvinfar and David Lay, and the delegation's referees, Rommel Raymund, Jonnie Ocular and Ramon Franco.

The 50-member delegation was composed of karatekas from the Philippine Karate-do Team (Typhoons), KDA, Wado-ryu Club, Japan Shotokan Karate Association, Ryo Shotokan Karate Club, Philippine Karatedo Traditional and Sports Association, Maharlika Karate-do Kai of the Philippines International, and the Advocacy for the Strengthening of Karatedo.

PH TEAM. The 50-member delegations pulls off a good performance at the Thailand Karate Open held in Bangkok from July 26-30, 2015. Photo courtesy of Reymund Lee Reyes

The medalists are the following:

Gold

·         Chole Bernadette Limson

·         Lance Gabriel Villafane

·         Jaspher Fontillas

·         Mae Soriano

Silver

·         Chole Bernadette Limson

·         Marvin Pinpin

·         Jaime Villegas

·         Czarina Napa

·         Mark Andrei Barrientos

·         Randy Padua

·         Narayana Mesina

·         OJ delos Santos

Bronze

·         John Enrico Vasquez

·         Ivanna Cablao

·         Timothy Yu

·         Lopez River

·         Gian Valencia

·         Chris Kawaen

·         Joco Vasquez

·         Gilbert Arellano

·         Angeligue Aguilar

·         Alexis Nunez

·         Rita Cuadra

·         Joanna Ylanan

source :Rappler.com

Philippines confirmed buying SKR/ Japan made diesel powered Submarine- For the first time

Tue, 08/04/2015 - 16:49

Philippines is interested in acquiring Diesel submarines based on technology from the Japan Maritime Self-Defense Force's Soryu-class vessel. image:asia.nikkei.com

Philippines to buy submarines and advanced missile systems for the first time

This will ensure strength in the South China Sea

Manila: For the first time, the Philippines will buy electric and diesel-run submarines, including advanced missile systems, as listed in its $22.11 billion (998 billion pesos or Dh83.166 billion) modernization plan that was approved in July, to ensure its strength against China, Taiwan, Vietnam, Brunei, and Malaysia which have overlapping claims in the South China Sea, sources said.

“The Philippine Navy will buy several submarines and missile systems in the next five years from private manufacturing firms either from South Korea or Japan,” a military source who requested anonymity told Gulf News.

“The ambitious purchase was scheduled after the Philippine economy grew, received good ratings from rating agencies, and allowed borrowing for expensive war materials, but the Philippines could not yet match China’s 26 submarines,” said the same source.

In 2013, the Philippine Navy bought two 1.400 tons Incheon-class frigates (also called Future Frigate experimental or FFX), manufactured by South Korea’s Hyundai Heavy Industries and STX Offshore and Shipbuilding for $400 million (18 billion pesos or Dh1.5 billion); two strategic sealift vessels or floating command centers which can transport three helicopters per vessel, soldiers, and supplies at sea, from Indonesia’s PT PAL (Persero) for $85.7 million (3.86 billion pesos or Dh321.6 million). The new frigates and sealift vessels will arrive in the Philippines at the end of 2015 or early 2016, President Benigno Aquino announced recently.

It is widely reported that the Philippine Navy is manned by three US-made refurbished frigates: BRP Tagbanua; BRP Gregorio del Pilar and BRP Ramon Alcaraz, but Japan’s defense ministry said the Philippine Navy has 80 warships; China, 892; Malaysia, 208; and Vietnam, 94.

The Philippine Coast Guard also bought 10 40-metre-long multi-purpose response vessels (MRRV) from Japan in late 2013 for $184 million (8.09 billion pesos or Dh674.6 million), in a loan forged with Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in 2014. They will augment the Coast Guard’s 19 rescue vessels, when they arrive in the Philippines at the end of 2015, sources said.

The Coast Guard secured a $20 million (900 million pesos or Dh75 million) loan from the United States’ Defense Threat Reduction Agency (it has a maritime security project with the US’ Weapons for Mass Destruction Proliferation Prevention Program) for three aerial surveillance radars, two surface sensors and three surveillance planes for the Philippine Coast Guard National Coast Watch Centre in northern Luzon and southwest Philippines.

Recently, the Philippine Air Force bought 12 new FA-50 fighter-trainers made by Korea Aerospace Industries. six Close Air Support Aircraft; seven of 13 AW-109 helicopters; and six of eight Bell-412 combat utility helicopters made by Korea Aerospace Industries. The two fighters will arrive in December 2015 or early 2016, and the rest in 2017.

Japan’s defense ministry said the Philippines has a total of 26 combat aircraft, compared with China’s 2,582 combat aircraft.

The Philippine government also allotted $22 million (1 billion pesos or Dh83.33 million) for the development of three new naval bases that will protect its 36,000 kilometer coastline facing the South China Sea.

In 1995, Congress approved an $8.08 billion (364 billion pesos or Dh30.3 billion) military modernization plan for 15 years. But only 10 per cent of the approved budget was secured by a loan 15 years later, in 2010, the budget department said.

China, Taiwan, and Vietnam claim the whole of the South China Sea and several parts of the oil-rich Spratly Archipelago. Brunei, Malaysia, and the Philippines claim their respective exclusive economic zones in the South China Sea and parts of the Spratly Archipelago. - Gulf News

PHOTOS: Philippines challenges China's Claim of West Philippine Sea at UNCLOS Tribunal in The Hague

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 13:54

Philippines challenges China's Claim of country's exclusive economic zone at UNCLOS Tribunal in The Hague. image: inquirer.net

IN PHOTOS: Philippines challenges China in The Hague

In photos emailed to Rappler, the Permanent Court of Arbitration gives us a glimpse of the closed-door hearings pitting Manila against Beijing

MANILA, Philippines – Behind closed doors, the Philippines recently waged a legal battle against China in The Hague, Netherlands, in a historic case over the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Philippines on Thursday, July 23, is set to submit a new document to The Hague to bolster its case.

While Manila pursues this, a question remains: What exactly happened during hearings from July 7 to 13?

The Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague, which serves as the venue for the arbitration proceedings, emailed Rappler high-resolution photos to give us a glimpse of the closed-door hearings.

China claimed the shores of Vietnam, Philippines, Malaysia, Indonesia, Brunei and Japan as their own

The photos show a powerhouse team, led by internationally acclaimed lawyer Paul Reichler, defending the Philippines' case before an equally high-caliber arbitral tribunal in The Hague.

The tribunal said around 60 members joined the Philippine team. (READ: Binay hits Philippine team vs China in The Hague))

Check out these photos from the Permanent Court of Arbitration (PCA) in The Hague.

TOP DIPLOMAT. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario delivers an opening statement. Photo courtesy of PCA

IN SESSION. Early on, the arbitral tribunal in The Hague decides to hold the hearings behind closed doors. Photo courtesy of PCA

TOP GOVERNMENT LAWYER. Philippine Solicitor General Florin Hilbay, who serves as agent for his country, delivers a statement. Photo courtesy of PCA

TEAM OF EXPERTS. The counsel team for the Philippines, including Professor Bernard Oxman, Professor Alan Boyle, and Mr Lawrence Martin, in the closed-door hearings. Photo courtesy of PCA

HISTORIC CASE. The arbitral tribunal in The Hague, Netherlands, listens to the first country that brought China to court over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). Photo courtesy of PCA

'GIANT SLAYER.' Internationally acclaimed lawyer Paul Reichler, the Philippines' chief counsel, delivers a statement. Photo courtesy of PCA

REPRESENTING GOVERNMENT. Members of the Philippine delegation, including Justice Secretary Leila de Lima, Supreme Court Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, and Deputy Executive Secretary for Legal Affairs Menardo Guevarra. Photo courtesy of PCA

OBSERVER DELEGATIONS. The tribunal allowed observers from the following countries – Vietnam, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, and Japan – to attend the hearings. Photo courtesy of PCA

HIGH-CALIBER TRIBUNAL. The arbitral tribunal is led by Judge Thomas Mensah (president, C), the first president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea. The high-caliber tribunal also includes the following (L to R): Judge Jean-Pierre Cot, Judge Stanislaw Pawlak, Judge Rüdiger Wolfrum, and Professor Alfred H. A. Soons. Photo courtesy of PCA

TEAM PHILIPPINES. Representing all 3 branches of Philippine government, the Philippine delegation comes in full force in The Hague. Photo courtesy of PCA

The 5-member tribunal said it "now enters its deliberations" on whether it has the right to hear the Philippines' case. It said it expects to rule on this matter "before the end of the year."

The tribunal said it "is conscious of its duty under the Rules of Procedure to conduct proceedings 'to avoid unnecessary delay and expense and to provide a fair and efficient process.'"

Once the tribunal decides it has jurisdiction over the case, the Philippines can already present the meat of its arguments. (READ: EXPLAINER: Philippines' 5 arguments vs China)

The Philippines said it expects a definitive ruling against China by 2016 – Rappler.com

Philippine Azkals would take full advantage of three more home games to match in FIFA World Cup qualifier

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 01:31

The Philippine Azkals have scored the maximum six points from two matches. image: spin.ph

Azkals play 3 more home matches in FIFA World Cup qualifier

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippine national football team is scheduled to play only three more games in the country in the ongoing qualifiers for the 2018 FIFA World Cup as the rest of its matches will be held outside the Philippines.

“Let’s take advantage of the hometown matches by watching the Azkals play in person. The Azkals will be playing for the country’s honor. The fans’ support will count a lot,” Team Manager Dan Palami said.

The next Azkals game is scheduled on September 8 against a tough Uzbekistan squad at the spanking Philippine Sports Stadium in Bocaue, Bulacan.

Kickoff time is at 8 p.m.

Palami said playing before a home crowd will be motivating for the Azkals, especially if the players see the all-out support of fans turning up in droves for the games.

“We are fortunate to see our Azkals playing more home games, unlike in the 2011 qualifiers where they had only two home games,” he said.

For the ongoing World Cup qualifiers, the Azkals were lined up to play four games in the Philippines -- with the first game already held last June 11 against Bahrain at the Philippine Sports Stadium -- and another four games outside the country under a round robin format. The first home away game of the Azkals happened last June 17 in Doha, Qatar, when it trounced Yemen, 2-0.

After the September 8 game against Uzbekistan, the next Azkals matches in the country are on November 12, 2015, against Yemen and on March 29 next year against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), both at the Philippine Sports Stadium.

The rest of the Azkals games scheduled outside of the country are on October 8, 2015, against the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea in Pyongyang; on October 13, 2015, against Bahrain in Manama, and on March 24 next year against Uzbekistan in Tashkent.

There are eight groups with five teams each. The top team in each group plus the four second-best teams to be determined by goal difference across all groups will advance to the next round. The Philippines, Uzbekistan, People’s Republic of Korea, Bahrain, and Yemen are in Group H.

The 12 teams will compete in the 2016 qualifiers, which will determine the final group for the World Cup in 2018 to be held in Russia. The 12 teams will also automatically qualify for the 2019 Asian Cup.

“Our ultimate goal is to play in the World Cup, the most followed sporting event worldwide and which is every nation’s dream,” Palami said.

Tickets for the Azkals vs. Uzbekistan game to be held at the Philippine Sports Stadium on September 8, 2015 are now available at www.ticketworld.com.ph.  Tickets are at P531.80 for Price Zone 1, P331.14 for Price Zone 2 and P125.40 for Price Zone 3. - Philstar

Globe in ₱1.83-B buyout deal for Bayantel stake

Thu, 07/23/2015 - 00:16

Globe takes over Bayantel. image: Business World Online

GLOBE Telecom, Inc. has reached a buy-out deal worth 1.83 billion with the Lopez group that will give the Ayala-led company full control of cash-strapped Bayan Telecommunications, Inc.

The move is seen to help Bayantel completely get out of the doldrums by 2023.

"Globe Telecom, Inc. has agreed to purchase from Bayan Telecommunications Holdings, Corporation (BTHC) and Lopez Holdings, Corporation (LHC) all the equity in the capital stock of Bayan Telecommunications, Inc. that is held by BTHC and LHC, valued at approximately ₱1.83 Billion Php," Globe said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday.

Globe will boost its control over Bayantel to 98.57% from 56.87%, through a debt-to-equity conversion scheme involving up to 70.76 million shares. The transaction is under Bayantel's rehabilitation plan and was approved by the National Telecommunications Commission on July 2.

Globe already acquired a 38% interest in Bayantel in October 2013 after the Pasig City Regional Trial Court Branch 158 approved the amended rehabilitation plan jointly filed by the companies, where Globe converted Bayantel's debt into common shares, according to the listed telecommunication firm's 2014 annual report.

Globe, as a principal creditor, had planned to further convert a portion of the $423.3-million debt, so it can hike its stake to as high as 56.6%.

"The debt-to-equity conversion transaction between Globe and Bayan will precisely enable the latter's continued viability as a service provider, allowing it to exit rehabilitation and enhance its current service offering to the public," Globe's General Legal Counsel Froilan M. Castelo had said in a July 3 mobile phone reply.

"Globe will certainly add value to Bayantel, bringing financial and technical support and synergies, as well as experience and our own culture of innovation," he added.

Globe had said it can address "increasing demand" for voice, short message, and mobile data services through the joint use of frequencies originally assigned to Bayantel. In return, Bayantel would be able to offer mobile telecommunications.

Globe shares added ₱16 or 0.63% to close at ₱2,544 apiece on Tuesday. - Business World Online

Injured Van Opstal forgoes final year in UAAP, eyes PBA stint

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 22:08

Arnold Van Opstal. image: spin.ph

De La Salle University’s Arnold Van Opstal will forego his final playing year in the UAAP.

The Filipino-German center on Wednesday announced his decision on his Instagram account accompanied by a photo of him and teammate Jason Perkins celebrating the Green Archers’ championship in Season 76.

“It pains me to announce that after 4 of the best years of my life, my career in La Salle is coming to an end,” Van Opstal wrote.

Van Opstal said an Achilles injury forced him to sit out his last year.

Screengrab from Arnold Van Opstal’s Instagram account.image: Inquirer.net

“I am sitting out for the season for the benefit of my basketball career, as I have been suffering from an ongoing Achilles injury, which has never had the time to fully heal.”

The 6-foot-9 Van Opstal also vowed to be better than ever and with his collegiate career done, he now has his sights set on playing professionally.

“I hope that you all will continue to support me, as I am DETERMINED to come back stronger, faster and better to tackle my next frontier, the PBA,” his post read. “This is not the end but only the beginning.”

Entering the PBA Draft, which is slated next month, looms as an option for Van Opstal where he will be joining fellow Green Archers Norbert Torres and Almond Vosotros – beefing up an already solid class headlined by Fil-Tongan Moala Tautuaa and National University star Troy Rosario.

Van Opstal, who averaged 7.5 points and 7.5 rebounds last season, also took the time to look back on the many years he spent wearing La Salle’s colors.

“It’s impossible to put into words how much this team means to me and how transformative this experience has been,” he said. “From La Salle Zobel to DLSU, I was raised green and will forever be grateful. No one can ever take away the moments we shared as one family, one Animo, one La Salle.” CFC - INQUIRER

Singer Chris Brown barred from leaving Philippines amid contract dispute

Wed, 07/22/2015 - 21:54

Singer Chris Brown is shown at a party on April 10 in Bermuda Dunes, California. image: CNN

Manila, Philippines (CNN)Award-winning U.S. singer Chris Brown has been barred from leaving the Philippines because of a contract dispute, the official Philippines News Agency reported Wednesday.

Brown was stopped Wednesday morning while preparing to depart on a private jet from Manila's international airport on his way to Hong Kong for a concert, the news agency said.

The Philippine Department of Justice said that an order had been issued Tuesday night to stop any attempts by Brown, 26, to leave the country.

Brown performed a concert that evening as planned, but the order was put in place to compel him to pay back money that promoters said was owed to them after he failed to appear for a previous appearance scheduled for last New Year's Eve.

That concert was supposed to take place at the Philippine Arena in Bulacan, north of Manila.

The Bureau of Immigration said Brown and his promoter John Michael Pio Roda were both subject to an immigration lookout bulletin, but they could seek a clearance certificate that could allow them to leave if the Department of Justice consented.

It's not the first time that the chart-topping star has run into trouble with authorities.

A few months after Billboard named him Artist of the Year, Brown assaulted his then-girlfriend Rihanna -- another popular singer -- inside a rented Lamborghini on the eve of the Grammy Awards in February 2009. He pleaded guilty that June to one felony assault count, after which he was put on probation for five years, ordered to serve 180 days of labor-oriented service and made to take a yearlong domestic violence class.

He made a public apology but didn't stay out of trouble. In 2012, he had an altercation with rapper Drake at a New York club. The next year, a woman accused Brown of shoving her at a club in Anaheim, California, bringing an assault and battery claim; he was accused of committing a hit-and-run in Los Angeles; and he was accused of felony assault after an incident outside a W Hotel in Washington.

Those incidents added up, along with a positive marijuana test and prosecutors' claim that Brown didn't finish his court-mandated community labor. He entered rehab in 2013 to "gain insight into his past and recent behavior," his representative said, only to get kicked out of the facility for smashing his mother's car window during a family session, according to his probation officer.

Brown entered another rehab facility, only to leave in 2014. He was then taken into custody by Los Angeles County sheriff's deputies after a judge revoked his probation. He was released from jail in June 2014.

Last week, the artist was the apparent victim of crime after armed intruders burst into his Southern California home and locked his aunt in a closet, according to police. - CNN

Journalist Arlene Espiritu reported from Manila and Merieme Arif from Atlanta, while Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London. CNN's Greg Botelho contributed to this report.

Philippines Budget Surplus expanded to ₱67.3 Billion Php in May 2015

Tue, 07/21/2015 - 00:16

PHL budget surplus widens nearly 6 times in May

More Amid the pressing need to boost public spending to pump-prime the economy, government revenues continued to outpace expenditures for the second month this year.

The budget surplus expanded by almost six times to ₱67.3 billion Php in May from ₱11.8 billion Php a year earlier, figures released by the Department of Finance (DOF) on Monday showed. 

The amount widens the ₱52.6 billion Php surplus reported in April, bringing the budget balance to a surplus of ₱86.4 billion Php in the first five months of the year. In comparison, the government registered an ₱8.5- billion Php surplus in January to May last year.

Revenues expanded by 41 percent to ₱242.5 Php billion in May. In January-to-May, revenues were 16 percent higher at ₱922.2 billion Php, according to the DOF.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue raked in ₱128.5 billion Php while the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of the Treasury collected ₱26.7 billion Php and ₱11.0 billion. Other offices contributed P76.4 billion, reflecting the ₱60.1 billion Php of coconut levy-related remittances.

Government expenditures increased by 9 percent to ₱175.2 billion Php, including ₱20.6 billion Php in interest payments. But the amount represents only about 72 percent of the total revenues generated during the month.

In January to May, expenditures reached ₱835.7 billion Php, a 6 percent increase from a year earlier. Interest payments decreased by 2 percent to ₱136.9 billion Php, accounting for 16 percent of total expenditures.

"Various volatile events in the global landscape serve as stark reminders of the importance of the hard work of reform carefully sustained by prudent fiscal management. We continue to build ample safeguards protecting the country from shocks that pose risks to our upward trajectory," Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said. 

But economists, credit watchers and banks have cited slow government spending for the worse-than-expected performance of the Philippine economy this year.

Even the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) admitted that meeting the lower end of the government's growth target of 7 percent to 8 percent would be difficult given the slowdown in global demand.

The government must focus on intervention in the agriculture and industry sectors to sustain the Philippine economy, former Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told GMA News Online.

"To me, ang dapat talagang palalakasin mo, side-by-side, ay agriculture and industry – meaning manufacturing, construction and power.

"Why agriculture? Because a third of the workforce is in agriculture and more than half of the poor is in rural areas," Diokno said.

A modern agriculture sector could translate into cheaper food prices and subsequently benefit the poor, ease the demand for higher wages and make inputs to food manufacturing cheaper, he added. – VS, GMA News

 

$1Billion USD - Upgrading 23 important Military Assets DELAYED again for Corruption?

Mon, 07/20/2015 - 23:53

The Philippines relies on aging helicopters such as this UH-1 Huey seen on a recent mission in Mindanao. PHOTO: TREFOR MOSS/THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Philippine Military Upgrade Stalls

Delay for $1 billion in defense deals leaves planned overhaul years from completion

MANILA—A push by the Philippines to overhaul its obsolete military has ground to a halt just as the U.S. ally is striving to deter China in the disputed waters between them.

A string of programs collectively valued at $1 billion stalled early last year, said military officials and executives involved in Philippine defense deals. The delay underscores how the government’s efforts to transform the country’s derelict navy and air force have become mired in red tape, funding problems and corruption allegations.

The delays leave long-held plans to build a “minimum credible deterrent”—comprising small but capable air and naval fleets—at least a decade from completion, said Jose Antonio Custodio, a Manila-based defense consultant. Even with a basic deterrent in place today, Manila would likely still lack the means to check Beijing’s assertiveness.

“We’re still at square one,” said Mr. Custodio. “With China building all these new bases [in the South China Sea], I’d say it’s already too late.”

Securing secondhand equipment from allies such as Japan and the U.S. may now be the Philippines’ only chance of quickly upgrading its forces, people familiar with the country’s procurement process said. The approach of presidential elections in May make it unlikely that any big contracts will be signed before then.

President Benigno Aquino III has promised to rejuvenate the military, which has been degraded by decades of underinvestment.

A pledge to spend $1.7 billion on new equipment initially bore fruit, as the administration signed a flurry of defense contracts valued at $834 million in late 2013 and early 2014, including deals for 12 Korean fighter jets, three Airbus transport planes and a new fleet of combat helicopters from Canada and the U.K.

“The record will show that the Aquino administration has stepped up the pace of [military modernization] considerably, surpassing the procurement program undertaken by three previous administrations combined,” said presidential spokesman Herminio Coloma.

However, Mr. Coloma said Mr. Aquino still hasn’t signed a law passed by the Philippines Congress in February 2013 earmarking $2 billion for defense procurement. Mr. Coloma didn’t explain the delay.

Government finances have been stretched thin after the government spent billions on reconstruction following Supertyphoon Haiyan (Yolanda) in 2013. Spending has also slowed after a recent scandal in which prosecutors charged three senators with corruption for their alleged involvement in the use of dummy NGOs to steal around $220 million in public money. All three senators denied the charges. Strict government procurement rules have been further tightened since then, putting the brakes on a range of spending programs.

The Philippine vessel Ramon Alcaraz participated in bilateral maritime exercise with the U.S. in June last year.PHOTO: AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Contracts for two naval frigates valued at $398 million and for two long-range patrol planes valued at $132 million—capabilities that would help the Philippines monitor its maritime territory, where it has overlapping claims with China—are among those that were scheduled to have been bid out last year but haven’t moved ahead. “It’s a bureaucratic logjam,” said Mr. Custodio.

Foreign defense companies seeking to supply these and other systems can only wait for the logjam to clear.

“It seems that all programs are paralyzed,” said a Western defense executive whose company is involved in one stalled project.

Another Western executive said the Philippines was hardly unique in experiencing lengthy holdups for military equipment, but recalled how the country’s defense leadership had built momentum in 2013, only to hit the buffers in early 2014.

“Defense officials just don’t have the authority to make things happen now,” he said.

The Philippine Department of National Defense and the Armed Forces of the Philippines didn’t respond to requests to comment.

With China accelerating its island-building program in the South China Sea, Philippine military chief Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang recently urged Manila to spend more on defense as the country’s economy enjoys healthy growth. Last year’s defense budget was just $3.3 billion—far less than neighboring Singapore’s $9.5 billion.

A Philippines senate inquiry into the country’s military modernization efforts has meanwhile questioned the effectiveness of the funds spent so far, with one senator arguing there was practically nothing to show for the $1.4 billion spent on new weaponry in the decade to 2013.

Senators also looked into a deal for 21 secondhand helicopters, which the defense department canceled in April after only seven deliveries amid concerns about the quality of the technology, and with a Philippine tax official claiming that the aircraft had been ordered in exchange for kickbacks.

The defense department has denied the allegations.

The breakdown of the helicopter program has made defense officials even more reluctant to place new orders and expose themselves to further scrutiny, said Mr. Custodio.

Mr. Aquino has turned to allies for help. On a recent state visit to Japan, he requested secondhand P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft, having already received a $183 million loan from Tokyo to fund the construction of 10 new patrol boats. Tokyo has said it is considering the requests, though it hasn’t committed to anything specific. Australia, South Korea and the U.S. have all donated used military kit to Manila in recent years and have signaled a willingness to do more.

But hand-me-downs won’t deliver a deterrent capable of influencing decision makers in Beijing, Mr. Custodio says. “The Chinese are building islands on our doorstep.”  - THE WALL STREET JOURNAL: Write to Trefor Moss at trefor.moss@wsj.com

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