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Philippines wins Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Best Country award at the FIBA World Cup 2014

Tue, 09/16/2014 - 11:41
Supporters of Gilas Pilipinas earned the Philippines the Most Valuable Fans award at the FIBA World Cup
MANILA, Philippines - Gilas Pilipinas fans, stand up and take a bow. The outpouring of support for the Philippine men's national basketball team earned the nation the Most Valuable Fans (MVF) Best Country award at the FIBA World Cup.
The Philippines, which competed at the FIBA World Cup for the first time in 36 years, had supporters converge on Seville, Spain from around Europe and as far as the Philippines.

The Philippines captivated the imaginations of a nation of 100 million people, coming close to knocking off the third ranked Argentina, plus the highly regarded Croatia and Puerto Rico teams while losing a competitive match to fifth ranked Greece.
Gilas' victory over Senegal in a non-bearing game was celebrated like a championship win, despite the Philippines having already been eliminated the night before. The victory was the Philippines' first at the World Championship since 1974
FIBA says that it used "a broad range of social actions" including hashtags like #Spain2014 on Twitter, Instagram and Facebook to measure "MVF points."
"All points earned by fans that support the same national team accumulated to determine the MVF Best Country Award," said a news item on the FIBA website. - Rappler.com

Philippines displays ancient maps to debunk China's sea claims that limit 'til Hainan only

Fri, 09/12/2014 - 19:50

A local photographer looks at an ancient map on display at a Catholic university in Manila September 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco- View in Full screen here http://bit.ly/1uySB9o

Philippines displays ancient maps to debunk China's sea claims
The Philippines on Thursday put on display dozens of ancient maps which officials said showed that China's territorial claims over the South China Sea did not include a disputed shoal at the centre of an acrimonious standoff.

The Philippines is in dispute with China over parts of the South China Sea, including the Scarborough Shoal, an area believed to be rich in oil and natural gas as well as fisheries resources.
China seized control of the shoal in June 2012 and has prevented Philippine fishermen from getting close to the rocky outcrop, a rich fishing ground.

Philippine officials said the exhibition of old maps at a university showed that for almost 1,000 years, from the Song Dynasty in the year 960 until the end of the Qing Dynasty early in the 20th century, China's southernmost territory was always Hainan island, just off the Chinese coast.

"We should respect historical facts, not historical lies," said Supreme Court Associate Justice Antonio Carpio, who has done extensive research on the territorial disputes.

The facts were graphically illustrated on the ancient maps, both official and unofficial, he said.
Carpio said the exhibition could be viewed online and it would help everyone in all claimant states understand the facts, "either to restrain extreme nationalism fuelled by historical lies or give hope to a just and durable settlement of disputes".

China claims nearly the entire South China Sea.

But Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims in the sea, which is traversed each year by ship-borne trade worth about $5 trillion.

Exhibition organisers said the Scarborough Shoal never appeared in any old Chinese maps. But on numerous ancient maps made by foreigners and Filipinos, from as early as 1636, the rocky outcrop was consistently shown to be Philippine territory.

Carpio, in an earlier lecture, said the shoal was also used as a naval gunnery range by U.S. and Philippine armed forces from the 1960s to the 1980s, and neither China nor any other country protested against the bombing practice.

In June, China unveiled a new official map of the country, giving greater play to its claims on the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Philippines, a close U.S. ally, has brought a case to the U.N. arbitral court in The Hague, seeking clarification on its entitlements under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea.
China has refused to take part in the arbitration. A ruling is expected late next year.
Ancient Philippine Map
Philippines' Supreme Court associate justice Antonio Carpio (L) gestures to an ancient map on display while Philippines' Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario (2nd L), Justice Secretary Leila De Lima and Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin look on at a Catholic university in Manila September 11, 2014. REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco - View whole album here 

 
Visitors point at an ancient map on display at a Catholic university in Manila September 11, 2014.  REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco - View whole album here 


Published in Paris in 1650, this map shows an unnamed shoal as part of the East Indies.Philippines Institute for Maritime and Oceanic Affairs. View Photo here http://on.fb.me/1rZfWmO

 A map published in 1770 by Britain's Royal Hydrographer shows the “Panacot” shoal, today's Scarborough Shoal.National Library of Australia. View Photo here http://on.fb.me/1rZfWmOPublished in 1734 by a Jesuit named Pedro Murillo, this map is one of the first to identify what is today the Scarborough Shoal, then named the “Panacot” shoal.US Library of Congress. View Photo here http://on.fb.me/1rZfWmOTian Ditu, or “the Atlas of Heaven and Earth,” published in 1601 during the Ming Dynasty shows shows Hainan Island as China’s southernmost territory.U.S. Library of Congress. View Photo here http://on.fb.me/1rZfWmOA world map published by the Jesuit priest Matteo Ricci in 1602 at the request of the Ming Dynasty shows the southern boundary of China as Hainan. View Photo here http://on.fb.me/1rZfWmO Sources: Reuters and Quarts

1 Million jobs created over a year; Philippine Unemployment rate drops down

Wed, 09/10/2014 - 16:03

Unemployment rate drops as 1M jobs created over a year

MANILA, Philippines - With over 1 million jobs created over a year, the country's jobless rate declined to 6.7 percent in July 2014, down from the 7.3 percent registered a year ago, the Philippine Statistical Authority (PSA) reported on Wednesday.

Data from the July 2014 Labor Force Survey (LFS) showed that 93.3 percent of the country's labor force (aged 15 and above) have jobs, an improvement from the 7.3 percent posted last year. The National Economic and Development Authority noted that the number of employed Filipinos rose by 2.8 percent to 38.5 million in July 2014 from 37.4 million in July 2013. This translates to 1.06 million jobs created over a year.

The underemployment rate similarly went down, dropping to 18.3 percent from last year's 19.2 percent. Employed workers in need of additional jobs or hours of work in their current jobs are considered underemployed, PSA noted.

Data from the state agency showed that three regions had employment rates lower than the national average. These are the National Capital Region (89.7 percent), Central Luzon (91.7 percent) and CALABARZON (92 percent).

The labor force participation rate (LFPR) also went up to 64.4 percent in July 2014 compared to 63.9 percent a year ago. This means the labor market absorbed 879,000 labor entrants, expanding the labor force to 41.23 million.

"To some extent, the growth in the LFPR reflects the more positive outlook of workers in line with the momentum created by the robust economic growth in recent years, along with the expectations of better employment,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan.

Balisacan said the Aquino administration should continue fostering an economic climate conducive to business and investment to sustain the recent gains in the labor market.

“In industry, the key objective should be to increase investment, especially in labor-intensive sectors, and to encourage the existing pool of employers to hire more workers.  In the immediate term, the demand for labor can be driven by the infrastructure program of government, reconstruction activities in the Visayas and other disaster-hit areas, and private construction.  In services, the focus must be on increasing sales and clients enough to warrant the hiring of workers. There is much room for expansion in business-process management and tourism-related activities,” he added.

In agriculture, Balisacan said there is a need to introduce non-farm employment opportunities during the off-season, such as value-adding activities and community-based employment programs. This would address the seasonal and low-paying jobs in the sector, he said.

“To further support the labor market performance in the medium term, the government should remain vigilant to attendant risks to growth and make sure that pre-emptive measures and programs are in place to mitigate any adverse effects of such risks or shocks in the economy,” he added.

PSA noted that the July 2014 LFS did not include employment data from Leyte, because of the large number of households displaced by typhoon Yolanda last year. The 7.3-percent jobless rate in July 2013 also excluded data from the typhoon-ravaged province to make the estimates comparable. - By Jovan Cerda @ philSTAR

 

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Philippine Mayor Call Indian General of UNDOF to be SHOOT IN THE HEAD for negligence to UN Peace keepers, Ireland to Withdraw

Tue, 09/09/2014 - 12:25

Mindanao: Davao City Mayor Rody Duterte - “If you see the UN general, shoot him in the head. Tell them it’s Mayor Duterte’s request,”

 

Duterte: Shoot Undof chief in the head

 

Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte did not like that a United Nations general called the Filipino peacekeepers who escaped from Syrian rebels “cowards.”

In his weekly television program aired Sunday, Duterte said that United Nations Disengagement Observer Force overall chief Lieutenant General Iqbal Singha should be shot in the head due to his “offensive remark.”

“I am offended that the UN general said that our Filipino soldiers are cowards,” Duterte said in Cebuano.

“If you see the UN general, shoot him in the head. Tell them it’s Mayor Duterte’s request,” he added.

In an interview with India Today on Thursday, the Indian general said that the escape of the Filipino soldiers was “unprofessional” and that it endangered the lives of Fijian peacekeepers who were captured by the Syrian rebels.

“The higher UN echelon as well as the Indian Army agrees with me that the decision was correct. It is an act of cowardice to desert posts especially when a delicate ceasefire was in place,” Singha said.

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines called the act of the Filipino peacekeepers as the “greatest escape.”

Philippines want Indian UN commander investigated over order to refuse surrender

 

Gen. Gregorio Pio Carapang, the U.N. peacekeeping commander in Golan Heights, is under fire for advising 40 Filipino peacekeepers not to surrender their arms to Syrian rebels. -MENAHEM KAHANA / AFP/GETTY IMAGES 

Meanwhile, the Armed Forces of the Philippines called the act of the Filipino peacekeepers as the “greatest escape.”

The Philippine military said Monday that a U.N. peacekeeping commander in the Golan Heights should be investigated for allegedly asking Filipino troops to surrender to Syrian rebels who had attacked and surrounded their camp.

Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang said he advised the 40 Filipino peacekeepers not to lay down their arms, and they defied the U.N. peacekeeping commander’s order. Instead,they staged a daring escape from the Golan Heights camp over the weekend, ending a tense, days-long standoff.

The disagreement is another blow to a U.N. peacekeeping mission that has been threatened by an escalation of violence in a buffer zone it has been guarding between Israel and Syria. A number of countries have withdrawn their troops from the peacekeeping force due to rising rebel attacks.

Forty-five Fijian peacekeepers who surrendered their firearms to the rebels last week are still being held by the Al Qaeda-linked insurgents.

The commander of the United Nations Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, which supervises the peacekeeping mission in Golan Heights, was overseeing talks with the Syrian rebels to secure the freedom of the Fijians. However, Catapang said he would not agree to any resolution of the hostage crisis that would put Filipino troops in grave danger.

When the besieged Filipino troops sought his advice after they were ordered to lay down their arms as part of an arrangement with the rebels to secure the Fijians’ release, Catapang said he asked them to defy the order.

“I told them not to follow the order because that is a violation of our regulation, that we do not surrender our firearms; and, at the same time, there is no assurance that you will be safe after you give your firearms,” Catapang said.

“Our stand is, we will not allow our soldiers to become sacrificial pawns in order to save the Fijians,” Catapang told The Associated Press. “They should look for other ways and means to save the Fijians.”

UNDOF did not immediately reply to a request for comment.

Catapang said an investigation would allow the UNDOF commander to explain his side and the Philippine military to explain why it advised the Filipino peacekeepers to defy his order.

Due to the differences over the handling of the Golan crisis, Catapang said he asked a Filipino military officer playing a key role in UNDOF to resign.

The Philippines has given notice it will not deploy a new contingent when its current peacekeeping force ends its already-extended stint in October.

The latest crisis began after Syrian rebels overran the Quneitra crossing — located on the de facto border between Syrian- and Israeli-controlled parts of the Golan Heights — on Wednesday. A day later, insurgents from the Al Qaeda-affiliated Nusra Front seized the Fijian peacekeepers and surrounded their Filipino colleagues, demanding they surrender.

The Filipinos, occupying two U.N. camps, refused and fought the rebels on Saturday. A first group of 35 peacekeepers was then successfully escorted out of one camp by Irish and Filipino forces in armoured vehicles.

The remaining 40 peacekeepers were besieged at the second camp by more than 100 gunmen who rammed the camp’s gates with their trucks and fired mortar rounds. The Filipinos returned fire in self-defence, Philippine military officials said.

The Bravery of Philippine UN peacekeepers

“All troops accounted for, sir!” With a snappy salute, Capt. Nilo Ramones, United Nations (UN) peacekeeping contingent leader reported this to officials in the Philippines via Skype. The young captain, along with his men, just came out unscathed from their fierce standoff with Syrian rebels in Outpost 68 in strife-torn Golan Heights.

In Camp Aguinaldo in Quezon City, officials led by Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang along with Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Alberto del Rosario broke out in applause after hearing the good news from Capt. Ramones. They have been closely monitoring the situation of our Philippine troopers immediately after the attack by Syrian rebels against the multinational peacekeeping forces.

Ramones and his men are part of the UN Disengagement Observer Force, or UNDOF, whose mission is to monitor a 1974 disengagement in the Golan Heights between Israel and Syria. The Filipino troopers escaped during the ceasefire.

The AFP chief of staff called it “the greatest escape” pulled by the Filipino UNDOF troopers. With the help of other fellow UN peacekeepers, it averted what could have been a tragic end of their gallant stand.

The UNDOF peacekeeping forces in the area included 1,223 troops from India, Ireland, Nepal and the Netherlands as well as the Fijians and Filipinos who came under attack last week. They are under UNDOF commander Maj. Gen. Iqbal Singha of India.

Syria’s three-year civil war reached the frontier with Israeli-controlled territory last week when Islamist fighters overran a crossing point in the line that has separated Israelis from Syrians in the Golan Heights since a 1973 war. The Syrian rebels have now also turned against the UN peacekeeping forces patrolling the ceasefire line for the past 40 years now.

The Filipino UNDOF contingent, also called “blue helmets,” had been besieged in outposts known as positions 68 and 69. Those in Outpost 69 were rescued last Saturday. UN said both Syria and Israel helped in the rescue.

The 31-year-old Army captain Ramones and his men were left behind in Outpost 68. But they eluded the Syrian rebels by crawling in darkness Sunday night over a minefield.

Gen. Singha reportedly ordered Pinoy UNDOF troopers to give up their firearms to the Syrian insurgents who earlier captured 44 UNDOF peacekeepers from Fiji. Ramones and his men, however, held on tough with their M14s, M16s, M60 light machineguns, Squad Automatic Weapons (SAWS) and M4s and 45s cal. sidearms issued to them by our AFP for their peacekeeping mission.

Told about this purported order by the UNDOF commander to Pinoy peacekeepers, Gen. Catapang “countermanded,” saying it is simply unacceptable. “We don’t surrender our firearms. To them (Syrian rebels), it’s symbolic but to us, it’s honor that is at stake,” the AFP chief of staff pointed out.

In our language, the name of the AFP chief of staff Catapang can best describe the gallantry of our 75-man troopers in the UN peacekeeping force. The Filipino troopers put up a gallant stand against Syrian rebels trying to forcibly take their firearms.

Catapang, or “katapang” in Tagalog as loosely translated means “how brave!”

Catapang hails from Batangas. He belongs to the Philippine Military Academy (PMA)’s Class 1981 that called its batch  “Dimalupig,” or synonymous to being invincible, unconquerable, indomitable.    

A highly decorated officer, Catapang was named AFP chief of staff last July 18, or just a few days after he turned 55 years old. The Commission on Appointments is expected to confirm his promotion today.

Barely warming his seat, Catapang got his acid test in a war abroad that he has to lead via remote buttons from here.

After he learned Singha’s order was supposedly part of an arrangement with the Syrian rebels to secure the release of hostaged Fiji peacekeepers, Catapang ordered Pinoy troopers to defy UNDOF chief’s order to lay down their AFP-issued weapons. He also vowed to press for an investigation by the UN of Singha who he also accused of having “unstable” decisions during a crisis situation.

Catapang’s unofficial assumption of command from Singha was enough reason for the latter’s UNDOF chief of staff, Col. Ezra James Enriquez of the Philippines, to resign his post yesterday. Enriquez, however, will continue on as contingent commander of the Philippine peacekeepers in Golan Heights. Obviously, the Indian UNDOF commander has problems with how he commands his forces.

Yesterday, an unnamed senior UN official reportedly denied there was an order given to the Filipinos to surrender their weapons. At the same time, the UN has announced the Philippines will pull out of UNDOF. Other countries like Austria, Japan and Croatia have also withdrawn their troops as the civil war in Syria reached the Golan Heights.

Philippine government officials earlier assured the public the Filipino troopers would remain in Golan Heights until their mission ends this October, and not withdraw prematurely following the attacks on UN peacekeeping forces by the Syrian rebels.

The Israel embassy in Manila, in its official website, paid tribute to Pinoy UNDOF peacekeepers in Golan Heights: “The Filipino soldier is indeed, world-class.”

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Security Council strongly condemned Saturday’s attack on the UNDOF peacekeepers’ positions and the ongoing detention of the Fijian peacekeepers.

As commander-in-chief of the AFP, President Benigno “Noy” Aquino III will have the opportunity to talk with the UN secretary-general when he goes to the UN headquarters in New York City later this month. Inevitably, President Aquino would reap the brownie points before the international community from the bravery of our Filipino UNDOF troopers.

Our battle-tested soldiers are the best peacekeepers in our own country that remains deeply divided by ideological strife being waged by hardcore communists here and Muslim separatists groups breaking out from peace pacts with the Philippine government.

While deserving of accolades, the bravery of our Pinoy UN peacekeepers, unfortunately, may have been misplaced by our officials by fielding them in battlefields abroad.

Irish Foreign Minister: We May Leave Golan Force

Philippine UN peacekeepers - AFP file

Ireland is considering dropping out of the UN peace force on the Golan Heights, after dozens of Filipino peacekeepers were kidnapped by Islamist rebel groups on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights border. Speaking Sunday, Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Charlie Flanagan said that he did not want to see Irish soldiers serving on behalf of the UN “sucked into a Syrian civil war.”

The kidnapping and subsequent escape of over 70 Filipino Golan peacekeeping soldiers has sent shock waves among all the members of the international delegation that serve in the UNDOF outfit, which has been in place since shortly after the 1973 Yom Kippur War to keep Syrian army and IDF troops at bay. With the breakdown of the Syrian government and heavy losses by the Syrian Army to Islamist rebel groups, the Syrian Golan has been the scene of heavy fighting between both sides. On Saturday, Syrian officials announced fresh losses on the Golan to rebel groups, after a new round of fierce fighting.

A similar fate could await Irish troops, Flanagan said Sunday. "This is a crisis; the situation remains extremely tense and my department is in daily contact with the UN. “The time scale of the UN review of the ongoing viability of the mission is short-term and urgent. We don't want to see Irish troops or the UN contingent being drawn into a Syrian civil war," he added

The withdrawal of Irish troops could be a blow that the UN forces on the Golan would not be able to withstand, observers said. The Irish are the best-equipped and best-defended among the 1,200 soldiers of the UN member countries who send soldiers to the Golan, and their withdrawal could frighten off other countries' soldiers from serving.

Over the past year, the UNDOF force has had its peacekeepers seized by armed groups, its observation posts attacked and looted, and its freedom of movement curtailed. Tensions have been high on the Syrian side of the Golan Heights lately, as fighting in the area intensifies between rebels and the Syrian army.

Meanwhile, as fighting intensifies between Syrian army troops and Islamist rebels, the IDF has increased its presence on the Golan Heights. Security officials fear that the fighting could “spill over” the Israeli border.

A senior Israeli security official said that the IDF had recently changed its conception of defense on the Golan. A group of highly trained and experienced soldiers who know the terrain well are now on duty at all times, constituting a forward force ready to deal with trouble as it develops.

Sources: Inquirer, The STAR, philSTAR, and ARUTS SHEVA 7 - Israel

 

 

Philippine Senator bill to BAN nickel export could create Jobs and Delay China's Warfare production, invasion

Sun, 09/07/2014 - 12:31

China Map of National Shame, The New Chinese Map authorized by China's Ministry of Interior for Elementary School. image source: The Guardian

Philippines Senator files bill to ban mineral ore exports

(Reuters) - A Philippine senator has filed a bill urging a halt to exports of unprocessed mineral ores, similar to a ban introduced by Indonesia that led to a sharp spike in nickel prices and cut exports of other ores.

The Philippines, which has vast but largely untapped mineral resources, has been looking at ways to raise the contribution of mining to its economy.

The bill, filed in late August by Senator Paolo Benigno Aquino, a first cousin of President Benigno Aquino, would require domestic processing of all minerals extracted in the country prior to export if passed into law.

This may require nickel miners, for example, to build more smelters to process the ore before shipment. Some ores are shipped directly to China and Japan for processing.

The Philippines currently has two processing plants for nickel both owned by the country's top producer Nickel Asia Corp , two for gold, and one for copper, according to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau.

Paolo Benigno Aquino is one of 24 members of the upper house Senate, which is dominated by allies of the president.

"This measure seeks to generate more domestic income, attract more investments, and lead to more jobs and livelihood for the Filipino people," the bill said in its explanatory note.

Mining contributed less than 1 percent of the Philippines' gross domestic product from 2003 to 2012, the note said.

The proposed legislation comes at a time when the local mining industry faces an uncertain future as the government aims for new tax legislation to boost its share of mining revenues.

Conflicting regulations, such as whether or not to ban open-pit mining, and a strong anti-mining lobby led by the leadership of the local Roman Catholic Church have also deterred investment and hampered projects, such as Glencore Plc's $5.9 billion Tampakan copper-gold mine in southern Philippines.

A similar bill was filed in July in the House of Representatives by Congressman Erlpe John Amante, a copy of which was seen by Reuters.

Mines and Geosciences Bureau head Leo Jasareno told Reuters the state agency had not been consulted prior to the filing of the Senate bill, but was conducting its own study on measures to add value to the country's mineral output.

Asked if the bureau would recommend that the government support the bill, Jasareno told Reuters: "We can't say until we have seen the results of the study."

Jasareno said the study was being done after an executive order issued by President Aquino in 2012 calling for a roadmap for the development of value-adding activities and downstream industries for metallic ores.

The office of Senator Aquino said the bill was filed without any consultation with the government. The Senator hoped state agencies will support the measure once it is discussed by the Senate environment committee.

The timing of any potential ban on exports was unclear.

The Senate bill proposes six- to 12-year imprisonment plus a fine equivalent to twice the value of seized mineral ores for those found guilty of exporting mineral ores. The existing law does not have limits on mineral ore exports.

The bill also seeks to amend certain provisions in the Philippine Mining Act of 1995, which allow 100 percent foreign ownership of mining.

This stockpile of iron ore pellets will be used in steel production, Image: Wikimedia

London nickel perks up as Philippine Senator eyes ore export ban

London nickel firmed on Wednesday, bucking the trend in a largely flat metals market, after a Philippine senator filed a bill urging a halt to exports of unprocessed mineral ores.

The proposed halt is similar to a ban introduced by Indonesia that led to a sharp spike in nickel prices and cut other ore exports from January. The ban in Indonesia has led stainless steel makers in China and in Japan to source more ore from the Philippines.

The move raised the spectre of further supply squeezes in a nickel market that most analysts expect to see in deficit next year, although there was little sense of whether the bill would find popular support, or any timescale on whether exports could be banned, if the bill was even signed into law.

"If we saw an export ban come into effect in the Philippines, and depending on the extent to which there is compliance, that would be bullish nickel," said analyst Lachlan Shaw of Commonwealth Bank of Australia in Melbourne.

"But one thing the market loses sight of, is that in three to four years time, there will be a very significant amount of nickel coming out of Indonesia. The nickel units will find their way into the world market, but in a different form," he added.

LME nickel traded up 0.7 percent at $18,670 a tonne. Prices, which are up by one third year to date, have traded in a mostly $18400-$20,000 band since May.

Among other metals, LME copper drifted on Wednesday in low volume trade, with expectations of fresh supply weighing on prices and dampening investor interest.

Newmont Mining Corp has reached a tentative agreement with the Indonesian government on contract renegotiations, the CEO of the firm's local unit said, as both sides moved closer to ending an eight-month tax dispute that halted copper exports.

"Certainly if Grasberg and Batu Hijau came back, that introduces 500,000-600,000 tonnes on an annualised basis into the market - it's certainly enough to weigh on prices," Shaw added.

LME copper slipped by 0.3 percent to $6,947.50 a tonne by 0748 GMT, after logging a small gain in the previous session. Prices have struggled to gain headway since a one-week low at $6913.25 last week.

Expectations for further policy action at the European Central Bank's meeting on Thursday were underpinning metals after ECB President Mario Draghi pledged to use all available tools to keep prices in check.

Looser policy in Europe would cheapen liquidity for industry and investors who may raise their holdings of hard assets given they tend to hold their value when paper currency depreciates.

LME aluminium hovered near its most expensive since February 2013 above $2,100 a tonne, while LME zinc was slightly down from a four-week top of $2391.25 struck the prior session.

A partial closure of capacity at an aluminium smelter in China helped to drive up domestic prices of the metal by as much as 4 percent this week, as investors scramble to compensate for an expected shortfall in supply.

In economic news, activity in China's services sector rebounded in August after a drop in July, two surveys showed on Wednesday, offseting factory-sector weakness and letting the government stick with its "targeted" policy stance to keep growth on track.

And brighter news continues from the United States where manufacturing activity hit a nearly 3-1/2-year high last month and construction spending rebounded strongly in July, signs the economy entered the third quarter on a strong footing.

PRICES

Three month LME copper

Most active ShFE copper

Three month LME aluminium

Most active ShFE aluminium

Three month LME zinc

Most active ShFE zinc

Three month LME lead

Most active ShFE lead

Three month LME nickel

Three month LME tin

Iron Ore Properties and Uses

Iron constitutes about five per cent of the Earth's crust and is the fourth most abundant element in the crust. Iron ores are rocks from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The principal iron ores are hematite (Fe2O3) and magnetite (Fe3O4).

Almost all iron ore is used in blast furnaces to make pig iron which is the main material in steelmaking. Small amounts of iron ore is used also in other applications such as coal wash plants and cement manufacturing. Iron can be alloyed with a variety of elements to produce stronger and harder products which are useful in the construction industry and in the manufacture of motor vehicles, ships, trucks, pipelines, trains and railway tracks. Iron is the most used metal accounting for about 95 per cent of the total metal tonnages produced worldwide.

Nickel is among the most important element together with titanium use by china for their warfare armament developments.

 

Timeline for China's planned invasion in Asia from 2020 - 2060 (leaked from Guardian) A PLA inspired article last year lists the six inevitable wars in a chronological order as follows:   (i) To unify Taiwan (2020-2025) - China Planned to Attacked and take over Taiwan Government by 2020 (ii) To fully invade islands of the West Philippine Sea *South China Sea) (2025-2030) (iii) To invade and take over Southern Tibet-India’s Arunanchal Pradesh (2035-2040) (iv) To take over Diaoyutai/Senkaku and Ryukyus of Japan  (2045-2050) (v) Unify outer Mongolia (2045-2050) (vi) Recover territory seized by Russia (2055-2060).

Sources: Reuters , Mail Online WiresAustralian Govt Geosciences, RFABP, and the Guardian

 

Gilas Philippines’ hoops progress reflects sport’s surge after 4 huge defeat from Croatia, Greece, Argentina and Puerto Rico

Fri, 09/05/2014 - 17:50

Philippines’ Japeth Aguilar, left, and teammate Jim Alapag, right, celebrates after winning the match at the end of the match against Senegal during the Group B Basketball World Cup match between the Philippines and Senegal in Seville, Spain, Thursday, Sept. 4, 2014. The 2014 Basketball World Cup competition will take place in various cities in Spain from Aug. 30 through to Sept. 14. (AP Photo/Miguel Angel Morenatti)

Philippines’ hoops progress reflects sport’s surge

 

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines may have beaten only one of its five opponents and been eliminated at the group stage of the Basketball World Cup but they have won over a country that can sense the rapid progress of the sport in the nation.

The Filipinos defeated Senegal, 81-79, in overtime Thursday in their last game in Group B to end the tournament on a high, though just qualifying for the trip to Spain was satisfying enough.

“Being there is a mini victory for the country already,” former captain Chris Tiu told The Associated Press. “It means that we belong to the elite of Asian basketball.”

One of the most successful coaches in Philippine professional basketball, American Tim Cone, shared Tiu’s sentiments.

“What a moment,” he said in commentary on local television as the Filipinos geared for the opening battle last Saturday against Croatia. “No matter what happens today, just the fact that we are part of this is a phenomenal thing.”

It has been 36 years since the country played in the world championship, in 1978, 40 years since it last won a game and 60 years since winning a medal.

The breakthrough win over Senegal was no less than the ‘Gilas Pilipinas’ deserved after a succession of narrow defeats. In the opening game, the forced an extra period against Croatia, having tied 71-71 and lost 81-78, with some satisfaction that they had given one of Europe’s top national teams a genuine scare.

“What a message we sent today. In a word, awesome! I mean, wow!” Cone said after watching the game in Manila.

That was followed by an 82-70 loss to Greece, and 85-81 defeat by Argentina and then a 77-73 reverse against Puerto Rico.

Tiu said the undersized team had played with “the biggest heart” and its performance “shocked the world by coming too close to juggernauts like Croatia, Greece, Argentina, Puerto Rico.”

“That to me is our victory,” he said.

The Filipino passion for the sport can be seen in the ubiquitous presence of basketball courts in both poor and wealthy communities — some built by local residents and others donated by politicians trying to leverage the sport’s popularity into votes. Neighborhoods that don’t have real courts would block off the best paved roads where they hold village basketball tournaments.

One of the country’s biggest lovers of the sport is boxing icon Manny Pacquiao, who plays basketball with his entourage during breaks in his training. The country’s wealthiest athlete also has joined the professional league as playing coach of the newly-formed KIA Sorentos. His team will see action for the first time in October.

Basketball, along with baseball, was introduced by the Americans a century ago when they arrived to colonize the country as the Spanish rulers were close to total defeat by Filipino revolutionaries.

Baseball was more popular in the early days but basketball slowly eased it out with more followers and players after the Philippines won Asian competitions in the early 50s and early 60s.

Sports analyst Eddie Alinea said that basketball is now more popular than other sports because it is the cheapest game and can be played virtually anywhere.

“Even if you are just wearing slippers, you can play,” he said. “You only need a pail or a basket that you can nail to a wall and ask for a donation for a ball.” Unlike baseball or football, it doesn’t need wide open fields, which are at a premium in a country with a small land mass and burgeoning population.

Basketball, like boxing, has become the road to riches for aspiring college players seeking to be drafted into the professional league where “people are earning in the millions” of pesos (tens of thousands of dollars) Alinea said.

Professional teams recruit NBA players to boost their lineups. Pacquiao’s new team is eyeing NBA All Star Metta World Peace, the former Ron Artest who had stints with the Chicago Bulls, Los Angeles Lakers and the New York Knicks. World Peace currently plays for the Sichuan Blue Whales in the Chinese Basketball Association.

Tiu said he is against drafting imports, especially for college teams. He said it would take away opportunities for local players and may deprive “our big men” who play center or power forward from reaching their “full potential.”

“When schools seriously recruit foreigners and give them very attractive packages, you tend to question the underlying values of the game and the school as well. What’s more important? Academics or basketball? Is it always about winning? Or is it about developing student-athletes?” said the former college basketball star.

Imports in the pro league can take away livelihood opportunities for Filipinos, he said, but the Philippine Basketball Association has done “a decent job in balancing this” by providing an all-Filipino conference and requiring only one import per team in the other conferences. - AP/ Inquirer

 

Japan, Philippines agreed to establish "Maritime Security" in Asia to Police China's Aggression

Thu, 09/04/2014 - 16:34

 

Japan, Manila in landmark sea pact

Japanese and Philippine lawmakers yesterday signed an agreement that they hope will jumpstart a global campaign for peaceful resolution of disputes in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and East China Sea.

The Joint Document for Co-operation on Promotion of the Rule of Law at Sea states that both sides recognise that in settling maritime disputes, states should make and clarify their claims based on international law and they should not use force or coercion in pursuing their claims.

The agreement seeks to settle disputes by peaceful means and avoid any unilateral attempts to change the status quo through force or coercion.

Both sides further agreed to address maritime issues and encourage members of Congress to join efforts in establishing a “Parliamentarians’ League for Maritime Security in Asia” aimed at protecting and promoting maritime order based on international law.

Rep. Rodolfo Biazon, chairman of the House Committee on National Defence and vice chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Relations, said in a news conference that he will work for the adoption of the agreement in Congress as a resolution similar to what was signed in the US Congress.

Biazon and Hiroshi Nakada, a member of Japan’s House of Representatives and the head of the Japanese delegation, presided over the news conference.

In his discussions with the Japanese officials, as well as with other countries’ officials, Biazon cited the need to do a campaign “to raise awareness of other nations that there must be a resolution of disputes and this resolution must be in accordance (with) international law, specifically the Unclos.”

Unclos stands for the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, a 1982 accord recognised by 166 countries, including China and the Philippines.

“I agree with the mounting of a campaign by nations interested, nations that are directly affected and that are indirectly affected,” Biazon said, noting that 40% of world trade and commerce passes through the West Philippine Sea. - By Bernice Camille V Bauzon/Manila Times / Gulf Times

 

 

Moody’s ups outlook for Philippines, a sign for New Credit rating upgrade?

Tue, 09/02/2014 - 15:27

 

image source: politico.com

Moody’s ups outlook for Philippines MOODY’S Analytics has raised its full-year economic growth forecast for the Philippines following a surprisingly strong second quarter, but warned that continued government underspending amid tightened monetary policy could slow expansion next year.   “With the latest Q2 numbers, 2014 GDP growth [could hit] 6.2%. This sounds more realistic,” Moody’s Analytics senior economist Glenn Levine said in an e-mail yesterday, citing “exports [and] solid consumer demand” as drivers.

Second-quarter economic growth bested expectations after it expanded at a faster 6.4% from a downwardly revised 5.6% in the first three months of the year. The latest result, however, was still slower than the 7.9% notched in the April-June period a year ago.

For the first half, gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 6%, slower than the 7.2% notched in the same six months in 2013.

The government targets GDP to grow 6.5-7.5% this year.

Last March, Mr. Levine had said GDP expansion could slacken to 5.8% this year from the two consecutive years of stellar growth of 6.8% in 2012 and 7.2% in 2013, in line with a projected region-wide slowdown as downside risks within and outside Asia Pacific persist.

A Moody’s Analytics report released separately yesterday said economies in Southeast Asia “are expected to expand 4.3% in 2014, well below their recent trend rate just over 5%.”

Nonetheless, the Philippines was cited for being one of the two strongest performers in the region in the first half of 2014, the other one being Malaysia.

The report -- written by Moody’s Analytics economist Fred Gibson -- noted that the Philippines “has shrugged off” effects of typhoon Yolanda which devastated parts of central Philippines on Nov. 8-9, while saying that political uncertainty has weighed on Indonesia and Thailand.

Growth prospects for the region are nevertheless much brighter next year due to “firming global demand and stronger domestic spending.”

“Export earnings are projected to improve over the next 18 months in line with firming global demand,” the report read.

“The US economy is on a sustained upward trend and the Chinese economy is responding positively to the government’s stimulus.”

“The outlook is sanguine for companies involved in the production of smartphones and PCs (personal computers) as the global tech cycle continues to trend higher. Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore will benefit,” it added.

IMPERILED
In the case of the Philippines, however, expansion of economic activity in the country could be imperiled by slow public and private spending, Mr. Levine said separately by phone yesterday.

“The fixed investment cycle is slowing quickly, both from the private sector and public sector. It’s fading quickly. The PPP (public-private partnership) pipeline has slowed,” Mr. Levine noted.

“That, coupled with slightly higher interest rates that run through investment channels, could ease GDP growth to 5.5% next year.”

Data released by the Bureau of the Treasury last Friday put the budget gap last month at just P1.8 billion -- down 97% from P53.2 billion a year ago -- as revenues grew 15% to P166.7 billion from P144.6 billion while expenditures fell 15% to P168.5 billion from P197.8 billion.

The government has set a P550.977-billion spending target for this quarter alone, of which P107.884 billion -- nearly a fifth -- is supposed to go to infrastructure needed to support accelerating economic activity.

July’s tally, in turn, nearly halved the budget gap to just P55.7 billion in the first seven months from P104.5 billion the past year, as revenues grew 12% to P1.101 trillion from P984.1 billion and expenses edged up just 6% to P1.156 trillion from P1.089 trillion.

Mr. Levine thus pressed the government to accelerate spending, particularly on ports, roads, airports, and utilities, “to get the push we need.”

STABLE SUPPORT
Another analyst, however, expects other drivers of growth to provide stable support for now.

In a separate note yesterday, economist Jun Trinidad of the research arm of Citigroup Global Markets, Inc., said “hopefully, private sector activities will continue to offset weak fiscal contribution to growth as evidenced by the second-quarter GDP growth... despite real fiscal expenditures were down 2.2% year on year.”

“This highlights benefits of investment-driven growth over the past years that resulted in a more diversified GDP growth base -- from non-tech manufacturing to BPO (business process outsourcing) and transport services. Any sector bbenefitingfrom investment flows can provide the upside growth surprise aside from the OFW (overseas Filipino workers) remittance story.”

Mr. Trinidad added that initial state spending slowdown after the Supreme Court ruled as illegal in July “acts and practices” to implement the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) -- which the administration had described as a stimulus measure -- should lift as soon as the dust settles on this controversy.

“Post-DAP brouhaha, legal clarity of what can and cannot be done within the budget system would no longer be a botteneck [sic],” Mr. Tridinad wrote, adding this would leave the usual weather and systemic constraints as the only real hurdles to growth.

“Other than inclement weather, fiscal challenge would be down to absorptive capacity constraints.” - Business World Online

 

 

Philippines' Cebu Pacific "APPROVED" to fly to Myanmar, New Zealand

Fri, 08/29/2014 - 13:38

Cebu Pacific - Asia's largest airlines - Photo: inquirer.net
MANILA, Philippines–Cebu Pacific Air, the country's biggest budget carrier, has bagged regulatory approval to fly to new international destinations, including New Zealand and Myanmar.
Cebu Pacific said it was granted seat entitlements to mount added flights to Singapore, Macau and, from Cebu to Hong Kong. The increase was approved in a Civil Aeronautics Board meeting, it said.
"For the new routes such as New Zealand and Myanmar, Cebu Pacific is in the process of reviewing network plans and our options in terms of operations. We will make announcements soon as ready," Alex Reyes, general manager for Cebu Pacific's long haul division, said in a text message.
Cebu Pacific was granted seven flights weekly from Manila to New Zealand and 1,260 entitlements from Manila to Singapore, allowing the airline to upgrade its current daily Airbus A320 service to an Airbus A330 service.
In the same meeting, CAB designated Cebu Pacific Air as an official Philippine carrier to New Zealand, Myanmar and Canada.
Cebu Pacific's opposition to extension of the codeshare agreement between Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Emirates on the Manila-Dubai route which is set to expire in October 2014 was also granted by the CAB.
"We commend the CAB air panel for [its] wisdom in rendering decisions that allow Philippine carriers to expand services in international routes. This ultimately benefits the travelling public," said Jorenz Tañada, Cebu Pacific Air vice president for corporate affairs.
Cebu Pacific Air is set to launch thrice weekly flights from Manila to Kuwait on Sept. 2, 2014, and four times weekly flights from Manila to Sydney on Sept. 9, 2014.
The carrier's 50-strong fleet comprises 10 Airbus A319, 28 Airbus A320, 4 Airbus A330 and eight ATR-72-500 aircraft. It claims to be one of the most modern aircraft fleets in the world. 
Between 2014 and 2021, Cebu Pacific will take delivery of 11 more brand-new Airbus A320, 30 Airbus A321neo, and 2 Airbus A330 aircraft, the statement showed.–Miguel R. Camus : Inquirer

FORBES: Top 50 Richest Philippine Businessmen - Are they paying Right Taxes? Ask Henares

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 20:13

Henry Sy Sr. MIKE AMOROSO - By Louis Bacani (philstar.com)

Forbes: Richest Pinoys got richerMANILA, Philippines - Forbes magazine released on Thursday its new list of 50 richest Filipinos, most of whom got richer this year.Based on the updated list, the combined wealth of the country's 50 richest is a whopping $74.2 billion or P3.2 trillion, up 12 percent from $65.8 billion in 2013.Shopping mall mogul Henry Sy topped the list for the seventh consecutive year with a net worth of $12.7 billion or P553.59 billion."[Sy] Retains top spot for seventh year in a row. Richer than ever, thanks to rising share price for his SM Prime Holdings, country's largest mall operator, and Banco de Oro," Forbes said.Forbes staff Abram Brown noted that four newcomers join the top 50: the Po family, Dean Lao, the Concepcions and P.J. Lhuillier."The only loser in the Top 10 was Lucio Tan (No. 2), whose fortune fell on worries about the cigarette market," Brown said.The list of the richest Filipinos and their estimated net worth:GMA Network executives Gilberto Duavit Jimenez Menardo and Felipe Gozon also saw their rankings fell while businessman Manuel Pangilinan and Lourdes Montinola dropped from the top 50.
1. Henry Sy; US$12.7 billion
2. Lucio Tan; $6.1 billion
3. Enrique Razon Jr.; $5.2 billion
4. Andrew Tan; $5.1 billion
5. John Gokongwei Jr.; $4.9 billion
6. David Consunji; $3.9 billion
7. George Ty; $3.7 billion
8. Aboitiz Family; $3.6 billion
9. Jaime Zobel de Ayala & family; $3.4 billion
10. Tony Tan Caktiong; $2 billion
11. Robert Coyiuto Jr., $1.8 billion
12. Lucio & Susan Co, $1.7 billion
13. Yap family, $1.475 billion
14. Manuel Villar, $1.460 billion
15. Inigo & Mercedes Zobel,$1.2 billion
16. Alfredo Yao, $1 billion
17. Andrew Gotianun $955 million
18. Vivian Que Azcona $935 million
19. Eduardo Cojuangco $870 million
20. Beatrice Campos $825 million
21. Po family $770 million
22. Oscar Lopez $700 million
23. Alfonso Yuchengco $685 million
24. Roberto Ongpin $680 million
25. Betty Ang $670 million
26. Dean Lao $625 million
27. Manuel Zamora $620 million
28. Carlos Chan $550 million
29. Jorge Araneta $510 million
30. Mariano Tan Jr. $445 million
31. Edgar Sia $390 million
32. Ramon Ang $380 million
33. Michael Romero $375 million
34. Concepcion Family $320 million
35. Philip Ang $315 million
36. Frederick Dy $310 million
37. Luis Virata $300 million
38. Alfredo Ramos $260 million
39. Wilfred Steven Uytengsu Jr. $255 million
40. Tomas Alcantara $250 million
41. Jose Antonio $240 million
42. Bienvenido Tantoco Sr. $235 million
43. Jacinto Ng $230 million
44. Gilberto Duavit $200 million
45. Menardo Jimenez $195 million
46. Eric Recto $190 million
47. Walter Brown $183 million
48. Felipe Gozon $182 million
49. P.J. Lhuillier $180 million
50. Juliette Romualdez $170 million- Philstar

Supreme Court and Sandiganbayan orders turnover of Marcos' looted $42 Million USD to Philippine Treasury

Thu, 08/28/2014 - 16:42
Bank of America Merrill Lynch - Photo: investmentnews.com
Court orders turnover of Marcos' USD42M loot to govt
MANILA - The Sandiganbayan has ordered the turnover to the government of 42 million US dollars in the so-called "Arelma" account of the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos.
The anti-graft court's Special Division issued a two-page writ of execution on the 18th of this month directing the transfer of the money from the Philippine National Bank to the Bureau of Treasury.
The funds represent Marcos assets, originally amounting to 2 million dollars deposited with Merrill Lynch Securities in New York in 1972 in the name of Arelma Foundation.
The order was based on a Supreme Court ruling dated March 12, 2014.
In the ruling, the High Court junked the motion for reconsideration filed by Imelda Marcos, on behalf of the late President, and affirmed its April 25, 2012 decision which held that "[a]ll assets, properties, and funds belonging to Arelma, S.A., with an estimated aggregate amount of $3,369,975 as of 1983, plus all interests and all other income accrued thereon" be forfeited in favor of government when these assets are transferred to the possession of the Republic of the Philippines.
The case stems from a petition for forfeiture filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) with the Sandiganbayan on Dec. 17, 1991 involving $356 million ($658 million as of the April 2012 SC ruling), and two treasury notes worth $25 million and $5 million, allegedly illegally amassed by the Marcoses.
The PCGG petition also sought the forfeiture of the assets of alleged dummy corporations and entities established by the Marcoses, as well as real properties and personal properties obtained by the couple "manifestly out of proportion" to their lawful income.
Sandiganbayan - photo: philippinechronicle.com
Arelma, which maintained an account and portfolio in Merrill Lynch, New York, was described by the PCGG in the petition as among entities purportedly organized by the Marcoses for "hiding ill-gotten wealth."
The PCGG stressed that the Marcoses could not have afforded to acquire Arelma because their combined lawful income for the period 1966 to 1986, or in the two decades they were in power, was only P2,319,583 or $ 304,372, or only 9% of the entire Arelma fund of $3.4 million in 1983.
The PCGG obtained a favorable ruling from the Sandiganbayan on April 2, 2009; the anti-graft court declared all assets and properties of Arelma, S.A. forfeited in favor of the government.
The Marcoses filed an appeal with the SC to seek a reversal of the Sandiganbayan ruling.
In its 2012 decision, the high court stressed that "in determining whether the presumption of ill-gotten wealth should be applied, the relevant period is incumbency, or the period in which the public officer served in that position."
"The amount of the public officer's salary and lawful income is compared against any property or amount required for that same period," the high court said.
In its final ruling, the high court said the arguments the Marcoses raised in their MR were already passed upon in the 2012 decision.
Marcos incorporated Arelma, S.A. under Panamanian law in 1972, he was already President then; in 2000, the account had grown to $35 million. - ABS-CBN News 

Charter Change (Cha-Cha) Kicks Off! Should Pro Win? Aquino could have 2nd Term?

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:51

 

Cha-cha gets going

MANILA, Philippines - Floor debates over proposals to change economic provisions of the Constitution kicked off at the House of Representatives yesterday, with one of the proponents stressing that the effort is more about making future economic legislation responsive to Filipinos’ needs than giving foreigners the right to own land.

Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, who chairs the committee on constitutional amendment, made this clear in response to interpellation of Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 (RBH 1) by Akbayan party-list Rep. Walden Bello.

The plenary debates ended at past 7 p.m.

Albano said any proposed amendment to economic provisions of the Constitution would not be automatically written and adopted even if the resolution being discussed in the House is approved and ratified by the people.

Albano was the first to defend RBH 1 yesterday.

RBH 1, principally authored by Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr., seeks to include the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” in some sections of Articles XII (national economy and patrimony), XIV (education, science and technology, arts, culture and sports) and XVI (general provisions).

This means the constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership will remain until Congress enacts specific laws to remove them.

In his interpellation, Bello pointed out that China, Indonesia and Vietnam have the same constitutional restrictions on foreign ownership of land but these did not hinder the massive flow of foreign investments to their economies.

“We have seen that in the most dynamic economies in Southeast Asia, constitutional ban on foreign ownership was not in fact a hindrance – it’s something that foreign investors have learned to live with,” Bello said.

Albano, however, pointed out that RBH 1 does not contemplate on directly writing amendments to the Constitution but only seeks to allow the country to adjust or adapt to future economic realities and contingencies.

She said the parliaments of China, Indonesia and Vietnam have passed numerous laws that tend to ease economic restrictions in their respective constitutions.

“That’s not the objective. We’re not saying we’re going to remove them (restrictions). We want to provide flexibility to our country on crafting economic policies to meet the exigencies that come our way,” Albano told Bello.

She said China has allowed long-term lease of up to 99 years for land, while Vietnam and Indonesia have also enacted laws that allow full repatriation of earnings of investors, among other legislation passed to attract investments.

Albano said land ownership is not the only concern addressed by RBH 1, but also other sectors and aspects of the economy.

She noted Congress recently ratified a bill allowing full foreign ownership of banks.

Leaders of the chamber said they would try to speed up passage of RBH 1 to protect it from possible attempts by some lawmakers to dilute it with proposals to amend the political provisions of the Constitution to allow President Aquino to seek another term.

A counterpart measure, authored by Sen. Ralph Recto, is pending in the Senate.

Belmonte earlier expressed confidence that there would not be much fuss over RBH 1 as it is aimed at attracting investments and boosting employment.

“This is just a simple change. The door (to investments) is still locked and we have to provide a legal key,” the Speaker said. “I suppose all the countries around us, in fact, have always been ahead in the area of foreign direct investments, so we really have to start thinking on what we should do.”

He said positive economic developments and high foreign investor confidence provide further justification for removing constitutional obstacles to investments. - philSTAR

 

 

 

Philippine Economy likely grew over 6% in 2014 Q2 – FMIC

Wed, 08/27/2014 - 13:08

 

Economy likely grew over 6% in Q2 – FMIC

 

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s economy is forecast to expand by over six percent in the second quarter of 2014, slower than the 7.5-percent growth in the same period last year, according to First Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC).

Government forecasts gross domestic product (GDP) to grow between 6.5 to 7.5 percent this year.

In the first quarter of the year, the economy managed to expand a lower-than-expected 5.7 percent, as Super Typhoon Yolanda contributed to the poor performance.

But FMIC president Roberto Juanchito T.Dispo said clearer signs of recovery in the second quarter could serve as a positive momentum.

“We are quite confident that the economy will accelerate back towards the seven-percent growth part in the second half of 2014,” Dispo said. FMIC is a member of the Metrobank Group and one of the country’s leading investment firms.

He added that gains in industrial output look solid moving towards positive territory, employment growth at the start of the second quarter, and an anticipated momentum gain for government spending in the second semester of the year would get the Philippine economy back on track.

The FMIC executive said inflation is likely to accelerate in the third quarter to 4.8 percent or 0.5 percentage point higher than in the first three months of the year, due to the delayed importation of rice and the adverse impact on other food prices of Manila’s truck ban.

“We expect government spending to revert back to a 12-percent growth pace starting third quarter, with infrastructure spending continuing to lead the way,” Dispo said.

Exports are likewise seen to strengthen in the second semester as the US economy show solid signs of recovery with the help of speedier job creation. “China should continue to post seven-percent growth better for the second half, both adding to the demand for our export products,” the FMIC chief added.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) is expected to raise policy rate by another 25 basis points (bps) and the reserve requirements by another 100 bps towards the end of the year.

FMIC said that corporate bond issuance should pick up for the rest of the second semester of 2014 as the large issuers in the market have reached the single-borrower limits (SBLs).

Meanwhile, the FMIC report cautioned that the equity market will have to absorb BSP’s tightening measures.

“Valuations remain stretched and the sustainability of valuations hinges on earnings catching up, or the economy continuing to register strong growth,” Dispo said, adding that poor first semester GDP growth would force a downward bias in revised economic forecasting.

Nonetheless, the investment firm believes that in the present state of the equity market remains positive as it continues to challenge the 7,100-level.

“With these in mind, we believe selectivity is key to outperformance and rotation to value and low beta plays are preferred. We continue to like banks due to M&A themes, potential re-rating catalyst, and gaming stocks with properties located at Entertainment City in Manila,” it added. - philSTAR

 

Britain Said: Philippines could be "Asia's Next Superpower to Watch" in the next 20 years - unrivaled

Wed, 08/20/2014 - 14:07

NPPA/NPPA - MANILA, Philippines - Yahoo! interviews British Ambassador to the Philippines, Asif Ahmad, at the Yahoo! Philippines headquarters (Adrian Bautista/NPPA IMAGES)

 

PH is among Asia’s emerging powers, says British Ambassador

With its vast natural resources and an economic growth “that’s unrivaled by many across the region,” the Philippines is one of the emerging powers to watch, a diplomat has said.

“There’s no reason why over the next 20, 30 years, the Philippines will not fulfill the ambitions of what we believe the country has,” British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmad told Yahoo Philippines in a recent interview. Ahmad has been deployed to the country for over a year now. 

Ahmad said that among the members of the Association of Southeast Asia Nations (ASEAN), he perceives the Philippines “as a leading member of it.”

“We have created our links, we invest more time in terms of visits and attention than other countries. It’s part of our narrative of emerging powers and we see the Philippines as one of them,” he added, noting that this is also why Great Britain takes pride as the single-largest investor in the Philippines from the European Union.

Even politics does not appear to be a threat. In fact, Ahmad believes discussions on political developments such the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) and the Disbursement Allocation Program (DAP) are good.

“In any democracy, we see lively politics as being healthy and issues are being discussed in the open. It would be worse if corruption in the country like the Philippines or elsewhere was kept quiet or if the media are frightened to mention it,” he added.

But while a bright future appears to be in store for the Philippines, Ahmad admits the Philippine government has so much work to do. And if the Philippines wants to get the global attention it deserves, it must improve its airport and transport system.

“I’m looking at tourism, [PH has] a huge opportunity, the finest natural assets in the region. The challenge now, of course, is to how to get to each and every destination. [There must be] airport investment, reliable transport from A to B, and that in turn, generate employment…that’s a great opportunity,” Ahmad said.

Ahmad says untapped opportunities for the Philippines also include rural development. 

“If you have connections or infrastructure and transport systems, livelihoods will improve. People will be able to produce food not only for the Philippines but for export,” said Ahmad. - Yahoo News

 

 

PNOY opens Charter Change for 2ND TERM Philippines 2016 Presidential Election

Thu, 08/14/2014 - 08:03

 

PNoy open to charter change, lifting term limits

MANILA - President Benigno Aquino said on Wednesday he was considering constitutional changes including adjustment of term limits for officials that might allow him to serve a second six-year term.

The present constitution would limit Aquino, elected in 2010, to a single six-year term. The restriction was born of the country's experience of martial law under the late strongman Ferdinand Marcos, who ruled for more than two decades.

Aquino, speaking in an interview with a local television network, was asked whether charter changes would allow him to seek a second term in 2016.

"When I got into this, I remembered it is for one term of six years," he replied.

"Now after having said that, of course I have to listen to my bosses," he added, using his usual reference to the Filipino people. "But that doesn't mean...that I will automatically chase after another term, right?"

It was Aquino's first comment on reconsidering his stated position against amending the constitution passed during the term of his mother Corazon, who was closely associated with the re-establishment of a democratic order.

Any constitutional amendment would require a vote of three quarters in Congress and convocation of a constitutional convention. Aquino's allies currently dominate both houses of Congress.

Past presidents have considered charter amendments, but faced intense public criticism for attempting to extend their term of office. Aquino, who has put in place reforms in the fiscal sector that earned the country its first investment grade rating, is likely to face similar public reaction.

Some legislators, including the speaker of the lower chamber of Congress, have actively pushed for changes to the constitution, particularly to economic provisions that capped foreign investments into the country.

Recently, Interior Secretary Manuel "Mar" Roxas, a chief ally of Aquino and one of the leaders of the administration party, voiced his personal opinion Aquino should seek a second term.

Aquino also said charter changes would allow for a review of the courts' powers as a check on other branches of government.

Last month, the Supreme Court ruled that a government move to use budget savings for stimulus spending without congressional appropriation was unconstitutional, sparking debates on whether Aquino was indeed committed to his anti-corruption promises, since the money funded legislators pet projects. (Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; editing by Ralph Boulton) - ABS-CBN . Reuters

 

Philippines dance group A-Team wins 2014 International Hip Hop Dance Competition

Tue, 08/12/2014 - 09:01

DANCE PRIDE. A-Team performing their number at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship. Screengrab from YouTube

 

DANCE PRIDE. A-Team performing their number at the World Hip Hop Dance Championship. Screengrab from YouTube

MANILA, Philippines – Filipino dancers proved their talent once again, when the A-Team, a group of 30 dancers, won the gold medal at the Mega Crew division of the 2014 World Hip Hop dance competition held at Las Vegas.

The competition which was held Sunday (Monday, August 11 in Manila) and was livestreamed at the SM Aura Samsung Hall.

According to the Hip Hop International’s Facebook page, the bronze went to Russia’s Flyographers Dance Team, while New Zealand’s ID CO won the silver medal.

Here is a video of the A-Team’s number from the YouTube account of the Hip Hop International

The A-Team is led by two coaches known in the Philippine hip hop community – Angelica and MJ Arda. The group has been joining competitions since 2011, winning 2nd place in Slimmers World Step-Up Philippines, 2nd Place, World Supremacy Battlegrounds 2012 Varsity Division in Sydney, Australia, and Champion at the World Supremacy Battlegrounds 2013 Varsity Division also in Australia in 2013 among others.

Aside from the A-Team, another Filipino dance group, The Romancon Dance Company from the De La Salle - College of Saint Benilde also participated in the Adult Division finals of the competition. The division was won by the group Brotherhood from Canada.


- Rappler 

 

China believes Philippines - Vietnam, ASEAN countries will give up its territory if Scared

Sun, 08/10/2014 - 20:39

A Philippine helicopter prepares to take off during an exercise in June. The Philippines and China both claim territories in the South China Sea.

China expands its reach in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). What's the end goal?  

Beijing wants to assert its preeminence in Asia. But not so strongly as to push its neighbors into the arms of the United States. 

BEIJING — It is typhoon season in the South China Sea. But more dangerous than the physical winds tearing down homes and trees is a brewing political storm that threatens the peace in one of the world’s most strategic flash points.

Over the past several months China has set itself on a collision course with its Southeast Asian neighbors, taking a series of forceful steps to assert territorial claims over potentially valuable rocks, reefs, and waters that other nations claim, too.

Some of them, such as Vietnam and the Philippines, are alarmed enough to have voiced their anger publicly. Others, such as Malaysia, Indonesia, and Brunei, have been more cautious. 

Their collective disquiet has drawn in the United States. Senior US diplomats and defense officials have bluntly accused China of fomenting instability in the region and intimidating its neighbors.

China’s oft-repeated pledge of “peaceful development” and its offer of “amity, sincerity, mutual benefit, and inclusiveness” to Southeast Asia are looking threadbare. Adding to the uncertainty is the lack of clarity surroundingBeijing’s goals.

They may not be clear even to Beijing, where more dovish and more hawkish factions appear to be debating the wisdom of China’s recent moves. If Beijing’s abrasive attitude pushes its neighbors to seek help from Washington, some analysts here are warning, it will mean only trouble for China.

Instead of ending up as the naturally dominant power surrounded by economically dependent smaller neighbors, China would find itself strategically isolated in the region and facing off directly with the US.

“There are some inside the system who are wondering ... whether or not this is all going to backfire,” Christopher Johnson, a China analyst at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington, told those at a recent conference on China’s intentions.

At the same time, he added, there is “a possibility that they [the Chinese government] are not scoring ‘own goals,’ that they know exactly what they are doing with this strategy because they think it will be effective” in intimidating China’s neighbors into submission to Beijing’s regional domination.

'Salami slicing'

There is less ambiguity about what China has actually done in the South China Sea this year.

On Jan. 1, it imposed rules demanding that anyone fishing in waters it claims, which make up nearly 90 percent of the South China Sea, should get prior permission from the Chinese authorities.

In March a Chinese Coast Guard vessel prevented the Philippine Army from resupplying its soldiers based on a rusting ship grounded on the Second Thomas Reef in the Spratly Islands, which Beijing and Manila both claim.

Over the past few months, a Chinese dredging vessel has been creating an artificial island on the previously submerged Johnson South Reef, which the Philippines also claims. The company doing the work has published computer mock-up images of an airstrip it says is planned.

In May the state-owned China National Offshore Oil Corporation moved an oil drilling rig into disputed waters near the Paracel Islands, which Vietnam claims. A Chinese barge accompanying the rig rammed and sank a Vietnamese fishing boat during clashes.

All these moves appeared to violate an agreement that China signed with the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) 12 years ago in which both sides pledged to “exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

“China has been very opportunistic, pushing and pushing to see what they can get ... and taking as much as they can,” says David Arase, who teaches international politics at the Johns Hopkins University campus in Nanjing, China.

By taking small steps to avoid provoking Washington to act in support of its regional allies, China is trying to “dishearten” rival claimants and “resign them to the fact that they have to give up their rights,” Professor Arase says.

“They are continuing with their salami slicing, reef by reef, step by step,” said Tran Truong Thuy, an analyst at Vietnam’s Institute for East Sea Studies, at a recent CSIS conference. “In reality they want to change ... the South China Sea into a Chinese lake.”

Are China's claims legitimate?

China insists its actions are legitimate since, in an oft-repeated official phrase, Beijing enjoys “indisputable sovereignty” over all the islands in the South China Sea and “their adjacent waters” on historical grounds, no matter how far they are from the mainland or how close to other countries’ coastlines.

That is debatable, say international law experts. Chinese maps show what it calls a “nine-dashed line” around the edge of the South China Sea, shaped in the form of a lolling cow’s tongue, cutting through several neighboring countries’ 200-mile exclusive economic zones and their continental shelves. But Beijing has never clearly explained just what this line signifies.

“Even in China there are different ideas” on the subject, says Xue Li, head of the international strategy department at the China Academy of Social Sciences. Members of the military insist the line marks China’s national boundary; others suggest it encloses China’s historical waters; some scholars say it merely demarcates the land features over which China claims sovereignty.

The Philippines is challenging the legality of the “nine-dashed line” in a case it has brought before a tribunal of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea. China has refused to participate in the case, and few foreign legal experts say Beijing could win it.

China might, however, try to defend the line anyway by altering facts on the ground. Nationalist sentiment is strong in China: President Xi Jinping has shown himself readier to take risks than his predecessor, and territorial assertion could prove an attractive way to illustrate the “national rejuvenation” he has promised as China takes its rightful place in the world.

Xi ‘does not want to look like a chicken’

“Domestic opinion is very important to Xi Jinping,” says Zhu Feng, the head of the recently created Collaborative Innovation Center for South China Sea Studies at Nanjing University, a think tank to coordinate South China Sea studies. “He does not want to look like a chicken.”

At the same time, suggests Mr. Johnson of CSIS, Mr. Xi may believe he can get away with current policy because “ultimately, ASEAN countries will stand aside because of their interest and dependence on China’s economic prospects.”

But the costs of appearing to neighbors like an arrogant bully are not negligible. The recent row with Vietnam over the oil rig “completely turned around relations with Vietnam,” says Carl Thayer, an expert on Southeast Asia at the University of New South Wales in Australia. 

The Vietnamese prime minister threatened to follow the Philippines to an international court and “the idea of getting out of China’s orbit has gone viral in Vietnamese public opinion.”

China withdrew the rig a month ahead of schedule, perhaps to cool the crisis, but not before it had drawn heavy international criticism and further stoked regional fears.

A survey published in July by the Pew Research Center found that a majority of people in eight of 10 countries neighboring China are worried that the Asian giant’s territorial ambitions could lead to military conflict.

Chinese analysts insist that Beijing’s traditional aim of maintaining a peaceful international environment to favor its economic development has not changed fundamentally, nor has its declared policy of shelving territorial disputes and jointly developing energy and other resources.

The challenge, says Lou Chunhao, an analyst at the China Institutes of Contemporary International Relations, affiliated with China’s Ministry of State Security, is “how to achieve a balance ... between protecting Chinese rights and sovereignty in the South China Sea and maintaining a benign environment.”

China’s rivals see safety in numbers

China’s ASEAN rivals in territorial disputes are not reassured by Beijing’s insistence that they resolve their differences one-on-one; they see safety in numbers. Nor have any of them yet voiced any enthusiasm for Xi’s call for a new Chinacentric security system in the region to replace the US-dominated arrangements that have held for the past 70 years.

“In the final analysis, it is for the people of Asia to run the affairs of Asia, solve the problems of Asia, and uphold the security of Asia,” Xi told an international conference in Shanghai, China, last May.

China’s top long-term goals in the ocean it claims, says Rory Medcalf, head of the international security program at the Lowy Institute, a think tank in Sydney, Australia, is “to ensure that nothing happens in the South China Sea without Chinese blessing” and “maximum freedom of maneuver for its Navy ... to be the dominant military player in those waters.”

An increasingly vocal band of government policy advisers in Beijing are suggesting that those goals would be easier to achieve if China’s neighbors trusted it more; they are urging a reset in China’s neighborhood diplomacy.

“China’s Navy could already beat all the ASEAN navies. The question is whether it would be worth it,” Mr. Xue argues. “We would pick up a sesame seed and throw away a watermelon,” he says, referring to the manifold economic benefits that closer ties with Southeast Asia would bring.

“The South China Sea could be a real battlefield, and that would be very harmful to China’s future,” adds Professor Zhu. “We need to find a way to settle [the disputes] piece by piece.”

Given China’s geographic position and its economic and political strength, “it is quite normal that China should be the dominant power in the South China Sea,” Xue says. “And just because of that, maybe we need to make compromises with our neighbors.” - CS Monitor

 

 

Japan Gives Vessels to Vietnam to Boost Maritime Security; A threat to the Philippines for another Viet invasion to Spratly?

Sun, 08/03/2014 - 10:18

Japan's Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida attends a media briefing with his Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh after their meeting at the Government Guesthouse in Hanoi, August 1, 2014.- Reuters

Japan offers vessels to Vietnam to boost its sea strength

HANOI - Japan will give six navy boats to Vietnam to boost its patrols and surveillance in the South China Sea, Japan's foreign minister said on Friday, in the latest sign of a strengthening of alliances between states locked in maritime rows with China.

The used vessels, worth 500 million yen ($4.86 million), would be accompanied by training and equipment to help the coast guard and fisheries surveillance effort, Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida said after talks with Vietnamese counterpart Pham Binh Minh.

The deal represents a notable shift in the two countries' close diplomatic and investment ties towards defense, a move likely to irk an increasingly assertive China that is pressing hard on claims to nine-tenths of the potentially energy-rich sea, and worrying much of the region.

"International security is getting more complicated... prosperity only comes with stability in the South China Sea and the East China Sea," Kishada told a news conference in Hanoi.

"I hope this equipment will strengthen the ability of Vietnam's coastal enforcement authorities."

Vietnam enjoys tight business ties with Japan, its biggest investor, but relations with Hanoi's largest trade partner, China, are at their worst in three decades and analysts believe that has sharpened the debate within Vietnam's secretive Communist Party over long-term foreign policy strategy.

Beijing's May 2 deployment of a drilling rig in waters Vietnam claims as its exclusive economic zone lit the fuse on simmering anti-China sentiment in Vietnam, worsened by accusations that the southeast Asian country's fishing boats were deliberately rammed by Chinese vessels.

Live-fire drills

That led to rare protests, rioting and arson in Vietnam aimed at Chinese factories, although Taiwan facilities were worst hit.

The rig was moved out of contested waters on July 16, a month before schedule, but it remains unclear if the two countries struck a deal behind the scenes. China said the rig was shifted because its mission had been completed.

China is not showing any sign of easing off on its maritime push. It will hold live-fire drills for five days from Tuesday off its coast in the East China Sea opposite Japan and in the Gulf of Tonkin, which borders both China and Vietnam, according to the Ministry of National Defense.

The Japanese support for Vietnam will include radar equipment and the vessels are to be handed over by year end, according to a Japanese government source in Tokyo, who requested anonymity.

Japan's already fragile ties with China have soured over their competing claims to a string of uninhabited East China Sea islets that Beijing calls Diaoyu and Tokyo refers to as Senkaku.

China also has overlapping South China Sea claims with Taiwan, Malaysia, Brunei and the Philippines, to which Vietnam has recently cosied up, and says may follow in pursuing international legal action against China.

Soldiers from both countries drank beer and played soccer during a party on an island in the disputed Spratly archipelago in June, in what was widely seen as a provocative show of unity.

1975 Vietnam Invasion of Pugad Island of the Philippines with Prostitutes ( Southwest Cay invasion )

Southwest Cay, known as Pugad island in the Philippines, as (南子岛) Nanzi Dao in China and as Đảo Song Tử Tây in Vietnam, is an island in the Spratly group. It was occupied by Philippine forces up to 1975, when South Vietnam forces were able to invade the island.

Southwest Cay is in the northern edge of the Spratly group. It is within North Danger Reef which also contains the Philippine-occupied Northeast Cay (Parola Island), Vietnamese-occupied South Reef and unoccupied North Reef. Southwest Cay and Northeast Cay are just 1.75 miles (2.82 km) away from each other. Each island can actually see the other within their respective horizons.

The invasion took place when all the Philippine soldiers guarding the island of Pugad left to attend to the birthday party of their commanding officer who is based on nearby Parola Island. The storm that day is also believed to have persuaded all the soldiers to regroup temporarily on Parola island. A report also came out saying that South Vietnamese officials managed to send Vietnamese prostitutes to the birthday party to lure the Filipino soldiers guarding Pugad Island. It was said to be a "present" to the Philippine commander for his birthday and as a move of South Vietnamese forces to befriend all Filipino soldiers guarding the Spratlys. Philippine soldiers did not expect that South Vietnam would resort to foul play since both Philippines and South Vietnam, together with the United States, were allies in the Vietnam War. This tactic is believed to be the reason why South Vietnamese forces knew that the Filipino soldiers left the island, an action that is usually kept confidential.

After the party and after the weather cleared out, the returning soldiers were surprised that there was a company of South Vietnamese soldiers on the island. The South Vietnamese flag replaced the Philippine flag flying in the pole created by Philippine soldiers themselves. The soldiers returned to Parola immediately for fear that Parola would be the next target. After higher-ups of the Philippines were informed about the situation, they instructed the troops based in Parola and Pagasa to stay on red alert status. The following morning, the only thing the Filipino soldiers could do in Parola was to "curse" while South Vietnamese sang their national anthem. Under the Government of former president  Ferdinand Marcos - Malacañang officials, who did not want to compromise the alliance while the Vietnam War was still being fought, decided to remain silent.

A few months later, the recently formed unified Vietnam (after North Vietnam successfully invaded South Vietnam) decided to remove all remaining South Vietnamese troops in the Spratlys and establish military control among the features. It was reported that dozens of South Vietnamese soldiers in Pugad Island swam all the way to Parola just to avoid being captured by North Vietnamese forces. It was then when Malacañang officials, headed by President Ferdinand Marcos, discussed how the Philippines could reclaim the island. It had been apparent that most of the officials (who treat the communists as a threat to the Philippine national security) want to attack Pugad to reclaim it. However, after an intelligence report came stating that the unified Vietnam had already built a huge concrete garrison within a few weeks, the officials dropped the plan and tried to resolve the issue diplomatically. However, this approach eventually died along the process making Pugad a Vietnamese-occupied island up to this day. This incident was confirmed in interviews with soldiers involved in an episode of the defunct Magandang Gabi Bayan (Eng.: Good Evening Nation) (MGB) of ABS-CBN. - Reuters, ABS-CBN, GMA

 

LRTA awards ₱65-Billion Cavite Extension project to Metro Pacific - Ayala Group Consortium

Mon, 07/28/2014 - 08:46

Proposed LRT-MRT intersection Stations - DOTC

 

LRTA awards LRT1 Extension project to MPIC-Ayala tandem

MANILA, Philippines - The board of the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA)  has approved the recommendation to award the ₱65-Billion ($1.5 Billion USD)  LRT1 Cavite Extension project to the tandem of  infrastructure giant Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) and conglomerate Ayala Corp.

Hernando Cabrera, LRTA spokesperson, said the board has approved the awarding of the public private partnership (PPP) project to the Light Rail Manila Consortium based on the recommendation made by the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Special Bids and Awards Committee (SBAC) last Monday.

 “The LRTA board approved the award as recommended by the SBAC,” Cabrera said.

The LRTA board is composed of eight ex-officio cabinet members, chaired by Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya, with the heads of the  Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Finance (DOF), National Economic and Development Authority  (NEDA), Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA), Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB), LRTA administrator, and a representative from the private sector.

The LRTA board was supposed to meet in the second week of July but was moved to July 16 due to the lack of quorum. However, the July 16 meeting was called off due to Typhoon Glenda.

The meeting finally pushed through last Wednesday but the awarding of the project was not discussed due to numerous items in the agenda prompting the LRTA board to meet again yesterday morning where the award of the project to the Light Rail Manila Consortium was finally approved.

Cabrera said the LRTA board authorized the DOTC chief to sign and issue the Notice of Award and Concession Agreement for the project.

 “Secretary Abaya was authorized to sign and issue the Notice of Award and the Concession Agreement,” Cabrera said.

DOTC spokesman Michael Arthur Sagcal said in a text message that the agency would wait for the LRTA Board Resolution approving the award of the PPP project to the Light Rail Manila Consortium.

 “We will await the LRTA Board Resolution approving the BAC’s recommendation to award the project. Once the resolution is received, Secretary Abaya may then issue the Notice of Award to the Light Rail Manila Consortium,” Sagcal said.

MPIC Light Rail Corp. leads the group with 55 percent followed Ayala’s AC Infrastructure Holdings Corp. with 35 percent and Macquaire Infrastructure Holdings (Philippines) Pte Ltd. with 10 percent.

MPIC president Jose Maria K. Lim said the group has one year from the issuance of the Notice of Award to take over the facilities of LRT1.

 “We have one year to take over and then we have five years to deliver the extension,” Lim told reporters

The group would have 20 days from the Notice of Award to make the 20 percent down payment while the remaining 80 percent would be paid during the 32-year concession period.

Ayala Corp. managing director John Eric Francia said the consortium is looking forward to the customary closing of the transaction.

 “There is much work to do to enhance the system and customer experience, and we look forward to get going soon,” Francia said in a text message.- philSTAR By Lawrence Agcaoili

 

1,056 job vacancies at Bureau of Customs Available open for applicants

Sun, 07/27/2014 - 08:17

photo: gov.ph

 

MANILA, Philippines - There are over a thousand vacancies at Bureau of Customs (BOC) offices nationwide that need to be filled.

 

Customs Commissioner John Sevilla said they need 1,056 personnel – accountants, administrative officers, lawyers, special police, special agents, intelligence agents, statisticians and Customs operations officers.

 

“By filling these vacancies, we will be able to provide a faster and better standard of service for importers, exporters and the public dealing with Customs,” he said. “On the average, we have over 3,000 entries and over 6,000 individual items being imported every day.”

 

Sevilla said around 4,000 containers arriving everyday need to be inspected.

 

“In order to facilitate these transactions we need additional manpower,” he said.

 

“Right now, there are only 3,600 employees in BOC.”

 

Photo: Wikimedia

 

1,056 job vacancies at Customs

 

The lack of manpower was partly due to retirement, resignation and death, as well as dropping from the rolls and dismissal from service, Sevilla said.

 

To screen applicants, the BOC has released new guidelines under Customs Memorandum Order 15-2014 to simplify the hiring and selection process.

 

Interested applicants could visit the BOC website www.customs.gov.ph to download the details and documents required for their applications, including an updated personal data sheet; certificate of eligibility issued by the Civil Service Commission, Professional Regulation Commission or Supreme Court; transcript of records and diploma; certificates of training and seminars attended, if any; and performance appraisal report for the last two rating periods for those already working in government offices.

 

Deadline for the submission of application is on Aug. 6.

 

Provincial applicants may also send their applications via courier.

 

Applicants with relatives in the BOC up to the fourth degree of consanguinity are barred from applying for any position, as the Administrative Code  prohibits nepotism.

 

All applicants will be screened by the newly formed BOC Personnel Selection Boards.

 

Applicants who pass the initial screening will undergo special aptitude and psychometric tests conducted by the Civil Service Commission.

 

After passing, they will take competency-based tests given by requesting groups or offices consisting of a written test, interview and a physical exam for applicants for the Intelligence and Enforcement groups.

 

The BOC has streamlined the process of promotion for employees with first and second level positions.

 

An employee may be promoted to a position which is more than three salary grades higher than the employee’s present position in meritorious cases. – With Zinnia dela Peña at philSTAR

 

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