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Barclays: Overseas Pinoy remittances up $3.6 Billion Dollars - 7.5% in February 2014

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 00:13

photo: ph.austronesia.net

Philippines - Money sent home by Filipinos abroad could have grown 7.5 percent in February from year-ago levels, UK-based investment bank Barclays said.

“Growth in remittances is likely to rebound somewhat after the slowdown in January,” the bank said in a research note.

Cash remittances summed up to $1.7 billion in February last year, while personal remittances – cash and non-cash--amounted to $1.881 billion.

Official February remittances data will be released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Tuesday, April 15.

Latest data from the central bank showed personal remittances rose 6.8 percent to $2.002 billion in January due to the continuous deployment of Filipinos abroad.

Cash remittances alone climbed 5.9 percent to $1.799 billion during the first month of the year. These primarily came from the United States, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, the United Kingdom, Singapore, Japan and Canada.

The BSP said there were 75,348 approved job orders in January, of which 32.1 percent or 24,187 were processed. The processed job orders were for service, production, and professional, technical, and related jobs in Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Taiwan, Kuwait and Qatar.

At the same time, expansion of bank and non-bank remittance service providers abroad supported the growth in overseas Filipinos’ remittances.

The country’s cash remittances jumped 10 percent to $22.968 billion last year, the highest level ever recorded by the central bank. Personal remittances, meanwhile, rose 8.6 percent to $25.351 billion.

Remittances, which supports domestic consumption, made up 8.4 percent of the country’s gross domestic product last year which settled at a faster-than-expected 7.2 percent.

The BSP hopes to grow cash remittances by five percent this year from the 2013 figure. - philSTAR

 

Manny Pacquiao Avenges Loss In Dominating Win Over Timothy Bradley

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 20:07

Pacquiao is back on top after defeating Timothy Bradley by unanimous decision. - FORBES

Celebrities like Jack Nicholson, Will Ferrell and 50 Cent came out to Las Vegas Saturday night to see if one of the greatest boxers of our generation still could deliver the goods as Manny Pacquiao squared off against Timothy Bradley, Jr. for the WBO title. The Filipino congressman did not disappoint the pro-Pacquiao crowd in a dominating victory over Bradley. The unanimous decision for Pacquiao avenged his June 2012 split decision defeat to Bradley in a bout that almost all observers had Pacquiao winning handily. Pacquiao put the decision in the hands of the judges once again, but they scored it 118-110, 116-112 and 116-112, and we avoided a repeat of what Top Rank CEO Bob Arum called a “death knell for the sport” after the decision for Pacquiao-Bradley I.

It was the eighth straight fight for Pacquiao that ended with a decision and not with knockout, but he was more aggressive than he has been in recent bouts. He controlled the second half of the fight winning at least six of the seven final rounds on all three judges’ cards. ”I knew I had to do more in this fight than I did in the last fight,” said Pacquiao after the win.
Pacquiao pocketed $20 million for the fight, down from $26 million for their June 2012 fight. Bradley earned a career best $6 million in his title defense. Pacquiao has earned more than $300 million in his career since he turned pro in 1995.

What’s next for Pacquiao? Forget the eternally discussed mega-fight with Floyd Mayweather. The blood feud between Top Rank/HBO and Golden Boy/Showtime/Mayweather is at an all-time high and makes the Hatfields vs. McCoys look quaint. Mayweather and Pacquiao are not crossing party lines to make this happen even it would generate $150 million for the fighters to share.

“I think I can fight for two more years,” said Pacquiao after Saturday’s fight. His most likely opponent is the winner of the May 17 matchup between Juan Manuel Marquez and Mike Alvarado. Arum promotes all three fighters greasing the wheels to an agreement, and the winner of the May fight will be Pacquiao’s mandatory challenger.

Marquez is a significant favorite over Alvarado and a fight against Pacquiao would be the fifth in a series between the two warriors that started in 2004. Pacquiao leads the series 2-1 with their first fight ending in a draw. Pacquiao had a 15-fight winning streak before Bradley defeated him under a cloud of controversy in 2012. Marquez knocked out Pacquiao in December 2012 leading many to question if Pacquiao was nearing the end. Pacquiao avenged his Bradley loss and no doubt would like to do the same with Marquez.

Money reportedly held up previous negotiations on Pacquiao-Marquez 5, which resulted in Pacquiao in the ring against Bradley Saturday night. But Marquez is coming off a split decision loss to Bradley in October and a showdown with Pacquiao is his chance to score a career high payday. ”I have no problem with fighting Marquez again, but that’s up to my promoter, Bob Arum,” Pacquiao said.

Fans have not tired of the rivalry with the last two bouts averaging 1.3 million pay-per-view buys and both among the biggest audiences of Pacquiao’s long, successful PPV career. Look for Arum to make a fifth bout in the stories franchise for later in 2014. - FORBES

 

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Philippines told China "watch your words"

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 18:17

 

China told to be careful in hinting use of force in sea row

 

The Defense Department on Thursday called on China to be circumspect in issuing statements after Beijing had warned that its military could be assembled quickly to win any battle.

“They should be more circumspect regarding the giving of statement,” Defense Department Spokesman Peter Galvez told reporters when asked whether China’s statement was acceptable.

Galvez said they would continue to support peaceful means to resolve the territorial row in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

“What is important is we approach all these things peacefully and the soonest that we approach this peacefully, the sooner the region can expect all the development and growth which is the target and aimed for not just by Filipinos but everyone in the entire Asia Pacific,” he added.

Earlier, Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan warned the Philippines and Japan that China would not compromise on its territorial claims. He also hinted that China could use its military to protect its interests.

“We will make no compromise, no concession, no trading,” Chang said in a press briefing in Washington last Tuesday.

“Not even a tiny bit of violation is allowed,” he added.

China claims virtually the entire West Philippine Sea while the Philippines, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan have overlapping claims.

China is also embroiled in a territorial dispute with Japan over the Senkaku islands in the East China Sea. Japan has vowed to strengthen its security ties with the Philippines and to further cooperate on the defense of remote islands, territorial seas and maritime interests.

The Philippines recently filed a memorial or a written argument to the United Nations arbitral tribunal hearing its case against China’s territorial claims.

Galvez dodged questions on whether or not Chang’s recent statement would help in maintaining peace and stability in the region.

“We will try to achieve what will be necessary to defend the nation,” the defense official said.

“We will continue to work within our mandate to defend our country and of course to approach this peacefully,” he added.

China has been resorting to aggressive acts to assert its territorial claims, raising concerns about their possible effects on freedom of navigation and freedom of flight in international airspace.

Early this year, China established an air defense identification zone above international waters separating China, Japan, South Korea and Taiwan.

The move requires all aircraft to report their flight plans and to identify themselves while flying through the zone.

China has also announced the enactment of a new law requiring foreign fishing boats to seek its permission before operating in the West Philippine Sea.

Phl, US resume base access talks

The Philippines and the US on Thursday started the 8th round of negotiations on a deal that would grant American troops greater access to the military’s bases.

The negotiating panels did not issue opening statements on their meeting, which was held at the Department of Foreign Affairs office in Pasay.

The Defense department is hopeful that negotiators would come up with an agreement that is mutually beneficial to both countries.

“What is important is we keep the language and all the negotiations within the Constitution,” Galvez said.

He could not say whether the agreement would be signed in time for United States President Barack Obama’s visit to the Philippines this month.

 

 

China warns Philippines, Japan: Chinese military can quickly to fight and win any battle

Thu, 04/10/2014 - 23:42

WASHINGTON – Chinese Defense Minister Chang Wanquan has warned the Philippines and Japan not to test China’s resolve to safeguard its national sovereignty, security and territorial integrity, saying the Chinese military can be assembled quickly to fight and win any battle.

The Chinese official raised the warning in a joint press conference in Beijing with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel.

Chang said territorial sovereignty was a core Chinese interest on which “we will make no compromise, no concession, no trading.”

“Not even a tiny bit of violation is allowed,” he said.

A transcript of the Tuesday conference was released by the Pentagon in Washington.

For his part, Hagel, who is on a three-day visit to China, said the Philippines and Japan were long-time allies of the United States.

“We have mutual self-defense treaties with each of those two countries and we are fully committed to those treaty obligations,” he said.

Chang accused the Philippines and Japan of stirring up troubles for China. He said the Philippines did its math the wrong way.

Manila earlier submitted a memorial or written pleading to a United Nations tribunal in The Hague on its territorial disputes with Beijing when “the fact is that it is the Philippines who illegally occupy part of China’s islands and reefs in the South China Sea.”

China has made clear on several occasions that it does not accept and will not participate in the international arbitration initiated by the Philippines but stands ready to resolve the issue through bilateral negotiations, Chang said.

On the dispute between China and Japan over islands in the East China Sea, Chang said China has indisputable sovereignty over Diaoyu Islands (called Senkaku by Tokyo), Nansha Islands, and their adjacent waters.

China created an air defense identification zone (ADIZ) over the East China Sea in November 2013, particularly over an area that includes islands at the heart of a bitter dispute with Japan.

There are fears in Manila and Washington that Beijing, which claims almost all of the South China Sea at the expense of the Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia, among others, may be poised to also create a similar ADIZ over the South China Sea.

Referring to the ADIZ at the press conference, Hagel said every nation has the right to establish air defense zones, but not unilaterally with no collaboration or consultation.

“That adds to tensions, misunderstandings and could eventually add to and eventually get to dangerous conflict,” he said.

In later remarks at a the People’s Liberation Army National Defense University in Beijing, Hagel said America’s rebalance in the Asia Pacific was a reaffirmation of its long standing bonds of history, commerce and friendship throughout the region.

“That is not – must not be, nor will be – at the exclusion of strengthening our relationship with China,” he said.

Referring specifically to the Philippines and Japan, he said both were long-time allies of the United States.

“We have treaty obligations with those two nations and we will honor our treaty obligations. But make no mistake that disputes need to be resolved peacefully, diplomatically, within the framework of international order based on international law,” he said.

Grateful former enemy

At the commemoration of the 1942 Bataan Death March yesterday, the Japanese government yesterday expressed profound gratitude to the US and the Philippines for accepting Japan as friend, 72 years after its brutal conquest of the Philippines.

“Japan is grateful to the Filipinos and Americans for building peace within our hearts. We are happy to work with you for the common good of all,” Ambassador Toshinao Urabe said in his speech at the historic Mt. Samat Shrine in Pilar, Bataan.

After their surrender to the Japanese Imperial Army on April 9, 1942, thousands of Filipino and US prisoners of war were forced to march from Bataan to Capas in Tarlac in what came to be known as the Bataan Death March. Thousands of prisoners died along the way.

“Thanks to the efforts of our predecessors, we are now strategic partners, sharing common values,” he said.

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg expressed the same gratitude.

“We are thankful that in the end, peace reached our lands – the Philippines, Japan, and the US. Each step we make today toward further peace and prosperity, democracy and the rule of law is a way to honor their footsteps on this soil so long ago,” he said.

“It’s remarkable that not just our two nations, but three have forged close and enduring friendships, alliances and strategic partnerships based on democratic values and mutual respect that came from the blood and sacrifice of our reliant soldiers,” Goldberg said.

Tokyo, Washington and Manila – which have close military partnership – have been openly castigating China for its expansive claim over large areas in the West Philippine Sea and the East China Sea.

President Aquino, for his part, said that while Filipinos should not forget the lessons of the Death March, they should also cherish the blossoming of friendship between former enemies.

“It’s clear that we’re now friends – understanding and respecting each other, with our own aspirations and concerns. We understand each other’s thinking, culture and conviction,” Aquino said in a speech delivered in Filipino during the commemoration rites.

“We are helping each other to achieve our collective goal of preventing this dark episode in our history from happening again,” he said. - With Delon Porcalla - philSTAR

Germany Gift: A Merkel, a Map, a Message to China over falsified Map massive Sea territorial claim?

Wed, 04/09/2014 - 23:42

German Chancellor Angela Merkel presents Chinese President Xi Jinping with a a map of China from the 18th century at the Chancellor's Office on March 28, 2014, in Berlin - BPA/Getty Images

On March 28, German Chancellor Angela Merkel hosted visiting Chinese President Xi Jinping at a dinner where they exchanged gifts. Merkel presented to Xi a 1735 map of China made by prolific French cartographer Jean-Baptiste Bourguignon d'Anville and printed by a German publishing house. According to an antique-maps website, d'Anville's map was based on earlier geographical surveys done by Jesuit missionaries in China and represented the "summation of European knowledge on China in the 18th-century." The map showed, according to its original Latin caption, the so-called "China Proper" -- that is, the Chinese heartland mostly populated by ethnic Han people, without Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, or Manchuria. The islands of Taiwan and Hainan -- the latter clearly part of modern China, the former very much disputed -- are shown with a different color border.

Historical maps are sensitive business in China. Every schoolchild in China learns that Tibet, Xinjiang, Taiwan, and the Diaoyu Islands have been "inalienable parts of China since ancient times." The d'Anville map, at least visually, is a rejection of that narrative. Unsurprisingly, China's official media outlets don't seem to have appreciated Merkel's gift. The People's Daily, which has given meticulous accounts of Xi's European tour, elided any coverage of the offending map. More curiously, when news of the map's presentation reached the Chinese heartland, it had somehow morphed into a completely different one. A map published in many Chinese-language media reports about Merkel's gift-giving shows the Chinese empire at its territorial zenith, including Tibet, Xinjiang, Mongolia, and large swaths of Siberia. This larger map was the handiwork of British mapmaker John Dower, published in 1844 by Henry Teesdale & Co. in London, and was certainly not the gift from Merkel to Xi. But this mistake was not noted or explained in Chinese reports.

Both versions of the Merkel map have made appearances on Chinese social media, eliciting vastly different interpretations. Those who saw the d'Anville map seemed shocked by its limited territories. Hao Qian, a finance reporter, remarked that the map is "quite an awkward gift." Writer Xiao Zheng blasted Merkel for trying to "legitimize the Tibet and Xinjiang independence movements." Architect Liu Kun wrote, "The Germans definitely have ulterior motives." One Internet user asked, "How is this possible? Where is Tibet, Xinjiang, the Northeast? How did Xi react?"

The Dower map, on the other hand, seemed to stoke collective nostalgia for large territories and imperial power. An advertising executive enthused, "Our ancestors are badass." Another Internet user hoped Xi would feel "encouraged" by the map to "realize what a true re-emerge of China means." Some suspected that Merkel tried to send Xi a subtle reminder that Russia had helped Mongolia declare independence from China in the mid-20th century, somewhat like what Russia did in Crimea in March 2014.

To be sure, the d'Anville map does not constitute a total contradiction of the Chinese government's version of history. In 1735, the year when the Qianlong Emperor began his six-decade reign, his Qing empire's military prowess was on the ascent. Qianlong quelled a rebellion by Muslims in the western region of Xinjiang, brought the Mongol tribes under closer rule, and appointed officials to oversee affairs in Tibet such as the selection of the Dalai Lama. In other words, Qianlong established the trappings of imperial control over these peripheral territories, which allowed later governments -- the Republic of China, then the current People's Republic of China -- to claim sovereignty. Maps published by Western countries in the 19th and early 20th centuries vary in their presentations of Tibet and Xinjiang, but the Dower map is certainly not alone in showing Xinjiang and Tibet as parts of the Chinese empire.

All the cartographic brouhaha may be overblown. One Internet user refused to "overinterpret" the d'Anville map as a message about Tibet or Xinjiang. After all, "You can't use a map of the 13 colonies of the United States made in 1776 to tell Americans that Texas or California is not U.S. territory." - Foreign Policy 

 

Philippines Infrastructure projects spending jumped ₱16.4 billion to ₱23.8 billion a 45% up in January

Sat, 04/05/2014 - 09:01

s of January, expenditures for infrastructure and other capital outlay surged to ₱23.8 billion, a ₱7.4-billion or 45.1-percent increase from the ₱16.4 billion recorded in the same month last year. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

Philippines—Public spending on infrastructure rose by nearly half in January as the government financed reconstruction efforts in areas affected by Super Typhoon Yolanda, documents released on Thursday showed.

The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) noted that government disbursements accelerated in January despite the absence of election-related spending after last year’s mid-term polls.

“What’s particularly notable is that we were able to ramp up expenditures to levels that would have been expected of election season, and we’re definitely a good way off from that,” Budget Secretary Florencio Abad said.

As of January, expenditures for infrastructure and other capital outlay surged to ₱23.8 billion, a ₱7.4-billion or 45.1-percent increase from the ₱16.4 billion recorded in the same month last year.

Overall, total national government expenditures likewise registered a ₱25.1-billion, or 15.9-percent, increase to ₱183 billion from ₱157.9 billion in January 2013.

“Front-loading of expenditures in the first semester fits very well with our goal of sustaining the country’s growth trajectory this year,” Abad said.

The DBM said spending for infrastructure and other capital outlay was buoyed by the various projects of the departments of public works and highways and of transportation and communications as well as the Health Facilities Enhancement Program of the Department of Health (DOH). - Inquirer

 

Philippines jumps 8 spots in WEF Enabling Trade index

Thu, 04/03/2014 - 01:31

The Philippines jumped 8 spots in the World Economic Forum's Enabling Trade Index.

The Philippines now ranks 64th out of 138 economies, according to the Global Enabling Trade Report 2014. The country has show significant improvements in enabling trade, rising from 92nd place out of 125 economies in 2010 and 72nd out of 132 economies in 2012.

Among the ASEAN countries, the Philippines ranked 5th in the index, after Singapore (1st), Malaysia (25th), Thailand (57th), and Indonesia (58th).

The Philippines is followed by Vietnam (72nd), Cambodia (93rd), Lao DPR (98th), and Myanmar (121st).

"The country does well on the domestic market access (19th) and foreign market access (26th) pillars, but room for improvement remains with respect to the other five pillars of the index. It ranks in the bottom half of the ETI sample in all of them. Border administration (71st) is mired by corruption and red tape, two factors also contributing to weakening the general operating environment (82nd)," the report noted.

The Philippines' biggest weakness is the lack of adequate transport infrastructure, placing 96th in this category.

"The shortcomings are the most severe in the airport (105th) and port (107th) infrastructure. To make things worse, the availability and quality of associated logistics services remains largely insufficient (84th)," it added.

The Enabling Trade Index “assesses the extent to which economies have in place institutions, policies, infrastructures and services facilitating the free flow of goods over borders and to their destination.” The trade-enabling factors are classified under four categories: market access, border administration, infrastructure, and operating environment.

Makati Busienss Club director Peter Perfecto noted that while there are persistent challenges in certain areas, the Philippines enjoys some advantages in 15 areas.

"Among the 56 indicators comprising the enabling trade index, the Philippines enjoys competitive advantages in the following 15 areas: specific tariffs, tariffs faced, cost to export, cost to import, tariff dispersion, ease and affordability of shipment, available international airline seats in kilometers per week, customs services index, access to finance, share of duty-free imports, number of distinct tariffs, efficiency of clearance process, tariff rate, number of days to import, and ICT use for business to business transactions," he said.

The report also identified the the top five problematic factors for exporting in the Philippines:

1. High cost or delays caused by domestic transportation, 
2. access to imported inputs at competitive prices, 
3. technical requirements and standards abroad, 
4. identifying potential markets and buyers, and 
5. difficulties in meeting quality/quantity requirements of buyers.

For importing in the Philippines, the top five problematic factors: are:

1. burdensome import procedures, 
2. corruption at the border, 
3. tariffs, 
4. high cost or delays caused by domestic transportation, and 
5. high cost or delays caused by international transportation.

The Makati Business Club is a partner institute of the World Economic Forum in the Philippines. - ABS-CBN News

 

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WELCOME TO CHINA! | Over SMS and cyberspace Beijing sends a message over Palawan Province

Wed, 04/02/2014 - 08:26

MANILA, Philippines – China appears to be bolstering its claims to disputed islands in the South China Sea, besides regularly deploying sea patrols. In cyberspace and in telecommunications, Beijing seems to have found a subtle way to “virtually” expand Chinese territory.

In 2013, a special report by InterAksyon.com showed that on Google Earth, China has outsmarted the Philippines by planting its virtual flags on those various islands that dot the coveted, resource-rich archipelago in the West Philippine Sea (how Manila refers to the South China Sea).

A cursory look at photos uploaded by Internet users to the 3D map program Google Earth revealed that citizens from China, Vietnam and Taiwan had “invaded” the islands in question, with a glaring absence of Philippine contributions to the online mapping service.

The photos, uploaded through photo-sharing service Panoramio, dot several locations in the highly disputed Spratly Islands — more commonly referred to as the Kalayaan Group of Islands — and Panatag Shoal just West of Luzon island.

Mobile phone at Ayungin

The scramble to tag the islets - at least on the cybermap - as their possession comes to mind amid the furor triggered by journalist Raissa Robles’ posting of a photo in her blog of an SMS that appeared in the mobile phone of a colleague riding a plane that recently flew over the Ayungin Shoal, scene of the March 29 standoff between a Philippine re-supply boat and two Chinese coastguard vessels.

The civilian fishing boat was bearing food and other supplies for a Marine contingent on the abandoned BRP Sierra Madre, an old Navy ship placed by the Philippines in a strategic spot on Ayungin Shoal to stake its presence in an area it calls part of its continental shelf. The civilian boat, also carrying some mediamen and soldiers who were to relieve the Marines who had finished a five-month tour on the BRP Sierra Madre, was harassed by the Chinese coastguard but eventually evaded the blockade and got near to the Sierra Madre, completing its mission.
As this was happening on the ground, up in the air Robles’ journalist-friend – a subscriber of Philippine telco Globe - was shocked to see an SMS that began with the surreal greeting, Welcome to China!” flashing on the screen of his mobile phone.

Robles wrote: “The plane passengers were monitoring a supply ship that was en route to bringing provisions to marines guarding Ayungin Shoal from being taken over by China. China claims the Philippines is “illegally” occupying Ayungin. A Chinese coast guard vessel was trying to block the supply ship for hours last Saturday.

“In the Globe Telecom statement, the company’s lead lawyer Froilan Castelo, said it is investigating the incident. Castelo went on to say that: ‘Technically speaking, cellular phones are able to pick up a dominant signal in the area where they are. At a certain altitude, cellular signals could be as strong as radio frequencies emitted by cell sites because they are unimpeded by buildings or other on-ground infrastructure. In the case of the Ayungin Shoal, it is quite possible that the mobile phone could pick up the signal of another network since the area is within territorial borders.’

But, Robles pointed out, Atty. Castelo, “does not explain whose territorial borders he’s referring to. Also, how come mobile phones can pick up China Mobile’s but not Globe’s network? Why is China Mobile’s signal dominant in an area claimed by the Philippines as part of its territory when China’s nearest land mass is miles and miles away? Where is China Mobile’s signal coming from?”

Digital landgrabbing

The Ayungin Shoal incident may seem surreal to Filipinos who wonder how territory so near to Palawan’s mainland, and so far from China, could be owned by Beijing; but to those who have tried the Paronamio service on Google Earth, it is not surprising: cyberspace shows numerous islands and islets in the maritime dispute zone littered with “claims”.

 In Parola Island, for example, the farthest Philippine-occupied territory in the island chain, the Vietnamese had uploaded a number of photos depicting structures erected by the Vietnamese government in the island they call Dao Song Tu Dong, or the Southwest Cay.

Further South, the Vietnamese claim could not be more assertive as users uploaded a photo of Dao Da Nam island, part of the disputed Paracel Islands, with the caption: “Belong to Vietnam.”

In Panatag Shoal off Zambales in western Luzon, where Chinese and Philippine governments have been in a standoff since April 2012, the virtual tension is more apparent: while one photo depicting the Philippine flag perched atop one of the rocky atolls in the area is clearly labeled “Panatag Shoal,” another photo — this time a Chinese flag waving atop a small rock — shouts: Huangyan Island – Chinese inherent territory.

Chinese and Philippine naval forces were locked in a standoff last year along Panatag Shoal (also referred to as Scarborough Shoal) as the latter accused the emerging superpower of a “de facto occupation” of the disputed shoal after China dispatched government vessels along the area.
The Philippines insists that the shoal is well within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by international law, but China has included the shoal as part of the territories it is claiming in almost all of the West Philippine Sea as part of its 9-dash-line claim in the area.

Kalayaan islands ours

Though Vietnam and China had made their virtual claims to these islands more apparent than the Philippines, not all islands are, so to speak, “reserved” by these nations. In Pag-Asa Island, for example, where the seat of government of the Kalayaan Group of Islands is located, most contributed photos were that of detachment units and structures that were built by Filipinos on the island. Though there were still Chinese and Vietnamese photo uploads on the island, the Philippine-contributed photos clearly outnumber them all.

The scarcity of Philippine-uploaded photos on the Google Earth application, however, may not be attributed entirely to a more vigorous claim by other countries. The photos, sourced from Google-owned service Panoramio, are user-generated — which means Filipinos would have to contribute their own photos so that it will show up in the service.

The real battle

Meanwhile, the real battle unfolds on two fronts: first physically, in the waters where Beijing’s substantially increased maritime fleet has been deployed for regular “patrols” of Chinese-claimed territory, routinely harassing boats of other nations like the Philippines; and second, in the United Nations court, where Manila infuriated Beijing last Sunday (March 30) by proceeding to file, despite warnings, its Memorial or summary of arguments in its complaint against China’s “excessive” nine-dash-line claim.

Beyond the physical and legal battle fronts, the war for people’s hearts and minds could also be fairly expected to proceed apace in cyberspace and in telecommunications, underscoring the weird texture of today’s messages: to Filipinos preparing to commemorate in April the worst episodes of their three-year misery under foreign occupiers during World War II, nothing can be as chilling as the short, chirpy phrase: “Welcome to China!”

Source: INTERAKSYON

 

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World's biggest money manager "BlackRock" picks Philippines, Indonesia as top share hunting ground

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 19:34

BlackRock, Inc. is a U.S.-headquartered multinational investment management corporation based in New York City

HONG KONG - BlackRock Inc, the world's biggest money manager, said improving economic indicators in Indonesia and consistent corporate earnings in the Philippines make those two countries prime hunting grounds for Southeast Asian stocks.

Indonesia has slashed its current-account deficit and tamed inflation, strengthening its previously ailing currency. In the Philippines, companies have met forecasts more often than the rest of Asia during a period of successive sovereign credit rating upgrades.

Immediate beneficiaries of economic growth include consumer, financial and infrastructure shares. These make up more than half of BlackRock's $244 million ASEAN Leaders Fund which features stocks such as Indonesian state-controlled lender Bank Mandiri Persero Tbk PT and conglomerate Astra International Tbk PT.

Southeast Asian markets saw sharp volatility last year when investors pulled out in anticipation of tighter liquidity as the U.S. Federal Reserve winds down economic stimulus. Interest has since returned, with Indonesia's main stock index .JKSE rising 18 percent in dollar terms this year, the highest in Asia.

"In an environment where we are sort of pulling back on liquidity with (Fed) tapering, there was an initial shock in these countries and currencies," said head of Asian equities Andrew Swan at the Reuters ASEAN Summit in Hong Kong.

"But current account deficits are declining and trade surpluses are increasing. And that's been quite pleasing I think for many people to see that it's actually happened reasonably quickly, and that's why money is coming back."

BlackRock's Indonesian investments amounted to less than its benchmark index for most of last year. Last month, however, Swan raised the proportion of Indonesian securities in BlackRock's ASEAN fund to 20.2 percent, 1.5 percentage points higher than the MSCI South East Asia Index, according to the fund factsheet.

The proportion of Philippine securities was 8.6 percent which, at 2 percentage points higher than the benchmark, was the fund's boldest exposure.

Indonesian and Philippine shares currently trade at nearly 3.5 times and 3 times their book value - or companies' total value - indicating they are the most expensive in Asia. Shares in the rest of the region, excluding Japan, average 1.4 times.

The stock may be expensive, but Swan said earnings per Philippine share so far in 2014 have been similar to earnings over the past two-and-a-half years, whereas elsewhere in Asia ex-Japan earnings on average have been 25 percent lower.

Increased investment in the Philippines, resilient income growth and a current account surplus - indicating more money coming into the country than going out - suggests a chance of future earnings exceeding analyst estimates, Swan said.

In Indonesia, swift economic adjustment came as a surprise, Swan said. The current account deficit is narrowing, suggesting "we are getting through the worst of the adjustment process."

The deficit in the fourth quarter was about 2 percent of gross domestic product. That compared with a record 4.4 percent six months before, and was the narrowest since the second quarter of 2012.

BlackRock's ASEAN Leaders Fund returned 2.2 percent in the first two months of 2014, outperforming a 1.6 percent gain in its benchmark MSCI South East Asia index.

The fund returned 1.7 percent last year when its benchmark was down 4.5 percent and fund peers lost 5.3 percent, according to data compiled by global fund tracker Thomson Reuters Lipper.

Swan's top bets in the fund he co-manages include Singapore Telecommunications Ltd, Keppel Corporation Ltd and Malayan Banking Bhd. - ABS-CBN News

 

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France' Compagnie Française d’Assurance (COFACE) cite Philippines as top emerging economy

Fri, 03/28/2014 - 18:57

The Philippines is among the top countries with “emerging economies,” a French credit body said in its latest economic publication.

Compagnie Française d’Assurance pour le Commerce Extérieur (COFACE) cited the Philippines as a country with high growth potential and the most favorable prospect of increasing production capacity in the years to come.

COFACE said the Philippines is also considered to have the most favorable business climate.

Other countries recognized as top emerging economies include Peru, Indonesia, Colombia and Sri Lanka replacing Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.

The criteria used by COFACE to determine the new emerging economies include intermediate level of per capita income (above that of less advanced economies but below that of advanced economies); higher GDP growth rate than most advanced economies; and major institutional transformations.

“This piece of economic good news comes at the heels of the report that the International Monetary Fund (IMF) had raised its 2014 economic growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.5%, up from its January projection of 6.3%. Standard and Poor’s (S&P) also raised its growth projection for the Philippines to 6.6% for 2014,” DFA said in a statement Friday.

The IMF and S&P are leading providers of global credit benchmarks, policy advice and research to foster economic development and growth around the world, while the COFACE is the French credit rating agency which publishes quarterly risk assessments for 160 countries.

 

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Philippine imports surge 222% in sign of rising growth: govt

Wed, 03/26/2014 - 14:04

Workers unload sacks of rice from a truck at the National Food Authority warehouse in Manila.- Bloomberg 

Philippine imports surged 21.8 percent in January, their highest level in nearly three years, with imports of raw materials indicating further upward momentum for one of Asia's fastest growing economies, the government said Tuesday.

It was the biggest rise since March 2011, when imports grew by 21.9 percent, National Statistics Office figures showed.

The Philippines, formerly an economic laggard, grew by a remarkable 7.2 percent in 2013 despite a series of disasters including the devastating Super Typhoon Haiyan in November. Its growth last year was second in Asia only to China, officials said.

Imports surged due to a recovery in Philippine exports such as electronics and garments and increased spending on infrastructure, especially in areas affected by Haiyan, said Rosemarie Edillon, assistant director general of the government's socio-economic planning agency.

"The economy is definitely going to grow. A huge chunk of these imports are for production: capital goods and investments for the manufacture of other goods," she told AFP.

Imported raw materials are a major input in many of the country's key exports such as electronics and garments so the surging imports mean even higher exports later, she said.

"These imports are a leading indicator for exports two or three months down the road. If imports in January increase, we will probably see an increase in exports in March and April," she said.

The increase in shipments of steel, metal and chemical products were also an indication of the major construction efforts being undertaken, both to upgrade infrastructure and to rebuild the damage caused by the disasters, she added.

Imports in January hit $5.757 billion, up 21.8 percent from the same period last year, the statistics office said.

This resulted in a trade deficit of $1.376 billion in January, up 92 percent from the same period in 2013.

Socio-economic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan also said in a statement that "this positive (import) performance may be reflective of the optimistic outlook of businesses on their own operations", in the second quarter of the year.

China was the biggest source of imports to the Philippines, accounting for 14.7 percent of the total, with the United States in second with 10.6 percent, the statistics office added.- MSN News

 

Philippines, Switzerland strengthen economic cooperation

Mon, 03/24/2014 - 11:44

The Philippines and Switzerland vowed to intensify bilateral economic and political cooperation and partnership during their recent 6th Bilateral Consultations in Manila. The meeting was co-chaired by Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Undersecretary for Policy Evan P. Garcia and Swiss Federal Department of Foreign Affairs Assistant State Secretary for Asia-Pacific, Ambassador Beat Nobs. Participating were DFA Assistant Secretary for European Affairs Maria Zeneida Angara Collinson and Switzerland’s Ambassador to the Philippines Ivo Sieber.

The two parties welcomed the signing of an Agreement on the Establishment of a Joint Economic Commission (JEC). Switzerland has been active in pursuing economic agreements in the Asia-Pacific region, including in the Philippines. With the signing of the Joint Declaration of Cooperation, the Philippines can commence negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with the European Free Trade Association (EFTA), composed of Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, and Liechtenstein. The Philippines and Switzerland exchanged views on various areas of common concern, including migration, education, and finance. They agreed on the importance of maritime security, freedom of navigation, and the peaceful resolution in international law, including the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

The Philippines thanked Switzerland for being one of the first countries to respond following super-typhoon Yolanda, with a total combined public and private humanitarian assistance amounting to US$49 million. Switzerland reaffirmed its commitment to co-host the Asia-Europe Meeting (ASEM) Manila Conference and Management which will take place in Manila this June. The Conference will be attended by 48 partner countries in the ASEM, the ASEAN Secretariat, and the European Commission. The Philippines agreed to co-host Switzerland’s proposed ASEM on Restitution of Hidden Wealth later this year.

Diplomatic relations between the Philippines and Switzerland were formally established on August 30, 1957, although Swiss presence in the country has been recorded since the 1800s. In 1862, Switzerland established an honorary consulate in Manila, its first diplomatic outpost in Asia. In 2012, bilateral trade stood at US$657 million while Swiss investments in the Philippines amounted to US$290 million. There are about 60 Swiss companies operating in the Philippines today.

The Manila Bulletin, led by its Chairman of the Board of Directors Dr. Emilio T. Yap, President and Publisher Atty. Hermogenes P. Pobre, Executive Vice President Dr. Emilio C. Yap III, Editor-in-Chief Dr. Cris J. Icban Jr., Business Editor Loreto D. Cabañes, Directors, Officers and Employees, Congratulate the Department of Foreign Affairs of the Philippines headed by Secretary Albert F. Del Rosario and the Federal Department of Foreign Affairs of Switzerland headed by Didier Burkhalter, in their efforts in intensifying bilateral economic and political cooperation and partnership of Switzerland  and the Republic of the Philippines. 

 

Philippines to sign $525 Million Canada and Korea aircraft contracts this March 28, 2014

Sat, 03/22/2014 - 23:38

The Department of National Defense and Armed Forces of the Philippines chose to acquire 12 FA-50 jet fighters made by the Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. Photo from Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd.

The Philippines will award aircraft contracts to South Korean and Canadian companies worth $525.62 million (P23.7 billion), a senior defense official said on Friday, boosting its capability as tension simmers in the South China Sea.

The Philippines has embarked on a five-year, 75-billion-peso modernization program to boost its capability to defend its maritime borders against the creeping expansion of China in the South China Sea.

"This is significant because we need to give our armed forces the minimum capability to perform its mission and responsibility," Manalo told reporters after completing negotiations with the two companies.

Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. got the contract for the fighter-trainers worth 18.9 billion pesos while Canadian Commercial Corporation, which is licensed to market Bell helicopters, promised to deliver its first craft next year.

Last week, China prevented two civilian ships from delivering supplies to troops stationed in the shipwreck in the Second Thomas Shoal.

China claims 90 percent of the South China Sea's 3.5 million sq. km. (1.35 sq miles) of waters. The sea provides 10 percent of the global fish catch and carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade each year.

Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan also have claims to the sea.

The Philippines' ill-equipped armed forces are no match for those of China, despite receiving two cutters and coastal radar stations from the United States. The military lost its fighter capability when it mothballed all its F-5A/Bs in the early 2000s.

Manalo said the Philippines was also spending 26 billion pesos within the year to acquire two frigates, two strategic sealift and three anti-submarine helicopters. — Reuters

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday warned that China was determined to change the status quo in the disputed waters, taking control of the Scarborough Shoal and forcing Manila to remove a transport ship that ran aground in the Second Thomas Shoal.

Fernando Manalo, undersecretary of defense for finance, munitions, installations and materiel, said the Philippines would acquire 12 brand-new FA-50 fighter-trainers and eight Bell 412 helicopters under a government-to-government deal.

The contracts to be signed on March 28 will include the purchase of 12 FA-50 fighter jets from state-run Korea Aerospace Industries for 18.9 billion pesos ($417.95 million), Defense Undersecretary Fernando Manalo told reporters.

The Bell 412 is a development of the Bell 212 Twin Huey, the main difference being the 412 has a four-blade main rotor. Photo from www.bellhelicopter.com

State-owned Canadian Commercial Corp. will meanwhile be contracted to supply eight Bell 412 combat utility helicopters worth 4.8 billion pesos, with the first three helicopters expected to be delivered next year, he added.

"This is significant because it will give our armed forces the minimum capability to demonstrate their ability to perform their responsibilities," he added.

The Philippines has embarked on a 75-billion-peso effort to upgrade its armed forces, particularly units tasked with patrolling disputed territory in the South China Sea.

These units are dwarfed by those of neighboring China, which claims most of the area, including waters and islets much closer to the Philippines.

The Philippines has already acquired two refurbished frigates from the US coastguard as part of its military modernization program .

China said its coastguard on March 9 blocked two Philippine-flagged vessels approaching Second Thomas Shoal, which is guarded by a small group of Filipino marines but is also claimed by Beijing.

The shoal is part of the Spratlys, a chain of islets and reefs that sit near key shipping lanes, are surrounded by rich fishing grounds and are also believed to lie atop huge oil and gas reserves.

The Philippines has also accused the Chinese coastguard of firing water cannon blasts on January 27 at two Filipino fishing vessels off Scarborough Shoal, a rocky outcrop lies just 220 kilometers off the main Philippine island of Luzon. GMA news/ Reuters 

 

CHACHA WIN! VOTE: 24-2-1 Economic Charter Change allow foreign investors to own 100% in the Philippines

Tue, 03/04/2014 - 16:22

House committee  okays cha-cha

Rep. Mercedes Alvarez (Neg. Occ., 6th District), a co-author of the bill seeking an amendment to the economic provision of the 1987 Constitution, said it was approved by the Committee on Constitutional Amendments of the House of Representatives yesterday afternoon.

The principal author of the bill is House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte Jr.

Voting 24-2-1, the Committee on Constitutional Amendments approved Resolution of Both Houses No. 1 aiming to insert “unless otherwise provided by law” in the economic provision of the Constitution.

Davao City Rep. Mylene Garcia-Albano, who chairs the committee, said the approved resolution will be forwarded to the plenary for second reading.

Those who voted against the resolution were Bayan Muna party-list Reps. Carlos Isagani Zarate and Neri Colmenares, while Pampanga Rep. Oscar Rodriguez, abstained from the voting.

The resolution aims to amend economic provisions on the 60-40 rule that limits foreign ownership of certain activities in the Philippines.

The resolution will include the phrase “unless provided by law” in the foreign-ownership provision of the Constitution, particularly land ownership, public utilities, natural resources, media and advertising industries.

Under Article XII of the Constitution, foreign investors are prohibited to own more than 40 percent of real properties and businesses, while they are totally restricted to exploit natural resources and own any company in the media industry.

The amendments to the Charter will be approved through separate votings by the both Chambers -- the Senate and the House of Representatives -- with a three-fourth votes required from them.

The Cha-cha debate will start after Congress resumes session on May 5 as they are prepared to go on Lenten recess on March 15.

Belmonte and Alvarez said the amendments are purely for the economic provisions.

Belmonte stressed that he will not allow any member to insert any provision other than what is specified in his resolution.

He expressed confidence that his proposal will get the vote of the majority in the Lower Chamber.- CARLA GOMEZ - Visayan Daily Star /*CPG/PNA

 

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Philippines asks Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan and Vietnam to join the case to K.O China from Asean Waters

Fri, 02/28/2014 - 21:47

illustration from voanews.com

Philippines asks neighbors to join case against China

 The Philippines on Thursday called on Malaysia, Vietnam and other claimants to join its legal challenge to China’s massive territorial claim in the South China Sea.

In a bold step, Filipino officials took their territorial disputes with China to international arbitration in January last year after Chinese government ships took control of a disputed shoal off the northwestern Philippines.

They asked the tribunal to declare China’s claim to about 80 percent of the strategic waters and Beijing’s seizure of eight South China Sea shoals and reefs illegal. China has ignored the legal challenge but the tribunal has proceeded and asked the Philippines to submit its legal arguments and evidence by March 30.

The Philippines chief lawyer, Solicitor-General Francis Jardeleza, said Malaysia, Vietnam and two other governments could either take part in the Philippine case or file their own complaints against China. Smaller countries, he said, can only have a chance to peacefully defend their territories against the Asian superpower in a legal arena.

“Where can the weak go?” Jardeleza asked in a Manila forum on the territorial disputes.

“We are here to prove that from the point of view of the rule of law, all of the actions and all of the claims of China are ... invalid.”

China, Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Taiwan and Vietnam have overlapping claims across the busy South China Sea. The disputes have periodically erupted into dangerous confrontations, sparking tensions and straining ties.

animation from wix.com

Law professor Raul Pangalangan told the forum that the Philippines wanted China to explain the limits and basis of its vast claims. China, Jardeleza said, could still change its mind and join the arbitration, which would take at least two years to conclude.

China has asked the other claimants to settle the disputes through one-on-one negotiations, something that would give it advantage because of its sheer size and clout. It has also warned Washington not to get involved.

The Philippines may include recent aggressive Chinese acts in its complaint, including what it said was the firing of a water cannon by a Chinese coast guard ship to drive away Filipino fishermen from the disputed Scarborough Shoal on Jan. 27, Jardeleza said.

China has controlled the shoal since Philippine vessels backed off from a tense standoff there in 2012. Chinese coast guard and surveillance ships have guarded the territory and chased away Filipino fishermen if they ventured close.

After the Philippines raised the Jan. 27 incident publicly, the Chinese Embassy in Manila responded that Beijing “has indisputable sovereignty over South China Sea islands and their adjacent waters,” Scarborough Shoal included. - Arab News

 

China Fired Cannon to Philippine Fishermen in Palawan Waters

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 17:35

China used water cannon on Philippine fishermen Spratly Islands. Photo: rt.com

 

Philippines says China used water cannon on fishermen in disputed sea

MANILA (Reuters) - A Chinese coastguard ship used a water cannon last month to drive Filipino fishermen out of disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), illustrating aggressive enforcement of new Chinese rules, the head of the Philippine military said on Monday.

China has since the beginning of the year required foreign fishing boats to get approval before entering waters that China claims as its own.

"The Chinese coastguard tried to drive away fishermen to the extent of using water cannon," Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista told foreign correspondents, referring to a January 27 incident near the Scarborough Shoal.

China claims about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)'s 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) waters. The sea provides 10 percent of the global fish catch, carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade a year and is believed to be rich in energy.

Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.

Bautista declined to give more details about the confrontation in the area, about 130 nautical miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, saying the military still had to talk to the fishermen.

He said the Philippine military would try to avoid confrontation with China but would react if China used violence against Philippine fishermen.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of details of the situation, and repeated that China had sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and its islands.

"The relevant Chinese maritime forces carry out normal official patrols in that area," she told a daily news briefing.

A senior Philippine navy official said it was the first time China used water cannon in the area.

"Our fishermen are used to playing a dangerous cat-and-mouse game but China has become very aggressive," said the navy official who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea but China is refusing to participate in the case.

China has rejected challenges to its sovereignty claims and accused the Philippines of illegally occupying Chinese islands in the seas and of provoking tension.

This month, the commander of the U.S. Navy said the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of conflict with China over disputed waters.

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, who was attending the same forum as Bautista, urged the Association of South East Asian Nations and China to accelerate negotiations on a code of conduct for the sea to avoid accidents and miscalculations.

"We believe that the agreement on the code of conduct is long overdue," Goldberg said, adding that the United States supported Philippine efforts to bring the dispute to international arbitration.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Reuters

 

China Fired Cannon to Philippine Fishermen in Spratly Islands Palawan

Mon, 02/24/2014 - 17:27

5000 China Fishing Ships in West Philippines to be armed as Militiamen

Philippines says China used water cannon on fishermen in disputed sea

MANILA (Reuters) - A Chinese coastguard ship used a water cannon last month to drive Filipino fishermen out of disputed waters in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), illustrating aggressive enforcement of new Chinese rules, the head of the Philippine military said on Monday.

China has since the beginning of the year required foreign fishing boats to get approval before entering waters that China claims as its own.

"The Chinese coastguard tried to drive away fishermen to the extent of using water cannon," Armed Forces Chief of Staff General Emmanuel Bautista told foreign correspondents, referring to a January 27 incident near the Scarborough Shoal.

China claims about 90 percent of the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea)'s 3.5 million sq km (1.35 million sq mile) waters. The sea provides 10 percent of the global fish catch, carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade a year and is believed to be rich in energy.

Taiwan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Brunei and Vietnam also claim parts of the sea.

Bautista declined to give more details about the confrontation in the area, about 130 nautical miles west of the main Philippine island of Luzon, saying the military still had to talk to the fishermen.

He said the Philippine military would try to avoid confrontation with China but would react if China used violence against Philippine fishermen.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Hua Chunying said she was not aware of details of the situation, and repeated that China had sovereignty over the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and its islands.

"The relevant Chinese maritime forces carry out normal official patrols in that area," she told a daily news briefing.

A senior Philippine navy official said it was the first time China used water cannon in the area.

"Our fishermen are used to playing a dangerous cat-and-mouse game but China has become very aggressive," said the navy official who declined to be identified because he is not authorised to speak to the media.

The Philippines has taken its dispute with China to arbitration under the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea but China is refusing to participate in the case.

China has rejected challenges to its sovereignty claims and accused the Philippines of illegally occupying Chinese islands in the seas and of provoking tension.

This month, the commander of the U.S. Navy said the United States would come to the aid of the Philippines in the event of conflict with China over disputed waters.

The U.S. ambassador to the Philippines, Philip Goldberg, who was attending the same forum as Bautista, urged the Association of South East Asian Nations and China to accelerate negotiations on a code of conduct for the sea to avoid accidents and miscalculations.

"We believe that the agreement on the code of conduct is long overdue," Goldberg said, adding that the United States supported Philippine efforts to bring the dispute to international arbitration.

(Reporting By Manuel Mogato; Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING; Editing by Robert Birsel)

Reuters

$29 Million or ₱1.3 Billion from Marcos' Swiss bank accounts returned to the Philippine Government

Fri, 02/14/2014 - 17:30



An estimated $29 million or ₱1.3 Billion, previously stored in secret Swiss accounts kept by the late President Ferdinand Marcos and family members, have been returned to the Philippine government. 
The Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) made this announcement on Wednesday, roughly two weeks before the Philippines is set to commemorate the 1986 People Power Revolution that deposed Marcos who, with close family members, relatives, and cronies, sought exile in Hawaii. 
Worth P1.3 billion, the funds were from accounts held in the name of several foundations which were later proven to be "fronts of the [members of the] Marcos family," Andres Bautista, PCGG Chairperson said in a press briefing held on Wednesday morning. 
The funds—which were originally denominated in two currencies including the British pound—were transferred to the national treasury after the PCGG, on the strength of Philippine, Swiss, and Singaporean court decisions, engaged in talks with several financial institutions to recover the Marcoses' ill-gotten wealth. 
In 1997, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court ordered the funds to be turned over to the Philippine government, Bautista explained. 
"There was enough evidence to convince the Swiss courts particularly the highest court of Switzerland, the Swiss Federal Supreme Court, to say that these are really ill-gotten wealth and that's why they agreed to the repatriation of these funds back to the Philippines," he said during the briefing. 
However, the Swiss court set conditions before the funds be turned over to the Philippine government. 
These conditions were: that the funds were to be invested in a double A bank; that a final decision regarding the matter be issued by the Philippines' Supreme Court; and that the Philippine government should enter an escrow arrangement with another bank. 
As a result of the Swiss court ruling, the money was later placed in West Landesbank in Singapore and the Philippine government arranged to have the money temporarily held by the privately-led Philippine National Bank, which used to be one of the government's depository banks but is now a lender controlled by businessman Lucio Tan, a known associate of the Marcoses. 
In July 2003, the Philippine Supreme Court issued a decision granting the forfeiture of these assets in favor of the government. 
Not long after, a case was filed in Singapore by lawyers of human rights victims during the Marcos dictatorship. The case sought to stake a claim on funds from the Swiss accounts that were, at that time, stored in West Landesbank. 
But in August 2012, a Singapore High Court sustained the claim of the Philippine National Bank, stating that "it holds the legal title as a trustee of the Republic of the Philippines," Bautista explained during the briefing. 
In December 2013, the Singapore Court of Appeals affirmed the judgment, paving the way for a meeting between "the PCGG, the PNB, as well as the [Wes Landesbank] which held the funds," regarding the fund turnover, Bautista said. 
And on February 5 and 10, the PCGG was finally able to turn over the funds to the Philippine national treasury, Bautista said. 
A total of P166 billion have been recovered by the PCGG in its 28-year existence, Bautista said.

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Israel offers excess defense radars for ₱2.6 Billion to the Philippines; 1 lent radar to arrive this year

Fri, 02/07/2014 - 00:18

Israel offers excess defense articles to Philippines

Israel has offered to provide the Philippines with excess defense articles.

Department of National Defense spokesman Peter Galvez said Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Ya’alon discussed the matter during a bilateral meeting in Tel Aviv last week.

“Israel also offered assistance in the development of command, control, communications, computers and intelligence capabilities as well as the availability of excess defense articles for Philippine acquisition,” he said.

Gazmin and Ya’alon also discussed the prospects of information exchange, particularly on terrorism and technology-sharing.

Earlier, The STAR reported that the Philippines would acquire three air search radars from Israel to boost monitoring activities in the West Philippine Sea.

The radars will be purchased from state-run Israel Aerospace Industries Ltd.-Elta for ₱2.6 billion.

Last week, security officials signed an implementation arrangement to pave the way for the purchase.

Part of the deal is for Israel to lend one radar for the immediate security needs of the Philippines.

The delivery of the three radars is expected within the next two years.

The radar to be lent will arrive in a year.  

The radars will be used to improve the country’s maritime domain awareness in the West Philippine Sea.

Galvez said Gazmin and Ya’alon also discussed the establishment of a working group to examine the security situation in their countries and to explore efforts to address common concerns.

“The working group will also come up with available solutions with cost considerations in regard to further enhancing the defense capability build-up of the Philippines,” he said.

Upon the invitation of Ya’alon, Gazmin visited Israel en route to his official visit to the Golan Heights - philSTAR

 

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Philippines annex "Bangsamoro State" for Muslim self-rule in SOUTHERN PART MINDANAO signed for 2016

Mon, 01/27/2014 - 01:15

The Manila government has signed a deal with a MILF Muslim separatist group on the decommissioning of rebel weapons, paving the way for the creation of a new self-governing region for the country's Muslim minority in Mindanao by 2016.

The agreement – with the country's biggest Muslim rebel group the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) – is the final piece of a deal initially agreed in October 2012 that many people hope will end more than four decades of violence in the southern Philippines that has left more than 100,000 people dead and retarded economic growth. Other aspects of the deal, on wealth, revenue and power sharing, have already been completed.

A peace agreement signed with another rebel group, the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), in 1996 is largely considered a failure. Fighting worsened after it came into effect and the autonomous regional government created in its wake proved ineffectual.

"The agreement represents the culmination of decades of excruciating diplomatic efforts aimed at ending the conflict in Mindanao," said Richard Javad Heydarian, a political science lecturer at Ateneo de Manila University. "This provides an unprecedented opportunity to end one of the world's longest-running intrastate conflicts."

The groups left out of the agreement are the most violent in the southern Philippines, including the Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf, which has carried out kidnappings, bombings and beheadings for more than a decade and says it wants to set up a strict Islamic state.

The peace deal is expected to be signed within the next several weeks, but analysts consider that just a formality. They say the true test of the pact will be in its implementation; a peace deal with another militant group in 1996 failed in part because of widespread corruption in the area it was supposed to control.

The negotiations were brokered by Malaysia, where the deal was reached, and countries including the United States and those in the European Union are expected to help in the implementation, providing aid and advice on good governance. Those countries want to sap the strength of Islamic insurgencies in the region.

On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry offered congratulations for "concluding negotiations toward an historic, comprehensive peace agreement. This agreement offers the promise of peace, security, and economic prosperity now and for future generations in Mindanao."

The conflict between Muslim insurgent groups on Mindanao and the Christian-dominated government in the north of the country has simmered since the late 1800s. Every government since Philippine independence in 1946 has struggled to resolve the violence, through peace talks and sometimes military action.

In recent decades, the conflict has claimed an estimated 120,000 lives and displaced more than two million people. It has also kept the southern Philippines mired in poverty even as the country has undergone an economic renaissance of sorts, becoming one of the fastest growing economies in East Asia, with a growth rate that surpassed China's in some quarters last year.

"In a world looking for peaceful solutions to all troubles, we are grateful that we have found ours," Teresita Quintos Deles, a presidential adviser on the peace talks, said Saturday.

The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front have been working on the details of the peace deal since October 2012, when they reached a framework agreement for ending the conflict.

Earlier interim agreements dealt with sharing power and resources. Under those deals, the national government will retain authority over national defense, foreign policy and monetary issues, while the newly formed autonomous region, to be called Bangsamoro, is expected to have broad local powers.

The two parties also agreed that 75 percent of the tax revenue from metallic minerals mined in the region would stay in Mindanao. In addition, half of the taxes collected from fossil fuels developed in the region would remain with local authorities.

Saturday's agreement dealt with the delicate issue of disarmament. The Moro Islamic Liberation Front agreed to incorporate some of its 11,000 fighters into Philippine government forces and gradually disarm the others with the oversight of a third party yet to be named.

After the deal is formally signed, it must be passed by the Philippine congress and approved through plebiscite in the newly formed autonomous areas, but analysts consider passage extremely likely.

The success of the agreement may hinge in good part on the ability of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which will now be in charge of internal security in the autonomous area, to curb the violence of other militant groups. To do so, the peace deal envisions Muslim authorities working closely with Philippine security forces.

Another major group, the Moro National Liberation Front, signed the 1996 peace deal, but that agreement allowed the rebels to retain their arms and did little to end the violence. Those militants oppose the latest deal, which they say encroaches on the autonomy they were granted under their own pact. Factions of the group were involved in an incursion into the southern city of Zamboanga in September that left more than 200 people dead, most of them militants.

Government negotiators have said that bringing greater prosperity to Mindanao and empowering the largest peaceful Muslim groups in the area will help decrease violence and lawlessness. The United States has about 500 Special Forces troops based in Mindanao to help the Philippine military fight the most violent groups.

One analyst expressed skepticism about the chances for a lasting peace.

"The Aquino administration is in a hurry to finish this and claim credit for peace, but this isn't peace," said Bobit Avila, a columnist for The Philippine Star newspaper. "It will not bring peace unless all the armed groups in Mindanao will join in."

"I can visit Muslim countries around the world without fear, but I can't go to Mindanao or I will be kidnapped," Mr. Avila said. "I don't think this agreement will change that." - NY Times

 

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