Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rising Philippines, Prosperous Britain – Aquino will meet Queen Elizabeth for Investments?

Queen Elizabeth wants to meet President Benigno Aquino in his June Kingdom Visit

President Aquino's official visit to the United Kingdom is expected to yield some "big-ticket" investments to the Philippines in energy and infrastructure, a Department of Foreign Affairs official said on Wednesday.

Foreign Assistant Secretary Elizabeth Buensuceso also said in a Palace media briefing that the President's trip from June 4 to 6 comes at a time when Europe is looking at Asia, particularly the Philippines, as a "safe haven" for investments.

"Expect big-ticket investments from the United Kingdom," Buensuceso said when asked about the potential investments to be generated by the trip, which will be the President's first official visit to Britain and Europe since he assumed office in 2010.

"Several business meetings have also been lined up for the President with top British investors, who have an interest in doing business in the Philippines and participate in the Aquino administration's Public-Private Partnership Program. As you know, the UK was one of the first countries to show support for the PPP," Buensuceso said.

She said the President is scheduled to meet with executives of various "big name companies" like Shell.

When asked, Buensuceso said the President's meeting with Shell would not involve possible investments in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) on energy exploration.

She said several Cabinet members and Filipino businessmen were joining the President's trip "to look into enhancing reciprocal investment, trade and tourism opportunities between the Philippines and the United Kingdom."

Buensuceso said some of the Filipino businessmen with the President are from the banking sector.

The trip—whose theme is "Rising Philippines, Prosperous Britain: Forcing a new era of mutual prosperity and partnership" seeks to "expand opportunities for closer economic cooperation" between the two countries.

It also seeks to "build up cooperation toward global peace, conflict-resolution and combating international crime; deepen people-to-people linkages from the grassroots to the highest levels of the government; and celebrate shared values of democracy, free speech, good governance, transparency and countercorruption."

Asked about the timing of the President's trip, Buensuceso said it will be a "historic moment" since "European countries and, in this instance, under the leadership of the United Kingdom are now looking for alternative places; safe havens."

There is a crisis going on in Europe, and now it is looking at Asia, Buensuceso said, noting that while in the past, Europe's reference to Asia was often limited to China, India and Singapore, "this time, the focus is on the Philippines."

"So we are gaining recognition and with this visit, I thinkthe Philippines will be in the radar of European investors," she said.

Buensuceso said British investors are apprised of developments in the Philippine economy, and that the UK and the Philippines are members of the Open Government Partnership Program.

"The UK is now vice chairman of the steering committee. So these things are a confluence of factors that make the UK, in this specific instance, look back, look again at the Philippines as a possible partner," she said.

Buensuceso said the assumption of the British coalition government led by Prime Minister David Cameron in May 2010 "reinvigorated the bilateral relationship between the Philippines and the United Kingdom, especially as the latter sought to re-engage emerging powers, including the Philippines."

"This unprecedented focus on deepening Philippine-British bilateral ties, especially in economic and political/security matters, has even led the British government to describe the Philippines as an 'emerging power in East Asia,'" she said.

Asked why the UK was chosen among other countries as the host of the President's first trip to Europe, Buensuceso said, "The biggest attraction here really is the potential of the UK as a very important political and economic partner of the Philippines." Buensuceso said the President will meet with Cameron at 10 Downing Street to discuss bilateral political and economic cooperation, the Britain's participation in the International Contact Group (ICG), regional and international issues, and anti-corruption and good governance practices in their respective countries.

Asked about the planned discussion on political and security matters between the two leaders, Buensuceso said the President will brief Cameron on the peace process in the Philippines, and will thank Britain for its important contribution as a member of the ICG.

"We are also going to announce the entry into force of the Mutual Legal Assistance treaty between the Philippines and the UK, which has just been concurred by the Senate after ratification by the President. So this is a very good development," she said.

Mr. Aquino will attend a luncheon feted by Queen Elizabeth, where she will be represented the Lord of Mayor of London Alderman David Wooton, a recent Manila visitor, and where several business agreements are expected to be signed, Buensuceso said.

He will also meet with the Duke of York Prince Andrew, as the official representative of the queen, who will be celebrating her Diamond Jubilee on that day.

The President will meet with representatives of the 250,000-strong Filipino community in Britain, which will also feature the "It's More Fun in the Philippines" tourism campaign of the government.

Buensuceso said the President's message to the Filipino community in Britain is that "we care for them; they are important in our economic and political development and that the Filipino government, the Philippine government is giving high priority to improve their welfare and to help them in times of need."

Asked whether the President would ride one of the public buses bearing the Philippine tourism campaign poster in London, Buensuceso said, "We will see if that is logistically possible."

She said during the President's visit, the Daily Telegraph will run a special feature focusing on his programs and on the President himself. The BBC will also have an interview with the Chief Executive.

From London Mr. Aquino will head for the United States for an official visit to Washington, where he will meet with US President Barack Obama, and Los Angeles from June 6 - 8 2012.

2012 Philippines economic growth level up at 6.4 percent in Quarter 1

 It's more fun in the Philippines; it's more fun to invest in the Philippines.

In spite of shaky economy in the US and in Europe; Philippines  economic jump shows it's more fun to invest the Philippines.

The Philippine economy grew a faster-than-expected 6.4 percent in the first three months of the year, boosted by increased government spending.

The National Economic and Development Authority says the pickup from a sluggish 3.7 percent growth in 2011 also shows renewed business confidence in the Philippines.

The growth was fueled by a surge in public construction as the government splashed out on new roads and airports.

The government late last year announced a 72 billion peso ($1.66 billion) stimulus package to cushion the economy from Europe's debt crisis.

The services sector, which accounts for more than half of the economy, was supported by a rise in real estate and tourist arrivals.

The government expects full year growth of 5-6 percent.

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Philippine infrastructure planners have dreamt for years of building an elevated highway above the traffic-clogged streets of metropolitan Manila and linking the capital with the fast-growing cities and ports to the north and south.

Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino, the president, last week approved not one but two toll road projects across the city and instructed ministers to speed up the tendering process so they could be completed by the time he steps down from office in four years. He was hoping, he joked, for an easier journey to the beach.

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The proposed toll road projects, together worth 48bn pesos ($1.1bn), are adding to growing business optimism about the Philippines' medium-term prospects. Analysts say the country is on the cusp of its first investment boom since the Asian financial crisis of 1997, after more than a decade of political instability.

Many of the country's biggest conglomerates are rolling out their most ambitious spending plans in years to build shopping malls, office towers and residential projects.

The president is inviting private companies to build infrastructure projects, such as airports and light rail systems, through public-private partnerships that bind the government to help ensure investors recover costs and earn minimum returns through user charges or direct government payments.

Ramon del Rosario Jr, chairman of the Makati Business Club, a grouping of the country's biggest companies, believes foreign investors are also expressing confidence in the Aquino administration's efforts to tackle corruption.

"The main thing that has changed is this idea that we are now serious about good governance, about integrity in government, about fighting corruption," he said in a television interview, shortly after the Senate voted to remove the chief justice of the Supreme Court for failing to declare US dollar deposits in his asset disclosure statements.

Shares in listed companies betting big on infrastructure, including San Miguel and Metro Pacific – the two proponents of the highway project – have surged since late last year, making the Philippines one of the best performing equities markets in the world. Despite market volatility triggered by the risk of a Greek exit from the EUROZONE, the Philippine Stock Exchange index is up 14.8 percent this year after hitting record highs 19 times in the first five months of 2012.

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The Philippines is announcing first-quarter gross domestic product results on Thursday, and analysts predict that economic growth year-on-year may have accelerated to 4.6 per cent from 3.7 per cent in the fourth quarter, according to a Reuters poll.

Most economic forecasters say the Philippines will expand 5 per cent or more next year, giving the country a fighting chance of hitting the government's growth target of 7-8 per cent in 2016.

In the short term, however, the country's economic prospects are more subdued amid continuing sluggishness in the US and Europe, and a slowdown in China.

Exports, which are equivalent to about a third of the economy, fell 1.2 per cent from a year ago in March as deliveries to East Asia dropped sharply.

Some of the country's exports to China, such as bananas and other fruits, have been affected by the dispute between the two countries over the Scarborough Shoal reef in the South China Sea. However, Philippine trade officials do not expect the diplomatic dispute to affect deliveries of electronics parts and minerals, which Chinese companies need to produce other goods.

Mr Aquino also faces the challenge of improving regulatory capacity across government agencies and units, and resolving policy conflicts that are slowing down the approvals for large investments, say business leaders.

A case in point is plans by the Philippine unit of Xstrata' to spend up to $5.9bn in the next five years to develop one of the world's largest untapped mining deposits in the southern Philippines. The project is potentially the country's single-biggest inward foreign investment but is being stalled by a local government ban on open-pit mining.

Milagros Reyes, who heads PetroEnergy Resources, an exploration group, complains that investors often get caught between different government agencies with overlapping mandates. "We bring in foreign drill ships that are leased per day only to be told to wait for days for permits by maritime authorities" seeking to protect the domestic shipping industry, she said.

More Fun! Incredible Economic Jump of the Philippines in Q1 2012

Incredible! Amazing! While other Asian countries describe themselves with superlatives, the Philippines national ad campaign promises only "more fun."

Filipinos have reasons to smile. Asia's perennial underachiever is outperforming. This week saw more successes: Moody's upped its outlook on the country's credit rating to "positive," citing prudent fiscal management. An anti-graft drive notched a win with a guilty verdict in the impeachment trial of a former chief justice. And first-quarter gross domestic product growth of 6.4%, announced Thursday, defied most forecasts as well as the mood in the global economy.

But to build on the promise, the Philippines must deliver on three main growth drivers.

Business-process outsourcing is already booming due to strong English skills, cheap rent and low wages. A fondness for basketball and Hollywood movies is an advantage, too, when it comes to staffing call centers with workers who can make a cultural connection with U.S. customers. Starting from scratch a decade ago, the sector generated revenue of $11.25 billion last year. CLSA says that could double by 2015.

Government officials say tourism is a low-hanging fruit. They aim to triple arrivals to 10 million by 2016. A $5 billion gambling hub under construction will help. So too a surge in new planned hotel rooms and a rising tide of Chinese visitors, whose numbers were up almost 30% last year.

Arrivals hit a record high 1.2 million in the first quarter. But there are challenges. A regional economic slowdown would hurt. Manila's spat with China over potentially resource-rich areas of the South China Sea has raised diplomatic tensions that could stymie Chinese tourism too.

Poor infrastructure is a bigger issue. Security concerns at the country's airports have led to restrictions on its carriers. International aviation regulators won't let the nation's major airlines fly new routes to South Korea or the U.S.—their top two markets for visitors—until domestic airports improve.

Indeed, infrastructure spending is the third leg of the country's growth agenda. The government has pledged an extensive public-works program. The first quarter saw public construction jump 62% over last year. That pace must be sustained. Private investment activity also needs to pick up. RBS says weak private investment was a factor in disappointing first quarter construction overall, which was up just 0.3% from a year earlier.

Manila is more fun these days. But the Philippines must get serious on infrastructure to make the most of its time in the sun.

End of Arab Oil Supremacy is the alternative Energy?


The Middle East, since the "petrodollars" phenomenon in the 1970's, somehow dominated the world, in the economic and energy sense.

If world oil demand falters, they reduce production; if it surges, they hike prices in tandem.

The oil-producing nations had enough petrodollar reserves to lend and invest in many overseas nations, advanced their political agenda and some even used their money to export terrorism to the nations they hated.

Hopefully, that dire situation will change.

The Arab nations are lucky that there is a new surging demand for oil like populous countries like China and India enabling them to keep the average Brent crude oil price in 2011 at a high US$111/barrel.

This surge was balanced by the reduced demand resulting from the pockets of recession in Europe and the mild one in the USA. Added to that were the technological advances that made vehicles, gadgets and plants more oil-usage efficient and the rise of substitutes for oil in transport and electric power usage.

Many countries like the USA, Australia, China, Brazil and Canada have been driven to look for alternative sources of fuel over the years. The end of Arab oil supremacy could be at hand .

Fortune disclosed that America is now the "Saudi Arabia of natural gas" – in fact, it has new domestic natural gas supply worth 100 years usage based on today's consumption. The natural gas production in that country had risen by 28% since 2005.

Exxon which bought XTO Energy (master in the new oil mining technology called "fracking") – and helped by high oil prices- shot to No. 1 in Fortune 500, eclipsing heretofore leader Wal-Mart with Exxon sales in the USA at US$486 billion and profits at US$ 41-Billion, the second largest in its corporate history.

In a few years time, oil experts predict that the USA will be able to sell natural gas to North Asia, Europe and South America (even with shipping costs) at 40% less price than the conventional crude oil. China and Australia are forecast to produce the same natural gas as well.

Western-friendly Canada now boasts of the second largest crude oil reserve in the world. The combined oil reserves of China, South America and Europe are still 250 years.

The world is moving away from "energy dependency" on crude oil and so its research has gone into – more efficient vehicles (buses, trains, cars, jeepneys, motorcycles) run by electric batteries and even by hydrogen and water. Many countries are now using CNG (Compressed Natural Gas) sources for public and private transportation by converting engines with ready tools, substituting engines with compatible ones and building new CNG0-based means of transportation.

Cheaper and cleaner than conventional gas- CNG is the wave of the future in many countries.

Exxon forecasts that by 2040 with hundreds of millions of people joining the middle class ( from the poor side) the world over- the demand for electricity will shoot by 80% from the present level. But the world is moving away from having its electric power moved by crude oil-based products alone.

In fact by 2025- the USA electricity will be powered by the following (in order of volume): crude oil, natural gas and coal- with natural gas showing the biggest increase in percentage share.

In the same USA, shale gas production which was only 11% in 2008 is now a bigger 33% of total production with the HIS Global Digest predicting that shale gas shall be 60% of total energy source production by 2035.

Newsweek reported in its "Truth about Oil" – there are about a staggering 1.459 trillion barrels or new discovered recoverable oil reserves in various forms and mining methods that should alter both the economy and the politics of the coming decades.

For instance, Light Crude Oil in Texas and North Dakota –produced by the hydraulic "fracking" method- is teeming with 300 billion barrels of reserves. The prevailing climate change has also impacted a positive benefit- the melting of the Artic Ocean lately opened new potential drilling and shipping opportunities of 90 billion barrels of oil just there.

Brazil , headed by the huge state-owned oil giant Petronas is leading the mining of Presalt Deep Water oil variety off the shores of Brazil with a potential of 50-100 billion barrels of oil reserves of this type. The Oil Shale (from solid ketrogen) is huge off the states of Wyoma, Utah, Colorado and Michigan with a mind-boggling estimate of 800 billion barrels.

Meanwhile, oil from the Oil Sands (sandstone saturated called bitumen) is a big thing in Canada with 169 billion barrels in recoverable reserves.

Many electricity-intensive countries are likewise moving away from dependency on crude oil as power source. Its natural rival would be the use of natural gas since coal and nuclear are allegedly on their death throes.

Environmentally-hostile coal plants are no longer manufactured commercially while Germany has banned all its nuclear reactors as it followed Japan which grounded 53 of its 54 nuclear plants –for reasons the Great Tsunami Tragedy in Japan exposed so vividly.

Even in the Philippines, the medium-term energy plans presented by Energy Secretary Rene Almendras include the growing use of geothermal, hydrothermal and solar and wind to a lesser degree while coal , it seems, is no longer the favored power source.

More than that –the recent Scarborough Shoal grew more significant by the research findings done by Brig General Edwin G. Nemenzo , deputy Commander of the 3rd Force Division Philippine Air Force based in Zamboanga City-as told to the Philippine News Agency-that the country (particularly near the Spratlys Islands) sits on a gargantuan oil reserves worth US$ 26-Trillion dollars.

That is enough to pay off the entire Philippine external debt and provide basic services to over 90million Filipinos many in dire poverty.

Such PAF findings were earlier confirmed by the China Ministry of Geology that the area has reserves of 17 billion barrels of oil- larger than the remaining 13 billion barrel reserves of Kuwait- a major oil producing country.

All these new discoveries of oil reserves and energy source substitutes should bring a smile to the rest of the world who always looks forward to the day that the dependency on Arab crude oil will become a thing of the past.


The opinions expressed here are the views of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of FINEX. The contents of this article have not been reviewed nor approved by FINEX. Read more in Manila Bulletin

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Moodys upgrade rating of the Philippines 1 notch up -economy resilient

MOODY'S INVESTORS SERVICE has raised the Philippines' credit rating outlook to positive from stable as the government continues to reduce the fiscal deficit and public debt.

The move sets the stage for a possible upgrade of the Philippines' Ba2 credit rating -- two notches below investment grade -- in the next 12 to 18 months, Moody's Assistant Vice-President Christian de Guzman yesterday said in an e-mail.

The debt watcher is slated to visit the country in June as part of its "regularly scheduled surveillance activities," he added.

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima, in a statement, said: "This is one more step in our march towards investment grade, towards reducing the gap between the market rating and the credit rating, and more importantly towards a more sustainable growth path".

The Aquino administration aims to secure its first-ever investment grade credit rating by 2016 in order to lower its borrowing costs and attract more foreign investors.

According to Moody's, among the key drivers behind the positive outlook were the government's "faster-than-expected" fiscal consolidation and active debt management.

"The government of the Philippines has continued to demonstrate prudence in its fiscal management, as characterized by low budget deficits relative to its rating peers and a steadily declining level of debt relative to GDP (gross domestic product)," it said in a report released yesterday.

The government trimmed its deficit to 2.885 billion as of April, just 1% of its P279.1-billion cap for this year. It was also kept at P197.754 billion in 2011, two-thirds of the 300-billion ceiling.

Moreover, national government debt fell to only 50.9% of the GDP last year, surpassing the target of 51.7% and the 52.4% posted in 2010.

"Such outcomes are the result of expenditure restraint and improved revenue performance," Moody's noted.

Revenue collections, in particular, have grown faster than the GDP in the past five quarters, solely due to tax administration measures, it added.

"We expect revenue growth to improve further upon the passage of legislation aimed at restructuring excise taxes on alcohol and tobacco products."

Moreover, the Philippines has successfully improved its public debt by lowering borrowing costs, lengthening maturities and reducing foreign currency exposure, Moody's said.

The government successfully concluded a $1.5-billion offer of 25-year global bonds in January, securing interest rates of only 5% -- the lowest ever achieved by an Asian sovereign for bonds with a tenor greater than ten years.

It also repurchased $1.3 billion in high-coupon, foreign-currency bonds last October, cutting borrowing costs by settling the debt papers before their maturity.

Other than an improvement in national finances, Moody's also cited the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) for its "solid track record of inflation management."

"The sovereign's vulnerability to global financial market shocks has been reduced by the build-up of foreign exchange reserves, resulting in turn from robust current account surpluses and healthy capital inflows in recent years," it added.

The outlook on the BSP's Ba2 credit rating was likewise raised to positive from stable yesterday.

While concerns still remain over the Philippines' large debt stock, it is mitigated by institutional features such as automatic appropriations in the budget for debt servicing, Moody's said.

"In addition, an increasingly large bond sinking fund provides an adequate buffer that guards against near-term liquidity pressures," the credit rater explained.

And as the global economic environment remains uncertain, the Philippine economy is stabilized by remittance inflows which support the balance of payments and spur domestic household consumption, Moody's said.

Overseas Filipino workers remitted a total of $4.842 billion in the first quarter, posting a 5.4% growth year on year against the central bank's 5% projection.

In order to secure a credit rating upgrade, Moody's urged the government to continue the reduction of public debt and pursue reforms to increase revenues. It must also accelerate public spending in areas of the economy that would spur growth.

"These developments should also be accompanied by the continued health of the country's balance of payments and stability of the financial system," it said.

The Philippines, meanwhile, must be wary of macroeconomic instability which could trigger inflation. "A shift away from the focus on good governance" would also be detrimental.

For their part, economic managers hailed the impact of the Aquino administration's campaign of good governance.

"The message we have been trying to send ... is that fiscal performance can improve with good governance," central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said.

"This positive rating action is therefore welcome and is a sign that Moody's is seeing the fruits of good governance on all fronts: fiscal, monetary and external."

Mr. Purisima added: "The Aquino administration will continue to focus on good governance as the basis for good economics, on fiscal sustainability, on macroeconomic stability and on opening up the country to business and tourism."

Philippines Chief Justice Renato C. Corona “Guilty of Graft and betrayal of public trust

MANILA — The chief justice of the Philippine Supreme Court, Renato C. Corona, was removed from office on Tuesday after it was disclosed during an impeachment trial that he failed to declare $2.4 million in foreign currency deposits.

Corona is guilty of corruption, paving the way for him to be sacked in the biggest win of President Benigno Aquino's anti-graft crusade.

With the conviction, Chief Justice Renato C. Corona is considered removed from office, but several senators voted for disbarment and other higher punishment.  

Twenty out of 23 senators found Corona guilty of Article II of the impeachment complaint which accused him of not declaring all his assets, including his peso and dollar deposits and real estate properties.

The chief justice was put on trial in January after majority of the House of Representatives decided to elevate their impeachment complaint against Corona to the Senate.

Corona is the first high-ranking official of the Philippines to be removed from office via impeachment, a method that is allowed by the Philippine constitution.

The impeachment trial of the chief justice is the second in the history of the Philippines. But, this is the first time that an impeachment trial was completed and a verdict was handed out.

Former Philippine President Joseph E. Estrada's trial in 2001 was aborted after prosecutors walked out of the impeachment court due to allegations that his allies tried to suppress evidence against him.

In a country where high-ranking public officials are often removed through street protests, and no one had ever been successfully impeached and convicted, the verdict was seen as a victory for the political maturity of the Philippines.

Chief Justice Corona was impeached by the House of Representatives and was convicted Tuesday (May 29, 2012) by the Senate acting as an impeachment court. He was accused of biased decisions and hiding assets.

"If your client cannot explain, I cannot abstain," said Senator Alan Peter Cayetano, upon voting to convict. "If you did not disclose, we have to depose. If you are not fit, you cannot sit as the C.J. of our Supreme Court."

Chief Justice Corona's impeachment — and the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, who appointed him chief justice — have been central to the anti-corruption campaign of President Benigno S. Aquino III. The president's supporters say that if Chief Justice Corona had not been removed, he could be an obstacle to good governance efforts that are linked to the country's recent strong economic performance.

Mr. Corona's supporters say that Mr. Aquino is trying to consolidate power by attacking the judiciary. The chief justice has also alleged that the president favors the impeachment in retaliation for court rulings that mandate the breakup of an Aquino family plantation.

In testimony on Friday, Chief Justice Corona insisted that under his interpretation of the law he was not required to disclose the money. During testimony that was marked by weeping, anecdotes about his family and breaks for medical checkups by nearby doctors, the chief justice debated the legalities of reporting requirements for government officials.

In the Philippines, senior officials are required to file a statement of assets, liabilities and net worth each year to verify that they are not enriching themselves from their government positions. One of the impeachment articles against the chief justice states that he under-declared his assets.

Anti-Corona group vows to keep eye on selection of next chief justice

While they briefly rejoiced over the conviction of their foe, a group who had pushed for the ouster of Chief Justice Renato Corona vowed Tuesday to keep a close eye on the selection of his successor.

Members of the Akbayan group made the vow after holding a rally outside the Senate grounds in Pasay City Tuesday afternoon, radio dzBB's Rodil Vega reported.

The report quoted the Akbayan group as saying the Aquino administration should follow through with its verdict and make sure Corona steps down from office.

It also suggested that the Aquino administration focus next on former President and now Pampanga Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is under hospital arrest facing several graft cases as well as charges of electoral sabotage.

Members of Akbayan are allied with President Benigno Aquino III, including presidential political adviser Ronald Llamas, Commission on Human Rights head Loretta Ann Rosales, and defeated senatorial bet Theresia Baraquel a.k.a. Risa Hontiveros.

During Tuesday's Senate proceedings, Akbayan members rallied outside the Senate and cheered after Corona's fate was sealed.

The group left peacefully after the trial, the report said.

Public accountability, transparency, and the rule of law won in the Senate impeachment court's decision on Tuesday to find Chief Justice Renato Corona guilty of culpable violation of the Constitution and betrayal of public trust, House prosecutors said.


Prosecution team spokesperson Rep. Erin Tañada and Rep. Sonny Angara said the Senate's decision that removes Corona from office marks a new start for the judiciary and will help the Aquino administration's campaign against graft and corruption.

"This is the start of putting our republic back in order for we did not convict a man but rather we saved our institutions from grievous harm of corruption and betrayal of public trust," Tañada said in a press statement.

"We showed our determination towards transparency and good governance with this verdict."

He said the Senate's decision proves that the country is now "politically mature."

Angara said Corona's removal from office is only the beginning in efforts to ensure good governance and restore faith in the judiciary.

Other congressmen who were among the 188 who signed the impeachment complaint against Corona also welcomed the Senate's ruling.

"It is finally over. History has been made with the first-ever impeachment process completed up to its final conclusion. Now, it is time to move on and move forward as a nation, and put this impeachment trial behind us, taking with us the lessons that should be learned from this event," House Assistant Majority Leader Karlo Alexei Nograles said.

Western Samar Rep. Mel Senen Sarmiento, in a press statement, described the Senate's decision as "a day that should be written in history as a victory for all Filipinos, a victory for equality among all citizens - no one is above the law."

"The impeachment process only demonstrated that our democracy is on solid grounds.  It is for all Filipinos, especially those who have less in life and those who are weak. The majesty of the law should always reign in all levels of society and no one could use the law at the expense of justice and the people's will," Sarmiento said.

"This day is a victory for the people.  A triumph of justice, this day will mark the true beginning of reforms in our justice system where each person is equal before the law," Iloilo City Rep. Jerry Trenas said.

"This is our watershed that should definitely strengthen our democratic system,"  Ang Kasangga partylist Rep. Teodorico Haresco said.

Sources: New Your Times, GMA, ABS-CBN, Bangkok Post

Saturday, May 26, 2012

WikiLeaks: China admits 9 dash Historical claim in West Philippines is FABRICATED

Wikileaks: Alongside an armada of paramilitary patrol vessels and fishing boats, China has fired off a barrage of historical records to reinforce its claim over a disputed shoal near the Philippines in the South China Sea.

While this propaganda broadside makes it clear Beijing will take a tough line with Manila as a standoff over Scarborough Shoal continues into a seventh week, the exact legal justification for China's claim and the full extent of the territory affected remain uncertain, according to experts in maritime law.

Like most of its claims to vast expanses of the resource-rich and strategically important South China Sea, Beijing prefers to remain ambiguous about the details, they say.

This allows the ruling Communist Party to demonstrate to an increasingly nationalistic domestic audience that it can defend China's right to control a swathe of ocean territory.

And, it avoids further inflaming tensions with neighbors who are already apprehensive about China's growing military power and territorial ambition.

"This ambiguity serves China's domestic purpose which is to safeguard the government's legitimacy and satisfy domestic public opinion," said Sun Yun, a Washington D.C.-based China foreign policy expert and a former analyst for the International Crisis Group in Beijing.


Rival claims to territory in the South China Sea are one of the biggest potential flashpoints in the Asia-Pacific region.

China, the Philippines, Vietnam, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei all have territorial claims across a waterway that provides 10 per cent of the global fisheries catch and carries $5 trillion in ship-borne trade. Half the world's shipping tonnage traverses its sea lanes.

The United States, which claims national interests in the South China Sea, recently completed naval exercises with the Philippines near Scarborough Shoal. It is stepping up its military presence in the region as part of a strategic "pivot" towards Asia after more than a decade of wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The acrimonious confrontation over Scarborough Shoal, known as Huangyan Island in Chinese, began last month when Beijing ordered its civilian patrol vessels to stop the Philippines arresting Chinese fisherman working in the disputed area.

Beijing and Manila both claim sovereignty over the group of rocks, reefs and small islands about 220 km (132 miles) from the Philippines.

The Philippines says the shoal falls within its 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone(EEZ), giving it the right to exploit the natural resources in this area.


In a concerted response from Beijing, official government spokesmen, senior diplomats and reports carried by influential state-controlled media outlets have drawn on the histories of earlier dynasties to rebut Manila's claim.

They say the records show China's sailors discovered Scarborough 2,000 years ago and cite extensive records of visits, mapping expeditions and habitation of the shoal from the Song Dynasty (960-1279 AD) right through to the modern period.

To back up these arguments, China has also deployed some of its most advanced paramilitary patrol vessels to the shoal in a calibrated show of strength, for now keeping its increasingly powerful navy at a distance.

A Philippines government spokesman said on Wednesday China had almost 100 Chinese vessels at the shoal, including four government patrol ships. Earlier, Manila demanded that all Chinese vessels leave the area.

China's Foreign Ministry responded on Wednesday that only 20 Chinese fishing boats were in the area, a normal number for this time of the year, and they were operating in accordance with Chinese law.

China disregard that the peoples of the Austronesian language family, more specifically the Malayo-Polynesian branch, were the first to navigate the South China Sea. Their original homelands were Southern China or Taiwan and the island of Luzon in the Philippines. Between 5000-2500 BC, they crossed the South China Sea to populate all over  the Philippines, Indonesia and Malaysia. From Southeast Asia, they crossed the Pacific Ocean to populate Melanesia and Micronesia by 1200 BC, Polynesia by 1000 BC, Easter Island by 300 AD, Hawaii by 400 AD and New Zealand by 800 AD.

They also crossed the Indian Ocean to populate Madagascar by 0-500 AD. The Indo-Pacific maritime space, including the South China Sea, was their historic water. Since the Austronesian peoples (ancestors of the Filipinos, Indonesians and Malaysians) were the first to navigate the South China Sea, they were the first to discover the islands in the area and to fish in the associated waters.

Though they did not invent writing to record their discovery, it would be ludicrous to deny their discovery of the islands so close to the Philippines and Indonesia in light of the fact that they were able to discover the various islands in the vast Pacific Ocean. By the way, they have been displaced or reduced to aboriginal minority status in their original homelands.


Maritime lawyers note Beijing routinely outlines the scope of its claims with reference to the so-called nine-dashed line that takes in about 90 percent of the 3.5 million square kilometer West Philippines Sea (South China Sea) on Chinese maps.

This vague boundary was first officially published on a map by China's Nationalist government in 1947 and has been included in subsequent maps issued under Communist rule.

While Beijing has no difficulty in producing historical evidence to support its territorial links to many islands and reefs, less material is available to show how it arrived at the nine-dashed line.

In a September, 2008 U.S. diplomatic cable published by WikiLeaks, the U.S. Embassy in Beijing reported that a senior Chinese government maritime law expert, Yin Wenqiang, had "admitted" he was unaware of the historical basis for the nine dashes.

In a March, 2008 cable, the embassy reported that a senior Chinese diplomat, Zheng Zhenhua, had handed over a written statement when asked about the scope of this boundary.

"The dotted line of the South China Sea indicates the sovereignty of China over the islands in the South China Sea since ancient times and demonstrates the long-standing claims and jurisdiction practice over the waters of the South China Sea," the statement said, the embassy reported.

Scarborough Shoal falls within the nine-dashed line, as do the Paracel and Spratly Islands, the two most important disputed island groups in the South China Sea.


China insists it has sovereignty over both these groups but it has yet to specify how much of the rest of the territory within the nine-dashed line it intends to claim.

One reason suggested for this lack of clarity is that China, like all of the other claimants except Taiwan, is a signatory to the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

If Beijing defined its claim to conform with the provisions of this treaty, it would almost certainly reduce the scope of Chinese territory and expose the government to criticism from vocal nationalists.

Alternatively, if Beijing was to maximize the extent of its claim to include all or most of the territory within the nine-dashed line, it would be difficult to justify under international law and antagonize its neighbors.

"Neither choice leads to a promising prospect," said Sun. "Therefore sticking to the existing path is the most rational."

This means that China is likely to remain vague, experts say, particularly during the current period of heightened political sensitivity ahead of a leadership transition scheduled for later this year.


However, this lack of clarity doesn't mean China's claims over South China Sea territory have less merit than other claimants, experts say.

In the case of Scarborough shoal, Beijing says the land is Chinese territory and the waters surrounding the shoal have been China's traditional fishing grounds for generations.

"This geographic proximity argument the Philippines is using is not necessarily good in international law," says Sam Bateman, a maritime security researcher at Singapore's Nanyang Technological University.

"If China can demonstrate sovereignty, its claim is as good as the Philippines'."

Under the provisions of UNCLOS, a nation with sovereignty over an island can claim a surrounding 12-nautical mile territorial sea.

UNCLOS defines an island as a natural land feature that remains above water at high tide. If the island is inhabitable, it is also entitled to an EEZ and possibly a continental shelf.


However, Beijing has not claimed a territorial sea or an EEZ from any of the features of Scarborough Shoal.

Most maritime experts doubt China will agree to have any claims over the South China Sea heard by the United Nation's International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS), the body set up to rule on disputes.

Beijing's policy is to negotiate on the joint exploitation of natural resources in contested areas but rival claimants are reluctant to accept this formula because it could be seen as recognition of China's sovereignty.

Beijing is also increasingly wary about the Obama administration's military "pivot" to Asia designed to counter China's growing power," security experts say.

They suggest Vietnam and the Philippines have already shown greater willingness to challenge China since the U.S. signaled a renewed interest in the region.

"They think they have the U.S. on side," said Bateman.

Sources: REUTERS and Eurasia Review

WORLD BANK: cites Philippines economic Growth continues even trying times

QUEZON CITY, MAY 26 (PIA) -- The World Bank (WB) cited the Philippine economy's growth amid challenges that the country is facing in the first and second quarter of the year.

"Amidst weakening markets for exports, the best prospects for the Philippines to maintain high growth rates, create more jobs, and reduce poverty are through greater investments in productivity-enhancing infrastructure and further economic integration with its trading partners," WB said in its latest East Asia and Pacific Economic Update released early this week.

The report entitled "Capturing New Sources of Growth" projects that 2012 annual growth in the East Asia and the Pacific region will moderate to 7.6 percent with slower expansion in China pulling down the regional aggregate.

Excluding China, growth will increase to 5.2 percent as Thailand returns to normal levels of production. Commodity exporters, which experienced a boom in 2011, may be vulnerable in the event of a faster than anticipated slowdown in China, which could trigger an unexpected drop in commodity prices.

In 2011, East Asia and the Pacific Region grew by 8.2 percent (4.3 percent excluding China), a sharp decline from the nearly 10 percent growth rate recorded in 2010 (7.0 percent excluding China).

In the same year, growth was about 2 percentage points higher than the developing country average world-wide, and poverty continues to fall.

"The number of people living on less than US$ 2 a day is expected to decrease in 2012 by 24 million. Overall, the number of people living in poverty has been cut in half in the last decade in East Asia and Pacific," said Pamela Cox, World Bank East Asia and Pacific Regional Vice President.

The slowdown in 2011 was largely due to lower than expected growth in manufacturing exports as well as supply disruptions in the wake of the earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and severe flooding in Thailand. Domestic demand and investment were generally strong, aided by loosening of monetary policy in some countries.

The EU, along with the US and Japan, accounts for more than 40 percent of the region's exports, and European banks provide one-third of trade and project finance in Asia.

As external demand is likely to remain weak, countries in developing East Asia and Pacific need to rely less on exports and more on domestic demand to maintain high growth. Already, many countries are moving in this direction, but there is further scope for rebalancing.

"Some countries will need to stimulate household consumption. In others, enhanced investment, particularly in infrastructure, offers the potential to sustain growth provided this does not exacerbate domestic demand pressures," said Bryce Quillin, World Bank Economist and lead author of the report.

"With a changing financial sector in the aftermath of the financial crisis, new ways to finance higher levels of infrastructure investment need to be developed. Governments would need to focus on accelerating the preparation of infrastructure projects" Quillin added.(WB/RJB/JRCA-PIA-NCR)

Malacañang Palace Appoint Sonia Brady - A New Diplomat for China

Malacañang PalaceDuring one of the Philippines' worst diplomatic crises in recent history, a tense stand-off with Asian superpower China, talks have been hobbled by the lack of an ambassador in Beijing.

President Benigno Aquino III has finally appointed one, career diplomat Sonia Brady, a China veteran who had already been ambassador there from 2006-2010, as well as a young consul  in the 1970s.

She is also a former ambassador to Myanmar and Thailand.

Aquino's previous appointee, businessman and family friend Domingo Lee, was not approved by Congress' Commission on Appointments because some lawmakers had questioned his qualifications.

Aquino wanted "someone who is already familiar with the politics and the culture of that country. That person can hit the ground running," said spokeswoman Abigail Valte of Brady.

However Brady cannot assume her post until Congress approves her appointment, Valte said.

Valte added that Brady would have concurrent jurisdiction over North Korea and Mongolia. North Korea is considered by many countries as one of the most unpredictable states in the world. It attempted a rocket launch in April that was suspected to be a weapons test, but the launch failed.

Brady's appointment has come as tensions are high between the Philippines and China because of the stand-off at Panatag Shoal, a crisis that has entered its seventh week.

The crisis was triggered last April when Philippine military forces spotted Chinese fishermen gathering marine species but were blocked by Chinese vessels from making arrests.

Valte said Brady is no stranger to Beijing, having been ambassador there from April 2006 to January 2010. She said Brady was in China for President Aquino's state visit to China in 2011, and briefed Aquino and his delegation.

Brady has a master of arts in international relations from the University of Southern California and a foreign service degree from the University of the Philippines, Valte added.

"So isang career diplomat si Sonia Brady (So we can say Brady is a career diplomat)," she said.

Valte said Brady's other career highlights included:

- Ambassador to Thailand 2002 to 2003

- Ambassador to Myanmar 1995 to 1999

- Deputy Chief of Mission to Indonesia 1994 to 95

- Deputy Chief of Mission to Thailand 1992 to 94

- Third Secretary and Vice Consul, Second Secretary and Consul of the Philippine Embassy in Beijing from 1976 to 1978

- Undersecretary for Policy July 2003 to 2006

- Assistant Secretary to the Office of the Secretary for policy and coordination

- Director of the Office of the Asia-Pacific

- Assistant at the office of policy affairs

Last May 10, Aquino appointed Domingo Lee as a special envoy to China assigned to promote tourism for just six months, essentially giving up the effort to have him approved by the Commission on Appointments.

Aquino also appointed Cesar Zalamea, current chairman and chief executive officer of Focus Range International Limited, as a special envoy to advance Philippine economic interests in China by "pursuing initiatives aimed at increasing Chinese investments in the Philippines."

USA Voice - China sea claims exceed UNCLOS limit

WASHINGTON — Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton says the United States' failure to approve the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea has weakened its advocacy for allies in the disputed South China Sea.

She said China's claims in those waters exceeded what was permitted by the convention. She was speaking at a hearing Wednesday of the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, where she and top military leaders offered an impassioned plea for the US to join the pact.

To China's chagrin, the Obama administration has asserted since 2010 that although the US is not itself a claimant state in the South China Sea, it has an interest              in the peaceful resolution of the disputes and in the freedom of navigation in waters that carry a large chunk of global trade  Clinton said the US supported the countries "being threatened" by China's claims.

"As a non-party, we cede the legal high ground to China. We put ourselves on the defensive," she said.

"We are not as strong an advocate for our friends and allies in the region as I would like us to be, and I don't think that's any place for the world's preeminent maritime power to find ourselves."

China is among the more than 160 nations that are party to the convention. Its expansive claims in the South China Sea are disputed by Brunei, Malaysia, Taiwan, Vietnam and the Philippines, a US treaty ally.

The convention was concluded in 1982 and has been in force since 1994.

Republican opposition has stalled US approval for years, although the military says it still acts in accordance with the pact's principles.

Despite considerable bipartisan support and the backing of pro-business groups, Democrat committee chairman Senator John Kerry acknowledged the difficulty in moving the treaty, especially in an election year in the United States. Several Republican lawmakers voiced opposition to the convention on Wednesday.

The chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, said US endorsement would strengthen US security interests as it would provide clarity in definition of navigational rights and maritime zones—at a time of growing competition for resources.

"And from that clarity comes stability. And as we now begin to re-balance our security interests into the Pacific, this becomes very important," Dempsey said.

Democrat Senator Barbara Boxer criticized Beijing's claims in the South China Sea.

She produced a map to show the claims extended far beyond China's own 200-mile exclusive economic zone and amounted to a "significant territorial grab that comes very close to the land borders of countries in the region."

She referred to the standoff at the Scarborough Shoal that began last month when the Philippine Navy accused Chinese fishermen of poaching within its exclusive zone.

The Philippines accused China on Wednesday of sending more government and fishing vessels to the uninhabited, horseshoe-shaped shoal. Manila says China has a total of 96 ships, fishing boats and dinghies there, while the Philippines has two.

China denied the accusation.

Chinese foreign ministry official Hong Lei said there were only about 20 Chinese fishing boats operating in the contested area, roughly unchanged as in previous years, according to a report by the Chinese newspaper People's Daily.

Hong said China's strengthened controls in the Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) waters was in response to the provocative actions of the Philippines, adding that their fishing boats were operating lawfully and in accordance with China's fishing moratorium orders.

Read more in Manila Standards


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