Sunday, March 31, 2013

Taking Control: China sends biggest Warship Yuzheng 312, heading to West Philippine Sea

China's Biggest Warship Yuzheng 312 to be stationed in the West Philippines Sea to protect the Chinese Fishermen in the foreign territory .

China sends biggest ship to West Philippine Sea

China has commissioned its largest patrol ship to carry out a law enforcement mission in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a Chinese fishery official has announced.

The Chinese official was quoted by Chinese newspapers as saying that Yuzheng 312, the Chinese fleet's largest in terms of displacement, had left Guangzhou and sailed to the South China Sea to better safeguard the interests of Chinese fishermen there.

The vessel has a displacement of 49.5 million tons and a navigation capability of 2,400 nautical miles with a maximum speed of 14 knots.

The move came after the South China Sea Fleet under the Chinese People's Liberation Army (PLA) recently dispatched several modern warships to carry out high-sea training mission in the disputed region.

Reports emanating from Beijing said Chinese Navy's high-sea training include complex scenarios close to actual combats, which will effectively enhance its capability to accomplish diversified military tasks.

This is the second time the Chinese Navy has organized routine military training this year in the South China Sea.

The warships participating in the training include the Lanzhou, a guided missile destroyer, the Yulin and Hengshui, guided missile frigates, the Jinggangshan, an amphibious dock landing warship.

According to reports these ships are all equipped with long-range air-defense and anti-ship missiles, short-range quick air-defense guns and ship-borne helicopters, and are of comprehensive combat capabilities such as strong regional and point air defense as well as anti-submarine and anti-ship capabilities.

The warships will sail across the Bashi Channel and carry out a series of actual combat confrontation drills in the Western Pacific on such training subjects as maritime maneuver operation, maritime sovereignty protection, high-sea escort, support operation, and so on.

AFP News - Undated handout photo released by the Kayalaan Municipal office in 2011 shows Kalayaan island in the Spratlys, a chain of islets in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea). The Philippines has deployed 800 more Marines and opened a new headquarters to guard its interests in the disputed Spratly islands, which China also claims, a senior military official said Sunday.

Chinese officials said these trainings will fully display the determination of the Chinese government and the armed forces to safeguard territorial sovereignty and maritime rights and interests in the region.

Moreover, they said the training will test and improve the commanding and coordination capability as well as comprehensive combat capability to accomplish diversified military tasks of the Chinese naval forces.

China already confirmed that these high-sea trainings conform to international laws and international common practice.

With report from Yahoo News!

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Japan Terra Motors launches electric tuk-tuk for the Philippines 100,000 units in 2016

Terra Motors' e-tricycle can carry six and travel 31 miles per charge. (Credit: Terra Motors)

"E-trikes" are part of a movement to cut CO2 emissions and fuel costs in Asian cities. Manila wants 100,000 by 2016.

Tuk-tuks are a common way to get around in many Asian cities, but they contribute to urban pollution and high fuel costs.

Tokyo-based startup Terra Motors wants to put more non-polluting vehicles on the streets with an electric tuk-tuk unveiled this week for the Philippines.

The blue and white "e-tricycle" is powered by a lithium-ion battery and can carry six people including the driver. It's just under 11 feet long and is steered with handlebars.

It can travel some 31 miles per 2-hour charge, according to the firm, which is hoping to become the world's top electric tuk-tuk maker.

"There is no single company in Asia that mass-produces electric bikes or tricycles," president Toru Tokushige was quoted as saying by AFP.

"I think it could have a big impact if a Japanese company is the pioneer in the market with products of such a futuristic design."

The tuk-tuks will go on sale in fall 2013 for about $6,300 apiece.

Terra Motors is gunning for a Philippine government plan, funded by a $300 million Asian Development Bank loan, to replace 100,000 gas-powered tricycle taxis with "e-trikes" by 2016.

The average tuk-tuk driver in the Philippines earns less than $10 a day, but e-trikes will save him $5 a day in fuel costs, according to the bank. The trikes will be introduced to Manila and other cities under a lease-to-own system.

"Replacing 100,000 gasoline-powered trikes will enable the Philippine government to save more than $100 million a year in avoided fuel imports, while decreasing annual CO2 emissions by about 260,000 tons," the bank said in a release. http://cnet.co/172FfHx

C|Net

Friday, March 29, 2013

USA, Japan preferred the Philippines for Investment, BRICSS summit faces challenges over growth

As USA and Japan preferred the Philippines for Investment, BRICSS summit faces challenges over growthBRICS leaders (from left) India Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Chinese President Xi Jinping, South African President Jacob Zuma, Brazil's President Dilma Rousseff and Russian President Vladimir Putin pose in Durban on March 27, 2013. ALEXANDER JOE AFP/Getty Image

Leaders of the BRICSS countries gather in South Africa on Tuesday for their annual summit, knowing that some of the shine has come off their economies.

While they are still surging by the developed world's flagging standards, they rarely generate the same excitement as before among investors. The heady days before the 2008 global crisis, when the BRICSS movement was launched amid an emerging markets boom, are a distant memory. So even is the mood of 2011, when Brazil, Russia, India and China asked South Africa to join the club at a time when China was helping to pull the world out of recession.

The BRICSs growth rates have fallen, with Brazil leading the way down. And this year's recovery looks fragile. The International Monetary Fund forecasts gross domestic product growth of 5.5 per cent in the emerging markets in 2013, barely higher than 2012's estimated 5.1 per cent.

Investors, who ploughed money into BRICSs equities last year on hopes of a faster recovery, have more recently bet on the US and Japan and on smaller developing economies, notably the Philippines.

The BRICSs' economic slowdown is mainly due to the stagnation in the developed world, with the eurozone, in particular, holding back recovery. On average, emerging markets are growing about 4 percentage points faster than the developed world – just as they did pre-crisis.

The BRICSs still dominate the emerging markets, with China alone accounting for more than 40 per cent of the collective GDP. But some growth momentum is passing elsewhere. As China gets richer and its population ages, growth is slowing. Meanwhile, India, which could be picking up the baton as a far poorer country, faces structural challenges to fulfill its potential. Brazil and Russia have failed to generate the investment levels needed for sustained accelerated growth and South Africa struggles with deep-rooted social and economic difficulties.

So investors are looking to regions where GDP growth rates are higher than before 2008: south east Asia, for example, and parts of Africa, headed by Nigeria. For the moment, these economies are too small to dent the collective dominance of the BRICSs. But the emerging markets are clearly becoming more diverse.

China

Among the BRICSs countries China is the heavyweight, with an economy nearly a quarter larger than the other four combined. Three decades with average annual growth of about 10 per cent has lifted China into the lower ranks of the middle-income countries and drastically improved the living standards of almost one-fifth of humanity.

But partly because of its sheer size and partly as a result of a growth model that is reaching the limits of its effectiveness, China appears to be heading for a period of weaker growth after notching up an expansion of 7.8 per cent in 2012, the slowest pace in 13 years.

In order to stop the growth rate heading even lower, China's leaders, who completed their ascension to their posts last week, are expected to introduce reforms aimed at further reducing the country's reliance on environmentally destructive investment-driven, export-led growth.

"China certainly has a lot of challenges but at least the political elites appear to understand the problems and are working to fix them," says Eswar Prasad, a professor at Cornell University and a former head of the IMF's China division. "If they can successfully implement reforms then growth will settle in a 7 to 8 per cent range in the next few years. That is a comfortable rate that still solves a lot of problems."

If Beijing's new mandarins can maintain this lower but still impressive growth rate, then the Chinese economy is predicted to overtake that of the US after accounting for price differences to become the world's biggest by as early 2016, according to the OECD.

India

Hardly a day passes in India without the chief executive of a big Indian company – or the local boss of a foreign multinational – grumbling in private about the difficulties of doing business in what was until two years ago a high-growth economy.

True, there is almost unanimous praise in the business world for the reforms undertaken by Palaniappan Chidambaram, finance minister, since he reclaimed the post eight months ago. His changes include reduced subsidies for diesel, faster privatization, efforts to curb the budget and current account deficits, and an easing of restrictions on foreign investment in retail and airlines.

Yet such changes take time to bear fruit and Indian economic expansion remains sluggish. GDP growth is expected to slow to 5 per cent in the fiscal year to the end of this month, its lowest pace for a decade.

Entrepreneurs say a longstanding reluctance by the government to make sweeping reforms to labor and land laws has left them reluctant to invest and even when they do want to invest their projects lie idle because bureaucrats are reluctant to grant the necessary approvals. Nor is the likely shift towards populist policies before the general election due by May 2014 likely to do much long-term good for the economy.

"We need a greater strategic direction in selling the country's strengths," Siddharth Birla, senior vice-president of the Federation of Indian Chambers of Commerce and Industry, said on Friday, calling for a doubling of exports and a rise in the share of manufacturing in GDP from 15 per cent to 25 per cent.

"Exports and business investment must be the dual drivers of future growth necessary to lift the economy from the deep economic crisis and provide job opportunities for our rapidly expanding and young workforce," said Mr.. Birla.

Russia

While Russia remained the fastest growing large economy in Europe last year, it has recently showed signs of slowing. As the title of a research note from Renaissance Capital says: "Russia's economy grinds to a halt in February".

Ministry economy figures are indeed worrying – initial statistics report that February GDP growth was almost flat on a year-on-year basis – a minuscule 0.1 per cent. This was down from the already worrisome 1.6% year on year growth recorded in January. According to Renaissance Capital, the slowdown in the Russian economy has now been going on for five consecutive quarters and the first two months of 2013 have yielded 0.9% growth compared with January and February 2012.

The signs of sputtering growth have put pressure on the central bank to loosen monetary policy and target growth instead of inflation. Dmitry Medvedev, prime minister, said in January he would like to see 5 per cent growth, and this has been echoed in a number of statements by cabinet officials.

Elvira Nabiullina, former economy minister and adviser to Vladimir Putin, president, is set to take over as central bank governor in June, and is thought to be more dovish on inflation than her predecessor Sergei Ignatiev.

Overall there are signs that the liberal consensus in Russian economic policy over the past decade under Mr. Putin has been chipping. Last week came the completion of the $55bn purchase of TNK-BP by the state, the largest nationalization in Russia's history. The government has recently started to ramp up spending on the military: Rbs23tn ($766bn) of additional spending on armaments are planned over the next 10 years.

South Africa

South Africa joined the BRICSs political grouping in 2011 in spite of lagging behind the group's other members, both in terms of economic size and demographics. Although it boasts Africa's largest and most developed economy, South Africa's GDP of about $400bn is dwarfed by China, India, Brazil and Russia, while its population is 50m.

Its economic performance has been sluggish since the 2008 global economic crisis, which cost South Africa about 1m jobs.

Delivering his budget last month, Pravin Gordhan, the finance minister, revised downwards his growth forecast for this financial year to 2.7 per cent, in contrast to the 3 per cent the Treasury estimated in October.

That followed on from 2.5 per cent in 2012, a turbulent year that was marred by political infighting within the governing African National Congress and violent wildcat strikes in the mining sector which claimed about 50 lives and cost the industry billions of rand in lost production. It has also contributed to a widening current account deficient, which hit 6.5 per cent of GDP in the fourth quarter and the sharp slide in the rand, which has depreciated by about 9 per cent against the dollar this year.

With a third of manufactured exports shipped to Europe, South Africa is one of the emerging markets most exposed to the eurozone crisis. Its economic health is also adversely affected by domestic issues, including infrastructure constraints and poor investor sentiment, which has contributed to rating agency downgrades in recent months.

However, South Africa's inclusion in the BRICSs is seen to be less about its own economic prowess and more a reflection of Africa's role as a source of raw materials and high growth rates. The second-largest continent has enjoyed average growth of about 5 per cent, with sub-Saharan Africa forecast to grow at 5.8 per cent this year.

Brazil

Of all the BRICSs, Brazil's economy seems to have been the worst affected by the global slowdown resulting from the eurozone's woes.

But at least some of Brazil's problems are self-inflicted, economists believe. A softening of commodity prices and global risk aversion coincided with a crackdown by Brazil on capital inflows, which it feared contributed to an appreciation of its currency against the dollar and was making local industry uncompetitive.

At the same time, a decade-long boom in consumer credit was losing steam and investors were becoming more cautious about a perceived increase in government intervention in the economy. Industry meanwhile struggled because of high costs, rising wages and weak productivity gains.

The result was a perfect storm in which the economy slowed from an above trend 7.5 per cent in 2010 to 0.9 per cent in 2012. The finance minister forecasts 4 per cent for 2013 but the consensus is for 3 per cent.

President Dilma Rousseff remains popular because unemployment is still at record lows and wages continue to rise.

But she is desperately trying to reignite investment in an effort to revive headline economic growth. The signs in January were positive with GDP starting to grow more quickly but much more will need to be done.

Ilan Goldfajn, chief economist at Itaú-Unibanco, said if the government can push through major airport, port, road, rail and other infrastructure projects, it might be able to kick-start rapid growth again.

"If you get infrastructure projects correct, other investors waiting to see if there will be a recovery will follow this accelerator factor, this will surprise people on the upside for the first time in two to three years and then people will be more confident," he says. ( http://on.ft.com/YlCjT9)

The Financial Times

Thursday, March 28, 2013

INC- World’s biggest dome-arena in the Philippines to host AFF Suzuki Cup in 2016

INC- World's biggest dome-arena in the Philippines to host AFF Suzuki Cup in 2016

Football has been steadily rising in popularity in the Philippines in recent years and following their successful qualifiers for the 2014 AFC Challenge Cup in Maldives, the Philippines Football Federation (PFF) have officially declared its intention to host the AFF Suzuki Cup in 2016.

PFF is confident that they will be awarded the privilege to host the tournament and host it in their new and soon-to-be world's biggest dome-arena, named the Philippines Arena.

Works for the 50,000 capacity new stadium was inaugurated on August 17, 2011, and was the brainchild of Iglesia ni Cristo, one of the largest Church movement in the Philippines.

The stadium has a floor area of 74,000 square meters and its domed roof is nearly 36,000 square meters making it the largest dome arena in the world and costing a whopping USD 213 million.

"The PFF submitted a bid to host the Final Round of the AFF Suzuki Cup 2016," said Ed Gastanes, PFF's secretary general to InterAKTV.

"We hope to see completion (of Bulacan) in late 2014 of the football and track stadium and hope that in 2016, the PFF will be allowed to make use of the stadium for international competition."

PFF is also set to have a new home of its own after they failed to reach an agreement with the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for ownership of the current Azkal's homeground,  the Rizal Memorial Stadium in Manila.

PSC is planning to improve on its facilities and convert the playing surface from natural grass to artificial turf and was initially supposed to come under the supervision of Fifa as part of its Goal project.

But Fifa has ruled that under the agreement, PFF must gain full control of the venue, thus ending talk of cooperation between the PFF and PSC.

With no end to the deadlock, PFF is eyeing a plot of land in Sta. Rosa, Laguna and hopes to build a new home for the Azkals with additional training facilities.

Malaysia and Thailand hosted the 2012 Suzuki Cup and the next edition, to be held in 2014 has seen interest from Vietnam and champions Singapore, with the hosts expected to be announced by ASEAN Football Federation soon.

Goal.com

Philippines, Brazil sign pact on sports cooperation

Brazilia

THE Philippines and Brazil have inked a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will improve sports cooperation between the two countries.

The Department of Foreign Affairs said that Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) Chairman Ricardo Garcia and the National Secretary of Brazil's Ministry of Sports, Toninho Nascimento, signed a MOU on Sports Cooperation at the Ministry of Sport in Brasilia, Brazil on March 22.

"The MOU between the PSC and Brazil's Ministry of Sport will open doors to cooperation between both countries in the area of sports," Garcia said.

The MOU will provide the Philippines and Brazil with a framework for sports cooperation through the exchange of expertise in areas such as institutional cooperation; science and technology applied to sports; sports medicine; combating doping; using sports as a tool for social inclusion; and training of sports specialists and practitioners.

The signing of the MOU was preceded by a meeting between the Philippine delegation and Brazil's Ministry of Sports and Ministry of External Relations.

During the meeting both sides discussed ways by which the MOU can be implemented. A key aspect of the cooperation program will be in the form of technical support from Brazil, particularly in the areas of football and beach volleyball. The initial step will involve assessment and consultations by both sides in order to identify needs and requirements.

"We need to know first what needs to be done so that we can develop a specific project or program in that area. Once we have developed a specific proposal or program, we then proceed to implementation in partnership with our Brazilian counterparts," Garcia said.

"Our collaboration with Brazil will focus in two areas, high performance training and using sports as a tool for social inclusion. We would like to concentrate these efforts at the youth levels and the grassroots. Brazil and the Philippines both share the view that sports is a powerful tool in nation-building and an effective mechanism in addressing social issues such as criminality, drugs, gangs, homelessness and out of school youths," he added. (SDR/Sunnex)

SunStar

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

Philippines Gets First Investment-Grade Credit Rating from FITCH

HONG KONG — The Philippines was once the sick man of Asia: badly managed, corrupt and poor.

Years of efforts by the government of President Benigno S. Aquino III paid off Wednesday, when the country received, for the first time, an investment-grade credit rating from one of the world's major ratings agencies.

The move, from Fitch Ratings, represented an important vote of confidence for the Southeast Asian island nation, which has been growing at a rapid clip for the past few years but whose per capita income is barely one-quarter that of the United States. The economy remains heavily reliant on money sent home from Filipinos working overseas, called remittances.

"This means much more than lower interest rates on our debt and more investors buying our securities," Mr. Aquino said in a statement. "This is an institutional affirmation of our good governance agenda: Sound fiscal management and integrity-based leadership has led to a resurgent economy in the face of uncertainties in the global arena. It serves to encourage even greater interest and investments in our country."

Fitch Ratings cited "improvements in fiscal management" begun under Mr. Aquino's predecessor, Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, as one of the reasons for its decision to lift the Philippines' rating from junk status, increasing it one notch, to BBB- from BB+. The rating applies to the country's long-term debt denominated in foreign currency.

The upgrade, Fitch said, reflected a persistent current account surplus, underpinned by remittance inflows, while a "strong policy-making framework" — notably effective inflation management by the central bank — has supported the overall economy in recent years.

Investors cheered the news of the upgrade, sending the main stock market index up 2.74 percent.

The upgrade had been widely expected for some time, helping turn the Philippines into something of an investment darling last year. The Philippine stock market soared more than 30 percent in 2012, one of the best performances in the world, and has risen an additional 17.8 percent so far this year — the third best in Asia after Japan and Vietnam. The Philippine peso has climbed 7 percent against the dollar since the start of 2012.

Foreign direct investment, likewise, rose 8 percent last year to $2 billion, from $1.9 billion in 2011, as investor confidence in the country has solidified since Mr. Aquino took office nearly three years ago.

"This is an upgrade that's overdue," said Norio Usui, country economist for the Philippines at the Asian Development Bank, which is based in Manila. "Financial markets have already fully incorporated it. Bold governance reforms under the current administration have changed consumers' and investors' sentiment. Prudent macroeconomic management has laid the foundation for the strong growth. This rating will give investors the confidence they need to give the Philippines a much closer look."

The country's promising demographics also seem to point toward bright economic prospects. While many Asian nations, including Japan, South Korea and China, are aging rapidly, the Philippine population of 94 million is one of the youngest in the region. About one-third of Filipinos are 14 or younger, according to World Bank data. That compares with 19 percent in China and 13 percent in Japan.

"Should the government implement policy to educate and provide jobs for the burgeoning population, the Philippines could capitalize on its demographic advantages to raise economic output," economists at HSBC wrote in a research report.

HSBC forecasts that the Philippine economy will expand 5.9 percent this year, slightly less than the 6.6 percent recorded in 2012 but well ahead of the 3.9 percent in 2011. Fitch Ratings on Wednesday estimated growth between 5 percent and 5.5 percent in coming years.

At the same time, the country faces considerable challenges. Infrastructure in much of the country remains poor and corruption widespread, despite progress under Mr. Aquino's administration. Growth has generated pockets of urban prosperity surrounded by vast areas of grinding poverty and few jobs.

"While we may finally be treading the right path towards inclusive and sustainable development," Loren Legarda, a Philippine senator, said in reaction to the upgrade, "the challenge remains for us to ensure that there will be overall improvement in the lives of majority of Filipinos."

Renato M. Reyes Jr., secretary general of the left-leaning social organization Bayan, said the upgrade was "meaningless" as far as the poor were concerned. "It will not necessarily generate jobs and lead to sustainable growth," he said. "It looks good only on paper and will only benefit big business. Expect Aquino to milk this for the 2013 elections."

Recent developments in the southern Philippines, moreover, have highlighted the differences between the prosperous and peaceful north and the impoverished and unstable south. In February, gunmen from the southern Philippines caused a major security crisis in Malaysia when they took over an isolated village in the state of Sabah. Mr. Aquino has faced significant domestic criticism of his handling of the crisis.

Richard Foyston, the chairman of Navis Capital, which is based in Kuala Lumpur and has about $3 billion in shares and private equity investments in Southeast Asia, cautioned that the Philippines' economy remained highly dependent on household spending and on remittances from Filipinos working abroad.

Household spending makes up a big proportion of the Philippines' economy because spending on infrastructure and industry has for years lagged behind the country's peers in Southeast Asia. Remittances, meanwhile, rose 6.3 percent to $21.4 billion last year, the equivalent of 8 percent of gross domestic product.

"That fills a gap, but it is a sign of an imbalance," Mr. Foyston said, referring to the remittances. "The capability and talent and willingness to work and invest, all those things that are good for an economy, have not been put to work at home in the Philippines."

In May, elections will be held in the two houses of the Philippine legislature. Mr. Aquino, who is not up for re-election, has campaigned aggressively for his legislative allies, who are crucial for continuing his reform agenda.

Floyd Whaley reported from Manila. Neil Gough contributed reporting.

The New York Times

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Manila’s Payatas dump site residents benefits the clean energy from Methane

AFP © Philippines turns trash into clean energy windfall

Philippines turn trash into clean energy windfall

Manila - Payatas residents experienced a first kilowatt power generated from the methane gas and now more likely benefiting the power from the garbage. Mrs.  Teresita Mabignay does her ironing using free electricity on the slope of a garbage dump, an unlikely beneficiary of efforts to turn the Philippines' growing rubbish problems into a clean-energy windfall.

Mabignay lives at the base of one of Manila's largest landfills, which was the first in the country to have its methane gas converted into power as part of a United Nations' programme aimed at tackling climate change.

Decomposing rubbish produces methane, which is one of the greenhouse gases that scientists blame for global warming, and turning it into electricity saves it from rising up into the atmosphere while reducing the need to burn fossil fuels.

The methane is captured with pipes that are dug into the landfill, similar to wells that extract gas from under the ground or ocean. Methane is then sucked down to a power station at the bottom of the dumpsite and pumped into generators to make electricity.

For the past few years Mabignay and other housewives from the slum community at the bottom of the Payatas landfill have been given free access to the power at a hall built at the dumpsite.

"It really helps because it cuts down on our electricity bills... sometimes we use the savings to buy food," said Mabignay, 50, whose husband earns the equivalent of about $200 a month working as a security guard at the dumpsite.

The company behind the project, Pangea Green Energy Philippines, could afford to be generous with its electricity as it was earning hundreds of thousands dollars to capture and convert the gas.

Under the UN programme, industrialized countries can meet their Kyoto Protocol commitments to cut greenhouse gas output by funding projects that reduce emissions in developing nations such as the Philippines.

Companies in developing countries earn credits for reducing emissions, each equivalent to one ton of carbon dioxide. The credits are then sold to companies, institutions or governments in industrialised countries to offset their emissions.

Pangea president Jennifer Fernan Campos said the Payatas energy project was set up to take advantage of the UN scheme, with the first kilowatts generated in 2008.

"We are also very gratified to be helping the environment and the community. In our own little way we are mitigating greenhouse gas emissions," she said.

Thousands of renewable energy projects in developing countries have been registered under the UN's Clean Development Mechanism since it began in 2005, including wind farms, solar stations and hydropower dams.

There have also been many waste-to-energy projects, with four others in the Philippines starting up after the pioneering Pangea operation, according to industry website www.cdmpipeline.org.

However the market price for each ton of greenhouse gas that companies save started dropping sharply in 2010, partly because of the economic meltdown in Europe which was the biggest source of revenues.

"Our rate is a floating one so when the market collapsed, we suffered," Fernan Campos said, explaining they made the mistake of not locking in a higher price when they had the chance.

Industry experts have warned the carbon trading scheme is in danger because of the collapse in prices, and many clean-energy projects face an uncertain future.

However Fernan Campos said the Payatas project had become commercially viable without the UN-channeled money.

She said Pangea this month expanded capacity from 200 kilowatts to one megawatt, and began selling directly onto Manila's electricity grid.

Previously the electricity generated at Payatas had just been used to power operations at the landfill and for the nearby slum communities via the ironing project and neighborhood street lights.

The amount of greenhouse gases that are now being saved at Payatas is the equivalent to taking 18,000 cars off Manila's roads, according to Fernan Campos.

She said the project had a host of other environmental benefits, including less direct air pollution for people living close by. The extracted methane gas could also no longer contaminate the water system.

Nevertheless, Greenpeace and some other environment groups oppose waste-to-energy projects, arguing their green credentials are often exaggerated and that they create a financial incentive for more rubbish to be dumped.

"The only way to address the issue of methane generation from waste is to stop the rubbish going to the landfill in the first place," Greenpeace Philippines programme manager Beau Baconguis said.

"Having such projects in place encourages the generation of waste, rather than eliminating it, because you need waste to run the facility."

Baconguis said there was no vision from the Philippine government to reduce waste, and that Manila's roughly 12 million residents were producing between 6,000 and 8,000 tonnes of rubbish every day.

However Fernan Campos insisted Pangea was not lobbying for, or encouraging, more waste to be dumped at Payatas.

She said the local government had implemented recycling and other waste-reduction policies in recent years that had seen the amount of rubbish going into the landfill drop from 1,800 to 1,200 tons a day.

"We are just clearing whatever is there, and helping the environment at the same time," she said.

Yahoo News

Philippines will Loan Half Billion US Dollars from Japan for Railway & Bohol Air

Japan to lend Philippines $570 Million for rail, airport

The Philippines would borrow more than $570 million from Japan to fund an expansion of the capital's light rail system and a new airport for one of the nation's top tourist attractions.

More than three-quarters of the package will be for the Manila Light Rail Transit system's expansion to two neighboring provinces, the foreign department and the Japanese embassy said in separate statements.

The transport department is expected to tender shortly for the 81.3-billion-peso ($1.98-billion) project, which will provide urgently needed alternatives for people commuting between Manila and nearby areas.

"This project... (will be) contributing to the mitigation of road congestion in Metro Manila," a Japanese embassy statement said.

The light rail expansions, covering 15.7 kilometers (9.7 miles), are due to be completed by 2015.

The loan will also provide part of the financing of a $190.5-million airport planned on Panglao island adjacent to Bohol island.

This will replace a small airport now in operation on Bohol, which has seen massive growth in tourist traffic in recent years, the embassy statement said.

Japanese ambassador to Manila Toshinao Urabe signed and exchanged notes on the projects on Monday, the two governments said.

Neither side disclosed details about the terms of the loan, worth 54.03 billion yen ($573 million), nor when the money would be distributed.

Japan has accounted for about a third of all official development assistance to the Philippines in recent years, according to the embassy.

Global Post

Monday, March 25, 2013

UN: Polish ITLOS Judge Stanislaw Pawlak appointed for Philippine - China Spratlys Trial

Sea tribunal names judge to PHILIPPINES arbitration case vs CHINA over Spratlys area

The Philippines' arbitration case against China has moved a step forward after the president of the International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) appointed the second member of the ad hoc tribunal that would deliberate on the country's bid to stop Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) confirmed on Monday that the ITLOS president, Judge Shunji Yanai, appointed Polish ITLOS Judge Stanislaw Pawlak to the panel last week, leaving only three more slots to be filled in the tribunal.

Pawlak will join the panel with German Judge Rudiger Wolfrum, the arbiter appointed by the Philippines when it announced its arbitration bid in January 2013.

The Polish judge's appointment is the first for Yanai, who took on the task of composing the arbitral panel after China announced its rejection of the proceedings.

Under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), the international law the Philippines invoked in seeking arbitration, the ITLOS president has the power to appoint members of the panel in case one party refuses to take part in the proceedings.

China waived its right to name its representatives to the ad hoc panel upon formally announcing its rejection of the proceedings.

"The next step will be for the ITLOS president to appoint the other three members of the arbitral tribunal upon the written request of the Philippines," DFA spokesperson Assistant Secretary Raul Hernandez told a briefing on Monday.

He reiterated that the arbitration would be a peaceful process to settle disputes in the contested waters.

"We stress that arbitration is a peaceful and durable form of dispute settlement pursuant to international law," said Hernandez.

The Philippines went to the UN in January in hopes of halting Chinese incursions into the West Philippine Sea and nullifying China's nine-dash line, which encroaches into established Philippine maritime boundaries.

The DFA had contended that the nine-dash line was an "excessive claim in violation of international law, the UNCLOS." Both countries ratified the international law but disagreed on interpreting its letter, particularly on the matter of maritime boundaries.

The move specifically seeks to stop the Chinese occupation and construction on smaller islands in the West Philippine Sea that are claimed by the Philippines and hopes to compel the Chinese to respect the Philippines' exclusive economic zone and continental shelf.

The DFA had said it took the legal action after exhausting all other means to peacefully settle the dispute.

But China rejected the Philippines' move citing "indisputable sovereignty" over resource-rich territories in the West Philippine Sea and asserted that the issue should be resolved through direct negotiations between the two countries.

While impartial on the merits of the case, several countries have expressed support for the Philippines' decision to take a peaceful step toward resolving the dispute, among them, the United States and Germany. The United Nations also took the same position.

Japan, which has its own territorial dispute with China over islands in the East China Sea, said the Philippines' move was "understandable."

"I think it's understandable, the solution that [the Philippines is] seeking… they are not using force and they are trying to find the peaceful solution under the rule of law. So in that sense we totally understand the Philippine action," said Japanese Ambassador to the Philippines Toshinao Urabe in a recent interview.

"We're just waiting for what's going to happen. So we totally understand the action, but we're not taking sides," he said.

The envoy happens to know the ITLOS president, a compatriot, and remarked that the judge would be fair in handling the arbitration case against China despite its dispute with Japan.

"It doesn't matter [that the ITLOS president is Japanese]. It's under the rule of law. And I know him. He's a very impartial person, a very understanding person and I don't think he will use his position to advance the national interest," Urabe said.

INQUIRER Global Nation 

Sunday, March 24, 2013

GOING GLOBAL: Filipino competitiveness is NOT GOOD, IT’S GREAT!

Illustration by REY RIVERA

By James Michael Lafferty

MANILA, Philippines -I was a panelist last week in the Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum along with many dignitaries, including President Benigno Aquino III and Secretary of Finance Cesar Purisima. One of those "standard" questions came up concerning, "What can the Philippines do to improve competitiveness?" I think many people were shocked at how bullish I am on the Philippines. And I am not saying there is nothing to improve upon. It is just that, from my vantage point of leading multinationals in this country, this nation is incredibly competitive! Let me tell a few stories to explain why.

I have worked for some of the biggest and most respected consumer goods companies: Procter and Gamble. Coca-Cola. And now BAT. And on five continents and over 40 countries.

In every country, there are indeed competitors — some local, but typically the ones concerned being other multinationals. Like when I was at Coke, my biggest worry was Pepsi most of the time, not the local cola brand.

There is, however, one nation that stands out. Where the local companies are so good, so well run, that they represent the big competitive risk. And that country is right here, the Philippines!

Let me give some examples.

P&G is the biggest laundry detergent company in the world. By far. And in normal cases, the key competitors are companies like Unilever, or Henkel, as examples. But not here. In my time leading P&G, the leader of the laundry detergent bar segment, which was nearly half of the market, was a great brand called Champion from Peerless. A local company. Well run. A very formidable competitor. They were winning market shares. And they deserved it, doing a better job of delivering real consumer value. I respected them. And they made me better.

You can see the same in many, if not most, consumer categories. Diapers have EQ, a brilliant local brand. Toothpaste has Hapee. And there are many more: Splash Corporation, Belo Skincare, Alaska Milk — all local Filipino companies that are well run, hyper-competitive, and winning market shares.

I have never seen a market like this. So competitive. So good at turning out world-class companies and talent.

My two favorite examples start with iced tea. I can only imagine if I was a consultant, and a local company came to me and asked, "Do you think we can win if we enter a category dominated by Coca-Cola, Pepsi Cola, Unilever, and Nestle?" My answer would be, "Don't be crazy, you are taking on four monsters. Go find something else to compete in!"

Well, I am glad my friend Lance Gokongwei and his colleagues at URC never asked me. Because what they did is extraordinary. They entered. They had the unique name, flavors, and distribution strategy of C2. And in a few short years, they took the lead from the big boys. It's about as impressive a story as there is. In fact, it's a lot more impressive in my view than the story of Bill Gates starting up in a garage!

Finally, when I retired from P&G and left the Philippines, sadly, for my new role in Nigeria as CEO of Coca-Cola, I met in my first week in Lagos with my top customer, an owner of the largest fast-food chain called Chicken Republic. We were chatting and he asked me where I came from. I answered, "The Philippines." And I will never forget his answer.

"Oh, my gosh! That's neat! My hero is a Filipino."

So I, of course, asked, "Who is that?"

His answer was, "Tony Tan, the founder of Jollibee. And let me tell you why. I am today the biggest fast food chain in Nigeria. But we know McDonald's is coming. And it is scary, all their money and might and PR. But we have hope. Because somewhere out there in this world, there is a local chain that has succeeded in beating McDonald's, and keeping leadership. And that is Jollibee."

I loved it. Even in the middle of Nigeria, the excellence of Filipino business is recognized and cheered.

Nine months later, upon the gracious invitation of Tony Tan and his team at Jollibee, I escorted my Nigerian customer and his team to Manila for a one-week visit with Jollibee to learn. It was a wonderful experience, and the entire group could not say enough good things about Jollibee, their leadership, and their commitment to excellence. It is a great, great company.

I could go on and on. This country has amazing competitiveness. Yes, we can do more. We can continue to truly knock down barriers to free market competition, to level the playing field like was recently done in tobacco, to allow more companies to enter and invest. We can continue to push for investment-grade ratings, to open up more capital markets to our businesses. We can upgrade more infrastructure.  The administration is pushing all the right buttons. Anyone can see it.

And I tell you this: with the amazing base of talent, skill and competitiveness this nation has right now, if we fix these things, it will be downright exciting — and scary to some — how competitive this country's businesses can be.

The Philippine Star

AIDEA Philippines – A Filipino’s brain: World’s leading Architectural Design Firm

Aidea design for UP Technohub

Filipino architect designs buildings in 40 countries

After working in Hong Kong for nine years, architect Abelardo Tolentino Jr. returned to the Philippines in 1998 to lead the local unit of a British architectural company at the height of the Asian financial crisis.  That company, which he bought five years later, is now one of the world's largest architectural firms with projects in 40 countries.

"We have had over 500 projects in 40 countries since 2003.  I would say in terms of number, 60 percent are in the Philippines and the rest in other countries," Tolentino says in an interview in Makati City.  Aidea Philippines designs projects in Europe, Asia including the Middle East, Australia and the United States.

Tolentino, the founder, president and chief executive of the Makati-based Aidea Philippines Inc., was only 33 when he came back from Hong Kong where he worked for prestigious companies such as HOK Asia Pacific and John Lei Architects Ltd.

He served as managing director of the Philippine subsidiary of Robert Matthew Johnson Marshall, a UK-based architectural company in 1998.  Tolentino, however, took over the struggling local unit in 2003 and renamed it as Aidea, which he says is a Latin word that connotes "from ideas to reality."

"We were a branch of a UK company called RMJM.  We started as its subsidiary.  But in 2003, we localized the ownership of the company.  Basically, I acquired the firm and we renamed it as Aidea," Tolentino says.

From a 25-man team 10 years ago, Aidea Philippines has grown to become one of the largest architectural companies in the world with 170 professionals, including architects, interior designers, graphic designers, programmers and urban planners.  In 2013, Aidea was ranked 80th in the Building Design's World Architecture Top 100, an annual list of the world's largest architectural firms.

The company occupies two floors at the FGU Building on Ayala Ave. in Makati City.  Its international arm, Aidea Integrated Technologies, is also based in the same office, but provides designs and professional services to international clients in 40 countries.

"This is our 10th year on our own.  We were able to expand the practice when we became all Filipino.  It turned out that way.  When we went on our own, we did not have limitation in the market, unlike when we were still working with our past UK company," he says.

Aidea design for UP Technohub

Aidea designed the West European headquarters of Procter & Gamble in Geneva, Switzerland.  Tolentino says the company "got involved from the start till the end of the project."

The firm also designed the P&G headquarters in other parts of Europe such as Madrid, Paris, Rome, Kiev and Moscow as well as the Canlubang, Laguna plant of the multinational company.  "When we had the P&G account, we had so many projects in Europe that we had to assign one of our architects to Brussels to manage the account," he says.

Tolentino says Aidea now works with Japanese and Australian companies to design projects in various parts of the globe.  About 40 percent of Aidea's projects are based outside the Philippines, although the design work is being outsourced from the company's Makati office.  Its projects abroad include buildings, plants, research facilities and offices.

"What we aim for is to have a good mix of local and international projects.  We don't want to limit our market to exclusively [local projects] here.  We want to operate outside the country," he says.

In the Philippines, Aidea has designed many of the modern landmarks in the commercial business districts of Makati and Fort Bonifacio as well as other parts of Metro Manila such as the Columns, Serendra, UP-Ayala Technohub, Greenbelt, Convergys, Nuvali, Globe Telecom, High Street South, One Global Place, Park Terraces, Garden Towers, Senta, People Support, Arya Residences, Polakay Resort and Solaris Towers.  Aidea also has projects in Cebu for Cebu Holdings, which is another Ayala-controlled company.

"I think in the local scene, what gave us the break is the Columns.  We were a very small firm with only 25 people during that time.  Now, we have close to 170," says Tolentino.

Aidea Philippines' biggest local client is Ayala Land Inc. along with its subsidiaries Premier, Alveo and Avida.  Aidea is also now involved in the development of Ayala Land's major projects such as Circuit Makati, Vertis North in Quezon City and Bonifacio High Street South in Taguig City.  The company has also worked with Nestle for its offices.

Tolentino says the development of High Street South in Fort Bonifacio will keep Aidea Philippines busy for the next decade.  "That will be another long-term project.  It will take eight to 10 years.  When it's done, I'm close to retirement," he says.

The National Commission for Culture and the Arts has recently recognized Tolentino as the 2013 recipient of Ani ng Dangal for Architecture and Allied Arts.  The NCCA gives the award in seven art disciplines to Filipinos who excel in the international scene.

In 2007, Tolentino was named Innovation Entrepreneur during the Ernst & Young Entrepreneur of the Year awards for applying innovative approaches, business solutions, and technologies that resulted in improved business processes and company growth.

Aidea Philippines develops its own software and solutions to improve efficiency in design work.  Tolentino says recently, the company embraced the cloud technology, so that everybody in the team can work anywhere or anytime.

Apart from winning contracts, the Aidea team also bagged grand prizes in international virtual competitions such as Build Qatar Live and Build London Live, which are prestigious design competitions among architectural companies.

The Aidea team beat dozens of participants from different countries for the best museum designs in both the Qatar and London modeling competitions.  While the designs for the museums are virtual competitions, "nonetheless, it is prestigious because we are the only participant out of the Philippines and one of two from Asia," Tolentino says, referring to the case of the London prize.

Ironically, Tolentino, who grew up in Rizal province, says architecture was not his first dream profession back in high school. "I wanted to be a computer engineer," he says.

His father, who owned a small construction firm, advised him to pursue architecture instead.  He graduated from the University of Sto. Tomas with a degree in architecture in 1987.  Two decades later, UST honored him as The Outstanding Thomasian Alumni in Architecture for 2008.

Tolentino remembers his first project as an architect.  For two years, he helped in the interior design for the renovation of Intercontinental Hotel in Makati.

Tolentino says while he admires famous architects, there was no individual architect who had the most influence on his designs.  "What I do is I research on famous architects and try to understand their thinking on architecture and design and see how I can apply some of that when I do my work.  I always try to mix the best of different things to come up with something that is hopefully better," he says.

"There is always something good in the works of architects.  But instead of looking at the personality, I look at their work and I look at their thinking.  What I realize is that they have different and distinct ways of approaching design," says Tolentino, who admires the classical buildings in Rome, Italy and Penang, Malaysia.

Tolentino says Aidea Philippines is different from other architectural firms because of its processes.

"We don't have a house style, but it is really our process of how we come up with projects that makes us different.  We believe that every project is unique.  When we do a project, we try to understand first of all what the vision of the client about the project and his needs," he says. "It is the process of how we come up with the design that makes us different so that we respond better to the needs of the users and the client."

"We are also heavily investing in technology and putting the latest infrastructure in the office so we can be more competitive.      We anticipate that [infrastructure] will differentiate our company from our competitors," he adds.

Now at 47, Tolentino sees to it that he lives a balanced lifestyle.  "I try not to work on weekends. I stay at home or play golf," says Tolentino, who lives in Makati.

His work schedule on weekdays normally consists of three to four meetings a day.  He still gets involved in the design work while overseeing the entire operations of the company, although much of the supervisory work is now delegated to senior managers.

Tolentino says Aidea proves that Filipino talents can excel in the global stage.  "In the Philippines, there are foreign architects that come here.  We call them design consultants and they partner with local firms like us to do projects.  But we do it the other way.  When we go overseas, we are the foreign consultants and we partner with local architects," he says.

The international operations require Tolentino to travel "but not as much as I used to" as he now delegates the work to his employees.

"Now, I travel when I am needed.  My role now is developing the business and creating alliances with new partners.  For the day-to-day management of projects, we have senior people who deal with that.  Otherwise, the company will not grow, if it is centralized," he says. "We structured the company in such a way it is more decentralized when senior managers take more responsibilities and that frees up my time to do other things."

Tolentino says Filipino architects are among the best in the world.  "When you go to Singapore or Hong Kong, many architectural firms there have Filipinos as senior people," he says, adding that many of his classmates from UST are also working in other countries.

The problem, he says, is that the Philippines gets deprived of these talents. "There is a shortage of experienced talent.  The good ones will be always employed but some of them left for overseas work.  The threat is the overseas work, especially the regional employment," he says.

However, he admits that some of his former employees who decided to work abroad recommended Aidea to companies looking for local partners.  "Interesting enough, those who are working abroad, they pass projects to us," he says.

Tolentino says this is because Aidea Philippines' employees, including those that left for overseas jobs, have high regard for the company.  "When they come home for vacation, they make it a point to visit the office.  One of the things that we would like to keep in the office is the atmosphere that it is like a family," he says.

Aidea Philippines, already recognized as one of the largest, still aims to grow bigger as a company to introduce Filipino talents and designs to the world, says Tolentino.

"We plan to expand locally.  One of the things that we try to do is promote local talent.  We have no plans of establishing international offices.  We would rather partner with international companies but our base will always be in the Philippines.  We always want to be identified as a Filipino company.  We think there is enough talent here that we can tap to work in the international level," he says.

Manila Standard Today

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