Sunday, April 28, 2013

China – Philippines slamming Anew over Chinese devil tongue strayed in ASEAN Shores

China's devil tongue extending to the ASEAN shores

China slams Philippine bid to "legalize" occupation of islands

(Reuters) - China accused the Philippines on last week (April 26, 2013) of trying to legalize its occupation of islands in Kalayaan  in the disputed West Philippines Sea and South China Sea, repeating that Beijing would never agree to international arbitration.

Frustrated with the slow pace of regional diplomacy, the Philippines in January angered China by asking a U.N. tribunal to order a halt to Beijing's activities that it said violated Philippine sovereignty over the islands, surrounded by potentially energy-rich waters 200 Nautical Miles Exclusive Economic Zone granted by UNCLOS..

Claims by an increasingly powerful China over most of the West Philippines Sea and South China Sea have set it directly against U.S. allies Vietnam and the Philippines. Brunei, Taiwan and Malaysia also claim parts of the waters and China has a separate dispute with Japan in the East China Sea.

Manila said on Thursday that a U.N. arbitration court had set up the tribunal which would hear Manila's complaint, but China said this was an attempt to steal Chinese territory.

"The Philippine side is trying to use this to negate China's territorial sovereignty and attach a veneer of 'legality' to its illegal occupation of Chinese islands and reefs," the Foreign Ministry said in a statement on its website (www.mfa.gov.cn).

The Philippines must immediately withdraw personnel and facilities from the islands, the ministry added, listing those which it said Manila was occupying.

Manila asked the tribunal of the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) to order a halt to China's activities.

But the convention did not apply in this case as what the Philippines was actually asking for was a decision on sovereignty, the Chinese ministry said.

"China's refusal to accept the Philippines' request for arbitration has full grounding in international law," it said.

China had always believed that the two countries should resolve their dispute through direct talks, the ministry added.

The worry of the Philippines is china's inability to honor its word for bilateral talks as proven anew when both agreed to de-escalate the stand-off in Scarborough Shoal.

China and the Philippines agreed to remove their ships in the island which is within 200 Nautical Miles Exclusive Economic Zone of the Philippines to end the standoff but after Philippine Ship removal, china did not leave the island and in fact block all the passage of the Philippines and ram with Filipino fishermen killing 1.

The Philippines lost its confidence and trust to china anew after the incidents. The Scarborough Shoal now is virtually controlled by China with thousand of kilometers from its closest shore and around 2 hundred Kilometers from Luzon Island' biggest island in the Philippines.

Southeast Asian nations stepped up efforts on Thursday to engage China in talks to resolve maritime tensions, agreeing to meet to try to reach common ground on disputed waters ahead of planned discussions in Beijing later this year.

Efforts by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) to craft a code of conduct to manage South China Sea tensions all but collapsed last year at a summit chaired by Cambodia, a close economic ally of China, when the group failed to issue a closing statement for the first time. (Reporting by Ben Blanchard; Editing by Nick Macfie)

Philippine Navy chief slams Chinese maneuvers in disputed sea

Philippine Navy chief Vice Admiral Jose Luis Alano said Chinese naval maneuvers in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and use of non-military maritime vessels way beyond its coastlines to advance sovereignty claims to most of the sea were both "aggressive and excessive."

Alano, who was appointed Flag Officer in Command of the Philippine Navy last December, met with Admiral Jonathan Greenert, chief of US Naval Operations, at the Pentagon on Thursday to discuss the security situation in the South China Sea and navy-to-navy issues.

News reports from China said the PLA Navy dispatched a large contingent of ships to circumnavigate the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea last month, a maneuver likened to marking Chinese territory.

Beijing's claim to the West Philippine Sea and South China Sea is based on its so-called nine-dash map which shows a U-shaped area encompassing most of the sea, including territories claimed by the Philippines, Vietnam, Brunei, Malaysia and Taiwan which other known as "Devil's tongue strayed in the ASEAN Shore)

Alano will travel on Friday to North Charleston, South Carolina to inspect the second of two Coast Guard cutters that the Philippines has acquired from the US.

The 378-foot Hamilton-class vessel Dallas, rechristened BRP Ramon Alcaraz, is in the final stages of refurbishing and refitting and will soon join the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, the first US Coast Guard cutter acquired by Manila in 2011 for duty in the West Philippine Sea.

Alcaraz was officially handed over to the Philippines in May 2012 and should have been operating in Philippine waters by now.

But unexpected technical problems and upgrades on the ship have caused some delays and Alano said he expected the Alcaraz to set sail for the Philippines around the third week of June.

He said Alcaraz has been fitted with two new secondary guns – fully automated Mk 38 25mm bushmaster cannons – and a modern radar system. The Gregorio del Pilar will be fitted with similar new cannons.

A complement of 88 Filipino officers and crew under the command of Capt. Ernesto Baldovino have been living aboard the Alcaraz while it has been undergoing repairs to familiarize themselves with all the technical, mechanical and computerized aspects of the ship.

They will be joined by a six-member technical working group including training evaluation experts scheduled to arrive from Manila next month to give the vessel and crew the final go ahead to cross the Pacific to its new home in the Philippines.

In an interview with The STAR on his arrival in Washington on Wednesday, Alano said the prestige of the Philippine Navy was on the rise because of the acquisition of new firepower and the due recognition it was receiving from the government and the public.

Morale was high, more graduates of the Philippine Military Academy were opting for naval careers and the service was attracting more interest from recruits with technical and computer skills, he said.  

The Philippines last year expressed an interest in acquiring a third Hamilton class Coast Guard ship but is not now actively pursuing it.

Alano said given the current exigencies to create a credible maritime defense force, interest has shifted to purchasing new vessels and helicopters to extend the range of these vessels.

He said the Philippines was looking at proposals from several countries for two new 2,000-ton frigates with full surface and anti-air and anti-submarine capabilities.

It was also interested in acquiring strategic sealift vessels to give the Navy the capability to transport heavy cargo and large numbers of troops.

The Philippines was also in negotiations for the acquisition of three AW109 lightweight helicopters built by the Anglo-Italian manufacturer AgustaWestland which can be used for medevac (medical evacuation), search-and-rescue and military roles.

"We should receive them by next year," Alano said.

Additionally, he said the Navy has received six Philippine-made multi-purpose attack craft and more are being programmed for acquisition.

With reports from Reuters and philSTAR

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Malaysian Propaganda: Navy killing 35 Sulu Royal Army Supporters denied by the Philippines

photo: Malaysiakini.com 

Though Malaysian Defense Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi confirmed press reports that 35 Sulu Royal Force supporters were shot dead by the Philippines Navy, the latter denied any knowledge of the incident.

Confirming an Utusan Malaysia report today, Zahid told reporters in Penang that Sulu Royal Force supporters were shot in Sibutu Island in Tawi-tawi Province.

He said based on intelligence reports and information, the militants had "intended to enter Sabah to create chaos" in the days before the May 5 general election.

He said that the Malaysian security personnel "would have taken them out" if these militants had bypassed the Philippine forces.

"We will defend our country," the minister said.

Utusan reported that the Philippine security forces shot dead 35 members of the Kiram terrorists, led by its senior leader Kalling Amirul, in a fierce battle at Sibutu Island last Saturday.

The report claimed that the group was planning a strategy to encroach and attack the Sabah east coast to obstruct the GE13 process.

It also claimed that the Philippine security forces had seized 20 M16 and Grand Rifles.

Zahid went on to even thank the Philippines Navy and its coastguards.

But strangely enough the the Philippines Navy has denied any such incident.

Philippine Navy branded as "mere propaganda" Malaysia's claim

Malaysia Caretaker Defence Minister Ahmad Zahid Hamidi. Photo from Malaysiakini.com

It's peaceful here Philippine Navy Captain Renato Yonkey said. "Only evacuees from Sabah have been arriving in Tawi-Tawi," he said.

"There's no news because if there is something big it would explode."

 "Our Task Force Commander in Tawi-Tawi said that he does not have any such information pertaining to the reported death of 35 RSF supporters," said Col. Edgar Arevalo, spokesman on the Sabah issue. The Naval Task Force based in Tawi-Tawi also categorically denied the report, adding that the prevailing peace and order environment in his jurisdiction remained "favorable."

"We have not monitored of any incident transpiring in Tawi- Tawi as the situation here is peaceful," Navy Capt Renato Yonke, Commander of Task Force 62 tasked to guard the southern back door shoreline of any RSF supporters departing for Sabah.

Yonkie said that if the report was true, the information would surely spread quickly among the residents in Taw-Tawi and as far as Basilan and Jolo.

The Sulu Sultanate likewise laughed off Zahid's claim, saying a shootout between the Philippine Navy and the Sulu Royal Force Supporters would not have escaped the attention of the Philippine government, much more the local media.

"That's funny, really. It seemed they (Malaysians) had ran out of wild stories. Their past propaganda has not been successful so they are trying to create a story so we Filipinos would fight each other," Idjirani said.

The Sultanate official said he had just returned Wednesday night from Jolo, Sulu where he witnessed the public demonstration of thousands of Tausugs against the Malaysian government.

"I was in Jolo since Thursday last week. If something happens in Jolo, we will certainly know it, and fast," Idjirani said.

"We've been saying all along that we would not cause any trouble to the Malaysian elections," Idjirani added.

The May 5 Malaysian general election will have Prime Minister Najib Razak running against opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim. Najib is running under Barisan National (BN) against Anwar's Pakatan Rakyat party,

In his campaign speeches, Najib and BN party candidates had emphasized the importance of the military offensive to end the armed conflict in Sabah.

Unlike the BN government, Najib said Pakatan Rakyat has been batting for the other side by "meeting up with those who don't like Sabah to remain within Malaysia".

But the Sultanate said that whoever wins the elections in Malaysia, it would continue to fight for the ownership of Sabah.

"Even if Najib lost in the elections, we will maintain our position on a win-win process, that is to reclaim Sabah," he added.

He said the electoral process in Malaysia is also important for the sultanate since many Tausug people, who are supporters of the Sultan have settled in Sabah and will cast their votes.

Agbimuddin will allow the Tausug and Malaysian people to participate in the elections peacefully, according to Idjirani.

With report from, Manila Standard Today, Free Malaysia Today and Malaysia Kini

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Why Extremely Poor in the Philippines keeps rising in spite of Fastest Economic Growth in Asia?

Analysts and even the Philippine government said "The effect of this Economic growth could not be experience by the poor" in an overnight which means maybe tomorrow everyone will enjoy a better life but could it be possible, when could it happen?

The Philippine government since the Arroyo administration introduced the easy "Band Aid" solution for the poor through a "direct cash transfer programme" which is known as "Pantawid Program". The same system is followed by the Aquino Administration but how effective is the Pantawid program?

There is a sayings "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime."

The pantawid program is good but it is not a long and lasting solution to end the poverty in the Philippines.

While other neighbors are enjoying thousands of dollars remittance from the "OFW" abroad, other neighbors on the other hand are continuously suffering hunger and living below the standards which we could consider as "extremely poor".

Do you think that it is right that Tax payers are paying their taxes to the government and would just be distributed to the poor families for their basic needs for one day then tomorrow the same problem again?  

There seems to be a paradox in the present Philippine situation with a large number of Filipinos still mired in extreme poverty amidst an economic growth that is among the fastest in the region.

On Tuesday, the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB), a government agency, announced that the poverty incidence in the Philippines stood at 27.9 percent in the first semester of 2012, practically unchanged from the same period in 2009, which was 28.6 percent, and in 2006 which was 28.8 percent.

The NSCB data show that 10 percent of the country's population of about 97 million is still living below the poverty level.

In a briefing, NSCB Secretary General Jose Ramon Albert said that during the first semester of 2012, a Filipino family of five needed 5,458 Philippine pesos (136 U.S. dollars) monthly to meet basic food needs.

"Families earning that amount were considered to be living in extreme poverty," Albert said.

After the bad news, that was bannered by leading Manila newspapers, came the good news on Wednesday when Moody's Analytics described the Philippines as a "rising star" poised to record one of the fastest growth rates in the world.

Moody's Analytics said that the Philippines is likely to grow between 6.5 and 7 percent this year and within the same range next year, "outperforming not only the anemic advanced economies but also many robustly growing emerging markets."

It also said that if favorable economic trends continue, the growth rate for the Philippines could be close to 8 percent by 2016.

Earlier, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank also upped their growth forecast for the Philippines this year to 6 percent.

Moody's Analytics, a sister company of credit rating watchdog Moody's Investor Service, said the country's 6.6 percent growth in 2012 was achieved despite weak growth in the United States, a crisis in the eurozone and a slowdown in China.

On March 27, the Philippines also obtained its first-ever investment-grade rating from Fitch Ratings.

On a similar vein, international credit rating firm Standard & Poor's has raised its growth forecast for the Philippines for this year from 5.9 to 6.5 percent. At the same time, it said the economy was expected to post another robust growth of 6.3 percent in 2014.

"The ASEAN 5 - Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam - are more domestically driven and, therefore, continue to enjoy relatively high and stable growth rates. This is not the case elsewhere," S&P said.

The paradox of continuing poverty amidst strong growth has been explained by analysts here.

Norio Usui, ADB senior country economist, said that the government must solve the problem of jobless growth if it hoped to reduce poverty.

"I am not surprised at all. The benefits of strong economic growth have not spilled over to the people because they still cannot find a job," Usui was quoted as saying in a report.

In January 2013 jobless rate stood at 7.1 percent, with a further 20.9 percent underemployed or those working fewer than 40 hours a week. About 41.8 percent of the underemployed are in the farming sector.

Professor Benjamin Diokno of the University of the Philippines School of Economics said that the strong economic growth in 2010 and 2012 "were not enough to extricate a lot of people from the poverty trap."

Sen. Ralph Recto, chairman of the ways and means committee of the Philippine Senate, said that only the rich and the educated have benefited from the infrastructure projects of the government and not the poor and uneducated.

"This led to income inequality with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer," Recto said.

Presidential Spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the challenge now is to spur growth in agriculture to create more jobs, increase production and ensure that the production translates to a greater income for farmers since the bulk of the population was still in the agricultural sector.

Lacierda noted that private investments had increased, and that public infrastructure spending in 2012 was around 250 billion pesos (6.25 billion U.S. dollars).

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said it hoped to see improved results given new investments in infrastructure, agriculture and manufacturing.

"Although this first semester result on poverty incidence is not the dramatic result we wanted, we remain hopeful that, with the timely measures we are now implementing, the next rounds of poverty statistics will give much better results," NEDA Director General and Economic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said at a briefing.

With reports from Wall Street Journal, Inquirer, Malaya and philSTAR

Bangko Sentral sa Pilipinas named ‘Best Regulator’ in Asia Pacific Region

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has been chosen as the 2013 Best Macroeconomic Regulator in the Asia Pacific Region by The Asian Banker, one of Asia's leading financial services consultancies.

The award was given during The Asian Banker Leadership Achievement Awards in Jakarta, Indonesia, last Tuesday April 23, 2013.

BSP Assistant Governor Ma. Cyd Tuaño-Amador attended The Asian Banker Leadership Achievement Awards and received the accolade in behalf of the BSP.

The Asian Banker Leadership Achievement Awards are widely acknowledged by the financial services industry as the highest possible recognition available to industry professionals in the Asia Pacific region.

Established in 2001, the awards are among the most difficult and most exclusive accolades to win because of the stringent evaluation process involved.

The Asian Banker said: "The selection process is a rigorous one, completed over several months and involving feedback and interviews with all constituents who are in a position to comment on the candidates. All of these make this a world-class evaluation programme, and the insights gained from the programme are published in an annual report."

The awards ceremony—which was a gathering of international and domestic institutions that have excelled in transaction banking, risk management and technology—was held in conjunction with The Asian Banker Summit.

MALAYA Business Insight

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

1000 Volunteer Supporters for Sulu Sultanate Royal Force Confirmed arrival for Hit and Run Attack in Sabah

In this picture taken on March 2, 2013, a group of Malaysian police commandos stand guard near the area where the stand-off with Filipino gunmen took place in Tanduo village, Lahad Datu, Sabab , Malaysia. Armed intruders from the southern Philippines had slipped into at least three coastal districts on Borneo island. - AP

1,000 Filipino-Muslim fighters deployed in Sabah

Some 1,000 Filipino-Muslim fighters from the southern Philippines were deployed secretly and separately in Sabah to help press the royal Muslim family's claim over Sabah, but they were ordered not to disrupt Malaysia's May 5 national elections, a newspaper has reported.

Sultan of Sulu, Jamalul Kiram III, gave orders that the new troops that joined Raja Mudda Agbimuddin Kiram in Lahad Datu, should not disrupt Malaysia's parliamentary elections on May 5, spokesman Abraham Idjirani told Manila Standard.

He did not clarify if the Sultan of Sulu ordered a unilateral ceasefire.

Identifying the 1,000 more fighters that joined Raja Mudda Agbimuddin's remaining 400 troops in Lahad Datu, Idjirani said, "We don't know if they are members of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF). Most of them have changed their identities upon their arrival in Sabah. [While there] they're no longer MNLF or MILF."

The two Fronts' have forged pro-autonomy political settlements with the Philippine government in 1997, and in 2013.

Revealing the Sultanate of Sulu's strategy in Sabah, Idjirani said they would break up into separate groups and launch hit-and-run campaigns against the Malaysian forces in places other than Lahad Datu.

"This is a big help to the Rajah Sultanate Force (RSF) in order to contain the Malaysian security forces in the area," Idjirani said, but did not give more details.

Idjirani said the newly arrived volunteers are fully-armed and are even carrying anti-tank weaponry with them.

Idjirani said the Agbimuddin's men remain mobile as they evade Malaysian security forces.

"They have retreated a bit and have taken positions away from Kampung Tanduo and Tanjung Batu," he said.

The Malaysian security forces meanwhile have strengthened their position at  Tawau which is Sabah's third largest town after Kota Kinabalu and Sandakan.

"They (Malaysian security forces) have observed that it is easy to enter Lahad Datu from Tawau that is why they are beefing-up their position there," said Idjirani.

Hajib Mujaha Hashim, chairman of the MNLF's Islamic Command Council earlier said the volunteer fighters are seasoned guerrilla fighters.

"They (reinforcement) are experienced in guerrilla warfare. They are there not officially as MNLF but we could not prevent MNLF forces from going there and reinforcing the royal army of the Sultanate of Sulu in the area," Hashim said.

Meanwhile, Idjirani said that although there is a lull in the fighting between the RSF and Malaysian security forces, he expects clashes to erupt soon, especially with the RSF's augmentation.

"I expect clashes to happen soon. At the moment, the Malaysians are very busy with their upcoming election and do not want to disturb Sabah where there are more than 600,000 Bangsa Suluk residents and voters," he said.

Idjirani said  although  Bangsa Suluks in Sabah  are  now voters in Malaysia, they still keep strong ties with Sulu.

Malaysian and Philippine marines have blocked the Sulu Sea that separates Sabah and Mindanao, in the southern Philippines, since the Filipino-Muslim fighters' occupied Tandauo village in early February.

Idjirani's revelation countered Defense Minister Datu Seri Ahmad Zahid Hamidi who told Bernama, a Malaysian state-run news agency, that Malaysian Armed Forces and police are on the lookout for the possible entry of Filipino-Muslim fighters to Sabah.

Council of royal "sharifs"

Meanwhile,  in Zamboanga City,  the council of royal "sharifs" (religious and property custodians), who are heirs and descendants of the Islamic Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo called on the people of Sulu to  unite  in seeking a peaceful resolution to the Sabah crisis.

Habib Mujahab Hashim, chairman of the council of royal sharifs, urged the Sulu people to regain Sabah by peacefully mobilizing all their resources to bring Malaysia to the negotiating table.

Hashim believed that the issue of Sabah can only be resolved if Malaysia agrees to settle the issue  with  the Sultanate of Sulu  before a neutral body acceptable to both sides, such as the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

"In calling for the end to the Sabah crisis, we believe that it is morally and spiritually wrong for two Islamic nations – Malaysia and the Sultanate (sic) – to sacrifice human lives for the sake of a cause which can be addressed peacefully," Hashim said.

Hashim said they strongly believe that the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo has the legitimate, legal and historical rights as shown by pieces of documentary and factual evidence to assert its sovereignty rights over Sabah since the territory has been ceded to the Sultanate of Sulu some 310 years ago by the Sultanate of Brunei as a gesture of gratitude for helping quell a 10-year rebellion in its territory in the year 1704.

"This sovereignty right over Sabah has been recognized for long by great nations of the world at that time, but only recently did the sovereignty of the Sultanate of Sulu and North Borneo has been questioned, denied and stolen from us before our eyes," Hashim said.

The royal sharifs said it was unfortunate that in 1878, Sabah was leased to British North Borneo Co.  Sulu Sultan Mohammad Jamalul Alam for a pittance of $5,000 a year.

"But this was done by the Sultan of Sulu for security reasons and to prevent Sabah from falling into the Spanish dominion which was then at war with the Sultanate of Sulu," Hashim said.

He said the Lease Contract or better known as "Padjak" of Sabah was however, translated into English from Tausug as grant and cession by Maxwell and Gibson, which has now become the bone of contention and argument of the British colonialist government to illegally usurp Sabah.

In 1946, after World War II, the British North Borneo Co., a trading company that leased Sabah and does not have sovereign rights over Sabah, transferred and ceded Sabah to the British Crown.

The British Crown then annexed Sabah by placing Sabah under its dominion. Then in 1963 the British Crown  passed on  Sabah to the newly formed independent nation of Malaysian Federation after a plebiscite conducted to determine if Sabah inhabitants wished to  join Malaysia or not, without the consent of the sultanate of Sulu.

"Sabah was indeed stolen by the British to become part of Malaysia," Hashim said.

"Yet, Malaysia continues to illegally assume the Lease Contract, which they cannot by virtue of its non-transferability clause, by continuously paying the lease amount which Malaysia treacherously claims as cession fee. Sabah was never sold. It will never be sold," Hashim added. 

The Malaysian government is still paying the heirs of the Sultan of Sulu, for Sabah's lease. This was done starting 1780, by the British North Borneo, which operated on Sabah when the British government colonized Malaysia.

With reports from Gulf News and philSTAR

WSJ: Philippines $8 billion raised, now outperforming Hong Kong, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, and Indonesia

Philippines Stands Out in Capital Markets

The Philippines has become one of Asia's hottest markets for share and bond sales, getting a boost from a buoyant stock market and its recent acquisition of an investment-grade credit rating.

Just four months into the year, companies owned by tycoon Lucio Tan and blue-chip giant San Miguel Corp. SMC.PH -0.56% have raised billions. Bankers expect more capital-raising in the months to come.

Deals totaling more than $1.5 billion are in the pipeline, and strong demand for recent sales could spark more activity in the country's equities and bond markets. Overseas-listed companies with operations in the Southeast Asian country, such as casino operator Melco Crown Entertainment Ltd., MPEL +1.17% are taking advantage of an upbeat outlook for the Philippines' consumption-driven economy to launch deals.

This month, the Asian Development Bank increased its forecast for the country's 2013 economic growth to 6% from 5%. The Philippines has a population of 100 million.

Last year, share sales totaled $3.5 billion, six times the $594 million raised in 2008, according to Dealogic data. Now, the country is in the third spot for equity fund raising in Southeast Asia, overtaking Malaysia, a favorite destination for deals last year.

In the debt market, the Philippines is leading in Southeast Asia, with about $8 billion raised so far this year. Last year, it was third.

Agence France-Presse/Getty Images. The Philippines has become one of Asia's hottest markets for stock and bond sales. Students earlier this month perform in the Aliwan Festival in Manila. The annual festival brings together performers from around the country to celebrate Filipino culture.

Traditional fundraising hubs like Hong Kong have fallen behind so far this year as investors turn to Southeast Asia, where stock markets have surged on expectations of strong economic growth and rising domestic consumption.

The Philippines' stock market has gained 20% so far this year, outperforming Indonesia's 15%, Thailand's 11% and Singapore's 3.7%. The Philippines stock market has a market capitalization of more than $300 billion, and is dominated by family-owned businesses.

Many were forced to issue more shares in order to remain listed after the country's stock-market regulator began to more strictly enforce a rule on minimum public ownership last year. The handful of listed companies that failed to meet the Dec. 31 deadline have been suspended from trading since January, and will face delisting if they don't hit the 10% level by June 30.

Investors' appetite for the Philippines is strong. Mr. Tan's LT Group Inc. LTG.PH -0.64% raised 37.72 billion Philippine pesos ($917 million) last week. Orders for the stock sale totaled $3.5 billion. The deal was priced at 20.50 pesos per share, the top of the range banks handling the deal had indicated to investors. More than half came from 11 cornerstone investors—buyers who agree to take large parcels of shares and hold them for a set period—including Fidelity and Morgan Stanley Investment Management.

"Deals are getting bigger...the country is on the radar screen of investors," said Lauro Baja III, head of UBS UBSN.VX +2.89% Philippines, which managed the LT Group share sale.

Foreign companies are also benefiting from investors' confidence in the Philppines. Apart from a $377 million share placement by Nasdaq-listed Melco Crown, which is going on now, Malaysia's Genting Bhd. 3182.KU 0.00% and its Philippine partner are planning to list a Manila casino via an initial public offering that could raise more than $500 million.

San Miguel, which is managed by Filipino tycoon Ramon Ang and manufactures the country's top-selling beer, said its $800 million bond sale this month attracted orders of more than $1 billion within the first hour. Orders for the deal, which attracted investors from Asia, Europe and the U.S. and was the country's largest corporate bond sale ever, totaled almost six times the amount of debt for sale.

Corporate bond offerings in the Philippines used to meet with tepid demand from investors. That changed in March, when Fitch Ratings raised the Philippines' long-term foreign-currency credit rating by a notch to BBB-minus, an investment grade

"Of late, we are starting to see more [corporate] issuers," said Clifford Lee, managing director of fixed income at DBS Bank Ltd. Other deals in the pipeline include a $500 million Tier 2 capital bond, to be issued by Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., MBT.PH -1.60% and a $170 million peso-denominated bond from geothermal power producer Energy Development Corp., EDC.PH -0.76% according to regulatory filings.

But at the same time that companies are stepping up their bond issuance, sales from the government, the usual bond issuer, are falling.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon said Tuesday the government won't issue bonds overseas this year because it doesn't want to add to inflows of capital that have strengthened the peso. The government will issue bonds domestically. The Philippines, one of the most active Asian sovereign borrowers, usually starts selling debt overseas in the first quarter but hasn't offered any so far this year.

Wall Street Journal

Bloomberg: Emerging Stocks Rise Led by Philippines as Hungary Slumps

Emerging-market stocks rose, led by Philippine companies, on speculation falling deposit rates will spur demand for the nation's equities. Hungarian equities tumbled to the lowest level in about a month.

Ayala Corp. (AC) jumped 5.4 percent in Manila, helping drive the Philippine Stock Exchange Index to a record. Erste Group Bank AG led the Czech PX index higher. Harmony Gold Mining Co. (HAR), Africa's third-largest producer of the metal, climbed a second day as gold extended its rebound. Billionaire Eike Batista's OGX Petroleo & Gas Participacoes SA surged 18 percent in Sao Paulo, sending Brazil's Bovespa index up a third day.

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index (MXEF) rose 0.1 percent to 1,011.96 in New York as 436 stocks gained, while 342 retreated. The Philippine peso halted a three-day gain on speculation the central bank will lower the interest rate on its special deposit accounts for a third time this year. Earlier today, stocks fell after a drop in American home sales.

"A cut in SDA rates will entice people to look for other investment havens offering higher yields, such as the equities market," Jonathan Ravelas, chief market strategist at BDO Unibank Inc. in Manila, said by phone.

Consumer discretionary and technology shares led the gains in the MSCI Emerging Markets Index. The emerging-markets index has lost 4.1 percent this year, trailing a 6.6 percent increase in the MSCI World Index of developed-country stocks. The emerging-markets measure trades at 10.6 times 12-month projected profit, compared with the MSCI World's 13.9 valuation, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Emerging ETF

The iShares MSCI Emerging Markets Index exchange-traded fund rose 0.5 percent to $41.84. The Chicago Board Options Exchange Emerging Markets ETF Volatility Index, a measure of options prices on the fund and expectations of price swings, lost 5 percent to 19.68.

The Bovespa index rose 0.7 percent, rebounding from earlier losses. OGX extended a three-day rally to 29 percent after Folha de S. Paulo newspaper reported that Moscow-based Lukoil may buy a 40 percent stake. The company said in an e-mailed statement to Bloomberg News that Folha's report is "groundless."

Russian stocks retreated, erasing earlier gains, as OAO Gazprom slid after JPMorgan Chase & Co. cited the natural gas export monopoly's dividend plans in a report downgrading the country's equities.

The Budapest Stock Exchange Index slumped 1.4 percent as the nation's largest refiner Mol Nyrt. Latvia's OMX Riga index had the biggest decline among the 94 primary gauges tracked by Bloomberg.

Hong Kong

Hong Kong stocks rose for a second day as infrastructure- related stocks climbed on speculation demand will increase following an earthquake in China's southwestern province of Sichuan. The Hang Seng China Enterprises Index (HSCEI) added less than 0.1 percent, while the Shanghai Composite Index declined 0.1 percent.

The extra yield investors demand to own emerging-market debt over U.S. Treasuries lost one basis point, or 0.01 percentage point, to 295 basis points, according to JPMorgan Chase & Co.'s EMBI Global Index.

Bloomberg 

Monday, April 22, 2013

7 Big Consortiums compete for ₱17.5 billion Modern Cebu International Airport project

Old Mactan - Cebu International Airport 

Seven groups led by the country's largest business conglomerates, in partnership with key global aviation players, have placed bids for the 17.5 billion Mactan Cebu International airport project.

DOTC Undersecretary Jose Perpetuo Lotilla said the groups that submitted qualification documents yesterday included the following:

  • Metro Pacific Investments
  • JG Summit Airport Consortium
  • AAA Airport Partners
  • Filinvest Land Inc. and CAI Consortium
  • San Miguel Corporation and Incheon Airport Consortium
  • First Philippine Airports Consortium
  • Premier Airport Group of SM Investment Corporation
  • Indian-owned GMR Infrastructure and Megawide Consortium

First Pacific's MPIC of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan has tied up with Gokongwei's JG Summit to form MPIC JGS Airport Holdings Inc. The group has tapped airport experts including French-owned Aeroports de Lyon and OVE Arup Group.

The AAA Airport Partners is led by the Ayala and Aboitiz Groups with consortium members including A2 Airport Partners as well as ADS & HAS Airports Worldwide Inc. The company has tapped Houston Airports Partners and the OVE Arup Group.

The third group is the Filinvest-CAI Consortium led by Gotianun's Filinvest Development Corporation and its foreign partner Changi Airports MENA (Middle East and North Africa) Pte Ltd. Partners include Filinvest Land Inc., Filinvest Alabang Inc., Cyberzone Properties Inc., EEI Corp., Bougues Batiment International, CPG Consultants Pte Ltd., Woods Bagot Pty Ltd., Meinhardt Philippines Inc., and Changi Airports Saudi Ltd.

On the other hand, SMC has tied up with International Airport Corporation to form the SMC-Incheon Airport Consortium that includes SMC's Optimal Infrastructure Development Inc., Incheon Airport International Corp., Mactan Capitana Holdings Inc., and Skylake Incuvest & Co. Partners are

Kumho Industrial Co. Ltd, Keun Jeong Architects and Engineers Co Ltd, and Aecom Asia Co Ltd.

The First Philippine Airports is a tandem between FPHC and Wellington-based Infratil Asia Ltd. The group's partners include Infratil's Wellington International Airport Ltd and NZ Airports Ltd as well as Rockwell Land Inc., Fentress Architects Inc., Buro Happold Consulting Engineers Inc., OVE Arup and Partners Hong Kong Ltd, Mott Macdonald Ltd, and First Balfour Inc.

Sy's Holding firm SM Investments Corp. leads the Premier Airport Group together with Citadel Holdings Inc., Zurich Airport International AG, and Prospector Investment Holdings Inc. Partners include mall developer and operator SM Prime Holdings Inc., construction giant DM Consunji Inc., and Flughafen Zurich AG.

The final group is the tandem of GMR Infrastructure Ltd of India and publicly-held Megawide Construction Corp. Partners include Delhi International Airport (P) Ltd, GMR Hyderabad International Airport, GMR Airport Developers Ltd, BL Kashyap and Sons Ltd, Vijay Nirman Co. (P) Ltd, Ove Arup and Partners Hong Kong Ltd, Louis Berger Group Inc., Foster + Partners, and Mott Macdonald Ltd.

Last year, GMR, which has presence in roads, power and airports sectors, had to make an unceremonious exit from Male International Airport after the local government cancelled its concession agreement. Currently, the matter is pending before an arbitration panel.

The Mactan-Cebu airport project involves the construction of a world-class passenger terminal building with a capacity of eight million passengers a year as well as the operation and maintenance of the old and new facilities include a 797-hectare property.

The successful bidder will be awarded a 20-year concession contract to operate, while the project will be developed in two phases at an estimated cost of 17.5 billion peso (the currency of Philippines).

MCIA is the second largest airport in the Philippines after Manila International Airport and had handled more than 6.2 million domestic and international passengers in 2011.

The airport is also a major gateway for various tourist destinations in central and southern provinces of Philippines.

With report from philSTAR and Times of India

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Real estate, Thailand, Philippines and high-yield funds are performing well

Gold bars at the Zlatarna Celje in Celje, Slovenia. Gold has slumped almost 30 per cent since its peak in September 2011. Photo: Reuters

Real estate, Thailand, the Philippines and high-yield bonds are strong investments while gold has fallen abruptly off the radar

If you are looking to invest, you might be wondering what are the top performing funds? We can answer that. Using data from research firm Lipper, we list the best funds available in Hong Kong, ranked by returns net of fees, over the 12 months to February.

The findings can be summed up thus: real estate, Thailand, Philippines and high-yield bonds have all performed well, but gold has been a disaster.

Funds dedicated to the Philippines and Thailand rank highest among the equity funds. All the top bond funds are in high yield.

At the bottom are investment-grade bonds, particularly those priced in pounds, and anything involved with gold.

High yield

Hongkongers buy more high-yield funds than any other fund category. And when Hong Kong investors want high-yield bonds, they usually want exposure to the mainland property sector.

Jack Deino, a senior portfolio manager for Invesco, manages an emerging market fund that is the third-best fund in the bond category. The fund's second-biggest country exposure is China, and Deino says about 90 per cent of his China bonds come from the property sector.

Mainland property bonds have been strong performers over the past year, in terms of yield and capital gains. But the sector is prone to busts. Regulators routinely bring mainland property firms to the brink of insolvency by rounds of tough rules on mortgages and bank loans, to cool an overheated market.

Bond fund managers are wary of concentration risk. They worry that the government may one day roll out heavy-handed cooling measures, walloping the whole property sector, taking their portfolio down with it.

Deino says these concerns are overstated. "Chinese property is the most misunderstood sector in the world," he says, adding the mainland market is diversified just in sheer size ("each region or each city marches to the beat of its own drummer and has its own demand").

He adds that the big listed mainland developers need bond markets to raise money, and are therefore expert at investor relations, and operate at a high level of transparency and governance.

BEA Union Investment is also focused on mainland property bonds. About half of the firm's Asian bond and currency fund (the second-best performing bond fund) is invested in the asset, says Henry Wong, the firm's head of fixed income.

"In January [last year], we made a very aggressive move into this sector, which is why our performance in 2012 is strong," Wong says.

BEA launched its fund in August 2008 at the height of the global credit crisis. It offered beleaguered investors high-quality Asian-currency alternatives to US and European bonds. At launch, about 80 per cent of the fund was investment grade, says Wong. The fund has since been marching steadily down the credit curve, investing in higher risk and higher return securities. Today, only 10 per cent of the fund is investment grade - much of the rest is high-yield debt from mainland developers.

High yield has risks, but so does high grade. The bottom performing funds in the bond table are all invested in investment-grade bonds from the developed market. The funds lost money largely because yields on such instruments are paltry, barely enough to cover the costs of the fund.

Currency swings are also a factor. Two of the bottom performing funds are in sterling bonds, and the pound lost 4.4 per cent against the Hong Kong dollar over the review period.

SCMP

Friday, April 19, 2013

TIME Magazine : President PNOY - 2nd Worlds Most Influential person, a notch higher Barack Obama

Philippine President Benigno Aquino III - 2nd worlds' most influential person.  LLUSTRATION BY DAVID DESPAU FOR TIME. 

An honorable time

WITH all the negative issues and events currently ongoing, both in the Philippines and around the globe, this comes as a refreshing bit of good news.

Recently, President Benigno Aquino III (PNoy) emerged as one of TIME Magazine's 100 most influential people in the world for 2013.

PNoy ranks second among the world's 23 most influential leaders, next to Rand Paul (a junior US senator from Kentucky) and a notch higher than President Barack Obama, who is in third place.

"In a country of nicknames, Filipinos proudly call their President PNoy — a pun on the word they use for themselves: Pinoy. For his courage, however, he really should have the pet name the family gave his eldest sister Maria Elena: Ballsy," wrote TIME news director, Howard Chua-Eoan, to describe Aquino.

Chua-Eoan said that while PNoy may have inherited the legacy of his parents, Sen. Benigno Aquino, Jr. and former Pres. Corazon C. Aquino, he "quickly began making his own name."

"The sputtering economy stabilized and became hot. Aquino pushed through a reproductive-rights law that many said was impossible in the fervently Catholic nation. Most important, he became the face of the regional confrontation with Beijing over its claim to virtually all of the South China Sea. It is a brave stance, the long-term consequences still unknown,"Chua-Eoan further said.

PNoy reacted modestly to this recognition, saying that he is merely the "face" of Filipinos.

"This is perhaps a recognition of our countrymen, of all Filipinos, more than anything else. I'm just the face. Like in battles, I'm just the first one to move forward, and I accept that. But if there is any triumph, it's a triumph for everybody," he said.

"We have been reminded that we did quite a lot in terms of achievements. It's clear to me that we only did this because the people are behind me," PNoy further said.

The president credits his motivation to the public's support of the reforms that his administration initiated.

"...because our countrymen are there behind us, they are the ones that gave us the opportunity to reform and continue to support us until now, then I can accept with much honor that distinction – on their behalf rather than for myself," PNoy said.

According to Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda, TIME Magazine's article recognized "the true grit which characterizes his (Mr. Aquino's) leadership, and the optimism, dynamism and renewed pride which has restored the standing of our nation in the eyes of Filipinos and the world."

"We take pride in how the ideas of good governance and inclusive growth that are the major thrusts of the Aquino presidency resonate not just with Filipinos but with the entire world. This is especially relevant today, as countries all over are trying to become more inclusive economically, politically, and even culturally, President Aquino is already doing it in the Philippines," Lacierda said.

Of course, not everyone feels the same way.

Some senatoriables gave mixed feedback about this recognition.

Sen. Gregorio Honasan thinks that PNoy's inclusion in the list is not enough to make Filipinos feel the benefits of economic growth.

"We should be happy, but that will not be enough to convince our people that our economy is growing...This honor is deserved I think, but for our people to be equally proud and to feel this on the ground, we should do more than recognize the President," Honasan said.

Zambales Rep. Mitos Magsaysay opined that PNoy being regarded as a most influential person/leader does not mean much for the poor.

"The ordinary Filipinos are concerned about where to get money they can use to feed their families, how to survive the next day, what will be their job to generate income. That is the focus of ordinary Filipinos," she said.

Nevertheless, this should still be a cause for elation and celebration among Filipinos.

While the Philippines continues to flourish (albeit slowly but surely) and be regarded with more respect in the global community, there are things that we are better off removing from our own "list" -- crab mentality most of all.

After all, PNoy said it best: his victory is our victory.

With report from Asian Journal and Time Magazine  

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