Wednesday, April 30, 2014

In 1930's China didn’t know where the Spratlys were


In 1933, the French flexed their colonial muscles and annexed nine of the Spratly Islands. When the news spread, the fledgling and troubled Chinese republic faced a basic problem: It didn’t know where the Spratlys were.


A year earlier, the French had staked their claim to the Paracel Islands as part of their colony in Vietnam. The second French claim to part of the Spratlys befuddled the Chinese. As the scholar Francois-Xavier Bonnet of Irasec, the Research Institute on Contemporary Southeast Asia, noted:


“These two claims of the French government confused the minds … not only of the Chinese public and the media, but also the official authorities like the military and the politicians in Guangdong Province and Beijing. In fact, the Chinese believed that the Spratly Islands and Paracel Islands or Xisha were exactly the same group, but that the French had just changed the name as a trick to confuse the Chinese government. To ascertain the position of the Spratly Islands, the Chinese Consul in Manila, Mr. Kwong, went, on July 26, 1933, to the US Coast and Geodetic Survey and discovered, with surprise, that the Spratly Islands and the Paracel Islands were different and far apart.”


I was led to Bonnet’s much-read discussion paper, “Geopolitics of Scarborough Shoal” (something on the order of 100,000 downloads of the PDF version, I understand, since it was first posted in November 2012), by BBC journalist Bill Hayton. I found his map-based lecture on the origins of China’s South China Sea claims last Friday at the University of the Philippines thought-provoking. When I asked Hayton to expand on his point, that in 1933 the Chinese government did not even know where the Spratlys were, he referred me to Bonnet, who happened to be sitting in the audience (right beside Senior Associate Justice Antonio Carpio).


Bonnet and Hayton have since provided me copies of and links to the essential literature. (Hayton’s “South China Sea: Dangerous Ground” is due from Yale University Press later this year; the title is a play on another name for the Spratlys.) They make for fascinating reading; to be sure, much of the information has been readily available online. Even the delicious irony of a Chinese consul consulting the offices of the US colonial administration in Manila to determine the location of the Spratlys has been knocking about in academic circles and on the Internet for at least a decade.


In 2004, Bonnet wrote “The Spratlys: A Past Revisited” for World Bulletin, a publication of the UP’s Institute of International Legal Studies. His paper already includes a section on “the Chinese confusion” about the location of the nine annexed islands in the Spratlys.


Still, this particular moment in history remains under-known. Some passages from Bonnet’s 2012 paper are perhaps worth repeating.


First, the following footnote. “The Consul submitted, on August 1, 1933, his report to the Chinese Foreign Affairs Department, which said: ‘The islands [in the Spratlys which the French annexed] are collectively known as Tizard Bank and are situated at 530 miles from Hainan, 350 miles from the Paracels and 200 miles from Palawan … The reports mentioning that the 9 islands were part of Xisha [the Paracels] are incorrect’.”


Second, this quote from a letter written by Wang Gong Da, director of the Peiping News, to the foreign affairs secretary: “Don’t make a diplomatic blunder; these islands are not part of Xisha. Triton Island [in Xisha] is the southernmost part of our territory [this was written before China’s absurd obsession with James Shoal]. South of Triton Island, there is no connection with the Chinese territory. Our so-called experts, geographers, Navy representatives, etc. are a shame to our country.”


And third, this passage from a secret report of the Military Council, dated Sept. 1, 1933: “In conclusion, we have only one piece of evidence, our fishermen from Hainan [who are present in parts of the Spratlys], and we have never done anything on these islands. We need to cool down the game with the French, but let our fishermen continue their activities to protect our fishing rights. Our Navy is weak and these nine islands are not useful for us now…”


I’ve tried to look for additional information about the 1933 annexation and the Chinese reaction. There is a news story in (of all places) the Salt Lake Tribune, highlighting what was surely the geopolitical reality of the early 1930s. Datelined Manila, the report began: “The occupation by French dispatch boats of nine islets 200 miles west of the Philippines [the report got this fact right] in the South China Sea was the signal for a race between the Japanese and Chinese consulates here to obtain authentic information about the group.”


There is an internal memorandum of the US Department of State, which noted that “A press dispatch dated July 28, 1933 from Manila stated that Chinese Consul Kwong was instructed by his government to investigate the occupation of the islands by the French and report as the Chinese government intended to oppose French occupation. The Chinese Consul had already sent a preliminary report.”


And who was K. L. Kwong? We learn from a copy of Who’s Who in China (1934) that he was a career diplomat, who once represented China at the League of Nations in Geneva, and who served as Chinese consul-general in the Philippines from November 1930 to June 19, 1934; his next assignment was San Francisco.  INQUIRER

* * * On Twitter: @jnery_newsstand


Australia, Philippines scrambling to boost air forces For China

© Reuters


SYDNEY/MANILA -- Australia and the Philippines are scrambling to boost their air forces in a bid to counter China's increasingly aggressive maritime advances into the South China Sea and Indian Ocean.


Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott announced on Wednesday that his country will purchase a total of 72 F-35 fighter jets, 58 more than initially planned. The F-35 is a state-of-the-art fighter jet made in the U.S.



The Philippines will procure 12 South Korean-made FA-50 fighter jets. The Southeast Asian country is also set to conclude a new military pact with the U.S. during U.S. President Barack Obama's visit there later this month.


Australia expanding


The Australian government has decided to procure an additional 58 F-35 fighter jets. The F-35 is a "fifth-generation" fighter that is difficult to track on radar because of its high stealth capability.


Australia plans to procure a total of 72 F-35 fighter jets by 2023. The first 14 are to be delivered in 2018 and go into service in 2020.


The F-35 procurement program costs 12.4 billion Australian dollars ($11.6 billion), making it one of Australia's biggest-ever military purchases.


Prime Minister Abbott said that the F-35 procurement program will allow his country to maintain its military supremacy in the region over the next few decades.


He also expressed the view that buying the F-35s will help strengthen Australia's alliance with the U.S. and boost defense cooperation with countries such as Japan and South Korea.


The massive F-35 purchase program has sparked a national controversy as Australia is now facing the challenge of restoring its fiscal health following the end of its resources boom.


Abbott said at a press conference on Wednesday that the money for the F-35 fighter jets has already been set aside under a long-term plan and will not come out of any new budgets.


Abbott also said that his government has decided to acquire 58 more F-35 fighter jets to prepare for contingencies. He did not elaborate, apparently out of consideration to relations with China, now Australia's largest trading partner.


Philippines -- up from zero


The Philippine government signed a contract in March to purchase 12 South Korean-made FA-50 fighter jets for 18.9 billion pesos ($422 million).


The Philippine military currently possesses no fighter jets.


When China hinted last year that it might establish an air defense identification zone in the South China Sea, the Philippines saw exposed its inability to cope with violations of its air space by foreign military planes.


The governments of the U.S. and the Philippines are set to conclude a new military pact during Obama's visit to the Southeast Asian country later this month.


The U.S. withdrew its military forces from the Philippines by 1992 following the end of the Cold War. The stationing of foreign troops in the Philippines is currently banned under the nation's constitution.


The new military pact will allow U.S. forces the joint use of military bases in the Philippines, virtually clearing the way for the U.S. to station its troops there again. - Nikkei Asian Review



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Sunday, April 13, 2014

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



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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Manny Pacquiao Avenges Loss In Dominating Win Over Timothy Bradley

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


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


It was the eighth straight fight for Pacquiao that ended with a decision and not with knockout, but he was more aggressive than he has been in recent bouts. He controlled the second half of the fight winning at least six of the seven final rounds on all three judges’ cards. ”I knew I had to do more in this fight than I did in the last fight,” said Pacquiao after the win.

Pacquiao pocketed $20 million for the fight, down from $26 million for their June 2012 fight. Bradley earned a career best $6 million in his title defense. Pacquiao has earned more than $300 million in his career since he turned pro in 1995.


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


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


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


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


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


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Saturday, April 12, 2014

Philippines told China "watch your words"


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Phl, US resume base access talks


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


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


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


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


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



Thursday, April 10, 2014

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Grateful former enemy


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


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


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


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


US Ambassador Philip Goldberg expressed the same gratitude.


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


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


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


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


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


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


Wednesday, April 9, 2014

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

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


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


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


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




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


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


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


Friday, April 4, 2014

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

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Philippines jumps 8 spots in WEF Enabling Trade index

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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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


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Tuesday, April 1, 2014

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

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


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


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


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



Mobile phone at Ayungin


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


The civilian fishing boat was bearing food and other supplies for a Marine contingent on the abandoned BRP Sierra Madre, an old Navy ship placed by the Philippines in a strategic spot on Ayungin Shoal to stake its presence in an area it calls part of its continental shelf. The civilian boat, also carrying some mediamen and soldiers who were to relieve the Marines who had finished a five-month tour on the BRP Sierra Madre, was harassed by the Chinese coastguard but eventually evaded the blockade and got near to the Sierra Madre, completing its mission.

As this was happening on the ground, up in the air Robles’ journalist-friend – a subscriber of Philippine telco Globe - was shocked to see an SMS that began with the surreal greeting, Welcome to China!” flashing on the screen of his mobile phone.


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


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


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


Digital landgrabbing


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


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


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


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


Chinese and Philippine naval forces were locked in a standoff last year along Panatag Shoal (also referred to as Scarborough Shoal) as the latter accused the emerging superpower of a “de facto occupation” of the disputed shoal after China dispatched government vessels along the area.

The Philippines insists that the shoal is well within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone as defined by international law, but China has included the shoal as part of the territories it is claiming in almost all of the West Philippine Sea as part of its 9-dash-line claim in the area.


Kalayaan islands ours


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


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


The real battle


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


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




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