Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Kaspersky Lab reveals how criminals could exploit biometric ATM authentication

Researchers at Kaspersky Lab have investigated how cybercriminals could exploit new biometric ATM authentication technologies to steal the fingerprint data of banking customers.

While many financial organizations consider these emerging biometric-based ATM solutions to improve security over current authentication methods, cybercriminals can potentially use biometrics to steal sensitive information.

In its investigation into these underground cybercrime practices, Kaspersky Lab researchers found that there are already at least 12 sellers offering skimmers capable of stealing victims’ fingerprints.

At least three of these underground sellers are currently researching devices that could illegally obtain data from palm vein and iris recognition systems.

The first wave of biometric skimmers was observed in “presale testing” in September 2015, in which the developers of these skimmers discovered several bugs.

Developers found that the main issue related to the use of GSM modules for biometric data transfer, which were too slow to transfer the large volume of data obtained.

As a result, new versions of the biometric skimmers will use different, faster data transfer technologies.

“The problem with biometrics is that unlike passwords or pin codes, which can be easily modified in the event of compromise, it is impossible to change your fingerprint or iris image,” said Olga Kochetova, security expert, Kaspersky Lab. “Thus, if your data is compromised once, it won’t be safe to use that authentication method again.

“That is why it is extremely important to keep such data secure and transmit it in a secure way. Biometric data is also recorded in modern passports – called e-passports – and visas. So, if an attacker steals an e-passport, they don’t just possess the document, but also that person’s biometric data. They have stolen a person’s identity.”

There have also been ongoing discussions in underground communities regarding the development of mobile applications in which attackers exploit the victim’s photo posted on social media and use it to dupe a facial recognition system.

In addition to these biometric ATM theft tools, Kaspersky Lab researchers reveal that hackers will continue to perform malware-based attacks, blackbox attacks and network attacks to compromise data that can later be used to steal money from banks and its customers.

Securelist.com offers a full threat overview report regarding upcoming cyberthreats to cash machines and safety tactics that can be deployed to protect banks from these threats.

Additionally, there are a number of videos demonstrating the various attack vectors against ATMs.

Previously reported, WISeKey International Holding Ltd released WISeID 6, an updated edition of its personal data and identity protection application that is now integrated with BlockChain technology. – Biometric Update

Philippine Growth Forecast 2016 is RAISE by International Monetary Fund, ADB

ADB, IMF raise PH growth forecasts for 2016

MANILA — Despite the “political noise” just a few months into the Duterte administration, multilateral lenders Asian Development Bank and International Monetary Fund raised their respective 2016 growth forecasts for the Philippines on the back of solid economic fundamentals.

Following the conclusion of its executive board’s Article IV consultation with the Philippines, the IMF said in a Sept. 26 statement that the “outlook for the Philippine economy remains favorable despite external headwinds,” such that it raised to 6.4 percent from 6 percent previously its growth projection for 2016.

The Duterte administration targets a “conservative” 6-7 percent gross domestic product (GDP) growth this year following a 6.9-percent expansion in the first half.

“Risks to the outlook are tilted to the downside. The Philippine authorities are well equipped to respond as needed with suitable policies should any risks materialize, particularly given the strong fundamentals and ample policy space,” according to the IMF.

Manila-based ADB also raised it growth forecast for the Philippines to 6.4 percent from 6 percent in the earlier Asian Development Outlook 2016, an updated version of the report released Tuesday showed.

According to Richard Bolt, ADB country director for the Philippines, the rosy growth projection was on the back of robust, broad-based domestic demand, the solid foundation provided by favorable macroeconomic fundamentals, as well as plans of the Duterte administration to ramp up infrastructure spending.

Asked during a press conference if concerns on President Rodrigo R. Duterte’s controversial statements against leaders of top trading partners such as the US and the EU as well as the “war” being waged by the administration against illegal drugs allegedly causing extrajudicial killings were not seen diminishing investor appetite, Bolt replied: “So far, we are not seeing number [showing slowing investments]. We should separate what is perceived political performance versus the economic prospects to growth. Our growth projection is still good.”

Bolt said particularly encouraging about the Duterte administration has been its “very solid” 10-point socioeconomic agenda aimed at slashing poverty to 17 percent by 2022 from 26 percent at present.

While the jobless and poverty rates have remained high, Bolt said the new government has started addressing these challenges, and has gone “on the right track” given its higher infrastructure spending tack, plans to ease foreign investment restrictions, and moves to further cut red tape and improve the ease in doing business.

It also helped that the Dutrte administration had committed to continue the effective macroeconomic policies of previous administrations, he said.

For Bolt, advancing the reform agenda will be vital to lessen risks to the Philippines’ growth outlook, which is already being impacted by weaker than expected economic growth in its top trading partners.

“Risks to the outlook are tilted to the downside. The Philippine authorities are well equipped to respond as needed with suitable policies should any risks materialize, particularly given the strong fundamentals and ample policy space,” Bolt said in a statement.

The IMF, meanwhile, said its executive directors “commended” Philippine authorities “for their continued strong macroeconomic management, with robust growth and low inflation.”

But just like the ADB, the IMF also noted that “the favorable macroeconomic performance has not led to corresponding improvements in poverty reduction, inequality and unemployment.”

“[The IMF’s directors] considered that the new administration has an opportunity to put the economy on a higher and more equitable growth path. [They] encouraged efforts to increase investments in infrastructure and human capital, improve targeting of social spending, enhance competitiveness and foreign direct investment, and making the financial system deeper and more inclusive,” the IMF said.

The IMF also backed the plan to widen the budget deficit target to 3 percent of GDP in the medium-term to boost infrastructure development.

“They noted that this would allow a welcome boost to infrastructure and social spending, while ensuring fiscal sustainability,” as long as the government could raise additional revenues through a comprehensive tax reform program.  SFM– Inquirer

Philippines' Stocks PSEI seen to Rise

PSEi seen to rise

The local stock barometer is seen attempting to climb the 7,800 level this week as certain large-cap stocks are expected to benefit from month-end and quarter-end window-dressing activities.

Last week, the main-share Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) rose by 2.25 percent to close on Friday at 7,723.60, rising for the first time in six weeks as investors correctly anticipated that the US Federal Reserve would keep its key interest rate unchanged.

“Chartwise, the week’s close at 7,723.60 encourages more tests toward the 7,800 levels, despite the near-term bias remaining for a test of the 7,200-7,500 levels,” said BDO Unibank chief strategist Jonathan Ravelas.

“Only a move above the 7,850-7,870 could entertain a reversal is in place,” he said.

Luis Gerardo Limlingan, managing director at Regina Capital Development, said mixed trading might be seen this week as the PSEi attempts to establish a support base at 7,700. “This is an important level to watch because a successful hold will create enough demand to sponsor further recovery toward 7,800-7,850 resistance targets.”

On the other hand, Limlingan said failure to hold the 7,700 support would shift weekly trend to bearish, which, in turn, could lead to a retesting of the 130-day moving average at 7,600.

“Though lower week-on-week, intraday volatility is still a concern as we are to expect moderate to sharp price movements—fortunately, the mood of the current price reaction is more on recovery rather than corrective,” he said.

Based on technicals, Limlingan said both directional and momentum indicators remained below trigger points despite the recent run-up. As such, he said putting “tight stops” on trading positions would be important until all corrective threats have been fixed.

“For this week, a cautious buying strategy is advised especially for issues that have just broken out of their key resistance points,” he said. Doris Dumlao-Abadilla– Inquirer

Philippine Largest Bank BDO UNIBANK sets ₱60 Billion Php ($1.2 Bln USD) Capital Build up

BDO sets P60B capital build-up

THE COUNTRY'S leading lender BDO Unibank is raising ₱60 Billion Pesos ($1.2 Billion USD) in fresh capital to support growth objectives in the following years and brace for higher capital requirements.

BDO's board approved the increase in additional capital through the sale of new shares to existing investors, the bank disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange on Monday.

"The fresh capital will support the bank's medium-term growth objectives amid the country's favorable macroeconomic prospects, and provide a comfortable buffer over higher capital requirements with the forthcoming imposition of the domestic systemically important bank (DSIB) surcharge," the bank said

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has classified banks depending on the extent of their systemic importance using pre-defined indicators for size, interconnectedness, substitutability and market reliance as a financial market infrastructure as well as complexity. The DSIB framework is in line with the initiatives pursued under the globally-accepted Basel 3 reform agenda.

As of end-June, BDO said its consolidated CET1 ratio and capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 11.3 percent and 13.1 percent, respectively, were above the current regulatory minimum levels, even with the gradual implementation of the DSIB surcharge.

The bank said the additional capital will allow it to sustain its momentum and take advantage of the country's growth opportunities. Over the past five years, BDO's customer loan portfolio grew at a 19 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR), outpacing the industry's 17 percent CAGR.

"Going forward, the bank hopes to further expand its presence in emerging growth areas particularly the consumer, provincial middle market and SMEs (small and medium enterprises) and the underserved segments, as well as in infrastructure-related lending/project finance in line with the government's thrust to promote countryside development and ramp up infrastructure spending," BDO said.

Sy family-led SM Investments Corp. (SMIC), the controlling and majority shareholder of BDO, has expressed its full support for the bank's expansion plans and the rights offer.

"SMIC commits to subscribe to its proportionate share and is willing to underwrite any shares not taken up by minority shareholders," the disclosure said. – Inquirer

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Globe tests TV white space frequency

Carlson TV white space technology

Globe Telecom recently completed a trial phase for the use of so-called TV white space frequency to efficiently provide broadband access to remote rural areas.

Emmanuel Estrada, senior vice president for network technologies strategy, said the frequency allowed the company to provide broadband access to certain areas where it was not commercially viable to deploy traditional broadband infrastructure.

“Once in place, the technology is expected to provide an alternative wireless network that will provide data connectivity in far flung areas in Visayas and Mindanao,” Globe said.

Estrada said the trials were in support of Globe’s bid “to maximize available spectrum” given rapid  rise in data consumption.

TV White Space refers to the unused television channels between the active ones in the VHF and UHF spectrum. These are referred to as the “buffer” channels and would be placed between active TV channels to protect broadcasting interference.

“It has since been researched and proven that this unused spectrum can be used to provide broadband internet access while operating with surrounding TV channels,” Globe said.

Globe said the trials were undertaken in partnership with the Information and Communications Technology Office of the Department of Science and Technology over the last eight months in several areas in the country. These included Cebu and Bohol.

The trial run was undertaken by Globe in partnership with Canada-based NuRAN Wireless Inc., supplier of mobile and broadband wireless solutions. NuRAN’s equipment generated up to 10 Mbps over distance of seven and 12 kilometers. – Inquirer

Philippines' Double Dragon Aims to Build new Shopping Mall Empire outside Manila

Double Dragon CEO Edgar "Injap" Sia

Philippines' Double Dragon aims to build new mall empire outside Manila

CLIFF VENZON, Nikkei staff writer

With the Philippines' consumption-driven economic boom showing no signs of abating, modern retail enterprises are sprouting up outside the capital. Some of the seeds are being planted by new companies eager to make a mark alongside the country's established conglomerates.

Double Dragon Properties is one of the up-and-comers. Back in April 2014, when its valuation was less than $100 million, the company listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange. In its maiden round of trading, the stock shot up by 50%, hitting the bourse's ceiling. Since then, it has continued to be a strong performer.

On Friday, the shares settled unchanged at 59 pesos, up 29-fold from the initial public offering price of 2 pesos. So far this year, Double Dragon's stock has surged 140%, making it the best-performing real estate company in the PSE's property subindex. The price has climbed in conjunction with the rise of Rodrigo Duterte, the country's first president from the southern island of Mindanao who came into power in June. He has promised to boost economic activity in rural areas.

Double Dragon's priority is the construction of 100 shopping centers, each measuring 5,000 to 10,000 sq. meters, by 2020. As of June, the company had secured 53 sites for these CityMalls, as it calls them, but built only eight.

Yet, even if some of the projects are behind schedule, its market capitalization of 131.5 billion pesos ($2.75 billion) has eclipsed that of Robinsons Land -- a unit of conglomerate JG Summit Holdings that has built 44 large shopping complexes and dozens of residential and office developments nationwide.

Double Dragon is led by CEO Edgar "Injap" Sia, a 39-year-old businessman from Visayas in the central Philippines. The self-made entrepreneur is best known as the founder of Mang Inasal, a fast-food company that specializes in grilled chicken.

When Sia started his entrepreneurial journey about a decade ago, success was anything but a foregone conclusion. Born to a Chinese-Filipino-Japanese parents that own a grocery store in Roxas City in Visayas central Philippine region, Sia dropped out of college to focus on building his own businesses. In 2003, he opened a grilled chicken eatery in the parking lot of a mall in Iloilo City, also in Visayas. Its specialty, paired with unlimited rice, became a phenomenon, shaking up a fast-food market dominated by Western-style fried chicken.

In 2005, Sia established Mang Inasal for franchising, creating the nation's quickest-growing fast-food chain at the time.

An encounter with Tony Tan Caktiong -- the founder of Jollibee Foods, the Philippines' largest fast-food group -- proved to be a key turning point for Sia. The men, who share Chinese ethnicity, were both born in the Year of the Dragon in Chinese lunar calendar, albeit 24 years apart. The "two dragons" opened a dialogue about the future of Mang Inasal.

Sia's business was becoming a threat to Jollibee. Tan Caktiong offered to take control of the ascendant chain. In 2010, Sia agreed to sell Jollibee a 70% stake.

 

This past April, Sia unloaded the remaining 30% to Jollibee. Both transactions valued Mang Inasal at 5 billion pesos.

From Sia's perspective, selling to Jollibee made sense on two levels. First, it would put Mang Inasal under the control of an experienced fast-food company that would nurture -- rather than kill -- his brand. Second, despite his proven knack for entrepreneurship, he needed the money to pursue his second dream: building a property and retail empire.

"I really like the [real estate] business, but it needs substantial resources," Sia told the Nikkei Asian Review on Sept. 16.

Powerful backers

In late 2011, after Sia relinquished the management of Mang Inasal to Jollibee Foods, Tan Caktiong approached him again. The Jollibee boss, too, had been eyeing real estate. Sometime in 2012, the pair mapped out a plan to transform Injap Land, an Iloilo-based developer, into Double Dragon, a nationwide player.

"We want to become one of the largest property companies in the Philippines," Sia said.

While clearly ambitious, Sia is also pragmatic. Before the IPO, he accepted an offer from SM Investments -- the Philippines' largest conglomerate, owned by the Sy family -- to acquire a 34% stake in City Mall Commercial Centers, the entity that runs CityMalls under Double Dragon.

This gave Sia two powerful backers: Jollibee, a giant on the Asian fast-food scene; and SM Investments, which owns top Philippine lender BDO Unibank, mall developer SM Prime Holdings and retailer SM Retail.

All sides stand to benefit. Jollibee and SM Group see Double Dragon and CityMalls as vehicles to tap provincial markets. As the principal shareholders of each company, Jollibee and SM will be priority tenants in the CityMalls.

The malls are "barely in Luzon and mostly in Visayas [and] Mindanao, which are exactly the underpenetrated regions where we think we would like to grow," SM Group consultant Tim Daniels was quoted as saying in a local report in 2014.

Sia is avoiding Manila and broader Luzon, where more established players have secured land strategically. Instead, Double Dragon plans to open 70% of its branches in Visayas and Mindanao. To this end, he is taking advantage of know-how gleaned from the expansion of Mang Inasal: The fast-food chain now has about 450 locations, many in the same outlying areas where Sia intends to build CityMalls.

He sees Mang Inasal as a barometer of local readiness for a modern shopping experience. Like the chicken restaurants, CityMalls will be situated in places with large concentrations of people -- near transport terminals and markets, for example.

Right places, right time

Mang Inasal's grilled chicken took the Philippine fast-food market by storm.

In October, a CityMall is set to open in the Mindanao city of Cotabato. The city is located west of Davao -- the hometown of Duterte. Cotabato used to be a hot spot for terrorism and Muslim insurgents. "There are no SM or Robinsons malls there," Sia said, "but there has been Mang Inasal for eight years."

Sia is confident he has chosen the right target markets. "We strongly believe in the great potential of Visayas and Mindanao," he said. "I personally had a very good first-hand business experience ... in [the] Visayas and Mindanao areas during the expansion of Mang Inasal." He added that the chain had "over 150 stores in Visayas and Mindanao in operation for several years."

In 2015, Metro Manila's annual economic growth rate of 6.6% topped Luzon's 5.4%, Visayas' 5.8% and Mindanao's 5.3%. However, the Duterte government's agenda for achieving "inclusive growth" is expected brighten the prospects for rural regions. The president aims to preside over annual growth in the 7-8% range for the next six years, with provinces making a greater contribution than in the past.

Since the Metro Manila market is maturing, established retail players are also eyeing opportunities in the provinces. Their strategies vary. SM Retail is building its owns shops while tapping CityMalls to expand its network. Robinsons Retail Holdings and Puregold Price Club, the second- and third-largest players, are in a race to acquire provincial retailers with a couple of branches. 

Meanwhile, around 70% of the Philippine retail sector remains informal, with myriad mom-and-pop shops. There are also independent provincial shopping center operators running scattered locations in first-tier cities. Of the 145 cities in the Philippines as of June 30, a third were so-called "first class" municipalities, meaning they have annual revenues exceeding 400 million pesos.

When it comes to creating a strategic network of shopping malls in the first-tier cities, Sia is considered to be a step ahead. He envisions CityMalls as one-stop shops for daily errands. He said he does not intend to compete with bigger malls, where customers stay the whole day on weekends, partaking in dining, shopping and entertainment.

"The transition from the traditional unbranded fast food to modern fast food [was] already done in the Philippine provinces a decade ago," Sia said. "The transition from traditional retail to modern retail in the provincial areas has just started, and is expected to be completed in the next few years." Sia wants to spearhead the new phase of retail industry through the expansion of CityMalls in the provinces

He continued: "That is the market where we are currently positioning CityMall, and once the transition cycle is done, CityMalls are poised to be the biggest beneficiary."

Still, while the stock market is cheering Sia's strategy of focusing on Visayas and Mindanao, Double Dragon does face its share of challenges.

Skeptical analysts

Some analysts argue the company is overvalued, partly because most of its investors are retail players, who tend to play up stocks. It was only in July last year that Double Dragon managed to attract long-term institutional investors, and it may need to do more to improve its credibility with bigger funds.

"The price is not warranted at this time," said Richard Laneda, an analyst at COL Financial in Manila.

The company's first-half net income rose 16% to 144 million pesos, as revenue jumped 15% to 706 million pesos. It is targeting net income of 4.8 billion pesos by 2020.

Double Dragon's price-earnings multiple is 100, higher than those of SM Prime and Ayala Land, which are both trading at around 30, noted Luis Limlingan, managing director of Reginal Capital Development.

Sia said analysts should look beyond that metric. "Clearly, our investors are not looking at the 'now,' they are looking at the next five-, 10- or maybe 15-year horizon."

Anton Alfonso, an analyst at RCBC Securities, cautioned that Visayas' and Mindanao's underdeveloped infrastructure could hamper Double Dragon's mall network buildup. Convenience store chains looking to expand there have faced similar challenges.

Despite some delays in branch openings, Sia said the company is confident it will meet its targets. "We should be able to announce the next phase of our business in the next few years," he said, adding that Double Dragon is open to overseas opportunities as well.

To be sure, Double Dragon has the Philippines' consumption-driven growth going for it. Consumption generates two-thirds of the country's gross domestic product, and projections indicate the economy should keep expanding by an average of over 6% for the next six years on the back of steady remittances from overseas Filipino workers and growing business process outsourcing industry.

Sia is hardly the only new-generation executive looking to make hay. Steve Benitez, from the central Philippine island of Cebu, aspires to turn his Bo's Coffee chain into the world's next Starbucks; it currently has 60 domestic branches. Ben Chan, another self-made entrepreneur, is building an apparel company, Bench, and is taking it into other Southeast Asian countries and China.

Then there are the heirs who are taking the reins of their family businesses. In 2015, Puregold Price Club appointed the son of founder Lucio Co, Ferdinand Vincent, as CEO. Puregold's parent company, Cosco Capital, plans to compete with Sia in the community mall segment.

Sia believes the completion of the 100 CityMalls is just the beginning of his new empire -- and a rock-solid foundation. "Once we complete that, our presence will be powerful, and the confidence in our company will be higher."

In Southeast Asia huge family businesses, conglomerates and state-owned companies are still widely seen to dominate the economies. While Sia's accomplishment of his ambitions remains to be seen, success of new-generation entrepreneurs will be the key to bring the region to the next stage of growth.

Source: – Nikkei Asian Review

British HSBC Survey: Philippines is Ideal for Love life' ranks No. 1 Destination

El Nido, Palawan – the world’s best island. Photo: traveltrilogy.com

Expats find Philippines ideal for love life

According to a survey by British banking giant HSBC, the Philippines is among the world’s most attractive destination for expatriates seeking a healthier love life and social life.

It’s the best place to find a match made in heaven, get closer to the one you love or create a cozy love nest.

The Philippines is among the world’s most attractive destination for expatriates seeking a healthier love life and social life even though many other countries offer much more in earning opportunity, career challenges or quality of life.

According to the 2016 Expat Explorer survey commissioned by British banking giant HSBC, which compared 45 destinations around the world, the Philippines ranks No. 1 overall for expats as a destination conducive to feel closer to their partners.

The country ranks fifth in offering social life for expats and eighth in ease of integrating with the locals.

Overall, the Philippines ranked only 37th out of 45 destinations. Singapore topped the list, with expats citing the city-state lucrative in seeking new challenge, improving earnings or achieving better quality of life.

In the case of the Philippines, expats pointed to benefits ranging from easing the problem of finding good accommodation, forming new friendships and embracing diversity. Once in the country, expats don’t feel like strangers, as it is natural for Filipinos to be more than willing and happy to assist them in adjusting to the country’s culture and environment, the survey said

Closer Together

Be it around fostering relationships, providing good and affordable education/child care, creating a good environment for raising children or bringing partners closer together, the survey showed that the Philippines was a good place for expats bringing their families along. The Philippines is the top country in the world cited by expats who said that their relocation had brought them closer to their partners (59 per cent).

The cost of education and child care are typically more expensive abroad but the majority (57 per cent) of expats in the Philippines found the overall cost of raising children less expensive in this country.

An additional benefit of raising a family in the Philippines is how smoothly the family members are able to socially adapt and “feel at home.” For 45 per cent of surveyed expats, the Philippines felt like home in less than six months.

A respondent said: “The Philippines is a family-based culture. As soon as you enter a house the host/hostess will offer you the best chair plus food and drink. People want you to be comfortable and at home.”

Wick Veloso, HSBC Philippines president and chief executive officer, said: “Expats in the Philippines value their social life— how they and their families are able to ‘feel at home.’”

“With good accommodations, access to more affordable education for their children and warm Filipino hospitality, expats in the Philippines are able to further their career progression while boosting network connections and enjoying a culture that make them feel they are family,” he said.

“It is vital that financial services are easily accessible for expats to access personal funds, insurance and investments while living abroad. It is even more crucial that they are able to discuss their needs with financial advisers with ease, confident that the unique needs and requirements of an expat living overseas are fully understood,” he said.

Views, Experiences

The 2016 Expat Explorer survey covered 27,000 expats from 190 countries and territories who shared their views and experiences. Other key findings of the survey are as follows:

More than three in five expats in Singapore said it’s a good place to progress their career, with the same proportion seeing their earnings rise after moving to the country.

Nearly a quarter (22 per cent) of expats aged 18-34 — the so-called millennials — moved abroad to find more purpose in their career.

Around two in five expats said that moving abroad had accelerated their progress toward saving for retirement (40 per cent) or toward buying a property (41 per cent), compared to around one in five (20 per cent and 19 per cent, respectively) whose move abroad had slowed their progress toward these financial goals.

For the second year in a row, Switzerland topped the roster as far as offering financial well-being and a strong economy for expats are concerned.

New Zealand leads the way for an “unrivaled” expat experience, with a vast majority (83 per cent) of expats praising the country’s environment (air pollution, water quality) as better than in their home countries and nearly three-quarters (73 per cent) said their quality of life had improved.

Sweden was deemed offering an excellent environment for expat families, with around 75 per cent of expat parents rating their children’s quality of life as better than back home. – The Daily Star

Copyright: Philippine Daily Inquirer/ Asia News Network

Indonesia to open 5,000 Alfamart Stores in the Philippines

Alfamart targets 400 stores in Philippines next year

Mini market chain Alfamart aims to increase the number of its outlets in the Philippines from the current 185 to 400 next year and add one distribution point to complement the existing one in Greater Manila.

The company expanded into the Philippines in 2014, teaming up with local company SM Investments Corporation.

"We expect to reach break-even point by the middle of 2017, after three and half years of investment," Alfa Group chairman Djoko Santoso said after an AlfaLand press conference at the Shangri-La Hotel Jakarta on Friday.

He said the business climate in the Philippines was good and processing licenses and arranging land acquisition were easy there. After 2017, the company will be more aggressive by doubling the number of its stores every year.

"After five years of investment, we want to have at least 5,000 stores in the Philippines," he said. (evi) – The Jakarta Post

Libya Alert Level 2: Benghazi Mayor calls on Philippines to reopen consulate

Benghazi’s Ahmed Al-Oraibi with Philippines diplomat Camaloden Guro and Doris Battard of the local Philippines community (Photo: LANA)

Benghazi acting mayor calls on Philippines to reopen consulate.

Ahmed Al-Oraibi, appointed last month by Major-General Abdul Razzaq Al-Nazhuri as acting mayor of Benghazi, has called on the Philippines to reopen its consulate in the city. It was closed more than two years ago.

Oraibi made the call during a meeting at the municipal offices on Saturday evening with a member of the Philippines embassy, Camaloden Guro, who is visiting Benghazi to consult with members of the community and carry out a number of consular activities. Also attending was Doris Battard, the Filipina nurse and community leader who has worked in Benghazi for 23 years.

Thanking Filipinos for remaining at work in the city despite the situation, Oraibi was nonetheless told of the many difficulties faced by them not least the lack of funds.

Oraibi’s call call comes a week after the Philippines foreign ministry lifted it mandatory order to all Filipinos to leave Libya. The Philippines’ Crisis Alert Level for Libya has been downgraded from 4 (mandatory repatriation/evacuation) to 2 (restriction phase), enabling those who left but with existing work contracts to return. However, it remains illegal for Filipinos to accept new work contracts in Libya and travel there.

The decision to downgrade the crisis alert follows a visit to Tripoli by an assessment team from Manila last month. Under Level 2,

Filipinos are called on to restrict non-essential movements, avoid public places, and be prepared to leave in necessary. – Libya Herald

Wednesday, September 21, 2016

S&P's Philippines 2016 "BBB" Credit Rating above Investment Grade- Strong, Per Capita up $3K USD

PH’s credit rating intact amid strong fundamentals, sound economic management —S&P

Standard & Poor’s has maintained the Philippines’ investment grade of “BBB” with a “stable” outlook, citing fundamentals and prudent management of the economy that point to sustainability of the country’s economic gains.

The long-term rating of “BBB” is a notch above the minimum investment grade, while a “stable” outlook indicates balanced risks or absence of factors that can lead to a change in the rating over the short term.

Ratings within the investment-grade scale, which help boost investor confidence, is a seal of good housekeeping that indicates ability of a sovereign to meet its financial obligations given a host of factors, including favorable economic conditions.

“High household consumption, investment, and exports (mainly of electronics, commodities, and services) continue to support economic activity. These strengths will likely be underpinned by strong household and company balance sheets, sound growth in jobs and income, inward remittance flows, and an adequately performing financial system,” S&P said.

S&P estimated that per-capita income in the Philippines would grow by 4.4 percent to $3,000 this year, and further accelerate to 4.6 percent from 2017-2019.

This is on the back of the robust growth outlook on the Philippines, which in turn is supported partly by its’ “young,” “educated,” and “flexible” workforce that is complemented by rising investments and a financial system that is able to fund consumption and business activities.

S&P likewise projected the country’s current account to remain in surplus, averaging 2 percent of GDP annually up to 2019. This is on account of continued rise in remittances, electronics exports, and revenues from business process outsourcing (BPO).

The country’s current account has been in surplus for 13 consecutive years since 2003, helping boost the country’s reserves of foreign currencies.

The gross international reserves (GIR) stood at $85.8 billion as of end-August, enough to cover over 10 months’ worth of the country’s payments for imported goods and services. International standards suggest that GIR enough to cover four months’ worth of imports is considered comfortable.

S&P also cited its outlook of a sustained decline in the general government’s debt as a proportion of GDP, from 28 percent in 2010 to 18 percent in 2019, on account of prudent fiscal management.

Meantime, BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. gave a statement on the latest rating decision by S&P.

“The Philippines’ ability to keep its credit rating well within the investment grade scale, which has transcended change in political leadership, is a testament that the country’s economic gains have been built from deeply rooted structural and sound policy reforms over the years,” Tetangco said.

“Through continued conduct of sound monetary policy and prudent bank supervision, as well as efficient management of the country’s external accounts, the BSP will help make sure these economic gains are further enhanced moving forward,” the BSP Governor added. – Asian Journal

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Philippine's Duterte's Answer to Australian Bishop for South China Sea Ruling - Not Patrolling the Sea

“President Duterte told military officers in Manila on Tuesday that he would not allow government forces to conduct joint patrols of disputed waters near the South China Sea with foreign powers.”

In behalf of President Duterte, The Philippines could answer the question of Australian Prime Minister Julie Bishop by how the colorful words uttered regarding the U.N. Hague ruling for South China Sea as follow:

1.    We have the U.N. that judged the disputes then it must have the U.N. Police to implement the law.

2.    It is not right for the U.N. to have the ruling then watch the feuding parties to fight ‘til who would win because they don’t have their police.

3.    It is not right for the U.N. to rely on who wants to “Police” to implement their law. Washington, Australia, Japan, Philippines and other countries have their own national interests in the area so what does it mean? The powerful would always win if anyone is allowed to police to implement the U.N. ruling.

4.    The ruling of U.N. is just a word without teeth and the Philippines doesn’t want to bite that dust and watch the handful soldiers fight and die.

5.    Why should the Philippines joined in patrolling the South China Sea if it is not capable to fight against the worlds’ top most powerful?

6.    The Philippines is more concerned on internal issues on the war on drugs and the ISIS linked terrorists Abu Sayyaf, how could the country solve the external issues without addressing first the internal issues?

Julie Bishop issues 'please explain' to Philippines' Duterte

Foreign Secretary Julie Bishop has questioned Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte after he said he won't join US patrols through contested areas of the South China Sea.- WPA Pool

Foreign Minister Julie Bishop has questioned Philippines' President Rodrigo Duterte after he said his navy would not be joining further US patrols through contested areas of the South China Sea, despite the fact the nation initiated the push back on China's power in the region.

Mr. Duterte, who in recent days has called for US troops to move out of the Southern Philippines and hinted at buying Russian and Chinese weapons, said he did not want his country involved in US freedom of navigation patrols in the South China Sea.

"We will not join any expedition or [be] patrolling the sea. I will not allow it because I do not want my country to be in involved in a hostile act," Mr. Duterte said on Tuesday.

In July, the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague ruled China's claim historic rights within the areas falling within the "nine-dash line" had no legal basis.

Australia has attracted the wrath of Beijing for calling for China to abide by the recent Hague ruling after supporting the Philippines' right to take the case to the Permanent Court of Arbitration in the first place. Ms. Bishop said Mr. Duterte should be questioned over why he does not want to enforce the ruling of the court considering his country brought the case to the court.

"I have been informed that the President of the Philippines has announced that the Philippines, as a claimant state and as the state that instigated the arbitration, has announced that the Philippines will not be sending their ships into contested areas.

"So the question should be directed to the Philippines as to what they are doing to reinforce the arbitration findings," she told reporters on Wednesday.

MS Bishop said she was surprised by Mr. Duterte's latest position.

"Well aren't you surprised that the Philippines is now not going to traverse the territory that the arbitration has just found is in the Philippines EEZ [exclusive economic zone]? And that the arbitration found that China was in breach of the Philippines sovereignty?

"And now the Philippines have said they withdraw from those contested areas the arbitration has found were within the Philippines EEZ?" she said.

Asked whether she was suggesting the Philippines should be being more active in the South China Sea, she said, "Well, the Philippines is a claimant state"

After MS Bishop warned Beijing their international reputation was at stake if they did not abide by the Hague ruling, China said MS Bishop's comment's were "wrong" and "shocking". –with source form  Fairfax Media

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

LAOS: Duterte and Obama finally met and were the last persons to leave the holding room

US President Barack Obama waves to the media as he arrives for the gala dinner of ASEAN leaders and its Dialogue Partners in the ongoing 28th and 29th ASEAN Summits and other related summits at the National Convention Center Wednesday, Sept. 7, 2016 in Vientiane, Laos. (AP Photo/Bullit Marquez) (Bullit Marquez)

By The Associated Press | Wire reports
on September 07, 2016 at 1:15 PM, updated September 07, 2016 at 1:16 PM

Obama, Duterte meet despite Philippine president's crude language

VIENTIANE, Laos (AP) — President Barack Obama and Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte met informally on Wednesday in a holding room before attending a gala dinner at a regional summit, Philippine officials said.

The brief meeting took a little sting out of the soured relations caused by Duterte's intemperate language in referring to Obama earlier this week. That had caused Obama to cancel a formal meeting scheduled for Tuesday.

There was no immediate confirmation from the White House.

Philippine Foreign Secretary Pefecto Yasay told The Associated Press that the leaders had met.

"They met at the holding room and they were the last persons to leave the holding room. I can't say how long they met. It all springs from the fact the relationship between the Philippines and the United States is firm, very strong. The basis for this relationship is historical and both leaders realize this. And I'm very happy that it happened."

Obama and Duterte are in the Laotian capital along with other regional leaders for the summit. All of them made their way through the holding room before heading to the banquet hall.

On Monday, hours before arriving in Laos, Duterte told Philippine reporters he wouldn't accept questions from Obama about extrajudicial killings that have occurred during his crackdown on suspected drug dealers and users. More than 2,000 people have been killed in the crackdown since he took office on June 30.

"I do not have any master except the Filipino people, nobody but nobody. You must be respectful. Do not just throw questions. Putang ina, I will swear at you in that forum," Duterte said, using the Tagalog phrase for "son of a bitch."

On Tuesday, Duterte expressed regret over the remarks, but the damage was done.

A Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs spokesman, Charles Joe, also said Obama and Duterte met in the holding room. He said it was a mutually agreed meeting, but that he had no details of what was discussed.

Obama and Duterte entered the dinner venue separately, and were seated far apart and did not interact with each other during the dinner that lasted an hour and 20 minutes. - MLive

By The Associated Press | Wire reports
on September 07, 2016 at 1:15 PM, updated September 07, 2016 at 1:16 PM

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