Saturday, October 29, 2016

Chinese Coastguard left Panatag Scarborough Shoal- Filipino Fishermen Returns with Huge Fish Catch

Pinoy fishers return from Panatag Shoal with huge catch of fish

Fishermen from Pangasinan returned home early Saturday with a huge load of big species of fish they caught from Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal, after they were allowed to fish inside the lagoon for first the time in four years.

Some fishermen from Pangasinan arrived with their huge catch early Saturday morning after days of fishing inside the shoal beginning Wednesday night.

They showed their "brimming" boats with the catch of black and orange lapu-lapu fish, bakalaw, tanigue, and damas o bisugong bato, among other species of fish.

The returning fishermen said they were surprised when finally on Wednesday evening no Chinese Coast Guard vessel blocked them upon their approach at the entrance of the shoal.

"Noong Martes, sinubukan naming pumunta sa Scarborough Shoal (called Kalburo in the locality) pero hinarang kami ng Chinese Coast Guard vessels," said Gilbert Rovinna, the skipper of F/B Rovinna fishing boat.

Free to fish again at Scraborough --GMA News

He said they tried again to go near Wednesday evening and they were surprised the Chinese did not stop them until they got inside the lagoon and dropped anchors.

Gilbert and his companions thought that the sudden change in the Chinese Coast Guard's behevior was a result of President Rodrigo Duterte's talks with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

They said they are happy to be back at the shoal because fish is abundant in the fishing ground, especially in the west side of the lagoon.

Noel Daruca, Gilbert's companion, said that when they came to the shoal on Tuesday, Chinese Coast Guard met them at the opening of the lagoon. He said they told the Chinese that the Philippine President had talked to their President, but the coast guard personnel said "go!go!go!"

Then they tried their luck Wednesday evening. No Chinese blocked them so they proceeded into the lagoon.

Chinese ships circling shoal

Only a small Chinese Coast Guard vessel is left inside the lagoon, the report quoted the fishermen as saying.

A separate report by Bam Alegre on "Balitanghali" said that at least three Chinese Coast Guard vessels were seen circling the perimeter of Panatag Shoal on Saturday morning.

These vessels did not block and allowed at least six Filipino fishing boats to catch fish inside the disputed shoal, the report said.

Quoting fishermen as saying, as recent as October 8 local fishermen are being blocked by the Chinese but in the last five days the first batch from Subic were allowed entry.

On Friday, Malacañang confirmed that Chinese Coast Guard men were no longer chasing Pinoy fishermen away from shoal.

"Also on regarding fishing in Scarborough Shoal, for the past three days it has been observed that there are no longer any Chinese Coast Guard vessels and that Filipino fishing boats are no longer being intercepted and that they are now able to fish in the area without being intercepted," presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said at a news briefing in Malacañang on Friday. —John Ted Cordero/ALG, LBG, GMA News

Monday, October 24, 2016

Four Filipino Seamen Arrested in India for sending Cyclone Update through a Satellite phone

Four citizens of Philippines were arrested by personnel of Arjyapalli marine police station in Ganjam district of Odisha, India on Sunday afternoon on charges of illegally using satellite phone on Indian soil.

Sources said the four Philippine Nationals were using satellite phone in the radius of five km from the coast.

The police seized one satellite phone from their possession. They were arrested from Gopalpur port. The arrested Philippine nationals had reached Gopalpur port in a cargo ship. The ship in which they have travelled to Odisha coast has reached the port to carry export cargo for OSCOM, a unit of Indian Rare Earths Limited (IREL). They had come to Gopalpur Port in a cargo vessel - MV Fortune - last week to take minerals to Japan.

According to Ashok Parida, inspector in-charge of marine police station, on Sunday they had intercepted satellite phone calls from Gopalpur port premises. It was found that the satellite phone was being used illegally.

Immediately a police team tracked down on the users and arrested the four Philippine nationals.

On Saturday evening, they were using a Thuraya satellite communication set on board, to talk to their families about the possible cyclone developing in the sea. Coast Guard officials saw them using the satellite phone and informed the police.

They are identified as Second Officer Nathaniel A. Faza (38), Chief Petty Officer Librado P. Jemina (37), Chief Cook Eduardo S. Gruspe (46), and Seaman Jescel B. Bautista (34).

Several calls were made by arrested Filipinos from the banned satellite phone which has been frequently used by terror groups in Jammu and Kashmir. The phone was used during the 26/11 Mumbai terror attacks, police sources said.

A Dubai-based satellite communications company, Thuraya has global customers which include industry leaders from a variety of sectors including energy, media, marine, government and NGOs. Islamic terrorists are also detected subscribing Thuraya satellite services for their communication needs reason why it is banned in Indian Territory.

The superior network of the company enables clear communications and uninterrupted coverage across two thirds of the world via satellite and across the globe through our unique GSM roaming capabilities.

The Filipinos had not declared the presence of the set in the Pre-Arrival Notification System (PANS) of the vessel, a mandatory declaration for all boats and ships that intend to enter Indian waters.

Use of Thuraya satellite phones is banned in Indian territorial waters under section 6 of Indian Wireless Act and section 20 of Indian Telegraph Act.

The Sub Divisional Judicial Magistrate (SDJM) court in Odisha’s Chhatrapur today granted bail to four Philippines nationals.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

ICC International Court - Lack of Law knowledge: Cannot go After Philippines' Duterte

President Rodrigo Duterte. (ACE MORANDANTE/PPD)

International court can’t go after Duterte

The chief prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) says any person who encourages or condones President Digong’s war on drugs is liable to be prosecuted before the court.

“Let me be clear: any person in the Philippines who incites or engages in acts of violence including by ordering, requesting, encouraging or contributing in any other manner, to the commission of crimes within the jurisdiction of the ICC is potentially liable to prosecution before the court,” ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in a statement recently.

The ICC would then be prosecuting 76 percent of Filipinos who encourage the elimination of lowlifes in our society such as people who commit heinous crimes or peddle illicit drugs.

That’s 76 million Filipinos out of the total population of 100 million.

According to the latest survey of the Social Weather Station, 76 percent of the population approve of what President Digong is doing for the country.

The killing of criminals in the government’s war on drugs (drug traffickers, drug pushers and peddlers are considered criminals) is not within the ambit of the ICC.

You see, the Hague-based court’s mandate is to investigate and when warranted, try individuals charged with genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity.

Genocide refers to the mass slaughter of people on account of their race, religion, culture or political belief.

Peddlers of illicit drugs are not being singled out because of race (they’re Filipinos like the rest of us), religion (they’re Christian or Muslim like the rest of us), culture (they have the same culture as the rest of us) and political belief (they’re apolitical and criminal).

The Philippines is not at war with any country; therefore, President Digong is not committing any war crime if he really ordered—granting but not admitting—the killing of drug criminals.

“Humanity” refers to people in general; therefore, Digong cannot be charged with a crime against humanity as he is not a misanthrope or one who hates mankind.

It was unfair and stupid of ICC Chief Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda to accuse Digong of committing genocide, a war crime or crime against humanity in his war on drugs.

Why didn’t the International Criminal Court investigate and try then US President George W. Bush of committing war crimes when he ordered US troops to invade Iraq?

It was only in Bush’s imagination that Iraq was keeping weapons of mass destruction.

Bush was eventually proven wrong when not a single weapon of mass destruction was found in Iraq and only after the US had already invaded that country.

US Ambassador Philip Goldberg says that from 2012 to 2016, “USAID (United States Agency for International Development) contributed more than P3 billion to Mindanao and the ARMM (Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao), with P500 million specifically allocated for health services.”

Because of the souring relations between the Philippines and the United States, Goldberg’s statement sounds like he’s, as we call it in Filipino, “nanunumbat.”

Goldberg is practically telling the Filipino people, “Hey, you are so ungrateful! We give you so much money and yet you bite the hand that feeds you.” – Inquirer.net

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Ruder Finn Signs Partnership Agreement with ENGAGE PR Consultancy in the Philippines

Ruder Finn Founded in 1989, Ruder Finn Asia (www.ruderfinnasia.com) is the Asia-Pacific subsidiary of New York-based Ruder Finn (www.ruderfinn.com), the leading independent global public relations consulting firm. Photo: everything-pr.com

Ruder Finn Asia and ENGAGE, a member company of the EON The Stakeholder Relations Group, have signed a partnership agreement under which ENGAGE will become the Philippine affiliate of Ruder Finn's comprehensive Asia Pacific network. The agreement will enable ENGAGE to tap into the Ruder Finn international network in all markets outside the Philippines.

ENGAGE is a full-fledged PR agency that specializes in public affairs and government relations consultancy and has an extensive list of clients and services that complement Ruder Finn's own portfolio and offerings. ENGAGE and Ruder Finn have been working together for many years for clients across a wide range of industries.

The partnership is expected to expand both firms' presence in the Risk Management sector. ENGAGE will be able to tap into the regional network of Ruder Finn to access new markets while Ruder Finn can leverage on ENGAGE's strong presence in the ASEAN region to expand its own market reach. The two companies will continue to expand their offerings in crisis management, including RF's unique and proprietary Social Media Issues product, SONAR, which will complement ENGAGE's own proprietary listening suite of tools.

Kathy Bloomgarden, CEO of Ruder Finn, said: "We are fortunate to have partnered with a company of ENGAGE's caliber for many years and this union will reinforce our commitment to helping our clients through transitional moments. With the rise of digital, the growth of the services economy, and a renewed focus on transparency and accountability in the Philippines, the need for smart, strategic risk management support has become critical to companies at all levels. Ruder Finn's global insights and vast network, combined with ENGAGE's deep knowledge of the Filipino landscape, will maximize our ability to service clients across the ASEAN region."

Jean-Michel Dumont, Chairman of Ruder Finn Asia, said: "The Philippines is very important in the region for many of our clients, and we also see many Philippines-based companies looking to expand in the region. This partnership will further extend our regional reach and strengthen our network. I have known EON's founder, Junie del Mundo, for more than 20 years and through the years, he and his team's professionalism have always been at the highest level."

EON Group's Chief Executive, Junie del Mundo, said: "The Philippines is one of the most promising economies in the region, but also one that takes experience and expertise to navigate. ENGAGE takes pride in its years of experience handling clients in highly regulated and sensitive industries, and we look forward to sharing our expertise in this area as we also learn from Ruder Finn's extensive risk management knowledge base." – PR Newswire

First Semi-portable 600 Watts Picohydro power plant in Philippines - Commissioned in Visayas

Picohydro power generation model. Photo: renewablesfirst.co.uk

Soleco puts up 1st picohydro power plant in Philippines

Southern Leyte Electric Cooperative Inc. (Soleco) has put up a picohydro power generation system, the first of its kind in the country, state-run National Electrification Administration (NEA) said.

In a statement, NEA said Soleco’s picohydro system, which started operating in Aug. 12, utilizes tail water from the Hanabian Minihydro Power Plant and generates power of up to 600 watts with maximum water flow velocity of 4.6 meter per second.

It has partnered with Helios Altas and DA Green Power Consultancy which also undertook development of project feasibility studies.

Using the mechanism of a waterwheel, the picohydro system has an engineered suspension system for easy mounting, making it one of the most adaptable small-scale renewable energy (RE) technologies to environmental changes.

Picohydro power generation process

Soleco general manager Jonathan Empeño said the system is already synchronized to the grid, allowing the electric coop to sell generated power at a blended generation cost.

He said the approximate cost of picohydro system below five kilowatts (kW) was $8,500/kW, while cost for five kW and above was estimated at $5,500/kW. Cost includes engineering design, construction, equipment installation, and commissioning.

According to DA Green Power Consultancy chief operating officer Regino Galindes, the picohydro power generation system poses minimal modifications to existing water systems as it uses a modular and scalable energy device that can easily harness power from running water in rivers, irrigation canals, and base of dams.

He added it only took two days to install the Soleco picohydro power system and could easily be dismounted if there are warnings of flood or typhoon.

To keep the picohydro facilities in check, a remote monitoring device was likewise installed in the system to prompt data and important alerts to the central control system.

Soleco’s use of RE technology is “consistent with the policy direction of the national government to tap renewables and increase its share in the energy mix,” NEA officer-in-charge Sonia San Diego said.

“As an agency committed to the protection of environment, NEA, together with its partner ECs, is pushing the frontiers in RE project development to help position the Philippines as a world leader in the use of renewables,” she said. - philSTAR

Australia's SomnoMed finds Philippines ideal Manufacturing hub

SomnoMed is seen as an "employer of choice" by the Philippine government. Jessica Hromas

SomnoMed finds Philippines ideal hub for its sleep devices

-by Mark Eggleton

For sleep device manufacturers SomnoMed, the decision to manufacture in the Philippines was based on having a historic connection to the country. The company's Australian-designed non-invasive oral appliances were being manufactured by a third party in the Philippines when in 2009 it took the decision to set up its own operation.

Neil Verdal-Austin, executive vice president for Asia-Pacific, said once the decision was made it took until February 2010 before SomnoMed flicked the switch on its own facility.

"We stayed in the Philippines because we knew the country and its infrastructure from our existing relationship so we set-up a separate business, acquired premises, imported equipment and employed a number of locals," he said.

As to why the company chose the country as its manufacturing hub, Verdal-Austin cites the Philippines location in Asia and reach and access into other markets.

"You're looking at distribution into Asia very quickly as well as good access into the United States and one stop into all the major hubs of Europe," he said.

The Philippines' strong reputation as a business processing hub works well for an advanced manufacturer such as SomnoMed. Mr Verdal-Austin said as the company's SomnoDent product has evolved into an intelligent device that monitors sleep patterns, the Philippines' already strong IT infrastructure has proved a boon.

Suitable workforce

"We also have access to a workforce that's well-educated with proficient English skills and an easy to manage cost base," he said. Moreover, as more companies move some operations into the country, business clusters are developing with SomnoMed's facility now in close proximity to a number of global pharmaceutical companies.

Mr Verdal-Austin said before establishing the manufacturing operation the company was aware of the potential pitfalls through their previous relationship with a third party manufacturer.

"There were a lot of hoops and hurdles to get going and little bit of time-wasting but we're aware of our responsibilities and ensure we're on top of all our regulatory requirements and the renewal periods for permits and licenses. We're seen as an employer of choice by the Philippine government and our employees are well-paid and offered a health plan."

SomnoMed's biggest markets remain Japan and South Korea but the company has a distributor in Singapore looking after the ASEAN nations.

"All of these countries are at different stages on the curve of medical treatment but it's a very exciting region and [as each country becomes more affluent] we know we'll penetrate even further into these markets," Mr Verdal-Austin said.

"For a company like ours it's about educating the medical fraternity to change their prescribing behaviour and getting medical associations to accept and adopt the treatment." - The Australian Financial Review

Immigration Lookout for De Lima, Baraan, Bucayu, Villasanta, Dayan, Sanchez, Adricula and Cristobal issued

Sec. Aguirre says Sen. De Lima pocketed billions. Photo: CNN Philippines

DOJ issues immigration lookout bulletin for De Lima, 8 others

The Department of Justice (DOJ) issued an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against Sen. Leila De Lima and five other persons for their alleged involvement in the New Bilibid Prison's (NBP) illegal drug trade. The lookout order prevents them from leaving the country without corresponding travel authority from their heads of offices.

Those covered in the ILBO include De Lima, former DOJ Undersecretary Francisco Baraan III, former Bureau of Corrections Chief Franklin Jesus Bucayu, former Presidential Anti-Organized Crime Commission Director Reginald Villasanta, and De Lima's former aides, Ronnie Dayan and Joenel Sanchez. On Monday, the NBI added Mark Noemin Adricula, Warren Cristobal, and Jose Adrian Dera to the list.

In a memorandum addressed to the Bureau of Immigration dated October 7, Friday, DOJ Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II instructed immigration officers to "be on the lookout for" and to quickly relay to the DOJ, NBI, and Office of the Security information about the named individuals. Those subject to an ILBO can still leave the country, but require travel authorization from their heads of offices.

"Considering the gravity of the possible commission of any offense, there is a strong possibility that they may attempt to place themselves beyond the reach of the legal processes of this Department by leaving the country," the memorandum said. "We thus deem the issuance of an ILBO against the subject persons prudent in order to at least monitor the itineraries of their flight, travel, and/or whereabouts."

De Lima questioned the basis of the ILBO since no charges were filed against her. However, she added that she has no international engagements and no intentions of leaving the country soon.

"Huwag ho kayong mag-alala dahil wala po akong kabalak-balak na umalis ng Pilipinas para iwasan yung ihahain niyo sa akin na mga kaso," she said on Monday. "Inosente po ako. Ang guilty lang po ang tumatakas."

[Translation: You don't have to worry since I have no plans of leaving the Philippines to avoid the cases. I am innocent. Only the guilty try to escape.] – CNN Philippines

HSBC upgraded Philippine Economic Growth Forecast 6.3 - 6.5 Percent

HSBC hikes anew Philippine growth forecast to 6.5%

The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corp. Ltd. raised anew the country’s economic growth forecast as the Philippines continued to stand out as one of the strongest performers in Asia.

In its latest Asian Economics report for the fourth quarter, HSBC economist Joseph Incalcaterra said the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth projection has been revised upwards to 6.5 percent instead of 6.3 percent this year due to the stronger-than-expected expansion in the first half.

The country’s GDP growth accelerated to seven percent in the second quarter of the year from 6.8 percent in the first quarter amid the strong boost from election related spending.

This brought the GDP expansion in the Philippines to 6.9 percent in the first half from 5.5 percent in the same period last year.

“The Philippines continues to stand out as one of Asia’s strongest performers. Following the strong outturn of growth in the first half of 2016, we recently raised our full-year forecast from 6.3 percent to 6.5 percent,” he said.

The bank sees the country’s GDP growth easing to 6.4 percent in the third quarter and to six percent in the fourth quarter.

“Although growth will moderate in year-on-year terms through the second half as the impact from the elections and budget front-loading wears off, overall domestic demand will nonetheless remain resilient as government spending continues to fuel growth,” Incalcaterra said.

Likewise, HSBC retained the GDP growth forecasts for 2017 and 2018 at 6.3 percent and 6.4 percent, respectively.

“This isn’t to say there aren’t challenges to growth. After all, exports have been contracting rather sharply as of late – while imports of capital equipment surged – and the trend growth of remittances has also moderated to approximately 3.5 percent,” he said.

Latest data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed cash remittances contracted 5.4 percent in July, bringing down the growth in the amount of money sent home by Filipinos abroad to three percent in the first seven months of the year.

Authorities believe the growth in receipts from the business process outsourcing (BPO) as well as tourism sectors would cushion the slowdown in the cash remittances.

“While remittances may not provide the same boost to consumption as before, we think that the improvement in domestic employment opportunities, mostly from construction, BPO and tourism, are more than able to offset the effect for now,” he said.

The economist noted long-term issued such as the structural trade deficit as well as the not too bright outlook for manufacturing exports outside of electronics.

He pointed out the Philippines would remain highly vulnerable to weather trends with the onset of La Niña after the bout with El Niño. - philSTAR

Malaysian Terrorist Mohamas Amin Captured - Bombing Plans in Manila Condo Mall Revealed

Filipino soldiers stand guard next to a poster of Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte.PHOTO: EPA

Philippines thwarts terror attack with arrest of Malaysian bomb expert planning strike in Manila

The Philippine National Police (PNP) has thwarted an attempt by a terrorist bomb expert to stage bombing attacks right in the heart of Manila.

Malaysian terrorist Mohamas Amin, who had a 600,000 Philippine peso (S$17,020) bounty on his head, was presented in a press briefing by Chief Supt Roel Obusan, acting director of the PNP-Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Monday (Oct 10).

Amin was arrested at 4am on Saturday (Oct 8) by joint operatives from the Anti-Transnational Crimes Unit (ATCU) of the CIDG and the PNP Intelligence Group during a raid in Quezon City.

Also arrested were Bilal Taalam, the owner of the house where Amin was staying, and Adnan Malangkis. Eight other tenants in the house were also being investigated.

The CIDG believed all three had links with the Abu Sayyaf Group in Sulu. A fragmentation grenade, several rounds of ammunition, various identification cards, a blue print of a condo mall in Quezon City and a cellular phone were recovered during the raid.

Chief Supt Obusan said that aside from the documents, the results of the police interrogation on the suspects further strengthened their belief about Amin's plot to stage bombing attacks in Manila.

"Our operatives confiscated a blue print of a building, a condo mall (in Quezon City), so it's surprising that they are doing some casing on the area," Chief Supt Obusan said, refusing to name the condo mall to avoid panic.

Amin, who also goes by the names Asman, Akman Amin and Amin Aklam, is a bomb expert and is a subject of an arrest warrant for a murder case filed at the Regional Trial Court (RTC) in Jolo, Sulu.

Other Abu Sayyaf members are also facing the same charges in the same court. Amin and Malangkis were subjected to inquest proceedings for violations of the Comprehensive Firearms and Ammunition Regulation Act and Illegal Possession of Explosives Act before the Quezon City Regional Trial Court.

Amin will also be charged with violations of Article 78 of the Revised Penal Code for concealing his true identity. On the other hand, Taalam was charged with obstruction of justice and harbouring a fugitive or wanted person.

Chief Supt Obusan said Amin had an alliance with the three suspected suppliers of arms to Abu Sayyaf and other political warlords in Zambasulta (Zamboanga, Basilan, Sulu, Tawi-Tawi ) areas. They were Hja Risdimona Isa, Aljamer Akarab Mandin and Hurbin Sahibul, who were arrested in West Crame, San Juan City, last month. – Strait Times

Tuesday, October 4, 2016

Philippines' AboitizPower to buy power plant stakes for $1.2 Billion US Dollar

ABOITIZ Power Group. Photo: Rappler.com

Philippines' AboitizPower to buy power plant stakes for $1.2 bln

The Philippines' Aboitiz Power Corp said on Tuesday it will acquire stakes held by funds managed by Blackstone Group LP in a local coal-fired power plant and another power project under construction for about $1.2 billion.

The deal, the biggest acquisition in the local power sector since the industry was deregulated and a government monopoly dismantled in 2001, would be financed through internally generated cash and a $650 million loan, AboitizPower said.

The acquisition involves a 66.1 percent indirect interest in the 604-megawatt GNPower Mariveles Coal Plant and a 40 percent stake in the 1,336-MW GNPower Dinginin Project, both in Bataan, north of Manila.

AboitizPower has signed a loan agreement with The Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFJ Ltd, DBS Bank Ltd, The Hongkong and Shanghai Banking Corporation Ltd, Maybank Kim Eng Securities Pte Ltd, Mizuho Bank Ltd, and Standard Chartered Bank.

Standard Chartered was the financial advisor to AboitizPower on the deal, a source said.

The company said the acquisition, which is subject to Philippine regulatory approvals, was in line with its target to increase its attributable net sellable capacity to 4,000 MW by 2020.

"We consider this acquisition very strategic as it gives us immediate earnings from the operating asset and incremental capacity in the coming years from the plant under construction and its expansion," CEO Erramon Aboitiz said in a statement.

The first of two units at the GNPower Dinginin Project is due to be switched on in 2019.

(Reporting by Enrico dela Cruz; Additional reporting by Anshuman Daga in Singapore; Editing by Richard Pullin) - Reuters

World Bank keeps Philippine growth forecasts

WORLD BANK ECON UPDATE: World Bank lead economist Birgit Hansl answers queries from the press after giving an economic update on the Philippines. Also in photo is economist Kevin Chua. MIKE AMOROSO. Photo: PhilStar

MANILA, Philippines - The World Bank has retained its three-year economic growth forecasts for the Philippines, but stressed these projections can be exceeded if the government can ramp up its infrastructure spending as planned and provide clarity on its economic policies.

Drawing from its earlier forecast in April, the multilateral lending institution said it still expects the Philippine economy to grow 6.4 percent this year and 6.2 percent in the next two years.

In its October update on the domestic economy titled “Outperforming the Region and Managing the Transition,” the World Bank said the country has weathered the challenging global economy and grown at a rapid pace over the past five years, “supported by strong macroeconomic fundamentals and a highly competitive workforce.”

Domestic consumption is seen to prop up the economy driven by increased purchases from an expanding middle class, remittances from overseas Filipino workers, and increased employment.

“The economic outlook is optimistic with risks tilted to the upside,” said the report, noting “substantial” improvements in macroeconomic stability by way of low and stable inflation rates, prudent fiscal management, and comfortable level of foreign reserves.

The proposed budget for 2017 would increase infrastructure spending to 5.4 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in order to address infrastructure bottlenecks and “enhance connectivity between the country’s wealthier and poorer areas.”

“This can boost a large segment of the economy including industrial activities, real estate, construction and tourism,” said the report.

The world bank said while the new administration’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda has been generally well-received as it signals continuity of the existing macroeconomic framework, the government still needs to dispel lingering uncertainty on the part of investors by providing clarity on it development priorities.

“The preliminary agenda is intended to bolster the government’s current, fiscal, monetary and trade policy stances, while prioritizing tax administration reforms. Despite these reassurances, however, a degree of uncertainty remains regarding the ultimate direction of macroeconomic policy. The short-term challenges is how to successfully manage the economic transition and providing the right signals to investors and businesses,” said the report.

In a briefing yesterday, World Bank lead economist Birgit Hansl said the completion of the 2017-2022 medium term development plan for the country is expected to provide investors with direction.

“Many reforms are being unveiled, specifically on tax policy and administration, the tracking of government spending, security of land tenure, ease of doing business, and restrictions on foreign participation,” she said.  “But as policy details are still being discussed, some businesses might remain cautious. The completion of the new Philippine Development Plan this year will provide more clarity on the government’s development priorities and further improve the country’s growth prospects.”

The government is also pursuing a comprehensive tax reform effort that promises to make the tax system more equitable and efficient.

Hansl said that while the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain strong, the government should also pay attention to microeconomic reforms such as improving the ease of doing business in the Philippines to sustain growth.

“So here it will be really important to see what will be the priority of the new administration. Will it be trade facilitation, will it be changing how businesses operate. These involves also labor market issues,” she said.

She declined to comment on prevailing labor issues but said the bank is encouraged by the ongoing dialogue on issues such as contractualization and minimum wage setting.

In a statement, World Bank country director Mara Warwick said macroeconomic stability puts the Philippines in a position to accelerate inclusive growth that benefits all Filipinos.

“Poverty will decline faster if the returns from economic expansion are invested in building human capital by strengthening health, education, and social protection,” she said. - PhilSTAR

DNA shows first inhabitants of Vanuatu came from Philippines and Taiwan

Children play on Champagne beach, Espiritu Santo, Vanuatu. A new study has found that the country’s first people came from Asia rather than neighboring Pacific countries. Photograph: Nikki Marshall for the Guardian

Those who settled on the archipelago 3,000 years ago – and Tonga shortly after – travelled from farther away than previously believed, scientists say

The first inhabitants of Vanuatu hailed from Taiwan and the Philippines rather than the South Pacific island nation’s much closer neighbors, scientists have discovered.

A study by scientists at the Australian National University of ancient DNA taken from three skeletons excavated from Vanuatu’s oldest known cemetery revealed that the first people arrived about 3,000 years ago.

Rather than moving from neighboring countries including Australia, Papua New Guinea or the Solomon Islands – where people have lived for between 40,000 and 50,000 years – Vanuatu’s original inhabitants came from much further north in Taiwan and the northern Philippines, the scientists found.

“The people of Vanuatu today are descended from Asia first of all,” said research professor Matthew Spriggs, of the ANU’s school of archaeology and anthropology. “They travelled past places where people were already living, but when they got to Vanuatu there was nobody there.

“Only some time later did they intermarry with Papuan peoples to produce the genetic mix we see today in Vanuatu, and indeed across the Pacific.”

Details of the scientists’ findings were published on Tuesday in the scientific journal Nature.

Dr Stuart Bedford, of ANU’s college of Asia and the Pacific, said debates about the origins of Pacific islanders had raged for centuries, particularly about the Lapita people who first colonised islands stretching from Vanuatu to nearby Tonga.

“It demonstrates the enormous potential for these sorts of studies but these data have already provided an extremely important piece of the puzzle,” he said.

Ancient DNA of a sample from a Tongan cemetery confirmed that the same group of people became the first inhabitants of Tonga only slightly later.

“This is the first genome-wide data on prehistoric humans from the hot tropics, and was made possible by improved methods for preparing skeletal remains,” said Dr Ron Pinhasi at University College Dublin, a senior author of the study.

A team led by researchers at Harvard Medical School, University College Dublin, and the Max Planck institute for the Science of Human History led the DNA analysis.

“The unexpected results about Oceanian history highlight the power of ancient DNA to overthrow established models of the human past.”

Vanuatu was part of the Tongan empire from the 14th century, and ruled by the English and French after missionaries settled there during the 19th century.

“A particularly striking finding is the different ancestry observed on the X-chromosome, which is inherited mainly from females,” said lead author Dr Pontus Skoglund of Harvard Medical School and Stockholm University.

“This reveals that the vast majority of the ancestry from these open-water pioneers that survives today is derived from females, showing how DNA information can provide insights into cultural processes in ancient societies.” – The Guardian : Australian Associated Press contributed to this report

Monday, October 3, 2016

APEVC Singapore Investors Supports Philippines' Duterte War on Drug: Improved law and order will be positive

Asia Private Equity-Venture Capital Summit: Singapore, Sept 30, 2016. Photo: ASIA LAW PORTAL

Mark Mobius still likes Philippine investments despite extrajudicial murders

·         Mark Mobius : on War on Drugs and Killing of Drug addicts and pushers "at the end of the day, I think the impact of the improved law and order will be positive."

·         "I think the drop in the peso may have been connected to the slowdown in remittances because with the economic situation in the Middle East and in Europe, the U.S., remittances have not been as high as they were," Mobius said.

Despite growing concerns over the extrajudicial murders in the Philippines, the country will likely emerge as an improved investment destination, Mark Mobius said on Friday.

"Of course, it's a tragedy that anybody gets killed, but in the context of what's happened in the Philippines in the past and the commitment to law and order, I'm not too worried about it," the storied emerging markets investment cheerleader said on the sidelines of the Asia Private Equity and Venture Capital Summit in Singapore.

Mobius, who joined Franklin Templeton in 1987 to lead the Templeton Emerging Markets Fund, is currently the executive chairman at Templeton Emerging Markets Group.

The new Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's "law-and-order" agenda has been blamed for a surge in extra-judicial killings. More than 3,800 people have been killed in Duterte's crackdown on drugs since the June 30 inauguration, Reuters reported last week.

The parliament has also been told of murders allegedly ordered by the Philippine president during his tenure as mayor of Davao city. Duterte has denied the allegations, but has also made comments indicating he condoned both those murders and ones since he took the country's top office.

In remarks that Mobius was likely unaware of, Duterte on Friday likened himself to Nazi leader Adolf Hitler in a complimentary manner and said he would "be happy to slaughter" three million drug users and peddlers in his country, Reuters reported. Mobius didn't immediately respond to an emailed request for comment on whether the remarks change his views.

But Mobius was unconcerned about the investment climate in the country.

"The concern about the illicit killings is a minor issue. The big issue is how they implement true law and order and the degree to which Duterte is able to do that," Mobius said in his remarks at the conference.

Mobius did cite some concerns about how Duterte's "brash" remarks may affect foreign perceptions of the country.

The firebrand Duterte, who's style has often been compared with U.S. Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, has sparked concerns in markets due to his erratic outbursts, which have included threatening China with a "bloody" confrontation over disputes in the South China Sea.

Earlier this month, Barack Obama cancelled a meeting with Duterte after Duterte used a derogatory term to describe the U.S. president.

"Of course [Duterte's behaviour] affects foreign relations. It affects foreign investors because they get concerned and you have the corporate governance concerns and so forth," Mobius said. "But at the end of the day, I think the impact of the improved law and order will be positive."

Mobius also didn't believe the Philippine currency's swoon since Obama cancelled his meeting with Duterte was entirely due to concerns about the president's temperament.

The U.S. dollar was fetching as much as ‎₱48.48 Philippine pesos on Friday around midday Asia time, , the highest for the pair since the depths of the global financial crisis in 2009, compared with around ₱46.40 pesos before the cancelled meeting.

"I think the drop in the peso may have been connected to the slowdown in remittances because with the economic situation in the Middle East and in Europe, the U.S., remittances have not been as high as they were," Mobius said.

Scene of the Crime Operatives (SOCO) work at the scene where two suspects were shot dead following an encounter and shootout with police at a checkpoint along a highway in Manila on August 28, 2016. Photo: Noel Celis | AFP | Getty Images

Earlier this month, Philippine media reported that in July, overseas Filipinos sent 5.4 percent less cash home than in the year-earlier month, but there's still been a 3 percent on-year rise for the first seven months of the year.

But apart from the immediate political situation, Mobius also pointed to a broader, longer-term transformation in the Philippines, led by its overseas workers

"The diaspora around the world, living in the Middle East, living all over the place…is not only sending back money, they're sending back know-how and technology," he said.

Many of those workers were returning to the country and taking up business leadership roles, he said. - CNBC

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