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USA will "donate" 2 Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" Planes to the Philippines

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 22:59

U.S. Airmen with the 36th Contingency Response Group board a C-130 Hercules aircraft at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, before departing for a mission in support of Operation Damayan in Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2013. U.S. military forces were deployed to the Philippines to support humanitarian efforts in response to Typhoon Haiyan. U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Marianique Santos

 

US to give C-130 planes to Philippines

 

MANILA, Philippines — The United States will give two Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" planes to the Philippines, newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang revealed.

 

In a state report, Catapang disclosed the impending donation in a visit to the 1st Air Division headquarters in Clark Field, Pampanga, citing American military officials.

 

"I just talked to our US counterparts [and] they told us they are making available another two C-130s to address our humanitarian assistance disaster relief concerns," Catapang said.

 

The United States military has deployed a humanitarian mission to the Visayas after the onslaught of deadly typhoon Yolanda, which took thousands of lives and destroyed countless homes.

 

vCatapang said that the Americans extended the offer after learning of President Aquino's plans to acquire new cargo aircrafts for the military.

 

The existing C-130 planes of the Air Force figured heavily in the transport of relief goods for victims of typhoon Yolanda and equipment needed by government troops involved in the efforts last year.

 

In November last year, former AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista announced that the country seeks to procure two more C-130 planes to improve disaster relief operations.

 

"We are in the process of acquiring two more C-130s. As you very well know, we only have three C-130s. In terms of strategic lift, C-130s are very important," Bautista said.

 

Ideally, he said the Philippine Air Force should have at least nine C-130s. - Camille Diola PhilSTAR 

 

Binay, son, et al., face ₱1.5-B plunder charges before OMB

Wed, 07/23/2014 - 08:11

JEJOMAR BINAY

Vice President Jejomar Binay, his mayor-son Erwin Jejomar Binay Jr., and 21 other former and incumbent elected officials of Makati City are facing ₱1.5-billion plunder and graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).

The nine-page complaint was filed by the Save Makati Movement (SMM), headed by Renato Bondal and Ching Enciso.

The group accused the Binays and others of constructing an “incredibly overpriced” parking building in the heart of the country’s financial and business capital.

Among those charged were former and incumbent councilors Ferdinand Eusebio; Arnold Magpantay; Romeo Medina; Tosca Puno Ramos; Maria Alethea Casal-Uy; Ma. Concepcion Yabut;

Virgilio Hilario; Monsour del Rosario; Vince Sese; Nelson Pasia; Salvador Pangilinan; Elias Tolentino; Ruth Tolentino; Henry Jacome; Leo Magpantay; Nemesio “King” Yabut; Armand Padilla; Israel Cruzado; Ma. Theresa De Lara; Angelito Gatchalian and Ernesto Aspillaga.

Also slapped with plunder was Cecille Cag-anan of the Commission on Audit (COA) for her alleged failure to safeguard public funds allowing, the other accused to commit alleged criminal acts.

SMM said the city government spent ₱1.5 billion for the construction of the New Makati City Parking Building along F. Zobel Street in Barangay Poblacion from 2007 to 2013.

It said the first appropriation ordinance was for ₱P400 million which was approved by the Vice President when he was mayor six years ago.

When the younger Binay took over in 2010, he and city councilors allegedly continued to approve six more appropriation ordinances for the continued construction of the building with additional appropriation of ₱1.1 billion.

The complaint added that based on the data of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the average cost of construction for commercial and institutional buildings was only about ₱7,691 per square meter in 2007.

It claimed that erecting the structure at that time would only cost about ₱245 million.

The complaint stated that an enormous overprice of more than ₱1.3 billion was made considering how much was actually spent until the 11-story building with floor area of 31,928 square meters.

“The respondents, particularly the Vice President Jejomar Binay and the incumbent Mayor Erwin Binay violated every rule in construction manuals and government procedures in pushing for a project that was grossly overpriced and funded irregularly through supplemental budgets for five years,” the SMM said.

It alleged that even the initial appropriation of ₱400 million “is clearly already overpriced by more than P154 million and should merit Vice President Binay being haled to court for plunder.”

Bondal and Enciso noted that in the fourth quarter of 2012, the average construction cost of a commercial building in the locality was ₱9,527 per square meter which means that at such price, the construction of the parking structure should cost only about ₱304 million.

“The total amount appropriated by respondents to cover the cost of construction as of 2012 was however ₱1.5 billion or an overprice of more than ₱1.2 billion,” they said.

The complainants stressed that even if the present construction standards for high-end commercial buildings will be used, the current acceptable construction cost is only ₱25,000 per square meter.

“Thus, with the actual floor area being 31,928 square meters, then the reasonable cost of the building computed at current prices is only ₱798.2 million. By this very simple computation, the Makati City Parking Building has been grossly overpriced by no less than ₱761.8 million and no amount of cost overruns could be invoked for this despicable mismanagement and gross abuse of public funds,” they said.

“The overpricing of the building project could not have been committed without a deliberate, systematic and unconscionable raid of public funds designed by the Binays and the other respondents to defraud the people of Makati and gain personal profit in the process,” Bondal and Enciso said. - Manila Bulletin 

 

World Bank hails Philippines as next Asian "miracle" - 4 Powerful Corrupts Lawmakers Jailed

Wed, 07/16/2014 - 12:10

COMFORTER IN CHIEF World Bank president Jim Yong Kim fields questions from the media during the Daylight Dialogue in the Palace while the embattled President listens during the “The Good Governance Challenge” session. Kim says the Philippines “is a global model in fighting corruption,” according to Agence France-Presse. GRIG MONTEGRANDE

World Bank hails PH as next Asian miracle

MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino on Tuesday received profuse praise from visiting World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who declared that the Philippines would be the next Asian “miracle.”

Kim, who was in Manila for a two-day visit, also announced that the World Bank was providing $119 million for the construction of new roads, bridges and irrigation systems in Muslim Mindanao in support of efforts to promote peace and economic development in the region.

During the open forum at the Daylight Dialogue in Malacañang, Kim recalled that the World Bank had downgraded its “overall global [economic] growth forecast from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent.”

But the World Bank did not do so for the Philippine economy, where the forecast remained “around 6.4 percent with a lot of upside going into the future.

“So I will just say again maintain these reforms, continue on the path that you’re on, and I think the future is very bright for the Philippines,” Kim said.

Foundation for future

Kim later offered a toast during a luncheon in the Palace, saying to President Aquino that “each of those things you’re doing are not only the right thing to do but they’re laying the foundations for your economic growth in the future.”

“And we are absolutely certain that the impact of your administration will be felt far beyond the six years that you have as President,” Kim said.

He said President Aquino should take much of the credit for the Philippine turnaround.

“Can the Philippines be the next Asian miracle? [After] coming here, I think there is no question that is the case,” Kim said.

Antigraft campaign

Kim heaped praise on Aquino’s antigraft campaign, which has seen the President’s predecessor and three sitting senators charged with corruption, as well as the impeachment of a Chief Justice.

“Among the most important things you can do is tackle corruption and . . . that is one of the things that the [Aquino] government is doing frankly better than any government in the world,” Kim said.

“Around the world, the spread of information technology is converging with grassroots movements for transparency, accountability and citizen empowerment,” he said.

Under Aquino’s leadership, he said, “the Philippines is absolutely at the forefront of this transformation.”

Kim said the Philippines, where one quarter of the roughly 100 million people live in deep poverty, had huge potential.

He cited the country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals, prudent monetary policies and young workforce.

Kim’s strong endorsement was a timely boost for Aquino, with two polls released this week showing the President’s public support dropping to record lows amid deep controversy over an economic stimulus program.

The Supreme Court on July 1 ruled the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was unconstitutional, with 13 justices handing down a unanimous decision that Aquino should not have bypassed Congress in spending P167 billion.

Aquino on Monday said the government would appeal the Supreme Court ruling.

Aid for Mindanao

Kim announced fresh World Bank aid financing for Muslim Mindanao at a news conference at the World Bank office in Taguig City.

Muslim Mindanao remains one of the poorest regions in the Philippines, with development held back by four decades of conflict between separatist rebels and government forces.

“We’ll support the peace process in conflict-affected areas,” said Kim, who is here for a two-day visit.

Kim noted that the poverty rate in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao was at 50 percent, or more than twice the national average.

He said the $119 million in aid financing would be made available to the government to bankroll the construction of new farm-to-market roads, bridges, communal irrigation systems and potable water projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM, which will be expanded under a peace agreement signed in March between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest rebel group in the region.

The government and the MILF are seeking the enforcement of the agreement, which grants broad autonomy to the expanded Muslim region, by next January.

The fresh World Bank financing is part of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) that Kim himself announced this week during a visit to Leyte province.

Under the PRDP, the government would receive $508 million in concessional loans from the World Bank to raise rural incomes across the country.

The PRDP will be presented to the World Bank’s board of executive directors next month.

Robust investments

On top of the new aid, the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the World Bank’s private investment arm, is also working on projects that will generate 6,000 new jobs in Mindanao.

Kim said the bank remained confident of the Philippines’ prospects, citing robust investments by the Aquino administration in areas such as education and healthcare over the last four years.

“Spending on health and education has doubled. This is extremely important,” Kim said, noting that the full impact of the investments would continue to be felt for decades to come.–Inquirer With a report from AFP

Read more from Channel News Asia, and ARAB News

 

Japan's Credit agency raises again Philippines credit rating to "Stable"

Tue, 07/15/2014 - 14:20

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines received another credit-rating upgrade, this time from Japan-based R&I, in recognition of the reforms put in place by the Aquino administration that had paved the way for the country’s economic boom.

R&I announced Wednesday it raised the Philippines’ long-term foreign currency issuer rating by a notch from the minimum investment grade of BBB- to BBB due to a consistent rise in per-capita income in the country following substantial investments in infrastructure.

The rating was assigned a “stable” outlook, which means it is unlikely to change within a year.

At the same time, R&I maintained the country’s short-term debt rating at a-2, which indicates high certainty that short-term financial obligations would be paid.

“The Philippines’ economy continues to show strong growth, thanks to brisk investment coupled with private consumption driven by remittances from overseas Filipinos. This should allow for relatively high growth and raise per-capita income levels steadily,” R & I said in a report, adding that this would allow for a relatively high growth and steady increase per capita income.

Per-capita income in the Philippines has been modest compared with those of more advanced neighbors, but the country is catching up in this area. From $3,684 in 2009, per capita income in the country (using current prices and purchasing power parity) increased to $4,649 last year.

R&I likewise cited the country’s healthy fiscal situation, which should result in increased public spending. “Savings in interest payments, thanks to fiscal consolidation, help the government to finance infrastructure projects. Budget execution is also expected to accelerate,” it said.

The Philippines has set a ₱404.3 billion budget for public infrastructure spending this year, 40 percent higher than the 2013 figure.

R&I also said the rollout of more projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program would help boost more job-generating investments and sustain the rise in incomes.

Earlier this year, the government awarded contracts for two PPP projects, namely the ₱P1.72-billion automated fare collection and single ticketing system for the MRT and the LRT, and the P17.5-billion Mactan Cebu International Airport expansion project. This brings to seven the total number, and to ₱62.6 billion the aggregate cost, of the PPP projects awarded so far.

Aside from this, R&I recognized the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals, including ample foreign-exchange reserves, improving manageability of government debt, improving tax collections and within-target inflation R&I, however, expressed concern over who will succeed President Aquino when he steps down from office in 2016.

“There is risk that the next government will not be as reform-minded as the Aquino administration. However, pressures from growing international relationships, such as the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, along with public expectation for sustained reform initiatives, should deter the post-Aquino government from going backwards,” R&I said.

Meanwhile, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. welcomed the upgrade, saying this validates soundness of existing policies.

“The latest development on the country’s credit standing is a recognition of a host of favorable macroeconomic indicators, particularly an inflation outlook that is conducive for business and the stability of the financial system amidst a difficult operating environment,” Tetangco said.

“The upgrade is an expression of confidence, in part, on the ability of the Monetary Authority to implement appropriate and timely measures that ward off threats to the economic stability we are enjoying. The BSP will continue to craft policies that will help maintain this stability,” he added.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima likewise affirmed the focus on sustainability of favorable trends for the economy.

“Reforms that this government has started to institutionalize help ensure that the positive momentum will not falter,” Purisima said.

“On the fiscal front, administrative and policy reforms implemented by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will make it easier in the future to keep the growth trend in public revenues,” he said.

Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad said the latest credit upgrade only confirms that “the Philippines is poised to become one of Asia’s major commercial hubs. The country has never been more ready to expand its market to accommodate local and foreign investments.”

“When investors bring their business into the country because of our lower risk profile, we can look forward to implementing more public works and creating broader job opportunities for our growing workforce,” Abad said.

“A key component of achieving investment grade is ensuring the stability and the reach of our economic expansion. Crucial to our economic development, of course, is the facilitation of robust and efficient spending. While we are now addressing challenges in the public expenditure process, we have no doubt that government spending will continue to spur the country’s growth, especially as the budget provides greater support for the Administration’s socio-economic programs,” Abad said. – PhilSTAR With Kathleen Martin

 

Philippines Gross Reserves Rise up to $81 Billion US Dollars end June 2014 to up $88 Billion end 2014

Wed, 07/09/2014 - 00:20

 

Philippines International Gross Reserves may rise up to $88 Billion US Dollars end of 2014. Photo: the-icsgroup.com

 

The Philippines' foreign exchange reserves rose for the fourth consecutive month in June to $80.7 billion as foreign money in various forms continued to flow into the country, the central bank reported Monday.


Documents released Monday showed the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) rose to their highest level for the year and remained more than ample to protect the country from external crises.


The increase in reserves was due mainly to the revaluation adjustments on the BSP’s gold holdings, net foreign currency deposits by the Bureau of the Treasury, and income from the BSP’s investments abroad.

“These inflows were partially offset by payments for maturing foreign exchange obligations of the national government,” the BSP said in a statement.
At the end of June, the country’s GIR was up by half a billion dollars from the month before. Year-on-year, however, the reserves were still lower than the $81.22 billion in June of 2013.
The country’s reserves, which are held by the central bank, serve as a line of defense for economic shocks that lead to shortages in dollars that the government and businesses need to do business with the rest of the world.


A shortage of foreign exchange would force local businesses and the government to buy dollars from outside at higher prices, which would bring the value of the peso down. A weaker peso makes imported goods more expensive. For the government, it increases the cost of servicing foreign obligations, straining the state’s resources.
The GIR remained enough to cover 11 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and income. This is higher than the international benchmark of three months. It is also equivalent to 7.7 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity.


Last week, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said the official forecast for the Philippines' yearend reserves was up for review. He said massive outflow of foreign exchange in the form of investments at the start of the year might result in a more “conservative” forecast.


As it stands, the BSP expects to end the year with as much as a record $88 billion in reserves. -Business World Online

IN PHOTOS: Philippines- USA troops hold drills near Spratly Islands

Sat, 07/05/2014 - 16:27

A Philippine Navy personnel stands in front of an AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter before it takes off during the bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy and U.S. Navy dubbed as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), aboard the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the South China Sea. AP/Noel Celis

SAN ANTONIO, Philippines — More than 100 Filipino and U.S. marines in assault amphibious vehicles conducted a mock assault on imaginary enemies in military drills Monday on a beach in northwestern Philippines fronting the South China Sea, where Manila is locked in a territorial dispute with China.

The amphibious tanks sailed from a U.S. ship anchored a distance away, then rolled onto the beach of San Antonio, Zambales, northwest of the Philippine capital Manila, disgorging the Filipino and American sailors and marines armed with automatic rifles.

The exercise is part of the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training that the U.S. conducts with its allies in Asia, including the Philippines, to address maritime security, strengthen partnerships and enhance interoperability.

A member of Philippine Navy loads bullets for a machine gun during the bilateral maritime exercise in the South China Sea waters claimed by Beijing, Sunday, June 29, 2014. AP/Noel Celis

Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain depart the Philippine navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16). Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh

A member of U.S. Navy mans a weapon during CARAT 2014. AP/Noel Celis

U.S. Navy personnel raise their flag during CARAT 2014. The United States and the Philippines kicked off joint naval exercises in the South China Sea near waters claimed by Beijing, amid tense territorial rows between China and its neighbors AP/Noel Celis

U.S. and Philippine Navy officers stand for an invocation during the opening of the 20th Cooperation Afloat Readiness And Training (CARAT) joint U.S.-Philippines naval exercise at the former U.S. naval base of Subic. AP/Bullit Marquez

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) transits into Subic Bay. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh

Rear Adm. Jaime S. Bernardino, commander of the Philippine Fleet, shakes hands with Rear Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, commander of Task Force 74, during the opening ceremony. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh

The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is moored in Subic Bay. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh

Members of the U.S. and Philippine navies salute during the opening ceremony of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2014. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh

Lt. j.g. Raymond Piana, navigations officer of the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), center, shows a chart to Philippine marine Col. Custodio Parcon, left, during a tour of the ship's pilot house. Philstar.com/US Navy/Raymond Diaz III

Officials say the maneuvers are meant to improve coordination and capabilities but are not directed at China, which has been criticized for its increasingly assertive behavior in disputed South China Sea territories.

"Whenever we do an exercise, we always train to improve our capabilities, it is not meant for whatever threat or situation that are current," said Philippine Navy Commodore Roland Joseph Mercado.

Marine Maj. Damon Torres, commanding officer of the U.S. landing force in the exercise, said the drills are a good opportunity to coordinate and learn about each other's capabilities. - Philstar

 

Standard Charter Bank upgrades Philippines GDP, foreseen growth to 7.1%

Sun, 05/25/2014 - 13:17

Standard Chartered Bank. Photo: ABC 

Standard Chartered Bank has just upgraded its economic growth forecast on Saturday, May 24, for the Philippines this year.

In a report, StanChart stated it hiked its full-year estimation to 7.1-percent from the earlier forecast of 6.7-percent. In light of its full-year upgrade, StanChart sees Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) having expanded in the first quarter at about the same pace as to that 6.5-percent in the fourth quarter of last year.

In sudden growth of the country's economic growth forecast, the bank cited strong growth from both domestic consumption and exports, as well as expectations of a pickup in natural disaster's rehabilitation later in the year.

StanChart also upped its first quarter GDP forecast growth to 2.4 percent from 1.5 percent in the end quarter of 2013.

Sales abroad of Philippine-made goods significantly increased by 6.5-percent in the first quarter. This was despite a new truck ban policy, which implemented by City Mayor Joseph 'Erap' Estrada, that made a bottlenecks in the country’s main cargo port in Manila.

As for domestic consumption, StanChart cited strong motor vehicle sales, which increased about 22-percent in the first four months of 2014. StanChart also cited affirmative revenues amongst the country’s giant companies.

"A measure of economic performance, GDP is the amount of final goods and services produced in the Philippines."

StanChart stated that the Standard and Poor’s recent upgrade of the Philippines’ credit rating would also skyrockets business confidence some time soon, opening its gate to similar upgrades by other major credit rating agencies.

All of these positive factors, along with the steady taper of the United States' Federal Reserve, should lead to the appreciation of the Philippine peso, StanChart said, adding that it now foreseen the exchange rate averaging P43:$1 by the end of 2014 and will eventually slip to P42.75 by mid-2015.

The bank forecast inflation averaging 4.4-percent by this year, which is on the mid-upper of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) full-year target of 3% to 5%. - Centrio Times

 

Philippines Awarded ₱3.6 Billion Puerto Princesa Modern Airport project to Kumho Asiana Korean firm

Wed, 05/21/2014 - 02:02

Palawan Philippines Photo:thephilippines.com

THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) has awarded a $82.9-million design-and-build contract for the Puerto Princesa airport to Korea's Kumho Industrial Co. Ltd.-GS Engineering & Construction Joint Venture (Kumho-GS), an official said Tuesday.

The eco-tourism showcase that is Puerto Princesa, as well as the rest of Palawan, will soon have a modern, world-class airport which we can be as proud of as the destination itself, said Transportation and Communication Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya.

"With beaches and other natural wonders attracting throngs of visitors from all over the globe, it will finally have a gateway that is befitting of its stature," he said.

In compliance with its Engineering, Procurement, and Construction (EPC) contract, Kumho-GS will begin with the design component by the third quarter of this year. While the joint venture is preparing the airport’s detailed engineering design, it will likewise begin mobilizing its equipment and securing various project permits.

Civil works at the existing site, or the build component, will begin in the fourth quarter of 2014. The project scope includes the construction of a new passenger terminal building, cargo terminal building, apron, connecting taxiways, a new air navigation system, and other support facilities.

Kumho-GS will have around 30 months to complete the project, which means that the DOTC expects the modern airport to be operational by first quarter of 2017.

Once the project is completed, the airport will have an annual capacity of about two million passengers. In 2013, it counted 1.335 million passengers, which is way beyond its passenger terminal building’s (PTB) current estimated capacity of only 350,000 passengers per annum.

“Apart from boosting our tourism sector, this project will also generate jobs, particularly in the infrastructure sector. Overall, the estimate is up to 1,400 total new jobs during construction alone,” Abaya added.

The project is largely funded through a Korean Export Import Bank (KEXIM) loan, to the tune of $71.612 million. The loan is payable in 40 years, inclusive of a ten-and-a-half-year grace period, at a concessional interest rate of 0.1% per annum.

As a tied official development assistance (ODA) loan, the bidding process was governed by the Guidelines for Procurement of Korea’s Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), and decisions were concurred with by KEXIM. Bidding for the project was also limited to South Korean firms. (SDR/Sunnex)

 

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SMC proposes $10 Billion USD 1,600 Hectares World's Biggest Airport to rise at Manila Bay Philippines

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 22:52

NEW INTERNATIONAL GATEWAY Here is an artist’s rendition of San Miguel Corp.’s proposal of what could be the country’s largest and most modern airport—a $10-billion air terminal on reclaimed land on Manila Bay. SanMiguel Corp./CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is considering the proposal of San Miguel Corp. (SMC) to put up a $10-billion  international air gateway at a reclamation project in Manila Bay.

Michael Sagcal, Transportation department spokesman, said the agency was “very open” to the SMC proposal to establish the airport in the bay area covering the cities of Parañaque and Las Piñas.

“We invite SMC to make a more formal presentation and to submit a proposal to us,” Sagcal said in an interview, adding that the massive airport project was presented to Malacañang on Wednesday.

Transportation Secretary Joseph Abaya was present when SMC president Ramon Ang unveiled the airport plans to President Aquino. The project of SMC, which is part owner of flag carrier Philippine Airlines, would be located at CyberBay Corp.’s disputed waterfront reclamation project in Manila Bay, Sagcal said.

San Miguel, which owns a stake in flag carrier Philippine Airlines, told the Philippine Stock Exchange in a disclosure that reports of its bid to build the four-runway hub in Manila Bay were “accurate.”

It was not immediately clear how SMC’s airport project—an unsolicited proposal—would pan out since the DOTC earlier enlisted the help of the Japan International Cooperation Agency to identify a second gateway to the country.

Also, the Aquino administration maintains a stance against unsolicited proposals, stating on several occasions that it prefers an open bid process.

But Abaya said in a text message on Thursday that an unsolicited proposal “isn’t illegal or prohibited, but again, the bias is toward solicited open and transparent bidding, which SMC is open to.”

Abaya said in March that JICA had identified the former US naval base in Sangley Point, Cavite, south of Metro Manila, as an ideal location.

“If SMC’s proposal turns out to be viable, we will consider it alongside JICA’s recommendations,” Sagcal said.

Airlines are frustrated with heavy congestion and other woes at Manila’s existing international airport, which has been named the worst in the world for two years running by an online travel guide.

The airport was hit by air conditioning failures in sweltering weather last month, just as millions of Filipinos began traveling for the Easter holidays—forcing Aquino to make a public apology.

The airport was built in 1981 to service six million passengers a year, but its terminals handled more than 32 million in 2012, according to the airport authority.

Philippine Airlines and other carriers routinely suffer flight delays as Manila and other airports across the country struggle to handle surging traffic.

Manila’s Terminal 1 was named the worst in the world for the second year running in 2013 by travel website “The Guide to Sleeping in Airports”.

Travelers criticized its “dilapidated facilities,” airport workers—particularly taxi drivers—long waiting times and rude officials.—Inquirer With a report from Agence France-Presse

 

23rd World Economic Forum; Philippines to share remarkable Growth to 600 world leaders

Fri, 05/16/2014 - 11:54

WEF in Manila pre-conference briefing (From left) Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, and WEF head of Asia Sushant Palakurthi Rao (Likha Cuevas-Miel, InterAksyon.com)

 

WEF in MANILA | PH's 'remarkable story' draws in 600 world leaders to talk ASEAN, food security

At least 600 world leaders from 30 countries are expected to converge in Manila next week to see for themselves the 'remarkable' growth story of the Philippines during the 23rd World Economic Forum (WEF) on East Asia to thresh out top economic and developmental issues of the region.

East Asia has recorded the fastest growth in the world as the economies of developed nations still lumbered last year, with the Philippines leading the pack in Southeast Asia.

In a pre-conference briefing on Thursday, Tourism Secretary Ramon Jimenez, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima and WEF head of Asia Sushant Palakurthi Rao that this summit is a huge opportunity for the Philippines to showcase to the world its potential for investments. Moreover, it is also a chance for the Aquino administration to send the message to global leaders that its good governance platform bears good economic results.

"This is about capturing the mind share of decision makers. these are people we would like to expose to the Philippines. This is an opportunity to highlight the gains that we have had," said Purisima.

Participants in the WEF on East Asia in Manila are expected to arrive from member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), Japan, India, Hong Kong, UK, Australia, Switzerland, Pakistan and Belgium.

About 460 business leaders from 25 industry sectors are also joining the discussions on topics ranging from leadership to finance.

According to WEF, holding this year's conference in Manila is a vote of confidence on the country's 'remarkable story', a comeback kid of sorts as the Philippines continues to take the spotlight with its improving competitive rankings, credit rating upgrades and robust economy.

"The past hosts of the WEF represented the peak of interest in their respective countries, in 2010 it was Vietnam, in 2011 Indonesia, and then Myanmar. The Philippines has a remarkable story and has really achieved a turn in its economy. The participation numbers are a reflection of global interest in the Philippines," Rao said.

The Aquino administration is spending P71 million for hosting the WEF on East Asia at the Makati Shangri-la on May 21 to 23. The amount includes expenses for shuttles and hotel rooms for guests who will also be given free tours within and outside Metro Manila.

Among the benefits that this conference would bring to the country is the prestige as this would show to the world that the Philippines is not just a dot on the map.

"These are intangibles. Reputation is intangible, image is intangible, these are hard to  measure. The fact that they are here for the first time is a very important signal that they recognize the potential of the country," Purisima said.

Guillermo Luz, National Competitiveness Council private sector co-chair, the summit is expected to draw in more foreign direct investments (FDI) to the country, which could result to more jobs for Filipinos--as long as the government has the correct mindset in its pursuit of inclusive growth.

"Transport, infrastructure, those are the new frontiers to investment that we should promote. Let us take advantage of the problem areas that we have and turn it into FDI opportunities, bringing people here to see the opportunities and potential partnerships," Luz said.

Aside from this, the WEF also presents a great opportunity for leaders to discuss issues that need collective thought and action.

"[The WEF] will also be a platform to discuss challenges, and there are many challenges. But there is a collective will among leaders to address them together, and ensure that the economic performance of the region translates to inclusive growth and equitable progress for all," WEF's Rao said.

"Given the number of ministers, NGOs, civil society groups, it is an unprecedented opportunity to have a public-private dialogue, cross-sectoral dialogue that is hard to attain otherwise," he added.

ASEAN, food security

Among the topics that WEF would be tackling are the ASEAN Economic Integration that would commence next year.

Purisima said bringing the ASEAN integration to the fore is important as "intra-ASEAN trade is growing rapidly, and has even outpaced the growth of world trade."

As a collective, the ASEAN's gross domestic product is around $2 trillion.

Representatives from different parts of Asia will also be discussing regional security next week.

Regional tensions have risen in the past few weeks, with China and Vietnam's maritime skirmishes reaching new heights as it sparked deadly riots in the latter.

China claims almost the entire oil- and gas-rich South China Sea, junking rival claims to parts of it from Vietnam, the Philippines, Taiwan, Malaysia and Brunei. In the East China Sea, Beijing is locked in an increasingly bitter dispute with Japan.

China is skipping this year's WEF on East Asia but Rao said this does not have anything to do with the country's ongoing tensions with the Philippines.

Also included in the issues to be tackled is food security amid a climate-dictated future. Rao said the WEF summit would set the stage for a public-private dialogue towards achieving food security since "we need to feed a rapidly growing population."

With that as a centerpiece, WEF will be launching food security partnerships among the largest food and beverage companies and Asian governments, with the goal of providing livelihood and sustainability to the region through agricultural transformation.

Climate change is also on top of the list of issues to be discussed, specifically designing solutions or adopting business models to mitigate climate change-induced respire risks and vulnerabilities.

According to the Asian Development Bank, Asia in the last two decades has borne almost half of the global economic cost of natural disasters estimated at $53 billion a year. With a report from Likha Cuevas-Miel, InterAksyon.com

 

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Philippines Export double digits at 11.2% rise to $5.227 Billion from the $4.699 Billion US Dollars

Sun, 05/11/2014 - 14:24

Philippines - Merchandise exports posted a double-digit growth in March with an 11.2-percent rise to $5.227 billion from the $4.699 billion a year ago.

"The positive growth was mainly brought about by the increase of seven major commodities out of the top ten commodities for the month.  These are: bananas (fresh); machinery and transport equipment; ignition wiring set and other wiring sets used in vehicles, aircrafts and ships; other mineral products; woodcrafts and furniture; electronic products; and articles of apparel and clothing accessories," the Philippine Statistics Authority said.

It was the second consecutive month exports posted a double-digit growth, after the revised 11.6 percent registered earlier.

Electronic products took the lion's share in the earnings, accounting for a 41.4 percent of the total revenue. The country's top export posted a 10.1-percent increase to $2.166 billion from the $1.967 billion posted last year.

Japan was the country's top export destination, with a 25-percent share in the total receipts. This was followed by the United States, (13.7 percent), China (10.7 percent), Hong Kong (8 percent) and Singapore (7.5 percent).

Exports to East Asia accounted for 51.7 percent of the total, followed by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at 15.4 percent and the European Union which accounted for 11.8 percent. - philstar

 

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S&P Level up Philippine investment grade credit rating to "BBB" from "BBB-" & ST to "A-2" from "A-3"

Thu, 05/08/2014 - 22:00

 

Standard and Poor new credit rating for the Philippines raise up to "BBB" from "BBB-" & ST to "A-2" from "A-3": topnews.ae

S&P raises PHL credit rating a notch above investment grade

A year after it raised the Philippine sovereign debt rating to investment grade, Standard & Poor's Ratings Services again upgraded the country's foreign currency denominated and peso debts a notch above the coveted credit rating.

This time, the debt watcher gave the Philippines a long-term sovereign credit rating of "BBB" from "BBB-", and upgraded its short-term rating to "A-2" from "A-3".

“The outlook is stable,” the debt-watcher noted, signifying a change in the ratings will not likely happen in the next 12 months.

"We raised the ratings because we now believe the ongoing reforms to address shortcomings in structural, administrative, institutional, and governance areas will endure beyond the current administration," Standard & Poor's credit analyst Agost Benard noted in an e-mailed statement to reporters.

The debt watcher also noted the upgrade "reflects the country's strong external liquidity and international investment position, combined with an effective monetary policy framework relative to the country's income level," while maintaining low inflation and interest rates.

The upgrade from S&P came a month after Fitch Ratings affirmed the investment grade on the country's foreign currency denominated and peso debts.

S&P gave the Philippines an investment grade rating on May 2, 2013. It was the second upgrade from practically junk status since Fitch Ratings gave the Southeast Asian country its first ever investment grade status in March 2013.

In a separate statement, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima noted the S&P upgrade was a recognition of the "remarkable economic comeback" the Philippines has so far achieved since President Benigno Aquino III took over the helm of government in 2010.

"This is further proof of President Aquino's belief that good governance is good economics," he said.

"We will continue to institutionalize good governance so our country's economic growth is both sustainable and inclusive. This has been the 19th positive credit rating action since President Aquino took office and the fourth upgrade from S&P," Purisima added.  

In raising the ratings, S&P said: "We expect ongoing reforms on a broad range of structural, administrative, institutional, and governance issues to endure beyond the term of the current administration."

Bangko Sentral Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said this is a major feat, as S&P did a straight upgrade without first assigning "... a positive outlook before upgrading the rating.

"This action is further affirmation of the country's strong macroeconornic fundamentals," he said, noting the Philippines has proven it can sustain growth since S&P raised the Philippine credit rating to investment grade last year, the central bank chief said.

The central bank will continue to support growth amid a low-inflation environment, Tetangco said.

"We stand ready to adjust our monetary policy stance and adopt macroprudential measures, as appropriate, to guard against risks that would unsettle inflation expectations and threaten the soundness of our financial system," he said.

"We will also continue to craft external sector policies that will help keep our external liquidity position strong," Tetangco added.  – VS, GMA News

 

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Team of Philippine Scientists starts Exploring the 14 Million has. "Benham Rise" New Philippine Territory

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 21:41

Benham Rise is a shallow bathymetric feature, east of Luzon, that towers above the adjacent deep ocean floor. The shallowest part, which is Benham Bank, is less than 50 meters deep. NAMRIA image

Scientists explore new Philippine territory bigger than Luzon

Philippine scientists have started to conduct surveys on the potentially oil-rich Benham Rise, a largely unexplored territory larger than Luzon recently approved by the United Nations as part of the Philippines' continental shelf.

The team, led by University of the Philippines (UP) oceanographer Hildie Nacorda of the UP Diliman Marine Science Institute (MSI), left May 3 on board a Philippine research vessel for the first-ever benthic survey of the 13-million hectare area off the eastern coast of Aurora province. The team aims to map the bottom of the ecological region of the sea.

Images from the Benham Rise Program, a collaborative research cruise between UP MSI, UPLB and BFAR. 

"At anchor at Benham Bank [with] 50-m and 2-knot currents. Trying drop cam[era] to take a peek at bottom. [We're] all okay. A few [are] seasick. Good weather!" the team said on Twitter on Tuesday.

On Tuesday afternoon, two of the researchers have touched the lowest part of Benham, reporting "120 percent coral cover." The members of the Benham Rise Program from UP also said they have captured "fascinating" videos of the benthic area.

Nacorda's group is expected to conduct surveys for two weeks which can pave the way for further research and exploration in the region, a UP statement said.

UP marine law expert Jay Batongbacal said that initial samplings from the undersea plateau point to huge deposits of natural gas and a rich source of manganese nodules. Batongbacal was part of the team that defended the Philippines' claim over Benham Rise before the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea panel, which gave its approval in April 2012.

MSI along with foreign research partners and a representative from the Philippine Navy set out for the first oceanographic survey of Benham Rise as part of the Philippines in 2012 following the UN approval. The Philippines was the sole claimant of Benham Rise.

The first group, aboard a vessel belonging to Scripps Research Institute,  investigated the effects of Pacific Ocean currents on the productivity of the seas in the eastern Luzon area.

Lead investigator Cesar Villanoy from UP said the undersea area is the "least studied of Philippine waters."

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources had said that Benham Rise is a potentially oil-rich region that may provide energy for the country and for export. 

"We own Benham Rise now. This is for future Filipnos," Environment Secretary Ramon Paje had said.

Named after American geologist Andrew Benham, the plateau was first mapped in 1933 when it was yet to be acknowledged part of the Philippine shelf. - philSTAR

 

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USA to build-transfer Nuclear Technology to Vietnam, Mindanao Brownout up to 2016 - Plants close jobless rise, Philippines DOE NGA-NGA!..

Wed, 05/07/2014 - 15:33

David Shear, US ambassador to Vietnam (L), and Nguyen Quan, Vietnam’s Minister of Science and Technology clap their hands after signing a civilian nuclear pact in Hanoi on Tuesday. PHOTO COURTESY OF VIETNAMNET

Nuclear Power for Mindanao on study for 200 years research- DOST ??

Mindanao businessmen have appealed to the government to consider setting up a nuclear power plant in the region, which has been experiencing daily rotating brownouts  since 2010  and expected to last until 2016 or beyond.

If renewable are insufficient to meet the economy-driven burgeoning demand for power, we need even to look into nuclear power.  Most countries in the world with cheap electricity have nuclear power.”

President Benigno Aquino III has expressed openness to a proposal to use modern nuclear power technology in Mindanao to address the power shortage in the region.

Aquino said what is important is to ensure that whatever nuclear power plant is built in Mindanao will conform to international safety standards, citing the radiation case in Fukushima, Japan.

"We will study that," Aquino said in a press briefing on Monday.

Former lawmaker Mark Cojuangco, during the 2012 power summit in Davao City, has proposed the use of small modular reactors, a relatively new and supposedly safer form of nuclear power, for Mindanao.

"There is an ongoing study (on the possible use of nuclear power in Mindanao) by the Department of Science and Technology," the President said. (Interaksyon)

Commentary: If the Philippine Government is serious to solve the Blackout in Mindanao which expected to last for more than 6 years, then only Nuclear Power is the answer. USA could grant a build and transfer of nuclear Technology for Mindanao like Vietnam . How long would it takes for DOST to Study? The technology is already there.... then what's the contribution of DOST? To build its own NUCLEAR Plant that would last for 100 or 200 years research? Even Geothermal plant technology are imported then what's the capability of DOST to make its own Nuclear power plant?

Noynoy Aquino loves challenge right? yeah we all love challenges so face this Mindanao Problem Mr. President now!. Let the AFP handle the peace and order and DOE to work for Power crisis because majority of the people in Mindanao are living in peace and wants this blackout to end NOW!!

Manufacturing plants in Mindanao are keep on shutting down because of the continous black out and lay-off or fired many employees... resulting to continuously rising of JOBLESS in Mindanao. 

Mindanao is safe and less prone from earthquake than Luzon. Many parts of Mindanao are "Fault-line Free" which means it's safe to build nuclear plants in those areas .. and DOST knew it.

US to tap Vietnam’s nuclear power market under new pact

The United States and Vietnam Tuesday signed a deal on civilian nuclear energy that will allow the US to transfer technology and sell its reactors to the Southeast Asian nation.

The so-called “123 agreement” was signed by US ambassador to Vietnam David Shear and Vietnam’s Minister of Science and Technology Nguyen Quan in Hanoi, under the authorization of President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung.

“This agreement will create opportunities for Vietnam to access the US modern technology in the nuclear power field, as well as pave the way for US companies to invest in Vietnamese market,” said Nguyen Quan.

Meanwhile, David Shear said the pact would build a solid foundation for the cooperation between Vietnam and the US in the civil nuclear sector.

Vietnam is pursuing nuclear energy in order to deal with its present shortage of energy. The country hopes nuclear power to provide more than 10 percent of its total power generation needs by 2030.- Thanh Nien News

 

Philippines debt-to-GDP ratio dropped from 40.6% in 2012 to 39.2 % in 2013

Sun, 05/04/2014 - 23:54

 

Debt-to-GDP ratio eases to 39.2% in ’13

 

Philippines - The ratio of government debt to gross domestic product eased further to 39.2 percent last year from 40.6 percent in 2012.

In a report, the Department of Finance said the government’s debt to GDP declined to ₱4.53 billion as of the end of December 2013.

Government debt to GDP, which peaked at 78.1 percent during the Asian financial crisis in 1997, has been on a downward trend in the past few years as the Aquino administration stepped up efforts to manage the country’s debt.

Generally, government debt as a percent of GDP is used by investors to measure a country’s ability to make future payments on its debt, thus affecting its borrowing costs and government bond yields.

This continuing trend of decreasing general government debt-to-GDP ratio shows government’s efforts to ensure sustained fiscal space throughout the medium term.

The decrease in government debt level was attributed to the ongoing fiscal consolidation with deficit accounting for only 1.3 percent of the country’s total economic output.

Apart from this, the government took advantage of broadly favorable domestic funding conditions in 2013 to redenominate away from foreign currency debt.

Of the P554.7-billion gross borrowing for the year, 94 percent came from the domestic market while the remaining six-percent comprised concessional foreign loans from development partners.

This helped reduce the foreign debt component of government debt to only ₱1.95 trillion or 34.3 percent of the total outstanding debt.

A decrease of local government debt to ₱71 billion from ₱73.4 billion likewise helped trim the ratio.

The intra-sector debt holdings of local government also declined to ₱3 billion from ₱3.1 billion.

Under the consolidated general government debt, the obligations of the Philippine government, the Central Bank Board of Liquidators, social security institutions (SSIs) and local government units are taken into account.

The consolidated debt also nets out public holdings of government securities, including the Bureau of the Treasury’s bond sinking fund (BSF).

The combined investment in government securities of the GSIS and the SSS, meanwhile, rose to ₱474.6 billion from ₱453.7 billion in 2012. - philSTAR

 

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

Thu, 05/01/2014 - 13:41

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

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Australia, Philippines scrambling to boost air forces For China

Wed, 04/30/2014 - 15:37

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

Mon, 04/14/2014 - 00:13

photo: ph.austronesia.net

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

Sun, 04/13/2014 - 20:07

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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Philippines told China "watch your words"

Sat, 04/12/2014 - 18:17

 

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.

 

 

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