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Mayor Rudy Duterte decided for Presidential race in 2016's aim for New Federal Government

Mon, 01/26/2015 - 19:38

Duterte eyes abolition of Congress - Yahoo

Duterte eyes abolition of CongressIf elected president in 2016BUTUAN CITY – Davao City Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has vowed to end corruption by abolishing Congress, as well as increasing the salaries of government employees, if he is elected president.Duterte however, clarified that he has not decided yet to run in 2016, saying he is still waiting for divine guidance."I will not run if I think I can't make significant changes or reforms in our country. That's why I am still awaiting for a sign from God," he said.The Davao mayor said he would replace Congress with a parliamentary federal form of government."If we will follow the presidential form of government, it will take us 40 to 50 years before we can achieve the needed reforms," Duterte told guests during the Federalism Forum here last Thursday.He also promised to streamline the bureaucracy, privatize the Bureau of Internal Revenue and other government collection agencies, and put an end to insurgency.He said private and government workers earning ₱25,000 Php per month and below would be exempted from paying taxes.The tax collection system will be simplified to avoid corruption. - Yahoo News

Philippine Navy will buy 3 Submarines, 12 corvettes in 15 years from $11.1 Billion USD Budget plan

Tue, 01/13/2015 - 23:48

Pagasa (Hope) Island, part of the disputed Spratly group of islands, in the South China Sea located off the coast of western Philippines Image Credit: REUTERS/Rolex Dela Pena/Pool

The Philippine Navy’s 15-year Strategic Development Plan: (“Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix” envisages a surface)

* Sub-surface and aerial assets including major “big-ticket items” such as six anti-air warfare-oriented frigates, 12 corvettes optimized for anti-submarine warfare (ASW)

* 18 offshore patrol vessels, three submarines

* 3 mine countermeasures vessels, up to four Strategic Support Vessels (SSVs)

* Up to 8 Amphibious Maritime Patrol Aircraft

* 18 naval helicopters equipped for ASW

The Philippine Navy’s Submarine Quest

How realistic are plans for the Philippines to acquire submarines?

During a modernization briefing on December 17, Philippine Navy (PN) vice-chief Rear Admiral Caesar Taccad revealed future plans to acquire at least three submarines, as part of a follow-up to the ongoing 15-year P90-billion Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) modernization program.

The South China Sea disputes are no doubt a key motivation, when the rear-admiral remarked that “the events in the West Philippine Sea actually gave some urgency on the acquisition,” referring to the overall PN plan to purchase new assets, including a ten-year timeline for submarine purchase.

The PN’s 15-year Strategic Development Plan, revolving around the “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix” envisages a surface, sub-surface and aerial assets including major “big-ticket items” such as six anti-air warfare-oriented frigates, 12 corvettes optimized for anti-submarine warfare (ASW), 18 offshore patrol vessels, three submarines, three mine countermeasures vessels, up to four Strategic Support Vessels (SSVs), up to eight Amphibious Maritime Patrol Aircraft, and 18 naval helicopters equipped for ASW. Not counting a significant number of coastal patrol assets, fleet auxiliaries and other aerial support platforms.

If all purchase options are to be exercised, a sustained long-term funding commitment is required. In May 2012, the PN authorities remarked that the upgrade will cost P500 billion ($11.1 billion). It is not certain whether the plan can survive the incumbent Aquino administration, which has thus far demonstrated zeal in propellingmodest but nonetheless significant acquisitions (within available fiscal means), including two new-build SSVs and two former U.S. Coast Guard cutters.

Prioritizing the South China Sea

Among the assets desired, submarines would be ideal sea denial assets to deter China’s moves against Manila’s South China Sea interests. But assuming China is the foremost adversary in mind, the submarine acquisition will not necessarily be a game changer. Still, while three submarines cannot plausibly alter the naval balance of power in the contested waters, they may potentially complicate Chinese naval planning. Also facing significant force asymmetry with China, Vietnam’s submarine purchase in 2009 was undertaken with a similar approach.

The only question is whether sea denial alone is sufficient. Manila needs to do more than just ensure continuous access to its garrisoned Spratlys features for resupply and reinforcements. In the event of hostilities, the Philippines would need to have the capability to recapture features seized by adversarial forces. The Philippine maritime services, which collectively include the Navy, Coast Guard, National Police, and Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources, face a more immediate challenge of unfriendly coast guard-type actions backed by naval surface forces in Philippine-claimed waters. What these services need are more surface assets possessing high endurance and good seakeeping qualities to allow the projection and sustainment of Philippine maritime presence in where it matters most.

In an operating scenario where contending parties endeavor to maintain a visible naval presence to assert sovereignty in disputed waters, submarines have less utility. Remaining surfaced simply contradicts the submarine’s basic design ethos, which is to stay invisible and hidden until the opportune moment comes to surprise the enemy, fire the sub’s weapons, and scoot away unscathed.

In peacetime, submarines do have a role in intelligence gathering. A submarine is useful for closely monitoring hostile activities in disputed areas where surface forces are unable to do so, as seen in the case of Vietnamese vessels being blocked by the China Coast Guard from getting too near the HYSY981 oil rig off the Paracel Islands in May 2014.

That said, submarines serve mainly a wartime sea denial role, yet their peacetime utility besides deterrence would be limited. Funding constraints would circumscribe the present purchases to priority platforms such as surface assets. The PN authorities are well aware of this. Taccad made this point clearly. Not only did he recognize that submarines “take a lot of gestation period” but he also remarked that the first capability to be acquired will be “what we can afford and yet cover a large space and this will be the patrol vessels. These are low-tech equipment, and low-cost. You can have more and cover a large space.”

Insurmountable Cost Issues?

Indeed, unlike surface assets, submarines are more expensive to acquire when one has to consider not just boats but the entire package of training, infrastructure, spares, maintenance, repair and overhaul – all necessitating long-term investments underpinned by political will and fiscal commitments. But it is important to note that these problems are not insurmountable.

In May 2012, a report published by the Center for a New American Security (CNAS) wrote that the Philippines requires, amongst various modern air and naval assets, “an affordable force of four to six mini-submarines” for credible defense against growing Chinese belligerence in the South China Sea. There are indeed cheaper options on the market if full-sized diesel-electric submarines displacing over 1,000-3,000 tons submerged are beyond reach. Coastal submarines displacing 1,000 tons or less submerged, for instance the SMX-23 built by French DCNS, are available for cost-constrained navies. After all, due to initial budget constraints Vietnam first operated North Korean-built mini-submarines in the 1990s before finally acquiring the larger, vastly superiorKilo class.

Second-hand boats could be another possible, cost-effective pathway for the PN to acquire and accumulate sufficient know-how before purchasing newer boats. Singapore first acquired the 1960s-era ex-SwedishSjöormen-class boats for training before acquiring the newer Västergotland-class and lately, Type-218SG boats to be designed and constructed in Germany. This is an example of an incremental strategy taking into account prevailing fiscal, human capital, and other resource constraints.

Finally, Manila may offset some of the expenses by seeking external ancillary assistance, for example agreements analogous to the Indonesia-Singapore and Singapore-Vietnam submarine rescue pacts. On the whole, though, even with external help, submarine acquisition remains a costly, operationally, and technically challenging enterprise that warrants prudent, long-term measures.

A Phased Submarine Plan?

In fact, back in December 1999, then PN Vice Admiral Luisito Fernandez revealed that the navy created a “core group” to evaluate submarine acquisition by 2010. This announcement came about a year after the Second Mischief Reef Incident with China. But the AFP was then preoccupied with counter-insurgency operations in the Mindanao region. As a result, the land forces received the lion’s share of limited defense funding. Not only was submarine acquisition by 2010 impossible, the bulk of the antiquated Philippine Fleet continued its downward slide into disrepair without major revitalization efforts.

But the context today and in the foreseeable future is different. Manila at present has a long PN upgrade wish list but recognizes funding constraints. In recent years, Philippine defense and naval planners had revealed policy thinking that indicated firm commitment to the submarine quest.

In August 2011, Aquino noted that the PN was exploring the possibility of submarine procurement. At the time,then PN chief Vice Admiral Alexander Pama expressed caution, calling the plan “a complicated matter” and pointed out that “we don’t want to commit a mistake by jumping into something. As I said, we don’t want to buy something which eventually we cannot chew and swallow.” He said the PN would look into the practicality of purchasing submarines.

Even though a lump-sum P500 billion for the PN upgrade is unavailable, it is misleading to call current ongoing acquisitions an ad-hoc effort. The initial phase comprises a combination of new-build and second-hand purchases, such as the AW109 helicopters and cutters which enter service in 2013-15. Successive tranches of funding would sustain follow-on phases, such as a P75 billion AFP modernization program in May 2013 that prioritizes a navy upgrade envisaging two brand-new frigates, two ASW-capable helicopters, and three coastal patrol vessels by 2017.

In October 2013, then commander of the Northern Luzon Command Major General Gregorio Pio Catapang reiterated the desire for three submarines as part of the “Philippine Fleet Desired Force Mix.” Catapang stressed the need for military procurements to adhere to national strategic or operational requirements, as opposed to an expedient approach driven by external military aid. In his current capacity as AFP chief of staff, Catapang recently noted the need for the armed forces to become reoriented to external defense. The comment adds impetus to the submarine commitment.

Manila’s submarine acquisition is not meant to be mere symbolism. Operational thought has been devoted to conceiving a force size capable of sustainable deployment. If it is impossible to purchase three submarines, Taccad mentioned, the PN would settle for two, so that one boat is deployable while the other is undergoing routine maintenance. The alternative to acquiring submarines, he also noted, would be missile-armed frigates, referring to the new frigates as well as the potential retrofit of missiles on board the existing pair of cutters to serve as a deterrent and backup for patrols against foreign harassment.

ASW First, Submarines Next?

Judging from what has transpired, a phased submarine plan appears to be in the works. The December 17 revelation of having established a submarine office in 2013, plausibly a follow-up to the “core group” created in 1999, represents the first modest step forward.

It is clear that the PN has been paying attention to the submarine and ASW sector, which is logical in view of the regional submarine proliferation. The PN is keen to first acquire an ASW capability in the interim before finally acquiring submarines. This step, together with possible future ASW joint training with close allies who have submarines, would in the near-term give the Filipinos more insights on undersea warfare.

In fact, the push for ASW capabilities runs alongside the longer-term project for submarines, as part of the PN’s “Active Archipelagic Defense Strategy.” On several occasions since 2013, the PN has expressed its intent todevelop an ASW capability in the long term, in particular shipboard and helicopter ASW. Unprecedented (albeit still modest) efforts were made to realize this. In the first half of 2014, the PN announced its aim of acquiring two ASW helicopters, having allocated P5.4 billion to fund the purchase. This was followed up by an invite to bid for the program, which is part of the Medium-Term Development Capability Plan (MTDCP) 2013-2017. It was further augmented in late September 2014 when Manila issued another “invitation to bid” document to purchase a pair of ASW helicopters.

Where surface ASW is concerned, the PN is slated to receive a decommissioned, ex-ROK Navy Pohang-class corvette by end of 2014, with Philippine defense authorities saying that there is a good chance that the ship would be delivered with all combat systems intact, including ASW capabilities such as hull-mounted submarine-hunting sonar, torpedo tubes, and depth charge racks. Local efforts are also underway to develop ASW capabilities for the PN, for example Project Ilalim (Filipino for “under”) conducted by the Naval Research and Development Center to study and develop indigenous sonar systems for the PN.

These efforts to acquire an ASW capability, which is financially and technically more feasible to accomplish in the shorter term, would presage the PN’s eventual acquisition of an undersea capability. For the funding-constrained PN, this represents a logical approach, albeit an incremental one, towards eventually attaining a submarine capability. After all, acquiring ASW knowhow is a crucial first step towards gaining an undersea capability.

Learning from Other Regional Submarine Aspirants?

While skeptics may be tempted to dismiss this recent Philippine move to acquire submarines, Manila’s plan is no mere pipe dream. The PN is actually taking a deliberate approach in incremental phases to systematically induct submarines as part of the overall modernization effort. This pathway is no different from some other regional navies which had sought to build submarine capabilities from scratch.

The Indo-Pacific maritime region is in fact resplendent with national examples, besides Singapore and Vietnam, on how to start from low-base and implement long-term, phased submarine capacity-building efforts. For instance, despite having missed the chance to purchase second-hand German Type-206 submarines, Thailand created a shore-based submarine training center, equipped with a full-size replica of submarine command and control room, to kick-start training and accumulation of basic undersea warfare expertise. Bangladesh, having sent officers abroad for submarine training before it recently decided to purchase submarines, is another instructive example.

These examples would not have gone unnoticed by Philippine defense and naval planners. Indeed, ongoing Philippine efforts may well have already taken lessons from these examples. As such, while Manila’s submarine acquisition plan will take time to materialize, it is important not to underestimate its resolve.

If anything, the recent disclosure of having taking steps to establish a submarine capability ought to provide a major morale boost to the AFP and send a strong message to potential adversaries. Given sufficient political will and a well-conceived long-term strategy, Manila has the ability to overcome the hurdles it will face in the submarine acquisition process.

Koh Swee Lean Collin is associate research fellow at the Institute of Defence and Strategic Studies, a constituent unit of the S. Rajaratnam School of International Studies based in Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. - The Diplomat 



Philippines vs. China: Law and Disorder in the South China Sea

Mon, 01/12/2015 - 16:40

Generalizations about Asian cultures are often misleading, if not despicably orientalist. But I would dare to say that the Philippines is a nation of lawyers, while China is a nation of strategists and business-minded leaders. And this partly explains how the two countries approach the South China Sea disputes.

Owing to its glaring conventional military inferiority, the Philippines has embarked on an unprecedented journey: Launching a legal warfare, dubbed as "lawfare," against China. Manila hopes to leverage international law to rein in China's relentless push across disputed waters in the South China Sea. In a nation of lawyers, the local media has tirelessly sought the views and analysis of lawyers rather than military strategists and foreign affairs experts, who may have a better grasp of the realities on the ground.

In the public sphere, there is minimal discussion of the intricacies of Chinese political system, the advent of popular nationalism and its impact on foreign policy, and complex decision-making processes that determine Beijing's territorial policy. Often, panel discussions among experts boil down to the various articles of the UNCLOS and the arbitration proceedings in The Hague. The upper-echelons of the Philippines' Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) is also dominated by legal strategists. Leading geopolitical experts are often ignored.

Astonishingly, the Philippines' Department of Defense (DOD) recently postponed the refurbishment of its facilities on the Thitu (Pag-Asa to Filipinos) island, which is among the most prized features in the South China Sea, in order to supposedly maintain Manila's "moral high ground" amid the arbitration proceedings against China. In many ways, lawfare is the name of the game in the Philippines. Discussions on pro-active diplomacy and military modernization often take the backseat.

Meanwhile, China has combined diplomatic charm-offensive, anchored by multi-billion trade and investment deals across the Asia-Pacific theatre, with ruthless military strategy, featuring massive construction projects and para-military patrols across disputed waters. So far, China has astutely used economic incentives and diplomatic acrobatics to dispel any form of unity among Southeast Asia countries on the South China Sea disputes. It remains to be seen whether China and the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) can even agree on the guidelines of a Code of Conduct (CoC) across disputed waters anytime soon.

The question therefore is: Does this mean that the Philippines did the right thing by resorting to compulsory arbitration against China?

A Historic Battle

The month of December has been particularly eventful. China, the U.S. and Vietnam have all expressed their position on the legal aspects of the maritime spats in the South China Sea. And China has officially boycotted the arbitration proceedings by refusing to submit a counter-memorial to the Arbitral Tribunal in The Hague before the December 15 deadline.

China reiterated its outright opposition to any form of third party arbitration vis-a-vis sovereignty disputes in the South China Sea by releasing a position paper on Dec 7, which contains three major arguments. First, Beijing contends that the special arbitral tribunal at The Hague, where the Philippines filed a memorial earlier this year, has no jurisdiction over the issue, since the UNCLOS does not accord it the mandate to address what are essentially sovereignty-related issues. Although China is a signatory to treaty, it has exercised its right (under Article 298) to absolve itself of any compulsory arbitration (under Article 287 and Annex VII) over territorial delimitation issues, among other things.

Second, China maintains that, based on supposed "historical rights," it exercises "inherent and indisputable" sovereignty over the disputed features, including those that fall well within the Philippines' 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ).Third, Beijing asserts that the Philippines violated prior bilateral and multilateral agreements (that is, the 2002 Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, known as the DoC) by initiating a compulsory arbitration procedure under UNCLOS.

Interestingly, the position paper was released a week before the Monday deadline for China to submit its formal position, or defence, to the arbitral tribunal. The Philippines, in response, maintains that it is China that has violated the DoC by unilaterally altering the status quo through expansive construction activities, widening paramilitary patrols and coercive behavior within the South-east Asian country's EEZ, specifically in the Scarborough Shoal in 2012 and, more recently, in the Second Thomas Shoal.

The Philippines also maintains that the arbitral tribunal has the mandate to interpret the parameters of China's right to opt out of compulsory arbitration procedures. For the Philippines, its legal case is perfectly consistent with the mandate of the arbitration body, since its memorial focuses on whether China's notorious "nine-dashed-line" claim is consistent with international law, and the determination of the nature of disputed features (under Article 121) --specifically, whether they can be appropriated or occupied and generate their own respective territorial waters.

Joining the Fray

While the US does not take a position on the sovereignty claims in the South China Sea, it has indirectly supported the Philippines by supporting the resolution of the disputes in accordance with international law as well as questioning the validity of China's claims.The US State Department's position paper, released on Dec. 5, has raised issues with the "nine-dashed-line" doctrine, arguing that China's expansive claims lack precision and consistency.

After all, China has not unambiguously specified the exact coordinates of its territorial claims. It is not clear whether China claims much of the South China Sea, treating it as a virtual internal lake, or simply claims the land features in the area and their surrounding waters per se. The US, similar to most independent legal experts, also maintains that China's claim to historical rights over the South China Sea waters is not consistent with international law. China has neither exercised continuous and uncontested sovereignty over the area, nor does the South China Sea -- an artery of global trade, connecting the Pacific and Indian Oceans -- constitute a bay or any form of near-coastal water that can be appropriated based on historical rights-related claims.

In short, China's claims far exceed -- if not entirely contradict -- modern international law, specifically UNCLOS. Although the US is not a signatory to treaty, it has observed the international convention in its naval operations.

To the surprise of many observers, Vietnam joined the fray by submitting a position paper to the arbitral tribunal in The Hague last Friday, which contains three main points: It expressed its support for the Philippines' case; questioned the "nine-dashed-line" doctrine; and asked the arbitral tribunal to give due regard to Vietnam's rights and interests. Vietnam's maneuver will most likely have no significant impact on the pending legal case between the Philippines and China, but it carries significant political implications.

In recent months, Vietnam has been engaged in a sustained diplomatic effort to normalize relations with China and prevent another crisis in the disputed areas, especially in the light of the oil rig crisis in the South China Sea this year, which sparked huge protests in Vietnam and placed the two countries on the verge of armed confrontation. Vietnam's bold threat to join the Philippines' legal efforts against China carries the risk of renewed tensions in the South China Sea and of undermining tenuous, but critical, diplomatic channels between Hanoi and Beijing.

It seems, however, that Vietnam is hedging its bets by dangling the threat of joining a common legal front against China as a form of deterrence against further provocations in the future.With both the Philippines and the US explicitly questioning China's expansive claims in recent months, Vietnam perhaps felt compelled to reiterate its position on the issue and underline its right to resort to existing international legal instruments to address potentially explosive territorial disputes.

A Pyrrhic War?

Nonetheless, despite the unanimity of opinion and statements by Filipino, Vietnamese and American officials on the legal dimensions of China's claims in the South China Sea, it is far from clear whether Beijing will re-consider its policy in adjacent waters.

Ultimately, China could respond to growing international pressure by hardening its position. It can accelerate efforts at consolidating its claims on the ground, vehemently reject any unfavorable arbitration outcome as an affront to its national integrity, and impose sanctions on and/or diplomatically isolate the Philippines as a form of reprisal. After all, there are no existing compliance-enforcement mechanisms to compel China to act contrary to its position and interests.

Beyond sovereignty claims, the very credibility of international law is also at stake. As Columbia University Professor Matthew C. Waxman succintly puts it, "For the UNCLOS system -- as a body of rules and binding dispute settlement mechanisms -- prominence and credibility are at stake. A decision that the arbitral panel has jurisdiction," could put the arbitration body at the risk of "being ignored, derided and marginalized by the biggest player in the region." In the end, there may be no clear winners.

An original version of this piece was printed on the Straits Times.

Duterte: Davao City aims Davao Railway Project Completed by 2016

Thu, 11/27/2014 - 21:40

Representatives from the Korean Engineering Company (KEC) will be reporting by March next year on its findings for a possible railway line in the city, according to the city council committee chair on transportation.

In an interview Wednesday, transport committee chair Tomas Monteverde IV told reporters that the engineers were already conducting studies on which possible railway project could be apt for the city.

“We have a choice of going for a system like a rail subway or a train line on an elevated platform,” Monteverde said.

The councilor added that the city was also inclined to have the railway system being operated on a build-operate-transfer system under a public-private partnership.

In October, Mayor Rodrigo R. Duterte visited South Korea to speak with KEC representatives on the proposed project.

Duterte had earlier said that he wanted to see a Davao City railway project being finished before his term ends in 2016.

However, Duterte told reporters in a press forum early November that he would prefer the cheapest version of the railway project that the city could afford.

Monteverde said the city was also willing for the railway project to be financed by a loan.

The councilor added that the city government would be pushing for the reduction of the number of vehicles on the streets once the railway project is completed.

“We can’t be like the situation in Manila,” Monteverde said, referring to an influx of vehicles after the creation of several railway projects such as the Metro Rail and Light Rail Transit projects. - Mindanao News



El Nido Palawan Island is now the island in the world Over Maldives and Islands in Hawaii?

Thu, 10/23/2014 - 18:49

Rugged beauty: Palawan is a popular base for island-hopping tourists. Photo:

The best island in the world! Travellers vote the little-known Philippines outcrop of Palawan as the most exotic on Earth
  • Palawan claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014
  • It was largely thanks to the Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, one of the top natural wonders of the world
  • At nearly five miles in length, Puerto Princesa is the second longest subterranean river in the world


An island that boasts crystal clear waters, incredible beaches and one of the newest natural wonders of the world has been named the best in the world by readers of a leading travel magazine.

The idyllic island of Palawan in the Philippines claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards for 2014.

And it’s largely thanks to its latest claim to fame: Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been named one of the world’s best natural wonders.

Stunning: Palawan Island in the Philippines has been named the top island in Conde Nast Traveler’s Readers’ Choice Awards. Photo:

Puerto Princesa Subterranean River, a Unesco World Heritage Site, has been named one of the world’s best natural wonders. Photo:


Best in the world: The idyllic island of Palawan claimed top spot based on over 76,000 votes. Photo:


Undersea adventures: Palawan is home to some of the best locations for snorkelling and diving.  Photo:

At nearly five miles in length, Puerto Princesa is the longest underground river in Asia and the second longest in the world.

Visitors on guided boat tours travel through a subterranean cave system featuring large chambers, stalactites and stalagmites. 

Home to amazing locations for snorkelling and diving, Palawan province has a second Unesco World Heritage Site that is popular spot for undersea adventurers –Tubbataha Reef National Marine Park.

Palawan's beauty and thrilling outdoor or undersea adventures are no secret to the world.

It was once named of the best islands in the world by National Geographic Traveler.

Getting there isn't too difficult by air - the average flight lasts around 75 minutes - but a ride on a ferry boat takes around 24 hours. 

The island is known as the Philippines' 'last frontier' because it is part of the far western Palawan province, with its southern tip just north of Malaysia.

Palawan Island edged some of the most popular destinations in the world for top spot on the list of the world's 30 best islands.

Breath-taking: Tourists walk on a beach as a rainbow forms in the background. Photo:

At nearly five miles in length, Puerto Princesa is the longest underground river in Asia and the second longest in the world. Photo:

Palawan edged some of the most popular destinations in the world to claim top spot on the list of the world's 30 best islands. Photo:

Tourists can reach Palawan by plane or ferry with flights from Manila lasting just 75 minutes. Photo:

Kiawah Island, South Carolina, came in second, followed by the islands of Maui and Kauai in Hawaii. Bazaruto Archipelago in Mozambique rounded out the top five.

Sixth through tenth were Great Barrier Reef and Whitsunday Islands in Australia, Santorini and Cyclades in Greece, St. John in the US Virgin Islands, Kangaroo Island in Australia, and Big Island in Hawaii.

None of the UK’s islands managed to crack the top 30. - Mail Online


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Philippines' biggest wind farm to be completed by November –EDC

Tue, 10/21/2014 - 12:01


PHL's biggest wind farm to be completed by November –EDC The Philippines will have its largest wind farm once geothermal and renewable energy producer Energy Development Corp. completes the 150-MW Burgos Wind Project in Ilocos Norte by end-November.   "We are targeting to complete the 150-MW [wind farm] by end-November 2014," EDC executive vice president Ernesto Pantangco told GMA News Online in a text message.   Groundbreaking for the Burgos Wind Project took place in April 2013 while the Construction for the initial 87 MW capacity of the wind farm started in June 2013.   The company recently closed a $315-million loan from foreign and local banks for the completion of the wind farm project.   By the time it is completed, the Burgos Wind Project will be the largest wind farm in the Philippines, with a total of 50 large-scale Vestas V90-3.0MW wind turbines and an ancillary plant to be supplied and constructed by global wind turbine manufacturer Vestas.     The project is also one of the largest investments to date in Ilocos Norte as it occupies a 600 hectare site covering three barangays, namely, Saoit, Poblacion and Nagsurot, in Burgos, Ilocos Norte.   Once it starts operations, the project will provide 370 GWh of electricity to power approximately 2 million households, EDC president and COO Richard Tantoco said in a statement.   "We also will displace about 200,000 tons of carbon emissions annually,” he added.   The end-November target is for the company to be the first to avail of the Feed-In-Tariff, which the Department of Energy (DOE) will grant to 200 MW of wind projects on a "first to commission, first served" basis, Tantoco said.   Under the FIT system pursuant to the Renewable Energy Act of 2008, the Energy Regulatory Commission will give guaranteed payments on a fixed rate per kilowatt-hour—called FIT rates—for power producers harnessing renewable energy.   "With construction in full swing, we are confident that we will meet our target commissioning date and avail of the Feed-in-Tariff,” Tantoco said.


Source: TJD, GMA News



Solar News - 9TV rebrands as CNN Philippines for 5 years

Thu, 10/16/2014 - 16:18

Yahoo Southeast Asia Newsroom - CNN arrives in the Philippines. - Image:

9TV rebrands as CNN Philippines

It started out as a joke. Nine Media Corporation chairman Antonio Cabangon-Chua and his friends bantered about bringing CNN to the country. Then they realized it could be done. 

That eventually led to Tuesday’s official announcement of the rebranding of the former ambassador to Laos’ 9TV, formerly Solar News, to CNN Philippines—the result of 1 year and 4 months of negotiation with CNN International (CNNI).

No, the latter is not investing money in Nine Media Corporation; after all, foreigners can’t invest in media properties in the country. It is the Filipino company that’s paying CNNI every month. How much, Cabangon-Chua didn’t want to disclose.

“This is not all about money in the business sense anymore,” he said. “I’m already 80. I want to leave a legacy.”

 So what’s going to change?

Kayen Zialcita, the local company’s senior vice president for brand development and marketing, summed it up: “The look and feel of the channel, the way we gather news, the way we report the news… those are all going to change.”

She added, “Everything will have to change because we have to live up to the standard of CNN.”

Thus, Filipino journalists will receive extensive training from CNN here and abroad.

CNN arrives in the Philippines. - Image:

That CNN agreed to the five-year partnership means that the two organizations’ vision, mission, and values are aligned, CNNI senior vice president Ellana Lee confirmed.

They only have a few partnerships, and CNN Philippines is the newest addition to their small family that includes those in Indonesia, Chile, India, Turkey, and Japan.

“We have to look at the type of company that we partner up with,” Lee explained. “They [Nine Media] bring a lot of the same values that we look for in terms of covering the news and where they want to take the news specifically in the Philippines.”

In exchange, CNN will have the opportunity to reach in to the Philippine market, as their local partner is on free TV besides being available 24 hours on cable and pay television —unlike CNN’s other partnerships.

A win-win situation, according to representatives of the two organizations. 

CNN Philippines will operate from studio facilities in Metro Manila and will replace 9TV on the RPN network nationwide. It will deliver content from CNN’s affiliates, including the one in the United States. Feature programming and newscasts will be distinct.

“It’s a combination,” Zialcita said. “Otherwise, there will be no difference from the cable TV channel.”

 “But again, this is not a one-way business,” CNNI VP for content sales and partnerships Greg Beitchman stated. “You’ll see stories made globally for the local market, but we will also broadcast the best news in the Philippines that can be offered internationally.”

This development should provide competition in an industry dominated by two TV networks: ABS-CBN, which has the ANC 24-hour news channel, and GMA-7, which has GMA News TV, a channel that broadcasts the whole day as well, albeit on free TV.

“We have 34 years of strong knowhow, so we will shake up the [Philippine] landscape,” Beitchman said.

He added, “It will be quite challenging but fun. Competition is good; it will make us all better, and hopefully, it will also improve Filipino journalism.”

Expect CNN Philippines to be available first quarter of 2015 on free-to-air TV in Manila RPN-TV9, Cebu RPN-TV9, Davao RPN-TV9, Zamboanga RPN-TV5, Baguio RPN-TV12, and Bacolod RPN-TV8. 

It will likewise be on cable TV through Sky Channel 14 (Metro Manila), Sky Cable Channel 6 (Cebu, Davao, Bacolod, Iloilo, and Baguio), Destiny Cable Channel 14, Cablelink Channel 14, and Cignal Channel 10.  - Yahoo News Philippines



CREBA: ASEAN 2015 economic integration could boost Philippine property industry growth

Mon, 10/13/2014 - 14:31

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The integration would require more commercial and residential infrastructure for highly urbanized cities within the region, including key cities of the Philippines

CREBA: ASEAN integration to boost PH property industry growth

MANILA, PHILIPPINES – The Philippine real estate industry is expected to grow further next year as the upcoming Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) economic integration continues to attract foreign investors and with the region’s increasing role in the global economy.

The ASEAN integration in 2015 will change the economic landscape of the whole region, particularly the real estate market, Noel Cariño, president of Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association (CREBA) said in a statement.

“The demand for residential spaces adjacent to malls, retail complexes, and other recreational spaces would go up and will likely increase the already healthy real estate market,” Cariño explains.

More commercial and residential infrastructure for highly urbanized cities within the region including key cities of the Philippines would be needed as the integration sets in.

“Residential, commercial, and retail developers, which will be exposed to international market, will expand their operations and acquire properties inside and outside the country, while foreign investors and corporate executives with local operations in the country will look for residential spaces for a place to stay,” Cariño added.

                                                            Makati City, Metro Manila, Philippines

Reforms needed

To reap the benefits of the ASEAN integration, the country must continue to pursue relevant market reforms in order to remain competitive.

“Foreign ownership restrictions enshrined in the Philippine constitution will hinder the growth of foreign direct investments, so we need to continue to improve the business environment in the country in order to attract more investors,” Charlie Gorayeb, national chairman of CREBA pointed out.

CREBA is pushing for the passage of a bill that will consolidate the function and powers of major housing and urban agencies of the government to address effectively the needs of both consumers and developers.

CREBA also aims to sustain a centralized home financing program for the country to address the current housing backlog and supply the housing demand of the growing middle class within the next 20 years.

With the upcoming ASEAN integration, property players “should work together to unlock strategic approaches to keep the domestic property sector afloat” as multinational players enter the already stiff competition in the country’s real estate market, according to the organizers of the convention, CREBA said in a statement.

Meanwhile, Iloilo will host host CREBA’s 23rd National Convention on October 15 to 18. Senator JV Ejercito, who chairs the senate committee on urban development, housing and resettlement, is set to deliver a keynote speech on the legislative agenda of the real estate industry in the 16th congress. –



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