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HLURB tips to homebuyers
Inquirer Business

1 minute ago

To buy or not to buy a house or a condominium unit is a big decision to make. You need to be careful so you won’t have a reason to regret or suffer a financial loss in the end.

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The importance of land titling
Inquirer Business

3 minutes ago

“A CERTIFICATE of title serves as evidence of an indefeasible and incontrovertible title to the property in favor of the person whose names appears therein,” the Supreme Court held in the case of Abobon v. Abobon. “[A]nyone who deals with property registered under the Torrens system may rely on the title and need not go beyond the title.”

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A home for every Filipino
Inquirer Business

4 minutes ago

The challenge to provide every Filipino with a decent home remains to be the driving force behind Sta. Lucia Land Inc.’s unwavering passion to develop and create livable communities across the country.

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Christmas at the ‘Barn’
Inquirer Business

6 minutes ago

With Christmas just around the corner, this is the perfect weekend to start decking the halls of your home or living space with the season’s festive colors and themed décor.

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Vehicle sales surged 17.3% in October
Inquirer Business

6 minutes ago

Vehicle sales went up 17.3 percent in October, the fastest growth reported for the past few months, according to joint data from car and truck manufacturers.

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A dash of wonder
Inquirer Business

9 minutes ago

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. And we know that you want nothing more but to transform your unit to a Christmas wonderland.

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Christmas magic in the East
Inquirer Business

10 minutes ago

The stage is set for the most spectacular show on the eastern part of Metro Manila.

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Living in the light
Inquirer Business

12 minutes ago

Light is essential to survival. Besides food and shelter, we also need light to help us see and carry out tasks.

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9 renewable energy projects worth P26.7B get perks
Inquirer Business

15 minutes ago

The Board of Investments (BOI) approved nine renewable energy projects worth P26.7 billion, the agency said in a statement on Friday.

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Today’s Front Page November 18, 2017
The Manila Times Online

Business Front Page November 18, 2017
The Manila Times Online

PAGE FROM THE PAST NOVEMBER 18, 1969
The Manila Times Online

Proper timing urged for reserve ratio cut
The Manila Times Online

3 hours ago

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) on Friday expressed support for lower bank reserve requirements but reiterated calls for caution given possible adverse effects.

“We believe that [the]Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP)’s high reserve requirement ratio should be reduced over time but this needs to be carefully calibrated to ensure an unchanged monetary policy stance,” IMF Resident Representative Yongzheng Yang said in a press briefing.

Reducing the reserve requirement ratio or RRR, which currently stands at 20 percent, will have to be a data-driven exercise.

“You have to look at the liquidity in the market,” Yang said, explaining that lower reserves can be ordered when liquidity is down.

“If there … will be capital outflows, liquidity tightens, then you can inject liquidity by introducing the [lower]reserve requirement,” he said.

Last week, the IMF said that unwinding the country’s bank reserve requirements would reduce macrofinancial risks.

“However, this reform should be carefully calibrated and timed, and should aim to keep domestic liquidity broadly unchanged,” it said in a statement following last month’s Article IV consultations.

The RRR is the proportion of current deposits that banks need to keep with the central bank against the sum they can loan out to borrowers.

The Bangko Sentral has kept the ratio at 20 percent since May 2014, with officials saying they wanted to prevent a rapid rise in liquidity and credit expansion that could threaten the stability of the country’s financial system.

Central bank government Nestor Espenilla has been saying that he wants to reduce banks’ required reserves, a move monetary authorities will have to manage to ensure that the additional liquidity benefits the economy.

“The reserve requirement is something that I would like to personally see [go]to single-digit level,” he declared in October.

“Our game plan is to do it in such as way to avoid the situation that we are unleashing too much liquidity that the economy is unable to absorb,” he said.

Like Yang, Espenilla said a capital outflows could spur implementation.

“That is a good time to inject liquidity by lowering reserves,” he said.

Capital market improvements can also pave way to a lower reserve requirement, Espenilla said.

“We want to see development among instruments and more government securities issued. When that happens, that will also allow a venue for absorbing the liquidity that we will release when we lower the reserve requirement in stages, not in one giant reduction overnight,” he explained.

In a recent report, HSBC economist Noelan Arbis said the BSP could announce a 100-basis point cut in the RRR by the end of the first quarter next year.

“We believe that a RRR cut in the near future would be timely, given the recent increase in Treasury bonds and T-bills issuance plans,” Arbis said.

He pointed out that monetary authorities had already started laying the groundwork for a cut by outlining a reform plan to deepen the country’s financial markets.

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BSP, MAS sign fintech agreement
The Manila Times Online

3 hours ago

Philippine and Singaporean monetary authorities on Thursday inked a cooperation agreement (CA) aimed at promoting financial services innovation in their respective markets.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Nestor A. Espenilla Jr. (left) and Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) Managing director Ravi Menon shake hands after signing a a FinTech Cooperation Agreement in Singapore on November 16, 2017. Bsp photo

The agreement between the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) provides a framework for cooperation and collaboration between the two authorities relating to financial technology or fintech.

In a joint statement, the BSP and MAS said they would refer promising fintech firms to each other, share emerging trends and developments, and facilitate work on joint fintech projects.

The projects could involve tapping new financial technologies such as distributed ledgers and providing innovative solutions such as facilitating faster cross-border payments and streamlining “know-your-client” (KYC) processes.

Bangko Sentral Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. said the agreement was a seal of commitment to elevate financial innovation in both jurisdictions.

“The CA provides avenues for greater collaboration through a more defined structure and referral system for FinTech players between the innovation functions of each authority,” he said.

“This would ultimately pave the way for a more progressive, modern and inclusive financial system,” he added.
MAS Managing Director Ravi Menon said both monetary authorities were like-minded in their focus to harness financial technology to reduce inefficiency and benefit individuals and businesses.

“This Cooperation Agreement between our two agencies provides a framework for promoting financial innovation not only in our countries but can also potentially contribute to broader efforts in Asean [Association of Southeast Asian Nations],” he said.

The signing ceremonies were held at the sidelines of the ongoing 2nd Singapore FinTech Festival.

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PH, Bank of China ink panda bond deal
Manila Times

3 hours ago

The government’s plans for a maiden panda bond offering have move forward following the signing of an underwriting deal with the Bank of China.

In a statement on Friday, the Finance department said the agreement, which spells out the terms and conditions of the $200-million offering, had been signed in Malacanang by Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd and Bank of China Chairman Chen Siqing.

“As lead underwriter, the Bank of China has committed to form an underwriting team that will purchase the Panda bonds that the Philippine government will issue, and then resell it to the Chinese market for a profit,” the department said.

Bank of China will also serve as bookrunner of the panda bond issue.

“We thank the Bank of China (BOC) for taking the lead in helping us gain a foothold in the panda bond market.

We are very happy that the BOC has come to our assistance,” Dominguez was quoted as having said during the signing ceremonies on Wednesday.

“We also welcome the Bank’s efforts in bringing the Philippines’ growth narrative to the Chinese investors as
demonstrated in the last Philippine Economic Briefing in Shanghai, and look forward to a strengthened partnership,” he added.

Dominguez has said that the issuance of the panda bonds—yuan-denominated bonds sold in China by a non-Chinese issuer—would depend on market conditions, possible business risks and the trend in dollar interest rates.

National Treasurer Rosalia de Leon has also said that the offering would diversify the government’s funding sources and provide benchmarks for other Philippine issuers.

“The bond issue will also complement the financial support from China for the implementation of critical infrastructure projects,” she added.

The signing of the underwriting agreement was witnessed by President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese Premier Li Keqiang, who was in Manila for the just-concluded Association of Southeast Asian Nations summit.

The Finance department said Dominguez also inked a financing cooperation agreement with Liu Liange, president of the Export-Import Bank of China, covering 85 percent of the costs of the Kaliwa Dam-New Centennial Water Source and Chico River Pump Irrigation projects.

The Finance chief also signed a memorandum of understanding with Fu Ziying, China’s vice commerce minister and international trade representative, to “jointly identify and study” key infrastructure projects for possible Chinese funding.

Rounding off the deals signed that day was a grant agreement for approximately $23 million_to be used for the rehabiliation of Marawi—that was also signed by both Fu and Dominguez.

The post PH, Bank of China ink panda bond deal appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


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Stock market climbs back to 8,300 level
Manila Times

3 hours ago

The stock market ended the trading week back in 8,300 territory, moving in line with other bourses in the region as investors cheered news on tax cuts in the United States and other positive developments elsewhere.

The bellwether Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) gained 1.27 percent or 104.64 points, closing at 8,311.08, while the wider All Shares added 39.14 points or 0.81 percent to 4,873.82.

Luis Limlingan, head of research and sales at Regina Capital Development Corporation (RCDC), said regional markets had been boosted by gains on Wall Street.

The Nasdaq notched a new record close after Republicans in the US House of Representatives pushed through legislation to overhaul the US tax code.

Limlingan also pointed to plans by Norway’s sovereign wealth fund to sell its oil and gas holdings, increased US industrial output and higher than expected UK retail sales as having buoyed investor optimism.

Back home, he said the local stock market had also been poised to recover after Thursday’s nearly 1 percent fall.

“PSEi underperformed most Asian bourses yesterday despite stellar growth data, so everyone expected to see some bargain hunting ahead of the weekend,” Limlingan said.

All sectoral indices except mining and oil gained on Friday.

More than 7.2 billion shares valued at P5.6 billion were traded.

Advancers outmatched decliners, 98-91, while 56 issues remained unchanged.

The post Stock market climbs back to 8,300 level appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


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Asian markets head for positive end to week
Manila Times

3 hours ago

HONG KONG: Asian markets built on the previous day’s gains and headed into the weekend on a positive note Friday as traders were buoyed by news that Donald Trump’s tax cuts had moved a step closer.

House Republicans pushed through a landmark overhaul of the tax system on Thursday, providing the base for a record close in the Nasdaq on Wall Street at the end of a volatile week for global equities.

The plan, hailed by Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan, would mark the biggest changes in three decades and see huge reductions for corporations and individuals.

Those gains filtered through to Asia, where Tokyo ended the morning session 0.2 percent higher, though an earlier rally was pared by a stronger yen.

Hong Kong added 0.8 percent and Sydney put on 0.3 percent. Seoul, Singapore, Taipei and Manila were also sharply higher but Shanghai dipped 0.3 percent.

The broad gains came at the end of a week that saw heavy selling fuelled by profit-taking and dealers’ worries that a rally in recent weeks had gone too far, pushing valuations too high.

“If the Senate can get its bill passed and if President Trump does end up with something on his desk he can sign into law stocks in Asia, America, and globally should catch a strong updraft and bid tone,” said Greg McKenna, chief market strategist at AxiTrader.

Senate hurdle

However, while the tax success in the House of Representatives came as a welcome boost, analysts warned there was still a long way to go for an agreement to get through the Senate.

The Republicans in the upper house have a wafer-thin majority and are already struggling to get all their members onside and there are worries the reforms could go the same way as the Obamacare repeal earlier in the year.

“Passing the legislation is a major win for President Trump but there is still work to be done if the bill is to make it through the US Senate,” Cai Lewis, senior adviser at ASR Wealth Advisers, said in a note.

“I have said before that I think that the bill will ultimately pass, which will make way for debate on the much-lauded US Infrastructure bill. Now to see if Trump has learnt the lessons from the failed Obamacare repeal attempts and takes a more pragmatic approach when trying to woo votes in the Senate.”

Uncertainty about the reforms’ future dragged the dollar, which had rallied on the news in US trade.

The greenback was well down against the pound, euro and yen, while higher-yielding currencies including the Australian dollar, Korean won and Mexican peso were also stronger.

Regional energy firms were mostly up after this week’s big losses fuelled by plunging oil prices but ongoing concerns about demand and warnings of higher stockpiles are keeping dealers on edge.

The post Asian markets head for positive end to week appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


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Tektite office sale boosts PSE earnings
Manila Times

3 hours ago

The Philippine Stock Exchange, Inc. (PSE) saw its profits surge by 45.9 percent to P707.35 million in the first nine months of the year, attributed primarily to a one-time gain from the sale of its Tektite office
Net income a year earlier was P484.71 million, the bourse said in a disclosure.

An 8.84 percent gain—equivalent to P77.47 million—in operating revenues helped boost the PSE’s bottomline but the bulk of the year-to-date net was traced to the asset sale, which boosted other income by 119 percent or P201.8 million.

Trading- and listing-related fees grew by 7.82 percent and 21.99 percent, respectively, accounting for nearly 70 percent of operating revenues. Securities Clearing Corp. of the Philippines fees—28.15 percent of operating revenues—fell by 0.32 perdcent.

“Trading activity is slightly higher this year and we hope to see some more follow-on offerings in the fourth quarter,” PSE President and CEO Ramon Monzon said.

Expenses for the period, meanwhile, were down 4.6 percent to P436.81 million.

“Year-to-date, net foreign buying is over P50 billion with our main index, the PSEi, up around 20 percent,” Monzon noted.

“We would like to keep this momentum going to the next year by launching more products and making our market more attractive to both foreign and local investors,” he added.

The post Tektite office sale boosts PSE earnings appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


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Are you tracking your financial grade?
Manila Times

3 hours ago

CHRISTOPHER CERVANTES, RFP

When we were in school, it was not only parents but also noteworthy students who were grade-conscious. Exam results, medals and recognitions became the bases for favors, especially during shopping sprees. Grades turned out to be the ultimate bargaining power!

Students who were described as carefree and infamous, on the other hands, were the ones who frequented the principal’s office, a situation made worse if their parents or guardians were present.

Standings can be easily be monitored while still in school. However, after graduating, how can we track our performance in life? Unfortunately, most people are clueless. Do we really know our goals? Moreover, how should these goals be achieved?

If you are wondering if you are really on track towards sound and financially-free living, monitoring your net worth is the way to go. In real life, your net worth is your final grade.

You may be thinking that by adding up all the good stuff you’ve acquired—the nice house, huge LED TV, a red sports car and the like—will give you an accurate figure of your real net worth. An annual income with lots of zeros after the first figure as well as living in a fantabulous mansion in a first-class subdivision are no measures of affluence if these are paired with heavy loans or debts.

Basically, our net worth is equal to the sum of all our assets minus all liabilities. Government employees and officials may be more familiar with this as they need to regularly file their SALNs (statements of assets, liabilities and net worth). Still, most of them do not really understand the importance of doing so, and what more the rest of us? Unlike most of us, Americans are serious in monitoring their net worth. This is their means to determine if they are solvent or bankrupt. Unfortunately, this is not the case in the Philippines.

Comparing your net worth with others is not consequential. Instead, use net worth targets based on your current age. As a general rule while in your 20s, no net worth amount is recommended. Having no property acquisitions is understandable but no savings is unacceptable. Once you start working, it is imperative that you embark on building your emergency and retirement funds.

When you reach your 30s, your net worth ideally should be equal to half of your annual salary when you were in your 20s. If your annual salary at that time was P360,000, for example, then you must at least have P180,000 net worth. By age 40, your net worth must be twice your annual salary when you were in your 30s, meaning if your annual salary was P600,000, then your net worth should be P1,200,000.

When you reach age 50, your ideal net worth should be 4x your annual salary in your 40s, and once you reach 60, your ideal net worth must be 6x your annual salary when you were in your 50s.

Tracking our net worth is as important as looking at our success in school. When you know how you are doing you know what you need to focus on. It’s easy to be swept away by filling your life with things that make you wealthy and successful. If in school having lots of extra curricular activities did not always mean nice grades, it’s the same thing in life. Buying all the stuff to look wealthy will not guarantee a gracious retirement.

Christopher G. Cervantes is a Registered Financial Planner of RFP Philippines. He is author of Financial Planning for the Fast Changing World and The Seed Money. To learn more about personal-financial planning, attend the 66th RFP program this November. To inquire, e-mail info@rfp.ph or text <name><email><RFP> to 0917-9689774.

The post Are you tracking your financial grade? appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


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P26.7B in renewable energy projects OKd
Manila Times

3 hours ago

The Board of Investments (BOI) recently approved nine renewable energy (RE) projects worth P26.7 billion.

In a statement, the BOI said the projects qualified for incentives under Republic Act No. 9513–the Renewable Energy Act of 2008–which is covered under the Special Laws List of the 2017 Investment Priorities Plan (IPP).

“The production of renewable power is becoming cheaper and it is fast becoming a better alternative toward addressing power sufficiency and cost-effectiveness in the economic development of our country,” Trade Undersecretary and BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo said.

“In other parts of the world, renewables like solar [energy]are already cheaper than fossil fuel-based power, and these countries are already transitioning to 100-percent renewable electricity. Sooner or later, we have to face this inevitability, with the expectation it will bring down power costs while ensuring enough power supply for the country,” he added.

One of the approved projects is Alsons Energy Development Corp.’s P3.5-billion, 15.1-megawatt (MW) Siguil hydropower plant, which it is setting up in Sarangani province.

The project is a run-of-river type of hydro project in Amsipit and Nomoh villages in Sarangani’s Maasim town. It aims to capture the flow of the Siguil River from Nomoh to Amsipit through a power station equipped with a turbine and generator. The water will be returned to the river and discharged to Sarangani Bay.

Formal operations are expected to start in August 2020.

Another is Ecopark Energy of Valenzuela Corp.’s P234.5-million, 4.7 MW solar project in Valenzuela City. The company is developing the grid-connected PV power-generation plant on an approximately 4.8-hectare lot in the city’s Barangay Isla.

It will be connected to the grid through the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco), with power to be sold to the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM). It is expected to start commercial operations in April.

For its part, Repower Energy Development Corp. is constructing the P1.55-billion, 6.2 MW Katipunan River mini-hydropower plant in Bukidnon province.

The power firm will also put up two additional hydropower plants–the P 1.1 billion, 4.4 MW Tibag River hydroelectric power plant in Quezon province; and the P2.1-billion, 10 MW Pulangui IV facility, also in Bukidnon.
All three plants will start commercial operations in April 2019.

Other approved RE projects are Ormoc Solar Energy Corp.’s P6.6-billion, 100.8 MW Naic Solar Power Plant, to be built on a 120-hectare lot between Naic and Tanza towns and Trece Martires City in Cavite province; and a P8.25-billion, 126 MW solar facility in Pagbilao municipality, Quezon province.

Operations for the former are set to start in January 2019; the latter, in July 2019.

Completing the list are Nuevo Solar Energy Corp.’s P1.7-billion, 40.3 MW Lumban Solar Power project, which shall also be connected to Meralco and is expected to be completed in April 2019; and the P1.7-billion, 25.2 MW Bangyas solar plant in Calauan town, Laguna, province, which is on track to start in July 2019.

According to the Department of Energy’s (DOE) Renewable Energy Roadmap 2017-2040, the country expects to have at least 20,000 MW of RE installed by 2040.

The National Renewable Energy Program (NREP), through the implementation of the RE Act, promotes the development and optimal use of the country’s RE resources as essential to the country’s sustainable energy agenda.

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PDIC to auction off assets worth P32.9M
Manila Times

3 hours ago

The Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) has scheduled a December auction of more than 50 assets with a combined value of P32.9 million.

Interested buyers can choose from 52 agricultural, commercial, and residential lots, and five motor vehicles, the PDIC said in a statement on Friday.

These lots are in the provinces of Abra, Aklan, Antique, Bohol, Capiz, Cebu, Guimaras, Iloilo, Leyte, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Southern Leyte, and Surigao del Sur.

Bidding will take place on December 8 at the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Cebu Regional Office.

“The properties with an aggregate minimum disposal price of P32.87 million will be bid out on an “as-is, where-is” basis,” the PDIC said.

Sealed bids will be accepted at the venue from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m.

Bids will be opened starting 2 p.m. Each bid should be accompanied by a bond/deposit equivalent to at least 10 percent of the submitted bid, in cash or manager’s check or a combination of both.

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Bankers team up to develop digital ID
Manila Times

3 hours ago

The Bankers Association of the Philippines (BAP) has collaborated with a technology and consulting company in establishing an industry-wide facility that will further enhance the country’s digital-identity technology.

In a statement on Friday, the bankers group said it has upped the ante of digitization in Philippine banking as it convened with Amihan Global Strategies over a project that is set to revolutionize validation processes in the banking industry.

With this, the Philippines is said to be one of the first few countries in the world to employ a powerful and sophisticated technology for identity management, the association added.

“We are committed to pursuing the Philippine banking roadmap we have crafted with the support of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). This initiative will enable the banking industry to provide a more convenient and faster way of delivering banking services to the clients,” BAP President Nestor Tan said

“With the rapid development of technology on our side, banks must use this opportunity to constantly improve, innovate and provide better services to the banking public,” BAP Operations Committee Chairman Abraham Co said.

Centered on “self-sovereign identity,” BAP said the facility would enable an individual to have the sole control and discretion of sharing his or her personal information to whoever he or she chooses.

Using this platform, the onboarding process of clients will become easier and more efficient, as the individuals themselves, through participating banks and accredited agents, would be able to upload personal information immediately through mobile phones.

Once the uploaded information is validated and vetted by a participating bank, clients will be able to open a new bank account and access banking services of other participating banks in a much faster and easier way, the association said.

The facility is powered by blockchain technology, which enables a permanent and distributed ledger of transactions that cannot be tampered with.

“We welcome this development for the Philippines. The BAP joins a global movement to benefit consumers using blockchain technology,” said Brian Behlendorf, executive director of Hyperledger.

“We’re proud that the banking community is using open source software from Hyperledger technology to enrich data privacy and finance,” he added.

BAP said that, while the project is still in development, several major banks, including Asia United Bank (AUB), Banco de Oro Unibank (BDO), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), Citibank, EastWest Bank, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. (Metrobank) and Union Bank of the Philippines (UnionBank) have already signed on to accept and verify customer data on the platform.

Other banks are soon expected to follow.

The group said that, as of 2017, there are only 44 million out of 100 million Filipinos who deposit money into bank accounts.

However, with the Philippines’ rapid growth of the economy and influx of digital technology, it should be noted that more and more Filipinos will expect to have easier access to financial services, according to BAP.

“Digital is the best solution for financial inclusion in the Philippines,” said Winston Damarillo, founder and executive chairman of Amihan Global Strategies.

“We are excited to collaborate with Hyperledger and the BAP to deliver inclusive innovation for the Philippines,” he added.

The post Bankers team up to develop digital ID appeared first on The Manila Times Online.


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Financial literacy services eyed for Mideast OFWs
Manila Times

3 hours ago

BAY, Laguna: Plans are afoot to expand the micro-finance group’s financial literacy services for Overseas Filipino Workers (OFWS) in Dubai and other neighboring emirates in the Middle East.

Jaime Aristotle B. Alip, founder and chairman of the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development- Mutually Reinforcing Institutions (CARD-MRI), said Friday his group had met and held initial discussions on the micro-finance group’s future programs for OFWs in the Gulf States.

“We are very grateful that the idea of establishing a CARD office in Dubai was warmly received,” said Alip, whose visit paved the plan for the micro-finance group to provide a financial literacy program to OFWs in Dubai and
neighboring Emirates.

He also divulged that they were able to meet with former CARD-MRI staffers who are now based in Dubai for the initial discussions on the group’s future programs for OFWs in the area.

He said that it was during the meetings that some OFWs encouraged CARD-MRI to set up a program, which is a non-profit organization that supports Filipinos overseas through financial literacy programs in Dubai similar to the program they have established in Hong Kong.

With the success of their earlier overseas partnership undertakings in Hong Kong, Vietnam, and Thailand, among others, the CARD-MRI officials vowed to continue to strengthen its international presence to provide financial literacy programs worldwide.

Alip also said that during the visit, they met with CARD’s remittance partner Xpress Money, a global money transfer brand with a thriving presence in more than 150 countries across the globe.

He said they held discussions with Xpress Money head of business strategy, Arundhoti Banerjee, and relationship executive John Paul Abuda, at its Dubai office in TECOM.

According to CARD-MRI, Xpress Money has been instrumental to its CARD Bank’s remittance product known as “CARD Sulit Padala”, which allows overseas clients to send money to their loved ones back home.

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House panel OKs bill bolstering PCIC
Manila Times

3 hours ago

THE HOUSE Committee on Appropriations has approved the funding provision of a substitute bill strengthening the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. (PCIC) and improving its capability to give farmers additional government support for agricultural production.

The bill amends Section 2 of Republic Act 8175, or the Revised Charter of the Philippine Crop Insurance Corp. Act of 1995, which institutes the policy of the State to ensure food security, intensify food production, promote agricultural credit, and broaden the coverage of mandatory crop insurance.

The PCIC will be mandated to provide life and accident term insurance coverage for farmers and fishermen, as determined by the company’s board of directors.

The crop insurance will be worth the amount of the production inputs; the value of the farmers’ or fishermen’s own labor and those of members of his household, including the value of the labor of hired workers; and a portion of the projected value of the crops.

The bill also seeks to improve the capability of banks and other financial institutions in giving loans to farmers.

Government-financed agrifishery-forestry projects and government-owned properties and facilities used for them will also be covered by the PCIC insurance.

The crop-insurance firm will also be authorized to provide reinsurance coverage to these properties and facilities under the private and government insurance companies.

The participation in crop insurance of all growers of palay (unhusked rice) and other crops essential for food security will be required, as well as the participation of all farmers obtaining production loans under the supervised credit program.

Self-financed farmers will also be covered, provided that they will agree to place themselves under the supervision of agricultural-production technicians.

The government will also be mandated to provide premium subsidy to subsistence farmers who are cultivating not more than seven hecates of farmlands, and fishermen who are cultivating not more than five hectares of fishpond, seaweed, oyster or mussel farm.

The premium rate will be determined by the PCIC board of directors and will be “reasonably affordable.”
According to PCIC President Jovy Bernabe, the bill’s approval would greatly help his corporation’s insurance capacity.

“It will enable the PCIC to substantially contribute to the role of the government to improve the lives of the farmers by providing them with insurance protection against losses arising from natural calamities and pests diseases and will also help our farmers become climate change resilient,” Bernabe said in a statement.

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New NAFTA talks held amid fears of collapse
The Manila Times Online

3 hours ago

MEXICO CITY: After three months of thorny negotiations, fears of a breakdown are hanging in the air as the US, Mexico and Canada began new talks on the North American Free Trade Agreement Friday.

The fifth round of talks on updating the 23-year-old deal will be a low-key affair, with the top trade officials from all three countries staying home to let the technical experts sift through the divisive details at a Mexico City hotel, out of the spotlight.

The previous round, held last month outside Washington, ended with US Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer trading blame with Mexican Finance Minister Ildefonso Guajardo and Canadian Foreign Minister Chrystia Freeland over frictions that have left the future of the deal in doubt.

“The tone of NAFTA’s fifth round of negotiations will be critical,” the Eurasia Group consultancy said ahead of the talks.

“The rumors that President Donald Trump would announce the US’s intent to exit the trade pact soon have subsided somewhat, but he could very well do so if there is no progress achieved in the next round of negotiations. The problem is that progress depends on the US moderating its demands.”

Trump, who has attacked the deal as the worst the United States ever signed, is pushing proposals aimed at slashing the US trade deficit, particularly with Mexico.

They include a sunset clause requiring all three countries to renew the deal every five years and minimum US content requirements for auto imports.

After the last talks, Canada’s Freeland blasted the Trump administration’s “winner-take-all” mindset and Mexico’s Guajardo suggested Mexico was being pushed to the limit of its capacity for compromise.

The three countries admitted they would not be able to reach a deal by the end of the year—the initial deadline—and extended the negotiations into 2018.

Seeking to tone things down, Lighthizer, Freeland and Guajardo announced they would stay away from the new round “so negotiators can continue to make important progress on key chapters advanced in round four.”

There will be no opening ceremony, and in reality the talks already got under way informally on Wednesday, two days ahead of schedule.

The three countries said “some negotiating groups” had started meeting early, but did not specify what issues they were working on. The talks are scheduled to wrap up Tuesday.

Life after NAFTA?

Mexico, which has become a major exporter since the deal was signed, has started contemplating a possible post-NAFTA future.

Mexican Foreign Minister Luis Videgaray said last week “there’s life after NAFTA” if the negotiations fall through.

Trade expert Alejandro Luna said Mexico—which sends some 80 percent of its exports to the United States—would feel the pain if NAFTA ends, but gradually get over it.

“We could recover, but it would have to be in the medium term. In the short term, the Mexican economy would definitely be affected for at least three and maybe even five years,” he told AFP.

Mexico’s economy has been on a roller-coaster ride since Trump was elected a year ago after a campaign heavy on anti-Mexican rhetoric.

It shrank last quarter for the first time in more than four years, and the International Monetary Fund warned Monday that uncertainty over NAFTA posed a risk to economic growth.

Trump is determined to slash the United States’s $64 billion trade deficit with Mexico.
Trade frictions with Canada have also risen under the Republican president.

On Tuesday, Canada requested that a dispute over US softwood lumber duties go to a NAFTA arbitration panel—something Trump wants to scrap.

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Airbnb raided by Japan fair trade watchdog
The Manila Times Online

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TOKYO: Airbnb’s offices in Japan have been raided by anti-monopoly officials, the homesharing giant said Friday, denying any wrongdoing and pledging cooperation.

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission reportedly carried out the raids over suspicions Airbnb was requiring users to sign exclusively with its site and cut ties with other agencies.

“Airbnb Japan received an on-site inspection by the Japan Fair Trade Commission and we are cooperating with the Commission’s ongoing investigation,” the company said in a statement.

“Airbnb does not require hosts or partners in Japan to list properties exclusively with Airbnb, and we will work with the JFTC to address any questions they may have,” the firm added.

Fair Trade Commission official Kazuyuki Katagiri declined to comment on the report, saying that authorities do not comment on ongoing investigations.

Airbnb, which lets homeowners share their homes for a fee by marketing them online, has become a popular alternative to hotels and mirrors consumers’ growing reliance on online sharing services in other areas such as transport.

But the company has faced mounting criticism from some quarters that it exacerbates housing shortages and squeezes the long-term rental sector, with cities including New York, Miami and Berlin cracking down on the service.

AFP

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Moody’s raises India rating, cites Modi’s economic reforms
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NEW DELHI: Moody’s on Friday upgraded India’s credit rating for the first time in more than a decade, citing economic reforms introduced under Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The move comes almost two months after the Moody’s and Standar & Poor’s lowered their ratings on regional rival China citing the country’s ballooning debt burden.

Moody’s raised its rating on India to Baa2 from Baa3, the first such move since January 2004, saying recent reforms would enhance productivity, stimulate foreign and domestic investment and foster “strong and sustainable growth”.”

These include a new national goods and services tax and a controversial 2016 ban on high-value bank notes aimed at tackling widespread tax evasion.

“Continued progress on economic and institutional reforms will, over time, enhance India’s high growth potential,” the agency said.

Modi swept to power in 2014 on a promise to reform India’s economy and create jobs for a burgeoning youth population.

But critics point out that joblessness remains high and the reforms have not come without pain.

They have acted as a drag on growth, which hit a three year low of 5.7 percent in the first quarter of the current financial year.

Finance Minister Arun Jaitley called the upgrade “a belated recognition of all the positive steps which have been taken in India in the last few years.”

“It’s extremely encouraging that there’s an international recognition and it merely furthers our determination to follow the track which we have embarked upon,” Jaitley told reporters.

The move boosted Indian stocks more than one percent, while the rupee strengthened to 64.86 against the dollar, from Thursday’s 65.29.

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US industrial output rises as hurricane hit reverses
The Manila Times Online

3 hours ago

WASHINGTON, D.C.: Output at US factories continued to rebound in October as oil refineries and petrochemical plants ramped up production after the severe disruption from Hurricane Harvey, according to data released Thursday.

The post-Harvey rebound fueled industrial production to its biggest one-month rise since April as factories made up for weeks in August and September when they sat idle as a result of the storm, according to the Federal Reserve report.

In addition, the hit to output in August and September appeared less severe than originally reported.

Meanwhile, industrial capacity in use last month hit its highest level in more than two years.

Industrial production rose 0.9 percent in October from September, nearly twice what economists were expecting, and after a gain of 0.4 percent in the prior month.

The lion’s share of the October gain was attributed to the storm-related rebound at oil refineries, petrochemical plants and plastic resin facilities in Southeast Texas, according to the Fed.

Excluding the effects of the storm, industrial output rose by only 0.3 percent.

Economists predict the final quarter of 2017 will see a bump in economic activity as millions of people in Florida and Texas resume work and continue rebuilding, and as Gulf Coast industry rattles to life after the back-to-back hurricanes in the late summer.

Upward revisions for July through September showed output lost only 0.3 percent, rather than the 1.5 percent drop the Fed had previously reported.

Industrial capacity in use rose in October to 77 percent, the highest since April, better than a consensus analyst forecast but still 2.9 percentage points below the long-run historical average since 1972.

Ian Shepherdson of Pantheon Macroeconomics said the October jump was surprisingly strong but that noisy data could be cloud interpretation.

“Overall, we think the industrial sector is in decent shape, but it’s dangerous to read too much into data for a single month when the key driver of activity is a rebound from a weather event,” he wrote in a client note.

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Tesla unveils all-electric Semi truck
The Manila Times Online

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HAWTHORNE: After revolutionizing electric cars, Tesla is tackling a new frontier in “green” transportation with the introduction a futuristic all-electric semi truck.

“We designed the Tesla truck to be like a bullet,” said Tesla co-founder and CEO, Elon Musk.

The billionaire South African-born inventor unveiled the new vehicle Thursday at an event in Hawthorne, California, site of the automaker’s design bureau and the headquarters of SpaceX, the aerospace company he also founded.

Its sleek, aerodynamic profile, in somber matte or metalic colors, will make it a standout on the road.
But the company is touting performance that it says will make the Tesla Semi quicker and more economical than today’s diesel-powered trucks.

It has four independent electric motors, one for each of its wheels, a transmission that requires no shifting of gears, and a regenerative braking system that “gives it basically infinite brake life,” Musk said.

The company says the truck can accelerate to 60 miles (100 kilometers) per hour in five seconds, and reach that speed in 20 seconds hauling a maximum 80,000 pound load, must faster than a traditional diesel truck.

It has a 500-mile range, long enough for most truck routes, 80 percent of which, according to Musk, are 250 miles or less.

“So it means you can go to your destination and back without recharging,” he said.

Another innovation is the cab’s design: the driver’s seat is positioned in the center instead of to the side.

With no front engine or gear shift, the driver can be placed closer to the panoramic windshield, for a dominating view of the road.

The inside has enough head and legroom to stand up and walk around in.

“The Tesla Semi will deliver a far better experience for truck drivers, while increasing safety and significantly reducing the cost of cargo transport,” Musk said.

He claimed that operating a diesel truck will cost 20 percent more than the Tesla Semi.

“Overall, the Semi is more responsive, covers more miles than a diesel truck in the same amount of time,” he said.

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EU auditors criticize handling of bailouts
The Manila Times Online

4 hours ago

BRUSSELS: The EU handling of the Greek debt crisis successfully imposed reforms and avoided a catastrophic default by Greece, but failed in ensuring Athens could stand on its own feet financially, an EU auditor’s report said on Thursday.

“These programs promoted reform and avoided default by Greece. But the country’s ability to finance itself fully on the financial markets remains a challenge,” said Baudilio Tome Muguruza, the member of the European Court of Auditors responsible for the report.

Greece was the recipient of three massive bailouts, handing the sun-kissed Mediterranean country over 350 billion euros ($410 billion) in rescue loans, beginning in 2010.

The auditors were appraising the job done by the European Commission, the EU’s executive arm, which sat at the table as a member of the notorious “troika” that made sure that Athens delivered on reforms promised in return for the cash.

The troika was made up of the International Monetary Fund and European Central Bank, which was not assessed in the audit because it questioned the auditors’ mandate to do so.

The watchdog acknowledged that the first bailout in 2010 “was designed in a situation of extreme urgency” and that conditions imposed on Athens were initially vague, but improved over time.

Still, the first two bailouts demanded a raft of reforms, but “did not adequately prioritize their relative importance and they were not embedded in a broader strategy for the country,” the report said.

The auditors said that the most successful reforms involved budget cuts and taxation, but that structural reforms to the labor code and banking system showed more mixed results.

This was in part because the commission overestimated Greece’s ability to implement reforms “and thus did not adapt the scope and timing accordingly.”

In another criticism, the auditors said that while the EU, IMF and ECB troika was a highly complex arrangement, the EU failed to convey to Greek authorities how they worked together.

The European Commission said it would review the audit’s findings.

“We are open to constructive analysis of the activities and we welcome and will address the comments,” said commission spokesman Margaritis Schinas.

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Venezuela’s PDVSA declared in default
The Manila Times Online

4 hours ago

NEW YORK: Crisis-plagued Venezuela suffered another blow Thursday as a committee of creditors ruled that state oil company PDVSA has defaulted on its debt, a decision that triggers payment of default insurance to investors.

The setback for the oil-rich but cash-poor nation came as no surprise, as the government of President Nicolas Maduro has missed payments on sovereign bonds as well as PDVSA debt, even as the population continues to suffer from acute shortages of food and medicine.

And major debt ratings agencies had already declared Venezuela and PDVSA to be in “selective default” due to the late payments on multiple bond issues.

A committee of the International Swaps and Derivatives Association examined three missed PDVSA bond payments at the request of investors and ruled that “a Failure to Pay Credit Event had occurred,” according to a statement.

The so-called Determinations Committee for the Americas, comprised of 15 financial firms, said it would reconvene Monday at 3:00 pm (2000 GMT) to continue discussions on the auction procedure to pay out credit default swaps against the PDVSA bonds.

The committee said “more detailed analysis will be forthcoming.”

But even with this latest evidence of Venezuela’s financial collapse, the situation shows no signs of being resolved in the near future.

Debt restructuring?

Struggling with an estimated $150 billion in debt, the Maduro government called creditors to a meeting Monday to discuss restructuring—the usual step for a country that can no longer pay its obligations—but offered no concrete plan.

The government signed a 10-year restructuring deal with Russia on Wednesday for a little over $3 billion in official debt, but observers say that will at best help resolve some payments in the short-term.

Caracas has only $9.7 billion in foreign reserves and needs to pay back at least $1.47 billion in interest on various bonds by the end of the year, and another $8 billion in 2018.

Russia and China are the two main creditors and allies of Venezuela, which owes them an estimated $8 billion and $28 billion, respectively.

About 70 percent of Venezuelan bondholders are North American, according to government figures, and there are about $60 billion in PDVSA and sovereign bonds outstanding. Investors buy CDS as a hedge or insurance on that debt.

An ISDA official explained that the next step to be discussed Monday is “whether to hold an auction to determine the settlement price that will then determine the payout in CDS,” as well as the auction date.

Assets in US

Venezuela’s situation is unique from other countries that have faced a debt crisis: it is simultaneously riven by a political crisis and is facing US financial sanctions, an arms embargo imposed by the European Union, and even a call by Argentina for an oil embargo.

The sanctions from Washington, which has labeled the Maduro regime a dictatorship, are particularly problematic since they prohibit US individuals and banks from buying new Venezuelan bonds, a requirement for any debt resolution.

And unlike Argentina, which battled creditors in US courts for over a decade after its 2002 default, Venezuela has valuable assets in the US at risk of seizure, including oil exports and Citgo with its three refineries, owned by PDVSA.

The nation depends on PDVSA’s oil exports for about 90 percent of its foreign exchange earnings, but those earnings have been falling sharply due to lack of investment to update infrastructure even as oil prices have recovered.

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Norway’s oil fund wants to divest from … oil
The Manila Times Online

4 hours ago

OSLO: Norway’s sovereign wealth fund, which is fuelled by the state’s oil revenues, wants to divest its oil and gas holdings, the Norwegian central bank which manages the fund said Thursday.

In a letter to the government, the bank said that if the world’s largest sovereign wealth fund—commonly referred to as the “oil fund”—were to divest its oil and gas shares, Norway would be less vulnerable to a lasting decline in oil prices.

The Scandinavian country is western Europe’s biggest oil and gas producer.

The sector accounts for 14 percent of Norway’s gross domestic product. Any fall in crude prices, as has been the case since the summer of 2014, affects the state’s revenues and the fund’s investments, upon which the state is increasingly dependent to balance its budget.

“This advice is based exclusively on financial arguments and analyses of the government’s total oil and gas exposure,” the bank’s deputy governor Egil Matsen said in a statement.

It “does not reflect any particular view of future movements in oil and gas prices or the profitability or sustainability of the oil and gas sector,” he added.

The bank recommended the removal of oil stocks from the fund’s benchmark index, which would still give it a little leeway to invest modestly in the sector.

The finance ministry said it would present its conclusions in the autumn of 2018.

“The problem raised by the central bank is extensive and has many facets,” Finance Minister Siv Jensen said in a statement.

“The government is responsible for the Norwegian economy in its entirety and has to adopt a broad and comprehensive approach to this question,” she added.

The sovereign wealth fund, fuelled by the state’s oil revenues that have dropped sharply in recent years, is currently worth around 8.24 trillion kroner (854 billion euros, $1 trillion), invested primarily in shares (65.9 percent) as well as bonds and real estate.

The oil and gas sector accounts for 5.5 percent of its equity investments.

The Norwegian fund has already divested from coal for both environmental and financial reasons.

The future of Norway’s oil sector is at the heart of a lawsuit brought this week against the state by Greenpeace and two other environmental groups, protesting against the awarding of exploration licences in the Arctic.

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Guinea receives $20B in pledges for devt
The Manila Times Online

4 hours ago

PARIS: Guinea on Thursday won pledges in aid worth $20 billion to fund a five-year development plan at a meeting in Paris with banks, private players and governments.

The mineral-rich West African nation is slowly emerging from the Ebola crisis and low commodity price shocks that adversely affected its economy in 2014 and 2015.

“I would like to thank investors and donors who revealed their confidence in us today,” Guinean President Alpha Conde said at the start of the two-day meeting in the French capital.

“We want to show that there is a new Guinea,” he said.

The country’s GDP growth stood at 6.6 percent last year and is projected at 6.7 percent this year, Makhtar Diop, the vice president of the African Development Bank told the meeting.

The growth was driven by an increase in the production of bauxite and gold and a resurgent agriculture sector.
Guinea also has large reserves of diamonds but more than half its population lives in abject poverty of less than a dollar a day.

Diop said the African Development Bank would extend $1.6 billion (1.3 billion euros) financing. The Islamic Development Bank and the Arab Coordination Group pledged $1.4 billion while private investors promised more than seven billion dollars.

Other pledges came from the European Union, France, China, Russia and India.

The development plan aims at improving Guinea’s abysmal infrastructure which includes poor roads, a huge elecricity shortfall and diversifying the economy to make it less dependent on minerals.

“The future of Guinea is not in the mines which do not generate a lot of jobs but in agriculture,” Conde said.
Nearly 80 percent of the arable land in the country is not used for farming despite being well irrigated and fertile.

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Consolidations seen as US regulator relaxes media ownership rules
The Manila Times Online

4 hours ago

WASHINGTON, D.,C.: US regulators voted Thursday to end a decades-old rule which barred ownership of newspapers and television stations in the same market, opening the door to more consolidation in the media sector.

The Federal Communications Commission adopted the changes in a hotly contested 3-2 vote, eliminating restrictions dating back to 1975. The vote also clears the way for a single company to own multiple broadcasters in the same market.

“For too long, the commission has failed to acknowledge the pace of change in the media marketplace by maintaining analog broadcast ownership rules that do not reflect today’s digital age,” an FCC statement said.

“By modernizing these outdated rules, broadcast stations and local newspapers will be able to more easily invest in local news and content and improve service to their local communities for the benefit of consumers.”
FCC commissioner Jessica Rosenworcel voted against the plan.

“Today @FCC gives the green light for more media consolidation,” Rosenworcel said in a tweet. “We set on fire the values of diversity, localism, and competition that have informed media policy for decades. I dissent.”

Some critics of the plan said the revisions were designed to clear a path for Sinclair Broadcast Group —which is seen as closely allied with President Donald Trump —and its planned $3.9 billion takeover of Tribune Media, which would give it more than 200 local TV stations reaching 72 percent of the US population.

“Chairman Pai and his Republican colleagues want us to ignore the nightmarish impact of media consolidation on local communities and once-thriving newsrooms,” said Craig Aaron of the activist group Free Press.

“Today’s vote will lead to more mergers, more layoffs and more communities that have no news outlets in place to cover important stories and hold officials accountable.”

Democratic Representative Frank Pallone said the FCC action represented “major handouts to Sinclair, putting corporate bottom lines above the public interest.”

But Joe Kane of the free-market policy group R Street said the old rules are outdated.

“With the rise of cable news and the internet, these cross-ownership bans no longer make any sense,” Kane said in a blog this week.

“Jeff Bezos (Amazon CEO and world’s richest man) was allowed to buy the Washington Post, and Facebook or Google legally could try to buy The New York Times. But a local broadcaster buying a struggling newspaper is strictly forbidden.”

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'Suspending MRT bad for economy, traffic'
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While officials maintain shutting down the MRT is out of the question, some say it is still the best way to rehabilitate the aging train system. 


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Asean: The next 50 years
Manila Times

4 hours ago

First of 2 parts
NOW that the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has turned 50 years old, I have been asked to look at Asean in the next 50 years.

If we are a market of 650 million people today, we will be over a billion in 50 years. If we are the fastest-growing region today, we will likely be a mature, modest growth region in 50 years. And if we are unsure about global security and the threats of nuclear war and terrorist conflict today, what will we face in 50 years?

Each question about tomorrow begs an answer hidden in the potentials of today. We must make sure that our answer supports our social needs, embraces a sustainable economic model, and buttresses regional and global peace. And of course, we would want the region to realize its full potential as a major global economic force.

But 50 years from now, I have no crystal ball, and neither does anyone. As veteran journalist Kavi Chongkittavorn put it, in today’s world it is hard to forecast the next five years, let alone the next five decades.

To illustrate the how hard it is to foretell, let’s go back 50 years ago—to Southeast Asia 50 years ago. Security concerns led five Southeast Asian foreign ministers to put Asean together. With that signed agreement, did anyone predict that that would blossom into an economic community today? Fifty years ago, did anybody predict China—50 years ago a sleeping economic dragon—would emerge today as the world’s second largest economy and counting? That’s how difficult it is to predict what will happen 50 years from today.

When we ponder the next 50 years, we see increasing prosperity, greater reliance on technology and artificial intelligence and yet we see greater income disparity. We see a more peaceful world but see more nations with nuclear capability. We see a cleaner environment, and global warming affecting government policies and our economic model and having a decisive impact on our lives.

Income disparity constitutes the paramount challenge for both development and globalization. If huge segments of a country and the community of nations are left behind by progress, then these disadvantaged sectors and states reject the development and globalization paradigms, and embrace alternative, often isolationist, and sometimes extremist and violent ideologies.

For open economies and free enterprise to win, everyone must win.

What happens 8 years from now
Some question why we are discussing what happens in 50 years. Why not see what happens in eight years, in 2025?

In 2015, Asean leaders crafted in the 27th Asean Summit, the Asean Vision 2025, that is a community highly integrated and cohesive; with enhanced connectivity and central cooperation; and a more resilient, inclusive, and people-oriented, people-centered community, integrated with the global economy. So, 2025 is supposed to be the year of full integration. That is only eight years away. If vision 2025 is achieved, the prospect for realizing the region’s full potential as a major global economic force will be bright.

The organizers of today’s session have put together guide questions that could help evaluate the chance of success of our integration by 2025. What are the chances of free flow of goods and free flow of labor? How will the report that some member nations have lagged behind in facilitating intra-Asean trade affect the desired level of trade for the entire region? The Asian Development Bank and the Institute of Southeast Asian Studies have an answer: that any failure to deliver leads to a loss of credibility, putting Asean countries in danger of falling behind in the global competition for export markets.

Some benefiting more than others
The organizers also asked about the argument that the community seems to be benefiting some members and is biased against others. Surin Pitsuwan, former Asean secretary general, agrees that some states are benefiting more than others. To the strong goes the victory. For the rest to benefit as much, they too must with the help of the community, become strong. That will require reforms in political governance and economic management.

Regional integration benefits those whose products complement the others’ and is biased against those whose products compete with each other. It benefits those who are efficient in production and governance, and those that use information technology more efficiently and is biased against those who are less efficient. But overall, regional integration’s advantages outweigh the disadvantages. It is better for all members to embrace regional integration while providing safety nets for the disadvantaged sectors and states.

The right reaction for the less efficient is to increase efficiency, with better infrastructure and better governance that includes a strong but competitive fiscal system, and monetary and political stability. Disadvantaged countries should try to maximize their benefits from regional integration by improving governance standards through greater transparency and an ethic of effective implementation.

Efficient infrastructure is both physical and digital and it is a must for member nations as well as for Asean as a whole. Surin reports that Asean has embarked on a connectivity plan to facilitate the transport of goods and people across the region, increasing the need for infrastructure financing. He suggests that the funding solution be the creative mobilization of the combined foreign exchange reserves of the Asean member states amounting to almost $1 trillion. So, we need to find ways to mobilize that for infrastructure and connectivity.

Financial and monetary policies
As for monetary policy, according to the International Monetary Fund, the original five countries have monetary frameworks that helped them well after the Asian financial crisis. It helped them through their transformation and it helped them in the global financial crisis in 2008 and the following years.

It has delivered peace and financial stability in a period of significant domestic and regional transformation and a global financial crisis. As for Brunei, its currency is pegged to the Singapore dollar, and IMF says that’s good because it provides for certainty and meets Brunei’s external investment needs. But in the CLMV (Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam) countries, the IMF said there is too much dollarization, meaning the widespread use of foreign currency deposits and loans, is considered not good for financial stability. And that is where a possible financial reform will have to happen.

On political stability, Asean harmony and solidarity have helped diminish disputes and tensions among members, so that even former conflict adversaries like Vietnam and Cambodia are now united in a common cause for regional peace and development.

Agriculture and integration
But not everything is perfect. It is said that Philippine agriculture is vulnerable to Asean integration. And even for rice-exporting countries, as Prime Minister Hun Sen remarked to me, Cambodia competes with Vietnam, Thailand and Myanmar. Thus, to reduce the prospect of greater income disparity, there is a need to modernize agriculture in a way compatible with equity. Since the Philippines has no great river basins like the Mekong, it needs to invest more in irrigation. The Philippines and the agriculture-exporting countries—except for Vietnam whose rice is highly competitive—need to invest more in agricultural infrastructure, credit, marketing assistance for farmers and fisherfolk, R and D, education, and IT. I remember when I was President, we were so happy that farmers could read what the prices were by looking at their cellphones. But today like in China, farmers get paid by WeChat and that is how technology can make agriculture more efficient.

On the regulatory framework, it is good we have land reform but it is more important that the regulatory system must empower the use of farmlands as collaterals so the small farmers can enter the formal financing system and again I cannot overstress that financial technology is so important for developing and modernizing any sector including agriculture.

Agribusiness should have rural non-farm activities like processing, where more diversification and complementation can happen. This is where SMEs can thrive rather than wither under the pressure of economic integration. But since to the strong goes the victory, the SMEs must also become stronger. This is where NGOs like Go Negosyo can make a difference.

I spoke at the SME Conference of Go Negosyo and how mentoring can help and one of the big factors that mentoring can help is to introduce your small brothers to technologies.

(The article is an excerpt from a speech delivered at the Asean Business and Investment Summit, Solaire Resort and Casino, 14 November 2017.)

(To be continued tomorrow)

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MRT private partner seeks to reclaim maintenance role
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After a series of mishaps in the MRT-3, the private sector partner of the government seeks to reclaim its role in maintaining the train system.


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Pakistan indifferent as smog kills more people than militancy
Manila Times

4 hours ago

ISLAMABAD: The toxic smog that has covered parts of Pakistan for weeks has exposed official torpor over rampant pollution that has killed thousands more people than have died in years of militancy.

The polluted air that has lingered in Islamabad in recent days was finally dispelled by rain this week, bringing the surrounding Margalla Hills into view once again.

In Lahore, where the situation was most critical, the level of PM2.5— microscopic particles that lodge deep in the lungs—had dropped to 159 Wednesday from more than 1,000 during the pollution spike, according to PakistanAirQuality, a citizen-driven monitoring initiative.

But what looks good for Pakistan is still very bad: 159 is six times higher than the World Health Organization’s (WHO) safe limit.

“Question is, can a change from #Hazardous to Very #Unhealthy be called an improvement?” tweeted PakistanAirQuality.

Pakistan is already ranked third in the world—behind China and India— for the number of deaths caused by pollution, with 125,000 people killed annually, according to one measure by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation, a research institute founded by the Gates Foundation.

The figure is well beyond the estimated 60,000 people who have died in the militancy-wracked country’s years-long battle against extremism.

“I don’t want to downplay the risk of militant extremism, but we must understand that our citizens are more vulnerable to diseases in the air than to armed terrorists on the ground,” wrote opposition senator Sherry Rehman in the ExpressTribune newspaper this week.

“We must act. And we must act now.”

Yet the Pakistani government provides almost no reliable data on pollution, making it difficult to say with any certainty why the smog has become so pervasive, particularly in the last two years, much less tackle its causes.

Obvious suspects include unchecked industrial emissions, millions of poorly maintained vehicles, and a complete lack of waste management, with tons of rubbish often burned in the streets.

These factors are aggravated by the annual post-harvest burning of crop stubble, blamed for fueling the recent pollution crisis across South Asia.

Environment ‘bottom of the list’
As the smog peaked in recent weeks, roughly 1,000 new patients were treated each day for respiratory issues in Punjab’s nine public hospitals, health ministry officials have said.

But even as under-resourced medical centers struggle to cope, Pakistan’s official reaction is lethargy.

“It is a matter of emergency but the officials concerned did nothing except taking tea in their offices,” said Syed Mansoor Ali Shah, chief justice of the Lahore High Court.

He spoke Monday during an emergency hearing in which an opposition party accused the provincial government in Punjab, of which Lahore is the capital, of failing to control the smog.

Provincial officials had delayed school start times and shut down some of the worst polluting companies, and said they had also ordered a temporary halt to crop burning.

But Shah said in court it was not enough, adding: “Why didn’t you issue a red alert on smog since you know it’s injurious to the health of pregnant women, elderly people and heart patients especially?”

Accusing environment officials of lying to the court, he ordered them to make pollution data available to the public.

Unlike Beijing, which is cracking down on pollution, and New Delhi, which at least monitors its air and issues warnings to its citizens, Pakistani authorities “haven’t woken up yet,” said Abid Omar, the entrepreneur behind PakistanAirQuality.

“Environment happens to be at the bottom of the list,” he said.

Yet “Pakistan is extremely environmentally vulnerable,” warned environment lawyer and activist Ahmad RafayAlam.

He called on the United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) to consider declaring Pakistan an “emergency” and setting up an office in Lahore.

The WHO representative for Pakistan, Mohammad Assai, said he hoped the situation would start to improve as “more awareness” spreads.

Yet even as citizens breathed a little easier Wednesday, residents of Punjab complained that the province’s infamous brick kilns were belching smoke into the atmosphere once more.

“Many are still running,” one farmer told AFP.

AFP

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Macron’s movement falters after election glory
Manila Times

4 hours ago

PARIS: Six months after riding his own political movement to power in a sensational upset for French politics, President Emmanuel Macron faces the first signs of rebellion in his party.

The 39-year-old leader pulled off what few thought possible by creating a pro-Europe centrist movement from scratch in April 2016 and then sweeping presidential and parliamentary elections just over a year later.

But even senior figures of the Republic on the Move (LREM) admit that, having tasted glory over the summer with a membership of some 350,000, the party has stagnated since.

Worse, after widespread grumbling in private, a small group of 100 followers went public this week with an open resignation letter that claimed the party was consumed by political games and “courtesanship.”

The anonymous rebels said that LREM was guilty of “contempt and arrogance.” had frozen out its community-level members and was aping the methods of the “old world” of politics. “Democracy is not On the Move,” it said.

The letter, first published by the France Info radio station on Tuesday, was timed to coincide with a party congress at the weekend where Macron’s handpicked favorite Christophe Castaner is set to be named new LREM leader.

Castaner, a government spokesman who has spoken of his “love” for the president, is standing unopposed in a vote set to be dominated by national party bigwigs–not grassroots members of what Macron calls a “citizens’ movement.”

Growing pains?
The ructions in LREM are one of a number of challenges faced by the young head of state who needs the party as a support base as he battles opponents on many fronts, including angry trade unionists opposed to his agenda.

It will also be vital for Macron at the local and regional level in France, where upcoming elections for mayors and councils offer him the chance to push his pro-business agenda to “transform” France.

LREM, launched simply as En Marche (On the Move) in April 2016, was a hugely effective electoral force with its thousands of volunteers who knocked on doors, flocked to rallies and distributed leaflets.

Many were drawn to Macron’s promise to do politics differently, including his pledge to put “kindness” at the heart of his agenda, while local committees were invited to brainstorm and contribute to the party’s manifesto.

But once the former investment banker entered office in May, the tight-knit team behind En Marche’s success–political aides all in their 20s and 30s–headed to new jobs in ministries or the presidential staff.

Many volunteers returned to their day jobs, or simply took a break after months of exhausting work.

One leading LREM campaigner in Paris told AFP that the party was barely functioning.

“If you ask for help, they don’t offer anything. The telephone switchboard doesn’t even work properly at headquarters,” she said, asking not to be named because of fears the criticism could harm her standing.

An article in the magazine L’Opinion this week looking at the movement’s growing pains was headlined: “Republic on the Move goes through a teenage crisis.”

‘Complicated’
LREM parliamentarian Jean-Baptiste Moreau, a former farmer who is one of dozens of MPs who benefited from Macron’s drive to bring outsiders into politics, admits that “obviously since the elections, it’s been complicated.”

“The priority now is to have a clear political line,” he said in an interview in his parliamentary office as lawmakers were busy voting on a new tax-cutting budget aimed at stimulating business.

He and others hope that the smooth-talking Castaner, a former Socialist MP who sided early with Macron during his presidential bid, can help revive the lost momentum on the ground.

The open letter by the LREM rebels claimed that “local committees have emptied” since the elections–something seen as a worry by other members who have spoken to AFP and other French media this week.

Castaner’s uncontested “election” this weekend will give the party a new focus, but the opaque process that led to his nomination has left some activists worried about a lack of internal democracy.

“If things are very centralized, then you can get the impression that we’re just here to apply decisions made higher up and people will get disappointed,” warned Patrick Bernard, an LREM organiser in the rural Creuse region.

But he believes new initiatives like a skills training platform for volunteers and new community projects for members will help regenerate enthusiasm.

“We need to give ourselves a new identity,” he said.

AFP

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Martial law in Mindanao may be extended – AFP
Manila Times

4 hours ago

DESPITE the liberation of Marawi City, Mindanao will remain under martial law due to a lingering threat from terror groups in the country, a military spokesman said on Friday.

In a news conference in Malacañang, Brig. Gen. Restituto Padilla Jr. said there was still a network of local terrorists who remained combative — grounds for possible extension of martial law in Mindanao, if not addressed by yearend.

But Padilla assured the public that the government forces were exhausting all efforts to foil any potential terror attacks by Islamist fighters.

“We’re working towards that (lifting of martial law in Mindanao). We’re hoping to be able to address and normalize everything by the end of the year because that was the deadline given to us. But be that as it may, the network of the local terrorist groups still continue and this is the subject of our efforts,” Padilla told reporters.

Martial law was declared in Mindanao on May 23, when fighting in Marawi broke out. Under the 1987 Constitution, the declaration was limited to 60 days. But on the request of President Rodrigo Duterte, Congress extended martial law until December 31.

A day after the death of Isnilon Hapilon and Omar Maute in October, Duterte declared that Marawi has been liberated from the influence of terrorists, allowing the government to shift its focus to rehabilitating the city.

Some sectors have asked Duterte to lift martial law now that security forces have eliminated the leaders of the bandits.

But the military said martial law was still needed to curb terrorist networks in other parts of Mindanao like Basilan and Sulu.

‘Road to normalcy’

Meanwhile, Padilla said clearing operations were ongoing as part of government efforts to bring back the war-torn city on the “road to normalcy.”

“As of yesterday, up to today, 16 more unexploded ordnance were found and addressed by our combined teams of explosive ordnance disposal experts,” Padilla said.

The military, he said, also recovered two more high-powered firearms in the lake area where troops seized 30 high-powered firearms.

Padilla said nine villages (barangay) have been cleared for residents to return “following the protocol that was established by the local government.”

“We are also working on the clearing of 10 more villages next week and we will turn this over to the local government and to Joint Task Force Bangon Marawi,” he said.

Out of the 96 villages in Marawi City, Padilla said 41 were unaffected while 36 were still the subject of continuing clearing operations “until such time that we are convinced that this can be opened safely to returning residents.”

He said the last fire fight between state troops and the Islamic State-linked Maute group was on November 5 in which nine terrorists were killed.

“This has been the last. And that is why recently, there has been an announcement that we no longer sense or monitor any sign of life in the last main battle areas,” Padilla said.

Abusive troops

Padilla also said the military would prosecute soldiers who would be found guilty of committing rape against the displaced women of the Marawi siege.

Padilla called on victims of erring soldiers to come forward after Amnesty International (AI) reported that the military committed abuse against eight civilians who were trapped in Marawi.

The AI report cited the account of one of the eight civilians, a construction worker, who told the AI that he and his companions were crossing a bridge to flee from the militants when Marines confronted and detained them, beat them up, and tied their hands and feet with electrical wire.

The AI also cited an account from another civilian who claimed that the military beat him to a pulp, hit his hands and back with the butt of a rifle, and poured burning liquid poured all over his body. He was eventually brought to the Red Cross.

Padilla said allegations of sexual abuse have been floating since June, the second month of government operations against the Maute.

“We are ready to take action as soon as a formal complaint is lodged,” Padilla said.

The Marawi conflict ended after 154 days of intense fighting between government forces and the Maute group, leaving over a hundred soldiers, at least 47 civilians and about 800 terrorists dead, as well as 500,000 people displaced.

WITH LLANESCA T. PANTI

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PH shares down 1.5% for the week
ABS-CBN - Business

4 hours ago

Philippine shares popped in Friday trade, boosted by better than forecast third quarter gross domestic product growth.


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