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By Geneia Verdejo
MALAYSIAN companies seek business partnership with local firms, as they see huge market potentials in the Philippines.
Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation Deputy Chief Executive Sharimahton Mat Saleh said they organized the Malaysian Mid-Tier Companies Market Immersion Mission to Manila on Nov. 26, 27 and 28 to allow Malaysian companies to meet potential business partners in the Philippines. MATRADE is the Malaysia’s trade promotion agency, which has an office in Manila.
She said the market immersion mission provides an avenue for companies to better understand the Philippine market through engagement.
“Establishing a joint venture with a Filipino entity is one of the alternatives for Malaysian companies to gain access into the Philippine market. The prospect for Malaysian businesses in this market remains promising, given the size of the market and growth of the economy,” Saleh said.
The MTCs that participated in the three -day mission were from diverse sectors such as energy generation, that includes solar; automotive and industrial lubricants, building & construction materials, as well as food & beverage sector.
MATRADE Trade Commissioner Siti Azlina said “one of the participating companies is manufacturing aerated autoclave concrete (AAC), which is actually light weight blocks used as an alternatives for heavy concrete.
“We are excited to share this construction solution to the Philippines construction industry players. The technology has been applied in Malaysia for construction of high-rise building including hotels, shopping malls, apartments and condominiums’, she said.
Programmes arranged by MATRADE for the Malaysian companies include one-on -one business meetings, industry visits and networking sessions with associations and stakeholders from related sectors.
Malaysian Mid-Tier companies are the highest and fastest growing companies, contributing 33% to the GDP, employing 22% of the workforce; while making up only 1% of the total businesses in Malaysia.
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By Geneia Verdejo
DAVAO City – The Malaysians were exploring talks with local business groups for investments and business partnerships in Mindanao.
This was learned after the Malaysia External Trade Development Corporation (MATRADE), the national trade promotion agency of Malaysia, revealed that it has successfully concluded an exploratory mission to Davao, Mindanao from November 7 to 9.
MATRADE Trade Commissioner based in Manila, Siti Azlina Mohd Ali Hanafiah said MATRADE has been actively pursuing opportunities in various industries in the Philippines, and is also seriously looking to enhance collaboration in the Halal sector particularly for Mindanao.
Philippines has always been an important trade and investment partner for Malaysia.
The trade mission was aimed at exploring potential business opportunities and identify market leads especially in trading of fast moving consumer goods and Halal, as well as information and communications technology and construction.
“Specifically for Mindanao, there is need to strengthen existing trade ties especially under the Brunei Darussalam Indonesia Malaysia Philippines – East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA),” she added.
The Malaysian delegation in Davao was also joined by Mr. Ahmad Nasaruddin Mood Noor, MATRADE Deputy Director of ASEAN Desk in Kuala Lumpur.
“We are inviting Philippines business community to take part in MIHAS (Malaysia International Halal Showcase) – the largest halal exhibition in the region and leverage on their platform to learn the best halal practices, products and services offerings,” she said.
MIHAS 2019 will be held at MITEC, Kuala Lumpur next year, from April 3 – 6.
In 2017, the Philippines was Malaysia’s 5th largest trading partner within ASEAN.
Bilateral trade within both countries grew by 26.1% to US$5.94 billion. Both exports and imports have registered double digit growth rates, with exports increasing at 21.2% and imports at 36.1%, compared to 2016.
Major products exported from Malaysia to the Philippines were electrical and electronics (US$390.8 million / 19.4%), palm oil & palm based products (US$250.4 million / 12.4%), petroleum products (US$243.8 million / 12.1%), chemical and chemical products (US$218.7 million / 10.9%), and machinery, equipment & parts (US$144.6 million / 7.2%).
On the other hand, major products imported from the Philippines were electrical and electronics (US$727.2 million / 67.2%), machinery, equipment & parts (US$54.6 million / 5%), processed Food (US$42 million / 3.9%) rubber (US$41.9 million / 3.9%) and optical and scientific equipment (US$31.3 million / 2.9%) making the Philippines, Malaysia’s 18th largest import source.
On investment front, Malaysia remained among the major ASEAN investors in the Philippines after Singapore. Malaysia’s investment in 2017 was valued at US$9.4 million, while for the first half of 2018, the total investment from Malaysia were US$69.38 million mainly in infrastructure, manufacturing, ICT, call centers, palm oil and hospitality.
Among Malaysian brands with strong business and investment foothold include Shangri-La Hotel, Genting Group, Berjaya Group, PETRONAS, Maybank, Alloy MTD and Air Asia.
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By Geneia Verdejo
INTERNATIONAL Container Terminal Services, Inc.’s Ecuadorian subsidiary, Contecon Guayaquil SA, has lauded the decision of Guayaquil government to dredge and maintain the channel leading to the Port of Guayaquil in that South American country.
The Technical Commission of the Municipality of Guayaquil awarded a 25-year concession to the Luxembourg-based Jan De Nul Group last October 5, to undertake the dredging and maintenance of the 95-kilometer main access channel leading to the port.
“This landmark undertaking of the Guayaquil municipality to dredge and maintain the main access channel, the first in 60 years, is truly laudable. It will help ensure the progress not only of Guayaquil, whose ports will be directly benefited, but of the entire Ecuador,” said Jose Antonio Contreras, CGSA chief executive officer.
“We should be able to strengthen our position as the country’s preferred port of call in the Pacific coast that has a deeper access channel allowing the entry of the world’s largest box ships. We can now look forward to the arrival of neo-Panama box ships since the terminal is ready to handle these new generation vessels,” he added.
Located near Ecuador’s main export zones, Contecon Guayaquil is ICTSI’s largest port concession in Latin America with a handling capacity of up to 1.4-million twenty equivalent-foot units (TEUs) annually.
Nearly 85 percent of goods imported and exported from the country pass through the Port of Guayaquil, it being in close proximity to export zones and agricultural areas.
With dredging works expected to be completed within the first year of the concession, mega vessels will soon be able to enter the port even with a 12.5-meter draft at high tide, from the existing access channel depth of 9.6 meters.
Recently, CGSA got the government’s approval to simultaneously handle larger vessels at its Berths 2 and 3, essentially becoming the only terminal in Ecuador capable of doing so. This follows the inauguration of the terminal’s expanded logistics support area, capable of handling 6,000 reefer containers per month–the largest in the equator and possibly the largest in the Pacific.
At present, CGSA offer shipping lines an alongside draft of 10.50 meters at MLWS, while the access channel has up to 9.75 meters.
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By Geneia Verdejo
THE Maritime Industry Authority on Friday has launched the online appointment system to speed up the processing of Seafarer’s Identification and Record Book.
Moreover, starting November 5, Filipino seafarers can use the SIRB Online Appointment System which can be accessed through MARINA’s official website (www.marina.gov.ph)
The online appointment is one of the innovations in the MARINA’s Integrated Management System to ensure strict and uncompromising quality procedures in the delivery of public service.
The implementation of the SIRB Online Appointment System is in line with the computerization and automation of all MARINA processes that was identified in its 14 Point Agenda for 2018.
MARINA continues to provide faster, more convenient, and more efficient public service to maritime stakeholders, especially to Filipino seafarers who contributed US$5.8 billion in the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP) in 2017.
Filipino seafarers may save time and energy in processing their seaman’s book, thus allowing more time for their families and loved ones while they are on a vacation.
The SIRB Online Appointment System was launched during the “Usapang STCW Forum,” participated by approximately 500 maritime stakeholders. STCW stands for Standards of Training, Certification, and Watch keeping for seafarers.
The forum tackled maritime education, training, and certification for Filipino seafarers such as the MARINA’s framework in producing competent seafarers, MARINA’s strategies in ensuring quality maritime education through outcome-based education, as well as the STCW for Seafarers 1978, as amended.
The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) led the discussions on the control procedures to verify the required sea service of Filipino seafarers, while the Department of Health (DOH) cited the established medical standard for medical fitness and procedures for the issuance of medical certificate for seafarers.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Joint Manning Group (JMP) announced the employment opportunities on board international vessels.
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MANILA—The Philippine Ports Authority (PPA), a government owned corporation, posted a 17% hike in net profit in the 11-month period of 2016 anchored on the strong financial performance of the agency during the last five months proving that the state, not only private firms, could run profitable enterprises.
The accumulated amount was also significantly higher compared to the target for the entire 11-month period this year.
The PPA was able to achieve such financial stability despite the continuing slide in the foreign exchange rate and other external factors affecting the strength of the Philippine peso.
Latest data from PPA showed that net profit before tax reached P7.164 billion or P1.027 billion higher than the P6.137 billion posted in the same period last 2015 due to the increases in Ro-Ro fees, Berthing Fees and vessel lay-up fees.
Compared to the target, the 11-month profit is higher by 70% or P2.936 billion as against the programmed margin of P4.227 billion.
PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said the favorable revenue record, particularly those mentioned, somehow softened the pressure of the anti-port congestion measures put into place some two years ago particularly on the storage fee that dropped more than 26% as of end November 2016.
“In the last 5 months, we almost tripled our revenues compared to our collection in the first semester of 2016,” Santiago said.
“This performance exhibits an overall healthy financial condition with indications of strong ability to service obligations and long-term financial security,” Santiago stressed.
“The agency will continue to work harder this 2017 to improve its revenues that will eventually translate to better and efficient ports and services for the public in the short- and long-terms,” Santiago added.
Total revenues for the agency, meanwhile, totaled P12.901 billion for the period in review or 8.03% higher than the P11.942 billion raked in during the January to November 2015 period. As against the target, the total is higher by 10.13% compared to the programmed revenue of P11.714 billion.
Fund Management Income (FMI), however, declined by almost 7% to P74.84 million from last year’s P80.35 million due to the slump in interest rates for special and/or high-yield savings deposits resulting from the volatile market behavior in view of the global economic and political uncertainties.
Total expenses fell 1.25% to P5.812 billion from the P5.886 billion disbursed during the same period last year. The decrease was propelled primarily by the reduction in Operating expenses due to the gradual disbursement in the implementation of Repair and Maintenance projects complemented by the decrease in Other Administrative Costs and Depreciation Targets. However, this was counterweighed by the increase in Non-operating Expenses because of interest charges on matured foreign loans.
PPA continues to pour a large portion of its resources in port infrastructure facilities nationwide and as of end-November, the agency completed 55 projects, 64 are still ongoing, 1 suspended and 51 others are about to start. PPA has allotted approximately P6.068 billion for these said projects.
“These projects are targeted to improve the capacity, service standards, and efficiency of ports, consistent with the government’s development agenda and strategic objectives as well as the Authority’s vision of providing globally-benchmarked services,” Santiago said.
Meanwhile, the maritime community within and along the Panay island is getting a new boost after a multipurpose Maritime Center breaks ground at the heart of Iloilo City.
Set to be a one-stop shop for the maritime community, the venture is set to be completed within the second quarter of the year, which include among others, a four-storey building with roof deck and elevator including perimeter fence, driveway, parking area and soft scope.
The development, which will cost about P60 million, is a multi-agency initiative led by the Angkla Partylist through Rep. Jesulito Manalo, wherein the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) contributed the land while the building will be financed through the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Region VI. The Maritime Industry Authority (Marina), on the other hand, will provide the personnel to carry out the objective of the Center.
Iloilo is a maritime center with a respected maritime school, John B. Lacson Foundation Maritime University (JBLFMU), that trains ship officers.
THE Manila International Container Terminal (MICT), International Container Terminal Services, Inc.’s (ICTSI) flagship operation and the Philippines’ largest, most technologically advanced container terminal, capped 2016 with a milestone as it reached its first year-to-date two millionth TEU move last December. Nominated among the world’s top container terminals for several years, the MICT has an annual capacity of 2.75 million twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).
The two millionth TEU container was offloaded from SITC Osaka, which is operated by Chinese megaliner SITC Container Lines. The container vessel originated from Ningbo in China. SITC is one of MICT’s longtime clients with regular vessel calls to the Port of Manila. MICT reached its first one million-TEU move back in December 2002.
A ceremony held to commemorate the milestone was led by Christian R. Gonzalez, ICTSI Senior Vice President and Regional Head of Asia-Pacific and MICT, and Qing Quan, SITC Container Lines Philippines, Inc. General Manager.
“Today represents a significant achievement for MICT as we continue with our mandate to provide the highest level of service to our clients and stakeholders, most especially to the Filipino people. As the gateway to the Philippine market, MICT consistently seeks to improve our operational efficiency to ensure fast and uninterrupted flow of trade in and out of the port,” said Mr. Gonzalez.
Terminal utilization at the MICT has significantly improved since the completion of Yard 7 late in November 2015. Yard 7, which is part of MICT’s PHP5 billion expansion project, increased the terminal’s capacity by 18 percent from 2.5 million to 2.75 million TEUs.
The two million milestone also triggers a multi-billion peso capacity improvement commitment with the Philippine Ports Authority that requires ICTSI to commission five additional post-Panamax quay cranes along with corresponding yard equipment, and build at least another berth by 2019.
Also, key to achieving the two million TEU milestone was the rollout the Terminal Appointment Booking System (TABS), an online container booking platform, in October 2015, which significantly improved and optimized the flow of trucks in and out of the terminal.
Mr. Gonzalez explains: “The construction of Yard 7 and the implementation of TABS last year gave us the flexibility and efficiency we need to perform optimally. We have more projects in the pipeline like the revival of the rail line which will link MICT with Laguna Gateway Inland Container Terminal.”
Aside from establishing an intermodal link between its Manila and Laguna terminals, ICTSI also submitted a proposal to the Philippine Department of Transportation to build the Cavite Gateway Terminal (CGT), a USD30 million common-user barge and roll on–roll off terminal in Tanza, Cavite. The 115,000-TEU facility, which will be built in a six-hectare property, will also be directly linked with MICT. The transshipping of cargo from MICT to CGT and vice-versa will serve the dynamic economic activity of Cavite, and lessen the number of truck trips in Manila by approximately 140,000 annually.
“All of these projects are aimed at maximizing the efficiency of our operation and ensuring uninterrupted movement in the supply chain regardless of the season or fluctuation in demand. We continue to work with our stakeholders and partners in the government in formulating and implementing strategies for the benefit of the industry and the national economy,” according to Mr. Gonzalez.
THE Philippines ushers in the New Year with programs to intensify its fight against child labor.
One such program is the “Makiisa para sa 1 milyong batang malaya” which features the launching of three major initiatives against child labor. These initiatives include a first comprehensive project on child labor with set up of help desks, a new project on child labor in gold mining, and a new child labor module in the conditional cash transfer program.
The National Child Labor Committee (NCLC), chaired by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE); the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), the International Labour Organization (ILO) and Ban Toxics jointly launched the programs last January 12 in Quezon City.
According to the 2011 Survey on Children, there are 2.1 million Filipino children in child labor. Findings of the United States Department of Labor (USDOL) in 2015 revealed that the Philippines made significant advancement in efforts to eliminate the worst forms of child labor. Despite progress, however, enforcement of child labor laws n the country remains a challenge.
“Child labor is complex and deeply rooted in poverty. Children suffer and risk their health or even their lives to work for their family’s survival. Ending child labor requires strong commitment and collective effort,” said Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines who also managed projects to address child labor in Africa and Asia.
The Strategic Help Desks for Information, Education, Livelihood and other Developmental Interventions (SHIELD) is the first comprehensive project of DSWD on child labor. It will strengthen efforts at the local level, which will include help desks and a local registry on child labor for referral and convergence of support services.
SHIELD will focus on areas with high incidence of child labor as priority to create an impact and to make services more accessible to children and th eir families. Interventions will be based on data from the Child Labor Local Registry.
The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), the conditional cash transfer programe of the DSWD will also launch and integrate a new module on child labor. The 4Ps has a reach of about 4 million households from the poorest of the poor, who are often forced to involve their children in work to augment the family income. The 4Ps contributes to putting children in schools through its conditionality on education. Being in school, however, is not an assurance that children will not engage in child labor. The child labor module will be part of the Family Development Sessions to raise awareness on child labor and the role of the family to prevent or to end child labor, especially its worst forms.
CARING Gold is a new project implemented by the ILO and Ban Toxics together with DOLE and DENR and funded by the USDOL. Child labour in mining is considered as a worst form of child labor but remains unregulated and unmonitored. The project will address child labor in mining at its root cause, which is poverty and vulnerability. Interventions will also include improving working conditions and providing support to establish models for operation that are legal and viable as well as compliant with labor, environmental and health standards.
These initiatives overall support the Philippine Program against Child Labor 2017-2022 to withdraw one million children from child labor and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which calls to end child labor in all its forms by 2025.
PHILIPPINE ports will remain open Christmas and New Year due to the traditional influx of Christmas cargoes.
“Philippine ports, particularly our international gateways, will be in full commercial operations except for a couple of hours on Christmas and New Year’s Day because ships continue to come and go even during holidays,” Philippine Ports Authority General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago said on Friday.
At the same time, Santiago urged cargo owners not to relax in the cargo withdrawals and continue to take advantage of the Truck Appointment and Booking System in order to have a very smooth turnaround time for the country’s foreign cargoes.
“I am urging all cargo owners and other stakeholders to maintain their current operations in order to have a swift turnaround time for their cargoes and if possible send their exports bound for Chinese ports early to prevent any hold-up when celebrations for the Chinese New year kicks in,” Santiago pleaded.
“The domestic ports are also replicating the procedures of the international ports in order to secure safe travel of passengers relative to Oplan Ligtas Biyahe: Christmas 2016 and at the same time guarantee just in time delivery of domestic goods,” he added.
As of the moment, cargo utilization at the two main gateways of the Philippines—the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Manila South Harbor (MSH)—remain very healthy at 60% or approximately 49,000 twenty-foot equivalent units inside the terminal ready to be withdrawn or exported. Yard productivity at the two ports also remains high with an average of 20-25 moves an hour.
Both terminals attribute the healthy yard utilization and productivity to the Truck Appointment and Booking System as well as the high storage penalty imposed by the Authority.
Cargo volume, on the other hand, is in the uptrend since the start of the 3rd quarter due to the run-up to Christmas by about 10% a month.
PPA has likewise maintained the tight security in the domestic ports since the All Saints Day celebration to ensure safety, security and comfort of passengers while inside the terminals.
“I reiterated to our port personnel to take all the necessary measures to reduce any inconvenience and to make sure that our ports are safe at all times,” Santiago said.
PPA has likewise assured importers, exporters and cargo owners that ports have enough capacity with the coming Chinese New Year wherein Chinese-owned firms shut down operations for a couple of days for the festivities.
MANILA – Social protection can play an important role in building resilience to natural disasters, according to experts who attended an International Labour Organization (ILO) and Association of South-East Asian Nations (ASEAN) seminar in Manila early this week.
“Disasters are not inevitable; capacity of the population to prepare and respond to hazards decides whether it will turn into a disaster or not. In this sense, linking better social protection and disaster risk management will contribute significantly to mitigate the social and economic impact of natural hazards”, said Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines.
For ASEAN member states too, strengthening social protection is a priority for better managing and building resilience to disasters. Such priority is also part of the ASEAN Declaration on Strengthening Social Protection that confirms the commitment of each ASEAN member States to extend social protection to everyone.
Natural disasters affect more the poorer countries and populations, because of their fewer resources and assets for coping and rebounding. However, disasters hit people of all economic levels and may push the previously non-poor into poverty. This is why social protection can play a crucial role in times of natural disasters.
Social protection programmes, such as cash transfers, reduce poverty and vulnerabilities to income shocks, and contributes to build human capital and diversify assets and sources of incomes. Social protection also creates an insurance among the members of a society to support those not able to continue working in period of disasters.
Furthermore, social protection, through public work programmes for environment conservation and infrastructure development for example, help reconstructing and building resilience to natural disasters. The conditions for successful disasters-responsive social protection is the establishment of those programmes prior to disasters, with adequate resources and certain flexibility in their implementation, for instance with the qualifying conditions.
The ASEAN region is located in one of the most disaster-prone areas of the world, exposed to almost all types of hazards including typhoons, earthquakes, tsunamis, floods, volcanic eruptions, landslides, forest-fires, and droughts.
According to UNISDR, the UN agency in-charge of monitoring disasters, between 2000 and 2015, 777 natural events hit the South-East Asia region, causing the deaths of over 360,000 people, and affecting 236 million people. In 2013, the region had the highest number of disaster victims relative to its population size and the highest impact on its economies.
Moving away from purely humanitarian relief, disaster management nowadays intends to contribute to sustainable development and poverty eradication, as confirmed by the Sendai Framework for Disaster Risk Reduction (2015–2030) adopted by all United Nations. The ASEAN Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Relief and its Work Programme, renewed last April for five years, echo the principles and objectives of the Sendai Framework.
Officials from the ASEAN governments, unions’ and employers’ representatives, UNICEF, UNISDR and other UN agencies, will adopt strategies and concrete actions to better link social protection with disaster management.
The three day “Seminar on the potential of social protection to build disasters’ resilience” (Nov. 22-24) was organized with sponsorship from the ILO/Japan – ASEAN Project on promoting and building social protection in ASEAN.
Philippine Undersecretary Ciriaco Lagunzad of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), Mr Khalid Hassan, Director of the ILO Country Office for the Philippines, Undersecretary Florita Villar of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), and Mr Edwin Salonga of the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management (NDRRMC) were among the seminar attendees..
More information on the seminar can be found at the ILO-ASEAN Seminar on the potential of social protection to build resilience to disasters and the programme is available at http://www.ilo.org/manila/eventsandmeetings/WCMS_535190/lang–en/index.htm.
THE integrated energy company Semirara Mining and Power Corporation (SMPC) on Monday disclosed that it has started the Panian pit final rehabilitation to “restore its ecological balance,” following the depletion of its coal reserves.
“Our goal is to restore the topography of Panian and promote flora and fauna growth in the area. We are still consulting with Department of Energy (DOE) and host local government unit as to the final land use plan. We want to turn over something that will continue to benefit the government and host community. Island sustainability is our main concern,” said SMPC President and Chief Operating Officer Victor A. Consunji.
To restore the ecological balance, SMPC has begun filling Panian pit, which is in Antique province, with overburden materials such as rock and soil that were removed from its two operating pits, Molave and Narra Mines. Prior to pre-mine operation, Panian area was characterized by rolling hills of open grasslands and numerous gullies with shrubs and trees.
Once the Panian mine pit becomes a stable land form, the SMPC will cover the area with humic acid, compost and other materials to add nutrients to the soil. This will be followed by a massive reforestation program that involves endemic and suitable plant species.
“The in-pit of Panian Mine would no longer look like a depleted mine since the final elevation would be around -10 meters at the northern side and +30 meters at the central barricade and +10 meters at the southern side,” said Consunji.
The +10 meter elevation is planned to be a fresh water reservoir while the -10 meter elevation is being eyed as a possible beach resort, grazing land, pearl farm or marine sanctuary that will be turned over to the local government unit for possible development into an eco-tourism spot.
In 2005, the mining company conducted an initial progressive rehabilitation near Casay Lake at the western part of Panian. To date, over 250 hectares of the area have been planted with nearly 2 million trees.
SMPC is the only power producer in the Philippines that generates its own fuel. It produces over 800 megawatt (MW) of base load power for the Luzon grid. SMPC develop, and mine the coal resources in Semirara Island located in Caluya, Antique.
The company has a coal operating contract with the DOE for the exploration, mining and utilization of coal in Semirara Island, with an estimated coal reserve of 170 million metric tons.
As of end-September 2016, the company registered a net income of P9.558 billion, 53.94 percent higher than the P6.209 billion profit registered in the same period last year.
Coal production increased by 44 percent year-on-year to 8.3 million metric tons (MTs) from 5.8 million MTs last year. Coal sales volume increased by 57 percent year-on-year to 9.6 million MTs from 6.1 million last year.
The mining site was recently closed due to the depletion, which was certified by the DOE after its visit to Semirara Island last September 20 to 21.
THE Philippines has expressed its intention to be part of the China’s maritime silk road initiative (CMSRI) as it encouraged Association of Southeast Asian Nations–member ports to also join it for greater economic cooperation and connectivity in Southeast Asia.
Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade said the Duterte administration already expressed its desire to join CMSRI during President Rodrigo Duterte’s recent China visit.
“I am convinced that opportunities are there for making strategic port infrastructure investment, which can connect major Philippine gateways and other Asean Ports Association member ports to huge markets along the maritime silk road corridor,” Tugade said at the 42nd meeting of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Ports Association.
The maritime silk road, is principally a sea route from the South China Sea and South East Asia, through the Indian Ocean and Middle East area into the eastern Mediterranean. Its main target is to have port infrastructure projects linked with some land-based projects. Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) hosted the Asean Ports Association (APA) meeting held at the Solaire Resorts Hotel in Entertainment City in Parañaque on November 15-16, 2016.
Tugade said the maritime silk road offers immense growth opportunities for the nine-member countries of APA namely; Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.
He said the APA members can expand their trading base in traditional markets such as the United States, Japan. China, Australia and India.
“The Philippines, in particular is looking forward to tapping the huge Chinese tourism market, now that it had a stronger relationship with China. However, it needs to catch up with its Asean neighbors, which enjoy huge cruise tourist arrivals as they continuously prep up their ports for cruise tourism,” he said.
Tugade stressed the significance of maritime cooperation with Japan anchored on safety and security of the Philippines and the entire APA community, considering the group’s strategic program on port safety, health, and environmental management. The group promotes green and sustainable ports through best practices as well as the Asean maritime roll-on, roll–off (Ro-Ro) route particularly, the Bitung-Davao-General Santos link.
Meanwhile, PPA General Manager Jay Daniel R. Santiago is looking forward to establishing closer ties and furthering active engagements among APA members in collaborative efforts in their priority concerns for future policy formulation and program planning.
“APA will always take a dynamic and active role in our collective pursuit to attain efficiency and productivity in our ports while gearing up for more challenges that will strengthen the association’s clout in the Asean community by way of more focused and groundbreaking port and maritime initiatives and projects,” Santiago said.
“We are confident that the future of the APA will always remain bright and intertwined with the unified efforts of its member nations,” Santiago added.
FINANCE Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said the third-quarter Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth of 7.1 percent puts the Duterte administration on target of expanding the economy by at least 7 percent in the short and medium term to generate enough resources for its priority agenda of drastically reducing poverty and creating enough jobs for Filipinos.
In a statement, Dominguez said last quarter’s growth was apparently driven in part by the onset of the Duterte presidency’s strong spending on infrastructure and the recovery of the agriculture sector from the prolonged El Nino-induced drought, and means there will be no letup in its commitment to spend big on urban and rural infrastructure as a growth driver as well as on human capital and social protection, to guarantee sustained high—and inclusive—growth.
He said the government needs to move quickly its fiscal reform package—topped by the proposed Comprehensive Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act that the Department of Finance (DOF) already submitted to the Congress last September—to create enough buffer that would shield the economy plus the poor and other vulnerable sectors from the market volatilities mainly triggered by external factors.
“To keep the economy on its high—and inclusive—growth path, the government will pursue with vigor its fiscal strategy of improving budget efficiency and transparency and reforming tax policy and administration,” Dominguez said, “as a way to raise the P1 trillion in additional annual investments that are needed in infrastructure, human capital and social protection to transform the Philippines into a high middle-income economy by 2022 and a high-income one by 2040.”
“We need to raise sufficient revenues to (1) close the infrastructure gap that has for long undermined our economy’s global competitiveness, and (2) ensure the financial sustainability of our accelerated spending on human capital and social protection that are necessary to drastically reduce poverty and shield the poor and other vulnerable sectors from external shocks and the initial impact of the government’s reform agenda,” he said.
Dominguez was reacting to today’s announcement by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) that the GDP grew by 7.1 percent over the July-September 2016 period.
According to NEDA, the figure, which covers the first three months of the Duterte administration, is higher than the GDP growth of 7.0 percent in the second quarter, and is an improvement on the 6.2 percent GDP growth recorded in the same period last year.
Pernia said that compared to other major Asian emerging economies who have released their GDP figures, “the country recorded the fastest growth in the third quarter of 2016, trailed by China (6.7 percent), Vietnam (6.4 percent ), Indonesia (5.0 percent ), and Malaysia (4.3 percent).”
NEDA director-general Ernesto Pernia said the “current quarter’s economic growth performance beats the market expectation of a 6.8 percent GDP growth and bolsters the likelihood of attaining the government’s target of 6.0 to 7.0 percent for the year.”
“This brings real GDP growth for the first three quarters of 2016 to 7.0 percent relative to the 5.9 percent growth in the same period a year ago,” Pernia noted.
“By industrial origin (production or supply side), the faster economic growth was driven mainly by the services sector (6.9 percent from 8.3 percent in Q2 2016 and 7.2 percent in Q3 2015)) and the industry sector (8.6 percent from 7.1 percent in Q2 2016 and 5.8 percent in Q3 2015). Worth noting is the recovery of the agriculture sector from the prolonged drought brought by the El Nino phenomenon which already dissipated in Q3 2016,” he added.
Dominguez said the government will have to invest in programs that will transform the economy from a consumption- to an investment-driven one, and at a much higher level from our current investment rate of 20 percent of GDP, so we could be on the par with our more vibrant neighbors that invest between 30 percent and 40 percent of their respective GDPs.
Alongside investing in infrastructure, human capital and social protection to sustain the economy’s growth momentum and attack poverty, Dominguez said the Duterte administration will also remain focused on other urgent measures such as fully implementing the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, modernizing agriculture to pull down food prices while increasing farmers’ incomes, and leveling the playing field for micro, small and medium scale enterprises (MSMEs).
Dominguez recalled that at the start of the new government, it put in place at once a 10-point socioeconomic agenda that will enable President Duterte to deliver on his electoral mandate to sustain the growth momentum and make it truly inclusive over the next six years by spreading its benefits to all sectors across all regions.
FUNDS collected from road users’ tax amounting to billions of peso that were intended for road maintenance and minimize air pollution were underutilized.
A study of state-run think tank, Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), shows that a total of P112.5 billion were deposited to the motor vehicle users’ charge (MVUC) fund, more popularly known as road users’ tax from 2001 to 2014. Out of the P112.5 billion funds collected during the period, a total of P105 billion was disbursed, bringing the total fund balance to about P7.5 billion in 2014.
MVUC is considered as the third biggest source of tax revenue for the government, contributing an additional 40 percent of available funds for maintenance of national roads. The MVUC or road users’ tax is imposed through the registration fees of vehicles and penalties for overloading that were collected by the Land Transportation Office (LTO).
PIDS said, the road users’ tax was underutilized due to lack of definitive operating procedure system that will identify and prioritize projects.
PIDS Consultants Sheilah Napalang and Pia May Agatep, PIDS Senior Research Fellow Adoracion Navarro and Research Associate Keith Detros underscored that the processes of identification, approval, and implementation of proposed projects were problematic.
During the period 2001 to 2014, 83 percent of total disbursement or P 87.13 billion were from the Special Road Support Fund (SRSF); P 4.14 billion were from the Special Local Road Fund (SLRF) that comprised 3.9 percent of the total disbursement; the P 7.75 billion from Special Road Safety Fund (SRSaF) and P6 billion from the Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund (SVPCF).
“Project identification does not follow the prescribed procedures. The approach is bottom up, rather than top down, [thereby] failing to incorporate a network perspective of accident black spots, and leading to projects that are not of the highest priority being approved and implemented,” PIDS authors said.
They added that government agencies should ensure that the projects are economically viable and ascertain that road users will benefit the most.
PIDS said the Road Board Secretary should focus on “monitoring and evaluation of project implementation and outcomes, and leave the procurement and project implementation to the Department of Public Works and Highways.
According to Republic Act 8794, funds collected from the MVUC should be placed in four special accounts in the National Treasury: Special Road Support Fund (80 percent), Special Local Road Fund (5 percent), Special Vehicle Pollution Control Fund (7.5 percent) and Special Road Safety Fund (7.5 percent).
The law stipulates that 70 percent of the Special Road Support Fund (SRSF) should be used for the maintenance and drainage of national primary roads and the remaining 30 percent should be used for the maintenance and drainage of national secondary roads.
PIDS recommended that project proposals and current projects as well as past projects be published online. PIDS suggested the strengthening of “community-based employment in road maintenance projects and encourage the participation of the civil society organizations in monitoring and increasing transparency in road projects.
AFTER winning the arbitration case which favors the Philippines’ rightful claim over the disputed territory, Philippines must exert efforts to enhance its trade relations with China to boost the economic activities.
Richard Javad Heydarian, Assistant Professor in International Affairs and Political Science at De La Salle University (DLSU) said the Duterte administration is looking at ways to revive bilateral investment relations, in spite of the verdict.
“I expect the new administration to use the clean sweep verdict to extract concessions from China in South China Sea and seek return of Chinese investments to the country, particularly in public infrastructure,” he told the Beyond Deadlines.
China has been a major trading partner of the Philippines and it has helped boost the country’s tourism industry.
Atty. Brenda Pimentel, former International Maritime Organization (IMO) Regional Coordinator for Technical Cooperation in Asia said, on the part of the maritime industry, it is unfortunate that no coherent policy on the country’s maritime interest had been articulated.
Pimentel said; “It’s for the government to reach out to the stakeholders to draw up one.”
Senator Risa Hontiveros is expecting the government to craft an interdependent and progressive foreign policy guided by the Hague ruling that will serve as the administration’s reference in upholding the national sovereignty and territorial integrity in the region.
Hontiveros asked the Duterte administration to further safeguard the country’s sovereignty and marine jurisdiction in the West Philippine Sea. She also urged China to end its bullying and militarist expansion in the region.
“President Duterte must use all democratic multilateral platforms to protect our national interest and foster stronger ties with our regional neighbors,” she said in a statement.
Meanwhile, despite the territorial row with China, Standard Chartered Bank sees a buoyant Philippine economy this year under the Duterte administration.
Standard Chartered Regional Economist for Asia Jeff Ng said Duterte inherit an economy that is experiencing a domestic boom.
Duterte’s eight-point economic agenda centers on the continuity of policies on infrastructure development, investment, tax system improvement and education.
Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez aims to maintain the infrastructure spending target of the government at 5 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) in the coming years.
“We expect GDP growth of 6.4 percent in 2016, up from 5.9 percent in 2015, due to fading downside risks to domestic growth. This is slightly below the official 6.8 to 7.8 percent growth target, reflecting strong external headwinds,” Ng said in a Research Note.
Household consumption will remain strong, supported by lower unemployment rate and the second round effects of election related spending.
Philippine Peso -US dollar trade is forecasts at P47.50 to a US$1 this year.
THE leading Philippine port operator International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) ‘s subsidiary in Georgia, a country at the intersection of eastern Europe and western Asia; has built the Philippine–Georgia Friendship Park at the Tbilisi Zoo.
The Tbilisi pleasure ground, which is also called Mabuhay park, is funded by Batumi International Container Terminal LLC (BICT), the Georgian subsidiary of ICTSI. It is at the heart of Tbilisi Zoo and the first open air park that officially celebrates Georgia’s friendship with the Philippines.
It’s name Mabuhay Park speaks for itself. It has Eco‐friendly structures such as wooden houses, mazes, slides, benches and tables. Mabuhay is a traditional Philippine expression of warm welcome and glad tidings . The park aims to provide leisure, fun, and enjoyment for families who visit the zoo at Georgia’s capital city of Tbilisi.
BICT Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director Nikoloz Gogoli said his company operates the container terminal in the Port of Batumi, which represents the largest Philippine investment in Georgia.
“We have Philippine roots, but Georgia is our home, and Tbilisi is our capital city. Donating this friendship park is our small way of rebuilding the city for the sake of our children and their future. With this new park, we hope children and parents alike can have a recreational space to bond and connect for many years to come. We also hope that this park validates the friendship between Georgia and the Philippines.” he said.
BICT is in the business of port operations, management and development.
On the other hand, ICTSI’s portfolio of terminals and projects spans developed and emerging market economies in the Asia Pacific, the Americas, Europe and the Middle East, and Africa.
Meanwhile, Georgian Honorary Consul Thelmo Luis Cunanan Jr. said the park symbolizes the strong ties of friendship that bind the two countries.
“We have worked very hard to develop relations between the Philippines and Georgia. BICT, and its parent ICTSI, are world‐class companies. BICT has been doing an excellent job.This is a special gift to Georgia from the Philippines,” he said.
Honorary Philippine Consul General Teimuraz Chichinadze expressed support for the project.
“As a Georgian, it has been an honor to serve the Philippines and Filipino people. I am very proud and happy about the initiative to build this park. We will support this 100 percent.”
Tbilisi Zoo Director Zurab Gurielidz said it was a challenge to develop Tbilisi Zoo.
“We have worked for many years to give Georgians a wonderful place to learn about wildlife . I am so happy that our brothers and sisters from the Philippines have reached out to us with this beautiful gesture. I am very touched. God bless the Philippines. God bless Georgia.”
Mzia Sharasidze, Tbilisi Zoo public relations and media manager said this park is a symbol of the rebirth of Tbilisi Zoo after the devastating flood that hit the capital last June and caused massive damage to the zoo.
The Philippine – Georgia Friendship Park was inaugurated on 1 June at the Tbilisi Zoo.