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Favorite, new locations boost PHLtourismvista By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

@akosistellaBM Special to the BusinessMirror



HE Great Santa Cruz Island in Zamboanga, which recently landed on National Geographic Magazine’s top 21 beaches in the world, is another priority for the Department of Tourism (DOT). “Hardly lacking in gorgeous beaches, the Philippines claims a pink-sand variety, too,” the magazine said. “The blush color comes from billions of pieces of crushed red organ-pipe coral, seen in every handful of sand.” Tourism Secretar y Wanda Corazon T. Teo expressed pride in the citation from the prestigious international magazine. She instructed Region 9 Director Antonio Fernando M. Blanco to coordinate with the Tourism Infrastructure and Enterprise Zone Authority (Tieza) to assist the local government in upgrading facilities on the island, providing additional cottages and offering more nature-based recreational activities. Tieza, an attached agency of the DOT, Continued on A2

White sand is seen along the shores of Talicud Island in Davao. ALYSA SALEN

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Wednesday, March 15, 2017 Vol. 12 No. 154

Duterte’s tax-reform plan back to the drawing board


alveo breaks record on its 15th year E1 | Wednesday, March 15, 2017 • Editor: Tet Andolong

By Joel R. San Juan @jrsanjuan1573 & Elijah Felice Rosales @alyasjah

ALVEO Park Triangle Tower

Alveo breaks record on its 15th year By Rizal Raoul Reyes @brownindio

Credit of its amazing run goes to the hardworking, energetic, aggressive and dynamic team, led by its President Jennylle Tupaz. The sterling performance has made Alveo the leading residential brand of ALI for four consecutive years. Moreover, Alveo has sold over 4,000 units—35 percent of the total takeup of ALI. “We have been generating personal bests in the first two months of the year. And with all the planned launches, 2017 will be a record-breaking year for the company,” Tupaz said in a media briefing held recently at Bonifacio Global City (BGC). Tupaz reported Alveo posted a sales take-up of P38 billion  in 2016, with nine projects worth P22 billion offered as fresh inventory, consisting of residential lots and condominium units launched in Pampanga, Makati, Taguig, Laguna, Cavite and Davao. In Davao Alveo posted P753 mil-

lion in sales in the Patio Suites project. Meanwhile, Alveo Park Triangle reported a 65-percent take-up of its 182 units. Sales value In Makati City, regarded as the country’s premier business district, Alveo has launched nine projects. These were the Krona Tower, The Columns (Ayala Avenue), The Columns (Legazpi), Senta, The Lerato, Escala Salcedo, Solstice (Circuit), Callisto (Circuit), The Stiles Enterprise Plaza, Alveo Financial Center and The Gentry. Moreover, Tupaz noted ALI, through Alveo, is beefing up its office segment by developing the Alveo Financial Center, dubbed as the new power address in the country’s version of Wall Street. It is also pushing for the development of the Circuit, the former Philippine Racing Club, into mixed office-residential community. In BGC/Taguig area Alveo has introduced six projects. These are Two Serendra, High Street South, High

ARDIA Vermosa

ALVEO President Jennylle Tupaz

Street South Corp. Plaza, Park Triangle Corp. Plaza, Park Triangle Residences, Alveo Park Triangle Tower, Alveo Corp. Center and The Veranda (Arca South). Alveo also went into high gear in the southern part of the metropolis by launching six projects in Laguna. These are Verdana Homes, Mamplasan, Treveia Nuvali, Venare Nuvali, Mirala Nuvali and Aveia. In Cavite Alveo rolled out four projects. These are Verdana Homes Bacoor, Verdana Village Center, Westborough and Ardia Vermosa. In Luzon Alveo has established its footprint with three projects in Pampanga. These are the Marquee Place, Marquee Residences and Montala. As they say, the best is yet to come for Alveo as it expands further on its 15 year of business. Tupaz said the Ayala Land subsidiary will soon have more developments in Alabang, Cavite, Bulacan and Cagayan de Oro, as well as strengthen its current presence in major growth centers and Ayala Land estates nationwide. This year a total of 16 project launches are planned in key locations all over the country, with approximately 5,000 units valued at

Metro Manila will be reduced at 60 percent, while the provincial coverage will be increased to 40 percent. “By going to this direction, we are supporting growth outside Metro Manila.” Furthermore, Tupaz believes the infrastructure projects to be implemented by the Duterte administration unlocks areas that are not accessible before. The company is confident in reaching its targets, especially with strong investor confidence and steady economic growth in the country. Alveo has developed a remarkable track record in consistently designing master planned communities with living and work spaces tailored to the needs of its upscale market. “We value the strength of being an integral part of mixed-use communities, a position that is hard to match in terms of providing holistic lifestyles,” Tupaz said. “We will be launching more compelling formats that capitalize on the synergies within the Ayala Group. And, as we always ensure quality delivery of our developments, we are committed to enhancing our customer-service experience across all touchpoints.”

property CALLISTO

P40 billion. In 2016 Tupaz said 70 percent of the development projects by Alveo were based in Metro Manila, while 30 percent were positioned in the provinces.

Meanwhile, the Gentry has achieved a 60-percent (235 units) take-up of its 391 units. Total sales value of the Gentry is worth P4 billion. This year Tupaz noted Alveo property-development projects in


israel finally falls ‘mercilessly’ in tokyo

Sports BusinessMirror


| Wednesday, MarCh 15, 2017 Editor: Jun Lomibao

THE Netherlands’s Jurickson Profar (10) scores on Didi Gregorius’s sacrifice fly as Israel’s catcher Ryan Lavarnway fails to tag him during the eighth inning of their second round on Monday. AP


By Jay Schreiber

New York Times News Service

EAM Israel’s unbeaten run in the World Baseball Classic (WBC) came to an emphatic halt on Monday when it was clobbered by the Netherlands, 12-2, in Tokyo. The game was halted after eight innings because of the mercy rule the WBC applies if one team is leading by 10 runs or more after at least seven innings. The loss leaves Israel with a 4-1 record, 1-1 in the second round. Israel is in a four-team bracket with the Netherlands, Cuba and Japan, and has one more game to play in this round—against Japan, on Wednesday. If Israel can beat Japan, which will not be easy, it stands a good chance of advancing to the tournament semifinals in Los Angeles. If it loses to Japan, there is still an outside chance it would advance. Israel had beaten the Netherlands in first-round play in South Korea, one of a number of surprising victories

it has pulled off in this tournament with a scrappy team made up of Americans who are former major leaguers or current minor leaguers. That unlikely formula had proved to be perfect—until Monday. Didi Gregorius, the starting shortstop for the New York Yankees, drove in five runs for the Netherlands, and Wladimir Balentien, who plays professionally in Japan, drove in three. The Netherlands had lost its first game in this round—in extra innings to Japan—and could not afford to lose again. And almost from the start, it seemed clear it would not. It was 6-0 after three innings, and 10-1 after four. Team Israel had pitched well in this tournament, but Monday was a different story. Its starting pitcher, Corey Baker, gave up four runs in two innings, and it did not get any better after he departed. “We just didn’t pitch well tonight,’’ Team Israel Manager Jerry Weinstein said. “We got behind in the count and made noncompetitive pitches, and big league hitters will make you pay for that.” Gregorius drove in five runs to lead the Netherlands over Israel. He doubled in a run in the third when the Netherlands scored four to take a 6-0 lead. The designated hitter then hit

a three-run homer in the fourth to make it 10-0. Gregorius also drove in a run in the eighth on a sacrifice fly when the Netherlands added two more runs. Israel beat the Netherlands, 4-2, in the first round in Seoul but saw a different team on Monday at Tokyo Dome. Jair Jurrjens picked up the win after striking out five and holding Israel to one run on five hits over six innings. “We lost to Israel in the first round so we wanted to make sure we made no mistakes in today’s game with pitching, offense and defense,” Netherlands Manager Hensley Meulens said. “JJ did a great job holding them and we were able to score some big runs early.” Balentien also had a big night at the plate, driving in three runs. “We are a great hitting team and we believe in ourselves and that’s what you saw tonight—15 hits,” Balentien said. Israel starter Corey Baker took the loss after giving up four runs on three hits over two innings. The Netherlands and Israel are both 1-1 in Pool E. The top 2 teams advance to the March 20 to 22 championship round in Los Angeles.

Israel’s next game is against Japan (1-0) on Wednesday, while the Netherlands faces Cuba. In Guadalajara, Mexico, Miguel Cabrera hit a solo homer and Rougned Odor had a long run batted in single during a three-run ninth inning and Venezuela rallied to beat Italy, 4-3, on Monday night to qualify for the second round of the World Baseball Classic. Cabrera blasted a shot over center field to tie it at 2 and then Odor smacked his single to put Venezuela ahead. Odor later scored on a sacrifice bunt by Alcides Escobar. Venezuela will face the United States on Wednesday in San Diego. The Venezuelans advanced despite allowing 35 runs in the first round, the third-highest mark in the history of the tournament. South Africa and China allowed 38 each in 2006. Venezuela joined Puerto Rico as the two teams that moved on from Group D. Italy got a solo homer from Alex Liddi in the bottom of the ninth, but Francisco Rodriguez then got three ground outs for the save. Italy finished 1-3 in the tournament. With AP



UGUSTA, Georgia—Already the smallest field among majors, the Masters is shrinking the field for the Par 3 Contest. Augusta National has sent letters to its honorary invitees to inform them that the Par 3 Contest, held on the Wednesday before the opening round, will be limited to players in the field and past Masters champions. “It’s sad,” former British Open champion David Duval said. “But I understand it. Maybe there’s not enough spots in the Par 3.” US Open, British Open and Professional Golfers’ Association (PGA) Championship winners are exempt to the Masters for five years. After that, they become “honorary invitees”, along with all past US Amateur champions. For years, that allowed them to be treated like anyone else in the field up until the opening round on Thursday. Now, however, the club is asking that they no longer play practice rounds or use the practice facility. Augusta National said in an e-mail that honorary invitees still have special access to the Masters, but that the Par 3 Contest will be limited because of increased participation and interest. ESPN has televised the Par 3 Contest since 2008. “As a person and an honorary invitee, I’m disappointed because it was my favorite day of the year,” former British Open champion Ian Baker-Finch said. “I loved it. I’ll still be there, though, and I’ll watch like everyone else.” Baker-Finch played his final Masters in 1996 and has been coming to Augusta National every year since then,

either playing in the Par 3 or even playing nine holes of a practice round with Australian players who asked him to join and share tips. Two-time US Open champion Curtis Strange rarely brings his clubs when he comes to the Masters, and he didn’t mind the change in policy. “We had our time, and now it’s their time,” Strange said. “I think it’s extremely nice that we’re invited to come back with your spouse. It’s been nice for these guys who want to hit balls and play practice rounds. But times change. I think with time constraints, they want to make it for players in the field. My sense is that the Par 3 was getting a little bit crowded and taking a little bit too long, and they wanted to streamline it. I think that’s fine.” The Masters pays homage to major champions more than any of the other majors by giving them special access, which includes two clubhouse badges, a $1,000 honorarium and a gift to commemorate them being there. The Par 3 course at Augusta National was built in 1958, and Sam Snead won the first Par 3 Contest in 1960. It has been a Wednesday tradition since then, with players often suiting up their children, wives or friends in white coveralls to serve as caddies. Jack Nicklaus, Gary Player and the late Arnold Palmer up until a few years ago used to play together. Last year Justin Thomas and Rickie Fowler made a hole-in-one on consecutive shots. Some players have not competed out of superstition—no one has ever won the Par 3 and the Masters in the same year.

The Masters had 89 players in the field a year ago, and it has not exceeded 100 players since 1966. It was not unusual to see past major champions or US Amateur champions on the range or on the golf course during practice days. A few years ago, two-time Masters champion Ben Crenshaw was playing a practice round with Jerry Pate, a former US Amateur and US Open champion. Crenshaw was putting to various parts of the 16th green to get ready for the tournament. Pate also was hitting several putts, even though he last played the Masters in 1982. Duval had four good chances to the win the Masters from 1998 through 2001, with runner-up finishes to Mark O’Meara in 1998 and to Tiger Woods in 2001. He now spends most of his time as an analyst for Golf Channel. Duval said he would have considered playing the Par 3 as an honorary invitee in the future, but not a practice round. “I would never clog up the golf course when guys are trying to prepare,” he said. “That’s the problem I would have had.” Rich Beem, the former PGA champion who now works for Sky Sports, said he liked to play the course during a quiet time on Monday to give him a better sense of how it was playing for his TV work. He said he has asked the club if he can at least walk with a group without playing. The most noticeable difference, however, will be the Par 3. “I guess it could be easily expanded if they started it earlier,” Duval said. “But you have to protect it. You have to protect the competitors.” AP



week after Mighty Corp. owner Alexander Wongchuking presented himself to the Department of Justice (DOJ), President Duterte has instructed Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Salvador S. Panelo to file charges against the businessman. This developed as the Bureau of Customs (BOC) issued a preventive suspension on Tuesday against Mighty Corp., which effectively stopped the firm from importing raw materials necessary for the production of its tobacco products. The preventive suspension was issued despite the 20-day temporary restraining order (TRO) earlier issued by the Regional Trial Court in Manila City enjoining the agency from further conducting raids on the warehouses of Mighty Corp.

PESO exchange rates n US 50.2970 JERRY PATE (right) is all smiles as he is greeted by Ben Crenshaw at the ninth green after sinking the ball for par on a penalty shot from the tee box in the Masters’ Par 3 Contest at the Augusta National Golf Club in April 2003. AP


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The final tally Teddy Locsin Jr.

free fire


The committee approved the motion of Minority Leader and Lakas Rep. Danilo E. Suarez of Quezon, as seconded by Deputy Speaker and Lakas Rep. Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, to create a TWG to hear more the concerns of stakeholders.

EATHER Long in CNN gives the final tally—11.3 million jobs created under Barack Obama. Obama added jobs for 75 straight months of his tenure. Ronald Reagan outdid him with 15.9 million jobs created. Bill Clinton set the unbroken record as the runaway champion with 22.9 million jobs created. Obama outdid poor George Dubya Bush who had to his paltry credit only 1.3 million jobs added in his two terms. That’s not fair to George and Obama. When Reagan was president and to an extent when Clinton was, the American economy was still far and away the strongest in the world. Why it was able to outspend and bankrupt the Soviet Union in an arms race.

See “Tax-reform,” A2

Continued on A10

The number of bills to be consolidated by the TWG for the new CTRP

BOC bars Mighty from importing CHILE TALKS ATTENDANCE raw materials as Palace preps case SHOWS TPP APPEAL FADING


LVEO Land, a residential brand of Ayala Land Inc. (ALI), is celebrating a landmark achievement in its 15-year anniversary when it achieved a P38billion gross take-up (without valueadded tax) in 2016. Furthermore, it was a groundbreaking accomplishment for a company that posted a 30-percent compounded annual growth rate on gross sales. In 2003 the company generated P1 billion in gross, which surged to P38 billion in 2016.


he Duterte administration’s Comprehensive Tax Reform Package (CTRP) is facing further delays after the House Committee on Ways and Means—instead of approving the measure—opted on Tuesday to create a technical working group (TWG) to further study the proposal.



By Jovee Marie N. dela Cruz

2016 ejap JOURNALISM awards

Mighty is supposed to pay some taxes and they have avoided that [obligation], so we have to prosecute them for that. With respect to the discovery of the fake-tax stamps, then that’s another case.” —Panelo

“Indeed, a 20-day TRO has been recently issued against the Bureau on this matter. However, it only enjoins the bureau from further acts of raids and inspection of Mighty Corp’.s warehouses. Nevertheless, be assured this office will not commit contumacious acts, but will, at all times, be respectful of the said court order,” the BOC said in its order.

Face the raps

In an interview with Malacañang reporters on Tuesday, Panelo said President Duterte has given specific instructions to bring Wongchuking to court. “I’ve been instructed [by the President] to study and prepare the case against Mighty cigarettes,” he said. Panelo added he is now coordinating with Internal Revenue Commissioner Caesar R. Dulay regarding the matter. The Chief Legal Counsel See “BOC,” A2


fforts to salvage a blockbuster Pacific trade deal are struggling against waning enthusiasm from participants, such as Malaysia, before a meeting of officials this week in Chile. With President Donald J. Trump nixing the United States’s involvement in the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), some countries are turning their focus to bilateral pacts, or to a separate Asian deal being championed by China. The rival 16-nation Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) is focused on expanding Southeast Asian trade ties and doesn’t include the US. “The biggest attraction for us was America,” Malaysian Trade Minister Mustapa Mohamed said of the TPP in an interview last week in Manila. “We are open,

but ‘minus one’ would be tough for us. That’s why RCEP is important to us.” Australia is pushing for a TPP pact without the US, arguing that countries spent too many years negotiating the deal and got too close to completion to let it fail. Some of the TPP countries will attend a summit on Tuesday and Wednesday in Chile, where the future of the pact— which covers 40 percent of the global economy —will be discussed. Trump has attacked multination trade deals and touted an “American First” doctrine that would punish countries whose policies are deemed by the administration to be undermining US jobs. The rise of protectionism in the US is giving China the opportunity to champion free trade and boost its global clout.

n japan 0.4378 n UK 61.4629 n HK 6.4779 n CHINA 7.2720 n singapore 35.5733 n australia 38.0597 n EU 53.5864 n SAUDI arabia 13.4161

See “Chile,” A2

Source: BSP (14 March 2017 )

BMReports BusinessMirror

A2 Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Favorite, new locations boost PHL tourism vista Continued from A1

specializes in building infrastructure and facilities in tourism destinations, as well as promoting investments in designated tourism economic zones. “The planned development will highlight its conservation and preservation, it being a protected area. Nonetheless, the outcome should enable locals and foreign visitors alike to enjoy the island’s beauty but still strictly maintaining it as a day destination,” Teo said. “We would like to attract genuine ecotourists as they take ‘responsible, ethical and sustainable tourism’ to heart.”

Steamed crab

MAJOR carriers fly to Zamboanga City, which also has quite a number of hotels and resorts. The island is right across the Lantaka Hotel, one of the oldest in the city, which makes the latter the best place to stay if planning to visit the Pink Beach. The hotel can arrange the island tour, which has to be coordinated with the provincial tourism office, as the government regulates

BOC. . .

Continued from A1

believes the BIR had already prepared cases against Mighty Corp. even before the discovery of the fake tax stamps, but this was ignored by the previous administration. Asked about what charges will Wongchuking face in court, Panelo said it could either be tax evasion or economic sabotage. “If it reaches P1 billion of amount, then it is economic sabotage,” he pointed out. Panelo also clarified the pronouncement of Duterte late last week that Wongchuking can just pay P3 billion for a compromise settlement, which the administration would use for the establishment and renovation of a hospital in Manila and two other similar structures in conflict-ridden areas of Basilan and Sulu provinces in Mindanao. “Under the law, civil liability can be in [the form of] settlement,” Panelo said. However, he made it clear that the government is, at the same time, looking to hold Mighty Corp. owner liable for criminal charges. “[MC] is supposed to pay some taxes

Tax-reform. . . Continued from A1

Suarez said a TWG is the best vehicle to approve the tax package.“We approved in principle the package of CTRP, but it won’t mean that all indicators under the CTRP will be approved. Creating a TWG will address several issues [of lawmakers and stakeholders]. The TWG is tasked to adopt a modified version or substitute bill,” he said Arroyo said the TWG should hear more all the concerns raised by lawmakers and resource

the number of visitors to the island. The city is also known for its curracha, a spiny sea crab steamed then smothered in a coconut milk and crab fat-based sauce, popularized by its most respected dining establishment, Alavar Restaurant. There were 409,156 visitor arrivals in Zamboanga City in 2015.

Walled City

TEO has also put Intramuros on the DOT’s list of destinations that need to be further developed and promoted. Currently in an ongoing rehabilitation phase, the Walled City gives tourists a glimpse into Manila’s Spanish colonial heritage. It is the site of Fort Santiago, where National Hero Jose Rizal was imprisoned; San Agustin Church, a Unesco World Heritage Site, and a prime example of baroque architecture in the Philippines; the Manila Cathedral, which recently got a face-lift, where visiting popes usually say Mass; and the Ayuntamiento, formerly the lavish seat of the Manila City Council, which also underwent a renovation and now houses the Bureau of the Treasury and they have avoided that [obligation], so we have to prosecute them for that. With respect to the discovery of the fake-tax stamps, then that’s another case,” Panelo stressed.


The head lawyer of the President said he is presently waiting for the documents to be brought to his office. Once received, he vowed to begin his study of the case so he, in coordination with the DOJ and the BIR, can already press charges against Wongchuking. Ebreo added: “At this point the DepCom [deputy commissioner] for RCMG [Revenue Collection Monitoring Group] signed the preventive suspension against Mighty Corp. based on the initial study of the case, and we found probable cause for the issuance of preventive suspension.” The preventive suspension only covers incoming shipments, such as tobacco leaf and acetate tow that have not been lodged in the BOC system. The order will take effect indefinitely, or until such time that the company has proven that it did not commit the said offenses. Mighty Corp. would also be given the persons during the seven hearings they conducted. “[We] approve[d] in principle the bill as a package, [but a new package] will be formulated by the technical working group with the DOF as a member of the TWG. The TWG would address all issues of cooperatives and other issues by the authors [of bills lowering individual tax],” she said.

45 related bills

Deput y Speaker and Liberal Party Rep. Romero S. Quimbo of Marikina also said the TWG will consolidate the 45 pending bills

(BTr). Tours in the Ayuntamiento need to be coursed through the Department of Finance or the BTr. There are accommodations within Intramuros itself, such as The Bayleaf Hotel, although the site is quite accessible from most hotels in Manila, via a short walk, a jeepney ride, or cab ride.

Northern destination

IN the north, the DOT wants to encourage more visitors to Baler, in Aurora, which has proven to be another popular surfing area. Sabang Beach is the location of most surfing activities, while those who just want to relax and frolic in calmer waters can go to Dikasalarin Cove. Just a short walk from Sabang Beach is Charlie’s Point, where a beach scene from the classic film Apocalypse Now, was shot. A number of international bird societies also have been tracking migratory birds that spend their summer in Baler. There were 154,526 tourists in Baler in 2015, not including the birds. Baler is also rich in history; it is where the infamous “Siege of Baler” happened. Fifty-seven Spanish soldiers held out at

a local church for a year against Filipino troops, not knowing the Spanish-American War had already ended. The story was actually made the basis for the local film Baler, which was said to have helped boost travel arrivals in the province, as it showcased the local tourist spots. The event is also commemorated every year on June 30 during the PhilippineSpanish Friendship Day. Accommodations in Baler range from the basic inns and transient houses, to luxury resorts such as the highly rated Costa Pacifica, owned by the Angara family. The Genesis Bus Co. has regular trips to Baler from Cubao and Pasay, via airconditioned bus. Joy Bus has standard air-conditioned buses and deluxe buses with seats that recline and leave from its Cubao, Quezon City, terminal. The trip lasts nine hours so it’s better for one to leave in the evening and arrive in Baler greeting the new day.

Tourism road map

NO doubt, the Philippines has more places to offer for both foreign and domestic tour-

right to file a motion for reconsideration. The BOC cited its recent raids of Mighty Corp’s. warehouses in Zamboanga City, General Santos City and San Simon, Pampanga, yielding more than P2.18 billion worth of assorted counterfeit cigarettes as the main reason for ordering its preventive suspension. This is one of the first actions taken by the BOC’s newly formed Batas Action Team Against Smuggling (Batas), where Ebreo sits as the executive director. Ebreo explained that Mighty Corp’s. suspension is necessary for the protection of government interest in the light of the bureau’s mandate under Section 202 (d) of the Customs Modernization and Tariff Act (CMTA) to protect and suppress smuggling and other Customs fraud. “Said suspension will also enjoin and restrain Mighty Corp. from further commission of acts complained of, which could be detrimental to government interest, particularly during the pendency of the instant case,” the BOC’s order read. On the other hand, this will provide an unhampered venue for the ensuing administrative investigation, free from any collateral issues and concerns,” it added.

The BOC’s Accounts Management Office (AMO) reported that “there is a necessity for further and thorough investigation on the allegation of abuse of its customs bonded warehousing privileges that was the basis by then-Customs Commissioner John Sevilla’s decision to immediately suspend its [Mighty Corp.’s] customs bonded warehousing license.” The BOC further alleged that Mighty Corp. violated the conditions on the uses ofthe customs bonded warehouse as a mode of importation in bringing in its raw materials. The Fiscal Intelligence Unit-Department of Finance also reportedly discovered undervaluation amounting to P163,117,995, “for the withdrawal of raw materials for local consumption, the correct value thereof must be determined for the payment of duties and taxes,” Ebreo said. BOC-Batas has also received a copy of the warrant of seizure and detention issued by BOC Port of Zamboanga District Collector Helleck Valdez against 400 master cases of alleged assorted counterfeit cigarettes that has an estimated value of P13.5 million.

seeking to lower personal income-tax rates filed at the lower chamber. “There are 45 bills to lower income tax and many of those are opposed to the DOF version. What is clear now is we will consolidate all these bills,” he said. “We’re back to where we really want to start, which is to approve a tax measure that is a package that addresses all the concerns, particularly the progressivity to collect money,” Quimbo said. House Committee on Ways and Means Chairman and Partido Demokratiko Pilipino-Laban Rep. Dakila Carlo E. Cua of Quirino said “it is worth noting that the members of his committee have

already agreed to pass the CTRP as a whole and not by piecemeal. “After the TWG submits a substitute bill to the mother committee, the mother committee will take action appropriately on the proposed substitute bill.” Meanwhile, Cua said he will seek the permission of the House leadership to conduct a TWG during congressional break from March 16 to May 2. The DOF-backed tax-reform package seeks to exempt those earning P250,000 and below from personal income tax. However, the proposal also includes the imposition of excise tax on fuel as compensatory measure for the foregone revenues due to the lowering of income tax. The DOF also proposes a staggered increase of P6 per liter of diesel, kerosene and LPG to be imposed within a three-year period. The current CTRP version also imposes excise tax on vehicles. The bill also includes the relaxation of the Bank Secrecy Act, taxing Philippine Charity Sweepstakes numbers’game and lotto winnings. Finance Undersecretary Karl Kendrick T. Chua welcomed the creation of the TWG, as it will further take into account the concerns of the committee, and in the end will help address them through the revised bill. “It is a very good sign; it means that the positions have been heard and then we have to make a decision, so its a good sign,” he said. When asked if it will delay the timeline of the DOF for the implementation of the CTRP, which is in June or July, he pointed out that the department will try its best to have the bill passed. “It is not in our hands, but we will try our best. It’s in Congress’s sole power,” he said.


Social Welfare and Development Secretary Judy M. Taguiwalo expressed reservation on the proposed expansion of value-added tax (VAT) and imposition of excise tax on fuel under the CTRP. In a statement, she said that when she and the executive officials of the Department of Social Welfare and Development analyzed and scrutinized the proposal, they “put the lens in favor of the poor and the vulnerable”. Taguiwalo said that, while it is understood that the tax-reform package aims to fund the President’s 10-point socioeconomic agenda and massive infrastructure plan, there are included proposals that are likely to be inimical to the poor’s welfare. With Rea Cu

ists to enjoy. Not all, however, are ready to receive them due to limited accommodations and, worse, poor connectivity. According to the National Tourism Development Plan for 2016 to 2022, the DOT’s tourism road map, the Duterte administration intends to spend P810 billion during its six years in office to construct vital infrastructure, such as roads, ports and bridges, to improve access to tourism destinations; expand the capacity of secondary international airports; and market competitive tourism destinations, among others. With this government outlay, along with investments from the private sector targeted at P414.14 billion for the same period, the Duterte administration hopes to attract 12 million foreign visitors and 89.2 million domestic tourists in the Philippines. With deliberate planning, and wellplaced investment and marketing strategies, slowly but surely, the Philippines will take its place among the most richly rewarded tourism destinations in Southeast Asia, if not the world.

Chile. . .

Continued from A1

Sending ambassador

While Australia and New Zealand are sending their trade ministers to the Chile meeting, Malaysia will just be represented by its ambassador, according to the trade and industry ministry. China is sending Yin Hengmin, its special representative for Latin American affairs, to the talks, though it’s not a party to the TPP. Still, Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop downplayed the prospects of China potentially replacing the US in the pact. “We shouldn’t assume that China is able or ready to do so,” she said on Monday in a speech in Singapore. “The TPP set a very high standard in terms of a free-trade agreement, and I don’t think we should expect that China is currently in a position to meet that standard.” China is continuing to push meanwhile for the RCEP, which would cover 30 percent of the global economy and almost half the world’s population. Even so, doubts remain about how fast the RCEP negotiations can advance, with the next round of talks expected in May in the Philippines. “I don’t think RCEP will see much progress,” said  Rahul Bajoria, a senior economist at Barclays Plc. in Singapore. “It is difficult to get everyone to agree and it will take time. Trade deals are going to be at the back burner.” The TPP was a highvalue agreement that included provisions for things such as intellectual property, state-owned enterprises and environmental and labor standards. While the RCEP covers matters, like intellectual property, it’s more of a traditional pact with a heavy focus on tariffs. Malaysia will also push for free-trade deals with other countries, said Mustapa, who attended a meeting of the 10-member Asean in the Philippines last week. As a trade bloc, Asean is working on removing nontariff barriers to boost trade within the region, he said. More broadly, Southeast Asian nations are concerned about the rise of protectionism in the US under Trump, Mustapa said. “We have been on this path of opening up economies and now we have some countries getting more protectionist,” he said. “We don’t agree with that. We believe in openness. Asean has benefited from openness. When people appear to be more inwardlooking, we get worried because we have benefited from this open regime.” The minister said officials are concerned Trump may not favor Asean as much as former US President Barack Obama, who undertook an economic and security rebalance to Asia. The initiative was designed in part as a counterpoint to China. “There are some worries that under Trump, Asean will not receive the kind of attention it used to,” Mustapa said. “Obama was close to Asean.” Trade Secretary Ramon M. Lopez echoed Mustapa, saying there were sideline concerns during the Asean meeting about the US approach to trade. “Hopefully, the US will realize that it should take a lead role in globalization efforts as it is one of the biggest economies and has always been a leading proponent,” Lopez told Bloomberg. Protectionist steps will only backfire, Lopez added, “as experienced by countries which have tried such a move.” Bloomberg News

The Nation BusinessMirror

Editor: Dionisio L. Pelayo • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 A3

DND mulls more patrols off Benham Rise By Priam F. Nepomuceno | Philippines News Agency


O demonstrate Philippine sovereignty and control over Benham Rise, Defense Secretary Delfin N. Lorenzana is eyeing the increase of patrols in the area.

The maritime feature is located off the coast of Aurora and Isabela provinces. Lorenzana added that the increase of Philippine patrols in the area would demonstrate to everyone that the area is under Filipino jurisdiction. “Well, we will do something there, maybe we will increase our patrols, at the same time, we might set up a structure to say that [Benham Rise] is ours,” Lorenzana said lorenzana in Filipino. Earlier, China claimed that its ships were only exercising the right of innocent passage when the Department of National Defense announced that several Chinese survey ships were spotted in the area last year. Lorenzana disputed the Chinese claim and said ships exercising the right to innocent passage steam on a definite course and speed and do not constantly change course and speed. The 13-million-hectare Benham Rise is believed to be a mineral-rich area and awarded to the Philippines by the United Nations in 2012. Previously, Chinese survey ships were also seen off Scarborough Shoal and Reed Bank surveying the sea bed for possible mineral deposits, he added. The Chinese have gained total control of Scarborough Shoal (also known as Panatag) after a standoff with the Philippine Navy in April 2012. On Monday the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said the government will protect the country’s sovereign rights to areas, like the Benham Rise, on east of Luzon. Foreign Spokesman Charles C. Jose said every nation needs to protect its territory against any aggressor. “Strengthening our capability is our way to assert and protect our sovereign rights and jurisdiction over our maritime entitlements,” Jose told reporters. He did not elaborate how and in what form the government will protect the country’s sovereign rights. China’s Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang had acknowledged the 2012 ruling of the UN, but said “it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own territory.” Geng confirmed that Chinese vessels for “marine research” passed through Benham Rise, but insisted this was only in exercise of the principle of “freedom of navigation” and “right to innocent passage”. Meanwhile, to prevent another Chinese incursion in the Benham Rise, a senator called on the Executive department to craft a comprehensive strategy aimed at protecting the 13-millionhectare underwater plateau. Senate President Pro Tempore Ralph G. Recto made the statement following reports that the DFA has sent a note verbale to the Chinese Embassy to clarify the reported presence of a Chinese survey ship near Benham Rise. Recto said that, without a protection strategy, the Benham Rise may easily “fall prey” not only to poachers but foreign countries interested in exploring the plateau’s marine and mineral resources. “No ifs or buts. The government must have a ‘Benham Rise Protection Strategy’. A comprehensive strategy—military, diplomatic, economic—in holding on to and developing Benham Rise,” Recto said. “We have practically lost the seas west and north of us. We cannot be encircled. The Eastern side of the country should be defended, as well,” he added. He, however, said he was not referring to just “one country”. “I am not singling out China. But this goes out to all countries who might be tempted by the riches underneath the Benham Rise,” Recto added. He said the government should also focus its attention not only on Benham Rise, but other areas on the Pacific side of the country. He noted that the Benham Rise is also believed to be a rich source of manganese and natural gas, aside from its diverse marine life. “The Pacific side has always been the unattended portion of our archipelago. There are many places there that are underdeveloped. It is time for us to pivot,” he also said. Recto stressed that the government should not be caught unwares. “We should not allow that area to be partitioned like a frontier homestead. Or cut up into blocks to be controlled and exploited by others,” Recto said. Recto also urged the Senate to should consider expediting a bill filed by Sen. Juan Edgardo M. providing for the creation of a Benham Rise Development Authority (BRDA)—the lead agency that will be mandated to conduct scientific research and exploration in the plateau. Under Angara’s measure, BRDA will take the lead in formulating and implementing a development road map for Benham Rise, ensuring that it is aligned with the Philippine Development Plan. With Butch Fernandez


A4 Wednesday, March 15, 2017 • Editors: Vittorio V. Vitug and Max V. de Leon


COMP files graft charges against Lopez over mines closure, suspension orders


By Jonathan L. Mayuga


he Chamber of Mines of the Philippines (COMP) on Monday slapped graft charges against Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez in connection with her controversial mine closure and suspension orders last month.

The complaint was filed by COMP Chairman Art Dissini and Vice President for Policy and Legal Ronald Recidoro before the Office of the Ombudsman against Lopez for alleged violation of Republic Act (RA) 3019, or the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act; and RA 6713, or the Code of Conduct and Ethical Standards for Public Officials and Employees. According to the COMP, Lopez, the sole respondent in the case, allegedly acted without due process in ordering and publicly announcing the closure of 23 mines and suspending five others. “She did not even wait for the recommendations of any expert, or the result of any audit, before making the decision to close 23 mining corporations because of their proximity to watershed areas,” the complaint read. The COMP added several com-


The total number of people who will be “condemned” to hunger and poverty, with 20,000 direct employees facing job loss as a result of Lopez’s mine closure orders, according to COMP

panies suffered undue injuries from what it described as “baseless and illegal actions” of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources chief. “People have lost their jobs and their only source of income due to the closing,” the

COMP complaint stated. Moreover, the complainants said the closure order and Lopez’s public announcement damaged the reputation of the mining corporations and their business “due to the false allegations” against the mining industry as a whole. The complainants alleged Lopez acted with manifest partiality and evident bad faith against the mining industry as attested by her own public pronouncements. They added that Lopez’s public pronouncements attest to Lopez’s alleged bias against the industry. Lopez, upon appointment as DENR chief, immediately ordered an audit of all operating mines, which, she said, have been causing environmental damage and suffering to people in affected communities. COMP, which represents some of mining’s big players, however, said large-scale mining operations continue to adhere to the highest mining standards. It earlier claimed that Lopez’s closure and suspension orders will condemn 1.2 million people to hunger and poverty, with 20,000 direct employees facing job loss. COMP is just one of the 23 groups and individuals opposing Lopez’s confirmation by the powerful Commission on Appointments (CA). Lopez, whose appointment has deemed bypassed, is currently on a retreat abroad, as the CA panel decides on her fate Tuesday.

A known environmental advocate, Lopez stood pat on her decision in issuing the closure and suspension orders, as well as the cancellation of 75 mineral production sharing agreements (MPSAs) to protect watersheds. Some of the operating mines have already appealed to President Duterte and are continuing their operations. Lopez said no jobs had been lost, but added that the government is allocating P4 billion to jump-start a green economy in mining-affected areas. Environmental groups and advocates have supported Lopez’s antimining campaign, and are urging the CA to confirm Lopez. No less than Duterte has expressed support behind Lopez, even threatening to order a mining moratorium. Duterte said he is willing to let go of the P75-billion government revenue from mining. At the same time, the COMP denied involvement in any destabilization efforts against the Duterte administration. In a news statement, COMP said its members fully support the President and that they are unaware of any mining company that is supportive of any destabilization efforts. COMP has 26 regular members and 14 associate members. It also has 30 special members and four affiliate members, including small mining associations.

‘TRO on RH law triggers hike in induced abortions’ By Cai U. Ordinario @cuo_bm


nduced abortions among Filipinos could increase if the Supreme Court does not lift its temporary restraining order (TRO) on the reproductive-health law, according to the Commission on Population (Popcom). The failure to lift the TRO on the Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health (RPRH) Act of 2012 has caused the expiration of the certificates of product registrations (CPRs) of modern contraceptive methods in the past 18 months. Popcom Executive Director Dr. Juan Antonio A. Perez III said this has made family planning more difficult for women and may have increase the number of unintended pregnancies. “There is a strong possibility of rising induced abortions among Filipino women who are already faced with increasing numbers of unintended pregnancies,” Perez said. “The increase in unintended pregnancies in the last 18 months has also seen an increase in induced abortions.” Induced abortion is the intentional termination of a pregnancy before the fetus can live independently. It can be medically done based on a woman’s personal choice, or to preserve the health, if not save, the life of a pregnant woman. Citing data from United Statesbased Guttmacher Institute, Popcom said around 1,000 Filipino women die annually from abortion complications. Popcom added that a Guttmach-

Trade dept holds forum on consumer rights day

Duterte told: Demand data sharing from China on Benham Rise survey By Recto Mercene @rectomercene


fter President Duterte’s admission that he has authorized China to conduct marine scientific surveys in Benham Rise, a party-list lawmaker has asked the Chief Executive to demand—as a reciprocal gesture from China—that they share all the data and information obtained in the course of three months of surveying the resource-rich area. “It is very disturbing that President Duterte has kept in the dark his highest officials with regard to his decisions pertaining to China. Precisely, and it’s quite necessary, that on matters of foreign policy, especially those dealing with our bilateral relations with China, that the President consult the concerned foreign affairs and security officials,” Party-list Rep. Ashley Acedillo of Magdalo said in a news statement. Apparently, Acting Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo is one of the highest official kept in the dark about the President’s latest foreign-policy statement. The BusinessMirror asked Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Spokesman Charles Jose via short messaging service whether the DFA was informed of Duterte’s new directives in regards to Benham Rise, but there’s was no reply from the top DFA official as of this writing. Defense Secretary Delfin N.

Lorenzana is the other highest official who was apparently not informed of Duterte’s new China policy. It was the defense chief who made the announcement in the media of China’s presence in Benham Rise. Last Monday Lorenzana said he was ready to accept the Chinese authorities’ explanation of their presence off Benham Rise. “Well, they said its just an innocent passage and they have other intention there. So, we will leave it at that. We will trust what they say, but, at the same time, we will keep on patrolling our area and find out if they will return.” Acedillo told the Kapiham media forum last Monday the real reason behind China’s intent in forging ahead with their claims, which started with the occupation of the South China Sea and building fortifications and installing missiles on reclaimed islands. He said after occupying Scarborough Shoal, China’s next move is to keep a hold on Benham Rise, where Chinese submarines could possibly hide. This was also the explanation given by former National Security Adviser Roilo Golez, a Naval officer, who explained that the Chinese maritime survey could include locating thermoclines, different layers of sea with differing temperatures that would deflect sonar, making it difficult to locate submarines. But instead of being apologetic,

It is very disturbing that President Duterte has kept in the dark his highest officials with regard to his decisions pertaining to China. Precisely, and it’s quite necessary, that on matters of foreign policy, especially those dealing with our bilateral relations with China, that the President consult the concerned foreign affairs and security officials.”—Acedillo

er Institute report stated about 100,000 women were hospitalized for abortion complications in 2012. The Guttmacher Institute said these were due to the fear of the side effects of family-planning methods and not knowing about and where to get these contraceptives. “The RPRH law is our staunchest defense against induced abortions in the country,” Perez said. Last week the Popcom said the expiration of permits issued for modern contraceptives could lead to at least a thousand mothers dying every year by 2022. Perez said that, with the lapse in the CPR of Implanon, a popular implant that is being distributed for free by the government, there would have already been 500,000 unintended births and 1,100 maternal deaths between June 2016 and March 2017. He said, on average, with the absence of more modern contraceptives, they expect that there could be an average of 800 to 1,000 maternal deaths every year. A comprehensive RH program makes available to women, couples, their adolescent children and their families—especially those who have less in life—a full range of contraceptive methods, free of charge, if not at a low cost, and where family-planning (FP) information and services are responsive to the needs of the clients across the nation. The Responsible Parenthood and Reproductive Health Act of 2012 guarantees universal access to contraceptive methods, sexuality education, and maternal and child care.

By Catherine Joy L. Maglalang



Free toilets

Sen. Cynthia A. Villar (right) leads the groundbreaking rites for the construction of a communal septic tank that marks the start of construction of 5,000 toilet bowls for Baseco Compound residents in Manila. Initially, some 100 toilet bowls will be installed in Gasangan Street, Barangay 649 near the mangrove area to prevent open defecation in Manila Bay. With Villar are (from left) Director Sonia Salguero of the Bureau of Solid Waste Management; Director Ariel Valencia of the Department of Health; Esperanza Mangoba, regional program coordinator of the Department of Social Welfare and Development; and Michael Brusola, Project Development Officer of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission. ROY DOMINGO

China was seen as belligerent, showing the same pugnacious stance at the height of the controversy during the last five years over claims they owned the entire South China Sea defined by their nine-dash line. “First, in 2012, the UN Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea [Unclos] approved the submission made by the Philippines in 2009, in respect of the limits of the continental shelf beyond 200 nautical miles in the Benham Rise region, enabling the Philippines to carry out exploration and development of natural resources in this region. But it does not mean that the Philippines can take it as its own ter-

ritory,” Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesman Geng Shuang said. “Second, according to international law, including Unclos, a coastal state’s rights over the continental shelf do not affect the legal status of the superjacent waters or of the air space above those waters, nor do they affect foreign ships’ navigation freedom in the coastal state’s exclusive economic zone and on the high seas, or their innocent passage through the coastal state’s territorial sea as supported by international law.” The Chinese official reiterated that the survey ship’s passage through the maritime territory east of Luzon was “innocent”, dismissing remarks from “some individuals from the Philippines”

as “inconsistent with facts”. “According to the competent authorities, Chinese vessels for marine research did sail across relevant waters to the northeast of Luzon, the Philippines last year, exercising navigation freedoms and the right to innocent passage only, without conducting any other activities or operations. The remarks by some individuals from the Philippines are not consistent with the facts,” the Chinese spokesman said, apparently referring to Lorenzana’s statement. Golez said he was worried by the Chinese statement that made despite the official announcement that the UN granted the Philippines Benham Rise in 2012.

he Department of Trade and Industry’s Consumer Protection Group (DTI-CPG) will join other memberorganizations of the Consumers International (CI) from different countries in the celebration of the World Consumer Rights Day (WCRD) on March 15. The Consumer Protection and Advocacy Bureau (CPAB), under the DTI-CPG, in coordination with the CI, will hold a half-day Consumer Forum from 1 to 5 p.m. at the Robinsons Galleria Activity Area in commemoration of the WCRD. The WCRD is an annual occasion that marks the day when the late US President John F. Kennedy formally addressed the issue of consumer rights on March 15, 1962, at the US Congress. It provides an opportunity to raise global awareness about consumer rights, which must be protected and respected at all times. This year’s celebration theme is “Building a Digital World Consumers Can Trust,” which pushes for better digital access, security, understanding and redress. The forum topics include e-commerce business ethics and trends in online shopping, tips to avoid online-shopping fraud and scam and promotion, and development of e-commerce in the Philippines. The keynote message will be delivered by DTI-CPG Undersecretary Atty. Teodoro C. Pascua, while the forum speakers are Director Mark Joseph Panganiban of the Digital Commerce Association of the Philippines Inc.; Supervising Agent Martini Cruz of the National Bureau of Investigation, and Division Chief Maria Crispina S. Reodica of the DTI E-Commerce Office. The DTI-CPAB has invited participants from micro, small and medium enterprises, consumers, academe, youth, DTI employees, LGU and other government agencies to attend the event. “Through the forum, the department aims to create and promote a reliable digital economy that consumers can depend on without having to worry about their safety and security,” Pascua said.

The Regions BusinessMirror

National Museum takes interest in ‘mysterious’ ship wreckage in Aklan

Editor: Efleda P. Campos • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 A5

Rizal ranked top province in PHL last year


ATA N, A k lan—T he Nationa l Museum has expressed interest to investigate a “mysterious” ship wreckage off Barangay Mambuquiao, Batan, in Aklan province. Geovanni Bautista, a researcher from the National Museum, said all they need to start is a letter request coming from the local government of Batan. The letter request is considered a protocol before they could conduct an investigation. Sought for comment, Batan Mayor Rodel Ramos said he will prepare the letter request, so the researchers can investigate the debris. Ramos earlier said the mysterious ship wreckage had been there for years, but nobody among the residents knew why it was there. The debris in the coastline of Barangay Mambuquiao was made of hard wood and unknown pieces of metal. The ship is 15 meters long. It can only be seen during low tide. R a mos sa id t he resident s strongly believe the boat was part of the Spanish occupation. Spanish heritage remains visible in Batan, including a Spanish canon, distillery and a cemetery. PNA

Joint PNP, AFP forces nab kidnap-gang leader in Cebu By Rene Acosta @reneacostaBM


OLICE and military intelligence operatives arrested a leader of a kidnap-for-ransom gang listed as among the nation’s “most wanted ” during an operation in Cebu. Mansor Manupac Mantawil, 33, was captured at around 7 p.m. on Monday along Ouano Avenue, Barangay Centro, Mandaue City, during a joint operation by the PNP AntiKidnapping Group (AKG) and the Naval Intelligence Security Group (NISG). Mantawil is tagged as the leader of the Mantawil KFR group operating in Pagadian, Lanao del Sur and Lanao del Norte targeting well-off businesspeople. The suspect is a native of Labangan, Zamboanga del Sur, and is currently renting at Sitio Mahayhay Soong, Barangay Mactan in LapuLapu City. Mantawil is included in the AKG’s list of “most wanted” kidnappers. Mantawil is the subject of warrants of arrest for kidnap for ransom and serious illegal detention with no bail recommended; carnapping with P120,000 recommended bail; and two counts of robbery with intimidation and a P40,000 bail for each case. AKG Director Senior Supt. Glen Dumlao said Mantawil was temporarily detained at Cebu City Police Station 2 awaiting a commitment order from the court. “The arrest of the subject most wanted person and KFR gang leader is the product of intensified manhunt operations by the AKG in collaboration with their AFP counterparts and with the active support of the community stakeholders, especially in the kidnappingaffected areas in the country,” Dumlao said.

DEPARTMENT of Trade and Industry Regional Director for Region 4A Marilou Toledo stresses a point, while National Economic and Development Authority Region 4A Director Luis Banua (seated, left) and Philippine Statistics Authority Region 4A Director Charito Armonia listen at the reorientation/workshop that gathered various municipal planning and development officers of the province on March 10 at the Bulwagang Kalilayan in Lucena City, Quezon. JOHN BELLO


By John Bello | Correspondent

UCENA CITY, Quezon— Rizal province emerged as the top-ranking province in the Philippines last year, followed by Cavite, South Cotabato, Laguna and North Cotabato.

This was revealed by Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Region 4A Director Marilou Toledo, in the yearly ranking for 74 of the 81 provinces nationwide based on indicators, such as economic dynamism, government efficiency and infrastructure. Quezon province was ranked 34th last year. This was revealed during the overview presented by the Regional Competitiveness Council (RCC) at the Reorientation/Workshop for

Quezon Province on the 2017 Cities and Municipalities Competitiveness Index held at Bulwagang Kalilayan here on March 10. For highly urbanized cities, Lucena was at 25th, while Quezon City was on top of the heap, followed by Makati, Manila and Pasig, all in Metro Manila, and Davao City rounding up the top 5. Also in Quezon province, Infanta bagged the first overall most competitive local government unit

(LGU) for third- to sixth-class municipalities and Pagbilao for most improved LGU for first- to secondclass municipalities. Aside from Toledo, National Economic and Development Authority Region 4A Director Luis Banua, Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) director for the National Capital Region Rosalinda Bautista and PSA Region 4A Director CharitoArmonia led the reorientation/workshop, which gathered various municipal planning and development officers and other representatives of various LGUs of the province. Pablito Budoy of the DTI-Quezon said the ranking simply aims to show the level of competitiveness of the LGUs for investment and economic prospects. Toledo urged the participants to do right in filling up the required data on various indicators for the ranking competitiveness of various LGUs. “We want to know the ranking of our cities and municipalities at the provincial level for investment

purposes and the data we provide will undergo validation,” Toledo told participants, adding the Philippines itself is being ranked in the international level. The Philippines was ranked 99th of the 190 economies doing business globally, below six other Asean countries, the latest Global Competitiveness Report Card (GCRC) said. T he repor t said Singapore ranked No. 2 from No. 1 last year, followed by Malaysia ranking 23rd (18th last year); Thailand, 46th (49th last year); Vietnam, 82nd (90th last year); Brunei, 72nd (84th last year); and Indonesia, 91st (109th last year), on various indicators that include starting a business, dealing with construction permits, getting electricity, registering property, getting credit, protecting investors, paying taxes, trading across borders, enforcing contracts and resolving insolvency. The Philippines ranked 103rd last year and got an upgrade score (2011-2017) on such indicators as

dealing with construction permits (+71), getting electricity (+32), getting credits (+10), paying taxes (+11) and resolving insolvency (+97). It got downgrades on the same period on such indicators as starting business (-15), registering property (-10), trading across borders (-34), enforcing contracts (-18) and protecting minority investors (-5). Last year the Philippines also ranked 70th on the economic freedom index, 101st on corruption perception index, 57th on global competitiveness index, 64th on global enabling trade index, 74th on travel and tourism report, 74th on global innovation index, 77th on global information technology report, 54th on fragile states index, 7th on global gender gap report, 42nd on world competitiveness report and 71st on logistics performance index. Economic dynamism means the size of the local economy as measured through business registrations, capital revenue and permits; growth of the local economy; compliant to safety of business; capacity to generate employment, cost of living, cost of doing business, financial deepening and productivity. Government efficiency covers capacity of health services, capacity of schools, security, business registrations efficiency, presence of investment promotions unit, compliance to national directives, ratio of LGU collected tax to LGU revenues, most competitive LGU awardee and social protection. Infrastructure covers existing road network, availability of basic utilities, number of public transportation vehicles, education infrastructures, health infrastructure, annual investment in infrastructure by the LGU, number of Department of Tourism-accredited tourist accomodations, connection to information and communication technology and number of automated teller machines. Quezon Gov. David Suarez issued Executive Order 2 on January 19 organizing the Quezon Provincial Competitiveness Committee and providing for its functionality. It is chaired by the governor, cochaired by the provincial administrator and members, which include the Provincial Planning and Development Coordinator, Department of the Interior and Local GovernmentQuezon, DTI-Quezon, PSA-Quezon, Southern Luzon State University and the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry-Quezon.

Bulacan bulk-water supply system shortlisted for Global Water Awards By Catherine Joy Maglalang Correspondent


HE Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System (MWSS), one of the oldest waterworks sewerage services in Asia, has advanced over the past couple of decades and it is leading the way in the successful stewardship of public-private partnership (PPP) in the Asia Pacific. Reynaldo V. Velasco, the new MWSS administrator, cited the Bulacan Bulk Water Supply Project (BBWSP), awarded to San Miguel Corp. in 2016, of having been shortlisted for the 2017 Global Water Awards for Water Deal of the Year. The award is given to projects that have made the biggest contribution for the improvement of the international water sector. It will be handed out at the Palacio de Cibeles in Madrid, Spain, on April 24, as part of the Global Water Summit, a global business conference for the water industry. In addition to BBWSS, other shortlisted projects are the Aqaba Desalination Plant Financing in Jordan, Barka 4 IWP Financing in Oman, and the Vista Ridge Pipeline Financing in the US. The prestigious annual awards was established in 2006 by the Global Water Intelligence and recog-

nizes the most important achievements in the international water industry in the water, wastewater and desalination sectors propelling the industry toward improved operating performance, innovative technology adoption and sustainable financial models. The P16.32-billion project services 21 municipalities and three cities in Bulacan. BBWSS is a joint venture of San Miguel Holdings at 80 percent and Korea’s K-water at 20 percent, with two stages completed and another stage in the offing. The BBWSP was among the banner projects undertaken by Velasco’s predecessor Gerardo AI Esquivel. Velasco recalled that on June 19, 1971, through Republic Act (RA) 6234, MWSS was created to ensure the uninterrupted supply and distribution of potable water. In 1997 then-President Fidel V. Ramos passed into law RA 8041, also known as “The Water Crisis Act,” which led for the privatization of MWSS. Ramos also called for the reorganization of the MWSS to encourage private-sector participation in the privatization of the MWSS facilities and operations to address issues connected with the supply distribution, strengthening the government anti-water pilferage efforts and the finance privatization.

In August 1997 the Ramos administration entered into a 25-year concession agreement with two private consortia comprised of international and local partners. This efficiently shifted the operational responsibilities of MWSS to Maynilad Water Services Inc. for the West Zone and Manila Water Co. Inc. for the East Zone.

“The public-private partnership, or more popularly known as the MWSS privatization, has proven well for our country and for our people over the last 20 years,” Velasco said. “This promotes common beneficial and water advocacies anchored on what is right, fair, just and reasonable for all affected constituents. Definitely, we will continue to serve

the interest of the public, as well as our concessionaires.” In December 2006 the 84-percent stake in Maynilad by MWSS was awarded to an all-Filipino partnership with a construction company DM Consunji Holdings Inc. and a telecommunications and realestate company Metro Pacific Investments Corp. for $503.9 million.

VISIT TO CEBU GOVERNOR Presidential Communications Operations Office (PCOO) officials, led by Assistant Secretary Kissinger V. Reyes and Undersecretary George Apacible and staff from the Philippine Information Agency-7, Media Accreditation and Relations Office and PCOO, pay a brief visit to Cebu Gov. Hilario P. Davide III (eighth from left) in line with preparations for the forthcoming Asean Ministerial Meeting in earlyApril. CHARLES R. PEPITO


Wednesday, March 15, 2017

The World BusinessMirror • Editor: Lyn Resurreccion

Japan and Saudi agree to set up SEZ


OKYO—Japan and Saudi Arabia agreed on Monday to explore ways to bolster Japanese investment and trade in the Middle Eastern nation, possibly by setting up special economic zones (SEZ) there. King Salman and about a thousand businesspeople from Saudi Arabia are in Japan for talks this week focusing on the economy, as the country seeks a less oil-dependent growth strategy. Jap a ne s e P r i me M i n i s te r Shinzo Abe told Salman that Japan wants to “vigorously advance its ties with Saudi Arabia, which is the linchpin of stability in the Middle East”. T he v isit is the first by a Saudi king in 46 years, though Salman visited more recently as crown prince. The two leaders agreed to promote Japanese investment, research and manufacturing, possibly through SEZs. They also agreed to seek a possible share listing of  Saudi  Aramco, the state-run


The amount of the private fund Saudi and Japan would set up for technology investments oil company that is being partially privatized, on the Tokyo Stock Exchange. The two countries also will cooperate in promoting renewable energy, as well as seawater desalination by Japanese companies. Salman met with Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida earlier on Monday.

Separately, Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund and Japanese telecoms provider Softbank have joined forces in setting up a $25-billion private fund for technology investments. Saudi A rabia is one of Japan’s biggest suppliers of crude oil, accounting for about a third of its imports of oil from the Middle East. Trade between the countries fell last year as oil prices dropped. Japanese imports from Saudi Arabia totaled ¥2.1 trillion ($18.6 billion) in 2016, mostly oil and gas, compared to exports of ¥546.3 billion ($4.8 billion). The delegation arrived late on Sunday on about 10 aircraft. Salman, 81, is on a monthlong tour of Asia to advance his kingdom’s economic and business interests. His stop in Japan followed visits to Indonesia and Malaysia. He is to travel on to Brunei Darussalam, China and the Maldives. Salman pledged $1 billion in development finance for Indonesia and closer cooperation in combating transnational crime, such as human trafficking, terrorism and the drug trade. AP

Saudi King Salman (left) is greeted by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe prior to a meeting at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo on Monday. Salman and thousands of business leaders from Saudi Arabia are in Japan for talks on Monday mainly expected to focus on economic ties. AP/Shizuo Kambayashi

Turkey sanctions the Netherlands over treatment of two ministers

Singapore tops Tokyo as Asia’s A city with best quality of living S

ingapore tops the ranks in Asia as the city with the best quality of living, well ahead of Tokyo and Hong Kong, because of its efficient infrastructure. The city-state gained one spot from last year and came in at No. 25 on a global ranking of 231 cities by consulting firm, Mercer, a unit of Marsh and McLennan Cos. In Asia, Tokyo was at 47 and Hong Kong at 71, with both declining slightly in the index. Singapore was top of the list on quality of city infrastructure, which includes supply of electricity, drinking water and phone services. Mercer also assesses public transportation, traffic congestion and the availability of international flights in this category. “Cities that rank high in the city infrastructure list provide a combination of topnotch local and international airport facilities, varied and extended coverage through their local transportation networks, and innovative solutions, such as smart technology and alternative energy,” said Slagin Parakatil, a principal at Mercer who is responsible for its quality of living research. Singapore also scored high because of “internal stability, wide availability of consumer goods, availability and quality of housing and low incidence of natural disasters,” Mercer said. The global ranking—based on

A SINGAPOREAN exercises at a park. Bloomberg

data compiled between September and November last year—was dominated by Western European cities, with Vienna and Zurich topping the list. The only non-European cities in the top 10 were Auckland in third spot, Vancouver in fifth, and Sydney in 10th. In Asia great disparities in the quality of living remain, Mercer said. Beijing was ranked at 119, with Shanghai at 102 and Guangzhou at 121. Bangkok dropped two

spots to 131, and Manila climbed one spot to 135. The next-best Asian ranking in infrastructure was for Hong Kong at sixth place, while Sydney was at eighth. “By and large, cities across the Pacific enjoy good quality of living, though criteria such as airport connectivity and traffic congestion are among the factors that see them ranked lower in terms of city infrastructure,” Mercer said. Bloomberg News

NK AR A, Turkey—Turkey announced a series of political sanctions against the Netherlands on Monday over its refusal to allow two Turkish ministers to campaign there, including halting high-level political discussions between the two countries and closing Turkish air space to Dutch diplomats. Deputy Prime Minister Numan Kurtulmus, briefing journalists after the weekly council of ministers meeting, said the sanctions would apply until the Netherlands takes steps “to redress” the actions that Ankara sees as a grave insult. “There is a crisis and a very deep one. We didn’t create this crisis or bring it to this stage,” Kurtulmus said. “Those who did have to take steps to redress the situation.” Other sanctions bar the Dutch ambassador entry back into Turkey and advise parliament to withdraw from a Dutch-Turkish friendship group. The announcement came hours after Turkey’s foreign ministry formally protested the treatment of a Turkish minister who was prevented from entering a consulate in the Netherlands and escorted out of the country after trying to attend a political rally. The ministry also objected to what it called a “disproportionate” use of force against demonstrators at a protest afterward. Separately, Turkey’s foreign minister was denied permission to land to address the same rally in Rotterdam. The argument is over the Netherlands’s refusal to allow Turkish officials to campaign there to drum up support among Turks who are eligible to vote in an April 16 referendum that would greatly expand the powers of Turkish President

Recep Tayyip Erdogan. About 400,000 people with ties to Turkey live in the Netherlands, though it’s not clear how many are eligible to vote. Erdogan said the two Cabinet ministers—Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu and Family Affairs Minister Fatma Betul Sayan Kaya— would ask the European humanrights court to weigh in on their treatment. He added that he didn’t think the court would rule in Turkey’s favor. Earlier, German Chancellor Angela Merkel backed the Netherlands in its diplomatic fight with Turkey, as the North Atlantic Treaty Organization’s (Nato’s) chief called for alliance members to respect each other and the European Union urged Turkey to calm down. Turkey had a similar dispute with Germany last week, but the fight with the Netherlands comes as that country prepares for its own election on Wednesday pitting Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s right-wing PVV Party against far-right, anti-Islam populist Geert Wilders’ party. Merkel, speaking at a news conference in Munich on Monday, pledged her “full support and solidarity” to the Dutch, saying the Nazi gibes were “completely unacceptable”. Erdogan responded angrily to Merkel’s support for the Netherlands. “Shame on you!” he exclaimed during an interview with A Haber television on Monday. He renewed accusations that Germany supported “terrorists” battling Turkey and that it backed the “no” campaign in the Turkish referendum, arguing that Berlin did not want to see a strong Turkey emerge. “Some of the European Union countries—let’s not put all of them in the same sack—unfortunately

cannot stomach Turkey’s rise,” Erdogan said. “Sadly, Germany tops the list. Germany supports terror in a cruel way.” He went on to advise Turks living in Europe not to vote for parties that he described as “enemies of Turkey”. Nato Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg urged all members of the alliance “to show mutual respect, to be calm and have a measured approach”. The EU also called on Turkey to “refrain from excessive statements and actions that risk further exacerbating the situation.” EU Spokesman Margaritis Schinas added that it was essential to avoid further escalation and find ways to calm the situation. In the television interview, Erdogan repeated slurs against the Netherlands, saying: “their Vienna Convention is their fascism. Their Nazism. We can say neo-Nazism.” He was referring to a 1961 international treaty on diplomatic relations. Turkey is a candidate to join the EU, although the membership negotiations have made little progress over the past decade. The country has become a vital partner in a deal with the EU to curb the passage of migrants and refugees from Turkey into Europe. Omer Celik, Turkey’s minister in charge of EU affairs, said on Monday his country should consider reviewing the migration deal to relax controls on people reaching Europe by walking into Greece or Bulgaria. “In my opinion the issue of the land passages should be reviewed,” the state-run Anadolu Agency quoted him as saying. The Dutch, meanwhile, issued a travel advisory to their citizens to “be alert and avoid gatherings and busy places throughout Turkey.” AP

China’s economy holds momentum as output, investment accelerate


hina’s economy started the year on a firm footing as its old growth engines gathered pace, with steel and aluminum rebounding as prices rallied and home sales remaining resilient. Industrial production climbed 6.3 percent from a year earlier in January and February combined, versus median estimate of 6.2 percent in Bloomberg economist survey. Retail sales advanced 9.5 percent in the first two months, missing economists forecasts as auto sales dropped after a tax increase on smallengine cars. Fixed-asset investment increased 8.9 percent during the same period The reports show investment,

property and industrial drivers helping to boost growth across the economy as top leaders conclude their legislative gathering and look ahead toward a twice-a-decade leadership shift in the fourth quarter. Steadier expansion, which lifted the Bloomberg Intelligence China monthly growth tracker to 6.99 percent in February, gives the People’s Bank of China more maneuvering room as it boosts money-market rates to contain corporate leverage. Premier Li Keqiang announced at the opening of the National People’s Congress (NPC) this month an expansion target of 6.5 percent or higher for the full-year and cut the M2 money-supply goal to 12 per-

cent from 13 percent in 2016. He will elaborate on the government’s objectives on Wednesday at a press conference as the annual legislative gathering closes. “Following the solid data for the start of the year and the signaling of a slightly more dovish policy stance during the recent NPC compared to what we had expected, we now expect GDP growth to slow to 6.5 percent this year, up from 6.3 percent before,” Louis Kuijs, head of Asia economics at Oxford Economics in Hong Kong, wrote in a report. “High uncertainty calls for vigilance of policy-making. But at least the current growth momentum gives policy some two-way leeway.”

“The data pointed to a good start to the year. Fixed-asset investment got a boost largely because of infrastructure projects. It shows that the proactive fiscal policy is playing out well,” said Tommy Xie, an economist at OCBC Bank in Singapore. “Infrastructure will be generally strong this year, thanks to public-private partnerships. Credit data in February also showed that investment is getting adequate financial support.” “China’s economy is opening the year with a good start, although progrowth policies to shore up consumption in coming months are needed,” said Gao Yuwei, a researcher at the Bank of China Ltd.’s Institute of International Finance in Beijing.

“Auto sales have slowed to weigh on consumption after two years of splurging.” “The latest data support the slight tightening bias in People’s Bank of China policy,” Bloomberg Intelligence economists Tom Orlik and Fielding Chen wrote in a report. “Strength in real-estate sales and construction—if sustained—would mean upside risks to Bloomberg Intelligence Economics’ 6.3-percent growth forecast for the year.” In a sign that the economy’s momentum is building, private fixed-asset investment accelerated to 6.7 percent growth from a year earlier in the first two months of 2017. Property development in-

vestment increased 8.9 percent in the period. The value of new homes sold rose 23 percent to 912 billion yuan ($132 billion) A reading of services output increased 8.2 percent in January and February. Automobile sales fell 1 percent from a year earlier, a breakdown of the retail sales numbers shows. Slower retail sales were due to the high base effect from car sales last year, an NBS spokesman said at a briefing in Beijing. Employment was stable in January and February and economic improvement continued with better fundamentals during the period, the spokesman said. Bloomberg News

The World BusinessMirror

Wednesday, March 15, 2017


Brexit talks OK’d as Scottish threaten independence vote


ONDON—New battle lines were drawn over Britain’s future on Monday, when the government secured unrestricted authority to negotiate withdrawal from the European Union (EU) while confronting the possibility that, in doing so, it may bring about an independent Scotland. In a day of “Ping-Pong”, as the back and forth between the House of Commons and the House of Lords is known, Prime Minister Theresa May finally won her parliamentary battle to start talks on Britain’s exit from the EU, unhindered by any legislative constraints. But the votes in Parliament came hours after the first minister of Scotland, Nicola Sturgeon, raised the stakes by demanding a new referendum on Scottish independence. While acknowledging that the Scots had rejected independence in a referendum just three years ago, she said the country found itself at a “hugely important crossroads” because of the withdrawal, known as Brexit. After Monday night’s votes, David Davis, the Cabinet minister responsible for negotiating Brexit, said Parliament had supported the government “in its determination to get on with the job of leaving the EU and negotiating a positive new partnership with its remaining member-states.” “We are now on the threshold of

52% The percentage of Britons who voted in June 2016 in a referendum to leave the European Union

the most important negotiation for our country in a generation,” Davis added in a statement. The House of Commons last month gave the prime minister and her government the approval the High Court said they needed to proceed with negotiations on Brexit. But the unelected House of Lords then approved two amendments calling for guarantees that EU residents of Britain have the right to remain and giving Parliament more say in the final deal on leaving the union. The government argued that it should guarantee the rights of EU

Ivanka to end fine-jewelry line in favor of one for mass market


ver the past few weeks, it seemed like Neiman Marcus could not make up its mind about whether to sell Ivanka Trump’s fine jewelry. The brand’s baubles disappeared, reappeared and then disappeared again from the department store’s web site. But now, Neiman Marcus won’t have much of a choice. Trump’s brand has discontinued its line of high-end bracelets, necklaces and rings, the company confirmed on Monday. Instead, it will focus on more affordable fashion jewelry, according to Abigail Klem, the president of Trump’s brand. In a statement, Klem attributed the decision to the company’s “commitment to offering solution-oriented products at accessible price points”. She did not mention Neiman Marcus, or any of the other retailers that had recently backed away from carrying Trump’s increasingly politicized products. The decision to discontinue Trump’s fine jewelry line was reported last Friday by Vanity Fair. Trump’s shoes, handbags and clothing lines have become targets for both supporters and detractors of her father, President Donald J. Trump, in his political rise to the White House. Many shoppers have rallied behind Grab Your Wallet, a largely grass-roots movement to boycott companies associated with the Trump name. Some companies, like Nordstrom and T.J. Maxx, have pulled back from promoting Ivanka Trump’s brand. Representatives for Ivanka Trump have said that overall sales of her products increased 21 percent in 2016 compared with 2015. In a statement, Klem said that February this year saw some of the “best performing weeks in the history of the brand”. Ivanka Trump licenses her name to various partners who manufacture her products. The largest share of her revenue comes from sales of her clothing, followed by shoes and handbags. Fine jewelry has always made up a small percentage of her overall business, according to company documents and interviews with former employees. Unlike her diamond-encrusted fine jewelry, items in the fashion jewelry line are aimed at a mass-market audience, with many items priced at less than $100. The company projected to make about $300,000 in royalty fees in 2016, according to company documents from 2014 that were obtained by The New York Times. Sales were expected to reach about $7.5 million last year. New York Times News Service

Members of Parliament return their result after voting to reject Lord’s amendment on EU nationals’ rights in the House of Commons, London, on Monday. Britain’s House of Commons has rejected an attempt to make the government promise—before European Union exit talks start—that it will guarantee the right to remain of EU citizens living in the UK. By a vote of 335 to 287, lawmakers overturned an amendment to the government’s Brexit bill inserted by the unelected House of Lords. PA via AP

nationals only when Britain received reciprocal assurances about its citizens in continental Europe. It also said giving Parliament more say over a Brexit deal would impede May’s negotiating freedom. On Monday night elected lawmakers in the House of Commons overturned both amendments, and the House of Lords yielded by a significant majority, in line with parliamentary protocol, handing May her wish of unimpeded authority. She is now in a position to fulfill her promise to send formal notification, by the end of the month, of the start of withdrawal talks under Article 50 of the EU’s treaty.

Sturgeon’s call for a new referendum underscores the mood of uncertainty within one of Europe’s most durable political systems, after the divisive referendum in June, in which 52 percent of Britons voted to leave the EU. Scotland voted 62-38 to remain in the bloc, however, illustrating the divergence between Scottish and English politics. Since then, May has rejected calls from Sturgeon for a soft Brexit that would keep Scotland, at least, inside the EU’s single market and its tariff-free customs union. With opinion polls showing Scots almost equally divided over

the merits of independence, the threat of another referendum that could break the United Kingdom apart complicates what was already a highly complex Brexit negotiation for May. Speaking in Edinburgh on Monday morning, Sturgeon said she would seek permission from the Scottish Parliament to hold a second referendum, which she said should be staged between fall 2018 and spring 2019—before Britain quits the EU. While that should be straight forward, given the dominance of her pro-independence Scottish National Party in the Edinburgh

Parliament, the approval of May could prove more complicated. Politically, it may be hard for May to refuse, though she may try to delay any new vote in Scotland until after the withdrawal, calculating that this would make it harder for the independence campaign to prevail. Sturgeon said unless May made further concessions, Scots should be able to choose whether to follow other Britons into “a hard Brexit, or to become an independent country able to secure a real partnership of equals with the rest of the UK and our own relationship with Europe.” She also argued that, in its current, weakened state, and trailing in opinion polls, Britain’s opposition Labour Party stands little chance of winning a general election, and that independence was the only way for Scots to prevent themselves from being governed— possibly for a decade—by May’s Conservative Party, which has limited support in Scotland. In response, May said a referendum would set Scotland on course for “uncertainty and division”, arguing that most Scottish voters did not want another vote on independence. During the previous referendum, the economic case against Scottish independence seemed to prove decisive—and that argument may have gotten stronger since, because of the global decline in the price of oil, a bulwark of the Scottish economy. I n 2014 , ho we ve r, o p p o nents of independence argued that an independent Scotland would lose its membership in the EU. New York Times news Service

24M more uninsured under GOP plan W ASHINGTON—The House Republican plan to replace the Affordable Care Act would increase the number of people without health insurance by 24 million by 2026, while slicing $337 billion off federal budget deficits over that time, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said on Monday. Republicans had been bracing for what was almost certain to be a bleak accounting of the legislation’s projected effects. The American Health Care Act, as Republicans call their bill, was facing widespread criticism from health-care providers, some conservatives, and a united Democratic Party. The much-anticipated judgment by Capitol Hill’s official scorekeeper did not back up President Donald J. Trump’s promise of providing health care for everyone and was likely to fuel the concerns of moderate Republicans. Next year, it said, the number of uninsured Americans would be 14 million higher than expected under current law. But it also provided talking points for House Republican leaders who need the support of rebellious conservatives to pass the measure: lower deficits, reduced federal spending and tax cuts. The Trump administration immediately denounced the budget office’s conclusions. Tom Price, the secretary of health and human services, suggested the report offered an incomplete picture because it did not take into account regulatory steps he intends to take, as well as other legislation that Republicans plan as part of their multistep strategy to repeal and replace the health law. “We disagree strenuously with the report that was put out,” he said at the White House. Democrats remained steadfast in their opposition. “The CBO score shows just how empty the president’s promises, that everyone will be covered and costs will go down, have been,” said Sen. Chuck Schumer of New York, the Democratic leader. “This should be a looming stop sign for the Republicans’ repeal effort.” The coverage numbers released on Monday will make it only more difficult for Republicans to explain why their legislation would improve the coun-

try’s health-care system. And that could make the bill’s fate in the more narrowly divided Senate much more tenuous. In a sign of the concern over the coverage projections, Sen. Susan Collins, Republican-Maine, said the budget office’s report was “cause for alarm” and “should prompt the House to slow down and reconsider certain provisions of the bill”. Average premiums for people buying insurance on their own would be 15 percent to 20 percent higher in 2018 and 2019 than they would be under current law, the budget office said. But after that, premiums would be lower than projected under current law—around 10 percent lower by 2026, the budget office said. The number of uninsured would shoot up next year by 14 million, the budget office said. Most of the increase in 2018 would result from people choosing not to buy insurance after tax penalties for those without coverage are repealed, but in later years, the office said, the number of uninsured would rise further because of changes in Medicaid, the health program for lowincome people. “Some states would discontinue their expansion of eligibility” for Medicaid, and federal spending per beneficiary would be capped, the report noted. For people receiving subsidies under the Affordable Care Act, the report said, tax credits proposed by House Republicans “would generally be less generous”. But the market would not collapse. Other changes in the House bill would “lower average premiums enough to attract a sufficient number of relatively healthy people to stabilize the market,” the budget office said. The budget office estimated that 52 million people would be uninsured in 2026 under the House Republican bill, compared with 28 million projected under current law. The report foresees huge changes in Medicaid. By 2026, it said, federal Medicaid spending would be 25 percent lower under the House bill than is projected under current law, and the number of Medicaid beneficiaries would be 17 percent lower, with 14 million fewer

Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer (Democrat-New York) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Democrat-California) comment on a report by the US Congressional Budget Office that concluded 24 million people would lose health insurance within a decade under a Republican plan to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act, in Washington on March 13. Gabriella Demczuk/The New York Times

people covered by Medicaid. Republican leaders tried to focus on the positive news in the budget office’s analysis. Speaker Paul Ryan said the report showed that the Republican plan would lower premiums. “I recognize and appreciate concerns about making sure people have access to coverage,” he said. “Under Obamacare, we have seen how government-mandated coverage does not equal access to care, and now the law is collapsing.” Democrats had criticized Republicans for pushing the bill through two House committees last week before the CBO had weighed in, saying it was irresponsible to begin considering legislation without a firm grip on its potential costs and ramifications. On Monday they said they were vindicated. “Today’s analysis from the CBO confirms that the Republicans’ repeal bill isn’t a health-care bill at all,” said Rep. John Yarmuth of Kentucky, the ranking Democrat on the House Budget Committee. “It’s an ideological document with real and incredibly damaging consequences for American families.” But the analysis does show that un-

der the Republican plan there would be winners—and losers. Under current law, in 2026, a single 21-year-old earning $26,500 with an insurance policy that costs $5,100 a year would get a tax credit of $3,400 and would have to pay $1,700 of the premium. Under the Republican bill, that person’s share of the cost would drop to $1,450. By contrast, a 64-year-old earning the same amount would fare much worse. That person’s $15,300 health plan would be offset by a $13,600 tax credit under current law, leaving the consumer responsible for $1,700. Under the Republican plan, health insurers would be free to charge older people more, raising that person’s premium to $19,500. But the tax credit would be only $4,900, and that person’s share of the premium would then be $14,600. House Republicans would allow insurers to sell health plans covering a smaller share of consumers’ medical costs, and cost-sharing subsidies for low-income people would be repealed in 2020. As a result, the budget office said, deductibles and other out-of-pocket costs for many consumers would be substantially higher than under the Affordable Care Act. New York Times News Service



Wednesday, March 15, 2017 • Editor: Jennifer A. Ng


SRA allows more sugar exports to US


By Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas @jearcalas

he Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) said it has permitted traders and millers to export more sugar to the US until August 31 this year to stabilize domestic supply and prices.  In Sugar Order (SO) 4, the SRA authorized the advance swapping of “B” or domestic sugar to “A” or sugar for the US market in crop year (CY) 2016-2017, which will end on August 31. “An early shipment of US quota sugar will help ease the pressure of high sugar stock inventory in the country, and help stabilize the sugar situation,” SRA Administrator Anna Rosario V. Paner said in SO 4, which was published on the agency’s web site on March 14. The SRA earlier increased the sugar allocation for local consumers and industries via SO 1-A. The allocation for “B” sugar was increased to 94 percent, from 92 percent, while that of “A” sugar was

cut to 6 percent, from 8 percent. The agency pegged the domestic sugar demand for the current crop year at 2.15 million metric tons (MMT). The SRA projected that sugar output in the current CY, which started in September 2016, could reach 2.25 MMT, higher than the 2.236 MMT produced in CY 2015-2016. Paner said the advance swapping of domestic sugar to US sugar is open to all sugar producers, millers, traders and holders of outstanding quedan-permits “All outstanding ‘B’ sugar quedan-permits issued in CY 20162017 are hereby allowed [eligible], on a voluntary basis, for advance swapping into ‘A’ or US Quota

File photo

Sugar for quota years 2016-2017,” SO 4 read. Paner said B quedan-permits that will be swapped to A will be charged a fee of P5 per 50-kilo-

gram bag (lkg-bag). She said the advance swapping of quedan-permits will be allowed until April 30. The SRA chief also said the

“B” quedan-permits that were advanced-swapped to “A” in CY 2016-2017 will be allowed replenishment starting September 1, 2017, until August 31, 2018.

Only those sugar traders who actually exported to the US market using their advanced-swapped “B” quedan-permits to “A” will be eligible for replenishment, Paner added. “The ‘B’ quedan-permits that were advance-swapped to ‘A’ quedans shall be replenished at a ratio of 1.1 lkg-bag of ‘A’ quedans for every 1.0 lkg-bag of ‘B’ quedans,” she said. “ T h e ‘A’ q u e d a n - p e r m i t s subject of replenishment shall be charged w ith a replenishment ree of P5 per lkg-bag,” Paner added. Earlier, Paner said the decline in the millsite price of sugar could be attributed to the increased entry of high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS) in the country last year. “There has been a lot of excess corn in China, so the price of HFCS went down and then China exports to us at zero duty,” Paner said. “That’s why the price of sugar is dropping because there’s so much supply due to the importation of HFCS.” She said the volume of HFCS imported last year, pegged at 285,000 metric tons (MT), which is equivalent to some 5.7 million lkg-bag, was the highest since 2013. Paner said this displaced nearly 30 percent of the market share for locally produced refined sugar.

Piñol urges N. Cotabato farmers to plant hybrid rice T he Department of Agriculture (DA) urged farmers in North Cotabato to use hybrid seeds to increase their paddy-rice production and help the government attain its sufficiency goal by 2020. Agriculture Secretary Emmanuel F. Piñol recently visited North Cotabato to attend the fourth National Rice Technology Forum held in M’lang. Piñol was joined by rice experts who helped him promote the use of hybrid seeds. The promotion of hybrid rice seeds is one of the strategies being pursued by the DA to increase paddy rice output, Piñol told participants during the opening program. Aside from the use of hybrid-rice seeds, Piñol said the government would implement three other strategies: access to credit/loans; access to right marketing; and the provision of postharvest facilities. “To determine which [hybrid-rice] variety produces more yield per hectare, the DA will launch a rice derby contenst,” he said. The result, Piñol said, would serve as the government’s guide as to what variety to distribute to farmers. In line with this initiative, he said the DA has forged partnership with private seed companies to assist in technology transfer. To provide easy access to credit and financial assistance, he said the DA has proposed to Congress the enactment of a Quick Credit Facility (QCF) that will

help both farmers and fishermen. Under the QCF, farmers and fishermen may avail a P25,000 per hectare financial assistance. “The DA, through the Agricultural Credit and Policy Council, has also launched the Survival and Recovery [SURE] Assistance Program for calamitystricken farmers and fishermen. SURE does not require collateral, has zero interest, and is payable in three years,” Piñol said. He said the DA will also organize rice farmers into “highly functioning organizations” and assist them in setting-up farmer-owned rice outlets in key areas. “Through this strategy, the DA aims to eliminate unnecessary layers in the market system.” In his message, Piñol said “the government will not give equipment which does not work and which you [farmers] do not need.” As such, the DA will prioritize the distribution of “useful and efficient” postharvest facilities. Aside from distributing agriculture machinery, the DA is seeking a P20-billion budget next year for the distribution of solar irrigation system, which forms part of the rice expansion program for 2017. “The DA has to irrigate 80,000 hectares every year to be able to feed the growing number of Filipinos,” Piñol said. An additional 20,000 hectare to 30,000 hectare expansion program is targeted for 2018. Jasper Emmanuel Y. Arcalas

Leyte town adopts ‘ridge-to-reef’ approach to rural development


“ridge-to-reef” ecosystem approach to rural development has been adopted in the remote town of Inopacan in Leyte, which is now a model of a foodsecure town where farmers plant jackfruit, dipterocarps and grow tilapia. The socioeconomic development at Inopacan, Leyte, is being approached in a different light by the Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (Searca). Inopacan is a third-class municipality with a mere 20,000 population. Instead of identifying development sites based on political classification, a Searca project is developing Inopacan based on its topography—farm areas, forests and water bodies. “The project focuses more on the agro-ecological systems of a potential project site. It is being delineated based on predetermined ecosystem using the ridge-to-reef approach or landscape continuum,” according to Searca rural evelopment experts. This ecosystem-based concept follows Searca’s model called “Inclusive and Sustainable Agricultural and Rural Development “ or ISARD. ISARD’s projects in poverty-stricken areas aims to enable the poorest of the poor get out of poverty, according to Searca Director Dr. Gil C. Saguiguit Jr. At the same

time, these communities should contribute to environment conservation. The ISARD project in Leyte is in partnership with the Visayas State University, Visayas Consortium for Agriculture and Aquatic Resources Program (ViCAARP), and Inopacan’s local government unit. The ridge-to-reef model raises success potential of a poverty alleviation project as communities may be easily asked to participate in development activities. The activities may be community organization, nursery establishment, fish pond development, tree planting, or farming. Under the ridge-to-reef concept, local government unitpartners are tapped when these are around a “watershed or microwatershed, lake ecosystem, including its tributaries”. The concept also determines choice of beneficiaries based on landscape ecologies of upland, lowland, coastal and marine ecosystems, including ecotones. Searca’s ISARD projects get small grants for technical assistance; institutional development and capacity-building; knowledge management; and linkaging and networking support. “Geographic Information System mapping and Experts Systems developed by ViCAARP will also be deployed to support the project and growers in their decision-making processes.”

ExportUnlimited BusinessMirror

Manila FAME eyes $10-M sales in April


ANILA FAME, the Philippines’s premier design and lifestyle event, is set to open its doors to global buyers of Philippine-made artisan products for the home, lifestyle and fashion industry from April 21 to April 23 at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

A mong the countr y’s most prestigious trade shows, it seeks to make over $10 million (P500.3 million) in sales as a result of the three-day fair. The April 2017 event marks the fair’s 65th edition. I n l a s t O c t o b e r ’s M a n i l a FAME, participants reported export sales totaling $9.685 million (P487.16 million). As one of the oldest trade shows in Asia, the biannual event offers a vast selection of exquisite products, including furniture, home accents and fashion accessories from the country’s best artisans and designers. Manila FAME is organized

by the Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (Citem), the export promotions arm of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI). Leading Citem’s renewed efforts into the global market is newly appointed Exevutive Director Clayton Tugonon, who said he intends to capitalize on the export-coaching programs instituted by Citem to bolster the export-readiness of Philippine companies and manufacturers. The DTI sub-agency will hire experts as consultants to advice on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) on the pricing and

design of their products, he said. Tugonon also vowed to institute reforms and streamline Citem’s operations, as well as institute costcutting logistic measures, to effectively use the agency’s fund for promotional efforts. “Citem will be more aggressive in its promotional efforts in positioning the Philippines as a global destination for quality-export products and services as we continue to maintain the highest standards of creativity, excellence and innovation,” Tugonon said. “Citem recognizes the vital role of MSMEs in building the Philippine brand globally. We are also aware they need support so they can compete in international and local markets. It is important that we uplift smallscale businesses so that they will receive the same opportunities as other established corporations.” Tugonon will lead Citem in organizing the 65th edition of Manila FAME from April 21 to April 23, and the 11th edition of the International Food Exhibition Philippines, which are both held at the World Trade Center Metro Manila and Philippine Trade Training Center. “Ensuring the success of these two

shows will be critical in supporting the government’s strategy for inclusive growth since the food and designoriented furniture and garments industry are two of the 12 top priority sectors identified as priority development areas in generating quality employment and higher-income opportunities,” Tugonon said, adding it will lead “to poverty alleviation and a better quality of life for Filipinos.” Tugonon seeks to intensify the creative collaborations among local MSMEs, exporters, designers, and manufacturers in Citem’s events and overseas participation. He said he will be talking to the exhibitors at the shows to encourage them to improve their products, with emphasis on “innovation and transfiguration.” Tugonon met with members of the Davao Fashion Council and the Bagobo weaving community to drumbeat participation for the upcoming Manila FAME. Tugonon is Citem’s first Executive Director hailing from the Visayas since the subagency was established on 1983. He is a graduate of Bachelor of Science, major in Biology, and an alumnus of the San Carlos College of Law in Cebu.

DTI-EMB conducts Unctad workshop on Rules of Origin By Justinne Marie D. Santos

Market Innovation Division, DTI-EMB


S part of its continuing effort to educate business people and to acquaint concerned government agencies of recent developments and important technical matters pertaining to trade, the Export Marketing Bureau (EMB) of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) held a workshop on Rules of Origin (ROO) on February 28, at the Penthouse of the DTI International Building in Makati City. ROO are used to determine the country of origin of a product for purposes of international trade. Exporters need to comply with ROO in order to enjoy preferential tariff rates under free-trade agreements. During the workshop, participants from the business sector and from various government agencies were given an orientation on the general concept of ROO. Tables and statistics were presented to help participants better understand how ROO works and how it can be applied to their advantage. The participants—particularly from the garments, tuna and electronics sectors—took advantage of the opportunity to consult and to clarify compliance with ROO. The speaker for the workshop was Stefano Inama, the chief of the technical assistance, trade and customs in the Division on African and Least Developed Countries, United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), Geneva, Switzerland. He is an ROO expert with over 25 years of experience in the design, management, and research and trade-related capacity-building programs in Asia, Africa, and Latin America, with a focus on

STEFANO INAMA, chief of the Technical Assistance, Trade and Customs Division on African and Least Developed Countries of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development in Geneva, Switzerland, speaks to participants of a workshop on Rules of Origin hosted by the Department of Trade and Industry in its International Office in Makati City.

legal, regulatory and institutional trade issues, including tariff reform, trade law, regional trade agreements, tariff preferences and ROO governing market access. The workshop commenced with Inama

upcoming events Compiled by Louise Kaye G. Mendoza DTI-EMB Knowledge Processing Division

apprising the participants of the fundamental concepts relating to ROO, which included the preferential and nonpreferential types of ROO and the issues faced both at the multilateral and regional levels. Discussions became more

engaging when Inama explained in detail the relatively complicated concepts of cumulation, de minimis/general tolerance rule, prohibition of duty drawback, direct transport rule and principle of territoriality, among other topics.

Valenice Balace of Peekawoo

MARCH 12-17

Event: 44th Small and Medium Enterprises Working Group (SMEWG) Meeting To be attended by: Assistant Director Agnes Legaspi Venue: Sydney, Australia

MARCH 15-19

Event: Sikat Pinoy National Food Fair—Piling-piling Pagkaing Pilipino Venue: Megatrade Halls 1-3, 5th Level, Mega B, SM Megamall

MARCH 16-17

Event: STEAM Ahead in Asean: A Forum on Women and Technology Venue: Microtel Wyndham Mall of Asia, Pasay City, Manila


Time: 8:30 a.m.-3 p.m. Event: Philippine Export Competitiveness Program:

Overview of EMB Services and Export Procedures Sugar Regulatory Administration (SRA) Services for Exporters Food and Drug Administration Services for Exporters ITC Survey Report on Non-Tariff Measures in the Philippines Venue: Penthouse, 5F, DTI International Building, 375 Sen. Gil Puyat Avenue, Makati City

By Abigael Mei M. Yaokana Office of the Director, DTI-EMB



E live at the height of a technological revolution with fresh and innovative ideas sprouting from the minds of the aspiring start-up community. There is no denying young entrepreneurs will be the main players of this revolution. With the growing landscape of social media, there is no doubt that millennials will be seizing this opportunity, and 27-year-old Valenice Balace knows exactly how to seize it. Balace founded dating web site Peekawoo in 2012. The company was officially launched in 2013. By 2016 they started moving to

a broader space. “We started r-skinning our dating app to do other verticals, such as conferences, communities, colleges and hotels aside from dating,” Balace said. Peekawoo is not your ordinary hook-up dating site. In fact, it was developed with women as their target market to cater to their needs of taking a traditional but fun approach to dating. She developed this idea after she and a friend went through the phase from doing the usual option of going to nightspots, and found no one.

Editor: Efleda P. Campos • Wednesday, March 15, 2017 A9

Public-private collaboration to sustain PHL-US economic relations By Raymond Batac Philippine Trade and Investment Center, Washington, D.C.



HE United States has always been one of the top economic partners of the Philippines; we have an enduring alliance with the US that is based on deep historical and cultural ties—robust, dynamic and strategic. Our economic relations with the US are equally strong. In 2015 our total bilateral trade with the US reached over $16 billion and total equity from the US amounted to $731 million, making it the top contributor of net investment flows to the country for that year. With the changes in administrations in both the US and the Philippines, and the holding of the annual Healthcare Information and Management Systems Society (HIMSS) Conference in Orlando, Florida, Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) Undersecretary Nora K. Terrado headed a 33-member Philippine Healthcare and Business Process Offshoring Roadshow to the US, covering the cities of New York, Washington, D.C., Houston and San Francisco. The industry delegation was composed of representatives f rom Ph i l ippi ne compa n ies and organizations that included Globe Telecoms, Pointwest Technologies, SPI Global, KMC Solutions, Dynaquest, ADEC, Authority of the Freeport Area of Bataan, Contact Center Association of the Philippines, Health Information Management Association of the Philippines, Advanced World Solutions Inc., eData Services Philippines, Edulynx Corp., Personiv, Prople Inc., Teledevelopment and Seven Seven Softwares Inc. The forums and business meetings organized in these cities provided an opportunity for the Philippine government and industry to highlight our robust economic growth in the last seven years, and the dramatic rise in competitiveness of the country as a destination for foreign investments, particularly in the health-care information management and the information technology-business process management services They even went on to try dating web sites, but most of the men they met were just looking either for hook-ups or instant marriage. From this experience, she noticed today’s dating apps were made by men who fashioned their site on how men wanted it to be. She wanted to challenge this platform by creating an app that would be “safe, fun, with users still having control and privacy,” she said Peekawoo is not the typical location-based app. Instead, it filters matches by relying on the information you put upon signing in, while still giving you the option to choose your preferences and before chatting with your match, you would need to answer at least three out of five “would you rather” questions. Today Peekawoo has broadened its platform by hosting friendly gettogethers for its beloved users. It has also started a do-it-yourself platform where anyone can log in and create their own app. “Just select the features you want, select a theme, upload your logo and photos, and voila! You have an app,” she said. Her journey may be inspiring, but

landscape. Philippine companies highlighted our competencies, particularly in the fields of healthcare information revenue-cycle management, pharmaceutical and life science, health-information technology and data analytics, and health care-customer service. According to Everest Global Inc. (EGI), the global healthcare business-process outsourcing (BPO) market is expected to grow between 8 percent and 10 percent from 2015 to 2018, reaching around $7 billion in revenues in 2018, and will require a global work force of 48,000 to 50,000 full-time employees. During the forum in New York, EGI highlighted the fact that the Philippines is today the preferred offshore location for clinical health-care business-process services in the world, edging out other country providers due to the overwhelming availability of local medical talent. They also underscored the Philippines’s continuing value proposition for off-shore health-care services, our high competency in the English language, a credible choice for non-voice services, and a viable alternative to other offshoring locations. Terrado also met with a number of US companies in New York, Houston, San Francisco and Los Angeles. These meetings included discussions with influencers of a major US Fortune 500 company for a potential health-care information management Global In-House Center investment in the Philippines and a $68-million expansion in Iloilo by Shearwater Health, a US global health-care solutions provider. In the West Coast we expect around 6,000 jobs to be generated from technology and healthinformation management companies, such as Axis Point, Medcor, Pomeroy and Unicom Global, from now to 2019 through their expansion or entry in the Philippines. Unicom Global, an IT company based in Mission Hills, California, also intends to establish a research and development center in the Philippines to train students and young professionals on Technology and Innovation Programs. To be continued Balace admitted she did encounter hurdles along the way. “Most women aren’t seen as entrepreneurs, especially as tech entrepreneurs. Every time I get into a room or into a meeting, I’m mostly mistaken for anyone, but the CEO and the founder,” she said. This doesn’t stop her and her women-dominated team from doing what they want to do. She also said a woman executive is “more compassionate. There’s a lot less ego in a female executive.” Almost five years in the industry, Balace is very thankful for the team who trusted and supported her, as well as government agencies like the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) for giving exposure to femaleled startups like her. Balace also considers as her greatest achievements being included in the list of Forbes 30 under 30 and earning $600,000. Balace and her team are perfect examples that women can also be the main players, and challenge the tech industry. “I do not see myself in terms of gender. I mostly just identify myself as a leader,” she said.

A10 Wednesday, March 15, 2017 • Editor: Angel R. Calso

Opinion BusinessMirror


Clear rice policy


he current dilemma facing the National Food Authority (NFA) and the interagency NFA Council (NFAC) concerning rice imports are symptomatic of what has been ailing the Philippine government when it comes to its economic policies, particularly those that affect the farm sector. Members of the NFAC, including its ex-oficio Chairman Cabinet Secretary Leoncio B. Evasco Jr., have announced that the government is not keen on importing the buffer stock of the food agency. To beef up the NFA’s rice inventory for the lean months, when farmers do not harvest rice because typhoons usually hit the country from July to September, the NFAC said the government should expand its procurement program instead of buying rice from abroad. The NFAC said privatesector imports under the so-called minimum access volume (MAV) scheme would also prop up Philippine rice inventory in the coming months. The Department of Agriculture (DA) and the NFA have countered that importing the requirement of the government for buffer-stocking purposes should not be left solely in the hands of the private sector. The DA had even warned that local consumers would be left at the mercy of private traders who can dictate domestic prices. Unscrupulous traders, the agency warned, could make rice unaffordable, which would be disastrous to many poor Filipinos who consume more of the staple to fill their stomachs because they cannot afford more expensive protein sources, such as pork or chicken. While the government’s plan to increase its purchase of palay from farmers is a welcome development, the NFA’s annual procurement has not even exceeded 1 million metric tons (MMT). In 2008 amid the global rice crisis, the government wanted to buy more palay from farmers to encourage them to plant the crop. The government wanted more farmers to go into planting rice after it had difficulties importing the buffer stock needed by the food agency in 2008 because of limited stocks, which resulted in price spikes. It also did not help that the country’s annual paddy rice output is usually short by 1 MMT. As an incentive, the support price of the NFA was raised by P1 to P17 per kilogram. Farmers, however, complained that they find it difficult to sell to the NFA because of the agency’s “stringent” guidelines in its palay procurement. Also, despite the existence of the quantitative restriction (QR) on rice for two decades, the cost of producing rice remains high in the Philippines. Filipino farmers cannot compete head to head with their counterparts in Vietnam and Thailand—where Manila usually sources NFA’s buffer stock. The QR on rice—a trade privilege allowed by the World Trade Organization—has been extended twice. The extensions signaled the Philippines’s resolve to become sufficient in rice and reduce its purchases from abroad. Unfortunately, this never happened, because the government could not decide whether it would just import cheap rice or pour huge resources into the local rice sector. There were economists and bureaucrats who have advocated for more rice importation, as this would not cost so much. But there were also those who made a pitch for “self-sufficiency” due to climate change and the possibility that the 2008 rice crisis may be repeated. The Duterte administration now has a unique opportunity to provide clarity regarding the government’s rice policy. The QR on rice would lapse on June 30 but until now, the government has yet to say whether it would allow more imports or it would prefer to spend as much as P400 billion in two years to “prepare” rice farmers. The government should bear in mind that unclear and vague policies would only hurt the poor, who live in rural areas.

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The final tally Teddy Locsin Jr.

Free fire Continued from A1


hen George Dubya became president, American economic growth had leveled off. He and I could claim that Hey! Just 1.3 million new jobs because nearly everybody had a job already. That wasn’t true and it depends on what you mean by a job. Plus, toward the end of Bush’s term America was reeling from the biggest bank robbery ever staged by, of all people, bankers—an inside job. The 2008-2009 global financial crisis destroyed economies all over the planet—except ours, because a

woman was president. When Obama stepped in, the American economy was in free-fall from the heist. So Obama’s achievement was twofold: just stopping the free fall and getting it up again—an “erectilely” dysfunctional American economy that couldn’t be cured even if you turned to see Alice, your

The Benedict Option


By David Brooks | New York Times News Service

aith seems to come in two personalities, the purist and the ironist. Purists believe that everything in the world is part of a harmonious whole. All questions point ultimately to a single answer. If we orient our lives toward this pure ideal, and get everybody else to, we will move gradually toward perfection.


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The ironists believe that this harmony may be available in the next world but not, unfortunately, in this one. In this world, the pieces don’t quite fit together and virtues often conflict: liberty versus equality, justice versus mercy, tolerance versus order. For the ironist, ultimate truth exists, but day-to-day life is often about balance and trade-offs. There is no unified, all-encompassing system for correct living. For the ironists, like Reinhold Niebuhr or Isaiah Berlin, those purists who aim to be higher than the angels often end up lower than the beasts. Throughout history, we’ve seen a lot of purist religious faiths, from the Spanish inquisitors to the modern Islamic radicals, who believe in a single true way of living. Today we see a lot of secular purists: the students at Middlebury who want to shout down differing opinions, the legal activists who want to force Orthodox Christian bakers to work at gay weddings, against their conscience. This movement has led many Christians to conclude that they are about to become pariahs in their own nation. One of these is my friend Rod Dreher, whose new book, The Benedict Option, is already the most discussed and most important religious book of the decade.

Rod is pretty conservative. “There can be no peace between Christianity and the sexual revolution, because they are radically opposed,” he writes. Specifically, “LGBT activism is the tip of the spear at our throats in the culture war. The struggle over gay rights is what is threatening religious liberty, putting Christian merchants out of business, threatening the taxexempt status and accreditation of Christian schools and colleges.” Rod shares the fears that are now common in Orthodox Christian circles, that because of their views on lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, Orthodox Christians and Jews will soon be banned from many professions and corporations. “Blacklisting will be real,” he says. We are entering a new Dark Age. “There are people alive today who may live to see the effective death of Christianity within our civilization.” Rod says it’s futile to keep fighting the culture war, because it’s over. Instead, believers should follow the model of the sixth-century monk Saint Benedict, who set up separate religious communities as the Roman empire collapsed around them. The heroes of Rod’s book are almost all monks. Christians should

In the view of the intelligent, to grow an economy and make its gains inclusive you should first depend, and indeed, favor the few who are big rather than the many who are small. Not because the gains of the big will trickle down. Good luck to you on that. But because only the rich have the means to create vastly more and quality jobs by massive investments—not out of the kindness of big hearts but economies of scale. The poor at best can self-employ. It is sad if unfair but it makes sense. neighbor. Turn to see Alice. Cialis, get it? Never mind. Obama got it up and running. This shows two things. First is that America has had great presidents who took good advantage of her inherent strength since eroded by Wall Street.

The right response to the moment is not the Benedict Option, it is Orthodox Pluralism. It is to surrender to some orthodoxy that will overthrow the superficial obsessions of the self and put one’s life in contact with a transcendent ideal. But it is also to reject the notion that that ideal can be easily translated into a pure, homogenized path. withdraw inward to deepen, purify and preserve their faith, he says. They should secede from mainstream culture, pull their children from public school, put down roots in separate communities. Maybe if I shared Rod’s views on LGBT issues, I would see the level of threat and darkness he does. But I don’t see it. Over the course of history, American culture has tolerated slavery, sexual brutalism and the genocide of the Native Americans, and now we’re supposed to see 2017 as the year the Dark Ages descended? Rod is preemptively surrendering when, in fact, some practical accommodation is entirely possible. Most Americans are not hell-bent on destroying religious institutions. If anything, they are spiritually hungry and open to religious conversation. It should be possible to find a workable accommodation between LGBT rights and religious liberty, especially since Orthodox Jews and Christians aren’t trying to impose their views on others, merely preserve a space for their witness to a

We had good presidents but all they could do with a weak economy was survive, and that’s a lot. And second is that job creation, let alone economic inclusiveness, are a lot harder than talking about it. And you only get one chance at pulling off just one of them. In the view of the intelligent, to grow an economy and make its gains inclusive you should first depend, and indeed, favor the few who are big rather than the many who are small. Not because the gains of the big will trickle down. Good luck to you on that. But because only the rich have the means to create vastly more and quality jobs by massive investments—not out of the kindness of big hearts but economies of scale. The poor at best can self-employ. It is sad if unfair but it makes sense. So just tax more those with more money to cheat on taxes. And spare from too much taxation those with too little to escape it.

transcendent reality. My big problem with Rod is that he answers secular purism with religious purism. By retreating to neat homogeneous monocultures, most separatists will end up doing what all self-segregationists do, fostering narrowness, prejudice and moral arrogance. They will close off the dynamic creativity of a living faith. There is a beautiful cohesion to the monastic vocation. But most people are dragged willy-nilly into life—with all its contradictions and complexities. Many who experience faith experience it most vividly within the web of their rival loves—different communities, jobs, dilemmas. They have faith in their faith. It gives them a way of being within the realities of a messy and impure world. The right response to the moment is not the Benedict Option, it is Orthodox Pluralism. It is to surrender to some orthodoxy that will overthrow the superficial obsessions of the self and put one’s life in contact with a transcendent ideal. But it is also to reject the notion that that ideal can be easily translated into a pure, homogenized path. It is, on the contrary, to throw oneself more deeply into friendship with complexity, with different believers and atheists, liberals and conservatives, the dissimilar and unalike. Rod and I have different views on LGBT issues. But I think we genuinely respect each other and honor each other’s lives. To me that means the real enemy is not the sexual revolution. It is a form of purism that can’t tolerate difference because it can’t humbly accept the mystery of truth.

Opinion BusinessMirror

₧1+ per liter can fund Gina Lopez’s big jobs ahead Michael Makabenta Alunan

on the contrary


F oil companies can give as much as P1 to P2 per liter in price discounts to transport drivers, and as rebate incentives in tie-ups with credit-card institutions, why can’t they fund Environment Secretary Regina Paz L. Lopez’s massive job of rehabilitating closed mines and funding programs to reverse the pollution caused by the same oil companies? n “Energy” to fund rehabs? They can easily absorb these discounts as they have been granting them out anyway as part of their regular marketing thrust. If they add 50 centavos or P1 per liter on current market retail prices, motorists will not mind the additional burden as they have been experiencing the same monthly price fluctuations the past years. As there are over 30 billion liters of gasoline, diesel, kerosene and bunker fuel consumed per year, an additional P1 per liter amounts to P30 billion a year to rehabilitate mining areas and pump prime the countryside. n “Caring for others” While miners are admittedly destructive no matter what responsible system they use, they argue that we need metals for cars, cell phones, etc. But if the economic, social and environmental costs far outweigh the benefits, it is worth supporting Lopez’s position. If free-market economists argue why focus on planting rice if it is cheaper to import, then we can use the same argument why mine locally if it is not our natural competitive advantage being an island economy with the risks involved in inter-locking contiguous ecosystems from aquifers, river systems, agriculture, marine ecosystems, etc. As miners cannot blame others but themselves for their neglect, incompetence and greed, like allowing smugglers to control 95 percent of Philippine gold trade, perhaps, it is high time we give Lopez a chance to correct the decades of ravages by mining that destroyed the environmental and brought poverty to our people. n Miners overmine and undermine? Left alone to mind (mine) their own business, miners tend to overmine in total disregard for the environment and undermine the government and the communities. Despite a production of P66.6 billion a year, mining contributes only 0.6 percent of total employment and P16.7 billion in taxes. They also earn unfairly 82 percent of total net revenues, of which 95 percent goes out of the local economy. Worse, after extracting it of all its mineral value, a mine is laid to waste with the government paying for rehabilitation like the P300 million spent on the old Bagaca Mines in Samar. Another mine was found with mercury levels of as high as 12 parts per million (ppm), about 6,000 percent more than the allowable 0.002 ppm, which put to risk the ecotourism potentials of the hot springs nearby. For Lopez, mining in a watershed must be totally banned as even the World Resources Institute (WRI) declares that despite our high rainfall, there will be a water shortage by 2040 at the rate we are destroying our watersheds. Potentials bigger without mines? There are model places that have stopped mining and now earn more. Lopez says, “Costa Rica has zero mining and zero poverty; while Bhutan also has zero mining, offers free health, free education and has among the happiest people in the planet earning $2 billion a year supplying water to China and India.” Similarly, we can capitalize on being the world’s top in marine biodiversity. “We have seashells and

For DENR Secretary Lopez, mining in a watershed area must be totally banned as even the World Resources Institute has declared that despite the country’s high rainfall total, there will be a water shortage by 2040 at the rate we are destroying our watersheds. sponges that can potentially cure cancer and venoms of sea snakes better than medical morphine,” she told Rappler. She insisted she has the proven track record to show like P1-million investment in one project now earns P30 million a year for a community; another P1.5-million investment in Palawan now earns P40 million a year; and about 5 to 7 projects in Supertyphoon Yolanda-affected areas have recovered investments in 10 months. n If business doesn’t mind, it will matter. If the oil firms will not mind paying forward these consolidated fuel discounts that are barely felt anyway by transport drivers, then it will matter a lot. For one, the same money will now be spent on creating physical wealth through agricultural and infrastructure development. Second, they will trigger higher multiplier effects as money circulates more and remains in the countryside, thus boosting incomes and purchasing power of rural folks and growth in domestic market. Unfortunately, if collected as an excise tax, it will take time with the tedious legislation process. And if approved as a tax, it goes up to the National Treasury under the one-fund system, and can only be spent back by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) if appropriated by Congress, unless specified by law. n Tricycles back ‘Forests for the Poorest’ fund. Surprisingly, even the National Capital Region Toda Coalition, the confederation of 17 tricycle federations in Metro Manila led by Ace Sevilla, supports Lopez’s thrusts to reciprocate the favorable educational “Tricyclean” program of EMB-NCR under Director Minda Osorio, hoping it is also replicated on a mass scale. As tricycles consume only three to five liters of gasoline a day, even a P1 add-on price only costs P3 to P5 per day. But their sheer number can fund proposed projects, like building hundreds of thousands of catch basins on mountain slopes as the most effective climate-adaptation strategy to prevent soil erosion, downstream flooding, as well as provide mountain irrigation, making it possible to grow forests or watersheds under the proposed program “Forests for the Poorest”. n Millions of jobs possible. The catch basins can also be stocked with fish and become sources of potable water. Moreover, they can be built in a pick and shovel construction frenzy that can potentially generate millions of jobs. It is rare to have someone like Lopez at the DENR, so policy-makers must seize the moment and remind themselves that opportunity only knocks once. E-mail:

Wednesday, March 15, 2017 A11

Elizur Wright: The ‘Father of Life Insurance’ in US Atty. Dennis B. Funa



lizur Wright (born February 12, 1804; died November 22, 1885) was the insurance commissioner of Massachusetts in the United States for nine years, from 1858 to 1867. He was appointed by Gov. Nathaniel Banks. It is notable that Massachusetts was the first state to have an insurance department established in 1855. Elizur was a mathematician. He is regarded as the “Father of Life Insurance” in the US for his many reforms in the industry. Among these reforms are the requirement for reserves and provisions for cash surrender values. He was a mathematics professor at Western Reserve College from 1829 to 1833. He graduated from Yale in 1826. In 1844, while serving as a consultant of New England Mutual Life Insurance Co. (established in 1835 in Boston, Massachusetts), the young Elizur was sent to London to learn about English practices. There, Elizur witnessed how old men auctioned off their lifeinsurance policies because they could no longer afford to pay the premiums but could not collect the

benefits for they were still alive. The buyers took over the payment of premiums and became the beneficiaries. The number of insurance policies that lapsed was staggering. The shocked Elizur was convinced that insurers should pay “surrender values” to policyholders and for this purpose should hold adequate reserves. Elizur saw the absence of “surrender values” as a form of

Flirting with Russia Edgardo J. Angara


uring the campaign, candidate Donald J. Trump heaped praise on Russian President Vladimir Putin as a decisive leader and hinted at lifting the West’s sanctions on Russia for grabbing Crimea and actually supporting the secession of Eastern Ukraine. The United States Director of National Intelligence released a declassified report claiming that Russia had hacked the Democrat Party’s files to influence the US presidential elections, in favor of Trump, thereby “undermin[ing] public faith in the US democratic process.”  Not long afterwards, Michael Flynn, Trump’s national security adviser, unceremoniously resigned because he lied to US Vice President Mike Pence about meeting with the Russian Ambassador to the US, Sergey Kislyak, a month before Trump was sworn in.  Another key official in the security and justice machinery, newly appointed US Attorney General Jeff

Sessions inhibited himself from federal investigations on the alleged meddling of Russian officials in the US elections. The Washington Post reported that the former Alabama senator also met with Kislyak on two occasions during the campaign of Trump.    In the Middle East, Moscow supported Syrian President Bashar alAssad to stay in power, at the heavy cost of tens of thousands of deaths and destruction of ancient heritage cities like Aleppo. In October 2016 France and Spain presented a draft resolution at the UN Security Council calling for a truce and a cessation of all military activities in Aleppo. The proposal

cheating on the part of insurance companies. He vowed to make life insurance “safe for its buyers and fair to those who could no longer pay their premiums.” Of course, during this time, there was yet no organized association of actuaries in the US and the Institute of Actuaries in Great Britain was just newly formed. More important, there were no state regulations at all. In 1852 an insurance broker “placed an advertising booklet in his hand...Elizur Wright looked it over and perceived quickly enough that no company could undertake to do what this one pretended to and remain solvent.” Upon becoming insurance commissioner, a law was passed in 1858 by the Massachusetts legislature requiring insurance companies to hold reserve funds for the benefit of policyholders. In 1861 a law was passed forbidding the appropriation of the reserve funds. Thus, the birth of reserving with a mathematical basis. No company was allowed to sell insurance “unless their assets were sufficient to establish net level premium reserves.” This requirement led to the eviction

of International Life Assurance Society of London, a British company from Massachusetts which failed to meet his reserve standard. Elizur had argued that the company’s reserve should be $1,684,000 while the company contended that less than 30 percent of that figure was sufficient. Ten years later, International Life would be in receivership. The economic crises of the 1870s wiped out several insurance companies, while almost all Massachusetts insurance companies survived the crises. In 1860 New York Life was the first company to guarantee the nonforfeiture of policies in case of default in premium payment. In 1861 Massachusetts passed the Non-Forfeiture Act. It was the first state to pass such reform legislation. New York State would pass a similar law in 1879. In 1880, though no longer insurance commissioner, Elizur was instrumental in the legislation that required companies to pay the cash value of lapsed policies. Thus, policies could always be converted into cash.

received almost unanimous support—earning 11 affirmatives out of 14 possible votes. However, it did not pass, as Russia, a permanent member of the UN Security Council with wider veto powers, vetoed the proposal. The EU and the US denounced Russian aggression in grabbing the Crimean Peninsula as having blatantly violated international law. They imposed as a result sanctions on Russia, including asset freeze and travel restrictions against certain individuals, officials and businesses seen to be aligned closely with the Kremlin. Many nations are united in opposing Russia’s demonstrated aggression against its neighbors and apparent attempts at disrupting democratic institutions. Humanrights groups accused Putin of silencing his critics with extreme measures.  Last year President Duterte sat down with this avowed “idol” Russian President Vladimir Putin in Lima, Peru, on the sidelines of the annual leaders’ meeting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (Apec).  Putin reportedly committed to Duterte Russia could import up to $2.5 billion (P124.17 billion) worth of Philippine agricultural

products, including fruits and vegetables—a giant leap from the modest $46 million (P2.28 billion) Philippine average exports to Russia each year.   Earlier this year, two Russian warships docked on our shores— a goodwill gesture signifying that Moscow is keen on joining military exercises with the Philippines.  Igor Khovaev, Russia’s ambassador to the Philippines, said all the Philippines needed to do was give Russia a “wish list” of whatever assistance Moscow could extend to Manila.  Duterte is scheduled to visit the Kremlin in May in line with his announced pivot to Russia and China that he made last year during the Apec conference. We, of course, welcome trade, tourism and investment from any country willing to do business with us.  But we must make it clear at the outset that friendly ties and commercial relations will be forged without sacrificing existing relationships with old allies and friends. In foreign relations, as in domestic affairs, a shared set of values, common experience and democratic traditions are fundamental bonding ties.                                                  

Trump is already losing to China Michael Schuman



N the waning days of Barack Obama’s administration, one of the president’s advisory councils issued a report warning of China’s plans to snatch control of the critical semiconductor industry. Its recommendation: “Win the race by running faster.” It is sound advice, but the new administration isn’t listening. Donald J. Trump’s policies, in fact, offer a road map for how not to compete with China. That’s because team Trump doesn’t fully grasp the threat China now poses to the United States economy. China is marshaling massive resources to march into high-tech industries, from robotics to medical devices. In the case of semiconductors alone, the state has amassed $150 billion to build a homegrown industry. In a report in March, the European Union Chamber of Commerce in China pressed the point that the Chinese government is employing a wide range of tools to pursue these ambitions, from lavishing subsidies on favored sectors to squeezing technology out of foreign firms. The only way for the US to compete

with those efforts is to “run faster”. Yet, Trump’s ideas to boost competitiveness mainly amount to cutting taxes and regulation. Although reduced taxes might leave companies with more money to spend on research and development, that’s not enough. The US needs to do much more to help businesses achieve bigger and better breakthroughs. Trump is doing the opposite. One reason US companies are so innovative is that they attract talented workers from everywhere else. But Trump’s recent suspension  of fast-track H-1B visas could curtail this infusion of scientists and researchers. If his intention is to ensure jobs go to Americans first, he need not bother. The unemployment rate for Americans with a bachelor’s degree or higher—the skilled workers that H-1B holders would compete with—is a mere 2.5 percent.

This policy isn’t just a threat to Silicon Valley, but across industries. Michael McGarry, the CEO of PPG Industries Inc., worries about the effect visa restrictions would have on his paint-making business. “We create a lot of innovation because of the diversity that we have,” he recently told CNBC. “We think people with PhDs who educated here should stay here and work for us and not work for the competition.” China will likely try to capitalize on this mistake. Robin Li, CEO of the Internet giant Baidu Inc., recently advocated  that China ease its visa requirements to attract talented workers to help develop new technologies for Chinese industry, just the opposite of Trump’s approach. Trump’s budget proposals are similarly a setback. He wants to boost defense spending by slashing funding for just about everything else, notably education. By one estimate, some $20 billion would have to get cut from the departments of education, labor and health and human services to accommodate his plan. If Trump wants to contend with Chinese power, he’d be better off reversing those priorities—to create more graduates and fewer guns. He could offer proposals to make higher education more affordable for the poor, for instance, or to bolster vocational training. So far, there’s little evidence he’s making such spending a priority.

Dennis B. Funa is currently the deputy insurance commissioner for Legal Services of the Insurance Commission. E-mail:

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China, by contrast, is expanding access to education on a huge scale. Premier Li Keqiang, in his annual report at this month’s National People’s Congress, boasted that the number of youngsters from poor rural areas enrolled in major universities rose by 21 percent in 2016, while almost 8 million students will graduate from college this year, an alltime high. And while China is focused on building new industries, Trump and his advisers remain fixated on old ones. In a recent essay, Peter Navarro, the director of the White House National Trade Council, lamented the decline of the American steel, aluminum and shipbuilding industries. Yet, he had almost nothing to say about developing the industries of tomorrow—whether robotics, biotech or something we haven’t even thought of yet. The protectionist measures he and his boss seem to favor would actually stifle innovation by curtailing competition. If leadership in cutting-edge industries is ceded to China, America stands to lose the foundation of its global power, too. Of course, China’s industrial policies may not succeed. History tells us that bureaucrats don’t do a particularly good job of driving innovation, as Japan has  demonstrated. And China’s own record suggests that the state is often better at subsidizing wasteful projects than creating vibrant new industries.

2nd Front Page BusinessMirror

A12 Wednesday, March 15, 2017

Establishment of ‘pharmazone’ high on India’s investment tack $1.8B T By Catherine N. Pillas


he Indian government is encouraging more twoway investments with the Philippines, seeing opportunities not just for Filipino firms setting up factories in India, but also for the establishment of a pharmaceutical manufacturing hub in the Philippines to be called “pharmazone”.

The value of Philippines-India bilateral trade

According to N. Ramakrisnan, first secretary at the Indian Embassy in the Philippines, he hopes to advance the Indian government’s “Make in India” initiative with Filipino companies.“We are  already strong in services, but manufacturing is one area we want to upscale. This is what we want to pitch to Filipino companies. We only have a handful but we would

like to have more Filipino companies there,” Ramakrishnan told reporters at the first Philippines-India Investment Forum held on Tuesday.  “Make In India” is a program launched by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with the goal of making the South Asian country a global manufacturing hub.  “Investment is a game changer not just with Philippine investment coming to India, but with Indian investment coming to the Philippines,” the official said.  A particular proposal floated last year, which is meant to boost inward Indian investment into the Philippines, is the setting up of a pharmaceutical zone, or a pharmazone. Ramakrishnan underscored

the proposal is still under discussion, but the decision to set up the zone will be up to the Indian pharmaceutical companies. “This all depends on the pharmaceutical companies to take it forward. It’s still very much under discussion. It’ll be like a Peza [Philippine Economic Zone Authority] zone, where we’ll have companies to cater to the Philippine market and the market outside. Asean is a strong consumer market,” remarked Ramakrishnan, adding the proposal was discussed during a government-togovernment joint working group meeting last year. The government official noted that the Philippines’s pharmaceutical market is worth

around $3.5 billion, with Indian companies taking up some $500 million worth of business. Bilateral trade between the Philippines and India stood at $1.8 billion in 2015 and 2016, according to the Indian Ministry of Commerce data. Philippine investments in India are in telecommunications, information technology, real estate, reprocessing of waste and human-resource development (management education). Some of the Philippine companies operating in India are V.Merida (processing of waste); Ayala (Construction & ITES); Philippine Wireless (Paging service); SPI Technologies (ITES); Del Monte & Liwayway (Food processing); Lloyd Lab (Pharma), etc.

Firms still reluctant to expand work force By Cai U. Ordinario @cuo_bm


xtrajudicial killings, mine closures and geopolitics are among the reasons businesses have refused to expand and hire more workers this year, according to local economists. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA)  on Tuesday  disclosed the country’s unemployment rate increased to 6.6 percent in January 2017, from 5.7 percent in 2016.  However, data showed the country’s underemployment rate dropped to 16.3 percent this year, from 19.6 percent last year.  “The quality of jobs improved but not enough new jobs were created. This can be explained by the reluctance of many firms to expand operations given domestic and foreign concerns. They’d rather make good use of existing labor,” University of Asia and the Pacific School of Economics Dean Cid Terosa told the B usiness M irror.  “[This] is not good for the economy since the absolute number of people with jobs is the first manifestation of economic dynamism. An economy that cannot create new jobs is not progressing,” he added.  Terosa said that apart from these reasons, businessmen are also concerned about political destabilization rumors, policy changes in the United States and high prices.  He said the higher prices are mainly due to rising oil cost and the weakening of the peso, with the exchange rate recently breaching the 50-to-the-dollar mark.  Former Department of Labor and Employment official Rene Ofreneo added that the anti-immigration policies of the US are a major concern, as well as the country’s recent efforts to mend fences with China.  “There were a lot of firms that recently made adjustments in hiring arrangements,”Ofreneo told this newspaper.“The Duterte administration may have some transition problems.” While the unemployment rate is not a good sign for the economy, Ofreneo said the reduction in the underemployment rate is not that believable, given what is happening on the ground.  Ofreneo said there are still many vulnerable workers who do not have contracts, and many are still in search of better employment opportunities. However, one possible explanation for this is the Duterte administration’s imposition of a “no endo” policy. This may have prompted firms to regular-

An economy that cannot create new jobs is not progressing.” —Terosa ize employees that rendered them no longer underemployed. “They will reduce the number of employees but will regularize and give better jobs. But it’s not the full explanation,” Ofreneo said.  Based on the January 2017 PSA data, of the 6.398 million underemployed, around 58.5 percent worked less than 40 hours, while 40 percent worked 40 hours and over.  The January 2016 data, on the other hand, showed that of the 7.879 million underemployed Filipinos, around 51.4 percent worked less than 40 hours, while 47.5 percent worked 40 hours and over.  The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) welcomed the decrease in underemployment, noting that it was the lowest rate recorded for all Labor Force Survey (LFS) January rounds since 2006. Neda Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said the underemployment data showed there were 1.6 million workers who were no longer underemployed this year compared to 2016.  Pernia said the increase in unemployment rate, meanwhile, is also partly due to the temporary election-related jobs. He added that this was also observed in January 2011, a year that followed the 2010 elections. Pernia said the increase in unemployed Filipinos came from those with elementary education only (+128,000), followed by those with high-school education (+88,000). Youth and adult unemployment rates also went up to 15.6 percent and 4.8 percent, respectively, but the bulk of the increase in the unemployed came from adult workers (181,000). However, Pernia assured the public that new jobs are coming, especially those linked to the billions of pesos of infrastructure projects the government is planning.  “The prospects for job generation may be enhanced with the long pipeline of infrastructure projects for implementation on a 24/7 work mode basis under the current administration,” Pernia said.

wilcon’s initial public offering Justino Juan Ocampo, executive vice president of First Metro Investment Corp.; and Wilcon Depot Inc. officials Lorraine Belo-Cincochan, president and CEO; William Belo, founder and chairman; and Rosemarie Bosch Ong, COO, officially announce Wilcon’s initial public offering set at the month .PNONIE REYES

TPB employees hold ‘Black Friday’ protest vs Montano By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo

@akosistellaBM Special to the BusinessMirror


AST Friday, March 10, the strangest thing happened at the Tourism Promotions Board (TPB), the marketing arm of the Department of Tourism (DOT). After the agency’s usual flag retreat at its office in Legaspi Towers 300 in Pasay City, about 100 TPB employees, all dressed in black, bowed their heads in prayer. It was unusual behavior for most of the government employees, who normally would be scurrying home right after the flag retreat, battling it out like most Filipinos in traffic jams, but eager to be with their families to enjoy the weekend. Part of that prayer reads: “We beseech you, Lord, to grant us peace of mind that we may find joy and purpose in our simple lives as civil servants, with no want of personal gain. Remind us, Father, of our mortality and frailty, that the power of intercessory prayer in Your Name can tear down any human stranglehold, such as corruption and vicious greed, that treachery will be brought to light and justice will prevail as Your Word promises us that those who exalt themselves will be humbled in Your time, and what it is made wrong will be righted by You.” After they prayed, the employees proceeded to take selfies and groufies, posting them on their respective Facebook pages with the hashtag

#TPBinBLACK or with the status “Black Friday”. (Note: the BusinessMirror purposely did not post the photos of the employees to protect their identities.) Absent at the flag retreat was TPB Chief Operating Officer Cesar D. Montano, a multiawarded actor and singer who was appointed last December by President Duterte to the agency’s board, as well as his executive assistants. TPB sources said Montano was in Bohol that day, having supposedly joined the familiarization tour for Japanese media hosted by the agency. With him, the same sources said, were his brother, Rommel Montano, and a bodyguard. The Black Friday protest of the employees served to formalize their complaint versus their COO. Only nine days before, the Presidential Action Center (PACE) received a complaint from “the TPB management and employees,” listing “irregularities committed by [Montano] and his team in the performance of his duty as chief operating officer.” A copy sent to the BusinessMirror was stamped and “received” by the Office of the President’s PACE in Malacañang on March 1. Among the alleged irregularities already published in several news reports include multimillion-peso contracts for sponsorships of concerts that had nothing to do with TPB’s mandate to promote key Philippine destinations, the hiring of personnel, such as relatives, for jobs already being performed by current employees,

unauthorized travels to local and foreign destinations without itineraries and arrogant behavior from his staff, among others. The unnamed employees and officials of the TPB also complained that, despite frequent attempts, they have been unable to convene a board of directors meeting to be attended by Montano, so the agency could finalize its work program for the rest of the year. Their last board meeting was on February 27, which was attended by Montano, who had left without the work program discussed and approved. Sought for comment on the allegations versus Montano, DOT Undersecretary for Public Affairs Katherine de Castro said in a text message to the BusinessMirror: “The Secretary [Wanda Corazon T. Teo] is still on an official trip. She is, however, aware of the complaints filed recently against TPB Coo Cesar Montano. The department will await for the results of the investigation being conducted by PACE.” For his part, Montano, whose appointment at the TPB was criticized by tourism industry leaders for his lack of qualifications (See, “Montano’s Tourism Promotions Board appointment questioned, in the BusinessMirror, December 27, 2016), denied any wrongdoing and decried the allegations as “baseless and untrue”. In an official statement posted on “SELPHILIPPINES”, a Facebook page ( documenting

Montano’s activities as TPB chief and entitled “Kuya Buboy in Action—Tourism Promotions Board”, Montano decried the anonymity of the complaints and said no evidence had been presented “to substantiate claims. Without proof, anyone can easily fabricate stories with the sole purpose of destroying the credibility of the agency and this administration.” He added: “It is our hope and prayer that politics do not keep us from doing our job in promoting a safer and drug-free Philippines to tourists. Montano’s nickname is “Buboy”, and the site, administered by his brother Rommel, is one of the items on the list of complaints of the TPB management and employees versus the COO. Duterte has already dismissed the allegations against Montano in a news conference on Monday, daring the complainants to “file a case” versus the latter. He added: “I trust the guy, that’s why I appointed him. If I did not have confidence in him, I would not have put him there.” For its part, Carat Philippines said it did not produce the Luneta concert on February 25, as alleged in the complaint filed by TPB employees and management at PACE. “It is unfortunate that the name of Carat Philippines was dragged in news reports involving a complaint filed by the [TPB employees], claiming acts of misconduct by their head Cesar Montano…. Carat Philippines conducts its business with professionalism, integrity and with its clients’ welfare in mind.”

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