MANILA, JULY 13, 2006
(STAR) SPYBIZ By S.A. Maguire - Although it has already forfeited the US$14 million bond, the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) has given Ranhill-YNN until Aug. 6 to cough-up the down payment on its winning bid in the 600MW Masinloc coal-fired power plant. This "elbow room" allegedly threw a monkey wrench on the plans of some "interested parties" who have reportedly financed a black propaganda campaign on the Masinloc deal. Just before the June 30 deadline, Ranhill Power Berhad CEO Keng Cheong Wong said the company is determined to proceed with the acquisition of the power plant, which has a current output of less than 410 MW. Wong said there is considerable scope to improve the existing plant by maximizing its efficiency — which will mean cheaper power for Luzon consumers while giving government the highest value for Masinloc. Wong also expressed doubts that the Philippine government will get a price equal to the US$561.7 million or higher than Ranhill’s bid, considering that a final cancellation may send the wrong signals to the international community and foreign investors on future asset auctions, Masinloc included, as set by the PSALM.

Mr. Swinger

This ranking assistant in a vital government agency has been the subject of gossip not only for his questionable practices, but for his alleged sex-capades. According to sources, a number of directors and staff under his division are requesting for transfers and reassignments because of his flip-flopping and wishy-washy decisions, causing a lot of delay and untold expense to the government. For instance, his inaction on a report concerning a multinational company has deprived government a couple of million pesos, but sources suspect it was because he was waiting for the company to negotiate with him. The official is reportedly a firm believer of the "bata-bata" system, approving only those reports submitted by his cronies. His alleged penchant for revising reports according to his own interpretation has caused a lot of dismay, which insiders have attributed as a partial cause for the agency’s failure to achieve its targets. This official is said to keep a pet kitten in his office and is allegedly engaged in a menage a trois with the kitty and her mom. Insiders said that about a month ago, Mr. Swinger filed a five-day leave but unknown to his boss, it was for a minor operation. Doctor’s order were for Mr. S to rest for a couple of weeks, but he must have missed his pet kitten so much that he reportedly showed up for work and immediately engaged in a closed-door petting session, the informants disclosed. Royal family feud Spybiz Ear-spies reported that things are turning sour for this decades-old publishing company because of family squabbles. A lot of smaller scale publishing companies look up to this firm, especially its king, because of his respected reputation even in international associations. Add to this the fact that many of this publishing company’s clients belong to Catholic organizations. The bickering has allegedly been going on for several months, to the point that a top executive is now planning to sell his shares just to get him and his family a few moments of peace. Transparency in transactions to boost OFW remittances Spybiz received positive reactions on a recent Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) regulation ordering banks and other remittance service providers to disclose all costs and charges to customers. Under the new remittance standards, agents have to clearly display the amount of the transfer fee, the rate of conversion from foreign currency to pesos, the mark-up, other conversion charges and the time it would take to deliver the money to the recipient. This move could drive down excessive charges and enable OFWs and their beneficiaries to decide which remittance agents to utilize. In a related move, House Deputy Majority Leader Eduardo Gullas pushed for a $1 "all-in" universal remittance fee, citing the advent of new technology that enables most foreign banks and other payment processing firms abroad to comfortably operate and efficiently transfer money worldwide with a $1 universal remittance charge. "We really cannot understand why local banks are charging so much for transfers," the Cebu solon remarked. A previous International Monetary Fund study revealed that OFWs pay $15 to $26 in transfer fees for a typical $200-remittance. An Asian Development Bank study released last week also cited high transaction costs as one of the reasons why billions of dollar remittances from domestic helpers bypass the Asian region’s banking systems. According to the ADB, the average $100-$500 remittances per OFW could be utilized to develop labor exporting countries if funds were coursed through formal banking channels.

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New EU rule on tuna good for RP By Pia Lee-Brago The Philippine Star 07/13/2006

The Philippines stands to benefit from the European Commission’s (EC) amendment of a current regulation on lead levels in fish, especially tuna, the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday.

Philippine Ambassador to Brussels, Belgium Cristina Ortega reported to the DFA that the Philippines was successful in its efforts to remove a potential technical barrier to trade in the European Union as Manila spearheaded the move to ease the EU requirements related to lead levels in fish.

Ortega said that increasing the maximum level of lead to 0.30 mg/kg was agreed upon during a recent Codex Alimentarius Committee meeting in Geneva, Switzerland. The main argument was that at this level adequate public health protection is already provided.

"The Philippines stands to benefit from this new international standard as the EC is expected to amend current regulation on lead levels in fish. Philippine exporters, though, will need to ensure that the lead levels in their products are well within the maximum limits as EU authorities are expected to be strict with compliance to the new standard," Ortega said.

Manila led the data gathering and organized presentation of arguments that formed the bases for such an international agreement to be readied. Codex is the organization tasked to develop international standards and guidelines for food.

At present, Ortega said the EU regulation requires that fish imported into the 25 member states contains only a maximum level of 0.20 mg/kg of lead.

But developing countries such as the Philippines have difficulty in meeting this requirement since it would require expensive and sophisticated measuring equipment to detect such low lead levels.

Ortega stressed that it was in the developing countries’ interest to fight for an increase in the maximum level of lead.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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