[PHOTO -US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas Jr. (File Photo)]

MANILA, JUNE 22, 2012 (INQUIRER) By Jerry E. Esplanada - US Ambassador to the Philippines Harry Thomas Jr. called on Manila and Beijing on Thursday to sit down and find a peaceful solution to their territorial dispute in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea).

Speaking at the US Embassy’s first news forum, called “Kapihan sa Embahada,” Thomas said Washington “has been very clear on our commitment to support a resolution of these claims in a peaceful manner at the negotiating table.”

The United States would like to see a “deescalation [of tensions] and peace, and this can be negotiated out,” Thomas said. “We would not like to see any nation take untoward action.”

Asked if the US was backing the Philippines’ bid to bring its Scarborough Shoal dispute for settlement in a multilateral forum such as the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea, Thomas referred the query to Joy Yamamoto, the embassy’s political officer, who said, “We’re very consistent in supporting international law and settling this kind of disputes under international law.”

“We would support China and the Philippines settle the issue through international means,” said Yamamoto, also the embassy’s deputy head of mission.

Sometime in late April, Beijing rejected Manila’s proposal to bring the Scarborough Shoal dispute to the tribunal, which is based in Hamburg, Germany.

Thomas said the US was not taking any sides in the dispute, but said his government was “very proud that we’re able to partner with President [Benigno] Aquino [III] and the fact that he has an honest administration.”

“That’s been extremely important. We’re able to tell our Congress repeatedly that there’s an honest administration that allows us to maintain and even increase the assistance we’re giving. We’re able to increase US Agency for International Development assistance and also our Peace Corps assistance, as well as veterans’ affairs. We’ve been able to tell our Congress that the Aquino administration is honest in ensuring the funds they provide are going to the people as intended for,” he said.

According to Thomas, “for the past 10 years, the Philippines has been the largest recipient of US military aid in Southeast Asia.”

“The aid is an average of $50 million a year. We’re very proud were able to give that assistance. And we’ll always look for ways to assist within our means,” he said, noting that “we stand by our [Philippines-US Mutual Defense Treaty] commitments.”

Thomas denied reports that the US plans to set up once again military bases in the country.

“We have no intention of having bases here,” he said.

On reports the US government was beefing up the capability of the Philippine National Police in Palawan, Thomas said, “we have given four boats and we plan to give two more to the police to help them catch smugglers.”

He added, “Our interest in Palawan is mainly supporting efforts to protect the environment.”

Peso falls on reduced US growth outlook By: Michelle V. Remo Philippine Daily Inquirer 11:11 pm | Thursday, June 21st

MANILA, Philippines—The peso fell on Thursday following the move of the US Federal Reserve to slash its 2012 growth outlook for the world’s biggest economy.

The local currency closed at 42.425 against the US dollar, down by 29.5 centavos from the previous day’s finish of 42.13:$1.

Intraday high hit 42.15:$1, while intraday low settled at 42.44:$1. Volume of trade amounted to $941.1 million from $1 billion previously.

The drop of the peso, which led the drop in other Asian currencies, came after the release of a less favorable growth outlook for 2012 for the United States. The US Fed saw the US economy growing between 1.9 and 2.4 percent from the previous forecast of between 2.4 and 2.9 percent.

The US is one of the biggest export markets for many emerging economies including the Philippines. Its economic performance thus affects export earnings and overall economic growth of exporting countries.

The US Fed cut its growth forecast following less-than-expected employment generation and still sluggish consumer demand in the United States.

Philippine shares decline Philippine Daily Inquirer 1:59 am | Friday, June 22, 2012

Local share prices on Thursday succumbed to profit-taking after hitting a four-week high earlier in the week.

The main Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) lost 37.03 points, or 0.72 percent, to close at 5,109.43, while the broader all-shares index fell 0.40 percent.

The index was up by 7.91 points at the end of midday trading and reached a high of 5,156.92 points. Prior to Thursday, stocks advanced for three consecutive days to its highest point since mid-May.

There were 72 advancers and 81 decliners, while 49 stocks were unchanged. Trading volume was at 3.13 billion shares worth P5.1 billion. All subsectoral indices ended in the red except for mining and oil shares, which rose 0.39 points following President Aquino’s pronouncement that new rules on mining would be released this week.

For the second day, shares of Megaworld Corp. and parent firm Alliance Global Group Inc. were the two most actively traded shares. The Andrew Tan-led issues were up 2.88 percent and 0.17 percent, respectively.—Paolo G. Montecillo

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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