TOKYO, OCTOBER 15, 2012 (PHILSTAR) By Neil Jerome Morales – Credit rating agencies are “very pleased” with developments in the Philippines, particularly on the economic and political fronts, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said yesterday.

[VIDEO: President Aquino on preliminary peace deal with MILF ]

In an interview with The STAR, Purisima said the credit raters have shown interest in the country’s fiscal status, economic growth, the status of the public-private partnership program and even in the preliminary peace deal between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

“They are very positive. They recognize the important structural reforms that have been undertaken in the past,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo (photo at right) said in a separate interview.

The Philippine officials briefed Standard & Poor’s on Thursday, and Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investor Service on Friday night on breakthroughs achieved by the Philippines in its reform efforts.

The Philippines is trying to secure an investment-grade rating by 2016, to widen access to financing as well as entice more investors.

“The market has graded us two notches above credit rating. The credit ratings are known as lagging indicators but I hope they catch up soon,” Purisima said.

[PHOTO -Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

To date, the highest credit rating of the country came from Fitch and Standard & Poor’s, which ranked the Philippines only a notch below investment grade with stable outlooks.

Moody’s has placed the country two notches below investment grade but with a positive forecast.

Purisima said Mindanao is a potential boost to our growth rate, referring to the positive turn of events in the Mindanao peace process.

“It means there is better chance of pursuing growth. More resources will be free that can provide us with an additional momentum in pursuing growth,” Guinigundo said, apprising credits raters of the impact of the Mindanao development on overall growth.


WB, JICA to help set up development framework for Mindanao By Neil Jerome Morales (The Philippine Star) Updated October 15, 2012 12:00

TOKYO – The World Bank (WB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) will help the Philippine government in setting up a development framework for Mindanao amid a new peace deal with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), a finance official said yesterday.

“We discussed with World Bank how they are going to give their support for the peace agreement and ensure the development in Mindanao,” Finance Undersecretary Rosalia de Leon told The STAR on the sidelines of the International Monetary Fund-World Bank annual conference here.

Members of the Philippine delegation attended various meetings with foreign counterparts and officials of multilateral agencies.

De Leon said that talks with JICA, which has assisted numerous agriculture productivity and energy sector projects in the Philippines, also focused on Mindanao.

“They are very pleased that finally there is peace agreement. They are very supportive going forward on what we can do not only on peace but also development in Mindanao,” she added.

[PHOTO -[Photo - The Finance chief’s undersecretaries Gil Beltran, Rosalia de Leon (middle) and Jeremias Paul, Jr. Jonjon vicencio/Star]

The framework peace agreement between the government and the MILF is expected to uplift Mindanao’s development, which has been hampered by decades of armed conflict.

De Leon said the government will work with JICA and WB in developing the pipeline of assistance projects that include capacity-building and infrastructure projects.

“We are also going to work with them to facilitate the utilization of the overseas development assistance (ODA),” De Leon said.

Both JICA and WB have been very active in supporting projects in the Philippines.

Among the JICA-funded projects were the maternal and child healthcare, flood management program of the public works department and the development of location-specific Integrated High-Yielding Rice-Based Technologies.

In March last year, JICA inked an agreement with the Philippine government to provide loans of up to 68.263 billion yen for seven projects in the country.

On the other hand, WB has committed to support several programs in the Philippines. It will lend as much as $140 million for the Cavite-Laguna Tollway project, $275 million for the Metro Manila Wastewater Management project and $110 million for the Cebu Bus Rapid Transit project.


PHL, MILF to sign ‘historic’ peace deal Written by Mia M. Gonzalez / Reporter

Peace deal with MILF to benefit business as well: Aquino

[PHOTO -In Photo: Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) Vice Chairman Alem Soliman and 155 members of the Muslim rebel group arrive in Manila onboard a chartered flight from Cotabato on Sunday. They are expected to witness the signing of a landmark peace agreement between the government and the MILF in Malacañang today. The peace deal is seen to end nearly four decades of fighting in the country’s southern Mindanao region. (Recto Mercene)]

THE Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) will sign today the Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro, paving the way for a new autonomous political entity that would not be another “failed experiment” exemplified by the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), Malacañang said on Sunday.

[PHOTO -BIG EARS FOR REBELS AND MILITARY. Government’s chief peace negotiator Marvic Leonen, a human rights lawyer, is a sensitive listener. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO]

Marvic Leonen, Philippine peace panel chairman, and his MILF counterpart, Mohagher Iqbal, will sign the framework agreement at 1:30 p.m. in Malacañang, in the presence of principal witnesses President Aquino, MILF Chairman Al Haj Murad, Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak and Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu, secretary-general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation (OIC).

Teresita Deles, the President’s chief peace adviser, said in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan also on Sunday that Mr. Aquino is expected to thank Najib and the Malaysian government for facilitating peace negotiations that led to the framework agreement.

During his Manila visit, the Malaysian premier will meet with Philippine business and industry leaders under the auspices of the Philippines- Malaysia Business Council.

With Najib and his wife, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor, are Foreign Minister Dato’ Sri Anifah bin Haji Aman, Trade Minister Dato Mustapa bin Mohamed, Defense Minister Dato’ Seri Dr. Ahmad Zahid Hamidi and other Malaysian government officials.

[PHOTO -Presidential Adviser on Peace Process Teresita Deles]

They are accompanied by a business delegation led by Dato Azmil Khalid, AlloyMTD chairman and chief executive officer and also the pro-tempore chairman of the Kuala Lumpur-based Malaysia-Philippines Business Council.

The Asian Institute of Management will host a homecoming in honor of Datin Rosmah, a graduate of its Basic Management Program in 1981.

Luwalhati R. Antonino, Mindanao Development Authority chairman, said in a statement also on Sunday that the signing of the framework agreement would help promote a “healthy business environment” in less developed areas in Mindanao in the country’s South.

“[This signing] augurs well for Bangsamoro business leaders to effectively respond to opportunities that abound in both domestic and international markets, and with the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines-East Asean Growth Area [BIMP-EAGA] as the integration platform,” she added.

Deles said in the Radyo ng Bayan interview that leaders of the MILF’s rival Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF), among them Cotabato Vice Mayor Muslimin Sema and ARMM Vice Gov. Bainon Karon, had confirmed their attendance in the signing ceremony,

[PHOTO -SECRETARY Luwalhati Antonino of the Mindanao Development Authority]

She added that MNLF founder Nur Misuari still opposes the peace deal with the MILF, but said she was assured by some quarters that that they would persuade Misuari to support the deal.

“Hopefully, Misuari will see that the Bangsamoro wants peace, and once he sees that this [peace deal] would help them, he would support it as well,” according to Deles.

She said the government was hoping that the MNLF would nominate a representative to the Transition Commission, the 15-member body that will draft the Bangsamoro Basic Law to govern the new political entity.

The proposed law would be drafted in consultation with stakeholders in Mindanao, where the country’s Muslim minority live, and would be submitted as an urgent bill to Congress in early 2015, at the latest, so that a plebiscite can be conducted to ratify the law, and its officials can be elected in 2016.

“All the political commitments under the framework agreement will be made under the leadership of the President, to ensure that they are met…. We expect all of this to be completed before President Aquino steps down [in 2016],” Deles said.

Malacañang Deputy Spokesman Abigail Valte also told a Radyo ng Bayan interview that some 500 peace advocates in a peace caravan that made its way from Mindanao to Mendiola Street near the Palace will hold a vigil until the signing of the framework agreement.

Although no threats to disrupt Monday’s signing of the peace deal were monitored, Metro Manila police have been placed on heightened alert.

“We are prepared. We will make sure that everything will run smoothly,” Chief Supt. Leonardo Espina said also on Sunday. (Recto Mercene and Fernan Marasigan)

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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