ASEAN ECONOMIST FOR SONA 2014: PNoy SHOULD LISTEN TO PRIVATE SECTOR MORE; SHOULD BE A 'UNITER'; YOLANDA AREAS SHOULD BE PRIORITY; STOP DEMONIZING PAST SINS & EXAGGERATED CLAIMS OF ACHIEVEMENTS  

President Benigno Aquino III should be tough and fire cabinet members who are not performing, an analyst said. In reply to philSTAR's emailed questions, Victor Abola, economist at the University of Asia & the Pacific, said that for this year's State of the Nation Address, he hopes Aquino does away with "constant demonizing of past sins, and exaggerated claims of achievement."

Abola cited as an example of "exaggerated claims of achievement" the "exportation of expensive rice as indicative of of our becoming self-sufficient." "He should have looked at the declining levels of rice inventory," Abola added. For the president's performance, Abola said he is giving a "fair" or "average" grade to him.

"For the economy, the good points were the passage of the law liberalizing banks for more foreign participation should put more competition in this area, and reduce spreads a bit; also, the implementation of K+12; politically, the pursuit and abolition of PDAF, standing up to China in the latter's continued incursion in Philippine territory (Recto bank, West Philippine Sea). For the negative side, economics-wise, ​the changing of rules of the game in the water and power industries; continued anti-mining stance; poor handling of relief and reconstruction work in Yolanda-affected areas, poor implementation of PPP particularly those originating from DOTC, nonchalance on Manila's truck ban, believing his DA secretary that we would be self-sufficient in rice, thus, not importing early enough rice; ; as for political side, the poor reaction to the Supreme Court decision on DAP, despite claims to increased transparency, not pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill," Abola added.

He also urged the president to become a "uniter" rather than a divider and that he should not be lenient on his party allies. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Should Aquino reconsider Charter change? 

PHOTO: GEARING UP FOR SONA Workers spread the national colors at the session hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City where President Aquino is scheduled to deliver on July 28 his fifth State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress. As Aquino’s Sona nears, the question has made itself relevant once more:

Should the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution be amended to make the local business environment more attractive to foreign investors? Without a doubt, the Philippines has experienced a resurgence of investor confidence in the four years since President Aquino took over the reins of government. Last year, the country registered one of the highest growth rates in Asia, second only to economic powerhouse China, despite the oft-cited hindrances to investments supposedly posed by a basic law crafted almost three decades ago under very different circumstances.

Thus, as President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address nears, the question has made itself relevant once more: Should the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution be amended to make the local business environment more attractive to foreign investors? Should these changes be part of the President’s agenda to be laid out during his much-awaited annual address to the joint session of Congress? “If you want more investments, you’ll have to lift some of the restrictions we currently have,” said National Competitiveness Council cochair Guillermo Luz. “For example, there are restrictions [to foreign investments] in media, education and advertising. Ownership in utilities is also restricted.” Forbidden fruits --Not surprisingly, these “forbidden fruits” are also the industries that foreign investors are most interested in, along with the capital-intensive infrastructure sector.
Yet, it could be argued that the country has exhibited these impressive economic growth rates in the more recent part of Aquino’s six-year term without the benefit of a liberalized Constitution. Foreign investments -- *READ MORE...

(ALSO) PH in Afta: Moving forward in 2015 

If integration of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is not in President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, it should be.
In 2015, Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta) will come into full effect. Signed among Asean members in 1992, the agreement anticipated a fixed period of downward preferential tariff adjustments among the members until those tariffs came down to zero. What is Afta? What benefits shall we derive from it? How can we maximize the benefits for the nation? These are weighty questions.

The Asean was founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Being all geographically close neighbors, they closed ranks to form a political shield from the great uncertainties of the period: the Cold War and the escalating Vietnam War.
In Bali in 1976, Asean summit leaders turned to economic matters and directed their economic ministers to meet regularly to discuss cooperation in economic fields—agriculture, energy, transportation, tourism, finance, investment and trade. This led to progressive, small steps in different directions. One of the most significant agreements to come out of these meetings was on trade cooperation.

The coverage of the initial preferential tariff agreements was narrow and incremental, starting in the late 1970s. These early meetings established greater trust and mutual confidence among the members. There were coincident developments that encouraged deeper Asean tariff preferences. The multilateral trade negotiations of the period were culminating in the reduction of world tariff barriers in trade. Regional trading blocs elsewhere were being formed. In Europe, the Common Market widened to include more countries. And, finally, the World Trade Organization was in its final round of negotiation to become the world trading regulator. Free trade area --When Afta was signed, all the Asean countries committed to reduce their commercial tariffs toward zero by 2015, so that all tariffs between them disappear. * READ MORE...

ALSO Philstar commentary: Let’s settle DAP issue and move forward  

We will not hear the last word from President Noynoy Aquino or from his spokesmen about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), on the constitutionality, on the “benefits” — and on the so-called “genius” who thought of such a “stimulus package” to perk up the economy. Never mind if the DAP skirted the Constitution on such issues as the legality of identifying “savings” even before the year ends, about the authority of the President to use such accumulated cash for worthwhile projects, and about the transparency — or lack of it — in some areas in the disbursement of such funds. We will not hear the last from Congress on both sides of the political fence — one side brandishing the sword of impeachment and the other side raising the shield of the numbers game. Those for impeachment have branded the President as “dictator” and all equivalent names — epithets that are actually reserved for the worst among rulers. His allies said any impeachment attempt will fail, because it will be dead in the water in a predominantly P-Noy Congress.

Why can’t they just say that the grounds of impeachment are not there – there is no culpable violation of the Constitution (the SC Justices ascribed “good faith”); there is nothing treasonous in the DAP; and it is unthinkable that the President is mired in corruption. For some of his faults, the President is neither a tyrant nor a crook. His anti-corruption campaign begins at the topmost — his office — and that is enough for foreign investors to respond favorably by channeling their investible funds in the Philippines. That partly explains why our country is registering high GDP growth rate, even ahead of China. And yet the President’s anti-corruption drive begins with him and the President’s Office – and ends there. That’s because we cannot say that this “daang matuwid” is also the governing principle of the departments and bureaus under him.

There’s the rub. The President believes that, on his mere say so, everyone around him behaves likewise. That’s why he could not see fault in his Budget Secretary. Amidst calls for the latter’s resignation, the President clings to his belief that Secretary Butch Abad could do no wrong — even after many well-meaning sectors have shown that his DAP package has been branded “a bad formula.”  * READ MORE...

ALSO: Port congestion making Phl exports highly uncompetitive 

The congestion and shipment delays at the Manila ports are making Philippine exports highly uncompetitive, as most ports do not have to contend with a similar cause — a truck ban policy, according to two prominent leaders of the business community. Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), said congestion at the Manila terminals has reached “110 percent of capacity” and warned that the situation could go from bad to worse unless “some real remedies” are applied.

There’s a real problem now as shipments can’t be loaded or unloaded, according to Ortiz-Luiz. Robert Amores, president of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization (PhilFoodex) and Philexport trustee for the food sector, explained that shipments should normally be cleared out within 72 hours. “But with the congestion, clearance sometimes takes 15 to 30 days.” The ports of Hong Kong or Busan in South Korea also experience traffic jams, but they can address their problem because there is “no truck ban to compound” the overcrowding issue, so “they can cope,” Amores said. Amores said food exporters are losing business because what buyers are doing now is to accept what local exporters can ship out, then fill the rest of their orders by importing from other sources, such as Thailand. The food industry is “suffering,” he stressed. Manufacturers of fresh produce, for example, can’t fully commit to ship out 100 percent of the orders due to spoilage from the long wait. * READ MORE...

ALSO: Over 8,000 delegates to attend 2015 APEC meet IN PH

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – Around 8,000 delegates from 21 countries are expected to attend the series of workshops and meetings during the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit that will be hosted by the Philippines in various venues from January to November next year. “We are ready for it,” Laura del Rosario, foreign affairs undersecretary for international economic affairs, said in a briefing here yesterday. Del Rosario said 1,500 delegates will participate in the first high-level conference at Clark Freeport in January and more will join the final summit in Manila by November. She said each conference will tackle different issues including education, regional economic integration and sustainability and resilience amid climate change. The other venues for meetings are Bataan, Boracay, Legaspi, Tagaytay, Iloilo and Davao. THIS IS THE FULL REPORT.


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS:

SONA 2014: PNoy is urged to listen to private sector more; he should be a 'uniter'......


President Aquino welcomes members of the ASEAN Business Club led by Ayala Corp. chairman and CEO Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala (right) and Dato Sri Nazar Razak of Malaysia during a courtesy call at Malacañang in May.

MANILA, JULY 28, 2014 (PHILSTAR) President Benigno Aquino III should be tough and fire cabinet members who are not performing, an analyst said.

In reply to philSTAR's emailed questions, Victor Abola, economist at the University of Asia & the Pacific, said that for this year's State of the Nation Address, he hopes Aquino does away with "constant demonizing of past sins, and exaggerated claims of achievement."

Abola cited as an example of "exaggerated claims of achievement" the "exportation of expensive rice as indicative of of our becoming self-sufficient."

"He should have looked at the declining levels of rice inventory," Abola added.

For the president's performance, Abola said he is giving a "fair" or "average" grade to him.

"For the economy, the good points were the passage of the law liberalizing banks for more foreign participation should put more competition in this area, and reduce spreads a bit; also, the implementation of K+12; politically, the pursuit and abolition of PDAF, standing up to China in the latter's continued incursion in Philippine territory (Recto bank, West Philippine Sea). For the negative side, economics-wise, ​the changing of rules of the game in the water and power industries; continued anti-mining stance; poor handling of relief and reconstruction work in Yolanda-affected areas, poor implementation of PPP particularly those originating from DOTC, nonchalance on Manila's truck ban, believing his DA secretary that we would be self-sufficient in rice, thus, not importing early enough rice; ; as for political side, the poor reaction to the Supreme Court decision on DAP, despite claims to increased transparency, not pushing for the passage of the Freedom of Information bill," Abola added.

He also urged the president to become a "uniter" rather than a divider and that he should not be lenient on his party allies.

"The president should listen more to the private sector to validate what his secretaries are saying. To rid himself of non-performing secretaries, like the DOTC (Department of Transportation and Communication) top officials (who rely on press releases, rather than solving problems in LRT/MRT and PPP), Mar Roxas for bungling the relief/reconstruction work in Yolanda-affected areas, " Abola said.

The reconstruction of Yolanda-hit areas should also be made a priority and that Panfilo Lacson as the rehabilitation czar should be given more powers and funding to do the same.

Abola believes that the economy will do better, but the administration would have to formulate longer-term plans following constraints in PDAF (Priority Development Assistant Funds) and DAP (Disbursement Acceleration Program).

"I think the administration will do better. I think some key PPP (Public-Private Partnership) will finally be implemented," he said.

FROM THE INQUIRER

Should Aquino reconsider Charter change? By Daxim L. Lucas |Philippine Daily Inquirer1:15 am | Friday, July 25th, 2014


GEARING UP FOR SONA Workers spread the national colors at the session hall of the House of Representatives in Quezon City where President Aquino is scheduled to deliver on July 28 his fifth State of the Nation Address before a joint session of Congress. As Aquino’s Sona nears, the question has made itself relevant once more: Should the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution be amended to make the local business environment more attractive to foreign investors? NIÑO JESUS ORBETA

MANILA, Philippines–Without a doubt, the Philippines has experienced a resurgence of investor confidence in the four years since President Aquino took over the reins of government.

Last year, the country registered one of the highest growth rates in Asia, second only to economic powerhouse China, despite the oft-cited hindrances to investments supposedly posed by a basic law crafted almost three decades ago under very different circumstances.

Thus, as President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address nears, the question has made itself relevant once more:

Should the economic provisions of the 1987 Constitution be amended to make the local business environment more attractive to foreign investors? Should these changes be part of the President’s agenda to be laid out during his much-awaited annual address to the joint session of Congress?

“If you want more investments, you’ll have to lift some of the restrictions we currently have,” said National Competitiveness Council cochair Guillermo Luz. “For example, there are restrictions [to foreign investments] in media, education and advertising. Ownership in utilities is also restricted.”

Forbidden fruits

Not surprisingly, these “forbidden fruits” are also the industries that foreign investors are most interested in, along with the capital-intensive infrastructure sector.

Yet, it could be argued that the country has exhibited these impressive economic growth rates in the more recent part of Aquino’s six-year term without the benefit of a liberalized Constitution.

Foreign investments

* “We’re doing fine, but ‘fine’ is relative,” Luz said, explaining that the level of investments necessary to lift more Filipinos out of poverty may be beyond the ability of local big business groups to provide. “We’re doing fine compared with our past. But compared with competition around the region, we’re lagging behind.”

He cited the examples of Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) neighbors like Indonesia, Thailand and even former laggard Vietnam, all of which receive annual foreign investment levels several times over what the Philippines gets even during its best years.

Yet Luz—the former executive director of the Makati Business Club (MBC)—takes a nuanced approach to the clamor to relax the economic provisions of the country’s most fundamental law.

“We have to look at this closely: Is ownership the one deal maker or deal breaker that makes investors decide to come here or not?” he said. “I feel there are other factors involved. Factors like the state of the country’s infrastructure and the cost of doing business, among others.”

Aquino has, time and again, expressed his opposition to amending the country’s fundamental law, which was ratified during the term of his mother, the late President Corazon Aquino.

But he does have economic advocacies that may benefit from a more liberal Constitution.

During his plenary speech at the 24th Asean Summit in Burma (Myanmar) on May 11, Aquino urged his fellow Asean leaders to consider growth and development of all sectors to ensure a high level of integration, cooperation and collaboration among the economies of the region.

Micro, medium enterprises

“The Philippines will continue to give particular focus on the development of micro, small and medium enterprises as we need to embark on specific initiatives that would make the Asean Economic Community meaningful for them—and that would help them make the most of the opportunities growing in our part of the world,” the President said.

This is the very same point the head of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) raised. With over 20,000 registered members nationwide, PCCI is—by head count—the largest business lobby group in the country. But the bulk of its members are small and medium enterprises (SMEs), many of whom lack the clout and resources of the MBC to compete with a potential influx of foreign competitors.

“We’re OK with amending the Constitution’s economic provisions, but we have to calibrate our moves carefully,” PCCI president Alfredo Yao said. “Big companies and conglomerates can take care of themselves, but I’m concerned about our SMEs.”

Yao, who started his business empire with what was then a small packaged juice drink business called Zesto, said his mandate as PCCI chief was to help ensure the best business environment for SMEs, which comprise the bulk of registered firms in the country.

Protect SMEs

“We have to protect our SMEs,” he said, when asked about the possibility of giving foreign investors the ability to own more local corporations, as well as real estate.

“Look at China. Look at Indonesia. These countries have ownership restrictions as well,” Yao said. “But they have more foreign investments. There must be another factor involved.”

Debate

Hearing the arguments presented by the likes of Luz and Yao, the debate also sounds like one between big and small firms.

Yet, common ground is emerging in the debate on the Constitution’s economic provisions—a debate that has been raging since the mid-1990s, when local leaders wondered whether the economic boom of the Ramos years could be expanded further through the lifting of restrictive nationalistic policies.

“There is no firm consensus at this point [as to the nature of the liberalization needed], but we all agree that we need more flexibility,” MBC executive director Peter Perfecto said, describing efforts among various business groups to present a united stand on amending the Constitution.

Foreign ownership limit

He explained that more advanced industries were willing to see foreign ownership restrictions lifted faster than SMEs which are considerably less sophisticated in their business practices.

Perfecto pointed out, however, that simply amending the Constitution to relax the 40-percent foreign ownership limit on certain industries, or to allow foreigners to own land, was not the be-all and end-all of efforts to improve the local economy.

Poor infra, expensive power

Persistent issues, like the country’s poor infrastructure, expensive electricity and high cost of doing business, are equally important to investors when they choose between the Philippines and Thailand in locating, for example.

“We all agree that relaxing restrictions of the Constitution is just part of a bigger package,” the MBC official said. “Other elements are just as important.”

On this point, all three business leaders agree. Efforts must be exerted on all fronts for the Philippines to move forward, and for the lives of more Filipinos to be improved.

“There is no one silver bullet,” Perfecto said.

Politicians who advocate “magic pill” solutions, take heed.

PH in Afta: Moving forward in 2015 By Gerardo P. Sicat |Philippine Daily Inquirer1:41 am | Friday, July 25th, 2014


Leaders of the 10-member countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations at a summit in Brunei. AFP FILE PHOTO

MANILA, Philippines–If integration of members of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is not in President Aquino’s State of the Nation Address on Monday, it should be.

In 2015, Asean Free Trade Agreement (Afta) will come into full effect. Signed among Asean members in 1992, the agreement anticipated a fixed period of downward preferential tariff adjustments among the members until those tariffs came down to zero.

What is Afta? What benefits shall we derive from it? How can we maximize the benefits for the nation? These are weighty questions.

The Asean was founded in 1967 by Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore and Thailand. Being all geographically close neighbors, they closed ranks to form a political shield from the great uncertainties of the period: the Cold War and the escalating Vietnam War.

In Bali in 1976, Asean summit leaders turned to economic matters and directed their economic ministers to meet regularly to discuss cooperation in economic fields—agriculture, energy, transportation, tourism, finance, investment and trade. This led to progressive, small steps in different directions.

One of the most significant agreements to come out of these meetings was on trade cooperation. The coverage of the initial preferential tariff agreements was narrow and incremental, starting in the late 1970s. These early meetings established greater trust and mutual confidence among the members.

There were coincident developments that encouraged deeper Asean tariff preferences. The multilateral trade negotiations of the period were culminating in the reduction of world tariff barriers in trade. Regional trading blocs elsewhere were being formed. In Europe, the Common Market widened to include more countries.

And, finally, the World Trade Organization was in its final round of negotiation to become the world trading regulator.

Free trade area

When Afta was signed, all the Asean countries committed to reduce their commercial tariffs toward zero by 2015, so that all tariffs between them disappear.

* Deep preferential tariff cuts were made starting in 1992 and ending in 2015 when all members of the Asean will constitute a single market as far as trading with each other is concerned.

In achieving mutual free trade among the members, each of the countries will retain their external system of tariffs for all other countries. Those individual external tariffs were frozen toward certain agreed levels among the Asean countries during the Afta negotiations. Essentially, however, the individual external tariffs represented the member-country’s sovereign policy.

An effect of these external tariff negotiations was the universal reduction of protection rates among the Asean countries though they differ according to their own policies.

Asean economic market

Afta was motivated by efforts to:

1.) Increase the Asean’s competitive position as a production base in the world market through the elimination within the group of tariff and nontariff barriers; and

2.) Encourage more foreign direct investments (FDIs) to the Asean. When achieved, both objectives would further stimulate regional economic growth and, consequently, raise per capita incomes and living standards among the constituent nations.

As soon as the Asean began to negotiate regional cooperation agreements, major economies of the world took notice. After Afta was concluded, the Asean became even more important in their radar. The inflow of foreign capital in selected countries became even more profound and significant.

When Afta was concluded in 1992, it had six signatories, since Brunei had already joined the Asean. In 1995, Vietnam joined, followed by Laos and Burma (Myanmar) (1997) and then Cambodia (1999).

The latecomers to the Asean were required to be signatories to Afta, but they were given longer time for adjustments in order to meet the tariff reduction obligations.

The 10-member Asean market (in 2012) has a population of 670 million people, with an average gross domestic product (GDP) per head in (purchasing power equivalent) current US dollars of 8,369. Although this level of GDP is not very high, the Asean countries belong to the most dynamic group of developing countries in recent years.

Papua New Guinea and East Timor, newly independent neighbors, are active regional observers, meaning, they could become members in the future.

Immediate impact of Afta

When a free trade agreement is forged, the countries forming the region extend their economic market reach by the creation of a single collective market. It is simply aggregating all country markets into one big market.

Larger trade creation is the most likely result and in the Asean case, this was the outcome.

This is game-changing for all participants. There are enormous economic implications on all countries. For instance, from a Philippine viewpoint, the “domestic” market expands almost seven-fold from a country with close to 100 million people to one with 670 million.

Mind-set change

This surge in potential market multiplies the possibilities for any country in terms of possible expansion. In order to maximize the gains that can be derived from an enlarged free trade area, a major mind-set change is required if a country begins from a background of protectionism, and high-tariff and nontariff regimes.

Philippine companies now have a much larger field of economic vision. It means that enterprises of other nations seeking new places of economic opportunities see larger market possibilities for their activities. When the enterprises of different nations seek economic and investment opportunities in one large market, it is inevitable that the degree of competition increases.

Despite the advance of Asean economic cooperation, the member-countries consider themselves independent countries with their own external economic policies, including investment incentives for foreign investments. Competition in investment attraction has been the rule among the countries as they developed their own economies.

In this setting, countries that have practiced open trade regimes with the world have a great head start. Little adjustment is required of them. Their firms are more trade-oriented and are likely to be more competitive.

Such countries gain enormously from the market expansion. A country with practically no tariff barriers like Singapore becomes a big winner. Those countries with fairly modest rates of protection from the external world are also big winners.

Malaysia and Thailand, which had relatively low protection rates before and whose investment climates had been  relatively free and open to foreign investments, become winners as well. Investment flows into these countries have been high before and have continued.

Initially, Indonesia had one of the most protectionist regimes in the Asean. In fact, it resisted early efforts to broaden the early preferential tariff agreements. But in 1987, Indonesia undertook earnest reform efforts in industry to open the economy to more competition. Its huge natural resources sector has been relatively more open to FDIs than that of the Philippines even in earlier years.

As Afta came into being, Indonesia was able raise the scale of FDIs flowing into the sectors of industry, agriculture and natural resources.

Our gains from Afta as a country are not as evident as those of other Asean members yet. But we have great opportunities, too. To win big, we have mountains of economic policy problems to overcome.

These problems hinder our gains: (1) Philippine production involves high unit cost due to (a) the country’s labor market policies, with our high average wages due to minimum wage and other advanced labor legislation; (b) relatively poor infrastructure investments; and (c) corruption that adds to transaction costs. (2) There is a faulty investment incentives system that acts as barrier to foreign direct investment from our shores and drives it to our Asean partners.

The elevation of the country’s credit rating to “investment grade” does not solve the problems that we face competitively in the Asean.

Policy makers need to recognize that many problems do not get solved without taking concrete steps to deal with them.

Let’s settle DAP issue and move forward FROM THE STANDS By Domini M. Torrevillas (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 24, 2014 - 12:00am 0 19 googleplus0 0


Domini M. Torrevillas

We will not hear the last word from President Noynoy Aquino or from his spokesmen about the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP), on the constitutionality, on the “benefits” — and on the so-called “genius” who thought of such a “stimulus package” to perk up the economy.

Never mind if the DAP skirted the Constitution on such issues as the legality of identifying “savings” even before the year ends, about the authority of the President to use such accumulated cash for worthwhile projects, and about the transparency — or lack of it — in some areas in the disbursement of such funds.

We will not hear the last from Congress on both sides of the political fence — one side brandishing the sword of impeachment and the other side raising the shield of the numbers game. Those for impeachment have branded the President as “dictator” and all equivalent names — epithets that are actually reserved for the worst among rulers. His allies said any impeachment attempt will fail, because it will be dead in the water in a predominantly P-Noy Congress.

Why can’t they just say that the grounds of impeachment are not there – there is no culpable violation of the Constitution (the SC Justices ascribed “good faith”); there is nothing treasonous in the DAP; and it is unthinkable that the President is mired in corruption.

For some of his faults, the President is neither a tyrant nor a crook. His anti-corruption campaign begins at the topmost — his office — and that is enough for foreign investors to respond favorably by channeling their investible funds in the Philippines. That partly explains why our country is registering high GDP growth rate, even ahead of China.

And yet the President’s anti-corruption drive begins with him and the President’s Office – and ends there. That’s because we cannot say that this “daang matuwid” is also the governing principle of the departments and bureaus under him.

There’s the rub. The President believes that, on his mere say so, everyone around him behaves likewise. That’s why he could not see fault in his Budget Secretary. Amidst calls for the latter’s resignation, the President clings to his belief that Secretary Butch Abad could do no wrong — even after many well-meaning sectors have shown that his DAP package has been branded “a bad formula.”

* Now on the DAP issue. As I said, we will not hear the last word on this controversial program — some of whose features were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court.

The last thing we know is that the Office of the Solicitor General, representing the President, had already filed a motion for reconsideration (MR). And the latest thing that came our way is that the Supreme Court did not dismiss the MR outright. So, there you are — as they say, “It’s not over until it’s over.”

Here comes a sobering thought: President Noy, for all his bluster in his nationwide television speech, for all his childish barb against the Highest Court’s decision on the DAP, is described by his well-meaning supporters to be firmly committed to preserve the democratic space that has been the legacy of his mother, the late and former President Corazon Aquino — known around the world as the icon of democracy.

The fact that an MR was filed, and the fact that the Supreme Court did not dismiss it outright – show that the President wants to see the wheels of justice turn. In a larger sense, he wants the democracy we now enjoy — which is the very reason for our dramatic economic turnaround — preserved and advanced.

The SolGen’s MR wants the High Court justices to revisit their decision. Some of the points raised are worth noting.

The SolGen cited Book VI, Chapter 5, Section 38 of the Administrative Code as an “express legislative authorization for the President to permanently stop further expenditures from allotments given to agencies based on his judgment that the “public interest so requires.”

Stopping such expenditures results in savings, if we follow the logic of SolGen Jardeleza. “The final discontinuance or abandonment of a project resulted in unobligated portions or balances of appropriations,” according to the SolGen’s arguments — and these are “indubitably savings” under the General Appropriations Act.

Here lies the contention between the Chief Executive and the Supreme Court. Savings, as defined by the Executive are those realized when a project has stopped at any time during the year, while the SC thinks that savings are recognized as such at the end of any year.

Let’s hear the High Tribunal revisit — and resolve this legal question.

We all know that the “power of the purse” is with Congress. The MR will occasion the ruling or reinterpretation of the SC on whether Congress can extend that power to the President. The SolGen points out in its arguments that “the President has the authority to transfer savings to other departments, as part of Presidential powers vested by the Constitution.”

The SolGen pointed out a finely crafted argument that Article VI, section 25 (5) prohibits the transfer of “appropriations”… but it does not prohibit the transfer of “savings.”

Well, well. This is the beauty of democracy. Our courts, especially the Highest Court of the land will still hear these arguments — and will inevitably make a ruling in their own sweet time. Our President has demonstrated his respect for the Judiciary (contrary to the views of those given to extreme views), as his top lawyers choose verbal and legal skirmishes inside the courtroom.

Meanwhile, the courts of public opinion, are not as sober or as logical — because their voices are strident and, at times, their logic gives way to pathos and passion. My advice is a quote I picked up from National Artist Nick Joaquin: “Think with great fierceness, but speak with great moderation.”

Let the President have his day in court with this motion for reconsideration. Let the Supreme Court, made up of fallible individuals, revisit their own appreciation of law and jurisprudence through the years – and then make their final ruling. As for us lovers of democracy and believers in the truth, we await – not with bated breath – but with a hope that this contentious issue be behind us. Whatever the ruling, everyone must accept it — and then we move on as a country.

Then we dust off DAP from our shoes — and make our way forward!

* * *

A very good family friend passed away recently — Concepion “Cherrie” Tan Escarda — in Iligan City. She was such a sweet and pretty lady who gave inspiration to everyone around her, including myself. Her husband, brilliant civil engineer Johnny Escarda, went ahead of her a long time ago; he was once transitory president of Silliman University, and an executive of the Alcantara group of companies.

Cherrie was one of five children of the late Candido and Mrs. Tan of Masbate and Buenavista, Agusan del Norte. Her siblings are Dodong, a medical doctor; Lily, Andres, and Noel.

Cherrie’s children are Marie “Ging,” married to Jimmy Magbanua (with whom she has three kids – Jae Anne, married to Pete Medica, John and Jim); the late Lilibeth, married to Tonette Jaranilla (whose children are Tedted, married to Nica, and Marco, married to Maricon Lapasaran with two kids Cheska and Mik

Albert(+); Cherry Jean, Josette; Portia, married to Paul Flores (with two children Erika and Enrico), and David, married to Peep Baconguis (with four children).

Goodbye, Manay Cherrie. We will miss you, but your influence on our lives will forever remain with us.

FROM PHILSTAR

Port congestion making Phl exports highly uncompetitive (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 21, 2014 - 12:00am 0 350 googleplus0 4

MANILA, Philippines - The congestion and shipment delays at the Manila ports are making Philippine exports highly uncompetitive, as most ports do not have to contend with a similar cause — a truck ban policy, according to two prominent leaders of the business community.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (Philexport), said congestion at the Manila terminals has reached “110 percent of capacity” and warned that the situation could go from bad to worse unless “some real remedies” are applied.

There’s a real problem now as shipments can’t be loaded or unloaded, according to Ortiz-Luiz.

Robert Amores, president of the Philippine Food Processors and Exporters Organization (PhilFoodex) and Philexport trustee for the food sector, explained that shipments should normally be cleared out within 72 hours. “But with the congestion, clearance sometimes takes 15 to 30 days.”

The ports of Hong Kong or Busan in South Korea also experience traffic jams, but they can address their problem because there is “no truck ban to compound” the overcrowding issue, so “they can cope,” Amores said.

Amores said food exporters are losing business because what buyers are doing now is to accept what local exporters can ship out, then fill the rest of their orders by importing from other sources, such as Thailand.

The food industry is “suffering,” he stressed. Manufacturers of fresh produce, for example, can’t fully commit to ship out 100 percent of the orders due to spoilage from the long wait.

* Moreover, many are forced to use the costlier air transport system to meet deadlines, further increasing their expenses.

And, unfortunately, they can’t raise their export prices because other countries are not experiencing the situation they are in.

As a result, Amores said many food makers have reduced their output, leading to lower production levels, adoption of the rotation system, and other similar measures, affecting the “total supply chain.”

Ortiz-Luis shared that he recently learned from the leaders of the semiconductor industry that a few firms plan to go on a temporary production shutdown because of the long wait for raw materials.

He criticized the seeming lack of coordination among government agencies that aggravates the situation, such as the construction of the skyway and the ill-timed implementation of the anti-colorum drive in the middle of the truck ban debacle.

Although there are Cabinet cluster meetings involving the different departments, the agencies seem to be “doing their own thing,” said Ortiz-Luis. He lamented how the opening of the Roxas Boulevard trucking lane took months to do. Then just when it was finally done and traffic was easing up, the anti-colorum campaign came up. “Walang katapusan,” he said.

Amores said that only the truckers have benefitted from the truck ban policy and the anti-colorum drive. This is because they have managed to raise their rates significantly, citing the long turnaround due to the truck ban.

Meanwhile the anti-colorum campaign effectively reduced the number of trucks on the road because as much as 40 percent of truckers have no franchise, causing a shortage of haulers.

Ortiz-Luis called on the administration to heed the call of the business community, and urged the agencies to “orchestrate” their moves in addressing the Manila truck ban and port gridlock. This, he emphasized, is “a national problem, not just a departmental problem, and must be treated as such.”

Over 8,000 delegates to attend APEC meet By Ding Cervantes (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 27, 2014 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0

ANGELES CITY, Philippines – Around 8,000 delegates from 21 countries are expected to attend the series of workshops and meetings during the 2015 Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Leaders’ Summit that will be hosted by the Philippines in various venues from January to November next year.

“We are ready for it,” Laura del Rosario, foreign affairs undersecretary for international economic affairs, said in a briefing here yesterday.

Del Rosario said 1,500 delegates will participate in the first high-level conference at Clark Freeport in January and more will join the final summit in Manila by November.

She said each conference will tackle different issues including education, regional economic integration and sustainability and resilience amid climate change.

The other venues for meetings are Bataan, Boracay, Legaspi, Tagaytay, Iloilo and Davao.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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