BUSINESS HEADLINES THIS PAST WEEK...
(Mini Reads followed by Full Reports below)

FITCH WARNING: GOVT UNDERSPENDING TO CONTINUE LIMIT ECONOMIC GROWTH
[
The economy grew by a dismal 5.2 percent in the first quarter, blamed on weak exports and public underspending.]


JUNE 24 ---Fitch Ratings has warned government underspending may continue to weigh down Philippine economic growth this year as the country lacks a more efficient way in disbursing public funds.
In its latest Asia Pacific Sovereign Overview, the debt watcher kept its 6.3-percent forecast for the country’s gross domestic product growth this year. The figure is short of the government’s seven- to eight-percent growth assumption for the year. The economy grew by a dismal 5.2 percent in the first quarter, blamed on weak exports and public underspending. “Fitch does not expect a significant pick-up in public investment as bottlenecks remain with respect to disbursement of public funds. Furthermore, a narrow revenue base is likely to prevent a material increase in public spending,” Fitch said. Expenditures in the first quarter increased by four percent to P504 billion but this was still 13 percent below the government’s program. With government revenues climbing 18 percent to P470.5 billion during the period, deficit amounted to P33.5 billion, far below the P98.1-billion target. READ MORE...

ALSO 2014 REPORT: Positive outlook -- The economy is well-positioned to generate ongoing growth


PHILIPPINES 2014 ---In the third quarter of 2013, the Philippines was one of the best-performing economies in the region, second to China (7.8%) and outpacing Indonesia (5.6%), Vietnam (5.1%), Malaysia (5.0%) and Thailand (2.5%). Its GDP was up 7% year-on-year, the fifth consecutive quarter that growth was at least 7%. The Philippines has been laying the groundwork for this over the last few decades. The country has been slowly tackling its problems and putting into place much of what is now underpinning expansion. Indeed, the Philippines’ economy has been doing reasonably well for many years.
SLOW & STEADY: While other countries in the region may have been taking the spotlight as top performers, the Philippines has been recording steady growth. In 2012, the Philippines’ nominal GDP reached P10,565trn ($254.62bn), up 8.8% on the P9706trn ($233.9bn) posted in 2011. The country has not had a serious annual drop in GDP since 1985, experiencing only minor setbacks in 1991 and 1998 (GDP declined 0.58% in both instances). Going forward, expectations are positive. While the IMF has been reducing growth forecasts in the region, the organisation’s 2014 prediction for the Philippines is staying stable at 6%. What has become apparent over the long term is that the Philippines has a relatively balanced economy, one that is not overly dependent on any single source of growth. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO: More Filipinos shopping online, says survey


JUNE 22 ---More and more Filipinos are shopping online especially using smartphones and tablets, says the latest study by global payments giant MasterCard.
The same survey reveals that mobile shopping is up by 11.4 percent in the Philippines, making it one of the top markets for growth. The trend is predicted to continue, as the market embraces the advent of cheaper mobile devices, more innovative shopping applications, and more shopping websites. Moreover, online shopping is becoming widely known for its convenience, and for letting customers shop on the go or from the comfort of their homes. Online shopping sites Through their wide product selection, unique offerings, special promotion, and superior customer service, online shopping websites have gained a lot of popularity in the past years. READ MORE...

ALSO IBON Survey: More Filipinos (8 out of 10) think economy did not improve


JUNE 25 ---PHOTO of January 2, 2015 when the President was still the 'most trusted' PH official..Aquino III wants the public to feel the effects of his administration's reforms in 2015. Malacañang file photo  Asked what they can say about the country’s economy under the Aquino administration, 51.3% of the 1,496 respondents said that it is the same, while 25.3% said that it is worse. According to the latest survey of IBON, almost eight out of ten Filipinos think that the country’s economy has not improved under the Aquino administration. Asked what they can say about the country’s economy under the Aquino administration, 51.3% of the 1,496 respondents said that it is the same, while 25.3% said that it is worse. Only 15.6% of the respondents said that the economy is better. The results show an increase in the share of respondents who do not think that the country’s economy has improved under the Aquino administration between January and May this year. Meanwhile, the share of respondents who think that the economy improved decreased. In the January round of the IBON survey, 50.7% of all respondents thought that the country’s economy under the current administration was the same, while 21.5% said that it was worse. Of all respondents, 17.6% thought that the economy was better. The May 2015 round of IBON’s nationwide opinion survey was conducted from May 13 to 23 across various sectors with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent. READ MORE...

ALSO FLASHBACK JUNE 18, 2014: President Noynoy Aquino --An assessment in midstream [President Aquino is not a big-vision president. If he were, he would understand the need for pressing on two major missing reforms that can substantially attract a larger quantity of foreign direct investments and make a dent on erasing direct poverty through employment creation.]


FLASHBACK JANUARY 2014 ---By Gerardo P. Sicat  In 2010, Benigno Aquino III was elected president. This was an unforeseen event just a year prior, as he did not seek the office then. The unseemly timing of his mother’s death, the former president Corazon Aquino, brought accidental nostalgia to the nation that propelled his nomination to presidential candidacy and, later, to resounding poll victory. “The countdown begins.” Three years of this presidency have passed, and the fourth of a six-year term is going on. This is the countdown. In the first two years, it is possible to blame the predecessor in office for the nation’s problems. Now, everything depends on how he leads. When he took office, he did not carry any baggage of promises. His was a simple message during the campaign: “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” This message put in a nutshell his promise to introduce good government and to eliminate corruption, that the nation’s economic affairs could be straightened up. It is time to take an interim assessment that enables us to see the bright side and the worrisome aspects of this presidency. We begin with the positive: accomplishments. “Accomplishments.” The most impressive achievement so far is that the economy is in good shape. This is not to say that it cannot do a lot better. The improvement of the macro framework is the result of good management of the public finances and helpful factors that are there, unrelated to who the president is. The improvement of fiscal resources was matched by continued strength of the country’s foreign exchange position. Sustained earnings from exports and inflows of OFW remittances have buttressed this economic position against external vulnerabilities. CONTINUE READING...

ALSO STANDARD EDITORIAL: The Aquino advantage


JUNE 24 ---WHILE we have often been critical of the government, we acknowledge without reservation that this administration can claim an advantage over its predecessor in one key aspect: the number of harebrained ideas that gain currency among public officials.
The administration might call it thinking outside the box; we prefer to call it the death of common sense. Amid the deteriorating service on city trains, the government is offering MRT passengers incident reports that they can use as excuse slips that they can give to their employers or schools whenever they are tardy as a result of its spotty transport services. Rather than taking steps to actually fix the problem, transport officials will thus create one more bureaucratic process to occupy their time. Then this week, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced that it will close off half of the Edsa highway along a 15-kilometer stretch to vehicular traffic on June 28, a Sunday, and reserve the lanes for pedestrians and bikers to encourage commuters to use bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation. The MMDA has announced no alternative traffic plan for motorists who will be affected by its ill-conceived road-sharing event, nor does it say what the likelihood is that ordinary commuters will stop taking the bus or train in droves so that they can ride bicycles in a country where there are only two distinct seasons—hot or wet. Again, instead of doing something concrete about a pressing problem—congestion and pollution along Edsa--government officials are offering the public silly ideas that have no chance whatsoever of succeeding. READ MORE...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Gov’t underspending to continue limit econ growth – Fitch warns

MANILA, JUNE 29, 2015 (PHILSTAR) By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 24, 2015 - Fitch Ratings has warned government underspending may continue to weigh down Philippine economic growth this year as the country lacks a more efficient way in disbursing public funds.

In its latest Asia Pacific Sovereign Overview, the debt watcher kept its 6.3-percent forecast for the country’s gross domestic product growth this year. The figure is short of the government’s seven- to eight-percent growth assumption for the year.

The economy grew by a dismal 5.2 percent in the first quarter, blamed on weak exports and public underspending.

“Fitch does not expect a significant pick-up in public investment as bottlenecks remain with respect to disbursement of public funds. Furthermore, a narrow revenue base is likely to prevent a material increase in public spending,” Fitch said.

Expenditures in the first quarter increased by four percent to P504 billion but this was still 13 percent below the government’s program. With government revenues climbing 18 percent to P470.5 billion during the period, deficit amounted to P33.5 billion, far below the P98.1-billion target.

READ MORE...

Budget Secretary Florencio Abad earlier this month said spending should accelerate in the second half of the year following President Aquino’s order to fast-track spending.

Abad admitted that technical deficits such as revision in project plans have pulled down spending during the first quarter but stressed his department is also working on reviewing and ironing out kinks in the disbursement process.

The Philippines enjoys an investment-grade “BBB-“ rating from Fitch with a “stable” outlook.

Fitch said this rating was awarded amid expected high growth rates for the Philippines, a strong external position, and stable inflation.

These factors have balanced out the low per-capita incomes and “structural weaknesses” of the Philippines especially with its business climate and narrow government revenue base.

The credit rater said that an upgrade in the Philippines’ credit rating may be given if it sustains the strong momentum of growth, widens fiscal revenue base, and further strengthens governance standards.

However, a reversal in reforms following the national elections in 2016 and a prolonged period of overheating in the economy may prompt a downgrade.


OXFORD BUSINESS GROUP (OBG) 2014 REPORT

Positive outlook: The economy is well-positioned to generate ongoing growth PhilippinesEconomy Overview

In the third quarter of 2013, the Philippines was one of the best-performing economies in the region, second to China (7.8%) and outpacing Indonesia (5.6%), Vietnam (5.1%), Malaysia (5.0%) and Thailand (2.5%). Its GDP was up 7% year-on-year, the fifth consecutive quarter that growth was at least 7%.

The Philippines has been laying the groundwork for this over the last few decades.

The country has been slowly tackling its problems and putting into place much of what is now underpinning expansion. Indeed, the Philippines’ economy has been doing reasonably well for many years.

SLOW & STEADY: While other countries in the region may have been taking the spotlight as top performers, the Philippines has been recording steady growth. In 2012, the Philippines’ nominal GDP reached P10,565trn ($254.62bn), up 8.8% on the P9706trn ($233.9bn) posted in 2011.

The country has not had a serious annual drop in GDP since 1985, experiencing only minor setbacks in 1991 and 1998 (GDP declined 0.58% in both instances). Going forward, expectations are positive.

While the IMF has been reducing growth forecasts in the region, the organisation’s 2014 prediction for the Philippines is staying stable at 6%.

What has become apparent over the long term is that the Philippines has a relatively balanced economy, one that is not overly dependent on any single source of growth.

CONTINUE READING...

Exports, minerals and tourism are important, but the fortunes of the nation are not reliant on any individual sector.

Unlike its neighbours, which rely on many of the same sectors as the Philippines, the local economy has two more growth drivers that further hedge against downturns: business process outsourcing and remittances from overseas Filipino workers.

Although many economies in the West remain sluggish and the markets of the East have been challenged by volatility caused by hot money flows, the Philippines has been at least partially insulated from these issues.

While it has missed out on some of the booms enjoyed in South-east Asia, especially those related to exports, electronics and investment, it has also avoided some of the busts.

Like many emerging market economies, the country has been, and will likely be further affected, by the current economic turmoil in the West.

A recent example is the drop in the value of the peso, which fell by about 5% following indications that the US Federal Reserve would begin lessening its economic stimulus programme.

But the sense is that any currency losses will be limited due to the diversified nature of the Philippine economy. The peso has in fact stabilised since potential quantitative easing tapering was first announced in May 2013.

NEW OPPORTUNITIES: Observers point out that a new development in the country promises to help the Philippines sustain its high growth rates. The government is now placing greater emphasis on transparency and corporate governance, and the expectations are that this new push will gain traction and have a lasting effect.

Many say that the election of President Benigno Aquino III in 2010 was a watershed event in this respect.

They argue that while much attention was paid before to transparency issues, the tone from the top changed considerably under the leadership of the new president, and most of the nation, from individuals to civil servants, support the push towards a more open, fair and just economy.


Philippine’s President Benigno Aquino III smiles as he was being introduced to the audience at the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation CEO Summit in Bali, Indonesia, Sunday, Oct. 6, 2013. AP Photo appended by PHNO to the big report.

In September 2013, President Aquino reiterated that the success of his government’s anticorruption policies should not only be measured by improving conditions, but also by the number of successful convictions of those accused of corruption.

TURNAROUND: In the Transparency International’s 2010 Corruption Perception Index, the Philippines was ranked 134th, tied with countries like Ukraine and Sierra Leone.

However, in just two years the country had jumped nearly 30 rankings and took the 105th place in the 2012 edition of the index.

Transparency International noted that, although corruption is still a major issue, the Philippines was one of only two countries in Asia where the level of corruption was decreasing.

The Philippines’ also gained ground in the World Bank’s 2013 “Worldwide Governance Indicators”, moving from the 26th position to 33rd in the control of corruption category.

Another noteworthy improvement is the Philippines’ advancement in the political stability category from a ranking of 9.9 to 14.7.

Importantly, key members of the Filipino business community have also joined in the campaign, and this is seen as critical in making any reforms effective and lasting.

For example, the Makati Business Club (MBC), an influential organisation of local business leaders, is fully supporting change.


Makati (Phl) Business Club

In July 2013, the MBC hosted a citizen engagement forum along with the Coalition Against Corruption entitled, “Power Shift: How you can hold your government accountable”.

Analysts say that this level of participation is vital and it will help ensure that ideas and buzz words translate into real policy and action.

Rogier van den Brink, lead economist for the poverty reduction and economic management department for the East Asia and Pacific region at the World Bank, told OBG, “This is the country’s best shot at tackling corruption in a long time, probably since the 1950s.”

EXTERNAL INFLUENCES: According to the World Bank, in 2012 services represented about 56.9% of the country’s GDP, while industry made up 32% and agriculture accounted for 11.1%. While some Asian countries may be heavily dependent on exports, this is clearly not the case for the Philippines, whose exports were 48.4% of GDP in 2012.

The diversified economy is in contrast to the economic mix of many of the Philippines’ regional peers. Thailand’s exports are 78% of GDP, Malaysia’s 87% and even Indonesia’s are 32%, leaving these countries highly exposed to downturns in export markets.

The Philippines’ exports are also relatively varied. While electronics is the biggest component of the export total, the IMF reports that this segment has dropped as a percentage of total exports from 73% in 2000 to 49% in 2012.

A number of other items now make up the bulk of exports, including key products such as woodcrafts, furniture, chemicals, machinery and coconut oil.

Strong export growth is being reported in some of these product categories, for example the overseas sales of machinery and transport equipment grew by 125% between 2011 and 2012, according to the National Statistics Office.

At the same time, resources are important but not a major part of the export equation. In 2012 just over 4% of the country’s exports are from the mineral sector, 1.8% from petroleum and 1.6% from other agro-based products.

BENCHMARK INDICATORS: Positive changes in the country can be seen in the benchmark metrics. International reserves as a percentage of external debt have risen from 4.1% in 1985 to just over 139% in 2012.

Debt service burden as a percentage of export shipments has been dropping over time from a high of 61.1% in 1985 to 12.7% in 2012.

Government debt as a percentage of GDP fell from 73.8% in 2003 to 49.5% in the first half of 2013.

Having hit a high of 50% in 1984 and spiking again to 19.4% in 1991, the inflation rate has fallen consistently since then, down to 3.2% in 2012.

Unemployment, which had previously fluctuated in the 10-14% range in the early 2000s, has been running between 7% and 8% since 2006.

The country has also been reporting fiscal successes. As of September 2013, the Philippines incurred a deficit of P101.2bn ($2.44bn), 3% lower than 2012’s P103.9bn ($2.5bn) and 30% lower than the P144.5bn ($3.48bn) programme for the period.

The healthy fiscal performance was bolstered by solid revenue growth amid strong expenditures. These strides in lifting major indicators have not gone unnoticed.

The Philippines made a clean sweep of getting its credit rating upgraded to investment grade, with upgrades coming from Fitch Ratings in March 2013, Standard & Poor’s in May, and Moody’s in October.

GREATER TRANSPARENCY: Many of the country’s economic gains are likely partially the consequence of changing attitudes.

In Nielsen’s “Global Consumer Confidence Survey” for the second quarter of 2013, Filipinos ranked as the second most optimistic about their financial position, behind neighbouring Indonesia.

This is likely to have a number of positive effects on the economy, including increased consumer spending and more hiring. Furthermore, the results showed that seven out of 10 Filipinos were saving at least some of their spare cash, and that much of these funds were being invested in the stock market, suggesting positive long-term prospects for local businesses.

There are also indications that perceptions are changing regarding the transparency of business operations. More companies, for example, are seeking credit ratings than ever, according to Philippine Rating Services, and they are getting these ratings done not because they are going to issue debt, but because they want to be known for being transparent.

The trend is now to get ahead of the story and take a leadership position rather than hiding and avoiding scrutiny. This has the potential to improve the confidence in institutions and boost morale of everyone down the line.

But the new push toward fairness and equity is also bringing practical benefits. It has resulted in real changes that have had a concrete impact on the state of the economy.

The government is also doing its part to encourage greater transparency, and recent work on improving taxation is a good example.

According to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), self-employed professionals like doctors, lawyers and engineers were found to be grossly underpaying taxes. In total, this group of 1.7m people remitted P24.6bn ($592.8m) in taxes in 2010, whereas P7.4bn ($178.3m) came from income tax remitted directly by individuals, and P17.2bn ($414.5m) was from creditable withholding at source on individuals, according to the BIR.

In January 2011 the BIR issued Revenue Memorandum Order No. 3-2011 requiring an audit of the professionals concerned. The response has so far been good, with business leaders vowing to improve compliance and the BIR saying that the drive for better reporting has resulted in higher collections.

FDI NEEDED: Bernardo Villegas, economics professor at the University of Asia and the Pacific, believes that the conditions are now right for an economic transformation and that there could be a strong surge of foreign investment.

If industry can expand and close the gap with the service sector, he argues, the very nature of the economy can be altered and the country can be more like its regional peers.

He notes, however, that steps need to be taken to guarantee that the envisioned scenario becomes a reality.

Infrastructure must be improved, more special economic zones (SEZs) need to be created and, significantly, foreign investment limits in the constitution need to be revisited.

Other observers and participants largely agree that the country is on a path toward prosperity, but the overall argument in favour of the Philippines is seen as depending on several reforms and major policy initiatives.

BEHIND: The Philippines was able to attract $2.8bn in foreign direct investment (FDI) in 2012, up 54% from the previous year.

Compare this, however, to regional competitors such as Singapore, which attracted $56.7bn in FDI in 2012; Thailand, $8.6bn; Vietnam, $8.4bn; and Malaysia, $9.8bn, and attracting more FDI remains a key challenge for the Philippines. According to the Asian Development Bank (ADB), the ASEAN-6 – consisting of the six-largest ASEAN economies: Indonesia, Malaysia, Philippines, Vietnam, Singapore and Thailand – attracted a total of $111.3bn of FDI in 2012.

The Philippine government and local economists say that the slower FDI to the Philippines is the key difference between it and the historically faster-growing economies of Southeast Asia.

Villegas suggested that GDP could expand 8% to 10% annually and maintain that rate for a decade if the right steps are taken. He told OBG, “We should be able to replicate what China and Vietnam have been able to do once reforms are put into place in terms of liberalisation and good governance.”

Several factors contribute to the Philippines’ relative lack of FDI.

For one, the country is not an easy place for investors.

The Philippines performed poorly in the World Bank’s 2013 “Doing Business” survey.

The government, cognisant of the need to improve, created the Ease of Doing Task Force to oversee the improvements required in the regulatory processes and policies being measured in the survey.

For the 2014 survey, the Philippines showed a significant turnaround by moving 25 places to 108 out of 189 from the previous year’s 133 out of 185.

The Philippines notably gained in seven out of 10 indicators and was the most improved economy in the world.

Its “resolving insolvency” ranking was up 65 places from 165 to 100, its “getting credit” placement moved from 129 to 86, “getting electricity” from 57 to 33, “paying taxes” from 143 to 131, “trading across borders” from 53rd to 42nd, “dealing with construction permits” from 100 to 99, and “registering property” from 122 to 121.

NEGATIVE LISTS: The country has at times been particularly hostile towards foreign investment and has actively blocked endeavours by global players.

In January 2013 the Court of Appeals ruled that Federal Express is a utility, and because foreign companies are prohibited from operating utilities in the Philippines, the courier company’s freight-forwarder permit was rescinded.

In another example, Manila Water (which has foreign shareholders) has been challenged by consumer groups over how expenses, including taxes, are charged to the firm’s customers.

Supporters of the company say that everything done is within the concession contract and that any action taken against the firms could scare away foreign investors.

The laws restricting foreign investment are seen as onerous but appear set to stay.

All professions, from accounting to optometry, are reserved for locals under the constitution, as are mass media, small mines and the manufacture of pyrotechnics.

Sectors allowing more but still limited foreign participation include advertising, public utilities, the exploitation of natural resources and Securities and Exchange Commission-regulated finance companies.

Another list prohibits foreign ownership of security and defence-related industries, small firms and any business that could be harmful to public morals. Even for those sectors in which foreign investment is allowed, nearly all areas have equity ownership limited to between 25% and 40%.

EVEN MORE: In October 2012, the president signed Executive Order 98, otherwise known as the ninth foreign investment negative list, which added real estate services, respiratory therapy and psychology to the professions solely limited to Filipino nationals. Foreign business people, represented by the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines, said in November 2012 that the country is unnecessarily restrictive and that this may be one of the key factors limiting FDI.

They noted that over the past 20 years only two sectors have experienced any sort of opening: gambling and retail. The Retail Trade Liberalisation Act of 2000 allowed well-capitalised foreign investors to open shops in the country, while gambling was allowed within SEZs.

Critics point out that with so many key areas either partially or fully blocked, and so many restrictions placed on foreign companies operating in the country, that despite its good fundamentals and prospects, the Philippines is receiving relatively little FDI.

The international business community suggests that the government look into areas where the prohibitions are by law rather than constitutional, as laws can be amended more easily than the constitution.

Local leaders counter that any market openings must be done with great care, ensuring that liberalisation occurs in sectors where capital is needed and is undertaken in a way that creates more jobs than it destroys.

Despite concerns, the IMF encourages further opening of the economy indicating that, “relaxing limits on foreign ownership could substantially raise FDI and increase competition in key sectors,” in its 2013 Article IV consultation for the Philippines.


Philippines President Benigno Aquino III at Asia Society New York on Sept. 20, 2011. (Elsa Ruiz/Asia Society) --"Our administration is committed to transformation: from a country where nice guys finish last, to one where those who deviate from the straight and narrow will face punishment for their crimes. Our goal is to empower the citizenry so that regardless of who is in power, the citizenry demands the authentic rule of law. The task I have assigned to my colleagues in government is to demonstrate this by means of sustained reforms that foster merit, transparency, and accountability. Consider what I believe, as my father taught me, is the most important freedom: freedom from hunger." ASIA SOCIETY WEBSITE (Photo appended by PHNO to the report)

The government’s economic team has supported calls to further open up the country to foreign investment.

INFRASTRUCTURE NEEDS: The other significant impediment to foreign investment, and for that matter long-term economic growth in general, is the state of infrastructure in the country.

According to critics at home and overseas, the poor state of the roads, power systems, bridges, canals, airports and sea ports is one of the major bottlenecks for the country.

The 2013 “Global Competitiveness Report” rates infrastructure in the Philippines as the second-worst in the ASEAN-6, ahead of Vietnam, which ranked 110th.

In the World Economic Forum’s Enabling Trade Index 2012, the Philippines was ranked 72 overall out of 132 countries and 91 in terms of transportation and communications infrastructure, the lowest ranking out of the ASEAN-6.


MANILA, Philippines - The state of infrastructure in the Philippines is the second worst among countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) said on Monday, citing a report from the Global Competitiveness Report 2012-2013.PHILSTAR FILE December 2, 2013 - 4:10pm

To close the infrastructure gap, the government is targeting spending on infrastructure from the current 3% of GDP to 5% by 2016.

In the first half of 2013, spending on infrastructure and other capital projects jumped 38.5% year-on-year.

While some people may complain about the slow pace of awarding new contracts, much of the delay is the result of the administration ensuring that work is awarded fairly.

The hope is that infrastructure spending can improve the economy on at least two fronts. It will stimulate growth in the near term as projects are implemented and bring higher growth rates as a result of better transport and communication.

GET TOGETHER: Inclusiveness is another area that needs attention. The government is aware that in order to achieve sustainable growth, the entire country must be engaged.


MANILA, Philippines — HOUSE Speaker Feliciano Belmonte has agreed with the view of the political opposition that the Aquino administration has failed to spread the benefits of a robust economy in the last four years to majority of Filipinos. INQUIRER FILE 09:17 PM September 28th, 2014

Foreign investors and the wealthy cannot be solely responsible for driving the economy over the long term, and the alleviation of poverty and development of the middle-class must be promoted.

Consumers are already an important component of growth.

Household spending represents 74% of GDP, and according to the World Bank, they have very little debt and are consistently purchasing more.

It is also expected, given that the population is young and literate, that the consumer will remain a pillar of the economy even if investment grows as a percentage of a whole.

WEAKNESSES: In the latter half of 2013, underlying weaknesses started to take their toll. GDP slowed, dropping to 7.5% in the second quarter and to an estimated 6.9% in the third quarter, while full-year growth is seen by the ADB as coming in at 6.1% (down from 6.8% in 2012).

Much of the drop has been attributed to typhoon activity and conflict with separatists, but global instability likely contributed as well.

OUTLOOK: The prospects for the Philippines’ economy are good, and in some ways better than for many of its more extolled neighbours. The current government’s push for greater transparency has been having a positive effect on the domestic business climate and has helped improve the quality of information available about local businesses.

With a relatively diversified economy, the country is largely sheltered from both internal and external risks, but improving infrastructure will be critical for boosting both domestic growth and FDI inflows.

The economy’s strong fundamentals have received the recognition of the IMF and international credit ratings agencies; however, greater investment will be key to unlocking the country’s full potential.

ABOUT OBG: Our History  ----Founded as a research publishing firm in 1994 by Oxford graduates and originally based in the university town, OBG is today a British company with world-wide reach, employing more than 200 staff and continuing its commitment to producing detailed analysis. The Group publishes authoritative reports and online economic briefings covering 34 countries around the world from its offices in Istanbul, Dubai and London and a network of local bureaus in the countries in which it operates. Modern offices in Istanbul house OBG's editing and design departments, as well as other departments needed for what continues to be a bustling and growing company – HR, finance, accounts, logistics and IT. The offices in Dubai’s Media City are home to OBG's Consultancy Division, Media, Subscriber, Public Relations plus Event Support teams. OBG's London office is centrally located in Great Titchfield Street W1.


PHILSTAR

More Filipinos shopping online, says survey (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 22, 2015 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0

MANILA, Philippines - More and more Filipinos are shopping online especially using smartphones and tablets, says the latest study by global payments giant MasterCard.

The same survey reveals that mobile shopping is up by 11.4 percent in the Philippines, making it one of the top markets for growth. The trend is predicted to continue, as the market embraces the advent of cheaper mobile devices, more innovative shopping applications, and more shopping websites. Moreover, online shopping is becoming widely known for its convenience, and for letting customers shop on the go or from the comfort of their homes.

Online shopping sites Through their wide product selection, unique offerings, special promotion, and superior customer service, online shopping websites have gained a lot of popularity in the past years.

Among these sites would be Lazada, where consumers can find the best deals, books, gadgets, toys, travel and luggage, fashion, and sports, among other buys, with free delivery and 14-day return policy.

Meanwhile, Zalora calls itself the one-stop online destination for fashion, carrying some of the most loved international labels as well as local brands. At Zalora, shoppers can avail of free shipping for orders P1,000 and up nationwide, and a 30-day return policy.

For its part, Reebonz.com is home to a masterfully curated selection of new and pre-owned authentic designer luxury items from the world’s best brands, including Cartier, Bulgari, Givenchy, Saint Laurent, Prada, and Louis Vuitton.

Finally, BoxHop is a shipping service that lets Filipinos shop US websites like a local, by providing them with a US address. Through BoxHop, shoppers can order from America’s best stores and brands and get deals they can’t find at home, for low members-only shipping rates. A BoxHop account is a must-have especially for sales during US holidays like Memorial Day, Labor Day, and Black Friday.

One-of-a-kind online shopping experience Shopping on these websites becomes extra thrilling for MasterCard cardholders, with its ease of use, safety and security, special offers, and wide acceptance.

Today, MasterCard can be used in over 28 million merchants and more than 210 countries and territories. The global MasterCard network also prides in their compliance to strict standards for protecting cardholder information, to prevent unauthorized use of a MasterCard credit, debit or prepaid card.

Even better, MasterCard has tied up with these online shopping websites to give exclusive discounts and a rewarding shopping experience, so MasterCard cardholders can shop more any day of the week, anywhere in the world.


IBON FOUNDATION RESEARCH

IBON Survey: More Filipinos (8 out of 10) think economy did not improve 25 June 2015 |


PHOTO of January 2, 2015 when the President was still the 'most trusted' PH official..Aquino III wants the public to feel the effects of his administration's reforms in 2015. Malacañang file photo

Asked what they can say about the country’s economy under the Aquino administration, 51.3% of the 1,496 respondents said that it is the same, while 25.3% said that it is worse

According to the latest survey of IBON, almost eight out of ten Filipinos think that the country’s economy has not improved under the Aquino administration.

Asked what they can say about the country’s economy under the Aquino administration, 51.3% of the 1,496 respondents said that it is the same, while 25.3% said that it is worse.

Only 15.6% of the respondents said that the economy is better.

The results show an increase in the share of respondents who do not think that the country’s economy has improved under the Aquino administration between January and May this year.

Meanwhile, the share of respondents who think that the economy improved decreased.

In the January round of the IBON survey, 50.7% of all respondents thought that the country’s economy under the current administration was the same, while 21.5% said that it was worse.

Of all respondents, 17.6% thought that the economy was better.

The May 2015 round of IBON’s nationwide opinion survey was conducted from May 13 to 23 across various sectors with a margin of error of plus or minus 3 percent.

Below is the tabulation of respondents’ perception of the economy under the Aquino administration.

What can you say about the country’s economy under the Aquino administration?

January 2015 May 2015 Better 17.6 15.7 Same 50.7 51.3 Worse 21.5 25.3 Don’t know 9.7 7.6 No Answer 0.6 0.1 Total 100.0 100.

You may download further reading by --Download in PDF format  HERE (Yearend 2014: Aquino on Defensive 2014 IBON Yearend Birdtalk | 23 January 2015 | Severe inequality, elite economics and governance, deepening corruption have clearly eroded the legitimacy of the Aquino presidency) A slowing economic growth, intensifying social unrest and people's opposition have pushed the Aquino administration into a defensive position in 2014. Severe inequality and elite economics and governance as well as deepening corruption have clearly eroded the legitimacy of the Aquino presidency.........

For details on the IBON survey, please email databank@ibon.org or call IBON at tel. 927-6986. IBON Foundation, Inc. is an independent development institution established in 1978 that provides research, education, publications, information work and advocacy support on socioeconomic issues.


FLASHBACK FROM PHILSTAR - JANUARY 2014 ASSESSMENT

President Noynoy Aquino: An assessment in midstream CROSSROADS (Toward Philippine Economic and Social Progress) By Gerardo P. Sicat (The Philippine Star) | Updated June 18, 2014 - 12:00am 2 77 googleplus2 3


By Gerardo P. Sicat

In 2010, Benigno Aquino III was elected president. This was an unforeseen event just a year prior, as he did not seek the office then.

The unseemly timing of his mother’s death, the former president Corazon Aquino, brought accidental nostalgia to the nation that propelled his nomination to presidential candidacy and, later, to resounding poll victory.

“The countdown begins.” Three years of this presidency have passed, and the fourth of a six-year term is going on. This is the countdown.

In the first two years, it is possible to blame the predecessor in office for the nation’s problems. Now, everything depends on how he leads.

When he took office, he did not carry any baggage of promises. His was a simple message during the campaign: “kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.” This message put in a nutshell his promise to introduce good government and to eliminate corruption, that the nation’s economic affairs could be straightened up.

It is time to take an interim assessment that enables us to see the bright side and the worrisome aspects of this presidency. We begin with the positive: accomplishments.

“Accomplishments.”

The most impressive achievement so far is that the economy is in good shape.

This is not to say that it cannot do a lot better. The improvement of the macro framework is the result of good management of the public finances and helpful factors that are there, unrelated to who the president is.

The improvement of fiscal resources was matched by continued strength of the country’s foreign exchange position.

Sustained earnings from exports and inflows of OFW remittances have buttressed this economic position against external vulnerabilities.

CONTINUE READING...

The major international credit rating agencies took notice of the country’s state of macroeconomic health by giving corresponding raises in its credit ratings. By 2013, the country merited “investment grade” from all three.

Rising to investment grade represents a unique climb in economic respectability for the country. Its investment prospects are enhanced. The cost of borrowing also is reduced. Moreover, it increases positive perceptions about the country’s economic prospects.

Certainly, the fiscal managers made improvements in tax administration. The government was able to push for higher taxes through adoption of tobacco and alcohol taxes.

Through prudent use of spending cuts, it was able to raise the allocation of the under-financed social sectors, such as education, public health, and assistance to the poor.

The fight against corruption was the signal effort of the government with respect to the improvement of accountability in public office.

At first, the target of the anti-corruption campaign was against specific mis-governance in specific agencies.

Eventually, the most serious cases were traced to actions within the Office of the President in the previous government.

This has led to the incarceration of the immediately preceding president, who was charged with plunder. The impeachment and removal of the chief justice of Supreme Court was another signal moment in this campaign. 


2012 PHOTO: AQUINO AND FORMER CJ CORONA ----During the inauguration speech of President Aquino, he mentioned about ways on improving the Philippine economy and eradicating poverty in the country. The President also warned those who were put in positions in the government by unlawful means, he warned those who have intentions to ruin or block the country on progressing. The President mentioned that the government wanted to gain back the trust of its people by reviewing midnight appointments. One of the midnight appointees of Former Pres. Arroyo is Chief Justice Renato C. Corona, who will undergo impeachment trial, which is one of the Aquino administration’s attempts to remove corruption in the country. September 4, 2012 by Nash Cordero asiasociety.org

Finally, the pork barrel plunder cases – ( the PDAP ) – exploded in the public consciousness leading to the filing of plunder charges against three senators of the Republic. And it promises more.


PORK SCAM: Now in jail. Napoles, JPE, Estrada, Revilla

The government’s campaign to clean government and find the guilty accountable is one of the most comprehensive anti-corruption cases ever attempted in the country’s history.

For now, these moves are seen as succeeding. Although some see political color in these moves, if these cases are brought to successful completion for the government, they would mark a milestone accomplishment in the fight against corruption.

A most important accomplishment of the Aquino presidency is the passage of the RH (responsible parenthood) law: the government is empowered to dispense assistance to poor parents to plan the family.

This will impact on the future population level, but only in the long run.

Without the additional direct push that President Aquino gave to this reform legislation, this defining law would have languished in Congress in view of the strong campaign against it of the Catholic Church hierarchy.

“Weaknesses and liabilities of the Noynoy presidency.”

These accomplishments notwithstanding, there are serious weaknesses and liabilities that threaten or limit the achievements of what could otherwise be a successful and popular presidency.

Many of these deal with sector policies and leadership.

In these problematic sectors, either there are unremedied weaknesses because of poor leadership or these are guided by contradictory policies that make it impossible to succeed.

Lack of space forces me to telegraph the main problems.

Leadership is lacking in articulating the proper reforms or they have been hampered by poor or indecisive actions.

Food prices. The agricultural sector has been a captive of highly protectionist policies, making the country pay a high price for food items. It begins with the country’s main staple: rice.

Some of the issues are linked to the inadequate investment in the sector, to high tariffs in specific sectors and monopolies in trade, and to poor governance in the running of the agencies involved.

Energy. Much of the problems related to the high cost of energy are a result of the failure of the Energy department to encourage the establishment of a higher base load for generating power.

This problem was inherited from the previous administration but it was met with corresponding inaction in the early years of the Aquino government. The inadequate base load capacity continues to hamper future growth prospects.

Infrastructure. The incompetent handling of transport expansion issues is well documented.

The much vaunted PPP (private-public partnerships) was delayed by indecisions, postponements and wrong decisions.

It is only lately that major contracts are getting bidded out.

“Missing reforms:

(1) the ‘restrictive’ economic provisions of the Constitution and

(2) greater flexibility of the labor market.”

President Aquino is not a big-vision president.

If he were, he would understand the need for pressing on two major missing reforms that can substantially attract a larger quantity of foreign direct investments and make a dent on erasing direct poverty through employment creation.

I have written a lot about these concerns in this column and will continue to do so. Unless he moves in these directions, the quantity and quality of his economic achievements will be less, rather than more.

My email is: gpsicat@gmail.com.  Visit this site for more information, feedback and commentary: http://econ.upd.edu.ph/gpsicat/

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA TIMES JULY 27, 2014

Aquino’s economic legacy hits slippery slope July 27, 2014 10:29 pm by MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO AND BEN D. KRITZ REPORTER AND COLUMNIST


Strong growth threatened by typhoons, ‘pork’ scandals, global slowdown

Editor’s note: The major growth metrics are all still pointing upward, despite a slight hiccup in domestic production in the first quarter.

Undeniably, the Philippines has achieved significant economic growth and a fair degree of political stability under the Aquino Administration.

Outside the realm of political debate over the performance of the government of President Benigno Aquino 3rd since he took over its reins four years ago, the economy seems to follow a trajectory of its own.

The rapid expansion in gross domestic product (GDP) at an average above 6 percent has been acknowledged not just by the Aquino bashers but caught the attention of global investors.

With inflation at between 4 and 5 percent looking benign, the analytics easily pointed to a smooth growth track two years down the road until the end of Aquino’s term in 2016.

A vibrant economy, along with the prospect of peace in Muslim Mindanao with the pending enactment of the Bangsamoro pact, was set to be Aquino’s two-tiered crowning glory, even if he were to exit ungraciously as a vilified political leader.

But the winds of disasters both natural and political, one after another, have come barreling their way into the economic scene—from typhoons to high-profile corruption-related scandals and a global growth slowdown—threatening to drive the achievements of Aquino’s government near a slippery slope.

Any further misstep in governance, a natural calamity or fallout from an external crisis could easily drive the local economy downhill.

Before Aquino’s economic team could map out a plan to make the GDP numbers work for the poor, the combined impact of Super Typhoon Yolanda and the outbreak of the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) controversy last year inflicted grave damage on the lives of many Filipinos.

The allegations of plunder leveled against the most well-known senators based on revelations made by the whistleblowers at the Senate inquiry have sent shock waves to the foundations of people’s faith in all branches of government.

The economy, by its sheer growth momentum from previous years, withstood the first tremors from the controversy.


Militants stage a lighting protest near Malacañang on Monday, to call for the prosecution of President Benigno Aquino 3rd and Budget Secretary Butch Abad over the Disbursement Acceleration Program, some parts of which were declared unconstitutional by the Supreme Court. PHOTO BY RENE DILAN MANILA TIMES JULY 7, 2014

But toward the middle of this year 2014, the aftershocks grew bigger on the back of new discoveries of public fund misuse on a grander scale—billions of pesos released and diverted to non-program projects over the past two-and-a-half years through the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) under the President’s Office itself—which the Supreme Court on July 1 declared as unconstitutional.

While the issue of Aquino’s personal integrity remains debatable, in the minds of many Filipinos too mired in poverty to care about the arguments, this Administration can be assessed in the only way they know how—by the fact that they remain as poor as they have always been.

The elusive inclusive growth

The Aquino Administration has inherited an economy which grew a robust 7.63 percent in 2010, and except for 2011 when GDP growth slackened to 3.66 percent, the years that followed showed the pace of expansion returning to much the same territory as when Aquino started.


Revenues: 6 Presidents In percent of GDP

Growth picked up to 6.8 percent in 2012 and rallied to 7.18 percent in 2013. Even including the anomalous 2011 performance, the Philippines’ annual average growth rate since the election of Aquino has been a remarkable 6.3 percent.

Yet at the same time, it is an economy that does not appear to be producing gains for a large part of the population.

Neither unemployment nor the poverty rate has changed significantly throughout the first four years of this term and is not likely to be appreciably reduced in the remaining two years with no big changes in the economic approach expected.

The unemployment rate has stood at 7 percent for most of the last four years, while 25 percent of the population still live below the poverty line, subsisting on less than $400 annual per capita income.

Critics would say Aquino’s priority task should have been started four years ago: to create the conditions for converting the strong growth momentum into self-sustaining economic progress.

All of that raises an important question: Is this brand of economic growth as claimed by the government—backed with the evidence of high GDP growth rates—the sort that is actually making an impact on the way of life most people in the Philippines live?

Is GDP in fact an accurate metric to gauge progress achieved by the Philippine economy?

For Accord Capital Equities’ Justino Calaycay, GDP is not a perfect measure, but is at least a consistently objective way to look at the economy.

But he also pointed out an important distinction. “We must take note, however, of the difference between growth and progress,” he said.

“Growth merely suggests whether the economy is expanding, contracting, or even remaining flat, no more, no less. Progress, on the other hand, indicates what the government means when they say ‘inclusive growth’—that the numbers translate to actual benefits. GDP measures growth and we must take it as such.”

“Our economic managers should come up with a way to quantify progress,” Calaycay explained.

“In this sense, progress cannot simply be taken to mean the sprouting of infra projects, et cetera. From a socio-economic perspective, it means that real wages are growing, [and] people are motivated to be more productive, adopting a positive view of themselves.”

Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI) associate economist Nicholas Mapa acknowledges the improved economic environment over the last four years and credits it to the central bank’s maneuverings.

“There has been an undoubted increase in overall growth of the economy during the time of Aquino as we’ve seen our average growth outstrip our medium-term average. Back-to-back above-7 percent growth is also something we have not seen in a long time,” Mapa said. “I would not attribute the majority of it to ‘good governance’ as espoused by the Administration.” “I would attribute the torrid pace of economic growth more to the BSP (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas), as it was able to provide a low interest-rate environment given the favorable inflation dynamics we’ve enjoyed in the past two years,” he added.

Forecasts scaled back

Prior to the first quarter’s lower-than-expected 5.7 percent GDP growth print, most analysts had an optimistic view of the year’s performance, with growth estimates ranging from 6 to 7.5 percent and averaging just over 6.5 percent, approximately matching the government’s 6.5 to 7.5 target range for the year.

So what was responsible for the first quarter’s disappointing result?

The lower growth rate was attributed mainly to flat government spending, which increased just 2 percent year-on-year in the first quarter; a second straight quarter of retraction in construction in both the public and private sectors; and industrial growth that at 5.5 percent was less than half the 11.34 percent growth recorded in the same period a year later.

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has toned down its growth outlook for the Philippines for this year, though it stressed the local growth picture remains fairly strong compared with that in other countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean).

The IMF cut its GDP forecast for 2014 to 6.2 percent from the 6.5 percent it announced in April. That falls below the government’s 6.5 – 7.5 percent full-year target. According to IMF Resident Representative to the Philippines Shanaka Jayanath Peiris, the revised outlook was due mainly to the slowdown seen in the first quarter to 5.7 percent.

Peiris added, however, that the IMF still expects the economy to recover as fiscal spending and exports will rebound in the second half of the year.

“In the Philippines, the growth outlook is predicated on fiscal spending—government spen–ding, especially on the [post-Yolanda] reconstruction going ahead as expected in the budget.” “We are basically assuming the government’s spending target goes according to plan,” he said, referring to the P266 billion budget deficit target of the government this year.

The IMF is also expecting that global economic prospects may improve in the second half. Before last week’s IMF announcement, the Times analysts had revised their estimates downward in an earlier reaction to the first-quarter growth slowdown to 5.7 percent.

Now they see full-year 2014 growth at an average of just under 6.5 percent, with forecasts ranging from 5.9 to 6.6 percent. This is more or less in the same range as the IMF projection.

Calaycay of Accord explained, “We had projected a 2014 GDP of between 6.4 percent and 6.9 percent, but slower numbers hit our base assumptions with the 5.7 percent result in the first quarter. So we have conservatively scaled back our projections to between 6.1 and 6.5 percent, which demands quarterly growths of between 6.2 and 6.3 percent moving forward.”

Regional banking giant Asian Development Bank offered a slightly more positive forecast of 6.4 percent for the full year, but cautioned that the impact of ongoing reconstruction efforts from last year’s typhoon Yolanda may take some time to be felt.

“Rehabilitation and reconstruction in areas hit by the natural disasters may not have a significant impact on the economy until late in 2014 and 2015 as the direct and timely transfers of government resources to local governments and affected communities have been hindered by highly centralized national government systems. Also, regional and local administrations have limited capacity to implement reconstruction and rehabilitation programs. These matters are being addressed, which could accelerate work in the affected areas,” ADB said.

Signs of fatigue

Prior to that, HSBC had offered a more sober view of the Philippines’ growth for the rest of 2014, saying that the above-6 percent expansion that has persisted through most of Aquino’s term was now “showing signs of fatigue.”

Pegging Q1’s lower growth rate as the start of a trend, HSBC cited decreasing government spending, slowing consumption and an easing rise in exports and remittances as indicators that GDP growth would probably not top 5.9 percent for the remainder of the year.

Without exception, both the government and private-sector analysts expressed concern about the effect of higher food prices on inflation, as well as a variety of other factors.

In a research brief, Standard Chartered Bank Global Research explained the impact of higher food prices. “Since Typhoon Haiyan (Yolanda) struck the country in November 2013, food inflation has contributed an average 2.3 percent to headline inflation, more than twice the 1 percent average of the previous 24 months.

A potential El Niño weather event this year could cause food inflation pressures to escalate. We estimate that a 1 percent increase in international food prices can cause the Philippines’ headline and food inflation to rise by 1.9 and 5.2 percent, respectively,” the report said.

While still within the government’s own 3 percent to 5 percent inflation target band for 2014, May’s 4.5 percent inflation rate pushed the upper limit of the band and caused some alarm; notably, May inflation was almost 2 percent higher than the 2.6 percent recorded a year earlier.

May was also the third straight month of higher inflation results, rising from 4.1 percent in April, which was in turn marginally higher than March’s 3.9 percent. While also noting the lingering effects of Yolanda, HSBC Global Research pointed out: “More worrying are long-term structural issues. Production, whether it’s food or electricity, is still short of what’s needed to keep up with rising demand. El Nino is likely to exacerbate these supply constraints, as it is expected to cause below-average rainfall in the fourth quarter of 2014 and first quarter of 2015. “Excess liquidity, too, is another headache. M3 accelerated sharply in recent months on higher deposits and currency in circulation. Credit growth also accelerated, further stoking inflationary pressures,” HSBC said.

For now, the consensus among analysts is that the government’s forecast, which was revised upward to 4.4 percent after the May inflation print, is likely accurate going forward in 2014, and given that June’s inflation rate was at that exact level, that appears to be a solid forecast.

However, there is a growing belief that increases in benchmark interest rates, which the Bangko Sentral has so far avoided, may be necessary to keep inflation from breaching the 5 percent ceiling sometime this year. The slight easing of inflation in June seems to have given the Bangko Sentral some breathing room for policy adjustment, as had been reported by The Times.

While reiterating that it remains “watchful” of potential inflationary factors and that the central bank has several policy tools at its disposal, the BSP has so far not announced any new move to actually use any of those tools again

The guessing game continues for the markets over what the Monetary Board may do when it next meets on July 31 with the policy options available to it to deal with inflationary risks—adjustment of banks’ reserve requirements, or adjusting interest rates on the overnight lending, borrowing, and Special Deposit Account windows.

Most analysts expect to see more policy tightening based on the BSP’s recent pronouncements. (Part II of this three-part report will discuss the Equity Market and appear on Wednesday.)


MANILA STANDARD EDITORIAL

The Aquino advantage Jun. 24, 2015 at 12:01am

 

WHILE we have often been critical of the government, we acknowledge without reservation that this administration can claim an advantage over its predecessor in one key aspect: the number of harebrained ideas that gain currency among public officials.

The administration might call it thinking outside the box; we prefer to call it the death of common sense.

Amid the deteriorating service on city trains, the government is offering MRT passengers incident reports that they can use as excuse slips that they can give to their employers or schools whenever they are tardy as a result of its spotty transport services.

Rather than taking steps to actually fix the problem, transport officials will thus create one more bureaucratic process to occupy their time.

Then this week, the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) announced that it will close off half of the Edsa highway along a 15-kilometer stretch to vehicular traffic on June 28, a Sunday, and reserve the lanes for pedestrians and bikers to encourage commuters to use bicycles as an alternative mode of transportation.

The MMDA has announced no alternative traffic plan for motorists who will be affected by its ill-conceived road-sharing event, nor does it say what the likelihood is that ordinary commuters will stop taking the bus or train in droves so that they can ride bicycles in a country where there are only two distinct seasons—hot or wet.

Again, instead of doing something concrete about a pressing problem—congestion and pollution along Edsa--government officials are offering the public silly ideas that have no chance whatsoever of succeeding.

READ MORE...


July 17th, 2012 photo----LIKE A SORE THUMB? Taken from the website of a real estate company, this digital depiction of the proposed Torre de Manila condo was presented during the Manila City Council hearings on the contentious project.

In Manila, where city officials and civil society groups are locked in a dispute with a property developer over a 49-story building that mars the backdrop of the Rizal Monument, a provincial board member in Nueva Ecija has proposed what he calls a “Solomonic” solution—paint the image of the Philippine flag over the entire building.

We have no idea why a provincial board member in Nueva Ecija would weigh in on the controversy, but he certainly shows he possesses the kind of thinking that this administration seems to value.

The “solution” he proposes does nothing to actually fix the problem; the building will still stand where it is, in violation of zoning laws, and painting it red, white and blue will do nothing to make it any less of an eyesore.

Of course, we should not be surprised that local officials think this way—after all, they have many role models in the national government. Let us cite just one.

Instead of consulting all stakeholders in Mindanao, the national government chose to negotiate with only one rebel group, the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and gave them practically everything they demanded.

Now the administration expects everyone to sign off on a flawed agreement that was reached without their participation, but which could adversely affect not just Mindanao but the entire nation.

How foolish is that?


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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