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TAX EVADERS: GOVT PROSECUTORS OPEN PROBES, WORLD'S WEALTHY DENY 'PANAMA PAPERS' LINK


APRIL 5 -PHOTO FROM http://mwcnews.net/news/business/58160-panama-papers.html Governments across the world began investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful on Monday after a leak of four decades of documents from a Panamanian law firm that specialized in setting up offshore companies. The "Panama Papers" revealed financial arrangements of politicians and public figures including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain, Iceland and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine. While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, journalists who received the leaked documents said they could provide evidence of wealth hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes. The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, which says it has set up more than 240,000 offshore companies for clients around the globe, denied any wrongdoing and called itself the victim of a campaign against privacy. Mossack Fonseca, in a statement posted on its website on Monday, said media reports had "misrepresented the nature of our work."  "We routinely resign from client engagements when ongoing due diligence and updates to sanctions lists reveal that a beneficial owner of a company for which we provide services is compromised," it said. The law firm added that "excluding the professional fees we earn, we do not take possession or custody of clients' money, or have anything to do with any of the direct financial aspects" of their business operations. Leading figures responded to the leaks with denials as prosecutors and regulators began a review of the reports from the investigation by the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). The U.S. Department of Justice would determine whether there was evidence of corruption and other violations of U.S. law, a spokesman said. A White House spokesman said that "in spite of the lack of transparency that exists in many of these transactions," there were U.S. experts who could find out whether they violated sanctions and laws. READ MORE...

ALSO: ‘Panama Papers’ list global tax avoiders; list includes 500 Filipinos
[PHNO NOTE: Please read rappler.com report below, next to this report]


APRIL 5 -A security guard sit outside the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama City, Sunday, April 3, 2016. AP/Arnulfo Franco
Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her three sons, Ferdinand Richard Michael, Fernando Martin “Borgy” and Matthew Joseph Manotoc, as well as Sen. JV Ejercito were among more than 500 Filipinos included in what is considered to be the biggest leak of tax records comprising 11.5 million documents that showed how personalities – from celebrities to political figures – move their wealth to avoid taxes.
But amid a news report that made a massive leak of documents showing how institutions and personalities avoid taxes through offshore financial dealings, local authorities and industry players admitted both Philippine and global laws are “toothless” to fight such tactics. “In our case, we do not have information on how much is being lost because of that (wealth movement),” Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) deputy commissioner Estela Sales said in a phone interview yesterday. A group of news media outlets published articles on Sunday based on what they said were 11.5 million leaked documents from a Panama law firm that helped some of the world’s wealthiest people – including politicians, athletes, celebrities and business moguls – establish offshore bank accounts. The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said its reporters had obtained the documents from a confidential source. The newspaper then shared the files with other media organizations, like The Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ). READ MORE...

ALSO: Filipinos confuse Panama Papers with 2013 exposé
[So far, there is no answer to that question. No Filipino media outfit is currently part of the Panama Papers probe, and those not part of the ICIJ investigation would have to wait until May, when they release the data publicly.
After people online pointed out that the wrong database had been used, InterAksyon revised its story and instead rehashed the 2013 exposé, but put it in the context of the Panama Papers. As of 3 pm Tuesday, April 5, GMA News took down its story, while the Star edited its piece. Only the Inquirer story remained unedited.  With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com]


APRIL 6 -ANAMA PAPERS. Here is the building where the office of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca is located in Panama City, Panama. Photo by Alejandro Bolivar/EPA
(UPDATED) – In the rush to find the Philippine connection to the biggest data leak in journalism history, some people online – including several news groups – confused the data with a similar exposé on offshore finance, dating back to 2013. On Sunday, April 3, media groups led by the Germany paper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released the results of a year-long probe into a trove of 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating offshore shell companies. Among those named in what the world now calls the "Panama Papers" are close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, as well as Barcelona striker Lionel Messi. Amid the flurry of stories on the web about the Panama Papers, a story from local news website InterAksyon popped out Monday, April 4, with the headline: "PANAMA PAPERS | Imee Marcos, sons, JV Ejercito among 572 Pinoys in offshore holdings expose." Later that day, GMA News, the Philippine Star, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer also came out with similarly angled stories. It would have been a big breaking story in the Philippines – except that it had already been exposed way back in 2013, in the ICIJ's separate Offshore Leaks probe. What's the difference? While the two probes are both global investigations on offshore finance led by the same investigative journalism group, the two are distinct and significantly different in terms of data sources and context. The 2013 Offshore Leaks probe is based on a cache of 2.5 million files containing information on more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts worldwide, revealed in 2013 by the ICIJ. The ICIJ said that 86 journalists from 46 countries sifted through the data during their 15-month collaborative investigation. In the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) was the partner organization, which then let other news outfits republish its findings. The PCIJ's 2013 investigation focused on the offshore accounts owned by the Marcoses and the Ejercitos, as well as connected personalities and entities. Their exposés are in the following stories: READ ON...

ALSO: Aquino to leave behind crisis-proof economy, says Capital Economics


APRIL 8 -President Aquino will leave an economy that will continue to expand at a faster pace and can be crisis-proof despite a global slowdown, according to international research firm Capital Economics. In an April 5 report on the Philippines, Capital Economics said “there are good reasons to think that [Mr. Aquino’s] achievements will outlast his presidency,” hence it “remain[s] optimistic that the Philippines will continue to grow strongly over the coming years.”  In a statement on Thursday, the government’s Investor Relations Office (IRO) said the almost $300-billion Philippine economy was expected to grow by 6-7 percent in the medium- to long-term despite a change in administration by midyear, citing Capital Economics’ forecast. The government has projected the gross domestic product (GDP) to grow between 6.6 percent to 8 percent in the next four years. On Mr. Aquino’s watch, the Philippine economy expanded by an average of 6.2 percent—the fastest average rate since the late 1970s. According to IRO, Capital Economics noted the Philippines’ solid macroeconomic fundamentals, especially its current account surplus as well as manageable debt burden, which “will help ensure the Philippines avoid crisis situations in the face of global economic challenges.” “Low levels of government debt and a current account surplus mean that, even if investor sentiment did take a sudden turn for the worse after the election, a crisis is unlikely,” Capital Economics said. READ MORE...RELATED, PHL NEEDS
P5.7 Trillion INFRA SPENDING FOR GROWTH...

ALSO: BUSINESSMEN BULLISH BUT...


APRIL 8 -Infrastructure problems have surpassed corruption as the leading economic obstacle, according to the most recent World Economic Forum competitiveness report, which is based on responses from people doing business in the country. Manila is plagued by power failures, chronic water shortages, an antiquated telecommunications system, deteriorating roads and bridges and a subpar airport. NYTIMES
Businessmen are optimistic of the economic and corporate outlook for the Philippines but see infrastructure, more than corruption, as the bigger problem that the next administration should address. Results of the Makati Business Club’s (MBC) Executive Outlook Survey (EOS) for the second semester show 58 percent of the respondents listed infrastructure as a priority issue that should be tackled by the next government, while 41 percent listed corruption. The third concern which was listed by 32 percent of respondents was peace and order. Other notable issues identified include (in no particular order) poverty, job generation, agriculture and education, among others. The first semester results were generally less optimistic than the last survey of the MBC which was in the first semester of 2014, except on the gross domestic product (GDP) expectations. The slightly tame expectations are expected as the country heads into the 2016 elections. This year’s survey also skipped the usual assessment on the performance of government agencies. The EOS results show more than half of the respondents see the GDP growing faster than last year’s 5.8 percent, prompting them to make more investments and buoying expectations of higher profits. This is compared to just 30 percent in the 2014 survey. Majority of MBC members also see an increase in approved investments in 2016, compared to last year’s P106.6 billion (from first to third quarters). In addition, they are projecting increases in both imports and exports this year, from last year’s $62.6 billion and $54 billion, respectively. In the 2014 survey, the respondents were expecting much bigger investments at P456 billion. Expected value of exports and imports were relatively unchanged from the 2014 survey. The 2016 survey said 52 percent of the senior business executives polled expect the country’s economic growth this year to be higher than last year’s GDP growth of 5.8 percent, 39 percent foresee that the 2015 GDP growth will be sustained and 9 percent project a lower GDP growth for 2016. READ MORE...ALSO, ABS-CBN, GMA claim ratings lead...

ALSO: New IPP may include RoRo in 2017-2019 plan


APRIL 4 -New trade chief Cristobal: "New DTI will work 'beyond administrations'
The Trade Department plans to include the production of roll-on/roll-off or RoRo vessels among the industries that will receive government support under the 2017-2019 Investment Priorities Plan.
Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said the Board of the Investments was studying RoRo shipbuilding as a priority industry under the new IPP. “If we have the right elements to be competitive in RoRo similar to Cars [Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy], RoRo production will not only serve the Asean market but even the Asian market. It’ll also solve a societal problem we have in logistics and transport,” he said. The Trade Department received new applications for RoRo manufacturing from RoRo makers in Japan. Under the current IPP, the department gives incentives to new vessel makers. Prior to that, even second-hand vessels also benefited from previous IPPs. “What we’re looking at here is not just new players but even existing players. We want to develop shipbuilding operations also for the domestic market and for small vessels,” said Cristobal. READ MORE...RELATED, Gov’t gives up on launching P123-B Laguna lakeshore dike PPP... ,


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Govt Prosecutors open probes as world's wealthy deny 'Panama Papers' links


Massive data leak from Panama firm throws spotlight on offshore dealings of world leaders, criminals and celebrities.PHOTO FROM http://mwcnews.net/news/business/58160-panama-papers.html

LONDON/PANAMA CITY, APRIL 11, 2016
(REUTERS)
BY KYLIE MACLELLAN AND ELIDA MORENO - Governments across the world began investigating possible financial wrongdoing by the rich and powerful on Monday after a leak of four decades of documents from a Panamanian law firm that specialized in setting up offshore companies.

The "Panama Papers" revealed financial arrangements of politicians and public figures including friends of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of the prime ministers of Britain, Iceland and Pakistan, and the president of Ukraine.

While holding money in offshore companies is not illegal, journalists who received the leaked documents said they could provide evidence of wealth hidden for tax evasion, money laundering, sanctions busting, drug deals or other crimes.

The law firm, Mossack Fonseca, which says it has set up more than 240,000 offshore companies for clients around the globe, denied any wrongdoing and called itself the victim of a campaign against privacy. Mossack Fonseca, in a statement posted on its website on Monday, said media reports had "misrepresented the nature of our work."

"We routinely resign from client engagements when ongoing due diligence and updates to sanctions lists reveal that a beneficial owner of a company for which we provide services is compromised," it said.

The law firm added that "excluding the professional fees we earn, we do not take possession or custody of clients' money, or have anything to do with any of the direct financial aspects" of their business operations.

Leading figures responded to the leaks with denials as prosecutors and regulators began a review of the reports from the investigation by the U.S.-based International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

The U.S. Department of Justice would determine whether there was evidence of corruption and other violations of U.S. law, a spokesman said. A White House spokesman said that "in spite of the lack of transparency that exists in many of these transactions," there were U.S. experts who could find out whether they violated sanctions and laws.

READ MORE...

Financial prosecutors in France announced the opening of a preliminary investigation for aggravated tax fraud.

Germany would also “pick up the ball” in the case, a Finance Ministry spokesman said on Monday. Financial market watchdog Bafin is looking into the matter, said a source close to the regulator, which reports to the ministry.

Australia, Austria, Sweden and the Netherlands were among other countries that said they had begun investigating the allegations based on more than 11.5 million documents. Banks came under the spotlight over allegations they helped clients hide their wealth offshore.

In Argentina, political opposition parties demanded an explanation from center-right President Mauricio Macri because he served as a director of an offshore company in the Bahamas related to his wealthy father's business in the past.

In a short television interview, Macri denied any wrongdoing and said the company his father founded was legal.

RELATED COVERAGE
China limits coverage and denounces Panama Papers' tax haven revelations

Credit Suisse, HSBC dismiss 'Panama Papers' tax avoidance allegations

"It was an offshore company to invest in Brazil, an investment that ultimately wasn't completed, and where I was director," Macri said. "There is nothing strange about this."

In Brazil, where a corruption crisis threatens President Dilma Rousseff's administration, the O Estado de S.Paulo newspaper said politicians from seven parties were named as Mossack Fonseca clients. They did not include politicians from Rousseff's Workers' Party.

Brazil's tax agency said it would verify information about offshore tax avoidance in the documents and could impose fines on undeclared assets in offshore accounts of up to 150 percent of their value.

FORTY YEARS


Russian President Vladimir Putin

The documents, covering a period from 1977 until last December, were leaked to more than 100 news organizations around the world in cooperation with the ICIJ.

"I think the leak will prove to be probably the biggest blow the offshore world has ever taken because of the extent of the documents," ICIJ Director Gerard Ryle said.

The Kremlin said the documents contained "nothing concrete and nothing new," while a spokesman for British Prime Minister David Cameron said his late father's reported links to an offshore company were a "private matter."

Pakistan denied any wrongdoing by the family of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif after his daughter and son were linked to offshore companies.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko defended his commitment to transparency after lawmakers called for an investigation into allegations in the documents that he had used an offshore firm to avoid tax. Poroshenko purportedly moved his confectionery business, Roshen, to the British Virgin Islands in August 2014 as fighting between Ukraine and pro-Russian separatists peaked.

"I believe I might be the first top official in Ukraine who treats declaring of assets, paying taxes, conflict of interest issues seriously," Poroshenko tweeted.

Iceland's prime minister, Sigmundur Gunnlaugsson, faced calls for his resignation after ICIJ said he and his wife were connected with a secretive company in an offshore haven. His political opposition filed a no-confidence motion.

"I certainly won't (resign) because what we've seen is the fact that, well, my wife has always paid her taxes. We've also seen that she has avoided any conflict of interest by investing in Icelandic companies at the same time that I'm in politics," he told Reuters TV.

Britain's Guardian newspaper said the documents showed a network of secret offshore deals and loans worth $2 billion led to associates of Putin, including concert cellist Sergei Roldugin, a childhood friend of the president. Reuters could not confirm those details.

RELATED COVERAGE

U.S. Justice Dept reviewing Panama law firm reports

UK's Cameron under fire over Panama Papers link as government vows to probe data

Pressure mounts on Iceland government over PM scandal

Putin's spokesman dismissed the reports as "Putinophobia".

The British government asked for a copy of the leaked data, which could be embarrassing for Cameron, who has spoken out against tax evasion and tax avoidance.

His late father, Ian Cameron, a wealthy stockbroker, is mentioned in the files, alongside some members of his Conservative Party, former Conservative lawmakers and party donors, British media said.


British Prime Minister David Cameron

Jennie Granger, head of enforcement and compliance at HM Revenue and Customs, said the government would examine the information "and act on it swiftly and appropriately."

Cameron's spokeswoman declined to comment on whether the leader's family had money invested in offshore funds set up by his father, saying it was a "private matter".

The Australian Tax Office said it was investigating more than 800 wealthy Mossack Fonseca clients and had linked more than 120 of them to an associate offshore service provider located in Hong Kong, which it did not name.

"We regret any misuse of companies that we incorporate or the services we provide and take steps to uncover or stop such use," the law firm's statement said.

Media reports said the leaked data pointed to a link between a member of global soccer body FIFA's ethics committee and a Uruguayan soccer official arrested last year as part of a U.S. probe into corruption in the sport. Mossack Fonseca said it had "no connection or involvement with these matters in any way."

The British-based Tax Justice Network said too many offshore lawyers, accountants and bankers saw it as their role to shield their clients from financial regulations. Director John Christensen said in a statement that the law firm operated with "extreme secrecy and discretion" for their clients, "which was attractive to many clients engaged in tax evasion, fraud, hiding conflicts of interest, and other white collar crimes."

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development, which has pushed for more transparency on taxes, said Panama "must put its house in order." OECD said it had warned G20 finance ministers before the leaks that Panama was backtracking on a commitment to share information on accounts with other governments.

"The consequences of Panama's failure to meet the international tax transparency standards are now out there in full public view," OECD Secretary General Angel Gurria said in a statement.

(Reporting by Reuters bureaux, Additional reporting by Andreas Kroener in Frankfurt and Matthias Sobolewski in Berlin; Writing by Angus MacSwan and Grant McCool; Editing by Meredith Mazzilli and Peter Cooney)


PHILSTAR

‘Panama Papers’ list global tax avoiders, includes 500 Filipinos By Prinz Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated April 5, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


A security guard sit outside the Mossack Fonseca law firm in Panama City, Sunday, April 3, 2016. AP/Arnulfo Franco

MANILA, Philippines - Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos and her three sons, Ferdinand Richard Michael, Fernando Martin “Borgy” and Matthew Joseph Manotoc, as well as Sen. JV Ejercito were among more than 500 Filipinos included in what is considered to be the biggest leak of tax records comprising 11.5 million documents that showed how personalities – from celebrities to political figures – move their wealth to avoid taxes.


Ilocos Norte Gov. Imee Marcos

But amid a news report that made a massive leak of documents showing how institutions and personalities avoid taxes through offshore financial dealings, local authorities and industry players admitted both Philippine and global laws are “toothless” to fight such tactics.

“In our case, we do not have information on how much is being lost because of that (wealth movement),” Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) deputy commissioner Estela Sales said in a phone interview yesterday.

A group of news media outlets published articles on Sunday based on what they said were 11.5 million leaked documents from a Panama law firm that helped some of the world’s wealthiest people – including politicians, athletes, celebrities and business moguls – establish offshore bank accounts.


Sen. JV Ejercito

The German newspaper Suddeutsche Zeitung said its reporters had obtained the documents from a confidential source.

The newspaper then shared the files with other media organizations, like The Guardian and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ).

READ MORE...

In an article, the investigative journalism organization said the documents revealed the offshore accounts of 140 politicians and public officials, including a dozen current and former world leaders and several individuals with close ties to President Vladimir Putin of Russia.


PUTIN

The organization said reporters at 100 news media outlets working in 25 languages had used the documents to investigate the law firm Mossack Fonseca and its clients, including political figures in countries like Iceland, Pakistan and Saudi Arabia.

It is not illegal in many cases to have offshore bank accounts. But they are used in some instances by wealthy individuals and criminals to hide money and business transactions, and to avoid paying taxes.


BELLO

Terence Conrad Bello, immediate past president of Tax Management Association of the Philippines, said there is “nothing new” in the so-called “Panama Papers” released by the ICIJ.

“Tax practitioners already know that this is happening,” Bello said in a phone interview.

For her part, Sales did not say if Filipinos involved would be investigated.

However, efforts are being undertaken to plug loopholes in the tax system and give the government what it is due, she said.

“Our concern is taxes... To that extent, exchange of information will be able to assist us. Foreign governments can give us information and from there we can act,” Sales said.

But Bello disagreed, saying most jurisdictions considered as tax havens are “blacklisted” countries where exchange of information does not apply.

“Most of these jurisdictions where proceeds from these criminal activities go are tax havens where we do not have tax treaties with to confirm what is really happening,” he explained.

Developed countries are leading negotiations on a multilateral treaty on Base Erosion and Profit Sharing (BEPS), which aims to arm states to tax cross-border wealth and business-to-consumer transactions.

It also covers the digital economy or taxes that could be generated from online purchases.

BIR commissioner Kim Henares, who serves as vice-chair of the group drafting the treaty, could not be reached for comment yesterday.

According to the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development, governments are losing between $120 billion and $240 billion in revenues to BEPS every year.

“BEPS is still under discussion. It could probably help, but not immediately,” Bello said.

“What we could do is strengthen our banking laws or it even boils down to strengthening our anti-money laundering laws,” he added.

The Philippines is currently investigating an $81-million money laundering case involving stolen funds from a New York Federal Reserve account of Bangladesh Bank, the South Asian nation’s central bank.

Leaked documents

The leaked documents followed a series of high-profile breaches in recent years in which individuals working for governments or companies have amassed internal files and then given them to media organizations.

In 2014, Edward Snowden, a contractor for the National Security Agency, gave reporters what intelligence officials have estimated was at least 1.5 million documents from the agency. Hundreds of articles have been published based on those documents.

The media organizations looking into Mossack Fonseca are expected to publish many more articles based on the new documents in the coming days.

The firm, which has dozens of offices around the world, has been investigated by law enforcement authorities in several countries over accusations of connections to money laundering.

In a lengthy statement provided to The Guardian, the firm said it could not respond to specific questions, but insisted that many of the individuals and companies named in the documents were never clients of Mossack Fonseca.

The firm added that in many cases it was “legal and common for companies to establish commercial entities in different jurisdictions for a variety of legitimate reasons.”

“Our services are regulated on multiple levels, often by overlapping agencies, and we have a strong compliance record,” the firm said.

“In addition, we have always complied with international protocols” to assure “that the companies we incorporate are not being used for tax evasion, money laundering, terrorist finance or other illicit purposes,” it added.

Putin aides implicated

Among the biggest findings of the media probe, which fingered about 140 political figures including 12 current or former heads of state:

• Banks, companies and close associates of Putin, who is not himself named in the documents, “secretly shuffled as much as $2 billion through banks and shadow companies,” according to the ICIJ. These allegations were not aired by Russian state TV.

• The families of some of China’s top communist brass – including the nation’s president – used offshore tax havens to conceal their fortunes. At least eight current or former members of the Politburo Standing Committee, the ruling Communist Party’s most powerful body, have been implicated.

• A member of FIFA’s ethics committee, Juan Pedro Damiani, had business ties with three men indicted in a corruption scandal. Argentine football great Lionel Messi and his father are named as owners of a Panama company, Mega Star Enterprises, that has not previously been disclosed in a Spanish tax probe into their affairs. UEFA chief Michel Platini used Mossack Fonseca to administer an offshore company, but he denied wrongdoing in a statement to AFP.

• A Panamanian shell company may have helped hide millions of dollars from the Brink’s-Mat heist, a $40 million British gold bullion robbery at London-Heathrow Airport in November 1983 that is etched in criminal folklore.

The Panamanian law firm denies the allegations, however, the ICIJ said.

• Iceland’s Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson secretly owned millions of dollars of bank bonds during his country’s crisis when the financial system collapsed and banks had to be bailed out. The irritated premier denied wrongdoing in a television interview, which he cut short, but faces calls to resign and a no-confidence vote in parliament this week.


RAPPLER.COM - PLEASE READ THIS INFORMATIVE UPDATED REPORT ON PANAMA PAPERS WITH LINKS TO FILIPINOS!

Filipinos confuse Panama Papers with 2013 exposé (UPDATED) KD Suarez @kdpsuarez Published 12:52 PM, April 05, 2016 Updated 2:26 PM, April 06, 2016

Some people online – including several news groups – confuse a 2013 exposé with the 2016 Panama Papers probe


PANAMA PAPERS. Here is the building where the office of Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca is located in Panama City, Panama. Photo by Alejandro Bolivar/EPA

MANILA, Philippines (UPDATED) – In the rush to find the Philippine connection to the biggest data leak in journalism history, some people online – including several news groups – confused the data with a similar exposé on offshore finance, dating back to 2013.

On Sunday, April 3, media groups led by the Germany paper Sueddeutsche Zeitung and the International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) released the results of a year-long probe into a trove of 11.5 million documents from Panamanian law firm Mossack Fonseca, which specializes in creating offshore shell companies.

Among those named in what the world now calls the "Panama Papers" are close associates of Russian President Vladimir Putin, relatives of Chinese leader Xi Jinping, and Iceland's Prime Minister Sigmundur David Gunnlaugsson, as well as Barcelona striker Lionel Messi.

Amid the flurry of stories on the web about the Panama Papers, a story from local news website InterAksyon popped out Monday, April 4, with the headline: "PANAMA PAPERS | Imee Marcos, sons, JV Ejercito among 572 Pinoys in offshore holdings expose."

Later that day, GMA News, the Philippine Star, and the Philippine Daily Inquirer also came out with similarly angled stories.

It would have been a big breaking story in the Philippines – except that it had already been exposed way back in 2013, in the ICIJ's separate Offshore Leaks probe.

What's the difference?

While the two probes are both global investigations on offshore finance led by the same investigative journalism group, the two are distinct and significantly different in terms of data sources and context.

The 2013 Offshore Leaks probe is based on a cache of 2.5 million files containing information on more than 120,000 offshore companies and trusts worldwide, revealed in 2013 by the ICIJ.

The ICIJ said that 86 journalists from 46 countries sifted through the data during their 15-month collaborative investigation. In the Philippines, the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism (PCIJ) was the partner organization, which then let other news outfits republish its findings.

The PCIJ's 2013 investigation focused on the offshore accounts owned by the Marcoses and the Ejercitos, as well as connected personalities and entities. Their exposés are in the following stories:

READ ON...

Imee Marcos tied to secret offshore trust (by Roel Landingin and Karol Ilagan, PCIJ, April 4, 2013)

Villar, Ejercito have offshore accounts (by Roel Landingin and Karol Ilagan, PCIJ, April 5, 2013)

'Repentant, reticent, rude,' says PCIJ (by Malou Mangahas, PCIJ, April 5, 2013)

The 2013 leak listed 572 officers and master clients, 9 offshore entities, and 355 listed addresses linked to the Philippines. This raw information can still be accessed at the ICIJ website.

According to the ICIJ, much of their reporting focused on the firms Portcullis TrustNet and Commonwealth Trust Limited, which they said "have helped tens of thousands of people set up offshore companies and trusts and hard-to-trace bank accounts."

Meanwhile, the 2016 leak came from just one firm, Mossack Fonseca. The papers, from around 214,000 offshore entities, cover data spanning almost 40 years.

More than 500 banks, their subsidiaries, and branches have worked with Mossack Fonseca since the 1970s to help clients manage offshore companies. UBS set up more than 1,100 and HSBC and its affiliates created more than 2,300.

According to data from the Irish Times, one of the ICIJ partners in the Panama Papers investigation, the leak has information on 40 companies, 12 clients, 42 beneficiaries, and 330 shareholders connected to the Philippines.

Link still unsubstantiated

Offshore financial dealings are not illegal in themselves but may be used to hide assets from tax authorities, launder the proceeds of criminal activities, or conceal misappropriated or politically inconvenient wealth.

However, the question remains: Could the same people in the 2013 exposé also be linked to the Panama Papers?

So far, there is no answer to that question. No Filipino media outfit is currently part of the Panama Papers probe, and those not part of the ICIJ investigation would have to wait until May, when they release the data publicly.

After people online pointed out that the wrong database had been used, InterAksyon revised its story and instead rehashed the 2013 exposé, but put it in the context of the Panama Papers.

As of 3 pm Tuesday, April 5, GMA News took down its story, while the Star edited its piece. Only the Inquirer story remained unedited. – With a report from Agence France-Presse/Rappler.com


INQUIRER

Aquino to leave behind crisis-proof economy, says Capital Economics By: Ben O. de Vera
@BenArnolddeVera Philippine Daily Inquirer 01:56 AM April 8th, 2016



President Aquino will leave an economy that will continue to expand at a faster pace and can be crisis-proof despite a global slowdown, according to international research firm Capital Economics.

In an April 5 report on the Philippines, Capital Economics said “there are good reasons to think that [Mr. Aquino’s] achievements will outlast his presidency,” hence it “remain[s] optimistic that the Philippines will continue to grow strongly over the coming years.”

In a statement on Thursday, the government’s Investor Relations Office (IRO) said the almost $300-billion Philippine economy was expected to grow by 6-7 percent in the medium- to long-term despite a change in administration by midyear, citing Capital Economics’ forecast. The government has projected the gross domestic product (GDP) to grow between 6.6 percent to 8 percent in the next four years.

On Mr. Aquino’s watch, the Philippine economy expanded by an average of 6.2 percent—the fastest average rate since the late 1970s.

According to IRO, Capital Economics noted the Philippines’ solid macroeconomic fundamentals, especially its current account surplus as well as manageable debt burden, which “will help ensure the Philippines avoid crisis situations in the face of global economic challenges.”

“Low levels of government debt and a current account surplus mean that, even if investor sentiment did take a sudden turn for the worse after the election, a crisis is unlikely,” Capital Economics said.

READ MORE...

Last year, the Philippines posted a current account surplus of $8.4 billion, sustaining a surplus for 13 straight years. The share of general government debt to GDP, meanwhile, slid to 36.8 percent as of September last year from 59.2 percent a decade ago, IRO noted.

IRO said Capital Economics “also recognized efforts to boost the manufacturing sector, which economists say has bigger multiplier effects on growth compared with the services sector.”

The manufacturing sector expanded 5.7 percent last year, bringing the average growth to 7.6 percent during the 2010-2015 period. In contrast, the manufacturing sector grew by a mere 3.2 percent from 2000 to 2009, IRO said.

Also, Capital Economics took note of the Philippines’ young population—with an average age of 23.5, which “will help keep the economy on the robust-growth trajectory,” IRO added.

“The Philippines is said to have recently entered the ‘demographic window,’ a period when a majority of the population belongs to the working-age group and, as such, economic production is likely to accelerate with sufficient investments in human capital development,” it noted.

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RELATED FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHTS

P5.7T INFRA SPENDING FOR GROWTH April 08, 2016

The Philippines needs to spend P5.7 trillion in logistics infrastructure in the next administration to maintain the pace of its growth of 5 percent, according to a study commissioned by the Department of Trade and Industry.

Enrico Basilio, chief of party of the USAID (United States Agency for International Development) COMPETE (Advancing Philippine Competitiveness) Project who authored the study, said higher investments in logistics by government would enable the Philippines to keep up with other countries in the region.

Basilio cited a separate study by the Transport Intelligence Report (TIR) 2015 which estimates the Philippine logistics business to triple to P326 billion by 2020 from the present P100 billion.

He said the logistics industry’s forward linkage in the Philippines lags behind those of other countries in the region, and needs to maintain the ratio of infrastructure spending to gross domestic product (GDP) at 5 percent to sustain the GDP’s expansion.

Basilio in his study noted that policy and regulation impede the development of logistics infrastructure in the country, saying proposals and goals should be matched with parallel policies to carry out those changes.

He cited proposals to have Clark as the main gateway or Subic and Batangas as alternate ports but there are no regulatory policies to institutionalize the pronouncements.

TIR said by 2020, based on low 11 percent compounded annual growth rate (CAGR) and high of 18 percent CAGR growth scenarios, the logistics market is forecasted to reach P204 billion (low) to P326 billion (high).

In his study, Basilio noted that forward linkages – or industries spurred down the line – of the transport and storage sector including passenger transport are the lowest among Asean nations, and has decreased further, indicating a decline in the integration of the sector to the entire economy.

The forward linkage index of the Philippine logistics industry as of 2011 was placed at 1.4, the lowest in Southeast Asia, compared to Indonesia, 2.1; Thailand, 2.73; Cambodia, 2.48; Vietnam, 2.64; Thailand, 2.73 and Malaysia, 4.03.

Based on the study, logistics has a huge multiplier effect. Every P1 investment has a multiplier of 2.81 investments in other industries such as services.

The study said infrastructure spending has substantially increased in recent years from 3 percent to GDP in 2010 when the Aquino government started.

A total budget of P1.8 trillion has been invested on public infrastructure over the last three years and another P1.8 trillion is set for all infrastructure projects.

Expressway projects get the bulk of the ongoing budget at P752 billion and all are being undertaken under the public-private partnership (PPP). Another P706 billion has been allocated for local roads, P180 billion in PPP airports, P133 billion in rail and P80 billion in port.

According to the study, local and foreign logistics service providers in the Philippines are competitive but are concerned over the provision of efficient transport infrastructure, conducive policy environment, and regulations that will foster the logistics sectors’ competitiveness in terms of cost, service quality and reliably.

There are 109 service providers in the country with aggregate revenue of P60 billion.

Based on a 2010 traffic study by the Japan International Cooperation Agency in Metro Manila and its environs, truck trips (per day) is expected to increase from 6942,714in 2010 to 872,329 in 2020 and 1 million by 2030. The share of trucks going to and from Manila is 60 percent.

The Department of Public Works and Highways’ (DPWH) budget has increased dramatically over the last fouryears. In 2015, almost half (49 percent) of the government’s outlay infrastructure went to DPWH.

The big challenge is improving the paved ratio of local roads that comprise 84.5 percent of the country’s total road network. Provincial and municipal roads have a low paved ratio of 35 percent, while city roads have a paved ratio of 62 percent.

To fast-track the development of expressways in support of logistics and trade, the government has tapped the resources and expertise of the private sector through PPP. Four toll road projects with a total length of 43 kilometers (valued at P9.2 billion) have been completed, while seven more are currently being developed (total length of 201 kilometers valued at P137 billion).

The study also revealed there is a mounting pressure from the aviation sector for expansions/improvements in airports. This pressure emanates from the growth in passenger and air cargo traffic due to the liberalization of the civil aviation industry as well as the strong push for increased international tourist arrivals. (Irma Isip)


MALAYA

BUSINESSMEN BULLISH BUT... April 08, 2016


Infrastructure problems have surpassed corruption as the leading economic obstacle, according to the most recent World Economic Forum competitiveness report, which is based on responses from people doing business in the country. Manila is plagued by power failures, chronic water shortages, an antiquated telecommunications system, deteriorating roads and bridges and a subpar airport. NYTIMES

Businessmen are optimistic of the economic and corporate outlook for the Philippines but see infrastructure, more than corruption, as the bigger problem that the next administration should address.

Results of the Makati Business Club’s (MBC) Executive Outlook Survey (EOS) for the second semester show 58 percent of the respondents listed infrastructure as a priority issue that should be tackled by the next government, while 41 percent listed corruption. The third concern which was listed by 32 percent of respondents was peace and order.

Other notable issues identified include (in no particular order) poverty, job generation, agriculture and education, among others.

The first semester results were generally less optimistic than the last survey of the MBC which was in the first semester of 2014, except on the gross domestic product (GDP) expectations.

The slightly tame expectations are expected as the country heads into the 2016 elections. This year’s survey also skipped the usual assessment on the performance of government agencies.

The EOS results show more than half of the respondents see the GDP growing faster than last year’s 5.8 percent, prompting them to make more investments and buoying expectations of higher profits. This is compared to just 30 percent in the 2014 survey.

Majority of MBC members also see an increase in approved investments in 2016, compared to last year’s P106.6 billion (from first to third quarters). In addition, they are projecting increases in both imports and exports this year, from last year’s $62.6 billion and $54 billion, respectively.

In the 2014 survey, the respondents were expecting much bigger investments at P456 billion. Expected value of exports and imports were relatively unchanged from the 2014 survey.

The 2016 survey said 52 percent of the senior business executives polled expect the country’s economic growth this year to be higher than last year’s GDP growth of 5.8 percent, 39 percent foresee that the 2015 GDP growth will be sustained and 9 percent project a lower GDP growth for 2016.

READ MORE...

On consumer prices, 51 percent expect the country’s headline inflation this year to be higher than last year’s average rate of 1.4 percent. On the other hand, 41 percent expect inflation to stay at the same rate, while 8 percent project it to be lower in 2016.

On interest rates, 51 percent of the respondents foresee a lower 91-day Treasury Bill Rate than last year’s rate of 1.77 percent, 9 percent expect it to stay the same, while 40 percent expect to see it moving lower in 2016.

On the peso-dollar rate, majority expect the peso to depreciate against the US dollar by an average of 3.75 percent in 2016; last year’s yearend rate was P47.166 to the US dollar. Meanwhile, 18 percent expect the peso-dollar rate to stay the same as end-2015, while the remaining 9 percent expect the local currency to appreciate against the dollar by 10 percent.

On prospective investments for 2016, 54 percent anticipate approved investments to be higher than the P106.6 billion recorded by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) from January to September of last year, while 26 percent of respondents expect approved investments to remain the same and 20 percent expect a decrease during the same time period.

On trade, the outlook is also fairly optimistic as MBC members foresee an increase in both imports and exports, with 62 percent expecting higher imports than last year’s P62.6 billion (from January to September), while 30 percent foresee it to stay on the same level.The remaining 8 percent expect imports to be lower this year.

For exports, 38 percent expect higher exports in 2016, while another 38 percent expect it to stay the same; 24 percent expect exports to be lower than last year.The PSA recorded P54 billion in exports from January to September last year.

An overwhelming 82 percent see their revenues to be higher this year from a year ago while 74 percent project higher net incomes. Only 19 percent see no change and 7 percent expect lower net incomes.

Majority or 59 percent of the respondents said they will make additional investments in the coming year, with an average of P4.9 billion. The highest investments of over P1 billion will be poured in diversified conglomerate and services sectors.

However, almost an equal proportion of the respondents are hiring additional and retaining workforce – 49 percent of the respondents plan to expand their workforce, majority of which are in services, and 47 percent expect to hold their workforce size steady. Only 4 percent foresee the possibility of laying off workers.

The survey from February 2 to March 16 covered 71 respondents representing 17.75 percent of MBC’s 400 member companies.

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ALSO FROM THE INQUIRER

ABS-CBN, GMA claim ratings lead By: Miguel R. Camus @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer
12:10 AM April 5th, 2016

BROADCAST RIVALS CITE DATA FROM DIFFERENT 3RD-PARTY RESEARCH FIRMS

BROADCAST television rivals GMA Network Inc. and ABS-CBN Corp. again claimed the lead in national TV ratings for March 2016, citing data from different third-party research companies.

GMA said in a statement that based on National Urban Television Audience Measurement (NUTAM) ratings, it had a 36.6- percent household audience share, edging out ABS-CBN’s 36.1 percent and TV5’s 8.2 percent.

GMA gets its data from Nielsen TV Audience Measurement.

ABS-CBN, which uses data from Kantar Media, said it got a national audience share of 44 percent for combined urban and rural homes against GMA’s 35 percent, a separate statement showed.

GMA credited its lead to further gains in its Mega Manila and Urban Luzon strongholds. The two areas account for 77 and 60 percent of all urban TV households in the country.

In Urban Luzon, GMA said it got a 41.5-percent of the market, against 31 percent for ABS-CBN. GMA was also ahead of TV5’s 7.3 percent.

In Mega Manila, GMA got 43.2 percent, higher than ABS-CBN’s 28.2 percent by 15 points, and TV5’s 7.7 percent by 35.5 points.

Moreover, during the Lenten Season (Maundy Thursday to Black Saturday), GMA said its programming was also ahead across all dayparts, including primetime.

READ MORE...

GMA secured a 44.1-percent audience share in NUTAM, up 14 percentage points from ABS-CBN’s 30.1 percent and up 38.1 points from TV5’s 6 percent.

For its part, ABS-CBN said it was also leading in the coveted primetime block with an average audience share of 49 percent compared to 33 percent for GMA.

“The primetime block is the most important part of the day when most Filipinos watch TV and advertisers put a larger chunk of their investment in to reach more consumers effectively,” ABS-CBN said.

Nielsen has a nationwide urban sample size of 2,000 homes; while in Mega Manila, it increased its sample size to 1,200 homes effective this year. Kantar Media uses a nationwide panel size of 2,610 urban and rural homes that “represent 100 percent” of the total Philippine TV viewing population.


MANILA STANDARD

New IPP may include RoRo posted April 04, 2016 at 11:55 pm by Othel V. Campos


New trade chief Cristobal: "New DTI will work 'beyond administrations'

The Trade Department plans to include the production of roll-on/roll-off or RoRo vessels among the industries that will receive government support under the 2017-2019 Investment Priorities Plan.

Trade Secretary Adrian Cristobal Jr. said the Board of the Investments was studying RoRo shipbuilding as a priority industry under the new IPP.

“If we have the right elements to be competitive in RoRo similar to Cars [Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy], RoRo production will not only serve the Asean market but even the Asian market. It’ll also solve a societal problem we have in logistics and transport,” he said.

The Trade Department received new applications for RoRo manufacturing from RoRo makers in Japan.

Under the current IPP, the department gives incentives to new vessel makers. Prior to that, even second-hand vessels also benefited from previous IPPs.

“What we’re looking at here is not just new players but even existing players. We want to develop shipbuilding operations also for the domestic market and for small vessels,” said Cristobal.

READ MORE...

He said giving incentives to new vessels would help the country upgrade local logistics and transportation services and ensure the safety of the riding public.

Recent market feedback showed a strong demand for RoRo vehicles and services.

The government is still assessing how big the local demand is. It also looks at the demand in Malaysia, which is considered a potential export market.

BOI receives recommendations from government agencies and the private sector on how to improve the new IPP and the list of economic activities that are eligible for fiscal incentives.

IPP serves as the country’s blueprint for investment promotions and a platform to attract strategic investments with impact on countryside development and employment generation.

BOI hopes to conclude public consultations on the 2017-2019 IPP by June 2016.

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Gov’t gives up on launching P123-B dike PPP SHARES: 37 VIEW COMMENTS By: Miguel R. Camus @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:59 AM April 9th, 2016

An ambitious public private partnership (PPP) project aimed at solving heavy flooding in Laguna and parts of Metro Manila would be left to the country’s next president after its auction failed last month, Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson had admitted.

The fate of the P123-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike was expected, given that several unresolved issues remained, coupled with the looming change in the country’s leadership this coming June.

All three prequalified groups did not submit offers last March 28, prompting the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) to terminate the bidding process.

“It will still take some time to assess the next steps, which will probably be already passed on to the next administration,” Singson said in a text message yesterday.

Ariel Angeles (photo), DPWH head of PPP Service, said Thursday that the DWPH special bids and awards committee has yet to meet to discuss the matter. He said a rebidding process was among the options to be considered.

The PPP project, which has a 37-year concession period, was an innovative solution to flooding and was combined with infrastructure and real estate components to make it attractive to private investors. This also made it one of the most complex and expensive PPPs ever rolled out under the Aquino administration’s flagship infrastructure program.

It combined a 47-kilometer tollroad from Taguig in Metro Manila to Los Baños, Laguna, running on top of a flood control dike, which would have been the longest in the world. Its main business sweetener was a 700-hectare land reclamation project on Laguna Lake that could be developed into mixed-use communities.

The PPP deal was expected to “benefit up to 200,000 households” and protect about a million residents from flooding, PPP Center executive director Andre Palacios said earlier.

The project ultimately sank due to a combination of its “high-risk” and complexity, its lack of viability, missing guarantees on connectivity to major roads and uncertainties relating to the outcome of the upcoming elections.

The three groups that qualified and collectively did not submit bid offers were Team Trident, comprised of Ayala Land Inc., SM Prime Holdings Inc., Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. and Megaworld Corp; San Miguel Corp., and Alloy Pavi Hanshin LLEDP Consortium, comprised of Malaysia’s MTD Group, South Korea’s Hanshin and the family of former Sen. Manuel Villar Jr.

The Laguna Lakeshore Expressway Dike deal, like other PPP projects under procurement, is not covered by the election ban.

So far, 12 PPP deals valued at more than P200 billion have been awarded and four are set to be finished before President Aquino steps down in the middle of this year.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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