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

GOVT SETS 24/7 WORK ON INFRA PROJECTS IN METRO MANILA
[RELATED: Infra delivery could lift PH growth to 8%-10% – BPI economist]


JULY 6 -Construction of major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila will be undertaken around the clock beginning this year to fast-track their completion. This is to ensure that roads and other major projects would be finished on time, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said. File photo Construction of major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila will be undertaken around the clock beginning this year to fast-track their completion. This is to ensure that roads and other major projects would be finished on time, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told reporters in a briefing yesterday.
Diokno warned that the public should anticipate some inconvenience with 24/7 construction, but that this would not be permanent. “Things will get worse before they get better,” he said. Under the plan, which is still being drafted, state infrastructure projects worth “anything beyond P10 million” will be constructed non-stop, 24 hours. This will include both those financed solely by the government as well as Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, under which 12 were already awarded. Diokno said there is no need for a law to implement the plan, adding it would complement proposed emergency powers to be given to President Duterte to tackle the worsening traffic situation. In response, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said 24/7 operations is “doable.” “We want to fast track all projects. Definitely, we will do our best,” Villar told reporters on the sidelines of the economic managers’ meeting. “We also have to talk to the contractors to make the arrangements. But I’m sure we can do that this year,” Villar added. Sought for comment, Ibarra Paulino, executive director of the Philippine Constructors Association, said the group is open to the proposal, but would still have to study it. READ MORE...RELATED, Infra delivery could lift PH growth to 8%-10% – BPI economist...

ALSO: NEDA slates P580 B projects for approval
[RELATED: Pernia’s focus - speedy project approvals, more infra spending]


JULY 6 -Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia. File photo
 The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board has slated for approval within the year of around P580 billion worth of infrastructure projects, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said yesterday. “For many of these projects, the approval of the NEDA board is the last hurdle,” he said in an interview at the meeting of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) yesterday. “Between now and the end of 2017, most of these can be implemented unless there is an impediment. As of the second quarter of this year, 14 infrastructure projects collectively valued at around P303 billion have been awarded. Among the projects immediately up for NEDA approval are the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) development project, Batangas-Manila Natural Gas Pipeline project, Plaridel Bypass Toll Road, Philippine Travel Center Complex and New Nayong Pilipino at Entertainment City project. Among the projects that have yet to undergo approval by the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) are the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway Project and the Integrated Transport System-North Terminal. READ MORE...RELATED, Pernia’s focus: speedy project approvals, more infra spending...

ALSO: DOF reorganization in the works, says Dominguez
[RELATED: Duterte govt to review P3.35-t budget for 2017]


JULY 7 -Dominguez
New undersecretaries, different work clusters and a renovation of existing building are among the organizational priorities of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to improve his department’s operations.
“We will do all these things toward an improved public service that is felt by the people,” the finance chief said during his first flag raising ceremony at the Department of Finance (DOF) yesterday. After the event, Dominguez made rounds on his department in charge of revenue generation, debt management, privatization, local government finance and government corporations. Dominguez said he intends to recruit four new undersecretaries that will be added to the existing three currently in detail at DOF. Another one is in secondment duties abroad. “(There will be) revamp in a sense that we are going to re-align our work in teams rather than individuals...I would like to work in teams,” Dominguez said. Clusters will cover revenue generation, administration, legal matters and public-private partnerships. This was a departure from existing divisions on revenues, liability management, privatization and state corporations. Dominguez said the latter may fall under legal matters. While there is no one confirmed yet, DOF employees said Antonette Tionko had been sitting already in meetings. Tionko worked with auditing firm SyCip Gorres Velayo and Co. Meanwhile, Karen Singson, former Privatization Management Office chief, may become chief of staff. Both will have undersecretary ranks, similar to an offer made to World Bank senior economist Karl Kendrick Chua. READ MORE...RELATED, Duterte govt to review P3.35-t budget for 2017...

ALSO:
Solutions to traffic woes proposed

[RELATED: Cable cars to ease Metro Manila's traffic woes?]


JULY 7 -Motorists crawl along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City after a section of the avenue was closed to traffic. Michael Varcas, PHILSTAR File photoProminent government and private transport groups and stakeholders are supporting a proposal to give President Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila. At a recent transport forum organized by the ADR Institute and Citizen Watch in Makati City, participants had agreed that ongoing infrastructure (transport) projects to address the issue would take years to complete due to a complicated bureaucratic process.
Without emergency powers, key projects, including the proposed revival of a rail cargo project that would ease traffic in Metro Manila and solve port congestion in the ports of Manila, would remain in the back burner, they said. The Japan International Cooperating Agency (Jica), which presented the study titled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas,” predicted that the cost of traffic in Metro Manila would increase to P6 billion a day by 2030, from P2.4 billion today, if there was no intervention. The study warned that the metropolis’ lower-income group—the blue collar workers earning minimum wage—would be hardest hit when congestion worsened by 2030, particularly if the Duterte administration failed to institute reforms. READ MORE...RELATED, Cable cars to ease Metro Manila's traffic woes?...

ALSO: June level reaches $83.97 B Forex reserves hit 3-year high


JULY 9 -BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said the GIR in end-June was $1.04 billion higher than the end-May level of $82.93 billion due to the revaluation adjustments on the central bank’s gold holdings from the increase in the price of gold in the international market. Philstar.com/File photo
MANILA, Philippines - The country’s foreign exchange reserves expanded to $83.97 billion in June, the highest level in three years amid the steady increase in the central bank’s gold holdings and gains from foreign exchange operations, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported.
Last month’s gross international reserves (GIR) level was the highest since hitting a record high of $85.27 billion in January 2013. BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said the GIR in end-June was $1.04 billion higher than the end-May level of $82.93 billion due to the revaluation adjustments on the central bank’s gold holdings from the increase in the price of gold in the international market. Data showed the BSP’s gold holdings increased 8.6 percent to $8.34 billion in end-June from $7.67 billion in end-May. Likewise, the central bank’s foreign investments also inched up to $72.07 billion from $71.68 billion. Tetangco also traced the increase in the country’s foreign exchange buffers to BSP’s foreign exchange operations as well as net foreign currency deposits by the national governments. READ MORE...

ALSO: By Rey Gamboa - Wishful change
[ALSO By Babe Romualdez - ‘General’ humiliation]


JULY 7 -By Rey Gamboa
In the last column, we compared the wish list submitted by businessmen after holding a two-day summit with the government’s 10-point economic program. We mentioned also a number of wish lists that have surfaced, presumably inspired by the new administration’s “Change is Coming” call to action. One of the lists that we stumbled upon reportedly came from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), specifically on how to manage the metro’s roads and vehicles. We checked and rechecked, but it seems to have been more of an aspirational wish list done by one zealous netizen. Nevertheless, it deserved attention for its no-nonsense approach. Many of those on the list, undoubtedly, would be difficult to impose, given the workings of our country’s democratic system, as well as Filipinos’ penchant to resist change. But one can dream. Here’s the list of 22 items, followed by two paragraphs (not mine) explaining the “background” of the list. Read on. 1. No more number coding, simply have an odd-even scheme to be implemented and no hours of exception window. 2. New cars cannot choose plate numbers. 3. Buses not allowed to overtake. 4. All subdivision gates open to the public 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and no parking in these subdivision roads within this time frame. 5. No stopping, no waiting, no loading/unloading on classified roads. READ MORE... RELATED, ‘General’ humiliation, by Babe Romualdez...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

Government sets 24/7 work on infra projects in Metro Manila


Construction of major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila will be undertaken around the clock beginning this year to fast-track their completion. This is to ensure that roads and other major projects would be finished on time, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said. File photo

MANILA, JULY 11, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Prinz Magtulis Updated July 6, 2016 - Construction of major infrastructure projects in Metro Manila will be undertaken around the clock beginning this year to fast-track their completion.

This is to ensure that roads and other major projects would be finished on time, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno told reporters in a briefing yesterday.

Diokno warned that the public should anticipate some inconvenience with 24/7 construction, but that this would not be permanent.

“Things will get worse before they get better,” he said.

Under the plan, which is still being drafted, state infrastructure projects worth “anything beyond P10 million” will be constructed non-stop, 24 hours.

This will include both those financed solely by the government as well as Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects, under which 12 were already awarded.

Diokno said there is no need for a law to implement the plan, adding it would complement proposed emergency powers to be given to President Duterte to tackle the worsening traffic situation.

In response, Public Works Secretary Mark Villar said 24/7 operations is “doable.”


Mark Villar DPWH Chief

“We want to fast track all projects. Definitely, we will do our best,” Villar told reporters on the sidelines of the economic managers’ meeting.

“We also have to talk to the contractors to make the arrangements. But I’m sure we can do that this year,” Villar added.

Sought for comment, Ibarra Paulino, executive director of the Philippine Constructors Association, said the group is open to the proposal, but would still have to study it.

READ MORE...

“There will be costs. It will expedite the projects, but of course there will be additional costs in manpower, the noise it will create during night time,” Paulino said in a phone interview.

“You also have to think about manpower,” he added.

Currently, he said 24/7 construction is only being done in “emergency cases” such as accidents. Diokno, on the other hand, stressed it could be done.

“There are machines that we could use to minimize the noise at night,” he said.

Only a week after taking over, the Duterte administration has bared plans meant to fast track infrastructure projects, where the Philippines had been sorely lacking.

Aside from the 24/7 construction policy being eyed, emergency powers that would allow Duterte to skirt procurement processes and open up private roads for traffic are also being proposed in the capital.

Unsolicited projects for PPPs will also be accepted from the private sector. Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said bidding time would also be cut.

“Currently, from the proposal of the project to its awarding, it takes an average time of 29 months. We want to cut it down by a third,” Pernia said in the same briefing.

Budget for state infrastructure projects will also get a boost. From 3.3 percent of gross domestic product last year, Diokno said it could rise to as much as 5.2 percent in 2017.

In absolute terms, that would easily be worth more than P500 billion considering last year’s P436 billion, according to budget data.

But the economic managers were quick to tame expectations.

“Remember that we are playing a lot of catch up here. So I think we have to realize that while we are making more roads, fixing the roads, this would require all our cooperation,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez said.

“There is no magic wand here,” he added.

------------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE MANILA TIMES

Infra delivery could lift PH growth to 8%-10% – BPI economist July 6, 2016 9:18 pm
by CATHERINE C. TALAVERA


BPI Chief Economist Jun Neri listens

THE plan of the Duterte Administration could lift the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP) growth to as high as 10 percent, although tighter global conditions could pose some challenges, an economist said.

In a recent interview, Bank of the Philippine Islands Vice President and lead economist Emilio Neri Jr. emphasized that if the Duterte administration will be able to deliver the infrastructure spending it targets, the economy’s growth could ramp up.
“If those will be delivered then we will be growing much faster at maybe eight, nine, even 10 percent [GDP growth],” Neri said.

In the first quarter of 2016, the Philippine’s GDP grew by 6.9 percent.

Neri pointed out, however, that the past Aquino Administration was fortunate to be able to ride on a more stable global economic situation.

“The thing is, it’s more difficult for the [Duterte] Administration because the economic cycle is moving towards the opposite direction . . . it will be a lot more challenging especially if the plans are to really step up on the infra,” he said.

Some of the present global problems weighing on the global economy include the unexpected vote of Britain to leave the European Union and the slowdown in China, he said. Tighter global economic conditions could reduce the amount of investment funding available for some projects, such as those under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program.

Earlier this week, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) reported that it would allocate P171.6 billion or 5.2 percent of the P3.3 trillion national budget to infrastructure building.

Meanwhile, aside from infrastructure development, Neri pointed out that education and tourism are also sectors that should be given attention in order to boost the economy’s growth.

“Education has to become maybe closer to [the level of] India. So if you want to move high on the value chain, it is really education that’s a must. The higher education people have to provide a curriculum that would match a more competitive outsourcing sector. Tourism, also the same. You have to train people to become very competitive in those areas,” Neri said.


PHILSTAR

NEDA slates P580 B projects for approval By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 6, 2016 - 12:00am 0 2 googleplus0 0


Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board has slated for approval within the year of around P580 billion worth of infrastructure projects, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said yesterday.

“For many of these projects, the approval of the NEDA board is the last hurdle,” he said in an interview at the meeting of the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) yesterday. “Between now and the end of 2017, most of these can be implemented unless there is an impediment.

As of the second quarter of this year, 14 infrastructure projects collectively valued at around P303 billion have been awarded.

Among the projects immediately up for NEDA approval are the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) development project, Batangas-Manila Natural Gas Pipeline project, Plaridel Bypass Toll Road, Philippine Travel Center Complex and New Nayong Pilipino at Entertainment City project.

Among the projects that have yet to undergo approval by the NEDA-Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) are the Manila Bay Integrated Flood Control, Coastal Defense and Expressway Project and the Integrated Transport System-North Terminal.

READ MORE...

Pernia also said the current executive director of the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center, Andre Palacios, would be retained for the meantime while a new center head is not yet formally appointed.

“We will retain the current head of the PPP Center so as not to disrupt the progress of the projects. He has also been doing well,” he said.

Pernia also reiterated his earlier pronouncement of cutting down by a third the amount of time it takes to approve and award public infrastructure projects from an average of 29 months to between 18 to 20 months.

“We can reduce the (bureaucratic) layers and reduce the number of departments that have to approve the projects,” he said.

-----------------------------

RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Pernia’s focus: speedy project approvals, more infra spending By Czeriza Valencia (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 7, 2016 - 12:00am 1 4 googleplus0 0


Pernia

MANILA, Philippines – The Duterte administration wants to attain “tangible” results in accelerating the approval of projects, government spending on infrastructure, and easing Metro Manila traffic within its first 100 days, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said yesterday.

The Department of Budget Coordinating Committee (DBCC), one of the seven Cabinet-level inter-agency committees of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) — is convening today to tackle the 2017 budget and to make sure funds go to intended projects.

“We are already going to work on the budget. We want that to be ready 30 days after the SONA. In that budget, we are going to make sure that budget allocations are spent on purposes that are intended and spent quickly and efficiently,” said Pernia, also director general of NEDA.

Under the current administration’s new 10-point socioeconomic agenda, it wants to accelerate annual infrastructure spending to account for five percent of the gross domestic product with public-private partnerships playing a key role.

This is meant to address the country’s infrastructure gap.

Pernia said after the DBCC meeting, the economic development cluster composed of several departments would meet in the afternoon to discuss ways to speed up the approval and implementation of projects particularly infrastructure.

“We hope to be able to enjoy the outcomes of these projects during our terms. Because many of these projects, especially infrastructure, take a very long time. Energy projects take three years, roads, airports, transport projects also take a long time,” said Pernia, noting that energy projects — coal-fired plants in particular — are among the longest to hatch.

He earlier noted that the average time it took to implement the 12 projects under the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme in the past six years was 29 months. This, he said, can be whittled down to between 18 to 20 months.

“We want to cut the time in the approval of projects to the extent that is feasible, without sacrificing the soundness and integrity of the projects. That is important,” he added.

At the same time, Pernia reiterated that the current administration would respect existing government contracts.

“We will respect contracts that have been signed and implemented. We will not tamper with those,” he said.

He said the current administration would also address within the first 100 days the worsening traffic situation in Metro Manila. and the slow processing of civil registry documents and licenses.


PHILSTAR

DOF reorganization in the works, says Dominguez By Prinz Magtulis (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 7, 2016 - 12:00am 5 32 googleplus0 0


Dominguez

MANILA, Philippines – New undersecretaries, different work clusters and a renovation of existing building are among the organizational priorities of Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez to improve his department’s operations.

“We will do all these things toward an improved public service that is felt by the people,” the finance chief said during his first flag raising ceremony at the Department of Finance (DOF) yesterday.

After the event, Dominguez made rounds on his department in charge of revenue generation, debt management, privatization, local government finance and government corporations.

Dominguez said he intends to recruit four new undersecretaries that will be added to the existing three currently in detail at DOF. Another one is in secondment duties abroad.

“(There will be) revamp in a sense that we are going to re-align our work in teams rather than individuals...I would like to work in teams,” Dominguez said.

Clusters will cover revenue generation, administration, legal matters and public-private partnerships.

This was a departure from existing divisions on revenues, liability management, privatization and state corporations. Dominguez said the latter may fall under legal matters.

While there is no one confirmed yet, DOF employees said Antonette Tionko had been sitting already in meetings. Tionko worked with auditing firm SyCip Gorres Velayo and Co.

Meanwhile, Karen Singson, former Privatization Management Office chief, may become chief of staff. Both will have undersecretary ranks, similar to an offer made to World Bank senior economist Karl Kendrick Chua.

READ MORE...

They will be added to the existing crop of undersecretaries namely Ma. Lourdes Recente, Editha Tan and Gil Beltran. Jeremias Paul Jr. is currently working for the World Health Organization.

“We have a staff, they are there so most likely we will just move them around a little bit. I am bringing in a chief economist for the department,” Dominguez said.

“The president has the executive secretary issued the order that everybody stays in place for at most 30 days. But in the meantime, we are getting all the paper work done (for new appointments),” he added.

Meanwhile, Dominguez said while he will not push through with a new DOF building project, renovations on the existing building along Roxas Boulevard in Manila will be undertaken.

The P4.5-billion project was earlier blasted by Dominguez, who said the money could have been better used for houses for the victims of typhoon Yolanda.

“I went to some offices like the one in...CBAA, you see how dark it was. Working in the dark (will) get (you) a headache, don’t you get a headache?,” he said.

--------------------------------

RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

Duterte govt to review P3.35-t budget for 2017 posted July 04, 2016 at 11:55 pm by Gabrielle H. Binaday


Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III

The economic team of President Rodrigo Duterte will meet for the first time today to tackle the proposed P3.35-trillion government budget for 2017.

Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia said the inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee would start threshing out the details of the proposed budget for 2017 in line with the schedule to submit it to the House of Representatives on Aug. 25.

“We are going to work on the budget, so we are having a DBCC [meeting] to thresh out the 2017 budget so that it will be ready 30 days after the State of the Nation Address. Sona is July 25 so it should be ready by Aug. 25,” said Pernia, who also serves as the director-general of the National Economic and Development Authority.

DBCC is an inter-agency planning body composed by the Budget Department, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the Finance Department, Neda and the Office of the President that determines overall economic targets, expenditure levels and budget frameworks.

The Duterte administration earlier pledged to raise infrastructure spending to 5 percent to 6 percent of the gross domestic product, representing about P800 billion to P1 trillion, to resolve traffic congestion in Metro Manila and spread development to the countryside.

“In that budget, we are going to make sure that budget allocations are spent to purposes they are intended and spent quickly and efficiently,” Pernia said.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III told reporters he would propose to increase the government’s budget deficit ceiling to 3 percent of gross domestic product as early as 2016 from less than 2 percent in the previous years.

Dominguez said the higher budget deficit ceiling would be discussed by DBCC.

Pernia said the economic cluster composed of several agencies such the Finance, Budget Trade, Energy, Transportation, Public Works and Tourism Departments would also discuss ways on how to cut red tape and corruption in project approvals.

“In the afternoon, the economic development cluster which comprises several departments, we are going to find ways of cutting red tape in getting projects approved and implemented so that we can get the results, the output and the outcomes of these projects sooner rather than later,” Pernia said.

“So we hope to be able to enjoy the outcomes of these projects even during our term, in the next six years because many of these projects, especially infrastructure projects, take time,” he said.

He said the Duterte administration aimed to “show tangible results already in the first 100 days.”

Pernia said the priority was to address the traffic congestion in Metro Manila

“That’s an urgent agendum and on the part of law and order, President Duterte wants to show some results also within the first 100 days. That there’s improvement and people feel it,” Pernia said.

He said the government also aimed to reduce long queues in getting birth certificates, passports, licenses and other government permits.


INQUIRER

Solutions to traffic woes proposed @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:14 AM July 7th, 2016


Motorists crawl along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City after a section of the avenue was closed to traffic. Michael Varcas, PHILSTAR File photo

Prominent government and private transport groups and stakeholders are supporting a proposal to give President Duterte emergency powers to solve the traffic problem in Metro Manila.

At a recent transport forum organized by the ADR Institute and Citizen Watch in Makati City, participants had agreed that ongoing infrastructure (transport) projects to address the issue would take years to complete due to a complicated bureaucratic process.

Without emergency powers, key projects, including the proposed revival of a rail cargo project that would ease traffic in Metro Manila and solve port congestion in the ports of Manila, would remain in the back burner, they said.

The Japan International Cooperating Agency (Jica), which presented the study titled “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and Surrounding Areas,” predicted that the cost of traffic in Metro Manila would increase to P6 billion a day by 2030, from P2.4 billion today, if there was no intervention.

The study warned that the metropolis’ lower-income group—the blue collar workers earning minimum wage—would be hardest hit when congestion worsened by 2030, particularly if the Duterte administration failed to institute reforms.

READ MORE...

Senator JV Ejercito, who chairs the Senate economic affairs committee, also called on Congress to grant the Duterte administration emergency powers to tackle the country’s public transport woes, stressing during the forum the importance of having a well-thought out mass transit system in the country.

Ejercito batted for a railway solution to solve the vehicle congestion, particularly in Metro Manila. He said he believed that moving people instead of building infrastructure projects to move more vehicles, was the best idea.

MRail president Ferdinand Inacay said during the forum that government land transportation agencies must decide on what to do with public utility vehicles such as jeepneys, which had become icons of the past and no longer fit now or the future to remain on the roads.

Inacay said there was also a need to rationalize bus operations on Edsa.

“Traffic enforcers must strictly enforce loading and unloading zones; it is also timely to assess and revisit the loading and unloading locations because these current zones today may no longer be in the right locations to best serve the riding public,” he added.

Ejercito proposed plans to concentrate on the railway systems and on projects that would efficiently and conveniently move people, instead of vehicles.

Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) chair Eduardo Yap suggested during the forum the issuance of an executive order to declare that a transportation and traffic crisis existed in Metro Manila and, with the concurrence of Congress, secure emergency powers for the President.

“This way, Duterte can effectively address the crisis by mobilizing all government resources and undertaking necessary measures unhampered by appointments, procurement, budgetary and COA regulations during its presidency,” he said.


Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade

Yap also lauded the appointment of lawyer Art Tugade as transportation secretary, noting the success Tugade at the helm of Clark Development Corpl. (CDC).

Participants at the forum likewise leaned toward a rail-based solution to the congestion in Metro Manila and its environs and pointed to a Duterte campaign proposal to expand the rail systems, both for more efficient cargo transport as well as commuter relief.

They said they hoped Tugade would seriously review proposals such as that of private company MRail, which recently cooperated with ICTSI, a big port operator, to restore the rail connectivity between Manila ports to an inland container terminal facility in Laguna.

“An efficient and a modern railway system will not only solve our traffic congestion. It will spread out development, bring down the cost of living, and cost to transport goods and therefore will be the backbone of our economy,” Ejercito said.

Inacay said moving cargoes using existing PNR tracks should be revisited.

Currently, there is a significant resurgence of the country’s manufacturing and trade activity. Inacay said this was fueling a beehive operation in the ports and as result of increasing trade volumes, heavy port congestion contributed to traffic in the metropolis.

Inacay said that what MRail was proposing was to revive the rail cargo system from the south to the Port of Manila using existing PNR tracks.

“I believe it is timely to revive the operation considering the road situations today. The service can effectively alleviate traffic in the major Manila arteries,” he added.

-------------------------------

RELATED FROM RAPPLER.COM (FLASHBACK JUNE 28, 2016)

Cable cars to ease Metro Manila's traffic woes? Katerina Francisco @kaifrancisco Published 1:07 PM, June 28, 2016 Updated 6:10 PM, June 28, 2016

Incoming transportation secretary Arthur Tugade says using cable cars as an alternative mode of transportation is 'being seriously looked into'


NEW WAY TO COMMUTE? Incoming transportation secretary Arthur Tugade says the government is considering using cable cars to ease metro traffic, similar to the cable car system used in Bolivia (shown here). Photo by Grullab on Wikimedia

MANILA, Philippines – Incoming transportation secretary Arthur Tugade is mulling the use of cable cars to help ease congestion in Metro Manila.

In an interview on ANC's Headstart on Tuesday, June 28, Tugade said he is considering adopting the cable car system used in Bolivia to help reduce road traffic and speed up travel time for commuters in the metro.

"I'm borrowing from the Bolivia experience where they use cable cars. We can start in the Pasig area and then move on to EDSA, use gondolas that can carry 35 passengers," he said in Filipino.

In 2014, Bolivia launched the world's largest system of cable cars, an 11-kilometer gondola system that ferried passengers from the city of La Paz to the neighboring El Alto.

Going airborne could be an alternative solution to ease traffic jams on the street level, Tugade said. If implemented, the proposed cable car system can be operational within 18 months.

Tugade added that he has spoken to a cable car manufacturer to discuss the concept. Aside from being another mode of transportation, Tugade said that it can also be used as a more scenic form of travel.

While saying that he does not have specific plans yet, and that the proposal is still subject to further consideration, Tugade said that the proposed system could link Pasig City to Makati City.

The incoming transportation chief said he is also eyeing a possible cable car system running from Santa Rosa, Laguna, to Makati City.

"The details are being studied, maybe it's not yet technically accurate, but it's being seriously looked into," he said.

Tugade had earlier called for emergency powers to be granted to incoming president Rodrigo Duterte to allow him to solve the traffic crisis.

Among other things, these emergency powers would allow the government to open private subdivision roads for motorists. – Rappler.com


PHILSTAR

June level reaches $83.97 B Forex reserves hit 3-year high By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 9, 2016 - 12:00am 1 4 googleplus0 0


BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said the GIR in end-June was $1.04 billion higher than the end-May level of $82.93 billion due to the revaluation adjustments on the central bank’s gold holdings from the increase in the price of gold in the international market. Philstar.com/File photo

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s foreign exchange reserves expanded to $83.97 billion in June, the highest level in three years amid the steady increase in the central bank’s gold holdings and gains from foreign exchange operations, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported.

Last month’s gross international reserves (GIR) level was the highest since hitting a record high of $85.27 billion in January 2013.

BSP Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr. said the GIR in end-June was $1.04 billion higher than the end-May level of $82.93 billion due to the revaluation adjustments on the central bank’s gold holdings from the increase in the price of gold in the international market.

Data showed the BSP’s gold holdings increased 8.6 percent to $8.34 billion in end-June from $7.67 billion in end-May.

Likewise, the central bank’s foreign investments also inched up to $72.07 billion from $71.68 billion.

Tetangco also traced the increase in the country’s foreign exchange buffers to BSP’s foreign exchange operations as well as net foreign currency deposits by the national governments.

READ MORE...

Tetangco, however, said the increase was partially offset by payments made by the national government for its maturing foreign exchange obligations.

The GIR is the sum of all foreign exchange flowing into the country. The reserves serve as buffer to ensure the Philippines would not run out of foreign exchange that it could use to pay for imported goods and services, or maturing obligations in case of external shocks.

If it deems necessary, the BSP buys dollars from the foreign exchange market to prevent sharp depreciation of the peso against the dollar. It can also sell to avoid sharp appreciation of the local currency.

Tetangco said the end-June GIR level could cover 10.3 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and income.

The BSP chief added the figure was also equivalent to 5.9 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 4.3 times based on residual maturity.

The country’s foreign exchange reserves reached $80.67 billion last year from $79.54 billion in 2014. The figure was slightly lower than the revised GIR level target of $80.7 billion for 2015.

For this year, the BSP sees the GIR hitting $82.7 billion equivalent to nine months import cover.

On the other hand, the central bank is looking at a lower balance of payments (BOP) surplus of $2 billion instead of $2.2 billion this year but raised the projected current account surplus to $5.8 billion from $5.7 billion.

The global financial markets have been volatile as a result of the normalization of interest rates in the US, the economic slowdown in China as well as the decision of the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union (Brexit).

The Philippines is seen surviving external shocks brought about by uncertainties on the back of its strong macroeconomic fundamentals.


PHILSTAR

Wishful change BIZLINKS By Rey Gamboa (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 7, 2016 - 12:00am 0 3 googleplus0 0


By Rey Gamboa

In the last column, we compared the wish list submitted by businessmen after holding a two-day summit with the government’s 10-point economic program. We mentioned also a number of wish lists that have surfaced, presumably inspired by the new administration’s “Change is Coming” call to action.

One of the lists that we stumbled upon reportedly came from the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA), specifically on how to manage the metro’s roads and vehicles.

We checked and rechecked, but it seems to have been more of an aspirational wish list done by one zealous netizen. Nevertheless, it deserved attention for its no-nonsense approach.

Many of those on the list, undoubtedly, would be difficult to impose, given the workings of our country’s democratic system, as well as Filipinos’ penchant to resist change. But one can dream. Here’s the list of 22 items, followed by two paragraphs (not mine) explaining the “background” of the list. Read on.

1. No more number coding, simply have an odd-even scheme to be implemented and no hours of exception window.

2. New cars cannot choose plate numbers.

3. Buses not allowed to overtake.

4. All subdivision gates open to the public 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. and no parking in these subdivision roads within this time frame.

5. No stopping, no waiting, no loading/unloading on classified roads.

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6. No garage, cannot acquire car (neighborhood inspection for violations conducted 11 p.m. to 4 a.m.).

7. Minimum fine if car stalled in main avenues is P10,000.

8. All sidewalks will be cleared.

9. Jaywalking fine is P5,000.

10. Strict no contact traffic apprehension.

11. Provincial buses have no business plying EDSA as these are not allowed to load and unload passengers.

12. No more P1 million fine for colorum and out-of-line buses. These will be confiscated and LTO registration cancelled as their use is illegal.

13. Educated and well trained and highly paid (P35,000 per month) MMDA traffic constables dedicated to apprehension and ticketing with on-line high-tech devices with cameras will be deployed.

14. More than 15-year old vehicles will be denied registration.

15. Traffic and parking in schools will be regulated. Example, strictly no parking along Ortigas Ave.

16. Unutilized large vacant lots to be used for pay parking by LGUs. Revenues to be used to cover real property taxes and security costs.

17. Strict motorcycle lane enforcement with P5,000 fine.

18. Five-year license renewal requires written and practical re-tests for drivers.

19. LGUs not allowed to designate pay parking along streets, for example, in Makati and Greenhills.

20. Commercial establishments cannot use parts of sidewalk for parking, for example, on Morato, Timog and Maginhawa in QC.

21. Bus stops relocated 100 meters from malls and train terminals to avoid congestion.

22. Grab and Uber to be given incentives for carpool schemes.

MMDA’s focus is to move people and not cars. Reduction of private one- or two-passenger cars will allow more buses on the street. One bus carries passengers the equivalent of 25 cars minimum to 50 cars maximum. Bus consumes fuel equal to that of only five cars traveling same distance.

MMDA have these measures for a long time now but could not implement them in the absence of emergency powers.

Flooding in the metro Another part of MMDA’s role these days is flood management. The role was previously with the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) but was transferred to the MMDA in 2002 during the term of Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The onset of La Niña this year, forecasted to be on the extreme side following one of the harshest El Niño in the country, had triggered the MMDA to start early dredging, declogging and desilting operations of Metro Manila’s waterways and drainage systems.

Twelve pumping stations located in Aviles, Valencia, Libertad, Tripa de Gallina, Makati, Sta. Clara, Paco, Pandacan, Arroceros, Balete, Binondo and Quiapo have also been rehabilitated and upgraded to drain excessive floodwaters from strong rains.

Last month, MMDA announced the completed upgrading of the Taguig pumping station, which hopefully would ease the flooding the city perennially experiences during prolonged rains.

Unfortunately, there are still more than 40 pumping stations in the metro that need improvements, many of them operating inefficiently for the last decade and unable to meet the challenges of strong rains.

Additionally, the management of the metro’s waterways remains a big problem with the continued existence of informal settlers alongside esteros, creeks and river tributaries. Most of the residents of these homes dump their wastes directly into the canals.

With so much garbage finding its way in the metro’s waterways, even new motorized trash rakes and screens, and even the installation of steel gratings and manhole covers on sidewalks and streets, are rendered ineffective during crunch time when typhoons and strong rains lash the metropolis.

Perhaps this condition, aside from speeding up the rehabilitation of the rest of the metro’s 30-year-old pumping stations, will need a new wish list. The MMDA has, as part of its vision “to make Metro Manila a flood-resilient metropolis by 2016.”

It looks like this aspiration is just another wishful thought.

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ALSO FROM PHILSTAR

‘General’ humiliation SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated July 7, 2016 - 12:00am 0 9 googleplus0 0


BABE ROMUALDEZ

Showing once again his unorthodox and unpredictable style, President Rodrigo Duterte Tuesday deviated from his prepared speech during the 69th Anniversary of the Philippine Air Force and named five Philippine National Police generals allegedly involved in the illegal drugs trade. Duterte had earlier repeatedly warned unnamed generals to approach him before he named names.

A former prosecutor, Duterte knows he must have enough evidence to substantiate allegations. Senator Ping Lacson said he believes the President has good basis to divulge the names of the five personalities – with the senator admitting he also has intelligence information that two of those named by Duterte are into the illegal trade.

PNP Director General Ronald “Bato” de la Rosa said an investigation would be conducted on the three who are still in the service (two have retired). Most likely, their records will be scrutinized with special focus on the narcotics situation including the operations conducted in the officers’ previous areas of responsibility.

We don’t really know whether this tactic will work or not. Former Manila mayor Fred Lim also engaged in a shame campaign, painting the houses of suspected pushers and users with red paint to make these people a pariah in their communities. This seemed to work for a while, but it generated a lot of criticism since only the small fry were targeted and it also humiliated other residents of the painted houses who had nothing to do with illegal drugs.

For sure, there will be a lot of debates because Duterte’s revelation could result in trial by publicity. People have been complaining about Senate hearings and investigations because the sessions portrayed some people as already guilty without benefit of a fair trial. Some say Duterte’s disclosure amounts to the same thing, and that instead of the Senate, it is now the Executive branch that is engaging in trial by publicity.

Care should be made that families of the accused will not be unnecessarily dragged into the scandal since allegations are just that – allegations unless and until substantial proof is presented. Those accused should be given a chance to defend themselves and have their day in court. The rule of law must prevail at all times and due process must be observed.

A lot of Filipinos though are happy the President is going after rogue cops. There’s no question some PNP personnel are involved in illegal drugs, either as dealers or protectors or both. One of the common practices of these “narco cops” involves the disappearance of drugs seized for evidence – which are sold on the streets later.

Bad cops exist everywhere, even in the United States, with corrupt officers dipping their fingers into the drug trade. Many take bribes and look the other way, while some even suggest ways on how drug dealers can conduct their trade without arousing suspicion, like doing the deals in high school parking lots using similar looking backpacks for the exchange. The payoff is so high that some of the cops don’t even need their miniscule salaries.

One of the most notorious is Michael Dowd of the 75th Precinct of New York, after whom a 2014 documentary titled “The Seven Five” was made. Dowd, a member of the NYPD during the ‘80s, was running a drug ring with other dirty cops.

Despite numerous complaints and overt signs he was living beyond his means (driving to work in a red Corvette), Dowd was able to get away with his life of crime because he was shielded by his superiors who did not want a corruption scandal in their department. Dowd was eventually arrested in 1992 by another police department in an area where he was also dealing drugs.

In any case, Filipinos are waiting to see if the investigation regarding the five PNP officials will result in a general humiliation – or general absolution.

‘No work, no pay’ for congressmen?

Another issue that seems to be taking traction is the “no work, no way” proposal for congressmen. People are fed up with news about absentee congressmen whose salary after all comes from taxpayers’ money, and so they are demanding that some kind of penalty should also be imposed for these irresponsible representatives who are also the cause of delayed legislations because their absence results in a lack of quorum.

The “no work, no pay” proposal of Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco is not really new since this was already broached as early as 2008 and echoed again last year when absenteeism (sometimes deliberate) caused problems during plenary sessions, leaving the others unable to tackle important legislation like the Anti-Dynasty Bill or the Freedom of Information Act.

Duterte compared to Lincoln

A meme showing President Rodrigo Duterte and US president Abraham Lincoln has been doing the rounds of emails and Facebook posts because of the uncanny similarity between these two. Both are “provincianos” and lawyers before they became the 16th president of their respective countries. The meme – shows Lincoln and Duterte in a similar introspective pose right down to the fingers on their faces – but aside from that, both are champions of the oppressed and the small.

Lincoln was a civil rights advocate and was considered a radical during his time because he fought against slavery, and successfully pushed for the 13th Amendment of the US Constitution that permanently abolished slavery. Abe also employed unorthodox means whenever he thought this would serve a greater purpose, like suspending habeas corpus to stamp down the rebellion in the South. Nevertheless, historians, scholars and Americans consider Lincoln as one of the three greatest American presidents. The only scary part, however, is that Lincoln was assassinated – and that is why people want President Duterte to be more security conscious.


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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