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

BSP SEES AUGUST INFLATION AT 1.6 - 2.4%
[RELATED: 'THE COST OF HUNGER' PHL economy losing P328 B a yr. to malnutrition — children's NGO]


AUGUST 29 -Inflation remained steady at 1.9 percent in July bringing the average inflation to 1.4 percent in the first seven months, way below the two to four percent target set by monetary authorities for 2016 to 2018. STAR/File photo The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) expects inflation to range between 1.6 and 2.4 percent this month as the upward pressures from higher oil and rice prices are likely to be offset by cheaper power rates. BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message to reporters upward price pressures from higher domestic oil and rice prices could be partly offset by the decline in the power rates in Meralco-serviced areas and lower prices of selected vegetable items. “Moving forward, the BSP will continue to monitor emerging price conditions to ensure price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable economic growth,” Tetangco said. Inflation remained steady at 1.9 percent in July bringing the average inflation to 1.4 percent in the first seven months, way below the two to four percent target set by monetary authorities for 2016 to 2018. During the last rate-setting meeting of the BSP’s Monetary Board, authorities slashed its interest rate forecast to 1.8 percent instead of two percent this year and to 2.9 percent instead of 3.1 percent next year. The inflation projection of 2.6 percent for 2018 was retained. Robust domestic demand and the benign inflation environment helped the BSP keep policy rates steady since September 2014. Last June 3, the BSP implemented an operational adjustment reducing the overnight lending rate to 3.5 percent from six percent as well as the overnight reverse repurchase rate to three percent from four percent. The yield of the overnight deposit facility (formerly special deposit account) was retained at 2.5 percent. READ MORE...RELATED, PHL economy is losing P328B a yr. to malnutrition — children's NGO...

ALSO Tourism: June visitor arrivals surged 17% from a year ago
[RELATED: South tourism agenda readied]


Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo International visitor arrivals surged 17.6 percent in June from a year ago, in line with the government’s target to attract 6.5 million foreign tourists this year and 12 million by 2022. Data from the Tourism Department showed 459,138 tourists entered the country in June, up from 390,486 a year ago. “The month of June recorded the second highest growth for 2016 next to February [20.42 percent]. It can be noted that this is the first time that this month surpassed the 400,000 visitor volume,” the department said. ThE figure brought total arrivals in the first six months to 2.98 million, up 13.7 percent from 2.62 million a year earlier.Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo said the growth in arrivals was expected to be sustained over the next six years. She said tourism receipts would grow by as much as 40 percent to P3.9 trillion by 2022 from P2.8 trillion in 2015 while tourism’s contribution would hit 10 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the Duterte administration. “We must shoot for the stars and maintain an upward trend in terms of visitor arrivals and revenues, for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Teo said Thursday. She said the Tourism Department was now focused on developing a highly-competitive tourism industry and an inclusive and sustainable growth. Teo said the Philippines continued to lag behind Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and even Vietnam in terms of visitor arrivals as of 2015, despite the many world-class attractions the country has to offer. READ MORE...RELATED, South tourism agenda readied...

ALSO:
UK firm gives up on PH mine project
[CITES PERCEIVED LACK OF GOV’T SUPPORT FOR INDUSTRY]
[ALSO: BIR resumes audit after collection drop]


AUGUST 30 -London-based ECR Minerals Plc has given up its option for a deeper involvement in the Danglay gold prospect—formerly called Itogon—in Benguet because of what it perceived as a lack of government support for the domestic mining industry.
ECR said it would cease to be operator of the Danglay project, in which it has over the past few years earned a 25-percent interest that it expected to be in the form of a shareholding in Cordillera Tiger Gold Resources Inc. The company had an option to earn another 25-percent interest in Cordillera Tiger through more investments, but ECR let go of such “earn-in” option. “A new government took office in the Philippines on [June 30],” the company said in a statement. “Since then, the new administration has not adopted a supportive stance toward the mining industry and in view of this, the directors believe the termination of the earn-in option is appropriate.” ECR said that as operator of Danglay, it has done “significant exploration programs” in the area in 2014 and 2015, which led to results showing an initial inferred mineral resource estimate “and a promising target for further exploration.” Inferred resources refer to mineral reserves that are economically feasible to extract. Exploration results so far showed that Danglay has 1.2 million tons of material that could yield 60,500 ounces of gold. READ MORE...ALSO, BIR resumes audit after collection drop...

ALSO:
Climate change looms large in Obama’s final trip to Asia
[RELATED: Presidential Exec Secretary Medialdea is ‘caretaker’ while Duterte attends Asean Summit]
[DUTERTE Flies to LAOS today Sept 5: "ASEAN MEET CAN'T WAIT" -RODY]


AUGUST 30 -President Barack Obama speaks about the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, California, U.S., June 18, 2016. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo) | mb.com.ph
When President Barack Obama sets out this week to meet world leaders in China and Laos during his final presidential trip to Asia, he will make an unusual stop along the way. With time running out for more action on climate change during his time in office, Obama will drop in to Midway Atoll, a far-flung and largely uninhabited coral reef that is a refuge for sharks, albatrosses and endangered turtles and seals. The photo-rich stop is aimed at both raising awareness about the threat posed by climate change, and showcasing Obama’s decision to protect a larger part of the ocean around Hawaii. But the trip to the middle of the Pacific Ocean will also highlight the high stakes of climate change just before Obama meets world leaders in China. “I think it’s going to be an amazing sequence, and one that really matters,” said Doug McCauley, a conservation biologist from University of California, Santa Barbara. “Suddenly, you’re sitting in a room with the leaders who will decide what the fate of that place is going to be,” McCauley said. The rare trip is both a signal of the importance Obama gives to climate change – and a sign of his focus in bliateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping. The two leaders have clashed on economic and security issues, but forged common ground on climate, which helped secure a global deal to cut carbon emissions at a Paris conference last year. “We have to recognize that climate change and clean energy cooperation has really helped to create better overall stability in the U.S.-China relationship, writ large,” said Andrew Light, a former senior climate official in Obama’s State Department. READ MORE...RELATED, Exec Secretary Medialdea will be ‘caretaker’ while Duterte attends Asean Summit...

ALSO COMMENTARY: Red flags in the proposed national budget
[RELATED: 'PUBLIC GOOD PREVAILS' -The recent acquisition by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom of the telecommunications assets of San Miguel Corp. biggest news to hit local business headlines in recent years]


AUGUST 29 -OLD HABITS die hard, as the saying goes. This seems to be the case in the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017, on which the House of Representatives began deliberating on Aug. 22. Huge lump sums, pork projects, and questionable provisions remain present in the proposed budget, inducing feelings of déjà vu among antipork crusaders. At the presentation to legislators by President Duterte’s economic managers, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno described the 2017 budget—the first under this administration—as “transparent and participatory.” But early on in the deliberations, familiar red flags are unfurling.
'SPECIAL PURPOSE FUNDS' (SPF) The most glaring among these is the presence of up to P1.4 trillion in lump sums in programmed and unprogrammed “special purpose funds” (SPFs) and automatic appropriations. The budget department defines SPFs as “appropriations provided to cover expenditures for specific purposes for which recipient agencies/departments have not yet been identified during the budget preparation.”  Many items under the SPFs will enjoy huge bumps, including the budget for the contingent fund, which will increase by 120 percent from the current P2.5 billion to P5.5 billion, and the allocation to local government units, which will receive a P69-billion bump from P485.8 billion to P554.9 billion. Lump sums have long been criticized by public finance pundits for lack of specific details in the manner in which these funds will be spent, giving the executive branch a wide latitude of discretion on their utilization, and consequently making them highly vulnerable to corruption and political maneuvering. Even the so-called “automatic appropriations,” which include debt service requirements, also raise questions as these lump-sum funds do not undergo congressional scrutiny. In the past years, budget secretaries have explained that lump sums are needed to provide flexibility in the execution of the budget, especially when it comes to emergency funds needed in times of disaster. However, allotting more than a third of the national budget for lump-sum funds undermines the much-needed accountability on the use of public funds. READ MORE...RELATED, COMMENTARY by Mary Ann Reyes 'PUBLIC GOOD PREVAILS' -The recent acquisition by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom of the telecommunications assets of San Miguel Corp. biggest news to hit local business headlines in recent years...


READ FULL MEDIA REPORTS HERE:

BSP sees August inflation at 1.6-2.4%


Inflation remained steady at 1.9 percent in July bringing the average inflation to 1.4 percent in the first seven months, way below the two to four percent target set by monetary authorities for 2016 to 2018. STAR/File photo

MANILA,
SEPTEMBER 5, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | August 29, 2016 -The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) expects inflation to range between 1.6 and 2.4 percent this month as the upward pressures from higher oil and rice prices are likely to be offset by cheaper power rates.

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a text message to reporters upward price pressures from higher domestic oil and rice prices could be partly offset by the decline in the power rates in Meralco-serviced areas and lower prices of selected vegetable items.

“Moving forward, the BSP will continue to monitor emerging price conditions to ensure price stability conducive to a balanced and sustainable economic growth,” Tetangco said.

Inflation remained steady at 1.9 percent in July bringing the average inflation to 1.4 percent in the first seven months, way below the two to four percent target set by monetary authorities for 2016 to 2018.

During the last rate-setting meeting of the BSP’s Monetary Board, authorities slashed its interest rate forecast to 1.8 percent instead of two percent this year and to 2.9 percent instead of 3.1 percent next year. The inflation projection of 2.6 percent for 2018 was retained.

Robust domestic demand and the benign inflation environment helped the BSP keep policy rates steady since September 2014.

Last June 3, the BSP implemented an operational adjustment reducing the overnight lending rate to 3.5 percent from six percent as well as the overnight reverse repurchase rate to three percent from four percent.

The yield of the overnight deposit facility (formerly special deposit account) was retained at 2.5 percent.

READ MORE...

Last Wednesday, the seven-day term deposits fetched 2.5 percent, while the yield on the 28-day term deposits inched up to 2.501 percent. The BSP made a full award of P10 billion for the seven-day term deposits and P60 billion for the 28-day term deposits.

The interest rates for the standing liquidity facilities form the upper and lower bound of the corridor while the overnight reverse repurchase is set at the middle of the corridor.

The key changes in the framework for monetary operations are designed to enhance the effectiveness of monetary policy and to support the development of Philippine capital markets by providing an enabling environment for increased money market transactions as well as promoting more active liquidity management by individual counterparty financial institutions.

The BSP is also set to reduce the banks’ reserve requirement over the next few months as part of the shift to the IRC framework.

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

RELATED FROM GMA NEWS ONLINE

THE COST OF HUNGER: PHL economy is losing P328B a yr. to malnutrition — children's NGO Published August 30, 2016 11:27am By TED CORDERO, GMA News


'THE COST OF HUNGER'

The Philippine economy is losing at least P328 billion a year from the impact of childhood stunting on workforce productivity and education, a study by Save The Children showed.

Released on Tuesday, the study "Cost of Hunger: Philippines" revealed that childhood stunting cost the country almost 3 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) in 2013.

"This study proves that undernutrition has a cost to all of us. In just a year, Philippines has lost almost 3 percent of its GDP in terms of education and productivity costs due to stunting," Ned Olney, Save The Children Philippines country director, said at the launch of the study.

"If we add up health costs, the likely impact would be an additional 0.05 percent to 1.6 percent," Olney added.

The economic losses consist of the following:

P166.5 billion worth of lost income as a result of lower level of education achieved by the working population who suffered from childhood stunting P160 billion in lost productivity due to premature deaths of over 830,000 among children under 5 years old, who would have been members of our current working-age population P1.23 billion in additional education costs to cover grade repetitions linked to undernutrition "If stunting rates continue to rise, it would be difficult for families to break free from poverty," Olney emphasized. The poor and neglected sectors of society carry the burden of stunting, he said.

"Any investment in reducing childhood undernutrition will reduce suffering and poverty and will ultimately stimulate economic growth for all Filipinos," he added.

The study also found that Philippine investment in nutrition programs is very low at 0.52 percent of general government expenditures compared with global average of 2.1 percent.

Save The Children emphasized on the importance of investing in nutrition programs during a child's first 1,000 days or from pregnancy to the second birthday.

"Nutrition is the cornerstone of all development efforts. This report tells us that for every $1 dollar spent on programs to avert stunting in children below 2 years old, the Philippines could save over $100 billion in health, education, and lost productivity costs," Olney said. — VDS, GMA News


MANILA STANDARD

June visitor arrivals surged 17% posted September 01, 2016 at 11:55 pm by Othel V. Campos


Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo

International visitor arrivals surged 17.6 percent in June from a year ago, in line with the government’s target to attract 6.5 million foreign tourists this year and 12 million by 2022.

Data from the Tourism Department showed 459,138 tourists entered the country in June, up from 390,486 a year ago.

“The month of June recorded the second highest growth for 2016 next to February [20.42 percent]. It can be noted that this is the first time that this month surpassed the 400,000 visitor volume,” the department said.

ThE figure brought total arrivals in the first six months to 2.98 million, up 13.7 percent from 2.62 million a year earlier.

Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo said the growth in arrivals was expected to be sustained over the next six years. She said tourism receipts would grow by as much as 40 percent to P3.9 trillion by 2022 from P2.8 trillion in 2015 while tourism’s contribution would hit 10 percent of gross domestic product by the end of the Duterte administration.

“We must shoot for the stars and maintain an upward trend in terms of visitor arrivals and revenues, for the benefit of all stakeholders,” Teo said Thursday.

She said the Tourism Department was now focused on developing a highly-competitive tourism industry and an inclusive and sustainable growth.

Teo said the Philippines continued to lag behind Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore, Indonesia and even Vietnam in terms of visitor arrivals as of 2015, despite the many world-class attractions the country has to offer.

READ MORE...

International tourist arrivals generated P127.37 billion in revenues in the first six months of 2016, or 14.7 percent higher than P111.05 billion generated in the same period in 2015.

The double-digit gain in tourism income resulted from the average daily expenditure of P5,179.86 per visitor and an average length of stay of 9.56 nights.

Top sources of visitors in the first half of the year were Korea, the United States, Japan, China and Australia.

Among the top 12 markets, China posted the highest growth of 79.2 percent year-on-year in the first half, followed by Taiwan with a 31.3-percent increase.

The Philippines recorded 5.36 million tourist arrivals in 2015, up by 11.7 percent from 4.8 million in 2014. The department set a target of 6.5 million tourist arrivals this year and 22 million by 2022.

Meanwhile, domestic tourism , on the other hand, is projected to grow from 68 million in 2015 to 89 million in 2022.

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

RELATED FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

South tourism agenda readied posted August 23, 2016 at 11:05 pm by Othel V. Campos



Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon Tulfo-Teo has proposed a Mindanao tourism agenda to draw more tourists to the island.

Teo said the Tourism Regional Office in Mindanao would push for the Samal-Davao City bridge project to address the growing number of island visitors.

Davao City, according to latest data from Tourism Region XI, registered 1.7 million arrivals in 2015, comprising of 1.56 million domestic travelers and 128,333 foreign visitors.

Migrant Filipino workers, meanwhile, numbered 14,699. A total of 161,339 visitors were recorded in August last year, with 12,142 foreign arrivals and 147,207 local visitors.

Teo added the department wanted to make the current international attention on Davao a major turning point for Mindanao tourism.

“The interest in Davao is really high these days, as people want to see how then Mayor Rodrigo Duterte has managed the city,” said Tourism Mindanao officer-in-charge Eden Josephine David, referring to the increased visitor arrivals in Davao City at the start of the Duterte presidency.

David added the department was banking on the new administration’s plan to implement the Mindanao logistics infrastructure network as part of its revitalized infrastructure spending to help address the connectivity and infrastructure gap of the region.

Marco Polo Davao’s Dottie Viajar Wurgler-Cronin asaid she was confident “Davao and the entire Mindanao region would be given more attention now that we have a tourism secretary from the region.”

She said she expected a “better understanding of what we have and can offer from this region,” the first Filipinao general manager of Marco Polo Davao said of Teo’s leadership.

Container handling capacity will be 175,000 twenty-foot equivalent unit per year with a nine hectare terminal area incorporating a yard area of six hectares. Depth alongside the quay will be 12m at all times, offering the ability to serve Panamax, Handymax and Wafmax vessels.

Based on demand, ICTSI also has the option to immediately implement a Phase Two development providing an additional 350m of quay line and supporting yard area.

ICTSI earlier reported a net income of $92.6 million in January to June, lower than $105.7 million in the same period last year.

ICTSI attributed the drop in net income to unfavorable volume mix, lower non-containerized and storage revenues, lower capitalized borrowing costs and higher depreciation and amortization expenses related to Tecplata S.A., the company’s new terminal in Buenos Aires, Argentina.

Gross revenues from port operations reached $550.8 million in the first half, compared with $552.1 million reported in the same period last year.

ICTSI handled consolidated volume of 4,264,633 twenty-foot equivalent units in the first six months, up 10 percent from 3,888,130 TEUs handled in the same period in 2015.


INQUIRER

UK firm gives up on PH mine project
CITES PERCEIVED LACK OF GOV’T SUPPORT FOR INDUSTRY
SHARES: 2883 VIEW COMMENTS By: Ronnel W. Domingo
@inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer 12:19 AM August 30th, 2016

London-based ECR Minerals Plc has given up its option for a deeper involvement in the Danglay gold prospect—formerly called Itogon—in Benguet because of what it perceived as a lack of government support for the domestic mining industry.

ECR said it would cease to be operator of the Danglay project, in which it has over the past few years earned a 25-percent interest that it expected to be in the form of a shareholding in Cordillera Tiger Gold Resources Inc.

The company had an option to earn another 25-percent interest in Cordillera Tiger through more investments, but ECR let go of such “earn-in” option.

“A new government took office in the Philippines on [June 30],” the company said in a statement. “Since then, the new administration has not adopted a supportive stance toward the mining industry and in view of this, the directors believe the termination of the earn-in option is appropriate.”

ECR said that as operator of Danglay, it has done “significant exploration programs” in the area in 2014 and 2015, which led to results showing an initial inferred mineral resource estimate “and a promising target for further exploration.”

Inferred resources refer to mineral reserves that are economically feasible to extract.

Exploration results so far showed that Danglay has 1.2 million tons of material that could yield 60,500 ounces of gold.

READ MORE

ERC said the target for further exploration could have up to 170,000 ounces of gold.

“Cordillera Tiger continues to await the issuance of the final renewed Exploration Permit (EP) comprising the Danglay project,” the company said.

“Within 15 days of receiving the renewed EP, Cordillera Tiger will be required to submit various documents to the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) in the Philippines and provide proof of its financial capability in respect of the exploration and environmental work plans submitted to the MGB in connection with the EP renewal,” it added.

ECR said the budget for these plans—to be implemented over the two-year term of the permit—amounted to about £270,000 or P16.4 million.

“As a result of the termination of the Earn-in Option, ECR is no longer the operator of the Danglay project and has no further financial obligations in respect of the project,” ECR said.

“Discussions with Tiger International regarding the future of the project, including funding for any further exploration activities by Tiger International or parties other than ECR, have been initiated,” the company said.

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

ALSO FROM THE MANILA STANDARD

BIR resumes audit after collection drop posted September 01, 2016 at 11:45 pm by Gabrielle H. Binaday
The Bureau of Internal Revenue on Thursday lifted the suspension order on tax audits, after collection shrank in July, the first month in office of the Duterte administration.

BIR commissioner Caesar Dulay issued Revenue Memorandum Circular 91-2016, lifting the suspension order on tax audit operations of the agency.

Data showed BIR collection dropped 1 percent in July to P117.4 billion. It also fell 28 percent short of the P163.22-billion goal for the month.

“The conferred authority under the laws to the bureau for the collection of taxes, to be more effectively administered and implemented, requires some form of enforcement activities to ensure the collection of correct taxes at the times prescribed by law,” Dulay said in the latest order.

“As such, all field audits, field operations, or any for, of business visitation in execution of letters of authority/electronic letters of authority/audit notices, letter notices, or mission orders can already be conducted,” he said.

BIR issues an LoA to inform a taxpayer that he or she is being investigated for possible tax violations.

Dulay, in his first day in office on July 1, suspended all field audit and other field operations of BIR relative to examinations and verifications of taxpayers’ books of accounts, records and other transactions.

Tax Management Association of the Philippines president Benedict Tugonon said the tax examiners should be mindful of the president’s strong stand against corruption.

“We hope that when the audits will resume, the BIR examiners will be reasonable in raising tax issues and will not hesitate to resolve issues favorably for the taxpayers, if warranted based on the facts and law,” Tugonon said in a text message.

“Assessments should be issued only to collect deficiency taxes carefully determined to be correctly demandable from the taxpayer and not just for the sake of issuing a tax assessment, terminating the LOA or forcing taxpayer to lopsided settlements,” he said.

Tugonon also seek reforms in the way tax audits are conducted.

“The current state does not provide any incentive for taxpayers to voluntarily pay the correct amount of taxes. When highly compliant taxpayers are audited the examiners would insist on having a deficiency tax assessment and that it cannot be zero arguing that they are under pressure to collect pursuant to the lateral attrition law and the fear that they would be suspected of accepting bribe if there is no deficiency tax due,” Tugonon said.

“For this reason, we recommended to Congress the exemption of the BIR examiners from the Salary Standardization Law and we are proposing the repeal of the Lateral Attrition Law,” he said.


MANILA BULLETIN

Climate change looms large in Obama’s final trip to Asia by Reuters August 30, 2016 Share0 Tweet0 Share0 Email0 Share1


President Barack Obama speaks about the National Park Service at Yosemite National Park, California, U.S., June 18, 2016. (REUTERS/Joshua Roberts/File Photo) | mb.com.ph

When President Barack Obama sets out this week to meet world leaders in China and Laos during his final presidential trip to Asia, he will make an unusual stop along the way.

With time running out for more action on climate change during his time in office, Obama will drop in to Midway Atoll, a far-flung and largely uninhabited coral reef that is a refuge for sharks, albatrosses and endangered turtles and seals.

The photo-rich stop is aimed at both raising awareness about the threat posed by climate change, and showcasing Obama’s decision to protect a larger part of the ocean around Hawaii.

But the trip to the middle of the Pacific Ocean will also highlight the high stakes of climate change just before Obama meets world leaders in China.

“I think it’s going to be an amazing sequence, and one that really matters,” said Doug McCauley, a conservation biologist from University of California, Santa Barbara.

“Suddenly, you’re sitting in a room with the leaders who will decide what the fate of that place is going to be,” McCauley said.

The rare trip is both a signal of the importance Obama gives to climate change – and a sign of his focus in bliateral meetings with Chinese President Xi Jinping.

The two leaders have clashed on economic and security issues, but forged common ground on climate, which helped secure a global deal to cut carbon emissions at a Paris conference last year.

“We have to recognize that climate change and clean energy cooperation has really helped to create better overall stability in the U.S.-China relationship, writ large,” said Andrew Light, a former senior climate official in Obama’s State Department.

READ MORE...

Light, now with the World Resources Institute think tank, said he expects Xi and Obama will try to push other G20 leaders to agree to timelines for implementing the Paris agreement and work on cutting other greenhouse gases like methane and hydrofluorocarbons.

Any progress on climate issues could be a rare bright spot in a trip otherwise dominated by concerns about the international economy, anti-globalization sentiments and global security problems.

With less than five months left in the White House, Obama is racing to cement his record through actions he can take without help from the gridlocked U.S. Congress.

For example, at Obama’s final meeting with his Canadian and Mexican counterparts, the leaders set new goals for clean energy production.

Republicans in Congress have thwarted Obama’s legislative efforts on climate, and mocked him for his focus on an issue they see as less pressing than the economy and defense.

Obama also has faced criticism from environmental groups for not doing more to limit U.S. oil and gas production.

“If we’re going address the climate crisis or meet our climate commitments, the vast, vast majority of fossil fuels need to remain in the ground,” said Brendan Cummings, conservation director with the Center for Biological Diversity.

But former Environmental Protection Agency director Carol Browner said Obama has done what he could on climate both through leadership on the international stage, and by using existing laws to kick-start the clean energy sector and cut emissions from vehicles and power plants.

“Nobody should ever be disappointed with this president on climate change,” said Browner, who led the White House climate push in Obama’s first term.

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

RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Medialdea will be ‘caretaker’ while Duterte attends Asean Summit SHARES: 1048 VIEW COMMENTS By: Kristine Angeli Sabillo @KSabilloINQ INQUIRER.net 02:23 PM September 4th, 2016


Duterte's transition team: Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea (second from left) sits with some of President Duterte’s friends and members of Cabinet in this file photo. Also in photo are, from left, Peter Laviña, Christopher Go, Leoncio Evasco (standing) and Carlos Dominguez. INQUIRER FILE / NICO ALCONABA/ INQUIRER MINDANAO

Executive Secretary Salvador “Bingbong” Medialdea will be in charge of the country while President Rodrigo Duterte attends the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit in Laos this week, Malacañang said on Sunday.

READ: Who’s in charge when Aquino is away?

“Matutuloy ang paglipad namin sa Laos kasama ang ating Pangulong Duterte bukas,” Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in an interview with state-run Radyo ng Bayan. (Our trip to Laos with push through tomorrow with President Duterte.)

“Ang magiging caretaker officer habang ang ating Pangulo ay nasa ibang bansa ay si Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea,” he said. (The caretaker while our President is abroad will be Executive Secretary Bingbong Medialdea.)

Duterte earlier canceled his state visit to Brunei after a blast in his hometown of Davao City killed 14 people and injured more than 60. A terrorist group allied with the Abu Sayyaf is said to be behind the attack.

Despite the bombing, Malacañang said Duterte would push through with the trip to Laos where he would accept the country’s Asean chairmanship for 2017. He is also set to meet with nine heads of state.

READ: Duterte cancels Brunei trip; Asean meet can’t wait

The President will then fly to Indonesia on Thursday for a working visit.

Andanar confirmed that the trip to Indonesia would push through.

Duterte leaves for Laos on Monday, Sept. 5./rg


MANILA TIMES


INQUIRER


COMMENTARY: Red flags in the proposed national budget By: Marjohara Tucay
@inquirerdotnet 12:04 AM August 30th, 2016

OLD HABITS die hard, as the saying goes.

This seems to be the case in the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017, on which the House of Representatives began deliberating on Aug. 22. Huge lump sums, pork projects, and questionable provisions remain present in the proposed budget, inducing feelings of déjà vu among antipork crusaders.

At the presentation to legislators by President Duterte’s economic managers, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno described the 2017 budget—the first under this administration—as “transparent and participatory.” But early on in the deliberations, familiar red flags are unfurling.

'SPECIAL PURPOSE FUNDS' (SPF)

The most glaring among these is the presence of up to P1.4 trillion in lump sums in programmed and unprogrammed “special purpose funds” (SPFs) and automatic appropriations. The budget department defines SPFs as “appropriations provided to cover expenditures for specific purposes for which recipient agencies/departments have not yet been identified during the budget preparation.”

Many items under the SPFs will enjoy huge bumps, including the budget for the contingent fund, which will increase by 120 percent from the current P2.5 billion to P5.5 billion, and the allocation to local government units, which will receive a P69-billion bump from P485.8 billion to P554.9 billion.

Lump sums have long been criticized by public finance pundits for lack of specific details in the manner in which these funds will be spent, giving the executive branch a wide latitude of discretion on their utilization, and consequently making them highly vulnerable to corruption and political maneuvering.

Even the so-called “automatic appropriations,” which include debt service requirements, also raise questions as these lump-sum funds do not undergo congressional scrutiny.

In the past years, budget secretaries have explained that lump sums are needed to provide flexibility in the execution of the budget, especially when it comes to emergency funds needed in times of disaster. However, allotting more than a third of the national budget for lump-sum funds undermines the much-needed accountability on the use of public funds.

READ MORE...

Apart from the lump sums, Secretary Diokno’s refusal during the budget hearing to provide a list of “pork projects” or projects proposed by legislators during the budget-preparation stage was unfortunate. After all, he had earlier announced that legislators are free to propose pet projects to government agencies, as long as this is done before the enactment of the budget.


DIOKNO

“I think I can say this with authority. I’m the oldest here, I’ve seen this budget before martial law. It’s been a practice—legislators will go to the department secretaries and ask for the budget,” Secretary Diokno said when the issue of pork barrel was again raised in the hearing.

With this line of reasoning, it is clear that the national government is not keen on putting any restraint on what amounts to a continuing pork barrel system. Secretary Diokno is, in fact, using technicalities to cover up the fact that the system of patronage largely remains in place, albeit under a thin legal cover.

Another worrying aspect of the proposed 2017 budget lies in the fine print.

In President Duterte’s 2017 budget message, he explicitly said that the “provisions of this budget are compliant with the Supreme Court’s landmark decisions on the Priority Development Assistance Fund and the Disbursement Acceleration Program.”

But a cursory reading of the budget’s general provisions will reveal provisions on the use of savings and budget augmentation similar to those in previous budget bills. Past budgets were heavily criticized for containing provisions that essentially “legalize” mechanisms for the haphazard “fund juggling” akin to the controversial DAP.

Section 59 of the General Provisions, for example, specifies mechanisms to “modify allotments” under “exceptional circumstances”—a vague term that essentially empowers the executive branch to change details in the budget long after Congress approves the annual appropriations law.

When these points were raised in the congressional hearing, a visibly irked Secretary Diokno told legislators: “If you see any provision that is inconsistent with the Supreme Court decision, call my attention or [remove] it yourself, and we will allow it.”

If he truly wants to abide by the Supreme Court’s decision on the PDAF and DAP, why include such questionable provisions, and then tell legislators afterward that they are free to remove them?

We are still in the early stages of the budget deliberations, and more controversies and questionable allotments will surely be uncovered in the next few weeks.

What is glaring at this point is that the same red flags in previous budgets remain intact, making us question the authenticity of the claim that this is “a budget for real change.”

Marjohara Tucay is the national president of Kabataan Party-list. He serves as adviser of the seven-member Makabayan bloc in Congress on the national budget.

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RELATED COMMENTARY FROM PHILSTTAR

Public good prevails HIDDEN AGENDA By Mary Ann Reyes (The Philippine Star) | Updated September 4, 2016 - 12:00am 0 0 googleplus0 0


 Globe team up to seal acquisition . The country’s top two telco firms – PLDT and Globe – agreed to acquire San Miguel Corp.’s telco business including debt for about $1.5 billion (nearly P70 billion). PLDT and Globe yesterday held separate briefings to announce the joint deal. In photo (from left) are PLDT chairman and president Manuel Pangilinan and PLDT regulatory affairs head Ray Espinosa, Globe president Ernest Cu and Globe managing director and chief technology officer Gil Genio. PLDT PHOTO -,PHILSTAR FILE MAY 21, 2016.

The recent acquisition by the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) and Globe Telecom of the telecommunications assets of San Miguel Corp. is probably the biggest news to hit local business headlines in recent years, not only because of the sheer magnitude of the transaction but also due to its ability to change the whole telco landscape.

The transaction meant that SMC, which for years has promised to become a third viable player, has given up on its bid to rollout a competitive nationwide telco service, after its supposed partner – Telstra of Australia – decided not to invest in SMC’s telco service.

Rolling out a viable nationwide telco service required enormous capital and technical knowhow. And so SMC came to that very crucial decision to sell its telco assets to PLDT and Globe for a whopping P70 billion.

NTC

Meanwhile, the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) approved the co-use arrangement among Smart, Globe, and BellTel in respect of certain frequencies to be retained.

On May 30, 2016, under the transitory rules of the newly created Philippine Competition Commission (PCC) which were in effect until the issuance of the implementing rules of RA 10667 or the Philippine Competition Act, PLDT and Globe notified the PCC in writing about the acquisition and after such notification, the transaction shall be deemed approved and the parties may proceed to execute or implement their agreement and such may not be challenged except when the notification required contains false material information.

TRANSITORY RULES

The implementing rules of RA 10667 took effect only on June 18, 2016 which meant that the PLDT-Globe-SMC transaction was covered by the transitory rules.

Despite all these, the PCC on June 7 told the parties that the notification was not compliant with the requirements under the transitory rules and therefore cannot be claimed to have been deemed approved. In another letter dated June 17, PCC said it will initiate a full review, if not investigation, of the transaction.

PLDT filed a petition with the Court of Appeals for the issuance of a TRO/writ of preliminary injunction (together with a petition for certiorari and prohibition) to prevent the PCC from conducting the review.

PLDT also said the subject acquisition was with the prior approval of the NTC and such review would illegally encroach upon the jurisdiction of the latter, that the review would cause serious and irreparable damage to the credit standing of PLDT and its ability to raise funds to roll out the 700 megahertz spectrum, and that it would cause PLDT to violate the NTC conditions under the co-use arrangements which among others require that the parties increase broadband and Internet access speed within one year, that the parties submit within 60 days a roll-out plan to cover at least 90 percent of cities and municipalities in three years.

In a much-welcome development, the CA’s 12th decision granted the prayer for a preliminary injunction by PLDT to preserve the rights of the parties while the main petition for certiorari and prohibition are being heard.

CA DECISION

The CA said that due to the deemed approved status of the subject acquisition by virtue of the transitory rules, PLDT at the very least has the right to be protected from the pre-acquisition review and/or investigation by the PCC.

It pointed out that the review will violate the right of PLDT to be accorded safe harbor or protection from challenge, except for false material information; that the company will suffer grave and irreparable injury due to the effect on its stock prices and ability to raise funds; and that PLDT will be subject to possible sanctions by NTC for non-implementation of the co-use agreement.

In short, the court is stopping the PCC from preventing the roll out of the frequencies which would be most beneficial to current and new subscribers of PLDT and Globe.

But beyond all the legal mumbo-jumbo is the fact that at the heart of the issue is the public good, and not some academic and theoretical discourse about competition which in any case has not been stifled or curtailed by the transaction; that the so-called preliminary findings of the PCC are largely based on speculation, conjecture, and unsupported hypothesis, and do not appear to be backed up by hard evidence; and that the PCC cannot interpret its rules as it sees fit and that its actions of have been whimsical and abusive.

It should also be noted that the approval by the NTC of the co-use of certain frequencies meant that the use of such frequencies by Smart and Globe would be beneficial to the public, will improve the public service, and will not be anti-competitive. The good of the public service, which is the essence of competition, is further protected by the conditions imposed by the NTC on Smart and Globe for the co-use of the frequencies.


Manuel V. Pangilinan, PLDT Chairman of the Board, President and Chief Executive Officer, and Ray C. Espinosa, Head, Regulatory Affairs and Policies Office ...INTERAKSYON.COM FILE

PLDT regulatory affairs chief Ray Espinosa earlier explained that the purchase agreement serves the public interest by making available powerful frequencies that can be immediately used to deliver a valuable public service to tens of millions of Filipinos and to support economic and social development while leaving the door open for new entrants in the industry with the return of certain frequencies to government by the parties.

Espinosa also noted that there is “a hidden cost to inaction” as studies show that frequency left unused in mobile broadband leads to lost opportunities for economic growth.

A study by GSMA and Boston Consulting Group showed that the use of the low-frequency 700 MHz band for mobile data would lead to “significant” socioeconomic benefits, including higher economic growth, more jobs, new businesses and more tax revenues for the government.


By Mary Ann Reyes (PHILSTAR)


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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