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GOVT UNDERSPENDS IN OCTOBER, TRIMMED DEFICIT
[RELATED: Swamped with applications, longer term of office for GOCC execs eyed 'for efficiency']


NOVEMBER 28 -The deficit — which indicates more revenues were spent than earned — narrowed to P2.35 billion in October, down from P27.02 billion in the same period a year ago, data from Bureau of the Treasury showed. File photo Spending contracted for the first time under the Duterte administration last October, trimming down that month's budget deficit which has been running at its highest level in four years. The deficit — which indicates more revenues were spent than earned — narrowed to P2.35 billion in October, down from P27.02 billion in the same period a year ago, data from Bureau of the Treasury showed. Broken down, revenues went up seven percent to P174.64 billion, while expenditures went down a similar magnitude to P177 billion. This marked the first time in four months that disbursements contracted this year and the first under the new administration, which promised to speed up spending to support economic growth. READ MORE...RELATED, Swamped with applications, longer term of office for GOCC execs eyed 'for efficiency'...

ALSO: Ph Vice President Quits Cabinet After Duterte Order to Stop Attending Cabinet Meeting
RELATED: Robredo complains low budget allotted for housing]


DECEMBER 5 -Leni RobredoPhotographer: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images
Robredo says ‘plot to steal vice presidency’ set in motion Top officials have major differences in principles:  Robredo Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo said she will resign as housing secretary on Monday after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered her to stop attending Cabinet meetings, a development that could galvanize opposition to Duterte. Robredo said she received a text message from Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco relaying the president’s instruction. Not attending the cabinet meetings would make it impossible for her to perform her duties as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, she said in a statement on her website. READ MORE..
.RELATED Robredo complains low budget allotted for housing
...

ALSO: Persons With Disabilities (PWD) to enjoy additional 12-percent VAT exemption starting December
[RELATED: PWDS, their families can finally enjoy tax breaks ubder the new law - Sony Angara]


DECEMBER 1 -RA 10754 amended Republic Act 7277, or the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability,” which provided for a 20-percent discount for PWDs.
Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are in for a happy holiday season as they will be exempt from paying the 12-percent value added tax on certain goods and services starting this month. On Thursday, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo led the signing of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act 10754 or An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs. The law will take effect 15 days after its IRR has been published in national newspapers. READ MORE...RELATED, PWDS, their families can finally enjoy tax breaks ubder the new law - Sony Angara...

ALSO: Philippines faces less risk from Trump - HSBC Asia
[ALSO: World oil prices surge up more Than 12%]


DECEMBER 1 -HSBC Asia economics research head Frederic Neumann said the impact of the uncertainty brought about by the policies to be implemented by the Trump administration is not uniform across Asia. “Indonesia, the Philippines and India are likely to be more shielded from the Trump effect given their low debt and low export exposures. By contrast, Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand should be more affected,” he said. AP/Seth Wenig, file

MANILA, Philippines – British banking giant HSBC said the Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia Pacific likely to be less affected by the shocking victory of Republican Donald Trump in the US. HSBC Asia economics research head Frederic Neumann said the impact of the uncertainty brought about by the policies to be implemented by the Trump administration is not uniform across Asia. “Indonesia, the Philippines and India are likely to be more shielded from the Trump effect given their low debt and low export exposures. By contrast, Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand should be more affected,” he said. READ MORE...ALSO, World oil prices surge...

ALSO: Senate votes to ratify AsianInfraInvestBank (AIIB) membership [RELATED: With Loren, Work double time]


DECEMBER 1 -The Senate on Tuesday approved on second reading the report of the Sub-Committee on Foreign Relations for the AIIB Treaty after Sen. Loren Legarda sponsored it on the floor. File photo
The Senate is set to make a final vote next week on its concurrence to the Executive Branch’s ratification of the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), from which the Philippines can tap billions of dollars in funding for projects. The Senate on Tuesday approved on second reading the report of the Sub-Committee on Foreign Relations for the AIIB Treaty after Sen. Loren Legarda sponsored it on the floor. Legarda, who chaired the hearings of the sub-committee, said membership to the AIIB would help achieve the country’s growth targets through accelerated infrastructure spending. “Development of infrastructure is crucial for enhancing our trade competitiveness. Resilient and adequate infrastructure will reduce the costs of trade and strengthen our competitiveness. These would impact on our future growth,” the senator said. READ MORE...RELATED, Work double time...

ALSO: By Babe Romualdez - Duterte security should be tightened


DECEMBER 1 -By Babe G. Romualdez
The recent explosion in Marawi which injured some members of the Presidential Security Group acting as an advance party for President Rodrigo Duterte has raised concerns over the security of the president who was determined to visit Lanao del Sur where military troops are operating against the Maute Group. It can be recalled that the MILF-breakaway group has been tagged as responsible for the bombing in a Davao City market last September which killed at least 14 people. Many are convinced the roadside blast in Marawi City is a serious warning that the President’s movements should be more restricted to eliminate potential security threats. The Presidential Security Group should always be on the alert and must be trained to consider every trip of the President as a “security nightmare.” No one will argue that the President’s trips from Malacañang to Davao City and his frequent visits to other places in the country can pose significant challenges to the men (and women) tasked with his protection. READ MORE...


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Government underspends in October, narrows deficit


The deficit — which indicates more revenues were spent than earned — narrowed to P2.35 billion in October, down from P27.02 billion in the same period a year ago, data from Bureau of the Treasury showed. File photo 

MANILA, DECEMBER 5, 2016 (PHILSTAR) By Prinz Magtulis November 28, 2016 - Spending contracted for the first time under the Duterte administration last October, trimming down that month's budget deficit which has been running at its highest level in four years.

The deficit — which indicates more revenues were spent than earned — narrowed to P2.35 billion in October, down from P27.02 billion in the same period a year ago, data from Bureau of the Treasury showed.

Broken down, revenues went up seven percent to P174.64 billion, while expenditures went down a similar magnitude to P177 billion.

This marked the first time in four months that disbursements contracted this year and the first under the new administration, which promised to speed up spending to support economic growth.

READ MORE...

"I am not concerned with it since last year's performance that month was unusually high at P190 billion," Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said in a phone interview on Monday.

"That's an unusual base effect, probably because they released funds last year to prepare for the elections," he added.

Earlier, the Department of Budget and Management also pointed to "one-off" releases for the hosting of the Asia-Pacific Economic Summit in November last year for the big releases the previous month.

For the first 10 months however, the deficit already widened more than four times from last year to P216.05 billion, already the widest since 2013, figures showed.

Revenues inched up three percent to P1.82 trillion, while spending increased a higher 12 percent to P2.04 trillion.

Diokno said the deficit may continue to widen toward its cap of P388.87 billion this year.

"The government understands the important role of infrastructure in mobilizing citizens and goods, the accessibility of basic services and national productivity," he said in a speech.

"We can also expect a broader social service and human capital development programs to be launched soon," he said during a forum in Quezon City.

For Emilio Neri Jr., lead economist at Bank of the Philippine Islands, the bigger worry is the slow expansion in revenues "significantly trailing the recovery in oil prices" and peso weakness.

At it stands, global oil prices have rebounded this year after planned supply cuts, while a weaker peso should increase their base value where taxes and Customs duties are based.

"I'm more concerned about BIR revenues remaining slower than nine percent nominal GDP (gross domestic product) growth," Neri said in an e-mail.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue raised collections nine percent as of October, but Neri said under the first four months of President Duterte, growth was only five percent.

The Bureau of Customs, meanwhile, improved its haul seven percent so far this year. Both agencies account for around 90 percent of state revenues.

"There should be further revenue boost from peso drop, but it's not showing. Still, we need to give new BIR officials some time to improve their capacity to collect," Neri said.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR

Swamped with applications: Longer term of office for GOCC execs eyed By Prinz Magtulis (philstar.com) | Updated November 28, 2016 - 6:48pm 11 36 googleplus0 0


Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno said he wants the term of office of directors on government-owned and -controlled corporations increased to three years from one year "for efficiency." File

MANILA, Philippines — Swamped with tons of applications on state corporations five months after taking over, Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno wants to amend the law that aimed to strictly monitor government companies and their bosses.

Specifically, Diokno said he wants the term of office of directors on government-owned and -controlled corporations (GOCCs) increased to three years from one year "for efficiency."

"I am piled with applications waiting to be signed. There are still a lot," said Diokno, an ex-officio member of the Governance Commission on GOCCs (GCG).

GCG was created under Republic Act 10149 of 2012, an offshoot of then President Benigno Aquino III's State of the Nation Address that criticized huge bonuses of executives on underperforming state firms.

READ MORE...

Under Section 17 of the law, each appointive director could only stay for a year in office or could be on holdover capacity "until a successor is appointed."

GCG is tasked to screen applicants submitted by each GOCC based on "fit and proper rule" before giving a shortlist to the president who shall appoint the directors.

Each director is also evaluated every year as a basis for their compensation and bonuses.

But the process had become tedious, Diokno said, to the point that GCG is still not yet finish filling up positions to date. The latest known appointment was that of Emmanuel Dooc as new president of the Social Security System.

RESIGNATION

To make the matter worse, GCG is yet to find a new chair after Jaime Ma. Flores resigned from his post, for unknown reasons, last month.

"We are yet to find a chair but there is an OIC (officer-in-charge) and the four of us are continuously working," the budget chief told reporters.

Aside from Diokno, Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez also sits as ex-officio member, joined by Commissioners Michael Cloribel and Samuel Dagpin Jr.

"I will talk with Sonny (Dominguez) about this because the formula is if you don't perform well after a year, then you're out. That's wrong," Diokno said.

"You have to apply an appropriate formula wherein you at least give these people power at least to do their job, while keeping an eye on them," he said.

Sought for comment, Astro del Castillo, managing director of First Grade Holdings Inc., agreed with Diokno.

ONE-YEAR TERM

While the one-year term for directors was patterned after the private sector, Del Castillo said this "may not be applicable on the government because of politics."

"GCG is an added bureaucracy. They should be trusting the Office of the President in terms of appointment," he said in a phone interview.

"Nevertheless, I agree also that you need credible people in the corporations, but if they will only stay for one year, they could be more prone to politics," Del Castillo said.

He stressed that unlike private firms where "only performance is the basis of appointment," politicking and the need for continuity make the government different.

"If you ask the GOCCs, they really could not perform because of so much monitoring. Aside from GCG, they are also answerable to COA (Commission on Audit)," he said.

Besides COA and GCG, the Department of Finance (DOF) also monitors the financial performance of state firms, getting contributions to national coffers and keeping an eye on their debts.

In October, DOF data showed government collected P4.9 billion from the Bureau of the Treasury, down 13 percent year-on-year.

National Treasurer Roberto Tan said the decline could be traced from "lower dividends on shares of stocks from state-owned and -controlled corporations."


BLOOMBERG

Philippine Vice President Quits From Cabinet After Duterte Order by Cecilia Yap and Andreo Calonzo December 4, 2016 — 5:25 AM EST December 4, 2016 — 7:36 AM EST


Leni RobredoPhotographer: Noel Celis/AFP via Getty Images

Robredo says ‘plot to steal vice presidency’ set in motion Top officials have major differences in principles:
 Robredo Philippine Vice President Leni Robredo said she will resign as housing secretary on Monday after President Rodrigo Duterte ordered her to stop attending Cabinet meetings, a development that could galvanize opposition to Duterte.

Robredo said she received a text message from Cabinet Secretary Jun Evasco relaying the president’s instruction. Not attending the cabinet meetings would make it impossible for her to perform her duties as head of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, she said in a statement on her website.

READ MORE...

“From the very beginning, the president and I had major differences in principles and values,” Robredo said. She had expressed concern over rising extrajudicial killings related to Duterte’s war against drugs and has opposed the burial of former President Ferdinand Marcos at the Heroes’ Graveyard, which Duterte endorsed. Thousands joined the protests against the former dictator’s burial last month. The former leader’s son, Bongbong Marcos, lost to Robredo in the vice-presidential race in May. He filed an election protest and asked the Supreme Court to void Robredo’s proclamation.

Robredo’s resignation could signal a period of struggle is looming, with Duterte drawing a "clear divide" between the administration and its members, according to Ramon Casiple, executive director of the Institute of Political and Electoral Reform in Quezon City.

‘Political Struggle’

"The president is trying to consolidate his own forces, anticipating a political struggle," Casiple said. "He drew the line, and I think he’s trying to force the hand of a relatively weak opposition." Duterte may have wasted the opportunity for national unity with his decision to exclude Robredo from Cabinet meetings, he said.

Robredo, who was not on a ticket with Duterte during the May elections, will remain vice president, a position that’s is elected separately from the president. The two are are from rival political parties.

Robredo said in her statement that she had chosen to ignore warnings of a “plot to steal” the vice presidency, “but the events of recent days indicate that this plot is now being set into motion. I will not allow the will of the people to be thwarted.”

“Irreconcilable differences” between the nation’s top leaders led to Robredo’s resignation, Communications Secretary Martin Andanar said in an interview with DZBB radio.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Robredo complains low budget allotted for housing Published December 3, 2016, 4:21 PM By Raymund Antonio


LENI/5OCT2016 At her office in New Manila, Quezon City, Vice President Leni Robredo holds a press conference regarding the upcoming Partnerships for Poverty Summit on Oct 10, which will connect the private and public sectors in order to come up with development programs which will address the specific needs of the various LGUs. MB PHOTO/FEDERICO CRUZ

Vice president discusses meager fund for housing with the budget department

Vice President Leni Robredo said she complained to the Department of Budget and Management about the low budget being allocated to housing.

Robredo, who chairs the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, reached out to budget secretary Benjamin Diokno to discuss the paltry funding allotted for housing.

“We are saying if this is not taken seriously, nothing will really happen to housing. The housing backlog will just escalate,” she said in Filipino.

“Secretary Diokno told us that he would support all our programs as long as we would make sure all of these programs are in order.”

READ MORE...

The vice president, gracing the recent “Usapang Lupa at Pabahay” in Pasay City, bared the challenges to secure higher budget to address the 5.6-million backlog in the housing sector.

“If you look at our budget over the past decades historically, housing is really not given a huge share,” Robredo said, noting the public housing sector only received less than half of a percent from the national budget before 2011 until it increased during the term of former President Benigno Aquino III.

In the past five years, Robredo said the budget for housing went up due to the construction of housing projects worth P10 billion every year for relocation. “But that is already finished. We are back again to less than 0.5 percent.”

For 2017, the housing sector will get P14.9 billion or 0.45 percent of the proposed P3.35-trillion national budget.

Given the low budget, Robredo said her office is looking for alternative ways to resolve the housing backlog in the country.

“We are exploring the possibility not to get all the funds from the government. Here is where private-public partnerships would come in,” she said.

She explained that the private company would help the government by buying the available properties for housing.

“Pinag-uusapan nalang kung paano ang paghati-hati ng property. Tingin ko kailangan kasi maging aggressive about this,” she said.

On the average, the construction of homes intended for public housing was pegged at 200,000 every year.


GMA NEWS NETWORK

PWDs to enjoy additional 12-percent VAT exemption starting December
Published December 1, 2016 5:20pm


RA 10754 amended Republic Act 7277, or the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability,” which provided for a 20-percent discount for PWDs.

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) are in for a happy holiday season as they will be exempt from paying the 12-percent value added tax on certain goods and services starting this month.

On Thursday, Social Welfare Secretary Judy Taguiwalo led the signing of the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) for Republic Act 10754 or An Act Expanding the Benefits and Privileges of PWDs.

The law will take effect 15 days after its IRR has been published in national newspapers.

READ MORE...

“Ipa-publish natin ito immediately so the law can be enforced before Christmas para matuwa ang mga kababayan nating may kapansanan,” Taguiwalo told reporters at the ceremonial signing of the IRR, which took place at the Department of Social Welfare and Development’s central office in Quezon City.

Under the law, PWDs will be exempt from paying the 12-percent VAT on top of the 20-percent discount they enjoy on the following: lodging establishments, restaurants, recreation centers, purchase of medicines and foods for special medical purposes, medical and dental services, diagnostic and laboratory fees of attending doctors, domestic air and sea travel, land travel, and funeral services.

Those caring for and living with PWDs, up to the fourth degree of affinity and consanguinity, will also be give an annual income tax deduction worth P25,000.

RA 10754 amended Republic Act 7277, or the “Magna Carta for Persons with Disability,” which provided for a 20-percent discount for PWDs.

Figures from the Philippine Statistics Authority place the number of PWDs in the country at around P1.5 million.

Aside from Taguiwalo, present during the ceremonial signing of the IRR were Senator Sonny Angara, the law’s primary proponent in the Senate, former Leyte Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, who shepherded its passage in the 16th Congress, his wife incumbent Leyte Rep. Yedda Romualdez and Pasay City Rep. Emi Calixto-Rubiano. — Xianne Arcangel/RSJ, GMA News

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RELATED FROM SENATE.GOV.PH

Press Release
December 1, 2016 0
Implementing rules to be issued today

PWDS AND THEIR FAMILIES CAN FINALLY ENJOY TAX BREAKS UNDER NEW LAW -ANGARA

Persons with disabilities (PWDs) and their families can finally enjoy value added tax (VAT) exemption and additional tax deductions as the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act 10754 will be issued today.

"Layunin ng batas na ito na mapagaan ang pasanin ng ating mga kababayang may kapansanan. Magandang pamasko ito para sa kanila at sa kanilang pamilya," said Senator Sonny Angara, who sponsored the law which was enacted eight months ago.

Under RA 10754, PWDs are exempted from the 12-percent VAT on land transportation, domestic air and sea travels; on fees and charges for medical and dental services including diagnostic and laboratory fees, and professional fees of attending doctors in all government facilities as well as in all private hospitals and medical facilities; on cost of medicines; on funeral and burial services; on fees and charges in hotels, restaurants and recreation centers; and, on admission fees in theatres, cinema houses, concert halls, and other similar places of culture, leisure and amusement.

The VAT exemption is on top of the 20-percent discount on certain goods and services that PWDs are already entitled to under the current Magna Carta for Disabled Persons.

The new law further grants a P25,000 annual income tax deduction to relatives, within the fourth civil degree of consanguinity or affinity, who are caring for and living with a PWD.

LIFT VAT FOR SENIORS

The senator also expressed high hopes that the Department of Finance (DOF) will heed his call to forego with its plan to lift the VAT exemption of senior citizens and PWDs.

This move is part of the DOF's first tax reform package to mitigate leakages in the VAT system wherein, according to the finance department, even non-seniors and non-PWDs benefit from the exemption.

The DOF said they plan to replace VAT exemption with higher socialized pension and targeted cash transfers for the country's 7.5 million senior citizens and 1.4 million PWDs.

"Sabi ko nga, hindi pa napapakinabangan ng ating mga PWD ang batas, gusto na agad bawiin yung benepisyo. Based on our last dialogue with our finance authorities, they seem to be open to drop the seniors and PWDs on their proposed list of exemptions that will be removed," said Angara, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee.

The lawmaker lamented the very low participation in the grant of benefits and privileges mandated by the Magna Carta for Disabled Persons mainly because some facilities and establishments, and even the PWDs themselves, are not aware of the policies that support them.

Of the 1.4 million PWDs, only approximately 30,000 are registered with PWD IDs and eligible to receive the benefits and privileges under the magna carta, based on the 2014 data from the Philippine Registry for Persons with Disability of the Department of Health.

Angara urged the government to intensify its information dissemination campaign, and to streamline the process for the application of the PWD ID.

"We must ensure that all disabled Filipinos are provided with the necessary assistance and opportunities that will help them develop their potential and become fully participative members of society," he said.


PHILSTAR

Philippines faces less risk from Trump By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 1, 2016 - 12:00am 1 676 googleplus2 0


HSBC Asia economics research head Frederic Neumann said the impact of the uncertainty brought about by the policies to be implemented by the Trump administration is not uniform across Asia. “Indonesia, the Philippines and India are likely to be more shielded from the Trump effect given their low debt and low export exposures. By contrast, Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand should be more affected,” he said. AP/Seth Wenig, file

MANILA, Philippines – British banking giant HSBC said the Philippines is one of the few countries in Asia Pacific likely to be less affected by the shocking victory of Republican Donald Trump in the US.

HSBC Asia economics research head Frederic Neumann said the impact of the uncertainty brought about by the policies to be implemented by the Trump administration is not uniform across Asia. “Indonesia, the Philippines and India are likely to be more shielded from the Trump effect given their low debt and low export exposures. By contrast, Malaysia, China, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand should be more affected,” he said.

READ MORE...

Neumann said the Bank of Japan is emerging as a winner with a weaker yen.

“In sum, 2017 looks like it’ll be the most difficult for the region since 2009. It’s not, of course, entirely the president-elect’s fault – his administration, after all, hasn’t even outlined a detailed policy agenda yet, let alone taken the reins of power. Plus, Asia’s travails are partly self-inflicted,” Neumann said.

Neumann said, the Trump administration could adopt a more protectionist stance as he vowed to shelve the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement.

U.S. INTEREST RATES HIKES

Likewise, HSBC sees the US Federal Reserves hiking rates three times next year.

“This amounts to a stiff headwind for Asian economies that have come to rely on rapid credit growth to sustain demand in recent years,” he said.

The economist also cited the continued weakening of the regional currencies against the dollar due to the impending interest rate increase.

“Currency moves are compounding the effect. While exchange rate depreciation should, in principle, provide a boost to Asian exports, the resulting tightening in financial conditions (higher rates) could more than offset the loosening of monetary conditions (weaker exchange rates,” he said.

Debt watchers Fitch Ratings and Moody’s Investors Service earlier said the policy pronouncements of US president-elect Donald Trump raises global uncertainties affecting trading partners including the Philippines.

Fitch said the shocking victory of Trump would have global ramnifications.

“The US is the world’s largest economy and its pre-eminent diplomatic and military power. Uncertainty over future US policy automatically creates uncertainty for many Fitch-rated sovereigns, to varying degrees,” it said.

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ALSO FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHT

World oil prices surge December 02, 2016 SINGAPORE. —Oil prices shot up more than 12 percent, smashing trading volume records, after producer club OPEC and Russia cut a deal to reduce output to drain a global supply glut, but analysts warned prices could recede as other producers stand by to fill the gap.


Oil prices keep surging after OPEC hashes out a deal to cut production VOX.XOM FILE DECEMBER 1, 2016

The Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) agreed on Wednesday its first oil output reduction since 2008 after de-facto leader Saudi Arabia accepted “a big hit” and dropped a demand that arch-rival Iran also slash output. The deal also included the group’s first coordinated action with non-OPEC member Russia in 15 years.

“OPEC has agreed to an historic production cut,” analysts at AB Bernstein said. “The cut of 1.2 million barrels per day (bpd) was at the upper end of expectations (0.7-1.2 million bpd). An additional cut of 0.6 million bpd from non-OPEC countries could significantly add to what has been announced by OPEC.”

Following the announcements, the price for Brent crude futures, the international benchmark for oil prices, jumped more than 12 percent from below $50 on Wednesday to $52.31 per barrel.

The development also triggered frenzied trading, with Brent futures trading volumes for February and March expiry hitting record volumes.

February Brent traded a record 783,000 lots of 1,000 barrels each on Wednesday, easily beating a previous record of just over 600,000 reached in September.

March expiry Brent traded 288,64000 lots of 1,000 barrels each, compared with a previous record of 228,7000 lots done in July 2014.

Yet as markets re-opened in Asia on Thursday, some doubts over the cut began to emerge.

“This is an agreement to cap production levels, not export levels,” British bank Barclays said. “The outcome is consistent with... what OPEC production levels were expected to be in 2017 irrespective of the deal reached.”

Meanwhile U.S. bank Morgan Stanley said, “Investor skepticism remains on individual countries’ follow-through (on the cut), which is keeping prices below year-to-date highs (of $53.73 per barrel in October) for now.”

Also, because any cut will only take effect from next year, supplies for the rest of 2016 remain ample.

“Supply in December will increase while demand is expected to decline. This makes the foundations of a strong price advance unstable, if not dangerous,” commodities brokerage Marex Spectron said.

Despite the jump in prices after the deal, they are still only at September-October levels - when plans for a cut were first announced.

Oil prices remain at less than half their mid-2014 levels, when the global glut started, and Goldman Sachs said in a note following the agreement that it expected oil prices to average just $55 per barrel in the first half of next year.

OPEC produces a third of global oil, or around 33.6 million bpd, and the deal it would reduce output by 1.2 million bpd from January 2017. That would take its output to January 2016 levels, when prices fell to over 10-year lows amid ballooning oversupply. Analysts also said that the cuts would leave the field open for other producers, especially US shale drillers.

“We do not believe that oil prices can sustainably remain above $55 per barrel, with global production responding first and foremost in the U.S.,” Goldman Sachs said.

U.S. crude production has already risen by over 3 percent this year to 8.7 million bpd, as its drillers have aggressively slashed costs.

Consequently, U.S. West Texas Intermediate (WTI) crude futures were weaker than Brent, though edging towards $50, trading at $49.81 per barrel.-Reuters


PHILSTAR

Senate votes to ratify AIIB membership By Paolo Romero (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 1, 2016 - 12:00am 0 1 googleplus0 0


The Senate on Tuesday approved on second reading the report of the Sub-Committee on Foreign Relations for the AIIB Treaty after Sen. Loren Legarda sponsored it on the floor. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – The Senate is set to make a final vote next week on its concurrence to the Executive Branch’s ratification of the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), from which the Philippines can tap billions of dollars in funding for projects.

The Senate on Tuesday approved on second reading the report of the Sub-Committee on Foreign Relations for the AIIB Treaty after Sen. Loren Legarda sponsored it on the floor.

INFRA SPENDING

Legarda, who chaired the hearings of the sub-committee, said membership to the AIIB would help achieve the country’s growth targets through accelerated infrastructure spending.

“Development of infrastructure is crucial for enhancing our trade competitiveness. Resilient and adequate infrastructure will reduce the costs of trade and strengthen our competitiveness. These would impact on our future growth,” the senator said.

READ MORE...

“Let us take, however, this crucial step to be part of the AIIB to help address one of the most pressing issues facing our infrastructure sector,” she said in asking her colleagues to concur with the ratification.

The agreement was ratified by former president Benigno Aquino III last February. It was also ratified by President Duterte last Oct. 19.

The AIIB is a multilateral institution that consists of 57 member countries, 37 of which are in Asia. It was formally established in November 2014 when 22 Asian countries gathered in Beijing to sign a memorandum of understanding on the bank.

It aims to boost lending for infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region, including energy, urban construction, transportation and logistics as well as education and healthcare.

It has an authorized capital stock of $100 billion.

P4 B IN 2017 BUDGET

The Duterte administration has set aside P4 billion in the proposed budget for 2017 as the Philippines’ initial contribution to the AIIB.

‘’In the end, we can see a 400 percent to 1,150 percent return on investment (ROI) of our required paid-in capital of $196 million (P9.8 billion) in five years,’’ Legarda said.

‘’AIIB aims to supplement and not crowd out private sector financing since it wll focus on vital financing projects that are unable to avail of reasonable financing terms and conditions,’’ she said.

Legarda said the Philippines ranked 95th out of 138 economies in the 2016-2017 World Economic Forum’s global competitiveness index on infrastructure, highlighting how much the country has lagged behind other economies.

“The absence of good infrastructure – from road networks, transportation systems, airports and seaports, electrification, water supply, to telecommunications – has had dire consequences on our nation’s growth; above all, on our people’s well-being,” she said.

The World Bank estimates that a 10 percent increase in capital investment in infrastructure projects contributes to a one percent growth in GDP.

Citing a study by the ADB, the Department of Finance estimates the Philippines needs $127.12 billion from 2010 to 2020 for its infrastructure needs.

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RELATED FROM PHILSTAR (COMMENTARY)

Work double time COMMONSENSE By Marichu A. Villanueva (The Philippine Star) | Updated November 30, 2016 - 12:00am 4 42 googleplus0 0

While her colleagues are preoccupied with public hearings on controversial national issues “in aid of legislation,” Senator Loren Legarda has been literally working double time. This is not to praise her because she does not need any. But I just found out from official press releases issued yesterday from her office that she is currently handling two important legislative measures.

GAA BILL

According to her office, the Senators approved last Monday night in marathon sessions the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act (GAA) bill. As chairperson of the Senate committee on finance, Legarda is shepherding the approval of the GAA bill.

Thus, the Senate and the House of Representatives convened starting yesterday as bicameral conference committee to reconcile the differences in their respective versions of the proposed 2017 national budget worth P3.350 trillion.

FIRST BUDGET LAW UNDER DUTERTE

The 2017 GAA bill would be the first budget law under the new administration of President Rodrigo Duterte.

Also yesterday, her office furnished us a copy of her sponsorship speech for the proposed Senate Resolution No. 241, entitled “Resolution Concurring in the Ratification of the Articles of Agreement of the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB).” The Resolution was prepared by the committee on foreign relations under Committee Report No. 11 and submitted on Nov. 22. Legarda is the vice chairperson of the Senate foreign relations committee.

AIIB MEMBERSHIP

In her sponsorship speech, Legarda impressed upon her Senate colleagues the significance of the Philippines joining the AIIB. Like the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the World Bank, Legarda pointed out, the AIIB is a multilateral lending institution, owned by sovereign-member countries, which aims to promote economic development in Asia. It also aims to foster economic development and promote regional cooperation.

According to her, the AIIB offers concessional rates that are: comparable to the rates of World Bank and the ADB; better than many of the country’s bilateral partners’ lending rate; and lower than the commercial borrowing rates locally.

Based from government estimates, the AIIB can provide an annual financing window to the Philippines of about $200 million to $500 million, she cited. In the end, she said, the Philippines can see a 400% to 1,150% return on investment of the country’s required paid-in capital of $196 million in five years.

Legarda cited the Philippines is the 57th prospective founding member of the AIIB, the last to have signed on in December last year.

Forty-eight have already attained full membership, including Australia, France, Germany, India, South Korea, and Russia. All ASEAN countries have signed on, with the Philippines and Malaysia as the only ASEAN countries that have yet to deposit its instruments of Ratification.

“We have only until Dec. 31 of this year to make this submission and to pay our initial capital contribution,” Legarda stressed.

To further bolster her arguments, Legarda enumerated the benefits that the Philippines will reap from AIIB membership, including, among other things, additional source of financing to meet the infrastructure requirements by both the government and the private sector.

While it may be a hard-sell for Legarda to convince the Senate ratification of the country’s membership to the AIIB, it would complete the mission of the state visit last month of President Duterte to Beijing.

FOREIGN RELATIONS COMMITTEE

It is actually Senator Allan Peter Cayetano who chairs the Senate foreign relations committee but who has been apparently too busy tagging along with President Duterte in the latter’s travels here and abroad. The Senate committee on foreign relations has been given to Cayetano in preparation to his imminent transfer to Duterte’s Cabinet next year.

Cayetano ran but lost in the May 9 elections as Duterte’s vice presidential running mate. However, under the country’s existing laws, a losing candidate cannot be appointed to the Executive Branch for at least one year after he or she run in the elections.

During the May 9 presidential campaign, then Davao City Mayor Duterte disclosed he is grooming Cayetano to become his Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary.

CAYETANO TAKING OVER YASAY

This is why Cayetano has always been accompanying the Chief Executive in all his state visits as member of the presidential delegation. Cayetano will take over from incumbent DFA Secretary Perfecto Yasay Jr. who agreed to assume the Cabinet post while waiting for Cayetano’s eventual taking over from him.

I bumped into Cayetano a few weeks ago and teased him about his being hard to invite to attend to our weekly breakfast forum. Apologetic, Cayetano told me he is always being asked to attend meetings at Malacanang Palace. “At times, our meeting with the President ends up almost at 3 o’clock in the morning,” Cayetano quipped.

While Cayetano is shuttling to and from Malacanang, Legarda sponsored the Senate foreign relations committee report for the AIIB and started steering for its approval at the plenary yesterday.

Practically wearing two hats yesterday, Legarda defended also at the same time, the administration-certified priority urgent measure on the 2017 GAA bill along with the proposed accession of the Philippines to the largely China-owned AIIB.

CLIMATE CHANGE

If there is one Senate ratification that Legarda would sink her teeth into, it is her advocacy for the Philippines to ratify the Climate Change Agreement. A United Nations champion for climate change and disaster risk reduction, Legarda has been at the forefront of the country’s climate change advocacy.

President Duterte initially rebuffed the Climate Change pact but later on agreed to its ratification. The Chief Executive warned anew the other night he would withdraw from the Climate Change agreement if its funds will be mismanaged.

Totaling $200 billion, the funds are supposed to help vulnerable countries like the Philippines to cope with climate change-related adaptation measures.

Legarda is cut out to work double time on her climate change advocacy.

* * *

Today’s guest in our Kapihan sa Manila Bay will be the chief petitioners asking the Supreme Court intervention for the full implementation of the Reproductive Health (RH) Law, namely, former presidential assistant for development Benjamin de Leon who is currently the president of the Forum for Family Planning and Development, Luz Frances Chua of the Catholics for Reproductive Health and Buhay Party-list Rep. Lito Atienza, a known pro-life advocate.


MARICHU VILLANUEVA


PHILSTAR

Duterte security should be tightened SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 1, 2016 - 12:00am 1 4 googleplus0 0


By Babe G. Romualdez

The recent explosion in Marawi which injured some members of the Presidential Security Group acting as an advance party for President Rodrigo Duterte has raised concerns over the security of the president who was determined to visit Lanao del Sur where military troops are operating against the Maute Group.

It can be recalled that the MILF-breakaway group has been tagged as responsible for the bombing in a Davao City market last September which killed at least 14 people.

Many are convinced the roadside blast in Marawi City is a serious warning that the President’s movements should be more restricted to eliminate potential security threats.

The Presidential Security Group should always be on the alert and must be trained to consider every trip of the President as a “security nightmare.” No one will argue that the President’s trips from Malacañang to Davao City and his frequent visits to other places in the country can pose significant challenges to the men (and women) tasked with his protection.

READ MORE...

Presidents are always high value targets, which is why there should be more care on the part of President Duterte when it comes to moving around, with some insiders saying that announcing his schedules and movements should be discouraged, or at least, not given many days in advance to the general public.


"My advance party was ambushed a while ago. The Presidential Security Group was hit by an IED [improvised explosive device]," Duterte said. SPUTNIK NEWS ONLINE

Those tasked to protect and secure a president, prime minister or any other state leader are supposed to be the best among the best, with no room for complacency since, as a VIP security expert noted, even two seconds of carelessness can have disastrous results.

As such, they also have to be proactive and must be quick to adjust when sudden changes occur, or when established security protocols are not followed by their principal. Most of all, they have to be ready to get in the line of fire and lay down their lives to protect their principal.

The US Secret Service is supposed to be one of the best when it comes to securing a head of state 24/7. However, the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963 in Dallas, Texas is one of the darkest moments in the history of the US – and in the US Secret Service as well, with the shockwaves reverberating all over the world. To this day, questions arise as to the possibility that JFK might have survived if the men were quicker since the first shot from the sniper that went through his neck did not kill him – but the second shot five seconds later on his skull was fatal.

Many blame the Secret Service man trailing the US president’s car for not jumping forward to protect the body of the president – in contrast with the actions of the other agent who was part of Jacqueline Kennedy’s security detail who jumped on the presidential limousine to keep her from jumping off.


HIGH TERROR ALERT IN MANILA: Philippine National Police (PNP) chief Director General Ronald Dela Rosa (R) holds a part of an Improvised Explosive Device (IED) found near the U.S Embassy during a press conference at the Manila Police District (MPD) headquarters in Manila, Philippines November 28, 2016. REUTERS/ROMEO RANOCO

Recent experiences have also shown that even the best security detail can never be too careful, as seen in the September 2014 incident when Omar Gonzalez, an Iraq war veteran suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, breached the security at the White house by jumping over the fence and running inside the East Room before he was stopped by an agent who was off duty at the time. Gonzalez was subsequently indicted for entering a restricted building while armed with a knife and charged for carrying a deadly weapon and possessing ammunition.

Security experts say the Shin Bet – one of Israel’s intelligence organizations that is also tasked to secure the Israeli Prime Minister and other top leaders – is one of the best in the world. The members basically receive the same elite training as the members of the US Secret Service. There was one time, however, when the Shin Bet suffered a blow, specifically in November 1995 during the assassination of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin by a Jewish extremist. Accounts say the members of the Shin Bet were shaken, especially since they did not anticipate the assassination attempt would come from an Israeli Jew, more focused as they were on threats coming from Arab terrorist extremists.

Since that time, however, Shin Bet has become even more efficient and formidable, seen in the way they secure a Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, for instance, during a recent visit to New York where he had dinner with a Jewish philanthropist in a restaurant. Among the tactics employed by the Shin Bet is the deployment of (bullet-proofed) agents taller than their principal, the use of casually-dressed people mingling in a crowd, and female agents who reputedly are very good at detecting strange or suspicious behavior that could be potentially threatening.

FROM ISRAEL

From our understanding, the government of Israel is offering to train the close-in security detail of President Duterte – and this is something the President and the PSG should seriously consider.

'MAN OF THE YEAR'

Tessie Sy-Coson is ‘Man of the Year’ Our congratulations to SM Investments Corporation vice chairman Tessie Sy-Coson for being the Management Association of the Philippines’ “Man of the Year” awardee. Over the years, businessmen such as Manny Pangilinan, Tony Tan Caktiong and Jaime Augusto Zobel have been recipients of the prestigious award, but Tessie is only the second lady to receive such honor, the first one having been PEZA director-general Lilia de Lima in 2010.

Mrs. Coson has been the guiding force in turning SMIC into one of the country’s biggest conglomerates with diverse interests that include real estate, banking, and tourism. It is also the undoubted leader in retail and mall operations – having learned from the example of her father Henry Sy Sr. with whom she is very close.


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