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BUDGET FOR REAL CHANGE: HOUSE RATIFIES 2017 P3.35-T BUDGET [RELATED: Ping to bring ‘pork-laden’ 2017 budget to SC; Wants to speak to Duterte]


DECEMBER 14 -FILE – ‘BUDGET FOR REAL CHANGE’ Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno hands over a copy of the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other lawmakers.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO The “Budget for Real Change” allocates resources to programs and projects on the Duterte administration’s 10- point socioeconomic development agenda.The House of Representatives on Tuesday evening ratified the P3.35 trillion proposed national budget for 2017. This after the lower House agreed to the Senate proposal to reallocate P8.3 billion from the budget for development projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Commission on Higher Education to finance free tuition of state universities and colleges (SUCs). In a statement on Tuesday, appropriations committee chair Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said the House stood its ground during the bicameral conference that the budgetary allocation for ARMM development projects was not a violation of the ARMM Organic Act as claimed by the Senate. READ MORE...RELATED, Ping to bring ‘pork-laden’ 2017 budget to SC; Wants to speak to Duterte..RELATED, .3 Fast Facts On Senate's Ratification Of Nat'l Budget For 2017...RELATED: Diokno on ₱927M CHR budget cut: 'That's natural']

ALSO: Rody on making Forbes power list: I don’t need it
[RELATED: Robredo’s Christmas wish for Duterte - Patience]


DECEMBER 18 -Speaking to reporters Friday night, President Duterte said he finds the tag “corny” and he is wondering what was the magazine’s basis for including him in the list, along with US president-elect Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis. File photo
Being included in Forbes magazine’s list of Most Powerful People for 2016 is not something to be proud of. Speaking to reporters Friday night, President Duterte said he finds the tag “corny” and he is wondering what was the magazine’s basis for including him in the list, along with US president-elect Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis. “I don’t need it. I don’t, really. I said, I’m not powerful. I’m just running a country. We’re not first, second (world country), maybe an emerging country…I find it very corny,” Duterte said. He maintained it is shameful to be considered powerful if the basis for being called one is the rising number of deaths in the country blamed on his vicious campaign against criminality. READ MORE...RELATED, Robredo’s Christmas wish for Duterte: Patience...

ALSO:
PAL starts operations at Clark airport this week
[ALSO Commentary: Traffic woes --What does it take to get Congress to act fast?]


DECEMBER 14 -Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) on Tuesday, as the carrier’s domestic flights will begin operating in the Pampanga hub starting Friday (Dec. 16).
Flights between Clark and Caticlan will operate daily—flight PR 2371 departs Clark at 11:35 a.m. and arrives in Caticlan at 12:50 p.m.; flight PR 2370 departs Caticlan at 10 a.m. and arrives in Clark at 11:15 a.m. The phase 2 of the agreement will commence on the first quarter of 2017. Non-stop flights between Clark and Cebu, Davao and Cagayan, as well as flights between Clark and Incheon, South Korea will be offered. In a press conference, PAL president and chief operations officer Jaime Bautista said the move is PAL’s contribution to help ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila. READ MORE...ALSO Commentary: Traffic woes --What does it take to get Congress to act fast?...

ALSO: Jobless rate falls to 10-year low -NEDA Chief Pernia
[RELATED: 7.5M part time workers at risk]


DECEMBER 13 -Economic Planning Secretary and Neda director-general Ernesto Pernia
The jobless rate fell below 5 percent for the first time in a decade, as the strong economic growth created more jobs this year, the National Economic and Development Authority said Tuesday. Results of the Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that unemployment rate eased to 4.7 percent in October from 5.6 percent a year ago. It was also lower than 5.4 percent registered in July. The PSA said about 41.7 million Filipinos were employed in October, translating into a 95.3-percent employment rate―the highest in all previous October rounds of the LFS since 2006. “This means that the growth of our economy is becoming more inclusive as it engages more and more Filipinos to participate in the labor market,” said Economic Planning Secretary and Neda director-general Ernesto Pernia. READ MORE...RELATED, 7.5M part time workers at risk...

ALSO: Jumped 25% -Foreign investments surge to $5.9b
[RELATED: ‘Chinese firms to play big role in PH infra’]


DECEMBER 13 -
Net inflows of foreign direct investments jumped 25 percent in the first nine months to $5.9 billion from $4.7 billion a year ago, on sustained investors’ confidence in the economy.
Bangko Sentral said the nine-month figure increased from a year earlier, despite the big decline in September’s investments. The nine-month tally also surpassed the full-year figure of $5.7 billion in 2015. “The continued FDI inflows reflect investors’ confidence in the country’s economy on account of sustained growth prospects and strong macroeconomic fundamentals,” Bangko Sentral said in a statement. Data showed net inflows of FDIs fell 69.3 percent in September to $469 million from $1.5 billion in the same period last year, pulled down by lower investments in debt instruments. The September figure was also 34 percent lower than $711 million net inflows registered in August 2016. READ MORE...RELATED, ‘Chinese firms to play big role in PH infra’...

ALSO: PIVOT TO CHINA - Duterte economic team to firm up infra projects with AIIB in China
[RELATED: ICTSI offers to build P1.5B Cavite terminal]


DECEMBER 17 -THIS PHOTO POSTED OCTOBER 17, 2017 AP -Chinese President Xi Jinping (center) shows the way to the guests attending the signing ceremony for the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in October 2014. (AP/Takaki Yajima)
Economic managers will visit Beijing in January to firm up transportation projects to be funded by the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in line with the Duterte administration’s pivot to China, officials said. On its website, the AIIB said its president Jin Liqun visited Manila last Dec. 12-14, during which he met with President Rodrigo Duterte, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, among other government officials. “It was a great pleasure to meet President Duterte of the Philippines, the most recent country to ratify the AIIB’s articles of agreement. The bank looks forward to supporting the Philippines in its endeavor to develop world-class infrastructure, including in the transportation sector,” Jin was quoted by the AIIB as saying in a statement. READ MORE... RELATED,  ICTSI offers to build P1.5B Cavite terminal

ALSO By Babe Romualdez: P50 million tip of the iceberg
[RELATED: Lookout bulletin issued vs BI execs, others linked to extort try]


DECEMBER 15 -Aguirre formally asks Duterte to fire 2 BI execs tagged in extortion mess Published December 13, 2016 9:16pm -COURTESY OF GMA NEWS NETWORK The corruption case involving gambling tycoon and Fontana Leisure Parks owner Jack Lam and two Bureau of Immigration officials who had admitted receiving P50 million for the release of illegal Chinese workers is only “the tip of the iceberg.” Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has already recommended the dismissal of the said BI commissioners who were caught on camera receiving five paper bags containing money from an ex-police colonel identified with Lam. The money was reportedly in exchange for the freedom of the illegal Chinese nationals caught working at Lam’s casino. The two BI officials, however, insist they decided to conduct a sting operation and took the money as proof that corruption exists in the bureau – although they seem to be the only ones who knew about the supposed entrapment operation. People are also wondering why these two are returning only P30 million and not the entire amount. READ MORE...RELATED, Lookout bulletin issued vs BI execs, others linked to extort try...


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House ratifies P3.35-T nat’l budget for 2017


FILE – ‘BUDGET FOR REAL CHANGE’ Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno hands over a copy of the proposed 2017 General Appropriations Act to Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and other lawmakers.CONTRIBUTED PHOTO

MANILA, DECEMBER 19, 2016 (INQUIRER)  Marc Jayson Cayabyab, @MJcayabyabINQ December 13, 2016 - The “Budget for Real Change” allocates resources to programs and projects on the Duterte administration’s 10- point socioeconomic development agenda.

The House of Representatives on Tuesday evening ratified the P3.35 trillion proposed national budget for 2017.

This after the lower House agreed to the Senate proposal to reallocate P8.3 billion from the budget for development projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) to the Commission on Higher Education to finance free tuition of state universities and colleges (SUCs).

In a statement on Tuesday, appropriations committee chair Davao City Rep. Karlo Nograles said the House stood its ground during the bicameral conference that the budgetary allocation for ARMM development projects was not a violation of the ARMM Organic Act as claimed by the Senate.

READ MORE...

But eventually, the House agreed with the Senate to just reallocate the fund for ARMM projects to finance free tuition for students of SUCs, to avoid a reenacted budget in 2017, Nograles said.

“We are one with the position of President Duterte that we really need to develop Mindanao if we want to defeat the insurgency problem in the region, which is why we programmed infrastructure projects in Mindanao, including the ARMM. But some members of the Senate opined that this could be in violation of the ARMM Organic Act. This created some sort of deadlock as the House stood its ground since we saw nothing in the Organic Act of the ARMM that prohibits the national government from implementing infrastructure projects in ARMM especially if identified in the medium term development plan,” Nograles said.

“In the end, we decided to give in just so that a budget is passed because we do not want a re-enacted budget,” Nograles said.

Congress ratified the budget after both houses of Congress met in a bicameral conference to thresh out its differing versions of the proposed General Appropriations Act (GAA).

The ratification of the budget signals the submission of the budget for approval by President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ: House approves proposed 2017 budget on final reading

The following realignment were among the amendments in the 2017 budget:

1. Additional of 1,000 Cash allowance for teachers – P770M

2. Additional funds for scholarship in SUCS – P1.2 billion

3. Free tuition for Medical students – P317 million

4. Supplemental feeding of P1 billion for DSWD

5. Centenarian fund of P100 million

6. Irrigation fees subsidy of P2 billion

7. Pondo sa pag-asenso at pagbabago fund of P1 billion;

8. Additional increase of PhilHealth subsidy – P3 billion

9. Additional funds for Doctors to the barrios and construction of health facilities – P1.5 billion

10. Additional P2.8 billion for the Department of National Defense to defend the country from internal and external threats.

The 2017 GAA, dubbed the “budget for change,” is 11.6 percent higher than the P3.002 trillion national budget this year.

READ: DBM submits P3.35-T ‘budget for change’ for 2017

According to sectors, the biggest share of the pie or 40 percent goes to social services under which P1.345 trillion was earmarked for social services such as education, culture, health, social security, housing, and land distribution, among others. This was an increase from the P1.12-trillion budget in 2016.

At least 27.58 percent or P923.954 billion of the pie was allocated to economic services, such as agriculture and agrarian reform, natural resources and environment, trade and industry, tourism, power and energy, communication, and roads and other transport, among others. This was an increase from the P834.029 billion budget in 2016.

At least 17.37 percent or P581.835 billion was earmarked for general public services such as general administration, and public order and safety, among others. This was an increase from the P497.975 billion budget in 2016.

At least 10 percent or P334.877 billion of the budget would go to debt servicing and interest payment, a decrease from the P392.797 billion budget for this purpose this year.

Finally, at least 4.41 percent or P147.762 billion was allocated to defense, an increase from the P130.687 billion budget in 2016.

The top 10 departments with the highest budgetary allocation (including the allocation for special purposes) are as follows:

•Department of Education: P567.561 billion, from P433.383 billion in 2016

•Department of Public Works and Highways: P458.61 billion, from P397.108 billion

•Department of Interior and Local Government: P150.050 billion, from P125.399 billion

•Department of National Defense: P134.54 billion, from P117.73 billion

•Department of Social Welfare and Development: P129.912 billion, from P110.9 billion

•Department of Health: P94.046 billion, from P124.95 billion

•State Universities and Colleges: P58.812 billion, from P49.661 billion

•Department of Transportation (formerly Department of Transportation and Communications or DOTC): P55.478 billion, from P44.298 billion (of the DOTC)

•Department of Agriculture: P45.291 billion, from P48.94 billion

•Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao: P41.782 billion, from P29.41 billion

PNP AND AFP

The budget for the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) was also substantially increased to support the Duterte administration’s war on drugs, criminality and terrorism.

The proposed budget for the PNP amounted to P110.4 billion, or 24.6 percent higher than its 2016 budget, for the national police force to hire more personnel, and purchase more guns and patrol vehicles to intensify its suppression of criminality.

Meanwhile, the proposed budget for the AFP is P130.6 billion, or 15 percent higher than the 2016 budget, to complement the AFP Modernization Program, under which P25 billion was allocated to better equip soldiers for counter terrorism.

READ: House committee OKs President’s budget for 2017 in 10 minutes

Lastly, the Office of the President has an approved budget of P19.99 billion, up 607 percent because more than three fourths or 77 percent or P15.46 billion was earmarked for the Philippine hosting of the 50th anniversary of the Asean summit in 2017.

The Office of the Vice President, meanwhile, has an approved P428.618 million budget, or 14.28 percent lower than the 2016 budget of P500 million, brought about by the cost-cutting measures after the office moved from the Coconut Palace to the Quezon City Reception House.

READ: House panel approves OVP budget for 2017 in 3 minutes

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA BULLETIN

Ping to bring ‘pork-laden’ 2017 budget to SC Published December 15, 2016, 5:37 PM By Mario Casayuran

Senator points out fund items parked in some agencies and some ARMM solons


MB FILE - Senator Panfilo 'Ping' Lacson (JOHN JEROME GANZON / MANILA BULLETIN)

Sen. Panfilo Lacson threatened to bring to the Supreme Court the constitutionality of the Congress-approved P3.35-trillion national budget for 2017 the moment President Rodrigo Duterte enacts it because it contains pork barrel allocations worth billions of pesos.

During the Aquino administration, the High Tribunal declared pork barrel or priority development assistance fund (PDAF) unconstitutional.

“I want to see this as a test to the political will of the president who usually stressed that corruption must stop and this is the best test as far as I am concerned for him to show that he does not really want corruption,” Lacson said.

Lacson and Sen. Sherwin Gatchalian disapproved the ratification of the congressional bicameral conference committee report on the budget on Wednesday, December 14. Seventeen senators voted “yes” while Sen. Vicente Sotto III abstained.

Where the ‘pork’ are

Asked where these pork barrel items are parked, Lacson said the traditional agencies are the Department of Public Works and Highway, Department of Social Welfare and Development, Department of Education and Department of Health.

Lacson said the executive branch, through the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC), had denied there are pork barrel allocations in the 2017 national budget.

He also said “it will take us a day-long session for me to point these items out and whose pork barrel items are these.”

“We were able to identify most of the insertions, most of the pork allocations in the 2017 budget but nobody will admit it. They were craftily hidden in many agencies but we were able to spot most of them,” he added.

One example of a pork barrel allocation Lacson pointed out is the proposed P8.3 billion for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

After intense give-and-take arguments during the bicameral conference committee meeting of the Senate and House panels, P4.7 billion was deducted from P8.3 billion and given to state-owned universities and colleges. The remainder was placed at the Department of Public Works and Highways through the legislative districts of the eight congressmen in the Muslim-dominated provinces in southern Mindanao.

Lacson questioned the “legislative districts” of the representatives because the DPWH maintains district engineering offices.

If the P3.6 billion parked at the DPWH that could be accessed by the ARMM solons, he said, then the pork barrel allocation for each of them would be P450 million.

In past Congresses and before the unconstitutionality of pork barrels, each senator and each congressman had P200 million and P70 million annual pork barrel allocations, respectively.

Lacson left it to the congressmen whether that is conscionable. “Will they make money from the insertions they had inserted in the budget? If not, it is fine. Only they know it.”

How to tell Duterte

Lacson said the president could veto line items in the Congress-approved General Appropriations Act so that government projects would not suffer.

But he could only file a suit questioning the constitutionality of the proposed 2017 budget after the president signs the budget into law.

The senator also clarified he is just willing to make an informal discussion with Duterte as sending a formal request “is an insult” for bypassing the Senate being a collegial body.

“Given a chance, I want to discuss this with the president and point out the specific provisions that need to be reviewed and thoroughly studied and even vetoed,” Lacson said. “I’m wiling to bring all the materials and present to him if there is an opportunity.”

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RELATED FROM IBTIMES.PH

3 Fast Facts On Senate's Ratification Of National Budget For 2017 BY IHRILYN PENDATUN @IHRILYNPENDATUN ON 12/18/16 AT 12:17 AM  RTR2XFZP


Philippine Senator-Judges Franklin Drilon (L), Loren Legarda (2nd L), Panfilo Lacson (C), Pia Cayetano (3rd R), Joker Arroyo (2nd R) and Alan Peter Cayetano gather for a discussion during a break in the impeachment trial of Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona at the Senate in Manila February 7, 2012. The Senate ratifies P3.35 trillion national budget for 2017 with 17-2-1 voting on Dec. 14.REUTERS/ROLEX DELA PENA

The Senate of the Philippines ratified the P 3.35 trillion national budget for 2017 on Dec. 14. Read on to learn more about it.

3 Fast Facts On Senate's Ratification Of National Budget For 2017:

1.
The Senate has 17-2-1 voting for the national budget for 2017.
Seventeen senators confirmed the national budget for 2017. On the other hand, Senators Panfilo Lacson and Sherwin Gatchalian cast dissenting votes while Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III abstained from voting. With this ratification, the national budget for 2017 is now up for approval of President Rodrigo Duterte.

READ MORE...

2. Sen. Lacson urges Pres. Duterte to veto line items seen as "pork barrel."
“I want to see [vetoing line items in the budget] as a test, as far as I’m concerned, to the political will of the President,” Business Online reported Sen. Lacson said in a senate forum. “He always says that corruption must stop. And this is the best test as far as I’m concerned to show that he really is against corruption,” Lacson added.

Senator Lacson expressed his intention to question the constitutionality of the budget to the Supreme Court (SC) based on the SC's 2013 ruling on the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

3. Sen. Lacson says that the P3.6 billion allocation for projects in ARMM is a "pork barrel."
Lacson stood firm that the allocation for infrastructure projects in Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) is in contrary to Republic Act (RA) 9054 or the Organic Act for ARMM. Before the budget approval of the bicameral conference committee, Lacson motioned to remove the P8.3 billion inserted in the DPWH budget for ARMM projects, citing its violation to the same law. The House accepted the amendment and transferred the P8.3 billion to the Commission on Higher Education to provide for free tuition fees in state universities and colleges (SUCs).

Meanwhile, House Committee on Appropriations Chairman Karlo Alexei Nograles said that they had been very meticulous on crafting the budget on the basis of what was submitted by the President. He reiterated that they made sure that there will be no room for post-enactment interference because all projects and programs have already been drawn up line by line.

READ: Senate-House Committee Approves National Budget For 2017

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RELATED(2) FROM CNN PHILIPPINES

Diokno on ₱927M CHR budget cut: 'That's natural' By CNN Philippines Staff Updated 17:51 PM PHT Mon, October 3, 2016 5.7K18


DIOKNO

Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno denied allegations that the budget of Commission on Human Rights was cut by ₱1 billion.

Speaking to CNN Philippines' senior anchor Pinky Webb in The Source on Friday, Diokno said the Budget Department has in fact given the Commission "a consistent increase" since 2015.

"If my recollection is correct, we increased the budget of CHR by 7 percent from 2016 to 2017," Diokno said.

Sen. Panfilo Lacson previously raised the concern on the budget approved for CHR, amid President Rodrigo Duterte's war on drugs.

"Ang laki ng cut. They proposed a budget of 1.4 billion plus and ang pinasok lang is 496. So 927 million 'yung cinut and it's unfair to them considering that they will have their hands full because of the war on drugs," Lacson said in an interview.

[Translation: The cut was huge. They proposed more than 1.4 billion but only 496 (million) was approved. So 927 (million) was cut, and it's unfair to them considering they will have their hands full because of the war on drugs.]

Also read: Senate vows to scrutinize 2017 budget thoroughly

Diokno said it's not true that they reduced the budget on an annual basis.

"What Senator Ping is saying is that we reduced the budget as requested by the agency, but that's natural. All the agencies request for a higher budget than what we gave them here," said Diokno.

Diokno added, it was not only CHR whose budget was reduced - but almost all government agencies.

"Usually agencies ask for the moon. So, but we have to trim it down. All the agencies we have to trim down. If you give them what they want, the budget will be three times bigger than what it should be," the Budget Chief said.

Diokno admitted, however, that the Budget Department has allocated ₱2.5 billion to support the President's war against drugs and criminality.

"Well, you have agency budgets for PNP, you have AFP… PDEA, right? And of course, under the Office of the President, there is a fund, as far as I can remember, 500 million for against crimes, organized crimes," Diokno said.

According to Diokno, they also had to beef up the intelligence funds.

"Now President Duterte asked for an increase - it's confidential fund of one billion. Another one billion for, for Intelligence fund. So I added that, those two items… Plus the 500, so 2.5 billion."

2017 budget: PDAF and DAP-free

As one of the petitioners in the Supreme Court against Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) during the previous administration, Diokno said he made sure that the 2017 is free from DAP and Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF).

"I can assure you that I want to make sure that this budget and future budgets will be totally compliant with the Supreme Court decision on PDAF and DAP."

Diokno pointed out, lawmakers are not even entitled to post-budget approval process.

"They're supposed to, if they want to help their constituencies, they got to talk to the secretaries and recommend projects."

Diokno said, if the budget a legislator is asking for is already approved — it's fine. "That's consistent with the Supreme Court decision," said Diokno.

But in cases of post-budget approval, legislators have to ask for budget from Department secretaries for their intended projects.

"They will go to the agency or the department and give their projects, submit their projects, and it's up to the agency to approve," Diokno added.

But he made it clear, that there's no assurance that projects applied for will be approved.

"They also have their prioritization process. So if it's not acceptable, then you choose another project or whatever. So it depends on the preference of legislators. Some legislators don't want to talk to the secretary. For example, a senator. He can get away with not having any projects because he has no specific constituency, right? he can talk about national issues and get known for that," Diokno said.

Increasing revenue, reducing taxes

The Budget Chief is convinced that it's possible to increase tax collection despite the administration's plans to reduce income tax from 32 percent to 25 percent, and decrease corporate income tax from 30 percent to 25 percent.

"Of course, to show to the entire world that we're not fiscally irresponsible, higher spending will be accompanied by better collection, plus, and we're submitting a tax reform package," said Diokno.

According to Diokno, "if we're lucky," the tax reform package will be signed by the President before the end of the year until mid next year at the latest.

"It will take effect maybe for incomes in 2017. So when you file your income tax in 2018, it's different," Diokno said.

The ₱3.35 trillion budget, according to Diokno, prioritizes education, public works, interior and local government, defense, and health.

With ₱567 billion, Department of Education gets the biggest slice in the pie. Diokno said it will be used to build at least 37,000 school buildings and rehabilitate 10,000 more school buildings.

Also read: DepEd chief: More science, math teachers needed

The 'golden age of public infrastructure'

Diokno said, the Duterte administration would be remembered as the "golden age of public infrastructure,"

"We will spend something like 800 billion for public infrastructure. That's about 5.4% of GDP and ramping up to about 7.2% by 2022 and so I estimate will be something like 3.2 billion for public, public infrastructure. So that's why I called golden age," Diokno said.

To put it simply, Diokno said the public will see a lot of construction of roads, bridges, airports, and seaports all over the country.

"Like some regions in the Visayas that are not linked in the moment. The Mindanao will be, willl be closely linked because of that logistics network. We, we might even consider railway system in Mindanao," Diokno said.

"Even Palawan, there a 600 kilometers stretch there thats needs to be I think it has to be expanded and all."

Diokno added, he sees about ₱8.2 trillion being spent by the Duterte administration for infrastructure projects alone.

Also read: Health department to construct more rehab centers


PHILSTAR

Rody on making Forbes power list: I don’t need it By Alexis Romero and Edith Regalado (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 18, 2016 - 12:00am 0 54 googleplus0 1


Speaking to reporters Friday night, President Duterte said he finds the tag “corny” and he is wondering what was the magazine’s basis for including him in the list, along with US president-elect Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis. File photo

MANILA, Philippines – Being included in Forbes magazine’s list of Most Powerful People for 2016 is not something to be proud of.

Speaking to reporters Friday night, President Duterte said he finds the tag “corny” and he is wondering what was the magazine’s basis for including him in the list, along with US president-elect Donald Trump, Russian President Vladimir Putin and Pope Francis.

“I don’t need it. I don’t, really. I said, I’m not powerful. I’m just running a country. We’re not first, second (world country), maybe an emerging country…I find it very corny,” Duterte said.

He maintained it is shameful to be considered powerful if the basis for being called one is the rising number of deaths in the country blamed on his vicious campaign against criminality.

READ MORE...

“I do not even impose my leadership on the Filipino people. I have no power, if the power means that killing, attributing to (me) the 5,000 (deaths), if it makes me a powerful man by killing Filipinos, that is a shame. I do not accept the title,” the President said.

“What’s the basis? If it’s killing 5,000 people to make me powerful – you think I enjoy killing Filipinos?”

Duterte ranked 70th among the 74 persons in this year’s Forbes Most Powerful People List, which included political personalities, religious figures and business leaders.

The persons in the list were ranked according to the number of people they influence, the financial resources they control, the extent of their power in multiple spheres and how active they are in using that power.

Putin has been adjudged the world’s most powerful person for the fourth consecutive year, followed by Trump, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Chinese President Xi Jinping and Pope Francis.

Duterte, one of the 11 new names in this year’s list, was described as a president who was elected “on the strength of a campaign that promised the swift execution of drug users and other criminals.” Forbes also noted that Duterte has the “tendency to say what he thinks, no matter how raw.”

Earlier, Google listed the President and reigning Miss Universe Pia Wurtzbach as among the most searched male and female personalities for 2016. Facebook also cited him among trending world personalities.

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RELATED FROM GMA NEWS NETWORK

Robredo’s Christmas wish for Duterte: Patience Published December 18, 2016 5:12pm By ROSE-AN JESSICA DIOQUINO, GMA News

All Vice President Leni Robredo wants for President Rodrigo Duterte this Christmas is... patience.

Robredo gave this response in an interview with Naga City's local reporters on Sunday, when she was asked what was her Christmas wish for the President.

"Baka pasensiya," she replied with a laugh.

Robredo, who recently resigned from Duterte's Cabinet, also reiterated well-wishes to the President, especially after his admission of several health concerns, including having "migraine every day," Barrett's esophagus, and Buerger's disease.

"'Yung binigyan ng mandato para mamuno sa atin, 'yung ating Pangulo. Kaya tingin ko kailangang pangalagaan niya din 'yung kaniyang kalusugan kasi siya 'yung naatasan na mamuno sa atin sa anim na taon," she said.

Robredo also underscored the public's need to know about the President's health, which she earlier called a "matter of national interest."

"Ako tingin ko kailangan nating malaman. Pero mukhang 'yung Pangulo naman mismo 'yung nagsabi ng kondisyon ng kaniyang kalusugan. Hindi naman sinabi sa atin na life-threatening at tayo laging nagwi-wish na sana pangalagaan niya 'yung kalusugan kasi sa loob ng anim na taon siya 'yung naatasan na mamuno sa atin," she said.

While admitting to his health problems, Duterte denied that he has cancer.

Presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella added there is "absolutely nothing to worry about," saying Duterte's complaints about his health are "part of wear and tear." —ALG, GMA News


MANILA TIMES

PAL starts operations at Clark airport this week BY PHILIPPINES NEWS AGENCY ON DECEMBER 14, 2016 BUSINESS



Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) with Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) on Tuesday, as the carrier’s domestic flights will begin operating in the Pampanga hub starting Friday (Dec. 16).

Flights between Clark and Caticlan will operate daily—flight PR 2371 departs Clark at 11:35 a.m. and arrives in Caticlan at 12:50 p.m.; flight PR 2370 departs Caticlan at 10 a.m. and arrives in Clark at 11:15 a.m.

The phase 2 of the agreement will commence on the first quarter of 2017. Non-stop flights between Clark and Cebu, Davao and Cagayan, as well as flights between Clark and Incheon, South Korea will be offered.

In a press conference, PAL president and chief operations officer Jaime Bautista said the move is PAL’s contribution to help ease traffic congestion in Metro Manila.

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”This is also an avenue for PAL to grow,” he said, adding that it was PAL’s target to have Pampanga as its next hub.

Bautista said the target passengers for this agreement are the residents of central and northern Luzon, Tarlac, Pampanga.

”Can you just imagine the volume of cars that would be reduced (in Metro Manila) as there would be no need for these residents and their families to go NAIA for their flights?” stated Alexander Cauguiran, CIAC president and chief executive officer.

Cauguiran told the Philippine News Agency that PAL is the first airline which will offer flights from Clark to Caticlan, Davao and Cagayan and vice versa.

”PAL is also the first domestic carrier which will offer flights between Clark and Incheon,” he noted.

Meanwhile, Bautista thanked the CIAC for its logistical and ground support to ensure smooth flight operations.
For his part, Caguiran said it has always been CIAC’s dream to have the flag carrier in Clark.

The MOA signing was held at PAL’s headquarters in Manila.

PAL said flights between Clark and Cebu will begin on January 30, while flights between Clark and Davao as well as between Clark and Incheon will begin on February 1, 2017.

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ALSO FROM THE INQUIRER (COMMENTARY)

What does it take? By: Peter Wallace - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 12:22 AM December 15, 2016



Congress doesn’t seem to have gotten the message; yet it’s an abundantly clear message, not just here but worldwide. People have had enough, they don’t want business as usual, they want real action on real issues that can improve their daily lives. Donald Trump and all the others I mentioned last week, and more emerging, show a clamor for change.

The public is furious at the last administration for the traffic mess it left through nonaction and wrong decisions (try giving MRT3 maintenance to someone with no known experience as a start). President Duterte through Art Tugade sought emergency powers to bypass the hopeless bureaucratic roadblocks and get to work on solving the traffic chaos. That was about five months ago. Congress is not acting in the emergency mode that the issue demands.

It had a point: The administration’s draft bill needed more “meat” and “actionable points.” For instance, the transportation secretary’s power over the transport agencies should perhaps be better specified. In the proposed bill, the powers of the LTO, LTFRB, MMDA and local government units to manage Metro Manila traffic will be abolished. The Department of Transportation led by Tugade will have the central authority to manage Metro Manila traffic.

The bill should also identify projects in other urban areas, such as Cebu and Pampanga, that are also experiencing traffic gridlock. But these are exactly the sort of details Congress should be rushing to resolve with the administration, to give the DOTr the authority to move fast and fix the disaster we’ve all been experiencing daily.

The Road Users Protection Advocates (Rupa), a group I’ve never heard of before, wants Tugade out. It isn’t calling for change and coming up with ideas on which to demand action. It’s calling for the person’s head. That’s not responsible, thoughtful opposition; that’s mindless attack. I know Tugade quite well, and am impressed at what he has achieved in what, quite simply, is a hopeless situation.

The Air Carriers Association of the Philippines said it well, and it should know, when it said: “The state of local civil aviation has displayed marked improvement under the leadership of Secretary Art Tugade and Undersecretary Roberto Lim. On-time performance is 78 percent from 55 percent (my recent flights were all on time-PW), there’s less red tape, terminal facilities are actually being properly rehabilitated and domestic airports upgraded.” Now, isn’t this action?

On the roads, what can Tugade do without those emergency powers? For instance, the proliferation of buses on Edsa—he can stop it now, and face innumerable court suits and TROs. Or he can appeal to Congress to pass an Emergency Powers Act that gives him lawful right to cancel excessive franchises, and doesn’t allow TROs to prevent him from doing it. Parked cars have to be removed from side streets and villages opened. The inconvenience of a few must be subsumed to the welfare of the many. And much more that has been well detailed but can’t be done. Congress is the block here. What he can do he has done. There are now traffic aides at most intersections. But selfish drivers still block them.

The ultimate solution—and it will eventually sink in—is to move the capital to the Subic-Clark corridor.

In the meantime, focus on the public transport sector. Give the LRT/MRT lines to efficient, well-experienced (with proven track records) operators. Introduce the Bus Rapid Transport Scheme on Edsa’s center lane and on LRT2, and elsewhere once proven effective. The Point-to-Point (P2P) bus system is working well; there should be more of it. Improve public transport systems to get more people out of cars. A successful city is one where public transport is the preferred choice.

These are schemes Tugade is examining. Jun Abaya didn’t even know they existed. Does Rupa want him back? I never heard it complaining of his poor performance, questionable decisions and lack of action. I challenge Rupa to answer this column with thoughtful ideas on what to do. Then demand that Tugade do them—if they make sense. After that, it can judge.

What does it take to get Congress to act fast?


MANILA STANDARD

Jobless rate falls to 10-year low posted December 13, 2016 at 08:45 pm by Gabrielle H. Binaday


Economic Planning Secretary and Neda director-general Ernesto Pernia

The jobless rate fell below 5 percent for the first time in a decade, as the strong economic growth created more jobs this year, the National Economic and Development Authority said Tuesday.

Results of the Labor Force Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority showed that unemployment rate eased to 4.7 percent in October from 5.6 percent a year ago. It was also lower than 5.4 percent registered in July.

The PSA said about 41.7 million Filipinos were employed in October, translating into a 95.3-percent employment rate―the highest in all previous October rounds of the LFS since 2006.

“This means that the growth of our economy is becoming more inclusive as it engages more and more Filipinos to participate in the labor market,” said Economic Planning Secretary and Neda director-general Ernesto Pernia.

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“With the decrease of unemployment in October 2016, our implied full-year unemployment rate will be 5.5 percent, exceeding the government target for 2016 of 6.5 to 6.7 percent,” Pernia said.

About 2 million Filipinos were unemployed as of October, data showed.

The services sector remained the top employment contributor with a share of 54.9 percent or 22.9 million of the total employed. The industry sector accounted for 17.2 percent or 7.2 million, driven largely by the strong growth in manufacturing and construction.

Unemployment rate among the youth continued to decline in October to 11.6 percent, also a record low for all October rounds of the LFS since 2006.

The share of inactive youth―those who are neither studying nor employed―has consistently been declining in the past four years and dropped to 20.5 percent in October 2016.

“While this shows progress, it is important to note that the unemployment rate of the youth is still more than twice the national unemployment rate and thrice the unemployment rate of 25 to 54 age group. This shows that we need to equip our youth with the right skills and experience to be able to compete with seasoned workers,” said Pernia.

He said while unemployment rate dropped, the underemployment rate increased to 18 percent in October from 17.6 percent recorded in the same period a year ago. This was also 0.7-percentage-point higher than 17.3 percent in July.

Neda said underemployment was prevalent among those working in private households and those employed in family business.

Meanwhile, the number of stable wage and salary employment grew to 25.3 million or 60.8 percent of total employed persons in October 2016. This was the highest for all October rounds since 2006.

Private establishments employed nearly 80 percent of these workers, while the public sector employed just 13 percent.

“The increase in stable wage and salary employment reflects our economy’s strength and the result of the government’s clamp down on unlawful contractualization,” Pernia said.

He said more than a third of those employed were still vulnerable, citing that a large portion of those employed, especially in the agriculture sector, were susceptible to external shocks and economic downturns.

“We must accelerate the improvement of local infrastructure and facilitate the linkaging of the sectors, primarily between the agriculture and industry sectors, to help raise the productivity of farmers and increase the value of their products,” Pernia said.

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RELATED FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHT

7.5M part time workers at risk By ANGELA CELIS December 14, 2016

More Filipinos are working but close to one-fifth are just part time workers mostly in the service industry and are young.

The latest Labor Force Survey showed 7.51 million of those working are either self-employed or in family enterprises or in agriculture wanting to work more hours.

The underemployment rate, which according to economic planning secretary Ernesto Pernia, is a more persistent problem., worsened to 18 percent in October from the 17.6 percent recorded in the previous year even if the jobless rate was the lowest recorded in the past decade.

“Underemployment, I think, needs more attention actually. It is still double-digit, so we should try to reduce that, maybe by another five percentage points,” Pernia had said.

He also noted the need to generate better employment opportunities.

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“The way to do that is to create better quality jobs that are more regular and therefore more full time, that would reduce unemployment by itself,” Pernia said.

“Those with quality jobs are usually those who receive regular salaries and wages. (There’s also a need to) reduce the unemployed family workers and self-employed, meaning those in the informal sectors, they’re not really full-time workers,” he added.

At risk are young workers who still do not have enough skill to work full time. Most of them work in private households, farms or in family businesses.

“The unemployment rate of the youth is still twice the national unemployment rate and thrice the unemployment rate of 25 to 54 age group. This shows that we need to equip our youth with the right skills and experience to be able to compete with seasoned workers,” Pernia said.

The underemployed are those who have jobs but are mostly part timers working less than 40 hours per week. They expressed the desire to have additional hours of work in their present job, get an additional job or have a new job with longer working hours.

Underemployed persons who work for less than 40 hours in a week are called visibly underemployed persons, and they accounted for more than half of the total underemployed last October.

By comparison, the underemployed persons who worked for 40 hours or more in a week made up 45.1 percent.

By sector, 43.5 percent of the underemployed worked in the services sector, while 39.1 percent were in the agriculture sector. Those in the industry sector accounted for 17.3 percent.

Meanwhile, the unemployment rate in the country dropped further to 4.7 percent from 5.6 percent in October 2015, the lowest rate recorded in the past decade.

“With the decrease of unemployment in October 2016, our implied full-year unemployment rate will be 5.5 percent, exceeding the government target for 2016 of 6.5 to 6.7 percent,” Pernia said.

YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT

Moreover, the unemployment rate among the youth continued to decline in October 2016 at 11.6 percent, also a record low for all October rounds of the LFS since 2006.

Likewise, NEDA said the share of inactive youth, those who are neither studying nor employed, has consistently been declining in the past four years and has dropped to 20.5 percent in October 2016.

The LFS for October 2016 also showed that employment rate rose to 95.3 percent from 94.4 percent in the same period last year, to reach 41.7 million Filipinos employed.

“This means that the growth of our economy is becoming more inclusive as it engages more and more Filipinos to participate in the labor market,” Pernia said.

The services sector remained the top employment contributor with a share of 54.9 percent or 22.9 million of the total employed.

The industry sector accounted for 17.2 percent or 7.2 million of the total employed in October 2016, driven largely by strong growth in manufacturing and construction.

Meanwhile, the number of stable wage and salary employment grew to 25.3 million or 60.8 percent of total employed persons in October 2016. NEDA said private establishments employ nearly 80 percent of these workers, while the public sector employs just 13 percent.

“The increase in stable wage and salary employment reflects our economy’s strength and the result of the government’s clamp down on unlawful contractualization,” Pernia said.

However, he reiterated that more than a third of those who are employed are still vulnerable, citing that a large portion of those employed, especially in the agriculture sector, are susceptible to external shocks and economic downturns.

“We must accelerate the improvement of local infrastructure and facilitate the linkaging of the sectors, primarily between the agriculture and industry sectors, to help raise the productivity of farmers and increase the value of their products,” Pernia said.

He added the government must seek to strengthen linkages between academe, technical education institutions and industry to ensure quality and relevance of education, and that students gain competencies that are essential to thrive in today’s changing world of work.

“We must go beyond cramming information into our youth and foster the development of soft skills to enable the country’s youth to make informed career decisions and develop life skills necessary to succeed in a competitive workplace,” Pernia said.


MANILA STANDARD

Foreign investments surge to $5.9b posted December 12, 2016 at 08:40 pm by Julito G. Rada



Net inflows of foreign direct investments jumped 25 percent in the first nine months to $5.9 billion from $4.7 billion a year ago, on sustained investors’ confidence in the economy.

Bangko Sentral said the nine-month figure increased from a year earlier, despite the big decline in September’s investments. The nine-month tally also surpassed the full-year figure of $5.7 billion in 2015.

“The continued FDI inflows reflect investors’ confidence in the country’s economy on account of sustained growth prospects and strong macroeconomic fundamentals,” Bangko Sentral said in a statement.

Data showed net inflows of FDIs fell 69.3 percent in September to $469 million from $1.5 billion in the same period last year, pulled down by lower investments in debt instruments.

The September figure was also 34 percent lower than $711 million net inflows registered in August 2016.

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Investments in debt instruments recorded lower net inflows of $296 million in September, a 66.3-percent decrease from the year-ago level. Equity capital posted net inflows of $138 million during the month, also down from $600 million in the same period last year.

Equity capital placements in September came mainly from Japan, Taiwan, Germany, the Netherlands and the United States and were channeled into manufacturing; real estate; wholesale and retail trade; financial and insurance; and administrative and support service activities.

Meanwhile, the nine-month FDI tally rose on higher investments in debt instruments and net equity capital placements.

Investments in debt instruments, or lending by parent companies abroad to their local affiliates to fund existing operations and business expansion, contributed largely to net inflows during the nine-month period, registering an increase of 41 percent to $3.7 billion from $2.6 billion last year.

Net equity capital placements increased 9.3 percent to $1.6 billion as gross placements of $1.9 billion more than offset withdrawals of $248 million.

Gross equity capital placements in the first nine months came mainly from Japan, Singapore, the US, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

These placements were largely invested in financial and insurance; manufacturing; real estate; accommodation and food service; and wholesale and retail trade activities.

FDI net inflows hit $5.72 billion in 2015.

Bangko Sentral expects net inflows to reach $6.3 billion in 2016, on the back of improving global economic conditions and robust domestic economy.

Bangko Sentral said earlier the implementation of various private-public partnership projects, particularly in infrastructure, would give a strong signal to investors, boosting their confidence to invest in the country.

Bangko Sentral’s statistics on foreign direct investments cover actual investment inflows, which are in the forms of equity capital, reinvestment or earnings and borrowings between affiliates.

Bangko Sentral’s FDI data include investments where ownership by the foreign enterprise is at least 10 percent.

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RELATED FROM THE MANILA TIMES

‘Chinese firms to play big role in PH infra’ BY MAYVELIN U. CARABALLO, TMT ON DECEMBER 15, 2016 BUSINESS

Philippine membership in China-led Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) will firmly establish the role of Chinese companies in the domestic infrastructure sector for the long term, BMI Research said in a report.

Although the Chinese government has said AIIB’s activities will be non-political, the research unit of the US Fitch Group expects that many projects will nevertheless align with the objectives of China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative.

BMI said while this will provide strong support for the Philippines’ infrastructure sector, it also risks crowding out other potential participants in the country’s public-private partnership (PPP) program.

“One of our key themes for 2017 is that the AIIB will emerge as a key vehicle for China to use to increase its influence as the institution begins making its presence felt on the Asia infrastructure financing scene,” BMI said in the report released recently.

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The Senate ratified the Philippines’ entry to the AIIB with a 20-1 vote on December 5, beating the December 31, 2016 deadline set by the bank for members to submit their respective “instruments of ratification.”

“The Philippine Senate’s ratification of the country’s membership in the new development bank on December 6 opens another avenue of financing for projects – the country expects to raise $200 million to $500 million in loans from the bank annually,” the report said.

Earlier, the Department of Finance (DOF) said the government may now request the AIIB for a mission to come and discuss with local officials the proposed list of projects for financing, now that the Senate has ratified the Articles of Agreement formalizing the country’s status as founding member of the China-led lender.

Priority projects

Referring to priority projects, the DOF said the EDSA Bus Rapid Transit project and the Metro Manila flood control project would be among the first to be presented to the AIIB for possible funding.

“These are the projects that are the most prepared in terms of government approvals, feasibility studies and other requirements, and are already in the pipeline. So these projects can be processed most expeditiously for co-financing by AIIB,” National Treasurer Roberto Tan had said.

The AIIB is founded by 57 sovereign-member countries with a total capitalization of $100 billion.

Members include Australia, China, South Korea, United Kingdom, Philippines, Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Brunei, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Austria, France, Germany, Italy, Brazil, Russia, India and South Africa.

Out of those, 37 are from Asia and 20 are non-regional members. The AIIB became operational on January 17, 2016. To date, its board of directors has approved six infrastructure projects costing $829 million.

Chinese firms well positioned

BMI reiterated that Chinese construction companies are well-positioned to take on high-value infrastructure projects in the Philippines, given their ability to raise large sums of capital and excess operational capacity that will help them compete fully in the country’s infrastructure industry.

However, it said while this will provide strong support for the Philippines’ infrastructure sector, it also risks crowding out the country’s PPP program.

“We believe that Chinese construction companies are well-positioned to take on high-value infrastructure projects in the Philippines, helping President Rodrigo Duterte fulfil his ambitious P7 trillion infrastructure spending goals,” the study said.

BMI noted that five Chinese construction firms – all of which are at least partially state-owned – signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with two Philippine consultancies on December 7 to pursue $100 billion worth of projects, drawing on their excess capacity built up during years of fiscal stimulus in China and generous politically-oriented financing from state-owned banks to take advantage of a Philippine policy allowing full foreign ownership of high-value projects.

“This development supports our view that Chinese funds and contractors will play an increasingly important role in the Philippines’ infrastructure industry in the wake of Duterte’s tilt toward friendlier relations with Beijing,” it said.

It sees projects of interest in the country being in the transport sector – specifically ports and railways – aligning neatly with China’s ‘One Belt One Road’ initiative.

BMI said that under the most recent MOU, projects in which the Chinese companies are reportedly interested include a park and pier in Davao City, an industrial park in Davao City and a dredging project near Manila.

Drawback

Despite this, BMI said the existing PPP projects in the Philippines already see limited participation from foreign companies, and an increased presence of Chinese SOEs in the sector could further crowd out opportunities for other international players.

According to the Philippines’ PPP Center, of the 16 projects that have been awarded since the launch of the program, only four have foreign companies involved in the winning consortium primarily in technologically advanced roles, while domestic Philippine companies are more competitive in construction and financing roles.

“Chinese companies have an advantage in raising large sums of capital, giving them the ability to take advantage of a policy in the Philippines that allows foreign contractors to have 100 percent ownership of projects and participate in PPPs if they invest at least P1 billion and obtain a ‘Quadruple A’ or ‘AAAA’ designation,” it said.

Two upcoming PPP projects – the South Line of the North-South Railway Project and the Manila subway – are among those courted by Chinese companies, or being considered for official development assistance, the study added.


INQUIRER

Duterte economic team to negotiate infra projects with AIIB By: Ben O. de Vera - @inquirerdotnet Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:04 PM December 16, 2016


DECEMBER 17 -THIS PHOTO POSTED OCTOBER 17, 2017 AP -Chinese President Xi Jinping (center) shows the way to the guests attending the signing ceremony for the Asia Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing in October 2014. (AP/Takaki Yajima)

Economic managers will visit Beijing in January to firm up transportation projects to be funded by the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) in line with the Duterte administration’s pivot to China, officials said.

On its website, the AIIB said its president Jin Liqun visited Manila last Dec. 12-14, during which he met with President Rodrigo Duterte, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III, among other government officials.

“It was a great pleasure to meet President Duterte of the Philippines, the most recent country to ratify the AIIB’s articles of agreement. The bank looks forward to supporting the Philippines in its endeavor to develop world-class infrastructure, including in the transportation sector,” Jin was quoted by the AIIB as saying in a statement.

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Last Dec. 5, the Senate voted 20-1 to ratify the Philippines’ membership in the Beijing-headquartered AIIB, ahead of the Dec. 31 deadline for submission of prospective members’ instruments of ratification.

In a speech before members of the Federation of Filipino Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry last Dec. 13, Diokno disclosed that during Duterte’s meeting with Jin, they “[fleshed out] major infrastructure projects [that were] shovel-ready and ready for financing by the AIIB.”

“Next month, just before the Chinese New Year, Secretary Dominguez, [Socioeconomic Planning] Secretary [Ernesto M.] Pernia and I will go to Beijing to negotiate specific projects with AIIB,” Diokno said.

The Budget chief said “the new administration understands the importance of improved relations with China.”

“The President’s state visit to China last October, in which many of you joined, promises many positive outcomes. It promises greater trade with China, which right now is already our country’s second-biggest trading partner. It promises to double or triple agricultural exports to China. It promises more than one million Chinese tourists to the Philippines, and it promises fresh infrastructure financing for us,” he added.

READ: Itemized list of PH projects covered by China’s $15-B investment pledges to Duterte

The Department of Finance said early this week that the government was planning to borrow up to $500 million from the AIIB next year to fund ready-to-implement projects.

READ: PH eyes $300M to $500 million from China-led AIIB in 2017

National Treasurer Roberto B. Tan had said membership in the AIIB would allow co-financing with the Manila-based multilateral lender Asian Development Bank of the EDSA bus rapid transit (BRT) project, as well as with the World Bank for the Metro Manila flood control project.

The Philippines had been required to contribute to the AIIB a total of $200 million or about P9.3 billion in paid-in capital, payable in five tranches until 2019. The AIIB’s total capitalization was $100 billion.

The initial tranche of paid-in capital worth $40 million or almost P2 billion will be sourced from budgetary savings and must be remitted before yearend.

The second and third installment payments worth P3.72 billion were already included in the P3.35-trillion 2017 national budget.

The country will have a total voting power of 12,821 votes or 1.1 percent of the total voting power across all members, as well as join the proposed constituency comprised of Bangladesh, Malaysia, Maldives, Nepal and Thailand.

The Duterte administration plans to spend P860.7 billion or 5.4 percent of the gross domestic product (GDP) on hard infrastructure next year, en route to bringing the infrastructure spending-to-GDP ratio to 7.2 percent by 2022.

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RELATED FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHT

ICTSI offers to build P1.5B Cavite terminal December 16, 2016 The International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) has offered to build a barge and Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) terminal in Cavite.

The terminal is estimated to cost P1.5 billion ($30 million) and will help decongest Manila’s streets by reducing the number of truck using Metro Manila roads.

The project, called Cavite Gateway Terminal (CGT), will be located within a six-hectare property in Tanza, Cavite.

Christian Gonzalez, ICTSI senior vice president and Asia-Pacific regional head, said the company will initially infuse $30 million for phase 1 of CGT which would to accommodate approximately 115,000 containers which would be moved across Manila Bay.

140,000 TRUCKS REMOVED FROM THE ROAD

This means 140,000 trucks removed from the road.

“ We came up with an idea to link the port of Manila to Cavite by barge (and) Roll on-Roll off to a new facility in Cavite. This has been supported by the local governments, the provincial government and y the national government,” Gonzalez said in a press briefing.

He said ICTSI wants to imitate the same success story of the barge port in Mongkok, Hong Kong..

“As Hong Kong became congested due to economic development, they’ve realized that in order for the port to continue to expand and the port to continue to succeed, they needed to build more roads and bridges but it will take time, so the solution is to run an extensive barging operation,” Gonzalez said.

He added: “Instead of finding negative solutions in truck bans and other temporary solutions, we came up with a solution that’s been tried and tested in other parts of the world which is to use our waterways which are not congested, efficient, will be very cheap and which will essentially allow the development of more economic activities in the province of Cavite.

CONSTRUCTION STARTS NEXT YEAR

Construction is expected to start in the first or second quarter next year once the company secures all government approvals. The project will be completed in seven months.

Department of Transportation (DOTr) is studying the ICTSI proposal .

ICTSI said CGT will have a level of integration with other major Luzon port facilities for more cost effective and time-bound access to the Cavite market for both inbound and outbound cargo.

Cavite was identified as the prime location for such a project primarily because of the province’s high economic density.

In addition to the Cavite Export Processing Zone (CEPZ), which houses over 400 actively operating companies, there are multiple areas of planned development within Cavite that can justify ICTSI’s investment in a barge and Ro-Ro terminal.

Succeeding phases of CGT will support a substantial increase in capacity and will be built to account for projected annual volume increases in the Cavite market.


PHILSTAR COMMENTARY

P50 million tip of the iceberg SPYBITS By Babe G. Romualdez (The Philippine Star) | Updated December 15, 2016 - 12:00am 7 6 googleplus0 1

The corruption case involving gambling tycoon and Fontana Leisure Parks owner Jack Lam and two Bureau of Immigration officials who had admitted receiving P50 million for the release of illegal Chinese workers is only “the tip of the iceberg.”


Aguirre formally asks Duterte to fire 2 BI execs tagged in extortion mess Published December 13, 2016 9:16pm -COURTESY OF GMA NEWS NETWORK

Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre has already recommended the dismissal of the said BI commissioners who were caught on camera receiving five paper bags containing money from an ex-police colonel identified with Lam. The money was reportedly in exchange for the freedom of the illegal Chinese nationals caught working at Lam’s casino.

The two BI officials, however, insist they decided to conduct a sting operation and took the money as proof that corruption exists in the bureau – although they seem to be the only ones who knew about the supposed entrapment operation. People are also wondering why these two are returning only P30 million and not the entire amount.

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According to our intelligence source from the BI – who naturally refuses to be identified – there have been at least 100,000 illegal immigrants coming in every year for the past 15 years, placing the number of undocumented aliens at 1.5 million which is really a conservative estimate considering the country has more than 7,100 islands that make it easy for illegals to slip into the country. It’s an open secret that there is so much corruption in the BI of with unscrupulous officials and employees making a lucrative business of getting payoffs or extorting money from foreigners facing visa problems and violations.

Over the years, billions of pesos have changed hands for all kinds of illegal activities, such as releasing foreigners charged with all kinds of crimes like sexual abuse, including the rape of children, allowing foreigners with criminal records to avoid deportation, or helping them slip out of the country to evade arrest.

According to our source, the detention center in Bicutan has become a “business center” where corrupt employees conduct their extortion activities. Detained foreigners who refuse to pay up – with amounts ranging from P100,000 to as much as P10 million depending on the alleged violation – could be held for weeks, or even years unless they agree to the “negotiated amount.” More often than not, foreigners given a charge sheet pay up because the legal process can be tedious, with filings and motions for reconsideration taking so many months as files can go missing.

Among the highly publicized cases of corruption include an alleged Chinese drug lord and Hong Kong Triad member Wu Hao who had been going in and out of the country before he was caught in Hong Kong using a fake Guatemalan passport – and was immediately sent back to Manila. For some reason (P10 million reasons, some say), Wu Hao was recommended for release by then associate BI commissioner Siegfried Mison who argued that the drug lord used the fake passport “in good faith.”

If one could recall, Mison eventually became commissioner but was sacked by then president Benigno Aquino III last January for various “administrative lapses” and for being implicated in the “numerous escapes” of South Korean Cheo Songdae who is wanted in Korea for extortion and was also facing arrest in Cavite for robbery and extortion.

Then there was the case of Indian nationals Maqsood Ahmed Khan and Koyanna Venugopal Krishna Reddy who were facing cases of sexual harassment and child molestation. The two were also facing complaints of illegal mining and labor-related problems – and yet were given an Allow Departure Order, obviously in connivance with corrupt BI employees. (Indians are allowed to visit the country up to 21 days without a visa provided they have valid visas for the UK, US, Australia, Japan, Singapore, Canada or Schengen or are permanent residents of these countries, and yet along with the Chinese, they still comprise a majority of illegal immigrants to the Philippines.)


Chinese fugitive Wang Bo. PHILSTAR FILE

A highly celebrated case was that of Wang Bo (by the way, “buwang” – meaning lunatic – is a favorite word of President Duterte) wanted by the Chinese government and the Interpol for allegedly embezzling $100 million. Mison was implicated in a case of bribery for allegedly preventing the deportation of Wang Bo – saying that two of his commissioners told him the Chinese fugitive should not be deported since he committed a crime in Manila.

Clearly, corruption in the immigration bureau is well entrenched – and it will take a lot of political will to fight this cancer of corruption that continues to spread within the agency.


Sec. Lorenzana doing a good job

People are applauding Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana for refusing to give in to the conditions for a ceasefire set by the New People’s Army that military personnel withdraw from the areas they control – telling the reds: “What areas are you talking about? You have no area; this is the Republic of the Philippines!”

Del is turning out to be one of the most respected Cabinet secretaries in the Duterte administration, standing his ground and with all due respect to the President, arguing his point on what he thinks would be best for the country as far as the military is concerned.

Apparently, the Defense chief is close enough to the President to be able to speak his mind, as seen on the issue of the US-Philippine alliance when he said that joint military exercises are mutually beneficial, coming up with a sagacious proposal to scale down the exercises instead of totally abrogating them.

Kudos to Secretary Lorenzana!

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RELATED FROM THE INQUIRER

Lookout bulletin issued vs BI execs, others linked to extort try By: Tetch Torres-Tupas - Reporter / @T2TupasINQ INQUIRER.net / 04:20 PM December 16, 2016


Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II. INQUIRER FILE PHOTO

The Department of Justice (DOJ) has issued an Immigration Lookout Bulletin Order (ILBO) against immigration officials and several others implicated in a P50-million bribery scandal involving Macau-based online gaming tycoon Jack Lam.

Included in the ILBO are Deputy Commissioners Al C. Argosino and Michael B. Robles, Bureau of Immigration (BI) Intelligence Chief and a retired police General Charles T. Calima Jr., retired police General Wally Sombero and Lam’s interpreters Norman Ng and Alexander Yu.

In his memorandum, Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II instructed all immigration officers to be on alert should they pass through the country’s airports and seaports.

The same memorandum also ordered the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) to obtain relevant information against the six individuals including contact numbers that can be called even outside office hours.

“All concerned are strongly warned against waiting until boarding time to inform concerned offices of any attempt to leave the country,” Aguirres said.

The memorandum is addressed to Immigration Commissioner Jaime Morente, OIC-Prosecutor General Jorge G. Catalan Jr., NBI Director Dante Gierran and Parañaque City Prosecutor Amerhassan C. Paudac.

A person subject of an ILBO can still be allowed to leave the country as long as there is a permission given by the Secretary of Justice.

Argosino and Robles were accused of receiving P48 million from Lam to facilitate the release of 600 of the 1,300 Chinese nationals arrested for working illegally at Lam’s Fontana Resort.

READ: BI execs say they were only probing corruption

The two denied the allegations, saying they are investigating the extent of corruption at the BI. Argosino and Robles said of the P50 million, P2 million was given to Sombero and P18 million was given to Calima while the remaining amount was turned over to the DOJ.

READ: 2 BI execs admit receiving P48M from Jack Lam

The two officials also filed a criminal case against Calima, Lam, Ng and Yu before the Parañaque prosecutors office. RAM/rga


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