AQUINO IN MYANMAR (BURMA): CHINA TOPS ASEAN AGENDA

NAYPYITAW, BURMA, MAY 12 -President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday vowed to press anew for the rule of law in resolving territorial conflicts at the annual gathering of Southeast Asian leaders, which opens here Sunday amid a surge of tensions in the South China Sea. Mr. Aquino arrived here in the afternoon for the 24th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that began with a dinner hosted by Burmese President Thein Sein for the Asean leaders. Before departing for Burma, Mr. Aquino said he would apprise the other Asean leaders of the Philippine case questioning China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea at the United Nations arbitral tribunal. “This is what we wish to express: Let’s uphold and follow the rule of law in resolving territorial issues so that recognition and respect for the right of each country prevails,” Mr. Aquino said in a departure speech at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila. “This step mirrors our position: A dialogue between two countries can’t resolve issues affecting different members of a region,” he added. China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan. The overlapping claims and the latest provocations by China in the East Sea—part of the sea within Vietnam’s territory—and in the West Philippine Sea—part of the sea within Manila’s economic exclusion zone—are expected to dominate discussions in Sunday’s sessions. The President left with a 56-member delegation, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Andrea Abad, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino and Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria. Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo left ahead of them. Malacañang has allotted P6.8 million for Mr. Aquino’s attendance in the summit.
READ MORE...

(ALSO) Asean to China: Stop raising tension at sea

Taking off from the joint statement of the foreign ministers, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declared yesterday that all parties to the South China Sea dispute must stop raising tensions in the area, amid China’s more aggressive actions to assert its claim. The Naypyidaw Declaration on Realization of the ASEAN Community by 2015 said ASEAN leaders agreed to “strengthen cooperation” for the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “especially calling on parties to exercise self-restraint and non-use of force.” The leaders also said parties must “refrain from taking actions that would escalate tension and to work toward an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as reflected in the ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.” READ MORE...

ALSO: VIETNAM SEEKS ASEAN HELP IN ROW WITH CHINA

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Surging maritime tensions dominated a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday as Vietnam called on its regional neighbors for support in its deepening territorial dispute with China. The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) convened just days after Vietnam and the Philippines locked horns with China in contested waters, stoking international alarm. The summit, hosted for the first time by Myanmar in its showpiece capital Naypyidaw, is set to be dominated by discussion of the South China Sea, which is crisscrossed by key shipping lanes and thought to contain vast energy reserves. In prepared remarks for the summit seen by Agence France Presse, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged his Asean counterparts to protest what he termed China’s “serious violation” in the sea. Tensions flared after a controversial decision by Beijing to relocate a deep-water oil rig into territory also claimed by Hanoi in early May. The move sparked a series of incidents in the disputed waters, with Vietnam on Wednesday accusing its neighbor of attacks on its ships.
“This extremely dangerous action has been and is directly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety,” Dung said, according to the prepared remarks. On Saturday, Asean foreign ministers expressed “serious concerns over the ongoing developments” in a joint statement ahead of the summit, as the bloc sought to present a unified front in dealing with the region’s massive neighbor.READ REPORT IN FULL...

ALSO: HOW CHINA TREATS ITS ‘FRIENDS’

We have been criticized for bringing our dispute with out more powerful neighbor to an international body complaining about the Chinese bully. It turns out that we did the right thing. On October 11, 2011, Vietnam and China entered into an “Agreement on the basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related matters”.  This is one of the most important legal documents between Vietnam and China as the two countries experienced untold ups and downs in the bilateral ties in more than one thousand years of history. In light of this document, one can expect that the two countries could sail well in its disputed sea. However, by a recent decision to send a state-of-the-art oil rig within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone to operate from May 2 until August 15, 2014, China has proved to be an unreliable partner, an undependable friend and an outright bully. The location of the oil rig lies 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude. This location is entirely within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles from its coast under the 1982 UNCLOS. Yet, the two countries had an agreement! Looking into the Agreement, the first article says the relationship of the Vietnam and China is guided by the spirit of “Friendly neighborliness, comprehensive co-operation, long-term stability and future-oriented relations” and “good neighbors, good friends, good comrades and good partners”. The second article says “based on the legal regime and principles defined by international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the two sides shall make efforts to seek mutually acceptable fundamental and lasting solutions to sea-related disputes.” Nice language. China and Vietnam as BFF, Best Friends Forever, -With its recent move, China has revealed its true intentions, giving the lie to its commitment to be a good comrade and neighbor. It is understandable if international public opinion questions the prestige of China - an international power, a member of the UN Security Council which was established to make peace, preserve peace for the world would suddenly act contrary to the international community’s expectations. Observers may see a thread in the series of Chinese actions, which is that China acts in disregard of international laws only to serve its own national selfish interests. China has never taken into account negative consequences of its actions in the region. Early this year, Chinese surveillance vessels blocked the Philippines from resupplying their outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal and now it brings a drilling platform well into the EEZ of its “comrade” Vietnam. In light of this provocative actions, it is high time that the other big powers such as the US, India, Japan, together with peace loving nations worldwide coordinate efforts to push back China’s moves. READ MORE...


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China tops Asean agenda, says Aquino


AFP FILE PHOTOS

NAYPYITAW, BURMA, MAY 12, 2014 (INQUIRER)  By TJ Burgonio - Aquino says Chinese issue concerns Southeast Asia security.

President Benigno Aquino III on Saturday vowed to press anew for the rule of law in resolving territorial conflicts at the annual gathering of Southeast Asian leaders, which opens here Sunday amid a surge of tensions in the South China Sea.

Mr. Aquino arrived here in the afternoon for the 24th Summit of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) that began with a dinner hosted by Burmese President Thein Sein for the Asean leaders.

Before departing for Burma, Mr. Aquino said he would apprise the other Asean leaders of the Philippine case questioning China’s claim to almost the entire South China Sea at the United Nations arbitral tribunal.

“This is what we wish to express: Let’s uphold and follow the rule of law in resolving territorial issues so that recognition and respect for the right of each country prevails,” Mr. Aquino said in a departure speech at Ninoy Aquino International Airport in Manila.

“This step mirrors our position: A dialogue between two countries can’t resolve issues affecting different members of a region,” he added.

China claims 90 percent of the 3.5-million-square-kilometer South China Sea, including waters within the exclusive economic zones of Brunei, Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam and Taiwan.

The overlapping claims and the latest provocations by China in the East Sea—part of the sea within Vietnam’s territory—and in the West Philippine Sea—part of the sea within Manila’s economic exclusion zone—are expected to dominate discussions in Sunday’s sessions.

Provocative moves

Vietnam is locked in a standoff with China in the East Sea where Beijing has moved a deepwater drilling rig to explore for oil near the contested Paracels Islands. Hanoi has accused Beijing of using water cannon and ramming eight of its ships to drive them away last Sunday.

On March 9, Chinese Coast Guard ships entered the West Philippine Sea and chased away a Philippine resupply vessel from Ayungin Shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) where a small Filipino garrison stands watch over Philippine territory aboard a grounded, rusting Navy ship.

On March 29, the eve of the Philippines’ filing of its case in the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea in The Hague, the Netherlands, the Chinese again tried to drive away a Philippine resupply ship, but were outsmarted by the Filipinos with air assistance from the US Pacific Command.

And on Tuesday, Philippine maritime police seized a Chinese fishing boat and detained its 11-member crew after finding 400 protected sea turtles aboard the vessel at Hasa-Hasa Shoal (Half Moon Shoal) in the West Philippine Sea.

Ministers’ statement

Asean foreign ministers, meeting here also on Saturday, expressed “serious concerns” over the fresh surge of tensions in the sea.

In a joint statement issued after a series of discussions, the ministers urged the countries involved “to exercise self-restraint” and “avoid actions that could undermine” peace and stability in the area.

They also said the parties should resolve the territorial disputes peacefully, “without resorting to threats or use of force.”

The ministers called on all claimants to fully and effectively implement the Declaration on the Code of Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea, the nonaggression pact that Asean signed with China in 2002, “to create an environment of mutual trust and confidence in.”

They emphasized the need for “expeditiously working” toward an early conclusion of a code of conduct in the South China Sea to prevent the overlapping territorial claims from erupting into conflict.

The ministers also reaffirmed the importance of maintaining peace and stability, maritime security, freedom of navigation and overflight in the South China Sea.

Asean integration

The summit opens Sunday morning with all the Southeast Asian leaders discussing Asean integration and connectivity at the Myanmar International Convention Center.

After lunch, they will meet again for the retreat session and tackle current regional and international issues. President Aquino will be the sixth leader to make a statement.

Assistant Foreign Secretary Charles Jose said on Friday that the Philippines and Vietnam were expected to become more vocal on the South China Sea disputes because of China’s increasing aggressiveness in asserting its claims.

Jose also said Mr. Aquino would push for the early conclusion of the code of conduct in the South China Sea.

In his departure speech in Manila, Mr. Aquino said he would engage the other Asean leaders on a host of issues, including strengthening security, responding to climate change and taking care of marginalized sectors.

“It’s clear to us: The difficulties facing Asean would be resolved sooner if there is strong cooperation between the member countries,” he said.

Asean disaster response

This, he said, is the founding principle of the Asean Agreement on Disaster Management and Emergency Response that became the means for Asian countries to provide aid for the survivors of Supertyphoon “Yolanda” (international name: Haiyan), which devastated Eastern Visayas and large swaths of central Philippines in November last year.

“That’s why we will take this opportunity to personally thank them for their help and support,” Mr. Aquino said.

The President said he would also report on the signing of a peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, which includes the establishment of a new, autonomous Bangsamoro region in Mindanao.

“This way, we will be able to present a model for achieving lasting peace that brings about wide development,” he said.

The President left with a 56-member delegation, including House Speaker Feliciano Belmonte, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima, Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Presidential Management Staff Chief Julia Andrea Abad, Mindanao Development Authority Chairperson Luwalhati Antonino and Presidential Protocol Chief Celia Anna Feria.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario and Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo left ahead of them.

Malacañang has allotted P6.8 million for Mr. Aquino’s attendance in the summit.

FROM PHILSTAR

Asean to China: Stop raising tension at sea By Aurea Calica (The Philippine Star) | Updated May 12, 2014 - 12:00am 1 0 googleplus0 0

NAYPYIDAW – Taking off from the joint statement of the foreign ministers, leaders of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) declared yesterday that all parties to the South China Sea dispute must stop raising tensions in the area, amid China’s more aggressive actions to assert its claim.

The Naypyidaw Declaration on Realization of the ASEAN Community by 2015 said ASEAN leaders agreed to “strengthen cooperation” for the implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea (DOC) in accordance with universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), “especially calling on parties to exercise self-restraint and non-use of force.”

The leaders also said parties must “refrain from taking actions that would escalate tension and to work toward an early conclusion of the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea as reflected in the ASEAN’s Six-Point Principles on the South China Sea.”

They also agreed to promote and uphold the rule of law in the conduct of relations, including the peaceful resolution of disputes.

This has been the pitch of President Aquino as the Philippines went to the arbitral tribunal to peacefully settle the country’s maritime dispute with China.

Gunboat diplomacy

Some leaders spoke boldly about the need for ASEAN to unite and ensure that it would not become an insignificant force in the face of challenges.

In a press briefing at the Myanmar International Convention Center here, Presidential Communications Operations Office Secretary Herminio Coloma Jr. said Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono manifested that “there should be no room for the use of gunboat diplomacy” because what should be promoted is “peaceful means of settling disputes” by following the UNCLOS and the DOC.

In international politics, gunboat diplomacy or “big stick diplomacy” in US history means having conspicuous displays of naval power to help the pursuit of foreign policy objectives, implying or constituting a direct threat of warfare, if the terms of negotiations will not be agreeable to the superior force.

In his extemporaneous remarks following his prepared statement, Yudhoyono, who was congratulated by many of his fellow heads of states as he was completing his second two-year term of office as Indonesian president, emphasized the need for ASEAN solidarity, Coloma said.

“He called on the members of ASEAN to show moral courage and he spoke after the president of Vietnam also called on ASEAN solidarity for following the rule of law,” Coloma said.

Coloma said Malaysian President Najib Razak also called for “concrete demonstration of ASEAN solidarity in terms of promoting adherence to the rule of law” and display moral strength even in the face of “daunting situations.”

“He said that this is the way by which ASEAN could project itself as a respectable and reliable organization,” Coloma added.

“We will notice that Malaysia, like the Philippines, is also involved in disputes over maritime domain in the South China Sea. We are aware that Vietnam is contesting certain actions taken against it in the South China Sea,” he said.

Coloma said Vietnamese President Truong Tan Sang called for an end to the “brazen attacks” in the South China Sea and urged ASEAN to continue to work for unity and solidarity.

In the plenary session of the leaders, Coloma said several heads of state expressed support for following the rule of law and peaceful settlement of disputes, which had been the key concepts promoted by the Philippines in past meetings of ASEAN.

“We will recall that in the middle of 2012, the Foreign Minister’s Meeting failed to come up with a communiqué. But in December 2012, on the prodding of President Aquino, there was agreement that ASEAN should start fleshing out the declaration on the conduct of parties involved in the South China Sea disputes. And from then on, there has been significant progress in terms of attaining support for the positions taken by the government,” Coloma said.

Big step

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario said the foreign ministers’ statement on Saturday, even without directly mentioning China, was a significant step forward in the context of the dynamics of ASEAN.

When a similar foreign ministers meeting was held in Cambodia two years ago, they failed to come up with a joint communiqué because of an impassé over whether or not to mention the South China Sea conflict.

Coloma said it was the Vietnamese that raised the recent developments in the South China Sea, which rolled over and led to the issuance of the foreign ministers’ joint statement.

Foreign ministers expressed serious concerns and called for restraint amid China’s incursions in the South China Sea, as the grouping faced criticisms that it could not stand up for its members getting bullied by Beijing.

No more moratorium

President Aquino, for his part, pushed vigorously yesterday for the ASEAN member-countries’ full integration rather than promote the status quo amid challenges in the South China Sea, poverty in the region, disasters and climate change that could reverse economic gains.

“We call for a review of the current policy of moratorium,” Aquino said, adding they should devise ways and means for ASEAN to expand development and dialogue cooperation with other interested states, regions and multilateral organizations that were in “a position to contribute to our community-building efforts.”

The President also called anew for adherence to the rule of law without directly mentioning the territorial dispute with China.

“We stand firm in our belief – a belief shared by all – that the rule of law is key in fostering a climate of stability, one that allows our societies and our people to flourish. As such, we look forward to working with our colleagues and partners in this summit toward enhancing our engagements in promoting the rule of law,” Aquino said in his intervention during the ASEAN Summit Plenary held at the Ruby Hall of the Myanmar International Convention Center here on external relations and future directions of ASEAN as a group.

“It is only natural that ASEAN seeks to engage more of the world in its pursuit of inclusive growth and integration. Perhaps the time has come to study ways on how best to do this efficiently – for instance, in engaging with others as regional blocs, instead of as individual nations,” Aquino said.

The President expressed belief ASEAN member-countries shared the advocacy of an outward-looking grouping with a more “inclusive perspective” in relating with dialogue partners, as well as those wishing to engage with ASEAN more comprehensively and openly.

He said without doubt, ASEAN had achieved much in the past 46 years, but “much more remains to be done.”

As leaders who envision the sustained progress, peace and stability of their respective nations and of ASEAN, Aquino said they would now have to deal with the challenge of exploring all avenues that could help them realize their vision.

“An ASEAN that envisions itself to be people-centered and people-oriented must be bold in harnessing innovation and existing ties to fully develop a regional organization that is composed of a more empowered citizenry,” Aquino said.

Meanwhile, Aquino also said he was looking forward to prospects for greater economic development once ASEAN integration had taken place, which would include greater facilitation of goods, services and persons.

FROM THE MANILA TIMES

VIETNAM SEEKS ASEAN HELP IN ROW WITH CHINA
May 11, 2014 11:36 pm


Leaders of the countries making up the Asean, including President Benigno Aquino 3rd (right), join hands at the opening ceremony of the 24th Asean Summit at the Myanmar International Convention Center in the capital NayPyiTaw on Sunday. MALACAÑANG PHOTO

NAYPYIDAW, Myanmar: Surging maritime tensions dominated a meeting of Southeast Asian leaders on Sunday as Vietnam called on its regional neighbors for support in its deepening territorial dispute with China.

The 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) convened just days after Vietnam and the Philippines locked horns with China in contested waters, stoking international alarm.

The summit, hosted for the first time by Myanmar in its showpiece capital Naypyidaw, is set to be dominated by discussion of the South China Sea, which is crisscrossed by key shipping lanes and thought to contain vast energy reserves.

In prepared remarks for the summit seen by Agence France Presse, Vietnam Prime Minister Nguyen Tan Dung urged his Asean counterparts to protest what he termed China’s “serious violation” in the sea.

Tensions flared after a controversial decision by Beijing to relocate a deep-water oil rig into territory also claimed by Hanoi in early May.

The move sparked a series of incidents in the disputed waters, with Vietnam on Wednesday accusing its neighbor of attacks on its ships.

“This extremely dangerous action has been and is directly threatening peace, stability and maritime security and safety,” Dung said, according to the prepared remarks.

On Saturday, Asean foreign ministers expressed “serious concerns over the ongoing developments” in a joint statement ahead of the summit, as the bloc sought to present a unified front in dealing with the region’s massive neighbor.

The standoff has stoked bitter anti-China sentiment in Vietnam, with about 1,000 people joining one of the country’s largest ever rallies against Beijing in Hanoi on Sunday. Protests also broke out in two other major Vietnamese cities.

China and Vietnam, who fought a brief border war in 1979, frequently trade diplomatic barbs over oil exploration, fishing rights and the Spratly and Paracel islands.

Vietnam’s communist regime, which is wary of public gatherings that could threaten its authoritarian rule, has alternated between tolerating anti-China rallies and violently breaking them up.

Observers have said Beijing’s decision to move the rig could have been a tit-for-tat response to a visit to the region by US President Barack Obama, who reaffirmed support for Asian allies the Philippines and Japan, which is locked in its own maritime territorial dispute with China.

Beijing claims sovereign rights to almost the whole of the South China Sea (West Philippine Sea to Manila).
The Philippines and Vietnam are China’s most vocal critics within Southeast Asia.

But the South China Sea is also claimed in part by Brunei Darussalam and Malaysia as well as Taiwan.

Manila, which has asked a UN tribunal to rule on China’s claims over most of the sea, also said on Wednesday it had detained a Chinese fishing boat in disputed territory.

Philippine President Benigno Aquino 3rd on Saturday urged fellow Southeast Asian leaders to face up to the threat posed by China’s increasing assertiveness in the sea, stressing that it affected regional security.

Beijing prefers to negotiate directly with its smaller, weaker neighbors on a bilateral basis, a policy that is rejected by rival claimants.

The other Asean members are Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Myanmar, Singapore and Thailand.

FROM MALAYA BUSINESS INSIGHTS


Ducky Paredes

HOW CHINA TREATS ITS ‘FRIENDS’ By Ducky Paredes | May 09, 2014

IN our dealings with China, the Philippines has been criticized for not dealing with our more powerful neighbor as friends and fellow Asians.

We have been criticized for bringing our dispute with out more powerful neighbor to an international body complaining about the Chinese bully. It turns out that we did the right thing,

On October 11, 2011, Vietnam and China entered into an “Agreement on the basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related matters”.

This is one of the most important legal documents between Vietnam and China as the two countries experienced untold ups and downs in the bilateral ties in more than one thousand years of history.

In light of this document, one can expect that the two countries could sail well in its disputed sea. However, by a recent decision to send a state-of-the-art oil rig within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone to operate from May 2 until August 15, 2014, China has proved to be an unreliable partner, an undependable friend and an outright bully.

The location of the oil rig lies 15 degrees 29 minutes 58 seconds north latitude and 111 degrees 12 minutes 06 seconds east longitude.

This location is entirely within Vietnam’s Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf, about 120 nautical miles from its coast under the 1982 UNCLOS. Yet, the two countries had an agreement!

Looking into the Agreement, the first article says the relationship of the Vietnam and China is guided by the spirit of “Friendly neighborliness, comprehensive co-operation, long-term stability and future-oriented relations” and “good neighbors, good friends, good comrades and good partners”.

The second article says “based on the legal regime and principles defined by international law, including the 1982 UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, the two sides shall make efforts to seek mutually acceptable fundamental and lasting solutions to sea-related disputes.”

Nice language. China and Vietnam as BFF, Best Friends Forever,

With its recent move, China has revealed its true intentions, giving the lie to its commitment to be a good comrade and neighbor.

It is understandable if international public opinion questions the prestige of China - an international power, a member of the UN Security Council which was established to make peace, preserve peace for the world would suddenly act contrary to the international community’s expectations.

Observers may see a thread in the series of Chinese actions, which is that China acts in disregard of international laws only to serve its own national selfish interests.

China has never taken into account negative consequences of its actions in the region. Early this year, Chinese surveillance vessels blocked the Philippines from resupplying their outpost on the Second Thomas Shoal and now it brings a drilling platform well into the EEZ of its “comrade” Vietnam.

In light of this provocative actions, it is high time that the other big powers such as the US, India, Japan, together with peace loving nations worldwide coordinate efforts to push back China’s moves.

Vietnam should consider bringing China to an international arbitration, as the Philippines did, based on the strong historical evidence and international law regarding its sovereignty and jurisdiction over the area.

Of course, China would condemn such a Vietnamese move as being unfriendly. But who needs an international bully as a “friend”?

***

House Deputy Minority Leader Arnel Ty condemns the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) for rewarding its shareholders another P7.3 billion in cash dividends, even as its bills its customers with higher power rates.

“This is the height of callousness – for Meralco to be paying out even more cash bonuses to a few stockholders, while constantly jacking up electricity rates at the expense of 5.4 million consumers,” Ty said.

Meralco distributed the cash bonus to shareholders, days after the company warned consumers to brace themselves for higher electricity charges this month due to increased demand amid the summer heat.

Ty speaks for the minority bloc in the House committee on energy, and represents the Liquefied Petroleum Gas Marketers’ Association (LPG-MA) in Congress.

LPG-MA has been batting for stronger government supervision of the LPG sector and all energy markets, so as to reinforce consumer protection against potentially unfair trade practices and pricing abuses.

Both Meralco and the Energy Regulatory Board earlier indicated that electricity rates this month could go up anywhere from “less than P1.00 to as much as P1.72 per kilowatt-hour (kwh).”

The increase is on top of the P0.89 per kwh increase in the April billings of Meralco customers.

Based on a Philippine Stock Exchange filing, Meralco will pay shareholders a regular dividend of P3.45 per share, plus a special dividend of P3 per share, or a total of P6.45 per share, on May 8. The company has 1,127,271,117 outstanding shares.

Why is Meralco allowed to pay its shareholders incremental dividends, even before the company completes the two mandatory customer refunds?

“At the rate Meralco has been paying dividends to shareholders, the company obviously has a very large pile of cash, some of which could be readily used to immediately satisfy the refunds. Yet, the company seems to be dilly-dallying in fulfilling the refunds,” Ty notes.

The extra dividends that Meralco is paying shareholders this week means that the company will have paid some P47 billion in cumulative cash bonuses to its owners since 2009.

The hefty dividends came from Meralco’s huge annual net profits amounting to P17.273 billion in 2013; P17.016 billion in 2012; P13.227 billion in 2011; P9.685 billion in 2010; P6.005 billion in 2009; and P2.800 billion in 2008.

Although the nation’s largest distribution utility has more than 47,000 shareholders, including small investors, nearly one-half of the cash dividends that Meralco pays out actually goes to controlling owner Beacon Electric Asset Holdings Inc.

Beacon is in turn owned by Metro Pacific Investments Corp., a subsidiary of Metro Pacific Holdings Inc., the Philippine unit of First Pacific Co. Ltd. of Hong Kong.

Meralco’s board of directors has adopted a policy to return to its shareholders by way of cash dividends “at least 50 percent and up to 70 percent” of its annual earnings.

The independent think-tank International Energy Consultants ranks Meralco’s electricity rates as the world’s ninth-highest and the second-highest in Asia.

Perhaps what Congressman Ty and others should be looking at is an amendment to our franchising laws which would make providing service to the consumers more important that making money for those who are granted franchises. -


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

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