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Aboitiz gets OK to start development of Benguet pla
Posted at 06/18/2015 2:29 PM
MANILA – Aboitiz Power Corp. has received a certificate of registration from the Department of Energy (DOE) as a renewable energy developer.

The permit allows AboitizPower to develop the 45-megawatt Nalatang B hydroelectric power plant project in Kabayan, Benguet.

“With the issuance of the certificate of registration, AboitizPower or its assignee can now start on the pre-development stage of the Nalatang Project, which is expected to be completed in the first quarter of 2019,” the company said in a disclosure to the stock exchange on Thursday.

DOE awarded the certificate of registration to AboitizPower following the approval of the assignment of the hydropower service contract of the Nalatang Project from PNOC Renewables Corp., which is the original renewable energy developer.

AboitizPower ended the first quarter with a net income of P3.3 billion, up 4 percent from the P3.2 billion posted in the same period last year.

AboitizPower is the power unit of Aboitiz Equity Ventures (AEV), accounting for 79 percent of total earnings contribution to AEV.
Largest resort in Panglao opens

By MST Entertainment | Jun. 18, 2015 at 05:20pm
The Henann Group of Resorts breaks another record in the hotel and tourism industry with the opening of Henann Resort Alona Beach, the largest resort in Panglao Island, Bohol.

“We consider Henann Resort Alona Beach a milestone in our company’s 17-year history as this is our first property outside Boracay. It has always been my personal goal to expand nationwide and bring the Henann brand of service to the four corners of the Philippines,” said Dr. Henry O. Chusuey, chairman of the Henann Group of Resorts.

Henann Resort Alona Beach is also set to formally unveil this month a three-storey, 2,160 square-meter convention center that can house up to 1,000 guests.

Henann Resort Alona Beach boasts the longest and widest beachfront along Alona Beach, a one and a half kilometre tropical paradise famous for its pristine, white sand and overlooking, rocky cliffs. The 6.5 hectare property will initially operate 100 rooms. Once completed, an additional 300 rooms will be available. It has room types ranging from deluxe, premier and suites to family, premier with pool access, Presidential and beachfront villas.

The rooms feature coastal-inspired modern interiors. Each has a private terrace, wireless internet access, bath tub with separate shower area (for Premier Room only), individually-controlled air conditioning, cable television, direct dial phone, in-room safe, coffee and tea-making facilities and personal refrigerator.

 “We build resorts with our clients first in our minds. We make it worth their stay whether they are with us for short or long-term. We always give our guests the best possible service as the goal is to make them happy from the moment they check in until they leave,” said Chusuey.

 Henann Resort Alona Beach has three massive pools with sunken bar in each. Other amenities include an open air venue for weddings, VIP lounge, fitness and business centers, and a mini shop. Famous Henann brands that will be operational by second quarter of the year are Kai Spa, Sea Breeze Cafe (an all-day buffet restaurant), and Christina’s (Western fine dining).

Bohol is centrally located in the Visayas region and is only an hour away by plane from Manila. Land transfer from provincial capital Tagbilaran City to Henann Resort Alona Beach takes about 30 minutes.

 To attract more travelers both here and abroad, the Bohol Tourism Board launched “Visit Bohol 2015” where they highlight the province’s heritage and culture and eco-adventure activities.

 Apart from the Chocolate Hills and the Philippine Tarsier, Bohol is also famous for landmarks and attractions such as the Dauis Church, Baclayon Church, Blood Compact Shrine, and Loboc River. Popular tourist activities include bird spotting in Rajah Sikatuna National Park, diving in Panglao Island and whale and dolphin watching in Bohol Sea.

The Henann Group of Resorts manages Boracay Regency Beach Resort and Spa (which will be renamed Henann Regency Beach Resort and Spa), Henann Garden Resort, Henann Lagoon Resort and four more newly acquired properties in Station 1 in Boracay. The company will be operating a total of 1,400 rooms in Boracay alone by 2016 and 2017.

 Henann Resort Alona Beach extends its soft opening promo of 40 percent cash discount on room rates until June 30. Travel period is until October. Enjoy first-rate accommodation in the following room types: superior, deluxe, premier, premier with direct pool access, and family room. Bookings are good for four persons for the family room and two persons for other room types. The promo is inclusive of daily buffet breakfast.

 For reservations and inquiries, please call Henann Resort Alona Beach, Bohol at (632) 2303000 to 02, email, or visit
Resorts World operator eyes more hotels, mall with P8-B spending
Posted at 06/18/2015 3:41 PM | Updated as of 06/18/2015 8:00 PM
MANILA (UPDATE) – Travellers International Hotel Group Inc., the owner and operator of Resorts World Manila, has said it is spending P8 billion in capital expenditures this year.

This year’s budget is higher than the P5.9 billion spent by the firm in 2014.

Travellers President and Chief Executive Officer Kingson Sian said the company is still completing the final phase of Resorts World Manila.

The fourth and final phase of the project, which involves the construction of a four-star hotel on top of a shopping mall, is expected to be completed between 2019 and 2020.

Travellers also has ongoing constructions for its new hotels, namely Hilton Manila Hotel, Sheraton Hotel Manila, and Belmont Hotel as it eyes to quadruple its hotel capacity in the next four years.

"In anticipation of more visitors and as part of its long term plan, Travellers will increase its hotel capacity to approximately 4,200 rooms in the next four years from the existing 1,226 rooms," the company said in a disclosure to the stock exchange on Thursday.

The firm is also pursuing the ongoing construction of extensions to the Marriott and Maxims Hotels in Resorts World Manila.

Construction work on Phase 1 of Bayshore City Resorts World at the Entertainment City in Paranaque City is also ongoing.

"Our ongoing improvements and expansion continue, and much remains to be done...we made significant progress and built momentum last year which has put the company in a good position in 2015 and beyond," Travellers president and chief executive Kingson Sian said.

Bayshore City Resorts World is expected to open by 2019.

Sian said the firm's ongoing expansion also complements the growth of Philippine tourism which remains bullish, with around 1.4 million international visitor arrivals for the first quarter of 2015.

Government has set a target of 5.5 million foreign arrivals for the year.

In the first quarter of 2015, Travellers posted profits of P1.7 billion, driven by revenues from the operation of Resort World Manila.

Travellers is a joint venture between Andrew Tan's Alliance Global Group Inc. and Genting Hong Kong.
Amaia launches third project in Batangas

(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 19, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - After a couple of projects launched last year, Ayala Land’s economic housing arm, Amaia Land Corp., is launching another   community in Lipa City, Batangas as part of its mission to give every Filipino the opportunity to have better homes.

Its newest development, Amaia Scapes Batangas, is the third horizontal development of Amaia in the province.

With the identification of Lipa City as an industrial growth center in the Calabarzon region resulted in the increasing number of business establishments in the city’s central business district as well as numerous industries operating at the province’s industrial parks.

With these facts to consider, it is very ideal to purchase an Amaia Scapes Batangas property since it offers not only a safe and secure community but also a location that will open doors of opportunity for you and your family.

This new Amaia development is very beneficial to its future residents because of its strategic location. It is home to some of major commercial establishments which are essential to day-to-day living. Other establishments such as government offices, hospitals, and restaurants are also near Amaia.

Aside from the good location, Amaia Scapes takes pride of its unique community concepts, innovative house designs, and spacious area.   Each Amaia community is designed with guarded entrance and exits, a perimeter fence, and tree-lined spine road for ensuring the safety of its residents.

Continuing its promise of combining affordability and quality, the project occupies approximately 10 hectares of land with 630 residential units. Buying an Amaia home is made easy with various payment schemes such as cash payment, deferred, Pag-IBIG, bank and in-house financing.

Amaia Scapes Batangas is of top quality since it is backed by Makati Development Corporation BuildPlus and by Ayala Property Management Corp., both trusted for securing a livable community.

For inquiries, visit or like www.facebook/AmaiaLand.
The Beaufort raises the bar in ultra high-end living

(The Philippine Star) | Updated June 19, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Nowhere near the size of the mid-income residential condominium segment, the high-rise luxury market is thriving with monthly rentals for a three-bedroom unit, some with full views of the golf course at The Beaufort in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) going for as high as P180,000 per month.

Expatriates, returning residents who have lived abroad and high-income households continue to drive this rental market concentrated in BGC and in Makati, according to Maita Herce Siquijor, a licensed realtor who recently sold units at the project carrying the Filinvest Premier brand. She has a wide client base of multinational firms.

With units ranging from P8 million for a one-bedroom up to P30 million for a three-bedroom at the East Tower, The Beaufort’s units and others in this segment account for an estimated 7,000 units only in Metro Manila. The supply of luxury condominiums is limited for now and new projects that have been completed and ready for occupancy capture greater interest from both lessors and investors compared to other ultra high-end developments still in the pre-selling stage.

Siquijor explains that tenants of luxury units actively seek innovations in residential projects that mean more comfort and conveniences for them. For tenants with housing allowances between P100,000 to P200,000, changing residences is worth the effort of moving if it means they will enjoy benefits like having only three neighbors on a floor, amenities like a mini theatre for private screenings  or plush seating areas at the lobby that have the feel of a hotel. These features offered by the 43-story The Beaufort are departures from the usual offerings of ultra-high end condos.

Compared to other listed developers, Filinvest is relatively new to the luxury segment, says Siquijor, and investors are noticing that its units offer them more value which they in turn can use to attract lessors.  Completed in 2013, units at The Beaufort have already appreciated in the secondary market perhaps because of this perception.

For lessors closely affiliated with the diplomatic corps, who also seek out high-end units to rent,  security is a primary concern. The Filinvest Group addressed this at The Beaufort with a sophisticated building management system that provides real-time monitoring, command and control, automation and report management – all from one platform. Each resident is issued a pre-programmed card that gives him elevator access only from his parking floor to his residential floor, and from the ground floor lobby to the seventh floor where amenities are located.

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Govt set to finalize MRT 3 acquisition next week — Abaya

By Darwin G. Amojelar | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:45pm

The Transportation and Finance Departments are set to meet next week to finalize the plan to buy out the private sector’s interest in Metro Rail Transit Line 3.

“The meeting is about the apprehension of the DBP  [Development Bank of the Philippines] and LBP [Land Bank of the Philippines] because they might take a hit. They might take a loss in the execution of the buyout,” Transportation Secretary Joseph Emilio Abaya told reporters Wednesday.

“We have to address their concerns,” he said.

State-run LBP and DBP hold a combined 80-percent economic interest in MRT 3, while the remaining stake is held by creditors of MRTC.

President Aquino issued Executive Order No. 126 in 2013, directing the Transportation and Finance Departments to buy Metro Rail Transit Corp. out of MRT 3, pursuant to the build-lease-transfer agreement.

Abaya said the government was still pursuing the MRT 3 buyout, even after Congress did not approve the P53.9-billion allocation in the 2015 budget for the government’s takeover of MRT.

Metro Pacific Investments Corp. earlier proposed a $524-million expansion of MRT 3, which was lower than the government’s $1.13-billion buyout plan. MPIC’s proposal is still pending before the Transportation Department.

Metro Pacific signed a cooperation agreement in 2011 with various groups holding rights and interests in MRT 3, including MRTC, Metro Rail Transit Holdings Inc., Metro Rail Transit 2 Inc. and Monumento Rail Transit Corp., giving the Pangilinan-led company an option to acquire 48 percent.

Metro Pacific has yet to exercise the option.

MRT 3, which runs along Edsa from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, serves 500,000 passengers a day, beyond its rated capacity of 350,000 passengers.

The line has a fleet of 73 Czech-made air-conditioned rail cars.
State Dept: US not neutral in dispute

By Sandy Araneta | Jul. 23, 2015 at 12:01am

THE United States warned  Tuesday  that it will come down forcefully against any country that violates international laws, particularly in the South China Sea.

US Assistant Secretary of State Daniel Russel also said the US would ensure that all parties adhere to the rules.

“We are not neutral when it comes to adhering to international law. We will come down forcefully when it comes to following the rules,” Russel said during a keynote speech delivered at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

Washington’s top diplomat for East Asia said the United States has repeatedly stated that while it takes no position on competing sovereignty claims over disputed areas in the South China Sea, it does want these maritime claims to be advanced in accordance with international law and without the use of coercion.

Russel also reiterated the US position that the South China Sea disputes wasn’t over rocks but about rules for the Asia-Pacific region.

“It’s about the kind of neighborhood we all want to live in,” he added.

In response to a question by a Chinese participant, Russel said the US was neutral only to the extent of competing claims, not the way these disputes were resolved.

He said the US was encouraging the parties involved to creae an atmosphere and conditions needed to manage the disputes peacefully, diplomatically and lawfully, despite the escalating tensions partly caused by China’s reclamation of disputed areas in the South China Sea.

“We’re pushing the parties to revive the spirit of cooperation,” Russel said.

Russel also encouraged all participants, not just China, to cease actions that run contrary to this spirit, including reclaiming land, building facilities and militarizing features.

Russel said that US Secretary of State John Kerry would push for progress on this front at the upcoming ASEAN Regional Forum, which will be held next month in Malaysia, this year’s chair of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations.

On the first peaceful path to resolving disputes, which is bilateral negotiations, Russel acknowledged it was challenging to pursue this course under the current atmosphere.

While not directly mentioning China by name, he noted that “absolutist” statements by certain countries that their claims were “indisputable” made going down this path even more challenging.

H also said there were several cases in the region where this had worked, including disputes between Indonesia and the Philippines, Malaysia and Singapore, and Bangladesh and Myanmar.

On the second path, which is arbitration, Russel specifically referred to the Philippines’ ongoing case against China at the United Nations Permanent Court of Arbitration at The Hague, Netherlands.

Russel saidthat regardless of the outcome, both Beijing and Manila had to abide by the court’s legally binding decision as they were both signatories to the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).

Meanwhile, Russel said that the United States would safeguard its own interests in various ways, including honoring its alliances and security commitments and aiding the development of effective regional organizations.

This included investing in maritime domain awareness for coastal states and carrying out freedom of navigation operations in the South China Sea.
Semirara stops coal exports

By Alena Mae S. Flores | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:35pm

Semirara Mining Corp. said Wednesday it suspended coal exports to prioritize local consumers following the suspension of its mining operations in Caluya, Antique.

“Effective today [Wednesday], we are suspending our coal export shipments in response to the directive of the Department of Energy to prioritize the requirements of domestic coal consumers, pending the investigation of the cause of the landslide at North Panian last July 17, 2015,” the company said.

The Energy Department said it welcomed the decision of Semirara Mining to prioritize domestic coal consumption. It said given the potential impact on the power sector of any coal supply disruption, the agency was inclined to issue a directive for SMPC to limit for domestic use its current coal stock to service local power plants.

“We are coordinating with power plants to determine the inventory of existing power plants and cement plants serviced by COC [coal operating conctract] No. 5. data indicates that COC No. 5 supplies 1,593 MW of grid connected power [Luzon and Visayas]” said acting Energy Secretary Zenaida Monsada.

Semirara said it had notified foreign customers that it could not schedule further shipments until the department reached a decision on the suspension of its mining operations.

“The concerned government authorities have our full cooperation, and we will do everything we can to manage our limited coal inventory to avert possible supply disruptions to our local power plant and cement customers,” Semirara said.

So far, eight of the  nine fatalities have been recovered from the North Panian mine.

“Search and retrieval operations at the site have continued 24/7,” it said.

The Energy Department earlier ordered the immediate suspension of the operations of Semirara’s coal operating contract no. 5 due  to the incident.

The department also ordered the formation of an investigation committee to look into the matter.

Monsada, who led an investigation committee that inspected the site of the July 17 incident, said a preliminary report showed the incident was due to a slope failure characterized by the slumping of back fill materials with a height of 61 meters.

The continuous rainfall of two weeks prior may have also played a factor, the committee said.

Semirara received on Wednesday a copy of the Department of Environment and Natural Resource’s cease and desist order dated July 21, 2015 directing the company from undertaking any activity in the Panian mine except for search and rescue and rehabilitation in the area until the company had implemented the approved mitigation measures to prevent future incidents.

“The company shall abide with said order and fully cooperate with the DENR in this regard,” it said.

Semirara earlier said the needs of the families of the victims remained its priority.

“We have sought the assistance of religious nuns and professional counsellors to help the bereaved cope with their loss,” Semirara said.

“We are facilitating the life and accident insurance claims of the victims. On top of the immediate release of additional funds to cover their transportation costs and other incidental expenses, we are providing P1 million to each of the nine grieving families,” it said.

The company also assured it would shoulder all the education expenses all the way to college of the children of the victims.

“If they are already of employment age, we are prepared to provide them with jobs,” Semirara said.
SMC bares Liberty tender offer

By Darwin G. Amojelar | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:30pm

The telecommunications unit of San Miguel Corp. is making a bid to purchase all the publicly-held stake of Liberty Telecom Holdings Inc. at a price below the market.

San Miguel said in a report to regulators it was earmarking P491 million to purchase 223.15 million, or about 17.25 percent, of the issued and outstanding common stock held by the public.

The purchase price was P2.20 per share, lower than the market price of P2.80 apiece.

The tender offer will begin on July 23 and end at the closing of business hours of August 20.

San Miguel is making the offer in connection with Vega Telecom’s acquisition of 51.01 percent of the total outstanding common and preferred shares in Liberty Telecom from Qtel West Bay Holdings S.P.C., White Dawn Solution Holdings Inc. and wi-tribe Asia Limited.

Qtel West Bay as of end-March owned 29.89 percent of Liberty, while White Dawn Solution and wi-tribe held 18.44 percent and 2.68 percent, respectively.

The shares were valued at an estimated P3.75 billion based on Vega’s tender offer price.

Vega Telecom held a 35.73-percent stake in Liberty Telecom.

Liberty Telecoms expects to break even after exiting corporate rehabilitation a year ahead of schedule.

“The management really wants to have a break even as soon as possible,”  said Liberty Telecoms president and chief executive Bienvenido Bañas said.

The company, a joint venture of San Miguel and Qatar Telecom, reported a total comprehensive loss of P210.16 million in the first quarter of 2015, down 32 percent from a P307.59-million net loss recorded a year ago.

Revenues declined to P42.17 million in the January-to-March period from P78.38 million year-on-year.

Liberty Telecoms also aims to launch mobile phone services as early as January  next year.

San Miguel earlier announced Vega Telecoms bought Express Telecommunications Inc. and Vega’s investment in High Frequency Telecommunications Inc.

Extelcom, owned by the Ongpin Group and UK-based Ashmore Investment Management Ltd., is the country’s first mobile telephone operator

San Miguel will now have four telecommunications companies under its portfolio, namely Eastern Telecommunications Philippines Inc., Bell Telecommunications Philippines Inc. and Liberty Telecoms Holdings Inc.
PH secures 142,160 tons of sugar quota

By Anna Leah E. Gonzales | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:20pm

The Philippines has secured a deal to export 142,160 metric tons of raw sugar to the United States at a low tariff rate in fiscal year 2016, the US Trade Representative said Wednesday.

The USTR said the sugar quota allocation for the Philippines in fiscal year 2016 was the same as last year’s. The volume translates into more than 136,000 metric tons in commercial weight.

Tariff-rate quotas allow countries to export specified quantities of a product to the United States at a relatively low tariff, but subject all imports of the product above a pre-determined threshold to a higher tariff.

The in-quota quantity for the TRQ on raw cane sugar for the said fiscal year is 1.117 million metric tons raw value, representing the minimum amount the United States committed under the World Trade Organization agreement.

Based on the list, the Dominican Republic got the highest allocation of 185,335 MTRV while Brazil was given an MTRV of 152,691. The Philippines got the third biggest allocation for the fiscal year.

USTR said other countries which received quota allocation were Argentina, Australia, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Colombia, Congo, Costa Rica, Cote d’lvoire, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Gabon, Guatemala, Guyana, Haiti, Honduras, India, Jamaica, Madagascar and Malawi.

Other countries with allocations are Mauritius, Mexico, Mozambique,Nicaragua, Panama, Papua New Guinea, Paraguay, Peru, South Africa, St. Kitts & Nevis, Swaziland, Taiwan, Thailand, Trinidad & Tobago, Uruguay and Zimbabwe.

USTR said the allocations were based on each country’s historical shipments to the United States.

The Sugar Regulatory Administration removed last month the allocation for the US sugar quota and further increased the supply in the domestic market for sugar crop year 2014 to 2015.

The directive will cover production in the week ending May 31, 2015 and crop year 2014 to 2015.

The sugar crop year begins in September and ends in August of the following year.

SRA administrator Regina Martin said in a directive the agency slashed the US sugar quota to zero from 5 percent, and raised the domestic allocation to 100 percent from the previous 95 percent.

“The domestic sugar market remains as the priority for the locally produced sugar, and it is to the national interest that a comfortable buffer or carry over volume of domestic sugar during the end of season and for the start of the next crop year for stable supply and prices,” Martin said.

She said the adjustment in sugar allocation was due to the expected drop in production caused by the intense heat that had affected most of the sugar-producing provinces.

“Expected sugar production for the current crop year will be 2.31 million metric tons from the original target of 2.5 million metric tons at the start of the crop year. We have to make sure that we have enough buffer stock for the domestic market which will be good for two months of consumption,” Martin said.

MetroPac’s gamble and MWSS anomaly

By Ray S. Eñano | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:25pm

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., the infrastructure arm of the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Group, has expected itself to crunch numbers given the huge cost of constructing the 45.5-kilometer Cavite-Laguna Expressway project, or Calax.

But one obvious factor made it easy for Metro Pacific to bid higher on the biggest Public-Private Partnership project of the government to date. Cavite and Laguna have a big growing population that will support the traffic volume of the new expressway

MPIC president Jose Maria Lim told the media earlier the conglomerate decided to offer a much higher premium after carefully studying several factors, including the volume of traffic and higher population growth of Cavite and Laguna, which have 3 million and 2 million people, respectively.

“So we did expect that because of the delay, the traffic would probably start off at a higher level because of the population growth,” Lim says. “There have also been commercial establishments and developments that helped traffic start off at a higher rate.”

Lower oil and steel prices have also favored the construction of the infrastructure project and prompted Metro Pacific’s unit, MPCALA Holdings Inc., to submit an aggressive offer of P27.3 billion against San Miguel Corp.’s bid of P22.2 billion

Metro Pacific chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan said his company would spend no less than P50 billion to build the tollway from Manila-Cavite Toll Expressway, or Cavitex, to Laguna.

“This will spur growth in NCR [Metro Manila] and Calabarzon [Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon corridor], and create jobs,” said MVP. “It will improve traffic, and property values. Tourism will rise in the area. Overall, we become a better nation.”

Calax, meanwhile, is a logical project for Metro Pacific because of its interests in other toll roads. Metro Pacific through its subsidiaries is operating the North Luzon Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and Cavitex.

It has proposed the construction of a connector road linking NLEx to the South Luzon Expressway and is aiming to bid for other PPP road projects on the auction block, like the Central Luzon Link Expressway that will extend SCTEx eastward to Nueva Ecija province.

MPIC’s Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. is embarking on simultaneous ventures to expand NLEx from Bulacan to Caloocan and Manila’s port area through several Harbor Link sub-projects; a separate one extending NLEx to Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City; and another project integrating NLEx and SCTEx with the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway of San Miguel in the north.

“Once completed, CALAx will integrate with Cavitex and will feature the same modern facilities of MPTC’s existing toll roads,” said MPTC president Ramoncito Fernandez. “This is in line with our vision of eventually linking all our expressways—including the soon to be integrated NLEx-SCTEx, Harbor Link—providing seamless travel experience to motorists.”

“The project [Calax)] is expected to directly generate more than 3,000 new jobs during the construction,” said Fernandez. “This does not include the thousands of new jobs from the expected new investments along the Cavite-Laguna corridor from the improved infrastructure.”

MPCALA Holdings on July 10 handed over to the Public Works P5.46 billion representing the 20 percent upfront payment of the premium offer of P27.3 billion. The balance of the concession fee is payable over nine years from the contract signing, or until July 2024.

Metro Pacific is set to spend a total of P62.7 billion on the project connecting Cavitex to SLEx, which is operated by the consortium of San Miguel with Citra Metro Manila Tollway Corp.
Water mess

In contrast with Calax, the water sector is a case of privatization going awry.

Maynilad Water Services Inc. and Manila Water Co. Inc. are grappling with what appears to be a convoluted policy from the  Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage Authority.

An arbitration panel upheld Maynilad’s position that it would remain a contractor and agent of MWSS be allowed to recover its corporate income taxes.

Manila Water, meanwhile, was classified a public utility, like Manila Electric Co., and barred from including corporate income taxes in the computation of its tariff.

The ruling on Manila Water marked a big change in the rules and regulations in the concession agreement, which both parties agreed upon prior to the bidding in 1997.

“By the very nature of their partnership with the MWSS, both companies were true to their promise—Manila Water and Maynilad have assumed their positions as contractors and agents for the operation and maintenance of water within their respective service areas with MWSS remaining as the public utility,” a lawyer said.

“Such situation not only questions Manila Water’s new accountabilities and obligations, but now questions the new mandate of MWSS as the government agency in charge of the regulation and water source development,” he added.

Maynilad also cannot implement its new tariff because MWSS must exercise regulatory equality between its two providers.

The sudden change of rules in the midst of the concessionaires’ progressive state challenges the credibility of the government’s PPP program and the sanctity of its contracts.
Banana farmers told to use drones for spraying

By Anna Leah E. Gonzales | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:10pm

Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala on Wednesday advised banana growers to use unmanned aerial technology or drones in their banana plantations.

“I will meet with the members of the Pilipino Banana Growers and Exporters Association to discuss the possible use of drones in their aerial spraying,” Alcala said.

“Even if they say that they are using organic ingredients, the main concern of the lawmakers is the ‘excessive’ amount of chemicals being dumped during overhead spraying, which may allegedly cause respiratory illnesses,” Alcala said.

Alcala said aerial drones could hover as close as two meters from the ground which would lessen the amount of chemicals being dumped.

“Some congressmen expressed their concern because the distance of aerial spraying from the plant to the height of the plane is 10 to 15 meters. The drone technology is readily available and is cheaper. It is just a matter of adopting what is better for our industry,” he said.

Several civil society groups earlier urged Congress to immediately pass a bill which aims to ban the use of aerial spraying.

Under consideration by the House committee on ecology chaired by Rep. Amado Bagatsing is House Bill 3857, entitled ‘An Act prohibiting aerial spraying as a method of applying chemicals and similar substances on agricultural crops.’

The bill is authored by Gabriela Women’s Partylist Reps. Luzviminda Ilagan and Emmi De Jesus; Bayan Muna Reps. Neli Colmenares and Carlos Isagani Zarate; ACT Teachers’ Partylist Rep. Antonio Tinio; Anakpawis Partylist Rep. Fernando Hicap; and Kabataan Partylist Rep. Terry Ridon.

PBGEA, however, said aerial spraying was a generally accepted agricultural practice by the World Trade Organization and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations under certain limitations which the banana industry was strictly adopting, otherwise importers might stop buying from them.

PBGEA said a multi-sectoral monitoring team that focused on banana plantations was overseeing the compliance of these regulations.

The Philippines is the world’s second largest exporter of fresh bananas.

The top major export destinations for fresh Cavendish bananas are Japan, China, Korea, the Middle East and New Zealand with stringent policies on food product.
SMC to build 500-MW dam

By Alena Mae S. Flores | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:40pm

Strategic Power Development Corp., a wholly-owned subsidiary of San Miguel Corp., will pursue the construction of a 500-megawatt pumped storage hydro power plant in Aurora province.

Strategic Power sought the approval of the Energy Department for the 500-MW Dingalan pumped storage hydro plant in Dingalan, Aurora.

The project is a part of the company’s plan to develop up to 3,000 MW of hydro power projects in the country, a source said.

The Energy Department approved last year the application of Strategic Power  for a 200-MW pumped storage hydro project in Aklan.

The hydro service contract was signed on Jan. 30, 2014.

“It’s now in pre-development stage of the hydro service contract,” the source said earlier.

Strategic Power currently trades the capacity of the  345-MW San Roque multi-purpose hydroelectric power plant in Batangas province.

Strategic Power won the bidding as the independent power producer administrator of San Roque in 2009 with its offer of $450 million.

Meanwhile, San Miguel’s subsidiary SMC Global Power Corp. is eyeing the construction of a total of 2,100 megawatts of coal-fired capacity in Limay, Bataan and Malita, Davao from 2016 to 2020.

San Miguel also plans to put up coal plants in Cebu, Batangas City and Mariveles, Bataan.

The company presently trades the capacities of the Sual coal plant in Pangasinan and the Ilijan natural gas power facility in Batangas.

San Miguel has become one of the largest independent power generation companies in the country.

It also forayed into power distribution by taking over Albay Electric Cooperative.
Rail ticket firm sells 6,000 beep cards

By Darwin G. Amojelar | Jul. 22, 2015 at 11:05pm

AF Payments Inc., the winning bidder for the new fare collection system in Metro Manila’s three overhead rail lines, said it sold more than 6,000 beep cards, indicating a high takeup for the modern ticketing system.

“We sold between Monday and Tuesday over 6,000 beep cards, a very high rate of takeup of stored value cards.  More than 80 percent of tickets sold were beep cards. That’s a very high percentage,” AF Payments chief executive Peter Maher told reporters Wednesday.

The trial of the contactless beep card and the new single journey tickets piloted at the Legarda Station of the LRT Line 2 early this week.

“We’re very pleased that the public has confidence and were willing to purchase the card and use it immediately,” Maher said.

AF Payments said of the 2,586 beep SVCs sold, 1,521 cards or roughly 59 percent were purchased via the new ticket vending machines.

The company said of the 486  SJT  sold, 103 cards or 21 percent were bought from the vending machine. The average load for the stored value cards were at P110, not counting the P20 onetime card fee.

Following the positive outcome of the public trial in Legarda station, AF Payments Inc. is set to implement a similar trial at the Betty Go Belmonte station within the week.

AF Payments, a consortium led by Ayala Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments Corp., won the P1.72-billion contract for the automated fare collection system project.

The new system uses contactless smart card technology to upgrade and integrate the ticketing infrastructure for the country’s major railways, including LRT Line 1 and 2 and Metro Rail Transit Line 3.

Maher said the common ticket system for LRT Line 1 and MRT Line 3 would go live by September.

Under the concession agreement, the ticketing scheme will be fully integrated by September.

AF Payments will install 731 gates, 138 ticket vending machines, 221 point of sales devices and 44 station computers across the three rail lines.

The company’s new smart card ticketing system replaces the existing magnetic stripe system.  The new system or the “beep card” can also serve as an electronic micropayment solution in day-to-day payments, or as identifier for loyalty schemes, facility access and location-based services.

The tap-and-go system, which the winning bidder will operate for 10 years, will also enhance fare collection efficiency by reducing leakage and fraud.

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Friday, October 2, 2015
SSS sees P1.2-B earnings from property sale, leases this year

By Kathleen A. Martin (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - The Social Security System expects to earn P1.2 billion from the lease and sale of its properties this year.

SSS senior vice president May Catherine Ciriaco said SSS has already raked in P274.5 million in the first half from the lease and sale of some of its real estate properties such as residential and commercial lots, condominium units, buildings, and parking lots.

The state-run pension fund expects another P289 million in the second half from the lease of the same assets, she said.

Together with an estimated P696.5 million in earnings from the sale of the fund’s properties scheduled later this year, Ciriaco said SSS stands to earn an additional P1.2 billion for 2015.

“Contrary to recent news reports, SSS assets for the most part have not remained idle (because) about 70 percent of our P17.9-billion investment properties have been on lease and are bringing in regular income for the SSS,” Ciriaco said.

“The rest of SSS assets are either for sale, or are retained as SSS property due to their expected increase in value,” she said.
The fund will be auctioning off more condominium units, parking lots, and acquired lots before the year ends. SSS has also scheduled other properties worth a total of P253.6 million for bidding next year. “Meanwhile, as part of the pension fund’s long-term strategy, the SSS intends to maintain its ownership of select prime properties such as Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City and East Triangle in Quezon City, given the expected appreciation in their real estate value,” Ciriaco said.

The Commission on Audit earlier this month said SSS could have earned at least P198.1 million more if it has rented out idle assets.

“Measures intended to maximize SSS income from its real estate properties are already underway. Even if the SSS has not rented out certain properties, the SSS has already registered gains from their appreciating value,” Ciriaco said.
DOTC starts upgrade of MRT signal system

By Louella D. Desiderio (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) is set to start the P53.37 million upgrade of the signalling system of the Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), a move expected to minimize the train system’s glitches.

The seven-month contract awarded to Bombardier Transportation Signal, Ltd. will involve replacement of the existing local control system called MAN 900 with the more contemporary EBI Screen 900, a software with the same functionality as MAN 900, but enables the use of modern personal computers and fiber optic technology.

The signalling system maintains safe distances between trains and controls their speed.

Issues with the signalling system’s components may result in less operating trains and slower travel.

Apart from modernizing the software components, the upgrade will also ensure the availability of spare parts needed for the uninterrupted and efficient operation of the train system.

Within the first month of the contract, Bombardier will provide the required hardware upgrades and software licenses.

The firm will, likewise, install, test, and commission support of the new system; carry out the migration of existing data and functions and train MRT-3 personnel on proper operation and maintenance.

Bombardier holds exclusive proprietary rights to supply new components, as it designed, developed, and implemented the entire MRT-3 signalling system when it was constructed.

“This upgrade of an obsolete signalling system, which should have been done by the private sector owner years ago, is crucial in minimizing operational disruptions. This will improve reliability and efficiency of the rail system for the benefit of our passengers,” DOTC Secretary Joseph Abaya said.

The conditions of the MRT-3 covering North Avenue station in Quezon City until Taft Avenue station in Pasay City, have worsened over the years with the train system breaking down and leaving several commuters stranded in stations.

Aside from the upgrade of the signalling system, other improvements are being undertaken in the MRT-3.

Beginning Saturday, the MRT-3 will use the new beep cards or tap-and-go ticketing system to shorten the queuing time for passengers.

The beep cards are already being used in Lines 1 and 2 of the Light Rail Transit.

The ongoing refurbishment of 12 Schindler-brand escalators of MRT-3 meanwhile,  is expected to be completed before the year ends.

The rehabilitation of MRT-3 toilets is also being carried out and six facilities are already open for public use.

Over 7,000 linear meters’ worth of new rails are also set to be installed within the year to replace worn-out tracks in order to ensure safer and smoother rides.
Japanese bizmen urged to invest in Philippines

By Rosette Adel (
Updated October 1, 2015 - 5:20pm
MANILA, Philippines – The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) encouraged the Japanese business community to invest in the Philippines as the country’s economy expands and to establish positive trade relationships.

“Seize opportunities in the Philippines to create, wealth, generate jobs and improve the lives of our peoples,” DTI Undersecretary for Industry Development Adrian Cristobal Jr. said during the Philippine-Japan Business Investment Forum held in Tokyo last week.

“Now is the right time for our Japanese friends and partners to come and do business in the country, and for those all ready operating there, expand your business,” he added.

Cristobal enticed the Japanese business community by describing the country’s economy as “bright spot in the region.”

The DTI undersecretary also elaborated the benefits the Philippines gains from trade preferences from the world’s largest importing countries under the Generalized System of Preferences (GSP.)

Late last year, the Philippines became a beneficiary to the European Union’s (EU) GSP-plus granting the country a duty-free access to two-thirds of tariff lines.

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The United States (US) also reauthorized its GSP grant to the country last June since the authorization expired mid-2013. The reauthorization of GSP grant gave Philippines duty-free access to 3,500 US tariff lines.

Cristobal cited that among the Japanese firms which already took advantage of the preferences is Shimano, large Japanese bicycle manufacturer, which invested 3.5 billion yen to access the EU market through the Philippines.

“By setting up manufacturing facilities in the Philippines, Japanese companies may avail of the duty-free market access to the EU and the US, including products which are key export interests of Japan,” Cristobal added.

“We are in fact the only country in ASEAN to enjoy this preferential treatment,” Cristobal said. “In addition to these product categories, exporters in footwear and textile, preserved fruits, pineapple juice, jams and jelly who are targeting the European market may find a wealth of opportunity in the Philippines’ GSP+ status,” he added.

DTI said the government also seeks to uphold the competitiveness of its automotive industry to seize bigger share of the regional automotive manufacturing industry in the near future and to keep up with the growing market.

To enhance the automotive industry, Cristobal met with the car and car parts manufacturers to discuss to them the country’s Manufacturing Resurgence Program (MRP) and the Comprehensive Automotive Resurgence Strategy (CARS) Program.

The CARS program covering motor vehicle production, auto parts manufacturing and shared services and testing facilities currently produces estimated 80,000 to 90,000 units annually. It still aims to increase its production to a competitive scale of 200,000 yearly. .
Metro Pacific seeks majority control of Davao Doctors Hospital for P1.6 B
By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - Metro Pacific Hospital Holdings Inc. (MPHHI), the healthcare unit of industrial conglomerate Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), is seeking a majority stake in Davao Doctors Hospital Inc. (DDH).

The Manuel V. Pangilinan-led hospital firm commenced yesterday a general offer to acquire the remaining shares of stock in the Davao-based hospital through law firm SyCip Salazar Hernandez and Gatmaitan Law Offices.

The hospital subsidiary currently owns 313,655 shares or 34.82 percent of the outstanding capital stock of DDH and wants to acquire the remaining 587,154 shares of stock in the medical institution for roughly P1.614 billion.

MPHHI  acquired its stake in DDH for P500 million in 2009 and has since poured in P400 millionin 2009  in investments to improve the facility.

MPHHI is offering a higher price per share if it would be able to acquire a higher number of shares. It laid down three conditions as basis for the offer price.

In its offer, MPHHI said if as a result of the tender, it will acquire less than 136,747 DDH shares, the offer price shall be P2,300 per share.

On the other hand, if as a result of the tender MPHHI acquires at least 136,747 DDH shares but less than 286,881 shares, the offer price shall be P2,600 per share.

Finally, MPHHI said if it acquires at least 286,881 DDH shares, the purchase price shall be P2,750 per share.

The offer period will be until Nov. 19, MPHHI said.

As of  end-June, the Metro Pacific Group has nine hospitals with a total bed count of 2,245: Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center, Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital, Asian Hospital & Medical Center and De Los Santos Medical Center in Metro Manila; Central Luzon Doctors’ Hospital in Tarlac; Riverside Medical Center in the Visayas; and Davao Doctors Hospital and WMMC in Mindanao; one mall- based diagnostic and ambulatory care center located in SM Megamall; and two healthcare colleges – Riverside College Inc. in Visayas and Davao Doctors College in Mindanao.

The hospital group’s first half net income this year rose 23 percent to P565 million.
PLDT creates investment arm to connect with Silicon Valley
Chrisee Dela Paz
Published 5:54 PM, October 01, 2015
Updated 5:54 PM, October 01, 2015
MANILA, Philippines ­– Telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) has created a new investment arm that will connect its group of companies with leading Silicon Valley startups.

The new investment arm, called PLDT Capital, is investing up to $50 million this year to support its business units, which include Smart, ePLDT, Digital5, and Voyager. This is part of its digital services portfolio expansion in the Philippines, Southeast Asia, and Asia-Pacific, PLDT told the local bourse on September 30.

PLDT Capital will be supported by a team of strategists, engineers, and product managers who will also be identified from the PLDT group.

PLDT Capital has formally started operations in El Segundo, within Los Angeles County, California, and has presence in Silicon Valley.

"The PLDT Group serves more than 70 million mobile and Internet customers in the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) region," Winston Damarillo, managing director of PLDT Capital, said in a statement. (READ: PH telcos, TV networks ride double-edged digital wave)

"In addition to investments, PLDT Capital aims to become the gateway for the most promising startups to expand their opportunities to the fast growing digital consumers in the ASEAN region,” he added.

The PLDT group has made investments through its corporate development initiative, notably in Rocket Internet, among others. PLDT Capital is specifically created to focus on investments that support the PLDT core businesses.

"PLDT Capital serves as an important pillar to sustain our digital pivot," PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan said.

"To provide the best possible digital experience to our customers, we must collaborate with world-class companies. We look forward to bridging the best of Silicon Valley talent with our own Filipino innovators to expand the opportunities of PLDT,” Pangilinan added. –
Bank lending expands 14% to P4.67 T
By Lawrence Agcaoili (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The growth in bank lending picked up in August amid the higher loans extended for production activities particularly for construction as well as accommodation and food services.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the outstanding loans of commercial banks expanded 14.1 percent to P4.67 trillion in August from P4.09 trillion in the same month last year.

The expansion in August was faster compared to the 13.6 percent growth in July.

Together with reverse repurchase placements with the BSP, lending rose 14.3 percent to P4.96 trillion in August from a year-ago level of P4.34 trillion.

The BSP traced the increase in bank lending in August to the rise in loans for production activities which account for more than 80 percent of banks’ aggregate loan portfolio.

Data showed loans for production activities grew 13.8 percent to P4.16 trillion in August from P3.66 trillion in the same month last year.
Loans extended to manufacturing companies grew 5.8 percent to P711.89 billion from P672.7 billion followed by the wholesale and retail trade that grew 15.5 percent to P655.61 billion from P567.49 billion.

Lending for financial and insurance activities expanded 15.3 percent to P411.5 billion from P396.36 billion followed by loans for agriculture, forestry, and fishing that grew 15.5 percent to P149.7 billion from P129.61 billion.

In terms of growth rate, accommodation and food services activities booked the fastest growth with 50.4 percent followed by arts, entertainment and recreation with 45 percent as well as human health and social work activities with 42.5 percent.

On the other hand, loans for real estate activities grew 14.9 percent to P809.4 billion from P704.43 billion. The growth rate was slower compared to the 16.4 percent expansion booked in July.

In the latest Senior Loan Officers Survey of the BSP, the credit standards for loans to households and enterprises by banks were unchanged in the second quarter after a net tightening in the first quarter.

This is the 25th consecutive quarter since the second quarter of 2009 that the majority of banks reported broadly unchanged credit standards.

On the other hand, about 86.4 percent of the respondent banks in the second quarter indicated a net tightening of overall credit standards was noted for commercial real estate loans for the 12th consecutive quarter due to perceived stricter oversight of banks’ real estate exposure along with banks’ reduced tolerance for risk.

The BSP also noted the growth in lending for household consumption including credit card loans, auto loans, and salary also eased to 14 percent in August from 14.3 percent in July. Bank lending for household consumption amounted to P360.6 billion in August from P316.43 billion in the same month last year.
Asia Pacific carriers post lower air freight volume in August
By Louise Maureen Simeon (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - AsiaPacific-based airlines continue to experience weakness in air freight volumes in August as China’s manufacturing industry slows down, a report from the International Air Transport Association (IATA) said.

Latest data from IATA showed AsiaPacific carriers’ freight ton kilometers (FTKs) fell one percent in August even as capacity expanded 4.9 percent.

Although the contraction was less severe than in July, IATA noted it is hard to say if the decline has bottomed out considering the continued drop in export orders for Chinese manufacturing.

“Some of the key reasons for the earlier weakness – for example, downgraded growth expectations in emerging Asia, and the re-balancing of the Chinese economy toward domestic consumption – are still there,” IATA director general and chief executive officer Tony Tyler said.

Meanwhile, global freight markets have stabilized in August after two months of decline wherein air cargo volumes rose 0.2 percent compared to the same period in 2014, an improvement from the July performance where freight demand contracted 0.6 percent year-on-year.

“After declines in June and July, signs of a stabilization in air cargo are welcome. But all is not well. Total volumes are down two percent compared to the end of 2014. Even though world trade volumes have slightly picked up, the industry will have to work hard to match the strong finish to 2014,” Tyler added.

Furthermore, airlines in the Latin American region reported a large decline in demand of 7.3 percent year-on-year, reflecting the continued economic struggles of Brazil and Argentina, while regional trade activity has not created stronger air freight demand.

North American airlines experienced a decline of 3.3 percent year-on-year and continue to see significant falls in FTK volumes since the boost from modal shift due to sea port congestion earlier in the year.

“Some of the conditions that led to the decline in world trade this year – a combination of weaker than expected global economic growth, particularly in emerging markets, as well as shifts toward the domestic market in China – are persisting. There are some tentative signs that things won’t get worse – export orders have stabilized – but if the current trend were to continue, we would see negative year-on-year comparisons in the coming months,” IATA said.

On the other hand, Middle Eastern carriers saw the strongest growth with demand expanding 10.4 percent and capacity rising 14.3 percent. Although some economies in the region have suffered a slowdown in non-oil growth, overall expansion remains robust enough to sustain solid growth in air freight

European carriers, likewise, reported a rise in demand in August of 0.7 percent compared to a year ago and capacity rose 3.9 percent with the recent improvements in eurozone manufacturing business activity seen to support air freight demand.

African airlines which carry a small part of worldwide FTKs, recorded a 2.3 percent in August with regional trade activity supporting demand for air transport of goods.
Tax reform is about fairness

DEMAND AND SUPPLY By Boo Chanco (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am
Mar Roxas simply does not get it. That is not surprising because Mr. Roxas is from the traditional moneyed class. He knows nothing about making ends meet, something those of us in the middle class struggle with all the time.

The most Roxas would concede is that he would study the tax reform proposals. We all know what happens when Mr. Roxas studies something. Nothing happens. We saw that movie at DOTC when he was on top of it.

While I was in Singapore over the weekend, an OFW posted this complaint on Facebook which I posted on my wall. It expresses the unfairness of our current income tax system in plain peso terms:

“My tax in Singapore for earning P1 million would only be P6,000 for the whole year. If I stayed in the Philippines earning P20,000/month or P240,000/year, my tax would be P48,000 vs P6,000.

“Working in the Philippines is a scam worse than Emgoldex. You are paying a premium for a very poor quality of service. It’s like paying for a luxury hotel but sleeping in a hammock in a dumpsite.”

We need income tax reform now. Aside from being fair to taxpayers, Citizen Watch points out we also have to be regionally competitive. Because of the “more lenient, reasonable income tax rates elsewhere in the region, some talented Filipinos have chosen to live and work abroad, breaking families apart and contributing to brain drain… an employee who earns P500,000 a year is subjected to a 32-percent income tax. The same income merits 10 percent in Thailand and two percent in Singapore…  With the º looming Asean integration and national borders disintegrating, this becomes a real issue.”
Of course because the exasperated Filipino professional goes abroad and is now exempted from paying Philippine income tax as an OFW, the short sighted greedy government gets nothing. We lose the investment on their education and training, specially for UP graduates. And if they brought their families with them, we get little or nothing by way of remittances.

As educated as Mr. Roxas is, he fails to see tax reform beyond the perspective of the tax collector trying to meet a target set out of thin air. Citizen Watch Philippines puts it in perspective:

“It should also be noted that while lower income tax rates would briefly affect the country’s coffers, it will further strengthen our already booming consumer economy, which would consequently result to higher government revenues, this time through the expanded value added tax (EVAT). The more cash that moves around the market, the livelier the economy becomes in the long term.”

Yet, Mr. Roxas and the folks at DOF insist tax reform will imperil vital expenditures on education, health and welfare, as well as the country’s investment credit rating. That’s sheer bullsh#t.

It is all a matter of setting good priorities. The BIR estimated a tax revenue loss of about P30 billion in a national budget of P3 trillion. Where is the Liberal Party’s sense of proportion here?, a blog, computed a tax savings for a middle income couple earning about a million pesos a year in the vicinity of P230,000 if they were working in Singapore instead of the Philippines. That translates to about P19,000 a month, an amount which is loose change for Mar Roxas.

But lists down what that P19,000 monthly tax savings can buy for a struggling middle class family:

“This could mean, they can now afford to buy a HOUSE with a monthly mortgage of P5,000-P10,000/month, perhaps this could lower the informal settlers around the Philippines. Some middle-income families are also informal settlers, especially those earning P328,000/year with more than five family members.

“This could mean an EDUCATION PLAN that can be used to plan for their child’s education up to college, causing less drop-outs in school… 

“This could mean they can start investing/saving for their RETIREMENT PLAN. According to a SSS survey, out of 100, only two percent of the population can retire comfortably and the remaining 98 percent depends on either: their family, charity or the government.

“Contrary to what the government believes, this could mean MORE TAX COLLECTION for the government. Lower taxes could mean better compliance and greater purchasing power for an ordinary person like me and you. Greater VAT collection for the government. All goods, services and consumption are taxed with 12 percent VAT.

“This could mean more business money that could be put up. Making each of us ENTREPRENEURS, thus creating more jobs for our fellow citizens…

“This could mean more people buying LIFE INSURANCE and HEALTH INSURANCE, thereby, reducing Filipino dependence on corrupt government officials. In cases like a death of a family member or major sickness, people won’t go to a politiko asking money “pampalibing” or “pampagamot” – which could even push these politikos to corrupt practices, justifying their acts as what they get, they are given to people too.”

I am sure Mar Roxas knows we don’t have to sacrifice education, health or even national security by making our tax rules fair. There is a bit of intellectual dishonesty when he asked rhetorically “what projects do we have to stop?”

There is that P30 billion in the proposed budget to increase capitalization of the DBP and the Land Bank. How urgent is that? Indeed, why should government even own a bank, much less two banks? Actually three if we include UCPB.

These government banks should be privatized. They are just piggy banks for corrupt national officials. We all know how the PNB, when it was still government-owned, was abused by a succession of administrations to fund losing projects of their cronies. Our taxes were used to clean its books so it could be privatized and saved from bankruptcy.

Government does not need to own a bank. We may even save a lot of money by asking private banks to bid for services that government requires. GSIS is using private banks. I know about the lofty objectives for having a development bank and for a bank that will serve agrarian reform. But I doubt if the track record of these banks justify their continued existence as government banks.

Being a supposed investment banker trained in Wall Street, it is easy to expect someone like Mar Roxas will have bold new ideas on how to manage our nation’s finances. But then, given his track record in the last five years, it would be silly to expect any innovative idea from Mr Roxas.

I can think of one more source to cover that P30 billion tax revenue loss with tax reform. It had been reported that tax losses due to oil smuggling is P30 billion. There you are… and add the losses from rice and sugar smuggling too and there is more than enough to provide relief to middle class taxpayers.

We need tax reform now because the rates and the brackets have become totally unreasonable. The peso when the tax schedule was drafted 19 years ago is only worth 43 centavos now. Because the tax rate remained the same, the working class is effectively being robbed by its own government.

“Tax brackets should be adjusted to make (these) more sensitive to current salaries of Filipinos. Because at present, a person who makes P50,000 a month -- who is considered middle class -- is already in the top tax bracket and is also paying the same tax rate as the billionaires in our country,” Sen Sonny Angara points out.

Unless these rates and brackets are adjusted to reflect inflation, government is stealing from its own people. That is an untenably immoral situation demanding immediate relief.

The other thing that needs reform is the complexity of filing a tax return. There was a time when I could do my own tax return. Now, it is so complicated I need to get an accountant.

How much can a retired senior citizen writing a column earn these days? Why do I have to file a VAT return every month and an income tax return quarterly? I just choose to do standard optional deduction because it is too complicated otherwise. Yet, I need an accountant to help me navigate the rules and the forms.

Making it easy to pay taxes should help increase tax collection. Making it too complicated not only makes it expensive for taxpayers to comply, it also allows more room for corruption at the ground level.

One more thing… whatever happened to the recommendations of the DOE Task Force to “Review whether or not the government is ‘overtaxing’ the energy sector”?

As Citizen Watch pointed out, “like the high income taxes, overtaxing results in unnecessarily high electric bills and heavily affects all sectors and is a major factor affecting our country’s competitiveness.”

Paying taxes is never painless but do we have to make it the bureaucrat’s equivalent of torture?
CAAP: Only 41 of 82 PH airports operate commercially
Ryan Chua, ABS-CBN News
Posted at 10/01/2015 5:39 PM
Updated as of 10/02/2015 2:29 AM
MANILA - Senators told officials on Thursday not to let certain idle airports in different parts of the country remain unused and instead work to generate economic activity and income from them.

At a hearing on the proposed 2016 budget of the Department of Transportation and Communications, Director-General William Hotchkiss of the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) said his agency owns and operates 82 airports all over the country.

However, only about 41 have commercial operations. The rest are either idle or are used as flying schools and for military flights.

"What a waste," Senate finance committee chair Loren Legarda said. "Is this customary…or are we wasting infrastructure which can be upgraded so we can have more domestic flights?"

Hotchkiss told the committee that airport authorities are now on a "catching up" mode, developing some airports for commercial purposes while upgrading others for military use.

However, he said having commercial airlines use some of the airports is beyond CAAP's control.

"Getting commercial flights into an airport is an economic and business decision of the airlines themselves," Hotchkiss said. "We cannot force them to fly to particular airports."

Senate President Franklin Drilon said not every airport in the country was built with commercial viability in mind. Still, he advised CAAP to explore how to do business out of them.

"Maybe you can start looking at converting them into some high-value usage," he said.

Drilon, who hails from Iloilo, cited the example of the city's old airport, which has been turned into a business center by a private developer.

Legarda agreed. "When you keep and maintain the whole 82, there's so much capital outlay or good money that can be used elsewhere," she told airport officials.

Hotchkiss said CAAP is already heading towards that direction, with a plan "geared towards maximizing the full potential of the airports we have."

He said five airports will be upgraded under government's public-private partnership program, while a number have been selected for use by some 45 flying schools all over the country.

"We can maximize our potential as a flying school capital in the ASEAN region," Hotchkiss said.
How NFA is preparing for El Nino 'worst case scenario'
Jamaine Punzalan,
Posted at 10/01/2015 5:30 PM
Updated as of 10/01/2015 5:32 PM
MANILA - The National Food Authority (NFA) on Thursday said it has secured 750,000 metric tons of rice as buffer stock as the country braces for the effects of the El Niño phenomenon.

NFA administrator Renan Dalisay said the agency opted to increase rice importation even before the effects of the El Niño can be felt in order to keep local prices stable.

"Ang ginawa natin, dinagdagan na lang natin ang insurance kasi ang ayaw natin mangyari ay kung kailan huli na saka pa tayo magre-react at wala nang panahon at mataas na ang presyo," Dalisay said.

The first 250,000 tons of rice will arrive in the country by November or December while 750,000 more tons will follow in the first quarter of 2016.

State weather bureau PAGASA earlier said that the effects of the El Niño are expected to last until 2016, and has projected the rise in temperature to be higher than those experienced during the last El Niño season in 1997 to 1998.

Harvest production in the 1997 El Niño dropped by almost 25%, a scenario the NFA has taken precautions against.

Dalisay added that to keep a lid on prevalent rice smuggling, the NFA has also tightened the application process for private companies and cooperatives seeking importation permits.

Aside from an import committee, a pre-qualification team was also formed to inspect the documents, warehouse and office of all companies interested in importing rice.

The NFA has also started imposing electronic submission of requirements to speed up coordination with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and Bureau of Customs (BOC) which will both ensure that the applicants hold clean records.

The NFA also abandoned the first-come, first-served basis it had employed in processing permit applications.

"Ngayon, pinapasok na muna lahat ng application from August 1 o August 30. Inevaluate po namin ito lahat sabay-sabay at inilabas po namin lahat ng nakapasa ng first week of September para wala pong usapin na nauna ito nabigyan ng mas malaking allocation," Dalisay said.

(All applications were collected from August 1 to 30. These were processed all at once to prevent allegations of favoring one company or granting larger import allocations.)


The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), meanwhile assured assistance to local farmers in the advent of El Niño intensification.

DTI Undersecretary Vic Dimagiba said that should a state of calamity be proclaimed in a province due to drought or dry spell, the agency will offer aid to farmers under the Expanded Government Internship Program (GIP).

The GIP is comparable to the cash-for-work program of the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

Twenty-eight provinces will most likely experience drought by the end of December 2015.

Likewise, 27 provinces are likely to experience dry spell, while seven others are likely to experience dry condition. -- With a report from Henry Atuelan, radio dzMM
Budget rolls into P15-B surplus in August, trims 8-month deficit to just P3.4 B
By Prinz P. Magtulis (The Philippine Star)
Updated October 2, 2015 - 12:00am
MANILA, Philippines - The Aquino administration’s budget balance rolled back into surplus in August even as expenditures continued to rise following dismal performance in early months.

The government posted a surplus of P15 billion in August, the Bureau of Treasury reported yesterday. A surplus indicates more revenues were earned than spent.

Broken down, revenues amounted to P176.7 billion, while disbursements totaled P161.6 billion. Both indicators recorded growth rates of four percent and 15 percent, respectively.

From January to August, the budget deficit was further trimmed to P3.4 billion, way below the P197.2-billion program for the first eight months. The government has capped deficit at P283.7 billion this year.

“Sound fiscal management burnishes our credentials as one of Asia’s safest and strongest, a boon for our investment and growth prospects,” Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said.

“We refuse to turn back the clock on our reforms,” he said.
August marked the third time this year that monthly revenues fell in excess of what was disbursed, following similar results in April and May.

This was after state disbursements lagged behind – and sometimes, even contracted – behind program during the early months. It seemed to have turned a corner in July, when it posted its fastest expansion in 13 months.

This was reinforced by Budget Secretary Florencio Abad last Monday, saying double-digit growth in disbursements would likely continue throughout the rest of the year. Spending rose 25 percent in July.

Emilio Neri, Jr., lead economist at the Bank of the Philippine Islands, however have mixed reactions on the latest budget numbers.

“We would have wanted to see a much stronger print for government outlays for August, to help compensate for the El Nino’s drag on over-all output,” Neri said in a note e-mailed to reporters.

“While lower than what we wished for, (expenditures) will still contribute positively to growth in the Philippines in the third quarter,” he added.

Revenues in August came mostly from the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which collected P138.5 billion, up nine percent year-on-year.

The Bureau of Customs, meanwhile, took in P26.9 billion in August, down seven percent. BIR and Customs missed their monthly targets by 14 percent and 25 percent, respectively.

From January to August, BIR raked in P962.6 billion, while the BOC collected P235.6 billion. Both bureaus account for more than 80 percent of state revenues.


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