Saturday, June 02, 2012

National Geographic features Philippines on Islands Insider

International television channel, National Geographic, is set to feature the Philippines through Islands Insider, a Filipino-produced six-part documentary series that seeks to reveal cultural and historical insights on some of the country’s world-class destinations, which include the Batad Rice Terraces in Mountain Province, Coron in Palawan, Taal and Anilao in Batangas, Siquijor, and Mt. Pulag in Benguet.

Produced by The Extra Mile Productions, with support from the Department of Tourism (DOT), Islands Insider presents the Philippines in a different perspective and deviates from traditional travel shows by featuring stories as narrated by the locals, highlighting issues beyond the breathtaking sights, and delivering a strong preservation and conservation message.

In a special screening held last May 21, 2012, at Greenbelt 3, members of the press, blogging community, and tourism stakeholders enjoyed a two-episode preview of the show: Batad Rice Terraces and Coron. Secretary of Tourism Ramon Jimenez also graced the screening and expressed his delight as a partner of the project.

“This project came as a surprise because I was not yet the Secretary when this was conceptualized. This being a part of National Geographic means that the beautiful sights of your country are part of the world, not just part of the Philippines, and the days will come that we will have to share it with the rest of the world. We want you to see it first, we want you to protect it, before they all come rushing in,” Secretary Jimenez said during his opening remarks.-Asian Journal (June 01, 2012)

5.5-magnitude quake hits Indonesia - USGS

HONGKONG - An earthquake measuring 5.5 on the Richter scale hit the region near the north coast of Papua, Indonesia, at 2301 GMT on Thursday (at 0801 local time on Friday), the U.S. Geological Survey said.

The epicenter, with a depth of 31.5 km, was initially determined to be at 0.904 degrees south latitude and 133.170 degrees east longitude.-Interaksyon (June 01, 2012)

PH Navy needs bigger warships

WASHINGTON D.C. - A ranking Philippine Navy official said they will need more and bigger ships to protect the nation’s maritime borders miles away from one of the longest coastlines in the world.
Rear Admiral Jose Luis Alano, Philippine Fleet (PhilFleet) commander, said the country has no choice but to acquire ships like the US Coast Guard’s Hamilton-class cutters because of seasonal changes in the South China Sea that make it treacherous to smaller vessels about half of the time each year.
Alano and Armed Forces chief Gen. Jessie Dellosa formally accepted delivery of the USCGC Dallas, the 378-foot, 3,250-ton sister ship of the Hamilton that was turned over to the Philippine last year and rechristened the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, during formal rites in Charleston, South Carolina May 22.
Bigger ships, especially like the high-endurance, all-weather Hamilton-class cutters, can sail through huge waves and stay longer at sea, he explained.
He downplayed reports that like the Hamilton, the US had stripped the Dallas of its advanced weapons and electronic equipment despite a request from Philippine officials last January to keep them. They retained the 76mm Oto Melara but removed the 2 Mark 38 25mm cannons and the more sophisticated sensors.
Alano told the Manila Mail that since the Dallas underwent its last major retrofit in 1988, many of the machinery and equipment aboard needed replacement anyway. 
He added that the Philippine Navy is buying its own Mark 38 “Bushmaster” chain guns that can spew 200 rounds per minute to distances of as far as 6 kilometers. One will be installed on the Dallas (to be rechristened BRP Ramon Alcaraz) and the 2nd will be installed on the BRP Gregorio del Pilar, after the Dallas arrives in Manila sometime in November.
Alano revealed they are also putting in new surveillance and command and control equipment. “This is part of arrangements when the vessel’s capabilities will be upgraded,” he explained. The equipment is being procured on “cash basis” under the US Foreign Military Sales (FMS) program.
But he admitted their bigger concern is how to sustain the naval modernization after decades of neglect. He said the development of a private-sector defense industry is crucial to the military’s long-term plans to build a credible defensive deterrent. 
That is why they are excited about an ongoing acquisitions of Philippine-made 65-foot Multi-Purpose Attack Crafts (MPACs). A local company is constructing them, borrowing technology from Taiwan and Sweden. The MPACs have a top speed of 48 knots.
Although they are not exactly the “big ships” the Philippine needs to operate in the disputed parts of the South China Sea, Alano said the deal can kick-start a modest but home-bred naval defense industry. In the US, he noted, private companies – not the military – are the most active proponents of military modernization and are not timid about lobbying the Pentagon and Capitol Hill for funding.
A domestic defense industry would also help create demand for workers that have the skills needed for staffing a modern military. Alano explained that unlike ground forces, the Philippine Navy will need to recruit and train additional sailors who can operate the electronics and complex gadgets standard to most new warships.
He said they plan to buy up to 40 MPACs but most of them will go to replacing older patrol crafts that have become too expensive to maintain.
Philippine Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said the government will award 138 contracts worth about P70 billion (about $1.2 billion) before July to boost military modernization.-ABS-CBN News (June 01, 2012)

Asean defense execs back freedom of navigation on South China Sea

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) has cited the importance of freedom of navigation and called for the implementation of the conduct of parties in the South China Sea amid the ongoing standoff between the Philippines and China over Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

During the 6th Asean Defense Ministers Meeting in Cambodia, Department of National Defense (DND) spokesman Peter Paul Galvez said the Asean was one in reaffirming its commitment to the full and effective implementation of the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea or the West Philippine Sea.

“We are also one in our affirmation to work toward the adoption of a regional Code of Conduct in the South China Sea that will further promote peace and stability in the region,” Galvez said.

“Likewise, together with the rest of the Asean, we underscore the importance of freedom of navigation in and over-flight above the South China Sea as provided for by universally recognized principles of international law, including the 1982 United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLoS),” he added.

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has been citing the UNCLoS in justifying the country’s claim over Panatag Shoal, which is located approximately 124 nautical miles off Masinloc in Zambales, well-within the 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone stipulated under the UNCLoS.

The Asean, however, stressed that defense and military relations between its member-states and China would not be affected by the ongoing issue regarding the West Philippine Sea.

“When the issue of the West Philippine Sea was touched, the Asean defense ministers have concurred that the defense and military cooperation between Asean and China remained unaffected,” Galvez said.

“The ministers have also stressed that the Asean and China remain committed to seeking peaceful resolutions to the West Philippine Sea (dispute),” he added.

The Asean Defense Ministers Meeting-Plus also included Australia, China, India, Japan, the Republic of Korea, New Zealand, Russia and the United States as partner-countries.

Meanwhile, two additional Chinese maritime surveillance ships (CMS) were monitored on Panatag Shoal.

A security official, who requested anonymity, said that as of latest monitoring, there were seven Chinese government-controlled spotted in Panatag Shoal, composed of three Chinese fishery law enforcement command ships (FLEC) and four CMS.

Last May 23, the DFA reported the presence of three Chinese FLECs and two CMS’s on Panatag Shoal. It subsequently filed a diplomatic protest against Beijing.

The standoff started last April 9 when the Philippine Navy warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar accosted eight Chinese fishing vessels caught with corals, giant clams and live sharks on Panatag Shoal. However, two Chinese CMS’s arrived in the area and prevented the arrest of the Chinese fishermen. -The Daily Tribune (June 01, 2012)

Military wary of Chinese in Panatag shoal

MILITARY officials said Thursday they were worried that Chinese forces might put up markers or structures on the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the West Philippine Sea to bolser Beijing’s claim to the area.

“We will wake up one day and see markers or a small structure already planted inside or outside the lagoon to boost their claim,” said a ranking military official who spoke on condition of anonymity.

“That’s why we’re closely monitoring their activities. We have two ships there but they might not detect all their activities especially at night.”

There were seven Chinese maritime surveillance vessels and eight fishing vessels near the shoal as of Wednesday morning.

“The seven vessels are merchant ships, the FLEC and CMS that we earlier reported, plus the fishing vessels,” another military official said.

“China has 15 vessels at the shoal now.”

Officials said China had sent up to 90 vessels to the shoal in the past weeks.

The Philippines has only two vessels near the shoal—one from the Coast Guard and one from the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The standoff between the Philippines and China started on April 10, when Chinese vessels stopped the Philippine warship BRP Gregorio del Pilar from arresting Chinese fishermen who were suspected of illegally harvesting giant clams and endangered marine resources in the area.

Since then, China has sent more vessels to boost its claim to the shoal, which Philippine officials say is well within the country’s 200-nautical-mile exclusive economic zone.

China, however, claims the shoal, which is more than 800 nautical miles from its nearest shore, as its own.

Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin is expected to give more details about his meeting with China’s Defense Minister Liang Guanglie in Cambodia.

Liang on Thursday urged the Philippines to be “discreet in both words and deeds” over the issue and make tangible steps toward regional peace and stability.

A Navy official on Thursday said China was using the Scarborough Shoal as a test case for its bigger claims along the entire stretch of the South China Sea.

“If ever they will be successful at Panatag [Scarborough], then they have all the reasons to claim Recto [Reed] Bank, which is their main target,” the official said.

“The reef’s underground has a lot of oil.”

The reef is part of the disputed Spratly Islands.

The Philippines and China aside, other claimants to the Spratlys are Vietnam, Taiwan, Brunei and Malaysia.-Manila Standard Today (June 01, 2012)

PNoy to raise Scarborough issue with UK PM

LONDON - President Benigno Aquino III will embark on a historic visit to London, his first in Europe since his assumption to power two years ago.

UK-based Filipinos and embassy officials could not hide their excitement, considering that the official visit falls on the Queen's Diamond Jubilee celebration.

President Aquino will be in the United Kingdom from June 4 to 6.

In their one-on-one meeting, both Aquino and Prime Minister David Cameron will talk about a wide range of issues, from bilateral agreements, political relationships, the peace process and developments in Mindanao, migration, tourism and regional issues.

But Ambassador Enrique Manalo appears certain that the president might discuss with Cameron the issue of the hotly-contested territorial dispute between the Philippines and China over Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea.

For Ambassador Manalo, the visit is also good timing because of the renewed business confidence in the Philippines by European sectors due to the government's all out anti-corruption drive.

It's good timing because the official visit will be held just a week after the Senate, sitting as an impeachment court, slapped a guilty verdict against Chief Justice Renato Corona for failure to publicly disclose his true wealth as required under the Constitution.

Six up to eight large British multi-national companies will engage in multi-million dollar business agreements with the Philippines in the field of renewed energy, trade, banking and tourism.

With the Eurozone crisis, the UK sees Asia, particularly the Philippines, as the emerging economic power that is ripe for fresh investments.

Great Britain has the biggest number of European tourists entering the country.

Last year, some 104,000 British tourists entered the Philippines.

With the president's visit and with him personally overseeing the Department of Tourism (DOT) campaign “It’s more fun in the Philippines”, now imprinted on London's double-decker buses and famous black cabs, the DOT is expecting to double the flow of British tourists into the country by end of this year.

The president's two-day visit will also include a meeting with the Filipino community.

After his UK visit, President Aquino will leave for Washington Wednesday afternoon of June 6.-ABS-CBN News (June 01, 2012)

15 Chinese ships park at Scarborough

TWO additional Chinese maritime surveillance ships have been spotted at the Panatag Shoal, bringing the total number of Chinese vessels in the standoff area to 15, a security official said yesterday.  

“As of this morning, per monitoring by our authorities, there are seven Chinese vessels and eight Chinese fishing vessels. That means a total of 15 (Chinese ships and fishing vessels),” the official said on condition of anonymity.

The official said the Chinese ships in the area are four Chinese maritime surveillance (CMS) ships and three fisheries law enforcement command (FLEC) vessels. 

Last May 23, the Department of Foreign Affairs, quoting a report from the Philippine Coast Guard, said there were two CMS and three FLECs. The DFA had also reported 16 Chinese fishing boats and 56 utility boats in the area.

The source said the number of Philippine government vessels at the disputed shoal remain at two – a Philippine Coast Guard search and rescue vessel, and a Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources ship.

The official said no Chinese utility boat was monitored in the area.

“I believe that there is a prevailing inclement weather in the area. It’s not appropriate to go fishing at this time,” the official said. “There are no (Chinese) utility boats there, meaning they are not fishing.” 

A standoff between China and Philippines broke out last April 10 when the Philippine Navy’s cutter BRP Gregorio del Pilar accosted eight Chinese fishing vessels gathering live sharks, giant clams and corals at the shoal.

Two Chinese maritime fishing vessels appeared and prevented the Navy ship from arresting the Chinese fishermen, triggering the standoff. Filipino and Chinese diplomats are still working to find a diplomatic solution to the conflict.-Malaya (June 01, 2012)

Friday, June 01, 2012

PH 'ideal' site for PPPs

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines, among member-countries of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), offers the most ideal environment for public-private partnerships (PPPs).

The verdict was handed down recently by Asian Development Bank (ADB) in its 2011 Infrascope.

In the Asia-Pacific region, ADB ranked the Philippines eighth in PPP-readiness.

It said on a scale of 0 to 100, with 100 representing the perfect environment for PPP projects, the country scored 47.1 out of 100 on its way to the No.1 spot in Asean.

In the Asia-Pacific region, other Asean member-countries that scored high in PPP-readiness are Indonesia, with a score of 46.1 out of 100, to land ninth; Thailand, 45.3, 10th; and Vietnam, 26.3, 14th.

Asean also groups Brunei Darussalam, Cambodia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar and Singapore.

The index was topped by Australia, with a score of 92.3.

“[The] Philippines [has] updated, or in the process of updating, regulations and [has] restructured existing institutional frameworks in the hope of improving the processes around PPP selection and oversight, and to develop specialist capacity in the public sector,” ADB said.

Results of the assessment suggest that each country can be grouped into four: mature, developed, emerging and nascent. These groups categorize the environment for sustainable and long-term PPP projects. The Philippines was classified as an emerging country.

A country’s overall score comes from their weighted category scores. The six categories given by the 2011 Infrascope are: legal and regulatory framework, institutional framework, operational maturity, investment climate, financial facilities and subnational adjustment factor.

Legal and regulatory framework, wherein quality of PPP regulations and openness of bids and contract changes are measured, was weighted 25 percent. Institutional framework, which is measured by the quality of institutional designs, was weighted 20 percent.

Regulators measure operational maturity, which was weighted at 15 percent, in terms of PPP-readiness and risk-allocation. Investment climate received a weight of 15 percent.

Financial facilities, wherein government payment risk and government support are measured, was weighted at 15 percent. Subnational adjustment factor, in which infrastructure concessions are evaluated, was weighted 10 percent.

The Philippines placed 7th with a score of 43.8 in legal and regulatory framework, 8th with 41.7 in institutional framework, 10th with 44.8 in operational maturity and 13th with 46.3 in investment climate.

Despite the long history of PPP projects in the Philippines, ADB said, limitations on resolving rows and financing hinder the projects from reaching their full potential. Even when the bidding process is well-structured, it added, debates and disputes are left to the parties to resolve and occasionally are brought to the courts.

ADB cited the Philippine government for its interest in attracting foreign PPP partners. It said state support remains limited due to the government’s “poor fiscal position.” ADB, however, added that this shortcoming remains a threat, too, to fostering sustainable and efficient PPP infrastructure projects not just in the Philippines but also in the Asia-Pacific region.

“In order to leverage the $8 trillion required over the next decade for physical infrastructure in Asia, public financiers like ADB must undergo a complete change of mindset and shift their focus from sovereign projects to [PPP projects],” ADB Regional and Sustainable Development Department Deputy Director General Woochong Um said. “Studies such as this one [on PPP readiness] will help our developing member-countries address the areas of [PPPs] that need to be strengthened.”

The 2011 Infrascope said South Korea, India and Japan are the top performing countries in the Asia-Pacific region. The feat, it added, reflects the three countries’ robust institutional and regulatory frameworks. Two benchmark countries, Australia shared overall top scores with the United Kingdom.

ADB said India came in slightly ahead of Japan, which reflects strong political will and rising capacity for PPPs, despite implementation remaining a challenge. China also performed well with 614 PPP projects reaching financial closure between 2000 and 2009.

The ADB report said Vietnam, Mongolia and Papua New Guinea were at the lower end of the index, due to a lack of experience with PPPs and underdeveloped institutions and regulatory frameworks.

It added that the Philippines and other emerging economies such as Pakistan, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Thailand and Indonesia are moving swiftly to put in place necessary laws and structures to attract more private investments.

The 2011 Infrascope, conducted by ADB’s Economist Intelligence Unit, uses a benchmark index system to rank the readiness and capacity of a country to carry out sustainable, long-term PPPs.

Itt was carried out in 11 developing economies in the Asia-Pacific region, along with four benchmark countries and one state, Gujarat state of India. -ABS-CBN News (May 31, 2012)

Iraqi Minister On Official Visit To PH

The foreign minister of Iraq is scheduled to embark on a historic official visit to the Philippines starting Thursday, May 31, up to June 2.

According to Iraqi Ambassador to Manila Dr. Wadee Al- Batti, Minister Hoshyar Zebari’s trip is expected to further boost bilateral ties between the two countries.

It will be the first official visit to the Philippines by an Iraqi foreign affairs minister.

“We are filled with hope and optimism that the historical visit of the Foreign Minister of Iraq...and his meetings with officials of the Republic of the Philippines will move the relation between the two countries to spacious spaces and will open wide doors to achieve more quality and quantity steps at the level of development of relations between lraq and the Philippines for the benefit of both countries,” said Ambassador Al-Batti in a statement issued yesterday.

According to the Iraqi diplomat, the “new Iraq, after the fall of the dictatorial regime, has chosen democracy and peaceful transfer of power as a way of life and in this field we have achieved great steps, at the same time we still facing challenges against the remnants of the terrorism.”

“All the reports and forecasts confirm that the Iraqis will succeed in their project of democracy and that Iraq is a source of great economic opportunities in different areas in the coming years,” he said.

“New Iraq is open to the world and wants to deal with everyone on the basis of common interests, and according to the long history of the relations between Iraq and the Philippines, it is natural for the Philippines to have a role and a stake in these opportunities,” he added.

He pointed out that the relations between Iraq and the Philippines have been strengthened after the visit of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario to Iraq last January 29.

During the visit, Del Rosario invited Minister Zebari to conduct an official visit to the Philippines.

The two government officials also discussed the security situation in Iraq in light of the bombings in Baghdad, after the withdrawal of the United States military.

Ambassador Al-Batti said Del Rosario and Zebari met “so that the two countries should discuss issues from the overall bilateral relations and treat the matter separately to allow a full focus on advancing the important bilateral agenda between the Philippines and Iraq.”

Iraq and the Philippines established their diplomatic relations on January 12, 1975, and the Philippines embassy started its work in Baghdad on September, 1980.

The Philippines moved its embassy from Baghdad to the Jordanian capital of Amman as an interim measure after 2003, while the Republic of Iraq closed its embassy in Manila in September 2003, but the diplomatic relations between the two countries has not been interrupted, said Ambassador Al-Batti.-Manila Bulletin (May 31, 2012)

PH eco grows 6.4% in Q1; highest in ASEAN

MANILA, Philippines (3RD UPDATE) - The Philippine economy grew by 6.4% in the first quarter from an upwardly revised growth of 4.9% last year, the government announced on Thursday.

"This growth is well above the market’s consensus forecast of 4.8 percent. Also, the Philippines posted the highest growth among ASEAN and other neighboring countries except China," Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said.


ASEAN Q1 GDP growth

Philippines 6.4%
Indonesia 6.3%
Vietnam 4.3%
Singapore 1.6%
Thailand 0.3%


Hong Kong 0.4%
South Korea 2.8%
Japan 2.8%
China 8.1%

The growth was attributed to  to the government's strong infrastructure spending and its conditional cash transfer (CCT) program.

Compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, the Philippine economy grew by 2.5% in the first quarter, slightly below market forecasts, putting pressure on the government to boost spending and raising the case for the central bank to resume cutting rates later this year.

Balisacan expressed confidence the government can meet its full-year GDP target, or even exceed it.

"Given the preliminary first quarter 2012 estimate, we expect that the full year 2012 real GDP growth rate projection of 5% to 6% is well within reach or may even exceed it," Balisacan said.

"At the same time, the government will not let up in its efforts to accelerate the growth of the economy. For example, there is still considerable room for faster acceleration in government spending. Also the government will remain vigilant to risk to growth, including those posed by the euro area woes and uncertainties in the world oil prices," he added.

The Philippines is targeting faster growth of 5 to 6 percent this year against last year's 3.7 percent, fuelled by higher government spending, a rebound in exports, and strong domestic consumption.

Balisacan said the first quarter performance serves as "a springboard" for the next 3 quarters.

"The latest improvement on several governance and competitiveness indicators, including Moody’s recent change of outlook on the country’s Ba2 rating to positive from stable, indicate that our macroeconomic targets for this year are achievable, given the synergy between the public and private sectors," he said.

"Surprisingly strong"

Economists were surprised by the strong 6.4% year-on-year growth, but there are questions as to whether this can be sustained.

Eugene Leow, economist at DBS Bank in Singapore, said the 6.4% growth was "surprisingly strong," on the back of the government's fiscal spending

"We do not think the growth momentum can be sustained because of the troubles in Europe. April data from the region has also softened. The 6.4 percent year-on-year growth may raise fears of demand-push pressures but inflation should be comfortably within the central bank's forecast range. There is scope for easing if necessary but I don't think the central bank is ready to push the trigger just yet. Our forecast is for the rate to stay unchanged this year. The government also has room to introduce a fiscal stimulus if needed," Leow said.

Jun Neri, economist at the Bank of the Philippine Islands, said the strong pace of economic growth warrants an upgrade of the Philippines from the major credit ratings agencies.

"Moody's and S&P, in particular, will take note of stronger growth performance, as it will make the relative size of our debt much smaller than overall output. Of course the question is the sustainability. It's a big question mark, more so that headwinds particularly from peripheral Europe are anticipated to have an impact on the remaining quarters of the year, which again should compel our policymakers to sustain if not to continue to step up on expansionary policies," Neri said.-ABS-CBN News (May 31, 2012)

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Philippines, China 'to show restraint' over Panatag Shoal

PHNOM PENH - China and the Philippines have agreed to show restraint in their tense standoff over a disputed shoal in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), Manila's defense chief said Tuesday.
Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin said he had held a brief meeting with his Chinese counterpart in the Cambodian capital on Monday during which both sides agreed to tone down the rhetoric and find "a peaceful resolution" to the spat.
"We agreed on three points: to restrain our actions, to restrain our statements so that it does not escalate, and then we continue to open our line of communication until we come up with a peaceful resolution to the case," Gazmin told reporters.
Gazmin made the remarks after attending talks with the defense ministers of the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) in Phnom Penh.
Relations between Beijing and Manila have plunged recently with both sides pressing their conflicting claims to the Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.
The two countries have had ships posted around the shoal since early April, when Chinese vessels prevented a Philippine Navy ship from arresting Chinese fishermen.
China has also impounded Philippine fruit shipments and warned tourists against visiting the Philippines.
China and several ASEAN nations have rival claims to uninhabited islands in the West Philippine Sea, which is believed to be rich in hydrocarbons and straddles strategic shipping lanes vital to global trade.
Chinese Defense Minister Liang Guanglie, on an official visit to close ally Cambodia, is set to meet with his ASEAN counterparts later on Tuesday for what Phnom Penh called "informal" discussions about the maritime dispute. -GMA News (May 30, 2012)

Malaysia backs PHL call to settle Panatag Shoal row thru UNCLOS

Malaysia on Tuesday backed the Philippines’ call for the settlement of the seven-week tense impasse over a disputed West Philippine Sea shoal on the basis of the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
It also called on other Southeast Asian claimants to help resolve the territorial conflict.
Such position was conveyed by Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak to Vice President Jejomar Binay in a meeting at the government capital of Putrajaya. 
European countries, Vietnam, and Australia have also called for Manila and Beijing to resolve the standoff at Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal through UNCLOS while saying they do not take sides in the conflict.
UNCLOS, which was signed by at least 162 nations, including the Philippines and China, extends the territorial jurisdiction of coastal states by up to 200 nautical miles from its coastline. 
The convention empowers the coastal states with the right to develop, explore and exploit resources within the mandated area, called exclusive economic zone (EEZ). It allows foreign ships to pass through a coastal state’s EEZ.
UNCLOS also offers several dispute-settle mechanisms that nations can avail of to resolve overlapping territorial claims.
"I conveyed to the Prime Minister our government's position on the dispute with China over Panatag Shoal and he supports our position that it should be resolved based on international law," Binay said in a statement from Malaysia.
"Both the Philippines and Malaysia agree that there needs to be a legal commitment to enter into a peaceful resolution of the dispute," he added.
According to Binay, Razak also wants all Southeast Asian claimant nations—the Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei—to hold talks on how to resolve the impasse that started on April 10.
The Philippines and China both claim ownership to the shoal. 
Each side has stationed vessels there since the standoff erupted when Chinese vessels prevented Philippine authorities from arresting Chinese fishermen allegedly poaching in the shoal which Manila said is well within its 200-nautical mile EEZ as provided by the UNCLOS. 
China does not recognize the Philippines' claims, saying it was the first to discover the shoal in ancient times and have maps to back its assertions.
Beijing also claims the West Philippine Sea nearly in its entirety, including areas that overlap with the Philippines’ and other Asian nations’ territorial waters. 
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei, China and Taiwan all have overlapping claims over the West Philippine Sea, an area teeming with rich marine life and said to be harboring vast oil and mineral deposits.-GMA News (May 30, 2012)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Philippines could become a ‘breakout nation’

IN A NEW economic era of crises and risk-averse investors, not all emerging markets will succeed in sustaining the high economic growth notched in the past decade, a Morgan Stanley executive said.

Only a few will turn out to be "breakout nations," distinguished by their ability to beat widely held growth expectations for their income class, said Ruchir Sharma, head of emerging markets and global macro at Morgan Stanley and author of Breakout Nations: In Pursuit of the Next Economic Miracles published recently.

The Philippines is "among the countries expected to do better than expectations," said Mr. Sharma, speaking by phone from Singapore yesterday, as long as the country focuses on reforms.

To qualify as a "breakout nation," the Philippines has to rise above its 5% growth potential and achieve a higher economic growth average in the next three to five years -- and over a decade.

Mr. Sharma explained that emerging market economies cannot be expected to post the high growth rates seen in a decade ago because the "easy money" that came in the wake of central bank rate cuts, and which drove growth higher, had dried up.

The prior decade was also marked by these emerging markets’ playing catch-up with the bigger economies after they were racked by crises in the 1980s to 1990s.

"The last decade is not likely to be replicated," Mr. Sharma said. "Not everyone will be able to grow rapidly and the challenge is to identify which countries can do better than the rest."

While interest rates in the United States and Europe are at historical lows at present, money is not going rapidly to emerging market economies because of risk aversion. 

Banks there are also either "keeping money at home or bringing money back home" to repair balance sheets or comply with capitalization requirements. The situation is compounded by the ongoing euro zone debt crisis.

Indeed, net foreign portfolio investments to the Philippines fell 11% to $4.08 billion in 2011 versus the previous year while data as of May 11 showed "hot money" at a little over $1 billion, roughly half the previous year’s level. Foreign direct investments was at a minuscule $1.1 billion in 2010.

Emerging market economies will have to compete for the slow-flowing foreign capital and those that succeed are those that are able to demonstrate high growth vis-a-vis peers.

In the case of the Philippines, its peers include other lower-middle-income countries such as Indonesia, India, Nigeria, Pakistan and Sri Lanka. Lower-income-countries, based on the World Bank grouping, are those with $1,006 to $3,975 in per capita income.

The Philippines’ other neighbors, Malaysia, Thailand and China belong to the upper-middle-income grouping with $3,976 to $12,275 in per capita income. So do Turkey, Brazil and Russia.

"Indonesia looks good, Thailand looks good, also Turkey and Poland," Mr. Sharma said. "Frontier markets look decent from Nigeria to Sri Lanka."
"Likely to disappoint" are Brazil, Russia and China, whose growth rates have already fallen. It’s a "mixed view" for India, which has room to catch up in terms of per capita income, but whose government has "done little reforms or back-pedaling on reforms."

Increasing revenue and raising investments put the Philippines on the right track, said Mr. Sharma, noting how the country dashed expectations previously.

"It had a very high per capita income in the 1960s, but every other country surpassed it… Korea and Taiwan in the ’70s, Malaysia and Thailand in the ’80s, China in the ’90s and Indonesia in 2009. It was getting to be a joke," he said.
"When I came to the Philippines [in 2010], I saw signs of change with [President Benigno S. C.] Aquino [III]. There was a reform momentum, it was getting the investment cycle going again."

He also sees pluses in the country’s young population and the fact that more Filipinos are living in cities. 

"Urbanization is better for productivity," he said.

The government, he said, can hit its medium-term 7-8% growth target as long as it keeps its reform momentum going.

"At the end of my book, I referred to a proverb that went ‘If there is no wind, row,’" Mr. Sharma said. 

"The easy global conditions in the past decade are not there, there are no tailwinds to ride on, so emerging markets must invite the capital."

Politics and cronyism, however, can stall the Philippines’ momentum but "hopefully, changes ... [will be] for the better."

At Morgan Stanley, Mr. Sharma oversees $25 billion in assets. Half of this is invested in Asia, of which about $500 million to $1 billion is invested in Philippine assets, mostly stocks.

The amount might look small, "but for the size of the Philippines, it’s quite big," he said.-Business World (May 29, 2012)

China alarmed by Clinton’s comments on West Philippine Sea

China has expressed concern about remarks made by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton who said that Beijing’s claim in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) exceeded what was permitted by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (Unclos).

In a report posted Monday on its website, the Chinese Embassy in Makati City quoted Hong Lei, spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, as saying that China had raised concerns about Clinton’s opinion when other countries had chosen to adopt a hands-off policy on the issue.

“On the issue of the South China Sea, nonclaimant (Association of South East Asian Nations) countries and countries outside the region have adopted a position of not getting involved in territorial disputes,” Hong said.

“On this important prerequisite and foundation, the Chinese side has consistently committed to safeguarding peace and stability in the South China Sea, region by means, such as negotiating and signing with Asean countries the Declaration on the Conduct of Parties in the South China Sea in parallel with our efforts to pursue dispute settlement through negotiations with countries directly concerned,” she said.

Two Democratic senators—John Kerry and Barbara Boxer—also criticized China’s claim in  the West Philippine Sea at last week’s hearing of the US Senate committee on foreign relations.

Illegal claims

Kerry, the panel chair, said “China and other countries are staking out illegal claims to the South China Sea and elsewhere.”

Boxer produced a map that  showed that China’s claims exceeded far beyond its 200-nautical mile exclusive economic zone provided for in Unclos and amounted to a “significant territorial grab that comes very close to the land borders of countries in the region.”

China, which is among the 160-plus nations that are party to Unclos that was concluded in 1982 and has been in force since 1994, has made expansive claims in the West Philippine Sea based mainly on ancient maps.

A map that China submitted to the UN in 2009 virtually claimed the entire West Philippine Sea. However, it failed to clarify the exact extent of its claims that overlap those of Taiwan, Malaysia, Vietnam, Brunei Darussalam and the Philippines.

According to the Chinese embassy, Hong also expressed concern about Manila’s supposed attempts to involve third parties in its conflict with Beijing over the Panatag (Scarborough)  Shoal also Bajo de Masinloc  to the Philippines and Huangyan Island to China.

“Attempts by the Philippine side to draw a third party into interfering or intervening through whatever means in Huangyan Island will surely escalate the situation and meet with firm opposition from the Chinese side,” Hong said.

Provocative actions

She also claimed that “the Philippine side has taken some provocative actions recently in the Huangyan Island waters, and the Chinese side has correspondingly strengthened management and control measures.”

“It was learned that the Huangyan Island waters is now stable on the whole. About 20 Chinese fishing boats are working in that area and the number is basically the same with that in the same period of previous years. The so-called around 100 boats are mostly one-person dinghies from the fishing boats,” she said.

Hong pointed out the operations of these fishing boats are  in line with related Chinese laws and China’s fishing moratorium.

“China’s public service ships are exercising strict supervision over these fishing boats to prevent any law-breaching operation,” she said.

Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario expressed confidence that the Philippines could settle the Panatag Shoal dispute with China, as well as other West Philippine Sea-related issues, citing what he called the Department of Foreign Affairs’ comprehensive “overall plan.”

Del Rosario pointed out that the Chinese were “in violation of the Asean Declaration on the Code of Conduct in the South China Sea when they are preventing us from enforcing our laws in our EEZ.”

According to the DFA head, they had “broken up the overall plan into diplomatic or political, legal and defense tracks.”

Political track

For the political track, he said the country would continue to push for the transformation of the West Philippine Sea into a zone of peace, freedom, friendship and cooperation, where Manila would observe a rules-based approach to all disputes in accordance with Unclos.

For the legal track, the DFA plans to continue coordinating with other government agencies concerned as it resorts to a dispute settlement mechanism under Unclos.

For the defense track, Del Rosario said the foreign office had committed to help improve national defense by building a minimum credible defense posture to protect the country’s territorial integrity.

Del Rosario told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that aside from the United States, at least three other countries—Japan, South Korea and Australia—were also helping the Philippines establish that defense posture.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 29, 2012)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Fashion blogger Bryanboy to judge next season of ‘America’s Next Top Model’

Fashion blogger Bryan Grey Yambao, more popularly known as Bryanboy, will become a judge in the the next season of “America’s Next Top Model”.

Bryanboy will fill up one of the two vacant seats in the show’s judging panel. Long-time judges and mentors Nigel Barker and Jay Manuel left the show earlier this year.

Bryanboy was a former freelance web developer based in his parents’ home in Manila. Heis eponymous blog received the Philippine blog award for Best Fashion and Lifestyle Blog in 2007.
In its 2010 Power Issue, Vogue named him one of nine bloggers “making a global industry sit up and take notice”.

“America’s Next Top Model” is hosted and produced by supermodel Tyra Banks. According to Tyra,  she chose Bryanboy because the fashion blogger writes about global fashion events.

Bryanboy is currently in the US taping episodes for the 19th cycle of “ANTM”.

The 19th cycle will feature a brand new theme. It will cater to college students aspiring to become models. The “college edition” of “ANTM” is set to premiere in the fall in the US.-Interaksyon (May 28, 2012)

Moody’s Analytics: PHL Q1 GDP grew 4.8%

Moody's Analytics Inc. said Monday that Philippine output as measured by the gross domestics product likely accelerate by 4.8 percent in first quarter of 2012.
The unit of New York-based Moody’s Investors Service said in its latest “Asia Pacific Review” that higher government spending gave the Philippine economy a much-needed boost in the face of weak global demand during the first three months of the year.
“GDP in the Philippines likely grew 4.8 percent in the first quarter, after 3.7 percent in the fourth… increased government spending drove the acceleration, boosting domestic demand amid still-weak exports,” Moody's Analytics emphasized in its review.
It noted government stepped up infrastructure spending to encourage foreign investment and beef up the business process outsourcing industry.
Higher government spending would help offset the slowdown in private consumption as growth remittances by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) continued to ease this year, according to the Moody’s Analytics.
“Private consumption lost some steam as remittances from Filipinos working abroad eased. Remittances, a key driver of private consumption, account for 10 percent of GDP,” it added.-GMA News (May 28, 2012)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Philippine National Flag Days 2012

PH an emerging education hub for Asia, says businessman

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines can develop into a new education hub for Asia in the next few years, given its growing investment in the sector, high proficiency in English and low-cost course offerings, according to businessman Ramon Garcia.

"We believe in education. We believe this country needs more and better education, and we must sieze the moment," Garcia said Friday, May 25, during the official launch of his latest project, the South Forbes City Colleges (SFCC).

Ramon Garcia, chairman of GCIC

Garcia, also the chairman of Global City Innovative College in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig, noted that the education sector in the country has such growth potential that local investors are willing to pour in funds and foreign investment groups are just waiting for the authorities to allow them to partner with domestic institutions of higher learning to tap into the sector.

If the green light is given, the Philippines will be able to cater to a growing number of foreign students from other Asian countries like China, Japan and South Korea who are keen on improving their English while they pursue their degrees.

Traditionally, that market has looked to Australia or Singapore, but the Philippines is now a more affordable alternative, given the current world economic slowdown.

New business model for education

Garcia has established SFCC with help from a group of investors who are letting him run the show based on the success of his first school.

The key, he said, is to not just invest, but bring in the private sector.

That is the principle behind the business model for SFCC, which aims not only to teach but to prepare its students for their future "real" jobs after they graduate.

"What we propose is to cut out the middlemen. The corporations tell us what they want from our students, and we train them according to those guidelines. That way they are better prepared for those jobs when they graduate."

On top of that, SFCC is partnering with companies like Ayala Land, Astoria Hotels or Essence Asia to offer internships to students they want to hire in the future.

Fight the brain drain

SFCC will initially be offering undergraduate courses in Business Administration, Tourism Management and Hotel Management on its brand new campus in Silang, Cavite.

Garcia's aim is to create a steady flow of skilled professionals that will be able to land well-paying management jobs in sectors like business process outsourcing (BPO) so they will be inclined to stay in the Philippines and fight the massive brain drain that has crippled the economy over the past few years.

"We hope our graduates become the next leaders and problem solvers. We also hope to instil in them to mentality to question the status quo. In a nation approaching 150 million people by 2040, we will need creative and proactive individuals to lead us to an enlightened future for our country." -

PH exercises sovereign control of its exclusive economic zone — DFA

MANILA, Philippines — A distortion of facts?
The spokesperson of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) has disputed a report posted on the website of the Chinese Embassy in Makati City, claiming both the Philippines and China agree that the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) “can not be utilized as a legal ground to claim territorial sovereignty.”

“Therefore, the fact that Huangyan Island (Scarborough Shoal) is within  the 200 nautical miles Exclusive Economic Zone or continental shelf of Luzon Island has no relevance in determining sovereignty either,” said the same report titled “The Standoff between Beijing and Manila around the Huangyan Island: Who owns the shoal?”

The report was written by Gao Jianjun, international law professor at the China University of Political Science and Law in Beijing.

The Philippines refers to the West Philippine Sea rock formation as Bajo de Masinloc and Panatag Shoal.

In a text message to the Philippine Daily Inquirer, Raul Hernandez clarified on Sunday that “under UNCLOS, the Philippines exercises exclusive sovereign rights over its Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf.”

Contrary to Beijing’s claims, “the Bajo de Masinloc is an integral part of Philippine territory. It is located 124 nautical miles west of Zambales.”

“The Philippines exercises full sovereignty and effective jurisdiction over the rock features of the Bajo de Masinloc. It is also well within the 200-nautical mile EEZ and continental shelf of the Philippines as provided under UNCLOS,” Hernandez asserted.

Some DFA insiders have assailed Gao’s report as an alleged “distortion of facts,” adding the Chinese embassy was “at it again.”

Last month, the foreign office temporarily stopped diplomatic meetings with the embassy, citing the inaccuracy of information being relayed by the mission to the Chinese capital.

The DFA had accused Chinese Ambassador Ma Keqing of wrongfully conveying a non-existent agreement of a pullout of all vessels in the Scarborough Shoal area.

Hernandez clarified that Manila and Beijing diplomatic officials agreed to refrain from doing anything that would increase the tension in the disputed area.

He emphasized that “whatever was discussed or agreed upon should be reported to Beijing factually…We want the Chinese embassy to convey the actual agreements or non-agreements undertaken in Manila.”

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario earlier said the inaccuracy of information being relayed to China would somehow trigger different protocol.

The DFA head recalled that during the third meeting with the Chinese side, Ma informed the foreign office that Beijing was becoming more assertive because Manila violated an agreement.”
“I said…there was no agreement that’s why we are on a stalemate. They are harping that we don’t honor an agreement. I felt I should clarify that with the Chinese government, it seems that report was not accurate,” Del Rosario told a recent DFA press briefing.

In his report, Gao noted that “since 1997, the Philippine side has disputed China’s sovereignty over the Huangyan Island … It is interesting to note that both sides agree that geographical proximity is not a mode of acquiring territory under international law. Thus, the fact that Huangyan Island is closer to the Philippines than China has no consequence for the settlement of the dispute.”

“According to Beijing, the basis of its sovereignty over Huangyan Island is “It is China that first discovered this island, gave it the name, incorporated it into its territory and exercises jurisdiction over it,” while Manila asserts that “the Philippines has exercised both effective occupation and effective jurisdiction over Bajo de Masinloc since its independence.” Thus, both sides take the occupation of terra nullius as the legal basis of their claim to the island in question,” he said.

Gao claimed that “as a mode of acquiring territory, occupation is often preceded by discovery, so it is appropriate to begin with the question which party discovered and named the relevant territory, and then to see whether the discovering state has exercised effective control to establish its title.”
“In this respect, it seems undisputable that Huangyan Island was discovered by China as early as in the Yuan Dynasty (1271-1368 AC),” he said.

Gao pointed out that “all the official maps published by the Chinese governments of different periods marked Huangyan Island as Chinese territory.”

“These maps and laws not only demonstrate the intention of China to claim the sovereignty of Huangyan Island, but also constitute part of the open, continuous, peaceful and effective jurisdiction exercised by China over the island, Besides, many scientific expedition activities, authorized or endorsed by Chinese authorities, were held on the island, as well as in its surrounding seas,” he said.

He recalled that “a Philippine flag was erected on the island by two Philippine congressmen in 1997, and the baseline around the Huangyan Island was delineated in 2009.”

“However, these activities were undertaken after the Philippines had challenged the Chinese sovereignty over Huangyan Island and for the purpose of improving the legal position of Manila. According to the relevant jurisprudence of the international tribunals, such activities should not be taken into consideration in the determination of a territorial dispute,” said Gao.

He added, “what is more important, one major obstacle for Manila to claim the Huangyan Island is the island has always been considered to be outside the territorial limits of the Philippines…It is quite plausible to argue that China had established its original title to the Huangyan Island under the relevant rules of international law.”

Citing the DFA’s comprehensive “overall plan” in promoting national security, Del Rosario earlier expressed confidence the Philippines could settle peacefully its Scarborough Shoal dispute with China, as well as other West Philippine Sea-related issues.

He said they had broken up the overall plan into diplomatic or political, legal and defense tracks.
For the diplomatic track, he said the country would continue to push for the transformation of the West Philippine Sea into a Zone of Peace, Freedom, Friendship and Cooperation (ZoPFFC)
Under ZoPFFC, Manila would observe a rules-based approach to all disputes in accordance with UNCLOS according to Del Rosario.

For the legal track, the DFA plans to coordinate with other concerned government agencies as it resorts to dispute settlement mechanisms under Unclos.

For the defense track, Del Rosario said the foreign office committed to help improve national defense by building a minimum credible defense posture to protect the country’s territorial sovereignty with some help from the United States, Japan, South Korea, and Australia, among other Philippine allies.-Philippine Daily Inquirer (May 27, 2012)