Saturday, August 18, 2012

Philippines interior secretary missing in plane crash

Philippines Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo is among three missing after a small aircraft crashed off Masbate Bay, the state-run PNA news agency reported, citing civil aviation authorities.

One person, identified as Robredo's aide, was rescued from the crash site, civil aviation chief William Hotchkiss told PNA.

Robredo was headed to Naga City to attend a political event, the agency reported.

The Philippines Department of Interior and Local Government said on its Twitter account that the pilot sent a distress call to the Masbate airport requesting an emergency landing. It also said that Robredo was unable to get out of the plane.

However, the department deleted its messages later.

The plane never made it the airport and crashed in the ocean, Hotchkiss said.

Authorities were searching for Robredo and the two pilots, PNA reported.

Robredo is a popular minister who is known for the transformation of Naga City into a premier place under his leadership as local chief executive, according to his official biography.

He is a graduate of John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University.-Cable News Network (August 18, 2012)

283 killed in traffic accidents during Indonesia's Lebaran exodus

The National Police have disclosed that at least 283 people have been killed in 1,602 traffic accidents during the current exodus across Indonesia in the period between Aug. 11 to Aug. 15, 2012.

Aside from causing fatalities, the large number of traffic accidents had also caused material losses estimated at 4.5 billion rupiah (US$472,500), according to the police.

Hundreds of thousands of travellers leave big cities annually to celebrate Lebaran or Idul Fitri, the end of Muslim's Ramadan fasting month, with family members and relatives in their hometowns.

"On Aug. 15 alone, 337 traffic accidents took place, resulting in the deaths of 66 people," National Police spokesman Insp. Gen. Anang Iskandar said, as quoted by

From the accidents recorded that day, 116 people were severely injured and 305 others suffered minor injuries, he said, adding that material losses on that day were estimated at 1.02 billion rupiah.

The largest number of traffic accidents on Aug. 15 took place in Central Java, with 81 accidents in which nine people were killed, 16 severely injured and 103 others sustaining minor injuries.

In East Java, there were 66 accidents where 11 people were killed, four severely injured and 63 sustaining minor injuries.

Accidents were also registered in West Java, Jakarta and South Sulawesi, with 28, 22 and 11 cases respectively.

"The largest number of accidents involved motorcyclists," Iskandar said.

Meanwhile, thousands of travellers have been forced to stay overnight on Wednesday at Bakauheni ferry port in South Lampung regency, before continuing their journeys on Thursday morning.

"Since Wednesday evening, we have seen thousands of Sumatra-bound travellers from Java island staying overnight at Bakauheni port," South Lampung Police spokesman Adj. Sr. Comr. Tatar Nugroho said.

When asked why the travellers had to stay overnight when there were adequate transportation and security arrangements along the route, Nugroho explained that they became tired after a long journey and therefore needed to rest.

Meanwhile in Cirebon, at least 3,000 pedicab drivers, who had been banned from operating in a number of traditional markets along Java's northern coast route, got compensation amounting to 50,000 rupiah each from the Cirebon regency administration.

"We distributed the money on Thursday and Friday [yesterday]," Cirebon Regent Dedi Supardi said, adding that the ban was intended to help avoid them from obstructing the flow of thousands of passengers during the exodus.-Asia News Network (August 18, 2012)

Malaysia's growth forecasts raised

Several economists have raised their gross domestic product (GDP) forecasts for Malaysia following better-than-expected growth for the second quarter ended June 30.

Malaysia's economic growth for the second quarter rose by an unexpected 5.4 per cent year-on-year underpinned by an expansion in manufacturing and robust domestic demand.

GDP growth for the first quarter was revised to 4.9 per cent from 4.7 per cent, while growth for the first half of the year stood at 5.1 per cent compared with the same period a year ago.

Compared with the first quarter, GDP expanded by 3 per cent.

Hong Leong Investment Bank's (HLIB) research unit said that following the strong-than-expected second quarter data, it had raised its full-year 2012 GDP forecast to 5 per cent (previously: 4.5 per cent).

For the second half of 2012, HLIB Research expected GDP growth to dip to 4.5 per cent year-on-year in the third quarter (dragged by subdued trade and manufacturing and higher base in the third quarter of 2011) before improving to 5.1 per cent year-on-year in the fourth quarter, yielding an average of 4.8 per cent year-on-year (first half: 5.1 per cent year-on-year).

“We are still positive that line-up of the Economic Transformation Programme projects for the second-half and 2013 could still provide a strong support to GDP growth despite external uncertainty,” said HLIB Research.

According to Bloomberg, Goldman Sachs also raised Malaysia's GDP growth predictions to 4.6 per cent from 3.8 per cent for 2012, and to 5.3 per cent from 5.2 per cent for 2013.

Meanwhile, CIMB Investment Bank Bhd economic research head Lee Heng Guie said given the steady performance in the first half, he had raised the 2012 growth estimate to 5 per cent, from 3.8 per cent previously.

“However, this still implies a slower growth of 4.5 per cent to 5 per cent in the second half versus 5.1 per cent in the first half,” said Lee in a report.

Lee warned that external headwinds still warranted caution as they remained hurdles to Malaysia's export growth.

Meanwhile, Maybank Investment Bank (IB) Research said its 2012 and 2013 growth forecasts of 4.4 per cent and 5.1 per cent respectively were under review.

“Provisionally, we expect 2012 growth to be around 5 per cent, which implies a slightly slower growth of 4.8 per cent in the second half as the global purchasing managers index in July signals that the global economy hence external demand will remain soft in the third quarter.”

Maybank IB Research said domestic demand would continue to be well supported by initiatives to sustain consumer spending, policies and measures to spur investments, and the roll-out and progress of big ticket infrastructure projects and capital expenditures in industries like oil, gas and energy.-Asia News Network (August 17, 2012)

Friday, August 17, 2012

Indonesia’s 67th Independence Day Celebrations

August 17th is a sacred date for the entire Indonesian nation. For 17 August 1945 was the long awaited moment when the Indonesian people proclaimed their Independence from 300 years of Dutch colonial rule, and the Republic of Indonesia was born after a long relentless struggle.

The Proclamation of Independence was read by Indonesia’s leaders Soekarno-Hatta at Gedung Proklamasi in Jalan Pegangsaan Timur (now Jalan Proklamasi) in Central Jakarta,  after which the rallying shout of “Merdeka” (Freedom) was heard all over the country.

Every year, Independence Day - or Hari Proklamasi - is commemorated in formal ceremonies and vibrant festivities all across the archipelago. Entering the 67th anniversary this 17 August 2012, villages, towns, and cities across the country are gearing up to commemorate the Independence Day with colorful celebrations and various festive events.

This year, independence Day commemorations, however, coincides with the holy fasting month of Ramadhan, thus celebrations will be rather toned down. However, visitors can still expect to observe lots of interesting activities days around the event. In almost every village, town and city, you can watch sports competitions and free concerts. On the day itself, the main attractions beside the official ceremonies are the town parades, with marching bands, decorated cars and bikes, and several art performances.

Preparations for the patriotic celebrations begin weeks before the 17th of August. High-rise office buildings around major cities sprout large banners or lighted designs, fences around the presidential palace and many government offices are draped in red and white bunting, malls decorate in red and white and hold Independence Day sales, the city administrations create a unique series of red and white lighted decorations down the length of some major streets, and housing complexes repaint their main gates decorated with independence themes. The whole country takes on a red and white hue and the words Dirgahayu Republik Indonesia (Long live the Republic of Indonesia!) can be seen everywhere.

The pinnacle and most solemn ceremony of the entire series of Independence Day Commemorations is the flag hoisting at the Merdeka Palace in Jakarta at 10.0 am on 17 August, when the text of the Proclamation of Independence is also read out. 

Full of patriotic spirit and nationalism, it is a spectacle of the greatest respect and honor for the flag and the Republic. The ceremonies are led by the President and Vice President, and attended by the cabinet, military brass, family members of the current and preceding presidents, diplomatic corps and honored guests. High School students from throughout the archipelago are chosen for their marching skills and put on a show of intricate steps and turns to hoist the flag. The military is out with all its brass in high shine, standing smartly at attention in their dress uniforms.

While solemn ceremonies are taking place, neighborhoods gear up for fun and games for the kids. Krupuk (crackers/chips) eating contests, bike decorating, games, races and lots of fun fill the day. The women are busy in cooking contests to see who can make the most delicious nasi tumpeng (ceremonial rice) and other various dishes. One of the most popular games is the Panjat Pinang or Palm tree Climbing Competition. An Areca palm trunk is erected in a public area and well greased with a mixture of clay and oil. At the top are hung prizes like bikes and TVs. Whoever makes it to the top wins the prize. Needless to say there are a lot of slippery, muddy kids and grownups alike climbing on top of each other and struggling to reach the goal. A good time is had by all, especially the crowd watching the gaiety.

The Proclamation of Indonesian Independence was read at 10.00 a.m. on Friday, 17 August 1945. The Declaration was the pinnacle of centuries of struggle in all different parts of the Indonesian archipelago and marked the start of the diplomatic and armed-resistance of the unified Indonesian National Revolution, fighting against the forces of the Netherlands until the latter officially acknowledged Indonesia's independence in 1949. 

It was, however, only in 2005, that the Netherlands declared that they had decided to accept the date of 17 August 1945 as the date of Indonesia's independence.-Indonesia Official Tourism Website (August 17, 2012)

Asean business leaders urged to drop political disputes

Asean business leaders should press ahead in bolstering regional strengths and be undeterred by political conflicts that involve countries in the region and superpowers like the US and China, a former foreign affairs and trade and industry minister of Singapore said.

In a speech to the Asean Business Club on Tuesday evening, George Yeo, now vice chairman of Kerry Group, stressed that the business community should strengthen efforts to ensure the successful materialisation of the Asean Economic Community (AEC), which would make Asean stronger and ensure a bigger role for the region in the new world economy.

"If we play our role, we can make a better Asia and then a better world," he said. "Don't react to reactions, but to strategies. In the meantime, let us stimulate movement."

Much of his speech, titled "Asean in the New World Economy", highlighted that all existing conflicts were solvable. If not now, they can be resolved tomorrow, he said.

Yeo started his talk by referring to disputes in the South China Sea, which involve China, the Philippines and Vietnam, as well as recent tension over the United States' plan to establish a regional radar system. In the past, he said, Thailand also faced threats from Vietnam when that country had sought dominance in Indochina.

He stressed that Asean leaders should not let "vested interests affect mutual benefits".

The situation was "frantic" in the past, he said, but it had improved over time. He acknowledged that Asean had been formulated out of member states' mutual fear of one another, and not the need for one another. But over time, Asean has come to offer opportunities to all citizens of the 10-member grouping, and integration also raises bargaining power when Asean nations have to deal with superpowers.

"We have differences, but if we don't cling together, we can't negotiate with China, Japan and the US," he said.

Yeo said he did not believe it was in China's interest to bully Asean, given the country's genuine interest in forging a trade pact with the grouping shortly after the 1997 financial crisis.

In doing so, Beijing also understood that Asean, in embracing "friends", could offer similar deals to other nations such as the US, Japan and China to create a "comfortable situation for all". It is also not in the United States' interest to divide Asean, as that would pave the way for China's dominance of the region, country by country, he said.

Regional integration now offers connectivity to the world, offering new trade channels and the integration of regional skills. Through China, Asean can establish North-South linkage, while Japan and India will help in East-West linkage, he added.

Opening the Asean Business Club's gala dinner, Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister Kittiratt Na-Ranong cited trust as the success factor in strengthening regional bonds to another level, namely the AEC.

After a two-hour meeting with top business leaders, he said: "We can offer reassurance that Thailand will be trusted by friends. Before, we focused on competition, to outperform one another. Now, we have to work together, for the AEC."

The Asean Business Club was launched last October as a networking forum for regional business leaders.

The club's Thailand co-chairmen are Tos Chirativat, chief executive officer of Central Retail Corp, and Chartsiri Sophonpanich, president of Bangkok Bank.

Tuesday's event followed the first such dinner, which was hosted in Kuala Lumpur. Another will be held in Jakarta at the end of next month.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Malaysia's economy up 5.4% in second quarter

Malaysia's economic growth, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), for the second quarter ending on June 30 rose by an unexpected 5.4 per cent year-on-year, underpinned by an expansion in manufacturing and robust domestic demand.

GDP growth for the first quarter was revised to 4.9 per cent from 4.7 per cent, while growth for the first half of the year stood at 5.1 per cent compared with the same period a year ago. Compared with the first quarter, GDP expanded by 3 per cent.

In the supply side of the economy, only the agricultural sector saw a contraction due to lower crude palm oil production. Manufacturing, services, construction and mining all posted growth. Domestic demand jumped 13.8 per cent for the quarter and rose 11.8 per cent for the first-half.

The country's second-quarter GDP numbers came as a surprise to many economists, whose median forecast was for a 4.6 per cent expansion. Growth for the quarter even exceeded the most optimistic forecast of 5.2 per cent.

Bank Negara governor Dr Zeti Akhtar Aziz said at a briefing following the release of the GDP data that the surge in private investment was the most encouraging aspect of the economy.

“Private investment has made a strong return because the investment climate has improved tremendously, with Malaysia moving up the rankings of various surveys in terms of competitiveness, costs and ease of doing business,” she said.

Zeti said the improvement was underscored by the higher implementation of investments by domestic and foreign investors. She added that civil engineering projects in the oil and gas, transport, utilities and services industries had helped spur growth in the construction sector.

By numbers, investments from the public and private sectors jumped 26.1 per cent year-on-year for the quarter under review, with the first half rising 21.3 per cent.

By sector, private investments rose 24.6 per cent while public investments surged 28.9 per cent. For the first half, private sector investments grew 22.4 per cent while public sector investments expanded 19.5 per cent.

Consumption rose 8.9 per cent for the quarter and 11.8 per cent in the first half. By sector, private consumption increased 8.8 per cent for the quarter and 8.1 per cent for the first half while public consumption expanded 9.4 per centfor the quarter and 8.4 per cent in the first half.

Zeti said monetary policy continued to be supportive of growth and that for the rest of the year, risks weighed on growth rather than on inflation with external headwinds still overshadowing the outlook.

She said it would take time for the global economy to recover and this would need action from various stakeholders.

“At this point, we're maintaining our forecast of 4 per cent to 5 per cent GDP growth for the year but this may change when the budget is announced (on Sept 28). This will come in at the upper range of the forecast if growth is robust,” Zeti added.

Alliance Investment Bank Bhd chief economist Manokaran Mottain has revised GDP growth for the year to 4.7 per cent from 4.5 per cent previously, with the second half to record growth of 4.5 per cent.

He told StarBiz the third quarter would see expansion at its slowest.

Manokaran said despite the surprising growth figures, the global and domestic economy's outlook for the rest of the year would still be dampened by the eurozone debt crisis, slower expansion in China and tepid growth in the United States.

“We believe the eurozone crisis will continue to have an impact on trade and this will show itself in slower exports growth,” he said.

He added that with a drop in manufacturing activity, sentiments would be affected, leading to slower growth in the domestic-oriented services sector as consumption slowed.

Manokaran said Purchasing Managers Index (PMI) for July indicated that exports would slow as demand dropped in developed markets.

CIMB Investment Bank Bhd economic research head Lee Heng Guie said in a report that the leading index for June suggested that the economy could weaken in the second half.

“We caution that a sharply high base in the second half of last year poses a hurdle to year-on-year growth,” he said.

He pointed out that the global Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development composite leading together with regional high-frequency indicators, including trade and PMI, were still under external pressures.

Meanwhile, the Statistics Department released data showing that July prices as measured by the Consumer Price Index gained 1.4 per cent year-on-year to 104.8 and remained unchanged compared with the previous month.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Why the Philippines can be a 'breakout nation'

The Philippines can become one of the so-called "breakout nations," according to Ruchir Sharma, author of "Breakout Nations" and head of Morgan Stanley Emerging Markets Asset Management.

"Breakout nations" are defined by Sharma as countries that have been beating growth expectations. Sharma noted the Philippines is one example since the economy has been exceeding expectations, albeit low expectations.

"In the case of the Philippines, after being a laggard in Asia and an economy that was reduced to being a bit of a joke, expectations are being systematically exceeded. When I came back to Manila in 2010, after a long period of time, we could see the potential for that. Expectations were very low and there was a positive change going on in the Philippines," Sharma told ANC's News Now.

One of the positive changes, Sharma said, is the Aquino administration's focus on good governance and anti-corruption campaign.

"In Philippines, it is a combination of factors, starting with low expectations and a change in leadership that was much more focused on improving governance and the other faultlines in the Philippines such as corruption and cronyism," he said.

The Philippines is expected to once again exceed growth expectations this year, but Sharma noted if the government pushes with its public private partnership program and mining reforms, it can grow even more.

"(The Philippines) seems to be on course to grow at 6%, which is a very good growth rate at a time when the global economy is so weak. Just imagine the potential when it gets a couple of economic things right, whether PPP, geting the power or mining sector sorted out, if it manages to get a couple of things right from here, the Philippine economy can do even better," Sharma said.

There may be a lot of skepticism right now whether the Philippines can actually become a "breakout nation."

"As investors and market observers that's what we almost like, you want skepticism because once a story is well-known to people, it's almost too late," Sharma said.

"The Philippines has been an economy that has disappointed for a long period of time and I think there's a long way for the Philippines to go before it can convert many people and by the time many people are converted, you know its time to get skeptical. I think we are far away from that point right now."

As for the so-called BRIC economies (Brazil, Russia, India and China), Sharma does not believe in the hype.

"What happened with a lot of these BRIC economies is that hype has surrounded these economies and disappointment vis-a-vis expectations. Take the case of India, the growth rate during the boom was 9% and now it has fallen to 6%. It's not bad but versus expectations, that's a real disappointment. Same thing going on in China," he said.

However, Sharma warns that economic success can be fleeting, as the star economies of one decade are rarely the stars of another decade.

"That has to be the big lesson, looking back at Philippine history, in 1960s the Philippines was 2nd richest in Asia after Japan and supposed to be the next East Asian tiger with Burma and Sri Lanka and you know what happened to all of them - for the next 30-40 years, all those three economies systematically disappointed... Success is transient, it can last for a few years but it can be hard to sustain," he said. -ABS-CBN News (August 16, 2012 5:55PM)

Myanmar's Lower House OKs new foreign investment bill

Myanmar's Lower House has approved the new Foreign Direct Investment Bill with 94 amendments made to the draft law.

The proposed bill limits foreign investment in certain businesses to between 35 and 49 per cent, and also makes provisions on land allocation for the farming sector, and ensuring foreign investments will not hurt small and medium-scale industries in the country.

Speaker Thura U Shwe Mann of Lower House said on Tuesday, “The Foreign Direct Investment Bill has been scrutinised by both the Upper House and the Lower House.”

Amendments in the bill include a requirement that initial investment by a foreigner must be at least US$5 million or other foreign currencies equivalent to this amount that are accepted by the Central Bank of Myanmar.

Some limited joint-venture businesses will be allowed 49 per cent foreign investment of the total capital.

If foreign companies plan to sell all or some of their shares to another foreigner or a Myanmar citizen, they will need approval from the foreign investment commission for registration of share transfer in line with the existing law.

Foreign investors must also share high technologies to partner business firms or organisations in accordance with the agreements.

Regarding technical sectors, skilled citizens and employees must comprise at least 25 per cent of the workforce in the first two years of investment, 50 per cent in the next two years and 75 per cent in the fifth and sixth years.

Foreign investors can transfer money overseas in accordance with the market exchange rate through local banks that are authorised for foreign banking services.

The Lower House will submit the FDI bill to the Upper House after which the president will give his approval.

Further amendments to the draft law can be made only at the Union Assembly.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Thailand to clamp down on software piracy as Asean 2015 nears

The Economic Crime Division expects Thailand's software piracy rate to be reduced from 72 per cent to 70 per cent this year, a development that would enhance the country's competiveness ahead of the Asean Economic Community (AEC) coming into effect in 2015.

Police Colonel Chainarong Charoenchainao, deputy commander of the ECD, said the software piracy rate in Thailand last year stood at 72 per cent, with unlicensed business worth about 26 billion baht (US$823 million) .

Most of the activity among individuals concerned the illegal downloading of software onto desktop PCs, he said. Some 1,434 cases were acted upon by the division, mainly involving people aged from 18 to 44.

Moreover, in the first half of this year, the ECD in cooperation with partner agencies raided 91 business organisations around the country and found illegal software valued at 174 million baht.

Sixty-nine per cent of the raided businesses were Thai companies, while Thai and international holding companies accounted for another 18 per cent and foreign businesses for 3 per cent.

Of the 91 businesses found to be using illegal software, 45 per cent were in manufacturing, 24 per cent in construction, 12 per cent in design and 7 per cent in food.

"Thailand is the second-ranked Asia-Pacific country in terms of the pace of reduction in software privacy, with the rate having fallen from 78 per cent in 2008 to 72 per cent last year. Hong Kong holds the top spot for the fastest drop, from 51 per cent into 43 per cent," said Chainarong.

He added that the ECD expected that this year the country would be able to cut the piracy rate to 70 per cent, as efforts had been stepped up in areas such as providing training courses for business and creating more awareness of the need to use legal software in the business and education sectors.

The division targets making arrests in 2,000 businesses using unlicensed software this year, he said.

Further progress in this area would also create added value for the Kingdom when it comes to attracting international businesses to invest in Thailand, and help prepare local companies for the upcoming challenges both within the AEC and globally, said the agency chief.

The ECD also has a goal to get Thailand removed from the US Special 301 Report, which has classified the country on a Priority Watch List (PWL) since 2008.

Kullanee Issadisai, deputy director-general of the Intellectual Property Department, yesterday said the agency would cooperate with the police and the private sector to reduce software piracy.

The IPD will also undertake activities such as a draft amendment of anti-camcording rules, the development of infrastructure to protect intellectual property, law revision, the provision of education and creation of wider awareness of the need to use licensed software, all hopefully enabling Thailand to be released from PWL status in the future, Kullanee said.

Somporn Maneeratanakul, president of the Association of Thai Software Industry, said the use of unlicensed software had affected local software development since innovators lacked the budget to develop new programs to support the market.

The association will cooperate in the holding of seminars to promote legal software and awareness among the business sector of the vital need to reduce unlicensed software use so that the country's competitiveness can be increased and its potential enhanced as the AEC single market approaches, he said.

Chainarong added that the overall software piracy rate in Asia-Pacific last year stood at 60 per cent, with a value of 653 billion baht. The global rate was 42 per cent, which was worth 1.973 billion baht.

The ECD's goal is to reduce the Thai piracy rate to 50 per cent within the next five years.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Philippine, Singapore air talks bog down

Air talks between the Philippines and Singapore bogged down on Thursday because of unresolved issues.

"Parties could not agree on the outstanding issues for now. The parties adjourned tonight and agreed to resume talks after six months," Carmelo Arcilla, Civil Aeronautics Board executive director,  told

He said the unresolved issues pertain to 5th freedom traffic rights.

Arcilla earlier said the Philippine air panel will seek more flight entitlements outside Manila from Singapore.

Last April, the governments of the Philippines and South Korean agreed to amend their air service agreement by increasing entitlements to 28,500 seats per week to all points in the Philippines from 19,000 per week.

The Aquino administration is pursuing air talks as part of its open skies policy.

Under Executive Order 29, airports other than the Ninoy Aquino International Airport would be opened to more foreign traffic.

The government aims to generate six million tourists, three million jobs and $4.6 billion in tourism revenues by 2016, allowing the sector to contribute 6.35 percent to gross domestic product.-Interaksyon (Augsut 16, 2012 7:16PM)

China, S.Korea demand Japan face up to war past

China and South Korea on Wednesday pressed Japan to face up to its wartime past, as festering territorial disputes flared and Asia marked the anniversary of Tokyo's World War II surrender.

Both countries demanded Japan do more to atone for the brutal expansionism of the 20th century, while in Tokyo cabinet ministers paid tribute to fallen Japanese, including top war criminals, at a controversial shrine.

Beijing said the key issue was "whether Japan can really look in the mirror of history, heeding its lessons, holding hands with Asian people to face the future".

"The power is in the hands of Japan itself," it added. "We hope Japan can keep its promise to deal with and reflect on its invasion history and take concrete measures to safeguard China-Japan relations."

In Seoul, President Lee Myung-Bak, whose visit to disputed islands last week sent relations with Tokyo into virtual freefall, said Japan had to make amends for the sexual slavery it forced on women in its former colony.

"It was a breach of women's rights committed during wartime as well as a violation of universal human rights and historic justice. We urge the Japanese government to take responsible measures in this regard," Lee said.

"Chain links tangled in the history of Korea-Japan relations are hampering the common march toward a better tomorrow in the Northeast Asian region, as well as bilateral ties," Lee said.

The demands came as Japanese police arrested 14 people, some of whom had landed on an island claimed by both Beijing and Tokyo.

The group had sailed from Hong Kong to the archipelago, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, with the intention of planting a Chinese flag.

Japan summoned the Chinese ambassador in response.

Their action came just days after South Korea's Lee landed on another set of disputed islands, kicking back into life a long-slumbering row with Japan, which this week morphed into a warning that Japan's emperor must apologise if he ever wanted to visit.

Tokyo rounded on Lee, who had previously been viewed as a pragmatist with whom it could deal.
Foreign Minister Koichiro Gemba said his comments on the emperor -- a respected figurehead in Japan -- were "extremely regrettable" and "difficult to comprehend".

As Seoul celebrated Liberation Day, around 500 South Koreans, including two former comfort women, rallied outside the Japanese embassy in Seoul.

It was their 1,035th weekly protest over the issue, which Tokyo insists was settled in a 1965 accord normalising relations.

The demonstration was echoed in Taiwan, which Japan occupied from 1895 until the war's end, where about 200 Taiwanese chanted slogans and tore up Japanese military flags.

Japan marked the 67th anniversary of its surrender with an official ceremony in which Emperor Akihito and Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda led 6,000 people in prayer.

Their speeches used tried and tested formulae for regret, but avoided an explicit apology.

"During the war, (Japan) inflicted significant damage and pain on many countries, especially on people in Asian countries," Noda told the annual ceremony. "We deeply regret that."

Akihito said: "Recalling history, I profoundly hope that the suffering of war will never be repeated. I sincerely express mourning for those who lost their lives on the battlefields, and wish world peace and our country's further development."

Less diplomatically palatable were the pilgrimages by two of Noda's cabinet to Yasukuni Shrine in central Tokyo, which honors 2.5 million war dead -- including 14 leading war criminals from World War II.

Those enshrined at Yasukuni include General Hideki Tojo, the Japanese prime minister who ordered the attack on Pearl Harbor and was convicted of war crimes and hanged by a US-led tribunal.

Jin Matsubara, one of the ministers, told reporters he was there "in a personal capacity" and had used his visit to "remember ancestors who established the foundations of the prosperity of present-day Japan".

The pilgrimages were the first on the sensitive anniversary by any government minister since the centre-left Democratic Party of Japan came to power in 2009.

All three prime ministers since then have asked their cabinets to stay away, but Noda's crumbling support seemingly left him without sufficient power to prevent the visits.

North Korean state media said the ministers' actions were an "intolerable insult and mockery of the Asian people who suffered a lot due to the atrocities of Japan".-Interaksyon (Augsut 16, 2012 10:47PM)

PH electricity rates among 10 highest in survey of 44 countries

The good news first: electricity rates in the Philippines are not the highest in Asia. And now the bad news: Manila has one of the 10 most expensive power rates in the region.

In a media briefing, John C. Morris, International Energy Consultants managing director, said a study conducted by the company placed Meralco rates as the 9th most expensive out of 44 distributors.

The high intrinsic cost of power supply in the country was tagged as the main culprit for its notoriety as having one of the 10 most expensive rates. 

The country, Morris said, relies heavily on fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas whose prices are pegged on international benchmarks. Even the price of natural gas from the Malampaya field in offshore Palawan is based on world oil prices.

These fuel sources account for 80 percent of power generation in the Manila Electric Co.'s service area, which covers Metro Manila and nearby provinces.

The cost of power charged by Meralco's suppliers account for 65 percent of what the latter's customers pay in their electricity bills.

Morris said Asian distributors that fared better than Meralco either had their own domestic fossil fuel supply, nuclear power plants or government subsidies.

Besides the high cost of power relative to the other surveyed countries, Morris said the Luzon grid, which covers the Meralco franchise, "is smaller [relative its regional counterparts] and has a high dependence on hydro which requires a higher reserve margin requirement", which entails additional cost.

The weighted average cost-of-capital in the Philippine power sector is also higher than most countries in the survey. On top of this, debt costs more and loan tenors shorter.

Morris said another factor that contributes to Meralco's rates are transmission costs, which are 40 percent higher than the average of the markets surveyed. 

The high cost of delivering power from generating plants to consumers, however, "may be justified" owing to the geographical nature of the country.

Transmission charges account for 9 percent of Meralco customers' bills.

The IEC study found Meralco's distribution charge - or the line item in electricity bills that directly goes to its pockets - and government taxes are on a par with many other markets.

Distribution charges and taxes comprise 16 percent and 10 percent of electricity bills, respectively. 

"Considering all of these factors, IEC believes that - on average - Meralco’s customers are currently paying a fair and reasonable price for retail electricity," Morris said.

Based on the study, the 10 locations with the highest electricity rates are Hawaii, Italy, Malta, Japan (Kansai), Cyprus, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Philippines (Meralco) and Singapore.

The country's peers in Southeast Asia ranked significantly lower in terms of electricity rates with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia landing in the 37th, 38th and 43rd spots, respectively.

"The difference between Meralco and these countries are they provide enormous subsidies to consumers in one way of another," Morris said.

The three Asean neighbors enjoy state-subsidies that range from 36 to 54 percent of the cost of supplying electricity. Minus the impact of subsidies, the three countries would rank 14th (Malaysia), 19th (Thailand) and 17th (Indonesia) while Meralco would still be at the 9th spot.

"Meralco charges [customers] exactly as its power costs," Morris said.

Other countries, most notably China, were not included in the IEC study, which ran from January to June this year, owing to insufficient data.-Interaksyon (Augsut 16, 2012 6:05PM)

Transfer border passports issued to 1m migrant workers

Transfer border passports have already been issued to 1 million migrant workers employed in Thailand, according to the Myanmar Central Committee for Prevention of Trafficking in Persons under the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The issue of temporary passports to migrant Myanmar workers started on April 20 and registration will go on till December 14.

Some 700,000 work permits have so far been issued from temporary passport centres in Kawthoung, Ranaung, Myawady and Tachilek in Myanmar and some 300,000 from Chiang Mai, Bangkok, Samut Prakan, Mahachai, and Surat Thani in Thailand, totalling 1 million, an official of the central committee said.

The aim of issuing temporary passports is to protect their human rights. Migrant workers can have access to temporary passports at the designated centres opened in both countries. However, there are still many who are going to Thailand through illegal ways, U Khin Maung Hla, Police Major of the committee, said.

Only migrant workers with passports will have access to labour rights guaranteed by the Thai government. Plans are underway to issue temporary passports online, the police major added.

In collaboration with Japan International Cooperation Agency, the central committee will build homes for trafficked persons handed over from other countries, in Myawady and Kawthoung during the first week of December this year. In February 2011, a home was built to accommodate 50 trafficked persons in Muse.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Japan to help in Hanoi's nuke safety net

Economy, Trade and Industry Minister Yukio Edano has signed memorandums stating the government will cooperate with Vietnam to create a compensation system for damage caused by nuclear power plant accidents.

This is the first time Japan has agreed to provide support in establishing such a system in a foreign country.

Edano, who is currently visiting Vietnam, and Vietnamese Science and Technology Minister Nguyen Quan signed memorandums on the cooperative effort Tuesday.

Vietnam plans to start operating its first nuclear power plant in 2020 as the first phase of its nuclear power development project. Japanese manufacturers will construct two reactors in the country in the second phase of the project.

Using Japan's Law on Compensation for Nuclear Damage as a reference, Vietnam will create its own nuclear damage compensation system.

Japan will provide Vietnam with information on how to define nuclear damage to be covered under the envisaged system, maximum compensation payment amounts and education for personnel dealing with compensation-related issues.

The Japanese government hopes to boost nuclear power plant exports, which have been sluggish since the crisis at the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant started in March last year, by providing Vietnam with comprehensive support both on the ground and in terms of infrastructure.

"Keeping lessons from the accident at the Fukushima No. 1 plant in mind, we'd like to promote this collaborative effort by sharing our experiences with your country," Edano told Quan.

Additionally, private nonlife insurers, including Tokyo Marine Holdings Inc., are expected to offer support in creating insurance products to cover a certain amount of nuclear damage compensation.

Can lessons be put to use?

The deal in Vietnam will be a test for Japan, which learned grave lessons from the nuclear crisis triggered by the Great East Japan Earthquake, as it chases more orders to build nuclear plants in emerging nations. The question is whether it can effectively put these lessons to use at a time when South Korea and Russia are more actively chasing orders to construct new nuclear plants.

"Japan needs to respond to meet the expectations of other countries, particularly because it experienced a recent nuclear crisis," Edano said to reporters in Hanoi.

During talks with Edano, Quan also showed his sense of expectation for the new agreement, by saying he could sense Japan was ready to further enhance the safety of nuclear power plants in the wake of the crisis. He also said he hopes Japan will utilise its experience.

For nuclear power plant manufacturers such as Toshiba Corp., Hitachi Ltd. and Mitsubishi Heavy Industries Ltd., emerging countries are important markets to expand their businesses.

The government, which has been helping Vietnam and 10 other emerging nations to nurture human resources by accepting their trainees, is expected to continue its efforts on both "tangible" and "intangible" aspects to win more orders to build nuclear plants.

But market competition is intensifying, as the public and private sectors of nations such as South Korea and Russia are jointly seeking to win construction orders.

In a Turkish nuclear power plant construction plan, in which Japan has already acquired preferential negotiating rights, South Korea is trying hard to boost its position in the negotiations. South Korean President Lee Myung Bak met with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan for talks to that end.

It is probable other emerging nations suffering from electricity shortages will plan to construct nuclear power plants.

When doing nuclear business in advanced nations, Japan usually only sells reactors or nuclear power-related equipment. But for nuclear power exports to emerging nations, the country is often asked to provide a far more comprehensive package, ranging from plant construction to human resource development and the creation of damage compensation and other systems.

Japan is being put to the test over whether it can utilise the lessons of the nuclear crisis and its advanced technology.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Philippines, Armenia expand bilateral relations

Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert Del Rosario and Armenian Foreign Minister Edward Nalbandian yesterday signed two bilateral agreements which were meant to expand bilateral relations between the two countries.

The agreement between the Philippine Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MFA) of Armenia established a mechanism on political consultation meant to monitor Philippine-Armenia relations, the DFA said in a statement.

It also said the agreement included the establishment of the Waiver on Visa for Diplomatic and Official Passport Holders, meant to increase people-to-people contacts and “expand the levels of friendship and cooperation between the two countries.” The agreement was made for easy facilitation of visiting Philippine and Armenian government officials.

Nalbandian’s visit to the DFA Wednesday morning was the first visit to the Philippines by a high ranking official from Armenia.

The statement noted that Del Rosario, during his meeting with Nalbandian, said the official’s visit marked this year’s 20th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

It said Del Rosario welcomed the European country’s interest to engage in the Asia Pacific region.

In a separate interview with reporters, Del Rosario noted that the meeting was good for the countries since “nothing has moved between us for about 20 years.” He said that for 20 years, trade between the Philippines and Armenia was “miniscule” and that there were no investments.

Del Rosario added that the two countries were working on signing other important agreements when he visits Armenia early next year.

He said that they were looking at a number of opportunities to boost trade and investments, particularly in the agriculture and construction sectors.

He said they were also trying to get Armenia to look at the Business Process and Outsourcing sectors, particularly in engineering and architectural design.

He also said that economic and science and technology agreements, as well as cultural and educational agreements between the two countries, were also discussed.

He added that the Armenian ambassador was particularly surprised with the country’s investments and productions of bananas.

“They are keen on looking if they could obtain bananas from us,” Del Rosario said.

Nalbandian, for his part, said that his country’s foreign policy decision to stir up activities in the region was consistent with the country’s need to tap external markets, and modernise its production processes and infrastructure.

The statement also noted that the two leaders also discussed regional issues and reaffirmed their commitment to contributing to global and regional peace and security.

Nalbandian also paid a courtesy call on President Benigno S. Aquino III Tuesday.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Indonesian Palace slammed for lavish state ceremony

Watchdog the Indonesian Forum for Budget Transparency (Fitra) has criticised the State Palace for its lavish spending on the Independence Day celebrations scheduled for Friday.

Fitra coordinator Uchok Sky Khadafi said that the 7.33 billion  rupiah (US$769,650) being spent on the flag-raising ceremony was wasteful spending by the government.

"It is a fantastic amount of money for a state ceremonial event," Khadafi said.

Fitra data shows that the State Palace has spent 1.7 billion rupiah on souvenirs to be distributed to guests attending the ceremony. It also estimates that 1.1 billion rupiah will be used to pay for the air-conditioning system for the annual event.

For amenities, the State Palace is spending 440 million rupiah on buffet food for the guests and another 180 million rupiah on snacks.

Khadafi said that rather than spending so recklessly for the celebration, the State Palace have instead staged a modest celebration, relying for funding from contributions from local neighbourhoods.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Asean to become 6th biggest automotive market in the world

Asean is set to become the sixth biggest automotive market globally by 2018, with vehicle sales almost doubling to nearly 4.7 million units, compared with 2.4 million in 2011, according to Frost & Sullivan.

Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific automotive practice research manager Vijayendra Rao said in a statement yesterday that the growth would be spearheaded by Thailand and Indonesia.

“The market is likely to grow at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 10.1 per cent (2011-2018), mainly driven by growth in Thailand and Indonesia,” he said.

The two countries' vehicle sales were likely to hit one million units by 2013, driven by local demand, increased buying power and significant investments from Japanese original equipment manufacturers (OEMs), he added.

Rao said Thailand was expected to continue its dominance as a production hub in Asean due to the significant investments by Japanese OEMs, incentives from the government, good supply base and required talents.

He also said that production in Indonesia would cater to local demand, mainly driven by the shift of ownership to cars, multi-purpose vehicles and sports utility vehicles from motorcycles.

“Indian and Chinese automotive companies are also looking at expanding to Asean,” Rao said, adding that Asean was a competitive automotive production base and a net vehicle exporter with strong competency in certain product ranges.

He noted also that passenger vehicle sales in Asean were likely to increase at a CAGR of 10.2 per cent to 3.1 million units in 2018 from 1.5 million units in 2011.

“Commercial vehicles sales are expected to grow at a slightly slower pace at a CAGR of 9.8 per cent to reach 1.6 million units in 2018 from 780,000 units in 2011.”

On the prospects in Malaysia, Rao noted that the Government had extended the full tax exemption of import duty and excise duty on hybrid and electric cars for vehicles below 2,000cc until Dec 31, 2013.

“This has led to huge growth in sales for hybrid models such as the Honda Insight, Toyota Prius and Lexus CT 200h.”

However, he added that automakers needed to do more to educate the public about the technology and address consumers' concerns on the maintenance cost of the vehicles and introduce more attractive models to attract consumers' interests.-Asia News Network (August 16, 2012)

Sabah Government eyed linking Palawan – Sabah RORO Service

The Government will consider the proposal to operate a roll-on and roll-off (RORO) vessel service between Kudat and Palawan in the Philippines, Deputy Transport Minister Datuk Abdul Rahim Bakri said today

In welcoming the proposal, he said, the service would bolster trade in the two provinces, particularly in Kudat, in north Sabah

The RORO vessel is designed to ferry heavy machinery, cars, trucks, lorries and trailers.

"We at the ministry welcome the suggestion. If it materialises, it's not only profitable in terms of trade, but will also boost Sabah's tourism industry," said Abdul Rahim, who is also Kudat Member of Parliament, to reporters after attending the 2.0 National Transformation Program Roadmap Open Day.

Sabah Bumiputera Chamber of Commerce Honorary Treasurer Roselan Johar Mohamed said recently that the RORO service was made possible following the conclusion of an agreement between the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-Philippines and East Asean Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA), National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Malaysia and the RORO operator based in Batangas, the Philippines, last month.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (August 15, 2012)

Thursday, August 16, 2012

WORLD NEWS: Israel 'prepared for 30-day war with Iran'

Iran's Revolutionary Guards fire Shahab-2 missiles (2 November 2006)
Israel's outgoing home front defence minister says an attack on Iran would likely trigger a month-long conflict that would leave 500 Israelis dead.

Matan Vilnai told the Maariv newspaper that the fighting would be "on several fronts", with hundreds of missiles fired at Israeli towns and cities.

Israel was prepared, he said, though strikes on Iran's nuclear facilities had to be co-ordinated with the US.

Meanwhile, a US blogger has published what he says are Israel's attack plans.

Richard Silverstein told the BBC he had been given an internal briefing memo for Israel's eight-member security cabinet, which outlined what the Israeli military would do to prevent Iran developing nuclear weapons.

Tehran insists its nuclear programme is entirely peaceful.

'Israel prepared'

The purported leaked Israeli memo suggests that the military operation would begin with a massive cyber-attack against Iran's infrastructure, followed by a barrage of ballistic missiles launched at its nuclear facilities.

Military command-and-control systems, research and development facilities, and the homes of senior figures in nuclear and missile development would also be targeted.

Only then would manned aircraft be sent in to attack "a short-list of those targets which require further assault".

BBC diplomatic correspondent Jonathan Marcus says it is not possible to verify the authenticity of the document, but the proposed mission would be huge and have potentially far-reaching consequences.

Iran's government and military have made it clear that if it is attacked either by Israel or the US, it will respond in kind, either directly or through proxies.

In his interview with Maariv, Mr Vilnai said Israel had "prepared as never before".

"There is no room for hysteria," said the former general, who is stepping down at the end of August to become Israel's ambassador to China.

He echoed an assessment by Defence Minister Ehud Barak, who said that it was believed that some 500 people in Israel might be killed.

"There might be fewer dead, or more, perhaps... but this is the scenario for which we are preparing, in accordance with the best expert advice."

"The assessments are for a war that will last 30 days on several fronts," he added, alluding to the possibility of attacks by the Iranian-backed Lebanese Shia Islamist movement, Hezbollah, and Palestinian Islamist militants in the Gaza Strip.

Mr Vilnai also declined to comment on US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta's assertion on Tuesday that Washington did not believe Israel had yet made a decision on whether or not to launch a strike on Iran.

"I don't want to be dragged into the debate," he added. "But the United States is our greatest friend and we will always have to co-ordinate such moves with it."

On Tuesday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu announced that Mr Vilnai would be succeeded by Avi Dichter, a former head of Israel's internal security agency, Shin Bet.-British Broadcasting Corporation (August 15, 2012)

Japan arrests pro-China activist swimmers in island row

Japanese police have arrested 14 pro-China activists who landed on disputed islands, reports say.

The group had sailed from Hong Kong to the islands, known as Senkaku in Japan and Diaoyu in China, followed by Japanese coastguard vessels.

China called for the activists' immediate and unconditional release.

Japan is also embroiled in a dispute with South Korea about another island group, as well as a high-level visit to the controversial Yasukuni shrine.

The various rows erupted as Japan marked the anniversary of its surrender at the end of World War II and South Korea its independence from Japanese colonial rule.

The group of pro-China activists set sail on Sunday.

Japanese coastguard vessels surrounded the boat as it approached, but seven of the activists jumped overboard and swam to one of the islands, local media report.

Officials told the BBC that two activists returned to the boat, while the other five were arrested on land.

Later, the coastguard said the two activists who returned and seven more who had remained on the boat had been arrested for "alleged illegal entry".

It is the first time non-Japanese nationals have landed on the disputed islands since 2004.

A spokesman for the group said they wanted the world to know "that this is - way back in history - the territory of China".

"The Japanese have no right to stop us," David Ko told the Associated Press from Hong Kong.

Chief Cabinet Secretary Osamu Fujimura said Japan had lodged a diplomatic protest with China and in Hong Kong over the activists.

A foreign ministry spokesman had earlier warned Japan not to "endanger" the activists and said Beijing was ''paying close attention'' to the developments, Xinhua said.

Shrine visit

Tensions between China and Japan have been rumbling in recent months over the islands in the East China Sea.

Taiwan also claims the Senkaku or Diaoyu islands, which are controlled by Japan and form part of Okinawa prefecture.

Largely uninhabited, they are close to strategically important shipping lanes, offer rich fishing grounds and are thought to contain oil deposits.

In September 2010, relations between China and Japan plummeted after the arrest of a Chinese trawler captain near the islands. The captain was accused of ramming two Japanese patrol vessels in the area, but Japan eventually dropped the charges against him.

In April a fresh row ensued after Tokyo Governor Shintaro Ishihara said he would use public money to buy the islands from the current private owner.

Meanwhile, a group of South Koreans finished a relay swim early on Wednesday to another group of islands claimed by Japan.

It followed the first-ever visit of a South Korean president to the islands - called Dokdo by South Korea and Takeshima in Japan - on Friday.

President Lee Myung-bak's visit has infuriated Japan, which recalled its ambassador to South Korea. Mr Lee, meanwhile, on Wednesday hit out at Japan for failing to heal historical wounds.

And in Japan, ministers Jin Matsubara and Yuichiro Hata paid what they said were private visits to the Yasukuni Shrine to mark the end of WW II, despite Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda urging members of his cabinet not to do so.

The shrine is dedicated to Japan's war dead, including war criminals, and is viewed by many of the country's neighbours as a reminder of Japan's military past.

Both China and South Korea have protested against the visit.-British Broadcasting Corporation (August 15, 2012)

Asian nations 'face greatest natural disaster risk'

Emerging economies in Asia, including India and the Philippines, face the greatest financial risk from natural disasters, an analysis suggests.

The authors based their rankings on nations' economic activity and exposure to natural hazards, such as floods, droughts, earthquakes and cyclones.

The nations' limited ability to recover from disasters left them exposed to severe disruption, they added.

Risk analysis firm Maplecroft compiled the Natural Hazards Risk Atlas.

Last year was deemed to be the most costly 12 months on record for natural disasters, costing US $380bn (£242bn).

The main reason for the spike was the earthquake and tsunami that struck Japan in March 2011, which was estimated to have cost US$210bn.

'Heavily exposed'

The authors said that the world's key growth economies were among those most exposed to risks related to natural hazards.

"China, Mexico, India, Philippines, South Korea, Indonesia, Turkey, Bangladesh and Iran are each heavily exposed to major destructive natural hazards, such as earthquakes, flooding and tropical cyclones," they wrote.

"Businesses operating in, investing in or sourcing from emerging economies are therefore particularly exposed... and need to build their resilience to mitigate the disruption and impact of an event."
Lead author Helen Hodge, an associate director at Maplecroft, said Asian economies - particularly those located in the south-east of the continent - faced a variety of potentially devastating hazards.

"The Pacific Ring of Fire is a belt of seismic risk that draws in Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and Tawain etc," she told BBC News.

"So that exposes these nations to seismic risk, and high risk from earthquakes, but also - as we saw in Japan - the secondary risk of tsunamis.

"This combined with the hydro-meteorological risks. For example, along the Mekong Delta, we do see very high flood risks.

"There are the drought risks as well when we see Monsoons failing or arriving late.

"It is not really one risk in particular but it is the combination of multiple risks that are prominent in the areas."

Night lights

Ms Hodge explained that in order to create the atlas's maps and rankings, the authors assessed the underlying risk from 12 natural hazards and then compared this with economic output.

"In order to look at economic output, we use a technique where we look at night-time lights, and then distribute economic exposure according to night-time lights," she added.

"This is based on research that shows you tend to get concentrations of economic exposure coinciding with bright lights.

"We then used [Geographic Information System] techniques to effectively map the different data across each other, so where does the seismic risk lie? Where does the tropical cyclone risk lie?"

Although the report identified Japan, the US, China, Tawain and Mexico as the nations having the highest economic exposure to natural hazards in absolute terms, the authors said the huge economies had the capacity to recover relatively quickly.
This was a result of a high degree of resilience, such as established infrastructure, disaster preparedness and tight building regulations.
"A way to explain how this might differ is by looking at somewhere like the US, where clearly down the west coast and alongside the east coast, you have got major concentrations of economic output hazards - earthquakes on the west, and hurricanes on the east," observed Ms Hodge.

"That alone is going to drive the US into high rankings for absolute economic exposure.

"However, if you look at that as the wider relative economic output - because there are concentrations of economic exposure in places like the mid-west that are not as heavily exposed to this risks - this has a balancing effect."

"[But] when you consider that the Haitian earthquake in 2010, if you look at the proportion of the Haitian economy that was exposed to that earthquake, some of the upper estimates was close to the nation's annual GDP."-British Broadcasting Corporation (August 15, 2012)