Saturday, October 13, 2012

Vital for Myanmar to re-engage with lenders: Brainard

The United States will support Myanmar's efforts to fully restore relations with global lenders like the World Bank as long as the Southeast Asian nation pursues political and economic reforms, a senior U.S. Treasury official said on Saturday.
The U.S. Congress last month approved a bill that will allow the Obama administration to waive a ban on U.S. participation in providing development loans from the World Bank to Myanmar, also known as Burma.

In an interview with Reuters Television, U.S. Treasury Undersecretary for International Affairs, Lael Brainard, said the United States was in the beginning stages of lifting an import ban that would have huge benefits for Myanmar's economy, which suffered under decades of military rule and isolation.

"As the reform process continues we will be able to do more," Brainard said. "We think it's very significant for the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as the International Monetary Fund, to be able to re-engage with Myanmar as they undertake these very significant reforms."

Re-engaging with the global lenders will also open the door for creditor nations to write off Myanmar's bilateral debts through the Paris Club, Brainard said.

While the United States is not part of that effort, Brainard said it was important that the donor community work together to ensure Myanmar proceeds with democratization.

Japan this week said it would start to waive most of Myanmar's debt arrears of more than $6 billion as of January. Tokyo has also said it will help clear the arrears to the World Bank and Asian Development Bank that have prevented Myanmar from borrowing from the institutions.

"In the months ahead we will work closely with Japan and other major countries that have an interest in Burma's reform process," Brainard said.

"We are not among the bilateral lenders, but we think it is important for the donor community to work together and to match the action-for-action framework as they proceed on reforms."

She said it was vital that everyone in Myanmar benefit from the changes. Foreign investors have rushed to tap one of Asia's last frontier markets, a country that borders the booming economies of India, China and Southeast Asia with an abundance of oil, gas, timber and precious stones.

Added to that are cheap labor and opportunities in tourism, manufacturing, banking and heavy industry.

Brainard said U.S. companies were keen to invest in Myanmar, although more work needed to be done by the government to improve the environment for foreign businesses.

"They are going to need to work on transparency, governance, on their rule of law, so it is going to be the beginning of a process that will take some time," she said, "but our business community is enthusiastic and, of course, we are very enthusiastic to be re-engaging with this part of the world."

Separately, World Bank President Jim Yong Kim said the institution was working with the government to sort through Myanmar's debt arrears to the Bank.

He said it was vital that a development plan for Myanmar be compiled by the government, which has a better grasp of its own needs for better services and infrastructure.

"We are working with them to get a full understanding of the nature of the arrears and we are very anxious to move forward together with other donors," Kim said at the conclusion of IMF-World Bank meetings. "There is great concern about providing basic services to the people and so we will follow Myanmar's lead."-Reuters (October 13, 2012 8:07AM)

Laos 0-0 Myanmar: Hosts held to first draw of the competition

Laos 0-0 Myanmar: Hosts held to first draw of the competition
Myanmar became the first team from the qualifiers to be guaranteed of qualification for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup after a goalless draw at the Yangon Youth Center against Laos.

The hosts needed at least a draw to ensure qualification from the final match and they did so in lacklustre fashion, resulting in an ironic 'Laos! Laos!' chant from the home supporters as the match crawled to a finish.

Laos made it difficult for the home team as their stubborn defence prevented Myanmar from controlling the game.

But Laos were clearly playing for a win and frequently went forward in search of a goal. However, they failed to penetrate the final third, with only Visay Phaphouvannin's long range drive five minutes from the break being noteworthy.

Myanmar meanwhile ended the first half with six corner-kicks to Laos' one.

The second-half started with the home side on the backfoot. Soukaphone Vongchiengkham's drive from just outside the penalty box forced Thiha Si Thu into a fine save to deny the Laotians a lead.

A good spell for Myanmar past the hour mark, ended with Yan Aung Kyaw putting the ball out for a Laos goal kick. Myanmar managed to put some pressure in the second-half but were not creating enough shots on goal.

10 minutes from the end, Vilayout's goal was ruled out for offside and then in the dead of injury time, Khampheng Sayavutthi's strike from outside the penalty area brought out the best in the Burmese custodian to preserve the scoreline.

The 0-0 result means Myanmar will travel to Bangkok to join Thailand, Philippines and Vietnam for the 2010 AFF Suzuki Cup Finals in November. Laos meanwhile, temporarily move into second place, a point over Timor Leste who play Brunei later in the same day. Only a defeat for Timor Leste will ensure qualification for Laos.-Yahoo News (Ocotober 13, 2012 7:00PM

4th Asia-Pacific Chinese teaching association conference opens in Vietnam

The fourth annual conference of the International Chinese Language Teaching Association in the Asia- Pacific region opened in Vietnam's capital Hanoi on Saturday, drawing nearly 200 representatives from over ten regional countries and territories.

The conference was co-hosted by the University of Languages and International Studies (ULIS) under Vietnam National University and the Association of Chinese Teaching in Asia-Pacific.

Themed "Comparative Study of Culture, Language and Chinese Teaching and Learning", the conference is an opportunity for scholars in the region to exchange knowledge and experience in research and teaching Chinese language, contributing to strengthening cooperation among countries in the region in fields of teaching and learning Chinese as a foreign language in the integration process.

"Chinese language is the one used by the largest population. Learning Chinese has been a basic skill of many countries' businessmen, while some countries even have incorporated Chinese language teaching into their national education plans," Liu Sanzhen, cultural counselor of the Chinese Embassy in Vietnam, said when addressing the inauguration ceremony, "Chinese language experts worldwide presenting their research achievement here will do good to the development of the Chinese language."

"Sunwah Foundation, cooperating with ULIS, founded ULIS-Sunwah Chinese Teaching and Learning Study Center last year to promote Chinese language teaching and study in Vietnam," Dr.Jonathan Choi Koon-shum (Dr. Cai Guangshen), Chairman of the Hong Kong-based Sunwah Group which is also a sponsor of the conference, introduced and expressed his hope that "the center providing more chances to Vietnam's youths to learn Chinese language, will benefit their future."

The annual conference of Chinese teaching association in Asia- Pacific has been held in Japan, South Korea and Singapore.-Sina English (Ocotober 13, 2012 14:07:11)

Court order sought vs export of dolphins to Singapore

A Quezon City court stopped yesterday the Department of Agriculture and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) from issuing a permit to re-export to Singapore 25 dolphins in Ocean Adventure Park in Subic.

Quezon City Regional Trial Court 1st Vice Executive Judge Bernelito Fernandez granted a petition of animal welfare groups and issued a 72-hour “temporary environment protection order” preventing the re-export of the dolphins.

The respondents in the case are Agriculture Secretary Proceso Alcala, BFAR Director Asis Perez, and Resorts World Singapore (RWS).

The Earth Island Institute (EII), Philippine Animal Welfare Society (PAWS), and the Compassion and Responsibility to Animals Welfare Philippines had asked the court to issue a temporary environment protection order against the respondents.

“We request that the Court direct respondents to permanently cease and desist from importing dolphins into the country and re-exporting those already in captivity in the Philippines,” read the petition.

Trixie Concepcion, EII regional director for Asia-Pacific, said the petition was filed after they learned of an application to re-export the dolphins to Singapore.

RWS imported the dolphins from the Solomon Islands in 2008, 2009, and 2011.

They were brought to Subic for training and kept under tight security while the marine park in Singapore was under construction.

Anna Cabrera, PAWS director, said the dolphins were caught in the wild in the Solomon Islands and snatched from their families.

“The import permits for the 25 dolphins from the Solomon Islands were issued without proper evaluation of the best scientific data,” she said.

The groups said the harvest of the dolphins was not sustainable and could wipe out an entire gene pool.

They had asked the court to “order the respondents to hold in custody the dolphins currently in Ocean Adventure at their expense until they are rehabilitated for release back in the wild.”

The case is set to be raffled next week.-The Philippine Star (October 13, 2012)

Indonesian pythons found at NAIA cargo house

Seven baby ball pythons were found Friday inside a package of toys sent to Manila from Indonesia.

Verne Enciso, Bureau of Customs Intelligence and Investigation Service chief, said the snakes were found inside two toy cars in a Federal Express package that arrived at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Enciso said the shipment was addressed to Yuki Arabia at Rosas Street in Pildera 1, Pasay City.

Baby ball phytons are sold in the local black market for around P10, 000 pesos each.

Enciso said the snakes to the Protected Areas and Wildlife Bureau of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

On February 8, a shipment of turtles, lizards, live pythons and live mangrove snakes considered endangered species was seized in Hong Kong from a non-Filipino passenger from Manila.

The passenger charged and convicted, and fined HK$8,000.-Interaksyon (October 13, 2012 3:16PM)

Malaysian PM Najib on first official visit to Manila Sunday

Malaysia Prime Minister Dato Seri Najib Tun Razak and his wife, Datin Paduka Seri Rosmah Mansor will arrive here Sunday, his first official visit to Manila, after being invited by President Benigno Aquino III to witness the signing of the framework peace agreement between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front.

Malaysia has served as third-party facilitator of the peace talks since 2011.

Najib, accompanied by other Malaysian government officials and a business delegation led by AlloyMTD chairman and CEO Dato Azmil Khalid, pro-tempore chair of the Kuala-Lumpur based Malaysia-Philippines Business Council, will arrive at 4 p.m. and be honored with an arrival ceremony at the Bulwagang Kalayaan in Villamor Airbase.

Other dignitaries are expected to attend the signing ceremonies, among them the secretary general of the Organization of Islamic Cooperation. 

During his visit, Najib will have a bilateral meeting with Aquino and interact with leading Philippine CEOs under the auspices of the Philippines-Malaysia Business Council and the Makati Business Club.-Interaksyon (October 13, 2012 2:25PM)

Philippine Minister named Euromoney's Finance Minister 2012

Cesar Purisima, the finance minister of the Philippines, has been named as Euromoney's Finance Minister of the Year for 2012.

Purisima received his award from Euromoney's group publisher Neil Osborn and editor Clive Horwood at a private reception on the fringes of the World Bank/IMF meetings in Tokyo on Thursday.

Euromoney commended Purisima for his careful and successful stewardship of the economy in the Philippines since returning as Finance secretary in 2010. This has led to a shift in perception and positive view of the Philippines' economy, in which Purisima's leadership and decision-making have been a key factor.

Purisima has worked closely with President Benigno Aquino III to champion the idea that "good governance is good economics." Bankers in the country say he has stuck to his guns, and the country is reaping the rewards. Purisima has unleashed an unforgiving strategy to combat tax evasion and maximize revenue from corporates without introducing any new taxes or reforms.

The Philippine growth story stands out against the challenging global macro-economic backdrop. Under Purisima's guidance, and fighting back after storms and flash floods devastated the country in 2011, GDP growth reached 5.9 percent in the second quarter of this year – up from 3.6 percent the previous year – and brought the first-half GDP average growth to 6.1 percent, showing some of the strongest growth rates in Asia.

Purisima has also taken gutsy measures to protect the Philippines' economy, as developed markets in the west crumbled under pressure. In December 2010, he orchestrated the exchange of short- and medium-tenor local government securities for P39.5 billion ($940 million) 10-year peso bonds, and P181 billion 25-year peso bonds. There was a similar exchange in July 2011, when short- and medium-tenor local government securities were exchanged for P67.6 billion 10-year bonds and P255 billion 20-year bonds."

Euromoney also commends Purisima for his initiatives in promoting capital markets, both in the Philippines and across the broader ASEAN region.

Euromoney, the leading global banking and finance publication, has been nominating a Finance Minister of the Year for the past 30 years to coincide with the World Bank/IMF meetings. The previous three winners of the award were Jim Flaherty of Canada in 2009, Russia's Alexei Kudrin in 2010 and Wayne Swan of Australia last year.

Euromoney's decision is based on three factors: the opinions of a committee of Euromoney's senior editors, chaired by the editor; the views of some of the world's leading bankers, which Euromoney's editorial team seeks out in background meetings; and the analysis of the contributors to our service Euromoney Country Risk (ECR), which has more than 400 economists around the world contributing on a regular basis, as well as data sourced and compiled by ECR.

Recent data compiled by ECR highlight that the Philippines' economic fundamentals have improved since the beginning of the year: its score has risen by more than 10%, one of the biggest improvements among global economies.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (October 13, 2012)

Friday, October 12, 2012

Singapore economy contracts 1.5% but avoids recession

Singapore's economy contracted in the July to September period, but has narrowly avoided a technical recession.

Gross domestic product shrank 1.5% compared with the previous three months, the Ministry of Trade and Industry said.

However, growth in the April to May quarter was revised from a contraction of 0.7% to slight growth of 0.2%.

Asian countries have seen growth slow as a result of dwindling exports to Europe, the US and China.

Manufacturing slowdown

Manufacturing has slowed in recent months, as weak demand from those key markets has hit export-dependent Singapore.

Many analysts were expecting the government to step in and loosen monetary policy to weaken the Singapore dollar.

A strong dollar makes exports more expensive overseas, cutting into the profits earned by exporters.

However, the Monetary Authority of Singapore (MAS) said it would maintain its policy of allowing a modest and gradual appreciation of the currency.

"I am a bit surprised that MAS chose to maintain, given signs that global growth momentum has lost steam and many other central banks have chosen to ease," said Song Sen Wun, economist at CIMB in Singapore.

"The fact that we averted a technical recession and the worry about the impact of the tight labour market probably kept them from easing."

A technical recession is defined as two consecutive quarters of economic contraction.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said Singapore was still on track to achieve the target growth of between 1.5% and 2.5% for the year.-British Broadcasting Corporation (October 12, 2012)

Foreign leaders to witness signing of Philippine peace pact

The guest list for the signing of the Bangsamoro deal in the Philippine Palace on October 15 indicates the government’s intention to give its preliminary peace agreement with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) international recognition.

That should clear the way for a final peace agreement with the MILF to supersede the peace deal that the government signed with the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) in 1996.

The 12,000-strong MILF broke away from the MNLF after the signing of the 1996 agreement, and had become the dominant group fighting for Muslim self-determination in Mindanao.

Having laid down the foundation for a final peace agreement with the government, the MILF is now poised to start building the Bangsamoro homeland and take for itself the international support that its rival, the MNLF, once enjoyed.

And giving it a helping hand is the administration of President Benigno Aquino. A mixture of local and foreign dignitaries will witness the signing of the framework agreement for the creation of the Bangsamoro.

Besides two heads of state, President Benigno Aquino III and Malaysian Prime Minister Najib Razak, the powerful Organisation of Islamic Cooperation, formerly Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC), will also witness the signing of the 13-page agreement approved in principle by the government and the MILF negotiating panels in Kuala Lumpur on Sunday.

The presence of OIC secretary general Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu at the signing will give a mantle of legitimacy to the peace accord from the Islamic world, where the MNLF, which has observer status in the OIC, is recognised.

With a membership spread over four continents, the OIC is the second largest intergovernmental organisation in the world after the United Nations.

In a statement issued on Wednesday, Ihsanoglu congratulated the Aquino administration and the MILF “for reaching a framework agreement to end the long-standing conflict in Mindanao.”

Ihsanoglu will attend the signing of the framework agreement, according to presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda.

Lacierda told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario and Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process Teresita Quintos-Deles spoke with Ihsanoglu on the sidelines of the recent United Nations General Assembly in New York and brought him up to date on the progress of the peace talks between the government and the MILF.

Mohagher Iqbal, head of the MILF negotiating panel, and Marvic Leonen, the chief government negotiator, will sign the agreement.
MILF chair Murad Ebrahim, leaders of the MNLF and high-ranking Malaysian officials will also witness the signing.

Malaysia brokered the peace talks between the government and the MILF that began in 2001.

Officials of countries that have been monitoring the peace process will also attend the signing of the agreement.

“The International Contact Group (ICG), the International Monitoring Team have also been invited, some aide organisations, the CSOs (civil society organisations) also, who are also involved in the peace process, were also invited,” Lacierda said.

Members of the Cabinet, particularly the security and legal clusters, will also be invited to the signing of the agreement.

President Aquino called the preliminary agreement with the MILF a road map to the achievement of lasting peace in Mindanao.

Leonen, for his part, called it a “political document” that would serve as blueprint for the establishment of a new autonomous region in Muslim Mindanao, to be called Bangsamoro.

Bangsamoro will replace the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), which President Aquino described as a “failed experiment.”
In the OIC statement, Ihsanoglu said he hoped the agreement would “pave the way for a just and lasting peace for the Bangsamoro people who have suffered too long and endured huge sacrifices.”

“The OIC received the news with both hope and cautious optimism, hoping that it will constitute a solid foundation for an overall agreement that meets the legitimate aspirations of the Bangsamoro people. The OIC hopes that this will usher in a new phase of consolidating peace and start the long awaited development process of the region,” Ihsanoglu said.

The Bangsamoro settlement process has been conceived not only to end the Moro insurgency but also do justice for people who have suffered injustice during the 40-year war.

Under the agreement, Christians, Muslims and lumad in Mindanao who were unjustly dispossessed of their land would be compensated, Leonen said.

The government and the Bangsamoro would provide reparations for those who lost their lands in an effort to “heal the wounds” and end the perceived mistrust between the Christian and Muslim communities on the island, Leonen said.

Land ownership is a sensitive issue in Mindanao where Christians from the north have resettled in areas that were once dominated by Muslims.

“It will not be the [current] private property owner who will [pay compensation] but the national government and the Bangsamoro government,” Leonen said.

“And it also cuts both ways. It’s not just [paying for] the Christian who grabbed another person’s property but also for the Moro who seized somebody else’s land,” he said.

Leonen said the MILF would still have to discuss how to set up the compensation mechanism and its parametres, adding that this would be important to deal with perceived historical grievances in Mindanao.

“The principle here is called transitional justice because we can’t have total healing without addressing these historical questions,” he said.

Leonen stressed that current owners of disputed lands “will not be moved,” adding that the peace deal would not lead to the confiscation of any property.

Leonen said claimants would have to show evidence, like their torrens title to the lost property, before they could receive compensation.
“It depends on what evidence can be presented … Vested property rights shall be respected. Any property right that was vested by torrens title or by any contract with the government is to be respected,” Leonen said.

“Also, reparation is not just about money. It could also come in the form of recognition that a historical wrong was committed,” he added.
Leonen also said he was confident that the Supreme Court would affirm the peace deal between government and the MILF.

He said the government peace panel consulted the country’s legal luminaries, including former Supreme Court justices, every step of the way to ensure that the agreement would meet constitutional standards.-Asia News Network (October 12, 2012 8:10PM)

Vietnam asks China to respect its sovereignty

Vietnam has demanded that China respect its sovereignty and refrain from wrongful actions so as to make practical contributions to developing the friendship and co-operation between the two countries as well as maintaining peace and stability in the East Sea.

The Chinese side violated Vietnam's sovereignty over the Hoang Sa (Paracel) and Truong Sa (Spratly) archipelagos, foreign ministry spokesman Luong Thanh Nghi  said while replying to a query on Vietnam's response to the China's recent acts during the ministry's regular press conference in Hanoi yesterday.

Following a series of illegal activities, including building and developing the so-called "Sansha city", China held a flag raising ceremony to mark its National Day on Phu Lam island in the Hoang Sa archipelago on October 1.

Two days later the Chinese navy's Nanhai Fleet held an exercise in the waters of the Hoang Sa archipelago and the week after China opened a meteorological station in the new city.

Earlier, on September 23, the Chinese press reported that China would deploy unmanned aircraft to strengthen the surveillance of the waters, including the Hoang Sa and Truong Sa archipelagos.

The Chinese actions seriously violated Vietnam's sovereignty according to international law and the agreement on basic principles guiding the settlement of sea-related issues between Vietnam and China signed in October 2011, Nghi stressed.

They also ran counter to the spirit of the Declaration on Conduct of the Parties in the East Sea (DOC) signed between Asean and China in 2002, thus further complicating the East Sea situation, he added.


Also at the press conference, Nghi responded to a question about the co-operation agreement between Sudan and South Sudan signed on September 27, saying that Vietnam welcomed the agreement and believed that the document would contribute to boosting the two countries' relations for the common interests of each country's people and for peace and stability in the region.

Vietnam hoped that the two sides would continue negotiations to seek ways to solve all issues on the spirit of mutual understanding, he added.-Asia News Network (October 12, 2012 8:06PM)

BALI BOMBING 10 YEARS ON: Attack failed to achieve its aims, says Yudhoyono

As survivors and victims' families mark the 10 years since the Bali bombings today, Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono declared that the attack had failed to produce what their perpetrators hoped for.

"It resulted in just the opposite. Throughout Indonesia, Muslims, Hindus, Christians and Buddhists overwhelmingly condemned the attack and repudiated those who misused religion to carry out acts of violence," he wrote in an opinion piece for the Sydney Morning Herald yesterday.

"In such time of shock and grief, we all felt part of one humanity."

The blasts at a popular Bali nightspot killed 202 people and injured some 240 others, many of them Australian and Indonesian.

Dr Yudhoyono's comments come as over 2,000 survivors and members of victims' families prepare to attend a memorial ceremony at the Garuda Wisnu Kencana park in Jimbaran this morning.

While Dr Yudhoyono will not be at the ceremony, Australian Prime Minister Julia Gillard and Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa will.

The authorities said this week they had had a tip-off that terrorists were targeting VIP attendees.

Yesterday afternoon, armoured personnel carriers and bomb squad vehicles were seen heading to the site. Sniffer dogs stood ready to comb the area.

Bali's deputy police chief I Ketut Untung Yoga Ana said police had found nothing suspicious. "But we cannot shrug that off," he told news portal

Some 1,000 police officers and 1,000 soldiers, assisted by "pecalang" - local watchmen - were also deployed.

In his opinion piece, Dr Yudhoyono, who was coordinating minister for security at the time of the blasts, said he resolved that those involved "would pay for their monstrous act of terror".

"A decade after the Bali bombs, we can say with some relief that justice has been done," he said.

Three plotters have been executed, and several others killed in police raids.

Gillard yesterday pledged to attend the ceremony despite the security threats.

"This is a moment of real significance for our nation. Ten years ago, I think we would all remember where we were and how we felt, how shocked we were.

"I want to spend some time with the families who have really had to absorb such grief," she said.

Gillard, who is due to give an address at the ceremony, told Parliament that Australians would forever remember the horrific images from the bombings.

"We would give everything to erase the events of that night from the pages of history," she said. "But we cannot... Its horror and its meaning are imprinted on all of our hearts forever."

Meanwhile, Bali Governor I Made Mangku Pastika apologised to Balinese victims for not enough being done in the aftermath.

He said the provincial government would collect data on survivors, victims and their families to look after their welfare.-Asia News Network (October 12, 2012 8:04PM)

M'sia to build three incinerators through int'l tenders

Three incineration plants with the capacity of between 500 and 800 tonnes each will be built to improve the quality of solid waste management in Malaysia.

“The incinerators will be built via an international open tender, which will be given out in March,” Housing and Local Government Minister Chor Chee Heung said at a press conference after visiting the Third International Green Tech & Eco Products Exhibition and Conference Malaysia 2012 at the KLCC yesterday.

The incinerators, he added, would be built in Malacca, Bukit Payong in Johor and Taman Beringin in Kuala Lumpur.

Currently, Malaysia only has smaller incinerators with the capacity of less than 100 tonnes each in Langkawi, Tioman, Lumut and Cameron Highlands.

“The prime minister has stated that if we were to build more incinerators, they would have to be of the best technology and not compromise the environment,” said Chor.

The Economic Planning Unit and the Public-Private Partnership Unit in the Prime Minister's Department were working with the ministry to prepare details of the tender, he added.

The incinerators, he said, would help save landfill space.

Chor said the ministry was also looking at ways to remove all recyclable material from solid waste before these were sent to landfills.

This, he said, would be able to reduce waste by 40 per cent.

“And, we are no longer going to be dependent on traditional landfill,” he said.-Asia News Network (October 12, 2012 8:02PM)

Cambodian PM to join 7th CLV Summit in Vietnam next week

Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen will lead a high delegation to attend the 7th CLV (Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam) Summit on the Development Triangle Area on Oct. 19-20 in Ho Chi Minh City, according to a press release from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Friday.

The CLV Development Triangle Area is aimed at accelerating of economic growth, poverty reduction, social and cultural progress in 13 provinces of the three countries, including four in Cambodia, four in Laos, and five in Vietnam.

The prime ministers of the three countries will sign a joint declaration at the end of the summit, according to the release.-Sina English (October 12, 2012 01:21:01GMT)

Thailand readies airport warehouse to store record stocks of rice

The Thai government plans to use an old airport warehouse and is desperately hunting for more storage space for a mountain of rice that has resulted from a subsidy scheme that won it votes but which is now sapping the treasury.

Traders estimate the government has a record 12 million tonnes of milled rice in stockpiles, bought in a controversial intervention scheme under which it pays farmers way above the market price for their grain.

"We have prepared a 30,000 square metre warehouse at Don Muang Airport for the government to store rice and we are asking around whether other government organisations have any space left for keeping rice," Transport Minister Jarupong Ruangsuwan said on Friday.

The old Bangkok airport recently reopened after extensive refurbishment made necessary by flooding a year ago.

The government could buy another 15 million tonnes of unmilled rice from the new main crop now being harvested.

Jarupong said the government had asked other airports if they had warehouse space available. Military facilities could also be used.

Critics of the intervention policy say these storage facilities are not suitable for rice, which can deteriorate if moisture and insects are not kept out.

The policy was a major factor in bringing the government to power last year, winning it huge support from rural communities.

Commerce Minister Boonsong Teriyapirom again insisted that he had sold 7.3 million tonnes of rice to foreign governments, including China, Indonesia and the Philippines.

"Around 1.4 million tonnes of rice has already been shipped to those countries," he told reporters. He has declined to go into detail.

Exporters and industry officials have seen no evidence of such sales at the ports or in statistics. Both Indonesia and the Philippines have denied any such deal and there has been no word from China.

Export data from the Ministry of Commerce shows rice shipments of around 5 million tonnes so far this year, down 44 percent from the same period last year.

Thailand exported a record 10.6 million tonnes in 2011. It has been the world's top exporter for years but looks likely to lose that crown to India or Vietnam this year because the intervention scheme has made Thai rice too expensive.

The minister met with exporters on Friday to discuss the situation.

"We were urged by the government to help boost exports, especially of premium-grade fragrant rice," Charoen Laothammatas, president of Uthai Produce, said after the meeting.

The long-grain fragrant rice, which is only grown once a year in a specific region, is currently sold at around $1,100 per tonne.

Thailand normally produces 25 million tonnes of paddy from the main crop, of which around 6 million tonnes is fragrant rice.

The market for the premium rice may hold up better than for ordinary white rice.

Thailand's benchmark 100 percent B grade white rice currently commands an export price of around $565 per tonne, while its 5 percent broken grade is quoted at $555 a tonne. The latter grade from Vietnam is around $100 a tonne cheaper.-The West Business (October 12, 2012 5:35PM)

Phl 2012 GDP could hit 5.2% -Moody's

Growth could hit 5.2 percent this year as strong domestic demand keeps the Philippines afloat amid the persistent weakness of the global economy, a unit of debt watcher Moody’s Investors Service said on Friday.

“We recently revised our outlook for the Philippines to 5.2 percent from 4.7 percent. The first half economic growth was pretty strong,” said Katrina Ell, analyst at the New York-based Moody’s Analytics.

The five-percent forecast for next year has been retained, she added.

The local economy expanded by 6.1 percent during the first half of the year, a far cry from the 4.2 percent recorded same period last year. This also slightly surpassed the government’s five- to six-percent target for the year.

The revision was the second for the Philippines under Moody’s watch. The credit rater initially expected economic growth to hit only four percent this year. This was revised upwards to 4.7 percent in June after a surprising 6.4 percent first quarter growth.

Ell said strong consumption and accelerated government spending have boosted domestic demand, which “sort of overcame” the weakness of the external environment.

“Basically, we have factored in the weakness of the exports but that was sort of overcame by domestic strength,” Ell said in a phone interview. Merchandise exports plunged nine percent in August, its weakest performance in eight months.

“Risks to growth for the Philippines will be if the external weakness takes a turn for the worse, in effect, remittance could go lower,” she said. -Black Pearl (October 12, 2012 5:54PM)

6.7 magnitude quake hits Indonesia province

A 6.7 magnitude earthquake struck off Indonesia's easternmost province of Papua on Friday, October 12, the US Geological Survey said.

The epicentre of the quake, which struck at 9:31 am (0131 GMT), was 247 kilometers (153 miles) southwest of Nabire in Papua and 108 kilometres north of Dobo in the Aru Islands, USGS said. It hit at a depth of 24 kilometers.-Rappler (October 12, 2012 9:14AM)

Singapore economy shrinks but avoids recession

Singapore's economy shrank by 1.5 percent in the third quarter but avoided a technical recession after growth in the previous three months was adjusted, government figures showed Friday.

The Ministry of Trade and Industry said the export-driven city-state was still on track to achieve annual growth of 1.5-2.5 percent in 2012.

"Economic growth in the second quarter was better than expected, resulting in an upward revision of quarter-on-quarter annualised growth from the preliminary estimates of -0.7 per cent to 0.2 per cent," it said.

"The revision was due to new data from the construction sector, which registered higher certified progress payments from private sector industrial and residential projects," it added.

Two successive quarters of negative growth are regarded as a technical recession. Singapore is seen as a bellwether for Asia's leading economies because of its sensitivity to world trade.-Interaksyon (Ocotober 12, 2012 8:45AM)

Tuesday, October 09, 2012

Singapore PM urges 'respect' after Facebook rant

Singapore's Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong has called for ''respect'' after a resident's racially-charged rant on Facebook caused outrage.

''Let us be mindful of what we say, online and in person,'' Mr Lee said in a post on his Facebook page.

He was responding to public reaction after a woman's comments lashing out at Malays holding weddings in spaces under public housing flats.

The woman has since been fired from her job and issued a public apology.

Amy Cheong made the comments on her Facebook account on Sunday.

One of her posts was laden with expletives and included insensitive remarks directed at the minority Malay community.

Her posts - which have since been deleted - went viral, with more than 10,000 comments and shares, and screenshots distributed on other online forums and blogs.

Ms Cheong was fired from her job on Monday morning and a local newspaper reported that she had left for Australia.

'Zero tolerance'
While Mr Lee said he was ''shocked'' to learn of the remarks, he emphasised the incident was ''an isolated case that did not reflect the strength of race relations in Singapore''.

''But it sharply reminds us how easily a few thoughtless words can cause grave offence to many, and undermine our racial and religious harmony,'' he said.

Singapore is an ethnically diverse country, with the majority Chinese making up about 75% of the community, Malays, Indians and people of mixed ethnicities making up much of the remainder.

The South East Asian nation was plagued by ethnic tension and conflicts in its early history in the 1960s.

Several other ministers have also posted their reactions to the incident on their Facebook pages.

Ms Cheong, meanwhile, has issued a public apology, saying that the noise from the wedding - in a common space known as a void deck underneath government-built housing often used for celebrations by different ethnic groups - had caused her to lash out.

"There was no racism intended in my post. I was trying to rest and the noise was affecting me greatly,'' she told a local newspaper, The New Paper.

''I've always been very blunt and vocal, but what I said had nothing to do with race.''

Ms Cheong, formerly an assistant director in the membership department of the National Trades Union Congress (NTUC) - the trade union centre in Singapore, was sacked on Monday morning.

''We will not accept and have zero tolerance towards any words used or actions taken by our staff that are racially offensive,'' Lim Swee Say, NTUC's secretary general, who is also a cabinet minister, said in a statement.

A police report has also been filed against Ms Cheong. A police spokesman told the BBC the matter was being investigated.

This is not the first such incident in Singapore. In the most recent case, two teenagers were arrested in June for posting racist remarks on Facebook.-British Broadcasting Corporation (October 09, 2012)

Eleven dead in Thai militant attacks: police

Suspected Muslim militants have shot dead 11 people including three paramilitary rangers in a single day of bloodshed in Thailand's insurgency-plagued deep south, according to police.

The rangers were ambushed while travelling in a pick-up truck on Monday in Pattani province in the Muslim-majority border region, where an eight-year conflict has claimed thousands of lives.

On the same day, four Buddhist rubber tappers died on their way to work in two separate gun attacks in Pattani, while a pair of Muslim men were killed in a drive-by shooting in neighbouring Yala province, police said.

Two vegetable vendors were also shot dead in Songkhla province, which had been relatively untouched by the violence until a number of attacks this year, including a series of car bombs in April that left 15 people dead.

A complex insurgency calling for greater autonomy has plagued Thailand's far south near the border with Malaysia since 2004, claiming more than 5,300 lives, both Buddhist and Muslim, with near daily bomb or gun attacks.

The authorities said in August they were holding informal peace talks with some Muslim insurgent groups, in an apparent policy reversal that followed a spike in attacks.

"Some militant groups don't want a peaceful solution so they look for an opportunity to terrorise people," southern army spokesman Colonel Pramote Prom-in told AFP on Tuesday.

"We're trying to find measures to prevent this kind of violence but still haven't succeeded," he added.

The militants are not thought to be part of a global jihad movement but are rebelling against a history of perceived discrimination against ethnic Malay Muslims by successive Thai governments and alleged rights abuses by the army.-Yahoo News (October 09, 2012)

6.3 quake strikes off Indonesia coast

An earthquake with a magnitude of 6.3 struck off the eastern Indonesian coast Monday evening, the US Geological Survey said, but no tsunami alert was issued and no damage was reported.

The epicentre of the quake, which occurred at 6:43 pm Monday (1143 GMT), was located in the Banda Sea 139 km (86 miles) southeast of the town of Ambon, the USGS reported. It took place at a depth of 34 km.

"There was no tsunami warning issued. It was felt moderately in Ambon city and Banda island," Agung Utomo from the Meteorology, Climatology and Geophysics Agency told AFP.

He said there were no reports of damage so far.

Indonesia sits on the Pacific "Ring of Fire" where continental plates collide, causing frequent seismic and volcanic activity.

An 8.7 earthquake that struck west of Indonesia in April was the biggest of its kind ever recorded and confirms suspicions that a giant tectonic plate is breaking up, scientists said last month.-Yahoo News (October 09, 2012)

Philippine high court stops cyber law

Supreme Court issues TRO on Anti-Cybercrime Act
The Philippine Supreme Court stopped for 120 days the implementation of the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

At the same time, the high court has set an oral argument on January 15 to hear both parties for and against the law.

During Tuesday’s full court deliberation, the high court justices unanimously issued a temporary restraining order after it was flooded by petitions assailing the constitutionality of several provisions of the said law.

A total of 15 petitions from various organisations told the high court that several provisions of violates the 1987 Constitution specifically the provisions on freedom of speech, equal protection of the law, right to privacy, illegal searches and seizures, double jeopardy.

The law is envisioned as a measure against hacking, identity theft, spamming, cybersex and online child pornography. But citizens and groups who protested on social networking sites, blogs and out in the streets fear politicians will use it to silence critics.

The law contains a provision that says libel — which is already punishable by up to six years in prison — is also a cybercrime. It doubles cumulative penalties for online offenses and allows government agencies to search, seize and destroy computer data deemed libelous.

Human rights and media groups have unsuccessfully campaigned for years to downgrade libel from a criminal to a civil offence, saying politicians often use the law to harass journalists and other critics.
Many Facebook and Twitter users in the Philippines and the portals of the main media organisations have replaced their profile pictures with black screens as a protest against the law.-Asia News Network (October 09, 2012)

Indonesian anti-terror squad arrests two terrorism suspects

A member of Indonesian police's anti-terror squad of Special Detachment 88 (Densus 88) said on Tuesday that two men were arrested in the latest terrorism raid conducted by the squad in Depok, West Java, local media reported.

"We arrested the two last night in Depok, West Java," a source in Densus 88 who asked anonymity was quoted by the Jakarta Globe as saying.

"We suspect that they were involved in terrorism cases in Tambora, Beji, Solo and Poso," he added, referring to recent squad's raids on several areas that harboring those terrorism suspects.

The source declined to detail the specifics of the allegations against the two men, identified by police as "S" and "I", the Jakarta Globe online reported.

Previously, a local news portal the identified one of the men as Sofyan, a 35-year-old resident of Limo, Depok. The man's house on Jalan Mangga was raided by dozens of Densus 88 members on Monday.

Sofyan's neighbors described him as a quiet man who rarely left his house and didn't attend prayer at the neighborhood mosque.

In recent weeks, Densus 88 has been rounding up members of an alleged terrorist cell that goes by the name "Indonesia Al-Qaeda."

So far, nine alleged members of the group have been arrested in Central Sulawesi and Solo, Central Java.-The Global Times (October 09, 2012 16:40:01)

In Brief: Southeast Asia wasting too much food

Food losses in Asia due to disasters or poor storage, packing and delivery are set to worsen, and governments are ill-prepared to stem the wastage, according experts recently convened by the Centre for Non-Traditional Security Studies in Singapore. 

Possible solutions include redistributing edible wasted food to people; turning it into energy and agriculture inputs; and developing new technology to separate food waste from other rubbish. Policymakers need to take a “total supply chain approach” or else risk breaking Southeast Asia’s fragile food system, said the experts. 

“It is likely that the region wastes approximately 33 percent of food, but accurate estimates are not available due to a dearth of quantitative information.” 

Increasing urbanization means food will tend to travel farther, something that could exacerbate the food waste problem. Governments need to better fund the tracking of food waste (especially fish, vegetables and rice), they said.-Humanitarian News and Analysis (October 09, 2012)

Born: United States of the Philippines (USP) - CHA-CHA for the Federal States Philippines

The Federal States of the Philippines

Speaking at a briefing for reporters in Malacañang Monday, Leonen explained the ramifications of the agreement's provisions for a transition from the ARMM to Bangsamoro by 2016.

"Insofar as the major political commitments are made by this administration in that framework agreement, we see no necessity for now to amend the Constitution," Leonen said.

Charter Change is required to legalized the new autonomous State in the Southern Philippines.

The previous 14th congress resolution approved the proposed Federal States of the Philippines which could be seen in this link. Though several changes are expected but the planned Charter Change for the new constitution was approved by the majority member of the senate during the 14th congress.

Senate of the Philippines, 14th Congress, April 23, 2008, retrieved 2008-04-25 Aquilino Q. Pimentel, Jr.; Egardo Angara, Rdudolfo Biazon, Pia "Compañera" Cayetano, Juan Ponce Enrile, Francis "Chiz" Escudero, Jinggoy Estrada, Gregario Honasan, Panfilo lacson, Francis Pangilinan, Ramon "Bong" Revilla, Manuel "Manny" Vilar (23 April 2008), Joint Resolution No. 10: A Joint Resolution to convene Congress into a Constituent Assembly for the purpose of revising the constitution to establish a federal system of government, Senate of the Philippines.

The 12 States of the Federal Philippines (USP)

  • Federal Administrative Region Manila (MLA)
  • The State of Northern Luzon (NL)
  • The State of Central Luzon (CL)
  • The State of Southern Tagalog; (ST)
  • The State of Bicol (BIC)
  • The State of Minparom (MIN)
  • The State of Eastern Visayas (EV)
  • The State of Central Visayas (CV)
  • The State of Western Visayas (WV)
  • The State of Northern Mindanao (NM)
  • The State of Southern Mindanao (SM)
  • The State of Zamboanga (ZA)
  • The Sultanate State of Sulu and the BangsaMoro (SSB)
  • Federal Administrative State Manila (ASM) The area known as Metropolitan or Metro-Manila is  hereby constituted as a  Federal Administrative State. It shall comprise the following cities of:
  • Manila City
  • Quezon City
  • Makati City
  • Mandaluyong City
  • Pasay City
  • Pasig City
  • Caloocan City
  • Muntinlupa City
  • Las Piñas City
  • Para ñaque City
  • Malabon City
  • Marikina City
  • Taguig City
  • Navotas City
  • Valenzuela City
  • San Juan City and the municipality of Pateros, and all the barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by Congress, it shall be the seat of the Executive Department.

1.) The State of Northern Luzon (NL), Capital Tuguegarao City

The State of Northern Luzon (NL) shall comprise the provinces of llocos Norte, llocos Sur, La Union, Pangasinan, Batanes, Cagayan, Isabela, Nueva Vizcaya, Quirino, Abra,  Apayao,  Benguet, Ifugao, Kalinga and Mountain Province,  and  all  the  cities,  municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Tuguegarao City shall be the capital of the State.

2.) The State of Central Luzon (CL), Capital Tarlac City

 The State of Central Luzon (CL) shall comprise the provinces of Aurora,  Bataan,  Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales, and the Scarborough shoals  and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein.  Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Tarlac City shall be the capital of the State

3.)The State of  Southern Tagalog (ST), Capital Tagaytay City)

The State of  Southern Tagalog (ST) shall comprise the provinces of  Rizal, Quezon,  Laguna, Batangas and Cavite and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Tagaytay City shall be the capital of the State.

4.)The State of Bicol(BIC) , Capital  Legazpi City shall comprise the provinces  of  Albay, Camarines Norte,  Camarines Sur, Catanduanes, and Sorsogon, and  all  the  cities, municipalities  and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Legazpi City shall be the capital of the State

5.) The State of Minparom (MIN) , Capital Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental  shall comprise the provinces  of  Mindoro Oriental.  Mindoro Occidental, Palawan, Romblon and Marinduque and the Island, Islets, shoal and reefs that are collectively called the Kalayan Islands or the Spratlys, and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Mamburao, Mindoro Occidental shall be the capital of the State

6.) The State of Eastern Visayas (EV) , Capital Catbalogan City shall comprise  the  provinces  of  Biliran, Leyte,  Southern  Leyte,  Northern  Samar, Samar  and Eastern  Samar and  all the cities,  municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Catbalogan City shall be the capital of the State.

7.) The State of Central Visayas (CV) , Capital Toledo City  shall comprise the provinces of  Masbate, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Bohol  and  Siquijor and all  the  cities, municipalities and barangays therein.  Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Toledo City shall be  the capital of the State.

8.) The State of Western Visayas (WV) , Capital lloilo City  shall comprise the provinces of Aklan, Antique,  Capiz,  Guimaras,  Iloilo  and Negros Occidental and  all  the  cities, municipalities and  barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, lloilo City shall be the capital of the State

9.) The State of Northern Mindanao (NM) , Capital Cagayan de Oro City  shall comprise the provinces of Camiguin, Misamis Oriental, Bukidnon, Agusan  del Norte, Dinagat Island, Surigao  del  Norte, Lanao  del  Norte,  and  all  the  cities,  municipalities  and  barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Cagayan de Oro City shall be the capital of the State.

10.) The State of Southern Mindanao (SM), Capital Davao City  shall comprise the provinces of Agusan del Sur,  Surigao del Sur, Compostela Valley,  Davao,  Davao Oriental,  Davao del  Sur,  South Cotabato, Sarangani, Cotabato and Sultan Kudarat and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Davao City shall be the capital of the State.

11.) The State of Zamboanga (ZA) , Capital Zamboanga City  shall comprise the provinces of Zamboanga del Norte, Misamis Occidental,  Zamboanga  del  Sur  and Zamboanga Sibugay,  and  all  the  cities,  municipalities  and  barangays, islands, and reefs therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Zamboanga City shall be the capital of the State.

12.) The Sultanate State of Sulu and the BangsaMoro (SSB), Capital  Isabela City, Basilan or Marawi City shall be the capital of the State shall comprise the provinces of Lanao del Sur, Maguindanao, (Shariff Kabunsuan)', Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi and all the cities, municipalities and barangays therein. Until provided otherwise by the State Legislature, Isabela City, Basilan or Marawi City shall be the capital of the State. 

The old Sultanate of Sulu comprise the North Borneo, Palawan, Zamboanga Peninsula, Basilan, tawi-tawi, kalayaan Group of Islands (Spratlys) and all island, islet and reefs in the Sulu Sea and North borneo


Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) today said he has completed the draft of a resolution calling on Congress to amend the 1987 Constitution to pave the way for the adoption of a federal system to replace the highly-centralized unitary system of government.

Pimentel said the federalization of the republic is meant to accomplish two main goals: 1. Cause the speedy development of the entire country by unleashing the forces of competitiveness among the component federal states, and 2. Dissipate the causes of rebellion in the country, particularly in Mindanao.

"The federal proposal will hopefully provide a just and lasting redress of the grievances of the powerless and the neglected sectors of society, like the Moro peoples of Mindanao," the opposition senator said in a keynote address at the seminar on federalism hereunder the auspices of the UP Center for Local and Regional Governance/National College of Public Administration and Governance (UP CLRG/NCPAG) and the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, Manila Southwoods, Golf Country Club, Carmona, Cavite.

Under the 63-page resolution, Pimentel proposed the creation of 11 federal states out of the existing political subdivisions of the country, and one federal administrative region.

To be established are the federal states of Northern Luzon, Central Luzon, Bicol and Southern Tagalog in Luzon; the federal states of Minparom (Mindoro-Palawan-Romblon-Marinduque), Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas and Western Visayas in the Visayas and the federal states Northern Mindanao, Southern Mindanao and Sultanate State of Sulu and the Bangsamoro in Mindanao.

Metro Manila will be converted into a federal administrative region along the lines of Washington D.C. in the United States, New Delhi in India or Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia.

"The move to federalize the country is not simply a 'political' undertaking. It is also an economic effort. By creating 11 federal states and by converting Metro Manila as a federal administrative region, we immediately establish 12 centers of power, finance and development throughout the country," Pimentel said.

In contrast, he said that under the existing unitary system that has characterized the government for centuries, the country had only one center of power, finance and development - Metro Manila.

Pimentel said the boundaries of the federal states will cut across the present regional boundaries. He said he has recommended that the component states be constituted out of bigger political territories to provide the environment for competitiveness and sustainability rather than create states and provinces that in many instances might simply be too small to survive as a state.

The resolution defines the territory of the proposed Federal Republic of the Philippines and unequivocally includes the Scarborough Shoal as part of Central Luzon and the Kalayaan Islands as part of the Minparom region.

Pimentel said the resolution disperses the seats of power of the three major branches of government. Thus, the executive department will hold offices in the Federal Administrative Region of Metro Manila, the legislative department in the Federal State of Central Visayas and the judicial department in the Federal State of Northern Mindanao.

"By doing so, the two other geographical regions of the country, the Visayas and Mindanao will now fully appreciate that they are important parts, and merely appendices - of the Republic," he said.

In terms of allocating the resources of the Republic, Pimentel said a formula is provided in the resolution: 30 percent will go to the Federal Government and 70 percent to the component states. Of the 70 percent accruing to the states, 30 percent will go to the state governments and 70 percent to the provinces, cities, municipalities and barangays.

The resolution will require the revision of 14 of the existing 18 Articles of the Constitution and the addition of two new Articles. It was prepared by Pimentel upon the request of some of his colleagues in the Senate and House of Representative, some local government officials and friends from the non-government organization sector.-Rebuilding for the Better Philippines (October 08, 2012 11:00AM)