Rebuilding for the Better Philippines updates
U.S. Airmen with the 36th Contingency Response Group board a C-130 Hercules aircraft at Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, before departing for a mission in support of Operation Damayan in Tacloban, Philippines, Nov. 14, 2013. U.S. military forces were deployed to the Philippines to support humanitarian efforts in response to Typhoon Haiyan. U.S. Air Force/Senior Airman Marianique Santos
US to give C-130 planes to Philippines
MANILA, Philippines — The United States will give two Lockheed C-130 "Hercules" planes to the Philippines, newly appointed Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief-of-staff Lt. Gen. Gregorio Pio Catapang revealed.
In a state report, Catapang disclosed the impending donation in a visit to the 1st Air Division headquarters in Clark Field, Pampanga, citing American military officials.
"I just talked to our US counterparts [and] they told us they are making available another two C-130s to address our humanitarian assistance disaster relief concerns," Catapang said.
The United States military has deployed a humanitarian mission to the Visayas after the onslaught of deadly typhoon Yolanda, which took thousands of lives and destroyed countless homes.
vCatapang said that the Americans extended the offer after learning of President Aquino's plans to acquire new cargo aircrafts for the military.
The existing C-130 planes of the Air Force figured heavily in the transport of relief goods for victims of typhoon Yolanda and equipment needed by government troops involved in the efforts last year.
In November last year, former AFP chief Gen. Emmanuel Bautista announced that the country seeks to procure two more C-130 planes to improve disaster relief operations.
"We are in the process of acquiring two more C-130s. As you very well know, we only have three C-130s. In terms of strategic lift, C-130s are very important," Bautista said.
Vice President Jejomar Binay, his mayor-son Erwin Jejomar Binay Jr., and 21 other former and incumbent elected officials of Makati City are facing ₱1.5-billion plunder and graft charges before the Office of the Ombudsman (OMB).
The nine-page complaint was filed by the Save Makati Movement (SMM), headed by Renato Bondal and Ching Enciso.
The group accused the Binays and others of constructing an “incredibly overpriced” parking building in the heart of the country’s financial and business capital.
Among those charged were former and incumbent councilors Ferdinand Eusebio; Arnold Magpantay; Romeo Medina; Tosca Puno Ramos; Maria Alethea Casal-Uy; Ma. Concepcion Yabut;
Virgilio Hilario; Monsour del Rosario; Vince Sese; Nelson Pasia; Salvador Pangilinan; Elias Tolentino; Ruth Tolentino; Henry Jacome; Leo Magpantay; Nemesio “King” Yabut; Armand Padilla; Israel Cruzado; Ma. Theresa De Lara; Angelito Gatchalian and Ernesto Aspillaga.
Also slapped with plunder was Cecille Cag-anan of the Commission on Audit (COA) for her alleged failure to safeguard public funds allowing, the other accused to commit alleged criminal acts.
SMM said the city government spent ₱1.5 billion for the construction of the New Makati City Parking Building along F. Zobel Street in Barangay Poblacion from 2007 to 2013.
It said the first appropriation ordinance was for ₱P400 million which was approved by the Vice President when he was mayor six years ago.
When the younger Binay took over in 2010, he and city councilors allegedly continued to approve six more appropriation ordinances for the continued construction of the building with additional appropriation of ₱1.1 billion.
The complaint added that based on the data of the National Statistics Office (NSO), the average cost of construction for commercial and institutional buildings was only about ₱7,691 per square meter in 2007.
It claimed that erecting the structure at that time would only cost about ₱245 million.
The complaint stated that an enormous overprice of more than ₱1.3 billion was made considering how much was actually spent until the 11-story building with floor area of 31,928 square meters.
“The respondents, particularly the Vice President Jejomar Binay and the incumbent Mayor Erwin Binay violated every rule in construction manuals and government procedures in pushing for a project that was grossly overpriced and funded irregularly through supplemental budgets for five years,” the SMM said.
It alleged that even the initial appropriation of ₱400 million “is clearly already overpriced by more than P154 million and should merit Vice President Binay being haled to court for plunder.”
Bondal and Enciso noted that in the fourth quarter of 2012, the average construction cost of a commercial building in the locality was ₱9,527 per square meter which means that at such price, the construction of the parking structure should cost only about ₱304 million.
“The total amount appropriated by respondents to cover the cost of construction as of 2012 was however ₱1.5 billion or an overprice of more than ₱1.2 billion,” they said.
The complainants stressed that even if the present construction standards for high-end commercial buildings will be used, the current acceptable construction cost is only ₱25,000 per square meter.
“Thus, with the actual floor area being 31,928 square meters, then the reasonable cost of the building computed at current prices is only ₱798.2 million. By this very simple computation, the Makati City Parking Building has been grossly overpriced by no less than ₱761.8 million and no amount of cost overruns could be invoked for this despicable mismanagement and gross abuse of public funds,” they said.
“The overpricing of the building project could not have been committed without a deliberate, systematic and unconscionable raid of public funds designed by the Binays and the other respondents to defraud the people of Makati and gain personal profit in the process,” Bondal and Enciso said. - Manila Bulletin
COMFORTER IN CHIEF World Bank president Jim Yong Kim fields questions from the media during the Daylight Dialogue in the Palace while the embattled President listens during the “The Good Governance Challenge” session. Kim says the Philippines “is a global model in fighting corruption,” according to Agence France-Presse. GRIG MONTEGRANDE
World Bank hails PH as next Asian miracle
MANILA, Philippines–President Aquino on Tuesday received profuse praise from visiting World Bank president Jim Yong Kim, who declared that the Philippines would be the next Asian “miracle.”
Kim, who was in Manila for a two-day visit, also announced that the World Bank was providing $119 million for the construction of new roads, bridges and irrigation systems in Muslim Mindanao in support of efforts to promote peace and economic development in the region.
During the open forum at the Daylight Dialogue in Malacañang, Kim recalled that the World Bank had downgraded its “overall global [economic] growth forecast from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent.”
But the World Bank did not do so for the Philippine economy, where the forecast remained “around 6.4 percent with a lot of upside going into the future.
“So I will just say again maintain these reforms, continue on the path that you’re on, and I think the future is very bright for the Philippines,” Kim said.
Foundation for future
Kim later offered a toast during a luncheon in the Palace, saying to President Aquino that “each of those things you’re doing are not only the right thing to do but they’re laying the foundations for your economic growth in the future.”
“And we are absolutely certain that the impact of your administration will be felt far beyond the six years that you have as President,” Kim said.
He said President Aquino should take much of the credit for the Philippine turnaround.
“Can the Philippines be the next Asian miracle? [After] coming here, I think there is no question that is the case,” Kim said.
Kim heaped praise on Aquino’s antigraft campaign, which has seen the President’s predecessor and three sitting senators charged with corruption, as well as the impeachment of a Chief Justice.
“Among the most important things you can do is tackle corruption and . . . that is one of the things that the [Aquino] government is doing frankly better than any government in the world,” Kim said.
“Around the world, the spread of information technology is converging with grassroots movements for transparency, accountability and citizen empowerment,” he said.
Under Aquino’s leadership, he said, “the Philippines is absolutely at the forefront of this transformation.”
Kim said the Philippines, where one quarter of the roughly 100 million people live in deep poverty, had huge potential.
He cited the country’s strong macroeconomic fundamentals, prudent monetary policies and young workforce.
Kim’s strong endorsement was a timely boost for Aquino, with two polls released this week showing the President’s public support dropping to record lows amid deep controversy over an economic stimulus program.
The Supreme Court on July 1 ruled the Disbursement Acceleration Program (DAP) was unconstitutional, with 13 justices handing down a unanimous decision that Aquino should not have bypassed Congress in spending P167 billion.
Aquino on Monday said the government would appeal the Supreme Court ruling.
Aid for Mindanao
Kim announced fresh World Bank aid financing for Muslim Mindanao at a news conference at the World Bank office in Taguig City.
Muslim Mindanao remains one of the poorest regions in the Philippines, with development held back by four decades of conflict between separatist rebels and government forces.
“We’ll support the peace process in conflict-affected areas,” said Kim, who is here for a two-day visit.
Kim noted that the poverty rate in conflict-affected areas in Mindanao was at 50 percent, or more than twice the national average.
He said the $119 million in aid financing would be made available to the government to bankroll the construction of new farm-to-market roads, bridges, communal irrigation systems and potable water projects in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM, which will be expanded under a peace agreement signed in March between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), the largest rebel group in the region.
The government and the MILF are seeking the enforcement of the agreement, which grants broad autonomy to the expanded Muslim region, by next January.
The fresh World Bank financing is part of the Philippine Rural Development Project (PRDP) that Kim himself announced this week during a visit to Leyte province.
Under the PRDP, the government would receive $508 million in concessional loans from the World Bank to raise rural incomes across the country.
The PRDP will be presented to the World Bank’s board of executive directors next month.
On top of the new aid, the International Finance Corp. (IFC), the World Bank’s private investment arm, is also working on projects that will generate 6,000 new jobs in Mindanao.
Kim said the bank remained confident of the Philippines’ prospects, citing robust investments by the Aquino administration in areas such as education and healthcare over the last four years.
“Spending on health and education has doubled. This is extremely important,” Kim said, noting that the full impact of the investments would continue to be felt for decades to come.–Inquirer With a report from AFP
MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines received another credit-rating upgrade, this time from Japan-based R&I, in recognition of the reforms put in place by the Aquino administration that had paved the way for the country’s economic boom.
R&I announced Wednesday it raised the Philippines’ long-term foreign currency issuer rating by a notch from the minimum investment grade of BBB- to BBB due to a consistent rise in per-capita income in the country following substantial investments in infrastructure.
The rating was assigned a “stable” outlook, which means it is unlikely to change within a year.
At the same time, R&I maintained the country’s short-term debt rating at a-2, which indicates high certainty that short-term financial obligations would be paid.
“The Philippines’ economy continues to show strong growth, thanks to brisk investment coupled with private consumption driven by remittances from overseas Filipinos. This should allow for relatively high growth and raise per-capita income levels steadily,” R & I said in a report, adding that this would allow for a relatively high growth and steady increase per capita income.
Per-capita income in the Philippines has been modest compared with those of more advanced neighbors, but the country is catching up in this area. From $3,684 in 2009, per capita income in the country (using current prices and purchasing power parity) increased to $4,649 last year.
R&I likewise cited the country’s healthy fiscal situation, which should result in increased public spending. “Savings in interest payments, thanks to fiscal consolidation, help the government to finance infrastructure projects. Budget execution is also expected to accelerate,” it said.
The Philippines has set a ₱404.3 billion budget for public infrastructure spending this year, 40 percent higher than the 2013 figure.
R&I also said the rollout of more projects under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) program would help boost more job-generating investments and sustain the rise in incomes.
Earlier this year, the government awarded contracts for two PPP projects, namely the ₱P1.72-billion automated fare collection and single ticketing system for the MRT and the LRT, and the P17.5-billion Mactan Cebu International Airport expansion project. This brings to seven the total number, and to ₱62.6 billion the aggregate cost, of the PPP projects awarded so far.
Aside from this, R&I recognized the country’s sound macroeconomic fundamentals, including ample foreign-exchange reserves, improving manageability of government debt, improving tax collections and within-target inflation R&I, however, expressed concern over who will succeed President Aquino when he steps down from office in 2016.
“There is risk that the next government will not be as reform-minded as the Aquino administration. However, pressures from growing international relationships, such as the establishment of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015, along with public expectation for sustained reform initiatives, should deter the post-Aquino government from going backwards,” R&I said.
Meanwhile, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. welcomed the upgrade, saying this validates soundness of existing policies.
“The latest development on the country’s credit standing is a recognition of a host of favorable macroeconomic indicators, particularly an inflation outlook that is conducive for business and the stability of the financial system amidst a difficult operating environment,” Tetangco said.
“The upgrade is an expression of confidence, in part, on the ability of the Monetary Authority to implement appropriate and timely measures that ward off threats to the economic stability we are enjoying. The BSP will continue to craft policies that will help maintain this stability,” he added.
Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima likewise affirmed the focus on sustainability of favorable trends for the economy.
“Reforms that this government has started to institutionalize help ensure that the positive momentum will not falter,” Purisima said.
“On the fiscal front, administrative and policy reforms implemented by the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) will make it easier in the future to keep the growth trend in public revenues,” he said.
Budget Secretary Florencio Butch Abad said the latest credit upgrade only confirms that “the Philippines is poised to become one of Asia’s major commercial hubs. The country has never been more ready to expand its market to accommodate local and foreign investments.”
“When investors bring their business into the country because of our lower risk profile, we can look forward to implementing more public works and creating broader job opportunities for our growing workforce,” Abad said.
“A key component of achieving investment grade is ensuring the stability and the reach of our economic expansion. Crucial to our economic development, of course, is the facilitation of robust and efficient spending. While we are now addressing challenges in the public expenditure process, we have no doubt that government spending will continue to spur the country’s growth, especially as the budget provides greater support for the Administration’s socio-economic programs,” Abad said. – PhilSTAR With Kathleen Martin
Philippines Gross Reserves Rise up to $81 Billion US Dollars end June 2014 to up $88 Billion end 2014
Philippines International Gross Reserves may rise up to $88 Billion US Dollars end of 2014. Photo: the-icsgroup.com
The Philippines' foreign exchange reserves rose for the fourth consecutive month in June to $80.7 billion as foreign money in various forms continued to flow into the country, the central bank reported Monday.
Documents released Monday showed the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) rose to their highest level for the year and remained more than ample to protect the country from external crises.
The increase in reserves was due mainly to the revaluation adjustments on the BSP’s gold holdings, net foreign currency deposits by the Bureau of the Treasury, and income from the BSP’s investments abroad.
“These inflows were partially offset by payments for maturing foreign exchange obligations of the national government,” the BSP said in a statement.
At the end of June, the country’s GIR was up by half a billion dollars from the month before. Year-on-year, however, the reserves were still lower than the $81.22 billion in June of 2013.
The country’s reserves, which are held by the central bank, serve as a line of defense for economic shocks that lead to shortages in dollars that the government and businesses need to do business with the rest of the world.
A shortage of foreign exchange would force local businesses and the government to buy dollars from outside at higher prices, which would bring the value of the peso down. A weaker peso makes imported goods more expensive. For the government, it increases the cost of servicing foreign obligations, straining the state’s resources.
The GIR remained enough to cover 11 months’ worth of imports of goods and payments of services and income. This is higher than the international benchmark of three months. It is also equivalent to 7.7 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity.
Last week, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa C. Guinigundo said the official forecast for the Philippines' yearend reserves was up for review. He said massive outflow of foreign exchange in the form of investments at the start of the year might result in a more “conservative” forecast.
As it stands, the BSP expects to end the year with as much as a record $88 billion in reserves. -Business World Online
A Philippine Navy personnel stands in front of an AgustaWestland AW109 helicopter before it takes off during the bilateral maritime exercise between the Philippine Navy and U.S. Navy dubbed as Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT), aboard the Philippine Navy vessel BRP Ramon Alcaraz in the South China Sea. AP/Noel Celis
SAN ANTONIO, Philippines — More than 100 Filipino and U.S. marines in assault amphibious vehicles conducted a mock assault on imaginary enemies in military drills Monday on a beach in northwestern Philippines fronting the South China Sea, where Manila is locked in a territorial dispute with China.
The amphibious tanks sailed from a U.S. ship anchored a distance away, then rolled onto the beach of San Antonio, Zambales, northwest of the Philippine capital Manila, disgorging the Filipino and American sailors and marines armed with automatic rifles.
The exercise is part of the annual Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training that the U.S. conducts with its allies in Asia, including the Philippines, to address maritime security, strengthen partnerships and enhance interoperability.
A member of Philippine Navy loads bullets for a machine gun during the bilateral maritime exercise in the South China Sea waters claimed by Beijing, Sunday, June 29, 2014. AP/Noel Celis
Sailors assigned to the Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain depart the Philippine navy frigate BRP Ramon Alcaraz (PF16). Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh
A member of U.S. Navy mans a weapon during CARAT 2014. AP/Noel Celis
U.S. Navy personnel raise their flag during CARAT 2014. The United States and the Philippines kicked off joint naval exercises in the South China Sea near waters claimed by Beijing, amid tense territorial rows between China and its neighbors AP/Noel Celis
U.S. and Philippine Navy officers stand for an invocation during the opening of the 20th Cooperation Afloat Readiness And Training (CARAT) joint U.S.-Philippines naval exercise at the former U.S. naval base of Subic. AP/Bullit Marquez
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) transits into Subic Bay. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh
Rear Adm. Jaime S. Bernardino, commander of the Philippine Fleet, shakes hands with Rear Adm. Stuart B. Munsch, commander of Task Force 74, during the opening ceremony. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh
The Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS John S. McCain (DDG 56) is moored in Subic Bay. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh
Members of the U.S. and Philippine navies salute during the opening ceremony of Cooperation Afloat Readiness and Training (CARAT) 2014. Philstar.com/US Navy/Jay Pugh
Lt. j.g. Raymond Piana, navigations officer of the Whidbey Island-class amphibious dock landing ship USS Ashland (LSD 48), center, shows a chart to Philippine marine Col. Custodio Parcon, left, during a tour of the ship's pilot house. Philstar.com/US Navy/Raymond Diaz III
Officials say the maneuvers are meant to improve coordination and capabilities but are not directed at China, which has been criticized for its increasingly assertive behavior in disputed South China Sea territories.
"Whenever we do an exercise, we always train to improve our capabilities, it is not meant for whatever threat or situation that are current," said Philippine Navy Commodore Roland Joseph Mercado.
Marine Maj. Damon Torres, commanding officer of the U.S. landing force in the exercise, said the drills are a good opportunity to coordinate and learn about each other's capabilities. - Philstar