Rebuilding for the Better Philippines updates
Filipino soldiers wave from the dilapidated Sierra Madre ship of the Philippines Navy as it is anchored near Ayungin shoal (Second Thomas Shoal) in the Spratly group of islands in the South China Sea, west of Palawan, Philippines, in this photo taken in May. Photo: Reuters
Philippines reinforcing rusting Navy ship on Spratly reef outpost
Manila: The Philippines navy is quietly reinforcing the hull and deck of a rusting ship it ran aground on a disputed South China Sea reef in 1999 to stop it breaking apart, determined to hold the shoal as Beijing creates a string of man-made islands nearby.
Using wooden fishing boats and other small craft, the navy has run the gauntlet of the Chinese coastguard to move cement, steel, cabling and welding equipment to the BRP Sierra Madre since late last year, according to two navy officers who have been inside the vessel.
The BRP Sierra Madre, a marooned transport ship which Philippine Marines live on as a military outpost, photographed last year. Photo: Reuters
The 100 meter-long tank landing ship was built for the US Navy during World War Two. It was eventually transferred to the Philippines navy, which deliberately grounded it on Second Thomas Shoal to mark Manila's claim to the reef in the Spratly archipelago of the South China Sea. A small contingent of Philippine soldiers are stationed onboard.
Manila regards Second Thomas Shoal, which lies 195 km south-west of the Philippines region of Palawan, as being within its exclusive economic zone. China, which claims virtually all the South China Sea, says the reef is part of its territory.
"We know China has been waiting for the ship to disintegrate but we are doing everything to hold it together," said one of the officers, adding that while the work was progressing slowly, it should be finished by the year-end.
A newly deployed Philippine Marine, part of a military detachment stationed aboard the BRP Sierra Madre, fishes near the ship in the disputed Second Thomas Shoal, part of the Spratly Islands in the South China Sea in this photo taken last year. Photo: Reuters
The other naval officer said welding was being done at night because of the heat. Concrete foundations were being laid inside the ship's hull to try to stabilize it, he added.
Without giving exact dates, both sources said they witnessed the repairs taking place earlier this year. They declined to be identified because they were not authorized to speak to the media. The soldiers currently stationed on the ship, who are demolition experts, were doing the work, said the second source.
Just to the west of Second Thomas Shoal is Mischief Reef, one of seven coral formations in the Spratlys that China is rapidly turning into islands that Beijing says will have undefined military purposes.
Vietnam, Malaysia, Taiwan and Brunei also have overlapping claims to the Spratly waterway, which is some 1,100 km from the Chinese mainland.
Asked about the repairs, Philippine Foreign Ministry spokesman Charles Jose declined to comment. But such work would not violate an informal code of conduct signed in 2002 by China and south-east Asian states that prohibited any change to the status quo in disputed areas, he said.
"In our view, repairs and maintenance of existing facilities are allowed ... especially if such repairs and maintenance work are for the safety of our personnel and safety of navigation," Mr Jose added.
A Philippines general familiar with the repairs said the ship's hull and deck were being strengthened, and air-conditioning units added.
"We are improving the living quarters inside, to make life for our soldiers more comfortable," he said, declining to give further details about the repairs or to be identified.
Photos show a pockmarked vessel covered in rust, sitting on the permanently submerged reef but listing slightly to one side. Much of the boat's hull is visible.
Besides being a military outpost, the BRP Sierra Madre is also a commissioned Philippine navy ship.
That means Manila could request U.S. military assistance under a decades-old security treaty with Washington if the ship was attacked, said senior Philippine military officials.
"Even if it's covered with rust, it will remain an active duty commissioned navy ship. It's a symbol of our sovereignty," said the Philippine general.
Second Thomas Shoal illustrates the mismatch in power between the Philippines and China.
Since the start of 2014, the Philippine navy's regular attempts to resupply soldiers on the BRP Sierra Madre with food and water have become a cat-and-mouse routine, with large Chinese coastguard vessels on patrol in the area trying to block the path of the smaller Philippine boats, naval officials said.
The Philippine vessels have always got through by making a run for the shoal's shallow waters, which aren't deep enough for the Chinese coastguard, naval officials said. The tear-shaped shoal itself is large, some 10-11 nautical miles from top to bottom.
Zhang Baohui, a mainland security expert at Hong Kong's Lingnan University, said Beijing would be angry about the repairs, adding that Chinese ships would probably continue their "menacing" tactics. But they would not do anything that could be considered an act of war, Dr Zhang said.
"The larger geo-strategic context is more important than Second Thomas Shoal," he said. - Reuters/The Sydney Morning Herald
Google Maps shows the name Scarborough Shoal for the disputed island Photo: Google Maps
Google drops Chinese name from Maps after South China Sea controversy
Following pressure from the Philippines, Google redacts the Chinese name for the disputed Scarborough Shoal in the South China Sea
Google has removed the Chinese name for a disputed shoal in the South China Sea from its Maps service, following protests from Philippine citizens.
Google Maps English service on Tuesday corrected the labeling of the atoll to read Scarborough Shoal, the internationally neutral term for the territory claimed by both the Philippines and China.
Chinese protesters in Los Angeles, part of an escalating territorial dispute over the Huangyan Island, the Chinese name for Scarborough Shoal (Alamy)- image: The Telegraph
The move came after more than 2,000 people signed an online petition on Change.org asking for Google to stop identifying the shoal as part of China’s Zhongsha Island chain.
“We’ve updated Google Maps to fix the issue. We understand that geographic names can raise deep emotions which is why we worked quickly once this was brought to our attention,” Google’s office in Manila said in a statement.
In 2012, China and the Philippines engaged in a standoff at Scarborough Shoal, a rich fishing ground, after a Philippine warship attempted to expel Chinese fishing boats in the area. China has controlled the shoal since, though it is some 650 km away from Hainan island, the nearest major Chinese landmass.
China bases its claim to the area on its “nine-dash line”, a demarcation based on historical records that decrees almost the entire to South China Sea as Chinese territory.
A Filipino holds a sign during a demonstration in front of the Chinese embassy in Los Angeles (Alamy) - image: The Telegraph
The Philippines claims the shoal as part of its exclusive economic zone under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
“China’s sweeping claim of South China Sea under their nine-dash line purportedly historical boundary is illegal and is creating tension among nations,” the petition read.
“Google maps showing this is part of Zhongsha island chain gives credence to what is plainly a territory grab that peace loving nations should stand against.”
Construction at Kagitingan (Fiery Cross) Reef in the disputed Spratly Islands in the south China Sea by China (EPA) -image: The Telegraph
The kerfuffle comes at a moment when tension between China and the Philippines over South China Sea territory is high, following months of rapid and dramatic land reclamation work by China on the Spratly Islands, another disputed archipelago.
Last week the Philippines launched a case in the Permanent Court of Attribution in The Hague in an attempt to prove that China’s “nine-dash line” claim is incompatible with UNCLOS. - Source: The Telegraph
Japan credit rating agency raises Philippine rating
THE Philippines has received another credit rating upgrade, which is the highest rating the country has ever achieved.
In a report released Monday, Japan Credit Rating Agency Ltd. (JCR) gave the Philippines BBB+ from BBB rating. This was just a notch away from the minimum score in the "A" category.
The latest upgrade from JCR is the 22nd positive rating action (covering both improvement in outlook and actual credit scores) for the Philippines from major international credit rating agencies since 2010, the Investor Relations Office (IRO) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said.
This development places the Philippines' credit rating two places ahead of Indonesia's BBB- and at par with that of India, whose economy is seven times the size of that of the Philippines.
"JCR is of the view that the Philippine economy will, by and large, sustain an annual growth of around 6 percent in the years to come driven by strong domestic demand," the rating agency said.
In the report, JCR highlighted the ability of the Philippines to maintain sound fiscal position, high external liquidity, and solid economic growth.
It also cited general stability in the country's political situation even as potential candidates for national positions gear up for the 2016 elections.
JCR also noted the stable social situation amid inroads in poverty reduction, with the poverty rate falling from 28.6 percent in 2009 to 25.8 percent in the first half of 2014.
The new credit rating is assigned a "stable" outlook, which means adjustment is unlikely in the short term.
Government economic officials welcomed the upgrade, which marked the third positive rating action from JCR over the past five years.
"The latest ratings decision of JCR, which makes the Philippines very close to securing a rating within the 'A' category, appropriately reflects the strength exhibited by the economy. Inflation has remained low, external liquidity ample, and banking system sound. All this has been achieved despite a challenging external environment," BSP Governor Amando Tetangco said.
"The upgrade to BBB+ is a recognition partly of how the country’s fiscal sector has transformed since 2010. Fiscal reforms, both legislative and administrative, have resulted in more buoyant revenue collections, manageable deficits, and lower debt service burden. The pace by which the debt burden has declined over the years is one solid proof of the rare kind of fiscal discipline that the Philippines exercises," Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said.
IRO, which serves as the government's central point of contact for credit-rating agencies, underscored the need for public vigilance to ensure that the Philippines keeps its hard-earned investment grade sovereign credit ratings beyond 2016.
"The Philippines has achieved unprecedented gains in its credit standing over the past five years. After suffering from stubborn speculative credit ratings not too long ago, the Philippines now enjoys a seal of good housekeeping from all major international credit rating agencies," IRO Executive Director Editha Martin said.
"There should be no turning back. The need to maintain good governance – which boosts confidence of investors, creditors, rating institutions, and the general public – even after a change in leadership in 2016 cannot be overemphasized," Martin said.- (SDR/Sunnex)
The Fate of West Philippine Sea/South China Sea at the United Nation's Tribunal begin its Journey in Hague vs China
The Philippine delegation, with lawyers and advocates, before the start of Commencement of the 1st Round of Philippines Argument.- Image CNN Philippines
South China Sea dispute: Philippines warns China flouting UN maritime laws
THE HAGUE: The Philippines has appealed to an international tribunal to declare China's claims to most of the South China Sea illegal, warning the integrity of United Nations' maritime laws is at stake.
In opening comments to the tribunal in the Hague on Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario said the Philippines had sought judicial intervention because China's behavior had become increasingly "aggressive" and negotiations had proved futile.
Del Rosario said the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea, which the Philippines and China have both ratified, should be used to resolve their bitter territorial dispute.
"The case before you is of the utmost importance to the Philippines, to the region, and to the world," del Rosario told the tribunal.
"In our view, it is also of utmost significance to the integrity of the convention, and to the very fabric of the legal order of the seas and oceans."
China insists it has sovereign rights to nearly all of the South China Sea, a strategically vital waterway with shipping lanes through which about a third of all the world's traded oil passes.
Its claim, based on ancient Chinese maps, reaches close to the coasts of its southern neighbors.
The Philippines, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan also have claims to parts of the sea, which have for decades made it a potential military flashpoint.
Tensions have risen sharply in recent years as a rising China has sought to stake its claims more assertively.
Following a stand-off between Chinese ships and the weak Filipino Navy in 2012, China took control of a rich fishing ground called Scarborough Shoal that is within the Philippines' exclusive economic zone.
China has also undertaken giant reclamation activities that have raised fears it will use artificial islands to build new military outposts close to the Philippines and other claimants.
China has rejected all criticism over its actions, insisting it has undisputed sovereign rights to the sea.
However del Rosario told the tribunal in the Hague that China's argument of claiming the sea based on "historic rights" was without foundation.
"The so-called nine dash line (based on an old map used by China) has no basis whatsoever under international law," he said.
The Philippines submitted its case to the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration, a 117-state body that rules on disputes between countries, in early 2013.
Del Rosario's comments, held in closed door proceedings but released by his office in Manila on Wednesday, were part of the Philippines' opening oral arguments.
China has refused to participate in the proceedings and said it will not abide by any ruling, even though it is has ratified the UN's Convention on the Law of the Sea.
However the Philippines hopes a ruling in its favor will pressure China into making concessions.
Any ruling from the tribunal is not expected until next year.
The week covering July 7 to 13 will be pivotal to the Philippines’ legal battle to assert its claims over the portion of the South China Sea that it calls the West Philippine Sea.- Image CNN Philippines
Day 1: PH begins arguments in The Hague
On July 7, 2015, the Philippines has begun arguing before the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague that the treaty-based court has jurisdiction — and should intervene — in the country's dispute with China over the West Philippine Sea.
Malacañan said the first day of hearings began with Solicitor General Florin Hilbay's introduction of the Philippines' case, and his presentation of the order of speakers.
Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario made a plea for the tribunal to recognize its jurisdiction. He noted that the case is important not just to the country but also to the global community, owing to its impact on the rule of law in maritime disputes.
Paul Reichler, chief counsel of the Philippines, presented the justification for the five-man tribunal's jurisdiction over the Philippine claims under the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS).
Reichler was followed by Philippe Sands, who explained that the Philippines did not raise questions of sovereignty over land or maritime delimitation.
Sands is the director of the University College London's Centre on International Courts and Tribunals.
The first round of Philippine arguments will continue Monday (July 8) with two more hearings, from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m. and 8:30 p.m. to 11:30 p.m., Philippine time.
A few hours before the hearing, Undersecretary Abigail Valte, deputy presidential spokesperson, told CNN Philippines that the delegation is cautiously optimistic that the tribunal would rule in favor of Philippine' on the jurisdiction issue.
Valte is also in The Hague with the Philippine delegation.
"We have been preparing every day, every step of the way to come to a proceeding like this," she said.
The opening ceremony of the 2005 SEA Games in the Philippines, where the Philippines finished number one overall. File Photo by Joel Nito/AFP
Philippines set to host 2019 SEA Games
The biennial regional meet returns to the Philippines for the first time since 2005
MANILA, Philippines – The Philippines has agreed to host the 2019 Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) announced.
Brunei previously pulled out of hosting the 2019 Games due to lack of venues and preparation time.
PSC said it will maximize existing facilities it used when the Philippines last hosted in 2005 and will touch base with the management of Mall of Asia (MOA) and Iglesia Ni Cristo for use of the MOA Arena and the Philippine Arena.
PSC Chairman Richie Garcia reportedly said he doesn't think the budget "will be that big" as they also plan on using the Subic Freeport for water sports. He said most of the events will be held in Metro Manila.
The MOA Arena is constantly used for local sporting events such as the UAAP, NCAA and PBA, but it also hosted the 2013 FIBA Asia Championship, the 2013 NBA Global Games and the 2015 UFC Fight Night Manila.
The Philippine Arena is a multi-purpose indoor arena opened in 2014 and is owned by Iglesia Ni Cristo. It has a capacity of 55,000 and is located in Santa Maria, Bulacan.
Within the same vicinity is also a 25,000-seater Philippine Sports Stadium that hosted the national men's football team Philippine Azkals's World Cup Qualifiers match against Bahrain. (IN PHOTOS: A glimpse inside the Philippine Sports Stadium)
The Philippines last hosted the regional games in 2005 where it won its first overall championship. The country's performance in the biennial meet has since plummeted with the Philippines suffering its worst ever finish at 7th in the 2013 edition in Myanmar.
The Philippines improved its standing to 6th this year as Singapore hosted but still equaled its gold medal haul of 29 from 2013.
Malasya is set to host the 2017 SEA Games.
2019 could be a big year for Philippine sports if it also manages to snag the hosting rights to the FIBA Basketball World Cup to be held in the same year.
The final bid for the World Cup hosting will take place on August 7. – Rappler.com
Philippines preparing Billion Dollars fund for Acquisition of NEW Submarine, Missiles, Ships, radars for AFP Upgrade
Kilo Class Diesel Submarine. Del Rosario said that between 2018 and 2023 the Philippines would buy electric-diesel submarines ($200 - $500 Million USD per unit)and advanced missile systems.
PH ramps up military spending in face of China threat
MANILA - The Philippines plans to ramp up military spending over the next 13 years, earmarking more than $20 billion to modernize its forces in the face of Beijing's maritime ambitions in the disputed West Philippine Sea (South China Sea), a top Air Force official told Reuters.
Major-General Raul del Rosario, military chief of plans, said the blueprint includes installing radars and sensors, and buying equipment such as submarines, frigates, fighters, surveillance planes and missile systems.
"By the time, we complete this plan, we will have complete coverage of the South China Sea," said del Rosario, a former fighter pilot, showing the military's detailed plan that was approved on Friday.
"We will have 24/7 awareness of what is happening in the disputed area and we'll be able to respond quicker to any contingency in our own exclusive economic zone."
He said the ambitious plan was initiated in 2013, but top brass had only approved overall spending of 998 billion pesos ($22.11 billion) last week.
Del Rosario said 83 billion pesos had been earmarked for the first five years, ₱444 billion pesos for the second five years and ₱471 billion pesos for the last five years.
In 1995, Congress had earmarked ₱364 billion pesos for a similar 15-year plan. Less than one-tenth of that sum was actually spent by 2010.
The modernization program is designed to strengthen Manila's claims in the South China Sea, believed to be rich in energy deposits.
China has become increasingly assertive in the South China Sea, building artificial islands in areas over which the Philippines and other countries have rival claims. The moves have sparked alarm regionally and in Washington.
SUBMARINES, MISSILES AND SURVEILLANCE PLANES
President Benigno Aquino has promised the military about ₱34 billion pesos this year, which will fund the purchase of two frigates and a twin-engine long range maritime aircraft.
So far, the government has given the military ₱9.4 billion pesos in 2014. This has been used to purchase eight combat utility helicopters and as a downpayment for 12 FA-50 fighter-trainers from South Korea. Two of the aircraft are expected in 2016.
Del Rosario said that between 2018 and 2023 the Philippines would buy electric-diesel submarines and advanced missile systems.
Three aerial surveillance radars with a range of 350 nautical miles will also be installed in Ilocos Norte, Lubang island and Mount Salacot in Palawan, all facing the South China Sea to detect movements in the disputed area.
These will complement the navy's two surface sensors capable of detecting ship activities 200 miles away. Three surveillance planes will also be on constant patrol in the area.
"We do not aim to defeat China," del Rosario said. "But our goal is make any state think twice before attacking. We will make sure anybody attacking us would end up with a bloodied nose." - ABS-CBN News
Philippine Azkals National Football Team - image:Philstar.com/File
Azkals ascend in FIFA rankings
The Philippine Azkals got on Thursday their highest FIFA rankings so far at 124.
The Azkals that was ranked 137th in the world last month, climbed 13 notches following their success in the joint World Cup and Asian Cup qualifiers.
Consequently, the Philippines remained the No.1 team in the Southeast Asian region and No.17 in the continental rankings. The Azkals will continue their journey to the World Cup on September 8 when they face Uzbekistan in a home game at the Philippine Sports Stadium.
Meanwhile, Newbie Azkal Luke Woodland might be the possible answer to the team’s center back problem according to veteran defender Rob Gier.
“I do see him as a central midfielder in the future but in the meantime having more competition for places in all areas of the team can only be good for the development of the squad,” Gier said on Woodland in an interview with The Manila Times.
Woodland, who is currently searching for a club after being released by long-time team Bolton Wanderers FC, last played for Oldham Athletic FC on a one-month loan agreement with his mother club.
At the young age of 19, Woodland is a seasoned competitor having represented England in youth level international tourneys.
Gier believes that Woodland, standing six-foot tall fits perfectly in the back-line.
“Seeing his size and physique in person, it was obvious that he could also be an asset at the back,” Gier said.
He added that Woodland could also fill-up a defense position.
“Center back has been a position we have struggled to find any real depth so learning that Luke is capable of play there is a big positive,” he said.
Having three natural center backs, Gier, Juani Guirado and Amani Aguinaldo, it is crucial for the Azkals to put a competent man in the center back position.
After being barred to play in the first game against Bahrain because of eligibility issues, Woodland is now cleared to play for the Philippines.
He was part of coach Thomas Dooley’s new 3-5-2 formation used by the Azkals in their second game against Yemen.
“He dealt with the disappointment of missing out on the first game very professionally and produced a solid display against Yemen,” Gier said. - The Manila Times
Lt. Gen. Iriberri is new Armed Forces of the Philippines chief; Facing Graft charges for ₱97.7 million Php Contract
In his speech during the change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo, Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri said he will pursue a "straight and true" path. - image:CNN Philippines
Lt. Gen. Iriberri is new AFP chief
Metro Manila (CNN Philippines) — Lt. Gen. Hernando Iriberri is the new chief of the Armed Forces. He is the 46th to assume the position.
On Friday morning (July 10), Iriberri gave a speech at the change of command ceremony at Camp Aguinaldo where he vowed to follow "the path that is straight and true" — a reference to the Aquino administration's "Tuwid na Daan" campaign against corruption.
In his speech, he also expressed his acceptance of the responsibilities as chief of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).
"Mga mahal kong kababayan, buong pagpapakumbaba ko pong tinatanggap ang hamon at buong puso ko pong gagampanan ang aking katungkulan."
[Translation: My beloved countrymen, I humbly accept the challenges and will wholeheartedly perform my tasks as the AFP chief.]
He also vowed to win and secure peace in the country with his own brand of leadership.
"I only have one principle of leadership. To be a good leader, one must know how to understand people and the situation. To our countrymen, I am all yours to serve."
During the ceremony, President Benigno Aquino III ordered the newly appointed AFP chief to continue the reforms implemented by former AFP chief Gen. Gregorio Catapang Jr.
He also ordered Iriberri to ensure a peaceful and clean elections in 2016.
A Surigao del Sur native, Iriberri was the former Army chief, and before that, was the chief of the 7th Infantry Division, based in Nueva Ecija.
He was commissioned in the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) after graduating from the Philippine Military Academy (PMA). He was part of the PMA Matikas Class of 1983.
Iriberri served as the Army spokesman in 2000 when Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin was its commanding general. When Gazmin was appointed as the Defense secretary, he served as the cabinet secretary's most senior aide.
Gazmin is believed to be highly influential in military appointments in the Aquino administration.
The new AFP chief, however, is facing graft charges before the Ombudsman for the alleged failure to issue documents involving three contracts worth ₱97.7 million Php. This resulted in the shelving of contracts won by Joavi Philippines.
The contracts were for ammunition delivery in 2010 and 2012. But Iriberri said he is ready to answer the charges. - CNN Philippines' David Santos and Anjo Alimario contributed to this report.
Philippines sets up innovation center, takes a page from Singapore, Malaysia
The Philippines has announced a plan to build a national innovation center – taking cue from Silicon Valley in the US, Block 71 in Singapore, and MaGIC in Malaysia.
Government agencies, including the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI), are collaborating with startup accelerator IdeaSpace for this effort.
With initial funding of ₱30 million Php (US$665,000) from the government and counterpart funding of up to ₱15 million Php (US$332,000) from private sector and academe, the innovation center will have two locations – both of which will be near the country's premier universities.
"When we founded IdeaSpace in 2012, we wanted to find the next big innovative idea and create a startup ecosystem that embodies the Silicon Valley-mindset of using technology and science to create massive change in the world," said Earl Martin Valencia, president and co-founder at IdeaSpace.
"Now, we realize the dream to create Philippines' own innovation hub with our initial collaboration with the government and the academe where startups and high-potential research can get the support they need in order to grow and thrive," Valencia added.
The Philippine innovation center will foster technology advancement and startup ecosystem growth. Valencia said the hubs will be set up near key academic institutions to imbibe the spirit of innovative and entrepreneurial thinking among students, to tap into a wellspring of engineering and technology talent from these universities, as well as to address the growing interest of students in founding their own startups.
Calling on more partners
The center will also serve as a venue for government agencies and academic institutions to promote products, facilitate transfer of their R&D results, and establish connections with the investment community.
"It has always been DOST's thrust to support technology transfer of R&D output, either through commercialization or deployment for public good. The innovation center, we believe, will be a critical and effective agent in delivering R&D results to the people," DOST undersecretary Rowena Cristina Guevara said.
DTI undersecretary Nora Terrado added: "The DTI strongly supports entrepreneurship and innovation in the Philippines to realize economic growth that is truly inclusive. Tech startups present a growing spectrum of opportunities for Filipinos to compete in the international stage as they create new solutions to pressing social and environmental problems. In the process, this will spur economic activities resulting from the value and employment generated."
Valencia notes the initiatives represents the Philippines' first ever public-private partnership that focuses on innovation and aims to improve the country's position in the global digital economy. "We can't do it alone, so we're calling on more partners… to help us push this initiative forward."
The creation of the innovation hub will be a critical component in boosting the Philippines' ranking in the Digital Evolution Index (DEI), which ranks countries in terms of their readiness for the quickly expanding digital economy.
The Philippines is one of the so-called "break-out" nations in the recent global DEI study conducted by the US-based Fletcher School at Tufts University, using data from 2008 to 2013. The country stands alongside China, Malaysia, Thailand, and Vietnam as one of the "rapidly advancing countries" in the global digital topography.
What do you think of the Philippines' plan to build its own innovation hub? Will it take off? What are the challenges? And what lessons can the Philippines learn from neighbors Singapore and Malaysia? Feel free to share your thoughts. Editing by Malavika Velayanikal and Terence Lee - TECHINASIA
A stock investor looks up in a brokerage house in Shanghai. Chinese authorities have launched frantic efforts to shore up plunging stock prices following another 5.7 per cent decline in the country's main market index on Friday. Source: AP
Chinese chaos worse than Greece: Chinese stock market loses $3.2 trillion, authorities inject cash
WHILE the world worries about Greece, there’s an even bigger problem closer to home: China.
A stock market crash there has seen $3.2 trillion wiped from the value of Chinese shares in just three weeks, triggering an emergency response from the government and warnings of “monstrous” public disorder.
And the effects for Australia could be serious, affecting our key commodity exports and sparking the beginning of a period of recession-like conditions.
“State-owned newspapers have used their strongest language yet, telling people ‘not to lose their minds’ and ‘not to bury themselves in horror and anxiety’. [Our] positive measures will take time to produce results,” writes IG Markets.
“If China does not find support today, the disorder could be monstrous.”
In an extraordinary move, the People’s Bank of China has begun lending money to investors to buy shares in the flailing market. The Wall Street Journal reports this “liquidity assistance” will be provided to the regulator-owned China Securities Finance Corp, which will lend the money to brokerages, which will in turn lend to investors.
The dramatic intervention marks the first time funds from the central bank have been directed anywhere other than the banks, signaling serious concern from authorities about the crisis.
At the same time, Chinese authorities are putting a halt to any new stock listings. The market regulator announced on Friday it would limit initial public offerings — which disrupt the rest of the market — in an attempt to curb plunging share prices.
While the exact amount of assistance hasn’t been revealed, the WSJ reports no upper limit has been set.
All short-selling — the practice of betting that stocks will fall — has been banned, and Chinese media has rushed to reassure citizens.
Yesterday, shares in big state companies soared in response to the but many others sank as jittery small investors tried to cut their losses, Associated Press reports. The market benchmark Shanghai Composite closed up 2.4 percent but still was down 27 percent from its June 12 peak.
Experts fear it could turn into a full-blown crash introducing even more uncertainty into global markets as Europe teeters on the edge of a potential euro zone exit by Greece, after Sunday’s controversial referendum.
WHAT DOES IT MEAN FOR AUSTRALIA?
For Australia, the market crash in China is likely to impact earnings on key exports iron ore and coal, further slashing government revenue, while also putting downward pressure on the Australian dollar.
Jordan Eliseo, chief economist with ABC Bullion, said it was important to remember that the amount of wealth Chinese citizens have tied up in the stock market is relatively minor compared with western investors.
Stocks only make up about 8 per cent of household wealth in China, compared with around 20 per cent in developed nations.
“The market crash there is generating headlines, but it’s not going to have the same impact as a comparable crash would in a developed market,” he said.
“What it means for Australia, though, is it’s very clear there are some serious imbalances in the Chinese economy, and the rate of growth they’ve enjoyed in the past is over. There’s no question our export earnings are going to take another hit.”
Mr Eliseo predicts Australia is likely to experience “recession-like” conditions such as negative wage growth for many years to come. “I believe that’s going to be the new norm,” he said.
CRACKDOWN AS PANIC TRIGGERS ‘SUICIDE’ RUMOURS
Underscoring growing jitters amid the three-week sell-off, police in Beijing detained a man on Sunday for allegedly spreading a rumor online that a person jumped to their death in the city’s financial district due to China’s precarious stock markets.
The 29-year-old man detained was identified by the surname Tian, and is a manager at a technology and science company in Beijing, police said in a post on their official microblog.
Police said Tian’s alleged posting of the rumor took place Friday and called on internet users to obey laws and regulations, not to believe and spread rumors, and to cooperate with police.
The state-run Xinhua news agency reported that Tian allegedly posted the rumors with video clips and screenshots Friday afternoon.
The post, which is said to have gone viral, “provoked emotional responses among stock investors who suffered losses over the past weeks”, Xinhua said.
Xinhua added that a police investigation showed that the video in question had been shot on Friday morning in the eastern Chinese province of Jiangsu where a man had jumped to his death. Local police there were investigating that case, Xinhua said.
PH breaks ground for world’s first resort airport
The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) marks another milestone as it breaks ground for the world’s first resort airport – and the Aquino Administration’s first airport public-private partnership (PPP) project – on June 29.
“The kick-off ceremony for the construction of the new international terminal for the country’s second-biggest gateway, the Mactan-Cebu International Airport (MCIA), is touted to be the start of Philippine airports matching the best in the world,” said DOTC Secretary Joseph Emilio Aguinaldo Abaya.
“It will not only cement our place on the global map as a major tourist and business destination, it will boost the local economy and is projected to generate jobs especially in Cebu,” he added.
The project, which is envisioned by concessionaire GMR-Megawide Cebu Airport Corporation (GMCAC) to be regarded as the first resort airport in the world, covers the construction of a new world-class international passenger terminal building (PTB), as well as the renovation of the existing PTB and its conversion into an exclusively-domestic facility.
Construction of the new terminal will be completed in three (3) years, or by 2018, while the renovation of the existing terminal is slated to be completed in 2019. The airport’s passenger capacity will surge from 4.5 million to 12.5 million per year.
GMCAC won the auction for the 25-year PPP contract last year, after offering the government a premium bid of P 14.4 billion. Operations and maintenance (O&M) of the airport was turned over to the consortium in November 2015.
‘Soft Improvements’ implemented since last year
Immediately upon assuming O&M responsibility, GMCAC began implementing ‘soft improvements’ to the existing terminal, or those improvements which did not require major civil works, to enhance passenger experience at the gateway.
For instance, a centralized security check (CSC) system was opened earlier this month to speed up the processing time for departing guests. It features four (4) X-ray machines that can be used interchangeably, which then doubles the capacity of the final check-in counters.
To further reduce passenger queues, GMCAC also opened additional immigration counters and self-service kiosks wherein passengers can pre-check-in.
Other ‘soft improvements’ included the installation of LED bulbs for brighter lighting; the optimized use of floor space, which included transferring certain offices in exchange for more check-in counters and waiting areas; redesigning seating patterns to increase usage by passengers; and now, offering self-service check-in kiosks for faster processing.
“It is clear to us that GMCAC brings international expertise into running an airport, immediately it has already made substantial improvements without making structural works yet. What it will do now that we are breaking ground is exciting for us, and especially for travelers to and from Cebu,” Abaya remarked. - dotc.gov.ph
Philippines Receives Two F-50s From Korea
Two of the 12 FA-50 fighters of the ₱18.9 billion Php contract signed by President Benigno C. Aquino III in South Korea on March 28, 2014 has been received by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) ahead of schedule in December 2015. "FA-50PH's maiden flight took place on 19 June after the Philippines has signed a contract
Two of the 12 FA-50 fighters of the ₱18.9 Php billion contract signed by President Benigno C. Aquino III in South Korea on March 28, 2014 has been received by the Philippine Air Force (PAF) ahead of schedule in December 2015.
"FA-50PH's maiden flight took place on 19 June after the Philippines has signed a contract for 12 KAI FA-50 fighter aircraft in March last year," South Korea's Korean Aerospace Industry said
The FA-50 is an armed variant of the T-50 advanced jet trainer, which KAI jointly developed with Lockheed Martin. Other variants include the TA-50, a lightly armed variant of the original aircraft, and the T-50B, which is optimized as a performance aircraft. The T-50B is operational with South Korea's display team, the Black Eagles
High timer PAF pilots were selected to train using the FA-50 fighters in South Korea. These pilots will then become the instructor pilots to train the other pilots in army. The new FA-50s have a more advanced weaponry system than what the country has in present, which are 'ancient' planes like Nomad which can do only 8-9 hour round trips, as Pres. Aquino told reporters in Busan, South Korea. It could load up to 4.5 tons of weapons and has a wide-range of mobilization system. FA-50 has also, 20 mm three-barrel gun that can fire at extremely high rate internally installed. FA-50 can be fitted with AIM-9 Sidewinder, a short-range air-to-air missile; AGM-65, an air-to-surface missile designed for close-air support missions; cluster bombs and rocket launchers. KAI assured that by 2017 the procurement will be complete. - Manila Channel and Flight Global
Trans-Pacific Partnership Map- image: humanosphere.org
Confirmed: Philippines Wants to Join TPP
The Philippines is committed to joining the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), the country’s trade chief confirmed Wednesday morning in the clearest declaration made to date on the issue.
“I want to state clearly and irrevocably that we want to join TPP,” Philippine trade secretary Gregory Domingo told a conference at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, a Washington, D.C.-based think tank.
Domingo’s statements come after what some perceived as ambiguity in recent months about the Philippine position regarding the U.S.-led agreement, whose members currently represent more than half of global output and over 40 percent of world trade. Reports in late March had suggested that Manila would not take part in TPP negotiations under the current government due to legal and constitutional complications which imposed significant time constraints. Some had interpreted this to mean a general unwillingness of the Philippines to commit to the pact at all.
But with the confirmation in his remarks Tuesday – the clearest yet by a Philippine official – Domingo sought to assuage any doubts in Washington that he said may have been caused by a “mistranslation” of comments by Philippine officials. Domingo also reiterated that Philippine officials – including President Benigno Aquino III himself – had on several previous occasions over the past few years expressed interest in joining the TPP.
Domingo acknowledged that Manila’s willingness to join the TPP did not make confronting existing challenges to doing so any easier. As is the case for several current and potential TPP negotiating parties, there are concerns on a number of sensitive issues for the Philippines, including state-owned enterprises. Philippine officials including Domingo had previously requested “flexibility” on these matters.
Joining the TPP may also require the Philippines to amend its constitution, which currently has restrictions on foreign ownership in certain sectors. Yet Domingo acknowledged that there were not enough votes right now in the Philippine legislature to do so, even if there was a possibility that it might get to try later this year ahead of presidential elections in 2016 and the end of Aquino’s five-year term in office.
“When it comes to constitutional amendments, it is very difficult to make a prediction,” he admitted.
Nonetheless, Domingo said that it was critical for the Philippines to negotiate some kind of bilateral economic agreement with its ally the United States, which has traditionally been among Manila’s top trading partners and its largest investor. The TPP would provide an avenue for this to occur, he said.
“It behooves the Philippines to have an agreement with the United States one way or another,” he said.
Though the Philippines’ only bilateral agreement of this kind is currently with Japan, Domingo said Manila is currently pursuing a free trade agreement with the countries of the European Free Trade Association (EFTA) — Iceland, Liechtenstein, Norway, and Switzerland. He added that the Philippines had also been approached by six other countries for bilateral agreements as well.
Meanwhile, as The Diplomat previously reported, the TPP has inched forward on Capitol Hill in recent days after a period of stalling, even though there is still a long way to go. The Senate got the necessary votes to move to a standalone vote on Trade Promotion Authority (TPA) earlier this week, days after the House had passed a similar vote on its side. TPA or “fast-track” is viewed as critical to passing TPP since it ensures Congress can only have an up-or-down vote on the pact, rather than opening up and amending specific provisions, which could delay or kill the deal.
Once the TPP is finalized among the existing 12 members, U.S. officials have stressed that the agreement remains “open” to other countries once they meet the standards, including China.
The TPP currently groups the United States, Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, and Vietnam. - Diplomat