Items filtered by date: Thursday, 06 April 2017

Did PH grill China on Benham Rise?

MANILA – Did the Philippines grill China on why a Chinese ship sailed for months near Benham Rise?
Foreign Secretary Enrique Manalo said the Philippines already asked China for a clarification. Manalo said it was "enough" that China said "they recognize" the Philippines' rights over Benham Rise.
Was China's explanation enough?
Journalists asked Manalo about this on Tuesday, April 4, during a forum organized by the Foreign Correspondents Association of the Philippines (FOCAP).
Referring to China, veteran journalist Gabby Tabuñar asked Manalo, "So you never pressed them on what they were doing there?"
Manalo replied, "Yes, in fact we did, and their reply was they recognize our sovereign rights. And well, I think that's quite enough because it does indicate that they realize that they would need permission to be there, in certain parts of Benham Rise."
The Chinese ship was spotted near Benham Rise from November 2016 to January 2017. Its presence there stirred controversy because President Rodrigo Duterte said there was an agreement for China to visit Benham Rise.
The Philippines has the exclusive rights to explore and exploit Benham Rise, a 13-million-hectare underwater plateau said to be rich in resources such as natural gas.
Manalo earlier said the Philippine government didn't issue a permit to China, and that Duterte issued only a general invitation for other countries to "visit the Philippines."
Maritime law expert Jay Batongbacal, however, said the ship named Xiang Yang Hong 03 was reported by Chinese media to have conducted a "world record-setting voyage, taking samples of the seabed, conducting a benthic survey, and taking samples of the water."
'Why should that be enough?'
In the FOCAP forum on Tuesday, Jiji Press reporter Dana Batnag also asked Manalo about China's presence near Benham Rise.
She referred to China's statement that it respects the Philippines' rights. "So simply saying that 'we recognize your rights,' why should that be enough for us?"
"Well, we asked them to clarify, and that was their response," Manalo said.
Batnag replied, "But it was not a clarificatory response. Why should we accept that?"
Manalo said: "Well I think you should ask China. We asked them for that, and that's what they told us. But you know, they have consistently applied for permission, and… as I said, in many cases, they have already been denied. So in this particular case, as I said, we were investigating, and that was how they replied."
Toward the end of the FOCAP forum, Tabuñar, who emceed the event and was seated beside Manalo, asked another question that made other journalists nod.
Turning to Manalo, Tabuñar asked: "You know, I'm bothered, Mr Secretary, about your answer about Benham Rise. I can't get it out of my mind. These Chinese are there, and you ask them, what are they doing there? And all they say is, 'We respect your sovereignty.' What are they doing? Aren't you curious?"
"They may be laying mines, they may be fishing, they may be measuring. Aren't you curious as to what they're doing? Aren't you curious? If somebody comes within your home, your territory, and they say, 'O nandito ako (I'm here), because I recognize that this is yours, your sovereign rights.' And after that, no more," Tabuñar said, as other journalists laughed.
The veteran journalist said, "I want to ask, 'Ano'ng ginagawa mo rito?' (What are you doing here?)"
Manalo answered, "Well yes we're curious, that's why we asked." – Rappler.com

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Decorative ‘boho chic’ bilao sells for over P2,000 online

This may seem like an April Fool's joke, but it's not a prank and it's very real: a very sosy bilao is being sold online on Etsy for $38 or P2,021.28.
For reference, an order of "Pancit Malabon Bilao Super Big" (good for 25 people) costs P1,100.
Facebook user Jacob Walse-Domínguez posted about this find on Wednesday and GMA News Online on Saturday found the same item still available for purchasing.
Roselle of Seaside Rose Creations calls the item a "Round Rattan Tray Boho Chic Wicker Tray Woven Bamboo Bohemian Wall Hanging Rustic Decor." The item is further described as a "vintage mid century modern woven tray with elements of wicker, rattan and bamboo."
Buyers are advised that "reeds are in good condition with a few loose, due to age."
Another bilao is for sale on Etsy for over P1,400 and is decribed as "Lovely Round Bottom Shallow Oval Basket Tray" and, additionally, "Herringbone Weave Handwoven."
One user commented on Walse-Domínguez's post: "Get it here (in the Philippines) with free pancit!"
Another user tagged a friend and said, "Let's start a business!" — GMA News

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One Root of Our Inequality

We’ve heard a multitude of comments over the years about the growing wealth gap in this country. Many have attributed this to high CEO salaries and the growing differential in executive pay vs. average pay. And this can’t be denied. However, I would propose that other factors are at play, factors that have left the typical Trump voter in the middle of the country troubled by an unsubstantiate-able suspicion that the system is rigged. Let me explain. Let me begin with a story.

About two weeks ago, a technologist working on an exciting new area of invention asked me to find a connection to a high profile venture fund that was just launched. Because this discussion is alive and well, I’ll use a fictitious name in the hopes that the webcrawling robots don’t connect the dots. Let me call it BSD Capital. That’s vague enough.

BSD Capital was announced to the media as the big swinging deal in energy investing with $1 billion to play with. It was spearheaded by none other than Bill Gates and had names like George Soros, Julian Roberston, and Jeff Bezos on its board. I would have thought that a fund with such a public profile was intended to fund ideas from well…the general public. You’d think. So when I went to the website, I was a little disappointed to see this:

“As you know, BSD (name changed) is just getting started, so we aren’t considering any unsolicited investment opportunities at this time.

When our team is assembled and we are ready to evaluate proposals, we will post more information on our website about how best to engage.”

It took me exactly 4 days to figure out a workaround to this obstacle. After lamenting my great flaw of losing most of my business cards in my dusty mess, some of which belonged to the Soros-complex, I found a way in. It’s called a network.

I should have been glad, but I was miffed. If a professional or personal network was the most effective way to get an idea in front of BSD Capital, what about the average person who went to school in a square state and yet came up with the brilliant idea of creating clean and infinite power out of (just an example), say, emotional distress. Talk about an infinite source, at least in my life. Square State girl—because it will be a girl—will remain sadly out of the loop, that loop that takes a good idea, adds a little capital, stirs, shakes and gives you odds on your first billion. It factors into why one part of the country is languishing while another is funding missions into outer space. The concentration of the network, the natural cluster of connection in specific geographies, has exacerbated the wealth gap.

There is a reasonable rebuttal to this. This week, I met with an investor who did just this kind of angel funding. He put much more weight on his network, he told me. It is a natural sieve that allows him to depend on the judgment of those he knows. It is reasonable for someone to depend on his network for sourcing investments and very reasonable that private investors should be allowed to source investments by any means they like as long as those means are compliant with the law of the land.

Just wondering…could this behavior change on its own? If these big swingers at BSD Capital thought through the broader effect their clubbishness is having on society, would they make an effort to be more democratic in the way they allocate the opportunities they are creating? After all, if they are trying to change the world by giving society better energy alternatives, wouldn’t they also be motivated to democratize the opportunities they create? Moreover, if public money like CalPers and CalSters and the teachers unions understood the clubbishness of the private equity investments they are funding (this does not apply to BSD as it is private money), would they demand more democratic behavior? I have my all-powerful forward button to help me find out. I’ll let you know in a subsequent column what thoughts are shared back.

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Immigration officers not 'contractuals,' contrary to Diokno's claim

MANILA – Several immigration officers have been skipping work due to President Rodrigo Duterte’s veto of their overtime pay, and that has caused long lines at Manila's airports.
The response of Budget Secretary Benjamin Diokno on Monday, April 3: these immigration workers could be easily replaced since they hold “contractual” positions.
"Ang nature ng job nila ay job orders. 'Yung pagmamatigas nila, they can be replaced anytime 'pag hindi ka nag-report for work when you're supposed to work. Job orders sila eh saka contractual positions, hindi regular plantilla positions 'yan," Diokno said in an interview on GMA 7’s Balitanghali.
(The nature of their work is job orders. If they continue to insist they can be replaced anytime. If they don't report for work, they can be replaced anytime. They're job orders, contractual positions.)
They are part of plantilla
Diokno’s statement is wrong, as immigration officers are part of the plantilla of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).
"Yes immigration officers are holders of regular plantilla positions. Job Orders cannot perform immigration officer functions," said Antonette Mangrobang, BI spokesperson.
Ironically, it is the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) that approves the creation of plantilla positions in government.
The agency even recently approved the opening of 887 new plantilla positions, which will form the newly-created Port Operations Division of the BI.
While there are contractuals in the agency, these are mostly in the main offices and are serving administrative tasks. Immigration officers, meanwhile, are those monitoring and securing the departure and arrival of citizens and foreigners in Philippine airports, among others.
Rappler got hold of the appointment papers of two Immigration Officers I. Both documents indicate they were hired for the “permanent” position with a salary grade 11.
Asked about the inconsistency, Diokno now said immigration officers are indeed "permanent" workers, contrary to his earlier remarks. He then added there are other types of employees in the agency.
"No. What you met are permanent workers. But that's not the totality of workers. In addition, there are job orders and contract of service (COS). The latter two types do not involve employer-employee relationship," Diokno said in a text message to Rappler.
But in the earlier TV interview, Diokno was clearly referring to airport immigration officers as "contractual" employees.
Misleading salary information
The DBM also posted inaccurate information on the salary of immigration officers. In a press statement on Tuesday, April 4, the agency said these personnel earn P28,931 monthly without overtime.
Immigration officers called this a "lie to mislead the public," saying they only receive a gross monthly salary, including allowances, of P21,286 with their salary grade. Minus taxes and deductions, they take home at least P16,484.
Aside from the non-payment of overtime fees of immigration officers, Duterte's veto has also affected hundreds of contractual employees in the agency.
Since January, the contractual staff have not been receiving their monthly salary despite going to work regularly, after Duterte scrapped the source of funds in the 2017 national budget.– Rappler.com

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OFWs told to register old peso bills by June 30

MANILA – Overseas Filipinos have only until June 30 to register their old Philippine peso bills for exchange, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said this week.
The former deadline was March 31.
Filipinos living abroad have to register up to P50,000 (roughly $1,000) of their New Design Series (NDS) banknotes in the online registration for the NDS Banknote System before the month ends. NDS banknotes which have not been exchanged shall "cease to be liability of the BSP and shall be demonetized," the central bank said.
NDS banknotes registered from January 1 to March 31 would be accepted for exchange with new generation currency (NGC) banknotes by December 31.
To facilitate the exchange, the overseas Filipino must personally present his or her original passport and printed confirmation notice at any BSP office. Filipino immigrants must present their birth certificate, while non-residents must show proof of previous employment in the Philippines.
Second extension
Last week, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo announced that the Monetary Board once again extended the deadline for the exchange of old peso bills for 3 months because 284 million NDS banknotes worth P19.2 billion have not yet been replaced.
Responding to public demand, the central bank approved anew the extension of the deadline for the exchange of NDS to NGC bills to June 30 instead of March 31. The deadline was originally set for December 2016 until it was moved to March 31 this year.
By June 30, the NDS bills would lose their value.
According to Guinigundo, 2,796 OFWs from 104 countries registered their NDS holdings amounting to P30.5 million from October last year to March 22 this year. Of this number, only 480 registered their NDS banknote holdings during the first extension. – Rappler.com

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Soldiers, cops told to give up housing units to Kadamay members

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, April 4, said that he would give up the housing project occupied by members of the Kalipunan ng Damayang Mahihirap (Kadamay) in Bulacan.
Duterte made the announcement during the 120th founding anniversary of the Philippine Army in Fort Bonifacio.
The housing project occupied by Kadamay was meant for soldiers and police. Duterte told the security forces to just give the housing project to the militant urban poor workers’ group.
“This ruckus in Bulacan, eh parang inagaw ng mga kapwa nating Pilipino na mahirap din. I will look into the matter seriously. And I will ask you soldiers and the policemen, bitawan n’yo na lang ninyo iyan at ibigay na lang natin sa kanila tutal mahirap sila,” he said.
“Huwag na lang natin guluhin ang mga tao diyan kasi lumalaban eh. And their only sin is mahirap sila kagaya natin,” he added.
Then, he promised the soldiers and the policemen that he would give them a better housing project instead.
“But I promise you, I will look for another land nearby or adjacent or contiguous to that area there and gagawa ako ng mas maganda. May tubig na at may electric na pagpasok ninyo,” he said, to the cheers of Army officers and enlisted men present.
“Well anyway, I said, I am asking you kung maaari lang. Do not be offended. Take it with an open mind. Ako na mismo, inyong Presidente, nakikiusap sa inyo. Let us not wage a fight against our own people. Tutal mahirap lang ‘yan sila, intindihin na lang ninyo,” he added.
Duterte said the National Housing Authority told him that they have enough funds for a new site for the soldiers and policemen.
“I am making you the commitment and I guarantee that you will have yours, mas maganda. Walang mga problema because I will personally go there to supervise your housing project. And hopefully by December, mag-dasal lang tayong lahat that everything goes well and you can transfer to the new house,” he said.
Meanwhile, he asked Kadamay not to kick out the policemen and soldiers who already occupy some of the units.
“Iyong Kadamat, ibigay ko na lang iyan sa inyo. Huwag n’yo paalisin ang mga police at sundalo na nandiyan ah. But eventually they will be removed and transferred to a new na mas maganda ba sa inyong inagaw,” Duterte said.
“Iyong mga Kadamay nandiyan, huwag ninyong galawin ang mga sundalo pati pulis. Kasi ‘pag hindi, tuluyan paalisin ko kayong lahat. Do not create trouble, avoid chaos, and we will try to solve what ails this country,” the President warned. — GMA News

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Marcos can’t be named to DILG

MANILA -- President Rodrigo Duterte on Tuesday, April 4, said the he could not appoint former Senator Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos as the next secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG).
He said Marcos still had a pending electoral protest against Vice President Leni Robredo and was not expected to abandon it.
“I don’t think so. He would abandon his appeal eh. Mabitiwan niya when you are appointed to a position, mawawala,” Duterte said in an ambush interview with reporters in Fort Bonifacio.
Duterte said that he was still looking for his next DILG chief after he fired Secretary Ismael Sueno from the post over corruption allegations on Monday night.
Executive Secretary Salvador Medialdea said that Sueno’s dismissal was effective upon Duterte’s announcement. An officer-in-charge will soon be appointed.
"President Rodrigo Roa Duterte has dismissed Department of Interior and Local Government Secretary, Mr. Ismail Sueno, citing loss of trust and confidence," presidential spokesman Ernesto Abella said on Tuesday.
He said Sueno's dismissal was announced at the end of the 14th Cabinet meeting.
Abella said Duterte questioned Sueno about the acquisition of Austrian fire trucks, which was approved in the previous administration.
"There was no accusation, there were just questioning," he said.
Duterte has repeatedly credited the former senator and the Marcos family for its support during the presidential campaign in Northern Luzon.
An opposition lawmaker on Tuesday said the firing of Ismael Sueno as Interior secretary opened the possibility of former Sen. Marcos, a friend of President Duterte, being appointed to the Cabinet.
“Sec. Sueno’s firing will pave the way for the appointment of the former dictator’s son and namesake to the DILG (Department of Interior and Local Government) post," Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin told GMA News Online.
“The Marcoses never had this so good under Duterte,” he added. — GMA News

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PH investment mission explores access to US halal market

WASHINGTON, D.C. — A forum hosted by The US Halal Chamber of Commerce for the delegation from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM), at the Islamic Society of the Washington Area (ISWA) on March 27, 2017, focused on how the Philippines may be able to expand access and business opportunities in the US halal market.
Habib Ghanim, CEO of the US Halal Chamber of Commerce and President of the ISWA Halal Certification Department, led a group of Islamic halal and trade experts in briefing the delegation on the business opportunities, as well as challenges, in the US halal market.
In order to explore the possible synergies among the various parties, it was proposed that a Memorandum of Understanding be signed among PEZA, ARMM and the US Halal Chamber of Commerce in order to formalize cooperation and assistance.
“I believe that this will go a long way towards ensuring the empowerment of ecozones of Mindanao,” said PEZA Director General Charito Plaza.
ARMM-Regional Economic Zone Authority (ARMM-REZA) Executive Director Aleem Siddiqui Guiapal, who co-led the delegation with Director General Plaza, also noted four important areas that should be addressed moving forward. “We have to adopt a whole-of-government approach in order to reach a consensus on certification requirements that avoids confusing, contradictory and costly requirements; protect the integrity of Halal certification in order to avoid loss of confidence by consumers; ensure that claims regarding health and safety are based on science and not on shariah alone; and address the relative lack of information on Halal markets”
The delegation considered the proposed cooperative effort to be timely because the global halal market is worth about $ 2.77 trillion a year with the trade in Halal foods at $700 billion a year, accounting for as much as 12% of global trade in agro-food products. ARMM Governor Mujiv Hataman earlier this year also officially declared the Polloc Freeport and Ecozone in Parang, Maguindanao as a “halal hub.” “The ARMM government is continually working to open the possibilities to the halal market for the region as well as for the country,” Gov. Hataman had said at the event marking the declaration.
The signing of the MOU may take place at a planned International Halal Ecozones Summit in Davao City, Philippines this coming October.

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Globak Pinay Power rises in Washington, D.C.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The Filipina Women’s Network (FWN) and the Philippine Embassy capped the successful celebration of National Women’s Month 2017 by launching Disrupt 2.0: Filipina Women Daring to Lead on March 29, 2017 at the Philippine Chancery Annex Building.
Disrupt 2.0: Filipina Women Daring to Lead is the second book in the FWN’s series on leadership and management. Thirty-five (35) global Filipino women leaders contributed their stories and experiences to the book, highlighting the qualities and competencies generally required by any position of leadership.
“This book enriches the literature and dialogue on the leadership principles and practices espoused by Filipino women in diverse fields,” Jose Victor-Chan Gonzaga, the Embassy’s Minister for Economic Affairs, said in his welcome remarks.
“A lot of ‘disruptions’ have been happening in this town – upending, in many cases, the way we think about politics, social relationships, wealth and the economy, and technology, among others. Indeed, we live in very interesting times. New mental maps are required. Fresh perspectives are needed. And alternative approaches are essential. Lucky for the Philippines – and if I may so, lucky also for Filipino men—that Filipino women have never shied away from confronting and sometimes, leading the change,” he remarked.
One of the book’s contributing authors and a keynote speaker of the evening, renowned motivational speaker Sonia Aranza, talked about the Filipino woman’s intrinsic ability to “bloom where she is planted”. In her chapter, “Transformational Leadership Begins Within,” Ms. Aranza has written, “Individuals who are transformers dare to defy the ‘Pwede na’ mentality. They refuse to accept the notion of simply getting by. They engage in transformation and transformation requires disruption.”
In her own keynote, Maribeth Raffinan, the first Filipino woman to become a US federal judge, stressed, “Daring to lead involves failure. Daring to lead involves resilience. Daring to lead involves grit.”
FWN CEO and Founder, Marily Mondejar presented the organization’s five priority program areas, namely: branding, social justice, coalition building, leadership development, and cultural awareness. She also invited the participants to attend the 14th Filipina Leadership Global Summit, which will be held on October 26 to 29, 2017 in Toronto, Canada.
A reading of select chapters in Disrupt 2.0 and the first book in the series, Disrupt: Proud, Loud, Leading without A Doubt, followed the keynote speeches.
The Disrupt series may be purchased on Amazon.

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PH, WB groups explore ecozone strategies

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The visiting delegation from the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) and the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) participated in a Roundtable Discussion on special economic zones at the International Finance Corporation in Washington, D.C. last March 28. The roundtable was part of an investment mission that is aimed at creating awareness among various sectors in the US capital about PEZA and the ARMM, in line with the Philippine government’s investment priorities, including in infrastructure, manufacturing resurgence and the development of Mindanao.
The Delegation was led by PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza, and composed of ARMM-Regional Economic Zone Authority (ARMM-REZA) Executive Director Aleem Siddiqui Guiapal, ARMM Agrarian Reform Secretary Amihilda J. Sangcopan, ARMM Treasurer Kanggo Umal, PEZA Deputy Director General Tereso O. Panga, Francoise Ferdinand Plaza, and Danilo Mangaya.
In a roundtable discussion chaired by Peter Kusek, Senior Investment Policy Officer at the World Bank Group Trade and Competitiveness Global Practice, the officials briefed investment specialists and experts on the various programs and policies of PEZA and ARMM-REZA in attracting and retaining investments, including targeted investment promotion strategies; approaches to investment promotion and policy; diversification of zones ownership and economic activities; fiscal and non-fiscal incentives; investor aftercare programs; business one-stop shop action centers; and investor linkages initiatives.
There was consensus among the international financial experts present that the Philippines had an impressive track record in investment promotion and the operation of special economic zones, and they encouraged the delegation to share Philippine best practices more broadly. They mentioned that the Philippine regulations on the one-stop shop is reference material for many World Bank practitioners.
During the discussion with the roundtable participants, the delegation and the technical experts exchanged views on the future opportunities and challenges for countries that have embraced the concept of special economic zones. Director General Plaza emphasized that while PEZA continues to expand existing zones and aims to build an economic zone in every province and city of the Philippines, they are also looking towards the future by going into niche areas such as eco-tourism facilities, halal hubs, logistics hubs, and defense industrial complexes.
The roundtable participants also discussed strategic issues such as how to deal with zones that are nearing full occupancy and how to ensure that they continue to have a catalytic effect on the economy. On the issue of climate change and sustainable development, the participants looked into the concept of eco-industrial parks, which has exploded in number in the last ten years; as well as Climate Innovation Centers. Other experts provided advice on best practices with respect to investment policy and regulations, as well as cutting edge investment promotion concepts.
Director General Plaza and Executive Director Guiapal expressed satisfaction with the substance and depth of the roundtable discussions.
“We did not only convey the economic and investment advantages for those who decide to locate in our economic zones, but more importantly, we had a robust and in-depth discussion with the World Bank experts on critical issues for special economic zones at this time,” Ms. Plaza said.

 

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