Thursday, 5 March 2015

PIA News Dispatch - Thursday, March 5, 2015

Philippines’ first subway, vehicle inspection system projects endorsed for approval of President

(TAGAYTAY CITY, Cavite) The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Center will endorse two infrastructure projects, including the Php370-billion Mass Transit System Loop (MTSL), for approval by the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board.

In a press briefing after the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) PPP Experts Advisory Council meeting here, PPP Center Executive Director Cosette Canilao said it will also support the approval of the Php19.3-billion Motor Vehicle Inspection System (MVIS).

“There’s going to be a NEDA Board meeting on March 24 and two PPP projects would be up for approval or discussions,” she said.

President Benigno S. Aquino III chairs the NEDA Board.

For the planned MTSL project, Canilao said the PPP Center prefers the route using 26th Street instead of the 32nd Street inside the Bonifacio Global City (BGC) on cost consideration.

The MTSL project, the first subway in the country, will connect the fast-developing central business districts of Metro Manila, namely Bonifacio Global City, Makati Central Business District and the Mall of Asia area in Pasay City.

It aims to reduce peak-hour traffic by providing a higher-capacity mass transit system.

On the other hand, the MVIS project will involve setting up Motor Vehicle Inspection Centers (MVIC) to test various categories of heavy duty, light duty and two wheeler vehicles across the Philippines.

The private partner will develop, operate and maintain a network of MVICs that will perform inspections for all vehicles in the country. PNA (ldv)

APEC member economies seen to attract more Public-Private Partnership investments

(TAGAYTAY CITY, Cavite) The Philippines and other 20 members of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) have a huge potential to attract more private sector investments in “viable and well-structured” public-private partnership (PPP) projects, particularly urban infrastructure.

Guillermo Luz, APEC Business Advisory Council alternate member, expressed this as the amount of funding for development of the infrastructure across the APEC region is getting bigger mainly due to urbanization.

“To the extent that there is some form of predictability behind the projects, predictability will give investors a sense of the viability of the projects,” he said in a press briefing on the sidelines of APEC meetings here.

Luz stressed that PPP projects should also be “purposely planned” in a bid to attract more private sector investments.

“(For instance,) if people begin to see that housing and commercial developments and others are built, the role of mass transit infrastructure will be justified. If there is nothing there, no one will invest,” he said.

For his part, Asia-Pacific Infrastructure Partnership (APIP) chair Mark Johnson said it is also imperative that APEC economies will create regulatory structures to deal with the issues of pricing and taxes, among others.

Johnson also underscored the role of infrastructure in facilitating the movement of people through ports, airports and roads; and in achieving inclusive economies.

If you want a more inclusive economy, people have to make use of that (projects) to move around; businesses (also should be) able to have much greater mobility,” he noted.

Meanwhile, the theme of the country’s hosting of APEC Summit this year is “Building Inclusive Economies, Building a Better World.”

The APEC is composed of 21 member economies: Australia; Brunei Darussalam; Canada; Chile; People's Republic of China; Hong Kong, China; Indonesia; Japan; Republic of Korea; Malaysia; Mexico; New Zealand; Papua New Guinea; Peru; Philippines; The Russian Federation; Singapore; Chinese Taipei; Thailand; United States of America; and Viet Nam. PNA (ldv)

National Treasurer seeks support for Cebu Action Plan from Finance, Central Bank officials

(TAGAYTAY CITY, Cavite) National Treasurer Roberto Tan on Thursday rallied delegates attending the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) Finance and Central Bank Deputies' Meeting here, to support the Cebu Action Plan (CAP).

"Dear colleagues, as we meet for the next two days to discuss the Cebu Action Plan, we greatly invite you to give us your valuable inputs to find ways in moving our CAP initiatives forward," Tan said in his speech during the opening of the two-day meeting held at the Taal Vista Hotel here.

"We highly encourage you to work with us on our CAP initiatives so that we could bring about their intended benefits. We look forward to your support to the CAP, as we, together as one APEC community, concertedly work towards our ultimate goal of sustained and shared prosperity."

Tan said they have developed the CAP, mindful of the imperatives for the Asia Pacific, as well as the progress that the APEC has achieved through the years.

The aim, he said, is to achieve free and open trade and investment set by the Bogor Goals, the importance of sustainable and balanced growth and sound fiscal management highlighted in the Kyoto Report on Growth Strategy and Finance, and the priorities on financial inclusion and literacy put forward by the United States and Russia.

The Cebu Action Plan will also look at the agenda on infrastructure development and financing brought up by Indonesia in 2013 and carried over by China in 2014.

The consultations with APEC Senior Finance Officials last January in Clark, Pampanga and the inputs from APEC member economies and observers form part of the CAP as it becomes a roadmap towards a more financially integrated, transparent and resilient APEC community, Tan said.

This is in line with four pillars, namely Promoting Financial Integration; Advancing Fiscal Transparency and Policy Reform; Enhancing Financial Resiliency; and Accelerating Infrastructure Development and Financing. PND (as)

Philippines needs credible regulatory structure to lure investment in public private partnership projects, says foreign expert

(TAGAYTAY CITY, Cavite) The Philippines must develop a credible and independent regulatory regime to attract the private sector to invest in major public private partnership (PPP) projects, a foreign PPP expert said on Wednesday.

Chairman of the 2015 Asia-Pacific Infrastructure Partnership (APIP) Dialogue, Mark Johnson, was responding to a question on the nature of the regulatory framework in the Philippines, during a press conference held at the Summit Ridge Hotel here.

Johnson said he does not have detailed knowledge of the regulatory set-up in the Philippines but having one is a universal requirement to entice private investments in PPP projects.

"Any economy, anybody who wants to foster the development of PPP must have in place regulatory structures to deal with issues of pricing and taxes, and everybody got to believe it," he said.

"Not only (does) this regulatory authority deal with things competently but it should continue to do that over the life of the project."

Such regularity regime, he added, must also be independent to avoid conflict of interest because this discourages private sector participation.

For instance, in the Philippines, a concern was raised during the APIP discussion regarding a local regulator that also functions as an operator, Johnson said, noting this situation is not acceptable to private companies.

"That is seen to represent conflict of interest that would probably be not acceptable to private investors," he said.

The government is about to roll out five more PPP projects in addition to 11 projects that are currently up for grabs, PPP Center Executive Director Cosette Canilao said on Wednesday.

She reported that the Philippines has 61 PPP projects in the pipeline, nine of which have already been awarded. These nine PPP projects were awarded during the Aquino administration, exceeding the past three administrations’ solicited PPP projects. PND (as)

Philippines calls on APEC member economies to strengthen linkages in trade and investment

(TAGAYTAY CITY, Cavite) A Philippine finance official has urged member economies of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) to intensify efforts to boost trade and investment amid the uneven pace of growth across and within economies, as they seek to maintain a high growth trajectory.

During the APEC Finance and Central Bank Deputies’ Meeting held here on Thursday, National Treasurer Roberto Tan said the Asia-Pacific region is seen to be an engine of growth with the recovery of the global economy.

Citing the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Tan said the growth of the Asia-Pacific region is expected to accelerate to 4.3 percent in 2015 from 3.9 percent last year.

“The conditions are supportive for the region to maintain its growth path. Economic activity remains dynamic buoyed by robust consumer demand, particularly among emerging markets. Exports have been rising, as some economies move up the value chain,” he said.

Tan said some challenges, however, remain for the region, foremost of which is the uneven growth across and within economies.

“This growth divergence among economies necessitates greater linkages in trade and investments, such that the growth momentum may carry over throughout the region,” he noted.

As the Philippines hosts the APEC Finance Ministers’ Process (FMP) this year, Tan said the country has crafted the Cebu Action Plan (CAP), which takes into account the progress that the APEC has achieved throughout the years.

He said that with the CAP being a key agenda in the APEC FMP starting this year, the 21 Pacific Rim countries could forge an APEC community that has harmonized policies, rules and practices.

These enable and facilitate free trade and flow of cross-border investments; access to financial services by low-income households, micro, small and medium enterprises and the unbanked; and good governance that results in sustainable and inclusive economic growth, he added.

”We highly encourage you to work with us on our CAP initiatives so that we could bring about their intended benefits,” Tan said.

Aimed at building inclusive economies, the CAP will be launched during the APEC Finance Ministers’ Meeting to be held on September 10 to 11 in Mactan, Cebu. PNA (ldv)

The military will deal with the new armed group in Mindanao, Palace official says

The Palace has assured that the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) is dealing with lawless elements in the country to ensure peace and order.

“Ginagampanan ng ating Sandatahang Lakas ang tungkulin na tutukan lahat ng pagkilos ng iba’t ibang armadong grupo, lalong-lalo na ang mga naghahasik ng ligalig sa ating bansa at sa ating mga pamayanan. Hindi sila papahintulutang magsagawa ng mga aksyon na iyan at pipigilin sila ng ating Sandatahang Lakas,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said during a press briefing in Malacañang on Thursday.

He made the assurance following reports that a new group of lawless elements has emerged in Central Mindanao.

The AFP said on Wednesday that a new group called Justice for Islamic Movement (JIM), headed by Mohamed Ali Tambako, is coddling Filipino bomb maker Basit Usman.

Usman managed to escape while Malaysian terrorist Zulkifli bin Hir, alias Marwan, was killed during an operation launched by the police’s Special Action Force (SAF) last January in Mamasapano, Maguindanao that also resulted in the death of 44 SAF members.

The military said Tambako used to be a member of the Moro National Liberation Front and the Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters and is affiliated with the Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiah, a militant Islamist group active in Southeast Asia.

The AFP said the new armed group is also a target of the military’s all-out offensive launched last week in Maguindanao and North Cotabato. PND (jm)

Members of 1986 Constitutional Commission support Bangsamoro Basic Law provisions

The Palace said on Thursday that 14 members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission have agreed that the proposed Bangsamoro Basic Law (BBL) follows the 1987 Constitution’s provisions on human development and social justice.

"Ayon sa pahayag ng 14 na miyembro ng Constitutional Commission na bumuo ng 1987 Constitution, naninindigan sila na ang inihaing BBL na batay sa FAB (Framework Agreement on the Bangsamoro) at CAB (Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro) ay tumatalima sa probisyon ng 1987 Constitution sa dalawang mahalagang aspeto, namely, human development at social justice," Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing in Malacañang.

Addressing lawmakers’ doubts on the constitutionality of the BBL, Secretary Coloma explained that those who crafted the proposed law made sure that it abides by the Constitution.

“Nais nating sabihin at ulitin na isa sa mahagalang batayang prinsipyo ng pamahalaan sa pagbuo at pagsulong ng Bangsamoro Basic Law ay ang pagtiyak na ito ay tumatalima sa mga probisyon ng Saligang Batas. Ang mga katanungan hinggil sa constitutionality ng draft BBL ay inumpisahan nang matalakay sa idinaos na iba’t ibang konsultasyon at public hearings tungkol dito,” he said.

Coloma noted that according to 14 Constitutional Commission members, “The core principle of the 1987 Constitution in mandating a special status for the autonomous regions is the human development of the people of Muslim Mindanao and the Cordilleras. Hence, the public conversation should not be about semantics but about people -- their needs, their aspirations, their choices -- and about empowering them with the environment and institutional framework for social justice. Social justice that calls for genuine social change is the central theme of the 1987 Constitution; and here, it is broader in scope and intent than in the 1973 and the 1935 Constitutions."

The 14 fully support the creation of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region, noting that the “Bangsamoro can be a model for us to do the same for the rest of the country and thereby build together a more just and peaceful nation,” the Palace official said.

Last January, 14 of the 18 surviving former members of the 1986 Constitutional Commission forged a consensus on the issue of the Bangsamoro.

They are Felicitas Aquino-Arroyo, Adolfo S. Azcuna, Teodoro C. Bacani, Joaquin G. Bernas, Florangel Rosario Braid, Hilario G. Davide Jr., Edmundo G. Garcia, Jose Luis Martin C. Gascon, Christian S. Monsod, Ricardo J. Romulo, Rene V. Sarmiento, Jaime S.L. Tadeo, Wilfrido V. Villacorta, and Bernardo M. Villegas. PND (ag)

National Museum verifying reported discovery of Japanese warship, Palace says

Malacañang said on Thursday that the National Museum is verifying reports on the discovery of the wreckage of the Japanese battleship Musashi on the seabed of Sibuyan Island.

According to news reports, American billionaire and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen announced on Wednesday on Twitter that his research team has found one of Japan’s biggest warships which was sunk by American forces during World War II.

“The reported discovery of the Japanese battleship Musashi by the group of Mr. Paul Allen is now being verified by the National Museum and other concerned government agencies. The discovery of an archeological artifact such as this is covered by Republic Act No. 10066 or the National Cultural Heritage Act of 2009,” Communications Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing at the Palace.

The National Museum “is working closely with all stakeholders to ensure that the provisions of our existing laws are enforced and complied with,” Secretary Coloma said.

These stakeholders, he said, include Romblon province, which is proximate to the Sibuyan Sea where the shipwreck has been found; the Japanese government, as this involves the shipwreck of a World War II Japanese battleship; and Allen’s organization.

The Musashi was one of three warships measuring 263 meters built by Japan during the war.

It was sank by American warplanes on October 24, 1944 at the height of the Battle of Leyte Gulf, which was considered as the biggest naval encounter of the war in which American and Australian forces defeated the Japanese.

Coloma said that part of the mandate of the National Museum is to coordinate or to inquire with the Philippine Coast Guard and other concerned government agencies.

“We will await the verification being done now by the National Museum. They are the lead agency of the government in doing what is needed regarding this development,” he added.

Allen, who founded Microsoft with Bill Gates in 1975, said in his website that the discovery of the Musashi was the end of an eight-year search supported by historical data from four countries and using “advanced technology” that surveyed the seabed.

Forbes Magazine ranked the 62-year-old Allen as the world's 51st richest man, with a net worth of US$17.5 billion. PND (jm)