Current Political Issues in the Philippines and International

Credibility key to Philippines luring investors - ADB

MANILA, Philippines - The government must provide a predictable and secure business environment if it wants investors to commit billions of dollars to its planned infrastructure projects, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said.
The poor Southeast Asian nation is trying to attract private funds for long-term infrastructure projects, but corruption, red tape, procedural hassles and regulatory uncertainties are significant deterrents for potential investors.

"It needs to go that extra mile and create that credibility that I am taking the right actions, I am addressing taxation issues, I am assuring you, as the investor, that my policies are predictable... my judicial system will uphold your contractual rights," Neeraj Jain, the ADB's country director for the Philippines, told Reuters on Friday.

Constrained by a budget deficit forecast at 3.9% of gross domestic product this year and pressing social spending needs, the government is banking on public-private partnerships (PPP) to fund infrastructure investments that it hopes will lift economic growth to 7% to 8% in 2011 and beyond.
"I encourage you to participate in the building of airports, roads and rail projects, transport terminals, water supply, and agriculture support facilities, among others," President Benigno Aquino said at a business conference in Manila on Friday.

Last month, the government identified 10 priority PPP projects, including 7 worth nearly P128 billion ($3 billion), and Aquino said the plan would be launched next month.
"We are simplifying the process of establishing a business... stamping out red tape, as well as in improving infrastructure, and relaxing regulations on air travel to and from the country," he said.
Foreign funds are pouring into the Philippines but in favor of the more volatile portfolio investment rather than longer-term investment, such as in factories.

This year's foreign direct investment up to July totalled $954 million, an average of $136 million a month, while net portfolio inflows up to September were $1.42 billion, an average of $157 million a month.
FDI is lower than the same year-earlier period, while portfolio investment is more than six times greater.
The stock market hit a record high this week and is up 38% this year. The peso has gained about 7% against the dollar and risen to its strongest in 2-½ years.
"The new administration has set the right tone, is taking the right actions, it has set its sights in the right direction, it is inspiring confidence of the investors... it needs now to take action on the promises that it is making," the ADB's Jain said.

Aquino: 43,650 new jobs from US investments

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino III returned from his US trip on Tuesday and said the US$2.4 billion new investments secured during the trip would create 43,650 new jobs in the next 3 years.
"It's good to be home. In the last week, during our visit to the US, we were able to send our message across: the Philippines is open for business," Aquino said after his flight arrived at around 3:45 a.m. from California at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2.

Among the business firms that have committed to make new investments are: Coca-Cola, Pfizer, AES Corp., Hewlett-Packard, J.P. Morgan Chase, Global Services Inc., Century Properties, and General Electric.
Aquino said these investments are in power generation, consumer products, business and knowledge process outsourcing, health care, garments, and leather goods.

"We were able to secure a commitment of at least 43,650 new jobs in the next 3 years, including some 4,500 in construction-related jobs. And because of the multiplier effect, we estimate 200,000 more jobs to benefit our countrymen," he said.

Winning bidder AES Corp. will be expanding the capacity of the Masinloc Power Plant 2 by up to 660 megawatts with a project cost of $1 billion.
"This will lead to 1,500 jobs during the 3- to 4-year construction period," Aquino said.
Coca-Cola will invest $1 billion in upgrading and replacement of equipment and creation of new products and processes, he said.

"In short, our visit to the US enabled us to generate $2.4 billion in new investments," Aquino said.
"Furthermore, we received an additional $434 million in the form of a grant from the Millennium Challenge Corp. to expand the coverage of existing social programs that have been performing outstandingly," Aquino said.

He said foreign investors feel the new confidence that has arisen from the new political and economic environment.

He also urged his critics to support the drive for progress.
"Hinihikayat ko ang ating mga kapwa Pilipino na panay pa rin batikos, makiisa sana kayo sa ating pagsisikap," he said. "Kararating lang po namin at medyo pagod, pero talaga naman bale wala po yon kung maganda naman ang dalang balita."

Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Paquito Ochoa said the Palace legal team has finished its review of the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) and is ready to present its recommendations to the President.

He declined to reveal details since he has not taken up the matter with the president.  "I'm not sure if we can discuss it today," he said. -- with a report from Ruby Tayag, dzMM

Pinoys urge PNoy to address corruption, human rights

MANILA, Philippines - Corruption, human rights violations, migrant concerns, and the President's personal life were the prime topics among the participants of Global Town Hall live-chat on Monday as part of President Benigno Aquino III's first visit to the United States as the country's chief executive.
Majority of the Filipinos who participated in the chat want the new administration to focus on curbing corruption and to properly spend the US$434 million grant from the US Millennium Development Corporation (MCC) to the Philippines last Friday.

The live chat gathered 594 readers and collated 419 comments. It was opened on Sunday (Saturday in the United States) and was still open, as of writing.

Alden American Canyon hoped Aquino would use the money to build and repair infrastructure projects in areas that are hard to reach to make them more accessible.

"I would love to see and I'm sure the rest of the country too, those poor people who don't have bridges, roads and transportation to go to places like schools, hospitals and markets to buy and work. Please make sure that they would [be] blessed [with] one of those projects. We'll be waiting and watching, make us proud. God bless the Philippines," he said.

Liano P. Vacaville from California said he was touched by US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's speech that praised the Philippines after the  US-run MCC granted $434 million to the country for poverty alleviation projects.

"Please let's not disappoint her and the rest of the people who signed that $434 million check, who trusted our government. Let us show that they can trust us and so more business will come and to open more doors of opportunities for our country. PNoy, we're counting on you," Vacaville said.

Magtanggol Sabayan from Los Angeles left a lengthy piece of advice to the President in terms of corruption. He said that 29 years after the death of Aquino's father, Sen. Ninoy Aquino, things have gotten worse.
"Corruption is so pervasive and ingrained not only in almost all sectors of government right now but also in the Filipino culture itself. Mr. President, we know that you are not God but what are you going to do in your 6 years in office that you would like to be remembered by Filipinos for years to come? I just hope, Mr. President, that your dad's murder was not in vain just like what he said, 'The Filipino is worth dying for.' Mabuhay ka Presidente "Noynoy" Aquino and I can confidently say that the majority of the Filipino people (60% of whom are in the poverty level) are solidly supporting you," he said.

Oneille, on the other hand, said it doesn't take a rocket scientist for the President to purge the illegal numbers game "jueteng" in the country.

"Mr. President I want you to succeed in governing our beloved country and... If you really want to stop jueteng, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to do that don't you think so, let [us] not be naive about it, it could be stop[pped] in an instance if you really wanted it to stop. I don't want to sound to be so realistic, but I think so should do town meeting more in the PI (not only with the elite more so with the tondo smokey mountain people, tambakan in marikina and the impoverised place in the PI to get the real sentiments of the people. We will pray and hope that heads will be rolling as you promised even iat will be your kapamilya.Mr. president why do you think all this politicians would like to win in an election, it's not because of the salary, it's because most of them want to loot the coffers of the town, city and government. We will pray for you," Oneille wrote.
EJ from Lakeforest California said: "Maybe you can also encourage all the senators, congressmen to be more honest and join you to have a clean and honest government."

The high cost of barangay elections

It's the eve of the campaign period for the Barangay and SK elections. At the stroke of midnight, the streets and alleys of the metro will once again take the shape of a 3-dimensional collage, plastered from end to end with faces and promises of the nation's smallest political unit.
In Brgy. Tatalon, Quezon City, incumbent barangay chairman Benedick Banega preoccupies himself with barangay affairs, while in a room nearby, barangay workers and volunteers are busy mounting some 600 tarpaulins on bamboo frames.
"Barangay elections are more expensive now," Banega says. "During my father's time, candidates used to just write their names on old sacks. And hardly anyone wanted to run. But now, with more funds and more autonomy given to barangays, it's become more a more lucrative profession."
By Capt. Banega's estimation, his team has spent more than 50,000 pesos on campaign materials alone. Each kagawad gets 75 tarpaulin posters, while Banega gets 150 pieces. Each of these are priced at 24 pesos. This doesn't include the P45,000 they've allotted for their poll watchers on election day.

"Nowadays, you really have to spend to get ahead in the race," says Banega.
But it's a slightly different picture in Brgy. Baseco, Tondo, Manila. There are no tarpaulin posters at the headquarters of candidate Domingo "A-1" Ramirez, only used posters made of sack that some party-list group left lying around on the streets.

A-1's team was seen turning these old posters over so they could paint their names on the clean back side. In one corner of the room, volunteers are cutting up some old donated cardboard, and using a rubber stamp to mark them with "Vote A-1 for Brgy. Captain."

And plastered on the wall are different-sized, home-made printouts of the running kagawads, with the only thing in common being the face of their candidate for chairman.

"I don't have any money, so the kagawads have adopted my face on their own campaign posters," A-1 Ramirez declares proudly. "Poverty is not a hindrance for me."
By the team's computation, they have spent just a little more than 10,000 pesos, including P1,400 for 2 gallons of paint, P80 for the single rubber stamp, and about P300 for refills of the stamp pad.
Ramirez initially tried to collect 1,000 pesos from each kagawad, but not everyone could come up with the money. Now, they're powered by donations after swallowing their pride.

"All the 3 other candidates for chairman here are millionaires. I'm the only one who's poor. I guess all I can offer is heart," Ramirez chuckles.
But Ramirez concedes that money does matter in any election, big or small. He says he would spend more if he had more.

But with the campaign period starting in just a few hours, and with only 10 days of campaigning allowed, he can only pin his hopes on those in Baseco who can look past the re-used sacks and dirty cardboard giveaways…and see promise behind his persistence.

Rescue near for Chile miners trapped for 2 months

COPIAPO, Chile – Chilean rescuers were close on Friday to ending the ordeal of 33 miners buried alive for 2 months deep underground after a cave-in, and could start evacuating them next week in a survival story that has gripped the world.

In one of the most challenging rescue operations in mining history, engineers hope to finish drilling a shaft about half a mile down to the miners by Saturday. But it will still then take days to hoist them to the surface one at a time in special capsules.

Relatives of the trapped miners sang and prayed around a bonfire at the mine-head in Chile's Atacama desert, waving banners and lighting candles for each of the men.

"We are calm. We've already held on for two months. Now we are in the closing stage," said Samuel Avalos, 70, whose son is among the trapped. "We hope it's over."

Mining Minister Laurence Golborne, spearheading the rescue effort, said engineers must still decide how much of the shaft to line with metal tubing before lifting the miners out in the capsules.
Once the escape tunnel is finished, it would take anything from three to 10 days to get the men out, Golborne told reporters at the mine.

Following the August 5 collapse, engineers first bored tiny drill holes the width of a grapefruit to locate the men stuck in a tunnel 2,300 feet below ground -- equivalent to 233 stories.

The men were found 17 days after the cave-in, miraculously all still alive, when the miners tied a message to the perforation drill, triggering celebrations across Chile.
Rescuers then used the ducts as umbilical cords to pass the miners high nutrition gels, water, medicine and later solid food to keep them alive.

'Cry as a nation'

Trapped for 64 days, the men have set a world record for the length of time workers have survived trapped underground after a mining accident. They are in remarkably good health.
"Hopefully, God willing, in a few days we will be able to cry as a nation in happiness, just as we did when we found out they were alive, when we see them emerge from the depths of the mountain and hug their wives and children," President Sebastian Pinera said.

Pinera's wife, Cecilia Morel, arrived at the mine on Friday afternoon and plans to stay at the settlement called Camp Hope that relatives erected at the mine mouth. She said she would help lend psychological support to the miners' relatives.

Images of the miners caught on a video camera lowered down the drill hole showed them bearded and bare-chested to cope with heat and humidity deep in the small, accident-plagued gold and copper mine in Chile's mining heartland.

The government brought in a team of experts from the US space agency NASA to help keep the men mentally and physically fit during the protracted rescue bid. The men had each lost an estimated 22 pounds (10 kg) during the 2-1/2 weeks before they were found alive.

The miners have been doing exercises and helping clear debris to keep their weight down so that they can fit in the evacuation shaft just two feet in diameter.

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NightMare said...

Chile rescue!

Im sure it will made a History for Chile!

Nice move for the rescuers!

NightMare said...

Hope that the US investments will help all filipino's...

This is one opportunity of the filipinos to have a JOB...

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