Recent News

  • By: Chino S. Leyco, May 28. 2024; Manila Bulletin https://mb.com.ph/2024/5/28/dof-expects-two-year-process-for-tax-system-digitalization Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto admitted the daunting challenge of digitizing the government’s tax system, prompting the need to explore non-tax revenue sources for additional funding. Recto told Manila Bulletin on Tuesday, May 28, that the Marcos administration’s digitalization initiatives to improve tax administration could take about two years to reach their full effectiveness. At the Philippine Economic Briefing last Monday, Recto cited the importance of improving tax administration in the e-commerce sector through digitalization, but “admittedly, [it] will take some time.” “In the meantime, we have strategically tapped into non-tax revenue streams to generate additional funds without imposing new or increased taxes on our people,” Recto said. The United Nations E-Government Survey revealed that the Philippines falls behind its regional peers in key areas of digital development such as digital transformation and trade, digital government, and digital security. In terms of digital government, the country was ranked 89th out of 193 countries, trailing behind Singapore (12), Malaysia (53), Thailand (55), Indonesia (77), and Vietnam (86). Despite the substantial increase in digital transactions in the Philippines, the bill seeking to levy a 12 percent value-added tax (VAT) on digital services provided by both resident and nonresident digital service providers has not yet been enacted into law. To mitigate the impact of tax leaks, the Department of Finance has decided to increase the dividend payments of state-owned firms from a minimum of 50 percent to 75 percent. As of the end of April, government non-tax revenues have totaled P188.8 billion, a 49 percent increase compared to the same period last year. This growth is primarily driven by higher dividend remittances from government-owned and controlled corporations amounting to P88.6 billion as of May. Furthermore, the government is looking to leverage non-recurring revenues through the privatization of state-owned assets. Recto wants to generate P100 billion from the sale of government assets currently in the pipeline. One of the proposals put forth by the finance chief involves selling the 600-hectare land currently occupied by the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City.

  • By Louella Desiderio, May 8, 2024; Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/05/08/2353350/eo-59-accelerate-infrastructure-development-neda MANILA, Philippines — An executive order (EO) streamlining the permitting process for the government’s priority infrastructure projects will support the push for infrastructure development by expediting project implementation, according to the National Economic and Development Authority. In a statement, NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that EO 59 signed last April 30 would support the goals of the country’s overall development plan or the Philippine Development Plan 2023 to 2028, through the upgrade of the country’s infrastructure. Through the streamlined processing of the government’s priority or infrastructure flagship projects (IFPs), he said “we are making it easier for implementing agencies and more attractive for our partners in the private sector to execute transformative infrastructure projects that would spur job creation for our people and enable us to sustain our economy’s rapid expansion.” EO 59 simplifies the requirements for projects included in the IFP list approved by the NEDA Board. At present, there are 185 projects valued at P9.14 trillion under the IFP list. As part of the EO, all national government agencies and local government units (LGUs) need to review their Citizen’s Charters to remove redundant and burdensome procedures. “The primary goal of this EO is to minimize, if not eliminate, delays in the implementation of IFPs. We are in a hurry to catch up with our neighbors in the region so the government must enable – not hinder – the timely completion of these projects,” Balisacan said. The EO also directs national government agencies and LGUs to adopt an online system and/or electronic submission and acceptance of applications, as well as issuance of licenses and permits for the IFPs. To promote seamless data sharing, government agencies are mandated to automate and computerize their databases. LGUs are encouraged to coordinate with the Department of Information and Communications Technology to adopt the electronic system maintained by the latter to ensure interoperability. Also part of the EO is the establishment of one-stop shops for IFPs. With the EO in place, Balisacan said “the Marcos administration signifies its commitment to aggressively advance infrastructure development as a key driver to our social and economic transformation.”

  • By Louella Desiderio, May 5, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/05/05/2352590/neda-pushes-eo-strengthen-rdcs-role#:~:text=During%20the%20meeting%2C%20the%20NEDA,project%20implementation%20and%20addressing%20bottlenecks. Manila, Philippines — The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is pushing for the issuance of an executive order (EO) aimed at strengthening the role of Regional Development Councils (RDCs) as part of efforts to achieve inclusive growth and development. In a statement, the NEDA said a meeting was held on April 30, with RDC chairpersons and President Marcos to discuss various regional development initiatives aligned with the strategies under the country’s overall development blueprint or the Philippine Development Plan 2023 to 2028 and Regional Development Plans. During the meeting, the NEDA presented the proposal for an EO aimed at enabling the RDCs to play a greater role in formulating regional development plans and investment programs, as well as in reviewing agency budgets, monitoring project implementation and addressing bottlenecks. Serving as the counterpart of the NEDA Board at the sub-national level, the RDC is responsible for coordinating and setting the direction of economic and social development efforts in the region. “RDCs play a vital role in steering socioeconomic development at the regional and local level by bridging the gap between national agencies and local government units,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said. The NEDA said the proposal would build upon the foundation laid by EO 325 issued in 1996 by addressing weaknesses including the RDCs’ limited presence in the local government units (LGUs) and role in terms of funding for priority regional programs and projects. It will also address the lack of budget for RDCs’ monitoring and capacity-building activities. “With these amendments, the RDCs will be given the mandate to identify priority inter-LGU and special development projects and further pursue capacity-building activities at the local level,” Balisacan said. NEDA expects the EO to complement its ongoing efforts to promote regional development including the Regional-National Investment Programming dialogues, capacity-building activities for monitoring and evaluation, conduct of studies for effective implementation of the full devolution initiative, as well as the approval of Infrastructure Flagship Projects and public-private partnership projects. RDC chairpersons also presented their proposed priority programs and projects during the meeting. “With even brighter economic prospects on our country’s horizon, it is indeed high time that we strengthen the mandate of our RDCs to make them more effective at serving as the highest policymaking and coordinating body in our regions. They will also play a crucial role as we approach the operationalization of the full devolution process,” Balisacan said.

  • By Priam Nepomuceno, May 3, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1223951 SAN NARCISO, Zambales – The Philippines will face a greater risk of cyberattacks from foreign cyberthreat groups, especially in the coming elections, a threat assessment presentation said. “Cyberattacks are anticipated in the mid-term 2025 and 2028 national elections” and could disrupt the peaceful and orderly conduct of the polls, the presentation showed during the National Security Cluster Communications of the “Bagong Pilipinas” Media Engagement and Workshop held at the Philippine Merchant Marine Academy (PMMA) here Thursday. The threat assessment also warned that the “misuse of artificial intelligence (AI) could become a destructive tool in (the) cognitive domain (and) have a divisive effect in the public and social order during (the) PHL election period.” Without directly identifying the source of the cyberthreats, the threat assessment noted that the challenge to the country’s “cybersecurity defense domain” will come from “foreign adversaries.” These cyberattacks are considered “hybrid warfare” and will target information and communications technology networks of the national government and private entities, it said. The threat assessment comes on the heels of recent cyberattacks on several government websites, purportedly from Chinese hackers. In February, the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) said it foiled a cyberattack that targeted various government email addresses, including that of the Philippine Coast Guard and even the private website of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. It said other targets were government Google Workspaces, specifically the domain administrators of the Cabinet Secretary, the Department of Justice, the Congressional Policy and Budget Research Department of the Congress, the National Coast Watch System, and the DICT. Also in January, the DICT was able to thwart the attempted hacking of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s web applications. (PNA)

  • By BusinessWorld Staff, May 1, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/infographics/2024/05/01/592037/philippines-lags-in-national-technological-strength-list-2/ The Philippines fell by two notches to 63rd out of 65 countries in the 2023 edition of most technologically advanced countries ranking by international magazine Global Finance. The report ranks a country’s technological strength across four metrics: internet users as a percentage of a country’s population; LTE users as a percentage of the population; IMD World Competitiveness Center’s Digital Competitiveness Score; and share of a country’s research and development spending to its economic output. Among 11 East and Southeast Asian countries included in the report, the Philippines ranked the lowest with a composite score of -5.77.

  • By Elizabeth Marcelo, May 1, 2024; Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/05/01/2351693/csc-strengthens-government-workers-right-organize MANILA, Philippines — The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has strengthened the policy on government workers’ right to organize as it launched the consolidated rules and regulations on conciliation services, the effectivity of collective negotiation agreements and recognition of national employees’ organizations. “Good employee relations are vital in advancing employee welfare and participatory governance,” CSC Chairman Karlo Nograles said on Monday during the ceremonial signing of the 2024 Rules and Regulations Governing the Exercise of the Right of Government Employees to Organize. The event was held at the Justice Hall of the Department of Justice building in Manila. Among the key features of the 2024 Rules and Regulations is the inclusion of the latest policies on the administration of a public sector employee organization, establishment of employees’ organization transition group, merger and consolidation, as well as change of name and modes of dissolution of employees’ organizations, the CSC said. It also includes the latest policies on the determination of the sole and exclusive negotiating agent, dispute resolution and automatic accreditation of the winner in a certification election, the CSC noted. The 2024 Rules and Regulations is an integration of promulgated and published policy resolutions approved by the Public Sector Labor Management Council (PSLMC) over the years, following the latest amendment in 2004, the CSC said. Nograles is chair of the PSLMC. “We recognize that the new rules and regulations may not be absolutely perfect, considering the dynamic environment that they will operate within. However, this acknowledgment should not deter us from actively engaging in shaping the trajectory of employee relations in the public sector,” he maintained. The PSLMC shall have the authority to promulgate the necessary rules and regulations to implement the exercise of the right to self-organization in the public sector, according to Executive Order No. 180 signed on June 1, 1987. PSLMC vice chair and Labor Secretary Bienvenido Laguesma, Justice Undersecretary Fredderick Vida, Finance Undersecretary Niño Raymond Alvina and Budget Undersecretary Leo Angelo Larcia attended the event.

  • By Cristina Chi, April 30, 2024; Philippine Star https://qa.philstar.com/headlines/2024/04/30/2351583/dict-most-govt-agencies-failed-respond-cybersecurity-warnings MANILA, Philippines — Only around one out of ten government offices that were recently notified by the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) of a vulnerability in their cyber systems took action to protect themselves, Undersecretary Jeffrey Ian Day said on Tuesday. Just 55 out of 388 government agencies which were contacted about vulnerabilities in their public assets (data or devices part of a computer system) responded to the DICT, Dy told a House panel probing the series of hacking incidents on government websites. These agencies include national government agencies and sub-agencies and smaller government offices housed under different agencies. “This is very low compared to what we expect,” Dy said. Dy said that the DICT’s network scanning initiative called Project SONAR has detected over 30,000 vulnerabilities after scanning the assets of over 800 agencies since being launched in December 2023. Vulnerabilities do not refer to actual hacking attempts and instead point to certain parts of a government’s cybersecurity infrastructure that are at risk of being breached. The DICT official explained that Project SONAR scans the systems of agencies without permission and informs them the next day of the extent of their vulnerabilities. “So that if they need to procure something to defend themselves, that can happen,” Dy said. Most agencies notified of having vulnerabilities did not respond to the DICT. Dy said that there needs to be assigned focal persons who will respond to the DICT when informed about weaknesses in their cybersystems. The DICT official also said that it has suggested for the Department of Budget and Management to include agencies’ responses as part of their scorecard — a system that measures agencies’ quality of good governance. Dy said Project SONAR was created as a response to the multiple government hacking attempts that took place the year before. In February, the DICT bared that its investigation found that cyberattacks targeting multiple government servers were traced to IP addresses based in China. A breach into the PhilHealth database in 2023 allowed hackers to steal millions of personal data and confidential memorandum, which they used to try to goad the government into paying a $300,000 ransom. Despite promises by authorities to ramp up cybersecurity, according to a 2023 report by the Asia Pacific Foundation of Canada, the Philippines remains highly vulnerable to cyberattacks due to “widespread internet usage, low cybersecurity awareness, and underdeveloped cybersecurity infrastructure.”

  • By BusinessWorld Staff, April 30, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/infographics/2024/04/30/591730/philippines-moves-up-in-state-and-governance-indexes/#google_vignette The Philippines improved in the 2024 edition of the biennial Bertelsmann Stiftung Transformation Index (BTI). The country inched up by a notch to 59th out of 137 countries in the Status Index, while it rose four spots to 83rd place in the Governance Index. The index evaluates a country’s progress towards democracy and market economy, as well as the quality of governance on a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest.

  • By Benjamin Pulta, April 24, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1223346 MANILA – The Department of Justice (DOJ) on Wednesday assured that the government remains resolute in reforming law enforcement in the country to protect and promote human rights under the Bagong Pilipinas of the Marcos administration. “We guarantee that reforms are in place to change the mindset and attitude of erring law enforcers and make them responsible for their actions. We are taking all the necessary steps to strengthen the criminal justice system and hold to account the perpetrators of these violations,” Justice Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla said in a statement. Remulla issued the statement following a report by the United States State Department that human rights abuses, including extra judicial killings (EJKs), continue to be a problem for the Philippines in 2023. He added the DOJ always remind law enforcement agencies, and those in charge of the administration of justice that “there are no shortcuts in enforcing peace and order.” “It is of primordial consideration that we, as responsible State enforcers, uphold the rule of law and resolve to protect and promote human rights. The DOJ, as the principal law agency and legal counsel of the government, remains deeply committed to the administration’s thrust towards a Bagong Pilipinas – one that is safe, peaceful, and just,” Remulla said. In its 2023 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, the US State Department noted that while human rights issues continue to be a problem in the Philippines, the number of incidents of arbitrary and extrajudicial killings and of some other abuses by government agents decreased. It also noted that the administration of President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. continued the antidrug campaign – which began under the Duterte administration – “albeit with a focus on treatment and rehabilitation, due process, and rule of law-based investigations.” In its latest report on the Generalized Scheme of Preferences (GSP) in November last year, the European Union (EU) has cited the willingness of the Marcos administration “to engage the international community on the issue of human rights,” having actively participated in multiple mechanisms of the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC). It noted “several positive steps” taken by the government, including its “new focus” on prevention and rehabilitation in the campaign against drug and the visits of several UN Special Rapporteurs. In February this year, visiting United Nations Special Rapporteur Irene Khan took note of the DOJ’s measures to strengthen the investigation and prosecution of violence against journalists and human rights defenders, and asked the government to further strengthen the agency’s Administrative Order (AO) 35. AO 35 is a government mechanism that brings together various agencies of the government against impunity. Last March 14, the DOJ and the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) signed a memorandum of agreement (MOA) aimed at facilitating assistance to victims of human rights abuses, summary executions, torture, and enforced disappearances, among others.

  • By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, April 24, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2024/04/24/590373/inflation-may-ease-in-2nd-half-neda/ HEADLINE INFLATION may start easing in the second half of the year as pressure on food prices subsides after the El Niño weather event ends, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) chief said. “In the second half of this year, we expect the pressure from food prices to diminish, because a big part of that food inflation was imported in the sense that food prices, particularly for staple, have been rising in the world mar-ket,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan told reporters on the sidelines of a forum on Monday afternoon. Inflation rose for a second straight month in March to 3.7% amid rising food prices. Food inflation accelerated to 5.7%, its fastest pace in four months, mainly driven by rice. Rice inflation surged to 24.4% in March, the highest since the 24.6% print in February 2009. “But for rice, (pressure) is expected to decline, (as prices) reached the peak and will start falling after June as the El Niño phenomenon is waning,” Mr. Balisacan said. The El Niño weather phenomenon is expected to persist until May, but the Philippines may continue to feel its impact until August, the Department of Science and Technology said earlier. Mr. Balisacan said he is hoping that April inflation would fall within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) 2-4% target band, although oil prices pose a risk. He noted April inflation will likely be close to the 3.7% print recorded in March. “[The] 2-4% is still a fighting target. Of course, we are watching closely the developments in the Middle East. If the oil prices would be affected by the development, there would be some pressure for us,” Mr. Balisacan said, refer-ring to the conflict between Israel and Iran. The local statistics agency will release April inflation data on May 7. Mr. Balisacan said that economic growth in the first half may be affected if inflation continues to breach the target. “[It’s] a challenge because domestic consumption, particularly home consumption and investment, are very sensitive to inflation and interest rates,” he said. Earlier this month, the Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) revised its gross domestic product (GDP) growth target range to 6-7% this year from 6.5-7.5% previously amid geopolitical tensions, price upticks, and trade restrictions. The local statistics agency is set to release first-quarter GDP data on May 9. “With food prices starting to come down, that should be good for growth. But of course, if the energy prices continue to rise, then it could affect logistics, distribution, and it could impact food prices too. But we hope that it will not be serious,” Mr. Balisacan said. Oxford Economics economist Makoto Tsuchiya said he expects inflation to quicken to 3.9% in April due to base effects. He also noted that sequential momentum was largely flat this month. “Although rice prices remain elevated, prices for other agricultural products including vegetables and fruits are starting to decline, which should help ease inflationary pressures in the coming months,” he said in an e-mail. “Higher oil prices due to escalation of the conflicts in the Middle East is an emerging risk, but so far the impact remains limited.” Monetary Board Member V. Bruce J. Tolentino said the government should keep a close eye on global developments that could impact commodity prices and stoke inflation. “The elections in India are ongoing, and if Mr. [Narendra] Modi wins, he will focus on his domestic priorities of ensuring that food prices are low in India. That means the export ban [on non-basmati rice] may continue, which will worsen inflation,” he said in a Viber chat. Last year, India imposed export curbs on non-basmati rice and other commodities to address rising domestic prices. The supply shortage drove global prices higher, affecting the Philippines which is one of the biggest importers of rice. Mr. Tolentino noted that the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war may cause an uptick in fertilizer prices and constrain wheat supply. “It is crucial that the government maintain its efforts to invest in productivity-enhancing measures. These have been paying off in the record rice harvests attained over the past 2-3 years,” Mr. Tolentino said.

  • By Reine Juvierre S. Alberto, April 22, 2024; Business Mirror https://businessmirror.com.ph/2024/04/22/adb-to-help-digitalization-human-ware-disaster-prep/#:~:text=THE%20Asian%20Development%20Bank%20(ADB,(CPS)%20for%20the%20Philippines. The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has committed to supporting the Philippines in enhancing digitalization, human capital and infrastructure, and disaster preparedness through a new Country Partnership Strategy (CPS) for the Philippines. In a statement on Sunday, the Department of Finance (DOF) said Finance Secretary Ralph G. Recto secured commitments from ADB President Masatsugu Asakawa during a high-level meeting with the ADB and the country’s economic managers on April 17. The key strategic priorities in these areas will be reflected and aligned in ADB’s upcoming CPS, which also encapsulates the development priorities of the current administration, the DOF said. According to the ADB, the CPS is the multilateral lending bank’s platform for designing operations to deliver development results at the country level. Recto said the slow adaptation to digitalization amidst the rise of e-commerce would result in an “immense potential revenue leakage” since a fourth of Filipino consumers have shifted to e-commerce. For its part, the ADB has committed to collaborate closely with the Philippine government on a proposed Digital Transformation Project for the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). This is in line with the Bank’s long-standing support for Philippine tax reform measures and domestic resource mobilization efforts, the DOF added. Recto also urged the ADB to boost assistance for human capital development, particularly in education and nutrition programs, to uplift the quality of life of every Filipino. Banking on the recently enacted Public-Private Partnership (PPP) Code, Recto encouraged the ADB to help the country attract more investors for its flagship infrastructure projects to boost competitiveness, particularly in power and physical and digital connectivity. The Finance chief also called for increased cooperation in utilizing renewable energy resources to hasten the Philippines’ switch to sustainable energy. Lastly, the DOF sought the Bank’s support for Manila’s proposal to host the Loss and Damage Fund (LDF)—a global climate fund established in November  2023 under the United Nations Framework Conference on Climate Change (UNFCCC). The ADB is the Philippines’s second-largest official development assistance (ODA) partner with a total ODA commitment of USD11.40 billion, as of December 31, 2023. Around USD4.48 billion in ODA loan financing has been secured from the ADB for priority programs and projects for business and employment, agriculture, inclusive finance, domestic resource mobilization, and infrastructure development since the start of Marcos Jr.’s administration. The meeting was joined by ADB’s Vice President of Southeast Asia Operations Scott Morris; General Counsel Tom Clark; Director General for Strategy, Policy and Partnerships Department Tomo Kimura; and Chief Advisor to the President Haruto Takimura. Recto was accompanied by National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan and Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman.

  • By Chino S. Leyco, April 16, 2024; Manila Bulletin https://mb.com.ph/2024/4/16/four-lg-us-join-global-anti-corruption-alliance Four local government units (LGUs) from the Philippines have been accepted into the global partnership that focuses on promoting transparency, fighting corruption, and strengthening governance. In a statement on Tuesday, April 16, Budget Secretary Amenah F. Pangandaman said that Tagbilaran (Bohol), Larena (Siquijor), Quezon City, and Baguio City are now members of the Open Government Partnership (OGP). Pangandaman, who also serves as the chairman of OGP-Philippines, noted that these four LGUs have now joined the initiative, following the acceptance of South Cotabato and Borongan into the group in 2018 and 2020, respectively. Among the benefits of joining the OGP is the impetus it brings to strengthen civil society participation in local planning and development to further improve LGU delivery of basic services. “I am happy that OGP is now present in NCR [national capital region], Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao! This is a big boost to our campaign for open governance,” Pangandaman said. “I look forward to working with you in making our government more open, transparent and accountable,” she added. The Philippines is one of the eight founding countries of the OGP along with Brazil, Indonesia, Mexico, Norway, South Africa, the United Kingdom and the United States. Aside from national governments, since 2016, the OGP Local program has opened membership to local governments for initiatives promoting the values of OGP that are even closer to the people. Pangandaman also initiated the institutionalization of OGP last year. Open government in the Philippines has been gaining momentum with the backing of no less than our President Ferdinand R Marcos Jr. who issued the landmark Executive Order No. 31, s. 2023 institutionalizing OGP,” Pangandaman explained. “With this EO, we are able to provide a solid policy and legal framework to ensure that the open government principles are embedded in programs and policies in all branches of government.” the budget chief concluded.

  • IMF hikes growth forecast for PHL

    By Luisa Maria Jacinta C. Jocson, April 17, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2024/04/17/588624/imf-hikes-growth-forecast-for-phl/ THE INTERNATIONAL Monetary Fund (IMF) raised its gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for the Philippines for this year and 2025.  In its latest World Economic Outlook (WEO), the IMF upwardly revised its Philippine growth forecast to 6.2% for this year from 6% previously. This is within the government’s revised 6-7% growth target. “Real GDP growth for 2024 was revised slightly to 6.2% from the January WEO forecast of 6%, reflecting carryover from a better-than-expected outturn in the last quarter of 2023,” IMF Representative to the Philippines Ragnar Gudmundsson said in an e-mail. The Philippine economy grew by 5.5% in both the fourth quarter and full-year 2023. Based on IMF projections for emerging and developing Asia, the Philippines is expected to post the second-fastest GDP growth this year, just behind India (6.8%). It is ahead of Vietnam (5.8%), Indonesia (5%), China (4.6%), Malaysia (4.4%) and Thailand (2.7%). “Growth in emerging and developing Asia is expected to fall from an estimated 5.6% in 2023 to 5.2% in 2024 and 4.9% in 2025, a slight upward revision compared with the January 2024 WEO Update,” according to the report. The multilateral lender sees five Association of Southeast Asian Nations member economies (ASEAN-5) to expand by an average of 4.5% this year, slightly lower than the 4.7% forecast it gave previously.  The ASEAN-5, composed of the Philippines, Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Indonesia, is forecast to grow by 4.6% next year, slightly higher than its 4.4% projection in January. For 2025, the IMF sees Philippine GDP growing by 6.2%, a tad higher than its previous forecast of 6.1% but below the government’s 6.5-7.5% target. Mr. Gudmundsson said the forecast for 2025 is supported by expectations of an “acceleration in domestic demand and investment.” Next year, the Philippines has the second-fastest projected growth in the region, just behind India and Vietnam (both at 6.5%). “Over the medium term, structural reforms to close infrastructure and education gaps, attract greater foreign direct investments (FDIs), and harness benefits from the digital economy should help realize a (Philippine) growth potential of about 6-6.5%,” Mr. Gudmundsson said. “These reforms should be complemented by strengthening existing social protection schemes and addressing climate change through a more integrated strategy that includes a carbon pricing scheme,” he added. Economic managers are targeting 6.5-8% growth from 2026 to 2028. Meanwhile, the IMF sees global growth settling at 3.2% for both 2024 and 2025. It raised its 2024 forecast by 0.1 percentage point but kept its 2025 projection unchanged from January. “Nevertheless, the projection for global growth in 2024 and 2025 is below the historical (2000-2019) annual average of 3.8%, reflecting restrictive monetary policies and withdrawal of fiscal support, as well as low underlying productivity growth,” the IMF said. It said that emerging market and developing economies are expected to “experience stable growth through 2024 and 2025, with regional differences.”

  • By Beatriz Marie D. Cruz, April 9, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2024/04/09/586852/philippines-likely-to-post-fastest-gdp-growth-among-asean3-countries-this-year-2025/ THE PHILIPPINES is expected to grow faster than Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) member countries, China, Japan, South Korea and Hong Kong this year and in 2025, but elevated inflation remains a key risk to the outlook, a regional think tank said on Monday. In its Regional Economic Outlook quarterly update, the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) kept its 6.3% gross domestic product (GDP) growth outlook for the Philippines, unchanged from the January report. This is faster than the revised 5.5% GDP growth in 2023 and within the government’s revised 6-7% target for this year. AMRO also sees the Philippines expanding by 6.5% in 2025, also within the government’s 6.5-7.5% goal. “I think 6.3% is very strong growth (for this year), among the highest in the region,” AMRO Chief Economist Hoe Ee Khor said in a virtual briefing. “The Philippines will also benefit from the upswing, you know, in terms of external demand… Manufacturing sector will benefit from that and the recovery in tourism.” For this year, AMRO’s growth projection for the Philippines is ahead of Cambodia (6.2%), Vietnam (6%), Indonesia (5.2%), Malaysia (5%), China (4.4%) Laos (4.7%), Hong Kong (3.5%), Myanmar (3.2%), Thailand (2.9%),  Brunei Darussalam (2.7%), Singapore (2.6%), South Korea (2.3%) and Japan (1.1%). For 2025, the Philippines and Vietnam are expected to be the growth leaders in the region. “The Philippine economic outlook is clouded by various risk factors and challenges. In the near term, growth prospects are relatively robust, but high inflation is a risk, especially as a result of local supply shocks in the food sector and the impacts of geopolitical conflicts on international energy prices. These will exert upward pressure on inflation which can dampen domestic demand,” AMRO said in the report released on Monday. Philippine inflation will be among the fastest in ASEAN+3 this year at 3.6%, alongside Vietnam, according to AMRO estimates.  Only Myanmar (16.1%) and Laos (14.3%) will likely post faster inflation.  For 2025, the think tank sees Philippine inflation easing to 2.9%. AMRO’s inflation forecasts for the Philippines are lower than the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) 3.8% and 3.2% estimates for this year and next year. “I think there’s a slight risk that this year, because of the synchronized upswing in the global economy, that inflationary pressure may actually be on the upside rather than on the downside, so it may slow down the moderation in the growth rate,” Mr. Khor said. He noted that upside risks to inflation could delay rate cuts by the BSP, which on Monday kept policy rates at a near 17-year high of 6.5%. “(Inflation) has not come down low enough for the [Philippine] central bank to feel comfortable to ease the rate… Our view is that monetary policy also needs to remain fairly tight until inflation has come off and reach its (2-4%) inflation target,” he added. AMRO said the Philippines also faces risks from an economic slowdown in major trading partners, volatilities in financial markets and tighter financial conditions. “Looking at the longer term, the growth potential will largely hinge on the economic scarring effects of the pandemic, the pace of infrastructure development and heightened geopolitical tensions between China and the United States,” it said. The Philippines also faces rising social and economic costs from climate disasters. AMRO said the country needs to craft a comprehensive strategy for “resilient, sustainable and inclusive long-term growth.” ‘ENGINE OF GROWTH’ The ASEAN+3 region is seen to expand by 4.5% this year and by 4.2% in 2025, according to the AMRO report. The ASEAN region alone is projected to grow by 4.8% this year, higher than AMRO’s 4.5% projection in January. For 2025, the region is expected to grow by 4.9%. Inflation in ASEAN+3, excluding Laos and Myanmar, is forecast to slow to 2.5% this year, and to 2.3% in 2025. “Domestic demand is likely to remain resilient, underpinned by recovering investment and firm consumer spending,” AMRO said. “Export recovery, especially in semiconductors, and tourism should provide an additional lift to growth.” The think tank said the ASEAN+3 region will continue to be the “engine of growth” for the world economy, as it is projected to contribute as much as 45% of global growth through 2030. However, AMRO warned the near-term outlook for the region faces risks from a sudden spike in global commodity prices due to an escalation in geopolitical tensions or weather shocks. “Other key risks include slower-than-expected growth in China, adverse spillovers from the US presidential election campaign and possible recession in major advanced economies outside the region,” it added. AMRO also noted that the outlook gives ASEAN+3 economies a chance to rebuild policy space that was lost during the pandemic. “Going forward, the priority for fiscal policy should be directed mainly at restoring buffers while providing targeted support for the economy. Meanwhile, it is essential for monetary policy to be focused on anchoring inflation expectations given the continued upside risks to inflation,” it said.

  • By Pia Lee-Brago, April 8, 2024; Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/04/08/2346060/philippines-reaffirms-human-rights-resolve MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines has reaffirmed its resolve to continue efforts to strengthen domestic human rights mechanisms. Technical assistance and capacity building have a high potential to catalyze transformative change that advances rights causes, Ambassador Carlos Sorreta said on April 3 at the 55th Session of the Human Rights Council’s general debate on technical assistance and capacity building. Sorreta renewed the Philippine government’s resolve, building on the gains of the UN Joint Program (UNJP) on human rights in the Philippines. “It is so when done right, that is, when states are given the driver’s seat in capacity-building initiatives and programs are responsive to national priorities and needs. We say this with the benefit of insights gained from our three-year joint program with the UN on human rights (or the UNJP),” he said. In 2021, the Philippines and the UN launched the joint program that facilitated technical cooperation and capacity building in support of national initiatives and institutional frameworks in six areas: domestic investigation and accountability mechanisms, data gathering on alleged police violations, national mechanism for monitoring and follow-up, civic space and engagement with civil society, drug control and counterterrorism. The UNJP will conclude in July 2024, accomplishing its objectives of bolstering domestic human rights policies, programs and institutions. “As the UNJP draws to an end, we take ownership, with re-invigorated domestic institutions to better address complex governance issues, we take ownership with human rights, justice and accountability principles well embedded in programs and strategies and the mindset of government frontliners,” the Philippines’ envoy to the UN in Geneva said. The UNJP was managed through a multi-stakeholder steering committee, led by the Department of Justice and the UN resident coordinator, bringing together various agencies, the Commission on Human Rights, UN agencies, civil society organizations and representatives of donor countries. These countries provided funding to the UNJP Multi-Partner Trust Fund under the stewardship of the UN country team: Australia, Germany, Ireland, the Netherlands, Norway, the Republic of Korea, Switzerland, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. The Philippine government provided $200,000 in addition to the budgetary resources allocated by relevant national agencies for specific projects under the UNJP. “We will establish a human rights coordinating council to sustain and broaden what we had achieved under the UNJP. As we forge ahead, we will continue to work with our international partners bilaterally, as we had done even before the UNJP, in order to maximize resources and ensure efficiency,” Sorreta said.

  • By Ian Laqui, April 4, 2024; Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/04/04/2345275/govt-cuts-growth-target-6-7-neda MANILA, Philippines — The country’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for 2024 has been adjusted to a range of 6% to 7%, down from the previous range of 6.5% to 7.5%, National Economic Development Authority (NEDA) chief Arsenio Balisacan said. In a press briefing with the members of the press on Thursday, Balisacan said that the country’s economic growth target had been revised following a careful consideration of factors such as the global economic slowdown, rising oil prices and inflation trends. Balisacan also said that the growth target for 2025 was adjusted to a range of 6.5% to 7.5%, down from the initial range of 6.5% to 8.0%. Meanwhile, the growth projections for 2026 to 2028, ranging from 6.5% to 8.0%, remained unchanged. Last year, the Development Budget Coordination Committee also revised the 2024 GDP target to a range of 6.5% to 7.5%, from the previous 6.5% to 8%. At the close of 2023, the country’s GDP reached 5.6%, falling below the government’s targeted range. This was influenced by elevated interest rates due to high inflation, which restrained consumer spending. On the other hand, the country’s inflation rate has ballooned to 3.4% as the cost of food and non-alcoholic beverages surged. The inflation report for the month of March will be reported by the Philippine Statistics Authority on April 5.

  • By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, April 3, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2024/04/03/585331/panel-to-address-right-of-way-issues-hounding-railway-projects/ THE MARCOS administration has created an interagency panel to fast-track the acquisition of land for national railway projects, as Philippine infrastructure plans continue to be hounded by right-of-way (RoW) issues. Under Administrative Order No. 19, which was signed on March 25, the Inter-Agency Committee for Right-of-Way Activities for National Railway Projects will “study and devise an efficient and collaborative mechanism to streamline the process of land acquisition necessary for the implementation of all railway projects.” The panel will be chaired by the secretary of the Department of Transportation (DoTr) and co-chaired by the secretary of the Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development. Members of the committee include the departments of Interior and Local Government, Social Welfare, Environment, Finance, Budget, and Justice, as well as the Office of the Solicitor General. The Philippine National Railway (PNR), the committee’s secretariat, is directed to provide administrative and technical support to the body. The committee will submit to the President a bi-annual report on the status of RoW activities for ongoing railway projects. It will also take the lead in coordinating railway policies and programs among government agencies. The panel will ensure “effective completion” of programs related to land acquisition and other right-of-way activities such as livelihood programs, income restoration, and resettlement. It may also act on issues or complaints raised to the body. Terry L. Ridon, convenor of think tank InfraWatchPH, said the new committee could skip necessary social preparations as the Presidential Commission for the Urban Poor (PCUP) was not included as a member. “Conspicuously absent among the member-agencies is the PCUP, which is the lead agency for social preparation activities of urban poor communities affected by infrastructure projects such as railways,” he said in a Facebook Messenger. “Without PCUP having a seat at such a high-level committee, the government may be blindsided on the direct sentiments of urban communities affected by railway projects,” he added. The DoTr in a statement said the new committee is a “huge lift” for the Philippine railway sector. “It will help us bring back the glory days of the Philippine railway system.” The government’s infrastructure projects have been hampered by RoW issues that have delayed their completion. Transport Secretary Jaime J. Bautista said in early March RoW issues are threatening the 2029 deadline for the completion of the 33-kilometer Metro Manila Subway Project. While the construction of the subway tunnels began in January 2023, Mr. Bautista said last month the government had yet to secure 45% of the RoW. The Marcos administration’s priority infrastructure projects for the transport sector also include the North-South Commuter Railway System, Mindanao Railway Project, and Philippine National Railway South Long Haul. A 2016 law authorizes the government to acquire real property needed as RoW sites or for any National Government infrastructure project through donation, negotiated sale, expropriation, or any other mode of acquisition. Randy P. Tuaño, dean of the Ateneo de Manila University School of Government, said the government should have included representatives from the private sector and civil society groups in the committee “so that issues raised by these sectors could be discussed.” All concerned agencies and instrumentalities of the National Government, including state corporations and local government units, have been directed to support the order’s implementation.

  • By B.M.D.Cruz, April 2, 2024; Business World https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2024/04/02/585060/world-bank-raises-philippine-gdp-growth-projection-for-2025/ The World Bank (WB) maintained its economic growth forecast for the Philippines this year but raised its 2025 growth projection, amid expectations of higher consumer spending and foreign investments. In its latest East Asia and Pacific (EAP) Economic Update, the World Bank said it expects Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) to grow by 5.8% this year, the fastest in Southeast Asia along with Cambodia. The Philippines and Cambodia are seen to expand faster than Vietnam (5.5%), Indonesia (4.9%), Malaysia (4.3%), Lao People’s Democratic Republic (4.0%), Timor-Leste (3.6%), Thailand (2.8%) and Myanmar (1.3%). For 2025, the World Bank raised its GDP forecast for the Philippines to 5.9% from 5.8%. However, the World Bank’s growth forecasts for the Philippines are lower than the government’s target of 6.5-7.5% for 2024 and 6.5-8% for 2025 to 2028. “What has sustained growth in the Philippines, like much of the region, has been consumption and the recovery in services,” WB East Asia and Pacific Chief Economist Aaditya Mattoo said at a virtual briefing on Monday. He noted foreign investment flows into the Philippines might increase after the government implemented significant reforms such as Republic Act No. 11659 or the Public Service Act, which allows full foreign ownership in key sectors such as telecommunications and airlines. “(The reforms) should begin to pay off in terms of greater foreign investment, which though in the short run… the flows have been less strong than we would have expected,” Mr. Mattoo said. Climate and geopolitical shocks, as well as elevated inflation and high interest rates are risks to the growth outlook. “If there is a resurgence in inflation, for example in the United States, which might well see interest rates even higher for longer, that would certainly affect growth throughout the region as we have estimated,” he said. The World Bank projects GDP growth for East Asia and the Pacific at 4.5% this year and 4.3% for 2025. This is slower than the region’s projected 5.1% expansion in 2023. “Most economies in developing East Asia and Pacific, other than several Pacific island countries, are growing faster than the rest of the world, but slower than before the pandemic,” the World Bank said. The region’s slower growth is partially due to China, whose economy is expected to slow to 4.5% this year and 4.3% next year. “China is aiming to transition to a more balanced growth path but the quest to ignite alternative demand drivers is proving difficult,” the World Bank said. Excluding China, the region’s GDP is projected to expand by 4.6% this year and 4.8% in 2025. “The likely rebound in global goods trade and the gradual easing of global financial conditions are expected to offset the impact of China slowing down,” it said. Poverty to Decline Meanwhile, the World Bank expects Philippine GDP growth to average at 5.9% from 2024 to 2026, driven by strong domestic demand. “The medium-term outlook will be driven by robust private consumption activity, supported by declining inflation, a healthy labor market and steady remittance inflows,” it said in its Macro Poverty Outlook for the Philippines. It expects poverty in the Philippines to decline despite risks from extreme climate events. “Poverty incidence using the World Bank’s poverty line for lower middle-income countries of $3.65/day, PPP (purchasing power parity) is projected to decrease from 17.8% in 2021 to 12.2% in 2024 and further decrease to 9.3% in 2026,” it said. The World Bank said risks to this outlook include high inflation that would “dampen economic activity by keeping the policy rate higher for longer, erode purchasing power and threaten to deepen poverty and worsen economic vulnerability.” “The possibility of higher-than-expected global inflation, still tight global financing conditions, a further slowdown in the growth of China and escalating geopolitical tensions could cause a sharper-than-expected growth slowdown which would further dampen external demand,” it added.

  • By Jose Cielito Reganit, March 21, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1221283 MANILA – The proposed New Government Procurement Reform Law may be ready for signing by President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. in May. Senior Deputy Speaker and Pampanga 3rd District Rep. Aurelio Gonzales Jr. said he met with Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday to discuss the proposed new procurement law. “Pinag-usapan po namin ni Senate President Migz na maipapasa by May. At siguro po, before SONA (the President’s State of the Nation Address in July), okay na po ‘yung ating (bagong) Procurement Law, (I discussed with Senate President Migz that it will be passed by May. And hopefully, before the President’s SONA in July, we already have a New Procurement Law)” Gonzales said in a press conference at the House of Representatives on Thursday. The proposed New Government Procurement Act, principally authored by Speaker Martin Romualdez and Gonzales, is one of the priority measures included in the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC). The House passed House Bill 9648 (HB) on Dec. 12 last year. The Senate opened second-reading deliberations on its version on Monday. Gonzales noted that the enactment process for the proposed new law could be shortened further if the Senate would just adopt HB 9648, which seeks to repeal and replace Republic Act (RA) 9184, the present procurement statute. “So, ang gusto ko po sana kung pupuwede, kaming dalawa ni (Budget) Secretary Mena (Amenah Pangandaman) at ni Speaker, gusto namin talaga mapabilis itong (My point is if it’s possible. I and Budget Secretary Pangandaman, and Speaker Romualdez want to hasten the passage of the) Procurement Act,” he said. He said in the case of the judiciary, the Supreme Court has “pipeline projects all over the country,” like more courtrooms, but cannot be immediately bid out because RA 9184 has to be amended first. Among the salient features of the new law is the reduction of the procurement process from 120 days to just 27 days, “starting from the advertisement up to the notice of award, notice to proceed, and signing of contract and (with) one publication only.” The measure aims to adopt a “single electronic portal” known as the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) for all procurement activities — from planning to implementation. Another salient feature of the proposed new procurement law is the removal of the requirement for the post-qualification of bidders. On Tuesday, Pangandaman said passing the New Procurement Act would be a “significant step” in promoting transparency and good governance and, at the same time, help government agencies utilize their budget efficiently. “This is a significant step that will promote transparency, efficiency, and good governance, aligning with President Bongbong Marcos’ vision of Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines),” Pangandaman said in a statement.

  • By Jean Mangaluz, March 19, 2024; Philippine Daily Inquirer https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1920525/fwd-zubiri-on-ledac MANILA, Philippines — Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri on Tuesday said that the Senate is still on track to pass all the priority bills of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) by June. According to a Palace statement, Zubiri made the pledge to President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. himself. Zubiri, Marcos, House Speaker Martin Romualdez and the country’s economic chiefs met in a Ledac meeting in Malacañan Tuesday morning. “Mayroon pa kaming, of course, utang dahil hindi pa namin natatapos. But we committed to the President all 23 measures, hopefully, will be done by June before the Senate break or sine die break. So ‘yan ang commitment namin sa House of Representatives together with the President. But we’re on track to pass all of these by June,” said Zubiri. (We committed to the President all 23 measures, which hopefully will be done by June before the Senate break or sine die break. So that is our commitment to the House of Representatives together with the President. We’re on track to pass all of these by June.) A total of 15 measures will be completed before the Senate Sine die adjournment and another eight will be done by June, said Zubiri. According to Zubiri, however, many laws are already on the Bicameral Conference Committee Meetings level, while others only need Marcos’ signature. For the House of Representatives, all Ledac priority measures have been passed, according to Romualdez. In January, the Ledac determined that there were 15 priority bills to be passed before June, namely: Amendments to Anti-Agricultural Smuggling Act/Anti-Agricultural Economic Sabotage Act Self-Reliant Defense Posture Act Philippine Maritime Zones Act Real Property Valuation and Assessment Reform Act Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System Negros Island Region Act Anti-Financial Accounts Scamming Act Value Added Tax on Digital Services Amendments to the Government Procurement Reform Act Blue Economy Act Waste-to-Energy Bill Mandatory Reserve Officers’ Training Corps and National Service Training Program Unified System of Separation, Retirement, and Pension of Military and Uniformed Personnel E-Government Act/E-Governance Act Academic Recovery and Accessible Learning Program Act

  • By William B. Depasupil, March 18, 2024; The Manila Times https://www.manilatimes.net/2024/03/18/news/national/bi-cfo-launch-joint-database-system/1937317 The Bureau of Immigration (BI) and the Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) have integrated their database systems to provide efficient and faster service to departing and arriving overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) while making it doubly hard for illegal and undocumented workers or victims of human trafficking. Immigration Commissioner Norman Tansingco said over the weekend that the BI-CFO joint system agreement aims to provide a simplified and more efficient means of processing, collecting, verifying, and sharing information or data needed by both agencies. The joint system seeks to address and eliminate illegal recruitment, human trafficking, and irregular migration incidents in the Philippines while generating accurate data on migration. “Interoperability is an important part of modern governance,” said Tansingco. “The integration of our systems to share real-time data will provide streamlined and efficient services to the public,” he added. He said BI officers have encountered several instances of fake CFO Guidance and Counseling Program (GCP) certificates presented during immigration inspections. GCP is a required pre-departure seminar conducted by the CFO to equip Filipinos in intermarriages and bi-national relationships with adequate information on cultural and social realities overseas. The certificates purport to show that holders have attended the GCP and, therefore, can leave for abroad. Aside from the CFO, the BI has also linked up with the Department of Migrant Workers (DMW). BI records show that the GCP certificate and the Overseas Employment Certificate (OEC) from the DMW are the most common government certificates being faked by human trafficking syndicates. Under the law, Filipinos who are leaving to permanently settle abroad are required to register with the CFO and obtain certificates that they attended the commission’s pre-departure orientation seminar or peer counseling sessions. The OEC, on the other hand, is a requirement for departing OFWs and first-time migrants. Tansingco said the joint system would allow immediate detection of fake CFO certificates and prevent future attempts of fraud. “With the creation of the shared information system between the BI and the CFO, schemes like this will not be able to pass,” he said.

  • By Kristine Daguno-Bersamina, March 16, 2024; Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/03/16/2341061/marcos-signs-new-law-online-passport-applications-philippines Manila, Philippines — President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. has approved the “New Philippine Passport Act,” designed to modernize passport application processes nationwide. The law aims to greatly improve accessibility and streamline procedures, especially benefiting senior citizens, overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), and individuals with special needs or exceptional circumstances, according to the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) on Friday. The recently enacted law, signed on March 11, replaced Republic Act No. 8239, also known as the Passport Act of 1996. “The new passport law now authorizes DFA to provide offsite and mobile passport services in areas outside of the consular offices and foreign service posts (FSPs),” the PCO said. “The DFA is also mandated by the new law to arrange accommodations for the applications of regular passports by senior citizens, PWDs, pregnant women, minors aged seven years old and below, solo parents, OFWs, and individuals with emergency and exceptional cases,” it added. To ensure passport security, the PCO explained that the law sets tough penalties for unauthorized passport handling. Offenders could face at least 12 years in prison and fines ranging from P1 million to P2 million. The New Philippine Passport Act addresses offenses such as passport forgery and misuse, with penalties including imprisonment for six to 15 years and fines ranging from P100,000 to P250,000. It also targets unfair practices in passport issuance, prescribing penalties like suspension, dismissal, fines of up to P250,000, and imprisonment for a maximum of six years. According to the PCO, regular passports, meant for Filipino citizens ineligible for diplomatic or official passports, will be issued under the new law, serving government officials or employees traveling abroad for personal reasons. “Government officials and employees and members of their families may, during their incumbency in office, hold two passports simultaneously,” the PCO said. The New Philippine Passport Act will take effect 15 days after its publication in either the Official Gazette or a widely circulated newspaper.

  • House approves economic Cha-cha

    By Delon Porcalla, March 14, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/03/14/2340401/house-approves-economic-cha-cha MANILA, Philippines — The House of Representatives approved on second reading last night Resolution of Both Houses 7 (RBH7) amending restrictive economic provisions in the 1987 Constitution, just before Congress goes on a Holy Week break. Administration lawmakers overwhelmingly endorsed through a voice vote the economic Charter change ostensibly aimed at relaxing foreign ownership restrictions in public utilities, education and advertising. Rep. Rufus Rodriguez, chairman of the House committee on constitutional amendments, suggested that in light of the Philippines’ rift with China over the West Philippine Sea, the government can “exclude Chinese and other risky investors in the economic Charter amendment enabling law.” He said the phrase “unless otherwise provided by law” is proposed to be inserted in the Charter’s economic provisions to give Congress the power to change foreign investment limitations, but this would not mean that all foreign capital would be accepted. Rodriguez said Congress can include a “screening process” in the enabling law that would prevent countries engaged in conflict with the Philippines from coming in with their investments. “I can mention China, with which we have a dispute over the West Philippine Sea. In other words, Congress can craft a law to make sure that risky countries or investments with implications on our national interest and security can be checked and barred from coming in,” he said. Another proponent, Rep. Teodorico Haresco Jr. of the second district of Aklan, said RBH7 can create two million jobs and double the foreign direct investments in the country, which is very much needed as government tries to recover from the adverse effects of the pandemic. “We hold the highest foreign investment restrictions among the ASEAN-5 because of the limitations set in our Constitution and it’s also the reason why we cannot maximize foreign investments which could generate jobs and alleviate poverty,” he said.Data presented by Haresco also showed the Philippines lagging behind its ASEAN neighbors, where it is the last in foreign investment inflows among the five biggest ASEAN economies – Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, Singapore and Thailand – from 2010 to 2020.“The fruits of our economic and fiscal policies in the past decade are almost ripe. It’s high time we remove the barriers so not only a few benefit. Our country must work together with the global community so we can reap these bountiful harvests and have the Filipino people and their families benefit from our labor of love,” Haresco stressed. The measure, authored by House leaders, was discussed extensively since Feb. 26 after RBH7 was filed, and a committee of the whole was formed for purposes of expediting the process, where hearings in the committee level have been done away with. Opponents to the measure have been allowed to pose questions to the resource persons that included framers of the Charter, legal luminaries, members of academe, renowned economists and even former and incumbent government officials. Speaker Martin Romualdez said the chamber will finish the measure in time for the March 22 Lenten break of Congress, which includes the Senate. The resumption of session will start on April 29.

  • By Wilnard Bacelonia, March 12, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1220587 MANILA – The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) urged lawmakers on Tuesday to streamline Republic Act No. 9184 or the Government Procurement Reform Act (GPRA) to address supply issues in projects being funded through Official Development Assistance (ODA). During a public hearing of the Congressional Oversight Committee on the ODA (COCODA), NEDA Assistant Secretary Jonathan Uy said with the current law, biddings fail due to shortage of qualified bidders for civil works, goods, and highly technical consulting services. Uy suggested that the best value procurement mechanism in procurement reform should be adopted. “Instead of talking of price per se as the paramount value, we should come up with technical parameters for best value procurement beyond price,” he said. Uy also recommended a statutory grant for the Government Procurement Policy Board to enhance capacity building on procurement, as well as to increase professionalism among procurement practitioners. “We cannot rely on changing procurement officers. In particular, that is an issue in terms of transparency and moral hazard if we have changing procurement officers. Therefore, we have to train a cadre of procurement people not only at the national level, but also at the local government level,” Uy said. The preferential use of domestically produced and manufactured goods, he said, should be amended, saying the technology needed, especially in ODA-funded projects, is usually not locally available. Proposed revisions in Senate plenary Senate Bill No. 2593, which proposes amendments to the GPRA, was ushered on Monday to the plenary. Senator Sonny Angara, chair of the Committee on Finance, assured that the measure would result in greater efficiency in the implementation of projects, purchase of goods and supplies and reducing, if not eliminating, avenues for corruption. A priority measure identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council, the amendments to the GPRA are expected to streamline and make effective the process of government procurement. Angara said procurement of basic supplies take an “inordinate amount of time” to complete. “There is a lack of true competition among bidders and oftentimes agencies are unable to undertake the procurement of goods due to poor planning or they are tied up by the procedures under the law,” he said in a speech. In his last State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said the GPRA should be reformed to make public procurement more attuned to the changing times.

  • By Louella Desiderio, March 6, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/03/06/2338317/inflation-quickens-34-percent-february#:~:text=MANILA%2C%20Philippines%20%E2%80%94%20Inflation%20quickened%20to,and%20meat%20and%20transport%20costs. Manila, Philippines — Inflation quickened to a two-month high of 3.4 percent in February from 2.8 percent in January, snapping four straight months of decline amid faster upticks in food prices such as rice and meat and transport costs. The February inflation print, however was lower than the 8.6 percent booked in the same month last year and was within the 2.8 percent to 3.6 percent forecast of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). Prior to the pick-up last month, the rate of increase in the average prices of consumer goods and services has been declining since September 2023. National Statistician Dennis Mapa said in a press briefing yesterday the uptrend in inflation was driven by food and non-alcoholic beverages, which posted an inflation rate of 4.6 percent in February from 3.5 percent in the previous month. Food inflation went up to 4.8 percent from 3.3 percent due to higher rice and meat prices. Rice posted a higher inflation rate of 23.7 percent in February from the previous month’s 22.6 percent. Mapa said the February rice inflation was the highest since the 24.6 percent recorded in February 2009. World market prices of rice have been rising and all three classifications of the staple tracked by the Philippine Statistics Authority also posted increases, Mapa said. “Assuming no reduction in the price, and the movement will continue, we should be expecting high rice inflation until July or August this year,” Mapa said. Meat recorded a 0.7 percent increment in February after easing by 0.7 percent in January. The transport commodity group was cited as another driver of the higher headline inflation rate as the index registered a 1.2 percent increase from a 0.3 percent decline. Housing, water, electricity, gas and other fuels also contributed to the uptrend as it recorded a faster uptick of 0.9 percent in February from the previous month’s 0.7 percent. National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the government would continue to monitor food supply and prices and implement policies to ensure affordable and adequate food especially for the most vulnerable sectors. “As we navigate the economic landscape, it is imperative that we remain vigilant and proactive in our approach to managing inflationary pressures. While we have seen some relief from certain inflation risks, we must not become complacent. The potential impact of a strong El Niño weather pattern on food prices is a significant concern for our community,” Balisacan said. Balisacan said the government is coming up with strategies to respond to the challenges. While international rice prices have started to ease and local supply is expected to increase with the dry season harvest beginning this month through April, he said the Department of Agriculture is working closely with the International Rice Research Institute to increase the country’s rice production. The NEDA also said the next phase of the test for the African swine fever vaccine is awaiting Food and Drug Administration approval. This vaccine, once proven effective, will be rolled out to help ensure adequate pork supply in the country. ING senior economist Nicholas Mapa said the February inflation print was driven in large part by another supply side shock with food inflation reversing to accelerate. For the coming months, he said “the direction of inflation will be driven largely still by supply side factors and thus we will have to brace for episodes of sharp shifts and reversals as supply constraints remain unaddressed.” Oxford Economics economist Makoto Tsuchiya said the latest inflation outturn is not seen as the start of a significant reacceleration in prices, as the upside came from the supply side. Tsuchiya said the demand side inflationary pressures are limited. “With the economy set to slow this year amid soft external demand and the lagged impact of monetary policy, we don’t see a strong risk of demand-pull inflation,” he said. Diwa Guinigundo, former BSP deputy governor and now country analyst at GlobalSource Partners, said the central bank is likely to avoid moving too fast in easing its current monetary stance.

  • By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, March 1, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1219879 MANILA – Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Amenah Pangandaman has expressed appreciation for the agency’s purchasing arm, the Procurement Service (PS), for its digitalization efforts to ensure bureaucratic efficiency and improved service. In her keynote speech during PS-DBM’s appreciation event for its client agencies at the Philippine International Convention Center in Pasay City on Thursday, Pangandaman lauded the digital transformation initiatives of the agency’s procurement arm, which includes the modernization of the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS). “This event’s theme, ‘ONE in Procurement and Service 2024: Transformative Public Service in the Digital Age,’ speaks volumes about PS-DBM’s commitment to achieving the government’s Agenda for Prosperity, leveraging digitalization towards bureaucratic efficiency, and improved public service delivery,” she said, as quoted by the DBM in a news release on Friday. “Congratulations to PS-DBM and our beloved client agencies on the success of this event. United as ‘One in Procurement and Service,’ may we never cease to work passionately in closing the gap between the government and the people we serve.” Pangandaman acknowledged the importance of modernizing the PhilGEPS by having an electronic marketplace that will ensure the client agencies’ convenient procurement of Common-use Supplies and Equipment (CSE). CSEs are items essential to the government’s daily operations. These include ball pens, papers, staplers, paper clips, and folders that are procured from the PS-DBM on a quarterly basis. Pangandaman also thanked the PS-DBM, headed by its executive director Dennis Santiago, for advocating the Government Procurement Reform Act, which is nearing passage. She said the proposed measure would help improve the country’s procurement system. “All of these wins are anchored on President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s vision of a Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines) where the government is truly responsive to the needs of the people, accountable to its constituents, and fulfills its promise of prosperity to everyone,” Pangandaman said. During the event, Santiago presented the agency’s 12-Point Agenda, which aims to focus on the procurement of CSEs. He said the agenda would pave the way for the study, review, and rationalization of CSEs. The agenda also seeks to build up PS-DBM’s financial self-sufficiency and implement organizational restructuring of the procurement arm, including its human resource development and capacity building. He said the PS-DBM also aims to advance market-strengthening strategies and alliance-building; push for the institutionalization of Framework Agreement and Indefinite Delivery and Indefinite Quantity contractual arrangements to simplify CSE procurement; and take advantage of the benefits of economies of scale through bulk purchasing. “We do what we can to ensure integrity, transparency, and accountability in the performance of our duties. Ang tiwalang ipinagkaloob po ninyo ang nagsisilbing inspirasyon upang mas pag-ibayuhin at paigtingin ang pagtupad sa aming sinumpaang tungkulin (Your trust in us serves as an inspiration for us to improve and intensify our efforts to fulfill our mandate),” Santiago said. The appreciation event was the PS-DBM’s first engagement catered to commemorate the decades-long commitment of its client agencies to accountable, transparent, and efficient procurement. The awardees included officials and key representatives of the DBM; Government Procurement Policy – Technical Support Office; Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas; Department of Health (DOH); Department of Foreign Affairs; Department of Environment and Natural Resources; Department of Education; Home Development Mutual Fund; Games and Amusement Board; Philippine National Police; Supreme Court of the Philippines; Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority; Clark Development Corp.; and the National Youth Commission. Other awardees were DOH 10 (Northern Mindanao); Department of Information and Communications Technology 7 (Central Visayas); Quezon City government; University of the Philippines (UP) Manila; UP Diliman; UP Los Baños; Jose Reyes Memorial Medical Center, Municipality of Naic, Cavite; 114th Contracting Office for Infrastructure, Armed Forces of the Philippines Procurement Service; City of Himamaylan, Negros Occidental; and the Polytechnic University of the Philippines. (PNA)

  • By Richmond Mercurio, February 23, 2024 ; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/02/23/2335360/sec-launches-online-portal-corporate-amendments Manila, Philippines — The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is making it easier for corporations to file amendments to their articles of incorporation or by-laws through a newly launched online portal. The SEC said applications for amendments to a corporation’s articles of incorporation and by-laws can be made through the Electronic Application for Modification of Entity Data (eAMEND) portal starting today. The creation of the portal is line with the SEC’s shift to electronic filing, mandated under the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines. “The eAMEND portal is the commission’s newest innovation that will make filing documents faster, easier, and more efficient for the transacting public,” SEC chairperson Emilio Aquino said. “As the SEC continues its digital transformation journey, we will endeavor to provide more solutions that will push the corporate sector forward in the digital world, while also reaching our targets on sustainability and good governance,” he said. According to the SEC, applications are classified into those that will be issued a digital certificate and those to be given original certification. The first classification applies to applications for amendment of the articles of incorporation and by-laws by domestic stock and non-stock corporations. The SEC said these applications may include a change in the principal office address, an increase or decrease in the number of directors or trustees in the board, fiscal year for one person corporations, and the deletion or addition of new provisions in their existing articles of incorporation. Changes in the date of the annual meeting of stockholders or member and the fiscal year likewise fall under this classification. Meanwhile, the SEC said applications that would undergo regular processing include those for the amendment of partnership, dissolution of partnership, conversion of OPC to an ordinary stock corporation and vice versa, and increase of capital stock of a one person corporation via cash. Changes in provisions regarding purposes, capitalization, and reclassification of shares of corporations, as well as other amendments to the articles of incorporation not covered in the first classification will also undergo regular processing. The SEC said it would automatically purge applications due to failure to provide the required details and upload the documentary requirements, failure to comply with the compliance order from the receipt of email notification, in cases of incomplete or non-compliant submission, as well as failure to pay the amendment fees, within 60, 30, and 45 calendar days, respectively. It said applications may likewise be cancelled by the commission upon non-submission of documentary requirements and non-compliance with any lawful order of the SEC, in instances of incomplete requirements and inconsistent entries in the documents provided. Upon implementation of the online portal, the SEC said only system-generated amendment forms would be accepted for applications under the first category.

  • By Ferdinand Patinio, February 23, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1219442 MANILA – The Philippines became the first country in Asia and the 38th in the world to ratify Convention No. 190 aimed at curbing violence and harassment in workplaces, the International Labour Organization (ILO) said on Friday. This came after Manila deposited the instrument of ratification of the convention to the ILO on Feb. 20. In a statement, the ILO said Convention No. 190 is the first international labor standard to address violence and harassment in the world of work comprehensively. It also introduces the first globally recognized definition of workplace violence and harassment, offering protection to all individuals in the workforce, including interns, apprentices, and those with employer duties or authority. This protection extends across various sectors, including public and private, formal and informal economies, and urban and rural areas. During the ceremony held at the ILO headquarters in Geneva, Switzerland, Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) Undersecretary for Labor Relations, Policy and International Affairs Cluster Benedicto Ernesto Bitonio Jr. said Manila recognizes the institutionalization of the “right to a world of work free from violence and harassment” as stipulated in the convention. “Convention 190 breaks new ground in the boldness of its scope and ambition. Where it speaks of a “right in the world of work,” it transcends the traditional boundaries of physical spaces, territory, and geography, of formal and informal work arrangements, of urban and rural communities, of corporate halls and households,” he said. He also said the convention calls upon nations to agree on a “baseline of acceptable behavior that respects every worker equally as a human being who has full freedom to choose and pursue the things that society values whatever [their] status, capabilities and sector are”. ILO Deputy Director General Celeste Drake, meanwhile, lauded the Philippines’ move to ratify the accord. “This ratification marks an important step to preventing and eliminating violence and harassment in the world of work. It is time to make workplaces free from violence and harassment a reality everywhere, promoting and realizing social justice for all,” she said. The convention also mandates member states to adopt, in consultation with representative employers’ and workers’ organizations, inclusive, gender-responsive strategies for preventing and eradicating workplace violence and harassment. This approach includes prevention, protection, and enforcement measures, as well as remedies, guidance, training, and awareness-raising initiatives. Acknowledging the distinct roles of governments, employers, workers, and their organizations, the convention emphasizes the importance of social dialogue and tripartism in implementing these measures at the national level. To date, the Philippines has ratified 39 ILO conventions, 31 of which are currently in force. (PNA)

  • By Louella Desiderio, February 19, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/02/19/2334418/government-address-price-hikes-neda#:~:text=MANILA%2C%20Philippines%20%E2%80%94%20The%20government%20is,and%20Development%20Authority%20(NEDA). Manila, Philippines — The government is stepping up efforts to address price increases in basic commodities such as rice following a recent survey indicating that Filipinos are dissatisfied with efforts to manage inflation, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA). “We recognize the significance and urgency of addressing the issues and challenges that have been highlighted by the survey results of OCTA Research Group released (on Feb. 17), particularly on inflation and food security, as well as on job creation and poverty reduction,” NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said in a statement yesterday. “The Marcos administration is accelerating its efforts to manage price increases of basic commodities such as rice in light of the El Niño phenomenon we are experiencing and the continuing upward price pressure from the global rice market,” he added. Results of OCTA’s Dec. 10 to 14, 2023 survey showed a record-high 75 percent of respondents dissatisfied with the government’s performance in controlling inflation. Only six percent said they were satisfied while 19 percent were undecided. Data released by the Philippine Statistics Authority earlier this month showed the headline inflation rate, or rate of increase in average prices of goods and services typically purchased by consumers, eased to 2.8 percent in January, its lowest level in more than three years due mainly to slower food price increases. Inflation has been on a downtrend, easing from 6.1 percent in September last year to 4.9 percent in October, 4.1 percent in November and 3.9 percent in December. While food inflation eased to 3.3 percent last month from 5.5 percent in December 2023, rice inflation rose further to 22.6 percent from 19.6 percent in the same period. Balisacan said the country has made progress in terms of realizing foreign direct investments that will create more and higher-quality jobs, thus increasing the income and purchasing power of Filipinos. He also cited the country’s 5.6 percent economic growth in 2023, one of the fastest in the region. “When President Marcos began his term, the Philippine economy was recovering from the record 9.5 percent contraction in 2020. The contraction set us back by about three years, with per capita gross national income returning to its pre-pandemic level by the second half of 2023. We have recovered and have indeed outshone our Asian peers,” he said. He noted that the labor market continues to show promise, with unemployment rate at a historic low of 3.1 percent in December 2023 while the December 2023 underemployment rate slid to 11.9 percent from 12.6 percent the same month in 2022. “The Cabinet has taken to heart the President’s directives by ensuring that the necessary policies are in place: we are facilitating massive investments in physical and human capital to create better jobs and improve our economy’s competitiveness while deploying the entire arsenal of policy tools to make food available, accessible, and affordable to the Filipino people,” he added.

  • By Janvic Mateo, February 17, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/02/17/2334031/democracy-index-philippines-ranking-goes-down-again#:~:text=From%2052nd%20in%202022%2C%20the,2018%20and%2051st%20in%202017. Manila, Philippines — Still classified as a “flawed democracy,” the Philippines has scored and ranked lower in the 2023 Democracy Index released by London-based think tank The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) on Thursday. From 52nd in 2022, the Philippines dropped to 53rd out of 167 countries and territories included in the annual index, which measures the state of democracy across the world. The Philippines ranked 54th in 2021, 55th in 2020, 54th in 2019, 53rd in 2018 and 51st in 2017. EIU’s Democracy Index is based on the ratings for 60 indicators grouped in the five categories: electoral process and pluralism, functioning of government, political participation, political culture and civil liberties. It classifies countries into four regime types: full democracy, flawed democracy, hybrid regimes and authoritarian regimes. Like in previous years, the Philippines remains a “flawed democracy,” defined as countries that have free and fair elections and where basic civil liberties are respected, although there are significant weaknesses in some aspects of democracy, including governance, political culture and participation. In the 2023 index, the Philippines scored 6.66 out of the highest possible score of 10, down from 6.73 in 2022 but still above the 6.62 in 2021. Across the five indicators, the country still scored the highest in electoral process and pluralism (9.17), followed by political participation (7.78), civil liberties (7.35), functioning of government (4.64) and political culture (4.38). Compared to 2022, the country’s score only changed in functioning of government, which dropped from 5.0. The Philippines ranked ninth among countries and territories in Asia and Australasia, and third in Southeast Asia after Malaysia (sixth in the region) and Timor Leste (eighth). Globally, Norway remained on top with a score of 9.81, followed by New Zealand (9.61), Iceland (9.45), Sweden (9.39), Finland (9.3), Denmark (9.28), Ireland (9.19), Switzerland (9.14), Netherlands (9.0) and Taiwan (8.92). Afghanistan remained at the bottom of the list with a score of 0.26, followed by Myanmar (0.85), North Korea (1.08), Central African Republic (1.18), Syria (1.43), Turkmenistan (1.66), Chad (1.67), Democratic Republic of Congo (1.68), Laos (1.71) and Sudan (1.76). The latest index found that the number of “full democracies” remained at 24, while “flawed democracies” increased from 48 to 50. “Hybrid regimes” decreased from 36 to 34, while “authoritarian regimes” remained at 59. Among those that changed categories were Greece (from flawed to full democracy), Chile (from full to flawed democracy), Papua New Guinea and Paraguay (from hybrid regime to flawed democracy), Angola (from authoritarian to hybrid regime) and Pakistan (from hybrid to authoritarian regime). Despite the increase in the number of democracies (full and flawed), EIU noted that the global average index score fell from 5.29 in 2022 to 5.23 in 2023, a new low since the launch of the index in 2006. The Asia and Australasia region also recorded a decline in its score, from 5.46 to 5.41, with 15 out of 28 countries and territories recording a decline and only eight an improvement. “Asia is the most dynamic region of the world in terms of economic growth, but it continues to lag behind in terms of democratization. More than half the countries covered by the index regressed in 2023, recording a deterioration in their democracy scores,” said Joan Hoey, editor of the 2023 Democracy Index.

  • By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, February 16, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1218972 MANILA – Cases of online scams in the country dropped by 40 percent in January this year, the Philippine National Police Anti-Cybercrime Group (ACG) said Friday. In a statement, ACG chief Maj. Gen. Sidney Hernia said 624 cases were logged last month, from 1,045 cases in January last year. Hernia said the ongoing establishment of PNP ACG offices in various regions, provinces and districts, combined with efforts to set up cybercrime desks within police stations, has been instrumental in the ongoing battle against cyber fraud. To bolster these measures, he said, the PNP would continue holding comprehensive training, seminars and lectures for personnel assigned to cybercrime desks to sharpen their skills and deepen their expertise, ultimately contributing to the creation of a safer online environment for everyone. The ACG chief also said the cooperation of complainants and the effectiveness of law enforcement operations send a strong message to cybercriminals. “As they witnessed their peers being brought to justice and their operations disrupted, they were compelled to reconsider their actions, ultimately leading to a significant decline in illegal online activities,” Hernia added. Hernia, meanwhile, urged netizens to be vigilant in their online activities. “It is imperative that we continually educate ourselves to safeguard against falling victim to online scams,” he said. In a command conference on Thursday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. directed the police force to improve its prevention, detection and investigation of cases to combat cybercrimes considering the current sophisticated and technology-based crime modalities. The PNP has already proposed the establishment of a Cybersecurity Center for the monitoring, detection, protection and mitigation of and response to cybersecurity issues and incidents in the agency’s information and communications technology infrastructure. (PNA)

  • By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, February 16, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1218961 MANILA – The Philippines is open to more investments that would improve Internet connectivity in the Philippines, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said Thursday. During the lighting up ceremony of the Philippine Domestic Submarine Cable Network (PDSCN) at The Peninsula Manila Hotel in Makati City, Marcos acknowledged the private sector’s crucial role in achieving his administration’s vision of a “digitally connected Philippines.” “With the help of our private sector partners, we continue to pursue measures towards providing the Filipino people with reliable and affordable Internet services, which will enable us to improve our standing in the world in terms of broadband and mobile Internet speed and coverage,” Marcos said. “I look forward to further collaboration and partnership in different endeavors where we could gain from your experience and your expertise. We are excited to see your many investments that will come to fruition in the near future.” The government, he said, is committed to promoting ease of doing business in the country to facilitate the establishment of critical infrastructure in telecommunications. Marcos said the PDSCN is “truly a game changer in the Philippines’ quest to be amongst equals in terms of Internet interconnectivity and digital transformation.” The PDSCN is an undersea fiber optic backbone network infrastructure spanning more than 2,500 km. that connects the Islands of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao with touch points in 21 provinces, including Quezon up to Zamboanga. It aims to provide inclusive connectivity across the Philippines, particularly in the underserved and unserved areas. Marcos said the project, which is the “longest and highest capacity domestic submarine fiber cable network” in the country, is a step closer to reaching his administration’s dream of a “better, brighter, and more connected Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines).” “Because of this connection, we now find a long-term solution that delivers high-connectivity and high-speed Internet for our people and facilitates the realization of the Bagong Pilipinas that we envision for our country,” he said. “With this project, we will be able to better position our country as an even more attractive destination for technology-centric businesses, such as hyperscale data centers and AI (Artificial intelligence) computing.” The President also expressed optimism that the PDSCN would facilitate faster Internet and more efficient digital services to Filipinos, as well as help the government ramp up its efforts to digitalize public data and government services. The PDSCN is a joint project of Globe Telecom, Eastern Telecom, and InfiniVAN, Inc., in coordination with the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT), to strengthen the country’s digital transformation. “With the completion of the PDSCN, let me express our excitement and our optimism as we zoom in on faster fiber Internet speeds for Filipinos. I congratulate InfiniVAN and its partners Globe Telecom, and Eastern Telecommunications for making this impressive project a reality,” he said. (PNA)

  • By Ian Nicolas P. Cigaral, February 12, 2024; Philippine Daily Inquirer https://business.inquirer.net/445022/dof-govt-to-set-more-realistic-growth-targets#:~:text=Economic%20managers%20will%20come%20up,the%20state’s%20expectations%20last%20year. Economic managers will come up with “more realistic” growth targets for 2024 until the end of President Marcos’ term in 2028 to reflect current economic conditions and after growth fell below the state’s expectations last year. “We’re discussing that right now because I think we have to come out with a more realistic target,” Finance Secretary Ralph Recto told reporters in an interview at the Bureau of Internal Revenue’s anniversary event last Thursday. “Something more realistic but still high for 2024 and beyond,” Recto said. The inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) met last Feb. 5 to discuss the government’s growth outlook. That was Recto’s first DBCC meeting as finance chief. Last December, the DBCC trimmed its gross domestic product (GDP) growth target for 2024 to 6.5 to 7.5 percent, from the previous projection of a 6.5 to 8-percent expansion. At present, the biggest worry for the government is the prolonged El Niño dry spell, which is predicted to last until the second quarter of 2024 and may push up food and power costs. Headwinds Another challenge for the economy is the high interest rate environment that can hurt consumption and investments. In 2023, the economy grew 5.6 percent, easing from the 7.6 percent expansion in 2022. The figure also missed the Marcos administration’s 6 to 7 percent growth target for last year. Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority said growth would have been stronger last year if not for the brutally high inflation and the aggressive interest rate hikes meant to tame fast-rising consumer prices. But despite the headwinds, Balisacan said the current economic targets set by the DBCC were still doable. No more rate hikes? In the same interview last week, Recto said he does not expect future rate increases during the current hiking cycle as inflation had been within the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas’ (BSP) target range and was still softening. “No, I don’t expect a future rate hike because inflation is going down. And it seems like it’s going down globally also,” said Recto, who will attend his first monetary policy meeting on Feb. 15 as the state’s representative in the powerful Monetary Board. “It all depends on what the US Fed does as well … And then we look at our own data too,” he added. Inflation, as measured by the Consumer Price Index (CPI), softened to an annualized rate of 2.8 percent in the first month of 2024, from 3.9 percent in December. The latest reading, the lowest since October 2020, matched the lower-end of the BSP’s forecast range for last month. It was also the second consecutive month that inflation eased to within the BSP’s 2 to 4 percent target after hovering above that range for 20 months. But with threats to its inflation target still very much present, the BSP said it “deems it necessary to keep monetary policy settings sufficiently tight until a sustained downtrend in inflation becomes evident.” Governor Eli Remolona Jr. said a rate cut was “possible” this year. The BSP’s benchmark rate—which banks typically use as a guide when charging interest rates on loans—is currently at 6.5 percent, the highest in 16 years. By keeping borrowing costs high, the central bank wants to bring demand for key consumer items in line with limited supply to prevent a fast rise in prices.

  • By Luisa Cabato, February 3, 2024; Philippine Daily Inquirer https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1898691/dict-eyeing-to-revive-medium-term-it-harmonization-initiative Manila, Philippines —  The Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) is looking into reviving the Medium-Term Information and Communications Technology Harmonization Initiative (MITHI), its official said on Saturday. MITHI aims to harmonize ICT-related programs, resources, and projects in government agencies and institutions. “Iyong sa government network na interrelated, mayroon na po kaming facility ngayon. Ibinabalik na namin iyong MITHI; ito ay pag-uusap — the Medium-Term IT Harmonization Initiative — iyon po ang ibig sabihin ng MITHI,” said DICT Undersecretary Jeffrey Ian Dy in a news forum. (We already have facilities that are interrelated in the government network, and we are now reviving the MITHI. This is a discussion about the Medium-Term IT Harmonization Initiative—that is what MITHI means.) Dy said that the initiative is in partnership with the Department of Budget and Management. “Upang lahat ng mga IT projects, kasama na iyong cyber security projects, ipadaan sa DICT, sa DBM, kasama na rin ang NEDA (National Economic and Development Authority), DOF (Department of Finance) para kapag ginawa ang budget, alam din namin na iyong binibili consistent and within the ambit of what can work together,” he added. (To ensure that all IT projects, including your cyber security projects, go through the DICT, along with the DBM, including NEDA and DOF, so that when the budget is prepared, we also know that what is being purchased is consistent and within the ambit of what can work together.) During the forum, Dy also urged other government agencies to enforce the policy that devices and equipment used for work should not use any non-work-related software that might pose potential hazards. “Sa ngayon ang ibigay lang namin ay guidance; huwag ninyong gagawin kung hindi work-related,” the official said. (For now, what we are giving is guidance; do not do it if it is not work-related.) Dy added that the DICT might issue an order to ban activities and software from being downloaded and used through government-owned devices.  

  • By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, February 2, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1218191 MANILA – The executive branch’s electronic Freedom of Information (eFOI) website is under system upgrade to improve user experience and the portal’s security features. In a public advisory, the FOI-Program Management Office (PMO) announced that the scheduled system update, which started on Jan. 31, will last until Feb. 5 to ensure the stability and security of eFOI portal. “This maintenance is crucial to enhance user experience and keep our electronic FOI portal stable and secure,” the FOI-PMO, which oversees the implementation of eFOI, said in its official Facebook page. “We really appreciate your ongoing support and we can’t wait to bring you an upgraded eFOI platform once this upgrade is done and dusted,” it added. The eFOI portal is the government’s way of promoting transparency and ensuring smooth access to public documents and transactions amid the rise of technology. Filipino citizens may make a request for government information, official records, official acts, transactions, decisions and research data used as basis for policy development. An FOI request can be made before all government offices under the Executive Branch, including Government -Owned and/or -Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) and State Universities and Colleges (SUCs). The request must be sent to the specific agency of interest, which will be received by its Receiving Officer. The concerned agency must respond to requests within 15 days but may ask for an extension to processing time for a period not longer than 20 working days. As of Feb. 2, 2024, there are 592 participating government agencies onboard the eFOI portal to provide the public with convenience in requesting public records and information. The public may visit www.foi.gov.ph to make an FOI request. 

  • By Adrian Parungao, January 24, 2024; Philippine Daily Inquirer https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1893949/60-of-lgus-nationwide-now-have-online-systems-for-business-docs MANILA, Philippines — A total of 921 — or 60 percent — of 1,634 cities and municipalities nationwide are now using online electronic systems to process applications of business-related documents, Interior Secretary Benhur Abalos said on Wednesday. “Like what President [Ferdinand] Marcos [Jr.} had said, digital transformation is key for the country’s full economic recovery. This is a key that will develop the economy and speed up [government] processes, especially getting business permits and licenses,” Abalos said partly in Filipino. He added that 799 out of the 921 local governments units (LGUs) use the Electronic Local Government Unit (eLGU), while the 122 others have their own local systems. According to him, the government is planning to implement the eLGU system in 240 other LGUs in 2024. Meanwhile, Information and Communications Undersecretary David Almirol Jr. said: “This is exciting news for everyone. We can now avail of LGU services even from home.”

  • By Kyle Aristophere T. Atienza, January 31, 2024; BusinessWorld https://www.bworldonline.com/top-stories/2024/01/31/572220/phl-ranking-improves-in-global-corruption-index/#google_vignette THE PHILIPPINES’ ranking in a global corruption index by Transparency International inched up one spot with its score remaining at a record low, as Filipino governance experts said any significant improvement is unlikely in the near future. Manila ranked 115th out of 180 countries with a score of 34 in the 2023 Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI), up one spot from 116th in 2022 and up two spots from its worst-ever showing of 117th place in 2021. The Philippines had ranked 115th in 2020, 113th in 2019, and 99th in 2018. The Philippines’ score of 34 is also well below the global average of 43 and Asia-Pacific region’s average of 45. Among Asia-Pacific countries, the Philippines’ score lagged behind New Zealand (83), Singapore (83), Australia (75), Hong Kong (75), Japan (73), Bhutan (68), Taiwan (67), South Korea (63), and Malaysia (50). It also lagged Timor-Leste (43), China (42), Vietnam (41), India (39), Nepal (35), and Thailand (35). Like the Philippines, Indonesia, and Sri Lanka also had a score of 34. Manila was only ahead of Mongolia (33), Pakistan (29), and Papua New Guinea (29) as well as countries with governments deemed autocratic such as Laos (28), Bangladesh (24), Cambodia (22), Afghanistan (20), Myanmar (20), and North Korea (17). In the report, the watchdog said Southeast Asian countries have struggled to deliver on anti-corruption efforts, with the Philippines and Thailand remaining “on the lower end of the spectrum.” It said Malaysia remained above the regional average with robust elections alongside an anti-corruption commission that has delivered on high-profile cases over the last decade. Prospects were also bleak for Indonesia amid uncertainties on the future of its “severely disempowered” anti-corruption agency, and Vietnam, whose “promising” high-profile anti-corruption campaign has been marred “by the continued restriction of critical voices.” The one-notch improvement in the Philippine ranking was insignificant “primarily because there is no anti-corruption program that was launched by the Marcos administration,” said Gary Ador Dionisio, dean of the De La Salle – College of Saint Benilde School of Diplomacy and Governance. It’s “unfortunate” that the Philippine leader failed to push for programs necessary for the elimination of corruption in his second address to Congress in July last year, Ateneo School of Government Dean Philip Arnold P. Tuaño said, “and neither major initiatives in transparency and accountability have been launched.” Mr. Marcos ran in the presidential election more than two years ago under a platform of unity which, in recent days, turned out to be a promise that is so difficult to fulfill. His administration is now publicly challenged by the family of Vice-President Sara Duterte-Carpio, who ran in tandem with him in the 2022 elections. Tensions between the country’s top two officials became more apparent after the President’s allies in Congress stripped Ms. Duterte’s offices as vice-president and Education secretary of proposed confidential and intelligence funds worth P650 million under the 2024 national budget amid public criticism on the latter’s use of secret funds amounting to P125 million in just 11 days in 2022. During and after the election season, Mr. Marcos had been hounded by questions on the alleged failure of his family to settle a P23-billion estate tax liability that had ballooned to more than P200 billion due to penalties and surcharg-es. The 1997 Supreme Court decision ordering the heirs of the late dictator Ferdinand E. Marcos to pay the estate tax liability became final and executory on March 9, 1999. “The lack of a comprehensive anti-corruption program simply means that the Marcos administration is afraid of the ghost of the past and even the present,” Mr. Dionisio said. DUTERTE LEGACY Under the Duterte administration, the Commission on Audit had flagged many agencies for their deficiencies. “The various CoA (Commission on Audit) reports show the extent of wastage in public funds that date back to the previous administration which President Marcos and his Cabinet cannot ignore,” said Zyza Nadine Suzara, execu-tive director of governance watchdog iLead. “They need to proactively restore the international community’s trust in our public institutions.” Francisco A. Magno, director of the Jesse M. Robredo Institute of Governance at De La Salle University, raised concern over the “slow progress” in the prosecution of high-profile cases involving irregularities in public procure-ment flagged by the state auditors and investigated by legislative oversight committees. “There is also a weakening exercise of media and civil society monitoring of corrupt practices that became palpable under the previous administration and continues under the present one,” he said. The National Government on Sunday held a major rally under the banner Bagong Pilipinas (New Philippines), with Mr. Marcos saying that change should start with the government. “Being lazy and slow is not acceptable in government. There is no place for them in public service,” he said in a speech before hundreds of thousands of participants, many of whom were state employees. “Services must be fast. Projects must be completed on time. Deadlines must be met per schedule,” he added. “Distress calls must be responded to without delay.” Ms. Suzara said the corruption level in the Philippines is a major barrier to the entry of foreign investments into the country, as it “signals that the current Marcos Jr. administration, like its predecessor, is still not taking good governance seriously.” “To improve our standing, the Marcos Jr. administration therefore needs to implement reforms that will strengthen transparency and accountability,” she said. “Congress must also do the same especially in performing oversight functions on the national budget.” But for Terry L. Ridon, convenor of think tank InfraWatch PH, “the public has not yet seen a major corruption scandal involving officials at the highest levels” in Mr. Marcos’ first two years in office, “unlike the major corruption scandals in the previous regime.” “More significantly, the business and investment climate is better today, with the successive international roadshows participated in by no less than President Marcos himself,” he added. Mr. Dionisio said prospects for the Philippines’ anti-corruption efforts remain bleak. Read More…

  • By Tiziana Celine Piatos, January 24, 2024; Daily Tribune https://tribune.net.ph/2024/01/24/dilg-reforms-on-eodb-increase-revenues-in-2022 Revenues from local business taxes and fees increased in 2022 as more local government units switched to online business registration and payments, the Department of Interior and Local Government said. In a Palace briefing on Wednesday, Interior and Local Government Secretary Benhur Abalos Jr. said the reforms on the Ease of Doing Business caused the local business tax collection to increase to P208 billion in 2022 from P50 billion in 2018. “That is times four. So, it is a big thing that you simplify the process and go into (digitalization),” Abalos said. He added that the number of registered businesses also increased to 4.7 million in 2022 from 1.3 million in 2018, thanks to a more streamlined business registration process and more business one-stop shops. Abalos mentioned that 92 percent of all local government units in the country have successfully set up their own business one-stop shops. “The target for this year is probably another 240 (LGUs) until we finish,” Abalos said. “What is also important is capacity building because even if you provide this, if they don’t have the hardware, it will go to waste,” he added. On the other hand, Abalos said that 60 percent, or 921 out of the 1,634 cities and municipalities across the country, have adopted an electronic system for processing business permits and licenses as of December 2023. “Out of the 921, 122 LGUs have their system, meaning they have their own application. Meanwhile, 799 LGUs utilized the system provided by the Department of Information and Communications Technology, which is free. This was extensively promoted; the DICT conducted caravans for this. I would like to express my gratitude to the DICT for their efforts,” Abalos said. The ongoing initiative by the DILG and the DICT encourages LGUs to make use of the E-Local Government Unit system. This system enables the public to access various services, including business permit licensing, notice of violations, notification system, community tax, health certificates, local civil registry, business tax, and real property tax. The eLGU serves as a crucial component of the DICT’s eGov PH Super App. This mobile application consolidates multi-sectoral government services into a unified platform. It encompasses a broad spectrum of local government services, such as business permit licensing, community tax, local civil registry, and more.

  • House launches ‘Congress TV’

    By RG Cruz, January 22, 2024; ABS-CBN News https://news.abs-cbn.com/news/01/22/24/house-launches-congress-tv MANILA – The House of Representatives has launched Congress TV, dedicated a free television channel that will air proceedings at the House in cooperation with state-owned PTV. “In an age where information is both a tool and a weapon, the onus is on us, the elected representatives of the people, to ensure that the power of information is harnessed to empower, educate, and engage. It is with immense pride and a profound sense of duty that we, in collaboration with PTV-4, unveil CongressTV,” Speaker Martin Romualdez said in his speech during the launch event. “This initiative is not just a channel; it’s a bridge. A bridge that connects the hallowed halls of the House of Representatives to every home, every school, and every Filipino. It’s a bridge built on the pillars of transparency, accountability, and inclusivity,” Romualdez added. “CongressTV is our commitment to ensuring that no Filipino is left in the dark, that every citizen is afforded a front-row seat to the legislative process. Through this platform, we are tearing down the walls that have long kept the inner workings of the legislature away from public scrutiny,” he said. PTV’s digital channel 14 Manila will serve as the free-to-air broadcast platform for Congress TV. It will also be available via Ch. 46 on GMA Affordabox and Ch. 2 on ABS-CBN TVPlus. Congress TV airs daily from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m. starting January 23, 2024, on PTV Digital Channel 14 Manila, and online via Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, and X.

  • By Louella Desiderio, January 15, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/01/15/2325797/economy-likely-grew-62-percent-q4#:~:text=University%20of%20Asia%20and%20the,the%20third%20quarter%20last%20year. Manila, Philippines — The Philippine economy likely posted a faster growth rate in the fourth quarter of 2023 than in the third quarter, supported by gains in the labor market, according to an economist. University of Asia and the Pacific economist Victor Abola told reporters his gross domestic product (GDP) growth forecast for the fourth quarter of 2023 is 6.2 percent. This forecast is higher than the 5.9 percent growth in the third quarter last year. Abola said growth in the fourth quarter last year was supported by the increase in employment numbers. “Look at employment, October, November, these are very high,” he said. Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s employment rate in November 2023 was at 96.4 percent, up from 95.8 percent in October 2023 and 95.8 percent in November 2022. PSA chief Dennis Mapa said earlier the November employment rate is the highest since April 2005. In terms of magnitude, the number of employed individuals rose to 49.64 million in November 2023 from 47.80 million in October 2023. Abola said the number of employed individuals in November last year is the second highest, only beaten slightly by the 49.71 million employment level in November 2022. Mapa said earlier the fourth quarter is when employment levels pick up due to increased economic activity during the holiday season. For full-year 2023, Abola’s GDP growth forecast is 5.5 percent, below the government’s six to seven percent growth target for that year. The economy posted 5.5 percent growth in the January to September period of 2023. Earlier, National Economic and Development Authority Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said the economy needs to grow by 7.2 percent in the fourth quarter of last year to attain the low end of the growth goal for 2023. The PSA will release data on the country’s full year 2023 and fourth quarter economic performance on Jan. 31.

  • By Priam Nepomuceno, January 12, 2023; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1216853 MANILA – Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Gilberto Teodoro Jr. on Friday assured that the transformation program that started in 2023 to upgrade the agency’s capabilities will continue this year. “We thank the whole defense family for the cooperation that they have shown last year in the midst of our attempts to transform our organization into a new defense organization with new skills, new paradigms, and new capabilities,” Teodoro said in his message during the New Year’s Call of the DND and the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City. Teodoro, who assumed as DND chief in June last year, said he will push for a “capital outlay” for the agency to build up its capabilities. “And I would also like to add certain things that are important. We cannot continue to have a DND without a capital outlay for our own department. We need to build up the capabilities of this department as part of the national defense family. And I would like to state that (it is) one of my goals, to build up the capabilities of the Department of National Defense Proper,” he added. These include developing expertise in program management, analytics, predictions, contracting, international relations, and building up the career track of DND employees. Teodoro also thanked President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.’s “unconditional support” and encouraged all members of the defense establishment to remain united. “We shall be blessed because we are one, we are united, and we cannot be divided because we have a mission to preserve and protect the territorial integrity and sovereignty of the Republic of the Philippines; maintain peace and order; work together with allies to make, not only the Philippines but this region – the Indo-Pacific Region– and the world a better place to be in,” he added. AFP sees more capability development In the same event, AFP chief Gen. Romeo Brawner Jr. said they would focus on the continuous development of materiel and capabilities through the AFP Modernization Program this year. He said AFP will also prioritize the organizational development of its reserve force. “It is through these transformative efforts that we aim to elevate our military capabilities across all dimensions. The New Year marks the genesis of a more dedicated, professional and modernized AFP,” Brawner said. “As we acknowledge the successes of 2023, we must recognize the honor, spirit and commitment of each and every member of the defense department and the AFP,” he added. 8 ranking AFP officials promoted As this developed, the AFP chief donned higher ranks to eight newly promoted military officers in a ceremony held in Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City Friday. These include Maj. Gen. Edmundo Peralta, chief of the Intelligence Service AFP; Maj. Gen. Allan Hambala, commander of the 10th Infantry Division, Philippine Army; Maj. Gen. Leodevic Guinid, Army vice commander; Maj. Gen. Ramon Zagala, commander of the Civil Relations Service AFP; Commodore Richard Gonzaga, deputy commander of AFP Education, Training, and Doctrine Command; Brig. Gen. Joselito Lopeña, chief of the AFP Pension and Gratuity Management Center; Commodore Brendo Casaclang, commander of Joint Task Force Malampaya; and Brig. Gen. Ranulfo Sevilla, deputy commander of Special Operations Command AFP. “Please continue doing the good work that you are doing. Remember that we are doing all this for our country and I am sure that with your new ranks, you will be even more inspired to work harder for our people and our country,” Brawner said. (PNA)

  • By Ruth Abbey Gita-Carlos, January 11, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1216799 MANILA – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. has picked House Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto as the new head of the Department of Finance (DOF), replacing Benjamin Diokno, Malacañang announced Thursday. Marcos will lead Recto’s oath-taking on Friday, Communications Secretary Cheloy Garafil said in a statement sent to Palace reporters. Recto will relinquish his posts as Batangas 6th District congressman and subsequently, as one of the Deputy Speakers at the House of Representatives. He also served three terms in the Senate, where he served as the Senate President Pro Tempore and Senate Minority Leader. Before being elected senator, he was a three-term congressman of Batangas’ 4th District. He also worked as director general of the National Economic and Development Authority in 2008 to 2009 under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo. Recto earned his bachelor’s degree in Commerce major in Business Management from De La Salle University-Manila. He also acquired a master’s degree in Strategic Business Economics from the University of Asia and the Pacific and another master’s degree in Public Administration from the University of the Philippines. He took up a leadership course at the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Apart from Recto, Frederick Go will also take his oath before Marcos as Special Assistant to the President for Investment and Economic Affairs, Garafil said. Diokno, biz group Outgoing Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno expressed his confidence in Recto, saying: “I am pleased to announce that I will be turning over my seat as Finance Secretary to Deputy Speaker Ralph Recto.” “I am proud knowing that I will be leaving my post at a time when the Philippine economy, in general, and the DOF, in particular, are in a better state of affairs than when I inherited them,” he added in a statement Friday. Diokno, who took over the Finance chief post on July 1, 2022, committed to pursuing the Marcos administration’s goals of reducing the deficit-to-GDP ratio to 3 percent, achieving upper middle-income status by 2025, and bringing down poverty incidence to single-digit by the end of the President’s term. He led the economic team in crafting the Philippines’ Medium-Term Fiscal Framework (MTFF) which embodies the government’s commitment to pursuing fiscal consolidation, ensuring that sustainability is given priority in the management of finances without sacrificing economic growth. Diokno also advocated for an improved revenue collection performance and also proposed to improve Philippine tax laws to be at par with international standards. In his almost two-year tenure as Finance Secretary, Diokno also led 12 international Philippine Economic Briefings (PEBs) in Singapore, New York, Washington, D.C., Frankfurt, London, Tokyo, Toronto, Doha, Dubai, and San Francisco. He also led five local PEBs in Manila, Davao, Cebu, and Laoag, as well as several other roadshows and investor dialogues where he championed the Philippines’ improved investment environment and game-changing reforms to foreign investors. Diokno also championed climate finance in various high-level meetings and intergovernmental forums like that of the Group of Twenty (G20), Vulnerable 20 Group of Finance Ministers (V20) – Group of Seven (G7) Global Shield Against Climate Risks, and the 2023 United Nations Climate Change Conference (COP 28). In a separate statement, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) lauded Diokno for doing a good job in leading the DOF. PCCI president Enunina Mangio also welcomed the appointment of Recto as the new Secretary of Finance. “Senator Recto is perfectly suited for the job. He has the experience, expertise and political backing that are critical if he is to oversee the strengthening of the country’s economic and fiscal positions. He has led the National Economic Development Authority and authored and sponsored landmark measures that have helped the country weather economic crises even as some were unpopular,” Mangio said. She was referring to the Expanded Value-Added Tax, the Rice Tariffication Law, and the Rent Control Act, among others. Mangio is hopeful that Recto will continue to push for policies and reforms that are supportive of the growth of businesses and to ensure that the country’s economic gains are sustained. “We look forward to continuing working and collaborating with the government to drive our economy forward,” she said. (with reports from Anna Leah Gonzales/PNA)

  • By Ferdinand Patinio, January 11, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1216772 MANILA – The Commission on Elections (Comelec) is set to implement nationwide its Register Anywhere Program (RAP) when the voter registration period resumes on Feb. 12. In a statement Thursday, the poll body said the RAP would accept applications in all capital cities and towns and highly urbanized cities (HUCs). “RAP registration sites will be set up in malls, universities, or government offices/agencies in all capital cities and towns and HUCs nationwide. RAP has now been institutionalized in the Commission as a program owing to its favorable turnout and positive reception by the general public and other stakeholders,” the Comelec added. In 2022, the poll body held a pilot testing of the RAP in selected areas, including malls and government agencies. The initial testing was held in SM Fairview, Robinsons Place Manila, SM Sucat, Robinsons Galleria, SM Mall of Asia, Robinsons Tacloban, SM City Legazpi and Robinsons Naga. Aside from these venues, the Comelec said the program will also be held in select church organizations, private establishments, government agencies and educational institutions. The RAP’s nationwide implementation aims to provide additional avenues and opportunities for voter registration in places of higher concentration of people traffic and congregation of persons of voting age. “This move will maximize efforts to register workers, employees, and students with limited time and opportunity to register, for them to become voters for the 2025 National and Local Elections,” it said. Under the RAP, a registrant will be allowed to file his/her application wherever there is a designated RAP registration site regardless of his/her place of residence. Other applications that will be accepted in RAP sites include new registration, transfer of registration from another city/municipality/district, transfer of registration from overseas to local, correction of entries or change of status, and reactivation. The RAP will be available until Aug. 31. Meanwhile, Comelec chairperson George Garcia said they would release amended guidelines on voter’s registration. He reminded applicants that they will no longer accept company ID as a valid identification document. “Dapat po government-issued ID lamang ang pwedeng magparehistro (Applicants should only submit government-issued IDs),” the poll body chief added. Local Comelec offices are ready to accept application for registration and other election-related concerns from Feb. 12 to Sept. 30, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Mondays to Saturdays. These include holidays, unless the poll body announced that there are no registration activities on those days. (PNA)

  • By Christopher Lloyd Caliwan, January 10, 2024; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1216712 MANILA – The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) on Wednesday vowed to unleash the full potential of local government units (LGUs) towards good governance and work for the digitalization of their services this year. During the New Year’s call attended by DILG officials in Camp Crame, Quezon City, DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr. said the agency would mobilize the Local Government Academy and undertake capacity development interventions, especially for “low-performing and low-capacity LGUs” in line with the transition to the full devolution initiative. “Through the Ease of Doing Business or EODB program with the Department of Information and Communication Technology (DICT), we will advance efforts to gradually shift to 100 percent digitalization of LGU frontline services by infusing technological platforms in the processing of business permits, licenses, and other frontline services to propel innovative and future-ready local governments,” Abalos said. The DILG chief also said progress has been made in ensuring the ease of doing business at the local level. “We noted a 92 percent compliance from cities and municipalities regarding the establishment of business one-stop shops; and an 87 percent compliance with the standards set by the Anti-Red Tape Authority regarding business permit applications,” he added. Abalos, who also sits as National Police Commission chairperson, said the body will follow a “30-day working deadline” on actions related to promotions in the Philippine National Police (PNP), to improve the morale of police officers. He also vowed support for the Bureau of Fire Protection’s modernization efforts which include providing functional firetrucks for some 101 local government units that do not have them. “Nakapagpatayo din tayo ng 36 new fire stations sa iba’t ibang probinsya. Sa ngayon, may 1,484 ng fire stations sa iba’t-ibang sulok ng ating arkipelago (We were also able to build 36 new fire stations in different provinces. Today, we have 1,484 fire stations across the archipelago),” he added. Aside from sustaining “Oplan Greyhound” operations or inspecting inmates’ rooms to thwart illegal activities in jails, Abalos said the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology will also focus on the enhancement of its capabilities through the continued provision of paralegal assistance and construction/maintenance of jail facilities to improve the congestion rate; improving social services for persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) to advance their welfare for productive reintegration into society; and promoting gender and cultural sensitivity in jails. He also vowed to strengthen and promote the barangay justice system as an alternative dispute resolution mechanism to help de-clog court cases and reduce overcrowding in jails. Stiffest sanctions for ‘narco-cops’ Meanwhile, the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) said stiffest sanctions will be meted against the 177 police officers charged with drug-related offenses. “This is a major step in our ongoing effort to rid the Philippine National Police (PNP), particularly the NCRPO of corrupt and criminal elements. We guarantee that these police officers are held accountable for their actions, dismissed from the service, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law,” NCRPO chief Maj. Gen. Jose Melencio Nartatez said in a statement Wednesday night. Earlier, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. said these 177 officers were charged for planting evidence, unlawful arrest, and excessive violence. “As part of our efforts to strengthen transparency and accountability in the conduct of our operations amid various allegations that have been tagging the police organization in the middle of the government’s intensified anti-illegal drugs campaign, we want to assure our community that the NCRPO is taking all necessary steps to address the involvement of police officers,” Nartatez said. He added that this is a major step in ongoing efforts to rid the police ranks of corrupt and criminal elements. “They have betrayed the public trust and undermined the integrity of the PNP. We will not tolerate this type of behavior within the ranks of the PNP,” the NCRPO chief said. The Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG) earlier touted the success of the Marcos administration’s anti-drug campaign, where authorities seized a total of PHP10.41 billion worth of narcotics in 2023. Some 56,495 suspects were also arrested in more than 44,000 anti-drug operations, the agency added. (with Priam Nepomuceno/PNA)

  • By Anna Leah Gonzales, January 7, 2023; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1216498 Manila – President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. signed into law Republic Act (RA) 11976 or the Ease of Paying Taxes Act which aims to modernize and increase the efficiency and effectiveness of tax administration and strengthen taxpayer rights. In a statement on Sunday, the Presidential Communications Office (PCO) said the Ease of Paying Taxes Act is one of the priority legislations mentioned during the State of the Nation Address in 2022 and 2023. “The law allows the government to capture as many taxpayers as possible into the tax net by streamlining the system and minimizing the burden on taxpayers, increasing the country’s revenue collection in the long run,” the PCO said. The new law, signed on Friday, introduces administrative tax reforms and amendments to several sections of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997. It also updates the Philippine taxation system, adopts best practices and replaces antiquated procedures. Among RA 11976’s salient features are classification of taxpayers into micro, small, medium, and large; electronic or manual filing of returns and payment taxes either to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), through any authorized agent bank or authorized tax software provider; option to pay internal revenue taxes removal to the City or Municipal Treasurer; elimination of the distinction between documentation and basis of sales of goods and services; and classification of value-added tax (VAT) refund claims into low, medium and high-risk. The law ensures the availability of registration facilities to non-Philippine resident taxpayers; promoting and assisting taxpayers in tax processes; streamlining; reducing documentary requirements; and digitalizing BIR services through the development of the Ease of Paying Taxes and Digitalization Roadmap. The law likewise imposes 180 days to act on claims for refund of erroneous or illegal tax collection and increases the amount for the mandatory issuance of receipts for each sale and transfer of goods and services from PHP100 to PHP500. According to PCO, the law mandates the BIR to adopt an integrated digitalization strategy by providing end-to-end solutions for the benefit of taxpayers. These include adopting integrated and automated system for facilitating basic tax services, setting up electronic and online system for data and information exchange between offices and departments, streamlining of procedures by adopting automation and digitalization of BIR services, and building up BIR’s technology capabilities. RA 11976’s implementing rules and regulations shall be promulgated 90 days from the effectivity of the Act after the consultation of the Finance Secretary with the BIR and the private sector. The law will take effect 15 days after its publication in the Official Gazette or in a newspaper of general circulation.

  • By Iris Gonzales, January 3, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/01/03/2322998/corporate-registrations-hit-new-record-2023 MANILA, Philippines — The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) hit a new record of company registrations last year, driven by its digitization efforts. A total of 46,445 firms successfully registered using the SEC Electronic Simplified Processing of Application for Registration of Corporation (eSPARC) from January to November last year, surpassing the previous record of 42,936 for 2022, data from the SEC showed. Of the total number of registrants, domestic stock corporations accounted for 74 percent or 34,140 of the newly registered firms. Some 9,727 or 21 percent are domestic non-stock corporations and 2,453 or five percent are partnerships, while the rest are foreign stock and non-stock corporations. Of the newly registered firms, 36 percent or 16,734 are domestic stock corporations with less than five incorporators, and about 14 percent are one person corporations (OPCs). OPCs were made possible following the enactment of Republic Act 11232, or the Revised Corporation Code of the Philippines in 2019. Prior to this, the old Corporation Code required at least five incorporators. In terms of industries, the majority or 85 percent of registered corporations were from the service sector, with the wholesale and retail trade industry group registering 9,859 (21 percent) new firms, followed by their service activities. SEC chairperson Emilio Aquino said their digitization efforts are paying off as seen in the higher number of new registrations. “The back-to-back record highs seen in 2022 and 2023 for company registration prove that we are succeeding in making doing business easier in the Philippines,” Aquino said. Efforts include the launch of eSPARC in April 2021 and its subsystem, the One Day Submission and Electronic Registration of Companies (OneSEC) in September 2021. The launch of eSPARC reduced the time needed to register a company to three days from 34 days previously. Applicants have the option to register through OneSEC, a pass-through system with pre-filled application forms. The SEC also launched the Electronic System for Payments to the SEC (eSPAYSEC), where the public can choose from over 90,000 online and offline payment options. Last year, the SEC also unveiled its new advanced systems for access to corporate information and other services, namely: Electronic SEC Universal Registration Environment (eSECURE), SEC CheckApp 2.0, Electronic SEC Education, Analysis, Research Computing Hub (eSEARCH), SEC API Marketplace, and the Electronic Registration Application for Market Participants (eRAMP).

  • By Dellon Porcalla, January 3, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/headlines/2024/01/03/2323077/congressmen-encourage-cha-cha-debates MANILA, Philippines — Debates, for or against Charter change, are the friction necessary to polish the 1987 Constitution for it to become a gem that will finally pave the way for the Philippines to reach first-world status in the near future, lawmakers said. “Let the free market of ideas prevail and intelligent discussions flourish – all for the good of the people – both now and the years to come,” Surigao del Norte Rep. Robert Ace Barbers said, as he supported a call of Speaker Martin Romualdez to push for Charter amendments. Aside from Barbers, other key House leaders have joined the move, among them Senior Deputy Speaker Aurelio Gonzales Jr., House committee on constitutional amendments chair Rufus Rodriguez and Reps. LRay Villafuerte and Stella Quimbo. Barbers, chairman of the House committee on dangerous drugs, said it is ironic that people have always been opposed to Charter change every time the issue is raised, even if they don’t know what is at stake yet, other than the oft-repeated term extensions of elected public officials. “The knee-jerk reaction is unfair and uncalled for. We haven’t started anything and they’re shooting it down,” Barbers said in English and Filipino. “Many provisions were inadvertently left unedited like the structure of the legislature, unicameral or bi-cameral (that’s why there are) conflicting provisions. This is proof that it was passed in haste, thus we need to correct to give it consistency,” he said. Barbers was probably referring to the two opposing schools of thought among lawyers, wherein the recurring question is: Should changes in the Constitution be undertaken by both houses of Congress, or not? Senators and congressmen’s view are locked on this issue, with senators insisting voting should be done separately since bringing them into the bigger chamber of the House will only dilute their vote, considering that they are only 24, compared to the more than 300 congressmen. Quimbo, who represents the second district of Marikina, stressed the need to lift prohibitive provisions in the Constitution, which she says have left Manila as the laggard among its nearest neighbors in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations. “As our economy moves forward in 2024 and beyond, there is a growing consensus that reforms are needed in various areas to improve the state of our nation and to uplift the lives of the Filipino people,” she said. “The bottom line is we need to send a certain and predictable signal to the global investor community: The Philippines is ready, able and willing to accept foreign direct investments,” Quimbo, a former commissioner of the Philippine Competition Commission, said. ‘Bagong Pilipinas’ Supporters say the House-initiated Charter change complements President Marcos’ “Bagong Pilipinas” theme, which needs a new charter that should replace the 36-year-old Constitution, since it was crafted during the turbulent years after the first Marcos administration. Gonzales protected Marcos from speculations that he may have something to do with the statement given by the Speaker that this move to amend the 1987 Constitution had his blessings. “This is a legislative work and that’s a different body, that’s the Executive department. I think the Legislative will be the one to initiate this,” he said. Gonzales, who resigned from the once ruling PDP-Laban party and joined the Lakas-CMD party of Romualdez after he named former president Rodrigo Duterte as the one who has been vilifying the House, said the objective is to have a new charter. “So, that’s our objective: Bagong Konstitusyon ng Bagong Pilipinas. How can we work in a new environment under a new Philippines when its constitution is still or remains old?” Gonzales said. He said the target timeline of the new charter change move is to be able to present it to Marcos before he delivers his third State of the Nation Address on July 22, just a year before the midterm and senatorial elections in May 2025. “I think we can get the target, I think before the SONA if ever. I think we can get it with the coordination with other congressmen and members of the Upper House. So we’ll try to pursue it (Cha-cha) next year, we will tackle the amendments to the Constitution,” Gonzales said.

  • By Danessa Rivera, January 1, 2024; The Philippine Star https://www.philstar.com/business/2024/01/01/2322638/water-security-roadmap-awaits-neda-approval Manila, Philippines — The country’s water security roadmap now awaits the approval of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board. In a recent interview, Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Undersecretary and Water Resources Management Office (WRMO) head Carlos Primo David said the roadmap had been submitted to the NEDA Board. “In Executive Order (EO) 22, which created the WRMO, it included the provision that’s important, which is to craft the integrated water resources management program. That report is now with the NEDA Cabinet cluster. After the NEDA, it’s going to be public,” he said. Earlier, Metro Pacific Water president and CEO Rogelio Singson urged the government to publish its preliminary water security roadmap to get inputs from the private sector before finalizing the plan. He said allowing the private sector to see and comment on the preliminary plans would aid in the proper execution of these water-related projects. Singson said the private sector has a major role to play in this roadmap, such as watershed, water treatment, use of technology, use of artificial intelligence, water distribution and wastewater treatment. The EO creating WRMO was issued by President Marcos in March. The new office is mandated to formulate and ensure the implementation of an integrated water resource management plan (IWRMP). David said the IWRMP is divided into three sections: supply of water, distribution of water and its management. “We started with supply, making sure that we have the resources available. In all honesty, we have so much water in the Philippines. The same water that creates flooding is the water we need for hydropower, irrigation, etc. So we need to impound those instead of pushing this to the ocean,” David said. When the WRMO was created, President Marcos said its plans should include the construction of water impounding facilities to reduce flood damage and make effective use of water resources. In August, the President directed the government to study the proposal to construct a water impounding facility in the Candaba swamp in Pampanga. For distribution, the plan focuses on water conservation, “making sure water tariff is correct – it can’t be too cheap, too expensive,” David said. The WRMO also seeks to address the country’s fragmented water and sanitation sector, increasing demand for water due to population and economic growth, impact of climate change, lack of infrastructure, and inconsistent government regulations. The office will also serve as a transitory body pending the creation of a Department of Water.

  • By Zeus Legaspi, December 28, 2023; Philippine Daily Inquirer https://newsinfo.inquirer.net/1880738/neda-on-extension-of-tariff-cuts Manila, Philippines — The extension of tariff cuts for essential agricultural goods would help stabilize food prices for Filipinos in the coming year, the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said on Thursday. In a statement, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that the reduced tariffs would help diversify market sources which would then ensure sufficient and affordable food supply in the country. Balisacan pointed out that this measure will help reduce risks and help ease inflation caused by the onset of El Niño, worsening effects of African Swine Fever (ASF), and external pressures such as geopolitical tensions and export bans imposed by some countries. He added that tariff cuts played a role in reducing the price of meat, corn, and rice in September this year. Balisacan likewise emphasized the significance of enacting measures aimed at improving local food cultivation and increasing farmers’ efficiency. Key measures involve continuous investment in irrigation, flood control, supply chain logistics, and adaptation to climate change. “Short-term and long-term interventions need to work together to protect the purchasing power of Filipino households and boost the productivity and income of local producers,” he said. “Doing so will ensure equitable and sustainable development for the country,” he added. On December 22, President Ferdinand “Bongbong” R. Marcos Jr. signed Executive Order No. 50 which extended the reduced Most Favored Nation tariff rates on pork, corn, and rice until Dec. 31, 2024. Under this new EO, the tariff rates for pork will remain at 15 percent in-quota and 25 percent out-quota; while corn will be at five percent in-quota and 15 percent out-quota. Meanwhile, tariff rates for rice will be at 35 percent for both in-quota and out-quota for the extended period. The President said that the extension of lower import rates was due to the looming effects of the dry season and the ongoing effects of ASF.

  • By Filane Mikee Cervantes, December 21, 2023; Philippine News Agency https://www.pna.gov.ph/articles/1215775 MANILA – The number of jobless Filipinos eased to 7.9 million in September 2023, according to a survey of the Social Weather Stations (SWS). The survey, from Sept. 28 to Oct. 1, found that the adult joblessness rate fell to 16.9 percent, which is 5.8 points lower than the 22.8 percent recorded in June 2023 or around 10.3 million adults. Adults who are jobless consist of those who voluntarily left their old jobs, are seeking jobs for the first time, or lost their jobs due to economic circumstances beyond their control or got retrenched. The pollster noted that the 5.8-point decline in the national joblessness rate was due to decreases in the joblessness rate in all areas, particularly highest in Balance Luzon at 20.8 percent, followed by Metro Manila at 19.2 percent, Mindanao at 12.4 percent, and the Visayas at 12.2 percent. The September 2023 survey found adult joblessness slightly higher in urban areas at 18.0 percent than in rural areas at 15.7 percent. Compared to June 2023, urban joblessness fell from 24.7 percent, while rural joblessness dropped from 21.0 percent. There is still higher joblessness among women at 21.1 percent compared to men at 14 percent. Joblessness has also been consistently highest among the 18 to 24-year olds at 34.4 percent compared to other age groups. The same poll also found adult joblessness to be highest among college graduates at 25.6 percent, followed by junior high school graduates at 19.1 percent, followed by elementary graduates at 14.5 percent, and non-elementary graduates at 3.1 percent. Meanwhile, the SWS also pointed out that the incidence of involuntary hunger was twice as high among families of jobless adults at 17.7 percent than among families of those with a job or livelihood at 8.6 percent. The third quarter Social Weather survey was conducted using face-to-face interviews of 1,200 adults nationwide: 300 each in Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao. The sampling error margins are ±2.8 percent for national percentages, and ±5.7 percent each for Metro Manila, Balance Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

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