Monday, February 11, 2013

Global Grounding of Boeing Dreamliners

All Nippon Airways Co. (ANA) announced Thursday it would cancel 681 flights in March due to the global grounding of Boeing Dreamliners.

ANA said 461 domestic flights and 220 international flights in March will be canceled, affecting some 25,500 people.

ANA, one of the biggest Dreamliner customers, currently has 55 Dreamliners on order, 13 of which have been delivered.

A Boeing 787 operated by All Nippon Airways made an emergency landing at Takamatsu Airport last Wednesday, marking the latest defect exposed after a series of accidents of the Boeing's newest jet.

Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI)’s P200-million passenger terminal building

The new state-of-the -art passenger terminal that will be opened this end-April, will surely boost business development in Tondo to new heights.

Manila North Harbour Port, Inc. (MNHPI)'s P200- million passenger terminal building (PTB) with 1,960 passenger capacity is now more than 80 percent complete.

"In conjunction with the Philippine Ports Authority and 2Go Inc, we're providing this area in Tondo with a facility that is modern and has a touch of class. We're providing a passenger terminal on a grand level," MNHPI chief executive officer Richard Barclay said.

The development in the area is seen to bring stabilization of employment, opportunities for people to improve their business as well as improve their productivity.

"With these investments, there is now an opportunity for vessels to plan with their customers and other shippers. For passengers, they will feel more secure," he said

North Harbor will have a soft opening in mid-March, in time for the Holy week and will be fully operational by end-April.

"It (passenger terminal) would be the number one terminal, in terms of facilities and development in the Philippines, air or sea," he added.

From 2005 to 2010, passenger traffic went down by about 50 percent. Since the consolidation of 2G0 Inc and MNHPI started operating the port, a slight growth in passenger count has been recorded.

The arrival area is spacious and air-conditioned. The comfort rooms will be well maintained. Baggage will be x-rayed to ensure security and safety of passengers. There is a clinic, dining and concessions along the area, where greeters and well-wishers can seat back and enjoy and probably, to say goodbye or welcome people nicely.

He noted that with this new facility, "saying goodbye to a loved-one can be done and that makes passengers to feel a lot better now."

Philippine government’s response to criminality

Malacanang gave an assurance Wednesday the government is responding well to the spate of crimes happening in the metropolis.

In a press briefing in Malacanang, President spokesman Edwin Lacierda said the Dept. of the Interior and Local Government is on top of the situation with regard to government's response to criminality.

"The DILG is on top of it. Secretary Manuel Roxas is on top of it. He knows the situation. He gets daily reports on the criminal activities or apprehensions done by the PNP. So I'm certain that Secretary Mar Roxas is talking to PNP chief Alan Purisima with respect to these matters," Lacierda told reporters when asked about the attacks happening in Metro Manila.

He said National Capital Region Police Office chief Police Director Leonardo Espina is following up the SM Megamall robbery.

"There are things being done right now to determine and identify and to apprehend these lawless elements," he said.

Asked if the Palace is alarmed by these criminal activities, Lacierda said: "We are looking at the overall picture. It just so happened that there's a number of highlighted crimes reported. So we're looking at the overall picture of the criminal activity in Metro Manila."

Philippine Investment Summit 2013

Citing the economic growth as phenomenal, world renowned economist Dr. Nouriel Roubini said the country deserves a two-notch upgrade and projected it has the potential to grow 7 percent or more.

"The country's growth should not get lost to the international credit rating agencies," Roubini said during the holding of the Philippine Investment Summit 2013 held at the Makati Shangri –La on Wednesday.

"With the good macroeconomic conditions, expect that more investments portfolio are coming in," Roudini said adding that the stronger growth in several sectors like manufacturing, real estate and the outsourcing industry could further fuel economic growth.

Roudini also cited that the significant increase on the consumer consumption and the growing investment in residential property was an important factor in economic growth along with the improvement in the mining sector.

He, however, called "for more liberalization in foreign investment explaining that it is a greater source of investment, mining (particularly)."

"This is not just about money but also transfer of technology," he explained adding that there should, however, be a careful concern on the environment.

Meanwhile, for more foreign investments to pour in, Roudini said that "the government should ensure the sanctity of contract, ease prohibitions on doing business and eliminate if not eradicate corruption," he stressed.

Bill Amending Anti-Money Laundering Law

As the Senate proceeded to amend the bill amending the Anti-Money Laundering Law, eight senators, including Sen. Manny Villar, whose family is engaged in real estate business, voted Wednesday night to exclude real estate brokers from list of possible money launderers.

With an 8-3 vote, the senators voted in favor of Sen. Ralph Recto's amendment to delete the provision stated in paragraph 5 of Section 1 of the proposed Senate Bill 3123 or an act further strengthening the AMLA or Republic Act No. 9160.

"May I move to delete line 9 or paragraph 5 which states: real estate brokers," Recto moved.

Recto also moved to delete the provision 'buying and selling of real estate' but eventually agreed to a suggestion to just amend it to "buying and selling of real estate worth at least P25 million property."

In response, Villar took the podium and said: "I just would like to state for the record that our family is engaged in the real estate business."

In 2001, the AMLA was enacted into law to protect and preserve the integrity and confidentiality of bank accounts and to ensure that the Philippines shall not be used as a money laundering site for the proceeds of any unlawful activity.

Due to the global threat of terrorism, the Financial Action Task Force has asked the Philippines to pass amendments to the AMLA to avoid being blacklisted by other countries.

Last year, the Senate has passed two amendment bills to the law that President Benigno Aquino III signed into law.

The first was SB No. 3009 that allows Anti-Money Laundering Council to examine bank accounts and investments based on an ex parte application and allow courts other than the Court of Appeals to issue freeze orders.

On the other hand, SB 3127 or the Terrorism Financing Prevention and Suppression Act seeks to allow authorities to freeze terrorist funds and inquire into bank accounts even without a court order.

The SB 3123 aims to expand the list of entities required to report financial transactions to the AMLC to include casinos, dealers, pre-need companies, real estate agents, and trust and company providers, among others.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile proposed to delete casinos, including internet casinos from the coverage but the bill's sponsor Sen. Teofisto Guingona III objected and instead allowed Enrile to amend the provision.

Advantage of the free trade agreements

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) has conducted an information drive to entice local exporters and manufacturers to take advantage of the free trade agreements (FTAs) the country has forged with several countries.

DTI Undersecretary for Industry and Trade Policy Adrian S. Cristobal Jr. said that through the Department's Doing Business in Free Trade Areas (DBFTA) outreach program, the DTI conducted a total of 116 DBFTA information sessions attended by 11,169 participants representing 5,833 companies. The total number of DBFTA sessions exceeded by 16 percent the 100-session goal the DTI set for 2012.

Currently, the Philippines has FTAs with the ASEAN, Japan, Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand. These agreements give manufacturers of Philippine goods ready access and preferential tariff rates into their markets.

Cristobal said the sessions provided both rural- and urban-based manufacturers and entrepreneurs guidelines and requirements to help them export produce world-standard goods, guide them in finding buyers for their products, and the benefits they can derive from the FTAs.

According to program manager Director Senen Perlada of the Bureau of Export Trade Promotion (BETP), the Trade department also conducted 48 focus group discussions (FGDs) with different product sectors including food, home-style, jewelry, cosmetics, motor vehicles, appliances, and chemicals. It also invited the services sector to these FGDs to help the education, tourism, health and wellness, information and communications technology, professional services and logistics industries to prepare for a more open regional market with the coming of the ASEAN Economic Community in 2015.

Perlada said among the DTI's other activities promoting the DBFTA program included the 12 information sessions on particular FTAs. A department team also participated in the first Philippine, Australia, New Zealand Business Forum. Individual sessions focused on the Asean FTA, the Asean-China FTA, the Asean-Korea FTA, the Asean-India FTA, and the Asean-Japan Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement as well as the Philippine-Japan Economic Partnership Agreement.

Five information sessions were conducted in partner economies including DBFTA sessions with 17 Japanese importers in Osaka, Japan as part of the Food Outbound Business Mission to that country. In 2013, the DTI is looking at organizing a separate DBFTA session with Japanese customs brokers since they facilitate the shipment of Japanese traders.

Because the academic community plays a strategic role in furthering the goals of the DTI's DBFTA program, the DTI conducted 12 information sessions with academic institutions located in different areas of the country and signed memoranda of understanding (MOU) with nine of them to expand the department's capacity for future FTA advocacy campaign.

The nine academic institutions are the Mountain Province State University, the Columban College in Zambales, Ateneo de Davao, Xavier University and Capitol University in Cagayan de Oro City, La Salle University in Ozamiz, Mindanao State University in General Santos, Silliman University, and the University of the Philippines in the Visayas.

Qualified dependents on tax deduction

The Senate has approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to lift the limit on the number of qualified dependents that a taxpayer may claim on tax deduction.

Authored and sponsored by Sen Ralph Recto, the Senate Bill 2855, or the Family Care Act of 2013, seeks to amend Section 35, paragraph B of the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, which limits the number of dependents to only four at P25,000 per person.

While the cap on the number of dependents was established in 1973 to promote family planning, Recto said the tax code discriminates against large families.

He cited a study by the Commission on Population which showed that "only women in the lowest and second lowest wealth quartile have four or more children", adding these groups are not even income tax payers.

"The committee's rational for removing the limitation on the number of qualified dependents for the tax purpose is that we believe, and we find support from economists, that setting a limitation on the number of dependents has no bearing on the decision of couples to beget children," Recto said.

The bill proposes to include as dependents legitimated children who are "born outside of wedlock of parents and, under certain conditions, may be legitimated."

At the same time, the measure proposes to expand the coverage of qualified dependents to include parents or both parents who are dependent on the taxpayer for support and are living with him or her.

The coverage, Recto explained, also includes a parent or parents, regardless of income, who are incapable of self-support because of mental or physical disability.

"We also propose to allow a taxpayer who acts as legal guardian of a person with mental or physical handicap, regardless of age and incapable of self-support, to claim the additional exemption for the said dependents," Recto said.

Transaxial Highway in Cebu

A P4-B transaxial highway that will unite the entire province of Cebu will be constructed by next year under a five-year plan program.

Vice Governor Gregorio Sanchez disclosed that the transaxial highway also dubbed as the 'unity highway' aims to connect the municipality of Santander in the South to the town of Daan Bantayan in the North.

The unity highway will be a major project of the Provincial Government that is expected to fast track the economic growth of Cebu and reverse migration from urban to rural.

Sanchez said it is costly for the province to maintain the entire 600-km. coastal road with the problem of road right-of-way while any plan for road expansion is not feasible as the existing roads are narrow and already congested due to increasing population.

The vice-governor bared the highway will merely connect the existing roads citing the present roads from Santander to Argao in the south, Balamban (northwest) to Pinamungahan (southwest) and Tuburan to Compostela in the northern part. The construction of the transaxial highway will not be that costly as an alignment will just be done to connect these existing roads and come up with the unity highway, Sanchez said.

The transaxial highway will be a four-lane major thoroughfare that is also considered as a speed highway with no intersection and will save a lot of travel time, Sanchez added.

Construction of the major highway is likewise a holistic approach to entice the people to go back to the countryside as rural development is boosted, Sanchez further added.

Building good roads will be a major come-on for the industries to invest in the province especially in the countrysides while there are two Malaysian companies that have already expressed interest in constructing the transaxial highway, according to Sanchez.

Libel Law in Philippines

Anti-Cybercrime Law advocates Wednesday asked the Supreme Court to declare as unconstitutional all five libel provisions under the Revised Penal Code.

In a 52-page amended petition filed by a group of journalists together with lawyers Harry Roque, Romel Bagares and Gilbert Andres, they asked the SC to nullify Articles 353, 354, 355, 361 and 362 of the RPC.

Article 353 defines libel while Articles 354 and 355 enumerate the requirements for publicity and other ways to commit libel aside from writing.

Articles 361 and 362 are about the proof of truth for someone accused of libel and making libelous remarks.

The petitioners told the SC the five libel provisions should be nullified when it rules on the legality of online libel under Republic Act 10175 or the Cybercrime Prevention Act of 2012.

They said the United Nations Human Rights Committee involving libel case against their co-petitioner Alexander Adonis held that criminal libel in the RPC is incompatible with freedom of expression.

"Articles 353, 354, 355, 361 and 362 of the Revised Penal Code are unconstitutional as these stifle freedom of expression and any prosecution for libel under the Revised Penal Code or under RA 10175 which incorporates the said articles by reference or by implication is a continuing violation of Philippine State obligations under the International Covenant of Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) as the United Nations Human Rights Committee has so held in its view on Adonis v. Republic of the Philippines where the Committee stated that criminal libel in the Revised Penal Code is incompatible with freedom of expression," the petitioners said.

"Further, the UNHRC view expressed that the Philippines is 'also under an obligation to take steps to prevent similar violations occurring in the future," they added.

The petitioners filed the amended petition after the issue on the legality of ordinary libel came out during the SC's oral arguments last Jan. 15.

They argued the SC already issued several rulings that declared libel as unconstitutional.

Senior Associate Justice Antonio T. Carpio himself said the RPC provision must now be unconstitutional and contradicts the SC's free speech rules.

Carpio said when the framers adopted libel in the 1935 Constitution, "they do not have in mind freedom of expression."

However, the SC in recent rulings adopted the US case New York Times v. Sullivan "and basically, for public officers, there must be actual malice. Second, that truth is a defense for public officers and you can always have fair comment on acts of public officers."

Carpio said Article 354 of the RPC said malice is presumed and punishable even if the libelous statement is true.

"We have several cases adopting Sullivan. Even if it is malicious but true, then we reverse conviction," he said.

The petitioners said the five provisions of the RPC while only require "malice" for libel conviction, there are stringent requirements for libel defense.

Donut Gang in Manila

Alert security guards detailed at Robinsons Magnolia in Aurora Boulevard, Quezon City have repelled the assault of suspected "Donut Gang" members Wednesday afternoon.

Reports said the suspects were stealing away vehicle tires at the parking lot of the mall when duty guards spotted them.

At this point, the robbers fired at the security guards, prompting the latter to retaliate.

The suspects hurriedly boarded a green-colored Mitsubishi Adventure (XMX-544) and quickly escaped.

The vehicle was eventually recovered at N. Domingo and Valencia streets in Quezon City.

Revised Typhoon Bopha/Pablo Response Action Plan for Recovery

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) and its partners from the Office of the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) of the United Nations launched their appeal on Tuesday in Davao City for additional US million from donors to help communities devastated by typhoon "Pablo."

The group's launching of their appeal here was the second as they first launched it in Manila last January 25 hosted by the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

OCHA communications officer Eva Modrig, in an interview after the launch, said the additional funding would be used to implement 46 projects in 12 humanitarian sectors in "Pablo" devastated areas in Southern Mindanao specifically Davao Oriental and Compostela Valley provinces badly hit by the typhoon.

"This forms part of the Revised Typhoon Bopha/Pablo Response Action Plan for Recovery," she said.

Modrig said there was a need to raise the funds that would be used in the next six months due to enormous destruction of typhoon "Pablo" to affected communities and thousands of affected families in terms of permanent shelters, food security, agriculture, access to water, sanitation and hygiene services and recovery and re-establishment of livelihoods for affected communities.

The revised action plan actually needs an additional funding of US million. However, the group already raised 36 percent of the amount.

Thus, the group now is appealing for the US million funding gap, Modrig said.

Groups who donated to raise the 36 percent of the US-million additional funding came from UN agencies at 30 percent and non-governmental organizations at 70 percent. While separate donors came from other nations like United States (US), Australia, Japan, European Union (EU), Canada, Malaysia, New Zealand, Spain, and Switzerland.

Aman Scam Mastermind Has Liver Cancer

The founder of Aman Futures, Manuel Amalilio, has been sentenced to two years in prison in Malaysia, according to Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Ed Malaya.

A report from Malaysia's The Star on Tuesday also said Amalilio, who is known in Malaysia as Mohammad Kamal Sa'ad, pleaded guilty to charges of holding a fake Philippine passport.
Prosecuting officer Insp. Azwal Azman said Amalilio was found to be in possession of the Philippine passport as he was about to leave the Kota Kinabalu International Airport (KKIA) on January 25.

Investigation by Malaysian police showed that Amalilio had fraudulently obtained the passport.

A MyKad identity card with his name was also found in his possession.
The violation provides a fine of up to RM10, 000 or jail terms of up to five years or both.

The report said Amalilio was charged at a hospital in Malaysia, where he is being treated for a liver ailment.

The Medical City in Clark

The Medical City-Clark (TMC-Clark) has started the construction of its US$ 1.5-billion hospital care complex inside this Freeport.

During the cornerstone-laying ceremony here on Tuesday, TMC president and CEO Dr. Alfredo R.A. Bengzon said TMC-Clark is the first component of a larger health care complex at the Global Gateways Logistics City (GGLC), a 177-hectare master-planned logistics and business center which will house new infrastructures amounting to over US$ 1.5 billion.

Bengzon said the construction of the 150-bed world class tertiary hospital complex is scheduled to be completed by August 2014.

"TMC-Clark will have a full complement of top quality diagnostic and treatment services, drawing from the strengths of institutional centers of excellence. It will also be the official medical facility and trauma/burn center of Clark International Airport," he said.

Bengzon also said that since the hospital is situated next to an international airport, TMC-Clark seeks to serve the global market. The hospital supports TMC's strategy to expand its presence by developing a national network.

He also said that TMC network is currently composed of two other hospitals and 20 outpatient clinics located across Metro Manila and selected provinces.

"Now I am filled with pride because finally The Medical City in Clark affirms and advances leadership position to build up the largest operating network," he said.

With the addition of the Clark site to TMC's growing network of health facilities, he said TMC strengthens its serious bid for prominence in national and international healthcare.

Puregold Store Branch in Mindanao and Luzon

Listed grocery chain operator Puregold Price Club Inc. will spend P3.6 billion to put up 26 more stores this year.

"This year, we are targeting for Puregold organic expansion 25 (stores) and one S&R (Warehouse Membership Shopping Club)," said Jimmy Perez, Puregold investor relations officer, in an interview.

Perez said the company is branching out in Mindanao with the opening of the S&R Membership Shopping Club in Davao and Puregold Hypermarket in Cagayan de Oro City.

He bared that the Davao store is set to open sometime April or May, while the Cagayan de Oro store, by the third quarter of 2013.

Perez said the firm is still finalizing the list of the 25 stores it plans to open this year, noting that "our signed lease contracts are more than 25".

"We are really going to expand geographically, meaning to the Mindanao area particularly… We are really moving towards rural underserved areas in Mindanao and likewise in the Luzon," he said.

Perez said there are no modern retail outlets operating in these underserved areas, and these are basically dependent on the public markets and sari-sari stores.

"But the sari-sari stores are not in a way a competitor for us. Puregold is really targeting the mass market. The mass market cannot go shopping weekly. In that shopping pattern, they have to really go to the sari-sari stores. So basically, we are targeting wherever we go the sari-sari stores," he said.

Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) Operation

The Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) on Wednesday announced that its anti-illegal firearms campaign has resulted in the confiscation of a Israeli-made Uzi machine pistol and two other weapons plus assorted ammunition during operations in Apalit, Pampanga on Tuesday.

Region 3 CIDG chief, Senior Supt. Elmo Francis Sarona said joint operatives of Pampanga CIDG led by Chief Insp. Leoncio L. Senense and local police raided the house of Ricardo Bonifacio of Barangay Sampaloc, Apalit, Pampanga for violation of Illegal possession of firearms (Republic Act 8294).

He added that his men implemented the search warrant issued by Executive Judge Angelo Perez of Cabanatuan City.

This resulted in the confiscation of a cal. 30 rifle carbine; a cal. 38 rifle; a Uzi machine pistol; six 9mm magazines ; five magazine for cal. 30 rifle; and hundreds of rounds of ammunition for cal. 9mm and .45 caliber, all without license.

Corruption in Philippine Defense Bidding

Defense Secretary Voltaire T. Gazmin Wednesday denied claims by Transparency International United Kingdom, which claimed the Philippines is one of the countries whose defense sectors have very high risk of corruption.

"We have been very transparent since the time of President (Benigno) S. Aquino III (which started in 2010). We made a lot of reforms in the bidding process to make it more transparent," he added.

Gazmin said they even invited members of the media, civil society groups and even the Makati Business Club when bidding proceedings are ongoing.

The DND chief added they even provided interested civilians with Defense System Management seminars to give the latter more understanding on how the bidding process in the military goes on.

He also stressed that accountability is emphasized in the DND bidding process as timelines are strictly followed.

Gazmin also added he was unsure on what time frame TI used in its surveys on the Philippines but emphasized that it could not be during 2010.

Earthquake jolted parts of Surigao del Norte

A magnitude 5.5 earthquake jolted parts of Surigao del Norte province before noon Wednesday, according to the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology (Philvocs).

In its bulletin, the agency said the 10:32 a.m. quake had its epicenter at 104 kms northeast of Burgos in Surigao del Norte.

The tectonic quake had a depth of 33 kms -- meaning it was caused by the movement of the earth's crust.

The agency added no damages or casualties were reported, but aftershocks were expected.

Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1)

South Korea will launch its Korea Space Launch Vehicle-1 (KSLV-1) at 4 p.m. Wednesday (3pm in Manila), a government official said, marking its third attempt to join the elite global space club.

The decision came after a final systems check that began earlier in the day.

The country's Launch Preparation Committee decided a final rehearsal that took place on Tuesday and the day's systems check offered no reason to delay what will be the country's third launch of the space rocket, also known as Naro.

"The Launch Preparation Committee, which was convened from 11 this morning, has decided, after reviewing the status of Naro, weather conditions and conditions in space to go ahead with the launch at 4 p.m.," Roh Kyeong-won, the head of the ministry's strategic technology development bureau, told a press conference.

Roh added the automatic 15-minute countdown will consequently start at 3:45 p.m.

Wednesday's launch will mark South Korea's third attempt to join the global space club after its two earlier launches in 2009 and 2010 ended in failures.

Naro's third launch itself was originally set to take place on Oct. 26 and again on Nov. 29, but was delayed both times due to defective parts.

Another factor besides technical problems that may lead to a delay is the condition of the weather, but KARI officials said the weather should not be a problem as there were only clear skies with mild winds at the Naro Space Center, 480 kilometers south of Seoul.

If the launch takes place as scheduled, it will mark the last launch under the Naro space program, regardless of its success or failure, as the joint development program with Russia ends later in the year.

The lower, or first-stage rocket, of Naro was built by Russia's Khrunichev State Research and Production Space Center with its upper or second-stage rocket developed jointly by KARI and some 200 other South Korean companies and institutes.

The joint program began in 2002 as South Korea then lacked related technologies despite its growing need to develop its own means to deliver satellites into space.