ECCP at Work

ECCP@Work Featured Articles | March 17, 2023

March 17, 2023

ECCP Online

ECCP at Work

Trade gap balloons to $5.74B in Jan.

The Philippines’ trade-in-goods deficit widened to a five-month high in January as exports posted their steepest drop in over two years, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) reported. Preliminary data from the PSA showed the trade gap — the difference in value between exports and imports — ballooned to $5.74 billion in January from the $4.50-billion deficit in December and the $4.51-billion gap in January last year.

BIR says personal income tax cuts to help boost consumer spending

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) said it expects any revenue losses from the personal income tax cuts this year to be offset by an expected increase in consumer spending. BIR Commissioner Lumagui said the personal income tax cuts would translate to higher disposable income for the majority of taxpayers. “(Taxpayers) will effectively have higher take-home pay, and hopefully they will be spending, so consumption tax (will be higher),” he told reporters last week. Under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law, further reductions in the personal income tax rates took effect on Jan. 1. Taxpayers with annual taxable income above P250,000 but not over P400,000 now have a personal income tax rate of 15%, from 20% previously.

Current account deficit seen as ‘manageable’ — NEDA’s Balisacan

The current account deficit will be “manageable” even with imports rising as the government ramps up its infrastructure projects, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan said. Mr. Balisacan said other sources of foreign exchange may offset the impact of the likely rise in capital goods imports on the current account. “We do think that the implications of infrastructure spending on the current account are manageable,” Mr. Balisacan added. The central bank estimates the current account deficit at $5.8 billion in the third quarter of 2022, widening from the year-earlier deficit of $974 million, due to the widening trade in goods deficit.  The current account is expected to end 2022 at a deficit of $20.5 billion, equivalent to 5.1% of gross domestic product (GDP), before narrowing to $19.9 billion (4.7% of GDP) this year.

Government restructuring bill clears House on third reading

The House of Representatives approved on third and final reading a bill seeking to “rightsize” the bureaucracy, in light of devolution and the contracting out of some government services to the private sector. During Tuesday’s plenary session, 292 legislators voted in favor of the measure. The three-person Makabayan Bloc — Deputy Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. France L. Castro, Assistant Minority Leader and Party-list Rep. Arlene D. Brosas, and Party-list Rep. Raoul Danniel A. Manuel — voted no. Zero members abstained.  House Bill No. 7240 or the National Government Rightsizing Act, grants the President the authority to restructure agencies controlled by the Executive branch. The bill empowers the President to streamline or eliminate functions, programs, and projects “that could be better carried out or undertaken by the private sector or which have already been devoted to LGUs (local government units).” The bill also detailed the retirement benefits and separation incentives for government employees that will be affected by the restructuring.

SEC’s ESG policies seen to face challenges as firms limit reports

The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) may face challenges in implementing environmental, social, and governance (ESG) policies as companies tend to highlight only positive aspects of sustainability reports, said Sustainable Fitch. “The plan could face implementation challenges, as the SEC acknowledged that most companies tend to only make public the positive aspects of their sustainability reports,” said Sustainable Fitch, a specialist ESG unit of the Fitch Solutions group. According to Sustainable Fitch, the Philippines is still unable to set clear details on its ESG and decarbonization strategies, which could hinder the country’s progress compared with other Southeast Asian countries.

P214B INFRA TO START CONSTRUCTION: DPWH to implement 70K projects this year

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) has over 70,000 projects to implement this year throughout the country, with several of these set for groundbreaking and inauguration before the Holy Week and the State of the Nation Address (SONA) of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. in July, according to Secretary Manuel Bonoan. Bonoan said the DPWH is scheduled to start the construction this year of major infrastructure projects valued at P213.8 billion that include roads, hospitals, bridges and the 32.15-kilometer Bataan-Cavite Interlink Bridge. Bonoan said during a press briefing in Malacañang yesterday the agency intends to start the construction of the P175-billion Bataan-Cavite project in the latter part of the year and this is expected to be completed in five years or before the end of the Marcos administration.

Gov’t to build cold storage facilities

The government will build  cold storage facilities in  fish ports throughout the country, including 11  in General Santos and Cagayan de Oro,  to reduce fish spoilage to 8 to 10 percent from the current 25 percent to 40 percent per harvest. President Ferdinand Marcos Jr., in a video interview after his meeting with officials of various departments and attached agencies, said  spoilage happens  during  handling and transfer of the fish from the  boats to the drop off area and the market. “The solution there is to put up cold storage facilities in areas where the fish is dropped off to preserve them and prevent spoilage,” Marcos said. He said putting up more cold storage facilities would also help ensure fish supply is sufficient and eliminate, if not, reduce the country’s dependence on  imports. The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) said about 25 to 40 percent of the harvested fish are spoiled due to the shortage in post-harvest equipment like blast freezer and ice making machines, as well as cold storage warehouses and fish landing sites.

DOH: Arrival of bivalent vaccines will be delayed

The Department of Health (DOH) said the arrival of bivalent vaccines in the country would be delayed due to the lifting of the state of calamity for COVID-19. DOH officer-in-charge Maria Rosario Vergeire said that there are some delays in the arrival of the bivalent vaccines because the state of calamity has been lifted and alongside with this state of calamity are some conditions. The DOH said among the conditions which have to be addressed are immunity from liability and indemnification clauses required by manufacturers and international agreements.

Cash remittances up 3.5% in January

MONEY SENT HOME by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) rose by 3.5% annually in January, as they sought to help their families cope with the rising cost of living. Data released by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed cash remittances coursed through banks jumped to $2.76 billion in January from $2.67 billion in the same month last year.

UK keen on helping Philippines startups, tech firms gain momentum

With a number of up-and-coming startup and tech companies in the Philippines, the United Kingdom hopes to bridge them with experienced London-based firms who can further support their growth. UK Trade Commissioner for Asia Pacific Natalie Black went on a two-day visit to the Philippines from March 2 to 3 to meet with key business officials and other stakeholders. During her visit, she also announced a new partnership between the UK and Digital Pilipinas to “champion common UK-Philippines priorities” – from fintech, cyber security, smart cities, and even providing digital health services. 

Con-con bill gets 301 votes in House 3rd & final reading

With supermajority votes of 301, the House of Representatives on Tuesday endorsed for Senate approval the proposed Constitutional Convention Act, the accompanying bill of the Resolution of Both Houses 6 calling for a constitutional convention (Con-con). During the third and final reading approval of House Bill 7352, only seven lawmakers voted against its passage. Speaker Ferdinand Martin G. Romualdez, Majority Leader Manuel Jose Dalipe, and House Committee on Constitutional Amendments Chairman Rufus Rodriguez led 301 of the 314 House members in authoring and voting for the bill.

PHL now 2nd country with most web threats

THE Philippines ranked second in the world with the most web threats in 2022, according to global cybersecurity firm Kaspersky, reflecting how cybercriminals were “relentless and persistent” in targeting Filipino organizations last year.  According to the Kaspersky Security Network (KSN) Report for 2022, Kaspersky users in the Philippines received “repeated attacks” from threats through removable devices and affected web sites in 2022 versus the year prior.  This made the Philippines go two notches up in the list of the most attacked countries last year, next to Mongolia, and followed by Ukraine, Greece, and Belarus. The ranking is based on the number of web-based cyberthreats detected and blocked by Kaspersky products. 

DTI vows ease of doing biz for logistics sector in PHL 

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) vowed to make it easier for the Philippine logistics sector to do business in the Philippines. Among the initiatives of the Trade department is to streamline the accreditation process for the logistics sector. At the Supply Chain Trilogy 2023 Forum, DTI Assistant Secretary Mary Jean T. Pacheco said a streamlining initiative of DTI has been endorsed to the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA) for Phase 2.

House approves on 2nd reading a bill requiring REITs to reinvest in PHL

THE HOUSE of Representatives on Wednesday approved on second reading a bill requiring real estate investment trusts (REITs) to reinvest the proceeds of their fundraising activities in the Philippines. House Bill No. 7525, which seeks to amend the Real Estate Investment Trust Act of 2009, was approved by lawmakers through viva voce (voice vote). House economic affairs committee chairman and Negros Occidental Rep. Gerardo P. Valmayor Jr. told the plenary the measure will help boost growth in the real estate industry.

DoE shelves plan to establish strategic oil reserve, citing cost

THE Department of Energy (DoE) said the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC) will postpone its plan to establish a national strategic petroleum reserve. Citing concerns about “the useful life of the investment” in light of declining oil use, Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said that cost is also an issue. Last year, the PNOC was seeking legislative approval for its plan to establish a permanent reserve. “Of course, it won’t (happen) overnight; again, you’ve got to take a look at what will be the useful life of your investment. These are the things that we are considering,” he said. PNOC described the reserve as a permanent stockpile that will help the Philippines ride out periods of severe supply disruption.

Private sector adds new business leads from PBBM Japan trip

The private sector reported they generated $620.72 million and $22.67 million in trade and investment leads from their business matching sessions during President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr.'s official working visit to Tokyo, Japan in February this year. The Department of Trade and Industry’s field office in Japan led by Commercial Counselor Dita Angara-Mathay reported the figure based on submitted reports by private sector participants. The new figure is on top of the more than $13-billion big-ticket deals signed during the visit.  The trade and investments potentials were generated from the 600 business matching meetings during the visit participated by 118 companies from the Philippines and 597 companies.

Marcos Jr. on P20/kilo rice: We’re almost there

The government is inching toward its goal of lowering the price of rice to P20 per kilo, President Marcos said yesterday, as he vowed to sustain measures aimed at ensuring access to affordable goods. Speaking during the launch of the Kadiwa ng Pangulo program in Pili, Camarines Sur, Marcos said the government is shouldering the hidden costs in the transportation of farmers’ products so these could be sold to consumers at lower prices. He added that his administration’s decision to increase the number of Kadiwa outlets – stores that offer lower-priced products – has yielded positive results.

Government adds P218 billion to 2022 national budget

The government has included a P218-billion additional program on top of the P5.02 trillion national budget in 2022, bulk of which were unprogrammed appropriations. Data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed that the adjusted budget program last year reached P5.242 trillion. This is about P218.46 billion more than the programmed P5.02 trillion budget.

35% of PH energy supply to come from renewable sources by 2030, says ERC

The Energy Regulatory Commission on Thursday said the country is planning to make renewable energy one of its leading sources of power supply  in less than 10 years, to account for at least 35 percent of the energy mix by 2030 and more than 50 percent by 2040. “We already have a target for 2030, 2040 target.  By 2030, 35 percent of our mix should already be coming from renewables; in 2040, 50 percent,” said ERC chair Monalisa Dimalanta in a press forum. To achieve this target, Dimalanta said the ERC had  increased its renewable portfolio standard (RPS) to 2.52 percent from 1 percent.

PHL climate-resilient agri project receives $26.2 million in funding

THE PHILIPPINES will receive $26.2 million worth of international funding for a seven-year project to help climate-vulnerable rural smallholder farmers become more resilient against climate change. The Philippine proposal was one of two approved for funding in Southeast Asia by the Green Climate Fund (GCF) at its board meeting. In a statement on Wednesday, the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) Regional Office for Asia and the Pacific said the grant will be supplemented by $12.9 million in co-financing by the Department of Agriculture and the government weather service, known as PAGASA. The project is expected to benefit 1.25 million farmers who will be instructed in climate-resilient farming practices, risk reduction measures and enterprise development, as well as granted access to finance and technology.

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