May 30, 2023
ECCP at Work
President Marcos has formed an inter-agency body tasked to rein in increases in the prices of basic commodities and electricity and strengthen anti-inflationary initiatives to improve the economy and quality of life of Filipinos. The EO also reorganizes and renames the Economic Development Cluster as the EDG since “there is a need to reorganize the EDC to ensure that the integration of programs, activities and priorities toward sustained economic growth remains efficient and effective.” The NEDA will serve as IAC-IMO chair; the finance secretary as co-chair; budget secretary as vice-chair; and the secretaries of agriculture, energy, science and technology, trade, and interior as members.
Road, railway, and port infrastructure in the Philippines are among those most at risk of multihazard damage caused by climate change, according to experts at the International Transport Forum (ITF). “In the Philippines, up to 25,000 kilometers of roads are exposed to increased flooding by 2050 if global emissions continue to rise,” said Sudhir Gota, co-team leader of Asia Transport Outlook. Mr. Sudhir said the Philippines also needs to strengthen its ports against the impact of climate change, as the projected damage may reach up to $196 million — the highest among its peers. To compare, Vietnam’s ports may face up to $128 million in damage, followed by Indonesia ($70 million), Thailand ($31 million), Malaysia ($27 million), and Myanmar ($15 million).
The ECCP called for the scrapping of the PPA container monitoring plans, saying it would add another hurdle to trade between Europe and the Philippines. Customs and logistics challenges, the PPA's Trusted Operator Program-Container Registry Monitoring in System (TOP-CRMS) and Empty Container Storage Shared Service Facility (ECSSSF) programs in particular, were cited in advocacy papers released by the business chamber. "Upon further review of the PPA Administrative Order 04-2021 and its implementation operational guidelines, the ECCP respectfully calls for the revocation of the TOP-CRMS and ECSSSF...," the ECCP said. Implementation of the program would go against the country's efforts towards encouraging foreign direct investments because it violates the Ease of Doing Business Act and its Implementing Rules and Regulations, the ECCP said.
The ECCP is pushing for a tariff-free measure for automotive vehicles and components under the possible free trade agreement of the EU-PH FTA. In its advocacy paper on the automotive industry, the ECCP said adopting this measure in the EU-PH FTA could bring down prices of European car brands and could compete with vehicles coming from Asia. It stated that European brands tend to lose out in the Philippine market compared to Asian counterparts as the latter benefit from preferential tariff rates from existing bilateral and multilateral FTAs. The business groups noted that European automotive brands are subject to several taxes and duties, such as customs, value-added tax and excise tax, which raise the cost of vehicles by nearly 102 percent.
The Philippine government is strongly urged to fast track the Senate concurrence of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act (FATCA) and lift or amend the Bank Secrecy Law to leverage the country’s position in combating financial crime, and promote transparent, effective reporting system, and stability in the country’s banking sector.These are the two foremost recommendations in the Tax and Financial Services Advocacy Paper the ECCP. On FATCA, ECCP explained that the US government imposed this international tax policy in March 2010 with the goal of improving compliance with US tax regulations. FATCA requires all non-US financial institutions, also known as Foreign Financial Institutions (FFIs), to report any relevant information on financial accounts held by US citizens to the US Internal Revenue Service.
The Philippines, through the DA, is set to collaborate with the EU-ABC and the ECCP for the advancement of the country’s agri-fishery sector. One of the issues discussed during the meeting between the DA, EU-ABC, and ECCP was the need to address the high sugar prices in the local market. Sugar Regulatory Administrator (SRA) Pablo Luis Azcona reported that the country’s sugarcane production is expected to increase to 1.78 million metric tons (MMT) and a sugar importation volume of 440,000 MT to cover supply gaps. Azcona stressed that the SRA intends to increase the industry’s productivity and profitability since there are over five million Filipinos dependent on the sugarcane industry.
‘European businesses stand ready to share best practices and expertise to support the continued growth and advancement of the agriculture sector in the Philippines’ Delegates from the European Union-ASEAN Business Council and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines discussed last week mutual interests in agricultural development, trade and investments, and other matters including potential areas of cooperation, the Department of Agriculture reported over the weekend. Alongside the need to address the high prices of sugar in the local market, they also discussed measures to address climate change. ECCP Executive Director Florian Gotten expressed delight in the Philippines’ growth and potential, saying, “the efforts of this administration, in particular what President Marcos Jr. is doing by traveling around the globe inviting investors to come to the Philippines, are slowly picking up.” As it would be a new era, a, golden age of investments.
IWG plc, formerly Regus, the world’s leading flexible co-working space provider, is expanding to seven new locations in the Philippines bringing its presence to 29 by end of the year as demand has returned to the pre-pandemic level. Lars Wittig, IWG plc country manager and senior vice-president ASEAN, told the press that its occupancy rate already averaged 85 percent making its local operations one of the top five in 120 countries they operate in. Wittig said they are opening in seven new locations and these projects are in varying stages of implementation. Its brand Regus has already opened in Iloilo and is finalizing its first center in Cagayan de Oro. It is also bidding for its first center in Subic. Contractors are also working on two centers in Metro Manila, one in Quezon City and in Las Pinas. It already has a presence in Clark, Cebu, Davao and in various areas in Metro Manila.
The Trade Union Congress of the Philippines on Sunday urged government and business leaders not to hamper the efforts by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. as it seeks to strike a free trade deal with the European Union. “The various economic managers and concerned Government agencies must be careful not to derail or unwittingly sabotage the President’s efforts to bring in more decent employment opportunities for our poor countrymen,” TUCP vice president Luis Corral said in a statement. During a gala dinner with the EU-Association of Southeast Asian Nations Business Council and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, Marcos called for a resumption of the FTA between the country and the EU, after having no developments for the past six years. The TUCP likewise believes that these trade privileges and future bilateral agreement tied to progressive compliance with the free exercise of labor rights, sustainable development, climate change energy transition, and the Indo-Pacific strategy of the European Union will also be a huge ‘win-win’ opportunity for both workers and employers.
The Department of Agriculture (DA) is optimistic about forging more partnerships with the European Union (EU) and South Korea following recent meetings. Domingo Panganiban, DA senior undersecretary, met with delegates of the EU-Asean Business Council and the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines last week to discuss matters of mutual interests in agricultural development, foreign trades and investments, economic growth and other potential areas of cooperation. The DA also discussed the current review on key commodity investment plans through the Philippine Rural Development Project and the promotion of accessible and affordable healthcare for local agricultural laborers and their families. It also cited efforts to improve local food production and competitiveness while opening the country’s doors to collaborative activities with the EU and other foreign partners.
The BoC said it is getting ready for strengthening trade and investment between the Philippines and Europe by making transactions more seamless. The BoC said it has entered into a partnership with the EU-ASEAN Business Council and the ECCP. “This collaboration represents a significant milestone in our efforts to strengthen economic ties with European businesses. By enhancing our modernization program and streamlining our processes, we aim to create a seamless and efficient trade environment that benefits both parties,” Commissioner Bienvenido Y. Rubio said. The BoC is also working on transitioning to paperless transactions and streamlining clearance processes for donations during calamities. On Thursday, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. called for the resumption of free trade talks with the EU. The negotiations officially started in 2016 but were suspended a year later.
European businesses in the country would like the Philippine government to eliminate import duties for European automotive brands as part of the measures for adoption in the proposed EU-Philippine Free Trade Agreement (EU-PH FTA). This forms part of various recommendations in the Automotive Advocacy Paper, one of the 11 Advocacy Papers that were handed over by ECCP Executive Director Florian Gottein to the government during the ECCP-Philippine Business Dialogue on 25 May. Under the Automotive Advocacy Paper, the ECCP noted that the ECCP strongly supports adopting measures in the EU-PH FTA that eliminate import duties for automotive vehicles and automotive parts from the EU with immediate effect upon ratification.
The bill that will create a national employment generation and recovery masterplan was unanimously approved on the third and final reading by Senate on Monday. All 24 lawmakers voted for Senate Bill 2035, or the proposed ‘Trabaho Para sa Bayan’ (TPB) Act. The bill that will create a national employment generation and recovery masterplan was unanimously approved on the third and final reading by the Senate on Monday. All 24 lawmakers voted for Senate Bill 2035, or the proposed ‘Trabaho Para sa Bayan’ (TPB) Act. It establishes a three-year, six-year, and 10-year employment development timeline. The head of the National Economic and Development Authority will chair a TPB Inter-Agency Council. The body will have as co-chairpersons the secretaries of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Labor and Employment. The bill mandates that the council identify ways to support micro, small, and medium enterprise measures.
The House of Representatives is set to approve on third and final reading two more bills that are priority measures by President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. and the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) before the sine die adjournment of the 19th Congress’ first regular session this week.According to Romualdez, these two bills are the proposed Philippine Salt Industry Development Act and the Bureau of Immigration Modernization Act, adding that their approval would bring the total number of approved measures to 33 out of the 42 bills in the Ledac list. Meanwhile, three other Ledac priority bills, namely the Natural Gas Industry Enabling Law, National Employment Action Plan, and Philippine Ecosystem and Natural Capital Accounting System Bill, are also scheduled for second-reading approval before the session break.
With the acceleration of the Government Energy Management Program (GEMP) implementation, the government has reached a cumulative electricity savings of PhP 205 million or an equivalent of over 20 million kWh as of the first quarter of 2023, the Department of Energy (DOE) today said. The regular conduct of energy audits and spot checks also increased the awareness of government entities which encouraged them to adopt energy efficiency and conservation by reducing expenditures on fuel and electric utility services.
Infrastructure spending dropped by 16.5% in March, as some releases for the Defense and Education departments are expected in the second and third quarters, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said. In its National Government (NG) disbursement report, the DBM said expenditures for infrastructure and other capital outlays fell to P83.7 billion in March from P100.2 billion in the same month a year ago. However, the March figure was 33.5% higher than the P62.7 billion spent in February.
Budgetary support to state-run firms rose by 5.2 percent to P10.79 billion in March from P10.72 billion in the same month last year, with the bulk of the subsidies meant to cover stranded electricity costs and debt that is being charged to consumers and to fund irrigation projects. Data from the Bureau of the Treasury showed that subsidies to government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) in March went down by 26 percent to P9.4 billion from P12.69 billion in the same period last year. Budgetary support for other corporations jumped by 38.7 percent to P6.67 billion in March from P4.81 billion in the same month last year, while subsidy extended to major non-financial government corporations fell by 30.1 percent to P4.13 billion from P5.91 billion. From January to March, the cumulative revenue collections picked up by 4.38 percent to P818.7 billion, with both tax and non-tax revenues posting growth. On the other hand, government spending in March went down by 2.62 percent to P468.9 billion.
Business group Makati Business Club (MBC) is hoping for the immediate passage of a law that will make it easier for Filipinos to pay their taxes as this will boost taxpayer compliance. “We pray that the House, the Senate, and the President agree on and enact an EOPT (Ease of Paying Taxes) law this year to ease and improve taxpayer compliance, strengthen the government’s finances, and help businesses accelerate the creation of more and better jobs,” the MBC said in a statement yesterday. The group expressed gratitude to the Senate Ways and Means Committee for approving an Ease of Paying Taxes bill (SB 2224). The group explained that an Ease of Paying Taxes law would make it easier for all taxpayers, especially micro and small enterprises, to do their duty to fund government infrastructure, programs, services and national security.
The Philippines can reduce the cost of investment required for its core infrastructure to shift towards low- and zero-emission transportation if it starts to implement more ambitious policies, according to experts from the International Transport Forum (ITF). “[This will] require a combination of complementary policies that successfully avoid unnecessary transport activity, shift more trips from fuel-burning to no-carbon transport, and improve the efficiency of transport generally,” said ITF Secretary-General Young Tae Kim during a briefing on Wednesday. The core transport infrastructure, such as rail lines, roads, and ports, are needed to cater to future demand, according to the ITF’s latest global outlook report.
Motor vehicle production in the Philippines continued to register the fastest growth rate compared to its ASEAN neighbors, posting a 59.6 percent increase in the first four months of the year.Based on data from the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Automotive Federation (AAF), 38,434 motor vehicles were assembled in the Philippines from January to April, significantly higher than the 24,080 units in the same period last year. Malaysia posted the second highest growth rate at 14.7 percent followed by Thailand at 4.6 percent. On the other hand, Myanmar posted the largest decline at 96.2 percent. This was followed by Vietnam with a 31.1 percent contraction, while Indonesia also posted a 1.5 percent decline during the period. A total of 1.42 million motor vehicles were assembled in the region from January to April, up 2.9 percent from 1.38 million units in the same period the previous year. The Philippines also posted the highest growth rate in motor vehicle sales at 28.1 percent, selling a total of 127,927 units, higher than the 99,903 units sold in the same period a year ago.
The Board of Investments (BOI) is confident that its PHP1.5 trillion investment pledges target will be achieved this year. In an interview over the weekend here, Trade Undersecretary and BOI managing head Ceferino Rodolfo said several big renewable energy (RE) projects are expected to be approved within the year. "These renewable energy projects are really big, that's why we are confident that we will hit the PHP1.5 trillion [target]," he said. For the first quarter of the year, BOI's investment approvals already amounted to PHP463.3 billion. Majority of these were invested in RE, manufacturing, administrative services, transportation and storage and agriculture. The BOI originally set the investments target this year to PHP1 trillion but due to the better-than-expected turnout in the first quarter, Rodolfo said President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. mandated the agency to raise the target to PHP1.5 trillion. Rodolfo said the move to fully open the country's renewable energy sector to foreign ownership helped attract more foreign investments.
The implementation of key tax reform laws generated P202.8 billion in additional revenues in 2022, the Department of Finance (DoF) said.“The total collection last year was 26.3% or P42.3 billion higher than the 2021 full-year incremental revenue of P160.5 billion on the back of full economic recovery due to lifting of stringent quarantine measures,” Finance Secretary Benjamin E. Diokno said in a statement. Higher revenues were attributed to the comprehensive tax reform program (CTRP), which included the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law; the Corporate Recovery and Tax Incentives for Enterprises Act (CREATE) law; the Tax Amnesty Law, and “sin” taxes on alcohol and tobacco. Data provided by the DoF showed these tax reforms generated P709.9 billion in total revenues since 2018.
Cargo traffic volume increased 31 percent in the first quarter of 2023 from a year ago driven by the surge in imports. Data from the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) showed cargo throughput from January to March stood at 77 million metric tons (MT) compared with 58.7 million MT in the same period last year. Of the total throughput in the first quarter, domestic cargo accounted for 23.9 million MT and foreign cargo, 53.3 million MT, with import at 44.5 million and export at 8.8 million MT. The cargo throughput comprised the total volume of cargo discharged and loaded at the port. It includes breakbulk, liquid bulk, dry bulk, containerized cargo, transit cargo and transshipment.
Many companies in the Philippines have borrowings that are nearing the level where they may be unable to service their debts, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) warned. The Washington-based multilateral lender said this as it observed that in Asia, increased borrowing in recent decades had raised the region’s exposure to rising interest rates and heightened market volatility. “In particular, industries that rapidly increased leverage while interest rates were low are now a key concern, especially in Asia,” the IMF team said. “While we expect Asia’s growth to hold up, contributing two-thirds of global growth this year, central banks may keep rates higher for longer to tame inflation, and financial conditions may tighten further,” they added.
The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) wrapped up another week on a bad note after trading in the red for two straight days, still hounded by the US government’s debt ceiling issue which prompted many investors to take profits. The benchmark PSEi dropped by 0.46 percent, or 30.02 points, to settle at 6,530.20 while the broader All Shares index fell by 0.25 percent, or 8.71 points, to close at 3,488.08. Claire Alviar, Philstocks Financial Inc. assistant manager for research and online engagement, said “investors booked more gains on the last trading day of the week to avoid any uncertainties over the weekend, particularly with the ongoing worries over the US debt ceiling.” Nearly all PSE subsectors were in red territory, with services sustaining the largest drop of 1.25 percent. Only mining and oil gained, albeit only slightly at 0.15 percent. Some 1.04 billion shares valued at P4.6 billion were traders. Losers outnumbered winners, 98-79, while 37 issues were unchanged.
The Philippine national government’s budget surplus in the tax filing month of April ballooned to P66.8 billion from P4.9 billion in the same month of 2022 as the growth in revenues outran that of spending. The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) said the latest monthly readout helped narrow the January-April deficit by 35 percent to P204.1 billion from P311.9 billion. April expenses grew by 9 percent to P373.9 billion while four-month disbursements grew slightly by 1.2 percent to P1.5 trillion. Meanwhile, revenues for the month surged by 27 percent to P440.7 billion while four-month receipts jumped by 11 percent to P1.3 trillion.
Budgetary support to state-run firms rose by 5.2 percent to P10.79 billion in March from P10.72 billion in the same month last year, with the bulk of the subsidies meant to cover stranded electricity costs and debt that is being charged to consumers and to fund irrigation projects. Data from the Bureau of the Treasury showed that subsidies to government-owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs) in March went down by 26 percent to P9.4 billion from P12.69 billion in the same period last year. Budgetary support for other corporations jumped by 38.7 percent to P6.67 billion in March from P4.81 billion in the same month last year, while subsidy extended to major non-financial government corporations fell by 30.1 percent to P4.13 billion from P5.91 billion.
The World Bank has approved a $100-million project that seeks to help increase agricultural productivity in Mindanao. In a statement, the multilateral lender said the Mindanao Inclusive Agriculture Development Project (MIADP), approved by the World Bank’s board of executive directors, is aimed at boosting agricultural productivity, resilience and services, as well as protecting natural resources in ancestral domains. The project, which will be implemented in 26 ancestral domains including those in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), will benefit 120,000 farmers and fisherfolks. It will be managed and implemented by the Department of Agriculture with the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples, and the relevant BARMM ministries.
The Philippines has inked a $130-million supplemental loan agreement with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) for the rehabilitation of the 16.9-kilometer Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3) along EDSA. Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno signed the MRT-3 rehabilitation project (II) loan agreement with JICA chief representative in the Philippines Sakamoto Takema Friday at the Department of Finance (DOF) office in Manila. The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) originally approved the project in August 2018 with the aim of improving the safety and service of the MRT-3. The MRT-3 is a 16.9-km mass rail transit system with 13 stations along EDSA from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City. The rehabilitation includes provisions for capacity including rolling stock, rail tracks, signaling system, power supply system, overhead catenary system (OCS), communications system, and depot and station equipment.
The seven-day COVID positivity rate in the National Capital Region decreased on Saturday, the OCTA Research group said yesterday. OCTA fellow Guido David said the testing positivity rate in Metro Manila dropped to 22 percent on May 27 from 25.7 percent on May 20. “However, positivity rates remained high in most of Luzon,” he said.The Department of Health on Sunday recorded 1,855 new COVID cases nationwide.
The proposed Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) is primed to help bankroll the Marcos administration’s pipeline of 194 infrastructure flagship projects, and the bill that establishes the MIF is hoped to be ratified in Congress as early as Thursday, according to Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman. She said the latest iteration of the MIF, as proposed, has seen major changes since this was first brought up in public discussions in late 2022. Pangandaman cited as an example the exclusion of the pension funds—the Government Service Insurance System and the Social Security System—from a short list of entities that will be mandated to contribute to the seed capital of the MIF.
The Philippines seeks to “double or triple” the number of peacekeeping forces it has deployed to different missions, an official from the Department of Foreign Affairs said on Monday, shortly before confirming that the country has begun campaigning for a seat in the United Nations (UN) Security Council. “Right now we’re opening a new chapter,” DFA Undersecretary Eduardo de Vega told reporters on the sidelines of the Commemoration of the International Day of UN Peacekeepers here. Meantime, the DFA said the Philippines has begun “campaigning” to get one of the seats in the UN Security Council for the year 2027-2028. The last time the Philippines assumed one of the elected seats in the Security Council was for the term 2004-2005.
The House of Representatives approved on its third and final reading a bill defining and prescribing penalties for tax racketeering. The bill, authored by Representatives Joey Salceda and Emigdio Tanjuatco III, defines tax racketeering as a crime committed by “any person who engages in any coordinated scheme or operation to evade or defeat any tax imposed under this Code through the fraudulent use of receipts, returns, and other records, with a minimum amount of P10 million in taxes evaded.” The bill proposes that tax racketeers suffer an imprisonment period of 17 to 20 years if convicted. Should the perpetrator be a company or organization, then the penalty will be imposed on ont those whose participation allowed the tax racketeering. A fine of P5 million to P10 million and imprisonment of six to 10 years can also be given to those who willfully evade the law by using fake receipts and invoices, among other things.
Oil companies implemented another round of mixed adjustments in the prices of fuel products. Seaoil increased per liter prices by P1.10 on gasoline but cut the cost of kerosene by P0.35. Clean Fuel, PTT and Jetti adjusted per liter prices upward by P1.10 on gasoline. No price adjustments were made on diesel products. Today’s adjustments were mainly attributed to the United States’ tentative move to implement a debt ceiling as well as conflicting messages on crde supply from Russia and Saudi Arabia ahead of the policy meeting next month of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) and its allies. Data from the Department of Energy (DOE) as of May 23 showed latest average Manila price per liter of gasoline (RON91) is at P58.80, diesel at P53.55 and kerosene at P67.28. The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) has urged government agencies to further ramp up their budget disbursement and spending as the utilization rate of the state firms reached 90 percent from January to April.
Budget Secretary Amenah Pangandaman reminded government agencies to avoid underspending amid the limited fiscal space of the national government. DOE data also showed year-to-date adjustments stood at a total net decrease of P5.05 per liter for diesel and P6.40 per liter for kerosene but a net increase of P5 per liter for gasoline. Based on the report on utilization of notices of cash allocations (NCAs) for national government agencies and budgetary support to government-owned or controlled corporations and local government units, the 90-percent utilization rate is equivalent to P1.175 trillion. NCAs are cash authority documents issued by the DBM to the account of agencies or operating units through the authorized government servicing banks to cover the cash requirements of the agencies for their programs and projects.
Prime Energy Resources Development B.V. of tycoon Enrique Razon has signed a supply agreement with Abu Dhabi National Oil Company Global Trading (AGT) for condensate to be produced at the Malampaya gas field. AGT is a joint venture between oil company ADNOC, Italian energy company Eni S.p.A., and the Republic of Austria. Prime Energy said the agreement covers the period of March 1, 2023 to Feb. 23, 2024. The supply agreement positions Prime Energy as a petroleum company with the expertise and business practices that meet global industry standards. “This agreement with AGT establishes our force in the global petroleum industry, and we are privileged that AGT, one of the top oil companies across the globe, has decided to partner and grow with us,” Prime Energy managing director and general manager Donnabel Cruz said.