ECCP at Work

ECCP@Work Featured Articles | September 1, 2023

September 01, 2023

ECCP Online

ECCP at Work

Energy dep’t awards 77 offshore wind contracts

The Department of Energy (DoE) said it has awarded 77 offshore wind energy contracts to date, as well as eight contracts to develop ocean, tidal, and wave energy projects. “Right now, we have awarded 77 offshore wind energy contracts with a potential capacity of 60 gigawatts,” Energy Assistant Secretary Mylene C. Capongcol said on Tuesday during the Energy Smart Forum organized by the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines. She said of the eight marine resource service contracts, one developer is in the process of engaging an engineering procurement contractor.

BTr issues Maharlika implementing rules and regulations

The Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) Act of 2023 on Aug. 28, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Tuesday. In a statement, the DOF said the IRR shall take effect on Sept. 12. Diokno said the MIF can also be used for countryside development and environment, social, and governance and cutting-edge technologies. The Maharlika Investment Corporation (MIC), which has an authorized capital stock of PHP500 billion, shall act as the sole entity to mobilize and utilize the MIF for investments in transactions that will generate optimal returns on investments (ROIs).

Domestic trade declines in second quarter

The domestic trade in goods declined by an annual 36.2% in the second quarter, the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) said. Preliminary data from the PSA’s Commodity Flow in the Philippines report showed the value of goods traded in the three months to June dropped by a third to P171.54 billion from P268.7 billion in the same period in 2022. Quarter on quarter, domestic trade fell by 35% from P265.51 billion in the first quarter this year.

Budget deficit shrinks 45% in July

The National Government’s (NG) budget deficit shrank by 44.89% in July, amid double-digit growth in revenues and expenditures, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) said. Data from the BTr showed the fiscal gap narrowed by 44.89% to P47.8 billion in July from P86.8 billion in the same month a year ago. “The NG’s budget deficit for July declined from a year ago on the back of 33.4% higher growth in revenue collection versus the 16.22% increase in government expenditures,” the BTr said.

AboitizPower eyes fully electric fleet for power utilities by 2040

Aboitiz Power Corp. (AboitizPower) rolled out its corporate electric vehicle (EV) fleet transformation program as it aims to achieve 100% electrification for the fleet of its units by 2040. “We aim to achieve 40% electrification for four-wheeled vehicles and motorbikes by 2030 and finally transform and electrify 100% of the AboitizPower DU (distribution utility) fleet by 2040,” said Anton Mari G. Perdices, the company’s distribution utilities chief operating officer, in a media release.

PHL seeks $6B in loans from ADB

The government and two firms in the Philippines are seeking loans of over $6 billion from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) to finance various projects on transportation, tourism, housing, energy, and agriculture. Based on ADB data, the Philippines has 13 proposed projects covering 10 government projects and three private sector projects lodged at the ADB’s Private Sector Operations Department (PSOD). The loans to be secured by the government amount to $6.015 billion while the loans sought by the private sector are estimated to reach P10.936 billion.The bulk of the public and private projects in the ADB pipeline, seven projects, are slated for approval this year.

PBBM eyes ‘legal tools’ to keep rice prices stable

Concerned over the spike in rice prices, President Ferdinand R. Marcos Jr. ordered government agencies to use “legal tools” to keep the food staple affordable especially for the poor. He gave assurances that government support mechanisms will be provided for farmers and traders should “legal measures be invoked by the government in controlling the price of rice.”

Nickel industry pushes for streamlining of permitting process 

The Philippines has the capacity to supply over 40 million tons of nickel ore to the global market but changes must be made in the permitting process to accelerate growth of the mining industry, a top official of the Philippine Nickel Industry Association (PNIA) said on Tuesday. "We have a potential to supply beyond 40 million tons, probably even more because the take-up of nickel right now in the battery sector is increasing year in, year out," PNIA president Dante Bravo said during the Nickel Initiative at Makati Diamond Residences. Bravo said nickel demand is expected to further increase as nickel ore is a critical component of electric vehicle (EV) batteries.

DOTr seeks funding for rail projects

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) is seeking the  assistance of the Japan International Cooperation Agency’s (JICA)  for the feasibility study of the Metro Manila Subway project’s second phase and for the rehabilitation of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) line 2. Transportation Secretary Jaime Bautista thanked JICA for its economic packages and assistance worth 600 billion yen to fund the construction and modernization of the country’s railway infrastructure. Bautista expressed this at  the recent 14th High-Level Joint Committee Meeting on Infrastructure and Economic Cooperation between the two countries held in Tokyo. The ongoing railway projects supported financially by JICA include the Metro Manila Subway, North-South Commuter Railway (NSCR) and the Metro Rail Transit-3’s rehabilitation. In addition, JICA also provided technical cooperation assistance for the ongoing feasibility study of the New Clark City Extension of the NSCR.

Govt issues guidelines on Maharlika Investment Fund

The government has issued the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) of Republic Act No. 11954, otherwise known as the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) Act of 2023. In a statement, the Department of Finance (DOF) said  the IRR was issued on August 28, and will take effect on September 12, or 15 days after publication. Finance secretary Benjamin Diokno told reporters  the advisory body, composed of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) and the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) secretaries as well as the Treasurer of the Philippines met for the first time in Tokyo, Japan where they attended the Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) and MIF session.

PH plans bigger military drills with Australia

The Philippines is planning to hold larger military exercises with Australia, a military official said on Tuesday, as both countries wrapped up their biggest war games to date. Exercise Alon director Brig. Gen. Jimmy Larida said the next iteration in 2025 will involve more Philippine military personnel from all service branches. 

Water wasted annually equivalent to half of Angat Dam capacity 

Around 488 million cubic meters of water a year is lost to waste, mainly in water districts outside Metro Manila, the Local Water Utilities Administration (LWUA) said. The LWUA oversees 532 water districts, of which 244 have significant levels of non-revenue water (NRW). NRW includes water that is not billed or lost through leaks or illegal connections. The LWUA is a government-owned and -controlled corporation that manages the development of water systems outside of Metro Manila. Mr. Ong estimated that around 50%-70% of the water districts under LWUA are government-owned, while some are joint ventures with the private sector.

OVP's 2024 budget gets House panel nod with no questions asked

The Office of the Vice President's (OVP) P2.385-billion budget request for next year breezed through the House Appropriations Committee on Wednesday despite the objections of the Makabayan bloc over the agency's P125-million confidential fund last year.  Upon the motion of President Ferdinand Marcos Jr.'s son and Senior Deputy Majority Leader Ferdinand Alexander Marcos, 21 members of the committee voted to terminate the OVP's budget briefing with no questions asked of its officials, especially Vice President Sara Duterte. According to the its submission to the House, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) recommended a budget of P2.385 Billion for the OVP next year, which is 1.22 percent higher than its 2023 budget. The OVP originally wanted P5.701 billion for 2024.  The OVP briefer said that the recommended maintenance and other operating expenses (MOOE) for 2024 was higher by 2.22 percent than the current year or equivalent to P2.15 billion. 

PHL ramps up efforts to curb rice inflation, ponders price controls

Philippine President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. on Tuesday ordered authorities to double efforts to hunt down rice hoarders and take steps to curb soaring prices, while warning of a possibility that price control measures could be imposed. The Philippines is one of the world’s biggest importers of the grain and its retail rice prices climbed further this month, some varieties surging as much as 25% in some markets in and around the capital.  Farmers groups blamed tight supply during the local lean harvest season and higher costs of imports, while the government said hoarding and crop losses from typhoons may also be reasons. Mr. Marcos, who is also agriculture secretary, also sought support mechanisms for farmers and traders “should legal measures be invoked by the government in controlling the price of rice”, his office said in a statement. The Philippines’ rice inflation hit 4.2% in July, the highest since 2019, putting pressure on authorities to boost stockpiles ahead of potential supply challenges from El Niсo dry weather in coming months.

Natural gas reliance seen hindering PHL transition to renewable energy 

The government's adoption of natural gas as a “transitional fuel” as it move towards cleaner forms of energy will hinder the rise of renewable energy (RE), a non-government organization said. A natural gas policy “will undermine the ongoing transition to renewable energy. Mr. Arances said that the pushing for the utilization of liquefied natural gas exposes the Philippines to energy price volatility, which may make electricity more expensive. He estimated the current level of coal dependence for power at “more than 60%,” he said. The Malampaya gas field is the country’s only indigenous commercial source of natural gas. It is expected to be largely depleted of easily recovered gas using current extraction techniques by 2027. “Even though we have Malampaya, which is depleting, we remember that even the price of domestic gas is pegged to world market prices,” Mr. Arances said.

Bicameral report for LGU income reclassification ratified by Senate 

The Senate on Tuesday ratified the bicameral report of a measure calling for the automatic reclassification of local government units (LGUs) by their income levels. At the Senate’s plenary session late Tuesday, Senator Joseph Victor G. Ejercito, who led the Senate contingent to the bicameral session on Aug. 23, said the legislators decided to classify LGUs into five income classes. The current system has six classes of municipality. The bicameral report reconciled Senate Bill 2165 and House Bill No. 7006, which is one of President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr.’s priority bills. The bicameral committee adopted the Senate version as the working draft during discussions.

New financing deals with Japan eyed

The Philippines will look into new financing frameworks, through private capital mobilization, with the Japanese government once the country achieves its goal of reaching upper-middle income status that would eventually limit its access to official development assistance (ODA). This was among the topics discussed during the 14th Philippines-Japan High-Level Joint Committee Meeting on Infrastructure Development and Economic Cooperation with the special adviser to the prime minister of Japan, held in Tokyo. Finance Secretary Benjamin Diokno led the Philippine delegation in its meeting with Special Advisor to the Prime Minister of Japan Mori Masafumi as well as representatives of the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). Diokno said the Japanese government gathered insights in terms of determining the assistance needs of the Philippines in pursuing the upper-middle income country (UMIC) status.

Philexport pushing for review of road user’s tax 

The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport) said that the government should review proposals to impose a motor vehicle tax, and expressed doubt that such a tax will ultimately control vehicle numbers. At his second State of the Nation Address, President Ferdinand R. Marcos, Jr. called for legislators to focus on tax measures, including a motor vehicle user’s charge or road tax. In July, the House ways and means committee approved amendments to the law regulating motor vehicle user’s charges (MVUCs) which taxes all private, for-hire, and government-owned vehicles. For-hire vehicles will receive a 50% discount on the MVUC, while motorcycles and tricycles are exempt. The revenue from the MVUC is expected to finance the public utility vehicle modernization program and the government’s road infrastructure and safety programs. According to Mr. Ortiz-Luis, many cars are now being parked on the roads, which he said was caused by temporary measures that were made permanent.

DoE sets Sept. 28 deadline for geothermal, hydro, wind bids 

The Department of Energy (DoE) said the new deadline to submit bids for the fourth round of the open and competitive selection process (OCSP-4) is Sept. 28, with the bids to be opened on the same day. In an advisory, the DoE said it moved the deadline from Aug. 29. The fourth round will feature 19 sites on offer. Energy Assistant Secretary Mylene C. Capongcol said the extension will “ensure the widest participation in the OCSP4” and provide enough time for prospective bidders to prepare and submit their proposals. The DoE is offering three geothermal sites for development, with potential capacity of about 160 megawatts (MW). The first site, with potential output of 100 MW, straddles the municipalities of Buguias, Benguet and Tinoc, Ifugao. A second site with potential output of 40 MW is in Mabini, Batangas. The third site with potential output of 20 MW straddles Pililla and Jala-Jala, Rizal, and Pangil and Pakil, Laguna.

Electric motorcycle company lobbying for zero tariffs after exclusion from EO 

ELECTRIC VEHICLE (EV) company Gogoro Philippines said it is working on getting a zero-tariff incentive for two-wheeled vehicles, an incentive authorized by the EV law but not by a recent executive order (EO). “We are working on that, to also get the two-wheeled EVs as part of those that will benefit from zero tariff,” Gogoro Philippines Chief Executive Officer Bernard P. Llamzon said in an interview with ANC. “That will allow us (to have) competitive pricing for smart scooters and push faster adoption of two-wheeled EVs in the Philippines,” he said. He also said that once the company scales up, it will be discussing with Gogoro Taiwan plans to operate manufacturing or assembly plants in the Philippines. Gogoro Philippines is a partnership between Ayala Corp., Globe Telecom, Inc.’s 917Ventures and EV company Gogoro, Inc. which has a 90% market share of two-wheeled EVs in Taiwan.

Maharlika fund allowed to invest in JVs, infrastructure projects

The Maharlika Investment Corp. (MIC), which will manage the country’s first sovereign wealth fund, can invest in joint ventures (JVs), infrastructure projects, and sustainable development programs, as well as extend loans. Under the implementing rules and regulations of Republic Act No. 11954 or the Maharlika Investment Fund (MIF) law, the MIC can invest in joint ventures or co-investments, mergers and acquisitions; and mutual and exchange-traded funds invested in underlying assets. The MIC can also invest in real estate and infrastructure projects. However, investments in infrastructure projects should be “directed towards the fulfillment of national priorities such as the national infrastructure program of the Department of Public Works and Highways and other infrastructure agencies, the inclusive innovation industry strategy of the Department of Trade and Industry, and the public investment programs of the National Economic and Development Authority.”

Teachers must have say on classroom visual aids – PBEd

The private sector-backed advocacy group Philippine Business for Education (PBEd) on Wednesday urged the government to leave it to school officials to decide whether to retain visual aids on the walls of classrooms for the benefit of their students. PBEd Executive Director Justine Raagas said that while they support the initiative to declutter classrooms to help students focus, there was also merit in allowing teachers to keep certain learning tools highly visible.

ASEAN ramps up regional payment connectivity

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) is further ramping up cross-border payments to include State Bank of Vietnam (SVB), bringing to six the number of central banks joining the regional payment connectivity initiative. On the sidelines of the recently concluded 10th ASEAN Finance Ministers’ and Central Bank Governors’ Meeting (AFMGM) in Indonesia, the SBV officially joined the regional payment connectivity initiative. The signing of the supplemental pages of the memorandum of understanding (MOU) on cooperation in regional payment connectivity by SBV was witnessed by existing participants, including the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), Bank Indonesia, Bank Negara Malaysia, the Monetary Authority of Singapore and Bank of Thailand.

Solar panel installers urged to register with DOE

The Department of Energy (DOE) is encouraging solar power installers to register with the agency. In an advisory released last week, the DOE said an official registry of solar photovoltaic (PV) system installers would serve as a reference and guide for all government offices seeking to install solar panels in their facilities. Self-generating facilities are those constructed and owned by end-users for their own use. Distributed energy resources, meanwhile, are small power sources that can be aggregated to provide additional supply.

Electronics exports growth seen flat this year – SEIPI

The Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Foundation Inc. (SEIPI) now foresees a flat growth in electronics exports for the year, aiming to recuperate from a decline in the first half. “The last quarter or so, we’ve been clobbered in terms of our electronics exports. In fact, at one point, we were 15 percent down compared to last year,” SEIPI president Dan Lachica said. Latest figures from SEIPI showed that electronics exports fell by 6.99 percent to $21.19 billion from January to June from $22.78 billion in the same period last year.

DOJ suspends implementation of revised guidelines for outbound Filipino travelers

The government has temporarily halted the implementation of the controversial revised guidelines for Filipinos traveling overseas, which were supposed to take effect in early September, following calls from lawmakers. The Department of Justice (DOJ), through the Inter-Agency Council Against Trafficking (IACAT), announced on Thursday the suspension of the implementation of the updated rules on departure formalities. In a statement, the DOJ said Secretary Jesus Crispin Remulla found it necessary to "thoroughly clarify the issues surrounding the revised guidelines to both the senators and the public" in light of recent concerns that they are an added burden to Filipino travelers.

Bongbong Marcos orders price caps for rice at P41 to P45 per kilo

President Ferdinand “Bongbong” Marcos Jr. has ordered price caps for rice amid soaring commodity prices. The price ceiling for regular milled rice is set at P41 per kilogram, while the cap for well-milled rice is P45 per kilogram. The mandate covers the whole country. “Under EO (Executive Order) 39, the mandated price ceiling for regular milled rice is PhP41 per kilogram while the mandated price cap for well-milled rice is PhP45.00 per kilogram,” said the statement.

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