12 Jan 2016
  • President Aquino leads opening of Sumitomo Mitsui Bank’s first Philippine branch
  • President Aquino receives credentials of nine new ambassadors
  • Japanese Imperial couple to visit Laguna besides Manila
  • Supreme Court decision on EDCA enhances strategic ties between Philippines and U.S.
  • Palace: Health Department could still fund family planning program
  • Palace says economic outlook for the Philippines remains good

President Aquino leads opening of Sumitomo Mitsui Bank’s first Philippine branch
President Benigno S. Aquino III on Monday graced the opening of the Manila branch of Japan’s Sumitomo Mitsui Banking Corporation (SMBC), the first foreign bank to operate in the country, which is seen to attract more foreign investment.“This ceremony represents the beginning of a new chapter of SMBC’s ties with the Philippines, one that cements your position in our local banking industry,” President Aquino said during the ceremony held in Makati City.

The Chief Executive recalled that it was during his visit to Japan in December 2013 that SMBC suggested the liberalization of the Philippine banking industry, which led to the passage of Republic Act (RA) No. 10641.

“This was completely in line with our administration’s philosophy, and barely seven months later, in July 2014, our government passed Republic Act 10641,” he said.

Approved by the President on July 15, 2014, RA 10641 allows the full entry of foreign banks into the Philippines.

“We were extremely pleased to see that SMBC remained first in line in the application process, and now possesses the distinction of being the first foreign bank approved for a Philippine operating license under this new law,” he said.

The central bank has approved five other foreign banks to operate in the country under RA 10641.

The President expressed his gratitude to SMBC for putting its confidence in the Philippines.

“These are all milestones we achieved together; these are all milestones that show the depth of SMBC’s confidence in the Philippines. This is something for which we are extremely grateful: that, whether in 1995 or the present, you saw the vast potential of the Philippines—and you chose to take action and to partner with us in realizing the very same,” he said.

President Aquino admitted that the country has some catching up to do compared to its neighboring countries in the ASEAN, in terms of foreign direct investments “likely due to the unstable political and economic atmosphere prior to our administration”.

“The good news is that the Philippines has gained much momentum in the past five years, thanks, in large part, to partners like SMBC and, indeed, the country of Japan,” he said.

He cited Japan as the country’s top trading partner, with trade volume at about US$19.15 billion in 2014, as well as the top source of IPA-approved foreign investments in the same year.

This is made evident in the sheer number of Japanese firms that have established themselves in the country, such as Toyota and Tsuneishi, the Chief Executive said.

He also cited the International Wiring Systems Philippines, a wiring harness company based in Tarlac that is working under the Sumitomo Group.

The President also mentioned Japanese clothing retailer Uniqlo, which has already established 27 out of an initial target of 200 stores in the Philippines.

The opening of SMBC’s Manila branch, he said, would also help facilitate the entry of Japanese investors in the country.

“SMBC’s operations in the Philippines will create even more opportunities for all of us. You already have a well-established reputation in Japan; some of your clients may already be eyeing our country for their expansion plans,” he said.

“Your presence here is a factor that encourages them to hasten their investments in the Philippines, because, in you, they already have a partner who knows the terrain, and who knows what they need,” he added.

President Aquino said the gathering also heralds the “beginning of an era for the Philippines: one in which we are ready to face head-on the challenges of competing, innovating, and thriving on a global scale”.

“My country has only begun to realize its potential, and exciting times lie ahead. I know my countrymen, and I know that they will do everything in their power to ensure that we make the most of the opportunities that the years will bring—that we can all synchronize our efforts to ensure a future of sustained and inclusive progress for the Philippines,” the President said as he concluded his speech. PND (co)

 President Aquino receives credentials of nine new ambassadors
President Benigno S. Aquino III welcomed nine new ambassadors to the Philippines as they presented their credentials in Malacañang Palace on Tuesday.President Aquino, assisted by Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Laura del Rosario and outgoing presidential protocol chief Celia Anna Feria, received the credentials of two resident ambassadors and seven non-resident ambassadors at the Palace’s Rizal Hall.

The President first received the credentials of resident ambassadors Mohammad Tanhaei of the Islamic Republic of Iran and Amanda Louise Gorely of the Commonwealth of Australia. The two were given arrival honors at the Palace grounds before presenting their respective credentials.The Chief Executive then received the credentials of non-resident ambassadors Marcin Kubiak of the Republic of Poland, Drazen Margeta of the Republic of Croatia, Askhat Orazbay of the Republic of Kazakhstan, Yahya Ngam of the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, Nasreddine Rimouche of the People’s Democratic Republic of Algeria, Tumor Lkhagvadorj of Mongolia, and Abubacarr Jah of the Republic of The Gambia. All of them received foyer honors.

In his speech following the presentation of credentials, President Aquino underscored the importance of nations working together to be able to address global challenges and bring about a “peaceful, prosperous and progressive” world.

“The world is an increasingly smaller place. This naturally means that, while each of our nations has problems that are native to them, more and more of the issues we face do not recognize any national border. The front pages of our newspapers attest to this: in the past few years, we have read about pandemics, terrorism, global economic instability, and the increasing risk presented by climate change, among many other issues,” he said.

“It is occasions like this, however, that restore my faith, because while it is true that these challenges are formidable, I still believe that they can be resolved with purposeful and united world action; that if we can complement each other’s strengths, we can overcome these difficulties, and ultimately bring about a world that is truly peaceful, prosperous and progressive, where no nation — and no individual — is left behind,” he added.

The President expressed hope that the new ambassadors would have a “productive” stay in the Philippines even beyond the end of his term.

“Apart from the responsibilities entrusted to you, it is also my hope that you will have enough leisure time to visit the many beautiful places in our country, experience the warmth of our countrymen, and realize why so many say that it is indeed more fun in the Philippines,” he said.

“Perhaps your experiences will prove as even greater inspiration to deepen our ties, and give rise to a more productive engagement with one another, towards the betterment of our respective peoples,” he said. PND (jb)

 Japanese Imperial couple to visit Laguna besides Manila
  Japan’s Imperial couple Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko will be taking a side trip to Laguna apart from their scheduled activities in Manila during their five-day state visit to the Philippines this month.Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. relayed the information Tuesday as the government looks forward to welcoming Their Majesties, who will be in the country from January 26 to 30.

“Their Majesties’ State Visit is a major highlight and fitting start to the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations of the Philippines and Japan in 2015,” he said.

Secretary Coloma noted that the itinerary of the royal couple is as follows: January 26 (Tuesday) arrival in Manila; January 27 to 28 (Wednesday and Thursday) activities in Manila; January 29 (Friday) visit to Caliraya and Los Baños in Laguna; and January 30 (Saturday) departure for Tokyo.

The government began its preparations for the arrival of Emperor Akihito and Empress Michiko as early as last month. This will be their first official visit to the Philippines since 1962 when they were then the crown prince and princess of Japan.

The Japanese Imperial couple’s upcoming trip to the Philippines is also considered a reciprocal one after President Benigno S. Aquino III visited Tokyo last June, when he invited Their Majesties to spend some time in Manila. PND (hdc)

Supreme Court decision on EDCA enhances strategic ties between Philippines and U.S.
Malacañang on Tuesday welcomed the Supreme Court ruling that declared the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) constitutional, saying it will help modernize the Philippine armed forces and enhance the country’s ability to respond to disasters.“The Supreme Court’s affirmative decision on the constitutionality of the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement strengthens the strategic partnership between the Philippines and the United States that is founded on two other important building blocks: the Mutual Defense Treaty; and the Visiting Forces Agreement,” Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said in a statement.

“This ruling boosts the ongoing Armed Forces of the Philippines’ (AFP) Modernization Program and paves the way for upgrading our military equipment and capability for national defense, as well as for humanitarian assistance and disaster response.”

Citing a statement from President Benigno S. Aquino III, he said one of the benefits of EDCA would be to introduce the AFP to the “most modern equipment… and have a generational leap in our abilities”.

The Supreme Court upheld the legality of EDCA between the Philippines and the US with a 10-4 vote.

The decision, written by Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno, ruled that EDCA is an Executive Agreement, not a treaty.

The High Court said that under Article 18, Section 25 of the Philippine Constitution, the President can enter into an executive agreement on foreign military bases, troops, or facilities, so long as it does not allow the presence of foreign military bases, troops or facilities, or it merely aims to implement an existing law or treaty.

The EDCA also does not need Senate ratification, the Court said.

Petitioners said the EDCA violates several provisions of the Constitution, including the ban on foreign military bases and facilities without Senate concurrence.

They also argued that the EDCA might facilitate the entry of nuclear weapons into the Philippines, which is barred by the 1987 Constitution.

The EDCA, with an effectivity of 10 years, was signed during the state visit of US President Barack Obama in April last year. PND (as)

 Palace: Health Department could still fund family planning program
The Department of Health (DOH) still has funds for its family planning program despite the slash in its budget for the purchase of contraceptives, the Palace said on Tuesday.

Citing an explanation from Budget Secretary Florencio Abad, Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. said the proposed amount for the family planning program under the 2016 National Expenditure Program was P3,137,872,000.

This amount, he said, is under the women’s and men’s health development component of the department’s Family Health and Responsible Parenting.

“In the 2016 General Appropriations Act (GAA), the amount was reduced to P2,275,078,000. The decrease, amounting to P862,794,000, pertains to the procurement of the Implanon implant, which is a contraceptive. Senator (Vicente) Sotto had intimated during the Senate deliberations that he would move to delete the budget for the Implanon implant in view of the Supreme Court TRO to temporarily stop the distribution and selling of the said contraceptive,” Secretary Coloma explained. So, instead of the P3.137-billion budget for women’s and men’s health development component of the Family Health and Responsible Parenting, the Congress’ final version of the 2016 GAA allocated P2.275 billion for the program, he said.

“Meron pang halaga na maaaring gugulin para sa family planning, bukod pa doon sa mga halagang hindi ganap na iginugol nitong nakaraang taon na maaari pa ring gugulin ng DOH,” Coloma added. PND (as)

Palace says economic outlook for the Philippines remains good
The Philippines still enjoys a good economic outlook from investors, even though the stock market is entering the so-called “bear market”, a Palace official said Tuesday.

A bear market is a market condition in which the prices of securities are falling, and widespread pessimism causes the negative sentiment to be self-sustaining. As investors anticipate losses in a bear market and selling continues, pessimism only grows.

Communication Secretary Herminio Coloma, Jr. told reporters during a press briefing that the stock market is a dynamic entity driven by supply and demand.

“Ang supply and demand naman ay bunsod din ng mga puwersang umiiral sa isang ekonomiya na apektado rin naman ng nangyayari sa labas ng bansa,” Secretary Coloma said.

Trade and investments are also affected by the relationship between the Philippines and other countries, as well as transactions of companies based in the Philippines and abroad, he said.

“Marami sa mga kumpanyang lumalahok sa stock market ay mayroong global operations o regional operations, kaya’t ang kanilang galaw at pagnenegosyo ay apektado ng mga developments sa iba’t ibang ekonomiya,” he explained.

“Kaya’t iyon naman ay kasama sa dynamics ng isang active na merkado at ang tinatawag na ‘bear market’ ay maaari din namang magbago sa darating na panahon at maging ‘bull market’ naman. Kasama ito sa dynamics ng isang stock market.”

When it comes to economic outlook, the Palace official noted that the country has been getting investment grade ratings from global credit rating agencies.

The country also continues to get praises from other countries and wherever the President goes, he always meets with businessmen and industrialists, he said.

“Kahit saan pumunta ang Pangulo ay hitik ang kanyang schedule sa pakikipagpulong sa mga negosyante at industriyalista na gustong-gustong makipagnegosyo sa mga kumpanya sa Pilipinas dahil sa kanilang pagtitiwala sa kasiglahan at katatagan ng ating ekonomiya,” Coloma said. PND (as)