Japan-China competition in infrastructure development benefits Asean

Nagoya University sQXx2BfV_400x400The increasing competition between Japan and China in infrastructure development would benefit the countries in the Asean region including the Philippines.

Professor Yukiko Nishikawa of Nagoya University stressed that China is expanding its influence in the Asean region particularly in infrastructure development.

“This apparent competition will benefit the ASEAN member-states as they will have more bargaining power to gain better opportunities,” said Nishikawa.

She told a recent international forum on Asian development studies that Japan would focus on a new area of cooperation in terms of defense aid which is supported by Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.

“This is partly because Japan and China and some other countries continue to struggle to maintain security in the Pacific region and that Japan is also looking at the situation in the South China Sea.”

While Japan’s official development assistance prohibits any use of ODA for military purposes or for aggravation of international conflicts, Nishikawa explained that its ODA has been has contributed to the political and defence area in terms of international cooperation.

Japan has contributed to providing ships and arms to Philippines and other Southeast Asian countries. Nishikawa said that Japan will increase its cooperation with ASEAN in terms of disaster management and rehabilitation.

Nishikawa noted that Japan’s Official Development Assistance (ODA) to the region has been one of the largest, which focuses mainly on infrastructure development.

In the Philippines, Japan has continuously provided infrastructure development aid including the rehabilitation of the Manila Metro Rail Transit 3.

From 2012 to 2017, Japan has funded the establishment of the Disaster Emergency Logistics System for ASEAN, which aimed to provide emergency relief items to ASEAN member-states in the event of a medium- to large-scale disaster. Its second phase has been implemented in 2018 and will end by 2020 which aims to advance the disaster emergency logistics of ASEAN member-states by building warehouses in the Philippines and Thailand to aid in faster disaster response.


Lower cost of doing business to boost business creation – PIDS

PIDS logoThe Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) has urged the Philippine government to implement policy reforms that would lower the cost of doing business and encourage business creation in cities and towns in the country.

These policy reforms would include legislations to lower the cost of electricity, water, and land or business space rental and  creation of a business-friendly environment for investors in the power industry to increase power production that will address the high cost of electricity.

Dr. Jamil Paolo Francisco told participants of the 4th International Symposium on Asian Development Studies that the rising prices of fuel and electricity in the Philippines are major roadblocks to foreign investors who may want to do business in the country.

Using data from the National Competitiveness Council for the period 2011 to 2015, Francisco and his co-authors Dr. Tristan Canare and Jose Fernando Morales, tested the relationship between business creation and the ease and cost of doing business in cities and municipalities.

To establish the relationship between the aforementioned variables, the authors focused on two factors — cost of doing business and ease of doing business.

The indicators for cost of doing business included prices of electricity, water, diesel, amount of minimum wage, and cost of land or rental of business space.

The ease of doing business referred to the number of processing days in getting a permit for a new business, number of steps in securing a permit, number of days and steps for business permit renewal, and number of days and steps in getting a building permit.

Based on the overall outcome of their study titled “Firm Creation and the Ease and Cost of Doing Business”, Francisco noted that the “lower cost of doing business is a stronger driver of business creation than the ease of doing business.”

“For instance, in the Philippines, high prices of electricity and fuel are a huge barrier [to foreign investments], not to mention our current situation of a higher-than-expected inflation rate,” Francisco said, adding that ‘’when business creation is difficult at the local level, it discourages entrepreneurship, which is a critical component of inclusive development in developing countries.”

Francisco explained that lower foreign direct investments and the technological growth of a country can affect the productivity in both macro and micro levels. The lack of business competitiveness can lead to the growth of informal economy in the grassroots.

The findings of the study also suggested that potential business owners are“discouraged more by high operating costs than by cumbersome processes of regulatory compliance in running and starting a business.

ADB-JICA lendsUS$143 million loan for railway project

ADB logoJICA-tmb-270x180The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) are extending 7.7 billion pesos (US$146 million) in loans to the Philippines for the construction of the North-South commuter railway.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) says the loan would also cover resettlement activities, meeting ADB and JICA social and environmental safeguards, proper housing and welfare support for the estimated 12,901 informal settler families that will be affected.

The project will bring together the NSCR Phase 1 (Malolos-Tutuban), the PNR South Commuter Railway (Solis-Calamba), and the Malolos-Clark Railway Project (MCRP), that will create a 147-km elevated, double-track, and seamless connection from Clark International Airport to Calamba, Laguna with 36 stations.

The railway system will link existing railway lines — LRT-1, LRT-2 and MRT-3, as well as the upcoming Metro Manila Subway.

The rail system is expected to be operational by 2022 with a daily ridership of 340,000 passengers, reaching full capacity of 550,000 passengers by 2023.

The Philippine government will subsidize an average of PhP5 billion (US$94.1 million) a year to cover capital, operating and renewal costs of the project which is expected to generate substantial economic activity, create more jobs, increase incomes, and deliver a more comfortable commuting experience.

The Department of Transportation would implement measures that would maximize non-fare box revenues such as incremental taxes from increased property value through revenue-sharing arrangements with the local government units and through the development of national government properties in the project area.




No more long queus, red tape with online vehicle registration

LTO downloadNo more long queues, red tapes or bribery when owners of motor vehicles or motorcycles apply for registration as the Land Transportation Office (LTO) would soon implement an online payment system throughout the Philippines.

The online system for LTO new registration transactions was a success in Metro Manila and would soon expand to Luzon in November 2018 and the Visayas and Mindanao regional offices before the end of 2018.

The LTO has been conducting seminars on the online assessment and payment systems at its regional offices in Luzon in preparation for the Luzon-wide implementation of an online payment system.

LTO-NCR Regional Director Clarence V. Guinto noted that people are not only expecting but are demanding the availability of  services online.

With the implementation of the online payment system in Metro Manila, official receipt, certificate of registration and motor vehicle plates are made available within three days after motor vehicle and motorcycle dealers submit the requirements, said LTO Assistant Secretary Edgar Galvante.

LTO is using the Electronic Payment Assessment Tool (e-PAT), a web-based facility that computes the amount to be paid without human intervention, thus eliminating bribery or extortion.

Online payment for other fees such as license application and renewal will be implemented next year. LTO has partnered with Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) for the online payment transaction and IT service provider, Stradcom Corp.

The computed amount from the e-PAT and other details for the payment are then cascaded to LBP – Electronic Payment Portal (LBP-EPP), where the motor vehicle or motorcycle dealers can use their LBP account to pay for the transaction online.

The payment will then be reflected at the LTO-Information Technology (IT) System which enables faster issuance of the vehicle’s official receipt and certificate of registration.

LTO launched the use of Internet-based payment system for Metro Manila transactions in June 2018, in response to the call of Pres. Rodrigo Duterte to eradicate corruption and red tape in government agencies and in line with the law on the “Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.”


Filipino seafarers can now access online for their seaman’s book

Marina ONLINE-APPOINTMENTFilipino seafarers can now book their appointment online to get their seaman’s book following the launch of the seafarer’s identification and record book (SIRB) appointment system.

The implementation of the SIRB online appointment system is in line with the Maritime Industry Authority’s (MARINA) computerization and automation program included in the agency’s 14-point agenda for 2018.

The SIRB online appointment system would allow Filipino seafarers to save time and energy, spend more of their days off with their families and loved ones, instead of spending their time at the  processing centers for booking appointments.

It is one of the systems that will comprise the MARINA’s Integrated Management System that would ensure that the agency exercises strict and uncompromising quality procedures in the delivery of public service.

The SIRB online appointment system was launched on Friday during the “Usapang STCW Forum” attended by 500 maritime stakeholders.

The forum tackled issues on maritime education, training, and certification for Filipino seafarers such as the MARINA’s framework in producing competent seafarers, the agency’s strategies on ensuring quality maritime education through outcome-based education, as well as the Standards of Training, Certification, and Watchkeeping for Seafarers 1978, as amended (STCW) -compliant maritime training programs in the Philippines.

The Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) and the Department of Health (DOH) were also present in the forum that discussed the medical standards for the issuance of medical certificate to Filipino seafarers.

The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA), the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration (OWWA), and the Joint Manning Group (JMP) were also in attendance to share the employment opportunities available to Filipino seafarers.

MARINA stressed that  it would continue to provide faster, convenient, and efficient public service to maritime stakeholders, especially Filipino seafarers who contributed US$5.8 billion in the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2017.


MARINA unveils maritime development program

Gen-GuerreroThe Maritime Industry Authority (MARINA) is finalizing the priority programs and projects under the 10-year Maritime Industry Development Program (MIDP), a major component of its 14-point agenda for 2018.

Planning and Policy Service (PPS) Director Emmanuel Carpio said the formulation of the MIDP is pursuant to Presidential Decree No. 474 where the MARINA is created and mandated to prepare a maritime industry development plan to address all the key concerns of the maritime sector in the country.

“While it may be true that we do have plans in the past, those are either short or indefinite plans that do not sufficiently reflect the mandate of the MARINA as maritime administration.”

“We have to commit and adhere by its mandate pursuant to the objectives of its creation, which is to prepare and annually update a ten-year maritime industry development program that contains a rational and integrated development of the maritime industry.” MARINA-PPS Director Carpio said.

The MARINA technical working groups reviewed and finalized the priority programs and projects, with detailed results frameworks highlighting the impacts, indicators, and target outcomes.

These outcomes are the planned establishment of the maritime industrial hub,  MARINA’s role in the development of the Philippine nautical system as well as the country’s coastal and inland waterways, fishing, maritime tourism, maritime safety, maritime security, and maritime information and communication.

Relevant laws and supporting policies, key stakeholders including government agencies, maritime-related industries, and academic institutions, as well as their roles in the implementation of the MIDP were also clearly defined.


FAO-PDRF to strengthen emergency response, improve food security

FAO Representative in PHThe Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and the Philippine Disaster Resilience Foundation (PDRF) have joined forces to promote and strengthen joint actions in restoring livelihoods and improve the levels of food security and nutrition in areas vulnerable to natural and human-induced hazards in the Philippines.

FAO and PDRF have signed a memorandum of understanding that would strengthen collaboration on emergency response, preparedness, mitigation and building livelihood resilience particularly in supporting vulnerable communities and providing assistance.

The partnership will allow joint activities on surveillance of geographical areas vulnerable to disasters, information sharing on damage and needs assessments for joint response and recovery effort, capacity building for disaster recovery, collaborative emergency response efforts to disaster-affected communities, and supporting resilient livelihoods and environmental sustainability in disaster recovery and rehabilitation.

FAO Representative in the Philippines Jose Luis Fernandez said disasters and climate change impacts, including shifts in weather patterns and extreme weather-related events disrupt economic activities and livelihoods, and ultimately threaten food security.

“Increasing the resilience of agricultural communities to these threats and crises is at the heart of FAO’s work in the Philippines. We welcome the opportunity to expand our partnership in this area with the private sector through the PDRF,” said Fernandez.

“FAO has led the way globally toward food self-sufficiency, nutrition and resilience and PDRF is proud to partner with it in making the Philippines a healthier and safer country,” said Rene Meily, PDRF President.

FAO’s disaster risk reduction and management and climate change adaptation work in the country focuses on building the resilience of vulnerable farming and fishing communities to both natural and human-induced disasters, and enhancing the government’s capacity to address threats and respond to crises.

Founded in 2009 by some of the country’s largest private corporations and leading non-government organisations (NGOs), PDRF is an implementing non-government organization (NGO) in the disaster risk management sector promoting disaster preparedness, relief, and recovery.

PDRF works with field experts and reputable humanitarian institutions to organize and coordinate private sector solutions to disaster management. It has also established the world’s first private sector-led national emergency operations center in Clark Freeport Zone, Pampanga.

Digital divide poses obstacle to growth – PIDS


The Philippine Institute Development Studies (PIDS) has warned that digital divide in the Philippines still poses a considerable obstacle to growth.

Low computer ownership across households undermines access as costly and inefficient internet connection services aggravate the situation.

In its latest study authored by research fellow Francis Mark Quimba and research analyst Sylwyn Calizo, Jr., PIDS noted that cyber-security issues are also major risks for the Filipino population which can lead to online scam, data phishing, hacking or theft.

Amid these risks, PIDS has stressed the need to establish a strong collaborative working relationship among key actors in the digital economy and promote the use of information technology through information campaigns.

PIDS has also called for a review of laws related to digital technologies particularly the Internet, the provision of public goods and services and the implementation of the Philippine Broadband Plan.

On the positive side, the study revealed that the use of digital technology is effective in providing financial assistance and training to Filipinos.

The study focused on the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) Online Program (TOP) and the Center for Agriculture and Rural Development (CARD) Bank’s konek2CARD (k2C).

Funded by the Consumer Unity and Trust Society (CUTS) in partnership with the PIDS, the study aims to assess the state of digital economy in the Philippines and its potential benefits and risks.

Launched by TESDA in 2012, TOP, the first massive open online courseware in the Philippines, is an open educational resource that aims to make technical education more accessible to Filipino citizens through the use of information and communications technology (ICT). It caters to students, out-of-school youths, unemployed adults, local and overseas workers, and professionals here and abroad.

As of December 2017, there are more than one million registered TOP users enrolled in its various courses, such as ICT (51%), tourism (20.7%), health (5.4%), and electronics (4.9%).

According to data cited by Quimba and Calizo, 60 percent of TOP enrolees are women. About 76.2 percent of online sessions occur in the Philippines, while 23.8 percent are done overseas. As of May 2017, 46.8 percent of enrolees have already completed their courses.

A survey by PIDS to 592 TOP registered users during the first quarter of 2018 showed that convenience (78%) and opportunity to learn at one’s own pace (71%) are the key reasons of respondents in using the online tool.

PIDS also noted that e-financing is also becoming a trend in the country. Financial institutions such as banks are slowly turning to digital technologies to improve their services and reach more clienteles.

An example is the CARD Bank’s konek2CARD (k2C), a mobile banking application, which makes use of mobile data that allow its members to do real-time financial transactions online.

Philippines’ first container barge port

Cavite Gatway terminal

The Philippine’s first container barge port is expected to ease traffic in major roads in Metro Manila and central Luzon as car cargoes are transported from international ports in Manila to Cavite via barges and roll-on roll-off operations.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade says that by moving cargo and people out of the roads and into the waterways, Cavite Gateway Terminal (CGT) in Tanza would ease traffic in major roads.

The terminal will also be integrated with other major Luzon port facilities for a cost-effective and time-bound access to the Cavite market.

“We are an archipelago, so this is really a no-brainer. This project is also proof that when the government and the private sector work together, beautiful things can happen,” said Secretary Tugade.

The terminal which was privately funded by the International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI), has a capacity of 115,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEUs).

Projections indicate that the terminal will result in approximately 140,000 fewer truck trips annually. It is also expected to reduce road traffic by almost two kilometers of trucks once fully operational.

The terminal is also only 11 kilometers away from the Cavite Export Processing Zone Authority (CEPZA), whose users could be ideal clients of the facility.

Passenger ferry services from Cavite to Manila will also be made available in the future following discussions between the government and the operator.

Construction of the terminal started in October 2017 and was completed in about a year. Early in September, barge operations have already started as part of the dry-run prior to full operations.


EU to launch regional program on sustainable plastic production

_mg_6084.jpg Franz Jessen

The European Union (EU) will launch a regional program early next year to strengthen cooperation with selected countries in East and South East Asia to jointly implement actions that will address sustainable consumption and production of plastic and prevention of plastic waste entering into the marine environment.

The EU program is expected to enhance policy dialogue, exchange shared knowledge and lessons learned from European countries, capacity enhancement, technology transfer and piloting of solutions for better plastic waste management in the Asian region.

Early this year, the EU has adopted an action plan to foster a transition to a stronger and more circular economy where resources are used in a sustainable way.

The plan aims to ensure that all plastic packaging in the European market would be recyclable by 2030, the consumption of single-use plastics significantly reduced and the intentional use of micro plastics restricted.

The European Union Delegation to the Philippines is closely working with the Philippine government on the development of a national strategy for improving plastic waste management and reducing leakages of plastic waste in the marine environment.

European Union Ambassador to the Philippines Franz stressed that climate action is part of a transition to a clean, low-emissions, resource efficient economy and more resilient society.

“This transition offers an opportunity to transform economies, generate new and sustainable competitive advantages, improve public and ecosystem health and prevent climate change impacts”.

The proliferation of plastic waste and its leakage into the environment is a major issue of concern which can aggravate climate change.

 Plastics are by-products of fossil fuels which are a primary cause of climate change. If individuals take a sensible approach on plastic usage, they help transition away from fossil fuels and support a shift towards renewable energy and a healthier climate.

In the process, industry is also encouraged to shift away from producing wasteful and harmful single-use plastics and place more efforts on the design of recyclable forms of plastics.

The European Union Delegation to the Philippines and the ‘Communities Organized for Resource Allocation’ organised recently a forum on “Plastic, Climate Change and Me” at the Asian Institute of Management, in the framework of the second EU Climate diplomacy week of the year.

The forum was aimed at raising awareness on how mismanaged and excessive usage of plastic are contributing to the growing problem of climate change.