EU okays Euro 3 million in humanitarian aid

The European Commission has granted €3 million (Php 156.34 million) in humanitarian aid funding to assist people affected both by the aftermath of Typhoon Melor (locally known as Nona) and the prolonged conflict in Mindanao.

Out of the total funding, €1.5 million (Php 78.17 million) will be dedicated to addressing the urgent needs of those impacted by Typhoon Melor/Nona, which swept across central Philippines in mid-December 2015 and resulted in devastating losses for the affected populations.

The fund will provide the most vulnerable families in the storm-stricken areas, particularly in southern Luzon and eastern Visayas islands, with essential support such as food and shelter assistance, livelihood resources, cash as well as other non-food relief items.

A further €1.5 million (Php 78.17 million) will help deliver humanitarian assistance to populations affected by the ‘forgotten crisis’ of Mindanao, where 495 000 people have been displaced since 2012.

The continued violence has destroyed people’s day-to-day livelihoods in the area, whilst triggering an increase in humanitarian needs among the most vulnerable populations. The aid will be used to provide protection and livelihood support to conflict-torn localities through the provision of food, shelter, education, basic health services as well as ensuring access to clean water, sanitation and hygiene.

The latest EU funding, which will be channelled through the Commission’s Humanitarian Aid and Civil Protection department (ECHO), brings the total humanitarian aid contribution in the Philippines to €98.4 million, since the first humanitarian operations in 1997.

Typhoon Melor, locally known as “Nona”, made five landfalls across the Philippines between 14 and 19 December 2015. With maximum sustained winds of 130 kilometers per hour, the tropical system brought heavy downpours, flash floods and landslides, affecting some 3.7 million people, destroying over 280 000 houses and damaging vast tracts of farmland. Melor hit the Philippines as it was already struggling to recover from Typhoon Koppu (Lando), which wreaked havoc across the northern region in mid-October 2015. The European Commission had then provided €500 000 to support the delivery of humanitarian assistance to the affected communities.

The Philippines’ southernmost island of Mindanao is home to several armed groups fighting against the government. For nearly five decades, the region has witnessed sporadic outbursts of violence despite ongoing efforts to bring an end to the protracted conflict.

Last year, renewed violence again displaced tens of thousands of people. The Mindanao conflict has been classified by ECHO as a ‘forgotten crisis’ due to insufficient humanitarian support from the international community, although the needs in the region remain immense.

Philippines gets US$450-M World Bank grant

WB logoThe Philippines’ conditional cash transfer (CCT) program got a boost with a US$450-million grant assistance from the World Bank.

The Social Welfare Development and Reform Project II (SWDRP2) will contribute to the government’s financing of health and education grants for CCT beneficiaries nationwide from 2016 to 2019, covering about seven percent of the total cost of the program’s implementation.

Pantawid Pamilya or conditional cash transfer program is a social safety net program that helps ensure children grow up healthy and stay in school. Under the program, poor pregnant mothers receive regular health checks.

By targeting poor and vulnerable households, the program also helps protect them from the impact of economic shocks, natural disasters and other crises.  It currently benefits more than 4 million poor families with 11 million Filipino children.

Social Welfare and Development Secretary Corazon Soliman said the “Pantawid Pamilya, a long-term investment helps reduce the vulnerability of families to sudden economic difficulties and contributes to breaking the inter-generational poverty by helping today’s children become productive members of society.

After only a few years of implementation, we are already seeing its tangible benefits to poor Filipinos. With continuing support from development partners like the World Bank, we can sustain our momentum toward reducing poverty and inequality.”

Recent studies show that the program has reduced the total poverty and food poverty among CCT beneficiaries by up to 6.7 percentage points. At the national level, estimates show the program reduced both total poverty and food poverty by up to 1.4 percentage points in 2013.

Soliman said the CCT program is delivering on its education and health objectives – enrollment among poor elementary school children increased by five percentage points, while secondary education enrollment increased by seven percentage points.

The program increased prenatal and postnatal care by 10 percentage points and increased the delivery of babies in health facilities by skilled health professionals by 20 percentage points.

Children benefited by receiving higher intake of vitamin A and iron supplementation by around 12 percentage points and increased weight monitoring visits to health facilities by 18 percentage points.

World Bank Acting Philippine country director Cecilia Vales said the World Bank is steadfast in its commitment and support for the CCT because we believe it contributes to reducing extreme poverty and inequality.

“Combined with high and sustained economic growth, CCT as a social safety net provides an equitable foundation for growth that works for the poor.”

The Philippines’ CCT program has grown into one of the largest and best-targeted social safety net programs in the world, with 82 percent of the benefits going to the bottom 40 percent of the country’s population.

Globally, more than 1.9 billion people in 136 low- and middle-income countries benefit from social safety net programs like the CCT.

 

 

PAL buys six Airbus A350-900 aircraft

PAL

Philippine Airlines acquired six Airbus A350-900 aircraft, with option for another six, following the signing of a purchase agreement with aircraft manufacturer Airbus.

The order for the A350 was signed by PAL President & Chief Operating Officer Jaime J. Bautista and Airbus President & Chief Executive Officer Fabrice Bregier during the recent Singapore Airshow.

The A350-900, which will have a three-class configuration – Business Class, Premium Economy and Regular Economy – is capable of flying non-stop from Manila to New York on a full load.

PAL plans to deploy the A350 XWB (extra wide body), which seats more than 300, on new routes to North America and Europe.

“After a thorough commercial and technical evaluation, we decided the A350 will best meet the requirements of our expanding operations,” said Mr. Bautista. “With the A350, we will be able to offer superior passenger comfort with spacious cabin while flying non-stop on long-haul routes.”

“We are pleased to welcome Philippine Airlines as the latest airline to select the all-new A350 XWB,” said Mr. Bregier. “The A350 XWB has set new standards, combining extra long range capability with the lowest operating costs of any aircraft in the larger twin-aisle category. Passengers flying with PAL can look forward to the new levels of comfort offered by the aircraft, with a wider and quieter cabin, and more personal space for all.”

During the Singapore Airshow, PAL also signed a $600-million order with Rolls-Royce for Trent XWB engines to power the six A350.

The Trent XWB is the world’s most efficient engine flying today and the fastest-selling wide body engine with more than 1,500 engines sold to 41 customers.

PAL currently uses Trent 700 engines for its fleet of 15 A330 aircraft.

The A350 is the world’s latest generation airliner, featuring the most modern aero-dynamic design, carbon fiber fuselage and wings.

With the Trent XWB engines, the A350 operates at 25 percent less fuel burn and emissions, significantly lowering maintenance costs. The extra-wide cabin provides passengers more personal space in all classes. The first A350 is scheduled to be delivered in 2018.

Philippines eyes 8-9% export growth

The Philippines is aiming an export growth of 8 to 9 percent to US$100-billion goal over the next two years.

Under the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP), President Aquino directed government agencies to collectively work and review all relevant policies to facilitate exports and eliminate those that hamper its free flow.

The Export Development Council (EDC) will oversee the implementation of the PEDP and coordinate the formulation and implementation of policy reforms and promotion strategies.

Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc. (PHILEXPORT) President Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr. has welcomed the PEDP, adding that “it is a formal signal for government to facilitate export growth”.

To achieve this year’s export goals, PEDP identified key strategies to boost the competitiveness of the sector.

These are designing comprehensive packages of support for selected emerging and key export sectors, removing unnecessary regulatory impediments to the movement of goods and delivery of services, raise the productivity and competitiveness of Philippine enterprises, upgrade the quality and standard of export and improve exporters’ access to finance.

“I do not personally believe that we can grow our economy and trickle-down effect will be felt unless we really address the issues of small and medium enterprises especially in the issue of financing,” Ortiz Luis said.

One of the most important components of the package of support for selected sectors is the global value chain analysis as this would assist the export sector in identifying product and market opportunities.

The PEDP has identified exploiting opportunities presented by regional and preferential trading arrangements to expand market access within existing trade partners, exploring new trade partners and developing new export products; and enhancing the innovative capacity of the export sector through an efficient system of national innovation boosting competitiveness.

The plan, one of the most important elements of the International Trade Strategy, forms part of the Philippine Development Plan.

PCC to level playing field

Competition among Philippine businesses is expected to level the playing field following the recent creation of the Philippine Competition Commission (PCC).

Former Economic Planning Secretary and NEDA Director-General Arsenio M. Balisacan has been appointed the first chairperson to head the PCC.

“Taking on the job as the first chairperson of the PCC for me, is a very compelling challenge that is hard to ignore. I see this as both a great responsibility and another privilege to steer the economy toward the right direction to realize all its growth potential,” said Balisacan.

Republic Act No. 10667, otherwise known as the Philippine Competition Act, which President Benigno S. Aquino III signed into law on July 21, 2015, created the PCC.

The commission is a quasi-judicial body that will enforce and implement the provisions of the Philippine Competition Act, including its implementing rules and regulations. Through this, it will ensure an efficient market competition in providing a level-playing field among businesses engaged in trade, industry, and all commercial economic activities.

The PCC aims to protect consumer welfare and advance both domestic, and international trade and economic development. Also, it has the mandate to conduct inquiries, investigate, and penalize all forms of anti-competitive agreements, abuse of dominant position, and anti-competitive mergers and acquisitions.

“We would want to address the problem of having a growing economy but with the benefits of such growth only for a small sector. Promoting fair and healthy competition among firms is a major factor in ensuring that the benefits of growth are properly shared,” said Balisacan.

Balisacan was the first chair of the Philippine Statistics Authority Board and the Public-Private Partnership Center Board. Concurrently, he isBalisacan chairman of the board for the Philippine Institute of Development Studies, Philippine Center for Economic Development, and the Philippine Statistical Research and the Training Institute. 

Prior to his appointment to NEDA, Balisacan was Dean and Professor of the University of the Philippines School of Economics. He also served as the Director of the Southeast Asian Regional Centre for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture or SEARCA from 2003 to 2009, and Undersecretary of the Department of Agriculture in 2000, 2001, and 2003.

 

Recognized as a leading development economist in Asia, Balisacan will be bringing to PCC, aside from his experience as Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning, is his expertise in development economics, international economics, and applied welfare economics. Balisacan has been an Academician of the National Academy of Science and Technology since 2008 and an Adjunct Professor at the Australian National University since 2011.

Meanwhile, Deputy Director-General Emmanuel F. Esguerra will serve as the Officer-in-Charge of NEDA.

PIDS among world’s top think tanks

The Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has been recognized as among the world’s top think tanks for the fourth consecutive year.

In the 2015 Global Go To Think Tank Report and Policy Advice of the Think Tanks and Civil Societies Program (TTCSP) at the University of Pennsylvania, PIDS was included in the list of best think tanks in seven categories. More than 6,600 think tanks from 198 countries were assessed in this round.

PIDS remained the top social policy think tank in South East Asia and was ranked 37thamong the top 100 in the world. Other think tanks from Southeast Asia that made it to this category (social policy) were Singapore’s Institute of Southeast Asian Studies (41st) and Institute for Policy Studies (53rd) and Malaysia’s Center for Public Policy Studies (66th). In 2014, PIDS also ranked 37th among 50 nominated think tanks in this category.

PIDS also maintained its rankings as among the top international development think tanks (70th out of 128) and among the top education policy think tanks (33rd out of 65).

Moreover, the Institute has been included in four new categories: best think tanks in Southeast Asia and the Pacific, best government-affiliated think tanks, and think tanks with the best external relations/public engagement program. The East Asian Development Network (EADN) Secretariat, which PIDS has been running since 2010, also made it to the list of best think tank networks. The EADN is a network of institutes and centers in developing countries of East Asia. It sponsors research and capacity-building activities for early career researchers.

The Go To Think Tank Index is a comprehensive ranking of the world’s top think tanks and has been described as the premier database and measure of world think tanks. It aims to increase the profile, performance, and impact of think tanks, and to create a transnational and interdisciplinary network of centers of public policy excellence. A total of 4,677 journalists, policymakers, think tanks, and public and private donors from 143 countries participated in the 2015 ranking process.

Established in 1989, the TTCSP aims to acknowledge the important contributions and emerging global trends of think tanks worldwide. Think tanks are public-policy research analysis and engagement organizations that generate policy-oriented research, analysis, and advice on domestic and international issues, thereby enabling policymakers and the public to make informed decisions about public policy.

Since its establishment in 1977, PIDS has been engaged in conducting long-term, evidence-based research that serves as inputs in crafting socioeconomic policies for the country. PIDS has completed close to 1,000 studies covering a wide range of issues that encompass macroeconomic, agricultural, trade and industrial policies, health economics, education, environment, natural resource management, urban development and social services, and governance.

In 2015, the Institute completed a number studies evaluating the effectiveness and impacts of key government programs and projects to ascertain whether they are achieving their intended objectives and to ensure that government resources are being used wisely.  Impact evaluation helps promote greater transparency and accountability in government.