Business Optimism Continues To Pick Up

It was showed in a survey conducted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) that for the fourth straight quarter, local businessmen remained positive with economic prospects despite growth concerns in the US and the sovereign debt crisis in Europe.

From 40.5 percent in the first quarter, it was showed by the central bank’s Business Expectation Survey (BES) that for the second quarter of 2012 the business confidence index improved to 44.5 percent in the second quarter of the year.

Cyd Tuano-Amador, BSP assistant governor, mentioned and stressed in a press conference that this was the fourth consecutive quarter that the business confidence index has improved.

“The BES has edged again higher and this is the fourth consecutive quarter that business confidence continued to remain bouyant,” Amador said.

After dropping for two consecutive quarters to 31.8 percent in the second quarter of last year from 47.5 percent in the first quarter and the record level of 50.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2010, the confidence index steadily improved for four straight quarters to 34.1 percent in the third quarter of last year, to 38.7 percent in the fourth, to 40.5 percent in the first quarter of the year and to 44.5 percent in the second quarter.

The confidence index is composed and computed as the percentage of firms that answered in the affirmative less the percentage of firms that answered in the negative with respective to their views on a given indicator.

Acting deputy director of the BSP’s Department of Economic Statistics (DES), Teresita Deveza, outlined the continued optimism of businessmen to the upsurge in orders and new contracts leading to higher volume of production as well as widening in business and new product lines.

Deveza also mentioned that higher government spending, seasonal upstick in demand during the summer, enrollment, and harvest seasons as well as favorable macroeconomic fundamentals.

“Also contributing to businesses’ improved sentiment were the prevailing favorable macroeconomic conditions such as lower interest rates and manageable inflation as well as the steady growth of remittances that contributes to healthy external payments position,” she said.

The Cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) expects the gross domestic product (GDP) expanding between five percent and six percent this year due to higher government spending under the Public Private Partnership (PPP) scheme of the Aquino administration.

The GDP growth slackened to 3.7 percent last year from 7.6 percent in 2010 due to weak global trade, resulting in a sharp drop in the country’s export earnings, as well as the under spending by the Aquino government.

The survey also showed that fewer respondents expect inflation to go up but more respondents expect the peso to appreciate due to robust remittances from the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and robust receipts from business process outsourcing (BPO) sector.

The survey was conducted between April 2 and May 11, 2012 that had 1,587 respondent firms from the Top 7,000 corporations of the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Navy Monitors 79 Chinese Boats Near Shoal

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday that China has already positioned close to a hundred numbers of vessels within the Philippine territorial waters for about 124 nautical miles from our mainland Zambales, to further heightening the territorial row in the area.

Reports coming from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were forwarded to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showing that in the present times, there are already 5 Chinese vessels within the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on top of 16 Chinese fishing boats that have been situated 56 utility boats for their ongoing fishing operations.

In addition, it has already added 2 additional Fishery Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels in Panatag, harmonizing the first fishery vessels.

Nevertheless, China’s foreign department refused such number of vessels in the area. It was said that it was only 20 fishing boats that were present in Panatag, the usual; number during May in past years.

Raul Hernandez, DFA spokesman, stated that China has sent the vessels while conversing with the Philippines on how to resolve tensions in the area.

At around 7 p.m. of May 21 the 5 Chinese vessels were monitored near the shoal which corresponding names, namely Chinese Maritime Ships (CMS-71) CMS-84, and FLEC 301, FLEC 303 and FLEC 310.

2 of the Chinese vessels were considered as the most advanced Chinese vessels, FLEC 301 and FLEC 303 respectively, it’s the latest addition in the disputed shoal against the 2 Philippine civilian vessels positioned in the area just to symbolize the country’s territorial ownership.

Last Tuesday, Hernandez mentioned that there were still 16 Chinese fishing vessels and that the number of utility boats rises up to 76.

“It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a de-escalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area,” Hernandez said in a press briefing.

He added that the Philippines even objected for these actions of China as clear misruling of Philippine sovereignty and authority over the shoal and sovereign rights over the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that covers the waters around Panatag Shoal or also known as Bajo de Masinloc

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed it sincere concern over these continuous actions by China that worsen the tension in Panatag Shoal in a note verbale dated May 21, 2012  that was sent to the Chinese government through the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Hernandez cited that the actions of China are also in violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea, specifically paragraph 5, which calls the Parties “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Phl demands pullout of Chinese vessels

Despite China’s self-imposed fishing ban it was said by the FCG reports that reached the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), that Chinese fishermen have still been running fishing in the area aside from reaping giant clams and other endangered species inside the shoal.

Moreover, the PCG report to the DFA also highlighted the 16 Chinese fishing boats in which 10 of them were inside the lagoon fishing while the 6 others were outside. It was monitored that it arrived last Monday evening escorted by a Chinese vessel.

“The increase in the number of China’s vessels in the area imperils marine biodiversity in the shoal and threatens the marine ecosystem in the whole of the West Philippine Sea,” Hernandez said.

He as well said that the Chinese fishermen have unlawfully scoured the area and dishonestly garnered giant clams and corals.

He said the recent actions of China are also in violation of the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 2.4, which provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

“The Philippines, therefore, demands that China’s vessels immediately pull out from Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines’ EEZ and for China to refrain from taking further actions that exacerbate the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” Hernandez said.

China: Only 20 vessels

Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said yesterday that the Philippines have taken some offensive actions in the Huangyan Island waters which in is required “China to adopt corresponding measures to strengthen management and control.”

“To our knowledge, now there are about 20 Chinese fishing boats working in that area. This number is roughly the same with that in the same period of the previous years. The way these fishing boats are working complies with the related Chinese laws and the fishing moratorium issued by the Chinese government,” Hong said.

On Tuesday, China said that the involvement of countries in the standoff will meet steadfast opposition from the Chinese government.   Beijing was alarmed that some countries would help the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense posture by providing the country with patrol boats and military aircraft, so as to complement the Philippines’ diplomatic initiative in dealing with territorial disputes with China.

Corona In ICU, Can’t Return To Senate Today

Chief Justice Renato Corona will have to remain under treatment and observation at the hospital’s intensive care unit at the Medical City for about 48 to 72 hours according to the doctors. Prior to this happening, Corona will be incapable of returning to the Senate today for his scheduled cross examination.

The chief justice who went through already two heat bypass operations last 1995 and 2008 was brought to the Medical City last night at 8 p.m. (Tuesday) after his 3-hour statement and a followed up controversial walk out from the impeachment court.

Midas Marquez, Supreme Court spokesman, who went with Corona and his family in the hospital, said in an interview that he stayed with Corona from 8p.m. until midnight. He added that prior of his leaving, the chief justice gave him an assurance that he would be returning to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination (supposedly today).

“I left the hospital past midnight. I was able to briefly talk with the chief justice, and he assured me that he would appear this afternoon. When I got home a few minutes later, I got the unfortunate news that he was transferred to the ICU,” Marquez said.

The lawyers for the defense of Corona said in the radio interviews that the judge may not be able to immediately return to the Senate for his scheduled cross examination due to his medical condition.

“Latest was he has an elevated [troponin T level], a prelude to a heart attack. His condition is now being stablized in the ICU of Medical City,” Ramon Esguerra told the media on Wednesday morning.

48-hour monitoring

As of 9 a.m., Esguerra said that the chief justice is already in a stable condition but still has to remain in the intensive care unit (ICU) for the next 24 hours for proper monitoring and as to what the hospital doctors’ advised.

3 doctors of the Medical City have released a medical bulletin at around 10 a.m. today about the chief justice’s condition explaining that Corona may have suffered from an acute coronary syndrome or simply heart attack.

It was also mentioned by the doctors including senior vice president for medical services, Dr. Eugenio Jose Ramos, which they had to confine Corona in the ICU because of the reason that he is considered a high-risk cardiac patient.

Furthermore, the doctors said that Corona, a diabetic person, also is suffering from a renal failure that they ruled out another surgery for the chief justice. And they stated as well that they would not be allowing Corona to return to the Senate because he should be under strict monitoring.

The Senate has sent its own medical team to the hospital to check on Corona’s medical condition.

Lawyer Karen Jimeno cited that she would want Corona to return to the Senate and face the impeachment court again on Wednesday afternoon.

Disoriented

Juan Ponce Enrile, Senate President, who was then sitting as the ruling judge in the impeachment court, affirmed that he will strike out Corona’s testimony if the chief justice failsto return for his scheduled cross examination.

Enrile highlighted that Corona’s walk out was indeed a sign of disrespect to the Senate as an impeachment court.

Enumerated in Corona’s 3-hour statement, he refused that he retained 82 dollar accounts, 31 peso accounts and 45 properties as suspected by the prosecution and Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales.

Prior to Corona’s walk out, he signed a waiver allowing the government and selected banking institutions to inspect and show in public all his bank records that includes his dollar deposits.

Though, he stated in his waiver that it would only be effective if the 188 other congressmen who signed his impeachment order and even Senator Franklin Drilon would be also open with regards to their bank accounts for examination.

After the signing of the waiver and raising the challenge, Corona told the court: “The Chief Justice of the Republic of the Philippines wishes to be excused.”

He stood up and left the floor, leaving the confused crowd and senator-judges. Even his lawyers asserted that they were not immediately informed of Corona’s reason for leaving the room without being properly discharged.

Enrile immediately ordered the Senate security to lock down the compound as soon as Corona left the session hall. Corona was then wheeled back to the session hall afterwards.

It was excused by Corona’s lawyers and his son-in-law doctor that the witness left the witness stand because he did not want to throw up and collapse in the session hall’s room.

The defense team said Corona suffered from hypoglycemia.

Marquez suspected that Corona’s hypoglycemic episode during the hearing could have been part of his heart attack. He also said that they were informed at the hospital that disorientation could be one of the symptoms of heart attack.

“I noticed that when he stood up from the witness stand, he did not know where to go. That’s what they say, when you suffer a heart attack you get disoriented,” he said.

The Senator-Judge said that Corona’s illness and hospitalization does not excuse his actions at the Senate impeachment court that is scheduled on Tuesday.

Pia Cayetano said in an ANC interview that no witness or acused should hold the court hostage by his wishes and demands.

“He (Corona) wanted to be the witness and the judge because he didn’t wait for the response of the Presiding Officer. He wanted to present his evidence but sinama pa niya pati si Senator-Judge ([Franklin] Drilon,” Cayetano said.

Moreover, Cayetano said that the senator-judges will hold an assembly to probably discuss Corona’s condition.

However, Marquez said that Corona has no intention at all to disrespect the Senate. He added that the chief justice knows that under the rules of court that refusal to be cross-examined may lead to striking out of the witness’ testimony.

Meanwhile, a lawyer for Corona said he does not think Corona will resign despite poor health.

“In the five- to six-month period I’ve been with the Chief Justice. He has explained to us [that] for this case, for the judiciary, for this country, he is willing to lay down his life. He told us to proceed and fight…even against the wishes of his doctors and hisfamily, ilalaban niya ito,” Dennis Manalo said in an ANC interview.

Manalo uttered that the defense team hopes that Corona will be well enough to continue his testimony because they would not want the impeachment court to decide on the case under the present conditions.

“We are at the mercy of 23 senators who can say that ‘we don’t take that excuse, won’t accept that excuse, and not hear the rest of his (Corona’s) testimony anymore. We don’t want this case to be decided under these circumstances, it would be tragic on our part after working so hard,” said Manalo.

Tranquil Salvador, also a member of the defense team, said that they may ask the Senate court to “reset the testimony due to Corona’s illness.”

Salvador said that the rule of court allows the cancellation of a hearing if an indispensable witness is sick.

P-Noy Meets With INC Head

Malacañang said that the President of the Philippines, Benigno Aquino III, visited yesterday the Iglesia ni Cristo (INC)’s central office which is located in Quezon City to get to know with the religious group’s leader and “touch base” with the organization’s followers.

Eduardo Manalo, INC’s leader meets Aquino on the eve of the appearance of Chief Justice Renato Corona before the Senate impeachment court, but Malacañang then refused implications that the meeting is about or something to do with the impeachment trial.

Presidential spokesperson, Edwin Lacierda said that, “The purpose of the President is to touch base with his supporters and you don’t need to get the support right now.”

The Iglesia ni Cristo (INC) management is apparently seen lobbying for the release of Corona, whose lead counsel is former justice Serafin Cuevas who is a member of the sect.

“Unfortunately, the schedule of the President and the schedule of Ka Eduardo (Manalo) could not jibe. It was only this Monday or today that they were able to find a common schedule,” Lacierda said. “The unfortunate thing was it was only today that they were able to find a common schedule.” He added.

Lacierda stated that Aquino’s meeting with the Iglesia ni Cristo’s leader was “warm.”

Aquino personally called for the impeachment of Corona in December 2011.

The last time that Aquino had a chance to visit the INC headquarters which was then considered as his first visit as well was before the May 2010 presidential elections when he was still a senator. He was accompanied by his sisters Ballsy Cruz and popular TV talk show host Kris Aquino.

“As you know, the INC supported the President during his senatorial campaign and during also his presidential campaign,” Lacierda recalled.

The spokesman admitted the impeachment trial was discussed, primarily because it was among the “burning issues of the day.”

“He explained to Ka Eduardo the reasons for the impeachment – that this is part of his reform agenda.

“The President only mentioned the reason why there was an impeachment against Chief Justice Corona and he explained his reasons,” he said.

Lacierda similarly modulated the implication of Aquino’s visit to the INC central office at Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, when he could just have received the religious leader at his office in Malacañang.

“I asked that and the President mentioned it’s always a practice of not only this President but also the other presidents, to visit the head of Iglesia ni Cristo in Central. This is nothing new,” he said.

The other topic discussed, aside from the impeachment according to Lacierda, was the government’s skills development program that will be implemented through the Technical Education Skills Development Authority (TESDA) which is being headed by Joel Villanueva, son of evangelist Bro. Eddie Villanueva of the Jesus is Lord Movement, and is said to be an administration senatorial candidate in 2013.

Lacierda rejected allusions that Aquino was seeking for INC’s support for the future candidate, Villanueva.

“It was only a discussion of what the government has been doing. But there’s certainly no way something was discussed about Villanueva,” he said.

“There are certain matters that we do not list out in the schedule,” he added, dismissing the accusations that the administration had not been transparent in its meeting with the INC.

Not bothered

Lacierda also mentioned that he doesn’t consider Roman Catholic priests’ celebration Masses for Corona just to show a support from the Church leadership for the plagued Chief Justice.

“We have no response to that. This is a free country. There’s a separation between Church and State. So let them – if he wants to celebrate Mass for the Chief Justice, by all means. We have no response to that. And obviously, only a Catholic priest can celebrate a Mass, a Catholic Mass. So there’s nothing we can do about it,” he said.

He referred to the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines saying that they’re not even aware of any official stand of the CBCP regarding Corona’s impeachment.

“They have not released any statement. So we just rely on statements. We don’t rely on individual bishops. As far as we know, they have not published in their website any official position taken by the CBCP,” he said.

Lacierda said they haven’t heard anything from CBCP president Jose Palma “other than those short interviews.”

“But as an official position, we have not seen any official position taken by the CBCP. Any organization can make a position. Right now, it is in the hands of the senator-judges. So let’s wait for the testimony of Chief Justice Corona,” Lacierda said.

Meeting defended

There was nothing wrong with regards that the President having a meeting with INC leaders, just for the issue of the prosecution panel in Corona’s impeachment trial.

“It’s not uncommon for presidents to solicit the support of the influential group even harking back to the 1970s,” Aurora Rep. Juan Edgardo Angara said.

House Majority Leader Neptali Gonzales II also defended President Aquino’s visit to the INC.

“There’s nothing wrong about it. He just presented his sentiments on the impeachment of the Chief Justice and his campaign for reforms, which sentiments are known to the public,” he told the reporters.

He said the President’s visit may be compared to Aquino’s past meetings with Catholic bishops at the height of debates on the controversial Reproductive Health bill.

“If there are groups big or small that are holding contrary views, it is not unusual for us politicians to approach them to present to them our side. To ignore them would mean insensitivity on our part,” he said.

“In the case of the Chief Justice, whether there is lobbying or not from any group, we are confident that the strength of the evidence we have presented against him would get him convicted,” Gonzales stressed.

But Zambales Rep. Milagros Magsaysay said Aquino’s visit only showed his insecurity.

“Why is he going out of his way to explain Chief Justice Renato Corona’s impeachment when he should have nothing to do with it in the first place?” Magsaysay said. “He looks so defensive especially when a so-called congressional source said the INC was influencing senator-judges to acquit the Chief Justice.”

No INC meeting

Meanwhile, Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile contradicted the reports that he met with any representative of the INC.

“I quarantined myself,” Enrile told reporters.

Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III, for his part, said “lobbying for or against any issue is normal.”

“Whether it is happening I don’t know. I’m one of those who can say nobody had approached me to lobby then and now,” Sotto said.

“That’s part of the normal interaction between politicians and constituents. All sectors whether you are Iglesia or civilian or non-sectarian can talk to both sides,” Sen. Edgardo Angara said.

United Nationalist Alliance (UNA) secretary-general and Navotas Rep. Toby Tiangco also denied that the INC was trying to influence senator-judges identified with UNA.

“As the secretary-general of UNA, I would like to state that there is no truth to that rumor. No emissaries from the INC have sent feelers to senator-judges belonging to UNA for the purpose of pleading for the Chief Justice,” Tiangco said in a statement.

“It is disappointing to read of an ‘anonymous’ source trying to besmirch the reputation of both INC and UNA,” he said. “This congressional source insists he remain anonymous while he attempts to discredit UNA and debase the INC.” – With Christina Mendez, Jess Diaz, Paolo Romero, Jose Rodel Clapano

Timeline: Resumption of the impeachment trial of Chief Justice Renato Corona

Day 35 (May 7) The impeachment court allows the defense panel to subpoena Justice Secretary Leila de Lima as “hostile” witness, but two defense witnesses are barred from testifying since their testimonies bore no relevance to the case.

Day 36 (May 8) Chief Justice Renato Corona promises to testify before the Senate impeachment court based on the documents presented to the Office of the Ombudsman on his alleged $10-million bank deposits.

Day 37 (May 14) Ombudsman Conchita Carpio-Morales presents an Anti-Money Laundering Council (AMLC) report, which reveals Corona allegedly had 82 accounts with a “transactional balance” amounting to $10 million, spread out over five banks and not declared in his statement of assets, liabilities and net worth.

Day 38 (May 15) Ombudsman Morales continues her testimony, saying there were “significant” transactions on Corona’s alleged dollar accounts during the 2004 and 2007 election periods and before the impeachment trial began.

Day 39 (May 16) The defense panel presents three complainants who filed charges against Corona before the Ombudsman in an attempt to show that their claims were baseless. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile compels Kaya Natin! Movement lead convenor Harvey Keh to explain why he should not be cited for contempt for handing over to his office confidential records of Corona’s alleged dollar accounts.

Day 40 (May 22) Corona testifies before the impeachment court.

200-MW Shortfall Seen In Mindanao

The starvation of the province, Mindanao from electricity is in danger, suffering from another 200-megawatt (MW) shortfall for the succeeding years due to high demand and continues lacking of generation capacity.

It is said that the Department of Energy (DOE) is already banking on power charges and diesel-fired power plants to upsurge the available power in the region next year.

Energy Secretary, Jose Rene Almendras, mentioned that, “If we do not have additional generation in Mindanao by the dry season next year, we will have a shortage.”

“I am looking at least 100 MW, almost 200 MW. It also depends on the rainfall next year,” Almendras added.

Up to the present time, the hydroelectric power plant is responsible for 53 percent of the total power supply in Mindanao.

The Mindanao network, according to the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines, which is in need of at least an average of 1,300 megawatt (MW) during peak hours, lacked 50 MW to 300 MW, resulting in two to four hours of rotating blackouts in the first quarter.

“In Mindanao, the situation has significantly improved. What is being reported to us is that there are no more blackouts,” Almendras said.

As an update, last week, there was still no power outage in Mindanao which follows the completed repair of the 200 megawatt (MW) Pulangi IV hydropower plant in Bukidnon.

The DOE released a circular outlining effort last March needed from numerous government agencies and private firms to lessen power outages in Mindanao.

But, Almendras said that Mindanao is running on bare requirements and is without any emergency reserves. A failure in any of the power generation equipment will thus automatically result in a shortfall and blackouts.

Almendras said that the situation might worsen next year when demands increases and there is insufficient rainfall for the hydropower plants.

The DOE recommends that the resumption of operations and rehabilitation of the 100 megawatt (MW) Iligan diesel power plant and the rehabilitation and transfer of 120 megawatt (MW) of privately owned power barges, and the transfer to Mindanao of the 96 megawatt (MW) of power barges presently operated by National Power Corporation (NAPOCOR), in order to solve the power supply concerns.

The DOE is in talks with private firms for the transfer of several power barges, Almendras said.

The Commission on Audit (COA) review is ongoing regarding the Iligan plant issue.

“The COA has requested for some additional documents from the local government unit and from the bidder to substantiate their offer, their process and pricing,” Almendras said

The 100-MW plant, which was last operated in 2010, was sold to Alsons Consolidated Resources Inc. (ACR) subsidiary Conal Holdings Corporation after the local government acquired it due to tax delinquency.

However, the power plant also needs COA clearance before it can be sold to ACR and resume operations.

Almendras said that the DOE wants the plant to start operations within the year for it to reach the maximum capacity ahead of the dry season next year.

Lastly, DOE is reviewing its plans following the failed bidding of four 32-MW power barges of Napocor.

The bidding of the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management for the diesel-fired Power Barges 101-104 failed last week as only one of seven qualified bidders submitted an offer.

Under the bidding rules, winning firms should immediately transfer these power facilities to Mindanao and would have to stay there until 2014.

The DOE has been giving some warnings last 2010 with regards to Mindanao that it needs additional baseload generating capacity through private investor participation.

But the DOE said there were delays in securing permits from local government units.

For instance, Aboitiz Power Corporation, Sarangani Energy Corporation, and San Miguel Corporation are planning to put up coal-fired power plants in Mindanao but host communities opposed these plans due to environmental concerns.

Phl Seeks Win-Win Situation In Shoal Row With China

President Benigno Aquino III said that the country will pursue a win-win situation with China within the claims with both countries regarding Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal.

Aquino told the business forum of the Joint Alumni Clubs of US Universities last Wednesday that, “We have not stopped having communication with them in trying to look for a win-win situation.”

However, while the country intends to look for a win-win scenario for both parties, Aquino mentioned that he would still keep track of upholding and enforcing the laws.

“If it’s clear that we have a 200-mile exclusive economic zone designated by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), and both of us are parties to it, is it too much to ask that our rights are respected by our neighbors, in the same token that we respect their rights?” he asked.

With determination, Aquino also claimed that he is not going to give up any areas that belong to the country.

“I am not empowered to give up any of our territory,” he said.

Aquino added that the authority intends to handle the matter diplomatically.

“We do not want to present a threat to them in any shape, manner, or form in terms of military action,” he added.

On the other hand, Albert del Rosario the Secretary of Foreign Affairs, revealed that the Philippines has more investments in China than China has in the Philippines.

He stated that the Philippine investments in China amounts to nearly $3 billion as against to China’s investments in the Philippines which is approximately less than a billion and a half ($1.5).

Last Wednesday, Del Rosario told the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines that, “We benefit from our relations with China just as China benefits from its relationships with us.”

Del Rosario also mentioned that China, in which is considered the Philippines’ 3rd largest trading partner, signed a memorandum of agreement during President Aquino’s state visit last year that both countries would work towards accomplishing $60 billion in 2-way trade within a 5-year period and 2 million inward visitors within 5 years.

“It was also agreed upon that the bilateral agenda would be moved forward in the most positive way, while the areas of contention such as the West Philippine Sea would be abstracted and dealt with separately,” he added.

Having the fact that Chinese investments in the country is only half of Philippine investments in China, Del Rosario then said that Filipino businessmen will not be discouraged from investing in their country despite the recent activities and happenings taken by the Chinese travel agencies suspending tour packages to the Philippines as tensions over the borderline of the islands in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) increased.

Also, China possessed Philippine fruit exports suspected of carrying pests amid a tense argument between the two countries over Panatag Shoal.

“I don’t think that we should be discouraging our businessmen from investing in China. It’s a good thing if they see how we do it here but what we’re trying to do is at least equalize the amount of investments that go out and we’re hoping that more Chinese investors will take an interest in the Philippines,” Del Rosario said.

“We’d like to believe it’s not,” Del Rosario replied when he was asked if the suspension of tour packages to the Philippines, the reduction in flights, and the possession of Philippine bananas are forms of pressure by China among the maritime argument between Philippines.

“We’d like to believe it’s a technical issue,” he added.

Economic pressure

If China continues to exert economic pressure to the Philippines such as blocking bananas and canceling tour packages, then, the lawmakers said and warned that the economy of the Philippines would be in danger.

Ang Kasangga party-list Rep. Teodorico Haresco and Iloilo Rep. Jerry Treñas said the suspension of tour packages and the controls on fruit importations is “China’s subtle warning versus Philippine on its vast economic arsenal.”

Also, they urged that the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) should step up efforts in paving the way for the creation of a joint Philippine-China study commission, which would focus on finding mutually acceptable solutions to end the dispute in the Spratlys.

“The decision of Chinese travel agencies to suspend travel to the Philippines could be China’s subtle warning that it does not even need its military to bring widespread economic destruction in the country,” Haresco said.

He warned the suspension of tour packages to the country by Chinese travel agencies “could be the beginning of a larger and more sustained campaign to remind the Philippines and even the US that its economic arsenal is as devastating as its three-million strong People’s Liberation Army.”

Also, he added that the effect of the travel suspension would already deny the economy millions of dollars in potential tourism revenues and warned that Beijing might even go further by obliging a ban on Filipino overseas workers, including those working in Hong Kong and Macau.

Haresco said that the only way to fix the problem in the Spratlys is through direct mutual dialogue with China without discounting the possibility of entering into a joint exploration arrangement in the areas claimed by the Philippines.

While the United States will always remain a valuable supporter to the Philippines, bragging Washington into the Spratlys argument “will do more harm than good” as this is being viewed as an indirect needling by Beijing.

Tactical support

On the other hand, Malacañang, restated that the presence of a US submarine in Subic had nothing to do with the Philippines’ disagreement with China over the disputed Panatag shoal.

Edwin Lacierda, Presidential spokesman, illiterates that the US government made a request last April 3, 2012, days before the April 10 standoff saying that they be allowed to dock their submarine in the area.

“And so it (US request) was addressed to the Department of National Defense and the DND gave its approval on April 24. So, I don’t need to answer or respond to the statements made by the Left,” Lacierda explicated.

Earlier, security officials revealed the visit of submarine USS North Carolina (SSN-777) in Subic was a routine port call scheduled last April 3, before the standoff between Philippine and Chinese vessels in Panatag shoal started. The US attack submarine rose last Sunday in Subic Bay.

The Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) said the visit of a US submarine in Subic violated the country’s sovereignty.

In a statement, the CPP said the US is using the entire Philippines as a vast military base where it could dock its ships, land its fighter jets, fly its drones, conduct repairs and replenish supplies.

Filipino protesters led by former military rebel Nicanor Faeldon said they are planning to sail to Panatag as a show of support.

“They want to protest against the aggression being committed by China against our country, Faeldon’s spokesman kit guerrero said.

He said at least two fishing vessels carrying faeldon’s group were expected to arrive at the shoal later on Friday.

“They are intending to stay there at least three days and fish, if they are not prevented from doing so, Guerrero said, adding that planting a Philippine flag on the rock was also an option.

Fishermen from Batanes, Faeldon’s home province, along with fishermen from Masinloc, Zambales would be joining Faeldon to fish in Panatag that China has included in its declared fishing holiday.

The Philippines has reminded China that the West Philippine Sea is not the sum total of their bilateral relations.

The Philippines remains a safe and a welcoming country even as tensions over the disputed islands escalated.

Stay on the line

China has demanded manila not take measures in the political and legal aspects, saying it will worsen and complicate the situation.

Chinese foreign ministry spokesperson Hong Lei said last Monday in a press conference in Beijing that the Philippines should adhere to “diplomatic negotiations” to resolve the standoff.

“In particular, diplomatic negotiations should be adhered to in resolving the current situation, rather than continuing to incite public opinion and send contradictory messages,” Hong said.

DFA Chief Calls For Patriotism

In the interview yesterday of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario, he said that resolving the territorial argument between China would not be easy as he called for a position of “patriotism” among Filipinos and sacrifice if the Philippines is tested.

While the consultations are yet to resolve the standoff in Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal which is also called or knows as Bajo de Masinloc, it should be pursued, Del Rosario mentioned that the Philippines should continue to stand up and defeat its sovereign rights over the shoal and the West Philippine Sea in general.

“We need to defend what is ours. We need to stand up even as we look for ways to solve the disputes peacefully. We need to stand for what is ours. In order for us to do this, I think it is not going to be easy – and as you see it is not easy,” Del Rosario said before the Makati Business Club and the Management Association of the Philippines.

“We need to get our people to bond together. We need to unite. We need to take a position of patriotism that what is ours is ours and we will stand for it. And it is possible that we may be tested and if we are tested, it is possible that everyone will need to make a sacrifice,” he added.

Del Rosario repeated that the Philippines is looking at different strategies to defend its claims and position in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) in general which includes the legal track of dispute settlement mechanisms, including the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea (ITLOS) and the International Court of Justice (ICJ).

“Do we have to have China with us when we go to this dispute settlement mechanism, the answer is no. There are mechanisms there where we believe we can pursue our objectives without China being with us,” he uttered.

A map was prepared by the USA Armed Forces in 1903 and was given to Del Rosario during his last visit to Washington.

The map included Panatag Shoal as part of the island groups of the Philippines, contrary to China’s claim that it is not included in the Philippine boundaries under the Treaty of Paris.

Del Rosario said that he and the Chinese Ambassador Ma Xeqing had began to discuss the pullout of ships in Panatag Shoal when they were engaged in consultations prior to the fishing ban China announced this week, but the two sides did not arrive at a conclusion or agreement.

Comelec To Oppose Arroyo Trip

Last Tuesday, the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) said that it would be a challenge in the court for former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s fresh bid to seek medical treatment abroad, citing her tendency to “amplify” her health condition.

It was said and stressed by COMELEC Chair, Sixto Brillantes Jr., which was very risky for Arroyo to be allowed to leave the country since she is currently detained at Veterans Memorial Medical Center on charges of electoral sabotage.

“We don’t want to allow her again this time because she used to say that before and it turned out that she can be treated by our doctors here,” Brillantes told the reporters last Tuesday in a telephone interview.

Brillantes was referring to Arroyo’s previous attempt to leave the country supposedly for treatment of a rare bone disease. Also he said that the electoral sabotage was a capital offense so Arroyo could not just be allowed to simply leave the country. He said foreign doctors should instead be brought to the country to examine her.

Conceding that the Pasay City Regional Trial Court of trying the case against Arroyo has the final say on the issue, he said that the COMELEC would “ask for verification and check up on her true condition.”

Previously, a source coming from a close person to the Arroyo family said that the former President, who is now a representative of her hometown in Pampanga, was facing a “life-threatening condition” due to complications arising from her earlier surgery to treat her neck ailment.

On Thursday, Arroyo decided to undergo the Quantum electrochemistry examination at Makati Medical Center after experiencing choking sensations and shortness of breath.

A doctor present during the examination has said that a corrective surgery had to be done abroad as “no doctor would touch her here because of her delicate medical situation.”

A close Arroyo ally, House Minority Leader Danilo Suarez, said that the former President had to seek medical treatment abroad because no Filipino doctor was willing to perform a surgery for her.

“They are hesitant because they are afraid that this might lead to her death. They know that she has a very rare ailment,” Suarez said in an interview with reporters.

He said Arroyo had identified medical experts abroad who were willing to perform the delicate surgery. He said the minority bloc would file a resolution appealing to President Aquino to allow Arroyo to leave.

He said the minority would use as a precedent the decision of then President Ferdinand Marcos to allow Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino, the current President’s father who was under detention, to seek medical treatment abroad for his heart ailment.

“Why was Ninoy allowed to get treatment in the US when there are heart specialists in the country?” asked Suarez. “I think the President will consider our request because his only condition was if GMA (Arroyo) would return to which we have no doubts.”

P-Noy Richer By P10 Million In 2011

It was stated and showed in the latest statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) of President Benigno Aquino III that he grew richer by P10.130 million last year which was then submitted to the Office of the Ombudsman.

Aquino declared that as of December 31, 2011, he is to be worth P65.130 million, with P32.162 million in real properties and P32.967 million in personal and other assets, as opposed to P54.999 million in the previous year.

The increase of Aquino’s wealth last year is mostly revealed in the value of his real properties, which amounted to P22.073 million as of December 31, 2010.

His house in Quezon City was identified under inheritance was previously declared to be worth only P13.796 million but today was now valued at P23.6 million.

Aquino’s personal and other properties which cover motor vehicles, cash on hand and cash in bank, receivables, and other assets went down a little from P33.155 million in 2010 to PP32.967 million last year.

In total, Aquino’s net worth grew from P50.194 million as of June 30, 2010 to P65.130 million as of Dec. 31, 2011, after 18 months in office with an annual income of P1.212 million.

Aquino had earlier explained that the increase in his net worth last year can be attributed to inheritance, the transfer or documentation of which were completed only in 2011.

Aquino has so far submitted three SALNs before the Office of the Ombudsman, which is the official depository of the same along with that of the vice president and the heads of other constitutional bodies.

Aquino’s predecessor, former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s SALNS show that she grew richer by as much as P76 million during her nine years in office, from 2001 to 2010.

No Chinese Travel Ban Vs Phl – Palace

Malacañang explained yesterday that there is a travel advisory but clears out that it is not a ban on Chinese citizens planning to visit the Philippines.

Deputy presidential spokesperson, Abigail Valte, stated in her weekly radio interview over state-run dzRB, that she used as a basis the statement of Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert del Rosario that the travel advisory is not related to the Scarborough Shoal standoff.

“It’s not a travel ban, it’s just an advisory, which is normal when they feel that they have to give their citizens warning about a certain event,” she said.

Presidential spokesman, Edwin Lacierda said that more Filipino tourists are going to China than Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines. “Ironically, this is the year of friendly exchanges,” he said.

“That’s why we say it is unfortunate that this happened. But if the decision of tour operators in China is true then we will just have to work hard on the other markets.”

India, the second largest populated country in the world after China, Russia and among others are the other potential markets, Valte said.

Valte added that the Philippine government has not received any official communication about it, while the travel advisory may have been reported in media.

Shirley Lai, a representative of a travel agency, said at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport that the most affected when it comes to the declination of Chinese tourist arrivals are the chartered flights from Beijing, Shanghai and Xiamen bound for Boracay.

Regular flights are not yet affected, she added.

Lai said that the airlines affected are the chartered flights of Air Philippines, Cebu Pacific, and Zest Air.

She handles about 20-50 Chinese tourists a day, she added.

Lai said that she was expecting Chinese tourists to arrive on May 10, 11, and 12 and proceed to Boracay but they canceled their travel.

She expressed hope that kinks in the issue will be ironed out soon because a lot of revenues were lost with the cancelled tours.