Philippines thread: news only, no discussion


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The Philippine Peso's Rally Is Rapidly Unraveling

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(Bloomberg) -- The Philippine peso’s rally in the first half of the year is rapidly unwinding as rising global trade-war fears and faltering economic growth pummel the currency. Further losses may be in store.

The currency slumped from near an 18-month high in August as overseas investors sold local stocks and the central bank cut interest rates for the second time this year and said more is to come. The peso may weaken another 4% by year-end given the prospect of further escalation in U.S.-China trade tensions, according to ING Bank NV.

“I’m not positive on the peso,” said Nicholas Mapa, a senior economist at ING in Manila, who previously worked at the central bank. “Starting in August, the peso faced a weakening bias largely due to the protracted sell-down of Philippine stocks by foreign players.” Traders have every reason to seek a haven until the narrative improves, he said.

The peso has dropped 2.1% from its July 31 high of 50.81 per dollar, halting a 2.5% rally during June and July that made it the best-performing Asian emerging currency after the Thai baht. It will probably extend declines to 54.10 by year-end, ING’s Mapa said. The currency was at 51.91 on Thursday.

The ratcheting up of trade tensions saw overseas funds offload a net $226 million of Philippine equities last month, after they had invested a net $488 million through the first seven months of the year.

The sputtering local economy is also weighing on the currency. GDP growth unexpectedly slowed to a four-year low of 5.5% last quarter, the government said Aug. 8, leading the central bank to cut interest rates by a quarter-percentage point to 4.25% the same day. The economy was hampered by a four-month delay in approving the budget, resulting in a setback to President Rodrigo Duterte’s plans to revive growth through infrastructure spending.


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Slave to sachets: How poverty worsens the plastics crisis in the Philippines
Karen Lema

8 Min Read

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MANILA (Reuters) - Armed with gloves, rubber boots and a rake, “Mangrove Warrior” Willer Gualva, 68, comes to Freedom Island in the Philippines almost every day to stop it being engulfed by trash.

No one lives on the island, yet each morning its shores are covered in garbage, much of it single-use sachets of shampoo, toothpaste, detergent and coffee that are carried out to sea by the rivers of overcrowded Manila.

“We collect mostly plastics here and the number one type are sachets,” said Gualva, one of 17 people employed by the environment agency to help preserve the island and its forest. The agency, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), calls them “Mangrove Warriors”, and pays them slightly above $8 per day.

Five days of coastal cleanup on the Manila Bay island last month yielded a total of 16,000 kg of trash, DENR data showed, the bulk of it plastics, including the sachets made of aluminum and blends of plastics.

These packets give some of the poorest people in Asia access to everyday household essentials. For the multinationals that manufacture them, it’s a way to increase sales by targeting customers who cannot afford bigger quantities.

Such sachets are sold in most developing countries but the number consumed in the Philippines is staggering - 163 million pieces a day, according to a recent study by environment group The Global Alliance for Incinerator Alternatives (GAIA).

That’s almost 60 billion sachets a year, or enough to cover 130,000 soccer fields.

In Manila’s slum areas which are inaccessible to garbage trucks, sachets and other waste are thrown in estuaries or dumped on the street, and end up clogging drains and waterways.

“Money is hard to come by, so I only buy sachets,” said Lisa Jorillo, 42, a mother of four who lives in a slum in Manila’s Tondo area, behind a beach blanketed by trash.

“It’s likely the garbage will still be there when my son grows up,” Jorillo said, referring to her four-year-old.

The Philippines’ law on solid waste is poorly enforced and the country doesn’t regulate packaging manufacturing. The country is ranked third in the world for failing to deal with its plastics, according to a 2015 study by the University of Georgia, which said 81 percent of plastics waste in the country was mismanaged.

GRAPHIC: When plastic is not fantastic - here

About 14 million people live in Metro Manila, one of Asia’s teeming mega-cities. Overall, the Philippines has a population of 107 million people, and one-fifth of them live below the national poverty line, described by the statistics agency as monthly consumption of less than $241 per person.

Jorillo’s family earns about 2,500 pesos ($48) a week from the construction work that her husband does, and she and her family buy about 80 sachets of coffee, toothpaste and shampoo each month.

In sea-facing Manila, much of the trash ends up in the sea. The Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and China account for 60 percent of the world’s marine plastic, or 8 million tonnes annually, according to the Ocean Conservancy non-profit.

Environmentalists say the main culprits aren’t governments or consumers, but the multinationals that churn out plastic packaging.

“They have money to do research that will remove the problematic packaging,” said Sonia Mendoza, head of the Mother Earth Foundation, which promotes waste reduction. She said refilling stations could be one way to reduce the use of single-use sachets.

The environmental group GAIA studied non-recyclable waste collected in Philippine cleanups and found that 60 percent of it came from just 10 companies, led by Nestle (NESN.S), Unilever (ULVR.L) and Procter & Gamble (PG.N).

Nestle declined to disclose the volume of sachets it produced or sold in the Philippines.

Nestle said it was committed to finding ways to keep plastics out of oceans through plastic collection and recycling programs, but added that sachets prevented leakage of micro-nutrients essential to addressing malnutrition, especially among children.

Unilever did not say how many sachets it produces in the Philippines, but said its global plastic packaging production is 610,000 tonnes annually.

The figure, Unilever said, includes “flexible packaging formats” used by 1 million micro-businesses in the Philippines. Nestle and Unilever’s target is for 100% of their packaging to be recyclable or reusable by 2025 worldwide.

Unilever said it has a community-based sachet recovery program in the Philippines where collected sachets are converted to school chairs and cement pavers. It also pilot ran shampoo and conditioner refilling stations this year, which it plans to scale up.

P&G referred questions to the industry group Philippine Alliance for Recycling and Materials Sustainability (PARMS) or the government’s National Solid Waste Management Commission (NSWMC).

The Philippines government does not have a clear strategy to tackle its plastics crisis.

In an e-mail response to Reuters, the DENR said it was in discussions with all manufacturers to identify ways to manage waste. It provided no details.

Elsewhere in the region, Indonesia has a law requiring producers to manage non-biodegradable packaging and the tourist island of Bali bans single-use plastics.

Thailand is between now and 2025 introducing bans on seven types of plastics most commonly found in the ocean, like bottle cap seals, disposable bags, cups and straws.

Vietnam hopes to raise taxes on plastic bags and its prime minister has urged shops to stop using non-recyclable plastics in cities by 2021, and countrywide by 2025.


The Philippines industry group PARMS, which includes Unilever, P&G and Nestle among its members, is building a 25 million pesos ($475,000) facility that aims to turn sachets into plastic blocks and eco-bricks.

But Von Hernandez, global coordinator for the Break Free From Plastic movement, calls that “greenwashing” - or only trying to appear more environmentally friendly.

“They are not really changing the true nature of their business,” Hernandez said of the multinationals. “The plastics industry is slated to grow exponentially, especially by 2030. The bulk of that is going to packaging and you can bet this is going to end up in sachets.”

Crispian Lao, president of PARMS, said every effort, even those which “may be perceived as small and insignificant”, helps address the problem.
Slideshow (21 Images)

Lao said sachets were a necessity for lower income groups, but added the industry is exploring other delivery formats and packaging alternatives.

Cynthia Villar, a senator, says she is pushing for a radical re-write of an existing waste law to force firms to collect, recycle and dispose of all single-use plastics they produce.

“They always say they’re willing to do it. But it’s a different story altogether whether they’ll do it, so we have to embody it in a law so they’ll all follow,” Villar told Reuters.


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Philippines Supreme Court upholds ban on same-sex marriage

By Julie Zaugg, CNN

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Updated 7:27 AM ET, Wed September 4, 2019
A couple hold hands wrapped in a rainbow flag during a pride march in Marikina City, east of Manila on June 30, 2018.

(CNN)The Philippines' highest court has dismissed a petition to allow same-sex marriage, ruling that the applicant doesn't have a partner and therefore can't claim to be a victim of existing laws.
Jesus Falcis, a 33-year-old radio show anchor and attorney, sought to declare Articles 1 and 2 of the Family Code unconstitutional. These provisions limit marriage to a union between a man and a woman.
"I am out since the age of 15 and I suffered from discrimination throughout my school years, so I felt the need to advocate for LGBT rights," said Falcis, who filed the application in 2015. "I decided to use the tool of litigation, because it has been successful in other countries -- such as the United States -- to have gay marriage legalized."
But the court dismissed his petition Tuesday due to "lack of standing" and for "failing to raise an actual, justiciable controversy," according to a summary of the court ruling.

This is what Pride celebrations look like around the world
This is what Pride celebrations look like around the world

This is what Pride celebrations look like around the world 01:25
"I don't have a partner and therefore can't be considered as having suffered from the consequences of a law which bans gay marriage," Falcis explained.
The court also held Falcis and his co-counsels liable for indirect contempt, accusing them of using constitutional litigation for propaganda purposes.
Falcis described the decision as "disheartening." In an attempt to avoid having his case dismissed on technicalities, he added a gay and a lesbian couple to his petition in 2016. "They had both previously tried and failed to have their marriage recognized and therefore constituted actual cases, but the court chose to ignore them and to focus on me instead," he said.
The court did however acknowledge that the 1987 Constitution "does not define or restrict marriage on the basis of sex, gender, sexual orientation, or gender identity or expression," the court summary said.

It also recognized the long history of discrimination and marginalization faced by the LGBT community and called on Congress to address the recognition of same-sex unions.
An anti-discrimination law, called the SOGIE bill, is currently under review in parliament.


Updated as of Sep 04 2019 02:57 PM
Locsin: PH has protested Chinese incursions in West PH Sea 60 times under Duterte
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The Philippines has protested China's incursions into the West Philippine Sea about 60 times since President Duterte assumed office in 2016, Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. said Wednesday.

These instances include 39 notes verbale to Beijing, Locsin told the House appropriations committee during a hearing on the Department of Foreign Affairs' proposed 2020 budget.

"We have filed diplomatic protests at every turn. When they tell me there is an incursion… I fire off a diplomatic protest," he said.

"I have changed the language of our diplomatic protest from the usual niceties to direct protests, no nice words anymore,” he added.

Manila's top diplomat, however, declined Bayan Muna Party-list Rep. Carlos Zarate’s request for copies of the protests, saying "those are exclusively executive communications between us."

"We only protest when it's China. We responded only to Chinese presence," he said.

Critics had earlier scored government's soft stance towards China despite its incursions in the West Philippine Sea. The administration has many times said it was taking action.

Beijing claims large parts of the South China Sea, where rich petroleum reserves are thought to sit deep beneath the waters, and through which roughly $3.4 trillion in shipping passes each year.

The Philippines calls its exclusive economic zone in the waters as the West Philippine Sea.

Five Chinese warships passed the Sibutu Strait in the Philippines' southern tip in July and August without informing local authorities, the military said.

China recently agreed to Duterte's demand for its warships to seek permission before entering the West Philippine Sea, said Locsin.

"To our surprise, China’s answer was 'That’s exactly what we want, we want to ask permission,'” he said.

Western countries, on the other hand "do not, as a matter of principle, ever ask for permission because they insist on total and absolute freedom of navigation,” he said.

Locsin said the Chinese warships that recently passed through Philippine waters turned off their automatic identification systems because they were hit by a storm.

Western navies also do this, he said, adding that they "invented stealth technology so they cannot be tracked."

Locsin also dubbed as "total fabrication" a report that Duterte was apologetic when he raised a 2016 arbitral victory that invalidated Beijing’s sweeping maritime claims, during a meeting with Chinese President Xi Jinping last week.

"The President has, in my experience in his visits to China, always raised the arbitral award," he said, as he requested an executive session to relay what Duterte said in these instances.

Duterte's relations with China, he said, “helped create a more congenial environment for managing issues in the West Philippine Sea."

"At the same time, the Duterte administration pursued the Philippine advocacy in the West Philippine Sea by upholding before those who contest it the arbitral award defining our rights... and by pushing for the full and effective implementation of the declaration of the conduct of parties," he said.
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Seven Chinese nationals arrested for illegal dredging in Zambales
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Immigration officials on Wednesday arrested seven Chinese nationals in Masinloc, Zambales.

The Chinese workers had no proper visas and were engaged in illegal sand dredging, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) reported.

"The subject arrested foreigners violated not only our immigration laws but also the Philippine Mining Act of 1995 and Executive Order 292," said BI Chief Jaime Morente in a statement Thursday.

Morente added that the workers posed a threat to national security.

"They are seriously threatening national security and interest by stealing our minerals and resources," he said.

The Bureau of Immigration (BI) searched six vessels, which led to the arrest of Chen Shiniu, Chen Shaoshao, Xu Xiansheng, Jiang Xin, Zhao Yihong, Gong Yaan and Xie Yuhong were arrested. They have been brought to the BI main office in Manila for questioning.

In a press briefing Thursday, Presidential Spokesperson Salvador Panelo said the local government should take responsibility for the dredging operations.

"The Zambales government should have done something about it. It's an illegal act and therefore they should be prosecuted." Panelo said.


US warship runs another FONOP near Paracel Islands
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About 1,500 Philippine military personnel opened two weeks of combat drills on land, sea and air that will include mock interdictions and amphibious landings on two island provinces fronting the South China Sea.

Philippine military officials said the exercises that opened in a ceremony Monday were designed to strengthen the military's capability to defend the country's territory and bolster internal security operations but have nothing to do with the long-simmering territorial conflicts.

Exercise director Commodore Adeluis Bordado said the drills, dubbed "Dagit-Pa," aim to improve the capability of the Philippine navy, air force and army to operate jointly in contingencies. "The three major services have their own language. To improve capability in joint operations ... we have to test how they talk to each other, how they communicate," Bordado said.

Air and sea interdiction drills will be held in a training area in Palawan province, while amphibious landings will take place in another training site in Zambales province, two regions fronting the South China Sea. There will also be a mock airfield seizure in northern Nueva Ecija and live-fire drills in Tarlac, officials said.

China has frowned on military drills in the disputed waters, especially those staged by the U.S. with its allies.


'The face of defeat': S. China Sea scholar urges PH to raise arbitral win before UN
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Updated as of Sep 22 2019 01:31 PM
MANILA - "The face of defeat."

That was how South China Sea scholar and BBC journalist Bill Hayton described the Philippines' refusal to raise its arbitral victory against China before the United Nations.

Hayton, author of the book "The South China Sea: The Struggle for Power in Asia," said he believes the Philippines "has plenty of options between pointless war and abject surrender."

"That’s what diplomacy is. In this struggle, Manila has many friends all around the world. They are willing to help..." he said.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., meantime, stood pat on the government's position, saying that the ASEAN has lost the award in UN multilateral subgroups such as the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM), a forum of more than 100 developing states.

“China's influence cannot be countered. Anyone who thinks different is ignorant. Hague Award too valuable to lose in a forlorn fight,” Locsin said.

He said the country's lawyers said it was "not a good idea to re-litigate the same issues."

"We lost in the UN's NAM at least 3 times since I assumed UN and now this post. I boycotted NAM but realized we were not there; but ASEAN was or some of it; and to no avail," he said.

Hayton said international law is on the Philippine side, citing statements by 28 European Union states and the G7.

“You have international law on your side, 28 EU states agreeing a statement in your support, G7 statements calling for maritime rules to be respected, a treaty ally committed to the defense of your ships and a cadre of competent diplomats. What more does the Philippines need?” he said.

But Locsin said the UN would merely “trash” the arbitral award and the US is “not committed to defend our ships.”

“That's just a scrap of paper, to quote a famous European," Locsin added, referring to international law.

Hayton said he does not see "signs of activity from Manila that would advance the Philippines’ interests," asking if the government has asked its diplomats to build a coalition of support.

Locsin said the agency is “on it” and that it is “not just verbally committed but enforcing as far as they can the Arbitral Award in every forum.”

“Never ever question the loyalty of the DFA to the country and the national interest regardless of administration. In the UN I led the attack and told career to keep low; I have nothing to lose; they have lots; but still they fight hard and openly," he said.

In the end, Locsin invited Hayton to do a lecture before the agency. Hayton said he would love to come.

“I would love to come! Always a pleasure discussing these issues with you po!” Hayton said.

The Duterte administration has refused to flaunt the ruling in favor of improved diplomatic ties with Beijing.


Philippine official tweets order for new protest vs China
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says 2 hours ago
The Philippine foreign secretary used Twitter to order the immediate filing of a diplomatic protest against China on Wednesday after Chinese coast guard ships reportedly neared a Philippine-occupied shoal in the disputed South China Sea.

Foreign Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr., who is accompanying Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte
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, issued the normally confidential order to officials at the Department of Foreign Affairs. Relations between the Philippines and China have vastly improved under Duterte, but territorial rifts have remained a thorny issue.

The Philippine military chief and other officials have reported new activities by Chinese coast guard vessels at
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, where Filipino marines keep watch aboard a long-grounded navy ship. China claims almost the entire South China Sea, a strategic waterway where U.S. Navy ships and aircraft have patrolled for decades.

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: “Do I have to fly home to file the goddamned diplomatic protest myself? That’s the military speaking. Not some friggin’ civilian media outlet. File now!!!”

There was no immediate comment from Chinese Embassy officials in Manila. In the past they have claimed Chinese sovereignty over the shoal.

The Asia Maritime Transparency Initiative, a Washington-based think tank which monitors movements in the disputed waters, says Chinese coast guard ships routinely patrol Second Thomas Shoal, the Luconia Shoals off Malaysia and Scarborough Shoal off the northwestern Philippines to project a Chinese presence in key areas which Beijing claims but where it does not have any permanent facilities.

Chinese coast guard ships have guarded Second Thomas from a close distance since 2013 in a quiet standoff with a small contingent of Filipino marines manning a rusty but still actively commissioned navy ship that Manila deliberately grounded in 1999 after China seized nearby Mischief Reef five years earlier.

China has demanded the Philippines pull out the World War II-era tank landing ship, the BRP Sierra Madre, and also warned Manila from undertaking construction in the area, a rich fishing ground.

Manila has refused to withdraw its navy ship and has protested past Chinese blockades of Philippine vessels transporting supplies to the marines stationed at the shoal.

A team of Associated Press journalists allowed to travel aboard a small Philippine navy-manned resupply boat with other reporters in 2014 witnessed how one of at least three Chinese coast guard ships warned the boat by radio to back away from what it said was Chinese territory.

When the Philippine vessel persisted, a much larger Chinese coast guard ship maneuvered dangerously close to block its advance.

The Philippine vessel, however, managed to move through rocky coral outcrops and reached the Sierra Madre.

Under Duterte, Chinese and Philippine officials have held talks to avoid such dangerous encounters, which have eased but continue to occur from time to time.

A Philippine official told the AP that a Philippine resupply vessel was blocked by a Chinese ship at the shoal in May.

The official said Chinese coast guard ships wanted to ensure that Philippine resupply vessels en route to Second Thomas Shoal were not loaded with construction materials.

The Philippines strongly opposes such Chinese inspections of its ships in the vicinity of the shoal and will protest any such attempt, said the official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of a lack of authority to speak publicly about the issue.


didn't know about the trade flow:
China promised Duterte US$9 billion. He’s had only US$924 million in loans and grants. Why?
  • Beijing in 2016 pledged to fund an array of major construction jobs for the Philippine president’s signature Build, Build, Build programme
  • But three years on, many projects remain on the drawing board, leaving Duterte with little to show for his much-touted policy pivot to China
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if interested


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National Grid Corporation of the Philippines
"It is a consortium of 3 corporations, namely Monte Oro Grid Resources Corporation, Calaca High Power Corporation, and the
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Duterte: China won’t shut down power grid
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