ECCP at Work

ECCP@Work Featured Articles | April 26, 2024

April 26, 2024

ECCP Online

ECCP at Work

NEDA: 2-4% inflation still a fighting goal

The country’s socioeconomic planning chief still sees the government’s two to four percent inflation target as a fighting goal, even as it continues to monitor developments abroad. National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said that should the inflation rate breach this target, it would be a “challenge.”

House to focus on nat’l security, economic bills

The 19th Congress will resume session on April 29, with the House of Representatives focusing on passing measures that intend to enhance national security and promote economic development. Speaker Romualdez said the House’s development agenda was expansive, targeting pivotal areas such as healthcare, education and digital infrastructure.

2024 GDP growth can still hit 6%, says Neda

The economy could still hit the 6 percent growth target this year, even if the BSP decides to cut rates later than previously expected, the state’s chief socioeconomic planner said. Secretary Arsenio Balisacan of the National Economic and Development Authority said the Marcos administration’s tempered GDP growth target of 6 to 7 percent for 2024 already took into account the possibility of interest rates staying higher for longer.

Government infrastructure spending scaled up to P121 billion

The government increased its infrastructure spending by nearly seven percent to P121 billion from January to February compared to last year’s level on the back of higher disbursements for road projects, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said.

UN climate report: PHL warming at faster rate

Asian countries like the Philippines are warming faster than the global average, according to a new report from the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). In the State of the Climate in Asia 2023 report, WMO said the warming trend has nearly doubled since the 1961–1990 period. The report said the Philippine Sea along with the North-Western Arabian Sea and the seas east of Japan have seen temperature increases that are more than three times faster than the global mean upper ocean warming rate.

Estrada bill mandates financial literacy program for workers

Senator Jinggoy Estrada is banking on Congress to promptly pass a bill for Malacañang to enact a law mandating financial literacy program for workers. In filing Senate Bill (SB) 2630, Estrada said the enabling legislation is awaited “to help workers make sound financial decisions,” adding that the enabling bill also aims to require employers nationwide to provide a “free financial literacy program for all its employees.” The senator explains that “the role of employers to take a lead in this endeavor cannot be undermined because they provide the most accessible venues and channels for such initiatives.”

PHL eyes Japan, US nickel ore market via minerals deal

The Philippines needs to accede to the critical mineral agreement between the United States and Japan to ensure “resiliency of supply” of nickel ores and to enable the Philippines to attract more investments into mineral processing, according to Trade and Industry Secretary Alfredo E. Pascual. “Now, Japan has a critical mineral agreement with the US, but they don’t produce nickel ores. Nickel ores come from the Philippines through a Japanese company that has a processing plant here. Not large scale, yes Sumitomo. They have two [high-pressure acid leach] HPAL processing plants,” Pascual told reporters at a recent briefing.

2-month state infrastructure spending rises 6.7% on road, defense works

The state ramped up its infrastructure spending for the first two months of the year by 6.7 percent to P120.5 billion to fund the government’s road infrastructure programs and defense modernization projects. Latest data from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) showed state infrastructure expenditure and other capital outlays reached P120.5 billion from January to February, up by 6.7 percent or P7.5 billion, from the P113.0 billion recorded in the same period in 2023. The DBM traced the increase in infrastructure spending to higher disbursements posted by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the Department of National Defense (DND).

Port upgrade needs 30B

The Department of Agriculture (DA) said  the Philippine Fisheries Development Authority (PFDA) will require a budget of P30.1 billion to finance a four-year upgrade of over a dozen regional and subregional seaports into deep-water ports. A said  apart from deepening access channels to the ports to accommodate fully-laden Panamax vessels, the multi-year development plan also includes the construction of silos, cold storage, agricultural processing areas, cargo handling facilities, quays, shipyards, fuel depots and pipelines. The upgrade of these ports is part of the government’s vision of transforming these facilities into agri-logistics hubs across the country.

Developer defers REIT

SM Prime Holdings Inc. is moving to a later timeline its planned real estate investment trust (REIT) citing an unfavorable market. Jeffrey Lim, SM Prime president, said the current interest rate environment and the capital market as a whole do not offer a good time to sell shares from its planned REIT. “Next year we’ll see, because we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next several months,” he said. “I don’t think it’s the right time for us to do it.

Energy policy failure

The Department of Energy (DOE) has revealed that the total capacity of power plants in forced outages has more than doubled over the past two weeks compared to the average 700 MW recorded over the last four years. Of course. What would they expect after officials of the DOE, past and present, did nothing about the inconvenient reality that 50 percent of our operating power plants are over 20 years old and are losing their reliability. Inadequate power supply also means higher power rates for consumers because spot market prices at WESM will spike. The red and yellow alerts can be blamed on failure of energy policy. 

Meralco, DOE urge firms to join ILP to ensure power supply sufficiency

The Manila Electric Company (Meralco) and the Department of Energy (DOE) called on companies to participate in the government's Interruptible Load Program (ILP) to help maintain adequate power supply during the warm and dry season. In a press release on Tuesday, Meralco said that the Red Alert status which hounded the Luzon Grid for three consecutive days underscored the need for ILP participants, as it will help in preventing power interruptions within Meralco's franchise area. The ILP, a voluntary demand-side management program, encourages large power consumers to temporarily reduce their grid load and use their generators or scale back operations when the power supply is insufficient.

Investors pour over $700 million into Philippine digital banks

Global and local investors have poured over $700 million (around P40 billion) into the country’s digital banking sector to support the industry’s growth and potential to reshape the online financial landscape. The Digital Bank Association of the Philippines (DiBA PH) said the country’s six digital banks have attracted significant capital since 2021.

Manila jumps five spots in Global Green Finance Index

MANILA moved up five spots in the latest ranking of financial centers based on their green finance performance, according to London-based think tank Z/Yen Group. In the 13th edition of the Global Green Finance Index (GGFI), Manila ranked 69th out of 96 financial centers. This was better than its 74th ranking in the previous edition.

Agriculture losses due to El Niño hit P4B

The El Niño phenomenon has so far caused about P4 billion in agriculture losses, said a Palace official on Wednesday. According to Task Force El Niño spokesperson and Presidential Communications Office Asst. Secretary Joey Villarama, the amount represents the damage inflicted by the dry spell on 66,000 hectares of farmland.

Entire PH placed under power alerts

The country’s power supply reserves level worsened as red and yellow alerts were declared in all three major island grids in the country yesterday. Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao power grids were placed under red and yellow alerts as of  8 a.m. yesterday as 64 power plant units were on either forced outage or de-rated with a total unavailable capacity of 3,135.88 megawatts (MW). Power alert levels were first raised in the Luzon and Visayas grids  on April 16 to 20. No alert levels were raised on April 21 and 22 but were hoisted  again in Luzon and Visayas from April 23 to 24. The Mindanao grid was placed under a power alert level for the first time yesterday.

P300B sought to improve digital infra, connectivity

The Private Sector Advisory Council (PSAC) has asked government to set aside P240 billion to enhance internet infrastructure. The group, in its fifth meeting with President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. on April 19, also proposed legislative and policy measures to support the digital infrastructure sector. PSAC also requested at least P60 billion in annual allocation for the DICT to lease towers, build last-mile facilities, and optimize existing telco facilities to provide internet access in 125,000 public facilities, including schools, hospitals, and health centers, over a four-year period.

Budget deficit narrows in March

THE National Government’s (NG) budget gap narrowed in March amid a dip in tax collection and muted spending, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) reported on Wednesday. Data from the BTr showed the Philippines’ budget deficit shrank by 6.82% to P195.9 billion in March from P210.3 billion in the same month a year ago. Month on month, the fiscal gap widened from the P164.7-billion deficit in February.

Philippines lags Southeast Asian neighbors in smart tourism index

THE PHILIPPINES lags behind some of its Southeast Asian neighbors in terms of readiness in developing smart tourism ecosystems, hampered by high internet costs and accessibility issues in rural areas, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) said. In a report entitled “Smart Tourism Ecosystem Development Readiness in Southeast Asia,” the Philippines received an average readiness score of 56. A score of 100 indicates a country’s ability to adopt an enabling environment for smart tourism. Among six Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) members in the index, the Philippines ranked fourth, behind Thailand (72), Vietnam (67) and Indonesia (66).

Government infrastructure spending scaled up to P121 billion

The government increased its infrastructure spending by nearly seven percent to P121 billion from January to February compared to last year’s level on the back of higher disbursements for road projects, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) said. Based on the latest national government disbursement performance report of the DBM, state infrastructure expenditure and other capital outlays climbed by 6.7 percent to P120.5 billion in the first two months from P113 billion in the same period last year.

Extending RCEF, using it for non-rice sectors, possible

THE National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) is open to extending the Rice Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (RCEF) and using it for other sectors apart from rice. According to Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Arsenio M. Balisacan, using the RCEF for other sectors may lead to higher productivity in other agriculture sectors and will also bode well for the country. Balisacan said there are arguments to support and do not support the extension of the RCEF, but all these should be carefully studied.

InstaPay, PESONet transactions increase by 32.8% at end-March 

Transactions coursed through InstaPay and PESONet hit P3.81 trillion as of end-March, data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed. The combined value of transactions done via automated clearing houses InstaPay and PESONet jumped by 32.8% from the P2.87 trillion in the same period a year ago.

Import easing to curb inflation, NEDA says

NEDA Secretary Arsenio Balisacan said Administrative Order (AO) No. 20 was issued “as a supply-side response to help curb inflation by addressing its fundamental causes: shortages of food commodities due to inadequate and untimely imports.” Mr. Balisacan said that the order serves to stabilize prices and manage inflation amid weak local supply.

NCR economic output grew by 4.9% in 2023

Preliminary PSA data on the latest regional accounts showed that the National Capital Region’s (NCR) economic growth slowed sharply in 2023 from the 7.2% expansion in 2022. This was Metro Manila’s weakest economic growth since the 4.4% print in 2021. NCR growth was also slower than the Philippines’ 5.5% gross domestic product (GDP) print last year.

HSBC expects BSP to begin easing in Q4

“The easing cycle may be delayed, but we don’t think there will be any rate hikes ahead with non-monetary policies at work,” HSBC economist for ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Aris D. Dacanay said. HSBC said the central bank is expected to start easing with a 25-basis-point (bp) cut in the fourth quarter, later than its earlier forecast of rate cuts in the third quarter.

Coal plant moratorium to stay — DoE 

“The moratorium (stands, if the LNG or liquefied natural gas) power plants would have a higher degree of reliability, then the private sector may opt for that rather than put up coal plants,” Energy Secretary Raphael P.M. Lotilla said. In 2020, the Energy department issued a moratorium on the development of new coal-fired power plants, as the country sought to reduce its dependence on coal.

SEC sets deadline for 2024 submission of annual reports

All corporations, including branch offices, representative offices, regional headquarters and regional operating headquarters of foreign corporations whose fiscal years ended on December 31, 2023 shall file their AFS according to the following schedule based on the last digit of their respective registration or license number. A corporation whose fiscal year ended on a date other than December 31, 2023 shall file its AFS within 120 calendar days from the end of its fiscal year. 

PhilHealth: Benefit package for heat stroke now at P8K

PhilHealth said it raised its benefit package for heat stroke patients to P8,450 earlier this year even before the country started experiencing extremely high temperatures. PhilHealth vice president for Corporate Affairs Rey Baleña said the higher rate is part of the increase in all benefit packages implemented by the agency earlier in the year.

PH stays out of US watchlist

The Philippines remains out of the United States watchlist on intellectual property (IP) violators. This is the 11th year that the Philippines has been delisted by the US Trade Representative Special 301 Report on Intellectual Property Protection and Enforcement.

Tourist arrivals grow 15%, receipts up 35%

Tourist arrivals as of April 24 stood at 2 million, a 15-percent increase from 1.75 million in the same period in 2023, data from the Department of Tourism (DOT) showed. The DOT said in the first quarter, tourism receipts were recorded at P157.62 billion,  a 35.49 percent increase from P114 billion in the same period  last year.

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