World Newsletter

PHILIPPINES NEWS
27 January 2020

BSP CHIEF: GOV'T DEALS PROBED, 'OVERNIGHT' TAKEOVER 'WILL NOT HAPPEN'

MANILA -- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said Monday a
government takeover of businesses with alleged onerous contracts "will not
happen overnight" as these will go through legal processes.
President Rodrigo Duterte and his cabinet secretaries have in recent weeks
flagged irregularities in state deals with Manila Water Co, Maynilad Water
Services Inc, Ayala Land, Chevron Philippines and Light Rail Manila Corp,
sending share prices tumbling.
"That's going to go through the legal process. It will not happen overnight
like a takeover by government. That will not happen. There will be a
process," Diokno told ANC's Early Edition.
"If you're a businessman, you are looking for where you'll make money and if
you invest in the Philippines you'll make a lot of money," he said.
Asked if scrutiny of government contracts would dampen business sentiment,
Diokno said: "I don't think so."
The Philippines' is on track to achieve a credit rating of "A" for the first
time, Diokno said. The Philippines is currently in the B tier, meaning
investment grade.
"Right now, we are rated by the credit rating agencies as A, except that
it's formality. It has to go through formality," he said.
A "Road to A" team composed of the BSP, the Department of Finance, the
Bureau of the Treasury and the National Economic and Development Authority
is working to secure the score, he said.


BANGKO SENTRAL'S DIOKNO SAYS TO 'GO SLOW' ON INTEREST RATE CUTS THIS YEAR

MANILA -- Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin Diokno said Monday
he would "go slow" on monetary policy easing this year, saying the economy
was in a "nice place" of strong growth and within target inflation.
The central bank has "a lot of room" to unwind the 175-basis point interest
rate hike from 2018, Diokno said, ahead of the monetary board's first
meeting for the year on Feb. 6. He cut rates by 75 points in 2019 and
earlier signaled a further 50-point reduction this year.
"We're doing great. We're in a very nice place right now. We'll go slow in
our monetary easing," Diokno told ANC's Early Edition. The economy could
grow by 6.5 to 7 percent this year and unemployment is "low," he said.
"Our projection is that maybe, there's still some area for cutting both the
reserve requirement and the interest rate. Maybe not as aggressive as last
year," he said.
The Feb. 6 policy rate decision will be "data-dependent," Diokno said. Gross
domestic product growth accelerated to 6.4 percent in the fourth quarter of
2019, however full year growth came in at 5.9 percent, missing the low end
of the government's target.
An expected uptick in inflation this year is "nothing to be scared of" since
it will likely stay within the 2 to 4 percent range, he said. Inflation will
be "in the neighborhood of 3 percent" in 2020, he said.
"We're very confident that the inflation rate that we've seen in 2018 will
not occur this year and next year," he said.
Inflation peaked at near 10-year highs in 2018 due to high rice prices,
prompting the 175-point rate hike.


NO VFA? MANILA CAN SEEK MILITARY AID FROM RUSSIA, CHINA: PALACE OFFICIAL

MANILA - The Philippines can seek military assistance from Russia or China
should it end its Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA) with the US, a Palace
official said Monday.
Manila on Friday said it has begun the process of ending the VFA upon the
orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, who wanted to halt the deal after
Washington canceled the visa of his former police chief, Sen. Ronald "Bato"
dela Rosa.
The VFA, which covers the conduct of American soldiers in the Philippines,
is among military agreements between the Philippines and the US.
"He (Duterte) did say that we can go to Russia, we can go to China for
assistance in battling these terrorists," Communications Secretary Martin
Andanar told ANC's Headstart.
"It's the prerogative of the President, if he wants our country to be
friends with other superpowers like the People's Republic of China and
Russia then so be it."
Andanar said the President's decision was a "matter of the Philippines
sending a message to the US that we are not succumbing to their
neo-colonialism."
"The past administrations have been, I would say, supportive in a way that
already giving the US a free hand on whatever they want our government to
do," he said.
"It is a way for our President to say look, we are an independent country
and so we should stop being a lapdog of the United States."
Former Philippine Ambassador to the US Jose Cuisia Jr. had said Manila will
be "the biggest loser" should it end its VFA with Washington as it will lose
military training exercises and assistance as China continues its
militarization of the West Philippine Sea.
"It will embolden China even more considering even with the MDT (Military
Defense Treaty), the VFA, they have militarized those 3 reefs they grabbed
from the Philippines," he told ANC's Early Edition.
"What I think the US will say is if that's what you want then fine but
please be aware of what the consequences are. I don't think the US is gonna
beg us. I think we will be the biggest loser, not the US."


KUWAIT DISMAYED BY PHILIPPINES' 'BLOOD FOR BLOOD' STANCE

MANILA - Kuwait has expressed dismay over the remark of Foreign Affairs
Secretary Teodoro Locsin Jr. that he would accept only the lives of the
killers of Filipina household worker Jeanelyn Villavende, rejecting blood
money from her Kuwait employers as settlement.
A report of the Kuwait News Agency over the weekend cited an official source
at the Kuwait Ministry of Foreign Affairs voicing Kuwait's dismay and
condemnation of Locsin's remark about the case of Villavende, who was
allegedly killed by her employers.
Locsin said on Friday he would reject any offer of "blood money" or
settlement from Villavende's killers.
"THERE WILL BE BLOOD @DFAPHL for Jeanelyn Villavende. I renounce & reject
any offer of blood money for her torture/murder. I want two lives for the
life they took," he tweeted.
The official source, according to the report, said Locsin's remark
"contained an unacceptable transgression against jurisdictions of Kuwaiti
security and judicial authorities" and decried the secretary's statement as
an "unusual approach in dealing with countries."
"It runs counter to the simplest rules of international relations," the
source said, noting that the Philippines' top diplomat's remark represents
an attempt to influence the ongoing investigations.
The source also lauded measures taken by relevant Kuwaiti agencies on
Villavende's case, noting that authorities quickly arrested those who
committed the crime and referred them to a fair judiciary.
The Kuwaiti government, to show its commitment in the case, is willing to
allow investigators from the Philippines to join its investigation of the
murder.
In his tweet, Locsin said he was interested in an "eye for an eye"
resolution and won't settle for anything less.
"The rest is a sideshow. I will not trade that poor woman's torment for some
shit concession on labor rights. I want two lives for the life they took.
Don't change the subject," he tweeted.
The Kuwaiti Foreign Ministry is expected to release soon the full reports of
the police investigation and autopsy on the case of Villavende.


CHINA CORONAVIRUS INFECTED NOW AT 2,744, DEATH TOLL AT 80

WUHAN, China - China's central government said on Monday that the nationwide
total of confirmed infections from a deadly respiratory virus had risen to
2,744, with 769 new cases coming to light.
However, it said no new deaths were confirmed outside of Hubei province,
which had earlier reported 24 new fatalities to bring the national total to
80 dead.
China has locked down the hard-hit province of Hubei in the country's
center, an unprecedented operation affecting tens of millions of people and
intended to slow transmission of the respiratory virus.
Its ability to spread appears to be "getting stronger" though it is "not as
powerful as SARS", top Chinese health officials said at a press conference.
A working group chaired by Chinese Premier Li Keqiang to tackle the epidemic
decided to extend the Spring Festival holiday originally scheduled to end on
January 30 "to reduce population flows," alongside unspecified changes to
the starting dates of schools, state news agency Xinhua reported.
The US State Department said Sunday it was arranging a flight from Wuhan to
San Francisco for consulate staff and other Americans in the city.
France's government and the French carmaker PSA also said they planned to
evacuate staff and families, who will be quarantined in a city in a
neighboring province.
Japan is coordinating with Beijing to swiftly evacuate its citizens, Prime
Minister Shinzo Abe said.
Saudi Arabia asked its nationals present around Wuhan to contact its embassy
for evacuation, while Jordan said it had obtained permission from Beijing to
move its citizens from the city out of the country.


TAAL EVACUEES HESITATE TO GO HOME AFTER DANGER ALERT GOES DOWN

MANILA - Tens of thousands who fled to evacuation centers due to the
eruption of Taal Volcano earlier this month are hesitant to return home even
after authorities downgraded a danger alert, police said Monday.
Volcanologists on Sunday lowered the alert status of Taal, which sits in a
lake south of the capital, to 3 from 4 to indicate a "decreased tendency
towards hazardous explosive eruption".
The volcano recently spawned less quakes and gas emissions, and only its
western side remained swollen -- all indications that magma or molten rocks
stopped moving toward its crater, said seismology institute Phivolcs
director Renato Solidum.
"Kung sakaling magbabago ang kondisyon ng volcano, puwede nating itaas ang
alert level 4," he told radio DZMM.
"Pero kung patuloy ang pagbaba ng ating mga parametrong tinitingnan, puwede
nating ibaba sa alert level 2 ang kondisyon ng volcano," he added.
Authorities have to monitor Taal for 2 weeks before downgrading the alert to
level 2, which means there is a "low level of volcanic unrest," according to
the Phivolcs website.
Told that the danger from Taal had not ceased, "less than 30 percent" of
evacuees in Batangas had returned home, said the province's police chief
Col. Edwin Quilates.
"Maraming nag-aagam-agam. Kasama rin kasi sa pagbibigay information namin
iyong sinabi ng Phivolcs at PDRRMO (provincial disaster office) na although
binalik na ng level 3, ini-inform namin na puwede pa ring mag-upgrade ulit
at anytime," Quilates told radio DZMM.
Batangas' Agoncillo and Laurel towns, where Taal's quakes opened giant
cracks on the ground, remained on lockdown. Engineers have to check the
safety of buildings before residents are allowed to return, he added.
Some 137,000 people were still in evacuation centers as of 6 p.m. Sunday,
the disaster agency reported.


MANILA JUMPS TO 8TH PLACE AMONG WORLD'S MOST DYNAMIC CITIES

MANILA - Manila further moved up in the global ranking of the most dynamic
cities, gaining four notches to land at eighth place in the latest survey by
leading real estate and investment management services firm JLL.
The 2020 edition of JLL's City Momentum Index showed Manila rose to the
eighth spot this year from 12th in 2019 and 18th in 2018.
The index combines socio-economic and commercial property metrics of 130
markets to identify the world's most dynamic urban centers. It identifies a
number of key growth drivers, including talent attraction, the expansion of
innovation hubs and better urban planning, that cities can employ to meet
the challenges faced by rapid momentum.
In terms of real estate, Manila ranked 48th, with prime rental growth of
+3.8 percent annual average for 2020-2022 (19th globally), office net
absorption of 7.3 percent (14th globally), and hotel construction of 15.6
percent (also 14th globally).
Based on the JLL index, Asia Pacific is home to the most dynamic urban
centers in the world, with three-quarters of the world's top 20 cities in
the region.
The results, JLL said, show a continued shift in global influence from West
to East, with Indian, Chinese and Vietnamese cities dominating the top
positions.
Meanwhile, China's role in driving global momentum continues to be
significant; one-fifth of the global top 20 cities are in China. Shanghai
stands alone as the only city to feature in the top 20 throughout the past
seven years.


COMELEC OFFICIAL PUSHES FOR ADVANCED, MOBILE APP VOTING

MANILA - Will advanced voting for the marginalized sectors and mobile app
voting for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) come into play in the 2022
presidential elections?
Commissioner Rowena Guanzon, who is pushing for these new modes of casting
votes in the national elections, is optimistic the Commission on Elections
(Comelec) will approve them.
Guanzon, speaking in Cadiz City, Negros Occidental last Saturday, said she
is set to propose that members of certain sectors be allowed to vote ahead
of time.
Among these voters are persons with disability (PWDs) and those deprived of
liberty or prisoners, senior citizens, indigenous people and pregnant women.
The official said she is confident that the proposal will be passed by the
Comelec full bench within two weeks' time.
However, such as measure would still require passage of a law, for its
implementation in the 2022 polls.


RUMORED CORONAVIRUS CASE JUST PNEUMONIA, MANILA HEALTH DEPARTMENT SAYS

MANILA - Manila City Hall on Monday said there is no confirmed case of the
novel coronavirus (2019 nCoV) in Manila despite rumors spreading online.
In a statement Monday, the Manila Public Information Office said that Dr.
Arnold Pangan, the city's health officer, reported that the supposed case
involved a 27-year-old Philippine Offshore Gaming Operator worker who
arrived in the country on January 25.

The Chinese national was hospitalized at the Metropolitan Medical Center on
Masangay Street in Binondo due to fever and cough.
"[Manila Health Department] Surveillance Team, in coordination with
[Department of Health] surveillance, and as per investigation, patient has
fever and cough but negative on history of travel to Wuhan, China, and no
history of exposure to a host or positive case," Pangan said.
The POGO worker came from "Obei" in China, the Manila PIO said. Wuhan is the
capital of Hubei province in China.
Pangan said the Chinese national was diagnosed with community-acquired
pneumonia and is now "well" and "has no fever."
Moreno appeals to public: Do not share unconfirmed reports
Manila Mayor Francisco "Isko Moreno" Domagoso meanwhile appealed to the
public to refrain from spreading unconfirmed reports on social media to
avoid adding to the anxiety over the deadly virus.
"Hindi ikinikibit-balikat ang sitwasyong ito. Be vigilant. Huwag kayong
maiilang. Huwag muna masyadong mag-alala," Moreno said.
Moreno told the public to follow government reports instead.


LAKERS LEGEND KOBE BRYANT, 8 OTHERS DEAD IN HELICOPTER CRASH: OFFICIAL

Nine people were killed in the helicopter crash that claimed the life of NBA
star Kobe Bryant and his daughter, Los Angeles officials confirmed on
Sunday.
Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva said eight passengers and the
pilot of the aircraft died in the accident.
"There were no survivors... There were nine people on board the aircraft,
the pilot plus eight individuals," Villanueva said.
Authorities said firefighters received a call shortly before 9:37 am about
the crash, which caused a brush fire on a hillside.
Los Angeles County Fire Chief Daryl Osby said firefighters had to hike to
the site of the crash with medical equipment and hose lines to extinguish
the blaze.
Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti confirmed that Bryant's 13-year-old daughter
Gianna was among the victims.
"L.A. is grieving with the Bryant family over the loss of Gianna, who
perished with her father and friends in today's tragedy," Garcetti wrote on
Twitter.
Gianna was one of Bryant's four children with wife Vanessa.
Bryant and Gianna had been flying to a game his daughter was expected to
play in when their helicopter crashed, according to US reports.
"The impact and legacy he leaves behind will last forever," Pacquiao said of
Bryant.


ALL SEEMS WELL BETWEEN EXES JAMES, NADINE AFTER SPLIT

MANILA - They were spotted partying at a bar in Makati on Saturday.
Apparently, James Reid and Nadine Lustre also spent time together on Sunday.
As seen in the most recent Instagram post of Reid's sister Lauren, the
former couple had pasta night along with their group of friends.
Although the Reid and Lustre weren't seated next to each other in the
photos, it seems like all is well between the two despite their breakup.
This was more than enough reason for their fans to hope that a
reconciliation between the two is possible.
Reid and Lustre, who would have celebrated their fourth anniversary on
February 11, had said they decided to part ways to "focus on ourselves not
only for our careers but more for our personal growth."
"It's true that we have split up, but not for all the reasons that are being
spread on the tabloids and social media, but because after quiet and mature
conversations, we decided to focus on ourselves not only for our careers but
more for our personal growth as we are still young and we want to achieve as
much as we can," they said.
"We agreed that going separate ways was best for both of us. We are in good
terms and are still really good friends and will continue to work with each
other especially when it comes to music," they added.
To end their statement, the two said: "Thank you for all the JaDine fans for
their undying support and we hope you continue to support us now and in the
future. We shall forever be grateful to them for their love and
understanding. Thank you."


NBA SCORES JAN 25


FINAL
    1    2    3    4    T
team logo Mavericks 28-17    36    22    26    23    107
team logo Jazz 32-13    25    30    25    32    112
SCORING LEADERSL. Doncic DAL
25 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST
D. Mitchell UTA
25 PTS, 8 REB, 5 AST


FINAL/OT
    1    2    3    4    OT    T
team logo Nets 19-25    26    24    30    26    15    121
team logo Pistons 17-30    25    35    17    29    5    111
SCORING LEADERSK. Irving BKN
45 PTS, 6 REB, 7 AST
D. Rose DET
27 PTS, 4 REB, 6 AST


FINAL
    1    2    3    4    T
team logo Thunder 28-19    28    24    39    22    113
team logo Timberwolves 15-31    22    26    24    32    104
SCORING LEADERSD. Schroder OKC
26 PTS, 4 REB, 2 AST
K. Towns MIN
37 PTS, 8 REB, 6 AST


FINAL
    1    2    3    4    T
team logo Bulls 18-30    25    34    40    19    118
team logo Cavaliers 12-34    31    26    19    30    106
SCORING LEADERSZ. LaVine CHI
44 PTS, 10 REB, 8 AST
K. Love CLE
20 PTS, 11 REB, 2 AST


FINAL
    1    2    3    4    T
team logo Lakers 36-10    25    25    23    18    91
team logo 76ers 30-17    35    24    26    23    108
SCORING LEADERS
    A. Davis LAL
31 PTS, 7 REB, 2 AST
    T. Harris PHI
29 PTS, 8 REB, 1 AST

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