All posts by: Con Yap

Oil prices seen rising until yearend

Consumers should brace for higher prices of local petroleum products until the end of this year as the Brent benchmark for crude prices would likely reach as much as $130 a barrel, according to a Platts official.

At the sidelines of the Platts Forum held Tuesday, Jorge Montepeque, global director for pricing at Platts, admitted that while nobody could rightfully predict oil prices, the slowdown in the growth in Asia has tempered what would have been a surge in Brent prices to as much as $150 a barrel.

“Growth in Asia is not so hot anymore. I think $120 barrel to $130 a barrel [pricing for Brent] is quite likely because China is cooling off a little bit. China is not as strong as it was. But the overall base for prices continue to be very strong,” Montepeque explained.

Although the expected increase in the Brent benchmark for crude prices would definitely impact local fuel prices, Montepeque urged the Aquino administration “not to do much at all and let the [fuel price] market be free.”

The Philippines uses the Dubai crude benchmark for crude prices while Brent is used largely as a benchmark in Europe. However, the price movement of the Dubai crude closely follows that of the Brent, which stood at $116 a barrel as of Monday.

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

‘We like Filipinos’

The Philippines on Tuesday welcomed an envoy loyal to embattled Libyan strongman Moammar Gadhafi, who assured that some 1,700 overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who opted to remain in the rebellion-torn country were safe, according to the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA).

Raul Hernandez, the new DFA spokesperson, said the Philippines continues to maintain an embassy in Tripoli despite calls from countries allied with the so-called Contact Group on Libya and the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (Nato) to withdraw support for Gadhafi’s government.

In a statement on Tuesday, Hernandez said visiting Libyan Immigration and Expatriates Office Undersecretary Abdulhadi Al-Huwaiji met with Foreign Secretary Albert del Rosario on Friday and assured him that the Libyan government “will continue to facilitate the sending of the OFWs’ remittances to their families in the Philippines.”

Read more at Philippine Daily Inquirer

$1.5-billion OFW remittances may be lost due to Saudi Arabia’s Nitaqat program

Some $1.5 billion worth of annual remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in Saudi Arabia could be lost because of the kingdom’s Nitaqat program, which requires more than 300,000 firms there to increase their hiring of locals, and lessen their employment of foreigners, an administration lawmaker said yesterday.

“There’s no question Nitaqat is a potential threat to the job security of some Filipinos in Saudi Arabia, particularly those whose skills can be readily replaced by locals there,” LPGMA party-list Rep. Arnel Ty said yesterday.

“For example, once Nitaqat becomes effective, Saudi citizens must comprise at least 10 percent of the labor forces of all construction companies, and a minimum of 70 percent of the staff headcount of all financial firms there,” he said.

Migrant workers’ groups have warned that up to 150,000 OFWs in Saudi Arabia could possibly be displaced by Nitaqat.

Read more at Philippine Star

PNP still lacks equipment to respond to crisis situations – official

An official of the Philippine National Police (PNP) said the police still lack equipment to respond to crisis situations similar to the bloody hostage-taking incident at the Rizal Park in Manila where eight Hong Kong tourists and the hostage taker were killed on Aug. 23, 2010.

Director Leocadio Santiago, chief of the PNP-Directorate for Operation, said members of the PNP Crisis Action Force (CAF) need special equipment to effectively respond to emergencies like hostage-taking.

“On air assault for instance, CAF members need entry equipment and firearms for a close-encounter response,” Santiago said.

He said the insertion equipment for troops are necessary to secure an enclosed area.

The PNP Directorate for Operations is the unit supervising the five days of “unscripted” crisis situation exercises being assessed by anti-terrorist experts from the United States, Australia, New Zealand and Singapore.

Santiago, the chief of the National Capital Regional Police Office (NCRPO) at the time of the hostage-taking crisis, said the second day of the crisis situation exercises showed that CAF members lack better boats and flotation devices to properly respond when the crisis takes place at sea.

Read more at Philippine Star

Palace to closely monitor peso appreciation

Malacañang said yesterday it is closely monitoring the appreciation of the peso against the dollar to see what can be done to address its impact on the local economy and on ordinary Filipinos.

“We’re watching the situation and it’s difficult to say right now whether the weakness in the dollar will be temporary or sustained. There are many fundamental issues with the US economy that President (Barack) Obama and (US) Congress are working on. So it’s difficult to make a prediction at this point,” Presidential Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ricky Carandang said.

He stressed the weakening of the dollar “is a phenomenon that is beyond our control.”

An eleventh-hour deal between the White House and the US Congress averted a debt crisis.

Carandang said in a press briefing that the government would have to evaluate the positive and negative effects of the peso appreciation.

Read more at Philippine Star

Ramadhan iftar feted in A.R.M.M.

Officials and employees of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao alongside their families feted the first Ramadhan iftar (breaking of fast) at the Blue Mosque of the ARMM regional complex here Tuesday, sounding off calls for reconciliation, unity, forgiving and piety.

ARMM Executive Secretary Naguib Sinarimbo, representing Acting Regional Governor Hooky Alonto-Adiong, ceremonially switched on the network of modern colorful lights installed at the Blue Mosque and around the regional complex, at the stroke of 6 p.m. Tuesday that saw over 300 people partaking foods initially before performing the magrib prayer. (Ali G. Macabalang)

Read more at Manila Bulletin

Enrile rejects poll fraud probe

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile rejected Tuesday a legislative probe into the purported election fraud committed during the 2004 and 2007 national elections, confident that the Department of Justice (DoJ) and the Commission on Elections (Comelec) can successfully investigate the controversy and resolve the case.

“While I will leave it for the majority of the Senate members to decide, my personal position is that a joint inves-tigation by the DoJ and the Comelec would be the better forum to investigate these allegations of fraud during the 2004 national elections,” Enrile said in a statement.

Justice Secretray Leila de Lima said the DoJ will lead the joint DoJ-Comelec probe into massive poll cheating in the 2004 and 2007 elections.

She said the DoJ and Comelec agreed to create a five-member committee – three representatives from the DoJ and two from the Comelec – that will look into alleged cheating.

Enrile said investigations conducted by the Senate were usually done in aid of legislation, especially if no appropriate law has been enacted to address a particular issue.

“In this case, however, we already have our election laws in place,” Enrile said.

Read more at Manila Bulletin

Mike Arroyo summoned

The Senate Blue Ribbon Committee has summoned former First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo to its next hearing on the alleged anomalous procurement of helicopters by the Philippine National Police (PNP).

Senator Panfilo Lacson moved that Arroyo appear in the next hearing after two businessmen testified before the committee Tuesday that the former First Gentleman was the original owner of the second-hand helicopters purchased by the PNP at the price of brand-new aircraft.

Archibald Po, president of Lionair, Inc., and Hilario de Vera, president and general manager of Manila Aerospace Products Trading Corp. (Maptra) both implicated Arroyo in the transaction.

Following the disclosure of the two businessmen, Senate President Pro Tempore Jose “Jinggoy” Estrada urged the Department of Justice (DoJ) and Malacañang to immediately place the former First Gentleman in the watch list of the Bureau of Immigration (BI).

Estrada said the move is to ensure Mr. Arroyo would appear in the Senate’s next hearing to shed light on the purchase of two pre-owned helicopters, which were passed off as brand new.

Lacson also moved that Arroyo’s secretary, Rowena del Rosario, be called to testify.

Read more at Manila Bulletin

CBCP calls on SC to order Luisita land distribution

The Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) yesterday reiterated its call to the Supreme Court (SC) to order the distribution of Hacienda Luisita to farmer-beneficiaries.

Fr. Edu Gariguez, executive secretary of the CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action, Justice and Peace, said “in the name of social justice, Hacienda Luisita should be distributed to the farmers.”

“We cannot allow a confusing Supreme Court decision to galvanize the stranglehold of the Cojuangcos on the land,” Gariguez said.

They also appealed to the High Court to rule out the stock distribution option (SDO).

“Hacienda Luisita would serve as a test case in the Aquino administration’s seriousness in implementing the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program Extension with Reforms,” Gariguez

“The Church cannot remain deaf and blind to the cry of the people… We will take a watchful eye on this case and we will not allow another defeat for the Hacienda Luisita farm workers,” he said.

Read more at Philippine Star

Carpio-Morales: new ombudsman

President Aquino named yesterday retired Supreme Court (SC) associate justice Conchita Carpio-Morales as the new ombudsman in his second State of the Nation Address.

“When the new Ombudsman, former Supreme Court Justice Conchita Carpio-Morales, takes office, we will have an honest-to-goodness anti-corruption office, not one that condones the corruption and abuses in government,” the President said, receiving one of the loudest and strongest applause when he made the announcement as part of his speech.

“I expect that this year, we will have filed our first major case against the corrupt and their accomplices. And these will be real cases, with strong evidence and clear testimonies, which will lead to the punishment of the guilty,” he said.

Read more at Philippine Star