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Exporters Optimistic to Sustain Revenue Growth in 2018

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The Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport), the umbrella organization of exporters in the country, expressed optimism that the sector’s positive growth in 2017 could be sustained this year.

This is despite export revenues in November 2017 recording its slowest growth last year at 1.6 percent year-on-year.

Data from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed that export revenues in November last year reached USD4.96 billion, slightly higher from USD4.89 billion in November 2016.

Philexport President Sergio Ortiz-Luis told the Philippine News Agency that the slower increase in revenues in November can be attributed to the additional holidays declared in November, which affected the movement of goods.

Aside from last year’s special non-working day during All Saints’ Day on Nov. 1 and the regular holiday on Bonifacio Day, Malacañang Palace declared Nov. 13 to 15 as special non-working days due to the Association of Southeast Asian (ASEAN) Summit.

“Due to more holidays, our manufacturing inputs were down,” Ortiz-Luis said.

“November was a slow month for manufacturing and exports last year because of more holidays,” he stressed.

However, the Philexport chief remained optimistic that the increase in export revenues will continue this year with the recovery of global market and the new infrastructure projects of the government.

From January to November last year, Philippine exports rose 10.8 percent to USD58.1 billion from USD52.44 billion in the same period in 2016.

“We’re positive that we can maintain that level of growth this year. We’re hopeful for another double-digit growth,” Ortiz-Luis added.

He also echoed the exporters’ support to the export revenue target of the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) under the Philippine Export Development Plan (PEDP) ‎2017-2022.

The government eyes to reach exports revenue of USD122 billion to USD131 billion at the end of the Duterte administration.

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Economy

Personal Remittances for the First 11 Months of 2017 Reach US$28.2 Billion

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Personal remittances from Overseas Filipinos (OFs) reached US$2.5 billion in November 2017, 3.2 percent higher than the level posted in the same month in 2016.

This brought the cumulative remittances for the first 11 months of 2017 to US$28.2 billion, representing a year-on-year growth of 5.1 percent, BSP Governor Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr.

The growth in personal remittances for January to November 2017 was supported by the sustained expansion of remittances from land-based OFs with work contracts of one year or more (3.7 percent) as well as those from sea-based and land-based OFs with work contracts of less than one year (5.1 percent).

Likewise, cash remittances coursed through banks rose by 2.0 percent year-on-year to US$2.3 billion in November 2017. The top countries that contributed to the growth in cash remittances during the month were the United States (1.1 percentage point contribution) and Germany (0.9 percentage point). On a year-to-date basis, cash remittances at end-November 2017 totaled US$25.3 billion. This represents a 4.0 percent increase from the 2016 level. Cash remittances from both land-based and sea-based workers recorded increments of 3.7 percent and 5.1 percent for January to November 2017, respectively.

The bulk of cash remittances for the first eleven months of the year came from the United States, United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, Japan, United Kingdom, Qatar, Kuwait, Germany, and Hong Kong. Combined remittances from these countries accounted for 80.2 percent of total cash remittances. (BSP)

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BPO Tops Active Job Vacancies at PhilJobNet

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Employment opportunities in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry remains at the leading spot in the top vacancies at the PhilJobNet, the internet-based job and applicant matching portal of the Department of Labor and Employment.

With 6,120 active job vacancies posted for the week, a total of 1,029 available positions are for call center agents as reported by the Bureau of Local Employment (BLE), the agency that maintains the centralized database of PhilJobNet.

The other vacancies in the online portal include cashier with 560; service crew with 525; janitor with 380; salesman with 358; customer service assistant with 354; heavy equipment operator with 303; food service dispatcher with 297; market salesperson with 218; and staff nurse with 214.

Other posted vacancies are cook with 201; credit/collection officer with 201; mason with 200; cash collector with 200; electromechanical technician with 198; finishing carpenter with 189; sales clerk with 178; administrative assistant with 168; and supervising management specialist with 160.

Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III encouraged the public to make full use of the PhilJobNet’s enhanced services as it fast tracks the jobseekers’ search for jobs and the employer’s search for workers. (DOLE/ADeVega)

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WHO Praises Tax Hike on Beverages: Roque

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Presidential Spokesperson Harry Roque on Saturday said the tax increase on sweetened beverages is actually beneficial to the Filipino people that even the World Health Organization (WHO) has praised the government for doing so, contrary to claims that newly-enacted Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Act is blamed for for the sudden price hike of softdrinks increased by Php3.

“No. 1, the tax on sugar-based softdrinks was actually praised by the WHO as a means of promoting public health because it would discourage the drinking of very sweet softdrinks,” Roque said in press briefing at the Philippine Information Agency regional office here. “Some public schools are not even allowed to sell softdrinks to our children.”

“So, in that sense TRAIN will raise revenues from products which we consider as not being too healthy at the same time promoting public health. But I underscore the fact that most of the basic commodities, even if they were levied additional excise tax, it was at a minimum level,” Roque added.

On concerns that some businessmen taking advantage of TRAIN as reason for imposing undue price increases, Roque said these unscrupulous traders must be reported to the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).

“Isumbong po natin yan sa DTI because meron pong nilalabag na batas kapag sila’y nagsasamantala sa pagtaas ng presyo at sinisisi sa TRAIN, hindi naman pala napupunta sa gobyerno (Let’s report them to the DTI because they are violating the law when they take advantage on increasing prices and blamed it on TRAIN while the proceeds don’t go to the government’s coffers). Yan po ay pinagbabawal at pinapatawan ng parusa (That is illegal and punishable by law),” Roque said.

When told that transport groups are preparing to petition for fare increases when the excise tax on fuel gets fully implemented, Roque said “that’s within their right.

“That’s pursuant to the law, and that’s the procedure. Jeepney operators cannot just impose unilaterally hike in fare,” he said.

Roque said the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is in “a better position” and is the legal agency that would decide whether or not there should be a fare hike as a result of TRAIN.

“Uulitin ko po, ang TRAIN ay nakakabuti dahil unang-una ay yong kumikita po ng Php250,000 pababa hindi na po magbabayad ng buwis, at yong mga kumikita ng mataas sa Php250,000 ay mas maliit po ang babayaran nilang buhis (I’ll say it again, TRAIN is beneficial because first and foremost those earning Php250,000 and less are exempted from paying income taxes, and those earning over Php250,000 would only pay minimal taxes),” Roque said.

He added that he learned from Department of Finance Secretary Sonny Dominguez that the overall contribution of TRAIN to the inflation is not even 1 percent.

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DOF Sees 7 Percent Growth, Manageable Inflation in 2018

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An economic expansion of at least 7 percent is doable this 2018 with the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) Law, the first package of the Comprehensive Tax Reform Program, along with the planned tariffication on rice, and massive infrastructure projects under the ambitious “Build, Build, Build” program of the Duterte administration, according to the Department of Finance (DOF).

In an economic bulletin, DOF Undersecretary Gil Beltran said this would also enable the government to sustain a manageable inflation environment going forward.

“Low inflation is an indication that the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals remain strong. Solid fundamentals backed by TRAIN 1 implementation, rice sector reform and the ‘Build, Build, Build’ policy will push the country’s growth to 7-8 percent this year and sustain manageable inflation,” Beltran, who is also the DOF’s chief economist, said.

The TRAIN was signed into law by President Duterte on Dec. 19 and took effect on Jan. 1. TRAIN exempts compensation earners and self-employed individuals with an annual taxable income of P250, 000 and below.

For the month of December 2017 alone, Beltran predicted that inflation likely eased further to 3.2 percent from the previous month’s 3.3 percent, on the back mainly of more stable food prices and lower power costs.

Citing estimates from the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), Beltran said price increases of food and non-alcoholic beverages last month likely remained unchanged at 3.2 percent. Rice prices were also seen unchanged at 1 percent. Communication, education, and restaurant and miscellaneous services were likewise seen to stay at their levels.

The commodity groups that likely recorded slower price increases in December are housing, utilities and fuels, 3.7 percent from 4.2 percent a month ago; electricity, gas, and other fuels, 8.1 percent from 9.7 percent; transport, 2.8 percent from 4.4 percent; recreation and culture, 1.5 percent from 1.6 percent.

Also, data showed that Meralco’s per-kilowatt-hour rate for households consuming 200 KW for the month of December declined to P9.25 from P9.63 in November. Meralco’s generation charge for the month decreased to P4.60 from P4.91 a month ago.

Prices of diesel per liter in the National Capital Region (NCR) increased to P36.20 last month from P35.46 in November. But prices of gasoline per liter in NCR declined to P48.12 from P48.48 a month ago.

Inflation in the first 11 months of 2017 averaged 3.2 percent, well within the government’s official target range of 2 to 4 percent for the year. Inflation peaked at 3.5 percent last October.

The inter-agency Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC) on Dec. 22 kept the current inflation target of 2 to 4 percent from 2018 to 2020.

The economy grew by 6.7 percent in the first three quarters of 2017, mainly driven by robust domestic demand, higher fiscal spending and investments. This was well within the target range of 6.5 to 7.5 percent for the year.

The P8.44-trillion “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure program of the Duterte administration is seen to create multiplier effects in terms of employment aside from further spurring economic activities.

Under the program, the government aims to build more roads, bridges, airports, seaports, railways, water and irrigation projects nationwide. Also included is a 24-kilometer subway train in Metro Manila in a bid to decongest the metropolis of heavy traffic that has been causing billions of pesos in economic losses daily.

Earlier, Beltran said the lifting of quantitative restrictions (QRs) on rice imports in favor of tariffs would bring several benefits to the economy, among them, slashing the retail price of the food staple by as much as P7 per kilo and help helping free some 730,000 Filipinos from poverty.

Beltran said a 35-percent import tariff on rice in lieu of restricting rice import volumes would encourage private traders to bring in the staple into the country, which would, in turn, allow the influx of cheaper rice in the domestic market.

“Pulling down rice prices is crucial to poverty reduction because this staple is a major driver of inflation,” Beltran said.

The QR policy will allow the country to limit the volume of rice imports entering the Philippines with a tariff of 35 percent. Importing outside the volume restrictions will entail a higher import tariff.

The Duterte administration’s economic managers decided to allow the expiration of the QR without applying for another extension before the World Trade Organization.

Beltran said that at an expected import rate of 35 percent, the proposed tariffication would generate P27.3 billion, which the government could use to augment funding for social protection projects like cash transfers for the poorest families as well as for palay productivity programs.

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III said among the key objectives of the Duterte administration’s inclusive growth agenda was to transform the Philippines into an upper middle-income economy and cut the poverty rate from the current 21.6 percent to 14 percent by the time the Chief Executive leaves office in 2022.

The WTO granted the Philippines an extension of its QR on rice importation until June 30, 2017 to give local farmers more time to prepare for free trade. It first allowed the Philippines to impose a 10-year QR in 1995. It was extended in 2004 until 2012, and then was renewed again in 2014. (DOF)

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