Sunday, October 23, 2011

Home Sea Home .....

Be one of the homeowners of this exclusive beach community now.

Below are the pictures of their Condo Units in Kembali Coast.

Room for Enjoyment

The main clubhouse features sand-shored swimming pools, beach bars, function rooms, and sports activity areas where you can engage in a claiming Tai Chi session or an invigorating round of beach volleyball.

Land and Water Fun

Release the gentleman farmer in you. At the elegant leisure farm, you can build a big house around which you can grow crops and enjoy the sweet sap of grown fruits. Or you can hit the water on your jet ski or your ravishing surfboard.

Long live Leisure

Here at Kembali, you choose how you can make your own splash. With our fantastic fusion of activities, there's only infinite space for leisure and certainly no room for boredom.

Saturday, October 22, 2011

Kembali Coast Residential Beach Resort

Kembali Coast Residential Beach Resort is located in Samal Island Samal City. Kembali Coast is the first residential-leisure development of its kind in Mindanao, is the perfect tropical getaway. It is only 15 minutes away from Davao City via speedboat.

This Balinese-themed development gives you a taste of high-end resort living 1.8km beach line stretches to welcome you home to your own private paradise.


With Kembali Coast's numerous exotic amenities, every member of the family finds a personal, watery haven. From a long stretch of beach front that houses an aqua sports shop providing day rentals and tutorial programs; from branded aqua sports equipment like Canadian banana kayaks to skiling, wakebourding and kneeboarding facilities, Kembali Coast is every water enthusiast's dreamscape. Lie back on the shore or walk along moors at the docking facilities lined with personal crafts as you watch Optimist sailboats speed by.

more pictures will be uploaded soon.

For inquiries, please contact

Marites D. Salce

Monday, August 22, 2011

Hostage victims' kin seek justice, compensation

MANILA, Philippines - It was an emotional press conference Monday morning at Fort Santiago where relatives, a survivor, a legislator, and a lawyer faced the media to recall the tragic hostage incident in Rizal Park that led to the deaths of 8 Hong Kong tourists on August 23, 2010.

Tse Chi Kin, brother of Tse Masa, the tour guide who was killed in the August 23 hostage crisis, was crying as he began to narrate the harrowing experience he had when he learned of his brother's death.

He showed reporters a picture on a computer tablet showing the tourists that were held hostage by Senior Inspector Rolando Mendoza, posing happily before the Rizal Monument in Luneta "I can't believe that my brother is gone," he said.

Tse Chi Hang, a younger brother, spoke with grief and disappointment on the Philippine government's inaction in rendering justice to the families of the victims.

Their mother identified only as Mrs. Tse could not continue with her statement, while crying for the loss of her son.

A lady also seated at the press conference, Lee Ying Chuen, survived the incident. "We discussed to subdue the gunman for ourselves. But we decided not to because we trusted the ability of the Philippine government whose rescue came much too late," was how Lee described her disappointment on how the Philippine government handled their 11-hour ordeal.

Lee also said when she was brought to an ambulance, there was no equipment nor even a single bandage to fix her up. And when they arrived at the hospital, the hospital refused to take them in. Instead they were recommended to be brought to another hospital.

"Its been a year now and we're still angry," said Lee.

She also expressed her disappointment because the government did not even offer an apology or even at the very least try to talk to them. "The only chance we heard that the [Philippine government] talked is when they try to discuss the travel warning. It's all about money," Lee said.

James To, a member of Hong Kong's legislative council, told the press of the 4 demands of the families of the victims.

First, a formal apology from the Philippine government. Second, provide compensation to the victims and families. Third, ask for accountability for officials or persons involved in mishandling the incident. And fourth, improve measures to safeguard tourists.

Mr. To said that 10 days before they came to the Philippines, they went to the Philippine consulate in Hong Kong asking for a meeting with President Aquino. Unfortunately, Mr To said they got no reply. "According to the spokesman, the President refused to meet us."

Jonathan Man, a lawyer of 2 hostage crisis survivors, was asked on the rate of compensation that the families are asking. Mr. Man said he is not sure of the Philippine legal system but if it will based on the Hong Kong system, the law provides specific calculations in compensating victims.

The group went to the office of Justice Secretary Leila de Lima Monday afternoon. According to Mr. Man, they will also discuss with the secretary the Incident Investigation and Review Committee (IIRC) report on the hostage incident.

Oil firms raise pump prices anew

MANILA, Philippines - Three oil companies raised their fuel prices Tuesday.

Pilipinas Shell Petroleum Corp. raised the pump price of unleaded gasoline by P1.40 per liter; regular gasoline by 90 centavos per liter; and diesel and kerosene by 40 centavos per liter effective 12:01 a.m. August 23.

Chevron (formerly Caltex) and Seaoil also raised their fuel prices by the same amounts, effective 6 a.m. Tuesday.

Other oil firms are expected to follow suit.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Japan ready to act over yen's historic rise: media

TOKYO - Japan is ready to take action against a further surge in the yen, including market intervention, after the safe-haven Japanese currency hit a post-war record high, local media reported on Saturday.

The government and the Bank of Japan have started discussions over fresh intervention to sell yen and buy dollars on the foreign exchange market, the Nikkei business daily reported.

Japan is ready to intervene and sell yen even on overseas markets if it detects speculative moves to drive the currency higher, an unnamed senior finance ministry official said late Friday, according to the Yomiuri Shimbun.

The mass-circulation daily also said that the central bank is separately considering further monetary easing in tandem with the government's possible yen-selling action.

The dollar slumped to 75.95 yen in intraday trade Friday, beating its previous post-World War II low of 76.25, which it reached days after the March 11 earthquake and tsunami hit Japan.

Investors were flocking to the Japanese currency, seen as a safe-haven unit together with the Swiss franc, amid deepening concern over another possible global recession, traders said.

Because a strong yen hurts Japanese exporters, the nation's main economic engine, Japan stepped into the foreign exchange market earlier this month to dump yen for dollars, and Tokyo has previously signalled that it may do so again.

"The government and the Bank of Japan do not hesitate to carry out market intervention... but as seen in the last case, the impact of intervention is unlikely to last long," the Asahi Shimbun said.

Official data on Monday showed that Japan's economy shrank less than expected in the April-June quarter, fuelling hopes that its recovery from the March 11 quake and tsunami disasters is on track.

Finance Minister Yoshihiko Noda also predicted that Asia's second-biggest economy looks likely to grow again in the July-September quarter -- but also warned of the risk posed by the strong yen to exports and growth.

Noda said Friday that the government would consider what long-term policies were needed to soften the economic impact of the yen if it remained at its current high levels.

Panic, policy cuffs could force new recession: analysts

WASHINGTON - Another punishing week in stock markets has left European and US leaders looking less and less able to staunch fears of recession that analysts say could turn into a self-fulfilling prophecy.

While economists said the world's mature industrial countries had not yet completely stalled, increasingly they were using the term "negative feedback loop" to define their worry.

In layman's terms panic in financial markets is scaring consumers and businesses into locking up spending, forcing a new economic contraction two years after the "Great Recession" ended.

Governments, themselves under the gun from bond markets and political pressure to cut spending, have diminishing kits of tools to counter the pessimism, they said.

Last week brought new worries into the picture:

- new data showing eurozone growth crawling at 0.2 percent in the second quarter, and Germany only at 0.1 percent;

- warnings, most notably from Morgan Stanley, that the US and Europe were on the precipice of a new recession;

- the failure of the German and French leaders to offer markets a convincing fix to the eurozone debt problems at their summit Tuesday.

That combination sent share markets plummeting, putting the broad-based S&P 500 index of US stocks down 4.7 percent for the week and 15.3 percent lower after a month of economic turmoil.

Britain's FTSE 100 is now down 12.9 percent over a month; France's CAC 40 18.4 percent; and Germany's DAX has been hit even harder, off 9.8 percent for the week and 23.8 percent in a month.

With trillions of dollars lost in paper wealth, sellers have moved their money into the safest havens they can find -- US Treasury bonds, Swiss francs, Japanese yen and others -- meaning it does not help growth.

Economists on both sides of the Atlantic slashed their growth projections.

"Our revised forecasts show the US and the euro area hovering dangerously close to a recession -- defined as two consecutive quarters of contraction -- over the next 6-12 months," investment bank Morgan Stanley said.

"A negative feedback loop between weak growth and soggy asset markets now appears to be in the making in Europe and the US. This should be aggravated by the prospect of fiscal tightening in the US and Europe," it said.

"In the absence of appropriate policy intervention from the European Central Bank (ECB), the Federal Reserve and the US government, it is entirely possible the current downward spiral in the economy and financial markets will become self-reinforcing," said John Silvia, chief economist for Wells Fargo bank.

Governments and central banks are increasingly boxed in on policy, said economists.

In Europe and the United States there is almost no room to lower interest rates to stimulate growth; central banks can fine-tune policy to try to push banks into putting more money into the commercial market, but that it is not clear that it will stimulate economies.

In Europe, where bailouts of Greece, Portugal and Ireland have already strained the richer governments, politicians and the public are reticent to pump more money out that they do not have.

The ECB does not have the power to print money to fuel recovery; and Tuesday's meeting between French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel ruled out allowing it to issue region-backed eurobonds to raise money for growth and bailouts.

That was a big disappointment for markets.

"We still need a more meaningful solution in Europe," said Chris Low of FTN Financial. "The ECB is not equipped to solve the debt crisis on its own."

Meanwhile there was pressure on Europe's still-liquid governments to pare deficits by mainly cutting spending, especially France, the eurozone's second largest economy.

The same was true in the United States, where some are calling for an industry-building program on par with the World War II effort that pulled the country finally out of the Great Depression.

But given the August 5 credit downgrade of the government by Standard & Poor's over its growing deficit, and the refusal of conservative Republicans to allow spending, that is a non-starter -- though President Barack Obama is expected to reveal some modest growth initiatives in the next few weeks.

The Federal Reserve has hinted it still has tools to boost growth, and all eyes are on a speech next Friday by Fed chairman Ben Bernanke, expected to reveal what it might do.

(And even that could prove difficult: Republican presidential hopeful Texas Governor Rick Perry declared last week that it would be "treasonous" if Bernanke is seen "printing more money.")

Goldman Sachs warned Friday that already-programmed spending cuts would cut US GDP by more than one percent over the next year.

"Just offsetting the expiration of existing (stimulus) measures looks like a challenge, let alone enacting policies that exert a net positive influence on growth in 2012."

Friday, August 05, 2011

Wall Street suffers worst selloff in 2 years

NEW YORK - Investors fled Wall Street in the worst stock-market selloff since the middle of the financial crisis in early 2009 in what has turned into a full-fledged correction.

The Dow and the S&P tumbled more than 4 percent on Thursday and the Nasdaq lost 5 percent on fear the United States is staring at another recession and that Europe's sovereign debt crisis is swallowing two of its largest economies.

Analysts predicted further losses even though stocks have fallen on nine of the last 10 days. Two-year Treasury yields fell to a record low as investors sought safety in short-term government bonds.

"People are throwing in the towel because they can't find relief on any front," said Milton Ezrati, market strategist at Lord Abbett Co. in Jersey City, New Jersey, which manages $110 billion in assets.

The S&P 500's drop puts it more than 10 percent below its April 29 high, considered a correction. Nearly 14 billion shares changed hands, the busiest trading day in more than a year. Decliners beat advancers on the New York Stock Exchange by about 19 to 1.

The market's recent malaise stems from a number of factors. US economic data has worsened, suggesting slowing growth from already sluggish pace in the first half. Europe's sovereign debt crisis has defied remedies and threatens to engulf large euro-zone economies Spain and Italy.

"The debt troubles in Europe, especially with the yields on Italian and Spanish government bonds soaring, are making investors gather as much liquidity as possible," said Stephen Massocca, managing director of Wedbush Morgan in San Francisco.

The Dow Jones industrial average was down 512.46 points, or 4.31 percent, at 11,383.98. The Standard & Poor's 500 Index fell 60.21 points, or 4.78 percent, at 1,200.13. The Nasdaq Composite Index lost 136.68 points, or 5.08 percent, at 2,556.39.

Some 13.92 billion shares changed hands on the New York Stock Exchange, NYSE Amex and Nasdaq, the highest since June 25, 2010, and well above the daily average of around 7.48 billion.

Losses occurred in all sectors. Among stocks hitting new 52-week lows were Bank of America, down 7.4 percent at $8.83, Citigroup, down 6.6 percent at $34.81, and Hewlett-Packard, down 5.1 percent at $32.54.

Among sectors, losses in energy and materials outpaced others, with S&P energy down 6.8 percent and materials down more than 6.6 percent.

US crude futures settled down $5.30 to $86.63 a barrel in New York.

The CBOE Volatility index jumped 35.4 percent to 31.66, its highest since July 2010. It was the biggest rise since February 2007.

Overseas, the European Central Bank signaled it was buying government bonds in response to a deepening European debt crisis. In Japan, the government intervened in currency markets to stem recent gains in the yen.

On Friday the government releases July's payrolls report, a closely watched number to gauge the US economy.

Chinese 'pressure tactics' pose risks to investors - report

MANILA, Philippines - China’s “pressure tactics” pose risks to firms having interests in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea) and could hinder the development of the Philippines’ oil and gas reserves in the region, according to a multinational risk consultancy.

In a report released to its clients last July 28, Pacific Strategies & Assessments (PSA) said the tensions in the Spratlys indicate that investors would likely face “serious and costly risks” in their operations.

“While the possibility of a high-level military conflict in the region remains remote in the future, Chinese pressure tactics have shown that the risks faced by non-state oil and gas investors in the South China Sea (SCS) will clearly not be limited to armed conflict in the region,” it said.

PSA, whose clients include multinational firms and embassies, said a prolonged territorial dispute would be the primary hindrance to the development of oil and gas reserves in the region.

“Past and recent developments in the SCS have underscored that a protracted multilateral territorial dispute would be the foremost stumbling block in efforts to commercially develop the oil and gas reserves in the region,” it added.

The Philippines, China, Brunei, Malaysia, Vietnam and Taiwan are claiming parts of the Spratly Islands in the West Philippine Sea.

“Notwithstanding the opportunities in the oil and gas sector, the commitment of Philippine government policies and support vacillate depending on the priorities of the incumbent administration,” the report read.

“This adds to the risks for potential and current oil and gas investors in the Philippines. China, for its part, is expected to maintain its pressure on oil and gas investors in the region,” it added.

PSA, nevertheless, said the Aquino administration had indicated a serious stand to support the gas and oil potentials of the country.

It noted that the government has prodded British firm Forum Energy into exploring Service Contract 72 that includes the Recto Bank (Reed Bank) off Palawan.

PSA, which has offices in Manila, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Bangkok, Milwaukee and Sydney, said surveys on SC 72 alone showed 96 billion cubic meters of natural gas potential and 440 million barrels of oil potential.

“The figures are greater than the natural gas reserves of the $130-billion Malampaya project, also in Palawan, as well as the oil reserves in Thailand,” it said.

PSA said the possibility of earning twice the amount from the combined Malampaya project and SC 72 is expected to be a major motivation for the Philippines to remain committed to its territorial claims.

The report noted that the Philippines is heavily dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, with about 90 percent of its oil imports coming from the region.

“The potential oil and natural gas reserves in the South China Sea could prove to be significant in reducing the country’s dependence on Middle East oil,” PSA said.

The Philippines has expressed readiness to bring the territorial dispute in accordance with international law before the United Nations. China, however, said the issue should be resolved through direct negotiations among claimant countries.

DBP files raps vs Ongpin et al for questionable loans

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - The Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has filed criminal and administrative complaints against former DBP President Rey David, businessman Roberto Ongpin, and 26 other persons over P670 million in loans granted to Ongpin.

DBP President Francisco del Rosario said DBP Assistant Legal Counsel Benjamin Pinpin, who was found dead this week, apparently by suicide, had been included in the investigation into the loan transactions.

DBP lawyer Zenaida Ongkiko-Acorda filed the complaint at the Office of the Ombudsman.

The complaint alleges that a day after the second loan was approved, Ongpin bought P637.5 million shares of Philex Mining Co. from DBP at P12.75 per share. Less than a month later, he sold them for P21 a share to Philex Chairman Manuel Pangilinan.

DBP accuses David and Ongpin of "connivance" in a transaction that, it says, resulted in a P412.4 million opportunity loss.

It accuses David of "exposing DBP to high lending risks" in approving the loans to the Ongpin company which, it said, was undercapitalized.

It says the bank skirted many regulations to grant the loan, the second of which was approved in one day.

The complaint says these are signs of a "behest loan."

Ongpin and David have previously said the loans were proper and also paid.

David today said he was "surprised it comes at this point when the suicide of Attorney Pinpin has happened. They (the present board) have taken this tact as a squid tactic to mask the real cause of the suicide which seems to be a result of their harassment of Pinpin."

In what police said appeared to be a suicide note, Pinpin indicated he had been pressured to cite former officials of the bank for questionable transactions.

Ongpin associate Josephine Manalo, who is also named in the complaint, said Ongpin would release a statement later today.

Controversial deals

In a special report last May, published "DBP-Ongpin-Philex controversial deals detailed," which discussed a controversial loan extended by DBP to Deltaventure Resources Inc. (DVRI) amounting to P510 million.

DVRI used the loan proceeds to purchase the bank's shares in Philex Mining, a listed company that the group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan wanted to control.

The loan and the stock transactions occurred in late-2009.

DBP was then led by David.

David had said all the transactions followed banking rules and passed through necessary credit checks. He also said the bank earned hefty sums from trading the Philex Mining shares, resulting in record profits for the bank that year.

In a letter to ABS-CBN News, Ongpin also stressed that the transactions were above-board. The current DBP board initiated an internal audit of these loan-and-stock deals early this year.

Several officers of the bank were identified as having been involved in the processing of the loan and stock transactions.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Multipurpose ID system available by end-July

MANILA, Philippines - The Social Security System (SSS) will launch a unified multipurpose identification system by the end of the month.

The new ID can also be used for Government Service Insurance System, Philhealth and Pag-ibig purposes.

SSS president Emilio de Quiros was quick to clarify that the new ID is not a national ID as only members of the four government agencies are covered. He said other agencies like LTO or NBI may eventually be included in the unified ID.

He said those who will be given the new ID are new applicants and those who have earlier applied but were not yet issued SSS IDs. Those with existing IDs need not yet apply for the unified ID as the current one will still work. If a member wants to get the new ID even if he or she has the current one, a payment of P300 will be required.

The new card, a sample of which was shown to ABS-CBN, contains a microchip and magnetic strip. These security features will enable SSS in the future to use the card for the disbursement of loans or benefits of members, serving as some sort of an ATM for members.

SSS is spending P260 per card for 29 million members of the pension fund. Some 600,000 cards will be initially released for those who had earlier applied and around 120,000 for recent applicants.

New members have welcomed the new ID, but one member who has been trying to claim her ID for nearly 2 years now said the process of releasing the new ID must be hastened. According to her, while the new ID is remarkable, it will be worthless if not released on time.

Customs files raps vs own senior staff

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Customs (BOC) filed on Thursday criminal charges before the Department of Justice (DOJ) against two of its senior officials for allegedly fraudulently approving the refund of duties and value added taxes (VAT) and the issuance of Tax Credit Certificates in favor of an oil importing company that "defrauded government some P99-million."

In a news conference, Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez bared that lawyers Reynalo Nicolas, former Deputy Commissioner for Assessment and Operations Coordinating Group, and Elvira Cruz, former officer-in-charge and now collector of the Sub-Port of Mariveles are charged for enabling petroleum products importer Cross Country to secure millions in refund of duties and taxes.

"Nicolas and Cruz are accused of usurpation of authority for acting favorably on false claims that enabled petroleum products importer Cross Country to secure a P99.4-million refund of duties and taxes it paid on its oil shipments covered by import entry number C-100-09, C-101-09 and C-102-09," Alvarez said.

Said shipments cover the period September 2009 to September 2010.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

SUV registered under Butuan bishop's name

MANILA, Philippines - A 2009 silver Mitsubishi Montero Sport parked at the bishop's palace in Butuan has been spotted by an ABS-CBN News team.

Based on the records of the Land Transportation Office, the vehicle was purchased in September 2009 and was registered under the name of Bishop Juan De Dios Pueblos.

The purchase was sealed 2 months after the Philippine Charity Sweepstakes Office (PCSO) released P1.7 million that was deposited in BPI Butuan.

Lawyer Alim Pangandaman, director of the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) in the Caraga region, said his office verified the information.

However, pro-life groups and other lay leaders said there is nothing illegal about the PCSO donating luxury vehicles to bishops, even if these are registered under their names.

Lawyer Romulo Macalintal said the donations are made "in the service of the church."

A group is now collecting more than P8 million to be donated to the CBCP.

The amount is the cost of the 7 vehicles purchased through PCSO funds. They are leaving it up to the CBCP whether to use the money to pay the PCSO or buy replacement vehicles.

PCSO chairperson Margie Juico, meanwhile, cleared the bishops of any wrongdoing.

At a mass tuesday at the PCSO, Juico said there was no malice in the bishops' request.

She also praised the CBCP for apologizing to the public.

Juico said they consider the church as a partner in public service.

For Retired Lingayen-Dagupan Archbishop Oscar Cruz, meanwhile, there is no excuse for the the actions of his colleagues.

"Kulang kasi sa delikadeza, sorry to say, mali ang mga kapatid kong mga obispo," he said. "Ang tubig pag may kaunting dumi, marumi pa rin."

Cruz considers the controversy a blessing in disguise, which agents of the church like him can reflect on.

The cbcp is leaving it up to the bishops concerned whether to return the vehicles.

Their decisions may be known during the continuation of the Senate hearing into the PCSO fund mess on Wednesday.

Massacre victims’ kin seek audience with PNoy

MANILA, Philippines - The families of the victims of the Maguindanao massacre is requesting an audience with President Benigno Aquino III amid rumors he is talking to the camp of suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan regarding the latter’s offer to become state witness.

In a letter, the families said, “the greatest fear of the heirs of the victims, as well as state witnesses, whose families were subjected to death and threats are very much afraid of what the government is allegedly doing to grant [him] request as state witness.”

The families, through a letter request from lawyer Nena Santos, said the granting of Ampatuan’s supposed request “will destroy the massacre cases as we have already started the trial of 89 accused, including Andal Jr. and Andal Sr.”

In an interview with ABS-CBN News, lawyer Redemberto Villanueva clarified his client has no intentions of being discharged as a state witness to the notorious case, but is only seeking security via the government’s Witness Protection Program (WPP).

However, Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said Ampatuan's statement is "insufficient right now," but it is still being studied and assessed in connection with the evidence he can offer.

The kin of the victims raised their contentions following news that Ampatuan has turned his back against his family. They questioned Ampatuan’s motives.

“Please allow us, including the private prosecutors who worked since day one to explain and express our dissent in accepting Zaldy as state witness,” the families said.

Zaldy tags Arroyos to poll fraud for Zubiri

Mike Arroyo's lawyer denies allegations

MANILA, Philippines (1st UPDATE) - Suspended Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Governor Zaldy Ampatuan is also cutting his ties to his boss, former President and now Pampanga Representative Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

After linking his brother and father to the Maguindanao massacre, Ampatuan said Arroyo and her husband Mike were responsible for the poll fraud in Maguindanao in 2007 that allowed now Senator Juan Miguel Zubiri to snatch the last Senate post.

He said he is willing to testify and put closure to the case.

In an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN’s Anthony Taberna inside his prison cell, Ampatuan said, “grabeng dagdag-bawas ang nangyari sa Maguindanao…Ang alam ko lang umabot sa puntong nagkaroon ng palitan ng official ballots na pati nga ako, na taga-Maguindanao during that time, nabigla (There was widespread cheating then. Even I was shocked).”

He said the plan, spearheaded by the then First Gentleman, kicked off months before the mid-term elections, or in January 2007.

He said the plan also involved his father, Andal Sr., who acted as the Arroyo’s errand boy.

Zubiri win

“Nung time na yun, nasa Century ako sabi ko, ‘Saan kayo galing?’ Sabi niya ‘Galing kami sa Makati’ kasi pinatawag sila ni First Gentleman Arroyo,” he claimed.

He said Arroyo's instruction was to ensure that then seeking Senate re-electionists Benigno Aquino III, Panfilo Lacson and Alan Peter Cayetano got “zero” votes.

He said the president’s husband justified it as such: “Hindi pwede manalo si PNoy, dahil naging presidente ang nanay, sikat na pamilya, baka may pag-asang maging presidente. Naging presidente nga. Si Senator Lacson, dahil masyadong maingay, dapat patahimikin. Tapos si Senator Cayetano, tinulungan ang tatay maging senador, tinulungan ang kapatid, tapos nung nagpapatulong si GMA, bale-wala (Aquino is not supposed to win because he is popular and may become president. Lacson could not win because he is too critical of the government. Cayetano could not win because he did not help GMA).”

The votes were eventually padded in favor of Zubiri. The latter’s win there spawned an election protest from Aquilino “Koko” Pimentel III, who refuses to let go of the issue until now.

Ampatuan said his father had received money during the meeting with the former First Gentleman.

The deceit did not end there, he said. The then president also sent additional money to cover up any loopholes in the plan.

Ermita’s call

Ampatuan claimed then Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita had to call him several times even in the wee hours of the morning.

“Ang sabi niya, Zaldy. Sabi ko, ‘Ano yun sir?’ Ang sabi niya, ‘dapat masagot nating mabuti yang problema na yan.’ Sabi ko, ‘Sir, paano ko sagutin? Tinuruan pa niya ko ng ganyan-ganyan. Ang sabi ko, ‘Sige. tapos noong ano, sabi niya dpat maayos yan’ (Ermita told me to fix all loopholes. He taught me how).”

Ermita said it was an instruction from the higher-ups.

Ampatuan said he hopes his testimony could still help in the resolution of the case even if it has long passed.

Nonetheless, he said the government could further its case if it gets hold of then Maguindanao election supervisor Lintang Bedol, who is now believed to be in hiding.

FG Arroyo denies claim

For his part, the former First Gentleman denied giving the former Maguindanao governor money to ensure the 2007 election victory of Zubiri.

"Former First Gentleman Mike Arroyo is appalled at the accusation, attributed to former [Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao] Gov. Zaldy Ampatuan, that he met with, and gave money to, Andal Ampatuan, Sr/ for the purpose of manipulating the 2007 elections in favor of Sen. Miguel Zubiri. Mr. Arroyo reiterates that he has never interfered in any election. He has certainly never spent money to illegally alter election results for or against any candidate," Arroyo's lawyer, Ruy Rondain, said.

"He therefore categorically denies that he gave Andal [Ampatuan] Sr. any amount of money for that purpose," he added.

Rondain said Zaldy Ampatuan had said he was not present at the alleged meeting between Andal Sr. and Arroyo.

"[ARMM] Gov. Zaldy could therefore not know what transpired, if the meeting took place at all," he said.

He also noted that Mr. Arroyo was in the hospital for a dissecting aortic aneurysm during the 2007 election period, and was in convalescence for months after the election.

The former First Gentleman's lawyer said Zaldy's accusation is highly suspect since he only came out 4 years after the election.

"Accusations that come 4 years too late, from one who suddenly grows a conscience, strain public credulity," Rondain said.

Zubiri airs side

In a separate interview with radio dzMM, Zubiri said he did not sanction nor have any knowledge of Ampatuan’s allegations.

“If there was indeed cheating, I did not sanction it…The culprits should be captured for electoral sabotage,” he said.

In fact, Zubiri said the votes from Maguindanao do not have any bearing on the election protest before the Senate Electoral Tribunal (SET) anymore. He himself filed an election protest on the 2007 elections.

He said he also lost votes then, specifically in Metro Manila. The results of their findings will be revealed tomorrow or any day within the week.

“It’s also my right to reveal that I too was cheated,” he said.

Zubiri said this is precisely why he pushed for the automation of the polls to finally minimize fraudulent activities, which usually happens in manual systems.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Malacañang says no hero's burial for Marcos

MANILA, Philippines - President Benigno Aquino has ruled out burying the frozen remains of former dictator Ferdinand Marcos in Manila's cemetery for national heroes, a government spokeswoman said Saturday.

Local reports this month said Vice-President Jejomar Binay had recommended Aquino allow Marcos' body, which is contained in a glass crypt in his provincial stronghold, to be buried at the cemetery with full military honors.

"President Aquino is clear on the issue, that there will be no heroes' cemetery burial (for Marcos' remains)," presidential spokeswoman Abigail Valte told government radio, referring to a military cemetery in Manila where some of the Philippines' past leaders are interred.

Aquino, whose parents were democracy icons who fought the Marcos rule, is also expected to soon decide whether the dictator's body would be accorded military honors, Valte said.

Marcos declared martial law in 1972, near the end of his second and final 4-year term, and ruled as a dictator until a popular revolt toppled him from power in 1986 forcing him into exile in Hawaii, where he died in 1989.

Thousands of political opponents went missing or were killed under his regime, and his family was accused of plundering up to $10 billion from the nation -- according to one government estimate.

Valte said Aquino had ordered aides to check official records on whether Marcos' remains had already been accorded military honors when they were brought back from Hawaii.

"That's the only thing left to resolve, since, if it turns out that he had been accorded military honors, there is no more reason for him to get another," Valte said.

Marcos' flamboyant widow, Imelda Marcos, and 3 children returned home after his death, and have since regained political influence.

She won a seat in the House of Representatives last year, while her son Marcos Jr. has hinted that he may run for president in 2016 after cruising to a Senate post last year.

Both have been leading calls to have the Marcos patriarch buried at Manila's heroes' cemetery, saying he was a legitimate World War II hero who had won over 2 dozen medals fighting against the Japanese occupation.

American and local historians however have disputed the authenticity of the medals.

Torture victims of the brutal Marcos regime have been outraged by the reported plans to bury the strongman with full military honors.

DOJ vows to crack down on monopolies, unfair competition

MANILA, Philippines - Justice Secretary Leila de Lima expressed optimism on Malacanang's latest issuance designating the Department of Justice (DOJ) as the competition authority in investigating and prosecuting violations of trade competition laws, and in crafting legislation to deal with monopolies.

President Aquino issued last June 9 Executive Order No. 45, which also directed the creation of an Office for Competition under the Office of the Secretary of Justice.

"We are all for fair competition. In the final analysis, it's always the customers to suffer if we have monopolistic actions on the part of key players in industries," de Lima said.

De Lima was asked by President Aquino as early as last year to draft an executive order for the purpose.

She claimed she submitted her draft to the President a few months after assuming her post at the DOJ, denying the issuance was a mere offshoot of Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) Co.'s planned acquisition of Gokongwei-owned Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel).

The deal will give PLDT a 70% share of the local mobile telecommunications industry, leaving rival Globe Telecom Inc. with just 30%. The PLDT-Digitel deal is being challenged by Globe before the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC), claiming it undermines the liberalization of the telecommunications industry in the country mandated by Republic Act 7925.

De Lima maintained addressing monopolies had long been a thrust of the Aquino administration.

"That is very much needed. Hindi na makapaghintay ang administrasyon. Kailangan meron na 'yan to promote economic justice for all to protect the consumers from irregular actions especially of big business like unfair competition," she said.

The justice chief said the executive issuance is aimed at addressing the proliferation of cartels in various industries such as the reported cartels in the oil, rice and sugar industries, among others.

Jan-May hot money hits $2-B

MANILA, Philippines - Net inflow of foreign portfolio investments, also known as hot money, more than doubled during the first five months of the year due to "heightened investor interest" in local stocks and fixed-income securities.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said in a statement that registered portfolio investments in January to May amounted to $2 billion, 160.3% higher than the $772 million recorded in the comparable period last year.

Total registered investments reached as high as $7.8 billion, but these were offset by outflows worth $5.8 billion.

In May alone, hot money yielded a net inflow of $364 million, 105% higher than the year-ago figure, but below April's $674 million.

Investments in Philippine Stock Exchange-listed stocks reached $886 million, reflecting a growth of about 80% from last year's $492 million and accounting for 58% of total registered investments during the month.

On the other hand, investments in peso government securities amounted to $513 million, up 118.9% year on year.

Singapore, United Kingdom, US, Hong Kong, and Luxembourg were the top five investor countries.

BSP policy move a sign of inflation risk from cash

MANILA, Philippines - The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas' (BSP) unexpected increase in banks' reserve requirements this week looks to be a signal that authorities are worried that inflationary pressures from global prices are spreading in the robust domestic economy.

The move to drain cash seemed at odds with data showing annual growth in money supply slowed to a three-year low in April, but authorities had allowed liquidity to build up this year as they sought to boost investment and support growth.

Short-term special deposit accounts (SDA) with the central bank hit a peak of P1.51 trillion ($35 billion) in April.

In a strongly growing economy -- seasonally adjusted growth was 1.9% in the first quarter, nearly four times fourth quarter growth of 0.5% -- rising demand can turn that sort of liquidity into inflation pressures and asset bubbles.

"The decision to raise the reserve requirement by one percentage point indicates that the central bank has shifted its policy focus to tackling inflationary pressures stemming from excess liquidity in the system," said Vincent Tsui, an economist at Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong.

The central bank raised interest rates at its past two meetings, taking the overnight borrowing rate to 4.5%.

It was expected to raise rates again on Thursday, but held fire. Still, analysts expects rates to rise further in the next six months.

Headline inflation in May was 4.5%, well below market forecasts but higher than a downwardly revised 4.3% in April. Core inflation edged up to 3.7%, the highest since September 2010 but also below market forecasts.

Inflation pressures have mainly come from rising global fuel and food prices, which monetary policy can't directly address, although it can help in containing future price expectations.

But while the central bank has been raising official rates, the extra cash left in the system had pushed market rates to abnormal lows. Average yields at auctions for 91-day and 182-day Treasury bills fell to below 1% in April.

"What we find surprising is why the BSP has taken so long to mop up some of the excess liquidity," said Devika Mehndiratta, an economist at Credit Suisse in Singapore.

"We have been highlighting that policy rate increases are unlikely to mean much more for short-term rates unless liquidity in the system reduces," she said.

Both Tsui and Mehndiratta see room for another increase in the reserve requirement ratio in the second half of the year, restoring the reserve requirements to a pre-global crisis level of 21%.

In late January, the central bank had said the liquidity would help fund growth, and as long as any rundown of funds with it, such as the SDAs, was orderly and put to productive use, it would not necessarily be inflationary.

But on Thursday, the central bank said it was worried strong capital flows and economic prospects could fuel liquidity growth, which it saw as the dominant risk, and so acted to drain an estimated P38 billion from the market.

"A situation where you have excess liquidity could blunt the effectiveness of interest rates moves," Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said on Thursday.

Central bank data showed net portfolio inflows in January to May of $2.01 billion, nearly three times higher than in the same period last year.

The policy decision sparked a mild rally in the debt market, with yields on most liquid tenors down an average 5 percentage points, a trader in Manila said.

"The central bank's decision implies that it was more concerned on liquidity rather than on inflation and that is positive for the bond market," the trader said.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

ASEAN exchanges pick tech firm for link-up

SINGAPORE - Southeast Asia's stock exchanges say they have picked a technology provider to set up a regional trading network between the bourses, with the aim of enabling cross-border dealing by the first quarter of 2012.

Singapore Exchange, Bursa Malaysia, The Philippine Stock Exchange and Stock Exchange of Thailand say they have appointed US technology firm Sungard to provide a cross-border trading platform and order routing service.

The move is part of a wider plan by the 10-country Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) to transform itself into a unified trading bloc with free flow of capital by 2015. It was initially hoped that the link-up would have been in place by 2010 but was delayed by the development of the new platform.

"This forms an integral part of the various initiatives in achieving the overall objective of the ASEAN Exchanges Collaboration to promote the growth of the ASEAN capital market," said Dato' Tajuddin Atan, CEO of Bursa Malaysia.

Indonesia's stock exchange along with Vietnam's bourses in Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi hope to join the network in 2013.

Of the other ASEAN members, Laos opened a stock market in January, Cambodia plans to open one at the end of this year and Myanmar is in talks about developing one. Brunei is the remaining member.

Jobless rate slows to 7.2% in April

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines' jobless rate eased to 7.2% in April from 7.4% in January, the government said Wednesday.

There were 2.9 million unemployed people in the Philippines as of April, unchanged from January.

The National Statistics Office said the total labor force was at 39.7 million in April, a shade higher than the 39.2 million in January, with a labor force participation rate of 64.2%, slightly above January's 63.7%.

Underemployed workers were 7.1 million in April, flat against January. Almost three-fifths of the underemployed worked for less than 40 hours a week.

Of the estimated 36.9 million people employed in April, more than half were in the services sector and a third were in agriculture.

The Philippines' jobless rate is among the highest in Southeast Asia.

Annual growth in the first quarter slowed to 4.9% from 6.1% in the last three months of the last year partly due to underspending by the government, making it more challenging to meet this year's 7% to 8% growth target

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Feb net FDI falls 70% to $97 million

MANILA, Philippines - Net inflow of foreign direct investments (FDI) plunged in February from a year ago as unfavorable developments overseas weighed on investor sentiment.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said FDI net inflow amounted to $97 million in February, down over 70% from the $326 million recorded in the same month last year.

This brought net inflows for the first 2 months to $304 million, a 39% decline from $496 million last year.

"Investor sentiment was subdued on account of unrest in some parts of the Middle East and North Africa, sovereign debt concerns in some European economies, as well as expectations of monetary tightening in Asia amid inflationary concerns," BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said in a statement.

Equity capital registered a net inflow of $10 million in February, down from year-ago net inflow of $76 million. The bulk of these inflows originated from the United States, Singapore, Japan, Hong Kong, and Germany.

Net FDI, portfolio inflows, and remittances from Filipinos working and living overseas help keep the country's balance of payments (BOP) in surplus.

The central bank revised its estimate for balance of payments surplus this year to $6.7 billion from a range of $6 billion to $8 billion. The Philippines posted a record balance of payments surplus of $14.4 billion in 2010, boosted by strong portfolio inflows.

LTFRB Oks LRT, MRT fare hikes

MANILA, Philippines - Fare hikes for the three mass rail systems in Metro Manila have been approved, but the government postponed indefinitely their implementation.

Transportation Undersecretary Ruben Reinoso confirmed that the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB) has agreed to the proposed increase in the fares for the Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 and 2, and the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3.

However, he said the LRTA (Light Rail Transit Authority) decided to delay the fare hikes in light of rising prices of basic goods and services.

"We are looking for the best timing. We don't want to burden the people. But certainly [LRT, MRT fares] are going up, it's just a matter of time."

Under Executive Order 603, the LRTA needs to consult the LTFRB first, and comply with publication requirements, before it could adjust fares. The LRTA board is headed by Transportation Secretary Jose de Jesus.

The Transportation Department had said the LRT and MRT fare hikes were meant to reduce the billion-peso subsidy extended by the government to rail operations.

This would be supported by a plan to bid out the operation and maintenance of the rail systems to the private sector to free up state funds.

New fares

The fare hikes were supposed to have taken effect on March 1. The LRTA, last February, deferred this to allow a review by the LTFRB.

The approved fares include a boarding fee of P11 and a P1 charge for every kilometer.

As a result of the new fares, travelling the entire length of the MRT station, a total of 17 kilometers from Taft to North Avenue, would cost P28. For the LRT Lines 1 and 2, the maximum fares will be P30 and P25, respectively.

Commuters, however, would be able to get discounts if they buy "stored value" tickets.

Monday, May 09, 2011

SM-Carlson to open Park Inn by Radisson hotel in Davao

MANILA, Philippines - The SM group has partnered with global hospitality firm Carlson anew, this time for the opening of the Park Inn by Radisson hotel in Davao City.

SM Hotels and Conventions Corp. will construct and own the P750-million hotel, while management and operations will be handled by Carlson.

The 200-room hotel, which will rise on a 175,000-square meter mixed-use complex of another SM subsidiary, SM Prime Holdings Inc., is slated to begin construction by the third quarter of 2011 and open by 2013.

"The signing of our contract with Carlson to open a Park Inn by Radisson in Davao City is another concrete step towards fulfilling the vision of our founder, Henry Sy, to make the Philippines a world-class tourist destination," said SM Hotels president Elizabeth Sy.

"We believe that Davao is an ideal location for such an undertaking because of its robust economy, vibrant population, and excellent infrastructure including its international airport," she added.

In September last year, SM Hotels opened the upscale 400-room Radisson Blu Hotel in Cebu, which is also managed by Carlson.

PNoy's wealth up P4M since June

MANILA, Philippines - The President has a monthly basic salary of P95,000, or P63,000 after tax and other deductions.

In a year, President Aquino's income has reached P1.2 million.

Since assuming office on June 30, 2010, President Aquino’s wealth grew by P4 million, according to his latest Statement of Assets, Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

From P50.1 million when he became president, his net worth rose to P54.9 million, as of December 31, 2010.

The President earned from proceeds of a residential lot in Antipolo sold by the Cojuangco family. Hence, the real estate property listed in 2010 had receivables worth P17 million.

The President's cash also grew, after selling P4.7 million worth of shares in 8 companies owned his family, including shares of stock in Central Azucarera de Tarlac that runs the family's sugar estate, Hacienda Luisita.

Presidential spokesperson Edwin Lacierda said the President deemed it proper to fully divest his shares, in compliance with the Constitution and the code of conduct barring public officials from engaging in private businesses, whether or not there is conflict of interest.

The president still owns a residential lot in Tarlac, 2 agricultural lands in Tarlac City and Capas, an inherited commercial lot in San Juan, and the house and lot on Times Street he inherited from his mother, worth P13.7 million.

From P9 million, the President's vehicles are now valued at P8.7 million.

The president earlier said he owns three vehicles: a 2007 Toyota Land Cruiser that he has used since he was a senator, a 2005 Ford Everest, and a Porsche which he bought after selling a BMW SUV.

The President's only listed liability: income tax worth P229,000, which according to Lacierda, the President already paid to the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) last April.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Toyota Phils to cut production by half

MANILA, Philippines - Due to a prolonged shortage in supply of auto parts, Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. (TMP) is implementing an "adjustment plan" that would cut its production by half.

TMP has discussed with the Department of Trade and Industry the details of the plan, including reducing work days to just three a week over a period of two months.

Last week, TMP postponed production at its Sta. Rosa, Laguna facility.

A company insider said the three days a week production would cut TMP's output by half. Workers will also be asked to work on alternate shifts.

The official said TMP hopes to go back to regular operations early July as it expects suppliers in Japan to come on stream by then.

TMP officials are set to meet with the Department of Labor and Employment to discuss the impact of the production slowdown on workers.

TMP produces 120 units of Vios and Innova per day. Vios accounts for 60% of the product mix, while Innova, the remaining 40%.

A Reuters report Monday said the crisis in Japan slashed Toyota Motor Corp.'s output by almost two-thirds in March alone.

Toyota is the largest automotive brand in the Philippines. In 2010, it sold 56,855 units, capturing 33.7% of the market.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Catholics in Metro Manila observe Good Friday rituals

MANILA, Philippines - While most of Metro Manila was peaceful and quiet as many citizens were out of town, those left behind were mostly in Catholic Churches to observe Good Friday rituals.

Security was tight, and emergency services were on hand to keep watch over the Filipino faithful.

Police and emergency personnel were sighted in or near the churches we visited.

ABS-CBN News was at the Nuestro Señora de Remedios in Malate, where icons were shrouded in purple as the 7 last words of Jesus Christ were delivered.

People also came in droves to the Nuestro Señora de Guia in Ermita; the Manila Cathedral; the San Miguel Church; the Basilica of the Santo Niño in Moriones, Tondo; the San Sebastian Church; and, the Basilica of the Nazareno in Quiapo.

A mini procession of the Black Nazarene was held In the immediate vicinity of the Quiapo Church.

Security was also tight.

Filipinos from various walks of life came with their families, as vendors had a heyday with sales of religious paraphernalia and food and drinks.

The Philippine National Red Cross (PNRC) volunteers in Quiapo noted an increase in the number of those who needed medical assistance, but could not yet give exact figures. Most of the cases dealt with hypertension.

Friday, April 01, 2011

BIR eyes to grow April collections by 15%

MANILA, Philippines - The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) chief said they are eyeing to grow collections by 15% this month, but noted it was too early to say if they could beat the target.

BIR Commissioner Kim Henares said their collection goal for April is P105.1 billion compared to last year's actual collections of P91.162 million.

April is usually the BIR's strongest month because of the yearly deadline for filing of income tax returns.

"I hope we will meet our goal," Henares said.

Henares, meanwhile, declined to give preliminary data on BIR's February and March collections.

The BIR accounts for 60% of the government's income.

In January, it surpassed its collection goal of P71.97 billion by 3.6% at P74.57 billion.

The January figure was also 15% higher than the P64.606 billion recorded in the same month last year.

The Bureau of Customs, on the other hand, earlier said it was confident of exceeding its collection gaol of P22.5 billion last month, due to higher oil imports.

Customs is the government's second-largest revenue generator, accounting for about a fifth of state income.

The two tax agencies are hard pressed in raising revenues this year to fund a budget deficit estimated to reach P300 billion.

Banco Filipino to sue Tetangco, Monetary Board members

MANILA, Philippines - Officers and shareholders of Banco Filipino Savings and Mortgage Bank will sue the central bank governor and majority of the Monetary Board for the "illegal" closure of the thrift bank two weeks ago.

In a statement released Friday, they said Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco and other monetary officials violated the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act after ordering the closure of Banco Filipino and "knowingly causing damage" to them.

Among the MB members to be charged are Ignacio Bunyi, Peter Favila and Juanita Amatong, who were former press, trade and finance secretaries, respectively, during the time of Gloria Arroyo.

The complaint will be filed at 2 p.m. before the Department of Justice, where "they stand a better chance of being accorded justice," the statement said.

Earlier, Banco Filipino filed 2 criminal cases before the Ombudsman against Tetangco and the MB members for extortion and violations of the General Banking Act.

The BSP ordered the shutdown of Banco Filipino on March 17 and placed the bank under the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp.'s (PDIC) receivership following reports its branches could no longer service withdrawals.

The central bank said the thrift bank mismanaged depositors' money through excessive spending and by allowing loans to stockholders and affiliates to remain unpaid.

Banco Filipino has filed a motion, asking the Court of Appeals to issue a temporary restraining order on its closure. The CA then asked monetary officials to explain their March 17 move.

The PDIC, meanwhile, has begun paying Banco Filipino depositors with accounts of P5,000 or less.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

PSE halts trades on JG Summit, Digitel

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippine Stock Exchange imposed a one-day trading halt Tuesday on shares of conglomerate JG Summit Holdings Inc. and its phone subsidiary Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel).

The firms requested the trading halt, the bourse said, after both companies said they needed more time to address market speculation on a major shareholder-related transaction.

Trades in the 2 companies will resume on Wednesday.

In separate disclosures, JG Summit and Digitel said they would issue a statement "at a proper time" to address ownership speculations. They said the trading halt was necessary to "avoid any undue fluctuations and distortion" in their share prices.

On Monday, Digitel surged as much as 29% to a 4-year high amid rumors of a buyout by telco rivals Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. or San Miguel Corp.

JG Summit shares climbed as high as 8% to their highest in 4 months.

Last week, San Miguel Corp. denied in a statement to the bourse that it was in talks with JG Summit after a local newspaper reported the food-to-power conglomerate was interested in acquiring Digitel.

PLDT to buy 51.55 pct of Digitel

MANILA, Philippines (2nd UPDATE) - Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) said on Tuesday it will take control of a rival firm as it seeks to solidify its leading position in a mature industry where a price war had eroded margins.

PLDT, the country's top telecommunications firm, said it forged a deal valued at P69.2 billion ($1.6 billion) to acquire 51.55% of third-ranked Digital Telecommunications Philippines Inc. (Digitel).

The deal, which includes a share swap and assumption of debt and advances by Digitel from its parent JG Summit Holdings Inc., was expected to be completed by the end of June, PLDT and Digitel said in a joint statement.

Digitel, via its Sun Cellular brand, had shaken the mobile phone market with cheap call and text packages, prompting PLDT and second-ranked Globe Telecoms to follow suit.

"PLDT is not out to kill the competition, but growth of Globe will be limited," said Jose Mari Lacson, analyst at Campos, Lanuza & Company Inc, noting that PLDT had said it intended to keep Digitel's cheap call and text offerings.

The price war had slowly eroded telecoms' margins in a saturated mobile market, with penetration at around 90% against a population estimated to be nearing 100 million.

PLDT's mobile phone market share would rise to 70% after the deal, Lacson said.

PLDT said the transaction, which involves its acquisition of 3.277 billion Digitel common shares from JG Summit and certain other parties, would result in cost efficiencies and improve network usage.

PLDT has said it would spend more in 2011 and 2012 to grow its broadband business amid stiff competition.

JG Summit would hold about 12% in PLDT after the transaction, while stakes of existing PLDT shareholders would be diluted, PLDT chairman Manuel Pangilinan said.

Mandatory offer

PLDT will make a mandatory offer to minority investors to buy the rest of Digitel, with shareholders given an option to sell at a discount to market at P1.60 apiece, or swap their holdings for PLDT shares at a premium of P2,500 per share.

"JG Summit is the ultimate winner. They get a good price for an investment that has not really delivered in terms of dividends," Campos & Lanuza's Lacson said.

PLDT closed flat at P2,036 on Tuesday while trading in Digitel was suspended at the firm's request. On Monday, Digitel had surged as much as 29% to a 4-year high before ending at P1.8.

The deal was announced after the market closed.

The tender offer, if fully taken up by shareholders, would bring the total value of the deal to P74.1 billion.

"Though this initiative alters the country's telecom landscape, we expect competition within the industry to remain very robust given that other operators, including new entrants, are formidable and well-funded," Pangilinan said.

PLDT, partly owned by Hong Kong's First Pacific Co. Ltd. and Japan's NTT Communications and NTT DoCoMo, has a market value of $8.9 billion against Digitel's $269 million.

Globe, owned by Ayala Corp. and Singapore Telecommunications, is valued at $2.1 billion.

Under the deal, PLDT will acquire debts of Digitel, including zero-coupon bonds issued to JG Summit convertible into 18.6 billion Digitel shares by June 30. It will also absorb P34.1 billion in advances made by JG Summit and other parties.

PLDT will swap one new PLDT share for every P2,500 worth of Digitel assets to be acquired.

"The transaction should also bring significant value to JG Summit's shareholders without relinquishing our participation in the Philippine telecommunications industry," James Go, JG Summit chairman, said in the joint statement.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Palace: Executions will not affect PH-China ties

MANILA, Philippines - Diplomatic ties with China will not be affected even if it decides to push through with the executions of the 3 Filipino drug mules, Malacanang said on Sunday.

In an interview with radio dzRB, Communications Development and Strategic Planning Office Secretary Ramon “Ricky” Carandang said the country respects the judicial system of China.

“They’re just following their process…What we only questioned was the death penalty, that’s why we asked for a commutation…but at the end of the day, it will not impact on our long-term bilateral relations,” he said.

The government is still pushing for last ditch efforts to save the convicted Filipinos.

The Supreme Court of Justice of China has decided to snub appeals for a commutation of the sentences of Ramon Credo, Sally Ordinario-Villanueva and Elizabeth Batain.

They will be executed on March 30. Their families flew to China early Sunday.
Vice President Jejomar Binay already sent a letter to Chinese President Hu Jin Tao, attempting anew to save the Filipinos.

“On humanitarian grounds and on the basis of the strong friendship and cooperation between our two countries and peoples, I once again appeal to Your Excellency to grant clemency to these three Filipinos,” the letter read.


Meanwhile, Migrante-Middle East urged President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III to create a taskforce that will look into the cases of Filipinos on death row.

John Leonard Monterona, Migrante-Middle East regional coordinator, said: "The Aquino administration, amid the impending execution of three Filipinos on China death row and if it really intends to save other OFWs on death row, should, by now, form an inter-agency task force whose primary function is to look into saving their lives from execution."

There are more than 70 OFWs on China death row and 120 others in other countries, he said.

Monterona cited the case of Don Lanuza, incarcerated in Saudi Arabia by killing an Arab national in 2000.

"As per the latest information, the court is just awaiting the son of the aggrieved party to reach legal age so that it could decide either to accept the blood money in exchange of forgiveness or reject it in favor of execution," he said.

"The entire Filipino nation, including Filipinos abroad, have to confront this bitter reality; but efforts to save OFWs whose cases are punishable by death should start from the time a proper case had been filed and immediately hire the best legal defense team the government could provide, noting that most were victims of international drug syndicates, if not, had committed the crime in defense of his life," Monterona added

Milk products, corned beef prices increase

MANILA, Philippines - The increase in prices of raw materials has pressured the market to jack up prices of milk products and corned beef as early as two weeks ago, the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) said.

Based on monitoring, Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo revealed increases of up to 9% for milk products and 10% for corned beef.

Domingo explained that the market was trying to offset costs incurred due to the increase of prices of raw materials.

"It's a two-pronged increase. The reason is, they are trying to catch up with the higher prices of milk solids and tin prices," he said.

The more popular products refrained from reflecting the prices initially out of fear they would lose demand.

The move followed a price hike notice of Alaska Milk Corp, a key milk producer in the country.

Domingo, however, noted that the current prices of both milk products and corned beef remain within the department’s suggested retail price index.

"They are still okay," he said.

Meanwhile, aside from milk and corned beef, Domingo said steel prices have also increased by 20%.

MPIC sets P300-M to link NLEx, SCTEx toll roads by October

MANILA, Philippines - Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. expects to spend P300 million to finish integrating the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx) by as early as October, an official said on Friday.

"We hope the takeover [of SCTEx] will happen in April or May this year," Metro Pacific Tollways President and CEO Ramoncito S. Fernandez told reporters at the sidelines of a travel fair, referring to the pending handover of the toll road’s operations to the company after it won the bidding held by the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

The company’s subsidiary, the Manila North Tollways Corp. signed a lease contract for the toll road with the state agency last November which included the right to collect toll revenues for 25 years, renewable for another eight years according to earlier reports.

"[Then] the immediate plan is for the integration of SCTEx and NLEx which will take about six months," Mr. Fernandez said.

Mr. Fernandez said that the company will be spending "more P300 million" which will be sourced from its internal funds to link the two expressways.

The integration process will include removal of some of the exits which will become redundant for a "seamless connection," Mr. Fernandez said.

"After the integration, we expect travelers to have more convenience, which is our main concern," Mr. Fernandez said.

The Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Tollways reported a 20% growth in core income to P1.5 billion in 2010 after and revenues rose by 7% to P5.9 billion on the back of a 6% rise in average daily traffic to 159,882 vehicles.

For new projects, the company had said it was looking at bidding for two ventures: the P11.8-billion, 27.5-kilometer Cavite-Laguna Expressway that will extend the Manila-Cavite Coastal Expressway (MCEE) and the P10.6-billion, 4.9-kilometer Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway connecting Skyway to the MCEE.

MPTC, whose shares were last traded on Mar. 24 at P7.70 each, is a unit of Metro Pacific Investments Corp., the local arm of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., which partly owns the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).

Mediaquest Holdings, Inc., a unit of the Beneficial Trust Fund of PLDT, has a minority stake in BusinessWorld.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Robredo believes Lacson still out of country

MANILA, Philippines - Interior and Local Government Secretary Jesse Robredo believes Senator Panfilo Lacson is hiding abroad but is ready to show up.

On the sidelines of the World Water Day celebration, Robredo believes Lacson is about to surface soon.

“I think there are [feelers already], because there is already an impression that he is outside the country,” he said.

Robredo said the tracker team that the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) created did not see Lacson anywhere in the country.

“There are a lot of false leads. When we verify, the leads turn out to be wrong. There have been leads that he is in Quezon City, in Batangas, in Cebu...but there really is none,” he said.

“This means if we can’t find him here, he’s outside the country…In all likelihood, very likely, he’s out of the country,” he said.

In a 16-page resolution dated March 18, the Court of Appeals stood pat on its decision quashing the murder charges and the consequent warrant of arrest against Lacson.

Lacson has been linked to the November 2000 murders of publicist Salvador Dacer and his driver Manuel Corbito.

The senator went into hiding in early 2010 even before the Manila trial court, where the case is lodged, could come out with a warrant of arrest. He blamed political persecution as a reason for his hiding.

The National Bureau of Investigation (NBI) has yet to notify the International Police of the need to already lift its red alert against Lacson.

Nonetheless, Robredo still urged the fugitive senator to face the public the soonest.

“It’s high time that he attend to his obligations in the Senate. There are a lot of things happening there that need his attention,” he said.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Philippines raises $1.5-B from 2026 global bonds

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines said on Tuesday it sold $1.5 billion of new 2026 global bonds in an offering that was "significantly" oversubscribed, as it sought to stretch its debt profile while keeping interest costs low.

The bonds, which created a new 15-year benchmark for the Philippines' dollar bonds, were priced at 99.495% with a coupon of 5.5%, the government said in a statement.

Yield was at 5.55%, narrower than the indicated initial pricing of 5.26% reported by IFR, a unit of Thomson Reuters, on Monday.

"The Philippines moved swiftly to access the dollar bond market and achieve low-cost, long-dated offshore funding," Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said in a statement.

"This continues the republic's pro-active stance in managing its sovereign debt, extending its debt maturity profile during uncertain times for the global economy," he said.

The Philippines, one of Asia's most active issuers of sovereign debt in the offshore market, sold the dollar bonds before Indonesia could launch its own. Indonesian officials held investor presentations in Europe and the United States last week for a planned global bond this year.

The offer also came just a day after state lender Development Bank of the Philippines raised $300 million in a 10-year bond offer that was over three times subscribed.

Bookbuilding for the Southeast Asian country's first dollar bond this year took around 10 hours, with the United States and Europe each taking up 30% of the offer, the government said.

Investors from the Philippines accounted for 22% and the other Asian investors accounted for the rest.

"We are very pleased with the response to the transaction, with strong investor interest enabling the republic to successfully establish a new 15-year benchmark on its dollar yield curve," National Treasurer Roberto Tan said in statement.

Goldman Sachs and HSBC were joint global coordinators and bookrunners. Deutsche Bank, Citigroup, JP Morgan and UBS were joint bookrunners for the global bond issue.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Sy Jr to advance P24-B for power grid

MANILA, Philippines - Henry Sy. Jr., the eldest son and namesake of the SM founder, said his group is willing to advance the needed amount of about P24 billion for the construction of the crucial transmission grid linking Visayas and Mindanao.

In a hearing of the Joint Congressional Power Commission, Sy assured lawmakers that they are ready to pour in much-needed capital to ensure the stability of power supply in the country’s transmission highway.

Sy’s One Taipan Holdings became a significant stakeholder in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP), the concessionaire that won the bid to operate the national power transmission assets, early last year with its purchase of the 30% interest of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp.

Sy is now president and CEO of NGCP.

He said NGCP would be willing to frontload the funding requirements for the Leyte-Minda-nao Interconnection Project (LMIP), which is meant to further stabilize the supply and enhance the quality of electricity across the country by connecting the Visayas and Mindanao grids through 23 kilometers of submarine cables linking the Leyte and Surigao substations.

According to Sy, NGCP will “advance” the funds needed to jumpstart the project, which will be implemented as soon the the company secures the approval of the Energy Regulation Commission (ERC).

“We will advance the needed amount on a staggered basis as soon as ERC approves our petition,” he said.

Sy said that as soon as it obtains ERC approval, NGCP will carry out the first phase of the LMIP, which is the implementation of a feasibility and technical study that will take between six months to one year to complete.

ERC chairperson Zenaida Cruz Ducut, who was also present during the congressional hearing, said the ERC will hold public hearings on the NGCP petition to implement the first phase of the LMIP, and will come up with a decision “as soon as possible.”

Sy said NGCP has been working in tandem with the Department of Energy and other industry stakeholders, including distribution firms and electric cooperatives, in implementing all approved projects spelled out in the government’s National Transmission Development Plan (TDP).

NGCP took over the management of the country’s national transmission network two years ago from the National Transmission Co. (TransCo) after winning a 50-year concession to run the transmission assets through a public bidding, which was undertaken in line with the privatization thrusts of Republic Act 9136 or the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001.

Giovanni Randolf Galang of NGCP’s Transmission Planning Department said the first phase of the project - the conduct of a feasibility study - will cost about P92 million, and is necessary because the latest feasibility study on this longstanding LMIP was conducted way back in 2001.

He said an updated feasibility study is needed after 10 years to consider new developments and contingencies like the optimal voltage level requirements and the latest technologies in submarine cable systems.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Security, transparency vital to attracting investments in PH

SINGAPORE — Top business leaders here expressed optimism about the investment climate in the Philippines, urging the present administration to improve the security and transparency of investments which are vital factors to lure foreign companies.

In a meeting between Singapore’s business leaders and President Aquino, Singapore co-chairman of the Philippines-Singapore Business Council Choo Chiau Beng said they welcome the new administration’s emphasis on transparency and competition for businesses, specifically on the Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) program.

“For Singapore companies investing in the Philippines, it is very critical that the law and the courts have credibility. And I would urge the president to ensure that,” said Choo, also the chief executive officer of Keppel Corp. “I understand that the Philippines is expected to launch a large number of projects this year. This sends a strong signal that the government is taking pro-active measures to ensure that the country’s economic growth is sustainable in the long run.”

Speaking before some 200 members of the Singapore Business Forum/International Enterprise Eminent Leaders on the last day of his three-day state visit here, Aquino vowed to curb corruption in a bid to create a pro-business environment in the Philippines, adding that the overall climate in the country “is now more conducive to business and investments” under his leadership.

In the past few years, corruption—along with problems with transparency—efficiency and bureaucracy are keeping foreign companies from investing in the Philippines. According to the 2010 Transparency International’s Corruption Perception Index, the Philippines is rated as “highly corrupt” and is ranked 134th most corrupt country out of 178 countries.

In his speech, Aquino said the Philippines has embarked on “redesigning the building of state” by “redesigning the culture of governance, alleviating poverty by curbing corruption; by instituting reforms in the military, where faulty procurement practices have robbed our soldiers of decent equipment and dignified living standards; in the judiciary, where Lady Justice’s scales have tipped toward the privileged few; and all across the bureaucracy, where a lack of integrity and competence has been the norm, rather than the exception.”

Other reforms his administration will implement, the President said, include:
- addressing the challenges rooted upon a lack of infrastructure that will make the Philippines a more attractive investment destination by pursuing greater cooperation with the private sector through the PPP scheme
- cutting red tape
- ensuring the proper and responsible use of government resources

“Simply put, this means making sure that no one goes hungry; that the welfare of the people is treated as a priority; that each citizen is granted the opportunity to fulfill his potential and no one gets left behind,” he said.

Aquino lauded the Singaporeans for showing the way to achieving this is not an impossible feat. “Your government has already signified its willingness to help a brother nation reach the same heights that you have reached. Partnering with us holds both tangible and intangible rewards. It means also a commitment to lifting the lives of a people who only recently had learned how to dream again,” the President said.

Under the PPP scheme projects, Aquino said the Philippines plans to develop infrastructure projects such as roads, railways, airports and energy projects which are expected to open up more opportunities for foreign investments.

“By the end of the month, we expect to bid out five PPP projects as testament to our willingness to engage and empower the private sector,” said Aquino, adding that airport expansion in Cebu, Bohol and Palawan are among the key priorities of his administration.

Other projects included in the PPP program include the maintenance for the Light Rail Transit 1 and 3 costing P7.7 billion and P6.3 billion; the P1.6-billion Daang Hari-South Luzon Expressway link road project; P10.6-billion Ninoy Aquino International Airport Expressway Phase 2; and the P21-billion North Luzon Expressway-Slex connector road.

Aside from helping businessmen invest in the country, the President said the PPP program will “provide the infrastructure necessary to fuel the growth that we need” by freeing our national budget to address social concerns.

Japan disaster could derail Philippines' Samurai offer

MANILA, Philippines - The government's planned Samurai bond sale has come under a cloud as Japan -- which is being asked to provide a guarantee -- seeks to recover from a devastating earthquake and tsunami.

"We’ll have to get JBIC’s (Japan Bank for International Cooperation) position," Finance Undersecretary Rosalia V. de Leon said in a text message during the weekend when asked if the issue would still push through.

The government is waiting for JBIC’s response to a request that it guarantee Samurai bonds -- yen-denominated debt papers sold in Japan by foreign borrowers -- with tenor of at least 15 years.

JBIC -- the international arm of state-owned Japan Finance Corp. -- had guaranteed 10-year Samurai notes that Manila sold in February last year. The Philippines raised $1.1 billion from that sale.

National Treasurer Roberto B. Tan, in a separate text message, said JBIC had not committed to a date as to when it would respond to the government’s request.

"There was no timeline set. We are, however, keeping in touch with them", he said.

Finance Secretary Cesar V. Purisima recently said he had secured the support of Japan’s Ministry of Finance for a Samurai offering. He said the government was looking to raise "at least $500 million ... during the first half."

Ms. de Leon said the government would continue to tap the Japanese debt market for financing despite the disaster. "Yes," she replied when asked if Samurais were still part of the P764.54-billion borrowing plan for 2011.

The government borrows from both the international and local markets to finance its budget deficit, programmed to hit P290 billion this year, as well as to repay existing debts.

Monday, March 07, 2011

How to Restore the American Dream

The American dream for me, growing up in India in the 1970s, looked something like the opening credits of Dallas. The blockbuster TV series began with a kaleidoscope of big, brassy, sexy images — tracts of open land, shiny skyscrapers, fancy cars, cowboy businessmen and the very dreamy Victoria Principal. We watched bootlegged copies of the show, passed around on old Betamax cassettes. America (certainly the CBS soap-opera version of America) seemed dazzling and larger than life, especially set against the stagnant backdrop of India in the 1970s. Everyone I knew was fascinated by the U.S., whether they admitted it or not. Politicians who denounced the country by day would go home in the evenings and plot to send their kids to college in "the States."

Of course, the 1970s were actually tough times in America — stagflation, malaise, the aftermath of Vietnam and Watergate — but they were brutal in the rest of the world. Hyperinflation racked most third-world countries; coups and martial law were familiar occurrences, even affecting staunchly democratic India, where emergency rule was enforced from 1975 to 1977. Set against this atmosphere of despair, the U.S. looked like a shining city on a hill.

A few years later, when I got to America on a college scholarship, I realized that the real American Dream was somewhat different from Dallas. I visited college friends in their hometowns and was struck by the spacious suburban houses and the gleaming appliances — even when their parents had simple, modest jobs. The modern American Dream, for me, was this general prosperity and well-being for the average person. European civilization had produced the great cathedrals of the world. America had the two-car garage. And this middle-class contentment created a country of optimists. Compared with the fatalism and socialist lethargy that was pervasive in India those days, Americans had a sunny attitude toward life that was utterly refreshing.

But when I travel from America to India these days, as I did recently, it's as if the world has been turned upside down. Indians are brimming with hope and faith in the future. After centuries of stagnation, their economy is on the move, fueling animal spirits and ambition. The whole country feels as if it has been unlocked. Meanwhile, in the U.S., the mood is sour. Americans are glum, dispirited and angry. The middle class, in particular, feels under assault. In a Newsweek poll in September, 63% of Americans said they did not think they would be able to maintain their current standard of living. Perhaps most troubling, Americans are strikingly fatalistic about their prospects. The can-do country is convinced that it can't.

Americans have good reasons to worry. We have just gone through the worst recession since the Great Depression. The light at the end of the tunnel is dim at best. Sixteen months into the recovery, the unemployment rate is higher than it was in the depths of all but one of the postwar recessions. And as government spending is being pared back, the economy is showing new signs of weakness.

Some experts say that in every recession Americans get gloomy and then recover with the economy. This slump is worse than most; so is the mood. Once demand returns, they say, jobs will come back and, with them, optimism. But Americans are far more apprehensive than usual, and their worries seem to go beyond the short-term debate over stimulus vs. deficit reduction. They fear that we are in the midst of not a cyclical downturn but a structural shift, one that poses huge new challenges to the average American job, pressures the average American wage and endangers the average American Dream. The middle class, many Americans have come to believe, is being hollowed out. I think they are right.

Going Global
For a picture of the global economy, look at America's great corporations, which are thriving. IBM, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Google, Microsoft, Apple, Intel and Caterpillar are all doing well. And they share a strategy that is becoming standard for success. First, technology has produced massive efficiencies over the past decade. Jack Welch explained the process succinctly on CNBC last September. "Technology has changed the game in jobs," he said. "We had technology bumping around for years in the '80s and '90s, and [we were] trying to make it work. And now it's working ... You couple the habits [of efficiency] from a deep recession [with] an exponential increase in technology, and you're not going to see jobs for a long, long time." Welch gave as an example a company owned by the private-equity firm with which he is affiliated. In 2007 the business had 26,000 employees and generated $12 billion in revenue. It will return to those revenue numbers by 2013 but with only 14,000 employees. "Companies have learned to do more with less," Welch said.

Next, companies have truly gone global. The companies on the S&P 500 generate 46% of their profits outside the U.S., and for many of the biggest American names, the proportion is much higher. You might think of Coca-Cola as the quintessentially American company. In fact it is a vast global enterprise, operating in 206 countries. "We have a factory in Ramallah that employs 2,000 people. We have a factory in Afghanistan. We have factories everywhere," explains Muhtar Kent, the CEO of Coke. Nearly 80% of Coca-Cola's revenue comes from outside the U.S., and an even greater percentage of its employees are in foreign countries. "We are a global company that happens to be headquartered in Atlanta," says Kent.

America's great corporations access global markets, easy credit, new technologies and high-quality labor at a low price. Many have had to cut jobs at home, where demand is weak, and have added them in the emerging markets that are booming. They are not "outsourcing" jobs. That word makes little sense anymore. They simply invest in growth areas and cut back in places where the economy is weak. None of them will ever give up on the American market — it is too large, too profitable and too central to their businesses — but the marginal dollar is more likely to be invested abroad than in the U.S.

Gaddafi's Last Stand

Leave it to Libya's Muammar Gaddafi to show the world how a tyrant goes down: with bluster, belligerence and blood. Not for him, the quiet escape of Tunisia's Zine el Abidine Ben Ali or the noisy — but broadly peaceful — exit of Egypt's Hosni Mubarak. When the Arab youth uprising that has toppled despots on either side of his North African nation arrived on his doorstep, Gaddafi gave notice that the region's longest-surviving dictatorship would not succumb to revolutionary rap songs, Facebook pages and nonviolent demonstrations; he dispatched tanks and jet fighters to pound and strafe protesters. Hundreds were killed — the exact toll is impossible to know, since the regime shut out the world's media and shut down most communications.

Neither the King of Bahrain nor the President of Yemen, both of whom have used violence against popular revolt in recent days, would dare such a slaughter. But Gaddafi, rich in oil and poor in friends, has rarely conformed to the rules by which other autocrats govern. Whether backing terrorist groups in the 1970s and '80s, funding civil wars in sub-Saharan Africa in the 1990s or hectoring world leaders at the U.N. General Assembly in 2009, Libya's so-called Brother Leader — he wields absolute power with no formal title — has always done what he pleased and mostly gotten away with it. (See pictures from the unrest in Libya.)

This time he may have gone too far. Gaddafi's cruelty against his own people disgusted even longtime cronies and set off a wave of defections that, within a week of the first demonstrations on Feb. 15, left the regime deeply — perhaps fatally — wounded. Several military units mutinied and joined forces with protesters; two jet pilots flew to Malta rather than obey orders; a string of top officials, especially diplomats, quit their jobs and added to a chorus of voices calling for the dictator's end. Soon much of eastern Libya, including cities like Benghazi and Tobruk, had declared itself liberated from the regime.

Some have taken to calling the eastern provinces Free Libya. Walls of houses and shops in Tobruk have been sprayed with signs saying FALL GADDAFI. On Feb. 22, when the first foreign journalists arrived in Midan al-Melek, a square in the center of town, men were still joyous, chanting, milling about and firing off celebratory gunshots. "The protesters finished a few days ago, and now we are just celebrating," said one man in the crowd. "From Tobruk to Benghazi, it is all out of Gaddafi's control."

Gaddafi didn't seem to have gotten the message. That evening he delivered one of his characteristic televised rants, this one aimed at his countrymen. He accused Libyans of lacking gratitude for all he had done for them and blamed the protests on terrorists, foreigners and young people on drugs. He managed to work in references to a range of violent crackdowns, from Tiananmen Square to Waco, Texas, to Fallujah. Bizarre as it was, the speech left no doubt as to the dictator's intentions: "I am a warrior," he said. "I am not going to leave this land, and I will die here as a martyr." (See pictures of the rule of Libya's Colonel Gaddafi.)

One of his sons, Saif al-Islam, had delivered a similar diatribe 48 hours before, promising the regime would fight to the last man. But coming from Gaddafi himself, the threat carried much more menace. "I have not yet ordered the use of force, not yet ordered one bullet to be fired," he said, with typical disregard for facts. "When I do, everything will burn."

New Call, Old Response
So Libya threatens to be different. in Gaddafi, the Arab youth revolution faces a foe unafraid to push back brutally — and the watching world sees a ruler immune to reproach or reason. The U.S., having only recently begun to normalize relations with Libya after shunning it for nearly three decades, has little sway over the regime; the same is true for other Western democracies. (Outside the Arab world, Libya is closest to its former colonial master, Italy — which dreads the possibility of a wave of refugees fleeing the violence.) Unlike in Egypt and Bahrain, for instance, the Obama Administration has no leverage with the military in Libya: Gaddafi's generals will not be getting calls from fellow West Pointers at the Pentagon urging them to hold their fire. Nor will the threat of sanctions — President Obama said the U.S. and its allies were considering "the full range of options" — hold much terror for a regime that has endured long periods as an international pariah. (Watch TIME's video "The TIME Cover Speaks: Ideas From Arab Youth.")

So what began with the hope of regime change in the new, nonviolent way is now devolving into an old-fashioned African civil war, complete with shifting tribal allegiances and foreign mercenaries. Libyans' chances of being rid of their ruler of 42 years lie in their ability to endure his jet fighters; many hope more of his soldiers will mutiny. Gaddafi's survival may depend on whether he can rally support among his own and other tribes and bolster his forces with hired guns. (Reports from Tripoli say protesters have been fired upon by foreign gunmen.)

For the rest of the world, a Libyan civil war would mean a humanitarian disaster — Egypt and Tunisia, like Italy, are bracing for refugees from the fighting. There seems likely to be a global economic impact too: Libya is a major oil exporter, and several oil companies have halted production, accelerating a rise in crude prices — which rose 2% the day after Gaddafi's speech. But unlike the revolutions roiling other Arab nations, Libyan chaos does not immediately threaten the regional order or global security. There's no domino effect to worry about: Libya's neighbors have already had their regimes changed. Nor is there a serious threat of Islamic extremists' rushing into any leadership vacuum in Tripoli. And instability in Libya doesn't directly threaten the interests of an important U.S. ally, as the prospect of instability in Egypt did those of Israel. Even so, the Obama Administration is wary of "the [possibility that] you have more than one entity that controls territory in Libya," says a senior Administration official. Especially if one of those entities is Gaddafi: although he's been relatively well behaved in recent years, the official points out, "go back 20 years or so, and he was a significant sponsor of terrorist acts who had a nuclear program." (Comment on this story.)

Mad Dog of the Middle East
By the time Gaddafi had that dubious title bestowed on him by President Ronald Reagan in 1986, the eccentric Libyan colonel turned dictator had been in power for nearly 17 years and had proved a nuisance to Arabs and Westerners alike. His nation's oil riches and tiny population — Libya has the world's ninth largest known deposits and just 6.5 million people — allowed him to spend money freely on pet causes, including the Palestine Liberation Organization and a number of Islamic groups. Relatively little was spent on his people: a Gallup poll released last year showed that 29% of young Libyans were unemployed and 93% described their condition as "struggling" or "suffering."