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Archive for December 16th, 2008

Qatar sets up $1-B sovereign fund in RP

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 17:48:00 12/16/2008
Filed Under: Investments, Overseas Employment

MANILA, Philippines—Qatar will set up a $1 billion sovereign fund to finance infrastructure and other development projects in the Philippines, and will issue 128,000 working visas specifically for Filipino workers, Malacañang said Tuesday.

This was firmed up during President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s four-day official visit to the oil-rich Middle East state, where she met with Qatari Emir Sheikh Hamad Bin Khalifa Al-Thani and Prime Minister Sheikh Hamad bin Jassem bin Jabr Al Thani, said Trade Secretary Peter Favila, who accompanied the President.

Favila said the Qatar Investment Authority (QIA) has been given a list of development projects, from which to “cherry pick.” He said Qatar was especially interested to help in the development efforts in Mindanao, which is home to the Philippines’ Muslim minority.

Qatar will shoulder 85 percent or $850 million of the $1-billion sovereign fund, while the Philippines will account for the remaining 15 percent or $150 million, Favila said.

“That’s what they have proposed to us. They will put up a $1-billion fund dedicated to the Philippines to help in the development of the Philippine economy,” Favila said.

“Their particular interest is helping Muslims in Mindanao,” he said.

The sovereign fund is on top of the maximum of $1 billion that Qatar Telecom is investing in San Miguel Corp’s entry into the telecommunications sector.

The 128,000 working visas include allocations for the 37,000 jobs immediately available to Filipino workers in Qatar, Favila said, adding that Filipinos would be prioritized during hiring for future jobs.

The available jobs are in construction, fuelled by the “massive” infrastructure development there, the trade chief said.

“They really would need tens of thousands of workers there. There are new sites, satellite cities, on vast portions of the desert they are building highways, you name it,” he said.

Arroyo returned to the country from Qatar before dawn Tuesday.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-12-16T13:05:34+00:00+00:0012b+00:00Tue, 16 Dec 2008 13:05:34 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm12

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Qatari bank eyes stake in RP Muslim bank

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 19:07:00 12/16/2008
Filed Under: Banking, Investments

MANILA, Philippines—The Qatar National Bank is keen on buying 40 percent of ailing Al-Amanah Investment Bank of the Philippines, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said Tuesday.

With a 40-percent stake, Teves said the Qatari bank could take over management of Al-Amanah.

“The interest is there, especially because they would like to establish their presence in Mindanao and they would like to be able to sue this as a vehicle to expand the Islamic banking and commercial banking operations in the Philippines and East Asia,” the finance chief said.

“This will serve for us as a vehicle for more foreign direct investments from Qatar and the Middle East,” he said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo arrived in Manila before dawn Tuesday from a four-day official visit to Qatar.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-12-16T13:00:45+00:00+00:0012b+00:00Tue, 16 Dec 2008 13:00:45 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 pm12

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Gov’t declares unilateral 4-day truce

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 10:41:00 12/16/2008
Filed Under: Holidays or vacations, Armed conflict

MANILA, Philippines — (UPDATE) Malacañang has declared a four-day unilateral suspension of offensive military operations (SOMO) with communist guerrillas during the Christmas holidays, Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said Tuesday.

The SOMO with the New People’s Army ( NPA) will be effective from December 24 to 25 and from December 31 to January 1, Ermita told reporters at the Palace.

This year’s holiday SOMO is shorter than last year’s, which ran for 22 days — from December 16 to January 6. Last year, the NPA also declared a SOMO — from December 24 to 25 and from December 31 to January 1.

Ermita said troops would remain “on alert” even while the SOMO was in effect, and especially on December 26, when the NPA, the guerrilla arm of the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP), celebrates its 40th anniversary.

“We are on alert… The important thing is that our soldiers, policemen and CAFGU [Civilian Armed Forces Geographic Unit] are in place while there is a SOMO,” he said.

Efforts to restart peace talks between the government and the political arm of the CPP, the National Democratic Front (NDF), fell through in late November after both parties failed to agree on how to implement a ceasefire.

Peace negotiations bogged down in mid-2004 after the rebels pulled out in protest of the government’s alleged inaction to remove them from the terrorist listings of the United States and the European Union.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-12-16T08:15:06+00:00+00:0012b+00:00Tue, 16 Dec 2008 08:15:06 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am12

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No shoe throwing at Arroyo–Palace

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 14:01:00 12/16/2008
Filed Under: Politics, Conflicts (general)

MANILA, Philippines — Malacañang expressed confidence that unlike United States President George W. Bush, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo would not suffer the humiliation of having shoes thrown at her.

“No. Iba naman tayong mga Pilipino. Mas disente tayo, saka iba ang media sa atin [We Filipinos are different. We are more decent and the media here is different],” Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said.

Over the weekend, an Iraqi journalist threw his shoes at Bush during a press conference in Baghdad, where the outgoing American leader was on a farewell visit, to protest the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.

“That was an unsavory action, but it happens, people have to suffer for that especially the one who did it,” Ermita said, adding jokingly, “Pero palagay ko, baka may konting ano yan, may tama ng konti sa ulo [I think the attacker is a little crazy].”

Although no one has thrown anything at her, Arroyo has been heckled by left-wing militants during provincial sorties.

She also has not hosted a proper press conference in Malacañang in years, especially after allegations of massive election fraud and corruption were hurled at her in 2005.

In January this year, Arroyo answered a few questions from the media during the government’s year-end economic briefing for 2007.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-12-16T07:31:35+00:00+00:0012b+00:00Tue, 16 Dec 2008 07:31:35 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am12

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Arroyo signs Renewable Energy Law

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By Joel Guinto
First Posted 10:28:00 12/16/2008
Filed Under: Energy, Laws, Congress, Alternative energy

MANILA, Philippines — President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law on Tuesday the Renewable Energy Law of 2008, which will provide mechanisms to further harness “green” energy sources.

The law aims to “accelerate” the exploration of geothermal, hydroelectric, solar, biomass, wind, and ocean energy; and increase the utilization and development of renewable energy, according to a statement released by Malacañang.

“Now, with our Renewable Energy Act, we can move aggressively to develop these resources,” Arroyo said in a speech before the signing.

“This is also timely, because it [renewable energy] mitigates climate change,” she said.

The principal authors of the law Camarines Sur Representative Luis Villafuerte, Cebu Representative Raul del Mar, and Senator Edgardo Angara witnessed the signing, along with Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Speaker Prospero Nograles, Senate Majority Floor Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri, and the President’s son, Pampanga Representative Juan Miguel Arroyo.

Arroyo signed the law hours after she arrived from Qatar, where she embarked on a four-day official visit.

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Written by joelguinto

Tue+00:002008-12-16T03:50:44+00:00+00:0012b+00:00Tue, 16 Dec 2008 03:50:44 +0000 22, 2006 at 12:45 am12

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