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Joint Press Statement on the Occasion of the Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Joint Economic and Trade Committee between the Republic of the Philippines and the Independent State of Papua New Guinea


JOINT PRESS STATEMENT ON THE OCCASION OF THE SIGNING OF THE MEMORANDUM OF UNDERSTANDING ON THE ESTABLISHMENT OF A JOINT ECONOMIC AND TRADE COMMITTEE BETWEEN THE REPUBLIC OF THE PHILIPPINES AND THE INDEPENDENT STATE OF PAPUA NEW GUINEA
17 November 2018, International Convention Centre, Port Moresby

Honourable Ramon M. Lopez, Secretary for the Department of Trade and Industry of the Philippines and Honourable Rimbink Pato, Minister for Foreign Affairs of PNG signed the Memorandum of Understanding on the Establishment of a Joint Economic and Trade Committee, or JETC, on behalf of the Philippines and Papua New Guinea governments.

The signing of the JETC is a milestone achievement for both economies and represents the first initiative to formally engage bilaterally on economic, trade and investment issues.

PNG and the Philippines are both developing member economies of APEC. Apart from continuing close cooperation at the multilateral level, both economies see great potential in enhancing relations at the bilateral level. Building on the long established friendly and cordial relations, the JETC will encourage more mutually beneficial exchanges and cooperation to further deepen existing relations and trade and investment linkages.

The JETC will be a platform to discuss areas of mutual interests and to broaden and intensify cooperation between both economies. Cooperation activities include exchange of information, participation in trade and investment-related activities and promotion of economic cooperation between bodies such as government institutions, professional organizations, business federations, and chambers of commerce and industry.♦

Date of release: 19 November 2018

Press Statement of Secretary Ramon M. Lopez on the Nikkei Philippines Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)

PRESS STATEMENT OF SECRETARY RAMON LOPEZ
On the Nikkei Philippines Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI)
 
The Philippine (PH) manufacturing industry is continuing its breakout story. With the recently released Nikkei Philippines Manufacturing Purchasing Managers’ Index (PMI) for October showing the index jumping to a 10-month high of 54 for the month from 52 in September, the country’s manufacturing sector has shown signs of stronger expansion. The report indicates an increase in demand for manufactured goods in the country, with several firms reporting an influx of new orders.
 
We can see the continued confidence on the strong fundamentals of the PH economy and all its reforms and infrastructure development programs under the Duterte administration.  Investments continue to drive growth, amid robust Foreign Direct Investments (FDI) as per the Board of Investments’ (BOI) latest data.
 
Investors see the political will of the current administration to institute reforms such as the recently passed Ease of Doing Business law, and policies leading to further liberalization of more sectors to allow greater foreign equity. The country’s demographics are also improving, with a growing middle class in a 106 million Philippine market, who are young and have greater purchasing power.
 
Investment promotion policy is key in creating more jobs and business opportunities that will spread more prosperity and enable more Filipinos to beat poverty. Investments, especially in manufacturing, are what we need to boost our manufacturing base that will also expand our capacity to export and solve the perennial structural issue of having a trade deficit for the past many decades.
 
We need to work together to attract more investments and address all roadblocks to achieving a competitive industrial structure such as power costs, logistics costs, greater access to major agricultural inputs to many industries like sugar and agriculture supply at competitive prices.♦
 
Date of release: 06 November 2018

Joint Statement by Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon M. Lopez and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer

JOINT STATEMENT BY PHILIPPINE SECRETARY OF TRADE AND INDUSTRY RAMON M. LOPEZ AND U.S. TRADE REPRESENTATIVE ROBERT E. LIGHTHIZER
 
Following the bilateral meeting between the Philippines and the United States on August 31, 2018 in Singapore, during the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Economic Ministers Meeting, and recalling the Joint Statement Between the Republic of the Philippines and the United States of America issued on November 13, 2017, Philippine Secretary of Trade and Industry Ramon M. Lopez and U.S. Trade Representative Robert E. Lighthizer are pleased to announce several recent achievements resolving bilateral trade issues under their bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (“TIFA”).
 
Both Governments agree that enhanced bilateral engagement on trade under the TIFA should include work that yields benefits for agricultural producers, importers, exporters and consumers, and intend to work together in a number of areas. Specifically, the United States and the Philippines intend to collaborate on the development of cold chain requirements and best practices in the Philippines, taking into account international guidelines and codes of practice regarding food hygiene adopted by the Codex Alimentarius Commission. This work will build on private sector and local efforts already underway in the Philippines to improve the existing cold chain. The United States agrees to make best efforts, subject to availability of U.S. resources, to provide technical assistance to enhance cold chain development and management in the Philippines.
 
The United States welcomes the Philippines’ efforts to ensure the WTO-consistent valuation of agricultural imports for duty collection purposes, including the enforcement of laws, regulations, and policies prohibiting the use of reference pricing.
 
The Philippines recognizes the U.S. interest in the extension of Philippine tariff rates on certain agricultural products. The Philippines further recognizes that said rates would help contribute to stable prices for food products. The Philippines commits to expeditious consideration of petitions for the extension of such rates, consistent with established procedural rules.
 
The United States notes that the Philippines is continuing to protect geographical indications (GIs) in a manner mutually beneficial to both countries by ensuring transparency, due process, and fairness in the laws, regulations, and practices that provide for the protection of GIs, including by respecting prior trademark rights and not restricting the use of common names. The United States welcomes the commitment of the Philippines to further discuss ways to ensure that Philippine laws, regulations, and policies do not restrict or prohibit entry of U.S. products in the Philippine market. The Philippines confirms to the United States that it will not provide automatic GI protection, including to terms exchanged as part of a trade agreement.
 
The Philippines welcomes the progress made with the United States on a number of agricultural trade issues related to access to the U.S. market for mango, young green coconuts, and carrageenan, as well as the expansion of the Generalized System of Preferences Program to include travel goods.
 
Both Governments pledge to cooperate on the implementation of a U.S. work program in the context of the ASEAN-United States Trade and Investment Framework Arrangement on automotive standards issues. The United States recognizes the Philippines’ commitment to the continued acceptance of vehicles that meet multiple high-standard automotive standards, including, among others, the U.S. Federal Motor Vehicle Safety Standards (FMVSS).
 
Both Governments agree to continue technical dialogue and policy discussions on the National Retail Payments System (“NRPS”) and other measures related to electronic payment services, including domestic retail debit and credit electronic payment transactions. The United States recognizes the Philippines’ goal of increasing Philippine consumers’ use of electronic payments for domestic retail transactions and further welcomes the Philippines commitment to policies that permit cross-border supply of electronic payment services, do not restrict the total number of service suppliers, and do not favor any domestic suppliers over international suppliers.
 
Both governments agree to a continued dialogue on priority issues of interest to both countries, including for the Philippines, discussions on seeking relief from U.S. safeguard measures on solar cells and Section 232 tariffs on steel and aluminum.
 
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Background
 
The Philippines and the United States have long enjoyed a close bilateral relationship, sharing a common language and extensive cultural linkages, including more than four million Filipinos and Filipino-Americans living and studying in the United States. Trade and investment have connected the Philippines and the United States for over a century and continue to underscore the close ties between the two countries. The Philippines-U.S. Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (“TIFA”), concluded in 1989, has served as an important vehicle for the Philippines to engage with the Unites States and make measurable progress on a number of key issues.
 
Total bilateral trade has grown over the decades to an estimated $27.0 billion in 2016, comprising just over $18 billion in goods trade and nearly $9 billion in services. The Philippines is also a leading beneficiary of the U.S. Generalized System of Preferences program, with roughly $1.5 billion of Philippine goods exports to the United States entering the U.S. market duty free every year. Two-way investment stock stands at around $7 billion.♦
 
Date of Release: 22 October 2018

Press Statement of Secretary Ramon M. Lopez on the Issue of Congestion in the Port of Manila

PRESS STATEMENT OF SECRETARY RAMON M. LOPEZ
 
I had a meeting with Bureau of Customs (BOC) Commissioner Isidro Lapeña last October 9 and he clarified that there is no congestion in the Port of Manila. We need to clear this issue because perceived port congestion may cause companies to delay their shipments, and consequently may result in lower supply of goods and higher inflation.
 
The line of trucks that gave the impression of port congestion is caused by the policy of port operators to limit the port entry of empty container vans. The space for empty containers is already fully utilized and allowing more may eat up the space for filled containers. The BOC is already increasing their capacity via inland container depots in Laguna and other areas to solve this issue. But rest assured that there is no delay in transporting shipments to and from the port.
 
Port of Manila District Collector Atty. Erastus Austria presented the important metrics in measuring the utilization level of a port: quay crane productivity (number of containers moved per hour), import dwell time (or the number of days the shipment has been in the port), and the overall yard utilization level.
 
He said the international standard for quay crane productivity is 25 moves per hour. To declare port congestion, the import dwell time has to be 10 days or more. The metrics for the first three quarters of 2018 are well within international standards. Quay crane productivity is 24.84 moves per hour, import dwell time is 7 days, and yard utilization level is only 85%.
 
This is in contrast to the 2014 port congestion, when crane productivity was only 15 moves per hour, the import dwell time was 17-18 days, and the port utilization was at 96%.
 
BOC also expressed its commitment in prioritizing imported agriculture products, in accordance to President Rodrigo Roa Duterte’s Administrative Order 13 that streamlines the importation of agricultural products to ease inflation.
 
These, of course, can best be explained by the BOC. We invited them in our radio show, Konsyumer Atbp. to give them the opportunity to address the public.♦

Press Statement of Secretary Ramon M. Lopez on the Price Setting Approach for Cheaper Rice and Sugar

PRESS STATEMENT OF SECRETARY RAMON M. LOPEZ
 
We may have a solution to make cheaper rice and sugar available in the market.  The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) proposes a price setting approach where we will allow retailers or importers to import rice and sugar if they commit to sell it at Php38 per kilo for rice and Php50 per kilo for sugar.
 
This way, we don’t need to worry about the layers of traders making their own margins in the process. Through this scheme, we allow retailers who will undertake to sell all of their imported stocks at the given set price. Their sales will also be audited to verify that all imported stocks are sold at the desired price. These retailers include supermarkets who can make their stocks available nationwide.
 
This is in response to President Rodrigo Duterte’s Administrative Order No. 13 which instructs the Executive Branch to find ways in facilitating importation and availability of basic commodities especially rice and sugar. 
 
I shared the idea with Department of Agriculture (DA) Secretary Emmanuel Piñol. He fully supports the idea because this can be done faster and low-priced products are guaranteed to reach consumers.  Our next step would be developing the procedure.
 
Basically, retailers or importers will give an undertaking to DTI and DA that they will sell at the set prices. We will also advertise and sell their stocks at DTI Suking Outlets and DA Malasakit Stores.
 
Import permits can be given for a specific volume per period and at the targeted price so they won’t import to sell at other price points other than the set price. These importers will just pay tariff for their revenues as a way to protect the local farmers.
 
We have an immediate solution in providing the rice, and the reason why we prefer on buying in supermarkets is because we have greater control as to their sales record and this is not for major profit for them. We computed a reasonable return based on costing and have arrived at a price of Php38 per kilo.
 
Supermarkets will make the traders and palengkes can continue to sell local rice even at Php44 per kilo if they want because local rice is known to taste better. The good harvest local rice can go down also at Php39 per kilo but at least we don’t have wait for that as consumers are complaining everyday.
 
Consumers who prefer local rice can also pay premium because it tastes better. It was imported at Php80 per kilo but when you go to local stores the prices starts at Php120-180. But basic rice should be made available so consumers always have a choice.
 
As I end, I want to make it clear again that this will give only to those who will commit to sell at the targeted price. I sincerely hope this is one quick solution for everyone while we are waiting for rice tariffs. In that way, it will keep traders on their toes.♦

Press Statement of Secretary Ramon M. Lopez on the Implementing Rules and Regulations of RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018

PRESS STATEMENT OF SECRETARY RAMON M. LOPEZ
 
Today, I instructed the Department and Trade and Industry-Competitiveness Bureau (DTI-CB) to release to the Philippine Anti-Corruption Commission (PACC) the working draft of the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of RA 11032 or the Ease of Doing Business and Efficient Government Service Delivery Act of 2018.
 
In response to the concerns raised by the PACC, we wish to report to the public the following:
 
1. The DTI-CB, as the temporary secretariat of the Anti-Red Tape Authority (ARTA), has been hard at work, applying good regulatory practices in crafting the IRR. As temporary secretariat, DTI-CB is following a strict timeline and a broad-based consultative process, as follows:
 
a. Drafting of Version 0 between the DTI and the CSC teams and coordinating with other agencies like the departments of Interior and Local Government (DILG) and Information and Communications Technology (DICT), the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), and the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) regarding specific provisions in the law
 
b. Initial consultations with the agencies involved in the IRR specifically, DILG, NEDA, the Department of Finance (DOF), the Philippine Statistic Authority (PSA), the Cooperative Development Authority (CDA), the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Ombudsman, the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), and the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines (ULAP);
 
c. Consultative meetings with agencies under the following: The Office of the President (OP); Government Owned and Operated Corporations (GOCCs); DTI and the departments of Tourism (DOT), Foreign Affairs (DFA), and Energy (DOE); the Labor, Science, and Technology Cluster (DICT, DOE, DOLE, DOST); the Agri, Agra, and Environment Sector (DA, DAR, DENR); and the Peace, Justice, and Security Cluster (DND, DILG, DOJ).
 
Briefing sessions with the Banko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), as well as with Food and Drug Administration (FDA) were also held.
 
2. We are now in the stage of analyzing, and questioning the working draft and testing its possible impact using a public consultation process. We are bringing the proposed IRR to where it matters most, the Filipino citizen. Even as we speak, there are three teams that have been deployed to the regions that are currently holding public consultations.
 
We are effectively covering both public and private, gathering their comments, suggestions, and even complaints about government services to ensure that this IRR will be a regulation that is both effective and efficient.
 
3. We are very mindful of the legislative intent of the EODB-EGSD Act, its impact on government employees, and its huge potential to improve ease of doing business in the country. Thus, it is incumbent upon us in the executive branch to ensure that we come up with an IRR that is well designed.  After all, this will serve as the guideline for all implementing agencies.
 
4.  We deem it more prudent to undertake a carefully crafted, broad-based consultative process that will result in an IRR that is both responsive and clear.
 
As a final note, I dare say that working in government is indeed a supreme sacrifice as officials run the risk of having their reputations besmirched and threatened with lawsuits despite their dedication to the duty.
 
DTI-CB is just a temporary secretariat, but it has been actively involved in the transition process, by drafting the IRR, securing budget from the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) & OP, and spearheading information campaigns and consultations.
 
Let me assure the public that there is no delay, as we trust the wisdom of Congress in setting a 90-working day deadline, which shall be on October 22.
 
As the chair Of the EODB/ARTA Council, let me clarify that the law will be implemented by the Anti-Red Tape Authority to be headed by a Director General and three Deputy Director Generals. Thus, we eagerly await for the appointment of the Director General of ARTA who will also be the signatory of the IRR.
 
Meanwhile, instead of issuing press statements, I am extending this invitation to the PACC to be actively involved in the crafting of the IRR for RA 11032.
 
 
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