[Blueboard] Newsbriefs 24 November 2006 Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan slb at admu.edu.ph
Fri Nov 24 13:46:09 PHT 2006

Newsbriefs 24 November 2006 Morning

Simbahang Lingkod ng Bayan



More hidden wealth discovered in Germany (abs-cbnNEWS.com)


"The Presidential Commission on Good Government Thursday confirmed efforts to recover alleged ill-gotten wealth discovered in Germany and the United States worth almost a trillion dollars, ABS-CBN news reported.


PCGG Chairman Camilo Sabio, in an exclusive interview with ABS-CBN's Alvin Elchico, said that former Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos owned bank accounts in Germany worth a staggering 50 trillion pesos. 


Sabio has just returned from Europe where he discussed with a German lawyer strategies to recover the money in Germany.


The PCGG chairman refused to divulge more information "so that the Philippine government will not be preempted in its recovery operation."


Last Wednesday, American human rights lawyer Robert Swift announced he had already initiated recovery efforts on a vast real property with a value of $100M in Texas and Colorado purportedly owned by a Marcos crony.


Meanwhile, the PCGG intends to appeal the US Appellate Court's decision awarding $35M dollars of Marcos Funds to martial law victims.


Sabio remains confident the US Supreme Court will heed their argument citing Philippine sovereignty over recovered assets."


Saga of Bataan nuclear plant debt ends next year (Inquirer)

"BY THE END of next year, the Philippines shall have unshackled the ball-and-chain debt that has hobbled a generation of Filipinos who have had to pay out P120 billion for principal and interest since 1986 for the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP) that has never produced a single spark of electricity.

The Department of Budget and Management and the Bureau of the Treasury confirmed that the $50-million allocation (over P2.5 billion) in the 2007 budget represented the last of the BNPP debt to be paid by the government. (A small part of the BNPP borrowings was converted in 1992 to longer-term low-interest Brady Bonds due in 2017 and 2018).

Westinghouse Electric Co., which made the equipment for the world's first nuclear power plant in 1957, built the BNPP from 1974 to 1984 for the dictator Ferdinand Marcos at a cost of $2.3 billion or nearly four times the initial bid of $600 million.

The plant was constructed on a 357-hectare government reservation at Napot Point in Morong town, Bataan province, 9 kilometers from Mt. Natib, a slumbering volcano sandwiched between the earthquake-prone Philippine Fault and the West Luzon Fault.

When President Corazon Aquino was swept into power in 1986, she ordered the nuclear plant mothballed, declaring it was shot through with roughly 4,000 defects and was unsafe to operate.

Albay Representative Joey Salceda said: "Why is it that the power sector breeds much of our grand follies in history? You start with Marcos buying one for the price of two. If the 600-megawatt plant was not mothballed, we would have avoided $11 billion in stranded power costs."

Salceda, an economic adviser to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, was referring to the decision of former President Fidel V. Ramos to enter into multibillion-dollar contracts with independent power producers to avert the massive power shortages he inherited from Aquino, who failed to put in place alternative projects for the scrapped BNPP, in the 1990s.

Former senator Rene Saguisag, who headed the presidential commission on the BNPP, had rejected operating the BNPP twice -- in 1986 and 1992 -- because of the public's fear of a possible nuclear meltdown that was triggered by the Three Mile Island accident in the United States.

 "It was an emotional decision but we stand by it. The public's opposition against the nuclear plant was strong, the psychological resistance was insuperable. If people who can send men to space can blow up nuclear plants, what more the people who cannot go beyond the jeepney?" said Saguisag.

Go after Disini

Instead of regretting what might have been, Saguisag suggested that the government run after the people responsible for the BNPP debt, including businessman Herminio Disini, who used his connections with Marcos to award the nuclear power plant contract to Westinghouse instead of General Electric.

Saguisag noted that Disini, a reputed Marcos bagman who was believed to have received $17 million in bribes in the deal, had yet to face the music more than three decades after "fixing" the contract and with just one year left before the BNPP is fully paid for."

Arroyo: Charter Change must go on (Inquirer)

"THE SO-CALLED "final push" for Charter change (Cha-cha) to bring about the shift to a unicameral-parliamentary system yesterday got the much awaited presidential nudge.

Saying that constitutional reform was the "most important" of all her undertakings, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo rallied her allies to amend the Constitution through a constituent assembly (Con-ass).

The President hosted lunch in Malacañang for 70 congressmen representing the ruling Lakas-Christian Muslim Democrats party and allied political parties. It was the first of planned caucuses aimed at mapping out plans on how to convene a constituent assembly in the face of a Senate determined to resist it.

Administration allies led by Speaker Jose de Venecia left the caucus with an agreement to convene a technical working group that would produce by Nov. 29 a document containing the proposed amendments or revisions to the 1987 Constitution.

It is this document that the administration allies intend to present to senators and hopefully get their support so that the House of Representatives and the Senate could convene by the second week of December.

"Tuloy (It's a go)," was the only word that the President uttered in her opening statement at the luncheon-caucus, according to De Venecia and her political adviser Gabriel Claudio.

The two men took this to mean that Ms Arroyo intended for them to continue pursuing Charter change through the convening of Congress into a constituent assembly.

Claudio told the Inquirer that the caucus -- "which President Arroyo agreed to host" --was called "to fine-tune and coordinate plans for Con-ass and to ascertain her stand and support [for it]."

He added: "[Ms Arroyo] reiterated that Charter change was her advocacy in her campaign platform in 2004 [when she ran for President] and in her State of the Nation Addresses since 2005.

"She said she also spoke about this in international forums -- that Charter change is, for her, the most fundamental reform of government."

Claudio also said the President's statements at the caucus would clear up "whatever doubts or intrigues might be circulating on her support for Con-ass."

Malacañang had been relatively low-key in its support for the earlier attempt of local government officials and people's organizations to push Charter change through a signature drive or people's initiative.

But with the Supreme Court twice denying the legality of that mode, officials had said that Malacañang would not be as diffident this time."


Congress bicam panel OKs biofuels bill (Inquirer)

"IT'S THE COUNTRY'S "pioneer" legislation which mandates the use of fuel other than oil.

A congressional bicameral conference committee yesterday approved the proposed Biofuels Act of 2006 which requires the use of clean alternative fuels such as ethanol mixed with gasoline that is expected to save the country P35 billion in annual oil imports.

"This is the best Christmas gift our Congress can give to the Filipinos. Our people have waited long for this law to come to reality," said Rep. Juan Miguel Zubiri of Bukidnon, the main author of the biofuels bill.

Members of the committee from the House of Representatives and the Senate met for five hours until 2 a.m. at the Rembrandt Hotel in Quezon City to reconcile differences in their respective versions of the bill.

After ratification by the two chambers, the bill will be sent to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for her signature.

Zubiri said the measure would be the "pioneer legislation in the Philippines as far as the use of alternative fuels is concerned." He said another bill pending in the Senate was the Renewable Energy Bill.

The proposed Biofuels Act provides for the mandatory use of biofuels, stating that all liquid fuels for motors and engines sold in the Philippines "shall contain locally produced biofuel components."

Peso gets stronger, hits 4-1/2 year high (www.manilastandardtoday.com)

"REMITTANCES and "hot money" flowing into the stock market continued to boost the peso despite an easing of monetary policy that was supposed to weaken it. 

The peso opened at a four-and-a-half-year high of P49.66 against the dollar yesterday, its strongest for the day, but weakened to P49.73 before finally closing at P49.72. That was slightly higher than its Wednesday close of P49.735. 

Turnover totaled $357.8 million, just a tad higher than Wednesday's $356.03 million, with the peso averaging P49.689 against the greenback. 

Economists see an exchange rate of P48.50 to the dollar by the end of the year because of strong remittances from Filipinos abroad and stronger-than-expected export sales. But foreign exchange traders are wary of central bank intervention that has been capping the peso's appreciation. 

Former National Economic and Development Authority chief Cielito Habito sees the peso rising to P48.50 to P49.25 against the dollar, and Felipe Medalla, another former Neda head, sees it appreciating to P48.50."
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