Gambia’s president declares state of emergency

BANJUL: Gambia’s Yahya Jammeh declared a state of emergency Tuesday just two days before he was due to step down, as British and Dutch travel agencies scrambled to evacuate thousands of tourists. He declared a state of emergency due to the “unprecedented and extraordinary amount of foreign interference in the December 1 presidential elections and also in the internal affairs of The Gambia,” Jammeh announced on state TV. Under the Gambian constitution a state of emergency lasts up to 90 days if the national assembly confirms it — which the legislature did late Tuesday, a parliamentary source told AFP. Jammeh has rebuffed two high-level delegations by west African leaders pleading with him to go. String of resignationsFour more cabinet ministers in Jammeh’s government defected, a source close to the regime told AFP on Tuesday.

January 18, 2017 03:04 UTC

Fans come to Washington for Trump swearing in

WASHINGTON: Republican Linda Cools journeyed from Chicago to Washington to be a part of history: the upcoming inauguration of her favorite candidate Donald Trump to be the United States’ 45th president. Trump fans are converging on the nation’s capital ahead of Friday’s swearing in, keen to bear witness as the political novice takes the reins of US government — and eager to see his legions of critics proven wrong. Reconciliation should be the first order of business when Trump delivers his inaugural address, Cools said, acknowledging the divisive campaign fight between Trump and Democratic rival Hillary Clinton. “I think it’s more of a coming together than a coming apart,” she nodded, calling for Trump to temper his rhetoric. But she and her husband were spending the week in Washington, thrilled that they snagged inauguration tickets through their congressman.

January 18, 2017 03:04 UTC

Air strike on Nigeria displaced camp ‘kills 52’

KANO: At least 52 aid workers and civilians were killed on Tuesday when an air force jet accidentally bombed a camp in northeast Nigeria instead of Boko Haram militants, medical charity MSF said. Fog of warNigerian Army Major General Lucky Irabor, who heads operations against the militants, said the air force had been given coordinates of “Boko Haram terrorists” in the Kala-Balge area. Accidental bombings have occurred in the past: in March 2014 an air force jet killed five and wounded several others when it mistakenly hit Kayamla village in the Konduga area of Borno. The fighter jet mistook the village for a Boko Haram camp during a night raid. In January that year, the convoy of a Nigerian senator was fired on by an air force jet which mistook the six-vehicle convoy under police and military escort for Boko Haram fighters.

January 18, 2017 03:04 UTC

Conclusion of graft trial delayed as Imelda camp fails to show up

MANILA — The Sandiganbayan has postponed to Feb. 16 the presentation of the last piece of evidence in the 25-year old-graft case against former First Lady Imelda Marcos. This came after defense lawyer Robert A.C. Sison failed to show up for the scheduled hearing on Tuesday. The Fifth Division, in open court, ordered him to explain within five days why he should not be cited in contempt. The briefing document apparently mentioned Del Rosario’s “heart-to-heart talk” with Zurich District Attorney Peter Cosandey, in which the Swiss admitted: “I will be very frank with you. (Special Prosecution Officer Teresita V. Diaz-Baldos, who filed the 1991 charges, would even finish a 13-year stint as Sandiganbayan justice in July without seeing the conclusion of Marcos’ trial.)

January 18, 2017 03:02 UTC

Seoul court begins reviewing arrest of Samsung heir

SEOUL, South Korea — A South Korean court has begun reviewing the arrest of a Samsung Electronics vice chairman who faces allegations of bribery, embezzlement and perjury. Lee Jae-yong, the only son of the Samsung chairman, has arrived Wednesday for the hearing at the Seoul Central District Court but said nothing to the huge media gathering awaiting him outside the court. If the court approves the arrest, Lee will be detained for 20 days. It would mark a stunning fall for a member of the business elite leading South Korea’s most successful company. ADVERTISEMENTA special prosecution team investigating the influence-peddling scandal that led to the impeachment of President Park Geun-hye requested Lee’s arrest, accusing the Samsung heir of bribing Park and her friend who faces a trial for secretly meddling in state affairs.

January 18, 2017 02:28 UTC

Pichay, Gatchalian arraignment over bank deal postponed anew

Rep. Prospero Pichay, Jr., and Valenzuela City 1st Dist. Rep. Weslie Gatchalian were postponed to March pending their appeals on the Sandiganbayan’s finding of probable cause to try them for graft. Pichay, Feleo and Montilla also still face trial for violation of Section X126.2(c)(2) of the Manual of Regulation for Banks. The accused individuals were originally supposed to be arraigned on Aug. 15, but the court had to postpone it to resolve the motions for judicial determination of probable cause questioning the Office of the Ombudsman’s indictment. But, with both sides only “partially happy” about the Oct. 18resolution, the scheduled hearings on Oct. 20 and then Nov. 17 were postponed to give way to the appeals.

January 18, 2017 02:18 UTC

Teary farewells as Obama aides pack up, make way for Trump

When it’s their turn, the White House staffers enter for a few private moments with President Barack Obama, a photo and a farewell hug from the boss. There’s a mass exodus underway this week at the White House, as Obama and his staff pack up their offices and turn in their BlackBerrys. There is added sadness for Obama staffers who, by and large, are horrified by the incoming administration of President-elect Donald Trump. In the back of the room, current and former Obama staffers gathered to witness his last round of jousting with reporters. He said he was searching for a job that would allow him to continue advancing values and policies he worked on in the White House.

January 18, 2017 02:08 UTC

Peace pact unlikely before 2019, communist rebels warn

Communist rebels waging one of Asia’s longest insurgencies said on Tuesday that a peace pact was likely not achievable before 2019, in a blow to the Philippine government’s hopes of securing a deal this year. Those economic and political reforms have yet to be agreed, and are meant to be discussed in Rome. Mr. Duterte released 18 top leaders to kickstart the peace process but the communists, are demanding another 434 rebels be freed immediately. Also to be discussed are socioeconomic reforms, constitutional and political reforms, end of hostilities and disposition of forces, he said. In 2002, the US Department of State designated the Communist Party of the Philippines and the NPA foreign terrorist organizations.

January 17, 2017 18:57 UTC

Ubial brings fight for condom distribution to social media

Health Secretary Paulyn Ubial has taken to social media to lash out at critics of her department’s plan to distribute condoms in schools as part of its drive against HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus. “Our call on oppositors: Do not impose your beliefs on others!” Ubial said on Monday in her @Dok_Pau Twitter account. ADVERTISEMENTThe Catholic Church hierarchy has criticized the DOH move to prevent sexually transmitted infections (STI), saying it would promote promiscuity among the youth. “My question to those who oppose: if you have better ideas in reducing STIs among the youth, then let’s hear it. The health secretary maintained that the government primarily promoted abstinence and the delay of one’s sexual debut, as well as saying no to premarital sex.

January 17, 2017 18:52 UTC

Richest, poorest in Cabinet

Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez is the wealthiest member of President Duterte’s Cabinet while Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano is the poorest, according to the net worth that they declared upon joining the government. Mariano, an activist, has a net worth of only P30,000, consisting of clothes and accessories. ADVERTISEMENTThe only other nonmillionaire among the Cabinet members is National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convener Liza Maza whose net worth is P295,000. Officials’ SALNsThe figures are based on the statements of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALNs) that the Cabinet members submitted as required under Republic Act No. The Cabinet members are required to file their SALNs anew on or before April 30.

January 17, 2017 18:49 UTC

IC sees better days ahead for insurers

Regulators are optimistic that the insurance industry stands to benefit from the expansion of the Philippine economy this year. In the same period, the insurance penetration also improved by 45.8 percent from 1.02 percent in 2011 to 1.75 percent in 2015, he added. Despite the steady increase in insurance density, insurance penetration and penetration rate, the numbers are considered low compared with other Asean countries, Funa noted. “Insurance companies will also be required to observe new financial regulatory requirements on financial reporting, risk-based capital and valuation standards for policy reserves. “In relation to the capitalization of insurance companies, we must consider the availability of investment opportunities for the industry.

January 17, 2017 17:35 UTC

Electricity spot prices plunge to P2.28 per kWh

THE December settlement for electricity spot prices plunged to P2.28 per kilowatt-hour (kWh), the lowest since January 2011, the Philippine Electricity Market Corporation (PEMC), said Tuesday. The settlement spot price is the average price paid by wholesale customers on the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM), the trading floor for electricity operated by PEMC. These market prices send signals to investors to make sound investment decisions on the timing of installation, capacity and type of resources. Distribution utilities and customers directly withdrawing from the grid sourced 21 percent of their requirements from the spot market. The Manila Electric Co., the largest distribution utility in the country, bought 21.96 percent of its supply from WESM and benefitted from lower spot prices.

January 17, 2017 17:35 UTC

LandBank-JICA project to ‘spur Mindanao economy’

A 4.93- billion yen agribusiness lending project signed recently between the Philippines and Japan will help increase economic activity in conflict-stricken areas in Mindanao, the Department of Finance (DOF) said on Tuesday. “The HARVEST project is seen [helping]create an enabling investment environment in the ARMM and other conflict-affected areas in Southern Philippines to help rev up the economy and raise incomes in these communities,” Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez 3rd said in a statement. The loan aims to jumpstart investments in agribusiness in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) and other conflict-affected areas in the south. The DOF said the 4.93-billion yen loan matures in 25 years—including a seven-year grace period—with an interest rate of 1.4 percent. HARVEST, which will be implemented by the LandBank from 2017 to 2022, aims to open a lending window for agribusiness ventures and related investments in the ARMM and other conflict-affected areas in Mindanao.

January 17, 2017 17:31 UTC

BOI upbeat on P500-B investment target this yr

THE Board of investments (BOI) is positive about its target of P500 billion worth of investment projects this year given the growth seen in 2016 and sustained investor confidence in the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals. “Our goal for 2017 is ‘P500B for BOI @50.’ Right now we are P441 billion for 2016, hopefully we can hit this,” BOI Managing Head Ceferino Rodolfo told a press briefing on Tuesday. If the 2017 target is reached, that would mean a 13.3 percent increase in approved investments from the amount recorded in 2016. Investment projects approved by the BOI in 2016 grew by 20.4 percent to P441.8 billion from P366.7 billion in 2015. Meanwhile, the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA), which approves foreign investment pledges,reported that investment pledges approved in 2016 dropped by 26 percent to P218.2 billion from P295 billion in 2015.

January 17, 2017 17:31 UTC

PH infra to gain from China-Japan $ pledges

Japan as equalizerJapanese investment reduces the risk posed by Chinese investments, according to BMI. It said Chinese companies will continue to have a growing presence in the Philippines given their low existing level of participation and the significantly higher levels of investment pledges. Nevertheless, more aggressive outward investment from Japan will help reduce this risk, it said. “Japanese firms have technological advantages and access to robust financing programs through organizations like the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) and the Japan Bank for International Cooperation,” the think tank noted. BMI believes that such diversity will help keep the Philippine infrastructure sector attractive to wider foreign participant, but noted that the dominance of domestic conglomerates across the economy will remain a challenge for those looking to access project opportunities.

January 17, 2017 17:31 UTC

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