Items filtered by date: Sunday, 28 May 2017

Eagle rises on debut, preys on top prize


Shares of Eagle Cement Corp., which aims to be the country’s leading cement producer in the next few years, outperformed the stock barometer on inaugural trading yesterday.

Eagle gained P0.30 or 2 percent to close at P15.30 per share from its initial public offering price of P15 per share. It was the most actively traded company, with total traded value reaching P967.95 million.

The cement firm opened at P16 and hit a high of P16.12, but gave up earlier gains as some investors pocketed gains. Based on yesterday’s closing, the firm had a market capitalization of P75 billion.

On the other hand, the main-share Philippine Stock Exchange index added 18.54 points or 0.24 percent to close at 7,886.03.

Eagle’s offering was oversubscribed by over three times the base offer, its president John Paul Ang said in a press briefing after the company’s listing on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

Eagle chair Ramon S. Ang said the cement company was facing a “very good future.” In two to three years, the company hopes to boost its market share to 25 percent from 14 percent at present, making it the largest cement company in the country.

But by next year, the older Ang said Eagle should already be number one in terms of capacity. “If we’re able to sell seven million [tons], Eagle will be number one right away,” he said.

He estimated Eagle’s sales volume could expand by around 25 percent next year.

In his remarks prior to the listing, PSE chair Jose Pardo said: “Filipino businesses can derive inspiration from Eagle Cement’s story. I believe there are local corporations that are ready to expand operations or offer more products to the market. This market debut shows that tapping the stock market is a viable financing option for growth and expansion. We have seen family businesses open their doors to the public through the years.”

Online stock brokerage COL Financial also sees bright prospects for Eagle, saying it was “poised to benefit from the Philippines’ growing construction industry due to the country’s GDP (gross domestic product) growth and the government’s plan to boost infrastructure spending.”

At present, Eagle is the fourth largest cement producer in the country in terms of capacity. The three bigger players are all multinational firms.

The local firm has a production capacity of 5.1 million tons a year, or a total of 130 million 40-kilo bags of cement. It is already completing its third production line in Bulacan, which will raise production capacity to 7.1 million metric tons per annum by 2018.

IPO proceeds will be used to partially finance the construction of a two-million metric ton cement plant in Cebu, which will become its fourth production line. This plant is set to raise production capacity to 9.1 million metric tons per annum by 2020.

“And whenever there’s an opportunity to invest, to acquire anything whether mining rights or existing plant or whatsoever, the company will definitely pursue it,” the older Ang said, adding that acquisition would hasten the company’s growth.

Eagle sold 500 million primary common shares with an over-allotment option of up to 75 million secondary shares. Its ticker symbol is “EAGLE”.





Baguio court junks cases vs Sobrepeña, top John Hay execs

A Baguio City judge has dropped the criminal cases against businessman Robert John Sobrepeña and other top executives of Camp John Hay Development Corp. (CJHDevCo).

Presiding Judge Cecilia Corazon Dulay-Archog of the Baguio Regional Trial Court Branch 6 also ordered the return of the cash and travel bonds, amounting to P6.64 million, posted by Sobrepeña and his coaccused in two separate cases of malversation of public funds.

The cases were part of the legal tussle between the Sobrepeña-owned CJHDevCo and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) over the control of the Camp John Hay facility.

Aside from Sobrepeña, the court also cleared CJHDevCo president Ferdinand Santos, executive vice president and chief operating officer Alfredo Yñiguez and chief finance officer Emily Roces-Falco.

Archog handed down the ruling after the Supreme Court (SC) upheld the conclusion of the Court of Appeals that the money CJHDevCo collected as rental for units in Camp John Hay Manor cannot be considered public funds.

“The sums involved are derived from rentals due to the [BCDA] under a leaseback agreement entered by both parties. The sums of money in this case are not public funds since this is a commercial transaction,” the SC ruling said.

“The amounts owed to the BCDA are merely corporate debts,” it added.

Archog said she received an entry of judgment from the high court on May 4 notifying her that the Aug. 12, 2016, decision of the Court of Appeals dismissing the cases became “final and executory” on Dec. 21, 2016.

She said the SC also informed her that its Second Division had already upheld the appeals court’s ruling on Nov. 9, 2016.

“In view of the finality of the said resolution … these instant cases are hereby dismissed,” Archog said in her order dated May 15.



Tourism industry hit by martial-law declaration

By Ma. Stella F. Arnaldo Special to the BusinessMirror

FOREIGN travelers, especially from South Korea and Japan, have been canceling their trips to Manila and Cebu because of the declaration of martial law in Mindanao.

As this developed, the Department of Tourism (DOT) said it continues to monitor the situation and safety of tourists nationwide, as a team prepares to leave for Seoul on Thursday to clarify the issues concerning martial law with Korean tour operators and travel agencies.

Flag carriers Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific Airways (CEB), also confirmed canceled bookings on scheduled flights from South Korea and Japan to Manila and Cebu.

President Duterte declared martial law in Mindanao on May 23, after government troops clashed with a local rebel group, called the Maute, in Marawi City. The joint military and police operation was to capture Isnilon Hapilon, head of the Abu Sayyaf Group, which has ties to ISIS.

“It [cancellation of bookings by foreigners] was expected to happen,” Tourism Assistant Secretary and Spokesman Frederick M. Alegre told the BusinessMirror. “But we continue to monitor the situation and have asked our regional directors to keep tourists safe,” he said. The agency received reports of the cancellations when its officials, led by Tourism Secretary Wanda Corazon T. Teo, met with industry stakeholders on Monday at the DOT office in Makati City. The stakeholders included representatives from the local airlines, hotels and tour operators in Cebu and Manila, among others.

He declined to say, however, how much losses the local industry stakeholders had reported from this new crisis. Many of these establishments are just starting to recover after travel advisories, issued by foreign governments against Central Visayas right before Holy Week, led to booking cancellations by many foreign tour groups. (See, “DOT still confident of meeting 8 million arrivals target despite Bohol cancellations,” in the BusinessMirror, April 22, 2017.)

In a text message, PAL President Jaime Bautista confirmed “the drop in bookings…mostly from Japan, Korea, and the local market as a knee-jerk reaction [to the declaration of martial law in Mindanao]. But we expect this to stabilize as more updates from the government are coming in.”

He added: “Advisory of assurance from the DOT and the government is much appreciated, so we hope to have this from the government.” He  also said the drop in flight bookings are from foreign passengers flying in to Manila and Cebu.

Two hotels in Cebu, Crimson Resort and Spa Mactan and Quest Cebu, received requests “mostly from Koreans, and a little of Japanese” for cancellation of P1.5 million worth of bookings, a hotel source said. “But when we explain to them how far Mindanao is from Cebu, they no longer insist on canceling their bookings. Only 5 percent to 10 percent of those who requested cancellations opted to postpone their trips to a later date, which we have allowed them to do.”

Both hotels are owned by the Gotianun-led Filinvest Development Corp. The source said no reports of cancellations have been received in its Alabang property, Crimson Hotel. Korean tourists usually stay about three to four days in the Philippines.

Cebu Pacific, meanwhile, said only 5 percent of its clients who have confirmed bookings to Mindanao have decided to rebook their flights to Mindanao to a later date or to another destination.

Charo Logarta-Lagamon, CEB director of Communications, said, “When we’re asked if the flights to Mindanao are pushing through, we say yes, and they usually push through with their flights. Those who ask if it’s safe to fly there, however, we have to just tell them to take the usual precautions as advised by the government, like bringing a valid ID and such.” CEB flies to 14 destinations in Mindanao, but not to Marawi nor Iligan City.

She declined to disclose cancellations by foreign passengers, but said, “any cancellations are expected [owing to the martial-law declaration]. But we expect to make up for these during other peak periods.” Aviation sources said the airline received canceled bookings “from Korean group tours” going on its scheduled flights to Manila and Cebu.

Alegre, meanwhile, said he will be heading a delegation to Seoul that will meet with Korean tour operators and travel agencies, in a bid to reassure them that it is safe to travel in other parts of the Philippines not covered by martial law.The Philippines is targeting 6.5 million foreign visitor arrivals in 2017, although unofficially, it is eyeing 8 million due to the commitment of the Beijing government to send 1 million tourists to the Philippines this year.

In the first two months of the year, 1.2 million foreign visitors arrived in the Philippines, up 10.88 percent from the same period last year. Koreans continue to be the top visitor market, accounting for 25.2 percent of the total arrivals for the period, while the Japanese accounted for 8.7 percent of the total volume.


Employers buck Labor Code amendments

(The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - Employers are strongly opposing provisions included in over two dozen House bills that seek to amend the provisions of the Labor Code on security of tenure and contractualization.


The Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) said yesterday there are currently 25 bills for deliberation before the House committee on labor and employment seeking to amend the provisions of the Labor Code on security of tenure and contractualization which have specific provisions that the group considers “objectionable.”

“The conduct of various forms of businesses invariably involves the exercise of management prerogative. Jurisprudence has reiterated time and again that the exercise of management prerogative is not subject to interference so long as it is done in good faith based on the exigencies of business and not intended to circumvent the legal rights of labor,” ECOP said.

“Contracting out (job contracting or outsourcing) as an exercise of management prerogative and business judgment is not only acknowledged in law and jurisprudence, but it is premised on two constitutional rights – right and freedom to contract and right to property,” it added.

ECOP said the provisions in some of the bills allowing only contractual arrangements which are “not usually necessary or desirable, or directly related to the usual business of the principal” would totally prohibit any form of contracting or outsourcing because what is being contracted out is the work or part of the work of the employer.

The group said the implication of such prescription to employers is that they can no longer contract out janitorial, security, messengerial and even higher forms of contracting and outsourcing involving business processes and manufacturing.

“The destructive impact on business, investment as well as the creation of wealth and jobs would be unimaginable,” it said.

ECOP likewise pointed out that a number of the bills prohibit fixed term employment “contrary to established jurisprudence.”

“Jurisprudence has reiterated time and again that the exercise of management prerogative is not subject to interference so long as it is done in good faith based on the exigencies of business and not intended to circumvent the legal rights of labor,” ECOP said.

“Prohibiting fixed period employment violates the freedom of contract of both parties who knowingly, willingly and without any moral pressure gave their consent to the execution of the contract guaranteed by the Constitution,” it added.

Employers have been at odds with workers on their position about contracting. Labor groups have called for the complete abolition of the practice of contracting in the country, while employers say there is a form of contracting that is legal under the law.



NABCOR, NLDC execs found administratively liable for ex-solon’s PDAF misuse

The Office of the Ombudsman has found several officials of the abolished National Agribusiness Corporation and National Livelihood Development Corporation administratively liable for the alleged anomalous use of P27.5 million from the Priority Development Assistance Fund (PDAF) of former Agusan Del Sur Rep. Rodolfo Plaza.

Found guilty of Grave Misconduct and Conduct Prejudicial to the Best Interest of Service were Victor Roman Cacal, Romulo Relevo, Gondelina Amata, Chita Jalandoni, Emmanuel Sevidal, Ofelia Ordoñez, Filipina Rodriguez, Sofia Cruz and Gregoria Buenaventura.

The Ombudsman ordered their dismissal from service and perpetual disqualification to hold public office. They were also slapped with accessory penalties of cancellation of eligibility and forfeiture of retirement benefits.

In its 54-page decision, the Ombudsman said the respondents cannot claim their length of government service as justification for their act.

“[R]espondents’ dedication and outstanding service to the government should not be cited as a circumstance that deserves public gratitude considering that the level of service which is expected from every public servant is no less that exemplary service," the decision read.

"Public office is a public trust and public officers must at all times be accountable to the people, serve them with utmost responsibility, integrity, loyalty and efficiency, act with patriotism and justice, and lead modest lives,” it added.

Plaza, along with the respondents, were charged with five counts each of violation of Section 3(e) of the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act and malversation before the Sandiganbayan.

According to Ombudsman investigation, Plaza from 2004 to 2010 channeled P27.5 million of his PDAF through Masaganang Ani Para sa Magsasaka (MAMFI) and the Social Development Program for Farmers Foundation, Inc. (SDPFFI), two of the non-government organizations allegedly controlled by businesswoman Janet Lim Napoles.

However, the Ombudsman found that the projects which Plaza's PDAF were supposed to fund were non-existent, as the agricultural and livelihood kits and packages were not delivered to the intended beneficiaries.

The respondents were also accused of disbursing the public funds using fabricated disbursements, certificates of acceptance, progress, inspection and delivery reports.

“The funds in question could not have been transferred to these NGOs if not for [the respondents'] certifications, approvals, and signatures found in the corresponding DVs (disbursement vouchers) and checks,” the decision read.

Plaza was also alleged to have received at least P42.1 million in kickbacks from his PDAF-funded projects.

The Sandiganbayan Second Division currently handles the PDAF cases against Plaza and his co-respondents. — BM, GMA News


Aguirre urges Congress to convene on martial law

The justice secretary believes that if Congress convenes to affirm the President's martial law declaration, the Supreme Court won't have the last say on the issue.

MANILA, Philippines – Justice Secretary Vitaliano Aguirre II said on Monday, May 29, Congress must convene in order to solidify President Rodrigo Duterte's declaration of martial law in Mindanao, and keep it from reaching the Supreme Court (SC).

“I believe that Congress must meet in a joint session. Otherwise, they would not have the option whether to revoke or to affirm the martial law declaration, and this will allow the SC to have the last say on the issue,” Aguirre said in a news briefing. (READ: Opposition senators seek joint session on martial law)

Aguirre said he had communicated this to House Speaker Pantaleon Alvarez and Senate President Aquilino Pimentel III.

Aguirre said that if Congress backs Duterte's martial law, the High Court would be "almost powerless" to step in and say otherwise.

Aguirre's statement goes against Section 18 Article VII of the 1987 Constitution, which gives the SC the power to review the martial law declaration upon the filing of a petition by any Filipino citizen.

Lawyer and political analyst Tony La Viña said that "from a legal point of view," SC will have the last say.

In the same news briefing, Aguirre contradicted himself by saying that the SC could still review the martial law declaration, but that he is confident it has enough factual basis to pass judicial scrutiny.

Aguirre himself had said that if critics want to challenge martial law, they could go to the High Court.

“I believe that in view of the declaration of the President and the concurrence of Congress the only way that the SC could oppose this is when it shows that the act, that the President acted arbitrarily, which is very difficult to prove,” Aguirre said. (READ: Questions you need to ask about martial law in Mindanao)

Solicitor General Jose Calida, who will have the task to defend Duterte's martial law should it reach the High Court, earlier said that the declaration has sufficient basis.

There are two constitutional grounds to declare martial law: rebellion and invasion. Constitutionalist Christian Monsod said that the crisis in Marawi city does not constitute rebellion.

For Aguirre, the joint attack of terror groups Maute and Abu Sayyaf was a "prelude to eventually take over the entire island,“ which means that it satisfies the grounds to declare martial rule.

Aguirre also hit Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno for what he said was a "premature" statement on martial law. Sereno delivered a speech on Friday before graduates of Ateneo de Manila University. She called on Filipinos to be vigilant and not allow Duterte's martial law to be a repeat of the abuses 

during the 10-year martial rule of the late President Ferdinand Marcos.

“I’ve heard of it, but I believe that is premature, that should have not been said because an action or a petition before the SC could be raised before it,” Aguirre said.

Sereno also called out constitutional bodies such as the Office of the Ombudsman and Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to do its jobs to make sure the martial law upholds the rights of the people.

Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales declined to comment so she will not be interpreted as having a pre-judgment on possible martial law related cases which may be filed before her office.

“That’s the reason why I don’t like to talk about martial law, because there could be cases brought before us, eh, I might be prejudging inadvertently whatever actions we might be taking,” Morales said on Monday after she attended the Office of the Ombudsman's launch of the Corrupt-Free Philippines Video Contest, an event at a hotel in Pasig City.

Morales also shrugged off Duterte's statement over the weekend that he will ignore the SC when it comes to martial law.

“He just said that. That’s a mere knee-jerk reaction to the Supreme Court,” Morales said.

On Monday, Presidential Spokesman Ernesto Abella said the President will respect any SC ruling on the martial law, but included a caveat in his statement nonetheless.

"Of course he will respect [Supreme Court] but based on his own considerations being Commander-in-Chief," Abella said. – Lian Buan/


‘Duterte won’t bypass SC, Congress’

By: Christine O. Avendaño - Philippine Daily Inquirer

Malacañang said on Monday that President Duterte had no intention of bypassing the Supreme Court and Congress when he told soldiers during a visit in Jolo over the weekend that he would listen only to the police and the military in enforcing martial law in Mindanao.
Opposition senators, however, issued statements blasting the President and warned of a looming dictatorship.
Presidential spokesperson Ernesto Abella said Mr. Duterte meant he would take the word more of “those who are truly aware of the situation”—the martial law enforcers.
“This is not meant to bypass the Supreme Court or the legislative [branch]. It simply means to say that those who have true and accurate reports … on which he will depend will be the military and the Philippine National Police,” Abella said at the first “Mindanao Hour” press conference called to update the public on the government offensive against terrorists in Marawi City.
Senate Majority Leader Vicente Sotto III echoed Abella’s statement, saying the President “probably means the AFP and the PNP are the ones who would know what’s happening.”

In a text message, Sen. Panfilo Lacson said people should “get used to [Mr. Duterte’s] rhetoric by now” as he pointed out that the Chief Executive was, after all, a lawyer by profession and knew “he can’t ignore the Supreme Court and Congress in this regard.”
“The mere fact that he complied with the constitutional requirement of submitting to Congress the written report within 48 hours shows his respect and regard to the Constitution and established authorities,” Lacson said.
Impact on country
Agreeing that the President knew he could not ignore Congress or the high court, Sen. Grace Poe pointed out the tendency of Mr. Duterte to “speak depending on who he’s addressing, who his audience is.”
“I know the President still has to realize that whatever he utters, whether in a small, intimate gathering or a huge gathering, will have an impact on the country,” Poe told a cable news program on Monday.
But Sen. Antonio Trillanes IV said it was clear from Day One that Mr. Duterte “had no respect for the rule of law and democratic institutions.”
“People should start waking up because he will keep on pushing the boundaries of his power for as long as no one is pushing back,” Trillanes said.
“No one is above the law, not even the President,” Sen. Francis Pangilinan said.
“We call on patriotic and sober Cabinet members, as well as the Armed Forces leadership, to assert themselves, to speak truth to the President, to caution and urge him not to violate the Constitution and his oath of office,” he added.
“We call for courage, for bearers of light to stand against the looming tide of darkness upon our land.”
Constitutional violation
“Is the President saying that he’s willing to violate the Constitution? He is on his way [to] becoming a dictator,” said Ifugao Rep. Teddy Baguilat.
“The question is, can we trust this President to be a martial law administrator given his penchant for violence, disregard for the rule of law and our Constitution? Can we trust this administration, which thrives on lies and alternative facts?” said Akbayan Rep. Tom Villarin.
Magdalo Rep. Gary Alejano said “the Filipino people should be warned that the President has long had the intention to impose martial law on the whole country.”
Ombudsman Conchita Carpio Morales, in an interview with reporters, played down Mr. Duterte’s reported threat.
Knee-jerk reaction
“That’s a mere knee-jerk reaction to the Supreme Court,” said Morales, a retired member of the high tribunal, whose nephew, Manases Carpio, is a son-of-law of Mr. Duterte.
“The President is a lawyer, he has advisers, he should know the limitations indicated in the Constitution,” she said.
The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) is monitoring the implementation of martial law in Mindanao.
“There is the danger of abuse. Our concern is that no rights [should be] trampled upon,” CHR Commissioner Roberto Eugenio Cadiz told the Inquirer.
In a joint statement over the weekend, the presidents of five Ateneo University campuses in the country urged Mr. Duterte to “act judiciously,” saying that the country had “more than a decade of reasons” to be wary of martial law. —WITH REPORTS FROM NIKKO DIZON, JOCELYN R. UY, VINCE F. NONATO AND NESTOR P. BURGOS JR

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