China ‘fairly positive’ on PH lifting oil search ban in WPS

FAIRLY POSITIVE. Philippines Ambassador to China Jose Santiago “Chito” Sta. Romana joins the virtual Palace press briefing on Thursday (Oct. 22, 2020). He said the Chinese government had a “fairly positive” reaction to Manila’s decision to restart oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea. (Screenshot)

MANILA – The Chinese government had a “fairly positive” reaction to Manila’s decision to restart oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea, Philippines Ambassador to China Jose Santiago Sta. Romana said Thursday.

“The Foreign Ministry spokesman of China gave a fairly positive reaction. They said that they look forward to the cooperation between the two sides in line with the MOU (memorandum of agreement) of 2018,” he said in a Palace briefing.

Sta. Romana said both sides are expected to hold more discussion on the subject.

“We have to let the process proceed and see what will happen. But so far, the prospects are good,” he said.

The Philippine government recently lifted the moratorium on oil and gas exploration in the West Philippine Sea to strengthen the country’s energy security.

The resumption of petroleum activities covers the areas within Service Contract Nos. 59, 72, and 75 in the West Philippine Sea, which were suspended on the ground of force majeure due to the existing South China Sea dispute.

Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi earlier assured that the lifting of the ban is “in good faith and with full regard” of the ongoing negotiations between the Philippines and China, and Forum Ltd. and the China National Offshore Corp. (CNOOC).

In the Palace briefing, Sta. Romana noted that talks are ongoing between the two governments to determine when the negotiations can resume safely amid the pandemic.

“It’s been a year, almost a year since the first intergovernmental committee that discussed the oil and gas cooperation met and there was a scheduled meeting or a plan to have a meeting in the first quarter of this year, it got affected by the pandemic and the committee has not been able to meet,” he said. “The only obstacle I think right now is really time and place and pandemic; when the conditions can move forward. We hope that the necessary meetings can happen soon but there is no specific time period and there are diplomatic consultations going on.” (PNA)

600K garment workers at risk of job loss due to Covid-19

MANILA – The Philippines’ garment industry has taken a big hit from the coronavirus disease (Covid-19) pandemic, cutting exports by almost 40 percent and putting the livelihoods of over 600,000 Filipinos “at-risk”, the International Labor Organization (ILO) said Thursday.

In the study titled “Supply chain ripple effect: How Covid-19 is affecting garment workers and factories in Asia and the Pacific”, the ILO said total combined imports to the United States, the European Union, and Japan from ten major apparel and footwear producing countries in Asia fell significantly between January and June 2020, when compared to the same period in 2019.

“The largest percentage decreases in exports were observed in China, India, the Philippines, and Sri Lanka,” it said.

In the Philippines, exports were cut by almost 40 percent to major buyer countries “putting the livelihoods and employment of more than 600,000 workers at risk,” it added.

The research highlights that major buying countries’ imports from garment-exporting countries in Asia dropped by up to 70 percent in the first half of 2020, due to collapsing consumer demand, government lockdown measures, and disruptions to raw material imports necessary for garment production.

As of September 2020, the ILO said almost half of all jobs in garment supply chains were dependent on demand for garments from consumers living in countries with the most stringent lockdown measures in place, where retail sales have plummeted.

“This research highlights the massive impact Covid-19 has had on the garment industry at every level. It is vital that governments, workers, employers and other industry stakeholders work together to navigate these unprecedented conditions and help forge a more human-centered future for the industry,” said Chihoko Miyakawa, ILO Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific.

The study also revealed that women, who make up the majority of the workers, have been disproportionately affected by the pandemic, “exacerbating existing inequalities in earnings, workload, occupational segregation, and distribution of unpaid care work”.

The ILO underscored the need for continued support for enterprises, as well as the extension of social protection for workers, especially women.

Based on latest ILO data, the Asia-Pacific employs an estimated 65 million garment sector workers in 2019, accounting for 75 percent of all garment workers worldwide. (PR)

CTA junks Petron’s P56-M tax refund claim

MANILA – The Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) has turned down a petition for review filed by petroleum giant Petron Corp. seeking an almost PHP56-million tax refund for taxes it paid in 2012 for the importation of alkylate, a blending component for the manufacture of ethanol-blended motor gasoline.

In a 23-page decision dated October 22, the tax court’s second division through Associate Justice Juanito Castaneda “denied for lack of merit” the firm’s claim.

“There is no double taxation,” the CTA ruled.

It added that Petron’s claim that the excise tax on the imported alkylate and upon lifting of the motor gasoline to which such alkylate was blended is tantamount to double taxation is likewise devoid of merit. “For double taxation in the objectionable or prohibited sense to exist, the same property must be taxed twice when it should be taxed but once,” it said.

“The subject matter of the tax imposed in this case is on the importation of alkylate; while the excise tax imposed on the alleged use of alkylate as a blending component or raw material to produce another taxable article or goods is a different subject matter altogether,” the court added.

The court denied the firm’s plea for the refund or issuance of a tax credit certificate of its excise tax payment on the importation of alkylate in the amount of PHP55,691,571 for June 2012.

The court also said that since tax refunds are in the nature of tax exemptions which represent a loss of revenue to the government, these exemptions “must not rest on vague, uncertain or indefinite inference, but should be granted only by a clear and unequivocal provision of law on the basis of language too plain to be mistaken”. (PNA)

EU vows support to PH intellectual property protection

MANILA – The European Union Delegation to the Philippines has vowed to support Manila in its continuing effort to secure and protect the intellectual property rights of innovators, creatives, and investors, particularly during the pandemic.

Trade Counsellor Maurizio Cellini of the EU Delegation gave the commitment during the Wednesday intellectual property forum for practitioners from Southeast Asia where he called on IPOs in the region to reassess their role in helping economies and businesses survive and remain resilient.

“With the very strong trade relations between our markets, it is therefore in our mutual interest to continue to clear market access barriers owing to inadequate protection and enforcement mechanisms that are needed to sufficiently protect IP rights,” he said.

“Through the years, we have seen some improvements in the intellectual property regime of the Philippines through the efforts of the Intellectual Property of the Philippines,” he added.

Intellectual property rights (IPRs), such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights or geographical indications help inventors and businesses prevent unauthorized exploitation of their creations. These also offer guarantees to users or consumers to identify the origin of the goods concerned.

Last January 2020, the EU announced Manila’s delisting in its priority counterfeit watchlist, which ranks economies based on the level of concern and threat to the bloc’s IPR holders.

The European Commission’s biennial watchlist titled the “Report on the protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights in third countries” attributed its decision to remove the Philippines’ from Priority 3 category ― the least concerning of all three priorities, with Priority 1 economies posing the biggest threat― to the “very few complaints received from stakeholders and the increase in the relative importance of other countries for EU right holders.”

This was the first time the Philippines was delisted from any Priority category. Since 2015, the country had been on Priority 3, already a downgrade from its enlistment as Priority 2 in the years prior, according to the IPO Philippines. (PNA)

BOC-NAIA condemns 24.6 tons of vape products, cosmetics, expired medicines worth P10M

The Bureau of Customs-NAIA has condemned another 24.6 tons of vape products, cosmetics, expired medicines/supplements, and other hazardous and unsafe goods with an approximate value of Php 10 million.

The said goods were imported without the necessary Food and Drug Administration (FDA) registration and permits.

The hazardous and unsafe imported goods have undergone condemnation proceedings and were destroyed through the Thermal Decomposer (Pyrolysis) Facility of the Integrated Waste Management Inc., in Trece Martires, Cavite, on October 17 and 19, 2020.

The destruction of the said goods was properly coordinated with the Food & Drug Administration (FDA), Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR), Optical Media Board (OMB), and the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

In her statement, Port of NAIA District Collector Carmelita M. Talusan said that the condemnation proceedings are in line with the directive of Commissioner Rey Leonardo Guerrero to address perennial congestion problems of customs facilities on abandoned and illegally shipped items in order to further facilitate business and trade within the Port aside from the concomitant role of the BOC on border control and protection against the entry and proliferation of unsafe and hazardous goods. Kiara Lauren Ibanez / BENJAMIN CUARESMA

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