Former US ambassador to the Philippines John Negroponte, who co-chairs the US-Philippine Society think tank with businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan, is coming to town to discuss with key policymakers and the business community recent local developments affecting economic, political and security ties between the two countries.
This includes issues on foreign ownership in partly nationalized companies like utilities and real estate, an offshoot of a recent Supreme Court ruling on PLDT’s foreign ownership. At present, this has become less of a concern given pronouncements from the Securities and Exchange Commission that it would not impose the 60-40 percent local-foreign ownership cap on all classes of shares.
Another juicy topic that Negroponte’s visit will touch on is the West Philippine Sea conflict, which has been a hot issue in both the Philippines and China for several months now. He is also expected to discuss developments in the mining industry as well as the country’s major infrastructure programs.
Negroponte, who will lead an American delegation made up of top business and government officials, is set to meet with President Aquino Wednesday morning before the chief of state leaves for Davos, Switzerland, to attend the World Economic Forum (for the first time under his presidential term).—Doris C. Dumlao
Speaking of which…
After meeting with the President, the Negroponte-led delegation will also meet with Chief Justice Ma. Lourdes Sereno for the American businessmen to get a feel of how legal issues will play out in the Philippines over the next few years (something foreign businessmen have always complained about in the past).
The kickoff dinner will be hosted by US-Philippine Society board member Washington Sycip, while dinner for the following evening will be hosted by MVP.
On the final day, Friday, the business delegation will be given a tour of the Clark special economic zone in Pampanga to highlight its prospects as an investment site and as an attractive alternative to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.
Apart from Negroponte, other former US ambassadors to Manila will also be present, including Thomas Hubbard (the Philippines traditionally being a post given to rising stars in the US State Department).
Speaking of which, word on the street is that current US Ambassador to Manila Harry Thomas will be heading back to Washington, D.C., soon (slightly ahead of schedule) to make his presence felt in Foggy Bottom. No word yet on who will replace the capable, affable and Tagalog-speaking diplomat.—Daxim L. Lucas
Bias in defense contracts?
The drive to modernize the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) has now been delayed by a year, no thanks to a Department of National Defense official and his vested interests, according to our source.
To recall, no less than Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin in January of last year committed to “ensure the approval and signature of the contracts for all the 138 projects for the AFP modernization and capability upgrade program not later than July 31, 2012.”
Well, the last thing we heard is that in early December, the negotiation for the acquisition of 21 UH-1 helicopters failed. A separate deal for the purchase of 10 helicopters also failed to advance.
The military is supposed to acquire fighter jets, helicopters, support aircraft, radar and communications systems and modern equipment to monitor the country’s vast territorial waters and effectively coordinate defensive forces such as the navy and air force.
Our source says the delay is caused by a DND official who behaves more like a “commissioner.” The official’s preference for certain suppliers have caused delays and complications in the equipment procurement process, we’re told. Supposedly, this official is the brains behind the move to source defense equipment from non-traditional sources, despite the assistance for materiel readily being offered by the US. Tsk tsk.—Daxim L. Lucas
Positive mining news
When mining hits the news, it’s usually something negative. But Rio Tuba Nickel Mining Corp. is trying to change all that.
On top of the TV ad campaign of its sister firm Taganito Mining Corp. that highlights the good that miners have done for the community, the subsidiary of Nickel Asia Corp. will launch a coffee table book on Thursday at the Ayala Museum in Greenbelt Park, Makati City.
The private event will be led by Rio Tuba’s chair, Manuel Zamora, and its president, Gerry Brimo.
The book is expected to showcase the good that mining can do, in contrast to the way the industry’s critics love to portray it.—Daxim L. Lucas
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