BIZ BUZZ: What diplomatic immunity?
Over five years ago, Matthew Westfall—the husband of GMA Network director Laura Jimenez-Westfall, and the daughter of one of the broadcaster’s founders, Menardo Jimenez—filed a case against the Asian Development Bank (ADB).
Westfall, then an ADB employee, alleged that he was bypassed for a promotion despite his credentials, and the officials of the multilateral lender made inaccurate and false statements about his credentials (or lack of them) to make another candidate look more qualified.
After he took legal action, the bank terminated his employment. Typical David and Goliath case, right? Especially since it’s widely accepted that the ADB and other international institutions operating in the Philippines are covered by diplomatic and some degree of legal immunity for official acts.
Well, no case is impossible to handle for Westfall’s legal counsels from Divina Law who fought against the ADB all the way to the Supreme Court and—lo and behold!—won.
Last month, the Second Division of the high tribunal ruled that the Makati Regional Trial Court, which had dismissed Westfall’s petition, should reinstate and hear the case to determine if the ADB officials involved in his dismissal—eight of them, in total, including two Filipino staffers—are covered by diplomatic immunity or not.
Now, all eyes will return to the case in the lower court to see whether it will indeed prosper and if Westfall will receive the justice he feels he deserves. Of course, the implications for other international organizations operating locally with the presumed diplomatic immunity will be significant. Watch this space, folks!
—Daxim L. Lucas
A boost for nickel mining
What is needed for the Philippines to finally take full advantage of the long neglected potential of the local mining industry?
In particular, the industry could be a rich source of tax revenues for the government as the demand for industrial metals like nickel rises around the world.
The good news is that the Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) has called—and received support—for a proposed legislative measure to mandate mining companies to put up ore processing plants.
Unlike the present practice where local miners simply ship off in barges unprocessed nickel ore, having local processing plants will help ensure that the Philippine economy receives the full value-added benefit of exporting processed nickel which, naturally, fetch higher prices on the international market.
MGB director Wilfredo Moncano and House Bill 9775 author Rep. Shirlyn Bañas-Nograles believe the proposed legislation, once approved, could boost the value of the mining industry. The bill also seeks to boost employment aside from increasing the mining industry’s contribution to Philippine gross domestic product.
And naturally, mining firms welcome the proposed measure while hoping that the Marcos administration, which has been making promining pronouncements, will actually put its money where its mouth is.
For one, MetDev Pilipinas president Ludwig Pascual is hoping that the Marcos administration will make good on its policy pronouncement. Stakeholders, he said, should be reassured that there would be no rule changes midstream. He is, of course, referring to how the mining industry has been tossed around in the past by ever-changing rules imposed by different Philippine administrations.
MetDev is a consulting company offering services in mining, mineral processing and project business case development, among others.
Pascual said that even with legislation, forcing mining companies to put up their own processing plants is “easier said than done.”
“Of utmost concerns are feasibility, lifespan of their respective mine sites and power requirement,” he said. “Some mines, especially the older ones, are already nearing the depletion of their ‘minable’ ores and it may not be to their best interest to put up a mineral processing plant. Power requirement is crucial because a processing plant needs a lot of energy to function. Also, putting up one is capital-intensive and most miners are concerned about the huge cost of putting up one.”
The ultimate prize for the nickel mining sector is the rising demand, globally, for batteries that are used for electric and hybrid vehicles. With a developed nickel mining sector, backed up by a local processing industry, the Philippines can become a major player in the multibillion-dollar electric vehicle supply chain. All that’s left to do is for the Marcos administration to show political will. Can it? Will it? Abangan!
—Daxim L. Lucas
Zobel brothers honor FVR
Jaime Augusto and Fernando Zobel de Ayala described the late President Fidel V. Ramos (FVR) in their separate eulogies “one of the greatest Filipinos to have lived.”
“The country has lost one of its most steadfast pillars, but we take comfort that President Ramos’ monumental legacy will continue to live on, not only in the physical things that were built under his watch, but also within every Filipino, whose life was made much richer by everything that he made possible. He will always be remembered, with much love and respect, as one of the nation’s great leaders,” said Jaime Augusto a.k.a JAZA.
“President Ramos’ courage, conviction and leadership ushered the Philippines into an era of stability and transformation, built upon solid foundations,” he said, “Our people enjoy much better lives today through services that can now be easily accessed.”
Among Ramos’ legacies is the liberalization of the telecommunications industry during his watch, giving birth to Globe Telecom, one of the biggest revenue generators today of Ayala Corp.
Fernando, on the other hand, cited Ramos’ decision to open up the water distribution sector to the private sector. He was thus instrumental in the birth of Manila Water, which won the bid to manage the East Zone Concession.
Since 1997, Manila Water laid down and rehabilitated 5,700 kilometers of water lines. From just a single sewage treatment plant, there are now 41 facilities. Significantly, the price of water per cubic meter is now more affordable than in Singapore, Tokyo and Beijing. All of this was at zero cost to the government, Fernando said.
“President Ramos so deeply loved our nation that he did whatever was necessary to give the Filipino a better life, guided by the principles of fairness and integrity—this was his gift to all of us.
“We will miss his presence, guidance, and tenacity. We hope to build on this gift and create—together as one Filipino people—a just, progressive, and equitable nation that we all deserve. In FVR’s words, ‘Kaya natin ito!’” Fernando added.