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The Philippines is expected to become the fastest growing economy this year among countries in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN)-5, according to First Metro Investment Corporation, the investment banking arm of Metrobank Group.

According to First Metro president Rabboni Francis Arjonillo, the Philippines gross domestic product (GDP) is expected increase from 7% to 7.5% this 2018. This may be attributed to the heightened private capital spending, rising government infrastructure spending, revival in manufacturing, rebound in exports, tourism boost, and stable remittances from OFWs.
The ASEAN-5 is composed of the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, and Indonesia.

“All engines of growth are up and running at a faster pace. The country’s economy will remain as the best performing in ASEAN,” Arjonillo said in a briefing in Makati City.

Meanwhile, the country’s inflation rate is expected to increase from 3.5% to 4% in 2018, with the 0.6 percent accounted to the implementation of the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion (TRAIN) law.

The Department of Foreign Affairs announced on Wednesday, January 03, 2018, the issuance of passports with 10-year validity.

“Since January 1 and 2 were holidays, passport applications made starting today, January 3, shall be 10-year valid, provided the applicant is not a minor,” said Director Geronimo Suliguin, Officer-in- Charge for DFA-Office of Public Diplomacy.

The Republic Act No. 10928 or Act Extending the Validity of Philippine Passports, stated that only applicants 18 years old above will be provided with a 10-year valid passport, those below 18 years old will be issued with five-year validity.

Director Suliguin told the Philippine News Agency that regular release schedules are still observed for applications made from all DFA units. Meanwhile, for the applications made in DFA National Capital Region units on January 04, 2018 are expected to be released by January 12.

The passports that were issued prior to January 01, 2018 with a validity of five years will remain valid until expiration. Both the 10-year and 5-year passports will hold the same designs, security features, and the number of pages. Furthermore, there is no change in the passport application fees.

The additional costs may be implemented once the DFA add pages, change materials, and enhance security features of the passports, according to the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).

PH-led group to host 2023 FIBA World Cup, tops highlights in Asia’s basketball industry

2017 witnessed the festive moments of basketball fanatics from the region as the Philippine-led Asian consortium successfully secured the right to host the most awaited International Basketball Federation (FIBA) World Cup in 2023.

Philippines, along with Japan and Indonesia, braved the bidding held last year against Argentina and Uruguay that also offer to host the major sports event.

This was a sweet victory for the Philippines after it lost two years ago to China for the 2019 FIBA World Cup.

Despite the fact that the games would be played in three nations, Philippines will host most of the major games, allowing the huge basketball fan base in the country to witness the event.

Samahang Basketbol ng Pilipinas, who led the consortium, is targeting to bring the FIBA finals to the 55, 000-seat Philippine Arena as it seeks to break the attendance record of 35, 000 from the 1954 World Cup final between the US and Brazil at Rio de Janeiro.

Meanwhile, the FIBA started the inaugural window of the FIBA Basketball World Cup 2019 Asian Qualifiers in preparation for the 2019 tournament. It said to have allowed its 16 matches to be held in 14 different venues across the region from November 23 to 27.

The Philippines appeared victorious as it won two matches, beating Japan and Chinese Taipei.

Australia also defeated Japan and Chinese during the inaugural window, a few months after its debut in the FIBA Asia Cup in Lebanon.

Moreover, the recently held Asia Cup had recorded notable moments for the Asia basketball in 2017.

One of these was the return of Syrian basketball team to the Asia Cup after missing two editions. The Syria fought hard in both Asia Cup and Qualifiers, which resulted in two matches won over the India.

Also, Lebanon’s ‘tiger’ Fadi El Khatib bid goodbye in the Asia Cup. The 37-year-old legend continued to lead his team, registering 25.9 points per game in his last international tournament.

Still, the fact that Philippines won the World Cup hosting rights, after years of drought for FIBA hosting, tops all the highlights happened in the region’s basketball industry.

PH-Indonesia maritime cooperation to “intensify” to fight extremism

In the light of the recent Marawi City crisis in Mindanao, Philippines, Rodrigo Duterte the President of the Republic of the Philippines seeks to intensify maritime cooperation with Indonesia especially for preventing the spread of extremism in the country.

Indonesia Foreign Minister Retno Marsudi paid President Duterte a courtesy call at the Presidential guest house in Davao City. According to a statement by President Duterte’s office, during the meeting of Duterte and Marsudi agreed on elevating cooperation on trade, maritime security, education, and eradicating terrorism.

President Duterte also told Marsudi that “he wants to intensify maritime security cooperation with Indonesia as foreign and local terrorists continue to enter and exit the country despite the military efforts made to go after these elements.”

Philippine Foreign Secretary Alan Peter Cayetano said in a separate statement that the Philippines welcomes Indonesia’s offer to help fight violent extremism in the region.

“The Philippines welcomed Indonesia’s offer to share its best practices in Islamic education as part of the efforts to address and prevent extremism not just in the country but also in the rest of Southeast Asia,” Cayetano said.

Malacanang Palace has stated that President Duterte has again expressed his interest in the resumption of the Philippines-Indonesia routes to further strengthen the trade between the two countries.

Marsudi, on the other hand, has expressed her interest in pursuing the Philippine-Indonesian joint education program. She said that the Indonesian government wants to confer 300 passports for Indonesia descents living in Mindanao.

After the five-month Marawi City siege, Indonesia and the Philippines have started joint patrols in the seas bordering the three countries to counter efforts of Islamists extremists to establish a base in Southeast Asia.

Stocks hit new high as 2018 starts

The Philippine stock market is off to a good start for the year 2018 as it tallied a main index reaching the 8,700 mark – a new all-time high.

The Philippine stock market index (PSEi) recorded a finish of 8,724.13 resulting to a high 165.71 points equivalent to 1.94 percent, with regional markets playing a key role in the success.

According to Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) president Ramon Monzon, the bullish number of the stock market is important for investor confidence and reflects a positive track for trading.

“The back-to-back closing at new record highs on the first trading day of 2018 and last trading day of 2017 is an auspicious sign for our stock market. Investor confidence and optimism were very apparent in today’s trading and we hope our market will remain robust for most of the year,” Monzon stated.

In terms of monetary value, the said all-time high record equated to PhP 7.29 billion.

Conglomerate SM Investments continue to led the PSEi with a 5.05 percent advancement. Other notable names include Metrobank, SM Prime, Ayala Land, Megaworld, BPI, and PLDT.

Filipinos remain happy, optimistic despite crisis — Gallup survey

Amid country risk issues, such as the Marawi conflict as well as recent calamities, the Philippines remains to mark its status as one of the happiest and optimistic countries in the world, a survey from an international polling firm showed.

In the 41st global annual survey conducted by Gallup International, the country retained its rank as the third happiest country with a +84 net happiness score in 2017, up by 5 points compared to the +79 net score recorded in 2016.

Subsequently, Fiji grabbed the first spot with a net score of +92, while Colombia was second with a net score of +87.

The Philippines also landed fifth in the economic index of the said global polling firm, with the country recording a net score of +32.

It noted more Filipinos remain optimistic with the local economy growth in 2018.

For the hope index, the country also entered the top 10 countries who believe 2018 would be prosperous than 2017, posting a score of +40.

On a global scale, however, Gallup stressed the happiness, economic optimism, and hope indices plunged.

In happiness index, only 59 percent of the survey respondents said they were happy in 2017, a dropped by a tenth versus the result in 2016.

“2017 was a tough year with terrorist attacks over almost each week and it may have influenced personal lives all around the world. Nevertheless, a majority in all polled countries are happy,” Gallup said.

It showed that while 28 percent of the world was optimistic for the economy this year, economic pessimism was at 30 percent, with a net score of -2 for 2017.

The hope index also saw a decrease of 13 points with only 40 percent of the respondents believing the new year would be better than 2017.

Gallup polled 53,769 persons around the world through face-to-face, via telephone, or online interviews from October to December last year. It said it had around 1, 000 respondents, a combination of men and women, from each country.

The polling body said the margin of error is +3-5 percent at 95 confidence level.

Here’s why the U.S. envoy said that the Philippine economy ‘can do so much better’

Before being assigned to be the new United States Ambassador to the Philippines, Sung Kim said that he saw a “tremendous” potential” towards the Philippine economy through the 4 million Filipinos working in the U.S.

“There is a tremendous potential here in the Philippines. It’s a very young population, a hardworking population. There is a tremendous strength and depth to America because we are such a diverse society that will continue to keep us going strong,” Kim said in an interview with a local channel.

U.S. current President Donald Trump has in his campaign and even on his term has been reiterating his ‘First Policy’ between the U.S. and its partner countries. “What President (Trump) emphasized is we wanna promote trade but what we are looking for is fair and reciprocal trade,” Kim said.

Despite the rumors about the shrinking relationship of the Philippines and the United States, the U.S. Ambassador to the Philippines Sung Kim have said that more economic partnerships between the two countries would help strengthen the ties between the two nations.

The Ambassador has also mentioned about the U.S. forces helping in the 5-month campaign against the Islamic-inspired extremists in Marawi City–which has recently been a battleground between the terrorists and the Philippine military– providing technical information, technical advice, and equipment.

An earmarked PhP 750 million aid from U.S. would serve as an aid to address immediate, medium-term, and long-term rehabilitation projects. Kim also added that U.S is keen on putting up educational programs in the southern Philippines that would help the youth away from extremism.