Olli News

#MINDANAO

May 13, 2021

Written by John Carlo Tria

About Mindanao’s 2020 growth

All Mindanao regions posted smaller declines than the 2020 national average economic growth rate. Then Bangsamoro Autonomous Region had the lowest at -1.9%. The Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) web link is quoted below this column to read more. We must note that GRDP reports reflect the growth of the previous year, not the current one.

Last week’s report by the NEDA was not a surprise given that Mindanao regions in recent years often perform better than the national average as I wrote in my column two years ago
(https://mb.com.ph/2019/04/30/is-the-probinsya-growing-faster/) after the government released its 2018 Gross Regional Domestic Growth Rate (GRDP) figure. In 2019 it was the Davao region that exceeded the country’s growth rate.

It will thus be worthy for Mindanao-based academics, CSO and government groups to study these growth trends with an eye to identifying some bright spots and challenges that can prove useful for local businesses and governments as they plan their moves into the new normal.

In a related development, I believe other economic reforms need to be pushed in order to cement efforts needed to bolster our capacities to recover and transition into the new normal economy.

Apart from previously passed tax reform measures, proposed legislative measures such as the Government Financial Institutions Unified Initiatives to Distressed Enterprises for Economic Recovery (GUIDE) bill, and proposed amendments to the Public Service Act, the Foreign Investment Act, and the Retail Trade Liberalization Act can help broaden local growth can help push recovery and the transition to the new normal economy.

This migration to the new normal economy will be enabled further by our push into digital banking and transactions as pushed by our economic managers. The Bangko Sentral’s 2023 goal of making 50% of all payment transactions digital is I believe a worthy and timely one, which will be a big help for those of us in Mindanao who have to trade with buyers and suppliers online.

Already, the BSP reports that 17% of total payment transactions in 2020 are digital, and our country’s electronic payment volumes have already risen to 5.5 trillion pesos as of the end of March 2021, a far cry from the end of 2020, according to Philippine Payments Management Inc. (PMMI) chairman Justo A. Ortiz. This bodes well for many merchants based in the regions outside metro Manila particularly from Mindanao, allowing them to adapt their capacities to serve online transactions from many more customers apart from those within their locales.

I believe local business groups will do well to monitor the progress of these economic reforms and the evolution of their local businesses and how well they, and in particular, the thousands of Micro and Small Business members migrate into these new systems to meet the new normal.

Article first appeared in the Manila Bulletin website last May 7, 2021.


Is DOE at the tip of the energy transition spear?

August 16, 2020

Power pylons and high-voltage lines passing through the Cordilleras.

By Sara Jane Ahmed & Alberto Dalusung III

IN recent days, the country’s energy sector has been abuzz with talk from the energy managers of a drive to accelerate indigenous energy development.

This is driven by the experience of the real fears of imported fuel supply insecurity for the whole energy sector at the onset of the pandemic,especially for the power sector. In private and public fora, Energy Secretary Alfonso Cusi has encouraged bolder development of renewable energy. This drive is both patriotic and scientific.

Rapid technological development driving the transition to a low-carbon economy means that electricity should no longer be expensive. Variable renewable energy can now meet or undercut the price of power from the electricity grid while cannibalizing the market for more expensive coal-based generation.

This realization has led Meralco, the country’s largest utility company, to acknowledge the risk of nonperforming stranded assets through a carve-out clause in their power purchase agreements that permits curtailment. It means Meralco can opt to buy less power from coal-fired generators under certain conditions. Accordingly, coal generators are no longer able to pass on unmanaged coal price risk to Meralco and its end-users.

Meralco confirmed at a conference last month that should it decide to buy less power, as seen in its 30-percent cut during the Covid-19 lockdown, coal generators would have to sell their electricity elsewhere. Coal-fired plants only operate efficiently in a narrow capacity band and if they run at below a certain threshold, the cost of fuel and maintenance rises.

Unlike some fossil gas and diesel generators, coal power plants have a minimum stable operating point requirement of 40 percent to 50 percent of capacity, resulting in significant risk of breakdowns at lower operating levels. With mounting competition from low-priced renewable energy and
storage options, market risk is rising for coal-fired generators and the investors and banks who hold their project debt.

Stranded fossil fuel assets have already led to high prices in the Philippines, as highlighted in a previous commentary. Over-reliance on baseload generation that is dependent on imported fuel has translated into high tariffs for consumers that can only temporarily be tempered under certain force majeure conditions. If Meralco had not invoked force majeure clauses in its supply contracts in response to the Covid-19 crisis, consumers would have been punished by a 15-percent increase in per kWh rates in Luzon. In contrast, electric cooperatives have been largely unable to trigger force majeure negotiations because of their small size, lack of negotiating power, and reliance on non-standardized contracts. The only option electric cooperatives can take to protect low-income households who rely on them for power is to request the waiver of the minimum energy off-take provision.

The current Covid-19 situation has highlighted the great and growing risks of over-dependence on coal-fired power, which cannot adjust to declining loads, forcing several to shut down. Failure to transition away from inflexible coal plants has already cost Philippine consumers dearly in the form of high electricity prices. Meralco’s carve-out clause is a step in the right direction to ensure that if power companies, investors and banks are foolish enough to ignore cheaper clean energy options, it is they—not customers—that will bear the risk, either in the form of a write-off or a non-performing loan.

Incumbent power sector players and their banks currently assume electricity demand will simply recover and coal can take back its dominant place. Demand will certainly recover, but it will do so under a modernized wholesale spot market that removes the automatic nomination of a minimum stable load in front of the dispatch (supply) order.

Therefore, coal plants will no longer have guaranteed buyers if they are unable to compete. The economics of coal will deteriorate further because even lower cost biomass plants without feed-in-tariffs (FiTs) will be given priority dispatch ahead of coal. The question then is this: as the market re-orients and assets become stranded for being uneconomical to operate, who will hold the debt exposure? Old power contracts leave stranded asset costs to end-users, while Meralco contracts from 2019 onward assign the cost to the power generator, and ultimately banks.

Given the pace of change in power markets, and renewed ambition to protect households and industry from paying for ill-advised risks, it would now be prudent for the Department of Energy (DOE) to render the Meralco carve-out clause as a standard provision in all imported fossil fuel contracts. Regulators ought to request for banks to sufficiently insure or cover risk of default from their fossil fuel power project loans.

Commercial and investment banks globally have been accelerating their move away from exposure to fossil fuel power. Considering the deteriorating economics of fossil fuel power and the fact that responsible managers have a fiduciary duty to protect their shareholders from known financial risks. Under current laws and regulations, directors are personally liable if they have breached their fiduciary duty to act in shareholders’ best interests. This is the time to consider if ignoring fossil fuel risks is a breach of fiduciary duty.

The Philippines’s financial regulators have already provided leadership in this sphere. The Securities and Exchange Commission has imposed mandatory environmental, social and governance reporting for publicly listed companies, and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has approved the Sustainable Finance Framework to safeguard the financial system from the evolving material hazards of physical climate risk and transition risk, including stranded assets. Banks should now have the impetus to start pricing climate and transition risks and the value of the price stability and resilience of low-carbon ventures. Another step to take is to protect retail investors through appropriate bond disclosures that take into consideration the changed risk-profile of fossil fuel investments.

Planning norms for the power sector also need to be reconsidered in light of evidence that over-reliance on fossil fuel in the energy mix results in expensive system lock-in. Coal- and gas-fired units rely on inflexible take-or-pay contracts that guarantee dispatch even when new lower cost renewables can reduce system prices. Fossil gas in particular requires major infrastructure investment in terms of regasification units, associated pipelines and storage units. All this in turn will require from consumers the same long-term capital recovery guarantees as coal- and oil-fired generation. With cheaper domestic renewables entering the generation mix, power system planners, operators and investors need to reconsider assumptions regarding energy security, technology, finance and economic outcomes for consumers and industry.

It’s time to future-proof the Philippine energy market. New fossil projects should be required to provide estimates of how their technology might compete in eight to 10 years against other technology options. For instance, wind developer Triconti is preparing for a 1,200-MW portfolio of offshore wind turbines in Luzon and the Visayas. Offshore wind costs continue to drop as larger, more efficient turbines are deployed with higher capacity factors up to 52 percent. Unlike coal, offshore wind has no volatile imported fuel cost. In other words, the timing and production of offshore wind means it directly competes with imported coal.

We encourage DOE to recalibrate its planning process, including surveying generation options to grid capacity needs in order to promote capital efficiency and improve system design options. The DOE will find itself at the tip of the transition spear sooner once it recognizes the way in which the array of new generation options, including energy storage integration, can secure the agency’s cost-reduction and domestic energy security objectives for the long run.

• Sara Jane Ahmed is an energy finance analyst at the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. Alberto Dalusung III is the energy transition advisor of the Institute for Climate and Sustainable Cities.

Image credits: Alexey Kornylyev | Dreamstime.com

This article originally appeared in the BusinessMirror last August 15, 2020.


OLLI lends expertise to Hospitality Industry via e-forum

June 7, 2020

Metro Manila — June 6, 2020 — The OLLI Consulting Group Inc., in partnership with JCI Manila, hosted an online seminar entitled “Harnessing the Hotel Industry’s Resilience Reflex in the New Normal” on the JCI Manila Facebook Page.

As event speakers, OLLI consultants Dominic Dorol, Jose Vicente Camus, Maria Paula Tolentino, and Atty. Ariel Arriola offered insights on the four pillars of the hotel industry business:  operations, finance, reputation management, and legal compliance that could help the industry navigate the new normal following the CoVid-19 global pandemic. With guest of honor, Undersecretary Benito C. Bengzon of the Philippine Department of Tourism (DOT) in attendance, he shared the government’s plans and programs for the tourism industry during and after the crisis, while the OLLI ConsultingGroup’s Principal and CEO, Atty. Leo Dominguez served as the event’s moderator.

Effective Operational Management and Robust Financial Support

“The hospitality industry was the first to get hit by the pandemic, and will probably be the last to recover,” said Dominic Dorol, OLLI’s lead consultant for the Hospitality & Tourism Industry. He offered important advice on how hotel executives should adopt moving forward. He also reminds them not to lose touch with visitors. “When you put in your additional security and safety measures, please make sure that they are still of a service nature.” Mr. Dorol also recommended hotels to create a 28-week implementation plan which they can adjust according to government regulations on business resumption.

Joey Camus, OLLI’s consultant for Finance and head for Public Infrastructure, affirmed the need for planning, not just operationally but also financially. “The public and private sectors are doing a lot to stimulate the economy,” he shared. Among these programs are the Philippine Department of Finance (DOF) and the National Economic Development Authority (NEDA)’s PH-PROGRESO Program, the Philippine Economic Stimulus Act (PESA), and the Financial Institutions Strategic Transfer Act (FIST). Through PESA, hotels and other tourism-related MSME can avail of interest-free loans and fiscal incentives.

Mr. Camus also cited private sector-led financing programs for supplier networks and MSMEs, such as the Philippine Franchise Association (PFA)’s COVID-19 Assistance to Restart Enterprises (CARES) Program. “Hospitality businesses should keep themselves open and updated with policy developments. They should find programs that match their needs and apply for those programs,” he recommends. Finally, he advises hoteliers to get liquid, update and negotiate with lenders, and continue investing in their business. According to Mr. Camus, “having a well-defined strategy moving forward that attracts new customers to your hotel” is something that banks look at when considering enterprises to finance.

The Importance of Communication and Legal Compliance

Maria Paula Tolentino, OLLI’s head for Online Reputation Management, touched on the importance of effective communication in a landscape where consumption patterns and customer perceptions are evolving at an unprecedented rate because of the pandemic. She observes, “most customers avoid personally shopping for groceries, relying instead on delivery services, thereby accelerating the development of online sales and promotion. As society phases into a hygiene-conscious world, “customers will focus more on their choices, mainly food. They will rely more on whether the source of the ingredients is reliable, good enough quality, have been safely handled, and are rich in nutrition.” A hotel’s service is something customers will comment on online, especially now that everyone exercises more caution than before. Having a crisis management plan in place is crucial to keep the hotel’s positive image intact amidst problems that may arise.

A solid legal foundation is also vital to managing the operations and maintaining a hotel’s reputation. Atty. Ariel Arriola, OLLI’s consultant for Legal Affairs, discussed the importance of complying with the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act (R.A. No. 11058), the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases Act (R.A. No. 11332), Data Privacy Act (R.A. No. 10173), especially in gathering customer and employee data, and in reporting cases of CoVid-19 to local government units. To ensure compliance, hotels must design and implement programs and train personnel for COVID-19 reporting, occupational safety and health, and data privacy.

Timely Government Response

According to DOT Undersecretary Bengzon, “the Philippines is one of the very few countries that has gone the extra mile to look after its foreign and domestic tourists.” He reports, “the DOT, together with its attached agencies, assisted around 37,000 stranded tourists affected by travel restrictions implemented across the archipelago by facilitating bookings, arranging border passages, sweeper flights, land, and sea transfers, and distributing tourist hygiene care kits. Remaining resolute and optimistic, the DOT also conducted numerous seminars for tourism frontliners and industry stakeholders through its online learning series. The DOT presented its three-year Tourism Response and Recovery Plan, which enables them to partner with the private sector to protect and ensure employment and business survival. USec. Bengzon emphasized the importance of legal compliance in sustaining the country’s tourism industry. “The expectations of tourists from our products and services post-pandemic, specifically on cleanliness and hygiene, will be high. And these will have to be met to regain their confidence in us.”

USec. Bengzon shares, “Our goal for the country is to deliver remarkable service when our guests, pack their bags, fly to, and wake up in the Philippines.” Mr. Dorol adds, “the world around us has changed, but the Filipino hospitality within us has not.” This same spirit of Filipinos will drive the hospitality industry and jumpstart our recovery. 


Experts weigh in on how to rehabilitate legacy mines across the Philippines

November 30, 2019

By: Maria Paula Tolentino

Makati – November 29, 2019 – On the issue of Philippine mines, President Rodrigo Duterte once said “Explain to me and explain it well… what happened here? Explain to us, to the lawmakers such degradation. Look at the water. So, where’s the fish, where’s the marine life? Ano kakainin ng mga tao, yung mga mahihirap lang dito [What would the poor people here eat]? So, what can your ₱70B do for the government? Nothing.” Duterte said the ₱70B in revenues that the Philippine mining industry brought in was meaningless if the result was such deterioration.1

Two years in, we are still on this conversation. The only difference now is that the industry is swiftly re-aligning itself with what the President seeks for his country and his countrymen – the protection of the environment and quality of life for all.

On November 29 2019 at Makati City, the Philippine Mining Club introduced three key speakers who are helping address this dilemma: Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Chief for Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Engr. Rodolfo Velasco Jr., GHD’s Technical Director for Tailings and Mine rehabilitation Engr. Robert Longey and the Bamboo Initiative’s lead and the OLLI Consulting Group’s CEO, Atty. Leo Dominguez.

The Philippines’ abandoned and inactive mines

Abandoned mines refer to mines with no valid/existing mining tenement, and no/incomplete rehabilitation was done. While inactive mines refer to mines with a pending application for renewal and with valid/existing mining tenement but temporarily stopped operation or is under the care and maintenance due to operational constraints (voluntary stoppage) and suspension (involuntary stoppage) of operation.2

Based on MGB’s 2019 list, there are approximately 10 abandoned mines in the Philippines. These are Philex Mining Corp., Western Minolco Mining Co., Black Mountain, Inc., Benguet Exploration, Inc., Silica Sand Mines, Palawan Quicksilver Mines, Inc., Romblon Marble Mines, Benguet Consolidated, Inc., Unidos Mining Corp., and Zambales Base Metals, Inc.

Velasco mentioned that MGB has, in place, a Mine Rehabilitation Program Roadmap for 2019-2022. MGB seeks to implement the Environmental Management Plans for all abandoned mines which is in line with the long-term vision of Philippine President to transform abandoned mines and mined-out areas into land use that is beneficial both to the communities and the environment. Coincidently, Velasco mentioned that November 29 is also the 121st Anniversary of MGB.

What the Philippines can learn from Australia’s legacy mines

According to fellow speaker, Australian Rob Longey, abandoned mines are a ‘black mark’ in the industry. He says that “abandoned mines are a legacy we need to deal with appropriately to ensure communities have the confidence to allow new mines to develop and continue operating.” Apparently, Australia itself has over 50,000 legacy mines! Twenty five percent of which were planned closures, while the remaining seventy five percent were unplanned or prematurely closed. This has resulted in unsatisfactory closures, long term care and maintenance of these mines. However, the opportunity presenting itself here is that Australia is in the perfect position to become a world leader for mine rehabilitation and closure, which could be replicated by countries such as the Philippines.

Australia has its own challenges with legacy mines. But how is Australia’s situation relevant to the Philippines? Like the Philippines’ small-scale mining, Australia has more than 100 years of historical mining. With a similar climate like the Philippines (high rainfall, tropical climate, steep terrain), Australia admittedly also has poor environmental practices in the past. And lastly, Australian mines closed due to the communities surrounding the mine and its sensitive environments.

Longey sees that mine repurposing – reprocessing are such opportunities for the industry. He noted that partial infrastructure could be made available (roads, plant, dam, pits); industry collaboration; technology transfer; commercial incentives for communities to help clean up legacy mines; opportunity to move tailings from the surface to the pit; while also building new dams to modern standards. A good example is repurposing a legacy mine into a tourist hub through rehabilitation. He says that sites with high concentration of metals and minerals (arsenic, cobalt, copper, manganese, nickel, selenium, thallium and zinc) provide a great opportunity for future commercial application such as mineralized soils, crops and other novel approaches. One such approach is the OLLI Consulting Group’s ‘Bamboo Initiative’.

The real question to be answered here is ‘can the post-closure become a self-sustaining asset?’ According to Longey, “given the right approach and strategy, yes it can be”.

A Nationwide Movement

Dominguez, the proponent for the Bamboo Initiative, presents his case categorically “By working efficiently together under this Bamboo Initiative, the mining companies will be able to revegetate their mined-out areas as quickly as the President has directed them to do”.

“The mining companies would contribute much needed hectarage to the DTI (Department of Trade and Industry) to increase bamboo production, thereby boosting supply of raw material and manpower from the mining communities to grow the bamboo industry”.

“Agencies like the DENR (Department of Environment and Natural Resources) would be in a much better position to deliver the commitment of the country to plant 1M hectares of bamboo addressing climate change”.

“Under the DENR and the DTI, the mining industry could develop truly sustainable livelihood and enterprises for the mining communities, thereby delivering on the demand by the President that not only should mining companies pay taxes but also show what they are doing for the country and its people, while reinventing mining as a social enterprise.”

Admittedly, the industry still has a long way to go. However, with a nationwide movement like the ‘Bamboo Initiative’, a fast, safe, and effective means to revegetate and rehabilitate mine sites across the country is slowly changing the conversation on mining.

Experts weigh in on how to rehabilitate legacy mines across the Philippines at 53rd Philippine Mining Luncheon.
(L-R) Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) Chief for Mine Safety, Environment and Social Development Engr. Rodolfo Velasco Jr., Bamboo Initiative’s lead and the OLLI Consulting Group’s CEO, Atty. Leo Dominguez and GHD’s Technical Director for Tailings and Mine rehabilitation Engr. Robert Longey.

References:

1 CNN Philippines. ‘Duterte considering total mining ban’. 14 March 2017.

2 Mines & Geosciences Bureau Philippine Mining Luncheon Presentation. 29 November 2019. Engr. Rodolfo Velasco Jr.


OLLI meets with Pakistan’s Investment lead, trade mission plans for 2020 in the pipeline

November 29, 2019

Article by Maria Paula Tolentino

With context and photos provided by Stephen Araneta

Manila – 28 November 2019 – OLLI Consulting Group Inc. Principal Atty. Leo Dominguez and Government-Industry Alignment Consultant Stephen Araneta met with key members of the Pakistan trade mission led by Pakistan’s very own investment lead, Mr. Ali Jehangir Siddiqui.

Siddiqui has made a name for himself both as an entrepreneur and diplomat. He is an experienced businessman who helped set up various companies such as Airblue, the second largest airline in Pakistan; Arabian Gulf Steel, a steel producer in the UAE; Jura Energy, a Canadian oil and gas company; and RAK Ghani Glass, the largest pharmaceutical glass producer in the UAE and GCC countries. He also served as Pakistan’s Ambassador to the United States in 2018 and is currently serving as Pakistan’s Ambassador for Foreign Investment in an Honorary Capacity. At just 42 years old, this man continues to champion his country as an investment destination and is keen to tap the Philippine market. 

The OLLI Consulting Group together with the Chairman of AG&P and Country Chairman of Oceana Gold Philippines Inc., Jose Leviste Jr., had the rare privilege of sitting down and talking economic diplomacy with Siddiqui and his colleagues: Ahmed M Saeed, ADB Vice President; Werner Liepach, ADB Director General, Central and West Asia Department; and Shahid Mahmood, ADB Alternate Executive Director.

The meeting covered key industries in Pakistan: Agriculture, Power, Mining, Franchising & Retail and Pakistan’s interest to invest in the Philippines

Agriculture

According to Siddiqui, Pakistan’s main crops are rice and wheat and grows apples, apricot, oranges and a wide variety of mangoes. However the industry experiences 30%-40% in losses due to the lack of technology in processing and supply chain management. Pakistan is currently looking for Philippine companies to invest and address these concerns.

Power

Siddiqui says there is much opportunity for  renewable energy, specifically wind and solar. Pakistan currently has Nuclear power and is setting up new plants near Karachi. However, distribution losses are high. They want to set up more power plants to be near the target consumers. As power resources become competitive, upfront tariff is being reduced over time. Pakistan is offering low debt-financing interest rates at 8%. Coal is also another power source and quite indigenous to Pakistan, though the quality is not that high. The country has 250B tons of coal reserve in total.

Mining

Pakistan is a country rich in reserves of Copper, Gold, Uranium and Zinc. Siddiqui says there are no restrictions to foreign ownership of land. Land ownership is structured  as a long term lease, and as a requirement, the foreign company should be locally registered. Though the tax regime is unclear, Siddiqui mentioned that Barrack Gold winning an arbitration in the supreme court vs the Pakistan government is a good case study.

Franchising / Retail

With a population of 220M, Siddiqui says that there is potential for snack food manufacturing and distribution. He cited that Frito Lay recently invested in Pakistan and that there are reputable families in Pakistan wanting to enter the franchising business.

Pakistan Investing in the Philippines

Siddiqui adds that Pakistan currently manufactures pharmaceutical glass and is looking for markets for this product. Dominguez mentioned that there is a huge market in the Philippines since the country is trying to lessen and eventually replace single use plastic. Glass could be that option. On energy, Dominguez brought up the possibility of supplying power in the BARMM region, which Siddiqui was receptive to. Their only parameter for investment would be the scale of development. Siddiqui mentioned that Philippine business tycoon Ricky Razon is an investor of Pakistan.

At the conclusion of the meeting, it was decided that a Philippine trade delegation to Pakistan will be organized come February 2020.

Exploring business synergy with the Pakistani delegation.
(L-R) OLLI Consulting Group’s consultant for Government-Industry Alignment Stephen Araneta; OLLI Principal Atty. Leo Dominguez; AG&P Chairman and Country Chairman Oceana Gold Philippines, Inc. Jose Leviste, Jr.; Investment Representative of Pakistan Government, Ali Siddiqui (center); Vice President for Asia Development Bank, Ahmed M Saeed; and Director-General for ADB, Central, and West Asia Department, Werner Liepach.

Furthering inclusive business through the Municipality of Bacolod-Kalawi

October 30, 2019

Article by Maria Paula Tolentino
with context and photos provided by Stephen Araneta

Makati City – October 29, 2019 – OLLI Consulting Group Principal and President, Atty. Leo Dominguez, together with Government-Industry Alignment Consultant, Stephen Araneta, had the rare opportunity to meet and talk with the municipal Lady Mayor of Bacolod-Kalawi, Lanao Del Sur, Mayor Nora Lucan Dipatuan.

Politically subdivided into 26 barangays, the Municipality of Bacolod-Kalawi is a 3rd class municipality in the province of Lanao del Sur, Philippines. Formerly known as Bacolod Grande, it changed into its present name by virtue of Muslim Mindanao Autonomy Act No. 32 in 1994. Based on its 2015 census, Bacolod-Kalawi has a population of 20,841, and an electorate of 6,873 voters as of 2019.


The objective of this meeting was to explore possibilities on how the Municipality of Bacolod-Kalawi and the OLLI Consulting Group can collaborate, with the hopes of a synergy between the public and private sector on furthering inclusive business across Mindanao. This meeting was also participated in by Nordjiana L. Dipatuan-Ducol, General Manager of Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative and Kince Alhansah Panondiongan.


At the end of the meeting, OLLI’s Atty. Dominguez agreed to visit Bacolod-Kalawi in 2020. With this visit, he plans to introduce the Mayor to OLLI Consultant Joe Green and Harley Beltran, both social entrepreneurs, to discuss examples of how the municipality of Bacolod-Kalawi can benefit from inclusive business.

Furthering Mindanao with exploratory collaborations on inclusive business through the Municipality of Bacolod-Kalawi, Lanao Del Sur.
In photo (L-R) Kince Alhansah Panondiongan; General Manager of
Lanao del Sur Electric Cooperative Nordjiana L. Dipatuan-Ducol; Bacolod-Kalawi, Lanao Del Sur Lady-Mayor Nora Lucan Dipatuan; OLLI Consulting Group Principal Atty. Leo G. Dominguez and OLLI Consultant for Government-Industry Alignment, Stephen Araneta.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Paula Tolentino is the Chief Content Officer of SEM Scribe Publishing House. A certified Safety Officer, she is an advocate of
inclusive business, responsible mining, quarrying, and mineral extractive practices with a clear focus on the quadruple bottom line
(people, planet, profit and purpose). She is also the Vice President for Programs under women-mining NGO, Diwata – Women in
Resource Development, Inc. and a Consultant for the OLLI Consulting Group, Inc.
For questions, she can be reached at:
LinkedIn – Miss Tolentino
Email – paula@semscribepublishing.com ; semscribe@gmail.com ; paula.tolentino@olli.ph
Website – SEM Scribe Publishing House


Bridging the poverty gap through a policy workshop on Federalism

October 9, 2019

Article by Maria Paula Tolentino
with context and photos by Stephen Araneta

Makati – October 8 2019 – A Policy Workshop and Focused Group Discussion (FGD) on Federalism was recently conducted by the country’s premiere international management school and research institution, the Asian Institute of Management, and attended by OLLI Consulting Group’s Principal, Atty. Leo Dominguez, Government-Industry Alignment Consultant, Stephen Araneta and representatives from both the private and public sector, specifically local government units (LGUs).

In order to stick to the FGD’s objectives, AIM opted for a certain process and flow to guide the participants. Both the business group and the local government units had to answer two key questions: a) Will the present Constitution and Presidential form of government facilitate or hinder the attainment of the
goal in the workshop? And secondly, b) Will Federalism be a better form of government compared to that of a presidential type to help facilitate the attainment of the goal identified in the workshop?

Methodical in approach, AIM made it clear to its participants that they needed to 1) Identify a problem or issue; 2) Process the problem and convert it to an objective and 3) Assess if the Presidential form or the Federal form of government will attain the objective.

From the business group’s perspective, the objective was to reduce poverty from 21% to 14%. In this group, it was noted that tweaking both the Presidential form of government as well as a Federalism form of government can both address the objectives. Speaking from the business perspective, Dominguez explained that a tweaked Presidential form of government can address the immediate issues of poverty while federalism is at an advantage to reduce poverty for the long term. He added, however, that this will all “depend on the provisions placed in the constitution on either form of government”.

On the one hand, the LGU representatives mentioned that their objective was to increase the revenue share on national taxes. They concluded that their objective can be attained through a Presidential form of government. Different views, methods and approaches in helping address poverty, made for a richer and substantial discussion that afternoon.


Representing the business group was OLLI Consulting Group Principal and Philippines – Sweden Business Council Chairman, Atty. Leo Dominguez together with Coffee for Peace CEO, Joji Pantoja, while the government was represented by Sandra Paredes, Executive Director of the League of Provinces.

Meeting of Minds.
Through a focused group discussion, the Asian Institute of Management pools
together the private and public sector to discuss policies concerning Federalism and how it can address
poverty.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Maria Paula Tolentino is the Chief Content Officer of SEM Scribe Publishing House. A certified Safety Officer, she is an advocate of responsible mining, quarrying, and mineral extractive practices with a clear focus on the quadruple bottom line (people, planet, profit, and purpose). She is also the Vice President for Programs under women-mining NGO, Diwata – Women in Resource Development, Inc. and a Consultant for the OLLI Consulting Group, Inc.
For questions, she can be reached at:
LinkedInMiss Tolentino
Emailpaula@semscribepublishing.com ; semscribe@gmail.com ; paula.tolentino@olli.ph
WebsiteSEM Scribe Publishing House


PABC makes a courtesy visit to Sydney Australia Consul-General Tago, discusses bilateral issues

October 5, 2019

by Maria Paula Tolentino

Manila – 4 October 2019 – The Philippines-Australia Business Council (PABC) made a courtesy call to Sydney Australia Consul-General Ezzedin H. Tago. With PABC Past Chairs Albert Garcia (2008-2012) and Antonio V. Enriquez (2013-2016), the group took the opportunity to discuss how to further create engagement and dialogue with the Consular office and the Consul-General himself on a number of bilateral issues, specifically the matter of the Social Security Agreement (SSA), which the PABC continues to champion on behalf of the Filipino community in Australia.

Moving forward, Garcia, a Sydney resident, would be the more practical choice to coordinate on behalf of the PABC in Australia, should the group’s presence be needed.

Aside from being the previous Chairman of the Philippines-Australia Business Council from 2013 – 2016, Antonio Enriquez also represents OLLI Consulting Group, Inc. as its Managing Director.


PABC discusses AANZFTA opportunities, key Philippine Ambassadors in attendance

October 4, 2019

Article by Maria Paula Tolentino
with context & photos provided by Stephen Araneta

Makati – 3 October 2019 – The Philippines-Australia Business Council held its General Meeting together with a discussion on how the ASEAN-Australian-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement (AANZFTAA) can help boost doing business within the Pacific island countries.

The meeting covered four major parts: (1) the Philippines Innovations Act and Philippines Start-Up Act, (2) a discussion on the Triangular Business Cooperation, (3) possible joint Pacific posts business and tourism visit to the Philippines either on year 2020 or 2021, and lastly (4) a discussion on APEC 2021 by New Zealand and how to leverage such opportunities.

AANZFTAA and an overview of doing business within the Pacific island countries was covered by the Bureau of International Trade Relations, DTI Officer, Myrene Bedano while the Philippines Innovations Act and Philippines Start-Up Act was discussed by Director of the Bureau of Trade and Industrial Policy Research Ms. Maria Lourdes Yaptinchay. While succeeding areas of the meeting were provided commentary by Philippine Ambassadors: Excellencies Jesus S. Domingo of New Zealand, Hellen de la Vega of Australia and Bienvenido Tejano of Papua New Guinea.

The Philippines Innovations Act and Philippines Start-Up Act

AANZFTA is a manifestation of ASEANʼs push for an ASEAN Economic Community (AEC). The establishment of the AEC is the goal of the ASEAN, guided by the AEC blueprint 2015/2025. Regional economic integration is both internal (within the ASEAN) and external (with other countries). Other ASEAN FTAʼs include: ASEAN-China-FTA, ASEAN-Korea-FTA, ASEAN-Japan-CEP, AANZFTA ASEAN-India-FTA and ASEAN-HK-FTA.

In relation to free trade agreements, Yaptinchay says that the Philippines Innovations Act (PIA) under Republic Act No. 11293 helps leverage opportunities for Philippine start ups such as a) the creation of Philippines startup Ecozones, b) the establishment of a Startup Investment Development Plan (SIDP) and a Startup Grant Fund (SGF) which could also lead to the creation of a c) Startup Venture Fund. Other opportunities seen are d) the creation of the National Innovation Council (NIC), that cements the Innovations Startup Act (ISA) under Republic Act No. 11337, which could lead to the e) establishment of an Innovation Fund, f) the creation of the National Innovation Agenda and Strategy Document that mandates the enforcement of Intellectual Property Legislations in the country, and lastly, the g) the establishment of Startup Visas, which comes three-fold: Startup owner visas for prospective or current foreign owners of  a startup business, Startup foreign employee visa  for foreign employees and Startup investor visa, for prospective or current foreign investors.

Discussion on Triangular Business Cooperation

Philippine Ambassador to New Zealand Jesus S. Domingo encouraged more business to business (B2B) trade relations over a government to government (G2G) setup. Under his office, he can help facilitate the matching of local chambers with New Zealand counterparts. He sees more local government unit(s) matching with NZ-based LGUs. He adds that since New Zealand will be hosting APEC in 2021, he finds this an opportune time to promote trade with the Philippines.

Possible joint Pacific posts business and tourism visit to the Philippines

According to Philippine Ambassador to Australia Hellen De La Vega together with her fellow diplomats, the countries of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea are organizing a trade and tourism mission to the Philippines in the year 2020. Philippine Ambassador to Papua New Guinea Bienvenido Tejano says that there are 49,000 Filipinos residing in PNG alone, with thriving (mining gold, oil, gas) and growing industries (agriculture and fisheries) that are steadily making PNG the richest in the Pacific. Ambassador Tejano affirms that they are bullish about the investment prospects in Papua New Guinea.

Represented by these diplomats, the Filipino communities residing in Australia, New Zealand and Papua New Guinea are keen to do business in 2020, thus are seeking the support of the PABC and other local chambers.

Speaking at PABC’s meeting, Philippine Ambassador to Australia Hellen de la Vega encourages PABC and other local chambers to support the 2020 Trade Mission to be spearheaded by the Diplomatic offices of Australia, New Zealand, and Papua New Guinea.


Mindanao opens its doors, bullish on economic development

August 10, 2019

By: Maria Paula Tolentino

Metro Manila – August 9, 2019 – “Though there are struggles in mind, we are determined to accomplish the aspirations of the Bangsamoro people” says Mr. Al Haj Murad Ahod Ebrahim, Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM), on August 9 during a luncheon held at I’M Hotel, Makati City.

The BARMM government, though moving forward and seeking to develop its economy, Ebrahim reminds his audience that “the BARMM is first and foremost an identity, not a business.” He added “To boost economic development, we are exploring various industries, but also taking into consideration the 4 bottom lines: People, Planet, Profit and Purpose and BARMM’s 12-point agenda.”

Published by the Bangsamoro Planning and Development Authority, the 12-point agenda of the BARMM includes: 1) The enactment of priority bills; 2) integration of development plans; 3) establishment of appropriate bureaucracy; 4) continuity of existing government services; 5) special programs for transitioning combatants; 6) support for the on-going Marawi rehabilitation; 7) development of enabling policy environment; 8) activation of job-generating industries; 9) enhancement of security; 10) maximizing synergistic partnerships; 11) ensure environmental compliance; and 12) and exploration of the Bangsamoro economic potentials.

The Bangsamoro Identity

According to R.A. 11054, otherwise known as the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the original inhabitants of Mindanao, the Sulu archipelago and its adjacent islands, whether of mixed or full blood, shall have the right to identify themselves, their spouses and descendants, as Bangsamoro.

The Bangsamoro Autonomous Region is an integral, indivisible, and inseparable part of the territory of the Philippines and shall uphold the Philippine Constitution as the fundamental law of the land while owing allegiance to the Republic of the Philippines. In the exercise of its right to self-governance, the BARMM is free to pursue its political, economic, social, and cultural development as provided in the Organic Law. It shall have a democratic political system and have a parliamentary form of government.

Included in the powers of the Bangsamoro Parliament are to (a) enact laws to promote, protect, and ensure the general welfare of the Bangsamoro people and other inhabitants in the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region and (b) be consulted on matters affecting the environment.

Mining Policy under the Bangsamoro Organic Law

According to Section 13 of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Bangsamoro Government shall have the authority and jurisdiction over the exploration, development and utilization of mines and minerals in its territorial jurisdiction, taking into consideration environmental protection and ecological balance. Its government shall also have the power to grant permits, licenses, and contracts for this purpose. As regards to Small-scale Mining, Section 15 of the Organic Law states that the Bangsamoro government shall regulate an ecologically balanced, safe and healthy mining operation with the interests of the affected communities, the miners, the indigenous peoples, and the local government units, duly protected and safeguarded. All gold produced by small-scale miners in any mineral area shall be sold to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, or its representatives, that will buy the gold at prices competitive with those prevailing in the world market, regardless of volume or weight.

Section 16 further states that the Parliament shall establish policies on mining and other extractive industries in accordance with a comprehensive sustainable development plan and overall medium-term and long-term Bangsamoro Development Plan.  The Bangsamoro Organic Law gives the Bangsamoro Transition Authority (BTA), its interim government, the power to honor previous mining permits (under ARMM) and grant new ones for operations in the region.

But before it exercises this power, the Bangsamoro government should first conduct an audit of mining operations to ensure compliance with environmental regulations and other laws. This mining audit will be led by BARMM Minister of Environment Abdulraof Macacua (aka Sammy Gambar), Murad’s former military chief who led the Moro Islamic Liberation Front’s Bangsamoro Islamic Armed Forces (BIAF).

According to Murad, “the BARMM Environment Minister will constitute a mining performance audit team that will look into the compliance of mining companies based on their commitments and contributions. The results of this audit will be the basis in crafting a Bangsamoro mining code.” Murad expects the audit results to be in by the end of August 2019 and set for discussion by the Bangsamoro Parliament in September 2019.

Energy Exploration in the Bangsamoro

Based on Section 10 of the Bangsamoro Organic Law, the Bangsamoro Government and the National Government, through the Department of Energy, shall jointly exercise the power to grant rights, privileges, and concessions over the exploration, development, and utilization of uranium and fossil fuels such as petroleum, natural gas, and coal in the territorial jurisdiction of the Bangsamoro. The use of renewable energy shall be promoted for power generation to achieve the sustainable development goals and promote low carbon energy generation policies.

The Bangsamoro Government shall adopt a competitive and transparent process for the grant of rights, privileges, and concessions in the exploration, development, and utilization of fossil fuels and uranium. Both the Department of Energy and the Bangsamoro Government shall identify and select prospective contract areas to be offered for exploration and development. Qualified Filipino citizens who are bona fide residents of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region shall be given a rating higher than other proponents during the evaluation process. The award of service contract shall be made jointly by the Department of Energy and the Bangsamoro Government.

Hosted by the Philippine Mining Club on August 9 at I’m Hotel, Makati, the BARMM Chief’s audience included envoys of countries with mining interests in the Philippines particularly outgoing European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen, New Zealand Ambassador David Strachan, and Australian Ambassador Steven J. Robinson AO. Representing the OLLI Consulting Group Inc. is the organization’s Principal and the Mining Luncheon’s Master of Ceremonies, Atty. Leo Dominguez together with consultants Stephen Araneta and Maria Paula Tolentino.

Read more below:

Mr. Al Haj Murad Ahod Ebrahim, Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) addresses an audience composed of mining professionals, industry players and political envoys at the recent Philippine Mining Luncheon held at I’m Hotel, Makati City.
Mr. Al Haj Murad Ahod Ebrahim, Chief Minister of the Bangsamoro Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (BARMM) is presented with a token of appreciation by the OLLI Consulting Group’s President and Principal, Atty. Leo Dominguez.
(L-R) Philippine Resources Journal General Manager Mr. Matthew Brimble, Australian Ambassador to the Philippines H.E. Steven J. Robinson AO, OLLI Consultant Maria Paula Tolentino, OLLI President and Principal Atty. Leo Dominguez and First Secretary for Economics, Australian Embassy in the Philippines, Ms. Jenni McEwin.

Photos by Marcelle P. Villegas.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR Maria Paula Tolentino is the Chief Content Officer of SEM Scribe Publishing House, a boutique digital communications agency. She is also the digital consultant for the OLLI Consulting Group, Inc., and the Vice-President of Mining group Diwata – Women in Resource Development, Inc. For more information, she may be reached at the following: semscribe@gmail.com, paula.tolentino@olli.ph, and www.semscribepublishing.com.