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John Eduard Franco

Filipino success still not totally based on hard work, says study

By | Property News

THE Philippines placed 61st among 82 nations in a report measuring social mobility, suggesting that Filipino success does not depend entirely on hard work and is likely to be affected by family and socioeconomic background.
The country placed fifth among the seven Southeast Asian nations in the first Global Social Mobility report by the World Economic Forum (WEF), which measured the health, education, technology, work, social protections and the efficiency of countries’ institutions.
“Creating societies where every person has the same opportunity to fulfil their potential in life irrespective of socioeconomic background would not only bring huge societal benefits in the form of reduced inequalities and healthier, more fulfilled lives, it would also boost economic growth by hundreds of billions of dollars a year,” WEF said in an emailed statement.
The WEF report said economies with greater social mobility provide more equal and meritocratic opportunities regardless of socioeconomic background, geographic location, gender and origin.
A country that increased its global social mobility score by 10 points would translate to additional gross domestic product growth of 4.41% by 2030, according to the report.
The top five socially mobile countries were Nordic countries Denmark, Norway, Finland, Sweden and Iceland. Among Southeast Asian nations, Singapore led at 20th place, followed by Malaysia (43), Vietnam (50) and Thailand (55).
The Philippines came ahead of Indonesia (67) and Lao People’s Democratic Republic (72). The Philippines scored 51.7 while top-ranking country Denmark scored 85.2 points. Singapore scored 74.6 points.
Few economies have developed the conditions that create social mobility, WEF said, identifying low wages, lack of social protection, inadequate working conditions, and poor lifelong learning systems for workers and the unemployed as areas for improvement.
“As a consequence, inequality has become entrenched and is likely to worsen amidst an era of technological change and efforts towards a green transition,” it said.
“The social and economic consequences of inequality are profound and far-reaching: a growing sense of unfairness, precarity, perceived loss of identity and dignity, weakening social fabric, eroding trust in institutions, disenchantment with political processes, and an erosion of the social contract,” World Economic Forum Founder and Executive Chairman Klaus Schwab said.
“The response by business and government must include a concerted effort to create new pathways to socioeconomic mobility, ensuring everyone has fair opportunities for success.”
Social mobility also shifts according to industry and location, with media and entertainment professionals encountering more workplace inequality and rural and low-income workers facing limited professional connections.
To increase social mobility, WEF said a new financing model that rebalances the sources of taxation must be created.
“Improving tax progressivity on personal income, policies that address wealth accumulation and broadly rebalancing the sources of taxation can support the social mobility agenda,” according to the report.
WEF also said that access to education must be improved, promoting skills development throughout workers’ lives. WEF added that people must have social protection outside their jobs, as workers have more flexible work relationships.
Companies can contribute by improving meritocratic hiring, paying fair wages and participating in upskilling programs. — Jenina P. Ibañez

Gov’t seen to have missed GDP goal

By | Property News

By Lourdes O. PilarResearcher
THE PHILIPPINE ECONOMY likely grew in the fourth quarter at its fastest pace for 2019 on the back of robust household spending and a rebound in government spending, but not enough to hit its full-year goal, BusinessWorld’s latest poll of economists showed.
A poll of 20 economists conducted late last week yielded a gross domestic product (GDP) growth median estimate of 6.4% for the fourth quarter and 5.9% for full-year 2019.

The quarterly estimate was faster than the 5.6%, 5.5% and 6.2% in the first to third quarters of last year. However, the annual estimate was below 2018’s 6.2% actual pace and the downward-revised 6%-6.5% target set by the government for 2019.
If realized, the full-year estimate would break the economy’s seven-year streak of at least six-percent growth.
Official GDP growth data will be released on Thursday by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA), a day after the release of the PSA’s fourth-quarter data on farm production, which has historically contributed nearly a tenth to GDP.
GDP growth slowed to 5.8% in last year’s first three quarters from the 6.2% in the same period in 2018. Much of the drag was due to the disappointing growth rates of 5.6% and 5.5% in the first two quarters of last year with analysts blaming the nearly four-month delay in the approval of the 2019 national budget which left new projects unfunded and stymied government spending.
To recall, the government operated on a reenacted 2018 budget from January to April 15, when President Rodrigo R. Duterte signed last year’s national budget into law but vetoed P95.3 billion in funds that were not in sync with state priorities, slashing the total to P3.662 trillion.
Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia gave a 6.5%-7% growth estimate for the fourth quarter back in November, citing faster household consumption from the holidays and the boost from easing inflation.
Moreover, the poll’s 5.9% median estimate for 2019 compares with the 5.7% forecast given by the International Monetary Fund, the separate forecasts of 5.8% by the World Bank and Moody’s Investors Service, and six percent by the Asian Development Bank, Fitch Ratings, and the ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office.
Economists pointed to faster household spending in 2019 brought by the easing of inflation last year following the almost runaway inflation in 2018.
“As expected, household final consumption, powered by remittances growth, higher employment and better incomes, has mainly fueled [fourth-quarter 2019] GDP growth,” said UnionBank of the Philippines, Inc. Chief Economist Ruben Carlo O. Asuncion in an e-mail, who pegged fourth-quarter GDP growth at 6.4% and the full-year rate at 5.9%.
IHS Markit Asia Pacific Chief Economist Rajiv Biswas likewise pointed to household consumption, which was supported by “firm growth in inward remittances from workers abroad as well as continued expansion in government infrastructure spending.”
“Growth in the second half of 2019 has been boosted by a rebound in fiscal spending, following the delayed budget and spending freeze ahead of the 2019 midterm elections,” he said.
Mr. Biswas expects a year-on-year GDP growth rate of 6.3% in the fourth quarter and six percent for full-year 2018.
For Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) Chief Economist Michael L. Ricafort, the economy likely grew by 6.6%-6.7% in the fourth quarter and six percent last year, saying that consumer spending “could have also been supported… by the strongest employment data since revised records started 20 to 30 years ago” along with sustained growth in remittances, foreign investment inflows, as well as revenues from Philippine Offshore Gaming Operations, business process outsourcing firms, and tourism.
On the other hand, a number of economists in the survey pointed to capital formation’s weakness last year.
“Perhaps the biggest drag on the economy for the year [was] the negative performance of capital formation in [the second and third quarters] as the BSP’s (Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas) 2018 rate hike salvo [weighed] on bank lending,” said ING Bank NV-Manila Senior Economist Nicholas Antonio T. Mapa, who expected GDP growth to finish strong at 6.6% in the fourth quarter and six percent in 2019.
“With BSP quickly dialing back partially this tightening with 75 basis points worth of rate cuts in 2019, we can hope for a recovery in investment activity to close out 2019,” Mr. Mapa said.
Security Bank Corp. Chief Economist Robert Dan J. Roces forecast 6.6% and 6% growth in the fourth quarter and full year, respectively. “Capital formation meltdown was what really hurt us in the past quarters, plus delayed spending due to a delayed budget,” he said.
For University of the Philippines Economist Jefferson A. Arapoc, GDP likely grew 6.1% in the fourth quarter and 5.9% last year.
“Although government spending has started to pick up [in the fourth quarter], key sectors of the economy are continuously experiencing challenges,” he said.
Mr. Arapoc cited the PSA’s Monthly Integrated Survey of Selected Industries where data showed factory output, as measured by the volume of production index, declined for twelve straight months and posted an average decline of 7.6% in January-November 2019.
“[T]he agricultural sector remains sluggish due to several problems, which include the outbreak of the African Swine Fever and the havoc brought by typhoons Kammuri/Tisoy that affected seven regions in the country,” Mr. Arapoc added.
Moreover, trade is seen to be a net negative contributor to growth for 2019.
“Economic growth was largely held back by external headwinds, particularly the lingering impact of the US-China trade tussle despite the ‘phase one’ partial trade settlement between the world’s top two largest economies. Regional trade was majorly affected impacting supply chains within the Association of Southeast Asian Nations region,” UnionBank’s Mr. Asuncion said.
As of end-November, merchandise exports and imports slipped by 0.02% and 4.6%, PSA data showed, below the government’s 2019 growth targets of 1% and 2%, respectively.
Cash remittances, which fuels household spending that contributes nearly 70% to GDP, reached $27.231 billion in the 11 months to November, increasing by 4.4% compared to $26.094-billion haul in the same period in 2018.
Meanwhile, household spending went up 5.8% during last year’s first three quarters, faster than the 5.7% uptick in 2018.
The government spent P3.303 trillion as of end-November last year, 6.73% more than the P3.095 trillion in the same 11 months in 2018.
Furthermore, infrastructure and capital outlays slipped 5.5% to P628.5 billion in January to October last year from P665.1 billion in the same comparable 10 months in 2018.

Q4 GDP growth likely at 6.6-6.7% — Pernia

By | Property News

By Beatrice M. LaforgaReporter
THE last three months of 2019 likely saw the economy grow at its fastest pace during the year, amid higher infrastructure spending, private construction and public consumption, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said.
Mr. Pernia told BusinessWorld that the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) might have expanded around “6.6-6.7%” in the fourth quarter.
On Thursday, the Philippine Statistics Authority will release the official data on the performance of the economy in the fourth quarter last year, and its full-year average.
If realized, a quarterly growth rate of at least 6.6% will be the fastest in more than two years, or since the seven percent growth recorded in the third quarter of 2017.
A 6.6% expansion will also outpace the 6.3% recorded in the last three months of 2018 and match the performance in the first quarter of the same year.
The economy grew by 5.6%, 5.5% and 6.2% in the first to third quarters last year, bringing the average to 5.8% during the January-September period.
In a mobile phone message on Friday, Mr. Pernia said “acceleration in government spending for infrastructure, private sector construction, stronger consumption spending given benign inflation and consumer optimism, SEA Games, PRRD’s (President Rodrigo R. Duterte) high approval and trust ratings” all contributed to the economic growth in the last quarter of the year.
Asked if the full-year average reached the narrowed 6-6.5% official target for 2019, he said: “yes!”
Public consumption should have benefited from easing inflation during the last three months, Mr. Pernia said, even as December’s print picked up to 2.5% in December from 1.3% in November and the 0.8% rate recorded in October.
For the full year, inflation rate for 2019 averaged at 2.5%, settling within the 2-4% official target range.
While infrastructure expenditure for November and December have yet to be released, latest available data showed that spending on infrastructure and other capital outlays was down by 12.9% year on year to P82.2 billion in October, reversing the 53.9% spike in the previous month.
However, overall state spending grew 22.36% to P365.6 billion in November from P298.8 billion a year ago.
Meanwhile, Mr. Pernia said the 11-day hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian (SEA) Games in early December likewise helped boost economic growth.
The economic team last December narrowed last year’s official growth target to 6-6.5% from 6-7%, abandoning the 7% growth goal, as the delayed passage of the 2019 budget slowed the economy during the first half.
For this year, the GDP growth target was maintained at 6.5-7.5%, while those for 2021 and 2022 was scaled down to the same target range from the previous 7-8% goal.
Mr. Pernia earlier said that they abandoned the 8% growth target over the medium term, amid slowing global economy due to the prolonged US-China trade war. This will likely hurt the country’s exports and dampen foreign investments in emerging economies like the Philippines.

PEZA expects higher investments if ‘investor-friendly’ CITIRA is passed

By | Property News

THE Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) is targeting to grow investments by 5-10% this year, amid lingering investor concern over the government’s plan to rationalize incentives.
“There are many pending applications for expansions of existing locators and new investments that are waiting for the kind of CITIRA (Corporate Income Tax and Incentives Rationalization Act) that will be passed,” PEZA Director General Charito B. Plaza told reporters in a mobile message on Saturday.
“We’re expecting a 5-10% target this year and would be higher if an investor-friendly CITIRA is passed.”
Ms. Plaza said that big-ticket investments for 2020 are in the works, including from Panhua Integrated Steel Company and North Star Valley Food Company of Canada.
In a press briefing on Friday, the PEZA chief said approved investment pledges for the past year declined as investors are taking a “wait-and-see” approach on the details and passage of the CITIRA.
The proposed CITIRA bill calls for the lowering of corporate income tax to 20% from 30% over 10 years, while removing redundant fiscal incentives.
PEZA is pushing for the implementation of a grandfather rule that retains the perks existing locators enjoy, and a longer transition period of 10-15 years.
The House of Representatives passed the CITIRA bill and transmitted it to the Senate last September. The measure is now pending at the Senate.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III expects the law to be passed by March 2020.
LOWER INVESTMENTS
Data provided by PEZA showed that approved investments in 2019 dropped 16.19% to P117.54 billion, from P140.24 billion in 2018. The 2018 figure represented a 41% decline in investment pledges from the previous year.
The investments refer to projects at PEZA’s economic zones throughout the country.
Approved investments in manufacturing slipped by 5.01% to P30.35 billion, weighed down by a decline in shipbuilding and chemicals investments.
On the other hand, investments in automotive and auto parts manufacturing increased significantly to P2.36 billion last year, almost nine times the P266 million in investments in 2018. Aerospace parts investments doubled to P2.17 billion.
Investments in the transportation and storage sector almost tripled to P429.93 million, while those in electricity, gas, steam, and air-conditioning supply doubled to P2.18 billion.
However, approved investments declined among high-value sectors, including a 15.14% drop to P66.48 billion in real estate activities and a 17.93% fall to P15.51 billion in administrative and support services investments.
PEZA also saw investments decline in priority sectors such as construction (12.51%) and information technology and business process management (14.53%). — Jenina P. Ibañez

Barangay Ginebra back as king of the PBA Governors’ Cup

By | Property News

By Michael Angelo S. Murillo, Senior Reporter
THE Barangay Ginebra San Miguel Kings are once again Philippine Basketball Association Governors’ Cup champions after closing out their best-of-seven finals series with the Meralco Bolts with a 105-93 victory in Game Five on Friday at the Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay City.
Having more to give especially in the second half, the Kings outlasted the Bolts to take the series, 4-1, and win the season-ending PBA tournament for the third time in the last four years.
It was also the 12th title for Barangay Ginebra in the PBA just as it continued its domination of Meralco in the league finals, having beaten the latter in each of the three championship series they have met.
Game Five played a game of runs in the opening quarter.
Barangay Ginebra got early traction, building a 14-8 advantage at the 6:48 mark of the first quarter with import Justin Brownlee and guard Stanley Pringle leading the way.
The Bolts though would regroup, with reinforcement Allen Durham and Baser Amer on the lead, going on an 8-0 run in the next two minutes to go ahead, 16-14.
They would pick up on the momentum shift after to race to a 26-19 lead at the conclusion of the opening frame.
The teams continued to jostle to begin the second frame but Meralco continued to hold sway, 34-24, at the 8:03 mark.
Barangay Ginebra kept pressing it on Meralco as the quarter progressed, only to find a Bolts crew able to hold on and stay ahead, 46-40, at the break.
The Kings opened the third canto strong, outscoring the Bolts, 12-7, to come to within a point, 53-52, in the first four minutes.
Meralco was able to regain its footing, racking up six straight points after to create further separation, 59-52, at the 6:14 mark of the quarter.
The Kings stayed the comeback course, eventually taking the lead, 61-60, with 3:40 to go after an LA Tenorio triple.
Barangay Ginebra stayed ahead, 70-64, heading into the fourth quarter.
With their season on the line, the Bolts began the fourth aggressively.
Allein Maliksi and Mr. Amer helped their team pull even at 77-all with 8:46 remaining, forcing the Kings to sue for time.
It was a timeout Barangay Ginebra put into good use as off it they scored seven straight points to make it an 84-77 count after a minute and a half of play.
Five quick points from Mr. Durham and Chris Newsome pushed the Bolts to within two, 84-82, by the halfway point of the quarter.
But it proved to be the last hurrah for Meralco as from there the Kings started to pull away.
Japeth Aguilar, Scottie Thompson and Mr. Brownlee propelled their team to a ferocious 19-6 run to take a 103-88 lead with 1:30 left in the match.
By then it was all over except the shouting.
Mr. Aguilar led the Kings with 25 points, eight rebounds and four blocks. He was later named finals most valuable player.
Mr. Brownlee finished with 24 points, 10 assists and seven rebounds while Mr. Pringle had 17 points and eight assists.
Mr. Thompson had 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists, with Mr. Tenorio adding 12 points for Barangay Ginebra.
For Meralco it was Mr. Durham who top-scored with 29 points, to go along with 21 rebounds and eight assists.
Mr. Amer had had 17 points while Mr. Newsome had 13 for the Bolts, who played without big man Raymond Almazan because of knee injury.
“The push late in the second quarter played a huge difference for us. Meralco did a good job in making adjustments for this game. But credit to the players for stepping up in the second half, allowing us to win,” said Barangay Ginebra coach Tim Cone, who with the win notched his 22nd league title.

BSP has space to ease monetary policy — Diokno

By | Property News

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Benjamin E. DioknoBy Luz Wendy T. Noble
THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has enough “monetary space” amid easing by central banks around the world, BSP Governor Benjamin E. Diokno said on Friday.
“I just came from Basel and the consensus is that interest rates globally will be low for a long time,” he told reporters. “In reality, we still have a lot of monetary space.”
Inflation is likely to remain stable despite the the risk of an uptick from the eruption of Taal Volcano in Batangas province, Mr Diokno said.
“The BSP expects inflation to stay on course in 2020,” the governor said. The central bank expects inflation to average “near the midpoint of the target band at 2.9%” for this year and in 2021, he said.
The government has set an inflation target of 2-4% for 2020 until 2022.
The Philippine central bank cut its benchmark interest rate by 75 basis points (bps) last year to help support the economy after raising it by a total of 175 bps in 2018.
The government is forecasting economic growth of 6.5% to 7.5% this year after the economy was estimated to have grown by 6% to 6.5% last year.
Mr. Diokno said the central bank is on track, based on its “forward guidance,” to cut the reserve requirement ratio (RRR) for banks to a single digit, in line with the regional level.
“Then we have a lot of possibilities, we have a lot of monetary space to reflect some change,” he said.
After 400 bps of cuts last year, the reserve ratio for universal and commercial banks now stand at 14%, while those for thrift and rural banks are at 5% and 3%, respectively.
Mr. Diokno said the central bank would assess the effect of Taal Volcano’s eruption on both inflation and economic growth.
Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III this week said that the National Capital Region and Calabargon — made up of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon — contributed 36% and 17%, respectively to the country’s gross domestic product (GDP) in 2018.
‘GRADUAL UPTICK’
Mr. Dominguez has also said the eruption’s effect on inflation would be minimal and manageable.
The combined effects of typhoons in December and the Taal eruption could cause inflation to spike to 3% at the start of the year, Philippine National Bank (PNB) economist Jun Trinidad said in a note on Friday.
Aside from the Taal Volcano eruption, inflation risks include increased volatility in oil prices after escalating tensions in the Middle East paired with the continued impact of the African Swine Fever outbreak, Mr. Diokno said.
There could be a “gradual uptick” in Inflation in the early part of the year because the base effects from 2018 have been diminishing, said Dennis D. Lapid, director of the BSP’s Department of Economic Research.
But slower economic growth paired with unclear trade policies in major economies could “weigh down on global economic activity and thus mitigate upward pressures on commodity prices,” he said.
Inflation in December was at 2.5% after an uptick in consumer demand during the holiday season and typhoons, among other things.
This was well within the central bank’s 2-4% target. Average inflation last year slowed to 2.5% from 5.2% in 2018.
Also on Friday, Mr. Diokno said the country is poised to achieve a “credit rating A” within two years after the government put in place structural reforms.
“Our target is to get it within two years,” he said. “And to me, the key there is structural reform,” he added, referring to tax changes and amendments to the central bank charter, among other things.
In May, S&P Global Ratings raised the country’s long-term sovereign credit rating to BBB+ from BBB, bringing it one notch away from an A-level rating.

Damage from Taal hits P3 billion; fisheries most affected

By | Property News

DAMAGE from the eruption of Taal Volcano has reached P3 billion, with the fishery sector suffering the most devastation, the Agriculture department said on Friday.
Thousands of people have left their homes after the volcano spewed a column of ash 14 kilometers into the air on Sunday. The ashfall reached as far as cities near the capital, forcing financial markets to suspend trading and the Manila airport to close.
Taal Volcano, one of the world’s smallest and active volcanoes, continues to spew ash and an explosive eruption could happen in days, according to the nation’s volcanology agency.
The second-highest alert status remains hoisted there and a 14-kilometer danger zone from the volcano remained off limits to people.
The Agriculture department said in a bulletin on Thursday evening damage has reached P3.06 billion, affecting 15,790 hectares of land and 1,923 animals.
Coffee, cacao, pineapple, vegetables, rice and coconut were among the damaged crops. Fisheries has suffered P1.6 billion in damages, particularly for tilapia and milkfish, it said.
Taal Lake, the country’s third-biggest lake that fills the Taal Caldera — a large volcanic caldera formed by very large eruptions — contains tilapia, milkfish and the endemic freshwater sardine tawilis, among other fish.
The Calabarzon region — made up of the provinces of Cavite, Laguna, Batangas, Rizal and Quezon — accounted for 41% of the country’s inland fishery production in 2018 at 164,200 metric tons (MT), according to Philippine Statistics Authority data.
Marine fisheries accounted for 3.93% or 1.89 million MT, while agriculture had a 6.58% share or 2.304 million MT.
Marine fisheries accounted for 3.93% or 1.89 MT, while agriculture had a 6.58% share or 2.304 million MT.
Fish from the lake are not safe to eat because of their high sulfur content, Agriculture officials said earlier.
The Bureau of Animal Industry delivered 20 bags of animal feeds and medicine for rescued livestock, while the Philippine Carabao Center and National Dairy Authority gave 2.5 tons of roughages that will be delivered to Batanagas province on Saturday.
The Agriculture department’s regional field office in Cagayan Valley and Nueva Vizcaya Agricultural Terminal will donate 10 tons of assorted vegetables that will arrive in Lipa City on Saturday.
Meanwhile, the League of Associations, which consists of 11 associations of vegetable farmers and traders in La Trinidad, Benguet, will be giving three to four tons of assorted vegetables. — Vincent Mariel P. Galang

Jollibee raises $600M from offshore debut

By | Property News

JOLLIBEE Foods Corp. (JFC) raised $600 million from a landmark sale of perpetual securities in its offshore capital market debut, restocking its chest after buying the company behind US specialty chain Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf (CBTL).
It was the first time for the Philippine fast-food giant to issue perpetual bonds and the first time to tap offshore capital markets since it was listed in 1993. “This issuance is one of the first by an Asian restaurant company,” it said in a stock exchange filing on Friday.
The transaction was oversubscribed by almost 10 times the original issue amount of $400 million, allowing the company to increase the transaction to $600 million and tighten final pricing by 35 basis points to 3.9%, Jollibee said.
It added that the issuance marks the lowest pricing for a five-year perpetual bond issued by a Philippine company, “reflecting the strong demand for a JFC bond and the reputable credit standing of the company.”
The company said it would use the proceeds of the bond sale for general corporate purposes and to repay short-term debt after it bought International Coffee and Tea, LLC, the company behind The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf.
The securities will be accounted for as equity.
The Regulation S dollar-denominated issuance will have an initial distribution rate of 3.9%, non-callable for five years, and payable semi-annually. “Reg S” securities are available only for offers and sales outside the US.
Jollibee unit Jollibee Worldwide Pte. Ltd. will issue the securities, which are unrated and will be listed on the Singapore Exchange Securities Trading Ltd.
“The objective of management for this issuance is to further strengthen the balance sheet of JFC to build a stronger foundation for accelerating its growth in order to achieve its vision to become one of the top five restaurant companies in the world,” the company said.
Jollibee shares closed 6.27% or P12.60 higher at P213.60 each on Friday. — Victor V. Saulon

Duterte bans worker deployment to Kuwait

By | Property News

PRESIDENT Rodrigo R. Duterte has approved a total deployment ban of overseas Filipino workers to Kuwait after a Filipina housemaid there died allegedly in the hands of her employer.
The “total deployment ban” will cover both skilled and household workers, as recommended by Labor Secretary Silvestre H. Bello III, the presidential palace said on Friday.
It will stay until a memorandum of agreement on labor standards between the the Philippines and Kuwait is fully implemented, presidential spokesman Salvador S. Panelo said in a statement.
The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) earlier endorsed the total ban after the National Bureau of Investigation’s autopsy report showed Filipino housemaid Jeanelyn Villavende had been physically and sexually abused.
Mr. Panelo accused the Kuwaiti government of “attempting to hide the said circumstance when it gave us a general autopsy report that the cause of death was trauma and bruises all over her body.”
He said the total ban would remain in effect until Kuwait stops confiscating the passports and mobile phones of Filipino workers there.
The Philippines imposed a total deployment ban for Kuwait in 2018 that lasted four months over the murder of domestic helper Joanna Demafelis.
In May 2019, it sought a review of its memorandum of understanding with the Kuwaiti government after the killing of another Filipina, Constancia Dayag.
Meanwhile, more than 100 sick Filipinos benefited from the medical assistance provided by the Philippine Embassy in Kuwait last year, the Foreign Affairs department said on Friday.
The embassy helped 108 Filipinos with medical conditions, such as stroke, cancer, high blood pressure and diabetes, the agency said in a statement.
The embassy also facilitated the medical repatriation of 27 Filipinos, it said.
“The embassy’s Medical Response Team is here to provide any assistance needed by Filipinos in Kuwait, such as medical referrals to hospitals and clinics and regular hospital visits,” Chargé d’Affaires Noordin Pendosina N. Lomondot said in the statement. — Charmaine A. Tadalan