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ERC executive director quits, cites health reasons

An official who had become the “face and voice” of the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) for many years – Executive Director Francis Saturnino Juan will step down on January 8, 2016 from the regulatory body citing his need for “medical treatment” as the primary reason. That was formally announced recently to the media by ERC Chairman Jose Vicente B. Salazar, although he noted that he will still retain Juan’s services for sometime as the Commission’s consultant. A University of the Philippines-educated lawyer, Juan who was also the ERC’s spokesperson for years had fought many battles for the Commission, including the time that it was under attack due to the “collusion charges” hurled against power industry players. He also faced many Congressional inquiries and represented the ERC even in court proceedings when the Commission’s …

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Business cites benefits from AIIB participation

Filipino businessmen yesterday said the country’s participation in the China-owned Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) despite the heated territorial dispute with China will open more funding for infastructure projects and jobs for professionals in the banking sector. Francis Chua, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and founder of the International Chamber of Commercè of the Philippines (ICCP), welcomed President Aquino’s decision to join the China-led AIIB. Aquino has directed Departments of Fiance and of Foreign Affairs to formally join AIIB.Philippines is now credited as one of the first founding members of the Bank. The Beijing-led AIIB is a newly created multilateral banking institution aimed at boosting infrastructure development and connectivity. “This is a testimony of our President as a statesman and a good leader. While we have pending territorial …

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Asia bond investors see 2.3% as sweet spot to buy Treasuries

From Tokyo to Seoul, bond investors say a 2.3 percent 10-year Treasury yield is the sweet spot. Sumitomo Mitsui Trust Asset Management in Tokyo, Samsung Asset Management in Seoul and Mirae Asset Global Investments’ Taipei office all say they plan to buy longer-term Treasuries if the benchmark rises to that level. The companies, which together manage $240 billion globally, say plunging oil prices will keep inflation in check. A 2.3 percent yield would be an increase from 2.21 percent Tuesday. It compares with the high over the past three months of 2.37 percent. Investor appetite for Treasuries underscores the conviction an inflation rate that’s stuck near zero will support bond prices even as the Federal Reserve prepares to raise interest rates next week. “Long-term Treasury yields will go down next year,” said Wontark …

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Oil prices finish 2015 down 30% for the year

New York – Oil prices capped a second straight year as one of the worst-performing commodities, as a global glut of crude continues to weigh on the market. After plunging from more than $100 a barrel to nearly $50 a barrel last year, US oil prices declined 30% in 2015, settling Thursday at $37.04 a barrel on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Nymex crude posted its second straight annual loss for the first time since 1998. Robust production from US shale-oil fields pushed the global crude market into oversupply in late 2014, and production has risen again this year as producers including Saudi Arabia and Russia have opted to keep output levels high. Inventories of crude oil in the US stand near eight-decade highs as producers continue to produce at high rates to …

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Access to healthcare still a problem in PH

While the Philippine pharmaceutical industry is touted as one of the strongest in Southeast Asia, a study showed the sector is still facing challenges such as providing the poor people access to quality medication and healthcare. This was according to the data provided by the Pharmaceutical & Healthcare Association of the Philippines (PHAP). Nevertheless, PHAP specified that significant steps have already been accomplished by the pharmaceutical industry to address these challenges and ongoing efforts are being made to further increase patient access to quality medication and healthcare. “Though the Philippine pharmaceutical industry has achieved a lot and proved to be one of the best in Southeast Asia, it is equally important for us to pursue ways of increasing patient access to quality healthcare,” said PHAP executive director Teodoro Padilla. The group emphasized that the …

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Rollercoaster ride leaves Shanghai stock investors flat

Shanghai– Chinese stocks ended 2015 slightly higher despite a wild ride that saw trillions wiped off market capitalizations in a summer rout that shook global markets and prompted an unprecedented government rescue package. From January 1 to mid-June the Shanghai market – which had already surged by more than 50 percent in 2014 – leaped by 60 percent again. Then it slumped nearly a third in three weeks, before slowly recovering. After all the gyrations of the most volatile year in the quarter-century history of the modern Chinese stock market, the Shanghai Composite Index closed at 3,539.18 on Thursday, up 9.4 percent for the year. “It was the year of the ‘monkey market’ for Chinese stocks -- jumping up and down like a monkey,’’ said Professor Oliver Rui of the China Europe International Business …

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Microsoft to warn users about ‘nation-state’ intrusion

Washington— Microsoft has joined other online companies with a new policy alerting users if their accounts are being targeted by governments. “A key part of our work is identifying and preventing unauthorized access to your Microsoft account (including Outlook.com email and OneDrive) by anyone other than you,’’ Microsoft vice president Scott Charney said in a blog Wednesday. “We’re taking an additional step today. We will now notify you if we believe your account has been targeted or compromised by an individual or group working on behalf of a nation-state.’’ Microsoft said it already notifies users if accounts have been targeted or compromised by a third party but is taking the additional step of letting people know if it is likely that the attacker may be “state-sponsored’’ because “it is likely that the attack …

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US dollar outshines 16 major currencies

The dollar outperformed all of its 16 major peers in 2015 after the Federal Reserve began its first interest-rate-raising cycle in almost a decade. A gauge of the US currency posted a third year of gains after central bank policy makers deemed the economy strong enough to merit boosting rates from virtually zero. The yen had a record fourth annual decline, while the euro slumped a second year, as stimulus in Japan and the euro area widened the gap between monetary policy in those regions and the US. Divergence was the name of the game for currency traders in 2015 as U.S. policy makers inched toward tighter monetary conditions, while central banks elsewhere eased. That sent the dollar flying higher during the first three months of the year, before disappointing economic data …

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Asian stocks poised for second year of decline due to commodity rout

Asia Pacific stocks fell in light trading on the final day of the year, with the regional benchmark index heading for its first back-to-back annual decline since 2002, as energy shares followed crude oil lower. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index excluding Japan slipped 0.1 percent to 410.54 as of 8:10 a.m. in Hong Kong, with raw- material companies leading declines. The MSCI gauge that includes Japan headed for a 4.5 percent drop this year amid decelerating Chinese growth and a rout in commodities. That compares with a 0.2 percent advance for the Standard & Poor’s 500 Index and a 7.4 percent increase for the Stoxx Europe 600 Index. “This year has been a very volatile and difficult year as the markets were assaulted by volatility from different asset classes,” Kelvin Tay, regional …

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Regulating use of cell phones Part I

The phenomenal growth in the use of cell phones worldwide is astounding. From 1984 to 2004, cell phones reached the first billion; the second billion took just eighteen months; the third billion took only nine months; and by the end of 2008, four billion cell phones are expected to flood the world. Today, many people are already asking if there are health risks in using cell phones. Many people are getting disturbed because many users of cell phones are experiencing some health conditions – although the health conditions may also be attributable to other causes as well. Many people are bothered by reports that some illnesses and ailments may be due to excessive use of cell phones – especially when a recent news item appeared that one well-known American politician …

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