The wRap


Your World in 10 - November 21, 2012 Edition

Legislation

1. Sin tax bill a step closer to becoming a law



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The Senate passed on November 20 the reform bill that raises excise tax on tobacco and alcohol products. This marked the first time in 15 years that the measure made it out of the committee level following decades of strong industry lobby that has made the Philippines one of the cheapest place to buy cigarettes. Voting 15-2, the Senate approved on third and final reading Senate Bill 3299 or the bill raising additional P39.5 billion revenues for government in the first year, slightly lower than the P40-billion "floor" targeted by the administration of President Benigno Aquino III who has used his popularity and flexed his political muscle to get this priority measure passed. The next hurdle is the bicameral conference committee where the Senate and the House of Representatives will reconcile their versions.


Read more on Rappler.




AIDS

2. New HIV cases: down in most countries, up in PH



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New incidents of HIV infections across 25 low- and middle-income countries dropped by more than 50% in a decade (2001 to 2011), but the Philippines bucked this trend. The 2012 Global Report of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) showed that while most global indicators showed progress toward achieving global AIDS-related targets, the AIDS epidemic in the Philippines is on the rise, with new HIV infections increasing by more than 25% in 2011. This grim picture in the country has been blamed partly on the lack of access to condoms and educational programs, and the proliferation of social media networks and online dating sites that have made casual sexual encounters accessible among the men-who-have-sex-with-men community.


Read more on Rappler.




Regulation

3. Telcos ordered to reduce text fees, refund subscribers



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The National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) mandated local mobile phone operators to reduce short message service (SMS) fees to at least P0.80 from the current P1, and refund its subscribers the P0.20 difference. The NTC said this is only a follow up to its November 2011 circular mandating the companies to reduce by P0.20 their interconnection charges, a key component of the fee charged for every SMS sent. Industry giants Smart Telecommunications and Globe Telecoms contested the 2011 order to reduce SMS fees even if they already complied with the interconnection charges. Globe stressed the industry is deregulation and NTC cannot just impose the retail price.


Read more on Rappler.




Property boom

4. Is Philippine property boom sustainable?



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A vibrant business process outsourcing industry is fueling demand for office and commercial spaces in the Philippines, real estate advisory firm CBRE Philippines said. This is unlike the property boom in years preceding the Asian financial crisis in the 1990's when real estate demand was sparked by cheap credit and greedy investors looking for quick returns. Record low interest rates for housing loans are also helping prop home ownership now, but affordable financing is also complemented by real demand from Filipinos working abroad and investing in condominiums in the Philippines where they eventually still want to go home to.


Read more on Rappler.




Greed

5. Philippines digs deep into get-rich-quick schemes



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Over 44 officers and members of the Aman Futures, a Malaysian-led group alleged to have duped more than 15,000 victims in Visayas and Mindanao, face a preliminary investigation by the Department of Justice on November 21. The case stemmed from complaints lodged at the National Bureau of Investigation by over 50 investors who stand to lose their life savings in the double-your-money scheme that went bust. The Aman saga is the latest in the long list of scams that have duped thousands of Filipinos, some of them lured by friends and family, or are not familiar enough with safer but more complex financial securities.


Read more on Rappler.




Violence and diplomacy

6. Ceasefire in Gaza soon?



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Israel has yet to confirm a ceasefire after days of fighting Gaza's ruling Hamas militant group, but Economist reported that Egypt has brokered the ceasefire and Israel has plans to put ground invasion on hold. Diplomatic efforts are intensifying with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and US State Secretary Hilary Clinton arriving in Israel to discuss the crisis with regional leaders. Over 100 have died from the Israeli raids in recent days. The challenge is to translate any agreement into something more lasting, the Economist noted.


Read more on Rappler.
View Economist's infograph on the ongoing Gaza conflict in numbers.




Murdoch saga

7. Media executives charged for 'paying' UK officials



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Top executives of media groups under the UK portfolio of mogul Rupert Murdoch have been charged for allegedly bribing to British officials for stories that appeared in the group's various print publications, especially the tabloids. Murdoch protégé Rebekah Brooks was charged with conspiracy over alleged illegal payments to a Ministry of Defence employee, while Andy Coulson, another former Murdoch employee who went on to work for Prime Minister David Cameron, have also been charged of conspiring to make illegal payments to officials for information relating to the royal family. The charges against Coulson, Brooks and the other suspects were the result of a Metropolitan Police investigation that was launched in conjunction with police inquiries into alleged phone and computer hacking, which led to the shuttering of the Murdoch's News of the World in 2011.


Read more on CNN.




Consolidation?

8. Some of PH richest in talks for deal on Lucio Tan bank



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Conglomerate Ayala Corp.'s corporate strategists surely have their hands very full with ongoing deal talks being announced one after the other. After either a sealed deal or preliminary deal talks with strategic partners in rail, airport, power plant, media and telecommunications, the country's oldest bank confirmed it is also pursuing a majority stake in Philippine National Bank (PNB), a commercial bank acquired by the second richest man in the country from the government in the 1990's. If this bank merger or acquisition will proceed, Ayala-led Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), can retain its previous claim to being the country's biggest bank. Sy-led Banco de Oro zoomed past BPI and Ty-led Metrobank about 7 years ago, when the Sy-led bank gobbled up Equitable Bank.


Read more on Rappler.




Insider trading

9. UBS trader goes to jail for record $2.3-B fraud



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The rogue trader behind the "staggering" $2.3 billion loss to Swiss banking giant UBS was found guilty of two counts of fraud in unauthorized trading. Kweku Adoboli was sentenced to a total of 11 years in prison over what prosecutors described as a case that boiled down to simple dishonesty. In a statement, UBS said it is pleased the case is over and thanked authorities, but declined further comment. UBS said none of its clients' funds were affected by the losses. The scandal led to the resignation of UBS chief executive Oswald J. Gruebel in September.


Read more on CNN.




Eye of the beholder

10. San Francisco: Goodbye, nudes



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Public nudity has been outlawed by lawmakers in the famously liberal San Francisco City. The city law bans anyone over 5 years old from exposing his or her "genitals, perineum, or anal region on any public street, sidewalk, street median, parklet, or plaza, or in any transit vehicle, station, platform, or (public transport) stop." Fines start at $100 for a first offense, but rising to $500 and a year in jail for a 3rd offense. Under the new ordinance, exceptions are made for a number of events, including the annual Pride Parade, the bondage and leather Folsom Street Fair and the Bay to Breakers run, a historic costume-optional race, as well as on San Francisco's beaches.


Read more on Rappler.