Posts Tagged ‘mineral processing’

Philippines, Japan sign $6B worth of business deals

October 31, 2017
Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte, left, and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe stand between the countries’ flags as they review a guard of honor at Abe’s official residence in Tokyo Monday, Oct. 30, 2017. Duterte is on a two-day visit to Japan. Nicolas Datiche/Pool Photo via AP
TOKYO — At least 18 business deals that will yield $6 billion worth of new investments were signed here Monday by Philippine and Japanese firms in a development that officials said affirmed investor confidence in the Philippines.
President Rodrigo Duterte witnessed the signing of the agreements, which are expected to pour in Japanese investments in manufacturing, shipbuilding, iron and steel, agribusiness, power, renewable energy, transportation, infrastructure, mineral processing, retailing, information and communication technology, and business process management.
“President Rodrigo Roa Duterte met several Japanese companies and witnessed several B-B MOUs (business-to-business memoranda of understanding) and letters of intent on Investment plans, joint ventures and expansion of operations in the Philippines,” Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez said in a statement.
“Total new investments (are expected to reach) $6 billion,” he added.
A list of companies that signed the agreement was not available as of Monday but incoming presidential spokesman Harry Roque said the deals would be undertaken by “big multinational” and “Filipino giant” corporations.
“If I’m not mistaken, there were at least 25 agreements that were witnessed by the president today,” Roque said in a chance interview here.
“I think it’s because there is number one, commercial predictability, number two there is peace and order in the Philippines and there is conducive business environment where businesses are safe from unjust taking,” he added.
Roque said the signing of business deals also highlighted the “very strong” relations between the Philippines and Japan.
“It also proves that Japan continues to be one of our most active trading partners,” the incoming presidential spokesman said.
Among the companies that signed business deals are the Steel Asia Manufacturing Corp. and Metro Pacific Investments, which forged agreements with Hitachi and Itochu. The group of businessman Manuel V. Pangilinan was also scheduled to meet with Japanese firms NTT, Rakuten, Itochu, Mitsui, Marubeni, Densan and Hitachi.
Lopez said he also met with his Japanese counterpart Hiroshige Seko to discuss ways to improve market access and lowering tariff of Philippine agricultural products like banana, pineapple and mango.
Asked about the Japanese trade minister’s reaction to his request to lower the tariff for Philippine agricultural exports, Lopez replied: “They took note of that and to be discussed in detail in the technical working groups under JPEPA (Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement).”
JPEPA is the bilateral trade agreement between the Philippines and Japan.
It was signed by former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and then Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in Helsinki, Finland, in September 2006.
The agreement assures zero duties for more than 90 percent of Philippine exports to Japan and is expected to enhance the access of Filipino service workers to the Japanese market. It also requires the removal of tariffs by both Japan and the Philippines on almost all industrial goods within 10 years from the date of its implementation.
Lopez said he and Seko also discussed Japan’s support to reach a substantial conclusion of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership.
The two trade chiefs also tackled the Industrial Cooperation Dialogue and ways to improve the supply chain for Japanese companies to benefit Philippine small and medium enterprises.

China Working For Closer Ties to Myanmar — Keeping the U.S. Out is a Priority

January 22, 2016

By Gavin Bowring
The Financial Times (FT)

China’s push to re-engage with its southern neighbour may have unexpected costs

Since coming to power in 2011, Myanmar’s President Thein Sein has distanced the country from its previously tight-knit relationship with China in favour of rapprochement with the west and Japan.

Yet the past few months have seen a determined push by Beijing to re-engage Myanmar economically and politically, reminding Naypyidaw that it sees the country as a key strategic neighbour, particularly in the wake of recent general elections.

So Chinese officials will have looked on approvingly on December 30 when Myanmar’s parliament gave the go-ahead to the first phase of the Kyaukpyu special economic zone, awarded to a consortium of mostly Chinese companies led by Citic Group.

It is hoped that the $10bn-plus SEZ on Myanmar’s remote south-west coast will complement an existing oil pipeline linking Myanmar and China, in operation since 2013, and serve as a regional hub for logistics and mineral processing.

Citic began feasibility studies for the SEZ as far back as 2007. Yet the Myanmar government failed to award the project several times, partly due to a perceived lack of commercial viability and also because of a cooling in diplomatic relations.

China’s resurgent interest has been driven by growing competition with Japan for strategic influence in Myanmar and by Beijing’s desire to show concrete progress in its “One Belt, One Road” initiative.

Japanese investments are planned across a range of infrastructure sectors in Myanmar. Japan has successfully launched the $2bn Thilawa SEZ, a manufacturing hub near Yangon scheduled for completion by the middle of this year, and has shown interest in investing in the Dawei SEZ, a Thailand-backed industrial and logistics zone near the Thai border.

This has spurred a more aggressive response from China, including its first attempt to bankroll large-scale projects in Myanmar since the suspension of the $3.5bn Myitsone hydropower dam project under Thein Sein.

Yet while Kyaukpyu is now backed by China’s political and financial muscle, questions over its commercial and social viability remain unanswered.


Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi in Naypyitaw on January 12, 2016. (Soe Zeya Tun, Reuters)

Is Aung San Suu Kyi the Dragon’s Lady?

By Min Zin
The New York Times

YANGON, Myanmar — When in November Sai Win Myat Oo, a candidate from the Shan Nationalities League for Democracy, ran for a seat in the Parliament of Shan State, in southern Myanmar, he was confident in his chances of being re-elected. The people of his constituency had consistently voted for the local Shan party in the past.

Yet he lost to a candidate from the National League for Democracy (N.L.D.), the majority-Bamar party led by Daw Aung San Suu Kyi, which swept the general election last year, winning some 80 percent of contested seats in the national Parliament. Apparently, it was the ethnic Wa people of Shan State, many of whom resettled there from northern parts of country in the late 1990s, who cast the decisive votes.

Rumor has it they had received instructions to vote for the N.L.D. from the United Wa State Army — at 30,000-strong, the most powerful rebel group in the country — which is headquartered on Myanmar’s border with China. Chinese sources I spoke to in academe and the intelligence services denied that Beijing had anything to do with those directives. But one senior Shan politician and three Myanmar military insiders said they thought it was Chinese influence that had swung the Wa votes in Shan State.

Why would Beijing, which has long backed Myanmar’s military regime and refused to engage with pro-democracy parties, now support the N.L.D.? One reason is that in recent years it saw the political tide turning in Myanmar. Another is that it has come to think of Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi as a consummate pragmatist, and at a time when the Myanmar army, known as the Tatmadaw, was making political and military overtures to the United States and its allies.

But Beijing’s rapprochement with the N.L.D. now threatens the legitimacy of Myanmar’s generals on issues they have long considered to be within their exclusive purview: foreign policy, border affairs, national security, federalism. So while improved relations between China and the incoming N.L.D. government could help quiet unrest in border areas, they could also upset the uneasy balance of power among Myanmar’s elites in Naypyidaw.

China’s relations with Myanmar have ebbed under President Thein Sein, down to lows not seen since the Cultural Revolution in the late 1960s, when anti-Chinese riots broke out and Beijing began backing Communist rebels in Myanmar. Ties had then slowly improved because both Deng Xiaoping and the military-led socialist government in Myanmar maintained a neutral foreign policy.

After a military junta took power in 1988, relations graduated to the level of strategic partnership. That the West promptly marginalized the junta and slapped it with sanctions helped matters along, and for the next two decades political, economic and military cooperation between China and Myanmar deepened. Myanmar offered China natural resources and strategic access to the Bay of Bengal, among other things. Beijing provided Myanmar with aid, arms and military training, as well as diplomatic cover.

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Myanmar Frees Political Prisoners

The Associated Press

Myanmar’s military-backed government released at least 20 political prisoners Friday, just a few months before it is scheduled to hand over power to an elected pro-democracy party. But human rights groups hedged their praise, noting that a court on the same day sentenced a peace activist to prison for a Facebook posting.

The released detainees said prison authorities declared that they were among 101 prisoners including common criminals who were released from Insein Prison in Yangon’s northern outskirts.

Among those freed, according to a prison official contacted by phone who refused to give his name, was New Zealander Philip Blackwood, who managed a bar in Yangon and last March was sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison for insulting Buddhism in an online advertisement that showed a psychedelic depiction of Buddha wearing headphones. Blackwood’s whereabouts Friday were not known.

Myanmar is overwhelmingly Buddhist, and in recent years has seen a strain of extremist Buddhist nationalism emerge in reaction to tensions with the country’s Muslim minority.

“Early this morning, the prison guards called the names of 20 political prisoners and told us to pack up and get ready to go back home,” said Soe Zaw, a 44 year-old political prisoner released Friday after 14 months in prison. “Our families were not informed.”

More than 1,300 political prisoners have been freed by President Thein Sein’s military-backed government, which took power in 2011 after an election that ended almost five decades of direct military rule. Activists say several hundred political offenders are still detained or await trial.

The latest such case involved a peace activist sentenced to six months in prison for a Facebook post that was deemed defamatory. Patrick Kum Jaa Lee, a social worker from the Kachin ethnic minority, was arrested in October for the post showing someone stepping on a photo of the military’s commander-in-chief, Senior Gen. Min Aung Hlaing.

Myanmar Army chief Min Aung Hlaing. Reuters photo

“This is not fair. I am imprisoned as an example to threaten all citizens who are using social media,” he said from behind bars at the court. “We have to fight back for the truth and fight for the rights of the citizens who use social media.”

At least four activists have been detained over Facebook posts in the last few months. One received a six-month prison sentence in late December.

Visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State Antony Blinken earlier this week urged the government release all remaining political prisoners.

Myanmar is set for a change of government after the National League for Democracy party of Nobel laureate Aung San Suu Kyi won an easy majority in last November’s general election, dislodging Thein Sein’s Union Solidarity and Development party, which was widely considered a proxy for the military.

“There shouldn’t be any political activists in prison in this government’s so-called democratic country,” said Aung Myo Kyaw, a spokesperson for the Assistance Association for Political Prisoners, an independent human rights organization.

According to the group, 272 political activists were arrested in 2015, of whom 180 have been imprisoned.

“There are a lot of political prisoners still in prison. I cannot be happy because many of our fellows are still inside,” said Ba Myint, a political prisoner released Friday. “We hope other political prisoners are released soon, too.”