POSTSCRIPT / June 26, 2016 / Sunday


Opinion Columnist

Share on facebook
Share This
Share on twitter

Brexit has minimal dire effects on Phl

THE AVERAGE Filipino household will hardly feel any immediate dire effects of the decision of the United Kingdom to exit from the European Union based on the 52-percent “Leave” vote in last Thursday’s Brexit (Britain+Exit) referendum.

In the aftermath of the UK decision to leave the Union, local stocks reportedly fell by 1.29 percent across the board while the peso weakened by a few centavos, but by and large the jitters that swept financial capitals failed to whip up a worrisome ripple in Manila.

The British pound continued to fetch P64.23-something among money changers in the malls and the tourist districts. Brexit is not expected to dent the “padala” of some 200,000 Filipinos in the UK who sent home $1.5 billion last year, or 5.6 percent of remittances from all points.

Filipino traders are watchful, but overall exports to the UK — whose pricing will be affected by Brexit – are not of substantial volume. Britain is not among the Philippines’ top 10 export destinations despite the trade with it climbing to $2.6 billion last year.

The Philippine embassy in London says in its website that Britain is the largest European investor in the Philippines and the biggest tourism market in the continent at 120,000 visitors annually. Analysts say Brexit is not likely to dampen investment and tourism.

Gov. Amando M. Tetangco of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said that “even as the direct Philippine exposure to the UK is relatively small, we will watch the impact on us via contagion from moves in the US dollar.”

He said that in view of expected market volatility, the Central Bank is “ready to provide liquidity to our market as needed.”

Some Filipino travelers, meanwhile, are asking how Brexit will affect their use of Schengen visas issued under an open-border agreement signed in 1985 by an initial five European countries in Schengen, a village in Southern Luxemburg.

Brexit will have no effect. The UK was never part of the Schengen arrangement where a holder of a uniform visa issued by one of 22 EU-Schengen member-states may travel for 90 days even without a separate visa for each country to be visited.

Filipino nationals traveling on UK passports will need Schengen visas to enter a Schengen area on the continent. If they reside or do business in the EU as British citizens they may cease to enjoy their usual health and social benefits.

• UK has not formally left the EU

ACTUALLY, the UK has not formally left the Union yet. Although unlikely, some supervening events and divorce details could delay the implementation of the non-binding referendum that suggested a parting of ways.

According to a BBC News online guide:

“For the UK to leave the EU it has to invoke an agreement called Article 50 of the Lisbon Treaty. Prime Minister David Cameron or his successor needs to decide when to invoke this.

“That will then set in motion the formal legal process of withdrawing from the EU, and give the UK two years to negotiate its withdrawal. The article has only been in force since late 2009 and it has not been tested yet, so no-one really knows how the Brexit process will work.

“Cameron, who has said he would be stepping down as PM by October, said he will go to the European Council next week to ‘explain the decision the British people have taken’.

“EU law still stands in the UK until it ceases being a member — and that process could take some time. The UK will continue to abide by EU treaties and laws, but not take part in any decision-making, as it negotiates a withdrawal agreement.”

As outsider, the UK — the second biggest economy in Europe, second to Germany — will have to work out a new relationship with the Union that it joined in 1973 as the European Economic Community. It has kept away from the euro single currency and the Schengen visa schemes.

• Custom’s meddling in North Harbor hit

REGULATOR Philippine Ports Authority finally asserted its ascendancy this week over the Bureau of Customs after a series of Customs memorandums came out trying to usurp PPA’s authority to designate what business local ports can go into.

Aduana veterans observed that memos are not enforceable the way contracts are – referring to Bureau of Customs memos assigning businesses to local ports which only the PPA has the power to grant as the sole regulator of domestic ports.

The PPA directed its port management office in Manila North Harbor last Tuesday to bar the Manila North Harbor Port Inc. (MNHPI) from operating there as an international port operator since its contract with PPA is only for managing a domestic port.

In contrast, the Manila International Container Terminal (MICT) and the Asian Terminals Inc. (ATI) have contracts with the PPA to operate as international container terminals.

In a memorandum order issued by Raul Santos, PPA officer-in-charge and assistant general manager for operations, the PPA cited the restrictions on the handling of foreign vessels and cargoes by MNHPI at the Manila North Harbor.

The PPA was reacting to Customs Memorandum Order No. 11-2016 dated June 2, 2016, directing the PPA, among other entities, to allow foreign vessels to dock at the Manila North Harbor, a domestic port.

Santos told Customs Commissioner Alberto Lina, who also sits in the PPA board, that his memos and administrative issuances will place the MNHPI in direct violation of its contract with the PPA should MNHPI handle foreign cargo under an exclusive contract.

North Harbor is already a monopoly under a contract signed by MNHPI with the PPA in 2009. The Customs memos designating it an accredited customs facility have rewarded it with more business.

Many port users questioned what they described as Custom’s overreaching, calling it a midnight move of an exiting administration to cement deals with favored contractors.

(First published in the Philippine STAR of June 26, 2016)

Share your thoughts.

Your email address will not be published.