Week of December 8, 2000
MANILA After a closed-door caucus, the Philippine Senate rejected a motion by lawyers for President Joseph Estrada to have his impeachment trial dropped for "lack of merit." Estrada has denied corruption charges, headed up by allegations that he took millions of dollars in illegal gambling pay-offs. The trial is set to begin Dec. 7.
Week of November 17, 2000
GENERAL SANTOS Muslim rebels using rocket-propelled grenades freed one of their leaders from jail. About 70 other prisoners also escaped in the melee.
Week of November 10, 2000
MANILA The economy could fall into recession next year unless the corruption scandal surrounding President Joseph Estrada is resolved, Central Bank Governor Rafael Buenaventura warned. He said foreign fund inflows have all but "dried up" and the central bank's support of the peso cannot be sustained beyond "60 to 90 days" without serious damage.
Week of November 3, 2000
JOLO The military rescued three Malaysian hostages kidnapped by the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas. Only two hostages, Roland Ullah, a Filipino taken from the Malaysian resort of Sipadan on April 23 and American Jeffrey Schilling, are still held by the group.
Week of October 13, 2000
The Philippine peso fell to its lowest level in history against the U.S. dollar. The Central Bank tried to sell dollars to slow the drop but the intervention did not work.
Week of October 6, 2000
JOLO ISLAND Admitting his troops missed a one-week deadline to free 17 hostages held by Abu Sayyaf extremists, President Estrada vowed the army will pursue the guerrillas for "as long as it takes." He said the military was hampered by the Robin Hood-like status of the Abu Sayyaf among the island's poor Muslim population.
Week of October 6, 2000
The Philippines capitulated to Taiwan in a year-long dispute over the ability of China Air and EVA Airways to pick up passengers in the Philippines and carry them to destinations beyond Taiwan. A steep decline in Taiwan-based investment probably prompted the deal.
Week of September 29, 2000
MANILA Tycoon Lucio Tan decided not to buy 30% of the government's shares in the Philippine National Bank. Tan's decision could cause Manila to run afoul of the IMF and the World Bank, which are pushing for banking reforms in the country.
Week of September 29, 2000
MANILA The anti-graft court , the Sandiganbayan, ruled that the $627.6 million held in escrow for the Marcos family in Manila's Philippine National Bank is "unlawfully acquired and ill-gotten." The money had been hidden by five Marcos foundations in Swiss banks from 1977 to 1986 but was moved to Manila in 1998. The cash, when released, will go to the state's land reform program, the court said.
Week of September 22, 2000
MANILA President Joseph Estrada cut short his visit to the U.S. to deal with the worsening hostage crisis in the southern Philippines. Muslim extremists kidnapped three more people from a Malaysian resort at the weekend to replenish their pool of 19 hostages.
Week of September 8, 2000
Despite budgetary shortfalls and security problems, Philippine GDP expanded 3.9% in the first half of 2000. Second-quarter growth was sharply higher than expected at 4.5% on the back of a strong showing by agriculture.
Week of September 1, 2000
MANILA Having gained control of a $30-million account of the late President Ferdinand Marcos, the government is now working to have it transferred into the country. Sen. Aquilino Pimentel said the Presidential Commission on Good Government has identified at least six Hong Kong-based banks where the Marcoses kept their wealth.
Week of Aug 18, 2000
MANILA Defense Secretary Orlando Mercado accused alleged terrorist Osama bin Laden of bankrolling the Abu Sayyaf guerrillas holding more than a dozen people. The accusation came as the Abu Sayyaf demanded $25 million for the release of those it is holding in Jolo island. Earlier, Philippine military chief General Angelo Reyes said $5.5 million had been paid to the group in exchange for 12 people, despite Manila's policy against paying ransom.
Week of Aug 11, 2000
MANILA The proposed 2001 budget is P725 billion ($16.2 billion), 11.6% higher than the 2000 budget and represents 19% of GNP (compared with 18.8% last year). The IMF cautioned the government to stick to the deficit target and to reduce it next year.
Week of Aug 4, 2000
JOLO Police Chief Candido Casimiro was fired after a new round of bombings and kidnappings by Abu Sayyaf Muslim rebels, who already hold dozens of local and foreign hostages. Grenades thrown at a Catholic cathedral and a coffee shop, coupled with the kidnapping of yet another TV camera crew, cost Casimiro his job.
Week of July 28, 2000
Lucio Tan, a close friend of Philippine President Joseph Estrada, emerged as the sole bidder for the government's 30% stake in Philippine National Bank --giving him 76% of PNB.
Week of July 28, 2000
MANILA President Estrada's net national approval rating rose from 5% in March to 13% in July, according to the most recent Social Weather Stations survey. Growth was largest in Mindanao, where his moves against Muslim rebels found strong support.
Week of July 28, 2000
JOLO A power failure scuttled the release of seven Malaysian hostages after their Muslim captors were paid $3 million in ransom, sources close to negotiators said.
Week of July 21, 2000
This mother and her son continue to rummage through the vast pile of garbage in Payatas in Quezon City on the outskirts of Manila, even as rescuers nearby were digging through an avalanche of trash that left hundreds of people unaccounted for on July 10. By mid-week the number of dead had reached 122. Still, most of the scavengers who live on, around and near the 15-meter-high dump site refused to leave. Reclaiming what they can from Manila's refuse remains the only way they can figure out how to earn a living - they only half-ironically refer to the dump as the "Promised Land." It was supposed to be shut in October, but "the residents began demanding that we not close it because they will lose their jobs," Quezon City Mayor Mel Mathay says.
Week of July 21, 2000
The Philippine currency fell to a 30-month intra-day low of 45.15 pesos to the dollar on July 11. Earlier in the day President Joseph Estrada provided traders with a target by saying he hoped the rate would not breach 45 pesos.
Week of July 14, 2000
MANILA President Estrada will seek special powers from Congress to override "indiscriminate" court orders which obstruct infrastructure projects in Mindanao. Estrada promised not to give preferential treatment to favored contractors or undercut civil liberties.
Week of July 7, 2000
JONES TOWN An ambush by communist New People's Army guerrillas 300 km north of Manila killed 13 government troops. The attack is seen as an escalation following directives from the NPA's leadership to aid the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front in Mindanao while also trying to discourage foreign investment throughout the country.
Week of June 30, 2000
JOLO Kidnappers reunited 10 foreign tourist hostages with 11 Malaysian and Filipinos. "I don't expect a release in the near future," one of the rebel negotiators said. It's not clear if the re-grouping will lead to a resumption of negotiations to end the two-month-old situation. Initial talks were suspended by the government following rebel demands which included an Islamic state in the southern third of the country.
Week of June 23, 2000
The government's 30% share in under-performing Philippine National Bank, controlled by tycoon Lucio Tan with 46%, failed to attract bidders before a June 9 deadline. The sell-off was a precondition for $1.4 billion IMF and $300 million World Bank loans for banking sector reform. It's unclear how Tan got enough shares to control PNB.
Week of June 23, 2000
MANILA A woman was injured when a hand grenade exploded in central Manila on June 14. It was the sixth explosion to hit the capital since a long-running Muslim rebellion flared up in the southern region of Mindanao in May. Twenty six suspects were detained in connection with the earlier blasts.
Week of June 16, 2000
MANILA Central Bank governor Rafael Buenaventura thinks the budget can stay within its $1.5 billion projected deficit despite growing expenditures on the war against Muslim separatists in the south. The government has only spent about $23 million to pay for the offensive so far.
Week of June 2, 2000
SASMUAN Suspected communist guerrillas attacked Joel "Jojo" Ejercito, one of President Estrada's sons, when he was traveling in a boat with local officials and journalists. A reporter with the group was killed and four other people injured.
Week of June 2, 2000
The peso dropped to a 19-month low amid the country's political woes.
Week of May 26, 2000
COTABATO Muslim separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front guerrillas pulled back from a key highway in a peace gesture, but staged fresh attacks on Basilan island.
Week of May 26, 2000
Onel de Guzman and his sister Irene conferred with their lawyer, Rolando Quimbo, after admitting that "it is possible" they may have accidentally launched the "ILOVEYOU" computer virus that brought down e-mail systems around the world. Onel and classmate Michael Buen are members of GRAMMERsoft, a group of programmers and students from Manila's AMA Computer College. They are at the center of a probe by the Philippines National Bureau of Investigation and the American FBI. Buen categorically denies any involvement in ILOVEYOU. GRAMMERsoft members were linked to the virus through a set of disks seized from the home of Irene's boyfriend Rionel Ramones, the first of the group to be detained. He was later released due to lack of evidence.
Week of May 19, 2000
The Philippine Airlines 5,000-strong Employees Association, filed a notice of intention to strike May 9.
Week of April 28, 2000
DAVAO An Air Philippines jet packed with Easter holidaymakers crashed on April 19, killing all 131 people on board -- the country's worst aviation disaster. The pilot of the 22-year-old Boeing 737-200, apparently aborted a landing when he saw another aircraft on the runway.
Week of April 21, 2000
The Philippines posted a budget deficit 29% lower than expected in the first three months of the year. The country spooked investors last year when tax revenues fell short of the target while spending exceeded the budgeted level.
Week of April 21, 2000
MINDANAO On April 12, the day after suspected guerrilla sabotage left Mindanao without electricity for several hours, government troops stepped up attacks on the secessionist Moro Islamic Liberation Front. By mid-week the military claimed 41 MILF members had been killed after it had overrun six MILF forward outposts near the towns of Munai and Maigo.
Week of April 14, 2000
MANILA On April 5, the head of the state lottery, Rosario Lopez, admitted she had convened a Feb. 25 meeting with President Estrada's executive secretary Ronaldo Zamora, police officials and operators of illegal lotteries (called jueteng) to explore methods of legalizing their operations. Zamora admitted that he had attended the meeting, but said he had not been told that the jueteng organizers, mostly from small towns, would be present. Estrada has openly advocated the legalization of the game, in which bettors place wagers on two-number combinations. A bill is pending in Congress to have the game legalized.
Week of April 7, 2000
MANILA President Estrada admitted that reports of assassination plots against him look "serious" but said, "There are no changes to my plans. I still go where I need to go." Security at the presidential palace was tightened because of information gathered by the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency that groups, including communist guerrillas, are out to kill the president.
Week of March 31, 2000
MANILA After six weeks on the job, Aprodicio Laquian submitted his letter of resignation to President Joseph Estrada on March 22. Estrada suggested his ex-chief of staff move back to Canada. The day before, at a "no-holds-barred" briefing with the Manila Overseas Press Club, Laquian dropped his guard and let fly some amazing indiscretions, refueling accusations that Estrada's reign in Malacaņang is dangerously lax. Laquian claimed meetings with the president often extended until 4 a.m., at which point "I am the only sober person in the room. And if this is in Canada, I will be the designated driver, I will be the one taking them to their beds and so on." Laquian, an academic who has not lived in the Philippines for years, was given the high-profile job by Estrada to re-establish his credibility in the wake of stories of an informal "Midnight Cabinet" of friends and businessmen exerting undue influence on the actor-turned-president.
Week of March 24, 2000
MANILA President Estrada's popularity ratings in Metro Manila dropped sharply, according to a telephone survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations. Far more people - 54% - are dissatisfied with his performance, than the 22% who say they are satisfied. That gives the president a net satisfaction rating of -32%, down from -13% in February.
Week of March 3, 2000
SOME FILIPINOS WOULD rather not have this sort of assistance. That is Foreign Secretary Domingo Siazon clambering into an AH-1W Super Cobra attack helicopter at the former U.S. Clark Air Base north of Manila. The first joint military exercises to be held in five years with the Americans resumed on Feb. 21, nine months after the Philippine Senate ratified a Visiting Forces Agreement. U.S. troops pulled out of air and naval bases in the Philippines in 1992 after the Senate refused to extend Washington's lease on the facilities. But as tensions rise upward across Asia, and Manila and Beijing spar with each other in the South China Sea, ties to the U.S. don't look so bad to Malacaņang. Demonstrators in the capital did turn out in large numbers to protest the Americans' return, though.
THE PHILIPPINES DENIED China Airlines' request for flights on the Kaohsiung-Manila route. In retaliation Taiwan reduced Philippine Airlines' daily Manila-Taipei flights to four a week.
Week of February 25, 2000
MANILA The 2000 budget of $15.5 billion was signed into law on Feb. 16. It focuses on deficit-control efforts. President Estrada predicts it will generate at least a 4.5% increase in GNP, while keeping inflation at a "manageable" level.
Week of February 18, 2000
MANILA Former police director-general Roberto Lastimoso and President Joseph Estrada's former interior and local government secretary Ronaldo Puno were indicted on graft charges. They will be charged with favoring Mahogany Medical and Pharmaceutical Supplies with a government drug testing contract.
LOWER FOOD PRICES were partly responsible for the Philippines' 2.6% inflation rate in January, the lowest since May 1987.
Week of February 11, 2000
This is one dragon that failed to set the world on fire. Macau's casino tycoon Stanley Ho Hung-sun may revel in the gloriously tacky glamour of floating restaurants, but he has little patience for bad press. When dancers performed at the launch of his Jumbo Palace in Manila, the gambling czar was conspicuously absent. He hastily canceled his Philippines trip, calling allegations in the local media that he was connected to Chinese triads "unacceptable." Even with the backing of President Joseph Estrada, who dared critics to produce the evidence, Ho was not convinced. He is currently seeking legal advice. Ho has also been attacked by the Catholic Church for supposed plans - which he has denied - to open a casino in the four-storey restaurant. Perhaps it's better for all concerned to wait and see how the cards fall
Week of January 21, 2000
ON THE FIRST TRADING DAY after Philippine President Joseph Estrada fired scores of advisers and reiterated his fight against cronyism, Manila punters sold down gaming stock BW Resources, which is owned by presidential friend Dante Tan. The issue fell nearly 40% to 12.75 pesos on Jan. 10, but bounced back. Estrada says the government has not granted BW a license to operate a casino in a floating restaurant owned by company chairman Stanley Ho.
Week of December 31, 1999
MANILA The Preparatory Commission on Constitutional Reform finally presented its 1,000-page report. Its suggestions could lead to majority foreign ownership of commercial and industrial land (but not agricultural land), public utilities, mining, energy, timber, forestry, fisheries, schools, and broadcast media. At present, foreign ownership in most businesses is generally limited to 40%.
Week of December 24, 1999
MANILA It was a vast mass of jellyfish, not a coup, not an attempt by former president Fidel Ramos to discredit President Joseph Estrada, not a failed Y2K computer test that shut down the cooling intake vents of a coastal power plant and darkened much of the main island of Luzon. That did not stop the Senate from approving a bill that will allow foreign firms to fully own retail businesses with a minimum capital of 100 million pesos - $2.45 million.
LUCIO TAN BOUGHT 35% of the Philippine National Bank, which may position him to become the majority owner if the government sells its 30% stake next year.
Week of December 17, 1999
A LEADING CARGO FORWARDER, DHL Worldwide Express, will close its hub in Manila and transfer to Hong Kong. The SAR and southern China account for 20% of DHL's intra-Asian traffic. The volume of business in the Philippines is just 5%.
INFLATION IN THE PHILIPPINES slowed to a year-on-year rate of 3.9% in November, the lowest increase since May 1987. Analysts had expected at least a 5% rise, given the jump in fuel prices and wages.
MANILA All 17 people on an Asian Spirit airline flight from Manila to Isabela Province died. It took the military 24 hours to find the wreckage. An airline spokesman said no cause for the crash has been determined, but noted there had been bad weather during the flight.
Week of December 10, 1999
THE GDP TRAIN ROARS ON: Malaysia's economy grew 8.1% year-on-year in the third quarter of 1999, lower than the two-digit expansion many private-sector economists expected. Hong Kong surprised analysts with a better-than-predicted 4.5% third-quarter rise, while the Philippines met expectations by registering 3.1% GDP growth for the same period. Those economies are on the same growth track as South Korea (12.3%), Singapore (6.7%) and Indonesia (0.5%). Thailand does not issue quarterly growth figures. Japan will release its third-quarter GDP result Dec. 6.
Week of December 3, 1999
MANILA Ahead of the weekend ASEAN summit, Southeast Asian ministers met to assess the region's economic rebound and coordinate recovery efforts. Outside the convention center where they met, riot police clashed with protestors who managed to outflank the massive security operation put in place to contain them.
LUCIO TAN OF PHILIPPINE AIRLINES might buy half of rival Air Philippines. But Air Philippines head William Gatchalian, like Tan a friend of President Estrada, could back out of the deal since Tan reportedly exerted pressure on authorities to halt Air Philippines' overseas flights.
Week of November 26, 1999
PRESIDENT JOSEPH ESTRADA SEES enemies on all sides. These student activists are critical of the deals he has been making with foreign oil companies, the World Bank and the IMF. Nor are they enamored of rising fuel prices. But Estrada sees figures linked to his predecessor, Fidel Ramos, as his bigger problem. In a radio interview, he told listeners that "information has reached me that not just meetings but even funding and other intrigues are taking place to topple and destabilize my administration." He claimed government money gone missing during the Ramos administration is being used to launch the propaganda campaign against him. He did not specifically link Ramos to the alleged plot. Ramos denies any wrongdoing now or during his presidency.
NATIONAL STEEL, ONE OF the Philippines' largest companies, shut down despite a restructuring of its $385-million debt last year.
Week of November 19, 1999
THE KING OF PHILIPPINE fast food, Jollibee, acquired Chowking Foods, the country's most successful Chinese-style competitor. Jollibee shares fell 3.6% to 13.50 pesos (34 cents) on the news.
Week of November 12, 1999
MANILA China is not the "imaginary enemy" in upcoming joint Philippines-U.S. war games, the government said. No country is. Beijing has asked to observe the exercise. Manila left it up to the Americans to decide.
THE PHILIPPINES AND TAIWAN WILL resume flights between the two cities while they try to negotiate a new traffic load agreement. In October, the Philippines banned Taiwanese planes from the route.
Week of October 22, 1999
MANILA President Joseph Estrada says he is not concerned by the Pulse Asia's October popularity poll that shows him with a 61% rating, down from 77% in June.
Week of October 8, 1999
MANILA Catholic bishops want the 1998 law which allows oil firms - not the government - to set fuel prices to be reviewed. The country imports almost all of its fuel, and rising international prices have hit consumers hard. President Estrada has repeatedly rejected pressure to go back to regulated prices.
PHILIPPINE BEER-MAKER SAN MIGUEL'S international brewing operations' profits rose 351% to $5.8 million in the eight months to August after showing years of losses. San Mig's most successful performance was in its Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Shunde operations in China.
Week of October 1, 1999
MANILA After a week of negotiations, the IMF agreed to a higher budget deficit to fuel economic growth. The 1999 shortfall can rise to 80 billion pesos (about $2 billion), well above the 68.4-billion-peso target.
Week of September 24, 1999
MANILA The increasingly young age of offenders has sparked a debate whether minors should be executed for heinous crimes. The government disclosed that 12 children under the age of 14 stand accused of rape. The youngest is only ten.
Week of September 10, 1999
MANILA President Joseph Estrada's eldest son Jinggoy will run for the Senate in the 2001 elections. Mayor of the family's political stronghold of San Juan in suburban Manila, Jinggoy will be one of the 12 candidates representing his father's Party of the Filipino Masses. Estrada will act as the team's campaign manager.
Week of September 3, 1999
MANILA Former president Corazon Aquino and church leader Cardinal Jaime Sin led 50,000 people in a rally against President Joseph Estrada's plans to amend the Constitution. Estrada wants charter changes to permit more foreign investment (see story(link to /asiaweek/99/0903/nat10)).
BIG-TIME MERGERS Three of Japan's biggest banks - Dai-Ichi Kangyo, Fuji and the Industrial Bank of Japan - say they are studying a possible merger that could create the world's largest bank. Similar alliances mooted in the Philippines between the Bank of the Philippine Islands and the Far East Bank and Trust Co. could produce the country's biggest bank.
Week of August 13, 1999
THERE ARE PLANS IN MANILA to create a new bank that will rival in size the nation's largest, Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co. The merger of Land Bank of the Philippines and the Development Bank of the Philippines would create an institution with almost $7 billion in assets.
Week of August 6, 1999
MANILA The proposed 2000 budget projects a deficit of 40 billion pesos, or 1.1% of GNP. The 1999 shortfall will be about 68.4 billion pesos, or 2.2% of GNP. The bottom-line figure for expenditures next year is 651 billion pesos ķ about $17 billion ķ based on GNP growth between 5.3% and 5.9%.
more: Jan-July 1999