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Bad News… Good News…

The bad news is the peso has considerably weakened in recent days. As of September 29, the peso was trading in the neighborhood of P48 46 to the dollar. This means we now have to pay more for our imports. With the rise in cost of imported crude, we can expect an equivalent increase in our electric bills in the near term. The Philippines will also have to pay more for our maturing dollar obligations.

But it is good news for exporters who are now jumping with joy. They will be getting more pesos for every dollar’s worth of exports. Even Overseas Filipinos are ecstatic. The dollars they send home will buy more food and pay for more needs of their families in the Philippines.

A Honolulu-based friend just saved a few hundred thousands pesos for a recently-purchased condo unit which he intends to use as a retirement home. We can expect similar sales to be brisk in the coming days.

The bad news is that foreign investors are liquidating their equity investments in the Philippines, causing the Philippine Stock Exchange index to tumble.

The good news is the situation provides an opportunity for risk takers. Astute risk takers would buy when everyone is selling, hoping to make a huge profit later by selling when everyone is buying.

But what is causing these current volatilities?

Critics of this administration are quick to pin the blame on President Rody Duterte’s “colorful rhetorics” which has reportedly riled investors. But Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr., who has been voted for 8 consecutive years as among the best central bank governors in the world, has a more sober explanation.

For one, the impending increase in the Federal Reserve interest rate has made the dollar a very attractive investment, drawing back to the US the dollars invested overseas. Tetangco also attributed the increased strength of the dollar to the current huge corporate demand for dollars.

As for the pullback from equities, Bangko Sentral Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo believes that the money is still in the Philippines. They are just temporarily parked in other investment vehicles.

Miriam – a class of her own
Feisty, strong-willed, articulate and brilliant.

That was Miriam Defensor-Santiago – one of the very few individuals who hold the rare distinction of having served (and let me stress, with distinction) in the three branches of government – the legislative, the executive and the judiciary.

Owner of several local and international awards, she was one of the 1988 Ramon Magsaysay Awardees (for public service).

But like most outstanding individuals, she was a complex woman, with many dimensions to her person. She had her legions of fans (especially among the students) but she also had her share of detractors and critics.

She could be gentle, but she could often be contemptuous of those who come ill-prepared during Senate hearings. She could also be conceited (with her self-praise of her pretty legs.) She could also be funny as shown by her humorous books (eg., Stupid Is Forever) which have become local best-sellers.

Whatever you think of Miriam, whether you love her or hate her, she will forever be etched in the national consciousness.

Diokno – first to the confirmed by Commission on Appointments
Benjamin Diokno, three-time Budget Secretary, became the first appointee under the Duterte administration to be confirmed by the influential Commission on Appointments.

And he did so with flying colors. Senator Juan Miguel “Migz” Zubiri, nominated Diokno for confirmation, citing Diokno’s “impressive academic record, extensive service in the academe and government and expertise in fiscal policy”.

Diokno’s fellow Batangueño Ralph Recto seconded the nomination. Recto said he was seconding the nomination “for reasons as thick as the national budget.”

Recto noted that Diokno “served three Presidents, in three challenging epochs of our history.”

Having served Presidents Cory Aquino and Erap Estrada, Diokno now joins President Duterte “when people’s expectations of more jobs, less poverty and more inclusive growth – have never been so high.”

Like Zubiri and Recto, this writer believes that Diokno has got what it takes to perform one of the most difficult jobs in the cabinet.

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