Latest ASEAN news

Tackling manpower issues key to global tourism revival: Panel


Straits Times reported that the foremost challenge facing a global tourism recovery is ensuring the travel sector can get the labour it needs, industry and government leaders said at a panel discussion on 23 May, as the annual World Economic Forum kicked off. Singapore Transport Minister S. Iswaran, who was one of the panellists, noted that the operational needs of airports around the world have shot up significantly in recent times, but getting the hands needed to keep things going smoothly has been an issue. Marriott International chief executive Anthony Capuano said for the sector's manpower needs to be met, confidence in its long-term trajectory - and its viability for forging lasting careers - has to be rebuilt. Minister Iswaran noted Singapore has, in the space of a few weeks, doubled traveller volume to the Republic, which is now at roughly half of pre-pandemic levels. While the growth momentum for travel has been much stronger than expected, manpower issues and resource constraints are going to bite, he said. 


Panellists said that while the pandemic had severely impacted the sector - roughly one in five jobs lost globally due to COVID-19 was in travel and tourism, with more than 60 million of them lost in 2020 alone - a bright spot is the rapid adoption of technology both by guests and the industry. This includes more bookings going online, merchants digitising and now accepting contactless payments, as well as the automation of a lot of menial tasks partly out of necessity, said Ms Ruzwana Bashir, CEO of experiences booking platform Governments have had to innovate to rejuvenate travel, said President of the Dominican Republic Luis Rodolfo Abinader Corona and Saudi Arabia's Assistant Minister for Strategy and Executive Affairs in Tourism Haifa Al Saud, two others on the panel discussion. Mr Abinader, for instance, said focus groups organised by his government found that there was clear demand by travellers keen to visit the Dominican Republic, but who were afraid of catching the virus abroad.


Read more: Here

World in one of worst energy crises since the 1970s: WEF

Straits Times reported that the war in Ukraine, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic rebound in its aftermath, significantly disrupted energy transition efforts. This has left the world in one of the most severe energy crises since the 1970s, said the World Economic Forum (WEF) in a new report titled Fostering Effective Energy Transition 2022. The pace of energy transition needs to be supercharged for the world to keep to its sustainability goals, it noted. WEF, in its latest energy transition report, called for urgent action by both private and public actors to ensure a resilient transition. This “urgency for countries to accelerate a holistic energy transition is reinforced by high fuel prices, commodities’ shortages, insufficient headway on achieving climate goals and slow progress on energy justice and access”, it said. 

WEF’s report detailed key recommendations for governments, companies, consumers and other stakeholders on measures to advance energy transition. Countries will need to prioritise efforts to ensure a resilient energy transition and diversification of the energy mix, it stated. Most countries rely on just a handful of trade partners to meet their energy requirements and have a deficient diversification of energy sources, providing limited flexibility to deal with disruptions, said WEF. The report noted that of 34 countries with advanced economies, 11 rely on only three trade partners for more than 70 per cent of their fuel imports. More countries need to make binding climate commitments, create long-term vision for domestic and regional energy systems, attract private-sector investors for decarbonisation projects and help consumers and the workforce adjust, the report added.

Read more: Here

Regional grids can lower renewable energy costs

Straits Times reported that importing electricity generated by various renewable sources across South-east Asia is one way for nations in the region to meet their climate change targets in an affordable way, a new report by the International Energy Agency (IEA) has found. The Republic had earlier announced plans to import 30 per cent of its energy needs - or 4 gigawatts of electricity - by 2035. One way of doing so could be through ASEAN's regional power grid. Such power grids allow countries that may have a surplus of electricity from renewable sources like hydropower to trade with countries that lack these resources. Speaking to The Straits Times on Wednesday, IEA's chief energy economist Tim Gould said having an integrated power system across countries helps to bring down the costs of transitioning to a greener energy sector. 

"For a country like Singapore, being able to access energy supplies from low-carbon sources from its neighbouring countries through a regionally interconnected grid is very, very important, given the constraints on land that Singapore faces," he added. As each country has its own advantages in different renewable technologies - some in hydropower, geothermal, and others in wind, for instance - having a diverse mix of resources could help to reduce variability in factors such as weather conditions, said Mr Gould. IEA's report, Southeast Asia Energy Outlook 2022, also pointed out that institutional and contractual structures will also need to be adapted to facilitate multilateral cross-border power trade. The Energy Market Authority on Wednesday also unveiled "A Resilient and Sustainable Energy Future" as the theme for the SIEW conference, which will take place from Oct 25 to 28. It said in a statement that the theme reflects how the global energy community has accelerated the pursuit of a greener future.

Read more: Here

Partners to produce hydrogen from hydropower in Cambodia and Malaysia

PESTECH International Berhad and Hydrogene De France SA have signed a memorandum of understanding to collaborate on green hydrogen production from hydropower plants in Cambodia and Malaysia.

Under the MoU, the parties will co-operate to develop works with respect to the projects in the region of Malaysia and Cambodia as an initial phase. HDF Energy will take the lead on the project development scopes and sizing.

PESTECH will act as local market liaison and coordinator. PESTECH will be given the first right of refusal for the engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning works on a project-by-project approach. The first right of refusal will depend on bankability criteria to be confirmed at a later stage by international and local lenders.

PESTECH said this collaboration “is expected to complement and align with the global transition for sustainable energy and net zero emissions in the power generation and rail electrification segments.”

The MoU is effective for three years.

The hydropower plants involved and their owning company were not named in the release.

HDF Energy develops hydrogen power plants to provide continuous or on-demand electricity from renewable energy sources, combined with high-power fuel cells.

PESTECH is a Malaysian integrated electrical power technology company. Its core business is the design, procurement, construction, installation and commissioning of high-voltage and extra-high-voltage substations, transmission lines and submarine power cable systems. 

For original article, please read here
Source: Khmer Times

ASEAN for Business Bulletin 2022: Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), Rules of Origin and Intellectual Property Protection

February 2022 Issue (link)
The world’s largest ASEAN-led Free Trade Agreement, the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP), has entered into force on the 1st January 2022. The streamlined rules of origin (ROO) under the RCEP provides flexible options for the businesses to enjoy tariff concessions. Learn more about the competitiveness and benefits offered by the ROO under the RCEP in this bulletin.

April 2022 Issue (link)
RCEP further modernize the IP regime to enhance market confidence for business operating in the region. Learn more about the Intellectual Property Protection under the RCEP in this bulletin.

Malaysia trade surges by over one-third in Jan-Apr

Bilateral trade between Cambodia and Malaysia was worth $205.2 million in the first four months of 2022, surging by over one-third from nearly $152.9 million from the corresponding period last year, according to Customs.

In January-April, Cambodian exports to Malaysia amounted to $35.2 million, down by 1.9 per cent year-on-year, while imports were $170 million, up by 46 per cent on a yearly basis, General Department of Customs and Excise of Cambodia data show.

Cambodia’s trade deficit with Malaysia expanded to $134.8 million over the same period.

Hong Vanak, director of International Economics at the Royal Academy of Cambodia, stressed that deficits per se were nothing to worry about in the context of international trade.

He explained that some countries have high demand for certain items produced elsewhere, and that others need to import natural resources or semi-finished products to meet domestic consumption and export needs.

“Seeing a sharp deficit does not mean that Cambodia imports goods from Malaysia exclusively for domestic consumption, some of the imports are represented by the components or machinery required for production to export to international markets,” Vanak told The Post.

Regardless, he urged the Kingdom to further diversify domestic production to trim imports and support an uptick in exports to Malaysia and further afield.

At a February meeting between Minister of Commerce Pan Sorasak and Malaysian trade and industry minister Mohamed Azmin Ali, both sides pledged to further boost bilateral trade and committed to maintaining open markets and facilitating investment to achieve that end.

Sorasak highlighted the essential role in economic recovery and the promotion of growth taken by private businesses, which he said are supported by legal frameworks governing matters such as public-private partnerships, investment and competition.

The minister called on Azmin’s delegation to encourage existing and new Malaysian players to explore more investment opportunities in the Kingdom, citing as examples milled-rice and other agricultural exports, as well as training in food production techniques for domestic and international supply, with an emphasis on halal requirements.

Azmin agreed to persuade more Malaysian businesspeople to invest in Cambodia and commended the government for creating a positive business and investment climate.

Cambodia’s exports to Malaysia generally include milled rice, palm oil, peppercorn, fabrics and industrial products, while major imports comprise auto parts, food and beverages, and electronics.

In 2021, bilateral trade between the two countries topped $500 million, up by 13.14 per cent compared to 2020. Cambodian exports to Malaysia were worth more than $101 million, an uptick of 2.62 per cent, and imports passed $399 million, increasing by 16.16 per cent, according to the Council for the Development of Cambodia (CDC).

Malaysia to reduce palm oil export tax, biodiesel mandate

The Plantation Industries and Commodities Ministry (MPIC) and the Finance Ministry are currently in talks to reduce Malaysia’s palm oil export tax from 8% to between 4% and 6%.

The two ministries are also aiming to reduce the country’s biodiesel mandate to meet the global edible oil shortage.

According to MPIC Minister Datuk Zuraida Kamaruddin, a decision is pending and Malaysians are expected to be the top in global palm oil exports.

However, she urged industry players to focus on market variables that are likely to cause price volatility which are the export policy of Indonesia, the recovery of palm oil production in Malaysia, the adjustment of biodiesel policies in various countries, progress of the Russia-Ukraine conflict and the weather in both the US and South America.

“The fact that palm oil stockpile increased for the first time since October 2021 by 11.5% month-on-month to 1.64 million tonnes in April 2022 driven by higher output (+3.6% to 1.46 million tonnes) and weaker exports (-17.7% to 1.06 million tonnes) should not be a cause for concern. 

“This is because palm oil stockpile will likely dip in May 2022 on the back of seasonally lower crude palm oil (CPO) production (arising from the Ramadhan month) and stronger exports (following Indonesia’s recent move to widen its export ban on raw materials for cooking oil),” the minister said in a statement today.

With the announcement of Indonesia’s decision to ban palm oil exports from April 28, CPO prices have soared above RM7,000 per tonne mark to RM7,516 per tonne.

However, Indonesia decided to lift its palm oil export ban from May 23 (Monday) after its domestic cooking oil supply situation has improved but decided to only lift it when bulk cooking oil price comes down to 14,000 rupiah (RM4.20) per litre across Indonesia.

Since the ban has seriously damaged Indonesia’s economy, Zuraida assured that the government has rescinded the decision to ban its palm oil exports. 

“Meanwhile, exports were dragged by lower exports to China (50.8%), European Union (23.2%) and Pakistan (90.3%) due to several factors including strict Covid-19 lockdowns which hampered palm oil shipments to China and demand destruction as a result of high prices. 

“Nevertheless, preliminary data from AmSpec Agriculture Malaysia indicated that palm oil shipments alone have surged by 40.32% during the first ten days of May on account of Indonesia’s absence from the global export market, a weak ringgit and widening palm discounts to bean oil.

“The ministry expects global edible oil demand is not as weak as we think, although the April process may be lower compared to the previous month but still remain at unprecedented levels,” she added.

On a year-to-date, CPO prices have risen above expectations to RM6,300 per tonne from RM4,300 per tonne which was projected by market analysts for 2022. 

Zuraida forecasted that CPO prices are likely to consolidate due to the ending uptrend in monthly fresh fruit bunches production rather than poor demand, but would stay elevated from the tight supply, robust market, uptake from China and the oil price hike arising from the Ukraine-Russia conflict.

“The ministry will continue to ensure the palm oil industry, which is the country’s main commodity, continues to contribute to national economic growth, thus benefiting all, especially smallholders and industry players,” she said.

Philippines in talks with Russia, Southeast Asia countries for supply of fertilizer

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is in talks with Russia and three countries in Southeast Asia for the procurement of fertilizers in a bid to address supply and price issues.

“We had meetings with Russia. They have already responded,” Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority (FPA) deputy executive director Myer Mula said in a virtual presser yesterday.

Mula said Russia has expressed willingness to supply the country with fertilizer, particularly urea.
He said the Philippines has yet to provide the volume of fertilizer it needs.

Mula said discussions with Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand are also ongoing.

However, he said there is no assurance from these countries as they have their own requirements to meet.

“But we continuously coordinate with other countries,” he said.

Last month, Agriculture Secretary William Dar said the Philippines and the People’s Republic of China were in the middle of bilateral negotiations for the procurement of fertilizers, including biofertilizers and bio stimulants.

“We have been talking with Ambassador Huang Xilian on the country’s ongoing request to buy fertilizers from China, and we are optimistic about the positive result of our discussions regarding the potential trade,” Dar said.

Fertilizer prices in the international market have been rising since last year mainly due to larger demand, as well as higher freight cost.

Latest data from the Fertilizer and Pesticide Authority showed that the average retail price of prilled urea reached P2,982.97 per 50-kilo bag from May 9 to 13. This is more than double the P1,156.64 per 50-kilo bag price in the same period last year.

Other measures being taken by the government to address the rising fertilizer prices include the provision of fertilizer subsidies, as well as the promotion of the balanced fertilization strategy, which refers to the combined application of organic and inorganic fertilizers based on crop and soil nutrient content.

Dar earlier cited ethe need for more fertilizer subsidies to prevent a decline in palay production.

“If we’re not able to subsidize more, the rice farmers today will see a decline of about 1.1 million metric tons (MT) of palay this year,” Dar said.

An additional P6 billion fertilizer subsidy budget for the wet planting season was earlier approved by President Duterte as part of the Plant Plant Plant 2.

“Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez is now looking at the funding source as he supports this additional budget for fertilizer subsidy. He promised to have it very soon,” Dar said last week.

To cushion the impact of the global challenges on the country’s food security, the DA earlier implemented Plant Plant Plant with a P24 billion budget, of which P20 billion has been allocated for fertilizers.

Investment flow drives Vietnam's industrial property

There would be huge investment capital inflows in Vietnam’s industrial property sector in the coming time if bottlenecks are solved to pave the way for multinational manufacturers, according to participants of the first session of the Industrial Property Forum 2022 co-organised by VIR and BW Industrial Development JSC.

According to Pao Jirakulpattana, vice president at Warburg Pincus Singapore, China is competing with many other emerging areas, including Vietnam.

“If you look at the investment flow on the global scale, although the flow is coming back to China in the global perspective as political tensions have arisen, ASEAN is becoming an attracting destination, including Vietnam,” Jirakulpattana said.

“Vietnam has done pretty well in receiving new investment flows. We highly appreciate the determination of the government to define which sectors should be the top priority. For example, the electronic and power sector will develop strongly in the next 10 to 15 years. Vietnam has started with intensive labour sectors. However, sustainable development must be more concentrated,” he added.

Jirakulpattana also expressed Vietnam’s disadvantages in capital and financial products. “We do not have an efficient approach for large-scale international investors yet, such as the Centre Group or chains from the Philippines,” he added.

Meanwhile, Bruno Jaspaert, general director at DEEP C Industrial Zones expressed that Vietnam should not directly compete with China, but must be different from China and attractive to investors.

“Vietnam has an effective economy but like many other countries, it has to improve its infrastructure system, to meet the increasing demand of the market,” Jaspaert said.

He expressed the trend is shifting from Taiwan and China where manufacturers are expanding their factories.

“Despite China remaining the biggest manufacturer base for a long time, Vietnam is at a very strong position,” he added.

Jaspaert expected that there would be a large investment movement if an expressway connecting China’s Shenzhen and Vietnam was built in the future.

Vietnam, moreover, needs to strengthen its competitiveness by improving policies and regulations, to be more supportive for investors and developers,” he said.

Bui Trang, general manager of Cushman & Wakefield Vietnam, also expressed that manufacturers from Singapore, the US, and the European community have been moving into the Vietnamese market.

“Real estate developers have been very well connected with banks and other financial solutions to raise capital for their businesses. However, they need to focus on long-term financial sources for sustainable development,” Trang said.

“Japan and South Korea are also very interested in the Vietnamese market. With many multinational trade agreements, billions of US dollars are waiting to come to Vietnam,” Trang said.

Regarding bottlenecks, skyrocketing land prices in some key areas led to higher costs for manufacturers. Meanwhile, although Vietnam has spent about 5.8 per cent of GDP on infrastructure development, it is still a long way from developing an integrated infrastructure network with a deep-sea port system, inter-regional highways, and waterways.

By Bich Ngoc

Source : Vietnam Investment Review

Jokowi Ratifies 1990 International Oil Pollution Convention

President Joko Widodo, known as Jokowi, on Thursday officially issued Presidential Regulation No.76/2022 which ratifies the 1990 international convention on oil pollution preparedness, response, and cooperation. The regulation has been effective since the day of the signing on April 28. 

The convention was adopted at the International Maritime Organization Conference held on November 30, 1990, in London, which aimed to tackle oil spills at sea and ensure the protection of the maritime environment.

This convention contains detailed rules overseeing a number of responses to oil pollution, such as emergency response plans, reporting procedures, national and regional response systems, to international cooperation.

In the past decade, there have been some instances of oil spill contaminations that had affected Indonesia, such as the Montara wellhead platform blowout experienced by the Petroleum Authority of Thailand Exploration and Production (PTTEP) Thailand. It was located in the Timor Sea, west of Australia, in August 2009, and was contaminated the southern coast of East Nusa Tenggara. 

Another incident took place on January 2, 2015, which saw an oil spill from the crash between two vessels; MT. Alyarmouk and MV. Sinar Kapuas. This happened in the Singaporean Strait and spread to Indonesian waters. 

The latest was the oil spill at the Pertamina Hulu Energi Offshore North West Java in July 2019. 


PH: Franchising sector sees robust growth

The domestic franchising sector sees growth accelerating this year with the influx of new breed of franchisees and the issuance of Executive Order 169 that seeks to protect micro small and medium enterprises (MSMEs) and promote entrepreneurship.


“As the economy opens up and more people return to invest in new opportunities, we see accelerated growth in franchising,” said Chris Lim, president of the Philippine Franchising Association (PFA).

The projected growth acceleration, he said, is driven by the realization of people of the need to diversify their income sources and a trend of people wanting to be their own boss and not have to go to an 8 to 5 job.

“We’ve also seen new breeds of franchisees coming in – from landlords who want to do more than just rent out their properties, to retrenched employees and business owners wanting to start over but not wanting to take on too much risk. They know franchising is a safer investment choice that’s why it has a 90 percent-plus success rate,” he said.

In addition, Lim said the issuance of EO 169 “Strengthening the Franchising Industry for the Protection of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises” by President Rodrigo Duterte will further promote entrepreneurship.


“We, in PFA, have been ceaseless in our efforts to educate the public on wise franchise investment,” said PFA Chairman Sherill Quintana.

“Transparency in a franchisor’s business dealings is also a major feature of the Fair Franchising Standards (FFS), which is PFA’s code of ethics,” Lim added. The FFS serves as a guide to all PFA members – 70 percent of which are MSMEs – in how they conduct the sale of their business.

The essence of the EO is to protect franchisees and eliminate franchise scams,” said Quintana. The PFA, she said, will participate in the crafting of the EO’s IRR. “It will be critical to create practical IRR to ensure that it does not stifle the growth and innovation of the sector as was the experience of other countries that over-regulated their franchising sectors,” she said.

Both officials vowed to continue working with the national government as the implementing rules and regulation of the EO is being developed in order to continue advocating for the interests of MSMEs and ensure the growth of the franchise sector, which provides businesses opportunities and jobs for over two million Filipinos.

For her part, Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Chairman Bing Limjoco said the EO will definitely strengthen franchising in the country. “MSMEs are now protected under the law against unscrupulous fly-by-night franchisors who took advantage of the franchising’s popularity for their self-gain,” said Limjoco, who is also vice-chairman of Francorp Philippines.

PFA also expressed gratitude to Secretary Ramon Lopez, Undersecretary Ruth Castillo and Assistant Secretary Ann Claire Cabochan for inviting PFA to be part of the process which drafted the said EO.

Under the EO, the DTI was tasked to create an MSME Registry of Franchise Agreements.

Source: Manila Bulletin

Bangladesh eyes more agriculture agreements with Philippines

MANILA, Philippines — Bangladesh has expressed interest to strengthen its partnership with the Philippines as it plans to forge more agricultural agreements.

In a statement, Bangladesh Ministry of Agriculture Secretary Mohammad Sayedul Islam said he was looking forward to forging more agreements with the Philippines in other areas, particularly in pineapple and banana.

Over the weekend, the Philippines and Bangladesh strengthened their ties in agriculture technology development with the signing of an agreement between the Bangladesh Agricultural Development Corp. (BADC) and SL Agritech Corp. (SLAC)  for the production of SL-8H F1 hybrid rice seeds.

Under the MOA, SLAC will guarantee a timely supply of good genetically pure parental lines to be used for F1 seed production in Bangladesh, while BADC will provide production area, inputs, and facilities.

BADC will also be responsible for labor and administrative expenses, as well as production and postharvest activities.

SLAC is the biggest hybrid rice seed company in the Philippines.

The agreement was signed by SLAC chairman Henry Lim Bon Liong and BADC chairman AFM Hayatullah.

SLAC and BADC previously had a 16-year technical collaboration for the production of seeds, which started in 2005.

Lim expressed gratitude to its Bangladeshi counterparts for its full trust and confidence in the Philippine seed production company.

“It is rewarding that our collective efforts, especially in rice production will alleviate fear caused by the looming food crisis,” Lim said.

For his part, Dar lauded the Bangladesh government for having the political will to pursue programs and initiatives to attain food security.

“For years, they have allotted a significant budget for the food production sector, and have invested so much to ensure that their citizens will have enough food supply. We have to learn lessons from Bangladesh,” Dar said.

The renewed partnership under the MOA comes at an opportune time as the world faces a possible food crisis due to the ongoing pandemic and dispute between Ukraine and Russia.