Regional Round-Up

Your Snapshot of Key Legal Developments in Asia

Issue 3 - Jul/Aug/Sep 2017




    New Regulation on Dispute Resolution in Securities Sector
    On 12 September 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia ("SECC") issued Prakas No. 012/17 on the Dispute Resolution in Securities Sector to regulate the conciliation and dispute resolution proceedings in the sector that are administered by the SECC in accordance with the Law on Issuance and Trading of Non-Government Securities. The Prakas is effective from its issuing date.

    According to the Prakas, any party to a dispute (or its lawful representatives) in the securities sector may file a complaint requesting for conciliation by the SECC. The SECC may dismiss the application on several grounds such as lack of standing in the dispute, or pending status in arbitration or court. The claimant may also, at any time, request to withdraw the complaint. Once initiated, the SECC will appoint not more than three conciliators. The disputing parties must notify whether they agree or disagree with the decisions of the conciliators within 10 working days of the issuance of such decisions. If the conciliation fails, any party must file another complaint to the SECC to initiate a dispute resolution procedure, initiate their own arbitration, or file a complaint to court within 90 days after such failure. The deposit and administrative and service fees charged by the SECC will be borne equally by the disputing parties.

    The Prakas also requires securities firms (as defined by the Law on Issuance and Trading of Non-Government Securities) and all persons authorized to conduct activities in the securities sector by the SECC, to include a dispute resolution clause in all contracts and agreements concerning matters in the securities sector.

    MOC's Modification to the Procedure for Issuance of Certificate of Origin through Automation System
    On 5 September 2017, the Ministry of Commerce ("MOC") released Announcement No. 4114 to inform the public as well as all domestic producers and exporters of the modification of the procedure for requesting and issuance of certificate of origin ("CO") of products.

    Previously, the MOC had also issued Prakas No. 3168 on the Procedures for Requesting and Issuance of All Types of CO through the Online Automation System dated 26 August 2016, to facilitate trade and to be in compliance with the Rules of Origin of the importing countries. This Prakas provided that producers or exporters who wish to obtain a CO shall go to the platform to register for the online application to obtain a CO.

    Upon approval of the MOC through the Automation System, the producers and exporters are required to publish such CO and submit to the Export-Import Department of MOC for the signature of the competent authority. Starting from 6 September 2017, however, the Export-Import Department and General Directorate of Trade Support Services is delegated the right to inspect and approve the request of all forms of CO through the Automation System.

    Change on Contribution Obligation of Employers and Employees for Social Security Scheme
    On 26 August 2017, the Royal Government of Cambodia issued Sub-Decree No. 140 on the Amendment of Article 7 of the Sub-Decree No. 01 dated 6 January 2016 on Creation of Social Security Schemes on Health Care Scheme for Persons governed by the Provisions of the Labour Law.

    Under the provisions of the Law on Social Security Schemes and Labour Law, both employees and employers shall contribute to the health care scheme to the National Social Security Fund ("
    NSSF") until 31 December 2017. Starting from next year, according to the Sub-Decree, employees will no longer be required to pay the contribution for health care scheme to the NSSF. Such obligation shall be transferred from the employees to the employers.

    Hence, from 1 January 2018 onward, all employers employing at least eight employees shall contribute on health care scheme to the NSSF on behalf of their employees.

    SECC's New Regulation on the Recognition of Credit Rating Agencies
    On 17 August 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia ("SECC") issued Prakas No. 011/17 on the Recognition of Credit Rating Agencies to set out the requirements and procedure for the SECC to recognize credit rating agencies, as well as the restrictions on and obligations of the credit rating agencies in Cambodia. The Prakas is effective from 17 August 2017 and is applicable to all persons providing credit rating services in Cambodia.

    Any persons wishing to become credit rating agencies in Cambodia must apply for recognition from the SECC and are required to pay a non-refundable fee of KHR 2,000,000 (approx. USD 500) for the application. They are also required to pay to the SECC another KHR 2,000,000 (approx. USD 500) upon receiving the recognition, and continue to pay an annual fee of KHR 2,000,000 (approx. USD 500).

    The Prakas also requires all credit rating agencies to report to the SECC the service fees for credit rating and any changes of their directors, senior managers, credit rating analysts, share structures, addresses, and other information that are deemed necessary. In addition, the agencies will have to publish the detailed processes in their rating, their methodology, criteria, and modernization on the rating methods, and the outcomes of the rating through their websites or any medium recognized by the SECC.

    SECC's New Regulation on Public Offerings of Debt Securities
    On 17 August 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia ("SECC") issued Prakas No. 009/17 on Public Offerings of Debt Securities to prescribe the requirements, mechanisms, processes, and approval for public offerings of debt securities.

    The Prakas mainly recognizes three types of debt securities for public offerings: plain bonds, secured bonds, and guaranteed bonds.  The governance of other types of debt securities will be covered by separate regulations. To issue debt securities as public offerings, the prospective issuers must meet certain general criteria stated in Article 6 of the Prakas while the issuance of any specific type of debt securities requires the prospective issuers to meet additional specific criteria accordingly.

    Cambodia's listed companies having issued equity securities in public before, subject to similar requirements, may also apply for the public offering of debt securities.

    SECC: New Regulation on Accreditation of Bondholders' Representatives
    On 17 August 2017, the Securities and Exchange Commission of Cambodia ("SECC")  issued Prakas No. 010/17 on Accreditation of Bondholders' Representatives, which is effective from 17 August 2017 and is applicable to all persons representing bondholders in Cambodia. The Prakas sets out the requirement and procedure for the SECC to recognize bondholders' representatives, the bondholder representative agreements, the restrictions on and obligations of bondholders' representatives in Cambodia.

    Any person wishing to be a bondholder representative must apply for accreditation from the SECC. Eligible persons for such recognition are commercial banks, securities firms, securities registrar agencies, securities transfer agents, paying agents, and custodian banks.

    A prospective bondholder's representative is required to pay a non-refundable fee of KHR 1,000,000 to KHR 2,000,000 (approx. USD 250 to USD 500) for the application for accreditation. They are also required to pay the SECC another KHR 1,000,000 to KHR 2,000,000 (approx. USD 250 to USD 500) upon receiving the accreditation, and continue to pay the amount for each following year they operate. The SECC may issue guidelines to facilitate the implementation of this Prakas.

    New Fund Established for Capacity Building and Research & Development
    On 21 July 2017, the Royal Government of Cambodia issued Sub-Decree 112 ANKR.BK on the Establishment of Mechanisms for the Management Plans of Capacity Building and Research & Development on Telecommunication and Communication and Information Technology, establishing an institutional and procedural framework with regard to a "Fund for Capacity Building and Research and Development on Telecommunication and Communication and Information Technology".

    The Sub-Decree addresses certain important aspects of the Fund, including (i) mechanisms for implementing the Fund; (ii) collection and use of the Fund; (iii) conditions and procedures of the grant of the Fund; (iv) conditions and procedures of settlement of the contribution against implementation of projects of the Fund; and (v) monitoring, follow-up and assessment of the use of the Fund.

    The Governing Board of the Fund ("
    Board") and a secretariat shall be established for the governance and operation of the Fund. Essentially, the Fund will be used to support entrepreneurship and scholarships in the sector, to create events and competitions as well as to support the Board's administrative expenses. A primary source for the Fund comes from financial contributions from telecommunication operators.
    New Fund Established for Universal Telecom Service Obligation Programs
    On 21 July 2017, the Royal Government of Cambodia issued Sub-Decree 111 ANKR.BK on the Establishment of Mechanisms for the Implementation of the Universal Telecommunication Service Obligation Programs, aiming to ensure effective, efficient, transparent, and accountable management and implementation of the universal telecommunication service obligation programs.

    The Sub-Decree provides for the establishment of a "Fund for Universal Telecommunication Service Obligation Programs" ("
    Fund") with relevant important provisions including without limitation: (i) mechanisms for implementing the Fund; (ii) collection and use of the Fund; (iii) conditions and procedures of the grant of the Fund; (iv) conditions and procedures of settlement of the contribution against implementation of projects of the Fund; and (v) monitoring, follow-up and assessment of the use of the Fund.

    The Fund will essentially be used to reduce digital gaps (of access to service and use of telecommunication and information technology in cities, urban areas and rural area) through the construction and expansion of telecommunication infrastructure and networks for high speed Internet for the sub-national administrative, rural or low-income areas, public educational or research institutions, public libraries, public hospitals or health centres, and some non-profit institutions. A primary source for the Fund comes from financial contributions from telecommunication operators.

    Temporary Suspension of the Implementation of VAT on Non-Taxable Supplies on Primary Financial Services
    On 6 July 2017, the General Department of Taxation ("GDT") of the Ministry of Economy and Finance issued Announcement No. 11278 on Suspension of the Implementation of Non-Taxable Supplies on Primary Financial Services as defined in Paragraph 2 of Article 4 of Prakas No. 559 dated 25 May 2017 on the Implementation of Value-Added Tax for Non-Taxable Supplies.

    According to the Announcement, the implementation of value-added tax ("
    VAT") for non-taxable supplies on primary financial services as defined in paragraph 2 of Article 4 of the Prakas shall be temporarily suspended until further announcement.

    The GDT will continue to cooperate with the private sector in order to review and discuss in detail the definition of "primary financial services" and the implementation of VAT on "non-primary financial services".

    Local Associations and NGOs have been warned on Compliance
    On 4 July 2017, the Ministry of Interior ("MOI") issued  Notice on the Fulfilment of Obligations of Local Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations ("Notice"), aiming to ensure participation of the local associations and Non-Governmental Organizations ("NGOs") in implementing and focusing on the obligations imposed in Article 10 and Article 25 of the Law on the Associations and Non-Governmental Organizations ("LANGO"), as some of the local associations and NGOs have yet to fulfil their obligations and have acted in contrary to their statutes.

    The Notice urges the local associations and NGOs to act in conformity with Article 10 of the LANGO by notifying the MOI and the Ministry of Economy and Finance ("
    MEF") in writing of all of their bank accounts, to be opened or opened for their operations in any bank in the Kingdom of Cambodia no later than the end of September 2017. The Notice also urges the local associations and NGOs to submit their annual financial report and annual report of activities to the MOI and MEF as stated in Article 25 of the LANGO, no later than the end of September 2017 and by the end of February of the following year, respectively. Failure to comply with the conditions stated above will subject the local associations and NGOs to the measures set forth in the LANGO.
    New Provisions on Management of Payment Service Provider
    On 14 June 2017, the National Bank of Cambodia ("NBC") issued Prakas No. B14-107-161 on the Management of Payment Service Provider to manage and set out legal procedures on licensing applications for legal entities that provide payment services in Cambodia.

    The Prakas is applicable to all banks and financial institutions under the supervision of the NBC, as well as legal entities that provide payment services. This Prakas is effective from 14 June 2017.

    According to Article 8 of the Prakas, any legal entity that wishes to provide payment services shall obtain licenses from the NBC, whereas banks and financial institutions that wish to provide payment services shall seek prior permission from the NBC. The Prakas also sets out general requirements applicable to the operation of payment services, including topics such as fund management, usage of service agents, customer protection, confidentiality obligation, issuance of electronic money, etc.

    MOC Requires Price Labels in Khmer Currency on Products and Services
    The Ministry of Commerce ("MOC") issued Prakas No. 172 to revise Prakas No. 047 MOC/ SM 2013 dated 23 January 2013 on Putting Price Label on all kind of Goods and Services to strengthen the mechanism of the development of free market and fair competition, as well as to promote the use of Cambodia's national currency.

    Under the Prakas, all traders, merchants and service providers are obligated to label price tags on their goods and services in Khmer currency. Price tags in foreign currency are permitted if the owner of the products or services holds permission issued by the Department of Trade Promotion, which is valid for one year and renewable at the request of the interested applicant.

    For duty-free businesses and service providers, if it is necessary to put price tags in foreign currency, they must request for a letter of permission from the Phnom Penh Municipal Commerce Department or Provincial Commerce Department. They are liable to pay for the request under the Joint Prakas between MOC and MEF on public services.  The letter of permission is valid for only 1 year. The renewal of the letter must be permitted by the Phnom Penh Municipal Commerce Department or Provincial Commerce Department.


    Highlights of China’s 2017 Foreign Investment Catalogue
    On 28 June 2017, the PRC National Development and Reform Commission and the PRC Ministry of Commerce jointly released a revised Catalogue for the Guidance of Foreign Investment Industries (2017 Revision) ("2017 Catalogue"), which came into effect from 28 July 2017.

    This is the seventh revision to the Catalogue since it was first issued in 1995. The 2017 Catalogue reflects the intention of the State Council to improve the investment environment, further loosen the requirements for market access in the service, manufacturing and mining industries, and to adopt a "negative list" management approach on a nationwide basis.  There are three major amendments to the 2015 version:

    • Structural changes – The 2017 Catalogue has adjusted the previous structure and changed it to include two main parts – "Encouraged Foreign Investment Industrial Catalogue" and "Special Administrative Measures on Foreign Investment Access to China (Negative List)".
    • New investment opportunities – The number of restrictive measures in the 2017 Catalogue has been substantially reduced from 93 to 63. The list of sectors that completely ban foreign investment has also been shortened from 36 to 28.
    • New investment restrictions – While the 2017 Catalogue relaxes restrictions in a variety of industries, certain industries (e.g. general aviation and banking) face tighter regulation with the update. Additionally, certain industries now fall under the "prohibited" category on the Negative List.
    Click here to read our client update.


    New Regulation on Customs Recordation
    On 30 May 2017, the President of the Republic of Indonesia enacted Government Regulation No. 20 of 2017 on the Control of Import and Export of Goods Allegedly Constituting or Deriving from Intellectual Property Infringement ("GR No. 20/2017"). GR No. 20/2017 is essentially the implementing regulation of Law No. 10 of 1995 on Customs as amended by Law No. 17 of 2006 ("Customs Law").

    GR No. 20/2017 provides a more comprehensive mechanism aimed at providing preventive-type measures and procedures for the officers of the Customs Office ("
    Customs Officers") in handling any suspected counterfeit goods shipped into or outside Indonesia. Under GR No. 20/2017, an owner or right holder of trademarks and / or copyrights can file an application for recordation with the Customs Office.

    With this trademark and/or copyright recordation at the Customs Office, the Customs Officers can now take preventive measures on their own initiative with respect to any importation and exportation of goods suspected of infringing a certain intellectual property right. They will then notify the recorded owner or right holder of any suspected counterfeit goods being shipped into or outside Indonesia. The relevant owner or right holder may opt to file a petition for a suspension order ("
    Suspension Order") with the competent Commercial Court to suspend the importation or exportation of the subject goods.

    here to read our client update.
    Indonesia's E-commerce Road Map
    After an extended waiting period from when the proposed plan was first announced, the Government of the Republic of Indonesia finally issued Indonesia's e-commerce road map through Presidential Regulation No. 74 of 2017 on E-Commerce Road Map for the Year of 2017-2019 (the "E-Commerce Road Map"). This E-Commerce Road Map purports to provide direction and strategic guidance to various Government agencies to support and accelerate development of e-commerce in Indonesia. The guidelines instruct both the Central and Local/Regional Governments to develop sectoral policies and programs.

    The E-Commerce Road Map consists of eight (8) key areas, namely funding, taxation, customer protection, education and human resources, telecommunication infrastructure, logistic, cyber security, and establishment of a coordinating function (in the form of steering and management committee). These key areas are further divided into 26 programs, which must be carried out by the respective Governmental stakeholders in the 2017-2019 period.

    here to read our client update.
    Indonesia Establishes its National Payment Gateway
    The Indonesian central bank, Bank Indonesia ("BI") recently issued BI Regulation No. 19/8/PBI/2017 on National Payment Gateway ("BI Regulation") as part of its effort to actualize the independence of Indonesia's national payment system, especially in respect of all financial transactions carried-out in Indonesia. By issuing the BI Regulation, BI started the process to establish the National Payment Gateway ("NPG") which has two (2) key objectives: (i) the interconnectivity of all existing payment channels; and (ii) the interoperability of various payment instruments which are currently existing and used in Indonesia.

    here to read our client update.


    Packed Products to be Registered Prior to their Importation, Exportation, Packing, and Distribution in Lao PDR
    The Ministry of Science and Technology ("MOST") issued Minister’s Decision on the Management of Packed Products No. 0542/MOST, dated 16 May 2017 ("Decision"). The objective of the Decision is to create standards and quality guarantees for all products that are exported from, imported to and distributed in Lao PDR, and to implement such standards. 

    The Decision stipulates that all types of packed products, for instance, food, mortars, fuels, gases, fertilizers, paints, cosmetics, and liquids must be registered as packed products prior to their importation, exportation, packing and distribution in Lao PDR. Under the registration procedure for packed products, the exported products, as well as the products distributed in Lao PDR should be tagged a label and trademark in Lao language, while the imported products need only be tagged a label in the local language. The wording in the label should be clear, prominent, understandable and indelible. If the label in written in a foreign language, such wording should be translated into the Lao language.

    MOST's Department of Standard and Measurement is mandated to inspect all types of packed products before it can issue a Packaging and Product Registration Certificate ("
    PPRC"). The PPRC, once issued, does not expire.


    Revisions to the Outsourcing Framework for Financial Institutions
    Bank Negara Malaysia (i.e. the Central Bank of Malaysia) ("BNM") has issued a revised prudential framework for financial institutions that practice outsourcing (the "Framework"). According to a statement by BNM, the Framework aims to "ensure that risk management practices for outsourcing arrangements remain effective moving forward amid intensification of technological advances in a more globalised and digitised environment", taking into account the increasing risks to outsourcing arrangements, in particular cyber-attacks and data security breaches.

    Among the significant revisions introduced by the Framework are that all outsourcing arrangements must first be approved by the board, and thereafter written approval must be obtained from BNM before a financial institution may enter into a new outsourcing arrangement or prior to renegotiating or renewing an existing outsourcing arrangement. Financial institutions must also ensure all existing arrangements entered into before 31 December 2017 are time bound to cease before 31 December 2022, and to that end the financial institution must submit a complete list of existing outsourcing arrangements to BNM no later than 30 June 2018 to allow BNM to instruct individual financial institutions on the appropriate transitioning measures for each existing outsourcing arrangement.

    The Framework further sets out comprehensive lists of matters required to be addressed, as a minimum, for: (i) assessments of the effectiveness of a financial institutions management of outsourcing risks; (ii) measures that must be covered in the due diligence process; (iii) the form and salient terms of outsourcing agreements; (iv) and controls for protection of data confidentiality. BNM is currently inviting responses to the Framework until 27 October 2017, and the policy document is scheduled to come into effect on 1 January 2018.

    The Central Bank of Malaysia to Issue Guidelines on Cryptocurrency by Year-End
    Bank Negara Malaysia (i.e. the Central Bank of Malaysia) ("BNM") hopes to issue guidelines on cryptocurrency by year-end, particularly to address concerns related to money laundering and terrorist financing activities, said BNM's Governor, Tan Sri Muhammad Ibrahim. The guidelines are intended to ensure the regulation of cryptocurrency, which exist almost wholly in the digital realm and has no asset backing (of which Bitcoins are by far the most popular), and for those who want to participate in this particular sector.

    This follows shortly after the Securities Commission Malaysia, the regulator overseeing capital market services and the licensing regime of debt and equity markets in Malaysia, issued an official statement in early September cautioning investors on the emergence of fundraising activities/ investment schemes based on digital tokens, whether in Malaysia or elsewhere, including "initial coin offerings" (where the scheme operators typically raise funds through the issuance and sale of digital tokens, in exchange for investors paying for these tokens through cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin or Ethereum). The investment schemes may be structured in many forms, and as the terms and features of such schemes may differ in each case, investors are reminded to seek legal or other professional advice if there are doubts on the legitimacy of these schemes.

    Sweeping Changes to Ship Registration in Malaysia
    The Merchant Shipping (Amendment) Bill 2017 promises to make sweeping changes to ship registration in Malaysia.

    The key changes introduced by the Bill are:

    • the introduction of a bareboat charter registry (as distinct to a mere ownership registry) at both the domestic Malaysia Ship Registry ("MSR") and Malaysia International Ship Registry ("MISR");
    • the relaxation of requirements to register ships at both the MSR and MISR;
    • the introduction of new powers that allow ship mortgagees to sell ships the moment mortgage money is due (as distinct to the present law which only allows mortgagees to sell ships in the event of a foreclosure);
    • the recognition of equitable mortgages (and not merely registered mortgages); and
    • new provisions making the MSR a true mirror of title ownership (regardless of whether the registered owner has knowledge of a trust).
    On the whole, the changes – the first in over 10 years - attempt to modernise Malaysian ship registration laws. They also attempt to ease the procurement of Malaysian-flagged ships for operations in the Exclusive Economic Zone.

    The enactment of the Bill will result in a more competitive Malaysian shipping industry. It should also provide a welcome boost to the country's oil and gas industry.

    The Bill has been passed by Parliament. It will come into force once Gazetted.

    Recent Developments in E-hailing Services
    The Land Public Transport (Amendment) Bill 2017 and the Commercial Vehicles Licensing Board (Amendment) Bill 2017 ("Bills") were passed at the Dewan Rakyat and Dewan Negara on 27 July 2017 and 15 August 2017, respectively. The Bills are still waiting to be given the Royal Assent before being gazetted and enforced.

    The Bills define "intermediation business" as the business of facilitating arrangements, bookings or transactions for the provision of land public transport services as specified in the Third Schedule whether for any valuable consideration or money’s worth or otherwise.

    Once the Bills come into force, any person that operates an intermediation business is required to obtain a licence. Drivers of e-hailing vehicles will also be regulated and are required to comply with stringent requirements under the law. In addition to other requirements, self-employed drivers of e-hailing service providers are now also required to contribute to the Social Security Organisation of Malaysia at the rates prescribed in accordance with the Self-Employment Social Security (Rates of Contribution for Taxi Driver) Regulations 2017.


    New Employment Contract Template
    On 28 August 2017, the Ministry of Labour, Immigration and Population approved a new Employment Contract template for both foreigners and locals. Any new employment contracts and renewal of the existing employment contracts after 28 August 2017 are required to follow the new template. Any alterations to the contracts should not result in contractual terms that are less favourable to the employees than those prescribed under the existing Myanmar labour laws and international standards.
    Amendments to Myanmar’s Companies Act
    On 14 July 2017, the Directorate of Investment and Companies Administration ("DICA") published the latest (English) version of the Companies Bill ("Bill") which is presently pending at the Amyotha Hluttaw (upper house).

    Some of the key changes to be expected under the new Myanmar Companies Law:

    • Memorandum and Articles of Association to be merged into one document – The current law (Myanmar Companies Act 1914) requires the separate submission of a company's Memorandum and Articles of Association. Under the draft Bill, the two will be set under one single document as the Company’s Constitution.
    • What constitutes a foreign company – Under the existing law, a company will be a foreign company as long as at least 1 share is owned by a foreigner. The draft Bill stipulates that a company is a foreign company if a foreigner owns or controls an ownership interest of more than a prescribed amount, which is yet to be confirmed.
    • Resident director requirement – There is no resident directorship requirement in the current Act.  This requirement is present in the draft Bill. It mandates that a registered company must have at least one resident director who must be ordinarily resident in Myanmar, i.e.  a permanent resident in Myanmar for at least 183 days in each 12-month period prior to the enactment of the law or the date of company registration.
    • Permit to trade – A permit to trade is required for a foreign company under the current law. This is not prescribed in the draft Bill.
    Regulations on Banks’ Financial Exposure and Liquidity Ratio Requirement
    On 7 July 2017, the Central Bank of Myanmar issued two regulations, the first being the Large Exposures Regulation (Notification 18/2017) which, inter alia, prohibits banks from taking on financial exposure in respect of a person or a single counterparty or group of connected counterparties which constitutes, in the aggregate, a liability amounting to more than 20% of the core capital of the bank. The aggregate of all large exposures of a bank shall also not exceed 8 times of the bank's core capital. The second was the Liquidity Ratio Requirement Regulation, which mandates that banks maintain a minimum liquidity ratio of 20% at all times.


    Proposed Amendments to Labor Code Provision on Hours of Work
    Philippine lawmakers have proposed changes to the current Article 83 of the Labor Code, which provides for the normal hours of work pegged at 8 hours a day, subject to certain exemptions in order to provide for alternative work arrangements to employees. The House of Representatives version of the Bill proposes for a compressed workweek as an alternative work arrangement. The Senate version offers broader options to include not only compressed workweek but "flexi-time" and "flexi holidays" schedule. 

    The flexible work arrangements aim to accommodate employees, especially working mothers and single parents, to have more time to attend to their personal obligations. In addition, by reducing the number of working days, employees are able to save on transportation and food costs. Traffic congestion are expected to be reduced as well, with less employees reporting for work on particular days.

    The adoption of flexible working arrangements is dependent on the nature of work. It is voluntary on the part of both the employers and the employees.

    The Tripartite Industrial Peace Council of the Philippines ("
    TIPC"), however, expressed its opposition to the lawmakers' proposed changes. The TIPC noted that current laws and administrative regulations are already in place for the establishment of a compressed work-week arrangement, rendering additional legislation unnecessary.   Presently, Philippine labor laws authorize the adoption of a compressed work-week, provided that the employees voluntarily agree to work more than 8 hours a day, and that the total working hours in a week do not exceed their normal weekly hours of work.  The TIPC also stated that legislation which would require having flexible working arrangements might be harmful to employees' health and prone to abuse by employers.  It is currently drafting its position paper on the bill in order to guide legislators accordingly.
    Greater Access to Healthcare by Terminally Ill Patients
    Senator Sonny Angara has introduced Senate Bill No. 1555, or the "Palliative and Hospice Care Act", to make health services available to all Filipinos at affordable cost, including to patients suffering from life threatening illnesses or progressively debilitating diseases beyond any benefit of curative treatment. In the Explanatory Note of the Bill, the Senator pointed out that "while [the Philippine] health care system should work on curing and preventing sicknesses, it should also promote people's well-being, especially when they are enduring intense pain and suffering from chronic diseases".

    The Bill requires all government and private hospitals to provide standard quality palliative and hospice care services to patients with life-threatening illnesses. Rural health units, on the other hand, must develop home-based or near-home palliative care programs. The Philippine Health Insurance Corporation ("
    Philhealth") is also mandated to expand its benefit package to include inpatient palliative services, outpatient hospice care and home-based palliative care.

    Immediate family members or relatives shall also be allowed to use all existing leave benefits granted by their employers to provide palliative and hospice care to a critically ill relative.

    Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Signed into Law
    On 3 August 2017, President Rodrigo Duterte signed into law the Universal Access to Quality Tertiary Education Law, providing free tuition for students of state universities and colleges.  The law allows Filipinos access to affordable college education or technical vocational courses in order to increase opportunities for employment and livelihood, while relieving parents from major educational expenses, allowing them to save up for other needs such as healthcare and housing.

    The implementing rules and regulations of the law are still to be drafted, and free tuition is to take effect on the first semester of school year 2018 to 2019.  Congress will likewise still need to modify the proposed 2018 national budget, as the Department of Budget and Management did not allocate funds for the new law, which will require about 
    P100 billion.


    Consultation on the draft Public Sector (Governance) Bill
    On 22 September 2017, the Public Service Division, the Ministry of Communications and Information, Ministry of Finance and Smart Nation and Digital Government Office jointly launched a public consultation on the draft Public Sector (Governance) Bill, which aims to create a standardised framework for corporate governance across the public sector in Singapore. The public consultation exercise closes on 13 October 2017.

    Click here to read our client update.
    Singapore Court Sets Aside First Investor-State Arbitral Award
    In Kingdom of Lesotho v Swissbourgh Diamond Mines (Pty) Limited and others [2017] SGHC 195, the Singapore High Court had the opportunity to consider the first application in Singapore for an investor-State arbitral award on the merits to be set aside. The decision engaged novel issues of arbitration and international investment law yet to be considered by the Singapore courts.

    This case also discusses the principles behind the setting aside of an arbitral award in an investor-State arbitration. As more regional and international disputes are brought before the auspices of the Singapore dispute resolution framework, whether it be through litigation, arbitration or mediation, this decision provides a demonstration of how the court will apply domestic law, international law, and principles of treaty interpretation in managing such disputes.

    Click here to read our client update.
    Review of the Personal Data Protection Act
    Singapore's overarching data protection law, the Personal Data Protection Act ("PDPA") was enacted in 2012 and came into effect on 2 July 2014.  A public consultation was launched on 27 July 2017 to review the PDPA, with a view to seeking public feedback on proposals which included (i) the implementation of an enhanced framework for collection, use and disclosure of personal data and (ii) the introduction of a mandatory breach notification framework.

    Click here to read our client update.


    Thailand's New Trade Competition Act
    The new Trade Competition Act B.E. 2560 (2017) ("2017 Act") has come into force on 5 October 2017, repealing and replacing the first competition law in Thailand, the Trade Competition Act B.E. 2542 (1999) ("1999 Act"). Further implementing regulations and notifications will need to be issued in order to clarify the full scope of the 2017 Act.

    The 2017 Act is expected to herald increased enforcement as it establishes the Trade Competition Commission as a separate entity independent of the government, with its own budget.

    Another key change is that, whereas state enterprises are completely excluded from the 1999 Act, under the 2017 Act they will be exempted only in limited circumstances, such as where they carry out activities pursuant to a law or cabinet resolution as required for national security, public interest, common interest or to provide public utilities.

    For further details of the provisions of the 2017 Act and how they differ from the 1999 Act, please refer to our Client Update


    New Decree on Alcohol Trading
    On 14 September 2017, the Government passed Decree 105/2017/ND-CP on alcohol trading to replace Decree 94/2012/ND-CP on the same area as from the effective date. Decree 105 comes into effect from 1 November 2017.

    Under the new decree, the conditions for wine trading have been relaxed. For example, (i) the minimum warehouse area for alcohol distribution has been reduced to 150m
    2 (compared to the existing 300m2); (ii) the requirements for the trader to demonstrate financial capacity have been abolished (being VND 1 billion for alcohol distribution and VND 300 million for alcohol wholesale license); and (iii) the requirement for the trader to have minimum sufficient transportation vehicles has been abolished.

    Those with an alcohol distribution license are now not just limited to selling their alcohol products to wholesalers in its distribution system, but also directly to retailers and entrepreneurs who sell wines for onsite consumption. There is also no limit on the number of alcohol trading licenses that a trader may have (e.g., a trader can hold a license for distribution, wholesale, retail sale, and retail sale for on-site consumption).

    Online System for Issuance of Work Permits
    On 15 August 2017, the Ministry of Labor, Invalids and Social Affairs issued Circular No. 23/2017/TT-BLDTBXH to guide the online issuance of work permits to foreign workers in Vietnam. This circular came into effect from 2 October 2017.

    Under this circular, the labour authorities have implemented an online system through which work permits may be processed. Particularly, if electing to use the online system, the work permit procedures are as follows:
    • At least 7 working days before the planned date on which foreign workers start working for the employer, the employer electronically submits the declaration and application for work permit to the labour authorities through the designated website.
    • Within 5 working days from the receipt of a sufficient declaration and application for work permits, the labour authorities will respond to the employer by email to confirm the conformity of the application. If the application is sufficient, the employer will, in person or by post, submit the original work permit application to the labour authority for verification and retention.
    • No later than 8 working hours from the receipt of the original work permit application, the labour authority will issue its result to the employer in person or by post at the employer’s election.
    However, note that while the application procedure has been streamlined, the circular does not change the type of supporting documents required for the work permit. Therefore, employers / employees are still required to prepare the required supporting documents in accordance with the law.

    Please note that whilst the information in this Update is correct to the best of our knowledge and belief at the time of writing, it is only intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter and should not be treated as a substitute for specific professional advice.
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