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DoE wants reserve power spot market to start commercial operations by Dec.

THE Department of Energy (DoE) said it has set a target to begin commercial operations of the spot market for power reserves on Dec. 26.

“Starting Dec. 26, the market operator shall implement the full commercial operation of the reserve market, wherein the co-optimized energy and reserve schedules, including their associated prices, generated by the market dispatch optimization model shall be financially binding,” the DoE said in a draft circular issued on Sept. 16.

On Friday, the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) granted preliminary approval to the application for amendments to the price determination methodology.

The joint application was filed by the Independent Electricity Market Operator of the Philippines (IEMOP) and the Philippine Electricity Market Corp. in October 2022 for the implementation of the co-optimized energy and reserve market in the Wholesale Electricity Spot Market (WESM).

According to the circular, the IEMOP is directed to complete preparations and start limited live dispatch operations between Sept. 26 and Dec. 25.

During the period, the IEMOP will conduct live parallel operations which involves end-to-end testing using a non-production system between the market operator, system operator, and registered ancillary service (AS) providers.

IEMOP operates the WESM. The reserve market will facilitate the trading of AS or power reserves to support the transmission system.

It started trial operations for the reserve market on June 26, according to the DoE. 

“All generation companies, duly certified and accredited by the system operator as AS providers, shall ensure completion of their registration on the reserve market before Sept. 26,” the DoE said. — Sheldeen Joy Talavera

#DoE #reserve #power #spot #market #start #commercial #operations #Dec

Once a century earthquake deals blow to North African bright spot

Once a century earthquake deals blow to North African bright spot

WHEN Morocco’s top tourist city was rocked by the country’s deadliest earthquake in six decades, Hicham Aamran and his family fled to a nearby square, terrified their apartment building would collapse.

They’ve camped there since, sleeping in the open and too afraid of aftershocks to return to their Marrakech home, as the kingdom reckons with the social and economic toll of a disaster that’s left more than 2,000 people dead.

The catastrophe deals a stunning blow to the country of 37 million that views itself an island of stability in North Africa and which has been a bright spot for investors wary of the region’s other economies. Marrakech, famed for its buzzing markets, ornate courtyard homes and nearby ski slopes, is due to welcome thousands of officials to the annual International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank meetings in October.

“The strength of the tremor was too terrifying to stay indoors,” said Mr. Aamran, an assistant manager at a car-rental firm. He said he fears for relatives in the town of Imintanout, about 80 miles (128 km) to Marrakech’s southwest and near the quake’s epicenter. “They need real rescuers, and bread.”

Morocco’s strongest quake in 120 years struck the High Atlas mountains late Friday, tearing across the poverty-stricken al-Haouz and Taroudant regions and flattening villages of mud-brick homes, while damaging the winding roads key to aid and rescue efforts. The World Health Organization says 300,000 people in Marrakech and beyond have been affected. A Red Crescent official warned the response would take “months, if not years.”

Parts of Marrakech’s UNESCO-listed historic center sustained serious damage, with masonry raining down on parked cars and some of its storied alleyways collapsing. One much-shared video on social media showed the 12th-century Kutubiyya mosque shaking as screams punctured the night sky.

About 10.9 million tourists visited Morocco last year, a vital driver of the $140 billion economy alongside agriculture and trade with the European Union. Those have helped the country bolster its credit quality. The government has a BB+ rating from S&P Global Ratings, a step below investment grade and one of the highest levels in Africa.

While a short-term hit seems likely, the country’s size and diversity of attractions may provide a cushion. Tourism in Turkey, which was hurt by disastrous earthquakes in its eastern provinces in February, mostly rebounded with surging summer arrivals to the Mediterranean coast and Istanbul.

Flights from Europe’s major airlines were still arriving in Marrakech on Sunday.

The quake probably won’t “impact Morocco’s economy as a whole, but it will hurt the local economy, especially the many villages that live off tourism on the outskirts of Marrakech and the city itself,” said Rachid Aourraz, head of research at the MIPA Institute, a think tank in the capital, Rabat.

The events have shone a spotlight on Morocco’s disparities. While Marrakech has long been the haunt of statesmen, celebrities and billionaires — from Winston Churchill to Richard Branson and David Beckham — a short drive away lie settlements with poor access to basic services.

In the Atlas, prominent businessman and philanthropist Karim Tazi said the situation was “dramatic,” with authorities racing to clear roads and get blood donations to local hospitals. “Unfortunately a large number of people are still under the rubble,” he said by text message on Sunday.

For Youssef Barakat, who works at the Kasbah Angour hotel in the High Atlas, the quake felt “like the sky fell.” Several of the hotel’s 27 rooms will need major repairs, forcing them to shut for at least two weeks.

“Our building is modern, which is not the case for the vast majority of houses and small hotels in the area,” Barakat said Sunday. “Too many villages were destroyed and there is a lot of death.”

There’s been no estimate yet of the total damage caused by the deadliest quake to strike Morocco since 1960, when 12,000 people were killed around the Atlantic coastal city of Agadir.

Any large-scale reconstruction would pile more pressure on an economy jolted by two years of droughts and may disrupt the government’s efforts to improve its finances.

This year, there were signs of improvement. They included the country’s return to international bond markets in March after an absence of more than two years. It issued $2.5 billion of 5-year and 10.5-year notes. The former ended trading on Friday with a yield of 6.1%.

“With thousands of people dead or critically injured this is certainly a human tragedy,” said Todd Schubert, Dubai-based head of fixed-income research at Bank of Singapore. “However, the scale of destruction appears to have largely spared critical infrastructure, which is important. Outside aid will help blunt the fiscal impact. I expect that the impact on spreads, beyond the immediate knee jerk reaction, will be modest.”

Before Friday’s earthquake, authorities were targeting economic growth of 3.4% this year and planning to trim a budget deficit from 4.5% of gross domestic product to 4% in 2024. The country’s poorest were set to get improved access to subsidies via a direct-aid program.

In Morocco’s favor is a string of allies. The US, France, Turkey and the UK were among many countries pledging assistance, including first responders and search dogs. So, too, were the United Arab Emirates, Israel — with which Morocco made a landmark peace deal in 2020 — and Algeria, a longtime foe that says it will open its airspace for aid efforts. King Mohammed VI has thanked those offering help, without saying they’ll be accepted.

The World Bank conveyed its “profoundest condolences” and full support to Morocco. “Our sole focus at this stage is on the Moroccan people and the authorities who are dealing with this tragedy,” it said in a statement, making no reference to the meetings due to start in less than a month.

Morocco’s hosting of the events, the first on the African continent in half a century, was expected to bring thousands of high-spending visitors to Marrakech.

The meetings were first scheduled for 2021 but faced two years of delays due to the Covid pandemic. There’s been no word on whether the quake will affect plans, although much of greater Marrakech has emerged unscathed.

King Mohammed was overseas when the disaster hit, and although he returned swiftly it reminded Moroccans of the long periods the 60-year-old monarch spends outside the country, few of which are officially disclosed. The king owns multiple properties in France.

People close to Morocco’s Makhzen — the centuries-old web of advisers, security officials, military men and business interests that orbits the monarchy — have expressed increasing discontent over his absences, as well as over a much-publicized friendship with a trio of German-raised cage wrestlers known as the Azaitar brothers.

The financial impact of the quake will become more clear over time. Many of those worse hit by Friday’s disaster rely on small-scale farming or other low-paid jobs and “can’t afford the massive cost of rebuilding their homes,” according to Aourraz.

The government, too, may struggle. “They are dealing with swathes of damaged regions that require roads, water, electricity, and much more,” he said. — Bloomberg

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Is my Prada bag real? New ways to spot fake designer purses

Is my Prada bag real? New ways to spot fake designer purses

FOR almost a decade, I’ve been listening to digital prophets predict a future where banks save billions of dollars, customers can trace their mangoes back to the organic farm where they were grown, and financial intermediaries are a thing of the past, all thanks to the blockchain. I’ve been waiting for that future to arrive, but I’ve never come across it in my daily life.

Imagine my surprise, then, when I encountered the word “blockchain” inside a Miu Miu bag.

I’d recently purchased the bag, and a little white card was tucked away in a pocket. On the piece of 100% recycled fiber, it read: “This authentic Prada product’s certificate has been uploaded on Aura Blockchain Consortium’s platform to record and guarantee its integrity.”

Miu Miu’s parent company, Prada Group, is one of several major luxury houses investing in high-tech ways to track their most coveted and most expensive products. Over the past year, brands including Loro Piana, Louis Vuitton, and Maison Margiela have launched services built on the Aura consortium’s blockchain that allow customers to verify that their item isn’t a knockoff.

The hope is that tracking handbags, coats, watches, and diamond rings this way could be a game changer in the industry’s fight against the ballooning counterfeits market. As much as $464 billion worth of counterfeit and pirated products changes hands each year, accounting for 2.5% of world trade, according to a 2019 estimate by the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development.

Blockchain technology is just one of the weapons deployed by the sector in years long battle against fakes. Recent efforts include Richemont’s new platform for sharing information about lost or stolen watches and jewelry and LVMH-owned Patou launching an AI-based verification system called Authentique Verify.

Giving customers a more reliable way to prove their products are real could help raise the appeal of originals, while making it harder to sell fakes on the secondhand market. And by making it easier for customers to pass on or resell their products, the technology could help prove the case that many of these highly priced items have some investment value.

“A digital certificate of authenticity is a huge, huge problem solver,” says Stefano Rosso, chairman of the French fashion house Maison Margiela and chief executive officer of BVX, which are both part of OTB Group. “In parallel, it helps us market the product and track its origins.”

OTB is a member of the Aura Blockchain Consortium, which runs blockchain technology specifically for luxury brands. The consortium was founded in 2021 by LVMH, Prada Group, and Richemont, and joined later by OTB and Mercedes-Benz. When customers look up one of the 600,000 OTB products registered, they don’t just do it on any random website; the brands control which goods are registered on the platform.

The concept of a blockchain — where transactions are recorded online, on a system run by many computer servers — first gained notoriety as the system underpinning such cryptocurrencies as Bitcoin. Information on blockchains is hard to tamper with, which many believe makes them an ideal tool for complex record-keeping, such as tracking a product’s origin or supply chain. It helps solve a big problem in the online world — lack of trust — that some believe is transferrable to products in the real world.

Other sectors have been toying with the technology for years, but have yet to implement any applications at scale. Wall Street, for instance, has been at the forefront of developing blockchain systems, but things have moved more slowly in a highly regulated environment with complex systems already in place. The consequences of an outage, say, in a system clearing equities trades would be quite different from a glitch in a system that tracks handbags. Some progress is still being made, but many projects announced years ago have yet to be implemented, while others have been scrapped.

Despite the billions of dollars invested, you’d be hard-pressed to find mainstream adoption of applications beyond cryptocurrencies. The deployment of blockchain across luxury goods will be a significant test of whether the technology has any utility at a scale beyond its original use case.

OTB’s service allows customers to tap their smartphone, for example, on a new pair of Maison Margiela Tabi shoes, which have NFC chips embedded in them. The chip instructs the phone to open a website with the product’s authenticity certificate, which is provided by the Aura Blockchain Consortium, and information about where the shoes were made (Italy).

Similarly, earlier this year, LVMH’s Loro Piana launched a service allowing customers to scan a QR code on labels of its high-end Gift of Kings garments to verify their authenticity — pretty important when buying one of its T-shirts, which can cost £1,665 ($2,100). Customers can also register themselves as the garment’s owner and find information about its origins, down to the batch of fine merino wool used to make a T-shirt. (It’s very soft and comes from select sheep farms in Australia and New Zealand.)

“We believe that blockchain is a strong enabler to augment everything related to traceability, origin, authenticity from the beginning of the story starting at the raw material level,” Franck Le Moal, LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton’s group IT and technology director, said in an interview. “One day every product in the luxury industry will be able to benefit or be augmented by a digital product passport or certificate.”

Some experts think it won’t.

“I remain skeptical about the robustness or usefulness of blockchain solutions that attempt to bridge physical assets with the esoteric nature of blockchain networks,” says Colin Platt, who advises and consults companies on blockchain projects. “What happens if I pull that NFC chip out of the bags, make 10,000 copies and put them in 10,000 fake bags? Who owns the real bag?”

Applications built using the Aura Consortium’s technology use different layers of security including encrypted NFC chips, a spokesperson said.

Mr. Platt also wonders what would happen if people sell the bags without registering the change of ownership on the system. “If you sell the bag to your friend and don’t update the blockchain, who owns the bag?” he says. “You or your friend?”

Prada Group integrated blockchain tracking into its new Fine Jewelry Eternal Gold line as it began work on building its sustainable supply chain for recycled gold that took more than one year to set up. The line made its debut in October and uses 100% certified recycled gold and stones purchased from suppliers who meet high standards on human rights, labor safety, environmental impact and business ethics.

Customers can use their phones to tap a piece of jewelry’s card — including that accompanying a yellow gold chain necklace that costs £25,500 — to pull up a certificate of authenticity, its carbon footprint, and information on the material used. This helps tell the brand’s sustainability story, as customers can verify that the materials used effectively meet the criteria that is advertised, Timothy Iwata, Prada Group’s managing director of fine and high jewelry, said in an interview.

A digital certificate and tamperproof online records of who owns a product could make it easier for customers to pass items on to family and friends, executives say. Traditionally, certificates of authenticity have been plastic or paper cards with serial numbers, which can easily get lost or thrown out over the years. An inherited item might not come with that certificate, making it hard for the recipient to know whether the product is real. Instead, the ownership information is stored online.

The technology would also make it less risky for luxury houses to enter the secondhand market, says Daniela Ott, Aura Blockchain Consortium’s general secretary and a former chief operations officer at Kering’s luxury division. Companies could facilitate secondhand sales without worrying that they’re fencing fakes.

The technology can also help track the product’s sale and repair history, says Pierre-Nicolas Hurstel, CEO of Arianee, a startup that works with consumer brands to build blockchain applications. Sitting at a cafe in Paris earlier this year, Mr. Hurstel showed information about the authenticity and history of his Panerai watch, which he’d scanned with his phone. It included the date of sale, warranty expiry, and more.

Soon, Mr. Hurstel said, consumers could have a digital wallet on their phone containing certificates for all the valuable products they own. This could have an unexpected downside for luxury goods purveyors: A stronger secondhand market could make customers a bit too confident.

“This is not good for brands trying to avoid ubiquity and selling the promise of exclusivity,” says Luca Solca, a global luxury goods, senior research analyst at Alliance Bernstein.

After I pulled the card out from my Miu Miu bag, I thought, “OK, so now what?” The card had no instructions for how to gain access to the digital certificate to verify its registration on a blockchain network. Was my bag actually on the blockchain?

After several rounds of questioning, Aura Consortium’s and Prada’s press teams said I couldn’t yet certify the bag myself, but Prada Group could access the information through an NFC chip inserted in the item.

“By having the Aura label on their products, Prada Group is telling their customers that it has been injected onto the blockchain,” Prada said in a statement. “They have the comfort of knowing that it is authentic and has its immutable own identity.”

In other words, “trust us.”

My comfort levels were minimal. Especially after the bag’s strap broke in April and I took it to Miu Miu’s store on London’s New Bond Street for repairs. No one scanned it in front of me to verify its authenticity.

Instead, a salesperson looked up my details on a tablet. The store’s system pulled up the products I owned from the group. The bag and parts were collected, and shipped abroad for repairs. A few weeks later, a representative messaged me on WhatsApp to tell me the bag had arrived. I collected it by giving them my name and the bag model. That was that. — Bloomberg

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Gilas earns a spot in Olympic qualifiers after routing China

Gilas earns a spot in Olympic qualifiers after routing China

GILAS Pilipinas couldn’t have picked a better parting shot in the FIBA World Cup (WC) played on Philippine soil.

A morale-boosting victory in the WC after nine years of futility, at home in front of a loud and proud “Sixth Man” and at the expense of a bitter rival in Asian hoops and, taking it deeper, territorial dispute.

And the breath of fresh air that was the 96-75 rout of China Saturday at the Smart Araneta Coliseum actually did more than provide a feel-good vibe after a string of letdowns since posting an 81-79 win over Senegal back in 2014 edition.

The ego-boosting 21-point triumph, in the end, proved enough to give Gilas a second crack at the Paris Olympics via the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournaments (OQTs).

When the smoke of battle in the Classification Phase cleared, the Philippines wound up second in Group M with 1-4 behind South Sudan’s 3-2 and 24th overall in the 32-team field. This was enough to earn them an invite to the OQT early next year as the “13th best team not qualified yet.”

Co-host Japan (3-2) clinched a direct entry to Paris as the best Asian team of the WC, joining top African side South Sudan, No. 1 Oceania team Australia (2-2 at presstime) and host France.

In danger of repeating the infamy of the 0-5 outing in the 2019 WC, Jordan Clarkson and Co. stepped up to the plate and made it an explosive last hurrah.

“For sure, we didn’t want our hosting to end without gifting the Filipino people with a victory,” said coach Chot Reyes, referring to the 11,080-strong crowd who braved the heavy rains and strong winds to support the team despite previous heartbreakers in the first round against the Dominican Republic, Angola and Italy and the classification opening game versus South Sudan.

“Look at them, it’s stormy outside. We’re just basically playing for nothing, but they all came out. So, we just owe this to the Filipino people,” added Mr. Reyes, who later announced his intention to vacate the post in the wake of severe bashing on his person and family on social media.

Mr. Reyes said he wrote only two words on the board before the emotional battle with Team Dragon: “Dig Deep.”

“We just told the players to come out and play, do what they do best, and that is to hoop and play ball. In fact, we had no X’s and O’s on our board; we just had the words ‘Dig Deep’ on our board today. That’s what they did,” he said. — Olmin Leyba

#Gilas #earns #spot #Olympic #qualifiers #routing #China