Friday, 2 March 2007

Outlook on RP economy most bullish since '01 - BSP survey

03/01/2007 | 11:02 PM
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(Update 2) Business executives' outlook on the Philippine economy for the second quarter of the year is at its most bullish since 2001, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Thursday, citing its recent survey.

Lower inflation, the improved fiscal situation, increased consumer demand, lower oil prices and expectations of greater business opportunities in the run-up to the mid-term elections in May boosted business sentiments, the Jan. 15-Feb. 16 survey said.

The first quarter overall business confidence index — which is the percentage of firms with positive sentiment minus the percentage of those with negative outlook — is at 44.9 percent, or almost double the 23.4 percent posted for the same period last year.

"Looking ahead, respondents' outlook is even more bullish in the second quarter, with the index at 49.4 percent, hitting the highest level since the start of the survey in the second quarter of 2001," BSP Governor Amando Tetangco said in a statement.

The survey showed more businessmen plan to expand their operations as they see more business activities and improved employment outlook. More respondents also reported easier access to credit.

More at GMA News

Centralized airport security at NAIA 3 set

By Tarra Quismundo
Inquirer
Last updated 08:51pm (Mla time) 02/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Manila will have a centralized security monitoring system of all airport facilities once the new Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 opens in March or April, according to NAIA security chief retired General Angel Atutubo.

The single integrated security system will be based in a security building at Terminal 3, he said.

--Inquirer

Thursday, 1 March 2007

Lower power rates would result in lower prices of goods -- Palace

THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2007 | ENERGY

Malacanang expressed confidence today that lower electricity rates would result in lower commodity prices and enable the people to participate in revving up the economic growth.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye pointed out in a statement that with the savings the people will obtain from lower electricity rates, economic growth can be expected to be more upbeat by the end of the first quarter.

"With more money in their pockets, the people are enabled to participate in economic activity," he explained. "This chain effect is a clear social payback from a strong economy."

The National Power Corp. this week lowered power rates by eight centavos per kilowatt-hour. The reduction, which will apply to the Feb. 26 to March 25, 2007 billing period, could go up by 18 centavos in the next 10 months.

More rate cuts, according to Presidential Chief of Staff Joey Salceda, are expected in the coming months, prompting President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to describe the power rate reduction as "a timely harvest on the seeds of fiscal discipline and good governance."

The President instructed Energy Secretary Raphael Lotilla to ask the Joint Congressional Power Commission to amend the implementing rules and regulations of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) of 2001 to speed up the implementation of additional power rate reductions.

She also asked Lotilla during yesterday’s roundtable discussion in Malacanang that the so-called "universal charge" on power consumers, which the government uses to fund projects in small islands, be removed.

"This is part of the great economic gains flowing down to the people," the President remarked.

Bunye stressed that the Filipino people have confidence in the government to plan and act in their best interest.

"President Arroyo and the entire Cabinet are on constant watch for challenges and opportunities that will lower the cost of living of the greater number of Filipinos," he said.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17306

Joint foreign chambers commend PGMA for improving investment climate in RP

THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2007 | ECONOMY

The Foreign Chambers of Commerce in the Philippines has congratulated President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for initiating the enactment of numerous legislative reforms that further improved the investment climate in the country.

In a letter to the President, the leaders of the Joint Foreign Chambers commended her for pushing for the approval of important laws, including her recent call to Congress to hold a special session to pass several important security and economic measures.

"The Joint Foreign Chambers wish to congratulate you for the passage of legislative reforms needed to improve the investment climate in the Philippines," they said.

The letter was signed by Roger Dallas, president of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Inc. (AMCHAM); Tertius Vermeulen, president of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP); Shinsuke Ike, president of the Japanese Chamber of Commerce and Industry of the Philippines; Richard Barclay, president of the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce (Philippines); Stewart Hall, president of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines; Hong Woo-Hyun, president of the Korean Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines; and Shameem Qurashi, president of the Philippine Association of Multinational Companies Headquarters, Inc.

During the 13th Congress, the foreign business leaders said they supported the passage of important economic laws that contributed "to the continued growth and to the restoration of international confidence in the macroeconomic management of the Philippine economy."

They said these laws are Republic Act (R.A.) 9334 or the Alcohol-Tobacco Excise Tax Law; R.A. 9335, the Lateral Attrition Law; R.A. 9337, the Expanded Value Added Tax (EVAT) Law; R.A. 9343, Special Purpose Vehicle Act Extension Law; and R.A. 9361, which amended the EVAT Law by removing the 70 percent cap on input VAT.

"In recent months, Congress also enacted R.A. 9367, the Biofuels Act, and ratified the Bicameral Conference committee report on amendments to the BCDA (Bases Conversion and Development Authority) Act and the One-Time Tax Amnesty to Locators in Special Economic Zones and submitted these for your signature," they said.

The Joint Foreign Chambers also urged the passage of other key pieces of legislation that they noted have progressed significantly in Congress.

These are the Anti-Red Tape Act, Credit Information System Act, Customs Brokers Act Amendment, Human Security Act of 2007, Lending Company Regulation Act, National Tourism Act, and the Personal Equity and Retirement Account Act.

"These bills represent part of a "Second Reform Wave." We commend your call for a special session of Congress on February 19 to 20 through Proclamation 1235 and urge the final passage of these bills by both the Senate and the House," they said.

--http://www.gov.ph

Statement of the President Re: Economic Stability

THURSDAY, MARCH 1, 2007 | ECONOMY

The world markets may go up and down, but the Philippine economy can no longer be pulled back.

The fundamentals of growth are firmly laid on our agenda of fiscal stability, building sturdy pillars for investment, good governance, blossoming enterprise at the grassroots and a vibrant democratic system.

Add to these the excellence and hard work of more than 8 million Filipinos abroad and we have a solid picture of economic stability relatively impervious to the vagaries and glitches in the world economy.

Our fundamentals are rooted well and spread over a wide range and cannot be overcome easily in a single sweep.

And we also have to take into consideration the resiliency of the whole region, including China, in making a rapid comeback from the most recent drop in the course.

East Asia is a dynamo of growth and will continue to be a leader in trade, security and economic consolidation.

Confidence in the Philippines and in the region is unsullied. Sustained growth will carry the day. We must keep our heads up, stay on course and unite behind our common agenda and vision.

--http://www.gov.ph

Wednesday, 28 February 2007

P30-B infrastructure projects in Luzon megaregion up for completion this year

By Rommer M. Balaba
Reporter

SIX of the 15 infrastructure projects for Luzon Urban Beltway (LUB) super region costing P30 billion are scheduled to be finished this year, the growth area’s champion Edgardo D. Pamintuan said Thursday.

Completion for the initial project can be as early as next month while the last may be by November, he said.

These projects are the P529.33-million Terminal Radar Approach Control and the P68-million Passenger Terminal Expansion of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport at Clark Special Economic Zone (DMIA), the P20.97-billion Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway; the P6.9-billion Subic Bay Port Development, the P1.3-billion Segment 1 NLEX-SLEX Connection via C-5 Project and the P50-million Lucena Port Improvement.

“The DMIA terminal radar will be operational by March, the DMIA passenger terminal by August, the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway by November, the NLEX-SLEX by October, the Lucena Port by September, and the Subic Bay Port project by June,” Pamintuan said.

Acting Public Works Secretary Manuel M. Bonoan, however, earlier told BusinessMirror the NLEX-SLEX interconnection, to initially cover the P2.33-kilometer stretch leading to Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City, would only start by the fourth quarter this year.

Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) chief finance officer Rodrigo E. Franco also said last month implementation would depend on how quickly the government can resolve right-of-way issues involving the more than P1-billion project.

MNTC is the concessionaire for NLEX’s rehabilitation, upgrade and operation for 25 years.

LUB, meanwhile, is one of the five super regions created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo during her State-of-the-Nation Address last year which includes Central Luzon, the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, Marinduque and the Mindoro provinces.

The DMIA projects and the Lucena project are government-funded, Subic to Tarlac road and the Subic Bay Port projects are by the Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and the NLEX-SLEX interconnection by the private sector.

-Business Mirror

Sustain RP growth, vote achiever bets

By Fr. Bel R. San Luis, SVD

THERE’s a Latin saying which goes, "Contra factum non valet argumentum." Broadly translated, it means "Against a fact no argument is needed."

We can apply that to the achievements of the administration under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, which is one major issue in the May 14 senatorial and local elections. One must be blind or hopelessly biased if he fails to see those palpable achievements.

* * *

All economic indicators have pointed to a positive growth. The peso strengthened to unprecedented heights, the stock market soared to highest in decade, revenue collections with value-added tax reached new records, tourism is booming with Koreans, Chinese and Japanese visiting our country so blessed with beautiful beaches and sceneries.

* * *

No wonder Fitch Ratings through its senior Analyst James McCormack at the start of 2007 said: "We’re quite impressed with the fiscal consolidation of the Arroyo administration."

McCormack was quick to point out, though, that the government must not lose its momentum in pushing for legislative reforms that would tighten its revenue flow and ensure there would be no fiscal slippage along the way, referring to the elections or spending pressures on social and infrastructure spending.

* * *

Seeing the darker side, critics and cynics say yes there are economic gains but they have yet to be felt by the masses. That’s a valid point but certainly that’s being addressed. As the saying goes, "Rome was not built in one day."

But no doubt there are sincere efforts to reach out to the poor sector by providing more employments, capital lendings to micro entrepreneurs, lowering the cost of basic commodities like rice, medicine through Botika sa Barangay.

* * *

So, let’s be objective and see the brighter side. Note that in the yearend Social Weather Station Survey the question posed was, "Is it with hope or with fear that you enter the coming year?"

Ninety-one percent of adult Filipinos or 9 out of 10 interviewed said they would face the new year with hope, compared to 8 percent who said they would enter 2007 with fear.

High hopes for 2007 were shared by all areas and socioeconomic classes, the survey added.

* * *

Let’s translate that "hope" and "optimism" to reality by voting for senators and local leaders who will work with the present administration to sustain the momentum of the present economic growth.

Trouble for some is, if you criticize government leaders, they think they become cute and popular. On this basis, even if the charges raised are not validated.

Full article: Manila Bulletin

Property market zooming up

By BABE ROMUALDEZ

Businessmen who have invested in the property and real estate business for the past 10 years will definitely benefit from an upsurge in the industry. According to ATR Kim Eng Financial, the upswing in the property market could lead to more launches as a result. Various property segments posted remarkable growth last year. There was a registered 25-percent increase in licenses approved by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), with a 100-percent increase recorded in the third quarter of 2006. Further good news is the expected increase of land values by 10 percent. Even the stock of residential condominiums particularly in the Makati central business district rose by five percent last year, and this trend is expected to continue through 2007. Rents for luxury units escalated by nearly 12 percent in 2006, with an expected further escalation in 2007 by an average of 10 percent.

If specific developments for tourism-related and commercial purposes are opened up to foreign investors, then Manila can definitely compete with Hong Kong since a lot of expatriates are looking at other destinations because Hong Kong has become one of the most polluted cities in the world. The trend is so upbeat and positive that even El Kapitan, Don Lucio Tan has gone into the real estate business, big time – with plans to develop condominiums, office buildings, commercial centers and other projects through his Eton Properties Inc., a backdoor listed company.

Full article: ABS-CBN News

RP coffers swell after PLDT stake sale

The Philippines sold its 6.4 percent stake in telecom giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) to Hong Kong's First Pacific for P25.2 billion ($521 million) on Wednesday, its biggest privatization deal in over a decade.

President Arroyo, in power since 2001, has succeeded in squeezing the Philippines' budget deficit through higher taxes and a tight lid on spending, but a showcase privatization deal had eluded her until now.

"We are delighted to finally close this transaction," Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said in a statement distributed to reporters after he received a cheque from First Pacific's chief executive Manuel Pangilinan.

The deal was the Philippines' third biggest privatization after the sale of a 40 percent stake in national oil company Petron in 1994 for $1.03 billion and a $1.6 billion deal for a former Army base on prime Manila real estate in 1995.

[Full Article: ABS-CBN News]

P7.6b earmarked for El Niño

By Fel V. Maragay

Government efforts to counter the El Niño phenomenon are being redoubled to prevent the destruction of farm crops especially with the onset of summer, a member of the Cabinet assured yesterday.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said a major component of the program to minimize the impact of the weather disturbance is the rehabilitation of irrigation systems.

Andaya said that the government will spend as much as P7.6 billion to bring water to 17,150 hectares of farmlands that may be affected by drought.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has given priority to programs and projects on El Niño since the latter will be most pronounced during the first half of 2007, he said.

[Full Story]

Tuesday, 27 February 2007

Gov't confident of exceeding 2007 growth targets

PIA Press Release
2007/02/27

By Rose B. Palacio

Davao City (27 February) -- The Administration has expressed confidence that the country would exceed its growth targets for this year because of the continued strong performance of the economy.

Presidential spokesperson and Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the government has already set in motion the country's stability and investments scheme with the implementation of unpopular fiscal reforms of the President that was supported by the international financial and investor communities.

We have seen the strong performance of the economy and we are more than confident of achieving our goals beyond target because of the market's agility and resiliency on the back of good governance and strong popular enterprise, said Secretary Bunye.

The fruits of fiscal reforms, which included the imposition of the 12 percent value-added tax, are now being felt by the public through an increased spending on health, education, and other social services and more jobs and infrastructure projects.

The government's massive pump-priming program has jumpstart the economy, he said. The President's "super mega region program" or dividing the Philippines into Northern Luzon, Metro Luzon, Central Philippines, Mindanao and Cyber Corridor, would be the vehicle to pump-up the economy, Secretary Bunye stressed.

The Budget department would release funds of P83.8-billion worth of infrastructure projects including 3,251 kilometers of roads and P12.4-billion worth of infrastructure geared to jumpstart the economy.

The budget would also fund the hiring of 10,000 teachers and 3,000 policemen, establishment of 2,200 Botika sa Barangays or small village drugstores and other pro-poor initiatives, Bunye said. (PIA XI)

10 new infrastructure projects eyed in Luzon

By Roderick T. dela Cruz

The Luzon Urban Beltway has added 10 infrastructure projects in its current priority list of 15 major projects up for completion by 2010.

LUB is one of the five super regions identified by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo during her State-of-the-Nation Address last year. The others are North Luzon Agri-Business Quadrangle, Central Philippines, Mindanao and Cyber Corridor.

In a statement, Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan, head of LUB, said the new package of infrastructure projects worth more than P20 billion had been included in the government priority list infrastructure projects in the region, which is composed of Central Luzon, National Capital Region, Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon region, and Marinduque and Mindoro provinces.

Pamintuan said the new 10 projects are Daang Hari-Slex Line Road, Cavite-Laguna North-South Expressway (Stage 1), C6 Lakeshore Expressway, North Luzon East Expressway, Southern Tagalog Arterial Road, Edsa Rehabilitation Project, Southrail Project Phase 1-A, LRT Line-1 Naia Connector, Metro Rail Transit Line-7, and Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System Angat Water Utilization Aqueduct.

Pamintuan said these projects were identified by the private sector during the National Competitive Summit held in October last year.

“We will definitely put these [projects] in our priority list. Actually, all projects being coordinated by the LUB are all priority projects of the President, that is why our direction and effort are towards their immediate completion,” he said.

LUB is monitoring 15 projects in coordination with implementing agencies. These include the Subic Bay Port Development, RORO Port linking Lucena, Quezon and Boac, Marinduque; Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal-3, EDSA North Transit, Northrail Project Phase 1 and NorthRail-SouthRail Linkage Phase 1.

Also in the priority list are LRT Line-1 South Extension, Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, Subic-Clark-Tarlac-Dingalan Road, Marikina-Infanta Road, Nlex-Slex Connection via C5, Slex Toll Road, Manila-Cavite Expressway R-1 Extension(Coastal Road to Cavite), and the 300-Million-Liters Per Day Bulk Water Supply.

Pamintuan said the LUB aimed to orchestrate and fast-track the delivery of these projects at the very least cost to the government and in full transparency.

--Manila Standard

Gov't eyes used trains to double MRT load

01/17/2007 | 05:28 PM

The transportation department is set to buy more trains to double the capacity of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) to cope with increasing passenger traffic.

Fil-Estate chief executive Robert John Sobrepeña on Wednesday said the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) is set to hold a bidding to add more trains to the MRT that will nearly double its capacity from 350,000 to 600,000 passengers daily.

"The DOTC will be bidding for 24 to 48 trains. These will be second-hand, refurbished trains," Sobrepeña said.

He said the trains will be delivered in a year.

Sobrepeña said that the MRT is currently struggling to handle its 480,000 daily users.

Fil-Estate has an equity interest in Metro Rail Transit Holdings Inc. and Metro Rail Transit Holdings 2.

The two holding companies have a combined 28.5 percent stake in the Metro Manila train line, which runs from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City. -GMANews.TV

$1.2B MRT-7 project opened to rival bids

02/25/2007 | 08:14 PM

A transport department committee has formally recommended that the $1.23-billion Metro Rail Transit 7 project be opened to Swiss challenge, or competing proposals, from groups other than its proponent, the Universal LRT consortium.

Transport secretary Leandro Mendoza on Saturday received and approved the recommendation to allow competitive proposals to be made for possibly the single largest infrastructure project of President Gloria Arroyo.

MRT7 is a 23-kilometer rail line that will run along Commonwealth Avenue, Regalado Avenue, and Qurino Avenue extension up to San Jose del Monte, Bulacan. It will have 14 stations and connect to the EDSA MRT.

[Full Article]

Naia 3 ready for full operations by August - Favila

02/20/2007 | 04:48 PM

The Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) could begin operating by August based on the timetable of airlines now testing the facility, trade secretary Peter Favila said on Tuesday.

"The terminal could be ready for full-blown commercial operations" in six months after some international carriers complete tests, he told reporters.

"They (airlines) asked for more time to transfer and set up their equipment," the Department of Trade and Industry secretary said. He declined to identify the carriers.

The NAIA Terminal 3 is scheduled to be partially open in March, when it is expected to handle two to three flights a day.

The soft opening would allow operators to test run the system, security and flow of passengers and cargoes.

Favila said the $650-million facility, designed to handle 13 million passengers a year, is being subjected to dry runs already. -GMANews.TV

Monday, 26 February 2007

Clark airport body to spend P18.5B for expansion of DMIA

By MARIANNE GO
The Philippine Star

The Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) is planning to spend P18.5 billion in the next three years to prepare the groundwork for a new and bigger Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in line with the long-term vision of President Arroyo to make Clark the international gateway to Central Luzon.

[Full Report]

Liberalized forex rules seen to boost BOP surplus this year

Manila Times
By Maricel E. Burgonio, Reporter

The Philippines’ balance of payments is expected to reach strong surplus position this year with the liberalization of foreign-exchange rules, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said.

“It’s a good time to pursue more liberalization in the system. With the liberalization, the BOP forecast will be reviewed. The bottom line will still indicate continued surplus,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. told reporters.

[Full Report]

Philippines may be leader in food safety

26 Feb 2007

The Philippines, along with Brunei and Singapore, remain among a few countries in the Asian region that have not been infected by the dreaded H5N1 virus.

Likewise, the Philippines is also enjoying a Foot and Mouth Disease (FMD)-free status compared to its neighbour, Malaysia which, because it is not a pork consuming nation, is a big exporter of pork products. The Philippines can take advantage of its AI and FMD-free status to expand the export market for its chicken and pork products, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap recently pointed out.

[Full Article]

May elections seen not adversely affecting economic momentum

By BERNIE CAHILES–MAGKILAT

The business community said that the crucial May elections this year would not adversely impact on the economic momentum that the country is experiencing now.

[Full article]

DoST develops versatile machines for coconut products

By MADEL R. SABATER

New machines that can process coconut-husk based products, including one which can produce geotextiles for erosion and landslide control, have been developed by the Metals Industry Research and Development Center (MIRDC).

[Full article]

Philippines challenges India for outsourced dollar

Reuters
Sun Feb 25, 2007 6:04pm ET145
By Rosemarie Francisco

MANILA, Feb 26 (Reuters) - It's dusk in the Philippine capital Manila and the five-storey office of Advanced Contact Solutions Inc. (ACS) is beginning to fill up.

By 10 p.m., all 1,600 call centre agents will be at work, rebooking airline flights in the United States and dealing with clients of phone companies and insurance firms.

The Philippines, with a large pool of English speakers and a cultural affinity with the United States, is developing as a strong second to India in the global outsourcing market.

[Full article]