Saturday, 10 March 2007

Government to launch a multi-network morning show

MANILA, March 6 (PNA) -- Government media agencies are gearing towards the launch of the newest and most exciting morning show that will hit the country starting on March 19, this year.

Dubbed as "One Morning," the show, which will be aired from Monday to Friday at 6 to 8 a.m., is designed to prepare the television viewers and radio listeners for a fun-filled, yet a productive day ahead.

The show is in a multi-network format which would be aired simultaneously on NBN-4, RPN-9 and IBC-13, the three major television networks owned by the government.

The show is also made possible through the resources of the 51 radio stations of state-run media agencies such as the Philippines Broadcasting System -Radyo ng Bayan, Philippine Information Agency, the Philippines News Agency and the Bureau of Communication Services. The Armed Forces of the Philippines Radio Network is expected to hook up to this program soon.

One Morning will offer televiewers a daily peek at the hotest and unadulterated news, the latest information and lifestyle segments.

NBN 4 will feature a roving report and a calendar of the latest cultural happenings around the country; home improvement tips and features on celebrity homes; legal issues will also be tackled by renowned legal experts; a travel and sports feature.

On the other hand, RPN 9 will feature industry stalwarts who will prescribe professional advice on how to get ahead in the viewers' respective careers; a gadget and gaming feature; and book reviews while IBC 13 will feature cooking adventures; and some other segments especially those that women and kids will appreciate and patronize.(PNA)

Peso Gains as Exports Surge

By Jake Lee

March 10 (Bloomberg) -- The Philippine peso snapped two weeks of declines as a government report yesterday showed exports grew at the fastest pace in more than seven years.

The currency rebounded almost 1 percent after this week reaching the lowest since Feb. 1 as the central bank March 8 kept interest rates unchanged. The peso also was supported by the prospect of investor inflows as funds turned net buyers of Philippine stocks.

``I'm bullish on the peso and it can keep going stronger,'' said Steve Rowles, a currency strategist at CFC Seymour Ltd. in Hong Kong. ``This is a huge export number and that's going to be a positive.''

The peso climbed 0.4 percent this week to 48.545, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. It may rise to 47.25 by the end of the year, Rowles said.

The central bank kept its benchmark rate at 7.5 percent, among the highest in Asia.

Exports rose 27.3 percent in January from a year earlier to $4.17 billion, following a revised 3.6 percent drop in December, the National Statistics Office said. That's the fastest pace since October 1999.

Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo last month said the peso ``remains competitive.''

Overseas investors bought $2.3 million more Philippine shares than they sold in the four days through March 8, after dumping $63 million last week, stock exchange data show.

Councilors back Unity

By Joyce Pangco Pañares
--Full report at the Manila Standard

MANDAUE CITY—Team Unity candidates continued to woo—and win—support from local officials yesterday, as the 16,000-member Philippine Councilors League pledged its support to the administration ticket.

The league was the third group of local officials to throw their support behind the candidates of Team Unity, after the Provincial Board Members League and the League of Provinces.

League president Carlo Fortuna of Mandaue City said the decision to support Team Unity was almost unanimous because most members wanted to ensure that the projects of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo would not be hampered by an uncooperative Senate.

“We will support the candidates of Team Unity because they are the candidates who would support the President, who is the only leader we’ve seen who’s very consistent in defending the rights of local government units,” Fortuna said in an interview at the Cebu International Convention Center.

The league’s executive vice president, Arecio Rendor Jr. of Albay, said the administration’s policies on how national taxes are shared with local governments was critical in winning the group’s backing.

“She is the only President who has given the [internal revenue allotment] as an automatic appropriation to the local government units, and it is high time for us to explain to our people the importance and policy implications [of this],” he said.

Earlier, the President announced that local governments would get an extra P15-billion share from the Treasury, an increase made possible by the passage of the Expanded Value Added Tax Law that was sponsored by Team Unity candidate Ralph Recto.

The league pledged its support to Team Unity when Mrs. Arroyo attended the closing ceremonies of the group’s end-of-term meeting.

The President, who attended the Philippine Development Forum at the Marco Polo Hotel in Cebu City, renewed her pitch to local officials to support the administration bets, even as she assured foreign investors that she would keep focused on economic reforms.

“I believe we are focusing on the national agenda that includes more jobs, stable prices, and peace and order. We’re leaving the politicking to the candidates,” Mrs. Arroyo said during the forum, which gathered the country’s top investors including representatives from the World Bank.

“This year, we hope to demonstrate the sustainability of our reforms,” she said. “We are optimistic about the future of our nation and the well-being of our people.”

MILF says Philippines has offered self determination

Last Updated 10/03/2007, 18:07:51
--Radio Australia

The head of the Philippines' largest Islamic guerrilla group says the government has offered Muslims in the south the right of self determination.

The leader of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front, Al Haj Murad, says it's a breakthrough in efforts to end one of the world's longest-running insurgencies.

He told reporters in his camp in the jungles of Mindanao in the southern Philippines that they believe it is an advancement in the search for peace in Mindanao.

Talks with the MILF and the government have been stalled since September but there have been informal contacts.

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye: Re Peace talks

SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 2007 | NATIONAL DEFENSE
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17356

The ceasefire committees of both sides are working with the International Monitoring Team to ensure that isolated hostilities will not escalate.

The government is resolved to forge peace through the implementation of principled peace talks and a fair ceasefire mechanism supported and participated in by strategic partners and allies in the international community.

PGMA: Export jump shows Pinoy resiliency, productivity

SATURDAY, MARCH 10, 2007 | ECONOMY
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17357

The surge of Philippine exports to the highest level in seven years marks the productivity and resiliency of the Filipino, according to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

In a statement, the President said the 27.3 percent export jump to $4.17 billion in January, the fastest annual pace since 1999, was made despite the continuing strength of the peso and the relative volatility of overseas markets.

"'Made in the Philippines' has become a tag of quality, consistency and excellence," she pointed out. "This comes with growth and stability in all economic and political fronts, and the surge of optimism and national pride among our people."

The National Statistics Office reported Friday that key semiconductor shipments played a major role in the surge with electronics accounting for more than half of total exports, jumping 14.5 percent to $2 billion in January from a year ago.

The country processes about 10 percent of the world’s semiconductor manufacturing products including mobile phone chips, and January’s export jump mirrors strong shipments from neighboring electronic hubs such as South Korea and Taiwan.

Besides electronics, which are largely assembled from imported parts, other key exports include garments and accessories, vehicle parts, coconut oil, tropical fruit and wood furniture.

Shipments to the United States increased 11 percent to $698 million and sales to Japan added 16 percent, according to the report.

The President said in her statement that Philippine resiliency is given across all sectors.

"While we leave the determination of the true value of the peso to the signals of the market, our exporters can be assured that the economic team is on top of balancing out the situation and forging a business environment that would give them a fighting chance moving forward in the global game," she said.

Open Up The Skies

Peter Wallace
--Full article at Manila Standard Today
...

We want tourists and businessmen to come. Let them— easily, cheaply. Open competition will bring airfares down even further. Look at what it’s done already. Today with cutthroat competition among the six airlines that fly to Singapore, the fare can go as low as $30 for no-frills discounted flights whereas normal flights cost around $250. What could further deregulation do?

...

The Philippines saw something of a boom in tourism last year. A major part of that was the frequent cheap flights into Clark. Some 470,000 people entered the Philippines through Clark in 2006. Only 50,000 did in 2003 when EO 500 didn’t exist yet and flights were still restricted. So why would you revert to a policy that had not worked?

...

Tourist Arrivals in selected Asian countries, 2005

Country 2005 (in million)

Country 2005 (in million)
China 46.8
Malaysia 16.4
Thailand 12.0
Korea 6.0
Indonesia 5.0
Vietnam 3.5
Philippines 2.6
Cambodia 1.4

(Source: World Tourism Organisation)

The Philippines needs to do something different to stand out. Easy access would be a good start. Open the skies, set the example to the myopic world. Forget bilateral agreements. What little our airlines lose would be more than made up for in the much larger benefits that would accrue to the tourism sector and the economy generally. If the restrictions stay, the Philippine Airlines, I suppose, might get more passengers as they have no option. Their employees and its shareholders benefit, and the government gets some corporate and personal income taxes. If open skies is the policy hotels, resorts, bus companies, car rentals, restaurants, handicraft makers, food and drink suppliers and almost anybody else you can think of benefit. While the government gets lots of tax revenues from them all— VAT and income tax.

...

So E.O. 500A should be replaced with the National Competitiveness Council’s E.O. 500B. To restrict flights into Clark makes no sense if this economy is to truly grow.

Exports post strong 27.3% recovery in Jan. at $ 4.2 B

--Full story at Manila Bulletin

The country’s exports recovered strongly in January, posting its fastest on-year rise in over seven years, surprising economists and sending stocks and the peso higher yesterday.

Exporters and analysts said the January exports data bode well for the sector’s prospects in 2007, but it may be too early to say the gain can be sustained for the rest of the year as the data could have been distorted by Lunar New Year demand.

RP targets 20% investment growth

By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN
--Full story at Manila Bulletin

Government officials in concluding the two-day forum with international donor agencies, has committed to raise investments growth to 20 percent from 15 percent in previous years.

This year’s Philippine Development Forum (PDF) in Cebu, co-chaired by Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves and World Bank Country Manager Joachim von Amsberg, said that to sustain the momentum of the country’s economic growth, the government and its international development partners must focus more of its financing to "accelerate growth" that will "draw more investments, create more jobs, increase access to quality education, health and bring down the poverty level in the country."

"Critical to these outcomes are actions that will increase the very low current investment rate of 15 percent of GDP (gross domestic product) to around 20 percent of GDP or higher, the rate typical of comparable economies," a statement from PDF said. The two-day forum allowed economic officials and donor agencies like the World Bank to review the country’s progress and plans to "accelerate broadbased growth through sustained reforms and higher investments."

World Bank representative to the Philippines von Amsberg remains "optimistic" about the government’s ability to attract investments, after posting fiscal gains by controlling budget deficits.

"The Philippines today is in a very different situation than two or three years ago.

At that time, the question was how to fend off the threat of a fiscal and economic crisis that would have had devastating impact on Filipino people," he said in the conclusion of the forum. "Today, the question is how to spread the benefits of fiscal reforms and growth to a greater number of poor Filipinos. The government has put in place a credible program to pursue this, and the development partners are pleased to support the government’s efforts."

Amsberg said the fiscal improvements are obvious because of the lower interest costs and borrowing spreads, the strength of financial markets, lower inflation, and the surge in foreign direct investment.

"The global market uncertainty of last week indeed highlights the importance of the Philippine fiscal adjustment. Without the impressive reduction of the public sector deficit and debt over the past two years, there would have been far more cause for concern about damage to the Philippine economy from such events," von Amsberg added.

Gov’t, development partners agree on action plans

Vol. XX, No. 159-A
Saturday, March 10, 2007 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES
--Full Story at BusinessWorld

Cebu City — Action plans aimed at enabling the Philippines to sustain and build on recent fiscal gains were unveiled at the close of the Philippines Development Forum (PDF) yesterday.

Most were presented by government officials who attended the two-day conference, but its development partners that include multilateral lenders, donor agencies, business, civil society and the academe said they agreed and were ready to provide the requisite assistance.

The annual PDF brings the government and its development partners together to discuss the country’s development agenda.

Von Amsberg: less incentives

The Star

Von Amsberg has advised the government to go slow on fiscal incentives and concentrate instead on macro-economic stability, enforcing the rule of law, strengthening the regulatory framework and reducing red tape.

He said he believed investments "would still come in with less incentives as long as those other factors are in place."

"There is an over-reliance on the grant of incentives to attract investments into the country," he told The STAR.

"The ongoing turnaround in public finance has opened a credible path to fiscal sustainability," he stressed.

He said the benefits of fiscal reforms are clearly apparent from the lower interest costs and borrowing spreads, stronger financial markets, lower inflation, and higher foreign direct investment.

While urging the government to continue fiscal reforms and improve competitiveness, Von Amsberg maintained that "fiscal consolidation be based on increasing revenues since further expenditure compression is neither desirable nor sustainable."

Von Amsberg told The STAR that with its success in stabilizing its fiscal position, the government can now afford higher non-interest expenditures and that it should now focus on raising more taxes.

The World Bank official also highlighted the need for the country to improve its competitiveness by setting up high-quality infrastructure through more private investments. In addition, the country should lower the cost of doing business and allow more competition in protected sectors.

"The lack of effective competition hurts consumers and small and medium enterprises and discourages entry and investment by domestic start-ups and foreign investors," he said.

The PDF identified civil air transport, ports and shipping, and cement production as areas with substantial potential for reducing costs by allowing increased effective competition, Von Amsberg said.

He also stressed the "critical" need for a more vibrant agriculture, and a more focused land use administration and distribution.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said his department is implementing a more focused and strategic investment program.

To support DA’s programs are the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Philippine Ports Authority, he said.

The DA and the Department of Trade and Industry, Yap said, are also working together to expand domestic and international market access for agriculture and fishery products.

NAIA-3 builders to shoulder cost of repairs

By Michael Punongbayan
The Philippine Star 03/10/2007

The Japanese firm that built Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) will shoulder the repair of its structural defects, the government said Friday.

In an interview Friday, General Manager Alfonso Cusi of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) said NAIA-3 is still under warranty so Takenaka will have to pay for the repairs.

"Like when you buy a car and find out that there are defects, it’s the manufacturer who will have to shoulder the expenses," he said.

Cusi said although the government acquired control of NAIA-3 through a court decision, it doesn’t mean that Takenaka no longer has responsibilities.

Cusi, who announced the postponement of NAIA-3’s opening last Monday, said he cannot say for certain how much would be needed to repair the terminal’s structural defects and how long it would take.

"If you go there, you wouldn’t notice it because some are already cemented over," he said. "But our structural engineers found them."

...

Airline companies are "very understanding" since they also believe that safety comes first, he added.

...

The cost of the repair and how long it would take would depend on the recommendations of the two companies, he added.

Airline companies had been waiting for NAIA-3 to be operational since it is capable of servicing 33,000 passengers daily at peak or 6,000 passengers per hour.

The $650-million NAIA-3, built by a consortium that included Germany’s Fraport AG, was completed in 2002 and now occupies 189,000 square meters with a capacity of 13 million passengers per year.

Once opened, NAIA-3 will take over all of the operations of Terminal 1 and the Manila Domestic Passenger Terminal.

The terminal has 70 flight information terminals, 314 display monitors, with 300 kilometers of fiber optic cables.

The departure area has five entrances all equipped with X-ray machines with the final security check having 18 X-ray machines, while its baggage claim has seven large baggage carousels, each with its own flight display monitor.

...

The terminal has 28 airbridges – 20 contact and eight non-contact – and can service 28 aircraft all at once since it is built on a 63.5-hectare lot that used to be part of Villamor Air Base in Pasay City.

NAIA-3 has a four-level shopping mall that connects the terminal and parking building which has a capacity of 2,000 cars, while the outdoor parking area can accommodate 1,200 cars.

Friday, 9 March 2007

Reform more, scrimp less, World Bank urges Philippines

03/09 5:48:31 PM

MANILA (AFP) - More reforms and less scrimping is the best way forward for the Philippines, a World Bank official said Friday, urging Manila to take further steps to boost its revenue base.

World Bank Philippine country director Joachim von Amsberg lauded the government's fiscal management strategy over the last two years but said new revenue measures were needed to deliver more social services and the infrastructure required for higher economic growth.

...

"It is also critical that the fiscal consolidation be based on increasing revenues, since further expenditure compression is neither desirable nor sustainable," von Amsberg told a news conference.

The World Bank said that to raise revenue, the government should phase out redundant tax incentives and attack smuggling.

It reiterated its concern about governance and corruption, especially in large corporations owned and controlled by the government.

Von Amsberg urged the government to raise its rate of investment to at least 20 percent of gross domestic product (GDP), from 15 percent.

"The fiscal reforms and the favorable international environment provide a window of opportunity to increase the investment rate to rates more typical of comparable economies -- that is, 20 percent of GDP or higher," he added.

Summit addresses issues on clean, honest, orderly midterm polls

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2007 | ELECTION
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17354

Stakeholders involved in the election summit have called for the strict implementation of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) gun ban, neutralization of partisan armed groups (PAGs), and the conduct of Oplan "Bakal" and "Sita" to check on unauthorized used of guns and bodyguards to ensure the conduct of an honest, orderly, and peaceful elections this May.

These are among several resolutions made by organizations involved in the summit to strengthen public confidence and achieve greater stability and credibility in the midterm polls.

The summit was initiated by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last January in response to the call of the Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines (CBCP) to address key issues related to the conduct of a credible and democratic elections.

The resolutions are the product of the pre-summit cluster meetings held last February, the general meeting last March 1, and the summit proper last March 7, to formulate action plans that can be undertaken during the entire election period from February until June.

Included in the resolutions are the deployment of authorities to secure polling places and canvassing areas up to the proclamation of winners at least for the local positions.

The stakeholders also urged the Comelec to clean the voters’ list and the early release of the final voters’ list to the public at least two weeks before the scheduled elections.

The media, including government networks were urged to coordinate with the Kapisanan ng mga Brodkaster sa Pilipinas (KBP) in the voters’ education and awareness advocacy programs.

The organizations involved in the summit which convened in clusters were the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Department of Education (DepEd), Philippine National Police (PNP), National Citizens' Movement for Free Elections (Namfrel), CBCP-National Secretariat for Social Action (CBCP-NASSA), National Council of Churches of the Philippines (NCCP), Philippine Council for Evangelical Churches (PCEC), and the Cabinet Secretariat (CabSec) headed by Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo.

Government determined to sustain reforms -- PGMA

FRIDAY, MARCH 9, 2007 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17353

CEBU CITY – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is one with the World Bank in saying that there is much more room for investments in the Philippines to grow and vowed to sustain the reforms she initiated to have a strong impact on alleviating poverty.

In her address at the conclusion of the two-day 2007 Philippines Development Forum (PDF) here this morning, the President assured the country's development partners that the national government will continue to sustain the reforms "that will strengthen the nation’s defenses and lessen vulnerabilities to external and internal shocks."

"The government is on the same track to cut the red tape, build the digital and physical infrastructure as well as a strong energy grid nationwide, and rationalize the incentives to pull in massive investments to create jobs and beat poverty," she said.

The President’s pronouncements came on the heels of the observation by World Bank country representative to the Philippines Joachim von Amsberg in the same forum that the government must focus on raising investments and ensuring that the benefits of fiscal reform programs would lead to poverty reduction.

Von Amsberg noted that despite some fiscal improvements and reasonable growth rates, the investment rate in the country remains low at under 15 percent.

The President assured that the government is working tirelessly to build a modern nation that will one day take its rightful place among First World countries.

"Our solid economic indicators give a fighting chance to achieve at least 7 percent growth moving forward to 2010," she said. "I repeat, we are focusing on the national agenda that include more jobs, stable prices and peace and order. "

The President noted that with the continued support from its development partners, the government can balance its budget and the Philippines would no longer go into debt.

"Once again, thank you to our development partners for your faith and confidence," she said

In Malacañang, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye said the government aims "to buttress confidence even more by a unifying leadership building enterprise and political stability at all levels."

"The upbeat mood across also sectors of society inspires our unswerving focus on governance, social justice and respect for the rule of law, " Bunye added.

Ayala begins work on ICT park in QC

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña
Full article at The Philippine Star 03/09/2007

Property giant Ayala Land Inc. (ALI) broke ground yesterday on its multi-billion peso science and technology park in a property owned by the University of the Philippines along Commonwealth Avenue in Diliman, Quezon City.

The project, sitting on a 37.5-hectare property, is expected to replicate the famous Silicon Valley in California and the MIT’s Route 128 in Massachusetts.

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano "Sonny" Belmonte, who was present during the groundbreaking, expressed optimism that the project would further strengthen the thrust of the city government toward becoming the country’s information and communication technology (ICT) capital.

ALI director Mercedita S. Nolledo said the project, dubbed UP North Science and Technology Park, will feature all the business lines of the company which include low-rise office buildings to be complemented by supporting components such as retail, residential and hotel developments. The office building component alone is estimated to cost about P6 billion.

Nolledo said the S&T Park will pioneer business process outsourcing (BPO) campus developments in the country and set the standard for future IT parks.

WB: Investments in RP extraordinarily low

By Marianne Go
Full article at The Philippine Star 03/09/2007

CEBU – The Philippine government must focus on raising investments and ensuring that the benefits of fiscal reform programs would lead to poverty reduction, World Bank country representative Joachim Von Amsberg said Thursday at the opening of the two-day Philippine Development Forum (PDF) at the Marco Polo Hotel here.

Von Amsberg noted that despite some of the fiscal improvements and reasonable growth rates, the investment rate in the country remains low at under 15%.

"This is extraordinarily low and raises the question of sustainability of growth. There are questions why growth has not created more employment and more income, and therefore, more rapid poverty reduction," he said in his opening speech.

The World Bank executive urges the PDF "to translate financial improvements into real investments, jobs, incomes and poverty reduction."

==========

From the International Herald Tribune

The Philippine economy has shown great strides in the last three years, from averting a fiscal crisis to undergoing key reforms, but the challenge now is to translate growth into jobs and investment, a World Bank official said.

...

Fiscal reforms, particularly the 2005 implementation of the expanded value-added tax, which has increased revenues, allowed the Philippines to reduce debt and inflation and begin "to build a track of credibility that is much valued by the markets."

"The financial markets and the exchange rate have done well, feeding into a virtuous circle of reduced financing costs, increased credibility, and space for increased public investment," von Amsberg said.

The peso has risen to a six-year high against the U.S. dollar, and the market recently hit the highest level in 10 years. The economy expanded 5.4 percent last year, and this year, the government is aiming for growth to average between 6.1 percent and 6.7 percent.

...

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo's economic team says it hopes growth can accelerate to 9 percent in 2009, facilitated by 1 trillion peso (US$20.8 billion; €15.8 billion) investment in much-needed infrastructure over the next three years.

...

Arroyo's spokesman Ignacio Bunye said Friday the World Bank is right in saying more investment was needed to have an impact on reducing poverty. "Our solid economic indicators give us a fighting chance," he said.

Nearly half of 87 million people live on US$2 (€1.5) a day, and 10 percent of the population works abroad, sending home US$12.8 billion (€9.8 billion) last year in remittances.

Airlines want to move from NAIA 1 to NAIA 3

By Tarra Quismundo
Full article in Inquirer
Last updated 07:13pm (Mla time) 03/08/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Airline operators in Manila are hanging on to the hope that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s Terminal 3 will open soon to finally ease passenger and aircraft traffic crowding the old terminal, an official said Thursday.

Ed Monreal, vice chairman of the Airline Operators Council (AOC), said the organization welcomed the decision of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) to yet again forego with the opening of the NAIA 3 for safety reasons.

In the same breath however, the AOC, an organization of airlines using the NAIA, is counting on moving to the facility soon as the aged NAIA Terminal 1 has been filled to capacity, according to Monreal.

“I hope it's not a permanent setback. I hope it's just temporary,” Monreal said.

At least 25 airlines are crammed at the old terminal for passenger operations and two handle cargo. The Philippine Airlines, meanwhile, has been using the newer Centennial Terminal for domestic and international flights.

“We are looking at the postponement in two ways. It's better in the sense that if they address the safety concerns, then it's better for everybody that government is looking at the safety and security of the public,” he said.

“But in terms of our wish to move to Terminal 3, we're hoping that it should open because there's no more room for expansion at the old terminal,” Monreal continued.

Should it finally open, Monreal said the airlines would opt for a “switch-off, switch-on” scheme, where the old terminal would be shut down and airlines would be given six months lead time to fully move its operations and offices to the new terminal.

Sustaining gains key RP challenge

BY JUDY T. GULANE, Senior Reporter
BusinessWorld

Cebu City — The government may have notched fiscal successes but it now needs to ensure the gains are sustained and translated into investments that reduce poverty, the local World Bank representative yesterday said.

--More at BusinessWorld

Thursday, 8 March 2007

PGMA Vows to Strengthen Women Economic Empowerment

THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2007 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT

In line with the celebration of International Women’s Day, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vowed today to strengthen women’s economic empowerment by initiating the growth of entrepreneurship through micro-finance programs and facilities for the government employees’ cooperatives.

In her speech at the 2007 National Women’s Day celebration at the Ninoy Aquino Stadium in Manila this morning, the President said the micro-finance scheme would be the government’s priority project that would focus on this year’s theme, "Kabuhayan ng Kababaihan."

"Sa pagpasok ng bagong Kongreso (Congress) inanunsiyo ko na, magpapasok din tayo ng batas para sa dagdag na suweldo, pero sa ibabaw noon puwede nating gawing proyekto between now and March 8, 2008 ang micro-finance para sa mga empleyado ng pamahalaan," she told the more than 5,000 women attendees coming from all over the country.

The President ordered the National Commission on the Role of Filipino Women (NCRFW) chairperson Myrna Yao and People’s Credit and Finance Corporation Atty. Noel Poso to coordinate with other government agencies for the initiation of micro-finance programs and facilities.

She pointed out that the government is addressing poverty reduction and unemployment by encouraging the growth of entrepreneurship through its micro-finance programs and facilities.

"The plan ensures that women who engage in small, medium and micro-enterprises are given access to credit, trainings and micro-finance programs," she explained.

The administration’s micro-finance program, which gives small loans to the poor, has penetrated all provinces and cities and 97 percent of municipalities nationwide.

A total of 1,410 institutions with about 2,200 branches have lent P52.69 billion from July 2004 to September 2006, creating more than 800,000 jobs.

The United Nations has cited the Philippines’ national microfinance council as a model among over 100 countries for having given access to credit to some 4 million borrowers representing 88 percent of poor households.

The President thanked the Canadian government through its Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Sutherland for the P350 million grant intended for the execution of the Gender Responsive Economic Actions for the Transformation of Women (GREAT Women) project.

This year’s celebration highlights women’s economic rights and economic empowerment to strengthen the implementation of the United Nations Convention for the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW).

The National Women’s Day is an annual gathering of women from government, non-government, civil society, private sector and international communities to celebrate the gains and call attention to remaining issues and challenges confronting Filipino women.

Joining the President on the festive spirit of the National Women’s Day rites were Dr. Nicholas Alipui, UNICEF Representative and chair of UN Gender Mainstreaming Committee; Joey Concepcion, Presidential Consultant on Entrepreneurship; Canadian Ambassador Peter Sutherland, Helen Gamboa, Gloria Angara, Audrey Zubiri.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17345

Why the Philippines Does Not Need Women's Lib

Philippines Emerges Tops For Women In Management Positions

Women in Singapore are lagging behind their counterparts in neighbouring Asian countries in holding senior management positions, while the Philippines emerged on top, a survey said on Thursday.

New findings from the Grant Thornton International Business Report showed 97 per cent of businesses in the Philippines have women in top managerial positions, with China the runner-up at 81 per cent and Malaysia third at 85 per cent.

Singapore emerged seventh at 67 per cent, behind fourth-place Hong Kong at 83 per cent, Thailand at 81 per cent and Taiwan at 80 per cent, according to the results published in The Business Times.

--Full article at Playfuls

Airport defects bolster defense in damage suits

By Vito Barcelo

The findings of two engineering firms engaged by the government confirming defects in the Terminal-3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia-3) has buttressed the state’s defense against investment claims amounting to $1 billion pending before two international arbitral courts.

Lawyer Eduardo Ceniza, counsel of Asia’s Emerging Dragon Corp., said the Philippine legal panel has submitted statement of Richard Klenk, aviation and construction expert, to the Washington-based International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes, revealing structural flaws to inferior materials used and poor workmanship.

The panel composed of retired Supreme Court Justice Florentino Feliciano, the solicitor general and Carolynn Lamm of White & Case LLP also presented the statement of fraud examiner Howard Silverstone, indicating the project was attended by massive anomalies.

The TGCI Engineers Inc. and Ove Arup & Partners HK Ltd., recommended the postponement of the opening by the end of March due to life-safety risks to its users especially in case of a major earthquake.

--Full story: Manila Standard

Groups link to produce P300K Pinoy electric car

03/08/2007 | 05:15 PM

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Several government and private groups have linked together to manufacture the Philippine Electric Vehicle (PEV) which will run exclusively on automobile batteries.

This was revealed by Roel John Judilla, an engineer and director of Mapua Institute of Technology's Alumni Liaison Office, who said that a prototype of the vehicle has already been finished and set to be dispatched to the Cavite Export Processing Zone.

“We have proven that it can be done, so now we are developing a more efficient technology," Judilla said.

--More at GMA NEWS

Bunye: May polls crucial to country's fate

THURSDAY, MARCH 8, 2007 | ELECTION

Despite what administration critics are saying, Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye pointed out today the country is far better off economically and the outcome of the May elections is crucial if the nation is to continue moving forward or stagnate.

"The unassailable truth is that the Philippines is in a state of unprecedented progress and that is all because of our single-minded focus on growing the economy," he said in a speech before the Rotary Club of Pasig City at the Valle Verde Country Club.

Bunye said that is the time to keep the country moving and take advantage of the budget surplus, stronger peso, more jobs and a better investment climate.

"The Philippines is now in a good place and soon enough, the sacrifices of our people in paying higher taxes under the RVAT program shall be rewarded with a better and brighter future," he explained.

"Your vote in May will determine whether we shall continue on this path or be led astray again by those fixated with the battles of the past. It is hard work and good governance that will transform this country from mediocrity to modernity, from poverty to progress, from a good place to the best place in Asia, if not the world," he added.

Bunye called on the people to "cut through the political noise and allow national aspirations to dictate the tempo of their lives."

Aside from the strong peso and bullish stock market, Bunye said the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry is growing, and remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) have surpassed the $10 billion mark.

He added that democracy is alive with the electoral campaign now in full swing. The crime rate, according to him, has gone down, and the people feel more secure especially with the enactment of the Anti-Terror Law or the Human Security Act of 2007.

Bunye said achieving the eight blessings of a strong economy by 2008, outlined by President Gloria Macapagl-Arroyo in her "8 by 08" strategy, would be tangible fruits of the administration's commitment to bring the benefits of the fiscal momentum directly to the people.

These eight blessings are job creation, better cost of living, a strong peso, more investments, pro-poor education, pro-poor healthcare, housing, and food.

"We may also add to the "8 by 8", a green Philippines and more victories in the fight against terror."

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17347

PGMA appreciates Fitch's positive outlook for RP; vows to work harder

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2007 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today the move of London-based Fitch Ratings to maintain a positive outlook for the Philippines was a recognition of the government’s significant progress in putting its fiscal house in order.

"We appreciate Fitch for the continuing positive outlook for the Philippines as well as its well-meaning recommendations," she said during a Roundtable Discussion in Malacañang aired over NBN Channel 4 this afternoon.

"This is a crystal clear sign that the economy is on the right track," the President said as she recognized the fact that there is still much to be done to sustain improvements in the government’s public finances.

"We also take this rating as a challenge to improve on our fiscal gains and drive the momentum of investments and jobs. We acknowledge that the work is far from finished and we have to sustain our economic, political and social gains," she added.

The President also said the successful conduct of the May midterm polls would "further seal our democratic stability" even as she expressed optimism that the people’s support for her "8 by 08" agenda would further spur development and economic growth in the entire country.

The President’s "8 by 08" agenda involve job creation; better cost of living; a strong peso; more investments; pro-poor education, pro-poor healthcare, housing and food; green Philippines and anti-terrorism.

She said among the factors that the international financial community took notice on the Philippines was the very strong peso, lower budget deficit and interest payments.

She said that due to the trimming down of the budget deficit to P62.2 billion last year, the lowest in eight years, and the disciplined government spending, the government now has funds for projects that would improve the lives of the people, including the caring of the environment.

The President specifically took note of the problem on global warming that is now taking toll on the environment.

She said the government must take on a massive reforestation program especially in the country’s watersheds.

"Massive reforestation requires government money will have to be spent. We thank the rating agencies for giving us a good rating so we can keep our interest rates down so we have savings for fighting poverty and keeping the environment clean," the President said.

She said people exhale carbon dioxide, one of the gases that deplete the ozone layer, but it is inhaled by plants, thus the need for a Green Philippines.

Through private organizations such as the Green Army and the Earth Day Net, the government must "start planting more trees," she said.

The President explained that a good massive reforestation program, especially in Central Luzon’s watersheds in the Caraballo and Sierra Madre mountain ranges, would at the same time provide livelihood to the indigenous people there who would plant trees and be the watchdogs of the forests.

"The indigenous people have to be paid. This would contribute to our poverty alleviation program," the President said.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/default.asp?i=17338

Wednesday, 7 March 2007

RP forex reserves at $24.37B as of end-Feb

03/07/2007 | 02:33 PM

The Philippines' gross international reserves hit another record-high of $24.37 billion at the end of February 2007, boosted by proceeds from program loans and foreign exchange operations by the central bank.

"The increase in reserves was traced to several factors including the National Government’s deposit of the proceeds from its program loans from the World Bank and the Asian Development Bank, as well as BSP’s foreign exchange operations and income from investments abroad," the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said in a statement released Wednesday.

The BSP said the inflows were partly offset by payments made by both the government and the central bank on maturing obligations.

The February GIR level is $680 million higher than the end-January 2007 level of $23.69 billion.

"In terms of reserve adequacy, the end-February 2007 GIR level could cover about 4.7 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income," the BSP said.

-GMANews.TV

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: Fitch

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 7, 2007 | ECONOMY

We appreciate Fitch for its continuing positive outlook for the Philippines, as well as its well meaning recommendations.

This is a crystal-clear sign that the economy is on the right track. We also take this rating as a challenge to improve on our fiscal gains and drive the momentum of investments and jobs.

We acknowledge that the work is far from finished and we have to sustain our economic, political and social gains. The coming polls will further seal our democratic stability.

We are confident that the people's support for President Arroyo's "8 by '08" agenda will propel our country farther.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17334

Task force speeds up port projects

Up to 28 priority port projects with a combined cost of P23.5 billion are being constructed, expanded or upgraded to complement the Strong Republic Nautical Highway which was launched by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the start of her administration.

Secretary Cerge Remonde, director general of the Presidential Management Staff, said yesterday that 17 of these port projects are set for completion this year— about eight months after the President unwrapped her infrastructure program for the five super regions in her 2006 State-of-the-Nation Address.

Remonde, who also heads the Infrastructure Monitoring Task Force, said three of these projects are scheduled to be finished this month. These are the Pantao Port in Libon, Albay; the Liloan Ferry Terminal Port in Southern Leyte and Sasa Port in Davao City.

He said the Jagna Port in Bohol and the Cawayan Port in Masbate are set for completion in April and May, respectively this year.

The Subic Bay Port Development Project in Zambales is expected to be completed in June and the Cagayan de Oro Port in Cagayan de Oro City in July.

Other ports set for completion in the succeeding months are the Ubay Port in Bohol, the Balbagon Port in Mambajao, Camiguin, the Limasawa Port in Southern Leyte, and the Naval Port in Biliran.

Six ports will be finished in December—Batangas International Port in Batangas, Cawit Port in Boac, Marinduque, Siquijor Port in Siquijor, Guinsiliban Port in Camiguin, and Lucena Port Terminal building in Lucena City, and Dingalan Port in Aurora.

--More at Manila Standard

Gov't sees 2007 OFW remittances up 5% at $14.7B

By Rocel Felix
Xinhua Financial News Service
Last updated 07:53pm (Mla time) 03/06/2007

MANILA, Philippines--Dollar remittances from Filipinos working abroad are projected to increase this year by 5 percent to $14.7 billion from a year earlier, central bank governor Amando Tetangco said.

"Of this amount, it is estimated that roughly $14 billion will pass through the banking system," Tetangco told reporters.

--More at Inquirer

RP set to export sugar in September

By MELODY M. AGUIBA

The Philippines is confident of being able to go back to the sugar export market this year with an estimated 130,000 metric tons (MT) being allocated for the international market even as the country is bound to allocate sugarcane production for bioethanol beginning next year.

--More at Manila Bulletin

Tuesday, 6 March 2007

THE ORDINARY PINOY'S HOPES FOR NAIA 3

This thread about the NAIA 3 (click here to see the latest as of 6 March 2007--page 10 of thread 10!) goes back a few years back. It probably speaks for many a Filipino.

NAIA-3 to open as soon as safety matters are resolved, says Palace

Malacañang assured today the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3 would definitely be opened to the public as soon as all safety matters are resolved.

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye said in a statement President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants a full assurance of public safety in relation to the opening of the mothballed facility.

"The President has instructed the transport authorities and the Manila International Airport Authority to thoroughly resolve the remaining structural issues and put the early inauguration of the terminal back on the fast track," he said.

The MIAA has postponed the opening of the NAIA-3 to ensure the safety of the public against structural defects. It was originally scheduled to open this month.

NAIA general manager Alfonso Cusi said the decision of the MIAA board was based on the formal recommendation of TCGI Engineers Inc. and Ove Arup and Partners HK Ltd., which reviewed the structural design and construction of NAIA-3.

Bunye said as soon as all safety matters are resolved, the facility will be opened to the public

"We assure the public that this project remains in the top rung of priorities as a marker of confidence, investments and jobs," Bunye said.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17330

NAIA 3 opening delayed again; more structural defects found

By Tarra Quismundo
Inquirer
Last updated 03:26am (Mla time) 03/06/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The much-trumpeted opening of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) Terminal 3 has been postponed anew as structural defects were detected in the idle facility scheduled to partially operate by the end of the month.

...

A source at the airport said the MIAA board met with the engineering consultants in a “special board meeting” last Friday to discuss the structural assessment.

“The report showed that there would be risk to the public if NAIA 3 is opened. And it is a technical matter, so nobody questioned it,” said the source, who was present at the meeting but declined to be named in deference to officials.

--Full story at Inquirer

Safety first before NAIA-3 opening, says trade chief

Trade Secretary Peter Favila defended Tuesday the decision to postpone the opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3, saying that the safety of passengers, airline and airport personnel is of paramount importance.

“If it’s true that it did not get a certification saying that the terminal is safe then I will be the first one to say that we should postpone the opening. The lives of the public might be put in danger,” Favila told DZMM.

The country's trade chief said the government recommended that a certification from an international engineering firm should be secured to ensure that the terminal is safe before it is inaugurated. He said the government was only able to take over the terminal late last year due to an ongoing court case filed by contractors.

...

Favila said he will talk to Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza about the delay in a Cabinet meeting scheduled Tuesday.

--Full story at ABS-CBN

Outsourcing Experts Concur In Attractive Outlook for Philippines Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) Sector

New York, NY and Manila March 6, 2007 – In a marked convergence of opinion following the recent e-Services Philippines Conference in Manila, leading industry experts and commentators indicated their positive outlook for the Philippines’ growing role in the global BPO sector and the opportunity for economic growth this will create. Higher-value BPO sectors, such as F&A and KPO, are highlighted as particularly opportune for the Philippines. In terms of the broader impact on the economy, at e-Services Philippines, it was noted that in just the last few years the number of jobs in the BPO sector has jumped from just 2,000 to over 200,000 with a 48% increase in activity in the last year alone. Of particular significance also to the growth of the Philippines' overall economy is the 3-4 additional jobs created for every one BPO job - with attractive growth anticipated in all support sectors.

With all indicators pointing toward accelerated growth in the BPO sector and with such clear positive benefits for the overall economy, the Philippines Department of Trade & Industry (DTI) will be sponsoring a follow-up to e-Services Philippines focused on the US and Canadian markets. The e-Services Philippines Business Mission to the USA and Canada is scheduled for 23 April - 04 May 2007, covering New York, Fort Lauderdale, Chicago and Toronto. The Mission is part of the DTI's strategic marketing program to position the Philippines as a preferred e-Services Hub.

--More at DDC HRO

National gov’t fiscal position strong

By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN

National Treasurer Omar T. Cruz said the National Government is "cash strong" and the funding reserve is "good enough for the entire year."

"We are not after funding, We don’t need cash," Cruz said.

"Our cash position is very strong (especially) after the privatization efforts," said Cruz. "We can take our cash all the way till the end of the year." When asked how much is the government cash position, Cruz said not even the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas knows how much cash BTr is hoarding. "I can’t tell you but it’s substantial," was all he said.

--More at Manila Bulletin

Philippines vows to work harder after Fitch disappointment

The Philippines put a brave face on Fitch Ratings' decision not to upgrade the country's credit rating or outlook on Tuesday, promising to work doubly hard to sustain improvements in its public finances.

Manila had been hoping that Fitch would raise its rating, currently pegged at two notches below investment grade, after the government slashed its budget deficit last year and subsequently cut its borrowing plan for 2007.

A higher rating would reduce the Philippines' borrowing costs.

"We have to work harder and we will have to monitor what needs to be done in revenue enhancement and tax administration," Finance Secretary Margarito Teves told Reuters on Tuesday.

"We will work hard and try to increase our tax and non-tax revenues," he added.

Fitch on Monday affirmed its stable credit outlook on the Philippines but warned the country's fiscal gains may be at risk if revenue growth fails to keep pace with a government plan to raise capital spending this year.

Rival agencies Moody's and Standard & Poor's are also reviewing their ratings on the Philippines, but neither appears to have immediate plans for an upgrade as they wait to see evidence of a permanent improvement in fiscal fortunes.

All three agencies raised their outlook on the Philippines to stable from negative last year. Moody's rates Philippine sovereign debt at four notches below investment grade and Standard & Poor's at three notches below.

Indonesia has overtaken the Philippines as the biggest issuer of sovereign offshore bonds in Asia, excluding Japan, after Manila cut its overseas borrowing requirement to $1 billion this year from $2.85 billion in 2006.

Manila ended 2006 with a budget shortfall of P62.2 billion, the lowest in eight years and the third year in a row that the deficit was below target but the improvement had more to do with lower-than-expected expenditure than higher tax revenues.

The government has said it will spend more on its creaking infrastructure in 2007 after years of restraint.

- Reuters

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye on NAIA 3

TUESDAY, MARCH 6, 2007 | INFRASTRUCTURE

President Arroyo wants a full assurance of public safety in relation to the opening of the NAIA 3 terminal; and has instructed the transport authorities and the MIAA to thoroughly resolve the remaining structural issues and put the early inauguration of the terminal back on the fast track. We assure the public that this project remains in the top rung of priorities as a marker of confidence, investments and jobs. The facility will be opened to the public as soon as all safety matters are resolved.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17327

Philippine office vacancies lowest in 10 yrs

By Ian C. Sayson
Bloomberg

PHILIPPINE prime office vacancies fell to 1.6 percent last year, the lowest in at least 10 years, and will probably stay at that level in 2007, as the remaining space is too small for back-office providers and call centers, a property consultant said.

“Any supply that will come in is already committed to tenants,” Victor Asuncion, director at CB Richard Ellis Philippines Inc., said in an interview Thursday in Manila.

An expansion by call centers and outsourcing companies such as eTelecare Global Solutions Inc. and Convergys Corp. in the last three years filled Philippine office vacancies, which peaked at 40 percent to 50 percent after the 1997-1998 Asian financial crisis discouraged companies from expanding.

The Philippines has the lowest office vacancy rate after Vietnam’s Ho Chi Minh City and Singapore among nine districts in Asia surveyed by Richard Ellis, Asuncion said. The Philippine business process outsourcing industry is expected to employ as many as 1 million workers by 2010, driving demand for office, hotels, homes and retail space, he said.

The outsourcing industry has 79,469 active information technology professionals and 120,000 call- center agents, a Philippine newspaper reported on February 15. Call-center sales are expected to triple to $7.3 billion by 2010, it said.



Cheap lease

APART from its large supply of English-speaking graduates, lease rate in the Philippines is among the cheapest in Asia, making it more attractive for back-office providers to set up shop in the country, said Rick Santos, the Manila-based chairman of CB Richard Ellis Philippines.

“The stars are aligned for the Philippines,” Santos said. “There are a lot of good things going for it and we have seen the start of a pretty strong cycle.”

At about $1.5 a square feet, Manila has the cheapest lease rate after Jakarta and Kuala Lumpur, among the nine areas surveyed in Asia by Richard Ellis, according to Santos.

The expansion of call centers will probably cause office rentals to rise 10 percent to 15 percent annually in the next two years, after climbing 35 percent a year in 2006 and 2005, the property consultant said.

Separately, vacancies for middle-high to high-end residential apartments in the nation’s major commercial-business districts declined to about 1.3 percent last year, the lowest since 2002.

The demand for homes was driven by Filipinos working overseas and those working in companies that provide outsourced business services, said Chay Ong, associate director at CB Richard Ellis Philippines. The vacancy should stay at the same level this year since most of the supply that will come in has already been bought, she said.

Ong forecasts about 11,000 units of apartments will be built in the nation’s major financial districts from 2007 through 2009. That would almost double the estimated 13,000 units at end-2006, she said.

--Business Mirror

Rail, highway devt. among NEDA priority projects

03/05/2007 | 03:16 PM

The National Economic and Development Authority on Monday announced that it has chosen 10 priority projects, worth roughly P80.68 billion, to present before the Philippine Development Forum this weekend.

Eight of the ten projects are transportation infrastructure projects.

"We chose to present these projects because they are in the advanced stage already. It's either they had undergone a review by the Investment Coordination Committee or they are undergoing a review by the ICC," NEDA Infrastructure staff director Ruben Reinoso told reporters.

Included in the list are the Light Rail Transit Line 1 South Extension-Baclaran to Bacoor, Cavite; the Northrail-Southrail Linkage project Phase 2; and the Metro Rail Transit-Light Rail Transit Loop are among the priority projects.

Also picked were the North Luzon Expressway Extension Project; Rehabilitation of Quirino Highway; North Luzon Expressway Extension Project (the Tarlac-Pangasinan-La Union Expressway Project); Palawan South Road; Panguil Bay Bridge and the North Luzon East Expressway.

Rounding up the list are Bicol Emergency Restortaion Project; Angat Water and Utilization Improvement Project.

Reinoso added that these projects have "high returns, big impact to the socio-economic development and no major issues that could hinder the implementation".

-Cheryl Arcibal, GMANews.TV

RP inflation in Feb at 2.6%, slowest since Dec '02

03/06/2007 | 09:30 AM

(Update) The Philippines' annual inflation in February came in at 2.6 percent, due to unhurried price gains across all commodity groups, the National Statistics Office said Tuesday.

This was the slowest pace of consumer price increases since December 2002, when inflation was recorded at 2.5 percent.

The February inflation is slower than analyst expectations. The median average of a GMANews.TV poll of four economists showed that the country’s inflation was expected to come in at 3.2 percent in February.

Month-on-month, prices decreased -0.1 percent, dragged by price drops in fruits, vegetables and meat.

The NSO said lower adjustments in electricity rates and price rollbacks for liquefied petroleum gas, kerosene, gasoline and diesel also contributed to the inflation downtrend. Inflation in January 2007 was measured at 3.9 percent.

The annual rise in prices of food, beverages and tobacco (FBT) was reported at 3.0 percent in February from 4.3 percent in January.

Inflation for rice, a basic commodity in the country, slowed to 1.4 percent in February from 1.8 percent in January.

The annual pace of price increases for commodities under the food, light and water subgroup was 1.5 percent in February from 4.6 percent in January.

-GMANews.TV

Security concerns delay anew airport terminal’s opening

BY MARICEL E. ESTAVILLO, Reporter

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) yesterday has postponed anew the opening of Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) on safety issues.

Set by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, the terminal’s initial opening, called rolling opening, was earlier scheduled for end-March. Two airlines were tapped to mount flights in the opening.

In a statement, MIAA General Manager Alfonso G. Cusi said the new postponement was to ensure safety against structural defects.

He added the decision was arrived at based on the recommendation of TCGI Engineers, Inc. and Ove Arup & Partners HK Ltd., both of which were contracted to review the structural design and construction of the mothballed terminal.

In a letter to Mr. Cusi, Ove Arup said: "The use of the facility at this time, even in a limited scale, is not advisable as this will expose users of the facility to life safety risks. It is important that the deficiencies identified in the structural evaluation are fully addressed before the facility can be used."

In a separate letter, TCGI Engineers said: "We are convinced that if Terminal 3 is now operated even on a limited scale as contemplated in the planned ‘rolling opening,’ users of the facility, such as passengers, well-wishers, airport personnel and other occupants will be exposed to life safety risks, most especially in the event of a major earthquake."

Following receipt of these letters, Mr. Cusi wrote Ken Kurebayashi, project director of Takenaka Corp. for the NAIA-3 project, to immediately "rectify the defects in the structural works" of the terminal.

"We urge you to consider this as an urgent matter in order to ensure the safety of millions of passengers and airport employees who will eventually use the terminal," said Mr. Cusi’s letter to Mr. Kurebayashi.

MIAA ordered the structural review last year after the collapse of a portion of the ceiling of the lobby during a test-run operation preparatory to a partial opening of the facility.

"The schedule of the formal opening of NAIA-3 is now largely dependent on when Takenaka can finish the structural remediation works," Mr. Cusi said, adding it will be able to make a fair estimate of when the terminal will be opened "as soon as Takenaka completes its work."

Takenaka of Japan was the general contractor hired by the Philippine International Air Terminals Co., Inc. consortium to construct the facility.

NAIA-3 was acquired by the National Government through expropriation proceedings upon payment of "just compensation" following a controversy that reached the Supreme Court.

In a pre-final report to MIAA on its structural review, TCGI said that while "there is no cause for concern about foundation instability, the structure of Terminal 3, as constructed, has not fully complied with the original design intent developed by the structural designer, Meinhardt."

"There are violations of code requirements on life safety issues, specifically on the capacity of the facility to prevent structural collapse and loss of lives in the event of a major earthquake," TCGI’s report added.

Particularly, it said that remediation works need to be undertaken on a number of beams, girders and post-tension slabs, as well as columns and piles. The foundations of the vehicular access ramp were also declared unstable, while the deck slab and columns required remediation.

--BusinessWorld

Miaa defers Naia 3 opening

EVEN LIMITED USE OF FACILITY AT MONTH'S END FRAUGHT WITH RISKS, SAY SAFETY CONSULTANTS

By Recto Mercene
Reporter


THE foreign consultants hired by the Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) advised airport general manager Alfonso Cusi to postpone the planned opening of Terminal 3 at the end of this month because of the risks posed to passengers, visitors and users.

“The use of the facility at this time, even on a limited scale, is not advisable as this will expose users of the facility to life safety risk,” a letter by foreign consultant Ove Arup & Partners HK Ltd. to Cusi said.

Cusi heeded the engineering consultant’s recommendations after submitting its findings to the Miaa Board.

He earlier announced a decision to subject the Naia 3 to a “rolling opening” involving one arrival and one departure daily to test whether the equipment, facility, electronics and other machinery would work as they were designed.

On the other hand, TCG Engineers, the other consulting company, agreed with Ove Arup’s findings, saying that it was convinced that if Naia 3 operated even on a limited scale as contemplated, passengers, airline crew and even well-wishers would be exposed to risks.

The consultants feared that a major earthquake hitting Manila would endanger Naia 3 and all the people in it.

“We are convinced that if Terminal 3 is now operated, even on a limited scale, as contemplated in the planned “rolling opening,” users of the facility … will be exposed to life safety risks, most especially in the event of a major earthquake.

The Miaa had hired Ove Arup, TCGI and another foreign consultant last year to look into the structural and architectural integrity of the building and also to assess how much was really spent on its construction.

Finding out how much the Philippine International Air Terminal Company (Piatco) spent to build Naia 3 is crucial in determining the “just compensation” to be paid to them because the claimed payment is way beyond the estimated cost as computed by the Asian Emerging Dragons, the original proponents of Naia 3.

Upon the receipt of the letters from the two consultants, Cusi wrote Ken Takenaka, project director of Takenaka Corp. to immediately “rectify the defects in the structural works of Naia 3.”

“We urge you to consider this as an urgent matter to ensure the safety of millions of passengers and airport employees who will eventually use the terminal,” Cusi said.

The Miaa hired the consultants and ordered them to make a structural review following the collapse of a huge portion of the lobby ceiling during a test run preparatory to the partial opening of the facility.

A new opening date would be announced, depending on how soon Takenaka—one of the major partners of the Piatco consortium that includes the German firm Fraport AG—would be able to finish the structural remedial measures, Cusi said.

Naia 3 was acquired by the government through expropriation proceedings upon the initial payment of “just compensation” following a controversy that reached the Supreme Court.

In its prefinal report to Miaa, TCGI said that “while there is no cause for concern about the foundation’s stability, the structure of Naia 3, did not fully comply with the original design made by structural designer Meinhard.”

It added that there are also violations of code requirements or life safety issues, especially the capacity of the facility to prevent structural collapse and loss of lives in the event of a major earthquake.

TCGI said the remedial works need to be undertaken in a number of beams, girders and posttension slabs, as well as columns and piles. The foundation of the vehicular access ramp was also declared unstable, while the deck slabs and columns require upgrading.

--Business Mirror

'Trickle-down effect a challenge'

The Philippine Star

ILOILO CITY – President Arroyo’s economic team admitted Monday that ensuring that the benefits of a stronger economy will trickle down to the people is a big challenge.

"That is a huge challenge to the economic team," said Trade Secretary Peter Favila during the Philippine Economic Briefing Domestic Road Show here.

Favila was accompanied by Finance Secretary Gary Teves and Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya.

The road show was not meant to paint a rosy picture of the economy but to tell the people how the issues affecting the country’s economy are being addressed, Favila stressed.

"We get on the ground and get the pulse of the people," he said, adding that they consider three factors in deciding whether the improved economy is felt – income levels, job creation, and stable prices of goods.

"The better the economy, the more stable the prices," he said.

Favila is set to meet with cement producers and dealers soon in view of the expected rise in cement prices during the summer season.

He said cement producers and dealers have benefited from the economic progress in the country. Thus, it is only fair that they allow the effects to trickle down to the people.

On job creation, he noted that business process outsourcing is becoming the number one industry in the country as it has been steadily providing jobs, especially in call centers.

Favila said they will be giving incentives to business outsourcing firms outside of Metro Manila.

"Now it’s time to bring progress to the countryside," he said. "We remain conscious of the demand of the people to feel the effects of a better economy trickle down to their level."

Government officials also boast of having addressed the country’s budget deficit.

"Our declining deficit, lower interest payments and rising revenue collection will allow us to invest an additional P369 billion over the next four years to build new infrastructure and to improve social services such as education," Andaya said in a statement.

Monday’s road show is part of a nationwide series of briefings on the Philippine economy.

The economic team is also slated to go to Central and Southern Luzon, Pampanga, Baguio, and possibly the Bicol region.

--Ronilo Pamonag
ABS-CBN

HK’s richest lend hand to help RP’s poorest

By Blanche Rivera
Inquirer
Last updated 06:36am (Mla time) 03/06/2007

HONG KONG -- Theirs was a quest for life launched by a dying woman’s wish for a coffin.

The lifeline -- from the skyscrapers of Hong Kong to the slums of Negros Island and Mindanao -- began 15 years ago with the meeting of two very different women.

Sharon Tin Tan, one of Hong Kong’s top interior designers, flew to Bacolod City with her Filipino maid in 1992. She had been supporting Bible scholars there, upon the request of her househelp, and wanted to see where her support was going.

What she saw, who she saw, changed her life forever.

--More at Inquirer

NAIA 3 opening postponed due to structural problems

By Jonathan M. Hicap, Reporter

The opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 scheduled on March 31 has been postponed as the facility can collapse in the event of a major earthquake, the Manila International Airport Authority announced Monday.

MIAA General Manager Alfonso Cusi said the decision of the MIAA board to postpone the opening was based on the recommendations of TCGI Engineers and Ove Arup & Partners HK Ltd., consultants hired by MIAA to review the structural design and construction of NAIA 3.

In its letter to Cusi, Ove Arup said, “The use of the facility at this time, even in a limited scale, is not advisable as this will expose user of the facility to life-safety risks.”

TCGI Engineers, in a prefinal report to MIAA, said that while “there is no cause for concern about foundation instability, the structure of Terminal 3, as constructed, has not fully complied with the original design intent developed by the structural designer, Meinhardt.”

TCGI found that “there are violations of code requirements on life-safety issues, specifically on the capacity of the facility to prevent structural collapse and loss of lives in the event of a major earthquake.”

Ove Arup said deficiencies in the structure of NAIA 3 should be addressed first before the terminal can be used.

After receiving the reports, Cusi wrote Ken Kurebayashi, project director of Takenaka Corp. for the NAIA 3 project, to immediately “rectify the defects in the structural works” of the facility.

“We urge you to consider this as an urgent matter in order to ensure the safety of millions of passengers and airport employees who will eventually use the terminal,” Cusi told Kurebayashi.

The MIAA ordered the structural review last year after a portion of the NAIA 3 collapsed days before the scheduled opening in March.

Cusi did not announce a new date of the opening “considering that the schedule of the formal opening of NAIA 3 is now largely dependent on when Takenaka can finish the structural remediation works.”

Takenaka was hired by the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) to build the NAIA 3.

Last year the government paid P3 billion as initial payment to Piatco following its takeover of the facility in 2004.

TCGI said the remediation works are those on a number of beams, girders, posttension slabs, columns and piles. The foundation of the vehicular access ramp was also declared unstable and the deck slab and columns required remediation.

The MIAA planned a roll-out opening on March 31 with at least one international airline operating from the facility.

--Manila Times

NAIA-3 opening reset anew

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) has postponed anew the opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA-3), ostensibly to ensure the public’s safety against structural defects.

The new terminal was originally scheduled to open at the end of this month.

NAIA general manager Alfonso Cusi said the decision of the MIAA board to postpone the opening was based on the formal recommendation of TCGI Engineers Inc. and Ove Arup and Partners HK Ltd., which reviewed the structural design and construction of NAIA-3.

In a letter to Cusi, Ove Arup stated "the use of the facility at this time, even on a limited scale, is not advisable as this will expose users of the facility to life safety risk."

"It is important that the deficiencies identified in the structural evaluation are fully addressed before the facility can be used," it added.

TCGI Engineers, for its part, said that they are convinced that if the terminal is operated, users of the facility "will be exposed to life safety risk, most especially in the event of a major earthquake."

It recommended remediation works on a number of beams, girders and post-tension slabs as well as columns and piles. TCGI Engineers also found the foundation of the vehicular access ramp unstable, while the deck slab and columns required remediation.

In response to the recommendations of the reviewers, Cusi wrote Takenaka Corp., the contractor hired by the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco) to construct the facility, to "rectify the defects in the structural works" of NAIA Terminal 3.

"We urge you to consider this as an urgent matter to ensure the safety of millions of passengers and airport employees who will eventually use the terminal," Cusi said in his letter to Ken Kurebayashi, project director of Takenaka Corp.

The MIAA ordered the structural review of NAIA-3 last year after a portion of the ceiling of the terminal collapsed during a test-run operation prior to the planned partial opening of the facility.

– Rudy Santos, Michael Punongbayan. Philippine Star

Monday, 5 March 2007

MIAA postpones NAIA-3 opening

National (as of 7:35 PM)

The much-delayed opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 scheduled for the end of the month has been postponed again, DZMM reported Monday.

The latest postponement was due to the decision of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) based on the recommendations of engineers and the Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Limited, an engineering services and design firm.

Alfonso Cusi, MIAA general manager, said Ove Arup consultants were against the opening date set on March 31, saying this might put passengers at risk because of structural concerns.

Cusi said that the new date for the opening has not yet been set. MIAA, however, has urged main contractor Takenaka Construction Corporation to make the necessary repair of design faults found in the facility.

Terminal 3 was completed in 2002 but has remained closed due to a controversy on its ownership. Lawsuits, including arbitration cases in the United States and Singapore, as well as technical concerns have delayed its opening.

The Philippine government, however, said last year that it is bent on opening the new air terminal by the end of the month. The terminal's opening has been delayed several times.

The promise came as Malacañang assured that the terminal will run safely and smoothly when it finally opens to commercial operations within the year. This also followed the collapse of a portion of the terminal's ceiling.

"The Department of Transportation and Communication is making sure that the terminal will run smoothly and safely when opened to commercial operations," Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said in a statement.

--With a report from Zeny Silva. ABS-CBN News

PGMA welcomes Russia's move to be more economically engaged in RP, ASEAN and East Asia

MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2007 | FOREIGN INVESTMENT

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo welcomed today Russia's target of increasing its two-way trade with the Philippines from the present $200 million to at least $2 billion as part of Moscow's move to expand its bilateral relations with the Philippines, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and East Asia.

"Russia is a very important country to the Philippines. We would like Russia to be more economically engaged in the ASEAN and East Asia," the President said during the courtesy call on her of six of the 54-member Russian trade and investment mission, led by Deputy Chairman of the Federation Council of the Federal Assembly of the Russian Federation Mikhail Nikolaev, at Malacanang's Music Room.

The President informed the delegation that "within ASEAN, the Philippines is the coordinator on relations with Russia."

"We hope Russia could become a full dialogue partner of ASEAN and East Asia. I hope your visit would contribute to that aspiration," the President said.

In response, Nikolaev said Russia would like to have more participation in the ASEAN, specifically to assist and help small businesses in the region.

"Our (trade) mission has great support from our head of government," he said, adding that his group would like to look into "many unexplored areas" of investment in the Philippines and on "products of interest to both sides."

Nikolaev said they have keen interest on Cebu's custom-designed furnitures that are made of materials indigenous only in the Philippines.

They are also looking at the Philippines-produced tropical fruits and aquaculture products which they intend to distribute to the Siberian countries.

The delegation arrived in Manila last Saturday and would also visit Cebu and Bohol provinces during their eight-day visit.

Foreign Affairs Assistant Secretary of the Office of European Affairs Maria Zeneida Angara-Collinson said the Board of Investments has scheduled for the group several business-matching sessions with the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry.

The delegation also conferred on President Arroyo Russia's Presidential Star Medal awarded only to leading statesmen.

Other recipients include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and former Swedish Prime Minister Goran Persson.

The delegation is composed mainly of members of the Eastern Dimension International Public Movement, a non-governmental organization created to assist in the rapid development of the Russian economy, especially in Siberia and the Far East, through the expansion of Russia-ASEAN cooperation in economic, cultural and scientific fields.

It is the first large-scale business mission from Russia to visit the Philippines since the founding of the Russian Federation in 1992.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17323

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: Special Courts

MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2007 | HUMAN RIGHTS

President Arroyo appreciates the quick action of the Supreme Court in creating the special courts to try unexplained killings.

She is also keeping tab on all the other measures attendant to this issue such as the fielding of composite investigation teams involving the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the Commission on Human Rights; beefing up the witness protection program, the designation of special prosecutors for these cases; and continuing liaison with the international community on the investigative and capacity building aspects.

We are forging a strong partnership with the judiciary and all sectors which will continue to bear on the resolution of these cases and serve the cause of criminal justice.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17322

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: Energy Supply

MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2007 | ENERGY


In fairness, Secretary Lotilla never said there was a power crisis in Mindanao. He was talking candidly about the time in 2009 when the private sector have to put in additional supply, and this is being addressed by both private firms and the government.

We are also urging big users to contract directly with the Northern Mindanao coal plant of STEAG, which can easily expand by another 100 MW if needed.

The government has a deep and broad blueprint to meet the challenge of boosting the energy supply of Mindanao, which is looming as the front door of investment owing to the advent of peace and the improving security situation.

Our plan is not only built on the rehabilitation of aging power plants or the construction of new ones, but also expand the field of alternative sources of energy and push the cause of the environment.

The energy team, which includes the private sector, is constantly on top of this agenda, working proactively on solutions to avert shortages and assure long-term supply. Stable power in Mindanao is a permanent agenda of this administration.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17321

17 port projects set for completion in 2007

MONDAY, MARCH 5, 2007 | PROGRAMS/PROJECTS


Travel time and cargo transportation costs from Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao and vice versa are expected to be reduced further with the completion of 17 priority port projects in various parts of the country this year.

In a press briefing held this morning of Malacañang's New Executive Building, Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director General and Infrastructure Monitoring Task Force (IMTF) Chief Cerge Remonde said that upon the directive of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to fast track the completion of priority infrastructure projects, the government is set to complete.

The ports that are scheduled to be finished within the year are the: Dingalan Port in Aurora Province; Batangas Port, Batangas; Cawit Port, Boac, Marinduque; Cawayan Port, Masbate; Pantao Port, Libon, Albay; Siquijor Port, Siquijor; Jagna Port, Bohol; Ubay Port, Bohol; Liloan Ferry Terminal Port, Southern Leyte; Limasawa Port, Southern Leyte; Naval Port, Biliran; Guisiliban Port, Camiguin; Cagayan de Oro Port, Misamis Oriental; Davao (Sasa) Port, Davao City; Balbagon (Mambajao) Port, Mambajao, Camiguin; Subic Bay Port Development Project; and Lucena Port Passenger Terminal Building in Quezon.

Remonde said the 17 priority port projects form part of the 28 port projects the President identified in her Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) program at the beginning of her administration.

At an aggregate cost of P23.5 billion spread until 2010, the SRNH aims to facilitate the end-to-end transport of passengers, goods and services from production to population centers to boost and maximize the economic potentials of the country's five Super Regions.

Under President Arroyo's Super Regions concept, which forms part of the Medium-Term Public Investment Program (MTPIP), the country's 16 regions have been grouped into four mega-regions, plus another region that cuts across these mega-regions, to create an enlarged economic landscape based on the natural competitive advantage of these areas.

These are the North Luzon Mega-Region, the Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, the Central Philippines Mega-Region, the Mindanao Mega-Region and the cyber corridor that serves as the cyber link among these four regions.

Remonde cited the strategic importance of ports in the sustaining the economy's growth as they serve as vital links that bring the country's production base closer to the markets.

"Roll-on Roll-off (RoRo) ports reduce transport costs and ultimately the costs of goods in the market. They are also important in promoting tourism in the countryside," Remonde said.

He pointed out that due to the SRNH, travel time from Mindanao through the Visayas region to Luzon and vice versa has been cut by 10 hours.

Aside from this, Remonde said, "transport costs for passengers were cut by 40 percent while cargo costs were cut by 30 percent."

Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) General Manager Oscar Sevilla, who joined Remonde at the press briefing, said there are five immediate benefits ports have on a community where it is situated -- economic activity, employment, peace and order, tourism and easing of cultural divergence.

Sevilla stressed that the benefits of ports contribute to the overall economic growth of the country and provide additional funds that will "trickle down" to the masses.

During the same conference, Remonde addressed the concern of several quarters on the probability of increased smuggling activities once all RoRo ports become fully operational.

He said that anti-smuggling measures have been institutionalized and partnerships with the stakeholders and inter-agency cooperation strengthened.

According to him the Bureau of Customs (BoC) is still implementing its "RATS" (Run After Smugglers) program which aims to prosecute smugglers, suspend erring brokers or importers and relieve customs personnel party to smuggling.

"The BoC is also cleaning up its list of accredited importers and exporters of fictitious, fly-by-night or spurious importers through the Customs Accredited System," Remonde said.

He added that 10 scanning-detection machines which can detect the actual contents of containers, including firearms, dangerous drugs and weapons of mass destruction, have been installed in major ports nationwide.

With these machines installed in the Manila International Container Port and the Ports of Manila, Cebu, Davao, Subic, Cagayan de Oro and Batangas, the BoC anticipates a drastic drop in the number of cases of misdeclared cargo, Remonde said.

The national government is also intensifying its coordination with the private sector through the Task Force of Anti-Smuggling Industry Advisory Council (TFS-IAC) that will allow the BoC and industry leaders discuss trade and anti-smuggling issues as well as generate intelligence information for the anti-smuggling drive.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17319

A big vote of confidence

Monday, March 5, 2007

American investors gave the Arroyo administration a resounding vote of confidence last week, as they announced plans to put in as much as $3 billion this year in infrastructure, manufacturing and information technology projects in the country. The amount, says Robert Sears, the executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, could even rise to $9 billion if the government tries even harder to snip away at red tape, one of the main gripes of foreign businessmen.

Sears attributed the surge in investor confidence to the improving fiscal climate and business optimism in the country. Indeed, the indicators have been looking good for the past months, with the peso on a roll and the stock market posting record gains in recent weeks. After reducing the deficit by half last year, the government is on the verge of balancing the budget, with the national debt as percentage of the gross domestic product down to 70 percent from more than 100 percent during the past administrations.

But what surprises us is the timing of Sears’ announcement, coming as it did at the start of an election season. In the past, big business had dreaded elections, considering them to be dark periods of uncertainty. Businessmen don’t like surprises. They get nervous when they can’t see what’s ahead. Traditionally, the business community lies low during elections. It waits and sees.

Not this time, according to Sears. “Business can’t wait . . . [the investors] are proceeding as if there were no elections,” he said.

A Congress that can continue with the economic reforms, it seems, would seal the deal.

US businesses invested $2 billion in the Philippines last year. But the Americans are not the only ones who have become increasingly bullish on the Philippines. A delegation of top Russian businessmen is in town prospecting for investments.

The investors’ stamp of approval will have a deep impact on both the administration and opposition camps. Team Unity will definitely exploit it to the hilt, proclaiming it as a validation of the President’s economic reforms. The Genuine Opposition will have to counter it by hammering on the issues of the legitimacy of the Arroyo administration, the unresolved cases of extrajudicial killings and electoral fraud.

Stripped of its political trimmings, the US investors’ vote of confidence sends a strong signal to the international business community that the Philippines is a market worth looking into. It is now up to the government not to let the investors down.

--Manila Times

Sunday, 4 March 2007

US investors planning to invest 3 bln dollars in Philippines

Sunday March 4, 2:19 PM

MANILA (AFP) - US investors are planning to invest up to three billion dollars in the Philippines this year as the economy continues to strengthen, media reports said Sunday.

The American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham) said that investors from the United States would be putting up to three billion dollars of investments in the country’s infrastructure, manufacturing and information technology sectors, the Philippines Daily Inquirer said.

Robert Sears, the AmCham executive director, made this announcement at a roundtable discussion with President Gloria Arroyo on Friday, citing the improved fiscal situation and business optimism in the country the paper said.

"Sears said the optimistic assessment of AmCham members was that the figure could potentially go up to nine billion dollars if the government would take care of some red tape issues," the report said.

Sears said US businessmen and other foreign investors in the country were not too concerned about the results of the midterm elections in May.

"What they are looking for is a good Congress that can continue with the economic reforms," the paper quotes Sears saying.

US businesses invested two billion dollars in the Philippines last year.

--Yahoo

Statement of the President: Re: "8 by 8"

The bullish trend in investment backs our strategy of 8 blessings for 08 delivered to every household and community throughout the country.

Making the hard decisions is not enough. I am resolved to cut through the political noise and bring the benefits of the economy to the people, with the Cabinet as the vanguard of action and the candidates of Team Unity as the guarantors of continuity.

We shall never let go of the strategic picture because this is what drives confidence in the Philippines and gives us the edge in competition.

A strong economy, a deep social impact on the lives of Filipinos, and a broad program of law and order will stoke the enthusiasm of the world and bring home the fruits of job creation; a better cost of living; a strong peso; more investments; pro-poor education; pro-poor healthcare, housing, food; green Philippines and Anti-terrorism.

Our battle cry of "8 by 08" is taking root in the hearts and minds of the people and we must continue to take it to every family and home in this great country.

--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17317

Businessmen agree to moderate debate

HE senatorial candidates of the pro-administration Team Unity and the Genuine Opposition have agreed to face off in a debate to be organized by the Philippines’ top business groups, an official said yesterday.

“Both [Tourism] Secretary Ace Durano [of Team Unity] and [lawyer] Adel Tamano [of the Genuine Opposition] have confirmed that their respective senatorial candidates have expressed their willingness to participate in this debate,” Miguel Varela, chairman of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines and chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said in a statement.

He said the debate would cover management-labor relations, taxes, power and energy, peace and order, small and medium enterprise promotion, and foreign investment. It would be held at the Manila Hotel on March 14 and broadcast live over select television stations.

The debate has been billed as the “2007 Senatorial Debate—Moving the Economy Forward!”

Full text: Manila Standard