Saturday, 17 March 2007

Net hot money inflow up 58% in 2 months

By Des Ferriols
Full Story at The Philippine Star 03/17/2007

Net foreign portfolio investments reached $665 million during the first two months of 2007, up 58 percent from last year’s $421.26 million.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed gross foreign portfolio investments of $2.260 billion over the two-month period while outflows totaled $1.595 billion.

The gross investment inflows, which rose by 118 percent from the year-ago level, consisted mainly of funds invested in stocks amounting to $1.833 billion, or 81 percent of total.

For the month of February alone, the BSP said the net inflow from BSP-registered foreign portfolio investments amounted to $412.40 million, reflecting a 63-percent growth from January’s $252.52 million.

RP budget deficit shrink to P18.6B in first 2 months

By Des Ferriols
Full Story at The Philippine Star 03/17/2007

Improved revenue streams shrunk the country’s budget deficit to P18.6 billion in the first two months of the year, the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) reported yesterday.

The two-month total was much less than the P40.4 billion deficit in the corresponding period of last year and represents 40 percent of the government’s target ceiling of P45.8 billion in the first three months of 2007, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said.

Last month, the government had a budget surplus of P11.1 billion, a turnaround from the deficit of P24.9 billion in the same month last year. Revenue was boosted by proceeds of the P25.2-billion sale of government’s stake in Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp. (PTIC).

PGMA vows to remain unswerving in the task of jobs creation

FRIDAY, MARCH 16, 2007 | LABOR AND WELFARE
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17392

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo reiterated today her determination to remain focused on strengthening the economy and creating more jobs to lift the Filipino family "from abject poverty."

"I shall remain unswerving in the task of jobs creation, topping the five million jobs we generated in six years with even more as we push economic growth and social justice to the limit," the Chief Executive said.

She issued the statement as the National Statistics Office (NSO) reported the results of its January 2007 Labor Force Survey showing that the country’s employment rate rose to 92.2 percent this year from 91.9 percent a year ago.

The NSO said the total number of employed Filipinos reached 33.5 million in January this year, compared with 32 million in the previous year.

National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director-General and Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri said the employment generation in January 2007 went up to 1.52 million from the 754,000 net jobs creation in the previous year.

According to Neri, employment in all key sectors improved this year.

Neri attributed the improvement in the employment rate to the recovery of industry and the continuing brisk performance of the services sector.

Expressing elation over the declining jobless rate, President Arroyo said: "This administration has been attacked on various fronts and issues, but let it not be said that we failed to give Juan de la Cruz a chance to land a good job and bring home the bacon to a healthy and adequately schooled family."

According to her, every tough decision made and every policy laid down by her administration "to strengthen the economy is geared towards the foremost aim of creating jobs."

"The social payback of economic reforms consists of a double boost on jobs and basic services, so that the Filipino family is not only lifted from abject poverty but insulated from disease and ignorance," she said.

"As more and more investors lay their premiums on the Philippine economy, the window of opportunity will open wider to accommodate the excellence and productivity of the Filipino," she added.

"This is good governance at work and we affirm it as strongly as we vow to enforce criminal justice and human rights for the freedom and prosperity of the people," the President stressed.

Friday, 16 March 2007

Philippines Feb BOP surplus at $554M - BSP

--ABS-CBN

The Philippines in February had a balance of payments (BOP) surplus of $554 million, more than five times the surplus of $107 million in the same month of 2006, the central bank said on Friday.

For the first two months of the year, the country had a BOP surplus of $1.285 billion.

The Southeast Asian nation ended 2006 with a BOP surplus of $3.77 billion, the highest in at least seven years, supported by strong inflows from foreign exchange remittances, rising exports and portfolio investments. - Reuters

Survey: RP has 3rd highest salary growth in Asia-Pacific

Full Story at ABS-CBN

NEW DELHI (AFP) - Salaries in the Philippines rose 8.2 percent last year, making it the country with the third highest salary growth in the Asia-Pacific region, global human resources consultants Hewitt Associates said Thursday.

India salaries rose by an average of 14.4 percent last year, faster than any in the Asia-Pacific region.

"Due in large to the effects of globalization, the war for talent is becoming increasingly fierce in India," said Sharad Vishvanath, leader of the talent and organization consultancy practice for Hewitt, in a statement.

"As a result, compensation now plays an increasingly fundamental role in attracting talent and ensuring ongoing employee engagement."

The next highest increase was shown by China, where wages rose by 8.3 percent last year.

Net portfolio investments up 58% at $665M in Jan-Feb

03/16/2007 | 09:42 AM
--GMA NEWS

Net foreign portfolio investments to the Philippines grew 58 percent to $665 million in the first two months of the year, buoyed by inflows to the local stock market, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said.

In a statement, the BSP said gross foreign portfolio investments totaled $2.260 billion in the two-month period, 81 percent of which could be traced to buying of shares in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

RP stocks poised to hit new record high - Macquarie

03/16/2007 | 09:19 AM
- Cheryl Arcibal, GMANews.TV

Brokerage firm Macquarie Research Equities has retained its bullish outlook on the local stock market, saying the recent losses suffered by the bourse does not indicate it will turn into a bear market.

In a note distributed to the media on Thursday, the research firm said the Philippines is poised to beat its all-time high of 3,448 points, as it is the only stock market in the Southeast Asian region which has yet to set a new index high in recent rallies.

"(We are) retaining our bullish outlook. We reaffirm our positive stance on the Philippines," the firm said.

Macquarie said it has an index target of 3,550 points for the Philippine Stock Exchange, which is higher than the stock market's record high set in February 1997, before the Asian financial crisis.

Macquarie said that fundamentally, investors have nothing to worry about, with the Philippines' macroeconomic picture "quite positive" and corporate earnings still strong.

"Growth prospects are stronger and the political environment is more stable, in sharp contrast with the situation in previous years," Macquarie said.

...

Among issues, Macquarie said its top picks were Banco de Oro, SM Prime, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., Globe, Metrobank, Bank of the Philippine Islands and Universal Robina Corp.

Govt to set aside P1.2B for more RORO ships

03/15/2007 | 04:51 PM
Full story at GMA NEWS

The government on Thursday said it will set aside P1.2 billion this year to fund the purchase of more roll-on roll-off ships for priority missionary routes.

Agustin Bengzon, President and chief executive of National Development Company's Maritime Leasing Corp. fund the purchase of RORO ships to be leased to RORO operators servicing the following routes: Maasin, Leyte – Ubay, Bohol; Santander, Cebu – Siquijor Island; Camiguin – Jagna, Bohol; and Lucena, Quezon – Boac, Marinduque.

Statement of Cabinet Secretary Ricardo L. Saludo: Govt's priority programs vindicated by GO platform

THURSDAY, MARCH 15, 2007 | COMMENTARY
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17386

The Arroyo government's top priority programs have been vindicated by the opposition platform, which also calls for countryside jobs and infrastructure, lower cost of living, and more vigorous tax collection.

The GO (Genuine Opposition) plan also borrows major thrusts of the government for increased education and health spending, enhanced programs for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), renewable energy development and climate change countermeasures.

Under "8 Gains by '08" strategy also espoused by the administration's TEAM Unity senatorial slate, the government shall build on six years of solid gains in fiscal management to further accelerate nationwide infrastructure development, education and health advances, as well as microfinance, food and anti-graft initiatives absent in the opposition plan.

Thanks to higher tax revenues, both infrastructure and social services spendings are budgeted to rise by more than P30 billion each this year. Total public works outlays till 2010 is targeted to exceed P1.7 trillion or 4.45% of GDP -- more than twice past levels and most of it in the regions.

We are redoubling efforts to protect and assist OFWs, including the rescue and return of Filipinos caught in perilous situations. Over 400 were repatriated from various forms of detention in 2005, an effort that continues with the recent hostage recovery in Nigeria.

Meanwhile, food, livelihood, low-cost stores and PhilHealth insurance programs continue, despite the opposition's efforts to curtail budget funds to the detriment of needy families and communities. Microfinance lending aims to benefit an additional one million Filipinos this year.

As our tax effort generates even more resources for priority programs now also advocated by the opposition, the Arroyo Administration looks forward to another resounding mandate for our congressional and local government leaders to continue and expand our winning initiatives for the nation.

With satisfaction ratings also up, the government shall spare no effort to deliver our "8 by '08" gains to the Filipino people.

Wednesday, 14 March 2007

Summit Lamps and Anti-Graft Court

This is bad news. But it is also good news. It means that the anti-graft court is working.

P44.85M worth of Asean summit lamps found

By Karlon N. Rama and Aledel G. Cuizon
--More details at Sunstar

CEBU CITY -- The controversy over the allegedly overpriced decorative lampposts bought for the Asean summit has intensified, with the anti-graft office recently discovering 150 more units priced at over P300,000 each.

Based on the contract between the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) and the supplier, the units have a total value of P44.85 million and are installed along the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC), from Plaridel to Seno Sts., in Mandaue City and from the Ouano Ave. to A. Soriano St., again in Mandaue City.

More Pinoys now appreciate PGMA's fiscal reforms -- Saludo

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2007 | STATISTICS & SURVEYS
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17380

The latest Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showing an increase in the net satisfaction rating of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo indicates that more Filipinos are now appreciating the fruits of her fiscal and economic reforms that have provided better healthcare, education and other essential services to the people.

Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo pointed out in the regular media briefing of Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita in Malacañang this afternoon that more people are now aware and benefiting from the implementation of sound reforms that have contributed to the economic growth, stronger peso and $2.35 billion net investments last year.

"Ito ay isang palatandaan na ang ating taumbayan ay binibigyang pansin na ngayon ang pag-angat ng ekonomiya at pagtutok ng pamahalaan sa pangangailangan ng sambayanan (The survey is a clear sign that Filipinos now appreciate the efforts of the government in lifting the economy through tough fiscal reforms)," he explained.

For his part, Ermita said the President’s net satisfaction rating increased to –4 in the SWS survey taken last Feb. 24-27 compared to the –6 recorded in the last quarter of 2006.

Ermita said the President garnered a 21 percent increase in rating among the middle-to-upper Classes A, B, and C, a +7, with 44 percent satisfied and 37 percent dissatisfied, compared to the –14 (33 percent satisfied and 47 dissatisfied) during the survey taken in the previous quarter.

Ermita said the President also gained popularity among those surveyed in Class D, getting a –3 (40% Satisfied, 42% Dissatisfied) up from the –9 (36% Satisfied, 45% Dissatisfied) obtained in the last quarter of 2006.

Those belonging to Class E also gave a higher satisfaction rating, at net -8 (37% Satisfied, 45% Dissatisfied), compared to the -25 (30% Satisfied, 54% Dissatisfied) taken last quarter.

The new SWS survey showed that the President's net satisfaction rating dropped in Metro Manila, but increased from previously negative in the rest of Luzon, the Visayas, and Mindanao.

The President’s satisfaction rating increased in the Visayas, with the latest score of net +1 (41% Satisfied and 40% Dissatisfied) compared to net -7 (38% Satisfied and 45% Dissatisfied) last November 2006.

It also increased in Luzon outside Metro Manila, at net -2 now (40% Satisfied and 42% Dissatisfied) compared to net -16 (33% Satisfied and 49% Dissatisfied) previously.

The latest SWS Survey was conducted on 1,200 adults divided into random samples of 300 each in Metro Manila, Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao with sampling error margins of plus or minus 3% for national percentages and plus or minus 6% for area percentages.

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: Corruption

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 14, 2007 | COMMENTARY
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17375

We are not denying the culture of corruption that has crept into several areas of Philippine society and politics over many decades, but this government has undertaken a strong and steady effort to curb graft through criminal justice, administrative controls and procedural reforms.

This effort is focused on the graft-prone revenue agencies that have upped their performance over the recent years; agencies that are in the frontline of day-to-day public services; and local governments that tend to be out of the anti-corruption radar in the past.

Results have been gained and reforms are being made although we realize that the Philippines has to deal with negative perceptions that are still rooted in the past.

The records of the Sandiganbayan, the Ombudsman and the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission are there for all to see; and they certainly reflect an earnest effort by a government out to make a deep dent on corruption to drive greater confidence in our political and economic stability.

PGMA hopes to cut poverty to 18 percent by 2010

TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2007 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17374

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hopes to reduce poverty incidence in the country to 18 percent at the end of her term in 2010, down from 28 percent when she assumed power in 2001.

In an interview with Manila Overseas Press Club chairman and Biznews Asia publisher Antonio Lopez in Malacanang this afternoon, the President backed up her optimism with the unprecedented economic surge under her administration.

"We have gained huge elbow room to bring more resources to bear upon vital basic services and infrastructure programs that will continue to lift the people from poverty, drive investments and jobs and consolidate the national network of excellence and enterprise," she said.

The Chief Executive, early in her term, had set in place a program of governance with the twin goals of sustainable economic growth and poverty alleviation, and lasting political stability and peace.

The program is anchored on the four core values of poverty eradication, that include addressing inequities that perpetuate disempowerment, marginalization and destitution.

The aim is to enable indigent and other vulnerable groups to realize their potentials and share in the benefits of development.

The President said that her vision goes beyond the year 2010 when the nation, she hopes, would join the ranks of First World countries.

"The declining debt of the country is a clear marker on the road to a balanced budget, durable confidence in the Philippines and the full social payback of economic reforms," she had earlier said in a statement.

The President attributed the economic surge to her primal focus on economic goal and full discipline to achieve this goal.

"I have goals and I really keep track of the compliance of these goals like reduction of fiscal deficit to reach a balance budget by year 2010," she said.

The President said she is focused at present on governance, unmindful of the distractions of the coming midterm elections. She, however, expressed hopes that the election would focus on the real issues.

"I have great hope that the Filipino voters would vote based on the candidate’s character and his or her position on issues rather than on prejudice," she said.

The President bared that a Saudi Arabian company intends to invest $150 million in constructing a resort in Bohol, and $7.5 million in a hotel establishment in Makati City.

"Many businessmen have told me that they’ve never seen the economy grow good as this one," she said.

Tuesday, 13 March 2007

Mid-term elections in Philippines to have limited impact on economy

--People's Daily Online

A leading international financial management and advisory institution said in its latest assessment of economic situation in the Philippines that the upcoming mid- term elections in the country in May will have limited impact on its economy and expected the economy to grow by 5.8 percent this year.

The report by Merrill Lynch, which was published Tuesday, was written after a visit by its representatives to Manila last month.

PGMA vows to liberate Filipinos from economic oppression

TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2007 | ECONOMY
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17372

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vowed today to work on further improving the country’s fiscal position and sustaining the economic gains to uplift the lives of the Filipinos and finally reduce, if not totally eradicate, poverty.

Elated over the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) report that the National Government’s total debt declined by almost one percent to P3.851 trillion as of end- December 2006 from P3.888 trillion in 2005, the President reiterated her determination to continue implementing measures that would further reduce, and eventually wipe out the NG debt.

"We shall continue to undertake all measures to break down the shackles of debt that has kept a generation of Filipinos in the grip of cyclical poverty, and liberate our human resources for greater productivity and social mobility," the President said in a statement.

"I will pursue this crusade to liberate the people from economic oppression with the same resolve to reform the politics of this nation, banish terror and uphold the rule of law," she added.

The BTr said the reduction in the total debt burden of the NG was due to the decline in the fiscal deficit and portfolio cleanup. The government also managed to prepay last year some of its expensive obligations.

The President noted that the country’s declining debt only means the government is on the right track of balancing the budget by 2008, and the international financial community’s greater confidence (on RP) is a clear signal that the Filipino people would finally feel the benefits of a growing economy.

"The declining debt of the country is a clear marker on the road to a balanced budget, durable confidence in the Philippines and the full social payback of economic reforms," the Chief Executive said.

The tough economic reforms the President initiated to improve the government’s fiscal position have begun paying off as funds are now available for enhanced social services, vital infrastructure, education, among others, that would uplift the lives of the people.

"We have gained huge elbow room to bring more resources to bear upon vital basic services and infrastructure programs that will continue to lift the people from poverty, drive investments and jobs and consolidate the national network of excellence and enterprise," she added.

As of end-2006, the NG debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio was reduced to 64 percent from the 2005 level of 72 percent.

The Arroyo administration targets to reduce the total NG debt to 56 percent of the GDP by 2008, and further to 41 percent by 2010.

Business sector to join infra projects

By EDU H. LOPEZ
Manila Bulletin

The Philippine business community is ready to join government in seriously pursuing priority roads, bridges and port projects this year to pursue the country’s development.

This was disclosed by Ambassador Donald G. Dee, chairman of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) at the end of the two-day Philippine Development Forum (PDF) held in Cebu.

Dee was the official representative and speaker to the forum sent by the National Competitiveness Council (NCC). The council was recently organized specifically to drum up major reforms in government and the private sector to upgrade the rating of the Philippines from being one of the least competitive nations on earth.

"Of the 10 top priority projects that need to spur trade, commerce and investments in Luzon, we are prepared to go into partnership with government in five of them," Dee said.

The identified projects include the modernization of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark, Pampanga, extension of the north and south expressways farther out of Metro Manila, rehabilitation of the old railway system and completion of the metropolitan light railway system.

Monday, 12 March 2007

8 airport projects worth P15.5 billion set for completion this year - Palace

MONDAY, MARCH 12, 2007 | PROGRAMS/PROJECTS
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17366

To enhance the competitive advantages of the country’s five super regions, the government is set to complete this year eight airport projects worth some P15.5 billion that would further promote tourism and logistics by providing a more efficient mode of transport for goods and passengers.

Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director General Cerge Remonde said these eight airport projects are part of the 31 priority airport projects costing P94.37 billion targeted to be completed by 2011 under the Medium-Term Public Investment Program (MTPIP).

At a media briefing this morning in Malacañang together with Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi, Remonde said the opening of 10 new airports and improvement of 21 others are part of the social payback from the implementation of fiscal and other economic reforms of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

"We have sufficient funding for all these projects. These are part of the social dividends from the reform agenda of the President. This is where your EVAT (expanded value-added tax) goes," Remonde said.

Remonde said the eight airport projects set for completion this year are the Casiguran, Bulan, Kalibo, New Iloilo, New Bacolod, Siargao, Ozamis, and Cotabato Airports.

"Four are due to be finished by the first half of the year, namely the Casiguran, Kalibo, New Iloilo, and Ozamis Airports while the rest are expected to be completed before the year ends. Twenty others will be completed before the end of 2010 and three more by 2011," Remonde said.

The super regions concept was outlined by the President in her State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) last July 24. The five super regions are the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle, Metro Luzon Urban Beltway, Central Philippines Mega-Region, Mindanao Mega-Region, and the cyber corridor serving as the cyber link among the four regions.

Of the 31 airport projects, Remonde said 16 are being improved or constructed in Central Philippines; six in the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle; seven in Mindanao, and two in the Luzon Urban Beltway that would improve the transport of agricultural products and provide access to key tourism destinations nationwide.

On the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal 3, Remonde said remedial works need to be completed first before its targeted rolling opening, originally set this month, can push through.

Cusi said the March 31 opening has been postponed on the recommendation of the Hong Kong-based consultants hired by MIAA that found deficiencies in the construction of NAIA-3.

The MIAA ordered a structural review of the NAIA-3 after a portion of it collapsed days before its scheduled opening in March 2006.

Cusi said they have given Takenaka Corporation, the contractor hired by the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. Inc. (Piatco) to build the NAIA-3, until March 17 to rectify the defects in the structural works before they could announce a new date on the opening of the facility.

Homework The Philippines Needs To Do

BY JUDY T. GULANE, Senior Reporter
Details at BusinessWorld Online
Vol. XX, No. 160
Monday, March 12, 2007 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Reforming and opening the cement, maritime and aviation sectors to greater competition will spur more investments that in turn will create more jobs for Filipinos, the World Bank told the Philippine government.

Accelerating the privatization of state power assets, meanwhile, will promote competition in the wholesale electricity market, while reducing protection for agricultural products, particularly rice, will benefit the food processing and livestock industries.

Sunday, 11 March 2007

Gov't, MILF working to prevent violence in Mindanao from escalating -- Bunye

SUNDAY, MARCH 11, 2007 | HUMAN RIGHTS
--http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=17359

The National Government (NG), the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) and all strategic partners in the search for lasting peace in Mindanao are doing everything to prevent an escalation of violence in the region, according to Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye.

"The Government and the MILF ceasefire committees, with the help of the Malaysian-led IMT (International Monitoring Team), are actively performing their roles to de-escalate the violence in Mindanao and we are confident that all sides have the capability and the will to drive the normalization process," Bunye said in his column "View From the Palace" which comes out tomorrow (Monday).

Bunye had earlier issued a statement allaying fears that the four-year- old truce between the NG and the MILF may have suffered a setback after government forces clashed with MILF soldiers in Midsayap town in North Cotabato last Friday.

The clash resulted in the killing of a 60-year-old woman and the wounding of her 15-year-old grandson.

"Both the government and the MILF are one in resolving the latest hostilities in a calm, sober and just manner as we gear for the resumption of the peace talks," Bunye said in his weekly column.

He thanked all strategic partners of the government, "as well as the allies in the international community" for actively participating in helping preserve peace in Mindanao.

"More than anyone else, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants tranquility in the communities and the isolation of terror. She trusts all parties to be committed to the same goal," Bunye said.