Saturday, 31 March 2007

PGMA turns over new housing units to Baseco residents

SATURDAY, MARCH 31, 2007 | PROGRAMS/PROJECTS
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo turned over today 1,000 units of newly-built houses to residents of the Baseco compound in Tondo, Manila as part of government efforts to provide affordable and decent shelter to poor Filipino families.

"Congratulations, you now have your own homes," the President declared as she turned over the symbolic key to Roger Balecoco, president of the Bagong Buhay Village Homeowners Association.

The President was briefed on her arrival by Habitat for Humanity president Alberto Jugo and former beauty queen and now co-chairman of the Friends of Habitat Margie Moran-Floirendo on the Bagong Buhay Village project while inspecting the ING Learning center.

The Chief Executive then made a tour inspection of the two Habitat for Humanity built model units owned by Mama and Noraida Tasil, and Raul and Jennifer Dagale at Block 1 Alley A.

The Baseco Bagong Buhay Village is a thriving and economically sustainable community with its own commercial center stores, salons and other service-oriented establishments.

The national government, through the Office of the President in cooperation with Habitat for Humanity and the city of Manila are working together in transforming the Baseco compound into a peaceful and developed community since it was once known as a depressed area where poverty and crime are very common.

A typical Habitat for Humanity house has a floor area of 24-30 square meters with lofts that serve as sleeping areas. Each unit costs P70,000 to P150,000 and can be paid for from 10-15 years at no profit and at zero interest, inflation adjusted mortgages.

Vice President Noli De Castro, Manila Mayor Lito Atienza, Habitat for Humanity President Alberto Jugo, Friends of Habitat co-chairman Margie Moran-Floirendo, and Barangay 649 chairwoman Teresita Lumactud were present in the rites.

The President then motored to Barangay 649, Zone 68 District 5, Bagong Lupa, Port Area and visited the ongoing medical and dental mission of the uniformed men and women of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

Defense Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Jr. told the President that the medical and dental mission is a weekly program of the AFP in depressed areas of Metro Manila.

Armed with medical equipment instead of guns, soldiers from the civil military operations battalion and civil military operations group of the Philippine Army (PA) conduct free medical and dental check-up, distributes free medicines, eye glasses, perform circumcision and reflexology treatments to Baseco residents.

Cebu Pacific and Asian Spirit block DMIA open skies policy

By Roderick T. dela Cruz and RGN
Full Reports at Manila Standard Today and Sun.Star Pampanga, respectively


The Civil Aeronautics Board has justified its decision to give a shorter permit to Tiger Airways, saying it needed time to assess the complaints of local carriers such as Cebu Pacific Air and Asian Spirit.

Subic-Clark Alliance for Development Council chairman Edgardo Pamintuan said that because of the CAB’s decision, several other international airlines planning to fly to the Philippines via Clark had shelved their plans. Pamintuan blamed such “yoyo policies” for forcing Tiger Airways to reduce its weekly flights from 14 to nine starting March 26.

He said even sari-sari stores were given permits to operate for one year, not three or six months.

“We are trying our best to draw in investments and players for the development not only of Clark and Subic but the entire region. The dramatic growth of air traffic and passenger inflow and outflow at the DMIA has already contributed much to the perking of business and the local economy,” Pamintuan said.

"But because of CAB's confusing policies, business and even job opportunities are being lost," he added.

Pamintuan said one foreign tourist entering the country is equivalent to one local job for one whole year. He explained that a tourist normally spends about US$1,200 on the average for a two-week stay, which is already closely equivalent to the annual per capita income of one Filipino of US$1,300.

With budget airlines making DMIA as their hub, passenger traffic through the Clark International Airport (CIA) has grown from less than 8,000 in 2003 to more than 470,000 passengers in 2006.

With the right policies, Pamintuan said DMIA traffic could surpass the one million passengers by next year.

"By the ratio of one tourist to one job, we could create about 500,000 jobs by next year, granting that half of the estimated one million passengers are tourists," he said.

Pamintuan said no investor in his right mind would invest in an area where the policies can be changed overnight. He said there is now a negative perception regarding the Philippines in the international airline industry because of unpredictable policies.

"The airline industry is a very tight and small sector where almost everybody knows each other. The bad and sad experience of Tiger Airlines is sure to reverberate all over," he said. (RGN)

The Filipino Spirit is Rising

By Antonio Meloto
Original Article at INQUIRER.net
Last updated 12:08pm (Mla time) 03/27/2007

2007 Commencement Exercises
Ateneo de Davao University

Today I feel intelligent. Not only am I addressing some of the brightest minds in Mindanao, but I am also being honored by this prestigious university with a Doctorate in Humanities, Honoris Causa. This is the first doctorate I have received and I am accepting it in all humility and pride as a recognition of the nobility of the cause and the heroism of the thousands of Gawad Kalinga workers that I represent.

Thank you Fr. Ting Samson and Ateneo de Davao for bestowing the highest academic degree on a man who was born without a pedigree- the "askal" (asong kalye) who went to Ateneo and came back to the slums to help those he left behind.

To a person like myself who did not excel in Ateneo in my pursuit of a college degree, receiving this Ph. D. is extremely flattering, being fully conscious that my principal role in this movement is to be the storyteller of the many who put in the sacrifice and the hard work and yet have remained mostly unrecognized.

It is also exhilarating because it builds on the growing global awareness, triggered by Gawad Kalinga and other movements that have not given up on our country, that the Filipinos can and will build a squatter-free, slum- free and hunger- free Philippines by committing their collective genius, passion and strength towards restoring the dignity and the potential for excellence of the poor, the weak and the powerless.

Wherever the Filipino is in the world

The Filipino spirit today is rising wherever he is in the world. He is starting to discover that he has the power to liberate himself from being a slave of the past… that he can remove the label stuck to his soul – second class people from a third world country… that he can correct the scandal of history of being the most corrupt in Asia despite being the only Christian nation, until East Timor, in the region.

In the right setting the Filipino has proven that he can be law- abiding, hardworking, honest and excellent.

Over the years, I have not met a Filipino beggar in my travels to the US, Canada and Australia…not a single beggar have I seen or have heard of out of more than 2 million Filipinos in the US; many Caucasians, Afro- Americans and Latinos,-yes,- but no Filipinos. Clearly, it is not the nature of Filipinos to beg if he is in the right home and community environment. The mendicant culture in his native land is man- made and artificial and can therefore be unmade and corrected if we give him back his dignity which is his birthright as a son of God.

In the same vein, we know that the Filipino is not lazy. Time Magazine in its 2006 article on Happiness identifies the Filipino as one of the ethnic groups in America least likely to go on welfare. How many of us know of friends and relatives who would take on two or even three jobs in pursuit of their dreams for a better life? Hardworking when motivated, resilient when tested – that is the Filipino…that is us. It is no surprise therefore that the average income of the Filipino- Americans is higher that the US national average; the former slave is now richer than the master in his master's home country.

We must believe that we were designed for excellence. World-class Filipino doctors and nurses are healing the sick of America and Europe. Our sailors dominate the seas in every mode of marine transport for commerce and pleasure, providing every imaginable form of service- and often, always, they are the best navigators, the best chefs, the best entertainers. Thriving economies in Asia carry the mark of Filipino managerial expertise in their start-up stage. Filipino CEOs, CFOs, COOs, captains of top multinational corporations carrying on the proud expat tradition of SGV's Washington Sycip, PLDT-SMART's Manny Pagnilinan, P&G's Manny Pacis and many others.

Sadly we are top of the line, crème de la crème, the best of the best elsewhere in the world except in our homeland. While the Jews and the Arabs were busy building abundance out of their desert, we were busy creating a desert out of our abundance.

Let us put a stop to our inanity and hypocrisy. Let us stop cracking jokes about our shame and misery. Instead let us celebrate with our hard work and integrity the return of our honor and pride as a gifted people, blessed by God with this beautiful land. Let us honor every great deed, every sacrifice, and every kindness that we extend to our disadvantaged and needy countrymen.

Let us put an end to our lamentation. We have suffered long enough. For 400 years, we have been gnashing our teeth, blaming one another, stepping on each other and yet, at the end of the day have the temerity to ask God why this is happening as if it was His fault. It is now time to hope, to care, to work together and to rejoice.

Yes, we will rise as a nation if we nurture this emerging beautiful spirit of the Filipino and cultivate an intelligent heart. How? When we show our love for God by being our brother's keeper- giving land to the landless, homes to the homeless and food to the hungry. This is about love and justice in a country where the majority of our people are landless, millions of them living in shanties and slums and 17% of them experiencing hunger in a rich and fertile land. This is not about charity but about authentic Christian stewardship and nation- building.

We will rise as a nation when rich Filipinos will consider the poor as an heir, like our youngest child, equal in worth and dignity with our own children, deserving an equal share in our children's inheritance. A beautiful spirit and an intelligent heart consider the poor as family, see the face of Christ in them, and see the paradise that every slum community can become. That is why every GK home is beautifully painted and the standard of landscaping of every GK village is Ayala Alabang or Ladislawa in the case of Davao.

When we build first-world communities for the poorest Filipino, we give them dignity and first world aspirations that will motivate them to dream bigger and work harder with support and nurturing. A recent study of GK Brookside, Payatas conducted by the UP Diliman College of Economics revealed an amazing result – the confidence and self- respect of the residents, many of them former scavengers, rose from 17% before GK to 99% after GK; 93% consider themselves better off in terms of quality of life and 96% believe that their economic situation will improve in the future. Clearly the spirit of the poor is rising because those with the most share their best with the least.

Friday, 30 March 2007

2006 debt, February liquidity and March inflation forecast

Full Articles at GMANews.TV

Liquidity expands 22.4% in Feb

Domestic liquidity growth continued to be brisk in February, boosted by the sustained increase in remittances from overseas Filipino workers, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said Friday.

In a statement, the BSP said money supply surged 22.4 percent in February, only slightly slower than its 22.8 percent expansion recorded in January.

External debt falls 1.5% to $53.4B at end-06

The Philippines' foreign debt slid 1.5 percent to $53.4 billion at the end of 2006 from $54.2 billion in the previous year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas said on Friday.

The December figure was also 1.3 percent lower from the $54.1-billion debt level recorded at the end of the previous quarter.

March inflation forecast between 2.0-2.6%

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Thursday said it expects annual inflation for March to come in at 2.0-2.6 percent in March due to the continuing strength of the local currency against the US dollar.

Statement of the President Re: Economic Security

FRIDAY, MARCH 30, 2007 | ECONOMY
Original Article at Gov.Ph News
(See Grant Thornton entry below)

The sharp increase of the country’s ranking in Grant Thornton’s International Business Report is a firm indication that growing political and economic security is driving investments up in an unprecedented scale.

We have found our niche in the world through the faith and excellence of Filipinos all over.

Planning, productivity and good governance have combined to place the Philippines among the top ten destinations for booming companies growing at a faster rate than average, measured against turnover and employment.

Business process outsourcing, high tech initiatives and tourism potentials lead the road forward. We are in the right place and time to receive super investments for a supersonic journey to the ranks of the First World by the next generation.

I have no doubt that the Filipino will prevail against all odds and against the politics of tearing down and destruction—building on the foundations of a new economy keyed to needs of the world and to the skills of our people—as we shape a secure democratic future for peace, unity and prosperity.

Lawmakers urge UN to give Philippines Govt chance to disprove biased report

Submitted by Tarique on Thu, 2007-03-29 17:18. International
Original Article at IndianMuslims.Info

Manila, March 29 (NNN-PNA) Lawmakers on Thursday urged the United Nations to give the Philippine government a chance to disprove the report of UN Special Rapporteur Philip Alston, blaming the executive and military solely for the extra-judicial killings.

House Deputy Majority Leader Antonio Cerilles and Lanao del Sur Rep. Benasing Macarambon, vice chair of the House committee on national defense and security, said Alston’s report was a rehash of his biased report on the extra-judicial killings which he made after only 10 days of investigation.

Cerilles said Alston’s report deliberately did not delve into the purgings allegedly done by the Communist Party of the Philippines and the New People’s Army, which came to light with the discovery of mass graves in different parts of the Philippines, including those found in rebel-infested Samar Island and in Leyte, and the statements of families of the victims accusing the CPP-NPA for the mass executions.

“Obviously, Alston’s report had deliberately intended to continue laying the blame on the government for the killings and to unduly embarrass our country. We urge the UN to also get the side of our government to correct Alston’s report which has hurt our country’s image,” said Cerilles.

Macarambon, for his part, said it was time the UN stepped in to give the Arroyo government a chance to negate the claims by foreign probers that the AFP and the executive were responsible for the unexplained killings.

“We urge the UN to be the calming voice amid these unfair allegations against the Philippine government. In fairness to the government, President Arroyo herself said it is not in denial over the killings and will take all appropriate steps to probe and end the slayings. This fact was totally ignored in Alston’s report,” said Macarambon.

Thursday, 29 March 2007

RP wants more spending flexibility in 2009-2010

Original Article at ABS-CBN

MANILA - The government said on Thursday it would no longer aim to post budget surpluses after next year so it would have more spending flexibility.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves told foreign correspondents the government had decided to spend its projected P12 billion to 17 billion ($248 million-$351 million) surpluses in 2009 and 2010 on vital infrastructure.

"What we have agreed is that we will spend the surplus on additional infrastructure," Teves said.

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

The poor Southeast Asian country remains on track to meet its deficit goal of P63 billion in 2007 after the budget shortfall narrowed to P18.6 billion in the first two months of the year, less than half of the year-ago gap.

The government -- battling corruption, tax evasion and weak administration -- aims to balance the budget in 2008 to end nearly a decade of fiscal deficits.

Teves said the government would "aggressively pursue the prosecution and conviction of tax evaders, smugglers and erring revenue officials" as part of efforts to raise more revenue.

The government would also tighten its monitoring of 140,000 business establishments because about half of these had no record of income tax payments and the rest paid minimal taxes.

President Arroyo is determined to increase spending on infrastructure such as bridge and roads, schools and the farm sector after years of restraint.

To boost revenue, Teves said the government hoped to sell shares it holds in the country's largest power distributor, Manila Electric Co. (MERALCO), and in food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. Reuters

More on NAIA 1, 2 and 3

Full Article at the Inquirer
By Tarra Quismundo

Legal issues
While these repairs are being done and the resolution of legal issues surrounding NAIA 3 remain unresolved, Cusi said the two existing terminals would be renovated.

The expansion work will include refurbishing queuing areas at the curbside of Terminal 1's arrival and departure areas for the comfort of waiting passengers.

The Miaa's engineering and operations people are also looking at other sections of the terminal that can be repaired without hampering the airport's daily operations.

"We are studying improvement areas ... the repairs might begin next month," Cusi said.

The Centennial Terminal, or Terminal 2, which handles roughly 2.5 million passengers a month, will also be expanded and reconfigured to improve traffic flow, and its arrival and departure halls renovated to accommodate more passengers.

Repairs at the terminal are planned to be finished by December, a peak month for passenger movement at the airport.

The Miaa has also installed four new X-ray machines at the two terminals.

Scheduled for delivery soon are seven walk-through metal detectors with "high sensitivity equipment with accurate metal locators [that] would speed up search operation," said airport security chief Angel Atutubo.

Cusi said the government was also considering undertaking the repairs at Terminal 3 using a different contractor and shouldering the cost if necessary.

He said the facility's Japanese contractor, Takenaka Corp., had refused its request to carry out remedial work at the terminal.

We the victims
He said that in its reply to the Miaa's March 15 letter, Takenaka refused to accept responsibility for the structural flaws in the building and passed the blame on to the designer and the building's owner.

"But we're still discussing the options. What we're doing is we're finding, trying to find ways to expedite the repairs," said Cusi.

"What we don't want is to be stuck in arguments ... Maybe we can set aside arguments and Miaa can [attend] to the remedies ... because the victim here is us, the people," he said.

Takenaka was contracted by the NAIA 3's builder, the Philippine International Air Terminals Co. (Piatco), to construct the multimillion-dollar facility.

80% of OFW families now middle- and high-income

Original Article at the Inquirer
Last updated 03:30am (Mla time) 03/29/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- Nearly four in five Philippine families that benefit from money remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are now middle- and high-income families, which suggests that more funds may be flowing toward saving and investment than toward consumption, the International Monetary Fund said.

The linkage between OFW remittances and investments in the Philippines remains weak, but that may change in the future, the IMF said in a March 2007 country report.

“In the Philippines, the investment ratio has steadily declined since the Asian crisis, thus it is clear that the increase in remittances has not increased investment thus far,” the report said.

In 1991, it said, nearly 60 percent of families in the Philippines that considered their main income source as coming from abroad came from the bottom two quartiles (referring to four equal groups into which a population can be divided) based on income distribution.

“By 2003, this share had dropped to just under 18 percent, implying that the share of families in the top two brackets counting income abroad as their main source of income rose from 40 percent to 82 percent,” it said.

“The most likely interpretation of this fact is that the skill set of remitters has shifted exogenously and there are both ‘pull’ and ‘push’ factors taking higher-skilled workers abroad,” the IMF said.

According to the Family Incomes and Expenditures Surveys (FIES) by the National Statistics Office, the bottom two quartiles or brackets are defined as those having incomes under P50,000 and P100,000, respectively. The third quartile has income between P100,000 and P250,000, and the top bracket has income over P250,000.

“Given that some 80 percent of families that receive income from abroad as their main source are now middle- and high-income families, it is much more likely now than in 1991 that the uses for this income go beyond consumption and subsistence, and are put toward saving and investment,” the IMF said.

“This suggests that the lack of a relationship between investment and remittances could indeed be transitory, and that going forward, one may see a pickup in investment in physical capital,” it said.

Citing earlier international studies, the IMF said countries where economic returns to investment were low, or the private appropriability of those returns may be poor (due to high taxes or corruption, for example) may tend to see a rise in remittances go toward increased consumption, housing, and/or capital flight.

On the other hand, those studies also indicated that countries where the primary problem was due to poor financial intermediation, causing access to capital to be limited (even though there may be plenty of productive uses for it), and the cost of finance to be prohibitive, were likely to see increased investment from a rise in external inflows. Doris C. Dumlao, with INQUIRER.net

Wednesday, 28 March 2007

Grant Thornton Surveys

10 January 2007: Global Confidence Survey
Balance of Optimism over pessimism in next twelve months
1 India (97)
2 Philippines (88)
3 Mainland China (85)

08 March 2007: Women in Senior Management

Businesses with women in senior management
1 Philippines (97)
2 Mainland China (91)
3 Malaysia (85)
13 US (69)

Percentage of women in senior management roles
1 Philippines (50)
2 Brazil (42)
3 Thailand (39)
13 US (23)

28 March 2007: International Super Growth Index
Countries with the highest proportion of “super growth” companies
1 US (44%)
8 Philippines (21%)
9 Singapore (21%)
11 Hong Kong (18%)

WHAT IT IS
The Index measures the country with the highest proportion of "super growth" companies. A 'super growth' company is one which has grown considerably more than the average measured against key indicators including turnover and employment.

SAMPLE SIZE
The Super Growth Index 2007, now in its fourth year, is a unique research project which forms part of the Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR). The report covers the opinions of 7,200 privately held businesses in 32 countries and represents 81% of global GDP.

COMMENTS ON FIGURES
This year Armenia (38%) has replaced India in second position. Indian companies suffered a dramatic drop to 14th in the table as the country's proportion of super growth companies halved from 34% to 15%. Ireland has maintained a top five ranking (29%; No.3) and is joined by the UK (26%/No.4) and South Africa (25%; No.5), up from tenth position last year.

Other significant climbers in the Super Growth Index include Russia which has moved from 29th to 18th in the rankings; the Philippines from 23rd to 8th; Argentina from 27th to 15th; Italy from 30th to 21st.

Hong Kong - the other strong performer in 2006 at third place, has fallen out of the top ten this year - coming in at number 11. Other fallers in the chart include Malaysia from 8th to 26th and New Zealand from 15th to 28th - its worst performance in four years.

Commission on Human Rights asked to allow troops in villages

BARANGAY HEADS: WE FEEL MORE SECURED WITH SOLDIERS IN OUR COMMUNITIES
By Fernan Marasigan
Reporter
Full Article in the Business Mirror

IN an apparent effort to dispute the claims of leftist groups about the alleged militarization in the slum villages of Metro Manila, 19 barangay leaders in four cities asked the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) to allow the soldiers to remain in their communities, claiming that their presence has helped a lot in the maintenance of peace and order in their areas.

In a letter to CHR Chairman Purificacion Quisumbing, the barangay leaders from Manila, and Taguig, Caloocan, and Quezon cities, belied the claims of some left-leaning organizations and human-rights groups about the so-called “militarization” that the activists claimed is causing apprehension in their communities of possible human-rights abuses by the soldiers.

“Kami po ang nag-anyaya sa mga sundalo na maglagi sa aming mga lugar. Ang kanilang pagpapatrolya, kasama ang mga pulis at aming mga barangay tanod, ay dulot ng aming kahilingan sa kanila [We are the ones who invited the soldiers to stay in our respective areas. We requested them to conduct patrols together with the police and the barangay watchers],” the barangay officials told Quisumbing.

“Ang kanilang pamamalagi sa aming mga lugar ay nagdulot ng katahimikan sa aming lugar at ang aming mga ka-barangay ay nakakatulog ng mahimbing sa gabi dahil alam naming na may mga taong nagbabantay sa aming kapaligiran [Their presence in our areas have contributed to the peace and order in these areas and the members of our barangay have been able to sleep well at night knowing there are people watching over us],” they added.

Philippines ranked eighth on 2007 Super Growth Index

Original Article at Playfuls.com

The Philippines and Singapore have emerged as the highest-ranked Asian economies on an index of countries with the most "super growth" companies, a Grant Thornton survey said Wednesday.

The Philippines ranked eighth on the 2007 Super Growth index, a marked jump from 23rd in 2006.

Singapore was ninth, up from 17th in 2006.

The results were published in The Business Times.

A super-growth company is defined for the index as one that has grown considerably more than the average measured against key indicators including turnover and employment.

Twenty-one per cent of Singapore and Philippine companies achieved "super growth" status, Grant Thornton found.

The United States topped the index for the third straight year, with 44 per cent of US companies hitting super-growth ranks.

The percentage of Hong Kong companies in the super-growth category fell from 34 per cent to 18 per cent, while those in India slid from 34 per cent to 15 per cent.

"We should not necessarily consider that a drop in the number of super-growth companies is a bad thing for an individual economy," the newspaper quoted Kon Yin Thon, a Grant Thornton managing partner, as saying. "Growth in employee numbers and turnover can only realistically be expected to grow rapidly for a limited time."

"What we might be seeing now is a consolidating in Hong Kong and India, with those super-growth businesses of the last few years perhaps concentrating on profitability rather than simply on high levels of growth," he said.

© 2007 DPA

Philippines to sell oil firm; Malampaya oil delayed

Full Story at ABS-CBN News

The Philippines plans to sell up to 60 percent of PNOC-Exploration Corp. this year, but first oil from the Malampaya field will be further delayed in the absence of a drilling partner, the company said on Wednesday.

Currently the government owns over 99 percent of the oil and gas exploration company, through the Philippine National Oil Co.

Del Pilar said proceeds from the sale offering will be used for the company's oil exploration projects and the development of the Malampaya field in southwest Philippines.

"So far our studies show, we can do this in 20 weeks," company president Rafael del Pilar told reporters on the sidelines of an oil exploration industry briefing by the local stock exchange.

Del Pilar said the government hopes to get a partner next month to help it drill oil in gas-rich Malampaya field.

The government decided to open the development of the oil rim to new potential partners after it voided a previous deal last year allowing Malaysia's Mitra Energy Ltd. to hold talks with PNOC Exploration about drilling Malampaya together.

Asked if Mitra can still bid, Del Pilar said: "Yes Mitra can participate, but they have to abide by the terms."

Del Pilar said the Malampaya oil project would require capital and operating costs of $750-$880 million, with a potential of between 25 million to 40 million barrels of oil that can be extracted.

"We hope to commence the development of Malampaya oil leg starting 2008," Del Pilar said.

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: ADB

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007 | ECONOMY
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

We appreciate the ADB for projecting a positive growth track for the Philippines despite the political noise.

Our projections are higher than the bank but this is beside the point because what is important is that we share a common confidence in the Philippines' ability to grow on the back of a strong and steady economic reform agenda.

We take note of the ADB observation on the specter of unemployment and underemployment; and we are putting our 8 by 08 social payback drive to pull in more investments and create well-paying, stable jobs.

The world continues to be upbeat on the Philippines and we will not let the pace down in growing the economy, sustaining democratic political stability and increasing the social dividends of growth.

Clean and peaceful elections will boost confidence to new heights and we are confident that growth will follow the trend.

PGMA welcomes Coca-Cola company's decision to stay in RP

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 28, 2007 | BUSINESS
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hailed today the decision of US soft drink giant Coca-Cola Company to stay and expand its operations in the Philippines after it gained full ownership of Coca-Cola Bottlers Philippines Inc.

Coca-Cola Company has bought from San Miguel Corporation (SMC) its 65 percent stake in the local bottlers for $590 million. In February 2001, SMC, the country's largest food and beverage company, repurchased from Australia's Coca-Cola Amatil its 65 percent stake in the company, while 35 percent remained with Coca-Cola Company.

Neville Isdell, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of the Atlanta-based soft drink firm, informed the President of his company's "desire to stay in the Philippines" during a courtesy call in Malacañang this morning.

"He (Isdell) made a formal commitment (to the President) regarding their desire to stay here. They will continue to expand (their operations in the Philippines)," Senior Adviser on International Competitiveness and former Foreign Affairs Secretary Roberto Romulo said.

Romulo said the first thing the soft drink company would do is to invest in 50,000 units of refrigeration equipment for the company's cold chain management involving hundreds of thousands of outlets nationwide.

According to Romulo, more new jobs would be created for the Filipinos with the company's planned expansion.

"He (Isdell) pointed out that there is a multiplier of 10… for every person they hire, 10 people become economically benefited from their operations…so it is a very meaningful investment," Romulo said.

Romulo also said that since the company is celebrating its 80 years in the Philippines, its Little Red Schoolhouse project would be expanded to 80 three-classroom schoolhouses from the existing 61 schoolhouses.

"It's an old project that they would like to continue and expand, especially in the remote areas. It is the company's commitment to the country," Romulo said.

"Mr. Isdell is now committed more than ever," he added.

A problem that won’t go away

Editorial of the Business Mirror

THE recent letter of concern sent by the association of petroleum players in the Philippines, asking Palace and energy officials for assurance for their foreign partners that the sanctity of contracts will in fact continue to be respected in this country, is yet another telling indication of how seriously we’re being set back by policy ruptures such as that represented in Executive Order 556.

According to the industry group, many of the foreign petroleum players—big multinationals that have invested billions in state-of-the-art equipment for exploring and developing oil sites—are worried by the implications in at least two provisions of the executive order, issued in the third quarter last year, just as the Philippine National Oil Co.-Exploration Corp. (PNOC-EC) completed negotiations with a Malaysian-based company to develop a portion of the Camago-Malampaya Oil Leg (CMOL), in order to harvest oil from the natural gas concession area of oil giants Shell and Chevron.

The two oil giants were not interested in harvesting the oil, so PNOC-EC forged a farm-in agreement with Mitra Energy to do the work.

Then came EO 556, which explicitly barred all farm-in and farm-out agreements, scuttling even those already forged by the PNOC, thus forcing the state’s exploration arm to go back to square one.

It was to be a costly setback, delaying the time-bound, technically difficult work of oil extraction by more than half a year, thus delaying as well the country’s ability to draw indigenous supply and thus save on oil imports.

But PNOC lived with that decision, and like a good soldier, the head of PNOC-EC complied. He later resigned, thus giving the foreign companies that had been angling to hire him the advantage of having another man experienced in the intricate work of international oil exploration and development.

One would have hoped that setback would be the end of it; until the industry association wrote the Energy secretary last week, saying many of the foreign investors in the petroleum industry were wary about putting in a stake here, because two of the key provisions of EO 556 were giving them the jitters.

A very understandable fear, indeed: what company would care to invest billions of dollars in a project where he’s not even sure the other party would respect his contract?

And so we come back to that other major bane of Philippine business: the rupture in policymaking, which even the Neda chief recently pointed out as a disincentive to investors, nearly in the same degree as graft and corruption.

No, the administration cannot keep invoking “black propaganda” by critics for the still tepid response of investors to Philippines Inc. The problem lies as much in the terribly confusing signals sent by an administration that says one thing and then does another—especially when certain cronies step into the picture.

We hope those concerned, especially the Energy chief, would straighten out this mess once and for all. To ignore the industry players’ letter is to court bigger trouble for another day: this one just won’t go away, because the issues are far too big and the stakes far too valuable.

Tuesday, 27 March 2007

RP to buck regional slowdown

ADB outlook expects repeat of 2006’s 5.4% economic growth
B. T. Natividad
Original Article at BusinessWorld Online

Fiscal gains notwithstanding, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) expects the Philippines to grow at the same pace as last year but at the same time buck a regional slowdown.

The country, the bank said in its Asian Development Outlook 2007, is expected to repeat its 2006 gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 5.4% this year, with the rate rising to 5.7% in 2008.

Southeast Asian growth, meanwhile, is expected to hit 5.6% this year and 5.9% in 2008, from 6% in 2006.

Despite the Philippines’ sound macroeconomic management and fiscal success in 2006, the ADB said the economy will be affected by an expected global economic slowdown.

With exports close to 50% of GDP in 2006 and the country dependent on foreign investments, it said the Philippines is "closely tied" to the global economy and international financial market sentiments.

"Against this backdrop, GDP is projected to grow 5.4% this year before picking up to 5.7% in 2008 on the expectation of a more favorable external environment," it said.

Unresolved problems of unemployment and underemployment will pressure the economy, ADB Philippines country director Thomas Crouch said.

"While the general growth trend is upward, it is nowhere near sufficient to absorb the unemployment and underemployment in the country," he said.

The Philippines, Mr. Crouch said, has to move out of the 5-6% growth pattern and create more and higher-quality jobs to accommodate the increasing number of unemployed, underemployed and new entrants to the labor force.

As of January, unemployment was at 7.8% while underemployment - involving people wanting more work - was at 21.5%.

Mr. Crouch said the immediate challenge for the Philippines is to maintain the momentum of fiscal consolidation, improve the investment climate, and both "deepen and widen" reforms.

The latter, he said, include procurement reforms and reducing debt exposure for better fiscal consolidation. Others include improving the investment climate, infrastructure, and the agriculture sector.

The ADB said the services sector will still be the main growth driver, growing by 6.3%, similar to its 2006 growth rate.

Agriculture is poised for positive growth, due mainly to the signing of the Biofuels Act in January which is seen to increase local cultivation of sugarcane and cassava for ethanol production.

On the Philippine media’s treatment of economic discourse

FIRST PERSON
By ALEX MAGNO
Original Article at ABS-CBN Interactive

It is sad commentary on the Philippine media’s treatment of economic discourse that the Palace had to take out a whole spread advertisement last Sunday simply to put the facts in perspective.

Modern journalism is all about putting things in perspective. In a multimedia world whose curse is information overload, media’s value-added lies in analytical editorial work.

The task of the journalist is not simply to report what happened or what someone said. Real-time communication channels can do that with no editorial intervention. The greater challenge is to put events in context and facts in perspective.

Most of my journalist-friends agree that the weakest part of Philippine media lies in process journalism. This involves explaining to the reader how things come about, how the world works and how a situation has progressed (or regressed) over time. This is work that requires painstaking research, the compilation of masses of information and a certain competence in analyzing the impact of policies on the social terrain over a period of time.

The easiest thing for a journalist to do is to simply echo what personalities say. But it can only produce he-said, she-said journalism that might be entertaining although it certainly does not empower the audience to understand the times they live in.

He-said, she-said journalism is particularly perilous in a political culture such as we have where so much is said exclusively for political effect.

For instance, spokesmen for the opposition have gone to town railing about how poor our people have become under the present administration. Their basis for this claim is that SWS poll on self-rated poverty. But if they bothered to look back on the historical data of the same poll, self-rated poverty has actually dramatically declined from nearly two-thirds to about half over the past few years.

Putting the latest survey in historical perspective will, of course, diminish the dramatic impact of an isolated piece of information. The news will become less hysterical. Instead of being unfavorable to the present administration, the facts put in context will exult the leadership.

That is certainly unappetizing for those whose idea of independent journalism is to constantly take a stance of condemnation and confrontation. It is certainly unattractive for those sections of our media that thinks that bad news sells — and the more bad news is sensationalized, the more it will sell.

But conveying information out of context is also unfair to the audience. It unnecessarily distresses them. By denying them the ability to understand where things are going, it also prevents their empowerment.

As a social scientist, my training has been to "extract truth from the facts." It involves the discipline of trying to uncover processes underlying events, establishing trends from comparative information gathered over time or across similar communities. Over the three decades that I have written opinion columns for the popular media, I sense that this discipline often clashes with the local journalistic culture.

A few weeks ago, the SWS released self-reported incidence of hunger figures that shows an uptrend. Again those figures were reported in isolation even as it was a fairly simple exercise to check malnutrition figures or compare that survey outcome with the general trend in per capita caloric intake of our population. That was not done. The separate set of facts would have shown malnutrition going down and caloric intake going up.

Consequently, the bureaucrats instead of the journalists had to do the research to explain why the survey results were such. One plausible theory about the uptrend was that the surveys were taken after a series of super typhoons hit the country, causing much destruction in our agriculture and inducing a momentary spike in food prices.

The long-term policy solution to the incidence of hunger is to bring down the food price regime through agricultural trade liberalization. But, under pressure from the hunger report, the administration did the most politically tempting thing: release P1 billion for feeding the poor.

In last Sunday’s ad, the Palace found it necessary to remind all of us that we have had an unprecedented 24 consecutive quarters — six years — of economic growth. That suggests that, at the very least, we have lengthened our chronic boom-and-bust. At the very best, we might have finally solved what caused those boom-and-bust cycles that lowered our average growth rate in the past and caused us to fall behind our neighbors in the region.

The figures on the average GDP growth rate in last Sunday’s ad is pretty revealing. Comparing the past presidencies, the figures show an average growth rate of 3.86% for the Marcos years, 3.83% for the Aquino years, 3.76% for the Ramos years (the crash of 1997 negating the robust growth of the preceding years), only 2.93% for the mercifully shortened Estrada period and 4.37% for the last six years with Gloria Macapagal Arroyo as president.

I heard the opposition spokesmen say that the poor can’t eat the GDP figures. That is a terribly unenlightened statement made entirely for deceptive political effect. All growth trickles down, in varying degrees of course. The rising tide raises all ships.

Again, the ad balances that claim with the employment figure: 9 out of 10 Filipinos of working age are employed. Wages might leave much to be desired. Opportunities might still be limited. But the picture is improving rather than worsening.

It is about time our political discourse shifts from appealing to those who fail to appealing to those who dare succeed.

PGMA cites importance of media as link between people and government

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2007 | MASS MEDIA
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo cited the "central role" of media in bridging the gap between people and government during her keynote speech formally opening the "Publish Asia 2007" conference at the Manila Hotel this morning.

An annual convention that brings together major names in the publishing and newspaper industries, Publish Asia 2007 aims to review changes in the publishing industry, discuss their implications and explore how publishers are positioning their businesses to profit from new opportunities. It is considered as the biggest publishing event in the Asia-Pacific region.

The President noted that aside from presiding over the opening ceremonies of the conference, which is themed "Reinventing for Today’s Business, Creating for Tomorrow’s Challenges," she would also be meeting them again during the group’s "Welcome Dinner" tonight.

"I am very happy to have the chance to open this conference and welcome you to the Philippines. Your conference is so important that we will meet twice today: here at the welcome ceremonies and also at dinner tonight," the President said.

"This is our way of saying that we thank you for your role in broadening our regional frontiers in trade, security and political consolidation," she added.

"It is our message, our way of saying that we Filipinos believe in the freedom of the press. We embrace the central role of media in a free society and we believe that responsible media bridges the gap between the public and the government," the President stressed.

The President also took time to impart on the participants the Philippine government’s move to push the national agenda of "creating good paying jobs, stable prices and bringing the benefits of a strong economy to every Filipino" to its fruition.

She mentioned that the implementation of "tough but necessary decisions to strengthen our economy," such as the Expanded Value Added Tax (E-VAT) Law and the National Attrition Law, is finally paying off.

"We now have the money to invest in job creation, new roads, bridges and ports and more for education and healthcare," the President said.

"For the first time in a long time, the government is doing what average households do: working to balance the budget and not keep going into debt," she added.

She stressed that her administration is concerned with "the real and everyday challenges that confront the people: alleviating hunger, creating jobs, and checking prices of essential items."

The President also said that just like the Publish Asia 2007 conference which makes use of vast international and regional alliances with its partners, her government’s partnerships with its own network of strong international and regional alliances have helped in attracting more investments and strengthened security alliances in bringing peace in Mindanao.

"Through strong international alliances, we have forged new partnerships that have led to billions of investments that help create five million new jobs. And we have strengthened our military and security alliances in the region and the world," the President said.

"This has led to major gains for peace in Mindanao: the isolation and tracking down of known terrorists and a reduction in violent crimes," she added.

In the same speech, the President reiterated her condemnation of extrajudicial killings of journalists and members of militant organizations, saying she and her government are aiming "to break this cycle of violence once and for all."

"Let me take this opportunity to once again deplore extrajudicial killings; whether they be from (the) left or right, especially against journalists," the President said.

"We have a sordid history in our nation of political violence. We aim to break this cycle of violence once and for all," she added.

The President stressed she is prepared to work with legitimate institutions and well-meaning allies in the international community who had earlier expressed their intent to assist the country in investigating the issue of extrajudicial killings.

"We welcome the fielding of a team from the European Union (EU) to help our law enforcers get to the roots of these crimes," the President said, adding, "We welcome the United States government to help the Philippines in the fight versus wrong and the quest for impartial justice."

The President minced no words in calling for members of the communist party and their armed insurgents "to put down their arms and cease their mindless murders."

"The Philippines is the most democratic country in the region. I have no tolerance for human rights violations but let me make several points very clear: I have personally advanced the process of peace in Mindanao to a new level of engagement focused on interfaith dialogue, economic development and mutual security," the President said.

"We have done so with the largest possible international involvement. Peace is very much an issue of human rights just as alleviating poverty is – which is our number one agenda," she added.

The President called on those attending the conference and the rest of the media practitioners around the world to join her "toward a more modern, just and prosperous nation."

"You come from different countries in Asia with different kinds of political systems, different levels of development, different social organizations, (and) different histories. But in all the countries in which you do your business, the press has the power to change the nation through information and persuasion," the President said.

"A free, dynamic and responsible press can set the people moving towards the right direction of national renewal and reform," she noted.

"And even as we dish out the raw and hard truth in different degrees in different countries, depending on the norms of a particular country, all of us, all of you would serve your country well by having good news that unite and inspire," the President said.

Palace welcomes Rosales view, EU assessors on killings

TUESDAY, MARCH 27, 2007 | HUMAN RIGHTS
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye welcomed today the pronouncement of Manila Archbishop Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and the inclusion of investigators from the European Union (EU) to assess the cases of extrajudicial killings in the country.

"We believe that a more balanced view of the Philippine human rights situation is crystallizing and we acknowledge the fair statement of Cardinal Rosales as we welcome the fielding of a team from the European Union (EU) to help our law enforcers get to the root of these crimes," Bunye said.

Yesterday, Cardinal Rosales said the government should not be solely held responsible, as he called on both the government and the insurgents to stop the killings and instead cultivate a culture of peace.

"It’s not one-sided, it’s both sides," Rosales stressed, as he appealed to all, whether government, insurgents, or those belonging to other faith or conviction, that killing was wrong "whether extrajudicial or not."

Even as the administration has long been espousing interfaith dialogues to promote a culture of peace, Bunye said, the government is doing everything and willing to work with everyone to provide justice to the victims of the so-called political killings.

"We are prepared to work with legitimate institutions and well-meaning allies in the international community on this issue as we welcome the participation of the UN Commission on Human Rights as well as the US Government to help the Philippines in the fight versus wrong and the quest for impartial justice," Bunye said.

"We are a full-fledged democracy adhering to constitutional governance, the rule of law, and political transparency," he added.

Dutch ambassador describes PPT as a kangaroo tribunal

By Cynthia Balana, Michael Lim Ubac
Full Report in the Inquirer
Last updated 02:53am (Mla time) 03/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Dutch ambassador to the Philippines Monday said the Permanent People’s Tribunal (PPT) that found the Arroyo administration responsible for political killings in the Philippines was not much more than a kangaroo court -- a view shared by Malacañang officials and their allies in Congress.

“We should not pretend that any other verdict on this government would have been possible. From that respect perhaps, we should think of it more as a kangaroo tribunal than anything else,” Netherlands Ambassador Robert Vornis said.

A kangaroo court is defined by Webster dictionary as a self-appointed tribunal that disregards or parodies principles of law or human rights and is “so controlled as to render a fair trial impossible.”

Why did DFA junk passport project that wouldn't cost gov’t?

Letter sent in by ADERITO YUHUICO, chair, BCA International
Original Article at the Inquirer
Last updated 01:33am (Mla time) 03/27/2007

This refers to the story on the temporary restraining order issued by the Supreme Court in relation to the Machine Readable Passport/Visa (MRP/V) Project. (Inquirer, 3/16/07)

In the interest of truth and justice, allow us to present the facts and issues involved.

First, why does the Department of Foreign Affairs insist on spending P2 billion of public money for the ePassport Project when private funding is available through the MRP/V-BOT?

On May 10, 2005, the DFA MRP/V Advisory Board, in a memorandum submitted to Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, recommended (1) the approval of the Central Site Facility and (2) the use of the 2D BarCode.

“On the basis of the inspection and evaluation report of the PMT and Questronics that the site satisfies the minimum requirements of the project, the Advisory Board, in its meeting held on 05 May 2005 decided to recommend to the Secretary the approval of the Star Mall Annex as the Central Facility Site of the MRP/V Project,” the memorandum stated.

On the MRP with 2D Barcode, it said: “In view of the recent findings from countries that the use of the electronic chips necessitates further study, the Advisory Board opined that the Department should maintain the use of the 2D Bar Code Biometric storage medium and seek the upgrade to ePassport within 3 years’ time from the implementation of the project in accordance with the original terms of the Amended BOT Contract.”

The memo emphasized, “The Advisory Board believes that should the Secretary gives his approval to the foregoing recommendation before 25 May 2005, there is a possibility that the first machine readable passports will be issued before the year’s end. Likewise the positive action of the Secretary will enable the proponent to proceed with the project.”

The DFA sat on this set of recommendations despite the glaring fact that the MRP/V Project would have been in operation by the end of 2005 at no cost to the government and the Filipino taxpayers.

We believe that certain personalities in the DFA prevented Secretary Romulo from making the right decision. The task at hand is to ferret out these people and to file graft charges against them.

In closing, there is no need to undertake the ePassport Project, much less spend P2 billion of taxpayer money just to enrich a few suppliers and corrupt DFA officials.

Foreign firm hits DoTC in $240-M project

By Daxim Lucas
Full Article at the Inquirer
Last updated 02:47am (Mla time) 03/27/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- A foreign firm that has offered to build a national broadband network (NBN) for the government is questioning the Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) on a project that a Chinese company has also offered to do but at a higher cost.

At stake is a contract to build an integrated landline, cellular and Internet network for the government worth $240 million or $262 million, depending on which proposal will be chosen.

In a letter to Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza last week, Amsterdam Holdings Inc. said its NBN proposal should be given due evaluation first instead of going ahead with that of Chinese company ZTE, which it said came later.

In December 2006, Amsterdam Holdings filed an unsolicited proposal with the government through the DoTC to build a national broadband network under a Build-Own-Operate (BOO) scheme. The Amsterdam Holdings proposal has a project cost of $240 million to be financed privately.

Under the Amsterdam Holdings proposal, all of the government’s agencies can use half of their proposed network’s capacity while the private sector component will use the other half to subsidize the cost of the government’s telecommunications costs.

On the other hand, Chinese telecommunications supplier ZTE filed another unsolicited proposal with the DoTC last month to build a national broadband network under a $262-million government-to-government loan agreement.

Under the Chinese proposal, ZTE will build the network and transfer it to the DoTC for it to operate.

Amsterdam Holdings said the Philippine government would have to take out a loan from the Chinese government to finance a ZTE-proposed project and issue a Philippine sovereign guarantee.

Japanese IT firms shun Philippines--'Bad perception' soils outsourcing lure

BY REAGAN D. TAN, Reporter
Full Article at BusinessWorld Online

Cautious due to "bad perception" of the Philippines, small- and medium-scale Japanese IT firms — though in need of manpower — have not outsourced to the country, even though the Japan External Trade Organization [JETRO] has high regard for Filipino IT engineers.

Impressions by these firms cited by ranking JETRO executives range from "safety and political issues" to poor infrastructure and high electricity prices.

Finally, good news: P251M for science scholars

By Dennis D. Estopace
Reporter
Original Article at the Business Mirror

PLAYING catch-up with the rest of the world, the Department of Science and Technology said it will spend more than P250,000 this year for each of 400 Filipino scientists the country aims to have by 2009.

Science Secretary Estrella Alabastro said they already have the P100 million that President Arroyo released from her presidential funds for the human resource development program of the department. The department has a P3.3-billion budget this year.

Called the Science and Technology Human Resource Development (S&T HRD) Program, the total fund would hit P251 million with the Commission on Higher Education’s P100-million donation and the University of the Philippines College of Engineering’s P51 million.

An eligible scholar could expect to have funding of P627,500 ($12,806) toward a doctoral degree. This is still just a third of the Harvard School of Engineering and Applied Science tuition for school year 2006-2007 of $32,882 (P1.611 million at $1=P49). Where the scholars will study—here or abroad—was not clear.

The importance of graduating more Filipino scientists was emphasized as a national security issue by Ester B. Ogena, director of the department’s Science Education Institute. “The program has economic and educational implications; it is a matter of national survival.”

The DOST scholarships would focus on these fields of study—biotechnology, microelectronics, science, mathematics, education, and earth and space science.

Ogena said the country has a huge gap in relation to the global standard for the number of research and development personnel or scientists for every million people.

Citing data from the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (Unesco), Ogena said the Philippines only had 164 R&D personnel in 2003 against 380 scientists or engineers for every million people recommended by Unesco.

That number was a slight increase from the 157 R&D personnel the country had by 1997, when Indonesia’s scientists and engineers were already at 182 and Japan at 4,909 for every million of their population.

The DOST aims to have 250 R&D personnel for every million people by 2010. Even outside the government, Ogena said, the country’s numbers are appalling.

Those with PhD units working in the private sector composed half a percent of the total employees. College graduates still form the majority of those working in private industries at 56.4 percent; those with master’s degree formed 1.4 percent.

Terminals 1, 2 to be expanded

By Recto Mercene
Reporter
Original Article at the Business Mirror

HERE’S another sign of postponement, perhaps this time indefinitely, of the oft-announced soft opening of the controversial Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (Naia 3) supposedly now in June. On Monday, the Manila International Airport Authority announced its intention to expand Terminals 1 and 2 either by setting up additional wings or enclosing the sidewalks and other open areas and having them airconditioned.

“Since there are unfinished legal aspects of Naia 3, the authority has decided to expand the two terminals and the project would be finished by December this year,” said general manager Alfonso Cusi.

He said the plan for Terminal 1 includes conveniences. “Departing passengers would be able to leave their cars and immediately enter the building even in bad weather.”

On the other hand, Terminal 2, or the Centennial Airport, would be reconfigured by removing some partitions to increase the passenger area and at the same time constructing an additional wing at the north side of the building.

Both Terminals 1 and 2 have a combined capacity of 8.5 million passengers a year and the current figure shows they are processing about 7.5 million passengers a year—Terminal 1, 2.5 million and Terminal 2, 5 million.

He said they are forced to enlarge the areas now, owing to the expansion programs of Philippine Airlines and Cebu Pacific, which bought new airplanes to meet increased demand. “The expansion of the two terminals has become inevitable.”

Naia 3 has a projected capacity of 15 million passengers a year for the next 20 years, but it is embroiled in a long legal battle with the government, making it useless in the near term, according to Cusi.

Cusi said the decision to upgrade Terminals 1 and 2 was also arrived at after the Japanese construction firm Takenaka refused to admit liability on future structural defects that would be uncovered by the two firms commissioned to look into the defects of the mothballed Naia 3.

Ove Arup HK Ltd. and TCGI Engineering have suggested to the Miaa to postpone opening Naia 3 because of life-threatening conditions in its construction, warning that structural infirmities could collapse the structure in an earthquake.

Cusi said that it was only now that more defects are being found by the two structural engineering firms because it was only after the government had taken possession of the building that further examinations could be done.

“We didn’t have the legal rights to inspect Naia 3 before, but since we have paid the P3-billion initial down payment as required by law, the government is now in a position to exercise its rights to expropriate the building and have it subjected to a fine tooth comb,” said Cusi.

Monday, 26 March 2007

19 gov't execs face raps for “overpriced” Asean Summit lamps

By Ed Barita
Full Article at PNA

CEBU CITY, March 24 (PNA) – Anti-graft investigators filed criminal and administrative complaints against 19 government officials, including two city mayors in Metro Cebu, who were allegedly responsible for the “overpriced” lamp posts and streetlights amounting to P365.8 million bought for the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit.

Gov't to invest millions of pesos to boost human resource in super industries

Full Article at PNA

MANILA, March 26 (PNA) -- The government will invest on a multi-million peso scholarship program to bridge the gap between human resource supply and the demands of the industry.

Travel agencies appeal to PGMA to declare ‘open skies’ policy for Clark

By Fred M. Roxas
Full Article at PNA

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga, March 25 (PNA) -- Travel agencies have renewed their appeal to President Arroyo to sustain the momentum of growth in this former US military facility by allowing easier entry of airlines, specially low cost carriers, at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here.

PGMA creates Anti-Hunger Task Force headed by DOH

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has created an Anti-Hunger Task Force headed by Department of Health Secretary Francisco Duque III to speed up the implementation of the government’s hunger mitigation program (HMP).

In a National Nutrition Council (NNC) Board Meeting held last Friday in Malacañang, the President said she wants the HMP to be accelerated and turned into a six-month program with Duque overseeing its implementation.

Among the tasks Duque has to fast-track and improve on are the existing components of the HMP, including the food-for-school program (FSP), the food-for-work program and various feeding programs of the non-government and religious organizations.

Under the FSP, rice and other foodstuffs like noodles and vegetable packs are given to school children as an incentive for attending school. The food-for-work program, on the other hand, involves the hiring of poor and unemployed individuals to render community services like street sweeping in exchange for a stipend with which they can use to purchase foodstuffs.

Secretary Duque will coordinate with other agencies constituting the NNC to monitor the agencies’ individual anti-hunger programs such as the Department of Agriculture’s Gulayan ng Masa and Barangay Food Terminal projects.

During the NNC meeting, the Chief Executive expressed her determination to address the problem of hunger and poverty in the country more aggressively and immediately.

In line with this, Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said the President issued a number of policy statements and instructions, among which are the following:

* For the Department of Education (DepEd), in coordination with the other FSP implementing agencies such as the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), to maintain the FSP target beneficiaries of grade school pupils.

* NNC to revise its estimate of the FSP fund requirement for Calendar Year 2007 to only cover the cost of rice distribution.

* The report on increasing food production, a component of the Hunger Mitigation Program Framework, should include major food items such as livestock, rice (e.g., specifically the volume of rice produced and delivered to Metro Manila) and marine regeneration (e.g., mangroves and coastal fishery development).

The President stressed that the national government should not wait for the support of the local government units (LGUs) before it pursues the Gulayan ng Masa Program. It should push through with the efforts even without LGU assistance since hunger is a national problem that has to be immediately addressed.

She directed the DA to roll out the "hito" production for urban areas program, a component of the marine regeneration productivity program.

The President also reiterated her instruction to DA to determine per province the total target land area to be irrigated, the percentage of irrigated lands and the actions being undertaken to irrigate the remaining target areas.

Stressing the importance of DA meeting the Barangay Food Terminal’s (BFT) target of reaching 200,000 families by April 2007, the President instructed the agency to set up a Barangay Food Terminal in the Smokey Mountain, specifically in the area allotted for the Serbisyo Muna Action Center (SMAC) of the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR).

Secretary Saludo said the NNC would provide the President with a list of non-governmental organization (NGOs) that are assisting the government in the feeding program and the areas they are servicing.

The list will be used for the efficient appropriation of government resources. Through the list, the government will be able to re-channel resources and manpower from areas covered by the NGOs to areas that do not have NGO-assistance.

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: Anti-Hunger Program

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007 | COMMENTARY
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

It is unfortunate that the President's efforts to feed the hungry are being criticized and her intentions are being questioned.

The President's task ahead is clear: she will pursue this program and make sure that all the systems are in place to efficiently bring down the cost of food in strategic areas.

Growing the economy, improving incomes and making sure that no Filipino will go hungry is a very complex task. There is no one solution to this problem.

Instead of politicizing this anti-hunger program, let us work together. We call on leaders of civil society, the church and NGOs to help us deliver this service to where it is needed.

And for those who are still very hungry to take over the government, please spare this program from your brickbats and let the President care for our citizens.

PGMA answer to poverty, hunger: P27.5 B for irrigation projects

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007 | PROGRAMS/PROJECTS
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

In line with government efforts to address the hunger and poverty problem, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has allocated P27.5 billion worth of priority irrigation projects nationwide to enhance farm production and increase market goods supply.

Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director General Cerge M. Remonde announced in a briefing this morning that the President has targeted four major irrigation projects costing P21.49 billion and several small irrigation projects worth P6 billion to spur the country’s agricultural productivity, increase food production and allow the export of goods such as vegetables and other high value crops.

Remonde said President Arroyo has also directed the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to release P500 million per month for small irrigation projects of which P200 million is for the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ), another P200 million for the Mindanao Super region, and P100 million for the rest of the country.

In his statement, Remonde pointed out that irrigation projects are necessary and important as these contribute towards maximizing the potentials of the super regions in agribusiness.

"Irrigation will allow more intensive farming and multi-cropping resulting in reduced seasonal harvesting, increased income of farmers, jobs and ultimately help improve the living standards especially of poor agricultural communities," he explained.

As part of the Arroyo administration’s massive infrastructure program, Remonde said four major irrigation projects costing P21.49 billion will be constructed by the NIA to benefit some 92,464 farm families and increase palay production by 552,478 metric tons (MT) per year or 359,111 MT of rice annually.

These nationwide irrigation projects, Remonde said, will double farmer incomes from the current average of P24,218 per hectare to P53,650 per hectare per year. Income of farmer beneficiaries, according to Remonde, will increase by 119 percent or P31,599 per hectare annually from P26,391 to P57,950 while the income of farmers whose lands are watered by small irrigation projects will increase by 124 percent or P27,306 per hectare per year from P22,045 to P49,351.

The four major irrigation projects now being undertaken by the government include the Agno River Integrated Irrigation and the Kabulnan Irrigation Projects Phase II which are slated for completion next year. Two others, the Banaoang Pump Irrigation Project and the Casecnan Multi-Purpose Irrigation Project in NLAQ, will be completed in 2010 and 2012, respectively.

An initial fund of P1.5 billion, according to Remonde, has been released to NIA to implement the small irrigation projects, which is expected to increase rice production to 859,053 MT per year.

By 2013, it is estimated that these small irrigation projects will be completed, increasing the country’s projected 12.5 million MT rice production to 13.4 million MT.

Remonde stressed that these major and small irrigation projects would benefit 200,903 farm families and expected to double the farmer’s income from the current average of P24,218 per hectare to P53,650 per hectare per year.

He said the income of farmers benefiting from the four major irrigation projects will increase by 119 percent or P31,559 per hectare annually from P26,391 to P57,950 while the income of farmers whose lands are watered by small irrigation projects will increase by 124 percent or P27,306 per hectare per year from P22,045 to P49,351.

"The increase in rice production coupled with efforts to promote farm to market access and maintain stable cost of basic goods could help mitigate hunger," the PMS head said.

Statement of Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye Re: Surveys

MONDAY, MARCH 26, 2007 | COMMENTARY
Original Article at Gov.Ph News

President Arroyo is not a candidate in this election and we are not inclined to play the game of polls and surveys. She is focused on a clear mission to grow the economy and strongly benefit the people.

We are not that concerned about the surveys but we'd rather focus on the real, everyday challenges that confront the people -- alleviating hunger, creating jobs, and checking prices of essential items.

We accept negative perceptions driven by the politics of the day but we have faced these perceptions for sometime now and consider them part of the price to pay for good and straight governance.

The President will not be distracted from her job and polls will not dent her will and determination to finish the work she has started.

14 gov’t agencies scrap export fees, clearances

By EDU H. LOPEZ
Original Article at the Manila Bulletin

Fourteen out of 27 agencies that were ordered to scrap charging fees for export permits and clearances, or a little over half, have abolished their fees.

Also ordered to make the process easier and faster, if not entirely abolish those paper work, the agencies of government that have erected so many requirements to doing business in the Philippines over the years, were very slow to comply.

Only two have eliminated export clearances and eight shortened the procedure of getting one.

More than half or exactly 16 agencies have clung to the export clearances. This summarized the status on compliance to executive order 554 issued by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo late last year and monitored by the quasi-government Export Development Council.

Agencies under the Department of Agriculture topped the list of those who followed the presidential order to stop charging fees, the EDC report showed. These included the National Food Authority that issues export licenses, the Bureau of Animal Industry, the Fiber Industry Development Authority, the National Tobacco Administration, the Philippine Coconut Authority and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources.

The rest of the agencies that have done away with clearance fees included the Bureau of Food and Drugs (BFAD) under the health department, the International Coffee Organization Certifying Agency, the cement export clearance office and the regional offices of the Department of Trade and Industry, the oil industry management bureau of the energy department and the Philippine International Trading Corporation.

Export commodity clearances that were issued by DTI regional offices and the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIBA) were totally junked.

The bigger number of agencies that have not budged in complying with the presidential order reflected the difficulty of matching with action at the agency level a decision made by the chief executive.

The abolition of fees on so many export permits and clearances was done in response to the complaint of exporters that most of them were largely ceremonial, not necessary and often delayed the shipment of goods to destinations abroad.

These have contributed to a large extent in the low ratings of the Philippines in its ability to compete and the ease of doing business. It was also one of the reasons why the country has been avoided by investors in recent years.

RP back on foreign networks' radar screen

Execs fly to Manila to get more ads for shows
By Daxim Lucas
Full Article at the Inquirer
Last updated 00:23am (Mla time) 03/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- THE BUOYANT mood over the country's improving economic prospects is not only found in the financial markets and the property sector.

If recent events are any indication, this optimism is also set to benefit the advertising industry which is trying to capitalize on the increased consumer spending that greater affluence brings.

This is especially true for foreign cable channels which are now taking a closer look at the Philippines as a potential growth market both in terms of the number of viewers and the number of local and international advertisers.

Long dismissed as a cable TV and programming backwater, the Philippines is now back on the radar screen of network executives abroad.

"It's a great opportunity," says Turner Entertainment Networks Asia Inc. senior vice president Ian Diamond, describing the Philippine cable TV advertising market. "There's lots of disposable income."

Sunday, 25 March 2007

Merrill Lynch: Privatization to yield P35B

03/25/2007 | 07:21 PM
Full Article at GMANews.TV

Investment bank Merrill Lynch sees the Philippines raising P35 billion in non-tax revenues this year from the privatization of big ticket items including its interests in utility giant Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) of the Lopez clan.

“With the Meralco operation in the pipeline, we forecast total privatization revenue hovering at around P35 billion this year," the investment bank said in its emerging markets report dated March 19.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves earlier urged state-run pension fund managers and government financial institutions to sell the government’s shareholdings in Meralco as one block to make it more attractive to prospective bidders.

The government through the Privatization and Management Office (PMO) together with the Social Security System (SSS), the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) and Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) has a 29-percent stake in Meralco.

PMO owns 212.12 million shares in representing 12.03 percent of the total capital stock of the utility firm while pension fund managers as well as government financial institutions share the remaining 17 percent.

The Lopez family through First Philippines Holdings Corp. (FPHC) is the single biggest shareholder in Meralco with 14 percent while Spanish utility giant Union Fenosa owns nine percent.

This early, the Lopez group and the Spanish firm have expressed interest in raising their respective interests in the country’s largest power distributor once the government divests its shareholdings in Meralco.

So far, the government has raised P25.2 billion from the sale of its 46 percent interest in Philippine Telecommunications Investment Corp. (PTIC) to Hong Kong-based conglomerate First Pacific Co. Ltd. The stake is equivalent to a 6.4 percent interest in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).

This helped trim the budget deficit to P18.6 billion in the first two months of the year from P40.4 billion in the same period last year. Revenues rose 18.5 percent to P162.3 billion from P136.9 billion while expenditures inched up only by two percent to P180.9 billion from P177.3 billion.

The government hopes to narrow the budget shortfall to P63 billion this year from P64.8 billion last year. Last year’s budget gap was the lowest in eight years or since 1999 when the shortfall reached P111.66 billion.

“With privatization coming to the rescue, the authorities are well on track to meet their annual deficit target," Merrill Lynch said.

Programs vs hunger get P1 B

By Marvin Sy
Full Article at The Philippine Star 03/25/2007

President Arroyo has ordered the immediate release of P1 billion for the implementation of measures to ease hunger in the country, as she cracked the whip on all the frontline agencies involved in addressing the problem.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde, in an interview, said the President wants immediate results.

The President met with the Cabinet level of the National Nutrition Council (NNC) last Friday and gave its members marching orders to address the high incidence of hunger in the country immediately.

Remonde admitted that the President was angry at the results of the survey conducted by the Social Weather Stations, which showed that hunger incidence remained at a record high as of February this year.

The President earlier gave the agencies’ heads six months to bring down the hunger incidence or face dire consequences, including the possibility of dismissal.

Remonde noted that Health Secretary Francisco Duque would take the lead in the campaign as the chairman of the NNC’s governing board.

He pointed out that the P500 million would go to the various programs of the government, including the school feeding program, food for work, and daycare and feeding centers.

Apart from the Department of Health, the other agencies involved include the departments of education, agriculture, and social welfare and development.

Now that the school children are still on summer break, the President instructed the officials to work with non-government organizations and parishes on how to effectively implement the programs, particularly in areas where hunger is felt most.

"The President wants immediate results and target numbers were set in specific areas," Remonde said.

Remonde said the President has become impatient and ordered the implementation of emergency hunger-mitigation projects.

He said Mrs. Arroyo told her Cabinet members that as long as there is one Filipino who is hungry, it is the responsibility of the government to make sure this is addressed.

Dropout numbers rise in last five years

By Jonathan M. Hicap, Reporter
Original Article at The Manila Times

Students who dropped out of elementary and high school totaled 2.35 million last year as the dropout rate continued to rise in the last five years, according to data from the Department of Education.

The department defines the dropout rate as “the proportion of pupils/students who leave school during the year as well as those who complete the grade/year level but fail to enroll in the next grade/year level the following school year to the total number of pupils/students enrolled during the previous school year.”

Dropouts in elementary and high school reached double digits last year. In the elementary, the rate rose from 7.67 percent, or about 978,710 students in 2001, to 10.57 percent last year, or 1.36 million students.

In high school, the rate increased from 8.5 percent (459,158 students) in 2001 to 15.81 percent (990,815 students) last year.

As a result, the completion rate in elementary and high school dropped in the last five years. The department defines the completion rate “as the percentage of first-year entrants in a level of education who complete/finish the level in accordance with the required number of years of study.”

The completion rate in the elementary dropped from 66.3 percent in 2001 to 56.76 in 2006 and in high school, it also dropped from 70.62 percent in 2001 to 54.14 percent last year.

Last year, DepEd said only 23 of 100 students finish basic education from elementary to high school due to poverty and poor health. It said the typical trend of child survival in the Philippine education system for the last 30 years show that out of every 100 students who enter Grade 1, only 83 move on to Grade 2, only 77 reach Grade 4 and only 70 children reach Grade 6. Of the 70 who finish Grade 6, only 67 enroll in first-year high school, only 23 enter college and only 14 of them earn a degree.