Friday, 18 May 2007

Agriculture posts 3.55% growth in 1st qtr

Original report at Gov.Ph News

The agriculture sector recorded a 3.55 percent growth in production valued at P234.2 billion from January to March this year, or a 4.78 percent increase in gross receipts compared to the same period last year.

In his report to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said the fishery subsector proved to be the major gainer during the first quarter with its 8.52 percent production increase.

Yap said the gross value of fisheries output amounted to P43.7 billion, or 10.34 percent higher than last year’s record.

For the first quarter, Yap said the poultry, livestock and crops subsectors also registered production increases of 2.3 percent, 2.2 percent, and 2.01 percent, respectively.

At current prices, Yap said gross revenues from crop production reached P130 billion, livestock at P39.3 billion, and poultry at P30.3 billion.

On the average, Yap reported that farm gate prices of agricultural commodities posted a 1.19 percent growth during the first three months of 2007.

Filipinas reach Nepal base camp, set world record

Original report at ABS-CBN

The first Filipino women to reach the summit of Mount Everest set another world record Friday by becoming the first women to traverse the two main routes to the world's highest mountain.

Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon and Janet Belarmino reached Everest Base Camp in Nepal before 6 p.m. Manila time.

Belarmino sobbed as she recounted the ordeal of climbing the mountain just five months after she gave birth to her first baby.

"Napakahirap kaya masaya ako na makakabalik na kami (It was very difficult that is why I'm glad that we can now come back)," she told radio DZMM.

Team leader Art Valdez said the three set two world records in Everest history. They are the first Filipinas and first ASEAN women to reach the summit of Mount Everest and the first women to cross the mountain from the north route in Tibet to the south route in Nepal.

Crossing the mountain from Tibet to Nepal has only been done by a handful of mountaineers – all of them men. The traverse posed a bigger challenge for the women as they passed an unfamiliar route during the descent.

Wenceslao was the first to reach the summit at 6:10 a.m. Nepal time (8:10 a.m. in Manila) on Wednesday followed by Carina Dayondon at 6:20 a.m. (8:20 a.m. in Manila). Belarmino reached the summit three hours later after she had to fall in line because a lot of people wanted to reach the summit.

First scaled in 1953 by Tenzing Norgay and Edmund Hillary, the 29,035-foot peak has now been summitted 3,067 times.

This year, around 550 people will be attempting the peak from both Nepal—where a peace deal signed last year with Maoist rebels has brought an end to a decade of civil war—and via the northern flank in China.

In 2006 11 people were killed while this year one sherpa died while preparing for commercial expeditions.

Clark airport aims for 5M travelers a year

Asian Journal

MANILA, Philippines -- With Filipino tourists causing a boom in air travel, the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in the Clark Special Economic Zone, north of Manila, is ripe for capacity expansion to five million passengers a year from the present one million, officials of the Clark International Airport Authority (CIAC) said.

As of March, more than 50 flights a week going to 10 Asian cities went through the DMIA. By yearend, the frequency is expected to expand to 75 weekly flights to 10 cities, the officials said.

The DMIA posed 456-percent growth in international passenger traffic, from 6,197 a month in 2004 to more than 60,000 passengers monthly in 2006, they said.

Hilarion Nacpil, CIAC manager for marketing and customer service, said that until recently, only one in four travelers going through the DMIA were local tourists. But last year, with a boom in budget air travel, every other passenger at the DMIA was either a resident or worker in northern and central Luzon, he said.

The resulting boom in budget air travel does not necessarily mean losses for non-budget airlines such as Philippine Airlines, Nacpil said

"A few passengers of [non-budget] airlines may have opted for budget travel when it became available, but those with the ability to pay for a more luxurious service would not really go for budget," he said. "It can be said that the passenger pie is just getting bigger, with a new local market being tapped, and the incumbents' share are not necessarily getting smaller."

CIAC president and chief executive Victor Luciano said the DMIA was also preparing to serve non-budget carriers. He said the entry of Miascor-Gate Gourmet as a provider of in-flight catering services would help the DMIA serve this sector.

"It is all coming together," Luciano said. "With more airlines and air forwarding companies coming in, accommodations ready at Clark resorts, and employment growing with Clark locators, such as UPS [United Parcel Service] and semiconductor maker Texas Instruments, Clark and surrounding areas will see airport-driven development. That is DMIA's role."

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Foreign lender urges BSP to remove tiering system

Original report at GMANews.TV
05/18/2007 | 10:59 AM

In order to control rapidly growing money supply in the country, investment bank UBS AG has urged the Philippines to remove its tiering system on bank deposits and move to a more neutral monetary policy setting.

The bank also suggested that monetary officials allow the peso to appreciate more freely against the dollar in order to curb inflation, a move that may see the peso rising to as high as 40:$1 in the next 18 months.

In a research note released to the media on Thursday, UBS said the tiering system, which was put in place in November last year, effectively cut interest rates to 3.5 percent from 7.5 percent.

Under the system, the first P5 billion banks park with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas earns the published rate of 7.5 percent while the next P5 billion earns 5.5 percent. Anything over P10 billion deposited with the BSP earns only 3.5 percent.

UBS said the tiering system has indirectly led to the more than normal pace of money supply growth, which is increasingly becoming a threat to inflation.

"Interest rates matter, but quantities of money do too. The result of this relaxed monetary stance has been to drive up money and credit growth," UBS said in its report.

Money supply has been growing in excess of 20 percent for about six months, and the BSP has made pronouncements that it is keeping tabs on liquidity as it may increase inflationary pressure.

UBS said that after removing the tiering system, the BSP could use the peso to further reign in domestic liquidity. The bank suggested the BSP allow the local currency to appreciate unhindered against the dollar.

It said that the recent appreciation of the peso has already helped stem inflation. At the start of 2006, the peso was trading at 56:$1 while on Thursday it closed at a new six year high of 46.72:$1.

"The central bank allowed the currency to appreciate, but also intervened to smooth the appreciation... The next step may be to use and accept currency appreciation more overtly as a policy device to limit domestic inflation," UBS said.

If the Philippines does this, the lender said, then the peso can be expected to rise as high as 40:$1 in the next 18 months.

RP stocks set all-time new record high

Original report at ABS-CBN

Philippine shares closed at a new record high on Friday, passing the February 1997 peak, fuelled by positive sentiments after a smooth election and optimism that the economy will continue to grow.

The composite index (PSEi) finished 0.92 percent or 31.49 points higher at 3,449.18, after hitting an intra-day high of 3,457.93.

That was above the PSEi's prior all-time high of 3,447.60 points hit on February 3, 1997.

Investors should buy the Philippines market, given the bullish outlook of the economy and reasonable valuations, said Arthur Budaghyan, managing editor of Emerging Markets Strategy at BCA Research, in a client note.

"Despite political hurdles to investment, the economic case for a capex revival is overwhelming," Budaghyan said. "The Philippine economy is very underinvested and the revival of capital spending will be the centrepiece of economic expansion.

President Arroyo said the market's rally showed the investors' confidence in the Philippine markets despite election-related concerns.

"We are edified by the confidence shown by our financial market and investors in our ability to surmound the myriad challenges that usually exist in any election," she told reporters.


After nearly a decade, the Philippines is back on foreign investors' radar largely due to record overseas remittances, which flow in regardless of political turbulence, and drive consumption and property sales.

A booming outsourcing industry and potentially lucrative mineral resources has also attracted overseas interest and pushed the main stock index to 10 year highs and the peso to six-and-a half year peaks.

On Thursday, investment firm JP Morgan held its first investor conference since 2000 in the Philippines, attracting around 75 fund managers, the bulk of them from overseas.

Capital raised by PSE-listed firms expands by 20% to P28.65B in first 4 months

News Release
Philippine Stock Exchange
Refer to: Joel Gaborni- 688-7583

EQUITY RAISED BY LISTED COMPANIES via various capital-raising activities went up
by 20 percent to P28.65 billion for the first four months of the year from P23.87 billion for
the corresponding period last year, the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) reported over
the weekend.

Mr. Francis Lim, PSE president and chief executive officer, said that the continued
increase in equity is a clear indication of the market’s good prospects this year.
Year-to-date stock prices, as tracked by the PSEi, have so far gained 12.8 percent as of
Friday, May 11, 2007. The surge so far this year comes on top of the 42.3-percent
annual growth in 2006, the 15-percent hike in 2005, the 26.4-percent advance in 2004
and the 41.6-percent jump in 2003.

“I am confident we can sustain the PSEi’s advance and the build-up in fresh and
additional capital for the listed companies, provided the country succeeds in holding
peaceful and credible elections next week,” Mr. Lim stressed.

The PSE said that proceeds from two initial public offerings (IPOs) amounted to P2.57
billion from January to April this year or 71.7 percent lower than the P9.09-billion level
chalked up a year ago. National Reinsurance Corporation of the Philippines completed a
P2.46-billion IPO, while Pacific Online Systems Corporation conducted its own P104.78-
million IPO, last April.

“But the slack in IPO was more than made up by a dramatic increase in stock rights
offerings,” Mr. Lim noted.

Equity raised from stock rights offerings from January to April this year hit P14.43 billion
or a whopping 44,500 times bigger than the P324,050 recorded for the same period last
year. Megaworld Corporation made a P10.79-billon stock rights offering last January;
EEI did the same to raise P540 million last March; while Alliance Global Group, Inc.,
completed its own P3.11-billion stock rights offering last April.

Proceeds from follow-on offerings surged by 11.1 percent to P11.6 billion from P10.44
billion a year ago to likewise help offset the drop in IPO equity. The follow-on offerings
were made by Filinvest Land, Inc. (P5.92 billion last February), and Rizal Commercial
Banking Corporation (P5.67 billion last February).

“I am very confident we can match, if not surpass, the amount of equity to be raised this
year via the sale of primary shares through an IPO,” Mr. Lim declared. “That’s because
we already have in the pipeline several pending IPO applications worth P16 billion.

“We expect more IPO and follow-on offering applications to reach our front desk, but the
final decision of the prospective issuers may be affected by the outcome of the
elections,” Mr. Lim added.

“That’s why we at the PSE are also praying for clean and honest elections, because the
results of the May 2007 political exercise will affect the future not only of the stock
market but the whole country in general,” Mr. Lim added.

2,000 foreign companies hiring more

Original report at the Manila Bulletin

At least 2,000 foreign firms, which are bullish on the country’s improved economic condition regardless of the outcome of the mid-term national elections, are going ahead with the hiring of more workers this year to support their expansion programs but are wary that the skills they are seeking do not match with the current manpower pool.

This was the gist of the pronouncements made by the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce as they announced their first ever Global Employment Expo on June 4 to 5 for domestic and international employment opportunities.

JFC has at least 2,000 members from the various chambers including Australian-New Zealand, American, British, Canadian and European Chambers are participating in the job fair but it cannot quantify as to the number of possible new hires other than admitting that they are now in the "hiring mood" for their expanding operations following the country’s improved economic condition.

Foreign businessmen, however, insist that they are still awaiting for the official proclamation of the Commission on Elections on the winners of the senatorial race but at the same time they are in agreement that their members are "very positive of the economy, their operations are expanding and are hiring additional workers."

While it is difficult to quantify the number of jobs that can be generated from the fair, American Chamber of Commerce executive director Robert Sears cited the fact that the spaces have been sold out at the Glorietta activity center is a good indication that more employers are wanting to be part of this activity.

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines executive vice-president Henry Schumacher said that regardless of who wins in the Senatorial race they are moving on.

"We are positive, the macro economic picture is good and let’s move forward. That is why we have this job fair," Schumacher said.

"The door is wide open and most companies are expanding and need more employes," Schumacher added.

Michael Whiting, vice-president of the British Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines, also conformed saying, "We are very positive given the right direction but we need to carry on and avoid complacency. The economic situation is improving but it is easy to make a left turn."

"Members are in the hiring mood. Members are looking and there is a great indication that they are expanding and investing. There is a growing concern that they are investing and we are providing a venue," said Sean Georgel, executive director of the Canadian Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines.

Chris Ward, vice-president of the Australian-New Zealand Chamber of Commerce, said, "Business continues no matter what. We don’t look governments being on one side or another."

Sears cited the improved business confidence level this year than last year’s adding that "Filipinos are happier and more content and more companies are in the upbeat mood."

Indeed, the upbeat business mood had discounted the impact of the mid-term national elections. A few days before the elections, American-owned Texas Instruments announced its $ 1.7-billion investments in the country. The stock market and the peso rallied to their all-time high records before and after the elections are indications of good tidings, which foreign businessmen agreed.

The business community, however, stressed that no amount of comparison on the number of killings in this year’s elections to the previous one would make the lower number of election-related violence acceptable.

It was a referendum

By Tony Lopez
Original article at The Manila Times

It is now abundantly clear the May 14 election was a referendum on the administration of President Arroyo.

This is as far as the senatorial race is concerned where the President has just been dealt a massive defeat. With 10 percent of the votes cast tabulated, there are 10 possible opposition winners (including two independents) against two for her Team Unity (Edgardo An­gara and Joker Arroyo, both of whom are not genuinely proadministration).

If you count Angara and Arroyo as opposition people in administration garb, then it’s actually 12-0! No sitting president before her has suffered so sweeping an electoral debacle.

To be sure, the people gave Arroyo control of the House of Representatives, with 180 of 220 seats, control of provincial governments (65 of 80 provinces), control of the cities (80 of 115) and control of the towns (90 percent of the 1,500). But voters want an opposition-dominated Senate.

It is not that the people hate Arroyo although, to a great degree, they do. It is more their fear of a very powerful chief executive. People look up to the Senate as a counterforce to awesome presidential powers.

Mrs. Arroyo already has control of the House, the LGUs, a docile Comelec, the judiciary, and some control of the military and the national police. Not since Ferdinand Marcos has a president been vested with so much power and authority. The danger of that setup is abuse and corruption.

Another reason for the opposition’s near-sweep is that it has a deeper and younger bench than the TU which seems to be populated with tired old names. In the next Senate, the administration coalition boasts of the chamber’s only two high school dropouts—Bong Revilla and Lito Lapid, both actors.

Symbolic of the anti-Arroyo vote is the rise of navy renegade Antonio Trillanes, 35, a cum laude PMA graduate with a master’s degree in public administration from UP.

Trillanes is not your run-of-the-mill officer. A naval engineer, he’s bright, he’s intense, he wants Arroyo ousted as president, by force, if need be. In an honest count, he will win as a senator, being No. 11 in the Namfrel count as of May 17, 5:37 a.m. He is hugely popular, doing 9th in Metro Manila, 10th in Ilocos, Cagayan Valley and Bicol; 9th in Southern Luzon, Eastern Visayas, the Zamboanga Peninsula, and Northern Mindanao; 4th in Soccsargen, 7th in ARMM and 8th in the Cordillera. Not since Ninoy Aquino in 1967 has a new face in politics struck the mother lode of popularity. If he loses this year, he is a shoo-in as senator in 2010 by which time the Comelec must have reformed itself. Why do people love Trillanes? Because he hates the President.

The only one who eclipses Trillanes is Chiz Escudero but then the Bicol Boy has been in public service for nine years.

The rise of Chiz and Sonny (Trillanes) indicates the electorate is ready for new idols and getting tired of movie stars, boxers and broadcasters. And those idols be better qualified. Escudero has a law degree from Ateneo and MA in comparative law from Georgetown. If I were him, I would run for president in 2010, do or die. If he loses, he can always go back to the Senate.

Movie stars endured humiliation nationwide—Cesar Montano, Richard Gomez and Victor Wood were trounced as senators. Lito Lapid never had a chance as Makati mayor. His son, Mark, was deposed as Pampanga governor. Boyet de Leon lost as vice-governor of Batangas. Ralph Recto finished 8th in his own Batangas home province, 13th in his own Southern Tagalog region and currently, is No. 14 nationwide. Many are happy that Manny Pacquiao has been brought down to earth by a diminutive girl in the First district of South Cotabato by an almost 2:1 ratio. The boxing champ was seen as Arroyo’s proxy fighter as was Virgilio Garcillano who also lost.

On balance thus, the President needs to change her policies and probably needs to change her team. The next campaign is barely 27 months away.

Thursday, 17 May 2007

PGMA hails feat of 3 Pinay conquerors of Everest

Original report at Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo hailed today the three Filipino women who made history Wednesday by becoming the first female mountain climbers in Southeast Asia to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, the world’s highest peak.

The feat of Noelle Wenceslao, Carina Dayondon, and Janet Belarmino, according to the President, honored not only the country but the entire region as well.

"The summit of Mt. Everest proved to be a smooth conquest by three brave Filipino women who honored not only the Philippines but the Asean community with their inspiring achievement," she said in a statement.

Wenceslao became the first Filipina to reach the summit of Mt. Everest in Nepal and also the first woman from Southeast Asia to reach the peak measured at around 29,035 feet above sea level.

She reached it at 6:10 a.m. Nepal time (8:10 a.m. in Manila Wednesday).

Dayondon arrived 10 minutes later while former varsity tennis player Belarmino, who got caught in a big traffic jam of more than 150 mountain climbers, arrived at 9 a.m.

"Noelle, Carina and Janet are now at par with the toughest nountain climbers of the world," the President said.

"We are awed by their sense of adventure, physical strength and endurance as well as the passion that led them to the top of Mount Everest, the world’s tallest mountain," she added.

Last year, three Filipinos – Leo Oracion, Pastor Emata and Romeo Garduce – became the first Filipinos to reach the summit of Mt. Everest, earning the same accolade from the President who honored them in Malacanang.

JP Morgan reactivates program to attract investors to RP

Original report at Gov.Ph News

JP Morgan, one of the world’s top financial services firms with global assets of $1.4 trillion, has reactivated Philippine Corporate Access Days (PCAD), ending a seven-year hiatus in the program to draw more overseas investments into the country.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who keynoted the event dubbed as PCAD’s "coming back to the Philippines" held this morning at the Rizal Ballroom of the Makati Shangri-La Hotel, hailed the revival of the JP Morgan’s program as yet another proof of renewed investor confidence in the country’s resurgent economy.

PCAD operations, which seek to provide access to potential investors to more than 30 Philippine corporations, were shelved in 2000.

In her speech, the President said this renewed interest in the Philippines was borne out by the new level of maturity that the economy has reached and which has led to the country being the "best value in Asia today."

She also stressed that the holding last Monday of a "peaceful, fair and free elections" further boosted the political stability of the country and the economic reforms instituted by her administration.

"Last Monday, Filipinos demonstrated our political stability in peaceful, fair and free elections," the President said, adding, "The national elections are just starting their count but in the congressional and local elections, the victory of the overwhelming majority of candidates sympathetic to the administration shows a vote for political stability and economic reform."

"The results will be a focus by our administration on continued economic reform: pro-growth, pro-trade and pro-investment strategies that help lift up our people from poverty and helping the Philippines finally in the contention as a real investment destination," she said.

The Chief Executive also pointed out her administration's "hard-fought economic reform battles that we have led with some courageous members of Congress (has resulted in) the Philippine economy's finally breaking loose from its historic legacy of lethargy."

"The biggest single act that led to the surge in our economy was the passage of our (Expanded) Value Added Tax (Law). In one bold stroke, it raised enormous revenue. It also sent an unmistakable signal that we're serious about moving the nation forward," the President said.

"New revenues, better collection of revenues and a crackdown on tax cheats, along with fiscal discipline, have put the Philippines on a path to permanent economic growth and stability," she added.

"And your (JP Morgan) coming back here shows that the world is taking notice. I will repeat that I believe that the Philippines is one of the best values in Asia for domestic and foreign investors," the President said.

The President said that fiscal discipline, a balanced budget and the need for long overdue human and physical infrastructure improvements, and investments help round out the government’s economic gain.

All these "sacrifices" have led to a strong peso, low inflation, a robust stock market, rapid inflows of foreign investments and almost six million jobs in the last six years, she said.

She assured that the government will increase investments in human and physical infrastructures to the tune of "billions of pesos in education, healthcare and training along with the construction of new bridges, roads and ports to upgrade the competitiveness of the Philippines."

"We take pride in the discipline of our administration to focus on the economy and our overall economic health. We're proud of the fact that we are pre-paying external debts, optimistic that we will soon balance the budget and we're making sure to use the gains to invest in vital social and economic needs," the President said.

She also cited various investment opportunities in Mindanao and the steps being taken by the government to promote permanent peace in the area.

"We have developed a new paradigm for peace: our Philippine model for dealing with the flashpoint area of Mindanao has focused on a unique combination of soft and hard power to promote peace," the President said.

She added that through a combination of soft and hard power, "we will be able to weld together confidence-building measures grounded on strong interfaith dialogue and cultural awareness, investments in economic and basic infrastructure development and mutual security arrangements to keep the peace in Mindanao."

The President also said that a "broad-based coalition" consisting of the United States, and nations from across the spectrum including Sweden, the European Union, Japan, Malaysia, Libya and other Organization of Islamic Conference (OIC) members "is working to keep the peace and isolate genuine security threats and promote the economic well-being of Muslims and Christian residents of Mindanao."

"This is a model setting a positive example. It is something we all wish to share with the rest of the world," she said.

"It will lead to a permanent peace in Mindanao," she added.

The President urged investors to take a serious look at Mindanao and its vast potentials as investment hub south of Metro Manila.

"In Mindanao and the whole Philippines, the short answer to continuing the economic growth is summed up in three words: Invest, Invest, Invest," she said.

Net Foreign Portfolio Investments Post Higher Gains in April

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

April 2007 Flows

Bangko Sentral-registered foreign portfolio investments posted a net inflow of US$243.10 million in April, up by 40 percent from US$173.21 million in March.

Reports of solid 2006 earnings of several blue chip companies and positive macroeconomic developments further lifted investor sentiment during the month. The inflation rate further decelerated to a 20-year low of 2.2 percent in March while the peso continued to appreciate, breaking into the P47/US$1 territory in the first half of the month. Goods exports and OFW remittances for the first two months of the year also posted year-on-year increases of 14.7 percent and 22.6 percent, respectively, contributing to the increase in the country’s gross international reserves to US$24.7 billion at end- March.

On a gross basis, registered foreign portfolio investments in April aggregated US$931.76 million, 80 percent of which (US$748.19 million) were in shares listed in the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE), mainly in telecommunication and property firms. Placements in peso-denominated government securities, primarily Fixed Rate Treasury Notes or FXTNs, accounted for the 20 percent balance (US$183.57 million).

These inflows more than offset capital repatriations/outflows of US$688.66 million, which were traced to: a) divestments from PSE-listed shares of US$348.88 million (51 percent of total) and government securities of US$68.46 million (10 percent); and b) withdrawals of money market placements of US$0.08 million and peso deposits of US$271.24 million, which had a combined 39 percent share.

January-April 2007 Flows

For the first four months of the year, newly registered foreign portfolio investments and capital repatriations/outflows totaled US$4.446 billion and US$3.365 billion, respectively, for a net inflow of US$1.081 billion. This net inflow was 83 percent more than the US$592 million net inflow in the same period in 2006.

Economic growth is indisputable

Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye
(For the week ending May 13, 2007)

As you read this, you may have already voted or are about to vote. No matter which set of candidates you have selected, my only hope is that those ultimately elected will be truly worthy of our trust and who will have the steadfastness and commitment required to carry on the reforms already started by President Arroyo.

Many agree that notwithstanding the many reforms, development is still hampered by excessive politicking. At the local level, for instance, worthy initiatives are often abandoned simply because they were started by a rival politician. This is magnified at the national level with the election of some whose sole objective is to bring down the current administration even if they have nothing better and concrete to offer.

This administration has made monumental strides in moving our economy forward. And this is very basic. Without good economics, we will not have the wherewithal to fund basic social services without mortgaging our children’s future. Improving the economy is, indeed, the first real step towards breaking the cycle of poverty.

Not even President Arroyo’s harshest critics can dispute the fact that the Philippines has seen 24 consecutive quarters of economic growth, a first since 1986. In her second term, the Philippines has averaged 5.53 percent GDP (gross domestic product) growth rate, and no administration has come close. The next highest average GDP was 4.37 per cent, which was achieved during the first Arroyo term. For comparison, here is how the other Presidents fared: Ferdinand Marcos, 3.83; Corazon Aquino; 3.8; Fidel Ramos, 3.76; and Joseph Estrada, 2.93.

For 2007, Lehman Brothers forecasts 5.8 percent GDP. We may be a far second to China’s projected 9.6 percent but still we are above most Asian countries, such as Indonesia, 5.7, Hong Kong, 5.5; Malaysia, 5; Singapore, 5; Thailand, 5; South Korea, 4.3, and Taiwan, 3.9.

The national government deficit in 2006 was only P65 billion, an eight-year low. As a consequence, national government borrowing is also at an all- time low (2.88 percent for 91-day T-bills during the February 2007 auction).

The inflation rate of 2.2 percent recorded in March 2007, is the lowest in 20 years.

On the other hand, the peso is on a six-year high and keeps getting stronger. In 2005, the peso was Asia’s best performing currency, appreciating 6.01 percent relative to 2004. And in 2006, the peso appreciated 8.28 percent.

The real estate industry never had it so good. The 26 percent growth, recorded in the 3rd quarter of 2006, is the highest in 25 years.

Director Dennis Arroyo (no relation to the President), head of National Economic and Development Authority’s (NEDA) National Planning and Policy Staff, attributed the real estate boom to the following: "The boom is fueled by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) buying condo units, call centers demanding office space, and the malls that keep on multiplying. The proliferation of malls is evidence of an expanding middle class, in turn due to the OFW phenomenon.

There are now 28 malls in the SM chain alone. SM commits to have a total of 40 shopping centers by 2011.

Although the ratio of investments to GDP still remains low at 15 percent, Dennis Arroyo expects investments to rise due to the following factors:

a. Massive infrastructure spending in the ‘super regions’.

b. The return of investor confidence. At least 81 percent of the members of the Makati Business Club, which has been critical of the President, expect 2007 to be better than 2006.

c. Rise in foreign investments. This is due to the Philippines’ strategic location, a well educated, productive and English-speaking work force and the continuous effort to cut red tape to simplify requirements for investing in the Philippines. Just 10 days ago, Texas Instruments announced plans to invest US$1 billion to build new facilities in the Philippines, which they chose over other locations including China.

Microenomic reforms are working. Our macroeconomic fundamentals are stable. We have achieved momentum. We just need to sustain it so that we can bring the economic gains to the poor.

We do hope that our electorate has become more mature and more discerning and sees the need for continuity on a path of economic reform.

Routine is not news

By Alex Magno

In the final analysis, what is important is that the elections did not impair the momentum of our economic growth.

On the first trading day after the poll, the stock market index surged to its record level. The peso revalued some more. Remittances overshot expectations. Investors did not lose their enthusiasm.

At some point, despite all the often petty differences we squabble over daily, we have to agree that the economic numbers constitute the main event and all the sound and fury that goes with our immense appetite for politicking is really a sideshow.

In that main event, we have managed to do the right thing — even if that might not have been intended by the most obsessive political players. The right thing, in our case, is to keep our economy safe from our politics.

There are many strange things that happen in our grossly inflated political sphere. Strange people say strange things. Zealous partisans murder each other for the most minor elective posts. Party spokesmen magnify the importance of the most trivial things.

Like imperfect glass, electoral contestation and intense partisanship warp our view of things.

On the afternoon of election day, I sat in what turned out to be an extremely short-lived panel on ANC with Vergel Santos and Ellen Tordesillas — two friends in the print media I consider my seniors. I was surprised when the two launched into a shrill condemnation of the elections, saying it was manipulated and massive cheating was to be expected. At that point, they sounded more like the principal cheerleaders of the Alan Cayetano Fans Club than senior editors. And that was just minutes after the close of polls.

This was not going to be the golden moment of Philippine journalism, I decided. Here were two senior journalists peddling preconceived conclusions long before the facts could be established. I wanted to expound on a more sober view of things, if only to avert the possibility of viewers rushing out to the streets to riot.

But I realized that the medium we were in was not amenable to complex discourse. With only 13 seconds to make your point, television was more amenable to making riotous manifestations.

Before we went on the air, I was trying to explain to host Cheche Lazaro what I thought to be the underside of “voter empowerment”: the “man-bites-dog” principle.

Every editor hammers this into every new reporter: if a dog bites a man, that is not news. What is news is when a man bites a dog.

Its a good thing to harness the powers of multimedia to get citizens involved in ensuring the sanctity of the polls. But the main comptrollers of mass media should also be constantly conscious of the unavoidable tendency of citizen-journalists to flood in the bad news.

No one really bothers to take a phone video of a voting precinct where everything is happening normally — which is the situation in 99% of places. No TV news editor is really interested in such boring video even if they are sent in. What will be sent in, and what the editors want, are amateur videos of blood and gore.

And so there will be an inherent tendency for the content of the media to over-represent what happens in 1% of places: the deaths, the ballot-snatching and the premature conclusions drawn by partisans.

What matters to most of us, however, is what happens in 99% of places. Or, more precisely, what does not happen in the majority of places: the routine, uneventful and sober exercise of democratic rights. Regularity is not news: even if that is what defines the rest of our lives.

I have found it more worthwhile, these past few days, to sit down and discuss with investment analysts and businessmen. That is immensely more educational than watching television, listening to AM radio or arguing with politicians.

One analyst had an especially counter-intuitive view of things. He told me that business will be most happy if the power structure was totally fractured. Business will be happy to see coup-makers installed in the Senate, communists seated in the House and the two chambers so totally at odds that they will be in constant stalemate.

That might result in tremendous political noise, but it will also produce large volumes of public entertainment. We are basically on the right course in terms of the economy, and the more unconsolidated the power structure is, the greater the assurance that there will be no radical change in policy.

In a word, let the politicians beat each other up until they tire of it. Just leave the economy alone. Like a large ship with a brawl in progress on the upper deck, the thing will just move with the tide. And the tide, at this moment, is moving in the right direction.

That might seem to be a completely jaded view of things. But investment analysts are best when they are most jaded.

There is merit in taking this jaded but optimistic standpoint. Our politics is murky. The sensibilities that guide our voters are often incomprehensible.

It will be a long way to reach that tipping point in the maturation of our political culture where people begin to understand that a sustainable economy, not political idols, will be best for our future. Our politics is really all about building monuments to personages and then tearing them down, and then repeating that all over again.

For as long as these monuments do not block the avenues of our common progress, we can leave it at that. Our politics might be broke, but let’s not fix it just yet.

The next President will be . . . .

John Mangun
Original article at the Business Mirror

One television commentator remarked that the presidential campaign for 2010 unofficially started last week and officially started yesterday.

The next president of the Philippines will undoubtedly come from Congress and probably from the Senate. The likelihood of President Arroyo becoming the head of state as prime minister if there is a change to a parliamentary system is slim at best. Therefore, for all intents and purposes, President Arroyo is now a lame-duck president.

Unless there is some sort of extraordinary outside event, natural disaster, massive global economic upheaval or political meltdown, the nation should continue on the course we have seen during the last two years toward greater economic prosperity. Although recognition for any advancement in this area will be taken by the administration, it will be difficult for any particular presidential hopeful to claim credit for it. Unless. . . .

The senator or representative who aspires for the highest office in the land needs to start working today to achieve his or her goal. The public is becoming more sophisticated in candidate selection. This sophistication will increase and be even more evident in 2010.

Singing and dancing will still attract voters to a rally but not likely as much as in the past at the ballot box. Voters are not as dumb and naïve as they used to be. Candidates will not be able to garner the votes they need based on a legislative record of laws preventing carabao abuse or funding bridges to nowhere.

So you want to be President and present a track record that the public will embrace? Stop talking about jobs and prosperity, and start providing real jobs and wealth creation.

In the next three years, the key to Philippine prosperity will be foreign investments. Several factors directly influence the amount of foreign money that flows into the country and creates economic gains and these are where good legislation will translate into an increase of good quality jobs and will probably lead to Malacañang.

The legislator who wants to be ahead of the campaign in 2010 will be the one that puts effort and resolve in creating a law that attracts foreign investments.

The basic investor needs centers on two general areas: efficiency of investing and incentive for investment.

It may seem like a simple proposition to accomplish these goals. We have so many “one-stop” government agencies you would think that the government is like a convenience store.

However, that is only the appearance. Multiple government agencies each with their “one-stop” operations do not make major investment in the country efficient. The “one-stop” shop, in truth, is 50-percent reality and 50-percent PR.

Perhaps there ought to be one “superagency” for each major industry sector where attracting foreign investments is important.

Take mining for example. Although, in principle, most concerns should be handled by the DENR, within that agency are subgroups with their own legislative mandate and approval process.

Combined with the need to secure approval from other agencies established to protect other concerns, such as the rights of indigenous peoples, the process is far from one-stop shop.

At the end of the day, the DENR functions almost as a traffic enforcer for the investor, trying on its best to facilitate the investment process. It is not smooth, seamless or efficient.

Granted that due diligence and many levels of protection are necessary for an investment in the minerals industry, is it reasonable to expect investors to endure a three- to five-year process and still want to come to the Philippines?

There has been a strong movement to rationalize and consolidate incentives available to foreign investors for some months. The purpose is to attract investment that will protect the country from exploitation.

However, this is a difficult task again because bureaucratic protected territory is at stake. But it must be done and should be done in conjunction with what I said before. Investors need a complete logistical and incentive package to put the Philippines first on the list.

Somewhere out there is a presidential wannabe who will apply the intelligence, research, foresight, time and effort to design a legislative proposal that will not only bring new prosperity to the nation but may catapult him or her to the highest office.

A call to win back public trust

Manila Standard

REGARDLESS of the final tally, the May 14 elections are now part of our history.

When the last ballot is counted and tabulated, some 33 million Filipinos will have chosen 12 senators, representatives of five party-list groups, 220 congressmen, 81 governors and vice governors, 770 provincial board members, 118 city mayors and vice mayors, 1,510 municipal mayors, 1,322 city councilors and 12,092 municipal councilors.

All told, 17,899 positions were at stake and will be filled.

As the leading candidates watch the slow manual tally and contemplate their role as newly elected public officials, they ought to bear a few things in mind.

First, Filipinos take their vote seriously.

An estimated voter turnout of “only” 75 percent is high by the standards of some more developed democracies.

For example, in the United States, a turnout of 60.7 percent in the 2004 presidential elections was deemed the highest since 1968. In the United Kingdom, voter turnout has not risen above 62 percent since 2001.

Often, politicians speak of a mandate and power but quickly forget that they have a responsibility to the people who voted them into office. As they now look forward to a privileged position as elected officials, they need to remind themselves that they are in government to serve the people. They may be exempt from suits, they may get police escorts that speed them through traffic and we may accord them the courtesies and respect that befit their office, but they are still public servants. The people put them in power, and the people can also boot them out of office.

Second, there is a deep distrust in our lawmakers in both houses of Congress, fostered by the perception that they misuse public funds and do nothing but bicker over politics. One incumbent senator went so far as calling all her colleagues “criminals,” given the millions they had to spend to get into office.

All elected officials must work to regain the public trust. Good governance and democracy would be impossible without it.

Shakeout of Customs, BIR looms

By Fel V. Maragay
Original report at the Manila Standard

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has overturned a plan of the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs to defer the implementation of the lateral attrition law, which prescribes a system of rewards and penalties for tax officials and personnel to boost revenue collection.

This means the revamp of the two revenue-earning bureaus will forge ahead soon.

Customs collectors and tax examiners have appealed to Malacañang and finance authorities to suspend the enforcement of the novel scheme until next year to enable them to prepare for it.

Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo said the President has taken a firm position that there should be no delay in implementing the lateral attrition law.

“The Department of Finance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs shall implement the rewards and sanctions under the attrition law and based on performance targets for the 2006 fiscal year,” Saludo said.

“Hitting our revenue targets is crucial to maintaining fiscal discipline, boosting investor confidence and funding needed public investments and services.”

The full implementation of the lateral attrition law was one of the series of directives issued by the President to speed up action on priority projects and concerns.

Saludo said the President has told her Cabinet members that there should be no lull or delay in the government’s action on urgent matters while the nation’s attention is glued on the results of the mid-term elections.

“As the nation awaits the results of the elections, the government is accelerating development services and major undertakings for economic expansion, job creation, price stability and peace and order,” the Palace official said.

Under the lateral attrition law, internal revenue and customs officials can be rewarded with cash incentives and promotion to higher posts if they exceed or meet collection targets.

On the other hand, those whose revenue collection fell short of targets will be sanctioned with demotion or even removal from office.

The go-signal for the imposition of sanctions on faltering revenue and customs officials was tantamount to a marching order for a major shakeup of the BIR and BoC officialdom, observers say.

It was issued by the President following a report of Finance Secretary Margarito Teves that the national government incurred a P55-billion budget deficit in the first quarter of 2007 due to failure of the BIR and BoC to meet their collection targets.

An administration source disclosed that Teves frowns on the proposal of BIR and BoC officials to defer the implementation of the lateral attrition law.

Meanwhile, the President has instructed the Cabinet to review the Investment Priorities Plan.

Saludo said the IPP, once approved, shall help bring in more foreign capital and investments into the country as investors become more and more bullish, specially with the “largely peaceful and smooth conduct of the elections.’’

The President directed the Department of Energy and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. to ensure the successful sale of the National Transmission Corp. and the Masinloc power plant in Zambales.

Saludo said these “closely-watched” privatization of state assets shall boost business confidence and generate needed investments for future electricity needs of the country.

New Senate to balance GMA rule

By Julius F. Fortuna
Original article at The Manila Times

Most likely, the Genuine Opposition (GO) will get the majority in the current Senate fight. Even if the Mindanao and Visayas votes come—a known bailiwick of Team Unity—the opposition will probably get six or more senators who will act as fiscalizers in the coming session.

GMA must be unfazed by this prospect of having more opponents in the upper chamber. To the realists that man the Palace political office, the Senate is not the ultimate battle, from the point of view of the President. The battle for control of the territories is more decisive in the fight against regime change.

As history has shown, congressmen are more important than senators in the ultimate battle, like for example, in the ouster bid in Congress. As for local governments, grouped in ULAP, they were a big help to the President in insuring that the President had mass support. By the way, we should note that it was only in GMA’s time that local governments became a lever of power.

I heard that a great bulk of resources of the ruling party was given to candidates for congressmen who were eager to help the President when the time comes. In the language of war, the Senate was only a secondary theater.

Philipp Bowring of the International Herald Tribune agreed in a recent analysis that GMA would win in the territories, but the Senate would be a concession to the opposition. A nice balance indeed. GMA would continue to rule up to 2010, while the senators (administration and opposition) would be allowed to perform their oversight functions.

The next few months will tell whether there will be a renewed assault on the Senate and its viability as an institution. Right now, there is a small but noisy movement in Makati City, as shown in wall-writing along EDSA, aiming to abolish the Senate. I am not sure if this campaign has official imprimatur, but I notice that this line is being carried in some sectors of the press.

Speaker Jose de Venecia, the main exponent of parliamentary shift, has just been elected as congressman, after a bruising battle with a tough opponent. It would be interesting if he would continue with his crusade in the next Congress.

Escudero star has risen

Mr. Chiz Escudero is taking the senatorial elections by storm. After interviewing many people, I found out that this Nationalist People’s Coalition man’s voters cut through all sectors and territories. But he was particularly strong among the youth and students who identify with him.

Unlike those of the other candidates, Chiz’s voters (and campaigners also) come from all persuasions—the opposition, the administration and the neutral forces, the Left, the Middle and the Right. In Romblon where I voted last Monday, Chiz is number one, beating Ms. Loren Legarda.

If there is a perfect campaign in this election, it is Escudero’s. Unlike a colleague of his, Chiz has shunned the politics of attack and instead focused on his plans for the Senate. While Loren is the more popular, Chiz has the higher trust rating between the two.

Arroyo to Push Investment From Abroad in Philippines

By James Hookway
Full report at the Asian Wall Street Journal

MANILA, Philippines -- Confident of winning increased political support in this week's Philippine congressional elections, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said she will push for new overhauls to attract more foreign investment and further cut bureaucratic red tape to accelerate the country's economic revival.

Ms. Arroyo, in a wide-ranging interview with The Wall Street Journal yesterday, said her goal for the next three years of her term, which expires in 2010, is to achieve annual economic-growth rates of at least 6.5% to reduce still-widespread poverty in the Philippines.

Wednesday, 16 May 2007

BOP reaches $1.7B mark for first four months

Reports at ABS-CBN, Inquirer, GMANews

The Philippines had a balance of payments surplus of $282 million in April, buoyed by overseas remittances, strong exports and foreign investment inflows, the central bank reported on Wednesday.

For the first four months of the year, the Philippines had a balance of payments surplus of $1.7 billion. The Central Bank had earlier forecast a surplus of $1.6 billion for the whole year.

2007 Q1 Companies' Net Profit Tally (Update 4)

Reports from ABS-CBN, GMANews, BusinessWorld

Company----% yr/yr----Amount

  1. Ayala Corp [80%] P5.6B

  2. Universal Robina Corp [181%] P4.12B

  3. SM Investments [14%] P3.3B

  4. Cebu Pacific [62%] P3.19B

  5. Robinsons Land [47%] P1.218 billion

  6. Aboitiz Equity [68%] P1.076B

  7. Equitable PCI Bank* [32%] P937M

  8. Banco de Oro* [19%] P838M

  9. Megaworld [30%] P784M

  10. Jollibee [18%] P529M

  11. Int'l Container Terminal Services Inc [38%] P510M

  12. Alliance Global Group Inc. [299%] P494M

  13. GMA [22%] P421M

  14. Chinatrust (Philippines) Commercial Banking Corp. [23%] P391M

  15. ABS-CBN [138%] P280M

  16. Filinvest Land Inc [64%] P252.26M

  17. National Reinsurance [71%] P174M

  18. Metro Pacific [129%] P110.8M

  19. RFM Corp [200%] P63M

  20. Bacnotan Consolidated Industries [n.a.] P57.4M

  21. JG Summit H1 [(55%)] P1.74B

  22. Benpres Holdings Corp [(64%)] P731M

*Banco de Oro is about to merge with Equitable PCI.

Asian Currencies: Philippine Peso Gains on Higher Deposit Rates

By Yumi Teso and Jake Lee
Full report at Bloomberg

May 16 (Bloomberg) -- The Philippine peso extended gains to a 6 1/2-year high on speculation investors are buying the currency to place deposits in the central bank's higher-paying accounts.

The central bank opened its deposits to government pension funds, state companies and banks' investment trusts on May 10 to curb money supply growth that threatens to ignite inflation. Central bank six-month deposits pay 8 percent, while the 182-day Treasury bill yield was 3.721 percent at the April 30 auction.

``The currency market is beginning to feel the impact of the central bank's expansion of its deposit accounts,'' said Antonio Agcaoili, senior vice president at Asia United Bank in Manila. ``Investors are selling dollars for pesos to deposit in the higher-yielding accounts.''

The peso climbed 0.2 percent to 46.975 against the dollar as of 11:15 a.m. local time, according to Tullett Prebon Plc, the world's second-largest inter-dealer broker. It traded as high as 46.945, the strongest since October 2000.

Growth in Bank Lending Up 9.9% in March

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

Outstanding loans by commercial banks, thrift banks and rural banks grew at a faster pace of 9.9 percent year-on-year compared to the 7.5 percent growth in the previous month. Total loans outstanding were close to the P2 trillion mark, at P1.979 trillion as of end-March 2007. The growth of bank lending for this month was significantly higher than the 1.3 percent expansion registered in the comparable month a year ago. On a month-on-month basis, seasonally adjusted data posted a positive growth of 0.6 percent, a reversal of the 0.7 percent decline registered in the previous month.

Year-on-year growth in lending continued to be driven by loans to financial institutions, real estate and business services (17.5 percent) and community, social and personal services (16.9 percent). Lending to mining and quarrying also continued to post strong growth at 24.2 percent. Similarly, lending to the wholesale and retail trade and transportation, storage and communication sectors grew at a faster clip of 10.8 percent and 11.1 percent, respectively. Lending to the electricity, gas and water sector reverted to positive territory from the decline recorded in the previous month, while lending to agriculture slowed down slightly to 3.4 percent from 4.7 percent in the previous month. Meanwhile, outstanding loans to manufacturing and construction declined by 3.2 percent and 1.6 percent, respectively.

Credit is an important leading indicator of the growth in the economy, since higher credit could foreshadow, among other things, an increase in investment. Credit is also an important channel of monetary policy. For these reasons, the BSP closely monitors its trend and underlying forces to ensure that the growth of credit is consistent with price stability, one that is supportive of sustainable and balanced growth.

After the polls, it’s time to get back to work

By Ricardo Saludo
Original article at The Manila Times

With May 14 past, let us now get back to business. And government. Here are 10 priority undertakings which should be the focus of national efforts and attention in the coming months.

Open NAIA 3. The single most awaited event that would boost both national confidence and international investment and tourism is the opening of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3. If NAIA 3 meets its June schedule, it would give the nation a new face to show the world, and put an end to a sorry saga discouraging investors since the Supreme Court voided the NAIA 3 contract years ago.

Rehabilitate Bicol. Devastation in Bicol and nearby regions late last year increased hunger in Luzon when it should have fallen as food prices moderated and jobs increased in recent months. Hence, among top priorities should be accelerated farm rehabilitation, livelihood loans and employment, reconstruction and repair, especially of schools due to open in June, which also generate jobs.

Prosecute killings. No more inquiries and reports on media and activist murders: instead, there should be more prosecution. Several soldiers now face court-martial over activist deaths. More suspects should be brought before the bar of justice, including those involved in election murders. The world will be convinced of the government’s resolve in ending extrajudicial killings when perpetrators are tried, convicted and punished.

Forge the Mindanao peace accord. Talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) are due to resume after the polls. An agreement would cement the fragile foundations of peace in Mindanao, while undercutting terrorism’s grassroots network. Ending hostilities in the south would also enable security forces to deploy more units against other threats to law and order.

Implement the Attrition Law. Revenue generation is central to fiscal balance and investor confidence, so it is crucial to implement the rewards and sanctions for the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs under the Attrition Law. Already, first-quarter collections this year are below target, hence the imperative to enforce revenue goals.

Promulgate the Investment Priorities Plan. With investors more bullish on the Philippines, the new investment incentives program is keenly awaited and likely to attract more attention and capital than before. Already, net foreign direct investment topped $2.35 billion last year, four times the 2004 level. The entry of big names like Texas Instruments and Saudi Arabia’s al-Walid will further pump up the capital inflow.

Finish the Subic-Clark expressway. The 50.4-km link will cut travel time between seaport and airport to half an hour. That’s about as long as trucking cargo between similar facilities in Hong Kong and Singapore. Thus, the Subic-Clark corridor can operate with the same efficiency as these entrepôts, with the added plus of having vast lands along the expressway which can be turned into industrial estates.

Accelerate health insurance and hospital upgrading. These programs are already funded under the 2007 budget, but stalled by elections. They should now be implemented at full speed to bring life-saving assistance and facilities to millions of needy poor. The upgrading of hospitals to secondary and basic tertiary would also serve the internship requirements of thousands of nursing students.

Expand the food highway. One sure program to cut food prices and boost rural incomes is the Agriculture Department’s P2-billion food highway linking farming cooperatives and barangay food terminals (BFTs) in Metro Manila, cutting out the profit margins of middlemen. These links should be expanded with more farm-to-market roads, cold storage facilities, food terminals and supply arrangements between co-ops and BFTs.

Enact the 2008 budget. Next year’s general appropriations bill is hugely important for two reasons. It is the first balanced budget in over a decade, so it will be meticulously studied by investors and credit rating agencies to ascertain its viability. Many major projects in the government’s P1.7-trillion infrastructure program should be started in 2008, to avoid being caught up in politicking prior to 2010. Let’s pass the budget on time.

Advance congratulations to the election winners. Now, back to work.

Tuesday, 15 May 2007

President Arroyo orders speedy action on priority projects and concerns

Statement of Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo
Original report at Gov.Ph News

As the nation awaits the results of the elections, the government is accelerating development services and major undertakings for economic expansion, job creation, price stability, and peace and order.

The President has issued the following priority instructions to relevant agencies:

The Cabinet shall review the Investment Priorities Plan (IPP) for its final revision and approval this month. As investors become more and more bullish on the Philippines, especially with the largely peaceful and smooth conduct of the elections, the IPP shall bring in many more billions of dollars in capital, creating jobs and boosting reserves.

The Department of Transportation and Communications and the Manila International Airport Authority shall fast-track nine airport projects finishing this year. They include Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and facilities in Iloilo City, Kalibo, Aklan; Silay, near Bacolod; Cotabato, Ozamis, Misamis Oriental; Casiguran, Aurora; Bulan, Sorsogon; and Siargao, off Surigao. These projects help realize tourism’s promise as the next boom sector, generating billions of dollars in investments and millions of jobs.

The Light Rail Transit Authority shall ensure the start of work on its train link with the Metro Rail Transit from Monumento to North EDSA. Millions of daily commuters have long awaited the closing of the LRT-MRT loop, to make their daily journeys faster, safer and more comfortable.

The Subic Clark Alliance for Development shall press for the speedy completion within deadline of the expressway link between the seaport and the airport. The 50-km road will cut travel time between Subic and Clark to half an hour, creating a new seaport-airport to rival Hong Kong and Singapore, while opening up vast areas along the superhighway for industrial and logistics ventures serving Asia.

The government panel on the peace talks with the Moro Islamic Liberation Front shall resume talks toward a final peace agreement. Mindanao has already benefited from years of ceasefire, and a permanent cessation of hostilities will unleash billions of pesos in investment and development programs for the south.

The Philippine National Police, the Armed Forces of the Philippines, and the Department of Justice shall harness their investigative and legal resources to file at least 20 cases in court against suspects in election, activist or media killings. They shall consult with the Commission on Human Rights, the National Union of Journalists of the Philippines, and the Kilusan ng mga Brodkaster ng Pilipinas, while utilizing technical assistance offered by the European Commission and other foreign entities.

The Department of Health shall accelerate the issuance of PhilHealth cards to indigent families, and the upgrading of local hospitals to secondary or basic tertiary level. We are determined to achieve our goal of providing health insurance to all Filipinos, and raising the quality of medical treatment, while giving aspiring nurses more internship facilities.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council and its component agencies shall complete the rehabilitation of supertyphoon-ravaged areas in Bicol and nearby regions. This effort is urgent not only for the opening of schools next month, but also the reduction of hunger in the country.

The Department of Agriculture shall speed up the expansion of its food highway linking farmer cooperatives and Metro Manila barangay food terminals. The P2-billion program will also help combat hunger by eliminating middleman mark-ups and thus raising farmer incomes and reducing food prices in poor areas of the city.

The Department of Energy and the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation shall ensure the successful sale of the National Transmission Company and the Masinloc power plant. These closely watched privatizations shall boost business confidence and generate needed investments for future electricity needs of the country.

The Department of Finance, the Bureau of Internal Revenue and the Bureau of Customs shall implement the rewards and sanctions under the Attrition Law and based on performance targets for the 2006 fiscal year. Hitting our revenue targets is crucial to maintaining fiscal discipline, boosting investor confidence, and funding needed public investments and services.

The National Economic and Development Authority shall spearhead consultations between government agencies and Regional Development Councils on the major public investments to be funded under the proposed 2008 national budget. We are committed to delivering targets and projects in eight key areas by the end of next year, and we shall work with local leaders, both outgoing and incoming, to bring the benefits of our growing fiscal and economic strength to communities all over the country.

Democracy is government of the people, by the people and for the people. With these and other priority government undertakings, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and her administration shall advance national development and uplift the quality of life for the people we serve.

For questions and clarifications, please call Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo at 0919-3959215.

Stocks rise to 10-yr high after election; peso at 6-yr high

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Financial markets jumped on Tuesday on fresh optimism after a generally peaceful conduct of mid-term elections on Monday, traders said.

The peso ended the morning session at 46.95 per dollar, its highest level in six years versus Friday's close of 47.175. Markets were shut on Monday for the election.

The Philippine composite index (PSEi) closed higher by 44.12 points, or 1.31 percent, at 3,408.73.

"It's because of the outcome of the elections, it was relatively peaceful," said a treasurer at a local bank. "And we have been seeing the inflow of funds, mostly foreign investments and remittances."

"It was better than expected in my opinion because the turnout was quite high, so that shows somehow the confidence in the political system, the government is back, not just on the economy but also on the political landscape," said Jose Vistan, an analyst at AB Capital Securities Inc.

Market breadth was positive with gainers beating losers, 85 to 33. There were 49 stocks were unchanged.

A total of 3.93 billion shares worth P5.72 billion were traded.

Gainers were beating losers 72 to 14 and there 42 unchanged.

Index heavyweight and dominant phone firm Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. climbed P15 to P2,565.

Ayala Corp., the country's largest business group, jumped P10 to P610.

Metropolitan Bank and Trust Co., the nation's biggest lender, rose P1 to P62.50.

The conduct of the 2007 mid-term elections was relatively orderly and peaceful, except for some areas in Mindanao and a Southern Tagalog province where the casting of ballots were suspended, according to police authorities and election officials.- with Reuters

March remittances up 26 percent

Remittances Remain Above the US$1 Billion Mark for the 11th Straight Month; First Quarter Remittances at US$3.5 Billion
Media Release
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

Remittances of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) coursed through banks remained above US$1 billion for the 11th straight month since May 2006. Inflows reached US$1.3 billion in March 2007, posting a double-digit year-on-year growth of 26.4 percent. This is the third consecutive month of double-digit growth since the start of 2007. The sustained strength in remittance flows in March brought the first quarter level to US$3.5 billion, 24.0 percent higher than the US$2.8 billion realized in the same period a year ago.

Strong remittances in the first quarter of 2007 were mainly the result of innovative remittance schemes offered by financial institutions, and enhanced links established with foreign counterparts. Over the years, financial institutions have continuously forged tie-ups with remittance centers overseas, thus, increasing access to financial services and facilitating transfers by overseas-based Filipinos to their beneficiaries.

Remittances continued to post significant growth notwithstanding the decline in the number of deployed OFWs during the first quarter of 2007 in contrast to the level recorded a year ago. Preliminary first quarter 2007 data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that the total number of deployed workers contracted year-on-year by 10.6 percent to 251,009. The aggregate numbers of land-based and sea-based workers at 191,937 and 59,072, respectively, were lower by 9.2 percent and 14.8 percent compared to the levels a year ago. However, the profile of deployed workers has been changing, with the deployment of more professionals and higher-paid workers in the field of medical and healthcare, information technology, education, maritime, hotel and food industries, among others. The deployment outlook continues to be favorable as Filipino workers’ competence and technical skills, as well as high degree of trainability support the manpower demands of host economies. Continuing bilateral discussions and negotiations being undertaken by the Government with major labor-receiving countries are also expected to sustain the strong remittance trend.

Overall, the major sources of remittances during the quarter were the U.S.A., Canada, the United Kingdom, Italy, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Japan, and Hong Kong. During the quarter, significant increments in remittances were recorded from Filipinos based in Canada, France, Germany, Greece, Japan, Norway, Saudi Arabia, Taiwan, United Arab Emirates, and the U.K.

2007 Q1 Companies' Net Profit Tally

From GMANews.TV, ABS-CBN News, BusinessWorld
Year-on-year net profit

  • Ayala Corp. (80%) P5.6B

  • SM Investments (14%) P3.3B

  • Aboitiz Equity (68%) P1.076B

  • Megaworld (30%) P784M

  • Jollibee (18%) P529M

  • International Container Terminal Services Inc. (ICTSI) (38%) P510 million

  • GMA (22%) P421M

  • Chinatrust (Philippines) Commercial Banking Corp. (23%) P391 million

  • ABS-CBN (138%) P280M

  • National Reinsurance (71%) P174M

  • Metro Pacific (129%) P110.8M

  • Bacnotan Consolidated Industries (??%) P57.4M

  • Chemrez Inc (272%)

Net foreign buying in PSE up 73%

By Honey Madrilejos-Reyes
Original report at the Business Mirror

NET foreign buying in the local stock market reached P33.76 billion from January to April this year, or 73.2-percent higher than the P19.49-billion level recorded in the same period in 2006.

Based on figures released by the Philipine Stock Exchange (PSE), total foreign buying for the first four months went up 96.1 percent to P215.16 billion from P109.72 billion for the corresponding period last year.

Total foreign selling also expanded by 101 percent to reach P181.41 billion from P90.24 billion a year earlier.

PSE president Francis Lim described the increasing amount of net foreign transactions as a clear indication of ever-increasing interest in the market among foreign investors. Net foreign buying is the difference between total foreign buying against total foreign selling.

“As I love to say, foreign investors would not entrust more money with our market if they entertain doubts about our prospects. Their increasing presence in our market is a major factor that keeps local stock prices moving up,” he said.

In 2003 the PSE suffered a P3.8-billion net foreign selling, but reversed the trend the following year by recording a P17.84-billion net foreign buying. Since then, net foreign buying has enjoyed a steady growth, reaching P23.53 billion in 2005 and P68.49 billion last year.

Total market capitalization of all listed issues reached P7.74 trillion as of April 30 or 7.9-percent higher than the P7.17-trillion mark at the end of 2006. The market capitalization of listed domestic companies hit P3.8 trillion, or 13.3 percent, higher than P3.35 trillion at the end of 2006.

Total value turnover during the first four months of the year multiplied more than two-and-a-half times to reach P385.3 billion from P153.2 billion a year earlier.

Average daily value turnover from January to April expanded by 154.6 percent to P4.7 billion from P1.85 billion for the same period last year.

Over half, or 51.5 percent, of total value turnover was generated by foreign transactions, but Lim reiterated the PSE’s resolve not to rely on foreign inflows alone to fuel the stock market’s advance.

“We must tap more local investments, if we have to sustain the growth of our stock market. We are in the process of finalizing a coordinated campaign, involving other major capital market stakeholders, to entice local investors, especially the overseas Filipinos and their loved ones in the country, to take a look at our stock market,” he said.

At the end of April, the prices of 197 issues were up, those of 43 others were down, while prices of nine issues were unchanged compared to their levels at the end of 2006.

Monday, 14 May 2007

PGMA on close of polls: Time to join hands, unite

Original report at Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called on the nation today to end the divisiveness brought about by this year’s electoral exercise and join hands for the good of the country.

In a statement she issued after the formal close of balloting at 3 o’clock this afternoon, the President sought to end the barrage of election-related violence that marked this year’s polls.

"May matitinding pagtutunggali sa lahat ng kampanya, subalit magmagandang-loob tayo, manalo man o matalo. Para sa kapakanan ng bansa, dapat isara ang mga kabanata ng hidwaan sa pagtutunggali paglabas ng hatol ng bayan at buksan ang pinto ng pambansang pagkakaisa at pagkakapit-bisig," she said in the vernacular.

The Philippine National Police (PNP), in its report on the eve of today’s mid-term election, recorded 111 deaths from election-related violent incidents (ERVIs) with 120 more persons injured.

The report showed that due to the PNP’s "preventive measures," the ERVIs this year were slightly lower than in 2004 (189 people killed and 279 others wounded) and in 2001 (132 people were killed while 302 wounded).

In the same statement, the President lauded the voting public who came out to exercise their Constitutional right to suffrage with no expectation of something in return.

"Sa araw na ito ay nagkaisa ang sambayanang Pilipino sa likod ng demokrasya. Ipinagmamalaki natin ang ating kasaysayan bilang malayang bansa. Pinupuri natin ang mga botanteng nagtungo sa mga presinto upang bumoto nang walang pamimilit at ayon sa kanilang kalooban," she said.

The President praised the Commission on Elections (Comelec), the public school teachers, the PNP, the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), and the numerous religious, civic and professional groups who did their job to protect the sanctity of the vote.

"Ibig kong purihin ang Comelec at ang mga ahensiyang itinalaga nito para sa mahusay nilang pagbabantay sa halalan. Itinatangi ko lalo na ang kabayanihan at katapatan ng ating mga guro na bantog sa panahong ito; at ang mga pulis at sundalo sa pag-depensa ng kapayapaan at kaayusan ng walang pagkiling," she said.

"All the institutions that helped the people safeguard the vote – religious, civic, professional – likewise deserve the gratitude of our nation, together with the foreign observers who came to share our passion and vigilance for democracy," she added.

Thousands of HK OFWs troop to polling center

Full report at ABS-CBN

Almost 15,000 overseas Filipino workers have cast their votes in polling stations in Hong Kong, an embassy official said Monday.

Carmela Panes, spokeswoman of the Philippine Consulate General in Hong Kong, said a total of 14,693 Filipino workers, majority of which are domestic helpers, have already voted at the Bayanihan Kennedy Town Center, which was converted into a polling center in Hong Kong.

Panes said the voters were among the 150,000 registered voters in Hong Kong.

A worker named Victoria interviewed by ABS-CBN News said she is hoping that elections in the Philippines would be fraud-free.

"I hope everything is clean... and then I hope [for the] Philippine's more improvements," Victoria said.

Arroyo will be a big winner

By Tony Lopez
Original article at The Manila Times

Gloria Macapagal-Arro­yo can declare an election victory today. Her ruling coalition, led by Lakas and Kampi, is about to sweep the elections—for senator, for congressmen, for provincial governor, for city and town mayors.

The opposition will likely win six to seven of the 12 senatorial races. They will include Loren Legarda, Chiz Escudero, Manny Villar, Ping Lacson, Kiko Pangilinan and Noynoy Aquino. Plus Alan Cayetano, if he is able to overwhelm the dynasty issue and the Comelec gobbledygook at the last minute. The betting is that GO will win only six because it lost traction in the homestretch. They will join opposition incumbents Aquilino Pimentel, Rodolfo Biazon, Jinggoy Estrada, Jamby Madrigal, Pia Cayetano, Dick Gordon, Mar Roxas and Alfredo Lim (if he loses in the Manila mayoralty race). That’s a total of 15 opposition senators at most.

GMA needs only eight senators to forestall conviction in an impeachment trial. She will get that. Ralph Recto, Edgardo Angara, Joker Arroyo and Migz Zubiri of Team Unity are likely winners. They will join incumbents Miriam Defensor Santiago, Juan Ponce Enrile, Ramon Magsaysay and Lito Lapid (who will probably lose in Makati), and Ramon “Bong” Revilla.

GMA could get more senators, especially if Greg Honasan decides to join the administration coalition after he wins. Or if Alan Peter Cayetano loses because SWS says up to 9 percent of his votes will become stray as a result of the shabby treatment given him by the Comelec. The poll body declared the fake Cayetano a nuisance candidate but just the same will allow the stevedore to run. So the President will have 10 senators in the new Senate.

At the same time, the administration will likely win 180 of the 220 congressional races, leaving the opposition with just 40 congressmen, barely more than half of the 75 needed to move an impeachment bid. Her party will also win 65 of the 80 provincial governorships, 80 of the 100 city mayorships, and probably up to 90 percent of the 1,500 town mayoralty races. Known opposition bailiwicks will go to her party—huge parts of Metro Manila (except for Makati, Pasay and San Juan), nearly the entire Bicol region, most of Southern Luzon, nearly the entire Central Luzon, most of the Visayas and most of Mindanao.

In Pampanga, there is a funny race for governor. It is being contested by a Jueteng Lord, a Lahar Lord and a Praise the Lord. The Catholic priest is getting protest votes from a lot of sensible people, from tycoons in Manila to Kiko Pangilinan and a number of Capampangans outraged by the decrepit nature of their provincial politics. In the end, it is who President Arroyo wants as governor for her home province who will win.

The President will get what she wants from Congress. She got the Human Security Act from a hostile Senate. Yes, the budget was not approved on time for three consecutive years but that was good for her. She saved about P400 billion of surplus funds that the budget failed to reckon with because of nonpassage. There is very little more she wants from Congress, except for fancy and esoteric economic reform bills on investments, securities, retirement and banking. Since most of the congressmen and senators won’t understand these bills, the measures will probably be passed by Congress.

The President will get grass-roots support from congressmen, from governors, from city and town mayors. They will welcome her P1 trillion of infra spending over the next three years, which will modernize their places. They will welcome her IRA. They will welcome whatever legislative proposals she will propose. Including perhaps a term extension in 2010?

Iloilo airport opens in June

By Roderick T. dela Cruz
Original report at the Manila Standard

The P8.759-billion Iloilo Airport Development Project, the first and largest of the 16 airports that are under development in the Central Philippines tourism super region, will officially open next month.

Presidential Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, who heads the government’s Infrastructure Monitoring Task Force, said the airport was completed in March, but its commercial operation was set in June, after the election period.

Central Philippines, the tourism super region, covers 27 provinces in Southern Tagalog (including Palawan), Bicol, Western Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Central Visayas, Western Mindanao, Northern Mindanao and Caraga.

Once operational, the airport is seen to be the second largest in the Visayas, after the Mactan International Airport in Cebu.

“With the completion of the new Iloilo airport, Panay Island now has an international airport that will boost economic activity and tourism in the island,” Remonde said.

The new Iloilo airport development project is located 19 km. northwest of Iloilo City on a 188-hectare site between the towns of Cabatuan and Santa Barbara. It will replace the old airport in Mandurriao, Iloilo City.

The project is financed under a ¥14.724-billion loan (P5.9 billion) from the Japan Bank for International Cooperation,

Built by the Japanese firm Taisei Shimizu joint venture, the new airport features a 2,500-meter-by-45-m. runway that can accommodate large aircraft such as the Boeing 747. It has a 12,000-sqm. passenger terminal that can accommodate 1.222 million passengers annually and a 1,281-sqm. terminal that can handle 11,500 metric tons of cargo.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano, who heads the Central Philippines super region, said the development of new airports in the region would boost the tourism industry.

The airport development projects expected to be completed this year include the New Bacolod Airport Development Project, costing P6.376 billion; and those in Bulan, Sorsogon (P15 million); Kalibo, Aklan (P105 million); and Siargao in Surigao del Norte (P58 million).

Durano said construction of the P3.44-billion Bicol International Airport in Daraga, Albay and the P2.87-billion Panglao Bohol International Airport in Panglao Island, Bohol would start late this year or early next year.

Other airport development projects include the Puerto Princesa Airport, costing P3.132 billion; Busuanga Airport, P1.224 billion; Balabac, P303 million; and San Vicente, P100 million which are all located in Palawan province.

Also under development are airports in Tacloban, costing P1.121 billion; San Jose, Romblon, P303 million; Kabankalan, Negros Occidental, P303 million; Dumaguete, P290 million; and Guiuan, Eastern Samar, P142 million.

Choices to determine priorities

Partisan politics or quick legislative action for 14th Congress?
Full report at BusinessWorld Online

The 14th Congress’ political configuration - to be chosen today by more than 45 million voters - will determine the fate of measures deemed crucial to improving the country’s competitiveness and investor allure.

In interviews with BusinessWorld, officials of several business groups said they would be more comfortable if both houses of Congress were controlled by the administration, pointing to the prospect of quicker approval of needed legislation.

Other businessmen, however, said a repeat of a pro-administration House of Representatives and an opposition-dominated Senate would best provide the necessary checks and balances.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Bunye confident that more mature and discerning voters will prefer continuing economic reforms

Original report at Gov.Ph News

Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye has expressed hope that today’s voting public will be more mature, discerning and see the importance of voting for the right candidates so that the economic reforms of the government may be sustained and bring about the fair sharing of the economic gains to every Filipino.

In his weekly column "The View from the Palace" which comes out tomorrow, Bunye said the great economic strides attained under President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s administration will not be missed by the Filipino voter and will be at the centerpiece of his decision on who to choose in Monday’s midterm elections.

"This administration has made monumental strides in moving our economy forward. And this is very basic. Without good economics, we will not have the wherewithal to fund basic social services without mortgaging our children’s future. Improving the economy is, indeed, the first real step towards breaking the cycle of poverty," Bunye said.

Among the "monumental strides" he cited are:

1. Twenty-four consecutive quarters of economic growth (a first since 1986);

2. Average gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate of 5.53 percent since the President’s second term (2004);

3. National government deficit in 2006 was only P65 billion, an eight-year low;

4. For 2007, Lehman Brothers (a diversified, global financial services firm that delves in investment banking, equity and fixed income sales, research and trading, investment management, private equity, and private banking) forecasts a 5.8 percent GDP growth rate, well above most Asian countries;

5. The inflation rate recorded for March 2007 was 2.2 percent, the lowest in 20 years; and,

6. The Philippine peso is on a six-year high (Asia’s best performing currency in 2005, appreciating 6.01 percent relative to 2004 and 8.28 percent in 2006).

Aside from these, Bunye said the real estate industry has been experiencing a boom, posting a 26 percent growth recorded in the third quarter of 2006, the highest in 25 years.

Bunye said that according to data from the National Economic and Development Authority, this boom in the industry is attributed to the overseas Filipino workers’ (OFWs) investments in real estate, among other major factors.

"NEDA Director Dennis Arroyo (no relation to the President) said the boom is fueled by overseas Filipino workers buying condominium) units, call centers demanding office space, and the malls that keep on multiplying. The proliferation of malls is evidence of an expanding middle class, in turn due to the OFW phenomenon," Bunye added.

According to the Press Secretary, NEDA expects the ratio of investments to GDP to rise due to the following factors:

1. Massive infrastructure spending in the "super regions;"
2. The return of investor confidence;
3. Rise in foreign investments due to the country’s strategic location, a well educated, productive and English-speaking work force and the continuous effort to cut red tape to simplify requirements for investing in the Philippines.

Bunye said that these positive economic indicators show that macro and even microeconomic reforms are stable and working.

"We just need to sustain it so that we can bring the economic gains to the poor," he stressed.

AFP glad on people's support on troops deployment in metropolis

Original report at Positive News Media

MANILA, May 13 (PNA) - A top military official was gladdened when residents of a depressed area in Manila drove away scores of leftist militants and a Catholic bishop who tried to convince them to oppose the deployment of soldiers in the urban poor communities in the metropolis.

Brig. Gen. Nestor Sadiarin, commander of the military’s Civil Relations Service based in Camp Aguinaldo, said the military felt vindicated over the actuation of the residents of Parola compound in Tondo, Manila last Wednesday.

The groups identified with the Communist Party of the Philippines (CPP) and the New People’s Army (NPA) swooped down on the urban poor community to convince the residents that the soldiers should be pulled out from their locality immediately.

Ironically, the picket was conducted by leftist militants shortly after Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. ordered the pull out of troops to avoid possible allegations that the soldiers would be involved in the upcoming elections on Monday.

Esperon said the matter on whether the soldiers would be re-deployed after the elections would be subject to his review and approval, but the AFP’s National Capital Region Command said that if it would have its way, the soldiers should be returned to the barangays.

The soldiers were deployed to the depressed communities in November last year to prevent the NPA from infiltrating the barangays. The deployment had a civil military operation component that allowed the soldiers to pursue medical and dental missions and engineering works.

Sadiarin said the driving away of leftist militants by residents in Parola only shows the “widespread feeling among the residents of depressed communities” to the military deployment.

The official said it is only the communists and their front organizations “who are raising a howl in what is basically a legitimate government action to render services to the people.”

Several leftist organizations have been opposing the deployment, saying they were meant to harass members of leftist party-list groups and their supporters in time for the election.

This was categorically denied by the military.

Sadiarin said “it is only the organized Left that is raising the issue when in fact the residents are asking for the retention of the soldiers.”

“This only shows that the people are appreciating us and that they do not believe in the propaganda being sponsored by the communist front organizations against our efforts in the city,” he said.

Sadiarin stressed that the military is pulling out the soldiers “to eliminate any suspicion that they will be used outside of its internal security objectives. (PNA)

Cebu Pacific invests in world-class aviation training center

By Conrado M. Diaz Jr.
Sunday, May 13, 2007
Original report at the Philippine Star

Cebu Pacific, the airline unit of the Gokongwei-owned JG Summit Holdings Inc., is investing in an integrated aviation training facility geared at producing world-class commercial pilots to man its rapidly expanding fleet.

The airline has tied up with Clark Aviation, the local arm of the London-based Alpha Aviation Group which started operating the training center at the Clark special economic zone early this year.

Under their joint undertaking, Cebu Pacific will provide financial assistance to qualified candidates who will be trained as commercial pilots in a span of just one year. Upon completion of the training course, the graduates will be assigned as co-pilots on Cebu Pacific’s fleet of Airbus 320 high performance jets.

A major part of the cadet pilot training is the use of a $13-million aircraft full flight simulator, the first and only flight simulator for the Airbus aircraft in the Philippines.

The full flight simulator replicates in every aspect the cockpit of the Airbus 320 aircraft. It also reproduces the visual atmosphere that the aircraft appears to be flying in, including thunderstorms, clouds, and the landing approaches of airports around the world.

It also simulates sound and motion, including banking and turning, accelerations, and the feel of tires as they roll across the bumps and cracks in the runway. Aircraft malfunctions, such as engine fire, smoke in the cockpit or electrical and hydraulic failures can also be replicated.

Matt Wood, Clark Aviation’s chief ground instructor, told journalists that the intensive 12-month course will make the students “live, eat and breathe Airbus” as they will practically live together inside the compound almost every day of the week.

“The training involves five months of ground school, 50 four-hour trips in the simulator and 70 flight hours in a single-engine aircraft filled with sandbags to replicate actual passengers,” he said.

The final stage consists of 12 take off and landings in an actual Airbus 320, under the direct supervision of Clark Aviation’s chief flight instructor Capt. Ric Norman.

Wood said the entire course currently costs about $75,000 (P3.75 million) for each student, although Cebu Pacific pays for half of the amount for its pilots.

In addition, he said Cebu Pacific has offered to shoulder the entire cost of the training program for its employees that have been with the company for at least two years, and would work for the airline for another two years after completion of training.

Cebu Pacific, the country’s low-fare leader, has the youngest fleet of aircraft in the Philippines with a combined fleet age of less than a year, also one of the youngest in Asia. The airline operates 14 brand-new Airbus aircraft — completing its $670-million re-fleeting program — to 20 domestic and eight regional destinations.

Clark Aviation officials said over the past few years, a surge in the aviation industry has resulted in a worldwide demand for qualified pilots. Each new aircraft needs approximately 10 new pilots to ensure that operational capabilities are met, which means almost 9,000 new pilots will be needed in Asia alone in the next few years.

Commercial pilots are given an attractive compensation package by airline companies, paying them between $2,000 to $4,000 a month, depending on experience, on top of a contributory provident fund, medical facilities, free or concession travel and a range of benefits and allowances.