Saturday, 7 July 2007

Assistant city prosecutor gets 12 years for graft

By Sandy Araneta
Original report at the Philippine Star

[We include this article to show how the fight against graft is gaining ground. --Blogger ed.]

For receiving P10,000 from a litigant, an assistant city prosecutor of Manila was convicted of graft and indirect bribery yesterday by the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division and sentenced to a maximum total of 12 years in prison.

In a 47-page decision, the Sandiganbayan’s Fifth Division said prosecutor Constancio Velasco was found guilty of violating the Anti-Graft and Corrupt Practices Act.

He was sentenced to imprisonment of at least six years and one month to eight years and perpetually barred from holding public office. He was likewise ordered to pay the cost of the suit.

Velasco was also found guilty of indirect bribery and sentenced to one year and eight months up to four years and nine months in prison.

Velasco has a pending criminal case of oral defamation filed by Benito against spouses Eduardo and Clarissa Magbitang.

Benito said she filed a complaint for oral defamation against the Magbitangs at the prosecutor’s office in the Manila City Hall on July 23, 2001.

During a hearing on Aug. 14, 2001, the legal counsel of the Magbitangs filed a “Motion to Dismiss” the complaint.

Velasco gave Benito a chance to file her comment.

On Sept. 5, 2001, she returned to the prosecutor’s office to file her comment. This time Velasco handed her a piece of paper on which he had written the amount of P5,000.

Benito asked the prosecutor if that was for a penalty for the complaint filed. But Velasco said it was meant as “grease money”: “Hindi. Para sa akin ‘yan, para iakyat ko ang kaso mo sa korte.” (No, that is for me, so I will elevate the case to the courts.)

A month later, Benito decided to ask the help of the National Bureau of Investigation (NBI), which planned an entrapment.

During the entrapment, Velasco was caught red-handed by the NBI receiving the P5,000 from Benito at the noodle restaurant.

In Cebu City, Chief Justice Reynato Puno ordered the preventive suspension of four Municipal Trial Court in Cities (MTCC) judges pending investigation of their alleged involvement in the irregular solemnization of marriages.

Acting on the recommendation of the Office of the Court Administrator, Puno also ordered the immediate filing of administrative charges for corruption, dishonesty, gross ignorance of the law, and deliberate violation of the law on marriage against MTCC Judges Anatalio S. Necesario (Branch 2), Gil R. Acosta (Branch 3), Rosabella M. Tormis (Branch 4), and Edgemelo C. Rosales (Branch 8).

Puno ordered the preventive suspension following reports that certain courts in Cebu City conduct marriages with undue haste and for an amount higher than the prescribed P300 marriage fee.

Members of the religious community, business community, diplomatic corps, and cause-oriented groups personally informed Puno of the alleged irregular activities when he attended the First Distinguished Lecture, Series of 2007 held in Cebu last June 29.

That same day, before flying back to Manila, Puno held an impromptu dialogue with the judges to look into the allegations.

Last Monday, Puno sent a judicial audit team, led by the Office of the Court Administrator Judicial Supervisor for Region VII, Rullyn Garcia, to conduct an investigation.

The team in particular investigated Cebu City MTCC Branches 2, 3, 4, 8, and the Regional Trial Court branch 24, as well as their respective offices of the clerks of court.

Investigation showed that of the 643 marriage certifications actually examined, Necesario solemnized 92 marriages under Article 34 of the Family Code from 2005 to 2007; Acosta solemnized 67 marriages from 2003 to 2007; Tormis, 73 marriages from 2005 to 2007; and Rosales, 48 marriages from 2006 to 2007, or a total of 280 marriages.

However, such figures did not accurately reflect the actual number of marriages solemnized by the four judges during the period, as the number of marriages listed in the logbooks for marriages was higher than the number of marriage certificates actually examined.

The investigation team also found out that there were marriage licenses obtained from the local civil registrar at a location where neither of the contracting parties were residents.

In addition, there were also discrepancies in the signatures of the local civil registrars of Barili and Liloan, appearing in the different marriage licenses purportedly obtained from their respective offices. This suggested that the signatures of local civil registrars were forged.

The Office of the Court Administrator added that there were also marriages that were solemnized without the supporting documents like marriage licenses, certificates of legal capacity with respect to foreigners or joint affidavits of cohabitation.

There were also some marriages that were solemnized without proof of payment of the required fee.

Copies of the marriage certificates and other supporting documents for marriages solemnized by the judges concerned were found in the custody of other courts than their own.

Documents, including logbooks for marriages, invariably show the names of court employees who have been identified as “fixers” or “facilitators” for marriages as well as the names of “runners” or “assistants” who facilitate the application for marriage license.

There were also affidavits confirming that there were “package fees” for marriage solemnization that ranged from P1,500 to P15,000.

“Undeniably, Judges Necesario, Acosta, Rosales, and Tormis abused their authority to solemnize marriage, thereby making a mockery of the sanctity of marriage,” the investigation report of the Office of the Court Administrator stated. — with Mike Frialde

BIR, BOC act to help NG meet deficit target

By Iris C. Gonzales
Original article at the Philippine Star

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) have laid down specific action plans to help the government meet its P63-billion budget deficit target for the year.

The two agencies are under heavy pressure from Malacañang to meet their respective revenue goals after the government incurred a wider-than-expected budget deficit for the first semester.

Based on preliminary figures from the Department of Finance, the government’s budget deficit likely reached P37.7 billion in the first semester or P6.4 billion higher than the programmed deficit of P31.3 billion for the period.

The BIR incurred a shortfall of P40 billion as of end-June while the BOC’s shortfall amounted to P13 billion during the period.

BIR officer-in-charge Lilian Hefti said the agency would step up collection efforts to meet its monthly revenue targets from July to December this year and to partly recover its revenue shortfall in the first semester.

Hefti said the BIR would increase the use of business intelligence to weed out tax evaders, enhance its audit programs to verify if taxpayers are paying the correct amount of taxes and improve tax administration measures.

The agency will also intensify enforcement activities of its Run After Tax Evaders (RATE) program.

The BIR has a revenue target of P730 billion for the year while the BOC’s revenue goal is P228 billion.

Hefti said the BIR also sought the help of the Department of Justice in pursuing pending tax evasion cases.

BOC Commissioner Napoleon Morales, for his part, assured President Arroyo that by yearend, the agency would wipe out its estimated P13 billion revenue shortfall through an aggressive action plan.

These include the auction of forfeited items or goods that importers could no longer claim due to pending cases. The BOC will also enhance its audit system to ensure that importers are paying the right duties, Morales said.

Furthermore, the agency will better coordinate with other government agencies such as the Land Transportation Office for information sharing.

GMA to economic team: Meet targets or lose jobs

By Paolo Romero
Original report at the Philippine Star

President Arroyo has warned members of her economic team, including middle level revenue officials, that they could be fired if revenue and deficit targets for the year are not met.

A ranking Malacañang official, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Mrs. Arroyo issued the warning during the command conference with finance and revenue officials on Wednesday at the Palace where it was decided that the P63-billion deficit target for 2007 would be maintained despite falling tax revenues and programs to increase public spending.

Among those present in the meeting were Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr., Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, Bureau of Internal Revenue officer-in-charge Lilian Hefti, district BIR and BOC heads, and other members of the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC).

The meeting firmed up the Arroyo administration’s goal to wipe out the deficit and achieving a balanced budget next year. In the past, the President said she would prefer to delay balancing the budget to 2010 and spend more for social and infrastructure projects, but at the same time noted that her economic managers think that reducing the deficit to zero next year is achievable.

“She (Mrs. Arroyo) was not angry but resolute. There was no direct warning but the message was clear for all of us present: ‘Deliver and be fit for the job’,” the official, who was present in the meeting, said. “The meeting was very serious but the President showed resoluteness.”

During the two-hour meeting, Mrs. Arroyo also reportedly mentioned to members of the economic team repeatedly that “we have the lateral attrition law,” referring to Republic Act 9335, which provides for a system of rewards and punishments for revenue officials, including dismissal for repeated failures to achieve target.

Under the law, BIR and Bureau of Customs (BOC) officials and employees who fall short of their respective revenue collection targets by 7.5 percent or higher would be dismissed from the service.

The law, enacted in 2005, does not only seek to remove from service under-performing BIR and BOC officials and employees, but also grants incentives to those who would perform beyond target.

Under the law, officials and employees would be given a collective incentive equivalent to 15 percent of the excess collection if the excess is 30 percent or below.

“The Lateral Attrition Law affects the revenue officials, but for us in the Cabinet, who are just political appointees, our position is more precarious. We can be removed anytime,” the Palace official said.

In a press briefing after the meeting, Teves admitted the government is likely to breach its deficit targets for the first half of the year due to poor tax collections.

He described as “daunting” the task of raising P1.1 trillion in revenues through tax and non-tax measures. He admitted that he is pinning his hopes on the one-time, non-tax revenues through the sale of government shares in San Miguel and the Philippine National Oil Co.

When asked whether he would resign if he fails, he said: “We serve at the pleasure of the President.”

Teves said based on preliminary figures, the government budget deficit likely reached P37.7 billion in the first semester or P6.4 billion higher than the programmed deficit of P31.3 billion for the period due largely to collection shortfalls by the BIR and the BOC.

The estimated BIR shortfall amounted to P40 billion as of end-June while the BOC incurred a deficit of P13 billion during the period.

In separate presentations, the BIR and the BOC mapped out their action plans to meet their 2007 revenue targets of P730 billion and P228 billion, respectively.

During the meeting, Mrs. Arroyo asked each BIR and BOC district heads to explain their performance. She congratulated those who met or exceeded targets and chastised those who failed.

Another Cabinet official present during the meeting said the Manila and Batangas district officials’ common reason for the shortfall was the declining oil importations.

Friday, 6 July 2007

Families of AFP battle casualties and wounded men given President's financial assistance

Full report at Gov.Ph News

They lost their loved ones in military battle but the Office of the President is not leaving them alone in their grief.

The Office of the Presidential Adviser on Military Affairs (OPAMA) awarded today cash assistance of P100,000 each to the legal surviving spouses/parents of 14 battle casualties of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and gave P20,000 to P50,000 each to 10 soldiers wounded in action form 2004 to 2006.

The Special Financial Assistance (SFA) totaling P1.73 million for the 14 widows/parents and 10 soldiers came from the President’s Social Fund (PSF). The checks were handed to the beneficiaries at the Executive Secretary’s Hall at the top floor of the Mabini Hall in Malacanang by Maj. Gen. Arturo Carillo (ret.), the presidential adviser on military affairs (PAMA).

Carillo, a member of the Philippine Military Academy Class of 1968, said it is the OPAMA’s duty to pinpoint the legal claimants of such assistance that was earlier authorized by President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo to alleviate the grief of AFP battle casualties and survivors.

Aside from the P100,000 cash assistance, surviving families of the AFP personnel killed in action (KIA) are also given a house and lot package worth P180,000.

Those wounded in action (WIA), on the other hand, are classified into those who suffered "major" or "minor" wounds, and given financial assistance of P50,000 and P20,000 each respectively. Major wounds include amputations and blindness suffered during battle.

Palace thanks U.S. Congress for $30-M foreign military funding to RP

Original report at Gov.Ph News

Malacanang expressed today its thanks to both houses of the US Congress and Executive Branch for appropriating a $30-million foreign military funding to the Philippines to fight terrorism and bring lasting peace and progress in Mindanao.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said both Houses of the US Congress have approved and even increased by almost three-fold to $30 million the military funding for the Philippines from the Executive Department proposal of only $11 million.

In a statement, Bunye said the increased amount was appropriated under the 2008 Foreign Military Funding bill by both Houses of the US Congress even after several Philippine groups "have tried to stop the US funding for reasons of political expediency."

"We are thankful to our friends in both Houses of the US Congress and in the Executive Branch for their faith in the government of the Philippines as demonstrated in the strong military funding currently appropriated to the Philippines in the 2008 Foreign Military Funding bill," Bunye said.

"We share mutual determination to bring peace and solidarity in Mindanao and to strengthen US-Philippines security relations," he added.

The Malacanang official said US funding has been very helpful to the fight against terrorism and in bringing in basic infrastructure, education, and healthcare in crucial areas in Mindanao.

"This is funding that has allowed our partnership with the United States to break new ground in making our country and our region safer from the threat of terror. This is funding that has saved lives and that has brought renewed hopes of lasting peace and meaningful progress to thousands," Bunye added.

He said the US Congress also approved an additional $2 million subject to the confirmation of the State Department that the Philippines is implementing the recommendations of the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions, "which we have largely done;" and that the Philippine military is not engaging in acts of intimidation or violence against members of legal, civic and religious organizations who advocate human rights.

"We see this provision as a sincere desire to help and further encourage the Philippines to address the issue of politically-motivated killings. We assure the members of the US Congress that the Philippine government acknowledges their concern and see this as a sincere desire to help us address the issue," Bunye said.

Bunye added that the US Senate Committee on Appropriations also increased to $30 million from $26 million the Economic Support Fund for the Philippines and urged the Executive Branch to request for more once there is a peace agreement between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

Incidentally, stakeholders in the peace process that include the lumads and MILF leaders would thresh out and address issues on insurgency, criminality and terrorism during the Mindanao Peace and Security Summit in Cagayan de Oro City next week.

End-June GIR Climbs to US$26.4 Billion

Media Release
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) rose to US$26.4 billion as of end-June 2007, or about US$800 million higher than the end-May 2007 level of US$25.6 billion. This end-June 2007 GIR level is closer to the high end of the GIR forecast range of US$26.0-US$26.6 billion for end-2007. The continued accumulation of reserves was attributed mainly to the Bangko Sentral’s (BSP) foreign exchange operations, due in turn to strong inflows of dollars, and receipts from investment income abroad. These inflows were partly offset, however, by payments of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the BSP and the National Government.

In terms of reserve adequacy, the current GIR level can cover about 4.9 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. This level is also equivalent to 5.3 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 2.8 times based on residual maturity.

Net international reserves (NIR), including revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, likewise rose to US$26.4 billion from the end-May 2007 level of US$25.6 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.

US firm disputes DOTC ad on ZTE

By Jarius Bondoc
Original article at the Philippine Star

Scott Arey is CFO of Arescom, the California firm that offered to supply the national broadband network for $135 million. He has been in contact since the exposure of government’s rush to buy the same system from ZTE Corp. of China for $330 million — more than double. Arey’s latest e-mail, edited for brevity:

“The DOTC took an unprecedented public position to defend its ill-conceived selection of ZTE. The misinformation and inadequate statements in (the) full-page newspaper ad by DOTC must be addressed for the record. The public should be aware of at least the following untruths:

“(1) DOTC’s ad stated our ‘objective’ was to establish a ‘satellite based network’ — a statement contrary to fact. We consistently told the government that a satellite network will be too expensive to operate and will not work properly for some of its requirements. Only at its insistence did we include satellite, and only as a backup system.

“(2) DOTC’s ad stated that the ‘Nature of (our) Proposal’ is ‘not clear’. If this is the case, then why did Sec. Leandro Mendoza endorse our proposal on Mar. 14, 2007?

(Note: In that attached letter to NEDA Sec. Romulo Neri, Mendoza asked for a “review and study specifically of the feasibility” of Arescom’s proposal. He said it is “designed to overcome barriers in the area of telecommunications through the use of latest broadband networking technology.”)

“(3) DOTC’s ad stated that the ‘Financial Capability of (Arescom)’ has ‘No Information’. Please see the attached letters dated Aug. 1 and Aug. 5, 2005, to the government addressing this issue. Note the stamps of different offices indicating receipt of these correspondences. In Nov. 2005 a delegation from the Philippine government actually visited US Eximbank with Arescom. Shortly after that visit, in Jan. 2006, the project was passed to NEDA. In Mar. 2006, after NEDA’s endorsement had been received, DOTC insisted on taking over the project. All prior information was turned over to DOTC. They were completely informed.

(The Aug. 1, 2005 letter of Arescom president Chris Ching to NEDA’s Augusto Santos states: “This project will be fully supported by 100% Official Development Assistance, through the United States Export-Import Bank.” It bears the receipt stamps of NEDA, DILG and Office of the President. The Aug. 5 letter of Ching to President Arroyo, thru Malacañang External Affairs chief Danilo Mendoza, states: “The financing will be arranged with a guarantee from the Export-Import Bank of the United States that includes the 24-month availability period and a 12-and-one-half-year repayment period depending on the useful life of the underlying equipment.” It bears the receipt stamps of the DILG and the Office of the President, with barcode.)

“(4) DOTC’s ad states that Arescom has no ‘Technical Capability’. Arescom has been an exclusive technology provider to Microsoft. Arescom’s integrated products are installed in telcos in more than 40 countries. Arescom hired as its integrator Wireless Facilities (NASDAQ: WFII), which has met with DOTC and shown military grade networks deployed by WFI for the US Department of Defense.

“(5) DOTC’s ad states that Arescom’s ‘Coverage’ is only 21 selected regional centers. The reason for this is we were asked to provide service to those centers over a backbone that could be expanded to serve the entire nation. We can easily expand the scope. Given what the DOTC has listed as equipment for the $330-million ZTE project, we would do the same project for $279 million at most, and this price includes key elements that the DOTC has omitted but are necessary for the project to work.

(Arey attached a breakdown of Arescom’s $279 million against ZTE’s $330 million in the DOTC ad. Included in the $279 million is $12 million for training and $15 million for maintenance, items lacking in ZTE’s $330 million.)

“We hope you will provide the public the truth, so that the Filipino people will not have to pay an extra $50 million. We will be happy to answer any of your questions.”

At this point, any answering must be done perhaps by DOTC.

* * *

DOTC has accused ZTE’s competitors of disinformation and possibly even the “theft” of the contract copies. To this, bidder Amsterdam Holdings Inc., which offered to build the NBN on its own for $240 million at no cost to government, fires back:

“AHI cannot take credit for DOTC’s and ZTE’s difficulties. If (their) contract is indeed regular and above board, then they should have nothing to fear from the scrutiny of lawmakers, the press and the public.

“AHI’s unsolicited proposal thru B-O-O mechanism under the B-O-T Law is strictly our private sector initiative, using American and Chinese equipment and technology, among which Hua Wei is the largest telecoms manufacturer in China and second in the world. AHI does not have anything against ZTE. Broadband Philippines, the premier service provider of scarce broadband spectrum nationwide, of which Jose de Venecia III is chairman, currently uses some ZTE equipment for its broadband mobile business.

“De Venecia III is one of the stockholders in AHI. He believes that the identity of the people behind its proposal is important, but should not stand in the way of evaluating technical competence. He believes the AHI proposal is good for the country and can stand on its own merits.

AHI’s proposal does not involve any government loan or equity or sovereign guarantee. It is totally an AHI investment, expense and risk.

“AHI’s unsolicited proposal to the DOTC remains unanswered until today.”

Thursday, 5 July 2007

ZTE undaunted by attacks on broadband deal

By Pia Lee-Brago
Original article at the Philippine Star

The Chinese telecommunication firm ZTE Corp. is undaunted by the attacks against the company, even as company officials denied any involvement in alleged “under-the-table” deals and bribery of Philippine government officials to get the contract for the $330-million national broadband project.

Zhang Shumin, director of ZTE sales management department, said that one of their competitors in the project – Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. –could be behind the accusations against ZTE after their proposal was rejected by the government.

“There’s absolutely no truth to those accusations. We think it is important to bear these facts in mind when considering accusations being made by another proponent whose proposal was not accepted. Again, the accusations of bribery and corruption against ZTE are totally untrue, baseless and unfair,” Zhang said.

He warned detractors that ZTE may take legal action.

“ZTE reserves the right to take the appropriate legal action against the persons responsible for these libelous allegations,” he said.

As a listed company in the Hong Kong and Shenzhen stock exchanges, Zhang said ZTE’s business operations are closely scrutinized and regulated and the company is required to operate under a strict corporate governance system.

“We strictly comply not only with Chinese laws, but also the local laws and regulations in all the other countries we operate in around the world. ZTE entered into the NBN Project in compliance with relevant Philippine laws and regulations,” he added.

Zhang claimed that Amsterdam Holdings, Inc. which has total assets of around P301,650 based on its financial statements filed at the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), does not have the necessary telecoms experience and track record.

He said that the Philippine government had considered Amsterdam’s financial standing when it chose not to accept the $240-million proposal for a nationwide telecoms network which will require the proponent to have considerable financial strength and extensive technical and implementation capability.

“ZTE is undaunted by the media attacks being waged against it. We have been involved in the Philippine telecommunications industry for several years now and our commitment to the Philippine market is evidenced further by our involvement in the NBN Project,” he said.

He said “ZTE is not a party to any under-the-table-deals” noting that the company entered into the contract for the NBN Project in compliance with Philippines laws and regulations and there were submissions to various Philippine government agencies.

The ZTE is also waiting for the result of the National Bureau of Investigation’s probe on the missing original copy of the contract between the ZTE and the Philippine government shortly after the contract was signed in China.

The document was allegedly stolen from the hotel room of a Filipino trade representative in China.

ZTE officials expressed optimism that the broadband project with the Philippine government would push through despite the controversies surrounding the project.

The company’s officials, who asked not to be identified, said the top management in China was “surprised” over the negative reports against ZTE, the second biggest telecommunications firm in China.

Noli: RP implementing world-class urban policy

By Pia Lee-Brago
Original article at the Philippine Star

The Philippines is implementing a world-class policy on urban growth mostly based on recommendations of the United Nations, according to Vice President Noli de Castro.

Speaking at the launching of the United Nations Population Fund’s State of the World Population Report in Makati, De Castro said key points in the report are very much in line with what the government is doing in the Philippines.

“I am sure that you will be surprised that many of the policies that you recommend have in fact been implemented in the Philippines,” he told UN representatives led by Nilima Nobol and Suneeta Mukherjee and other guests from the international community, local governments and non-government organizations.

De Castro, Housing and Urban Coordinating Council (HUDCC) chairman, said the 100-page report identified three initiatives that stand out in connection with the reality that the poor will make up a large part of future urban growth.

De Castro said the first initiative is the need to adopt policies that support in-city or near-city town relocation and community-led development which are already in place in the country.

“This is precisely the framework that we used in the resettlement program for informal settlers along the right-of-way of the Northrail and the Southrail,” he said.

The same framework will be used in the rest of the government’s resettlement projects, he added.

De Castro emphasized the need for a longer-term and broader vision of the use of urban space and the recommendation to provide minimally-serviced land for housing are not new to the local policy makers.

“In the Philippine housing sector, we refer to this as incremental development,” he said.

“The approach takes the view that once the poor are given security of tenure, they would assume more responsibility for the improvement of their house and the surrounding areas.”

De Castro said incremental development has been proven in the community mortgage program (CMP), one of the government’s banner programs for shelter security that enables urban poor communities to buy the lots where their house are located.

RP ranks high in UN's survey on e-governance

Full report at Gov.Ph News

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines ranks among the top 25 countries in the world in the United Nations E-Governance Survey because of "the innovative ways the government is employing technology to improve public administration," the Department of Foreign Affairs said Wednesday.

PGMA defines 3-year plan for AFP

Original report at Gov.Ph News

Manila -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has plotted the three-year target of her government for the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP): to give strategic defeat to insurgency, modernize the military, advance the protection of human rights, give peace in Mindanao and expand alliances for regional and global security.

In her speech during the 60th Anniversary of the Philippine Air Force, she explained that the Human Security Act, which will take effect on July 15, will be the government’s basis to defeat terrorism in the country, to keep them away from shores and to be more effective in fighting terrorism with the ASEAN brothers.

With the country’s successful fiscal reforms, the Arroyo administration will now be able to implement reforms in the Philippine defense system. In the P17.5B budget allotted for AFP modernization, the biggest part of which is intended for equipment procurement and partly for soldiers’ benefits. The amount allocated for AFP modernization is much less than what was allocated to agricultural modernization in the past two years which is P30B.

The government will not only improve equipment but assure benefits for the men and women of the armed forces as well. The government will provide on-base housing facilities, scholarships and livelihood opportunities for families of the men and women in service. There are already increases in hazard pay and subsistence allowance of soldiers starting this month. These are parts of the first benefits of development and the men in uniform are called upon to work harder to lift the wings of the nation and fight for national and regional security.

In a related development, the government is now working on a new paradigm of peace in Mindanao which is founded on strong interfaith dialogue grounded on cultural awareness and fiscal reforms. This could be achieved by modernizing the development efforts and by modernizing the armed forces.

The first phase of the AFP modernization program has begun with the acquisition of 20 helicopters from the US and the OB10s from the Kingdom of Thailand. Instructions were given to Generals Esperon and Tolentino to bid for brand new helicopters before buying second hand helicopters. Five billion pesos were allocated for the purchase of new helicopters for the AFP. (PIA—MMIO)

Feeding program gets P750m

By Fel V. Maragay
Full report at the Manila Standard

An intensive supplemental feeding program for children in day care centers is now being implemented by the Arroyo administration in 370 municipalities in 15 regions.

Secretary Esperanza Cabral of the Department of Social Welfare and Development said the feeding program, which is intended to combat the hunger problem in depressed communities, is being implemented for 160 days.

The program involves giving of free milk and hot meals to schoolchildren and is supported by a P750-million funding under the 2007 national budget.

The feeding program was started on June 18 in Ilocos region, Southern Tagalog, Mindoro-Romblon-Palawan, Bicol, Visayas, Eastern Visayas, Northern Mindanao, Caraga, Cordillera Autonomous Region, and the National Capital Region.

Cabral said 123,311 schoolchildren are benefitting from the program in the NCR alone.

P5b for night-vision choppers

By Joyce Pangco Pañares
Original report at the Manila Standard

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Armed Forces to begin the bidding process for new night vision-capable helicopters with the recent release of a P5- billion budget for the defense modernization program.

Speaking at the 60th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, Mrs. Arroyo said the capability and hardware upgrade of the Armed Forces and the landmark Human Security Act which will take effect next week will mean the end to the insurgency and terrorist problems.

“In the next three years we shall deal a strategic defeat to the insurgency; modernize the military in its twin roles of defense and development; push terrorism back and build peace in Mindanao; and expand our alliances for regional and global security,” the President said.

“The HSA which shall be effective July 15 shall be the basis for a more effective anti-terrorism measures that will not only crush the terrorist movement in the country but also keep it away from our shores.”

The President said the government now has the money to buy brand-new military hardware for the Armed Forces, starting with the P5-billion fund for first-hand helicopters to replace decades-old UH-IH [Hueys] which have been dubbed as “flying coffins.”

“I want to see a bidding for first- hand helicopters,” she said. “I hope that our young men and women in the Air Force will feel safer and braver when they fly these brand- new helicopters.”

The Air Force earlier announced that in six years, it would be retiring the Hueys, crash-prone choppers that were mostly donated by the United States government and used extensively during the Vietnam War.

But the Air Force will retain a few attack choppers such as the MG-520s out of the 41 units currently being used by the military in internal security operations and in relief operations.

The President said with resources now available for defense modernization, the Philippines will no longer be considered as having one of the most poorly equipped Armed Forces, with no available fighter jets and with Navy vessels dating back to World War II.

Mrs. Arroyo said apart from capability upgrade, soldiers can also expect a higher salary from the administration’s increased revenue collection, with a additional hazard pay of up to P1,000 per month.

“We will not only improve the equipment, we will also improve the benefits of the men and women who put their lives on the line for the security of the Filipino people,” she said.

Other benefits are on-base and off-base housing, scholarship for soldiers’ children and livelihood projects.

Outgoing World Bank chief for RP lauds progress in education

By Alexander Villafania
Full report at the

MANILA, Philippines -- The World Bank will continue to support the education programs of the Philippines, a World Bank representative has said.

Joachim von Amsberg, outgoing country director of the WB-Philippines, gave this assurance in a meeting with Education Secretary Jesli Lapus before taking up office in Indonesia as WB’s country director.

Von Amsberg lauded the education department for the reforms it had undertaken, particularly on the changes in the procurement of textbooks, as well as the lowering of prices for each book from P100 to P40.

Von Amsberg also congratulated the education department for ensuring that the textbooks, despite lower prices, have remained durable.


WB is currently assisting the DepEd with a loan of $200 million for the implementation of its Basic Education Sector Reform Agenda, which is part of the department’s National Program Support for Basic Education Project.

The project is designed to improve quality and equity in learning outcomes in basic education through its emphasis on improved education governance.

PNR remits $14.7M to South Korean consortium

Full report at BusinessWorld Online

State-owned Philippine National Railways (PNR) has remitted $14.7 million in advance payment, representing 30% of the total cost of $49.096 million, to the South Korean consortium tapped to build the 34-kilometer Caloocan-to-Alabang rail line.

Subic vies with Singapore for Philip Morris regional leaf hub

Full report at BusinessWorld

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) is eyeing an $80-million investment from Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing, Inc., in two years after the company decided to locate its warehouse for leaf tobacco products to the former military base, Administrator Armand C. Arreza said.

Qualified workers, not jobs, lacking in RP

Full report at BusinessWorld

Declaring a surfeit of jobs in the country, the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) yesterday released the results of a survey which indicated that large enterprises were in dire need of workers ranging from accountants and engineers to welders and drivers.

Task ‘daunting’ but goals will be achieved — Teves

Original report at BusinessWorld

The government remains in fighting form to achieve its revenue targets, Finance chief Margarito B. Teves yesterday insisted, even as estimates point to the first semester deficit cap having been overshot by P6.4 billion and tax collections falling behind by P53 billion.

Sangley Point plans revived

Palace order calls for creation of ‘international logistics hub’
Full report in BusinessWorld

An ambitious plan to turn Sangley Point in Cavite into an air and sea transport hub has been revived by Malacañang, with eight government agencies having been ordered to carry out the project, which could involve reclaiming as much as 4,000 hectares of land from the sea at the cost of P80 billion.

Philippine June inflation slows to 2.3%

Original report at ABS-CBN News

The annual pace of inflation in June came in at 2.3 percent, slower than May's 2.4 percent, as a strong peso tempered effects of higher oil on consumer prices, the National Statistics Office said.

The figure met market expectations. An earlier ABS-CBN poll of economists showed inflation had been expected to come in at 2.35 percent.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had expected consumer prices in June to have grown between 2.2 percent and 2.9 percent.

Wednesday, 4 July 2007

BPO projected to earn $8b yearly by 2010

At 100% yearly growth rate, RP call center industry workforce seen hitting 500,000
Original article at ABS-CBN News

The local call center industry is anticipating a total work force of 500,000 in the next three years on the back of unabated demand for its services.

"Given the industry's 100-percent annual growth in 2005 and 2006, it is still a conservative estimate," said Victor Endaya, a director of the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP).

"The challenge is to supply the industry with manpower through continued partnership with the academe, government, public and private sectors in achieving the industry roadmap," he added.

Endaya is also president and chief executive officer of Advanced Contact Solutions Inc., the call center subsidiary of Paxys Inc.

At present, over 100 registered outsourced contact centers in the Philippines collectively employ 200,000 people nationwide and continue to hire some 10,000 more each month, according to Benedict Hernandez, vice president and general manager of eTelecare Global Solutions.

"If we will be able to sustain that growth in our recruitment rate, we will be able to reach half a million employees by 2010," said Hernandez.

Hernandez also noted that with 500,000-strong call center manpower, the industry is projected to generate $8 billion in revenues yearly.

CCAP, together with the Business Process Association of the Philippines, is working closely with the government and schools in crafting courses that are focused on developing skills needed in the call center business.

President Arroyo earlier instructed the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority or TESDA to escalate efforts in creating call center finishing schools that will groom Filipinos to be competitive, particularly in the use of the English language, globally.

As early as 2008, CCAP said the Philippines is well-positioned to overtake India, seizing as much as $3.5 billion out of the estimated $76.3-billion global call center industry.

Gov't keeps 2007 fiscal goal despite exceeding H1 deficit target

Original article at ABS-CBN News

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said on Wednesday the national government will likely exceed its first-half budget deficit target due to a shortfall in tax collection but maintained that fiscal targets for 2007 will remain unchanged.

"The targets remain. The target collection this year for the Bureau of Internal Revenue is P730 billion, and P228 billion for the Bureau of Customs," Teves said in a briefing at Malacanang.

"The objective is to still live within the P63-billion deficit target (for 2007)," he said.

According to early estimates, Teves said there might be a P53 billion tax revenue shortfall in the first half, which might lead a bigger budget gap in the first six months.

"We're likely to breach the first-half deficit target by about P6.4 billion," he said.

RP's transport icon going green

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Gas-guzzling, smoke-belching Philippine public transport icon the jeepney is going green.

The first electronic jeepney was unveiled Wednesday in the Makati financial district, where it will be test driven for the next three months in a project environmentalists said could revolutionize public transport in the country.

Already 50 have been ordered for the island of Negros.

The P550,000 (US$11,956) electric jeepney was built by Solar Electric Co. (Solarco) and costs around the same as the conventional model.

Solarco president Robert Puckett said the electric jeepney would seat 10 to 12 passengers comfortably and cost P150 a day to run compared with around P800-P900 a day using diesel.

The truck-based mini-buses popularly known as jeepneys are among the biggest polluters on Manila's roads and there are some 400,000 of them in the capital.

"Every day tens of thousands of commuters pack into the backs of jeepneys breathing in toxic fumes," Puckett said.

"People are packed in like sardines and there is no air conditioning. When passengers reach their destination they are hot, sweaty and covered in soot."

The jeepney began life in the 1950s, evolving from US jeeps left behind after World War II. Its flamboyant design and bright colors make it instantly recognizable.

Driver Eddie Lajara said the new model was "very quiet" and more comfortable than its predecessor.

Greenpeace's Von Hernandez, one of the supporters of the project, said electric jeepneys "demonstrate how cities can help mitigate the problem of climate change."

"Given the urgency of the need to address this global threat, it is encouraging to see pioneering cities like Makati take the initiative in implementing measures that would avoid the use of climate change-inducing fossil fuels," he said.

Solarco said it hopes eventually to power the jeepneys using biodegradable waste. AFP

Financially-strapped tricycle driver returns $17,000 left behind by passenger

With his wife in the hospital and the rent overdue, he really could have used the money. But a taxi driver in the Philippines did the honest thing. He returned $17,000 left behind by a passenger.

Iluminado Boc returned the money to police in Tagbilaran city on central Bohol island last week, the Philippine Daily Inquirer reported Monday. The woman who lost the bag of cash had just reported it to police when Boc showed up at the precinct.

Boc never thought twice.

"It was not mine," Boc was quoted as saying.

Boc, 45, said he was struggling financially because his wife was taken to a hospital the same day he found the money, and they had unpaid rent.

The owner rewarded him with $32 - about seven times what a motorcycle taxi driver makes a day. --AP

This piece of news was reported by the following online news websites, as of 14:46 Beijing time, 4 July 2007:,CST-NWS-honest03.article

Original report by the Inquirer
By Kit Bagaipo
Visayas Bureau
Last updated 07:32pm (Mla time) 07/01/2007

TAGBILARAN CITY -- It could have been an easy answer to his financial woes, but tricycle driver Iluminado Boc felt he had to let it pass.

The 45-year old driver, a resident of Habitat Village in Bool, this city, turned over to the local police a pouch containing $17,000 (approximately P800,000), which was left by its owner in the passenger seat of his tricycle on June 23.

On the same day Boc found the bag containing so much cash, his wife was hospitalized due to a lingering ailment.

Boc, whom the Philippine Daily Inquirer was able to interview on Saturday, said it was not the first time he returned items left in his motorcab.

There were instances when he returned valuable items such as cellular phones, he said.

The tricycle driver admitted his monthly payments for his house in Habitat Village were long overdue. He is also paying monthly installments for his tricycle unit. Then came his wife's hospitalization.

But he said he was never tempted to keep the money. "It was not mine," was his simple answer when asked why he did not keep the money.

Boc said that at around 1 p.m. last June 23, a woman took a ride on his tricycle from the city airport to the Integrated Bus Terminal in Dao, this city.

He said it was not until he stopped for a break at around 3 p.m. that he noticed the pouch bag in the passenger seat and found it contained dollar bills. He remembered that it belonged to the woman who rode from the airport.

Boc said he was surprised that other passengers who took his motorcab from 1 p.m. to 3 p.m., did not tell him about the pouch.

Boc said he immediately drove to the city police station and delivered the pouch to the lost-and-found section.

He said it was only there that he learned that the pouch contained $17,000 and that the woman who owned it arrived at the same police precinct a few minutes earlier and had started describing her lost item to the police.

Boc said he immediately recognized the woman as the person who left the pouch in his motorcab.

He said the woman gave him P1,500 as a reward. He said he was initially hesistant to accept the money but upon the prodding of the grateful passenger and the police officers at the station, he did.

Boc said he was not able to get the name of the woman.

The city police has no record of the name of the woman because her lost item was recovered before the incident could be recorded in the police blotter.

Pampanga traders lukewarm on PAL entry in Clark

By Albert B. Lacanlale
Original report at the Sunstar

CITY OF SAN FERNANDO -- Businessmen in the province have mixed feelings – happy but wary - over the plan of Philippine Airlines (PAL) to build a hub at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA).

Rene G. Romero, Pampanga Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Inc. (PamCham) president, recently said that though PAL’s pronouncement to build its hub at the DMIA is a welcome development for Central Luzon, the businessmen are somewhat wary due to the sudden change of heart of tai-pan Lucio Tan.

Romero said the businessmen have been monitoring the struggle of Clark to make the DMIA as a premier international gateway in Luzon and PAL was not among those who showed interest to help the airport reach its goals.

It was Cebu Pacific, Romero said, which has been always there for Clark even as the future of the airport as a preferred international gateway was bleak.

Late last month, the country’s flag-carrier said it is planning to infuse some US$50 million for the catering and maintenance facility at DMIA. This, PAL said, is part of its long-term plan to transfer its international flights to Clark. Explaining further on this, Clark Development Corporation (CDC) president and chief executive Officer Levy P. Laus said PAL eyes Clark as the maintenance, repair and operations (MRO) hub of its sister firm, Lufthansa Technik.

This is a big development for Clark and hopefully more airlines will consider Clark not just for MRO but also for their flights, Laus said.

Laus said President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s consistent invitation to large airliners to locate in Clark paid off and the industry players have started noticing the developments going around the freeport.

Earlier Gokongwei-owned budget carrier Cebu Pacific said it would build its second hub in Clark, in time with the governments [sic] plan to implement Executive Order No. 500-B.

Subic Freeport's overall workforce reaches 68,170

By Malou Dungog
Original report at Positive News Media

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT, July 4 (PNA) -- As the national government undertakes measures to reduce poverty by creating jobs for the Filipino people, Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Co., Ltd. (HHIC), the biggest foreign direct investment (FDI) in the country, posted an employment increase rate of 180 percent from its 2007 target.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand Arreza made the announcement recently after the inauguration rites for the opening of the P653-million Subic-Cawag-Balaybay access road led by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last week.

Hanjin’s shipbuilding facility now provides jobs to some 5,165 Filipinos from nearby communities and 150 Korean nationals. This figure has exceeded Hanjin’s projected employment of 2,960 in 2007 alone.

Arreza added that Hanjin’s original plan of creating 7,000 job opportunities by year 2011 has already increased two-fold.

“This is a very promising projection. Hanjin, which is in Sitio Agusuhin, Redondo Peninsula, will be creating a total of 15,800 jobs to the residents of nearby communities by 2011. This is not impossible because Hanjin can now be reached by land through the newly opened 16.15-kilometer access road. This means getting that there, which usually took an hour and 45 minutes, now only takes about 45 minutes,” Arreza said.

He further said that by next year [2008], Hanjin aims to augment workforce to 13,080, and 14,280 by 2009.

Meanwhile, the Subic Bay Freeport posted a total workforce figure of 68,170 as of May 31, 2007. It comprises 17,600 from the manufacturing sector; 33,221 from services; and 17,349 from the construction industry employed by 818 registered enterprises in the Subic Freeport.

This overall figure is 11.7 percent higher than 60,989 recorded in the same period in 2006.

“Hanjin definitely contributed enormously in boosting the workforce in the construction industry,” Arreza affirmed.

He added that Hanjin will play a big role not only in the development of shipbuilding and ship repair industry in the country, but in boosting the economy of the region by providing about 20,000 to 30,000 direct and indirect hired workers. (PNA)

Immigration cites continuing influx of foreign students

Original report at the Manila Bulletin

The Philippines is fast emerging as the newest educational hub in the Asia-Pacific as a result of the continuing influx of foreign students studying in various schools of the country, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) said yesterday.

BI Commissioner Marcelino Libanan disclosed that last year alone, more than 30,000 foreigners had secured special study permits and student visas from the bureau.

Libanan said Koreans account for about 95 percent of the foreign students and that most of them are minors and teenagers enrolled in various private schools and learning centers throughout the country.

A special study permit (SSP) is issued to a foreigner studying in elementary and high school and other non-degree courses while a student visa is given to one pursuing a college degree.

Libanan said he intends to institute new policy guidelines that will expedite and cut red tape in the processing and issuance of study visas and permits by the BI.

He bared that recently, the BI extended from one month to six months the length of visa extensions that the bureau gives to SSP holders.

Libanan added that he would arrange a meeting with officials of the Department of Education (DepEd) and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to discuss programs that would boost the country’s reputation as a haven for foreign students.

However, the BI chief warned that any foreigner who study here without obtaining a permit or visa will be sanctioned for immigration law violations.

He cautioned school registrars not to admit foreigners who do not have study permits or visas or the BI will withdraw their authority to accept foreign students.

Teodulo Estrada, head of the BI student desk, bared that aside from Metro Manila, there is also a high concentration of foreign students in the cities of Baguio and Cebu.

Estrada said that from January to May this year, some 10,000 foreigners, mostly Koreans, have applied for study permits and visas.

Soldiers to get more benefits

Palace hikes hazard pay, subsistence allowance
GMA announces increased benefits for soldiers

Original article at the Manila Bulletin

President Arroyo yesterday announced a package of benefits for the military including an increase in the monthly hazard pay and daily subsistence allowance of soldiers starting this month.

At the 60th anniversary of the Philippine Air Force (PAF) at the Villamor Air Base in Pasay City, the President said her administration is committed not only in hastening the modernization of the military but also in providing better benefits for soldiers.

"I am happy to announce that the members of the AFP will receive increases in their hazard pay and subsistence allowance starting this month," the President said, drawing applause from the Air Force personnel.

In Executive Order No. 611 issued last March, the President ordered a P30 increase in the daily subsistence allowance and a P120 increase in the monthly hazard pay of personnel in the Armed Forces of the Philippines, Department of the Interior and Local Government, Philippine Coast Guard and National Mapping and Resource Information Authority. The adjustments were to begin last July 1.

In EO 611, Arroyo said subsistence allowance was last adjusted in 1998, while the hazard pay has remained at P120 a month since it was first given in 1987.

Apart from higher stipend for the soldiers, the President also said the government would provide scholarships and livelihood opportunities to the families of the soldiers.

"On-base and off-base housing facilities will also be built for government troops," Mrs. Arroyo said.

The President explained: "We will not only improve the equipment, we will also improve the benefits of the men and women who put their lives on the line for the security of the Filipino people."

In the same speech, the President also vowed to provide modern equipment to the military, particularly the PAF to enhance their capabilities in dealing with terrorism, insurgency and other security threats.

In the last two years, Mrs. Arroyo said she has authorized the allocation of P17.5 billion for the "capability upgrade plan" of the military.

Of the amount, P5 billion has been set aside for the acquisition of brand new helicopters to replace the aging fleet of PAF.

Arroyo said she has directed the military leadership to bid for brand-new helicopters first before buying more second-hand vehicles. "I hope that our young men and women in the Air Force will feel safer and braver when they fly these new helicopters."

In the first phase of the PAF modernization, the President said the government has already acquired 20 refurbished UH-1H helicopters from the United States as well as 10 OV10s light attack aircraft from Thailand.

Mrs. Arroyo also dispelled criticisms about "over-militarization" in connection with the multiyear defense reform program.

She clarified that what she had allocated for the military was "much less than what we have allocated for agricultural modernization" over the last two years at P30 billion.

The President said the agricultural and military modernization programs were a clear message of proving the value of a new paradigm for peace in Mindanao.

Mrs. Arroyo said she is counting on a stronger and more equipped military to wipe out terrorism and insurgency before she steps downs in office in 2010.

"Today also we are in the period of bold transition in the Armed forces of the Philippines. In the next three years, we shall deal a strategic defeat to the insurgency, modernize the military in its twin role of defense and development, advance the protection of human rights, force terrorism back and peace in Mindanao, and expand our alliances for regional and global security," she pointed out.

While she is focused on growing the economy, the President said she would continue to realize the Philippine defense program before she steps down in 2010.

Neda confident GDP to grow 6.1-6.7 percent in 2007

By Jenny A. Ng
Original report at the Business Mirror

WITH the second quarter and the fourth quarter of the year being historically economic growth periods, National Economic and Development Authority director for policy and planning Dennis Arroyo is confident the economy will grow 6.1 to 6.7 percent this year.

The country’s gross domestic product (GDP)—or the sum of goods and services produced—grew by 6.9 percent in the first quarter owing to the strong performance of the services sector that grew by almost 10 percent.

“We do not have preliminary estimates yet but we are confident we will reach our target economic growth this year,” said Arroyo.

The third quarter is considered the weakest, being the typhoon months of July, August, and September.

University of Asia and the Pacific economist Peter Lee U, on the other hand, expects the economy to grow by as much as 6.2 percent in the second quarter. “That is just my gut feel. We may not be able to see the same growth we saw during the first quarter but second-quarter growth would remain strong.”

The last time the economy breached the 6-percent level was in 2004 when presidential elections were held. In 2005, the country’s economic expansion slowed to 5.1 percent.

Stocks close at new record high

By Zinnia B. dela Peña
Original article at the Philippine Star

The local stock market extended its gains for a fourth straight day as share prices rose 1.63 percent to another record finish yesterday, inspired by Wall Street’s rally overnight and expectations of strong second-quarter corporate earnings, dealers said.

The Philippine Stock Exchange composite index, the PSEi, gained 60.31 points to finish at a record 3,751.99, coming off an all-time intra-day high of 3,760.49. The previous record was set on June 20 when the index settled at 3,718.88. The PSEi is now up 769.45 points or 25.8 percent since the start of the year.

Government to miss revenue target

By Des Ferriols
Full report at the Philippine Star

Tax revenues are projected to fall P25-billion short of the P1.003-trillion target for the whole year, causing total revenues to reach only P1.094 trillion against the full-year target of P1.119 trillion.

The emerging numbers are scheduled to be presented before President Arroyo in Malacañang today in what economic officials described as a watershed meeting that would determine the fiscal strategy for the remainder of her administration.

The dismal revenue outlook for the rest of the year would make privatization even more critical to meeting the Arroyo administration’s full-year budget deficit target of P63 billion, especially since the President has committed not to introduce new taxes.

The emerging estimates are based on what officials called the best-case scenario where some recovery was expected from the shortfalls of the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and to a lesser extent, the Bureau of Customs.

Tuesday, 3 July 2007

ZTE has copy of broadband contract, says Chinese official

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

ZTE Corp. of China has kept a copy of the $329.5-million contract for the national broadband network project lost by Filipino officials, but said it is leaving to Manila the opportunity to divulge the details of the controversial agreement.

“We are aware of reports that the Department of Transportation and Communications’ copy of the contract which was signed in China was stolen, and reconstituted only in late May. We understand that the matter is being investigated and we should await the official results,” said Zhang Shumin, the director of ZTE sales management department.

Zhang issued the statement after Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza disclosed that the Filipino commercial attaché to China, Emmanuel Ang, lost the copy of the contract to thieves at a hotel in China on April 21.

“We understand that the Philippine government will soon disclose the relevant information regarding the NBN contract to the public,” Zhang said.

Zhang rebuffed accusations that ZTE had connived with Filipino authorities in taking a short cut in sealing the lucrative contract, while downplaying the proposals of other interested parties in the project.

Zhang said that compared with other competitors bidding for the project, only ZTE complied with and met all the government’s requirements. Other interested parties in the project were Arescom Inc. of the US, which offered to undertake the NBN project for half the Chinese cost, and Amsterdam Holdings Inc., which offered $240 million.

Zhang, however, said Arescom and Amsterdam submitted only technical proposals without the necessary documents showing proof of financing capability, company profile and other supplementary documentation.

Amsterdam offered to complete a nationwide telecom network for only $240 million. But Zhang, citing the department’s report, said Amsterdam lacked financing capacity and technical track record.

“We should probably point out that Amsterdam Holdings Inc. has total assets of only around P301,650, according to its financial statements on file in Securities and Exchange Commission.

On Arescom, he said the American firm submitted its technical proposal only to the Department of Interior and Local Government, which is not an authorized government proponent for the project.

“The bidder was proposing to adopt the Very Small Aperture Terminal technology to build the nationwide broadband backbone which was unacceptable to the government. Furthermore, the coverage was only for 22 cities which are very limited, compared with ZTE’s nationwide coverage,” Zhang said.

All about GK

High achievement

Tony Meloto, the guiding spirit of Gawad Kalinga, is a good storyteller. Last Wednesday he told some stories at the reception given by the Philippine Daily Inquirer to honor him as the newspaper’s Filipino of the Year 2006. They were inspiring stories, moving stories—so inspiring and so moving that they brought some of his listeners close to tears.

Those who think that our nation is hopeless and will forever remain stuck in the mire of poverty, helplessness and despair should listen to him. Or better yet, join him in his endeavor to correct some of the social and economic inequities in our nation.

Meloto told the story of Filipinos abroad who are coming back to help or are contributing funds to help build Gawad Kalinga villages in the Philippines. He told stories about some “crazy people," like two former top business executives who left high-paying jobs to take up key positions in Gawad Kalinga. He told the story of a “crazy New Zealander" who quit a high-paying marketing and IT job to help out in GK.

He recounted the story of his son-in-law, the millionaire Dylan Wilk, who left a life of ease and comfort in Great Britain to help raise funds for the construction of houses for the poor. He told the story of his own children who quit good jobs in big corporations to help their father with his project.

At the reception, Meloto’s own story was recounted. A marketing executive, he experienced his “epiphany" in 1985 when he joined the Couples for Christ. It was an encounter that changed his vision and priorities. He brought the Couples for Christ to Negros Occidental province and helped put up the CFC Family Ministries in 1993. Two years later he launched an anti-poverty program in Bagong Silang, Cavite, which evolved into what is now known as Gawad Kalinga, which means “to give care."

The mission of the movement is to empower communities and improve the living conditions of slum dwellers. With the help of Couples for Christ, Meloto transformed Bagong Silang into the first Gawad Kalinga Village and built decent houses for the community.

One of the conditions for Gawad Kalinga’s projects is that while beneficiaries don’t have to pay for their new homes, they must help the volunteers who build them. This concept prevents beneficiaries from developing an attitude of mendicancy and dependence. It illustrates the saying that “God helps those who help themselves," and it helps in the formation of strong, self-reliant families.

Gawad Kalinga draws sponsors from expatriate Filipinos, civic organizations, schools, government agencies and big corporations. Aside from building houses, it also takes care of the health, educational and livelihood needs of the villages.

Today there are 1,400 Gawad Kalinga villages and the movement has set a goal of building 700,000 houses in 7,000 communities in 7 years, with 2010 as the target date for delivery. Landowners, businessmen, big corporations are donating land. Gawad Kalinga has an army of 200,000 volunteers, a force that is much bigger than the Armed Forces of the Philippines, which is 130,000 strong.

Many Filipinos have been complaining about the economic and social situation in their country. They say that there seems to be no hope for their nation, that it will not be able to rise from the despond of poverty and despair.

But they should take heart from the words of a new American philanthropist, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, whose foundation has spent $8 billion in 12 years for world health programs and US education. In a recent speech at Harvard, Gates said: “[H]umanity’s greatest advances are not in its discoveries -- but in how those discoveries are applied to reduce inequity. Whether through democracy, strong public education, quality health care, or broad economic opportunity -- reducing inequity is the highest human achievement."

Meloto has the same idea. With his Gawad Kalinga, he is trying to reduce social and economic inequity in many areas in our country. And while helping the poor rise from their poverty, he is moving them from charity to genuine Christian stewardship. He is one Filipino who is not taking the usual recourse of cursing the darkness. He has lighted a candle that will help banish the darkness.

The Gawad Kalinga concept, replicated thousands of times all over the country, may yet be one answer to the problem of poverty that has kept millions of people locked in its pitiless vise.

Consultation set on controversial open-skies policy

Original article at Pinoypress

MANILA — The Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) will hold a forum titled “Save our Skies (SOS) or Open Skies: View from Both Sides” on July 5, 2:00-5:00 p.m. at the J.V. Del Rosario Room, AIM Conference Center.

The issue on SOS, which hinges on reciprocity rights for the Philippine aviation industry, and open skies, has been the subject of debates in recent months. While open skies advocates point out that liberalization of the air transport industry is a catalyst for economic growth and the first step towards the fulfillment of the vision to make the Philippines a transport and logistics hub for the Asia-Pacific region, SOS proponents argue that the country’s skies are part of the sovereign territory and national patrimony and hence, flight entitlement by foreign carriers must be evaluated on the basis of reciprocity, the welfare of the local aviation industry and national interest.

Open skies is an aviation principle that allows foreign airlines to operate unlimited services in another country. The principle of reciprocity implies that for every frequency of flight allowed to a foreign carrier, the local carrier is also allowed an equal amount of market share to passenger traffic and cargo to the second country.

The forum will take up the issue on how reciprocal or open skies relate to the competitiveness of the Philippine air transportation and tourism industries. The forum aims to come up with a critical mass of information upon which a conclusive position can be crafted.

Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the Department of Transportation and Communication and Director Evelyn Cajigal of the Department of Tourism will be giving the overview. Other speakers are Sen. Wigberto Tañada of Fair Trade Alliance, Robert Lim Joseph of the National Association of Independent Travel Agencies, Victor Luciano of Clark International Airport Corporation, Jojo Clemente of Philippine Travel Agencies Association, and a representative from Philippine Airlines who will be presenting their respective positions on the issue at hand.

Registration fee is PhP 500.00. Interested parties may contact Ms. Julie Legaspi of the PCCI Secretariat at telephone numbers 896-4549/ 52/ 53 or you may also e-mail

Ermita orders Mendoza to explain ZTE deal to Cabinet

The Philippine Star
Original report at the Philippine Star

Malacañang directed Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza Monday to brief the Cabinet on the $329.5 million broadband contract with a top Chinese telecommunications firm, as anomalies unraveled in the deal whose signing was witnessed in China by President Arroyo herself.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita pointed out that there might be a fallout from the negative development in the government’s contract with ZTE Corp. that the Palace should be prepared for.

ZTE is the second largest telecommunications firm in China.

He, however, stressed there should be no prejudgment in the meantime regarding the supply contract signed by Mendoza and ZTE vice-president Yu Yong last April 21 in Boao, Hainan during Mrs. Arroyo’s visit.

“This particular contract is under the Secretary of the DOTC. Precisely, we are requesting that we be briefed by Secretary Mendoza so that we will know our position because he is the one in charge of this,” Ermita told reporters.

“Let’s just say that we need to be clarified ourselves,” he said.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the matter has not been discussed in the Cabinet since criticisms of the contract emerged, particularly from losing proponents Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI) and the US-based Arescom.

The contract calls for the setting up of a National Broadband Network (NBN) to link all government agencies and offices. The project aims to speed up communications and coordination among government offices, and is expected to result in billions in savings in taxpayers’ money.

Critics of the ZTE deal said the contract was overpriced since other the other companies’ offers were less expensive. AHI has offered to build a similar network for $242 million while Arescom Inc. is offering $135 million.

The losing proponents also complained that the deal did not go through a bidding while the US Embassy also expressed concern over the apparent lack of transparency in forging the contract.

Mendoza however earlier maintained that the contract was aboveboard and that it was a government-to-government agreement that required no bidding.

It was also learned over the weekend that the contract apparently violated a Palace policy to undertake such contracts through a build-operate-transfer agreement so that the government would not have to spend a single centavo.

Under the deal however, the project would be funded through a 20-year “concessional” loan from China.

A ranking Palace official who declined to be named said the deal could still change since the Chinese government still has to [sic] option to reject the terms of the agreement.

“But if the China Eximbank accepts the terms of the agreement, then it is a government-to-government agreement that needs no bidding,” the official said.

Still optimistic

Reacting to the controversy, ZTE Corp. said it remained optimistic that deal would push through.

ZTE officials, who asked not to be named, told The STAR of their being “surprised” by the negative turn of events.

“We believe it’ll push through despite this controversy and it’s a priority program. It has been signed. Definitely, the information being floated against ZTE is not right,” an official from ZTE’s Manila office said.

“Our high management in China is surprised our company is projected like this,” he said.

Another ZTE official said a sour-graping competitor may be spreading disinformation against the firm.

“It’s ZTE’s reputation that has been damaged by these attacks. There’s really too much misinformation. We suspect the details are provided by our competitor but the information are wrong,” the official said.

He said “ZTE’s practice is always on top on international regulations.”

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board said in a meeting on Nov. 21 last year that all government agencies and offices needed to be linked through a privately funded broadband network.

In the meeting, President Arroyo reportedly said that she did not want the government to spend for a project that could be funded by a private proponent.

Meanwhile, calls for the rescinding of the government’s broadband contract with ZTE mounted.

Catanduanes Rep. Joseph Santiago said Mrs. Arroyo should follow the advice of the business community and scrap the controversial contract with Chinese telecommunications firm ZTE Corp.

“This is definitely the right thing to do – for the government to find ways to persuade the Chinese government, which controls ZTE, that a mutually agreed dissolution of the contract has become imperative,” Santiago, former chief of the National Telecommunications Commission, said.

Several business groups recently put out an advertisement in newspapers calling for the cancellation of the “highly questionable” contract. With Jess Diaz

Monday, 2 July 2007

26% of businesses cite red tape as growth constraint

Full Report at Grant Thornton

The Grant Thornton International Business Report (IBR) has found that red tape and regulation is the biggest frustration faced by businesses around the world - for the fifth year running. When asked to rank constraints on ability to expand, red tape was quoted by nearly four out of ten businesses worldwide compared with just two out of ten, or fewer, quoting cost of finance, shortage of working capital or shortage of long term finance. The next most important constraint was shortage of skilled labour, quoted by more than three out of ten businesses.

Top of the red tape table was Brazil (60%) closely followed by Russia (59%), Poland (55%) and Greece (52%). More than four in ten businesses in Germany, Argentina, South Africa, Turkey, Italy, mainland China and New Zealand felt red tape and regulation were a constraint on their ability to grow. The businesses experiencing the least restraints by red tape were from Singapore (16%), Spain (17%) and Sweden (19%).

In the Philippines, 26% of businesses cited red tape. The world average is 38%.

PTT of Thailand to expand RP operations

Looks to supplying airlines in Subic, Clark
By Darwin G. Amojelar, Reporter
Original report at The Manila Times

BANGKOK, Thailand: PTT said it will accelerate investments in the Philippines, as it plans to serve airlines operating in two former United States military bases that have been converted into special economic zones.

Artasith Pothiapinyanvisuth, PTT executive vice-president for commercial and international marketing, told reporters that PTT Philippines Corp. will expand its retail network.

In the next five to ten years, PTT Philippines expects to put up 100 to 200 stations nationwide at a cost of more than P3 billion.

The PTT executive said the company plans to add about 10 to 20 stations yearly with an investment of around P15 million per facility.

At present, PTT has 20 retail stations in the Philippines, including in Cebu and in Northern Luzon areas.

Pothiapinyanvisuth said the construction of a $2-million oil depot in Cebu, which has a five-million liter capacity is completed and will start commercial operation by the end of the month.

PTT also plans to build an oil depot in Northern Luzon in three to five years.

The company official said more retail stations and a new depot to supply jet fuel to airlines operating in Subic and Clark.

The company, which is operating inside the Subic Freeport supplies jet fuel to Cebu Pacific Air, Philippine Airlines and Federal Express.

Sukanva Jindanuwat, PTT Philippines Corp. chief finance officer said the Philippine unit contributes 4 percent to 5 percent of the international operations’ revenues.

Jindanuwat said PTT Phils. earned abo‑ut $400 million last year

DMIA expects to handle 2M passengers in 2008

By Riza T. Olchondra
Full report at the Inquirer

CLARK AIRFIELD--Development is underway at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in its bid to handle two million passengers by next year as airline locators increase flights and new ones seek to make Clark a hub.

ADB sees '07 Asia excluding Japan growth above 8%

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Asia, excluding Japan, should grow above 8 percent in 2007, said Asian Development Bank Chief Economist Ifzal Ali on Monday, higher than a previous forecast of 7.6 percent.

"It's even better than we thought earlier," he told Reuters on the sidelines of an ADB forum in Manila.

He said growth in developing Asia this year would exceed previous projections because of a strong performance from China and India. Ali said he expected China to grow "a shade less than 10 percent".

For India, he expects it to grow close to 8 percent or possibly above that.

The ADB defines developing Asia as comprising the seven Central Asian republics, nine nations in Southeast Asia, eight nations in South Asia, as well as China, Hong Kong, Mongolia, Taiwan, South Korea, and Pacific island nations. - Reuters

Flight frequencies growing at Clark airport

By Marianne V. Go
Monday, July 2, 2007
Original article at The Philippine Star

The development of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) is beginning to speed up with more and more airlines increasing their flight frequencies and the country’s flag carriers formally expressing their interest in eventually operating out of the former US airbase.

According to Victor Luciano, president of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), Asiana Airlines, Hong Kong Airlines and Thai Airlines are increasing their flight frequencies to the DMIA, while Cebu Pacific has decided to make Clark a hub for its regional flights to Korea, Taipei and possibly even to Japan.

Even Philippine Airlines, Luciano said, is planning to make Clark its base for its regional flights to China where PAL is eyeing more destinations.

At the welcoming ceremonies for the DMIA’s one millionth passenger arrival Friday evening (June 29), Luciano announced that Asiana Airlines is increasing its current five times a week flights to daily flights starting in July.

Asiana, Luciano said, may also start using bigger aircraft from its current Boeing 767 and Airbus A321 to the Boeing 747 for its daily flights.

The Boeing 767 accommodates 230 passengers, while the A321 carries up to 180 passengers only.

The Boeing 747 carries up to 433 passengers.

Apart from increasing its passenger load, Luciano said, Asiana is also looking at more cargo business as well.

Asiana is investing $2 million in the Philippines alone for new equipment and has already spent $5 million in Korea for promotion and marketing of its flights to Clark, Luciano said.

Asiana, which currently arrives at night in the Philippines, will start daytime flights that will allow connections to its destinations in the United States and Europe, Luciano said.

Hong Kong Airlines is also increasing its current once a day flights to twice daily by September.

Cebu Pacific will also start flying in September to five regional cities out of Clark.

In October, Luciano said, Thai Airlines will start flying from Bangkok to Clark.

Construction for the expansion of the existing terminal is scheduled to start next week and work is projected to be completed by December this year.

Construction of a second terminal will commence by December and is expected to be completed by December 2008.

Expansion of the DMIA, Luciano said, would further convince PAL to start operating out of Clark to China.

PGMA's take on broadband deal

ZTE broadband deal violated GMA policy
By Paolo Romero
Monday, July 2, 2007
Full article at the Philippine Star

The $329.5-million contract between the government and ZTE Corp. for a nationwide broadband network apparently violated a Malacañang policy to undertake the project on a build-operate-transfer (BOT) basis to save on public funds, confidential Cabinet meeting transcripts show.


During a meeting of the Cabinet and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) board at Malacañang on Nov. 21 last year, the board said all government agencies and offices needed to be linked through a privately funded broadband network.

The transcript shows President Arroyo stating that she did not want the government to spend for a project that could be funded by a private proponent.

But under the ZTE contract, the government will avail itself of a loan from the China Eximbank to finance the National Broadband Network (NBN), which will be paid in 20 years at three percent interest with a five-year grace period.

No officials were available yesterday to explain the turnaround.


The signing of a contract for such a project last April is also supposedly covered by an election ban.


Also present during the meeting was Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila.

Transcripts of the meeting showed that President Arroyo was apprised of the need to put up a broadband network to cut the government’s P4-billion communications expenses by half.

“Do we need a government broadband?” the President asked the Cabinet, to which Socio-economic Planning Secretary Romulo Neri replied: “Physically, ma’am, we need a backbone, but who will provide this, is the issue. But there is the private sector…”

Neri added that the NBN could be set up through a BOT, where the private proponent operates the system until it recovers its investment and turns the project over to the government.

“That’s why you have to make sure it’s BOT. That’s why I asked where the money is coming from,” Mrs. Arroyo stressed. “If somebody else would provide additional (funding), BOT, unsolicited, therefore, no subsidy.”

Neri said the only condition for the government to agree to push for the NBN is for the government to be the customer of the communications backbone.

The President said any contract for the NBN should not be on a “take or pay” scheme, where in an agreement between a buyer and seller, the buyer will pay some amount even if the product or service is not provided.

“What we need to do, Ma’am, is to structure it in such a way that there is no subsidy but the government will just be a main customer for this backbone,” Neri assured Mrs. Arroyo.

“But not take or pay,” she reiterated. “It has to be ‘you use, you pay’.”

“We will avoid the take or pay provision Ma’am,” Neri said.

She also directed then Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) chief Ramon Sales, who was making another presentation during the Cabinet meeting, that the government would not spend a single centavo for a broadband contract.

She also warned that if such a contract won’t be “managed this well,” the government might end up continuing to spend billions in telecommunications expense and end up with a “take or pay” deal.

“That’s what we want to avoid. Unless we’re sure that that will happen, Ma’am, we (NEDA) will not approve,” Neri told Mrs. Arroyo.

He gave assurance that there will be “no incremental expense on the part of the government. If we could manage a savings, so much the better, but we will see that that can be done.”

In connection with the anticipated implementation of the NBN, Mendoza sent to the President on January this year a draft executive order transferring the Telecommunications Office (TELOF) from the CICT to the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC).

On Feb. 13, Mrs. Arroyo signed Executive Order No. 603 transferring TELOF from CICT to DOTC “to streamline bureaucracy operations and effectively promote fast, efficient, and reliable networks of communications system and services.”


Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita and Mendoza last week said the ZTE deal remains conditional depending on a coming legal opinion from the Department of Justice to determine whether contract was an executive agreement or not.

If the justice department thinks the loan agreement was not an executive agreement, a bidding could commence, Mendoza said.

“This contract is actually very transparent,” Mendoza told reporters last week. “It has passed all the requirements for such an agreement and has gone through two agencies, the DOTC and the CICT.