Saturday, 11 August 2007

Exports grow 6.6% in semester

Full article in the Manila Bulletin

Export earnings in the first half of the year rose by 6.6 percent to $ 24.54 billion from $ 23.01 billion in 2006, powered by a surge in shipments of electronic products.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) said that exports in June 2007 slightly went up by 1.6 percent to $ 4.120 billion from $ 4.055 billion in June last year.


At the Inquirer

Wednesday, 8 August 2007

Budget for school-building programs raised to P3.9 billion

Original report at Gov.Ph News

From an original budget of P2.9 billion, this year’s allocation for school buildings has been raised to P3.9 billion, an increase of almost 30 percent.

The P1-billion budgetary hike is expected to boost significantly government efforts to address the school building shortage that has hounded the country’s educational system for ages.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo disclosed the budgetary increase during her community visit to Barangay Katipunan in District 1, Quezon City this morning for the launching of eSKWELA.

An accreditation and equivalency program of the Bureau of Alternative Learning Center (BALC) of the Department of Education (DepEd), eSKWELA is open to elementary and high school dropouts who pass accreditation and equivalency examinations given every February.

The President thanked Congress for the allocation, saying the additional outlay would greatly contribute to the government’s program to construct more classrooms, some of which would be provided with Internet connection, and also help raise the learning level of Filipino students.

Kaya ito ay inilulunsad natin ngayon ay dahil sa ang ating school building program ay dinagdagan -- from P2.9 billion to P3.9 billion. Thank you very much to Congress na pumayag sila na idagdag itong budget na ito,” she said.

BALC Director Dr. Carolina Guevarra said that under the eSKWELA program, in cooperation with the Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT), students will be under the tutelage of mobile teachers and instructional managers.

At the end of their learning program, students will receive certificates of completion signed by the DepEd secretary.

Guevarra said four eSKWELA learning centers have already been established in Cebu; Cagayan de Oro; San Jose del Monte, Bulacan; and at the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC) compound along Roces Ave. in Quezon City.

During her community visit, the President held an informal interaction with officials of Barangays Paltok, Bungad, Veterans' Village, San Antonio and Katipunan.

She also distributed PhilHealth cards, certificates to operate Tindahan Natin, and 125 TESDA scholarship vouchers each to the five barangays.

Among those who welcomed the President were Quezon City 1st District Representative Vincent Crisologo, Vice Mayor Herbert Bautista, Barangay Chairmen Moises Villegas (Bungad), Gideo Gener (Veterans Village), Rodel Sotolombo (Paltok), Martin Dino (San Antonio), and Barangay Katipunan Chairperson Ma. Teresa Pobre.

Accompanying the President were Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) Chairman Bayani Fernando, Social Welfare Secretary Esperanza Cabral, and DepEd Undersecretary Vilma Labrador.

PLDT to buy into Dublin GSM platform

Will install GSM stations in a fourth of 46,000 vessels
By Roel Landingin in Manila
Full report at the Financial Times

Philippine Long Distance Telephone (PLDT) on Tuesday said it would acquire almost a third of Blue Ocean Wireless, a Dublin-based maritime communications provider, as part of plans to offer mobile phone services aimed at almost half a million Filipinos that work in the global shipping industry.

The Philippines’ largest phone operator, which is partly owned by Hong Kong’s First Pacific and Japan’s NTT, is seeking new revenue drivers as growth in mobile phone subscriptions slows and competition gets tougher.

PLDT recently launched a mobile TV service and formed a partnership with Inmarsat, the global satellite communications group, to offer terrestrial and maritime satellite phone services.

Napoleon Nazareno, PLDT president, said the company aimed to install satellite-linked GSM base stations in a quarter of the world’s 46,000 vessels in two or three years.

Although the service will be principally aimed at Filipino crew members, who make up 40 per cent of the world’s 1.2m seafarers, others can use the service too, he added.

Mendoza: ZTE deal still a go

By Mia Gonzalez
Original report at the Business Mirror

THE government said Tuesday it will implement its national broadband network deal with Chinese company ZTE Corp., contrary to reports it has junked the project.

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza said after the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) meeting there are two conditions prior to implementing the ZTE deal, one of which had already been complied with—the Department of Justice opinion upholding the government-to-government transaction regarding the project.

Mendoza is awaiting the fulfillment of the other condition, being addressed by the Department of Finance (DOF). “On the financial side, the DOF has to determine the terms of the loan, interest rate, how much. And they have to coordinate with the China Exim Bank.”

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said the ZTE deal has not matured into a contract yet and what was signed in Boao, China, was a memorandum of agreement (MOA) saying the signatories would venture into the project subject to conditions.

“Once both sides comply with whatever is written in that MOA, then they can draw up the contract. Once it is completed, that’s when you sign a loan agreement, a supply contract and whatever operative documents are needed,” Favila said.

Under the MOA, Beijing will provide a soft loan facility whose terms are being negotiated by the DOF, and requires approval by finance and monetary officials. Favila said the original MOA stolen after signing in China was "useless."

Takenaka agrees to repair NAIA-3

By Michael Punongbayan
Wednesday, August 8, 2007

The Japanese firm that built the Ninoy Aquino International Airport - Terminal 3 (NAIA-3) has finally agreed to repair the facility’s structural defects.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Alfonso Cusi said talks with Takenaka Corp. have yielded very positive results.

“Our technical working group is holding meetings with them. Basically, they want to proceed with the work,” he told The Star.

MIAA assistant general manager for airport development and corporate affairs Tirso Serrano said more than a dozen top executives of Takenaka are now in the country.

He said MIAA technical teams, consultants, and representatives are now working with them in four separate groups with respective tasks to complete.

If all goes well, Serrano said NAIA-3 might finally open its doors to the public, at least partially, by mid-2008.

He explained that the four working groups have been tasked to separately look into the structural integrity issue, the testing and commissioning aspect of the repairs to be made, the Construction Works Agreement (CWA), and the timetable.

“(These developments) are very positive. They are here physically, their managing director who is head of global operations and head of delegation is here,” Serrano said.

“Their construction managers, overseas division general manager, senior advisers and other executives are here meeting with our technical people and our own world-renowned consultants from TCGI Engineers Inc. and the Ove Arup & Partners HK Ltd. We welcome them and the idea that NAIA-3 will soon be operational for the benefit of the Filipino people,” he added.

Serrano said the MIAA is doing its part in keeping communication lines open pursuant to President Arroyo’s instructions to expedite NAIA-3 construction works.

MIAA officials sat down with Takenaka executives, led by managing director and delegation head Atsuyoshi Suzuki, as soon as they arrived in the country Monday.

The NAIA-3 was supposed to open its doors as the country’s most advanced airport terminal last March but structural problems found by engineers who inspected the building prompted airport officials to cancel it in the interest of public safety.

Takenaka, who earlier refused to take responsibility, is now moving towards repairing the facility’s beams, girders, post-tension slabs, columns and piles, which were found to be defective and weak.

NAIA-3’s vehicular access ramp foundations were also declared unstable and unsafe unless remediation works are conducted to strengthen them.

Built in 2002, the $650-million terminal was supposed to outshine other airport terminals with its advanced design and equipment.

It has 28 airbridges that can service 28 aircrafts at the same time, a four-level shopping mall that connects the terminal and parking buildings, a parking building with a capacity of 2,000 vehicles, an outdoor parking area with a 1,200-vehicle capacity, and with the capability of servicing 33,000 passengers daily at peak or 6,000 passengers per hour.

It also has 70 flight information terminals, 314 display monitors with 300 kilometers of fiber optic cables, 29 restroom blocks, and five departure areas equipped with X-ray machines.

In her 2007 State of the Nation Address (SONA) last month, President Arroyo called on the MIAA to exert all efforts to have the world-class terminal operational at the soonest possible time.

End-July GIR Closes at Almost US$28 Billion Mark

Media Release
Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas

The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) rose to US$27.9 billion as of end-July 2007, or about US$1.5 billion higher than the end-June 2007 level of US$26.4 billion. The significant month-on-month increase in reserves was attributed mainly to the Bangko Sentral’s (BSP) foreign exchange operations on account of continued foreign exchange inflows, and receipts of investment income from abroad. These inflows were partly offset, however, by the debt service payments of the National Government on its foreign obligations. The end-July GIR level has exceeded the GIR forecast range of US$26.0-US$26.6 billion for end-2007.

In terms of reserve adequacy, the current GIR level can cover 5.1 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. This level is also equivalent to 5.4 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.0 times based on residual maturity.1

Net international reserves (NIR) level, including revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, likewise rose to US$27.9 billion from the end-June 2007 level of US$26.4 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.2

1 Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 months.

2 Except for accrued interest payable of US$7 million, the BSP has repaid its foreign exchange short-term liabilities and credits to the International Monetary Fund (IMF).


Tuesday, 7 August 2007

President asks Legislature to pass 27 pet bills, ratify JPEPA

Original article at GMANews.TV

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has asked the 14th Legislature to prioritize the passage of 27 measures, which include the P 1.227 trillion proposed budget and the amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA) and the ratification of the controversial Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA).

Mrs Arroyo’s legislative agenda was presented during the first meeting of the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) under the 14th Congress.

The possible granting of emergency powers to the President to mitigate the effects of the dry spell was not part of the agenda.

The meeting lasted for two hours and 45 minutes that was attended by Senate President Manuel Villar Jr., Speaker Jose de Venecia Jr, Senate majority leader Francisco Pangilinan, House majority leader Arthur Defensor, senators Manuel Roxas II, Gregorio Honasan,Rodolfo Biazon, Juan Ponce Enrile Richard Gordon, Juan Miguel Zubiri and several House lawmakers.

Senate President Manuel Villar Jr said the Senate is willing to work with Malacañang in crafting laws that would benefit the country but he said not all of the President’s pet bills would be passed.

Hindi naman nangangahulugan na ang prioridad ng Pangulo ay aming susundin na
as is. Of course, the Senate has its own priorities. We will consider the President’s priorities but its important that we follow the agenda of the Senate," Villar said.

Meanwhile, Roxas said it took them a lot of time discussing JPEPA and the agrarian reform and agricultural modernization law.

He said “there is an emerging consensus, particularly on the JPEPA and all the other measures that have already reached the advanced stages of processing in the last Congress, would be among those that are prioritized."

“I'm quite optimistic there will be a great deal of productive legislative action in the upcoming months," he said.

Press Secretary Ignacio Bunye said the LEDAC meeting was a “very business-like open exchange of views."

He said Mrs Arroyo indicated that the LEDAC meetings would be held every first Tuesday of the quarter.

This means the next LEDAC meeting would be held on Nov. 6, 2007, followed by the first Tuesday of February and the 1st Tuesday of May in 2008.

Bunye said the Palace's legislative agenda focused on economic progress, educational reform and social equity, and peace and order and rule of law.

Under economic progress, Mrs Arroyo asked for the passage of the bills amending the EPIRA, creating the Civil Aviation Authority, the 2008 National Budget, the Simplified Net Income Taxation (SNITS), Rationalization of Fiscal Incentives, Credit Information System, Establishment of the Personal Equity and Retirement Act (PERA), National Tourism Policy, amendments to the Customs Brokers law, the JPEPA, the National Strategy to Conserve Resources and Help Arrest Climate Change, Renewable Energy bill, Land Use Act, Anti-Trust bill, the extension of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, and promotion of information technology entrepreneurial ventures.

The President called for the approval of the following bills on educational reform and social equity: Affordable Quality Medicine; Long-Term Care for Senior Citizens; Poll Watchdog Fund; Stiffer penalties for election violence; Farmland as Loan Collateral; amendments to the UP charter; reversal of the devolution of district hospitals; and the review of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law, Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, and the Agri-Agra Law.

She also asked for the passage of the bills amending the Witness Protection Program, creating special courts for speedy administration of justice, providing for stiffer penalties for political killings, and imposing the harshest penalties for rogues in uniform. - GMANews.TV

July inflation 2.6%; BSP says inflation environment still manageable

Original article at ABS-CBN News

Click here for summary inflation report at the National Statistics Office

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco said Tuesday the inflation situation remained manageable despite the uptick in July.

The National Statistics Office said the annual inflation in July came in at 2.6 percent, higher than June's 2.3 percent.

"The inflation rate of 2.6 percent for July reflects the uptick in food and oil prices. At this level, the year to date average inflation remains at 2.6 percent and is within the BSP forecast for the year of 2.6-3.1 percent," Tetangco said in a text message.

"This continues to support our view of a manageable inflation environment. Nonetheless, we are mindful of the risks to this view, which include volatility in oil prices, possible weather disturbances , increases in wages and transport fares."

Basic education gets P1.6-B Aussie grant

Full report at the BusinessWorld Online

Australia, through the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID), yesterday signed an agreement with the World Bank for a A$41-million — or approximately P1.6-billion — grant for the Support to Philippine Basic Education Reforms (SPHERE) Trust Fund, to support the Department of Education’s (DepEd) basic education sector reform agenda (BESRA).

AusAID Counsellor Sam Zappia and World Bank Acting Country Director Vera Songwe signed the agreement in the presence of DepEd Assistant Secretary Jesus Lorenzo Mateo, World Bank Human Development Specialist Lynette Perez and AusAID First Secretary Deo Mwesigye at the Australian Embassy in Manila. The Trust Fund will be managed by the World Bank and will be implemented by the DepEd.

PAL: Remove other flag carriers’ subsidies

Full report at the BusinessWorld Online

Lucio Tan-owned Philippine Airlines, Inc. (PAL) yesterday said it wanted all forms of government subsidies to country flag carriers, particularly in the Middle East and Southeast Asia, to be abolished as a precondition to the full liberalization of the aviation industry.

In a statement, PAL said that subsidies and all other forms of state aid "can seriously distort competition."

It added that it was ready to compete but emphasized the need for "equal opportunity" for all in an "open skies" regime.