Friday, 30 November 2007

PGMA: The real heroes are the hard-working citizens

Original report at Gov.Ph News

The real heroes are the hardworking citizens who need no further disruptions in their lives…

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo thus extolled the country’s hardworking citizens as the present-day Filipino heroes in a statement she issued in connection with today’s nationwide observance of Bonifacio Day.

“Today we extol the heroes who shed blood for our country and fought against those who claimed our sovereignty. In remembering these national heroes, we must revisit the long and hard journey to freedom and progress that generations of Filipinos worked for,” she said

“What happened yesterday was not an act of heroes. It was plain defiance for the rule of law -- from the walkout in the courtroom, to the forced entry into a prestigious hotel,” the Chief Executive stressed.

President Arroyo was obviously referring to what Malacanang had earlier dubbed a “short charade” – the takeover yesterday of another ritzy Makati City hotel, this time the Manila Peninsula, by the group of former Navy lieutenant-turned-Senator Antonio Trillanes, who was the spokesman of the July 27, 2003 Oakwood Mutiny led by Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1995 valedictorian Gerardo Gambala.

“Today is the day to remember what true heroism is all about,” said the President, who pointed to the following modern-day heroes, among others: “parents who try to provide their children a better life; the entrepreneurs who started a business that thrives in predictability; and the OFWs (overseas Filipino workers) who sacrifice family ties for the chance to earn more…

Every setback caused by rebels who speak of change through extra-Constitutional means makes it doubly harder for the real heroes to recover and begin anew,” added President Arroyo.

The President had just arrived at the factory site of an enterprise locator, Franklin Baker in San Pablo City, Laguna when informed of the Makati situation yesterday morning by Presidential Security Group (PSG) head Brig, Gen. Romeo Prestoza.

Earlier, the President was the guest of honor and speaker during the closing ceremonies of the Region IV-A Local Peace and Security Assembly (LPSA) at Villa Escudero Resort in San Pablo City.

The country commemorates today the 144th birth anniversary of Katipunan founder Andres Bonifacio who was born in Tondo, Manila on Nov. 30, 1863, and died at the age of 34 years on May 10, 1897 in Maragondon, Cavite.

Dubbed as the Father of the Philippine Revolution, Bonifacio founded the Katipunan on July 7, 1892, the eve of the arrest of fellow Filipino hero, Dr. Jose Rizal.

Lopez group hands over P58.5-B payment for 60% of PNOC-EDC

By Donnabelle L. Gatdula
Original report at The Philippine Star

Red Vulcan Holdings Corp., the Lopez-led consortium that won the bid for the 60-percent government stake in geothermal power producer PNOC-Energy Development Corp. (PNOC-EDC), handed yesterday in its full payment of P58.5 billion to the Philippine National Oil Co. (PNOC).

The payment will conclude the sale of PNOC’s geothermal subsidiary to the group.

Lopez-owned First Generation Corp., Spalmare Holdings B.V. and Prime Terracota Holdings Corp. are the members of the Red Vulcan Holdings consortium.

From the payment, P47 billion was remitted to the National Government through the Bureau of Treasury (BTr) while the remaining P11.5 billion went to PNOC.

The Department of Finance (DOF) earlier said it will use the proceeds from the sale of the PNOC-EDC stake to bridge the government’s budget deficit projected to hit P63 billion by the end of this year.

PNOC, on the other hand, said it will utilize bulk of the proceeds from the sale of PNOC-EDC to fund its renewable energy-related projects.

“We are very extremely confident that we are turning over the business to the most capable hands, who possess the right combination of financial wherewithal and high technical expertise since First Gen, the head of the consortium, is already engaged in the energy business. The government is getting a premium in the form of P58.5 billion in cash from the country’s biggest privatization deal of the year,” PNOC president Antonio M. Cailao said.

Red Vulcan won over FDC Geo-Energy Holdings Inc.’s offer of P48.525 billion, Panasia Energy Holdings Inc.’s P39 billion and AP Renewables’ P33.165 billion in a public bidding held last Nov. 21.

The bidding was touted as the most transparent and professionally-ran government auction.

Red Vulcan now gains the majority control of the operational and financial management of the company.

PNOC-EDC has been in operation for almost 32 years and has done drilling and exploration projects in other countries.

“We believe that the tradition of excellence and professionalism by which we run PNOC-EDC for more than three decades will continue under the new owners, and that the company will continue carving a name in the international energy industry,” Cailao said.

“We will focus our efforts in creating other crown jewels. There is no limit to what PNOC can do as ‘the energy company’ as we will also benefit partly from this cash infusion. By the way, PNOC can still enter the geothermal business as we did not agree to a ‘no compete clause,’ in the purchase agreement, that will prohibit PNOC from competing with Red Vulcan,” Cailao said.

The Development Bank of the Philippines and ING, which served as the sale’s financial advisors, provided a staple financing facility of $650 million (P27.9 billion) to Red Vulcan Holdings.

Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes said this is the biggest privatization deal so far this year and will likely be unmatched going forward, especially that the National Transmission Corp. (TransCo) is a concession deal, not a sale.

“Amidst all the false accusations and the government’s detractors on graft and corruption and opaqueness on similar deals, this PNOC-EDC privatization negates all these and underscores the government’s commitment to fairness and transparency,” Reyes said.

Judges disgusted over budget cut in 2008 outlay

By Mike Frialde
Original report at The Philippine Star

A group representing 900 regional trial court judges nationwide yesterday expressed disgust over the cut in the budget of the judiciary in the proposed 2008 national budget.

The unexpected slash in the proposed budget was never explained. We deplore in the strongest possible terms the drastic reduction in the proposed budget that the judiciary received. While not yet entirely losing hope, the judges must necessarily turn to the Senate to rectify this anomalous situation,” said Manila Regional Trial Court Branch 24 Judge Antonio Eugenio, president of the Philippine Judges Association.

The House of Representatives recently passed the P1.227-trillion national budget for 2008. The proposed allocation for the judiciary of P14.6 billion for next year was reduced to P10.34 billion.

Chief Justice Reynato Puno said the reduction of the judiciary’s allocation means that Congress wants a “first class judiciary on a third world budget.”

Puno said that the budget slash will hamper the judiciary’s efforts to speed up resolution of pending cases.

“The lack of sufficient funding will inevitably lead to undue delay in the dispensation of justice and, ultimately, result to injustice. More importantly, the said reduction has demoralized a great majority of those in the judiciary who solely depend on their meager salaries and benefits to support their families,” Eugenio said.

“As a co-equal of the government, Congress should not be stingy (with us),” he said.

Eugenio said courts nationwide have incurred unpaid utility bills. Some courts even still use typewriters instead of computers, he said.

“There is no place for apathy when what is at stake is a more responsive, efficient and pro-active judiciary,” Eugenio said.

Thursday, 29 November 2007

Stock index climbs 1.2% amid political tension surrounding coup trial

Original report at The Philippine Star

MANILA (AP) - Shares climbed today in a volatile session amid political tension caused by military officers that stormed out of a trial over an attempted coup and holed up in an upscale hotel.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index rose 41.55 points, or 1.2 percent, to 3,578.55.

The trouble in the capital's financial market, Makati, was "a minority report as far as the stock market is concerned," said Nestor Aguila, president of DA Market Securities. "It gave us a good opportunity to buy some more."

Top-traded Ayala Corp. rose 1.8 percent to P560, and Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. climbed 2.8 percent to P3,100.

International Container Terminal Services Inc. surged 11.9 percent to P47.

Philippine financial markets will be closed Friday for a public holiday.


Press Release
National Statistical Coordination Board

Secretary General, NSCB

Fueled by the robust performances of Trade, Agriculture and Fishery, Private Services and Construction, the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) grew by 6.6 percent in the third quarter of 2007 surpassing its last year’s performance of 5.1 percent in the same quarter. On the demand side, growth was driven mainly by increased household spending, complemented by increased investments in public and private construction and a huge jump in exports of non-factor services. The continued accelerated growth in the Net Factor Income from Abroad (NFIA) at 25.2 percent, the highest since the third quarter of 2003, pushed the Gross National Product (GNP) to a substantial 8.2 percent growth from 5.6 percent in the same quarter last year.

While the third quarter performance of the Philippine economy recorded accelerated growth compared to the same period last year, the seasonally adjusted GDP indicated an easing off in growth as it posted a weaker growth of 0.3 percent compared to the 1.8 percent in the previous quarter. The seasonally adjusted GNP likewise slackened, growing by 0.4 percent from 2.4 percent in the second quarter.

On the production side, GDP growth was backed by the solid performances of all major sectors which posted accelerated growths from their year ago rates. The ever-resilient Services sector recorded a 7.2 percent expansion and contributed a significant 3.6 percentage points to the overall GDP growth. This was followed by the Industry sector with a 6.1 percent increase and put in a lower but equally important 2.0 percentage points to the overall growth. Likewise, the renewed vigor of Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (AFF), which strengthened to 5.6 percent from 3.6 percent last year, added in a 1.0 percentage point contribution.

The seasonally adjusted AFF slowed down this quarter, recording a growth of 1.1 percent from 2.2 percent the previous quarter. Services likewise failed to outstrip its previous quarter’s performance as shown by the further decline in the growth of its seasonally adjusted GVA from 1.0 percent in the second quarter to only 0.6 percent this quarter. Industry, on the other hand, contracted by 0.7 percent from its second quarter level. Last recorded contraction in the seasonally adjusted GVA of the sector was in the third quarter of 2004, also an election year, when it dropped by 0.1 percent from its second quarter level.

The expansion of the economy continued to outpace population growth in the third quarter as per capita GDP rose further by 4.5 percent from 3.1 percent last year. Similarly, per capita GNP and per capita PCE sped up their tempo. Per capita GNP went up by 6.1 percent from only 3.5 percent last year, while per capita PCE expanded by 3.6 percent from 3.1 percent last year.

Property income rose sharply by 68.2 percent coming from bond placements abroad of private corporations and increased income receipts on deposits abroad. This upsurge in Property Income combined with the significant reduction by 21.1 percent in Property Expense led to the sustained double digit growth of 25.2 percent in NFIA from 11.2 percent last year.

On the expenditure side, consumer spending expanded by 5.6 percent in the third quarter of 2007 from 5.2 percent a year ago. All sub sectors of Personal Consumption Expenditures posted growths except for household furnishing. Food expenditures, which accounted for 53.5 percent of total PCE, accelerated to 6.3 percent from 6.0 percent registered in 2006, contributing 3.4 percentage points to total PCE growth. Miscellaneous Expenditures grew by 5.6 percent from 4.6 percent; Transportation/Communication, posted a lower growth of 9.1 percent from 13.3 percent; Fuel, Light & Water, expanded by 7.1 percent from a negative 2.4 percent growth; and, Household Operations up by 1.9 percent from 2.6 percent.

Government Consumption Expenditures rose to 8.3 percent in the third quarter of 2007 from 4.5 percent in the same period last year brought about by the continued implementation of government projects which was made possible by higher revenue flows. Higher maintenance spending was likewise recorded due to higher allocations for operating expenses.

Investments in Fixed Capital Formation rose to 8.9 percent from 2.1 percent growth in 2006.

Total Merchandise Exports reversed its trend to negative 7.5 percent in the third quarter of 2007 from 10.5 percent in the same period last year.

The top five contributors to the growth of Merchandise Exports were: Finished Electrical Machinery which maintained its growth of 8.3 percent; Semi conductors and Electric Microcircuits, decelerated to 4.7 percent from 5.1 percent; Crude Coconut Oil, which recovered from negative 42.5 percent growth to 14.6 percent; Liquefied Petroleum Gas, which jumped to 473.2 percent from negative 49.4 percent; and, Other Products Manufactured, which slowed down to 8.5 percent from 56.5 percent. Exports of Non-Factor Services, on the other hand, accelerated to 13.7 percent in the third quarter of 2007 from 1.0 percent a year ago.

Total Merchandise Imports showed signs of weakening as it reversed its growth to negative 7.9 percent from a minimal growth of 0.8 percent in the previous year. The top five contributors to the growth of Merchandise Imports were: Mineral Fuels, Lubricants and Related Materials, which recovered to a modest growth of 6.4 percent from negative 11.1 percent; Cereals and Cereal Products, up by 11.1 percent from negative 8.7 percent; Dairy Products, which grew by 24.4 percent from 31.7 percent; Chemical elements and compounds, expanded by 3.4 percent from negative 0.7 percent; and Manufactures of metals which grew by 2.3 percent from 28.1 percent in the previous year. On the other hand, imports of non-factor services continues to gain strength with a higher growth of 26.0 percent in the third quarter of 2007 from 8.4 percent in the previous year.

During the quarter, the terms of trade posted a lower Trade Index of 85.9 percent as the price index of imports (i.e., 464.80) exceeded the price index of exports (i.e. 399.44). Trading Losses during the quarter amounted to P25.2 billion pesos.

GNP Implicit Price Index (IPIN) stood at 487.3 percent from 477.1 percent in the previous year or a 2.1 percent growth from 2006.


By Alex Magno
Original article at The Philippine Star

Perhaps they should now call a Senate probe into why Typhoon Mina decided to change its course and shift sharply northwards.

Perhaps the political noisemakers should also clamor for an inquiry into why Typhoon Lando took a dramatic U-turn, sparing Vietnam and damaging Palawan. It appears we lost an aircraft that was sent out on a rescue mission in bad weather off the Palawan coast.

And what about the simultaneous presence of three destructive weather systems within the Philippine area of responsibility? Could this be the outcome of an insidious conspiracy?

After all, some of the political noisemakers have been after our poor weather forecasters for causing needless expenditure preparing for a possible calamity in the Bicol region. Mina, in all her mercy, decided to spare Bicol and torment Northern Luzon instead.

Perhaps these noisemakers want storm systems to be subjected to some sort of government regulation that predefines their paths and sets limits on their intensities. Some of the noisemakers, after all, want oil prices to be subject to government regulation even if, like typhoons, the forces that determine global pricing for crude are beyond our control.

Too bad, Senate President Manuel Villar has called for some sort of moratorium on Senate hearings “in aid of legislation.” This after Sen. Loren Legarda conducted a hearing on World Bank lending for roads which everyone, it seems, chose to ignore. We might have missed an opportunity to legislate a new, more ingenious set of bidding policies for the World Bank.

Villar wants the chamber to spend the next two weeks tightly focused on processing the 2008 national budget that has come out of the House. Christmas is coming at us faster than we might be prepared to think about it. No one wants the country to welcome another new year without a national budget to fund our economic growth.

But a bummer!

That means that for the next two weeks, there will be no new unearthing of some imagined scandal. There will be no hammering of witnesses, no staged “revelations”, no funny witnesses and no brutal exchange of insults among our honorable solons.

Pray tell, what will be done to keep the public entertained? How will the early “presidentiables” keep their visages in the public eye?

Budget hearings are hardly earthshaking events. Bland accountants from the public agencies are interrogated on this and that accounting entry by legislators. There is hardly any political drama that may be wrung from a budget that is, for the most part, to be spent paying the salaries of our bloated public sector workforce.

The only real event of reform that can happen here is for our politicians to call for a radical restructuring of our bureaucracy to cut waste arising from redundant jobs and obsolete agencies crying out to be abolished. But no ambitious politicians in his right mind would call for extensive retrenchment in the public sector. That is just so unpopular.

So let’s just badger our poor weathermen. Using the best modeling techniques available, they still could not tell us where and when exactly whimsical typhoons will make landfall. Maybe we should just hire fortune-tellers instead of weathermen, exorcise storms instead of spending on disaster-mitigation measures.

One of the senators should put such proposals on the table. That will make for a truly entertaining Senate hearing, featuring the likes of Madame Auring.

Summon Bayani Fernando, too, for ordering billboard advertisers to take down their pretty objets d’art in the name of disaster-mitigation. These pretty billboards are the defining features of our cityscape. Without them, melancholy blankets the city.

Badger Bayani for ordering the giant billboards to be stripped ahead of the typhoon. Prevent him from scuttling these monstrosities. Without the billboards, where would our suicidal countrymen clamber up to so that they can least have their 15 minutes of fame before plunging to perdition?

Summon Bayani to the Senate. Make him sing in his seat, literally. That will make the entertainment provided by such events complete.

Let’s hope no killjoy will stand up and ask this devastating question: Should we really count cents in ensuring preparedness?

Do we really think that evacuating people from areas prone to landslides and floods is a waste of time and money? If no one dies because the authorities removed people from focal points of potential calamity, shall we now say the effort was pointless?

There is a bizarre discourse brewing in the centers of political noise. That discourse says that because we asked local authorities to prepare for a typhoon, and the typhoon did not strike in those areas most prepared to meet its fury, something akin to graft has been committed.

That discourse is truly bizarre. But it gets covered by the media anyway.

Mina did not leave us without taking the usual toll taken by such calamitous events. Perhaps the toll might have been higher had disaster-mitigation measures not been undertaken. Perhaps the opposition might choose to work the worst side of the event by taking government to task for the casualties happening despite all the preparedness.

To each man his own spin on the calamity. But let us not overlook the fact that there are limits to how we might avert the human toll taken by natural calamities.

Still, an ounce of prevention is still worth more than a pound of cure.

Chinese group to develop island as retirement haven

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio
Original report at The Philippine Star

A group of Chinese investors will invest more than $75 million in the country for the development of an island in Palawan.

The 600-hectare island will be home to Chinese retirees.

“The Chinese would like to develop a retirement destination in the Philippines. They would like to build first class amenities in a beachfront property for their elderly,” Susan Barlin, co-founder of the CEO Club Philippines said in an interview.

The initial $75 million will serve as lease. Barlin said details of how much more the Chinese will invest for the development of the island will be revealed after the groundbreaking to be held in the first quarter next year.

She said in two years time, the country has the opportunity to earn $40 billion. This includes the tourism, the retirement village will spur. “The children of the retirees will want to visit their parents and then take some time off themselves,” she noted.

Barlin, who was responsible for bringing the 13 Chinese investors in the country, said aside from retirement, the tourism sector will likewise benefit from the potential Chinese investment.

According to her, the infrastructure needed for the Chinese Village will take two years to build. However, the benefits from tourism will accrue immediately.

The amenities for the Chinese Village will be strictly first class. The island will have its own airport, hospital, hotel, nursing home and other facilities to make the retirees comfortable.

Jing Ping Li, founder and CEO of Global CEO Clubs, said they are still uncertain where the island for retired Chinese will be.

“We are still looking at possible locations but definitely it has to be an island exclusive to the Chinese,” Li said.

He said, the island should have an area of not less than 2,000 acres to accommodate all the fixtures including a hospital.

He said a big part of why they decided to build a retirement village here was the people. “Filipino nurses are the best in the world. We feel welcome here because the people are friendly and accommodating,” the investor enthused.

Li said there is a need to build a Chinese Village outside China because the only beachfront island in the country is already sold out.

Hainan, the smallest province of China, consists of islands but Li said it is very expensive. An acre of beachfront property costs $1 million.

When asked if the Chinese are concerned about their security while in the country, Li said no. “I feel very safe here. I don’t think it’s a consideration at all,” he noted.

The island will cater to the parents of the Chinese elite which makes up 10 percent of their entire population.

Beijing Capital City Real Estate Development Co. Ltd. is interested in building the project with a Filipino partner.

Wednesday, 28 November 2007

Companies' Jan-Sep 2007 Net Earnings

AXA Philippines [127%] PHP 13.75B
Ayala Corp [41%] PHP 13.6B
BPI [11%] PHP 7.6B
San Miguel [15%] PHP 7.07B
Metrobank [19.7%] PHP 5.31B
Union Bank [58%] PHP 4.05B
Aboitiz Equity Ventures [63%] PHP 3.9B
Meralco [400%] PHP 2.8B
Vista Land [170%] PHP 2.7B
Union Bank [58%] PHP 2.57B
GMA Network [17%] PHP 1.788B
DMCI Holdings [69%] PHP 1.74B
Filinvest Land [97%] PHP 1.31B
ABS-CBN [100%] PHP 1.1B
PNB [82%] PHP 1.1B
SM Devt Corp [34%] PHP 791.8M
MacroAsia [53%] PHP 236M
EEI Corp [100%] PHP 206M
ePerformax International Inc. [34.5%] PHP 174.54 million
Splash PHP [122%] PHP 156.21M
Empire East [34.3%] PHP 140.7M
Belle Corp [20%] PHP 140M
Pacific Online Systems Corp [111%] PHP 115M

(These are figures taken from the major dailies. We do not vouch for their accuracy.)

New Zealand Yellow Pages to move directory services to the Philippines

Operators in the Philippines will be handling New Zealand directory assistance calls from next year, as a result of Yellow Pages Group call centre functions being outsourced.

Teletech, a provider of business process outsourcing solutions, said today that about 100 Palmerston North call centre workers would be affected.

Teletech Country manager Jason Lock told NZPA today that his company had been awarded the contract to manage some functions of Yellow Pages.

Teletech signed a multi-year agreement with Yellow Pages Group and Teletech would manage existing personnel and assume client facilities in New Zealand, Mr Lock said.

"This takes effect from April 2008. In the initial stages, the activity and functions will be managed from Palmerston North and later from the Philippines from 2008." Mr Lock said that only the 018 and 0172 directory assistance programmes would be moving offshore.

"About 100 are affected by this move. Sitel, the current group managing the PN centre, has talked to staff."

Teletech would meet and advise the affected staff this week, Mr Lock said.

"It gives us some time to advise staff about opportunities and about redeployment to the Philippines and where possible, provide them opportunities beyond April 2008."

Mr Lock said the economic factor was just one of many reasons for the move overseas.

The Engineering, Printing and Manufacturing Union (EPMU) said yesterday the shift offshore would not provide a better service for New Zealand customers because English was a distant third language for the people who would be fielding calls.

However, Mr Lock said the customer service work done in the Philippines was of a very high standard.

"The English language capability is strong. The Filipino culture has been influenced very strongly by the past strong American presence there.

"The Philippines is also one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world which will surprise many Kiwis but it is a fact."

Their skills levels were also very high, Mr Lock said.

Teletech has 15,000 employees in the Philippines, the vast majority of whom were managing customer care technical support from English-speaking countries.

He said there was a possibility for opportunities for Kiwis to be redeployed in management roles in the Philippines.

"Filipino staff are mostly tertiary-educated and are tested for English language capabilities before being employed."

They were also tested in a business environment course and a component of the course was customised for the New Zealand environment like NZ places, names, Maori language, culture and geography.

Yellow Pages group operations director Greg Hurn said NZ consumers would continue to receive quality directory assistance services from Teletech.

Telecom sold the Yellow Pages to a private equity consortium for $2 billion in March.


PGMA pushes passage of urgent bills still pending in Congress


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today she will convene the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (LEDAC) to discuss measures that would fast track congressional passage of proposed laws urgently needed to accelerate the momentum of the country’s progress.

In her opening statement during the National Security Council-Cabinet Group Meeting in Malacanang, the President explained that it was important that the LEDAC is convened to find ways and means to overcome the roadblocks that continue to derail the passage of the vital bills.

The Chief Executive, who is scheduled to make a state visit to Spain and an official visit to the United Kingdom on the same trip next month, said the LEDAC meeting will be held upon her return.

She is expected back in the country by the second week of December.

Topping the list of priority administration proposals still awaiting approval in Congress are the 2008 national budget, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), and amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (EPIRA).

"These measures are also crucial to business expansion. The 2008 budget will fund major infrastructure that would boost industrial and agricultural productivity and competitiveness. JPEPA will boost investment and trade from Japan, while the EPIRA amendments will give relief to firms struggling with rising power costs," the President said.

Also pending approval are proposals allowing the importation of cheap medicines, granting amnesty to rebels, and imposing stiffer penalties on persons caught in possession of explosives.

Monday, 26 November 2007

Medical tourism earned $ 200M

Original report at Positive News Media

MANILA, Nov. 27 (PNA) -- The country has earned at least $200 million in medical tourism in its first year alone.

The medical tourism business in the country has attracted an estimated 200,000 patients from around the world, including overseas Filipino workers who came to the Philippines this year for treatment and vacation.

According to Department of Health Undersecretary Jade del Mundo, head of the Medical Tourism Program, cosmetic surgery tops the most sought treatment from patients here and abroad while eye and dental services are also the most in-demand aside from cosmetic surgery.

The Philippines rank fifth in medical tourism among neighboring Asian countries next to Thailand, India, Malaysia and Singapore.

Del Mundo said Philippine hospitals and health care facilities are applying for accreditation, hoping to make it to the top spot.

Among those accredited by medical tourism, the famous The Belo Medical Group of Dr.Vicky Belo posted earnings of $300,000 from January to August.

The medical tourism program offers the Philippines as a destination for healthcare and tourism where patients can go for rest and recreation while recuperating.

The country's health care professionals are known worldwide for their unique Filipino touch.

Hanjin to spend $2B on Misamis shipyard complex

Original report at GMA.News TV

Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Corp. will be pumping in $2 billion in the country for the construction of a shipyard complex in Misamis Oriental in Mindanao, Philippine government reiterated Monday.

In a statement, Phividec Industrial Authority administrator Ninfa Albania said Hanjin president Jeong Sup Shim announced the investment when he paid a courtesy call to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in Malacañang.

However, the courtesy call itself was not open for media coverage.

Albania, in the Malacañang statement, said Hanjin’s latest facility will be established at the 3,000-hectare Phividec Industrial Estate in Tagoloan and Villanueva towns in Misamis Oriental.

The complex, which is expected to generated 30,000 new jobs mostly engineers, welders and steel fabricators, is twice the size of Hanjin’s shipbuilding complex in Subic, Zambales.

Albania said construction of the general manufacturing plant of the shipbuilding facility would start early next year and ship fabrication would begin in 2010. By 2012, she said the facility is expected to export some $1.7 billion worth of shipbuilding parts and vessels.

Presidential Management Staff chief Cerge Remonde earlier announced Hanjin's investment, but did not give details on the shipyard complex.

For her part, President Arroyo, during her pulong bayan with residents of Isla Puting Bato in Tondo, Manila, said Hanjin has hired 20,000 welders from Central Luzon and is looking for 17,500 more.

Halos kalahati na ng welders ng Central Luzon ay na-hire na nila (Hanjin has employed almost half of Central Luzon's welders)," she said.

She told residents of Tondo to train as welders so that she could ask Hanjin to source some of their manpower from Manila. - GMANews.TV

Quo vadis, Philippine Congress?

Promised legislation missing
Businessmen cite Congress inaction on six commitments

Original report at BusinessWorld

CONGRESS HAS SO FAR FAILED TO ACT on measures promised to businessmen, who are now holding out little hope that these priority bills will be acted upon by yearend.

John D. Forbes, chairman of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines’ legislative committee, said six priority measures deemed critical to improving the country’s competitiveness were unlikely to be passed this month or the next.

"It seems that Congress is moving backwards. It has not gotten the message of the need to be more competitive and failed to pass the priority bills we have recommended. It’s no longer a wish list, it’s a have-to-do list," he said.

"Corruption in the government and backward thinking in Congress," he stressed, are making it difficult for businesses to compete.

European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines President Henry J. Schumacher said investors were waiting for the implementation of legislated reforms.

"We want to see these reforms happen ... most urgent is the rationalization of fiscal incentives which has been hanging for many years. We know of investors who said they will not move until they see how the new regime looks like. We might lose investments if we don’t finish it now," he said.

Legislators, during a meeting with businessmen last September, had given assurances that the following would be passed by year-end: the Credit Information System Act, amendments to the Customs Brokers Act, Pre-Need Code, Tourism Act, Land Administration Reform Act, and the Renewable Energy Act.

Mr. Schumacher stressed that the business community had recommended the set of priority bills for the benefit of investors.

"We have less than a month ... I’m not convinced all the bills will be passed," he added.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Samie L. Lim was also pessimistic on the bills’ chances of being passed this year, but said Congress should be given more time.

"Given the limited time, I doubt all the six bills will be passed but ... we should give them more time to deliberate," he said.

Mr. Forbes had previously said it would make sense to work on the six bills since other critical measures could take more time.

In the latter category are amendments to the Build-Operate-Transfer Law, Financial Sector Taxes Rationalization Act, Fiscal Incentives Rationalization Act, Foreign Investment Restrictions Rationalization Act, Freedom of Access to Information Act, changes to the Local Government Code and the Magna Carta for Small and Medium Enterprises Act, and the Simplified Net Income Taxation Act.

Legislators, meanwhile, said a few of the priority bills could still be passed before Congress takes a break for the holidays.

Senate Majority Leader Francis N. Pangilinan said that in all likelihood, all the chamber could pass this year is the Credit Information System Act as senators would be focusing on approving next year’s national budget.

The other bills "will most likely" progress in the first quarter of 2008, he said.

House Majority Floor Leader Arthur D. Defensor, Sr. (3rd district Iloilo), in a phone interview, said the changes to the Customs Brokers Act would likely be passed soon, being a priority of the House of Representatives.

"Some of the bills, however, are still in the committee level. We can ask the committees to speed up the committee reports on these bills so we could pass it before Christmas break." Mr. Defensor said.

Senate President Manuel B. Villar, Jr., meanwhile, said the chamber would devote two of the remaining four session weeks to floor deliberations on the budget, with the view of passing it and 10 other bills by yearend.

Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile is scheduled to sponsor the budget bill today.

The other bills lined up for approval include the Personal Equity and Retirement Account bill, Human Rights Compensation Act, changes to the University of the Philippines charter, Firemen and Police Additional Incentives Act, World War II Veterans Assistance Act, and a bill fixing the term of the Armed Forces Chief of Staff. — with A. K. K. Austria and C. S. S. Valencia

Philippines to revise economic targets for 2008 on strong peso, slower exports

MANILA (Thomson Financial) - The Philippine government said Monday it will revise macroeconomic assumptions for 2008 up to 2010 given the continued strengthening of the peso, rising oil prices and slower exports.

The Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), an inter-agency body that sets the government's macroeconomic and fiscal goals, is currently drafting revisions of the targets which will be submitted to President Gloria Arroyo and her Cabinet for approval.

The DBCC will be changing its assumptions on foreign exchange rate, inflation, exports growth and gross domestic product.

Under its current forecasts, the DBCC expects the dollar/peso to range between 46 and 48 pesos this year and between 45 and 47 pesos next year. However, the peso has been steadily appreciating due to large capital and remittance inflows and last week was at 42.85 pesos to the dollar.

Higher oil prices would also be taken into account, since the DBCC earlier assumed Dubai crude oil prices hitting 61-64 dollars a barrel this year, and 62-70 dollars in 2008.

Crude oil for January delivery settled at 98.18 dollars per barrel on the New York Mercantile

Exchange on Friday after crossing 99 dollars earlier last week.

The DBCC said inflation projections may need to be revised due to rising oil prices.

The Philippine central bank is projecting inflation to average 2.6-3.1 percent this year, compared to the government's 4-5 percent target.

The DBCC is also expected to reduce the exports growth target on account of an anticipated slowdown in the US economy, the country's largest trading partner.

This year's export growth target was set at 11 percent, but exports have been growing at only single-digit levels.

However, the forecast for gross domestic product growth is likely to be adjusted upwards.

In the first half, Philippine GDP grew 7.3 percent, already outpacing the government's full-year target of 6.1-6.7 percent.

(1 US dollar = 42.85 pesos)

Strong peso empowers local firms to accumulate overseas assets

Original article at The Manila Bulletin

The rising peso should enable some of the country’s largest corporations to accumulate overseas assets at a huge discount, thus allowing them to accelerate their global expansion plans, a senior member of Congress said over the weekend.

"Many large Philippine corporations will now be able to acquire and hoard dollar-based assets abroad at a bargain, in view of the powerful peso," Cebu Rep. Eduardo Gullas said.

"Obviously, many of these overseas buying opportunities would not have been possible three years ago, at an exchange rate of P56 to a dollar," Gullas pointed out.

Earlier this month, fastfood giant Jollibee Foods Corp. acquired a congee chain in China for .5 million.

In peso terms, the acquisition cost Jollibee about P2.18 billion, at P43 to a dollar.

Three years ago, the same acquisition would have cost Jollibee P2.82 billion, or at least P640 million more, at P56 to a dollar.

The country’s largest publicly traded firm in terms of market capitalization, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., earlier bared plans to acquire telecommunications and outsourcing entities abroad.

The peso closed Friday at P42.85 to a dollar. The peso has gained more than 23 percent against the US currency since 2004, when the exchange rate averaged P56 to a dollar.

JP Morgan Chase & Co. now sees the peso appreciating to as high as 38 to 39 versus the dollar by next year.

According to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), more Philippine corporations have been taking advantage of the strong peso to buy dollars and invest abroad.

From January to June this year, the BSP said Philippine firms already invested a total of $ 1.8 billion overseas.

Gullas said he sees the increased overseas investments of Philippine firms "softening the peso’s surge, and ensuring the local currency’s more orderly appreciation against the globally weakening dollar."

"In a way, these overseas investments have helped to protect our migrant workers as well as our exporters from an otherwise more precipitous decline in the dollar relative to the peso," Gullas added.

Only last month, the BSP, eager to get rid of the country’s excess dollar supply, authorized the Government Service Insurance System to stash overseas up to $ 1 billion of its investment funds.

The BSP itself has been incurring huge financial losses buying dollars for more pesos in order to restrain the local currency’s rapid advance.