Friday, 7 December 2007

Teletech to open 10 additional call centers, hire 10,000 more

Full article at BusinessWorld Online
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW120807/content.php?id=041

The local unit of Teletech Holings, Inc. will hire 10,000 more workers as it opens six to 10 additional call center facilities in the next two years. The company now employes 15,0000 workers.

The expansion plan involves multimillion dollar worth of investments, Teletech Vice-President and General Manager for Asia Maulik Parekh told a briefing on Friday.

Part of the expansion is the back-to-back opening of facilities in San Fernando, Pampanga and Sta. Rosa, Laguna within the first half of next year.

The 1,700-seat San Fernando site is in a 10,000-square meter area within SM City Pampanga, while the 1,000-seat Sta. Rosa facility covers 8,000 square meters of land occupied by Robinsons Mall.

The San Fernando site will open its recruitment office by January, while the Sta. Rosa site will follow a month after. Teletech aims to open both centers by the second quarter of 2008.

Nationwide Consumer Confidence Weakens; but NCR indices improve year-on-year

Bangko Sentral
Media Release
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1703
Read full report

Consumer confidence in Q4 2007 weakened after posting some strengthening during the previous two consecutive quarters. The overall consumer confidence index (CI) in the fourth quarter declined quarter-on-quarter by 10.0 index points to settle at -33.6 percent. However, the confidence index for NCR improved year-on-year by 4.8 index points despite the decline by 11.6 index points quarter-on-quarter at -35.0 percent. Consumers in AONCR were slightly less pessimistic compared to those in NCR at -33.4 percent. Relative to Q3 2007, consumers nationwide were likewise less optimistic on the macroeconomic conditions and economic conditions of their own family in the next quarter and in the next 12 months, with the respective indices lower relative to the third quarter levels.

Domestic Liquidity Sustains Growth in October

Bangko Sentral
Media Release
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1702

Domestic liquidity or M3 grew by 11.4 percent year-on-year to P2.9 trillion in October 2007, maintaining the same growth momentum as in the previous month. On a month-on-month basis, seasonally adjusted M3 grew by 1.7 percent in October, a reversal of the 1.1 percent decline in the previous month.

Net foreign assets (NFA) of depository corporations continued to drive M3 expansion, even as NFA growth slowed down slightly to 29.7 percent year-on-year from 32.2 percent in September. This trend is associated with the continued foreign exchange inflows from overseas Filipino (OF) remittances, exports, and direct and portfolio investments.

Meanwhile, net domestic assets (NDA) declined for the third consecutive month (by 6.0 percent in October), as the Net Other Items account (which includes SDAs and RRPs) continued to reflect a negative balance following the policy measures implemented by the BSP in May. The growth of credit extended to the public sector slowed down to 8.3 percent from 11.6 percent in September. Similarly, the growth of credit extended to the private sector decelerated to 4.8 percent from 8.5 percent in the previous month, as other funding sources supplemented the credit extended by the banking system to the corporate sector.

The BSP will continue to closely monitor developments in domestic liquidity to ensure that monetary policy is delivering price stability, which is conducive to a broad-based, durable and robust expansion of economic activity.

End-November GIR Level Reaches US$32.5 Billion

Bangko Sentral
Media Release
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1701

The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) stood at US$32.46 billion as of end-November 2007. At this level, reserves could cover 5.8 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. This level is also equivalent to 5.5 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.3 times based on residual maturity. 1

The end-November 2007 GIR level, however, was slightly lower by 0.1 percent compared to US$32.50 billion a month ago. The month-on-month decline in the GIR level was attributed mainly to outflows arising from the Bangko Sentral’s net foreign exchange (FX) operations and payments of maturing FX obligations of the National Government and the BSP. These outflows were offset partly by the receipt of income from the BSP’s investments abroad, as well as the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation’s (PSALM) deposit with the BSP of proceeds from the sale of some of its assets as part of PSALM’s privatization program.

Net international reserves (NIR) level, including revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, stood at US$32.44 billion from the end-October 2007 level of US$32.47 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.

Arroyo: Suu Kyi freedom ‘is test for Asean’

By Quentin Peel in London
Original report at The Financial Times
http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/cd4fec0c-a417-11dc-a28d-0000779fd2ac.html

The release from house arrest of Aung San Suu Kyi, Burma’s opposition leader and democracy campaigner, will be the “number one benchmark” for the Philippines in deciding whether to ratify the new charter of the Association of South-East Asian Nations, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said on Thursday.

While strongly backing the economic integration process of Asean, she warned that the Burmese military junta must comply with the human rights elements in the charter by accelerating the movement towards democratic processes in the country.

If Burma fails that test, she said in an interview with the Financial Times, “it will not be a serious charter”.

Mrs Macapagal warned her Asean partners last month that the Philippine Senate would “find it very hard to ratify” the new charter if the human rights section was not taken seriously by all the member states. But she said on Thursday that this should not hold up progress towards the target of a single market, and single production base, in Asean by 2015.

“Our combined gross domestic product is pretty close to China’s GDP, and economic integration makes us an important player in the international economic arena,” she said.

Speaking on a working visit to London, during which she met Queen Elizabeth and addressed foreign investors, Mrs Macapagal dismissed fears of political instability in the Philippines, after an abortive coup attempt last week, and stressed the country’s strong economic growth.

“Those who tried to mount a coup misread the sentiments of the people,” she said. “They want political stability, and they want a bright economic future. At the end of the day, the rule of law prevailed.”

She said the difficult economic reforms implemented by the government, including a rise in sales tax to reduce the budget deficit, had laid the foundation for strong economic growth based on a big infrastructure spending programme.

“I have been focused like a laser beam on the economy,” she said. “The macro-economic fundamentals are the strongest for a generation. The growth rate is 7 per cent, inflation is low, the peso is strong, and the stock market is the highest in history.

“The world is taking notice and investments are coming in.”

She promised that tougher action would be taken to curb corruption in government procurement contracts, and announced that a special taskforce had been established to scrutinise projects with China. A $330m (€225m, £166m) telecoms contract with China’s ZTE Corporation was scrapped recently, after allegations of corruption, and criticism of the high price. The World Bank has also deferred approval of a $232m loan, to help finance new road-building, to investigate reports of bid-rigging and over-pricing.

“We want to continue to eliminate corruption from the system,” Mrs Macapagal said. “We have a taskforce on how to improve the procurement system. We have a system that provides so many loopholes, we have to remove all this.”

She said the Chinese investors were very keen to get into the mining sector, since a ruling of the Supreme Court in 2004 to open the door to foreign investors. Negotiations are continuing for a $1bn Chinese investment in a nickel mine in northern Mindanao.

“For all its largeness, China does not have nickel, and they need it for industrialisation,” she said. “Nickel is to the Philippines what oil is to Saudi Arabia. We have a complementarity right now.”

Outside the mining sector, she said her government was looking for “sunrise industries” in the “skills-intensive, labour-intensive service sectors, such as IT and process outsourcing”, and in tourism.

Japanese ship owners seeking 10,000 Filipinos to man new ships

By VG Cabuag
Original report at The Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/1207&082007/shipping01.html

JAPAN shipping firms are pushing the country to reform some of its current systems on seafarers, from education to licensing, after fleet owners announced their preference for the Philippines to supply the crew for almost all of its newly built vessels.

According to estimates, Japan would need at least 10,000 Filipino seafarers from the total demand of about 12,000 between now and 2010.

“Japanese owners want Filipinos to man 80 percent of their new vessels,” said Eduardo U. Manese, president of Philippine Japan Consultative Council (PJMCC), on Wednesday.

As of-end 2006, there are about 2,223 Japanese-owned merchant fleet.

Japan firms, however, are increasing their fleet to close to 3,000 vessels by the end of 2010 and then to 4,000 by the end of 2015.

Published plans of major companies in Japan showed that NYK Lines wants to increase its fleet from the current 787 vessels to 938 by 2010, Mitsui OSK Lines follows from 803 ships to 1,200 by 2013, and K-Line from 468 to 700 by middle of 2010.

There are about 30,000 seafarers, both in their ratings and officer levels, onboard Japanese vessels at any given time. Filipinos form the single biggest nationality.

During the last few months, Japan fleet owners, through their local organization based in Manila, are changing the way the domestic shipping industry and the government’s system of educating and licensing seafarers.

Manese said that it was PJMCC’s initiative to conduct an assessment exam among the second-year students of BS Maritime Transportation or BS Maritime Engineering, a measure that would encourage those weak ones to shift to other courses rather than continue and not be accommodated by the industry’s standards.

“We have already started it last year. And hopefully, we can continue it in the coming years,” Manese said.

“We’re not trying to kill the [maritime] school. We’re just saying that they can shift to other courses such as other service-related fields,” he said, adding that all initiatives now are to create would-be officers from the current pool of students.

Manese said Japanese shipping firms are just giving a small investment for the country’s seafaring sector, but would reap dividends in return.

PJMCC has also managed to convince its Japanese principals to donate at least P20 million in order to start the Professional Regulation Commission’s (PRC) long-delayed walk-in examination system for seafarers at least in the Visayas and Mindanao area.

That amount accounts for all the equipment that will be used in the conduct of the new licensing systems in Cebu, Iloilo and Davao. This means the PRC would only have to provide the proper network and the space to hold the examinations.

Shipping firms also put up their own training centers in the country, such as the NYK-TDG Maritime Academy, and its expensive simulators, such as the chemical and product tanker simulator project.

PJMCC is a nonstock, nonprofit organization composed of manning agencies that provide seafarers to Japanese-owned, -operated or -chartered vessels that are covered by a collective bargaining agreement between the All Japan Seamen’s Union and the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen’s Union of the Philippines.

Japan suffered a scarcity of seafarers for oceangoing vessels as a result of its aging population. From a peak of 56,833 in 1974, it reached an all- time low of 2,625 crew in 2005, or just the same figure that the world’s most populous countries, China and India, can provide.

China has been giving the Philippines stern competition in the supply of seafarers. However, Japan-China relations have been strained since before the Second World War up to the “flag incident” in Nagasaki in 1958.

Still, Japan has been China’s largest trade partner for eight years in a row up to 2001, while China became Japan’s second-largest trade partner after the United States.

Cebu Air’s P12.87-B IPO okayed

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña
Original report at The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Business&p=49&type=2&sec=27&aid=2007120662

The Securities and Exchange Commission has approved the planned initial public offering (IPO) of Cebu Air Inc., the airline unit of the Gokongwei-owned JG Summit Holdings Corp., estimated to raise as much as P12.87 billion.

Based on its amended registration statement filed with the SEC, Cebu Air, the operator of budget carrier Cebu Pacific, is offering up to 135.455 million shares to the public at a maximum price of P95 each.

Of the total offer shares, 72.025 million are primary shares to be sold by way of IPO while the remaining 63.43 million will be sold by existing shareholders.

In addition, the company has set aside 20.32 million shares for over-allotment.

Including the over-allotment option, Cebu Air could raise as much as P14.8 billion from the share sale. Up to 94.82 million shares will be offered in the international markets while 40.63 million shares will be issued locally.

The final offer price shall be determined through a book-building process and discussions between the company and its underwriters.

UBS Investment Bank has been tapped as sole international underwriter and book runner while ING Bank N.V. and First Metro Investment Corp. will handle the domestic offering.

Of the total estimated proceeds, Cebu Air is allotting up to P6.84 billion to expand its fleet and strengthen its domestic flight network.

Cebu Air is one of the fastest-growing low-cost carriers in the Asia-Pacific region in terms of passenger traffic growth, which increased at a rate of approximately 75 from October 2006 to September this year.

From its current fleet of 15 aircraft, which includes 10 Airbus A319 and five A320s, Cebu Air intends to increase its fleet size to between 34 and 39.

Cebu Air plans to acquire up to 14 new ATR 72500 turboprop aircraft, including six for which it has placed firm orders (which will be delivered from early 2008 to early 2009), with rolling options for another four aircraft.

The smaller ATR turboprop aircraft will enable the company to more effectively operate out of smaller airports within the country and to service smaller markets.

From only 1.02 million in 1997, Cebu Air has increased its passenger volume to 3.46 million last year.

In the nine months ending September this year, Cebu Air’s passenger volume was 4.01 million compared with only 2.4 million the previous level.

Cebu Air’s route network has also expanded from eight routes in 1997 to 40 routes (27 domestic and 13 international) as of September 2007. It recently added Taipei, Shanghai, Xiamen, Macau and Guangzhou to its growing international route network and expects to add routes to Ho Chi Minh, Hanoi and Bendar Seri Begawan next year.

Cebu Air expects the number of passengers to reach 10 million in 2013 from five million this year.

The airline posted a net profit of P2.53 billion for the first nine months of the year or 11 times the previous level of P226.27 million. Revenues rose 70.45 percent to P12.17 billion from only P7.14 billion.

Cebu Air is a member of the listed Gokongwei flagship firm JG Summit Holdings Inc. which has interests in branded consumer foods, agro-industrial and commodity foods, property development and hotel management, textiles, banking, telecommunications and petrochemicals.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

VP asks Korean firm to hire Pinoy squatters from rail project

Original report at GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/71717/VP-asks-Korean-firm-to-hire-relocated-Pinoy-squatters

Korean shipping firm Hanjin Heady Industries will recruit 15,000 to 20, 000 Filipino workers in the next three years for its Subic Bay shipyard facility and Vice President Manuel de Castro had asked that the company prioritize for hiring qualified squatter dwellers who had been evicted from the north and south railways projects.

"I would really want our relocatees to be considered by Hanjin in (its) plan to hire workers. It’s going to be a big help in our effort in providing employment for our relocatees," said De Castro, also the chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC).

"I believe that many of the men and women from our relocation sites can be trained and qualify for jobs at Hanjin," the Vice President said, referring to thousands of Filipinos whose homes were destroyed to clear the right-of-way for the north and south railways modernization projects.

A representative of Hanjin said the company has already hired about 2,000 Filipino workers who have completed training last year.

De Castro said Hanjin's investments in Subic open up a great opportunity to make shipbuilding one of the major industries in the country.

Hanjin’s recruitment program, De Castro said, is also good news for many Filipinos who would no longer have to leave the country in search for good job opportunities.

This will also help further improve shipbuilding technology in the Philippines and, of course, it will have a significant positive impact on other related and allied industries, given its multiplier effect in the economy not just of Subic but of the entire country as well," he explained.

De Castro said the government is pleased that the Korean shipping firm chose the Philippines for its shipyard, citing that Korea's shipbuilding industry has been making its mark throughout the world led by Hanjin, which began its operation in 1937.

“Hanjin is equipped with modern facilities and technologies. Along with diligence and skills of well-trained Filipino workers, the firm and the local workers can make Hanjin Subic Shipyard a world-class shipyard," De Castro said.

Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction Wins an Order for Construction of Laguindingan Airport in the Philippines

Original report at the Hanjin website
http://www.hanjinsc.com/english/sub/culture/cm_05main_01.asp?num=60

On the 12th [of November], Hanjin Heavy Industries & Construction (HHIC) announced that it won the Laguindingan Airport development project (USD 106.2 million) in the Philippines. The project, through which all airport facilities including the 2.5km-long runway, passenger terminal, and cargo terminal will be built, will be funded by the Export-Import Bank of Korea and EDCF. Construction will begin early next year.

As a gateway to Mindanao, one of the three main islands of the Philippines, the new airport will be located 30km northeast of Cagayan downtown and north of Mindanao. It will serve as the replacement of the old Cagayan Airport.

Since 1973, HHIC has successfully completed a total of 70 development projects including the Manila LRT (Light Rail Transit) system and Davao International Airport. It has been the No.1 foreign construction company in the Philippines. At present, the company is launching 9 development projects including Bacolod Airport, Bohol-Bayon Dam/Canal, Metro-Illy Road, Catubic Dam and is developing a dockyard in Subic Bay.

Hanjin Finishes 1st Phase of Philippines Shipyard

Original report at Digital Chosunilbo (English Edition)
http://english.chosun.com/w21data/html/news/200712/200712060009.html

Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction said Tuesday that it has completed the first phase of its shipyard construction project in Subic, the Philippines.

The Korean company began the project on a 2.3 million sq.m site in May of last year to overcome problems it was facing due to the small size of its 300,000 sq.m shipyard in Yeongdo, Busan.

The completion of the first phase includes a fifth dock that is 370 m long, 100 m wide and 12.5 m deep, and a 1.6 km long inner wall. Production facilities are also set up including two gantry cranes, process cranes, assembly and painting workshops, an office building and a catering center.

Hanjin also opened a training center to teach shipyard workers welding, painting and other skills. The shipmaker is now working on phase two, which includes additional production and employee facilities and has a completion target of the second half of next year.

"The shipyard in Subic is equipped with facilities that will enable us to generate annual sales of US$3.1 billion (US$1=923) with construction capacity of 36 ships including eight 12,800-TEU container vessels," the company said. "We will promote the shipyard as a global shipbuilding base."

GMA ends historic state visit in Spain

By GENALYN D. KABILING
Original report at The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20071206110722.html

MADRID (via PLDT) — President Arroyo ended Wednesday her historic four-day state visit in Madrid, Spain as she revitalized the country’s deep and old diplomatic and economic relations with her meetings with King Juan Carlos I and other government and business leaders of the former colonial power.

The President left Madrid after securing P16.2 billion in fresh investments and grants in agriculture and fisheries, and other vital cooperation agreements on energy, tourism, and education with the Kingdom of Spain.

Private business deals worth $ 151 million were also reached in the areas of renewable energy, and business process outsourcing during the visit of the President here.

King Juan Carlos I and Queen Sofia bid farewell to the President, their state guest since Sunday, and reassured continued support for the Philippines, citing its friendship that spanned nearly four centuries.

Mrs. Arroyo, who became the first Philippine leader to make a state visit to Spain in 45 years, departed Madrid and travelled to nearby Vitoria and Ordizia before flying to London for an official visit.

The President thanked the King and Queen for their warm friendship and support for the Philippines as well as their commitment to bring economic cooperation between the two countries to its full potential.

‘’I am happy that the Philippines continues being a priority country for Spain. Our ancestors had a unique link that has deepened our history and has enriched our culture,’’ she said.

‘’Today, we are going to ensure that, being descendants of the great men and women of the past, we will employ our valuable heritage in the same manner that we build our future,’’ she added.

In a bid to enhance the deep relations between the countries, King Juan Carlos I has pledged to pay special attention to the Philippines and help the former colony eliminate poverty and attain economic prosperity.

Apart from her meeting with the King and Queen, the President also held a flurry of meetings with Spanish Prime Minister Jose Luis Zapatero, legislators, local executives, and businessmen as well as the Filipino community during her visit here.

In her remarks at the reception hosted for the King and Queen of Spain at the Royal Palace el Pardo, Mrs. Arroyo also promised to sustain close cooperation with Spain in the areas of protection of human rights, fight against terrorism, and the resolution of global warming.

Mrs. Arroyo also thanked the government of Spain for supporting her government when it faced a short- lived rebellion last week.

She noted that Spain and the United States were the first to send their support to our government.

In her visit here, the President was able to convince the Spanish business community invest in the Philippines in order to create employment and extend economic opportunity across the Philippines.

Mrs. Arroyo said several business companies are planning to invest agriculture, clean energy, and tourism sectors.

She also announced she issued an memorandum directing the Department of Education, Commission on Higher Education, and Technical Education Authority and Skills Development to promote the teaching of Spanish in the Philippine schools.

Mrs. Arroyo said she hopes to work hard with the Spanish government in this effort to promote Spanish language in the Philippines.

The government of Spain also expressed satisfaction for the ratification of treaty on exchange of prisoners between the Philippines and Spain during the visit of the President here.

From Spain, Arroyo and her large delegation will travel to the United Kingdom for an official visit and return to Manila afterwards.

Spanish firms plan to invest $ 151 M in Manila

MADRID (via PLDT) --- Buoyed by the country’s world-class Filipino workforce and friendly business climate, a number of Spanish companies plan to invest some US$ 151 million in the lucrative sectors of renewable energy and business process outsourcing in the Philippines.

President Arroyo convinced Tuesday the Spanish business community to consider the Philippines as an investment destination in the region.

After her remarks at the Confederacion Espanola de Organizaciones Empresariales Spanish-Filipino business forum, the President witnessed the signing of four business agreements among private companies from Spain and the Philippines, which are expected to generate more employment opportunities for Filipinos.

The first memorandum of agreement involves the creation of a joint venture company in the Philippines for the development of bio-diesel products with target investments totalling US$ 150 million.

The pact, signed between Green Fuel Corporation of Spain and Guidance Management Corporation of the Philippines, is expected to generate employment and livelihood opportunities for at least 10,000 families in Mindanao.

WinSource Solutions, a Philippine outsourcing firm, also bagged three other historic agreements with Spanish companies amounting to US$ 150,000 for the outsourcing of Filipino talents in software engineering and development.

These are considered the first knowledge process outsourcing ventures in Spain using Filipino talents for digital imaging, computer aided design, and software engineering services.

A memorandum of agreement was signed between GMV of Spain and WinSource Solutions of the Philippines which will initially generate 50 jobs for Filipino software and technical engineers.

Around 800 to 1,000 additional jobs would be available in succeeding projects after the successful delivery of this initial project with GMV, a technlogical business group with services and solutions in aeronautics, defense transportation, and telecommunications.

The Philippine-based WinSource firm also inked a separate accord with European Virtual Engineering of Spain for a similar knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) venture, a high value added form of BPO.

Fifty Filipino software development engineers, graphic designers and other outsourcing professionals would be hired under this project. At least 1,000 more job openings for Filipino engineers and graphic designers would be opened in the future projects of both KPO firms.

Another agreement was inked between Estudios Durero of Spain, a leading ditigal imaging company, and WinSource Solutions involving the outsourcing of graphic design services from the Philippines.

The business accord is expected to create 100 job openings for Filipino graphic artists, designers, animators, among others.

Harold Jose James Pardo, WinSource Solutions director for European Business Development, said the pioneering venture of his company opens up continental Europe for the whole Philippine BPO industry.

Pardo thanked the Arroyo government for helping WinSource Solutions penetrate the European market outside the saturated Northern American market and beyond the increasingly commoditized call center industry.

"WSI’s success to penetrate the Spanish and UK markets is greatly attributable to the administration’s non-stop hard work to address policy directions of President Arroyo to provide the right opportunities for Filipino professionals to remain in the Philippines working in their fields of study," Pardo said.

Japanese government seeks immediate ratification of JPEPA

By CHARISSA M. LUCI
Original article at The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20071206110725.html

The Japanese government has urged the Philippine government to immediately ratify the Japan- Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) for "a more comprehensive, interactive, and mutually beneficial" trade relations between the two countries.

Japanese Ambassador Makoto Katsura pledged to work hand in hand with the Philippine authorities for the early ratification of the economic partnership agreement.

"I have been trying my best to assist the efforts of the Philippine authorities concerned for the ratification of the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement, or JPEPA," he said, addressing members of the diplomatic community and government officials on the occasion of the 74th birthday of Japanese Emperor Akihito last Dec. 4.

"Indeed, we are confident that this agreement will promote the national interests of both countries, and thus, will make bilateral relations even closer, in offering wide-ranging benefits to the peoples of both countries," the Japanese ambassador added.

Among those who attended the National Day Reception at the ambassador’s residence in Makati City were former President Joseph Estrada, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary for Special Concerns Rafael Seguis, and Archbishop Edward Joseph Adams, dean of the Diplomatic Corps.

Katsura also took the opportunity to praise the country’s bullish economic growth.

"Upon our arrival after an absence of 10 years, we were deeply impressed with the rapid economic growth achieved through the vigorous efforts of the government and the people of the Philippines," he said.

Katsura, who acted as the embassy’s deputy chief of mission from 1994-1997, arrived in Manila last October to assume his diplomatic post, replacing Ambassador Ryuichiro Yamazaki.

He also expressed Japan’s unwavering support to the Arroyo government’s peace-building efforts in the strife-torn southern Philippines.

Under the Japan Bangsamoro Initiative for Reconstruction and Development (J-BIRD), Tokyo is sending a Japanese development expert to the International Monitoring Team in Mindanao.

Earlier, Japan allotted 19.4 billion yen (PHP7.68 billion) to support the country’s disaster prevention projects as well as its effort at alleviating poverty in poor rural areas.

Wednesday, 5 December 2007

November Inflation at 3.2 Percent

Bangko Sentral
Media Release
12.05.2007
http://www.bsp.gov.ph/publications/media.asp?id=1700
(Click here to view table of monthly inflation rates.)

Headline inflation rose to 3.2 percent year-on-year in November from 2.7 percent in the previous month. Year-to-date, inflation averaged 2.7 percent. This is markedly lower than last year’s average of 6.4 percent for the same period. Meanwhile, the month-on-month headline inflation rose by 0.6 percent in November compared to 0.2 percent in October. By contrast, core inflation, a measure of price pressures that excludes certain food and energy items, slowed down to 2.3 percent from 2.4 percent in October, indicating a deceleration in underlying demand-based pressures.

Inflation pressures in November were traced mainly to increases in the prices of food and energy-related items. All major food items posted higher inflation, except eggs and meat, the inflation rates of which remained broadly unchanged from the previous month. During the month, upward adjustments in the price of petroleum products—gasoline products, diesel, and LPG—significantly accounted for the uptick in the inflation rates of fuel and transportation and communication services. The upward adjustment in transport fares effective 2 November also contributed to the higher inflation recorded for transportation and communication services.

Key indicators for demand and credit continue to suggest limited demand-side pressures on prices, while domestic liquidity growth continued to slow down. Upside risks to inflation—among them a possible surge in liquidity arising from continued strong foreign exchange inflows, possible additional wage and transport fare increases, and the elevated prices of world crude oil and other non-oil commodities—remain, but are considered manageable. Moreover, the peso continued to be firm against the dollar, thus providing additional stability to import costs. As a result, headline inflation is expected to remain well below the 4.0-5.0 percent target range in 2007 and within the 4.0 percent ± 1.0 percentage point target for 2008.

The BSP remains alert to the upside risks to the inflation outlook, particularly those associated with the rising global oil and other commodity prices, mindful that price stability is essential to sustainable economic growth.

A record economic growth

EDITORIAL
The Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/national/2007/dec/05/yehey/opinion/20071205opi1.html

THE respectable growth of the Philippines in the first nine months points to another banner year for the economy.

If not for a failed mutiny last Thursday, the stock market would have ended the week higher. Indeed, that the market closed in positive territory says a lot about investors’ bullishness for the economy.

Despite a slowdown in the third quarter—most likely brought about by weak exports to the country’s largest market, the United States—the full-year growth target is not only in sight, but may be surpassed.

In the nine-month period ending September, the economy grew 7.1 percent, well above the 6.1 to 6.7 percent official forecast for the whole year.

With the fourth quarter traditionally registering the strongest consumption growth, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is on the mark when it said the economy may end the year expanding seven percent.

The Arroyo administration had set its sights on this number as the threshold that would put a dent on poverty, especially if this quicker pace of economic expansion were sustained.

On top of more jobs generated and higher incomes as a result of faster-than-expected growth, the government may yet attain its objective of keeping its fiscal shortfall this year in line with meeting the balanced-budget goal next year.

As we wrote earlier in this space, the more important measure is not so much the absolute amount of the government’s funding gap, as the ratio of this deficit to economic output, as measured by the country’s gross domestic product (GDP).

With a higher growth, we have a bigger denominator to divide the actual deficit amount. So even if the government were off the revenue mark by a few billion pesos, the seven-percent expansion of the economy would offset this collection shortfall. It’s simple arithmetic.

Couple this with the peso’s rapid appreciation against the dollar, and we can expect the government to prepay more debts and trim its debt-to-GDP ratio, another key measure that matters a lot to our creditors, as this number shows the size of our debt vis-à-vis our earning capacity. Of course, the lower the ratio, the more favorable for the government.

With record economic expansion in the bag, the government may no longer have to rush the sale of its remaining assets. With ample assets to sell next year, the government has bought additional time to improve its revenue collection efforts.

What all this means looking forward is that interest rates may slide further, encouraging businesses to borrow more money for expansion and job-creation. With fiscal pressures easing, the government need no longer crowd out the private sector from the debt market. Improvements in revenue collection would add to this easing.

The strong peso, if it persists next year, would also keep our oil import bill manageable, thus fending off any inflationary risks arising from the record price of crude in the world market.

Our compatriots overseas who keep sending home their dollar earnings not only are helping fuel our recent economic run, they’re also keeping inflation at bay.

We can only hope that the government would make good on its promise to aid overseas Filipinos who have seen the purchasing power of every dollar they remit eroded by the rising peso.

Auto sales post 17% annual growth

By BERNIE C. MAGKILAT
Original report at The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS20071205110598.html

For the first time in 10 years, the domestic automotive sector is going to breach the 100,000 sales unit this year, exceeding the 108,000 unit sales target for the year and post an average 17 percent growth.

This was revealed by Elizabeth H. Lee, president of Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI), to reporters noting that the 108,000 upwardly adjusted sales target for the year would be breached when the figure for the last two months shall have been tallied.

Originally, CAMPI targeted only 100,000 unit sales this year which was later adjusted to 105,000 units and finally to 108,000 units. Sales last year was limited to about 97,000 units only.

"This year is a very auspicious year for the automotive industry," Lee said.

"This is the first time that we hit a double digit growth of 17 percent in ten years. This is really great for the industry," she pointed out.

For the January-October period this year, the 17-member CAMPI already posted a 19 percent growth overall industry sales reached 95,244 units from 80,350 units in the first ten months last year.

"The industry will have to do only about 6,400 units for November and December to hit 108,000 units for the year. Barring any untoward event, the industry is likely to exceed the target set for the year," said CAMPI president Elizabeth H. Lee.

Of the total number, the commercial vehicles grew by a hefty 26 percent to 61,557 units from 48,985 units while the passenger car sales improved by 7 percent to 33,687 from 31,365 units in the same January-October period last year.

With an average of over 9,500 units a month, the industry is likely to outperform and exceed the forecast of 108,000 units for the year 2007," Lee said.

Lee cited the very critical decision by the Supreme Court this year which ruled with finality on the ban of sales of imported used motor vehicles outside of Subic Bay Freeport as critical for the industry’s market expansion.

The high court decision upheld the constitutionality of the Motor Vehicle Development Program, which provides for a selected ban on the sale of second hand used motor vehicles outside of the Freeport.

In addition, Lee said that the industry was able to successfully hold the first international motor show.

Lee expressed confidence that next year would be even better for the industry as the government is expected to implement measures for the industry’s market development.

Tuesday, 4 December 2007

Peso May Rise as Coup Threat Eases, JPMorgan Says (Update1)

By Yumi Teso
Original report at Bloomberg
http://www.bloomberg.com/apps/news?pid=20602097&sid=axL5pZHShKhE&refer=world_currencies

Dec. 4 (Bloomberg) -- The Philippine peso may rally to an eight-year high on prospect of an accelerating economy and as the threat of a coup eased, JPMorgan Chase & Co. said.

The peso has gained 1.6 percent after the failed attempt by a group of soldiers to overthrow President Gloria Arroyo last week. The Philippines government expects the economy to expand 7 percent this year, the fastest in at least three decades.

``What is interesting is that in each of those attempts, the threat is becoming less and less,'' said Claudio Piron, head of Asian currency research at JPMorgan. ``It shows the political threat to Arroyo is becoming less and less credible. People will be more focused on the economy and other issues.''

The peso rose 0.2 percent to 42.21 against the dollar as of noon in Manila from yesterday, the highest since June 2000, according to Tullett Prebon Plc, the world's second-largest inter-dealer broker. It gained on speculation the bulk of money sent home by Filipinos working abroad for the Christmas season hasn't yet arrived.

``Remittances will pour in in the next few weeks and that is helping the peso's strength,'' said Fitz Aclan, who helps manage the equivalent of $5.9 billion at BDO Unibank in Manila.

The currency was the best performer this quarter among 10 most actively traded currencies in Asia outside Japan, up 6.7 percent. JPMorgan's forecast is for the peso to appreciate to 40 by the end of December next year, according to Piron.

`Politically Safe'

Armed forces stormed a luxury hotel in Manila's business district on Nov. 29 with soldiers firing tear gas into the hotel and a military vehicle ramming through the main entrance after Senator Antonio Trillanes and General Danilo Lim failed to surrender by a deadline.

``The peso bulls were given added impetus by the failed and dismal coup that left the market with an even stronger conviction that President Arroyo is politically safe until the 2010 elections,'' according to a report written by strategists Piron and Yen Ping Ho.

The currency may draw support from economic growth, fund inflows and remittances from people working abroad, according to Piron.

Money sent back to the country rose 12.4 percent in September from a year earlier, the fastest pace in five months, according to central bank figures released on Nov. 15.

``The growth is doing ok, inflation is relatively well behaved and there's attractive portfolio flows as well,'' said Piron. ``Remittance will continue to increase. There is a good chance it could go below 40.''

Send Money Home

Remittances from nurses, seafarers and other nationals abroad, which grew 9.2 percent in the third quarter from a year ago, are equal to about a 10th of the $117 billion economy. One in 10 Filipinos works overseas.

Funds sent back home helped accelerate growth in the economy, which expanded 6.6 percent in the third quarter following a 7.5 percent growth in the second quarter, the most since 1989. The country's chief economic planner Augusto Santos forecasts the economy may grow 7 percent this year, which would be the fastest since 1976, based on Bloomberg data.

The Philippine Bureau of Customs met its collection target for the fourth month in November, Commissioner Napoleon Morales said today. Arroyo aims to eliminate a decade of budget deficits by next year.

Foreign investors bought $1.54 billion more of the nation's equities than they sold so far this year, exchange data showed. The fund inflows helped to boost the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index by more than 22 percent this year.

(To contact the reporter on this story: Yumi Teso in Singapore at yteso@bloomberg.net)

LRTA re-bids P6.3-B rail loop project

By Rainier Allan Ronda
Original report at The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Metro&p=49&type=2&sec=26

The Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) will hold a re-bidding for all three packages of the P6.3 billion Metro Rail Transit-Light Rail Transit (MRT-LRT) loop project.

LRTA administrator Melquiades Robles said the LRTA board of directors decided to hold a re-bid after no bidder was able to pre-qualify for Packages A and B and with only one pre-qualified bidder for Package C.

“We’ve already had the bidding details published. We could hold the pre-qualification by next week,” Robles told The STAR in a phone interview.

Package A involves the construction of the foundation and viaduct; Package B involves the construction of the three stations; and Package C involves the electro-mechanical components of the rail line extension project.

Nine companies participated in the pre-qualification of bidders held by the LRTA for the MRT-LRT loop project, which will connect LRT Line 1’s Monumento, Caloocan City station to the MRT’s North Avenue station by adding three more stations.

The joint venture group of construction firms D. M. Consunji, Inc. (DMCI) and First Balfour was the only one pre-qualified by the bids committee last Nov. 21 to 23.

LRTA bids committee chairman Cesar Chavez said about five groups that submitted eligibility documents for Packages A and B were all declared “failed” due to their failure to submit requisite documents.

For package C, the joint venture groups of DMCI-First Balfour and Leighton Construction-A.M. Oreta Construction submitted eligibility documents. Of the two, DMCI-First Balfour was the only one declared to have submitted all requisite documents.

The LRTA said it strictly followed the non-discretionary pass or fail criteria provided by Republic Act 9184 or the Government Procurement Law in the pre-qualification process for the MRT-LRT loop project.

Allegedly among the bidders for Packages A and B were F.F. Cruz and Filsytems; DMCI-First Balfour; Leighton-A.M. Oreta; Hanjin and Foundation Specialist; and the Cavite Ideal Construction Group.

To ensure a transparent and fair bidding, the LRTA had observers from the Office of the Ombudsman, the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission and the Catholic Bishop Conference of the Philippines watch the whole process.

The LRTA timetable sets the completion of the project by April 2010.

Cosco losing interest in RP?

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio
Original report at The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Business&p=49&type=2&sec=27&aid=200712038

The Chinese investors who proposed to invest $5 billion in the country seems to have lost interest in setting up shop in the Philippines.

In an interview, Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said he has not spoken with potential investor China Ocean Shipping Co. (Cosco) in months.

When asked if this is enough indication that Cosco has lost interest in investing in the country, Favila said “Let me put it this way, all businessmen who would like to invest here talk to me constantly.”

Last month, it was reported that the cancellation of the controversial broadband deal between the government and Chinese firm ZTE Corp. has delayed the investment of the shipping firm.

Ambassador Francis Chua, special envoy on China trade and investments, said the project, which was expected to make the country a maritime power in the region, has been delayed.

Chua said he is not certain if the ZTE deal is the only reason for the holdup. The Cosco investment was first made public in May

Initially, Cosco wanted to construct a modern port at the Navy headquarters in Cavite. Its initial plans include the development of a 250-hectare land in Sangley Point where they would put up a “marine school to train maritime sailors. There will be a repairing ships and building ships [sic].”

“They will be using the Philippines as a hub for shipment to Europe and America, so all cargo from Asia will come to the Philippines, using the Philippines as a staging point to go to US, North America, Europe and vice versa,” Chua said.

He added that Cosco’s facility is expected to generate about 100,000 jobs, particularly for the country’s seafarers.

Founded in 1961 as the pioneer international shipping carrier in China, Cosco has grown into a $17-billion global company. It owns and operates 600 various types of ships operating in 1,300 ports in more than 160 countries and regions worldwide.

It is one of the largest shipping enterprises of the globe with China Ocean Shipping (Group) Co. as its core, operating three main units: China Ocean Shipping Agency, the biggest shipping agency in China; China Marine Bundier Supply Co; and China road transportation Co, the biggest trucking company in China.

Mindanao students, farmers to benefit from J-BIRD projects

Original report at The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/PROV20071204110559.html

Embassy of Japan’s Deputy Chief of Mission Eiichi Oshima and First Secretary Shinichi Kakui will lead the turnover ceremony of four projects under the Japan-Bangsamoro Initiatives for Reconstruction and Development, or J-BIRD, on Dec. 4 and 6. The projects were launched last December 2006, as part of Japan’s commitment to support peace and development efforts in Mindanao.

These projects include the construction of school buildings and post harvest facilities funded through the Embassy of Japan’s Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Projects (GGP). These projects, located in the provinces of Maguindanao and North Cotabato, are meant to directly benefit the youth and farmers to enable them to experience the "dividends of peace."

The turnover ceremonies will be held on separate occasions at the Kilangan National High School in the municipality of Pagalungan, Paglat National High School in the municipality of Paglat, Lumayong High School in the municipality of Kabacan, and Barangay Manili in the municipality of Carmen.

The ceremonies are expected to be witnessed by major stakeholders in the Mindanao peace process, led by the representative from the International Monitoring Team (IMT) based in Cotabato City; GRP and MILF Coordinating Committees on Cessation of Hostilities; Bangsamoro Development Agency (BDA), ARMM Department of Education, ARMM Department of Agriculture, and local government officials.

The newly constructed school buildings completed with tables and chairs will benefit more than 900 students, while the post-harvest facilities that include a warehouse, a solar dryer, corn sheller, and a heavy duty trailer with engine will benefit 480 household beneficiaries.

Ultimately, students can enjoy better access to quality education given a more conducive and healthy learning environment. The local residents in Barangay Manili on the other hand, can improve their livelihood, and achieve greater economic development in the area.

Japan earmarks P7.68 B for RP projects

By CHARISSA M. LUCI
Original report at The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20071204110530.html

The Japanese government has allotted 19.4 billion yen (approximately PHP 7.68 billion) to support the country’s disaster prevention projects as well as its efforts at alleviating poverty in rural areas, the Japanese Embassy announced yesterday.

Monday, 3 December 2007

Peso at 7 1/2 year high; investors confident in currency

Original report at GMANews.TV
http://www.gmanews.tv/story/71185/Peso-at-7-1/2-year-high-investors-confident-in-currency

The Philippine peso closed at a seven and a half year high against the US dollar on Monday after investors took last week’s failed siege on a Makati Hotel as a sign that the country’s political front is stable.

The local currency finished the day at 42.305 versus the dollar, its highest closing level since May 22, 2000 when it ended at 41.915 against the greenback.

In a market report, international lender Morgan Stanley said the Makati standoff led by Senator Antonio Trillanes IV, which ended with the senator’s surrender six hours later, showed that the public would not support an extra-constitutional regime change.

“Rather than being a negative shock for the peso, we interpret this failed coup attempt as a confirmation of our call that the Philippine political backdrop remains stable," Morgan Stanley said.

The peso touched a high of 42.27, and a low of 42.55 against the greenback during midday.

Volume traded reached $621.1 million.

PLDT’s SubicTel completes P210-M fiber optic project

By Emmie V. Abadilla
Original article at The Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/BSNS20071203110482.html

Subic Telecommunications Company Inc. (SubicTel), a subsidiary of Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., has just completed its P210-million state-of-the-art fiber optic connection meant to pave the way for new investors in the Subic Bay Freeport Zone.

The project was completed through PLDT’s investment to expand its nationwide Domestic Fiber Optic Network (DFON) to Subic with 286 kilometers of fiber optic cables.

This DFON expansion has also allowed SubicTel to upgrade and enhance the Digital Subscriber Line (DSL) network in the Freeport Zone for more reliable high-speed broadband services.

It is a welcome development for the critical communications needs of locators in the area, SubicTel General Manager Henry Abes pointed out. "We will now be able to address the needs of existing and potential customers much more quickly."

The first leg of the new fiber optic connection was completed when the operations center of Korean shipbuilding firm Hanjin, which is investing .7 billion for its shipyard, was connected from Redondo Peninsula in Subic to SubicTel in the Freeport Zone in late July.

The Hanjin fiber optic link spans about 25 kilometers, passing through Subic town and Olongapo City in Zambales province. Hanjin is now directly connected to its headquarters in Korea by way of PLDT’s international link.

With the activation of the P210-million project this month, locators in the Freeport Zone will have faster data connectivity.

The DFON is the country’s most extensive fiber optic network, a key enabler of PLDT’s cuttingedge services for retail and corporate customers.

Also, SubicTel’s connection to DFON will not just enable the firm to provide better quality services but bundled voice, data and video as well.

"With this fiber optic connection, we can now offer new services that are quicker to deploy and more efficient in terms of network usage," Abes added.

The network expansion project spans 286 kilometers of fiber optic cables that form several redundant loops covering Angeles, Clark, Porac, San Fernando, Guagua, Lubao and Floridablanca in Pampanga, and Dinalupihan in Bataan, Subic Town in Zambales, and Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Olongapo.

The fiber backhaul connectivity has multi-loops to provide redundancy in case of fiber breaks. IP Radio facilities for additional redundancy have also been installed.

"Redundancy is very important for locators in Subic .

Avoiding costly service disruptions is foremost in their minds," Abes explained. "With the completion of this project, Subic Bay Freeport Zone will now become a much more attractive haven for investors in ICT and BPOs."

Earlier this year, SubicTel connected another 45-Mbps bandwidth pipe from PLDT, doubling last year’s bandwidth capacity. This will increase bandwidth capacity to 2.5 Gigabits per second (Gbps) or STM-16 to meet the increasing demands of customers.

The 2.5 Gbps bandwidth is enough for 30,240 simultaneous voice calls.

4.4 million foreign visitors entered RP in first 10 months – BI

By Edu Punay
Original article at The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Headlines&p=49&type=2&sec=24&aid=20071202140

The Philippines continues to be a favorite destination of foreign tourists in the region as shown by the increasing number of aliens arriving in the country this year, the Bureau of Immigration said yesterday.

Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan revealed that some 4.4 million foreigners arrived in the country during the first 10 months of this year.

He said this figure showed a seven-percent increase in the number of foreign visitors as compared to the same period last year when 4.1 million aliens arrived in the country.

[Note: in another article of the same issue (http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Headlines&p=49&type=2&sec=24&aid=20071202146), it was reported that "In September, tourist arrivals grew 10.3 percent year on year, bringing the country’s total guests to 2.266 million for the first nine months of the year.". This means that the 4.4M figure includes people coming for reasons other than tourism. --Ed.]

“This only shows that more foreigners are coming into the Philippines for vacation, work or business purposes. This is beneficial for the country as a whole since it is a major boost to our economy,” Libanan stressed in an interview with The STAR.

Libanan likewise attributed the influx of foreigners to reforms that simplified and liberalized BI’s procedures and requirements in processing visa applications and other immigration documents.

He stressed there has also been an upsurge in the number of foreigners who applied for extensions of visas.

“We have been implementing reforms to provide convenience to our clients. This way, we believe that we would be able to encourage more foreigners to come to the country. And this will have benefits to our government as well,” Libanan explained.

The BI chief explained that the country’s economy was the immediate beneficiary of the increase in arrival of foreigners.

As a result of increased foreign arrivals, Libanan reported that the collection of the bureau has also risen to P1.4 billion during the same period.

This 10-month income from immigration fees represents a P171 million or 14-percent increase from the P1.2 billion collection of the bureau in the same period last year.

It was also higher by P231-million or 20 percent more compared to the target of P1.15 billion for that period, he added.

According to BI finance chief Elvira Presado, the BI’s annual take has steadily risen from only P891 million in 2001 to P1.07 billion in 2002; P1.09 billion, 2003; P1.1 billion, 2004; P1.27 billion in 2005; and P1.46 billion in 2006.

Presado said she expects the BI’s income to surpass P1.5 billion by the end of the year, adding that the bureau is just half a million pesos short of attaining its P1.45-billion target.

Recently, the BI has been recognized as one of the top five government agencies that contributed to the national coffers from 2001 to 2006.

========
Figures for 2006 (in thousands) from the ASEAN website

Brunei Darussalam: 158.1
Cambodia: 1,700.0
Indonesia: 4,847.7
Lao PDR: 1,200.9
Malaysia: 17,546.9
Myanmar: 652.9
The Philippines: 2,688.0
Singapore: 9,535.4
Thailand: 13,822.1
Viet Nam: 2,821.6

Sunday, 2 December 2007

RP to lag behind Asian neighbors if Senate junks JPEPA – Favila

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio
Original report at The Philippine Star
http://www.philstar.com/index.php?Business&p=49&type=2&sec=27&aid=2007120121

The Philippines will be left behind by its neighbors in Asia if the Senate does not ratify the Japan Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said.

“This is an economic issue and it is up to the Senate to decide on it,” Favila said in an interview. “I am confident the Senate will do what is best for the country,” he added.

The Senate has yet to ratify the economic partnership agreement (EPA) because several cause-oriented groups are questioning the constitutionality of JPEPA.

In spite of this, Favila said there will be no renegotiation between Japan and the Philippines. “Renegotiation is out of the question. The Japanese has already ratified it,” Favila said.

According to Favila, he has already spoken with his Japanese counterpart who said there will be no renegotiation.

Instead, Favila said a clarification may be issued in order to answer the question of constitutionality.

“We are proposing a letter of agreement to clarify the concerns on the constitution where we would say this is our understanding,” Favila explained.

He said under the clarification, the Philippines will list down all its concerns over the constitutionality of the bilateral agreement.

The clarification will then be sent to Japan wherein they will confirm that the provisions in JPEPA cannot be interpreted in a way that will be against Philippine laws.

Favila said the Japanese are amenable to the issuance of a clarification. A clarification was already issued previously regarding the dumping of toxic waste.

Meanwhile, businessmen have expressed their disappointment over the way the government is presenting its arguments for JPEPA during Senate hearings.

During the last JPEPA hearing, the government negotiation team led by Favila failed dismally to present its case before the Senate, as they were unable to produce the figures the lawmakers were looking for, the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) said.

“It’s just a matter of giving the Senators the level of confidence (to ratify it),” PCCI chairman Donald Dee said.

Pimentel vows to restore P4-B cut in judiciary budget

Original article at the Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/MAIN20071202110454.html

Senate Minority Leader Aquilino "Nene" Q. Pimentel, Jr. (PDP-Laban) assured officials and employees of the judiciary yesterday that he will support their appeal for the restoration of the P4-billion cut recently made by the House of Representatives from the proposed P14.4-billion budget of the judicial branch for next year.

Pimentel said he saw neither rhyme nor reason for the big budget cut since the judiciary needs more funds to hire additional judges and cope with the increasing number of cases.

In fact, he noted that many courthouses and rooms in various parts of the country remain in dilapidated condition, while the modernization program of the judiciary, in terms of computerization, has been hampered by chronic lack of funds.

"We in the Senate will do our best to restore the cut in the judiciary budget, if not wholly, at least substantially," Pimentel said.

"The judiciary is one of the government agencies to which the people go to for help when they suffer injustice and when their rights are violated. How can the judiciary go to their rescue and perform its duties competently if it is always short of funds?" he asked.

Pimentel expressed apprehension that the Supreme Court’s plan to fill up 200 vacant positions for judges in the regional trial courts will be snagged if the budget cut is not restored.

"As members of Congress, we should not allow a situation where the judiciary, the last recourse of victims of injustice, will be crippled in discharging its functions due to insufficient funds. That will only aggravate the country’s troubles," Pimentel said.

He said the judiciary deserves additional funding to fulfill its commitment in resolving thousands of cases of extra-judicial killings, forced disappearances, and other forms of human rights violations.

In response to Malacañang’s request, up to 99 regional trial courts were designated as special courts last year to exclusively handle extra-judicial killings of leftist activists, journalists, judges, and law practitioners.

Noting that the P4 billion was excised by the House from the 2008 judiciary budget without any explanation, Pimentel said it would seem that the third independent and co-equal branch of government is being punished, instead of rewarded, for its initiatives in decisively addressing the scourge of political and media killings.

The senator noted that these Supreme Court initiatives appeared to be a slap on the face of the Executive branch which is under fire for what Pimentel called its "inept and lackluster efforts" to solve the problem of extrajudicial killings.

He said Chief Justice Reynato Puno forcefully drove home the message when he said that the Supreme Court could not possibly live up to the people’s clamor for a world-class judiciary if all that it would receive is a "Third World budget."

Pimentel said the restoration of the P4-billion budget cut would correct the disturbing impression that Congress is paying lip service to the fiscal autonomy the judiciary supposedly enjoys under the Constitution.