Saturday, 5 January 2008

Work on P5-b Laguindingan airport to start

By Roderick T. dela Cruz
Original report at The Business Mirror

Construction of the P5-billion Laguindingan airport near Cagayan de Oro City will start soon, following the contract- signing between the Department of Transportation and Communications and the project contractor, Hanjin Industries Construction Co. Ltd. of Korea.

The airport to be built in Barangay Moog, Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental, will replace the existing Lumbia facility in Cagayan de Oro City as the major gateway to Northern Mindanao. It is about 30 minutes away by car from the city.

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza signed the contract for the building of main civil works and the supplemental agreement on consulting services for the construction supervision of the airport development project.

Mendoza said the project would benefit the growth corridor covering the provinces of Bukidnon, Misamis Oriental, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, and the island province of Camiguin.

“When completed, it will definitely rev up the economy, facilitate air travel safely, generate considerable revenue, and promote commerce and tourism,” he said.

The main civil works involves the construction of the runway and the buildings for new passenger and cargo terminals, air traffic control tower/operation, maintenance, power house, administration, cold water receiving station, fuel farm, and waste water treatment plant.

The civil works will cost about P4.99 billion, with Hanjin as the contractor. The consulting services for the construction supervision will have a foreign cost component of 4.869 billion Korean won and P131 million as local cost component. The consultant is Yooshin Engineering Corp.

The Economic Development Cooperation Fund of Korea, the Export-Import Bank of Korea, Nordic Investment Bank and the national government will finance the project.

The airport facility covers about 400 hectares, with Ayala Land Corp. donating 94 hectares.

Construction period is expected to take 48 months or until 2011.

Once completed, the Laguindingan airport is expected to handle 1.2 million passengers a year, or about 100,000 each month.

P1-T idle resources crimp growth

By Jun Vallecera
Original report at the Business Mirror

APPROXIMATELY P1 trillion worth of resources have been intentionally kept away from the broad economy in 2007 so as not to complicate monetary management and allow the government to report all was well with the Philippines.

But according to Department of Finance ((DOF) data, it was P1 trillion too many for an economy that should have approximated China’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 11 percent in the third quarter last year when Manila’s own output was computed at only 7.1 percent.

Had those funds been put to good use, the economy would have quickened by another 3.8 percentage points, and this would have allowed the government to report GDP expansion of just under 11 percent for the period instead.

According to government data, not all of the country’s savings have been plowed back in the form of investments—which in the first nine months averaged only 14.7 percent.

The country’s savings rate stands at only 29.8 percent for the period, leaving a huge gap of 15.1 percent representing idle or unused funds.

With an estimated GDP of P6.646 trillion in 2007, this translates to unused funds of approximately P1 trillion.

Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran said the idle funds are in the form of deposit reserves mandated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), funds “siphoned” off the system and booked as special deposit accounts (SDAs), even funds that the Bureau of Treasury deliberately withholds in keeping with its own goals.

SDAs kept in the vaults of the central bank totaled P489 billion in the first 10 months of 2007, funds intentionally kept there to stabilize money supply—or risk inflation that has behaved surprisingly well below program at only 2.7 percent from January to November.

According to Beltran, the banks contributed to the relative lack of utilization by taking a risk-averse stance on lending, which grew by just 7.1 percent over 10 months last year.

He noted the tendency by banks to invest funds in risk-free government debt notes rather than all-out lending to the private sector.

The aversion had earlier led Monetary Board member and former National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) chief Romulo Neri to label Filipino bankers as “lazy.”

Given a factor of 0.25 percent as the average rate of return on investments in 2007, the unused funds equal a sinful P1 trillion that does the economy absolutely no good at all, Beltran said.

“Had that money been put to good use, we would have generated 3.8 percentage points more output or GDP,” Beltran said.

But in fairness to the Cabinet economic cluster, Secretaries Margarito Teves and Rolando Andaya have been pushing for greater investment activities in each of their deliberations at the Development and Budget Coordination Committee.

As it is, the country’s investment rate inched up to 14.7 percent of GDP in the first nine months of 2007, slightly higher than year-ago figure of 16.64 percent, government data show.

This compares with investment rate averaging only 14.3 percent in 2006.

Such institutions as the Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund have pleaded for more investment activities to happen to help “bring more of the population out of poverty.”

Construction of P5-B Carabao Island airport by Korean company set


By Mar T. Supnad

MALAY, Aklan — The construction of the P5-billion Carabao Island Airport is now in the pipeline and will certainly start this year.

The construction of the airport, which is expected to commence this October, is a private-sector initiative, and is programmed to be completed by 2010.

Steve Tajanlangit, vice chairman of the Boracay Property Holdings, Inc., the main proponent of the project, expressed confidence that the airport will further hasten the growth of tourism on Boracay-Carabao Island corridor.

Tajanlangit said that the airport will also boost employment with expected generation of new jobs and the increased economic activities, not just in Boracay, but most especially in San Jose, Romblon, where the Carabao Island is located.

Once completed, the airport will be equipped with state-of-the-art facilities that can accommodate even big aircraft doing international flights in contrast to the Caticlan Airport which can only host small planes.

Aside from this, thousands of tourists -- foreign and local -- are expected to flock the world famous Boracay and Carabao Island.

He said his group has already secured a guarantee line from the Phil Exim Bank which shows that the private sector can work hand in hand with the government, especially in the development of tourist destinations.

One of the highly reputable and world class firms that have expressed interest and offered expertise and financial resources to the project is Sellex Sistemo Integrated of Italy.

Sellex, which supplies airside equipment, is the main firm of the conglomerate Finmeccanica owned by the Italian government.

Tajanlangit’s group is also seriously considering Changi International of Singapore, which is consistently rated as the world’s best airport operator, to be the airport manager.

Construction management will likely be handled by an American firm with proven expertise in building airports and support facilities for the US Defense Department.

Tajanlangit said the government’s guarantee company has already approved credit clearance for the project, while the Air Transportation Office under the Department of Transportation and Communications has already given its go-signal for the multi-billion project

One of the good features of this project is that it is a private-sector initiative.

Tourism efforts in Cebu, for instance, have been observed as the primary reason why the province’s tourism program has been successful, it was reported earlier.


Koreans to build airport in island next to Boracay

PHILIPPINE NEWS SERVICE -- BORACAY Island, Aklan—A Korean real estate company will start the construction next month of an international airport at Carabao Island, which is being eyed as the “Next Boracay.”

Carabao Island, part of San Jose town south of Romblon, is a 15-minute boat ride from the smaller island of Boracay, and has the same white-sand beaches and pristine waters, according to Tourism Secretary Joseph Durano.

Durano said Carabao Island is about four times the size of the 10-sq. km. Boracay, which accommodated more than half a million visitors last year. It is closest to the Puka Beach, the northern part of Boracay.

“We expect the groundbreaking of the airport at Carabao Island by the end of the month,” said Durano, who, together with Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr., visited the new large hotel developments in Boracay.

Durano said the San Jose airport, which will have a 4,000-meter runway, is part of the tourism masterplan being developed by Euro Asia & Group Holding, a Korean company headed by Byoung-Youn Park.

Korean tourists, representing two-thirds of total foreign guests in Boracay, numbered 124,618 in 2006. In the first four months of 2007, foreign visitors were up 40 percent.

Portions of Carabao Island, Durano said, had already been leased out to the Korean company, which committed to put up the necessary infrastructures before establishing commercial establishments.

“Everything is being planned in Carabao Island,” he said. “It will have the same model as Mactan in Cebu.”

The tourism chief said the development of Carabao Island will relieve Boracay of too much pressure from tourists, in the wake of constant power outages caused by peak demand from more than 250 resorts and hotels on the island. Most resorts here have their power generation sets ready in case of brownouts.

Ma. Victoria Jasmin, director of the Office of Tourism Standards, which is in charge of endorsing tourism projects for fiscal incentives, said the Korean company was applying for the declaration of the entire Carabao Island as a tourism economic zone.

The problem, she said, is that the island already has a thriving local population who own pieces of land in five barangays. San Jose town, which encompasses the whole Carabao Island, has about 10,000 residents.

“Their masterplan involves integrated resort development which will include construction of hotels, resorts and retirement villages,” Jasmin said.

She said the original plan aimed to build an international airport in San Jose capable of handling large Airbus or Boeing planes that will bring passengers to Boracay. But under the Korean masterplan, Carabao Island will now be the major attraction, with Boracay as the day-two destination.

Caticlan airport, which is about a 10-minute boat ride from Boracay, can handle only small turboprop planes, while it takes another two hours to reach Kalibo airport by land.

Asked how much the Korean group would invest, Jasmin said there were no official figures yet, but the amount is expected to be big, considering the extent of development it plans.


New airport a boost for Boracay

By Ollie Quiniquini

MANILA – Carabao Island Airport, which is opening in 2010/11, will improve access to Boracay.

The 4.3-billion-peso (US$94.3 million) airport of Boracay Property Holdings will have an annual passenger throughput of one million and a 2,700m runway for Airbus 320 and 330 aircraft.

Boracay Property Holidays executive vice-president, Mr Mariano Araneta, said: “If prospects are good, we can expand the runway to 4,000m to accommodate bigger aircraft. But our initial runway can already cater to flights from regional destinations.”

It will also develop a seaport and a tourism “ecozone” on Carabao island. The corporation owns the 80-hectare Boracay Ecovillage, where Shangri-La Resort & Spa Boracay is located. Carabao island is 15 minutes by ferry from Boracay’s Puka Beach.

Mr Araneta said detailed engineering specifications of the airport were being prepared and the project would break ground in October. It is looking to hire an international airport management company to run operations.

Airlines are awaiting the specifications of the new airport. Air Philippines flight technical group manager, Mr Jun Fajardo, said the airline would start a Manila-Caticlan route on December 15 with five daily flights using a 50-seat Bombardier Q300 aircraft.

Cebu Pacific director for marketing, Ms Candice Iyog, said her airline would consider flying to Carabao Island Airport in the future. Meanwhile, the airline is awaiting delivery schedules of its six confirmed and eight optional ATR 72-500 aircraft for Manila-Caticlan services next year.

Boracay Tropics Resort director of sales and marketing, Ms Onelle Pacheco, said the airport could open up new markets for the island by facilitating the arrival of international tourists.

President bats for 'lean, mean, but well-paid' gov't personnel

Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today that she would ask the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to study the proposal to exempt non-teaching personnel of the Department of Education (DepEd) from the Rationalization Law.

But she said outright that she prefers a “lean but well-paid bureaucracy” to a bloated government bureaucracy.

The President was reacting to the statement of Manila Schools Superintendent Lourdes Quinones that public schools were suffering from a shortage of janitors and clerks.

The problems hounding the country’s education system were brought up during the meeting the President held this morning with Manila city schools and other education officials at the cramped principal’s office of the Maceda Integrated School along Buenos Aires St. in Sta. Mesa, Manila.

Also present during the consultations were Education Secretary Jesli Lapus and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

Garbed in her favorite color – a blue pants and short-sleeved blouse ensemble–the President arrived a few minutes before the scheduled 10 a.m. visit. The Manila City School Band played the lively traditional welcome march for dignitaries as she shook the hands of parents who waited for her at the entrance of the school gymnasium, where she later distributed one-kilo packs of rice to elementary school students.

Only teachers, military men and policemen are exempted from the no-replacement rule of the Rationalization Law which calls for the trimming down of the government bureaucracy.

She said with the ongoing government computerization program, teachers and other school officials would have less need for clerks.

During the meeting, the President suggested that the city school officials assign redundant employees to positions vacated by retiring employees, and to areas needing more personnel.

The President explained to the teachers and other education personnel, who thanked her for granting them a performance bonus, that a bloated bureaucracy will only reduce the bonuses due them.

The teachers agreed that last year’s “performance bonus” was the biggest-ever Christmas cash gift that they received from the government.

PGMA bats for 11 yrs of basic education with formalization of one level pre-school

Gov.Ph News

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo wants Philippine “basic education” to expand from 10 to 11 levels – not with an additional high school level but with the formalization of one level of pre-school.

This was revealed by the President when she visited the Antonio Maceda Integrated School in Sta. Mesa, Manila this morning in the company of Education Secretary Jesli Lapus and Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim.

In a private meeting with local education officials and the school’s heads and teachers, the President explained that her administration wishes to “transform five-year-olds” into “pre-school graduates” as it is the latter who later survive in private schools.

The President let known her plans about basic education when the school reported that it now has a total of 24 pre-school sections.

The President said she prefers pre-school to the clamor for an additional year in high school (HS), stressing that “parents need their children to work with them right away.”

For this, Congress shall be requested to pass a law that will expand basic education from 10 years to 11 years – one pre-school, the six elementary grades and the four HS levels.

And to already prepare for this, the President said day care center teachers should henceforth be trained to teach their wards how to read the alphabet, and how to count.

Friday, 4 January 2008

Bacolod-Silay Airport opening 17th or 19th January



Transco, Hyundai sign P3-B contract for Mindanao project

Original report at GMANews.TV

The National Transmission Corp. has signed a P3-billion contract with Korean firms Hyundai Engineering Co. Ltd. and Hyundai Corp. for the improvement of transmission lines in Mindanao.

In a statement released Friday, Transco said Hyundai won the contract through a competitive public bidding. The project will involve improvements to a double-circuit, two-conductor transmission line spanning 105 kilometers from Maramag, Bukidnon to Bunawan, Davao City.

"The project is part of the Abaga-Kirahon-Maramag (Pulangi)-Bunawan 230-kV Transmission Line Project which involves putting up higher capacity lines on steel towers, building new switching stations, and boosting the capability of associated substations to handle bigger loads," Transco said in its statement.

Other project components, Transco said, are the construction of a new switching station in Maramag and the expansion of Bunawan and Tagoloan substations through the installation of new transformers – one 100-MVA at Tagoloan substation, one 75-MVA at Maramag substation, and one 50-MVA at Bunawan substation.

"Once completed, the line will be able to transmit increased power flow from power plants in northern Mindanao towards the major electricity consumers in the area," Transco said. The proposed transmission network will serve as the main 230-kV highway of power delivery to the Southern part of Mindanao .

Transco said the total peso equivalent of the project cost is P2.997 billion. It said 85 percent of the project’s foreign exchange cost will be sourced from the Calyon funding facility while the remaining fifteen percent 15 percent of the forex cost, together with the peso currency component, will be funded from Transco’s internal cash generation.

Representatives of Transco and Hyundai signed the project contract last Dec. 21, 2007.

Gov't, investor group to ready contract for MRT-7

By Cheryl Arcibal
Original article at GMANews.TV

The Philippine government is set to ready the contract which will govern the $1.2-billion Metro Rail Transit 7, after its proponent agreed to the four conditions set down by the government for the implementation of the project.

MRT-7 will traverse North Avenue to Commonwealth Avenue.

In an interview, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos that a letter came to his office on Thursday from the Universal LRT Corp. accepting the conditions.

“It's all systems go with respect to preparing the contract. We expect that within the year a contract for the implementation of the project will be signed by ULC, Department of Finance and the Department of Transportation and Communication," he said.

The three parties will also be tasked to formulate the contract.

Santos said that the proposal of the ULC stated that it will finish the construction of the project three years within the effectivity of the contract.

Earlier NEDA laid down four conditions for the project through. These were:

a. An estimated $120-million performance bond or 10 percent on the rail and road system investment;

b. A 10-percent, or about $220 million, three-year rolling performance bond on the scheduled real estate and commercial development component of the project.

c. That ULC will be required to contractually undertake to accomplish the committed real estate development as programmed in the business plan. The real estate component of the project is expected to cost as much as $2.2 billion.

d. Step-in rights for the government anytime during the project life should ULC fail to implement the real estate and commercial development based on its business plan.

The proposed MRT 7, which will serve commuters to and from north of Metro Manila and Bulacan has been a subject of a Swiss Challenge, but no other parties submitted proposals for the project.

Costing $1.2 billion, the mass transit component of the project has a 22-kilometer elevated track, running from Tala, Novaliches, to North Avenue corner EDSA, passing through Lagro, Fairview, and Commonwealth Avenue before joining MRT Line 3 on North Avenue.

ULC investors include the Sy family of SM group, Siemens Group, International Finance Corp., Yuchengco Group, George Go group, China Railway and a Japanese investor.

DPWH reports infrastructure program gains

Original report at The Manila Bulletin

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) headed by Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. has gained major headway in the implementation of programs and priority infrastructure projects that respond to the needs of the Filipino people in line with the 10-point agenda of President Arroyo.

DPWH records showed that it has completed 95.45 percent or 10,595 of 11,202 region-implemented projects and 96.16 percent or 1,648 of 1,807 PMO-implemented projects.

Four major projects were completed: the Marikina Bridge and Bypass Road Project costing P991.91 million; the Widening and Improvement of the MacArthur Highway Phase I (P467.5 million) and Phase II (P61.90 million); the Plaridel Bypass Road (P1.1 billion), and the NAIA Expressway Ramps 1 and 4 (P601.68 million).

Also in the list of completed projects were 925 flood control projects nationwide costing P3.55 billion, which included the CAMANAVA Flood Control Project, the Pasig River Rehabilitation Project I and the Pinatubo Hazard Urgent Mitigation Project.

Also completed in 2007 were 1,391 water supply systems worth P1.031 billion; 7,348 classrooms built out of the 9,250 classrooms under the regular and supplemental schoolbuilding program for the year 2007 of the Department of Education (DepEd); and construction of a total of 151 farm to market roads equivalent to 229.33 kilometers FMR under the P362 million budget of the Department of Agriculture, and 249.859 kilometers under the P617.083 million budget of Department of Agrarian Reform.

Meanwhile, projects in the North Luzon AgriBusiness Quadrangle, the Luzon Urban Beltway, Central Philippines and Mindanao, all mentioned in the President’s state of the nation address, are expected to be completed before her term ends in 2010.

For the next year, with a P90.72 billion budget allocation, Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane vowed to fulfill DPWH’s mandate to be responsible for the design, construction and maintenance of infrastructure projects in accordance with national development objectives.

He said that much of the P90.72 billion allocation to the DPWH in 2008 will support the President’s 10point agenda and decentralize development to other regions by developing a reliable transportation network, decongesting traffic in Metro Manila, completing the RoadscumPorts Nautical Highways System, providing potable water to waterless barangays, constructing new school buildings and creating at least six million jobs.
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Wednesday, 2 January 2008

Pluses and minuses for PGMA

Two and a half years to go
By Boo Chanco

The one big plus for her that will happen this year is the opening of the Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway. I am told it will finally be open to the public in the first quarter of this new year. It took longer than usual because of the typical arguments and controversies that attend such large projects as well as right-of-way problems. But there it is, ready at last and expected to cut travel time in Central Luzon, promoting commerce in the region. Congratulations, Ma’am.

But the minuses are quite a number.

First of all is the seemingly abandoned NAIA Terminal 3. The DOTC has let it be known that they will no longer set a target date for opening. It seems like they have given up, even if the government has won its arbitration case at the World Bank. There is another case still pending in Singapore. But it doesn’t look right that the President of this Republic, with the powers of her office, is unable to persuade PIATCO one way or another, to cooperate and get the terminal operational.

Is that terminal destined to rot away in full view of everyone flying into the country as a symbol of how ineptly corrupt our officials are?

Why wait for the Singapore arbitration to reach a conclusion? Isn’t Ate Glue the all powerful President of this Strong Republic? Surely, she has enough persuasive powers to get a vital public infrastructure project through, specially after the taxpayers already paid P3 billion on it. Opening that terminal this year should be on top of Ate Glue’s agenda. It would do a lot to redeem her image, assuming any deal with PIATCO is defensible in Plaza Miranda.

Secondly, there is that much talked about project to link the MRT with the LRT in the Trinoma area. Why are the bureaucrats taking too long in dealing with the paper work? And even now, there is a need to expand the services of both the MRT and LRT by adding more train capacity. Commuters are packed like sardines at all times of the day. There are still too many undisciplined bus drivers along EDSA who should be thrown out of business by an expanded MRT. Dealing with public transport is an important government obligation specially as a means to encourage more commuters to go public and help cut oil consumption and pollution in our streets.

Thirdly, that overpass or as Chairman Fernando calls it, the elevated U-turn at the corner of C5 and Kalayaan in Makati is overdue. The MMDA Chairman told me that construction will start in 2008. They are just settling some right of way cases that are taking some time. Hopefully, Malacañang intervenes and get those cases settled so construction can begin. The traffic jam caused by this intersection goes all the way to Ortigas Avenue during rush hours. This infrastructure can help save fuel and cut down on green house gases from car emissions.

Fourthly, that Manila Domestic Terminal has to go. If DOTC has given up hope on NAIA 3 ever opening soon, it must do something about the Domestic Terminal. If government does not have the money, it should talk to the Gokongweis to put up the terminal on a BOT basis or some other deal since it would benefit their Cebu Pacific anyway. It is embarrassing to bring foreign visitors to Boracay because they will have to use this poor excuse of a terminal.

Fifth is the South Luzon Expressway whose reconstruction is proceeding at a terribly slow pace. Those living in the South are being punished daily by horrible traffic jams with no end in sight. Is the private concessionaire really having cash flow problems? And how difficult is it to connect the SLEX to the Star expressway in Batangas? Why is that taking forever?

Sixth is that damn NorthRail. What’s keeping them from getting started? The corruption scandal apart, Ate Glue must get them moving so the system can be inaugurated before she exits in 2010. The right of way needed for the first phase had been delivered long ago. This is a much needed companion infrastructure to the Clark International Airport.


I know there are more items that should be on her priority “to do” list for 2008. This is only my top of mind list. But if she shows action on items in this list, she should be able to significantly mitigate her severely deteriorating public acceptance. Who knows… if her image improves enough, she may be able to attract more competent cabinet members other than retired generals. Public Works for instance, needs a better secretary if her infrastructure program is to go anywhere… along the caliber of such distinguished former secretaries like Toto Estuar, Ping de Jesus, DM Consunji and Aber Canlas. Or the retired army engineering general Vigi Vigilar.

DOTC explains MRT3 buy-out delay

Rights issue holds back MRT3 buyout, DOTC says
By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - The government buyout of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT3) will take place as soon as contentious details such as remaining rights of some of the private investors are resolved, the Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) said.

DOTC Secretary Leandro Mendoza said in a briefing that the government wanted a complete buyout, with the private consortium of owners no longer involved in future expansion.

Tuesday, 1 January 2008

PGMA : The sooner deficiencies of RP education system are fixed, the better

Original report at Gov.Ph News

THE MANSION, Baguio City – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today that the sooner the deficiencies of the country’s educational system are fixed, the better.

In a meeting with the Presidential Task Force for Education (PTFE) at the presidential residence here, the President directed the group to advance the date of the proposed National Education Congress to next month (January) instead of May 2008 as earlier planned.

The President’s directive underscored her concern over the continuing deterioration of the country’s educational system, especially English efficiency.

The Chief Executive has been meeting over the past several weeks with various academic groups and education stakeholders from both the public and private sectors to discuss reform measures intended to upgrade the quality of Philippine education.

This morning’s consultations with officials and officers of public and private educational institutions of higher learning in Northern Luzon lasted for almost two hours.

Responding to the President’s directive, the PTFE said it would convene the education congress in the later part of January.

She said the task force should present its first draft of proposed educational reforms to the entire educational sector for it to improve on and as part of a consensus-building move.

She told Presidential Assistant for Education Mona Valisno that it would be better to submit the task force’s draft to her and education leaders in Northern Luzon for further suggestions and improvements.

These improvements, she said, could be incorporated in the final draft.

“The draft does not need to be final. Present the draft to stakeholders so there will be no objections later on,” the President added.

Among those present during the PTFE consultative meeting were the heads of 12 state universities, including University of the Philippines (UP) Baguio chancellor Priscilla Macansantos; the head of a local government university; and the heads of 12 private universities in Northern Luzon – Ilocos Region, Cagayan Valley Region, and the Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR).

Also present were Maj. Gen. Leopoldo Maligalig, Philippine Military Academy (PMA) superintendent; members of the PTFE, the staff and secretariat of the Office of the Presidential Assistant for Education, Education Undersecretary Ramon Bacani and Commission on Higher Education (CHED) Executive Director William Medrano.

The President also ordered the Department of Education (DepEd) to submit to her the list of schools belonging to the “30 percent lowest performing” institutions all over the country.

The move is intended to give teachers of these schools the first crack at DepEd’s teacher training program, especially in the English language.

The President stressed that English proficiency should be “universal” among Filipino teachers.

She said that “in-service training” in English should be held on weekends in order that teachers will continue to hold classes during regular school days.

Malacanang had earlier earmarked P500 million for English training.

The President made no bones about her concern over the current state of the state of English teaching, as she recalled a comment by Sen. Richard Gordon that many of the semi-finalists in an English competition could not “verbalize” their answers to the interview questions.

“We have to make sure their (the teachers’) English is good. Really, English is not proceeding anywhere as fast as Math or Science… It is deteriorating. Something must be wrong with the educational system,” she said.

The task force reported that it had initiated the use of the local “lingua franca,” particularly Ilocano, Cebuano and Tagalog, in 16 public schools in the North and South in Grade I and ll.

But English is the medium of instruction from Grade lll up, the task force said.

Businessmen expect 7% to 7.5% GDP growth in 2008

From Philexport News and Features
Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Business executives expect gross domestic product (GDP) growing by seven to 7.5 percent this year depending on the country’s ability to make the economy competitive, particularly in the area of energy, infrastructure and reduced cost of doing business.

Such optimism was expressed to Philexport News and Features by Donald Dee, chairman of Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI), the largest business organization in the country.

“We are basically optimistic despite the strong peso and weakening of the US economy. Such could be offset by making the economy competitive through working very hard on measures to bring down energy cost to a competitive level,” he noted.

Dee said they are concerned about the privatization of the National Transmission Commission (TransCo) and the implementation of the Electric Power Reform Industry Act (EPIRA).

“This is something that worries us. It’s not who should win and who should lose. I think, the very big issue is – should we really privatize TransCo? And if we are going to privatize TransCo, let’s begin to talk about the safeguards and the process especially in rate setting transmission charges,” he stressed.

Dee also cited the need to fast-track the guidelines on the appointment of independent power producers (IPP) administrators so more players could come in once there is open access.

Open access allows companies to buy their power directly from power plant operators that allow the end-users to negotiate electric rates.

The open access program which is part of the EPIRA would pave the way for a more vigorous involvement by private investors in power generation, transmission and distribution in Luzon, Mindanao and the Visayas.

Two to three more power generating plants sold to private investors will pare down the total capacity of generating assets of National Power Corp. (Napocor) in Luzon and Visayas would enable the country to attain open access. Napocor already achieved 48 percent of the total 70-percent privatization requirement to allow power plants to sell directly to consumers.

To make the Philippines attractive to more investors, Dee underscored the need to simplify the cost of doing business particularly in local governments.

He noted that the Bureau of Customs’ electronic data encoding, X-ray machines and single window transactions likewise would reduce undervaluation, thus improve tax collections.

Likewise, Dee said the government should continue investing in infrastructure and ensure good governance.

Infrastructure development is among the deciding factors of investors in pouring in their money in the country.

The country’s GDP is projected to reach 7 percent this year. GDP for the first three quarters already averaged 7.1 percent.

VP de Castro's New Year Message

Sa ating mga Pilipino, isang malaking pagdiriwang ang pagsalubong sa bagong taon. Marahil tanda ito ng ating paghahangad na ituwid ang mga pagkakamali at pagkukulang ng nakaraang taon, at muling magsimula ng mas magandang buhay. Ang ganitong pananaw ang pinanggagalingan ng likas nating pag-asa at pagtitiwala na mas masaya ang darating na taon para sa atin at sa ating mga pamilya.

At tulad ng nakagawian na, nagsisimula tayong magbalik-tanaw sa ating mga nagawa noong 2007.

Sa sector ng pabahay, isinulong natin ang pagbibigay ng katiyakan sa paninirahan para sa mga informal settlers. Dalawang malalaking programa ang ipinatupad ng pamahalaan para rito. Una ay ang resettlement programs para sa mga naninirahan sa tabi ng North at South railroad track, mapanganib na lugar, at sa nasalanta ng mga kalamidad at ang pangalawa ay ang Community Mortgage Program. Ngayong taon, humigit-kumulang sa 47,000 ka pamilya ang nabiyayaan ng mga programang ito.

Ginawa nating abot-kaya ang pagmamay-ari ng bahay sa pamamagitan ng mas mababang interest rates. Sa pagtapos ng taon, 41,761 ka pamilya ang nakinabang sa programa at nagkaroon ng oportunidad na magkabahay. Umabot ng halos 40 porsyento ang itinaas nito kumpara noong nakaraang taon.

Hinimok natin ang pribadong sektor na patuloy na mamuhunan sa housing. Sa pamamagitan ng guarantee ng pamahalaan, tinulungan natin ang mga developers na magkaroon ng kapital. Isinaayos din natin ang mabilis na pag-proseso ng mga housing permits upang hindi maantala ang pagtatayo ng mga proyektong pabahay habang masusi nating binabantayan ang pagsunod ng mga developers sa balanced housing requirement ng Urban Development and Housing Act.

At upang higit na maging epektibo ang housing at anti-poverty initiatives ng gobyerno, tinulungan natin ang mga local government units na matapos ang kani-kanilang mga Comprehensive Land Use Plans at Comprehensive Shelter Plans. Binigyan natin sila ng mas malaking papel sa pagpapatupad at pagpapatibay ng mga programa ng pamahalaan laban sa kahirapan.

Ngayong 2008, kasama ninyo akong umaasa na magiging mas maganda ang buhay nating mga Pilipino.

Para sa ekonomiya, hangad ko ang patuloy na paglago at pagtatag nito, upang ang pag-unlad ay maramdaman na ng ordinaryong mamamayan. Mangyayari ito kung patuloy nating isusulong ang reporma sa ekonomiya na ilang taon na ring ipinapatupad ng ating pamahalaan.

Para sa pulitika, hangad ko ang mas malalim na pagsusuri sa ating mga institusyong pampulitika, upang mapalakas ang mga ito at maging mga epektibong batayan ng ating demokratikong sistema. Itaguyod natin ang isang kultura ng kapayapaan sa lahat ng antas ng lipunan.

Para sa mga nakararami nating kababayan, hangad ko ang mas maraming trabaho, mas maraming pabahay, mas murang bilihin, mas mababang pasahe, mas malawak na basic services, at mas epektibong capability-building programs. Sana’y patuloy na makipag-tulungan sa pamahalaan ang mga nasa-pribadong sector, social development organizations, at international institutions. Sa pakikiisa ng mga mamamayan, maasahan natin ang isang matapat at mahusay na pamamahala.

Naniniwala ako na kung magkakaisa tayo, magkakatutoo ang sinasabi natin sa pagbati sa 2008: masagana at mapayapang bagong taon sa ating lahat!

Sunday, 30 December 2007

An Englishman's Faith in the Filipino People

By Antonio Palma

MANILA, Dec. 25 (PNA) - These days, it's so fashionable to give in to the belief that this country is hopeless, that it's catch as catch can and the devil take the hindmost.

But every once in a while, a story comes along that stands out because it highlights the best in every Filipino — the traits that we sometimes forget we have and that others have to see in us before we even remember that they exist.

Then, you realize that we're only hopeless if we think we are. And that we can actually do something to improve the lives of the people around us if we set our minds to it.

Many people have heard of the story of Dylan Wilks, the rich young Englishman who started a life of improving the plight of poor, homeless Filipinos by selling his BMW to build cheap houses for 80 families. But few people really know what led Wilks to do what he did two years ago.

Now Wilks has settled in Manila, where he has become one of the most prominent endorsers of everything good in the Pinoy. He was interviewed recently by Bo Sanchez for Kerygma magazine, the alternative Christian glossy, which is published by Shepherd's Voice.

Nowadays, when every politician seems to be talking about how to save the poor and the country without really doing anything, it's nice to here from someone who has actually dedicated his life to doing just that — one household at a time.

Dylan Wilks was born to a poor family. But at the young age of 20, he started a computer games company that made him a millionaire. Soon, Dylan operated in nine countries and ran his own TV channel. Then at the age of 25, Dylan sold his company for multi-million British pounds. He became the ninth richest person in the Great Britain under the age of 30.

But one night, while lying in bed, he was distressed by a nagging question that wouldn't let him sleep. "God, why am I rich?"

He asked if there was a reason for his immense wealth. Ironically, he also felt terribly empty inside. This, despite his ability to have any kind of pleasure he wanted. He had just bought himself a brand-new Ferrari and took one holiday after another. But he was discovering that pleasure was like fire... it constantly needed more fuel to keep it going. And he realized he would never be happy in the path he was taking.

One day, a Filipina friend visited him. She said she felt guilty going there because her plane fare could have built two homes for the poor. That made Dylan pause. How can you build two houses for that measly amount? He decided to investigate.

In January 2003, he visited the Philippines. And for three hours, Gawad Kalinga (GK) Director Tony Meloto brought Dylan to different GK villages for the poor. With his own eyes, he saw something that would change his life forever...

Bo: What did you see on that day?

Dylan: I saw hope. More than newly built houses, I saw transformed lives. We were entering rather dangerous slums, breeding ground for thieves and kidnappers.. . yet in the middle of that was an oasis... the Gawad Kalinga village. I saw people smiling, men working, children laughing... I've seen many other projects in South East Asia and across the world. And I've never seen anything like GK. This was different. This really worked!

Bo: So what did you do after your trip?

Dylan: I went back to England. I saw my BMW parked in the garage and realized I could build 80 homes with it... and affect the lives of 600 people. I saw the faces of the children I could help. I called up Tony Meloto and told him I was thinking of donating US$ 100,000 to Gawad Kalinga and asked him if that was okay...

Bo: What did Tony say?

Dylan: He said, "No, I don't want your money."

Bo: Only Tony can say something like that. (Laughs.)

Dylan: He said if I was really serious in working for the poor, I should go back to the Philippines. So two months later, I sold my BMW and flew back to Manila. And in June of that year, I made a decision to stay in the Philippines and work for GK for seven more years.

Bo: Wow.

Dylan: I've decided to invest in the poor of the Philippines. Not in stocks or bonds. If I can help in uplifting the poor of this country, I can say that I spent my life well.

Bo: I presume your family wasn't too crazy about that decision.

Dylan: No! They thought I was brainwashed by a religious cult! (Laughs.) So my mother came and spied on me. But she was soon convinced of the beautiful work we were doing and went back home and told my sister about it. And my sister said, "Oh no, they brainwashed you too!" (Laughs.) But today, all of them support what I do.

Bo: You've made a decision to give up your wealth for the Filipino poor.

Dylan: I don't see it as a sacrifice. When you give charity out of pity, you feel pain parting with your money. But when you give charity because you love, you don't feel that pain. You only feel the joy of giving to someone you love. That's what I feel.

Bo: I hear you built an entire village for GK in Bulacan.

Dylan: I don't see it as my village. I just provided the materials. Architects, engineers, volunteers gave their labor. Together, we built 63 houses for the poor.

Bo: Amazing. What else do you do?

Dylan: I go around the world telling everyone that Filipinos are heroic. Because I work with them every day... the volunteers of GK.

Bo: What do you see in the Filipino that we take for granted?

Dylan : You're hardworking. You're always laughing, always eating, always singing. Even in your problems. You're loyal. And honest. Sure, there are exceptions, but generally, that's been my experience. And you have the bayanihan spirit. The pyramids of Egypt are beautiful but they were built by slavery. GK villages are more beautiful because they're made through the bayanihan spirit of the Filipino. It's especially this bayanihan and love of family and community that makes the Filipino more valuable than gold. If you take a golden nugget and kick it on the floor for 400 years, afterwards you won't be able to see much gold, just mud. This was what happened to the Filipino... for 400 years you were slaves and then you suffered under dictatorship and corruption. This is where the crab mentality came from; I don't think it's a natural Filipino quality because every day I see the gold under the surface of ordinary Filipinos. If we wipe away the mud by bringing hope and being brothers to one another in bayanihan, the gold will shine through and the world will see it.

Bo: Let me get personal here. I hear that you don't only love the Filipinos, but you've fallen for a particular Filipina.

Dylan: (Smiles.) Two months ago, I married Anna Meloto, the eldest daughter of Tony Meloto. She grew up with the GK work, so we're totally one in our mission. And yes, I'll be having Filipino children. The best way I can secure a future for my kids is to continue to help raise this country from poverty. Instead of building high walls in an exclusive subdivision to protect us from thieves and kidnappers, I will go to the breeding ground of thieves and kidnappers and help transform their lives.

Bo: Thank you for this interview. You don't know how much you inspired me.

Dylan: Thank you for being our partner in GK. I read Kerygma every month and I'm happy to see GK stories in every issue.

Bo: It's our immense privilege to tell the world about it and ask others to join the miracle.

Dylan: To me, GK isn't just Gawad Kalinga. It is a part of "God's Kingdom" in this world. Thank you. (PNA)