President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has directed the National Economic Development authority (NEDA) and concerned government departments to speed up the implementation of three new projects worth around P41.14 billion recently confirmed for implementation by the NEDA Board.
“These road and bridges programs plus the flood and hazard mitigation projects for Bicol are certain to boost the economic development for the areas where they will be implemented” she pointed out. I expect full cooperation and speedy implementation from the Department of Public Works and Highways and other agencies and Department so our people can enjoy the benefits soonest,” she said.
Two of the approved projects are the road enhancement and Asset Preservation Management Program (REAPMP) and the President’s Bridge Program (PBP) Mega Bridges for Urban and Rural Development Project. The project costing P28.29 billion and P10.73 billion respectively will be implemented by the department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).
The third is the P2.12 billion Flood and Hazard Mitigation Component of the Bicol River Basin and Watershed Management Project (BRBWMP) to be jointly undertaken by the DPWH and the Office of the Civil Defense, the Mines and Geosciences Board of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (MGB-DENR) and the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration of the Department of Science and Technology (PAGASA-DOST).
The REAPMP is a sector program type of assistance that aims to enhance the efforts of the government to improve and manage its national road system in an economically, socially, financially and environmentally sound effective and sustainable manner.
The project cost includes a grant amounting to P97.6 billion (0.3% of total project cost). The biggest portion of the total program cost (51% or around P14.43 billion) shall be financed through a loan from Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC). The rest are from general appropriations (39.1% or some P11.05 billion) and the Motor Vehicles Users Charge special funds (9.6% or about 2.71 billion). The REAPMP will be implemented over a period of seven years from 2008 to 2014.
On the other hand the PBP is funded by a mix of financing from the French government (88% or around P9.45 billion) and domestic counterpart (12% or some P1.28 billion).
It involves the nationwide construction installation and establishment of 10 girder type flyovers and 72 unibridges (universal bridges or national bridges along the country’s congested highways and road networks to improve access along the strong Republic Nautical Highway and Pan Philippine Highway and to promote socio economic growth in rural and urban centers.
The project will be implemented over a four-year period from the second quarter of the year to 2012.
The Flood and Hazard Mitigation Component of the BRBWMP is composed of four subcomponents which include flood mitigation, hazard assessment and mitigation, land acquisition and resettlement.
The BRBWMP aims to implement an integrated watershed management and water resources development investment activities that will increase agricultural production and productivity increase rural; incomes provide service facilities and promote sustainable natural resource management in a river basin context.
The project will be implemented over six years from 2008 to 2013 and will be funded under the World Bank’s (WB) Bicol River Basin World Bank Project.
Saturday, 14 June 2008
By Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines—Taiwanese companies are taking a second look at the Philippines as an investment destination with the relatively peaceful labor situation as compared with China and Vietnam, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) said in a statement.
The MECO, the de facto Taiwanese embassy in Manila, hosted a delegation of businessmen and journalists from Taiwan last month as part of efforts to burnish the Philippines’ image as an investment site.
The team toured the Mactan Export Processing Zone in Cebu City, where about 12 of 108 locators are from Taiwan.
Peter Liao, president and chief executive of hat maker Headway Caps International Co. Ltd., said in the same statement that he appreciated the availability of a pool of skilled labor to meet the company’s needs.
Headway, one of the world’s biggest makers of caps, produces over three million caps yearly for some of the biggest athletic gear and fashion suppliers.
Liao said Headway had tried setting up factories in Taiwan, Mexico, and Vietnam, but Cebu labor spelled the difference.
Headway began its Cebu operations seven years ago and now employs some 500 workers.
“Many locators are looking at Vietnam but they have been turned off because there have been many strikes,” Liao added. “China and Vietnam are also asking a lot more in taxes and lease rates, and that has been a deterrent.”
Ken Yu, special assistant to his father who founded Paul-Yu Industrial Corp., said his friends in Taiwan and other countries “were horrified” when they found that the Yus were operating two factories in the Philippines.
It turned out that the Philippines had suffered from negative perceptions abroad over local high prices, delays in delivery of production outputs and shaky peace and order.
“But we have been here without any trouble at all for over 12 years already, and now, some [Taiwanese firms] are also looking at the possibility of locating here,” Yu said.
The company that bears his father’s name is engaged in decorative home lighting, handicrafts and furniture.
Paul-Yu Industrial used to have two factories in China and three in Taiwan, but Yu said the firm last year closed down its China operations and is preparing to greatly expand its Philippine operation that now employs at least 2,000 workers.
By Riza T. Olchondra
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 02:30:00 06/14/2008
MANILA, Philippines – The P100-million Malainen interchange in the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (Star) Tollway will be open to motorists Saturday.
A study by the Star Infrastructure Development Corp. (SIDC), the private company that built the road, said the new 42-kilometer interchange would cut travel time by about 30 minutes, compared to the current route, which passes through Alaminos and San Pablo in Laguna province and Tiaong, Candelaria and Lucena in Quezon province, via the Maharlika Highway.
Those coming through the Batangas City International Container Port can use the Malainen exit to reach the Bicol region or go north via Quezon province.
Southbound vehicles may enter through the Sto. Tomas portion of Star tollway, exit on the Malainen interchange in Ibaan, Batangas province, then proceed to Lucena or Candelaria in Quezon through Ibaan, Rosario, and San Juan, also in Batangas.
Star president Melvin Nazareno said the new toll road, including the Malainen interchange, is expected to encourage shipping companies and shippers to use the Batangas City International Container Port, thus decongesting the Port of Manila.
President Macapagal-Arroyo inaugurated in March the Star Tollway, a P2.1 billion build-transfer-operate project, from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to Balagtas, Batangas City, as part of the government’s efforts to accelerate economic development in the Calabarzon area and to promote convenient and affordable travel to the south via the Strong Republic Nautical Highway.
SIDC personnel will be on hand to assist motorists who can also call hotlines 043-7572277 and 043-7567870.
By Iris C. Gonzales
The Philippine Star
A measure creating a Personal Equity Retirement Account (PERA) for the government and private sector workers will bring the country’s savings rate at par with that of its neighbors in the region, Sen. Edgardo Angara said yesterday.
Angara, author of the bill and chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks, Financial Institutions and Currencies, said the savings rate in the Philippines is at 19 to 23 percent of gross domestic product (GDP) which is still below the savings rate in other countries which range from 30 to 40 percent of GDP.
He expects the retirement account to be in place before the end of the year as it has already been approved on Tuesday by the Senate and the House of Representatives in a joint bicameral conference.
The PERA measure, which seeks to supplement the existing government-sponsored pension scheme by setting up a privately funded retirement fund, is now awaiting the signature of President Arroyo.
Angara said the target of the retirement account is overseas Filipino workers because most of them are not members of the Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) or the Social Security System (SSS).
Under the PERA bill, an individual contributor may make a total maximum annual contribution of P100,000 or P200,000 for both spouses.
Contributions are required to be invested in a qualified PERA investment product, which may be a unit investment trust fund, mutual fund, insurance or pension products, deposit product, pre-need pension plan, shares of stock, exchange-traded bonds or any other investment product or outlet.
It aims to encourage long-term saving and reduce Filipinos’ heavy reliance on the already overwhelmed publicly-funded retirement scheme.
The contribution shall be given an income tax credit equivalent to five percent of the total PERA contribution. Income from the contribution as well as the eventual distribution of the PERA to the contributor shall also be tax exempt.
Angara said when the measure is approved into law, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Department of Finance (DOF) will be tasked to formulate the implementing rules and regulations.
By Christina Mendez
The Philippine Star
Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano hailed his colleagues in the Senate for passing on second reading the bill that seeks to provide at least P9,000 increase in monthly salaries of public school teachers and non-teaching personnel.
“This move of the Senate is a big step forward in showing that we are serious about improving and modernizing Philippine education,” Cayetano said.
Cayetano, chairman of the committee on education, arts and culture, sponsored Senate Bill 2408 under Committee Report 77 before Congress went into sine die adjournment last Wednesday.
The bill seeks to provide additional P9,000 increase in the monthly salaries of public school teachers as well as non-teaching personnel.
He said the proposal is to allow salary increases in three equal tranches of P3,000 per year until the P9,000 increase is fully received by each teacher.
Cayetano said more support will come in the form of medical allowance of at least P1,000 to be given for check-ups and other medical expenses.
This is on top of the annual Magna Carta bonus to answer for the unpaid benefits due to the teachers under Republic Act 4670 or the Magna Carta for Public School Teachers Act, he said.
CEBU CITY — Businesses in the Visayas may bid for grants from the Australian government to help commercialize innovative and viable business ideas to improve livelihood, incomes and access to goods and services.
The Enterprise Challenge Fund (ECF) for the Pacific and South East Asia, which is managed by the Australian Agency for International Development, will provide grants of P3.8 million to P57 million through an open competitive process.
Jason C. Magnaye, country manager for the Philippines, said applicants have until June 30 to submit their concept notes.
The brief concept notes will be reviewed by a panel of private sector representatives. Business projects that best satisfy the assessment criteria will be invited to submit a full application before November this year and the best applications are awarded a grant after further assessment by a panel.
"Visayas is the home of many of the Philippines’ leading businesses and it is very important that they are aware of the opportunities that ECF can bring. By promoting ECF to the business community we hope to encourage organizations to bid for the fund and help reduce poverty in their area," he said in a statement.
The bidders are required to show that their proposed project could not have obtained commercial funding and provide at least half of the project’s implementation costs.
A complete list of the eligibility criteria may be found on the fund’s Web site www.enterprisechallengefund.org, Mr. Magnaye added.
Australian Ambassador to the Philippines Rod Smith said the fund was established to assist the private sector carry out commercially viable projects that benefit the poor.
"Australia would like to see the private sector in the Philippines taking advantage of new and emerging opportunities, which can create lasting jobs, improve incomes, increase access to vital goods and services and stimulate the local economy," he said.
BY ALEXIS DOUGLAS B. ROMERO
Texas-based oil and gas producer Exxon Mobil Corp. (ExxonMobil) will invest on an oil exploration project in the southern Sulu Sea.
The commitment was made by Stephen M. Greenlee, ExxonMobil Exploration Co. vice-president, who made a courtesy call to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday in Malacañang.
"We told the President what we’re doing, what we expect to do in the future, and what our hopes and vision are for the area, and the President responded that she is very welcoming that we’re coming in.
"We are very happy that we’re working at such a good fiscal and regulatory regime here in the Philippines," he told the Presidential News Desk after his closed-door meeting with the President.
Mr. Greenlee said they are evaluating the amount of investment, but noted that implementing a drilling program usually costs as much as $100 million.
"So far, we have acquired seismic data out on the permit and we will evaluate. We just got the seismic data back into the office. We’re evaluating it. With continued encouragement from the seismic data we need to move forward and we will move forward if we elect to draw wells in the area," he said.
"We need to drill in the province and that will occur next year, so if we drill next year that will be through the middle of the year. That will be a very expensive proposal. Our drilling activities cost up to a million dollars so a drilling program could cost over a $100 million for us to explore the potential."
Mr. Greenlee said once their drilling activities succeed, the development of the site may require "several billions of dollars."
"Continued success would be a big deal for the Philippines — a major foreign investment in the country — and there will be a growth and multiplier effect in the region," he said.
Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes called the development "a major milestone" in oil exploration and development efforts.
"They are a big player, they don’t go into a country where the potentials are not great," he said.
On Tuesday, Mr. Reyes said ExxonMobil is eyeing Service Contract (SC) 56 which is being held by Malaysian exploration firm Mitra Energy Ltd.
In a statement, ExxonMobil confirmed that the government "has approved its [ExxonMobil] acquisition of a 50% operating interest in Block SC 56 located in the deepwater Sandakan Basin."
The company said it acquired the interest from Mitra Energy, which holds the remaining 50% interest in the more than 8,000-kilometer Block SC 56.
The statement said as an initial gesture of corporate citizenship, ExxonMobil Exploration and Production Philippines B. V. will contribute $25,000 (P1.11 million at P44.45:$1) to the World Food Program’s "Red Cup" campaign which provides daily mails to thousands of children in Mindanao.
ExxonMobil has subsidiaries in nearly 200 countries worldwide, including significant refining and marketing presence in more than 12 countries in Asia Pacific.
By Romie A. Evangelista
The Manila Standard
Amid the oil price spiral, the House of Representatives passed the renewable energy bill that seeks to reduce the country’s dependence on imported fuel and generate $1.2 billion in savings.
The measure, under House bill 4193, encourages investors to go into renewable energy projects by giving them a basket of fiscal incentives. It is authored by Pampanga Rep. Mikey Arroyo, energy committee chairman, and Camarines Sur Rep. Luis Villafuerte, vice-chairman.
Speaker Prospero Nograles called on the Senate to swiftly pass a counterpart bill to make the proposal into law.
“If enacted into law, this would trigger the accelerated development of renewable energy sources already found in the country like biomass, solar, wind, hydro, ocean energy or wave power, and geothermal energy sources,” Nograles said.
The measure also directs the Department of Energy, the National Power Corp. and other government agencies to develop and institute a framework for propagating renewable energy and seamlessly interconnecting these sources into the national power grid.
In his sponsorship speech, Arroyo said that the measure would also reduce harmful emissions and protect the environment and the health of the people.
“The measure mirrors the worldwide trend for countries to try to cut their dependence on crude oil whose prices have already reached unprecedented record levels, and with no signs of abating in the long term,” he said. In developed countries such as the US and those in Europe, Arroyo noted that they had already passed their own renewable energy development measures in the early 1990s.
Nograles appealed to the Senate to also speed up work on the passage of its own counterpart measure, saying it would address the present crisis brought by soaring fuel prices.
At present, the country relies on imported fuels like crude oil derivatives and coal for 48 percent of its energy needs. The remaining 52 percent of Philippine energy needs are sourced from indigenous sources like locally-produced crude oil, biomass, hydropower, and geothermal energy.
“Going by the DoE projections, if renewable energy sources can supply an additional 2,500 MW of total power supply in the next 10 years, then the country would stand to gain some $1.2 billion in energy savings over that same period,” he said.
Malou M. Mozo
The Manila Bulletin
CEBU CITY — The Cebu Ports Authority (CPA) announced the fast-track implementation of the project to construct the $ 18-billion international seaport in Cebu and it is presently looking for increased capitalization.
CPA general manager Angelo Verdan said the government agency is now holding talks with two international shipping blue lines who have expressed interest not only to fill in the loan requirements for the new Cebu port but to even speed up its completion.
He also said a Japanese firm and the Dubai Ports had earlier signified their intentions to Cebu Provincial Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia under a build-operate-transfer scheme.
"Cebu definitely needs a new port. Although not urgently, but it has to be built. The time to build is when it’s not yet needed," he told news reporters Wednesday.
He said CPA together with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) has already completed the preliminary studies for the proposed Cebu port, however actual construction has been slated in 2010.
The new Cebu port will sprawl across a 120-hectare reclaimed property in Tayud, Consolacion, Cebu.
Construction will be done in two phases. Phase one will include the reclamation development of the first 80-ha.
Verdan said, though it may take five to eight years for the international port to be finished and operational, he said this buys CPA more time to study other possible developments in the existing Cebu International Port (CIP).
Among the considerations raised was utilizing the area as a feasible cite for commercial or residential buildings either for hotels or condominiums, like the harbors in Hong Kong and Singapore.
"The CIP is still not yet saturated. We have the time," he said, adding that once the new Cebu port opens, it will catapult Cebu to becoming "an international shipping trading center."
Verdan deems the new Cebu port a "necessary investment" for Cebu if it wants to be competitive in the global shipping industry because the mean low level Water average of the existing docking area at the CIP is only 8.5 meters and this below international standards of at least 10 meters.
Friday, 13 June 2008
By Darwin G. Amojelar
The Manila Times
THE joint venture of D.M. Consunji and First Balfour will start the construction of a mass rail transit that will run from Monumento in Caloocan City to North Avenue in Quezon City next week, an official of the Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) said.
Costing about P6.4 billion, the project involves the construction, including the detailed design of a 5.71-kilometer elevated line from Monumento station of LRT Line 1 to North Avenue of Metro Rail Transit 3 (MRT 3), two new intermediate stations (Balintawak and Roosevelt) and a terminal station (Line 1 North Avenue station).
The Balintawak station will provide modal interchange with bus and jeepney services entering Metro Manila from the north via the North Luzon Expressway.
Of the P6.4 billion cost, civil and architectural works would amount to P3.4 billion; electromechanical works, P1.9 billion; consultancy services, P317.4 million, contingency, P318 million; and inflation adjustments, P342.4 million.
Melquiades Robles, LRTA administrator said the project will be state funded and implemented by the Department of Transportation and Communication.
The LRT North Extension Project is expected to serve around 800,000 to 1 million passengers once fully operational.
The project will be implemented in two years, with construction to begin this year and completed in April 2010.
Robles said the LRTA is negotiating with SM Prime Holdings Inc. for the financing of the additional station to be constructed between the proposed Roosevelt and North Avenue stations adjacent to the mall developer’s property. The additional station will cost P100 million.
In August 31. 2007, the LRTA and the consultant of the project, Metrolink JV met with the owners of Shoe Mart Department Stores.
LRTA said the SM group would finance a suitable cost-benefit analysis for the additional station.
The LRT North Extension Project, which aims to extend the existing LRT Line 1 to the North to close the EDSA Loop,will need three additional stations from the existing Monumento Station of Line 1 and ending at the North Avenue Station of MRT 3.
Four-Month Level Reaches US$5.4 Billion
Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks accelerated to post double-digit year-on-year growth of 18.4 percent in April 2008 to US$1.4 billion, up from the 9.4 percent growth realized the previous month. This brought the four-month remittance level to US$5.4 billion, 14.5 percent higher than the year-ago level.
The continued rise in remittances for the period January – April 2008 was partly fuelled by the double-digit growth in the number of deployed Filipino workers. Preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that for the first four months of 2008 the number of deployed Filipino workers grew by 14.0 percent from 350,520 to 399,638 reflecting the preference by host countries for Filipino manpower. Prospects of deployment remain upbeat given the country’s efficient deployment system and continued bilateral talks for employment opportunities with other labor-importing countries such as Canada. In a survey conducted by the Human Resources Development Service of Korea (HRD Korea), the Philippines was voted as the Best Practice Country for Korea’s Employment Permit System because of the country’s shortest period in processing requirements for deployment of workers to Korea.
Moreover domestic banks, acting as conduits of banking services, continue to provide expanded financial services to OF workers and their families through tie-ups with foreign financial institutions, establishment of remittance centers and marketing offices abroad, and stronger partnership with manning agencies. The recent acceptance/admission of the Megalink ATM Network into the Asian Payment Network (APN) is also expected to facilitate the flow of remittances.
The bulk of remittances continued to come from the U.S.A, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.
By Estrella Torres and Butch Fernandez
MEMBERS of the Joint Foreign Chambers of Commerce (JFC) who were “bullied” by senators in last week’s public hearing by the Senate energy committee have shrugged off the incident and remain upbeat about keeping their investments here.
This is according to Sen. Francis Escudero, who met with the JFC officials Wednesday.
“Actually, they were just laughing at whatever experience they had here in the Senate, and that didn’t hinder our pleasant exchange. Definitely, their outlook and opinion toward our country and to any government official didn’t turn negative as a result of their experience in the Senate,” Escudero told reporters after the meeting.
He said the JFC members were more interested in discussing pending bills on the rationalization of fiscal incentives and antismuggling measures, apart from the proposed amendments to the Electric Power Industry Reform Act (Epira).
The JFC members came under fire at the Senate last week after they sent a letter to President Arroyo seeking her help in stopping the Epira amendments and renegotiating power contracts that contained onerous take-or-pay provisions compelling consumers to pay even for power supply they did not use.
Meanwhile, Edsel Custodio, foreign affairs undersecretary for international economic affairs, said complaints by the foreign chambers should have been coursed through to the Philippines Department of Trade and Industry because these concern trade matters.
At the same time, he said the JFC letter that contained complaints against Senate moves to amend the Epira should’ve also been coursed through their respective ambassadors in the country.
“We have not received any letter from them [JFC],” said Custodio in a telephone interview on Thursday.
Foreign Undersecretary Franklin Ebdalin said the JFC had not coursed any letter to the department regarding the alleged mistreatment of foreign investors by Sen. Juan Ponce Enrile.
“I don’t know what triggered that emotional outburst in the Senate, “said Ebdalin. “[But] in international diplomacy, that [mistreatment] should not be given to members of foreign chambers who were merely invited to speak in the Senate hearing.”
The two diplomats expressed hopes that the matter would soon be settled and that respective governments of these foreign chambers will not resort to retaliatory actions against the Philippines and Filipinos.
“We have very strong bilateral relations with countries of these foreign chambers,” said Ebdalin, explaining that depending on the degree of “hurt,” these countries should not resort to retaliatory actions.
Meanwhile, an official of the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce criticized the hostile treatment received by the foreign chambers’ representatives.
Franz Roland Odenthal, chairman of the German-Philippine Chamber of Commerce, said foreign investors are big energy consumers in the country and should be consulted in the event of legislative changes that affect their respective businesses.
It’s a bit strange if the [Philippine] Senate invites representatives of the Joint Foreign Chambers and then does not give them the opportunity to even read their prepared statement,” said Odenthal in an interview at the sidelines of the Bosch Philippines annual press forum held Thursday at the German Club office in Makati City.
Odenthal, also the managing director of Bosch Philippines, said the mistreatment of the heads of the JFC, particularly Mr. Hubert D’Aboville of the European Chamber of Commerce in the Philippines, will not directly affect investor confidence in the Philippines.
However, European businessmen, particularly Germans, will “talk about the matter” over a bottle of beer while watching soccer tonight (referring to the success match in Europe being aired at the German Club restaurant in Makati on Thursday).
“It would be a topic in the soccer game tonight, but there is nothing in the community discussion [referring to European businessmen],” said Odenthal.
Owing to lack of time, the Senate adjourned Thursday after deferring further floor deliberations on the Epira amendments being sponsored by Enrile.
Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan told the BusinessMirror that the Epira debates would resume when Congress reconvenes sessions in July even as Minority Leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. confirmed that several senators are not done interpellating Enrile on the proposed amendments intended to lower power rates. “My colleagues have more questions,” said Pimentel.
Escudero added that the JFC members he met at the forum yesterday also assured they were willing to appear if invited to another Senate hearing.
By Max V. de Leon
SARI-SARI stores, sachets, electronic loads and unlimited texting.
These are just some of the models that the Philippines will be sharing with the rest of Asia on how entrepreneurs can better serve and reach the $3.5-billion “base of the pyramid” (BoP) market in the region.
The Ateneo School of Government, with funding support from the International Development Research Centre (IDRC) of Canada, is now embarking on a three-year study to document the best practices employed by local entrepreneurs, as well as innovations by the research and development sector, on how they have successfully served the needs of society’s poor population that are living on a daily income of under $2.
Dr. Antonio la Viña, dean of the Ateneo School of Government, said similar studies will also be done in other parts of the region, and this wealth of experiences will be exchanged by Asian countries.
The IDRC, la Viña said, has already committed to give up to $25,000 in grants for each study to be undertaken.
For Southeast Asia, the focus is on how science and technology innovations can effectively address the developmental needs of the economically marginalized sector in the region.
La Viña said the Philippines is already a pioneer in some successful models that can be shared to the world, particularly the marketing innovations of telecommunications firms and the sachets for personal-care products. “We should think of the poor as not just the recipients of [doles] but as a big market. We want to encourage investors to target the poor and ensure that they will be able to help them and not just exploit them,” La Viña told the BusinessMirror at the sidelines of the Philippine launch of the program Wednesday afternoon at the Ateneo School of Government in Rockwell, Makati.
During this time of crisis, la Viña said it is wrong for the government to just adopt solutions that are mere doles.
Instead, la Viña said the government should look at programs that will improve technology in several areas, especially in the production of food to lower the cost.
Globally, an estimated 4 billion individuals live below $2 a day and are considered the base of the pyramid. Collectively, however, this BoP is a $5-trillion market globally, and $3.5 billion in Asia.
By Max V. de Leon
THE Philippines landed in the top 10 globally of countries with the highest percentage increase in employment as reported by privately held businesses (PHBs) this year.
A survey conducted by global accountancy firm Grant Thornton International showed that private-sector employment in the country this year increased by 6 percent.
The Philippines emerged tied for 9th place with South Africa, Poland, Australia and Sweden in the study.
Vietnam emerged at the top of the survey with a 14-percent hike in employment; followed by India and China with 12 percent; Armenia, 11 percent; Brazil, 9 percent; Argentina and Singapore, 8 percent; and Turkey, 7 percent.
The East Asia increment is 8 percent, double the global average of 4 percent.
Last year, local PHBs collectively reported an 8-percent increase in employment.
Grant Thornton’s local partner Punongbayan & Araullo (P&A) said companies in the Philippines are having a hard time filling up their requirements for manpower because of the job-skills mismatch problem in the country.
“There are available jobs out there, but what’s happening is that employers are having a hard time finding people with the right skills to fill up these positions,” Greg Navarro, P&A managing partner and CEO, said.
Earlier results from the International Business Report (IBR) show that 58 percent of Filipino business leaders are having a difficult time expanding their businesses due to the lack of skilled workers in the country, making the Philippines the top three country globally whose business growth is limited most by this human-resource problem.
Navarro said the continuing diaspora of local talent is partly to blame for this.
“We’re seeing our engineers leaving for Russia and the Persian Gulf states, our journalists moving to Singapore and the UAE, and our geologists moving to China and Australia. And at the rate they are leaving, the employers they leave behind are having to play catch-up: They have to match that pace when they search for, and train, people to replace these workers. That’s a tall order,” Navarro said.
The Employment Growth Index is formed from responses given in the Grant Thornton IBR. It is determined by calculating the absolute increases and decreases in employment reported by businesses and then calculating the year-on-year head-count change as a percentage for each population as a whole.
By Jerry Botial
The Philippine Star
Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro Mendoza announced yesterday that the construction of four more railway stations to connect the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) North EDSA terminal in Quezon City with the Light Railway Transit (LRT) Monumento terminal in Caloocan City will start this month.
Speaking at the 110th Independence Day rites in Caloocan City, Mendoza said “the completion of the (LRT-MRT) loop will mean safe, comfortable and environment-friendly travel for commuters. The rail does not use oil but electricity.”
The project will complete the loop formed by the MRT line – which runs from EDSA-Taft Avenue to North EDSA – and the LRT Line 1 – which runs from EDSA-Taft Avenue to Monumento – by establishing four more stations between North EDSA and Monumento.
Mendoza said the 5.2-kilometer project would cost some P6.4 billion, about P1.23 billion per kilometer. The amount would reportedly come from the National Development Company (NDC), a government-owned financial corporation. Caloocan City Mayor Enrico Echiverri said there will be no need to relocate the Bonifacio Shrine in Monumento since the construction will not affect it.
During the previous administration, the transfer of the historic 82-year-old landmark to a remote place in Caloocan North became a hot issue when the same interconnection was broached six years ago.Mendoza said construction of the loop will begin sometime this June. The project is expected to be completed by April 2010. The loop begins commercial operation by May 2010, he said.
Tribunal expanded to expedite action on cases
Judiciary’s budget hiked by P3 billion
Genalyn D. Kabiling, Rey G. Panaligan
The Manila Bulletin
President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo yesterday signed into law at the session hall of the Supreme Court (SC) Republic Act No. 9503 that increased to nine the number of justices of the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) to expedite the resolution of tax cases.
At the same time, President Arroyo announced a P3-billion increase in the 2009 budget of the judiciary during the first meeting of the Judiciary, Executive, Legislative Advisory Council (JELAC) held at the SC.
The President is expected to appoint soon three new justices for the Court of Tax Appeals (CTA) with the increase in its membership from six to nine. Republic Act No. 9503 adds a third division of the CTA.
The old law, Republic Act 1125, provided for only two divisions and six CTA members.
Under RA 9503, the Court of Tax Appeals will have the same level as the Court of Appeals, possessing all the powers of a Court of Justice. It will consist of a Presiding Justice and eight Associate Justices. The law authorized the CTA to sit en banc or in three divisions, each consisting of three justices.
The Presiding Justice and the two most senior associate justices will serve as chairmen of the three divisions.
The additional three justices shall be appointed by the President upon nomination of the Judicial and Bar Council. "They shall have the same qualifications, rank, category, salary, emoluments, and other privileges, be subject to the same inhibitions and disqualifications, and enjoy the same retirement and other benefits as those provided under existing laws for Presiding Justice and Associate Justices of the Court of Appeals," the law said.
The CTA members will hold office until they reach the age of 70 or become incapacitated to discharge the duties of their office.
Five justices shall constitute a quorum for sessions en banc and two justices for sessions of a division. When the required quorum cannot be constituted due to any vacancy, disqualification, inhibition, disability, or any other lawful cause, the Presiding Justice shall designate any justice of other sivisions of the court to sit temporarily therein.
The affirmative votes of five members of the court en banc shall be necessary to reverse a decision of a division. A simple majority of the justices present is necessary to promulgate a resolution or decision in all cases.
The law also provides that a budget of P20 million will be given to the CTA based on a special supplemental budget submitted by the Department of Budget and Management, to carry out the expanded operations.
The law will take effect 15 days after its publication in two national newspapers.
At present, the members of the CTA are Presiding Justice Ernesto D. Acosta and Associate Justices Juanito C. Castañeda Jr., Lovell R. Bautista, Erlinda P. Uy, Caesar A. Casanova, and Olga Palanca Enriquez. Presiding Justice Acosta chairs the 1st Division with Justices Bautista and Casanova as members, while Justice Castañeda chairs the 2nd Division with Justices Uy and Palanca Enriquez as members.
Among those who witnessed the signing ceremony yesterday were Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate President Manuel Villar Jr, Speaker Prospero C. Nograles, Chief Justice S. Reynato Puno, and the incumbent CTA justices.
Others who witnessed the signing were Senators Francis Pangilinan and Edgardo Angara, Reps. Edcel Lagman, Mat Defensor, and Raul del Mar, and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita. The signing was also witnessed by the incumbent CTA justices.
Under the expanded CTA, Presiding Justice Acosta will preside over the full court sessions and chair the first division, Castaneda will head the second division, and Bautista will lead the third division.
The CTA was set up in 1954 under RA 1125 with only three members. The law was amended by RA 9282 that increased the number CTA members to six and elevated their rank from judge to justice.
Thursday, 12 June 2008
By Abigail Kwok
MANILA, Philippines --The Department of Transportation and Communication (DOTC) has officially began the construction of the "closed loop" Metro Rail and Light Rail Transit Systems.
The P6.4 billion project will connect the LRT and MRT, from the Monumento station in Caloocan to the North Avenue station in Quezon City, Secretary Leandro Mendoza said Thursday.
The closed loop train system will run entirely on electricity, making it "fast, efficient, safe, and environment friendly," Mendoza added.
The construction of the closed loop project will start this Thursday and will finish on April 2010, Mendoza said.
It will be operational on May 2010, Mendoza said.
CLICK FOR VIDEO.
By Francisco Alcuaz Jr. and Clarissa Batino
June 12 (Bloomberg) -- Philippine President Gloria Arroyo said she will use most of the government's additional spending this year to help Filipinos cope with record oil and rice prices, after abandoning a plan to balance the budget.
``We have to reserve for ourselves the right to invest in our people and yet maintain fiscal prudence,'' Arroyo, 61, said in a Bloomberg Television interview in Manila yesterday. The higher spending ``will go mostly to alleviate the burden on our people of the increase in the price of oil and price of rice.''
Arroyo's government last month said it would delay its plan to balance the budget to 2010 as it boosts rice subsidies and investment to spur growth. The Philippines' deficit may widen for the first time in six years to as much as 75 billion pesos in 2008 before easing to 40 billion pesos next year, according to the government.
The figures are caps, not targets, Arroyo said. ``It doesn't mean we are going to aim to spend that. We cannot allow a deficit of more than 1 percent of GDP.''
The economy expanded 7.2 percent last year, the fastest pace in three decades, and the budget deficit narrowed to 12.4 billion pesos from a record 210.7 billion pesos in 2002.
``More of the risks for the Philippines are on the fiscal side,'' James McCormack, head of Asia-Pacific sovereign ratings at Fitch Ratings in Hong Kong, said on June 9. Still, the company won't change the country's BB debt rating because ``we never subscribed to the view that there would be a balanced budget this year.''
The Philippines had ``very strong economic fundamentals'' before the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis hurt global growth prospects, and ``it gives us a lot of room to maneuver in order to ease the burden on our people,'' Arroyo said.
The president said she ordered National Power Corp. to cut rates to damp inflation because the state-owned electricity generator, which has been selling assets, can afford it.
Arroyo said she wasn't concerned that actions taken by her, the pension fund and regulators will turn investors away from Philippine utilities and other stocks.
``There is more to investment than the stock exchange,'' she said. ``What we want is competitive manufacturing, agricultural and services sectors. Power is very important to these sectors. I hope investors will see this. I think that should not really scare away investors.''
To contact the reporters for this story: Francisco Alcuaz Jr. in Manila at email@example.com; Clarissa Batino in Manila at firstname.lastname@example.org
Instead of the usual grand parade, the government chose today to commemorate the country’s 110th year of independence from colonial rule by investing in “service to the poor” projects.
Indeed, this year’s commemoration of the Philippines’ Independence Day was marked with an array of projects, programs and lots and lots of kiosks offering livelihood projects which the people could avail of.
And in the middle of it all is the Sentro K3 (Kaisahan, Kagalingan at Kalayaan ng Bayan), a showcase of job fairs, sports and cultural activities, medical assistance, technology transfer seminars and demonstrations, which the President formally opened today.
Aside from the above-mentioned programs, the Sentro K3 also showcases agri-aqua fairs and exhibits and other special services and assistance extended directly to the people by various government agencies participating in the event.
Specifically, the programs under the Sentro K3 are:
• MSME (micro, small and medium enterprise) booths: Offer MSME services, award microfinance checks to beneficiaries and training scholarships to the people.
• Ang Galing-galing Natin: A showcase where all participating government agencies provide interesting exhibits cum lectures and audio-visual shows about government programs.
• Bayan Ko, Lapit sa Puso Ko: A pro-poor program where all participating government agencies provide services to the public, including jobs, housing, health and investments.
• Wow, Pinoy Ngayon: A showcase of Filipino talents in sports, entertainment, sciences and culture.
• Food Trips: The best of Filipino food at affordable prices, will food stalls strategically located in and around the venue.
• Lakad-Aral sa Liwasan: Free park tours for visitors.
• One Town One Product (OTOP): A program of the Department of Trade and Industry promoting the best of Philippine products form the different regions of the country.
The President personally visited these stalls after her speech to get a first-hand look at the kind of services being offered to the people.
My fellow Filipinos and friends of the Philippines -- Mabuhay!
I greet you from the grand hall of the Malacañan Palace Museum on this 110th Anniversary of our Declaration of Independence.
A century and a decade ago today, our revolutionary forefathers braved superior arms and the privations of war to break the chains of colonialism and stand proud among the free nations of the world, Asia’s first republic.
Today, as we celebrate with pride that historic moment, we take stock of what we as a nation have achieved with unity, audacity, sacrifice and patriotism, and we look forward with hope, to what we shall claim for our national future.
Our vision is based on a strong and growing economy. It is the central pillar we have labored to create to help guarantee peace, order and stability in our country. Our labor is paying off: last year we had the strongest economy in over 30 years, investments are surging and we are close to balancing our budget.
True to our heritage of freedom, we staunchly protect and strengthen the vibrant democracy that we have restored twenty-two years ago. Our political discourse is vibrant, our press is free, our Constitution shelters all who seek its protection and embrace the rule of law.
We have tackled our unfortunate legacy of political violence whether it is in the Philippines or abroad with foreign leaders and human rights organizations. We have met with a lot of success since the formation of what was to become the Melo Commission. Extrajudicial killings are down and prosecutions are up. We will not be satisfied until we are at zero, but we are making progress.
We have made tough and politically unpopular decisions to raise revenues and crack down on smugglers so that we could invest in our physical infrastructure and in our people.
We are delivering investments in three critical areas, what we call the “three E’s,” namely: the Economy, the Environment and Education. These issues are central to lifting our nation up and getting it ready for the next generation of leaders.
The results of our efforts come none too soon. There are global clouds on the horizon that are driving up the price of oil and food, particularly rice.
Thankfully, we are now in a vastly improved position to weather this storm than at any other time in recent memory.
Our people are enterprising and welcomed everywhere, as quick learners and hardworkers who are also generous of spirit to strangers and friends alike. As our countrymen and women build successful careers and prosperous lives all over the world, foreign investors and travelers flock to our islands eager to harness Filipino talent, enjoy Filipino hospitality, and marvel at the beauty and grandeur of 7,108 magnificent Philippine islands. Our archipelago shelters us all -- Filipinos, foreigners, and compatriots across the world warmed by memories of your homeland.
With solidarity, sacrifice and singular purpose, our heroes brought forth a new nation. With the same love of country binding all Filipinos, we too shall achieve for the Philippines and all its peoples the blessings of freedom, justice and progress, and our esteemed place among the great nations of the world.
We remain bullish on our country, optimistic about our future and deeply committed to being a force for good.
In this march to our collective tomorrow I ask all of you to join as one – for our motherland, for our families, and for the generations to come.
Mabuhay ang Pilipinas!
President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Speech: 110th Anniversary of the Proclamation of Philippine Independence
Plaza San Lorenzo Ruiz, Rizal Park, Manila, June 12, 2008
Maraming salamat, Kalihim Lapus.
Excellencies of the Diplomatic Corps; Mayor Lim; the congressman from this district, Congressman Amado Bagatsing; our other Congress persons who are here today with us: Congressman Benny Abante, Congressman Asilo, Congressman Roxas, Congresswoman Susano -- Oh? No, I greeted Bagatsing first, it's his district, okay. It's his district, okay. Didn't I greet you first? Okay -- (laughter)…Our members of the Committee who worked very hard to make this out-of-the-box Independence Day Commemoration headed by Secretary Lapus but we have Chairman Ambeth Ocampo who's been very active as well; other members of the Cabinet and national government officials who are here today; our officers of the Armed Forces and the police; non-government organizations; mga ibang kasama ko sa pamahalaan; mga Kababayan; ladies and gentlemen.
Happy 110th Anniversary of the Republic of the Philippines!
Isang siglo’t isang dekada na ang nakalipas mula noong ideklara ang kasarinlan ng bagong Republikang Pilipinas doon sa Kawit, Cavite.
Noon tulad din ngayon, maraming banta at maraming hamon ang hinarap ng ating bayan. Kahit isinigaw na ang kasarinlan sa Kawit, marami pa ring bahagi ng Pilipinas ang nasa ilalim ng puwersa ng kolonyalismo.
Nguni’t hindi umatras ang mga bayaning nagtatag ng ating bayan. Hindi sila nagpagapi sa anumang pag-aalinlangan tungkol sa kanilang magiging kinabukasan. Bagkus, pinalakas nila ang loob ng buong sambayanan upang ipaalam sa buong mundo na may bagong silang na bansa, ang bansang Pilipinas, na handang lumahok sa komunidad ng malalayang bansa sa buong mundo.
Sa kasalukuyang panahon, sa harap ng mga banta at hamon na hatid ng kapalaran ng buong mundo, dapat nating isaloob at patuloy na buhayin ang mga katangiang nagbigay-dakila sa ating mga ama, ina ng ating bayan. Ang kanilang magiging makabayan, ang pagmamalasakit sa kapwa, ang tibay ng kanilang kapasiyahan na magtatag at magtanggol sa isang malaya at maunlad na bansa.
Para sa ating Independence Day sa taong ito, ang bumabalot na tema ay ang “Republic Service sa Ganap na Kalayaan at Kaunlaran.”
Chairman Ambeth Ocampo was telling me, was telling us about his first chairmanship of the working group in 2002, that the parade was too short. I was telling him I wasn't really scolding him because it had been the Cabinet members who said, "Let's make the parade short." But after the parade, I was watching TV and one of the citizens who came all the way from Isabela told the TV reporter, "I came all the way from Isabela to see all those floats and I didn't see too many of them." So it's really very difficult to figure out what is the right length of a parade.
Anyway, this year we have no such dilemma, but we have decided that in keeping with how we are trying to conserve our resources so that we can give direct service to the people during this period of high world prices of oil and food, we have decided to dispense with the parade and use the budget instead to give direct service to the poor.
Kaya binibigyang diin ng temang ito ang nangingibabaw na tungkulin ng ating pamahalaan na paglingkuran ang mamamayan, upang mabigyan ng katubusan ang mahaba nating pakikibaka para sa kalayaan, at upang magkaroon ng kaganapan ang pambansang kaunlaran.
Ang pananagutang maglingkod ay lalong matingkad na ihandog sa hanay ng mahihirap, pinakamahihirap sa ating kababayan, na kasalukuyang hinahagupit ng mga kasalukuyang suliranin hatid ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya. Kung hindi man natin kayang iwasan ang mga problemang ito na angkat mula sa ibayong dako, saklaw pa rin ng ating tungkulin ang mamahagi ng tulong para sa pinahihirapan nito.
Nakapagtindig ng matipunong ekonomiya ang Pilipinas, na tumutulong harapin ang hamon ng panmundong sibad ng presyo ng pagkain at langis. Nagbubunga na ang ating pagsisikap: sa 2007, naabot ng ekonomiya ang pinakamataas na paglago sa mahigit tatlumpung taon, malakas ang piso, malapit na nating mabalanse ang budget.
Bunga ng pagsigla ng ekonomiya, nakapamumuhunan tayo sa mga pangunahing sektor para sanggahan ang dagok sa maralita ng tumatalong halaga ng bigas at krudo. Naitutuloy din nating mamuhunan sa kailangang imprastraktura gaya ng mga kalsada, mga tulay, edukasyon, para banggitin ang ilan lamang. Habang binabalanse natin ito mga napaka-kailangang pamumuhunan sa pangakong matupad ang ating mga obligasyong piskal at mabalanse ang budget sa 2010.
Ang katatagan ng mga batayan ng ating ekonomiya ay natutulungan din ng dumadaming iba’t-ibang bansang bumibili ng ating produkto. Halimbawa, hindi na tayo gaano umaasa lamang sa ating benta sa Amerika, at di-hamak malakas na tayong nakakapasok sa Tsina at iba pang mga palengke sa Asya.
Walang pagod tayong nagpupursige upang tugunan ang mga hamong bunga ng paghina ng ekonomiya ng mundo at pagsipa ng mga presyo ng langis at pagkain. Malubha ang tama sa mahihirap nitong mga puwersang pandaigdig.
Maliwanag na ang kalagayan ng ekonomiya, dala ng mahal na langis at pagkain sa mundo ay isang hamon, at hinaharap natin ito nang buong sigasig. Nakikialam tayo upang ipagtanggol ang ating pinakamahihirap.
Nagsisikap ang pamahalaan upang tiyakin na ang kasapatan ng pagkain ng bansa ay matatag at maglagay tayo ng pagkain sa hapag ng bawat Pilipino.
May tatlong haligi ang ating plano: tiyaking sapat ang ating bigas, subaybayan ang maayos na pagbebenta ng bigas, at hulihin ang mga nagtatago at nagpupuslit ng bigas.
Marami na ang mga nagsasamantala na ating natunton, napigil at nakakasuhan. Bagaman matagal ang proseso ng batas, at tama naman sa demokrasya, huwag magkamali: mabilis tayong kumikilos nang buong bagsik laban sa mga lumalabag sa batas.
Nakatutok din sa pinakamahihirap ang ating pagsisikap, upang siguruhin na sila ang mangungunang makakuha ng bigas na kailangan nila.
We have adequate supply of rice today, and we have a solid plan for self-sufficiency. This is important for our domestic and international audiences to appreciate. Samantala, nag-aambag tayo ng bigas at pagkain para sa reserba, ngunit para sa hinaharap. Magagawa nating maghatid ng pagkain sa hapag. And I am gratified and grateful to the Lord that notwithstanding the very high price of rice in the whole world market in the last two quarters, hunger has gone down significantly. Thank God for that.
Lagi tayong nag-aabala sa ibinabayad ng kuryente ng mga pamilya. Habang kaya, gusto nating bumaba ito.
Pagdating sa langis, pinakamabigat ang tama ng mataas na presyo ng diesel at pang araw-araw na bilihin sa maralita. Bagaman pandaigdigang problema ang mataas na presyo ng langis at labas sa kapangyarihan ng isang gobyerno, nagpapatupad tayo ng mga programa upang tulungan ang ating mamamayan. Ibinaba natin ang taripa o customs duty sa langis, ginawa na lamang nating zero. Nagbibigay rin tayo ng pera para sa pinakamahihirap para tulungan silang makayanang bayaran ang kanilang kuryente.
Subalit anuman ang ating gawin, pangdaigdigang problema ito, at dapat tayong magbalikatan upang maibsan ito, upang magkaroon ng lutas sa malayong hinaharap.
Sa enerhiya, gaya ng sa pagkain, pandaigdigan itong isyu at labas sa ating kakayahan ang malaking bahagi na magagawa nating kilos. Gayon pa man, nagbibigay tayo ng kapili-piling pang-ginhawa sa krudo at langis na nakatutok sa pinaka-nangangailangan. Nagsusulong tayo ng mga mahigpit na pagkilos upang magtipid sa enerhiya at mas umasa sa sarili nating pagkukunan ng enerhiya, sa bisa ng mga investment sa natural gas, geothermal at kuryenteng galing sa araw at hangin. At salamat din na meron tayong produksiyon ng sariling krudo para umabot sa diyes porsiyento ng ating pangangailangan ang sarili nating produksiyon ng krudo.
Malaking pabigat sa buong mundo at sa Pilipinas ang mga problema ng pandaigdigang ekonomiya. At mamumuhunan tayo sa taong-bayan upang makaraos sa panahong ito.
Marami ang kailangang gawin. Magtatrabaho tayo upang tuparin ang ating mga planong reporma para sa Pilipinas. Ipaglalaban natin ang Ekonomiya, Edukasyon at ang Environment.
Itinaguyod ng ating mga sinaunang bayani ang isang bagong bayan sa pamamagitan ng kanilang pagbuklod, pagsakripisyo at pag-iisang damdamin. Kung pupunuin din ang ating mga puso ng kasintulad na pagmamahal sa bayan, makakamit din natin ang matatamis na bunga ng kalayaan, katarungan at kaunlaran. Makakahanay din natin ang ibang mga dakila’t malalayang bansa sa mundo.
Tungo sa matayog na layuning ito, hinihiling ko ngayon na magkaisa tayong lahat alang-alang sa Inang Bayan, alang-alang sa pamilya ng bawat mamamayan, alang-alang sa mga darating pang salinlahi.
Muli, sa ating lahat, Happy 110th Independence Day.
Maraming salamat sa inyong lahat.
Bloomberg with AFP
The Manila Standard
CEBU Pacific, the Philippines second-largest carrier, will reduce domestic fares by as much as 31 percent starting today to attract more passengers, betting higher traffic will offset rising fuel costs.
“If we stick to current fare levels and fly empty planes, that doesn’t help the airline,” vice president Candice Iyog said.
“We want to ensure that the costs won’t be prohibitive.”
Cebu Pacific, which has raised fuel surcharges four times this year, aims to lure passengers previously deterred by high fares and rising inflation. The plan is contrary to carriers such as Korean Air Lines Co., which have imposed levies and cut capacity to cope with jet-fuel prices that have doubled in a year.
Cebu Pacific had filled about 83 percent of its seats so far this year and the fare cut was aimed at keeping sales at the same level, Iyog said.
“We’re worried that with fuel going high, demand might go down,” she said.
Inflation in the Philippines, which reached a nine-year high in May, might climb to 11 percent in the coming quarter, central bank Gov. Amando Tetangco said June 8.
That may leave people with less money to spend on holidays and leisure trips.
“Discretionary travel goes away as inflation rises,” Iyog said.
Cebu Pacific expects to fly more than 7 million passengers this year, about 30 percent more than a year earlier as it boosts its fleet to 25 planes from 15 last year.
But record-high oil prices have sparked the biggest crisis in the Asian airline industry since the SARS scare, and analysts say some carriers are likely to go under if prices do not let up soon.
They say many of the region’s airlines are ill-prepared to cope with the price surge, which saw oil top $139 a barrel last week amid wide expectation prices will only keep rising in the months ahead.
“No one is going to escape this crisis unscathed,” said Derek Sabudin, an analyst from the Sydney-based Center for Asia Pacific Aviation consultancy.
He said airlines faced a “severe shakeout” if extremely high fuel prices continued, with the industry already coping with the fallout from a US-led global economic slowdown.
Including nat’l priority measures of LEDAC
Senate OKs priority, including medicine, tax exemption bills
Hannah L. Torregoza
The Senate has passed more than 30 measures, including eight which have been outlined by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Consultative Council (LEDAC) as priority bills, Senate President Manuel B. Villar Jr. said yesterday just before its adjournment sine die.
Villar said the 30 measures, all involving national application, were passed by the Senate on third reading on the first regular session of the 14th Congress from July 23, 2007, to June 11, 2008.
The LEDAC priority bills that have been approved by the Senate included the Cheaper Medicines Bill, the Individual Income Tax Rates Exemption for Minimum Wage Earners, the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, the Magna Carta for Small and Medium Enterprises, the University of the Philippines Charter, the Civil Aviation Act, and the R1.227-trillion national budget or the General Appropriations Act for 2008 which the Upper Chamber passed after two weeks of marathon deliberations in December last year.
The Senate also passed a bill that allows Filipino World War II veterans to continue receiving Philippine government pensions and benefits simultaneously with similar pensions and benefits provided by the US government and a bill amending certain sections of the law creating the Court of Tax Appeals.
The Personal Equity and Retirement Account, or PERA, which aims to create a sustainable retirement fund for Filipino workers in public and private employment, especially those working overseas, was also approved by the Senate.
Villar said the measures passed by the Senate sought to promote economic advancement and the establishment of a healthy financial and economic environment for the country.
"Napakaganda ng accomplishment ng Senado ngayon. Mahigit 30 na national bills na ang napasa sa first regular session at iyon ay isang record number," Villar said, adding that most of the bills that were passed were for the benefit of the poor sector and those in the lower-income bracket.
The long-awaited bill calling for amendments to the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP), however, has yet to be tackled by the Senate for plenary debates as the committee handling the issue has yet to submit a committee report for CARP, Villar said.
Meanwhile, Sen. Edgardo Angara, chairman of the Senate Committee on Banks and Financial Institutions, expressed elation after the passage of the PERA bill, which he sponsored.
Since the start of his term, Angara said he has already called for the strengthening of capital markets through a sevenpoint financial reform agenda which includes setting up a private pension scheme to supplement the government-funded retirement scheme through PERA.
"Part of the reason why job creation in our country is limited is the weak capital market. Money does not circulate smoothly because we do not have enough financial instruments to allow access to financing. I have nothing against banks but it is quite unhealthy that our financing mainly comes from banks – or worse, ‘five-six’ for small businesses – for lack of other options," Angara said.
Angara also strongly supported the extension of the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) which intends to support projects to make the agriculture sector globally competitive, viable, efficient and sustainable.
The Civil Aviation Authority Act sponsored by Sen. Juan Ponce-Enrile’s was also one of the bills the Senate immediately acted upon.
The new law establishes a single, centralized, and autonomous civil aviation authority in the Philippines.
Under this law, the new Civil Aviation Authority functions as "a regulatory agency, charged with creating and implementing rules that will promote the aviation industry in the country while emphasizing aviation safety at all times."
Among other measures passed by the Senate include the Establishment of the Pre-Need Code of 2008 which seeks to protect policy and plan holders from liquidity woes, granting of additional retirement benefits to members of the judiciary, providing additional benefits and protection to househelpers, and stiffer penalties for the crime of theft and robbery of mobile phones and other telecommunication devices.
A bill directing all law enforcement agencies and other government agencies tasked to enforce Peace and Order to Issue Rules and Regulations on Presentation of Suspects under their custody to the media, provision for Good Conduct Time Allowances, expansion of the Breastfeeding Act, Environmentl Awareness through Environmental Education also passed Senate on third and final reading.
The resolution concurring the ratification of the RP-Spain treaty of the Treaty on the Transfer of Sentenced Persons was also passed last November as well as the bill providing compensation to victims of human rights violations during the Marcos’ regime.
Other bills passed by the Senate are: the Establishment of the Credit Information System, Declaration of May 7 of every year as Health Workers’ Day, limiting the reappointment of a regular member of the Judicial and Bar Council who has served full-term, decriminalizing vagrancy, establishment of the Livelihood and Skills Training Centers in municipalities, resolution concurring in the ratification of the Headquarters Agreement between RP and the International Rice Research Institute, the Special Program for Employment of Students, amendments to the National Internal Revenue Code of 1997, providing a mechanism for free legal assistance, reducing the local amusement tax, and the tourism bill.
Wednesday, 11 June 2008
OIL is expected to come out of the Galoc oil field in Palawan next week, with output aimed at local refineries to cut the country’s dependence on imported oil, whose prices are at an all-time high.
Galoc comes as a relief for the Philippines, which is trying to cut its annual import bill of $6 billion and is reeling from soaring fuel and food costs that have pushed inflation to record highs. Galoc will also be Otto Energy’s first oil field to come on stream.
"We are pleased to announce that the development of Galoc oil field is completed and that the first flow of oil is estimated to be commencing [on] June 16," Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes told reporters.
The Philippines’ newest oil field holds deep significance, not only for the country whose meager output Galoc will hike by about three-quarters to slightly more than 40,000 barrels per day, but also for Otto Energy and Nido Petroleum, two small independent Australian companies.
The oil field is expected to produce 17,500 barrels per day.
Otto Energy acquired a 31.38% stake in Galoc Production Co. (GPC) in December, with European trader Vitol holding the remaining 68.62%.
GPC operates the Galoc field with a 58.29% interest. The remaining 41.71% is split between Nido Petroleum with a 22.28% share and several Philippine partners.
"The Philippines will earn from the sales of crude oil [that] will be benchmarked at international prices and with domestic refineries being given the first priority," Mr. Reyes said. "Rather than be exported, it will be consumed locally."
Mr. Reyes said this would translate to $1.4 billion in foreign exchange savings for the country from the start of commercial production until the life of the well expires.
Galoc is said to contain 10 million to 20 million barrels of oil reserves. He said the oil is high-quality, light, nonwaxy and has a medium sulfur content.
"It is premium oil and could be refined in refineries here," Mr. Reyes said. The new crude will be the first major crude oil addition to the Asia-Pacific region. — Reuters
By Cai U. Ordinario
THE decline in export earnings from the country’s top exports has failed to temper year-on-year export-earnings growth in April, which was registered at 4.9 percent, according to data released by the National Statistics Office (NSO) Tuesday.
The NSO said export earnings in April 2008 was higher at $4.325 billion from $4.124 billion in April 2007. Compared with the previous month’s level, total export revenue also grew by 3.2 percent from $4.193 billion.
LOCAL AIRLINES REQUEST FOR MORE SEAT ENTITLEMENTS
By LENIE LECTURA
THE government is pursuing air talks with several countries as local airlines are setting their sights on more overseas flights.
A Philippine air panel will soon negotiate with its counterpart in Australia to amend an existing bilateral air services agreement (ASA) following requests from Philippine Airlines (PAL) and Cebu Pacific for more seat entitlements.
An official of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) said Tuesday that Cebu Pacific has recently informed the board of its interest to mount flights to Australia. PAL, on the other hand, wants to increase its flights to that continent.
“We received a letter from Cebu Pacific. It is planning to fly to Australia in September this year. PAL already flies there but it had reduced its flights before. Now, they want to add more flights to Australia,” said CAB deputy director Porvenir Porciuncula in an interview.
PAL and Cebu Pacific are planning to mount daily flights to Australia, added the CAB official.
The CAB is waiting for reply from the Australian officials’ availability if air talks can be set next month. “We have to negotiate for an amended ASA with Australia so that we could accommodate the requests of interested airlines,” added Porciuncula.
Next month, the CAB will also pursue similar talks with the Netherlands. “The Netherlands air talks will be held first week of July. Right now, KLM is the only airline operating Manila-Amsterdam direct flight. PAL can gain access to Europe with a code-share deal with KLM. There is a demand to increase the frequencies, particularly for business people and investors who are always on-the-go and prefer direct flights. These are the reasons why we need more flight entitlements,” said Porciuncula.
The CAB is also working on to finalizing the schedules for air talks with Japan, Thailand and Cambodia. “We are targeting to hold air talks with these countries from August onwards,” he said.
For this month, the panel will go to Clark for a scheduled two-day air talks with Hong Kong officials. Other agencies involved in the air talks are the departments of Transportation and Communications, Tourism and Trade and Industry as well as other airline representatives.
“We are trying to increase the flights to Hong Kong in other points outside Manila like Clark, Cebu and Davao. Manila’s airport is already saturated,” added the CAB official.
Hong Kong air talks is slated on June 25 and 26, added Porciuncula.
Cebu Pacific had said it could exceed its goal to carry seven million passengers this year if allowed to mount flights from Clark to Hong Kong.
The airline unit of Gokongwei-owned JG Summit Holdings targets to reach at least seven million passengers this year from last year’s 5.5 million. If given a chance to match the Clark-Hong Kong service of Hong Kong Express, then it could carry a total of more than seven million passengers this year, airline officials said.
“It is unfortunate that a Filipino airline does not have the same privilege a foreign airline enjoys in the Philippines,” said Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice president for marketing and product. She added that Cebu Pacific’s application last year to fly from Clark to Hong Kong, among other destinations, was turned down by the Hong Kong Civil Aviation due to the lack of entitlements.
Hong Kong Express, however, can mount the same service because of Executive Order 500A, which virtually opened up Clark to foreign carriers. “But the favor has not been returned. In our case, the foreign governments turned down our application to fly from Clark, making it a nonviable fourth hub for Cebu Pacific at this time. We would like to see reciprocity and fairness,” she added.
Iyog added that making Clark the staging point for various international destinations is strategically important since those from northern Luzon do not have to travel all the way to Manila to catch their international flights. Also, this will unlock economic opportunities in the North and will prepare Clark for its eventual expanded role as an international gateway.
Cebu Pacific and PAL have always been for reciprocal open skies and are agreeable to a competitive setup because this would give the Philippine carriers the same opportunity being given to foreign carriers in vying for passengers and operating new routes.
Cebu Pacific will still continue to pursue a fourth operational hub in Clark as soon as all the necessary government approvals to operate to Bangkok, Macau, Taipei, Hong Kong and Singapore are granted. It also wants to fly to Bangkok three times a week; Macau, four times a week; and daily to Hong Kong from the Clark airport.
Tuesday, 10 June 2008
MANILA, Philippines – Filipino-American swimmer Miguel Molina shattered three Philippine records at the Janet Evans International Invitational that took place from June 6 to 8 at the University of California in the US.
The tournament showed that Molina is peaking at the right time for his Beijing Olympics campaign, according Mark Joseph, president of the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association (PASA).
Molina won a silver in the 200-meter breast stroke with a time of 2 minutes and 16.62 seconds to finish behind John Criste (2:14.29).
That clocking shattered Molina's own record of 2:16.88 set at the 2005 Philippine Southeast Asian (SEA) Games.
Despite a nonpodium finish in the 200-meter freestyle and 200-meter individual medley, Molina posted 1:52.56 and 2:16.62, consecutively, to break his own Philippine marks of 1:52.67 and 2:16.88, respectively
Molina almost rewrote James Walsh's 55.15 second Philippine record in the 100-meter butterfly when he finished the event with a 55.29 clocking. - GMANews.TV
First Quarter 2008 Net Foreign Direct Investments Remain in Surplus at US$551 Million
Net inflows of foreign direct investments (FDIs) in March 2008 remained in surplus at US$208 million, bringing the three-month FDI level to US$551 million. Surpluses were maintained across all FDI components during the first quarter of the year despite the drop in investor optimism due to rising concerns on global uncertainties. While the net inflow during the month was higher year-on-year, the cumulative first quarter level was lower than the level posted during the same period last year, reflecting the general slowdown in economies of major investor countries, particularly the United States. FDI flows into the Philippines came from a high base in Q1 2007 due to a significant infusion of capital to a local beverage company.
FDI net inflows during the first quarter of 2008 resulted from net foreign equity placements amounting to US$193 million. In particular, gross equity capital placements reached US$284 million and were mainly channeled to manufacturing (shipbuilding and repair, auto electronics parts & components), services (recreational/cultural), mining, construction (hotel/resort development, power plant facility), real estate, and financial institutions. Investments came mainly from Japan, U.S., Malaysia, and South Korea.
Net reinvested earnings amounted to US$100 million from January to March 2008, 24.2 percent lower than the level recorded during the comparable period in 2007, with local banks repatriating profits to their foreign investors.
The other capital account—which consists largely of intercompany borrowing/lending between foreign direct investors and their subsidiaries/affiliates in the Philippines—likewise posted a surplus of US$258 million. The level was, however, lower compared to the US$571 million surplus in the same period last year as a result of loan repayments by local subsidiaries to their foreign/parent companies.
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Energy Secretary Angelo Reyes announced today that the development of the Galoc oil field in northern Palawan has been completed and that this additional output would raise local oil production to more than 30,000 barrels per day which is equivalent to some 10 percent of local demand.
Reyes said the Philippines would earn some US$1.4 billion in two years with the additional production of 20,000 barrels of oil per day.
“We anticipate production rate of 17,000 to 20,000 barrels of oil per day. Galoc, together with the current oil production, will be over 30,000 barrels per day. And this will account for almost 10 percent of local demand,” he said.
Reyes said the Galoc Oil field development is a $120-million investment in the energy infrastructure of the Philippines.
Reyes said the high quality oil found in the Galoc field is light, non-waxy and has medium sulphur content.
“So, it is premium oil and could be refined in local refineries here,” he said.
With domestic refineries given priority, Reyes said the Philippines would also earn from the sale of crude oil which will be benchmarked at international prices.
Reyes said the Philippines could have a foreign exchange savings of some $1.4 billion if Galoc oil field’s estimated 20-million barrel fuel reserve is extracted in two years, based on the current price of $135 per barrel.
“You are looking at US$1.4 billion, if you are able to extract the entire 20 million barrels over the expected span of two years at the current rate of US$35 per barrel. So, that is the foreign exchange savings.”
Increasing the country’s oil and gas reserve and finding other renewable sources of energy are part of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s energy independence reform agenda.
Reyes said further exploration works are still being done to find additional reserves in the Galoc oil field area.
With "unprecedented amounts of investments" in agriculture and food security programs, the country can become rice-sufficient in five years, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said last night.
In her speech keynoting the 7th Filipino-Chinese Friendship Day celebration at the Grand Ballroom of the Sofitel Philippine Plaza Hotel in Pasay City, the President said the new economics of global food security makes it imperative for the country to control its own destiny in terms of rice.
To meet this imperative, she said her administration is "working with all levels of government in our country with multilateral agencies and our other development partners, and with the private sector to achieve rice self-sufficiency five years from now."
"Our longer-term efforts to promote rice self-sufficiency will also ensure that we will no longer have to rely on expensive imports to meet our country's needs for this important commodity," the President said.
She pointed out that investments the in intensified food production program are aimed at strengthening the country's ability to provide food for its citizens through a series of efficient and budget-friendly food production modules, the key to achieving rice sufficiency in five years.
The President unveiled this program called F.I.E.L.D.S.--an acronym for Fertilizer, Irrigation and Infrastructure, Extension and Education, Loans, Dryers and other post-harvest and post-production facilities, and Seeds and other genetic materials--during the Food Summit held at the Clark Freeport Zone in Angeles, Pampanga last April 4.
She described the six "assistance packages" as the "essential ingredients for making food abundant, accessible and affordable."
On fertilizers, the President directed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to set aside P500 million from the "ACEF (Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund) for fertilizer support and production especially organic fertilizers."
On irrigation and infrastructure, the President directed the National Irrigation Administration (NIA) to "finish the rehabilitation of irrigation systems by 2010."
She said that the government would be spending P6 billion a year to irrigate farmlands and another P6 billion on infrastructure, "especially farm-to-market roads, roll-on roll-off ferry ports to bring the products from Mindanao to Luzon and no-frills airports for agricultural cargo in the North Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle."
Saying that agricultural extension and education are a "weak link" in the food production equation, the Chief Executive directed the DA and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) to "continuously implement programs and intervention in close cooperation with the LGUs (local government units) and to implement research and development in technology and engineering centered on agriculture."
The President stressed the need to "train more trainors and technicians on new technology for dissemination to farmers" as she welcomed the commitment of state universities and colleges to support the training program.
She also announced the allocation of P2 billion for research and development as part of her administration's new funding for the training of farmers and fisherfolk on new and emerging technologies.
The President said that of the P20 billion available for lending to farmers at any Land Bank of the Philippines (LBP) branch, P15 billion will be used for agricultural credit, and P5 billion for rice loans.
She added that farmers could also tap into the $30-million foreign-assisted funding for post-harvest facilities.
This funding assistance, the President said, is under the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) assistance program for rice-producing provinces and municipalities.
To facilitate the processing of loan applications, the President said that she is asking Congress to pass a law that will make farmlands as acceptable collateral.
At present, banks offer low loan values to farmlands as collateral, making it difficult for farmers to augment their profits.
On rice dryers, the President said she has instructed the DA to "establish integrated processing and training centers (that will help farmers efficiently dry out their products) in collaboration with the private sector."
She added that the government has earmarked P2 billion for rice dryers and post-harvest facilities.
The President also stressed the importance of supporting seed growers whose success, she said, "would enable rain-fed lowland areas presently planted with certified rice seeds to migrate to hybrid rice seeds."
She stressed the need to sustain the hybrid rice seeds program as this would ensure steady harvest and supply for the country.
"We must sustain this program which will require P2 billion for hybrid seeds and P6 billion for certified rice seeds for our harvest in 2009 and 2010," the President said.
Monday, 9 June 2008
Roderick T. dela Cruz
THE company building a highway to Bulacan from Quezon City is raising its paid-up capital to P1.5 billion from P100 million to start the P13.6-billion toll road that comes with a power plant, and eventually is expected to reach Cagayan Valley, its top official said yesterday.
The first stage of the 56-kilometer, four-lane North Luzon East Expressway starts from Commonwealth Avenue and ends in Baliuag, and its builder is also putting up a power plant at La Mesa Dam that will generate up to 35 megawatts of electricity. “It will be the first self-sustaining infrastructure project of its kind,” said Ricardo Penson, president of Ausphil Tollway Corp.
Ausphil has tapped Macquarie Bank, Australia’s largest investment bank, as financial adviser, and has also signed a deal with Aspen International to supply toll equipment and road systems. Its engineering partners include Baseline Consultants, Integrated PhilConsult and Schema Technics.
Penson and Jean Claude Neumann, president and managing director of Epsys Inc., the Philippine subsidiary of Egis, signed a partnership agreement at Club Filipino in Greenhills, San Juan, yesterday.
Egis is the same company that partnered with First Philippine Holdings Corp. to operate the North Luzon Expressway and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.
Penson said they expected to receive a notice of award for the North Luzon East Expressway by June. Ausphil would then start stage 1 of the project, an 18.9-km stretch of road from La Mesa Parkways to Bigte, Norzagaray that would cost P7.8 billion.
The second stage is the expansion of the 36-km, two-lane national road from Norzagaray to Baliuag to a four-lane expressway.
Penson said that once the road was completed by early 2011, travel time from Commonwealth to Baliaug would cost P80 and take just 35 minutes. He said they expected traffic to reach 89,000 vehicles daily.
Ausphil is also interested in building the third stage of the project, which would extend the highway to Cagayan Valley from Bulacan, and has submitted an unsolicited proposal to build the Dalton East Alignment in Nueva Vizcaya.
“I have never seen a project as unique as this one,” said Terry Brown, an Australian director of Ausphil.
By Anna Barbara L. Lorenzo
TWO MORE airlines will soon be flying international routes via the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clark, Pampanga after obtaining an operating permit from the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB).
Permits were given to Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR) and Spirit of Manila Airlines Corp., said Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) President and Chief Executive Officer Victor Jose I. Luciano, who met with CAB officials last week
Spirit of Manila, a Filipino-owned company with Middle Eastern minority stockholders, intends to fly to Bahrain with its Boeing 767, which can accommodate 250 passengers, Mr. Luciano said. Spirit of Manila officials were not available for comment yesterday.
Mr. Luciano said the new airline could start international operations by September. "[With the operating permit] they will now proceed with aircraft acquisition. They also said they need two months to train their staff," he added.
Meanwhile, SEAIR President Avelino Zap-anta said the company had yet to finalize its plans for international flights. "We are still discussing internally," he said in a separate interview.
The DMIA is being groomed as the next international gateway of the Philippines, and Mr. Luciano said there would be "more airlines to fly from the Middle East to the Philippines" to serve Filipino workers abroad.
On Friday, a chartered plane from Trans-global Airline arrived in the Philippines from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) via the DMIA. It was the first airline to fly to the Philippines from the Middle East via Clark.
The same airline is scheduled to fly to Fujairah in the UAE on Mondays and Wednesdays starting today. It uses a 160-seater MD83 aircraft.
Mr. Luciano said Transglobal is also planning to open a route from Clark to Bangkok by the end of the month using a Boeing 737.
Other airlines operating domestic and international flights to and from the DMIA are Air Asia, Asian Spirit, Asiana Airlines, Cebu Pacific, China Southern Airlines, Deer Air and Tiger Airways.
By Vito Barcelo
The Manila Standard
After much ado about its kickoff, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport terminal-3 will clear its runways but for local flights first.
General manager Alfonso Cusi said operations would start late this year or early 2009 but no details of the inauguration were given.
He said Naia-3 will have three clients—Cebu Pacific, Philippine Airlines and Air Philippines—for their domestic routes.
He said the plan was welcomed by three other firms; Asian Spirit and SEAIR have yet to submit confirmation to join the list.
“The newly renovated old Manila domestic airport will continue its operations while T3 is being used as a domestic airport,” said Cusi, who was expecting the facility to wrap up the works.
Sunday, 8 June 2008
The Manila Standard
TIGER Airways, the budget carrier partly owned by Singapore Airlines, said it will be adding frequencies in North Asia and Australia—and boosting services to the Philippines—while rivals Korean Air Lines Co. and Qantas Airways are cutting routes.
And Asiana Airlines, South Korea’s second-largest carrier, will trim services to six Chinese cities—but add flights during the northern hemisphere’s summer to holiday destinations in the Philippines and Japan—as it battles to cope with surging jet-fuel costs.
In Manila, meanwhile, thousands of migrant Filipino workers in Central and Northern Luzon would now benefit from the chartered flights to the United Arab Emirates being offered at the Clark airport by Transglobal Airways, an official said.