Saturday, 16 August 2008

Filipinos richer than they think

By Tony Lopez

It is perhaps one of the best-kept secrets of the Philippines. The country is bigger and richer than at least 160 of the 192 member states of the United Nations. The Philippines is also more middle class in income than most Filipinos think.

The number of Filipinos is nothing to sneeze at. At 90.45 million, the population is the 12th largest in the world. That chunk of humanity alone makes the Philippines a large market for goods and services.

Multiply 90 million by $5,137, the per capita income of Filipinos in 2005 in purchasing power parity (or what the dollar equivalent of the income can buy in local goods and services), and you get $465 billion, the size of the Philippine economy.

With $465 billion, the Philippines becomes the world’s 23rd largest economy behind Poland (22), South Africa (21), The Netherlands (20) and Thailand (19).

The country is ahead of troubled Pakistan ($388 billion), oil-rich Saudi Arabia ($388 billion), little Belgium ($339 million), poverty-stricken Bangladesh ($325 billion), famous Egypt ($325 billion) and incredibly, even Sweden (No. 31 with $299 billion, Malaysia ($295 billion) and Switzerland ($271 billion).

However, the World Bank apparently thought the $465 billion figure and the Philippines’ 23rd largest ranking were at best a fluke and at worst, a mistake.

Bank economists changed the base year. This resulted in a drastic repositioning—in size of Philippine wealth as an economy and in its ranking. Some $165 billion was lopped off from the size of the Philippine economy which is now worth only $300 billion and brings the country to No. 35, behind Austria, Ukraine, Colombia, Sweden, Venezuela, Malaysia, Belgium, Greece, Egypt, Pakistan, South Africa and Thailand.

Traditionally, countries were ranked by their GDP (Gross Domestic Product or the value of goods and services produced during a given year) or gross national income, without adjusting to purchasing power parity or what the US dollar can buy in local goods in your home country. In this method, the Philippines is the 42nd largest economy with national output of $142.6 billion in 2007. Indonesia, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore become richer than the Philippines.

The Philippine per capita GDP was estimated by the National Statistical Coordination Board at P74,946 in 2007. At P45 to $1, this translates into $1,665.46.

This makes the Filipino middle class in income. The $1,665 amount is understated because it doesn’t take into account the more than $14 billion in annual remittances of overseas Filipino workers and residents.

There are an estimated 10 million OFWs. Divide the $14 billion by ten million and you get $1,400 annual income per OFW. The Philippines has 16 million families. So two of every three households in the Philippines has an extra income of $1,400. Divide that by 5.5 - the num­ber of persons per family, and you get $254.54 additional income per capita.

Add the $254.54 to the $1,665.46 and you get a per capita income of $1,920 for two-thirds of the households of the Philippines. That makes two of every three families in the country middle class. It is a fact often not appreciated. In fact, it is often overlooked and ignored.

The extra income of majority of Filipino families explains why personal consumption expenditure (PCE) is the fastest growing and the largest segment of the economy on the expenditure side. In the first quarter of 2008, PCE amounted to P1,161 billion, 70 percent of total GDP, in current prices of P1,684.58 billion.

PCE grew by 10.8 percent in the first quarter 2008, more than double the growth rate of government expenditure, 4.4 percent, more than half of that of capital formation, 7.2 percent.

The strength of PCE explains why in the first half, the number of cellular subscribers grew double digit for both PLDT Smart and Globe Telecom, the country’s two largest wireless providers.

At the stock market, market cap of listed stocks rose four-fold from P2 trillion in 2002 to P7.96 trillion in 2007, resulting in P5.87 trillion worth of capital gains made by owners of large enterprises listed in the PSE over a five-year period.

That wealth creation came under the seven-year watch of President Arroyo. She has reduced the budget deficit, attracted foreign investments, invested heavily in infrastructure, and reformed the economy. She has presided over 30 consecutive quarters or seven years of sustained and continuous economic growth. It is the longest and largest economic expansion in the last 30 years.

In the last four years, she expanded the size of the economy by more than half, from P4.316 trillion in 2003 to P6.648 trillion by the end of 2007.

Cashless MRT ticketing through text messaging

By Roderick T. dela Cruz
The Manila Standard

Using German technology, Omni Prime Marketing Inc. has launched a ticketing system on Metro Rail Transit 3, using cell phones instead the time-consuming practice of lining up and paying cash for magnetic cards at station counters.

Omni Prime president Annabelle Margaroli, in yesterday’s briefing at Trinoma shopping mall in Quezon City, said the system is being piloted on the Edsa-Baclaran line to be applied later to bus, shipping and airline tickets.

The exclusive distributor of Gravitec, Omni Prime has partnered with the Metro Rail Transit Corp. for the Juan Card MRT e-wallet, a mobile-based debit card that allows tickets to be purchased through SMS, thus avoiding long queues amid the growing number of riders.

The MRT e-wallet is an offshoot of the partnership between Omni Prime and local credit guarantor MMO Card Corp.

MRTC operations head Ronilo Bacolod said the cashless ticketing system was designed to cut the passengers’ waiting time to buy magnetic cards at crowded vending machines and counters.

Gavitec, a German firm that manufactures code readers, has devised a way for registered users to make transactions through their cell phones. After each transaction, the user receives a confirmation and a two-dimensional bar code.

The user then goes to the specified establishments where the Gavitec code reader scans the cell phone then prints out a ticket for the ride.

Commuters may purchase the P100 MRT e-wallet from Omni help desks at MRT stations to register and start loading through SMS.

Omni Prime said the ticketing by cell phone would be expanded to the Light Rail Transit and public buses.

Friday, 15 August 2008

OF Remittances Posted in June 2008 Rise to Record 30%

First Semester Level at US$8.2 Billion
Media Releases

Remittance of overseas Filipinos coursed through banks grew year-on-year by 30.0 percent in June 2008 to reach US$1.5 billion, the highest monthly inflow that has been recorded since 1989, when the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) started to classify foreign exchange (FX) inflows from overseas workers as a separate category in the BSP FX statistical monitoring system. This brought the six-month remittance level to US$8.2 billion, higher by 17.2 percent relative to the year-ago level.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said that the sustained rise in the number of deployed Filipino workers contributed to the robust remittance inflows. Preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) showed that for the first half of 2008, the number of deployed Filipino workers rose by a hefty 33.5 percent to 640,401 from 479,725. Filipino workers continue to be in strong demand overseas due to the diversity and quality of skills they offer. The conduct of bilateral talks with host countries also continues to open up new employment opportunities abroad for Filipinos.

The level of remittances also drew strong support from the expanded presence of local banks and non-bank remittance agents in countries with large concentration of OFs, as these remittance entities forged stronger partnerships and ties with foreign counterparts, Tetangco said. These initiatives increased the access of OFs both to more financial institutions as well as to a wider array of financial products.

To date, the U.S.A, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong remain to be the major sources of remittances.

Philippines' Q2 farm output up 5.44 pct vs yr ago

MANILA, Aug 15 (Reuters) - Philippine annual farm output rose 5.44 percent in the second quarter, accelerating from the previous quarter's revised 3.9 percent annual rise, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said on Friday.

First-half farm growth was 4.7 percent from a year ago.

Agriculture accounts for around 20 percent of economic output in the Philippines. The government has a target of raising agricultural output by 4.5-5.5 percent.

(Editing by Kim Coghill)

Favila: 6-month investments increased 115% to P280.81b

Elaine Ruzul S. Ramos
The Manila Standard

THE Board of Investments and Philippine Economic Zone Authority approved combined new investments of P280.81 billion in the first half of the year, up 115 percent from P130.793 billion year-on-year.

Trade Secretary Peter Favila said new equity commitments registered with the country’s top investment promotion agencies had more than doubled year-on-year despite the continued global economic slowdown caused by escalating world oil and food prices.

He said the strong investment performance indicated that government initiatives to put in place a more investor-friendly environment were effective in bringing in the much-needed foreign and local equity in crucial sectors of the economy.

Undersecretary and investments board managing head Elmer Hernandez said the power sector garnered the biggest amount of investments during the period at P85.16 billion.

This was followed by manufacturing (P79.4 billion), housing and transport (P65.5 billion), and storage and communication (P14.2 billion).

“Notable is the 28-percent increase in foreign investments worth P83.76 billion over the same period last year’s P65.4 billion,” said Hernandez.

More swim records eyed; diver Perez makes debut

The Manila Bulletin

BEIJING — Filipino swimmers will get a final chance to break more Philippine records when two more see action in the Olympic Games Friday while diver Shiela Mae Perez makes her appearance at the National Aquatics Center also known as the Water Cube.

Christel Simms, who broke her own 100m freestyle mark Wednesday, will swim in the 50m freestyle while Ryan Arabejo will compete in the 1500m freestyle, his lone Olympic event.

The 18-year-old Simms, who lives in Hawaii, could be the Philippines’ top performer of the Games in the event she breaks another record and the taekwondo jins fail in their medal bid.

Her new 100m free record of 56.57 seconds reset by a whisker her old mark of 57.17.

In Friday’s 50m race, Simms will target to lower her record of 26.31 seconds.

Arabejo likewise will try to better his 1500m personal best of 15:39.86 in this event which is the longest and most grueling in the swimming calendar.

Swimming has produced three other record breakers.

James Walsh started it with a new mark in the 200m butterfly (1:59.39), which also surpassed the Southeast Asian Games mark.

His sub-2-minute time also marks the first time a Southeast Asian swimmer went under two minutes for the 200m butterfly.

Also with a new record is Miguel Molina. He made it in his favorite 200m individual medley with a time of 2:01.61 (old mark 2:03.22).

Daniel Coakley made it three Thursday when he swam the 50-meter freestyle in 22.69 seconds to surpass his own old time of 22.80 registered in the 2007 Thailand SEA Games.

Coakley placed 39th in a field of 76.

In all, the swim team has broken four RP records and surpassed two SEAG marks.

"It’s been a great week so far for swimming," said Mark Joseph, president of the Philippine Amateur Swimming Association.

Breaking RP records has been the main consolation for the struggling RP team in these Games.

Weightlifting, through Hidilyn Diaz, set a new record in the 58kg division. But swimming has broken three and aiming for two more Friday.

The 22-year-old Perez, on the other hand, will compete against 29 others in the 3m springboard preliminaries in the morning.

Although ranked by a news organization as among the 10 best in Asia, she will be hard-pressed to make a dent in a sport dominated by China.

Yesterday, Chinese divers swept the synchronized diving competition, winning all four gold medals.

That will not be difficult to match under the present circumstances.

China’s Guo Jingjing and Wu Minxia are the world’s top two divers and winners of nearly all world titles including those at the Athens Olympics.

H1 2008 companies' net profit

(Amount is in Philippine peso.)

San Miguel Brewery Inc (SMBI) [25%] 23.8B
Philippine Long Distance Telephone Company (PLDT) [13%] 19B
SM Investments Corporation [14%]6.5B

Wednesday, 13 August 2008

Election automation gains headway with ARMM polls’ success

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo’s 10-point legacy agenda, specifically on the poll automation for a stronger democracy founded on the sanctity of the ballot, gained headway with the success of the first-ever automated elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) last Monday.

The President, in the said agenda, has included the automation of the electoral process, through the use of the latest technology for voting, counting, canvassing, transmission of election results, in a move to make polls fraud-free.

“Having proven its worth in the ARMM, poll automation will now be replicated on a wider scale with a view to assuring our people that come 2010, the conduct of national elections will be immensely improved,” Ermita said.

The Executive Secretary noted that except for some minor technical glitches in last Monday’s ARMM automated polls, overall, the country’s pilot-testing of a fully automated elections was a great success as it was honest, peaceful and orderly.

Ermita expressed hope that by the 2010 national elections, these minor glitches, ”normally experienced in pilot exercises,” will be fully addressed.

“We have now seen the future of the Philippine electoral process, and it works!—bereft of any taint of suspicion and disarray, and truly free, peaceful, orderly and clean,” Ermita said, adding that the President was happy over the conduct of the ARMM polls.

“The President was particularly pleased with information from the Commission on Elections (COMELEC) that the said elections registered a high 80-percent voter turn-out, and was relatively free of violence and complaints. This is in total contrast to previous elections in the area that were marred with violence, complaints, controversies, and alleged disenfranchisement of voter,” the Executive Secretary said.

“The President congratulates the COMELEC, headed by Chairman Jose Melo, for the successful exercise; the police and military authorities in the area for their support to the COMELEC which made violence almost non-existent; and most importantly, the residents of ARMM who, by their active participation, showed that democracy reigns supreme,” he added.

Ermita said he was informed by Melo that the final results of Monday’s polls will be out this afternoon even as he said that the credibility of the ARMM polls is “beyond question” as various poll watch organizations that included the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV), among other non-government organizations, can attest to the fact that “the will of the residents of ARMM has been respected.”

Automated elections were held from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the six provinces of the ARMM—Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur, Shariff Kabunsuan, Basilan, Sulu, and Tawi-Tawi. There were about 1.5 million registered voters in the region.

Two systems, namely, the Direct Recording Election and Optical Media Reader, were specifically used in the ARMM polls.

The new election system prevents cheating; and the quick release of results makes the system more credible than the manual elections where several methods of massive fraud are able to pass through.

NAIA 3 update photos 12 August


Star Cruises finalizes deal

By Jenniffer B. Austria
The Manila Standard

Alliance Global Group Inc., the holding company of business tycoon Andrew Tan, and Star Cruises Ltd., an affiliate of Genting Corp. of Malaysia, will invest $1.55 billion on hotels, a casino, shopping malls and a theme park in Pasay City.

Alliance Global said in a disclosure to the stock exchange that the two companies had reached an agreement, in which Star Cruises would acquire a 50 percent stake in Travellers International, a unit of Alliance Global, for $355 million.

Travellers International will then invest $1.1 billion to develop a 37-hectare property at the Manila Bay reclaimed area into an integrated entertainment city, called Manila Bayshore.

It will host several hotels with about 3,400 rooms and a world-class theme park that will compete with casinos in Singapore and Macau.

“Investors are getting excited about the prospects for Alliance Global,” said Astro del Castillo, managing director at First Grade Holdings Inc. “The government has been pushing tourism as a future growth area.”

The Philippines drew a record 3.09 million visitors last year, increasing the Southeast Asian economy’s tourism-related sales by 41 percent to a record $4.89 billion. Tourists arrivals and receipts should grow at least 10 percent a year through 2010, CLSA Asia-Pacific Markets analyst Alfred Dy said.

A further $450 million will be invested in three hotels, a shopping mall and an entertainment center in the 25-hectare Newport City, a development in front of the new international airport terminal, Alliance Global said.

Travellers International will become the biggest Philippine hotel operator after completing a planned 5,000 rooms, it added.

State-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. earlier issued Travellers International a license to develop a tourism-oriented project in the proposed entertainment complex, Bagong Nayong Pilipino Manila Bay Tourism City, in the reclaimed area along Roxas Boulevard.

The Newport City hotel project will have a total of about 1,600 rooms. The six-star, all-suite Maxims Hotel will account for 176 rooms; the five-star Marriott Hotel, 365 rooms; and a three-star hotel with 1,060 rooms.

Alliance Global president Kingson Sian said the company planned to play a major role in promoting and developing the local tourism industry.

“We believe in the vision of making the Philippines one of the best tourist destinations in Asia, and together with our partner Star Cruises, we will make this happen,” Sian said.

Travellers International and Star Cruises also plan to make Manila one of Star Cruises’ regular ports of call.

“We are exploring the possibility of bringing in the tourists aboard Star Cruises’ ships as our way of reviving the interest in ‘cruising the seas’ and making our visitors experience a different way of entering our country,” Sian said.

Star Cruises is the third-largest cruise line operator in the world, with assets of $6.4 billion in 2007. It is a member of the Malaysia-based Genting Group, one of the largest leisure and entertainment companies in the world. With Bloomberg