Saturday, 13 December 2008

SM Investments pursues entertainment complex

By Jenniffer B. Austria
The Manila Standard

State-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. has granted SM Investments Corp., the holding company of retail tycoon Henry Sy, a provisional license to develop an entertainment complex along Roxas Boulevard.

SM Investments Corp. said in a disclosure that it would pursue the transformation of the 60-hectare Mall of Asia Complex into a world-class business and entertainment hub through its subsidiary, SM Land Inc.

“The recent provisional license granted by Pagcor marks the start of the development of the entertainment hub which will be executed over the medium term,” said SM Investments.

SM Investments was one of the three companies pre-qualified by Pagcor to participate in the development of the Bagong Nayong Pilipino Manila Bay Tourism City project on the reclaimed area along Roxas Boulevard.

The two others were Travellers International Hotel Group, a joint venture between Alliance Global Group Inc. of business tycoon Andrew Tan and Star Cruises of Malaysia, and Aruze of Japan.

SM Investments said the development of the Mall of Asia Complex was in line with the group’s thrust into tourism development projects, like the Hamilo in Batangas and the chain of high-end and boutique hotels and convention centers throughout the country.

“We believe in the country’s strong potential in tourism. As such, SM will be at the forefront in providing much-needed infrastructure and facilities for more tourists to enjoy the country’s scenic destinations, while experiencing the warmth of Philippine hospitality,” said SM vice chairman Henry Sy, Jr. in a statement.

Friday, 12 December 2008

SM City North Edsa now Philippines’ biggest and world’s 3rd largest

BusinessWorld Online

The world’s third-biggest shopping mall will open in Quezon City this week, a vote of confidence on the country’s economic prospects amid a global slowdown, its owners said yesterday.

The launch on Friday of a 90,000-square meter annex will make the SM City North Edsa mall the third biggest in the world with a gross floor area of 425,000 square metres, SM Prime Holdings, Inc. said in a statement.

It will take away the distinction from SM Mall of Asia in Pasay City, which used to be the country’s largest.

SM Prime, a holding firm of the country’s richest man Henry Sy, also owns the world’s fourth, seventh, and 11th biggest malls — SM Mall of Asia, SM Megamall in Ortigas, Pasig and SM City Cebu.

SM Prime President Hans Sy said launching the project amid the worsening global downturn "speaks of how we view the longer-term prospects of the country."

Yesterday, the Asian Development Bank forecast said Philippine economic growth would slow to 4.5% this year and further down to 3.5% next year after growth of 7.2% in 2007.

Hundreds of Filipinos employed abroad, part of a huge number that remits the equivalent of 10% of the country’s gross domestic product to their families back home every year, have lost their jobs, the government said.

SM Prime said tenants have signed up for 70% of the leasable space in the six-storey extension to the mall. SM Prime recently opened two other malls, with a third also set to open on Friday. — AFP

Wednesday, 10 December 2008

Another P3 a liter cut in gas prices looms

Alena Mae S. Flores with AFP
The Manila Standard

SMALL oil distributors may trim gasoline prices by another P3 and diesel by another P1 a liter this month, and most likely this weekend, a company official said yesterday.

“Based on our computations, diesel could still go down by P1 per liter and gasoline by P3” as a result of the continuing fall in world oil prices, Flying V chairman Ramon Villavicencio said.

He made the statement even as the peso rose as high as 48.31 against the dollar before closing at 48.55 yesterday from 48.60 on Monday, buoyed by heavier remittances.

Villavicencio said Flying V could even make bigger cuts ahead of January if necessary.

“We can advance the reduction, similar to what we did in November, but that’s a dangerous move to make because consumers may expect another rollback again by Valentine’s,” he said.

The big distributors were mum about any cuts.

“We will react to the competition as and when it is required,” Pilipinas Shell country chairman Ed Chua said.

He said his company might suffer some losses this year from the cuts it had made at the pump, but they still expected to net P200 million.

That amount would exclude the P3 billion that the company made from the sale of its economic rights to the Shell trademark to Shell Brands International AG.

Chevron Philippines said it faced P1 billion in losses this year from pricier inventory sold at cheaper prices.

“Remember, we had some extraordinary loss during the first half,” country chairman Randy Johnson said.

Earlier, Petron Corp. announced it would lose up to P2 billion this year as a result of the wild swings in world oil prices.

Oil prices fell slightly in Asia on Tuesday, after earlier gains on hopes a US economic stimulus package and a bailout for the auto sector would nurse the world’s biggest energy consumer back to health, dealers said.

New York’s main futures contract, light sweet crude for January delivery, fell four cents to $43.67 a barrel in afternoon trade. The contract closed on Monday $2.90 higher at $43.71.

Brent North Sea crude for January delivery dropped 20 cents to $43.22 after closing on Monday $3.68 dollars higher at $43.42 in London.

Both contracts were slightly higher in Asian morning trade.

Financial markets, including oil futures, soared after US President-elect Barack Obama promised at the weekend the biggest infrastructure investment in half a century, and Congress signaled a rescue of the Big Three US automakers.

Medical tourism is next, says Pangilinan

By Roderick T. dela Cruz
The Manila Standard

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., a unit of Hong Kong-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., is positioning its hospitals in the Philippines to be part of the medical tourism industry.

Manuel Pangilinan, chairman of the company which operates the Makati Medical Center, Cardinal Santos Medical Center and Davao Doctors Hospital, said medical tourism was among the company was looking at.

Pangilinan said the refurbishment of the Makati Medical Center, once acknowledged as the best in the country, and its expected completion by the middle of 2010, could be a platform for the medical tourism business of Metro Pacific.

A veteran economist said medical tourism and retirement villages were among the sunrise industries that are expected to gradually expand annually, despite the global economic downturn.

“The foreign tourists to the Philippines, made up mostly of South Koreans, Japanese and other East Asian neighbors, may actually increase more rapidly since the economic slowdown in their own countries may motivate them to travel to closer and less closely destinations,” said University of Asia and the Pacific economist Bernardo Villegas.

Tourism Undersecretary for Sports and Wellness Cynthia Carrion said amid the global financial crisis, more people, who are under stress, were expected to avail of affordable medical services in countries such as the Philippines.

“Quality with good prices is the one that will attract a lot of people to our country,” said Carrion.

Govt targets modest 7% growth in 2009 fisheries production

Jennifer A. Ng / Reporter
The Business Mirror

EVEN as the outlook for fisheries production is expected to be better next year, the Department of Agriculture (DA) is targeting a modest 7-percent growth in fisheries production in 2009.

The Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR), an attached agency of the DA, said it wants to be more conservative in its growth target for next year due to a number of factors, including the possible damages that may be caused by typhoons in major fish-producing areas.

“The outlook for next year is better, [but] we’d rather be conservative,” said BFAR director Malcolm Sarmiento Jr. in a phone interview.

In recent years, the BFAR has been setting a growth target of 10 percent for fisheries production. But efforts of the government to grow fish production were challenged by natural disasters such as typhoons.

In August Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said he is bullish about fish production in 2009 and has even targeted a growth rate of 10 percent to 5.7 million metric tons.

Typhoons Frank, Karen and Nina, however, made this target impossible to achieve, forcing the BFAR to downscale its growth projections to between 5 percent and 6 percent.

Typhoon Frank alone wreaked havoc in Western Visayas as total damage to the region’s farm sector exceeded P3 billion. The region’s fisheries sector sustained the biggest damage at P2.25 billion.

Earlier, Sarmiento disclosed that around 70 small- and medium-sized commercial fishing vessels were destroyed by Typhoon Frank and most of them came from Region VI (Western Visayas). One vessel, he said, costs anywhere from P5 million to P10 million.

The BFAR noted that for 2009, the fisheries subsector will be led by aquaculture, particularly vannamei-shrimp production, because of the huge demand for it.

Agribusiness is best bet

Written by Cai U. Ordinario / Reporter
The Business Mirror

THE national government’s efforts to increase public investments in agriculture and municipal infrastructure, particularly next year, are long-overdue and should have been done by other leaders, according to the economic adviser of former President Fidel Ramos.

University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) senior economist Dr. Bernardo Villegas said that after the global economic tsunami, the biggest problem that the country will face is food and that the efforts of the government to upscale its investments in agriculture and infrastructure, particularly in the countryside, will be a good preparation for what is to come after the meltdown.

“In the medium and long run, the biggest opportunity for the Philippines will be in agribusiness, that’s why agriculture investments are needed at this time. The biggest need in the next few years will be food,” Villegas said during a press briefing at the UA&P in Pasig City.

Villegas, however, said like in the United States, where President-elect Barack Obama is also doing the same thing to provide more jobs for Americans, there is a need to make sure that these funds or increases in spending will be used solely for these projects.

He said if these funds will only go to the “pockets of politicians,” the goals that can be attained by increasing infrastructure spending will not be realized.

“These funds must be spent on productive assets so these will benefit the future. But if the money goes to politician’s pockets, there will no effect,” Villegas said.

The Arroyo administration is pushing to increase the country’s budget for 2009 by 15.4 percent to P1.415 trillion from P1.227 trillion. The sector with the biggest share in the proposed 2009 budget, according to the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), is social services, which will amount to P433.99 billion, or 30.67 percent.

Other sectors, such as economic services, will receive P361.39 billion, or 25.54 percent, of the total; debt service worth P302.65 billion, or 21.39 percent; general public services, P239.59 billion, or 16.93 percent; defense, P65.22 billion, or 4.61 percent; and net lending, P12.16 billion, or 0.86 percent, of the total.

Meanwhile, Villegas said the country is already reaping the demographic blessing that the Philippines has received through an increase in its population. He said a group of economists from Goldman Sachs included the Philippines on the list of the “Next Eleven” or the emerging engines of global growth.

He pointed out that the list, which also includes Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam, has one common factor—-large populations. Villegas said high populations ensure that local and multinational firms have large markets and consumer demand in a country.

High consumer demand will fuel economic growth. This, Villegas said, will ensure that the Philippines, along with the most populous countries in the world, particularly in Asia, will be the ones to take over as the main growth drivers of the world.

In fact, Villegas said, China, which is now the fourth-largest economy in the world, will soon take the US’ place as the main driver of growth in the world. He said that in 20 years, China can become the biggest economy in the world.

Villegas also remained confident that chances of a great depression happening again as an effect of the crisis are far from happening. He said many governments are now aware of pump-priming activities which can help boost the economy, as well as the fact that many countries have “trillions” in reserves.

What should change, however, is the spending habit of Americans and the rest of the world. Villegas said that even in the Philippines, there is a need to re-introduce the value of saving and spending within your means.

Hanjin launches 3rd and 4th container ships in Subic

Henry Empeño
The Business Mirror

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — Five months after launching MV Argolikos, the first container ship to be built in the Philippines, Korean shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co.-Philippines (HHIC-Phil.) scored another historic feat with the simultaneous launching of two more cargo vessels last week.

The company, which delivered its second container ship only on August 30, the CMA CGM Turquoise, said on Monday it has launched two more 4,300-TEU container vessels—the CMA CGM Opal and the CMA CGM Topaz.

The two ships were simultaneously launched from Hanjin’s dock yard No. 5 on Friday, HHIC-Phil. deputy managing director Pyeong Jong Yu said in a statement released late Monday.

Hanjin’s newest babies will both be delivered after the required sea trials to Dioryx Maritime Corp., a Greek shipping firm that has contracted out the first six deliveries to come out of the Subic shipyard.

Like the Turquoise, Opal and Topaz will both be chartered by Dioryx to CMA CGM, the biggest container transportation and shipping company in France. Both have the same specifications and a market price of $60 million, like their two predecessors.

Yu said the twin launching of Opal and Topaz “is the first [such] event not only for HHIC-Phil., but for the Philippine shipbuilding history.”

He said the 41,000-ton container vessels were built in just six-and-a-half months, with both keels laid out only on May 15.

He added that the fast pace of production did not compromise the required high quality of the vessels, as the firm utilized “up-to-date technology, state-of–the-art equipment, and weather-proof dock shelter that enabled production even during rainy season.”

“But our real secret in the successful completion of the ships is the ever-increasing number of skilled Filipino workers employed at our shipyard,” Yu also said, pointing out that the Hanjin facility now employs more than 15,000 workers.

He also said the hardworking employees of Hanjin, their systematic training at the firm’s Skills Development Center that is reputedly the largest in the world, and the actual work-training in the shipyard thereafter all contributed to the efficiency of the shipbuilding crew.

Yu also emphasized the huge capacity of Hanjin’s dry dock in Subic, where four vessels can be built at a time, resulted in faster production.

With this, Hanjin expects to launch more than 15 vessels next year, Yu said, describing enhanced production at the Subic shipyard as “revolutionary, not only for HHIC-Phil. but also for the Philippine industry.”

“Our company expects to achieve [this] goal as the workers will surely become better familiarized with shipbuilding work due to continuous training and enhanced work experience,” he added.

Hanjin, which started building its shipyard here in early 2006, has increased the tempo of its ship production after launching its first ship, the MV Argolikos, in July this year. Less than two months later, the CMA CGM Turquoise was also launched.

Hanjin’s Busan headquarters had announced in May last year that the company has signed for the Subic facility a $2.2-billion order for some of the biggest box ships and Capesize carriers ever to be built.

These include eight 12,800-TEU container carriers worth $1.27 billion for Germany’s NSC Schiffartsgeselhaft; 10 3,600-TEU carriers worth $690 million for France’s CMA CGM; and three 175,000-DWT (deadweight ton) capsize bulkers worth $240 million, with two going to India’s Adani Group and the other to Turkey’s Eregli firm.

At the launching of the Turquoise in August, Hanjin quality assurance director Yoonha Kim noted that Filipino shipyard workers had shown increased efficiency after completing hull construction and engine installation for the Turquoise within the standard Hanjin timetable of 13 months.

For the Argolikos, production took a total of 14 months, Kim said.

Tuesday, 9 December 2008

NAIA 3 fully operational by mid-2009

Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo
Excerpts from BusinessWorld Online

The MIAA’s Mr. Cusi said the airport would be fully operational by the middle of 2009.

Japan’s Takenaka, the main contractor of the terminal, has given its word to finish the remaining "2%" work to complete the NAIA-3 as well as "remediation" works aimed at correcting alleged defects.

"Majority of that 2% work involves systems. There are 20 plus or 27 systems that should be integrated and operated as one. We need to work fast because these systems may soon become obsolete," he said.

Asked if he considers the facility "world-class", the MIAA official said: "Once it’s completed, I assure you we will be running a world-class terminal."

Philippine Central Bank sets substantial falls in inflation

Reuters with a report from G. S. dela Peña

THE BANGKO SENTRAL ng Pilipinas (BSP) will target sizeable falls in the inflation rate over the next two years, reflecting its confidence in controlling price pressures and reinforcing views of lower interest rates.

The central bank said it would aim to keep inflation at an average of 3.5-5.5% in 2010 compared with a 6-8% estimate next year and a 9-11% target for 2008.

"The inflation outlook has moderated with the decline in food and oil prices from peaks observed during the early part of the year," the central bank said in a statement.

"Demand-pull price pressures are also likely to ease following the expected moderation in domestic economic activity as a result of the global economic slowdown," it said.

Analysts said the central bank would be looking to spur growth as a severe global downturn crimps export demand and slow inflows of remittances from Filipinos.

Growth is expected to ease further in 2009 from a 4.1-4.8% expansion seen this year, according to analysts.

The BSP’s policymaking Monetary Board meets to set key rates for the last time this year on December 18, and some analysts expect it to announce cuts of as much as 50 basis points.

The central bank’s overnight borrowing rate is currently at 6% and the lending rate is at 8% after increases totalling 100 basis points from June to August. Inflation, which peaked at 12.5% in August, was cited as the reason.

"Given the lag in monetary policy and the forward looking inflation targets, central bank’s hands are free to explore the lows of the policy rate," said Vishnu Varathan, an economist with Forecast PTE, in Singapore.

"So going below 5% in the next six months cannot be ruled out given the escalation in risks to growth."

Simon Wong, an economist with Standard Chartered Bank in Hong Kong, said he expected the overnight rate to be lowered to 5.5% this month and 5% in the first quarter next year.

Jose Mario Cuyegkeng, economist at the local unit of ING, said the direction of interest rates would depend largely on the political scenario given that 2010 is an election year.

"Pressures [for higher interest rates] are moderate coming from monetary side ... but interest rates will depend on political conditions at that time. That would be the crucial factor," Mr. Cuyegkeng said.

Growth, he added, will not depend much on lower interest rates but on how the government spends to pump prime the economy.

The BSP has held off cutting rates at its last two meetings, saying the Philippine economy remains resilient despite the global financial crisis that has pushed developed economies into recession.

It last cut rates in January.

Marcelo E. Ayes, senior vice-president at Rizal Commercial Banking Corp., said the latest inflation target was consistent with expectations that economic conditions would be better in two years.

"There might be a recovery in the global economy by the middle of 2009, so prices and interest rates are likely to decline by 2010," he said in a telephone interview.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Fewer Pinoy families feel poor

Gov’t says anti-poverty programs working; SWS points to belt-tightening
BusinessWorld Online

FEWER FILIPINO FAMILIES regard themselves as "mahirap" or poor but their number still accounts for over half of all households nationwide, a Social Weather Stations (SWS) survey showed.

Self-rated poverty, according to the independent survey research institution’s third quarter study that was made exclusive to BusinessWorld, fell to 52% in September from 59% three months earlier. The latest result was said to be equivalent to some 9.4 million families, over a million less than June’s estimate of 10.6 million.

Gains were also noted in terms of being food-poor, with only 38% (equivalent to some 6.9 million families) considering themselves as such from 49% three months earlier (8.8 million estimated).

The government was quick to claim credit, saying its anti-poverty programs were working. The SWS, however, noted that the gains occurred in the context of belt-tightening by families.

The survey, which was conducted from September 24 to 27, involved face-to-face interviews of 1,500 household heads nationwide. They were asked to rate whether their families were poor, on the line, or not poor. A similar question was asked with regard to food poverty.

The error margins are �2.5% for national percentages; �6% for Metro Manila, Visayas, and Mindanao; and �4% for the Balance of Luzon.

September’s self-rated poverty score of 52%, the SWS said, is just six points above the previous low of 46% in December 2007. The food-poverty score, meanwhile, is just four points above the all-time low of 34%, also recorded in December 2007.

Significant gains were noted in Mindanao, where self-rated poverty fell by 16 points to 52% and self-rated food poverty plunged 26 points to 31%.

Self-rated poverty scores improved nationwide: a seven-point improvement in the Visayas to 59%, three points to 48% in Metro Manila, and two points to 51% in the Balance of Luzon.

It was down eight points in rural areas to 56% and by six points in urban areas to 49%.

Similar progress was also noted in terms of self-rated food poverty, which was nine points down to 44% in the Visayas, six points to 38% in the Balance of Luzon, and three points in Metro Manila to 40%.

The SWS, however, pointed to continued belt-tightening by families, saying that the self-rated poverty threshold, or the monthly budget that poor families need so as not to consider themselves poor, "has been sluggish for several years despite considerable inflation".

In the September 2008 survey, the threshold for poor households in Metro Manila was only P10,000, even though it had hit as much as P15,000 previously. In Luzon this was P6,000, and P5,000 in both the Visayas and Mindanao, although peaks of P10,000 had previously been reached.

The median food-poverty thresholds, meanwhile, were P6,000 in Metro Manila, P4,000 in the Balance of Luzon, P3,250 in the Visayas, and P2,500 in Mindanao. All had been reached several years earlier.

As a measurement of belt-tightening, the SWS said the median poverty threshold in Metro Manila remained at P10,000 just like in 2000, even though the Consumer Price Index (CPI) had jumped by about 58%. The P10,000, it said, "is equivalent to only P6,341 in base year 2000 purchasing power, after deflation by the CPI."

"The deflated poverty threshold ... is a throwback to living standards of twenty years ago," the SWS added.

It said that in four surveys conducted in 2000, the base year of the CPI, the median SWS poverty threshold for Metro Manila was already P10,000 a month, equivalent to P15,770 based on the September 2008 cost of living, given a CPI of 157.7.

"The difference of P15,770 - P10,000 = P5,770 between the thresholds of 2000 and September 2008 measures the extent of belt-tightening that took place," the SWS said.

For food poverty, the SWS said the median threshold in Metro Manila was P6,000, equivalent to only P4,043 in base year 2000 purchasing power for food.

It noted that the median food poverty threshold in December 2000 for Metro Manila was P6,000, equivalent to P8,904 at the September 2008 cost of food given the latest CPI of 148.4 for food items.

"The difference of P8,904 - P6,000 = P2,904 between the food thresholds of 2000 and September 2008 is the extent of belt-tightening made by food-poor Metro Manila households," the SWS said.

The government, however, believes the latest survey proves its pro-poor programs are working.

"The President has ordered the disbursement of a lot of funds to the DSWD (Department of Social Welfare and Development) and DepEd (Department of Education)," National Anti-Poverty Commission lead convenor Domingo F. Panganiban said.

"These funds will be used to continue the Food for School Program and the Ahon Pinoy (Arise Filipino). These programs had a huge effect especially in the provinces," he said in a telephone interview.

"We will continue these as well as the other programs and we are continuously improving their implementation to ensure that we reach the poorest."

University of Asia and the Pacific economist Victor A. Abola said self-rated poverty could continue to decline due to lower consumer prices and continued dollar remittances by overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

"It (self-rated poverty) may still go down because of lower inflation and besides, our OFWs are still earning well due to the current foreign exchange rate," he said.

Mr. Abola called the self-rated poverty score of 52%, however, as still high.

"Basically, the problem is unemployment. The economy is not generating enough jobs," he said. — from a report by A. D. B. Romero

Full report available at

Unilever to produce deodorants for exports

The Manila Bulletin

Unilever Philippines is expanding its export market for deodorants to 25 to 30 more countries next year with the full operation of its P1.2 billion manufacturing plant, which transforms the country as Unilever’s global production hub of deodorants.

Chito Macapagal, Unilever Philippines vice president for corporate development, said the completion of the plant will put the Philippines as a global supplier of deodorants in all formats.

Macapagal said the company currently exports deodorants to clients in 48 countries. Its market expansion program would bring its deodorants to 25 to 30 more countries worldwide.

"What we want is to expand more the reach of our deodorants with the completion of our plant next year," Macapagal said.

The market expansion may be fully attained within 18 month period.

At present, the main market for deodorants are Latin America, Europe, US, Southeast Asia.

Unilever Philippines has been regional source for deorodorant in roll- on format since 2001 supplying a total of 100 million roll-ons of Rexona, Axe and Dove to 13 countries from 2001 to 2007.

Roll-ons have been contributing a 19 percent year-on-year growth of Unilever’s deodorants category in Asia.

Unilever is also global sourcing unit for deodorant sticks since 2002, supplying 100 million units to 56 countries worldwide. Major customers include the US, Russia, Thailand, Malaysia and China.

With its expanding market, the company decided to invest for the construction of Deos City in Manila. Construction started in January 2007 initially producing deodorants to 29 countries. It is a simplified and integrated supply chain.

The new deodorant plant will increase Unilever’s total capacity to 150 million units for sticks and 80 million units for roll-ons.

Unilever’s personal care products division accounts for about 65% of total revenues while the food category accounts for 35%.

Manny Pacquiao: world's best

Pacquiao crushes De la Hoya
GMA, other officials congratulate champion

LAS VEGAS, Nevada, United States — Manny Pacquiao, making his debut as a welterweight, ended Oscar de la Hoya’s golden career with an eighth-round stoppage Saturday, reinforcing his status as the world’s best pound-for-pound fighter.

2-1 underdog before the fight, the smaller Filipino neutralized Hoya’s size and reach advantage with his quickness, winning nearly every round before De la Hoya indicated he had enough.

"Speed was the answer to this fight," said the 29-year-old Filipino who scored his biggest win of his sensational career. "I was able to defend his jab. I was connecting with everything while he was connecting with nothing."

De la Hoya, 35, stopped for only the second time in his career, was taken to the hospital as a precautionary measure and did not attend the customary post-fight press conference.

His future remains uncertain, although the 10-time world champion said that while his heart is still there, his body is not.

"Manny Pacquiao is a great fighter and he fought a great fight," De la Hoya said, his left eye half-closed as a result of the beating he received from the relentless Pacquiao. "He was the better man tonight and he deserves all he has accomplished in his career."

Pacquiao jumped two weight classes to face De la Hoya, but lost none of the lightning-quick movements and hand speed that he is noted for.

After the first round, Freddie Roach, Pacquiao’s outspoken trainer, said he knew it was going to be easy. Roach had predicted that Pacquiao would stop De la Hoya in the ninth round.

Although the bout ended officially as an eighth-round TKO, De la Hoya quit before the sound of the bell to begin the ninth, prompting referee Tony Weeks to halt the fight.

"I am only surprised that my trainer picked the correct round that I won," said Pacquiao who stands only 5-6 compared to De la Hoya’s 5-10 frame.

De la Hoya did not disclose his plans for his future, although he hinted a few days ago that a loss would drive him to retirement so he could concentrate on running the affairs of his Golden Boy Promotions and spend more time with his family.

"We will see what happens," said De la Hoya, leaving the question hanging.

What had been labeled as a dream match turned into a nightmare for boxing’s biggest star. So dominating was Pacquiao that in a few instances, he backed away from putting the final touches on the cornered Dela Hoya.

"I felt pity for him," Pacquiao said.

Roach, however, reminded Pacquiao that he had a job to finish.

Near the end of the eighth, Pacquiao was drilling De la Hoya with head and body shots, but the former Olympic champion, to his credit, withstood the barrage.

At the time of the stoppage, Pacquiao was way ahead in the scorecards of the three judges. Two of the three judges scored the first round for De La Hoya but the remaining rounds were all Pacquiao.

Stanley Christodoulou scored it 79-72, while Adelaide Byrd had it 80-71 and Dave Moretti saw it 80-71.

The stunning result did not surprise Top Rank chief Bob Arum.

"The press is never wrong. They said this was going to be a mismatch and it was a mismatch," Arum said.

In a survey conducted on the eve of the fight by the Bulletin, seven out of 10 boxing writers predicted that De la Hoya would knock out Pacquiao in devastating fashion, citing his size and experience.

The opposite happened with De la Hoya quitting before the start of the ninth round.

Pacquiao, who weighed 142 lbs, earned not lower than [] million, while De La Hoya, who came in at 145 lbs, had not less than 16 million.

Both fighters are also l going to cash in on the pay-per-view sales.

Pacquiao, who celebrates his 30th birth anniversary on Dec. 17, said he plans to return to the ring in May or June, possibly against British Ricky Hatton.

The now-retired Floyd Mayweather Jr. is also on Pacquiao’s radar.

The win boosted Pacquiao’s win-loss-draw record to 48-3-2 with 36 knockouts, while the defeat saw De la Hoya’s mark slide to 39-6 with 30 stoppages.

The last time De La Hoya suffered an abbreviated loss was against Bernard Hopkins in a middleweight bout a few years ago.

Philippine Senate expected to approve national budget this week

The Manila Bulletin

The Senate is expected to approve the proposed P1.4 trillion national government budget for 2009 this week as it sets a marathon session starting today to finish deliberations on the outlays for government agencies, Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel Zubiri said yesterday.

"We will hopefully approve the budget on second and third reading tomorrow after just a total of five days of marathon sessions," Zubiri said.

"Although there are only a few agencies left in the deliberations, since those are major infrastructure agencies - such as the Department of Public Works and Highways and the Department of Agriculture, we expect prolonged debate," he said.

"We also expect debates on the budgets of the Department of Energy and the Ombudsman as deliberations were suspended last week," Zubiri added.

Agencies whose budgets are lined up for deliberations include the Departments of Agriculture, Public Works and Highways, Environment and Natural Resources, Social Welfare and Development and Budget and Management.

Meanwhile, deliberations will continue on the budgets of the Department of Energy, National Security Council, the Ombudsman, National Power Corp. and on some Special Purpose Funds, he said.

"We will propose amendments to make this budget more relevant to the global economic meltdown. We will provide budget to cushion the impact of a slowing world economy. We will throw a lifeline to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) who might loose their jobs abroad by allocating funds for retraining and retooling them so that they could seek new employment," he said.

"We are also increasing the funds on hunger-mitigation and nutrition programs as we expect many poor families to have much less money to spend for food," Zubiri said.

"We will also increase the budget for infrastructure projects that would create jobs and pump-prime the economy, and increase support services to the agricultural sector, especially in agrarian reform communities," he said.

Zubiri said "this would be the first time in recent years that Congress will pass the budget this early and approve the Bicameral Conference Report before the Christmas break on Dec. 19."

"We will have the 2009 General Appropriations Act before the year ends," he stressed.

"I thank my colleagues for their cooperation in expediting the passage of the budget and for their incisive interpellations and comments to temper government spending and bring transparency and efficiency to our expenditure programs," Zubiri said.

Foreign businessmen urge solution to transmission line issue

The Manila Bulletin

Foreign businessmen have urged for a win-win solution to the conflict between National Transmission Corporation (TransCo) and Dasmariñas Village residents over a transmission line near the posh residential village in Makati City.

Robert Sears, executive director of the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (AmCham), said that although the law and due process should be respected at all times both parties must come up with a win-win solution to resolve the issue.

"We need a win-win solution because the Dasmariñas residents I believe do not also want a power blackout situation," Sears said.

"It’s really a public infrastructure issue and it is up to courts but due process must be respected. If dismantling the transmission line means blackout for Metro Manila and public safety is a concern then people should rethink because of the cost to society," he added.

Sears has proposed that TransCo be given enough amount of lead time to prepare for the transfer of the transmission line.

"One would hope that the court would not impose an immediate transfer of the transmission and if it insists then how, this should be thought through," he said.

The transfer of the transmission line is expected to take at least two years at a cost of P1 billion.

"TransCo should be given reasonable time while maintaining service to the public," he said.

The row between TransCo and Dasmariñas Village residents stemmed from a complaint filed by some residents of Dasmariñas Village on March 9, 2000, before Branch 135 of the RTC in Makati seeking, among others, a permanent writ of preliminary injunction to cause National Power Corp. (Napocor) to remove the steel towers and high-voltage transmission cables installed near Tamarind Road.

The residents cited as basis for their complaint studies downloaded from the Internet showing that exposure to electromagnetic radiation emanating from transmission cables allegedly gives rise to afflictions like cancer, brain tumor, breast cancer, leukemia, abortions and birth defects.

Despite showing contrary evidence against the allegations made by Dasmariñas Village residents and presenting arguments that a court injunction would violate Presidential Decree 1818, which prohibits courts from issuing restraining orders or preliminary injunctions in cases involving infrastructure and natural-resource development projects of, and public utilities operated by, the government, the Napocor lost its case.

Residents of Dasmarinas Village succeeded in the legal battle after the Regional Trial Court in Makati issued a writ of execution barring TransCo from transmitting electricity through a critical transmission line near the village.

The government, through the Napocor-Transco, has repeatedly warned that deenergizing or stopping the transmission of power through the Dasmariñas portion of the Sucat-Araneta-Balintawak line would lead to reduced power loads resulting in brownouts and increase the cost of electricity in Metro Manila and elsewhere in Luzon.

The contested portion of the transmission line traverses a 3.2-kilometer area from Lawton Avenue (inside Fort Bonifacio) to Pasong Tamo Extension, which is near Tamarind Road, Dasmariñas Village, Makati City.

Transco, which assumed the electrical transmission function of Napocor by virtue of the Electric Power Industry Reform Act of 2001, would be forced to increase its transmission charges to recover the high costs of building an alternative-transmission line, the Solicitor General earlier told the Court.

There could also be adverse effects on the reliability and stability of the transmission system should Napocor-Transco implement the Court’s decision owing to the possible increase in the cost of electricity and material time needed to build alternative transmission routes.

The Sucat-Araneta-Balintawak 230-kiloVolt transmission line is a critical artery of the national transmission grid. Since electricity generated from power plants in Southern Luzon, the Visayas and Mindanao pass through this critical transmission line, its decommissioning would adversely affect Metro Manila, including the whole Luzon grid, according to studies presented by Transco.(BCM)