Saturday, 21 February 2009

Philippines creates 242,536 new jobs in countryside

By Othel V. Campos
The Manila Standard

Two departments have embarked on income-generating projects that will create 242,536 jobs in the countryside.

At least 242,536 of the new jobs will be created by the Environment Department, which is hiring that much number of people as “green workers” to reforest upland areas.

Another 131,000 jobs will be made available in the farm and fisheries sector, the Agriculture Department said.

The new jobs form part of President Arroyo’s directive for state agencies to intensify income-generating services, using their own resources or funds that will come from the P330-billion economic stimulus package.

Environment Secretary Joselito Atienza said the “green collar” workers will operate under two major components comprising the jobs program, namely, the Upland Development Program and the Forest Watch project.

Atienza said around 52,425 upland farmers will be hired as workers to plant fruit trees and high-value crops on denuded forests.

At least 49,318 hectares of upland areas and around 2,000 hectares of mangrove areas have been set aside for the reforestation and agroforestry activities, Atienza said.

Another 59,111 upland residents will be hired as forest guards, with a monthly pay of P3,000.

Atienza explained that his department’s comprehensive livelihood and emergency employment program takes a four-pronged approach to creating jobs in the uplands as it addresses forest protection and rehabilitation of watersheds and mangrove areas, while opening up opportunities for income generation and food production.

Under the agro-forestry scheme, each farmer will be given a hectare to develop for a fee of P3,270 per month to plant cash crops. Income is expected to reach around P23,270 per year from the sale of their produce.

Priority areas for reforestation are watersheds, stream banks, mangrove areas, and open and denuded forest lands not covered by any Environment Department-issued tenurial instrument like community-based forest agreement but needing immediate rehabilitation.

The Agriculture Department’s jobs commitment is equal to one-sixth of the target under the economic pump-priming effort of the administration.

Secretary Arthur Yap said his department would create 81,134 jobs through the repair and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities nationwide and another 10,400 under its organic fertilizer production program.

The department also pledged to create another 36,500 jobs through the construction of farm-to-market roads, Yap said.

Yap called on Congress to do its share in helping government mitigate the effects of the worldwide financial contagion on the economy by passing an economic stimulus bill that will bankroll these commitments reached during the jobs summit at Malacañang.

The jobs program will also involve the Public Works Department, Education Department, state universities and colleges, the Environment, Labor and the Trade Departments.



By Kathleen Gilbert

TORONTO, February 11, 2009 ( - 12-year-old "Lia" of
Toronto has become a star at her school and on Youtube with her
five-minute pro-life speech, crafted for a school competition.
Despite discouragement and outright opposition, Lia's presentation was
so well done that she reportedly won the contest she was told she
would be disqualified from, due to the "controversial" message of her

The speech is available in its entirety on Youtube, where it has been
viewed over 100,000 times and sparked a heated discussion.

"What if I told you that right now, someone was choosing if you were
gonna live or die?" begins the charismatic seventh-grader in a
practice recording of the speech posted on Youtube. "What if I told
you that this choice wasn't based on what you could or couldn't do,
what you'd done in the past, or what you would do in the future? And
what if I told you, you could do nothing about it?

"Fellow students and teachers, thousands of children are right now in
that very situation. Someone is choosing without even knowing them
whether they are going to live or die. That someone is their mother.
And that choice is abortion."

Lia, speaking easily and with sunny enthusiasm, fires off answers to
several common objections in the brief speech.

"Why do we think that just because a fetus can't talk or do what we
do, it isn't a human being yet?" She asks. "Some babies are born
after only five months. Is this baby not human?

"We would never say that. Yet abortions are performed on 5-month-old
fetuses all the time. Or do we only call them humans if they're

"Think about the child's rights, that were never given to it. No
matter what rights the mother has, it doesn't mean we can deny the
rights of the fetus," she said. "We must remember that with our rights
and our choices come responsibilities, and we can't take someone
else's rights away to avoid our responsibilities."

Lia's mother says that the topic was of her own choosing, and that she
was determined not to back down, even after teachers told her it was
"too mature" and "too controversial."

"She was also told that if she went ahead with that topic, she would
not be allowed to continue on in the speech competition," Lia's mother
wrote in the email to the Moral Outcry blog. "Initially, I tried
helping her find other topics to speak on, but, in the end, she was
adamant. She just felt she wanted to continue with the topic of
abortion. So she forfeited her chance to compete in order to speak on
something she was passionate about."
The mother told (LSN) that the girl's homeroom
teacher was supportive of Lia's speech even though she was pro-choice.
"After helping Lia do the speech she said, 'It really got me
thinking,'" the mom noted.

At the schoolwide competition, the mom said one pro-choice teacher on
the judge's panel "didn't even want to hear" the speech, and stepped
down from the panel before Lia began. After the speech, which Lia's
family said was well-received by both students and teachers, the
judges initially told Lia she had indeed been disqualified. But
controversy among the judges eventually led to a reversal, and Lia's
family learned the next day that the panel agreed the girl deserved to
win the competition.

"There was a big stink about it, and we volunteered to step down ...
but her teacher said 'No, she won fair and square, so she'll keep
going on," said her mom. Lia is expected to present her speech at a
regional competition tomorrow night, representing her school.

When asked what inspired Lia to pursue the topic so adamantly, her
mother said it was "a little mystery."

While the family espouses pro-life Christian values, "it's not like
we're out every weekend picketing," she said. "It was just something
really deep in her heart, and she just felt really passionate about
it." She added: "I kind of snicker when I see people on the Youtube
video [comment box] saying 'Oh, her mother forced her to do this' -
I'm like, 'No, I'm on the other end, trying to make her pick another

"But she was just really passionate about it, and she has her research
on it," said the mother. "I really believe it's just something that
God put in her heart."


Friday, 20 February 2009

Philippine figures disprove IMF forecast

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

THE Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Thursday took comfort in the latest data on “hot money” flows, disproving an International Monetary Fund (IMF) view that the worst is not yet over in the case of foreign-portfolio fund outflows.

The BSP showed six-week data on Thursday where the net flow of hot or speculative foreign money was inward, totaling $231.07 million.

This was 3.5 times the year-ago inflows totaling only $66.52 million.

According to the BSP, gross inflows during the period reached $559.15 million, while gross outflows stood at $328.08 million.

A day earlier, IMF resident representative Dennis Botman told reporters the outlook on hot-money flows this year was bleak, as portfolio fund managers struggle to pull out placements in emerging markets like the Philippines and stay close to home.

But both BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. and his deputy, Diwa Guinigundo, declared the worst was over as far as hot-money flows were concerned.

According to both of them, everything that could be pulled out of the country by way of hot-money placements has already been pulled out.

They made the declaration as the BSP reported hot-money outflows totaling $1.389 billion in 2008, a difficult year that would later force companies such as the US air-cargo carrier FedEx and chipmaker Intel Corp. to shut down operations and leave thousands jobless.

Botman believes the country’s external sector—as a result of difficulties and reverses such as the net outflow of portfolio funds he cited—should prove considerably weaker this year than last.

He earlier said the balance of payments, which tracks what is left of the country’s foreign exchange earnings after all its foreign-exchange expenses arising from trade, transfers and investments have been deducted, was to end in deficit of around $500 million.

The BSP had told reporters earlier the exact opposite, claiming the BOP should stay in surplus: as small as $500 million up to around $2 billion.

Botman acknowledged, however, that despite forecast strong headwinds affecting the external sector, the current-account component of the BOP should remain in surplus this year.

He also said the remittance of more or less 10 million overseas Filipinos should continue to expand, “although at a markedly slower rate.”

“Gross international reserves will be stable and the exchange rate is assessed to be broadly in equilibrium,” Botman added.

Philippine Business for Social Progress reaches 200,000 poor

Pangilinan challenges PBSP firms to give more to social development projects
The Manila Bulletin

Difficult times call for bold measures, including giving even more money and resources to social development projects that are designed to help free the majority of Filipinos from the grip of poverty.

According to Manuel V. Pangilinan, chairman of the Philippine Business for Social Progress, the country’s largest corporate-led social development foundation, the global economy is in the middle of a serious crisis and consequently, corporate profitability is adversely threatened.

But this should not prevent the private sector from doing its share in reducing the incidence of poverty in the Philippines. On the contrary, companies should find ways to even increase their funding support for social development.

"It is precisely at this time when that support is most needed, when people are out in the streets without a job, when reducing poverty and achieving sustainable development must not be set aside in the midst of a downturn," said Pangilinan in a speech during the recent Annual Membership Meeting and 38th Foundation Day Celebration of the PBSP.

"With a difficult period ahead of us, we should be compelled to do more and to give more, both for altruism and our own survival. There will be new needs and urgent calls that we must respond to, some of them outside our corporate paradigm and comfort zone," Pangilinan said, "We will need to marshal more resources and work more strategically and synergistically to help those who are most needy."

"The times offer us the opportunity to commit more support for programs that will mitigate the plight of many, if not the majority, of our countrymen. As we see it, our current programs are the appropriate response in this critical situation, and must be vigorously pursued," added Pangilinan, who also chairs the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.

Pangilinan reported that last year, PBSP member companies contributed P75.84 million for social development projects – the largest contribution so far realized in the foundation’s 38-year history and it was able to generate P247.6 million from donor agencies and partners during the year.

Over P300 million went to fund various projects nationwide, reaching 200,000 poor Filipinos through its education, enterprise development, health and water, and area resource management projects.

PBSP’s membership increased to 238 and it reached out to over 300 companies to help them implement their own corporate citizenship programs.

"We can thereby say with confidence that we have played our part in the war on poverty and its many dimensions, thus helping our country meet its Millennium Development Goals," Pangilinan said.

PBSP remains steadfast in its commitment to pursue its projects even as the adverse effects of the financial crisis are already starting to be felt.

Thursday, 19 February 2009

Philippines' SMC sets P10-B food group expansion

K. J. R. Liu and Reuters
BusinessWorld Online

DIVERSIFYING food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp. (SMC) has earmarked nearly P10 billion for the expansion of its food group program.

In a presentation to President Gloria M. Arroyo yesterday, San Miguel President and Chief Operating Officer Ramon S. Ang enumerated the key components of this P9.93-billion expansion plan as follows:

  • P4.89 billion for the expansion of the Monterey Hog Farm;
  • P3.37 billion for the expansion of the Magnolia Poultry Farm;
  • P840 million for the B-Meg Animal Feeds Progam;
  • P231 million for the Purefoods-Hormel Corp. Nuggets line; and
  • 215 million for the new Magnolia Ice Cream Plant.

Ms. Arroyo visited the company’s head office in Pasig City after delivering a speech at the opening of a conference of city mayors in Ortigas Complex.

Mr. Ang explained that the company would no longer outsource production of Magnolia ice cream and, instead, will build its own plant in Sta. Rosa Laguna.

Mr. Ang said San Miguel’s expansion program would generate about 10,000 direct and 50,000 indirect jobs.

Mr. Ang’s presentation to the President also showed that the joint venture between San Miguel Kuok Food Security, Inc. and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, signed on Nov. 10 last year, to develop an agroforestry plantation in Davao del Norte under the department’s Upland Agroforestry Project could start establishing the plantation by this September.

The project covers a total of 18,494.75 hectares in four municipalities, namely: 7,865.23 hectares in Talaingod, 5,860.49 hectares in San Isidro, 3,246.5 hectares in Kapalong and 1,522.52 hectares in New Corella.

The company’s "Feeding our Future Project," however, is considering a total of 3.8 million hectares nationwide for evaluation and possible development.

Bond issue

Mr. Ang later told reporters that San Miguel Brewery, Inc. will launch a peso-denominated bond issue within this month.

San Miguel said last month that it targets to raise as much as P38.8 billion from the debt issue. In a disclosure then, San Miguel Corp.’s beer unit said it would use the proceeds of the bond offer — expected to be the country’s biggest ever domestic corporate bond issue — to pay for the beer brands, intellectual property rights and real estate from its parent. San Miguel Brewery told the exchange the plan to buy the beer assets from its parent was a strategic initiative to secure a competitive advantage since it would be able to maximize the use of existing brands and develop its own brands that will cater to varied consumer needs.

Mr. Ang explained to reporters that the company would not proceed with a planned dollar bond if it managed to raise the targeted amount via this domestic issue.

Since it first disclosed its plan to diversify two years ago, San Miguel has been acquiring nonfood businesses, including 27% of Manila Electric Co. for P30 billion in October last year.

It is also in the process of buying majority of Petron Corp. for P32.2 billion, and is planning a local venture with Qatar Telecom on wireless broadband and mobile communications.

San Miguel, through San Miguel Bulk Water Co., Inc. is also seeking to partner with the government for the development of the Laiban dam project in Tanay, Rizal, estimated at P48 billion.

In his presentation to Ms. Arroyo yesterday, Mr. Ang outlined immediate thrusts of its diversifying interests as: to provide efficient, cost-effective electricity services; to provide broadband and high-speed Internet services via existing power lines; to provide reliable water supply in the greater Manila area; and to provide affordable petroleum products.

Ex-Philippine general comptroller convicted for lying

By Michael Punongbayan
The Philippine Star

Retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia, former comptroller of the Armed Forces, is escorted by police officers during the promulgation of his perjury case at the Sandiganbayan yesterday. BOY SANTOS
MANILA, Philippines - A retired Army general suspected of illegally amassing millions of pesos when he was still the military’s comptroller was sentenced by the Sandiganbayan yesterday to a maximum of two years in prison for perjury in declaring his assets.

The Sandiganbayan’s Fourth Division said the prosecution was able to prove how retired Maj. Gen. Carlos Garcia made a “willful and deliberate assertion of a factual falsehood” in his Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Net Worth (SALN).

The anti-graft court said the retired general failed to declare his multimillion-peso investment account in a military fund and misdeclared the value of his three vehicles.

In a 20-page decision penned by Associate Justice Jose Hernandez and concurred in by Associate Justices Gregory Ong and Alex Quiroz, the Sandiganbayan ordered Garcia imprisoned for at least one year and eight months or a maximum of two years.

Big fish
Updated February 19, 2009 12:00 AM

From military deputy chief for comptrollership to convict, the journey has been a long one for retired Maj. Gen. Carlos F. Garcia. The highest ranking military officer to be indicted for a criminal offense, Garcia nearly managed to retire in peace in 2004, with his colleagues in the Armed Forces of the Philippines seemingly reluctant to go after a two-star general on accusations of corruption. But the Ombudsman at the time, Simeon Marcelo, doggedly worked to pin down Garcia. In the end, Garcia was court-martialed and faced several criminal cases before the Sandiganbayan.

Yesterday, over five years after Garcia’s son was apprehended by US Customs authorities at the San Francisco airport for failure to declare $100,000 in cash, the disgraced general was convicted of perjury by the anti-graft court. Though the maximum sentence of two years was less than the time Garcia has already spent in detention, the conviction for failure to declare P7 million in his account with the AFP Savings and Loan Association Inc. could strengthen the bigger case against him for forfeiture of undeclared wealth.

Garcia was indicted over a year after junior military officers staged a curious mutiny in a posh Makati hotel to denounce, among other things, corruption in the AFP. Garcia’s court-martial was complemented by a major overhaul of the procurement process in the AFP and Department of National Defense. Under the reform program, red tape was cut and transparency in bidding and procurement promoted. The AFP and DND must not go back on those reforms and must in fact work to strengthen them.

In December 2005, a military court found Garcia guilty of undeclared wealth. He was dishonorably dismissed from the AFP and sentenced to two years of hard labor. The Sandiganbayan, for its part, must speed up its resolution of the other cases against Garcia. The two-star general found himself in trouble after his wife Clarita, coming to the defense of their son, explained in writing to US Customs authorities that the $100,000 came from her husband’s miscellaneous earnings as a comptroller. This is one of the rare cases where efficient prosecution has led to the conviction of a big fish. With more cases like this one, crooks in government may finally realize that in this country, not everyone can get away with crime.

No reason for doom or gloom in the Philippines

Gloom and doom ahead?
Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

A man owned a good business, a little restaurant about a kilometer or two from the main road. He always kept a sign advertising his business at the turn-off to let people know where he was located.

One year, a storm broke part of the sign and he wanted to put up a brand new sign. His son told him that times were bad and he shouldn’t spend the money repairing the sign. The son had been to college and was very smart about the world. So the old man left the sign alone.

Regular customers sometimes did not go down the road now, thinking that maybe the restaurant had changed because the sign was broken. New customers had a hard time finding the turn-off because they couldn’t see the sign. Business went down a little.

The old man thought that it might be a good idea to put more lights outside in his parking lot. But the son told him that times were bad and he shouldn’t spend the money. Customers that found the restaurant thought maybe the place was not so good because the parking lot looked dark and some of them went past, never stopping. Business went down a little.

The old man thought that maybe painting the front of the building would be a good idea to make the place look nicer. But the son told him that times were bad and he shouldn’t spend the money. Business went down a little.

The old man thought that maybe he should raise his food quality and spend more for the ingredients that he used in his cooking. But the son told him that times were bad and he shouldn’t spend the money. Business went down a little.

Then the old man fired his best cook because the son told him that times were bad and he shouldn’t spend the money. Business went down a little.

About a year later, the old man closed his restaurant. The son said that was too bad, but reminded him that times were bad. And there wasn’t anything he could have done about his restaurant.


The voices of the “gloom and doom” crowd are becoming louder every day. Toward the end of 2008 they kept saying that the economic numbers would be very bad, and then when 2008 turned out not be to be so bad, they raised the volume and are now shouting, “The worst is yet to come.”

As the days of 2009 tick off and it appears that the Philippines is not economically sinking into the South China Sea, the “gloom and doomers” are looking for anything possible to support their negative position. For example:

The headline read, “Universal Robina suffers first-quarter loss of P246 million.” Wow, that sounds bad. Except, when you read past the headline, you discover some interesting facts. Universal Robina Corp. (URC) actually saw total revenues double, up 122 percent, over last year. International sales rose 64 percent and they made a P36-million profit, compared with a net loss of P51 million a year ago. URC’s operating profit went up by almost 12 percent to P1.02 billion. The reason they showed a net loss for the quarter was because of their nonbusiness investments especially overseas, not because of their core business, which is making food. The Philippine economy is supposedly crashing but URC made 12 percent more than in 2007.

Then there was the stock market yesterday. The market ended down an insignificant 7.67 points or 0.4 percent. One “analyst” was quoted saying, “The drop shows investors remain skeptical of the effect of the US stimulus package.” Seven points doesn’t sound like investors are very worried. What this analyst did not say was that the night before, there was a bloodbath in US and European stocks, with their markets down nearly 4 percent, not just 0.4 percent. Even in Asia yesterday, Japan and Hong Kong dropped 1.5 percent and China followed the West down 4 percent. We did very well, all things considered.

To justify their “gloom and doom” stance, it was pointed out that Bank of the Philippine Islands was down 2 percent, Ayala Land was off 1.7 percent and SM Prime dropped 2.6 percent. Four stocks, including Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co., out of 30 Philippine Stock Exchange index issues dropped the market less than 8 points. Now I am not saying all is well in the market, but let’s at least tell the full story and not pick and choose facts to push an opinion.

The “worst is yet to come” voices in the Philippines cannot find any hard and significant evidence to justify their very dismal outlook. Instead, because they have been to college and are very smart about the world, they are telling us that their crystal balls are going to be accurate. Maybe they will be proved right. Maybe not. But I can predict one thing for sure.

If we as an economy start thinking and acting like the times are bad for the Philippines without some hard evidence to back that opinion up with, a year from now we will have created our own bad times. Be sensible, be smart and be financially efficient. And, most of all, be realistic.

PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by Inc. E-mail comments to

SAP Philippines. sees revenue growth from SMEs

The Manila Bulletin

SAP Philippines Inc., a business software provider, expects revenue contribution from its small and medium enterprises (SMEs) unit to account for 30 percent of its total business this year from 20 percent last year following the surge in the requirement for business solutions among SMEs.

Patrick G. Tan, SAP director for SMEs, told reporters during a press conference for its latest client FoodAsia Corp. that the revenue contribution from its SME division has been growing significantly over the years. Last year, the SMEs account for only 10 percent of their total revenues.

Because of the increased demand, SAP has also beefed up its SME unit by adding more people and enlisting more partners.

Tan, however, clarified that the company’s focus on SMEs has always been there whether there is crisis or not but it is only now that they are getting more people to work in its SME unit to handle an increasing number of clients.

At present, SAP has over 270 clients and expects to grow this to over 300 in the first quarter this year but Tan said there could be a potential of 3,000 IT-ready companies out there or those companies that require the "Business One" solution, an entry level business software.

"This means we only capture 10 percent of the market," he said.

To further make their business solutions more affordable to entrepreneurs, SAP has come up with bundled services including the software solution, hardware, maintenance of network, hosting email, website, payroll and biometric device.

This way, the client can cut on cost and they are worry-free because everything is done for them.

SAP has also offered a financing scheme through easy payment schemes.

SAP Philippines president Jenny Ligones said the growing demand for business software solutions in the country is driven by the aggressiveness of the new entrepreneurs to enhance their IT infrastructure to improve their efficiencies and become profitable.

For instance, its latest client FoodAsia Corp., a manufacturer and retailer of consumer food products, seeks to increase its profits by improving its efficiency through the SAP Business Oneâ„¢ software.

The company, through its brands Bibingkinitan® and FreshFoods®, produces rice-cakes, frozen bread, beverages, and other flour-based products. FoodAsia Corp. selected the SAP Business One solution through SAP-licensed reseller Clerysys Philippines, Inc.

"With our products being distributed through various retail channels like our company-owned stores, franchised-owned stores, and other retail partners, we need a business solution that will allow us to get accurate figures which in turn, will help us make quick management decisions," said Richard Sanz, president and CEO of FoodAsia Corporation.

At present, FoodAsia has about 110 stores located in all major cities and distribution channels including all major supermarkets, groceries, convenience stores, wet markets.

Last year, the company opened a total of 35 outlets and is targeting between 30 to 40 stores this year.

Before the adoption of SAP Business One, the company had to grapple with a host of operational problems such as the tediousness and inaccuracies of manual encoding of sales, inventory and distribution data.

Data that is crucial to maintaining good cash flow and proper inventory. Furthermore, because of the voluminous paper trail generated by the manual system, the company’s operational costs were costly as extra office supplies and manpower was needed.

The adoption of SAP Business One is expected to resolve these operational problems, Sanz said.

The company expects to streamline its business processes and implement control measures on inventory management, distribution & logistics, and accounting systems. Another expectation is to increase the productivity levels and efficiency of its staff by spending less time in the manual process of monitoring transactions.

Since SAP Business One is linked to the company’s proprietary SMS Messaging System, which tracks down all the sales and inventory of each of its 110 stores at real time thru SMS, the company expects its operations at the store level to be more efficient and reduce its opportunity losses.

SAP is the world’s leading provider of business software(*), offering applications and services that enable companies of all sizes and in more than 25 industries to become best-run businesses.

The company has approximately 76,000 customers including customers from the acquisition of business objects in over 120 countries. SAP is listed on several exchanges, including the Frankfurt stock exchange and NYSE, under the symbol "SAP".(BCM)

Wednesday, 18 February 2009

President Arroyo inks cooperative code amendments into law


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo signed into law today the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008, bringing to a successful end the campaign of cooperatives for a strengthened and more comprehensive law on the promotion and development of the country’s cooperatives

The signing ceremony was held at the Rizal Hall of Malacañang before lawmakers and representatives of the various cooperatives in the country.

President Arroyo signed the new Code, now know as Republic Act (RA) 9520, in the presence of its principal sponsors: Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, chairman of the chamber’s committee on cooperatives in the Senate, and his House counterpart, Cong. Ernesto C. Pablo.

The new law amends the 1990 Cooperative Code of the Philippines, otherwise known as RA No. 6938.

The new law gives cooperatives greater opportunities to serve their members, not only in terms of financial assistance, but also in undertaking more productive activities geared toward uplifting the lives of their members.

RA 9520 outlines in greater detail the requirements in professionalizing the management and operation of cooperatives, and provides for a monitoring and evaluation tool for the cooperatives to conduct self-assessments of its managerial, financial, and social objectives.

Under the new law, cooperatives are expected to play important roles in the country’s social justice and sustainable economic development programs.

More opportunities in store for members as PGMA signs into law Coop Code of 2008

Tacloban City (PIA) -- Amidst the global economic crisis that is threatening to affect the Filipino people, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to sign into law today, the proposed Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008 which will give cooperatives greater opportunities to serve their members.

The President's signing into law the much awaited Republic Act 9520, comes as a fresh breath of hope to the almost 24,000 cooperatives all over the country. This is perhaps the reason why some 500 leaders of cooperatives are expected to witness the signing at Malacanang today.

The signing also brings to forth the importance of cooperatives not only as an important tool in poverty reduction but also in mitigating the impact of the current global economic meltdown on the Filipino people.

To less than President Arroyo cited the cooperative as she once said, "at a time of great challenges, cooperatives have helped the government in forging strong economy by bringing in investments, cutting down the incidence of hunger and helping reduce the unemployment rate with the creation of seven million jobs in seven years."

"When we bring in investments including the cooperatives' investments and create jobs, our people have a more stable and predictable life. And with more investments come more tax revenues that can be invested in schools, roads and bridges as well as healthcare, education and environment. Over time, everyone will benefit."

Sponsored in the Senate by Sen. Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, chairman of the chamber's Committee on Cooperatives, and in the House of Representatives by Rep. Ernesto C. Pablo, the bill was passed in Nov. 2008.

The new law, Republic Act No. 9520, which amends the 1990 Cooperative Code of the Philippines or RA No. 6938, gives cooperatives greater opportunities to serve their members, not only in terms of financial assistance, but also in undertaking more productive activities geared toward the economic upliftment of their members.

The new cooperative code outlines in greater detail the requirements in professionalizing the management and operation of cooperatives. It provides a monitoring and evaluation tool for the cooperatives to conduct self-assessments in terms of its managerial, financial, and social objectives.

The main aim of the enactment of the Philippine Cooperative Code of 2008 is the utilization of the cooperatives for social justice and sustainable economic development.

The Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) reported that since 1990, the number and types of cooperatives registered include 4,812 savings and credit cooperatives; 1,369 consumer cooperatives, mostly in public and private offices and schools; 1,409 producers cooperatives; 911 marketing cooperatives; 1,806 service cooperatives providing power distribution, potable water and irrigation system, public and private transportation service; and 60,000 registered agricultural and non-agricultural cooperatives.

The entire cooperative sector generated 1.636 million jobs in 2006, 1.563 million jobs in 2005 and 1.498 million jobs in 2004, the CDA report stated. (PIA 8)

Philippine Bank Lending Expands Further in December

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral

Lending activity continued to be robust in December. Outstanding loans of commercial banks including reverse repurchase agreements or RRPs increased in December by 17.5 percent year-on-year, while bank lending net of banks’ RRP placements with the BSP also grew by 20.5 percent. These growth rates were, however lower than those recorded a month earlier.

Preliminary data for December were obtained from the new system of bank reporting under the Financial Reporting Package (FRP). This system replaced the Consolidated Statement of Condition (CSOC) reports. The FRP adopts the detailed classification of the amended 1994 Philippine Standard Industrial Classification (PSIC) for international comparability. The FRP also classifies lending by production activities (which covers 16 economic sectors) and by household consumption purposes (with three economic categories). Bank reports previously classified loans into only nine economic sectors.

Loans for production activities drove the expansion in bank lending, growing by 18.3 percent in December, relatively steady from the 18.4 percent expansion posted in November. The following production sectors contributed significantly to lending growth: agriculture, hunting, and forestry (which grew by 53.0 percent); real estate, renting, and business services (30.2 percent); wholesale and retail trade (27.9 percent); and transportation, storage and communication (45.9 percent). Lending to the financial intermediation sector contracted by 14.9 percent, as did lending to the fishing and mining sectors.

Consumption loans grew by 13.4 percent in December from 20.6 percent in November. The growth came mostly from credit card receivables which expanded by 20.5 percent from 23.3 percent in the previous month. Auto loans rose by 10.5 percent from 12.6 percent in the previous month. Meanwhile, loans for other household consumption fell by 16.3 percent from a growth of 22.0 percent in November.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said that the BSP keeps a close watch on bank lending trends to generate an advance indicator on the direction of future economic activity. He noted that the BSP’s monetary easing moves in previous months are expected to support credit growth in the months ahead to help alleviate the effects of the global financial crisis on the domestic economy.

Philippine Domestic Liquidity Sustains Strong Growth in December 2008

Bangko Sentral

Demand for money remained strong in December as domestic liquidity or M3 grew by 15.6 percent year-on-year, higher than the 14.6 percent year-on-year increase recorded a month ago. This brings the average M3 growth for 2008 to 8 percent. On a monthly basis, seasonally-adjusted M3 expanded by 2.6 percent in December from the 2.0 percent (revised) growth posted in the previous month.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said that the sustained double-digit expansion in domestic liquidity, which started in September 2008, was due to the strong growth in both net domestic assets (NDA) and net foreign assets (NFA). NDA expanded by 13.1 percent, due mainly to credit extended to the private sector, which increased by 16.8 percent. Credit extended to the public sector also grew by 16.7 percent on the back of a 16.2 percent growth in lending to the National Government. The growth of credit granted to local government units and other public entities also accelerated at 18.2 percent. Meanwhile, NFA grew by 16.4 percent from 11.8 percent in November, due mainly to the continued growth in the BSP’s NFA as the BSP’s foreign assets sustained robust growth of 28.0 percent from 28.3 percent a month ago. Banks’ NFA continued to contract, although at a much slower pace, by 16.8 percent in December from 41.9 percent in November, as their investments in foreign securities plummeted.

The continued growth of domestic liquidity indicates that there are funds available in the system which could be tapped for investment and other productive activities.

World Bank has lots of explaining to do in the Philippines

World Bank options
Mary Ann Ll. Reyes

As more “excerpts” from an alleged World Bank report blacklisting three Filipino contractors are leaked to media, more and more Filipinos are demanding that World Bank officials do some explaining. After all, the country’s reputation and future is at stake here.

The WB may want to debunk a growing impression in the business community that its so-called investigations do not adhere to the principles of due process and that some faulty investigative methods may have made its probers highly vulnerable to “unverified information”.

It may also be good for the WB to step on the brakes on what some quarters in the business sector are beginning to suspect is an orchestrated effort to use the controversy to stop the flow of financing into the country and channel them elsewhere.

WB officials in the country may have to address the worries created by the admission of its investigators that they have never meet nor seen the face of their alleged informant who supposedly linked several political personalities to the controversy.

That admission was part of a news story last Saturday which partly detailed the allegations of their “informant” which, it appears, had supplied WB investigators with “information” only through e-mail.

The question being raised by some businessmen is why would the WB investigators put together a “report” that is based significantly on “information” from mysterious sources — a Japanese contractor who failed to bag a public works contract from the Philippine government and anonymous characters whom the investigators themselves admit they do not know nor have they met? How reliable could such “information” be?

Maybe, it should tell its investigators to look for so-called “impartial” sources — those who have no direct financial interest in WB projects. In our country, there are no “losers” in elections or project bidding. Only “cheated” candidates and project bidders.

The WB may have to realize that accusations by losing bidders that the bidding for the project they lost had been rigged is a dime a dozen here. We have begun to look at them with skeptical eyes.

We also suggest the WB tell its mysterious sources to do what the representative of Japanese contractor Suzuka did – appear before the Senate.

Trix Lim, whose Japanese client was supposed to have told the WB about having to bribe local officials in order to win contracts, told a different story. He debunked claims that Suzuka ever met with First Gentlemen Mike Arroyo and the late Senator Robert Barbers when Suzuka was in the Philippines.

Lim also said he was never interviewed by the media, and that he is completely in the dark as to what the basis of the reports are quoting him and his client about the alleged need to bribe local officials.

The WB has placed the Philippines’ international reputation in jeopardy as a result of this “report”. It must protect its own reputation by showing it has a solid case against this country.

Philippine cargo, passenger traffic in most Roro routes rising–expert

Danielle Venz, (Philexport News And Features)

CARGO volumes and passenger traffic in the Central-Eastern Nautical Highways roll-on, roll-off (Roro) continue to grow with the establishment of the western seaboard despite slower economic growth, according to a logistics expert.

Enrico Basilio, director of the Center for Research and Communication’s (CRC) Transport and Logistics Institute, told a logistics conference that the western seaboard did not compete with the central and eastern seaboards but actually is “complementary.”

Basilio said cargo traffic in most Roro routes in the central and eastern seaboards has increased to 104,362 metric tons (MT) in 2007 from 4,021 MT in 2003. This is evident particularly in the Lucena-Masbate route.

The Central Nautical Highway is the central route connecting Pilar, Sorsogon, to Balingoan in Misamis Oriental, through Central Visayas and connects to the East-West routes of Cataingan in Masbate and San Carlos City in Negros Occidental.

The Eastern Nautical Highway, on the other hand, is the eastern sea link that connects Biliran, Leyte, to Surigao City or the northeastern tip of Mindanao and the central trunk route of Cataingan in Masbate.

Basilio said a CRC study shows that shipments through Roro routes mainly include agri-fishery products, manufactured goods, fruits and vegetables and livestock. “We found that a lot of cargo being moved by Roro are agriculture products and this has impact on poverty alleviation and countryside development,” he said.

Basilio said agricultural products that pass through the Eastern Nautical Highway are fruits and vegetables, as well as fishery products all the way from General Santos and Davao.

Mineral products such as nickel, chromite, silica and limestones are shipped out of Surigao.

For some routes in the Central Nautical Highway, as well as east-west lateral connections such as Cebu-Tubigon and San Carlos-Toledo, palay, rice, copra, live animals, fishery products, fruits and vegetables top the list of major agricultural commodities that are transported by Roro, he added.

Basilio said rice and palay, fishery products, fruits and vegetables dominate the commodity flow for the western seaboard.

Also, total passenger traffic particularly in the Roxas-Caticlan route reached almost 700,000 in 2006 from more than 1,000 in 2003. “From 2003 to 2006, tourism receipts in Boracay grew by 50 percent, Iloilo by 30 percent, Bacolod by 15 percent and Dapitan by 200 percent,” he said.

The Western Nautical Highway links Manila and Dipolog connecting to the Central Nautical Highway in Cebu City.

“Surprisingly, in the Southwestern Mindanao network [Jolo, Sulu, Tawi-tawi], a lot of fishery products largely marine, carrageenan and seaweeds and livestock are now ferried by Roro,” he noted.

Basilio is optimistic that the Roro will continue to play a pivotal role in domestic trade, tourism and area development despite slower economic growth this year.

“Roro softened the impact of the shipping liner crisis in June 2008,” he said, recalling the grounding of the Sulpicio ships because of the Princess of the Stars tragedy that reduced the supply of ships that transport goods and people within the country.

“It was Roro that provided the alternative mode of sea transport,” he added.

Cebu Pacific forecasts P25-B revenues in 2009

The Manila Bulletin

Cebu Pacific (CEB) expects to thrive in the global economic crisis, hauling in P24 to P25 billion revenues and a "much better bottomline" this year from around P19.5 billion revenues and a loss in 2008, President and CEO Lance Y. Gokongwei told yesterday’s press conference.

After jet fuel prices went down from 60 percent of the carrier’s cost in 2008 to only 30 percent this year, CEB scrapped the surcharges on all its international fares effective today (February 18, 2008) to stimulate demand.

Jet fuel accounts for the single biggest cost of CEB, up to two-thirds. Hence, when oil plunged from $ 140 a barrel last year to the current $ 60 a barrel, CEB was able to scrap the US$ 40-75 per way fuel and insurance surcharge it slaps on fares.

The move will slash CEB’s year-round fares by as much as 17 percent, leaving passengers to pay just the fare and government taxes.

Now, the carrier is offering a system-wide sale of over one million seats effective today until the allotment is sold out. The promo fare is P1,999 one way from Manila to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, Kaohsiung, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau Singapore and Taipei; Clark to Bangkok, HK, Macau and Singapore as well as Cebu to HK for travel between May 1 to December 31, 2009.

This year, "We intend to achieve an 80 per cent load factor and add routes with either the same or increased frequencies for 2008," Gokongwei noted. "In times of financial crisis, Low Cost Carriers like CEB will prevail."

People having less money and scrimping customers dampening demand for travel do not faze CEB. "Our business model is to make flying a habit, so in tough times, we make flying more affordable. We see a lot of corporate business this year as companies become more conscious of meeting their travel budgets," he explained.

CEB fell 300,000 passengers short of its 7 million passenger target for 2008 because it was forced to increase fares in response to the fuel price increase.

Still, last year’s total of 6.7 million passengers represented a 23 per cent growth from 2007’s 5.5 million total passengers and almost 46 per cent share in the domestic market.

"For 2009, CEB targets to carry 9 million passengers, of which 6.8 million are domestic and 2.2 million are international," Gokongwei forecasted.

And while CEB expects a 2008 operating profit, it anticipates a loss after foreign exchange losses and hedges, the President admitted. "We expect to have positive bottomline and do much better this year."

In addition, CEB has drastically reduced its capital expenditures from over USD$ 200 Million last year to only $ 60-70 million in 2009. Although it is adding 6 aircraft for 2009 four ATR 72-500s and two airbus A320s, the last two are leased and do not go into CEB’s books.

Manila Water net income rises 16% to P2.8 billion in 2008

The Manila Bulletin

Manila Water reported that its net income last year rose 16 percent to P2.8 billion from P2.41 billion in 2007 on the back of higher water sales volume complemented by further improvements in the company’s operating efficiency.

The firm disclosed to the Philippine Stock Exchange that this was made possible through the company’s intensive capex program. In 2008 alone, the company spent a total of P4.2 billion as it accelerated the implementation of expansion projects and invested in new systems and processes.

Billed volume went up by 4 percent to 387 million cubic meters as Manila Water expanded its customer base by 46,765 new household connections.

In addition, the company managed to further reduce system losses by 6 percentage points to 19.6 percent, from a high of 63 percent in 1997.

This is the first time that Manila Water has brought its level of water losses to below 20 percent, which is significantly better than most of the company’s regional counterparts.

The company also began construction on a number of sewerage treatment plants in 2008, with the aim of bringing sewerage coverage to 30 percent by 2012 from the present level of 16 percent for the East Zone.

MWC plans to ramp up the level of capital investments even higher with a P187-billion service improvement plan over 15 years, P37 billion of which will be spent within the next five years alone.

This plan aims to ensure 24-hour water supply to customers, mitigate effects of natural calamities, expand water and wastewater services to more areas in the East Zone of Metro Manila, and ensure that sufficient water supply is available to meet the demands of an increasing population coverage, particularly in Taguig, parts of Rizal and some parts of Bulacan. (JAL)

Jeepney fares cut OK’d

Operators to collect new fares on Monday
50-centavo fare cut to begin on Monday – LTFRB

By Genalyn D. Kabiling
The Manila Bulletin

The riding public will enjoy a 50-centavo reduction in minimum fare of jeepneys plying Metro Manila roads starting next week.

Jeepney operators and drivers yesterday agreed to lower the minimum fare from P7.50 to P7 for the first four kilometers in a "post-Valentine’s gift" to ease the burden of the public.

The provisional 50-centavo fare reduction in Metro Manila jeepneys was reached during a meeting between President Arroyo and several officials of public transport groups in Malacañang.

"We will reduce the minimum fare by 50 centavos. Even though Valentine’s is through, this is our gift to the public," Zenaida Maranan, president of the Federation of Jeepney Operators and Drivers Associations of the Philippines (FEJODAP), said in a news conference in the Palace.

Maranan said they decided to deliver the "good news" to the public, on the eve of the hearing on fare adjustments by the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board (LTFRB).

Newly appointed LTFRB Chairman Alberto Suansing said they will fast track the petition for provisional fare reductions so it could be implemented by February 23, Monday.

Suansing added that President Arroyo was "very jubilant" over the fare cuts offered by jeepney groups in Metro Manila.

Efren de Luna, president of the Alliance of Concerned Transport Organizations (ACTO), said this will be the third fare rollback implemented by transport groups amid plummeting prices of diesel.

In case fuel prices would rise anew, De Luna admitted that they would have to take back the fare reductions.

Other groups that will implement the fare reductions are Alliance of Transport Operators and Drivers Association of the Philippines and United Transport Koalisyon (1-UTAK).

Apart from the jeepney fare cuts, Suansing said the LTFRB will also tackle proposals to reduce fares in buses in Metro Manila and the provinces in Wednesday’s public hearing.

During the Cabinet meeting in the Palace, Suansing said they have convinced public transport groups to devise a "parametric formula" to prevent arbitrary setting of fares. Among the factors of the proposed formula will be labor costs, spare parts, petroleum prices, and location.

"We will come up with a parametric formula so that whenever a component of that formula increases or decreases, the fare can easily be adjusted reflective of the situation," he said.

Suansing added that authorities must take into consideration the situation of the different regions where prices of oil products vary.

He said the transportation department will also accelerate its campaign against colorum vehicles and "kotong" cops, often blamed for reducing the income of public transport drivers and operators.

Lawyer Vigor Mendoza, 1-UTAK chairman, meantime said they don’t support the scrapping of the oil deregulation law, saying "we have to work together to make the law work."

Mendoza said the public transport group is actually planning to set up refueling stations to help bring down transport fares. "Kakayanin na yan dahil the environment for competition is there," he said.

Malacanang earlier endorsed a review of the oil deregulation law to provide better protection to the public amid fluctuating prices of petroleum products in the world market.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the President’s economic team will handle the review and make the necessary recommendations to strengthen the supervision powers of the Department of Energy over oil firms.

Philippine infra projects expected to open 500,000 jobs

By Angie Chui
The Manila Bulletin

More than 500,000 jobs will be opened to skilled and unskilled workers in the construction industry starting this month as the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) sets to bid out over 4,000 projects with its P108 billion capital outlay for infrastructure this year, officials said yesterday.

In an interview, DPWH Undersecretary Ramon Aquino said Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. has already ordered to fasttrack this month the biddings for P60-billion worth of projects set for implementation in the first half of the year.

Aquino said the first semester projects translate to 1,209 contracts that should be awarded by the end of the month, which is expected to generate jobs at a time when economies are in recession and firms are downsizing their workforce to stay afloat.

He said the department will hold job fairs starting Monday, February 23, in DPWH district and regional offices in time for the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement among the National Constructors Association of the Philippines (NACAP), Philippine Contractors Association (PCA) and the Department of Labor and Employment.

The MoA aims to provide skilled and nonskilled workers a chance to secure positions with the contractors, given the need for increased manpower to accomplish the government- awarded contracts.

Aquino said workers hired during the job fairs will work with various construction firms for the duration of their contracts – be they long term or short term. Among the positions open are for masons, carpenters, foremen, heavy equipment operators, surveyors and civil engineers.

"The Secretary ordered to obligate and spend the P60 billion for the first semester of the year to generate more employment," he said. "We are also working with the DoLE to assist in this undertaking.

"They will help match the workers’ capabilities and preference with the best infrastructure project based on the location of the job so that they (workers) may be able to save also on transportation and other costs."

Aquino said the department will act as a conduit for the employment of workers with reputable companies under the NACAP, the umbrella group of small contractors, and PCA, which takes charge of major projects.

He assured that the hired personnel will receive at least the minimum wage in their respective areas of designation or possibly more depending on the firms that they will work for.

"Their rights as employees will be protected by the contractor, and they will be given due benefits," Aquino assured.

He added that the law also gives priority to residents of the community as locals should account for 80 percent of total skilled and unskilled workers needed for such projects.

By the second half of the year, Aquino said they will allocate the remaining P48 billion in their capital outlay to sustain the department’s employment generation drive.

From January to December of 2009, the DPWH has in its payroll 27,222 employees under the Task Force OYSTER (Out of School Youths Serving Toward Economic Recovery), in charge of maintaining almost 30,000 kilometers of roads, including shoulder maintenance, traffic management, and drainage service.

Aquino said the OYSTER personnel are hired on a rotation basis, assigned in one department for six months and transferred to another position for their next turn.

In 2007, the department was able to generate over 300,000 jobs while in 2008, job employment jumped to almost 500,000.

Last month, labor officials expressed concern that 200,000 workers are in danger of losing their jobs in the next six months if downsizing in key industries continue.

Based on the latest DoLE figures, 40,000 workers have so far been laid off in the country while 33,548 workers have been given reduced working hours in the companies’ bid to cut costs and overhead. Industries most affected by the economic slowdown are those in the economic zones, semiconductor and export manufacturing sector.

Tuesday, 17 February 2009

At P25, it beats sleeping in park

By Diana A. Uy
The Manila Standard

TRANSIENTS are trooping to Bayani Fernando’s inn on Bonifacio Drive near Rizal Park in Manila each time they can’t make it home, and for a good reason: They pay only P25 to stay 10 hours and have an eight-minute shower—or P50 to stay 24 hours and have two eight-minute showers.

The building was an old four-story structure converted into some sort of dorm in May 2007, and it was so successful that the Metro Manila Development Authority, led by Fernando, had another one opened on Jose Abad Santos Street in Tondo, Manila, a year later, and now plans to build more.

Fernando calls his inn Gwapotel—literally Handsome Hotel. The rent there is so cheap that a meal from any of the fast-food outlets on the first floor of his dorm on Bonifacio Drive, for instance, costs more: P30 to P43 for one viand, a cup of rice and some soup. The cost of an overnight stay is so affordable that the front desk crawls with backpackers waiting to check in on most nights.

“It beats sleeping in the park,” says Bong, 41, a parking lot attendant in Robinsons Ermita. He checks in each time he can’t make it home to Valenzuela—to where the cost of a roundtrip commute is P60—to be with his wife and two kids.

The people taking advantage of Fernando’s Gwapotel include vendors, fast-food and office workers, nurses, returning migrant workers, casino players, ferry riders, seamen, and students and others who can’t make it home for one reason or another. More men than women check in at the inn, and it’s the reason the men have three-and-a-half floors to themselves and the women only one wing.

One might call the inn a home away from home, but the cheap lodging has its trade-offs. There is no air-conditioning (though the open windows let the breeze in), and the double-decker beds, covered in pink and blue tarpaulins, sit cheek-by-jowl. A pink steel basket on one end of each bed serves as a storage area, but you must carry your belongings with you everywhere to avoid theft. Day and night, the sound of traffic from Bonifacio Drive comes through.

The bathroom is communal. The flimsy curtain covering each of the 20 showers invites peeping toms, and the showers themselves are operated by a five-peso coin: You must have another coin ready if your eight minutes are up and you’re still not through.

Still, most lodgers like the Gwapotel just fine.

“It’s cheap and very near where you want to go,” says Brenda, 57, a real estate agent from Zambales who has been staying at the inn for a year.

“I’m happier here,” says She, 25, who lives in Las Piñas and works in a fast-food restaurant. “I’m near my friends.”

“I sleep more comfortably here,” says Bong the parking lot attendant.

“It beats sleeping in the park.”

World Bank admits it has no solid proof on collusion

By Fel V. Maragay
with Joel Zurbano
The Manila Standard

AS THE controversy over the alleged rigging of foreign-funded road contracts worsens, World Bank country president Bert Hofman has made an admission that the bank lacks evidence to prove that local and foreign contractors have colluded with one another during the bidding for these infrastructure projects.

Hofman made the revelation to Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago in a letter dated Feb. 13.

According to Santiago, Hofman had said that the nine-page referral report that the Bank sent to the Finance Department and the Office of the Ombudsman did not say they were sure if a crime or violation of law had been committed by the Filipino construction firms that the Bank had investigated.

“The World Bank admitted that they have no evidence that there was collusion [among the contractors] that were blacklisted. And much less do they have evidence against those who were implicated,” Santiago said on radio.

Hofman sent the letter to Santiago, chairman of the committee on economic affairs, a day after its members decided, upon the motion of Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, to subpoena the bank official for ignoring the Senate’s invitation to its public hearing on the case.

Santiago said World Bank officials had said they were not sure of the involvement of certain personalities whose names were dragged into the controversy—such as First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, former Public Works Secretary Florante Soriquez and three former congressmen.

“What is puzzling is if they are not sure [of the involvement of these people], why is the [WB] report, that was supposed to be confidential, appearing in the Internet?”

Santiago said the report and other documents on the alleged irregularity may have found their way into the Internet either because the Bank itself leaked them or these were stolen by some people.

The World Bank concluded it was more likely than not that there was collusion without the benefit of solid evidence that would stand in court. “It did not say we found the respondents guilty.”

According to Santiago, the bank’s Sanctions Board issued a separate decision on the cases of the different contractors that it investigated. Despite the insufficiency of evidence, the Bank decided to blacklist three Filipino contractors—E.C. de Luna, Cavite Ideal International Consruction and Development Corp. and C.M. Pancho Construction.

A copy of the decision of the Sanctions Board, dated Jan. l2, and obtained by Standard Today says:

“Based on the consideration of the record in the case, the Sanctions Board concluded with respect to respondents E.C. de Luna and Mr. Eduardo C. de Luna that is was more likely than not that these respondents had engaged in collusive practices in connection with the World Bank-financed NRIMP [National Road Improvement Project]. In reaction to this conclusion, the Sanctions Board considered as compelling the statement of certain confidential and non-confidential witnesses.

“However the Sanctions Board also concluded that the evidence did not establish that it was more likely than not that the respondents had engaged in fraudulent practices separate from the collusion. In addition, the Sanctions Board concluded that the INT [Institutional Integrity Office] had not presented evidence sufficient to establish that is was more likely than not that these Respondents had engaged in corrupt practices.”

In a related development, Santiago lashed back at Senator Panfilo Lacson for [insinuating that the Feb. l2] hearing on the issue was “orchestrated” to favor administration personalities implicated in the scandal.

Santiago said Lacson had no business dictating to her what to do, specially since he was not a lawyer familiar with the legal aspects of the case at hand.

“It does not look good that you are criticizing a fellow senator that way. It creates the bad impression that we in the Senate are divided. We must accord due courtesy to each other.”

Santiago was also irked by Lacson’s criticism of her decision, as chairman of the committee on economic affairs, to terminate the hearing by l2:30 p.m. or after only three hours.

The problem with Lacson was that he was saying those things behind her back and not during the hearing or when the Senate was in plenary session, she said.

“If he doesn’t want the way I am handling the investigation, he should say it directly to me. Perhaps he can deliver a privilege speech and we will debate on the floor.”

Santiago said Lacson should blame himself because he left midway through the hearing to attend to a public speaking engagement. She chided him for giving more importance to the speaking engagement than to the hearing, which was called to shed light on claims that First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo and other administration personalities were involved in the alleged manipulation of the bidding of the road projects.

Philippine call centers are not dying

John Mangun
Business Mirror

LOOKING back to 2005, a column titled “Are the Call Centers Dying?” filled this spot. Back then, I was not as bullish on the outsourcing industry for the Philippines as I am now.

Unfortunately, I was listening to too many “experts,” then saying things like “The economic benefits of outsourcing customer service are grossly overstated”. That was from a senior partner of an Australian consulting firm, Niels Kjellerup. I wonder what his job is now, since he certainly cannot be advising corporations on the benefits of outsourcing. Another, one Alexa Bona said then, “During the next three years, up to 60 percent of companies will encounter customer defections that will either cancel or outweigh any perceived savings”. Those two are probably now working together or are unemployed together.

And here we are three short years later with Oscar Sanez, chief executive officer of the Business Processing Association of the Philippines, saying that outsourcing will create 100,000 more new jobs this year in the Philippines. Revenues for this industry hit $6.5 billion in 2008, with a 2009 expected growth rate of 20 percent. That would put revenues to the Philippines to nearly $8 billion, about one-half of total overseas remittances.

Too often in the Philippines, call centers are mentioned as almost an afterthought to the nation’s economic growth and the potential is also nearly dismissed. There is this false idea that in the event of a significant slowdown in the global economy, the BPO will not help the Philippines much. That is a bad argument.

And I think the estimates are wrong. I think the industry is going to grow at closer to 30 percent this year and that revenues are going to be closer to $9 billion.

Companies that a few years ago would never have even considered outsourcing their customer-service functions are now having to do it for simple corporate survival.

For example, Telecom Corp., New Zealand’s largest telephone company, is going to move 250 call-center jobs to the Philippines over the next 18 months to reduce costs. It will retain 1,600 jobs in New Zealand and place 700 jobs in the Philippines. Eventually, if everything works out in the Philippines, as I am sure it will, its New Zealand staff will be cut to only 550, with the majority of its customer service being done right here. Survival.

What you do not read in the newspapers is the massive and well-hidden shift of operations to the Philippines. One unnamed US company made big publicity a few years ago when it abandoned its customer-service operations overseas and moved those jobs back to the US. Now, without any publicity, it is coming to the Philippines very soon and will initially employ 700 Filipinos.

Another very large Australian company will put up 500 seats in the Philippines. And these stories are being repeated over and over.

Sadly, most of the stories you read about are about a call center losing a major client and being forced to shift agents to another account. Bad news sells newspapers.

Want a fascinating number about the economic impact of the call centers? For every holiday, the call centers spend about P50 million in holiday- pay bonus.

While here in the Philippines, the call-center business does not receive the respect it deserves for its economic impact, our main competitor, India, is scared to death. Reading the daily newspapers there, you learn that they know that they cannot effectively compete with Filipino call-center agents either for quality of service or cost. Frequent editorials call for more government action, whatever that means, to avoid their centers closing. But they will close and they will move jobs to the Philippines.

The direct benefits of our export business are small, but the indirect benefits are important. Each employee of one of those electronic factories creates other jobs and the same is true, if not more true, for the call centers.

Further and more important, a laid-off electronic assembler has limited and specialized skills that cannot easily be put to use in another industry. This is not true for the pool of potential call-center employees. For example, the number of employed Philippine bank tellers is not growing at 25 percent per year. Yet, nearly all currently employed bank tellers, with their customer-service skills, conversational English and educational attainment, could most probably go to work tomorrow at a call center for higher income. The call centers can absorb these new employees while, at the same time, open up more positions in the banking sector for more tellers and cashiers.

While the headlines are shouting about the imagined potential of layoffs of overseas workers, where are the headlines shouting about the planned employment of 100,000 call- center agents?

I know why. Because the same people who write the articles never see the tens of thousands of call-center agents going to work every night all across the country. The journalists are tucked sweetly into their beds, while the agents are working at 2 in the morning helping Americans figure out how to turn on their computers, load ring tones on to their cell phones, and getting some British customer to pay his credit-card bill.

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Philippine $16.4-B remittance beats ’08 forecast

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

THE remittances of millions of overseas Filipinos, a key component to sustained domestic expansion, proved slightly better than forecast in 2008, totaling $16.426 billion during the year. “This was 13.7 percent higher than the level recorded in 2007 and slightly above the BSP’s growth forecast of 13 percent or $16.3 billion for the full-year 2008.”

That’s Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. speaking on Monday. He added, “Amid the challenges posed by the global financial-market strains and the economic downturn experienced by host-economies, remittances from overseas Filipinos remain a dependable source of foreign exchange for the economy.”

Earlier apprehensions that the global economic downturn would dampen remittance growth to the detriment of domestic consumption—vital to the continued fueling of local output or the gross domestic product—were thus dissipated by the newly posted data.

Tetangco said in December alone, the remittances totaled $1.4 billion, ensuring continued billion-dollar remittance levels that began more than three years ago or in May 2006.

He traced this development to “sustained demand for Filipino manpower worldwide—particularly professional and skilled workers—combined with greater access by overseas Filipinos and their beneficiaries to expanded remittance-transfer facilities.”

Overseas Filipino worker (OFW) deployment during the year grew at a robust rate of 27.7 percent to 1.376 million from 1.077 million previously. This was true even with actual deployment in December falling by 5.8 percent to 89,799 and giving some substance to arguments that deployment numbers in the future would flatten and eventually decline.

Tetangco acknowledged that while the global economic landscape was likely to worsen over the next few months, there nevertheless are certain areas that permit government to remain hopeful. “Specifically, the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration or POEA indicated that labor demand could remain strong in Canada, Bulgaria, Australia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar. The latter in particular could continue to demand foreign workers in the power/energy, tourism/hotel and real estate sectors.”

He also reported the hiring program for nurses and caregivers in Japan under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (Jpepa) “will commence by end of April or early May this year.”

The implementing agreement covering the entry of nurses and caregivers was signed by the POEA and the Japan International Corp. for Welfare Services January 12.

“Moreover, Filipino workers could benefit from the rapid expansion of New Zealand’s dairy industry, spurred by higher milk prices, which created demand for dairy farm workers,” added Tetangco.

Philippine poll automation budget approved by March

Jhoanna Frances S. Valdez and Bernard U. Allauigan
BusinessWorld Online

CONGRESS WOULD meet a March deadline set by the Commission on Elections (Comelec) to pass a multibillion-peso supplemental budget to automate next year’s general elections.

The Comelec has said that passing the P11.3-billion budget beyond March would scuttle plans to hold automated elections on May 10, 2010, and that the system would revert to the fraud-prone manual count.

Quirino Rep. Junie E. Cua, committee on appropriations chairman, said House Bill (HB) 5715, which he authored, would be passed in the House of Representatives this week.

"Prior to the passage, we have scheduled a three-day demo period of the machines starting [yesterday] to allow [the congressmen] to have personal appreciation and understanding of the operation... because it is a new system," he told BusinessWorld.

Senate finance committee chairman Edgardo J. Angara said in a separate telephone interview that the Senate will pass its version within February. The Senate proposal has the same amount.

Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile said both chambers of Congress would ratify the measure before it goes on break on March 6.

"We will approve that; otherwise, we will have no money to conduct the [automated] elections," he told Senate reporters.

Comelec Chairman Jose Armando R. Melo said it needs the supplemental budget up and running no later than April.

"We really need the budget by March, but we can still manage to work things out if [the budget] will be released to us in April," he said in an interview.

He added that unless the funds are available, they cannot proceed with the bidding for voting and counting machines and the subsequent publishing of the bidding’s terms of reference.

"We would then have to revert to the manual counting of votes," he said.

Mr. Melo said they plan to buy direct recording electronic, a touch pad technology; precinct count optical scan; and central count optical scan.

Philippine balance of payments swings to $1.7-B surplus in January

BusinessWorld Online

A SUCCESSFUL 10-year sovereign bond issue and partial payment for a key power asset made the country’s external payments position swing to surplus in January from a deficit a month earlier.

Central bank data released yesterday showed a balance of payments (BoP) surplus of $1.735 billion last month, from a deficit of $275 million in December.

A central bank official, who asked not to be named, attributed last month’s surplus to the National Government’s 10-year bond issue, which fetched about $1.5 billion, and partial payment of $987.5 million by the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines, which won the right to run the country’s electricity transmission grid for 50 years. — PLGM

Monday, 16 February 2009

Philippine inflation seen at 1.3% in third quarter

By Des Ferriols
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - The country’s national average inflation rate is projected to drop to as low as 1.3 percent in the third quarter of this year as the prices of commodities continue to ease compared with last year’s rapid escalation.

This developed as the central bank survey of private sector analysts and economists pegged the inflation rate at an average of 4.5 percent, higher than the government’s 3.9-percent projection.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) expects inflation to drop steadily in the first three quarters of the year before going up slightly towards the end of the year.

BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said the steady decline in the inflation rate is expected to bring the average rate down to 3.9 percent, well within the official target inflation of 2.5 to 4.5 percent.

Guinigundo said the BSP’s 2009 and 2010 outlook considered that food and non-food prices have declined dramatically, leading to actual drops in commodity process.

Guinigundo said the BSP also believed that second round effects have run their course and this would lead to inflation averaging at 4.7 percent in 2010, also within the 3.5 to 5.5 percent.

“The base effects for 2009 are also not insignificant,” Guinigundo said. “We’re also looking at the impact of transport fare reductions and the lower path for Dubai oil,” he added.

The BSP said survey indicates that inflation rate would average at 6.8 percent in the first quarter and drop down to 4.1 percent in the second quarter of the year.

The BSP also reported that based on its initial monthly survey among private sector economists and analysts, expected inflation for 2009 declined from 6.5 percent to 4.5 percent as of December 2008, and from 9.2 percent to 6.8 percent for Q1 2009.

The BSP said this was consistent with the results of the fourth quarter 2008 Consumer Expectations Survey (CES) and Business Expectations Survey (BES), showing lower inflation expectations and a smaller proportion of respondents anticipating an increase in inflation.

The BSP said the results of the January 2009 Asia Pacific (AP) Consensus Survey also showed lower inflation expectations, with average inflation for 2009 now forecasted at 4.9 percent from 5.7 percent in the December 2008 survey.

The relatively low inflation rate is projected by the BSP despite the fact that domestic liquidity is expected to grow by 14 percent, higher than originally seen as the central bank continued to ease monetary policy to stimulate growth.

Domestic liquidity (also referred to as M3) is the amount of money circulating in the domestic economy. At a time when the economy is booming and money supply is expanding rapidly, the central bank would normally step in to mop-up in order to ensure that inflation would not surge.

The BSP had projected that M3 should expand no faster than 13 percent this year in order to prevent inflation pressures from building up and triggering a clamor for wage adjustments which would feed yet again into the inflation cycle.

But under current circumstances when the economy is slowing down, the central bank said it wants to release more liquidity into the system to encourage people to spend and stir up economic activity to prevent the economy from stalling.

In the last two months, the BSP has already cut its key policy rates twice by 50 basis points, combined with the reduction in the banks’ liquidity reserves earlier on.

Medical tourism

Globalization of medical practice
Bernardo Villegas
The Manila Bulletin

Thanks to Dr. George Garcia and his team of doctors at the Asian Hospital Corporation, the Philippines is increasingly on the international map of medical tourism. There are foreigners who come to the Philippines for heart surgery and other medical procedures that would cost five to ten times in the United States, Japan, and European countries.

Also very much already in the international network of medical tourism are world-class hospitals like St. Luke (the first to obtain international certification), Medical City, Makati Medical and Cardinal Santos Hospital. This list will be enlarged as hospitals outside of Metro Manila, like those in Batangas, Pampanga, Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo, and Davao improve their facilities and attract some medical practitioners returning from the US and other developed countries, where they had cultivated their respective specializations catering to patients from all over the world.

We can call this phenomenon the globalization of medical practice. It can earn substantial foreign exchange as already demonstrated by hospitals in Thailand. It can reverse the brain drain of health personnel since we can retain more and more of our doctors, nurses, physical therapists, radiologists and other health workers. If properly structured, some of these hospitals can also address the needs of the poor patients by getting their richer patients – especially those from abroad – to subsidize the free medical services to the underprivileged. I am glad that the Government and the private sector are united in developing a strategy for medical tourism in the Philippines.

There is, however, a danger we have to avoid. As medical practice becomes globalized, there may be certain unethical procedures that foreign patients may expect local doctors to indulge in. I am not referring only to blatantly immoral practices like abortion, which is both criminal and unconstitutional in the Philippines. I am referring also to such practices as invitro fertilization and human cloning. I would like to remind doctors in the Philippines about the social doctrine of the Church concerning some of these practices. Special regard to this doctrine is called for in hospitals where you have Catholic nuns working or in which the Church is an important stakeholder like Cardinal Santos Hospital. I am sure the Episcopelians involved in St. Luke would also be careful about the practices to which I refer.

Let me first discuss the whole area of assisted reproduction. The Compendium of the Social Doctrine of the Church clearly states in Paragraph 235: "The desire to be a mother or a father does not justify any ‘right to children’, whereas the rights of the unborn child are evident. The unborn child must be guaranteed the best possible conditions of existence through the stability of a family founded on marriage, through the complementarities of the two persons, father and mother. The rapid development of research and its technological application in the area of reproduction poses new and delicate questions that involve society and the norms that regulate human social life."

Given the general principle cited above, doctors in the Philippines should proceed very cautiously in the area of artificial insemination. The Compendium continues: "We must repeat the ethical unacceptability of all reproductive techniques – such as the donation of sperm or ova, surrogate motherhood, heterologous artificial fertilization – that make use of the uterus of another woman or of gametes of persons other than the married couple, injuring the right of the child to be born of one father and one mother who are father and mother both from a biological and from a legal point of view. Equally unacceptable are methods that separate the unitive act from the procreative act by making use of laboratory techniques, such as homologous artificial insemination or fertilization, such that the child comes about more as the result of an act of technology than as the natural fruit of a human act in which there is a full and total giving of the couple."

Here, the key principle is the dignity of each and every human person born to this earth: "Avoiding recourse to different forms of so-called ‘assisted procreation’ that replace the marriage act means respecting – both in the parents and in the children that they intend to generate – the integral dignity of the human person. On the other hand, those methods that are meant to lend assistance to the conjugal act or to the attainment of its effects are legitimate."

Then there is human cloning, strictly defined as the reproduction of individuals at the embryonic stage with methods that are different from those of natural fertilization and in such a way that the new beings are genetically identical to the individual from which they originate. This cloning is contrary to the dignity of human procreation because it takes place in total absence of an act of personal love between spouses, being agamic and asexual reproduction. In the second place, this type of reproduction represents a form of total domination over the reproduced individual on the part of the one reproducing it. The fact that cloning is used to create embryos from which cells can be removed for therapeutic use does not attenuate its moral gravity, because in order that such cells may be removed the embryo must first be created and then destroyed."

It is well known that the issues of human cloning and stem cell research are highly debated in the United States, with the party of President Obama taking aggressive positions which gloss over the dignity owed to the embryo which is the beginning of human life. We cannot allow the morally erroneous views of some American politicians to contaminate our cultural and religious practices which assign the highest value to human life from conception. It is hoped that at least the Catholic doctors – whose consciences are well formed by their respective bishops and parish priests – will be vigilant in preventing unethical practices of test tube reproduction and human cloning in their respective hospitals. For comments, my email address is

Sunday, 15 February 2009

World Bank funds $250-m Philippine road project despite probe

Joyce Pangco Pañares, Joel E. Zurbano, Roy Pelovello, Fel V. Maragay
The Manila Standard

THE World Bank will still finance the third stage of the National Roads Improvement and Management Program, worth $200 million to $250 million, despite its claim of bid rigging in the project’s first stage, Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said yesterday.

The decision to push through with the financing meant the multilateral lending agency had put the issue behind it, he said.

“The incident involving the $33-million portion of the $150-million Phase 1 is a non-issue already. Reforms have been put in place,” Andaya said.

“If things go well, the proposal is for [stage 3] to be introduced either this year or next year.”

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the World Bank’s decision to boost its loans to the Philippines by up to $1 billion a year from this year to 2012 showed it “continues to have faith” in the government’s processes for development projects.

Meanwhile, the Public Works Department has summoned 17 of its staff to shed light on the World Bank’s claim of cheating in the bidding.

“We will sanction them if they fail to appear,” said Oliver Rodolfo, a member of the department’s investigating team.

“These people took part in the bidding process, but that does not necessarily mean they are guilty [of dishonesty].”

Over at the House, Reps. Pedro Romualdo and Rodito Albano said a report by the Philippine Center for Investigative Journalism on the Bank’s charges vindicated lawmakers’ doubts on the lending agency’s claims.

“The report confirms what we have been saying all along: that the [World Bank] report is shot with hearsay,” said Romualdo, chairman of the committee on good government and public accountability.

“We have been crucifying the contractors and public officials tagged in the report. Then we later discover it may not have been as credible as earlier claimed,” Albano said.

Senator Mar Roxas said the Senate must accept the World Bank’s offer to help investigate graft instead of blaming it for its lapses.

But Senator Jamby Madrigal urged her colleagues to sanction the Bank for refusing to cooperate in the Senate’s investigation of its charges.

“It is appalling that the Senate has to subpoena the World Bank to gain its cooperation,” she said.

Andaya said the Ombudsman could only use the World Bank’s report as “leads” for its own investigation.

“The [World Bank] report cannot be used or be referred to in any [other] report,” he said.

“You can’t use the names there. They are saying that we should do our own investigation, and that’s where we are right now.”

Philippine govt spending P11b for port development

Roderick T. dela Cruz
The Manila Standard

The government will spend close to P11 billion in different port projects around the country, as a part of the government’s stimulus package to induce economic activities and create jobs amid the global financial crisis.

Oscar Sevilla, general manager of the Philippine Ports Authority, said the agency plans to start the construction of 74 ports by the third quarter or fourth quarter of 2009.

“These port projects will generate jobs, boost tourism, promote peace and order in the countryside, and create economic activities,” Sevilla said.

He said the 74 ports, to be built under a foreign loan for the GMA Maritime Port Access project, would link islands across the country. The loan will be shouldered by the Transportation Department.

He said the PPA did not have enough funds to undertake the construction, prompting Transportation to finance the ports from its budget. PPA is a government-owned and -controlled corporation under the Transportation Department.

Sevilla said the ports would be cheaper and easier to build because they would be constructed using a modular port technology developed by a contractor of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. He did not name the French company.

It is estimated that each module could be completed in as short as two months at a cost of between P40 million and P50 million.

Port projects built under traditional construction methods cost about P150 million per port, said the PPA.

The government is negotiating with foreign banks to finance the implementation of the project.

Sevilla said that once completed, the modular ports would become a part of the Roll-on, Roll-off nautical highway in the country.

He said while RoRo ports do not contribute much to the coffers of PPA, these projects have lowered the cost of inter-island transport and induced economic activities in many islands.

Philippines taps tourism investments

Tourism overhaul okayed by Congress
By Fel V. Maragay
The Manila Standard

A bicameral conference committee has approved the final version of the administration-sponsored bill, which seeks to reorganize the Tourism Department and to attract more investments in developing tourism attractions and facilities.

The bill also envisions the establishment of “tourism enterprise zones” in strategic areas, such as Cebu, Davao, Bohol, Laguna, Cavite, Boracay, Palawan and Iloilo to lure foreign and local investors in developing scenic, historical and other places with high tourism potentials in the country.

“There is no superlative that can describe how important this piece of legislation will be to our people who are looking for jobs or business opportunities,” said Senator Richard Gordon, chairman of the Senate committee on tourism and principal author of the measure.

Gordon, who chaired the Senate panel in the bicameral committee, said the bill opens additional channels for the infusion of investments needed to keep the economy growing.

The former Tourism secretary said the tourism bill would give the people the power to pull themselves out of economic recession that has begun to hit themselves hard.

“Our favorite example of this is what is currently happening in Intramuros with History Town and the Best of the Regions. In a single weekend, Intramuros received over 6,000 visitors, which resulted in taho vendors earning more than the basic wage earners, calesa drivers earning more than cab drivers, and stall owners are doing more business than some locators in the malls,” Gordon said.

Tourism does not only create more jobs and spur business, but also revive the ordinary Filipino’s pride and compels him to take stock of himself.

“With tourism, we discover more than places. We discover and regain our pride as Filipinos. We have a beautiful country and Filipinos excel in many things. That is something money cannot buy—pride, respect and dignity,” he said.

Gordon said he expects the committee report on the bill to be ratified on March 7.

The Senate contingent in the bicameral committee included Senators Lito Lapid, Pia Cayetano, Alan Peter Cayetano, Loren Legarda and Juan Miguel Zubiri.

The House panel was composed of Reps. Edgardo Chatto (chairman), Raul del Mar, Florencio Miraflores, Del de Guzman, Philip Pichay, Ma. Carissa Coscuella, Bienvenido Abante, Darlene Custodio and Juan Edgardo Angara.

Philippine jobless rate to stay below 10%

By Roderick T. dela Cruz
The Manila Standard

An official of the National Economic and Development Authority said unemployment rate in the Philippines will not hit a double-digit rate this year, despite the global economic slowdown that forced electronics companies to shed jobs.

Neda policy and planning director Dennis Arroyo said job losses, stemming from the global financial crisis, would be between a low of 40,000 and a high of 200,000 workers.

“That’s the range for the whole year, a big range. Definitely, it will raise the unemployment rate,” he said, but not enough to push unemployment rate to 10 percent.

The unemployment rate for October 2008 was recorded at 6.8 percent.

Arroyo said the issue is being addressed by the Labor Department by shifting migrant Filipino workers from countries with weak demand to those with strong demand.

“The Middle East countries are responding to the crisis by pump-priming and spending on infrastructure projects. That will boost OFW unemployment in construction. There are also new markets in Guam, New Zealand and South Australia,” he said.

Arroyo said the gross domestic product growth momentum would continue in 2009, and was not likely to fall below the low-end target of 3.7 percent this year.

“The crisis began in September and hit hard in October, November and December. Hence, the fourth quarter of 2008 was already in the crisis era. Yet, the economy still grew by 4.5 percent,” Arroyo said.

He said the 2009 GDP growth target range of 3.7 to 4.7 percent assumed a merchandise export growth of 1 percent to 3 percent.

Arroyo noted that in the fourth quarter of 2008, exports declined 9.2 percent.

“One would have expected the economy to post growth lower than 3.7 percent. But what happened was that manufacturing for the domestic market compensated for the drop in exports,” he said.

Manufacturing growth accelerated to 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter of 2008, from 2.6 percent in the fourth quarter of 2007.

The growth was buoyed by food manufacturing, beverage, chemicals and chemical products.

Arroyo said the drop in fertilizer and fuel prices would boost production in the agriculture, fishery and forestry sector.

He said he expects more delays in mining projects due to “hesitance to invest” amid the global crisis.

Manufacturing, he said, will be dragged by exports but eventually will shift to the domestic economy. There will also be a big public construction push, positive response from private construction, power sector reforms and expansion of water service areas.