Saturday, 14 March 2009

President signs Philippine P1.4-trillion budget

DepEd, DPWH, DILG lead agency outlays
President Arroyo restores P50 B for debt servicing
By DAVID CAGAHASTIAN
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/node/198870

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signed last Thursday the P1.414-trillion national budget for 2009 which, Malacañang said, will allow more spending to "blunt the effects of the global economic downturn," Budget and Management Secretary Rolando Andaya announced yesterday.

Mrs. Arroyo signed the 2009 national budget without fanfare.

Secretary Andaya said the new national budget is P188 billion higher than the P1.226-trillion 2008 national budget.

He said the increase in the budget will provide funds for activities that will encourage growth in the economy and create jobs, like building more infrastructure and increasing funds for social services.

"It will be targeted spending that will address present concerns while investing for the future," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo, however, vetoed the P50-billion realignment by Congress from the debt servicing fund to the funds for infrastructure and social services, which Congress intended to provide more economic stimulus amid the global economic crisis.

Andaya defended the veto of the P50-billion realignment, saying that the presidential veto on Congress’ "tweaking" of the debt servicing fund was "a practice all her predecessors resorted to."

Andaya explained that Mrs. Arroyo vetoed the "concept of appropriating" an amount for debt servicing because debt servicing is automatically appropriated by law.

"Debt servicing is automatically appropriated — you have to pay for what is due each year. What was vetoed was the concept that debt servicing is a programmed amount," Andaya said.

The amount for debt servicing was cut by Congress from P252 billion to P202 billion, but Mrs. Arroyo’s veto restored the original amount for debt servicing.

Andaya explained that the amount that would actually be used for debt servicing could be more or less than the P252 billion allocated by the budget because the debt payments would be influenced by the actual cash that the government would have for 2009.

The government’s Economic Stimulus Fund (ESF), however, was not vetoed.

Andaya said the P10-billion ESF will fund the construction of at least 6,000 classrooms, 2,959 kilometers of farm-to-market roads, and irrigation works in 125,000 hectares, among other infrastructure projects.

By agency, the biggest recipient of this year’s budget is the Department of Education (DepEd) with an outlay of P158.2 billion, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) with P130 billion, and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) with P63 billion.

The other agencies with the biggest budgets are: Department of National Defense (DND), P56.5 billion; Department of Agriculture (DA), P41.2 billion; Department of Health (DoH), P27.9 billion; Department of Transportation and Communications (DoTC), P25 billion; State Universities and Colleges, P22.8 billion; Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), P13.1 billion; and the Judiciary, P12.6 billion.

No single gov’t worker will lose job, GMA assures
By GENALYN KABILING

Not a single government worker will lose his or her job under the rationalization program in the bureaucracy, President Arroyo declared yesterday as she practically suspended the abolition of government positions with redundant functions.

Speaking at the Kiwanis International 34th Asia Pacific Convention at the Waterfront Cebu City Hotel, in Lahug, Cebu City, the President directed Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. to allow employees with redundant positions to keep their jobs until they reach their mandatory age of retirement in an effort to protect the dedicated workforce from the fallout of the global recession.

Even as she opted to keep excess government workers on payroll, the President said the government will continue to run a lean, efficient government and carry out other belt-tightening measures to generate savings for more food, fuel, and rice subsidies for the poor.

"On the part of the government, we must live within our means and run a lean, efficient government. All the while, we must also simultaneously invest in people. For this reason, in the light of the global crisis, in the implementation of rationalization program of government, I have asked Secretary Andaya to make sure that nobody is dislocated," she said.

"If, in accordance with the rationalization program, an employee is occupying a position that has been declared redundant due to rationalization but he still prefers to stay in government, then the position will only be abolished upon his regular retirement," she added.

Mrs. Arroyo said it would be "really quite ironic" if the government sets aside money for emergency employment programs while it was letting go of other workers in the meantime. "A lot of the technically declared redundant are anyway going to be vacated by retirement in a few years time and I believe we can wait for that time," she added.

In recent months, the Arroyo government has been criticized by labor groups for implementing the untimely rationalization program that reportedly would displace a significant number of state employees at the height of the faltering global economy.

Despite her commitment to spend on more infrastructure, social services, and job generation, the President said the government would cut costs and other wasteful spending like an average Filipino household.

She noted the government must continue to "come to the rescue of the poorest among us" with targeted subsidies on food, fuel, and rice, and other mitigating measures.

"In challenging economic times, the government must tighten its own belt and live within its own means so we will have money to pay for all of these subsidies and programs. To that end, the government is taking a series of actions to stop unnecessary and wasteful spending. The taxpayers deserve no less from their government and public servants," she said.

Among the cost-saving measures are the mandatory requirement for government agencies to use fluorescent lights rather than incandescent bulbs, she said.

The President said she also asked government agencies to reduce by 1.5 percent their respective maintenance, overhead, and operating expense (MOOE) budgets, which translates to 7-billion savings.

Friday, 13 March 2009

Private sector funds 70% of Philippine P100B infra project

NLEx extension to be funded by P100-B stimulus

BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW031309/content.php?id=005

THE EXTENSION of the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx) to Carmen, Pangasinan has been identified as among the infrastructure projects that will break ground this year as part of a P100-billion government and private sector pump-priming initiative, a Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) official yesterday said.

PCCI Chairman Emeritus Donald G. Dee said the project — already approved by the Investment Coordination Committee of the National Economic and Development Authority — will cost P10 billion and will start construction next month.

"And we are very close to an agreement with the land owners [of the lots that will be affected by the expressway]," Mr. Dee told reporters at the sidelines of a meeting between trade negotiators and industry groups.

"More than 70% of the funds will come from the private sector. In this particular project, I think private sector banks will not request for government guarantee [for the loans made by the contractor]" Mr. Dee said.

The Philippine Export Import Credit Agency has been reported to be amenable to guaranteeing 85% of an infrastructure project’s cost. This will hopefully entice commercial banks to fund the pump-priming initiative.

The private sector is aiming to start another project this year, Mr. Dee said, declining to elaborate.

The planned NLEx extension involves 48.7 kilometers and will provide "faster and effective access of agricultural products from the North to the major population centers in Luzon", according to a report from the Universal Access to Competitiveness and Trade (U-ACT) which Mr. Dee chairs.

The Private Infra Dev’t. Corp. consortium was identified as the project proponent. It was awarded the venture in February 2008 after a bidding process, the report stated.

Philippines plans to export 150,000 MT surplus sugar

BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW031309/content.php?id=053

THE PHILIPPINES is looking to export 150,000 metric tons of surplus sugar from the past crop year, a senior official said yesterday, despite an expected shortfall in output in the current growing season.

The export volume will be on top of the 137,000 MT already shipped to the United States, under an annual quota program in which the US buys the sweetener at prices above levels in the global market.

"We’re looking at Japan, Hong Kong, Dubai, Indonesia and possibly China," Rafael L. Coscolluela, head of the Sugar Regulatory Administration, or SRA, said in a phone interview.

"The market is not a problem; there are enough buyers in the region to absorb our surplus."

Philippine sugar exports in 2007/08 reached 152,982 MT, down from the 237,037 MT shipped out in 2006/07, according to SRA data.

Mr. Coscolluela said domestic sugar production is forecast to fall to 2.05 million MT in the current crop year ending August from a 24-year high of 2.455 million MT in the prior growing season.

That is lower than an initial estimate of 2.2 million MT made in November.

"We’re still feeling the effects of last year’s unusually wet weather which delayed milling and with delayed milling comes delayed planting," he said, adding that high prices also curbed use of fertilizer.

Still, the multi-year high output in 2007-08 resulted in a surplus of more than 650,000 MT at the end of August and the Philippines needs to export some 150,000 MT to trim its inventory.

That will bring buffer stock to around 400,000 MT at the end of the current crop year in August, said Mr. Coscolluela, which is equivalent to more than two months of national consumption.

"That’s why we’re pushing to export, because we need to get rid of the surplus," said the SRA head.

He said there was no plan at all to import sugar even with the expected output drop given the surplus last year.

Mr. Coscolluela said production should rise by 10%-15% in 2009/10 on lower fertilizer and fuel prices and better weather conditions. "The crop for next year seems to be taking off on a better footing."

The SRA chief was optimistic that a law mandating an increase in the use of locally sourced biofuel ethanol would mean bigger business for sugarcane growers.

But with only two ethanol plants operating in the country at this time, Mr. Coscolluela said Philippine oil companies will need to import 184 million liters of ethanol this year, mostly from Brazil.

The country expects national use of ethanol to reach 208 million liters this year, but local firms, which recently began investing in ethanol plants, only have capacity to produce 39 million liters.

"We have authorized the importation of 184 million liters of ethanol because there’s very limited local production," said Mr. Coscolluela, who is also vice-chairman of the National Biofuels Board.

The Philippines began mandating a 5% ethanol blend in gasoline products in February, in step with other countries which have required the use of bioethanol to stretch supplies of gasoline.

Imports last year reached just 12.3 million liters, most of them from Brazil, Netherlands and Thailand. — Reuters

American BPO firm opens 291-seat call center in Philippines

JOSE BIMBO F. SANTOS
BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW031309/content.php?id=048

CYBERNET-SLASHSUPPORT, a US-based technology support company, opened a 291-seater call center hub at the Fort Bonifacio in Taguig City yesterday, the company’s first business process outsourcing (BPO) facility here.

Raghu Rahman, Cybernet vice-president and head of consumer services, said their initial investment in the facility was around $2 million. Fifty technical support employees will start working today, with 50 more expected to report for work in the next two months.

"The cost of doing business in the Philippines is 5% to 10% more expensive than in India, but its advantages are its talent pool, which requires less training time," Mr. Rahman said.

"The availability of talent is here — people who can scale up very quickly — that’s the biggest asset of the Philippines for us. And also the friendliness, which is inherent here, is really important for us because of our customer support services," he added.

Mr. Rahman said the Taguig facility would focused on technical support. Cybernet, which has 4,300 employees worldwide, may invest an additional $4 million to $5 million in the coming three years, which translates to three more sites, Mr. Rahman said. "We’re looking at three [more] sites in the three-year horizon, which gives about 3,000 [more] jobs. In three years time, we expect about 30% of our revenue to come from the Philippines," he said.

"Government support is really encouraging. What was very interesting for us was the speed of the bureaucracy in accommodating our business. The whole thing really happened very fast," Mr. Rahman said. He added that they were eyeing locations for future facilities that are near universities, so that the firm can tie up with the academe for training.

"Right now, the market is stagnant so there is no substantial growth, but what we are trying to do is to sustain existing volumes," Mr. Rahman said. He said the relationship between the Philippines and India, which remains the dominant country in the global BPO industry, would fuel each other’s growth in the long term.

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Philippines eligible for large-scale grant --MCC

RP
THURSDAY, MARCH 12, 2009 | ECONOMY
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=23852

MANILA (PNA) -- The Philippines has been selected by the Washington-based Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) Board of Directors as among the countries eligible for a large-scale grant that can be used as additional source of capital for investment in economic development.

“Congratulations to the Philippine government for its demonstrated commitment to tackling difficult challenges and improving the lives of its people," MCC Ambassador John Danilovich said in a statement.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said the MCC statement reaffirms the Arroyo government's commitment in reducing poverty and focus on making the economy grow.

”This grant is a seal of the government's good housekeeping,” Remonde added.

At present, the Philippines enjoys a threshold program status, which means it is only receiving smaller grants designed to help improve performance on specific indicators.

With a compact assistance status next year, the Philippines will be eligible for full assistance from the US-based MCC.

Remonde said the MCC chooses its beneficiaries based on the measure of good governance, the country's investment on people and policies that encourage economic freedom.

”Being selected as one of the countries given this means a lot and we should all be happy about it. This will be an additional source of capital for investment in economic development, both in human and infrastructure,” he said.

Countries selected as eligible for a large-scale grant (compact status) have the opportunity to submit a proposal for five-year program to reduce poverty.

The MCC, a firm that works with among the poorest countries in the world, said the Philippines will be given a compact status starting next year. (Janice M. Cave --PNA)
scs/jmc

Wednesday, 11 March 2009

Information technology spurring more jobs in the Philippines

PGMA in Clark Cyber City
TUESDAY, MARCH 10, 2009 | LABOR AND WELFARE
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=23829

Clark Field, Pampanga -- "Our strength is our people" is the theme of the third super region cabinet meeting held today at the Cyber City Teleservices Inc. compound in Clark Field, Pampanga.

Commission on Information and Communications Technology (CICT) Secretary and Cyber Corridor Super Region Development Champion Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua III presented before the full cabinet his report indicating a continued, strong growth in the Philippine IT-BPO industries.

"We have overtaken Malaysia and we already took a lot from India making us now number three in market share, with 15% behind Canada (27%) and India (37%). This growth is due to innate Filipino talent; robust connectivity; accessibility through international and domestic airports; growth in PEZA IT parks and buildings; and the formation of ICT Councils nationwide as the drivers of growth," Secretary Chua reported.

The President directed the Cyber Corridor Super Region Development Champion to develop the Cyber Corridor in Metro Manila, Cebu, Davao, Iloilo, Cagayan De Oro, Metro Cavite, Bacolod, Pampanga Central, Bulacan Central (Baliuag, Marilao, Meycauayan), Bulacan South (Malolos, Calumpit) and Lipa City as the next Top Ten Wave Cities.

International investors believe in the Philippine Super Region plan. It is projected to spur rapid development, increase labor and income in the cyber corridor as the regions, cities, and towns are now investing in information and technologies that will create more jobs, business opportunities and income.

According to Goldman Sachs, one of the best investment banks in the world, "it is a good plan to create super regions in accordance to their competitive advantage. The President is focused on the speedy implementation of her infrastructure projects and she is better in the aspect compared to other leaders in Asia."

In the Cyber Corridor Super Region Development Plan, the government will also ensure internet connectivity for all public high schools nationwide. (PIA-Region 3)

Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Philippine BPOs still hiring

TINA GUTIERREZ, PLEASE COME HOME
Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/home/opinion/7228-tina-gutierrez-please-come-home.html

A Bloomberg article on March 6 reads: “Tina Gutierrez, a Filipina, lost her job as a telemarketer in Dubai last month. ‘Everybody seems on edge, worrying whether one day they’ll just lose their jobs,’ said Gutierrez, 30, who was sending money back to her four-year-old son in the Philippines. ‘You can really feel the tension, especially among foreign workers like the Filipinos who have to send money home or their families won’t eat.’”

The thrust of this Bloomberg article is that a story like that of Ms. Gutierrez is why all the experts believe the peso is going to depreciate this year. I will speak to that in a moment, but will first deal on the reality of this unemployed overseas worker.

The salary of a call agent in Dubai ranges from P26,500 to P100,000, with a very good salary being about P65,000. Seems like big money, isn’t it? Housing in Dubai costs about P25,000 a month, with transportation adding another P10,000 expense. Some companies provide housing and transportation, but not all.

So Tina is netting on the high side of about P40,000 before personal expenses, if she is very experienced. But let’s assume Tina is of the entry level, with housing and transportation being provided. Before personal expenses, she makes about P30,000 a month.

The best thing that could happen to her is getting fired from the job in Dubai.

As an entry-level call-center agent in Manila, you can start working tomorrow for an absolute minimum of P15,000 a month. With bonuses and differentials, that goes to P18,000 to P20,000. But Tina has experience. She can easily start at a minimum of P25,000 plus bonus. If she has the ability to be a manager, she can earn P40,000 to P50,000. Higher management makes P60,000 to P80,000.

I am willing to bet that working at a Filipino call center in Manila, Tina will have just as much money to support her child as if she was working abroad. At the worst case, this question must be answered: Is the social cost of Tina’s son being raised without a mother worth, perhaps, P5,000 a month? Only Tina can answer that question for herself.

But after the salary comes the worry that the Dubai job is not stable. All the more reason one has to be in the Philippines. Local call centers are desperate for new employees to fill all the positions available. Companies are offering a P20,000 “signing bonus.” Currently working in a call center? One firm will give you a P15,000 bonus for recruiting a new call-center agent.

There is not and will not be any shortage of jobs in the Philippines for a long time to come. Consider these: “Telus International Philippines, the local arm of Telus Corp., has added another 900 people to its employee base.” “Apac Customer Services Inc. Leyte has 225 employees. The number of employees will be about 600 in April, and before the end of the year, the number will reach the 1,000 marker.” “After the inauguration of the TeleTech Iloilo Delivery Center at SM City Iloilo, they announced that they will be hiring additional 2,000 call- center agents this year.”

Stories like these are in the papers almost every day.

In 2008, 8 million overseas Filipinos remitted some $16.5 billion, true heroes of the Republic. The “experts” are worried this money number will fall in 2009 by as much as 10 percent and that fact will severely hurt the economy. These “experts” do not know what they are talking about. Even if that number is true, the Philippines will not suffer because call-center growth will take up the slack.

Each overseas worker sends back about $2,000 a year ($16.5 billion divided by 8 million workers). However, the economic impact of each call-center employee is eight times as great as an overseas Filipino worker (OFW). In other words, each worker at a call center is worth eight OFWs in terms of financial impact through remitted funds.

There are as many as 500,000 directly employed in business-process outsourcing (BPO), including agents, guards, janitors, messengers, drivers and other personnel. That number is perhaps even on the high side. Virtually every centavo spent to pay for these local operations comes from clients and parent-companies remitting dollars to the Philippines. Call centers brought in about $8 billion in 2008 to pay for operations in the Philippines. That $8 billion divided by 500,000 employees means that each of these BPO workers generated $16,000 against $2,000 for each OFW.

Even if the worst-case scenario of OFW-remittance decrease and the worst-case scenario in the increase in BPO employment come true, the Philippines will drop only $200 million in remitted money in 2009 versus 2008. That will have negligible impact on the economy or on the value of the peso. However, if OFW remittances show no growth, and the BPOs grow even at a low of 20 percent, the net remittance effect will be an additional $1.6 billion, and that will have a positive impact on the Philippines.

So Ms. Gutierrez, I know working in Dubai must be exotic, but your family needs you. You are more important and valuable to your family and to your country working right here.

To the foreign economic “experts,” why don’t you try learning about what the Philippine economy is all about in 2009? No, never mind. Stay ignorant and wrong. I am looking forward to an anticipated enjoyment and pleasure to say “I told you so” in about nine months.



PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to mangun@email.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Philippine Gov’t agencies told to rush infra projects

Emilia Narni J. David
BusinessWorld Online
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW031009/content.php?id=051

THE PRESIDENT has again ordered government agencies to rush job-generating projects, especially those whose funds have already been released, after it was found that only 100,000 new jobs have been created in the first quarter.

The government and the private sector have committed to create one million new jobs this year to counter the effects of the global economic downturn, with state agencies shouldering the bulk, at 800,000.

While there is no quarterly target, the government should create at least 200,000 jobs every three months to meet the job-creation goal. The Palace was concerned over the pace of job creation, Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde said yesterday.

Government agencies have already been ordered to fast-track all infrastructure projects and "front-load" them, meaning projects should be implemented early in the year.

The Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), tasked to create 500,000 jobs, admitted that there are some delays.

"There is a slight delay in the bidding for the projects that we have front-loaded mainly because there are some changes in the projects due to field conditions, but we are confident that we will still be able to get projects done," DPWH Undersecretary Ramon P. Aquino told reporters.

Bidding for projects will end this month but delays will not affect the schedule, he added.

The Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) noted that there are no quarterly or semestral job-generation targets.

DoLE assistant secretary for policy, programs and international affairs Reydeluz D. Conferido said the government was still on track in terms of providing jobs.

"I have not heard of any specific targets for each quarter or semester, but we want to be able to generate on the part of the government 700,000 to 800,000 jobs for 2009. In terms of infrastructure ... we are on track ... it is always slow in the beginning but once the project gets off the ground, generation of jobs becomes faster," Mr. Conferido said in a telephone interview.

He acknowledged that the directive of the President is to generate as many jobs as early as possible.

Donald G. Dee, chairman emeritus of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, also said the private sector was doing its best.

"Realistically, the market is bad right now, but we are focusing on creating as much jobs as we can despite that. But we also need the government’s help in training and beginning the infrastructure projects," he said.

The business process outsourcing sector still has around 470,000 jobs left unfilled, the DoLE said.

Philippine president hikes emergency employment budget to P1-billion

MONDAY, MARCH 9, 2009 | GOVERNMENT MANAGEMENT
http://www.gov.ph/news/?i=23811

MANILA (PNA)-- The administration of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has assured the availability of jobs and employment opportunities for poor and underprivileged Filipinos in the face of the global economic slowdown with the allotment of an additional P1 billion to finance its emergency employment program this year.

Secretary Domingo F. Panganiban of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said President Arroyo has instructed all members of her cabinet to fast-track the implementation of government programs designed to strengthen the country’s economic competitiveness and ensure new jobs and employment opportunities for workers affected by the global financial meltdown.

“The President is closely monitoring the progress of the Comprehensive Livelihood Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) and she has instructed all agencies to utilize all available funding for the program. We are confident that the country will emerge stronger from the challenges we now confront,” he said.

He said the additional P1-billion investment for the Arroyo government’s emergency jobs program will be sourced from the 2009 appropriations of agencies such as the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE), the 2008 savings of various national agencies, and counterpart funding from local government units.

The jobs created under the CLEEP include infrastructure maintenance, rehabilitation of hospital facilities, micro-enterprise development as well as job opportunities in environmental protection.

The NAPC chief said this latest infusion of cash into the CLEEP raises the government’s current and actual investments into the program from P9 billion to nearly P10 billion.

“Some 64,000 Filipino workers and 580 households have already found new jobs and income opportunities through the President’s Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) as of February 25 this year,” Panganiban said.

Panganiban made the announcement at the conclusion of a NAPC-initiated high-level technical meeting on the CLEEP held in Quezon City recently.

“The purpose of the meeting was to ensure public accountability and transparency in the implementation and planning of the program,” (PR/PNA)V3/eda

Philippines' Galoc oil production reaches 1-M barrels

MYRNA M. VELASCO
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/node/198331

Against the backdrop of skidding global oil prices, the country’s Galoc oil field hit its 1.0 million barrels level of production yesterday, with next shipments already scheduled for buyers overseas.

"The next offloading is scheduled for mid-March with the sale to an existing purchaser based in Asia and sale of the subsequent cargo is also well advanced," project operator Galoc Production Company (GPC) said in a statement to the media.

The company added that production from the field has been steady since its re-commencement of operations last February 25, "with the benefit of increased flush production realized as expected."

From re-starting production, the Galoc field has been producing ‘Palawan Light oil’ at a rate of 16,000 barrels of oil per day; but is expected to stabilize to the level of 12,000 to 14,000 bopd in the coming weeks.

Department of Energy Undersecretary Ramon Oca explained that when gas fields re-commence production, the pressure is generally more intense, hence the level of oil that can be extracted are normally ramped up.

GPC said the enhancements undertaken with the FPSO’s (floating production storage and offloading unit) mooring have performed well as expected.

Philippine car sales rebound in February, up 2.7%

Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/node/198330

From a negative growth in the first month of 2009, the local auto industry recovered with a 2.7 percent increase in February with 9,027 units sold versus 8,791 units in January this year, the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) reported.

Despite the modest growth, CAMPI president Elizabeth H. Lee described the improvement in the domestic auto sales for February as remarkable especially when compared to how other major markets are performing led by the largest auto market especially the US auto market which sales plunged another 41 percent in February alone.

"Local auto players are hopeful that the increase in local February sales is a positive sign indicative of a growth trend for 2009 and hit the forecast growth of between 2 to 4 percent for the whole of 2009," Lee said.

Lee attributed the growth in February to the sustained OFW remittances, the entrepreneurial trend, and the critical stable financing market. The introduction of some new models will continue to boost sales.

Of the total sales in February, the passenger car sales declined by 6.6 percent to 3,162 units from 3,384 units in January but the commercial vehicles improved by 8.5 percent to 5,865 units from 5,407 units in January this year pulling the total industry sales in the second month of the year to a positive.

On a year to date basis, however, total local auto sales registered a slight 2.5 percent decline with total sales hitting only 17,818 units versus 18,282 units in the January-February period in 2008.

Of this figure, commercial vehicle segment sales declined by 7.6 percent to 11,272 units versus 12,196 units in the same January-February period last year while passenger cars posted a 7.6 percent increase for 6,546 units sold from 6,086 units in the same period last year.

Lee said that the growth in Feb sales was supported by a strong growth in AUV (Asian utility vehicle) sales as well as continued growth in the light commercial vehicle segment. CV sales are expected to grow in the coming months.

The month of February showed strong growth from AUVs with a 24.7 percent jump in sales vs. January although YTD sales compared to the same period last year declined by 20 percent. The increase in Feb sales is a strong indication of perhaps the start of a positive growth trend in the coming months. Strong sales in this segment are backed by purchases of vehicles used for business.

LCV sales continue to be sustained reflecting a growth of 1.2 percent and a growth for YTD sales as well.

There were 7,021 LCVs sold nationwide with 3,531 units sold in February as buyers continue to support sales of pick up trucks, vans, and compact wagons. This segment remains resilient with buyers looking for value for money in their purchases. Recently introduced new models also helped boost sales in the segment.

Light trucks sales increased by 10.5 percent compared to the same period last year. This segment grew by 17.4 percent compared to January 2009 due to the introduction of new models.

Categories IV & V sales for February 2009 decreased by 43.5% compared to January 2009 due to low fleet sales.

Compared to the same period last year (January 2009), sales also decreased by 26 percent.

In terms of ranking, Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. maintains its top post with 35.1 percent market share followed by Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. with 16.8 percent market share and Honda Cars Philippines Inc. with 16.7 percent.

Monday, 9 March 2009

Photo essay: Manila LRT


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Photo update: LRT 1 North Extension


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Gokongwei offers China scholarships

Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/?page=politics4_mar9_2009

Taipan John Gokongwei Jr. is looking for the second batch of Gokongwei Brothers Foundation China Scholars—more than 30 young and bright Filipinos who will be trained here and in China to be among the country’s future leaders.

Last year, Gokongwei and the GBF China scholarship committee chose the first batch, comprised of 34 young men and women. Disciplines of Chinese language, culture and business were steeped in them at the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation Learning and Development Center in Pasig and later in China where they studied at the Beijing Language and Culture University for 10 months.

GBF will shoulder tuition expenses and provide monthly stipend and medical insurance to the scholars.

The scholars are under no obligation to work with JG Summit. All Gokongwei asks is that the scholars return to the Philippines, “I want them to learn what makes China tick and then be able to apply those learning here.”

Gokongwei, who built the JG Summit conglomerate from scratch, has been pushing Chinese studies, saying a person who knows both East and West is more well-rounded and could potentially be a better leader.

Gokongwei is also a firm believer in honing the youth for the country’s future. “Each young person can change the world. My goal is to equip young Filipinos with experience and understanding of a better way to do things from other countries. Then they can come up with their own conclusions as to how they can make an impact here.”

Gokongwei is proud of what the China Scholarship has accomplished and is looking forward to sending the next batch of young, passionate Pinoys.

“We need hardworking, young people with leadership qualities if we want to change things for the better. It is my fervent hope that by coming back to the Philippines and leading their generation with positive change, the Philippines can truly be able to uplift its place in the world,” Gokongwei said.

Applications for the second batch should be submitted to the Gokongwei Brothers Foundation from Feb. 23 to March 23. Applicants must be college graduates with at least one year work experience, and from 21 to 30 years old.

The scholars will undergo a 10-month development program, which will include learning Chinese language and culture, and selected elective studies in economics, management, and other development-related fields.

They will spend the first five months of the program in a partner school in the Philippines and the remaining five months in a partner academic institution in China.

Application forms are available at the GBF Committee Office located at 41/F Corporate Human Resources Office, Robinsons Equitable Tower, ADB cor. Poveda Avenues, Ortigas, Pasig City, or from selected participating partner schools. Forms can also be downloaded from the JG Summit Holdings, Inc. Web site www.jgsummit.com.ph.

Geologist finds no fault underneath mothballed nuclear plant

THERE is no earthquake fault under the Bataan Nuclear Power Plant (BNPP), according to scientists, in a report that is seen to enliven future debates about the proposal of some legislators—shelved temporarily as Congress went on recess last week—to finally put to use the mothballed plant.

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Philippines mulling internet voting

Next on poll agenda: Internet voting, early ARMM elections
Emilia Narni J. David
BusinessWorld Online
http://www.bworldonline.com/BW030909/content.php?id=073

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) will next lobby for congressional approval of proposals on absentee voting via the Internet and early elections in one region, following the passage last week of the supplemental budget bill for poll automation.

Comelec Commissioner Nicodemo T. Ferrer said in an interview on the sidelines of a press conference on Thursday that Web-based voting can facilitate elections for absentee voters.

"Those living in states that are far from Philippine embassies and especially seafarers would be able to vote without much hassle. The counting could be easier too," he added.

Republic Act 9189, enacted in 2003, institutionalized overseas voting, but did not allow Internet voting. Internet voting for overseas Filipino workers was tested in Singapore in 2007, but the results were nonbinding.

Since the start of the overseas absentee voters’ registration last Feb. 1 for next year’s general elections, 10,824 have registered in various sites provided by Comelec, the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration. The listing will end on Aug. 31.

Mr. Ferrer said experts are still unsure of credibility results in Internet voting.

"Even if Internet voting is not allowed, we will still automate part of the absentee voting [process]. The counting will be automated this time because last elections people were complaining how long it took to read out the ballots of those who voted in the embassies," Mr. Ferrer said.

He added that the cost per absentee voter must not exceed P500.

Advanced voting

Meanwhile, the poll body is also seeking early elections in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Comelec Chairman Jose A. R. Melo said early voting in the region would allow the commission to focus on security and the conduct of voting in the volatile region.

"Senator [Richard J.] Gordon told us that his next step is to ask for advanced elections to be held in the ARMM and we fully support that move. We are capable of holding advanced elections there and we would like to focus on the area," said Mr. Melo in a separate interview.

He said they would try to get the early voting amendment passed before the May 10, 2010 elections.

The P11.3-billion supplemental budget would be used to lease precinct counting optical scanning machines, or the so-called precinct level optical mark reader system.

The Comelec will start the bidding for service providers on March 25.

Philippines considers televised bidding for poll machines

Remonde cites benefits of TV coverage
By Genalyn Kabiling
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/198223/televised-poll-bidding-backed

Malacañang threw yesterday its full support behind the proposed live television coverage of the public bidding for poll machines needed for the automated 2010 national and local elections to ensure transparency.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said transparency in government procurement of goods and services is a paramount priority of the Arroyo administration.

Remonde said a televised bidding process may also protect the poll body from unscrupulous bidders and prevent the repeat of the irregular bidding transaction a few years ago.

"Transparency in government is really one of our principles, so therefore any move to ensure that there will be transparency in the procurement especially of poll automation machines is not only going to be supported by Malacañang but yun talaga ang gustong mangyayari ng Malacañang," he said over government-run Radyo ng Bayan.

Remonde said the Palace would leave to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on how to carry out the televised bidding of the poll machines for next year's elections.

Comelec Chairman Jose Melo earlier said the poll body is willing to go transparent by allowing television crews to take footage of the bidding for poll machines required in the automated elections next year. Melo said he is ready to take footage of the bidding process and disseminate it to the media for public information.

Remonde urged the public to rally behind the President's program for full automation of the electoral system to veer away from the traditional manual count that has often been tainted by fraud.

He said full computerization of the 2010 elections is one of the legacy agenda of the President before she steps down from office next year.

"Hopefully when the elections become fully automated, poll irregularities will be minimized and we could have honest, orderly, and peaceful elections. That is one of the programs of the President that every Filipino should support because that is essential and central to our democracy," he said.

"Para sana matapos na iyung phenomenon na after the elections there are only two candidates in the Philippines -- the winners and those who claimed they are cheated," he added.

Remonde said the President is expected to sign immediately the P11 billion supplemental budget for poll automation once it reaches her desk.