Saturday, 18 April 2009

Optimism rises in the Philippines

The Philippines continues to prosper and move ahead, in defiance of every effort by the opposition to bring us down and smear the record of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s administration.

This, as Press Secretary Cerge Remonde reported, that in the face of the ongoing global recession and job displacements at home, more — not fewer — Filipinos are optimistic about their future.

He said the latest Pulse Asia survey showed that the number of Filipinos with an optimistic outlook sharply increased, from 22 percent last year to 29 percent today.

More remarkably, he said, another survey by Synovate, an international market research company, showed that optimism is particularly pronounced in Metro Manila, among people who are usually critical or cynical in their thinking.

Remonde also said that even on the corrosive issue of corruption, the latest rating by Hong Kong-based PERC (risk consultancy firm), showed the Philippines is moving from top to 6th from the bottom “or about midway among all countries surveyed in Asia.”

“In the face of this chorus of approval, no wonder the opposition is becoming even ever more frantic, petty and illogical in their endless tirades against the President. Luckily for all of us, it is she — not they — who remains responsible for guiding the ship of state,” Remonde said. (PND)

Foreign funds return to the Philippines

Chino S. Leyco
Manila Times

FOREIGNERS have started buying shares of listed Philippine companies and other peso-denominated financial assets in March due to the country’s favorable economic data. In a statement, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said net foreign portfolio investments—which is incoming less outgoing foreign money—posted a net inflow of $32.2 million in March from the $198.7-million net outflow in February.

“Gains in Wall Street following the US government’s plan to buy up to $1 trillion in toxic assets from banks to spur economic recovery and favorable economic reports contributed significantly to the positive outcome during the month,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said.

The central bank official added that selective buying of shares of key blue chip companies—including those that reported positive earnings last year—and the central bank’s additional 25-basis point cut in key policy rates also helped boost investor confidence.

On a gross basis, registered foreign portfolio investments reached $559.3 million, 54 percent, or $301.6 million of which went to listed shares, 38 percent, or $211.5 million to peso-denominated government securities and the remainder went to money market instruments.

Foreign funds going out of the country, however, reached an aggregate $527.2 million and these were withdrawals of investments in listed shares worth $10.5 million, government debt paper worth $600 million and bank deposits of $513.7 million.

For the first quarter of the year, transactions also resulted in a net inflow of $54.8 million from $129.8-million net outflow in the same period last year.

By type of instrument, investments in listed shares, peso government securities and money market instruments posted net inflows of $681 million, $396.9 million and $46.1 million, respectively. Placements in peso bank deposits showed a net outflow of close to $1.1 billion.

Gross capital outflows reached an aggregate $1.2 billion, a 62-percent drop from $3.2 billion a year ago.

Of the total, 89 percent was comprised of money market instruments and peso bank deposits, 8 percent was in the form of withdrawals of investments from listed shares, 2 percent in government debt papers while remittances of cash dividends, profits and earnings were less than a percent.

Another Philippine international airport links with Korea

Poro Point opens air link with Korea
Manila Standard

Barely two months after resuming commercial operations, the expanded San Fernando Airport in Poro Point, La Union, marks its first milestone by opening air link with the Cheongju International Airport in South Korea.

Direct flights between the two airports will begin on May 8, with an initial passenger traffic volume of some 20,000 Korean tourists, mostly students, their parents and other family members wanting to explore La Union, Baguio City and Benguet province.

Officials of Poro Point Management Corp., a subsidiary of the state-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority, made this announcement upon arrival from their recent visit to Chungcheongbuk-do province in South Korea.

The delegation, headed by PPMC executive vice president and chief operating officer Anthony Manguiat, returned last April 2 from a “highly fruitful” visit to South Korea.

The BCDA, which spearheaded the expansion and upgrading of the San Fernando Airport facilities, expected substantial increases in tourist arrivals and investments in Northern Philippines.

The direct flights between the two airports are also expected to increase the stream of tourists to La Union and other northern provinces.

The group met with their Korean counterparts headed by Jang Soon Ja, director of the Korean Airports Corp., as well as with tourism and aviation officials of Chungcheongbuk-do.

Poro Point’s development alongside San Fernando Airport’s expansion are part of BCDA’s sustained conversion program where former US bases are transformed into centers of socio-economic development.

Chungcheongbuk-do (North Chungcheong) is a province in the center of South Korea, and was formed in 1896 from the northeastern half of the former Chungcheong province. Its capital is Cheongju.

Spanish to be reintroduced in Philippine high schools in June

Madrid starts training grants to spread the use of Spanish
Manila Standard

MADRID—The cultural arm of the Spanish government will help the Philippines reintroduce Spanish language training in schools under an agreement reached Thursday.

The Cervantes Institute will train Spanish language teachers in the Philippines, a former Spanish colony, during the first stage of the cooperation between the two sides, it said in a statement.

Last week the institute began training 35 teachers at its center in Manila. Another course involving 75 teachers, financed by the Spanish Agency for International Development Cooperation, will begin shortly, it added.

The agreement was reached during a meeting in Madrid between the director of the Cervantes Institute, Carmen Caffarel, and the visiting education secretary of the Philippines, Jesli Lapus.

In January the government of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo announced that starting in June, Spanish would be taught at high schools across the country whose students had mastered English and shown an ability to learn another foreign language.

In 1987 the Philippines abolished Spanish as one of its official languages, and a requirement that college students learn it.

The language has since largely vanished from everyday use in the country of just under 100 million people, with English and the local languages now commonly used.

Unlike in Madrid’s colonies in Latin America, the Spanish language was never as widespread in the Philippines, mainly because of the small number of Spanish settlers in the archipelago.

English was introduced to the country when it passed from Spanish to American control after the Spanish-American war of 1898. AFP

Qantas caves in to lobby, bans Philippine bananas

Manila Standard

AUSTRALIAN national carrier Qantas Airways has announced it will stop serving Philippine-grown bananas on its international flights, Australian media reported yesterday.

The airline announced the decision after banana growers from the states of Queensland, Western Australia and New South Wales complained that Qantas should serve locally grown bananas or other fruits to its passengers.

“Qantas is quintessentially Australian and they spend millions of dollars associating themselves with everything that is part of our nation’s character. Many travelers choose to fly Qantas because they are Australian owned,” the Australian Broadcasting Corp. quoted legislator Luke Hartsuyker as saying.

The airline buys over 1.8-million bananas each year from growers in Queensland and Western Australia, and Hartsuyker wanted to promote those grown from the New South Wales north coast.

Qantas said the all domestic and international flights coming out of Australia carried Australian bananas, but the Philippine-grown bananas were loaded on board by their New Zealand caterer in Auckland because it was not viable to fly Australian fruit overseas for the return flight.

Besides, Qantas said, there were no quarantine issues with overseas bananas although the airline had asked its caterers to find alternative fruit options in New Zealand.

But banana growers continued to dispute the quarantine policy that the Australian federal government used to allow the entry of Philippine-grown Cavendish bananas, opening up a market that Filipino growers have sought to enter since 1995.

The federal agency Biosecurity Australia made the policy based on a 600-page report released last Nov. 12, which identified 21 pests and diseases in the Philippines that should concern Australia. But the report concluded the risks could be reduced to acceptable levels by risk-management measures.

The agency said Australia and the Philippines would develop a detailed operational plan that will need to be approved by the Australian Quarantine and Inspection Service before any import permits for bananas from the Philippines into Australia will be considered.

But Australian banana growers insisted that the Australian quarantine service had problems monitoring compliance with quarantine conditions for a range of pests and diseases.

“Given the risk of Filipino bananas to Australia’s industry, I cannot believe they are permitted to be used on any international flight which is bound for Australia,” Hartsuyker said.

Coffs Harbour and Woolgoolga Banana Growers Association president Ron Gray said the bananas should not be allowed on the flights as there was no quarantine on bananas going into New Zealand.

“There is plenty of other fruit they can provide, rather than Ecuadorian and Filipino bananas,” Gray said, adding that he received information that the Philippine government was trying to blackmail Australia into relaxing the restrictions.

West Korora grower and Australian Banana Growers Council president Nicky Singh also criticized the airline and said even if there were quarantine rules, Philippine bananas still represented a risk to local growers.

World Travel Fair 2009 cites Philippines as Asia’s Most Popular Destination

Manila Bulletin

Shanghai, China -- The Philippines was named the ‘Most Popular Destination in Asia, after a public vote and a strict evaluation process undertaken by professional jurors from the Shanghai Municipal Tourism Administration and VNU Exhibitions Europe, at the recent World Travel Fair (WTF) 2009.

“Our country receiving the highest laurel in Asia’s leading source fair in China is a notable milestone in the industry’s optimism in sustaining the momentum generated from efforts to reach this important market segment,” said Tourism Secretary Ace Durano.

The tourism chief added, “The Philippines is one of the fastest growing destinations in China’s outbound travel industry, recording a 74% month-on-month growth rate in visa issuances for February of this year. We are also the nearest tropical beach country for the Chinese, as Manila is only two hours away from Guangzhou, while Cebu is only three hours away from Shanghai.”

Durano likewise attributed the win to the country’s competitive tour pricing, the remarkable progress of the transportation sector and the Filipino’s friendliness and hospitality.

Dubbed as the ‘Outbound Travel Industry’s Leading Source Fair in Asia, the WTF receives thousands of travel buyers from China, Asia and the rest of the world, who come to hold exchanges with more than 500 exhibitors from 62 countries, held at the Shanghai New International Expo Centre.

“The Chinese travellers rank our country’s beaches and heritage sites high, as proven by the various recognitions they have awarded to our tourist spots,” Durano said further.

Beach holidays rank 79% among the top leisure activities undertaken by the Chinese, according to an outbound travel study in China, while the International Visitor Survey conducted by the DOT reported that foreign visitors rank the country highest for visitor satisfaction in terms of Filipino hospitality.

Due to its strong partnership with a consortium of travel agents, the DOT has urged the transportation sector to open direct chartered flights and daily regular flights to Cebu and Manila. These developments have reflected a 61% increase in number of chartered flights operated in 2008 compared to last year.

Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque, Jr. was enthusiastic to point out that the country has always garnered positive feedback from Asian tourists, “The Philippines has managed to secure, among others, the Best Leisure Destination in the last year’s WTF, for Boracay; the Top 10 Island Getaways for Chinese Summer Travel, for Bohol; the only Asian entry in the list of premier destinations in the acclaimed World Traveller Magazine; and Top 10 Most Searched Destination among Shanghai online users.”

Jarque was referring to Baidu, the biggest search engine in China capturing 68% of the Chinese online market (Google a distant second with 20% market share), which listed the Philippines in the Top 10 most searched travel destination among Shanghai online users from its latest report.

Meanwhile, Arlene Alipio, head of DOT Team China, noted that the flourishing outbound travel of China has been propitious to the Philippines as well, “Recent statistics from the China National Tourism Administration show that the number of Chinese travellers reached 34.4 million in the first nine months of this year, up by 14.8 percent year-on-year. In September alone, about 3.7 million Chinese people travelled overseas, an increase of nine percent year-on-year."

Shanghai-based Philippine Tourism Attaché to China, Gerry Panga, shared, “The country’s continued and consolidated efforts in promoting a wide array of travel opportunities to its Asian neighbours have indeed resulted to our strong market performance despite the global crunch.

RP posted a growth rate of 58.5% in 2008 in terms of visa issuances for travel to the Philippines from Eastern China plus Sichuan and Chongqing. Current growth rate stands at 20% from January to March this year, making the Philippines one of the fastest growing outbound destinations for Chinese tourists.

Thursday, 16 April 2009

Overseas jobs for Filipinos

Philippines launches Eastern Seaboard portion of RORO Highway


SURIGAO CITY (PND) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo launched the eastern seaboard portion of her Strong Republic National Highway (SRNH) in festive ceremonies held this morning at the Verano Port here.

Joining the President in the historic occasion were Transportaion Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Transportation Undersecretary for Maritime Transport Thompson Lantion, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane, Land Transportation and Franchise Regulatory Board (LTFRB) chief Alberto Suansing and local executives of the province led by Surigao City Mayor Alfonso Cassura.

The President and her entourage arrived here on board the Presidential yacht BRP Pag-asa at around 9:50 a.m. amid loud drumbeats, dancing and cheers from the residents and constituents of the province who came to welcome the Chief Executive.

Upon her arrival, the President was briefed by Mendoza on the salient features of the newly-upgraded Verano port after which she unveiled the project’s marker to signal the formal opening of the port to commercial and public operations.

The "enhanced leg" of the oldest roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) route comprises 919 kilometers of land route and 137 nautical miles of the SRNH Eastern Seaboard trunkline.

The decision to launch a new alternate route in the Eastern Seaboard route was made during the President’s Cabinet meeting in May last year on board a Ro-Ro vessel from Jagna Port in Bohol to Mambajao in Camiguin, which forms part of the SRNH Central Seaboard trunkline.

The new Eastern Seaboard route starts from Pilar, Sorsogon and runs through Masbate City and Esperanza town in Masbate, traverses Naval and Maripipi towns in Biliran province, San Ricardo in Southern Leyte and ends in Lipata, Surigao City in Surigao del Norte.

The old route, which forms part of the Maharlika Highway, also known as the Pan-Pacific National Highway, was constructed during the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

The oldest Ro-Ro highway, the Maharlika was the first highway that connected Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. This portion of the Ro-Ro highway starts from Matnog in Sorsogon, passes through Allen and Dapdap in Northern Samar, Liloan in Leyte and Lipata in Surigao.

The Maharlika Highway link is expected to be further enhanced with the launching of the new Eastern Nautical Highway. The linkup of the two highway systems is expected to further spur trade and commerce between and among the islands not covered by the old Maharlika Highway.

With this new Ro-Ro facility, shipments to and from the province are no longer off-loaded for re-transporting, thereby reducing cargo-handling time and stevedoring costs and, consequently, ensuring better quality and lower prices of goods.

The SRNH eastern seaboard portion joins two other operational SRNH routes: the Western and Central routes.

The SRNH western seaboard portion, which was launched in March 2003, starts from Batangas down to Zamboanga del Norte.

The sea linkages of the first Ro-Ro route include Batangas, Calapan and Roxas in Oriental Mindoro, Caticlan in Aklan, Iloilo to Bacolod and Dumaguete and finally Dapitan.

The Central, or the second Ro-Ro route which was lauched three months after the first one in June 2003, covers the cities of Cagayan de Oro, Dumaguete and Manila.

This "long-haul" route begins with separate land segments from Davao, a leading fruit producer; General Santos, which is noted for its corn and tuna products, and passes through Bukidnon, the livestock and salad bowl of Mindanao.

The 30-hour sea voyage starts from Cagayan de Oro City thence to the Visayas through Dumaguete and continues on to Southern Luzon and Bicol through Batangas City and finally ends in the port of Manila.


PGMA inaugurates two new RoRo ports in Eastern Visayas

LILOAN, Southern Leyte (PND) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today inaugurated two new roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) ports in Eastern Visayas that form part of her Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH), her legacy project linking the country's islands and aimed to spur development in the countryside.

The new Ro-Ro ports -- the P71.63-million San Ricardo Port in Southern Leyte and the P55.98-million Naval Port in Biliran are expected to further enhance economic activities, not only in Eastern Visayas but the entire Visayas, as well as travel and exchange of goods between Mindanao and the Visayas.

From Surigao City, where she formally opened the enhanced Eastern Seaboard of the 919-km. and 137-nautical mile SRNH with the inauguration of the Surigao Ro-Ro port, the President boarded the Ocean King II Ro-Ro vessel enroute to San Ricardo in Southern Leyte's southernmost tip, cruising for one-and-a half hours the Strait of Surigao and Sogod Bay.

At the San Ricardo Port, the President and her party boarded the Bachelor Tours bus that boarded the Ro-Ro vessel from Surigao City.

They were welcomed by Southern Leyte's provincial officials led by Gov. Damian Mercado and the residents carrying posters and streamers expressing their gratitude to President Arroyo for the various infrastructure projects in their province, including the new Ro-Ro port.

The San Ricardo Port Improvement Project involved the construction of a 12x24-meter reinforced concrete pier and a 9x11-meter Ro-Ro ramp.

The project also includes the rehabilitation and expansion of the 2,366-square meter back area as well as the construction of a one-storey passenger terminal building with a capacity of 150 passengers.

On the other hand, the Naval Port entailed the rehabilitation of its 11x9-meter reinforced concrete Ro-Ro ramp. The port has a berth length of 210 meters, a working area of 2,050 square meters and a stacking area of 1,904 square meters.

The President also inspected the San Ricardo-Liloan road and the Liloan-Silago-Abuyog Road which are vital links to the ports of San Ricardo and Liloan, both in Southern Leyte province.

From the Liloan Port, the President a black Bell-365 helicopter to Naval, Biliran.

In Naval, Biliran, the President also toured the terminal building before sending off the Marine Ro-Ro vessel for the trip to Catangian Port in Masbate province.

The SRNH is one of the legacy projects of President Arroyo. Aside from further enhancing passenger traffic and public access to tourism areas in the country, it also offers an alternative and cheaper means and route for transporting goods from Mindanao to Luzon.

The SRNH has three major routes – the Western Seaboard route, the Central Nautical Highway and the Eastern Seaboard route. It is a land-sea linked aimed at linking provinces in Luzon to their counterparts in Mindanao through the Visayas, and spur countrywide economic development.

Why now is the time to invest in the Philippines

Economic crisis of 2007 revisited
John Mangun
Business Mirror

Sitting in front of a blank computer screen without Internet access is like being dumped on the remotest of the Hundred Islands for an evil version of Survivor. But I am getting used to it, since I have the worst Internet provider in the Philippines, perhaps in the world, by using Smart Bro.

My twice-weekly calls to Smart Bro to complain are always met with the response that there is something wrong with the “base station.” I am beginning to think that perhaps the New People’s Army has moved its operations from the boondocks to Parañaque, collecting its “revolutionary taxes” by attacking the Smart Bro cell site that provides my service. I keep wondering what Internet provider Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. chairman Manny Pangalinan uses. Obviously not Smart Bro. No one is that dumb except me.

So if I cannot access the present to try to forecast the future, maybe some answers lie in the past, at least until and if Smart Bro restores my Internet service.

I ran across something interesting written on August 15, 2007. From a column I titled, “Economic crisis of 2007?”: “Earlier this year, several stories popped up in the international business press regarding the factors that might trigger a new Asian economic crisis. Obviously, these writers missed the potential crisis right under their noses, the potential for another economic crisis emanating from the US.”

I went on to write in conclusion that, “As subprime lenders default, it will dry up funds for even creditworthy borrowers who want to buy houses, further dropping house prices in the US. The truth is simply that no one knows how far, deep and long this minicrisis may go or get larger, and whether or not it will be looked on as the US Economic Crisis of 2007.”

As it turned out, it was not the “US crisis of 2007,” but a global crisis of historic proportions.

I wish I could say that I am an economic “expert” able to see the future. In truth, I am simply an observer and watcher of stock-market prices. I wrote then, “The Philippine stockmarket shrugged off all the news of fantastic corporate earnings, fundamental economic stability and all the other good stuff to dump more than 500 points off the Philippine Stock Exchange index [PSEi] since this crisis began.

“The economic fundamentals just do not warrant what we have seen here and abroad over the last weeks. However, you cannot argue with the stock market and the market may be more qualified to judge future events than we give it credit for. This very significant drop in share prices around the world cannot be ignored as to what it may be telling us about the next several months.”

It is the stock market and its investors that predict the future.

The Philippine stock market is telling us very clearly that the worst is over for the local economy regardless of what you read in the newspapers. Virtually no one in 2007 was calling for a global recession. The Western stock markets were saying otherwise. Virtually no one is saying that the Philippines will see good economic growth this year. The PSE is saying otherwise.

Now you are going to tell me that, obviously, the US crisis is over since the Western markets have gone up so much in the last month. Wrong. The West has crossed into a fantasy world where money and wealth have no meaning anymore. Economic “bubbles” can only happen when money no longer represents hard-earned wealth but simply pieces of paper the government prints. The Obama administration is spending and borrowing an amount equal to the total annual gross domestic product of the United States without any thought where the wealth, which is supposed to back that money, is going to come from. Just like a casino gambler borrowing from the financers, never thinking that there is no way to earn enough to pay back the loan. The gambler’s money on the table is an economic “bubble.” So, too, with the US stock market. You cannot have shares of companies that are losing money and will continue to lose money for several more quarters sell at a 20+ price-earnings ratio. No hard-earned wealth would make that kind of investment; only “bubble” money would.

Here in the Philippines, money is still backed by hard work and actual wealth creation, and is very cautious. Holders of real money can accurately predict the future because they assess risk and reward realistically. Holders of “bubble” money do not care about reality and the future. That is why an economically unjustified increase in prices is called a “bubble.” A bubble is not substantial and is short-lived. It is an illusion.

When Megaworld invests P6 billion in a new project, that is real wealth creation for the company and the economy. When General Motors takes $20 billion in government money to make cars and knows that it will lose money on every car it sells, that is an illusion of wealth creation.

There is a reason the PSE has outperformed its Asian neighbors this year. It is that the Philippine economy is going to outperform the neighbors this year. There is a reason you should be buying local stocks. It is that hard-earned wealth is buying these issues. There is a reason local stock prices are now rising; prices are going to go higher. Invest in the Philippines now.

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

Philippines sees value of population growth

Cai U. Ordinario
Business Mirror

The National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) said the country’s estimated 92.23 million population may still prove to be a blessing especially at this time of crisis, when global trade has collapsed and countries struggle to keep their economies afloat.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda Director General Ralph Recto told reporters on Wednesday that four countries are seen to post a positive growth this year despite the global recession—China, India, Indonesia and the Philippines. He noted the common factor among these countries: a high population.

The United Nations population division estimates that China’s population may reach 1.354 billion by 2010; India, 1.214 billion; Indonesia, 232.517 million; and the Philippines, 93.617 million.

“There’s a report of four countries that will experience growth this year [while] many others could be contracting. What’s the common denominator? Big economies [that have] big local markets [like] China, India, the Philippines, and Indonesia,” Recto said. “[All] I’m saying [is] there’s value [in] having a big domestic market.”
Recto said the average consumption growth in the Philippines from 1995 to 2008 is around 5 percent. This has helped drive the economy through various crises, during the period and will continue playing a key role in the global crisis, since personal consumption accounts for 70 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

He said high domestic demand in the Philippines as well as in the other four countries will enable the economy to still post positive growth despite contraction in exports and a significant decrease in other macroeconomic indicators. The socioeconomic planning secretary said with this, the Philippines should also be increasing its trade relations with the other three countries, especially China—with the highest population in the world and the biggest economy in the region.
Recto said by trading and improving relations with the country’s richest neighbor, the Philippines can also improve its economy and recover from the crisis. The higher the growth posted by the country, the more jobs created and higher domestic consumption, he said.

However, the Neda chief said having high domestic demand is the reason there is a need to watch unemployment increase and remittance growth figures, since any drop in these two figures could mean a weakening in domestic demand.

Recto said it is with this anticipation that the Neda has proposed a downward revision of the country’s macroeconomic targets. The Neda sees gross domestic product (GDP) growth to be within the range of 3.1 percent to 4.1 percent in 2009 and 4.6 percent to 5.5 percent in 2010.

The official government estimates agreed by the Development Budget and Coordination Committee (DBCC) is a GDP growth range of 3.7 percent to 4.4 percent in 2009 and 4.9 percent to 5.8 percent in 2010.

Philippine remittances grow 4.9% y-o-y

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral
January-February Remittances Reach US$2.6 Billion

Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks grew year-on-year in February 2009 by 4.9 percent to US$1.3 billion. This was an improvement from the minimal increment (0.1 percent) recorded in January. The cumulative remittances in the first two months of 2009 amounted to US$2.6 billion, or an annual growth of 2.5 percent. Remittances from sea-based and land-based workers for the two-month period registered increases of 6.1 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively.

“Remittances have been holding up as deployment of overseas Filipino workers has risen during the first two months of the year while the increase in the number of reported layoffs has slowed down,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said. Preliminary data obtained from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) indicated that the total number of deployed overseas workers for the two-month period posted a year-on-year growth of 27.3 percent to 283,348 from 222,608 a year ago. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) also reported that the Philippines will renew the labor arrangement with South Korea under the Employment Permit System (EPS). The EPS which is expected to be signed this May would give priority in finding employment to displaced Filipinos working in South Korea.

In addition to the hiring agreements forged with some host countries (such as Canada, Australia, Japan and some Middle East countries such as Qatar) that are expected to open employment opportunities specifically in healthcare, education, power/energy, and real estate sectors, the Philippine government has also intensified its efforts to redeploy retrenched overseas Filipino workers to countries that have not been severely affected by the global financial turmoil. Specifically, Saudi Arabia and Libya continue to hire workers in the construction and healthcare industries. Moreover, the relocation in 2010 of the U.S. Naval forces presently situated in Okinawa, Japan to Guam could provide job opportunities to Filipino workers.

Governor Tetangco further observed that commercial banks’ continued expansion of their international and domestic market coverage to capture a larger share of the global remittance market has also helped to sustain the inflow of remittances. Specifically, banks’ tie-ups with placement agencies and remittance companies abroad to market their remittance products and services to Filipino communities overseas, and the forging of agreements with more rural banks to serve as their remittance pick-up partners, have expanded the channels for remittances.

For the period January-February 2009, the major sources of remittances were the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Canada, Japan, U.K., Singapore, Italy, and United Arab Emirates.

Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Philippines to bid 60% of all infra projects in first half of 2009


Manila (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed the Cabinet today to make sure that 60 percent of all programmed infrastructure projects are bid out during the first semester of 2009 and the implementation of most projects [are] carried out around-the-clock or in three eight-hour shifts.

The President issued the directive during the Cabinet and National Economic and Development Authority-Cabinet Group meeting in Taguig before she enplaned for Mindanao where she will inspect vital infrastructure projects in the South.

The directive was relayed by Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III to Malacanang reporters, saying that the President ordered the fast-tracking of each agency's economic resiliency program (ERP).

Bello said Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane Jr. was also ordered to double check if the flyover from Luzon [Mindanao?] Avenue to C5 road is being constructed in a 24/7 mode. Once completed, this project will improve traffic flow in Metro Manila and help solve the problem of unemployment.

Bello added that the President also ordered the completion of farm-to market roads (FMRs) and the completion rate of irrigation projects must be at least 60 percent of the annual targets. An annual budget of P2 billion is allotted for FMRs and irrigation projects for 2007 to 2010.

Similarly, the President also called for the strict implementation of the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP) which to-date has employed 75,000 workers as shown by the figures from the National Anti- Poverty Commission (NAPC).

Philippines to launch Eastern Seaboard RO-RO enhanced route


TACLOBAN CITY (PND) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will inaugurate on Wednesday (April 15, 2009) the enhanced leg of the oldest roll-on/roll-off (Ro-Ro) route of the 919-kilometer land and 137-nautical mile (sea) Strong Republic National Highway (SRNH) Eastern Seaboard trunkline.

The President will also inaugurate other ports and road components connecting the SRNH Eastern Seaboard line.

The decision to launch a new alternate route of the Eastern Seaboard route was made during the President’s Cabinet meeting in May last year on board a Ro-Ro vessel from Jagna Port in Bohol to Mambajao in Camiguin, which forms part of the ARNH Central Seaboard trunkline.

The new Eastern Seaboard route starts from Pilar, Sorsogon and runs through Masbate City and Esperanza town in Masbate, then traverses Naval and Maripipi towns both in Biliran, San Ricardo in Southern Leyte and finally ends in Lipata, Surigao City in Surigao del Norte.

The old route which forms part of the Maharlika Highway, also known as the Pan-Pacific National Highway, was constructed during the time of then President Ferdinand Marcos.

It is the oldest among the Ro-Ro highways that first connected Luzon to the Visayas and Mindanao. It starts from Matnog in Sorsogon and passes through Allen and Dapdap in Northern Samar, Liloan in Leyte and Lipata in Surigao.

The Maharlika Highway link is expected to be further enhanced with the launch of the new Eastern Nautical Highway as it will further spur trade and commerce between and among the islands not covered by the old Maharlika Highway.

To kick-off the SRNH’s new Eastern Seaboard trunk, the President will board on Wednesday a Ro-Ro ferry at the Lipata Port in Surigao City (Surigao del Norte) to San Ricardo, Southern Leyte. The sea trip will take about two hours.

While on board the Ro-Ro vessel, the regional two-on-one media interview with the President will take place. The theme of the interview is “Infrastructure Projects in Full Swing.”

Upon arrival at the San Ricardo Ro-Ro Port in Barangay Benit, the President will inaugurate the P420-million San Ricardo Ro-Ro Port Development Project. She will then take the inaugural drive-thru of the port road link from San Ricardo to Liloan.

The President and the Ro-Ro caravan will then motor to Tacloban City via the Sogo-Mahaplag-Abuyog Road and will pass by the on-going construction of the P870-million Agas-Agas Viaduct Project in Sogod, Southern Leyte.

Pier 1 of the viaduct or bridge is nearing completion. It is about 70 meters in height with 17 leaps, each leap measuring 4.5 meters high. The second pier of the bridge is 50 percent completed.

The Ro-Ro caravan will then proceed to the Leyte Provincial Capitol front road inauguration.

On Thursday, the President will inaugurate the newly-completed Naval Port Development Project in Biliran Province. The P9.9-million Naval Port Development Project includes a Ro-Ro ramp and a new passenger terminal building.

The Chief Executive will then send off the Ro-Ro vessel for the two-hour trip to Masbate. She said the SRNH further enhances public access to various tourism areas throughout the country and offers an alternate and cheaper route for transporting goods from Mindanao to Luzon.

The Ro-Ro network is also expected to create new markets and enhance inter-island trade between Northern and Southern Philippines.

The SRNH expansion will likewise stimulate the entry of commodities to erstwhile isolated areas, consistent with the Macapagal-Arroyo administration's efforts to provide a stable supply of food at affordable prices to all Filipinos.

More important yet, the expansion of the SRNH would provide farmers and fisherfolk added route to market their products more efficiently, thus helping energize and enrich the countryside.

The SRNH has three main trunklines -- the western seaboard route, the central seaboard route and the eastern seaboard route.

President Arroyo envisioned the SRNH to inter-connect the archipelago’s islands and spur economic development from Metro Manila to the countryside.

Philippines welcomes Moody's positive rating


MANILA (PNA) -- Malacanang on Monday welcomed the positive outlook given by Moody’s Investors Service on the Philippines, saying it is a recognition of the government's effective management of the economy despite the global financial turmoil.

Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said the positive outlook is an indication that the Philippines still enjoys the international community's confidence.

”This is wonderful and we're very flattered. We're happy that we still have the confidence of the international community and the recommendation of Moody's. Those are noted,” Fajardo said.

In its annual report, Moody's said the country’s external payments position is stronger than a year earlier due to continuing large inflows of remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

The report said the country’s economic growth in 2008 slowed, but did not collapse late in the year, as it did elsewhere, due to the steady increase in OFW remittances.

”Moody's did not only confirm the positive ratings but they also consider the upgrade rating despite the recession. This is a resounding praise for the president's policies. This would serve as an inspiration for all of us to work even harder,” Fajardo said.

Philippine investment opportunities

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

Now is the time to get serious about making money from your investments and idle funds.

The events unfolding in the West are playing almost perfectly into the hands of countries like the Philippines. The uncounted billions of dollars being spread around like party favors is creating the illusion of stability along with the potential of a brighter future to come.

The reality of the continuing US unemployment numbers is all but ignored in the media. Real numbers, as supplied by John William’s think tank, American Business Analytics and Research (, puts unemployment closer to 20 percent. Further, the US money supply has not yet reflected the impact of the stimulus package.

When the hard cash comes into the economy, two things will happen: a jump in inflation and a drop in the value of the dollar, and both will happen in 2009. And while China talks of continuing to buy US government debt, the reality here is that the Chinese reduced its purchases in the last two months, instead shifting a minor amount of its reserves into hard assets. Nearly two-thirds of the $2 trillion of Chinese foreign currency reserves are invested in US government debt instruments. Other foreign money is making up the shortfall from reduced Chinese debt-buying. But this, too, will stop within the next quarter or so.

So what about the local economy? There is absolutely no indication that the numbers for the first quarter are going to be anything near what the “gloom-and-doomers” would like. I still stand by my worst-case forecast that total GDP for 2009 will be only slightly less than in 2008.

But from a personal investment standpoint, the local economy will have less influence on your investment performance than you might think.

Not all of the following is for everyone. However, you need to look at the broad picture right now, and each of these makes up the local investment “world.”

Yesterday’s downturn in the Philippine stock market created a wonderful buying opportunity. Prices closed right where they should have to continue to confirm that the stock market is serving up great profit potential. The Philippine Stock Exchange index has so outperformed the other regional markets that any pullback affords better prices. Two weeks ago the technical indicators confirmed an upside breakout, and we have not even seen the start of a bull-market rally for 2009. Local blue-chip stocks will give you a minimum of 20-percent to 30-percent return through the rest of 2009. We are closely following 40 different issues, and only seven warrant a long-term sell recommendation. Thirty issues are still neutral as we await a confirmation of a very long-term buy signal. This is very important. Although the market is up 20 percent from its weekly low in November 2008, there is no sort of irrational exuberance in the market. There is so much more room for prices to rise before there would be any concern of an overheated market. Buy local stocks; make lots of money.

I told you last year that anyone who bought dollars at or near P50 was going to lose money. I will say it again. Buying dollars against the peso will cost you money. Not only will you lose on the exchange rate, but you will also lose an opportunity cost as the difference between peso deposit rates and dollar deposit rates. You can earn at least twice as much interest on your peso time deposit. Further, weak dollar equals strong peso. The “experts” you read saying that the peso will weaken know little about the currency markets. They refuse to understand that the peso cannot weaken unless the dollar is strong. The dollar hit its high on March 3. The peso did not break 49. Any “expert” who makes a prediction on the peso-dollar must also make a dollar-euro prediction. Year-end euro-dollar at 1.20; year-end Philippine peso at 40.

If you have not invested in Philippine government debt instruments, now is the time. Over the next six months, we will see more reduction of local interest rates by the government. Because rates are relatively higher here in the Philippines, the government has wide room to lower rates and still favorably compete in the global debt markets. You can earn an annual interest rate of 4.70 percent buying government debt. And you need to buy now, as these rates will continue to fall as inflation drops and government borrowing rates fall. As rates fall, the value of the debt instrument will rise and you might be able to make a profit selling later in the secondary debt market.

Property prices are going up over the next 12 months. I never suggest buying real estate for capital appreciation. However, rental income on your real estate is very high in the Philippines. If you are thinking of buying, do it soon. Although construction-material costs are comparatively low right now, these costs will rise in the next year and new property prices will go up also. As money is freed up in the West, overseas investors will be coming back to property markets like the Philippines in the same way as they did four or five years ago.

You have no excuse for not substantially increasing your wealth this year by investing in the Philippines.

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

Monday, 13 April 2009

200,000 MidEast jobs for Filipinos

Mia Gonzalez
Business Mirror

MIDDLE East employers have assured the Philippines of more than 200,000 new jobs for the rest of the year, further buoying President Arroyo’s hopes of a “resilient” overseas Philippine labor market despite the global crisis.

The President received the employment commitment through a manifesto presented to her at the Middle East Forum in Dubai, containing the output of the forum including job orders for Philippine workers.

In her remarks, the President said the “market for OFWs remains high and resilient” even as there remain challenges, as proven by the sizable number of job orders from different Middle East countries.

“Overall, while some [Filipino] expatriates have lost their jobs. . . new jobs are being created at the same time, like the 200,000 new jobs that you the employers, recruitment agencies and hardworking government officials [were] able to put together,” she said.

A total of 222,131 new jobs await Filipino workers in the Middle East this year: 107,525 in Saudi Arabia, 39,128 in the United Arab Emirates, 39,159 in Kuwait, 21,517 in Libya and Algeria, 11,356 in Oman, and 3,446 in Bahrain.

The President said the manifesto specified the needed skills for employment, which will help the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda) to respond accordingly.

“In these trying times for Filipino workers, both overseas and domestic workers in the Philippines in the export-oriented industry, the government will not sit idly and do nothing. Given the global environment, indeed we must be prepared, which is why we are doing everything possible to continue to create jobs at home and abroad,” she said.

She said the government is implementing “a program of full reciprocity” to help Filipino workers in host countries in crisis times, by providing for skills improvement and retraining to retool them for other employment opportunities abroad.

The President also welcomed “bilateral discussions with many countries [which] are opening up new employment opportunities abroad for Filipinos in a wide range of skills sector.”

A Palace statement said the Middle East Forum aims to bring together employers, manpower providers, officials of the Philippines and Gulf cooperating countries to discuss how the Philippines can fill up large-scale job orders in the region within the year.

A new economic model for the Philippines–2

The Entrepreneur
Manny Villar
Business Mirror

I WROTE in my last column about the failure of the Western economic model in the light of the current global economic crisis. The best proof is the widening recession that started in the United States. No more straightjacket formulas. It is very clear that what is good for America or China is not necessarily good for us.

Even the extent of the impact of the global economic slowdown has been different for us compared with other countries. Export-led economies like Thailand were battered, while we were not hit as hard; not because we did not strive to be a big exporter like Thailand, but because we were too slow to grow our exports. So, in a way, our slowness benefited us.

What then should be the components of the new economic model for the Philippines? Our key word should be “self-reliant.” It’s the best protection against external threats like the slump in the export markets and the slowdown in other countries’ economies.

Let’s look at our existing resources—natural, financial, human—and find out how we can harness these resources. That will be part of the right model for us.

We have a population of 90 million, making us the 12th-largest in the world. A big population need not be a hindrance to growth. The other way of looking at our population is that it is also a big domestic market, which can drive consumption and the economy, particularly at the present time, when the global markets are shrinking.

Our large pool of English-proficient labor shows us the role of human resource in economic development. It brought the business- process outsourcing industry to our shores, which continues to grow in spite of (or maybe because of) the global recession.

New call centers are opening up as companies in the recession-hit countries look at outsourcing parts of their operations to cut costs. Filipino workers continue to find jobs in countries that have not been affected by the global slowdown, or are trying to stimulate their economies amid the slowdown.

It is heartening to hear about reports that 4,000 Filipino workers leave for work abroad, which means 4,000 families that will receive support for their daily needs. Thus, sustaining and improving the competitiveness of our human resource should be part of the new economic model.

This model should also include among its components entrepreneurship development. After all, overseas jobs are supposed to be temporary. Overseas Filipino workers will go home someday, and they will need livelihood when that day comes. In addition, ask any taipan, entrepreneurship is the way to prosperity.

I have constantly pushed for the development of entrepreneurship because I am a product of entrepreneurship. If we can develop just 1 percent of our population as entrepreneurs, that’s already 900,000 business people who will revitalize our economy, generate much-needed jobs and lift many families from poverty. Otherwise, we will just have a huge pool of wasted talent. And we will lose a big opportunity to boost the economy and help our people.

The timing is right for us to work on a new economic model, taking into account our resources, and considering our own needs.

First of all, we review everything—our resources, the benefits and costs of the economic model that we have been following. Then we identify the components of a new model. I cited some examples with respect to harnessing our human resource. Other people—economists, businessmen, policymakers—should be able to contribute their share, so that we can come up with a whole new model.

I need not overemphasize a crying need for a new economic model. I know it’s a hard task. It’s never easy to discard long-held beliefs and practices, but we need to do it now. It’s just a matter of time before the crisis ends.

We need not wait until the crisis ends. Rather, we should do the work while the crisis is going on, and begin following it as soon as the crisis is over.

So far, we have been lucky. Except for the export sector, we have not seen the full impact of the global crisis. Banks continue to lend, although at a slow pace; companies continue to make profits, although lower than what they made last year; and malls, offices and homes are still being built. Our overseas Filipino workers continue to send precious foreign exchange home.

Overall, the economy is still projected to grow, although at a slower rate compared with the past two years; no one, however, is expecting a recession in the Philippines.

Timing and opportunity are on our side. Let’s not waste them. Let’s begin working on our very own new economic model, now!

You may send your comments/feedback to

Sunday, 12 April 2009

Philippine president's pro-Life stand mainly a matter of morals

By Angelo S. Samonte
Manila Times

The first and main reason for President Gloria Arroyo’s and her Cabinet’s pro-Life stand in support of the Roman Catholic Church’s position is morals and ethics. [This is what] Press Secretary Cerge Remonde told The Manila Times ... in an interview for this special report timed for Easter Sunday, which celebrates LIFE in capital letters.

Today Christendom joyfully commemorates the glorious Resurrection of Jesus Christ.

In Christian theology, Christ is God who became the man Jesus to redeem mankind. God in His human nature as Jesus allowed himself to suffer pain and humiliations of Calvary and death on the Cross. God’s aim: To give each man and woman a chance to experience the same resurrection of the body that Jesus experienced.

Secretary Remonde told The Times it was a matter of high principles, not merely to be on the good side of the Catholic bishops, that moved the President to adopt the Church’s teachings about the dignity of human life.

That is why her stand is counter that of some of her key allies--like Congressman Edcel Lagman, who is the main sponsor of the Reproductive Health bill that the Catholic Church as well as several mainstream Protestant churches oppose.

Her pro-Life personal principles do not only cover the issue of population control through artificial means that are generally abortion-inducing (or abortifacients). The President, Secretary Remond reminded The Times, is also against the execution of criminals.

This is why—-despite the unjust claims of anti-Arroyo politicians and activists-—the President, according to Remonde, is earnestly seeking to stop such ugly things as extrajudicial killings and the so-called Davao Death Squad.

Mrs. Arroyo has repeatedly said [that she] is standing by her policy of natural birth control, the same position taken by Catholic bishops lobbying against the pending Reproductive Health bill that its opponents have seen to ultimately promote abortion and immoral sexual habits.

Remonde said the President personally believes that it is morally upright to adopt the pro-Life stance and its emphasis on curtailing sexuality and continence.

The Press secretary also said it is Mrs. Arroyo’s deep conviction that it is the obligation of the Chief Executive to support the life of every citizen and nurture it-—from conception.

Remonde mentioned a second reason for Mrs. Arroyo’s pro-Life policy position: ... the administration has proven by its programs that the natural family planning methods advocated by the church are more effective in arriving at a proper decrease in births and the ability to maintain the ideal population figure.

“Recent statistics shows that having this pro-Life policy has effectively controlled population growth compared to previous years,” Remonde said, when the government was pushing contraceptives. “The administration is firm in maintaining this position because with this policy we can effectively have the ideal number of people and not have the aging problem in Japan, Korea, Singapore and the West.”

In an earlier interview with The Times, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph Recto said 2008 statistics show that the country’s population started to manifest some decline despite the administration’s pro-Life position.

Recto said that with this figure, reversing the government policy toward population was no longer be necessary because most Filipinos have started to limit the number of their children through natural means.

The third reason, Remond said, why the administration adopts such policy is because the pro-life stand is that of the dominant religious organization and therefore the religion with the most number of citizens.

Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said in interview that the Palace will not meddle in stormy deliberations on the Reproductive Health bill at the House of Representatives.

He said the President is standing firm on her official position on the Reproductive Health bill and it would be up to her allies to make their own decisions.

Asked if Arroyo would veto the measure if it got passed, Ermita said he couldn’t anticipate what the President want to do.

Most knowledgeable observers of Malacañang, however, see that she would veto it.

In his conversations with lawmakers, Ermita said it appeared that the prevailing sentiment was for non-passage of the measure because of the Church’s opposition.

President Arroyo has made clear that Cabinet members should toe the line on her policy on population management.

Some pro-life activists have complained however that lower-rank officials and some local governments are pushing for contraceptives.

Secretary Remonde also told The Times that the President and most of her cabinet members saw that the countries which aggressively pushed contraceptives to reduce their populations have ended up having serious aging, moral—-high divorce rates, teenage and subteen pregnancies, for example-—and health problems, like high incidence of AIDS and cancer in women.

It is quite well-known that Thailand, which is always mentioned as being better than the Philippines in reducing its population through artificial birth-control methods, has up to 90-percent more AIDS cases than the Philippines.