Saturday, 9 May 2009

Philippines--why the economy is strong

By Tony Lopez
Manila Times

PEOPLE have been asking me why the economy is so strong and will have positive growth this year, unlike Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, all of which will show deep negative economic growth.

There are two major reasons for the Philippine economy’s strength. One is strong remittances by Filipino expats, the so-called overseas Filipino workers. The other is robust domestic consumption, which is probably an offshoot of the first.

OFW remittances amounted to $16.4 billion in 2008. Remittances this year will probably be the same, $16.5 billion, if not higher. There are some ten million Filipino expats. If each of those expats is a head of family and there are 16 million Filipino families, then ten million expats mean ten million middle class families.

As for the strong domestic consumption, with 90 million population, the Philippines has a very large domestic market. Personal consumption expenditures grew 15 percent at current prices and by 4.5 percent in real terms, in the fourth quarter of 2008. The biggest spending growth rates at current prices were registered by food, of course, by 19.7 percent to P726.6 billion, transportation and communications (that includes your jeep and bus trips and probably cell phone bills) by 16.2 percent to P159.58 billion, household furnishings by 15.1 percent to 18.9 billion; and fuel, light and water by 13.1 percent to P59.24 billion. These are quarterly figures. Multiply them by four to annualize figures.

The Philippines is the world’s 12th largest country in population and the 36th biggest in terms of size of GDP in purchasing power parity (PPP), with $323 billion. Being 36th out of 200 countries makes the Philippines upper middle income.

Our economy is bigger than Hongkong, Switzerland, the Czech Republic, Romania, Norway, Chile, Vietnam, Singapore, Peru, Portugal, Denmark, Israel, Ireland, UAE, New Zealand, Qatar and Libya. Some of these countries hire Filipinos as if they were richer than us or worse, routinely insult or look down upon the Philippines.

An indication of the country’s wealth is the very high savings rate, 28 percent of GNP. Per capita GNP is $2,060.8. Multiply that by 90 million, the size of the population, and you get total GNP of $185.5 billion which if multiplied by 49 (the peso-dollar rate) gives you P9 trillion. Get a third of that, which is P2.54 trillion, that is the savings of all Filipinos. That amount is almost twice the national budget.

In 2008, reports Lance Gokongwei Jr., of JG Summit, “we had strong growth in all consumer-related businesses like branded food, malls, airline and cell phones.” Cebu Pacific carried 6.4 million passengers last year, up 23 percent from 5.2 million in 2007. Flying is no longer a habit of just the rich. JG’s food business increased revenues by 20.5 percent, airline by 31 percent, telco by 37 percent, real estate and hotels by 33 percent, and petrochemicals by 80 percent.

These growth numbers do not support IMF’s contention that the Philippines will register zero growth this year. In fact, Manny Pangilinan, the chair of PLDT, thinks the economy grew by four percent in the first quarter this year. “The economy is showing resiliency,” he notes. SM and Shangri-La report that same-store retail sales in the first quarter are up five percent over same period in 2008.

“Banking has been highly positive. Retail is positive. We will see growth for the balance of the year.” True, exports and investments are down but Pangilinan clarifies that “our economy is not overly dependent on exogenous factors like exports or foreign investments.”

Half of Filipinos have cell phones. PLDT Smart has 25 million subscribers, Globe 15 million, and Sun Cellular nine million. It takes at least P4,000 to buy a decent Nokia cellular unit. Millions of Filipinos have two cell phones.

Jose Sio, the chief financial officer of SM Investments Corp., says the group will hit its profit growth of 12 to 14 percent this year. SMIC made P14 billion in 2008.

Manila Water profits up 13.5%


Profits of Ayala-led utility Manila Water Co. grew by over a tenth for the first quarter of the year on the back of an expanding customer base.

Manila Water earned P622 million from January to March of this year, a 13.5% improvement from the P548 million posted in the same period last year.


Friday, 8 May 2009

Philippine stock market expecting strong rally in near future

Shares close 0.14% higher
Agence France-Presse

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE 2) Shares closed 0.14 percent higher on Friday as investors bought undervalued stocks anticipating a strong rally in the near future, dealers said.

The composite index rose 3.06 points to 2,241.98, while the all-shares index rose 0.45 percent to 1,443.10.

There were 76 gainers against 36 losers and 39 that were unchanged.

Turnover amounted to 2.244 billion shares worth P3.255 billion ($68.4 million).

The local currency traded at P47.56 on Friday morning from its close of P47.45 to the dollar on Thursday.

"The Philippine market is making a bet that there is still a search for discounted values out there," said Nisha Alizer of DA Market Securities Inc.

Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. fell 0.46 percent to P2,160 while its main rival, Globe Telecom slipped 0.6 percent to P815.

But property giant Megaworld Corp. gained 1.06 percent to 95 centavos while Filinvest Land rose 6.35 percent to P67.

Philippines' Aboitiz Equity reports 20% rise in Q1 profit to P1.2B

MANILA, Philippines—(UPDATE) Aboitiz Equity Ventures, Inc. posted a 20 percent rise in first-quarter net profits to P1.2 billion as one-time gains offset the decline in income contribution from power generation, its biggest business segment.


Philippine end-April 2009 GIR Climbs to US$39.5 Billion

Media Releases
Bangko Sentral

The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) stood at US$39.5 billion as of end-April 2009, US$424 million higher than the end-March 2009 level of US$39.0 billion, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. announced today.

The increase in the preliminary end-April 2009 GIR level was due mainly to inflows from the BSP’s net foreign exchange operations and income from its investments abroad, as well as foreign currency deposits by the Authorized Agent Banks (AABs) and by the National Government (NG). These receipts were offset by outflows arising from the repayment of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the NG and valuation losses in the BSP’s gold holdings due to the lower price of gold in the international market in April 2009.

The current GIR level could cover 6.3 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It was also equivalent to 5.6 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.0 times based on residual maturity. 1

The level of net international reserves (NIR), which includes revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, likewise increased to US$37.9 billion as of end-April 2009 from the previous month’s level of US$37.5 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.


1 Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 months.

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MMDA Hires New Workers As Part of the Agency's "Metro Gwapo Workforce"

At least 600 new workers have been hired by the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) in its continuing program of providing job opportunities for the poor and underprivileged residents of Metro Manila.

The 600 newly-hired employees took their oaths and signed their appointment papers today before MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando, who welcomed them in the agency’s "Metro Gwapo" workforce.

The hired workers were laborers, foremen, painters, carpenters, masons, and drivers, who will be assigned to work in the MMDA’s Landscape Management Office, Road Clearing Group, Traffic Engineering Center, and Construction and Equipment Maintenance Office.

Fernando said the 600 workers were hired from depressed areas such as Tondo, Manila, and Tatalon in Quezon City and will be fielded in worksites near their residences.

"We do not want them to spend more money in transportation fares so they will work near their place of residences. They could also just as easily get their baon from their houses," the MMDA chairman added.

The MMDA has announced that it needs about 1,800 new employees to fill its ranks for field operations and office works.

Fernando said a job at the MMDA is a good stepping stone for those who wish to land a higher-paying job abroad or in private companies in the future.

"We do not discriminate. With or without (work experience) we will accept everyone who is willing to work with us. We will even train you," the MMDA chairman said.

Fernando added that by hiring more workers, the MMDA is contributing to the government’s peace and order drive by preventing these jobless people by committing crimes.

"If they have a source of income, they could not think of doing anything wrong just to earn money," he said.

Illegal vendors who could hardly make ends meet due to their unstable income are also welcome to apply at the MMDA, according to MMDA.

Fernando added the MMDA’s hiring of new employees is continuous.

Aside manual labor, the MMDA also about 200 traffic enforcers to augment the ranks of the Traffic Operations Center (TOC), the MMDA’s traffic management arm.

For enforcement and administrative work, the MMDA also needs to fill up a total of 732 positions, from security officers, legislative staff assistants, clerks, computer programmers, accountants, and engineers.

Fernando said there are also vacant positions for architects, electricians, lawyers, storekeepers, planning and records officers, and public information officers.

To facilitate the hiring of workers, the MMDA has been dispatching mobile recruitment teams all over Metro Manila, especially in depressed areas in Tondo, communities along Commonwealth Avenue in Quezon City, C-5/Taguig, and Camanava area.

The recruitment teams are dispatched to various cities in coordination with the city officials, Fernando said.

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Investors invited to develop million hectares of Philippine agri land


MANILA, Philippines - Over a million hectares of land will be made available to foreign and local investors in a bid to boost agriculture productivity.

In a statement, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap said his department is offering for development more than 1.2 million to 1.5 million hectares of agribusiness land including the community-based forestry management areas identified by the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

“Most of the areas are suitable for farm production," he added.

A 23-member delegation from the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia visited the country for possible investment opportunities such as palay, corn, poultry and livestock, high-value commercial crops such as bananas, mangoes, pineapples and fisheries subsectors.

The government is offering opportunities for these investors to develop postharvest and processing facilities for these products; expand areas for production; and build physical infrastructure like irrigation projects.

These investors could also consider the fisheries subsector, particularly in the development of mariculture parks.

“The establishment of mariculture parks also offer investors opportunities to produce high-value commercial fish species such as grouper, red snapper, tilapia and king crab, they said, as well as the construction of hatcheries for high-value species [grouper, seabass, abalone], fish processing plants, postharvest facilities, feedmills; intensification of production of brackish water fishponds; fabrication of sea cages and other equipment; and aqua tourism," the statement read.

Philippines -- a booming stock market and economy

Outside the Box
John Mangun

While many are still running around like headless chickens badmouthing the Philippine economy, a funny thing is happening. The Philippine stock exchange is booming.

On March 31, the title of this column was “Get into the PSE now.” At that time, the Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) was at 1,986. Yesterday that index closed at 2,200 for a gain of 10 percent.

With the close yesterday, the PSEi now targets 2,400. And you have not seen anything yet.

I know that we have a tiny little stock market that is an insignificant part of the total economy. That is one reason all the economic “experts” pay no attention to what happens on our exchange. They are still living under the impression that the “old boy’s club” of the PSE has no relation to the real world. That is because most of them never had a real job in their lives outside of the academic world. You see, in the real world people take real risks with real money. In the academic world, a “real” risk is not getting caught stealing someone else’s ideas and claiming them as your own.

Have you noticed something, though, in the last month or so? Some of the biggest names in the Philippine economy-bashing group have gone very, very silent. A month and half ago, they were going with their “expert” counterparts in the West proclaiming that the Philippine economy was doomed, dead or at least dying. Zero economic growth, but only if we were lucky, they told us. And the best that our government officials could come up with was along the line of, “Well, maybe they are right but we hope not.”

At least recently, these officials have found a backbone and are beginning to stand firm on their positive outlook for the country.

I said in January this year that the Philippine economy in 2009, worst-case scenario, would post economic growth only slightly less than in 2008 (GDP increase of 4.6 percent), at around 4 percent. But I could be wrong. Growth in 2009 might even be higher than in 2008. If we reach or exceed the 2008 numbers, there are going to be many exploding heads in various university economic departments around the country, as well as in some of the local newsrooms.

You know something good is happening when even the most fanatic and biased “anti-Philippine economy” people have trouble slanting the newspaper headlines and stories against the reality of a growing economy. I might suggest that they would be more comfortable working for newspapers in the USA which are proud of their lack of truthful reporting, but in five years, there probably won’t be any major papers left in that country.

I said it repeatedly last year and I will remind you again. The only economy-killer for the Philippines is high inflation caused by high fuel costs. Yes, we need foreign investment like the outsourcing companies. We need overseas remittances. We need stable weather for agriculture. But only P60-a-liter gasoline can bring this economy to its knees very quickly.

Inflation for all of 2008 was 9.3 percent. April 2009 inflation was 4.8 percent, and that was down from 6.4 percent in March 2009.

However, the crucial thing to remember is that the greatest factor of any spikes in local inflation is the cost of fuel. While crude oil is now trading at the $50 level, somewhat higher than I expected, there is absolutely no upward bias in crude prices. But I will let you in on a little secret: Crude oil is still too high based on demand. The crude-oil price at $50 is based on the assumption that the USA economy is going to recover through this year. If the very bad trend of increasing USA unemployment and shrinking economy continues through this second quarter, we will see crude down to $35 before year-end.

And about the local stock market? Yes, the Philippine Stock Exchange index is up 10 percent since March 31. And, honestly, that is no big deal. This is: Philippine National Bank up 60 percent, Megaworld up 48 percent, Ayala Land up 23 percent and Metro Bank up 25 percent to name a few. Not bad for a stock market in a country that is going to have zero economic growth.

But you then say, look at the USA and its stock market. Aren’t we just following the West? No, it is the emerging markets that are pulling the Western markets.

Second, the US market rise is all smoke and mirrors, an illusion. The US government has pumped hundreds of billions of dollars into that economy. What is that money being used for? Interest rates are so low, bank deposits make little sense. No one is buying real estate. Business expansion and capital investment is zero. There is no place in the USA to invest with any hope of making a profit other than the stock market. The recent rally in US stocks is another “bubble,” sad to say. It may continue going up for some time, and I hope it does, but ultimately this is a bubble that does not reflect economic reality. Our market, on the other hand, not only reflects Philippine economic reality, but also is forecasting the future.

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

Philippine tourism braces for the ‘big catch’

Business Mirror

THE Department of Tourism (DOT) and the First District of Surigao del Norte are cohosting this year’s Invitational Game Fishing Tournament in Siargao today (Thursday).

Tourism Secretary joseph Ace Durano will open the landmark event with President Arroyo, along with Rep. Francisco Matugas of the First District of Surigao. Local and foreign dignitaries are also expected to grace the event.

“With our specialized tourism activities, the country is ready to be positioned as a significant game-fishing venue. Blessed with a prime location, the Philippines is ready to welcome enthusiasts of this unique sport,” said Durano.

Considered as a form of recreational fishing as well as a legitimate sport, game fishing targets to catch the largest bony fish in the open sea, a timely initiative as the country’s tourism industry continues to go for niche marketing to get a “big catch” of arrivals for 2009.

“Domestic travel is a key component in the country. We continually encourage activity in local communities, and with events like this enjoining both local and international delegates, we are assured that tourism growth is on a very solid foundation,” said Durano.

The scenic coastal town of Pilar in Siargao Island in Surigao del Norte is host to the second edition of the tournament, which drew participants from Australia, Canada, Malaysia, Russia, Taiwan and the United States.

“This will certainly boost Surigao’s tourism industry, which is also known as a surfing destination. Breathtaking views of coastlines and sunsets and a wide array of activities continue to captivate travelers the world over,” said Undersecretary for Tourism Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque Jr.

Philippines' SM marks new milestone with 100 stores, and counting

Honey Madrilejos-Reyes
Business Mirror

SM Investments Corp. (SMIC), the holding firm for all the investments of the Sy group, said on Wednesday its retail network has grown to 100 stores, reaching another milestone in its 51 years of history.

The number of its SM Department Stores has climbed to 34 after the opening on May 1 of an outlet in SM City Naga; SM Supermarkets with 25; SaveMore, 14; SM Hypermarkets, 13; and Makro, 14.

The company earlier announced the opening of two more department stores—one Supermarket; eight SaveMore branches; and six Hypermarkets. “SM retail’s sustained expansion nationwide fits well with the country’s consistently robust and dynamic consumer sector. Domestic consumer spending, supported to a large extent by remittances from overseas Filipinos, continues to grow. Thus, with the opening of SM’s 100th retail outlet, we intend to further enhance our product and service delivery, for the benefit of the millions of consumers,” said SMIC president Harley T. Sy.

The group’s retail business is divided into two main segments, namely, the nonfood group, which is principally SM Department Stores; and the food group, composed of SM supermarkets, SaveMore stores, SM Hypermarkets, and Makro outlets. Earlier, the group announced a capital spending of P31 billion this, 30 percent more than what it spent in 2008, to bankroll continued expansion across all business segments. The spending will be funded by internally generated cash and the proceeds from the planned sale of fixed rate notes worth up to P10 billion.

Bulk of the group’s spending will go to its shopping mall development arm SM Prime Holdings, P7.2 billion for property unit SM Development Corp., P5.1 billion for SM Hotel and Entertainment, P2.7 billion for office buildings and ferry terminal project, and P1.6 billion for the condominium development in Hamilo Coast. The balance will be allotted for the retail business.

“We will pursue our expansion plans for 2009 with grater focus on areas that we think can make us stronger when the crisis passes. These are the areas we know best and continue to provide long-term growth opportunities, namely, retail, mall operations, banking and property development,” said Sy.

And while it recognized the challenges pose by the current environment, SMIC is still bullish of meeting a 12-percent to 14-percent growth in net profit this year.

House sobers up, musters quorum, rushes eight bills

By Christine F. Herrera
Manila Standard

The House of Representatives sobered up, mustered a quorum and rushed the passage of eight bills of national importance Tuesday night.

Apparently trying to make up for the two sessions that were adjourned due to a lack of quorum, congressmen held a marathon session last night, and as of 7:30 p.m. the attendance had grown to 187 from 178 without the quorum bell tolling.

The eight bills that the plenary approved on third and final reading were the following:

• House Bill 5241, which provides for the Investments and Incentives Code of the Philippines

• House Bill 263, which seeks to strengthen and propagate foster care for abandoned and neglected children and other children with special needs

• House Bill 6076, which seeks to expand the promotion of breastfeeding

• House Bill 6052, which requires all registered voters whose biometrics have not been captured to appear before the election officer of their place of registration to have their photographs, fingerprints and signatures captured

• House Bill 6096, which requires all government offices to ensure the release of the retirement benefits of its employees within 15 days from retirement

• House Bill 6101, which establishes the Philippine Legislative Academy

• House Bill 6097, which exempts the pledge of personal property covering a loan not exceeding P10,000 from the documentary stamp tax

• House Bill 6098, which regulates the rental of certain residential units.

As of 8 last night, the plenary was discussing measures to prevent the spread of influenza A or H1N1 after Akbayan Rep. Walden Bello delivered a privilege speech.

But Akbayan Rep. Risa Hontiveros demanded a salary deduction from “junketing” lawmakers for making the House spend and waste P44 million for the two session days that no official business was held due to a lack of quorum.

Kabataan Rep. Raymond Palatino, the youngest congressman at 29, demanded that the 45 congressmen who went abroad be made to account for their trip.

The House finally mustered a quorum after 178 of its members showed up at the session hall, beating the required 134 to constitute a quorum of the 263-member chamber.

Hontiveros said the House was spending P22 million a day to air-condition the session hall, and food caterers were being paid in full regardless of how many or how few congressmen had shown up.

“As a result of the lack of quorum, the House, for the past two session days, has already wasted P44 million and counting,” Hontiveros said.

“I demand a salary deduction from all congressmen who were absent and who went abroad, because they caused the government to shoulder unnecessary expense for overhead and operating expenses.”

Palatino said the lawmakers who went to Las Vegas to watch Manny Pacquiao fight British champion Ricky Hatton should be quarantined for a different kind of virus.

“This virus has long infected the House. Lavish lifestyle, questionable assets and expensive junkets are some of its symptoms,” he said.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

A song for all Filipinos -- from Manny Pacquiao

or here:

MMDA's Elevated U-turn interchange in C5/kalayaan Completed

Motorists can now forget about traffic congestion along the perennially clogged C-5 road with the recent completion of the Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA)’s revolutionary elevated U-turn interchange, the first of its kind in the Philippines , and perhaps in the world. [Not so.]

Completed in a record time of four months, the Phase 2 (South Side) of the C-5/Kalayaan Urban Interchange will be inaugurated today, a testament to the MMDA’s commitment to relieve Metro Manila of its decades-old problems on traffic.

The man behind the elevated U-turn project – MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando – likes to think of it as the newest traffic engineering solution that has so far been conceived to address the metropolis’ traffic situation.

“With the opening of the second C-5/Kalayaan Interchange, we can now further free up traffic along C-5 and Kalayaan Avenue , as well as speed up travel towards Quezon City and southern part of Metro Manila,” Fernando said.

The C-5/Kalayaan Urban Interchange project will easily connect the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) in Taguig City to the north end of C-5, the McArthur Highway in Valenzuela City and the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX), according to Fernando.

And unlike the conventional flyovers and tunnels, an elevated U-turn does not take up much road space, making it more applicable in urban areas with relatively small land area, he stressed.

“With the limited urban space in Metro Manila, the C-5/Kalayaan Urban Interchange requires only minimal space, “Fernando said.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will formally grace today’s formal inauguration of the U-turn interchange near the C-5/Kalayaan Avenue intersection in Makati City, along with the mayors and congressmen of the six cities that straddle the 19.7-kilometer C-5 road – Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Pasig, Marikina, Makati, Taguig and the municipality of Pateros.

“An innovation in road engineering” was how MMDA Assistant General Manager for Planning Dr. Corazon B. Cruz, the project director, describes the recently completed elevated U-turn.

AGM Cruz said billions of pesos in fuel and time savings, vehicle maintenance, and government expenses on personnel, equipment, and electricity will be saved with the full operation of the elevated U-turn interchanges.

The first elevated U-turn interchange, located at the north bound lane of C-5, was completed in August 2008, after only six months of construction. The second phase commenced four months later, on December 2, 2008 and completed on April 17, 2009.

The full operation of the two elevated U-turn interchanges is expected to increase travel speed at the C-5/Kalayaan corridor up to 43.61 kilometer per hour (kph), a dramatic improvement to the days when the C-5/Kalayaan intersection was still a four-phase traffic.

“By removing the traffic signal lights and closing the ( C-5/Kalayaan Avenue ) intersection, traffic flow is now continuous, providing motorists an unimpeded travel,” Fernando said in explaining the U-turn traffic concept.

Developed in view of the MMDA’s continuous effort to seek new alternatives to improve the metropolis’ traffic condition, the elevated U-turn scheme underwent rigid traffic simulation tests conducted by the agency’s Traffic Engineering Center (TEC) and the National Center for Transportation Studies (NCTS) of the University of the Philippines .

The elevated U-turn interchange was chosen over the original proposal to construct a vehicular underpass ortunnel along the C-5 road, which proved to be more impractical and expensive.

Fernando said the elevated U-turn interchange does not entail the utilization of traffic signal lights, 24-hour lighting, or traffic enforcers, and is not prone to flooding compared to a tunnel.

“We conducted numerous studies for this project and we found out that the elevated U-turn is much more viable and would be of great help in reducing traffic gridlock in the area,” Fernando said.

Fernando said C-5 road is now the best alternative for motorists using Edsa, thus freeing up traffic volume in the 24-kilometer national highway.

“There is nothing like this in the world,” Fernando said of the elevated U-turn interchanges.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Philippine GDP to grow 4% in 2009

The Philippine economy is expected to expand by 4 percent this year, at the higher end of the government's target range of 3.1-4.1 percent, a senior government official said on Tuesday.

"We are targeting 4 percent," Dennis Arroyo, head of policy planning at the economic planning agency, told reporters.

He said annual growth would be slowest in the first quarter and would gather speed from the second quarter onwards as spending ahead of the May 2010 elections kicks in.

Last year's growth is estimated at 4.6 percent.

Philippines' Globe Telecom posts 17% growth in Q1 profits

Globe Telecom Inc., the country's second-largest telecommunications firm, reported a net income of P4 billion for the first three months of the year, a 17-percent growth from P3.4 billion in the first quarter of 2008.

In a statement, Globe said its revenues for the three-month period grew 3 percent to P16 billion given the steady performance of the company's wireless services as well as the sustained expansion of its broadband and wireline data business.

Revenues from Globe's wireless business grew 1 percent to P14 billion, while its wireline and broadband business rose 17 percent to close the period with record-high quarterly revenues of P2.1 billion.

Globe's cellular subscriber base grew 21 percent to 25.7 million as of end-March. While net additions remained healthy, the company said average revenues per subscriber declined as a result of continued multi-SIM usage and low usage levels of new subscribers.

Globe's broadband subscribers, on the other hand, more than doubled in the first quarter at 287,000, with users of the company's fully mobile broadband service Globe Broadband Tattoo taking up almost 75 percent of net additions.

Revenues from Globe's broadband service rose 58 percent year-on-year to close the quarter at P640 million.

"We are encouraged by the continued growth of our overall business, especially considering the challenging environment against which it was achieved," Globe President and Chief Executive Ernest Cu said.

"Moving forward, we will remain focused on enhancing our services, strengthening our brand propositions and product offers, and improving our processes to
compete effectively in this highly demanding and competitive market.," he added.

Last week, Globe obtained a $50-million loan from Export Development Canada to fund its capital expenditures.

Globe, a joint venture of Ayala Corp. and Singapore Telecom, has a spending budget of $350 million to $450 million for investments in wired and wireless broadband for residential consumers, network enhancements, and maintenance of its core 2G business this year.

Philippines allots P25 M initial fund for reward system to end political killings

allots P25 M initial fund for reward system to end political killings

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Tuesday allotted P25 million as initial fund for the government's reward system to put an end to political killings in the country.

President Arroyo also asked the lawmakers to contribute P250,000 each from their Countrywide Development Fund (CDF) to build this fund.

“Political violence has been a scourge in Philippine politics long before our administration. We want to erase the legacy of political violence that haunted our nation for generations. We want to achieve a violence-free political culture in the Philippines once and for all,” the President said.

“Hence, I am allotting an initial 25 million for rewards to informants who provide information that foils political assassination attempts or leads to their solution especially identification of their masterminds. I invite lawmakers to contribute 250 thousand each from their CDF to build this fund,” President Arroyo also said.

Palace holds thanksgiving mass for Cory’s successful colon cancer operation

On orders of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo from Syria, Malacanang held at 3 p.m. today a thanksgiving mass for the successful colon cancer operation of former President Corazon Cojuangco Aquino.

Cabinet Secretary Silvestre Bello III invited the members of the Malacanang Press Corps to the thanksgiving mass at Heroes Hall, which he said, is an indication that President Arroyo is very much concerned about the health of the former president.

Bello said President Arroyo also ordered that she be regularly updated on former President Aquino’s operation last Monday.

“The President is genuinely concerned about the health of the former President,” Bello said.

“I think that every freedom-loving Filipino should share the concern of President Arroyo for the former president. We could do no less,” Bello stressed.

The former president went under the knife for the second time for her colon cancer last Monday.

Former President Aquino was responsible for the restoration of freedom and democracy in the country.

“Aside from just thanking the Lord God for the success of her operation, we should appeal to every Filipino to pray that the former president will have a very fast recovery, Bello said. – (PND)

The Philippines: Looking Good for Now

International Herald Tribune

MANILA — “So the last will be first...”

It may be premature, but the Philippine economy looks as though it may outperform most of its East and Southeast Asian neighbors, at least for a couple of years. That says something about improvements in economic management, and much more about the different ways in which countries are being affected by the global crisis.

The Philippines expects GDP to grow by 2 to 3 percent this year, a rate superior to anything in East Asia other than China and Vietnam, and a sharp contrast to the negative numbers elsewhere.

This would follow seven years of an average of 4.5 percent growth. That may not sound like much to boast about, particularly in a country with a population increasing by 2 percent a year, but it’s high by local standards and the most sustained improvement since the mid-1970s.

So has the Philippines really turned a corner?

The relatively strong performance this year will be largely due to what is also the Philippines’ biggest long-term weakness — reliance on overseas worker remittances, which account for 10 percent of GDP and the bulk of foreign exchange earnings.

Although these are now expected to fall from the $16 billion that Philippines abroad sent home in 2008, such remittances have held up well thus far.

A second bright spot — in contrast with the woes of Asian electronics manufacturing — can be found in call centers and business process outsourcing, which should keep growing, albeit more slowly.

Another boost will come from government spending. The success that the Arroyo government has had in stabilizing the fiscal position over several years has allowed interest rates to come down, reducing the cost of debt service and making room for money to be spent on badly needed infrastructure, health and education.

Even agriculture, long a drag on the economy, has been achieving steady growth of 3 percent a year thanks to increased investment and higher prices.

The bottom line in all this is that the Philippines is doing relatively well because of its lack of dependence on export manufacturing. But therein also lies it greatest weakness — the failure to make use, at home, of its abundant labor force.

Industry accounts for only 33 percent of output and has been in decline for three decades. Physical infrastructure is poor mainly because of low budget revenues. Governance issues and the dominance of a few big groups in commercial life are further disincentives.

Remittances have become a crutch which sustain consumption but do little for investment, other than in housing, and are unevenly distributed. Business outsourcing absorbs some educated labor but does little for the unskilled.

Despite several years of positive GDP growth, according to one survey the poverty level actually rose between 2003 and 2006. Inequality has certainly risen.

Of course, there is nothing in principle to stop the country continuing on today’s path for several years once the global economy has overcome its current difficulties.

Philippine labor will continue to be sought overseas — particularly in an East Asia, which is aging fast. The country may be able to build on gains in fiscal stability and balance-of-payments equilibrium. Remittances will remain less vulnerable than manufactured exports to global developments.

Yet without a much broader industrial base, without much bigger commitments to long term investments, public and private, and better governance, it is hard to see the Philippines breaking out of a 40-year pattern of relative decline.

Philippine June inflation seen below 1%


INFLATION WILL FALL to its lowest in over 22 years at less than 1% in June to account for rapid falls in commodity prices in the past year, a senior central bank official said on Monday.

Inflation has not been below 1% since March 1987, when prices fell 0.6% from a year earlier, and would be significantly lower than March’s inflation of 6.4%.

Still, average inflation this year would still be around 3.42%, a level forecast by the central bank at its rates meeting in April, the official told reporters. Inflation in 2008 was 9.3%. "Inflation will fall below 1% in June because of base effects," the official, who asked not to be identified because of the sensitivity of the subject, said.

Last year, commodities prices rose to record levels but have since fallen sharply, so annual comparisons in monthly consumer price data are having a dramatic affect on headline inflation. This is known as the base effect. — Reuters

The Philippines must chart its own economic course

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

It is unfortunate that it seems the only time the nation starts looking at its place in the global scheme of things is during a Pacquiao boxing match or when an overseas worker is about to be executed for a crime.

Yesterday’s BusinessMirror editorial on the fight and the “West vs. East,” “White vs. Brown,” “First World vs. Third World” mentality was unusual. It was out of the ordinary because there is a strong tendency in the Philippines to ignore the “second-class citizen” status given by the more developed countries.

When the country or Filipinos are insulted by a Hong Kong journalist or on American television, the nation goes on “red alert” with politicians and pundits throwing tantrums and stomping their feet like little schoolgirls. Once the apology is made (or time passes without an apology), there is a sense of victory. Yet it is a hollow and false victory. Just because the “No dogs or Filipinos” sign has been removed from the window does not mean the attitude toward nations like the Philippines has changed.

Bob Marley, the reggae music legend, wrote in “Redemption Song”: “Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our mind.” These words were taken from Pan-African leader Marcus Garvey, who attempted to instill in former slaves and their descendants a realization that slavery was as much a state of mind as it was a physical condition. Here, we often call it “colonial mentality.”

The Filipino, perhaps because of his incredible ability to embrace other cultures and a strong, natural sense of personal dignity and respect for others, tends to ignore the basic contempt at the worst, and dislike at the best, the West holds for nations and cultures like the Philippines.

To read our local pundits nearly groveling and certainly bowing to President Obama because his father was a black Kenyan is pathetic. Obama understands and appreciates the Filipino as much as any white tourist who comes to a country like the Philippines to drink the cheap local beer and visit the cheap local brothels. Obama, too, is a product of and subject to the same mentality like that of US Sen. Orville Platt, who said, “Upon us rested the duty of extending Christian civilization” to the Philippines.

It was British author Rudyard Kipling who wrote the poem “The White Man’s Burden” in 1899, as an appeal to the USA to assume the task of developing the Philippines. Kipling described the Filipino with these words: “Your new-caught, sullen peoples, half-devil and half-child.” Do you honestly think this attitude has changed much in 100 years?

Countries like the Philippines have been told and, more important, bought into the belief that their financial policies were “half-devil” wrong or “half-child” needing Western “wisdom.”

It would certainly be easier for everyone, collectively and individually, to sit back and wait for the West to set the agenda and execute the plan. Sort of like the 35-year-old man still living at home waiting for Daddy and Mommy to make the decisions.

Consider how well that idea has worked for the Philippines over the last 40 years. There is not a single thinking economist that does not agree that the Philippine government borrowing under the “guidance” of the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the International Monetary Fund has been a major contributor to Filipino underdevelopment and poverty.

The problem of the immature thinking of the 35-year-old-still-living-at-home is not only what they do but also what they do not do. Too many countries like the Philippines blindly follow the bad advice. These countries also make immature and bad decisions in a failed and foolish attempt to prove their independence. The “live-at-home” won’t try a new career without parental approval, but “proves” his independence through heavy drinking and partying.

The country is still struggling with the false nationalism of questioning the use of English as a medium of education. Meanwhile, the foreigners respect Filipino-English more than Filipinos do. A billion-dollar US client seeking to outsource to the Philippines has discussions with several billion-dollar foreign call-center providers. At the end of the negotiations, it comes down to this. One call-center company eventually says to the client: “Choose us, because our Filipinos are better than their Filipinos.” That is pragmatic Filipino nationalism.

The country is struggling with the idea of foreign ownership of property. The argument is that foreign ownership will raise property prices too high for the average Filipino. Guess what? Property prices are already too high for the average Filipino. As with the English language, this should only be an economic discussion and focusing on how to make it work for the betterment of the country. The Philippines has done wonders in attracting foreign capital with its special economic zones. Something similar could be done with “foreign-owned” retirement villages or the like.

Make no mistake. The US economy is headed for a black hole of government debt-based dollar devaluation, inflation and a greater pace of a shrinking economy. The Philippines must plan and execute its own truly independent economic course, or we, too, will fall into the same deep pit. It has been 63 years since final Philippine independence. Now it is time to take properly that independence and start using it. Or the Philippines can sink with the West by following its advice and policies.

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Monday, 4 May 2009

Philippine Stock Market at all-time high since mid-October 2008

Screenshot of chart from Bloomberg

Philippines' NDCC to release 4,100 sacks of rice to typhoon-stricken Bicol region

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) is releasing 4,100 sacks of rice to the five provinces of the Bicol region which have been ravaged by floods triggered by Typhoon “Dante.”

Of the 4,100 sacks, 1,000 sacks each will be released to the provinces of Catanduanes, Sorsogon and Camarines Norte; 750 sacks to Albay; while 350 sacks will be given to Camarines Sur.

To augment the relief efforts of local government units (LGUs), the NDCC will mobilize national government agencies (NGAs), through the Region V offices of the Office of Civil Defense (OCD), to assist the LGUs.

Deputy presidential spokesman Anthony Golez told Radio ng Bayan this afternoon (May 3, Sunday) that at least eight people have died, 15 missing, and more than 2,000 have been affected by the calamity in the Bicol region alone.

“Iyong sa Region 5, ang naapektuhan diyan umabot ng 2,082 -- a total of 25 barangays sa Region 5 ang naapektuhan,” said Golez.

He called on buses plying the Matnog-Sorsogon route to suspend their operation because some sections of the highway linking the two points remain flooded.

Radio reports said that thousands of commuters were stranded in Matnog because of the typhoon.

“So, ang lahat ng mga sasakyan napapahinto doon sa highway na iyan at pag na-strand sila dyan, kawawa naman dahil walang restaurant,walang tulugan, walang comfort room.

So, kahapon pa namin sinasabi sa mga bus na rumuruta papuntang Sorsogon na huwag munang lumarga o magpasada dahil kawawa lang ang pasahero pagdating doon sa highway na papuntang Sorsogon, iyong mga nangagaling ng Matnog. So, nananawagan po ulit kami,” Golez said.

He said that Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro has instructed government agencies involved in disaster and relief operations to coordinate their activities with the LGUs in the disaster areas.

Among the agencies helping out in the relief operations in the region are the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Social welfare and Development (DSWD), Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP), the Philippine National Police (PNP) and the OCD.

OCD-5 regional director Raffy Alejandro said that Albay has declared a state of calamity. The number of evacuees in seven towns and two Albay cities ravaged by the typhoon was placed at roughly 20,000.

In Sorsogon, latest reports said nine persons have died while 15 remain missing after a landslide hit Mubo in Magallanes town. Two others died in the flash floods in Camarines Norte, while one was electrocuted in Camarines Sur. (PND)

Malacañang Statement on Pacquiao's victory

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and the entire Philippine nation join the whole world in celebrating the victory of Manny Pacquiao.

His heart, valiance, dignity and love of God and country exemplify the indomitable and triumphant Filipino spirit.

“We are exceedingly proud of this victory and we congratulate Manny and Coach Freddie and Team Pacquiao” for championing the Filipino.

May they continue to bestow honor and glory to the country and inspire us to dare to dream, to reach for our dreams and to conquer every challenge that come our way. (PND)

The ‘hidden’ strengths of OFWs--how the IMF and MB can also go wrong

Manny Villar
Business Mirror

I have always been confident that overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) will play a big role in carrying the Philippine economy through the turbulent global recession. And I am optimistic we will not see any dramatic drop in their remittances at all.

So I was glad to read reports that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which late last year expressed concern that remittances of OFWs would decline this year, is just as optimistic, too.

Only last month, the World Bank projected that remittances to developing countries like the Philippines would fall by 5 percent to 8 percent this year, citing the uncertainties over the duration and depth of the global financial and economic crisis.

The World Bank’s sister institution, the International Monetary Fund (IMF), estimated 2009 remittances from OFWs at 7.5 percent below the 2009 figure, or $15.17 billion, compared with last year’s $16.4 billion.

Actually, that’s not bad. Remember, OFW remittances totaled about $14 billion in 2007, when the economy grew by 7.2 percent in terms of gross domestic product. At $15 billion, remittances will still be several times the amount of foreign direct investments that flowed into the country, which reached only $1.5 billion last year, on a net basis.

Higher deployment to the Middle East will push remittances higher in the second semester, contradicting the dire forecasts by multilateral agencies of a decline in the money sent by Filipinos working abroad.

When Deputy BSP Governor Diwa Guinigundo returned from a trip to Saudi Arabia, he noted that highly skilled Filipinos are preferred in the Middle East.

“Personally, with the information I have, a decline in remittances is unlikely,” Guinigundo said. “There is also cause for optimism for the second half of the year, when we will have to review our numbers.”

Overseas Filipinos coursed $16.4 billion through banks last year, a 13.7-percent growth from 2007. During the first two months of 2009, remittances rose 2.5 percent to $2.6 billion, propped up by sea-based and land-based workers.

The BSP has explained that its earlier forecast of a flat growth in remittances this year was based on expectations that many OFWs would lose their jobs as their host- countries suffered from the impact of the global recession and deployment of Filipino workers overseas would slow down.

The opposite happened. More Filipino workers are leaving for jobs abroad than those who are returning home. The government has announced new job openings for Filipinos, who comprise almost half the workers in the construction industry in the Middle East.

According to Guinigundo, there are development projects worth $45 billion in Jeddah alone, which will open job opportunities for Filipinos.

I said earlier that Saudi Arabia and most other countries in the Middle East are the least affected by the global crisis. They may suffer lower earnings from exports, but they have ample resources to sustain their economies. Their sovereign funds are intact, they will not go into deficit.

This is why I don’t expect any radical cut in employment in Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Abu Dhabi or Qatar. The only one hit by the global crisis was Dubai, which depends on tourism.

But what is happening now is that the OFWs who lost their jobs in Dubai are going to Abu Dhabi or Qatar, looking for new employers, instead of just going home. Their advantage is that Filipino workers, besides being hard workers, are multiskilled and can shift from one job to another.

There are other factors that will sustain OFW deployment and remittances growth amid the global financial crisis.

In Europe, where most OFWs work as domestic helpers and whose presence in the household allows their employers to work, or as caregivers who are taking care of the aging population there, it is not likely that they would all be sent home; not in droves, at least. After all, people who have gotten used to having somebody take care of their needs, to give them the time to pursue their occupational interests or enjoy personal comfort, would not easily give up their helpers or caregivers.

In the United States, the worst fear is that the recession will drive up the unemployment rate past the 8-percent level to as high as 10 percent. If we apply that to Filipino workers in the United States, then we can assume that 10 percent of OFWs there will lose their jobs, and remittances from there will decline by 10 percent.

But the US unemployment rate was already averaging 7 percent last year. So the 10-percent unemployment rate under a worst-case scenario means only a 3-percent increase in the US jobless rate. Applying that again to OFWs, then we can expect 3 percent of Filipino workers in the United States will lose their jobs this year, and their remittances will decrease by 3 percent.

What I’m saying is that the big drop in remittances projected by the World Bank and the IMF may happen to other labor-exporting countries, but less likely to the Philippines.

The pessimistic forecasts of the two institutions are understandable. They did not take into account or were not aware of the unique characteristics of Filipino workers.

I know, for example, that some of the OFWs whom I helped come home after encountering problems abroad have gone back and found new employment. That’s resilience, a strength of Filipino workers that is not likely to be appreciated by Western analysts.

One more thing is that if remittances do actually drop, the reason may not be that OFWs are being sent home, but because they are deliberately withholding or reducing the amount of foreign exchange they are sending to their families, in anticipation of a higher exchange rate (more pesos for a dollar).

OFWs are smart. They will rather travel far to get more pesos for their dollars instead of changing their currencies in hotels or airports. In our housing business, we have noticed that when they see the exchange rate going up, buyers will delay their amortization payments, waiting for a more favorable exchange rate, thus maximizing their income.

Can the bright boys from the World Bank and IMF see that? I doubt it!

I agree with the Bangko Sentral’s plan to review its forecast on remittances, given the increase in deployment. On the average, the number of Filipino workers leaving for abroad has increased from 3,000 in the past few years to about 4,000 this year.

During the first two months of 2009, remittances grew by 2.5 percent to $2.6 billion. That’s significantly lower than the 13.7-percent increase for the whole of 2008, but 2.5 percent is also significantly higher than zero growth, which should now be our worst-case forecast.

We know ourselves better than the World Bank and the IMF know us Filipinos!

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No growth slippage in the Philippines

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

ALL the economics experts have been saying the Philippines will sustain a huge growth reduction of a magnitude reflecting the current global economic downturn.

First was the International Monetary Fund (IMF)—whose resident representative forecast zero growth this year from 2.5 percent just two months earlier—then the Asian Development Bank (ADB) scaled back its growth forecast, followed more recently by readings from Standard & Poor’s which concluded that local output this year will continue to suffer no matter the ongoing attempts by the government to optimize growth via fiscal and monetary easing measures.

But as far as Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. is concerned, the economy will still continue to push forward at a significant pace, albeit at a rate slower than previously seen.

“As I had said in the past, there are fundamental forces that would help the country avoid a major growth slippage.

“The strength of domestic consumption from our young and economically active population [is one],” Tetangco said in citing one such strength.

Some 45 million Filipinos aged between 15 to 64 years, the bulk of their number being young, are the main drivers of the country’s consumption activities which by itself accounts for more or less 75 percent of the gross domestic product.

He also cited the country’s reduced dependence on exports, which now accounts for only 29 percent of GDP from almost 50 percent in 2000.

He likewise said the number of displaced workers is still small relative to the overall stock of overseas Filipino workers, the majority of whom are higher-skilled and with longer contracts.

There is also the cost-competitive business-process outsourcing (BPO) industry, which remains attractive to firms that wish to streamline costs, according to Tetangco.

BPOs help strengthen the country’s external sector whose foreign- exchange earnings also help keep the country’s balance-of-payments forecast to remain in surplus this year, he added.

“From the BSP side, we had earlier moved to ensure that there is sufficient liquidity in the system. This, to purposely avoid the credit crunch that the majors are now experiencing,” Tetangco said.

“With the risks to inflation subdued, we have continued to calibrate monetary policy to support demand and ensure that growth prospects are kept steady,” he quickly added.

Inflation, whose corrosive impact on earnings is the one thing that pushes the BSP to make constant monetary policy adjustments, has moderated substantially to just 6.4 percent in March after having trended up to 7.3 percent in February.

Inflation in January averaged only 7.1 percent.

Kawasaki sees 15% sales growth in the Philippines


KAWASAKI MOTORS Philippines Corp. expects sales to continue growing this year albeit at a slower pace, focusing on maintaining market share amid an economic slowdown.

At the sidelines of the launch of three new motorcycle models last Saturday, sales and marketing senior manager Teench Layosa-Doval Santos estimated Kawasaki Philippines sales to grow at a conservative 15% "for a supposedly crisis year," down from last year’s robust growth of 53%.

In terms of market share, Ms. Santos said Kawasaki Philippines expects to hold on to 21%. "We ended last year at 21% when three years back we would have been happy with 15%," she said.

Kawasaki Philippines ranks second in market share in the Philippine motorcycle industry, behind Honda Philippines, Inc.

The company also announced a tie-up with Indian automotive firm Bajaj Auto, "to provide riders with high-quality, reasonable and trendy new models," said Chairman and President Yoshihiro Tanigawa.

Company to invest P10.32 billion in Mindanao transmission project


THE NATIONAL GRID Corporation of the Philippines (NGCP) will be investing P10.32 billion for transmission projects in the Mindanao grid starting this year up to 2012.

In a statement, NGCP said that they have "lined up many projects in Mindanao as part of... efforts to upgrade and expand the power grid and at the same time, align its operation and maintenance practices with global standards."

Among the priority areas, according to NGCP, are the Aurora-Polanco 138-kilovolt (KV) Transmission Line Project and the Zamboanga City Area 138-KV Transmission Line Project.

The Aurora-Polanco line is intended to serve the power demands of Dipolog City and nearby load centers. The P1.43 billion project slated for completion by November 2011 is intended to augment power presently sourced from the Aurora Substation through a 69-KV single circuit line.

The project is currently in the pre-construction stage of settling right-of-way issues, working for local government endorsements and environmental compliance certificates, NGCP said. The Zamboanga city project, meanwhile, will cost P1.27 billion and is being set up to provide for projected increases in power demand in the area. In line with this is a construction of a new substation in Pitogo and the reinforcement of the 138-KV line connecting Sangali to Pitogo. The project, presently in the tendering stage, is expected to be finished by March 2010.

NGCP said that they will submit due diligence requirements and conduct community surveys prior to the right-of-way acquisition. "We want to involve the communities. We don’t want to go in like an intruder," NGCP President and Chief Executive Officer Walter A. Brown said.

"A lot of problems in the past have been due to the lack of adequate appreciation and concern for the rights of the people whose lands we are occupying to build our transmission lines. We are very conscious of this," Mr. Brown added.

NGCP received a 25-year concession to operate the National Transmission Corp., the state’s power grid, on January 15. NGCP paid an initial $987.5 million in January as part of a $3.95 deal. NGCP is a privately-owned utility company made up of Monte Oro Grid Resources Corp., Calaca High Power Corp., and the State Grid Corp. of Hong Kong Ltd. The Chinese firm is a subsidiary of the State Grid Corp. of China, one of the world’s largest power utility companies.

Davao region to post 5% growth this year


DAVAO CITY — Agriculture, tourism and mining will continue to be the engines of growth of the Davao Region, said Maria Lourdes D. Lim, regional director of the National Economic and Development Authority.

With these drivers, the gross regional domestic product of the region is projected to breach the 5% growth mark, said Ms. Lim, although the projection is lower compared with the 6.7% growth the region achieved last year.

While agriculture will remain the region’s economic pillar, Ms. Lim singled out tourism as one big factor this year since it posted 10.9% in 2008 compared with the previous year in terms of tourist arrivals. Tourism regional director Sonja V. Garcia earlier said that the agency has been trying to intensify its promotions of the region to attract more tourists.

The agency has promoted the region through the "island to highland" concept. Also, Ms. Garcia said her agency has also packaged the region as having the best dive sites in this part of the country. Last month, the agency spearheaded a diving festival that brought divers to the different parts of the region.

Another emerging industry is medical tourism where private investments started in recent months. Early this year, a property developer announced it will have a special clinic within its 45-hectare project in the Island Garden City of Samal.

Dr. Jonathan A. Alegre of RJP Realty Development Corp., a company developing a upscale subdivisions here, said they are cashing in on the medical tourism potential in setting up a specialty clinic that will cater to tourists and also those who will buy lots in the company property.

Also, the Metro Pacific Investment Corp. is planning to invest heavily on medical tourism. Last year, Andres M. Licaros Jr., president of the Davao Doctors Hospital, said the hospital is drawing up plans to make it one of the best hospitals in the country. Metro Pacific bought 34% of the stocks of Davao Doctors Hospital last year.

Mining, Ms. Lim said, is on its way to a rebound. She said the mining industry is expected to create both revenues and jobs opportunities in the region before the year is over. However, an industry source claimed that the mining industry slump could be longer that expected. Mines and Geosciences Bureau regional director Edilberto L. Arreza said "nothing is moving" in the industry these past months.

Ms. Lim said production of agricultural commodities such as banana and coconut will remain Davao Region’s to income earner this year. Vicente T. Lao, chairman of the Regional Development Council, said last month that agriculture has been an effective shield of the region against the global financial crisis.

Philippines' $1.2-billion Clark airport investment deal to be finalized


THE GOVERNMENT is finalizing a deal for a $1.2-billion investment commitment from Kuwaiti construction giant Al Kharafi and Sons Group to build and develop a new airport terminal at the Clark Freeport in Pampanga, Malacañang said yesterday.

Press Secretary Cerge M. Remonde said President Gloria M. Arroyo had met with the head of the Al Kharafi Group during her stay in Marsa Alam, Egypt before proceeding to Cairo where she would meet with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak.

"We are here in Marsa Alam for an investments mission. We spoke with Sheikh Nasser Al Kharafi, one of the biggest financiers in the Middle East. He is interested in investing and developing the Clark airport and aviation city," he told reporters in Manila via telephone.

Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila for his part said the project will involve an initial investment of about $100 million-$300 million.

"The total project cost is about $1.2-$1.5 billion. [Construction should start] ideally within first semester," he said.

The new passenger terminal is part of the government’s bid to develop Clark as the country’s next international gateway, Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) President Benigno N. Ricafort said in a separate interview.

Under the joint venture deal with CIAC, whoever gets the contract must design, build, finance and operate the new airport.

"This is good news. The airport terminal is crucial because we’re increasing our passengers/flights. The offer has to be finalized, we still don’t know what they [Mrs. Arroyo and Mr. Al Kharafi] agreed upon but I think within 30 to 60 days, this would be finalized," he said. The proposal may still be subjected to Swiss challenge for transparency, he added.

CIAC is targeting to open the new airport facility by the middle of 2010 with a capacity of at least three million passengers a year.

Clark’s present terminal at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport can hold two million passengers yearly. In comparison, Manila’s airport system has a combined capacity of over 30 million passengers a year.

Officials have said Clark has more room for growth than Manila, with around 4,200 hectares of land that can be used for expansion.

The President left for an official visit to Egypt on May 2. She will proceed to Syria for a state visit on May 3.

Malacañang earlier said Mrs. Arroyo’s visit to Egypt will focus on interfaith dialogue, investments, and securing support for the Philippines’ long-standing bid for observer status in the Organization of Islamic Conference. She is also expected to meet with Arab investors and the Filipino community there.

During her state visit to Syria, she is expected to meet with Syrian President Bashar Al-assad, scout for investment opportunities and meet with representatives of about 17,000 Filipinos working in Syria.

Mrs. Arroyo is also scheduled to sign partnership and cooperation agreements with the Syrian president. Deputy Presidential Spokeswoman Lorelei T. Fajardo earlier said about 12 agreements will be negotiated during Mrs. Arroyo’s trip to Cairo.

These agreements include:

* promotion and protection of investments;
* memorandum of agreement between the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Federation of Egyptian Chambers of Commerce;
* memorandum of understanding on tourism cooperation;
* executive program for cultural cooperation;
* memorandum of understanding in the field of health, medical science and pharmaceutical production;
* memorandum of agreement on technical cooperation in agriculture; and
* memorandum of understanding on establishment of mutual recognition and authentication of halal certification.

Mrs. Arroyo will be back in Manila on Thursday.

Bidding for Philippines' P11.3-billion poll automation project kicks off

Emilia Narni J. David

SERVICE PROVIDERS will bid today for the multibillion-peso project to automate next year’s general elections, the first in the country’s history on a national scale.

Ten companies have been pre-qualified to participate, and the winner will be announced not later than May 26. The elections are set for May 10, 2010.

In a telephone interview with BusinessWorld, Ramon C. Casiple, member of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) advisory council on election automation, said some companies may pool their resources and form a consortium to meet the minimum bid requirement.

He added there is no front-runner since "each has [its] strengths and weaknesses."

The Comelec has said all measures are in place to protect the process from any rigging, including secluding members of the special bids and awards committee to avoid influence-peddling.

Ten companies have expressed interest in the P11.3-billion project. These are Total Information Management (TIM)/ Smartmatic, Avante International Technology, Inc., Syrex Corp./ Scantron, DVS Philippines/ Samsung, Indra Sistemas S.A., Universal Storefront Services Co./ Sequoia, All Data Hub International, Inc., Gilat Satellite Networks Ltd., AMA Group Holdings Corp./ ES&S International, and Mega Data Corp.

Two firms — Smartmatic and Avante — had participated in last year’s Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao elections.

Philippine Light Rail extension seen to attract businesses

Louella D. Desiderio and Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

NEW BUSINESSES are expected to rise in Quezon City with the completion of the link between two elevated railway systems set to be completed in December.

The line would connect Light Rail Transit (LRT) Line 1’s Monumento station in Caloocan City and Metro Rail Transit’s (MRT) North Ave. station in Quezon City.

Quezon City Mayor Feliciano R. Belmonte, Jr. said in a telephone interview yesterday the link would spawn new businesses in retail and information technology, particularly in the planned Triangle Park central business district near the North Ave. station.

"We expect new businesses in retail and information technology to come to the city as agents from Caloocan and Valenzuela will find it easy to work in Quezon City. A lot of it are moving to the city right now," he said.

There were 58,196 registered business establishments in the city in 2008.

Information and communications technology companies that have chosen to locate in the city include IBM Daksh Business Process Services Philippines, Inc., eTelecare Global Solutions, Inc., Convergys Corp., Sitel Philippines and Sykes Asia, Inc.

The P6.4-billion rail link will involve an elevated 5.4-kilometer viaduct and will feature three new stations: Balintawak, Roosevelt and North Ave.

Meanwhile, First Balfour President and Chief Operating Officer Anthony L. Fernandez said there are changes to the initial plan of the MRT-LRT loop.

"They (Light Rail Transit Authority) changed the initial plan. The station will now be in front of SM. We are waiting for prints to come out. May 2010 was the original [deadline]," he told reporters on the sidelines of Robert Bosch, Inc.’s anniversary celebration late last week.

First Balfour and D. M. Consunji, Inc. are behind the joint venture constructing the rail link.

Asked whether construction will be completed by December this year as called for by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Mr. Fernandez said in a telephone interview: "I don’t know. We’ll see. It’s still early. It’s only May."

He added that at least 90% of the project can be completed by the end of the year but it will not be operational yet.

Asia 'must cut export dependency'

Just exactly what the Philippines was doing
BBC News

Asian governments must cut reliance on export-driven growth and spend more to cut poverty, Asian Development Bank (ADB) finance officials have said.

Countries must restructure to focus on domestic demand as they grapple with economic chaos, the banks' annual meeting in Indonesia was told.

Asian economies are slumping as demand for their products falls during the worst global slump since World War II.

The downturn is set to keep tens of millions of people trapped in poverty.
'Greater resilience'

Asia's main export markets had experienced a "massive contraction in demand" since the implosion of the US mortgage market triggered the global banking crisis last year, ADB President Haruhiko Kuroda told a seminar at the meeting.
He said the knock-on effects had been interest rates on bonds rising and Asian currencies depreciating as foreign capital was taken out of emerging markets.
Economic stimulus packages produced by the likes of China and Japan to boost their economies would not be sufficient in the long-term he added.
"Over the longer term, developing Asia is starting the process of rebalancing growth from excessive dependence on external demand to greater resilience on both consumption and investment," he said.

"Already there are signs that domestic consumption is remaining strong in Asia and may well lead the way out of this downturn."

The ADB is predicting growth of 3.4% in Asia for 2009 compared with more than 9% in 2007.

Poverty warning

Chinese and Indian finance officials were among those backing Mr Kuroda's calls for efforts to stimulate domestic consumption.

Greater spending on infrastructure and education were needed, they said, as well as social safety nets to give Asian consumers, especially the poor, the confidence to spend.

The ADB's main role is lending to alleviate poverty in developing Asian nations.
But it estimates that the economic crisis has kept about 60 million Asian people in severe poverty, who, in less uncertain global economic times, would have been able to improve their standards of living.

At the meeting, Japan, said it would make 6 trillion yen ($40.1bn; $60.5bn) available for currency swaps - giving nations with weaker currencies access to yen in a funding crisis.

And finance ministers from south east Asia along with Japan, China and South Korea, agreed to set up a $120bn (£80.5bn) pool of emergency funds.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

More video on Pacquiao victory over Hatton

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Pacquiao-Hatton highlights

Pacquiao does it again

Hatton defeated by slick Pacquiao

Britain's Ricky Hatton has lost his light-welterweight fight against Manny Pacquiao at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas.

The Filipino knocked-out the 30-year-old Manchester fighter in the second round.
In the first round, Hatton, who had lost only once before in his career, was knocked down midway and then again towards the end.

Hatton made it through most of the second round before a left hand sent him sprawling.


MANILA, Philippines – Manny Pacquiao knocked out Ricky Hatton with a left hook in the second round of their bout to grab the the IBO light welterweight title at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Nevada, on Saturday (Sunday in Manila).

In the very first round Pacquiao sent the Brit down twice with stinging hooks, first with a left and then with a right.

The victory makes Pacquiao a six-time world champ in five weight divisions and kept him as the top pound-for-pound fighter in the world.

Before the fight, sports analysts Ed Picson and Ed Tolentino were one in saying that the Battle of the East and West would be a brutal fight, but Pacquiao’s speed might once again lead him to victory and cement his reputation as the world’s pound-for-pound king of boxing.

Martin Nievera, wearing a T-shirt designed by the late rapper Francis Magalona, broke tradition by being the first male to sing the Philippine National Anthem in a Pacquiao bout.

He was followed by pop icon Sir Tom Jones, who sang "God Save the Queen," the British National Anthem, and Fil-Am Jasmine Villegas, who sang the "Star-Spangled Banner," the US National Anthem.

The bout was witnessed by a star-studded audience that included Oscar de la Hoya, Jack Nicholson, and Mariah Carey.


Short fight surprises even Pacquiao

MANILA, Philippines – A lot of people were surprised when New IBO light welterweight champion Manny Pacquiao defeated British Ricky Hatton in the second round of their much-awaited fight. This included Pacquiao himself.

“I didn’t expect that it’s going to be a short fight. He’s a hard puncher. He hit me hard," Pacquiao said in an interview minutes after his stunning victory by knockout.

The Filipino boxing champion sent Hatton down twice with hooks, first with a left and then with a right, during the first round. The Briton fell for the third time during the second round.

Pacquiao said he and his coach, Freddie Roach, studied the strategy against Hatton “and worked hard for that style." - Sophie Dedace, GMANews.TV


Bob Arum of Top Rank said that Pacquiao was getting better. But the boxing champion countered, “Don’t forget God.”

Arum said Pacquiao was the “greatest fighter that ever lived.”

Pacquiao, seen as the world pound-for-pound champion, won his 10th fight in a row, improving to 49-3 with two drawn with his 37th early stoppage. Hatton fell to 45-2, losing at junior welterweight for the first time in his career.