Commentary in Thai
Saturday, 12 December 2009
Commentary in Thai
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By Anna Valmero
MANILA, Philippines—The Commission on Elections (Comelec) said about half of the 82,200 precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machines that will be used in the 2010 elections will arrive in the country by month’s end, an official said.
Automation provider Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) gave assurances the first batch of 42,200 machines is set to arrive by December 31, said Comelec commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal, head of the steering committee on automation.
“Based on our talks with Smartmatic-TIM, they would meet the delivery schedules and we could expect the first batch of 42,200 machines to arrive by December 31. We have sent a second team of Comelec officials to visit the facility,” Larrazabal told INQUIRER.net.
Smartmatic-TIM spokesman Gene Gregorio said its Qisdi Suzhou facility in Shanghai, China started production of the PCOS machines on December 1 at a rate of 3,000 units per day.
He dismissed lawyer Harry Roque's allegation that due to delays and the transfer of production from Taiwan to China, the company would not be able to produce the required number of machines and meet the delivery schedules.
“Harry Roque is misinformed in alleging that we cannot meet the delivery schedules. Production of the machines started last December 1 as we have announced earlier,” Gregorio said.
“Based on our pilot runs, it only takes 10 minutes to assemble a PCOS unit so at a rate of 3,000 machines assembled in a day, we could complete the 82,200 within the month if the factory operated 30 days straight,” Gregorio told INQUIRER.net via SMS.
“At the rate of our production, we are confident to deliver 42,200 units by the end of the year and the remaining 40,000 units by January next year,” Gregorio added.
Each delivered poll machine has to pass a battery of tests to be conducted by the Comelec and its Technical Evaluation Committee, said Larrazabal.
Also by next week, Comelec is set to receive 120 PCOS machines, which include base configuration of the automation software that will be used to educate and familiarize Comelec personnel nationwide on how the machines operate, said the poll official.
The 120 PCOS units, including 20 prototype machines shipped to Comelec on September, are excluded from the 82,200 PCOS machines needed for the country’s first national automated polls, Larrazabal said.
Friday, 11 December 2009
Filipino who saved lives during storm among TIME's Top 10 heroes
SOPHIA REGINA M. DEDACE, GMANews.TV
A Filipino who sacrificed his life during the onslaught of tropical storm Ondoy (Ketsana) in September was named among TIME Magazine’s Top 10 heroes this year.
The international publication recognized the selflessness of 18-year-old Muelmar Magallanes, who braved raging currents, helping bring neighbors and relatives to safer ground when record rainfall submerged three-fourths of the Philippine capital.
“By the time the storm had unleashed its full fury, bringing the worst rains the region had seen in more than 40 years, Magallanes had changed the lives of dozens of family members and neighbors – and lost his own," TIME said on its Web site.
Barangay Bagong Silangan in Quezon City was among the worst-hit communities in the metropolis when Ondoy ravaged vast swaths in Luzon on September 26.
Magallanes, said to be a strong swimmer, rescued about 30 people but was unable to save himself.
While trying to save other neighbors, a wall collapsed on him and a television set fell on his head, killing him instantly.
Ondoy may have killed hundreds, displaced thousands of families, and destroyed thousands of homes.
But Magallanes and several other faceless heroes show that tragedy cannot dampen Filipinos’ resilience and bravery.
Just last month, CNN hailed Filipino Efren Peñaflorida for pioneering the mobile pushcart classrooms to bring education to impoverished children in Cavite, providing an alternative to gang wars prevalent in the communities. - RJAB, Jr./GMANews.TV
Philippine Daily Inquirer
VIENTIANE, Laos — Miguel Molina delivered the first swimming gold Thursday night, joining the taekwondo jins in lifting Team Philippines out of the pits in the 25th Southeast Asian Games here.
The best male athlete of the 2007 Games and clocked 4 four minutes 27 seconds in the 400-meter individual medley, edging Thai Nuttapong Ketin by .57 seconds for the gold to kick off his bid to match his four-gold output in Thailand.
Reaping the benefits of a year-round training and extensive foreign exposure, Marie Antoinette Rivero and Alex Briones ruled their respective divisions as the jins continued to shine.
Atoning for their golden misses in the previous games, two-time Olympian Rivero beat Nguyen Thi Dong of Vietnam, 2-1, in the women’s welterweight finals while Briones routed the taller Sorn Elit of Cambodia, 3-0, in their men’s heavyweight match.
The twin triumphs somewhat compensated for the shocking 4-7 defeat suffered by World Cup of Pool champions Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante at the hands of Thais Surathep Phoochalam and Nitiwat Kanjanasri in the 9-ball doubles opener.
Though Reyes and Bustamante fought back from 0-3 and 1-4 deficits to tie the match at 4, the Thais, behind Phoochalam’s jump shot in the 10th rack and breaks in the 11th, took the last three racks to seal the huge upset.
The three golds put the Filipinos in fifth place in the medal race with four golds, four silvers and five bronzes.
As of 8 p.m. (9 p.m. in Manila), Singapore surprisingly moved ahead with 9 golds, 3 silvers and 7 bronzes, followed by powerhouse Thailand (6-12-6), Vietnam (6-5-8) and Indonesia (5-0-10).
Welterweight Marlon Avenido and heavyweight Kirstie Alora settled for silvers.
Alora’s 3-4 loss to Rapatkorn Prasossuk rekindled memories of dubious officiating in the past after the judges awarded the Thai a late point that prevented the match from going into sudden death.
“It’s a pity because I didn’t even feel what they said was a point,” said Alora, winner at the recent Korea Open.
Taekwondo has now chipped in three golds, two silvers and as many bronzes for the Philippine medal harvert.
Ryan Arabejo failed to defend his men’s 200m backstroke title, settling for the silver, but more gold medals should emerge from the pool as competition heats up.
The RP men’s team swept Indonesia 3-0 and its women counterpart squeaked by third-seed Vietnam as they made it to the tennis semifinals to be played Friday.
Alexis Douglas B. Romero
DESPITE posting low scores in addressing corruption and other socioeconomic indicators, the Philippines has gotten the go-signal to apply for development support by the United States, which will decide on the matter next year.
The Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC) said in a statement yesterday that the decision was made by its board during a quarterly meeting held in Washington yesterday.
"The Board agreed that Jordan, Malawi, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Zambia are eligible to continue the process of developing compacts in fiscal year 2010," it said.
"In making its decision to reselect the Philippines and Indonesia, the Board took into consideration each country’s current indicator performance as an LMIC (lower middle income country category), as well as the information that the Philippines and Indonesia would have met the criteria as a low income country."
Philippine officials welcomed the decision.
"With the country’s reselection as compact eligible for fiscal year 2010, the Philippine Government reiterates its continuing commitment to good policy performance," Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto G. Romulo said in a statement.
Rosalia V. de Leon, officer-in-charge of the Finance department international finance group said in a phone interview: "We hope to secure the approval of the MCC board when it meets in March. If our proposal is approved, the funds may be released in the third quarter of 2010."
She explained that the next step would be to present to the MCC a proposal that would outline the projects to be funded by the grant.
"Now that we are reselected as eligible, we will then submit to the MCC our project proposals. We are still preparing the compact proposal, but we are still on track," Ms. de Leon said.
The MCC is a US state firm formed to provide support to developing countries that exercise good governance. It assesses countries’ eligibility to secure a compact -- a multi-year agreement to fund specific development programs -- through 17 indicators grouped into three, namely: "ruling justly," "investing in people," and "encouraging economic freedom."
Scores are based on third party information from groups which include the World Bank, United Nations, World Health Organization, International Monetary Fund, as well as think tanks The Heritage Foundation and Freedom House.
An MCC report released last month showed that the Philippines scored below the median of 35 lower middle income countries in terms of control of corruption, rule of law, immunization rates, health expenditures, primary education expenditures, girls’ primary education completion, and business start-up.
The country managed to score above the median in other indicators, namely: political rights, civil liberties, government effectiveness, voice and accountability, natural resource management, regulatory quality, land rights and access, trade policy, inflation, and fiscal policy.
Last year, the Philippines scored below median in just three categories, namley: control of corruption, health expenditures and primary education expenditures.
Officials, however, attributed the lower scores to the Philippines’ transfer to the "lower middle income group of countries" from "low income category," adding that, as a result, the country was subjected to "more stringent standards."
Low income countries refer to those with a per capita income equal to or less than $1,735, while middle income category countries are those with a per capita income greater than $1,735 but less than $3,595. Latest government figures show that the Philippines has a per capita income of $1,843.7.
MCC acknowledged that a country’s movement to a higher income bracket could affect its scores.
"Graduation to a higher income category, as well as other factors -- including higher medians and changes to the indicator system -- can impact a country’s indicator performance, while not necessarily reflecting a change in policy performance," it said.
"In making its decision to reselect the Philippines and Indonesia, the Board took into consideration each country’s current indicator performance as a lower middle income country, as well as the information that the Philippines and Indonesia would have met the criteria as a low income country."
MCC, however, underscored the need for countries to address corruption to boost their chances of securing a grant.
"The Board stressed that clear commitment to and progress on the fight against corruption are critical for any country that hopes to enter into a compact with MCC," it said.
The Finance department’s Ms. de Leon assured that the government is continuously undertaking reforms to promote transparency and to improve governance. "We are continuously coming up with reforms in governance. We hope to sustain them," she said.
The Philippines’ compact proposal for 2010-2014, which is in the final stages of development, focuses on three projects, namely: the Secondary National Roads Development, Kapit-Bisig Laban sa Kahirapan-Comprehensive and Integrated Delivery of Social Services, and Integrated Revenue Information System.
In recognition of OFWs
Rizal Raoul Reyes
THE SM group will spend P180 million in building 36 lounge facilities to attract overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) and their families to SM Supermalls.
In an interview with reporters, Hans Sy, president of SM Prime Holdings Inc., said these facilities, which are called Global Pinoy Centers, are intended to meet the needs of returning OFWs and their dependents when they go shopping.
According to Sy, each center will cost P5 million.
Sy also said providing OFWs and their families with more comfortable facilities is SM’s way of recognizing their contribution to SM’s growth through their continued patronage.
“Whenever I have trips abroad, I was always being asked by foreign investors what drives SM’s growth and I told them it’s because of the remittances of our overseas-based workers,” said Sy during an interview at the sidelines of the opening of the Global Pinoy Center at the SM Mall of Asia.
“After having major involvements in environmental issues, education, empowering the handicapped among others, I asked the people in the group now to focus on the OFWs in recognition for their vital role in enhancing SM’s growth,” Sy said.
As of August 2009, about 2 million OFWs had remitted $12 billion to their families.
SM will build two more Global Pinoy Centers in SM Mega Mall and SM North Edsa this year. It will continue implementing the project in 2010.
Under the plan, each Global Pinoy Center will assist OFWs in finding information on investment opportunities and provide them easier access to the Department of Labor and Employment and other government agencies such as the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and The Global Pinoy Center will also enable dependents of OFWs to pick up remittances directly from their loved ones even on weekends and holidays.
The Global Pinoy Center will also function as a contact point for the present and former OFWs, balikbayans and their relatives.
As an added incentive, OFWs and their families will be issued Global Pinoy card which will entitle them to avail themselves of discounts and freebies from SM Supermalls and other partner establishments. Furthermore, a card-bearing member will entitle them to privileges such as 20 percent and 15-percent discount tuition discount in Asia-Pacific College and National University, respectively.
Sector sees 2010 growth of up to 20% given strong orders
JESSICA ANNE D. HERMOSA
SALES of the Philippines’ top export -- electronic components -- will likely recover earlier than expected based on strong orders received for the first quarter of 2010, the leader of an industry group said.
Export sales are expected to grow by as much as 20% next year, better than an initial 10% estimate, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) Chairman Arthur J. Young said late on Wednesday.
Sales for 2009, however, are still projected to drop by roughly 20%, Mr. Young said.
Based on official data, the new outlook means 2010 sales posting a return to the $21.047-billion performance seen in 2008 after falling by a fifth to $18.837-billion this year.
"By 2010, it could bounce back. We had projected this [recovery to occur] towards 2011 ... but orders for the first quarter already look strong when they are usually flat or down," Mr. Young said in a telephone interview.
"We think you can see a nice growth next year, higher than 10% based on bookings for January to March looking pretty solid. The growth will be in the high ‘teens’ to maybe 20%."
Mr. Young maintained earlier projections for 2009: a sales decline of around 20-23%.
"I still believe the fourth quarter will be better than [the same quarter last year]," he added.
Semiconductor export sales have so far fallen by 30.87% to $12.841 billion as of October from yearago levels, official data show. It accounted for 41% of total merchandise export sales in that period.
University of Asia and the Pacific economist Victor A. Abola backed the industry group’s 2010 outlook.
"I tend to agree. More than the recovery in the US market which will continue, end-consumer demand [for electronics] will be quite robust in China and East Asia, India, Brazil and Russia," Mr. Abola said yesterday.
Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, Inc. (Philexport), likewise noted yesterday that merchandise exporters in general were seeing a healthy number of orders for early 2010.
But he said Philexport was so far maintaining its 10% growth outlook for sales of merchandise and services. Exporters are watching the strengthening of peso which could make exports more expensive to foreign markets, he added.
Mr. Young likewise noted the peso’s strengthening, saying: "It is a concern but is not a major issue we’re looking at. We have to make sure our costs become more competitive."
By CHARISSA M. LUCI
President Arroyo has approved the allocation of P7 billion for the additional Christmas bonus of more than one million government workers, with each receiving P10,000, Malacañang said Thursday.
Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya said all state workers, including permanent, casual, and contractual employees, will receive their cash bonuses next week.
He announced the grant of the additional cash gift and performance bonus, totaling P10,000 for each employee, after President Arroyo awarded various citations to government officials, educational institutions and volunteer groups in Malacañang’s Rizal Hall Thursday.
“Naaprubahan na ng ating Pangulo ang additional cash gift and performance bonus ng ating mga kawani ng goyerno,” Andaya said in an interview.
He said out of the P10,000 cash gift, the P7,000 will be shouldered by the national government, while the balance of P3,000 will be provided by the employees’ respective agencies.
“We will start releasing next week,” Andaya said, noting that his department has started crafting the guidelines for such assistance. The incentives are not included in the 2009 regular budget.
“This is not a specific item in the budget kaya humanap kami ng items kada department na pwedeng pagkunan ng bonus natin,” Andaya said.
Remonde earlier said the President “really in principle wants to make the Christmas especially for the government workers happy.”
Thursday, 10 December 2009
Alena Mae S. Flores
Northwind Power Development Corp. will start building a 30-megawatt to 40-megawatt wind project in Aparri, Cagayan province costing $60 million to $80 million by 2011.
“The project’s capacity will depend on our resources, also the feed-in tariff,” Northtwind president and chief executive Niels Jacobsen said. The mechanism ensures a fixed power rate for renewable sources of energy during a 12-year period.
“We are hoping to implement [the project] in 2011. But we are measuring, we are already gathering the resources. We are also looking at how much the area can yield in terms of generation,” Jacobsen said.
NorthWind has completed the expansion of the 33-MW Bangui Bay project in Ilocos Norte, the largest wind farm in Southeast Asia.
The $50-million Bangui Bay project sells electricity to the Ilocos Norte Electric Cooperative and provides 40 percent of the power requirements of the province.
Jacobsen said the company could even start the project earlier, pending finalization of renewable energy portfolio standards.
Jacobsen said the company was also in talks with various institutions to finance the project.
NorthWind Power’s subsidiary, Northpoint Wind Power Corp.. will undertake the project construction.
Northwind chairman Ferdinand Dumlao said the project had received the support of Japanese, Danish and Spanish investors and creditors.
BEFORE AND AFTER
Ready for takeoff. Before-and-after photos of the Jolo airport runway show the extent of the improvement done by a joint RP-US partnership on Sulu island’s lone airport. The old airport runway (upper photo) was extended to 1,845 meters from 1,200 and widened to 30 meters from 18, and is now an all-concrete runway (lower photo) that can accommodate bigger planes such as the Boeing 737s and Airbus 320s. The airport improvement was a joint project of the Transport Department, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines, and the US Agency for International Development.
Philippine Daily Inquirer
MANILA, Philippines--Household spending in overseas remittance-rich Philippines as well as around Asia is rebounding in a big way despite the recent global financial turmoil—and the boom appears sustainable, according to British banking giant HSBC.
In its economic research Asian Chartbook dated Dec. 8, HSBC said fragile exports, large excess capacity and the aftermath of back-to-back Tropical Storm “Ondoy” and Supertyphoon “Pepeng” had slackened the pace of recovery in the Philippines.
“However, robust remittances will underpin consumption, offsetting the impact of rising inflation pressures and a weak labor market,” the research said.
On the other hand, the bank said the Philippine government’s fiscal position would likely continue to be under pressure due to a full-blown slump in revenue and rising discretionary spending.
All across Asia, HSBC said households have now become a driver in the region’s economic recovery after lagging the overall expansion in gross domestic product (GDP) for many years.
“After a deep slump in growth and confidence, households have opened their wallets again and are becoming an important driver of economic growth for the region,” HSBC said.
The bank said this had become especially obvious in the dramatic turnaround in car sales across the region, with such purchases rising at double-digit rates in the Philippines, China, India, Korea, Taiwan and Vietnam.
HSBC said China and Vietnam were leading the way in terms of vehicle sales growth, but noted that other markets were showing surprising strength as well, including Taiwan, India, Korea and the Philippines.
“The strength in consumption largely reflects the resilience of the regional labor markets, where unemployment rates have fallen now everywhere and job creation has accelerated strongly. As wages begin to rise again, we expect further good news on consumption to emerge,” it said.
In the past, HSBC said domestic demand, including consumption, was usually closely tied to the performance of exports. But this time around, it said shoppers were returning even before shipments picked up, suggesting that Asia’s rebound could be sustained even if the global trade cycle remains subdued for the time being.
VIENTIANE, Laos — Janice Lagman, Rani Ann Ortega and Camille Alarilla lived up to expectations Wednesday, topping taekwondo’s poomsae team event by the closest of margins to give Team Philippines its first gold in the 25th Southeast Asian Games at the National University’s Booyung Gymnasium here.
Proving that their victory in the recent 4th World Poomsae Championships in Cairo, Egypt, was no fluke, the charming trio emerged triumphant over their chief rivals from Thailand and Vietnam hours before the biennial meet officially started.
The men’s team of Anthony Matias, Brian Sabido and Jean Pierre Sabido settled for the bronze medal, behind champion Myanmar and runner-up Laos.
Ortega and Sabido likewise snatched a bronze in the mixed pair event.
Lagman, a 22-year-old nurse; Ortega, a 23-year-old sports science graduate, and Alarilla, a 22-year-old economics graduate, narrowly earned the nod of the judges to the delight of a bunch of Filipinos fans.
The Filipinos scored 8.37 in keumgang and 8.60 in pyongwon for a total of 16.97, just a whisker clear of the Thais, who posted 16.94 (8.37 and 8.57). The favored Vietnamese settled for the bronze with 16.87.
Myanmar went on to take the lead in the sport with two golds following its victory in the women’s individual event even as host Laos served notice of its worth when W. Sokhatavi snatched the men’s individual gold and bagged a silver in the women’s individual category.
Unlike in their unexpected victory in the world stage, where they had to contend with bets from 56 countries, the Filipinos came into the 11-nation competition ready to flaunt their mettle.
Before switching to poomsae—the equivalent of kata (form) in karatedo— two years ago, the three Filipinos were members of the national sparring team, which is expected to score heavily here.
“We really prepared hard for the games,” said Ortega, a graduate from the University of the Philippines, in an earlier interview.
Her teammates are also professionals with Lagman an alumnus of Trinity University of Asia and Alarilla, an Ateneo graduate and niece of Philippine Ambassador to Laos Marilyn Alarilla.
The Filipino jins, hounded by spotty officiating, could only bring one gold medal, courtesy of two-time Olympian Tshomlee Go, from the Thailand SEA Games two years ago.
Go’s fellow Olympian, Antoinette Rivero, and the rest of the RP taekwondo squad plunge into action in the sparring competitions starting Thursday at the same venue.
The 21-year-old Rivero heads five jins competing for six golds. She is entered in her pet division, the 67 kg class (welterweight), where she won a silver medal in the 2007 SEA Games in Thailand.
“We’re hoping for [fair] officiating this time,” said team manager Rocky Samson. “But looking at the draw, I can say that we stand a good chance.”
Also competing Thursday are Marlon Avenido, Alexander Briones, Criselda Roxas and Kirstie Elaine Alora.
Avenido is entered in the men’s welterweight (under 80 kg) while Briones is vying in the heavyweight class (over 87 kg).
Roxas, an Arts Management student at St. Benilde, will see action in the under 73 kg class (middleweight), while Alora, a gold medalist in the 2005 SEA Games, now fights as a heavyweight.
Rizal Raoul Reyes
THE Philippines’s property industry showed resiliency amidst the financial meltdown prevailing in the global market and is expected to display a positive trend going into 2010, according to the Philippine office of a major property management consulting firm belonging to the Fortune 500 and S&P 500 groupings.
Rick Santos, chairman of CB Richard Ellis Philippines, (CBRE), said on Wednesday the property industry survived the onslaught of the global financial crisis as developers continue to open new projects in response to increasing demand.
“The property industry has remained strong and resilient amid the global financial crisis,” said Santos in a briefing in Makati City.
As a result, Santos said majority of the Philippines property companies remained profitable in the first nine months of 2009.
He cited the SM group with SM Prime Holdings Inc. and SM Development Corp. (SMDC) as major players together with its affiliate Anchor Land Holdings as the stars of the industry in that period.
The SM Group is focused on retail malls, residential condominiums and hotel developments across the country.
“Real-estate products will continue to sell given market demand but must be in the right location and responsive to buyers expectations as to price, quality and timely delivery,” Santos said.
SMDC, the middle-income residential condominium development arm of the SM group, reported P1.3-billion net income in the first three quarter.
Santos said there are active players such as Ortigas & Co, Greenfield Development DMCI Homes, Phinma Properties and Rockwell Land which are now venturing to pocket developments, to get a share in the growing demand for affordable residential dwellings for both housing and condominiums.
“These developers have significant land holdings and strong balance sheets that empower them to launch and complete well planned real-estate projects,” he said.
The trend is expected to continue into 2010 and onwards as the Philippine economy slowly regains its growth momentum which has been temporarily derailed by the global economic slowdown, according to Santos.
With the passage of the Philippine REIT Act of 2009, Santos sees investment in the property sector to accelerate as more investors will seek more new opportunities previously limited to institutional investors.
Among the income-generating assets that can be converted into real-estate investment trusts are office buildings, residential condominiums, townhouses, apartments, shopping/outlet centers, tourism-related facilities such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, golf courses; health care (hospitals, nursing homes, retirement homes and drugstores); warehouses, R&D centers, and infrastructure such as expressways, railways, ports, power plants.
Joey Radovan, CBRE Philippines vice chairman and head of global corporate services, said there will be consolidation of office spaces in 2010 as business process outsourcing (BPO) companies and other companies will look for cheaper rates.
As of the third quarter of 2009, Radovan said tracked takeup for the Metro Manila office market was 158,319 square meters. In 2008, it was approximately 225,000 square meters. The year 2007 has the highest with 330,000 square meters.
“The slowdown was expected because of the completion of the big transactions and companies have become conservative in their plans when the financial crisis emerged in the horizon,” Radovan said.
Radovan said Cebu is the next big thing as far as development of business districts is concerned. He said growth in demand has resulted in major developments in the office market in Cebu and the fringe areas of Lapu-Lapu City and Mandaue City.
He said the recent announcement of Ayala Land Inc to develop a new IT park indicates there is still room for growth in the area. Cebu Business Park and the Asiatown IT Park are the newest business districts in Cebu City.
“Cebu is the place to watch as far as development of business centers is concerned,” said Radovan.
Outside the Box
IT is too early to start looking back on 2009. Yet it is the Christmas season and we should have a positive attitude at least just a little. I know it is extremely difficult to be positive about things with all the negatives that have happened over the last three months: killer storms, gasoline pushing higher, flat economic numbers, the Maguindanao massacre and the beginning of the election season; perhaps, especially the beginning of the campaigns. Who knows what else might happen in the next three weeks. But you can find all the bad news you want on the front page and maybe it would be good to try to find some reasons to count some blessings for the year 2009.
No one is holding it up as the big story for 2009, but the banner headline to describe 2009 probably should be the performance of the Philippine Stock Exchange. Here we have a stock market that began 2009 near 1,800 and will end the year near 3,000. The last time the local market performed so well, up more than 60 percent, was in the very early 1990s, and that seems like a lifetime ago.
Maybe the reason no one is really looking at the stock market for some optimism is that the global equity markets did very well in 2009, so the Philippines does not stand out as particularly special. But if you look at individual stock prices, this was a exceptional year for trading on our exchange. Several of the big-cap stocks like Ayala Corporation are higher by 50 percent. Many issues doubled and more in price.
I will presume that, given the current trading and the quiet holiday time just ahead, our market will remain poised for a dramatic jump in the first quarter of 2010. When you consider that this increase in prices happened against the most possible negative backdrop of dying economies in the West and all the pessimistic comments about the Philippines, buyers of local shares certainly were optimistic about something through 2009. Of course, stock prices are supposed to climb a “wall of fear.” Maybe that is truer than we realize as there was more than enough economic fear to go around during 2009.
Another story that you might have a hard time hearing about is the absolute boom that has taken place in the Philippine outsourcing/call-center business. With all the new call-center sites that opened or every new hiring binge these companies started, it is a shame that none of the local media put them all together in one article to give you the bigger picture and how amazing the growth was this year.
Considering that most businesses that our call centers serve have had major financial and profit problems these last 12 months, it certainly did not stop them from growing jobs in the Philippines. I know that you probably think of the call centers in terms perhaps of the neighbor’s kid who decided to stay home with the nursing degree instead of going abroad. And of course, call centers are all located in Makati, Eastwood City and Cebu, with maybe one or two in a couple of other provincial cities. The fact is that there are over 700 call centers operating in the Philippines located in more than 20 cites from Baguio to Davao. The revenue growth of the call centers in the Philippines was the largest since this industry became a force in the economy.
This year has seen growth from Western clients that have created a second-wave boom in the industry. Companies that rejected even the thought of outsourcing a year ago cannot wait to enter into local contracts. These companies cannot afford not to do business here as a method to beat the recession in the West by significantly cutting the costs for their customer service and backroom operations.
Something else that should be making us a little merry for Christmas is how well the Philippine economy responded to the drop in oil prices in 2009. When prices collapsed in 2008, bottoming out in early 2009, local prices responded accordingly, driving inflation to almost nothing. Even as oil prices rebounded quite a bit this year due to the weak dollar, inflation has remained well within acceptable levels. This tells us that the economy, which is really thousands and thousands of individual businesses, responded to the buying patterns of their consumers. This economy worked well as a free-market economy in that prices operated well within the boundaries of supply and demand. As oil prices, a large component of all consumer prices, fell, so, too, did consumer prices. As oil prices moved up, consumer prices did not race ahead of the oil price increase. Therefore, we saw inflation quiet and virtually a non-factor in the economy.
In the face of all the turmoil of 2009, perhaps the most positive event that happened in 2009 was the nationwide response to the massive flooding of Ondoy. Perhaps it is not apparent, but Filipinos rose to the problem with unselfish assistance even as the rain was still coming down, in a manner that should be a source of great pride for this country.
PSE stock market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com, Inc. E-mail comments to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Wednesday, 9 December 2009
Despite the global recession, the country’s gross national product (GNP) grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter this year, boosted by the services and agriculture sectors. GNP is the sum of goods and services produced by the country.
Gross domestic product (GDP), which is GNP minus overseas remittances, however, grew by only 0.8 percent in the same period, much lower than the 1.5 percent growth in the second quarter but still within the target range of between 0.8 percent and 1.8 percent for the year.
In a press briefing today immediately after the NEDA Cabinet group meeting attended by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) director-general Augusto Santos said improved agriculture output (which was still unaffected by typhoon Ondoy on Sept. 26) offset negative manufacturing growth.
Santos said the country’s growth reflected in part the 8.8 percent average growth in the 30-member Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), many of which are its trading partners
Santos said manufacturing is expected to rebound next year with the resurgence of worldwide demand for semi-conductors. Semi-conductors and electronics currently account for 60 percent to 70 percent of the country’s exports.
Meanwhile, Santos said the peso remained strong against the US dollar, with gross international reserves (GIR) at almost $44 billion or the equivalent of about eight months worth of imports. A comfortable GIR is equivalent to three months of imports.
The country is awash in foreign currency because of three factors: strong overseas remittances, continued foreign direct investments, and the reentry of portfolio investments or foreign money invested in the local stock market.
On another front, Santos said the Philippines recorded a 7.5 percent unemployment rate so far, this year, compared to the 11 percent of the United States, which exited from recession at the end of the third quarter.
Santos also recommended that the national government continue its stimulus spending even though the global economy is on the mend. He, however, said the national government should keep its fiscal deficit at between P230 billion and P250 billion or about 3.2 percent of GDP. Right now, the deficit is already at P300 billion. (PND)
By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
Despite a slight decrease in November sales this year versus the previous month, auto sales in the first 11 months this year posted a 3.7 percent increase as overall sales reached 118,848 units versus the 114,564 units sold in the January-November period last year.
A report by the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) said they are now closing in on its 2.3 percent revised growth forecast this year from a flat growth rate.
The industry is targeting a total of 125,000 units this year.
“It certainly looks like the auto industry will hit, if not exceed its target this year,” said CAMPI president Elizabeth H. Lee.
Of the total 118,848 units sold in the January-November period this year, total passenger car reached 41,737 units, a modest 1 percent growth versus 41,334 units in the same period last year.
Sales from commercial vehicles managed to improve by 5.3 percent to 77,111 units from 83,230 units in the January-November period last year.
Among the major vehicle categories for the January-November period, only the Asian Utility Vehicle segment was in the negative at 7.1 percent with overall sales at 26,942 units from 28,994 units last year.
But on monthly period, all categories were in the negative except for the passenger car and AUV segments.
Toyota Motor Philippines Corp. continued to lead the pack but it posted a negative growth of 1.7 percent growth with 41,293 unit sales only as against 41,997 units sold in the same 11 months last year for a shrinking market share of 34.7 percent versus 36.7 percent last year.
By LEE C. CHIPONGIAN
The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) recorded P8.65-billion income in the first eight months to August, up from the same period last year of P4.03 billion.
BSP data show that it earned P2.72-billion from foreign exchange (FX) transactions during the period, compared to the P430 million FX losses in August of last year.
The same data indicated that the central bank reported revenues of P60.65 billion, higher than last year’s P58.55 billion. Total expenses were almost unchanged at P54.72 billion from P54.47 billion the same period in 2008.
BSP’s interest income decreased to P41.85 billion in the first eight months compared to P46.25 billion last year, mainly due to the lower rates environment.
Miscellaneous income, in the meantime, went up to P18.53 billion from P11.64 billion a year ago.
Interest expenses, on the other hand, amounted to P41.85 billion as of end-August from P46.25 billion while the BSP also posted costs totaling P12.87 billion as other expenses. Interest expenses include the costs of maintaining bank funds parked in short-term facilities such as special deposit accounts and reverse repurchase agreements.
WAS it a case of knee-jerk reaction from sectors deeply traumatized by the Marcos martial law? Or, quite possibly an “and/or” proposition, some of the critics of the declaration of martial law in Maguindanao province were burned as well by the failure of the incumbent President to keep her political promises, i.e., that she won’t run again?
Whatever it is, the credibility factor is obviously part of what’s driving the firestorm of protest against Proclamation 1959, notwithstanding persistent claims by civil and military authorities that the martial-law declaration is hastening the resolution of the watershed event—the November 23 Ampatuan massacre of 57 civilians, including 30 journalists—that provoked the issuance of Proclamation 1959 in the first place.
On its face, it’s easy to understand the heatedness and breadth of the outcry against the declaration, which was joined even by some of the business groups that said it’s bad for business because it signals the state’s total inability to guarantee a stable investment climate, without having to use extreme powers. The protest wasn’t helped at all by the cocky disregard by Speaker Prospero Nograles of calls for Congress to convene, to examine the factual basis of martial law and then proceed to revoke it, if the basis proves inadequate; otherwise, to let it stand for the period sought, 60 days. The two chambers, after much debate, are finally meeting today (Wednesday), but the damage to public confidence in our institutions could have been avoided if Nograles et al. had not been too cavalier about the matter.
Which is not to say, however, that the critics of the martial-law declaration are absolutely correct in their arguments. For one, the criticisms came even before anyone had read the legally mandated report to Congress by the Executive, detailing the factual basis for the proclamation. The report was sent Monday, as required by law, and it is hoped—if lawmakers keep their focus—that they can go through the arguments systematically, demanding that resource persons justify or document the claims made—especially about how there was a virtual paralysis of the civilian government and court operations, and an imminent threat from armed groups massing up, presumably to attack state troops.
That there is a division of views even among the key people who have long invested so much personal effort in promoting peace and development in Mindanao, such as the bishops, businessmen and some local leaders, indicates that the situation on the ground is not that simple and clear-cut, especially for Manila-based analysts, to consider. That division is healthy, because it signals that most people are willing to scrutinize this matter very thoroughly, keeping an open mind about what is really best for the people in the province. After all, they have been marginalized for so long, even as their powerful, well-armed leaders have amassed wealth beyond their wildest dreams.
Certain things, off-hand, need to be answered: One, what is that distinct advantage that martial law has that cannot or has not allowed the “state of emergency” declaration to accomplish in terms of hastening justice for the massacre victims, dismantling private armies, and stabilizing the situation all around? Two, why the seeming contradictions, in a matter of a few days, in the pronouncements of officials from the interior department, the justice department, the Armed Forces and the Supreme Court, with regard to the impaired operations of civilian and court offices?
A quick perusal of GMA’s report to Congress is replete with chilling details not just of the November 23 massacre, but also of the aftermath: of armed groups massing up, civilian offices refusing to function (example cited: civilian registrars refusing to issue death certificates to the families of the victims, thus hindering the filing of cases), and courts and prosecution arms rendered inutile. All the claims entered in the Executive’s report to Congress are matters of fact that can be validated or disputed, and the sooner this is done, the better. After all, when Congress has done its constitutional duty to scrutinize the martial-law declaration, the bigger tasks must be pursued, and must not be forgotten and obscured—persecuting the killers, keeping armed groups in check, and restoring all vital services. In the case of the latter, this might even be a good time to determine why, with billions in local budgets and foreign aid poured into the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, it lags behind other regions in crucial indicators of human development.
This imperative to methodically sift through the basis for Proclamation 1959 apparently impelled the Supreme Court decision to stay its hand and not issue a temporary restraining order, as sought by some petitioners—until after Congress has done its job. Now that everyone has said his piece, it’s homework time.
Tuesday, 8 December 2009
December 7, 2009
MANILA, Philippines - Southeast Asian Airlines (SEAIR), the country’s premiere leisure airline, recently announced the opening of a new route to Marinduque. It now flies Manila-Marinduque-Manila every Saturday, Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday.
The island province of Marinduque lies south of Quezon, east of Mindoro and north of Romblon. It features untouched beaches and islets, underwater caves, coral reefs, and therapeutic sulfur springs. Marinduqueños are known for their very hospitable nature, which is reflected in putong, a custom of welcome where visitors are crowned with flowers while local women dance and sing for them. The island is also popular for the annual Moriones Festival, one of the most colorful festivals in the country, celebrated during Holy Week.
“SEAIR is doing a unique service to the country in support of its tourism development goals. We are committed to the mission of bringing travelers from the Philippines’ gateways to its many island destinations,” said Avelino Zapanta, SEAIR president.
SEAIR now offers up to 27 flights every day to and from Boracay (Caticlan), and now has daily flights to the island paradise of Batanes. The airline also recently opened its paradise-to-paradise routes from Puerto Princesa (Palawan) to Boracay and vice versa, every Tuesday and Friday. SEAIR also flies Manila-El Nido-Manila every Wednesday and Sunday.
SEAIR has flown almost three million passengers to local destinations including Tablas (Romblon), Cebu, Clark, Zamboanga, Jolo, and Tawi-tawi. SEAIR also offers the most routes from Caticlan with flights from Caticlan to Manila and vice versa, Caticlan to Clark v.v., Caticlan to Cebu v.v. and Caticlan to Puerto Princesa v.v.
Meanwhile, the airline announces a special limited online offer for travelers who want to experience a chilly holiday season within the Philippines with a 10-percent discount for its flights to Batanes from Dec. 1 to 25. Travel period is from Dec. 1 to Jan. 31, 2010. SEAIR flies to Basco in Batanes daily.
Batanes, a visual feast of rolling hills and green pastures, traditionally goes through more seasons than the rest of the country. Its close proximity to Taiwan brings the temperature down to as much as 7° C in December and January. It is the only place in the country that experiences 4 seasons – spring, summer, fall and winter.
Visitors will be enthralled by historical stone houses, lighthouses guarding immaculate shorelines, rocky beaches and cold weather. This picturesque destination is also known for the freshness of its cuisine, and the warmth of its people. Long likened to the Scottish Highlands and Ireland, the Batanes islands more than holds their own as a uniquely pleasurable travel destination.
Outside the Box
Friday foreshadowed trading in the financial markets for the first quarter of next year.
Last week I predicted that there would be days when gold would trade $50 higher and the dollar two or three euros lower. I was completely wrong and slightly right at the same time.
On Friday the dollar was higher by one euro and gold dropped $50. Although I was wrong about the direction of the dollar and gold, the lesson we learn from that Friday is that we will see increasing volatility and wild trading in the global financial markets.
I know that you might think that all of this has no impact on your life and your wealth. Unfortunately this is 2009 and everything, one way or another, is connected to everything else. You already know that the price you pay for gasoline is determined in part by the interest rate which some New York bank charges a high fashion designer to buy cloth for next season’s clothing collection. The price of the rice you eat is determined in part by a London-based multibillion-dollar hedge fund that just took a profit trading wheat in Chicago. The amount of buying by a gold dealer in Mumbai affects the price you will pay the next time you buy an electrical cord. It is almost impossible to escape the impact of the global financial markets.
Trying to understand the effects of trading in these financial markets is very difficult. Our brains are wired to think in straight lines. That is, we look for and find comfort in scenarios that are simple and linear. If this happens, then this should happen. The world does not work that way anymore, if it ever did.
On Friday, the US government released employment numbers for the month of November. On the surface, US unemployment dropped to 10 percent from 10.2 percent in October. Even some local newspapers headlined this as proof that the US economy has turned around and all will soon be wonderful and back to normal.
Traders took this information as an opportunity to heavily sell gold and just as heavily buy the dollar. However, stock prices in the US were unchanged. European markets were mixed and Asian stock exchanges traded higher in Japan and mixed around the region on Monday.
If the US economy is now going to boom, you would think that the stock markets would have followed the gold and dollar markets. Gold is up nearly 20 percent in three months. The dollar is down around 5 percent in the same period. A very good level in both markets to take profits.
The reason the stock markets did not immediately follow to the upside is that the employment numbers are very far from being “strung, strong, strong” in the words of one banker.
It is ironic that those critics who cannot believe any economic numbers that come from the Philippine government automatically assume the numbers from the US are always perfect and unbiased. I have news for you. Economic data in the US are just as, if not more, political as in the Philippines.
The methodology of the unemployment numbers includes a variety of “adjustments.” One is the birth/death model. In order to express unemployment as a percentage of the working force, you have to count that force. Therefore, you need to figure out how many people entered the labor market in a particular month due to reaching a certain age and how many left because they died. Other factors include things like figuring how many extra temporary employees are hired and then fired during the time school starts. Things like that.
Although the number of people who became newly unemployed in November was insignificant from October, the number of people employed was still dropping in November, although at a slower rate than in October. But the underlying unemployment numbers are very damaging, given a very good reason that the US stock market did not boom like the dollar.
One number that was much higher was the number of new people hired for temporary jobs. The theory is that companies hire temporary workers before they hire permanent workers and this is supposed to be a good sign. However, the number of people who have been unemployed for more than 28 weeks, the long-term unemployed, continues to increase. We talk about underemployment as a major problem for the Philippines. The US is encountering that same problem but on a much greater scale.
You need to look at the bigger picture at all times. You are probably not directly involved in trading the global markets, but the results in these markets may have an impact on your decision-making, and they certainly have an impact on your financial life.
The crisis is far from over. The US is not booming. Currency and commodity prices are going to remain volatile and often driven by “false” information. Ignore these markets at your own financial risk.
PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc. E-mail comments to email@example.com.
Monday, 7 December 2009
Anjo C. Alimario
IT is amazing how the wind turbines in the northern part of the Philippines are not only picturesque that draw tourists; they can, in fact, generate 25 megawatts of electricity and are connected to the Luzon grid. What is even more interesting is the creation of a unique project between Philippine and Japanese partners that attempts to harness wind energy using small wind-power units in the urban setting.
As part of maintaining the country’s ranking as Southeast Asia’s No. 1 wind-energy producer, a project was developed through the partnership of the Industrial Technology Development Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (Itdi-DOST), Japan External Trade Organization (Jetro), International Center for Environmental Technology Transfer (Icett) and Loopwing Co. Ltd.
Small-scale wind-power generation
According to Loopwing president Minoru Yoshida, policymakers and utility companies around the world preferred large-scale power plants in a form of centralized distribution system. However, their preference was challenged by public awareness on climate change, high-energy prices and energy-security factors. These forces paved the way for promoting Microgeneration technologies.
Small wind is one of Microgeneration technologies defined as power-generation technologies with capacity of below 100-kilowatt (kW) or 50-kW in some cases, Yoshida added.
He said there have been many types of wind turbines developed throughout history. Most of them failed in efficiency and reliability.
Vertical-axis wind turbines, for instance, may have an advantage in capturing wind from any direction, but these types suffer from imbalance of torque between the right and left side, which causes vibration. The vibration increases in proportion to the energy they try to produce, he added.
By the late 1990s, the emergence of horizontal-axis-type wind turbine had been proven. Loopwing was able to overcome the problems encountered by conventional wind turbines.
The blade of Loopwing is in a loop-shape and has no pointed tip to create a vortex. This means that it structurally removes the cause of troublesome noise and drag force, Yoshida said. Having a 20-year design life, Loopwing is equipped with three to four fail-safes ensuring the safety in typhoons or during power outages.
In three sites in the country—Itdi-DOST in Taguig City, City Environmental Management Office in Marikina City and Guaranfood in San Pablo City, Laguna—the project demonstrates that small wind generators can be used even with low wind velocity and varied wind directions, Science Undersecretary Graciano Yumul said.
The roof deck of the Fuels and Energy Division (FED)-Itdi building is the home of the first Loopwing wind turbine system. The output of the wind-turbine, according to Itdi science research specialist Marianito Margarito is connected to the electrical panel of the first floor of the FED-Itdi building.
The power output is used by some of the electrical load of the building and the generated electrical power reduces the demand from the grid, Margarito added. As of November 26, the system has generated 3-kw per hour of power.
Moreover, he said the system requires no maintenance and minimal operator intervention, as it is easy to operate and fully automatic. Its minimum cut-in velocity is useful for urban locations, he added.
The Cemo served as the final location in Marikina City after considering several locations in the city that were disapproved due to some factors, according to Gloria Buenaventura, city environment officer and assistant city administrator of Marikina City. The city government officials and project partners inaugurated the newly built Loopwing wind turbine on November 23.
The 2-kW-capacity Loopwing wind turbine 2850 was installed under the supervision of DOST and Japanese experts. The wind turbine is connected to the Marikina Composting Facility in powering the bioreactor and its lighting requirements, Buenaventura said.
Among the benefits of the Loopwing wind- turbine demonstration are savings in electrical consumption in the operation of Marikina Composting Facility; technical knowledge in renewable energy; added tourist and media attraction to the city; easy promotion of the use of renewable energy to the people of Marikina; and gain collaboration with partner-agencies, she said.
Guaranfood Manufacturing Inc., a manufacturer of sauces, condiments, dressings and pickles, was chosen to be a demonstration site of the Jetro Pilot Demonstration Project (PDP) in the Calabarzon.
The electrical load of the wind turbine is connected to the main panel board of the maintenance shop and supplies the power requirement of the lighting system and other equipment connected to the panel, Nieva Doria, officer in charge of QA Department of Guaranfood said.
She said the potential benefits of the project include savings in power consumption, clean source of energy, reduce impacts to the environment, enhance corporate image and instill environmental awareness to the employees of Guaranfood and communities of San Pablo City.
Joseph Herrera, a senior science research specialist at ITDI and an Icett graduate, said the three sites of Jetro PDP are still relatively new and require additional monitoring to gather additional data. These data will serve as a platform for the country to analyze the possible proliferation of small-wind energy not only in urban areas but in other areas as well.
In the same light, Itdi-DOST director Nuna Almanzor added that the project aims to collate data that could possibly result in an economic study that would look into least costs in producing and replicating the wind turbines by tapping the local suppliers with the help of the Japanese experts.
This, according to Almanzor, will cheapen the prevailing high costs of putting up wind turbines and can encourage more adapters of wind-energy generation in other places.
Alria M. Ventanilla
Notices of strike filed with the National Conciliation and Mediation Board (NCMB) in the 11 months to November dropped by almost a quarter from the same period last year.
Preliminary data from the NCMB showed a total of 258 new strike notices were filed from January to November 15 against 335 last year.
The total number of workers involved in new cases during the period dropped by 16% to 58,966 from 70,347 a year ago.
The fresh filing brought to 299 the total notices of strikes being handled by the state labor arbiter, including 41 holdover cases from last year.
But out of that number, only four materialized into a full-blown strike or lockout: the Laguna-based Asia Brewery, Inc. in February; Mandaue-based furniture maker R&Y Augousti, Inc. in March; concrete manufacturer Remicon, Inc. in Mandaue last July; and Agusan Milling Phils., Inc. also in July.
Three of these labor disputes were settled amicably, while the NCMB assumed jurisdiction over the bargaining deadlock involving Asia Brewery.
The NCMB disposed of 83% of the 299 cases, leaving 52 pending.
“Companies and union officials were able to settle or dispose by means of withdrawal, grievance machinery or labor management cooperation,” an NCMB officer said.
Collective bargaining agreements of these settled cases involved benefits worth P1.1 billion while separation and restitution packages amounted to P158.5 million, the NCMB said in a report.
New preventive mediation cases filed during the period slipped by 12.3% to 422 from 481. Carry-over cases from last year counted, the total number of preventive mediation cases reached 473.
“Cumulative monetary benefits as a result of settlement of collective bargaining deadlock issues were computed at P70 million, benefiting 1,621 workers,” the NCMB said in a report. “Cumulative separation and restitution packages amounting to P56 million were also facilitated, benefiting 937 workers.”
The NCMB is an agency under the Labor department tasked to formulate policies for labor dispute settlement.
Baguio chills at 11.2 degrees
JC BELLO RUIZ
Baguio City, the summer capital of the Philippines, Sunday registered a chilly 11.2 degrees Celsius temperature, and the state weather agency said the cold spell is just beginning.
The city, which is nestled at 1,500 meters above sea level, also registered an 11.2 degrees Celsius minimum air temperature last December 2, according to Bernie De Leon, weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical, and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).
On Saturday, Baguio City’s temperature slightly warmed up at 12.8 degrees Celsius after registering an average of 12 degrees Celsius the past few days.
The temperature readings were taken between 4 a.m. and 6 a.m., according to De Leon.
Based on reports, the coldest temperature reading in Baguio City this year was registered on Jan. 15, at 7.7 degrees Celsius.
In Metro Manila, lowest temperature readings recorded at the PAGASA Science Garden in Quezon City were 20.9 degrees Celsius on Sunday; 21.5 degrees Celsius Saturday; and 22 degrees Celsius Friday—warmer than the 19. 8 and 19.7 degrees Celsius registered, respectively, on Thursday and Wednesday.
It was learned that the lowest minimum temperature recorded at the PAGASA Science Garden this year was at 18.1 degree Celsius last January 16.
De Leon told Manila Bulletin over the phone that “colder days are still ahead as the surge of the northeast monsoon, which brings cold and dry air from mainland China, has yet to peak.”
The northeast monsoon season starts during the "ber" months and ends in March or April, with the peak of the cold temperature from December to February, he explained.
Based on PAGASA records, the unsurpassed minimum temperature in Baguio City is 6.3 degrees Celsius, which was registered on January 18, 1961.
On the other hand, Metro Manila registered its lowest air temperature reading at 14.5 degrees Celsius on Janunary 11, 1914 at the Port Area in Manila.
Meanwhile, De Leon said the country will experience a good weather or partly cloudy to cloudy weather this week with some parts of Luzon and Visayas experiencing occasional rains caused by the northeast monsoon or locally known as “hanging amihan.”
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Sunday, 6 December 2009
by Joyce Pangco Pañares
President Gloria Arroyo has formed an independent fact-finding commission composed of retired Supreme Court justices that will be given broad powers to dismantle private armies of political clans across the country.
Mrs. Arroyo ordered the Armed Forces to conduct an internal investigation into how high-power guns allegedly issued to the military were among those unearthed from an underground arsenal near the residence of Maguindanao Gov. Andal Ampatuan Sr.
“The commission will have broad powers. Dismantling of private armies is a priority of the President to ensure that there will be honest and effective elections in 2010,” Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said in a press briefing after the executive committee meeting of the National Security Council-Cabinet cluster.
Mrs. Arroyo’s order came on the heels of a United Nations’ recommendation on the elimination of clan-based manipulation of the political process. The UN also denounced the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people including members of the Mangudadatu clan and at least 28 mediamen.
National Police Chief Jesus Verzosa said the initial watch list of areas where private armies were present and where violence occurred during the past two elections were the following: Masbate, Nueva Ecija, Abra, Lanao del Norte, Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Maguindanao, Sulu and Samar.
Verzosa said if the implementing authorities faced resistance from the private armies, police would step in and “neutralize” these armed groups.
“If there is resistance, then we will have to defend ourselves and neutralize these armed elements, but we will go through the legal process of getting search and arrest warrants,” the National Police chief said.
Presidential aspirant Gilberto Teodoro warned the Ampatuans against interfering with the official investigation into their alleged involvement in the massacre of 57 women, lawyers and journalists in Maguindanao two weeks ago.
Teodoro said it was time to end the passive treatment of the government on the Ampatuans as he called on the administration to “intervene decisively to prevent a spillover of violence” in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, warning that the “eyes of the world are upon the Arroyo government” to bring the perpetrators of the Nov. 23 massacre to justice.
“The Ampatuans and their supporters must face the full force of the law if they do not stand down and allow the government to proceed with its investigation and takeover of the operations of the ARMM,” Teodoro said.
Teodoro, as chairman of the Lakas-Kampi CMD, has expelled the Ampatuans from the ruling party and says he is ready to bear the political cost of his action.