Thursday, 30 December 2010

Azkals seek German shepherding

Cedelf P Tupas

MANILA—The national football team is seeking the guidance of the German Football Association (DFB) in an effort to strengthen the squad, which faces a busy year ahead.

Team manager Dan Palami is flying to Frankfurt on Jan. 3 to meet with German football officials and discuss areas of cooperation between the national team and the DFB.

“We will have exploratory talks on how the DFB can help our team,” Palami said.

Palami said he will try to look into the DFB database and search for quality players that have Filipino lineage.

The Azkals had two Filipino-German players who were part of the squad in the AFF Suzuki Cup, where they reached the semifinals for the first time.

Munich-based Manny Ott started in all three games in the AFF Suzuki Cup Qualifying Tournament in Laos, while Mark Drinkuth was part of the squad in the group stage in Vietnam. Both players did not join the team for the semifinals with Ott tied up because of academic commitments.

Palami said part of his initial itinerary was to meet with Filipino-German pros-pect Stephan Schrock to help him process his papers, but he ditched the plan because of the recent weather disturbance in Europe that could make it difficult for them to travel.

The best option for Schrock is to send his documents to Manila for his passport to be processed in time for the AFC Challenge Cup qualifying match against Mongolia on Feb. 9 in Bacolod City, Palami said.

The 24-year-old Schrock, who plays right fullback for Geuther Furth, has been regarded as an important player for next year’s campaign.

“He is one of the players we see that can really make an impact for the team because of his experience,” said Palami.

Schrock is set to join Greuther Furth in a training camp in Turkey next month, before joining the national team for the Challenge Cup.

If the Azkals hurdle Mongolia, they will join a group composed of Palestine, Myanmar and host Bangladesh that will play in Chittagong from March 20 to 31.

The Azkals are also seeing action in the qualifying tournament for the 2014 World Cup.

New Laguindingan airport seen operational by 2012


CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY -- The P8-billion Laguindingan International Airport located between the cities of Cagayan de Oro in Misamis Oriental and Iligan in Lanao del Norte will be completed in third quarter next year and should be ready to accommodate regular flights by February 2012, the regional office of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said.

"There was just a short lull when the funding source for air navigational system shifted from Germany to the Export-Import Bank of Korea," said Jaime H. Pacampara, chief economic development specialist of NEDA’s regional office, said in an interview. "Procurement of the air navigation facilities is now ongoing."
A NEDA report, dated Nov. 21, said 72.24% of the 400-hectare project has been completed, including the access road to the airport site from the national highway. -- LGD

Tuesday, 28 December 2010

Video update: Skyway to Sucat

Photo update: LRT 1 and MRT 3

Sumitomo wins P4-b airport deal

Manila Standard

JAPAN’S Sumitomo Corp. said it has won a ¥9-billion (around P4.5 billion) contract to deliver next-generation air traffic control systems to the Philippine government, and to build a new air traffic control center at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

Sumitomo said it won the first stage of the two-stage contract along with Thales Australia, the Australian subsidiary of leading French electric company Thales SA.

Sumitomo will be involved in the first stage worth about ¥9 billion, and the work is to be completed within 30 months or by May 2013, the company said.

It said it will also aim to win the contract for the second stage.

Stage one includes the construction of a new air traffic control center building within the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, and the delivery of air traffic control systems to the new air traffic control center and to the major airports around the Philippines.

The second stage includes the installation of radars at the major airports, in around 10 sites, and the connection of the air traffic control center introduced in the first stage with the major local airports.

Philippine-based water project wins BBC World Challenge

Manila Bulletin

LONDON — A Philippine-based water project emerged as winner in the recent 2010 BBC World Challenge, a competition that recognizes and rewards small businesses from around the world that tackle environmental and social issues.

This year’s winner is Alternative Indigenous Development Foundation Inc (AIDFI), a non-governmental organization based in Bacolod City, which won the top prize – a US$20,000 grant from Shell – for its hydraulic ram pump project The Only Way is Up.

Using the river’s flow to push water uphill without any other energy source, AIDFI has introduced the pump to 170 remote villages in the Philippines.

Plans are now afoot to spread the benefits of the ram pump far and wide among communities living
in mountainous regions.

Commenting, Auke Idzenga from AIDFI said: “Winning the World Challenge is a very special moment for AIDFI, the Philippines, and myself. With winning the competition I am confident we will be able to access additional funding and with it transfer the technology behind the ram pump to other countries worldwide. We are very grateful to Shell for awarding us this grant.”

Malcolm Brinded, Shell’s Executive Director of the Upstream International Business, who presented the winner’s cheque said: "Access to energy is critical to driving development and improving people's quality of life. This year's winner of World Challenge, a hydraulic pump delivering water to remote villages, could not be a clearer demonstration of that. At Shell, we are committed to using new technology to deliver a lower carbon energy future, and it's exciting to see that same ambition in action in the World Challenge competition."

Now in its sixth year, World Challenge is more popular than ever with more than 167,000 people around the world voting online for their favourite projects at This year 800 nominations were received from over 70 countries, from which 12 finalists were selected.

World Challenge has been supported by Shell since 2004 and is run in association with BBC World News and Newsweek. Since its inception, Shell has provided financial grants to 15 projects across the globe.

2011 prediction: Perfect weather

Business Mirror

Journalist and author Sebastian Junger wrote a book in 1997 about the 1991 Halloween Northeastern storm, a massive hurricane that hit the northeastern part of the United States. While researching his book, Junger spoke to a meteorologist who described the three different weather-related phenomena that combined to create what he called the “perfect situation” to generate such a massive storm. Junger subsequently named his book (and the title of the movie that came from it) The Perfect Storm.

Now a part of common language, a “perfect storm” refers to a rare combination of factors that come together to form the reality of a worst-case scenario.

So what is the opposite of a perfect storm? Perfect weather?

The condition of “perfect weather” does not necessarily mean calm and quiet. It means the coming together of conditions that create a most favorable, if not necessarily perfect, environment for success.

Businesses experience perfect weather when they introduce a new product at exactly the time the consumer is looking for that kind of product, at a price that is beneficial for both buyer and seller, and it comes out ahead of the competition. Examples might be the Sony Walkman tape player in 1979 and the similar iPod in 2001.

Wine-grape growers fully understand the concept of perfect weather; the right amount of rain and humidity, a few days of really hot temperatures but not too many, and cool nights but not cold enough to create frost.

In my humble opinion, the global financial and economic situation has created perfect weather for the Philippines going into 2011.

The Global Financial Crisis exploded due to a liquidity crisis. That is, credit suddenly was unavailable due to a collapse in the real-estate sectors of the US and Western Europe. Western business and consumer spending runs on credit. Without easy access to credit, businesses do not flourish and consumers do not spend. Suddenly there was no credit and the Western economics stopped in 2008 and 2009.

Since then, Western governments have pumped trillions of dollars into their economies in an effort get economic activity moving again by increasing liquidity or the amount of money in the economic system. It has not worked successfully. However, and here it gets good for the Philippines, all that “stimulus” has kept the Western economies alive just enough to benefit the Philippines.

While US economic growth is basically flat, Americans can still afford to buy a few electronic gadgets for Christmas, boosting our export industry. While Americans are looking at, realistically, a high double-digit unemployment rate, companies continue to hire Filipino workers. Deployments continue to grow, and remittances reach historically high levels, it seems like every month.

Business is good enough in the US to have companies increase their customer-service staffing to better serve a very competitive marketplace. But business conditions are bad enough that these same companies must use every option available, like outsourcing, to cut costs. One of the largest call-center operations in the Philippines, with over 10,000 employees, is forecasting to increase its staff here to 30,000 within the next three to five years.

If businesses and consumers are not borrowing money to create spending and economic activity, then maybe (the Western governments think) you need to put borrowed money “on sale” by lowering interest rates. Global interest rates have never been any lower. Here again, a failed Western economic policy is great for the Philippines.

A company can borrow money in the US for virtually zero interest rate. They then move that money to the Philippines and buy government debt or local corporate debt and make a bundle on the interest-rate difference. Here is the perfect weather situation. Philippine interest rates are high in comparison to the West, making our debt very attractive. But because this economy is not dependent on a massive credit for economic growth, we have not had to match the low interest rates of the West. Therefore, local money stays home in the Philippines and foreign money floods in to make a higher return.

From the Philippine Star: “The country’s balance of payments surplus surged to hit an all-time high of $13.17 billion in the first 11 months of the year from $5.206 billion in the same period last year, while the gross international reserves surged 39 percent to hit a record level of $61.3 billion from $44.17 billion.”

The fact that so much money has come into the Philippines in 2010 gives us the tools to further and more effectively benefit from perfect weather. The greatest advantage that wine growers receive from ideal weather conditions is the ability to pick the grapes at the perfect time of ripeness. For example, if the temperature is too hot, the grapes must be picked at a time when they are too sweet. Too low temperatures mean picking later when the grapes are too acidic. The perfect weather gives the growers more flexibility.

The Philippines now, perhaps for the first time in history, has the ability to react to whatever the world financial weather brings. If oil prices spike up dramatically, the peso can be allowed to appreciate to offset high prices. If the government needs to borrow money, low interest rates keep costs down and the strength of the economy allows borrowing in pesos and not foreign currency. If the Western economies suddenly turn down again, the economy has become more focused on local business activity and growth than in the past.

As 2010 comes to a close, it is only proper that we count our many blessings from this year. Thank you for your continued support for my small effort to bring, I hope, a slightly different perspective to the business and economic discussion. This column will return to celebrate the New Year on January 4, 2011.

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Sunday, 26 December 2010

Low carbon, high growth with clean technology

Imelda V Abaño
Business Mirror

Sitting comfortably in a small nipa hut by the sea, 42-year-old fisherman Juanito Ilumet has been staring for hours at the 15 giant tri-blade windmills lined up along the 9-kilometer shoreline facing the South China Sea in Ilocos Norte in northern Philippines. He could not imagine how the abundant wind in their remote coastal village can be used for clean-power generation, which helps them improve health, education, livelihood and economic condition.

“The power source has transformed daily life in our villages,” Ilumet said as he points at the tall, white windmills in the province’s town of Bangui. “The benefits have been astounding because our children began to study longer at night, working in the kitchen for women is not troublesome, health centers have been providing better services, villagers are returning from the cities and our income has improved.”

Ilumet said about 600,000 people in the northern province, including his own family, were grateful, as most of them lived without electricity before.

The first of its kind in the Philippines and in Southeast Asia, the $54-million Northwind Bangui Bay Project that harnesses wind into electricity in Northern Luzon has been in operation since 2005, providing as much as 40 percent of the power needed by the entire province. The windmills produce up to 25 megawatts of renewable energy.

“We are seeing so much improvement in the daily activities of thousands of people in the villages. Wind power is the best way to electrify and develop this part of the country. We are at the beginning of an energy revolution in the Philippines,” Dino Tiatco, Northwind Power Development Corp. plant manager told the BusinessMirror.

Tiatco explained that the wind farm presents many benefits such as increased energy security, jobs creation, reduced dependence on imported fuels, improved air quality and curb carbon-dioxide emissions.

In the Philippines wind power is one of the most advanced forms of renewable energy, making the government device a wind-mapping data that would take off in constructing more wind-farm projects in different parts of the country, said Department of Energy (DOE) Assistant Secretary Mario Marasigan.

“The potential for harnessing wind remains high in the Philippines. The interest of investing in wind energy has been on the rise,” Marasigan said, adding that there are at least 62 wind projects in the DOE.

Boosting clean technology

THE harsh implications of climate change, the increasing prices of fossil fuel, deepening oil supply insecurity and the growing appetite for a sustainable energy is driving every nation in Asia to tap indigenous sources of renewable energy. Most countries are boosting the use of solar, wind and geothermal energy for rural households.

According to International Energy Agency (IEA) executive director Nobuo Tanaka, an ambitious mix of policies and technologies were needed to reduce global carbon-dioxide emissions from energy over the next decades.

“Low-carbon technologies are the only way for the world to have a sustainable energy,” Tanaka told the BusinessMirror at a side event during the December Cancun climate-change talks. “Clean technology that moves countries to low-carbon economy is a tough path, but [one that] will be very beneficial in the future.”

The IEA presented in early December during the Cancun climate-change conference the result of its global Energy Efficiency Governance study, saying that comprehensive and effective energy efficiency governance is needed urgently.

“Improved energy efficiency is a critical response to the pressing climate change, economic development and energy security challenges facing many countries,” the report stated.

For Philippine Climate Change Commissioner Heherson Alvarez, it is critical to find alternative sustainable energy solutions now, but he sees a growing demand for renewable energy and that governments around the world have begun to invest in clean technology such as solar, wind, geothermal and biomass.

“We want to see our country move on to a sustainable path of development that promotes clean energy,” Alvarez said. “Countries, including the Philippines, can benefit from harnessing clean technology and this includes creation of green jobs, a low-carbon economy and a sustainable energy.”

A booming investment in Asia

WHILE there are many interested investors on renewable energy in Asia, most of it has not been put up on a significant commercial scale, according to the World Bank (WB).

“It is booming in Asia. But governments must begin to take action now to further incorporate renewable energy and energy efficiency into the world’s energy mix,” WB vice president for sustainable development, Katherine Sierra earlier told the BusinessMirror.

Sierra said the benefits of renewable energy—such as hydropower, geothermal, biomass, wind and solar—are considerable. Although she says environmental benefits are clear, less obvious is mitigation of energy-security problems, such as ensuring reliable supply of energy in its various forms.

The Bank has become the largest single source of finance for environmental investments, technical assistance and capacity-building in developing countries. More recently, the WB has been asked to manage the world’s largest new source of concessional resources to stimulate low-carbon and climate-resilient growth, the Climate Investment Funds, including the Clean Technology Fund.

“Developing countries, including low-income [ones], will need to consider how they respond to future risks and opportunities, with renewable energy being one of many solutions to address climate-resilient development,” Sierra said.

To boost renewable-energy projects, Sierra revealed that multilateral agencies are mobilizing $40 billion in investment for low-carbon technologies in the developing world.

On the other hand, Global Wind Energy Council secretary-general Steve Sawyer said that some wind power development, for instance, has already taken place in quite a few of the countries in Asia.

Sawyer told the BusinessMirror that while wind energy would have been dismissed as “too expensive” by most developing countries just a few years ago, the continuing success of the technology in an ever-widening group of countries has changed that attitude to one of dramatically increased knowledge about wind generation and the role it can play in a country’s power mix.

“Given the excellent wind resources in Asian countries and government initiatives for exploiting it, such development would have a considerable impact,” Sawyer said.

According to the Global Wind Energy Outlook 2010 report, wind energy could attract around $3.9 billion worth of investment in Asia every year, and create around 40,000 jobs by 2015.

“With the right technology and government policies in place, Asian countries such as the Philippines can have a secured and sustainable energy for the next decade,” Sawyer stressed. “Depending on new sources of clean energy will certainly make a country reap the accompanying economic, environmental and energy security benefits.”

As for fisherman Ilumet, new clean technologies such as the wind turbines installed in their village benefit his family and his people. For him, harnessing different forms of renewable energy such as wind enables them to gain access to electricity and improve their quality of life.

“It’s a huge change. We have never experienced this kind of happiness in our villages. We now see a bright future ahead of us and our children,” Ilumet said as he showed a bunch of wood carvings of windmills that his wife and children will sell to tourists a few meters away from the wind turbines.

Friday, 24 December 2010

Video update: South Luzon Expressway TR 3


Borromeo lauds Philippines teammates, coach,_coach

Jakarta: Despite the disappointment of missing out on the final of the AFF Suzuki Cup, Philippines captain Alexander Borromeo has expressed his pride in the team, which defied expectations to make it to the semi-finals of the regional championship for the first time.

The former whipping boys of the competition proved that they were more than up to the challenge this time by beating defending champions Vietnam and holding three-time winners Singapore to a draw en route to the last four.

Their dream was finally ended by Indonesia but only after two hard-fought matches in Jakarta, both of which ended 1-0 in favour of the home side.

"Our luck just ran out," Borromeo told "We had our chances from some set pieces but we got a bit unlucky and Indonesia deserved to go through.

"I'm very much honoured to be captain of this team. Finally, we have the right balance. Even with all the local and foreign guys, everyone creates a good mixture and that's what got us this far."

Borromeo, who made his international debut as a 21-year-old in 2004, feels that much credit for the team's performance should go to English coach Simon McMenemy, who has transformed the team's fortunes despite taking charge just four months before the tournament.

"He brought a new approach," said the Philippines skipper, 27. "Right from day one, he said he wanted the guys to be together all the time so that we could get proper cohesiveness in the team. That was really important because we communicate well on the pitch and that's one of our strengths.

"We would definitely like him to stay on. He got us this far and we don't really want to change anything apart from maybe adding a bit more firepower up front to help us get a few more goals. Hopefully the team stays intact for the next few years.

"I just hope we can keep up the momentum after this. We've got a few challenges coming up after this – the AFC Challenge Cup followed by the first round of the World Cup qualifiers – which we'll be participating in for the first time in eight years. We'll definitely have some things to aim for in the New Year."


Manila Standard

THE Philippine football team, known as the Azkals, will have a busy 2011 seeing action in several international tournaments, including the World Cup qualifying tournament.

Fresh from their historic achievement in the AFF Suzuki Cup, the Filipino booters, together with newly recognized Philippine Football Federation president Mariano `Nonong’ Araneta, graced the Philippine Sportswriters Association Forum yesterday at Shakey’s UN Avenue and reflected on their recent campaign which ended with a semifinal defeat to Indonesia.

“It was a culmination of a very nice run for us,” said team manager Dan Palami. “We never expected us to be there in the semifinals and the credit has to be given to the players for playing their hearts out. Our campaign was a reflection of the Filipino spirit of never backing down.”

Palami, who has bankrolled the squad since late last year, said the team is now looking forward to several international tournaments next year, starting with the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifying tournament.

Araneta also announced during the same forum supported by Outlast Battery, Philippine Amusements and Gaming Corp. and Shakey’s, that he finally got the recognition of the FIFA early Tuesday morning, certifying his election as president during the PFF Congress last month.

Araneta assured transparency as he serves out the remainder of the term of Jose Mari Martinez, who was ousted during the same PFF Congress. He vowed an all-out support for the team.

“He has the right to appeal (Martinez). But as far as we’re concerned, it’s already a closed matter,” said Araneta. “FIFA has accepted our legality and it has accepted our Congress.”

“I am glad sponsors are coming in,” added the PFF chief. “We can assure you of transparency with our governance and that the money will be spent for where it’s supposed to be spent.”

Araneta also promised to revive youth competitions and the national open tournament to discover new talents.

The PH booters salvaged a dramatic draw with Singapore, 1-1, on an injury-time equalizer by Chris Greatwich, who also scored in the 2-0 victory over Vietnam, which was considered as the upset of the tournament.

The results catapulted the Azkals to stardom, which skipper Aly Borromeo said they never imagined.

“We don’t want to make all of this for nothing. The country has a lot of potential to be very good in football,” said Borromeo.

The Azkals will face Mongolia in a home-and-away AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tie in February with the home game expected to be played at the Panaad Stadium.

If they beat Mongolia, the PH booters will move on to the qualifying event in a group which includes Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh.

Araneta said they have already expressed their intention of having the two legs against Mongolia in the Philippines to avoid playing in near-freezing conditions.

Palami said they will hold open tryouts to get the best available talent for the next tournaments.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a Fil-foreigner,” said Palami. “There will be an equal chance for everyone to compete for slots in the squad.”


Business Mirror

MEMBERS of the men’s national team are hoping the football fever does not break anytime soon.

A surprise semifinal run in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup brought football interest in the country to new heights and although the nationals were thwarted in the two semifinals legs by Indonesia, Azkals skipper Aly Borromeo is hoping the renewed enthusiasm in the sport will help them eventually take the top spot.

“We don’t want to make all of this for nothing. The country has a lot of potential to be very good in football,” said Borromeo during the Philippine Sportswiters Association Forum on Tuesday at Shakey’s United Nations Avenue.

The Azkals salvaged a dramatic draw with Singapore, 1-1, on an injury-time equalizer by Chris Greatwich, who also scored in the 2-0 victory over Vietnam, which was considered as the upset of the tournament.

The nationals fell short against the Indonesians, but before that, fan interest has improved especially with the matches shown on free TV, and now according to Philippine Football Federation chief Mariano Araneta, “sponsors are coming in.”

Araneta also said youth competitions and the national open will be revived to discover new talents.

“We never expected us to be there in the semifinals and credit has to be given to the players for playing their hearts out. Our campaign was a reflection of the Filipino spirit of never backing down,” said team manager Dan Palami during the forum supported by Outlast Battery, Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. and Shakey’s

“It [semifinals] was a culmination of a very nice run for us.”

Palami, who has bankrolled the squad since late last year, said the team is now looking forward to several international tournaments next year, starting with the Asian Football Confederation Challenge Cup qualifying tournament.

The Azkals will face Mongolia in a home-and-away AFC Challenge Cup qualifying tie in February with the home game expected to be played at the Panaad Stadium in Bacolod City.

If they beat Mongolia, the Nationals will move on to the qualifying event in a group which includes Myanmar, Palestine and Bangladesh.

Palami said they will hold open tryouts to get the best available talent for the next tournaments.

“It doesn’t matter if you’re a local or a Fil-foreigner,” said Palami. “There will be an equal chance for everyone to compete for slots on the squad.”

BoP surplus exceeds $13b

Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard

Strong dollar inflows from exports, investments, outsourcing revenues and tourism receipts pushed the country’s balance of payments surplus to a record high of $13.178 billion in the first 11 months of the year.

Bangko Sentral Deputy Gov. Diwa Guinigundo credited the strong surplus to increasing exports, remittances, revenues from BPOs, international tourism receipts, as well as the investment income of Bangko Sentral from its investments abroad.

“All of these plus inflow capital, both from direct investments and portfolio investments, brought about the all-time high BoP surplus,” he said.

Guinigundo said Bangko Sentral was likely to upgrade its BoP surplus forecast for 2011 from the original estimate of just $1.9 billion.

“We will have to upgrade that number. At this point, we are still completing our run. We will have to adjust our targets for 2011,” Guinigundo said.

The 11-month BoP surplus in 2010 was 153 percent higher than $6.421 billion year-on-year and exceeded last year’s full-year figure of $6.421 billion. It also topped the previous record of $8.557 billion in 2007, before the global financial crisis reduced the balance of payments surplus to just $89 million in 2008.

Bangko Sentral was looking at a BoP surplus of just $8.2 billion for the whole of 2010. The balance of payments represents the country’s external strength and summarizes all the foreign exchange inflows and outflows.

A surplus means more money came into the economy than what went out.

In November alone, the Philippines posted a balance of payments surplus of $3.902 billion, up from $2.736 billion in October. It also reversed the $93-million deficit in November last year.

The strong BoP position is the main reason behind the appreciation of the peso against the US dollar this year. It has prompted Bangko Sentral to intervene in the currency market by buying dollars in the market, which had the effect of rising gross international reserves that amounted to $61.3 billion at the end of November, exceeding for the first time the country’s external debt placed at $57 billion as of June.

Remittances rose 7.9 percent year-on-year to $15.456 billion in the first 10 months of 2010, while merchandise exports jumped 37 percent to $43 billion in 10 months to October.

Megaworld bullish, eyes P60b worth of projects

Jenniffer B. Austria
Manila Standard

The Megaworld Group plans to roll out P60 billion worth of residential units next year as part of its expansion program in the property sector.

Megaworld said in a disclosure to the stock exchange Monday that it would launch some 18,673 residential units next year with a combined floor area of over 830,000 square meters.

The Megaworld Group comprises of high-end property developer Megaworld Corp. and units Empire East Land Holdings Inc. and Suntrust Properties Inc., which focuses on medium-cost and affordable housing, respectively.

“The confidence level in the real estate sector is very high,” Megaworld chairman and chief executive Andrew Tan said in a statement.

“Many investors both here and abroad believe that our country is now moving in the right direction, and we see a surge of investments, especially in infrastructure areas, which will open up more growth opportunities not only for the entire economy but also for the real estate industry,” he said.

Megaworld will launch the bulk or more than P41 billion worth of projects totaling around 11,110 units with an aggregate floor area of over 372,000 square meters.

Megaworld’s new projects include One Eastwood Avenue in Eastwood City; 81 Newport Boulevard and 101 Newport Boulevard in Newport City; Viceroy Residences and two new towers of The Venice in McKinley Hill; additional towers of Manhattan Heights and Manhattan Plaza at Manhattan Garden City; Paseo Heights in Makati City; The Palm Bay in Roxas Boulevard; and One Uptown Place at Bonifacio Uptown in Taguig City.

“We have never been this bullish on the property sector, and we look forward to continued bright prospects not only in 2011 but long after that,” Tan said.

Megaworld also expects to complete more than 600,000 square meters of next generation office space for the business process outsourcing market and additional retail space at its ongoing McKinley Hill, Newport City and CityPlace projects as well as the upcoming Bonifacio Uptown and other projects in Iloilo and Cebu.

The projects are expected to help Megaworld to achieve a rental income of P5 billion by 2012.

Empire East Land and Suntrust Properties, meanwhile, plan to unveil their own residential projects worth P19 billion in Metro Manila and in Cavite and Laguna provinces next year.

DOTC greenlights 111 deals, holds 19 others

111 Arroyo era projects clean
19 Takenaka-related projects on hold

Business Mirror

THE Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) on Tuesday declared 111 contracts entered into by the agency, its sectoral offices and attached agencies with the private sector as “clean” and placed 19 on hold.

Secretary Jose de Jesus also announced the department will implement 21 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects starting early next year, ordered the revision of its terms of reference (TOR) for the manufacture of car driver licenses, and the adoption of the bid-plus financing mode in buying transport equipment and facilities to veer away from the supplier country and technology-driven supply and financing.

He said his team is trying to put in and, if possible, irreversibly cement in place a culture of transparency and clean governance in the department.

At a press briefing on Tuesday morning, de Jesus said the 19 contracts involve the rehabilitation and upgrade of the defective Naia 3 involving agreements with small contractors who were in turn tapped by Japanese company Takenaka Corp., the lead contractor hired by Piatco to build the Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia).

“These are worth P2.3 billion in all. . . .These were all put on hold. We are in discussions with Takenaka,” he said.

But he said the department is not abandoning repair of the terminal but will fast-track the full operation of Naia 3 at a lower total cost in civil works and equipment. Savings of close to $20 million is expected from the cancellation of Naia 3’s midnight contracts.

“Toward the end of next year, we hope to see the airport fully operational this time of next year. We are in discussions with Takenaka for the completion, testing and commissioning of the airport,” said de Jesus.

A total of 130 contracts were reviewed by the DOTC legal office headed by Undersecretary Aristotle Batuhan, since de Jesus assumed the post in July.  These projects were approved in the few remaining months of the Arroyo administration.

De Jesus said the review was meant to ensure that these contracts are above board. He said this was also necessary to remove the potential obstacles that might get in the way of the full implementation of these projects.

License deal TRO revised

For the procurement by the LTO of driver licenses, de Jesus said the revision of  the TOR is designed to uphold general performance specifications instead of limiting it to card types. This initiative is expected to widen the area for competing bidders, lower the license production cost, and ensure transparency and level playing field in the bidding process.

“We expect to bid [the review] out by middle of January next year. We will make sure that the auction will be done in full transparency,” added de Jesus.

The DOTC also ordered the review of the interconnectivity agreement entered into by Stradcom Corp. with other third parties to ensure consistency with the build-operate-own agreement between Stradcom  Corp. and the LTO, and to make sure that fees charged are warranted and reasonable.

“The LTO is undertaking its own investigation. We are still not sure if there were violations or not on their part. Part of that determination will come from the discussions with them. We will sit down with them starting first week of January next year,” he said.

He said the bid plus financing mode of procurement for transport equipment and facilities assures transparency. One of those to be placed under the new system is the acquisition of maritime disaster and response equipment for the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG).

First on the list is the LRT South Extension Project involving the extension of the 15-kilometer Line 1 southward to Bacoor, Cavite, by an additional 11.7 km.  It will include eight passenger stations with a provision for two additional in the future.

The feasibility study is being updated and the right-of-way acquisition is now 80-percent completed. Bidding documents for operation and maintenance of the line are being prepared and will be tendered out by the second quarter of 2011 and the construction for the extension will be bid out by 3rd quarter of 2011.

On the other system, or the MRT Line 2 Extension Project—a 4-km line eastward to the Masinag Junction in Antipolo, Rizal, from Santolan, Pasig City—a feasibility study is being updated and the tender documents for concession are being prepared. The extension will have two passenger stations at Sta. Lucia Mall and Masinag. 

“We will bid this out in the second or third quarter of next year. We will bid out the concession so it can be operated and maintained by the private sector.”  

De Jesus also revealed the agency has unraveled most of the tangled transactions in the MRT 3 Project—the line from North Edsa to Monumento—including the buyout scheme that has been proposed. Legal and financial experts have been tasked to finalize a strategy for a government takeover of the project.

Also, the department is pursuing the LRT Line 1 and MRT 3 Integration to ensure seamless connection and expand the capacity of both rail systems. It will allow riders to transfer using a single-ticketing system with an affordable fare rate. The integration of the systems will also result in new efficiency levels. 

De Jesus also talked about the Northrail Project. He said Section 1 from Caloocan City to Malolos, Bulacan, has been under construction since 2008 but is only 20-percent complete.

Since July, this has been undergoing financial, technical and scope of project review. “We expect to complete the technical and financial review by the end of January 2011. If necessary, we will negotiate the project with the Chinese contractors.”  

The Northrail Project Section 2 running from Malolos to Clark, Pampanga, is being reviewed to clarify and improve contract conditions to expedite implementation.

The Philippine National Railways North Rail-South Rail Linkage Phase 1 Caloocan City-Tutuban-Alabang has been operational since 2007. Ridership in this line has increased by 220 percent to 1.053 million from 325,591 passengers in the first nine months of this year.

De Jesus attributed the increase in passenger volume to the improved services and the rehabilitation and modernization of the commuter rail line.

The PNR main line south runs from Alabang to Legaspi, Albay. The DOTC plans to rehabilitate the entire stretch and privatize the line’s operation. Alternatively, the DOTC may bid the South line as a rehabilitate-operate-and-maintain project.

Also, master plans for the National Railway System and the Mindanao Railway System are being prepared. The DOTC will seek grant financing for its funding.

In the civil aviation sector, the Puerto Princesa Airport Project will redevelop the airport by the second quarter of 2011 to meet world standards, while the Laguindingan Airport Development Project is already 70-percent complete.

The O&M component of Laguindingan will be bid out by the third quarter of next year. De Jesus said the department is now in discussion with the United States Trade and Development Agency for a grant to prepare the transaction documents for an O&M agreement.

The Panglao Airport Project development is undergoing a review, meanwhile, to consider views from all the stakeholders.

Tuesday, 21 December 2010

From catatonic to supersonic

Rick Olivares
Business Mirror

YOU know what song came to my mind when the Azkals’ rock ‘n’ roll express blew into Jakarta? It was Oasis’s “Supersonic.”

The rock anthem may be dripping with swagger but definitely not the Philippine national men’s football team although they went through two rounds and six different national squads while taking names and kicking butt. Indeed, the team had gone from catatonic to supersonic.

I have been asked several times if the team in the wake of its recent success has been treated like rock stars. Not quite rock stars despite the Oasis song. Not at all. They have to queue for food and pay for their room Internet connection. Moreover, they are just ordinary blokes trying to lift the consciousness about football in a basketball republic and hopefully make history along the way.

And with every game, the believers grew. The game of football truly transcends borders because the Philippines was winning fans left and right from Laos to Singapore to Vietnam to Indonesia.

Prior to the match between the Philippines and Singapore, the Lions’ many-time champion coach Radojko Avramovic was asked what he thought of the Azkals. “You make the semifinals first then I will talk about the Philippines,” he said derisively.

After the Filipinos handed defending champion Vietnam a 2-nil defeat marking one of the greatest upsets in tournament history, the Singaporeans, who had been watching the game intently from the lower box broke out in cheer. That evening, Avramovic hung out with the Philippine team in the lobby of the Hanoi Sheraton swapping war stories and dousing the Azkals with profuse praise.

On the day of the Philippines’ match against Myanmar in Nam Dinh City in Vietnam, the team walked around a nearby park for their customary limbering session. As they walked around the pond, seven Vietnamese youths in bicycles followed the team around. A few mouthed expletives while one challenged a member of the team staff to a fist fight.

But for the most part, it would be safe to say that 80 percent of the comments from the locals was overwhelmingly positive. One coffee shop barista pointed to his temple and said that the home team did not use its brains. When it came to the visiting David who slew Goliath, he licked his lips to measure his limited English: “Very good. You know what I mean? Very good.” Then he bowed.

Nam Dinh was the city where 13th century General Tran Hung Dao was born. The soldier won two of the biggest battles in modern warfare. And here 22 Filipino football players and the 11 support staff won over the locals’ hearts and minds in a battle held on a pitch 50 miles away in Hanoi.

In the team’s final practice before the second match with Indonesia in a nearby practice pitch, onlookers—three people deep—surrounded the entire field. During a light scrimmage, when Phil Younghusband scored a goal, a collective cheer from the crowd went up. Since when did people cheer a practice goal! And since when did four Indonesian television networks cover a practice complete with an OB van? It was just an hour’s worth of practice.

During the first match with Indonesia, the entire Gelano Bung Karno Stadium was so noisy that one did not hear the Philippine national anthem playing. By the second match, there were cheers emanating from the capacity crowd of 80,000 plus.

The Azkals valiantly battled on to try and forge a two-goal lead over the host country in order to advance to the finals but last Sunday night, Indonesia was far more superior and had the quicker step to their pace. The Philippines bowed out of the competition with an aggregate 2-nil loss.

During the 45-minute drive to the team hotel that is just next to the stadium (it was made so because of the sheer number of people and vehicles parked around the area), the expletives, bad signs and hostile challenges that had marked their welcome two matches running was now replaced with cheers and applause.

In their group stages, Indonesia scored an astonishing 13 goals against their competition. The Filipinos held them to two goals and could have nearly taken a point or three had some balls found the back of the net. As Indonesia head coach Alfred Riedl said: “Prior to this tournament, any match against the Philippines was an automatic win.” Teams talked not of wins but by how many goals they would score. Now, every team had to take them seriously.

Said Philippine team manager Dan Palami: “We may have lost the game but Team Pilipinas has gained the respect of many for the truly valiant stand against the footballing giants of the region. This is but the start of the Azkal’s journey towards conquering greater challenges.”

To paraphrase the end line of the film “Cool Runnings” which is about the legendary Jamaican bobsled team that competed in the 1988 Calgary Winter Olympics, “The Azkals [returned] to the Philippines as heroes. When they return as an automatic entry in the group stages in the Suzuki Cup in 2012, they will compete as equals.”

Azkals vs. Mongolia in Panaad

AFTER a highly successful 2010 Suzuki Cup stint where the Philippines cracked the semifinals for the first time in the 14-year history of the tournament (only to be waylaid by Indonesia, the top goal-scoring team of the competition), the Azkals break for the holidays before returning to training mid-January for the Asian Football Confederation (AFC) Cup qualifiers in a home and away series with Mongolia that kicks off on February 9, 2011 in Panaad, Bacolod City.

“We have written Mongolia about the possibility of hosting the two matches in Panaad,” said Philippine Football Federation president Mariano Araneta. “It would be difficult to play in Mongolia at that time of the year because it’s the height of their winter season. We have sent them a letter of request and are waiting for their reply.”

The Azkals will also be competing in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers that begin by mid-next year and the year-ending Southeast Asian Games that will be held in Jakarta. The groupings for the World Cup qualifiers have yet to be determined by FIFA.

“We will be meeting with the national team management to discuss how we can help them and what needs to be done to bring the team to the next level,” added Araneta who was in Jakarta for the first match of the Suzuki Cup semifinals to lend some support. “Hopefully, what they achieved in Laos, Vietnam, and Indonesia which is significantly raising awareness of the sport in the Philippines will continue to rise. We have shown that this is a sport where we can truly be competitive.”

How important is China?

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

The 21st century has been called the “Asian Century.” The term was first used during a 1988 meeting between Chinese leader Deng Xiaoping and Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi.

We are supposedly in the “Asian Century” because of the population size and growth of Asia and the fact that the economic growth in the region has been stronger than the rest of the world for the last decade. Of course, when most people think and speak of Asia, they really mean China.

It would seem then that Asia’s time has finally come. But is that accurate?

In1800, Asia contained about 50 percent of the world’s population just the way it does now. In 1800, Asia accounted for approximately 50 percent of the global output of goods and economic activity. However, by 1900, Asia still held 50 percent of the world’s population but its contribution to global gross domestic product (GDP) had dropped to about 20 percent. This was due to the industrialization of the West in which Asia did not participate. You could argue that perhaps colonization by the West of Asia limited its industrialization. That may be only partially true. China and Japan were not colonies. However, the reasons Asia failed to modernize its economies are not vitally important. It is simply a fact that in terms of economic development, Asia did very little between 1800 and 1950. The balance of global economic power became unbalanced in favor of Europe and the US because Asia stayed out of the economic- development game.

If the 21st century is truly the “Asian Century,” it is because Asia finally decided to come out of a 150-year economic slumber.

The reason I offer this historical perspective is that over the last few months, many e-mail have mentioned that I seem to ignore the importance of China. One e-mail last week expressed this thought most clearly. From Mr. Chua: “We cannot always think of how the US economy’s domestic policies will affect the Philippine economy. This time, China has become too influential to ignore and its self-serving economic policy changes will surely affect Asian economies. Maybe we should also take this in consideration in your future analyses.”

Allow me to answer, Mr. Chua, by asking a question: What is the exchange rate between the Philippine peso and the Chinese renminbi (RMB)? Is the peso weaker or stronger against the RMB over the last year?

I would say that you do not have any idea what the answer is. In fact, if you look at the front page of the BusinessMirror, the list of exchange rates does not even mention the RMB. Why? Because the RMB is fixed to the US dollar.

The global economy is ultimately all about currencies. Successful and unsuccessful trade balances depend in large part on currency exchange rates. Foreign investment between any two countries must look at current rates and future projections of exchange rates.

Why has there been so much foreign investment in China during this “Asian Century?” A most important reason is that the Chinese government guaranteed that investors would not be subject to any instability of the exchange rate. Unlike in the Philippines where investors made money from peso appreciation, investors in China gave up the potential benefit of an appreciating RMB for a stable rate.

Of course, as the largest neighbor in Asia, the Philippines must keep an eye on China, its economy and its economic policies. But both eyes must be continuously focused on the US because of the dollar.

Another reason this is supposedly the “Asian Century” is that the wealth from Asian nations’ foreign currency holdings. Who holds the most dollars outside of the US? Number one is China (and Hong Kong) followed by Japan (2), Taiwan (4), India (6), South Korea (7), and Singapore (10).

Maybe the Philippines should look more closely at China. But I guarantee you, all the rest of Asia knows which country’s policy moves they need to watch.

As for being a big global economic force, China warrants a closer look to validate that assumption. In 2000, China accounted for 4 percent of the global GDP. The US share was 31 percent. By 2006, the US had dropped to 26 percent while China increased to 5 percent. As of 2009, China’s portion rose to 9 percent and the US fell to 22 percent.

The story of China’s economy is not the size but the amount of increase, which is immense. But even projecting current trends to 2015, the US percentage of global GDP will still be twice the size of China’s. Further, the G-7 countries, including Japan, will still make up almost 50 percent of the world’s economic activity, nearly five times as large as China.

None of this commentary is meant to underestimate the importance of the Chinese economy, particularly to its Asian neighbors. However, China must always be put in perspective.

As long as the dollar remains the world’s reserve currency and the US economy is the dominant player on the world’s stage, the US will remain the number one 800-pound gorilla in the room.

The Philippines must not make the same mistake with China that it did with the US. For decades, the US was the only consideration for our economic policies. We cannot allow that kind of thinking and mindset now to be switched in favor of China.

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Monday, 20 December 2010

Thank you, Azkals! You are the pride of our nation!

Philippine booters’ amazing Cup journey ends

By Cedelf P. Tupas
Philippine Daily Inquirer

JAKARTA, Indonesia — The journey that quietly started in Vientiane, made a lot of noise in Hanoi and created a stir in Manila finally ended in Jakarta on Sunday night.

Ranged against a side with unquestioned pedigree in the Southeast Asian level, the Filipinos fell short, their title hopes vanquished by a 0-1 defeat to the Indonesians in the second leg of the semifinals of the AFF Suzuki Cup before a wild crowd of 85,000 at the Bung Karno Stadium here.

Indonesia won both legs—by the slimmest of margins—with the Filipinos defending valiantly to limit the production of the tournament’s best attacking side.

Cristian Gonzales, Indonesia’s Uruguay-born striker, tormented the Philippines for the second straight match as his left-footed 25-yard strike in the 44th minute beat Neil Etheridge.

Gonzales also struck the winning goal in the first leg, his header sailing past Etheridge who slipped while trying to catch the long pass.

The Filipinos finished the game with 10 men after Chris Greatwich, who had missed a couple of good chances midway in the second half, was sent off for his second yellow card.

Just as surprising as the Filipinos’ run was the sudden rise of popularity of the sport in a country crazy about basketball and boxing.

Known as the Azkals, the Filipinos refused to give up until the final whistle, desperately throwing men forward and were almost punished several times. They were limited to a series of half-chances early on with Phil Younghusband, Chris Greatwich and Anton del Rosario firing long-range shots over the bar.

The Philippine defense looked panicky at times as Indonesia raided the flanks.

Etheridge needed to intervene several times, moving out of his line to gather through balls, including Firman Utina’s pass to a rushing Gonzales in the 11th minute.

Indonesia had blown several chances to score until Gonzales struck. The Indonesian striker did well to keep his balance against Aly Borromeo, and before Rob Gier could shut him down, he rifled the shot that had Etheridge diving to his right in vain.

It was the second goal in the tie for the 34-year-old Gonzales, a veteran of the Indonesian Super League, who became a naturalized Indonesian before the start of the tournament.

True to its word, Indonesia refused to sit back on its slender one-goal lead as Muhammad Ridwan and Okto Maniani marauded the wings and Firman Utina and Ahmad Bustomi terrorized the Filipino defense at midfield.

The Filipinos saw three players booked in the first half with Gier getting a yellow for his mistimed challenge on Gonzales, Ian Araneta for an altercation with Hamka Hamsah and Greatwich for a clumsy tackle on Gonzales.

McMenemy proud of Filipino progress


Jakarta: Philippines coach Simon McMenemy felt that his players had no reason to be upset after their 1-0 loss to Indonesia in the second leg of the semi-finals on Sunday which eliminated them from the AFF Suzuki Cup.

Cristian Gonzales' strike two minutes before half-time secured a 2-0 win for the Indonesians, who will now meet Malaysia in the final.

But McMenemy expressed pride in his players, who had already exceeded expectations by reaching the last four of the regional championship. McMenemy proud of Filipino progress

"It was a very good game against very good opposition with amazing fans, and an amazing experience. They boys are gutted as they would be after losing a semi-final but to get to where they've got is an achievement," the Englishman said.

"I couldn't ask anything more of them – they created chances against the run of play, we pushed men forward, we changed our shape a little but it didn't work out at the end. However, I'm very proud to be the Philippines head coach and I'm very proud of my players tonight."

For McMenemy, the timing of Gonzales' goal, just before the interval, was crucial to the game.

"It kind of knocked the wind out of our sails a little bit," he explained. "They made some good chances in the first half and they caused us problems. But we rode our luck a little bit and got bodies in the way and gave it everything we had.

"But when you've got someone of the quality of Gonzales, it's tough. He would have had to put it into the top corner because (goalkeeper) Neil Etheridge is a big lad and if he had put it anywhere else, it wouldn't have gone in."

The Philippines were booed throughout the match by the partisan Indonesian fans at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium. But there was plenty of mutual respect shown after the final whistle when McMenemy and his players went around the pitch to applaud the spectators.

"You'd expect them to be on your backs during the game but the fans were great in the end. They all clapped for us when we went round.

"I think that football fans genuinely appreciate hard work and that's what we do. There's no amazing tactic to how we play; we just grind it out, we get in there and make it difficult for the other team and we work as hard as we can. I think that any football fan around the world can appreciate that."

McMenemy had a bit of a Jose Mourinho moment during his pitch inspection before the game when the boos and catcalls of the home fans rained down on him while he walked alone in the middle of the field. But the Philippines coach claimed that the whole episode had occurred inadvertently.

"It was quite weird because I went out for the pitch inspection with a few of the boys, but when I looked around, the boys had gone so I was out there on my own. And everywhere I looked in the crowd, that part of the crowd started booing me. I looked down at the ground and when I looked up again, another area of the crowd started booing me. It's one of those things – it's nice to have a bit of backwards and forwards going on with the crowd.

"It's an incredible experience and we're very envious of that kind of support. The fans know their football and they're very passionate. Before the game, they were banging on our bus and making it very intimidating, but they're still good mannered enough to clap us off at the end after seeing that we've worked really hard. That's what real fans are."

Saturday, 18 December 2010

Etheridge: Mistake will make me stronger

Cedelf P Tupas

JAKARTA—Neil Etheridge was in a jovial mood yesterday, playing music in the team bus and joking around with teammates.

It was a far cry from the Etheridge that turned up in the locker room after the match the night before.

Etheridge was teary eyed as he admitted making the mistake that led to the goal that gave Indonesia a 1-0 victory in the first leg of the AFF Suzuki Cup semifinals.

“It was a normal ball and I was about to get it, then I slipped while trying to reach for it,” said Etheridge. “Unfortunately, that mistake cost us a goal.”

“More than myself, I felt I let the team down,” added the back-up goalkeeper with Fulham in the English Premiere League.

The 6-foot-3 Etheridge, whose mother Melinda Dula is from Tarlac, has been a pillar of strength for the Philippines in this tournament and that goal from Gonzales was just the second he conceded in four games in the tournament.

Etheridge actually recovered from that blunder, jumping out to collect crosses and denying what could have been a clear path for Indonesian striker Bambang Pamungkas to double the advantage in the 80th minute.

The Philippines’ coach Simon McMenemy came to Etheridge’s rescue, saying he should not be judged based on his lone mistake in the game.

“What we fail to remember is Neil is still only 20,” said McMenemy. “He’s in tears in the dressing room because he feels that he let the team down—but we tend to forget the number of times that he has saved the team.”

“He’s been incredible for us. He has such a great presence and it is very, very difficult to put the ball past him. He’s very disappointed that his mistake led to a goal, but he will learn from this and he’ll be back for the next game.”

Etheridge said the mistake will only make him stronger.

“I still have a lot of years ahead of me,” he said. “I know there will be a lot of big matches and sometimes I will make mistakes. But I’ll come back stronger on Sunday.”

No sulking for buoyant PH booters

Cedelf P Tupas

JAKARTA—It was a defeat that failed to put a dent on the Philippine Team’s morale.

The Filipinos refused to sulk after suffering a slender 0-1 loss to Indonesia Thursday night in the first leg of their Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup semifinal here.

“I think it’s pretty much open,” said team manager Dan Palami. “We can still come out with something on Sunday.”

The Filipino defense that had looked so solid in the tournament was finally unlocked before 70,000 boisterous fans at the Gelaro Bung Karno Stadium when Indonesia’s Cristian Gonzales headed home to an empty net after a mix-up by goalkeeper Neil Etheridge and Ray Jonnson.

It was the first goal conceded by the Filipinos in four hours of play in the tournament. The Philippines gave up a goal in the 64th minute against Singapore in their first game, before going on to shut out Vietnam and Myanmar.

It was also the first loss for the Filipinos in four matches of the tournament. The team has actually gone unbeaten in its last eight international matches.

In Manila, President Aquino yesterday commended the booters for their brave stand against the Indonesians, saying they can still come back in the second game.

The Philippines’ coach Simon McMenemy blamed the goal on the high noise level in the stadium.

“There was miscommunication, the players just couldn’t hear each other,” said McMenemy. “Unfortunately, I think that’s where the goal came from.”

“I think there was a one-meter hearing radius,” Palami added. “How much more with the players on the pitch?”

McMenemy said his squad deserved a lot of credit for its performance against the slick-passing Indonesians

“For us, I am very, very pleased with our performance,” the Englishman said. “We’ve come such a long way in this tournament and we’ve overcome so many odds to be here.

“Anybody who knows football will understand how difficult it was for us tonight and how good a performance it was that we produced.”

Fully aware that they can still make the finals if they win by two goals in the second leg on Sunday, the Filipinos were upbeatFriday as they took a break from training and paid a visit to the Philippine Embassy here.

The visit to the Embassy was a welcome respite for the Filipino booters, who were heckled and booed by Indonesian fans on their way to the stadium before the game Thursday night.

Some fans banged at the windows of the bus that ferried the Filipinos, while others flashed the dirty finger and hurled invectives at the players.

Brothers Phil and James Younghusband almost found the perfect payback for the abuse early on when they came close to scoring in the game.

The narrow win actually left Indonesian coach Alfred Reidl more relieved than happy.

“We saw why the Philippines are in the semifinals,” said Reidl, an Austrian, who has also coached Vietnam.

“They are a very strong team but I think that we deserved the win because we were the more active team. A 1-0 lead is still a very dangerous scoreline, so we will have to play to win the second match as well. It will be too dangerous to play for a draw in the second leg, so we cannot afford to play defensively.”

Palami said that, despite the adversities, the Filipinos pulled through so many times in the past, and there’s no reason to believe they cannot come up with another heroic stand on Sunday.

“One thing good about this team is its never-say-die attitude,” said Palami. “We scored in the 94th minute against Singapore and we still have 90 minutes to turn the game around.”

Saksi: PHL chosen to host 2012 AFP Suzuki cup

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Philippines helps with Vatican Nativity Scene

Friday, 17 December 2010

Indonesia breaks RP Azkals’ unbeaten streak in Suzuki Cup

MANILA, Philippines (4th UPDATE) -- The Philippine Azkals paid dearly for a defensive lapse, enabling Indonesia to eke out a 1-0 win in their opening match in the Suzuki Cup semifinals at the jampacked Bung Karno Stadium in Jakarta , Indonesia Thursday night.

An apparent miscommunication between Pinoy goalie Neil Etheridge and fullback Ray Jonsson allowed Indon striker Cristiano Gonzales to head in the solitary goal in the 32nd minute and give the hosts the upper hand in the 2-match series.

Receiving a long cross from Oktovianus Maniani, the 32-year-old naturalized Uruguayan soared and headed from 10 yards on the right wing as Etheridge, who left the goal unguarded, and Jonsson both tried to foil the attack.

The ball caromed off the left post and inside the net as the Indonesian crowd of 80,000, which included President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono and his wife, erupted in jubilation.

The outcome made the job doubly harder for the Azkals, who must not only win the second match on Sunday but also score more goals for a better aggregate tally to advance to the championship round.

But the defeat was nothing to be ashamed about for the Filipino booters, who, tuning out the hostile crowd, fought on even terms with their heavily-favored hosts, except for that costly error in the first half.

Filipino-British striker Phil Younghusband nearly scored the equalizer with a 25-yard back-to-the-goal strike in the 74th minute as Indonesian goalkeeper Markus Rihihina strayed away from the net to help out on defense.

Fortunately for Rihihina, an Indonesian defender was there to clear the volley over the crossbar.

For most of the match, however, Younghusband was a closely marked man with three Indonesian players collapsing on him every time he had possession of the ball during the physical match that where both sides were awarded 2 yellow cards apiece.

James Younghusband, Phil’s elder brother, and skipper Aly Borromeo were slapped one each for the Filipinos while Oktovianus Maniani and Gonzales also got one for the Indonesians.

Maniani earlier got away with what should have been his first yellow card when he elbowed Anton del Rosario in the nape in the 31st minute after being tackled by the Filipino defender.

Eight minutes later, Del Rosario and Indonesian midfielder Mohammad Nasuah butted heads as both attempted to clear the ball. Nasuah, a vital cog in the midfield, later returned with his head heavily-bandaged.

Del Rosario also figured in an argument with Gonzales late in the second half, refusing to be bullied by the stocky striker.

While the Filipinos pressed the attack at the onset of the second half in a bid to equalize, they lost steam in the middle of it and allowed the Indonesians to control the ball the rest of the way.

Most of their counterattacks fell short while the hosts found gaps in their defenses, which Etheridge fortunately managed to save.

Unlike their previous rivals, the Indonesians had scouted the Filipinos well and were ready for the visitors’ vaunted counterattacks.

With the AFF not implementing the away-goals rule, the Azkals can win the tie and advance to the final if they defeat the Indonesians by at least 2 goals in the second leg.

The Filipinos' next semifinal game against the Indonesians will also take place at the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium.

The game will be broadcast live by ABS-CBN Studio 23.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

Semifinal Showdown

Philippines will meet Indonesian national team in the semi-finals of the tournament AFF Cup 2010, 16 December. Indonesia will first travel to the headquarters of the Philippines. Philippines-Indonesia semifinal tie is it has upped the stakes for both teams in the Asean Football Federation Suzuki Cup
Indonesia has no excuse now; it must win this.

The Philippines, the tournament’s feel-good story, is looking to milk its underdog status even further.

To the Indonesians, the Filipinos are mere road kill.

To the visiting Filipinos, nothing would be more satisfying than to spring a highway robbery against a squad whose biggest weakness might be overconfidence.

The AFF’s decision to have both legs of the semifinal played in Jakarta just thickened the plot of a story that, at least on paper, screams utter mismatch.

It has never won the Cup but Indonesia has consistently knocked at the door.

The Indonesians, three-time finalists, are looking to end a run of futility that stretches back to when the tournament began in 1996, seven AFF Cups ago.

The Philippines didn’t even win a Cup game until it beat East Timor in 2004, a win that ended the Filipinos’ tournament-worst 15-match losing streak.

Indonesia’s domination in the group stage was long overdue.

The common sentiment among its millions of fans is: “We’ve been waiting for this a long time.”

The Philippines’ run in its group has left people scratching their heads.

Amazing 'Azkals'

Manila Times

The unexpected yet stunning victory recently of the Philippine soccer team over reigning champion Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup has done more than just fill up our chests with pride. By winning and advancing to the semifinals that begin Thursday, the Philippine team—fondly called the “Azkals” —jolted

Filipinos who have long ignored football. On the political front, Sen. Juan Miguel Zubiri delivered a privileged speech on Monday extolling the Azkals and calling for a Senate investigation into the problems plaguing Philippine football.

Ironically, said Sen. Zubiri in his speech, the Philippine win also brought to national attention the sorry state of football in the country. After the Azkal victory, the Philippines tried but failed to host the semifinals, because the country lacks the accredited facility to host international football matches. He blamed the lack of passion and the “possible corruption” in the Philippine Football Federation (PFF) and other sports agencies that receive government funding. He also slammed the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) and the Philippine Olympic Committee (POC) for inefficiency and negligence that apparently were to blame for the country’s national sports programs inadequacy in meeting international commitments and in carrying out their respective constitutional mandates to fulfill the needs of the youth.

The PSC is set to receive P400 million in the proposed 2011 national budget to fund various grassroots programs, Sen. Zubiri said in his speech. The commission is to receive P168 million for its operating expenses, and the rest is to be divided among the National Sports Associations, presumably including the one for football.

We support Sen. Zubiri’s call for a Senate investigation. We hope it will be productive in aiding lawmakers in revising or in crafting new legislation needed to strengthen, not just football, but the entire Philippine sports-development agenda. Many of the past Senate probes have not amounted to much, and so we will be watching the hearings with keen interest.

Also, we echo the senator’s call on President Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino 3rd to show leadership in addressing the problems besetting the national sports development. We believe this issue provides him with an opportunity to deliver on his promise to fight corruption.

Appropriate sports development

In fact, we hope the President uses his high popularity to develop a number of athletic programs other than basketball, which for now is the country’s most popular sport. Not a few people have suggested that the Philippines should promote athletic programs that are physically appropriate for Filipinos. Evidently, Filipinos are not built for basketball, where tall players are the norm rather than the exception.

Football—or soccer—is but one of the many team sports that merit government attention, if not additional funding. It is the most widely played game in the world, with some 265 million registered players, as of the count in a 2006 survey of all the FIFA member associations and their affiliates. And there are other sports.

For instance, the Philippines could also look at developing baseball. Not only is baseball more suitable to Filipinos physically, the sport also offers more career opportunities for professional athletes. Note the number of Fil-Americans in major league baseball, like pitcher Tim Lincecum of the World Series champion San Francisco Giants. Professional leagues in Japan and Taiwan also offer career opportunities for Asian baseball players. Filipino professional basketball players, however, have but a small chance of playing in the National Basketball Association or in other professional leagues, because the basic requirement is height.
The same goes for volleyball, swimming, and most of the athletics events, except middle- and long-distance running.

The government could redirect funds to the sports programs that develop skills in games that average Filipinos can excel in, particularly football. Government can also increase funding that support the sports-development programs of public schools, from elementary to college. If we wait to train our athletes until they enter university, obviously they will be no match against those who have been playing competitively since they were toddlers.

Good luck to the Azkals

Most successful athletes started playing their sport at a young age. The same is true with soccer and probably with many of the players in Team Azkal.

The team was to leave late Tuesday for Jakarta, where they face a tough match against the Indonesians who will enjoy home-court advantage. Indonesia may be a football powerhouse and the obvious favorite, but we think the Azkals have heart.

The Filipino players also have history on their side. In his privileged speech, Sen. Zubiri reminded us all about a Filipino among football’s greats—the all but forgotten Paulino Alcantara. He was the all-time top scorer in the world of football with 356 goals in 357 games from 1912 to 1916, the senator said in his speech.

It seems that football is in our blood after all. We just forgot about it until the Azkals reminded us by defeating defending champion Vietnam in the AFF Suzuki Cup. The Philippines and Indonesia are the only teams that have suffered no losses in this tournament. Indonesia is ahead of champion Vietnam and us in the group standings.

No matter the outcome of the match against Indonesia, the Azkals have already won the hearts of Filipinos everywhere.

Of course, we hope for the best. And so our final message goes to the Azkals facing a tough opponent: You make us proud, regardless of the game’s outcome. But all the same, give ‘em hell.

MetroPac eyes rehab of MRT-3

Manila Standard

Metro Pacific Investments Corp., a unit of the Hong Kong-based First Pacific Group, has committed to invest for the rehabilitation of the 11-year-old Metro Rail Transit Line 3 in Edsa.

“We have initial discussions with the government on how we can work together for [MRT-3],” Metro Pacific chairman Manuel Pangilinan said in an interview late Monday.

Opened in 1999, the 13-kilometer MRT 3 runs from North Avenue in Quezon City to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, where average daily ridership is estimated at 400,000. The system has 24 trains. Around 20 are plying the stretch simultaneously during peak hours while the rest are being refurbished or under repair.

Pangilinan said Metro Pacific planned to increase the capacity of the train system by adding modern rails cars, refurbishing the old trains, expanding the platforms, increasing the number of escalators and improving the signages, lighting and signaling systems.

“It badly needs improvement,” he said.

Pangilinan said Metro Pacific, after acquiring the the 29-percent stake of the Sobrepeña group, was keen on raising its stake in the train system by bringing in additional capital for its rehabilitation.

“We prefer to put the money into the system to expand and upgrade it than to take out the existing shareholders,” he said.

Pangilinan said Metro Pacific though had started preliminary talks with private shareholders over the possible sale of their stake in the MRT 3.

MRT general manager Glicerio Sicat said in a phone interview that the government was open to selling its stake to Metro Pacific and settle for concession fees. Jeremiah F. de Guzman

First predictions for 2011

Business Mirror

From an economic standpoint, this may turn out to be the best Christmas season in recent memory. Retailers are forecasting a 15-percent jump in sales. Even Philippine Airlines is looking at a 10-percent increase in holiday bookings.

And ignore all the “expert” nonsense about consumer spending being fueled by overseas-worker remittances. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) just released a survey showing that the relatives of overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) are actually saving, not spending, their remittances. “The percentage of OFW households that utilized their remittances to savings climbed to 43.7 percent. BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo said that ‘The percentage of Filipino families with OFW relatives who are turning to savings has increased significantly from 7.2 percent in the first quarter of 2007 when the survey started. On the other hand, he explained that the percentage of those who apportioned part of their remittances for major purchases and investments declined.’”

The Philippine economic forecasts for 2011 are lower and slightly more pessimistic than for 2010. Is that a valid prediction?

Having asked that, there is only one issue of importance for 2011. What will happen to the US dollar? Everything else economically, here and abroad, depends on the answer to that question.

The US Federal Reserve under Chairman Ben Bernanke is planning a massive infusion of money into the US and world financial systems. It is unprecedented in global history. Bernanke believes that he can do something that has never been done before— print a trillion dollars of new money, pump it into the economy, and force economic growth without triggering massive inflation. That is his prediction for 2011.

But what about some of the chairman’s past predictions?

On July 1, 2005, he said this about economists who worried about a housing-market collapse. On CNBC: “It’s a pretty unlikely possibility. We’ve never had a decline in house prices on a nationwide basis. So, I think what is more likely is that house prices will slow, maybe stabilize, might slow consumption spending a bit. I don’t think it’s gonna drive the economy too far from its full employment path, though.”

Bernanke was not worried about subprime mortgages either. In a speech on May 17, 2007, he said: “We believe the effect of the troubles in the subprime sector on the broader housing market will likely be limited. The vast majority of mortgages, including even subprime mortgages, continues to perform well.”

The chairman has had some serious problems looking into the future concerning the economy. He said this on January 10, 2008: “The Federal Reserve is not currently forecasting a recession.” He continued with that prediction in June 2008: “The risk that the economy has entered a substantial downturn appears to have diminished over the past month or so.” And his economic crystal ball did not work well for 2009 and 2010 either, “The forecast we have is for the economy, in terms of growth, to begin to turn up later this year. We think the unemployment rate will probably peak early in 2010 and then come down relatively slowly after that.” Bernanke said that in May 2009.

Here are his latest comments about the Fed’s plan to pump nearly $1 trillion more into the economy by June 2011, made on December 5, 2010, during a television interview. Q: “Many people believe that could be highly inflationary. That it’s a dangerous thing to try.” Bernanke: “Well, this fear of inflation, I think is way overstated. We’ve looked at it very, very carefully. We’ve analyzed it every which way. One myth that’s out there is that what we’re doing is printing money. We’re not printing money. The amount of currency in circulation is not changing. The money supply is not changing in any significant way. What we’re doing is lowering interest rates by buying treasury securities.”

Bernanke is the most dangerous man on earth. If the Fed is not pumping new money into the economy, what is going to stimulate economic activity? His argument about interest rates going lower is total nonsense. Interest rates in the US have never been any lower these past two years and have brought no significant economic activity.

If by then there will not be a massive infusion of cash into the mainstream US economy, then that trillion dollars will be used to fund the $300-billion government budget deficit and thereby increase more, the US debt obligation of $14 trillion.

What happened recently as it became clear that European government debt was out of control? The euro fell from its $1.60 high in 2008 to $1.20 low during the Greece crisis six months ago. The euro is down 8 percent in the last month.

If there is an attack on the dollar and it goes lower, there will be massive inflation in the US as that economy is dependent on imported goods and energy.

Assume that Bernanke will buy government debt at low interest rates, the desirability of the debt will go down because the only way to ever pay it off so much debt is with newly printed, lower-value money.

I predict inflation will be a great US problem and that we will see a large devaluation of the dollar in 2011.

This is what you want to look for to test my prediction that the dollar is under attack.

During the first quarter of 2011, gold moves above $1,500 per ounce. Crude-oil prices move and strongly hold above $100. There will be a strong and sustained stock-market rally in the US. By March 2011, official US inflation will hit near 1 percent.

For the Philippines, we will have a continuation of the stock-market rally which will see the next wave up putting the index at 4,500 to 4,800. The peso will move below 40 much more quickly than anyone thinks it will. Foreign investment will accelerate due to peso appreciation and to take advantage of favorable government and corporate financial stability.

The year 2011 will outshine 2010 for the Philippine economy.

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$61-B GIR exceeds foreign debt

Business Mirror

THE country’s gross international reserves (GIR) reached a total $61.05 billion at end-November, the central bank reported on Wednesday. And, with the country’s foreign debt standing at only $55 billion as of latest count, this marks the first time the GIR would exceed debt levels.

The scenario was quietly predicted very early this year by Joey Concepcion III, chairman and chief executive officer at RFM Corp. On Wednesday, after the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) report on the GIR data, he made another prediction: the foreign-exchange reserves will nearly double and hit $100 billion within two years.

That is something to watch out for, according to observers, and in Concepcion’s mind the $100-billion GIR level is not too far out of hand at all.

“At the current trend where you will count the direct foreign investments on the Private-Public Partnership [PPP] projects and other tourism-related projects, the $100-billion reserve in two years is achievable,” Concepcion said.

The PPP pertains to a massive, multiyear infrastructure buildup program seen to attract long-horizon investors whose funding requirements should help feed the continued flow of foreign capital into the country.

“This is probably the first time that our reserves have exceeded our external debt. The big jump in foreign-exchange [FX] reserves is mainly due to BSP’s decision to take delivery on maturing FX forward. In terms of reserves, we now rank higher than Argentina, Hungary, Canada, the UK, among others. Our reserve is 37.5 percent of GDP,” Concepcion said.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. had reported the GIR was $4.1 billion higher in just one month to $61.05 billion at end-November, as a consequence of the merchandise exports, services receipts, overseas Filipino remittances, as well as investments.

The sharply higher GIR, which stood at only $45.45 billion at the start of the year, highlights the impact of massive flows of foreign capital seeking higher yields in emerging markets like the Philippines. While seemingly harmless for now, that is feared to come back and haunt the BSP regulators later when inflation begins to kick up.

To keep the local unit, the Philippine peso, from sharply appreciating, the BSP moderated the natural impulse to gain value by selling some of its dollar holdings, but in volumes too small to stem its steady appreciation.

The Philippine Dealing System has reported on the 5-percent year-to-date appreciation of the local currency, which averaged 10.1 centavos lower on Wednesday to only P43.938 per dollar.

“At the rate our central bank is defending the peso, they are flooding the system with a lot of pesos. Interest rates have to go down to the levels of 3 percent to stop the peso from appreciating. For the first time, I am seeing a 5-percent loan rate on one of my mortgages,” Concepcion said.

Remittances highest at $15.45B in Oct.

J. Vallecera
Business Mirror

THE remittances of overseas Filipino workers pushed to its highest level this year, totaling $15.45 billion at end-October, or $1.67 billion higher than in September.

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. traced the higher remittance level to the steady stream of remittance flows from both sea-based and land-based workers that allowed the 10-month remittances to post a 7.7-percent growth year-on-year.

“The sustained remittance flows into the country were due to the sustained robust demand for skilled and professional Filipinos. This, combined with the increasing presence of bank and nonbank money-transfer conduits both locally and internationally, as well as the expanding range of products and services offered by financial intermediaries to overseas Filipinos and their beneficiaries, contributed to the strong inflow of remittances,” Tetangco said in a statement.

He also traced a part of the improvement to “the continuing efforts to improve on the variety and coverage of the global remittance networks that have enabled more overseas Filipinos to send remittances using more innovative financial services offered in the market.”

Tetangco cited preliminary data obtained from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration indicating that for January-November 2010, approved job orders stood at 578,535, about four-tenths or 39.2 percent of which were comprised of processed job orders for service, production as well as professional, technical and related workers.

The bulk of the approved job orders were mainly for jobsites in Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Hong Kong and Taiwan.

According to Tetangco, the bulk of remittances came from the US, Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, UK, United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Italy, Germany and Norway.

Motivation will not be a problem - McMenemy

JAKARTA: While disappointed that the Philippines will not be hosting a semi-final match in this year's AFF Suzuki Cup, coach Simon McMenemy feels that his side will have no problem finding their motivation in the hothouse atmosphere of the Gelora Bung Karno Stadium on Thursday.

Due to the lack of a suitable venue in the Philippines, the Azkals will have to play both legs of the last-four clash in the intimidating atmosphere of Jakarta.

"Finding out that we weren't going to play in front of a Filipino crowd for what is probably the biggest game in Philippine history was a real disappointment for those who have worked so hard to grow football in the Philippines," said McMenenmy, who was appointed as Philippines coach on a short-term contract four months ago.

"It would have been a fantastic achievement to bring a team like Indonesia to the islands of the Philippines for the semi-finals of such a prestigious competition. But things happens and the facilities just weren't good enough.

"But the one nice thing about playing in front of 80,000 away fans is that finding motivation is very straightforward. There's not much that I can say that stepping out on to the field and seeing 80,000 people won't do for the players."

For McMenemy, the key thing for his players will be to maintain their composure – something which they did successfully when they beat Vietnam 2-0 in Hanoi during the group stage.

"It will be down to keeping our composure given what we are about to face. If we can do that, we'll be in for a very good game," said the Englishman.

"Not many of our Filipino players have seen a crowd of 80,000 people, let alone played in front of them. It is difficult to prepare for that other than to stay totally focussed on the task at hand and to stay as composed under pressure as much as possible.

"As with Vietnam, we faced a very hostile crowd out there and a very expectant crowd. We were able to use that to our advantage and I think that the players rose to the occasion as well because they don't often get the chance to really show what they can do on that platform."

According to McMenemy, the public reaction in the Philippines to their country's newfound football success will also act as a spur to the players.

"Tomorrow, the nation will be watching it live at home on TV and it will be huge memory in the minds of our players. My team talk will be about making sure that memory lives long in the minds of those watching by putting out everything and leaving that on the field when the whistle blows.

"It's amazing about the amount of interest there is in Filipino football now. We are very lucky that our performances so far in have led to the interest in football in the Philippines growing massively. As a judge of that, our last training session before we left Manila was done in front 3,000 people which, to be honest, took our players by shock.

"But the reality is that we are now in a footballing nation and we are playing against a powerhouse in Southeast Asian football. We have to be very respectful of that and we know well that we are very much the underdogs in this tie.

"We try to bring everything we can out to the field and we give 110 per cent. And what we've been finding is that that passion, that fight and that spirit has been providing the results for us. So we will do exactly the same tomorrow and even given that it is possibly a much more harder scenario than we've had so far, we're hoping that our hard work, our passion and our spirit will shine through again."