Saturday, 27 March 2010

1st quarter investments topped full ’09 record

by Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideBusiness.htm?f=2010/march/26/business2.isx&d=2010/march/26

The global economic recovery and rising confidence in the Philippine economy pushed the foreign portfolio investments in the first quarter of 2010 to $389 million, exceeding the full-year figure recorded in 2009.

“For the first three months, it is higher than the whole of 2009,” Bangko Sentral Assistant Gov. Ma. Cyd Tuano Amador told reporters in a news briefing Thursday.

Bangko Sentral Deputy Gov. Diwa Guinigundo said the figure was five times greater than the year-ago investment level.

Data from the Bangko Sentral showed that foreign portfolio investments reached $389.36 billion as of March 12, up from just $75.53 million a year ago.

With the strong foreign portfolio investments, Guinigundo hinted that Bangko Sentral might revised upward its balance of payments surplus target this year from a range of $3 billion to $4 billion.

“We can recalibrate our projection to reflect actual developments,” Guinigundo said, adding that the revision of the forecast would be made in April.

Guinigundo noted that “the global economic recovery is gaining more traction while the domestic economy and financial markets continue to show significant improvement.”

Bangko Sentral, in its Fourth Quarter 2009 BoP report, said the current account surplus reached $8.6 billion in 2009, equivalent to 5.3 percent of the gross domestic product.

“The more-than-two fold increase over the $3.6-billion surplus recorded in 2008 was brought about by the favorable performance of all the components of the current account, except the income account,” said Rosabel Guerrero, director of Bangko Sentral’s Department of Economic Statistics.

The balance of payments also reflected a surplus of $5.849 billion as of December, up from just $89- million a year ago.

These surpluses were recorded despite an $8.9 billion deficit in foreign trade.

Guerrero said remittances, exports from business process outsourcing, foreign direct investments and foreign portfolio investments led to stronger balance of payments position.

“Net current transfers receipts rose year-on-year by 4.7 percent to $16 billion,” Bangko Sentral said.

This was led by a 5.6-percent increase in remittances to $17.3 billion last year.

BIR defers eDST system to June 30

By CHINO S. LEYCO
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/249492/bir-defers-edst-system-june-30

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) has deferred the full implementation of the electronic documentary stamp tax (eDST) system to June 30 this year due to numerous requests and issues raised by the concerned taxpayers who were affected by the system.

In his latest revenue memorandum circular, BIR Commissioner Joel Tan-Torres has emphasized that after June 30, no further request for the deferment of the mandatory use of the eDST system shall be entertained.

eDST is a web-based system in the payment/remittance of DST liabilities and affixture of the prescribed documentary stamp tax on taxable documents, except those expressly exempted by the Commissioner of Internal Revenue, on meritorious grounds as stated in Revenue Regulations (RR) No. 7-2009.

Meanwhile, during the period of deferment, taxpayers who are technically capable of using the system may voluntarily avail of the same.

However, taxpayers who cannot comply with the eDST requirements are advised to use the Constructive Stamping/Receipt System (CS/RS) DST method as stated in RMC 1-2010.

eDST System is set to replace the Documentary Stamp Tax Electronic Imprinting Machine (DSEIM).
Payment of DST arising from the transfer of shares of stocks classified as capital assets or real property classified as ordinary or capital assets is not covered by RR 7-2009.

Prior to enrollment in the eDST system, taxpayers availing themselves of the system shall be duly enrolled under the Electronic Filing and Payment System (eFPS).

Even prior to December 31 last year, currently authorized users of DSEIMs shall already have the option to file an application and shift to the web-based eDST system.
Once enrolled in the eDST system, taxpayers can no longer use their DSEIMs. However, the DSTs that were already loaded in the existing DSEIMs prior to enrollment to eDST may either be utilized until Dec. 31, 2009 or transferred to the eDST system, subject to the conduct of verification by the BIR prior to the transfer.

EDC’s net profit soars 150% to P3.37 billion

By MYRNA M. VELASCO
Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/249706/edc-s-net-profit-soars-150-p337-billion

The core net income of publicly-listed Energy Development Corporation (EDC) of the Lopez group ended on a rosy note last year to P7.38 billion, climbing 26.5-percent from the 2008 level of P5.83 billion.

For the company’s net income, the percentage jump was even heftier at 150.4 percent to P3.37 billion from the previous year’s P1.34 billion.

“The significant improvement in the core net income is largely attributable to the hike in total revenues, more favorable exchange rates and the impact of the Renewable Energy (RE) Law on accounting treatment,” the company has explained in a statement.

EDC added that the resulting net income is higher to P2.02 billion, if the P2.73 billion jump in revenues from electricity sales and drilling services be factored in.

The company likewise reported a turnaround in foreign exchange management, having logged P1.3 billion forex gains last year from a very immense level of P9.4 billion forex losses in 2008.

EDC president and chief operating officer Richard B. Tantoco pointed out that “although the one- time write down in deferred tax assets affected our income, it was a necessary step before we can realize the fiscal benefits afforded by the RE law.”

He further explained that with the RE law’s incentives, the company would be able to give hard push in developing “new geothermal areas in the country and expand what we have in a sustainable manner.”

The company executive added that the positive gains somehow “offset the write-down of P2.9 billion deferred tax assets arising under the RE Law, the P2.22 billion increase in operating expenses mainly due to steam augmentation activities, and the impact of the P3.1 billion one-time arbitration award in 2008 which reduced expenses and increased other income in said year.”

Onward, the company is also positively weighing prospects “with the re-denomination of debt stock and upcoming retirement of (EDC’s) Miyazawa II and other on-lent loans.”

Friday, 26 March 2010

President in Basilan

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F62DsKPyzWM


Road projects improve security, commerce in Basilan terrorist lair – PGMA

http://www.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2003208&Itemid=1

TIPO-TIPO, Basilan (PND) -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo found a considerably improved security condition in this former lair of the terrorist Abu Sayyaf Group (ASG), during her first visit last Wednesday (March 24) to this town to inspect the progress of road project.

Some 2,000 town residents, most of them overwhelmed by the first-time visit, welcomed the President as she personally inspected the rehabilitation of 29.3-kilometer portion of the Basilan Circumferential Road that stretches between Barangay Cabangalan in Tipo-Tipo and Barangay Canas in Maluso.

“We are so happy because, for the first time in the history of the province, the President is here to visit us,” said Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatun Istarul. He said the Tipo-Tiponians are grateful for the road project because their trip to capital Isabela City, which used to take them six hours, now takes only two hours.

In her message, the President said this road project has improved the peace and order condition in Tipo-Tipo, where some of the recent major clashes between the Abu Sayyaf and government forces have taken place.

“Kuta ito dati ng ASG, dahil walang kalsada, pero ngayon takot na sila, (Because there are no roads, this town used to be the base of the ASG. But now they are gone),” the President said.

The President also said the road project has reduced the transport costs for products, resulting in the lower prices of commodities.

Basilan Governor Jum Akbar hailed the project as the national government’s manifestation of concern for Basilan and support to the local leadership.

The road rehabilitation here is part of the Basilan Circumferential Road Project, which President Arroyo initiated to spur economic growth in Basilan and its neighboring island provinces.

The Road Project is seen as a major infrastructure initiative to bringing prosperity in Basilan even as government continues its campaign against local terrorism and lawlessness.

The rehabilitation of Tipo-Tipo-Maluso Road Section started last January, with a P2 million starting fund from the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH). The implementing unit is the Joint Engineer Task Force “Kaunlaran Basilan” of the National Development Support Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP).

The task force is composed of the Engineer Maintenance Support Battalion, 55th Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army, and the 1st Naval Mobile Construction Battalion of the Naval Construction Brigade of the Philippine Navy.

Tipo-Tipo, a fourth-class class municipality of some 48,500 residents, was the site of gruesome killings in 2007 that included the beheading by ASG members of 14 Philippine Marines soldiers.

In August 2009, government troops suffered 23 dead and 26 wounded as they captured the main ASG camp in the town which was also the nerve center of ASG terrorist operations. Tipo-Tipo also used to the training ground of ASG female members and children, who were recruited easily into the ASG due to local poverty and illiteracy.

As part of government’s two-pronged peace and development approach in Mindanao, President Arroyo ordered the implementation of programs for the civilian sector alongside military operations.

The Basilan Circumferential Road Project is part of the P2.2-billion road program for Mindanao, funded by a concessional loan extended by the Saudi Fund for Development (SFD). The loan of 75 million Saudi riyals ($20 million or P1.078 billion) was extended on October 2005, while government provided a counterpart fund of P1.118 billion.

The Basilan Circumferential Road Project is 135 kilometers long, divided into six sections: Umayam in Maluso; Lagayas and Camalig in Tipo-Tipo; Tumahubong; Canas-Cabcaban-Libug-Benembengan; and Abong-Abong-Pali-Dikit in Sumisip.

SMC trains eyes on Clark

Miguel Camus
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23415:smc-trains-eyes-on-clark&catid=33:economy&Itemid=60

DIVERSIFYING conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC) may buy into a consortium composed of local and foreign partners which submitted an unsolicited proposal to develop the multibillion peso Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) Terminal Two in the Clark Free Port, Angeles City, Pampanga.

The BusinessMirror learned that SMC is already in “informal talks” to join the Philco Aero Group, one of the remaining entities proposing to develop DMIA Terminal Two.

Philco Aero is a consortium controlled by local company Penson and Co. Inc. including foreign partners namely South Korea-based Posco Engineering and Construction Co., Samil PricewaterhouseCoopers and Korea Development  Bank.

“We have discussed it with San Miguel and there is a meeting of the minds that as soon as we get the notice of  award we will sit down and talk,” said Penson chairman Ricardo Penson in a telephone interview on Thursday.

He added that “there are no agreed terms yet” with SMC, which said last month that it is interested in making an investment in the Clark Free Port Zone “should the opportunity present itself.”

Penson, whose company owns 60 percent of Philco Aero, hopes that the group can obtain the award notice by April from the joint venture committee of the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC), which oversees DMIA.

CIAC announced earlier this week that it is open to accept and review unsolicited proposals for the Terminal Two project. The deadline is set at the end of this month.  

This, after the CIAC board rejected with finality the offer of Kuwaiti backed Almal-Pride group to develop DMIA Terminal Two, as well as to take over and develop Terminals one, three and other adjacent areas including some 1,500 hectares in the Clark Civil Aviation Complex on March 15.

Penson’s group already has dealings with SMC. The diversifying food and drinks giant is presently in talks to acquire a 67 percent stake in Penson-led Ausphil Tollways Corp., the main proponent behind the North Luzon East Expressway.

SMC and CIAC officials were unavailable for comment  on Thursday.

Meanwhile, Penson said Philco Aero plans to invest  $126 million (about P5.79 billion) to be implemented in several stages over an estimated eight years, depending on passenger demand.

CIAC said the project calls for the development of Terminal 2 or its equivalent capacity of five million passengers annually including other feasible land area for commercial and other aviation related purposes.

CIAC has already set aside P308 million for the expansion of the existing DMIA Terminal 1.

The expanded terminal, which will accommodate an additional 500,000 passengers annually from the current two million passengers, is expected to be completed by the end of next month.

The move may pit the food and drinks giant against rival  infrastructure firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC), which has interests in power distribution, water supply, toll roads, hospitals and port operations.

MPIC chairman Manuel Pangilinan earlier said he is in talks with CIAC to build a new international airport within the Clark Free Port Zone.

The two groups have gone head to head for control over power distributor Manila Electric Co. and for the contract to operate the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

SMC and MPIC, through a joint venture with the Lopez and Ayala Groups, are presently rival bidders for the Angat hydroelectric plant in Bulacan.

Since announcing its diversification plans three years ago, SMC has expanded into energy generation and distribution, telecommunications, toll roads and recently, mining.

Thursday, 25 March 2010

Swimmers to get P1m in bonuses

Peter Atencio
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideSports.htm?f=2010/march/24/sports4.isx&d=2010/march/24

THE Philippine Sports Commission will provide an incentive package worth P1 million to Jessie King Lacuna and the four-member national men’s freestyle relay squad.

PSC chairman Harry Angping said Lacuna, along with Ryan Arabejo, Charles Walker, Kendrick Uy, will receive their financial assistance as they prepare for the 2010 Asian Games in Guangzhou.

The four have been added to the pool of athletes after the PSC reviewed their performances in the recent 25th Southeast Asian Games in Laos.

The foursome won the silver medal in the 4x200-meter freestyle relays in seven minutes, 31.10 seconds behind the Singaporeans, who edged them for the gold by a mere 37/100ths of a second.

Angping said the PSC will give the four swimmers P15,000 each as monthly allowance, while female swimmers Erica Totten and Jasmine Al-Khaldi will receive P8,000 each.

Meanwhile, the Manila Prosecutor’s Office found probable cause in a case filed against two wushu officials by the PSC last year.

City Prosecutor Joseph Lopez approved the filing of charges of nine counts of qualified theft on former Wushu Federation of the Philippines president Julian Camacho and treasurer Bernardo Ong for illegally claiming the salary of a Chinese wushu coach for nine months amounting to P441,190.

The findings were issued in a three-page resolution recommended which was by Assistant City Prosecutor Aimee Santos-Arago to Lopez. This elevates to case to the Manila Regional Trial Court for further legal action.

Coast Guard eyes 60 more rescue ships

Jeremiah de Guzman
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideNation.htm?f=2010/march/24/nation2.isx&d=2010/march/24

The Coast Guard is proposing the acquisition of 60 search and rescue ships valued at $92 million, using loan proceeds from China, Australia and New Zealand.

Commandant Wilfredo Tamayo said the proposal is being evaluated by the National Economic and Development Authority Investment Coordination Committe. Loans from China, Australia and New Zealand including some government funding will finance the acquisition, Tamayo said.

Tamayo said the new vessels can shorten the time for Coast Guard to respond to maritime incidents. This is crucial in addressing maritime challenges on security and law enforcement in the country’s 36,000-kilometer coastline, he said.

Five of the 25 search and rescue vessels of Coast Guard are “already old and beyond economic repair.” Thus, only 20 vessels are being used by the agency in securing the country’s more than 60 coastal provinces.

He said 10 of these 20 vessels are being manned by the Coast Guard and the other 10 are for the use of the Bureau of Fisheries and Acquatic Resources.

Coast Guard earlier proposed to Neda the acquisition of seven helicopters and equipment valued at P5 billion using a combination of soft loans and grants.

Apart from paying for the choppers, the money will buy equipment and spare parts and finance pilot training. “We will build our hangars, and have our new aircrafts stationed in Northern Luzon, Manila, Romblon, Mactan, Laguindingan, Davao and Palawan,” Tamayo said.

The acquisition would be done in phases within two years, Tamayo said. “We are looking for the best package and the better loan interest to maximize our investments.”

The Coast Guard also plans to hire 25,000 men and women in a 10-year program from 2010 to beef up its manpower in securing the country’s 5,000 coastal barangays and 60 coastal provinces, Tamayo said.

HIRING ENQUIRIES: http://www.coastguard.gov.ph/

24 private armed groups dismantled; body seeks longer term

Gerard S de la Peña
BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=8300

THE PRESIDENTIAL body tasked to dismantle private armed groups has so far disbanded a fifth of identified private armies since its creation last December.

With concerns that the remaining armed groups would persist even after the May elections, the Independent Commission Against Private Armies is seeking an extension of its term beyond the polls.

The commission’s term ends on March 31, the deadline set for the submission of recommendations to the military and the police on how to proceed with the dismantling of private armies.

Commissioner Herman Z. Basbaño told a briefing yesterday that the Philippine National Police (PNP) has disbanded 24 private armed groups as of last Monday of the total 122 identified groups nationwide.

Details on the groups and their politician benefactors were not immediately available, Mr. Basbaño said, but added that the arrested groups were "not small time."

"We are sure these are not the typical small-time private armed groups based on the initial reports given by the PNP. These are coming from the areas that are considered hot spots," he said.

"The PNP was telling us from the information that they have arrested people who are in the middle level up to the higher hierarchy of some of these private armed groups."

So-called election hot spots, or security-risk areas, that are home to private armies include Lanao del Norte and Lanao del Sur, Basilan, Sulu, Masbate, Abra and Nueva Ecija.

The commission, created on Dec. 8, 2009 through Administrative Order 275, defines private armed groups as those having firearms with the aim of intimidating, coercing and sowing fear in favor of certain politicians.

The Palace order was an offshoot of a carnage last Nov. 23 in Ampatuan town, in Maguindanao province that involved 57 individuals en route to the filing of a gubernatorial candidate’s certificate of candidacy.

The mass murder highlighted tension between the then reigning Ampatuan clan against the Mangudadatu family, former administration allies whose relationship turned sour after the Ampatuans were challenged in the Maguindanao leadership.

Principal suspect Datu Unsay Mayor Andal U. Ampatuan, Jr., is now facing murder charges at the Quezon City Regional Trial Court. He is detained at the National Bureau of Investigation.

His father, Andal, Sr., former Maguindanao governor, and brother, Zaldy, former autonomous Muslim region governor, are detained in Davao City on rebellion charges.

The charges were filed after clan leaders allegedly refused to be arrested during the one-week imposition of martial law in the province in early December.

ILLEGAL FIREARM POSSESSION

Mr. Basbaño said some members of private armies were charged with illegal possession of firearms.

"There is no law under the penal code or the special code punishing private armies or its maintenance so we have drafted a bill to punish private armies. I understand that the PNP will put full support behind the bill, maybe [in] the next Congress," retired Court of Appeals justice Monina Arevalo-Zenarosa, committee chairman, said in the same briefing.

Ms. Zenarosa said the commission may even ask the next administration to ask Congress to pass a law institutionalizing the body.

"We see the need of extending our term because after the elections, that is when most problems would come in. To whom they would turn to if they have no one to address their problems? We are even recommending that this be made permanent," she said.

Congress is on break and would only resume session on May 31-June 4 to canvass the results of the presidential and vice-presidential elections. It would also proclaim the winners in the same session.

AboitizPower power barges now operational, ease Mindanao shortfall

Manila Bulletin
http://www.mb.com.ph/articles/249321/aboitizpower-power-barges-now-operational-ease-mindanao-shortfall

Power barges PB 117 and PB 118 have been in full operation from the very first day that AboitizPower Corp. assumed their full ownership this year and have been used to help ease the electricity shortfall in Mindanao.

PB 117 and PB 118 each have a generating capacity of 100 MW. PB 117 is moored at Agusan del Norte, while PB 118 is moored at Compostella Valley.

Mindanao draws 70 percent of its energy requirements from hydropower, making it prone to seasonal changes and disturbances like the El Niño.

PB 117 and PB 118 are like “floating power plants” that can be towed to different areas where electricity is needed. Both are huge boats that carry power plants and are connected to the Mindanao Grid through a substation of the National Grid Corp. of the Philippines (NGCP).

AboitizPower took the risk of operating both power barges even without an actual approval from the Energy Regulatory Commission (ERC) of the supply contracts in order to mitigate the supply deficit in Mindanao and lessen the rotating brownouts.

Should the ERC not approve these contracts, all the energy delivered from the time of takeover up until the ERC decision may not be billed by AboitizPower to the NGCP.

AboitizPower opted to take this risk in the interest of public service and consistent with its corporate philosophy of being a neighbor of choice. If AboitizPower had opted to operate the power barges only upon receipt of regulatory approval, the brownouts in Mindanao would be far worse than what they already are.

AboitzPower took over PB 117 and PB 118 through wholly-owned subsidiary Therma Marine, Inc. (TMI) after it won a negotiated bid conducted by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. last 2009.

AboitizPower took over PB 117 last March, while it took over PB 118 last February this year. Both facilities had been running non-stop after the two-and-a-half hour obligatory shutdown conducted in facilitating its turnover.

AboitizPower president and CEO Erramon Aboitiz said that running the PB 117 and PB 118, however, were only part of the solution in addressing the electricity shortfall in Mindanao.

“Additional investment in generating facilities has to be attracted to the island and we think having the WESM (wholesale spot electricity market) operating in the Mindanao Grid is a prerequisite to any new capacity coming in. We firmly believe that a market and competitive environment will attract the required capacity for the Mindanao grid,” he said.

Peso and PSE both going higher

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror
http://www.businessmirror.com.ph/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=23318:peso-and-pse-both-going-higher&catid=28:opinion&Itemid=64

Please stop reading this and turn back to the front page of the BusinessMirror. Notice the two graphics on the right-hand side showing the 30-day movement of the peso and of the PSEi or Philippine Stock Exchange index. I will wait right here.

Notice anything interesting? How about the correlation between the movement of the peso and the stock market?

This is something that I have been talking about for years. Peso up, market up; peso down, market down.

The graphics on the front page show the movement of both since February 20. During that period, the peso appreciated from about 46.50 to about 45.50. The stock-market index rose from approximately 3,015 to 3,084. The percentage changes are interesting, too. Peso up 2.15 percent; stock market up 2.29 percent.

Please do not think this is unique or coincidental. On October 28, 2009, the peso was trading at approximately 48 to the dollar. The PSE index closed around 2,000. Since October 2009, the peso has appreciated by 5 percent; the market by about 50 percent.

It would be nice if the percentage increases over the last six months were the same as the PSE. Then I could do a big “I told you so!” However, the price of the peso is controlled and manipulated by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) while the stock market is controlled by individual buying and selling.

In effect, the stock market has been telling us that the peso is due for some significant appreciation in the future. The rise of the peso in the last month is an indication that the BSP is beginning to let the peso move slightly more toward its real value. And what is the “real” value of the peso? Probably closer to 35 than 45.

Now, of course, do not expect to see the peso near 35 to the dollar anytime soon. That kind of movement and volatility would not be good for the economy at all. Yet in truth, the peso is probably undervalued by as much as 30 percent in relation to the US dollar. This is based on the purchasing power of the peso in comparison to the US dollar. All Asian currencies are undervalued. That is because Asian countries are in fierce competition for their exports, and one way they can (or think they can) better compete against one another is through maintaining a cheap currency. Perhaps more important, China ’s currency is undervalued by about 50 percent. The other Asian countries cannot afford to allow their currencies to rise to a true value against the dollar while China continues to keep a cheap renminbi. If the Chinese currency remained where it is and the peso appreciated to 35, there would not be any locally made product left as Chinese imports would absolutely take over the local economy of the Philippines as well as all our other neighbors.

Yet the charts of the peso and the Philippine Stock Exchange are both at a critical point. That critical point is a breakout to the upside that forecasts a strong and prolonged upward movement.

The key price for the PSE composite index is 3,120. A break of 3,120 immediately targets 3,250, then 3,350, and finally 3,600/3,800. For the peso, the breakout level is 45.50 which targets 44, then 42 and to 40 to the dollar.

Notice that we are talking about both the peso and the PSE moving to levels not seen since the good old days, pre-financial crisis, in 2008. Beyond those prices, we are looking to a move to pre-1997 Asian crisis level.

Could that happen? Of course. In 1997, the US economy and dollar were at the top of the game. The Dow Jones was making new historic highs practically on a daily basis. Gold was trading around $325 an ounce. The Japanese yen was 125, not 90. The euro traded in 1999 at nearly par to the dollar, costing $1.07 to buy one euro, not $1.35 as today.

As money fled then from Asia to the West, so, too, will funds flee the West and come to Asia and the Philippines. The problems that confronted the Asian countries in 1997 are almost exactly what are facing the West today. No one wanted to buy Asian government debt. Economic growth stopped. Unemployment rose.

As the dollar devalues over time, oil prices will rise. The Philippines must react by allowing the peso to appreciate to offset rising fuel costs. As the dollar depreciates, initially those Filipinos dependant on remittances will take a hit. However, over time, dollar devaluation will cause inflation to rise in the US. Even now the official numbers are inaccurate. Real inflation is running nearly 9 percent higher on a year-to-year basis in the US. As price inflation rises in the West, so, too, will wage inflation. At some point, there will be a washout in that remitted dollars will mean fewer pesos, but the amount of remitted dollars will rise significantly. We are already seeing this happening, with the dollar amount of remittances up 8.5 percent in January 2010.

Follow the peso and then look at the stock prices. Both will take a short rest where they are right now at their respective resistance levels. That will not last for long.

The peso is going up. The stock market is going up. Bank on it.



E-mail comments to mangun@gmail.com. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by CitisecOnline.com Inc.

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

16-year old Jovit Baldivino - Journey's "Faithfully"

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AB3f50hUFpM


It's time for the Philippines to show the world they've got talent!

Auditions for ABS-CBN's PILIPINAS GOT TALENT continue in Southern Luzon and 16-year old Jovit Baldivino brings judge Ai-Ai de las Alas to tears and the crowd to its feet with his powerful performance of Journey's power ballad "Faithfully."


PILIPINAS GOT TALENT airs Saturdays at 7.30PM and Sundays at 8.30PM on ABS-CBN in the Philippines and worldwide on TFC, The Filipino Channel.
PILIPINAS GOT MORE TALENT airs weekdays at 4.50PM on ABS-CBN.

For more, log on to http://www.abs-cbn.com and http://pilipinasgottalent.multiply.com
Watch full episodes at http://tfcnow.abs-cbn.com/


©2010 ABS-CBN Entertainment and Freemantle Media

PGMA inspects P600M Basilan road project

http://www.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2003202&Itemid=2

TIPO-TIPO, Basilan (PND) -- President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo enplaned here today to inspect the rehabilitation of the 29.309-kilometer portion of the Basilan Circumferential Road linking Tipo-Tipo and Maluso towns.

The P600 million Basilan Circumferential Road Project aims to spur economic growth in Basilan and neighboring island provinces even as government steps up its campaign against terrorism and lawlessness in conflict-stricken areas in the south .

Started last Jan. 7, the rehabilitation of Tipo-Tipo-Maluso road is set for completion in 120 working days, with P2 million advanced by the implementing unit, the Joint Engineer Task Force “Kaunlaran Basilan” of the National Development Support Command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP). The task force is composed of the Engineer Maintenance Support Battalion, 55th Engineering Brigade of the Philippine Army, and the 1st Naval Mobile Construction Battalion of the Naval Construction Brigade of the Philippine Navy.

Total rehabilitation cost, estimated at P89.05 million, will be shouldered by the national government.

On hand to welcome President Arroyo were Basilan Governor Jum Akbar, Tipo-Tipo Mayor Ingatan Istarul, Al-Barka Acting Mayor Muhammad Abukisan, Ungkaya Pukan Mayor Joel Maturan, Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) Presidential Assistant (PA) Jose Barnoso, Rear Admiral Alexander Pama, Brig. General Michaelo Salvaleon (who is the Army Commander of the 55th Engineering Brigade and administration of Joint Engineering Task Force Kaunlaran Basilan), and Philippine National Police (PNP) Basilan Senior Superintendent Antonio Mendoza.

Arroyo-formed body moves decisively vs. private armies

http://www.gov.ph/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=2003203&Itemid=1

The Independent Commission Against Private Armies (ICAPA), the Presidential body created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to look into the existence of partisan armed groups in the country, has directed the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) to step up efforts to dismantle these groups to ensure honest, orderly and peaceful elections in May.

The directives were contained in two resolutions the ICAPA forwarded to the AFP and PNP through their representatives in simple ceremonies held today at the Conference Room of the Mabini Hall in Malacañang .

ICAPA Chair Monina Zenarosa, retired associate justice of the Court of Appeals, presented ICAPA Resolutions No. 001-10 and 002-10 to Colonel Ricardo Nepomuceno of the Operations Division of the AFP and Chief Superintendent Cipriano Querol, Jr., Executive Officer of the Directorate for Police Community Relations of the PNP.

“Today I am pleased to announce that the Commission after thorough deliberations, interviews, consultative meetings with politicians and other stakeholders has come up with these two resolutions,” Zenarosa said.

Under Resolution No. 001-10, the ICAPA strongly urged the AFP to conduct an inventory of firearms and ammunition issued to Civilian Armed Forces Geographical Unit (CAFGU) and to monitor CAFGU and Special Civilian Active Auxiliaries personnel to detect the possibility of them getting involved in election-related violence.

The Commission asked the AFP to report on the matter to the Commission within 10 days.

The Commission also directed the AFP to beef up troop presence in identified security-risk areas, such as Lanao del Sur and Masbate, and to set up more checkpoints in the coastal areas of the two provinces, amid reports of unregulated firearm shipments.

The commission also requested the beefing up of military and police checkpoints in Abra, particularly in the far-flung towns of Tineg and Malibcong, to ensure strict compliance with the gun ban to deter not only political groups but armed insurgents from disrupting the election process.

In the other resolution (No. 002-10), the ICAPA also directed the PNP to conduct a physical inventory of firearms issued to Provincial Jail Guards, Provincial Security Forces, Civilian Volunteer Organizations, police auxiliary units and/or Barangay tanods and to submit a report to the Commission within 10 days.

Part of the directive was for the PNP to regulate the unauthorized use of police and military uniforms and vehicles and to cause the arrest of civilians and unauthorized personnel in violation of such.

The ICAPA was created by President Arroyo’s Administrative Order No. 275 issued by on December 8, 2009. The AO gave further directions to PNP and AFP with an additional impetus in dismantling partisan private armies in the country.

President Arroyo created the commission in the aftermath of the Nov. 23 massacre of 57 people in Maguindanao that has involved the Ampatuan clan and its private army.

Aside from Zenarosa, other ICAPA members are Butuan Bishop Juan de Dios Pueblos, Mahmod Mala Adilao of the Bishops-Ulama Conference, retired Police Deputy Director General Virtus Gil, broadcaster Herman Basbaño, Dante Jimenez of the Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption and former AFP Lieutenant General Edilberto Adan.

‘Siomai’ vendor, new Net sensation

By the Inquirer Entertainment Staff
Philippine Daily Inquirer
http://showbizandstyle.inquirer.net/entertainment/entertainment/view/20100323-260420/Siomai-vendor-new-Net-sensation

MANILA, Philippines--ABS-CBN’S “Pilipinas Got Talent” has created a new Internet sensation in the person of Jovit Baldivino, 16, a high school student from Marilag, Batangas, who sells siomai at the town plaza after classes to help his poor family.

His audition video, uploaded on YouTube, has registered 2.2 million hits as of Monday (1.6 million on Sunday—and counting). Journey’s “Faithfully” has found another voice! Was Arnel Pineda watching?

Yes, as a matter of fact, Jovit dreams of singing a duet with Arnel. This doesn’t seem like a long shot at all. Interviewed on “TV Patrol World,” Journey’s Pinoy front man said of his young sound-alike: “He has a really strong potential to become a rock singer. When I was 16, I didn’t sound as good as he does now.”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FChqV6d3Q5s


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=huMDHxNJqmg


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-B7zZfgrClY

DFA lauds partners in helping build new consular facility

abs-cbnNEWS.com
http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/pinoy-migration/03/23/10/dfa-lauds-partners-helping-build-new-consular-facility

MANILA, Philippines – The head of the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) expressed his gratitude to other government agencies that continue to contribute in the improvement of its consular services.

"We have modernized our consular services through the assistance of key government agencies that helped us in this effort," DFA Secretary Alberto Romulo said.

Romulo cited the DFA’s partners like Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), the Development Bank of the Philippines and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH).

The DBP, he said, provided the DFA with the lease purchase agreement for the new Department of Foreign Affairs-Office of Consular Affairs building, and the DPWH has assisted in the construction of the facility.

He added that this laudable assistance made it even possible for the DFA to better serve Filipinos.

"They do not need to come to Manila to get a passport or avail of consular services. Instead, they could just go to any of our regional consular offices throughout the country and foreign embassies and consulates around the world to avail of the same efficient and comfortable services. We are even bringing our services closer to the Filipino people, as we have mobile passport services going to the barangays and municipalities," said Romulo.

On Monday, Romulo led the formal inauguration of the new building which will be the home of the ePassport, the electronic authentication system, the electronic visa system, and digitalized consular records system.

With him during the formal opening were retired Supreme Court Chief Justice Artemio Panganiban, former Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Commission on Audit Chairman Reynaldo Villar, DBP Chairperson (DBP) Patricia Sto. Tomas, and Mrs. Rosie Lovely Romulo.

Also present during the event were Senator Aquilino Pimentel, Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito Roque, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Carmelita Dimzon, members of the BSP-Monetary Board, members of the diplomatic and consular corps, DFA officials and other guests.

The new facility is located at the corner of Bradco and Macapagal Avenues in Aseana Business Park, Parañaque City, a few minutes away from the Mall of Asia.

Meanwhile, the DFA reminds passport applicants to avail of the appointment system to ensure quick and comfortable service. Applicants can check the passport requirements and secure an appointment visiting www.passport.com.ph or calling hotline (02) 737-1000. They may also call the DFA helplines at telephone numbers (02) 831-8971, (02) 551-4437, (02) 551-4402, (02) 834-4855 and (02) 834-4424.

Applicants are no longer required to bring photographs since they will have their pictures taken using ePassport data-capturing machines.

Only those with confirmed appointments will be accommodated at the new facility at this time.

RP’s new summer destinations

Harold Geronimo
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideLifestyle.htm?f=2010/march/23/lifestyle3.isx&d=2010/march/23

Just when I thought that Boracay is the place to party this summer, there are actually more places to go around the Philippines to relax and enjoy the fabulous sun! As we all gear up for the long holiday, why not go to places where nature is still at its best without the crowds and loud parties? After all, vacation isn’t all about partying. It’s also giving yourself some quality time to relieve your stress, clear your mind and feel happy in serenity.

1. Batanes

Not all of us have been to the country’s farthest province up north. Being named one of the best tourist destinations by the Department of Tourism, this group of islands is a truly unique destination known for its windswept hills and boulder-hemmed shores. Almost half of Batanes are hills and mountains surrounded by the vast waters of Bashi and Balintang Channels where the Pacific Oceans meets the South China Sea. These enchanting islands make you feel like you’re in Ireland or New Zealand. Stroll around to see the one-of-a-kind Ivatan houses made of stone walls whitened with lime and roofed in thatch that can withstand strong typhoons. Four two-centuries old churches are also worth visiting: San Vicente Church in Sabtang, Sto. Domingo Church in Basco, San Jose Church in Ivana and the San Carlos Church in Mahatao. Don’t forget to take a photo of the popular abandoned weather station on a hilltop in Tukon, Basco. Affordable accommodations and resorts such as government-owned lodging houses are available for as low as P400 per night.

2. Siquijor

If you’re looking for some mystical tranquility, Siquijor would be the island to visit. Only a few people know, mostly foreigners, that this island located between Negros and Cebu has secluded pristine white beaches that remain unspoiled up to now. The never-ending stretch of white sand beaches covers more than 100 kilometers of shoreline surrounding the island. It has a magnificent array of coral reef formation that makes it a perfect place for scuba divers. To see one of the most beautiful sunsets in this side of the country, visit the western coast of the island. Surprisingly, this island has many exclusive resorts that offer world-class amenities. In fact, Siquijor is fast becoming one of the most popular hideaways for foreign tourists who visit the country. Going there is very easy and accessible. From Manila, take a one-hour plane ride to Dumaguete or Cebu then take a 30-minute ferry ride to the island.

3. Misibis

Only a chosen few know about this luxurious resort in Albay. Nestled at the south-easternmost tip of Cagraray Island in Bicol, Misibis boast of a wide stretch of pristine white sand and a scenic view of the Pacific Ocean. Here lies the Misibis Resorts, Estates and Spa that offer a relaxing lifestyle of a luxurious Spanish Mediterranean atmosphere. This development is gaining popularity as an exclusive leisure getaway for the country’s rich and famous. Its sprawling grounds are surrounded by thick green foliage and trees making it a hidden paradise for most urban dwellers. To go there, take a 45-minute plane ride from Manila to Legazpi. Then take a twenty-minute boat ride from Legazpi Port Area to the island.

4. Marinduque

Most people know Marinduque because of its renowned Moriones Festival. But this group of islands has many surprises to offer more than just its historical festival. Today, Marinduque’s name is attached to its world-famous island resort called Bellarocca. Its white Santorini-inspired architecture on rolling terrain contrasts the blue sky and turquoise waters, making it a picture-perfect destination among tourists visiting this Southern Luzon jewel. For the adventurous spirits, the island is also known for its complex network of mysterious caves. The province also has several unexplored islets that are home to endemic species of flora and fauna. Of course, Marinduque’s marine life is one of the country’s best. The islets are known for their coral beaches with clear blue-green waters that are perfect for swimming and snorkeling.

5. Bantayan Island

Located just off the northwest tip of mainland Cebu, Bantayan Island is a little secret paradise among Cebuanos. But through word of mouth, it is slowly becoming a favorite destination among foreigners and some local beach lovers. The island is largely undeveloped and it is far least crowded than any other tourist islands. This is the reason why small hotels, lodging houses and resorts only charge minimal fees for as low as P300 per night. There are also private studio villas for rent that can be quite pricey but they’re definitely worth the stay. People living in the island are old-fashioned but they are known to be very warm and hospitable. If you’re looking for the best beaches, go to the small and secluded Paradise Beach and Virgin Island which are both accessible by boat. To go to Bantayan Island, take a 3-hour bus ride to Hagnaya town from the North Bus Terminal near SM City Cebu. From Hagnaya’s port, hop on a 75-minute boat ride to Santa Fe, Bantayan Island.

For your comments and views, you may email me at high5.harold@gmail.com.

Lacuna bags third gold in Singapore

Malaya
http://www.malaya.com.ph/03232010/sports7.html

JESSIE King Lacuna bagged his third gold medal in the butterfly event as Team Philippines ended its campaign in the 41st Singapore National Age Group Swimming Championship with three gold, one silver, and four bronze medals over the weekend.

After setting new Philippine records and winning the gold medals in the 100-meter and 200-meter freestyle, Lacuna, 17, sustained his winning streak with another gold in the 200-meter butterfly, clocking 2:03.01 time to outclass Japanese rival Satoshi Watanabe (2:04.65) and Rainier Ng of Singapore (2:05.17).

Lacuna also netted the country’s lone silver in the 400-meter freestyle, clocking 3:59.75 and finishing behind Haruki Washio of Japan (3:59.02).

Although Team Philippines finished second among six visiting teams, the performance of the swimmers augured well for the country since the event served as a qualifier for the Youth Olympic Games in August.

"Our swimmers have smashed RP records (and) Youth Olympic Games qualifying times left and right. We are on the go," national swimming coach Pinky Brosas said through a text message.

Arroyo OKs early release of military pay hikes

Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard
http://www.manilastandardtoday.com/insideNews.htm?f=2010/march/23/news2.isx&d=2010/march/23

PRESIDENT Gloria Arroyo wants to pay salary increases to almost 120,000 soldiers earlier than scheduled before she steps down on June 30.

Mrs. Arroyo said that under the third round of the Salary Standardization Law, soldiers were supposed to receive their salary increases in July.

“I have heard from ordinary soldiers asking if there is a way to [pay] the increases before July 2010,’’ she said during the 113th anniversary of the Army in Fort Bonifacio Monday.

“I have asked the Department of Budget and Management to help us find the means so that you can receive it somewhat earlier,” . “Let us cross our fingers that the DBM will find a solution.”

The law calls for yearly increases for Armed Forces members starting this year until 2012.

Mrs. Arroyo said the increase in the soldiers’ basic pay would cost the government P4 billion every month.

“Our uniformed personnel have had five salary increases, and this year’s basic pay is now almost double [what] it was in 2001,” the President said.

“For instance, a private used to receive P5,500 in 2001. Today, he receives P10,808, and in the middle of this year he will receive P12,149. A private first class used to receive a basic pay of P5,830 in 2001. Today it is P11,513, and will soon be P12,993.”

The salaries aside, the President said her administration also doubled the benefits for soldiers killed or wounded in action; provided more scholarships for the soldiers’ children; more housing projects for the military; more amenities for uniformed men and women in the field; and more modern equipment.

The President said soldiers again would play an important role as deputies of the Commission on Elections to ensure that the people’s votes were counted and protected during the presidential elections on May 10.

On Monday, administration standard-bearer Gilberto Teodoro rejected the possibility of a military junta in the event of a failure of elections.

Teodoro, a former defense secretary, said a military junta was “un-Filipino” and would only set back the gains that had been achieved by the country in economic and political growth.

He said a military junta would drive away much-needed investment and could even cause an exodus of skilled Filipino professionals.

“Those who are thinking of a possible military junta would cause the Philippines’ failure and set us back again by several years,” Teodoro said.

Every Filipino citizen had an obligation to oppose any move to install a military government in case of a failure of elections, he said.

Ford eyes 5% growth in CBU exports

By BERNIE CAHILES-MAGKILAT
Manila Bulletin
http://mb.com.ph/articles/249065/ford-eyes-5-growth-cbu-exports

Ford Group Philippines (FGP), the country’s lone volume exporter of completely built-up vehicles, expects exports to grow by 5 percent this year from the 2009 figure of 7,277 units on back of recovery in the ASEAN auto market.

Rick Baker, FGP president, noted that as of February this year, the company’s cumulative exports since 2002 have exceeded over 65,000 units valued at more than $800 million.

“We expect our exports to increase by about five percent as the ASEAN markets are forecasted to recover and show positive industry growth,” Baker said.

Ford’s CBU exports Ford Focus, Ford Escape and Mazda3to the three ASEAN countries Thailand, Indonesia and Malaysia.

In 2009, FGP posted a slight one percent growth in exports despite an eight percent decline in sales in the ASEAN auto market.

The positive 2009 performance was largely due to the completion of its largest-ever fleet sales order of 577 units of Philippine-made Ford Focus in the last quarter of last year to Ford Motor Indonesia for the Indonesian National Police Force.

Approximately 70 percent of its production exported to affiliates in other ASEAN markets.

The American carmaker also exported over 8,800 engines in 2009, bringing the cumulative total to 28,000 engines.

Baker said that they are happy with the government support of its export program.

“We are pleased with the support given to CBU exports from the Philippines and we encourage the government to continue to support this important business in the future,” Baker said.

For 2010, Baker said they expect to maintain its sales momentum with the launch of a number of exciting vehicle models for the Filipino market.

"In November 2009, we produced our 100,000th unit of vehicle production," he said.

“We will pull all stops to ensure positive growth for the company. The momentum is there, the commitment is unflinching, and our team is motivated to make it happen,” Baker added.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

LRT1 opens Balintawak Station

ABS-CBNNews
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5UA-iQ9dNIg

‘Prophet of boom’ forecasts growth of as much as 6-7%

BusinessWorld
http://www.bworldonline.com/main/content.php?id=8170

THE ECONOMY could return to pre-crisis growth levels as early as this year on the back of strong consumer spending and exports, a University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) economist yesterday said.

UA&P senior economist Bernardo M. Villegas, known as a "prophet of boom" for his optimistic forecasts, claimed the economy could grow by as much as 6-7% this year, contrary to most outlooks of an uptick of less than 5%.

"I would prefer to go against the more conservative projections as I see the economy growing by a hefty 5% already in the first semester," Mr. Villegas said in a press briefing.

Economic growth eased to just 0.9% last year due to the global downturn and the government is targetting a 2010 rebound of 2.6-3.6%. The World Bank and the Asian Development Bank have forecasts of 3.5% and 3.3%, respectively, while state-owned think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies sees growth of 4%.

The economy grew by 7.1% in 2007, said to be a three-decade high, before slipping to 3.8% in 2008 as the global financial crisis took hold.

"The world economy is recovering already as reflected by our stronger-than-expected consumer spending and exports growing by double digits, so at the end of the year I see our economy back to what it was in 2007 before the global financial crisis," Mr. Villegas said.

He said consumer spending would accelerate by 4-5%, faster the 3.8% growth last year, thanks to election-related spending and infrastructure projects that are set to be completed this year.

Exports, meanwhile, were forecast to grow by 11-12%, a reversal of last year’s 21.9% slump following January’s 42.5% uptick. The official target is 7-9%.

Mr. Villegas also said remittances would continue to drive the economy, rising by 8% compared to the 5.6% growth recorded in 2009.

"The common mistake of multilateral agencies when they make macroeconomic forecasts based on remittances is that they tend to generalize overseas workers, neglecting the distinct features of the overseas Filipino workers (OFWs)," he said.

"During the financial crisis, the World Bank and International Monetary Fund ... believed that Philippines would fall into recession because of slowdown in demand for OFWs. This did not happen...," he said.

The ongoing El Niño weather phenomenon -- which has already led to agricultural losses of over P8 billion and power shortages -- is not expected by Mr. Villegas to have a great impact as rains could come as early as next month.

His worst case scenario, he said, would involve a failure of the May elections, which could lead to "zero growth in the second semester translating to 2.5% year-on-year growth."

Asked to comment, acting Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Augusto B. Santos said: "The 6-7% is at the very high side ... I think ... we will more likely stick with our 2.6-3.6% targets ... [as] there are some sort of cancel-outs since gains made could be offset by damages of El Niño and the power shortage."

University of the Philippines economist Benjamin E. Diokno called Mr. Villegas’s 6-7% forecast "unreachable" and predicted the economy would grow by just 2.9% this year.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Quietly, step-by-step six key govt agencies meeting their reform goals

Working to get a US$500-million anti-corruption grant from Millennium Challenge Corporation
By Rene Q. Bas, Editor in Chief
Manila Times
http://www.manilatimes.net/index.php/component/content/article/86-special-reports/13790-quietly-step-by-step-six-key-govt-agencies-meeting-their-reform-goals
INSTITUTE FOR SOLIDARITY IN ASIA

How the Arroyo administration has been failing in its efforts to meet the Millennium Development Goals (there is a 2015 deadline) is what media have been focusing on. Their facts are accurate. These negative reports also include praise for the administration where it has been on track.

But there is sensational, good news about how six key government agencies have been silently reforming themselves, improving the way they have been doing their assigned tasks, and thereby contributing to meeting the MDG.

Unfortunately good news very seldom makes the front pages and prime time news.

The great news is that the reforms in these six important government agencies have been going on and will surely continue even after President Gloria Arroyo’s term, Whoever becomes the next president as a result of the May 10 election will have no choice but to encourage these six government offices to go ahead with their present reform and improved governance programs.

This is because the president who moves against these reforms, who will undermine them—perhaps in a bizarre fit of corrupt self-indulgence—would be embarrassed. He or she would be condemned by the business, labor, and academic sectors, as well as by non-government and civil-society organizations, that are the partners of these six government agencies in setting up their “Performance Governance System” goals, road maps, detailed plans and timetables.

And not just the local stakeholders will be this hypothetical bad president’s enemies. The World Bank, Asian Development Bank, the US State Department, the USA’s Millennium Challenge Corp. (MCC), the Center for International Private Enterprise (CIPE), and scores of other international institutions—supporters of this reform effort in these six government agencies—will use their clout against a fiendishly corrupt president.

Performance Governance System and Balanced Scorecard

The six government agencies are the Department of Education (DepEd), the Department of Health (DOH), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Philippine National Police (PNP). They are all undertaking the Performance Governance System (PGS), a local adaptation of the Balanced Scorecard applied to the public sector, to track their performance against a set of goals.

They will make their performance commitments public on March 25, 2010 at the Public Governance Forum jointly convened by the Institute for Solidarity in Asia (ISA), the National Competitiveness Council and the Development Academy of the Philippines.

Apolitical government people in the administration and the civil service in these six government agencies are silently working on urgent governance reforms that could no longer wait for the next Filipino president to be sworn into office.

The key government man acting as some kind of coach to these six agencies is Antonio D. Kalaw Jr., who proudly refers to himself as a CESO I (meaning he’s a serious civil service officer) serving as president of the Development Academy of the Philippines and the National Productivity Organization.

Depending on the success of these agencies’ respective anti-corruption programs, the Philippine government as a whole could finally seal the deal on a US$500 million, five-year grant from the MCC.

The MCC is an independent US foreign aid agency created by the US Congress with strong bipartisan support to help in the global fight against poverty.

The latest news about the Philippines qualifying for an MCC “compact” grant was that the MCC board passed a resolution to qualify the Philippines.

MCC said it is “changing the conversation on how best to deliver smart US foreign assistance by focusing on good policies, country ownership, and results.”

More compelling than politics

“We believe this is a more compelling story than the elections. Here are government agencies, backed by private sector partners, saying that governance reforms cannot take a backseat even during an election season. And these will not be mere rhetoric. They’re making public their performance commitments for 2010 and telling everyone to judge their performance by these parameters. This is serious,” said Dr. Jesus Estanislao, ISA’s founding chairman and former Finance secretary during the Aquino administration.

The Public Governance Forum will highlight the national government’s commitment to pursue the PGS as part of its good governance (and anti-corruption) program.

The six agencies will post on their websites their governance scorecards and commit to make quarterly reports.

Posting these performance indicators on websites is a sign that these agencies have become as transparent as good governance standards require.

ISA is a civil society, not-for profit association, focused on raising the standards of public governance practice in the Philippines.

Inspired by the worldwide success of the balanced scorecard model developed in Harvard and applied to the corporate sector, ISA pioneered the adoption of the PGS, a strategic management tool that enables entire communities to channel their energies, abilities and knowledge to pursuing one path toward long-term development.

To date, ISA has a working relationship with about 30 cities, one of which (the City of Iloilo) has already achieved Global Hall of Fame status for implementing the balanced scorecard.

In part through the PGS, the six government agencies have been introduced to the Millennium Challenge Corp. and gained for the country nearly $20.7 million in the “threshold program” to help reduce opportunities for corruption and improve revenue administration by strengthening the monitoring and investigative functions of the Ombudsman and Department of Finance.

The national government is in the process of finalizing an agreement with the MCC expected to be completed by the end of March 2010.

Dr. Estanislao said six more agencies are slated to undertake the PGS process before June 2010. These are: the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), the Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Civil Service Commission, Development Academy of the Philippines, the Office of the President and the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA).

The agencies’ anti-corruption programs are being led by senior career undersecretaries so that the governance reforms will be pursued even with a change in leadership, Dr. Estanislao said.

Roadmap and plan

The roadmap and plan of each of these government agencies were drafted by the executives together with most of, if not all, the stakeholders affected by the work of the agency.

The plan and road map include strict adherence to ISA’s core values of patriotism, subsidiarity, service to the common good, commitment, competence, transparency, integrity and hostility to corruption.

The agencies’ successes, or failures, in achieving their reforms and goals, within the timeframe stated in the plan, are then recorded and graded in a “Balanced Scorecard.”

The ISA’s Balanced Scorecard measures not only statistically measurable improvements, such as increases in collection by areas and regions in the case of the BIR but also adherence to correct norms of behavior, such as respect for the dignity of persons, in the case of the PNP.

The PNP, for instance, has included in its guidelines the participation of the Commission on Human Rights in police operations.

ISA’s Performance Governance System and Balanced Scorecard were developed for Philippine use from the Harvard Business School by Dr. Estanislao, a Harvard summa cum laude graduate.

The Harvard Business School’s system and scorecard are corporate management tools that have now, through ISA’s efforts, become instruments for governmental management and goal achievement.

First applied on cities

The PGS and Balanced Scorecard were first applied by ISA on local governments, mostly cities, whose mayors, councils, business sectors and nongovernment organizations (NGOs) agreed to work together to compose a roadmap and plan, to accept the ISA core values as imperative, and to commit themselves to the goals they had set for themselves.

The effectiveness of ISA’s PGS in some 30 cities moved the national government to start applying the system to key Cabinet departments and the PNP.

Reforms and successes in cities and agencies that have persevered in the PGS are quantifiable. These cities will also report on their progress at the Public Governance Forum.

For example, Iloilo City enjoyed a 45-percent increase in its gross income, after carrying out PGS in 2006 from P825.3 million to P1.25 billion in 2008. It increased by 319 percent the total capitalization of manufacturing—from P946.85 million to P3.97 billion. There was a 322-percent increase—from 23 to 74—in private-public partnerships in city hall committees dealing with all kinds of problems and work to be done for Iloilo.

Another achiever city, which has been recognized internationally as a global model, is San Fernando City in Pampanga. Among its achievements is to shorten the processing time of business permits from two weeks in 2005, before it adopted the PGS and Balanced Scorecard, to two hours in 2008.

PNP reforms impressive

In the PNP, reforms and achievements are unremarked while headlines about kotong (extortion) cops and other miscreant policemen grab newspaper space and broadcast time.

Among the PNP reforms is the existence today of more than 100 model police stations all over the country. These are run according to the best international standards, a judgment seen by the community who are partners of the PNP officers in meeting the challenges of the Performance Governance System and Balanced Scorecard.

A housing program for the policemen is now in place in the Metro Manila area. This has markedly reduced to 9 percent, from the pre-PGS 40 percent, the number of policemen who have no proper dwellings and are even squatters.

In the absence of adequate funding from the national government for medical care and hospitalization for policemen and their families, the PNP command entered into an agreement with 17 hospitals—not necessarily the most expensive ones—to provide healthcare. Under the PGS-driven requirement for the PNP to be closer to the community, similar arrangements are being sealed pertaining to education, insurance and other concerns, with the private sector undertaking the expense.

The result is much improved police morale.

This does not mean that there will be no more incidents of bad cops shaming the good members of their corps, said Police Senior Supt. Cesar Hawthorne Binag, the chief of staff of the PNP-Program Management Office. But the important thing is the pride of policemen in their institution and their determination to be excellent law enforcers.

Also, the PNP officers are mostly now noticeably better-groomed and athletic-looking.

BIR improvements

The BIR also has concrete results to show for its adherence to Estanislao’s good-governance campaign.

These and other “miracles”—which Estanislao simply calls “breakthroughs” in improved governance—will be reported in detail in the Public Governance Forum on March 25 at Ballroom B of the Dusit Thani in Makati City.

ISA holds two annual forums. The one on March 25 will have, besides Philippine government agencies and cities, case study reports from Japan, New Zealand and South Korea.

ISA’s “Institutional Partners” include the US-based Center for International Private Enterprise and the National Endowment for Democracy and Philippines organizations like the Asian Institute of Management, the League of Cities, the University of Asia and the Pacific, the Ortigas Foundations, UnionBank and the Development Bank of the Philippines.