Saturday, 3 April 2010

NEDA mulls hiking 2010 growth target

Manila Bulletin

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) will probably recommend raising the 2010 growth target by the middle of the year amid improving exports and remittances.

“There is strong evidence that recovery prospects are solidly entrenched,” NEDA Director Dennis Arroyo said in interview. The government had forecast growth to accelerate to between 2.6 percent and 3.6 percent in 2010 from last year’s 0.9 percent, an 11-year low. NEDA is the central economic planner.

Growth in Asian economies from China to Indonesia is accelerating as the global recovery from the worst postwar recession boosts the region’s exports. Overseas remittances will climb 8 percent this year, faster than the Philippine central bank’s 6 percent forecast, Moody’s Investors Service said in a report Friday. It kept a stable outlook on the nation’s Ba3 debt rating, and expects growth at the top end of the government’s target.

“Growth is nascent and will have to be nurtured by low interest rates, which we can afford to have because inflation is contained,” said Marcelo Ayes, a senior vice president of Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. in Manila. “Remittances and business process outsourcing, which is a form of exports, support the economy.”

Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas this month kept its benchmark interest rate unchanged at a record-low 4 percent for the sixth straight meeting to support the recovery. Authorities are unlikely to increase borrowing costs in the first half of 2010 to avoid endangering an economic rebound that’s just starting, Governor Amando Tetangco said March 22.

The Philippines’ $167 billion economy expanded 1.8 percent last quarter from a year earlier, accelerating from a decade-low 0.4 percent in the previous three months. Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos said March 22 the economy probably expanded by between 2 percent and 3 percent this quarter.

Any changes to the current target may be considered some time in June, when the nation has elected a successor to President Gloria Arroyo, the NEDA planner said.

RP eyed to become SEA food safety hub

Manila Bulletin

The Philippines is eyed to become a food safety hub in South East Asia with the $2-$5 million Traceability Center for Agro-Industrial Exports (TRACE) being put up here by the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).

The Philippine Trace, or P Trace, will be the South East Asian counterpart of the Egyptian Trace, or E Trace, earlier put up by UNIDO which has already become the food safety center in the African-Mediterranean area.

Projected to be completed within three years perhaps beginning June this year, it will be completed over a shorter period of time than the five-six year period that it took to establish E Trace.

“There’s a growing interest in food traceability, and this has an impact on all exporters of food products from the Philippines to Europe. If you don’t have a traceability system, you can’t export to Europe,” said Gerardo Patacconi, Quantity Standards and Conformity head of UNIDO’s Trade Capacity Building Branch, in an interview at a P Trace forum.

Patacconi cited Carrefour and TESCO, a British merchandising retail chain which is third largest global retailer just next to Wal-Mart and Carrefour, no longer accept suppliers that do not have food traceability systems.

The food safety center will enable Filipino exporters of food products to Europe and other developed countries like the United States and Japan to sustain and raise export to Europe.

Food traceability involves the use of food safety certification like the Hazard Analysis Critical Control Point, Good Manufacturing Practice (GMP), Good Agricultural Practice (GAP), Halal certification, and technologies.

This is in order to control transport of contaminated food and also trace the origin of food that proves unsafe to human health and effectively stop the sourcing of food from this origin.

The P Trace which is part of UNIDO’s Global Food Safety Initiative (GFSI) will train food safety experts in the country in E Trace in Egypt.

“The idea is to establish food safety competency in each crop. Each crop will have its own system to manage the supply chain,” said Patacconi.

The P Trace can make the Philippines a center for training of other potential food safety experts in the region.

Mitsubishi makes ‘BEEP,’ jeepney alternative

Manila Bulletin

Filipino-owned bus body builder Almazora Motors Corporation (AMC) and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines Corp. are tying up for the assembly of “BEEP” (Bus-jeep), a viable mass transport alternative to the popular public utility vehicle the jeepney that is going to compete with Isuzu Philippines Corporation’s similar “Microbus” version.

MMPC CEO and president Masahiko Ueki said that “BEEP” would be available for sale in June this year at an initial price of P1.8 million versus IPCs “Microbus,” which has a price range of P1.2 million to P1.5 million depending on its specification.

The BEEP body is locally designed and manufactured by Almazora Motors, while the chassis is supplied by MMPC using brand-new FUSO Canter light duty truck which complies fully with Philippine emission and safety regulations.

“MMPC aims to fulfill its role as an automotive industry mover in the Philippine economy and society through the introduction of this BEEP,” Ueki said.

The “BEEP” is a micro-sized bus which is suitable for crowded cities such as Metro Manila. It was designed for the primary purpose of modernizing Metro Manila’s public transport using an entirely new chassis, he said.

“The auto industry should not only care about selling brand-new vehicles but also take a lead role in improving the mass transport system. And since no assembler has really pursued to modernize the public transportation, MMPC as a socially responsible automotive company have collaborated with Almazora to come up with a better solution for mass transportation,” Ueki added.

Though the price is double that of a brand new FX unit, Ueki said the BEEP would ensure double revenue potential since it has more seating capacity. Return of investment is expected to be faster because of higher revenue compared to jeepneys.

In addition, since the BEEP utilizes entirely new truck chassis, vehicle financing is also possible thru the banks. Banks normally do not allow financing for even brand new jeepneys since it is backyard assembled and utilizes surplus components. Inspired by European Gruau Microbus which exemplifies safety, convenience and modernism, the BEEP is designed for use as city passenger service.

It has a seating capacity of 26 passengers (seating for 18 including driver and standing for 8).

The BEEP responds as a feasible option to alleviate pollution and also the worsening traffic problem in Metro Manila with its appropriate size and compliance to emission standards.

The government recognizes that the jeepney is a problem that has defied solution. The Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) has reported that jeepneys contribute 50% of the pollution in Manila. Also the traffic flow in Metro Manila is worsened by oversized jeepneys with excessive turning radius that usually clog the U-turn slots.

Currently the jeepney population as reported by the DoTC is around 400,000 units, 70,000 of which are in Metro Manila. (BCM)

Pagcor remits P1.6 billion to gov't in January-February

Manila Bulletin
Internet-based Casino Gaming Website (

The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (PAGCOR), under the stewardship of Efrain C. Genuino, Chairman and Chief Executive Officer, has remitted P1.6 billion to the national government coffers in the first two-months of the year.

Data from the Bureau of Treasury showed that in February, the regulator of casino gaming in the country had remitted P815 million, higher by 3 percent compared with the P792 million in the previous month.

Under the law, PAGCOR is required to remit 5 percent of its net winnings to the Bureau of Internal revenue BIR) as franchise tax, and 50 percent of the 95 percent balance goes to the Bureau of Treasury.

To date, PAGCOR is operating 13-branches and 25 exclusive clubs, open in major cities across the country.

Last month, MJC Investments Corp. (MIC) told the Philippine Stock Exchange that it will build a hotel casino in the former San Lazaro race track in Manila in partnership with PAGCOR.

The holding firm disclosed that it entered an agreement with Pagcor, which would establish, manage and operate a casino in the hotel that MIC would construct.

This hotel will be built on MIC’s 1.4-hectare property within the San Lazaro Tourism and Business Park in Santa Cruz, Manila.

The site is part of the former racetrack, the San Lazaro Hippodrome that has been registered with the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, entitling it to tax perks and other incentives.

Under a property-for-share swap undertaken in April 2008, MIC accepted Aries Prime Global Holdings Inc. as the transferee of Manila Jockey Club Inc.’s non-core assets. Aries used to be the majority owner of MIC before the sale of its entire stake in June 2007.

In January, PAGCOR had launched its latest gaming service,, the first Internet-based casino gaming website.

E-Games Online is operated by Philweb Homeplay, Inc., a subsidiary of PhilWeb Corporation, and will offer traditional casino games like blackjack, baccarat, roulette and slots to Filipino players that are 21 or older.

Philweb said that the suite of games, which covers everything found in a “land-based” casino, is presented with state-of-the-art graphics and high speeds, thanks to enterprise-class servers from PhilWeb.

Giant Thai agri-business firm puts up P1-billion hog production facility in Tarlac

Manila Bulletin

Charoen Pokphand Foods or CP Foods, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Thailand’s largest agri-business group, the giant Charoen Pokphand Foods Public Company Limited (CPF) is investing P1.042 billion in hog production facility in Concepcion, Tarlac.

The investment would complement its P2.36-billion aqua feed mill plant in Capas, Tarlac.

“CP Foods continues to raise the level of its investment commitment by expanding their operations in the country. The project will contribute substantially to the SME sector since their main market will be hog raisers in the country,” said Trade and Industry Secretary Jesli A. Lapus.

The project will entail the construction of a great grand parent stocks (GGPs) farm, a grand parent stocks (GP) farm and a farm for breeder finishing hogs.

The feed requirements of the three (3) farms will be culled by the company through feed mill tolling agreements with a chosen feed mill adjacent to the farm sites.

Lapus added that the project “shall boost the opportunities in the food sector particularly in the hog raising industry. A steady supply of hogs will ensure stable prices for the public as consumer confidence continues its upswing recovery.

In addition, this project will benefit local suppliers of feeds as the company will buy feeds from adjacent sites.

Its breeder hogs will have a capacity of up to 25,000 head for sows and 500 heads for boars which could produce slaughter hogs of over 1,100 MT of GP fatteners and roughly 2,500 MT of Parent Stock (PS) fatteners. The breeder hogs will be sold on a per head basis regardless of weight while the slaughter of hogs will be sold live to viajeros with prices based on weight.

The market for the parent stock breeders will be the owners and operators of small, medium and large hog commercial raisers around Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao. Identified markets include Bulacan, Pampanga, Pangasinan, Tarlac, Zambales, Ilocos Sur, Ilocos Norte, La Union, Nueva Ecija, Isabela, Laguna, Cavite, Rizal, Batangas, Quezon, Camarines Norte, Albay, Sorsogon, Bohol, Negros Occidental, Negros Oriental, Cebu, Aklan, Iloilo, Davao Oriental, Davao Occidental, North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Bukidnon, Agusan del Norte, and Agusan del Sur.

The investment will employ 80 personnel as commercial operation is scheduled to start on January 2011.

Thursday, 1 April 2010

Another $1-B bond sale set

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

THE Bangko Sentral has approved the proposed $1-billion bond sale targeted at overseas Filipino workers and called the “OFW Bond.”

But it was curious for the national government to label it an “OFW Bond” sale when only a small portion, no more than 20 percent of the total, was actually set aside for migrant workers, official sources said on Wednesday.

Senior officials said the bulk of the sale is expected to come from the various foreign-currency deposit units (FCDUs) of local banks and from institutional buyers cultivated through the years by Finance Secretary Margarito Teves and Bureau of Treasury chief Roberto Tan.

Should the bonds prove attractive for the FCDUs and they buy it all, there should be no new dollars coming into the system and thus no additional pressure for the exchange rate to move up.

Tan previously said a full $1-billion bond sale was too daunting, which was why they planned a sale involving only $500 million that already includes the sale of $100 million in euro-denominated bonds.

Hopefully, the officials said, both Teves and Tan would have reconsidered the “OFW” tag and replace it with something more accurate.

The bonds form part of move to bridge the year’s P293-billion budget deficit, which they partially addressed with a $1.5-billion global bond sale in January, followed by $1.1 billion worth of samurai bonds in February.

Teves said the bond-sale proceeds will help underwrite the P100-billion follow-up fiscal stimulus package needed to ensure the economy will continue to expand this year from actual growth of just 0.9 percent last year in terms of the gross domestic product.

The Chinese economic bubble

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

IT is probably appropriate to talk about China on a day during a week when no one is really interested in the financial markets and the global economy because no one is really interested in talking objectively about China at any time.

China has become the world’s beauty queen, strolling down the catwalk in a designer gown, dripping with jewels for all to see, and without a care in the world.

Yet behind closed doors when the makeup comes off, there may be little more than dyed hair, cosmetic teeth and a surgically enhanced body.

Becoming a major player in the past decade, China has made billions of dollars of investments, particularly in mineral wealth, venturing into countries and forming business partnerships that seemed unlikely just a short time ago. Chinese influence has reached into every corner of the planet. In what seems like just a moment, it has eclipsed Japan as the economic leader of Asia.

The global political influence of China is seen in almost every geo-political move from the Middle East to North Korea and even South America.

Western concerns about Iran’s nuclear program must be validated with China. As the Obama administration heads into a nasty trade war with Brazil over agricultural subsidies, both sides look over their shoulders at China to see which way the Red Dragon may turn.

The Chinese business/government economic culture is supposedly geared to the long term, in line with the thought of Confucius, “If a man takes no thought about what is distant, he will find sorrow near at hand.”

However, if you look at Chinese economic policy through the past decade and today, most policy has been dominated by short-term thinking, oriented toward immediate gains. And economic bubbles are a guaranteed result of that sort of economic policy.

As the US borrowed with no thought to having to pay those debts in the future, China, too, followed policies with little concern about future consequences.

A decade ago, China embarked on a program of economic growth at any cost. It sold its manufactured goods to the US to fuel that growth. China kept its currency artificially cheap to energize its exports. When the US ran out of cash, it loaned billions to keep the US buying its goods in order to keep its 10-percent annual growth rate going. Because of its huge foreign reserves and its willingness to loan all the funds the US consumer needed to “Buy Chinese,” US interest rates went lower and lower, creating an unprecedented demand for cheap borrowed money to buy more cheap goods and eventually “cheap” homes.

When growth is the only objective, foolish decisions are made. China built the largest shopping mall (by leasable area) in 2005 that, even now, is 99-percent empty. In 2001 China created the prefecture-level city of Ordos costing hundreds of millions. Yet the city is a “ghost town” with a population density of 17 people per kilometer (Cebu City is 750).

As China built its export markets, domestic consumption actually fell from an historic average of 60 percent of the total economy to less than 30 percent today, the lowest domestic consumer contribution to the economy of any other nation. With exports dropping 20 percent in 2009, China has spent $1 trillion to stimulate its economy. By comparison to GDP size, that is like the US spending $5 trillion in stimulus. Today, as much as 95 percent of China’s growth is attributable to government investment.

At least 20-percent government stimulus has gone into the stock market and real estate. China has flooded its economy with infrastructure and real-estate projects to maintain high employment. In 2009 new commercial floor space doubled and residential real-estate prices increased 25 percent. The Chinese continue to build new skyscrapers even though existing ones stand vacant.

The policies that China is pursuing, holding the line with stimulus until exports recover, are based on the belief that those exports will rebound on the back of a growing US economy. China has more faith in Obama than the rest of the world. Because of the lack of domestic demand, they have no choice.

If the US economic-growth engine can begin to absorb Chinese goods at the pace before, China can substitute this economic activity for its stimulus efforts.

 But if they cannot replace the stimulus money with export income, China is in deep trouble.

 For a decade, China’s economy grew on its exports. Now the economy is growing on unsustainable government infrastructure projects that do not continue to create growth in the future. Private project spending funded by cheap stimulus lending is constructing office buildings that no one is occupying and buying real estate at higher and higher speculative prices. The money is not building small/medium enterprises that create lasting employment and lasting growth.

 China can use its massive foreign reserves only so far in the domestic economy. As those dollars are turned into renminbi for local spending, it is inevitable that they will have to revalue their currency upward, putting future pressure on their exports.

 If the global economy cannot soon absorb Chinese exports to grow that economy, the bubble that has been created by government stimulus will burst because China will not be able to sustain its stimulus spending without creating high inflation, already at a 16 month high.

 The world will face severe consequences if China experiences a meltdown or even a slowdown. Commodity prices will fall. Chinese demand for industrial goods will fall. The dollar will fall while US interest rates will rise as Chinese appetite for US debt drops.

 China’s long-term future may be wonderful, but in the short run, the world has a Chinese bubble on its hands, an economic bubble that has the potential to explode

E-mail comments to mangun@gmail.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it . PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by Inc.

Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Comelec to transfer 1.5M ballots to Philpost warehouse

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

Marinduque, Moriones and More

Photo update: C5-NLEX Link

Energy Efficiency Gaining Traction in Asia

Dennis Posadas

More Asian companies need to follow the example of Philippine shopping-mall operator SM Prime Holdings, says columnist Dennis Posadas.


Droves of passengers take advantage of low airfares for Holy Week trips

LTO checks bus conditions, passenger overloading

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

NAIA on heightened alert for Holy Week

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

Authorities on watch vs overloading buses, ships during Holy Week

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

Manila Ocean Park features hi-tech water show Aquatica

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

Mt. Diwalwal honor students get 14-k gold medals

By Frinston Lim
Inquirer Mindanao

MONKAYO, COMPOSTELA VALLEY—A fidgety Era Jane Rivera was beaming as the names of the honor students were being called out.

The 12-year-old was among the Top 10 students (all valedictorians from Grade 1 to fourth year high school) of Mt. Diwalwal village, who each received a 10-gram gold medal in this year’s commencement exercises.

The local government of Compostela Valley’s richest mountain barangay has made the giving of gold-minted medals to the brightest of its some 2,000 schoolchildren a tradition “as an incentive for them to make good in school.”

Motivating children

“This is not to brag about Diwalwal’s gold. This is about motivating the children to study and for the parents to support them,” Francisco Tito, village chief, told parents, students and visitors at Monday’s ceremony at the village covered court.

Started in 2003, the gold-medal program was approved through a local ordinance. It quickly drew support from mining tunnel operators, businesses and even ordinary miners who regularly contribute a gram or two of gold nuggets to form each medal, the size of a 5-peso coin.

Aside from Rivera, those who received the gold medal were Bernadette Silvaro, Grade 1; Ruchel Jane Magallanes, Grade 2; Marigold Elayron, Grade 3; Somerado Racman, Grade 4; and Reymart Galamiton, Grade 5.

Four other valedictorians in high school, each from every year level, will also get the medal.

Politicians not invited

The graduation rites were simple and unaffected by the election season. Local politicians were conspicuously absent.

“We want the affair to be a celebration of the accomplishment of parents, teachers and the children, and not be a venue for politicking. So, we did not invite politicians,” Tito said in an earlier interview.

This year’s awarding came a year after a catastrophic landslide suspended the medal-giving activity amid talk of ending the practice.

“Economic hardships because of the landslide that hit some parts of the village took a huge toll on the property and businesses of some of our perennial donors. So, we decided to hold off the giving of the medals (last year),” said Mesael Gerbolingo, a village councilor.

But officials were hoping the practice would go on uninterrupted.

Tito said the local council had already institutionalized the practice and stopping it might adversely affect the state of education in Mt. Diwalwal, a village of 40,000 people.

Pawnshop scene

He said he thought about the program when, sometime in 1996, he saw a woman pleading tearfully to a pawnshop attendant in Panabo City in Davao del Norte to accept her child’s gold-plated medal so she could have money to pay for the medicine of another child who was sick.

“I pitied her but couldn’t do anything. I didn’t have spare cash. So I thought then that if only that gold medal was real she could have pawned or sold it,” Tito said.

He said that when he became a barangay chair he revived the idea. “The province is rich with gold, anyway, so now this is it,” Tito said.

14 carats

Each medal is 70-percent gold and 30-percent silver, making it a 14-carat metal. It is worth at least P11,850, as the prevailing price of unrefined gold in Diwalwal is P1,185 a gram.

“It’s a fortune and not just a token,” said Daniel Basaca, a high school teacher, whose top students were to receive their medals during separate graduation rites Thursday.

“The award has really a practical worth, a reward for the students’ hard work and diligence,” Basaca said.

The gold-medal incentive helped boost the village’s elementary and high-school enrollment, according to officials.

Basaca said the luster of the medal even lured students from lowland barangays to transfer to Diwalwal.

Tito said he urged his councilors to have faith in the program and help continue it for the sake of the children.

College expenses

For high school valedictorian Normina Malindato, her gold medal would be used to pay off part of her expenses when she goes to college this June. She intends to take up a teaching course at the Mindanao State University in Marawi City.

Rivera, a daughter of an ore-crusher operator, was a consistent honor pupil and has received a total of five gold medals since Grade 1.

“I kept her medals in preparation for college,” said Rivera’s mother, 41-year-old Cornelia.

The elder Rivera said only one of Era Jane’s medals remains. “We had one smelted for (Era Jane’s) necklace while two others I had lost and became the reason for a big quarrel between me and my husband.”

Village’s debt

She said her daughter had yet to receive a medal for last year, just like the other awardees. Cornelia said the family was waiting.

Local officials said they would try to collect more gold donations so the village’s “debt” to last year’s honor students could be paid.

“I’m happy my efforts had paid off,” said the young Rivera, who also received 14 “common” medals. “Maybe we can aim for another [gold] medal next year. I’ll try,” she said.

Cebu’s tourism enterprise to open first sea-based water theme park

Willy Rodolfo III
Business Mirror

CEBU is set to open its first sea-based water theme park as the tourism enterprise that brought brands like Island Souvenirs and Island Banca Cruises launches its first venture into property development.

Talima Adventure and Water Park on Olango Island off east Mactan is currently on its dry run and should open to the public before the end of April, Islands Group chief executive Jay Aldeguer said.

More than just a beach destination, Talima brought in more than P10 million worth of water-recreation systems from inflatables to traditional watersport equipment.

“In order for Cebu to compete with our neighbors in Asia, we have to constantly develop new products and new attractions. We have to constantly innovate,” Aldeguer said.

What will be opened to the public will only be phase 1 of the development, with succeeding land-based expansions ready to respond to the public’s acceptance of the project. The water park has more than a hectare of property ready for development.

Among the attractions of the park are the giant inflatable slide, the “iceberg” eater trampolines and glass-bottomed boats, among others.

Olango Island is already popular on its own with its world-renowned bird sanctuary, a vital stopover for migratory birds, and is one of the biggest and richest in the region. Fish sanctuaries surrounding the island is also a popular destination for tourists with its rich marine life and lively fish interaction activities.

With this in mind, Aldeguer appointed an environmentalist and marine biologist to oversee the Talima project to assure that all development is pegged on the environment and not the other way around.

“Some projects complete their development first then adjust the environment. We base our  development with the environment-protection atmosphere first,” he said.

The property managers are also internationally certified safety and rescue officers to ensure reliability of the equipment and activities.

Marketing manager Carlo Borromeo said the initial fees for the park is P250, which covers both the entrance fee and the use of the facilities. Talima is just a 10-minute cross by boat from mainland Mactan.

First Pac now owns 41% of Meralco

Miguel Camus
Business Mirror

HONG KONG-based First Pacific Co. Ltd., led by businessman Manuel Pangilinan, completed on Tuesday the acquisition of a P22.4-billion stake in the Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) almost five months after securing the shares from Lopez-led First Philippines Holdings Corp. (FPHC).

The shares, equivalent to a strategic 6.6 percent of the country’s largest electricity distributor, will likewise hike the group’s ownership in Meralco to more than 41 percent.

Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) originally secured the stake on November 5 last year at P300 apiece, a significant premium at the time, to prevent it from being acquired by rival bidder TriRatna Holdings Corp., controlled by Henry Sy Jr.

MPIC is the local flagship of First Pacific, which is also part owner of telecommunications giant Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT).

The newly acquired stake, along with another 14.5 percent held by MPIC, has already been transferred to newly established holding firm Beacon Electric Asset Holdings Inc., which now owns about a fifth of Meralco.

The shares were crossed on Tuesday on the Philippine Stock Exchange.

As part of the plan, Beacon Electric’s Meralo ownership will be increased to 34.8 percent, or just shy of the tender- offer threshold, when PLDT unit Pilipino Telephone Corp. (Piltel) transfers a 13.7- percent Meralco stake  expected in May this year.

Beacon Electric will then be equally owned by MPIC and Piltel. The latter will continue to directly hold about 6 percent of Meralco.

This will also make Beacon Electric Meralco’s single-largest shareholder as rival San Miguel Corp., which is also diversifying into infrastructure and power, directly owns about 27 percent.

The consolidation of shares under one company will allow the holding firm to access debt financing for any potential Meralco purchases in the future, using its own shares in the power retailer as collateral.

To fund the additional Meralco a quisition, Beacon Electric has entered into a term sheet with a syndicate of banks which will agree to advance up to P18 billion for a term of 10 years.

MPIC also completed  on Tuesday its issuance of P6.6 billion worth of convertible bonds to local parent Metro Pacific Holdings Inc. for three years at a conversion price of P3.25.

Shares of MPIC rose 3.33 percent to P3.10 apiece on Tuesday’s close.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Online Visita Iglesia

British-Filipinos urge active part in May polls

MANILA, Philippines—British-Filipinos in the United Kingdom have launched a website aimed at informing and enlightening Filipinos overseas and Filipino Internet users in the Philippines on issues concerning Philippine politics and the future of the Filipino electoral system.

The website, “promotes to Filipino voters to look into the basics of casting a vote, the capacity of a candidate to govern, their policies, and their political tendencies.”

“Also, it instinctively questions the Filipino voter, ‘Since when did you ask a candidate whether he/she belongs to the left, the center, or the right?’” it said in its news release.

Young British-Filipinos and Filipino academics working in London formed the group that set up the website. Among them were the website’s creator, Mark Wolfisz, an economics student from Queen Mary, University of London and an active youth leader working with the Filipino community in the UK, Gene Alcantara, who ran for a seat at the European Parliament in 2009, and Rizal Buendia, a professor on South East Asian politics at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London.

“We made to educate Filipinos especially Filipinos who are based abroad to take pragmatic steps in deciding who to vote for in this year’s election and what to look forward to in the future,” Wolfisz said.

Over 500,000 Filipinos abroad are eligible to vote in May 10, but this only represents a small number of about 10 million foreign-based Filipinos living and working abroad.

The organization is urging Filipinos everywhere to join their team in promoting political empowerment. It will publish articles all through-out the election period from issues regarding automated elections and the overseas absentee vote to social commentaries regarding the foreign-based Filipino and the growing influence of the Internet in Philippine politics. It also has a dummies’ guide for Filipinos back home to enhance their lives by participating in the whole campaign process while protecting the country’s democracy.

“We must push for a stronger campaign in engaging foreign-based Filipinos to exercise their right to suffrage, but more importantly, to influence the country politically, not just financially,” the news release said. noted that The Economist, on its February 13 UK issue, said, “The people power of Filipinos abroad—who after all may vote—could be a vocal force for good.”

NEDA-ICC approves P5-billion flood control project for Capiz


ILOILO CITY -- A P5-billion project aimed at solving the flooding problem in the province of Capiz has been endorsed to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board for funding by Japan.

Gilberto A. Altura, chief of the project development, programming and budgeting division of NEDA’s office in Western Visayas, told journalists here that the Panay River Basin Flood Control Project in Capiz has been approved by NEDA’s Investment Coordination Committee (ICC), the last step before approval by the NEDA Board, which the President heads as chairman.

It has been included in the list of projects that will be proposed for funding under the 28th yen loan package of the Japan International Cooperation Agency, Mr. Altura added.

The project has three components, namely: dredging and improvement of the Panay River Basin; construction of the Cogon Hamulauon Floodway; and establishment of a flood forecasting and warning system.

Mr. Altura said his office expects project funds to be released next year. The project is targeted to start next year, to be completed by 2015.

The Regional Development Council and the NEDA office in Western Visayas are also waiting for the NEDA Board’s approval of the proposed P712-million Integrated System Operation Efficiency Improvement Project for the irrigation facilities damaged by Typhoon Frank in Antique and Aklan in late-June 2008. Mr. Altura said the project is being implemented nationwide and Western Visayas was identified as one of the recipient areas. -- FALA

Gov’t to spend P162 million to buy thousands of cattle


THE GOVERNMENT has ear-marked about P162 million to buy more than a thousand imported cattle to improve the genes of local stock.

In a newspaper advertisement yesterday, the Agriculture department said it is inviting suppliers for the delivery of 1,200 heads of purebred American Brahman cattle and 25 bulls.

The government has set the opening bid at P100,000.

American Brahman is the first beef cattle breed developed in the United States which has been one of the top choices in crossbreeding programs due to its "exceptional hardiness and physical stamina, its ability to…live twice as long as normally expected," according to the Web site of the American Brahman Breeders Association.

National Dairy Authority (NDA) Administrator Orkhan H. Usman said two weeks ago that his office had asked the Department of Budget and Management to release some P450 million for the importation of dairy cattle.

This is because prices of foreign cattle go up every year, Mr. Usman had said. Last year for instance, P450 million could still buy about 4,000 heads of dairy cattle. At today’s price of P125,000 per head however, the country can only buy 3,600 of the animals with the same budget, he explained.

The Philippines can supply only 1% of its dairy requirement, and growth in dairy production has slowed since 2006. NDA’s goal is achieve liquid milk sufficiency in the eight years. -- KJRL

Petron turns around with P4.3-billion net profit

Manila Bulletin

More stable crude and finished product prices were the primary reasons cited by leading oil refiner Petron Corporation to have pulled up its net income to P4.3 billion in 2009; reversing record losses of P3.9 billion the previous year.

The oil firm simply noted that the year 2008 was just “an abnormal year for many oil refiners, who experienced extreme volatility in crude and product prices.”

Nevertheless, it is a known fact in the domestic oil industry that Petron hedged big-time on its crude purchases that year given record peaks in world prices then. However, when prices suddenly dropped in third to fourth quarters, this resulted in huge losses for the company.

Across the Asian region, it is fair to say though that Petron was not the only refiner which suffered such fate; as many others have also fallen into the prey of losing that much due to hedging or on un-calibrated crude or product procurement strategies.

Even with the profit boost it logged last year though, Petron revealed that it sales had not been as rosy, with revenues down by 34 percent; and it attributed such to “lower selling prices of petroleum products.” It sales earnings dipped to P176.5 billion last year from the 2008 level of P267.7 billion.

Petron Chairman Ramon S. Ang pointed to “weak economic activity and cutthroat competition,” as influencing factors to the company’s financial performance last year.

Albeit, he emphasized that the silver lining to all that, was “we managed to turn around;” despite the so-called market hurdles.

“More importantly, we remained focused on our business initiatives and implemented several major projects that put us in a better position to sustain our growth momentum,” he stressed.

It must be recalled that the company added 200 stations in its retail portfolio last year; and this is something it wants to continually pursue in the coming years.

‘Lechon’ or chocolate cake

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

A new scientific study has come out that confirms something I have known for years. People are basically divided into two groups; those with a “sweet tooth” and those with a “fat tooth.”

Think about it. Given a choice between a fabulous chocolate dessert from a five-star hotel cake shop and a plate of lechon from a mall food-court stall, which would you choose?

Most of us do not even have to think about it. We know instantly. Yes, I am a “lechon man.”

Who would you rather listen to:The Beatles/Pink Floyd or Elvis Presley/Michael Jackson? Would you choose a comedy film or an action movie to watch?

We tend to divide the world and people in general into two distinct groups, almost regardless of what we are talking about. Quiet; talkative. Serious; relaxed. Optimistic; pessimistic. Big spender; thrifty. Intellectual; emotional.

As you read the list above, certain characteristics probably brought a negative thought to your mind. But in fact, neither side of those seeming opposites are good or bad. They are just different. We tend to view as negative those traits which we do not hold to ourselves.

I used to know a man who really liked to scold me about my eating habits, telling me that I was going to an early grave as I eagerly enjoyed my roast-pork rice topping. He said this while noisily slurping a Mucho Grande mocha latte with caramel sauce and extra whipped cream. And eating a butterscotch fudge bar.

But you know? Both of us are pro-bably just as right and just as wrong about the way we eat.

Another study found that people can be divided into two more groups: those that are “savers” and those that are “spenders.” Now you might immediately think that the “savers” are the ones that we should follow because that would seem at first to make the most financial sense. Yet what was discovered was that the “savers” were not good spenders. Yes, the savers planned carefully how much money to put away and were much better at figuring out where they should save their money—time deposit or a normal savings account—and these people were not interested in pyramid schemes and other get-rich-quick plans. Yet, for all of their supposed expertise with money, savers tend to be bad spenders. That is, the spenders were much better shoppers. The spenders knew prices better, could identify real bargains, and received more value for their money when they made a purchase than the savers.

That is probably why most well-run corporations have a financial controller, the saver, as well as a finance officer, the spender.

I know one businessman who separates the hiring and firing responsibilities for his employees. It is a rather small company, but one person is accountable for the final hiring decision while another is in charge of making any final dismissal decision. His feeling is that one person cannot do both since the bias and the skill to determine who would be a good employee and who should be terminated are different.

With regard to economics and economic policy, the world, too, is divided into two distinct groups. One group believes government can best do the job of running the economy; the other believes that the collection of individuals and businesses—the free market—can best determine how an economy should function. This dividing question has probably never been more important today than in the last 100 years.

Prior to the 20th century, the relationship between the government and business was closer than now. Business directed the economic policies of a nation through the government. Look at the age of exploration. Private individuals and companies from Europe colonized a large portion of the world, claiming land like the Philippines in name of this king or that queen.

But in truth, all of this was done to further specific business interests, whether for the British East India Company or by Magellan. Magellan was contracted by a Spanish government-owned company, La Casa y Audiencia de Indias. And he was working for money, not glory. Magellan received a monopoly of the discovered route and 5 percent of all future trading profits.

Today we are looking at a rapid expansion of governments trying to control economies without the historic partnership between government and business interests, a move that has accelerated over the last 40 years.

This partnership preceded amazing advancements in the quality of life. Government did nothing to create the mass production of the automobile. Yet government eventually built the road infrastructure that those cars use. Government did not participate in the development of mass communication like the telephone, radio and television. But government regulation brought order to the chaos of every telecom business doing its own thing with regard to wired and wireless infrastructure.

Now we have all these great and, in my opinion, completely foolish debates. Mining development versus the environment. Free markets versus more government control. Pro-business versus pro-people.

It would be nicer and easier if the world operated so simply and everything was black or white, totally good or totally evil.

And we ask silly questions along these same lines of our politicians and candidates. And they themselves characterize themselves as pro-this or anti-that. Foolish and lacking any common sense.

You know what does make sense? A wonderful meal of lechon de leche followed by chocolate cake with ice cream. You just have to show some moderation in your eating habits, just as you have to show some moderation with your economic theory. What works in one sector will not in another. There is no one-size-fits-all economic program. And those who believe there is probably never eat lechon or chocolate cake.

Monday, 29 March 2010

Air Philippines to buy 20 new airplanes over next four years

Lenie Lectura
Business Mirror

AIR Philippines, the low-cost partner of Philippine Airlines (PAL), is acquiring a total of 20 new airplanes over the next four years.  

The purchases will complement the carrier’s current fleet which is composed of eight Bombardier Q400 and Q300 turbo-prop aircraft.

The company re-launched operations under the brand name Airphil Express yesterday with the acquisition of two Airbus A320-200 aircraft.

The new planes, sporting the new Airphil Express livery and configured mono-class with 177 seats, started flying yesterday from Manila to Iloilo, Bacolod, Puerto Princesa and Cagayan de Oro, signaling the resumption of jet service to these domestic points.

Aside from the two leased narrow-body jets, four brand-new A320s will also be delivered from Airbus’s manufacturing facility in Toulouse, France, between September and November. Four more A320 aircraft will join the fleet next year, five in 2012 and another five in 2013.

“We want to position Airphil Express as a low-cost carrier offering quality service,” said David Lim, president. “The modernization of our fleet will hopefully enable us to increase market share while the industry braces for the eventual rebound,” he said in a statement.

The route network of Airphil Express will continue to expand as it adds to its existing flights to the following domestic destinations: Tuguegarao, Naga, San Jose (Mindoro), Busuanga, Boracay (Caticlan), Catarman, Calbayog, Tacloban, Ormoc, Iloilo, Bacolod, Cebu, Surigao, Dipolog, Cagayan de Oro, Ozamiz, Zamboanga, Davao and Masbate.

More domestic points will be added to the route network when more jets join the fleet, said Airphil Express in a statement.

The two new Airbus units will service Puerto Princesa, Cagayan de Oro, Bacolod and Iloilo routes twice daily. It is introducing a year-round promo fare for the said routes. Manila to Cagayan de Oro-Manila fare costs P1,864; Manila-Puerto Princesa-Manila, P1,418; Manila-Bacolod-Manila, P1,060; and P882 for Manila-Iloilo-Manila.

The airline currently flies to routes that are also being served by rival Cebu Pacific. An airline official said the new Airphil Express “will give our competitor a hard time.”

“Air Philippines will give Cebu Pacific a serious competition. Air Philippines will pretty much capture the market being served by Cebu Pacific. It may even go regional this year,” added the official, who decline to be identified.

Both PAL and Airphil Express are looking to strengthen operations with modest fleet and route-network build-ups despite predictions by the International Air Transport Association of a dip in industry earnings due to higher fuel prices.

The two airlines have had close complementation in flight operations, feeding passengers into each other’s networks and ensuring connections via their joint hubs at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 2 in Manila and Mactan International Airport in Cebu.

LRT trains may be used on MRT tracks, says gov’t


TRAINS OF the Light Rail Transit line 1 (LRT 1) may be used for Metro Rail Transit line 3 (MRT 3), a study by the state-led Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) and MRT 3 has found.

The study showed that only minor improvements were needed for the trains of LRT 1 to be fully integrated into the revenue operations of MRT 3.

The study said an onboard signaling system, an onboard telecom system, signages and an emergency coupling bar must first be installed on the LRT 1 trains before being used in the MRT 3.

“The [study] has clearly demonstrated that the line one rolling stock can also be used for revenue operation on the MRT 3 line,” the LRTA noted.

No further details on the tests were released by the LRTA.

The tests were conducted by the LRTA, the operations department of the MRT 3, contractors of the line 1 North Extension project, and the MetroLink joint venture that is building a loop connecting MRT 3 to LRT 1.

The 5.4-kilometer MRT 3-LRT 1 link, which runs from MRT’s North Avenue station in Quezon City to LRT 1’s Monumento station in Caloocan City, is expected to serve about 1.2 million commuters daily.

LRT 1, which runs through Rizal Avenue in Caloocan and manila up to Taft Avenue in Pasay City, is serving about 500,000 passengers daily.

MRT 3, which runs from Taft Avenue to North Avenue, ferries about the same number of passengers daily.

The MRT 3-LRT 1 loop has four stations, namely, Monumento, Balintawak, Roosevelt and North Avenue.

The Balintawak and the Roosevelt stations were originally slated to open in February, but commercial operation was moved to May.

The project, which began in 2007, costs P6.3 billion and was constructed by Lopez-led First Balfour, Inc. and DM Consunji, Inc.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo tested the MRT 3-LRT 1 loop last month.

Cebu Pacific ready for competition from Tan’s Air Philippines

Joel B. Escovilla

DAVAO CITY -- Cebu Pacific is undaunted by the plan of Lucio C. Tan’s Air Philippines to challenge its dominance in the budget-carrier market.

“Competition is good because this results in more vibrant airline industry, and ultimately, lower fares for the public,” said Candice A. Iyog, Cebu Pacific vice-president for marketing.

She said the company is comfortable with the pace it is setting and the Gokongwei-owned airline intends to increase its fleet size to support overseas expansion. The company is targeting to serve more than 10 million domestic and regional passengers this year.

In an earlier BusinessWorld report, an executive of Air Philippines, who asked not to be identified, said the firm wants to compete with Cebu Pacific head-on by serving new routes and buying more planes.

In line with its goal, Air Philippines has leased two Air Bus A320s. Also in the pipeline is the purchase of six more passenger airplanes.

By March 31, Air Philippines will have opened the Iloilo, Bacolod, Palawan, and Cagayan de Oro routes. When sought for a reaction on the direct challenge posed by Air Philippines, Ms. Iyog demurred: “We cannot comment on this as of this time.”

But Cebu Pacific, which boasts of low fares for domestic destinations, does not plan on letting go of its hold in the local market as it is scheduled to launch the Cebu-Pagadian (Zamboanga del Sur) route this April 27, followed by Manila-Pagadian flights on June 9.

SLEx operations to be turned over to Malaysians in April

Emilia Narni J. David

OPERATIONS OF the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) will be soon handed over to private operator Manila Toll Express System, Inc. (MATES) as construction at the expressway is nearing completion.

Isaac S. David, president of expressway contractor South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC), told BusinessWorld construction is nearing 100%.

“[This] means there would be an automatic handover of operations of the expressway. By the end of April we will already reach 100% and we foresee no blocks to our reaching completion because the PNCC (Philippine National Construction Corp.) has been very cooperative,” said Mr. David.

SLTC needs to finish by April the construction of the toll canopies and toll booths for five toll plazas.

The PNCC said operations may be turned over by April.

“Yes we can expect SLTC to be done by then. Major accomplishments have been done as well on the facilities,” said Ma. Theresa T. Defensor, president of PNCC.

PNCC is the original holder of the concession for the North and South Luzon expressways, but its congressional franchise expired two years ago.

With the state-led firm’s legal hold on tollway operations in question, regulators resorted to tollway operation certificates (TOC), giving one each to private firms operating the North Luzon Expressway and the Metro Manila Skyway under joint ventures with the PNCC.

Amid construction at the SLEx, the TOC was given to PNCC directly.

SLTC is PNCC’s joint venture with Malaysian investors to upgrade the major tollway at the cost of P8.5 billion.

Under a 30-year Supplemental Toll Operation Agreement or STOA approved by Malacañang in 2006, in which PNCC agreed to lend its franchise to the SLTC joint venture, SLTC must take over after completing the tollway rehabilitation. SLTC has widened the 1.2-kilometer Alabang Viaduct and the 27-kilometer stretch of the SLEx from Alabang to Calamba, Laguna.

Last November, a new TOC for the SLEx was given to MATES, a firm controlled by the Malaysian investors in SLTC.

The project to rehabilitate the expressway was supposed to be completed last year.

Mr. David said construction would be suspended to give way to motorists traveling to provinces during the Holy Week.

“We’re going to stop construction to give way to the Holy Week traffic even if the traffic is usually in Calamba where there is no more construction. But we just don’t want to further inconvenience motorists in the biggest traffic build up along the road,” said Mr. David.

Sunday, 28 March 2010

Photo update: Laguindingan Airport

JG Summit hikes spending on improving economy

by Ian C. Sayson and Cecilia Yap
Manila Standard

JG Summit Holdings Inc., which will triple its cash from selling shares in its airline unit, will set aside a record budget for expansion plans as it bets a rebound in the economy will lift Philippine consumer spending.

“All the businesses we’re in right now have a lot of growth opportunities,” president Lance Gokongwei said in an interview. JG Summit would expand its bank unit and might revive a plan to build the country’s first naphtha cracker plant, he said. “There’s no lack of opportunity in what we have.”

JG Summit will increase capital expenditure to more than P30 billion as the government forecasts economic growth will range between 2.6 percent and 3.6 percent this year after slowing to 0.9 percent in 2009, the weakest in more than a decade. The company cut its expansion budget last year in expectation slow growth would curb demand.

“The group has done the right thing,” Marvin Fausto, chief investment officer at Banco de Oro Unibank Inc., which manages $9.6 billion, said in a phone interview. “The numbers they are showing are much better.”

JG Summit, which had P13 billion in cash and near cash at the end of September, can get as much as P10.5 billion from its planned initial public offering in Cebu Air Inc., the second biggest airline.

The sale, planned for next month, may raise P22.4 billion and Cebu Air will collect the balance of the proceeds.

Gokongwei said JG Summit might build a naphtha cracker plant to expand its petrochemical venture, which makes polyethylene and polypropylene. The plant might cost more than $500 million and would take 30 months to complete, he said.

The plant expansion was drawn up in 1996, a year after JG Summit began its foray into petrochemicals. The venture was shelved in 1999 because the company said it couldn’t compete with cheap imports. JG Summit postponed a plan to revive the project in 2005 so it could focus on building its telephone and airline assets, Gokongwei said Thursday night. Bloomberg

TV5 to go international

by Jeremiah F. de Guzman
Manila Standard

Mediaquest Holdings Inc. plans to launch an international business for newly-acquired television network TV5 in less than three years.

Ray Espinosa, Mediaquest and TV5 president and chief executive, told reporters in a press briefing late Thursday that the international business was part of the company’s plan to make TV5 at par with the country’s top two TV networks.

“That is natural, it’s part of business,” he said.

TV5 expects to turn around its operations in three years, with the overseas operations already launched by that time.

Espinosa cited the big market in North America, Europe and Italy where there is a large concentration of migrant Filipino workers. He added that the Middle East and Japan could also serve as major markets of TV5.

Espinosa said the company planned to initially improve its signal coverage as it lagged behind GMA Network Inc. and ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp., the country’s leading TV networks.

Bobby Barreiro, TV5 executive vice president and chief operating officer, said the network’s signal covered just 60 percent of the Philippines when Mediaquest, a member of the Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. group, bought the TV network.

“By the middle of net year, we will be able to blanket the whole country,” he said, adding that TV5 would equal ABS-CBN in terms of signal in 2011.

TV5 earlier said it was earmarking P7 billion for capital expenditures this year. The company will spend P5 billion to improve the television network’s transmission, reach and signal strength and the rest for programming and talent acquisition.

Espinosa said Mediaquest would allot another P5 billion in capital outlays next year to make TV5’s coverage nationwide.

“We are prepared to put in capital,” Espinosa said. “To a large extent, it’s about investments,” he said.

Businessman Antonio Cojuangco acquired ABC Development Corp. in October 2003 and relaunched the network in August 2008 with a new lineup of shows under a new brand called TV5.

Mediaquest in October 2009 bought 75 percent of ABC Development and 70 percent of Primedia, a local company engaged in developing programming content for television and marketing of airtime, for less than P4 billion.

Palace backs Cory portrait in P500 bill

Manila Bulletin

Malacañang has endorsed the proposed inclusion of the portrait of the late President Corazon Aquino in the country’s new P500 bill.

Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary Olivar said the proposal of the Bangko ng Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) to redesign the bank notes was a fitting tribute to the late leader, a key figure in the first Edsa revolution that restored democracy in the country.

The Central Bank reportedly plans to include Mrs. Aquino’s picture in the P500 bill which carries the portrait of her husband, the late Senator Benigno “Ninoy” Aquino Jr.

“The Palace was actually planning that among measures to honor the late President Cory Aquino was to place her in a new currency. We were just preempted by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that revealed the same plans. We can expect this has the endorsement of Malacañang to honor the memory of President Cory Aquino,” he said.

Mrs. Aquino, the country’s first female president, passed away on August 1 after a battle with colon cancer. After the bloodless revolt that ousted the Marcos dictatorial regime, she served the country from 1986 to 1992.

The massive outpouring of sympathy for Aquino has prompted her son, Senator Benigno Aquino III, to join the presidential contest in 2010 supposedly to continue the legacy of his deceased parents.

Before the new bills could even be produced, Olivar expressed hope that the tribute to the late President Aquino would be free of campaign politics.

“The honor given to a person should not be a condition in the way politics and campaign work. The tribute should be given wholeheartedly to honor the late Senator Aquino and the late President Aquino for their contributions to the country,” he said.

RP breaks Earth Hour world record

Manila Bulletin

As part of the 'Earth Hour', a voluntary lightsout gesture to promote environmental awareness, in Our Lady of Remedies Church in Malate, Manila.
For the second consecutive year, the Philippines broke the Earth Hour world record in terms of participation, with 1,076 towns and cities joining the 60-minute light off to save Mother Earth Saturday night.

The country was literally engulfed in darkness from 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. Saturday to send a signal around the globe that the Philippines is in harmony to save Mother Earth from the effects of climate change. Last year, the Philippines also placed first in terms of town and city participation in the world, with over 10 million Filipinos participating in the activity in 647 towns and cities nationwide.

Event organizer Earth Hour Philippines, composed of the World Wide for Nature-Philippines, Department of Energy, Switch Movement, and Green Army Network, exceeded its goal of 1,000 towns and cities for the Earth Hour 2010.

The country also initiated the Earth Hour FlashMob Dance, with over a hundred individuals who danced under the heat and occasional light rains.

When the first dancer started waving an Earth Hour flag, people stopped to take notice, international conservation group World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) noted in its website.

WWF said the dances culminated in a gigantic number 60 formation to signal the 60 minutes of the Earth Hour.

A record 125 countries and territories, which is up from 88 countries in 2009, and over 4,000 cities, towns or 1,200 more than at the inaugural of Earth Hour 2009 joined the event last Saturday.

“When Earth Hour started in Sydney in 2007, never in our wildest dreams imagined it would catch on like this,” said Earth Hour founder and executive director Andy Riley said.

Australia led the Earth Hour in 2007, and in 2008, the event became a worldwide phenomenon.
At exactly 8:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m., other countries also switched off their lights.

In China, 34 Chinese cities, including Beijing, Shanghai, Chengdu, and Dalian took part in the global Earth Hour event. The main event took place in the Forbidden City.

In Japan, the Tokyo Towers and the Hiroshima Peace Memorial plunged into darkness at 8:30 p.m. while in Nepal, local committees and authorities organized a program there where students and locals came together for a candlelight vigil by the Bouddhanath Stupa.
In India, Earth Hour reached out to schools through at least 20 WWF state offices which are directly engaging with schools through which an estimated a 100 000 youth have been introduced to the global call for action.

The Working President (445)