Saturday, 19 June 2010

QTV: Interview with VP Noli de Castro on Smokey Mountain project

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Why having more children is good

Social science may suggest that kids drain their parents' happiness, but there's evidence that good parenting is less work and more fun than people think. Bryan Caplan makes the case for having more children.

PNR to resume ‘Bicol Express’ June 25, PGMA told

CALAMBA CITY, Laguna (PND) – The Philippine National Railways (PNR) is set to resume regular trips to the Bicol Region by Friday next week, PNR officials told President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo today.

The PNR halted its daily train trips to the Bicol province after the San Cristobal bridge here was destroyed when typhoons “Milenyo” and “Reming” battered Southern Luzon one after the other in 2006.

Now, with a newly constructed 50-meter bridge taking the place of the devastated San Cristobal bridge, the Bicol Train service, from Manila to Ligao, Albay will soon resume.

In a briefing in one of PNR’s newly acquired train coaches that took the Chief Executive, PNR and local government officials and members of media to its Bicutan station in Parañaque, PNR General Manager Ower Andal said the “Bicol Express” trip would be available to commuters by June 25, 2010.

Andal added that operational works, which include replacing the wooden tresses with concrete and the addition of compacting materials to improve the stability of the tracks, is being undertaken from now until the 25th to ensure the safety of railroad tracks for its trips to Bicol.

Andal said the resumption of the Bicol trips of the PNR “closes the loop” by linking the North and South Rail project, part of the President’s 10-point agenda to decongest Metro Manila.

In the same briefing, Andal told the President the PNR expects its passenger base to increase from the 400,000 a month to 600,000.

He said that if the trend continues, the PNR will have to increase the departure of trains from its usual 30-minute interval to 15 minutes to cope with the demand.

June 30 presidential inauguration protocol explained

Foreign heads of state gracing Aquino inaugural under wraps
June 18, 2010, 5:03pm

Presidential Management Staff (PMS) Director General Elena Bautista-Horn ... gave an overview of what will happen on inauguration day of President-elect Aquino, which is also the last day of President Arroyo in her nine-year term.

At around 10 a.m. on June 30, she said President-elect Aquino will fetch outgoing President Arroyo at the Palace. From the Palace, the two will board the presidential car, mostly likely the black Mercedez Benz with plate number 1, to the Quirino Grandstand.

President Arroyo will sit on the right passenger side while Aquino will seat on the left side. A driver and a security aide will join the two leaders in the short ride to the Quirino Grandstand.

Asked about the possible discussion of the two leaders in their short ride together, Bautista-Horn said she does not want to speculate.

She welcomed though the agreement of the two leaders to share a ride to the inaugural site on June 30 as part of the traditional turnover rites. “The inauguration is a once-in-a-lifetime event. It is also nice that tradition was kept that they will arrive on the same time,” she said.

Upon arrival at the Quirino Grandstand, she said President Arroyo will be given arrival honors by the military.

The two leaders will then shake hands, signaling the formal transfer of power to the next leadership.

Afterwards, Mrs. Arroyo will bid farewell to Aquino and will no longer stay for the rest of the oath-taking rites. She will not attend the Aquino’s inaugural reception at the Palace, Bautista-Horn said.

From the grandstand, she said the President will ride her own private car and possibly go to her residence in Quezon City or travel to Pampanga. The presidential car will stay for the use of President-elect Aquino in his return to the Palace.

“The inaugural ceremony is the day of the new President so he has to be the sole star in the show so let’s give him that. That’s the tradition,” the PMS chief said. The two leaders are not expected to give each other any tokens during the transfer of power.

Asked if the President is taking the risk of being heckled when she escorts Aquino to the grandstand, she said: “We are one country. If that happens, the political maturity of this country is sadly not there.”

BoP yields $2.7-billion surplus in 5 months

Manila Bulletin

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported a balance of payments (BoP) surplus of $2.733 billion in the first five months, the highest this year.

BSP released the data Friday, which show that BoP is in excess of $388 million for the month of May, but lower compared to the April surplus of $982 million.

The end-May BoP was higher compared to the same period last year of $2.143 billion.

BoP summarizes the country’s economic transactions with the rest of the world and is determined by such indicators as exports/imports, foreign direct investments, foreign portfolio investments or hot money and remittances.

For 2010, the central bank forecast BoP to reach $3.7 billion while current account, which is fueled by overseas Filipinos remittances, is expected to increase to $8.1 billion.

In 2009, BoP was a surplus of $5.3 billion from only $89 million in 2008. Current account surplus reached $8.6 billion.

As of the end of April, remittances were up by 6.6 percent to $5.86 billion. The BSP expects remittances to grow by eight percent this year to about $18.7 billion from $17.45 billion in 2009.

Friday, 18 June 2010

USAID-funded survey affirms gains of PGMA’s tourism strategy

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo’s tourism development programs in her nine-year term have brought about P62-billion worth of investments into the country and generated three million jobs for Filipinos.

This is the conclusion of an independent study conducted by the Philippine-based Center for Research and Communication (CRC) and funded by the Asia Foundation and the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).

In a presentation during the Retrospective Seminar of the Department of Tourism (DOT) held today in Intramuros, CRC representative Cherry Rodolfo said that from 2000 to 2009, the tourism industry generated some P62-billion worth of investments from enterprises registered with the National Economic Development Agency (NEDA) and Board of investments (BOI).

Rodolfo cited a DOT survey that in May this year alone, the Central Philippines Super Region, one of the five themed growth corridors mapped out in President Arroyo’s 2004 strategic development program, has generated 28,629 employment from 2002 establishments.

“With a lot of activity going on, Central Philippines will have another 147 new establishments plus additional room expansion by existing establishments that will generate 14,376 new employment,” the CRC official added.

She said these achievements in tourism have made a significant impact on local area development in creating more jobs, generating more income and strengthening community partnerships.

The CRC credited these accomplishments to the various tourism investments that the Arroyo administration has made to provide greater mobility and accessibility.

Rodolfo cited Arroyo’s airport development projects, the nautical highway project (RoRo project) and road networks, such as NLEX and SLEX, as among the infrastructure projects that contributed in no small amount to stimulating domestic tourism.

She also noted an improvement in inbound tourism, citing the 311.84 percent growth in flight arrivals in Clark Airport, from 27,452 international flights in 2000 to 106,016 flight in 2008.

The DOT Retrospective Seminar was attended by DOT officials led by Tourism Secretary Ace Durano and representatives of The Asia Foundation, and USAID.

In his speech, Durano cited the important role of private sector in tourism development, saying their aggressive marketing strategies and constructive feedback on tourism have helped place the country among the major tourist destinations in Asia. (PND)

The wealth-redistribution myth

Written by John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

No sane person with even a touch of compassion can fail to be moved and confused at examples of extremes of wealth inequality. The million-dollar condominium lived in by a family of four that overlooks an area of 1,000 families living in squalor is absurd to most people.

The picture of a man driving a P5-million automobile offering a P5 coin to a street beggar is bizarre. Yet these are images that are countless and are repeated continuously without stop in every nation of the world.

Wealth inequality between members of a particular society is not a condition that emerged with the industrial revolution false thinkers, such as Karl Marx and others would like us to believe. A study released last year by a group of international anthropologists concluded that “The level of economic inequality in hunter-gatherer societies is on a par with the most egalitarian modern democratic economies.” In other words, our high- technology post-industrial revolution societies create nearly as great an equalization of wealth as those ancient tribal societies that “rely on their wits, social connections and [physical] strength to make a living.”

What this research showed was that wealth inequality is the result of individuals and groups of individual being able to pass material possessions such as land, livestock and tools from one generation to another. Further, “Societies where material wealth is most valued are, therefore, the most unequal, said Monique Borgerhoff Mulder, the UC Davis anthropology professor who coordinated the study with economist Samuel Bowles of the Santa Fe Institute” (source: Science Daily).

Regardless of the root causes of wealth inequality, social economists and historians (as well as government leaders) have known through centuries that this inequality can reach a point where the very fiber and structure of a society literally explode in revolution from or financially collapses under the weight of too few “haves” and too many “have-nots.”

Global governments, particularly post-World War II governments, have attempted to manage wealth inequality through a variety of laws and government policies. As wealth transfer to succeeding generations is the most obvious and, perhaps, hated condition that perpetuates wealth inequality, government has imposed high taxes or even outright confiscation to “level the playing field.” Yet this has never been successful except under dictatorships, as there seems to be something inherent in the human condition that says a man or woman has the right to pass their material wealth to their offspring.

Further, while all may be equal in the eyes of the Creator, not all are equal in their ability to create wealth, not only for themselves but for society as a whole. Forbidding a man who builds wealth with the intention of passing the excess he created to his children limits the motivation for wealth creating which ultimately hurts the whole society.

We may say we despise a system that allows for the rich generational family and the oligarchy, in truth, it is probably more envy than contempt.

After 60 years of wealth distribution programs in the West, those societies are really no more “equal” and are less wealthy because of those programs.

The United Nations uses an index, the Gini Coefficient (GC), to measure inequality on a scale of 0 (equal) to 100 (most unequal). The 2009 results will surprise you. Guaranteed.

The top three highly developed countries in terms of wealth inequality are Hong Kong with a GC of 43.4, Singapore (42.5) and the US at 40.8. Less unequal include India (36.8), France (32.7) and Japan (24.9). More unequal are Mexico (48.1), Brazil (55) and South Africa (57.8).

The Philippines comes in on the Gini Coefficient at 44.

Why would a large and rich nation like the US be less equal than Japan, for example, and in the same category as a country like the Philippines? Japan has made little effort at wealth redistribution in a quest for “equality,” while the US has pursued this type of policy for decades.

Many Western nations like the US have ignored, even trying to disprove the absolute wisdom of Lao Tzu’s “teaching a man to fish rather than feeding him for a day.”

In 2009 the US government spent $56 billion on the Food Stamp Program to help feed 40 million people. That $56 billion came from the middle class, reducing their wealth, and was redistributed to the “poor,” but did nothing to increase the wealth of the recipients. Those funds could have created enough direct jobs to sustain 5 million people. And those jobs over a five-year period would have created more jobs, enough to support all the people now receiving free food. Instead, the government will spend $11 billion and not create a single job.

Meanwhile, the “rich” do get “richer,” the middle class pays the bills, the “poor” remain “poor” and the degree of wealth inequality grows daily.

Former British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said that “The trouble with socialism [the ultimate government wealth redistribution policy] is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.” Plus, it does not work.

Yet, the Philippines also must address wealth inequality carefully and with determination, because it is not economically healthy for inequality to grow larger. Aside from the social costs, when too much wealth is held by too few, the economy becomes too dependant on the “rich.” The top 10 percent create 14 times as much economic activity as the bottom 10 percent, about the same as the US. For Malaysia, much wealthier than the Philippines, the number is only 10 times as much, meaning that not only is wealth more widely distributed, but wealth creation comes from a broader and larger part of the economy.

But Malaysia did not succeed economically by wealth redistribution. It succeeded in reducing poverty, increasing economic growth, and reducing inequality by the government almost fanatically supporting the private-business sector.

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Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Verzosa bids farewell to Ma’am
By Marlon Ramos, TJ Burgonio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—She didn’t shake his hand and looked at her watch twice during his PowerPoint presentation.

But other than that, there were no awkward moments, just expressions of mutual admiration and a token of gratitude.

More than two months after announcing he would not back moves to install her as holdover president, Philippine National Police Director General Jesus Verzosa Tuesday thanked President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo for the PNP’s “transformation” under her administration.

Ms Arroyo, in return, conferred the Legion of Honor on Verzosa for his role in ensuring the success of the country’s first nationwide automated elections last month.

She bid farewell to the PNP also by doubling the cash assistance for slain or wounded policemen.

In an executive order that took effect Tuesday, Ms Arroyo increased the cash assistance for the survivors of policemen killed in action from P100,000 to P250,000; for the seriously injured, from P50,000 to P100,000; and the less seriously injured, from P20,000 to P50,000.

She also reminded the policemen that she had raised their pay from P6,000 in 2001, when she took over from deposed President Joseph Estrada, to P17,000 at present.

With last year’s enactment of the Salary Standardization Law, PNP personnel would receive a salary increase each year from July 2009 to July 2012, Ms Arroyo said.

“This is so deserving because of how you have been transformed, including how many of our policemen and women gave up their lives to fight lawlessness,” she said.

“Madam President, I am proud and happy to report that the PNP you knew nine years ago is now a transformed organization,” Verzosa said in his speech during the “command and exit briefing” for Ms Arroyo at Camp Crame.

‘Forever grateful’

“The 135,000-strong men and women of the PNP owe (this) to you as our Commander in Chief,” he added.

The PNP chief, who will likely keep his post under the new administration of President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III, also presented Ms Arroyo with a glass-encased copy of the speech she delivered at the PNP’s 19th anniversary program last February.

Inscribed on the casing’s metal plate was the message: “We are forever grateful of your support.”

Ms Arroyo’s visit to the PNP’s general headquarters Tuesday was her first since Verzosa declared in early March that he would not support any plans to make her holdover president should there be a failure of elections.

Speculation was rife that his statement, which was made during an Inquirer interview, did not sit well with Ms Arroyo. She skipped the graduation rites of the PNP Academy and later failed to acknowledge Verzosa in her speech at the anniversary rites of the Philippine Army.

Last meeting

Presiding over what may be her last meeting with the PNP top brass as their civilian leader, Ms Arroyo lauded them for safeguarding the credibility of the May 10 balloting.

Ms Arroyo also thanked the high command for installing her as president after the Edsa II People Power uprising and for keeping their loyalty during her nine-year tenure in Malacañang.

She singled out her first PNP Director General and now Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza for quashing violent street protests set off by Estrada supporters in May 2001.

“You know I remember early in my administration, when we inherited this culture of lawlessness and kidnapping, I used to call up General Mendoza at 1 o’clock in the morning, 2 o’clock in the morning, because of what we had to do to address the problem,” she recalled.

“And he got used to my early phone calls, he would automatically answer, ‘Yes ma’am, good morning.’ ‘Larry it’s still good evening, up to now,” she added, eliciting a smile from Mendoza.

“Now that he’s executive secretary, it may not be (about) kidnapping or lawlessness, I’d call him again at 1 o’clock, 2 o’clock in the morning. But I’m sure ... you’re proud (that your) chief PNP became executive secretary and little president of the Philippines,” she said, drawing hearty applause.

Body language

After the briefing, Verzosa and Ms Arroyo joined other officials in the presidential lounge in a closed-door gathering.

Facing reporters later, Verzosa simply said his 25-minute meeting with Ms Arroyo “was OK.”

“There was no discussion about (our official functions). I just mentioned to her that most of my classmates (in the Philippine Military Academy) are retiring,” he said.

Verzosa maintained that the meeting with Ms Arroyo was warm and cordial.

To some observers, however, her body language during the affair conveyed a different mood. For one, Ms Arroyo did not shake Verzosa’s hand to acknowledge his 12-minute PowerPoint presentation that highlighted the PNP’s gains under the Arroyo administration.

She also looked at her watch twice and talked to her aides thrice while Verzosa was speaking.

Verzosa just smiled when asked what he thought of Ms Arroyo’s actions.

Thanks for raise

The PNP chief thanked Ms Arroyo for issuing executive orders that raised the basic salary of policemen, and funded various housing programs for PNP personnel and the construction of model police stations.

He also recalled that Ms Arroyo approved the allocation of P10 billion for the purchase of modern weapons and other battle gear over a five-year period.

Verzosa said the PNP, through Ms Arroyo’s Administrative Order No. 85, was able to set up a “reform commission” headed by former Justice Secretary Sedfrey Ordoñez and which helped curb corruption in the organization.

Thanks to this initiative, the PNP became one of the most trusted government agencies, he said.

“This is one concrete evidence that the PNP under this present administration is undergoing a genuine transformation,” he said.

Verzosa said the PNP was also able to recruit 10,000 new police officers and improve its training program under Ms Arroyo’s leadership.

Train Ride from PNR Calamba City Station, Laguna to Bicutan PNR Station, Paranaque City

Soft-opening of the Interface Between the South Luzon Expressway and the Star Expressway

Windshield Inspection Of The South Metro Manila Skyway Stage 2 Project With Ceremonial Asphalt Road

Budget deficit compared to other Asian countries

Emil Jurado
To the Point
Manila Standard

There’s so much talk about the incoming Aquino administration inheriting a gargantuan budget deficit. They say that the budget deficit could hit over P325 billion, much more than the deficit of P298.5 billion in 2009.

I don’t know what these doomsayers are after, but if it comes to the point that the country will have a deficit which is 4.4 percent of the gross domestic product, it will be much less than the 7.8 percent of Malaysia; the 4.6 percent of Thailand and certainly the 8.3 percent of Vietnam. And look at the economies of Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. They are improving by leaps and bounds!. In fact, only Indonesia, with a deficit-to-GDP ratio of 2.3 percent and Singapore with 3.5 percent did better than the Philippines.

The point I am driving at is that there’s so much obsession about government deficits and indebtedness that other factors are forgotten. Incoming President Noynoy Aquino, having finished economics at the Ateneo and having been a student of outgoing President Arroyo, should know all these.

Santa Banana, in spite of the economic ‘‘tsunami’’ that hit the world, and despite recession hitting Asia, the Philippines has remained recession-free. Inflation, which hits the poor the most, is held in check.

I didn’t finish economics at the Ateneo as the President-elect did but I did take up economics as a subject as I was pursuing my Bachelor of Arts. And I know that it’s the bottom line that counts—the outgoing President is leaving the economy sound and stable.

Aquino govt plans to add 2 more years to basic education

May extend Arroyo's cash transfer program
Gigi Muñoz David
Manila Standard

THE incoming Aquino administration will push to institute a 12-year system of basic education, adding a year each to grade school and high school.

In an interview with radio dzMM, Florencio Abad, campaign manager for President-elect Benigno Aquino III, said the 12-year system would include seven years of elementary education, five years of secondary schooling, and an extra year of pre-schooling before Grade 1.

Abad, who is tipped to become Education secretary, said the 12-year plan was part of Aquino’s 10-point agenda, and that the current system of six years in grade school and four years in high school was obsolete.

He said one Japanese consultant observed that Filipino students tired more easily than Japanese ones “because we cram so many subjects in such a short period of time.”

“What happens is that there are subjects that high school graduates don’t really get to focus on, like introduction to calculus or the science and math subjects. Students aren’t given enough time to study and delve deeper into the subjects,” Abad said.

He said students in Japan and South Korea actually spent up to 14 years in school before entering college.

To discourage dropouts, the Aquino administration is considering extending President Gloria Arroyo’s cash transfer program, which gives poor families P1,500 a month for keeping their children in school.

“We may need to extend that program so that the parents will get some support or subsidy while their kids are in school,” he said.

The Arroyo administration’s Education officials had spoken out in favor of a 12-year program before, but acknowledged that the proposal was “politically difficult” to carry out because parents would oppose the higher costs involved in keeping their children in school for two more years.

In 2008, the Education Department sought to revive a mandatory 12-year program, telling a House committee that the Philippines was the only country with just 10 years of basic education.

A Department official, Milagros Talino, told a congressional hearing this was one reason the country had a low level of learning compared to other countries.

She said President Arroyo supported the proposal and even wanted a year of pre-school included.

Chairman Emmanuel Angeles of the Commission on Higher Education said the country should add at least two more years to its basic education to conform with international standards and improve high school graduates’ chances to succeed in college.

Classes began for 24 million students Tuesday, with 86 percent of them or 20.17 million going to public schools.

Of the total, 1.33 million are in preschool, 14.61 million are in elementary school, and 7.1 million are in high school. Another 400,000 are in alternative learning systems. About 1 million out-of-school youth are expected to return to formal schooling.

The country has a 1:45 ratio of classrooms to students, which is below the 1:35 international standard,

“Even if our classrooms are packed, we are finding ways to get them all in and make sure they get taught and learn,” Education Secretary Mona Valisno told reporters Tuesday.

Avida lines up P5B in projects


CEBU CITY -- Avida Land, Inc. is spending P5 billion this year on various projects, including a new residential condominium in Cebu and subdivisions in Iloilo and Bacolod.

Avida, the wholly owned subsidiary of Ayala Land, Inc. for “affordable” property development projects, yesterday launched Avida Towers Cebu at Asiatown IT Park, highlighting Ayala Land’s more aggressive foray into the Visayas and Mindanao areas.

Antonino T. Aquino, Ayala Land president, said his firm also wants to build malls, hotels, business process outsourcing (BPO) buildings, and residential developments. Ayala Land last week launched the Ayala TechnoHub in Iloilo.

The launching of Avida Towers Cebu brings Asiatown IT Park, a 29-hectare industrial park developed by Ayala-led Cebu Property Ventures and Development Corp., closer to becoming a “fully integrated community” with commercial and residential components.

“The whole objective here is to make sure that we will put in one single location all facilities where people can live, work and play,” Mr. Aquino said.

Leo M. Montenegro, Avida president and chief executive officer, said Avida will also launch a residential subdivision project at Pavia town in Iloilo next month and another residential subdivision project in Bacolod, Negros Occidental in September.

Avida is also looking for properties outside Cebu City that may be developed into residential subdivisions.

“We’re looking for areas where we can expand and undertake subdivision projects. But that will be outside the city already because properties within the city are expensive,” Mr. Montenegro said.

Mr. Montenegro said the take-up rates in all Avida projects, especially condominium units, have been high.

“The market is upbeat probably because the economy is recovering and more people are opting to get a condominium unit instead of a land-and-house development that is usually located far from their workplace. But even our subdivision projects are also fast-selling,” he added.

Avida launched recently residential condominium projects in Alabang and Bonifacio Global City in Metro Manila.

In Cebu, the first of two 25-storey buildings that compose Avida Towers will be completed in 2013 while the second will be completed about three years after it is launched.

The first tower, which is estimated to cost P1.4 billion, will have 518 units that fetch a minimum of P1.6 million for a studio. As of yesterday, about 30% of the units have been sold.

Avida Towers Cebu is a joint development project with Asian I-Office Properties, Inc., a special purpose vehicle created by Ayala Land and Cebu Property Ventures.

Asian I-Office recently launched eBloc 2, another mid-rise BPO building within Asiatown. The first eBloc, which was completed last year, is fully occupied.

Aside from its condominium projects, Avida is also undertaking subdivision developments in Luzon.

Soon-to-open 8-km SLEx extension seen to cut travel time


THE NEW 8-kilometer stretch of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) from Calamba, Laguna to the Southern Tagalog Access Road (STAR) Tollway in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, known as Toll Road 3, was inaugurated yesterday and should be open to motorists within the month, a top official of South Luzon Tollways Corp. (SLTC) told reporters.

"After we get the tollway insured and the certification to operate from the Toll Regulatory Board, we are set to open the tollway within the month," SLTC and tollway operator Manila Toll Expressway Systems, Inc. (MATES) President Isaac S. David said on the sidelines of the toll road’s inauguration in Calamba.

The new SLEx stretch -- with four lanes, six bridges, three overpasses and a flyover -- is expected to enable faster travel between Metro Manila and the Port of Batangas. In a statement, SLTC said 60% of the country’s exports are transported through SLEx.

"[Toll Road 3] will help improve tourism and economic growth in the South, as far down as Visayas and Mindanao, since passengers and cargo can now disembark at the Port of Batangas and travel through Luzon on SLEx and other expressways now in the process of linking up. The toll road provides the missing link between SLEx and STAR tollways starting in Barangay Turbina in Calamba, Laguna and ends in Barangay San Rafael in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, where it connects with the STAR Tollway alignment," the statement read.

"Travel time from Sto. Tomas, Batangas to the Alabang Viaduct is estimated to take less than 30 minutes," it said.

SLTC added that the new stretch will be monitored by cameras mounted on high masts and connected to an operations control center.

SLTC said that project cost was initially estimated at P8.5 billion, but has reached P11 billion due
to rising prices of supplies during construction.

SLTC, under a concession obtained in 2006 to rehabilitate, expand, operate and maintain SLEx, took over the operation and maintenance last May from the Philippine National Construction Corp. (PNCC).
SLTC Chairman Dato Azmil Khalid, also president and chief executive officer of Malaysian-led MTD Capital Bhd that has a stake in MATES with SLTC and PNCC, told reporters that their eyes are now on SLEx’s fourth component, Toll Road 4 (TR4), which will extend the expressway to Lucena City in Quezon province.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo graced the TR3 inauguration and the TR4 groundbreaking. -- AMPD

January-April 2010 OF Remittances Reach US$5.9 Billion

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks reached US$1.5 billion in April 2010, registering a year-on-year growth of 5.4 percent, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. announced today. As a result, cumulative remittances for the first four months of the year amounted to US$5.9 billion. The 6.6 percent year-on-year growth recorded during the four-month period was shored up by higher remittances from both sea-based and land-based workers.

Notwithstanding concerns over sovereign debt problems in some European countries, remittances from overseas Filipinos continued to show strength amidst the gradual recovery of the global economy. Remittance flows were propped up by the steady demand for Filipino workers abroad, specifically professional and skilled workers, as well as the expanded access of overseas Filipinos and their beneficiaries to an increasing range of financial products and services offered by banks and other financial institutions.

Preliminary data obtained from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) indicated that workers classified as new hires with processed contracts and are awaiting deployment rose by 11.0 percent to 137,888 for the period January-April 2010 from 124,170 in the same period last year. Meanwhile, for the first five months of the year, approved job orders aggregated 295,373, of which about a third consisted of processed job orders for service, professional, technical, and production and related workers. The enforcement of the ASEAN-Australia-New Zealand Free Trade Agreement in January this year is also expected to open up more job opportunities for Filipino nurses and engineers.

For the period January-April 2010, the bulk of the total remittances reported by local banks (81.4 percent) were sourced mainly from the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, and Italy.

First Family moves back to QC home

GMA’s bags are packed, she’s ready to go
Charissa Luci
June 15, 2010, 6:40pm

The First Family has vacated Malacañang since Sunday and is now back to their La Vista home in Quezon City.

In an ambush interview shortly after the launching of his two coffee table books at Malacañang Palace’s Rizal Hall, First Gentleman Jose Miguel “Mike” Arroyo said they started packing up their things more than two months ago.

He explained that President Arroyo only returns to Malacañang to assume her official function as the country’s Chief Executive until she hands over the torch of leadership to President-elect Benigno “Noynoy” Aquino III on June 30.

“We are happy to leave Malacañang,” the First Gentleman said. “We have been moving out. Almost everything is out already,” he said.

The The First Gentleman also took opportunity to defend his wife from her critics, citing the media has been “unfair,” particularly with President Arroyo. “Her achievements were not highlighted. Under her leadership, our country did very well,” the disappointed Arroyo said.

During the launching, he distributed copies of his two coffee table books in which he defended himself against the malicious claims against him as well as his “romance” with President Arroyo who was then a presidential daughter.

His first book titled “First” showcased his Foundation’s various projects, “on who I really am and the last part of the book where I set the record straight on all the malicious allegations hurled against me,” the First Gentleman said during his speech.

His second book, “181 Dreams,” is a compilation of stories from each of the scholars, whose dreams were fulfilled by the Foundation.

“The first dream is mine and the rest are the dreams of our 180 scholars,” Arroyo noted.

During the launching, a total of 49 Bagong Doktor Para sa Bayan Batch 5 scholars signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) requiring them to serve two years in remote communities as barrio doctors.

First Gentleman Foundation, Inc.’s Bagong Espesyalista Para sa Bayan was launched in 2007.

“I am convinced that it is better to invest in a doctor than giving straight to just one beneficiary. It is because of the ripple effect, more can benefit by investing in one doctor since the doctor serves the entire community,” the First Gentleman said.

“As you all know already, I wanted to be a doctor. But it wasn’t meant to be – I followed my father’s advice and became a lawyer instead.

However, I don’t regret being a man of the law. But being a doctor has always been in my heart,” he said.

Meanwhile, Arroyo said he is hopeful that the next President would exhaust all means to unite the country. “He should unite the country instead of dividing the country. I think he should not think as President of the opposition, but he should think as the President of the Filipino people,” he said.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Bangit opts to retire early

Manila Bulletin

In the wake of controversies on his tenure as Armed Forces Chief of Staff, Gen. Delfin Bangit has decided to go on early retirement as he started making farewell visits to different units of the AFP, starting with the 2nd Infantry Division where he called on soldiers to support their incoming Commander-in-Chief.

Bangit, a member of the Philippine Military Academy (PMA) Class 1978, is originally scheduled to retire on July 31, 2011 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

However, the decision of President-elect Benigno Aquino III to replace him after June 30 has triggered Bangit’s decision to retire early from the service.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Burgos Jr., AFP spokesman, said while Bangit has yet to mention the date of his retirement, the AFP Chief has started to make his rounds of the AFP units to personally thanks and bid the soldiers goodbye.

Burgos said Bangit’s series of farewell visits started with the 2nd Infantry “Jungle Fighter” Division in Camp Capinpin, Tanay, Rizal.

“With the incoming President of the Philippines speaking on his intention to assign a new Chief of Staff and understanding that the CSAFP “serves at the pleasure of the President”, Gen. Delfin Natividad Bangit decided to begin his farewell visits where he spoke to all available personnel of the 2nd Infantry Division after the successful role of the soldiers in the conduct of the May 10 elections and seeing that the nation is ready for a smooth transition of government,” said Burgos.

Burgos said the AFP Chief chose the 2ID as his first stop in his series of farewell visits because it is where Bangit grew up as a company commander then later became a battalion commander and division commander.

In his message to the troops, Bangit said, “Just as an aging person reminisces his childhood, so do I, who have reached the peak in the military service, would want to revisit the places credited for my growth.”

“I am here today not just because I want to see this place again and reminisce, but also because I cannot leave without thanking you all. The past election period has been an achievement for all of us. It was an achievement for the AFP and an even greater achievement for our people,” said Bangit.

“I cannot imagine what would have happened if you did not heed that call to be non-partisan. Perhaps, we would all be in trouble now while our countrymen see us in disdain. But you obeyed and you have shown that indeed, a Filipino soldier is worthy of the honor, dignity, and respect not only from his comrades, but also from his countrymen in general”, the AFP Chief told the troops.

“Thanks to you, we have reached a very high level of professionalism. This, we can be very proud of. If I would ask you one thing before I go, it would be this: Please stay that way. Please stay professional no matter who your commanders are. Stay professional no matter who your Chief of Staff is, and no matter who your Commander-in-Chief is,” he further stated.

According to the AFP Chief, “Leaders come and go, just as I have come and I will go. But a Filipino soldier stays. He sacrifices with honor and dignity for his country. He strives to give his best as long as he serves. He toils like no other, and gives up his life no matter that it is the only life he's got.”

“You cannot always expect other people to understand that. The only thing you can do is to act like a dignified and honorable Filipino soldier and protect your institution if you must. A soldier does not fight for himself alone. He fights for his country, for his institution, and for his countrymen. Always remember: You are a soldier of the republic and not of anyone else,” Bangit reminded the soldiers.

He ended his message to the 2ID troops by saying, “The best years in my life have been the years when I served this country, as a Filipino soldier. I will never forget that. I may cease to be your Chief of Staff, but my love for the soldiers will stay. Thank you very much.”

Metro Pacific eyes Star Tollways, still keen on PNCC stake in Slex

Written by Miguel R. Camus
Business Mirror

THE toll road unit of infrastructure firm Metro Pacific Investments Corp. is training its massive financial resources to Southern Luzon after securing last week the multibillion-peso contract to operate and maintain Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (Sctex), which links the three major economic zones north of Metro Manila.

Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) president Ramoncito Fernandez said the company is “hoping” to acquire the 42-kilometer (km) Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR), which connects Santo Tomas, Batangas to Batangas City.

He added that MPTC, which also controls the concession to operate the 84-km. North Luzon Expressway (Nlex), remains keen on the Philippine National Construction Corp.’s (PNCC) stake in the 37-km. South Luzon Expressway (Slex).

Just as MPTC is creating a seamless toll road network north of the capital through Sctex and Nlex, the firm is replicating this model in the south. Slex inaugurates today an 8-km extension ending in Santo Tomas, Batangas which will serve as its link to Star.

Slex and Nlex will then be connected via a new P17-billion 13-km. elevated road cutting through Metro Manila to be built by MPTC. The government formally accepted the company’s unsolicited proposal on June 6.

“We are looking for [new] opportunities. In the southern portion [of Luzon],” Fernandez said last week.

The company executive clarified that discussions with Star Tollway Corp., operator of Star, have yet to commence.

Star Tollway president and chief executive officer Mark Dumol told the BusinessMirror: “There has been interest from Metro Pacific and from other parties. There has been no offer so far.”

Diversified conglomerate San Miguel Corp. (SMC), which was a one-time partner of Star Tollway in its unsuccessful bid for the Sctex contract, has also “informally” expressed its interest in Star, Dumol said.

SMC officials could not be reached for comment.

The management of Star is projecting at least double-digit traffic growth in the coming years from the current 26,000 vehicles per day due to its new connection to Slex and the booming Batangas economy.

“We expect above average traffic growth for the next five to 10 years mainly from the impact from Batangas port. We are already growing 10 percent year on year and, we expect another 10-percent spread over [several years] because of the impact of [traffic from Slex],” he said.

Fernandez said MPTC also plans to bid for the Slex stake of government-held Philippine National Construction Corp., which involves 20 percent in Malaysian-backed South Luzon Tollways Corp., which rehabilitated the toll road, and 40 percent of its operations and maintenance firm Manila Toll Expressway Systems Inc.

“We will wait for the new administration [to bid it out]. We made an unsolicited bid [previously],” Fernandez said.

An individual privy to the deal said MPTC offered P2.6 billion for the government’s stake in Slex.

With new projects and potential acquisitions in the pipeline, Fernandez said the company expects to decide on its financing requirements, which he estimated at between $200 million to $300 million, before the end of 2010.

Joint Cabinet meeting to clear air on government data

Written by Mia M. Gonzalez
Business Mirror

THE planned joint Cabinet meeting between the incoming and outgoing administrations will give incumbent officials a chance to validate government data and figures that are being questioned by the next leadership, Malacañang said on Monday.

Presidential Management Staff (PMS) head Ma. Elena Bautista-Horn, spokesman of the government transition team, said in a news briefing the Arroyo administration looks forward to the joint meeting, which the incoming administration has agreed to.

“I’m very happy that it will take place. . . . We’ve heard that they have been questioning our data, and I think a joint Cabinet meeting will be the right avenue to really discuss all the statistics. If they have certain questions, it will be the proper forum to validate and confirm the data that we have already disseminated to the public,” Bautista-Horn said.

She said the data previously released by the government and that of the incoming administration seem to have some discrepancies, and the joint Cabinet meeting will be a “good opportunity to clarify, once and for all,” such data.

Bautista-Horn said no date and venue for the meeting, to be presided by President Arroyo, has been set.

The PMS chief also revealed plans to have a small “get-together” among Cabinet officials on the final Cabinet meeting working day of the administration on June 29. She said the Cabinet meeting will be “short,” consisting of a summary of reports to be given to the next administration, followed by the get-together with the President.

Challenge of reconciliation

Meanwhile, she said one of the challenges facing President-elect Benigno Aquino III is forging national reconciliation, which would require him to be more “consultative” and to reach out to all groups, especially his political rivals and critics.

Bautista-Horn made the statement when asked to comment on reports that Armed Forces Chief Gen. Delfin Bangit was allegedly hurt by the announcement of the incoming leadership about his impending replacement without first informing him about it.

“One of the challenges of the President-elect is to be consultative. If you are President, you are the President of the entire nation. You are not just the President of your friends, relatives and supporters. You are also President of your enemies and critics,” Bautista-Horn said.

The Aquino administration’s “first test” is “how they will reach out to all the different camps in the community and in the country.” In this respect, it would pay to go on a “consultative mode,” she added.

She thinks it is understandable for Bangit to be hurt by the announcement of his possible replacement, as he only learned about it through the media.

On allegations that President Arroyo should be faulted for Bangit’s dilemma—as she chose to appoint him instead of extending the term of former AFP Chief Gen. Victor Ibrado—Bautista-Horn said the matter should not be politicized, especially as it involves an institution like the AFP, which has its own policies and procedures.

What the stock market is currently saying

Written by John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

After the euphoria over a successful election and the likelihood of a brand of “new politics,” the new administration may be in trouble before it even assumes office.

It is a given that Philippine politics is personality-driven rather than policy-driven. That carries with it some danger, as the people are almost encouraged to create their own concept of policy around the personality that they support. It seems, at times, that the majority of the voters are not really interested in hearing about specific policy, preferring broad strokes like “anticorruption” and “poverty reduction,” rather than having to think about the details.

Even the candidates know that this is not necessarily a good situation. When running for office and even after the election, when our leaders attempt to speak about the policy particulars, no one really appears to be listening. When it comes to personality, though, the “details” do seem important. President-elect Benigno Aquino III has already been told very specifically that he should quit smoking and get married. With the exception of the agenda-driven special-interest groups, who has asked about issues such as the next administration’s plan for energy sufficiency and polices related to mineral-wealth development? These kinds of questions are few.

Prior to and since the election, the political pundits have tried to pass over the lack of precise plans given to the public by comparing Aquino with US President Barack Obama. The US elected a president who similarly had little administrative experience and who campaigned on a platform of change.

Perhaps, the pundits should drop the Obama comparison right now as the American electorate, while embracing the Obama personality, is dissatisfied with the policies. Obama’s approval rating after less than 18 months in office stands at net approval of negative 14, with 49 percent voicing strong disapproval and total disapproval at 52 percent. This is the worse rating of any post-World War II president at this time in their term of office.

However, Filipinos are much more “forgiving” and much more realistic (perhaps, more so than the pundits) in assessing their leaders. It is likely that popular support for Aquino will remain solid for quite some time, even if he fails to meet the high and immediate expectations we read about on the newspaper opinion pages.

Nevertheless, the financial markets, fueled and directed by your money, are not as emotional about friendly faces and winning campaign slogans.

The reason I say that the new administration may be looking at some stormy skies for the next few months is what we are seeing in the stock market. The fact that the stock market is small in comparison with the overall economy does not, in any way, diminish the Philippine Stock Exchange’s importance as an indicator of sentiment and a potential predictor of the future.

The collective wisdom of how masses of people use their money is often very reliable. The boom over several years of the US housing market was because the masses believed correctly that government policy would sustain higher prices. The crash came because, eventually, it was impossible for government to sustain that boom policy.

So how can I say that the collective wisdom is so smart? The government did not come out and say, “We are going to create policy that is going to double the prices of houses every two years.” The collective wisdom figured that out, thus creating the boom. In 2007 the government did not say, “Hey, our policies are a failure and the housing market is going to collapse.” The people figured that out. The boom was caused by the people and then the collapse was caused by the people understanding and anticipating the effects of government policy. Even as the collapse was starting, government officials were still painting a very positive picture.

While the Philippine pundits were in panic about a probable failure of the 2010 elections, the people were saying something different. Automobile sales skyrocketed in the first quarter, mirroring the confidence the people had that the election would be a success.

Now the stock market is acting very cautious about the rest of the year.

While there is no fundamental reason for stock-market prices not to be rising, prices are in a period of confusion, combined with hesitation. Ignoring all the positive macroeconomic developments and the outstanding corporate results, since the first of May the market has gone sour. It is not so much that prices have gone down. It is that prices have not gone up, and positive momentum has left the market.

If at the end of June we do not price higher than April’s close (basically above PSEi 3,330), we may see a declining market for the next several months. Why?

Money, particularly investment money, is not impressed with pretty words and pleasant attitudes. Growth and profit are all that matter and, so far, the stock market is saying that there are no specifics as to what the next administration is going to do, favorable to investment money.

Do not, in any way, take this as a gloom-and-doom forecast.

Broad economic activity in real estate, consumer spending, business expansion and the like are long- term indicators and more important for forecasting the future. The stock market is a short-term indicator, but must not and cannot be ignored because short-term indicators will often lead and show the future direction of the long-term markers.

This is the good news. If the new administration can inspire confidence quickly in the stock market, then the long-term picture will become even more favorable as a positive short-term outlook will push the long term to even greater confidence and optimism.

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Sunday, 13 June 2010

Arroyo tough act to follow — Bangit

by Joyce Pangco Pañares
With Florante Solmerin
Manila Standard

President Gloria Arroyo capped the last testimonial parade the military held in her honor, with a subtle admonition to her successor not to cause the Armed Forces to become polarized or politicized.

“Indeed, I fervently hope that the progress we have made will not stop. I hope that what remains to be done will be picked up by the next generation of leaders,” Mrs. Arroyo said. “From a fractionalized organization whose members were in varying degrees of politicization, the AFP is now a truly professional organization.”

Mrs. Arroyo asked her successor to continue the programs she has started to modernize the Armed Forces as well as to insulate the military from partisan politics.

The outgoing president took pains to define a professional soldier which she said the next administration should continue to nurture. “A professional soldier is not politicized. Instead, he follows the chain of command in war or peace to the point of offering his life.”

Her admonition came amid report of widespread demoralization in the military after President-elect Benigno Aquino announced his plan not to recognize the Armed Forces chief whom his predecessor appointed along with 300 other military officers Mrs. Arroyo promoted before she steps down on June 30.

Bangit, for his part, called on the entire uniformed service to unite behind Aquino even as he challenged the next administration to surpass what Mrs. Arroyo has achieved.

“As professional soldiers, you will and you should obey them. But they will not be able to erase President Arroyo’s contributions until they have exceeded her accomplishments,” Bangit said.

Following Aquino’s reported plan to name a new military chief Bangit said he was considering an early retirement even as his tour of duty is good until July 21, 2011 when he reaches the mandatory retirement age of 56.

His plan to retire has triggered a jockeying for the top military post.

Atleast six senior generals have been casting a moist eye on Bangit’s post but sources said the choice would be toss-up between Army chief Reynaldo Mapagu and Lt. Gen. Ricardo David, chief of the Northern Luzon Command.

A potential contender Lt. Gen. Raymundo Ferrer, the administrator of martial law in Maguindanao province, appeared content to becoming Army chief, the sources said.

The contenders will have to be screened by the board of generals headed by Bangit, which will then recommend a few names to the Defense secretary.

Preparing for expansion to the ASEAN

Manila Bulletin

Investors from all over the world are increasingly convinced that the ASEAN, comprising some 600 million consumers rapidly graduating to middle-income status, should be considered together with Brazil, Russia, India and China (BRIC), as emerging markets that will lead the global economy in growth in the next twenty years. The Great Recession of the last two years actually helped to attract more attention to Southeast Asia as three of its most populous countries – Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines (VIP) – were among the few who avoided a recession in 2009. For this reason, there is increasing interest among the top 500 corporations of the Philippines to follow the pioneering examples of such companies as United Laboratories, Jollibee, Southeast Asian Food, Del Monte, Century Can, San Miguel Corporation and Liwayway Manufacturing (Oishi) in expanding their operations to such ASEAN countries as Indonesia, Vietnam, Thailand, Malaysia, and Cambodia, in addition to launching operations in the vast market of China.

This expansion to Southeast Asia is not limited to consumer-oriented businesses. Already the EDC, the alternative energy company of the Lopezes, is exploring transferring their geothermal energy success stories to Indonesia. Conglomerates like the DMCI group may soon tie up with Indonesian companies in mining ventures. Before long, there will be ASEAN-wide alliances in tourism as the whole region becomes a seamless area for Northeast Asian and European travelers. I also know of some Philippine universities contemplating tying up with counterparts in China, South Korea, and Indonesia in order to leverage on our being one of the largest English-speaking countries in the world. No top management of a large or medium-scale company in the Philippines should be left behind in considering a strategic move in the next five years to expand operations in the emerging markets of the ASEAN.

Philippine firms crossing borders should, however, prepare for the cultural land mines that could make their expansion to other countries very difficult. I am not referring only to obvious differences in consumer tastes, say in food, beverage or personal care products. Jollibee learned the hard way that fast food products that are smashing successes in the Philippines could very well fail in China or Indonesia. Oishi snack food items may have to be modified for entry into Vietnamese or Indonesian markets where consumers prefer super-spicy crackers. The way McDonalds had to adapt their menus to Filipino tastes (hamburger with rice, spaghetti) has already become legendary.

But differences in consumer tastes constitute the easy part of cultural adaptation. More challenging are people management practices that are significantly determined by differences in cultural traits. One does not have to be a psychologist to observe, for example, that many South Koreans in the Philippines rub Filipinos the wrong way in golf courses, restaurants, and other public places because of the clash between the directness and loudness of many Koreans and the smooth interpersonal relationships highly valued by most Filipinos. Even Japanese and South Koreans often find it hard to work with one another. Already some Filipino executives in Vietnam are realizing that their usual preference to spend time with their families during weekends and after work may not sit well with their very demanding Vietnamese employers.

To prepare more Filipino entrepreneurs and executives to cross cultural borders, the University of Asia and the Pacific has invited an expert on cross-cultural management from the famous IESE Business School in Barcelona, Spain--whose full-time MBA Program was ranked No. 1 in the whole world by The Economist. It was also ranked by The Financial Times as No. 5 in the world for executive education program and No. 2 for open enrollment offerings. The IESE Professor visiting the Philippines is Professor Yih-teen Lee, who teaches People Management at the IESE Business School and does a lot of research in cross-cultural management. He is especially qualified to talk about this topic in Asia because he hails from Taiwan but has taught for many years in Europe, first in Lausanne (Switzerland) and then in Barcelona. He is fluent in Mandarin, English, French and Spanish. He is collaborating closely with Dr. Pablo Cardona, who recently lectured to different business audiences in the Philippines about the new management concept called Management by Mission which is an improvement over Management by Results and Management by Objectives that have dominated management practices over the last fifty years. Professor Lee contributes to understanding and developing the competences required in managing in a cross-cultural context. Some of the cases he will use will actually introduce executives to the complexities of working with South Koreans and Chinese.

The seminar in which Professor Lee will speak is entitled "Developing Cross-Cultural Competences for Global Leaders." Scheduled for June 30, 2010 at 1 to 7 pm at the Telengtan Hall of the University of Asia and the Pacific, the seminar is valuable for organizations that either have cross-cultural staff and officers, or have commercial presence in more than one country, or serve international markets. Registration fee is Php 10,000 per participant, inclusive of snack, dinner, and seminar materials. To ensure in-depth discussion, participants will have to study two cases prior to the seminar. For reservations, please contact Ms. Alonica Salazar or Ms. Lea Rinon at 634-3095 or 637-0912, loc. 222 or email For comments, my email address is

New technology on stem cell bared

Manila Bulletin

Filipinos who want to avail themselves of the new technology that promises effective treatment of diseases, including cancer, by using stem cell technology need not go abroad. Top umbilical cord blood and stem cell banking facilities are in the country, using the same sophisticated procedures available abroad.

Aside from the needed technology, the Medical City in Ortigas Center, Pasig, boasts of a team of experts led by an internationally-recognized stem cell expert, Dr. Sam Bernal.

The hospital has several trained molecular biologists who can perform the extraction and cultivation and re-injection of stem cells into the body.

Dr. Bernal said his team extracts stem cells not only from the umbilical cord, but also from the umbilical cord vein, umbilical artery, from the cord substance itself, from the placenta, from the gland inside the placenta, and from the membrane surrounding the placenta.

The Regenerative medicine clinic of Medical City is not limited to just the use of the cord blood because in regenerating other organs such as the heart, Dr. Bernal said there is a need to extract stem cell from other sources.