Saturday, 25 September 2010

BPO Expands RP Facility Into Its Asia-Pacific Hub

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines – WNS (Holdings) Limited, a leading provider of global business process outsourcing services, is expanding its operations in Manila by over 300 seats and making the country its Asia Pacific hub for voice and data services for clients in the banking and financial services sector, announced Keshav Murugesh, Group CEO, WNS Global Services during his visit to the WNS Philippines center last Friday.

“Considering the quality of talent available in the country and the demand for our services, we believe that 10 percent of WNS’ workforce could be based in the Philippines over the next few years,” he elaborated. “WNS’ delivery center in Manila began by offering contact center services to global clients across various industries in 2008 and has now expanded operations to offer a range of services, including finance and accounting and analytics.”

“We are extremely committed to growing our delivery centers in the Philippines and have increased our capacity by 300 seats to cater to the growing demand. We are excited with the quality of talent in this country and the ability to deliver superior services to our customers from this region,” Prabakhar Bisen, CEO of WNS Philippines, added.

“The Philippines was an obvious choice as a delivery center for WNS as it provides us access to a large pool of high-quality talent, specially voice-based. 350,000 college graduates pass out from various universities in the Philippines every year, and 65,000 chartered accountants clear the Board,” Murugesh went on.

“The Philippines has also been recognized as the third largest English-speaking nation in the world with a high literacy rate of 94%,” he underscored.

WNS, a leading global business process outsourcing company, also operates international sites in Costa Rica, Romania, Sri Lanka, India and U.K.

Thursday, 23 September 2010

Bigfoot-owned film school carves niche in the Philippines

Business Mirror

AMERICAN teacher Nichole Post dreams of one day making films that would help create better understanding among different peoples around the world.

To achieve her dream, the 28-year-old aspiring filmmaker has taken time off from teaching English in South Korea and enrolled at the International Academy of Film and Television in the central Philippines.

The academy, ranked as one of the best film schools in the world by The Hollywood Reporter, was founded in 2004 by Bigfoot Entertainment, an independent film producer, on Mactan Island, Cebu province.

Post said she plans to apply for an internship position at Bigfoot, which also has a state-of-the art film and television studio on Mactan, or search for a producing job after finishing her one-year diploma program on filmmaking next March.

“I want to make social documentaries, like a film on the effects of the 2001 [economic] crisis on the citizens of Buenos Aires or a film on the immigration dispute between the US and Mexico,” she said.

“I want to focus on the social aspects of the issues, talk to the people and learn as much as possible from these people,” she added. “As for the public, I hope I would be able to touch someone and help them have better understanding of other people.”

Matt Lubetich, managing partner of Bigfoot Ventures Ltd, parent company of Bigfoot Entertainment, said the film school has hundreds of students from more than 30 countries around the world.

In the academy, students learn the art of filmmaking and get hands-on technical training from award-winning mentors. They also get educated about the business aspect of the industry, Lubetich said.

Lubetich noted that the academy offers courses at a third of the cost of education in other top-rated international film schools, such as New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts or Germany’s Baden-Wurtemberg Film Academy.

In a continuing effort to give its students hands-on training, the academy recently launched an immersion program that would allow students to experience working on an actual feature film production and earn film credits.

Keith Sensing, executive director of the academy, said students in the first class of the nine-month program would be working on a $1-million movie to be directed by American filmmaker and actor John Milton Branton. (Bloomberg News)

Real Philippine tourists

Written by John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

In the aftermath of the Luneta Park tragedy, suddenly everyone became an expert on what the Philippines needs to do to attract more tourists. That is human nature, I suppose. The same thing happened after those terrible accidents down near Naga City. Everyone became an expert on traffic management, road design and bus driving.

The suggestions about tourism have flowed like wine at a wedding. I wonder, though, how many of the pundits have dealt with actual tourists to know their reactions to the Philippines. Balikbayan cousins do not count as tourists.

Last weekend I entertained some real tourists, business associates who wanted to see and experience a little of the Philippines after concluding our business. I asked them how their hotel was—the Makati Shangri-La. They all said it was great. But it was not the physical hotel that was memorable. One lady in our group was amazed when the hostess at the reception area on the executive floor greeted her as “Miss Maureen” in spite of the fact that the reservation was under the name of “M. Smith.” “Miss Maureen” had stayed at the Shang several months ago on a previous trip.

Another of these tourists commented that when he went to Shoemart, there was an abundance of salespeople available to help as he shopped, a level of service unheard of in the US that we here expect and take for granted.

But the real test for the Philippines as a tourist destination came on Saturday, when I loaded them into the company van and we sped south for Tagaytay. As soon as we cleared the Alabang area, they were amazed at all the trees and greenery. We went through Santa Rosa with booming property developments and the conversation turned to the incredible value that Philippine real estate offers to foreign buyers.

Aside from the natural beauty of Tagaytay, the area is experiencing another kind of building boom, with Robinsons Land and SM Development putting up large hotel and residential/resort complexes.

Our first destination found us on the Cavite side at Sonya’s Garden for lunch. Although Sonya’s Garden is not that extraordinary as there are several similar places in Tagaytay, my guests were enthralled at its Filipino charm and beauty, as they had never experienced something exactly like Sonya’s before.

After lunch, we drove to Picnic Grove to see Taal. Of course, it was crowded—crowded with ordinary people having a day out, Filipino- style, which means large groups of family and friends and large amounts of food. My associates loved the view and also the people around the park having fun.

A drive down the road to People’s Park was followed by a jeepney ride up to the Palace in the Sky and stories of past government extravagances combined with a breathtaking view.

No trip to Tagaytay would be complete without stopping for a pasalubong of buko pie and a stop to look at the locally made furniture and roadside stalls that sell plants and pottery. The drive back to Makati was smooth and quick, as the South Luzon Expressway is completed until you get to where the Skyway is still under construction. Next time they come, we are heading to Pansol or maybe Corregidor Island. They had a wonderful time.

The reason I share this long-winded story is because of an e-mail from a tourist that Boo Chanco published in his Philippine Star column the other day.

“I’m back visiting the Philippines. I recently took a couple of trips from Makati to Puerto Azul, Tagaytay and Caylabne—one through the coastal road, and the other down the South Superhighway. The destination venues were fine and enjoyable, but to get to them we had to travel through miles and miles of God-awful decrepit urban areas, shanties and squalor with practically nowhere to eat a decent meal in a decent restaurant along the highway.

“Don’t the Filipinos in ‘power’ realize that the traffic chaos, highway infrastructure and appalling squatter conditions will turn off any tourists from ever coming again or recommending it to friends.”

I am sure this is the kind of tourist who would write a Japanese newspaper columnist complaining about the $20 beer, the fact that no one speaks English, only Japanese, and that all the eateries serve noodles and fish.

What a jerk. Allow me to respond.

First, on the road to Puerto Azul is a place that serves the best bulalo in Cavite. Their dinuguan and puto are pretty good, too. I would also recommend staying awake as you travel, since there must be a dozen Jollibees down Coastal Road if the local eateries are not decent enough for your taste.

Second, sorry about the squalor and squatters but they were not placed next to the road just to annoy you. We are not happy about it either. You see, the average per-capita gross domestic product in the Philippines is about $3,500 versus $47,000 in the US, and Filipinos are working hard to improve things. Someone once tried boarding up the squatter areas so your fragile sensibilities would not be damaged, but then the squatters took the plywood to build slightly better shacks. I suggest the next time you come, trying throwing a lot of dollars out the car window as you pass and maybe the next time you visit, the view will be more acceptable to you.

Finally, if you expect or want the Philippines to be like Disneyworld next time, go to Disneyworld. Visiting another country is like visiting someone’s home. They may not live the same way you do and if you don’t like it, don’t visit. But the tourists who come understanding this is not Chicago or London or Tokyo, have a great time.

This item appeared in the paper the same day as Boo’s column. “Australian Susan May Jennifer Taylor and Moroccan Youssef Mouflih were taken into custody by the police after they failed to pay their hotel bill of P58,674.94 at the Millionaires Hotel in Pasay City.” Millionaires is one of those hotels with mirrors on the ceiling. I was really wishing that this was the tourist who e-mailed Boo.

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Monday, 20 September 2010

RP launches sale of $500 million worth of peso global bonds

By Iris C. Gonzales (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The Philippines has launched the sale of at least $500 million in global peso-denominated bonds, according to persons familiar with the transaction.

The government is expected to sell more than $500 million in 10-year bonds, the first global local currency bonds for the country. Investors are expected to gobble up the debt because of the tax treatment. The transaction is not subject to interest income of 20 percent, a Finance official said.

In a separate statement, the Investor Relations Office (IRO) of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said the government has mandated Citi and Deutsche Bank as joint global coordinators for the transaction and Citi, Credit Suisse, Deutsch Bank, Goldman Sachs (Asia), HSBC and JP Morgan as joint bookrunners.

The Philippines’ long-term foreign currency debt ratings are Ba3 by Moody’s Investors Service and BB- by Standard & Poor’s or below investment grade.

Proceeds of the bond sale would be used for general budgetary requirements amid a widening budget deficit that is projected to hit P325-billion this year or 3.9 percent of gross domestic product (GDP).

The P325-billion deficit is higher than the previous budget deficit program of P300 billion or 3.6 percent of GDP set by the previous government.

As of end-July, the budget shortfall has already widened to P229.4 billion, already 70.6 percent of the 2010 ceiling.

Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima has said that next year, the budget gap could narrow to P225 billion or 2.5 percent of GDP if the economy grows by seven percent or more than the projected five-percent growth. At five-percent growth, the government expects a budget gap of P290 billion.

The sale of peso-denominated dollar bonds and a dollar debt exchange are among the plans of the Aquino administration to fund its budgetary requirements, lengthen its maturities and manage its debts.

National Treasurer Roberto Tan earlier said the government plans to issue 10-year and 20- or 25-year dollar bonds in exchange for maturing shorter-term bonds in the market.

The dollar debt swap may follow after the sale of peso-denominated bonds but officials have yet to determine the exact timing of the exchange.

Rail expansion tops list of private-public projects

By Ma. Elisa Osorio (The Philippine Star)

MANILA, Philippines - The government has released the list of the top 10 Public-Private Partnership (PPP) projects with a combined worth of more than P127.78 billion.

The list of PPP projects ready for investment in 2011 was presented to businessmen during a meeting in Malacañang last week. Of the 10 projects, three did not have project costs yet.

The infrastructure projects focused mainly on the improvement of the rail system, roads and airports.

At least two business groups – the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI) and the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) – have expressed interest in investing in the projects.

The biggest project is for the expansion of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) and the Light Rail Transit (LRT), which has a projected cost of P70 billion.

This is followed by the North Luzon Expressway (NLEX) and the South Luzon Expressway (SLEX) Link, which has a projected cost of P21 billion.

The MRT Line 2 has an estimated cost of P11.3 billion while the CALA Expressway has an estimated cost of P10.5 billion.

The other projects listed in the PPP include the improvement of Panglao airport worth P7.5 billion, the Puerto Princesa airport worth P4.36 billion and the Daraga international airport at P3 billion.

The projects that were listed but have no costs yet include the development of a city terminal for the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA), the privatization of the Laguindingan Airport Operation and Maintenance and the supply of treated bulk water for Metro Manila.

The biggest project – the MRT-LRT expansion – aims to integrate and expand the capacity of existing MRT 3 and LRTA railway lines.

It involves the extension of the existing 15-kilometer LRTA Line 1 system to Bacoor, Cavite by an additional 11.7 km. This also includes eight passenger stations with provision for two additional stations.

The MRT Line 2 involves the construction of a four-kilometer eastern extension of MRT Line 2 from Santolan in Pasig to Masinag Junction in Antipolo.

The project aims to expand the existing LRTA rail transport services of MRT Line 2 for the benefit of passengers coming from Marikina, Cainta and Antipolo, Rizal.

The Panglao airport, on the other hand, involves the construction of a new airport to conform to international standards.

The Puerto Princesa airport will also be rehabilitated in order to meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO). This will be done through the construction of a passenger terminal building, control tower, cargo terminal and other landside facilities.

The third airport project is the privatization of Laguindingan airport.

The PPP also lists the development of a city terminal in order to service another airport the DMIA in order to reduce cargo loading time.

The NLEX-SLEX Link will close the gap and complete the North-South Luzon industrial beltway transport axis by connecting the two expressways. This will help decongest Metro Manila traffic, particularly EDSA. The project will start in Caloocan City and end in Makati City.

The CALA Expressway, meanwhile, will provide vital access between various economic zones in Cavite and the Ninoy Aquino International Airport, Metro Manila ports and the Batangas port. This is the extension of the on-going Manila-Cavite Coastal Expressway Extension. It will end in Silang, Cavite.

Lastly, the supply of treated bulk water will supplement the long-term water supply requirements in Metro Manila.

LRT Line 1 to get 7 new trains after rehab

Waiting time to be shortened to three minutes
by Jeremiah F. de Guzman
Manila Standard

THE Light Rail Transit Authority said it will add seven new trains for the operations of LRT Line 1 after reporting the completion of a ¥1.33-billion (P687 million) rehabilitation project.

The LRTA said another rehabilitation project worth about P1 billion is set for implementation next year.

The project is expected to improve the operations of the entire LRT system.

Rodrigo Bulario, LRTA project manager for the LRT Line 1 Capacity Expansion Project, told reporters that a new train will be introduced to the LRT Line 1’s 29-train fleet next month.

“We will deliver a running train by end of October. We are targeting to add seven trains until March next year.”

Bulario said the new trains, which may be delivered every month starting next month, are expected to improve headways in LRT Line 1 from around six minutes now to about three minutes by next year.

He said this is part of the rehabilitation project which started in December 2009.

This includes restoration of old trains, improvements in train air conditions, repair of tracks and revamping electrical systems.

LRTA Administrator Rafael Rodriguez also said the rail authority is preparing another set of rehabilitation projects that involve “an immediate enhancement program and a long-term improvement program on the physical facilities and system.”

“It may take two to three years,” Rodriguez said.

Population Statistics are Being Doctored

Dr Bernardo Villegas
Manila Bulletin

I am glad that Dr. Jose S. Sandejas, former Commissioner of the Population Commission, has a Ph.D. in Engineering and is steeped in mathematical and statistical sciences. Unlike some of our ignorant journalists or commentators who talk about an exploding population, he cannot be fooled by the statistical abacadabra being performed by some people in the National Statistical Coordination Board. He recently wrote a letter to the Chairman of the NSCB expressing his surprise that in projecting population data from the 2000 census, some of the statisticians in the NSCB single-handedly added 146,582 babies to the actual number recorded in the 2000 census. The flimsy excuse given in a technical note, hidden in very small letters, is that they assumed that the Philippine population pyramid should continue to be "pyramid-like" (instead of an inverted pyramid). In fact, if they had not added the 146,582 babies to the data for the year 2000, the Philippine demographic data would no longer conform with the classic form a pyramid. It would start to show the makings of an inverted pyramid which now characterizes aging countries like Japan, Spain, Italy and South Korea.

As a long-term student of Philippine demography, I had always suspected some doctoring of population data by birth-control pushers. When the United Nations Population Commission was already reporting Philippine population growth rate of anywhere from 1.6 to 1.8% annually, the neo-Malthusians continued to report a growth rate of 2.3%. Only when some of us insisted that the growth rate had already decelerated did the government demographers start to report a rate of less than 2.0%. That is why Dr. Sandejas has all the right to question the scientific validity of the unwarranted adding of 9% more babies to the actual data the 2000 Census arrived at. The net effect of the arbitrary addition is to inflate the population growth rate (PGR) and the total fertility rate (TFR) by some 9% more than the actual figure measured in the 2000 Census. The TFR for the year 2000 should have been reported as only 2.7 babies per woman, already dangerously close to zero population growth rate. The inflated figures that some gullible journalists unwittingly accept can mislead economic and social planners, including legislators who are pushing the RH Bill and other population control measures based on wrong and even deliberately doctored data.

In a letter to Mr. Vicente Paterno, Chair of the Joint Steering Committee of the BBC-MAP-MBC-PCPD, Dr. Sandejas presented the following views which reflect a more objective assessment of the so-called population bomb in the Philippines (I have elaborated on the points raised by Dr. Sandejas):

1) Contrary to the common-sense view that the Philippine population is still exploding (seemingly supported by the common sight of overcrowded slum districts in the Metro Manila area), the Philippines' National Statistical Coordination Board in its website, quotes the Philippine Population Growth Rate (PPGR) for the year 2010 to be at the low level of only 1.82% per annum (vs. the 2.36% during the census year 2000, which figure is often still used to justify the view that PGR is “exploding.”

2) Equally worrisome is the Total Fertility Rate (TFR), the average number of children per woman, quoted by NSCB for the year 2010 at only 2.96 births per woman. This represents a big decline from the 2000 figure of 3.41 births per woman. This big drop in the TFR is quite palpable. All around us, we see young couples having fewer children than their elders (even in informal dweller areas), with many young couples saying that they plan on having no more than 2 or 3 children (or much less than their elders who had 4 to 6 children per family). In fact, in 1975 the TFR was 6 children per fertile woman. This decline in fertility has happened without aggressive population control campaigns. The main factors for the decrease in fertility are urbanization, later marriages, and increased education of women.

3) The above-quoted figures from the NSCB are already indicative of a non-exploding population growth. These quoted figures, however, would be even lower if the NCSB did not "adjust" (in blunter language "doctor") the number of births upwards by almost 9% of the actual reported figures. NCSB had not been making these adjustments, or at least they were not footnoted, earlier than the year 2000.

4) If the NSCB figures were not to be adjusted (unadjusted figures are also shown in their website), the TFR for 2000 would only be at 2.7 children per woman; which, if extrapolated to 2010, will show a TFR of only 2.32 children per woman (vs. the TFR for 2010 of 2.96 in the NSCB website); and extrapolated further to the year 2016 would show a TFR of less than 2.1 children per woman. This shows that the Philippines is already following the path of the aging countries whose TFR had much earlier dropped below the 2.1 replacement level, and are still dropping.

5) Since the PGR is clearly dropping from year to year, it is not correct to use 2.4% as a constant growth rate for the 7 years from 2000 to 2007. If this technically more correct approach is used, the PGR for 2010 would only be 1.69% instead of the 1.82% quoted in the NSCB website.

6) The statistical trends established above clearly show that the Philippine population is no longer exploding but is following the trend observed in other countries, both rich and poor, where family attitudes have tended towards smaller family sizes resulting to graying/aging populations.

Dr. Sandejas concludes that the Philippines does not need a policy on family planning which will tend to slow down PGR even more rapidly. The Philippines can reap a demographic dividend if we can slow down or reverse the declining PGR or TFR. The Government's role is to assist parents to educate and nurture the youth leaders so that they can be more productive citizens in the future. I hope that some of our media people will stop their hysterical cries about the Philippine population bomb. They have unfortunately been victims of "doctors of statistics." For comments, my email address is