Saturday, 17 December 2011

Cebu Pacific, CAE To Open $50-M Airbus Pilot Training Center

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Cebu Pacific Air, the Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, and CAE of Canada, world leader in aviation training, are investing US$40 million to US$50 million in a joint venture to establish an aviation training center for airlines in the Asia Pacific region.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, Cebu Pacific said the joint venture will also be responsible for type-rating training of its pilots.

The aviation academy is scheduled to start operations in the third quarter of 2012 in Clark Freeport Zone, northwest of the national capital of Manila.

Read more:

Friday, 16 December 2011

Full blast on infra projects in 2012

Expect more traffic jams with implementation of P140B infra projects—Abad
By: Christine O. Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Expect major traffic jams not only in Metro Manila but throughout the country starting next month when the government goes full blast in implementing its infrastructure program, the budget department said Thursday.

“There will be temporary problems with respect to the flow of traffic all over the country because what (Public Works) Secretary (Rogelio) Singson has been able to do is accelerate the completion of the infrastructure programs so that it may be completed before 2013,” Budget Secretary Floencio Abad told reporters.

The budget secretary said that the DPWH seeks to implement 2,144 infrastructure projects all over the country, mostly in the poor provinces. Ninety-three percent of these projects will be ready for awarding on January 2 next year, Abad said.

Read complete article:

Government sees P832B worth of infra projects for implementation in 2012: Neda

Business Mirror
THE government estimates that infrastructure projects to be undertaken next year will amount to around P832 billion, according to the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda).
Neda Director General Cayetano W. Paderanga Jr. told reporters that these projects are part of the still-to be published 2011 to 2016 Public Investment Program (PIP).

The PIP will amount to around P4.2 trillion under the term of President Aquino. The Neda estimated that close to P3.8 trillion will be composed of infrastructure projects alone or those that require construction while the remaining will be for the government’s on-lending program.

“These are still rough numbers. These are programmed expenditures so it will depend on the actual implementation but we’re confirming the increase because in 2011, the initial amount estimated was only about P500 billion so we’re romping it up to around P832 billion,” Paderanga explained.

Read more:

Ayala Wins Toll Road Bidding

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — The government said Thursday conglomerate Ayala Corp. won the auction for a contract to develop a toll road project linking the capital to southern provinces with a bid of P902 million, more than double the floor price.

Ayala Corp's bid came in ahead of South Expressway Link, a consortium led by San Miguel Corp, which bid P608 million said Public Works and Highways Secretary Rogelio Singson.

Only the two groups passed pre-qualification for the auction, and the minimum price was set at P371 million.

''We declared Ayala as the winning bidder,'' Singson told Reuters on phone. ''We are preparing all the documents so we can start work as soon as possible.''

The project – the first toll road venture by the Ayala group – involves financing, design, construction, operation and maintenance of the Daang Hari-SLEX toll road that will link the southern Cavite province to the South Luzon Expressway, one of two major gateways to the capital.

It is the first of $1-billion priority infrastructure deals the government wants to offer to investors under a public-private partnership (PPP) program, the centerpiece of development goals of President Benigno Aquino's administration.

Singson said his agency was also preparing the auction of two other PPP projects in the first quarter of 2012, including the second phase of the NAIA expressway linking two highways to the three terminals of Manila's main international airport at an estimated cost of P10.6 billion.

The second auction involves inviting investors to challenge an unsolicited bid worth P21 billion from the Metro Pacific Investments Corp. for the construction of an elevated road link that will connect the two existing main expressways linking Manila to nearby provinces to the north and south.

The Daang Hari-SLEX Link Road Project involves the construction of a new 4-kilometer 4-lane toll road, from the junction of Daang Reyna and Daang Hari in Las Piñas/Bacoor, Cavite to SLEX through the vicinity of Susana Heights Interchange in Muntinlupa, as exit and entry from the northbound and southbound lanes of SLEX, traversing the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) Reservation.

The project will complement the Cavite-Laguna-East-West Highway and will provide additional access for the increasing traffic between the cities of Las Piñas and Muntinlupa and the province of Cavite, which is one of the most rapidly growing areas around Metro Manila," added Singson.

The project is a strategic component of the Metro Manila Urban Expressway Network Master Plan intended to provide a high-standard highway within a 200-kilometer radius of Metro Manila.

Villar Group Expanding Store Chain
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Finds Convenience Stores, Inc. (FCSI), a member of the Retail and Services group of the Villar Group of Companies, expects to invest a total of P1 billion to expand its store network to 100 in the next 12 months.

The firm marked its entry into franchising thru its first Trade Conference held recently. The event was meant to establish and maintain strong business relations with existing and future business partners and to learn more about the future direction of the company.

Senator Manny Villar noted that his retail and service group is now embarking on expanding significantly with the economy doing well with the influx of remittances and steady growth of the BPO industry.

“It’s a huge market out there, it’s booming and we should participate in this boom,” said Villar adding that he envisions his retail and service group to become as dominating as its realty counterpart, Vista Land and Lifescapes.

“This is the beginning of a big group. This is the beginning of a dominant player in the industry,” said Villar.

He pointed out that, “we are dead set on becoming number one in this area. We are not intimidated by competition. We feel that competition here is very slow and we can move faster. So we accept the challenge, we are starting, we’re not late. We’ve only just begun. We’re just warming up.”

Finds president Jerry Navarrete FCSI is one of the many retail and service companies under the Villar Group, which also includes Starmall, Primewater, MGS Construction, Golden Haven, Planet Cable and Georgia College to name a few.

Finds Convenience Store was initially conceptualized to complement the villages and subdivisions developed by Vista Land nationwide and to serve the daily needs of its residents.

FCS has also put up an al fresco dining concept which offers all-day breakfast meals and ready-to-go meals any time of the day. (JAL)

New partnership formed to fund P17-B Skyway Stage 3 project

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Construction of the 14-kilometer Skyway Stage 3 project is expected to commence in the second quarter of next year with four Indonesian companies forming a new company to finance the P17 billion-project.

Citra Marga Nusaphala Persada, Citra Lamtoro Gung Persada (CLP), Bhaskara Duniajaya and Matra Sarana Arsitama, collectively known in the Philippines as the Citra Group, the four Indonesian firms that own the majority interest in the Skyway concessionaire Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. (CMMTC), have consolidated their shareholdings by forming a new company.

The newly formed company has secured over P17 billion in total funding required for both the acquisition of existing toll roads and building new toll roads.

Having invested in the Philippines since 1995, and overcoming the Asian and global financial crises of 1997 and 2008, the Citra Group can be considered the most steadfast foreign developer of toll roads in the country, in good times and bad.

After completing Skyway Stage 2 ahead of schedule in March this year, CLP together with its longtime joint venture partner, state-owned Philippine National Construction Corporation (PNCC), submitted to the government a proposal for Stage 3 to re-affirm its commitment to continue the Skyway from SLEX to NLEX.

The new elevated roadway will help solve Metro Manila’s traffic congestion by having on and off ramps in strategic locations along its entirety from Buendia, Osmena Avenue, the Pasig River, Araneta Avenue, A. Bonifacio crossing Sergeant A. Rivera all the way to Balintawak.

The Office of the Government Corporate Counsel and the Department of Justice under the Aquino Administration are of the opinion that the CLP-PNCC joint venture partnership has rights to Skyway Stage 3 project.

The new company is ready to support and finance the CLP-PNCC joint venture projects like the Skyway Stage 3 and the Metro Manila Expressway or C6 Stage 4.

Thursday, 15 December 2011

'Big name lawyers want to defend Corona'

Read more:

Big name lawyers are lining up and offering their services for free to defend Chief Justice Renato Corona in the impeachment trial at the Senate early next year.

Supreme Court (SC) Administrator Midas Marquez said that the lawyers who will form the defense team for Corona is still being finalized.

"I'm also very pleasantly surprised because there are so many big name lawyers offering their services to the Chief Justice for free," Marquez said in a television interview.


Also yesterday, the Integrated Bar of the Philippines (IBP) issued a statement expressing their opposition to Corona's impeachment.

"The impeachment has placed on trial not only the Chief Justice but the entire Supreme Court. The grounds invoked to impeach the Chief Justice refer to collegial decisions of the Supreme Court involving interpretations of law in actual disputes elevated for review," the IBP said in a statement.

It said that in all of the cases cited in the impeachment complaint, Corona merely concurred with the majority or minority opinion and was not the ponente.

Chief Justice vows to block President’s plan to appoint puppet court

Judges lead solidarity walkout
With Jovee Marie N. Dela Cruz, Jing Villamente and Jaime Pilapil
Read full article:

Supreme Court (SC) Chief Justice Renato Corona on Wednesday came out fighting as he pledged to block a supposed plan of President Benigno Aquino 3rd to become a dictator, saying that the
country’s incumbent leader wanted to oust him so that he can appoint a puppet court and control all branches of the government.


At least 500 judges and court employees of the Regional Trial Court of Manila also on Wednesday marched to the Supreme Court to show their support for Corona.

Ten High Tribunal justices were also there, as well as justices of the Court of Appeals and the anti-graft court Sandiganbayan.

SC Justices Maria Lourdes Aranal-Sereno and Estela Perlas-Bernabe, who were appointed by Mr. Aquino, did not show up.

Justices Antonio Carpio and Martin Villarama were also not around.

Wearing black shirts and black arm bands, the judges and court employees started their march at 12:20 p.m.

Antonio Eugenio, the president of the Manila Regional Trial Court Judges Association, said that they were fully behind Corona “no matter what the cost.”

Eugenio added that court sessions were suspended.

Proceedings at the 45 branches of the Quezon City (Metro Manila) Regional Court and Metropolitan Trial Court were also suspended after the executive judge ordered a “court holiday’’ in the afternoon.

Some of the estimated 675 Hall of Justice personnel trooped to the SC to listen to Corona’s speech, while others stayed in their offices and just watched the proceedings on their TV sets.
A number of court employees sympathetic to Corona wore black T-shirts.

Malacañang and some members of Congress denounced the declaration of the court holiday.
“Court hearings set for today have been canceled, there are even reports that hearings on the Maguindanao massacre case have been reset so that court employees can attend a hastily planned rally this afternoon in support of [Corona]. If this is true, then one must ask if the judiciary is not being manipulated into participating in one man’s personal issues,” Palace spokesman Edwin Lacierda said.

“We call on members of the judiciary to not let themselves be used to further the political agenda of one man and his patron,” he added.

Related articles:
-Judges lead solidarity walkout
-Strongman rule looms
-Integrated Bar of the Philippines backs Chief Justice
-Palace ally Hermilando Mandanas who junked impeach rap fired

-Pushing Back
-Pushing us to anarchy

PHL emerging as ‘safe haven’ for investors

Business Mirror
Read full report:

Philippine equities will continue to attract investments next year amid stable economic and political prospects, UBS Investments said on Wednesday. But higher stock valuations versus peers and possible disruptions from the European sovereign- debt crisis could pose profit-taking scenarios during the early part of 2012, it added.

“The Philippines is emerging as a safe haven. Normally with risk aversion, Philippines gets the brunt of the selling. Now it seems to be the reverse,” Jody Santiago, executive director of UBS Investments Research, told reporters on Wednesday.

In a briefing, the domestic unit of the Swiss banking giant pegged the one-year target for the benchmark Philippine Stock Exchange Index (PSEi) at 4,700.

That would be a gain of almost 10 percent from the PSEi’s 4,285.93 close on Wednesday and also reflects UBS Investments’ outlook that Philippine corporate earnings will grow by a tenth in 2012.

Santiago pointed to other factors, such as the country’s minimal sovereign-debt risk and stable
price increases as measured by inflation, which it expects at 3.5 percent. The country’s economic growth is pegged at 3.3 percent next year.

Morgan Stanley says buy PSE

Business Mirror
IT is not often that the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) is cited as the place to put your money. So it comes as a bit of a surprise that in the most recent, December 13 Morgan Stanley Asia/GEMs (Global Emerging Markets) Strategy report, the PSE experienced a significant upgrade.
Morgan Stanley, through its MSCI affiliate, is a provider of research and strategy for the global markets to institutional investors. The MSCI creates indexes both globally and regionally in order that these big-time investors have a gauge to judge their own portfolio performance. Further, for both the global and regional markets, Morgan recommends a particular weighting. That is, for example, based on stock-market size, should you have more of your money in Taiwan or in the Philippines?

Morgan says it should be in the PSE as the Philippines was upgraded to “overweight” and Taiwan downgraded to “underweight.”

Twenty countries are included in the GEM list. The Philippines is now included with China, Russia, Brazil and South Africa in the overweight group. Mexico, India and Taiwan are at the bottom all being underweighted. Based on this new assessment of the PSE, going from equal weight to overweight means that the amount of portfolio allocation to the PSE should nearly be doubled.

The Philippines was a big mover on the list, not only going into overweight territory but moving from No. 11 to No. 5. Further, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT) was made a part of the focus list, a type of global model portfolio, including Samsung, Hyundai, BHP Billiton (mining), Telefonica Brazil, and Thailand’s PTT Global Chemicals.

There are two reasons you as an investor should be excited about this Morgan Stanley report. Global-equity portfolio managers pretty well must now buy into the PSE. For them to capture the MSCI index performance, they will need to show that they are overweighted in PSE issues and this must come before the end of the year. This is true window-dressing, not the nonsense you read about in the newspapers.

Do not expect a rush of foreign money into the PSE between now and New Year’s. The political circus that is taking place has effectively killed that. However, the longer-term investment from abroad will come in during the first quarter of 2012 or when the political turmoil is finished.

The second reason this is all very important is why the PSE, in general, and PLDT, in particular, has been upgraded.

Morgan’s target price for PLDT is P3,000 per share. That should be music to your ears considering the stock is trading at P2,454 and Morgan is calling for a more than 20-percent price increase. That would put the PSE Index near my best-case scenario level of 5,000.

Morgan is also expecting an 8.6-percent dividend yield for PLDT, which makes putting your money in PLDT a 30-percent return-on-investment proposition. The expected Price Earnings Ratio (PER) for PLDT is 13.7. Given that a PER of 15 is not unreasonable, we could see an even higher price than P3,000 for the stock.

Why is Morgan so favorable on the Philippines?

The MSCI Emerging Markets Index includes 18 PSE-listed companies. The 2011 performance of these issues is a negative 2.9 percent. That may not seem great but it is in comparison to others. The Brazilian index components are down 17 percent. Malaysia and Thailand are down over 4 percent. Taiwan, India, Peru and China are all down more than 20 percent. The only country that has outperformed the Philippines is Indonesia, down 1.8 percent.

There are three important factors that Morgan looks at. These are Return on Equity (ROE), PER, and currency risk.

The Philippine peso is grouped with Malaysia, Russia and China as having the lowest risk of currency vulnerability to external forces such as current account status and borrowing needs. That is very good seeing as all three of the others “manage” (read manipulate) their foreign-exchange rate. The External Vulnerability Indicator of these four nations is 24 plus. By comparison, Thailand has a rating of 5.5 and Indonesia 3.2. In this case, high score wins.

With an overall trailing PER around 18, the PSE is slightly overvalued. However, it is the corporate Return on Equity where Philippine companies really stand out. ROE simply means, how much money is a company making based on the value of the company. The Philippines ranks No. 3 out of 20 on ROE. And believe it or not, Philippine companies, at least the 18 included in the Morgan index, pay a lot of their profits out in dividends, ranking No. 5.

For political risk, the Philippines ranks No.17 out of 20. Egypt is number 20. No comment.

Buy the PSE. Morgan Stanley says so.

E-mail to and Twitter @mangunonmarkets. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by Inc.

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

President Aquino can stop corruption if he rises above partisanship

The president needs to put the horse of institution building before the cart of prosecuting his predecessor. Mr. Aquino has a genuine chance here to capitalize on his electoral platform and reform the police and judiciary. Waging a war on Mrs. Arroyo and the Supreme Court garners headlines, but it runs the risk of permanently damaging the judiciary. The best option is to wait to appoint qualified—and nonpartisan—judges to replace the current ones on the bench. The true test of Mr. Aquino's mettle will be whether he continues to support graft-busters when they go after members of his own party.

Read more from the Wall Street Journal.

Related article by Philip Bowring.

Philippines going down the way of dictatorship again?

Impeachment juggernaut unleashed on Corona
By: Amando Doronila
Philippine Daily Inquirer

Congressional allies of President Aquino impeached Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona on Monday in an unprecedented record time of one day.

With stunning swiftness unparalleled in the history of impeachment in this country, 188 members of the House of Representatives voted to impeach Corona for interfering in the prosecution of former President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, comprising more than  one-third of the 285 House members, a requirement under the Constitution to impeach a high official.

The rushed impeachment broke several impeachment procedures and historical precedents. First of all, it made Corona the first Filipino chief justice to be impeached; the impeachment marked the first attack on the independence of the Supreme Court through the combined power of both the Executive and Legislative departments in a conspiracy that unleashed a juggernaut to crush the head of the high court as well as to make it subservient to the Chief Executive.

Too many breaches of normal democratic procedures involved in the relationship of checks and balances between the judicial and political branches (the Executive and Legislative) have occurred in the holy crusade claimed to make past officials accountable and to remove officials, notably the Chief Justice for allegedly blocking the administration’s anti-corruption efforts.

These breaches have raised legitimate concerns and questions over whether the impeachment of Corona has already pushed the country down the path  of a tyrannical rule by a populist regime disguised as part of the drive to exact accountability for past misdeeds.

Breaches of regular procedures and irregular short-cuts on due process  arising from the  strikes by the President on the Supreme Court and its leadership, which is accused  of protecting the interests of the previous president, have to be  highlighted to make the Filipino people  aware of the dangers they pose.

The most alarming of these breaches are:

Read more:

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

ADB’s warning

Manila Standard
President Benigno Aquino III has finally conceded that government underspending did the economy in this year and vowed to do the opposite to lift it from its lethargy.

He and his Cabinet have little choice. The Asian Development Bank has warned that in the event both the eurozone and the US economies contract sharply, the impact on emerging East Asia will be serious, although manageable.

“The turmoil emanating from Europe poses a growing danger to trade and finance within emerging East Asia; so the region’s policymakers must be prepared to act promptly, decisively, and collectively to counter what could be an extended global economic slowdown,” an ADB official said.

The multilateral financing institution is forthright on its assessment of the global economic situation next year. It lowered its growth outlook for the Philippines in 2012 to 4.8 percent from 5.1 percent. But this could even drop to 4.2 percent should the eurozone and US fall into a deep recession next year.

A mere one-percentage-point drop in the economic growth rate means thousands of jobs will be lost, and the economy will be nowhere near to reducing the country’s poverty level. Things could get awry if the government fails to respond to the specter of a deep global economic downturn.

President Aquino has talked of “front-loading” expenses in the early part of 2012 as a way of pump-priming the economy­—the way his predecessor did when the sub-prime crisis in the US exploded in 2008. Boosting spending in the early part of the year, especially on infrastructure like roads and bridges, will create the right amount of multiplier effect that will accelerate economic growth.

Government spending in the past had produced the economic results it intended to create. Government spending generates jobs and adds to the consumers’ purchasing power. More importantly, it leads to the construction of more roads, air and sea ports and bridges, which have a long-term effect on the economy.

Dangerous move

Impeachment of Corona? 
By Ernesto M. Maceda (The Philippine Star)

There’s widespread talk that 90 Congressmen are preparing an 8-count impeachment complaint against Supreme Court Chief Justice Renato Corona which will be sent to the Senate without going through the Committee on Justice.

If true, it would be a most damaging act to the independence of the Supreme Court. It would be a blatant abuse of the constitutionally ordained system of checks and balances and inter-branch comity. It may set the table for a revolutionary government.

Fortunately, it will require a vote of 16 Senators to oust the Chief Justice which will be extremely difficult to achieve. Senate President Juan Ponce Enrile, Senators Chiz Escudero, Miriam Defensor-Santiago, Joker Arroyo, Gregorio Honasan and Alan Peter Cayetano have been critical of the President’s twin attacks on the Supreme Court.

Aggravating the situation is the advanced move to impeach SC Justice Mariano del Castillo for plagiarism.

 Having a Supreme Court controlled by the President introduces a clear and present danger to the legislature itself and could lead to a dictatorial government.

As our fellow columnist Prof. Alex Magno observed:

 “The President may privately disagree with some of the Court’s rulings but republican ethics prohibits him from publicly disagreeing with them. It is the Court, not the President, that is entitled to rule with finality on legal and constitutional disputes. Otherwise, the rule of law dissipates and everything becomes a matter of pedestrian opinion or political popularity. That is the ground on which despotism grows.”

Hold your horses, honorable Members of Congress. Unwittingly, you may also be diminishing the equal standing of the legislative branch.

Fil-Am midwife is 2011 CNN 'Hero of the Year'

Manila Bulletin
Madel R. Sabater

MANILA, Philippines — A Filipino-American midwife whose foundation built “birthing sanctuaries” for Indonesians was named the 2011 CNN Hero of the Year.

Anderson Cooper announced the name of Robin Lim in a star-studded ceremony last Sunday night at The Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, California.

Christy Turlington Burns introduced Lim as one of the Top 10 CNN Heroes.

Each of the CNN Heroes received $50,000, and Lim’s non-profit, Bumi Sehat Foundation, will receive an additional $250,000 grant.

Lim’s foundation helped Indonesians who need maternal and general health care.

She is the second CNN Hero of Year of Filipino descent.

In 2009, Filipino Efren Peñaflorida was named CNN Hero of the Year for his “Kariton” classroom project that aims to educate street children.

In Indonesia, women are 300 times more likely to die in childbirth or from pregnancy-related complications than women in developed countries. After Lim’s younger sister died from pregnancy complications, she became a professional midwife and dedicated her life to offering free pre-natal and birthing services to low-income Indonesian women. Since 2003, Lim’s“Yayasan Bumi Sehat” (Healthy Mother Earth) clinic has provided medical assistance to thousands of women in Bali and Aceh, Indonesia.

Read more:

Politics wins and the economy loses

Business Mirror

IT is turning out to be a most interesting Christmas season.

If the conversations I heard at the party I attended last Saturday are any indication, 2012 is going to be most interesting also.

Remember Christmas 2000? There was very little holiday cheer but there were heated political discussions as there are now. But what I bet you don’t remember about the year 2000 is the gross domestic product (GDP) growth rate. GDP in 2000 grew at 3.6 percent, exactly the same as for the first nine months of 2011.

I suppose it is merely a coincidence that after months of political turmoil and the Edsa 2, GDP grew at only 2.8 percent in 2001.

It would probably be unfair to make any further comparisons between now and then. Some would say the turmoil in the government then was because of government being “evil” and trying to protect itself. Now we are told that the government is “good” and is only trying to protect the people.

However, governments have a very difficult time at multitasking. You, on the other hand, can balance working, family life, social responsibility, and personal fun time. Governments by nature of their size and complexity have trouble doing the public-service equivalent of walking and chewing gum at the same time.

Governments tend to be able to focus only on one issue and let the others stay way on the back burner.

Shoemart, as all large retail establishments, has a problem with customers and employees stealing merchandize. Fact of life and prices are adjusted to reflect the company’s losses.

Imagine for a moment that the Shoemart group decided that it must close all of its stores to concentrate only on setting up a security system to stop shoplifting and employee theft. Any business owner would laugh at that foolish suggestion yet that is exactly what is happening in the government.

The Department of Energy and Natural Resources recognizes that there have been some problems in the past with the issuance of permits for the mining business. In order to make sure that everything is absolutely 100-percent proper, no permits have been issued for months and this policy will probably continue for another six months or longer. Meanwhile, literally dozens and dozens of major investments involving hundreds of millions of dollars have been put on hold.

Unlike Shoemart that knows if it closed its stores, you would shop someplace else, the government believes that these investments will wait patiently and not invest in Peru, Mongolia, Chile, Vietnam, Indonesia and Africa. Good luck with that idea.

Money is very smart and cannot be easily fooled and it tends to be able to look into the future.

While all the “experts” tell us that the prime reason for last year’s good GDP growth and this year’s poor growth was that 2010 was an election year. However, the elections or lack thereof this year may not have much to do with the fact that foreign portfolio and debt inflows to the Philippines have dropped nearly 20 percent year-on-year. In October the inflow was 78 percent lower than in 2010. I hate to mention this, but in 2000, $500 million went out of the country versus $370 million coming in during 1999.

It is very tough to concentrate on the economy when you have other priorities.

Since this current condition is only a battle between “good” and “evil,” it is probably unfair to mention the political aspect. But I will.

Poverty is an economic issue. The “fight against poverty” is a political issue. If the “fight against poverty” were only an economic issue, then it would not matter how many poor people there were. The objective would be to do everything possible insure that all citizens had a decent standard of living.

The government has just reduced the number of poor by 5.3 million. The government lowered the minimum daily subsistence level from P52 to P46 per person. Congratulations to the people earning only P50 a day. You are no longer poor and we don’t have to worry about better jobs for you.

Back to the Christmas party. Over fine wine and cheap brandy, I saw the same attitude and heard words similar to what occurred in 2000.

For the average business person, good versus evil is less important than revenues, bottom lines, and capital expenditures. GDP growth in 2001 was terrible because businesses took a cautious, wait-and-see attitude.

I am seeing that same kind of attitude and business planning now as in 2000. Companies are pulling back and conserving capital and that is not good for the future of the country. I hope Good knows what it is doing or there is going to be Evil for this economy.

E-mail to and Twitter @mangunonmarkets. PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by Inc.

Mining-related disaster looms in Marinduque

DENR bureau warns mine wastes spill threaten 2 Marinduque towns
According to engineer Mario Alban of the MGB-DENR for Mimaropa (Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan provinces), the report on the latest monitoring ...
Farmer, advocacy groups seek total mining ban in Senate
BusinessWorld Online Edition
Her group presented experiences of contaminated irrigation facilities in Palawan and barren rice fields in Marinduque as a result of mining. ...
Mining industry review sought to avert food supply threats
He made this assertion after Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes said lead deposits have renderd the Kalangkang River in her province unable to support ...
Paradox of plenitude
Business Mirror
Conspicuously absent in the hearing were representatives from Palawan's provincial government, although Marinduque Gov. Carmencita Reyes and former ...
No such thing as responsible mining, say farmers
Marinduque Governor Carmencita Reyes also told the committee about the effects of the mining disasters in her province in 1993 and 1996, which people ...
Anti-mining campaign pushed in Senate hearing
Former Marinduque Rep. Edmund Reyes, meanwhile, reminded senators about the environmental and social costs of mining, like what happened in the Marcopper ...

Marinduque Towns | Inquirer News
DENR bureau warns mine wastes spill threaten 2 Marinduque towns ... the towns of Boac and Mogpog, not just from a leaky Marinduque Copper Mining Corp. ...

Monday, 12 December 2011

GMA News interview with Brian Viloria

Biggest hydroelectric power dam facility in Asia completed soon

PHL’s biggest irrigation project seen to be completed ahead of schedule
ROSALES, Pangasinan— At the speed Chinese engineers are moving earth, rocks, cement and steel, the completion of the country’s biggest irrigation project is expected to come way, way ahead of schedule.

Already, since China Camce Engineering Co. Ltd. actually started work early last year on the 86-hectare re-regulating pond of the San Roque multipurpose dam in San Manuel, Pangasinan, considered the biggest hydroelectric power dam facility in Asia, 81 percent of the job has been finished.

The Chinese firm which won the bidding at a contract price of $93.8 million, went on three-work shifts immediately after laying the pond’s sprawling foundation, said Reynaldo Mencias, project manager of the Agno River Integration Irrigation Program (ARIIP).

“The Chinese engineers are all young, full of vitality and work on precision,” Mencias noted, as he pointed out that the accomplishment exceeds the expected target of 76 percent for the period.

“A little over $72 million has already been pumped into the project,” the ARIIP chief said.

Barring any untoward incidents, the big pond will start service operations in time with the main palay cropping season n June next year, Mencias said.

Mainly funded by a soft loan of $89.1 million with China Export-Import Bank, the commissioning of the re-regulating pond is expected to increase crop yield and cropping intensity by 150 percent with the full irrigation of 34,450 hectares of farmlands on opposite banks of the Agno River.

In cadence with the engineering works on the pond, ARIIP is rushing up the rehabilitation of 67.06 kilometers of existing main irrigation canals, along with 327.85 kilometers of lateral canals.

Some 280 kilometers of farm-to-market roads are also in simultaneous rehabilitation works in anticipation of the increased farming activities within ARIIP’s service area covering 28,207 farm families in 18 towns of Pangasinan.

At a total cost of P11.2 billion, ARIIP as an irrigation component of the San Roque multipurpose dam started in November 2006. The project is expected to go on full-swing services on or before December 2013 with the completion of rehabilitation works on all of ARIIP’s facilities.

According to Mencias, the rehabilitation of the irrigation system is funded by the national government at an estimated cost of P4.1 billion.

“As a reservoir, the re-regulating pond augments the dam’s flood prevention component as it will store 5 million cubic meters of water siphoned from the main dam structure,” Mencias said, as he stressed that the stored volume of water will be released for irrigation via the pond’s sluice way at an average of 560 cu. meter per second.

With the reservoir, the provincial government intends to siphon water from the facility to solve a water crisis now gripping households in 20 coastal towns of the province.

Provincial Administrator Rafael Baraan said a memorandum of agreement signed recently with the National Irrigation Administration will allow the flow of at least five cu. cm. of water from the reservoir to the Pangasinan Bulk Water Supply Project which the provincial government has committed to build.

Under the scheme, the siphoned water will be rationed out to houses in towns and cities whose deep wells are now fast drying up and severely affected by salt-water intrusion.

But on top of everything, Mencias said the reservoir will be a stable source of water needed in palay production, vegetable growing and root-crop farming.

PHL coconut exports to reach $2B, says PCA

Business Mirror

ROBUST demand for various coconut products, particularly coconut oil, in foreign markets will enable the Philippines to earn around $2 billion in export receipts from various coconut products, the Philippine Coconut Authority (PCA) said on Thursday.

PCA Administrator Euclides Forbes disclosed that around 80 percent of the export receipts projected for the year is expected to come from coconut oil.

All-laser cataract procedure--first in Asia

American Eye Center launches most advanced method of cataract surgery
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — A new treatment for cataracts has just been unveiled by American Eye Center (AEC), which promises to provide patients with the most advanced all-laser cataract procedure---the first of its kind in Asia.

Dubbed the Alcon LenSx femtosecond laser surgery, this new equipment brings an unprecedented level of safety, speed and precision in treating cataracts, and enhances the host of options for surgical-based methods that AEC offers its clients.

From a surgical perspective, advances in cataract treatment have improved the way ophthalmologists deal with this condition in the past two decades. We have seen how the merger of technology and surgical ingenuity contributed to making cataract surgery the modern-day miracle that it is today.

Currently, it can remove the cataract through a very small (2-3mm) incision in the eyeball using fine surgical blades and implant a multifocal intraocular lens (IOL) that restores full functional vision in patients after surgery. This is called “Phacoemulsification”, presently the standard in cataract practice worldwide. Unfortunately, this procedure has often been mistakenly referred to as “laser eye surgery”—which it is NOT. It is more appropriate to call this procedure “small-incision cataract surgery”, “sutureless cataract surgery”, or “no-stitch cataract surgery” for the layman.

True laser-assisted cataract surgery has never been available to patients until today—with the introduction of the Alcon LenSx femtosecond laser surgery.

The Alcon LenSX femtosecond laser differs from the traditional methods of cataract surgery by the absence of the blade. By using very short yet intense bursts of near-infrared light, the Alcon LenSX femtosecond laser technology is able to create extremely precise subsurface cuts without manual intervention

The blades used to create the small incisions in the eye have been completely replaced by this laser, making the incisions more precise and predictable.

In addition, the circular opening that is created in the human lens in order to access the cataract (called a capsulotomy) which was traditionally performed by human hands has now been replaced by the femtosecond laser, making the capsulotomies more architecturally round and centered.

Studies have shown that this is very important in intraocular lens stability and refractive predictability of surgical outcomes (In one study by the American Academy of Ophthalmology, femtosecond laser incisions achieved perfect capsulotomy diameter accuracy in 100 percent of cases).

The actual cataract is also fragmented by the femtosecond laser making it much easier and less traumatic for the surgeon to remove and clean it up prior to placement of the IOL. In short, the femtosecond laser has replaced many of the steps in the cataract surgery that were previously performed by human hands, i.e., resulting in less surgical error and better predictability of outcomes. Results are more precise than any other previous or current methods of cataract surgery.

Dr. Cesar Ramon G. Espiritu, who specializes in Cornea, External Disease treatment at AEC, said that this new technology shows the company’s commitment to provide the best eye care to its patients.

“The Alcon LenSx femtosecond laser surgery is currently the most advanced method for cataract treatment, and we’re proud to be the first in Asia to offer it,” he says. “We want thousands of Filipinos suffering from cataracts to see that treatment is now even faster, much safer, more precise and definitely pain-free.”

Anthony Leuterio: one more Filipino to emulate

High-end. Hi-Fi sound. Filipino.
A-Audio Speakers
Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Filipino audiophiles have a lot of reason to be delighted and at the same time, proud of this Christmas season. For those who are just about to spend tens or even hundreds of thousands in hard earned cash for a new hi-end speaker system, stop! Hold on first to your dough and audition the A-Audio speakers—the first ever all-Filipino designed and made hi-fidelity speakers in the country.

Before burning holes in your pockets buying imported and branded speakers, why not try and listen to Anthony Leuterio’s “A-Audio” speakers first which are 100 percent Filipino designed and made.

Anthony, is a be-medaled Electronics and Communications Engineering graduate from the Mapua Institute of Technology in Intramuros.

He designed his first home theater speakers back in 1999, at 20 years of age, taking apart surplus speakers from Japan sold at the Port of Manila, tweaking its internals and putting them back together to make a better-sounding speaker system.

Due to his knack for electronics, some consider Anthony as a nerd as he was so smart--he was accelerated in high school skipping over third year.

In 1997, he became the gold medalist in the TESDA organized National Electronics Competition by putting together a regulated power supply in 11 minutes flat.

An inventor by heart, Anthony came out with a tried and tested fuel-economy gadget for a vehicles but had to drop the idea after being duped by some pseudo investors who took and sold his invention but never paid him back.

After realizing that it would be too cumbersome to run after his pseudo partners, he concentrated on designing and manufacturing high-fidelity speakers due to his natural love for music.

According to Anthony, he was intrigued by the excessively high price tags of hi-fidelity speakers that were made in Europe.

In 1997, he started researching on the design and details of these highly priced speakers.

Through friends who owned expensive speakers, he started repairing and tweaking high-end speakers and took notes of every nook and cranny of each speaker that he worked on.

Having worked on a big number of expensive speakers including brands like Bowers and Wilkins, Bose, Cayin, Klipsch, Transmission Audio, Tidal, Moon Audio, KEF, Magico, Marten, NTT Audio Lab, Hansen Audio, German Physiks, Shape Audio, and Harbeth, just to name a few, he studied the internals and design of each of the speakers and through reverse engineering, Anthony was able to draw the similarities of all the high-end speakers and came out with his very own design for the drivers, crossovers and box design.

After years of research and over 1000 pairs of speakers broken down into pieces and repaired, Anthony was able to understand not only the basics of the high-end speakers but the reason for their high price tags as well. According to Anthony, most of these speakers have the same drivers and crossover designs.

What make them highly expensive are the mark-ups of each manufacturer for promotions, advertisements, and marketing costs.

In his dream to be the very first Filipino inventor to produce high-quality speakers that surpass European and American standards without the extremely high price tag, Anthony came out with his own speaker design, from the cones, to the coils, to the magnets and materials used, and had it produced by Fostex in Taiwan and have it shipped to Manila where his team assembles it from scratch.

In 2005, Paranaque Congressman Ed Zialcita helped out Anthony by ordering 1,200 pairs of speakers that provided him seed money in purchasing machineries and other power tools to make his production meet international standards and be more efficient.

To date, Anthony has a lineup of 40 different speaker systems ranging from the book-shelf speakers to high-end cinema speakers—that will put high-end expensive speakers to shame.

Anthony, who has the Filipino audiophile website to thank for giving him the break in the industry, said he has produced more than 12,000 speakers ranging from car, bookshelf, home theater, full-range audio and cinematic speakers with a price range between Php 3,500 to P120,000.

A-Audio now has a lineup of over 40 different speakers that are made on special order basis as his shop can only produce four pairs per day.

Sunday, 11 December 2011

SC bashing, in bad taste

Atty. Dodo Dulay
Manila Times

Crass and raffish. That’s how I would describe President Aquino’s recent tirade against the Supreme Court (SC) and Chief Justice Renato Corona during the First National Criminal Justice Summit hosted by the Department of Justice. In what was supposed to be a gathering of stakeholders of the justice system to collectively forge strategies towards the enhanced delivery of justice, President Aquino said nothing about improving the Philippine criminal justice system and all about how the SC and the Chief Justice had supposedly frustrated his efforts to hold accountable those implicated in corruption allegations against the Arroyo administration. President Aquino’s use of his bully pulpit to attack and insult the Chief Justice who was seated a few arms length away, leaves a bad taste in the mouth. It is undignified, un-presidential and un-Filipino.

Throughout the President’s diatribe, the Chief Justice remained stoic and impassive. And rightly so. Because unlike ordinary citizens, members of the Bench are prohibited by ethical rules from publicly responding to attacks or criticisms because any response to critics of a judge’s actions or motives places that judge in a potentially adversarial position that may cast reasonable doubt on his capacity to act impartially as a judge. That is why the Code of Judicial Conduct prohibits judges from making any public comments that may be perceived as affecting the outcome or fairness of the legal proceedings before him.

Supreme Court Administrator and Spokesman Midas Marquez was right when he said President Aquino’s tirade was unnecessary, saying the statements made by the President only undermined the independence of the Court. “It’s not unusual for the Executive branch to disagree with the Judicial branch. But what is considerably unusual is for the Chief Executive to look down on the members of the judiciary in public at a Justice Sector Coordinating Council session, and to their faces denounce the Court’s independent actions, as the Chief Justice sat speechless, motionless and expressionless because of the requirements of protocol,” Marquez added.

Even administration allies seem to agree. Senator Ping Lacson warned that the President’s attitude toward the Supreme Court could be replicated at the local level and “lead to anarchy.” “If this is what they witness in the national level, a governor might be encouraged to defy the local judge and not implement his decision. Or a mayor can defy a metropolitan trial court regarding an ordinance. The situation could get worse,” Lacson says. Even Senator Gregorio Honasan warned against continued attacks on the High Tribunal: “It is not good for our people and the international community to witness the protracted tension among branches of government. If we erode the credibility or impartiality of the highest court of the land, what are the alternatives? Where do we run to for resolution?”

Unfettered criticism of the Supreme Court, in general, or the Chief Justice, in particular, regardless of motive, severely diminishes the public’s confidence in the judiciary and hinders the efficient administration of justice. It is even more dangerous when demagogic politicians like President Aquino mobilize popular sentiment against the Supreme Court.  Politically, these incessant and confrontational attacks and criticisms on the High Tribunal have the cumulative effect of diminishing or regulating the powers and independence of the judiciary as a whole.

If the Aquino administration is to preserve our democratic system of government, it must learn to observe the delicate balance between the executive and judicial branches of government as enshrined in our constitution. That means the President must accept the Supreme Court’s ruling as correct even if he believes it is wrong – moreso because he has sworn to uphold the Constitution, and not just those parts he agrees with. If he deliberately refuses to enforce a Supreme Court ruling, he may be impeached or removed from office for failing to uphold the constitution. So the threat of impeachment hangs over the President’s head as a means to enforce all of the laws, including the ones which he may not like. That is the essence of democracy.

True, the President has every right – as does every Filipino – to express his views and concerns. But his right to free speech and expression must be tempered by the civility and decorum expected of his office – a protocol seemingly lost on the President during the summit. On the other hand, by being so gracious and well-mannered despite the President’s boorish behavior, Chief Justice Renato Corona showed why he deserves to be Chief Justice of the Philippine Supreme Court.