Thursday, 26 April 2007

Fully open skies to bring security risks, says DoTC

By Riza T. Olchondra
Original report at the Inquirer
Last updated 04:16am (Mla time) 04/26/2007

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Transportation and Communication (DoTC) will not endorse a proposal to give foreign airlines full access to two of the country’s international airports, Transportation and Communication Secretary Leandro Mendoza said.

“We are comfortable with EO 500A,” Leandro Mendoza told reporters, referring to Executive Order 500A, which opens up the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, north of Manila, and the Subic Bay International Airport, in the northwest, to foreign airlines whose countries that have air services agreements with the Philippines and have been designated by their respective governments.

A proposed new order, EO 500B, drafted by Narzalina Lim, a board member of the Pacific Asia Travel Association and a former secretary of tourism, gives unlimited access to the two airports to all foreign airlines, with no need for government designation or bilateral air agreements.

EO 500B also proposes to give foreign airlines “fifth freedom” rights to pick up passengers in Clark or Subic and take them to a third country before returning to their home countries. An example would be a Clark-Macau-Singapore route. This right is not supported by EO 500A.

Mendoza did not express much concern over fifth-freedom rights, but stressed that foreign airlines should be designated by their governments first to enjoy unlimited access to the Subic and Diosdado Macapagal airports.

“We cannot support the call to remove the provision requiring airlines to be designated. All the other recommendations can be acted upon positively except for this one,” he said.

Mendoza’s comment addressed fears of Philippine Airlines, Cebu Pacific Air, Air Philippines, Asian Spirit and Pacific East Asia Cargo Airlines, which have called EO 500B a “threat to the national interest.”

ABS-CBN Q&A: 'The Treasurer is actually dispensable' - Cruz

Original article at ABS-CBN

National Treasurer Omar Cruz caught investors by suprise after he tendered his resignation on Tuesday. The former Citibanker was the fifth National Treasurer to leave the Arroyo administration.

Cruz said he wanted to spend more time with his family and ailing mother, but industry and market sources said the former Citibank executive resigned due to "policy disagreements" with the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

The former Citibank executive, appointed in February 2005, is highly regarded by investors for restructuring the country's $81 billion debt pile and successfully completing a $1 billion sovereign bond issue in January.

Here are excerpts from ABS-CBN's interview with Cruz:

Q: You tendered your resignation right when Secretary (Margarito) Teves announced the (first quarter) deficit. Was there something you did not agree with?

A: All of that is purely incidental. If you will take a look at the calendar of activities, at this point, the treasurer has practically nothing to do. I’ve done all of my funding for the year, I’ve done my swaps, in fact, even as regards Offical Development Assistance, we’ve frontloaded everything and really what I am conducting now is just the regular domestic auctions which you know we have tweaked. I think it’s the perfect time because between now and the May elections, there’s really very little we can do in the market so I’d like to take advantage of that period.

Q: Could you comment on reports that you clashed with the Bangko Sentral over interest rates?

A: There are no policy differences. The reason being is that the fiscal area is independent of the monetary area. The monetary authorities are entitled to their own view on monetary policy and whatever that is I will simply spot the market. If the BSP policy is easing or tightening, as far as the issuances of the national government is concerned, we will issue are where markets are.

Q: There were also reports of a clash with the Commission on Elections on office space.

A: That may just be coincidental. There has been very clear communication between us and the Office of the President which owns those floors, because we have been entitled to use those. All we wanted was to have clear communication that they revoke the right to use those floors from Treasury to the Comelec. That took a little bit of time.

Q: Are you recommending your replacement?

A: If I am asked to give some inputs. But I would really love to leave that at the pleasure of the President and the Secretary (of Finance). From my perspective, it shouldn’t be difficult to choose a replacement because everything has already been made easy for the next Treasurer. I have already achieved having established fiscal and institutional processes, I’ve drilled the team, whether it be local or international issuance or whether it be trading swaps, even conducting trades.

Q: But given experiences of investment bankers such as yourself and former Finance Secretaries Jose Isidro Camacho and Cesar Purisima in government, would there be any takers?

A: I think there will always be. I never thought I would join government but I stayed more than two years, and mind you, this was very intense as we have accomplished so much. There will always be someone there who would want to serve government and to add value and contribute to the country and nation-bulding and want a challenge.

Q: Do you regret joining government?

A: No regrets. The two years have really been a very accomplishing and very rewarding experience for me. It was a pleasure to have served the Republic, brought it up to new heights, established new benchmarks, and raised the bar in all of that. All the efforts that we have done in establishing a deeper bond market, restructuring the bond and capital markets have really helped restructure our yield curve and cost of borrowing. For as long we are committed to the fiscal program and focus on a balanced budget by 2008, then I think it should be more of the same.

Q: How concerned are you that your successor might revoke all the policies and direction you’ve taken?

A: That would be a pity. But I think that’s going to be difficult because when you have already established and institutionalized the capital market process and ingrained the discipline, and especially since I have done that with my team, it is already very much part of a strategy that is continuing. The transition should be easy, it is just continuing all of these things that we have already established. We have established six benchmarks in the domestic market, very deep ones at that. The treasurer is actually dispensable because the strategy and process is working. So jokingly, I always say maybe you don’t have to pay the next treasurer as much, not that I was paid much.

Q: Is it possible there were some bankers who lobbied against you, especially since banks are not making so much now on investment income?

A: I don’t think so. The market is always an inter-play of money markets, foreign exchange and equities. The drop into historic lows of interest rates has compelled people to move into other markets, which have really boosted the equities market. If they were the right kind of investors, they would have split their money between interest rate investments, fixed income, the bond market and the equity market, and they’d be getting a much higher return. In 2006, you would have gotten an average 30% return per annum. There is really a time when interest rates get low. Interest rates adjusted accordingly to inflation and the fiscal condition. Because I issue less, the yield curve has been dropping.

Q: Is there more to the overshooting of the deficit for the first quarter? Should we worry?

A: We’ve operated on the principle that we deserve what we get. If we over-perform we get rewarded, if we slip, we pay a little bit. And that’s why it’s not surprising that to a certain extent we’re paying a little bit now on account of the slippage that’s why interest rates have slightly gone up.

Q: How would you characterize the P63-billion deficit target?

A: It’s a reasonable target. But to get the revenues required, you will have to compensate tax revenues with the non-tax revenues through the privatization efforts. We don’t have a new tax base in 2007 so until you come out with a new set of tax measures, then you will not be able to generate that annuity income. I think that is forthcoming in subsequent years but for 2007, you can bridge that through the privatization efforts. So we started out with P25.2-billion from the PTIC shares. That’s why effort has to be done to execute the sales as soon as possible. Without the options on the non-tax side, clearly P63-billion is a tough act.

Q: Shouldn’t privatization efforts just be bonuses and not be a primary source of revenues?

A: Privatization efforts are one-time and will act only as a bridge because it will time to legislate tax measure, which we’ll probably have to start working on after elections to implement them in 2008. So in the meantime, you’ll have to cover 2007 with non-tax measures, but you cannot rely on that for 2008. By 2008, you need to come-up with a new tax base, so that revenue annuity income is a sustainable one. That’s the way it’s got to be because otherwise it will be very difficult to balance the budget by 2008.

Q: What’s next for you?

A: Definitely you’ll see me in the market. Once a market guy, always a market guy. But I’ll just take it easy for a while. I really want to spend time with my family who has dearly missed me because of the time and effort I devoted. I was working 12-14 hours a day and I was not able to spend as much time with them. I also want to visit my mother.

Wednesday, 25 April 2007

Peso up as Cruz denies quitting over policy rift

04/25/2007 | 04:59 PM
Original report at GMANews

The Philippine peso strengthened against the US dollar on Wednesday as National Treasurer Omar Cruz denied talks that he had a policy row with other members of the country's economic team.

Cruz also denied that Malacanang eased him out of his post, which he has held for two years.

The peso closed at 47.55 against the US dollar on Wednesday stronger than its 47.53 close in the previous session. During early trading, however, the local currency touched a low of 47.64 against the dollar as investors reacted to Cruz surprise resignation on Tuesday night.

The local currency strengthened during afternoon trading, even hitting the key 47.50 level against the greenback. Volume traded reached $658.30 million.

In a hastily called press conference, Cruz denied that he had any policy difference with other members of the country's economic team, particularly the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the Department of Finance – International Finance Group.

“I would like to say that there are no policy differences. The reason why there can’t be no policy differences is because in the first place the fiscal area is independent from the monetary area," Cruz said.

“Therefore as far as policy differences are concerned with the BSP there are no policy differences," he added.

Cruz reiterated that he is leaving his post to spend more time with his family, especially his ailing, 84 year-old mother.

Early on Wednesday, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo accepted Cruz' resignation, which takes effect on June 1.

Career highlights

With Cruz at the Treasury's helm, the country's debt stock was reduced to P3.851 trillion or 64 percent of gross domestic product in 2006, a significant change from 72 percent debt to GDP ratio in 2005.

Also under Cruz' term, the Philippine treasury bill yields dropped to all-time lows as investors expressed confidence in the country's stabilizing fiscal condition.

It was also under his term that the Treasury successfully completed a $1 billion bond issue last January, the Philippines' total programmed commercial borrowing for the year.

The outgoing Treasurer said he is content with what he has achieved in the two years he held the post.

“I am leaving with a very confident and light heart," Cruz said.

Airport authority to finish repairs at Naia 3 as Takenaka refuses job

By Lenie Lectura
Original report at the Business Mirror

THE Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) will repair structural defects and do unfinished work at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport-Terminal 3 (Naia-3) following Takenaka Corp.’s refusal to finish the job,

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza said Monday night.

“Takenaka is adamant. So, the decision of Miaa is to do the work and charge the expenses later to Takenaka,” said Mendoza.

Mendoza said the Japanese contractor is bound to finish its work despite the lack of contract working agreement (CWA) with Miaa. “Under the general framework arrangement Takenaka should finish the work. It should address the defects, which are all correctible,” he said.

Without the CWA, Takenaka can- not resume work.

If Takenaka fails to pay up, Mendoza said the expenses could be deducted from the compensation due to the company. “The court will determine the just compensation and then the government will just deduct whatever amount will be incurred in order to finish the work and correct the structural defects.” Naia 3 is already 98 percent complete.

There is no estimate yet how much Miaa will spend to finish the remaining 2 percent and the cost of correcting the structural defects.

“Miaa will finish the work in four to six months. It may start within the year. I just don’t know how much it will cost. On the structural concerns, there are some retro-fitting that will be done to strengthen the entire structure in order to withstand even an Intensity 6 earthquake,” said Mendoza.

Naia 3 was supposed to be opened last end-March but based on the recommendations of engineers and the Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong Limited, an engineering services and design company, the opening date set on March 31 was postponed.

The engineers and the consultant said opening the terminal on March 31 might put passengers at risk because of structural concerns.

Mendoza said that the new date for the opening has not been set. “Peak season will set in beginning October. The airlines would not want to rush in. Besides there is still work that needs to be done,” he added.

Takenaka was said to have spent $50 million to $100 million to build the new terminal. So far, the government has paid only $10 million to the company.

When Terminal 3 opens, Naia Terminal 1 will be used for special flights, such as chartered and freight services. Naia Terminal 2, meanwhile, is supposed to be the domestic terminal.

Naia 3 is designed to accommodate some 13 million passengers a year and ease congestion at two other existing terminals.

Arroyo says govt still commited to fiscal targets after Treasurer quits

Original report at ABS-CBN

President Arroyo on Wednesday sought to assure investors that the government was committed to its fiscal targets following the resignation of National Treasurer Omar Cruz.

"There will be no change in policy and the country is committed to fiscal prudence and sound management. We remain committed to proactive debt management and continued development of the domestic debt and capital markets," Arroyo said in a statement.

President Arroyo accepted Wednesday the resignation of Cruz, who quit Tuesday, a day after the finance department announced that the national government had missed its first-quarter budget deficit target. His resignation takes effect on June 1.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said the government has begun looking for a replacement to Cruz.

"The usual search process for a suitable replacement is now underway. The President will make the announcement on this."

Economists, however, were worried that Cruz's resignation might stir political uncertainties ahead of the mid-term elections in May.

"Cruz’s shoes will be large to fill. Under his watch, the country’s debt levels have fallen and treasury yields have dropped to all-time lows amid the improvement in the country’s fiscal position. His resignation also comes less than a month ahead of the May 14 general election," Singapore's DBS said in a note to clients.

Financial markets quickly recovered from news of Cruz's resignation.

The peso closed at 47.455 per dollar on Wednesday, firmer than Tuesday's close of 47.53, after falling to as far as 47.64 in early trade as news of the resignation undermined confidence in the country's ability to meet its full-year deficit target.

The Philippine stock market's main index gained 17.5 points at 3,309.43, led by index heavyweight PLDT.

The former Citibank executive, appointed in February 2005, is highly regarded by investors for restructuring the country's $81 billion debt pile and successfully completing a $1 billion sovereign bond issue in January.

Earlier this year, Indonesia overtook the Philippines as Asia's second-largest issuer of offshore bonds as Cruz looked to cheaper domestic debt to feed the country's borrowing requirements.

Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights in 6 more BIMP-EAGA areas

Original report at Gov.Ph News

PUERTO PRINCESA CITY--To push for greater momentum in improving air connectivity within Brunei Darussalam/Indonesia/Malaysia/the Philippines-East ASEAN Growth Area, airports in six more areas of the sub-region are added to the list of designated points to be granted with Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights (FFTRs).

In a recently held 4th BIMP-EAGA Transport, Infrastructure and ICT Development (TIICTD) Cluster Meeting here, the EAGA working group on air linkages agreed to grant Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights to all passenger and cargo services in the airports of Manado and Tarakan in Indonesia, State of Labuan and Miri in Malaysia, as well as in Puerto Princesa City and General Santos City in the Philippines.

These are the new FFTR designated points in BIMP-EAGA in addition to Bandar Seri Begawan in Brunei Darussalam, Balikpapan and Pontianak in Indonesia, Kota Kinabalu and Kuching in Malaysia, as well as Davao City and Zamboanga City in the Philippines.

"The granting of the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights to priority airports in the member countries is one of the breakthroughs in the meeting here," said Ang Kian Guan, head of the Brunei Delegation and concurrent chair of the BIMP-EAGA TIICTD Cluster.

He added that this measure will boost travel and trade by allowing more airlines to undertake more air services in the identified priority air routes of BIMP-EAGA.

Implementation of the Fifth Freedom Traffic Rights have been targeted in the Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu-Davao City, Bandar Seri Begawan-Kuching-Pontianak, Bandar Seri Begawan-Kota Kinabalu and Bandar Seri Begawan-Kuching air routes as a result of the signing of the Memorandum of Understanding on the Expansion of Air Linkages in BIMP- EAGA during the 3rd BIMP-EAGA Summit held in Cebu City last Jan. 12, 2007.

Fifth Freedom Right provides privilege to an airline to bring cargo and passengers from one country to another other than its home country. The MOU also provides for multiple airline designation, no limitation on frequency, capacity and aircraft type, co-terminalization and code-sharing schemes.

"Strengthening our air linkages within EAGA and promoting greater movement of people, goods and services across the sub-region through air connectivity, essentially form part of the policy initiatives laid down by President Arroyo in committing government support to this endeavor," according to Mindanao Economic Development Council Chair Undersecretary Virgilio Leyretana.

The four countries noted that majority of the designated airports for BIMP-EAGA air services are already compliant with International Civil Aviation Organization's safety and security standards. A regular exchange of data and information on airports development and best practices on ICAO safety and security compliance was also agreed.

Since it has been difficult to convince major airlines to serve air routes in the sub-region due to high cost of operations and low load factor, the cluster has agreed to entice low cost and small airline operators to serve the identified priority air routes and recommended for code-sharing arrangements among airline operators.

Thus, a BIMP-EAGA Airline Forum will be held back-to-back with the 2nd BIMP-EAGA Transport Ministers Meeting on July 25-26, 2007 in the Philippines. The forum is intended to invite smaller regional airlines in BIMP-EAGA to interact and familiarize with the opportunities in the growth area.

BIMP-EAGA countries have been pushing for the expansion of air links in the sub-region in an effort to promote and enhance intra-regional trade, tourism and investment cooperation among the focus areas.

The provision of air services in the BIMP-EAGA is envisioned to bring about greater accessibility, facilitate mobility of people, enhance flow of goods and commodities and attract investors to locate in the sub-region.

Created in 1994, BIMP-EAGA is a four-country grouping collectively pursuing sub-regional economic growth. With an estimated 50 million people spread out across 1.5 million square kilometers of land in four countries, the BIMP-EAGA is Asia's largest sub-regional cooperation.

P15-B white elephant in the offing?

By Dan Mariano
Original article at The Manila Times

Has the Arroyo administration allowed itself to be suckered into yet another questionable deal?

During the President’s 12-hour visit to China last weekend, Philippine officials signed an agreement with their Chinese counterparts for a loan to implement the National Broadband Network. Secretary Leandro Mendoza of the Department of Transportation and Communications is the sponsor of the NBN project.

Hardly anyone questions the need for the NBN, which aims to erect telecommunications links among state agencies and instrumentalities nationwide. What has raised eyebrows is Mendoza’s decision to favor ZTE, the third-largest telecommunications equipment supplier in China.

Critics claim that, although ZTE had yet to undergo proper evaluation, the DOTC rushed the National Economic and Development Authority into approving the Chinese company’s bid.

In return for the equivalent of P15 billion, ZTE will construct the network—that’s all. The DOTC would then be left to operate and maintain it. This is the same agency that failed to make a go of—among others—the municipal telephone pro­ject, phases one to three.

Given the DOTC’s dismal track record, NBN is in real danger of turning into another multibillion-peso white elephant.

Cheaper alternative

What really riles observers is that another company had already offered to undertake the same project at no capital cost to the government—and therefore no need for a foreign loan.

Amsterdam Holdings Inc.—a Filipino company notwithstanding its foreign-sounding nomenclature—offered to provide the government with a telecommunications infrastructure to deliver voice, data and Internet services. AHI’s proposal would even guarantee savings of at least P2 billion a year for the government.

AHI has for its technical partner another Chinese company Huawei, which is China’s largest telecommunications supplier. Note: ZTE is only China’s number three.

But, no, DOTC and other officials thumbed down AHI’s offer despite the fact that the government would not have to fork out a single centavo to set up the NBN. Could that have been the real reason for the disapproval of the AHI proposal?

With no capital outlay from the government, the AHI proposal offers no opportunities (wink, wink) to the usual scalawags for a quick buck.

China to fund RP broadband project

By Darwin G. Amojelar, Reporter
Original report at The Manila Times

MANILA and Beijing have signed a multimillion-dollar loan agreement meant to bankroll the Philippines’ national broadband project, the Department of Transportations and Communication (DOTC) said.

Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza told reporters that the signing of the $319-million loan agreement took place in China during the visit of President Arroyo, where she attended the annual Boao Forum for Asia.

The board of the National Economic and Development Authority earlier approved the national broadband network, which aims to create seamless connectivity among all government agencies down to the barangay offices of local governments to enhance delivery of public services.

The DOTC-Telecommunications Office will implement the project over a three-year period.

It is also expected to save public agencies on travel and communications expenses since the use of voice over Internet protocol or Internet telephony would cut the need for public servants to travel for meetings as well as their use of mobile-phone service.

The Philippines pushed through with the loan agreement despite threats made by Amsterdam Holdings Inc. (AHI), the original proponent of the NBN, that it would sue the government.

“It was the decision of the government to go on government-to-government loan and build its own [network facilities],” Mendoza said.

He explained that what AHI is proposing is to control the market, which he said would be “anticompetition.”

Mendoza added that AHI failed to identify its foreign partner considering that the project involves a big investment.

“It’s a big ticket investment and the government wants to know who will operate,” he said.

AHI proposed to build a $240-million network with no cash outlay for the government.

Nathaniel Sauz, AHI president, earlier said the government could end up paying $365 million for the Chinese loan, or 40 percent higher than the original proponent’s price, because of unforeseen costs.

RP imports up 9.9 percent in February

Original report at the Manila Bulletin

MANILA (AFP) - Philippine imports rose 9.9 percent from a year earlier to 3.69 billion dollars in February, the National Statistics Office said today.

Imports outpaced the 7.8 percent growth in exports in the same month to 3.72 billion dollars, leading to a surplus of 27 million dollars in February, the agency said.

The February surplus was much smaller than the surplus of 272 million dollars in January, the NSO said.

Analysts said trade in February reflects the impact of a firmer peso.

''Exports have to catch up with imports to maintain a certain level of surplus. The stronger peso makes imports cheaper, and with the peso factor coming in, the surplus is dwindling,'' said Jose Vistan, an economist and research director at AB Capital Securities.

The peso is hovering near six-year highs in early deals, trading between 47.55 and 47.60 against the US dollar on the spot market.

Shipments of electronics, which accounted for 46.4 percent of the total bill in February, rose 6.1 percent from a year earlier to 1.71 billion dollars.

Imports of mineral fuels, lubricants and related materials, with 14.7 percent share, rose 3.5 percent to 543.02 million dollars.

Imports from the US, which accounted for 15.8 percent of the total bill, were valued at 581.1 million dollars, up 1.4 percent year-on-year.

Shipments from Japan were down 13.5 percent at 457.7 million dollars, or 12.4 percent of the total bill.

Tuesday, 24 April 2007

A talk with GMA (3)

By Tony Lopez
Original article at The Manila Times

This is the concluding portion of my interview with President Arroyo. She talks about bringing down the cost of electricity.

Q: By next year you will be able to privatize up to 80 percent of Napocor’s generating capacity, that means about 4,000 megawatts. But you have done only 400 megawatts. What makes you optimistic that you can do 10 times more?

PGMA: Hopefully, yes (we can), as long as we’re able to reduce this friction in our privatization. There are many interested investors. Those (plants) that we thought would go for a song, we got a very good price—Pantabangan, Magat, Calaca and Masinloc (power plant), which was criticized so we had to cancel it. The plants were priced very well in the market. Pantabangan and Magat were sold for $500 million.

Mirant was sold for $3.5 billion. The new owners are going to have a $500-million expansion for 400 megawatts. So the total investment is $4 billion. That is the biggest Japanese investment in our country. Of course, a power plant is not labor-intensive. But then it brings about lower power rates. That’s the one that will increase employment.

Q: You still have one of the highest electricity rates in Asia. How are you doing to bring it down?

PGMA: I agree with you. I’m always concerned with the (electricity) prices consumers and the industrial users pay. That’s why I’m very impatient to move the privatization of Napocor. For one thing, it will free government from subsidies, which we could spend on more investments.

And also, it should provide for more competition and competition will tend to bring down the rates. In the meantime, we’re working together on other things to address the cost of electricity. The WESM (Wholesale Electricity Spot Market) was set up last year to bring about greater competition and open access.

Q: There’s no competition yet in (electricity) retail.

PGMA: Yes, that’s right. Exactly. Last year, Meralco offered to allow its customers choice even before the 70 percent (privatization minimum of Napocor plants under Epira). We’re taking them up on it now. Customer choice means that you don’t have to connect to Meralco. You can connect to any utility. You pay Meralco only for the transmission. You pay Meralco for the tolling fee. But then you can already choose which of the utilities will give you the lower rate. First you start with one megawatt of consumption but we will lower it to 750 kilowatts.

The other thing is that the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) can now also contract with other gencos at lower prices within its own economic zones. Also, we have to accelerate privatization. We have asked PSALM to have a more business-like attitude rather than a bureaucratic attitude.

PSALM has to review the bidding documents for privatization because many of the bidding documents provisions are anti-investor. There are many complaints. Nono Ibazeta (the new PSALM CEO) is not required to think within the box. We hope that there will be other bidders for TransCo. We hope that when the bidding documents are nicer, others will come. We have to adhere to the rules of international business. Power is what everybody sees as the need. There’s a market need for infrastructure to be more competitive. And the most important infrastructure we need to be more competitive is power infrastructure.

We don’t really want to have new taxes. Because many of our increased expenditures are going to be on capital investments. We really have to have more privatization.

Q: How come despite of these achievements, you still get very low ratings in surveys?

PGMA: The credit ratings were fine. Unfortunately, for the political analysts, they work on old data and look at the newspapers.

And if you’re gonna look at who are the ones in the Transparency International Philippines, they’re made up of opposition people

Clark airport exec says bidding for new terminal still open

By Ding Cervantes
Original report in The Philippine Star 04/24/2007

CLARK FIELD, Pampanga – The Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) clarified yesterday that bidding for the expansion and development of a new terminal for the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here is still open and has not yet been awarded to any foreign proponent.

This, even as the CIAC debunked reports that it has already contracted Chinese-led investors for the $1.6-billion terminal project.

CIAC president and chief executive officer Jose Victor Luciano said a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed by CIAC with a consortium composed of Chinese, Singaporean and Filipino companies did not necessarily award the terminal project to the consortium.

Luciano cited a paid advertisement which came out in the Business section of The Star last April 18, titled "US$1.6 billion Chinese investment to develop and expand Diosdado Macapagal International Airport to be premiere international gateway airport of the Philippines". The advertisement also had a photo of President Arroyo witnessing the signing of the MOU.

Luciano lamented that the advertisement’s headline "has a tendency to mislead the readers as to the degree of the agreement which is in fact non-exclusive".

"The recently signed memorandum of understanding bet-ween the CIAC and the Chinese consortium was intended only for the preparation and expansion of the DMIA, at no cost and no commitment to the CIAC," Luciano said.

He said that "the preparation of the detailed feasibility study is still open to other interested foreign proponents," stressing that "CIAC being the lead agency in the development of the DMIA, still reserves the right to accept or reject any proposal".

He cited a provision in the MOU, signed last April 11, that "the acceptance of the feasibility studies shall not be misconstrued as a commitment on the part of CIAC to engage the consortium as contractor and/or developer of the DMIA."

The consortium is composed of Beijing Urban Construction International Co. Ltd. based in Beijing, China; Synergy International Resources Group Co. Ltd. (Makati); Sum Cheong Construction Pte Ltd. (Singapore); Liberty Builders and Development Corp. (Pasay City), and ; Philippine Regional Investment and Development Corp. (Quezon City).

The MOU noted that "the consortium desires to secure, access and gather such data and information as may be necessary to prepare detailed feasibility studies for the development and expanion of the existing DMIA terminal."

It also said that "the consortium is willing to shoulder all the expenses for the preparation of the detailed feasibility studies for the project, including all expenses for data gathering, access to information and reproduction documents, including the preliminary development plan and designs of the terminal at no cost and no commitment to CIAC or any government agencies concerned".

It required that the feasibility studies be finished within 120 days after the signing of the MOU.

The MOU also stipulated that "the completed detailed feasibility studies will be submitted and donated to the CIAC which shall have the right to use all or any part of the said feasibility studies in its own autonomous plans and operations."

It further provided that "the acceptance of the feasibility studies shall not be construed as a commitment on the part of CIAC to engage the consortium as a contractor and/or developer."

Sunday, 22 April 2007

PGMA delighted with growth of China and India to add to the economic power of Japan -- Bunye

Original report at the Positive News Media

MANILA, April 23 (PNA) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has expressed delight at the growth of China and India, saying the two countries’ economic and political might coupled with the "power" of Japan will directly benefit the Philippines and the Asian region, according to Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye.

In his column "The View From the Palace" which comes out tomorrow (Monday), Bunye said the President cited the three countries’ growth in her keynote speech Saturday at the Boao Forum for Asia (BFA) which was held in the southern Chinese province of Hainan.

"As President of the Philippines and as Chair of the ASEAN (Association of Southeast Asian Nations), the President is delighted with the growth of China and India to add to the power of Japan in the region," Bunye said.

"The Philippines benefits from this growth and it can only lift up our nation as it lifts up others too," he added.

In her speech, the President emphasized that as China and India eventually grow into political and economic giants, "their obligations to their neighbors will increase and separate from their own obligations to their citizens."

"Ascendance onto the world stage carries implications not just for economic development, but for management of our environment on a sustainable basis and for sustaining broader peace and stability in the region and the world," she said.

As chair of the ASEAN, the President pushed for greater economic integration between Southeast Asia and the robust economies of China, India and Japan.

She welcomed the surge in economic growth of the three countries as a healthy development for the Philippines and the region as a whole.

"The internal market demands and domestic consumption of these nations are having a direct and positive impact on our nation in terms of job creation, investment and balance of trade," she said.

During her 12-hour whirlwind trip to Boao, President Arroyo secured nearly a billion dollars worth of new Chinese investment deals for the Philippines. (PNA)

US troops bound for Basilan, Tawi-Tawi arrive in Zambo

Original report at Positive News Media

ZAMBOANGA CITY, April 21 (PNA) - A new batch of troops from the United States Armed Forces have arrived in this city to replace their comrades who had been stationed in the southern Philippines.

The plane that carried the US soldiers touched down at the Zamboanga International Airport (ZIA) shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday and were immediately ferried to the headquarters of the Joint Special Operations Task Force-Philippines (JSOTF-P).

JSOTF-P information officer Maj. John Redfield disclosed the arrival of the fresh troops is part of the rotation of forces they are undertaking.

Redfield they will replace the US troops stationed in this city and in Jolo, Sulu and their deployment has nothing to do with "what's happening in Sulu."

They will not also participate in the continuous offensive by Filipino troops against the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf and Jemaah Islamiyah (JI) terrorists in Sulu province.

Fighting ensued Friday last week until Sunday between Filipino troops and the rouge forces of the Moro National Liberation Front (MNLF) after the rebels staged attacks on military camps in the island province of Sulu.

The fighting stopped after the fall of Camp Jabal Uhud, the bastion of MNLF rouge leader Habier Malik in Barangay Bitan-ag in the town of Panamao.

Offensive by Filipino troops continues aimed at getting the so-called high value targets - the remaining top Abu Sayyaf leaders and JI terrorists Dulmatin and Umar Patek.

Redfield said the US troops who arrived Thursday will be divided into two groups and will be deployed in the provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi to join Filipino soldiers in military training.

He noted the US troops will undergo jungle terrain training together with their Filipino counterparts.

They would also conduct humanitarian missions in the provinces of Basilan and Tawi-Tawi, according to Redfield. (PNA)