Saturday, 29 September 2007

VP Noli oversees smooth transfer of families in Muntinlupa relocation site

Original report at News.Balita.Ph

"Ganyan sila (Muntinlupa relocatees) ka-excited, binabantayan nila ang trabaho sa site. Imagine mo nga naman katabi natin dito ang mga high-end subdivisions (That's how excited they are, they are watching the work at the site)," said Vice-President and Chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) Noli ‘Kabayan’ De Castro after his inspection Friday of the in-city 50-hectare relocation site in the New Bilibid Prison for some 7,000 families in the Muntinlupa segment of the rail linkage project.

"I would like to commend Muntinlupa City Mayor Aldrin San Pedro and Congressman (Lone District of Muntinlupa) Rozanno Rufino ‘Raffy’ Biazon for their cooperation and commitment to address the priority requirements in the site, particularly schools for elementary pupils and high school students," he also said.

The National Government, through the National Housing Authority (NHA) will put up the elementary school building while the city government will finance the construction of the high school building.

Cong. Biazon, on the other hand, committed to facilitate the release of funds for the deployment of additional teachers in Muntinlupa to address the high teacher-to-student ratio there.

"Natutuwa ako at mismong si Mayor San Pedro ang nangako na mamamahala sa supply at pamamahagi ng patubig sa relocation site… isang bagay na palagi na lang issue sa bawat relocation community, (I am glad that Mayor San Pedro himself promised to manage the supply and distribution of water in the relocation site, an issue that always comes up in every relocation community)" said de Castro.

During the inspection, the Vice-President also met with various people’s organizations in the site including the Homeless People’s Federation, the Muntinlupa Alliance of Urban Poor in Danger Areas, the Federation of Urban Poor in Danger Areas, PEROKARIL and the Coalition of New Bilibid Prison who expressed satisfaction on the development of the relocation site.

Priority for relocation in the New Bilibid Prison will be given to on-site informal settlers estimated at around 350 families.

The relocation is expected to start middle of October 2007.

As of date, the government completed the relocation of some 36,620 families living along the rail right-of-way of PNR’s north and southrail lines.

“With the full support of the Muntinlupa local government, we will be able to do what has been an impossible dream until now­to clear the way for a modern commuter train service within Metro Manila and to the south and to put the 'riles' dwellers in better homes that they can actually own,” De Castro said. (PNA)

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo's Speech at the 62nd Session of the General Assembly of the United Nations

The Philippines in the UN: Building Bridges in the 21st Century
Friday, September 28, 2007
New York
Original copy at Gov.Ph News

Mr. President,

Congratulations on your election to the UN General Assembly. Congratulations also to our Secretary-General, H.E. Ban Ki-Moon, who was such a good friend of the Philippines when he was Foreign Minister of the Republic of Korea. We embrace his vow to focus on strengthening the three pillars of the United Nations (development, security and human rights).


It plays a major large role for the Philippines. Poverty alleviation is the most important part of our agenda and our vision to lift the Philippines into a modernized nation in twenty years. We want to be actively engaged in local, regional and global affairs because that is the future.

We believe in the power of the global trading system to alleviate poverty and modernize nations through market forces. That does not mean we believe that countries like the Philippines are ready to compete head-to-head today in every sector, but it does mean that we cannot afford to be afraid of globalization.

By being increasingly connected to the world, the Philippine economy has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in 20 years.

Six years ago, no one thought we could get more revenues, cut down on tax cheats, strengthen the peso and move the stock market.

And no one thought we could bring our budget into balance, which we did last month, pre-pay our debts and raise employment, but we have. We must both grow our economy and sustain our natural environment at the same time. We are developing and promoting our Green Philippines agenda. It emphasizes a sustainable economic model that brings economic opportunity and a concern for our environment.

At the Secretary General’s High Level Meeting on Climate Change earlier this week, UN member nations focused on what the UNFCCC and Kyoto Protocol meetings in Bali this December should do.

The Clean Development Mechanism under the Kyoto Protocol has allowed developing countries like the Philippines to voluntarily reduce their greenhouse gas emissions through private sector initiatives. But there is a need to expand the carbon market and to expand international cooperation and financial support to promote strategies to adapt to climate change.

Too many nations, developed and developing, believe the environment must be sacrificed at the altar of growth.

We believe otherwise. We believe that we have a unique opportunity to get it right from day one: to introduce new industries that are clean and profitable. This includes a biofuels industry that helps our energy independence, creates jobs and keeps our nation clean for future generations.

We are further developing our geothermal power which is one of the two largest in the world.

We reiterate our commitment to the global trading system and when that fails us, to strengthening ASEAN, APEC and regional relations to bolster our economy.

The multilateral trading system, through the Doha Round, remains the best option to address poverty and improve standards of living around the world through an agreed set of international trade rules.

The Doha Development Agenda was launched with an emphasis on integrating a developmental dimension into all elements of the negotiations.

To make the Doha Round truly a Development Round, there must be greater coherence of policies among international development institutions (e.g. World Bank, IMF, UNDP and WTO) so that trade is mainstreamed in the development agenda and therefore capacity building can be focused on trade competitiveness.

As part of capacity-building, we call on the UN and our partners among developed nations to strengthen South-South cooperation wherein developing nations with specific strengths can share with other developing nations in need of their strength, funded by developed nations or multilaterals like the UNDP.

The developed nations were the prime movers behind global trade when it suited them; now some countries are slowing things down. That is not right nor good for our respective economies.

There has been a ray of hope with the developed countries declaring that they are willing to maximize flexibilities, in exchange for greater market access.

On the sidelines of the UN session, we hope the contending countries can continue consulting to find the right formula of subsidy cuts and market access that will break the Doha impasse.

But let me be clear: even as the Philippines works tirelessly to move the talks forward, we are not going to stand by and do nothing. For us, it is full speed ahead, preferably with Doha, but full speed nevertheless.

We recognize that if the multilateral trading system is fragmented into trading blocs, it will result in a more complex set of trade rules. That could be incompatible and detrimental to the interests of developing countries. In the meantime, while we are hoping for a successful conclusion to the Doha Round, we have to maximize the economic opportunities provided under bilateral and regional free trade agreements. This will complement efforts under the multilateral trading system.

At a time of uncertainty when the Doha Round is faltering, ASEAN took a bold step forward by drafting its Charter.

This is our first step to creating a permanent sense of security.

We are working towards a single market with free movement of goods, ideas and skilled talent.

In APEC, the world’s largest economy, the United States, and the world’s fastest growing economy, China, are active participants.

We have a strong alliance with the US, who remains our largest trading partner as well as our strongest strategic ally. We have stood shoulder to shoulder for many generations. We expect to continue building on our mature relationship with the US.

We have also forged a strong relationship with China. We see China’s rise as a significant opportunity for the Philippines. Our overall relations are now more confident and comprehensive.

Relations are not just about trade. They are also about people. And this includes migration, a world-side reality.

We thank the Secretary General for supporting the Philippines’ hosting of the Global Forum on Migration and Development next year, to which we invite all Member States to participate.

Overseas Filipino Workers are honored by the government and the people for their sacrifice and dedication to their work, their family and their nation. We welcome their contribution. But we are working towards the day when Filipinos no longer need to go abroad for a job, the day that overseas work is just another career option.

We believe that our ambitious economic reforms will increasingly be keeping our best and brightest right in the Philippines, closer to friends and families, helping to build our communities and provide the next generation of leadership.


It remains the central pillar underpinning conflict resolution.

Our country is among the largest, if not the largest, contributor of police officers to UN peacekeeping missions.

The Philippines has peacekeepers, both police and military, in Afghanistan, Cote D’Ivoire, Georgia, Haiti , Kosovo , Liberia , Sudan and Timor Leste.

We will continue our participation to safeguard communities so that they may overcome conflict and regain the peace needed to pursue development.

Closer to home, I have personally advanced the process of peace in Muslim and Christian Mindanao to a new level of engagement, focused on interfaith dialogue, economic development and mutual security. We have done so with the largest possible international involvement, including the UN. Peace there is very much an issue of human rights, just as alleviating poverty is, which is our number one issue.

The Philippines is the most democratic country in our region. We have no tolerance for human rights violations at home or abroad.

We support the effort to revitalize and refocus the work of the UN in human rights. It is for this reason that the Philippines sought and won a seat in the Human Rights Council.

The attention of the international community has been drawn, with great reason and justification, to the current situation in Myanmar.

Ladies and gentlemen:

This is the time for Myanmar to return to the path of democracy and to release Daw Aung San Suu Kyi – now – and to involve all the parties including the National League for Democracy in the democratization and the constitutional process.


Mr. President.

The number of globe-size issues we will face in the 21st century will require globe-size cooperation. We must build bridges of peace and prosperity. The place to start is building a stronger United Nations.

RP real estate industry grows 17.1%, an all-time high

Full report at Gov.Ph News

Tacloban City -- Even as the President speaks at the 62nd United Nations General Assembly about what the Philippines has been achieving in recent years and months, another good news comes along, the all-time 17.1% growth of the country's Real Estate Industry.

A boom in real estate means good news to the whole economy. Those who are skeptical about the country's economic growth cannot deny the buoyant state of real estate in the country today. The current boom has held despite the dangling political news and controversies.

It is hoped that these controversies will not break down into instability, and that they can be resolved without too much collateral damage to the hard-to-achieve economic gains the country has made for the first time in decades.

Real estate industry growth is on an all-time high because of the very attractive packages and low-cost housing schemes offered by owners and developers.

The 17.1% growth was due to the increase in rent and lease of commercial and office spaces due to the newly established giant malls and shopping centers in the metropolis, and the booming business process outsourcing industry.

There is also a positive trend in housing as proven by the increase in the sale of residential subdivision and condominium projects which are very much in demand among Overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

This trend is true not only in the metropolis but even in the far away villages in the provinces nationwide.

This good news should serve as an inspiration to the government leaders and workers who are sincerely doing their best to sustain the economic growth of the country.

It is also hoped that the skeptical and the pessimists among the Filipino people and leaders will see this as the turning point, for them to join the bandwagon of economic growth rather than continue to pull down the economy through their crab mentality.

Finally, it is hoped that such a trend in the country's real estate industry will continue. (PIA 8)

DOTC rebuts profs on NBN

By Riza T. Olchondra
Original report at the Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The Department of Transportation And Communication (DOTC) on Friday rejected suggestions of two University of the Philippines academics that the controversial national broadband network (NBN) project be scrapped in favor of other schemes.

"The issues of whether the government pursues a broadband project and in what form it will take are in fact policy or judgment calls and not cut-and-dried formulas," the DOTC said.

The agency issued the statement after economics professors Raul Fabella and Emmanuel de Dios testified before the Senate that the controversial NBN project did not make economic sense.

Fabella stressed that the study they had conducted was not against the idea of government providing "last mile connectivity" to agencies and schools, which he said would cost about P5 billion. He said they are against building a new backbone because the emergence of a new backbone would result in underutilization of existing private backbones, leading to price increases.

De Dios suggested that the government instead try a build-operate-transfer (BOT) alternative or use bulk buying to negotiate for lower rates with local telecommunications companies.

In its written rebuttal, DOTC said the BOT scheme would not necessarily lead to lower expenses because the BOT contractor would need to borrow at higher rates of interest--much higher than the Chinese concessional loan and make profits at the same time.

The private proponent may also avoid servicing areas that are unprofitable, a primary reason for coming up with the NBN.

"More importantly, like our other experiences with BOT projects, we may in all likelihood end up subsidizing the BOT proponent. So it's very possible [that] government's telecommunications expenses may go up instead of down if we do BOT," DOTC said.

As to bulk buying, the DOTC claimed that telcos cannot give government preferential rates as this will mean discriminating against private consumers. In other words, bulk buying will result in consumers subsidizing government telecommunication expenses as the telecom carriers will want to recoup the discount given to government.

"The NBN, on the other hand, will, aside from radically reducing the telecommunication expenses of government, may in all likelihood raise revenues for the government with no additional cost to the individual subscribers. The reason for this is simple--carriers interconnecting with the government's VOIP network will have to share part of their revenues for calls originating from their networks and terminating at the government's VOIP network. This is the mandate of the NTC memorandum circular on VOIP," the DOTC said.


By Alex Magno
Original article at The Philippine Star

Whatever Benjamin Abalos’ faults might be, he surely did not deserve the sort of uncivilized treatment he received at the Senate — especially in the hands of Aquilino Pimentel and Richard Gordon.

What happened in the Senate last Wednesday was an orgy, not a decent inquiry. The senators were at their most uncouth. They squabbled among themselves as they elbowed for TV face time. They were repetitive, seeking to hog the spotlight more than shed light on the issue. They virtually spat on their resource persons but called their guests arrogant if they dared be a little light-hearted. At every opportunity, the senators insulted each other.

This was not a chamber of statesmen. It was a pig sty.

Television coverage should have been rated R so that children are advised against watching it at the risk of imbibing the crude attitude of the senators and, at many instances, their plain illogic. One female senator takes the cake for perorating at length about nothing in particular.

I was not the only one disturbed by that orgy at the Senate. The whole of Thursday, people were calling in or texting radio programs complaining about the senators’ demeanor. A few foreign friends, diplomats and journalists, called me up asking an explanation about why our Senate is so.

I offered them several theories, or several facets of what could be a single theory to explain why this chamber could so easily lose its civility.

First, 5 senators are actively positioning for the 2010 presidential contest. Another 5 are considered potential vice-presidential bets. With so many seeking higher office, the Senate will likely have difficulty mustering a quorum when they all begin campaigning. From today to the next elections, expect these ambitious senators to exploit their seat at the Senate and use it as a vantage point to build name-recall.

Many of them will want to test what may now be called the Alan Cayetano Gambit: make accusations without evidence, engineer hysterical confrontations, catch media attention, build name-recall and win the next elections. Although it degrades the quality of public discourse, it is apparently an effective way to win elective office.

Second, the issue at hand is thin and the senators have to compensate for that thinness by indulging in theatrics. They are hard-pressed to do that, given the intense media attention accorded the Senate hearing on the broadband.

The issue is thin because there is really no evidence. Joker Arroyo did point out sometime during the hearings that noting could be resolved in this forum. It is a circle in a spiral, a he-said, she-said situation with no one in possession of any hard evidence.

The plot of this so-called scandal is itself a puzzle. I wonder why none of the senators asked what should be the central logical flaw in the storyline of this so-called scandal: Why is it that the two instances when bribes were supposed to have been offered happened after the deal was perfected? What was the point of those astounding bribes if the basic architecture of this deal could no longer be altered?

None of the senators zeroes in on that logical flaw. I could understand why. Doing so would kill this controversy, force the circus to an early end and deny all the media-hogging senators their golden moment to win free TV face-time.

With no hard evidence, the senators were simply fishing, possibly for an earthshaking soundbite or a dazzling media angle. The wonder of last Wednesday’s session was that it could be made to stretch for over 11 hours with nothing determinable to deal with. Senators simply repeated questions, editorialized on end, hectored the resource persons and, yes, insulted each other.

They remind me of a particularly bad teacher I had in grade school who, with nothing to teach, picked something each day to be angry about and scolded us for hours. Day in and day out, we were terrified but not educated.

After several sessions, this Senate expedition into case of the broadband contract surely seems to be a mansion constructed on the shifting sands of innuendo and hearsay. It is a story without a satisfying conclusion. It is a scandal without a hinge to keep it in place.

After building so much public expectation about its outcomes and investing so much uneducated passion in the proceedings, the greatest fear of the senators is that this whole episode will end in a whimper. There will be no fireworks in the end and the audience will be left as confused as they were at the start.

The last hope for anything dramatic to come out of this orgy is whatever private conversation Romy Neri might have had with the President. For that, the senators harassed the poor nerd no end. They are threatening to punish Neri with contempt if he insists in what he calls a matter of executive privilege or what might simply be called the sanctity of private communication.

Even in this case, the senators might be building a trap for themselves, hauling up an anvil that will drop on their own heads. I suspect that even if Romy Neri blurts out the Truth he is keeping to himself as a matter of executive privilege, that Truth will be absolutely boring and inconsequential. It might be embarrassing; but inconsequential nonetheless.

The battle for that inconsequential Truth could go up the Supreme Court and, in the end, we will all look like fools. But no bigger fools than the senators might turn out to be.

Romy Neri is a dear friend. I know him well. He is absolutely incapable of getting enmeshed in a horrendous conspiracy. His talents lie in deep thought and honest talk.

There is so much Zen in him that I suspect he is capable of playing possum, keeping absolutely still and yet immovable, until the clowns around him, by their own frantic but directionless energy, unmask themselves to be such.

31 hours on ZTE? Too much, says Joker

By Aurea Calica
Original report at The Philippine Star

Sen. Joker Arroyo lamented yesterday that his colleagues were spending too much time investigating the national broadband network (NBN) controversy to the detriment of other matters that need legislative attention.

“Where are we going?” Arroyo asked, noting that the Senate had spent a total of 31 hours hearing the NBN issue compared to the 100 minutes the lawmakers spent on subsequent sessions.

The questions have become repetitive. The questions that have been asked already are asked again and again. Why don’t we have time for our other work?” Arroyo asked.

The first hearing on the NBN issue on Sept.18 lasted almost six hours with businessman Jose “Joey” de Venecia III, son and namesake of the House Speaker, as main resource person.


On Sept. 20, Sen. Arroyo said the Senate had to forego session because the hearing on NBN lasted seven hours.


Last Wednesday, the hearing dragged on for 12 hours or until 9:30 p.m. after which the senators convened for an executive session for 10 minutes.


The next day, senators spent six hours listening to former DOTC secretary Josefina Lichauco and UP professors Emmanuel de Dios and Raul Fabella debunk the viability of the NBN.

Sen. Arroyo would not say whether it was the live media coverage and the wide publicity that inspired the senators to sit down for hours during the hearings and wait patiently, or impatiently, for their turn to ask questions.

“I don’t want to make any descriptions. But we cannot really tell them not to ask any questions after sitting there for hours. That is why the chairmen of the committees decided that they be the last to do the questioning and give way to the others,” Sen. Manuel Roxas II, chairman of the Senate trade and commerce committee, said. Roxas’ committee is one of the three committees hearing the NBN controversy. The two others are the blue ribbon and defense committees chaired by Sen. Alan Peter Cayetano and Sen. Rodolfo Biazon, respectively.

Sen. Arroyo said he could not understand why his colleagues wouldn’t cut short the investigation and start deliberations on pending bills.

It takes only two senators to have a quorum in a committee hearing. How come it is hard to get that quorum when almost everybody is there in the investigations like the ZTE deal? Our primary duty is to make laws,” Sen. Arroyo told The STAR in a telephone interview.

He said the senators were expected to attend hearings on the budgets of the different government agencies, the upcoming barangay and Sangguniang Kabataan elections, the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement and other priority bills.

I think we have so much time for the investigations and very little for legislative work,” he said.

Aside from the NBN deal, the Senate is also busy discussing the “Hello, Garci” cheating and wiretapping controversy, on which three hearings had already been conducted. The hearings lasted for four to six hours each.

Sen. Arroyo said they themselves were breaking their new rule that sessions must start promptly at 3 p.m. so they could tackle more issues.

“That rule is only a few days old,” Arroyo said. The new rule was adopted after Roxas and Senate President Manuel Villar argued about punctuality and why sessions could not start on time at 3 p.m.

The Senate is set to adjourn on Oct. 13 and will be back on Nov. 4. “We have less than two weeks to go to work on bills, especially the budget which is a very important piece of legislation,” Sen. Arroyo said.

During these investigations, we are not given any indication as to when they will end. It’s free wheeling and it’s as if we have all the time just for these,” He said.


(We beg the senators once more to make better use of the time and the funds of the Senate for tackling the job that is incumbent upon them. Leave the judging to the Sandiganyaban and the Supreme Court. Enough of the circus! And to the media, we wish you were not there to cover these fruitless discussions and gossiping by the "honorable" Senators.)


To the Senators who insist they want to get to the bottom of things--they should get to the bottom of the legislation they have not passed, and let the Supreme Court and the Sandiganbayan do their jobs. The longer the Senate circus goes on, the less credible it becomes in the eyes of the people it claims to serve. The more they arrogate authority to themselves, the less worthy they become of positions of governance.

The jabbering and the ranting have to stop, or the Senate itself will have to be placed under investigation for squandering public money in pointless probes and meaningless inquiries which only serve personal gain.

We pray that the media will also realise its responsibility to the public at large, and not pander to the wiles of politicians.

Friday, 28 September 2007

Statement of the President on Myanmar

Original report at Gov.Ph News

We call on Myanmar to act in its own best interests to avoid its further isolation and to redeem its democracy without any further delay. We have patiently but persistently advised Myanmar within ASEAN that it must make greater and faster progress toward that goal.

Recent events in Myanmar, therefore, are of concern to the Philippines and to the region as a whole. The Philippines asks the Government of Myanmar to act with the utmost restraint and to take immediate steps to preserve what advances have been made in its roadmap to democracy.

Specifically, we ask the Government of Myanmar to now allow all interested parties to take full part in the effort to national reconciliation through peaceful and inclusive dialogue.

This means the release of all those who have been detained and who can contribute to the process of national renewal, including Ms. Aung San Suu Kyi. In addition, we ask that the Government of Myanmar invite the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, Mr. Ibrahim Gambari, to visit the country as soon as possible.

A sneak preview of PGMA's address at the UN: South-South or triangular cooperation

PGMA to stress importance of being globally engaged in UN address
Original article at Gov.Ph News

NEW YORK (via PLDT) – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will address Friday morning (Sept. 28, New York time) the 62nd session of the United Nations (UN) General Assembly and call for concerted international cooperation in addressing pressing problems facing member-countries such as poverty, security, energy supply, environmental degradation and trade and economic relations.

She will be the third speaker of the morning session of the General Assembly.

The President indicated to members of the Malacañang Press Corps covering her US trip some of the issues she would highlight in her UN address, including the “importance of being globally engaged.”

Although her speech was still a work in progress, she said her country report will give her the opportunity to talk about the Philippines and “what we have been achieving in recent years and months.”

Among other things, “I will talk about sustainable development. At the APEC Summit, we kept stressing that resolutions on environmental issues should be resolved (at the UN level), so we are affirming that,” she said.

She added that she will also tell the UN “a few things about the Philippines… about sustainable development…”

“We will talk about the region, the UN, regional relations, the APEC, ASEAN, Myanmar, China, the US, aside from the ASEAN Charter, and other matters…” she said.

The President added that she will cite “global cases to alleviate poverty” and later discuss the stalled Doha Round of the World Trade Organization (WTO) trade negotiations.

She said she will tell the United Nations that the DOHA Round “should push through like what I said in my ADB speech. Don’t forget that it is good for development.”

The President said that she will also remind wealthier countries about “capacity building for countries that are not yet ready to compete head on head in all sectors… and remind the developed nations of the Monterey consensus of their commitment of allocating point 7 percent of their GNP (Gross National Product) for ODA (Overseas Development Assistance).”

“And then I will push for promoting South-South development assistance, this is something, well, like trilateral (development relations)…”

Under her proposed South-South mode of assistance, three parties will help each other out in development projects, with the Philippines contributing “technical expertise” on the one hand; plus the recipient underdeveloped country, on the other hand; and the multilateral or rich country that would fund the project.

The President said she had proposed the South-South development mode to Tonga whose prime minister visited the Philippines recently. “We have a proposal together to the ADB (Asian Development Bank) for South-South Cooperation.”

“This is really being done in the context of the UN, that’s why I will take this opportunity to push for that,” she added.

“It is very helpful. And as far as the Philippines is concerned, you know, we are not a capital-rich country so we can’t be giving ODA to other countries.”

“We are a human-resource-rich country and that’s our contribution. It already exists but I want to (push it even) more… It is called South-South cooperation or triangular cooperation…”

Statement of Cabinet Secretary Ricardo Saludo: Cabinet lauds Senate testimonies based on parameters set by Supreme Court

Original report at Gov.Ph News

The Cabinet commends Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Chairman Romulo Neri, and other officials for explaining the national broadband network project to our people. We also acknowledge the information and comments given by our senators and other parties, which the China Projects Oversight Panel shall take into consideration.

These and future exchanges of information between co-equal branches of government must abide by parameters set down by the Supreme Court for congressional hearings, including those requiring invitations to state what legislation and questions would be taken up, as well as those governing executive privilege.

Executive privilege covers discussions of the President and the Cabinet, closed-door sessions of the Senate and the House of Representatives, and deliberations of the Supreme Court. It is intended to ensure full, free and frank exchange of views in the shaping of decisions, policies, and actions affecting the nation, which would suffer if presidential, congressional, and high court deliberations were not confidential.

Put simply, if privileged discussions could be made public, top officials would not openly share sensitive views and knowledge, which are indispensable in crafting sound decisions in the public interest. The same cloak of silence would fall upon media sources if confidentiality of their identities and interviews were not respected.

The Senate acknowledged the privileged nature of columnist Jarius Bondoc’s interview with Chairman Neri when he was allowed to ask the latter if he could reveal confidential portions of their interview. When permission was not granted, the Senate did not hold Bondoc in contempt for refusing to violate the interviewee’s confidence.

Similar respect should be accorded to the confidentiality of deliberations in the highest organs of government, as affirmed by high court rulings. Executive privilege covering the President, Congress, and the Supreme Court is a cornerstone of our democracy as well as the separation of powers enshrined in our Constitution.

Miaa to expand Manila domestic airport to accommodate more air travelers

By Recto Mercene
Original report at The Business Mirror

THE Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) is expanding the passenger capacity of the Manila Domestic Airport (MDA) in the light of impressive flow of local and foreign air travelers over the last few years.

Miaa general manager Alfonso Cusi made this revelation during the inaugural flight of Cebu Pacific (CEB) to Xiamen on Thursday.

“We have reached the saturation limit of the domestic terminal, which has been handling 2.5 million passengers a year,” Cusi said. He added that the expansion plans would provide a capacity of some 3.2 million passengers a year.

According to plans, the check-in booths, airline counters and entrance lobby would be expanded by relocating the warehouse area to give way to a larger arrival area by as much as 30 percent. There would also be three more x-ray machines that would be in place, instead of the single x-ray unit now in place.

Cusi said that work will start in October and be finished by December, in time for the peak tourist and balikbayan season.

He had a lengthy discussion about the domestic expansion plans with Lance Gokongwei, president and chief executive officer of CEB, who was present during the inaugural ceremony and whose company is partly sharing the architectural and financial terms.

The Miaa headman said the announced expansion of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 1 has been delayed by the procurement of some imported items, but added that work has already started in some areas, such as the repairs of flooring and toilet facilities.

Cebu Pacific’s flying out of Xiamen is the 10th international destination that the budget airline has undertaken following the recent opening of the Manila-Shanghai service two weeks ago.

Gokongwei said that they anticipate a significant increase in passenger movement between Manila and China’s booming cities now that the People’s Republic of China has emerged as the 21st century’s political and economic power.

“There is a large potential of Chinese tourists coming to the Philippines because of CEB’s year-round ‘Go’ fares which offer a 50-percent slashed-down fare for the Manila-Guangzhou, Manila-Xiamen and Manila-Taipei routes,” he said.

CEB reduced its domestic ‘Go’ fares by up to 65 percent in July 2007.

At the same time, CEB said that they are encouraging travel and tourism to Xiamen since it is a rapidly growing industrial province in China.

On the other hand, Tourism Undersecretary Cynthia Carrion, one of the maiden flight guests, said that it is a big boost to the tourism industry that CEB is offering cheaper fares to more regional routes and vowed that her department is committed to provide more infrastructures to make the country a more attractive destination.

Now in its 12th year, CEB has the youngest fleet in the Philippines with a fleet age of one and a half years. It operates 14 Airbus to 20 domestic and soon to 12 international destinations, with the addition of Guangzhou and Macau next months.

Thursday, 27 September 2007

PGMA regales heads of state at the Plenary of the Clinton Global Initiative meet in New York

Full article at Gov.Ph News

NEW YORK (via PLDT) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo regaled heads of state who gathered Wednesday morning (New York time) at the Sheraton New York Hotel for the third annual meeting of the “Clinton Global Initiative” (CGI) with her administration’s development paradigm and the country’s vision of becoming energy independent.

President Arroyo was one of the six panelists in the three-year-old CGI’s opening plenary whose theme revolved around “the need for global action.”

Aside from President Arroyo – who was introduced by former US President William Jefferson Clinton as “my college classmate, Batch 1968 of Georgetown University” – the other prominent panelists cum interviewees were Al Gore, former vice president of the USA; Hamid Karzai, president of Afghanistan; H. Lee Scott, president and chief executive officer (CEO) of Wall Mart; Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa; and Robert Zuellick, president of the World Bank.

Clinton -- who founded the said non-government organization three years ago -- acted as moderator/interviewer in the elaborate stage set-up at the Metropolitan Ballroom of Sheraton New York Hotel in downtown Manhattan.

Very much like a talk show host, Clinton interviewed each of his guests about their development plans, and dealt lengthily on climate change and the participants’ contributions to arrest the depletion of the ozone layer.

When it was President Arroyo’s turn, Clinton told the jampacked ground-level ballroom that he and President Arroyo have been “friends a long, long time… but not very long ago, people were writing her off, saying she is in terrible trouble, the Philippines is in terrible trouble…”

“She took a lot of tough economic positions, and the (Philippine) economy has completely turned around – and she’s on the way up now, and she is in very good shape, and I am happy to see her here.”

The 42nd President of the United States of America then delved on conflicts that are “rooted in religious and other differences, especially in Mindanao,” and asked President Arroyo about how she is “dealing with this in trying to promote reconciliation.”

Clinton added and clarified, thus: “What is your experience about the role of economic opportunities in helping to bridge the silly conflicts within your country?”

Pretty in a brown dress suit, President Arroyo – who was seated in the very middle of the stage and who was the only female panelist -- told the world leaders gathered, thus:

“In a world where hard power has not proven its worth totally, in the Philippines there is a paradigm for peace that (consists of) soft and hard power (which) meld together confidence-building measures.”

The President said the measures include “inter-faith dialogue and cultural awareness,” where the (Christian) bishops and (Muslim) ulamas “have been very active… to promote religious understanding.”

Alternately dubbed by the moderator as “President Arroyo” and simply “Gloria,” the President explained that achieving religious understanding “is also a part of our Medium-Term Development Plan (MTDP).”

“Second is the promotion of basic infrastructure and economic development, and I would like to thank the World Bank because they have a very good project – the Mindanao Trust Fund for Peace and Development (MTFPD) where the project partners are the MILF (Moro Islamic Liberation Front)…”

Aside from the MTFPD, the President revealed that the World Bank also has a separate trust fund for the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) which is “managed together by the national government and the autonomous government.”

“You know, when we have these projects, they build more than bridges and roads and schools – they build trust.”

The President also revealed to the assembly of world leaders that her administration is close to finalizing a peace agreement with the MILF which, she said, has had a taste of the benefits of working with the World Bank.

“The WB is also managing a big initiative for when the peace agreement finally comes… then it will really take off… We find that this investment in people is paying off… because peace does not come from the barrel of a gun… that’s what we found…”

“We have to give a person human dignity, food on the table, a job… We have to invest in people…”

President Arroyo – who went on to earn her doctorate in economics at the University of the Philippines – later got to talk about her latest economic project, the setting up of economic zones around geothermal areas, when moderator Clinton told the assemblage that the Philippines has the biggest geothermal power fields in all the world.

“… Would you develop more of it? Is it just an accident of geography, or you turned it into something positive for you?” Clinton asked “Gloria.”

“Well, we are endowed with geothermal power. And it fits very well with our Green Philippines program. We want to use clean energy and have energy independence; and geothermal energy gives us clean energy and energy independence,” replied President Arroyo.

The President then made a pitch for possible geo-power investors, telling them about the government’s build-operate-transfer (BOT) arrangements, and assuring them that investors are able to recover their investments and more before they turn over projects to the government.

“The private sector was able to get their money back before they turn it over to the national government…”

She further explained the benefits of going natural with the country’s geothermal fields, with the biggest wetfield in the world located in Leyte island in the Visayas:

“They not only give us power, they also give us jobs…” And the host local governments earn royalties which are plowed back to their constituents via subsidized power rates.

The mandated ecozones around geothermal areas would also attract power firms to “locate there with the usual investment incentives, and areas far from Metro Manila will now have industries and power.”

Clinton – who told the crowd that “everybody in the Philippines is scared of Gloria” – then gave each of his interviewees five minutes to say their parting shots, and the President used this opportunity to tell the world about the country’s 7.5 percent growth.

“We would like to share this paradigm with the world and thank you for giving us the opportunity to share this with the world… We believe explicitly or implicitly that we can do it right from Day One, we want to create jobs and take care of our environment…

“Our investment in people is paying off. Peace does not come from the barrel of the gun – that’s what we found. We have to believe in the person, (give him) human dignity, food on the table…”

The CGI now counts some “13 hundred members” from NGOs, academia, among others, including some 52 current and former heads of state, according to Clinton.

Super body ready to monitor all contracts amounting to P100-M or more

Original article at Gov.Ph News

The Procurement Transparency Group (PTG), a super body created by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to monitor and evaluate all proposed and awarded contracts amounting to P100 million or more, is now ready to function to increase transparency in the awarding of government contracts.

The PTG was directed by the President to evaluate and monitor all big contracts entered into by all national government agencies (NGAs), government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs), state universities and colleges (SUCs) and local government units (LGUs).

The President created the super transparency body by virtue of Executive Order No. 662 entitled, “Enhancing Transparency Measures Under Republic Act No. 9184,” the Government Procurement Reform Act, the NGAs, GOCCs, GFIs, SUCs and LGUs, through their respective Bids and Awards Committees (BACs), to post in the appropriate government website the following procurement reports as required under the Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR) of R.A. 9184:

• Annual Procurement Plan;
• Procurement Monitoring Report;
• List of non-government organizations (NGOs), civil society organizations, or professional associations invited as observers; and
• Blacklisting orders against suppliers, constructors, and consultants.

All NGAs, GOCCs, GFIs, SUCs and LGUs, through their respective BACs, were likewise directed to post in the Philippine Government Electronic Procurement System (PhilGEPS) all their procurement opportunities, results thereof, and other related information as required under the IRR of R.A. 9184.

Empowered by R.A. 9184, the Government Procurement Policy Board (GPPB) would then maintain in the PhilGEPs website a database of proposed and concluded public sector contracts involving an amount of P100 million or above.

The GPPB would also head the PTG which is tasked to evaluate, comment on, record and monitor the said contracts.

Members of the PTG are the Presidential Anti-Graft Commission (PAGC), National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA), Department of Justice (DOJ), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG), Bishops-Businessmen Conference for Human Development, Transparency and Accountability Network, Volunteers Against Crime and Corruption (VACC), and two other NGOs involved in training procurement observers and/or procurement reforms.

The PTG shall make timely recommendations of remedial actions, improvements in procurement, contract implementation and monitoring processes to ensure compliance with contractual terms and to safeguard government and public interest.

Upon findings of non-compliance, the PTG shall recommend to the PAGC the imposition of sanctions, implementation of remedial measures, and the filing of criminal, civil and/or administrative charges if warranted.

Arroyo tours NAIA airport terminals before takeoff
By Tarra Quismundo
Original report at the Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- Instead of going straight to her waiting chartered plane, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo made a sidetrip before leaving for the United States on Tuesday night and toured the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) terminals in Pasay City.

The President took the time to drive by the still mothballed NAIA Terminal 3, checked the facade of Terminal 2 and then walked through the arrival area of the NAIA Terminal 1 shortly before her 9:30 p.m. US-bound flight, airport officials said.

“She’s very particular to detail. Even one cigarette butt on the floor, she took notice ... Then when she saw cracks [on the floor or walls], she said they should be fixed,” said Alfonso Cusi, general manager of the Manila International Airport Authority, who accompanied the President on her unannounced inspection.

None of the media swarming the red carpet at the Centennial terminal were able to catch up with the President’s airport tour. Airport officials said Ms Arroyo also asked her security to remain discreet during the inspection as she did not want to cause alarm among passengers.

Airport security chief retired Gen. Angel Atutubo said Ms Arroyo first looked at the ongoing road-paving project in front of the NAIA 3, currently undergoing repairs and completion for a yet to be announced opening date.

The President drove by, he said, then passed through the front of Terminal 2, drove through the cargo terminal, through the old Nayong Pilipino, turned back through Terminal 2, then used the ramp to reach the arrival gates of the old NAIA.

“She assumed she was a passenger, as if she had just gotten off a plane. Where passengers usually went through, that’s where she passed through so she could feel again how to be a regular passenger,” said Atutubo.

“She went through the immigration counters and looked at the personnel, went through customs and the conveyor area. She just looked at the flow,” said the official in an interview shortly after Ms Arroyo’s special Philippine Airlines flight took off.

Cusi said the President gave directives on “what we should be doing.”

“She told us always to show the best because her concern was how she can always bring the tourist to the country, how to attract them, and how we can show the best of the Filipinos. So we might have an old facility, but through good-natured people, through good service etiquette, we’ll be able to attract tourists,” Cusi said.

Ms Arroyo was then driven back to NAIA 2 and boarded her flight for New York with a 68-member entourage, which included Cabinet members and lawmakers.

Some Senators have lost their heads

By Alex Magno
Thursday, September 27, 2007


Unlike the events in the streets of Rangoon, where the issues are clear and the causes compelling, the Senate broadband hearing yesterday turned into a complete loss of national focus.

The lowest point was reached when Sen. Aquilino Pimentel began imputing to Chairman Benjamin Abalos paternity, not of deals, but of actual children. Add to that, Sen. Jamby Madrigal’s clumsy attempt to push words into the mouths of resource persons invited to the hearings.

At one particularly embarrassing point, she was needling Abalos to explain how money could be raised from a piece of paper. Unfortunately, Abalos is not a finance man and could not give a soundbite-sized response.

In the business, raising financing from a piece of paper is called “franchise leveraging.” I remember Senator Joker Arroyo mentioning that phrase in the hearing the week before. “Franchise leveraging” involves acquiring a franchise first, and then using that as the lever to raise financing for the project for which a franchise was granted.

That might sound a little magical for Madrigal. But it is really a simple racket that does not require an MBA to undertake.

The only truly educational things in yesterday’s session were all contained in Secretary Romulo Neri’s opening statement. He said that the Philippines has among the most expensive broadband services in the world. Here, consumers are forced to pay $20 for megabyte per second capacity. Elsewhere, the same service is available for only 11 US cents.

Which might explain why the two telecom companies, between them, made P47 billion in net profits last year. Neri thinks that by investing in its own broadband capacity, government could claw back at least P23 billion a year from the profits that flow to overpricing private sector providers — more than enough to justify public investment in even and “overpriced” P15 billion project. On top of that, government can deliver better quality services to the public through the thousands of new applications that could be loaded onto the broadband network.

Neri also explained something very enlightening: the differences in financing costs. If government could borrow at rates three percentage points lower than any other private corporation, then it makes sense for government to undertake projects on a government-to-government financing basis. The savings in financing costs could in turn be passed on to the consumers in the form of cheaper services.

The present ability of our government to get lower financing cost is one of the dividends of disciplined fiscal management. The old models of project financing, at least at this time, might be less efficient than loan-based financing.

But were the senators impressed by this information?

It does not appear they understood the significance of the information. They tripped over each other the rest of the day trying to pry lurid details, deliver inappropriate soundbites, dwell on intimations of sexual prowess and fan intrigue.

The Senate hearing became the tabloid version of issue. The way the hearings dragged on through the day confirmed what Senator Miriam Santiago said before she stormed out of that orgy of disinformation early in the day: that the broadband hearings was a waste of time.

The senators, thoroughly overcome by their own lust for malice, were simply incapable of asking what, from the point of view of national interest, should be the right questions.

US still sees RP a great place to do business despite ZTE scandal

By Cecille Suerte Felipe
Full article at The Philippine Star

Despite the swirling controversy over the government’s broadband network deal with a Chinese firm, the United States considers the Philippines a “great place to do business,” owing to the dedication and energy of Filipino workers.

“It’s a great place to do business because the quality of employees you get in the Philippines is second to none. Filipinos are energetic and dedicated, and so most of our companies are very happy here,” US Ambassador Kristie Kenney said yesterday during a visit to the Philippine National Police headquarters at Camp Crame.

Kenney, however, refused to comment on the controversial ZTE broadband deal which has been the subject of a Senate inquiry following information that a number of government officials received kickbacks and even offered bribes.

“I’m going to leave political noise for Filipinos to comment on. I’m very focused on the very important work we’re doing here on peace and prosperity, and we’re looking forward to continuing it,” she stressed.


“American business is very enthusiastic about what we do here. In fact, next week, I’m going to Cebu where we have an American showcase… the project we’re launching next week in Cebu is that American companies are here looking for Philippine partners to do business in the country. That’s pretty exciting for me,” Kenney said.


Kenney attributed the enthusiasm of the American investors to put their money in the Philippines to the improving peace and order situation, crediting the PNP under Director General Oscar Calderon for this.

“Americans feel increasingly safer here in the Philippines. The PNP has done a wonderful job of looking after the really many difficult issues that face every police force in the world today – drug trafficking, terrorism, all the way down to motor vehicle safety, road safety, a lot of tough challenges the police face today. It wasn’t the case I guess when we were young. So it’s really astonishing, the progress the Philippines made here and we’re really proud to be part of it,” she pointed out.

Kenney also expressed optimism on the appointment of Calderon’s successor, Deputy Director General Avelino Razon Jr.


Wednesday, 26 September 2007

PGMA increases combat pay of soldiers

Original report at Gov.Ph News

Soldiers rendering combat duty are now entitled to an increase in combat pay after President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo issued an Executive Order formally allowing this special privilege to the brave and vigilant members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines.

In issuing E.O. No. 658, the President and her government recognize and appreciate “the heroism and sacrifices of the members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) who are directly involved in combat operations to preserve the internal security of the country.”

Under the EO signed last Sept. 6, members of the AFP assigned in field units will be given an additional incentive of P150 per day apart from the current P240 per month allocation “while actually engaged in combat operation effective July 1, 2007.”

President Arroyo had earlier ordered this increase in combat pay in her speech during the National Heroes’ Day celebration in Cagayan de Oro City last Aug. 27.

She told the Department of Budget and Management to utilize the savings realized from the recent bidding for the Armed Forces modernization program “to increase the combat pay and force protection of our soldiers and marines.”

"The recent bidding under our Armed Forces modernization resulted to savings of P1.28 billion, with P400 million saved from the squad automatic weapon alone. In thanks for this huge savings of the procurement of our Armed Forces and also in gratitude for our soldiers and marines who gave up their lives in these past battles, I direct the Department of Budget and Management to authorize the Armed Forces to avail of the use of these savings I have just mentioned to increase the combat pay and force protection of our soldiers and marines," the President said in her speech.

She explained that these savings and budget allocations for the Armed Forces, which also include the Philippine National Police, were made possible through the strong showing of the economy which, she said, was brought about by the tough fiscal reforms implemented by her administration.

Because of these tough fiscal reforms, the President said, "our overall economy has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in a decade."

"The single biggest act that led to the surge in our economy was the passage of our Value Added Tax which in one bold stroke raised enormous amounts of new revenue," she pointed out.

"Part of the gains from our economic measures are being used to modernize all the Armed Forces, meaning the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the (Philippine National) Police, and improve their fighting conditions," she added.

Philippine 2007 GDP seen strongest in over 3 decades

By Rosemarie Francisco
Full report at the Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The Philippines is expected to post its highest growth in more than three decades this year on strong private-sector consumption and as the government steps up spending after years of restraint, a Reuters poll showed.

But the pace of growth may slow next year amid expectations of sustained weakness in the country's key electronics exports.

The median forecast in the quarterly poll was for gross domestic product (GDP) to rise 7.0 percent in 2007, the highest annual growth since 1976 when the economy expanded 8.8 percent.

The Philippine economy grew 5.4 percent in 2006.

The latest 2007 growth forecast beats the 6.0 percent estimate in a similar poll conducted in June and is higher than the official forecast of 6.1 to 6.7 percent expansion this year.

Analysts upgraded their growth forecasts for the Southeast Asian country after the government said last month that GDP grew an annual 7.3 percent in the first half, with the second quarter's growth of 7.5 percent the highest in two decades.

Neri mum on conversations with Arroyo

Original report at ABS-CBN News

After dropping the bomb on Abalos, the former NEDA chief refused to divulge details of his "additional" conversations with Mrs. Arroyo about the controversial NBN deal.

"May I claim executive privilege, your honor, because I think this already involves conversations between me and the President," Neri said after Sen. Francis Pangilinan asked him if he had further conversations with Mrs. Arroyo about the NBN deal.

Pangilinan accepted the request as he and the other senators have yet to agree on how they will react when executive privilege is invoked during the proceedings.

Neri said the conversations he had with Mrs. Arroyo are "confidential in nature." Neri did not clarify if his conversation with Mrs. Arroyo took place after he had informed the President about what he said was Abalos's P200 million offer to him.

In an interview over DZMM on Wednesday morning before the Senate hearing, Neri said he may not be able to reveal details of some conversations he had with Mrs. Arroyo about the NBN project.

"If Cabinet members tell everything [about] their conversation [with] the President, they are revealing some matters that might destroy the integrity of the deliberation," he said.

Attempting to defuse high expectations for his most awaited testimony before a Senate hearing, the former socioeconomic secretary said there will be "no surprises" when he appears at the inquiry.

"Well, I don't think so. There will be no surprises," Neri said.

Neri said what he will reveal to the Senate are about "matters covered by executive privilege."

He said he may not be able reveal to the three Senate committees investigating the deal some conversations he had with the President about the NBN project,

He said he had been advised that some matters that he is willing to reveal before the Senate are covered by executive privilege.

He added that matters covered by executive privilege are "state secrets" that may be too sensitive for the public.

Executive privilege was one of the provisions of the Executive Order 464 that has been upheld by the Supreme Court. The controversial executive order has been used to bar government and military officials from attending congressional inquiries without Mrs. Arroyo's approval.

Senator Santiago says hearing a waste of time and a "squabble for kickbacks"

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago, meanwhile, walked out of the Senate hearing Monday morning after making a statement that the investigation into the allegedly irregular NBN deal merely revealed "a squabble for kickbacks."

Noting the conflicting statements made by the resource persons at the hearing, the feisty senator said the Senate investigation has to determine "not only who are telling a lie but who is telling a half-truth."

After providing some computations, she arrived at an amount of $30 million or P1.5 billion, which she said is 10 percent of NBN’s more than $300 million contract and "the usual commission or kickback."

"No wonder these people are at each other's throats. They’re fighting in effect over P1.5 billion," said Santiago.

She said de Venecia, who only had P312,000 in paid-up capital in AHI, had to enter into a partnership with Chinese businessmen.

"In other words, Mr. de Venecia seems to have been acting as a broker to get a commission. Kaya nagkagulo tayo dahil natiktikan siya ng mga iba. At sabi nila P1.5 billion pala ang kikitain, bakit siya lang? Kaya nagkagulo sila (This whole mess started because the others found out about his motive. The others said P1.5 billion is at stake. Why is he the only one gaining from it? That's why the fight started)," she said.

Santiago also said NEDA has no responsibility over the issue since it only conducted an academic study on the NBN project.

She then asked Abalos why he was "close" to officials of ZTE Corp. as the latter had admitted in his testimony.

Abalos started recounting how he got to know the ZTE officials but Santiago cut him off and made an observation.

"China invented civilization in the east, but as well it invented corruption for all of human civilization kaya mahilig itong mga Intsik na ito mag-kumbida sa golf, magkumbida sa dinner, magbigay ng free ticket to China (that's why the Chinese people like inviting acquaintances to golf clubs and dinners and giving free tickets to China). Nakakaintindi naman tayong lahat (It is a common knowledge) that when we are public officials, we are not invited because of our physical or sexual good looks. We are being invited in connection with a certain government project. That is my observation," she said.

"Now I want to place on record as a Senator with a principal duty of passing good laws, to promote the national interest even long after I'm gone from the Senate. I resent being made party to this squabble! Pinag-aawayan niyo lang ang kickback ninyo! Inaaksaya niyo ang panahon ng Senado (You are fighting because of your kickbacks! You're wasting the time of the Senate)," Santiago said.

After a while, Santiago quietly left the session hall where the hearing was being held.

Transcript of opening statement of former socioeconomic planning secretary Romulo Neri

Original report at ABS-CBN News

Senate hearing on the investigation of the National Broadband Network (NBN) deal between the Philippine government and ZTE Corp.

In respect to the needs of making this memorandum to the members of the committee for purposes of clarifying concerns regarding the subject.

The report is structured as follows, number one the NEDA project approval process, second is project milestone, third is project merits and benefits.

On the project approval process.

One of the committees of the NEDA board is Investment Coordinating Committee or ICC which evaluates the fiscal monetary and balance of payment implications of major national projects and it is composed of the Secretary of Finance as chairperson, the NEDA director general as co-chairperson, the executive secretary, the secretaries of Budget and Management, Trade and Industry, Agriculture, Energy, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas, the BOT center executive director.

The committee is usually referred to as the ICC cabinet committee or ICC CabCom to distinguish it from the ICC technical board which assist the ICC and is composed of senior representatives, at the undersecretary level from the ICC member agencies with the inclusion of the DENR.

The technical secretary up to the NEDA to the ICC is the NEDA secretariat whose principal functions is to evaluate the technical, financial, economic and social feasibility of all projects requiring ICC and NEDA board approval as well as policy institutional issues related thereto.

It provides comments and recommendations of the projects for consideration or even modification or rejection by the ICC which is an inter-agency body.

The NEDA board and the ICC project deliberations entail a review of the social, technical, financial and economic feasibility of project proposals at the following levels: for the technical board level, at the cabinet board level and finally at the NEDA board which is chaired by the President.

The NEDA, ICC and its project review process observes and applies the presumption of regularity in the performance and functions by the implementing agency with respect to those responsibilities vested it by law.

Moreover the ICC likewise presumes that the expertise and the specialized knowledge with respective various aspects of the proposed project reside in the implementing agency.

Hence, the review process inter-agency ICC does not substitute its judgment or that of the implementing agency except for the responsibility and expertise reside in the ICC or his member agencies.

Project milestone.

The NBN proposal was processed for ICC review and approval has submitted and endorsed by the proponent agencies namely the DOTC and CICT.

The NBN project was conceptualized in view of the Cyber Corridor initiative highlighted by the President during our 2006 July State of the Nation Address

And this will serve as the comprehensive solution for fast-tracking national information, communications, technology, development as envisioned in the Cyber Corridor program.

The NBN proposal was first officially endorsed to NEDA by the Commission on Information and Communications Technology or CICT on the 20th of October 2006 as a government project and not as a BOT project.

It was further configured and endorsed by the DOTC of 23 March 2007 based on the results of study conducted by the Bids and Awards Committee for ICT commissioned by the DOTC in compliance with the President’s instructions period February 13 joint NEDA investment coordinating committee and the cabinet group meeting.

Among other recommendations the DOTC and the CICT represented on March 1, 2007 that as a network for government communications for securities and issue the network must be owned by government.

It is also to encourage coverage in unserved areas.

The NEDA ICC and the NEDA board approved the project on 29 March 2007 on the basis of its technical and socio-economic merits with DOTC as the appropriate implementing agency.

I go now to the project merits and benefits.

The NBN project will established an Internet Protocol (IP) based nationwide, wireless broadband network for government of the Philippines has a single platform infrastructure network for multiple ICT services that will allow seamless voice, data and video connectivity among all national government agencies down to the barangay offices of the local government units to enhance the delivery of various government services to the people.

Using advance state of the art technical solutions the NBN will build upon existing microwave radio transmission network and facilities of the TelOf (Telecommunications Office) providing necessary equipment upgrading for nationwide broadband IP-oriented transmission backbone.

The last mile distribution utilize worldwide interoperability for microwave access or WiMax

cluster technology that will extend the wireless broadband access to the remote LGU and barangay offices.

All the network management systems will be computerized and centralized to the establishment of an Integrated Data Center or IDC.

As a single platform network it will allow interoperability with existing and future government ICT assistance and can host all key government applications on rationalizing the whole government communications resources thereby avoiding the duplication assistance and eventually allowing economies of scale and efficiency.

Utilizing such state of the art technology at the early stage of the product life will avoid early obsolescence of the government network.

On the whole the average total government net savings as estimated by the DOTC was 3.6 billion a year.

Considering the said benefit the project was found to be economically viable with the net present value of 11.06 billion and economic internal rate of return of 29.6% against a NEDA’s hurdle rate of 15%.

I would like to add your honors that when Joey de Venecia presented to me his project also, I listened to his presentation, he promised to bring down the cost of telecommunications in this country to about one half.

And I was attracted by the figures because PLDT for example made P125 billion worth of revenues last year and Globe made P57 billion.

And if we could just share this benefits with our people that is about 90 billion benefits to our people that’s why I wrote a letter endorsing or encouraging Joey de Venecia to proceed with his project but it didn’t mean any NEDA approval.

Also, despite my comments during the NEDA ICC meeting I went along with the project because I thought that if I can just reduce the profits of the existing players to one half and last year they made about P47 billion at least and I share this benefits with the Filipino people the benefits would amount to about P23 billion and I would have recovered the cost of the NBN project in less than one year.

So I had my own hidden agenda so to speak Mr. Speaker in going along with the project but of course it went through the NEDA ICC process, the NEDA technical board process and it was positively recommended by the NEDA technical staff for ICC and NEDA board approval.

But let me make it very clear your honors that NEDA does not choose suppliers. We approve a project and the implementing agency in turn goes around and finds out what is the best way to implement the project that NEDA approved. It could be through international public bidding, it could be though a BOT arrangement or it could be through a country to country arrangement as they chose in this case country to country arrangement between the Philippines and China on a g-to-g (government-to-government) basis.

And I guess that there are some advantages to these types of arrangements in the sense that China can provide us loans, 20 year loans at 3% on the dollar with five-year grace, and we estimate that this type of loan effectively give us a discount of about 25% on the present value of the project.

I will end my presentation there your honors.

Thank you very much.

Philippines posts public sector surplus of P24B in H1

Original report at ABS-CBN News

The Philippines recorded a consolidated public sector surplus of P24 billion in the first half of 2007, as state-run companies and financial institutions, as well as local government units wiped out their deficits.

The public sector surplus was higher than the surfeit of P13.4 billion in the same period last year.

Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said the surplus was much better than the projected consolidated public sector deficit of P50.8 billion or -1.6 percent programmed for the first semester of the year.

The consolidated public sector balance refers to the financial position of the national government, government owned and controlled corporations (GOCCs), government financial institutions (GFIs), and LGUs.

Statistics released by the Department of Finance (DOF) showed that the national government deficit widened by 30 percent to P40.98 billion in the first half of the year from P31.5 billion in the same period last year.

The shortfall was P9.7 billion wider than the programmed deficit of P31.3 billion after government revenues amounted only to P510.3 billion or P47.7 billion short of the programmed collections of P558 billion for the first half.

But 14 government-owned or controlled corporations, which are being monitored, posted a surplus of P32.7 billion in the first half of the year, a complete turn around from the P20.7 billion deficit a year ago.

Teves also said that institutions, led by Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), and Philippine Health Insurance Corp. (Philhealth) posted a surplus of P30.7 billion better than last year’s P28.8 billion.

The finance secretary said GFIs led by Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines posted a surplus of P5 billion or thrice the P1.47 billion surplus registered in the same period last year.

Local government units posted a surplus of P31.15 billion in the first half of the year, higher than the P20.4 billion in the same period last year.

PGMA's Departure Statement on Her Visit to New York to attend the United Nations General Assembly

Original report at Gov.Ph News

Tonight we leave for New York to deliver our Country Report to the United Nations General Assembly, to actively participate in two international fora, to meet with US business leaders with present and potential investment in the Philippines, and to meet our kababayans in New York and environs. All these meetings are in pursuit of our policy of active global engagement.

In all these fora, I will bring to our international audience and stakeholders the very important message that is threatened to be drowned by the chronic political noise.

Our economy has reached a new level of maturity and stability with some of the strongest macroeconomic fundamentals in 20 years. We have aimed high and have met the challenge: six years ago, no one thought we could get more revenues, cut down on tax cheats, strengthen the peso and move the stock market. And no one thought we could bring our budget into balance, as we did last month, prepay our debts and raise employment, but we have.

Today, the Philippines is on a path to permanent economic growth and stability. Investments are pouring in, the peso is strong, our stock market has reached historic heights and we have created 6 million jobs in six years. And the world is taking notice: I believe the Philippines offers one of the best values in Asia for domestic and foreign investors.

The surge of investments has been anchored by the billion-dollar investments in the Philippines of several major international companies, including Texas Instruments, Korea’s Hanjin and Japan’s Marubeni and Tokyo Electric and lately, America’s AES.

This is happening across the board in a number of industries. We are working to ensure this will be sustained. We are committed to consolidating the gains in new revenue by making long overdue investments in human and physical infrastructure.

This includes billions of pesos in education, healthcare and training along with billions in new bridges, roads and ports to upgrade the competitiveness of the Philippines.

We take great pride in the discipline of our administration to focus on the economy and our overall economic health. I am personally proud of the fact that external debt is being prepaid at a rapid clip, optimistic that we will balance the budget in 2008, two years ahead of schedule, and that we are making sure to use the gains to invest in vital social and economic needs.

As an economist, I believe in the power of the global trading system to alleviate poverty and modernize nations through market forces. This does not mean that we believe that countries like the Philippines are ready to compete head-to-head today in every sector, but it does mean that we cannot afford to be afraid of globalization.

We have been aggressive in seeking multilateral and bilateral trade relations.

We have taken a personal and hands-on role in trying to move the Doha Round forward because I believe it is good for the Philippines. And I believe my faith in the marketplace both at home and abroad has been a boon to the Philippine economy.

Mabuhay. God bless the Philippines.

Mindanao investments up 133.8% in first semester

By Edith Regalado
Full report at The Philippine Star
Mindanao investments up 133.8% in first semester

DAVAO CITY – Mindanao continues to attract investors despite perceived problems on peace and order in certain parts of the island.

The new investments poured in despite the continued military operations against the Abu Sayyaf extremist group and rogue elements of rebel groups on the strife-torn island.

According to the Mindanao Economic Development Council (Medco), Mindanao registered an increase of 133.8 percent in investments during the first semester this year compared to the same period last year.

At least 18 new projects worth P4.315 billion were reportedly registered with the Board of Investments (BOI) in Mindanao during the first semester, most of them in the power sector.

It was noted though that the bulk of the new investments actually comes from local investors, accounting for 97 percent or P3.340 billion of the total investments for the first semester.

Philippine Fly-over

By Greg Rushford
Original article in The Wall Street Journal

CLARK FIELD, Philippines -- The economic potential of the Philippines -- and all the reasons it has yet to live up to that potential -- come sharply into focus as soon as a visitor lands. Literally. With Manila's current major international air terminal, some 50 miles to the city's south, already too congested for serious expansion, the battle over the future of the Philippines' next premier international air gateway has become a microcosm of all that the country could be, and all that's holding it back.

Still widely known as "Clark Field," the old name from its days as an American military airbase, the airport-in-waiting is now officially the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, in honor of the former Philippine president and father of current President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo. And Ms. Arroyo has been playing the crucial, and often conflicted, role in determining the airport's future.

Clark and its surrounding community in the province of Pampanga have never been rich. In its heyday during the Cold War, Clark Air Base bustled with energy as a major U.S. listening post and home of the 13th U.S. Air Force. But in June 1991, the U.S. Air Force, under fierce attack from nationalist forces in the Philippine Senate, finally flew out, leaving Clark covered in the volcanic ashes spewed out by nearby Mt. Pinatubo. Clark immediately fell upon hard times. Looters stripped the base clean, down to the toilet lids.

Things began to change in January 2006, when Ms. Arroyo -- responding to complaints from the Pampanga business community that too many regulations from Manila were holding back Clark's potential -- signed an executive order unilaterally proclaiming open skies. The move unleashed the forces of economic liberalization at Clark by allowing foreign airlines to fly in hundreds of thousands of tourists from Korea, Singapore, Hong Kong, Macau, Malaysia and as far away as Dubai. It also opened the door to all the trade that could be conducted via the cargo holds of those planes. The formerly sleepy Clark, which processed fewer than 50,000 passengers three years ago, took off, bringing in nearly 500,000 last year. And prices are dropping. Singapore's Tiger Airways has been offering flights from Macau to Clark for $9.99.

The benefits aren't so much trickling into the local economy as pouring. More than 50,000 Filipinos now work here, some 10,000 more than were employed when the Americans ran the place. More jobs are coming as foreign companies find it easier and cheaper to move people and goods in and out.

Texas Instruments is putting in a billion-dollar semiconductor plant. The United Parcel Service has made Clark a regional hub. Yokohama Tire Philippines is making a $100 million expansion, and is exporting tires from Clark all around the world. Shoemart, the big Philippine retail giant, has moved in, as has Jollibee's, the Philippine answer to McDonald's (which also serves the nearby community). Other foreign and Philippine entrepreneurs are opening up more businesses to cater to the workers and tourists: hotels, restaurants and so on.

But the growth remains fragile, and will come to a halt if Ms. Arroyo's government insists upon bringing Clark's passenger traffic back to a trickle. Which, alarmingly, is just what the government has tried to do. In August 2006, just eight months after the initial liberalization, Ms. Arroyo bowed to pressures from domestic protectionist cronies -- the most well-known of whom is billionaire Lucio Tan, the owner of Philippine Airlines -- and issued a revised executive order aimed at slowing down the foreign airline traffic. While the numbers for arriving passengers were still up some 35% in the first quarter of this year, it is clear that Clark's ambitions to become the Philippines' premier gateway have been seriously threatened.

Citing "the continued uncertainty regarding the regulatory situation at Clark," Tiger Airways announced on March 23 that it would be reducing its flight frequency from Singapore to Clark to nine weekly flights from 14. As Clark spokesman Arnel San Pedro told me, local business leaders are outraged that the national government would "refuse to prosper because of the subservience of some greedy people to the personal interests of 'Manila's Imperial Dragons.'"

Ms. Arroyo's reversal was especially galling because Mr. Tan -- the archetypal "imperial dragon" -- is such a terrible well from which to draw economic advice. He first got really rich in the 1970s, thanks to various tax breaks and favors bestowed by former Philippine strongman Ferdinand Marcos. Understandably, the Chinese-born tycoon takes a dim view of cuttthroat market-oriented competition from foreign-run budget airlines. His critics revile him as the personification of what's wrong with the Philippine economy.

But Mr. Tan's current ally in the presidential palace, Ms. Arroyo, is more forgiving. In 2002, the president honored him for his "lifetime" of achievements in "helping build the nation." Numerous press reports from Manila have it that Mr. Tan has been among Ms. Arroyo's most generous sources of campaign financing; presidential press secretary Ignacio Bunye declines comment.

Now Ms. Arroyo is being pressed by a deeply concerned Clark business community that believes that Mr. Tan's influence upon the Arroyo administration is pulling the economic ladder out from under them. The airport's energetic chief executive, Victor Jose Luciano, made an impassioned presentation last month to Ms. Arroyo and her cabinet urging the president to issue a third executive order undoing the damage she created with her second one back in August 2006.

Ms. Arroyo holds a doctorate in economics, so she presumably understands that her first instincts to open the Philippine skies were the right ones. Her method may be problematic, though. When she moved to slow down the Philippines' open skies prospects last year, Ms. Arroyo's public rationale was that instead of unilateral liberalization, the Philippines would negotiate with foreign governments for increased access to their airports in return. Indeed, the Arroyo administration has recently concluded negotiating a major expansion of passenger landings for flights between the Philippines and South Korea.

But behind the scenes, Mr. Tan seems to dominate the process. A leaked copy of the Aug. 9, 2007, minutes of the Philippine government's official air negotiating panel shows that nine of the 23 members aren't government officials, but work for Mr. Tan's PAL and two other Tan-owned airline and cargo operations. Cebu Pacific, another domestic carrier that is following Mr. Tan's anti-open skies lead, has another two seats.

Since in practice the Philippine airline negotiating body seeks unanimous consent to schedule negotiations with foreign airlines, Mr. Tan effectively has veto power -- and last month's minutes make clear that PAL sees "no immediate need" for urgency in scheduling many more air talks. Supporters of open skies report that the last air talks the Philippine government held with Macau were in 2001, that similar negotiations with Hong Kong last occurred in 1996, and in 1995 for Malaysia and Thailand.

From PAL's perspective, why hurry? Philippine airline industry sources who ask not to be identified report that Mr. Tan's airline has found a wonderful way to profit from current restrictions. When passenger quotas assigned by the Philippine authorities to, say, Macau, or Hong Kong, or Dubai, have been filled, the Philippine government has given expanded entitlements to fly more passengers to PAL, which turns around and "rents" those entitlements to foreign carriers. While the details of such deals remain confidential, credible industry insiders report that Dubai is paying PAL at least $1 million a year in passenger rents. Not that this money is "free," of course: The foreign carriers pass the extra expense on to fliers -- many of whom are hard-pressed Philippine overseas workers -- in the form of pricier tickets. Mr. Tan, who declined persistent requests to be interviewed for this column, is turning a profit for PAL without flying his own airplanes.

The question now is whether Ms. Arroyo will be able to summon the political courage to stop him from doing it. She might reflect on some history. When the airport's namesake, her father -- an economic reformer -- was elected in 1961, the Philippines boasted the second-largest economy in Asia, second only to Japan. When Ferdinand Marcos won election four years later, he went on to help enrich his cronies while crippling the economy with an array of protectionist schemes. With a stroke of her presidential pen, Ms. Arroyo could not only re-open Philippine skies to economic development, she could also prove that "Philippine prosperity" doesn't have to be an oxymoron.

MIAA, Takenaka conduct inspection of NAIA-3

By Michael Punongbayan
Original report at The Philippine Star

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) and Takenaka Corp. engineers and technical experts are currently conducting technical and physical inspection on the Ninoy Aquino International Airport – Terminal 3 (NAIA–3) in preparation for actual repair work on the facility’s structural defects.

Airport officials and representatives of the Japanese construction firm are also in the process of finalizing a completion works agreement (CWA), which is expected to be signed by next month or on the first week of November.

MIAA assistant general manager for airport development and corporate affairs Tirso Serrano said efforts to address NAIA-3’s structural problems are progressing “noticeably fast.”

“Right now inspections and physical assessments for electro-mechanical work are being conducted. We are very happy with the developments,” he told The Star in an interview.

“It is in the structural issue that we are having very detailed and comprehensive discussion because of the safety issues since as anticipated, it requires a lot of coordination between engineers and a lot of calculations,” he added.

Serrano noted that since the CWA group’s work has progressed according to schedule the actual repair work on NAIA-3 is expected to be completed by February 2008.

He explained that electro-mechanical repairs involve the checking and restoration of electronic and mechanical equipment that may need new parts because they had not been used for some time.

“These are moving parts that may have got a bit rusty or rubber parts which may require replacing. It involves detailing and testing to ensure 100 percent performance,” Serrano said.

He said MIAA officials, led by general manager Alfonso Cusi, are looking forward to a soft launch of the NAIA-3 by April 2008.

Serrano expressed confidence in Takenaka’s cooperation and effort to repair the facility as soon as possible. He said Cusi’s initiatives and decision to give the Japanese firm a chance to complete its job is definitely paying off and is resulting in very positive developments.

Early last month, MIAA officials proudly announced that Takenaka, the construction company that built the multi-million dollar NAIA-3 in 2002, has finally agreed to repair the facility’s structural defects that prevented its opening last March due to public safety concerns.

Two weeks later, the World Bank’s International Center for Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID) dismissed the complaint filed by German port operator Fraport AG against the Philippine government over the expropriated NAIA-3.

Cusi said the ruling that the Philippines has not violated any international trade treaty, as claimed by one of the foreign partners of the local consortium that built the terminal, reflects how the MIAA made the right decision to let Takenaka finish its job.

According to him, the ICSID’s decision gave his office a renewed spirit in opening the terminal as “promptly and expeditiously as possible within the parameters that the law allows us.”

Serrano added that aside from efforts to open the NAIA-3 at the soonest possible time, the MIAA has been continuously coming up with programs and projects that will also improve services at Terminals 1 and 2.

Just recently, Cusi himself led the launching of a free shuttle service within the airport, which now offers comfort and convenience to more than a hundred local and foreign passengers and employees everyday.

Tuesday, 25 September 2007

Lapus: Cyber-Ed to level playing field for students

By Jonathan M. Hicap, Reporter
Original report at The Manila Times

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus said the Cyber-Education Project could bridge the gap between those who perform well and those who do not because even schools in far-flung areas will have access to the best teachers and up-to-date resource materials.

He said the Cyber-Ed Project could save up to P60 billion which can be used in other education projects.

Lapus said the project will use satellite technology to provide an “efficient and cost-effective solution” to deliver educational services to public elementary and secondary schools. It links the schools to a nationwide network that provides 12 video channels, wireless wide area networking, local area networking and Internet connectivity.

Some 37,794 schools, or 90 percent of all public schools nationwide are expected to be connected in the next three years once the project gets started.

The Department of Education has solicited support for the project from groups of school administrators and teachers.

The Philippine Elementary School Principals’ Association said in a manifesto that cyber-education is “the most cost-effective way of delivering high-quality education to all learners throughout the country.”

“It is impossible to reach out to the illiterate youths and adults in the hinterlands and island school divisions without the aid of electronic multimedia technology,” said Evange­line Ladines, the group’s board secretary.

Other organizations which have signified support for the project are the Philippine School District Supervisors’ Association, Philippine Association of School Superintendents, Philippine Association of Secondary School Administrators, Philippine Association of Vocational Educators and Administrators, Philippine Association of Vocational Educators, Teacher Education Council, Administrative Officers’ Association of the Department of Education, Association of DepEd Directors and the National Association of Public Secondary School Heads Inc.

The department said other regional offices backing the project are Region 4-B, comprising Mindoro, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan; Caraga Region, comprising Agusan del Norte, Agusan del Sur, Siargao, Surigao del Norte and Surigao del Sur.

A survey conducted by the Association of DepEd Directors among its ranks showed that the majority subscribes to the desirability and cost-effectiveness of cyber-education.

“We believe that cyber education is the answer to the growth of Philippine education,” Director Sol Matugas, ADD president, said.