Saturday, 2 February 2008

To ensure continuing agricultural performance PGMA oks oil price cushioning programs


MANILA, Feb. 2 (PNA) - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the Department of Agriculture (DA) to proceed with its banner programs that are meant not only to perk up farm productivity and rural incomes, but also to cushion the impact of sky-rocketing crude oil prices on Filipino consumers.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap on Saturday said the President has approved these oil price cushioning programs, following a recent Cabinet meeting at the Palace.

The President's approval came along with other initiatives presented by other Departments to mitigate the adverse impact of spiralling oil prices, which peaked earlier this month at a record US$ 100 per barrel.

In response to this presidential directive, Yap ordered his subordinates to work double time in carrying out programs that would spell higher farm production and wider access to quality but affordable foodstuff for low-income families.

These banner programs include the fast-track repair and rehabilitation of irrigation facilities; construction of farm-to-market roads (FMRs); and establishment of more post-harvest facilities, Barangay Bagsakan and Tindahan Natin outlets.

On top of these high-impact DA programs, the President had also ordered the Department of Finance (DoF) to cut the three-percent duty on crude oil, to two percent if the trigger price of this commodity reaches US$ 81 a barrel in the world market, and to reduce it further to one percent if its price stay at US$ 92.41 a barrel.

The tariff reduction measure aims to cut per-liter pump prices by 23-25 centavos for gasoline and a higher 46 centavos for diesel.

Yap said the DA’s oil price cushioning programs will include the expansion of "farm-to-plate" market linkages to raise incomes for small farm stakeholders, and at the same time pull down prices of basic goods like meat and vegetables.

He said an example of this farm-to-plate linkage is the partnership that the DA had forged with vegetable producers in Bukidnon.

To effectively carry out this farm-to-plate project, Yap said the DA will build 708 kilometers of FMRs and establish and maintain 200 units of market-related infrastructure such as auction markets, bagsakan centers, food terminals and trading posts in 2008.

Yap said massive spending on the construction of FMRs and other rural infrastructure forms part of the DA’s five-point program to boost productivity and make farming a lot more profitable, especially for its small stakeholders.

This five-point program also includes higher spending on post-harvest facilities and on research and development (R&D) and rural extension work; expanding access to rural credit; and opening more markets here and overseas for Philippine farm produce, he added. (PNA)

PGMA orders surge in infras spending as a hedge against U.S. recession


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo dropped today the time capsule for two infrastructure projects – the first for a C-5 fly-over and the second for a 16-classroom school building – as she ordered a “surge in infrastructure spending as a firewall against the United States recession.”

Dahil meron tayong slowdown sa America [because of the slowdown in America], I am ordering a surge in infrastructure construction,” the President said just before dropping the golden time capsule that signaled the start of the construction of the C-5 Extension Project in Sucat, Paranaque City.

President Arroyo added in her short message this morning that “itong fly-over na ito ay magsisumula sana sa Abril, pero kailangang i-‘front load’ natin. Ayaw nating matamaan ang ating ekonomiya ng mga problema ng mga ekonomiya sa ibang bansa. [This flyover was supposed to start in April, but we have to frontload it. We do not want our economy to be affected by the economic problems of other countries.]

Kailangang meron tayong sariling mga activities. Sisimulan na natin ito ngayon, at ito ay bahagi din sa halos tatlong libong kilometro ng mga daan at kalsada na itatayo natin sa taong ito, [We need to have our own activities. We will begin them now, and this is part of the close to 3,000 kilometers of roads and highways that we are going to construct this year]” the President further revealed.

The President’s order for a surge in construction as a hedge against the US recession was also relayed to media by Press Secretary and Presidential Spokesperson Ignacio R. Bunye who said that the President hopes the infra surge will also serve as a “springboard for further growth.”

The C-5 Extension Project’s 190-meter flyover portion shall link Pulang Lupa-Las Pinas Road with the soon-to-be-completed Sucat to Multinational Avenue section of Circumferential Road 5 (C-5).

The P200-million fly-over, whose construction proper will start by April, will ensure uninterrupted traffic flow both along Sucat Road and C-5, to minimize if not eliminate traffic congestion along Sucat Road and nearby road networks, including the Coastal Road, Roxas Blvd., President Quirino Avenue, the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx), and the vicinity of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

It also aims to serve as an alternate route from the southern part of Metro Manila to Cavite, and vice versa.

Kung maaliwalas ang daan, darating ang puhunan, lalabanan ang kahirapan, [when the roads are wide, capital flows, and poverty is tackled]” stressed the President in her short message just before dropping the golden time capsule for the road project that is scheduled to be completed by December.

The President said the skyway project is just a portion of the 3,000 kilometers of roads to be constructed this year.

The President’s second time-capsule laying activity for the day was in Sta. Lucia, Pasig City where a P25-million four-storey school building will be constructed for 3,582 students of the Sta. Lucia High School.

Earlier last Thursday, the President announced in her keynote speech at the opening of the First Biennial Education Congress that her administration is going on a “construction season” for 10,000 classrooms this year – starting today, Saturday (Feb. 2).

President Arroyo was joined in the Sucat, Paranaque event by Department of Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane and other DPWH officials, Mayor Florencio Bernabe, and El Shaddai’s Brother Mike Velarde whose headquarters is in Paranaque.

Meanwhile, the President was joined in the Pasig City groundbreaking activity by Foreign Affairs Secretary Alberto Romulo, Pasig City Rep. Roman Romulo, Education Secretary Jesli Lapus, Pasig City Mayor Robert Eusebio, and his father, former Pasig City Mayor Vicente Eusebio.

Philippines Sees Growth in GDP For 27th Quarter

Full report at The Wall Street Journal

The Philippine economy grew at a robust clip in the fourth quarter, with strong consumer spending, construction and farm output helping gross domestic product increase for a 27th consecutive quarter -- the longest growth streak ever.

By Jennifer A Ang
Full report at Pacific News Center

The Philippines made economic history again with a better-than-expected gross domestic product (GDP) growth of 7.3 percent in 2007.

Fourth quarter growth came in at 7.4 percent last year.

The GDP full-year growth not only met the high-end of the government's forecast of 6.9 percent to 7.3 percent but was also the highest growth in the country's history since 1976 when the country posted an 8.8 percent growth.

Vittorio Hernandez -
Full report at All Headline News

Manila, Philippines (AHN) - The Filipino economy continues to flex its muscles as Manila reported its gross domestic product came in at a 31-year high of 7.3 percent. The positive growth across all sectors of the Philippine economy, once known as the sick man of Asia, has sustained the past few years despite political turmoil.

Romulo Virola, Secretary-General of the National Statistics Coordination Board, explained, "In an environment of benign inflation, low interest rates and a strong peso, the Philippine economy turned on its best performance in 31 years."

PGMA vows to translate economic gains into real benefits for the people


CANDABA, Pampanga--- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo vowed today to translate in a few years the positive results of the economic reforms she implemented to real benefits for the people.

In her message during the First Ibon-Ebon Festival here, the President cited the 7.3 percent growth in the country’s economy last year, the fastest in 31 years.

“Getting our growth rate of 7.3 percent, the highest in 31 years, is just the first step,” the President said as she vowed to further grow the economy.

She underscored the need to increase investments in infrastructure, social services, education as well as fight graft and corruption to ensure that the benefits of a growing economy trickle down to the grassroots.

She said that residents of the Candaba region would benefit from the construction of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway or the Third Bulacan Circumferential Road.

She said infrastructure is vital to the creation of an environment in which businesses would feel confident to expand and employ more people, ”because more jobs means less poverty.”

She also stressed the need to invest in the delivery of improved social services such as health insurance subsidies for indigent families and the food for school anti-hunger programs.

At the same time, the President cited the need to boost support to education as part of the overall efforts to reduce poverty by investing in better school buildings, new textbooks and teaching materials, training programs for teachers and school administrators.

The President arrived here this morning to grace the First Ibon-Ebon Festival with the theme “Balance Between the Needs of the People and Those of the Environment.”

Upon her arrival, the President inaugurated the “Aklatang Pambata ni Gloria” and the children’s playground by ringing the bell hanged at the doorway of the little library at the Ms. Earth Park in Barangay Mandasig here.

The project was constructed with a P1 million counterpart fund from the President’s Social Fund.

PGMA bats for the highest standard of education and less number of school dropouts


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo called for restructuring of the country’s educational system to enhance its quality with less number of school dropouts as she delivered her keynote speech during the jampacked opening ceremonies Thursday (Jan. 31) of the First Biennial Education Congress (FBEC) at the Tent City of the Manila Hotel.

The “general objective” of the two-day education congress -- which President Arroyo had earlier ordered to be convened this month – is to “assess Philippine education for the purpose of enhancing its quality and relevance.”

The Presidential Task Force on Education (PTFE) presented its Progress Report on its education studies and recommendations to the close to 500 participants of the congress; and consulted with the attending stakeholders on issues and concerns affecting Philippine education. Based on the results of the two-day congress, the PTFE shall submit the “appropriate action plans” on the country’s educational system to President Arroyo.

The congress was dubbed as a “turning point in Philippine education, a meaningful, tangible testament of our common desire to improve and update the country’s educational system,” said PTFE member Dr. Emmanuel Angeles who thanked President Arroyo for the latter’s “continuing support for Philippine education.”

For her part, Presidential Assistant for Education Mona Valisno said “no less than the President of the land called us all to gather and enjoined us to put our acts together so that no more hindrance can ever be stronger against our raging fire to bring the Philippines to the front of quality education.”

In the overview that she made about the education congress, Valisno said the President’s commitment to improving the educational system gave rise to the administration’s “main education highway” whose main goal is to “contain each student at all levels (basic, secondary and tertiary) in the highway; catch them, and provide them with relevant educational interventions lest they drop out; put them back in the highway; and keep them on the right track.”

President Arroyo herself enthused that even before she could read the United Nations Millennium Development Goals – one of which is to achieve universal primary education by 2015 – “we have already internalized that goal.”

As early as 2001, the year she ascended to the Presidency, the Chief Executive noted that her administration’s “single act” of stopping the collection of miscellaneous fees during the enrollment period “brought in almost one million children to school.”

In the same speech, President Arroyo paid tribute to the teachers who attended the summit, voicing her “special, special welcome to our teachers because when you think of education, you think of teachers.”

The Arroyo administration has hired a total of some 65,000 new teachers from 2001 to 2007 – 15,000 of them in 2001, and more than 50,000 between 2002 and 2007.

As of 2006, a total of 100,000 teachers had also been trained in Math and Science. The President has also set aside P1 billion for the in-service training of teachers for this year.

“Teachers are backbone of our educational system. Without these selfless men and women, our children would fall short of our dreams and aspirations. We are deeply indebted to the hard work and dedication of all our teachers. Their work is noble and patriotic. They deserve the praise and respect of every Filipino,” the President intoned.

“That is why teachers received additional compensation in 2006 and a 10-percent salary increase in 2007. That is why unlike in previous administrations, teachers now receive at least the same amount of the increasing bonus that other national government workers receive – in fact, the second installment of the bonus is coming soon to complete P10,000…”

“That is why teachers are included in the salary increase provided in our administration bill for the third round of salary standardization – let’s all work for Congress to pass the bill.”

“Teachers above all, but also every participant here is a stakeholder in the national effort to fight poverty by working towards a relevant and high-quality educational system. Labanan ang kahirapan. Isulong ang karunungan, [Fight poverty, promote education]” the President concluded.

PGMA leads groundbreaking rites for P1.1-billion Bulacan road network


SAN RAFAEL, Bulacan--- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led this afternoon the groundbreaking of the P1.1-billion, 85.5-kilometer Third Bulacan Circumferential Road Network in Barangay Coral na Bato leading to the soon-to-be opened San Rafael Government Center here.

She was assisted in laying the time capsule for the project by Public Works and Highways Secretary Hermogenes Ebdane and Bulacan Rep. Lorna Silverio (3rd District).

Silverio said the road network would be the answer to the increased travel needs of the people in the area which has been experiencing a housing boom and heightened economic activities, including the expansion of a state university in San Rafael.

The road network is expected to bolster Bulacan’s economic boom.

The road system would wrap around the six municipalities of San Miguel, San Rafael, San Ildefonso, Angat, Dona Remedios Trinidad and Norzagaray, all in the third district of the province. These municipalities comprise 64 percent of Bulacan’s total land area.

The President said the road network is a major component of the 300,000 kilometers of new roads to be built under the government’s road construction program.

Manila Bulletin celebrates 108th anniversary


"Congratulations to the management and editorial staff of the Manila Bulletin on your 108th Anniversary.

"The Manila Bulletin has been a leading witness and chronicler of Philippine history. It has molded public opinion on national issues and remains a strong catalyst of national development.

"Media’s influence has been known to make or break governments and administrations. Powerful as you are, the Manila Bulletin is better regarded for your deep sense of professionalism made manifest in your support for our common goal to enforce reforms under an agenda for socio-economic and political progress and development. More importantly, you encourage our people to become more involved and hopeful of their future.

"As I always mention to media practitioners: I hear you well when you ask me to revere your freedom and right of free speech and expression. I am pleased that you too can hear me just as well when I ask you to continuously promote and be a model of press responsibility for everyone in the industry. ..."

VP Noli L de Castro

"The Manila Bulletin has been a vital source of information for our fellowmen for more than a century now, an outstanding feat for the country’s largest broadsheet newspaper by circulation. This publication was founded in 1900 as a shipping journal and became the second oldest Philippine newspaper. Since then it has covered various significant events that took place in the country and around the world, thus, effectively linking Filipinos across the globe.

"I commend all of you for your service to the Filipino community by keeping the people informed of the various national, social, political and economic issues. You have been an instrument for the readers to become part of the national mainstream. I hope that you will continue to be an instrument for the readers to maintain the Filipino value system of hard work and our unique positive outlook in life; these qualities enable the Filipino to survive and excel no matter what the circumstances are. I take this opportunity to encourage you to persevere in all your endeavors towards responsible journalism."

Senate President Manuel B Villar Jr

"As the oldest and the longest serving daily newspaper in the Philippines, the MANILA BULLETIN has directly witnessed and recorded the history of our country for over a hundred years. It has in the process reflected its hopes and dreams.

"The nation takes pride in the distinction of the MANILA BULLETIN as one of the respected newspapers in English in Asia. This is as much a national honor as it is a tribute to the sustained and continuing relevance of the MANILA BULLETIN.

"May the MANILA BULLETIN remain true to its mission of being a pillar of Philippine journalism for the benefit of the Filipino people."

House Speaker Jose C de Venecia Jr

"With its emphasis on reporting the positive developments in the nation’s efforts toward national development, the Manila Bulletin deserves the nation’s gratitude. I am always impressed by the sobriety of news and opinion in the Bulletin as well as its increasing variety and expanse of coverage.

"I congratulate Don Emilio T. Yap and the esteemed men and women who take part in producing this newspaper daily to the benefit of millions of readers and the Filipino nation.

"Our economy is poised to expand at an unprecedented rate. There are many good and exciting developments in the country today—tourism, investments, agriculture, and retail are recording impressive gains; we have an excellent opportunity to create the wealth adequate enough for us to give them a sense of where things are moving.

"We have begun to turn around the country, and the media should reflect the positive gains we have earned and their impact on the lives of our people.

"We in the House of Representatives are proud of the reform measures we have enacted that have helped the national economy to grow. There is much left to do.

"In this decade of heady growth, public institutions must be transformed into more effective and reliable instruments of progress. We need to make our political structure more efficient and transparent and vow to elevate politics to its finest and to work hard to achieve our goals for sustained economic growth and lasting peace."


"That Manila Bulletin has survived and even thrived for more than a century shows the premium we have generally put on a free press. Indeed, as I have emphasized in an opinion in the Supreme Court, a free press presages the exercise of other freedoms and follows "the shift of sovereignty from monarchs to the masses - the people. For the people to be truly sovereign, they must be capable of rendering enlightened judgments and they cannot acquire this capability unless they have an unclogged access to information, the main pipeline of which is the press."

"As Chief Justice, I particularly appreciate how through its regular coverage of the decisions, projects, and activities of the Supreme Court, the Manila Bulletin has brought the Court closer to the people. This is no small service considering that, being a non-political institution, the Supreme Court may not be as familiar to the general populace as those institutions in the other branches of government."

Former President Corazon C Aquino

"The Manila Bulletin continues to be a reliable, credible, and accurate source of news for its readers and helping the nation move forward. I note its steadfast adherence to publish only the unvarnished truth and to be fair to all concerned.

"When I was President, I relied on the Manila Bulletin to give me news and information without bias. And the unflinching support the Manila Bulletin gave me and my family during all the difficult years has happily continued even now that I am a private citizen."

Former President Fidel V Ramos

"The Manila Bulletin has grown over time in response to the needs of our people and the nation. Now including the Panorama, Tempo, Balita along with other popular magazines of sectoral and regional reach that provide objective and strategic reporting, its countrywide coverage is assured. Beyond reporting the news, the Manila Bulletin has also brought together opinion-makers (to include the undersigned), who share their honest perspectives with the public to provoke thought and, hopefully, positive action on the part of our elected leaders.

As a partner in national development, the Manila Bulletin has consistently addressed our need for balanced and timely reporting while pursuing its advocacy of good governance, progressive reform and effective service to the Filipino people."

Former President Joseph E Estrada

"I pay tribute to the towering courage the Manila Bulletin provided in my search for truth and justice, providing an inspiring bedrock all throughout my family’s darkest hours.

"The Manila Bulletin’s presentation of day-to-day events on the wings of its balanced and responsible reportage has become the hallmark of your newspaper’s noble heritage of journalistic excellence for over a century, and will continue to make a big difference in shaping public opinion.

"May the flame of truthful and responsible journalism which the Manila Bulletin has shone over the country these past 108 years continue to light the way for millions of your loyal readers every single day."


"It is worthy to note that the Manila Bulletin has successfully thrived amid the highly competitive atmosphere of newspaper publishing. Its sober delivery of news, often highlighting celebratory moments in the nation’s life, takes on the tinge of public service, especially when it put into focus the nature and culture of significant sectors in our society.

"Many people appreciate its voluminous classified section which serves the many jobseekers among our countrymen. Among its sister publications, there is one that deals with Agriculture, and three which are published in other native languages. Its Sunday magazine, the Panorama, also regularly features important information about government offices including its officials, which can serve as a useful directory.

"We, in the Church, are also especially grateful for the space and attention the Manila Bulletin and its publications give to our liturgical seasons and events, and to the inspiring lives of our saints. It is a gratitude that I am certain our brethren of other faiths also share because of articles also written about them.

"It is my prayer and hope then that the Manila Bulletin will continue to be able to respond with full commitment, freedom and responsibility to the demands and challenges of modern communications and still be around until the turn of the century.

"Congratulations and God bless!"

Manila Mayor Alfredo S Lim

"This has been the mission of the Manila Bulletin in the past 107 years, to be the national and local government’s partner in progress, to be constructive when others choose to destroy, to give support when it is needed the most."


This blog highly recommends the MANILA BULLETIN as an objective, fair, and constructive source of information. It provides a valuable service to the common good of the nation.

Friday, 1 February 2008

US recession will boost Philippines real estate - experts


MANILA, Jan. 31, 2008 (Thomson Financial delivered by Newstex) -- A looming recession in the United States is expected to boost the Philippines' booming property market and its outsourcing industries, real estate consultants CB Richard Ellis (NYSE:CBG) said Thursday.

'We see no end for the demand for commercial real estate,' CB Richard Ellis Philippines chairman Rick Santos told a news conference.

'We haven't seen this much interest since pre-1997 (before the Asian crisis),' he said.

A report by the company said that while the call center industry in the Philippines may feel the brunt of a US recession it will be offset by an increase in the BPO (business process outsourcing) business as US companies increase their outsourcing of back office operations.

Manila and other major Philippine cities are seeing building booms in office and housing to cater for the large pool of accountants, engineers, architects, and animation professionals that give US firms a lower-cost option.

BPO companies in the Philippines project an annual growth of 40 percent to about 7 billion dollars this year, from 5 billion dollars in 2006, despite the peso's appreciation, it added.

The company's country vice chairman, Joey Radovan, said BPO firms now account for more than 60 percent of occupancy of the 3 million square metres (32.29 million square feet) of office space in the Makati financial district of Manila.

Some 613,804 square metres (6.6 million square feet) of new commercial space are to be completed this year across Manila, and all are committed to tenants through pre-leasing, the report said.

Stimulus package shelved

By Paolo Romero
Friday, February 1, 2008

Fearing negative effects from a massive one-time spending to shield the Philippines from the fallout of a possible US recession, Malacañang has put on hold a P75-billion stimulus package and replaced it with “performance budgeting” worth P50 billion already in the 2008 national budget.

President Arroyo apparently agreed with her economic managers to temper such spending to spur consumer confidence in the economy.

In her speech yesterday at the National Congress on Education at the Manila Hotel, Mrs. Arroyo said: “Under our fiscal stimulus program to keep us resilient from the anticipated US slowdown, we are scaling up Ahon Pamilyang Pinoy from P50 million to P5 billion this year.”

She said as a more direct incentive to school attendance, the government earlier launched the Ahon Pamilyang Pinoy program of conditional cash donations to poor households who comply with rules that enhance learning and health.

Budget Secretary Rolando Andaya Jr. said the government would enhance its proven move last year of performance budgeting by adding P50 billion more spending in infrastructure, agriculture, education and health. The amount is already included in this year’s P1.227-trillion national budget earlier approved by Congress.

He said frontloading additional funds in the four sectors last year proved to have worked and it did not derail the government’s deficit reduction schedule.

Under performance budgeting, all government agencies are closely monitored in implementing their project by quarters, and if an agency fails to meet a target for a project in the previous quarter, funding for it would be diverted to priority projects in one of the four sectors, he said.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda, one of Mrs. Arroyo’s advisers and proponent of the P75-billion stimulus package, however, refused to concede following a long and heated meeting with economic managers at the Manila Golf Club in Makati City yesterday, saying his proposal could bring the country’s growth to eight percent this year despite a looming US recession.

He said the country’s fourth quarter and full year Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of above seven percent fully vindicates the feasibility of “Plan 789” of the Arroyo administration that projects an eight percent growth this year and one percent higher in succeeding years.

He said the gains heighten the logic of the economic stimulus to preserve momentum against the threat of US economic slowdown.

“With the 2008 budget set at only six percent growth and the consumer price index at 4.2 percent, this is a cop-out, the P75 billion is both a hedge against US recession and a fuel additive to domestic growth,” Salceda told The STAR.

Salceda’s proposal includes extending discounts on electricity and water as well as education vouchers and tax refunds to individual taxpayers earning below P500,000 a year. The package amounting to P75 billion is equivalent to one percent of the country’s nominal GDP last year.

Economic and finance officials, including Andaya and Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas governor Amando Tetangco Jr., opposed such a move, saying it would only trigger high inflation and bring the country back to a high deficit regime.

Andaya said when the same move was made during the Estrada administration, the projected deficit of P17 billion swelled to P114 billion. He said the same thing happened early in the Arroyo administration with the target budget shortfall of P40 billion reaching P150 billion.

He said the meeting ended with the consensus that the proposal be placed on standby and only be implemented when the US economy indeed hits a recession.

“What happened (in the meeting) was we took stock of what we have right now and what we did last year and we saw the budget is one of the best tools we have to protect the economy against external challenges,” Andaya said.

“We will continue and improve on what we have done, including administrative measures of improving collections and timely and proper fund releases,” he said.

The country’s top economic managers agreed that there is a need for a “standby program” to help pump-prime the economy should predictions of a Philippine economic downturn follow that of the US’s.

But to preempt a possible local recession, the economic managers also agreed to frontload the release of various government agencies’ budget this year.

This was announced yesterday by Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap following a meeting with Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, Budget Secretary Andaya, BSP governor Tetangco and Economic Planning Secretary Augusto Santos.

Yap said the economic managers did not reject Gov. Salceda’s P75-billion stimulus package, but agreed on the need for some sort of a “standby program” for contingency purposes.

Yap cited economists’ observation that “when the US sneezes, the Philippines catches a cold.”

The US is only one of the Philippines’ major trading partners.

An amount for the standby program, Yap said, is still being firmed up.

Yap proposes at least P10 billion alone for the agriculture sector.

However, he said that the decision to frontload the release of the various government agencies’ budget would already allow leeway in ensuring that the economy does not falter.

Yap said the DA would get the early release in the first half of this year of some P5.9 billion which the department wants to spend on its rice and corn production program, as well as for other raw materials production which, in turn, is used by the country’s food producers, processors and exporters.

Yap said the DBM has agreed to release P1.5 billion in cash to the DA for its funding needs. - With Marianne Go

Thursday, 31 January 2008


National Statistical Coordination Board

In an environment of benign inflation, low interest rates and a strong peso, the Philippine economy sustained its impressive streak of lofty growths that started in the first quarter of the year. Fourth quarter growth of GDP stood at 7.4 percent from 5.5 percent last year, propelled by the robust performances of Trade, Agriculture and Fishery, Private Services, Construction and TCS, with the rest of the sectors posting positive growths. On the demand side, increased household spending and investment in construction were the main drivers aided by the accelerated growths in government consumption, export of non-factor services and investment in durable equipment. The 3.0 percent contraction in the level of NFIA pulled down GNP to a lower growth of 6.5 percent compared to the GDP growth.

The seasonally adjusted GDP, now on its 27th quarter of positive growths, accelerated to 1.8 percent from 1.0 percent in the previous quarter. Likewise, the seasonally adjusted GNP, which has also been on positive territory since the second quarter of 2003, sped up to 1.4 percent from 0.9 percent in the third quarter.

On the production side, the sustained GDP growth in the fourth quarter was bolstered by the fast expanding Services sector whose growth of 9.0 percent from 8.4 percent in the same quarter last year is the highest since 1982. Likewise, Industry went up too at a higher pace of 5.8 percent from 3.6 percent the previous year, albeit slower than during the first three quarters, mainly because of the deceleration of Manufacturing. With favorable weather conditions during the quarter, Agriculture, Fishery and Forestry (AFF) also accelerated to 5.8 percent from its year ago rate of 1.7 percent.

The following were the contribution of the three major economic sectors to the GDP growth in the quarter: Services, with 4.4 percentage points; Industry, 1.8 percentage points and AFF contributing the least with 1.2 percentage points.

On a seasonally adjusted basis, AFF contracted by 0.1 percent in the fourth quarter after three quarters of robust growths while Industry rebounded to a 0.5 percent expansion after suffering a 0.4 percent contraction last quarter. The positive growth was attributed to the strong growths of Construction, Mining and Quarrying, and Electricity, Gas and Water. Services sector came in strongest as it posted an all time record growth of 3.3 percent. The phenomenal growth was brought about by the brisk retail trading during the fourth quarter combined with the strong performances of Private Services and Finance.

The economy continued to keep pace with the population growth in the fourth quarter of 2007 as per capita GDP grew by 5.3 percent from 3.4 percent, per capita GNP by 4.4 percent from 4.0 percent, and per capita PCE by 4.2 percent from 3.8 percent.

NFIA in the fourth quarter declined however, by 3.0 percent from a 12.4 percent gain in the same quarter last year as compensation inflow declined anew by an even higher rate of 3.3 percent from only 0.2 percent in the third quarter. This was aggravated by the deceleration in Property Income from 32.0 percent last year to 18.9 percent, and the growth in Property Expense by 4.4 percent. The fourth quarter recorded the first quarter of negative growth of NFIA since the fourth quarter of 2002.

On the expenditure side, consumer spending grew by 6.3 percent from 5.8 percent a year ago. Food expenditure, which accounted for 56.1 percent of the Personal Consumption Expenditure (PCE), grew by 6.6 percent from 6.8 percent in the previous year while Miscellaneous expenditures accelerated to 7.8 percent from 5.7 percent last year. Meanwhile, Transportation/Communication and Clothing & Footwear both turned in lower growths as they decelerated to 8.2 percent from 8.3 percent and 2.4 percent from 6.5 percent, respectively. The other sub-sectors that contributed to the growth of PCE were the following: Household Operations, up by 2.7 percent from 1.9 percent; Beverages grew by 4.7 percent from 6.6 percent; Fuel, Light & Water, up by 4.3 percent from 1.4 percent; and Household Furnishings, which recovered from a negative 2.5 percent growth last year to positive 5.0 percent this year.

Government Consumption Expenditure (GCE) accelerated to 10.8 percent from a growth of 9.9 percent last year with the disbursement of government funds for infrastructure project.

Investments in Fixed Capital Formation expanded by 10.3 percent from last year’s growth of 2.2 percent on account of vigorous investments in construction. Construction grew by 17.6 percent from 5.7 percent with the hike in national government’s capital expenditures and capital transfer to LGU’s resulting in the 33.4 percent growth in public construction from 39.6 percent in the previous year. On the other hand, investments in private construction rebounded to 7.4 percent from negative 8.7 percent in 2006. Meanwhile, Durable Equipment sustained a positive growth of 4.9 percent from negative 0.5 percent in the same period last year.

Reeling from the crisis faced by the US economy, total Merchandise Exports skidded to negative 3.7 percent from a growth of 2.2 percent in the same quarter last year.

The top five Merchandise Exports were: Finished Electrical Machinery, which bounced back to a 19.5 percent gain from a 14.0 percent decline; Crude Coconut Oil, which recovered from negative 39.7 percent to positive 9.6 percent; Semiconductors and Electric Microcircuits, which expanded to 1.7 percent from negative 4.3 percent; Canned Pineapple, which rebounded to 29.3 percent from negative 7.3 percent; and Prepared Tuna, which grew by 69.1 percent from 48.9 percent. Exports of Non-Factor Services, on the other hand, accelerated to 6.4 percent from 2.9 percent in the previous year.

Total Merchandise Imports, which has been on a downhill since the first quarter of the year, continued to shrink by 3.2 percent in the fourth quarter from last year’s 0.3 percent growth.

Only three subsectors contributed positively to the growth of Merchandise Imports: Cereals and Cereals Products, with a hefty growth of 96.4 percent from a measly 0.8 percent last year; Mineral Fuels, Lubricants and Related Materials, up anew by 7.6 percent from 11.1 percent; and Dairy Products, which accelerated to 10.8 percent from 9.9 percent. On the other hand, imports of non-factor services slowed down to 11.1 percent from 17.6 percent due to the lackluster performance of Miscellaneous Services, which contracted by 0.4 percent from a 17.4 percent gain last year.

The terms of trade during the quarter resulted in a Trade Index of 104.2 percent from 109.2 percent in the same period last year. Trading Gains for the quarter amounted to P6.1 billion.

GNP Implicit Price Index (IPIN) stood at 497.1 from 478.6 in the previous year or a 3.79 percent inflation from 2006.

Secretary-General, NSCB

PGMA scales up gov’t conditional cash donations to poor families to P5-B


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has scaled up by 100 times the P50-million “Ahon Pamilyang Pinoy” component of the government’s newly launched Fiscal Stimulus Program to a whopping P5 billion in an urgent bid to alleviate poverty while serving as a “more direct incentive to school attendance.”

The President has also instructed the Department of Education (DepEd) to henceforth stop collecting miscellaneous fees from Grade I to Grade IV; and to start collecting the said voluntary fees only starting in Grade V “so that they (the fees) will not be a reason to keep children away from primary school.”

In her keynote speech at the First Biennial Education Congress (FBEC) at the Manila Hotel’s Tent City this morning, President Arroyo said her administration’s 2007 Food-for-School Program “not only increased class attendance, but also helped dramatically cut hunger incidence as well as self-rated food poverty, which is now the lowest in our statistical history.”

And so “as a further and more direct incentive to school attendance, we have launched the Ahon Pamilyang Pinoy program of conditional cash donations to poor households who comply with rules that enhance learning and health.”

“Under our Fiscal Stimulus Program to keep us resilient from the anticipated US slowdown, we are scaling up Ahon Pamilyang Pinoy from P50 million to P5 billion this year,” the President announced.

The President launched the said program immediately upon her return from her seven-day mission in Switzerland and Dubai last Tuesday (Jan. 29).

While the President was on her two-country mission where she attended, among others, the annual World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos, Switzerland, the Social Weather Stations (SWS) released its survey results about self-rated poverty showing that only 34 percent (6.1 million) of Filipinos rated themselves as “food-poor” during the last quarter of 2007, down from the 43 percent (7.5 million) who felt they were “food-poor” during the third quarter of 2007.

“The latest score of 34 percent is a record low since (the) 35 percent (recorded) in June 2004,” revealed the SWS which has been conducting the non-commissioned “Self-Rated Food Poverty” surveys since 1988 as part of its public service.

Stressing that “education is the foundation of economic prosperity and individual liberty, justice and self-worth,” the President enumerated to the attendees of the FBEC her administration’s accomplishments and future programs in education – including the stoppage in the collection of miscellaneous fees during the enrollment period starting in school year (SY) 2001-2002, and which “single act brought in almost a million children to school.”

The President also invited local governments to “join us in a Bike For School Program similar to Thailand’s program to improve school attendance (where) government can provide two siblings whose school is 10 kilometers away with a bicycle, which they will amortize at P1 a day, and which they can ride in tandem to class – that is one-tenth the P3,000 which they will have to spend a year for fare.”

President Arroyo said she has also instructed DepEd to “create a high-level textbook review task force to rid learning materials of erroneous or inappropriate content, with guidance and expert assistance from the Presidential Council on Values Formation and leading institutes of education and science and technology.”

In creating the said task force, the President noted, thus: “There have been long-standing problems of learning materials with erroneous or inappropriate content. If we cannot even ensure that textbooks are error-free, it would be extremely difficult to get the rest of our education program right.”

The President also announced that the Arroyo administration is “now aiming for distance learning and cyber education (where) we will install at least one linked computer in every public high school in the rural areas, which will become community centers outside school hours.”

Receiving applause for the above project, the President further enthused, thus: “There was great support for this project among the Information Technology Governors of the World Economic Forum, including Microsoft and Hewlett Packard – in fact, it was Hewlett Packard who raised it during our round-table, not me.”

President Arroyo also announced to the congress that “we can now afford P1 billion for teacher training this year – with P500 million going to English training (because) we want all teachers to have 24 units of English, whether in school or in service.”

The President had also earlier increased to P1 billion the allocation for the training programs and ladderised education of the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

PGMA orders construction of 10,000 more classrooms nationwide starting Saturday


The construction of some 10,000 additional classrooms nationwide shall begin this Saturday (Feb. 2), President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo announced this morning in her keynote address before some 500 participants to the First Biennial Education Congress (FBEC) at the Tent City of the Manila Hotel.

“This year, we will start the construction season for 10,000 classrooms by a series of groundbreaking activities starting this Saturday,” the President said.

The Arroyo administration had earlier built some 16,000 classrooms since it took over in 2001. “In 2001, we said that to reduce the time and money spent to actually travel to school, we would build classrooms in far-flung barangays un-served by nearby schools. Within a year, we completed more than 1,000 of those school buildings,” the President said.

President Arroyo enthused further, thus: “By 2006, we had achieved our Medium-Plan target ratio of one classroom for every 50 grade school students on double shift. In 2007, we added another 15,000 classrooms.”

The President, however, noted that “there are a few instances of shortages in classrooms amid the nationwide sufficiency.”

“The most famous of these is the Batasan Elementary School which makes the front page every opening of the school year,” said the President who, however, assured that the “Department of Education (DepEd), the Quezon City government and the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD), which owns the adjoining lot, are addressing this exception.”

The President also clarified that the “news photo today of a supposed UNICEF tent classroom in Albay” is no longer being used as a classroom, stressing that “per field verification, the classroom project in that school has been completed.”

“The tent is (now) being used as a holding and recreational shed of children of evacuees,” the President added.

Saying that her administration “will continue to invest in new school construction at the elementary school level, and to bolster our scholarship program for high school students and those ready for higher education,” President Arroyo thanked development-minded citizens and entities, including the “chambers of commerce, the corporate foundations, the local governments and our overseas Filipinos” for their contributions to the school-building and computer linkage programs.



The Philippine economy continued to expand at a rapid pace in 2007 on the back of above average growth in the previous three years. With a strong start in the first semester, the gross domestic product (GDP) growth momentum was well sustained to the end of the year. The robust 7.4 percent GDP growth in the fourth quarter marked the fourth [sic] consecutive quarters of distinctly above-trend growth. This brings full year GDP growth to 7.3 percent, reaching the high-end of NEDA’s full year forecast of 6.9 to 7.3 percent and well above the official growth target of 6.1 to 6.7 percent.

As expected, the 7.3 percent full year output expansion exceeded market expectations and is so far the strongest since the economy registered its last peak growth of 8.8 percent in 1976. Net factor income from abroad remained steady at 12.6 percent, as increases in the net income flows from properties abroad was able to compensate for the slowdown in net compensation flows. This brings the Gross National Product (GNP) growth to 7.8 percent for 2007.

Agriculture, which rose 5.1 percent in 2007, benefited from the quick response programs that were put in place by government to mitigate the negative effects of weather disturbances. This, alongside with LGU initiatives helped propel the sector as evidenced by the reported increase in harvested areas and the rehabilitation of facilities in Central Luzon, Ilocos, MIMAROPA, and in ARMM.

Industry grew robustly at 6.6 percent as all sub-sectors posted remarkable growth except for manufacturing, which remained affected by the slow down of the US economy as well as the heightened competition from China. The 25 percent growth exhibited by the mining sector coming from copper, gold, nickel, other metallics, and petroleum is an indication that the government’s effort to revive the mining industry is bearing fruit. As of end 2007, the 24 new and expanded mining projects remain on-track. Also, the demand for construction proved to be beneficial to the quarrying sub-sector as it expanded by 11.4 percent vis-à-vis the 8.3 percent decline in 2006. Construction grew at a strong pace of 19.5 percent in 2007 as public construction continues to be strong. Private construction is also positively responding with a full year growth of 10.2 percent. Lending support to overall growth is the utilities sub-sector, which grew by 7.2 percent on the back of stable consumption and brisk pace of commercial services.

The services sector continued to remain as the main source of overall growth, contributing 4.2 percentage points to GDP growth. For 2007, except for government services, all sub-sectors exhibited faster growth, each reinforcing each other and creating significant multiplier effects on the economy.

Remittances from overseas Filipinos in 2007 were at an all time high of 13 billion US dollars in the eleven months ending November.

Meanwhile, tourist arrivals was at 3.1 million in 2007, propping up domestic travel and trade in the country.

As a result, the financial services likewise did very well in 2007, so were the trading and logistics sectors.

Meanwhile, the property market remained bullish during the year supported by a favorable interest rate environment.

On the other hand, the local stock market was on a general uptrend during the year, on the back of the strong economic momentum, higher corporate earnings, improved fiscal performance, and also capital inflows induced by higher growth expectation and the firmness of the peso.

While external trade continued to hamper the country’s growth, domestic demand played an increasingly vital role as both consumer and investor confidence held up well given the improving macroeconomic fundamentals.

Private consumption expenditure grew strongly by 6.0 percent in real terms, supported by benign inflation and better labor market conditions. Overall investment spending expanded further to 9.3 percent in real terms with business sentiment continuing to remain high as indicated by results of the Business Expectation surveys of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas.

Indicating future capacity increases, investment spending on durable equipment posted 4.9 percent growth in the fourth quarter, reflecting four consecutive quarters of positive growth following eight quarters of contraction spanning the period 2005-2006. Durable equipment posted a full year growth of 2.7 percent. This improvement comes in tandem with significant increases in both public and private construction expenditure, rising by 30.8 percent and 10.2 percent, respectively.

Given the remarkable growth in 2007, the continued weakness of the US economy and the volatile oil prices are clouds in the horizon that pose downside risks to growth in 2008. But what is important is that we have seen how the concerted efforts of all the sectors of the society contributed towards ushering the country on a trajectory of accelerated growth. While the uncertainties will remain in 2008, increasing public-private sector partnerships will prove to be potent in attaining the economic goals for this year as well as in making this growth felt by all sectors of the society.

Thank you.

Economy soars 7.3% in '07, fastest pace of growth in 31 yrs

Cheryl Arcibal

(First posted at 10:02 a.m.) (Updated 12:36 p.m.) The Philippine economy expanded 7.3 percent in 2007, from a year earlier, due to a strong performance by both the services and industry sectors, the government announced Thursday.

In a briefing, the National Economic Development Authority said this is the Southeast Asian country's fastest pace of gross domestic product growth in 31 years. The agency said GDP growth in 1976 was measured at 8.8 percent.

GDP is the broadest measure of goods and services produced in a country in a period of time.

The 2007 GDP figure is also near the top end of NEDA's predicted growth range for the year of within 6.9 percent to 7.3 percent.

The services sector, which is powered by the sunshine industry of business process outsourcing, grew 8.7 percent in 2007, from its 6.7 percent expansion in 2006.

The industry sector, which includes a resurgent mining industry, rose 6.6 percent from 4.5 percent a year earlier.

Despite the phenomenal growth achieved by the economy, the government said it will be remain vigilant of downside risks that could hamper growth in 2008.

"Given the remarkable growth in 2007, the continued weakness of the US economy and the volatile oil prices are clouds in the horizon that pose downside risks to growth in 2008," NEDA chief Augusto Santos said.

HSBC economist Frederic Neumann however expressed confidence that a slowdown in the US economy will have little effect on the Philippines, which he believes is powered chiefly by domestic demand.

"The Philippine economy appears in good shape to withstand a US slowdown this year as the expansion is mainly driven by internal demand. We also continue to expect remittances to prove resilient in 2008, given the remarkable geographic and professional diversification of OFWs," Neumann said.

"Today's release sets the Philippines up for another good figure in the first quarter, thus helping to dispel concerns that growth will falter," he added.

Seasonally adjusted GDP grew 1.8 percent in the fourth quarter.

Gross national product, on the other hand, surged 7.8 percent in 2007, also its fastest pace of expansion in 31 years. The computation for the country's GNP includes the contributions of the Overseas Filipino Workers to the economy.

In an earlier interview, the National Economic and Development Authority said a robust industry and services sectors powered growth in 2007.

For the fourth quarter, GDP grew 7.4 percent year-on-year while GNP grew 6.5 percent.

SEE Philippine and other Asian countries' GDP from 1997 to present (BSP).

British businessmen remain bullish on RP as they pour more money into the country


CALAMBA CITY, Laguna — The United Kingdom Ambassador to the Philippines Peter Beckingham said today British businessmen remain bullish on the Philippines due to its strong economic fundamentals.

In his message during the inauguration of the Balfour Beatty Over Head Transmission Line (OHTL) Training Center at the Carmelray Industrial Park here, the British ambassador cited the Philippines’ economic growth as the reason more British companies are pouring their money into the country.

He also said that this is also the reason why ''it is no surprise Britain takes the Philippines seriously.''

The ambassador said a British company involved in oil exploration in the country and listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange would also establish a training center in the country by December this year.

He added that by March or April 2008, a British engineering company which operates in India would relocate to the Philippines.

"That demonstrates we mean business here," Beckingham said as he informed the President that the British Minister of Trade would visit Manila in October to "see the extent of British investment in the Philippines."

"This demonstrates so clearly the bonds our two countries have," he added as he thanked the President "for gracing this historic event."


CALAMBA CITY, Laguna -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inaugurated here today the Balfour Beatty Overhead Transmission Line (OHTL) Training Center at the Carmelray Industrial Park II where Filipino line engineers and technicians will undergo extensive training designed to make them globally competitive.

Shortly after her motorcade arrived here a little past noon, the President led the inaugural symbolic “stringing” ceremony of connecting the overhead transmission line through the use of mock high tension wire and miniature transmission towers.

The President then unveiled the marker of the training center before she was taken on a guided tour of the OHTL facilities.

A leading British construction firm and one of the world’s largest service organizations of its kind that serves the international market for rail, road, utility systems, buildings and complex structures, Balfour Beatty established the center to train workers to meet the global demand for skilled line engineers and technicians.

The British construction company has already deployed hundreds of Filipino linesmen and engineers overseas for its in-house projects, according to Balfour Beatty Utilities Director General Manager Simon Pankhurst.

Pankhurst was all praise for Filipinos who, he said, are known worldwide for being competent and hardworking.

He said the center will train qualified high school graduates to become skilled linesmen and engineers for six months before they are deployed to Balfour Beatty’s in-house projects worldwide.

The training is free and indigenous groups and poor communities as well as orphans of military personnel killed in action will be given priority in the training.

Pankhurst said the training module includes proficiency in the English language, adding that safety in the workplace is among the priorities in the training course.

The training center complex comprises of a single storey low-rise building covering 2500-square meters, a lattice steel transmission tower and two steel poles for practical training of the students.

Another 5000-square meter lot accommodates three lattice towers where all aspects of stringing of conductors and earth wires are demonstrated to the trainees.

Pankhurst stressed that the training courses are being undertaken in collaboration with the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA).

Stimulus package already foreseen in GAB--Lagman

By Fernan Marasigan and Mia Gonzalez
Business Mirror

....Rep. Edcel Lagman of Albay, chairman of the Committee on Appropriations, said Wednesday the stimulus package is already adequately funded by Congress in the recently approved 2008 General Appropriations Bill (GAB), with the additional increases in the appropriations for social services and infrastructure development on top of the expanded budget proposed by President Arroyo.

“The impetus for growth to impede the expected economic slowdown as a consequence of the emerging recession in the United States has been budgeted by Congress in the GAB, thereby dispensing with the need for a supplemental budget for which funding support may be difficult to source without resorting to fresh borrowings and new taxes,” said Lagman.

Lagman, however, said proposals for electric and water rate discounts and tax refunds for middle-class taxpayers, which are “virtual doleouts,” have no appropriation cover.

He explained that the components of the economic stimulus package on more spending in education, health, agriculture and infrastructure; expanded Philhealth coverage; college scholarships and technical and vocational training; and education vouchers are already funded in the GAB as follows:

  • an increase of P4.829 billion for the education sector or total new appropriations of P158.602 billion for basic and higher education, excluding the P3.163-billion allocation for the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (Tesda), an attached agency of the labor department;
  • an augmentation of P5.790 billion for the health sector or total new appropriations of P25.847 billion for the Department of Health (DOH), specialized hospitals and PhilHealth;
  • P1.872 billion more for the agricultural sector or total new appropriations of P29.161 billion for the Department of Agriculture (DA) and attached agencies and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act (Afma); and
  • an increase of P6.402 billion for infrastructure or total new aggregate appropriations for the infrastructure sector of P119.7 billion distributed to various programs and agencies, principally Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH), Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC), Department of Education schoolbuilding program, DOH facilities and Municipal Development Fund.

Cebu Air to exercise options on aircraft

By Lenie Lectura
Business Mirror

CEBU Air, the airline unit of conglomerate JG Summit Holdings, plans to exercise options on Airbus SAS A320 planes and Avions de Transport Regional (ATR) 72-500 planes on the heels of growing domestic tourism.

President Lance Gokongwei said this on Wednesday after the airliner put on hold a $309-million initial public offering (IPO) in February.

“Our growth plans are not dependent on IPO,” said Gokongwei in a press briefing.

For now, the airline has “no definite timetable” as to when it would list on the local bourse. Gokongwei stressed that unfavorable market condition has prompted the airliner, which owns and operates Cebu Pacific, to indefinitely postpone the planned exercise.

The issue is not the price but market condition, he said. “It is not good to do an IPO yet.”

Cebu Air has placed a firm order for 10 A320s and an option to purchase another 10 more. The firm orders will start arriving by 2010.

“Our plan is to convert the options to firm orders….After we take delivery of our firm orders, we will exercise our options to own 10 more A320s. The entire 20 fleet will all be owned,” said Gokongwei.

Cebu Pacific’s current fleet comprises of 10 A319s and five A320s. Of which, Gokongwei said, 12 are owned by the airline, while three are on lease.

By the end of the year, Cebu Pacific’s fleet will grow to 25. It will have the same number of A319s but its A320s will increase to nine this year, as the airliner plans to lease four more A320s, which will be delivered between March and October.

Apart from the A319s and A320s, Cebu Air will take delivery of six ATR planes this year. “We have placed 10 firm ATR orders to be used mostly for the Caticlan route. Of the 10, six will be arriving this year and the remaining by next year,” Gokongwei said.

Six turbo-prop ATRs will be delivered by February or March this year to serve short runaways like Caticlan.

Gokongwei said the ATRs and A320s would feed the airline’s expansion of domestic and international network. It targets to hit at least 7 million passengers this year from last year’s 5.5 million, Gokongwei said.

Data from the Civil Aeronautics Board showed that Cebu Pacific had the highest number of domestic passengers, seat number and passenger load factor among domestic carriers. “Clearly, Cebu Pacific is the leading and single largest domestic carrier in the Philippines today,” Gokongwei said.

Apart from being the No. 1 domestic carrier, Cebu Pacific claimed it leads in serving the Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean), with its 92 direct weekly flights on Asean routes and destinations from the Philippines.

“Our Asean service has topped the industry without counting help from other airlines through code shares, and we expect to grow both domestic and international services further this year and beyond as we take delivery of more aircraft,” added Gokongwei.

Cebu Pacific offers a total of 92 direct weekly flights on nine routes to Kuala Lumpur, Jakarta, Singapore, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh and Hanoi.

Outside ASEAN, Cebu Pacific flies to Taipei, Hong Kong, Macau, Xiamen, Guangzhou, Shanghai, Seoul and Pusan. It plans to add several more destinations this year.

Wednesday, 30 January 2008

Jafza to invest $250m in Subic logistics hub

By Shakir HusainStaff Reporter

Dubai: Jafza International, a Dubai World company, will invest $250 million over the next three to five years in an industrial zone in the Subic Bay area of the Philippines.

It signed an agreement with Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), the agency tasked with developing the area into a commerce and leisure hub, for the Subic Bay Freeport project.

Subic Bay was once home to a large US military base, but the Americans left in 1991 at the request of the Philippines government.

The Philippines chose not to renew the treaty that allowed US forces to remain.

Salma Hareb, CEO of Jafza International, said the Subic Bay Freeport deal fits with the company's aim of "expanding operations to vital business destinations around the world."

In July 2007, a delegation headed by Dubai World chairman Sultan Ahmad Bin Sulayem was in the Philippines to discuss potential investments.

The conglomerate is also keen on projects in the shipping hub of Cebu. DP World already has container terminal operations in Manila.

Philippine President Gloria Arroyo toured the Jebel Ali Free Zone and port and met Jamal Majid Bin Thaniah, vice-chairman of DP World and group CEO of Port and Free Zone World, and DP World Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Sharaf.

India to partner the Philippines in healthcare


New Delhi: Bilateral relations between India and the Philippines received a boost Wednesday with the union cabinet approving the signing of a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with that country for cooperation in the field of healthcare.

"The MoU would facilitate cooperation between India and the Philippines in the field of health and medicine on the basis of equality, reciprocity and mutual benefit," Information and Broadcasting Minister Priyaranjan Dasmunshi told the media after the cabinet meeting chaired by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

"The MoU envisages collaboration between the two countries in the areas of drugs and pharmaceutical and medical consumable products. The two countries would also join hands in promoting quality medical education and public health," he said.

"The MoU also aims at promoting health tourism between the two countries, and sharing expertise in hospital management. We would also explore the areas of cooperation in the field of communicable diseases control and surveillance along with traditional and alternative medicines," Dasmunshi said.

Rapid upgrade of Diosdado Macapagal Airport pushed

By JMR/Sunnex

MANILA -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the immediate development of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (Dmia) at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga as the country’s premier airport to accommodate future increase in tourism and investors arrivals in the country and in anticipation of the possible “closure” of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 1.

Arroyo ordered the Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) to come up with an executive order (EO) in two to three weeks that would facilitate the conversion of the Dmia into the country’s premier airport.

Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio Antonio Apostol was also directed to work with the DOTC on the proposed EO, which would cover the liberalizing of the aviation over DMIA and the Subic International Airport, particularly to iron out any legal issues.

Deputy Presidential spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said the EO would take note of the existing open skies policy in the country along with similar policies and existing air agreements with the neighboring countries.

She said other technical details would also be threshed out by the DOTC.


Fajardo said the move is also in anticipation of the possible closure of Naia 2 which is expected to be downgraded.

She said quoting Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza that the Naia 1 might be downgraded and it might eventually be closed down.

She said the Naia Terminal 1 at present is still considered as the country’s premier airport but there is a need to expand and improved on the airport facilities as the government promotes the country as a good place to visit and invest in.

She said by conversion of the DMIA into the premier airport in the country, stemmed from recommendations of the DOTC, the Department of Tourism (DOT) and members of private sectors including businessmen from Pampanga, Clark and Subic.

She cited that there were cases when, due to heavy air traffic, some carriers were unable to land in the Naia runways and even wait for about 30 minutes before they could land.

She added that even if the controversial Naia Terminal 3 is opened and becomes operational, it will not be enough to accommodate the influx of tourists and investors.


Fajardo assured that there are still plans to open Terminal 3 which the government hopes to be realized within the year.

She also denied that the controversy surrounding Terminal 3 and long delay in opening the airport prompted the decision to develop DMIA instead as the premier airport.

Deputy spokesman Anthony Rolando Golez said with the intensive campaign for more tourists and investors, the country would need to have the appropriate infrastructures and facilities to accommodate them.

He said one region that the Philippines is eyeing to invite is the members of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republic to tour and possibly invest in the Philippines.

The DMIA since opening in 2004 posted a continued increase in the number of flights and passengers.

In 2006 it recorded 2,065 international flights with 470,867 passengers which was a 110 percent increase from 2005 which only had 1,188 flights with 224,497 passengers and in 2004, recorded 230 international flights with 49,546 passengers.

It also offered domestic flights recording 443 flights in 2006, 455 in 2005 and 432 in 2004 and collected terminal fees of up to P81.097 million in 2006 from P35.863 million in 2005 and P8.83 million in 2004.

Investors scramble for RP's $500-M bond issue


Investors scrambled for the $500 million sovereign bonds issued by the Philippines in less than eight hours, acting National Treasurer Roberto Tan said Wednesday.

The offer, which completes the country’s first and only foray in the international market this year, was more than eight times oversubscribed as Credit Suisse and Deutsche Bank AG booked $4.6 billion worth of orders.

“We are pleased to have completed our international funding objectives despite the volatile market conditions," Tan stressed.

The Philippine government issued the offer at the heels of Moody's Investor Service's decision to upgrade the country’s credit rating outlook to positive from stable.

The bonds priced at 98.0 fetched 6.541 percent or 220.5 basis points over comparable US Treasuries. The bonds are due on 2032.

About 44 percent of the investors who bought the US dollar-denominated bonds came from Asia while 29 percent came from the US and 27 percent came from Europe .

“We have an existing $1 billion and it will improve the liquidity to $1.5 billion. The Philippines is a major issuer so liquidity is important," Tan said.

Last Friday, Moody’s upgraded the country’s outlook due to improving macroeconomic conditions and strong fiscal performance resulting to stable public sector finances and less dependence on foreign borrowings.

The Inquirer also reported:

Manila is only the third Asian government to offer a dollar bond deal this year as debt markets worldwide grapple with the fallout of the US subprime mortgage crisis and resulting aversion to risk has led to a surge on borrowing costs.

Roberto Tan, the country's acting national treasurer and finance undersecretary, said on Wednesday underwriters booked $4.6 billion worth of orders for the reopening of Manila's 2032 global bond at a price of 98.0.

Indonesia and state-run Korea Development Bank have raised a combined $3 billion so far in 2008. Indonesia's $2-billion two-tranche bond issue early this month was about three to four times oversubscribed, traders said.

B.C. signs labour agreement with Philippines

By Joanne Lee-Young
Vancouver Sun

VANCOUVER - The province has signed an agreement with the Philippines to give it priority over other jurisdictions to attract Filipino workers as a way of coping with labour shortages.

Today, Economic Development Minister Colin Hansen signed a two-year memorandum of understanding with Philippine Labour Secretary Arturo Brion.

This will lead to the establishment of a so-called joint labour committee to hammer out specific guidelines for training, certifying and assessing both employees in the Philippines and employers in B.C.

As well, Brion said the Philippines will establish a labour office in Vancouver to vet potential employers, streamline applications and provide support and social services for Filipino workers.

"We hope to convene this joint labour committee as soon as possible and to have it set up in three months," set Brion. "We already have a labour attache in Toronto, but this one (in Vancouver) will serve Western Canada."

Although the B.C. government has said the province needs to attract 30,000 workers per year with specific skills, Hansen said there is no exact target number, in particular, for workers from the Philippines.

The agreement will, however, focus first on helping B.C. companies in the tourism, hospitality and construction industries.

"We are confident that this agreement will significantly increase the number of Filipino workers in B.C.," said Hansen, adding it will allow "us to work closely with recruitment agencies, with the oversight of government, so we can streamline that process and ensure that we have the best experience for the Filipino workers that arrive."

"We want this to be a very good and positive work experience for those individuals, whether they come as temporary workers for a few months and years, whether they come with their families or not, and whether or not they choose to establish permanent residency in B.C.," said Hansen.

The Philippines is the third largest source for immigrants to B.C.

More recently, companies and provinces in Western Canada have been especially interested in the Philippines as a source of workers.

In late 2006, the Philippines signed a similar agreement with Saskatchewan. B.C. has, however, beaten Alberta and Manitoba, who are known to also be seeking such arrangements, too.

Brion said the Philippines currently sends millions of workers to over 190 countries. Saudi Arabia, for example, has been receiving workers from the Philippines since the 1970s.

"These are our old markets," said Brion. "B.C. is a very new one. So far, Filipino workers here have been arriving here in an unregulated manner. We want to make sure there is priority for B.C. and regulations that will protect Filipino workers and all stakeholders."

The Philippines currently runs 34 overseas labour offices such as the one that will be established in Vancouver.

For 2008, Brion said the Philippines is also earmarking similar new labour offices in Australia/New Zealand, Macau, and Ireland.

(Read related article in the Inquirer: "350,000 jobs available in Canada province over next 12 years")

In rare moment, Tetangco cites fiscal concerns

By Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

IT is rare for monetary officials to comment on fiscal matters, but on Tuesday Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. highlighted the importance of mobilizing the liquidity in the system.

In a briefing following his arrival from Davos, Switzerland, Tetangco spoke on the need for the government to merge its revenue collection with a well-crafted public-spending program.

“It is important we have sufficient liquidity and deploy it to productive undertakings like infrastructure,” he told reporters.

The remark was provoked by disclosure that Malacañang has approved a P75-billion fiscal-stimulus package designed to sustain the growth momentum gained just last year.

Tetangco said such a package would be inflationary if government planners were not careful but should do the economy much good if implemented well.

The fiscal package meshes well with a long-standing BSP advocacy for the government or the private sector to create an infrastructure fund from which the buildup of key infrastructure projects may be funded.

According to Tetangco, it does not matter much if the fund was structured in foreign currency or in pesos as long as the liquidity was put to good use.

“A fiscal-stimulus package targeted at infrastructure or social services, particularly on education, would have more permanent positive effects rather than the short-term relief offered by a tax relief, for example,” he observed.

Some P51 billion of the P75-billion fiscal package approved on Tuesday was earmarked for government spending with particular emphasis on infrastructure.

“We need to put to good use that [additional] liquidity in the system. Now is really the best time to think of a structure that takes advantage of this,” Tetangco said.

He also said while the plans were preliminary, it was good that the government was looking at spending more for public infrastructure.

He expressed confidence the introduction of greater peso liquidity into the system can be managed effectively given the available tools they have to ensure that inflation does not act up 18 to 24 months down the line.

The antiliquidity tools pertained to the special savings accounts, or SDAs, that banks maintain with the BSP as well as its overnight lending facility, among others.

He said the ideal liquidity growth path for the Philippines was one averaging from 11 percent up to 14 percent this year.

This means more liquidity can still be introduced into the system without derailing the BSP inflation target, given that latest peso liquidity data show growth averaging well under 10 percent.

With half of government projects done, cost of transporting goods seen lower

By VG Cabuag
Business Mirror

THE Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) said it completed half of the several projects that President Arroyo promised during her 2006 State of the Nation Address (Sona), helping reduce costs of transporting goods in the country.

In a report, the agency said that it had completed only 15 of the 34 projects that the President mentioned, mostly belonging to the Strong Republic Nautical Highway, a project connecting roads and ports.

Of the remaining 17 projects, which are called “Sona ports,” all are currently being built save for two projects which are still in the preliminary engineering phase. Meanwhile, another project—the construction of a passenger terminal building in Pantao port in Albay—was deferred due to the rationalization of the facilities in the area.

“Their completion is expected to contribute to reducing shipping and logistics costs, transporting cost-effectively and efficiently the country’s agricultural produce, promoting tourism and related business activities,” PPA said in a report that it submitted to the Department of Transportation and Communications earlier this month.

Among the completed ports are the facilities in Dingalan, construction of passenger terminal buildings at PPA’s Lucena port and in Real all in Quezon province; Cawit port improvement project in Boac, Marinduque; Batangas Port phase II, except for the acquisition of land that still has a court case; Jagna port in Bohol; Maasin port in Leyte; Siquijor port; Ubay port in Bohol; reclamation of back-up area in Balabagon port in Camiguin; upgrading of Cagayan de Oro port in Mindanao; and rehabilitation of quay at Sasa port in Davao City.

Earlier, PPA general manager Oscar M. Sevilla earlier said that the agency already has the money to complete the remaining port projects, which would come from its corporate funds.

According to Sevilla’s estimates, it would cost about P300 million to complete these projects.

Among the PPA’s ongoing projects include ports in Aroroy, Bulalacao, Cagayan de Oro, Calapan, Calbayog, Caramoan, Claveria, Dapitan, Davao, Dumaguete, El Nido, Esperanza, Fort San Pedro, General Santos, Iloilo, Lamao, Lianga, Maripipi, Masao, Mulanay, Nasipit, Pagadian, Plaridel, Poctoy, San Pascual, San Ricardo, Sibunag, Surigao, Taytay, Tacloban and Zamboanga.

In her 2006 Sona, President Arroyo said that the government “will bring Masbate and Biliran into the RoRo Eastern Nautical Highway from Surigao through Leyte through Naval and Maripipi in Biliran through Esperanza, Aroroy and Burias Island in Masbate and on to Bicol.” “Now we will develop more routes like the one from Cagayan de Oro through Camiguin, Bohol, Cebu and Masbate to Bicol, the Central Nautical Highway,” she said.

Tuesday, 29 January 2008

GK to turn squatter area into ‘high-class’ resettlement

By Cynthia Balana
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The Gawad Kalinga (GK) Foundation has pledged to help transform a squatter resettlement area in Southville II, Cavite, into the first “high class relocation site in the country,” according to Vice President Noli de Castro.

De Castro, who is also chair of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council, said GK Director Antonio Meloto promised to tap the assistance of GK’s partners in the business community to put the facilities of the relocation community in Trece Martirez town at par with leading subdivisions in Metro Manila.

Meloto, reported De Castro, was impressed by the government’s “humane approach” in resettlement, which includes a formal send-off of families by the mayor of their previous locale and their formal welcome by the mayor of the town where they are resettling.

“The practice protects the dignity of the resettled families,” De Castro quoted Meloto as saying.

De Castro said he was heartened by the GK’s expression of support, saying this “brings the government-private sector partnership in the housing program to new heights.”

The Trece Martires site hosts some 4,000 families, mostly former residents of the Philippine National Railways (PNR) area in Muntinlupa and Taguig.

The families had to be relocated to give way to the national railway improvement program.

Why the sudden rush to develop DMIA?

By Manchowyin

Here's a theory. The Kuwaitis are financing the biggest development ever clinched (if it pushes through) in Batangas--$10B worth of projects--which includes an economic zone, an international port, an international airport, and railway running from Batangas to Fort Bonifacio (see posts on the Kuwaiti deal in This is a project that mimics the Subic-Clark corridor.

If DMIA doesn't get up and running, the Calabarzon International Airport project could upstage it. And the Kuwaitis are about to raise the money. They are ready for the act, choreographed by former Gov and Congressman Mandanas of Batangas.

But of course, two competing economic zones are better than a single complacent one.

On your marks...

More on the Kuwaiti project in Batangas

By Sol Jose Vanzi

Batangas City, April 17, 2002 – President Gloria Macapal-Arroyo ... received an extensive briefing on projects for Region 4, particularly in the province of Batangas, from Governor Hermilando Mandanas who chairs the Regional Development Council (RDC).

Afable pointed out that three big ticket items that are now being worked on by the RDC and agencies of the national government are the revival of the 201-kilometer railroad system linking Southern Tagalog provinces to Metro Manila, the opening of the airport in Lipa City to both military and commercial traffic, and the continuing improvement of the Batangas Port.

The Fernando Air Base (FAB) in Lipa City, which is being converted for dual military and civil use, is currently being used as a training facility by the Philippine Air Force.

According to Governor Mandanas, the conversion of FAB into the Calabarzon Airport will greatly relieve the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) of heavy traffic.

The rehabilitation of the proposed railway will contribute significantly to the reduction of traffic congestion by providing a convenient transport alternative. The project, estimated to cost $1.7 billion, runs from Batangas Port all the way to Fort Bonifacio, and will also serve as a mass transport system for commuters and cargoes.

The development of the Port of Batangas (Phases I and II) was conceived to complement the Port of Manila, whose capacity is nearing saturation.

Transportation and Communications Secretary Pantaleon Alvarez, during a presentation in the Regional Cabinet Meeting, said that the project is envisioned to respond to the demands arising from regional development, which include the Calabarzon, expanded Metro Manila areas and Southern Tagalog as well as the economic range of ro-ro (roll on-roll off) ferry serving Mindoro and other islands.

Whence the Batangas International Airport?

A LOOK BACK IN TIME--June 9, 2006
Batangas air base opened to civil use
By Macon Ramos Araneta
Manila Standard Today

PRESIDENT Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has ordered the opening of Fernando Air Base in Lipa City in Batangas for joint military and civilian use.

Batangas Rep. Hermilando Mandanas said this was revealed by Philippine Economic Zone Authority director general Lilia de Lima during a recent hearing of the House committee on government enterprises and privatization.

She said the President has directed Trade Secretary Peter Favila and Defense Secretary Avelino Cruz to immediately facilitate the signing of an agreement with the Philippine Air Force for the civilian use of airstrip at night when not in use by the military.

She said the President’s order came in the wake of the traffic problem that is being anticipated because of the repairs that will be done on the Southern Luzon Expressway.

“Thousands of container vans from the industrial locators in the region will be affected by the Alabang viaduct repair in SLEX,” said De Lima.

Mandanas said the President’s directive is in line with House Bill 5469 which he filed for the redevelopment of the air base for joint civilian and military use. According to the bill, the redevelopment will be at no expense to the government via the creation of the Calabarzon International Airport Corp. and a free trade zone.

He said the bill aims to convert Fernando Air Base into a dual-use airport serving the Southern Tagalog Region and functioning as a subsidiary airport to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport. It also aims to develop the area contiguous around the air base into a dynamic zone through private-sector initiative.

The Air Force is expected to be a direct beneficiary of the redevelopment and the military reservation will not be diminished by even one square meter, said Mandanas.

PGMA okays proposal to lighten impact on Flipinos of U.S. economic slowdown


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has approved the proposal of Albay Gov. Joey Salceda for government to come up with an economic package that would prevent the country from losing its growth momentum as well as mitigate the impact on the people of the imminent slowing down of the US economy

In his message to the President, Salceda said: ”With storm signals already raised, the Philippines cannot just fidget and watch it coming out of fear of backlash from credit markets.”

The President thumbed up Salceda’s P75–billion economic stimulus proposal that stands to shield the Philippines from the global fallout during the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Cabinet Group meeting in Malacanang, held immediately after her arrival this morning from a fruitful seven-day trip to Switzerland and the Middle East.

The economic stimulus package, which Salceda described as “a national imperative,” includes income tax relief, discounts on electricity bills, a boost in infrastructure and agriculture spending and enhanced social investments.

At the same time, the President ordered agencies concerned to “look for money to fund the package.” [Ay, there's the rub!]

“We must implement the economic equivalent of preemptive evacuation which has been proven to achieve a zero casualty during disasters,” said Salceda, the President’s economic adviser and the main architect of the Arroyo administration’s fiscal reform package four years ago.

Salceda said the threat posed by the US recession to the Philippines would be “loss of momentum which would negatively impact on our revenue base if we do nothing.”

“A short-term, one-shot economic stimulus is critical in defending against the loss of momentum,” he said.

Salceda proposed the following:

  1. a P16-billion expansion in income tax deductions to benefit the middle-class working families;
  2. an P8-billion rebate to households consuming less than 200 kilowatt hours of electricity per month;
  3. a P51-billion increase in government spending this year, that includes P15 billion for increased agriculture production,
  4. P16 billion for infrastructure spread out as follows:
  • P12 billion for education,
  • P4 billion to increase PhilHealth membership to five million and
  • P4 billion for mass housing.

What do other people in the cabinet think of this? See the Financial Times' article "Jolt to the System" (

PGMA orders development of DMIA as RP’s premier airport, and eventual closure of NAIA-1


President Gloria Macapagal–Arroyo ordered today the development of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) at the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga as the country’s premier airport and the eventual closing down of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport I.

The President issued the directive to concerned agencies led by the Department of Transportation and Communications during the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA)-Cabinet Group meeting this morning in Malacañang.

The President gave a time-frame of six months up to one year to turn the DMIA into the country’s premier airport.

The move would further support the President’s vision of Clark and Subic as the country’s logistics hub in the Asia-Pacific region and the new international gateways [sic] of the country.

The DMIA is one of the biggest aviation complexes in Asia with its two 3.2-kilometer parallel runways that will be extended to four kilometers to accommodate new generation wide-bodied aircraft.

The DMIA is certified by the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) with ratings of Category I for Precision Approach Runway and Category IX for the Emergency Services.

It is well equipped with Instrument Landing System, Navigational Aids, Meteorological Equipment, and Complete Airfield Lighting System.

‘Abraj’ in final talks with Philippines on $3.5b deal

By Thaher Al-Zayyat
Special to the Arab Times

KUWAIT : Kuwait-based investment firm Abraj Holding Company (Abraj) said on Sunday it was in final talks on a $3.5 billion services contract in the Philippines. Under the leadership of Abraj, a consortium of Kuwaiti companies, which includes Agility, Al-Mal Investment Company and International Leasing and Investment Company (ILIC), has reached an agreement with the Philippine government and the English company Argon to invest more than $10 billion in infrastructure projects in the Philippines. The Kuwaiti companies agreed to build an economic city in Batangas, Philippines, a $1.3 billion airport, ports, railways, power stations and telecommunications. This is part of a vision to transform Batangas into a commercial center in the Philippines.

ILIC was chosen as the financial consultant for the project and for the establishment of a holding company in Europe. The Kuwaiti group also won three seats in the founding committee for the company.

Deputy Chairman and Managing Director of Al-Abraj Sameer Nasser disclosed Philippine President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has invited the Kuwaiti group to visit the Philippines to finalize the deal.

Nasser added the agreement was signed during the Davos Conference in Switzerland, in cooperation with Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) and Argon.

He also clarified the agreement is a continuation of an accord signed in Kuwait on Jan 14 indicating the Kuwaiti party will have a 60 per cent share in the capital and the rest of the shares will be given to the Philippines.

Confirming the Kuwaiti group took three seats in the founding committee of the new holding company, Nasser explained the company will be established in one of the European countries and will be in charge for the acquisition of the required equipment and distribution of infrastructure development contracts to subcontractors.

Meanwhile, ILIC General Manager Fuad Al-Hmoud confirmed the company is currently preparing a comprehensive plan on the establishment of an investment fund for financing the projects.