Saturday, 1 March 2008

More Manila Ocean Park videos

Video clip of GMA-7's Mel & Joey featuring Manila Ocean Park (Part 1 of 2). Recorded and uploaded to YouTube by DCRJ , February 24, 2008.

Video clip of GMA-7's Mel & Joey featuring Manila Ocean Park (Part 2 of 2). Recorded and uploaded to YouTube by DCRJ , February 24, 2008.

Video of President Arroyo at the Manila Ocean Park opening

MANILA, Philippines--Seemingly unperturbed by mounting protests against her administration, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo kept a busy schedule Friday. She attended the ribbon cutting of the Manila Ocean Park in Manila Bay during its soft launch. Arroyo is flanked by Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Philippine Tourism Authority Director Robert Dean Barbers, Senator Richard Gordon and House Speaker Prospero Nograles. Owned and operated by China Oceanis Philippines, the Manila Ocean Park features 20,000 exotic tropical fish, including small sharks and stingrays. Video taken by community evangelist Alex Villafania on February 29, 2008.

Update pictures of Manila Ocean Park

Oggie Poggie's photos. Click here to see more. (

Ninja's photos. Click here to see more (

If you can't see those, click below. (

Hanjin needs 40,000 workers for Shipyard Project

By Mike Baños

South Korea's Hanjin Heavy Industries needs 40,000 workers over the next few years to construct and operate their $2 billion shipyard in Tagoloan, Misamis Oriental.

"Hanjin officials prefer untrained applicants so they can be properly trained the Hanjin standards," said Pacifico Pupos, Jr., presidential assistant for Northern Mindanao. "In fact, the first batch of 50 welders is now training in Hanjin's Subic facility."

Besides welders, Pupos said Hanjin would also be needed plumbers and electricians for the project. He said Hanjin will be shortly opening its recruitment offices in Cagayan de Oro.

The shipyard is the firm's second in the country and will be situated in a 441.8-hectare lot at the Phividec Industrial Estate. The new facility will have a capacity of 830,000 tons per year when completed in 2017, the Phividec Industrial Authority said earlier in a statement. It will be the largest in the county-even bigger than Hanjin's $1-billion shipyard complex in Subic-and would employ 40,000 people to initially make ship parts.

The first phase of its Phividec operations will fabricate pipes and light bridges with a maximum capacity of 80,000 tons a year starting next year. The facility's capacity would expand to 830,000 tons in the next 15 years, when it starts producing cargo and container ships.

General Manager Jeong Sup Shim said Hanjin decided to build the facility in Misamis Oriental after the Philippine government declared the 441.8-hectare project site an economic zone. This would allow Hanjin to import duty-free capital equipment and avail of income tax holidays.

Jeong said Hanjin will inject at least P4.6 billion per year into the local economy in salaries and wages for its employees.

This year, Hanjin expects to finish most of its first US$1.68-billion shipyard in the Philippines located in a 349-hectare lot at the Subic Bay Freeport zone, which is scheduled for completion by 2011.

Capacity constraints in Korea have forced Hanjin to go overseas for its expansion. The firm is scheduled to deliver 33 medium-sized container vessels worth approximately $3 billion in the next two years and build 82 large-sized ships from 2009 to 2011 at its Philippine facilities.

Fernando Air Base: A showcase of scientific farming

By Maj. Gerry Zamudio
The Philippine Star

To optimize the utilization of idle military lands and to support the government’s food security program, the top echelon of Fernando Air Base in Lipa City have launched a project to transform the historical base into an eco-tourism and agri-demo farm catering to both domestic and foreign visitors.

The project was initiated last year by the commander of the Philippine Air Force’s Air Education Training Command (AETC) Maj. Gen. Fernando I. Manalo who organized a cooperative that focused on some of the areas inside the base into a cornfield in collaboration with the Department of Agriculture.

Allocating 80 hectares – out of the 242 hectares of idle lands inside the base – for high-yielding corn, the project has been enrolled in the DA’s Ginintuang Masaganang Ani and intends to make the base a showcase of scientific planting of several vegetables inside the base.

Also, in cooperation with UP Los Baños and East West Seed Co., the base has started planting high value crops using environment-friendly technologies. Also planted inside the base are 250 mango trees that were sprayed last month to induce flowering and assure an early harvest.

In a visit last week, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap lauded the soldiers for the work they have done so far inside the base. He said he is among those who have been campaigning for the transformation of military idle lands to become additional sources of agricultural produce. Yap assured the soldiers of a ready market for their produce.

As it stands, almost 40 percent of the 272 hectares of idle lands inside the base has been planted to various crops such as pechay, eggplant, tomatoes, pepper, water melon, mustaza, yellow corn, Sinta papaya and other crops provided by the DA.

Yap was joined by Batangas Rep. Llandro Mendoza who donated a farm tractor worth P3 million. AGAP party-list Rep. Nicanor Briones also promised to help in the effort by providing other farm support requirements, particularly an assured market for their corn produce.

The base’s demo farm has started to attract farmers around Lipa and nearby areas who regularly visit the base to observe the farming techniques and to see for themselves how good new farming technologies are.

Land Transportation Office launches online transactions, text service

By Perseus Echeminada
The Philippine Star

The Land Transportation Office launched yesterday two new services that the agency believes will reduce long lines of motorists seeking to transact with the LTO and rid it of fixers as well.

LTO chief Alberto Suansing said the public can inquire about requirements for various LTO transactions by texting “LTO (space) HELP” to 2600 or by logging on to, where they can also conduct online transactions.

“The days of these vultures will soon come to an end, as they will no longer find LTO clients to victimize,” he said.

The LTO will initially offer online processing for the payment and delivery of motor vehicle and law enforcement and traffic adjudication system certifications. LTO clients can pay for the certifications through their credit cards, and the documents will be delivered to them by a courier.

“This will allow our clients to transact in the convenience of their homes, offices or in the internet cafes, and shall be available and accessible 24 hours a day, seven days a week,” Suansing said.

Dick Gordon’s Fruits of Hope

By Domini M. Torrevillas
The Philippine Star

While the nation was grieving over the beheading of marines in Basilan last September, Sen. Richard J. Gordon flew to Basilan and Sulu to personally see the situation in those two provinces. As Philippine National Red Cross chairman, he was on his way to oversee the Red Cross relief operations there. He was far from being stressed by the warnings of friends and relatives about flying to what they said were “war zones,” nor of the reported military clashes with armed groups. In fact while on the military plane, he was thinking that if there was a peace problem in the so-called war zones, it was not because the people there were more prone to violence. The problem, he told himself, was not lack of peace, but lack of development, and the national government’s failure to respond to the needs of the people in the area.

True enough, when he and Albert Santoli of the Asia-America Initiatives, which is providing aid for peace and progress in Mindanao, went around Patikul, Indanan, they found the place peaceful, and the people were not running around dodging bombs and bullets, but engaged in the practicalities of living peaceful lives. He and Albert spent the night in Jolo and woke up the next morning with body and soul intact.

Everywhere Dick and his companions went, they were offered an assortment of food and fruits, and greeted with effusive hospitality. But Dick knew that beneath the veneer of peace was a host of genuine complaints and legitimate grievances against the government.

Dick spoke with elders and teachers, who both expressed that the solution to violent conflict and strife brought about by poverty was education. And yet teaching went on despite the inconvenience of having no running water in their area after the pipes in their town had been inexplicably taken away.

A big problem was teachers’ not being paid their salaries because they had not taken their PRC licensure exams. They did not either for lack of transportation fare to Zamboanga where the exams were conducted, or they did not have P5,000 to take the exams.

Dick was also told that some teachers received their salary with deductions for benefits which were not being remitted.

In the three towns in Sulu Dick visited, farmers were busy trying to sell their produce on the streets. The fruits were abundant and cheap as hardly any traders or wholesale fruit buyers had come to Sulu for months since the military had begun operations.

Farmers had knocked down the prices of fruits. They sold a pulutong or bunch of mangosteens weighing 2 to 3 kilos at P20 to P30; these are sold in Manila markets for P200 to P300.

Dick felt the pain and shame of Tausug warriors turned farmers and selling their produce at ridiculously low prices. Their pain was aggravated when they found out that the school they are sending their children to do not have teachers and books and their school rooms do not have roofing or walls. These circumstances would be enough to drive the warriors to take their arms against the government, but they did not. Dick was touched by their “indomitable spirit.”

Upon his return to Manila, Dick submitted recommendations to President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo on how to solve the problems in Basilan and Sulu. His letter said the situation in these areas is “no more severe than in other areas of the country where there are insurgent or rebel activities. Peace and order prevails and the encounters are sporadic and occur mainly in forest areas. Significantly, however, by neglecting to strengthening basic governance in the area, we wind up losing the arguments to the extremists and terrorists.”

President Arroyo acted on Dick’s recommendations. She issued PRC to send teams to conduct licensure exams in Sulu and directed GSIS to look into the non-remittance of GSIS deductions from teachers’ salaries.

The senator delivered a privileged speech in the Senate, informing his colleagues of the dire situation of people in areas in Mindanao targeted for the “all-out offensive” and challenged them to “invest in peace.” He filed an amendment to the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund, which grants loans for the purpose of transporting agricultural products from farms to markets.

And that was when Dick’s “fruits for hope” program began. Less than a month after the trip to Sulu, he was back on board a PAF C130 plane, and with him were new partners who believed in investing in the peace in Mindanao by buying products from areas in Mindanao smeared by the label “war zones.” These were the PNRC, the Office of the Presidential Adviser on the Peace Process, the Philippine Air Force and the AAI, SM Supermarket, Rustan’s Shopwise, Nestle’s Nescafe and UP Los Banos. They were welcomed by Sulu Gov. Sakur Tan and the fruit growers of Sulu. Before midday, the whole party was back in Manila with 6,000 kgs of assorted fruits. In less than an hour, the fruits on display in SM and Rustan’s Shopwise were sold out.

Eight days later, the senator, with the same partners, plus new partners NAMVESCO, Sulpicio Lines, Negros Navigation, Vintel Logistics and the Bagumbayan Movement Committee on Livelihood and Productivity, were in Davao, and before noon, they were carrying 12,000 kgs of fruits. The second batch of Fruits of Hope were again sold out.

Recently, the Fruits of Hope program was given the Anvil Award by the Public Relations Society of the Philippines. In his acceptance speech, the senator said: “The Fruits of Hope is about change. It is about changing how the government treats so-called war zones. It is about changing the mindset of people in impoverished and conflicted-affected areas from one of desperation to that of inspiration and hope. It is about showing that transformation is possible in places where leaders like Gov. Adsakur Tan, Gov. Susing Sacdalan, and Vice-Gov. Manny Pinol lead their people by example and demonstrate an active commitment through their action.”

The Fruits of Hope program continues.

My email:

Arroyo okays housing project for policemen

Manila Bulletin

ROXAS CITY — President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has granted the request of the Philippine National Police (PNP) for a housing project for its policemen designed to provide police personnel and their families with decent homes and quarters.

This is part of the PNP housing program that is ongoing natiowide, as more PNP housing projects are programmed in the Visayas and Mindanao.

PNP spokesman Senior Supt. Nicanor Bartolome said that a total of R300 million was released by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) as part of the R1.7-billion funding allocation to finance the ongoing construction of three housing projects for 67,400 police personnel who still do not have houses of their own.

PNP chief Director General Avelino "Sonny" Razon Jr. said two more housing and quartering projects will be constructed in Camp Panopio, Quezon City and in Camp Castañeda, Silang, Cavite.

The President had earlier inspected housing units for policemen at the "Pulis-Kalinga" project at Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan in Taguig City.

The President was accompanied during the inauguration of the project by Department of Interior and Local Governments secretary Ronaldo Puno, Razon, and Chief Supt. Silverio Alarcio, chief of the PNP Directorate for Operations.

The country’s first PNP housing project was inaugurated in Tarlac province on May 15, 2006. It was led by then PNP Chief Oscar Calderon, with its implementation undertaken by Bartolome, who was then provincial director of the Tarlac Police Provincial Office (TPPO).

Called "Special Macabulos Pulis Kalinga Housing Project," Bartolome said the first PNP housing project was made possible also with the help of then Tarlac Gov. Jose Yap, now second district congressman, and the province’s three former congressmen, Gilberto C. Teodoro, who is now Defense Secretary, Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino who is now senator, and Jesli Lapus, who is now Education Secretary.

"The dream of our policemen to have their own decent homes for their families became a reality in Tarlac PPO, where the PNP implemented its pilot housing project," Bartolome said.

Present during the inauguration was Vice President Noli de Castro, as HUDDC chair, and the Gawad Kalinga, led by Tony Meloto, which also helped in the construction of the new row houses built on 120-square-meter lots.

More than 120 houses have been programmed for construction at the site. (PIA)

Balikatan exercises end March 3

Manila Bulletin

The annual bilateral exercises between the Philippines and the United States are set to end on Monday, March 3, the United States embassy said yesterday.

The closing ceremony, which highlights accomplishments of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and US troops, will be held at the Holiday Inn in Clark Freeport, March 3 at 9 a.m.

"There is possibly no greater satisfaction than the thought of healthy children in a remote location going to school in a schoolhouse that, thanks to our combined efforts, has a roof on it, a ceiling fan, a dignified environment where teachers can teach and students can learn," US Ambassador Kristie A. Kenney said in a statement.

The US troops and their local counterparts launched humanitarian assistance projects in Central and Western Mindanao, Sulu, and Palawan during the two-week bilateral exercises.

"This has an impact on all of us," Kenney said.

The US embassy said about 14,000 local residents benefited from medical and dental care.

Veterinary care was also provided to more than 600 animals. Engineers from both countries constructed or repaired schools and other community structures in more than 10 local communities, it added.

Held under the auspices of the Mutual Defense Treaty (MDT) and the Visiting Forces Agreement (VFA), this year’s Balikatan, the 24th annual of its kind, "gave the joint armed forces the opportunity to train together in the event of a natural disaster or other crisis."

Both Philippine and US military troops conducted combined staff exercises and field training in Luzon and Palawan to improve contingency planning and strengthen maritime security.

American navy ships also launched joint exchange training exercises in several locations in the country, the embassy said.

Stocks rebound as peso continues to gain vs dollar


The peso is nearing the P40.12 trade level it made on 12 January 2000. On Wednesday, peso closed 31 centavos higher compared to last week’s close at P40.33/$. On Thursday, peso moved between P40.25 to P40.48 before settling at P40.48/$ with a total volume of 3.5 million. According to sources, the peso has improved by 23 percent against regional currencies from 2001 to present. Only the Thai baht and Korean won performed better at 37 percent and 31 percent, respectively.

The local bourse closed at 3,129.99 points yesterday higher by 17.14 points from its previous close of 3,112.85 points with a volume of 1.55 billion shares amounting to P3.19 billion. Compared to last week’s close, the main composite index was 49.75 points higher after moving between 3,1.04.12 to 3,129.99 this week. Monday was a local holiday.

The Dow Jones industrial average, Nasdaq composite, and broader Standard & Poor’s 500 index all sank by 0.9 percent Thursday on Fed Chair Ben Bernanke’s comment that the central bank will likely continue cutting rates, and lethargic economic outlook.

The dollar Wednesday reached the 1.50 level against the euro and closed at an all-time low against a basket of currencies. The greenback stumbled after reports showed that US consumer sentiment were at a 5-year low and consumer expectations were the worst after 17 years.

Trading yesterday saw the broader all shares index advanced by 11.72 points together with all sectors except property. Gainers outnumbered losers 60 to 29, while 54 stocks were steady.

The BSP maintained its overnight borrowing rate at 5 percent and overnight lending rate at 7 percent. Its special deposit accounts (SDAs) registered at 5.2501 percent from the previous 5.2405 percent rate. Its interbank call loan rates, down by 3.12 basis points, registered at 5.25 percent.

The BoT rejected Tuesday all bids for the 7-year bonds. Had BoT accepted the bids, the rate would have been 28.2 basis points or 6.782 percent higher.

Nestlé inaugurates Asia service center

Manila Bulletin

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo formally inaugurated in Meycauayan, Bulacan yesterday Nestlé Business Services (NBS) AOA, a new corporate entity of the global Nestlé Group which will serve as the shared service center for financial and employee service needs of Nestle companies in Zone AOA (Asia, Oceania and Africa). Countries to be served by NBS include the Philippines, Malaysia/Singapore, Indonesia, Indochina, Australia and New Zealand.

During the inauguration, Arroyo was briefed on the professional services to be rendered by NBS. The utility’s financial services will include account payables and receivables as well as accounting operations, while its employee services will cover payroll, HR administration, time management and benefits administration.

Nestle Philippines, Inc. (NPI) Chairman and CEO Nandu Nandkishore said that the establishment of NBS in the country which was announced in August, 2007, is a concrete expression of the Nestle Group’s long-term confidence and commitment to support the continued economic growth of the country.

Nandishore noted that a number of countries had been considered as possible sites for NBS, with the Philippines finally selected because of talent availability and cost efficiency. "This decision recognizes our world-class capabilities in financial and employee services, and will allow us,yet again, to showcase Filipino competence," he said.

NBS is designed to deliver best-in-class office support at competitive service levels and costs to Nestle companies in the region. The Nestle Group has successfully implemented the shared service model in Europe and the Americas, resulting in maximized cost effectiveness, efficiency, and higher quality of financial and employee service transactions.

"NBS AOA centralizes the financial and employee service requirements of various Nestle companies in Zone AOA at one location, in the Philippines. We expect thi shared service setup not only to deliver cost efficiencies, but to also allow Nestle companies to focus more on their core business, which is generating demand." NBS AOA Head Craig Connolly said. NBS AOA is located at the same site in Meycauayan where Nestle Philippines’ North Distribution Center operates as the company’s largest and most modern distribution center in the country.

"We chose Meycauayan as the NBS site because the area is underdeveloped from a BPO standpoint. This will allow us to recruit local talent, control turnover, and deliver on our commitments," Connolly said.

He said that financial and employee services transactions are being taken over by NBS progressively, starting with Nestle Philippines which completed the transition of its financial services by end of 2007 and its employee services this month. A total transition of all Nestle companies in the Zone is expected by end of 2008.

US firm makes RP global hub for board repair operations

Manila Bulletin

BAGUIO CITY — American-owned LTX Corp. is transforming its Philippine operations as its global hub for board repair of new test modules as the country proved to be cost effective than other locations and to be close to Texas Instruments, its biggest customer that is putting up a billion new manufacturing facility in Clark.

Eric L. Saunders, LTX Corporation-Philippines branch operation manager, said the company has decided to consolidate its board repair centers, mostly on subcontract basis, here by reducing its sourcing in the US and in Singapore.

"The Philippines is our global hub for the board repair for the new X-Series modules worldwide and to serve as local support for our customers here," Saunders said.

Already, Saunders said the company expects to invest a total of $ 4.5 million once the expansion of its facility in Baguio City Economic Zone is completed.

Saunders said that aside from being close to its biggest customer, the Philippines has also proven to be cost effective than other competing countries.

"We have a number of repair vendors at the moment but when compared cost we found it is cost effective to put up an office here and we are very successful in our first module so we are expanding and servicing our customers worldwide from here," he said.

The company expects to save 2.5 percent gross profit margin, which is expected to have a direct impact on its bottom line.

"We are manufacturing the new X-Series in the US but the board repair service will be done in Manila," he said. This would mean an expansion of its existing test module system facility here but on a staggered basis. This year, the company plans to launch eight new test modules in Baguio.

Saunders also said they may establish a facility in Clark once TI puts up its $ 1 billion new manufacturing facility there. TI plans to start construction in Clark in October this year.

"We are expecting TI to buy our X-Series products if they put up a facility in Clark," Saunders said.

"TI Baguio is our top customer so there’s a need for the company to establish in Clark also," he said.

For its Baguio facility, Saunders said that once the expansion is completed the company would have invested a total of $ 4 million, he said.

For the expansion project, the company is investing $ 200,000 for the building construction and another $ 2 million for new capital equipment.

The company had already poured in $ 1.5 million for its existing facility, which is located in a 250 square meter lot in the BECZ. The expansion is on 200 square meter lot in the zone. Currently, it employs 452 people, mostly highly skilled engineers.

In terms of exports, LTX which just opened its BECZ operation in February last year expects to export $ 1 million each quarter. Worldwide the company exports between $ 30 million to $ 50 million per quarter.

"We are not the biggest but definitely the best," he said.

Primarily, LTX designs, manufacturers, markets and services semiconductor test solutions. Semiconductor designers and manufacturers worldwide use semiconductor test equipment to test devices at two different stages during the manufacturing process.

These devices are incorporated in a wide range of products, including mobile internet equipment such as televisions, videogame systems, digital cameras and automobile electronics, among others.

LTX, which is headquartered in Massachusetts, also provide test systems, global applications consulting, repair services and operational support to over 100 customers in more than 15 countries.

Friday, 29 February 2008

President Arroyo formally opens RP's first oceanarium


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo formally inaugurated today the country's first state-of-the-art oceanarium or large marine aquarium that showcases the Philippines' rich diverse marine species.

The President cut the ceremonial ribbon signaling the soft opening of the much-awaited oceanarium of the Manila Ocean Park, along with Sen. Richard Gordon, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim, Philippine Tourism Authority General Manager Robert Dean Barbers and the foreign investors from the China Oceanic Group.

The President then toured the oceanarium, the main attraction of the P1.1-billion Manila Ocean Park located at the back of the Quirino Grandstand at the Rizal Park.

While touring the oceanarium that features thousands of sharks, colorful tropical fishes of various species and invertebrates indigenous to the Philippines, she was briefed by Manila Ocean Park president Lim Chee Yong.

The Philippines forms 70 percent of the global epicenter of marine diversity known as the Coral Triangle.

The marine theme park is being built on a 1.2-hectare lot overlooking the Manila Bay. The project is expected to create some 1,830 new jobs as well as increase business activity in that part of Manila.

The Manila Ocean Park, when completed, will include the already finished oceanarium, a marine discovery park, promenade areas, a board walk and a themed and landscaped pavilion.

A joint undertaking of Singaporean, Malaysian, Chinese and Australian proponents led by China Oceanic Group, the Manila Ocean Park will be a major tourist destination in the country and Southeast Asia, Barbers said.

''It is a people's park along the bay for both local and foreign tourists to enjoy,'' Barbers added.

The theme park will feature a ''jungle trek, “seven seas,” and ''lost Atlantis,” he said.

Sneak Preview of Manila Ocean Park

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Managing foreign policy

By Roberto R. Romulo
The Philippine Star

IT IS a pity that our country has to weather again another political storm at this time when our economy has begun to show some real strength and real capacity to rise from the shallows. Political instability at home, whether actual or perceived, has negatively impacted on our image abroad, which in turn has negatively affected our country’s standing in many international ratings and surveys and kept our foreign investment levels lower than those of other similarly situated developing countries.

One wishes there was a way for us to fiercely fight our political quarrels and intramurals without doing damage to our delicate relationships with the world economy and other nations. But politics does not stop at the water’s edge. We must therefore adjust to the consequences and press on with our other tasks as a nation.

One of those tasks is the management of our foreign policy. Whatever happens at home, we need to keep our eye firmly on the overseas horizon for approaching shoals and storms. There are several that should concern us.

Imperatives for reform

We should, first of all, be concerned with the seeming inability of the world trade talks to gain momentum. The promised dividends in terms of increased developing country market access and increased flows of foreign investment may not arise from the current Doha Development Round of WTO negotiations.

This means that we must press on with our internal reforms that not only improve our domestic social and economic conditions, but which have great potential for enhancing our competitiveness abroad. Regardless of how well we are doing economically, our current record is only good if viewed against our past performance. It’s a “personal best” measure, to use sporting language; it is still not that strong when compared with some of our key foreign competitors.

One of the principal areas for targeted reform must be counter-corruption. We simply cannot attract greater foreign investment and put ODA to the best use if we don’t clean up our act, especially in infrastructure. Our infrastructure development largely depends on funding sourced abroad. It is therefore vulnerable to how we are perceived by foreign decision-makers. In my previous column, I highlighted the need to make our ODA utilization more effective. The ZTE/NBN issue has only underscored the crying need to resolve this problem.

Removal of ICT function from DOTC

Another important reform is placing government functions where they properly belong. The President should immediately restore the structure of the Commission of Information Communications Technology (CICT) as created by EO 269 by returning Telecommunications Office and the National Telecommunications Commission to CICT. ICT focus has been beclouded by the ZTE scandal. The President created CICT and the business community, foreign and domestic, was optimistic that this body would eventually be transformed into a full-fledged department. Sadly, she “devoured her own creation” and gave these most important ICT functions back to DOTC. There probably wouldn’t have been a ZTE mess had a professionally trained leader with proven integrity managed the NBN project.

Multilateral/bilateral relations

The lack of progress in world trade talks also means that we should be concerned with strengthening regional and bilateral avenues for reducing the risks and maximizing the advantages of our continuing global engagement. ASEAN and APEC are our main instruments for regional policy in this regard. Our policy towards both should not be allowed to drift. The leadership we have gained in ASEAN, in particular, should be sustained so that we can actively help in midwifing the emergence of an ASEAN community that can address our national objectives with respect to political security, economic development and socio-cultural well-being in Southeast Asia, which is, after all, our “home region.”

This sense of being rooted in Asia is new to Filipino sensibilities. For much of the postwar era in the 20th century, when we were not being insular or parochial, we were fancying ourselves as part of America and the West. But developments over the last quarter century – highlighted by the rise of East and Southeast Asia, and now India and China – have compelled us to look more closely at our surroundings, and appreciate the real opportunities for engagement here. Creative diplomacy and leadership have never been more needed than now.

RP-US relations

The other major foreign policy front is our single most important bilateral relationship – our historic ties with the United States. Regardless of who wins the US Presidential race, its results will be of fundamental concern to us. Whether the Democrats or the Republicans take the White House this year, we face the risky prospect of worsening US protectionism. The difficulties of the American economy, the dip in American consumer confidence, and economic problems in US-China ties may all be feeding into a new current of protectionist tendencies.

This could give rise to a renewed backlash on global outsourcing which, though relatively quiet at the moment, was not so long ago turned into a cause celebre by some American commentators. The Philippines, of course, is vitally interested in global outsourcing, which is one of the most successful areas in our economy today.

Furthermore, since human rights and extrajudicial killings in the Philippines have already been raised in the US Congress, they could resurface in the Hill with ripple effects on other subject areas, such as trade, labor rights and the environment, which are all favorite Democratic foreign policy agenda topics. The possibility of conditionalities being attached to some or all of these bilateral items, therefore, cannot be entirely discounted.

The point is that we cannot afford to lose our sight on the ball amidst the political histrionics here at home. Our diplomats must be nimble and alert, and fully cognizant of the issues and stakes. Our business leaders must not get distracted in pursuing and developing relationships with partners across the seas. Above all, we must understand developments and trends in the global economy.

Being forewarned is being forearmed. While we may not be able to predict the future, we can certainly prepare for the most probable eventualities. The worst thing that can happen is for us to let our guard down because of the current political infighting, and to surrender what we have painstakingly gained over the last three or four years. That would be the real setback.

NAIA to be upgraded to handle Airbus 380

The Philippine Star

The wide body Airbus 380 will be servicing the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) as soon as the NAIA upgrades its facilities and equipment.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) general manager Alfonso Cusi said yesterday that the NAIA will upgrade its facilities and equipment in preparation for the Airbus 380, the wide body aircraft that can carry 600 to 1,000 passengers to service Manila.

Cusi said they have discussed with Airbus 380 officials the requirements to enable the Airbus 380 to service Manila.

Cusi said they have to upgrade the runway, terminal, ground facilities, including the service equipment that will be needed including the fire and rescue equipment which are needed considering the height of the Airbus.

“We are also preparing the Terminal 3, so we have to make some provision for Airbus 380 to be able to come to Manila,” Cusi said.

“All those equipment must be ready,” Cusi said.

“Its not just the terminal, its not just the ground equipment, it’s not just the runway but its encompassing all the requirements for the servicing of Airbus 380 that also includes the catering.

“We found it wise to meet with them immediately now so we can have the time to prepare for the Airbus 380 servicing Manila, Cusi said.

The airlines that will be using the Airbus 380 are Singapore Airlines, Emirates and China Airlines. – Rudy Santos

Rating agencies should upgrade the Philippines – economist

By Des Ferriols
The Philippine Star (excerpt)

Credit rating agencies have underrated the Philippines and should come around with an upgrade despite the political noise and the looming global slowdown that would stem from the recession in the US.


According to Kwan, the Philippines had long been portrayed and stereotyped as a “basketcase” that credit rating agencies have missed a lot of structural changes that should be given more weight than they are getting.

“The Philippines had gone through so much rough time that I think it deserves more credit,” he said. “I think the country is grossly underrated.”

Kwan said that even the ongoing political noise involving allegations of graft and corruption should not be a major concern in the face of improving macroeconomics.

“There are similar political uncertainties in countries like Taiwan and Thailand that are not really causing much concern,” he said. “It’s the same here.”

Kwan said the market would only start getting seriously worried if the political uncertainties would start affecting economic and especially monetary policies.

Over the policy horizon, Kwan said it was good that the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has started to cut its interest rates early on so the tension or the stress on the real sector has already declined.

The BSP last cut its policy rate by a only 25-basis point amid speculation of a bolder 50-point cut following the 175-point cut in US policy rates, saying that while there were indications of demand-side pressures building up, indicators showed manageable price pressures.

Aside from the easing of monetary policy, Kwan said there have been significant structural developments that should create a more positive ratings environment for the Philippines.

“All in all, we have much better housekeeping, we have done a lot more structural improvements through the years, that would take us to better outcome even if things will slow,” Kwan said.


Military boosting mechanism to curb corruption in system

Darwin T. Wee and Jhoanna Frances S. Valdez
BusinessWorld Online

ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Army chief said on Wednesday that the military is strengthening mechanisms to curb corruption within the system.

The statement was issued after a senior military official in Mindanao was ordered investigated for alleged misuse of funds.

"Reforms in the military are ongoing. It’s not just lip service. We will ensure we will continue to do so regardless of ranks and positions," said Lt. Gen. Alexander B. Yano.

Mr. Yano earlier sent a team of investigators to check claims against Maj. Gen. Jose T. Barbieto, 4th Infantry Division chief based in Cagayan de Oro City.

"We are assuring you that there will no cover-up [or] whitewash. Whatever will be the result will have to be implemented. [Those found guilty] have to face the music," he said.

Mr. Yano said the Armed Forces are strengthening the triad of the Inspector-General, internal audit, and counterintelligence to correct whatever dysfunctions and malpractices.

Mr. Barbieto was a batch mate of Armed Forces chief Gen. Hermogenes C. Esperon, Jr. at the Philippine Military Academy, class of 1974.

It was earlier alleged that Mr. Barbieto solicited money from recruits and enlisted personnel applying for reinstatement into the service. He took a leave of absence and was replaced by his deputy, Brig. Gen. Roland A. Rodriguez.

"We would rather not go into details considering we also have to give him the chance to clear his name, so that he will not be unduly subjected to [trial] of publicity," Mr. Yano said, adding the investigation will wind up in a few days.


24-hr convenience store chain starts expansion to 400 outlets

BusinessWorld Online (excerpt)

THE OPERATOR of the 7-11 chain of 24-hour convenience stores in the Philippines plans to spend P650 million for an expansion to a total of 400 stores by yearend, buoyed by record profits.


Del Monte Pacific profits up, buoyed by RP market

BusinessWorld Online (excerpts)

CAMPOS-LED Del Monte Pacific Ltd. met expectations of better financial results, reporting an 83.41% growth in net income last year at $38.59 million from $21.04 million with the "sterling" performance of its Philippine operations.


Lim opens Manila Ocean Park today

Roy C. Mabasa
Manila Bulletin

Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim will lead the ribbon-cutting ceremony with other Manila City Hall officials when the Manila Ocean Park (MOP), the country’s first state-of-the-art marine habitat complex, opens today at the back of the Quirino Grandstand in Luneta Park in Manila.

After several postponements caused by delays in its construction, the MOP will officially open to the public tomorrow, Saturday, while today’s event is to showcase to the mayor the facilities of the marine park, said to be bigger than Singapore’s Sentosa Oceanarium.

Despite promotions that it would be a landmark development for the country’s tourism industry, the MOP has elicited some criticism, particularly from Manila Councilor Ernesto Rivera who is urging the city government of Manila to compel management of the Manila Ocean Park to divulge the measures they had taken to ensure the safety of the public, when the huge marine habitat complex opens to the public tomorrow.

Electronics investments in the Philippines reach $ 1.4 B

Manila Bulletin

Total electronics investments registered last year reached $ 1.4 billion almost double the $ 747-million investments in 2006 led by the P20-billion expansion of Texas Instruments, the Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. (SEIPI) reported. This year, the industry is expected to hit another more than $ 1 billion in new investments.

SEIPI president Ernie B. Santiago IPI President noted this is the first time the industry hits the over one billion dollars mark after 7 years.

The last time it hit the over $ 1 billion mark was in year 2000 when total investment registration reached $ 1.240 billion. It started to decline in 2001 with $ 720-million investments, $ 270 million in 2002, and $ 270 million in 2003.

This was the period when major investments are all going to China. It started to increase again in 2004 at $ 443 million, $ 776 million in 2005 and $ 747 million in 2006, Santiago said.

"These investments were registered by 83 firms who have considered relocating here and expansion projects of firms with existing base of operations in the country. It is expected that this will create at least 24,212 direct jobs and around 170,000 indirect jobs," Santiago said.

Santiago attributed the increased in investments to the decision of Texas Instruments to invest $ 1 billion in Clark. Last year, TI registered only an initial P18 billion worth of investments.

"The establishment and expansion for a new plant of Texas Instruments in Clark have changed the mindset of most technology companies who are putting money for new investments in Asia. It has become [sic] to be magnet for many semiconductor and electronics companies", Santiago said.

During the past few months of 2007, Santiago noted, a number of companies have been visiting the country taking a second look at the Philippines as a smart choice for doing electronics business.

"These include small, medium and large semiconductor and electronics manufacturing companies, including support and allied industries," he added.

Aside from TI, the other top electronics investors last year include Japanese owned Fujitsu Computer Products Corp. of the Philippines (P13.51 billion); Hitachi Global Storage Technologies Philippines Corp. (P3.632 billion); Terumo (Philippines) Inc. (P2 billion); Fuji Electric Philippines Inc. (P1.907 billion); Panasonic Communications Philippines Coip. (P1.254 billion); TDK Fujitsu Philippines Corp. (P1.063 billion); Ionics EMS, Inc. (P401.272 million); Maxim Philippines Operating Corp. (P348.565 million) and; Transitions Optical Philippines Inc. (P342 million).

Except for Transitions Optical, which is an expansion project, the top nine investors are all new projects registered with the Philippine Economci Zone Authority.(BCM)

Production from Galoc field to raise Philippines crude oil output by 70%

Manila Bulletin

SINGAPORE, Feb. 28 (Reuters) — First oil from the 17,500 barrels per day (bpd) Galoc field will start flowing in April, slightly behind plans for a first quarter commercial production launch, an executive with Nido Petroleum Ltd. said on Thursday.

The new crude will raise the Philippines’ domestic crude oil output by some 70 percent.

"Wells are now ready for production services in April 2008," Jon Pattillo, head of exploration for Australia’s Nido Petroleum, which holds a 22.279 percent in the development, told an industry conference in Singapore.

The light sweet crude, with a 35 American Petroleum Institute (API) gravity will be marketed by European trader Vitol, a partner in the field, said a company official last year.

The Galoc Production Company (GPC), which is the operator of Service Contract 14C, has announced start of drilling operations at Galoc wells in offshore northwest Palawan.

It was indicated that work on the Galoc 4 well has been finalized with the installation of the subsea tree cap and the testing of the subsea tree systems.

As of February 27, GPC further advised that the drill ship "Energy Searcher" has been pulling anchors in preparation for its 8-day mobilization.

"The rig will be released from service to the project when it arrives and unloads the Galoc equipment and materials in Singapore," a disclosure by Nido Petroleum Ltd. at the Australian Stock Exchange has stated.

Nido Petroleum holds 22.28-percent interest in the Galoc prospect; while GPC holds the project’s operatorship at 58.29-percent stake.

On February 26, the Galoc 4 horizontal production well was successfully cleaned up and flowed to surface.

The well test on Galoc 4, along with the earlier one undertaken on Galoc 3, confirmed that the Galoc production wells will flow "at much greater rates than necessary for a successful development," according to Nido.

The established maximum flow rate at Galoc 3 was placed at 5,397 barrels of oil per day (bopd); while Galoc 4 has a maximum flow of 6,465 bopd. It is apparent though that GPC and Nido Petroleum have differing figures on their forecast recoverable reserves from the Galoc field. GPC is looking at 10 million barrels, while Nido set it at a much higher volume of up to 45 million barrels.

At present, Nido noted that the maximum flowing potential of both wells have been constrained by Energy Searcher’s facilities, but once production commences at the floating production storage and offtake (FPSO) vessel, the flow rates could be higher.

Nido’s preliminary inhouse estimates of well productivity under flow conditions to the FPSO suggest the maximum potential of the two wells exceeding the 25,000 bopd capacity of the FPSO, the Australian firm has noted.

Given the extent of analysis yet to be done to determine the actual production potential of the Galoc wells, Nido disclosed that it commissioned Gaffney Cline and Associates (GCA) to undertake a revision to its Galoc reserves certification based on all the new information obtained during the development drilling and completions program. (MMV)

Thursday, 28 February 2008

Status of the PNR Stations as of 02-28-2008

By Wheel of Steel


  1. Tayuman - Under heavy rehabilitation
  2. Blumentritt - Construction of the Station by March
  3. Laon-Laan - Might be posponed due to the remaining elite squatters. Once cleared, they will replaced the Station with the new one.
  4. Espanya - Repair of the Station soon
  5. Sta. Mesa - Repair of the Station soon plus parking area.
  6. Pandacan Bridge - Currently under rehabilitation
  7. Pandacan - Construction of New Station underway
  8. Paco - Construction of New Station underway
  9. Vito Cruz - Repair of the Station underway
  10. Buendia - Repair of the station underway
  11. Pasay - Repair of the station underway
  12. Magallanes - Minor repair of the station soon
  13. Bicutan - Construction of the New Station soon..

  1. Caloocan to Blumentritt - Relocation underway...
  2. Bicutan to Calamba - Relocation is underway...

Investors swarm $2b worth of warrant bonds

By Lawrence Agcaoili
The Manila Standard

The Philippines successfully issued paired warrants covering $2 billion worth of US dollar and Euro-denominated bonds that could be exchanged with peso-denominated treasury bonds in case of a default.

Finance Undersecretary Roberto Tan said the government issued two million paired warrants at $7.50 per warrant to holders of US dollar and Euro-denominated bonds with an aggregate size of $2 billion.

Tan said one warrant conferred rights to exchange $1,000 in principal amount of a series of US dollar or Euro bonds due 2017 with 10-year T-bonds with a yield of 5.875 percent due 2018 in case of a credit default.

“We are heartened by the strong and broad support for this innovative issue. Investors bought into the benefits of the warrants—especially their ability to make it more attractive to invest in the Republic’s debt given the country’s improving credit fundamentals,” he said.

Credit Suisse, the sole arranger of the issuance of warrants, said the Philippines received bids exceeding the previously announced maximum issue amount of $2 billion.

The allocation of large bidders representing more than 20 percent of the total bids were scaled back to 20 percent of the final allocation. All the orders were successively reduced by approximately 14.2 percent on a pro-rata basis.

Tan said the issue was part of the government’s general liability management program and not a revenue-raising activity.

The warrants, which will make Philippine sovereign bonds more attractive to investors, carry zero risk weighting for capital adequacy purposes just like peso-denominated T-bonds.

The new Basel II rules require banks to match their holdings of risky instruments such as sovereign bonds that carry 100 percent risk weighting with the required capital to avoid stiff penalties.

Monitoring infrastructure projects

Cerge M. Remonde
The Manila Bulletin

We are pleased with the high level of public interest in government infrastructure projects, and their close monitoring of the implementation.

At the Pro-Performance Steering Committee (PSC), we have the government’s implementing agencies working closely with our monitoring partners – media, business, NGOs, the church, academe, youth – towards the seamless implementation of complex infrastructure projects. These major projects, when fully operational, will change the economic and social landscape in the countryside and in our major logistics hubs.

This level of interest should lead to a broader monitoring base, broad as it already is, to include every Juan dela Cruz with a phone camera and MMS.

Monitoring as presently structured goes back to EO 376 issued by President Corazon C. Aquino in 1989. At that time, it was known as the Regional Project Monitoring and Evaluation System (RPMES) whose objectives were primarily to expedite project implementation and devolve project facilitation, problem-solving, monitoring and evaluation to the regions and subregional levels, particularly to the provincial and municipal levels. NEDA or the National Economic Development Authority was at the core of this system, as the Secretariat of the Project Monitoring Committee.

More specifically, the RPMES was to provide up-to-date information on the overall status of project implementation for planning and budget allocation, to include employment generation of the various programs/projects expressed in man-days; identify problems/issues which impede project implementation for remedial actions at the regional and sub-regional levels and to elevate unresolved issues and problems at these levels to the Cabinet or the President for resolution and final action; integrate all monitoring activities in the region; assess and ascertain whether projects implemented are supportive of regional development goals and plans as well as national development thrusts and priorities; provide information on lessons learned in project implementation for planning and implementation of future similar project; provide a venue for greater participation of non-government organizations (NGOs) in the development planning process.

These objectives are carried through to the present monitoring system, with some significant enhancements.

The then RPMES, like the current PSC, monitored and evaluated all development projects (economic, social, infrastructure and other development projects) at the regional, provincial, city and municipal levels. These development projects were to be funded from national government and locally-generated resources.

Under President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, the monitoring system was restructured and reengineered under EO 564, even while project implementation was bolstered under EO 561, with the Formation of the Super Regions and the designation of the Superregional Development Champions.

In order to maintain focus on infra development, the country was divided into the following super regions: a) Northern Luzon Agribusiness Quadrangle (NLAQ), composed of Regions I, II, Cordillera Administrative Region (CAR), and the northern part of the provinces of Aurora (north of Baler), Tarlac (north of Tarlac City), Nueva Ecija (north of Cabanatuan City), and Zambales (north of Subic); b) Luzon Urban Beltway, composed of the National Capital Region (NCR), Region IV-A, the provinces of Bulacan, Bataan, Pampanga, Mindoro, Marinduque, and the southern parts of the provinces of Tarlac, Zambales, Aurora and Nueva Ecija; c) Central Philippines, composed of Regions V, VI, VII, and VIII, and the provinces of Romblon, Palawan, and Camiguin, and the Island of Siargao; d) Agribusiness Mindanao, composed of Regions IX, X except Camigiun, XI, XII, Caraga except Siargao, and the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao; and e) Cyber Corridor, which traverses the above super regions from Baguio to Cebu to Davao.

Under EO 561, the super regions have development themes: NLAQ for Agribusiness; the Luzon Urban Beltway for a Globally competitive industrial and service center; the Central Philippines for Tourism; Mindanao for Agribusiness; and the Cyber Corridor as the Information and communication technology and knowledge economy.

Each "super" region has a designated Development Champion whose mandate is to serve as catalyst for development and as prime advocate of the strategic development theme in his area. He ensures the implementation of the priority programs and projects identified in the 2006 State-of-the-Nation Address and the MTPIP, in close collaboration with the concerned local government units, national agencies and other partners in development, and undertake the necessary interventions to help ensure that these are completed on time and at a lowest cost to government. They also work out operational policies and remedial actions to ensure that the priority programs and projects are completed on schedule and at the lowest cost to government.

Anyone, and I mean everyone, who is genuinely concerned over cost and implementation of major or all government projects, we invite them to be our citizen monitors. Your participation in PPS is your assurance that all projects are done right and proper.

Arctic Garden of Eden: RP seeds in Box No. 1

The Philippine Star

Norway’s “doomsday” seed vault, built to protect millions of food crops from being wiped out in wars or natural disasters, had European leaders thinking biblically.

“This is a frozen Garden of Eden,” European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said at the opening ceremony Tuesday, as guests carried the first seed deposits into the icy vault, deep within an Arctic mountain in the remote Norwegian archipelago of Svalbard.

“It is the Noah’s Ark for securing biological diversity for future generations,” said Norway’s Prime Minister Jens Stoltenberg.

Svalbard Global Seed Vault, just 1,000 kilometers (620 miles) from the North Pole, is designed to house as many as 4.5 million crop seeds from all over the world, including deposits from the International Rice Research Institute (IRRI) in the Philippines and the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Centre (CIMMYT) in Mexico.

It is built to withstand global warning, earthquakes and even nuclear strikes.

It will serve as a backup for the other 1,400 seed banks around the world, in case their deposits are hit by disasters, economic collapse, war or climate change.

For example, war wiped out seed banks in Iraq and Afghanistan, and one in the Philippines was flooded in the wake of a typhoon in 2006.

“This is unique. This is very visionary. It is a precaution for the future,” said 2004 Nobel Peace Prize laureate Wangari Maathai of Kenya. She is a board member of Crop Diversity Trust, which collects the seeds for the Svalbard vault.

The trust was founded by the UN Food and Agriculture Organization and Biodiversity International, a Rome-based research group.

“It is very important for Africa to store seeds here because anything can happen to our national seed banks,” Maathai said, bundled up against the cold.

Stoltenberg and Maathai made the first deposit in the vault - a box of rice seeds from IRRI.

IRRI, with headquarters and facilities at campus of the University of the Philippines in Los Baños, Laguna, developed the miracle rice, a hybrid that doubled yields in the 1960s.

The seeds for the global vaults are packed in silvery foil containers - as many as 500 in each sample - and placed on blue and orange metal shelves inside three 10-by-27-meter (32-by-88-foot) storage chambers. Each vault can hold 1.5 million sample packages of all types of crop seeds, from carrots to wheat.

Other guests carried dozens of other boxes through the steel and concrete-lined tunnel leading to the vaults.

The Svalbard facility, built by the Norwegian government for US$9.1 million (euro6.1 million), will operate like a bank box. Norway owns the bank, but the countries depositing seeds own them, and can use them as needed free of charge.

The vault’s daily operations will be overseen by NorGen, a gene bank in an old coal mine on Svalbard that is jointly owned by the Nordic countries.

Svalbard is cold, but giant air conditioning units have chilled the vault further to -18 C (-0.4 F), a temperature at which experts say many seeds could last for 1,000 years.

After the ceremony, Stoltenberg and Barroso flew by helicopter on a three-hour tour of the remote region. They landed on a vast glacier and stopped at the research stations of Ny-Aalesund, some 100 kilometers (60 miles) northwest of Longyearbyen, the main settlement on Svalbard.

Stoltenberg told reporters that he wanted Barroso to see the impact of climate change first hand, in the form of melting ice.

“We see it, and the potential is dramatic, because if ice is starting to melt on land in Greenland and also on Antarctica, then we can see very big increases in sea levels,” he said.

Barroso said such melting glaciers show that “we see the need to act ... to avoid real challenges to balance in the life of our planet.”

Fisheries yield in Q1 may grow 8-10%

By Jennifer A. Ng
The Business Mirror

THE Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) is confident that it will be able to achieve its target of increasing fisheries production by percent 8 percent to 10 percent for the first quarter of 2008.

In an interview, BFAR Director Malcolm I. Sarmiento said the main growth driver for the sector will be aquaculture.

Sarmiento also said commercial and municipal fishing will also prop up production since its peak season starts in March.

“The target [of the sector] is to produce more than 1 million metric tons per quarter since the goal is to produce more than 5 MMT for the whole of 2008,” said the BFAR chief.

Sarmiento also expressed confidence that despite the La Niña weather phenomenon, the aquaculture sector will continue to contribute to the growth of the sector this year.

“Heavy rains may affect aquaculture, especially if freshwater ponds will overflow. But there are preventive measures, like putting nets to prevent the fish from escaping,” said Sarmiento.

Barring any other severe weather disturbance like severe storms, the BFAR chief said the Philippine fisheries sector could post a growth of 8 percent to 10 percent.

In recent years, the fisheries sector has been the major driver of farm growth. In 2007 the sector propelled the farm production to grow by 4.68 percent.

Last year the fisheries sector posted a production gain of 6.81 percent, lower than its targeted 8-percent to 10-percent growth.

House takes on different tack: Passage of quality fiscal, economic-reform bills

By Fernan Marasigan
The Business Mirror

INSTEAD of joining the political fray with the Senate at the center of it, the House leadership will instead focus on the passage of “quality” fiscal and economic-reform measures “to sustain growth and spread the benefits to the people,” Speaker Prospero Nograles said Wednesday.

“There’s no such thing as half-cooked laws. Sustaining our growth momentum means, among others, fiscal discipline and good governance. The beneficiaries of reform and the greatest assets of a nation must always be its people,” said Nograles.

Nograles said politics should be an instrument “to build and not destroy our nation’s democratic institutions.”

Nograles said even as the Senate is in the midst of its controversial and sensitive probe into the national broadband network, the House should also exert all efforts to put in place the needed economic legislations promoting reforms and transparency in governance.

“Finger-pointing but doing nothing is worse,” Nograles said.

He said so far the House is prioritizing economic and fiscal measures now in the legislative pipeline.

Now undergoing extensive committee deliberations are the following priority bills identified by the Legislative-Executive Development Advisory Council (Ledac) and adopted by the new House leadership:

  1. Rationalization of fiscal and incentives—under House Bills 1757, 2278, 2530 and 2712, now being fine-tuned by a technical working group of the Committee on Ways and Means, chaired by Antique Rep. Exequiel Javier;
  2. Credit Information System—under HBs 118, 1731 and 2443. The final version of which has been approved in principle under TWG of the Committee on Banks and Financial Intermediaries, chaired by Manila Rep. Jaime Lopez;
  3. Personal Equity Retirement Account—under HBs 94, 1685, 1730 and 2875, approved by the Committee on Economic Affairs, chaired by Cebu Rep. Ramon “Red” Durano;
  4. Epira Amendments—under HB 3124, now on second reading consideration in plenary (period of sponsorship), sponsored by the Committee on Energy, chaired by Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Macapagal-Arroyo;
  5. Simplified Net Income Taxation System—under HB 1809, under extensive committee debate by the Committee on Ways and Means;
  6. Renewable Energy—under HBs 523, 1958, 2027, 2316, 184, 950, 1000, 1782, 1935, 1800, 3165, 3313, 3193 and 3376. The expected consolidated bill for plenary consideration is now being fine-tuned under TWG discussion of the Committee on Energy.

Markets shrug off political woes

By Des Ferriols
Full report at The Philippine Star

Financial markets shrugged off yesterday the rising political noise as the peso rallied to its highest level in more than eight years due to strong inflows from investments and overseas Filipinos.

The peso gained by 14 centavos to close at its highest level in more than eight years of 40.330 from Tuesday’s finish of 40.470 to a dollar despite lingering concerns ahead of a planned protest on Friday to call for the ouster of President Arroyo over allegations of corruption.

“The exchange rate is being driven by market movements,” Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said. “Today we saw strong inflows from remittances and portfolio investments.”

Yesterday’s performance of the peso was supported mainly by portfolio investments which also led to the rise in stock prices at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) where the index rose 25.46 points with total trades amounting to P2.8 billion.

Since the economy is expected to sustain some level of strength, Tetangco said the market should no longer be surprised to see a strong peso this year.

According to Tetangco, the country’s economic fundamentals are stillpulling in both direct and portfolio investments and this would boost foreign exchange inflows already made robust by strong remittances from overseas Filipinos.

He also said the BSP would only intervene in the market to keep volatility down but otherwise, the peso would be left alone to seek its own market-determined level.

Political noise, notwithstanding, Tetangco said investors are largely aware that the country’s fundamentals are steady enough to be less vulnerable to uncertainty than it used to be in the past.

“We reiterate that our policy is not for a strong peso but for a market-determined exchange rate,” Tetangco said.

However, analysts said market sentiments point towards a globally weak dollar, especially after the bleak economic data that indicated rising inflation in the US, huge declines in housing sales and a sharp increase in foreclosures in the housing market.

“We should see more pressure on the US dollar should the political situation remain stable,” analysts said. “But a crisis on the political front may see the dollar stronger in the days ahead.’’

Funding for farm sector extended as GMA inks law

BusinessWorld Online

A BILL EXTENDING the Agricultural Competitiveness Enhancement Fund (ACEF) to 2015 was signed into law yesterday by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The measure, one of the priority bills listed by the Legislative Executive Development Advisory Council, was signed by the Chief Executive in Davao City two months after it was ratified by Congress.

"ACEF is a key to peace progress and countryside development ... ACEF seeks to help our agriculture sector. It is a means to spread development away from an inequitable concentration in Metro Manila." Mrs. Arroyo told a gathering of the League of Municipalities of the Philippines.

The ACEF, created in 1996 under Republic Act 8178, is funded by duties collected from the importation of agricultural products under the minimum access volume mechanism.

Its funding scope includes irrigation, farm-to-market roads, post-harvest equipment and facilities, lending to farmers and agricultural organizations without interest and collateral, research and development, marketing infrastructure, provision of market information, retraining, extension services, and other forms of assistance.

The fund was originally set to expire in 2005 but was extended to December 2007. Legislators, in mandating the additional eight-year extension, cited the need to ensure the availability of funds for the agriculture and fishery sectors.

Once the utilization period lapses, the ACEF’s remaining balance is to revert to the National Treasury.

Agriculture Sec. Arthur C. Yap has said that the farm sector would benefit from the P7.4 billion in ACEF revenues that would otherwise have reverted to the Treasury had Congress failed approve the extension.

Lawmakers expect ACEF disbursements to hit P15 billion by 2015, of which 70% will go to post-harvest facilities, logistics, transport, and production; 15% to research and development; and 10% for farmer scholarships in the fields of agriculture, forestry, fisheries, veterinary medicine and other related courses.

Rolando T. Dy, Executive Director of the Center for Food and Agribusiness of the University of Asia and the Pacific, said the government should emphasize the use of the ACEF to boost research and development.

"I would like to see better allocation of money. There should be allocation for research and development ..." he said.

Mr. Dy added that industry associations should have a hand in selecting which projects would be funded.

"If players of a particular industry decide which projects would be funded, these [would] have passed a preliminary screening," he said.

Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Philippines seeks to become back office superpower by 2010

MANILA (AFP) — The Philippines aims to make the most of the economic slowdown in the US by capturing at least 10 percent of the world's back office work within the next two years, industry leaders say.

They say the problems in the US and the possibility of recession could be a bonus as more companies based there attempt to save money by outsourcing their operations to the Philippines.

Call centres and back-office operations, such as accounting and financial processes, medical and legal transcription, engineering services and software writing, is one of the fastest growing businesses in the Philippines.

The Business Process Association of the Philippines (BPAP) expects the sector to be posting revenues of 13 billion dollars and employ more than one million people by 2010.

Last year the industry posted revenues of 4.875 billion dollars, up nearly 50 percent from the previous year, while employment rose 27 percent to 300,000.

BPAP president Oscar Sanez told AFP the 2010 target was feasible saying the industry has been growing by more than 40 percent annually in the past three years.

"If there is a recession in the US, you will see companies trying to cut costs with more outsourcing," Trade and Industry Secretary Peter Favila told AFP.

Julian Ramos Garcia, president of E Scribir Inc., a provider of various outsourcing services said that "with a recession looming in the US, we are getting a lot more calls because people want to cut their costs."

"We are seeing the tip of the iceberg. There are many more services which are being outsourced to the Philippines," said BPAP's Sanez.

Francis Ong, managing director of software giant Oracle, says his company has been in the Philippines for 18 years and now has its tax and global utilities unit based in this country.

While the Philippines does not pretend to be a serious challenger to outsourcing world leader India, it still sees room to grow due to its English-speaking and educated workforce.

In the Philippines, about half of the outsourcing industry consists of call centres, where agents mainly make and receive telephone calls, but the country is rapidly moving up to more complex services such as medical transcriptions and engineering services.

The engineering services sector grew 124 percent to post 152 million dollars in revenues last year while the software writing sector grew 56 percent to 423 million dollars, the BPAP said.

Gabby Dizon, president of the newly formed Game Developers Association of the Philippines, says his sector of the industry may be young, "but it's growing really fast."

"A lot of companies have growth of 100 percent per year," says Dizon.

One of the biggest problems facing the sector is the growing shortage of qualified people.

Although thousands of Filipinos are applying for outsourcing jobs in Manila, managers say less than four out of a hundred have the minimum standards needed to work in the sector.

One solution has been to expand the industry outside the saturated capital to areas where costs are lower and labour is more plentiful.

Ray Anthony Roxas Chua, head of the government's Commission on Information and Communications Technology, said they have already identified 15 "next wave cities" for expansion ranging from Dumaguete in the central Philippines to Cagayan de Oro in the south.

All these areas have a wide talent pool of college and high school graduates and professionals, he adds.

PGMA graces awarding of 3 top DSWD female livelihood project managers in Davao


MATINA, Davao City – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo graced today an Assembly of Women here where three outstanding women livelihood managers from the hinterland areas of the Davao provinces were given awards for their success in managing local projects funded by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD).

With the President in the "Panagtigum sa mga Kababayenhan" (Assembly of Women) at the Tulip Grand Plaza here were several officials, including Mindanao Super Region champion Jesus Dureza and DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral who delivered the opening remarks for the assembly which gathered some 500 women DSWD beneficiaries in a local restaurant along the MacArthur Highway in Barangay Matina.

The President -- who stayed for an entire lunch hour with Davao's outstanding women livelihood project beneficiaries -- was regaled with a powerpoint presentation of women’s milestones from the viewpoint of the DSWD, before plaques of recognition were awarded to three outstanding beneficiaries, namely: Teresita Luna, Barangay Pampanga, Buhangin, Davao City (Best Tindahan Natin); Magdum Self-Employment Assistance – Kaunlaran (SEA-K) of Magdum, Tagum City, represented by Angelina Berondo (Best SEA-K); and Marilyn Pino of Sto. Nino Day Care Center, Talaingod, Davao del Norte (Best Day Care Worker).

Luna set up the successful Tindahan Natin only two years ago, and the said voluntary venture has not only been giving her family additional income but also serves some 300 families in the neighborhood. Inspired by her vending venture, Luna has since branched out to food processing, with smoked/deboned bangus, chorizo and tomato jelly among her favorite produce.

On the other hand, Pino, an English major, has been working as a day care center worker for the past seven years. Though receiving a measly honorarium of only P3,000 a month, Pino successfully underwent accreditation assessment for the Early Childhood Care and Development program which she is implementing for her barangay.

Talaingod town is a recipient of the Food for School Program, with the Sto. Nino Day Care Center as one of the recipients. Here, Pino holds two sessions a day just to accommodate 90 children enrolled in the day care center.

In their testimonials, Teresa Reambonanza, treasurer of the Magdum SEA-K Association, reported to the President that the women’s venture discouraged their community-mates from resorting to loan sharks for their emergency financial needs, and that from their operations, they have so far fully-paid hundred-square-meter lots for their livelihood projects.

For her part, outstanding Tindahan Natin operator Luna said her venture ensured three square meals for her family, aside from bringing “murang bigas” to her barangay-mates.

“Mahal na Pangulo, huwag po kayong magsawa sa pagtulong niyo sa mga mahihirap, lalo na sa kababaihan. Aasahan po namin na nandiyan kayo palagi habang pinapalago namin ang kabuhayan namin,” Luna added.

PGMA presides over start of construction of P4.2-M school building for Muslim children


DAVAO CITY – The entire population of Barangay Sirawan in Toril District here practically turned out for the brief visit to the Sirawan Elementary School of President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo this morning.

The President motored to this seaside district to lower the time capsule that kicked off the construction of a much-needed school building for Muslim pupils belonging to the Kalagan tribe. She is the first Philippine Chief Executive to reach this “far, far” area of Davao City.

The President’s 20-vehicle convoy – with two helicopters hovering by along both sides of the highway -- took some 30 minutes to reach the outskirts area some 20 kilometers to the south of the city proper.

The Muslim elementary pupils, numbering 403, were joined by the high school students and their parents and community in converging at the school grounds where a lively program of Muslim dances was prepared for the visiting Chief Executive.

The President proceeded to the site after her arrival at past 10 a.m. at the Davao International Airport where she was met by Davao City OIC Mayor Myrna Dalodo-Ortiz, Davao City Reps. Vincent Garcia (2nd District) and Isidro Ungab (3nd District), Philippine National Police regional director Chief Supt. Andres Caro III, AFP East Mindanao Command’s Lt. Gen. Cardozo Luna and other Mindanao officials.

At the schoolsite some 20 kilometers from the airport via the Davao Diversion Road, President Arroyo was cheered by the Muslim schoolchildren who gifted her with a Muslim “sablay” handed to her by a Grade I pupil.

Female students of the Sirawan High School came dressed as Muslim princesses to act as the President’s “ladies-in-waiting.”

The President lowered the time capsule for the two-storey, four-classroom school building of the Sirawan Beach Elementary School by slicing off with the Muslim sword "kris" the colorful twisted bandana that served as the rope tied to the golden time capsule.

The project that costs P4.2 million will benefit the 403 Grade I to Grade VI pupils, 99 percent of whom are Muslims.

The school -- which is some one-and-a-half kilometers away from the national highway -- has 10 teachers, seven of them Muslims.

The 403 pupils – who are distributed at one to two sections per grade level – are presently holding classes in six “standard” classrooms, three Parents-Teachers Association (PTA) rooms; and one makeshift/tent covered classroom.

With the President in the groundbreaking ceremonies were local and Department of Education (DepEd) officials who briefed her about the school and other projects of the education department in the area.

In gratitude for the quick response of the national government to their school’s urgent need for an additional school building, the pupils performed a ritual dance of thanksgiving for President Arroyo.

Filipino consumers remain upbeat


FILIPINO CONSUMERS continued to be optimistic in the second half of 2007, bucking sentiment elsewhere that was weighed down by concerns over a global economic downturn, a semiannual survey released yesterday by The Nielsen Company (Philippines), Inc. showed.

The Nielsen Consumer Confidence Index, which gauges how shoppers feel about the economy as well as their expenditure and saving patterns in the next 12 months, gained five index points to 108 in the second semester of last year from 103 in the first half.

This was better than the firm’s global review of more than 40 other markets, which showed the index remaining unchanged at 94 points. North America, which many analysts believe is on the verge of a recession, posted a decline in consumer sentiment, according to Nielsen.

Nielsen managing director Benedicto L. Cid, Jr. noted that sentiment among Filipino shoppers has been bullish for the past two years, with the latest surge in the index mainly driven by expectations of better job opportunities this year.

"The good news is that we're one of the big gainers this time [among 48 markets]. This is a good sign that confidence is improving compared to before," he told a press briefing.

The Nielsen study, conducted online from October 24 to November 7 last year, surveyed 500 Filipinos in the upper and middle income bracket aged 18 years and up. This segment represents that portion of the Filipino population that has the option to save or spend their money and thus, drive the economy.

The margin for error was plus or minus 4.4%.

In the Asia-Pacific region, Filipino consumers were the most optimistic about job prospects, with 65% of those surveyed (a six percentage-point gain over previous semester) rating this indicator as "excellent or good", the survey showed.

Mr. Cid surmised that the bullishness about job opportunities was supported by strong economic growth and improving unemployment numbers.

Latest government data showed unemployment at its lowest in over three decades at 6.3% in October, or a total of 2.25 million Filipinos without jobs that month.

"The economy is performing well. We’re seeing that statistics that unemployment rate is dropping," Mr. Cid said in an interview.

"The call center [industry] is factored in the optimism about job prospects," he added, noting that growth prospects in this sector remained favorable despite threats of a slowing US economy.

The survey also showed that Filipinos’ optimism about the state of their personal finances and buying appetite remained on the uptrend.

These two indicators, however, "were not statistically higher, therefore the thing that drives consumer confidence is the expectation of better job prospects," Mr. Cid said.

A notable finding was that Filipinos were increasingly putting money into mutual funds and stocks, with the Philippines ranking third among 48 countries in terms of propensity to save.

The population that said they would invest their spare cash in these two instruments grew to 20% in the second half of 2007 from only 16% during the same period a year ago.

Contrary to their peers in Asia and in other parts of the globe, which cited the economy as the "biggest concern", Filipino consumers were found to be less and less worried about the Philippines’ economic health, the survey showed.

"The economy is overwhelmingly the biggest concern globally and regionally, followed by health and job security. In the Philippines, as the economy has improved, concerns on economy and political stability have dropped," Mr. Cid said.

Thirty-nine percent of those surveyed cited the economy as their biggest concern, sliding significantly from the 47% posted in the first half of 2007.

Mr. Cid, however, was quick to point out that the favorable outlook did not take into account events that occurred after the survey was conducted, including the siege of The Peninsula Manila in November last year.

Health and job security, meanwhile, are increasingly becoming a worry among Filipino consumers, according to the survey.

Filipinos who said that health was their biggest concern rose to 42% in the second semester from 33% and 23% in the previous quarter and the second half of 2006, respectively. Forty-seven percent of the consumers surveyed, meanwhile, cited job security as a main worry, compared to 45% in the past two semesters.

"Even if job prospects are good and that more jobs are available, people would still say they still have to work hard otherwise they lose the job," Mr. Cid said, referring to Filipino’s lingering concerns over keeping their jobs.

One-third of Filipino consumers, meanwhile, expect a global recession in the next 12 months. The Philippines was in the middle of the Asia Pacific pack (or 14 countries) in the degree of concern over this phenomenon.

Unemployment and political instability were the main worries among Filipino consumers in the event of a local economic downturn, according to the survey.

"Globally, inflation is the greatest concern. In the Philippines, it’s different. It’s unemployment and political instability," Mr. Cid said.

The Philippines had an average of 70% for unemployment fears against a global average of 56%. Inflation worries were less prevalent among Filipinos, at only 43% against a global average of 56%.

Fears of political instability in the local arena, meanwhile, posted an average of 50% compared to a global tally of 28%.

Mr. Cid noted that based in Nielsen’s consumer confidence readings in the past five semesters, a higher confidence index does not necessarily translate to better economic growth numbers.

"What this suggests is that [confidence] is driven by something else other than the economy. The other factor is the certain amount of political stability," he said.

"People are happy with how the economy is going. [But] people look forward to the signs of political instability," Mr. Cid added.

"If the economy goes bad, this [political instability] is what they are afraid of. If you read between the lines, people remember and they’re worried unlike in other economies in the region where concerns for political instability are not as high," Mr. Cid said.

FTI posts 500% increase in 2007 income of P244 million


The Food Terminal Inc. (FTI) which owns and supervises one of the largest agro-industrial and commercial estates in Metro Manila registered a net income of P244 million in 2007, posting an almost 500-percent increase from the P49 million realized in 2006.

This was announced by FTI president Maria Theresa Acosta-Pinto during the corporation’s first board meeting for 2008 held early this year.

Pinto attributed this surge in revenue to the upbeat trend in the lease of the estate’s prime industrial and commercial lots and building spaces in Taguig City. The 24-hectare area houses more than 300 light-to medium-scale company locators with short-to-long term leases. The companies are engaged in various lines of production and services ranging from electronics, food, and warehousing to garments and transport.

In the last 34 years, the FTI has been home to semiconductor companies, such as PSI Technologies, Temic Semiconductor and Team Pacific. Also found in the agro section of estate are the country’s major mango exporters, Hi-Las and Diamond Star.

Pinto also noted that the previous year’s operation was marked by a significant entry of companies in call center operations and in business process outsourcing. “The complex’s growing popularity for BPO is largely due to the estate’s strategic location and very affordable rental rates,” Pinto explained.

Just recently, Makati Skyline ISS Philippines, a company into airline catering, cleaning, property services, office support, and in the extension of other outsourcing services, expanded its country operations with formal establishment of an FTI hub.

The FTI is registered with the Philippines Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) which extends to qualified locators various incentives, such as income tax holidays, duty tax exemptions on some imported materials and equipment, among others.

The FTI is one of the major government assets in the privatization list for 2008.

Yap to sign $50-M invest pact with Dubai fruit company

By Marianne V. Go
The Philippine Star

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap is set to sign today a $50-million investment agreement with the Dubai-based Fresh Fruits Co. to develop, a 3,000-hectare plantation of Cavendish banana and sweet pineapple in Talakag, Bukidnon in Mindanao.

Yap is in Dubai to sign a number of cooperation agreements with the newly reorganized Ministry of Environment and Water to finance a number of Philippine projects on agriculture and fisheries.

Yap is also attending the Dubai Gulf Food Exhibition where the Philippine delegation is hoping to sell a variety of fresh, dried and processed fruit and food products. He is also hoping to invite more investors from Dubai to invest in various agricultural projects in the Philippines.

One particular project that the Department of Agriculture is hoping to secure funding for is a planned P2-billion halal hub in Davao which will help the country secure a bigger slice of the estimated more than $200-billion global halal market.

According to Agriculture Undersecretary Clayton Olalia, Yap is hoping to secure a concessional grant from Dubai to finance the first phase of the planned halal hub to be located in Marilog, Davao City.

The site being eyed, Olalia said, is a 450-hectare property of the Department of Agriculture.

The proposed halal hub is envisioned to have a modern slaughterhouse, a halal poultry dressing plant, cold storage facilities, a mosque and administrative facilities, and the necessary road infrastructure and utilities.

The development of the first phase of the planned halal hub, Olalia said, is estimated to cost around $53 million or roughly a little over P2 billion.

Olalia said the halal hub, would hopefully attract all related businesses to offer a complete one-stop area.

The halal hub is part of the Philippines’s participation in the BIMP-EAGA (Brunei, Indonesia, Malaysia, Phillippines-East Asia Group Agreement) wherein the Philippines has been designated to take the lead role in halal poultry processing because of the Philippines’ continued bird flu-free status.

The Philippines in perspective

By Alison Grace G. Bayle

Editor’s note: Bayle, a 17-year-old high school graduate of St. Theresa’s College Q.C., won second prize in Category B—for contestants 16 to 20 years old—of the 2007 National Essay-Writing Competition of The Manila Times and The Manila Times College. Contestants were asked, “What would it take for the Philippines to be a developed country?” The first place winner of Category B was published on Sunday.

WHEN you are sixteen, matters of national importance begin to be come clearer to you, much more than when you were ten or twelve. You are in the uncertain age, when you may be old enough to understand “those” things, but still too young to do something great about them.

It’s easy to say, “I will rally in Mendiola and fight for economic stability,” but reality requires more than words. Being sixteen allows a more grounded opinion on things, unlike the overly rebellious notions of younger teens.

For this, I say being sixteen is not sweet; rather, it is bittersweet. To be caught in the fine line between childhood and adulthood gives you a totally different outlook towards national concerns; a perspective as observant and zealous as that of a child’s, and as justifiable and collected as that of an adult’s. And with all that’s happening in our country today, I say that the people of the Philippines are in dire need of a fresh, new perspective.

“The key to solving problems is to look at it from different angles,” said my Trigonometry teacher when we were analyzing a figure of a box which had a missing side. Back then, the statement came to me as nothing more than a mathematical tactic in problem solving. It didn’t make much of an impact on me until we tried it on the box. Looking at it from a top view perspective, we figured out a way to solve for the missing side. It was striking to say the least—that using a different perspective opened up a new strategy to the problem.

When I think of it, the things happening in our country are just like math problems: the rise in the prices of crude oil, the number of people affected by the prices of daily necessities, the casualties left by the storms and the money our country loses and gains through different transactions all need analysis and calculations of some sort to be solved.

It is a sad fact, though, that most Filipinos look at these as social cancers that will never be cured. National concerns almost always turn out as perplexing puzzles that none of us can crunch–like a box whose missing side cannot be figured out. We, Filipinos, often go ahead of ourselves with pessimism and cynicism that we fail to see the other side of the problem. When the value of the peso goes down against the US dollar, the government is automatically blamed for it.

Our outlook toward the eco­nomic, political, and socio-cultural aspects of the country has been tipped over to a single side, that of negativity and criticism. And yet we are regarded as one of the most cheerful and optimistic people in the world! It surprises me that we, Filipinos, are quick to make a joke out of our troubles, yet we cannot find an immediate answer to them. What we often do is sit in front of the TV, watch the news, and hurl rude comments here and there.

That’s not the way to go, my dear countrymen.

Having a negative perspective will not put the country out of its misery. Imagine what would happen if we were all in the same wavelength of pessimism, where we distrust and blame one another for all the adversities in the Philippines. Wouldn’t that be even more of a problem than what we are experiencing today? Skepticism only reflects one’s childishness. It refuses to consider other’s opinions. Skeptics will only want to see and hear what they want, and this will not do our country any good at all. I know some people will disagree with me, but it is time we stop putting all the blame in the government for all our problems and start putting things in perspective.

It’s time we look at the Philip­pines from many angles and learn the full story behind all the accusations and anomalies. While our government may have failed to fulfill some of its promises to a certain extent, it is true though that there are programs that help provide or look after the welfare of the people. We must not be always quick to believe and judge what we see on TV or read in the paper, but instead try to sort out the facts and look at things from the other person’s eyes.

When we look at things dif­ferently and critically, we become more objective and enlightened.

I believe, young as I am, that what the country needs is a renewal of values, a new outlook to direct us to what is really bringing our country down and a change of heart and of attitude.

Development requires a strong political will to change for the better. We must get rid of our prejudices and childish skepticism and start looking for the truth. A positive perspective allows discussion and paves the way to the unfolding of the truth. This, my fellow Filipinos, is what our Motherland needs! The truth will be our key to know what we should do to pull our country out of its agony. We refuse the truth each time we let our bad judgment get the better of us. We refuse the truth when we allow our good judgment to be clouded by personal interests and ambitions. We refuse the truth when we stop reflecting and discerning. And when this happens, we are actually building a wall against achieving development; we are closing the doors toward progress and stability.

Our country is blessed with diverse resources and wealth, yet over the passage of time, we Filipinos have been misguided in the use of those resources. In retrospect, we are not a poor country, so it’s not right for us to give up so easily. And it’s not right to let prejudice take over either. The current reality may seem to put us in a perplexing predicament, but it is up to us to find a way to make this country great . . . again. Let us look at the Philippines not as a dying wasteland, but as a challenge that will test our wits and morals.

In essence, development isn’t just about abundance of a country’s material wealth. It’s also looking at the issues and concerns from a different angle or from various angles, which allows a broader sense of judgment and creativity.

We must put a stop to the unending blaming and grieving and instead, look at the country from a 16-year-old’s point of view: hopeful and ardent, yet unbiased. Emanci­pation from ignorance, corruption and poverty, being constantly hopeful and possessing that passion for truth are the keys to peace and development of our country, the Philippines.