Saturday, 17 May 2008

Ayala tapped as consultant for airports’ major facelift

By Rio N. Araja
With Vito Barcelo
The Manila Standard

CITY and airport officials have tapped Ayala Property Management Corp. to help plan a P500-million facelift of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport complex.

The plan included improving the 22-kilometer stretch of road from Roxas Boulevard to the airport and rehabilitating the sidewalks, said Robert Nacianceno, general manager of the Metro Manila Development Authority.

The project would also include burying all public utility wires, evicting hundreds of squatter families along MIA Road, Naia Road, Domestic Road, Airport Road, Tramo and Andrews Avenue, removing all illegal structures, building pedestrian footbridges, and installing 55-foot lamp posts and see-through fences.

Nacianceno said the funds would come from the MMDA under the Office of the President, the Manila International Airport Authority, and the Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. Ayala Property, a subsidiary of the country’s largest and most experienced real estate developer, will provide technical support.

“Ayala is a consultant of MIAA, while we provide the development plan of the areas and offer our best engineers, architects and landscape artists,” Nacianceno said.

“This initiative is in support of the government’s thrust to give the premiere gateway to our country a world-class character,” he said.

“We will provide a welcoming atmosphere for visitors and a warm farewell for those leaving the country.”

MMDA Chairman Bayani Fernando said the government would offer a relocation site for displaced squatters near the airport complex under a low-cost housing program.

He also acknowledged the cooperation of Pasay City Mayor Wenceslao Trinidad in helping to ease traffic going to the airport by banning all cargo trucks, buses and tricycles from Domestic Road and Andrews Avenue.

Meanwhile, airport officials said they were working to get the mothballed Terminal-3 open by the end of the year.

Airport manager Alfredo Cusi said eight foreign and local construction companies—including CNA of Singapore, First Balfour Inc. and FF Cruz—had signified their intention to finish the newest terminal.

“We hope we will be able to make a partial opening this year,” Cusi said.

President increases education vouchers in Metro Manila to P10,000


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo increased today the education voucher system (EVS) for poor but deserving students in Metro Manila from P5, 000 to P10, 000.

Education Secretary Jesli Lapus announced the increase of the EVS in the National Capital Region (NCR) this afternoon minutes before the President awarded the education vouchers to the 22 incoming high school students in Pasig.

The President distributed the vouchers worth P5 million in simple rites held inside the Department of Education (DepEd) Library Hub Division of Pasig City and San Juan located along Carruncho Ave. 50 meters away from the Pasig City Hall.

Lapus, Pasig City Mayor Robert “Bobby” Eusebio, Vice Mayor Yoyong Martirez, DepEd NCR Director Dr. Teresita Domalanta and DepEd Schools Division of Pasig City and San Juan Superintendent Florentina Lizano assisted the President in the distribution of vouchers.

The President turned over to 36 public elementary school principals in Pasig City the remaining EVCs for distribution to 500 qualified students who are enrolling to the private high schools next month.

Lapus informed the parents of the students that the EVCs is the national government’s way of helping poor but outstanding students enroll at any private school of their choice.

Matutulungan dito ay mahigit 36 public elementary schools (in Pasig City) at sa utos ng Pangulo, sa NCR itinaas natin ang EV mula sa P5, 000 per student to P10, 000 per student,” Lapus said.

The Library Hub in Pasig City is a warehouse-type which boasts of 40,000 textbooks with about 400 titles that schools from Pasig and San Juan can borrow.

Lapus informed the President that an additional 35 library hubs are programmed to be completed to encourage students to spend more time reading books.

Napatunayan kasi natin Madam President na ang library hub ay napakabisa na intervention and to encourage the students to become book reader[s],” Lapus told the President.

The EVS aims to provide and maintain a system of financial assistance for underprivileged elementary school graduates, plus qualifiers of the Philippine Educational Placement Test (PEPT) and Alternative Learning Systems Accreditation and Equivalency (ALS A&E), and out-of-school youth to pursue high school education in a private school.

Meanwhile, DepEd NCR Director Teresita Domalanta explained that another important objective of the EVS is to help alleviate the problem of excess enrollment in the public schools.

She also said that the EVS checks distributed cover tuition and other fees of the deserving students enrolled in private high schools.

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo tests one of the computers at the Department of Education's 'The Library Hub' Division of Pasig City when she visited it today (Friday) May 16 2008 (Benjamin S. Basug Jr.-OPS/NIB Photo)

Palace committee inspects SLEx rehab, bats for adoption of 24-hour work shift

The Manila Bulletin

Presidential Management Staff Secretary Cerge Remonde announced yesterday that the Malacañang’s Pro-Performance System Steering Committee (PPSSC) will see to it that the on-going upgrading and rehabilitation of the South Luzon Expressway (SLEx) will be completed according to schedule.

Remonde said that the PPSSC, which he heads, will press for the adoption of a 24-hour work shift and will conduct constant monitoring of the rate of accomplishments at all sections of the expressway.

Remonde and members of the PPSSC inspected yesterday the on-going rehabilitation and upgrading work on SLEx in Alabang.

The PPSSC was created by President Arroyo in August, 2006 in an effort to accelerate the implementation of priority infrastructure projects and to ensure that these are completed on time and in most cost-effective, transparent manner.

SLEx, particularly the 28-kilometer stretch from the Alabang Viaduct to Calamba, Laguna, was built in 1977 and became operational a year later.

It is undergoing its first major rehabilitation and upgrading, with two lanes to be added to the existing six- and fourlane sections. The rehabilitation also includes reinforcement and widening of some bridges.

A new four-lane highway, with interchanges and toll plaza, will connect Calamba to Sto. Tomas, Batangas, and the newly built Southern Tagalog Arterial Road to SLEx. Estimated total cost is placed at R8.5 billion.

"This will relieve traffic on the old highway and significantly reduce travel time to Batangas and Lipa cities," Remonde said.

Construction work on the projects -- Toll Road (TR) 1 for the Alabang Viaduct and TR 2 from Filinvest to Calamba -- started in late 2006 and were originally set for completion in August, this year, but completion targets were moved to December 2008 for TR 1, and March 2009 for TR 2.

For TR 3 from Calamba to STAR, completion target is September 2010.

"The extension of the SLEx is a highly critical project. It will not only speed up travel to and from Cavite and Calamba, Laguna but also connect Calabarzon to the Subic-Clark corridor through other priority infrastructure projects such as EDSA rehabilitation or the C5 NLExSLEx link, and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCTEx)," Remonde said.

"This would provide our exporters faster and safer access to the Free Port Zone in Subic and the airport in Clark and NAIA," he said.

Remonde said, "this project will connect the South Luzon Toll Road to the Southern Tagalog Arterial Road (STAR) in Sto. Tomas, Batangas, reducing travel time from Alabang, Muntinlupa to Sto. Tomas, Batangas from one-and-half hours to 45 minutes."

"To make sure that the rehab work is completed on time," Remonde said, "the steering committee will press for the adoption of a 24-hour work shift and conduct constant monitoring of the rate of accomplishment for all sections of SLEx."

Friday, 16 May 2008

Budget air terminal eyed

By Tarra Quismundo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines -- The controversial Terminal 3 of Ninoy Aquino International Airport has yet to open and already airport executives are planning to build another facility to accommodate rising air passenger traffic in the country.

Airport officials announced on Thursday plans to construct a “budget terminal” in the third quarter of 2008 to ease the crowding at Manila Domestic Airport (MDA) in Pasay City.

Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) General Manager Alfonso Cusi told reporters work on the new terminal, to cost P200 million, would start in August or September and be completed in March 2009.

“This is because we project an increase in air travel. More people now travel by air because of airline fare promos, new routes and similar developments,” Cusi said.

“Instead of us reacting, we will have the infrastructure ready before that happens,” he added.

Cusi said domestic passenger traffic increased 12 percent in the last three years, noting that three million passengers passed through the MDA in 2007.

NAIA-3, built in 2002 also in anticipation of a rise in international air travel, has yet to be opened even though it was 98-percent complete.

Charges of anomalies in its construction and quarrels among its builders and contractors have tied up the terminal in litigation and delayed its opening for four years now.

Cusi begged off from giving a new opening date for NAIA-3, but said repair and completion work to get the facility in shape continued.

The new domestic terminal, expected to host the budget airlines that use smaller planes for local flights, will accommodate 1,000 departing passengers at one time.

The facility will rise on the former site of an aeronautics school on Domestic Road, near the MDA.

Upon the request of airlines, the terminal would have no passenger tubes as the airlines would like to ferry their passengers from terminal to plane and vice versa on coaches, a mode that was “faster and more cost efficient,” Cusi said.

The budget terminal is the next phase in the MIAA’s expansion plan for the MDA, which hosts most of the domestic airlines flying out of Manila.

Philippine Airlines and sister companies Air Philippines and PAL Express use the Centennial Terminal or NAIA-1 for both international and domestic flights.

At present, the MIAA is constructing a new arrival wing at the MDA, while the old arrival area will be turned into an extension of the pre-departure area. The new pre-departure area would accommodate 1,200 passengers at once, up from the current 900, Cusi said.

This would mean a total of 2,200 departing passengers and the same number of arrivals could be comfortably accommodated in both terminals at one time, he added.

The MIAA is also overseeing repairs and completion work at NAIA-3 at a cost of P800 million, or four times the projected cost of the new domestic terminal.

RP balance of payments surplus up in April


The Philippines recorded a balance of payments (BOP) surplus of $499 million in April, above the surplus of the previous month, data from the central bank on Friday showed.

The country had a BOP surplus of $432 million in March.

In the January-April period, the Philippines had a BOP surplus of $2.134 billion.

"The strong performance in January to April was on account of sustained foreign exchange inflows from remittances by overseas Filipinos, merchandise exports and the central bank's foreign exchange operations and investment income," Governor Amando Tetangco said in a text message to reporters.

The central bank forecasts that the country will have a BOP surplus of $3.4 billion this year, less than half last year's $8.58 billion surfeit.

Philippine Air Force to get 18 new SF-260F trainer planes

By R. Mercene
The Business Mirror

AIR Force pilots will now have the opportunity to train and handle new and modern basic training aircraft with the Department of National Defense’s recent approval and issuance of notice to proceed to Alenia Aermacchi S.P.A. for the supply of 18 new SF-260F version.

The contract includes an integrated logistics package such as pilot, technical and maintenance training; initial equipment and spares support; and after-sales services support.

Alenia Aermacchi’s delivery schedule of the 18 units in batches shall be completed from the 12th to the 18th month from contract implementation.

The SF-260 trainer aircraft is in service with 27 armed forces in the world with almost 1,000 units in flight operations.

The Air Force’s last procurement of new aircraft of 18 SF-260s turboprop version, now converted as light attack aircraft, was almost two decades ago from the same Italian company. The Air Force’s SF-260 piston engines B series were procured in the 1970s and were used in both flight training and operational activities.

For the contract with the Armed Forces, Alenia Aermacchi designated Aerotech Industries Philippines Inc., its exclusive local partner, distributor and authorized service station, to implement the aircraft transfer to the Philippines.

Aerotech Philippines, a Clark Free Port Zone-registered locator, has its facilities at the civil-aviation complex of the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Pampanga. It has pioneered in the commercial support program of the Air Force through its in-country major structural inspection of the S-211 aircraft fleet; maintenance and leasing of SF-260M for the military pilot training of the Air Force for the past seven years; inspection and services of Martin Baker ejection seats on S-211 jets; representation and technical support to Singapore Technologies Aerospace Engineering’s supply of 20 refurbished UH-IH “Huey” helicopters; and has aircraft spares inventory of about 5,000 line items.

The SF-260 assembly and parts manufacturing agreement entered into by Alenia Aermacchi and Aerotech Philippines, starting with the 18 new basic trainer for the Air Force, is up to 2015, which means that all orders that Alenia Aermacchi will receive in these next years worldwide will be assembled in and supplied out of the Aerotech Philippines facility.

Considering that 27 armed forces use SF-260 trainer aircraft all over the world, with about 1,000 units in operation, Alenia Aermacchi estimates 100 new units of this aircraft type to be sold in the next five years.

OF Remittances In March At A New High; First Quarter Level Reach US$4.0 Billion

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases


Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks climbed by 9.4 percent year-on-year to US$1.4 billion in March 2008, the highest monthly level recorded thus far. The March 2008 inflows brought the first quarter level of remittances to US$4.0 billion, higher by 13.2 percent than the year-ago level of US$3.5 billion.

Remittances during the first three months of 2008 reflected the rising number of Filipino workers abroad, the shifts in skill composition as well as the growing efficiency of banks and other financial institutions as remittance channels. The number of deployed workers for the first three months continued to grow, with preliminary data from the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) as of 24 March 2008 showing an expansion by 13.6 percent to 263,129 from 231,647 a year ago. Classified by type of worker, the number of land-based workers grew by 11.7 percent during the three-month period to 200,398 while the number of sea-based workers rose by 20.1 percent to 62,731.

OF remittances were also strengthened by additional tie-ups established by domestic banks and other local remittance companies with foreign financial institutions to promote a faster and more efficient delivery of remittances of overseas workers to their beneficiaries.

To date, the significant portion of remittances continued to come from the U.S.A, Saudi Arabia, the U.K., Italy, the United Arab Emirates, Canada, Japan, Singapore, and Hong Kong.


Gov’t exceeds VAT target in 2007

BusinessWorld Online

THE VALUE ADDED TAX (VAT) generated P88.3 billion in revenues for the entire 2007, about P51 million more than the P88.88-billion target and higher than the 2006 collection of P13.9 billion, the Department of Finance said in a statement yesterday.

The Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR), which accounts for about 70% of total government revenues, collected P31.7 billion against a P4.2-billion target, while the Bureau of Customs (BoC) collected P57.2 billion — falling short of its target by P4.1 billion.

BIR collected 46.8% more than the P21.6 billion in 2006, while BoC collected 3.5% more than the P55.2 billion.


Philippines' competitiveness improves

BusinessWorld Online

RECORD ECONOMIC GROWTH and an improved image moved the Philippines up five notches to 40th place in a yearly ranking of 55 economies based on competitiveness, the country’s best performance since joining the listing over a decade ago.

While still in the bottom third of this year’s edition of the World Competitiveness Yearbook, the Philippines surpassed countries like Italy, Russia, and Greece but was still behind more affluent neighbors Thailand and Malaysia and economic powerhouses India and China.

The Philippines improved its score by more than three points to 50.478 in the World Competitiveness Scoreboard, where the highest-ranked country, the United States, got a perfect 100.

The 20th edition of the yearly ranking by Europe’s top business school, the Institute for Management Development (IMD) in Switzerland, saw Singapore within striking distance of dislodging the perennial number one, and all Southeast Asian countries on the list improving.

Philippine scores rose across the board - economic performance, government efficiency, business efficiency, and infrastructure - but the robust domestic economy and improved state finances were the main factors for the country’s improved ranking, said Ronald A. Rodriguez of the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) Policy Center, the IMD’s local partner for the yearly report.

The five-notch ascent this year erased the previous record of a three-notch gain in 2005, when the country was in 40th place. But while the latest ranking is the same as three years ago, it doesn’t mean there were no real improvements, said Mr. Rodriguez, head of the AIM Policy Center’s Global Competitiveness Program.

The Philippines was in fact given credit for improved tax collections, which has led to a surge in infrastructure spending, he told BusinessWorld.

"Policies have somewhat become more predictable, and the impression by the business sector is that the government can now manage the economy better," Mr. Rodriguez said.

The domestic economy grew by 7.3% last year, the fastest in 31 years, while the government achieved the narrowest budget deficit in ten years at P9.4 billion, or only 0.1% of gross domestic product. This year, the government is set on balancing the budget although economic growth will be tempered by a US-led global slowdown.

Other countries also made impressive gains. Thailand moved up six places to 27th while Slovenia and Poland improved eight notches to 32nd and 44th, respectively.

The Philippines was ahead of Indonesia which rose three places 51st. Another regional peer, Vietnam, was not included in the ranking.

The World Competitiveness Yearbook is focused mainly on hard data, with two-thirds of indicators from international, regional, and national sources. A third of data is based on perception, through an opinion survey of expatriate and local managers.

The IMD report , though, is narrower in scope than the Doing Business survey of the World Bank’s International Finance Corp. where the Philippines ranks 133rd out of 178 countries.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr. head of the Philippine Exporters’ Confederation, agreed that the government had made headway in terms of infrastructure.

Examples are the opening of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway, the country’s longest tollway which connects two major economic zones in Luzon, and the so-called "nautical highway" of roll-on, roll-off ports.

But the government still has a lot to do in making it easier for businesses to deal with local governments as well as achieving political stability.

The Philippines’ goal is to make it to the upper third of the rankings by 2010, and the public-private sector National Competitiveness Council was created in 2006 to map out a plan.

The task force has set out goals to streamline the government and improve links with businesses, reduce transaction costs, boost human resources, lower electricity costs, improve infrastructure, and increase financing.

"We are just barely scratching the surface and yet we have already produced results," noted Mr. Ortiz-Luis, one of the task force’s "private sector champions."

Read more ...

Thursday, 15 May 2008

Cusi says Naia 3 definitely open for business by year-end

By Recto Mercene
The Business Mirror

THE Manila International Airport Authority (Miaa) predicted Wednesday that the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 will finally open before the year ends.

General manager Alfonso Cusi said they have started to test equipment and facilities, such as the baggage conveyors, the air conditioning and ticket counters. But he warned against expecting full-blown operations. Naia 3 initially would only be used for limited operations until all the kinks have been ironed out. He did not say when will that be.

Cusi made this assurance Wednesday to Rep. Monico Puentebella, chairman of the House transportation committee, who came for a look at the multibillion-peso terminal.

Puentebella was accompanied by Transportation Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Customs Commissioner Napoleon Morales, Air Transportation Office executive director Daniel Dimagiba and other government officials.

Cusi toured the group starting from the arrival area all the way to the customs, immigration and quarantine sections before going down the stairs into the luggage conveyor system.

The group saw that masons are feverishly putting finishing touches on the walls’ cracks, while dozens of workers are repairing the collapsed ceiling, which gave way in 2005.

Cusi said the repair of the ceiling was delayed because the courts have prohibited the Miaa from touching the area until given the go-ahead by the International Court of Commerce in Singapore, which was hearing a complaint filed by the Naia 3 contractor, Philippine International Air Transportation Corp.

He said traffic to the new terminal will be rerouted as part of the plan to decongest the streets and an overhead route has also been started, from in front of the Air Force headquarters.

Puentebella said, “I am very happy that we are finally opening Naia 3, especially now that tourism arrivals are on the rise. I’m very happy with the inspection and I am glad that we will open this very soon.”

He added that the opening should be on time with the expected influx of balikbayan and Filipino workers returning for Christmas and the New Year.

BIR’s April take: P91B

By VG Cabuag
The Business Mirror

THE Bureau of Internal Revenue said it had exceeded its target collection for April mostly due to administrative measures, such as the continuing drive against discrepancies in the various filings of companies.

BIR Commissioner Lilian B. Hefti told reporters on Tuesday that the agency’s collection for the period already reached more than P91 billion as of Monday, or 7 percent higher than its P85-billion target for the period.

“I’m not closing the books as of yesterday [Monday] but it’s [April collection] already at P91 [billion] plus,” Hefti said at the sidelines of the seminar for auditors organized by SGV and Co.

“We increased our audits, collection of accounts and receivables… continuously trying to discover discrepancy through the third-party information program. We are reaping [the] fruits of our administration measures.”

She said the figure is already more than 20 percent higher than the agency’s P75-billion collection during the same time last year.

With the higher collection for the period, Hefti is adjusting the agency’s collection target.

“I will announce it later during RCC [Revenue Command Conference],” she said, when asked what will be the agency’s new targets.

The national government is targeting a collection of P1.236 trillion for the year. Of this, the BIR accounts for 76 percent with a target of P844.95 billion. The rest of the collection will come from the Bureau of Customs, with P254 billion; Bureau of Treasury, with P57 billion; and other offices, with P80 billion—of which P30 billion will come from privatization proceeds.

In the first three months of the year, BIR’s collection reached P163 billion, slightly higher than its P160-billion target set by the interagency Development Budget Coordination Committee.

For the second quarter, BIR is supposed to collect P219 billion.

BIR said it will continue to adopt measures to collect more, such as automation procedures and information-sharing efforts with other government agencies, particularly with local governments.

The agency is set to implement a recent department order mandating it to provide LGUs copies of updated master lists of taxpayers classified by industry, and of those firms whose business permits were renewed for the current year.

BIR said it would also provide the lists of retired businesses and of those taxpayers with discrepancies on gross sales or receipts.

The agency, through its revenue district officer, will also allow LGUs to access important documents, such as a company’s income-tax returns, value-added tax returns and percentage tax returns pertaining to any person, partnership, corporation, or association that are subject to local taxes, fees and charges.

“These information will be used exclusively to ascertain, assess and collect the correct amount of internal-revenue taxes, and it shall not be disclosed to any unauthorized person with due regard to the security of the taxpayer’s information,” the BIR said in an earlier statement.

President leads groundbreaking in mass housing for Tondo poor

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is warmly welcomed by residents of Baseco in Tondo, Manila upon her arrival in the area where she led the groundbreaking ceremony for the 10-Hectare Baseco Reclamation Project Wednesday (May 14). (Rey Baniquet-OPS/NIB photo)

PGMA taps state colleges in campaign to increase RP’s agricultural production

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo mobilized today the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) and the 110 state colleges and universities (SUCs) to come up with programs to intensify the training and increase the number of agricultural technicians and workers as well as encourage students to enroll in agriculture-based courses.

The President held a conference this afternoon in Malacanang with the presidents of SUCs and officials of concerned government agencies to discuss ways and means for them to play a vital role In the government’s food production drive under the FIELDS program.

Among those present were CHED Chairman Romulo Neri, Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Estrella Alabastro, and 104 SUC presidents led by Philippine Association of State Universities and Colleges (PASUC) president Dr. Lauro Tacbas.

“One of the reasons why we have a problem in food supply is the lack of agricultural technicians and workers. Enrollment in agricultural courses in state colleges and universities (SUCs) has been substantially decreasing,” she said

The President said that to encourage enrollment in agri-based courses, the government will offer scholarships to students taking up agriculture-related courses.

“One of the things we want to do is provide scholarships to agricultural studies,” she said.

There are 110 SUCs in the country with 3,144 faculty members teaching agriculture-based courses and studies.

Neri reported to the President that at present 65,734 students are enrolled in agriculture, forestry, fisheries, veterinary medicine and agribusiness courses in the 110 SUCs nationwide.

These SUCs have an unutilized landholdings of 50,133 hectares which can be utilized for farming, research, hybrid and certified seed production, and technology as demonstration farms.

During the National Food Summit last month, the President launched the P43.7-billion FIELDS program, a package of interventions for Philippine agriculture that stands for fertilizer, irrigation and infrastructure, extension and education, loans and insurance, dryers and other post-harvest and facilities, and seeds of the high-yielding, hybrid varieties.

Under Extension and Education, the President tasked government agencies to train more trainors and technicians on new technologies for dissemination to farmers, and to utilize the SUCs in their extension-related programs.

The President underscored the importance of continuous training of farmers and fisherfolk on new technologies as she instructed the Department of Agriculture (DA) to continuously implement programs and interventions to improve agricultural production in cooperation with the Department of Interior and Local Government, local government units (LGUs) and the DOST.

The President also alloted more funds for the training of farmers and fisherfolk on new and emerging technologies, including P2 billion for research and development, P1 billion for capability building, P1 billion for trainors and technicians, and P1 billion for the agricultural and fisheries education system.

The President launched the FIELDS program to guarantee the stable supply of rice and other crops by boosting farm productivity and thus cushion the impact of the present global food problem.

NCR, region 10 wage boards ready with new round of wage increases,%20region

The National Capital Region (NCR) and Region 10 Regional Tripartite Productivity and Wage Boards (RTPWBs) are ready to issue an order setting a new round of wage increases for minimum wage earners in the two regions.

President Gloria Macapagal –Arroyo, who was the guest of honor at the 29th National Conference of the Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) held today at the Centennial Hall of the historic Manila Hotel, made the announcement as she congratulated the RTPWBs “for doing overtime work last Labor Day.”

The President said that acting Labor Secretary Marianito Roque informed her last night that the NCR wage board agreed to add P20 to the minimum wage, thus raising the daily minimum wage in the NCR to P382.

The President said, however, that this is still subject to “refinements” as the wage board was still meeting this morning.

“But the refinement may be P15 increase in the minimum wage and P5 additional cost of living allowance (COLA),” she added.

In Region 10 (Northern Mindanao), the President said that the wage board has finished its deliberations and that of the existing P26 COLA, P16 would be integrated into the minimum wage, while P12 would be added to the remaining P10 COLA.

This means an increase in the daily minimum wage in Northern Mindanao of 16 from P244 to P260.

The President’s announcements came as the ECOP, in its resolution submitted to the Chief Executive, stressed that employers are for the “upward adjustment of salaries and wages, but it should be adjusted solely to compensate for the erosion caused by the upward movement of the consumer price index. And we also fully agree with the President that we leave the deliberation and eventually decision to the Regional Wage Boards.”

“Because the world is flat, employers, labor and government make joint decisions, institutionalized at the policy level by the RTPWBs,” the President said.

She was referring to the international bestseller written by Thomas Friedman analyzing the process of globalization where all competitors have an equal opportunity.

Open Skies, Closed Skies

Central Luzon business sector asks President to issue open skies fiat for Clark
Marian Grace S. Ramos and Alexis Douglas B. Romero
BusinessWorld Online

THE CENTRAL Luzon business community yesterday asked Malacañang to revive an order allowing unlimited flights in a major airport north of Manila.

In a press conference yesterday, stakeholders presented a manifesto calling for the immediate issuance of Executive Order (EO) 500-B that will open the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) in Clarkfield, Pampanga to foreign carriers.

They said EO 500-B will allow foreign carriers to operate in a certain area that is not served by local carriers. Should there be local carriers, operations should be guided by bilateral air agreements.

Mario Trinidad P. Lazatin, Metro Angeles Chamber of Commerce and Industries, Inc. director, said allowing more flights in DMIA will help sustain business growth in the region.

In a separate interview, Pampanga Rep. Carmelo F. Lazatin (1st district) said foreign carriers should be allowed in Clark to accommodate increasing passenger traffic.

"Of course, the idea is to liberalize the other airports as well; but for the meantime, let us focus on Clark and implement the open skies [policy] there. We will see a tenfold increase in investments [as a result of this]," he added.

Carmen Tayag McTavish, Greater Clark Visitors Bureau chairman, said an open skies policy will increase tourist arrivals in DMIA.

She noted that revenues of tourism establishments in the northern end of Angeles City have ballooned to $400,000 from $100,000 per night prior to DMIA’s development.


Meanwhile, Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita confirmed that the open skies policy has yet to be signed by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, who is still studying its merits.

"As far as I am concerned, there is no such thing as (Executive Order 500-B). It is still being discussed. We are getting inputs and feedback [from stakeholders]. The President is not [yet] convinced," he told reporters yesterday in a Malacañang briefing.

Asked if the President will no longer sign the order, Mr. Ermita said, "I cannot say. Only the President can say that."

He said Malacañang has not set a time line in signing the order.

Last February, Mrs. Arroyo told businessmen during the Philippine Economic Forum that the government is finalizing the fiat on open skies, which will further liberalize the aviation industry.

She said she has asked Chief Presidential Legal Counsel Sergio F. Apostol to draft an EO to make it easier for foreign airlines to enter even if they are not nominated by countries with existing air deals with the Philippines.

In an interview, Mr. Apostol said he has submitted the draft order to the President, but he declined to provide a copy of the draft order saying he can only do so once the President signs it. —

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

PGMA orders release of P12.57 billion unremitted IRA shares of LGUs


Here is good news to local government units (LGUs).

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has ordered the release of the P12.57-billion unremitted Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) shares of LGUs for the years 2001 and 2004.

The President issued Executive Order No. 723 directing the Department of Finance (DOF), Department of Budget and Management (DBM), and the Department of Interior and Local Government (DILG) to ensure that the LGUs get their unreleased IRA differential due to the reenactment of the General Appropriations Acts (GAAs) in 2001 and 2004.

Under the Order, the President said LGUs can get their shares in the P12,576,938,000 IRA differential either in advance or on installment basis for a period of seven years starting in 2009 up to 2015.

She directed the DBM to determine the share of each LGU from the unreleased IRA differential based on the formula prescribed in Republic Act No. 7160 and then issue the corresponding Notice of Payment Schedule to inform the LGUs of their share and the schedule of payment.

The LGUs also have the option to avail in advance of their unreleased IRA shares through the IRA Monetization Program (IMP) that would be arranged by the DOF by opening the necessary Special Trust with government financing institutions (GFIs) which would serve as the trustee banks.

Under the monetization program, LGUs can collect in advance their unreleased IRA shares from trustee banks at a discounted value, net of interest and other charges.

On the other hand, she ordered the DILG to assist LGUs in the IRA monetization program, consolidate and submit to the DOF the Subscription Agreement, if any, and the corresponding Sanggunian Resolution of the LGUs stating the Special Purpose Trust to be constituted and designated, the authority of the head of the LGU to bind the LGU for the IMP participation and the trustee bank that will receive the proceeds of the monetized IRA.

In 2006, the President also directed the DBM to automatically appropriate the IRA shares to the LGUs so they can implement right away their priority development projects.

Army leadership turnover

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
The Philippine Star

The command of the Armed Forces of the Philippines changed hands last Monday. Retiring AFP chief of staff General Hermogenes Esperon Jr. turned over the reins of the military sector to Lt. General Alexander Yano.

The turnover took place in an atmosphere of stability within the AFP — a welcome development as far as the business sector is concerned, and a moment of sunshine for the AFP as far as our soldiers are concerned.

The AFP command was being turned over sans controversies the way it was hounded by major issues in the past. The retiring AFP chief exited with sterling accomplishments while the incoming chief brought with him important credentials.

Last Monday’s turnover of the AFP command sent positive signals, and the business community is upbeat. The signal is that the military sector will remain stable and apolitical — an important legacy of the retiring AFP chief. The stability and non-partisan nature of the AFP today are crucial to investor confidence levels. It is also vital to the investment climate in the regions where business decisions are influenced by the presence or absence of revolutionary taxation levied by insurgent and terrorist groups.

Some of our media colleagues who have covered Gen. Esperon’s term called this column’s attention to the fact that the 50 percent reduction in the number of NPA guerrilla fronts was not accomplished by the retiring AFP chief with the use of firepower alone.

We were told the diminishing influence of leftist armed groups in the regions was also largely due to a move by Gen. Esperon to activate the so-called National Development Support Command. The command placed under one wing all the engineering and infrastructure-related groups of the AFP. Gen. Esperon then mobilized them to build roads, bridges, school-buildings, and similar projects in rebel infested areas.

The infrastructure sped up the entry of other development support. With the improvement in people’s lives, the guerrilla groups lost their reason for being.

Now, we have a better picture of how the war against insurgency is being waged and won.

And the successes of this war will long be associated with Gen. Esperon who has now become plain citizen Jun Esperon .

Agriculture sector expands 4% in Q1

By Marianne V. Go
The Philippine Star

The agricultural sector posted a growth of four percent for the first quarter of this year, slightly higher than the 3.3-percent growth posted in the same period last year.

Total agricultural output for the first three months of the year amounted to P282.2 billion, 16.64 percent higher than the output of P242 billion in the first quarter of 2007.

Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap said the positive first quarter performance places the country well within reach of its full-year growth target of 4.5 percent to five percent.

Yap expressed optimism that the first semester growth this year would be better than the 3.19-percent growth posted in the first semester of 2007.

Yap predicted that the first semester growth this year “will be higher than the first semester growth (last year) by 40 percent in terms of value at constant prices.”

Accounting for the bulk or 49.48 percent of the growth of the agricultural sector was the crops subsector which posted a growth of 5.59 percent for the first three months of this year.

The livestock subsector, which accounts for 11.78 percent of total agricultural output, posted a negative growth of 3.36 percent for the first quarter, mainly due to a 4.19-percent decrease in hog production.

The poultry subsector which accounts for 14.92 percent of total agricultural output, made up for the decline in the livestock subsector with a growth of 4.4 percent. Total output of the poultry subsector amounted to P32.8 billion.

The fisheries subsector, which accounts for 23.82 percent of total agricultural output, posted a 4.41 percent growth in the first quarter.

The total agricultural output of the crops subsector amounted to P157.7 billion, while the gross value of the livestock subsector in the first quarter amounted to P42.1 billion.

Total agricultural output of the fisheries subsector amounted to P49.6 billion.

On average, the DA said farmgate prices increased by 12.16 percent during the first quarter of this year.

Under the crops subsector, palay production posted a slight growth of 1.96 percent, while the coconut subsector posted a growth of 5.1 percent as did sugar which posted a growth of 6.27 percent.

Tourism sector earns $1.02B in Q1

By Mayen Jaymalin
The Philippine Star

The Department of Tourism (DOT) yesterday reported some $1.02 billion in earnings for the booming local tourism industry for the first quarter of the year.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano said tourist spending reached $1.02 billion in the first quarter of year alone as the country continues to attract more big spending foreign tourists.

“The first quarter of 2008 signaled a strong start for the tourism sector,” Durano said, noting that international arrivals grew by eight percent in the first three months of the year compared to the same period last year.

Based on DOT data, Durano said a total of 858,244 foreign tourists visited the Philippines from January to March this year, 8.5 percent higher than last year’s arrival of 790,888. January registered the biggest number of foreign arrivals at 293,803.

“While January recorded the biggest number of foreign arrivals, the month of February registered the highest growth of 11.7 percent,” Durano said.

The Korean market still led all other markets with total arrivals of 175,147 in the first three months of the year. Korean tourists accounted for 20.4 percent of the total inbound traffic and registered a growth of two percent from 171,716 in 2007.

Visitors from the United States constituted the second biggest number of arrivals, numbering 166,128 or 19.4 percent of total visitor volume.

“The US remains a large and quality market. It grew by 6.3 percent compared to its contribution of 156,226 a year ago and posted a 70 percent jump in length of stay,” Durano disclosed.

Japanese were the third biggest arrivals with 99,453, comprising 11.6 percent of the total inbound traffic.

“Japanese tourists dropped in the first quarter yet daily spending of tourists from Japan went up by 4.6 percent, indicating that the country is attracting quality visitors who engage in a lot of entertainment, shopping and other leisure activities,” Durano pointed out.

The tourism chief further noted that China produced 48,619 visitors for a share of 5.7 percent of total visitor volume.

“The China market increased by 33 percent from a total volume of 36,568 a year ago and it also recorded a 12 percent growth in tourist spending,” Durano added.

Other countries among the top 10 contributors of tourists were Taiwan, Hong Kong, Australia, Canada, United Kingdom and Singapore.

Ten cruise ships arrived from January to March, with six disembarking in Manila South Harbor carrying a total of 7,103 visitors, while the remaining cruise ships disembarked in Subic, Cebu and Davao with visitors totaling 1,321.

“These developments further benefit a greater part of the nation as more quality jobs are generated and more wealth enters our country,” Durano said.

Tuesday, 13 May 2008

3 co-equal gov’t branches forge accord on closer cooperation, coordination

The executive, legislative and judicial branches of government forged today a historic agreement institutionalizing consultation, cooperation and coordination in pursuit of the rule of law and national development.

The Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) creating the Judiciary, Executive and Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELAC) was signed this morning in Malacanang by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senate President Manuel Villar, House Speaker Prospero Nograles, and Supreme Court Chief Justice Reynato Puno.

In her remarks, the President said that consultation and cooperation among members of the three co-equal, independent branches of government would advance shared priorities in the national interest and welfare of all Filipinos.

She dubbed the JELAC MOA signing as “a historic moment in our Constitutional democracy.”

“We envision JELAC to be the venue where representatives of the three branches can identify issues pertaining to the primacy of the rule of law and formulate and undertake solutions to strengthen due process and the institutions of justice, and implement our laws more effectively for the betterment of every Filipino,” she said.

The President said that JELAC’s mandate is centered on the rule of law, adding that cooperation between the three branches is crucial to national development -- with Congress enacting laws, the Executive implementing it, and the Judiciary interpreting it.

“We need Judicial-Executive-Legislative cooperation in our priority thrusts. Our fiscal efforts, cheered by global investors, are built on new tax legislation, stricter tax collection and swift justice for violators of tax laws. In bringing adequate, affordable rice to our people, we harness the procurement law and the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act, and we charge price manipulators in court. Most crucial of all, our drive toward development will grind to a halt without the rule of law as its foundation,” the President said.

Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye presided over the signing ceremony.

Signing as witnesses were Vice President Noli de Castro, Senate Majority Leader Francis Pangilinan, House Majority Leader Arthur Defensor Sr., and Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita.

Under the agreement, JELAC is mandated to serve as the forum and venue for the representatives of the three branches of government in undertaking measures on matters affecting the primacy of the rule of law, identifying the problems and issues, formulating solutions, and implementing them.

The Council will also formulate solutions to further strengthen the Judiciary such as the budgetary and infrastructure requirements; creation of new positions and filling up of vacancies; career development program; compensation and security of judicial officials; and security of tenure, among others.

The nine-member JELAC is chaired by the President with the following as members -- the Vice-President, Senate President, House Speaker, Chief Justice, a Cabinet member to be designated by the President, one Senator to be designated by the Senate president, one House Representative to be designated by the Speaker, and a member of the High Tribunal to be designated by the Chief Justice.

The first JELAC meeting will be convened on June 12 at the Supreme Court building on June 12, Independence Day.



President Arroyo to launch 10-hectare Baseco housing project for poor families

A housing project for Manila’s poorest of the poor will soon rise on a 10-hectare reclaimed area in the city’s port area in Tondo.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will lead tomorrow the groundbreaking ceremony for the project, the newest of the government’s socialized housing projects in Metro Manila that will provide affordable and decent shelter to poor families.

The President will motor to Port Area in the morning for the laying of the time capsule for the Baseco Reclamation Project.

To assist the President in the capsule-laying ceremony are Philippine Reclamation Authority (PRA) general manager Andrea Domingo and Manila Vice Mayor Isko Moreno.

In May last year, the President directed the PRA to undertake the preparation of the detailed engineering design of the housing complex and bid out the project.

The new reclamation project is located outside the existing 56-hectare Baseco reclamation undertaken by the city of Manila.

Construction of the housing project will start this month, and is expected to be completed within six months.

Last March 2007, the President, in cooperation with the Habitat for Humanity and the city of Manila, turned over 1,000 units of newly-built houses to residents of the Baseco compound who were victims of three major fires.


Hanjin-Subic braces for new orders

By Henry Empeño
Business Mirror

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT—After the M/V Argolikos, the first ship ever to be made here by Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp., the Korean shipbuilder is set to build 35 more vessels including eight post-Panamax carriers in the next three years.

According to Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority Chairman Feliciano Salonga, Hanjin Heavy is set to deliver this year another vessel to Dioryx Maritime Corp., the Greek shipping firm that ordered the Argolikos. This time it would be a ship with 43,000-twenty foot equivalent unit (TEU) capacity.

Dioryx is scheduled to buy four more vessels by the second quarter of 2009, he said.

As of February, Hanjin Heavy’s order book “shows that at least 36 ships, consisting of container vessels, tankers and bulk carriers, are calendared for delivery between this year and 2011,” Salonga added.

Salonga made the announcement as Hanjin Heavy readies Argolikos for its sea trial on May 27, or one year, one month and one week after steel-cutting was done for the first Subic-made vessel.

Pyeong Jong Yu, manager of Hanjin Heavy’s Outside Business Department, which also handles the company’s corporate communications, said the firm had secured certifications for Argolikos, including an attestation from Bureau Veritas, a Paris-based conformity assessment, certification and inspection and testing firm.

Yu said the Argolikos already has a cargo ship safety equipment certificate, a complete crew list and a certificate of competency of the Korean crew from the Busan (Korea) Regional Maritime Affairs and Fisheries Office.

The delivery of Argolikos next month, however, meant only more work for Hanjin Heavy, which has reportedly received orders for 12 vessels of 4,300 TEUs even before its groundbreaking here in May 2006.

In an earlier statement, the company said it has signed a $2.2-billion order for some of the biggest box ships and Capesize carriers ever to be built. These include eight 12,800-TEU container carriers worth $1.27 billion for Germany’s NSC Schiffartsgeselhaft; 10 carriers of 3,600 TEUs worth $690 million for France’s CMA CGM; and three 175,000-DWT (deadweight ton) Capsize bulkers worth $240 million, with two going to India’s Adani Group, and the other to Turkey’s Eregli firm.

The 12,800-TEU carriers for NSC, each 365.6 meters in length, 48.4 meters in breadth and 29.8 meters in depth, would be among the biggest in the industry, Hanjin added.

Hanjin Heavy is successful in getting orders for large-sized vessels because of its aggressive marketing strategies and recognition by ship owners of the firm’s shipbuilding technologies, as well as the capacity of its Subic shipyard, company officials said.

The firm, officials added, will undertake a second phase of development for its Subic facilities in the second half of 2008 that would enable the Philippine unit to compete with Korea’s three other major shipbuilders—Hyundai Heavy Industries, Samsung Heavy Industries and Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering.

The expansion would involve the development of Dock No. 6, which on blueprint was 480 meters long, 135 meters wide and 13.5 meters deep. The construction of a bigger assembly line and a 1.7-kilometer quay wall, and the installation of two more units of ultra-huge gantry cranes would also be part of the expansion and development plans.

This would increase Hanjin Heavy’s shipbuilding capacity in Subic to 450,000 tons a year from 220,000 tons, and enable it to build 33 vessels annually from today’s capacity of 16 ships.

Hanjin Heavy officials also said that with the Subic expansion program, the company would not only “increase the scale of production, but also diversify vessel types from high-profit vessels to high-value, or ultra-large, vessels.”

Hanjin, which is investing $1.6 billion in its Subic shipyard, was established in 1937 as the first shipbuilding company in Korea. Starting with a 5,000-TEU container ship in 1992, the company said it had since built the “world’s best vessels” for 16 consecutive years.

Last year, its Cosco New York, a 5,100-TEU Panamax container, was voted as “ship of the year” by the world’s top three shipping journals—The Marine Reporter, Marine Log and Naval Architect—based on technology, design and performance standards.

Meralco admits passing its power costs to consumers

By Christine F. Herrera
The Manila Standard

CONSUMERS have been footing the bill for the operations—including the use of electricity—at Manila Electric Co. to the tune of P500 million a year, a Senate panel learned yesterday.

The Lopez family-owned power distributor also transacts about P55 billion a year in business with its sister companies, and grants its top executives salaries amounting to P97 million a year.

And Meralco buys its electricity from Lopez-run power producers at a high cost, and wants its customers to pay for its “bad debts” worth P14 billion, which are the subject of a court case with the National Power Corp.

These details emerged yesterday when Meralco president Jesus Francisco testified before the Joint Congressional Power Commission, led by Senator Miriam Defensor Santiago and Pampanga Rep. Juan Miguel Arroyo, at the Senate.


Philippines Q1 farm output up 4 pct vs yr ago


Philippine farm output rose 4.0 percent year-on-year in the first quarter, the government said on Tuesday.

The farm sector, which accounts for around a fifth of economic output, grew 4.68 percent in 2007, while overall economic growth reached a 31-year high of 7.3 percent.

The government has set a target of raising agricultural output by 4.5-5.5 percent this year.

House okays tax relief bill

Exemptions raised for wage earners; stricter limits for professionals
BusinessWorld Online

A BILL INCREASING the tax-exempt income of workers was approved by the House of Representatives yesterday, with lost revenues to be made up via stricter limits for professionals.

The bill amends the Tax Code by increasing the personal tax exemption to P50,000 for all workers, whether single, married or a breadwinner. It is currently at P20,000 for single workers, P25,000 for a family head, and P32,000 for married individuals.


Libya to send 20 troops for IMT in Mindanao

The Manila Bulletin

Dr. Salem Mohammad Adam, envoy to the Philippines of the global Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation (GICDF) headed by Saif alIslam al-Gaddafi as president, said yesterday Libya is preparing to send this month an advance team for the International Monitoring Team (IMT) in Mindanao, to pave the way for the coming in of at least 20 more soldiers.

Adam, in an exclusive telephone call Monday from Tripoli, Libya, told the Manila Bulletin that "we are preparing to send an advance team to Mindanao to prepare for the arrival of our IMT contingent," adding Libya’s participation in the IMT is expected to reach at least a 25-man strong."

Libya is strengthening its monitoring role for the 2003 ceasefire between the Philippine government and the separatist Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) as a result of Malaysia’s quitting the IMT.

As this developed, MILF Vice Chairman for Political Affairs Ghazali Jaafar, short of welcoming the Libyan move, said any member country of the IMT is allowed by the IMT term of reference to increase the number of its representatives.

"But any decision such as who will lead the IMT must be agreed upon bilaterally by the two parties to the peace negotiation. Neither side can make any unilateral decision," said Jaafar, adding as of the moment Malaysia is still the head of the foreign monitors in Mindanao.

The MILF official said the Organization of the Islamic Conference (OIC) has no role in the formation of the IMT, reacting to reports in other newspapers. "IMT was formed in consultation with the Philippine government and facilitator Malaysia," said Jaafar.

Datuk Othman Abdul Razak, who is from the office of Malaysian Prime Minister Abdullah Ahmad Badawi and chief facilitator of the stalled talks, has reacted to reports that Manila had delayed the Mindanao peace process.

But Presidential Peace Adviser Jesus Dureza said the government was only giving "due diligence" to the talks and cannot abandon constitutional process in determining a homeland for the Bangsamoro people.

Early in the morning of May 11, Adam, a former Libyan ambassador to the Philippines, said in a message from Tripoli, that Saif al-Islam, son of the leader of Libya’s Al-Fateh Revolution, Colonel Moammar al-Gaddafi, approved a Philippine request to spearhead the IMT.

"The president of Gaddafi International Charity and Development Foundation, engineer Saif al-Islam, has approved the Philippine government’s proposal for Libya to lead the IMT after Malaysia’s withdrawal. The Libyan advance team will arrive in Manila soon," said Adam.

Driving away big investors

By Jose C. Sison
The Philippine Star

Vigilance is truly necessary nowadays because of the rampant graft and corrupt practices committed in just about any deal or project where the government has a say one way or the other. The prevailing presumption is that in any multi-million peso/ dollar undertaking, dirty money changes hands; that government officials and/or powerful, influential persons are on the take. This mindset is caused by the administration itself because of the many perceived anomalies that have remained unresolved due to cover up attempts.

Unfortunately however this vigilance has sometimes been abused and converted into a political tool by the opposition especially in the legislative branch. The political opposition has acquired a predilection to investigate and always smells something fishy in any big ticket projects. The impression readily formed in the public mind is that they just also want to have a slice of the delicious pie.

This is so noticeable in the ongoing ruckus surrounding the ship building projects of the Korean firm Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co. Inc. (HHIC) in Subic, Zambales and Misamis Oriental.

Actually Hanjin has been doing development projects here since 1973. The press has not just focused on its company background. Hanjin then was known as Hanil Development Corporation. The company changed its name from Hanil to Hanjin only in 1994. This is the same company that has successfully completed numerous development projects in our country tremendously benefiting us now. In fact “Hanil” always rings a bell to me as the only foreign contractor that dared to operate in rebel infested areas and risking their valuable equipments thereby contributing to the significant country side economic development so vital in solving peace and order problems.

In Misamis Oriental itself where the company is now putting up a shipbuilding facility, it constructed the Iligan-Cagayan-Butuan Road in 1973 during those dangerous times of insurgency in Mindanao. Today that road is still cited as one of the country’s best highways. It is also the same company that successfully completed the Manila LRT (Light Rail Transit) Line 2 System, the Batangas Container Terminal and the Manila North Harbor Development.

The goodwill and reputation it has established here with the considerable number of development projects it has successfully completed somehow raise doubts on the veracity and accuracy of the anomalies that it is now being accused of. The company cannot simply afford to risk its reputation by committing the alleged wrong doings attributed to it. The charges seem to have been blown out of proportion and given so much media hype so attractive to grandstanding Senators.

Of course if Hanjin has transgressed our laws, it should be investigated and held liable. But what is happening now is that because of too much publicity, the company has already been pictured as involved in a bribery/extortion on the construction of the shipbuilding facility Mindanao and in an environmental degradation for building its employees’ housing facilities allegedly in the heart of a dense forest in Subic.

Thus a mere meeting between Hanjin’s Project Manager and the Tagoloan and Villanueva Town Mayors in Mindanao has immediately been interpreted as an attempt to bribe the said town officials with a P400 million contract. What transpired in the meeting actually concerns the possibility of hiring local contractors in the hauling of aggregates on a competitive basis so as to help said contractors generate business. In fact the PNP has declared the matter closed with the submission of sworn statement by the parties involved that neither bribery nor extortion happened. In any case, this issue is better left for resolution by the prosecution and the courts rather than by the Senate especially because of the attendant publicity being generated.

On the other hand numerous articles have been published in various newspapers about the alleged irregularities in the construction of the apartment site of its employees in a forest area in Subic allegedly containing about three hundred or more trees. But as it turns out the site is more or less located in the same area previously used by the US Navy as an ammunition depot and later used as a depot or factory by two other locators. Without verifying first that only about 43 trees were cut, reckless accusations and finger pointing are already made.

Critics have also tried to harp on the premature start of the apartment construction before securing the DENR Environmental Clearance Certificate. They did not first find out that Hanjin’s investment in SBMA could not have been finalized without first providing accommodations to the Koreans who would supervise and train Filipino workers thereby prompting SBMA to give the go signal taking into consideration that the area was anyway already used by the US Navy and two other locators.

The point here is that if ever there are short cuts done or irregularities committed then let them be rectified to assure that our laws are complied with and our environment duly protected. But these steps can be done without too much publicity that may eventually result in driving away big time investors like Hanjin.

In building the Subic Shipyard facilities alone, Hanjin’s initial investment for Phases I and 2 amounts to US$1.6 billion. The shipyard has a capacity of 80,000 tons/year up to 550,000 tons capable of building large-scale vessels such as 12,000 TEU Container such that by year 2017 its sales would reach US$3.9 billion generating employment of about 30,000 at its peak.

The Mindanao shipbuilding facility on the other hand will generate income and employment also for 30,000 workers. Hanjin will most likely spend P4.6 billion a year during peak time. Labor constitutes 40% of shipbuilding cost that goes directly to the workers’ pockets. With the US$60 million price tag on the first vessel for example, around $24 million or P984 million would go to workers salaries. The lives of the people in Northern Mindanao would surely improve especially considering that said shipbuilding facility would generate more business and tourism.

Indeed the construction of these shipyards would put the Philippines on the list of countries with the largest facilities after Korea, Japan and China. The world will thus be taking notice of the Philippines as an investment option.

Let us not squander these opportunities by engaging again in politics and resorting to those useless and grandstanding investigations “in aid of legislation” that may drive away big time investors like Hanjin that has reportedly been repeatedly cited as the World’s Outstanding Shipbuilder.

Monday, 12 May 2008

PGMA's Speech during the Change of Command Ceremony of the Armed Forces of the Philippines

GHQ Grandstand, Camp Aguinaldo, Quezon City
12 May 2008

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo witnesses the exchange of handshakes between outgoing Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) Chief of Staff Gen. Hermogenes Esperon Jr. (left) and incoming AFP Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Alexander Yano (right) during the AFP change of command ceremony Monday (May 12, 2008) at the AFP general headquarters grandstand in Camp General Emilio Aguinaldo in Quezon City. (Marcelino Pascua/OPS-NIB Photo)

Thank you Secretary Teodoro for your introduction.

Troop commander, please give ‘Tikas pahinga.’

General Esperon, former AFP Chief of Staff; General Yano, our new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces of the Philippines; members of the Cabinet; members of the Diplomatic Corps; Speaker Nograles and the members of the Legislature; Senator Enrile, both senator and former Secretary of National Defense; Senator Dick Gordon; Governors; Congressmen and women; Mayors; General Ibrado, the incoming Commanding General of the Philippine Army; Vice Admiral Calungsad; Lt. General Cadungog; PNP Chief Avelino Razon; the Unified Commanders, almost all of whom are new in their commands; our new Vice Chief of Staff and the Deputy Chief of Staff; ladies and gentlemen.

General Esperon, I speak for everyone in congratulating you and thanking you for a job superbly done!

General Yano, Congratulations and welcome to a job so tailor fit for you!

Subok na natin ang kakayahan nila General Esperon at General Yano. We have known and worked with these two gentlemen for years. They are outstanding leaders in the finest tradition of our Armed Forces. The men and women of the AFP are doubly fortunate to have been well-led by Jun Esperon and to have a man of Alex Yano’s character and talent leading them into the future.

General Esperon, your leadership has helped our country realize its key security objectives. You came to your job well-prepared. Hero of Rajamuda, rescuer of many of the Dos Palmas victims, one time outstanding alumnus of the Philippine Military Academy. Indeed, well-prepared for leadership. Your credentials, your legendary audacity and your extensive background in both staff and field positions. And may I say, showing all of these excellence in performance at a time especially when as a widower for many years, you had to be what we all women try to be -- a supermom. You had to try to be a superpop (laughter) because you had to raise very young children at a time exactly when your career was taking off, and that challenge in your private life I think contributed to the excellence of your work in public life. All of these challenges in private and public life prepared you for the challenges you faced in the transition of the AFP into a solid and truly dependable Armed Forces.

The Communist as you have said, the Communist rebels, had been spending years as a low level threat and as you started your watch, I said, it is time for their destruction and violation of human rights to be put to rest so that the nation can move ahead. The Communist rebels had been impeding the progress and development of a number of rural areas. They are responsible for a wide range of human rights abuses. And so I said, during your watch that if we are to become a first world country, we have to put a stop to their ideological nonsense and their criminal acts once and for all by 2010.

And may I say, Jun, you have done well in leading the AFP’s charge towards this mission success. Congratulations!

We have heard it in the citation given to you for your award today. We have heard it in your own tour of duty summary that you gave today. Indeed, going by the results of 2007 and the first quarter of 2008 with so many an unprecedented number of guerilla fronts dismantled and many others downgraded we have every reason to be optimistic about Alex Yano’s tour of duty.

All insurgency parameters are on the downtrend, from NPA numbers plummeting to a historic low to firearms now not many more than the rebels themselves.

You have done this because of many reforms you made. You revitalized the CMO. You organized the AFP National Development Support Command to pursue grassroots upliftment efforts across the country all in the interest of expanding the AFP solidarity with the people while at the same time dismantling the support networks of the enemies of peace.

You and I, and I am glad Alex Yano too has said, that the frontline against terrorism begins with alleviating poverty, which is exactly what we are focused on. And in Mindanao, where you served for so much of your career, you have proved the value of our paradigm for peace through -- and you used the term in your address -- the use of both hard and soft power. What you have done there is quite unique, particularly against the backdrop of other trouble spots in the world where hard power alone has been struggling. With your leadership of the Armed Forces, we have been able to meld together confidence building measures grounded on strong interfaith dialogue and cultural awareness; investments in economic and basic infrastructure development; and mutual security arrangements to keep the peace in Mindanao.

Under your leadership, indeed, we have had success in fighting terrorism. Our country is vastly improved in terms of safety, security and economic growth, particularly in the southern part of the country. Your experience in Mindanao before you became CSAFP served you indeed well. Your daring exploits and your victories in Basilan especially have helped you make the right decisions about Mindanao.

You established the EASTMINCOM and the WESTMINCOM. You rationalized the forces and resources there, that is why over the last few years we have made important captures and eliminated key figures of the Abu Sayyaf and the JI terrorists who in fact you named in your own Valedictory address. Yes you have hit them hard and most important you have hit them with success. Congratulations!

Not only did you use your Commander’s prowess, not only do you use your managerial capabilities of organization but also your care for the men that they should be well- equipped and well-cared for.

You worked tirelessly to have unprecedented amounts released for Armed Forces modernization, for AFP housing, and increased hazard pay and subsistence allowance.

And not only have I been so comfortable having you as commander in chief, I have full confidence in the men and women of our Armed Forces who are loyal to our Constitution and to our nation. The dismal failure of destabilization attempts underscore just how out of touch the plotters are with the mood of the nation. The nation wants peace, order and stability -- not more political shenanigans.

Ninety nine percent of our military men and women are good, upstanding and loyal patriots, fighting to protect our country everyday. Where there are rogue members of the military -- and indeed, General Esperon you used the word rogue members in your speech -- where there are those involved in adventurism or in human rights violations, you have substantiated your commitment to let the wheel of military justice roll smoothly. You have shown that no one is above the law, even as you support and as you have repeated in your address, the support of the pardon of a number of Magdalo officers who have shown remorse and utmost potential for rehabilitation.

As my last act as Commander in Chief of CSAFP Jun Esperon before I stood up as we were sitting down while Alex was still beginning his job as the new CSAFP my last approval of General Esperon’s recommendations is to approve his recommendation on the Magdalo soldiers.

And now we have General Yano. Indeed, in the term of Jun Esperon -- the fight against the communist insurgents snowballed so much which is the reason why many of the officers in the field said, let’s keep General Esperon at least for awhile so that this snowball can really be sustained, the momentum will not be stopped. And so, I extended the term of General Esperon for three months. I would have if I could extend it all the way for the three years that we’re allowed to have a Chief of Staff but General Esperon himself said that it would be better to have a short extension, announced from the beginning of the extension the choice of his replacement so that there can be a smooth phase in, phase out so that even if in General Yano’s time we are giving him a whole new slate of field commanders, the phase in and phase out has been so smooth and seamless that this snowball will turn into an avalanche by 2010. We hope.

General Yano says, he doesn’t know the rhyme or reason behind his being chosen as AFP Chief of Staff. Well, there is one thing that we call meritrocracy. General Yano you were highly recommended by the Defense and AFP top brass, and even by the Cabinet. And more importantly, you were clearly voted by the Team AFP itself in my discussions with many field officers owing to your reputation as a soldier’s soldier, a no-nonsense combat leader, simple and frugal as you want the whole AFP to be during your tour of duty, and one with a heart. Now you know why you are AFP Chief of Staff.

You have had a glittering career, that’s why I made you Army chief, to begin with. And before that, that’s why I appointed you head of the Southern Luzon Command whose jurisdiction covers the government priority areas for counter-insurgency operations comprising CALABARZON, MIMARO and Bicol. And before that, you played a crucial role in curbing terrorism in Mindanao and a crucial role also in a peaceful solution to the Kabatangan standoff.

As chief of the AFP, you are expected to bring the AFP modernization to new heights. You are expected to bring the anti-insurgency campaign as I said, from it’s snowball to an avalanche towards the defeat of the rebels by 2010.

Under your leadership, as you have rightly foreseen as guardians of our security and a pillar of the rule of law, the AFP shall play a central role in countering forces hoping to exploit the global clouds in the horizon driving up the cost of oil and rice, to advance their agenda of violence and lawlessness.

Thank you for foreseeing that. Thank you for being prepared for that.

And as we have all celebrated today, you are the first Army Chief and the first AFP Chief to come from Mindanao. That’s why the first speaker from the House of Representatives from Mindanao is here to wish you well and the entire, almost the entire officialdom of Mindanao, almost all the governors, congressmen, mayors of Zamboanga del Norte, the ARMM Governor are here. Buti na lang nandito si Congressman Celeste to represent Pangasinan to see off General Esperon.

We count on you therefore to help bring lasting peace to your native island of Mindanao.

Peace remains within reach in Mindanao. We have made huge progress across the board, as General Esperon said in his tour of duty report, in terms of stability, peace, order and goodwill. Yes, there are political dynamics and we are working to sort them out. But I can think of nothing more desirable for the people in Mindanao and our nation than peace during our administration. And hopefully peace during the tour of duty of the son of Mindanao as CSAFP. It would really be such a wasted moment if our Muslim brother did not take advantage of our dedication to this effort and conclude a peace deal in the next few years.

In all of these, in all of the important missions that you have to accomplish, General Yano, the national leadership is behind you, behind you and the Armed Forces in your important mission. We will support you with resources and political will, to provide you the wherewithal to do your job.

To keep our troops’ morale high, a 10 percent increase in base pay is coming this year.

To complement the AFP’s capability upgrade program and further improve counter-insurgency, as has been mentioned by General Esperon, one billion has been allocated to finance the Kalayaan Barangays Program.

As we improve the security of parts of the country that have known some degree of violence, we are able to develop quickly the economy of those areas. When we ensure that, we ensure a lasting peace and order that ensures that security is no longer an issue. Yes you have said in your speech General Yano, that you realized that development is primarily a function of the economic team but you also realize that you have enumerated the role of the AFP in contributing to development and to fighting poverty.

In other words, ‘Magaling na Kasundaluhan Laban sa Kahirapan.’ I know that the AFP will rally behind the new Chief of Staff of the Armed Forces in its mission so crucial to bringing us to the first world in 20 years.

And so Alex, I congratulate you and I wish you well in your important role of leadership. And to Jun, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. If I extended your term by a few months, one of the reasons why I am happy to do that was that we were able to have your daughter get married in Malacañang Park where she spent many of her young years when you were my PSG Commander. This just shows how important family is and how important it is for us to be one family -- the family of the Filipino people.

Have a well-deserved vacation, Jun. Hurry back to serve our people again.

Alex, congratulations!

Mabuhay kayong lahat. Thank you.

PGMA, Villar, Nograles and Puno to sign MOA creating JELAC today

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, Senate President Manuel B. Villar, House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles, and Chief Justice Reynaldo S. Puno will sign tomorrow, May 13, a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) creating the Judiciary, Executive, and Legislative Advisory and Consultative Council (JELAC) at the Malacañang.

The MOA will be effective immediately upon its signing.

Under the MOA, JELAC shall be mandated to serve as the forum and venue for the representatives of the three branches of the government to undrtake measures on matters affecting the primacy of the rule of law. It shall also be mandated to identity the problems and issues, formulate solutions, and to implement them.

JELAC shall be composed of nine members. The President of the Republic sits as chairperson with the Vice-President, the Senate President, the House Speaker, the Chief Justice as members. The other members are a Cabinet member to be designated by the President, one Senator and one House Representative to be designated by their respective leaders, and an Associate Justice of the High Tribunal to be designated by the Chief Justice.

The JELAC members shall serve in an ex officio capacity and shall not receive any additional emoluments and/or allowances.

Signing as witnesses are Vice President Noli L. De Castro, Senate Majority Leader Francis N. Pangilinan, House Majority Leader Arthur D. Defensor, Sr., Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita, and Supreme Court Justice Adolfo S. Azcuna.

President leads formal listing of San Miguel Brewery, Inc.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led this morning ceremonies formally listing San Miguel Corporation's (SMC) newest company – San Miguel Brewery, Incorporated (SMBI) – at the Philippine Stock Exchange's (PSE) headquarters on Ayala Ave., Makati City.

SMBI now runs SMC's domestic beer manufacturing and distributing business after the stockholders of the food conglomerate agreed to "create" a company specifically dedicated to expanding its well-known and well-loved beer brand San Miguel (Pale Pilsen, Red Horse, Light and Gold Eagle).

Incorporated in July 2007, SBMI began operations in Oct. 2007.

With its listing in the PSE, SMBI joins the ranks of businesses offering its shares to the public.

In his welcome remarks, PSE chairman Jose Vitug said he hopes the listing of SBMI will encourage other listed companies to "expand their free-flow" or the portion of the shares of stock of listed companies that are held not by strategic investors but by the public, particularly the small investors.

SMBI, according to Vitug, recently completed its initial public offering (IPO) by selling 77 million shares of its primary common stock at P8 per share, thereby raising P616 million in market capitalization.

As of now, the total market capitalization of SBMI stands at P123 billion, the "second biggest market capitalization at IPO price for any company in the history of the Exchange," Vitug said.

SMC chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) Eduardo Cojuangco, for his part, said the listing was the company's "vote of confidence" in the Philippine stock market and the Philippine economy.

"Madam President, we're very honored by your presence. Your administration's economic programs and fiscal measures are a big reason why we continue to be bullish about the economy and the Philippine equity market," Cojuangco said.

Despite the resistance of certain sectors to SBMI’ going public due to the volatility of international trade and market conditions, "we've chosen to stay the course and remain firm in our commitment to both our company and our countrymen," Cojuangco told the President.

"In bringing the company public, we wanted the average Filipino to share in the growth of our business. It's because of them that we are here today in the first place," he pointed out said.

He said that with the recent completion of SBMI's IPO, the company can now "start the next chapter of its history characterized by pursuing greater growth and profitability."

"We will continue to excite the market with new products, explore new and innovative ways of selling, intensify our efforts to achieve greater penetration and continue to expand our market share," Cojuangco said.

The President rang the bell signaling the start of trading at the PSE at exactly 9:30 this morning.

She was accompanied by First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo, Trade Secretary Peter Favila, and Finance Secretary Margarito Teves.


President Arroyo congratulates Filipino students who won gold medal at World Robot Olympiad

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo congratulated today the Filipino students who made the country proud after winning the gold medal during the World Robot Olympiad 2007 held in Taipei, Taiwan in November last year.

The gold medal award in the open category (second level) of the World Robot Olympiad was won by the students of the Grace Christian School composed of Bryan Lao, Alyssa Sheena Tan and Mark Ian Tan.

In a courtesy call this afternoon in Malacanang, the young science students demonstrated to the President the operation of their winning entry, “Operation Security Guaranteed “ with the theme “Civil Safety, Security and Response.”

The entry was built within a WHIZ community supplied with a robotic gatekeeper, firefighter, policeman, and citizen together with an elevator, fast train system, and a hydraulic building which can raise itself in case of emergencies.

Among those present during the demonstration were Department of Science and Technology (DOST) Secretary Estrella Alabastro and the students’ coach Edster Sy.

The World Robot Olympiad is a scientific and educational event to develop the creativity and problem solving skills of young students from around the globe.

The Philippine Robotics Team bested some 170 teams from 18 countries during the 2007 compet

Gokongwei offers to lengthen Caticlan runway

By Victor C. Agustin and Elaine Ruzul Ramos
The Manila Standard

TAIPAN John Gokongwei has proposed to underwrite the estimated P40-million cost of extending the severely restricted runway of Caticlan airport in Aklan, so that the gateway airport to Boracay could accommodate his Cebu Pacific planes and even the competing Philippine Airlines’ new turboprop planes.

Gokongwei, in a wide-ranging talk with newsmen, said he himself had experienced the difficulty of securing seats to Boracay, adding he and his family could not even book themselves in his own airline for the recent long Labor Day weekend.

Ironically, only 40 seats of the 72-seater ATR 72-500 could be used by Cebu Pacific for the Boracay flight because of the short, 950-meter runway.

“By extending the runway by another 100 meters, we can increase passenger capacity by another 10,” said Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific’s vice president for marketing and products.

Iyog declined to discuss the status of their proposal, which would entail the government taking over and closing down a perimeter road and acquiring the right-of-way of several small pieces of properties toward the shoreline.

The Gokongwei offer comes in the wake of his airline also having underwritten the expansion of the passenger lounge area in the congested Manila domestic terminal.

The Board of Investments, meanwhile, announced that Cebu Pacific had secured tax and import privileges for the second phase of the airline’s re-fleeting program, which involves the acquisition of five new Airbus A320s and eight more ATRs.

Cebu Pacific had already purchased 12 Airbus jets and leased two more A320s under its first phase of the P25.5-billion expansion.

The five additional A320s are scheduled to be delivered from September to December, in time for the holiday rush.

With the new planes, Cebu Pacific’s fleet would increase to 38 planes by 2013.

Delivery of the new planes will support Cebu Pacific’s projection of 13 to 15 percent passenger growth in the next five years.

In addition to key provincial destinations, Cebu Pacific also flies to such regional destinations as Bangkok, Guangzhou, Hanoi, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kaohsiung, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Saigon, Singapore, Taipei, Shanghai and Xiamen.

P5.5-B Cebu Pacific fleet expansion granted tax perks

Bernie Cahiles-Magkilat
The Manila Bulletin

Gokongwei-owned Cebu Air Inc. (CEB), owner of the country’s second biggest airline Cebu Pacific, is investing P5.52 billion to expand its existing fleet with an additional 14 brand new aircraft as it aggressively widens its presence in both the domestic and international routes.

The Board of Investments has approved the company’s registration and granted tax and fiscal incentives.

Of the 14 brand new aircraft, CEB is acquiring 5 ATR 320 aircraft starting September up to December this year. These aircrafts are going to service its international and domestic routes.

The company will also acquire 8 ATR 72-500 aircraft for the whole of 2009. The 72-500 aircraft are turbo prop, single class planes that can accommodate a maximum of 72 passengers.

These planes are designed for short distance travel and smaller airports.

This is already the second phase of the company’s expansion program. The first expansion was another 14 brand new aircraft comprising of A319 and 320.

CEB is 49 percent-owned by JG Summit, the holding company of the highly-diversified Gokongwei-group of companies.

A pioneering in the "low fare, great value" strategy in the local aviation industry, CEB entered the market on March 1996.

CEB launched its international operations on November 2001 and now flies to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Incheon, Pusan, Taipei, Shanghai, Xiamen, Guangzhou, and Macau. Flights to Korea cannot be booked thru this website

CEB now operates a fleet of 15 Airbus (10 A319 and 5 A320) and 2 ATR 72100 aircraft, the youngest fleet in the Philippines with a fleet age of 1.7 years. With the completion of its re-fleeting, CEB has doubled its capacity.

CEB continues to offer the ‘Go’ fares — providing the lowest year-round fares in all its domestic and international destinations. CEB remains to be the pioneer in creative pricing strategies as it manages to offer the lowest fare in every route it operates. The ‘Go’ fares are not promotional and are exclusive of surcharges and government tax.

CEB, the leader in innovation and creativity in the local aviation industry, is the first local airline to introduce E-ticketing and TxtCEB (booking through SMS) in the country.

Customers have also learned to anticipate a uniquely upbeat flying experience with CEB, as this is the only domestic carrier that offers fun in the skies with its games on board popularly known as "FunFlights" together with its entertaining in-flight magazine — Smile.

CEB also partnered with various destination hotels and car rental service to provide its passengers a more convenient travel experience. On-time performance, schedule reliability, and a smooth, comfortable flight are just some of the things that the air-traveling public has come to expect from Cebu Pacific.