Saturday, 9 August 2008

SBMA suspends Hanjin subcontractor Bodahh after 3rd worker falls to death

By Henry Empeño
The Business Mirror

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—Another accident at the Redondo shipyard of Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp.-Philippines killed a worker on Wednesday, prompting authorities to suspend the operations of the victim’s employer.

Arvy Mahinay, 19, and a resident of Pasig City, reportedly fell off the roof of a structure that was under construction after he tried to go after his falling helmet.

The accident occurred at about 4:10 p.m. on Wednesday at Hanjin Heavy’s Dock No. 5 where workers were constructing a shelter, according to initial investigation by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA).

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said in a statement on Thursday the agency has suspended the operations of Bodahh Inc., a Hanjin subcontractor.

“The SBMA is conducting further investigation into the incident, but we have already ordered the suspension of any activity of the subcontractor,” said Arreza.

He added that the SBMA is also studying the permanent cancellation of Bodahh’s accreditation in view of the number of accidents involving its workers at the Redondo Peninsula project site.

The SBMA has also given Mahinay’s employer, Bodahh manager Suk Ho Kang, 72 hours to show cause why the company’s certificate of registration should not be revoked, Arreza said.

Mahinay was the fourth worker employed by Bodahh Inc. to die in an accident at the shipyard since last year.

SBMA investigators said the victim was wearing a safety belt hooked to a lifeline while working atop the structure.

However, when his safety helmet accidentally fell off, Mahinay reportedly unhooked his lifeline as he tried to retrieve his helmet.

The victim reportedly slipped and subsequently fell 29 meters to the ground.

Prior to this, three other employees of Bodahh died in accidents at the shipyard, including two who also fell off rooftops.

The first Bodahh worker who figured in a fatal accident fell off the roof of an assembly shop on February 22 last year. The second also fell off a 9-meter-high structure on March 11 this year, while the third died in a vehicular accident only on June 11.

The latest mishap brought the death toll at Hanjin Heavy’s shipyard to a total of 14, ever since the Korean shipbuilder started operations here in early 2006.

Last month the SBMA issued Hanjin Heavy a cease-and-desist order after a worker employed by subcontractor Subic Han Sung Inc. was accidentally hit by a swinging girder assembly and died from internal injuries a day after.

China businessmen to invest $ 6.4 B in the Philippines

The Manila Bulletin

BEIJING (via PLDT) — President Arroyo has solicited a whooping $ 6.4 billion worth of Chinese investments in the country for housing, cement, mining, and manufacturing projects.

Trade and Industry Secretary Peter B. Favila said the largest investment comes from Sunshine 100 at $ 5 billion for housing development; nearly $ 300 million from the Fujian Loonglin Group Co., Ltd. for a cement manufacturing plant; and $ 100 million from the Wei Wei Group for a nickel smelting plant.

The President met with the three top Chinese businessmen here before she joined at least 85 world leaders at a luncheon tendered by President Hu Jintao in the Great Hall of the People, a 30-minute ride from the Asia Hotel, where Mrs. Arroyo, First Gentleman Miguel Arroyo, and some members of the Cabinet were billeted.

China Fiber Corp. will invest $ 1 billion for a thread manufacturing plant using banana and palm fibers to produce thread that will be used in the manufacture of clothing, said special envoy and Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Emeritus Francis Chua.

The plant will be set up in Davao that could churn out 20,000 metric tons of thread annually, Chua added.

Favila, who was present when the President met with the heads of the three corporations here yesterday morning, said Sunshine 100 Chairman Lucio Tai Yen informed Mrs. Arroyo of his company’s intention to expand its investments in the country.

Sunshine, considered one of the fastest growing firms here focusing on residential development, has an existing exposure in the Philippines under a joint venture undertaking with a local partner.

Favila said the plan is to enter the housing market across all categories - - low cost; middle market and high-end. For a starter, Sunshine signed a memorandum of agreement with the Philippine Retirement Authority to build housing units for retirees.

Fujian Chief Executive Officer Yujian Xu has expressed a desire to open a cement plant in Antipolo City, Favila added.

Mrs. Arroyo welcomed the investment, which will not only mean additional dollars coming in, but also more economic activities and jobs, Favila quoted the President as saying.

The entry of Fujian, one of China’s biggest cement manufacturers producing high-yield, quality cement, using 1000t/d clinker line with 100 percent burning anthracite production, in the local cement industry could benefit the real estate sector of the economy in the country.

The Wei Wei Group, meanwhile, plans to increase its investments in the Philippines through its domestic partner, Golden Harvest, for the construction of a nickel smelting plant in Zambales.

Since 1992, Sunshine 100 had 18 real estate development project in 12 cities of mainland China from Beijing to Chongquing, Jinan, Chengdu, Wuhan, and Tianjin with a total developed area surpassing nine million square meters..

It has been recognized as one of China’s 500 most valuable brands, 10 most valuable real estate branches, Blue Chip real estate enterprise of China, and China top 100 property enterprises. (Fil Sionil and Roy C. Mabasa)

Exports up 8.3% to .49 B in June helped by peso fall

The Manila Bulletin

Philippine exports rose 8.3 percent on year in June, due mainly to increased shipments of electronics items and commodities, but economists weren’t impressed by the performance.

"It’s probably inflated by higher cost of exports," said Jose Vistan, an economist at AB Capital Securities, suggesting that exports may have actually contracted if adjusted for inflation. "The depreciation of the peso in June may have also helped."

Economists also see dark clouds looming in the horizon, citing weaker demand from the US, the country’s top export market. Manufacturing in China, another key market, is likely to slow as it hosts the Olympics. Together, the US and China account for a quarter of the Philippines’ exports by value.

Earlier Friday, the National Statistics Office said that products shipped overseas increased to $ 4.49 billion from $ 4.15 billion in the same month last year. In May, exports were up 2.3 percent on year.

Exports were 6.4 percent higher compared with the revised $ 4.22 billion shipped in May.

The government is aiming for export growth of 5 percent this year, down from an original target of 11 percent, given weaker global demand.

Electronics items, which accounted for 59 percent of exports in June, increased 6.4 percent on year to $ 2.63 billion.

Total exports in the first half of the year rose 4.0 percent on year to $ 25.58 billion.

The US continued to be the Philippines’ top export market, accounting for 15.6 percent of shipments June despite a 0.1 percent on-year contraction in its purchases to $ 702.7 million.

Exports to China showed an 8.8 percent on-year increase, while those to South Korea continued to surge at an annual pace of more than 60 percent .

"We saw a lift from the resources sector, but whether this is sustainable remains a question. We still see a volatile ride, with manufacturing likely more subdued in the second half because of uncertainty," said Song Seng Wun, regional economist at CIMB-GK Singapore.

Thursday, 7 August 2008

End-July 2008 GIR Nears US$37.0 Billion Mark

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) climbed to US$36.9 billion as of end-July 2008, US$0.2 billion higher than the previous month’s level of US$36.7 billion. Major inflows which contributed to the increase in reserves were deposits by the Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corporation (PSALM) of proceeds from the privatization program of the National Power Corporation (NPC), as well as the Bangko Sentral’s (BSP) net foreign exchange operations and income from its investments abroad. These receipts were partly offset, however, by outflows arising mainly from payments of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the NG and the BSP.

The current GIR level can cover 6.0 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It was also equivalent to 5.2 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.0 times based on residual maturity. [Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 months.]

The level of net international reserves (NIR) as of end-July 2008, including revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, likewise rose by US$0.2 billion to US$36.4 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.

PGMA orders close monitoring of developments in Mindanao

PGMA DEPARTS FOR CHINA -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo salutes the Philippine colors during the honors accorded her early morning Thursday (Aug. 7) at Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) in Pasay City before she left for a three-day working visit to the People's Republic of China. At right is Armed Forces of the Philippines Chief of Staff (AFP) Alexander Yano. (Rey Baniquet/OPS-NIB Photo:

TERMINAL 3, Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Pasay City) – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo directed her Cabinet this morning to closely monitor developments in Mindanao in the wake of the aborted signing of the memorandum of agreement (MOA) on ancestral domain between the government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF).

The President issued the directive before boarding the Philippine Air Lines (PAL) chartered flight to Chengdu, Sichuan province, the first stop in her three-day working visit to Beijing to watch the opening ceremonies of the Beijing Olympics hold bilateral talks with Chinese President Hu Jintao and other world leaders.

Set for Tuesday (Aug. 5) in the Malaysian capital Kuala Lumpur, the signing of the MOA on ancestral domain was cancelled after the Supreme Court (SC) issued a temporary restraining order (TRO).

"The President just reminded us that we have to look at the situation developing in Mindanao because of this development on the failure (of the Government of the Republic of the Philippines and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front to sign the MOA on ancestral domain)," Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita said minutes after the President boarded PAL flight PR-001 for China.

Ermita said the President issued the instruction to assure the people that the government, particularly the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP), were doing everything to keep the situation in Mindanao under control.

"Just to be sure that everyone will have peace of mind, the President gave out instructions to see to it that our people know that the armed forces and the police are monitoring the situation para ma-aksyonan kung ano man ang nangyayari," Ermita said.

Ermita categorically debunked claims by certain sectors that the cancellation of the signing of the MOA posed a "security threat" to the country, saying the AFP and PNP activities were "only in anticipation of what they (splinter groups of the MILF) might do."

"Sa ngayon, wala namang major security threat…kaya lang we go by the assumption that we need to be prepared in case may manggulo sa kanilang mga splinter groups," he said.

Inflation at 12.2% in July

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Headline inflation climbed to 12.2 percent year-on-year in July, bringing the inflation rate to its highest level since 1991. July’s inflation was higher than the 11.4 percent posted in June, and brought the year-to-date average to 8.3 percent. Most major commodity groups, led by food, beverages and tobacco, posted higher inflation rates relative to their levels in the previous month. However, month-on-month headline inflation was lower at 1.5 percent in July from 2.3 percent in June. Core inflation, which excludes certain specific food and energy items to obtain an underlying measure of generalized price pressures, was also slightly down at 6.3 percent year-on-year in July from 6.6 percent in June.

Higher prices of food products pushed inflation higher in July. The food items that drove inflation were rice, cereal preparations, fruits and vegetables, and miscellaneous food items (mainly coffee, cocoa, tea, salt, and cooking oil). While domestic rice prices declined in July relative to June, lower prices a year ago yielded higher year-on-year rice inflation in July. Recent typhoons affected the supply of fruits and vegetables while more expensive flour drove the prices of cereal products higher. Elevated global oil prices were reflected in higher domestic pump prices of petroleum products and transport fares in July.

The BSP is determined to keep a firm grip on inflation and inflation expectations and will respond appropriately to safeguard price stability. Monetary policy will ensure that inflation expectations remain anchored to avoid a wage-price spiral and minimize the adverse impact on economic activity.

JPEPA inching closer to ratification — Miriam

The Manila Bulletin

The Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA) inched closer to ratification after 14 senators have signed the committee report recommending conditional concurrence on the treaty, Sen. Miriam Defensor Santiago said yesterday.

Miriam said the Senate’s concurrence on the controversial treaty is "virtually assured" because 14 senators have signed the committee report.

"The required two-thirds vote of the Senate is only 15 senators, so we only need one more vote. That would not be hard, because the issue of constitutionality has already been settled," Miriam said.

Miriam and Sens. Manuel A. Roxas II, Richard J. Gordon, Edgardo J. Angara, Juan Ponce-Enrile, Manuel M. Lapid, Ramon B. Revilla Jr., Juan Miguel F. Zubiri, Rodolfo G. Biazon, Loren B. Legarda, Jose E. Estrada, Francis N. Pangilinan, Aquilino Q. Pimentel Jr., and Joker P. Arroyo have signed the committee report. All signed with reservations except Angara and Enrile.

The five senators who did not sign the committee report were Gregorio B. Honasan, Ma. Ana Consuelo A.S. Madrigal, Antonio F. Trillanes IV, Pilar Juliana S. Cayetano, and Francis Joseph G. Escudero.

However, yesterday afternoon, the number of senators who signed the committee report went to 13 as Sen. Joker P. Arroyo withdrew his signature.

Arroyo issued a statement saying that he withdrew his vote, saying that "in the absence of an indispensable curative-side agreement," he was constrained to withhold his concurrence.

"I withheld my concurrence, meaning, I did not concur with the treaty because the two countries could not agree on the side agreement which was intended to resolve or cure the disagreements between the two countries," Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, Filipino scientists are hoping for the ratification of the JPEPA due to the advantage it may bring to the scientific community.

"We are very supportive of the ratification as it will enhance scientific collaboration between the Philippines and Japan," Department of Science and Technology (DoST) Secretary Estrella F. Alabastro said.

"Our benefits will be in human resource development (HRD) and capacity building of our institutions," she added.

"The partnership will open a lot of doors (to the scientific community)," DoST Undersecretary for Research and Development (R & D) Graciano Yumul Jr. said.

He said that aside from HRD and capacity-buidling, the JPEPA ratification will also be a "major component" for facilities improvement, among others.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Officials expect normal NAIA 3 operations after 'glitches'


Airport officials were expecting operations at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 (NAIA 3) to normalize Tuesday, after days of encountering a confluence of problems that stranded hundreds of passengers.

"Hopefully, there we be no more problems," Tirso Serrano, assistant general manager for airport and corporate affairs of the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), told ABS-CBN's morning show, "Umagang Kay Ganda."

Candice Iyog, Cebu Pacific Air's vice president for marketing and product, said postponed flights have left NAIA 3 on Monday afternoon and Tuesday morning. She said some stranded passengers due to delayed flights over the weekend and on Monday were billeted to hotels near the international airport.

"There were no more cancellations. We expect the operations to normalize today (Tuesday," Iyog said in a separate interview with Umagang Kay Ganda.

Serrano said the delay of flights, which angered hundreds of passengers, was a result of some operational "glitches." He said such problems are expected in newly-opened international airports, even in other countries.

Iyog, meanwhile, explained that the delayed flights that started over the weekend were a result of a confluence of reasons, including their transition from the old terminals to the NAIA 3 and bad weather.

She added that two Cebu Pacific aircrafts also had to undergo maintenance repairs on Monday, which resulted in further delays.

Almost ready

Airport officials led by Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza and MIAA General Manager Alfonso Cusi started a twice-a-week meeting on Monday after experiencing the "birth pain" problems, Serrano said.

Serrano said assessments were made on Monday and they agreed that the NAIA 3 was only 70 to 80 percent ready for the international and domestic flights.

Even with the glitches, the airport official said the MIAA 3 could make up for its better preparations on the passengers servicing side. He mentioned a well-constructed passenger waiting areas and more comfortable facility.

The NAIA 3 started its international flights operations August 1. It's soft opening last July 22 started with only eight domestic flights of the Cebu Pacific Air followed by the start of other domestic airlines -- PAL Express and Air Philippines -- last July 24.

"We would like to apologize for the problems caused by what we call birth pain troubles. We're only on our fifth day," Serrano said.

He said the airport management, together with the airlines at the new terminal, will "pick up the pieces" to improve their services.

"What's important is we are able to join hands and address these glitches on a day to day basis," he added.