Saturday, 30 August 2008

PGMA congratulates wushu Olympic medalists

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo pose with the Wushu Team members who brought home one gold, one silver and two bronze medals from Beijing during a courtesy call on her Friday (Aug. 29) at Malacanang's Music Room. They won the medals in the wushu competitions that served as special or side event of the recently- concluded Beijing Olympics. They are (from left) Benjie Rivera (bronze), Willy Wang (gold), Mary Jane Estimar (silver), and Marianne Mariano (bronze). (Enrico Borja-NIB/OPS Photo)

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo received in Malacañang today Willy Wang, the Filipino gold medal winner in the Beijing Olympics’ side event, together with the four members of his team who likewise brought home one silver and two bronze medals.

Gold medalist Wang, silver medalist Mary Jane Estimar and bronze medal winners Benjie Rivera and Mariane Mariano paid a courtesy call on the President. They were accompanied by sports officials and First Gentleman Jose Miguel Arroyo.

“Congratulations! Show your medals, the Olympic style,” the President said as she welcomed her famous callers, after which she gladly posed with them for a souvenir photo.

The four champions won their medals in the wushu competitions, a special event in the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

Wang won the gold medal in the wushu nanquin level; Estimar, her silver medal in the wushu women’s sanshou 52 kilograms level; Rivera, his bronze medal in the wushu men’s 52 kilograms; and Mariano, his bronze medal in the wushu women’s sanshou 56 kilograms category.

The First Gentleman, in a brief interview, expressed his elation for the great honor the wushu team gave to the nation. He pledged P1 million prize while the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) vowed P500,000 for the wushu winners.

Wang’s victory marked the only time the Philippine national anthem was played in the Olympic city.

“I am very proud of our wushu team. They were able to get medals, all of them. We had only four participants and all of them got medals, one gold, one silver, two bronzes. We are very proud of them. They gave honor to the country. You know we all felt so good when they played our national anthem at that time when the flag was raised. We were very, very proud and so happy at that time,” the First Gentleman said.

The President, according to Dodie King of Pagcor gave a total of P5 million to the wushu team from the President’s Social Fund.

For its part, the FG Foundation Inc. handed down cash incentives to Wang in the amount of P500,000; Estimar, 250,000; while Rivera and Mariano both received 125,000 each.

PSC chairman William Ramirez said that his office also rewarded the wushu winners P500,000.

Other officials present were Bacolod City Rep. Monico Puentevella, wushu team honorary chairman Francis Chang, and its president, Julian Camacho.

Palace says 2nd quarter GDP respectable given the threats to the global economy

Malacañang today dubbed as “respectable” the country’s 4.6 percent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) for the second quarter of 2008.

In a statement, Press Secretary Jesus G. Dureza said “the 4.6-percent GDP recorded on the second quarter is still respectable given the threats to the global economy.”

“In a larger view, our growth output only mirrors what the rest of even major economies in the world are experiencing due to high food and oil prices which induced inflation and held back consumer demand,” Dureza stressed.

The Press Secretary said the Arroyo administration is presently addressing the impact of these twin problems of increased inflation and decreased consumer demand by “accelerating expenditures on pro-poor programs while cutting back on non-essential ones.”

“These measures and other reforms laid by President Arroyo -- which kept the country on an even keel in spite of global factors -- are part of the pump-priming activity of the government to generate jobs and demand for goods and services,” Dureza added.

NAIA 3 update photos


Friday, 29 August 2008

Mining investments in RP to hit $1b

By Othel V. Campos
The Manila Standard

Investments in the mining sector are expected to hit $1 billion this year, said mining bureau director Horacio Ramos.

Investments in the sector have totaled $1.8 billion since 2004.

Ramos said additional investments in the second semester were expected to come from mining companies like Atlas Mining Corp., Filminera Corp., Xtrata, Cagdianao Mining Corp., Hinatuan Mining Corp. and Coral Bay Nickel Corp.

“We’re monitoring at least 30 ongoing projects and 25 exploration projects that would contribute substantially to the projected investments for the year,” he said.

About 63 priority projects earlier were identified by the government that could contribute 6.5 percent to the global demand for minerals in 2011.

The government aims to achieve “mining country” status by 2011. By World Bank standards, a mineral-producing country can reach the status if the sector’s exports reach 6 percent of the nation’s total exports.

The Environment Department said copper production would rise four times from 216,000 dry metric tons last year to 850,000 DMT in 2011 while chromite would almost double from 37,000 DMT to 63,000 DMT.

Gold production would increase twice from 1.2 million to 2.7 million ounces, while silver would shoot up six times from .89 million to 5 million ounces, it said.

Direct nickel ore production is expected to slow down by about 20 percent but nickel concentrate production will improve by almost 10 times with additional nickel processing plants coming on stream.

Inflation, global woes hurt GDP

By Cai U. Ordinario
The Business Mirror

HIGH inflation and slower growth in advanced economies in the world dragged down the country’s economic growth in the second quarter and the first half of the year to 4.6 percent, the government announced on Thursday.

National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) Secretary General Romulo Virola said the 4.6-percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP) was the lowest the country posted since the first quarter of 2005, when it posted a 4.4-percent growth.

“The high-inflation regime that prevailed during the second quarter coupled with the base effect of an election spending-fed growth last year took its toll on the Philippine economy as GDP rose by 4.6 percent, a considerable decelaration from the 8.3-percent increase recorded last year,” Virola said at a press conference in Makati City.

High inflation resulted, he said, in the slowdown of personal consumption spending to 3.4 percent from 5.6 percent last year; and slower general government spending, posting a negative 5.1-percent growth from 11.9-percent growth last year. Traditionally, around 70 percent of the country’s GDP is accounted for by consumption spending.

Slowdown next door, too

Meanwhile, the slowdown in many advanced countries also severely affected the country’s GDP growth. However, National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) Director General Ralph Recto said the country was not alone and that other neighboring Asian countries also suffered from the global economic slowdown.

The slowdown in advanced countries particularly affected the growth of the services sector, which in recent years had boosted the economy. The sector only posted a 4.3-percent growth from 8.4 percent last year, the lowest growth the sector posted since the third quarter of 2001.

Growth drivers weaker

During the quarter, the biggest growth came from agriculture, forestry and fisheries which posted a 4.9-percent growth from 4.2 percent last year followed by industry which only posted a growth of 4.8 percent from 10.3 percent in the same period in 2007.

“Consumption growth weakened compared to the same quarter last year as consumers tightened their spending on almost all commodities. Weak consumption, in turn, negatively affected demand for trade, transportation and communication services, which grew fast in the second quarter of 2007 on account of election-related demand,” Recto explained.

Recto said that in order to attain the low end of the 5.5 percent to 6.4 percent GDP growth target range for 2008, the country needs to grow by 6.4 percent in the third and fourth quarters.

However, he remains hopeful the second half of 2008 would be better, since the government and is seen to increase spending for projects that in turn would prime the economy.

Recto’s outlook bullish

“The government is in a better position to make these investments given its improved fiscal position. But it must improve the absorptive capacities of its line agencies to effectively deliver these services to the people,” Recto said.

Recto sees other growth drivers would include food manufacturing; the increased production of palay and corn; the continued strong performance of the business-process outsourcing firms and the real estate sector; the effects of power sector reforms; and a pickup in mining and quarrying.

While Mining was the biggest drag in the growth of the Industry sector, Recto is confident things will improve. He traced the negative 18.5-percent growth in mining and quarrying mainly to the slowdown in China’s demand for nickel.

Last year, the President said mining will be a big source of revenues for the Philippines since China is a main importer of nickel. The Philippines, being among the few countries rich in nickel, was the nearest source for China to tap for its demand.

China’s high demand for nickel was fueled by the Beijing Olympics.

“Industry’s performance was dragged down by the sharp decline in mining and quarrying outputs as coal production was adversely affected by heavy rains during the quarter. Moreover, nickel and crude oil also largely contributed to the negative performance of the sector. Demand for nickel declined as China concluded preparations for the Olympics and nickel prices started to ease in the world market,” Recto said.

‘Wishful thinking’

Economists, meanwhile, do not share the government’s confidence in the possible growth in the second half of the year.

Former Neda chief Cayetano Paderanga said the government may even find its hands tied when it comes to how it will respond to high inflation, particularly double-digit inflation in the second half of the year.

Paderanga said that while high inflation will prevent the government from priming the economy, increasing interest rates will not help improve the country’s condition.

He said that if the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) chooses to increase interest rates to 75 basis points to counter inflation, this may cause the economy to lose some steam and may even push the country into further recession.

“It depends on what they would like to do. If they get lucky and consumer confidence improves, it could help. But this could increase inflation,” Paderanga said.

For his part, former Budget secretary Benjamin Diokno said that while the 4.6-percent growth in the second quarter was consistent with his forecast of 4.5 percent to 5.0 percent, the 6.4-percent growth targetted in the second half is “wishful thinking” and “unrealistic.”

Diokno said the current high-inflation regime will not allow that kind of economic growth.

He also said that while higher growth in the second half of the year is not certain, the 4.6-percent growth in the first half of the year could lower tax revenues, further constraining the government’s plan to prime the economy.

Lower revenues could not only dampen government spending for projects, but could be compounded by higher cost of construction materials. Higher inflation for construction materials could also dampen private construction.

“The higher cost of construction inputs means lower physical outputs. (This means) less kilometers of roads, linear meters of bridges, classrooms, and so on,” Diokno said.

Wednesday, 27 August 2008

VAT to be used for rail loop

Alexis Douglas B. Romero
BusinessWorld Online

THE GOVERNMENT will use proceeds from the value-added tax (VAT) to complete a railway linking the Light Rail Transit-1’s (LRT) Monumento station and the Metro Rail Transit’s (MRT) North Avenue terminus.

The government, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo told reporters on Monday, has enough funds to complete the P6.3-billion project, thus there was no need to borrow money from creditors.

"We will use the VAT proceeds to close the LRT-MRT loop. Seeking foreign loans may take too much time and anyway we have the money to spend," she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said the completion of the MRT3-LRT Line 1 extension would be hampered if the government awaited creditor approval of a loan package.

Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquiades Robles confirmed the use of the VAT funds in a phone interview yesterday, adding that the project embodied the advantages of having the VAT system in place.

"The President decided to use the VAT funds because when we borrow money, we would have to pay interest. Through this project, we can see the advantages of the VAT. This project will be locally-funded and is indeed a fruit of VAT," he said.

The sales tax has been criticized lately by cause-oriented groups and some legislators, particularly the inclusion of the energy sector in its coverage, in the wake of rising fuel prices.

Mr. Robles said the loop, being a multi-year project, would be funded by VAT collections from 2008 to 2010.

The Department of Finance has said it expects VAT collections to hit P119.59 billion this year due to an increase in world oil prices. Part of the proceeds are already being used for subsidies and other social programs for the poor under the Katas ng VAT (literally, fruit of the VAT) program.

The 5.4-kilometer link will complete the EDSA Loop and involves three new stations, one beside the MRT-3 North Avenue end and the other two at Balintawak and Muñoz market in Quezon City.

It is one of the projects aimed at decongesting traffic in Metro Manila.

The MRT-LRT Loop has three components: package A, which is divided in two phases and involves the construction of a viaduct and pedestrian overpass; package B, which covers the train stations; and package C, which involves electromechanical works.

A DMCI-First Balfour consortium has been awarded the A1, A2, and B packages of the project. Package C had been declared a failed bid after DMCI-First Balfour, the only party qualified to join the auction, did not submit the required documents.

Construction of the project is expected to start next month and Mr. Robles expressed confidence that the loop would be fully operational by May 2010.

"The President has ordered us to work on the project. Through this project we will be serving more passengers," he said. —

Tuesday, 26 August 2008

$ 1-B logistics hub starts to rise at Clark

The Manila Bulletin

CLARK FREEPORT ZONE, Pampanga — President Arroyo yesterday welcomed a major Kuwaiti investment firm that will build a new service and logistics center here as the latest member of the country’s Billion Dollar Club of investors.

The President led the groundbreaking rites for the $ 1.025-billion Global Gateway Logistics City (GGLC), owned by the Kuwait Gulf and Link (KGL) Investment Company, at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) Civil Aviation Complex here. The project is estimated to generate up to 35,000 jobs.

‘’With the investment venture we are launching today, KGL joins Texas Instruments and other members of our Billion Dollar Club. The Global Gateway Logistics City will be a world-class logistics and business park worth over $ 1 billion,’’ the President said during the ceremony.

She said the GGLC, which will be built on a 167-hectare area, will be the first fully integrated master-planned center for airport and aviation-oriented operations and businesses in the country and a ‘’crucial hub’’ in what she envisions as the best service and logistics center in the Asia-Pacific region.

‘’We anticipate with excitement its state-of-theart facilities, including excellent infrastructure, a comprehensive security system, and sophisticated communications network, along with many other physical amenities,’’ she said.

Mrs. Arroyo said she counts on the new billion dollar project to be managed and maintained to the highest international standards befitting top tier foreign investments in the freeport zone.

In the next 24 months, the Kuwaiti company will undertake the first stage of the construction, which will cost $ 25 million, involving roads, street lights, landscaping, sidewalk, utilities, and access points.

The second stage of the construction, amounting to $ 1 billion, will consist of the development, over a period of seven years, of the main facilities and buildings.

Once completed, the GGLC will provide logistics-dependent businesses with warehouses, distribution, multinodal logistics, and light manufacturing services as well as complementary business operations to support aviationrelated activities within the DMIA.

The new Kuwaiti-owned service and logistics center is also expected to generate around 35,000 new jobs and spur tourism and economic growth in the region.

Mrs. Arroyo said the new business center will boost the development of the Subic-Clark area into a competitive service and logistics hub in Asia, one of the 10-point legacy agenda of her administration.

Kuwait Sheik Ahmad Doaud Salman Al-Sabah, representing the royal family, said the idea of putting up a service and logistics hub at Clark came to him when he visited the Philippines three years ago and saw the potential of the massive vacant lot at the DMIA Civil Aviation Complex.

He also thanked the President for the government’s support in building the new project at the Clark Freeport Zone, citing better economic relations between the Philippines and Kuwait.

In a statement, KGL Investment Co. said it decided to invest in the country due to the high quality of the labor force, strategic location, and progressive economic reforms and policies such as generous tax incentives and simplified business procedures.

It has tapped Peregrine Development International as project manager and prime contractor fo the project. Peregrine has selected a Filipino company, Palafox Associates, to design the project.

The President also thanked the Kuwaiti government for its investments and development assistance to the Philippines, including the upgrade of the Davao Regional Hospital into a national cancer center, the Cotabato Regional Medical Center into a regional cancer center, and to modernize the Zamboanga Medical Center surgery block.

The President arrived at the aviation complex at about 2 p.m. yesterday to lead officials of the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) and KGL for the groundbreaking and time capsule laying for the world-class facility.

The groundbreaking came after CIAC President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano and officials of the KGL headed by President Mark E. Williams sealed an agreement at the CIAC Corporate Office for the establishment of the largest logistics hub in the Philippines last July 16.

The agreement would benefit the surrounding communities of Clark Freeport Zone as well as Northern and Central Luzon.

President Arroyo also witnessed the time-capsule laying between Luciano and Peregrine Development International President Dennis L. Wright.

Other officials who attended yesterday’s event were Subic- Clark Alliance for Development Council Secretary Edgardo Pamintuan, Bases Conversion Development Authority President Narciso Abaya, Clark Development Corp. Chairman Rizalino Navarro, and CDC President Benigno N. Ricafort.

Also present were CIAC Executive Vice President Alexander S. Cauguiran, Chairman Nestor Mangio, Vice President for Operations and General Manager Bienvenido O. Manga, Vice President for Finance Romeo N. Dyoco, and Evan Mcbride and Kevin Krucik of the KGL Group.

"We’re very excited about the opportunity in signing a partnership with CIAC and we are looking forward to a long partnership for both organizations," said Williams.

"CIAC is very pro-active in terms of business and were looking forward to bring other Kuwaiti and other Middle Eastern businesses at DMIA and the Philippines," Williams added.

Williams also said the establishment of the Global Gateway Logistics City located at the Industrial Estate Five "will have a significant multiplier effect to the surrounding communities of Clark and to the Philippines."

KGL will occupy at least 167 hectares within the Civil Aviation Complex for the development of a combined use logistics hub and techno park. The project is located near the Yokohama Tire Philippines and other Japanese locators in the area.

KGL is an international alternative investment firm engaged in private equity; venture capital and investment banking. It is a global leader with over 50 years of experience in transportation, logistics, stevedoring, passenger transport, warehousing, supply chain management and port operations.

KGL’s current operations include Kuwait, United Arab Emirates, Jordan, Tunisia, Oman, Namibia, Morroco, Pakistan, Germany, Ireland, Cayman, Mauritius and Egypt.

CIAC has started plans for the development of the Terminal 2 project for DMIA which aims to increase passenger capacity to 7 to 8 million annually.