Saturday, 2 May 2009

Philippine Gov't sponsored job fair draws huge crowd of jobseekers on Labor Day

MANILA (PNAFeatures) -- The Mall of Asia was jampacked with people than any other streets in Metro Manila on Labor Day, as an estimated 30,000 jobseekers lined up to find employment in what the Philippines call the biggest jobfair: Jobapalooza '09.

“The skills and talents of our workers at home and abroad are confounding the gloomy forecasts of pessimists, as they continue to seek out ever more jobs, remit more funds to our shores and sustain the hopes of our country and the dreams of their families,” President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo said in her speech honoring Filipino workers on Labor Day.

A total of 1,677 local employers and recruitment agencies joined the jobs fair held at the SMX Convention Center at the Mall of Asia in Pasay City.

Labor Secretary Marianito Roque said that 830 employers offered a total of 45,776 local jobs while 847 recruitment firms posted 173,204 job vacancies abroad.

A total of 200,000 local and overseas jobs were offered nationwhide, as regional Jobapalooza were consequently held in various sites in all the country's 16 regions.

In Metro Manila, jobseekers lined up MOA's SMX as early as 5 a.m., two hours before the fair kicked off, and initial figures said over 7,000 were hired on the spot.

The DoLE is yet to release offocial reports as to the nationwide results on the number of applicants who sought instant employment upon attendance in Jobapalooza, but Undersecretary Luz Padilla said that the pre registration launched by DoLE and premier IT academe STI, garnered 20,000 registrants as of April 30.

The employers have sifted through their qualifications even before the fair, so most of them have been evaluated, could be on final interview (in MOA) or are starting really soon, she said.

Pre-matching is the primary aim of DoLE and Jobapalooza organizers because jobs mismatch has haunted previous jobfairs in the country, making it less successful than they intended.

But Padilla said that this has been succesasful this year, they have really brought employment closer to jobseekers through the resume-database caravan which had been making rounds in various schools and public places where jobseekers could be.

DoLE's Jobapalooza is an effort put up by private sectors, the labor unions for the workers, especially the new entrants to the labor force and those affected by the global economic crisis.

As more people responded to the opportunity, meanwhile some 4,500 militants marched to Mendiola to air their grievances and petitions such as the 125 across the board wage hike.

The militants from the left-leaning Kilusang Mayo Uno (May First Movement) belittled the event saying it would do little to address supposedly massive layoffs and rising unemployment.

Protesting against what they called as anti-labor policies of the government, the militants, particularly the 300 from Global Call to Action Against Poverty, surprised the police when they popped up on Mendiola Bridge near Malacañang at about 4 a.m. of Friday.

The rallies, though caused minor tension, had been generally peaceful, according to police.

Employers themselves pleaded workers to hold off requests for salary hike saying it will be more destructive, as more firms will be forced to close operations hence massive lay offs and untimely retrenchment.

The crisis has so far affected the global laborforce, but experts say the situation in the country is less shocking than those in the United States and European nations where jobs are lost from left to right.

Despite having the highest minimum wage in Southeast Asian region, the Philippines continues to be preferred by foreign investors.

Labor Day this year is a timely occasion for the nation to celebrate the resiliency of our economy that has so far protected us from the worst of the global recession and allowed us to continue to grow.

One of the sunshine industries bannered during Jobapalooza, call center firms experienced growth giving Filipinos option for better paying employment.

“A grateful government pledges its unwavering support to the great Filipino worker and the bright future that our workers are building for our country,” the chief executive said.

Roque said there are signs companies hurt by the global economic slowdown are beginning to recover, and assured the government will continue to focus on creating new jobs.

The jobs fair “marked the collective action and mutual collaboration of social partners in helping the workers find jobs” in order to alleviate the impact of the global financial crisis on the workers and their families, Roque said.

The agency hopes to repeat on June 12, Independence Day, the simultaneous job fairs it conducted yesterday with the private sector and local governments.(PNA)

Photo update: Manila LRT 1 extension


Philippine bank records 86% profit jump

By Eileen A. Mencias
Manila Standard

LISTED Bank of the Philippine Islands yesterday said its net income rose 86.1 percent to P2.9 billion in the first quarter on the back of higher net interest earnings and trading income as a result of falling interest rates.

“We are extremely pleased with the bank’s strong first quarter results,” bank president and chief executive Aurelio Montinola III said in a disclosure to the Stock Exchange.

“Not only did it affirm the resilience of the local economy, it likewise validated the strength of our banking franchise and the value of our efforts to diversify our revenue base and improve our credit risk profile.”

But Montinola said the bank remained cautious because the economy and the banking sector were still vulnerable to any further global economic slowdown.

“Signs of stabilization overseas appear tentative and cannot be construed as the beginning of an enduring recovery,” he said.

“We continue to be vigilant as we brace ourselves for any adverse turn in Philippine economic circumstances in the months ahead.”

The Ayala-owned Bank of the Philippine Islands is the Philippines’ oldest bank. Its P110.3-billion capital is also the largest of any bank.

The bank reported a capital-to-risk ratio of 14.9 percent at the end of March—well above the 10 percent required by regulators.

Philippines' SMIC declares more cash dividend

Kristine Jane R. Liu

The holding company of the Sy family will declare more cash dividend to stakeholders this year amdist an economic slowdown.

The Sy-led holding firm SM Investments Corp. (SMIC) has increased its cash dividend by 17% to P6.88 per share this year compared with P5.90 last year.

A total of P4.2 billion will be released by SMIC to shareholders of record dated May 29. This represents almost a third of the P14 billion full-year net income that SMIC posted last year.

"The increase in the dividend per share this year is our way of expressing our appreciation to our shareholders," SMIC President Harley T. Sy said.

SMIC remains in the expansion mode this year despite most analysts’ warning that consumer spending will likely slowdown. The company has set aside P31 billion this year to expand domestic and China businesses, up from last year’s P24 billion.

Of the amount, a huge chunk will be spent for mall operator SM Prime Holdings, Inc. which plans to open two more mall this year — SM Pamplona in Las Piñas and SM Rosario in Cavite — on top of SM City Naga which it opened yesterday.

By yearend, SM Prime will have 36 malls nationwide and three malls in China, with an estimated gross floor area of 4.9 million square meter.

Meanwhile, SM Development plans to launch four new projects worth P15-billion this year saying that demand is still there. The property unit reported a 30-fold increase to P419 million in its net income from January to December.

SMIC’s retail sector also plans to open 14 branches of the SaveMore supermarket, two SM Supermarkets, four SM Hypermarkets, and two SM Department Stores on top of existing 97 retail stores in the country.

Banking units Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc. (BDO) and China Banking Corp. are each planning their own expansion.

BDO will redeploy its remaining 37 branch licenses in "high-growth" areas, which will bring the bank’s network to over 700 branches, one of the largest in the country.

China Bank, the group’s commercial bank, meanwhile plans to open 58 branches nationwide, bringing total branches to 272.

World Bank approves $3-B aid program for the Philippines

BusinessWorld Online

The World Bank has approved its new funding program for the Philippines for the next three years to 2012, which would support the government’s infrastructure, financial sector, social protection and anticorruption programs against a backdrop of a global economic crisis and tighter capital markets.

In a statement issued yesterday, the Washington-based lender said it will provide the Philippines $700 million-$1 billion in annual foreign aid under the so-called Country Assistance Strategy Program for the fiscal years 2010-2012.

The World Bank’s board of executive directors approved the funding in a meeting held last Thursday [Friday, Manila time], it said.

The International Finance Corp. (IFC), the World Bank’s private investment arm, will grant $250 million-$300 million in separate funding to collaborate with its parent firm on efforts to improve the government’s infrastructure, agribusiness and financial sectors.

Another member of the World Bank Group, the Multilateral Investment Guarantee Agency (MIGA), will provide guarantees to foreign investors against losses caused by non-commercial risks, as well as technical assistance to help countries disseminate information on investment opportunities.

The fresh World Bank aid "focuses on poverty alleviation measures and on operationalizing governance in all Bank-supported activities," the statement read.

"It also addresses emerging global challenges such as climate change, disaster risk management, and the financial crisis and emphasizes a knowledge agenda that supports the Philippines in addressing its own development challenges."

World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman said the tie-up would be relevant as the global recession could result in having more people fall back into poverty.

The new CAS supports the government’s bid to increase public spending to lift the economy out of a widely expected slowdown, Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves said in the statement.

Funding for the new assistance program is greater than the 2006-2008 CAS, which ranged from $450-$900 million.

IFC resident representative Jesse Ang said the investment firm has developed instruments to help private firms deal with increased liquidity constraints amid the global economic crisis.

These instruments include the capitalization fund that provides equity funds to capitalize banks, as well as the trade finance program that guarantees trade-related payment obligations of financial institutions.

The IFC has also created the Infrastructure Crisis Facility that bridges the financing gaps in privately funded infrastructure projects facing financial difficulties, and a program that will assist the microfinance sector serving the needs of small and micro enterprises in the Philippines.

"IFC’s financial instruments are intended to help strengthen the private sector in dealing with the global crisis, upgrade vital infrastructure, generate jobs by supporting small and micro enterprises, and create more opportunities for the poor, especially those who are most affected by the economic distress," Mr. Ang said in a statement.

The same statement quoted Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ralph G. Recto as welcoming the new CAS, saying that the new framework for the World Bank Group’s operations in the Philippines is broadly aligned with the country’s updated Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) prepared by the National Economic and Development Authority.

The MTPDP focuses on growth and job creation, energy, education, health, youth opportunity, anticorruption, and good governance.

The MTPDP also gives priority to protecting the poor through a host of social policy measures including shelter, health insurance, low-cost medicines, and cash transfers, Mr. Recto said. — MEIC

Friday, 1 May 2009

Philippine Government’s ‘pump-priming’ efforts on track — NEDA official


GOVERNMENT AGENCIES are right on track in meeting their goal of frontloading their expenditures in amounts equivalent to 60%-80% of their approved budget in the first half, economic managers of the Arroyo administration yesterday said.

Line agencies were mandated to report progress in their commitments to pump-prime the economy on a fortnightly basis to the Cabinet, and judging by the pace of spending in the first quarter, the 60%-80% target would be met, acting National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Director General Rolando G. Tungpalan said.

The Public Works department, which cornered the highest budget for 2009 next to Education, has already sealed contracts worth P59 billion, or 95% out of the P62 billion it vouched to spend in the first semester, Mr. Tungpalan said, citing results of a Cabinet meeting held Tuesday.

"About 95% of the programmed expenditure of Public Works for the semester has been obligated and we expect expenditures to be at a higher rate this coming quarter," he said in a phone interview.

Shelter agencies, with the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council at the helm, have already released P19 billion in the first quarter through granting more housing loans and foregone revenues due to lowering of interest rates, Mr. Tungpalan added. Other line agencies would follow suit, he said. The official disbursement data for the first quarter is due for release next month.

"The commitment is at least 60% by the end of the first semester. That’s on track," the NEDA official said.

Data from the Department of Budget and Management showed disbursements of the national government in the two months to February amounted to P226.5 billion, or a 12.3% increase over the outturn during the same period last year, owing to higher spending for capital outlays. The government has approved in March a national budget of P1.414 trillion for 2009.

The disbursement rate posted a record 97.9% during the two-month period, indicating an increasing absorptive capacity — a measure of how much output is actually used — among line agencies. Multilateral lenders and credit watchers have earlier pointed out that while the Philippine government could have money to spend, the absorptive capacity of its line agencies has yet to improve.

Budget Undersecretary Laura B. Pascua said that while the numbers are encouraging, "that maybe due to the change in funding system we have," which shifted from quarterly release of budget to semi-annual, or every six months.

"But there’s a provision for lapsing. At the end of six months, if the cash is not utilized, it has to be returned. So that’s encouraging the agencies to hasten up, and implement the cash disbursement programs," she said in a separate phone interview.

At least four infrastructure-related departments — — Public Works, Transport and Communication, Education and Agriculture — have entered into a memorandum of agreement with the economic managers of the Arroyo government to hasten spending, Ms. Pascua said.

Business MVP

Marvin A. Tort
Business Mirror

Without doubt, Manuel V. Pangilinan is well on his way to becoming the country’s business MVP. His wealthy and influential business group is already a valuable player in various industries, including telecommunications, real-estate development, and hospital and tollways management, and remains on the lookout for opportunities to further diversify and broaden its reach.

Obviously, there is logic in his group’s business choices. Seemingly, Pangilinan, or MVP, appears concentrated on the transport or carrier business. As things are, he already provides various platforms and systems—through his telecommunications and tollway companies—for goods, services, information, transportation and people to move or flow from one point to the other.

And one cannot say his business choice is ill-conceived. Since his return to the Philippines after many years as a highly paid executive in Hong Kong, he seems to have had the uncanny ability to invest in the right industry at the right time. He has had vision and foresight for economic opportunity—perhaps the very traits that should be required of the next Philippine president.

His business group bought into the Philippine Long Distance and Telephone Co. (PLDT) just as the telecommunications industry was being liberalized during the Ramos administration, and his management team has since then raised not just PLDT but also other telecommunications firms, like Smart and Piltel, to unprecedented reach and profitability.

He also successfully invested in the conversion of the former Fort Bonifacio military base in Taguig into the Bonifacio Global City business district, which is now among the booming top-of-mind real-estate developments in Metro Manila.

His Metro Pacific Investments Corp. has also purchased a controlling stake in Manila North Tollways Corp. from the Lopez group. This latest acquisition invariably makes his group the undisputed biggest toll-roads operator in the country, with participation in the North Luzon Expressway, as well as its planned extension to La Union from Tarlac; the Subic-Tipo Expressway; the proposed link of C-5 to the Manila Port Area that will cross the Nlex near the Valenzuela interchange; and the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway.

More recent business decisions allowed him to also take advantage of emerging opportunities in healthcare and medical tourism, petroleum, mining, and transportation and logistics. From cradle to the grave, many Filipinos use products and services provided by Pangilinan’s business group. Talk about being all over the place, and becoming indispensable to everyday lives.

Only recently, he has reportedly expressed interest in bidding for the planned $3-billion high-speed rail project that will connect the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) in Parañaque City. This was revealed to the media by Victor Jose Luciano, Clark International Airport Corp. president and CEO.

Luciano also says Pangilinan’s advantage is his ability to provide the right of way for the proposed high-speed rail from Caloocan City to Magallanes in Makati City. With this right of way, he says, Naia can finally be connected to Clark. As for the right of way from Caloocan City to Clark, the matter is nearly settled, he adds.

The Clark chief also says the project will probably cost at least $3 billion, with $1 billion going to right-of-way acquisition, and $2 billion to be spent for the construction and the trains. He adds that the government expects to choose a private-sector partner for the joint-venture project before the end of the year by entertaining even unsolicited offer.

In building the high-speed rail, which can bring Metro Manila passengers to and from Clark in about 45 minutes, he says it will be easier to convince airline companies to move to Clark and make it the country’s premier international airport. Naia, meanwhile, can be converted into a domestic airport.

One can only hope that Pangilinan seriously considers building the proposed railway from Naia to Clark. Its benefits to the economy can be tremendous. It will also complement plans for the so-called Northrail, including the proposed rehabilitation of the old rail line from Manila to Damortis in La Union, which has been in discussion since the mid-1990s.

Given the Pangilinan group’s recent business decisions relatively to transport, and its current control of toll roads north of Metro Manila, building a railway seems to be a strategic fit. And a public-private partnership on a major infrastructure project such as this is a good way to pump-prime a struggling economy.

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Thursday, 30 April 2009

Philippines' San Miguel in talks to buy stake in Adaro

MANILA (Reuters) - San Miguel Corp (SMCB.PS) is in talks to buy a stake worth about $500 million in Adaro Energy (ADRO.JK), Indonesia's largest coal producer by market value, the Philippine conglomerate's president said on Wednesday.


Philippine President praises employers for help in crisis

Cites help of business & labor sectors in overcoming challenges of global economic crisis

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today cited the role of the business and labor sectors in nation-building and in helping the government overcome the challenges arising from the global economic crisis.

The President expressed her gratitude for the “sense of community” of employers in the business sector during the closing ceremonies of the 30th National Conference of Employers (NCE) this morning (Wednesday, April 29) at the Manila Hotel.

Saying the global crisis also offers opportunities, the leaders of the business sector who are the country’s biggest employers assured the President that they will work with the government in preserving jobs and businesses.

The employers’ expression of “community” with the government in the midst of the worldwide economic downturn was contained in a resolution they presented to the President.

In their resolution, the employers also vowed to minimize job losses and business dislocations; build the capacity of the domestic economy to create jobs and business; and unite in support of reform and transformation in society, particularly in improving economic and political governance.

In her speech, the President also thanked the business sector for sharing the sacrifices of their workers by letting them undergo work-sharing and training arrangements instead of directly laying them off.

Instead of lay-offs, the President urged companies to pay half the minimum wage of their workers to undergo training at the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) for them to become more competitive and productive when they find new employments.

The President thanked companies like the Calamba-based Yazaki Torres which continues to provide half of the basic pay of its workers who are “on vacation.”

She also expressed her gratitude to the country’s labor sector for its strong bond with employers, thus resulting in sustained industrial peace in the workplace.

“We must and we will sustain this partnership as we work together to hasten our country’s economic rebound. And that is our response to the global crisis,” the President said. (PND)

Philippines' big population an asset in troubled times

PGMA says huge domestic consumption helps RP cope up with global economic crisis

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said today that huge domestic consumption is helping the Philippines cope up with the global financial crisis.

In her speech during the 30th National Employers Conference (NEC) Wednesday morning (April 29) at the Manila Hotel, the President said the country’s huge domestic consumption, largely due to the more than 85 million Filipinos, is sustaining businesses.

“During these times, it is the countries with large populations, with the reasonably good per capita income like the Philippines that are able to resist the worst effects of the global crisis,” she said.

The President said the same is true with China and India, countries that have the world’s biggest population. China has a population of 1.3 billion while India is a close second with 1.1 billion.

Despite the global crisis, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has projected that domestic consumption, fueled by overseas remittances, would remain a key growth driver of the economy. (PND)

Philippines' mall company bucks slowdown, posts 15% sales jump

Bloomberg, with Jenniffer B. Austria
Manila Standard

SM Prime Holdings Inc., the Philippines’ largest shopping mall operator, said sales growth accelerated in the first quarter, and that it will build malls in China as part of a P12-billion expansion plan this year.

Sales probably rose more than 15 percent in the first three months, SM Prime executive vice president Jeffrey Lim said yesterday.

The company last year said sales grew 7.7 percent to P3.82 billion in the first quarter.

“The opening of new malls helped increased sales,” SM Prime president Hans Sy said, adding that remittances from Filipino expatriates and the expansion of business process outsourcing companies helped support sales at its malls.

“Even same-store sales grew. Consumers are still spending,” he said.

SM Prime, founded by Henry Sy, the nation’s richest tycoon, last year increased its mall space by 9 percent to 46.27 million square feet after adding three branches and upgrading two centers. It has 33 malls in the Philippines and will open its 34th, in Naga province, next month.

The company will spend P12 billion this year, P5.5 billion of which would finance the construction of three shopping malls in China, Lim said. The company would open one mall every year in China beginning 2010, he said.

The three China malls under construction are those in Suzhou (opening in 2010), in Chongquing (opening in 2011), and in Zibo (opening in 2012). SM Prime already has three malls in Xiamen, Chengdu and Jinjiang.

“We are building the brand equity and understanding the market in China,” Sy said.

“We have to strengthen our organization before we begin building two to three malls a year.”

The SM Naga aside, SM Prime is also opening two more malls in the Philippines this year: SM Pamplona in Las Piñas and SM Rosario in Cavite. It is also set to open Sky Garden at its SM North Edsa, which will add 34,000 square meters to the mall, and the 17,000-square-meter addition to its SM Supercenter in Rosales, Pangasinan.

SM Prime yesterday approved a cash dividend of 24 centavos a share, equivalent to P3.2 billion, to be paid on or before June 23 to shareholders on record as of May 28.

Philippine Central Bank says remittances to pick up in second half

Lawrence Agcaoili
Manila Standard

The Bangko Sentral sees the amount of money sent home by migrant Filipino workers growing in the second half of the year with the higher job deployment to the Middle East.

Bangko Sentral Deputy Gov. Diwa Guinigundo told reporters at the sidelines of the 30th National Conference of Employers that it was unlikely that remittances from Filipinos working overseas would decline this year due to the increase in the deployment of workers to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia.

“There are major development projects rising in Saudi Arabia. They are building five to six mega cities there and employment opportunities are strongly in favor of Filipino workers,” Guinigundo told reporters.

The central bank official said there was “enough cause for optimism” for increased remittance inflows in the second half of the year.

Guinigundo said Jeddah alone had development projects of about $45 billion that would result in more jobs.

“We visited one construction company in Riyadh employing about 7,000 workers and 40 percent of that are Filipinos,” Guinigundo said, adding that there was a growing preference for highly skilled Filipinos.

“Personally, with the information I have, a decline in remittances is unlikely. There is also cause for optimism for the second half of the year when we will have to review our numbers,” he added.

The central bank sees the amount of money sent home by Filipinos working abroad to stay flat this year, after reaching a record $16.4 billion in 2008, due to the global economic meltdown.

He said the flat-growth projection for the year was based on deployment data in late 2008 and that there would be a need to review the target in the second half when deployment was likely to have a positive impact on remittances.

Data showed that remittances in the first two months of the year inched up 2.5 percent to $2.6 billion after the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration reported that the total number of deployed overseas workers grew 27.3 percent to 283,348 from 222,608.

Philippines ffering over 200,000 jobs in Labor Day celebration

Emilia Narni J. David, Sarwell Q. Meniano and Darwin T. Wee
Employment events to culminate on June 12
BusinessWorld Online

OVER 200,000 jobs would be offered in fairs to be organized by the Department of Labor and Employment (DoLE) on Friday.

In a press conference yesterday, DoLE officials announced the jobs fairs would be held simultaneously nationwide in celebration of Labor Day.

"We are creating an environment for people to have access to jobs so that is why we are holding this mega-job fair," Labor Secretary Marianito D. Roque.

The May 1 job fair, called "Labor Day Tayo Na! Trabaho Na! Jobapalooza 09," would be held simultaneously in 16 regions.

Labor Undersecretary Rosalinda D. Baldoz said there would be a total of about 45,000 local jobs and 176,000 overseas employment in the fairs. The overseas jobs are mainly in the construction and hospitality sectors.

Mr. Roque said there would be a livelihood orientation that is backed by a total grant of P7 million for beneficiaries.

In a briefing after Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting in Tacloban City, Mr. Roque said the job fairs would culminate in a major employment event to coincide with the Independence Day celebration on June 12 .

"This is a continuing program. We’re trying to avert the effects of financial crisis. Some companies are in their rebound stage now. They are starting to rehire some of the workers who were displaced at the onset of the global financial crisis," he said.

Meanwhile, Mr. Roque said the wage increase issue is "definitely not in line for discussion on May 1."

"It will have to wait for one year maturity which is in July. Because the wages are due for review only after one year," he said.

Most of the wage orders issued by the regional wage boards took effect in June 2008.

The law states that within the 12-month period from effectivity of the wage order, no petition for wage increase may be entertained, except when in a supervening condition such as an extraordinary increase in prices of petroleum products and basic goods and services.

For retrenched workers

In a related development, an estimated 4,000 workers in the Zamboanga Peninsula who were retrenched due to, among others, the global financial crisis will be prioritized during the region’s job fair.

"Aside from the job offerings, our department has already released more than P3 million to affected workers for retraining and livelihood projects," Ponciano M. Ligutom, DoLE regional director, told BusinessWorld in an interview.

Zamboanga Peninsula reported low job losses with only close to 100 returning overseas workers, but local companies specializing on wood products and marine exports have cut off at least 891 workers during the last quarter of 2008.

The situation was compounded when more than 3,000 workers from the non-formal sector were also displaced after local producers of coconut, seaweed and rubber, the three export products of the region, suffered from low demand abroad leading to lower revenues among affected local suppliers.

The DoLE regional office is expected to release P6 million on Friday to augment the emergency funds for displaced workers, Mr. Ligutom said.

In addition, Angie A. Engalla, officer-in-charge of the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration’s regional office, said they have budgeted P1 million for retraining and scholarships for returning overseas workers, or up to P60,000 per beneficiary.

Mr. Ligutom said 13 overseas recruitment agencies and 11 local companies will join the event.

Tampakan to turn Philippines into a major copper source

ROMER S. SARMIENTO, Correspondent
BusinessWorld Online

THE PHILIPPINES could land on the map of the world’s top copper producers through the Tampakan project, where investors are expected to pour in $6 billion to kick-start production, an Australian mining executive said yesterday.

Last week, Sagittarius Mines, Inc. announced that the Tampakan project in South Cotabato would cost an initial $5.2 billion, but Richard Laufmann, chief executive officer of shareholder Indophil Resources NL, said an extra $800 million might be needed.

Even at $5.2 billion, the construction of the Tampakan project would be the single largest investment ever for Mindanao, he said in an interview.

There are few deposits in the planet at the size and quality of Tampakan’s, which contains 12.8 million metric tons of copper and 15.2 million ounces of gold.

"Bringing a large-scale copper deposit like Tampakan into production will help the world meet a demand-supply need for copper to use in electricity generation and distribution," he said.

As the world emerges from a global financial crisis, it will need electricity to drive domestic infrastructure development, Mr. Laufmann said.

"The Philippines, through Tampakan, will be seen as a major contributor to the future supply of global copper," he said.

Aside from an initial capital outlay of $5.2 billion, which includes provisions for associated infrastructure like a power plant and ports, there will be a contingency fund of more than $800 million for Tampakan, Mr. Laufmann said.

Financing for the project will come from international banks or governments, but he declined to identify them pending the completion of Tampakan’s final feasibility study.

The $5.2 billion for the initial production stage is more than three times the country’s foreign direct investment of $1.52 billion last year and even greater than the country’s entire public sector infrastructure budget for 2009 of P229 billion, Mr. Laufmann said.

The Tampakan copper project is being pursued by Sagittarius in the towns of Tampakan in South Cotabato, Columbio in Sultan Kudarat, and Kiblawan del Sur in Davao del Sur.

Swiss miner Xstrata Copper exercises management control at Sagittarius through a 62.5% interest. Indophil holds 34.23% of Tampakan.

Filipino conglomerate Alsons Corp. owns the rest but earlier agreed with Indophil for a buy-out.

Xstrata last year tried but failed to wrest Indophil’s Tampakan interest in a hostile takeover bid that eventually placed Alsons in the "priority seat."

Shareholders of Indophil have voted for the board to sell the firm’s Tampakan asset to Alsons, which is backed by Crosby Capital Ltd. of Hong Kong.

Mr. Laufmann said the corporate war with Xstrata is "over and both companies are maintaining a professional relationship."

Indophil is committed to push the Tampakan project forward to the final feasibility study, he added. "The final feasibility study stage is expected to be completed in April next year at a cost of $50 million, and Indophil will be funding 37% of it," Mr. Laufmann told BusinessWorld.

The extended pre-feasibility study of the Tampakan project states that deposits will be extracted through open-pit, a method widely opposed by the Catholic Church hierarchy and environmental groups.

Amid pressures from mining industry critics and national government officials, the South Cotabato provincial government has yet to decide on a proposed environment code that prohibits open-pit mining in the area.

Under the pre-feasibility study, initial production will come in 2016 under a 20-year operation that stands to earn $2 billion annually.

"The extended pre-feasibility study confirms the world-class, low cost, and long life nature of the [Tampakan] deposit," Mr. Laufmann said.

Philippines releases P1B export fund

Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo
BusinessWorld Online

PRESIDENT Gloria M. Arroyo yesterday ordered the immediate release of a P1-billion export support fund aimed at providing much-needed assistance to that beleaguered sector.

Departments concerned were also directed to speed up evaluation of proposals submitted by various export groups.

"I have instructed [Trade] Secretary [Peter B.] Favila to work with the Presidential Management Staff [PMS], the Department of Finance, and the Department of Budget to facilitate the final evaluation of the proposals with the intent of releasing the fund, and I hope that that will help our export sector," said Ms. Arroyo in a speech at the closing yesterday of the 30th National Conference of Employers at the Manila Hotel.

Mr. Favila told reporters separately that the government aims to release the fund by next month. "Our target is to have the fund released by May," he said.

He said the fund could be sourced either from remaining funds from government’s "Katas ng VAT" program composed of the "windfall" in high oil tariffs as world crude prices soared in the first three quarters of last year, or the P330-billion stimulus fund.

Some of the proposals being reviewed include programs for training of workers, market access support, seminars on product design and funding for trade missions abroad.

"That is why we are reviewing their proposals because there’s a lot. It actually went over the proposed reached P1.7 billion, so the President asked me to closely coordinate with PMS and Philexport [Philippine Exporters Confederation Inc.]," he said.

Philexport President Sergio R. Ortiz-Luiz, Jr. said the export industry had been pressing for such state assistance, stressing that prompt release will be crucial for exporters to compete amid slumped global demand.

The latest export group to seek the fund’s release was the Confederation of Philippine Jewellers, Inc., which said it submitted a project proposal to the Export Development Council (EDC) last February 10 that involved funding for Philippine jewellers’ participation in the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show slated for March 5-9 next year. The group’s statement yesterday said that its inquiries had always been answered with "no funds available yet."

Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines, Inc. (SEIPI) Chairman Arthur J. Young, Jr., said SEIPI and the Business Process Association of the Philippines are working on a joint program to promote the country’s information and communication technology and electronic workers to entice more investors. This program proposal will be submitted to Mr. Favila, who heads EDC’s private sector representation.

"This fund will help both industries — electronics and business process outsourcing — gain access to critical trade shows and promote the Filipino worker to investors abroad. This way, we can also promote the Philippines as a site for investments," Mr. Young said.

Government data showed Philippine merchandise exports contracted further last February, with export earnings falling by 39.1% to $2.504 billion from a year earlier, a slight easing from a 40.6% slump in January. Export earnings began contracting in October last year, by 14.8%, slightly easing a month later before plummeting in succeeding months. The entire 2008 saw merchandise exports contract by 2.9%, year on year. The government earlier this month revised its projection, down to a 13%-15% contraction from an original 6%-8% drop it projected in February. —

The Mexico flu: What if?

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

It is probably a sin to gain an advantage from others’ misfortune. Yet, if you had nothing to do with someone else’s hardship, then maybe profiting from it is all right.

In late 2002 through mid-2003, the world was gripped in a justifiable near-panic over the SARS (Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome) virus. Over the nine months of the virus being active, some 8,000 people worldwide were infected and 774 died from SARS. Travel and tourism in Asia ground to a halt. Of course, the Philippines was spared, with just a very few possible cases being identified here.

Jump forward to 2009, and the world is facing the potential of a virus outbreak that will make SARS seem insignificant.

The last major flu pandemic occurred in 1968. In comparison to SARS killing 700, more than 30,000 people died in the USA alone. Globally, some 1 million succumbed to the disease, meaning probably more than 50 million were infected worldwide.

The preliminary numbers coming out of this particular virus’s origin, Mexico, are not necessarily accurate. However, if it turns out the first data are accurate, big trouble is on the horizon. Mexico City health authorities say nearly 1,600 suspected cases have been reported, with more than 140 dead. That translates into a 7-plus-percent mortality rate. SARS carried about a 9-percent death rate. But more important, the mortality rate in the 1968-1969 flu pandemic was very low at less than 3 percent. That means that the death potential now in 2009 is at least twice as high as in 1968. Further, the ability of this current strain of flu to spread rapidly seems to be much greater than in previous contagions.

From Reuters: “It [virus] has been found in several places and among people who had no known contact [with infected persons]. This suggests there is an unseen chain of infection and that the virus has been spreading quietly.” As of this writing, cases have been identified in as far-flung places as the USA, Scotland, New Zealand and Spain. Suspected cases are also reported in France, Norway, Germany, Sweden and Israel.

A week from now, as more information emerges and is confirmed, it may be that this turns out to be an isolated and short-lived concern, a minor footnote to the other “crisis” of 2009.

But if not . . .

SARS had two unique qualities that aborted a pandemic. The disease was quickly debilitating. People who contracted the illness were forced to seek major medical help very soon after the virus bloomed. SARS was not quiet. Second, the mode of transmission was clear: airborne from infected person to the healthy.

Because of these two factors, the duration was short, about nine months. By contrast, the 1968 flu pandemic lasted more than one year.

This current strain of Mexican swine flu does not create dramatic symptoms at the beginning. Those who contract the virus suffer the mild effects of other more benign virus—slight fever, cough, minor body aches. It is just these symptoms that make this virus so dangerous. By the time a person becomes very sick, he may have spent days in normal contact with coworkers, family members and strangers, spreading the disease easily. And the mode of transmission is not clear at this point.

For its ease of contagion and hidden symptoms, the World Health Organization has raised its Pandemic Alert level to 4 (out of 6) for the first time since this scale was revised in 2005. Level 5 means that we have a full-blown global epidemic. We will know by the end of next week what the rest of the year will be like.

If, and this is a big if, this turns serious, what is happening in Mexico is a foreshadow of what is to come. Mexico suspended all schools nationwide until May 6, affecting over 50 million students. Tourist travel is over until this situation is resolved, as the European Union has issued a strongly worded travel advisory for both Mexico and the USA. On the other side of Mexico, the resort town of Acapulco ordered all bars and nightclubs closed.

The USA and Europe will lose billions in productivity if this disease spreads. Think of the loss of revenue from shopping centers and commercial districts empty for fear of infection. Public transportation is shut down. Businesses employing hundreds of workers in close proximity, like call centers and factories, are forced to shut down temporarily. Events from major sporting contests to children’s birthday parties are canceled. And this could last for months.

Already, the financial markets are starting to react. One major investment house sees the potential of an initial drop of 7 percent on Western stock markets if the situation deteriorates. Copper, aluminum and nickel retreated in London this week on the prospects of slower economic growth, and crude oil weakened on the outlook for air travel over concerns about the virus.

And here we sit in the Philippines.

Oil prices down? Great for this economy. Tourists not heading to North America? Thailand in political turmoil? Try the Philippines. Potential for lower business revenue hurting the Western stock markets? Invest the PSE. Western health care under strain? Hire more nurses from the Philippines.

Is it just possible that for once the Philippines is under a bright ray of sunshine while most of the world is covered in storms?

PSE stock-market information and technical analysis tools provided by Inc. E-mail comments to

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Philippine Ombudsman unveils integrity center

Market Files
Lito U Gagni
Business Mirror

Appearing at the Tuesday Club at Edsa Shangri-La Hotel yesterday, Ombudsman Merceditas Gutierrez was greeted by former senator Francisco “Kit” Tatad: “How is the pressure cooker?” Indeed, the Ombudsman, who was a legal researcher at Malacañang during the time of President Marcos, is now in the maelstrom of several controversies revolving on corruption cases involving government men.

The Ombudsman, we understand, has been moving toward resolving the corruption cases, but with a view to seeing to it that the pieces of evidence are painstakingly presented to secure conviction.

Right now, though, the Ombudsman (one of two Swedish words in the English language, the other being smorgasbord) is putting up an Asian Integrity Center that would pave the way for a clear appreciation of the anticorruption mandate of the agency. Ms. Gutierrez said the agency is teaming up with four other institutions for a training protocol to address corruption cases in government agencies. The training is significant since government men would go through accountability and ethics issues relative to their line of work, as well as integrity issues.

The four other institutions aside from the Office of the Ombudsman are Griffith University of Australia, an affiliated United Nations University in Australia; Institute of Ethics, Law and Governance in Australia; the University of the Philippines National College of Public Administration and Governance; and the Development Academy of the Philippines. These five institutions would train public officials for them to know and apply the rules on the conduct of business. With the training protocol conceived for the public officials, Ms. Gutierrez believes there would be less incidence of corruption in government agencies. She said a grant from the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) is now handling training on governance for government executives.

One other thrust of the Ombudsman now is the setting up of a research database on corruption cases. So far, there is no database regarding corruption cases, as well as the profiling of issues on accountability, ethics and integrity. Ms. Gutierrez said there are no statistics available on corruption cases. By having this database, the Office of the Ombudsman can work on preventing the occurrence of corruption. Having a profile of the integrity issues would serve as an alert mechanism for the Ombudsman.

The profiling of cases, like those filed by the Presidential Commission on Good Government (PCGG) under its first chairman, former senator Jovito Salonga, is an interesting study that the Ombudsman is looking into. According to Ms. Gutierrez, the PCGG lost more than 95 percent of the cases it filed because of the lack of the crucial evidence to support them. To this, Senator Tatad quipped that the PCGG cases that were filed then seemed meant as part of a government propaganda campaign.

We understand that the Sandiganbayan had no recourse but to dismiss much of the PCGG cases that were filed because more than 90 percent of the evidence submitted were merely certified true copies of xerox copies of the originals.

Live your dreams!


Inspectors and aircraft mechanics needed at Clark

Singaporean company to hire inspectors, aircraft mechanics
Manila Bulletin

SIA Engineering (Philippines) Corporation a world-class Maintenance, Repair and Overhaul (MRO) facility inside the 2,362 hectares Clark Civil Aviation Complex is in need of qualified Inspectors and Aircraft Mechanics for its slated operations in June this year.

The state-of-the-art $100 million MRO facility is expected to be operational by June as construction of the world-class hangar is being fast-tracked which will cater commercial aircraft for repair and maintenance.

Last November 2008, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo with officials of CIAC headed by President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano, SIA President William Tan and Cebu Pacific President and CEO Lance Gokongwei led the groundbreaking of the first ever MRO facility inside the airport complex.

The hangar is part of the vision of President Arroyo of making the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) as the Premier Gateway of the country.

With its slated operations in June, SIA is looking for qualified applicants to fill-up positions such as Inspectors and Aircraft Mechanics who will oversee the repair and maintenance of long-hauled commercial aircraft of the world.

For Inspectors, applicants must be licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) with valid Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) A&P License; and with 5 years hands-on experience in hangar maintenance and certification of the Airbus A320 aircraft.

For Aircraft Mechanics, applicants must be licensed by the Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) with 3 years in work experience in aircraft maintenance preferably on the Airbus A320 aircraft.

Qualified applicants may submit their resumes at the Clark International Airport Corporation (CIAC) Human Resource Department at Clark International Airport Corporation Corporate Office building Clark Civil Aviation Complex Clark Freeport Philippines and look for HR officer Regiana Joyce S. Santos or send them via email at

Applicants may also send their resumes to the General Manager SIA Engineering (Philippines) Corporation at or

The company is a joint venture between SIA Engineering Company Ltd. a leading provider of MRO services in Asia Pacific and Cebu Pacific Air a major airline in the Philippines.

Cebu Pacific brings along knowledge of the local business environment while SIA Engineering company, with over 50 years of experience in aircraft maintenance, provides management and technical expertise as well as operating support from its reputable MRO base in Singapore and its line maintenance global network in Australia, Hong Kong, Indonesia, Philippines, and the United States.

More like 4% growth in the Philippines: Villegas

M.V. de Leon, Johanna E. Roldan
Business Mirror

ECONOMIST Bernardo Villegas of the University of Asia & the Pacific painted a more rosy picture of the Philippine economy this year, predicting a 4-percent gross domestic product (GDP) anchored on election spending, the government’s economic stimulus package and remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs).

Villegas, speaking at a forum of the Management Association of the Philippines on Tuesday, said the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) failed to consider several key factors when they came up with lower GDP forecasts for the year.

“No, it is not zero or 1 percent as the World Bank and IMF said. The Philippines will have a 4-percent GDP [growth] this year,” Villegas said.

He sees the inflows of OFW remittances through the formal channels at $16 billion to $17 billion this year.

With the exchange rate seen to go to the P50 level because of low foreign direct investments and declining exports, he said the families of the OFWs, especially those in the countryside, will have higher purchasing power.

Villegas said the stimulus package of the government, which focuses on infrastructure spending in the provinces, will also boost farmers’ productivity.

With the early rainy season the Philippines is experiencing, Villegas said the agriculture sector is in for a good year.

Then there is the election spending, which, Villegas said, will be a “massive pump-priming” from the candidates and their private-sector supporters.

He sees each presidential candidate spending up to P5 billion. “And I see at least seven candidates.”

Villegas said growth will begin to accelerate in the third quarter of the year once the funds from the campaign kitty and the remittances from OFWs start circulating in the economy.

He said the first half GDP will probably be at the 3.5 percent to 4 percent range.

In the second half, Villegas said the economy could grow to as high as 4.5 percent.

Tuesday, 28 April 2009

Philippine companies reluctant to make layoffs

Manila Bulletin

Local companies have refrained from laying off people and relocating offshore as they resort to other cost cutting measures such as cutting down expenses for travel, logistics, fuel, facilities and marketing, results of the preliminary survey conducted by the Management Association of the Philippines (MAP) showed.

MAP Trade, Industry and ICT Committee chair Elizabeth Lee Tuesday unveiled the initial results of the survey on Cost of Doing Business (CODB) project.

Lee said that the survey is still ongoing but the committee considered it necessary to release the partial but significant results in order to proactively align the programs of the committee, and MAP as a whole, that will benefit the Philippine business community.

The survey was conducted on the 800 MAP members covering a cross section of industries of Philippine business in manufacturing and services.

Respondents were from multinational companies, large, medium and small enterprises. The industries range from car manufacturing, ICT, financial institutions, service providers like logistics and BPO companies.

The respondents said that the top three cost-saving measures they implemented to mitigate the impact of the global financial crisis on their operations are: Improving productivity such as the use of automation and ICT at 61 percent, business process re-engineering such as redesigning organizational processes at 33 percent, and outsourcing or out-tasking at 21 percent.

Retrenchment and offshore expansion, which means moving operations out of the Philippines, were the last viable options being considered by the companies.

Philippine Economy Likely to Continue to Expand This Year

Bangko Sentral
Media Release

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said that while the Philippines is not immune to the global economic slowdown, a flat growth, as announced by the IMF yesterday, is unlikely. There are fundamental forces in the economy that would help it to withstand global shocks and avoid a major slippage in growth.

A key factor that could drive the country’s growth is the strength of domestic demand. Personal consumption, which accounts for more than two-thirds of the Philippine economy, has been historically firm, with private spending resilient across business cycles. The only time in the past 30 years that private consumption contracted was in 1985, when the economy underwent external debt restructuring. Structural factors are behind this underlying resilience. The Philippines’ young and economically active population has propelled economic growth even in difficult times. Incomes are also at a level where the majority of the population has a high propensity to consume. Importantly, the recent easing of inflation should provide a welcome boost to household purchasing power.

The country’s export industry, remittances and outsourcing sectors, while exposed to more difficult global conditions, retain important elements that render them less vulnerable to the world-wide economic down cycle. First, the country’s dependence on external demand is comparably smaller relative to its Asian peers. The Philippines’ exports-to-GDP ratio has gone down to 29 percent in 2008 from 49 percent in 2000, considerably lower than those of its neighboring ASEAN economies. The share of Philippine exports (both direct and indirect) going to the United States has also dropped during the same period.

Second, the strength of overseas’ Filipinos remittances are supported by key fundamentals. The number of displaced overseas workers as reported by the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) is small when compared to the stock of overseas Filipinos, estimated at close to 9 million. Deployment has also continued to grow in 2009, and there has been a gradual increase in the share of workers with permanent resident status, suggesting a welcome shift from yearly contract renewals to more long-term employment. There has also been an observable rise in the deployment of skilled and professional workers. Apart from their higher earnings, they also tend to have more long-term work contracts. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration has also indicated that labor demand could remain strong in some countries given the needs in their power/energy and tourism industries. The hiring program for nurses and caregivers in Japan under the Japan-Philippines Economic Partnership Agreement (JPEPA), which is expected to commence soon, could open up opportunities for Filipinos in the field of health and medical care. The DOLE has also been fielding labor teams in crisis-affected host countries to help displaced Filipino workers find other work opportunities.

Third, the continued shift to high-value services alongside the increasing need to outsource non-core business activities in firms in the advanced economies are expected to propel the growth of the Philippine BPO industry in 2009. Recessionary conditions in the global economy are expected to encourage firms to outsource, as they seek to streamline costs further. The growing success of firms that have adopted outsourcing could drive higher acceptance of such a business model.

Importantly, monetary policy has been appropriately stimulative, and this has helped support demand and minimize the corrosive feedback loop stemming from weaker economic and financial conditions. Furthermore, there is room to ease monetary policy settings should conditions warrant given the benign inflation outlook and well-cemented inflation expectations. Recent adjustments in fiscal spending plans should also provide needed boost to growth. Moreover, as a result of purposeful reforms in the past, including the clean-up of bad assets, capitalization build-up and enhanced risk management, the banking system remains fundamentally strong and is properly discharging its role to intermediate funds and manage risks.

The Philippine economy is also better able to ride out the current crisis due in part to lessons learned from past crises: it is therefore better prepared this time around as evident in the rise in foreign exchange reserves, sturdier external payments dynamics, lower public debt burden and improved supervision of the banking system as well as enhanced disclosure and information practices.

Governor Tetangco noted that, historically, the IMF has tended to be overly pessimistic in projecting Philippine GDP growth. In the past seven years, the IMF has consistently underestimated Philippine GDP growth forecast by an average of about half a percentage point.

President Arroyo sign bill doubling 250,000-peso insurance coverage of bank deposits


Manila (PND) - President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo is scheduled to sign on Wednesday (April 29) the amendments to Republic Act (RA) No. 3591 increasing the insurance coverage by the Philippine Deposit Insurance Corp. (PDIC) of bank deposits by 100 percent, from P250,000 to P.5-million.

Amendments to the PDIC charter form part of the financial reforms designed to bolster the protection of bank deposits, enhance confidence in, and contribute to a stronger banking system.

In October last year, the President approved her Cabinet’s proposal to increase the deposit insurance coverage of bank deposits to increase depositors’ protection and enhance confidence in the banking system amid the global financial meltdown.

The President is scheduled to approve the PDIC charter amendments on the sidelines of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) Investors’ Recognition Night at the World Trade Center (WTC) in Pasay City on Wednesday.

Among those expected to witness the simple signing ceremony are Finance Secretary Margarito Teves, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando Tetangco Jr., Trade Secretary Peter Favila, PDIC president Jose C. Nograles and the principal sponsors of the amendments, namely, Senators Edgardo Angara and Manila Rep. Jaime Lopez.

Philippine president leads groundbreaking for Tacloban airport


TACLOBAN CITY (PND)— President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led the groundbreaking rites today for the new Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport terminal building here, a priority government project in Eastern Visayas. The upgrade will enable the facility to satisfy international aviation standards and cope up with the increasing passenger traffic in the region.

The President lowered the capsule that contains the project plan and design of the new P155-million airport terminal building that would be started this year and expected to be finished in three years.

She was assisted by Leyte Gov. Carlos Jericho Petilla, 1st District Rep. Ferdinand Martin Romualdez, Tacloban City Mayor Alfred Romualdez and other local officials.

“It is also a good opportunity for us to inspect the ongoing improvement of the Tacloban City airport runway,” the President said, adding that that the airport is the gateway for Region 8 from all over the world and not only from the rest of the Philippines.

The P155-million airport terminal building, the P625.5 million ongoing asphalt overlay on its runway and the construction of shore protection structures are components of the Tacloban Airport Development Project with a total funding outlay of P4.13 billion.

Of the total, P1.141 billion have already been released. The Daniel Z. Romualdez Airport is envisioned to become the Eastern Visayas’ first alternate international airport.

The airport modernization includes provisions for its P230-million air navigational facilities and lot acquisition for the new terminal complex area with a P130-million budget.

The remaining P2.989 billion balance, due for release under a multi-year obligation allotment until 2012, will be utilized for the construction of other civil works and other building support facilities such as control tower building, fire station, fuel farm and power house among others.

The construction of the new airport terminal building is also expected to spur economic and tourism development in the region as well as generate more employment opportunities. For Lorenzo Pagad, Ruel Pardillan and Pio Solayao, the construction of the new airport facilities signals a better future for them and their families.

Nagpapasalamat po ako sa pamahalaan sa pagbibigay sa akin ng bagong trabahao. Malaking tulong ito sa aming pangangailalan araw-araw” (I thank the government for giving me a new job. It is a big help for our daily needs), said 53-year old Pagad, who will be hired as carpenter by the contractor RD Policarpio Construction Company,

Pardillan, a 23-year old resident of San Jose here in Tacloban will likewise be hired as laborer. “Napakalaking biyaya ito para sa akin dahil sa ako ay nakatapos lamang ng grade 2. (This is a big blessing for me considering that I just finished Grade II),” he said.

Solayao, 45, married with four children who finished Grade IV only, share the same sentiments. He will also be hired to do some carpentry work.

The three local residents are among the 600 or so workers who will find work once the construction of the new airport terminal building starts.

Brisk sales continue for Philippine property

SM property arm to push new projects; demand ‘still there’
K.J.R. Liu

THE PROPERTY arm of the country’s richest man has bucked most property analysts’ bleak outlook after net income for the first quarter skyrocketed on higher residential sales and a more stable market condition.

Officials of Henry Sy-led SM Development Corp. told stockholders yesterday that the company earned a net income of P400 million from January to March, higher than the P14 million posted during the first quarter of 2007.

"Stable movement" in equities, wherein the property developer has a substantial investment, added to gains from residential sales, which demonstrated "strong growth," SM Development President Rogelio R. Cabuñag said.

"There was no major movement in our equity investment while there is continuous growth in our residential operations. We are quite optimistic that [the equities have] already reached their low levels and we do not expect further deterioration from our equity investments," he said.

In the first quarter of 2007, net profits of SM Development plunged to P14 million from P661 million the year before as equity investments nosedived due to weak market conditions.

In the first quarter of 2008, residential sales doubled to P3.2 billion, giving comfort to the company which has decided to launch more projects this year on top of new land acquisitions.

"The market is still there so we still keep developing [projects]. Most of our customers are local buyers and only a tenth are overseas buyers," Henry T. Sy, Jr., SM Development vice-chairman, said. "We expect more sales from the locals rather than the overseas Filipinos."

The company has set aside P7.2 billion for spending this year, higher than the P4.5 billion it spent last year.

SM Development will launch four projects worth P15 billion this year.

Princeton Residences is a 38-storey, one-building project that will house 1,156 units. The P1.5-billion project will rise in Quezon City and is expected to be completed two to three years from now.

Aside from Princeton, the company will also launch Jupiter Residences in Makati City. Jupiter Residences is a P7.2 billion project that will have six 40-storey buildings and 5,224 units. It is expected to be completed in 2013.

SM Development will also launch Tree Residences in Cainta, Rizal, a P2-billion project that will have eight 12-storey buildings and a total of 2,420 units. Also in the pipeline is the P4.3-billion Wind Residences in Tagaytay that will have several mid-rise buildings, which the company hopes will attract second-home buyers.

"There is still a huge demand for end-users who want to have their own houses. The company [still chose] to launch projects this year inspired mostly by the overwhelming demand for our projects," Mr. Cabuñag said.

Shares of the company were unchanged at P2.95 apiece yesterday.

For the Philippines or for the West?

Outside the Box
John Mangun

It all started back in January at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland. I wrote shortly thereafter that President Arroyo “politely reminded the West that for the last 10 years they pursued polices that drove their economies into a black hole. Countries like the Philippines used that time to build themselves up. The President called for the West to include countries like the Philippines in all further global economic discussions so the West might learn some ‘helpful new ideas.’”

I wrote a week later in a column, “A conspiracy against the Philippines?” that suddenly all the foreign “experts” began reversing their opinions about the Philippines and economic-growth estimates were being revised downward by a staggering amount.

I will say this as plainly as I can: There is a determined effort by the West to downplay and diminish any positive economic aspects of countries like the Philippines.

What is happening is not simply propaganda. It is not an intellectual exercise. It is not simply the Western media being biased in their assessments of countries like the Philippines. These efforts to undermine nations like the Philippines may be subtle and covert, but it is nonetheless an all-out economic war.

The larger and predominately Western nations and economies have spent nearly 50 years subjecting the “Third World” to economic neocolonialism. From one-sided trade practices to encouraging improper and unnecessary lending to these countries through the International Monetary Fund, countries like the Philippines have been held in control.

Western banks have made billions of dollars by lending to the “underdeveloped” countries. And everything has been done to keep these nations less-developed to force them to rely on borrowing from the Western banks. Economic growth has been stifled at all costs to insure that investment capital would not flow out of the West.

Now that the wealth-creation of the West over that last 20 years has been shown to be all smoke and mirrors, and that those economies are crumbling, they cannot afford to see any capital flight to countries like the Philippines. And they will do everything in their power to stop it.

The USA, in particular, needs every foreign dollar it can find to be invested in its economy. Every dollar that flows to the Philippines, Indonesia, Thailand or any place else is one less dollar to save the USA and Western European economies. Now think about this.

If you put your money in US government 90-day debt, you receive 0.10-percent interest. Buying a 90-day Philippine Treasury bill gives you an interest rate of 4.352 percent. You can make 430 times more interest in the Philippines. Where is any sensible person going to put their money? Outside the USA and Western Europe.

But they, the West, cannot let that happen. So they easily manipulate the price of the US dollar to scare investors into thinking that the only place for their money is in the “safe haven” of the United States.

At every opportunity, the “experts” highlight government budget deficits in countries like the Philippines, prompting fears of currency devaluation without ever noting facts like that Western government deficits are a far greater percentage of GDP than many countries like the Philippines.

They spread false information about bank and tax laws to strike fear that by investing in countries like the Philippines, people may be violating home-country financial regulations.

If the economic numbers cannot convince investors to stay away, maybe the threat of political turmoil will do the job. Already, the political trouble in Thailand is being linked to the economic crisis. Little mention is made that their political problems began long before the economic crisis. I guarantee that the negative rhetoric about Philippine politics will ratchet up higher every week as the May 2010 elections become closer.

The “experts” at the global financial institutions are hard at work looking for negatives about the Philippines. Tourism is supposed to be hurt this year, damaging the economy. Except that year-to-date arrivals are up 10 percent over 2008. Remittances are expected by the foreign experts to fall disastrously. Except that in January, they grew larger over 2008 and February’s numbers were even better.

In a week or so, the first-quarter 2009 economic numbers will be released. I guarantee, they will be above the foreign experts’ estimates. But no matter; the economic growth will not be good enough. The foreigners will say that the worst is yet to come. The foreign-funded local mouthpieces of the West will complain that the government is faking the data. You will see foreign funds moving out of the stock market and out of Philippine government debt.

You personally have a choice. You can easily join the economic war against the Philippines. Help the West and their economies by not expanding your local business. Buy dollars instead of pesos. Do not even consider investing in the Philippine stock market. Buy foreign products and not domestic.

Or you can make a decision that you stand on the side of the Philippines and do exactly the opposite.

The Philippines is alone and does not have any friends or allies in the Western governments and financial institutions. Our wealth gain is their wealth loss. That is the fact of this economic war and every member of this Filipino economy is a participant in that war, realize it or not. The only question is, are you economically fighting for the Philippines or against this country?

PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by Inc. E-mail comments to

Monday, 27 April 2009

Albay airport on track

Manila Standard

DARAGA, Albay—The government is speeding up the acquisition of 200 hectares of land to build the P3.4-billion Southern Luzon International Airport here in Daraga town, Mayor Cicero Tiumfante said Friday.

He said officials had consulted 216 landowners to be affected by the airport’s construction in Alobo village, and he was optimistic they would agree to sell.

The airport’s runway will cover 187 hectares and affect 194 landowners, and its 1.5-kilometer-long access road is expected to dislocate 22 more.

The government is also negotiating to acquire 10 hectares to resettle residents who will be affected by the airport’s construction, according to officials.

Albay Gov. Joey Salceda said the feasibility study for the airport had been completed, and that the bidding for it would be held on April 30 and May 15. Mar Arguelles

Philippines can do better than zero growth

The Entrepreneur
Manny Villar
Business Mirror

SIX months ago, local and international economic analysts predicted that the Philippines’ growth rate would be only 1.8 in terms of gross domestic product (GDP) for 2009.

Less than two weeks ago, I told a friend that “soon you’ll hear people talking about a zero-growth rate,” in contrast to forecasts by multilateral agencies, economists and analysts, including the government, that the growth rate would be a high of 4.7 percent to a low of 1 percent.

Lo and behold, on April 22, the Manila office of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced that it was revising its GDP growth forecast for the Philippines for this year from 2.5 percent to zero percent!

If it’s any consolation, the IMF said the Philippines would still perform better than its neighbors, like Singapore and Thailand, which are expected to end the year with negative growth.

The IMF’s lower forecast reflected the impact of the worsening global situation on the Philippine economy, such as the continuing decline in exports and lower remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) in countries which cut back on their imported labor.

Maybe, the decline in demand from foreign countries for Philippine-made goods and the supposed repatriation of OFWs are factors that we can consider as beyond our control.

I think the decline in remittances and exports were already inputted when the government estimated 2009 GDP growth target at 3.7 percent to 4.7 percent, or at least at the latest 3.1 percent to 4.1 percent. The IMF itself expects remittances to reach $15.17 billion this year, lower than the $16.4 billion posted last year, but still more than the $14 billion posted in 2007, when the economy grew at a three-decade high of 7.2 percent.

On exports, the biggest adverse impact was on electronics, which has been discounted since last year. On a net basis, electronics exports are not that significant because of the high import content. Actually, the biggest impact is on employment, when it comes to electronics exports.

What disappoints me is that there are other factors that can help us grow better, which we can do but are not doing. First is the national government budget for 2009 that was signed only on March 12, more than two months late. The annual appropriation is significant because it includes the P10-billion Economic Stimulus Fund, designed to cope with the global crisis.

There was also much ballyhoo when the government announced a P330-billion Economic Resiliency Plan, the Philippines’ own version of stimulus packages adopted by countries that have been affected by the global turmoil.

Now, has anyone seen any pump-priming activities? If so, that pump priming has not taken effect, and that means the Economic Resiliency Plan has remained just a plan.

It’s bad that the approval of the national budget was delayed, but what makes the situation worse is that fund releases for 2009 were still not being made, three months into the fiscal year.

I think even the regular fund releases, such as for the projects of congressmen and senators, have not been made for the first quarter. Why? Are the releases being withheld for other purposes, such as Charter change?

I sincerely hope not. Politicizing the economic solution to the economic crisis will guarantee its failure to the detriment of our people.

So, I’m not surprised about the lower and lower predictions for the economy. But this should not mean that we surrender ourselves to a stagnant economic growth.

I have a lot of confidence in the Filipino people and what we can do to push our country forward.

It’s not too late. There’s still time to pump prime the economy and ensure a higher rate of growth. Instead of debating whether the low or zero growth will happen, as I’ve always said, let’s prepare for the worst and hope for the best.

To prepare for the worst means taking action. I have already discussed the delay in fund releases, both for regular capital expenditures and for pump priming. I suspect the government’s decision to lower its growth target was prompted by concerns that revenue agencies like the Bureau of Customs and the Bureau of Internal Revenue will not be able to achieve their collection goals.

The administration may be concerned about the deficit, although the IMF itself agrees with the raising of the fiscal deficit to as high as 3 percent of GDP.

This cautious attitude is understandable, given the precrisis objective of balancing the budget by 2010. But let’s not delve into it too much because the damage on the economy might be irreversible.

And, talking of irreversible damage, I think it is time for the monetary authorities to look at bank lending. After all, banks are major sources of funds for economic activities.

However, I have noted that bank lending has generally stopped. Not that they have closed the doors to borrowers, but they have adopted strict rules and imposed stringent standards.

Oh, yes, some companies are able to borrow, some are building up their cash hoards to finance acquisitions or in preparation for the recovery. For others the credit flow has stopped.

I have been receiving complaints from small and medium enterprises, actually the biggest employers, which are running out of funds for their operations. In effect, only those who have a lot of cash are able to borrow more, while those without cash are not able to borrow at all.

The Monetary Board should take a hard look at the credit problem. If this problem persists, then we will be headed toward negative growth.

In fact, it is not just negative growth that I am worried about. I’m worried about the long-term effect when companies closed. That’s reducing productive capacity, for which restoration will be very difficult.

So the issue of economic growth amid the global crisis boils down to two points. One is the stimulus plan of the government and second is the banking system.

These are factors within our control. And we should act on them now!

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Crisis as opportunity


‘Don’t find a fault, find a remedy” is a sound piece of advice from Henry Ford, the American automaker, that is as useful now as it was in the early 20th century.

Amid job losses caused by the global economic slump, the Bureau of Immigration (BI) is not taking things sitting down, and doing its part in easing the unemployment problem. Last week it launched the Special Visa for Employment Generation, or SVEG, created through Executive Order 758. SVEG provides special nonimmigrant status, multiple entry and conditional extended stay to foreigners, provided they are engaged in lawful and sustainable enterprises, trade or industry and employ Filipino workers on a full-time or regular basis. These privileges can be extended to the applicants’ spouses and dependents below 18 years old.

Those availing themselves of SVEG can also be exempted from paying special return and exit clearance certificates. The conditions set by the BI: the foreigners are “actually, directly or exclusively” engaged in a business, they have intentions of staying in the country, they are not risks to national security and they hire Filipinos according to labor laws.

SVEG can generate at least 100,000 jobs for Filipinos, according to Immigration Commissioner Marcelino Libanan. “It’s a doable target that can be doubled,” and “its benefits will trickle down, with tremendous impact on the economy.”

Another good example of being part of the solution, instead of being part of the problem, is the approach taken by Peter J. Batt, an international expert on vegetable production and assistant professor at the University of Mindanao.

Faced with the deluge of cheap vegetable imports from China that threaten the livelihood and survival of Filipino farmers, Batt suggests that the government should help farmers increase their production and efficiency. “The capability of small-scale farmers to produce more should be improved to thwart the deluge of these vegetables,” Batt said. “What the government could do is to invest in programs for productivity enhancement, infrastructure and provide incentives—not only to multinational companies—but to small-scale vegetable growers, as well. Let us keep China as far away as we can,” he said.

The warning is timely, as China is currently the biggest vegetable producer in the world, accounting for 36 percent of the total global vegetable production with a total value of $73.85 billion. Half of the vegetables being sold in Southern Mindanao alone comes from China, according to the Vegetable Producers’ Council of Southern Mindanao. And the situation is likely to get worse for our farmers since the World Trade Organization-General Agreement on Tariff and Trades will go full swing by 2010. Thus, the advice for farmers to go into low-cost production so they could compete with China is sound.

Finding remedies for problems is precisely the approach that the government wants to take. Amid calls for a wage increase to help workers cope with hard times, Malacañang says job creation and job security are its priorities. Thus, we should not expect the President to announce any wage increases on Friday, Labor Day. Instead, decisions on wage increases would be left to the collective bargaining of individual companies with their workers and the tripartite wages and productivity boards around the country. But even if no wage increases are forthcoming, the government would continue to provide seed money for those seeking to put up micro, small, or medium enterprises. The microfinance program is the correct approach, from our vantage point, as it works better for long-term economic sustainability.

Adversity doesn’t have to lead to useless and counterproductive finger-pointing. If we want to turn crisis into opportunity, the obvious first step is to make sober and rational decisions.

Manila-Clark railway attracts MPIC’s interest

Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

METRO PACIFIC Investments Corp. (MPIC) is considering bidding for a 120-kilometer high-speed rail project that will link the Metro Manila and Clark Freeport airports, a Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) official said on Friday.

The railway is being touted as a key component of plans to make Clark’s Diosdado Macapagal International Airport the country’s main hub given the Ninoy Aquino International Airport’s (NAIA) limited capacity for expansion.

"Right now, we can see that NAIA will become congested. Twenty-five million international and domestic passengers arrive in NAIA [annually]. That will keep on growing," CIAC President and CEO Victor Jose I. Luciano told an outsourcing forum.

In contrast, the Clark airport sits on land roughly four times as large as NAIA’s and its runways are the only ones in the Philippines that can accommodate the large Airbus A380, he said.

"We are looking at ... the Japan model where Narita is the international airport and Haneda in Tokyo is the domestic airport," Mr. Luciano said.

"The other day I was with [MPIC chairman] Manuel V. Pangilinan. He has the interconnecting right-of-way between Caloocan and Magallanes and that is the key," he said. "[MPIC] will have an advantage because it has the right-of-way."

Mr. Pangilinan, who also heads the country’s biggest telco, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), was not available for comment but an official confirmed MPIC’s interest.

"Since [the firm] is in talks to connect the South Luzon Expressway to the North Luzon Expressway, it makes sense to look at the project," the official, who requested anonymity, said.

Trains are expected to run at over 200 kilometers per hour during the 34- to 45-minute journey.

Mediaquest Holdings Inc., a unit of the Beneficial Trust Fund of PLDT, has a minority interest in BusinessWorld.

J. Roldan, Carlo Niccolo Bautista
Business Mirror

BUSINESSMAN Manny Pangilinan has reportedly expressed interest to participate in the planned $3-billion high-speed rail project that will connect the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport in Clark (DMIA) to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia). This rail system is the key for the conversion of the Naia to a domestic airport and the DMIA as the country’s main international airport in five to 10 years.

Victor Jose Luciano, Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) president and CEO, said in his presentation at a forum on Friday in Holiday Inn Clark that he had a discussion with Pangilinan on the matter last week.

Luciano said Pangilinan can provide the right of way for the properties that the proposed high-speed rail will be passing through from Caloocan to Magallanes.

“With this right of way, we can now connect the Naia to Clark,” Luciano said.

Interviewed by reporters later, Luciano said currently, they have no problem with the right of way from Clark to the Caloocan part of the North Luzon Expressway. This is why getting the right of way from the Caloocan-to-Magallanes portion is critical for the project.

Luciano said the project will probably cost at least $3 billion, with $1 billion going to the right of way, and the $2 billion to be spent for the construction and the trains.

He said this will be a joint-venture project and they are targeting to choose the private-sector partner within the year.

CIAC, he said, will entertain an unsolicited offer and once they have finished the negotiations and agreed on the terms, they will make an announcement.

“Anybody can match it,” he said.

Luciano said the airlines want this high-speed rail—bringing passengers from Manila to Clark and vice versa in just 45 minutes—to be constructed first before they would transfer to DMIA.

If plans go smoothly, he said the rail system will be finished in five to 10 years.