Saturday, 11 July 2009

Mayon Volcano--from a plane cockpit

Thanks to PILOTOKO


Mayon watch: Albay readies evacuation plans

MANILA, Philippines - With the alert level for Mayon Volcano raised to “2," provincial officials in Albay have mapped out evacuation plans, including those for forced evacuation of residents near the volcano.

Cedric Daep, head of the Albay Public Safety and Emergency Management Office (APSEMO), said Governor Jose Salceda has also banned mountain-climbing activities on Mayon.

"Sa ngayon nag-issue si Governor ng advisory, pinagbawal ang mountain climbing. Bawal ang any human activity in critical areas sa 6-km permanent danger zone [The governor issued an advisory barring mountain-climbing. He also banned human activity in critical areas at the six-kilometer permanent danger zone]," Daep said in an interview on dzXL radio.

Daep said they had met with village chiefs in high-risk zones to ask them to convince farmers not to sleep in areas near the permanent danger zone.

He said farmers are keeping watch over their farms in the danger zone at this time, as harvest time nears.

"Sabi namin bawal matulog. Kung harvest madalian para walang matutulog o magbabantay sa taas. Nakaalerto ang barangay officials kung ano ang bawal, bawal talaga [We said farmers should not sleep in the area. If they will harvest their crops they should do so quickly. Our village officials have instructions to enforce this rule, without exception]," he said.

On the other hand, Daep said evacuation plans will go into effect once Alert Level 3 is raised.

"Once declared sa Alert Level 3, we will execute mandatory evacuation... Susundan ang resolution declaring the area as no human activity... Pag mandatory evacuation under 24-hour curfew, papalagay kami ng security [Once Mayon is placed under Alert Level 3, we will execute mandatory evacuation. There will be a resolution declaring the area as a no-human-activity area. Under mandatory evacuation, there will be a 24-hour curfew there, and we will place security personnel there]," he said.


Phivolcs’ website on Mayon eruptions said the volcano has had at least 40 eruptions since February 1616.

The most destructive eruption occurred Feb. 1, 1814, when pyroclastic flows, volcanic lightning, and lahar affected Camalig, Cagsawa, Budiao, Guinobatan and half of Albay. At least 1,200 were listed as casualties.

The second most destructive eruption was from June 4 to July 23, 1897, as pyroclastic flow, lava flow, lahar and volcanic lightning caused 350 casualties.

On July 20-24, 1766, pyroclastic and lava flows destroyed Malinao and damaged Cagsawa, Guinobatan, Budiao, Polangui and Ligao. There were 39 casualties.

On July 7, 1853, 34 casualties were listed as ashfall and pyroclastic flow and lahar affected Camalig, Guinobatan, Ligao, Oas, Polangui, Malilipot, Bacacay, and Cagsawa.

From Feb. 2 to April 4, 1993, pyroclastic and lava flow killed 77 and injured five.

Mayon erupted again from July to October 2006. In August 2006, government ordered the evacuation of people living near the volcano.

On Oct. 3, 2006, Phivolcs downgraded the threat level to Alert Level 2. On Oct. 25, it downgraded the threat level to Alert Level 1.

But on Nov. 30 that year, Typhoon Durian caused mudslides of volcanic ash and boulders from the slopes of Mayon Volcano, burying at least 1,000.

Arroyo’s Sona tackles 2010 polls, reforms

By Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard

President Arroyo will reiterate her assurance that the 2010 elections will push through during her last State-of-the-Nation Address, as well as spell out her vision for the country, which she hopes her successor will continue.

But the President’s Sona will leave out the controversial issue of constituent assembly, a scheme which the political opposition says will ensure that she and her allies will keep their hold on power.

Deputy presidential spokesman Gary Olivar said the President’s Sona will delve on her vision for political reforms, strengthening political institutions, and making democracy work at the grassroots level. “She will mention something on political reforms, but I don’t know how detailed it will be. But definitely there will be no mention of constituent assembly,” Olivar said.

Mrs. Arroyo practiced her Sona speech, which Olivar described as “short and well-applauded,” in Tuesday’s Cabinet meeting.

“This will be her farewell Sona speech, what she has accomplished for the past eight years, and what she wants to pass on to the next leadership,” Olivar said.

An internal Palace survey done in May showed the respondents wanting to hear the President’s Sona that should be “forward-looking,” which means it should tackle programs and projects that could be carried out by the next administration.

The survey, commissioned by the Palace and conducted by a private firm, also suggested that the speech should focus more on the economy and less on politics.

In her 2008 Sona, Mrs. Arroyo outlined her administration’s efforts to address challenges such as high oil prices, a balanced budget, as well as pro-poor programs and critical infrastructure projects to improve the country’s competitiveness.

Contract for Philippine 2010 presidential poll automation signed

Emilia Narni J. David and Ira P Pedrasa

The country would hold its first computerized elections next year after the automation contract, absent a stay order from the Supreme Court, was signed on Friday between the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and Smartmatic TIM Corp.

"The bids were opened on May 4. So from May up to now it took quite a while to prepare. We are very eager to go on and automate the elections," said Comelec Chairman Jose A. R Melo in a press conference after signing the P7.2-billion contract.

The 25-page document was signed by the Comelec; Armando R. Yanes, Smartmatic chief operating officer; Salvador P. Auque, TIM (Total Information Management Corp.) senior vice-president; and Juan C. Villa, Jr. chairman of joint-venture Smartmatic TIM.

The notice of award was given to both companies on June 10, but the contract signing was delayed after TIM had announced its withdrawal from the joint venture due to differences with Smartmatic International Corp. They were prevailed upon by the Comelec to reconcile, and the joint venture’s incorporation was subsequently approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Wednesday.

Smartmatic TIM spokesman Cesar Flores said on Friday they would begin meeting a series of meetings with the Comelec project management office. "From now on, we are an extension of the Comelec."

He said the joint venture would soon order precinct count optical scanning machines to be delivered in November.

In finalizing the document, Mr. Melo said they did not set aside issues raised in the filing on Thursday of an injunction by the Concerned Citizen’s Movement (CCM) against the contract signing.

"We are not ignoring the Supreme Court, but the election is not like other projects like construction which can be postponed because we have to meet a time-line," said Mr. Melo.

No urgency

Meanwhile, the high court saw no urgency in issuing a stay order on the contract signing.

In a press conference on Friday, Supreme Court spokesman Jose Midas P. Marquez said the petition filed by CCM led by Herminio Harry L. Roque has been raffled off to a justice.

"We did not get any recommendation [from the justice]. So there is no temporary restraining order. It will now be included in the regular en banc meeting on Tuesday," he said.

The petition is still valid despite the delay. Mr. Marquez said, "We still have sufficient remedies available to protect whatever they want to protect," such as a status quo ante order, or as if no document has been signed.

He added the court could consider the request to stop the release of fund to Smartmatic TIM. "The court may also ask that the parties [merely] comment on the petition."

The general elections would be held on May 10, 2010. The last day for filing of certificates of candidacy is on Nov. 30. The election period is 45 days before and 30 days after May 10.

Philippine net FDI up 155% in April


Net foreign direct investments (FDI) rose by 155% in April to $601 million from a year earlier, a result that was also a reversal of March’s $27-million outflow.

The increase from the $236 million recorded in the same month last year was due to Japanese firm Kirin Holdings, Co.’s acquisition of a substantial stake in San Miguel Brewery, Inc., the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported on Friday.

"The rebound in FDI flows given the difficult global economic conditions reflected foreign investors’ confidence in the country’s macroeconomic fundamentals," central bank Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said in a statement.

The April result pushed the tally for the first four months of 2009 to $648 million, a 29.1% gain compared to the same period last year.

Foreign equity capital placements reached $619 million during the month, with the bulk stemming from the "acquisition by a foreign enterprise of a significant number of shares in a local beverage manufacturing firm," the BSP said.

In April, diversifying food and beverage conglomerate San Miguel Corp., announced that it had sold 778 million shares of its beer unit San Miguel Brewery, Inc., or 5% of the company, to Kirin for P6.87 billion.

The sale followed Kirin’s earlier acquisition a 43% stake in San Miguel Brewery worth P58.93 billion.

How to register and vote from abroad


Friday, 10 July 2009

ADB sees positive growth for Philippine economy

ADB sets aside $4.3B in aid for RP
Institution hopes to make dent on poverty

Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank has earmarked at least $4.3 billion in aid for the Philippines through 2012 to push the domestic economy to a “sustained high-growth path.”

Neeraj K. Jain, ADB’s country director for the Philippines, said in a briefing that disbursements for 2009 alone would likely exceed $1.3 billion.

“Normally, the ADB [releases] $400 million to $600 million yearly,” Jain said. “This year’s amount is more than double the usual as the country feels the impact of global economic developments.”

Also, an assistance package of between $2 billion and $3 billion for the Philippines covering 2010 to 2012 is now being discussed, Jain said.

He explained that help for the Philippines in 2009 would come in the form of greater support for national budgetary needs, a support facility for efforts to counter the current state of the global economy, and allocations for much needed infrastructure.

“The Philippine economy is expected to maintain positive GDP growth in 2009,” Jain said. “That is a fantastic development considering that the economies of other countries are contracting.”

GDP refers to the total value of goods and services produced and paid for within an economic territory at a given time.

The government reported that in the first quarter, GDP grew by only 0.4 percent compared to the same period in 2008.

Jain said that the ADB’s estimate as of March – that the Philippine economy would grow by 2.5 percent this year – “now seems ambitious.”

Still, he said, continuing growth in the value of remittances from overseas Filipinos, the recent improvement in business confidence and turnaround in electronic exports were positive signals.

However, he said, the country faces downside risks arising from a longer-than-expected downturn in industrialized countries and the further weakening of government revenues.

Jain said the government’s medium-term fiscal stabilization efforts should be anchored on raising the tax effort rather than reducing public spending.

“For the economy to move to a sustained high-growth path, greater spending is needed on infrastructure, like roads and ports, and in social services like education,” he said.

By a sustained high-growth path, the official meant growth rates of 7 to 8 percent to be posted continually over a period of 10 to 12 years.

Such economic performance is required to make a real dent on poverty, Jain explained.

Philippine banking seen to remain healthy—ADB exec

Michelle Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – The Asian Development Bank expects the banking sector to remain healthy this year and, as such, help the Philippines avoid a credit crunch that is being suffered by other countries.

“Liquidity in the country’s banking system is plenty, as proven by a solid growth in M3... There may be some decline in profitability, but not to a degree that will be worrisome,” Neeraj Jain, ADB country director for the Philippines, said in a briefing Thursday.

Contrary to some projections that the local banking system would be in trouble this year due to the failure of some borrowers to pay back loans, Jain said banks in the country would remain major contributors to economic growth this year.

He said bank lending was not expected to contract and was likely to continue posting decent growth.

Jain cited a recent report by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas that the outstanding loan portfolio of the banking sector had continued to post double-digit growth as of May.

The BSP said that in January to May, the outstanding loans of banks amounted to P2.13 trillion, up 10.2 percent year-on-year. If inter-bank loans were excluded, loans to consumers and corporate clients hit P1.98 trillion, up 17 percent from that in the same period last year.

“A 17 percent growth in lending is still very strong,” Jain said.

This year’s lending growth, as indicated by data for the first five months, would likely slow down from more than 20 percent in the previous years. But Jain said a deceleration was expected given efforts of banks to improve their risk-management programs.

"It is expected that banks will strengthen their risk management, but it does not mean they are not taking risks. They are still lending,” Jain said.

Unlike other institutions that expect the Philippines to fall into recession this year, the ADB expects the country to maintain positive growth. The ADB’s projection is anchored partly on rising bank lending and remittances sent by overseas Filipino workers.

Jain, however, said the ADB would likely downgrade its growth forecast for the Philippines and other Asian countries for the year to take into account recent developments. In its outlook last year, the ADB said the Philippines would likely grow by 2.5 percent this year.

Jain said this growth forecast might already be outdated given that the Philippines, like other countries in the region, grew much slower than expected in the first quarter. The economy grew by only 0.4 percent in the first quarter, the slowest in 10 years.

But Jain said the Philippines was expected to still register positive growth this year.

In 2008, the country’s banking sector registered a collective net income of P41.4 billion. The ADB said the amount could decline this year, but stressed that banks would still be profitable.

The ADB official, however, said a healthy banking sector would not be enough to accelerate the country’s growth to levels that will help reduce poverty.

He said the government should implement measures that would improve tax collections so that there would be enough revenues for infrastructure and social services.

The Philippines, Jain said, needed to grow by 7 to 8 percent yearly for 10 to 12 years to see a substantial reduction in poverty incidence which, latest estimates showed, was about a third of the country’s 90 million population.

Philippine call centers still growing despite crisis

Hiring rate also higher, study shows
Alexander Villafania

TAGUIG CITY, Philippines – Amid economic pressure and low operational expenditure from global markets, the country’s contact center business will remain robust until the end of the year, according to a study commissioned by the Contact Center Association of the Philippines (CCAP).

During the kickoff for its upcoming industry conference, CCAP president Benedict Hernandez revealed that they commissioned a study from Pricewaterhouse Coopers to validate some of the concerns of the local industry.

Hernandez said results of the study are currently being evaluated by CCAP and will be revealed during the CCAP Call Center Conference and Expo 2009 in mid-July.

He did reveal some results of the study, citing 15 percent year-on-year growth for the industry in terms of employment and revenues.

The study also showed the general acceptance rate for new employees is slightly higher at seven to eight percent. “Of 100 people who apply for a call center job, only seven get hired. But we first estimated it at only five percent,” said Hernandez.

CCAP has been working with several educational institutions and government offices, including the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA), to train potential employees in English proficiency and other related skills.

Hernandez added the study showed an attrition rate of about 57 percent in the country’s call center industry. In comparison, India’s attrition rate is purported to be 80 percent.

He added CCAP is thinking about conducting the study on a quarterly basis. “We still have to tweak the questions so that only the important ones are asked,” said Hernandez.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

It's going to get ever better

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

The Philippines may be entering the best 12 months in recent memory. That is, if we can concentrate a little more on the Philippine economy rather than on the President’s anatomy.

The very low inflation numbers, due primarily to the dramatic decrease in crude-oil prices, places the country at the threshold of a marvelous year ahead. As I have stated many times, inflation is the No.1 economy killer for the Philippines.

Now there will be those misguided individuals, some of the “experts” who will tell you that these low inflation numbers is an indication that there is trouble ahead because low inflation signals a reduction of spending. That is, no one is buying and sellers have to reduce or hold prices steady to attract buyers. More on that later.

Other than occasional supply problems with certain commodities, rice, vegetables, meat products, prices, and, therefore, inflation, in the Philippines are driven by external factors. A very weak peso drives up many prices because of the high foreign content of certain products. Most critical though is the cost of fuel as we witnessed in 2008 when high global oil prices drove the local price of almost everything much higher.

Why do I maintain my positive outlook for the economy? Simple. The economy is growing, that is, continuing to produce wealth. That wealth is used to buy things and because of low inflation, we can continue to buy as much or more than we did previously. That buying, in turn, creates more wealth. It is a wonderfully productive cycle. And perhaps the most important aspect of this cycle is that it forms the basis of stable, sustaining, and sound economic advancement.

Look at the recent Standard & Poor’s ratings. While the “experts” are casting about for anything that can justify their silly gloom-and-doom scenarios, S&P maintains a “stable” rating. S&P is concerned though that the government must increase its revenue collection. Fair enough. And how better than through the collection of the value-added tax as buyers purchase more.

The politicians and their experts keep saying that the only solution to higher economic growth is a great increase in government spending. This would be disastrous. You cannot have both a balanced budget and increased spending. The solution is private consumption. And once the public finally understands that the economic world is not crashing in the Philippines, they will increase their spending. This consumer confidence will increase steadily over the next 12 months.

What Moody’s and the rest do not understand is based on their ignorance of the Philippine economy. That is why they are worried about the potential of “deflation” as inflation goes very low. Let me explain.

Property prices in the USA have fallen and are continuing to fall like a rock. The main reason is that real- estate companies are heavily in debt. Overseas, property companies borrow all the money they need to develop a property. When demand is reduced even slightly, they must drop prices to get any cash they can (even if they have to sell a breakeven or less) to pay off the loans. Not true in the Philippines.

You see, Moody’s and their “experts” have never been in the Philippines long enough to see the real economy. Do you remember 1997-1998? Real-estate sales died. Construction stopped. I remember holding office across the street from one of Megaworld’s five-star condos in Makati still under construction. For two years it looked like there were only two workers employed on that project. Megaworld spent very little, kept their bottom line intact, until things got better. That would never happen in the USA since the loan payments would force them to finish construction to then sell to raise cash.

When the Asian crisis hit, property buyers walked away because wealth creation stopped and the buyers did not have the money to purchase. But a funny thing happened that Moody’s would never understand. Selling prices did not go down for the projects of the major, financially sound developers. There were no bargains to be found. The developers just waited until the buyers had money a few years later and then selling picked up, but not at bargain prices. That would never happen in the West because, actually, the Philippine economy is more stable than many of those in the West. That is why we get the “stable” rating; the UK gets the “negative” one.

I am not completely happy with the decision to continue to lower interest rates. The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and Department of Finance are taking this action in the hopes that a weaker peso will keep the value of remittances high to then push spending. Fair enough. However, my fear is that a sinking dollar and resulting higher oil prices will offset any benefit because of increased inflation. Therefore, the peso could breach 50 if the dollar holds steady and oil prices do not rise. If they are correct that the dollar will not fall for at least six months, then their strategy will be good as reduced borrowing costs will make for better corporate profits and reduced government debt service costs.

Money is coming in; prices are holding low. Go out and buy something. It is good for the economy. If you and millions of others do also, the third and fourth quarter economic growth will far exceed everyone’s expectations.

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Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Honest maid comes home from Hong Kong

Vito Barcelo
Manila Standard

A Filipino maid who found HK$350,545 (P2.1 million) in a dump and returned it to the owner received a hero’s welcome at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport upon her arrival yesterday from Hong Kong.

Mildred Perez, 38, flew in on a Cebu Pacific flight 5J-111 at the Naia 3 where she was met by Manila International Airport Authority general manager Alfonso Cusi, Overseas Workers Welfare Administration chief Carmelita Dimzon and other government officials.

She went to work as a Hong Kong maid, leaving behind her two children in Bambang, Nueva Vizcaya.

Perez’s prospects were shattered when her employer, a pastor, sexually assaulted her in 2007.

She was fired and barred by local laws from employment despite being a complainant in a case pending in court.

To support herself and her family back home, Perez had to scavenge recyclables in the neighborhood garbage dump, earning HK$38 or P228 a day.

But on April 29, Perez found a thick packet about the size of a mail envelope, in a trash bin on the corner of Pottinger Street and Des Voeux Road.

Inside were cash and checks amounting to HK$350,545.

“I was sleepless and at a loss whether to keep the money or return it,” she said in Filipino.

Perez breezed through the arrival area glad to be home even if what she got for doing a good turn was a can of butter cookies.

Integrated Manila rail terminal OK’d

B. S. Sto. Domingo

THE NATIONAL Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board has approved the P777-million Metro Manila Integrated Rail Terminal that will connect Metro Manila’s main rail lines.

Light Rail Transit Authority Administrator Melquiades A. Robles said the project is designed to link Metro Rail Transit (MRT) line 3, which runs along EDSA from Taft Avenue to North Avenue; LRT 1, which stretches from Monumento to Baclaran; and MRT 7, which will run from Commonwealth Avenue to Bulacan.

"The three train lines will converge in one station and there will be seamless transfer from one line to another," he told Palace reporters yesterday.

"This will be operational by June 2010."

The common station, which was supposed to be constructed in front of the TriNoma mall in Quezon City at an original cost of P1.5 billion, will now be located across SM North EDSA.

"The net effective cost is about P777 million," Mr. Robles said.

He added the government is targeting to connect LRT 1 to MRT 3 by December 2009 by extending the end of LRT 1 in Monumento to the end of MRT 3 on North Avenue corner EDSA.

The MRT/LRT loop entails the construction of three additional stations — in Balintawak, Muñoz and the interface station in North Avenue. The project is estimated to cost P6 billion.

Philippines' Subic seaport income up to record P276 M in 1st half

Henry Empeño
Business Mirror

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—Aggressive promotions by the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) has yielded record earnings of more than P276.48 million for the Subic seaport during the first six months of 2009.

The six-month income, derived mostly from vessel and cargo charges, already exceeded Subic seaport’s total earnings of P276.24 million for the entire 12 months last year.

It also constituted the biggest six-month revenue record for the SBMA seaport department since the Subic free port was established in 1992, said SBMA senior deputy administrator for operations Ferdinand Hernandez.

“At the rate we’re going, our figure at the end of this year may even be double that of last year,” Hernandez added.

The surge in seaport income, Hernandez said, “is a result of the efforts by the SBMA to aggressively market the Subic port and to attract more shippers, importers, brokers and forwarders to Subic.”

The government’s huge investments in infrastructure, like the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway and the North Luzon Expressway that both facilitated cargo traffic to Subic, as well as the $215-million Subic Port Development Project that established two new container terminals here, also helped Subic’s positioning.

“All together, these have greatly enhanced Subic’s performance as a logistics hub,” Hernandez added.

According to the SBMA Seaport Department, Subic’s seaport revenue steadily increased since 2005 and showed annual growth rates of 5.41 percent in 2006, 14.29 percent in 2007, and 26.63 percent in 2008.

In June this year Subic seaport income reached P60.69 million, the highest monthly revenue ever recorded in the last five years, according to the SBMA.

The Subic seaport also posted record-breaking monthly revenues since January when it collected P37.62 million. The rest of the first semester also showed record incomes of P41.57 million in February, P51.01 million in March, P44.49 million in April, and P41.07 million in May.

Comparative quarterly revenue figures from the SBMA indicated that cargo charges used to contribute the biggest earnings for the Subic seaport, with total collections of P104.33 million in 2007 and P109.29 million in 2008.

In the first six months of this year, however, vessel charges edged out cargo fees as the biggest revenue source—P112.11 million against P82.25 million—due to more ship calls, seaport officials added.

The seaport’s other income sources are leases and rentals, which brought in P30.84 million from January to June; processing fees, with P18.81 million in the same period; SBMA share from joint ventures, P27.57 million; and other charges, P4.93 million.

Hernandez also said the SBMA Seaport Department has pegged its revenue forecast for 2009 at P316.29 million, compared with the P228.2 million target in 2008.

“This means that our current first-half figure of more than P276 million is already 87.41 percent of our P316.3-million goal for this year,” Hernandez stressed.

SBMA seaport manager Perfecto Pascual said, meanwhile, that Subic seaport’s income began its consistent uptrend since the seaport department initiated its goal-setting program in 2006.

Pascual said the department achieved 94.75 percent of its P201.46-million target in 2006, 93.54 percent of the P233.21-million target in 2007, and the chart-busting record of 121.05 percent in 2008 when Subic posted an actual revenue of P276.24 million against a forecast of P228.2 million.

The target-setting program was complemented by aggressive marketing by the SBMA, said Hernandez, pointing out the agency’s recent road shows to attract more port users from Central and Northern Luzon.

He added other factors that contributed to this year’s record-breaking seaport income were the operation of Subic’s New Container Terminal 1 (NCT-1) by the Subic Bay International Terminal Corp., income from vessel lay-ups, as well as wharfage fee for petroleum products, fertilizer, and grains like soya and wheat.

Philippine Inflation Drops Further to 1.5 Percent in June

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Headline inflation continued to fall in June, dropping to 1.5 percent year-on-year from 3.3 percent in May, the lowest in more than 22 years. This brings the year-to-date average down to 5.0 percent from 5.7 percent a month earlier. Likewise, core inflation, which excludes specific food and energy items to measure generalized price pressures, was lower at 3.9 percent year-on-year in June from 4.4 percent in May. Meanwhile, month-on-month headline inflation was 0.6 percent in June compared to negative 0.1 percent in May.

All major commodity groups registered either lower or negative inflation rates in June. Lower food inflation accounted for the bulk of the decline in headline inflation, with lower rice and corn prices and slower price increases year-on-year in fruits and vegetables, fish, and miscellaneous food. In addition, fuel prices were lower in June along with rentals inflation. Services inflation turned negative as educational services inflation slowed down and as transportation and communication services inflation turned even more negative.

BSP Officer-in-Charge Armando L. Suratos noted that the inflation outturn was within the 1.2-2.1 percent forecast of the BSP for June. He also added that while inflationary pressures have slowed down in recent months owing to lower oil and other commodity prices due in large part to subdued demand conditions, the BSP will continue to watch closely the evolving conditions so that it can respond quickly to any emerging threats to the price stability objective.

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Philippine end-June 2009 GIR Rises to US$39.6 Billion

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Preliminary data on the country’s gross international reserves (GIR) as of end-June 2009 showed that the GIR reached a record high of US$39.600 billion, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Officer-In-Charge Armando L. Suratos announced today. The current GIR level was slightly higher by US$11 million than the end-May 2009 level of US$39.589 billion and could cover 6.8 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It was also equivalent to 6.1 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.2 times based on residual maturity. 1

The end-June 2009 GIR level included foreign exchange inflows from the BSP’s net foreign exchange operations and income from its investments abroad, as well as from the National Government’s (NG) foreign currency deposits with the BSP. These inflows were counterbalanced by outflows arising from the payment of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the NG and the BSP, as well as valuation losses in the BSP’s gold holdings on account of the lower price of gold in the international market in June 2009.

The level of net international reserves (NIR), which includes revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, slightly rose to US$38.6 billion as of end-June 2009 from the month-ago level of US$38.5 billion. The NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.


1 Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 months.

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Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Philippine remittances to grow — S&P


GLOBAL DEBT WATCHER Standard & Poor’s (S&P) expects overseas Filipino worker (OFW) remittances to grow this year even as multilateral institutions anticipate a contraction for this key prop of the Philippine economy.

S&P, which last week affirmed its below investment grade ratings for the country along with a "stable" outlook, said the government’s zero growth forecast for OFW remittances would be the "worst case scenario."

"We do not envisage a contraction in remittance flows this year," S&P senior analyst Agost Benard said in an e-mail to BusinessWorld.

Remittances continued to grow in the first four months of the year. Money sent home by OFWs totalled $5.5 billion in the January to April period, up 2.6% from the same period last year.

"[N]umbers at the beginning of the year indicated that the deployment of new workers is still growing at a fast pace," Mr. Benard said.

"Hence we believe that flat growth of remittances for the year as a whole is the worst case scenario, and that based on current trends, a contraction is unlikely."

OFW remittances hit a record high of $16.4 billion last year, up 13.7% from 2007. Since the start of 2009, however, growth has slowed to single digits.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas officially expects zero growth in remittances this year as OFWs suffer pay cuts or are laid off due to the global downturn Last week, however, the central bank said its forecast could be too "conservative" but did not offer a revision.

The world financial crisis has prompted the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to forecast a 4% contraction in remittances.

Given the BSP’s apparent optimism, ATR KimEng economist Luz L. Lorenzo yesterday said "If even the BSP says their own estimates are conservative, then I guess things are pointing to [growth]."

She forecast a 6% uptick, saying many OFWs work in the health care and education sectors which are relatively resilient.

Another local analyst said growth would at the very least be sustained for the rest of the year given signs the global slowdown had reached bottom.

"More people are convinced that we have reached the bottom," Rizal Commercial Banking Corp. Senior Vice-President Marcelo E. Ayes said.

"OFWs are also employed in many countries and not just the US," he said, noting that slowdowns in individual countries will not likely dent the country’s stock of migrant workers.

OFW remittances made up about a tenth of gross domestic product last year. Analysts have said a contraction could help tip the country into a recession this year.

Remittances are also a large source of foreign exchange, which helps stabilize and strengthen the peso.

The economy grew by just 0.4% in the first quarter from a year earlier. Seasonally adjusted, it contracted by 2.3% from the fourth quarter of 2008, prompting some officials to warn that the country was teetering on the brink of a recession.

The result prompted the government to recently revise its macroeconomic forecasts: it now expects the country to grow by just 0.8-1.8%, instead of 3.1-4.1% previously. The zero remittance growth forecast, however, was maintained.

S&P has also cut its growth forecast for the Philippines, to 1-1.5% from 1.5-2% previously.

Why poverty will never end

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

One of the most philosophically challenging passages in the Bible relates a short discussion between Our Lord and His disciples. A woman, in the custom of the time, pours expensive perfume on Jesus. The disciples are amazed that He allowed this to be done, calling this use of the perfume “a waste.” They scolded that the perfume could have been sold at a high price and the money given to the poor.

Jesus responds that, “The poor you will always have with you,” and thus begins a 2,000-year controversy.

Those few words have been used as an excuse by some to ignore the teachings of the Church and justify that it is a waste of money to be charitable to the poor. Some in the Church have used the words to say that the care and feeding of the poor is a never-ending task that is somewhat like a punishment because poverty can never be eliminated. Others see these words as a basis to attack Christianity as a hypocritical way of thinking as it goes through useless motions knowing that it can never succeed; further, that the Church believes helping the poor is a waste of time but gives it an excuse to take money from the faithful.

If Jesus had been the head of an international think tank or nongovernment organization, presiding over a multiyear, multimillion-dollar study that finally concluded that poverty is a never-ending condition, there would be Senate hearings and calls from the “pro-poor” that more tax money must be immediately spent to solve the problem.

The “pro-poor” and even well-intentioned people firmly believe that the problem of poverty is, at the end, a situation of wealth distribution, the distribution of a finite resource. Because I have more, then you will have less. If the “rich” give up their wealth, then the poor will no longer be poor. If that were true, then the disciples were correct and Jesus was wrong not distributing the perfume to the poor. I doubt that is the case.

If wealth distribution were the problem, then poverty should have been solved decades ago, as countless amounts of money, of wealth, have been redistributed to the poor around the world.

In 2002, the Philippine government spent P720 billion, the equivalent of P84,000 for a family of six living in poverty. After nearly 40 years of US President Lyndon Johnson’s Great Society, social spending costing literally trillions of dollars, incidence of poverty in the USA has not significantly reduced. The overall percentage of the population considered “poor” is about the same.

Because of the brevity of the Bible, we often tend to think that His words are little more than like a five-minute, shallow homily from some priest who seems more interested in being invited out for Sunday brunch than teaching and educating. For a man that people called Rabbi, Teacher, it is likely that there was more to the conversation than is recorded by Saint Matthew. It is likely that Jesus spoke at length to the disciples as to why the poor would always be with us.

Rarely do any studies of poverty look at the personal use of resources, as opposed to the public use and redistribution of resources. The thesis is that if only enough public funding could be made available to the poor, then poverty would be eliminated. No one seems to want to study what happens after the wealth has been redistributed to these poor. I think my son Chris found the answer after working two days at a local fast-food restaurant.

He came home from his job amazed at the amount of food that is wasted. Half-eaten hamburgers, chicken with plenty of meat still on the bones, spaghetti that was barely touched, all wasted and thrown away. This particular restaurant is at a busy intersection frequented by jeepney riders and also by people driving Mercedeses. Economic class means nothing. They all throw away literally tons of food every year. The same people who leave P50 of uneaten food are the same ones who feel they are doing their antipoverty wealth distribution by giving P1 or P2 to the street children in front of the fast-food outlet.

And when many of the street children have collected enough pesos, they run into the food outlet to buy ice cream, not rice for the family table.

My son told me that a politician of national stature comes in every day or so. This is a name and face that you would immediately recognize. Chris remarked to me that the politician never wastes a single bite of food. The politician’s background is humble, born in a far-flung province and raised in a low-cost government housing project and attending public school in Manila.

And something else. The customers who drive Mercedeses and wear the expensive jewelry tend to be the customers that waste the least. Maybe that is one reason they are not “poor.”

Perhaps what Jesus meant and what He told His disciples that was not recorded was that one reason the poor will always be with us is that their personal use of resources may be a factor in why they are poor. Maybe a nation is the same way. It might not be how wealthy you are that makes you rich or poor, but how you use the wealth that you have.

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Monday, 6 July 2009

Red Ribbon, 7-Eleven to put up more stores this year

With Cheryl M. Arcibal

MANILA, Philippines - Red Ribbon, the bakeshop operator owned by the Jollibee group, and the Philippine Seven Corp., which runs local 7-Eleven stores, will both put up more domestic outlets within the next two years.

Of Red Ribbon’s 24 stores to be opened this year, eight will be run by its franchisees while the rest will be owned by the company, Froilan Manotok, Red Ribbon South Luzon operations head, told GMANews.TV.

Depending on type, size and location, each store will cost anywhere between P7 million and P11 million, he added.

“A full store will cost between P7 million and P8 million while a free standing store will cost between P9 million and P11 million," said Manotok.

By year-end, the company will have a total of 240 stores.

Red Ribbon, which also serves set meals, will be establishing ten more stores in South Luzon.

Although the company currently runs 30 stores in the US, no plans have been made to increase stores overseas, Manotok said.

Jollibee Foods Corp. (JFC), the country's largest owner and operator of fast food chains, is seeking to be global player in the fast food industry, targeting to source half of its total revenues from offshore operations and the other half from the domestic market.

Shares of JFC stayed unchanged at during Monday’s trading at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

7-Eleven sets Visayas, Mindanao expansion

For its part, the Philippines’ exclusive franchise holder of 7-Eleven stores said it plans to establish “hundreds of outlets" in Visayas and Mindanao within the next two years.

By 2010, the company expects to open 90 stores in the country’s second- and third-largest islands, Francis S. Medina, Philippine Seven Corp.’s division manager for business development, told reporters.

Half of these new stores will be company-owned while the rest will be run by franchisees, Medina said.

The company may need P180 million for its expansion although a franchise for a store is estimated at P3 million, he added.

By year-end, Philippine Seven Corp. expects to have 450 outlets all over Luzon. Thirty-five percent of these stores are company-owned.

Majority of its stores are in Luzon because of logistics issues, Medina said, adding that these concerns will soon be addressed to support its Visayas and Mindanao expansion.

Despite heightened competition provided by rivals such as the Gokongwei’s Mini Stop, Philippine Seven continued to grow its revenues last year.

Revenues are expected to expand by 15 percent by year-end, even as June sales fell because of “the rains and the delayed school opening due to the flu virus," Medina said.

Besides being considered as the world’s largest chain store in any category, it has surpassed McDonald’s branches by 1,000 outlets.

7-Eleven stores can be found in 18 countries including the United States, Canada, Taiwan, and Thailand.

Shares of Philippine Seven Corp. remained unchanged at P2.50 apiece during Monday’s trading at the PSE.

RCBC to launch ATM card for Manila MRT commuters

Erik de la Cruz
Business Mirror

RIZAL Commercial Banking Corp. (RCBC) is hoping to boost its earnings starting this year by offering a reloadable cash card that can be used by Metro Rail Transit (MRT) commuters.

The Yuchengco-led bank, the seventh-largest in the country, will launch on July 15 its MyWallet MRT card, which functions like a regular ATM card but without requiring customers to maintain a minimum balance in their accounts.

“We see the potential of the MyWallet MRT card as an additional source of fee-based income for the bank,” bank president Lorenzo Tan said.

Card holders are allowed fast and easy access to the MRT, with their fares debited automatically from their account balances, and can also pay bills and do cashless shopping, he said.

The new card product is the first of its kind in the banking industry, according to RCBC.

The elevated railway transport system is operated by a company that is now controlled by state-owned Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines following a buy-in transaction early this year.

“Beyond traditional bricks and mortar, RCBC continues to expand its customer reach via electronic channels,” Tan said.

The bank has close to 2 million customers as of the first quarter and Tan dreams of expanding its customer base to 5 million by 2012.

The bank, he said, has also put up and is establishing more eBiz—or electronic business—centers to help unclog its 330 branches of over-the-counter transactions.

“Equipped with self-service machines, the eBiz Center is the future of electronic banking,” he said.

Tan said the bank will spend P800 million to beef up and improve its information-technology infrastructure this year.

The bank is looking to acquire medium-sized banks with strong presence in Metro Manila and rural banks, particularly those operating in northern Luzon and the Visayas, to expand its operations. The goal is to expand its network to 400 branches the soonest time possible, and have at least 200 branches in Metro Manila.

After meeting these targets, however, Tan said RCBC will try to do banking business with its customers mainly through electronic channels given that more and more people are now embracing information technology.

The bank is projecting a 10- to 15-percent increase in net income this year over last year’s P2.15 billion, which it said will be driven mainly by higher interest income given an expanding loan portfolio.

Philippines still a growth story

Cai U. Ordinario
Business Mirror

“THE Philippines is still a growth story. Our message today for investors is for them to continue to believe in the Philippines and invest in the Philippines.”

This was the proud statement of Director General Ralph Recto of the National Economic and Development Authority (Neda) after international credit-rating agency Standard & Poor’s (S&P) gave a stable outlook for the country’s long-term ratings.

The rating service affirmed its long-term “BB-” and short-term “B” foreign-currency sovereign credit rating on the Philippines, and the Philippines’ “BB+” long-term and “B” short-term local-currency sovereign credit ratings.

“The message of S&P’s affirmation of the Philippines’ credit ratings and the stable outlook on the ratings is that the country is relatively resilent to the global financial crisis,” said Recto.

Neda Deputy Director General Rolando Tungpalan, also presidential economic affairs spokesman, said the credit-rating agency was able to see through the “tough” economic decision and policies recently adopted by the government.

Tungpalan said in the June 2009 Asia-Pacific Sovereign Report Card, S&P forecast a 1.3-percent real gross domestic product (GDP) growth for the Philippines this year, which is within the government’s 0.8-percent to 1.8-percent growth forecast.

He also said among the 21 countries mentioned in the report, only nine countries were seen to post positive growth this year, and this includes the Philippines.

The other Asia-Pacific countries projected to post positive growth are China, India, Indonesia, Mongolia, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sri Lanka and Vietnam.

“These [economic measures and policies] are what enabled the country to post growth and remain resilient amid the global economic downturn. We are working even harder now to sustain growth and create more jobs for our people,” added Tungpalan.

Renminbi growing in Philippine forex reserves

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

THE country’s international reserves of some $39 billion at the moment is increasingly denominated in Chinese renminbi, also called the yuan.

Since allowing full convertibility of the renminbi with the peso two years ago, the currency holdings of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) in China’s medium of exchange has grown in stature and importance.

“We have more non-US-dollar assets now,” BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said on Friday at the sidelines of ceremonies marking the BSP’s 16th anniversary as the new central bank.

While he did not reveal the exact proportion of reserves denominated in Chinese renminbi, Tetangco said prudent central banks always diversify their holdings of currency to approximate trade data.

“Well, the trend really, and I think this is going to continue, is for central banks, including emerging central banks, to diversify more.

“Rather than looking at the possibility of a unipolar world where you only have one reserve currency, we will probably see a multipolar world where you have more than one reserve currency,” Tetangco said.

He noted that Philippine trade with countries in the region, particularly with China, has risen in recent years although this continues to be settled in US dollars.

While the bulk of international reserves is in US dollars, about a third of it is in Japanese yen and a little less in euro, the currency of the European Union.

A few years ago, the government sold euro-denominated bonds to help it bridge finance a yawning budget deficit. But according to Tetangco, the US dollar and its debt markets “will continue to be the key reserve currency for some time to come because trade transactions and investments continue to be denominated mainly in US dollar and settled in the US dollar.”

“There is a big and deep financial market in the US and the liquidity in the financial markets is such that it provides greater flexibility to US dollar asset holders to continue holding the US dollar,” he said.

Additionally, he said, there is a robust payment and settlement system for the US dollar at this time.

But in the years to come, central banks around the world, the Philippines included, will diversify their assets holdings more into non-US dollar assets, Tetangco said.

Philippines fields team for International Maths Olympiad


MANILA, Philippines—Four Filipino students are flying to Bremen, Germany to compete in the 50th International Mathematical Olympiad, a world championship mathematics competition for high school students, to be held from July 10 to 22, the German embassy in the country said Friday.

The four who passed a rigorous selection process from among 2,000 high school students are: Carlo Francisco Adajar of Paref Southridge School, Earl John Chua of Grace Christian College, Carmela Antoinette Lao of Saint Jude Catholic School, and Jonathan Wong of Grace Christian College.

The students will be accompanied by Dr. Julius Basilla of the University of the Philippines-Diliman and Dr. Ian June Garces of Ateneo de Manila University.

The Philippine participation to the Olympiad is a joint project of the Department of Science and Technology-Science Education Institute and the Mathematical Society of the Philippines.

The IMO 2009 is supported by the Federal Ministry of Education and Research and organized by the Bildung und Begabung e.V. (Education and Talent), a national agency for talent development in Germany, and in cooperation with the international private university Jacobs University.

Before their departure for Germany, the team met with German Ambassador Christian-Ludwig Weber-Lortsch.

What could go wrong

Manila Bulletin

As usual, I would like to see the glass as being half-filled. There are signs that the ongoing global economic crises is coming to an end and that we can see the light at the end of the tunnel. As I discussed in last week’s column, there are evidences of “green shoots” all over the global economy, particularly in the U.S.

I would like, however, to alert the readers about the so-called downside risks. There is always Parkinson’s law: What could go wrong will go wrong. As a part-time gardener, I find the reference to "green shoots" suggestive of what could go wrong with the recovery, even if indeed it starts by September of 2009. Anyone with a minimum acquaintance with nurturing green shoots to healthy and mature plants know that green shoots can still die because of too much water, too much chemicals either in the form of insecticides or fertilizers, the appearance of worms and insects that eat the green shoots or over-exposure to the sun. Let me draw the parallel between botany and economic recovery.

Too much water obviously suggests the excessive liquidity that has resulted from the trillions of dollars from the aggressive pump priming of the Obama government and the constant decrease in interest rate engineered by the Federal Reserve System of the U.S. to stimulate economic activity. This interest cutting is not limited only to the U.S. As reported by the Economist Intelligence Unit last May 17, interest rates have been cut dramatically in all major countries and unorthodox measures such as quantitative easing (increased central bank purchases of various types of assets to increase the money supply) are now a cornerstone of policy in the U.S., and other developed economies are following suit. The major economies will all implement significant fiscal stimulus packages. The developed world's budget deficits will, on average, reach almost 9% of GDP in 2010, six times higher than before the crisis. In February 2009, the U.S. government approved a stimulus package of US$787 billion, or 5.5% of GDP (to be disbursed mainly over the next two years). In December 2008 the EU reached an agreement to provide a fiscal stimulus package worth around US $266 billion, or around 1.5% of the region's GDP. In early April this year, the Japanese government announced new stimulus measures worth some 2% of GDP, in addition to already approved measures of 2.4% of GDP. A number of emerging markets, most notably China, have also taken aggressive fiscal policy action.

There is a risk that the recovery may be nipped in the bud by runaway inflation if the U.S. and other governments are unable to siphon off effectively the excess liquidity. Last June 8, in a forum in Montreal, IMF chief Dominique Strauss-Kahn and World Bank President Robert Zoellick talked about the major risks to the recovery. Strauss-Kahn reminded policy makers that the same policies that helped them through the crisis will cost them dearly in years to come as fiscal and monetary stimulus is withdrawn. The threat of spiraling inflation tops the list of concerns: "The risk of very rapid inflation at the end of the crisis is a real risk. How are we going to dry up all the markets?" he asked. "The world after the crisis is not that simple."

In fact, Marc Faber, the famous investor, believes that the United States is going to enter a period of hyperinflation because the Federal Reserve will be reluctant to raise interest rates: "I am 100% sure that the United States will go into hyperinflation," Faber told Bloomberg News on May 27. "The problem with government debt growing so much is that when the time will come and the Fed should increase interest rates, they will be very reluctant to do so and so inflation will start to accelerate."

A related problem is the rising price of oil. Already in early June 2009, West Texas crude rose above $65. This means that its price has risen by more than 40% this year. Since oil closed at its lowest price of US$33.98 last February 12, it has risen by more than 80%. Something similar is happening to Brent, which is followed in Europe. Since January, its price has risen by more than 35%, and it has risen about 55% since its low for the year. According to Professor Rafael Pampillon of the IE Business School in Madrid, Spain, three factors explain the rise in the price of crude. "Demand for petroleum in China, the second-largest consumer in the world; consistent speculation about buying now, given the prospects for future increases; and the depreciation of the dollar." The devaluation of the dollar, which will be an inevitable result of the excessive supply of dollars in the global market (already a source of serious concern among the Chinese leaders), will lead to speculative purchases of oil and other commodities, exacerbating the hyperinflational pressures which could threaten the economic recovery.

The damage done to green shoots by chemicals can be compared to the uncontrolled rise of toxic assets in the financial system. IMF Chief Strauss-Kahn warned that the biggest risk to the economic recovery is countries taking too long to cleanse toxic assets from their banking systems: "You never recover until the cleansing of the balance sheet of the financial sector has been completed." He said that banks should disclose not only losses related to U.S. subprime mortgages but other losses linked to the economic slowdown. "What we are noticing is that there still is a system of credits, or of losses that are not made public. These are not things that are linked today to the original subprime crisis, but to the fact that the economic slowdown has rendered a certain number of assets of poor quality and that new losses were registered. The loss of confidence comes from the fact that we do not know exactly where the losses are and what they are."

This lack of transparency may also be included in the overall problem of dishonesty, corruption, and bad governance that may persist in both developed and emerging markets. These moral evils can derail the economic recovery. They can be compared to the worms and insects that destroy the green shoots, preventing them from growing into healthy and mature plants. There can still be unscrupulous bankers, corporate executives and regulators who may lower the confidence of investors and of the consuming public at large in the economic system and can lead to another downturn after a short recovery. We can call this as the moral threat to the recovery.

Finally, the reference to too much sun--which can also cause green shoots to wither--brings to mind the possible scorching heat of over-regulation. There is a possibility that Governments may swing to the other side and suffocate the private sector with too many restrictions and regulations. There are already signs in some Latin American countries of the return to the so-called commanding heights of socialism or mercantilism that caused the downfall of India, China, Russia and a host of Latin American countries in the last century. A related threat is the return to protectionist measures, which explained the backwardness of most of today's emerging markets during the 1950s all the way to the 1970s. The Economist Intelligence Unit, reporting on the global business environment in its Executive Summary of May 19, 2009, zeroed in on this real danger that can derail the global recovery in 2010.

The EIU reports: "The weakening of the global economy has led to a rise in protectionist sentiment and some protectionist policies are being implemented. A number of factors are expected to mute protectionist pressures. Countries today are far more interdependent than in the past, export lobbies now wield more power, and successive GATT/WTO agreements provide greater legal stability for trading relations. The business environment rankings embody the baseline assumption that globalisation will stall over the next five years. However, there is also a significant risk of even worse outcomes--that globalisation could suffer more severe setbacks. Even before the current crisis, globalisation was under threat from a variety of sources. The danger to globalisation has now increased many times over. In particular, the potential damage to the global business environment and to longer-term economic growth prospects cannot be underestimated, were there to be a descent into significant and sustained protectionism around the world."

Considering all these threats to the recovery, it is essential that our policy makers and business executives continue to explore the many opportunities within our own domestic market as well as intensifying our trade and investment relations with such emerging markets as China, India, Indonesia, Vietnam, South Korea and other countries that are still growing positively during the ongoing crisis. If the U.S. economy relapses into another recession after a brief recovery, we must be ready with our contingency plans.

For comments, my e-mail is

Philippines has secured its place in outsourcing space, according to top BPO players

Manila Bulletin

The global financial crisis may have slightly slowed the growth of the local outsourcing sector, but the outlook and actual activities happening on the ground continue to be robust and upbeat.

This was the consensus of industry players who attended the recent “State of the BPO Industry: Mid-Year Report” conference organized by the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) in Makati City.

Though some of the forum participants acknowledged that the Philippines is still mired with image problems, a number of BPO executives said the country has firmly nailed its place among the outsourcing heavyweights.

“If a company does not offshore to the Philippines, then that company does not have an outsourcing strategy,” said Mike Henderson, vice president and managing director for Asia Pacific of Sykes, a call center operator.

Noshir Kaka, an outsourcing and off-shoring executive at consulting firm McKinsey, said the Philippines has undoubtedly taken its place among the outsourcing giants like India.

“Now, it’s not longer about India versus the Philippines. Rather, it’s India and the Philippines,” he said, adding that the two countries must endeavor to help each other in order to grow the global outsourcing market.

Neil Elias, country manager of outsourcing firm Logica, said the fourth quarter of 2008 was its best ever and that recent months were not that bad either.

During the forum, it was also mentioned the hiring rate for local talents is also said to have improved to 9-10 percent from 4-5 percent.

Convergys Philippines head Marife and Accenture Philippines country manager Beth Lui, who were part of the panel of reactors in the forum, said a number of technology trends and developments are pushing the growth of the BPO sector to new heights.

Zamora said the recent shift of the US from analog to digital TV would likely keep the lines of call center agents busy. Lui, whose company is focused on non-voice services, said Software as-a-Service would “change the ballgame” and that the Philippines would like play a major role in nurturing this trend.

UPS equipment supplier APC, however, said during a presentation that the red-hot growth of the BPO industry is also requiring a huge amount of energy. The company said it is important for local BPO companies to embark on data center assessment initiatives to help their businesses.

Sunday, 5 July 2009

Palace elated over resolution of poll automation snags

Malacañang today expressed elation over the smooth resolution of the snags in poll automation for next year following the compromise reached between winning bidders Total Information Management and foreign partner, SmartMatic of Colombia.

In an interview over Radyo ng Bayan, Deputy Presidential Spokesperson Lorelei Fajardo said “this is good news as everyone, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and the entire nation, is waiting for poll automation to happen.”

“We are very happy and we hope that our countrymen will have complete faith and trust in the Commission on Elections now. They saw that we are doing everything possible to ensure that our 2010 polls will be smooth and orderly,” she said.

Fajardo called on everyone’s support to put an end to all speculations and criticisms.” What we need now is for us to work together and put our trust in our institutions.”

“Let us be vigilant in protecting our right of suffrage, with or without automation. The success of our election in 2010 rests on the hands of our countrymen, so their full support is very vital. We must watch our vote even if there is poll automation,” she said.

Fajardo expressed hopes that the scheduled signing of the contract between TIM and SmartMatic on the implementation of the poll automation will “push through without snags.”

“I’m sure they also have their social responsibility to fulfill their commitment. We are hoping and I suppose that there’ll be no more problems. If there will be problems along the way, then these can be settled. We should hope for the best and be optimistic about it,” she said. (PND)

DOTC Sec. Mendoza inspects Laguindingan Airport project

PIA Press Release

Cagayan de Oro City (3 July) -- Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) Secretary Leandro R. Mendoza with DOTC high ranking officials led the inspection of the Laguindingan Airport Development Project at Laguindingan, Misamis Oriental in a bid to fast track the completion of the project.

Secretary Mendoza said the airport when completed in year 2012 will serve as the gateway to Northern Mindanao. It will be of international standard and is being built to cater the increasing number of passenger and cargo traffic in the Cagayan-Iligan corridor and its influence areas to boost the economic development in the region and improve air transportation safety.

The airport development project, approved by the NEDA-ICC on August 30, 2007, will cost to about Php7.853 billion with funding sources from the Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF) of the Republic of Korea, KEXIM Bank, and the Government of the Philippines.

The airport is designed with a control tower to handle an all weather and night landing operations. Its air navigation facilities will include Instrument Landing System, VOR/DME, Meteorological Observing System, Precision Approach Lighting System, Precision Approach Path Indicators.

The airport will be equipped with crash, fire and rescue vehicles. It will also have utility service facilities such as maintenance building, cold water receiving station, power house building and sewage treatment plant.

The runway can accommodate an Airbus A-330 airplane which can seat 302 passengers, while the Apron is design to hold 5 aircrafts at a time.

The passenger terminal building with a floor area of 7,184 square meters, can cater up to 1.20 million passengers per annum with a vehicle parking of 240 spaces. The cargo terminal building has a floor area of 736 square meters with expansion capability at east and west side.

The resettlement of affected families, which has been implemented by the National Housing Authority (NHA) for the site development of phase 2 residential site has been completed last September 15 2008 as well as the construction of 109 duplex-type core housing units.

In another development, the Control Tower at the Phividec was turned over to the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) through a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) signed between the Administrator of Phividec and PCG Commandant, Addmiral Wilfredo Tamayo. Under the MOA the PCG will operate the Vessel Traffic Management System (VTMS) at the Control Tower inside the Phividec to ensure maritime safety in Northern Mindanao area.

Maritime Transport Undersecretary Thompson C. Lantion said that the operation by the PCG of the VTMS will enhance maritime safety in the region.

The Mindanao Railways Project Office (MRPO), created by virtue of executive Order No. 536 dated May 25, 2006, located at 2nd and 3rd Floor Forever Books Building, Bulua Highway, Cagayan de Oro, was also inaugurated. It will serve as the office of the officials and staff that will work for the realization of the Mindanao Railway System.

Railways Undersecretary Guiling A. Mamondiong said that the setting up of the railway office in Cagayan de Oro jumpstarts the building of the railway system in Mindanao to boost its development. (DOTC)