Friday, 14 August 2009

PGMA inaugurates state-of-the-art medical tourism facility in Subic

SUBIC, Zambales (PND) – Residents of this bustling freeport zone as well as the surrounding provinces can now avail of proper medical health care with the opening of the state of the art George Dewey Medical and Wellness center (GDMWC) which President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo inaugurated today.

The 100-bed tertiary hospital located inside the Subic Bay Freeport Zone is a one-stop medical and wellness destination sitting on a 12-hectare facility atop a hill surrounded by lush forest. It is owned and operated by the George Dewey Medical College, Inc., a 5-year old school exclusively for nursing students.

Upon her arrival at Villa Amorosa, Upper Cubi here, the President cut the ribbon and unveiled the marker of the center at the main lobby. She also toured the center’s facility.

GDMWC president Dr. Carmen Dinglasan told the President during the project briefing that the facility can help make the Philippines a preferred health care destination. It is in response to the challenge posed by leading medical tourism providers like Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.

The $30 million center, she said, currently employs 200 medical staff and health related workers. It still needs another 300 employees for its future expansion.

Because of its proximity to Central and Northern Luzon, Dinglasan said the center can serve the medical and health needs of the residents from Zambales, Bataan, Pampanga, Tarlac, Bulacan, Nueva Ecija, Cagayan Valley, Isabela, La Union, Ilocos provinces and the Clark Economic Zone.

Among the services patients can avail of are cardiac surgery, joint and hip replacement, reconstructive surgery, corneal transplant, refractive surgery and multi-focal intraocular lens implantation, stem cell rejuvenation, sleep disorder therapy, transplant surgery, laboratory analysis, pain management, fertility clinic and dental implants.

The center, according to Dinglasan can also serve as a health resort for retirees seeking medical treatment.

Assisting the President in the ribbon-cutting and unveiling of the marker were Bataan Governor Enrique “Tet” Garcia, Zambales 1st District Rep. Mitos Magsaysay, Zambales 2nd District Rep. Antonio Diaz, Bataan 1st District Rep. Herminia Roman, Bataan 2nd District Rep. Albert Garcia, Subic Mayor Jeffrey Khonghun, UP Economic professor and GDMWC chairperson Winnie Monsod, and Commission on Filipinos Overseas (CFO) commissioner Dante Ang.

Also present were Cabinet Officer for Regional Development 3 (CORD) chairman Edgardo Pamintuan, Presidential Assistant for Central Luzon Undersecretary Lorelei Fajardo, SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga and SBMA Administrator Armand Areza.

Arrival Honors for His Excellency Abhisit Vejjajiva PM of the Kingdom of Thailand

PGMA receives Thai PM Abhisit Vejjajiva

Shielded by clouds from the scorching 2:30 p.m. sunshine, President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo received today Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva at the lush grounds of the Presidential Security Group compound where a red carpet and 19-gun salute greeted the visitor after the playing of the national anthems of both countries.

Dressed in sweet peach long-sleeved blouse and dark pants, the President and Abhisit walked through the red carpet towards the stage for the arrival honors.

They entered the Bahay Pangarap where Abhisit signed the official guest book and held a 10-minute tete a tete before photographers.

The one-day official visit is aimed at further strengthening the 60-year diplomatic ties between the two countries. Bilateral talks are expected to benefit not just the two countries but the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

Both heads of governments proceeded to a long table where delegations of the two governments waited for the holding of bilateral talks. On the side of the Philippines were Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Rafael Seguis and Philippine Ambassador to Thailand Antonio V. Rodriguez.

At 3:35 p.m. the Prime Minister proceeded to Rizal Park for a wreath laying. He will be given private cocktails at 6:35 p.m. prior to the dinner at the State Dining Room of Malacanang. (PND)

After the 7 p.m. dinner, the Prime Minister and his delegation will proceed to the Airport for his flight back home.

First Metro first-half profit jumps 288%

Erik de la Cruz
Business Mirror

FIRST Metro Investment Corp. (FMIC), the investment-banking arm of the Metrobank Group, posted a 288-percent increase in net income for the first half of 2009 after securing major corporate debt deals.

Net income surged to P556.8 million, from P143.5 in the same period last year. The increased bottom line translates to a return on equity of 14.6 percent.

The results reflected the significant increase in investment-banking fees, gains from fixed-income trade and, improving interest margins, as well as better income contribution from subsidiaries, said FMIC president Francisco Sebastian.

With the company securing lead roles in almost all major corporate debt transactions in the first half, its revenue from investment banking soared 86 percent to a record P197.6 billion.

Among its recent deals were San Miguel Corp.’s P38.8-billion fixed-rate bonds, the Cebu Energy Development Corp.’s P16-billion project loan facility, Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co.’s P5-billion fixed-rate notes, Metrobank Card Corp.’s P3-billion fixed-rate notes, Globe Telecom Inc.’s P5-billion fixed-rate bonds and P5-billion corporate notes, and Aboitiz Power Corp.’s P3-billion fixed-rate bonds.

FMIC said in a statement it also posted “significant” growth in revenue from Treasury operations, including the trading of government securities, and in interest income.

“The effect of the higher average volume of securities portfolio handled in the first semester—P27.2 billion against P17.7 billion last year—was key to the 32-percent increase in interest income,” it said.

The company also said it had recovered from investment losses in equities given the 30-percent jump in the local stock market’s main index in the first half.

“Income from investment in stocks moved to positive territory at P96.7 million, as gains from stocks amounted to P262.1 million, offsetting the P165.4- million losses last year,” it said.

The company had total resources of P56.5 billion as of end-June, a 22-percent increase over the end-2008 level.

Sebastian said the company was, however, maintaining a conservative stance in risk-taking in the second half because “financial dislocations” were still possible.

“Although we can look back with some degree of comfort given our financial results for the first semester of 2009, we remain vigilant and deliberate in risk-taking given fragile and volatile global financial markets,” he said.

Like other investors, FMIC is keeping a wary eye on the Philippines’ budget deficit, possible buildup in inflationary pressures, and “increasing political tension” ahead of the 2010 elections.

“Our balance sheet is strong and we look forward to a heavy calendar in terms of investment-banking activities in the second half,” Sebastian said. “However, financial markets may remain fickle and fragile.”

Philippines' China Bank six-month income up 38%

Erik dela Cruz
Business Mirror

CHINA Banking Corp. clocked a 38-percent jump in net income to P2.02 billion for the first half of 2009, from P1.46 billion in the same period last year, on higher interest earnings and bigger trading gains.

The country’s ninth-largest bank in assets, which is controlled by retail tycoon Henry Sy, posted a 24.4-percent increase in revenue.

Net interest revenue was up 32 percent while fee-based and other revenues grew 52.4 percent, it said in a statement.

“We are gratified with these positive results, given the very tough environment last year and considering that we are in the midst of our biggest branch expansion plan,” said executive vice president and chief operating officer Ricardo Chua.

Market conditions, he said, had recently improved from last year.

“In addition, more stable interest rates allowed for recovery of net interest margins,” he said.

The bank is looking to expand its branch network to 300 by 2010.

Despite a 32.8-percent rise in operating expenses as a result of the investments in new branches and automated teller machines, as well investments in new technology platforms, it said its cost-to-income ratio improved to 55.24 percent from 57.47 percent last year.

Its asset base expanded by 12.2 percent to P213.23 billion as of end-June, with gross loans increasing by 8.1 percent led by corporate and consumer loans.

The bank lowered its nonperforming loans ratio to 4.92 percent from 6.24 percent a year earlier after getting rid of almost P1 billion in bad loans.

Provisioning for probable losses was accelerated, with the total provisions in the first half of P400 million exceeding the provisions made for the whole year of 2008. As a result, loan loss coverage ratio shot up to 106.6 percent

The bank said its ongoing branch expansion fueled growth in both low-cost and dollar deposits, boosting total deposits to P175.86 billion.

It opened 10 branches, including two China Bank Savings outlets, in the first half and intends to open 20 more within the year.

“The share of current and savings accounts to total peso deposits further improved to 41.8 percent, underpinning the improvement in net interest margins,” it said.

Total capital funds stood at P28.58 billion, with a Tier 1 capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 12.54 percent and total CAR of 13.43 percent, well above the minimum regulatory requirement of 10 percent.

Alaska Milk earns P622 M in H1, up 230%

Manila Bulletin

Alaska Milk Corporation reported that its net income for the first half of 2009 surged 230 percent to P622 million from the P188 million registered in the same period last year.

The firm said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange that stronger volume sales fueled revenue growth year-on-year as domestic consumption remained resilient despite a slower economic growth.

With costs of major raw and packaging materials off from their peak levels in 2008, operating margin for the first six months of the year more than doubled to 14.0 percent from 6.6 percent a year ago.

Alaska said off-take of its core milk products remained brisk during the second quarter, with revenues up 5 percent at P2.69 billion from P2.55 billion in the same period last year This brought revenues for the first half of the year to P5.35 billion, 14 percent higher than year-ago revenues of P4.694 billion.

Combined sales volume of the liquid canned milk business expanded during a seasonally strong second quarter.

Sales volume of the Alaska’s portfolio of economy brands remained strong, reflective of a general trend in shift in demand to lower-priced consumer products.

Affordability has also improved with the company’s price roll-back for selected liquid canned milk brands which drove consumption higher.

Sales volume of Alaska Powdered Filled Milk (APFM) grew at double-digit rates, given the company’s heightened advertising and promotional activities behind the brand. Combined sales volume of the UHT business, on the other hand, was stable.

Alaska Milk earns P622 M in H1, up 230%

Manila Bulletin

Alaska Milk Corporation reported that its net income for the first half of 2009 surged 230 percent to P622 million from the P188 million registered in the same period last year.

The firm said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange that stronger volume sales fueled revenue growth year-on-year as domestic consumption remained resilient despite a slower economic growth.

With costs of major raw and packaging materials off from their peak levels in 2008, operating margin for the first six months of the year more than doubled to 14.0 percent from 6.6 percent a year ago.

Alaska said off-take of its core milk products remained brisk during the second quarter, with revenues up 5 percent at P2.69 billion from P2.55 billion in the same period last year This brought revenues for the first half of the year to P5.35 billion, 14 percent higher than year-ago revenues of P4.694 billion.

Combined sales volume of the liquid canned milk business expanded during a seasonally strong second quarter.

Sales volume of the Alaska’s portfolio of economy brands remained strong, reflective of a general trend in shift in demand to lower-priced consumer products.

Affordability has also improved with the company’s price roll-back for selected liquid canned milk brands which drove consumption higher.

Sales volume of Alaska Powdered Filled Milk (APFM) grew at double-digit rates, given the company’s heightened advertising and promotional activities behind the brand. Combined sales volume of the UHT business, on the other hand, was stable.

SM notches P7.4-B profit, up by 14%

Manila Bulletin

SM Investments Corporation (SM) expects to exceed its 12 percent growth target in profits this year after it reported a 14 percent growth in net income to P7.4 billion for the first half of 2009 from P6.5 billion during the same period in 2008. “We will exceed our target this year, said SMIC chief finance officer Jose Sio in a press briefing yesterday after noting that they expect a stronger recovery in the market in the second semester.

He added that, even not counting the recovery, earnings are usually stronger in the second half of a normal year due to seasonal factors. “We typically earn 60 percent of total earnings in the second half,” Sio said.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, the company said its consolidated revenues for the first half increased 13 percent to P74.5 billion as compared to P65.8 billion in 2008. EBITDA for the period reached P16.3 billion, for an EBITDA margin of 21.9 percent.

SM president Harley Sy said “SM’s results for the first six months of the year stayed on-track as all our major subsidiaries performed well amid a generally slower business environment due to the global financial crisis.”

He added that “our long-term view of the economy keeps us focused on our strategic expansion program in all our lines of business, complemented by efforts to better understand our markets, and ensuring cost efficiencies.”

SM’s main growth drivers continued to be the retail and property groups, while the mall business was a major source of steady growth in earnings.

GMA Network nets P1.14 B in H1, up 20%

Manila Bulletin

GMA Network Inc. is confident of hitting and even exceeding its 2009 net income target of P2.8 billion after reporting a 20 percent jump in bottomline to P1.36 billion in the first half of the year from the P1.14 billion in 2008.

In a press briefing Thursday, GMA chief financial officer Felipe Yalong noted that the second half is normally stronger than the first half with about 55 percent of earnings coming in the second semester.

GMA said its net income grew despite a volatile business environment that saw a contraction in the ad spend of major advertisers.

Gross revenues for the first six months went up by 8 percent to P6.34 billion as airtime revenues from TV and Radio contributed P5.8 billion, or a 92 percent share in the gross revenue pie.

The remaining P537 million came from subscription fees of International operations and from other revenue generating activities of subsidiaries.

Second quarter gross revenues settled at P3.68 billion, higher by 11 percent versus last year. Net income for the second quarter went up by 26 percent to P860 million.

Q Channel 11’s airtime revenues climbed 13 percent to P214 million, while airtime revenues from Radio operations likewise increased by 13 percent to P160 million.

On the other hand, subscription revenues for GMA International jumped 59 percent over last year. Apart from the steady growth in subscriber count from its main channel, GMA Pinoy TV (GPTV), the launch of its second channel GMA Life TV (GLTV) contributed further to the revenue upswing for GMA International.

GPTV finished the first half with a steady number of over 217,000 subscribers equivalent to about 1.1 million viewers or a 21 percent increase over last year. GLTV already has over 112,000 subscribers or around 620,000 viewers worldwide, up by 180 percent over last year.

Jollibee makes P1.3 B in first half, up 16%

Manila Bulletin

Jollibee Foods Corporation reported a 16.2 percent jump in profits for the first half of the year to P1.31 billion even though net income grew by a slower 15.6 percent in the second quarter to P746 million.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) yesterday, the firm said systemwide sales grew 12.4 percent to P30.96 billion in the first half and 11.1 percent in the second quarter to P15.89 billion.

Total revenues rose 12.2 percent in the first half to P23.37 billion from P20.83 billion last year while revenues rose 11.1 percent to P12.03 billion from P10.84 billion in the second quarter.

“We continue to be encouraged by the relative resilience of our business and the recovery of our profit margins. We remain optimistic about our long term growth but our outlook for the short term continues to be tempered with caution,” said JFC chairman Tony Tan Caktiong.

He explained that there are indications that the slow down of economic growth in the Philippines, China and the United States has dragged down the growth rates in consumer spending in branded restaurants
including those in the fast food segment.

Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Inauguration of Atherton Bridge in Quezon City

Software vendor cites growth among SMBs

Alexander Villafania

MANILA, Philippines – With the economy seen improving, the market for enterprise software is expected to grow as businesses prepare to become more competitive.

Small-to-medium scale businesses, which make up more than 90 percent of registered businesses in the country, have traditionally been able to weather economic downturns.

Patrick Tan, small and medium businesses director for software firm SAP Philippines, said consumer demand remains strong in the country and many distribution businesses want to maintain their lead.

Tan said that for this year, there had been several project wins for SAP from at least 60 companies.

“We already had around 80 to 100 projects,” he said. SAP clients in this segment include food stall companies Bibingkinitan, Rice-in-a-Box, Metro Oil Subic, among others.

It also recently won a project for Altus, the electronic device distribution firm of Tao Corporation.

While the project with Altus is small, it is expected to expand to Tao Corporation’s other business units, some are in the consumer goods distribution, while others are in the healthcare and commodity trading.

Tao Chief Financial Officer Christine Roquim said the corporation’s migration to a new ERP system stemmed from the need to expand their business to other locations as well as to ensure constant supplies to existing ones.

She added that the company’s business divisions are also slowly growing, which meant operational complexity is also becoming apparent.

“We needed to implement a level of control. We found out that we missed certain business opportunities when we didn’t have the proper ERP system,” said Roquim.

HSBC amazed at Philippine remittances

Eileen A. Mencias
Manila Standard

HSBC has kept its 1-percent growth forecast for the Philippines, but yesterday admitted that its initial expectation of a 20-percent decline in remittances was “wrong.”

“The remittances from Filipinos working abroad have been absolutely astonishing,” bank economist Frederic Neumann said, adding that they had scrapped their forecast and were now looking at a zero- percent growth, which would still be “phenomenal.”

Neumann said the global recession had affected both developed and developing economies alike, but its impact on employment was different between the West and the East.

“While unemployment has been rising in Europe, the United Kingdom and the United States, employment in the emerging markets such as Asia and the Middle East has been holding and buoying remittances,” he said.

The Philippine central bank forecasts remittances will reach $16.5 billion this year, the same as last year’s, but it has been reporting a slight growth of below 5 percent.

Neumann said the outlook on the Philippines was favorable, with economic growth expected to go back to 3 percent in 2010.

“The risk in remittances is the prospect of a slowdown in the US economy next year and well into 2011, and how it will affect other economies and the prospects of future employment as the deployed workers only have contracts of 12 to 24 months,” Neumann said.

He said the growth of the US economy was a concern as it affected exports across the globe.

“The grim outlook on the US economy means that exports will not be strong across Asia,” Neumann said.

“Unlike the US, however, Asia does not have the problem of bad assets, and the liquidity in the region that can be used to fuel growth is at record levels.”

Neumann said that liquidity required central banks in the region to tighten policy in the future. Weak exports now was an argument against a tightening of monetary policy as it would result in the appreciation of local currencies, and that would make exports less competitive.

One challenge for the Philippines was the political environment, Neumann said, as the political landscape was in a period of uncertainty as a result of next year’s elections.

“The Philippines does not have the problem of asset bubbles yet. However, we expect the Philippine central bank to start stop cutting its rates and maintain its rates for the rest of the year,” Neumann said.

He said he expected the central bank to start raising its rates in the first quarter of next year, and by some 25 basis points.

Where is the stock-market rally coming from?

Outside the Box
John Mangun
Business Mirror

Is it too much to expect that people who talk about the stock market understand how the stock market works?

There are some very fine business journalists in this town who explain to you every day what the financial markets are doing. But their voices seem to be drowned out by the “experts” who are giving you wrong and empty-headed information.

First, politics and political leaders do not move the markets. Yes, good and bad policies do influence stock-market prices, but only to the extent that those policies affect, for better or worse, the general economy and corporate profits. Until such time that the “government” puts a gun to your head and forces you to buy or sell shares, this and every other administration is not part of the equation of price movement.

Second, prices moving up or down do not constitute part of the approval/disapproval poll of the President. Obama’s poll numbers are the lowest in 2009; the New York Stock Exchange is at its 2009 high.

What the “experts” cannot seem to figure out is that stock-price movement is determined by money movement, you moving your money. If money comes into the market, prices go up. If money moves out of the market, prices move down. And that money movement is determined by whether the holder of those funds believes that he or she can make a profit by the buying and selling of shares. That’s it. Simple. Nothing more.

However, there is another factor in the game of stock-price movement. Money is the fuel that energizes the economy as well as stock prices. No matter how new and expensive your car is, it will not run without fuel. And even with a full tank, you still have to press the accelerator.

We can easily measure the “fuel” in the economy by looking at the growth of the money supply. The money supply is basically the amount of cash in circulation. If the money supply grows, all that money has to go someplace. A portion goes to the banking system in the form of deposits. Another portion goes to buying things. Some more goes into long-term nonliquid assets like real estate. And a portion goes into very liquid, short-term investments like the stock market.

Last week, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas reported that the broad money supply grew at 12.6 percent in June. That is on the back of 15-percent growth in May. More potential fuel for the economy.

Now where did that money go? Of course, people spend money. However, there is a balance between consumer spending and production of goods for the consumer, as inflation is flat. If too much of the increase of the money supply was going into daily buying, inflation would rise. It did not.

Bank deposits are rising, as evidenced in the fact that bank lending is up. But not a lot of excess cash is going into deposits as interest rates are low and, therefore, the return is not very attractive.

Real estate is still selling, but these are major purchases and you can own only so many new condos; plus, this is not a cash-convertible investment. Your money is tied up.

So, a sizable amount of the new cash that is in the economic system is going into the stock market. The market value of the shares listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) that make up the composite index is P1 trillion with the index at 2,800. The 2009 low of the index is about 1,800. Note this: Every 1-point increase in the PSE composite index represents over P350 million of increased market value. That means the 30 top-listed companies have increased in market value by almost P400 billion since March 2009.

That P400-billion increase in market value did not come from thin air. That is real value backed by real money. That increase in market value was fueled by you taking P100 billion of your money and buying shares. It is not an illusion. It is your real money.

Granted, it would be better for the economy if that P100 billion had been invested in long-term sustainable businesses. But no one can blame you for putting your money into the stock market, which is instantly cash-convertible, when you have to listen to all the “gloom-and-doomers,” primarily with UP economic degrees, telling you how bad the economy is and how foolish you would be to invest in the Philippines. Of course, you probably earned substantial profits on your investment if you heeded “wise” advice and started buying stocks on March 30, when the title of this column was “Get into the PSE now.” The stock market should pull in another P150 billion to P200 billion over the rest of the year, pushing the index up another 20 percent or so. Then we should see a shift in allocation of money to those sustainable businesses, which in turn will fuel the economy even more.

This is a legitimate stock-market rally fueled by real hard-earned cash. And it is not going to stop anytime soon.

PSE stock-market information and technical-analysis tools were provided by Inc. E-mail comments to mangun@email.comThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .

Monday, 10 August 2009

New int’l airport to rise in Philippine tourism triangle

A couple of years from now a new international airport that is seen to further boost tourism not only in Boracay but also in the other destinations will rise in the heart of the Philippines or what is now described as the Philippine Tourism Triangle.

The airport, designed to accommodate large capacity, intercontinental planes such as Boeing 747s, is located in Carabao Island in San Jose, Romblon. The airport is just 1.5 nautical miles (or a ten minute ride by pumpboat) north of Boracay Island. In fact, the two islands are visible to each other.

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo first took cognizance of the airport project in her 2006 State of the Nation Address. Since then great strides have been taken towards making the airport a reality.

In a recent report to the President, the Aklan-Romblon Properties Corporation, the private firm that is pursuing the project, said the Carabao Island International Airport Project has already entered the design phase. Mr. Delfin Wenceslao, Jr., the firm’s Chairman of the board, said they have already fully acquired 120 hectares for the airport site and the entire area has been fenced in and ready for land preparation. Delfin also said the firm is currently selecting from three duly accredited multinational engineering firms to provide detailed drawings. Within 60 to 90 days, the detailed drawings will be submitted to the Department of Transportation and Communications for approval. From there, the firm expects the international airport to be operational within 24 months. Total cost of the project is estimated to reach P6 billions.

Earlier, the municipal council of San Jose, the Provincial Board of Romblon, and the Regional Development Council of Region IV-B (Mimaropa) have all unanimously passed resolutions approving the establishment and operation of an international airport in Carabao Island. Likewise, the DOTC’s Air Transportation Office has also granted locational clearance for the project.

Expanding Boracay’s Horizons

Mr. Esteban Tajanlangit, Jr., vice president of the firm, said the new airport will complement Boracay and Philippine tourism in a big way. One of the first to open up a high end resort (Boracay Terraces) and a major stakeholder in Boracay’s future, Tajanlangit said the new airport will ease access to Boracay by eliminating the costly and tedious travel experienced by foreign and domestic tourists going to Boracay.

Also, the savvy and visionary entrepreneur said the new portal will open up other destinations near Boracay, thus expanding the island’s horizons. Tajanlangit noted that unlike Phuket or Bali which have larger land areas for expansion, Boracay is smaller and almost filled to capacity, if not already.

“We must expand if we want to remain competitive,” Tajanlangit said.

Carabao Island has a land area of some 3,000 hectares of mostly flat terrain. Tajanglangit, who described Carabao Island as “shaped like an aircraft carrier,” said it can become a tourist destination in itself when developed in a way similar to Mactan and Lapu-Lapu Islands in Cebu.

Tourism Triangle

In May 28, 2008, the governors of Batangas, Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon, Antique, Aklan, and Palawan signed a Memorandum of Agreement launching the “Tourism Triangle”. The signing, held on board the 7107 Islands Cruise ship which Tajanlangit operates, was witnessed by top officials of the Department of Tourism and the Department of Transportation and Communications.

Tajanlangit pointed out that the projected Carabao Island international airport is at the heart of this tourism triangle. From this airport, travel time to the islands in Northern Palawan or Mindoro or the Semirara group in Antique, for example, can be counted in just minutes. Because of poor and inadequate infrastructure, access by air and sea remains one of the most comfortable ways to travel in the Philippines. The new airport affords travelers this convenience, said Tajanlangit, thus encouraging more people to discover the beauty of other island destinations.

Tajanlangit further bared that since last year, the 7107 Islands Cruise ship, the country’s first cruise ship, has been bringing tourists to the various attractions in this tourism triangle – particularly Puerto Galera in Mindoro, the Calamianes group of Islands in Northern Palawan, and Boracay. Thus sparking interest and enthusiasm in other tourists.

At the same time, Tajanlangit disclosed that a tourism explosion is poised to take place in Northern Palawan, with Coron town undertaking infrastructure developments to service tourism. According to Palawan Governor Joel Reyes, several well-established international tourism developers like Banyan Tree and 2 Seasons have already committed to putting up investments in the islands of Palawan.

Another potential Tajanlangit has seen is Tablas Island just four kilometers away from Carabao Island. The place has a natural cove wide enough and deep enough to be ideal for international marina development. Again, Tajanlangit said, the new international airport can make this prospect viable.

Tajanlangit said the airport project is an answer to the President’s call for more investments in tourism and infrastructure. The firm thanked the President for her full support of their project.

Nobility personified & the prophet of boom

JA de la Cruz
Business Mirror

It was well President Arroyo and Sen. Noynoy Aquino heeded their better nature instead of the passions of hecklers, as the mourning for the late President Aquino reached its crescendo last week.

For a while there, these political hecklers, led by Sen. Kiko Pangilinan, had feverishly fanned the flames of contrived discord between PGMA and the family riding on the reported efforts (a blunder-in-the-making which has since been denied) by some people in the administration to withdraw the security escorts of the late President even before she succumbed to colon cancer. “Just stay away,” Pangilinan reportedly advised when apprised that PGMA was cutting short her US visit to pay her respects to the former President. He added that if she insists, she should be prepared to be heckled or, worse, even snubbed by the Aquino children. Well, neither “feared” scenarios happened and the “people’s burial,” as it has come to be called, and the country were better off as a result.

Nobility personified

Indeed, quite apart from the spontaneous outpouring of grief and love and sympathy for a beloved leader, it was quiet solemnity which attended last week’s wake and burial ceremony for “Presiden Tita Cory.” That would have been ruptured beyond repair had those who had anything to do with the whole affair, particularly the Aquino children and, of course, the government, allowed the “uzis” and the political opportunists their run of the show. These people had wanted to politicize the entire affair as they ventured to turn it into an indignation rally of sorts and a vehicle to settle scores, old and new, perceived or otherwise. It’s good the family and, yes, the public did not allow it. And the administration did not fall for the bait, either. That the agitators would not have their way came out clearly when the Marcos siblings, Representative Bongbong and his elder sister, Imee, paid their respects and the public welcomed it. Even those in the media who were somehow initially agitated, to say the least, about the possibility of such happening at all had to hold their tongues and acknowledge the sincerity of the gesture, especially after Ballsy Aquino-Cruz welcomed the Marcoses and Pinky Aquino-Abellada publicly thanked them for the visit. Theirs was nobility personified, and their dignified presence hovering over the entire affair after somehow calmed nerves and stunted misguided efforts to hijack the burial for political ends; that kind of quiet dignity, a nobility of character Senator Noynoy showed himself when he welcomed the President at dawn of his mother’s burial. Decency and respect characterized that brief encounter as the two leaders sat down and silently said their prayers for the departed.

The President herself showed steely determination and grace as she braved a possible rude welcome from the likes of the Pangilinans of the world when she decided to proceed to the Manila Cathedral right after landing at the Naia. She did not get discouraged by all the discordant noises preceding her visit. Nor did she allow the intemperate advisories from her own people to just ignore the developments altogether and get these things over with. She did not let her hurts, if any, get the better of her. That she ordered the military and the police and other officials to extend all necessary honors and courtesies to the fallen leader and her family despite all the catcalls and the innuendoes speak well of her bearing. She could have just stayed away as advised and let the publicly stated positions of people close to the Aquinos rule the day. She did not. She had to take things in stride and do all the things necessary to accord respect and honors as befits a former President. And all these she managed with the dignity her office represents. There is a word for that kind of leadership other than grace under pressure. It is called statesmanship, and PGMA showed it. Yessir, like Senator Noynoy, she did not succumb to the heckling of the naysayers such as Pangilinan and they both came out the better for it.

The prophet of boom

And so, the nation moves on to contemplate the “Presiden Tita’s” legacy and, perhaps more critically, build on the blocks for the nation which we can be and which has seemingly eluded us since Edsa Uno. It is as if we had moved in circles after that adventure. Worse, a lot of our people may actually be living more problematic lives and looking forward to a fuzzier future since. But, like the rekindled spirits of love of country and democratic ways since, we can look forward to better days. That is, if we are to believe the original “prophet of boom,” University of Asia and the Pacific senior vice president Dr. Bernie Villegas. Like the honor guard who stood tall during the Cory funeral and exemplified the best in the military and police, economist Villegas has defied the critics and doomsayers with the bold prediction that this year’s gross national product growth can reach as high as 4 percent, more than a percent higher than the government’s best projection and at least 3-percent better than those of the rest. Villegas believes there are enough factors supporting his prediction.

Like we had earlier advised, Villegas noted that government infrastructure spending will be heavy toward the last quarter. We had earlier complained and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas had also said so that the funding for infrastructure works provided for in the 2009 budget had been set aside but had barely cascaded to the beneficiaries. Not even the funds for special projects under the Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Transportation and Communications and even minor infrastructure agencies, such as the airport and seaport authorities and the local government units, have embarked on the promised infra spending as provided for under the 2009 stimulus package. We are advised that just over 40 percent of the allocated funds have actually been spent while the rest are in the pipeline waiting for project approvals and releases. In short, we have the money but have been holding off for some reason.

Remittances, election spending

Villegas also surmised that overseas remittances will keep on flowing maybe even surpassing that of last year’s. That seems to be borne out by the latest BSP figures showing a strong 7-percent rise in remittances last quarter. Right now, the BSP believes we will have at least $17 billion in overseas remittance, at least $2 billion more than last year’s. Should that come about, which is likely, we can expect robust consumption spending from overseas Filipino workers families cascading into other communities as well through the lean months of August and September and on to the pre-Christmas and then Christmas rounds. Add to that, spending for the enrollment period in the second semester.

Of course, Villegas’s advise that election spending may come in earlier than expected has actually materialized if we go by the ads being put up by all the prospective candidates from the “presidentiables” to the lowliest officials with their tarpaulins and placements in community newspapers and radios. We note, for example, that Senators Manny Villar and Mar Roxas, the two highest spending presidential wannabes, have reportedly forked out almost a billion pesos between themselves. And we are only talking here of ads. What about their spending for ground organizations, events mobilization (like the organized groups in the Cory funeral) and, yes, their own mobilization and going-around-the-country monies. Those should be in the billions as well. And we are not yet talking here of projects, pledged or otherwise, and other such giveaways, which usually go with the moving around work out.

Quite apart from these spending vehicles the fact that the country’s inflation rate has been lowering for the past five months is encouraging. The July rate which stood at 0.2 percent is the lowest since March 1987 when it was 0.06 percent. That, coupled with the BSP’s easing of credit, should prod businessmen and entrepreneurs to get into the fray all over again. It maybe time to refinance loans, to rev up development projects or even take the risk of exploratory and related works. We are hopeful even that agri spending and, yes, garments-making will once again get going as market prospects open up. In a word, what we should expect is a rise in all kinds of preparations across-the-board as the world economy turns slowly toward recovery. How we prepare for the next upturn should be part of our continuing efforts, in and out of government. We have to spend, yes, but spend wisely and well.

President inspects Canduman Bridge in Mandaue City

President inaugurates Southern Leyte bridge

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo led the inauguration of Agas-Agas bridge in Sogod, Southern Leyte this morning. Considered to be the tallest bridge today, the 85 meter high bridge with a length of 350 meters is estimated to last for up to 75 years and will make the road passable once again to all vehicular traffic 24/7 after it was closed more than 2 years ago because of frequent landslides. Agas-Agas bridge was constructed by Sumitomo Mitsui Construction Co. Ltd. under the Philippine-Japan Friendship Highway Rehabilitation Project. It will not only transport merchandise from Luzon to Mindanao via Maharlika Highway but will also promote tourism in the area due to its panoramic view.

Another bridge inspection