Saturday, 10 October 2009

Volunteers at Malacañang

UA&P economist sees 4.4% growth in 2010

By Lawrence Agcaoili
The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines - An economist of the University of Asia and the Pacific (UA&P) sees the country’s domestic output recovering strongly next year on the back of robust remittances from overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), election spending and pump-priming activities of the government.

Dr. Victor Abola told participants of a forum sponsored by the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines that the country’s domestic output as measured by the gross domestic product (GDP) would expand by 4.4 percent next year from the projected 2.1 percent growth this year.

“I am more optimistic than the Philippine government. We will make it a little over two percent this year and 4.4 percent next year. The 2009 and 2010 growth could be faster with easier monetary policy and lower interest rates,” Abola said.

The government through the Development Budget Coordination Committee sees the GDP expanding between 0.8 percent and 1.8 percent this year and by 2.6 percent to 3.6 percent next year. The GDP growth slackened to 3.8 percent in 2008 from 7.1 percent in 2007.

Abola said growth drivers next year would include consumption with the strong purchasing power of beneficiaries of overseas Filipinos remittances, agriculture, business process outsourcing sector, mining as well as education and training.

He pointed out that the Philippines avoided recession after posting a GDP growth of 1.5 percent in the second quarter after a dismal 0.6 percent expansion in the first quarter.

The economist said the country’s GDP is likely to expand above 2 percent in the third quarter and above 4 percent in the fourth quarter.

“We are in an upward growth path. We are in a better position than the past crisis,” Abola said.

He added that the country’s inflation is expected to ease to 3.2 percent this year before inching up to about 3.9 percent.

According to him, prices of oil have gone down while the International Monetary Fund (IMF) sees the price of rice declining by nine percent next year after the projected 26 percent drop this year.

Abola said the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas is likely to keep policy rates at record lows of 4 percent for the overnight borrowing rate before increasing it to 4.5 percent by the second half of 2010.

“I don’t think inflation will be a major concern,” he said.

Based on estimates, he said the damages caused by tropical storm Ondoy and typhoon Pepeng would have a minimal 0.1 percent growth of GDP since the projected upsurge in spending to rebuild houses and buying new appliances and motor vehicles would more than make up for the decline.

“There will be a double dip. It is not going to be a V type of recovery but a W type of recovery. The recovery is going to be slow,” Abola warned.

PGMA visits relocated settlers

PGMA on Typhoon Pepeng

Gordon on Red Cross relief of Typhoon Pepeng victims

Rescue operations in full blast as floods recede in N. Luzon


MANILA - Rescue operations went full blast in northern Luzon hit by floods and landslide as tropical depression Pepeng (international codename Parma) continued to move away from the country on Saturday.

The National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC) reported that floods in various parts of northern Luzon, particularly in Pangasinan province, have started to recede, paving the way for more massive rescue and retrieval operations in the flood-hit and landslide devastated areas.

The agency said floods started to recede as rains brought on by tropical depression Pepeng (international codename Parma) began to ease.

Nathaniel Cruz, spokesperson of the Philippine Atmospheric Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA), said Pepeng may already be out of the Philippine area of responsibility by Saturday afternoon.

PAGASA said that as of 5 a.m. Saturday, Pepeng was moving westward, onto the South China Sea, at a speed of 13 kilometers per hour and center winds of 55 kph.

Only the provinces of La Union and Pangasinan remained under storm warning signal number 1.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres, spokesperson of the Armed Forces of the Philippines, said troops deployed for relief operations in Metro Manila are being diverted to northern Luzon to help rescue operations in Pangasinan and nearby provinces and the retrieval operations in Cordillera region, particularly in Benguet province and Baguio City.

Torres said that as of 6 a.m., the NDCC has counted 153 deaths from Pepeng, with 132 bodies recovered from several landslide sites in Benguet.

He said 40 people remained missing, 37 of them are victims of major landslides in Benguet province.

Local disaster officials in the Cordilleras said Friday night that there were already 137 people confirmed dead and 43 were missing in rain-triggered landslides overnight Thursday and on Friday morning.

Benguet Gov. Nestor Fongwan said Little Kibungan in Barangay Longlong, La Trinidad town was the worst hit after a landslide buried at least 30 houses in the village at 10:30 p.m. Thursday.

Officials have placed the number of residents in Little Kibungan at 150 although many residents reportedly fled the area before the landslide.

Seven more people died in a landslide that hit Tublay municipality and 54 people have also been reported killed in Baguio City due to landslides.

Mountain Province Governor Maximo Dulag said five people have been confirmed killed and 32 more missing in Tadian municipality.

Dr. Olive Luces of the Cordillera civil defense office said four major entry and exit points to Baguio, Benguet and Mountain Province remain impassable, cutting off much needed aid to those areas.

Massive rescue

Arevalo told ABS-CBN News that Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro, concurrent head of the NDCC, had ordered the military to focus on rescue operations in areas hit by landslides and deep floods in northern Luzon.

"Our focus is on rescue operations. That is our mandate right now. Troops in Metro Manila will be brought to [northern] Luzon," the military spokesman said.

The NDCC said rescue teams, including US troops, were spread in several areas in regions 1, 2 and 3.

It said a platoon from the Army's 50th Infantry Battalion was helping in the evacuations in La Union province, which was also hit by landslides and floods during Pepeng's onslaught.

Several retrieval teams were also dispatched to assist in the operations in Cordillera and evacuation teams in Ilocos Norte and Ilocos Sur.

Arevalo said majority of the troops deployed in northern Luzon were deployed to Pangasinan, which went under floods as high as 20 feet, according to reports.

The military spokesman added that the Department of Social Welfare and Development was scheduled to bring 15,000 food packs to Camp Aquino in Tarlac, which is the center of relief operations for provinces devasted by the storm in the north.

San Roque Dam not broken

Officials, meanwhile, on Saturday morning denied news circulating around Pangasinan that the San Roque Dam has been broken.

The news warned against massive flashfloods, sending several residents in panic.

Presidential Management Staff chief Hermogenes Esperon told radio dzMM that he has personally inspected the dam, and it remained "strong, and will never be broken."

Tom Valdez, vice president of the San Roque Power Corp., also assured that the dam remains “strong and firm” despite the high volume of water it has been carrying since the storm slammed into northern Luzon.

“The San Roque dam is intact. There is no crack. There will be no dam break,” Valdez assured.

Susan Espinueva, chief of PAGASA's hydrometeorological unit, also denied the rumors. She said that as of 7 a.m., the dam's water level has lowered to 288.7 meters and it has lowered its water release to 1,659 cubic meters per second.

Espinueva explained that the dam's management has succeeded in keeping the water level under the critical level of 290 meters.

Reports said more 20 villages were still flooded in Pangasinan, including the municipality of Rosales and Dagupan City.

Floods went as deep as 20 feet in the province due to heavy rains brought on by the storm and the release of water from San Roque dam, which catches water from upstream dams in Benguet province.

as of 10/10/2009 10:12 AM

RP growth may exceed even most optimistic forecast

Michelle V. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – The country’s actual growth rate may exceed government expectations for this year and the next, as the global economic turmoil eases, while domestic and global consumption pick up.

According to Victor Abola, economist from the University and Asia Pacific, the Philippines may see its gross domestic product (GDP) growing by 2.1 percent this year and by 4.4 percent next year.

His projections exceed that of the government, which forecast growth to range between 0.8 and 1.8 percent this year, and 2.6 to 3.6 percent next year.

In a presentation during the annual convention of the Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines (RBAP) yesterday, Abola said growing remittances and the government’s pump-priming efforts would make possible a faster-than-anticipated growth.

“The United States is already out of recession … the world economy is recovering from the crisis faster than the usual,” Abola said during his presentation.

According to economists, the United States may be out of a recession, but its employment and manufacturing output remain problematic.

Citing an earlier study by the International Monetary Fund, Abola said economies in crisis usually require 3.2 years to fully recover. He said the current crisis proved to be short-lived than those in the past, noting that the global economy was already on its way to recovery.

Abola said the Philippines would benefit from improvements in the economy of the United States, which is the country’s biggest export market and home to many Filipino workers.

The United States account for about 17 percent of the Philippines’ export earnings.

Exports account for 29 percent of the Philippines’ total economic output.

In the first seven months of the year, Philippine exports reached $20.53 billion, down 31.7 percent from $30.06 billion in the same period last year.

Although the Philippines did not sink into a recession, the economy still posted much slower growth. In the first half of the year, the country’s economy grew by an average of 1.5 percent.

Thursday, 8 October 2009

Smartmatic delivers 1st batch of PCOS machines to Comelec

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Remittances drive peso appreciation

Manila Bulletin

The Philippine peso rose to a nine-month high on speculation overseas Filipinos will send more money home this year, spurring an economic recovery. Bonds dropped.

Asian stocks rose after a US report showed service industries in the world’s biggest economy expanded in September for the first time in a year. Funds sent to the Philippines may rise 4 percent in 2009, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said last week, revising an earlier prediction for a slide of that magnitude. The US is the Southeast Asian nation’s largest source of remittances.

“The recovery in the US seems to be underway” and this may boost remittances and exports, said Jonathan Ravelas, a strategist at Banco de Oro Unibank Inc. in Manila. “What’s driving the peso right now is that people are shying away from the dollar.”

The local currency rose 0.4 percent to 46.533 per dollar as of 10:15 a.m. in Manila, according to Tullett Prebon Plc. It reached 46.60, its highest level since Jan. 7.

The dollar dropped against all of the region’s currencies after the Independent newspaper reported that Arab states have started talks with China, Russia, Japan and France to stop using the greenback for oil trading. The report cited Middle Eastern and Chinese banking officials it didn’t name.

Rising remittances

Funds sent home by overseas Filipinos account for about a 10th of the Philippine economy.

Remittances, which are the second-largest source of foreign-exchange after exports, increased 9.3 percent in July, official figures show.

The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of stocks gained 0.9 percent today, snapping a three-day decline. The US Institute for Supply Management’s index of non-manufacturing businesses, which make up almost 90 percent of the economy, rose to 50.9 from 48.4 in August, according to the Arizona-based group. Fifty is the dividing line between expansion and contraction.

Seven-year bonds dropped, pushing their yield to the highest level in a month, after the government said inflation accelerated from a 22-year low in September. Consumer prices rose 0.7 percent from a year earlier, after gaining 0.1 percent in August, the National Statistics Office said in Manila Thursday.

The yield on the 7 percent note due January 2016 rose two basis points to 7.29 percent, the highest level since Sept. 2, according to Tradition Financial Services.

Warning signs of the financial quake

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

Can you remember back to the first week of June 1997? That week started and seemed ordinary by any standards. Yet before the next Monday had rolled around, the Asian crisis had exploded, plunging the value of the peso and pushing the economies of the region into chaos and recession.

There was little warning of the impending financial disaster for the ordinary person. Even the “experts” and we market watchers were taken by surprise at how quickly the whole thing developed and then exploded.

A similar event will soon happen but this time it will be like a flower blooming, steady and predictable but with the outcome inevitable and assured.

I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the gold/dollar tsunami that is going to hit the financial markets where we will see a collapse of the dollar and the price of gold skyrocketing.

Thirty days from now we will witness the “earthquake” that will trigger the tsunami. The signs are so obvious and are even occurring in the Philippine financial markets.

It is said that by watching the behavior of animals carefully and closely, one can “predict” an earthquake. Let me share with you some of the warning signs happening right now that are foreshadowing the earthquake that will lead to the tsunami.

The value of the dollar is going to fall and fall, and this will trigger great, near hyper-inflation in the US. The value of the dollar will fall so much that imported goods and imported oil that the US relies on will see prices skyrocket. That economy will fall into a greater recession with the nominal price of homes and other assets like stocks falling further as Americans scramble to raise cash for ordinary living expenses.

US interest rates will eventually have to be raised to offset the drop in the dollar, further strangling the US economy.

What are the signs that all this is going to happen?

The past couple of weeks have seen countless comments in the financial press about the other major nations in Asia and in Europe calling for a monetary alternative to the dollar, a “Super Sovereign Currency” (SSC). This past week saw more speculation that the oil exporters are pushing to have crude oil priced in euros and other currencies, and not in dollars. The Chinese government, for the first time, sold sovereign bonds to foreigners, denominated in Chinese yuan, not US dollars.

The Chinese, acting together with Japan as a major US creditor, and Russia, India, and Brazil (BRIC), have told the US that they can no longer tolerate the Obama administration policy of quantitative easing (QE). QE encompasses massive spending through massive budget deficits combined with the never-ending printing of dollars. The purpose of QE was to create the illusion of economic growth, or better known as the management of perspective economics. Make people think the economy is good and maybe a good economy will just happen. This policy has failed. The Chinese are fed up with financing this American illusion, and the only alternative is to devalue the dollar and force higher inflation on the Americans as they must suffer the consequences of the foolish policies for the last 20 years.

QE was supposed to have ended in June. But because the economy only became worse, it was extended until the end of October. That is why everything will come to a head in November as the Chinese and others pull the plug on the dying US dollar.

Gold has broken decisively above $1,000 as nations and institutions buy the metal to get rid of their dollars, and also knowing that gold will be a part of the SSC basket. Australia raised interest rates this week to make the Aussie dollar more attractive and to protect it against the falling US dollar. The Aussie dollar is now at a 14-month high against the greenback.

Here in the Philippines, suddenly, and by suddenly I mean a 180-degree change of forecast in two months, there is speculation that the peso will continue to appreciate. In September, the “experts” were saying that the peso might reach 50. Now the talk is 45 or better before year-end. The only way that can happen is with a massive depreciation of the dollar.

The local stock market is getting ready for a dollar depreciation/gold-price-boom scenario too. After having spent two-and-a-half months stalled between 2,800 and 2,900, the market exploded this week, most of the increase led by Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT). When you hear about the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) being up 50 points, that really means nothing. The reality is this.

The total value of PLDT shares increased by $500 million this week. That is real money. Some $20 million flowed into the stock market this week, the week after the worst flooding in decades. Sure, that makes sense. Or maybe, foreign money knows the dollar’s days are numbered and are fleeing into stock markets like the Philippines and Brazil and other emerging markets before the value of the dollar goes down dramatically.

Mark this: as of this writing the dollar index is 76.293, the spot gold price is $1040.88, the peso is 46.60 and the PSE index is 2,967.06. Three of these four will be significantly increased in value by the end of the year.

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

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

End-September 2009 GIR Hits US$42.0 Billion Mark

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Preliminary data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed that the country's gross international reserves (GIR) level rose to US$42.3 billion as of end-September 2009, higher by US$0.8 billion than the end-August 2009 level of US$41.5 billion, BSP Officer-In-Charge Nestor A. Espenilla, Jr. announced today.

The increase in the end-September 2009 GIR level was due mainly to the foreign currency deposits by the National Government (NG) of the loan proceeds and by the authorized agent banks (AABs), revaluation gains in the BSP's gold holdings arising from the higher price of gold in the international market in September 2009, and net foreign exchange operations by the BSP as well as income from its investments abroad. A special allocation of Special Drawing Rights (SDRs) was made available by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to all member-countries in September 2009, further contributing to the rise in the country's reserves level. The IMF's move to increase SDR allocations is a liquidity-enhancing measure aimed at providing financial resources to all member countries and forms part of the cooperative monetary response to the global financial crisis. These receipts were, in turn, partly offset by outflows arising from the repayment of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the NG and the BSP.

The current GIR level could cover 7.8 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It was also equivalent to 7.6 times the country's short-term external debt based on original maturity and 3.6 times based on residual maturity.

The level of net international reserves (NIR), which includes revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, likewise increased to US$41.6 billion as of end-September 2009, up by US$0.9 billion from the previous month's level of US$40.7 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP's GIR and total short-term liabilities.

Software firm sees RP as major market, cites strong retail sector

Emilia Narni J. David

A RETAIL software company is eyeing the Philippines as a major market, citing the concentration of retail businesses such as shopping malls in the country.

JDA Software Philippines, the local subsidiary of the JDA Software Group, said the country’s retail sector could expand further with the increasing competitiveness of regional businesses.

"There is a large concentration of top retailers in the Philippines. Which means that retail has a very big impact on the economy," JDA Asia-Pacific president Stephen McNulty said in a press briefing yesterday.

He added that more than half of the top 10 performing retailers in Asia are found in the Philippines.

JDA Software Philippines serves many of the country’s top retail companies like the SM group, Stores Specialists, Inc., Robinsons Supermarket and Department Store, National Book Store, and 7-11.

The company provides retail software to retailers, manufacturers and logistics companies, as well as "business intelligence" materials.

Cherokee D. Chamorro, JDA Software Philippines country manager, said: "The big players are entering markets where previously only one retailer was [present]. We have clients in the regions that have realized that they need to compete with these companies that are using our software and seeing the benefits of having at least the basic tools to be able to become more competitive."

He cited the example of Bohol Quality Mall in Bohol, one of the company’s clients. Growth in provinces, however, depends "on the maturity of customers."

Mr. Chamorro said companies are seeing the benefit of investing in new technologies and systems even during the financial downturn. "[The companies] told us that they want to take advantage of the lull because of the crisis. They are focusing on getting together their systems so that they can be ready and stabilize their systems after the slowdown," he said.

Philippine retail companies make around $5 billion to $10 billion in revenues per year, he said.

Nickel mining firm lists by way of introduction, to invest P10B

Neil Jerome C. Morales

NICKEL MINER Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp. will invest almost P10 billion to put up a nickel mine and processing plant in northeastern Mindanao.

The announcement came after Century Peak listed 2.82 billion common shares by introduction to the Philippine Stock Exchange yesterday, making the miner the second firm to list by way of introduction this year.

"[For the] phase one we are actually investing P2 billion... [and] at least $100-$150 million for full operation," Century Peak president and chief executive Wilfredo D. Keng told reporters. "We are going to start [phase one] next year."

During the first stage of operation in the 4,000-hectare nickel property in the province of Dinagat Island, the miner will produce 5,000-10,000 metric tons (MT) of nickel per year. Output will be doubled to 20,000 MT per year when operations go full-scale.

An 86-hectare area has total resources of 11.900 million wet MT of nickel ore, enough to sustain the company’s operations for at least 10 years. "Actually we discovered that we can go for 15-20 years [of operations] but we will still continue explorations in the area," Mr. Keng said, adding that about 3,000 hectares of the property has yet to be explored.

The mining area was held by Casiguran Mining Corp. from 1992 to 1995. However, it was categorized by the Environment department as a nonperforming tenement and was taken away from Casiguran. In 2006, it was reinstated to Casiguran, which transferred the rights to Century Peak that same year.

Aside from nickel mining, Century Peak will put up a processing plant with Century Hua Guang Smelting, Inc., where the miner has a 55% stake.

"With our smelting plant, even if the price drops to $10,000 per MT ($4.53 per pound), we still make money," he said. "We could add more value in the company."

The nickel price for cash buyers yesterday closed at $7.75 per pound (lb.) from the average $5.64 and $4.75 per lb. in the second and first quarters, respectively, data from the London Metal Exchange showed.

Better roads expected to improve farm production


TACLOBAN CITY — The top regional official here of the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) said the improved road conditions in Eastern Visayas should boost the region’s agriculture sector.

"Having improved roads will lower transport costs and encourage agricultural productivity," said NEDA regional director Buenaventura Go-Soco.

Mr. Go-Soco, who is also vice-chairman of the Regional Development Council, said a third of the region’s population depends on agriculture to sustain their livelihood. About 47% of the region’s employed persons are in the agriculture sector. The rest, 43.9% and 9.1% are in services and industry, respectively.

Among the ongoing road projects in the region is the Laoang-Lapinig-Arteche-San Policarpio road, which connects Eastern Samar to Northern Samar. In his recent visit here, Public Works Secretary Hermogenes E. Ebdane, Jr. said the government is speeding up the completion of this project to boost the agriculture and eco-tourism sectors in the two Samar provinces.

The government allotted P345 million this year for the project, as well as for the paving of the Palapag-Mapanas-Gamay-Lapinig Road, which is part of the Samar circumferential road. The government has also completed the Agas-Agas Bridge, which provides an alternative to the road in the landslide-prone section of Sogod, Southern Leyte. — SQM

Tourism chief sees arrivals exceeding estimate

Wilfredo Rodolfo
Business Mirror

TOURISM Secretary Joseph “Ace” Durano is expecting the uptrend in tourism figures to continue and surpass department estimates of only 2-percent increase in the number of arrivals in 2009.

“If the trend in the first semester would continue and the economy of our major markets, indeed, recover, we should see growth in 2009,” Durano told reporters in Cebu City.

“We were expecting zero to 2-percent growth for 2009 and even thought we will contract.”

The first six months of the year posted a 6-percent growth in terms for foreign tourists’ arrivals compared with the same period in 2008. January to June 2008 figures showed 1.633 million foreign tourist arrivals, 7 percent higher than the year before.

Durano said the country suffered from a dip in arrivals since last year as the global economic slowdown affected its major markets like Korea, Japan, the United States and Europe. He said, however, that emerging markets like China are somehow filling the slack.

The department had earlier aimed at hitting the 5-million mark in foreign-tourist arrivals by 2010.

In 2008 the country first breached the 3-million mark with less than 2-percent growth.

The big news, however, was the 8 million registered consolidated arrivals in the country’s top 15 destinations, an increase of 16 percent.

Domestic tourism also increased by 20 percent, mostly based on the monitoring in the top destinations in the country.

Philippines, Vietnam post top profit growth

Manila Bulletin

The Philippines tied with Vietnam as top ASEAN countries with the highest profit growth for 2010, results of the ASEAN Business Outlook Survey 2009 revealed.

There were a total of 369 American businessmen respondents to the survey, which is conducted annually by the American Chambers of Commerce in ASEAN since 2002.

The survey was conducted during the period of July to August 2009 to understand business growth and perceptions of doing business from U.S. companies with offices in six ASEAN countries – Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, Indonesia and Malaysia.

Respondents from the Philippines and Vietnam had the highest profit increases expectations of 80 percent for 2010 followed by Indonesia with 78 percent increases.

On the other hand, respondents from Malaysia and Singapore had the lowest expectations for 2010, with profit increases predicted by 50 percent and 57 percent of respondents, respectively.

The high profit expectation among American firms in the region for 2010 is a reversal of the steady decline in profit growth expectation since 2007 up to 2009.

Seventy percent of respondents expect profits above 2008 levels for 2010, while 8% anticipate a decrease and 17% foresee no substantial change.

However, profit expectations for respondents from the Philippines are modest.

Overall, American companies in the country are more satisfied with the business environment in the Philippines than in 2008; however, satisfaction with local government institutions is very mixed.

Resettlement of Marikina River Bank families begins

Sta. Rosa, Laguna (PND) -- Around 145 of 400 families along Marikina’s river banks have started relocating to their new houses as the National Housing Authority (NHA) and the Marikina City shuttled them round the clock to this 35-hectare Southville 4 NHA project.

Karen Dianona, a third year high school student of Fortune High School in Marikina, could not contain herself from expressing her gratitude to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo who ordered their resettlement from the river banks of Marikina to this new site.

“She did not really forget us and always looks after our welfare,” she exclaimed.

Although the President was kept by her earlier engagement in Iloilo from attending the event here, Vice President Noli de Castro, who is also chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) and NHA, took her place in distributing relief goods to the typhoon victims.

According to Susan Nonato, NHA Deputy Area Manager for South Luzon, Southville 4, covering Barangays Caingin and Pook, was programmed for the displaced settlers of the Northrail-Southrail portions of the Philippine National Railway totaling 5,292 families. But it still has rooms for 400 families of Marikina as committed last Saturday by the President during her Cabinet level meeting of the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

Each unit measuring 21.5 square meters costs P175,000, payable over 30 years or P200 per month with a grace period of one year. The monthly installments will not be slapped any interest for five years. But the succeeding years will be charged an interest of six percent, Nonato said.

Lot size ranges from 32 to 36 square meters, Nonato said.

Nonato said there is a provision for two schools, multi purpose center, a production and training center, and a livelihood center (which will be equipped in collaboration with the Philippine Export Zone Authority, the provincial government of Sta. Rosa, the Overseas Workers Welfare Administration and the Technical Education Skills Development Authority) to provide skills training for the workers.

She, likewise, mentioned other possible relocation sites such as those in Binan, Laguna with 600 units and the Towerville also in Sta. Rosa with 400 units and other sites.

Nonato noted there is at present a slipper manufacturer in the area and “we will be proposing with the Marikina government to transfer some of the shoe manufacturing equipment to be brought here so the relocatees will have livelihood to earn from.”

Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Pasig River rehab goes in full swing

Manila Bulletin

Metro Manila residents can look forward to an early rehabilitation of the Pasig River as the dredging project continues 24 hours a day and seven days a week, Environment Secretary Jose L. Atienza, Jr. said.

Atienza, chairman of the Pasig River Rehabilitation Commission (PRRC), issued the statement after the Philippine Coast Guard reported on Wednesday that a private contractor of the river rehabilitation project dug up a 65-year-old battle tank off the South Harbor.

Commander Armand Balilo, Coast Guard spokesperson, said personnel of Kwan Sing Construction Corp. accidentally recovered the Sherman M4-A1 tank while dredging near the breakwater in Baseco Compound, Tondo early Saturday.

According to Balilo, the tank was commonly used by the US military during World War II. When they checked, they found several bullets for Garand rifles inside the tank.

“This only means that dredging the Pasig River to regain its pristine condition is being done without letup. With the help of Baggwerwerken Decloedt N.V. Philippines, we assure everyone that we could revive the waterway as early as possible,” said architect Deogracias Tablan Jr., PRRC executive director.

Earlier, the dredgers and sea marshals also found old cannon shells, which were turned over to the PCG Special Operations Group in Parola, Tondo, Manila.

In terms of modern technology and expertise, he said, they have no doubt that the goal of rehabilitating the Pasig River will be attained soon.

Tablan clarified that the Pasig River dredging project is not a Kapit Bisig para sa Ilog Pasig but a priority project of the national government under the DENR thru the PRRC, correcting earlier reports aired in a radio station.

The PRRC executive director also said that through an aggressive information campaign, the people’s negative views on the Pasig River could be reversed “because there is still hope to revive it and bacause support for the river’s preservation has started pouring in.”

‘Ondoy’: A positive game-changer

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

The problem with most of the analysis that you read regarding almost any event is that it is based on the Western system of logic formulated by Greek philosopher Aristotle. Simply put, if “A” occurs then “B” will happen next. This is linear or straight line thinking.

In Asia, influenced by both traditional Buddhism and Confucius, a much less linear style of thinking developed. Western logic looks more closely and more effectively at the details, while Eastern logic does a better job of seeing the big picture.

The reason I mention this is in response to those e-mails that always question and wonder why I can be optimistic in the face of events like the killer storms that we have just experienced.

It is not a matter of being optimistic; it is all about looking for other possibilities that might not fit in the normal A+B=C logical pattern.

For example. The day before Ondoy hit Manila, a close relative of mine died. Another relative in the US wanted to send over some money to help with expenses. Usually this kind of remittance takes 12 to 18 hours. This time it took more than four days, and according to the remittance company it was because they were flooded with money coming into the country. They did not have enough couriers to handle the enormous increase in their business. We will see a substantial increase in overseas remittances for the month of October which will offset some of the economic damage from the storm.

In effect, Ondoy caused an increase in remittances which several commentators are now noting. This might fall under the Law of Unintended Consequences (LUC).

The LUC usually relates to some government program designed to do one thing and winds up causing a completely unexpected effect or consequence. Government attempts to control the price of a commodity without controlling the price of all the components that go into producing that commodity. Shortages occur and the price control is ineffective in protecting the consumer.

In the 1980s, US penalties for drunk driving were increased. What resulted was a great increase in the number of hit-and-run accidents, since the penalty for drunk driving was much greater than the penalty for running away from an accident. The introduction of rabbits into Australia for food was followed by an explosive growth in the rabbit population; rabbits have become a major pest in Australia, destroying crops.

However, there are also positive unintended consequences, maybe the best example being the drug Sildenafil or Viagra. Created for use in high blood pressure and angina, it did not work effectively. But what it did do, well, we all know what Viagra does effectively. There will be positive consequences from Ondoy also.

Government is now forced to address the problem of squatter communities along the waterways, something that every administration has virtually ignored. The proper use and maintenance of Laguna de Bay has suddenly become important, another issue that was ignored.

And corporate response to situations like the flooding has had to be examined and a new model created.

One of the largest outsourcing/call- center companies in the Philippines is Teleperformance Philippines (TP), a part of the worldwide publicly listed French company Teleperformance Group. TP has been in the country since 1996 and employs about 10,000 Filipinos. This is a $2-billion multinational company with call centers in 47 countries.

Every large company has a disaster plan with all the “What do we do if...” scenarios spelled out. A labor-intensive firm like a call center must first and foremost have a strategy to ensure its employees are able to function during extraordinary times.

And during Ondoy, the call-center business continued even with a substantial amount of people not being able to get to work. But the mere implementation of a disaster plan is not what I mean by a positive unintended consequence.

At news of the great flooding, TP founder and CEO Daniel Julian e-mailed his global offices, mobilizing a relief effort coordinated through Philippine managing director Dave Rizzo. Within a couple of days, global TP employees had pledged over P2 million to help their fellow Filipino employees.

TP has a community outreach program called “Citizen of the World.” And again, TP employees donated cash and goods to help the community like very many other corporations. There is nothing unusual about that. Just good social responsibility. But here is where the model changes.

TP quickly surveyed its thousands of employees to identify those most affected by the flooding, locating those that may have suffered severe damage to their homes. The human-resources department coordinated with Pag-IBIG to facilitate disaster loans for its employees.

A portion of the goods and cash collected from employees here and abroad went to assist other employees impacted by the flooding, an example of charity beginning at home.

However, all of these efforts at helping those most affected are commendable but certainly do not qualify as particularly unique. But then, TP management changed its disaster-relief model.

Recognizing that all of its employees suffered during the flooding, TP did something that I have never heard of before. The company advanced the payment of its employees’ 13th-month pay, pro-rated and paid this week. Granted that this is not charity, the company is still advancing tens of millions of pesos at a substantial expense to the company to help out its employees.

The unintended consequence in this case is that this very large company reacted by creating a new and different response to an old and common problem of disaster relief.

I guarantee that Ondoy is a game- changer that will create many other positive unintended consequences.

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Victims turned volunteers pouring in Malacanang Sagip Bayan Relief Center

Thirty (30) typhoon Ondoy victims who were earlier relief recipients of Malacanang's Operation Sagip Bayan Center poured in today to help in the packing of goods at the Kalayaan Hall upon hearing over radio and television that more volunteers are needed to repack donations

Earlier, the Presidential Management Staff (PMS) through Secretary Hermogenes Esperon appealed for more volunteers when relief goods from donors continuously poured in since yesterday.

The newly-arrived thirty new volunteers will replace those who have been helping at the Center since early this week. PMS officials said most of the volunteers who were recruited early this week after the aftermath of typhoon Ondoy were students who need to go back to school starting tomorrow.

PMS Assistant Secretary Willy Oca who was at the Center early this morning to sound out PMS Chief Esperon's call for more volunteers said it was heartening to see victims who were earlier recipients of relief goods from Malacanang's Sagip Bayan in Kalayaan turning in to become volunteers.

The thirty newly arrived volunteers are from Barangay 845 of Pandacan, Manila. They were the first batch of relief good recipients when the Center opened last Tuesday, September 29, 2009.

Virginia Rotao, 58 years old, of 1933 Sampaguita St., Bgy. 845, Pandacan, Manila, said she volunteered to help victims like her.

"Nung narining namin na kailangan ng mga volunteers para mag-repack ng mga relief goods ay nagpunta kami dito para matulungan naman iyong mga iba," says Rotao.

She said her presence at the Center is not only in gratitude for the help she earlier received from the Sagip Bayan operations but it is common for Filipinos to help one another in time of crisis.

Aside from the thirty volunteers from Pandacan, Manila, a group from the Young Pinoy organization - Smokey Mountain Chapter from the first district of Tondo, also arrived early morning to volunteer.

According to them they are volunteering to be able to share in the helping hand being offered by the Malacanang Sagip Bayan operations to typhoon Ondoy victims.

The Malacañang Sagip Bayan Relief Operations Center was established by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo Monday night, September 29, 2009, to give immediate help to victims of typhoon Ondoy in Metro Manila.

The 24-hour Center repacks relief goods and distributes these to the different evacuation centers located in the metropolis.

Aside from the Center, President Arroyo has also transformed part of Mabini Hall and the Ceremonial Hall into an evacuation center. (PND)

Sunday, 4 October 2009

US GIs wonder Filipinos still smiling

Beverly T. Natividad
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – A team of American soldiers got a first-hand look at the devastation wrought by tropical storm “Ondoy” – and ended up wondering how Filipinos could still smile and give them “high-fives” amid a terrible calamity.

At least 27 members of the 3rd US Marine Expeditionary Force, composed of doctors, nurses, medical aides and a chaplain, the other day conducted a medical and dental mission at Nangka Elementary School, which sheltered thousands displaced by the massive floods in Marikina City.

“We’ve seen things here [in terms of the destruction] that we haven’t seen before. This is really the least we can do. We wish we could stay longer,” said Lt. Commander Todd Endicott, the mission’s leader.

Endicott also shared one interesting observation: “We all wonder how [Filipinos] keep smiling through all this.”

“Americans probably wouldn’t handle this as well. Here, people are smiling, saying ‘Hi’ to us, giving us high-fives. This is a pretty miserable situation, how people keep smiling, I don’t know. It’s probably a testament to the culture,” Endicott said.

Lieutenant Colonel Romeo Brawner Jr., AFP spokesman, said the US mission was the first in a series that the group would conduct in the next few days in Eastern Metro Manila, one of the areas hit hardest by storm.

Wading through mud

Wading through the mud, the GIs and their counterparts from the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) also distributed medicines and clothes.

Hunched in small chairs meant for schoolchildren, US troopers made do with the few tables and chairs available.

They treated mostly the wounded – those who fled the floods barefoot amid the debris – as well as evacuees suffering from colds and cough.

American troopers who took part in the mission were supposed to undergo training north of the country, Endicott said, “but we were told that there’s flooding, destruction and displaced people here so we sprang into action.”

To help clean up

Two more US military units – 31st Marine Expeditionary Unit and the 1st Marine Aircraft Wing, both stationed in Okinawa, Japan – are expected to ship heavy equipment to help in the cleanup of the disaster areas in the next few days.

These would include a bulldozer, five cargo trucks, five heavy transport vehicles and two heavy-lift helicopters.