Friday, 23 October 2009

Typhoon Ramil veering away -- Alleluia!

The Hong Kong Observatory says: "Typhoon Lupit has weakened into a Severe Tropical Storm. At noon, Lupit was centred about 530 kilometres north-northeast of Manila. It is forecast to change direction slowly, moving towards the seas east of Taiwan."


Software firm grooms the Philippines as cloud computing hub

By Anna Valmero

MANILA, Philippines - A US-based software firm specializing in “cloud computing” intends to double its local operations by adding 300 new seats to its Manila office over the next two years, an official said.

The expansion is part of Netsuite’s strategy to groom the Philippines as its “largest hub” for cloud computing services worldwide.

The country will have almost 50 percent of the company's total workforce when it adds 300 new staff to its current total of 907, according to Netsuite chief executive Zach Nelson.

Cloud computing refers to using software applications accessible over the Internet (or cloud). Search firm Google has evolved into a cloud computing firm since its services like email and document processing can also be purchased and installed as packaged products.

Nelson said the Philippines tops all of NetSuite's other global sites in terms of driving growth for the 11-year-old company although it has only started operations in the country in 2007 with less than 50 employees.

He added doing business in the country is beneficial for the company because of the country's reliable telecommunication infrastructure and supply of skilled workers, particularly certified public accountants.

“Since we started in 2007, growth has been phenomenal, even beyond our expectations. This expansion proves how the Philippines play a vital role for our global strategy,” he said.

To date, NetSuite's operations outside its North American headquarters account for 81 percent of the company's revenue for the first half of this year.

The company earned $152.5 million in revenues, with 40 percent year-on-year growth last year, while gaining 1.3 million unique logins last quarter for its product website.

Nelson said the Manila office will include product development and quality assurance capabilities in addition to technical support and back office services.

NetSuite developed cloud computing software specifically for the Philippines that offers a platform for companies to process their financial reports and taxes with the Department of Finance and Bureau of Internal Revenue, said Nelson.

Nelson said expansion locally is being done in anticipation of the further growth of cloud computing.

“Cloud computing is the disruptive technology for any business operating in this century. If you don't incorporate the Internet to harness the cloud for your business, you don't have much of a business. All kinds and sizes of business will need to harness the power of the cloud to manage operations and interact with customers in real-time,” he said.

Gov’t shoulders cost of leptospirosis cases

By Dona Pazzibugan
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — The Department of Health (DoH) has entered into an agreement with five private hospitals to which the government can refer poor leptospirosis patients who can no longer be accommodated in congested public hospitals.

Under the memorandum of agreement (MOA) signed on Thursday between the DoH and the hospitals, the government will give a P5,000 subsidy for treating a patient for an uncomplicated case and P20,000 for a complicated one.

The DoH has allotted P60 million for the subsidy.

Health Secretary Francisco Duque III said the subsidy was “not enough” to cover the expenses, but under the agreement, the private hospitals will shoulder the cost of the rest of the treatment until the patients recover.

The DoH has already sounded an appeal for international help for either technical or logistical support to cope with the “unprecedented” number of leptospirosis cases.

Convergys opens largest call center in RP

Louella D. Desiderio

US-BASED Convergys Corp. is bent on further expanding in the country next year due to growing demand from its clientele, after opening its biggest call center in Makati.

Convergys Senior Vice-President for Human Resources Clark D. Handy said in a press conference at the formal opening of the call center firm’s new site in Glorietta 5 yesterday that demand for more sites in the Philippines continues to grow due to Filipinos’ quality of work as well as affinity with Western culture.

"Clients choose the Philippines because of their skills. The Filipino work ethic is so strong," he said.

He noted that Convergys received positive feedback from clients based on a client satisfaction survey conducted this year. The survey he said, allowed clients to evaluate services provided by agents by giving a 1 to 5 rating, with 1 being the lowest and 5 as the top score.

Convergys Vice-President and Country Manager for the Philippines Marife Zamora said that for this year, the firm got an average grade of 4.02.

"For this year, we were targeting to get 4.0," she said.

She said the firm is looking at opening new sites next year due to the increasing demand from mostly US clients, as well as new clients from the United Kingdom and Australia.

Amid the global downturn, the firm opened contact centers at Cebu Asiatown i3 in Cebu City, the Technohub of the University of the Philippines and Ayala Land, Inc. in Quezon City, and the Nuvali TechnoHub in Sta. Rosa, Laguna in April.

"Due to the demand of clients, we will be adding another floor, which translates to 300 seats at the Technohub in Quezon City this year, and an additional 300 seats in another site at the former San Lazaro racetrack in Manila which will be opened in January of next year," she said.

The Quezon City site has 420 seats, while the San Lazaro site has 460 seats, equivalent to around 2,000 jobs.

Mr. Handy said that while the Philippines was struck by tropical storm Ondoy last month, the firm’s services were not affected as its sites had multiple back-up systems to ensure that operations would continue.

"If there were problems, all we had to do was switch the calls to another site," he said.

Ms. Zamora said that for this year, the firm wants to expand its work force to 20,000.

"Our target this year is to have 20,000 employees and we think we can go beyond that with the opening of the Glorietta 5 site," she said.

The site in Glorietta 5, which is the largest Convergys contact center in the world, has 2,041 seats. Some 3,500 jobs were created.

Convergys has 12 sites in Metro Manila, Cebu, Bacolod, and Sta. Rosa, Laguna, with around 17,500 employees before yesterday’s opening of the Glorietta 5 facility. —

Zamboanga airport, seaport get Aussie-funded new equipment


ZAMBOANGA CITY — The Australian government turned over last week around half-a-million pesos worth of equipment that are expected to improve airport and seaport operations here, in line with the thrust of enhancing coordination and delivery of customs, immigration, quarantine, and security (CIQS) services in Mindanao and Palawan, a statement of the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) read.

The package of P500,000 worth of equipment, which include handheld radios, desktop computers and printers, and other equipment needed for day-to-day airport and seaport operations, was handed to key officials here headed by port manager Leonilo Miole of Philippine Ports Authority-Port Management Office (PPA-PMO), Philippine National Police-Aviation Security Group Chief Superintendent Danilo Abadiano and Zamboanga City Airport Manager Celso Bayabos.

The Philippine Ports Authority is considering the purchase of closed-circuit television cameras for the Zamboanga seaport through an additional assistance package.

The equipment was granted through the BIMP-EAGA Support Team (BEST) on CIQS Project, funded by the Australian Agency for International Development (AusAID) and implemented by MEDCo.

The said equipment, according to the Zamboanga City CIQS Consultative Council (ZC-CIQS-CC), are necessary for enhancing security as well as easing the flow of communication and coordination at Zamboanga ports.

"MEDCo is confident that we are gradually gaining our momentum towards achieving our goal of increasing trade, tourism and investment in BIMP-EAGA through improving the delivery of CIQS services at ports, starting with providing security for our stakeholders," the statement quoted Undersecretary Virgilio L. Leyretana Sr., chairman of MEDCo, as saying during the turnover ceremony held at the Zamboanga City airport.

He said that improved CIQS coordination at the ports will help facilitate a freer and faster movement of people, goods and services around Mindanao and Palawan and within the Brunei Darussalam-Indonesia-Malaysia-the Philippines East ASEAN Growth Area (BIMP-EAGA).

He said MEDCo, through the project, has been facilitating requests from CIQS agencies for assistance in improving their operations through better equipment and facilities.

Provision of such equipment and facilities, in turn, is expected to help the personnel concerned put their CIQS training to use.

Introduced in 2006, the BEST on CIQS Project aims to strengthen coordination and partnership among CIQS agencies, provide capacity-building activities to improve delivery of CIQS services at ports, as well as harmonize CIQS rules, regulations and procedures.

Under the BEST on CIQS Project, AusAID has so far committed P3.75 million for all six priority ports in Mindanao and Palawan, namely: Zamboanga, Cagayan de Oro, Davao, General Santos-Sarangani, Cotabato-Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao, and Palawan.

Through the BEST on CIQS Project, Local CIQS Consultative Councils (LCCCs) in the ports of Davao, General Santos and Zamboanga, were revived and strengthened, while the LCCCs in Cagayan de Oro, Cotabato, and Puerto Princesa were operationalized. These LCCCs serve as a venue for CIQS agencies to resolve port-based issues and concerns at the local level.

The project has also trained key personnel of CIQS agencies in Mindanao and Palawan on various CIQS-related capacity building training covering various subjects such as Explosives Detection/Recognition and Threat Management, Intelligence and Surveillance Work at the port level, Upgrading Human Resources to Combat Transnational Crimes, Aviation Security, Trafficking in Persons, Safe Gun Handling and Marksmanship, Identifying and Handling Dangerous Goods and Illegal Drug Precursors, Convention on International Trade of Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna, as well as Philippines-Indonesia Joint Patrol Exercises.

Thursday, 22 October 2009


Almighty Father, we raise our hearts to You in gratitude for the wonders of creation of which we are part, for Your Divine Providence in sustaining our needs, and for Your Wisdom that guides the course of the universe.

As we face typhoons, floods, volcanic and other calamities we trustingly seek Your help, aware that You are the Master of Creation.

We acknowledge that as an entire humanity we have not been good stewards of Nature. We have confused Your command to subdue the earth.

The environment is made to suffer our wrongdoing, and now we reap the harvest of abuse and indifference.

Global warming is upon us. Natural calamities occur in increasing numbers and intensity.

We turn to You, our loving Father, and beg forgiveness for our sins.

We humbly beg that we be spared from the dire consequences of calamities.

We beseech You to inspire us all to grow into responsible stewards of Your creation, and generous neighbors to those in need.

Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at the Philippine Business & Expo One Global Filipino Regional Economic Development Frontline to Sustainability

The world will help RP recover – UN-WFP

CANDABA, Pampanga (PND) – The United Nations-World Food Program (UN-WFP) assured President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today the whole world is united in helping victims of typhoons “Ondoy” and “Pepeng.”

“The WFP will always be here to support the government of the people of the Philippines to recover and rebuild and to make sure (they receive) basic necessities from us,” UN-WFP executive director Josette Sheeran said in her opening statement.

Sheeran said the United Nations still believes in the strong spirit of the Filipino people to recover from the tragedy because “the Filipino people are incredible she said. You have determination; you are resilient; and in fact, you will not give up,” she said.

“So today, we are firm and united in saying that we are here for the people of the Philippines and the world has been with you,” Sheeran assured.

Upon arrival at Ms. Earth Park at Barangay Mandasig here, the President inspected the food assistance packages from the UN-WFP and led in their distribution to the residents of Candaba.

Assisting the President in the distribution of relief goods were Agriculture Secretary Arthur Yap, Health Secretary Francisco Duque III, Social Work and Development Secretary Esperanza Cabral, Candaba Mayor Jerry Pelayo, Pampanga 4th District Rep. Anna York Bondoc, UN-WFP regional director Keno Oshidari, UN-WFP country director Stephen Anderson, and actress-model and UN-WFP Ambassador against Hunger KC Concepcion.

2 teeners cited for heroism

Yolanda Sotelo
Inquirer Northern Luzon

SAN JACINTO, Pangasinan—When flooding hit this central Pangasinan town last week, two young men using an air mattress helped rescue scores of residents in danger of drowning.

For their efforts, the Philippine National Police handed out recognition awards on Monday to Rhubert Venerayon, 17, and his brother Rhuniel, 16.

Insp. Ryan Manongdo, officer in charge of the town police, also was conferred the Medalya ng Kadakilaan.

All told, more than 130 residents were rescued in three flooded barangays (villages) of San Jacinto.

Rhubert and his brother had just arrived from school in Dagupan City on Oct. 8 when their mother Linda told them a friend had texted her for help.

It was past 3 p.m. on the day the San Roque Dam started to open its gates, spilling water that overflowed rivers and widened flooding from Tropical Storm “Pepeng” (international codename: Parma).

When the brothers reached their mother’s friend in Magsaysay village, less than a kilometer away, the water was already waist-deep.

“It was good that Ate Gigi had an air mattress which we used to transport her, a 6-month-old baby and a 63-year-old grandmother, to our house,” Rhuniel said.

Others marooned helped

The brothers—sons of a worker in Saudi Arabia—then went on to help other marooned residents.

A police team, led by Manongdo, who was also using his own air mattress, saw the teenagers and asked his men to guide them in the grim task that went on until 1 a.m.

“Our mother was very much worried and continuously called us on our mobile phones, but we thought we could help more people. We just turned off our phones so she could not text or call us,” Rhubert said.

“We did not have dinner that time, we just picked guava fruits along the way,” Manongdo said.

Heroism of others

Four other young men also helped in the rescue, Manongdo said.

Archival Bautista, 20, his brother Arnel, 18, and their friends Arnel Bandong, 19, and Jonathan Cayabyab, 18, used a small inflatable boat to transport residents of Barangay Pag-asa to the evacuation centers.

“The boat got deflated after every trip, so the friends needed to inflate it again using an air pump. They did that several times until late in the night,” Manongdo said.

Their heroism, however, went unmentioned in the official police reports.

Preparing for the worst

Better late than … PNP now has 75 rubber boats
By Marlon Ramos, Jocelyn Uy, Melvin Gascon
Philippine Daily Inquirer, Inquirer Northern Luzon

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippine National Police Wednesday sent out a fleet of newly purchased rubber boats not for its antiterrorism campaign, but to aid northern Luzon provinces in preparations for the onslaught of Typhoon “Ramil” (international codename: Lupit).

Smarting from criticism of the government’s mediocre response to the devastation caused by Tropical Storms “Ondoy” (international codename: Ketsana) and “Pepeng” (Parma), Interior Secretary Ronaldo Puno ordered the immediate deployment of 11 rubber boats to flood-ravaged villages.

“We pray of course that this typhoon will not cause too much damage to our communities in the north, but we have to always be prepared to do what is necessary to save lives,” Puno said at the official turnover of the watercraft at the PNP headquarters in Camp Crame, Quezon City.

Mainly used by the military and the police in sea patrol operations, the rubber boats were utilized in rescuing residents from flooded communities when Ondoy battered Metro Manila and Pepeng pummeled northern Luzon a few weeks ago.

75 PNP rubber boats in all

Puno said the PNP bought a total of 75 rubber boats to bolster the capability of police units to respond to emergency rescue situation.

“It was a matter of great pride for all of us when in the past calamities that we faced, our people saw that it was our PNP men and women who were at the forefront to save our people,” he said.

Director Luizo Ticman, chief of the PNP Directorate for Logistics, said the rubber boats would be issued to the PNP Special Action Force and Maritime Group.

He said 75 additional rubber boats would be delivered to other police units in the next two to three weeks.

Ticman said the acquisition of the watercraft was part of the procurement of P1.5 billion worth of patrol and armored vehicles, firearms and special equipment.

Third US ship

Bolstering the country’s disaster preparedness was the arrival of a third US ship Wednesday.

The USS Denver, an amphibious response vessel that just arrived from a major relief effort in earthquake-stricken Indonesia, will provide the government extra manpower and equipment in rescue and relief operations when Ramil hits northern Luzon, according to the National Disaster Coordinating Council (NDCC).

The USS Denver will bring to more than 70 the number of aircraft and rubber boats the United States can dispatch to northern Luzon, said the NDCC spokesperson, Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr.

“Collectively, there will be more than 50 US aircraft, mostly choppers, and over 20 inflatable boats that will be available,” Torres said, citing the two other US vessels that have been in the country following the back-to-back storms that killed more than 850 people.

Earlier, the US Marines and sailors had been sent to the country on the USS Harpers Ferry and USS Tortuga to help in the relief mission when Ondoy dumped record rainfall on Metro Manila on Sept. 26 and Pepeng barreled through mountainous provinces in northern Luzon a few days later.


The USS Harpers Ferry is currently docked in Palawan while the other vessel is moored at the Manila Bay. The third amphibious vessel was expected to arrive in Subic Wednesday.

“The help coming from the US Armed Forces is still in line with our earlier request for manpower and equipment and it is still in effect,” Torres pointed out.

After almost a week of preparations for Ramil, Torres said the NDCC had carried out the pre-positioning of the bulk of food items and life-sustaining equipment to provinces vulnerable to flooding and landslides.

More than 100,000 pounds of relief items such as family food packs, water jugs, used clothing and sleeping mats have been transferred from Metro Manila to various locations in northern Luzon since Saturday.

“The NDCC has done everything possible to prepare for the typhoon and mitigate its impact,” Torres said.

10 villages evacuated

In Tuguegarao City, local governments have started evacuating residents in coastal villages in 10 of Cagayan’s 29 towns ahead of the expected landfall of Ramil.

In a press briefing, Cagayan Gov. Alvaro Antonio said evacuation started on Wednesday morning in the northern towns of Santa Ana, Gonzaga, Santa Teresita, Buguey, Aparri, Abulug, Pamplona, Ballesteros, Claveria, and Santa Praxedes.

The Provincial Disaster Coordinating Council (PDCC) reported having stocked 3,812 packs of relief goods at the Lallo sub-capitol for distribution to people in evacuation centers, while 11,000 packs more were ready for release at the PDCC headquarters in the city.

Disregard boundaries

In the same briefing, Defense Secretary Gilbert Teodoro told disaster management officials about a national government order to disregard regional boundaries to fast-track rescue and relief efforts in disaster-hit areas.

He cited the case of Cagayan Valley, which has to extend services to the provinces of Apayao and Kalinga in the Cordillera Administrative Region because of its better access to these areas than the regional center based in Baguio City.

Teodoro said he had ordered disaster response officials in Cagayan Valley and Central Luzon to jointly manage the 50-km stretch of the Nueva Vizcaya-Nueva Ecija Road, which has been a perennial site of road closures in recent weeks due to landslides.

Teodoro’s final check

Teodoro, along with officials of the United Nations Disaster Assessment and Coordination (UNDAC), arrived in Tuguegarao for a one-hour briefing to conduct a “final checkup” of preparations for Ramil.

Antonio, the Cagayan PDCC chair, said at least 10 rescue teams from the province’s Rescue 29, as well as those from the Philippine Army, the Coast Guard and the PNP had been readied for deployment at the PDCC command center at the provincial capitol and at the sub-capitol in Lallo.

Trucks, choppers on standby

The PDCC also sent all of its 35 dump trucks, while the Army’s 501st Infantry Brigade made available 35 trucks and speed boats for transport of people and canned goods, noodles, bottled water, candles, and used clothing.

In Isabela province, the Department of Education suspended classes in elementary and high schools until Oct. 23 due to Ramil.

Two Philippine Air Force helicopters are on standby in Cauayan City for transport of people and goods, said Col. Joven Ronan, PAF Tactical Operations Group 2 commander based in the city.

In Santiago City, aside from putting up the city’s disaster preparedness team, Mayor Amelita Navarro has resorted to a prayer campaign to “shoo away Ramil.”

With a report from Villamor Visaya Jr., Inquirer Northern Luzon

SM firm says net income up 5,900%

Jenniffer B. Austria
Manila Standard

SM Development Corp., the property firm of retail tycoon Henry Sy, yesterday said its nine-month consolidated net income surged 5,900 percent to P1.4 billion from just P23 million in the same period last year on strong sales of the company’s residential condominium projects.

SM Development, in a disclosure to the stock exchange, said consolidated revenues grew 78 percent to P4.1 billion from a year-ago level.

Net income from real estate operations jumped 83 percent to P1.1 billion from P607 million in the same period last year as realized revenues from real estate operations went up by 30 percent to P3.7 billion from a year-ago level of P2.9 billion.

During the period, the company’s reservation sales doubled to 3,708 units.

Aside from strong real estate sales, the recovery of the financial markets also contributed to the company’s positive financial performance.

“We are strongly encouraged by the healthy growth in SMDC’s profits during the first nine months of this year. Our efforts to strengthen our real estate sales operations and our keen monitoring of construction costs are paying off through higher margins and better operational efficiencies. With these positive developments, we remain bullish in our business operations this year,” said SM Development president Roger Cabuñag.

The company has several ongoing projects, including Chateau Elysee, a six-cluster mid-rise condominium project in Parañaque City, Berkeley Residences in Katipunan Road and Grass Residences beside SM City North Edsa.

New projects include Sea Residences near the Mall of Asia Complex in Pasay City, Field Residences in Sucat, Parañaque City, Lindenwood Residences, which is a residential subdivision in Muntinlupa City and Mezza Residences across SM City Sta. Mesa.

Other projects scheduled for launching this year are Princeton Residences, beside Gilmore LRT-2 Station along Aurora Boulevard in Quezon City; Sun Residences, beside Welcome Rotonda in Quezon City; Jazz Residences along Jupiter Street in Makati City; Light Residences in Mandaluyong City and Wind Residences in Tagaytay City.

The company earlier announced plans to raise up to P5 billion through a stock rights offering early next year. The proceeds will be used to carry out the company’s growth initiatives, including land banking and other general corporate purposes.

Bigger pay raise looms in 2010

Article derived from a Reuters report

COMPANIES in the Philippines are set to provide bigger pay hikes next year, keeping in step with peers in 13 other economies in Asia and the Pacific, the most recent salary survey this year which human resource consulting firm Hewitt Associates released yesterday showed.

The survey had 2,000 respondents from local and joint-venture companies across the region.

Specifically, companies in the Philippines are set to raise salaries by an average of 6.4%, compared to about 4.3% rise this year.

India topped the expected rise in salaries at 9.2% next year from 6.3% this year. It was followed by Indonesia at 8.7% from 6.0% and China at 6.7% from 4.5%.

Economies where average salary hikes will be less than that in the Philippines are: Malaysia, where firms will raise pay by 5.2% next year from an average of 4.1% this year; Thailand, 4.7% from 3.4%; South Korea, 5.1% from 2.7%; Macau, 2.5%, down from 2.6%; Australia, 3.4% from 2.1%; New Zealand, 3.1% from 2.1%; Taiwan, 3.1% from 1.8%; Singapore, 2.6% from 1.8%; Hong Kong, 2.9% from 1.4%; and Japan, 2.1% from 1.2%.

New investment option for ordinary Filipinos

PERA implementation nears
Bangko Sentral finalizes its part of law’s rules; BIR contribution awaited
P. L. G. Montecillo

A NEW INVESTMENT OPTION for ordinary Filipinos may finally become available next year as authorities yesterday approved part of the Personal Equity and Retirement Act’s (PERA) implementing rules.

The law, signed by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo in August 2008, is expected to further develop the country’s capital markets by encouraging Filipinos to invest for their retirement.

Regulators yesterday signed a memorandum of agreement for the uniform implementation of the law and the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), which was appointed the lead agency, said PERA accounts may be available by the start of next year.

This hinges, however, on the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) finalizing its contribution to the implementing rules and regulations (IRR) which will cover in detail the tax perks to be given to investors. Officials said this could be accomplished before the end of the year.

"Now that the mother IRR is here, we will try to finish the rules within the year," BIR Deputy Commissioner Nelson M. Aspe said.

Once completed, the BIR revenue regulation will have to be approved by Finance Secretary Margarito B. Teves.

Aside from the central bank and the tax bureau, other agencies which approved the implementing rules were the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Insurance Commission (IC), Department of Finance and the Bureau of Internal Revenue.

Under the law, individuals can set aside as much as P100,000 a year in a PERA account, with the cap doubling for overseas Filipino workers (OFWs). Up to five accounts can be created and the funds will invested in a wide range of instruments. Income earned will be tax-exempt.

The money in these accounts may not be withdrawn until the contributor reaches the age of 55 or dies, and the account itself must be at least five years old. Early withdrawals will be taxed, although exemptions will be made for accident payments or hospital stays of over a month, and permanent total disability.

"[With PERA], the opportunity to invest is made available throughout the archipelago that puts a premium on investment gains," BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. yesterday said.

"I’m confident we can get this off the ground in by the start of next year," he told reporters.

As much as P5 trillion in deposits are sitting idle in local banks today, officials said. They said that if even a small portion of these funds is transferred into PERA accounts, it would go a long way into developing the country’s financial markets, currently driven mainly by foreign capital.

Under the approved rules, PERA accounts will be offered by so-called administrators — local banks, mutual funds and insurance firms — which need to have capitalization of at least P100 million.

Investments allowed for PERA accounts are local instruments covered by the BSP, SEC and IC. Given the complexities of investing, the rules allows for investment managers which will make decisions on the contributor’s behalf. Qualified investment managers include trust entities and investment houses, among others.

With the emphasis on consumer protection, the rules state that "an investment manager shall not be allowed to recommend or sell its own investment products or that of its subsidiaries and affiliates."

"The same prohibition shall apply to an administrator who acts as an investment manager by reason of being a holder of a trust license."

In starting their PERA accounts, investors will need to appoint "custodians" which will be responsible for receiving and disposing of funds in connection with the PERA. Only banks and trust entities, usually subsidiaries of banks, are allowed to become custodians.

Once an investor finally decides to withdraw his funds, the money can be given two ways: through a lump sum or a monthly pension. If a PERA contributor dies before he is able to withdraw his money, the proceeds will be exempt from inheritance taxes.

Typhoon Ramil update

RP: A country you love to hate

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

It does not make any difference in the big picture of things. In fact, no one listens or cares. But it does make me feel better, so every few months I need to react to some of the negative attitudes and analyses about the Philippines.

I have compared the Philippines to its national sports hero Manny Pacquiao on occasion and I still think that comparison holds true; the best pound for pound and always confusing the experts.

Prior to Pacquiao’s fight with Ricky Hatton, Floyd Mayweather Sr. had this to say: “Is he crazy? [Ricky] Hatton will beat the socks off of [Manny] Pacquiao.” Of course, Pacquiao beat Hatton in what the British Broadcasting Corp. called “a devastating second-round defeat” in an article titled “Hatton floored by brutal Pacquiao.” And I particularly like the final sentence: “He [Hatton] was taken to hospital for a precautionary brain scan.” Maybe the “experts” who picked Hatton should have had that brain scan.

But that wasn’t the first time they misjudged Pacquiao and had it wrong.

Bob Velin, the boxing “expert” for USA Today, wrote this: “There are some who say that Manny Pacquiao must be crazy to get in the ring with Oscar de la Hoya.” We all know how that bout ended.

Underestimating the Philippines, like Pacquiao, is common. I like this from BusinessMirror on October 20: “Admitting it underestimated the flow of Filipino worker remittances and taking into consideration other growth factors, the World Bank [WB] is now likely to upgrade its full-year gross domestic product forecast for the Philippines originally pegged at negative 0.5 percent.”

What was the WB’s first clue that its estimates were wrong and what took it so long to figure it out? These are the same experts who said remittances would fall like a rock, at least 4 percent, in 2009. Back in February the best they could offer was a hope that remittances did not go down more than that. Sort of like the expert who said Pacquiao might win by another “bad” spilt decision, instead of knocking Hatton’s socks off in the second round.

The WB watches through nine consecutive months of increasing overseas remittances to the Philippines and then concludes that maybe remittances are not going to decrease. “In July, the World Bank said the economy is headed for a 0.5-percent contraction. Now ‘We think the government’s current estimate of 0.8 percent to 1.8 percent is entirely feasible.’”

I would love the hear the World Bank’s take on the upcoming Pacquiao-Cotto fight and Floyd Mayweather Sr. discussing the Philippine economy. We probably couldn’t tell which “expert” was talking.

The World Bank is saying it will have revised growth estimates for the country next week. Maybe it should wait until next January to release its 2009 estimates. It might be a little more accurate that way.

I would also like to hear from Citigroup Inc., the world’s largest bank in terms of customers, about the next Pacquiao fight since I think its analysis of the economy is going to be proved wrong. From “The Philippine economy is likely to grow only by 1.4 percent, instead of its previous 1.9-percent estimate.”

Actually, you cannot really fault anyone for bad predictions about the economy any more than you can about boxing matches. All predictions are based on personal interpretation of the available data.

However, the thing that really bothers me is when facts are handpicked to support a particular conclusion. It seems that too often the conclusion is that the Philippines is terrible and “facts” are found to substantiate that. And it always seems to happen when the analysis is about the Philippines.

The Philippines seems to be an easy target when you are looking for a country to be negative about. When foreigners are buying US stocks, it is “a sign of renewed investor confidence.” In the Philippines, foreign stock investment is called “hot money” that “can be taken out of the country at any time.” At the end of June, a government statistician at the National Statistical Coordination Board hinted that the Philippines is “on the brink of recession” with absolutely no data to justify that forecast.

Last week a local columnist degraded the fact that profits of listed Philippine Stock Exchange companies rose nearly 50 percent over 2008. The author then went on to show that San Miguel’s profit increase was in large part attributable to a one-time gain from the sale of San Miguel Beer as the company restructures its businesses. That is an inaccurate analysis.

Although writing just a few days ago, the author conveniently ignored, for example, the property company SM Development’s earnings for the nine-month period ending September up 37 percent from 2008 and revenues rising 30 percent, none of which is a one-time affair. There are many other examples that would easily disprove the author’s negative analysis of the Philippines. Of course, this author also talks about improvement in the US economy, again mentioning recent increased auto sales while failing to mention that the increase was due to a multibillion-dollar government give- away to those who purchased new cars. Just plain dishonest analysis.

When Pacquiao beat de la Hoya, the “experts” called it a fluke. When he beat Hatton, it was an upset. I guess when he beats Cotto, it will be called a miracle. They say the same thing about the Philippines and its economy anytime we do well. It is just not right.

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Peso one of most stable currencies in the region

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

THE peso has proven to be one of the most stable currencies in the region, its volatility measured as the second lowest after the Chinese yuan, according to Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP).

BSP Governor Amando Tetangco Jr. said of the 13 regional currencies observed as having made the most number of exchange value changes against the US dollar, the peso posted a volatility rate of only 1.29 percent.

The most stable currency, the Chinese yuan, had a volatility rate of 0.08 percent.

“The peso is one of the least volatile currencies in the region from year-to-date,” Tetangco told reporters.

The local unit’s tendency to post infrequent changes in value relative to the US dollar makes it easier for businesses and people to plan foreign exchange transactions than if the currency tended to be jumpy.

According to Tetangco, the most volatile currency of the lot was the New Zealand dollar, which posted a volatility rate of 11.46 percent.

This topped the volatility of the Australian dollar, whose rate averaged only 10.73 percent.

The third most volatile in the region was the Indonesian rupiah, at 7.51 percent.

The rates for the other currencies are as follows: Taiwanese dollar, 2.11 percent; Malaysian ringgit, 2.12 percent; Thai baht, 2.19 percent; Singapore dollar, 2.76 percent; Japanese yen, 3.46 percent; euro, 4.73 percent; British pound, 6.10 percent; and Korean won, 7.21 percent.

DBS upgrades peso forecast for fourth quarter to 45.60:$1

Erik de la Cruz
Business Mirror

DBS Bank, Southeast Asia’s largest bank, has upgraded its US dollar exchange-rate forecasts for the Philippine peso and seven other Asian currencies for the last quarter of 2009 and the next four quarters, as rich nations now recognize the urgent need to address global trade imbalances.

The Singapore-based institution, in an October 20 report, now expects the peso to rise as high as 45.60 per dollar before 2009 is over and a steady appreciation over the next 12 months up to 44.00 in the last quarter of next year.

The bank previously projected the peso to trade weaker at 48 this quarter before recovering in 2010 to as high as 46.40 in the last quarter.

DBS has also upgraded its forecasts for the Taiwan dollar, Korean won, Singapore dollar, Malaysian ringgit, Thai baht, Indonesia rupiah and Indian rupee.

The bank also expects China’s yuan to resume appreciation in the second quarter of 2010.

Philip Wee, a DBS currency strategist who wrote the report, said the dollar had depreciated between March and September, while other currencies recovered what they lost during the global crisis.

But the real downward adjustment in the dollar, he said, probably started only last month, when the Group of 20 powerful nations, or G-20, agreed on the need to address global imbalances.

This downward pressure on the dollar “could last for the next few years,” he said.

He also noted waning interest in the dollar as a reserve currency as many countries are moving to diversify their currency reserves, curbing demand for the greenback.

At the G-20 summit held in Pittsburg on September 24 and 25, world leaders agreed that the G-20 replace the G-7 as the leading forum for managing the global economy.

The move, Wee said, “likely heralds a new round of dollar depreciation” to address particularly the huge trade imbalance between the world’s biggest economy, the US, and the emerging economic superpower, China.

“G-7 nations have come to terms with the need for the dollar to depreciate and for Americans to save more,” he said. “What is left is for China and emerging economies with large external surpluses to allow more currency appreciation and encourage their consumers to spend more.”

The current major episode of dollar depreciation, according to Wee, is the third since World War II.

The first episode took place in the 1970s, when the US was running a trade deficit while Germany and Japan had surpluses, he said. The dollar was subsequently devalued against the German and Japanese currencies, and developed nations abandoned fixed exchange rates in favor of flexible exchange-rate regimes.

Wee said the downward adjustment in the dollar was interrupted by the 1973/74 oil crisis that led to a world recession. But after the G-7 was established in mid-’70s, the dollar resumed its slide from 1975 to 1978 to address global imbalances, during which period the greenback fell 35 percent against the German deutschemark and 42 percent against the Japanese yen.

The second episode, Wee said, was targeted mainly at addressing the US-Japan trade imbalance in the last 1980s.

Efforts to address the bilateral US-China trade deficit started at the G-7 meeting in Dubai in September 2003, when China was urged to adopt a flexible exchange rate, he said.

China eventually abolished the yuan-dollar peg in July 2005, with the Chinese currency appreciating for three years thereafter, before authorities adopted a “basically stable” yuan policy from July 2008 as the world reeled from the US housing and credit crisis.

“Owing to upside surprises in the global economic recovery this year, the focus has once again returned to global imbalances,” Wee said. “If the G-20 summit in April 2009 was about achieving recovery, then the summit in September was about ensuring that it is sustained.”

To revive their economies amid the global recession, most countries had adopted fiscal and monetary stimulus measures this year.

With recovery now underway, thanks to the stimulus measures, Wee said cooperation is being sought “for deficit countries like the US to save more and tolerate currency depreciation, and surplus countries like China to consume more and allow more currency appreciation.”

After climbing to a 13-month high of 46.25 per dollar last week, the peso has fallen in what some traders considered as a correction after big gains since hitting 49.01 in early September.

The local unit traded as low as 47.08 on Wednesday, its weakest in almost three weeks, on renewed investor risk aversion due to worse-than-expected US data on housing starts and building permits.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

BoP hit surplus of $502M in Sept.

Ronnel Domingo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE COUNTRY’S BALANCE OF payments (BOP) hit a surplus of $502 million in September as the amount of remittances from overseas Filipinos continued to climb.

This development prompted the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas to again raise its forecast for the year.

Based on BSP data, the BOP remained at a surplus in the past four months, swinging back and forth from less than $100 million to $500 million.

The latest figure brought the BOP for the nine months to September to a surplus of $3.277 billion—128 percent higher than the surplus of $1.54 billion seen in the same period last year.

The BOP is a closely watched economic indicator that reflects a country’s foreign exchange liquidity. The level of liquidity will determine a country’s ability to engage in commercial transactions with the rest of the world.

Factors that help boost the country’s BOP include foreign investments, income from exports, remittances from overseas Filipinos, foreign currency-denominated loans extended to the government, and the BSP’s income from its investments abroad.

According to monetary authorities, remittances from overseas Filipinos coursed through banks in August increased year-on-year by 2.8 percent to $1.37 billion.

This brought the cumulative remittances during the eight months to August to $11.34 billion—an increase of 3.7 percent from that of last year.

The BSP said growth in remittances was mostly driven by the deployment of more Filipino workers abroad.

From January to August, major sources of remittances were the United States, Canada, Saudi Arabia, United Kingdom, Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Italy and Germany.

In a report dated Oct. 16, ATR Kim Eng Securities said there would be “a considerable increase” in remittances in September to early October in the aftermath of two storms that devastated Luzon.

European businessmen see strong rebound for Philippine economy

Written by Max V. de Leon
Business Mirror

WITH electronics, business-process outsourcing (BPO), tourism, agri-business, property development and retail expected to perform better in 2010, European businessmen in the country are optimistic that the Philippine economy would be making a strong rebound next year.

“We are looking at 2010 with guarded optimism,” officials of the European Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines (ECCP) said in a statement after they heard the presentation of the leaders of these major growth drivers at a recent forum hosted by the group dubbed “Economic Outlook 2010: The Philippine Business Environment in Light of Developments in the World Economy.”

Presenting their respective industry’s projections for 2010 were Philippine Agricultural Development and Commercial Corp. president Mariz Agbon, Business Processing Association of the Philippines chief executive officer Oscar Sañez, Jones Lang, Lasalle Philippines Inc. chairman Jose Fernando Camus, Semiconductor and Electronics Industries in the Philippines Inc. chairman Arthur Young, Philippine Travel Agencies Association president Ma. Paz Alberto, and Philippine Retail Association vice president Paul Santos.

Henry Schumacher, ECCP executive vice president, said investors have good reasons to be cautiously optimistic on the country’s prospects next year with these six industries expecting better numbers. The electronics industry, which directly employs 450,000 individuals and another 1.2 million indirectly, is looking at a double-digit growth in 2010 and increasing its export revenues to $29 billion to $30 billion. Young said this will help the industry recover lost ground in 2008 and 2009.

The industry, Young said, considers the uptick in consumer spending in the United States and increase in the purchase of hybrid cars, smart phones, PDAs, laptops, flat panels and medical equipment in fast-growing markets such as China and India as good reasons to be optimistic.

The BPO sector, on the other hand, is expected to rake in $9.5 billion in 2010 and then $12 billion in 2011, especially with big investments spreading rapidly to the countryside. Sañez said aside from the voice segment, growth will be strong in back-office services such as publishing, finance, corporate services, design, and creative services.

Convergys opens 4th call-center site Oct. 22

Business Mirror

GLOBAL business process outsourcing (BPO) firm Convergys continues its robust expansion in the Philippines as it formally launches its new 17,000-square meter facility in Glorietta 5 in Makati on Thursday.

This will be the fourth of the five facilities that the Ohio-based firm has scheduled for launch this year in the country.

The company simultaneously launched on May 1 its new sites in UP-Ayala Land in Quezon City, Cebu and Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

Set to be launched later this year is the Manila facility near SM San Lazaro.

The Glorietta 5 site, Convergy’s 12th in the country, can accommodate 2,050 agents. President Arroyo and Convergys senior vice president for human resources Clark Handy will lead the launching ceremony.

“It is the first Convergys site to offer the convenience of a shopping mall on its lower floors and includes executive and administrative offices, training rooms, conference rooms, and employee lounges,” the company said in a statement.

Convergys has experienced unprecedented growth in its six years of Philippine operations, expanding from 200 employees upon opening to over 17,500 employees in sites across Metro Manila, Cebu, Bacolod and Sta. Rosa, Laguna. Max V. de Leon

Globally, Convergys employs more than 70,000 people across its facilities.

More on the dying dollar

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

If there was a deadly disease outbreak someplace in the world, you would want to be informed. If a major natural disaster hit 10,000 miles away, you would still want to know about it. If a breakthrough scientific discovery were announced, you would expect the local media to tell you about it.

You may be getting bored with this column continuing to talk about the breakdown of the dollar, but if you are not aware of what is happening, you are going to be submerged by a financial flood that is going to make Ondoy seem like a summer shower.

In yesterday’s newspapers the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that so-called “hot money” net inflow to the Philippines was $47 million in September, reversing the $443 million in net outflows recorded in the same month last year. That is a $500-million reversal of fortune.

While the local “experts” are worried about the recent storms hampering the economy and the President is asking for damages from the other nations because of the myth of global warming, money around the world is scrambling for a safe haven from the dollar.

Also in yesterday’s newspapers was a ridiculous comment. From the Philippine Star: “The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas has vowed to contain excessive volatilities in the foreign- exchange market in order to ‘smoothen’ the movement of the peso against the dollar. BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said it is necessary to contain such volatilities to help business and consumers plan more effectively.”

To the BSP: If you really want businesses and consumers to plan more effectively, tell the truth that you know: The dollar is headed to historic low levels and there is nothing that you can do about it.

While the BSP has stated publicly that it is concerned about the financial affairs of our export sector with a falling dollar, there is nothing that can or should be done about the appreciation of the peso.

Trying to do anything in the face of incredible downward pressure on the dollar is both useless and dangerous.

Over this last weekend, another bullet was fired into the body of the dying dollar, unreported here in the Philippines, of course. In effect, the countries of South America have created their own currency similar to the euro. At the Bolivia Summit, leaders agreed to create a regional currency, the sucre. The exchange rate and trading of the sucre will begin in 2010. South America will no longer rely on the dollar for their inter-nation settlement of trade. Bye-bye, US dollar.

Last week Russia and China agreed to billions of dollars worth of economic contracts to be settled in either China’s yuan or the Russian ruble. Bye-bye, US dollar.

The Canadian dollar is nearly at par with the US dollar, which will make it more attractive for US companies doing business with Canada to accept payment in Canadian dollars for goods and services, not with the US dollar. Even Americans are going to be using non-dollar currencies.

Every one of these events are of crucial, even earth-shaking, importance, and they are not being reported here in the Philippines probably due to a continuing colonial mentality in the financial community.

It is unfortunate that Southeast Asian countries through Asean have their collective heads stuck in the sand, or someplace else, about this dollar-depreciation tsunami. This is perhaps the result of none of the Asean members having anything in common with each other except geography. No common language, no common religion, no common heritage unlike Europe and South America. Asean, and maybe the Philippines also, needs leadership that is more comfortable on the streets of Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Bangkok than New York, Rome and London.

The fact that significant amounts of foreign-investment funds are moving into the Philippines is a clear indication that this money expects the peso to appreciate as the dollar falls. All the talk about the supposed potential of poor economic fundamentals does not outweigh the reality of a dying dollar. A dying dollar by definition, along with the proof of history, demands that the peso strengthen. For the BSP to give any indication that this is not going to happen does a disservice to the nation.

The dollar is going to fall like a rock. The peso is going to appreciate beyond the expectations of the “experts” and you must be prepared.

The export sector is going to be hurt, no doubt about that. What the government should be doing is to prepare this sector to move markets from the US to other countries, and it should be done now. While all the newspapers care to talk about is the electronics market, electronics are only a portion, and not the most profitable portion of our export industry. Relying on America for our future export business is the same as betting on a horse with a broken leg; you can’t win.

The Philippines, like every other country, also relies on imports. Here, the public and private sector should be looking for markets to buy our necessary goods that will allow us to take advantage of a stronger peso. China may not be the answer.

The root problem may be that the Philippines has lived so long in the shadow of the US and the US dollar that we are unable to think of life without a financial Uncle Sam. That job in the US or a retirement condo in San Francisco has become part of the national mindset. But that worldview is no longer valid.

The dollar is dead. Long live the peso. Now the question is, are we going to adapt, and how can we advantageously adapt to a new ‘King Currency”?

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RP hailed as ‘Best Offshoring Destination’ by UK BPO bloc

Max V. de Leon
Business Mirror

THE Philippines was cited by the United Kingdom’s National Outsourcing Association as the “Best Offshoring Destination of the Year” for 2009.

Trade Secretary Peter B. Favila said the award will help the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry a lot in marketing its services not only in the UK but to the rest of the western world and developed countries.

“The award highlights the tremendous achievement of the BPO industry which was attained in a very short time. It is a testament to the country’s healthy economic environment that attracts foreign business to locate their operations in the country,” Favila said.

The Best Offshoring Destination Award was given at the 6th Annual National Outsourcing Destination Awards at the Park Plaza Riverbank Hotel in Central London. The Philippines also won the award in 2007.

The Philippines bested four other shortlisted countries: Egypt, Russia, Malaysia and Sri Lanka. The countries were judged based on criteria covering country advantages and appeal to UK companies, level of market penetration in the UK and areas of outsourcing available in the country.

The National Outsourcing Association is the recognized industry association for the outsourcing industry in the UK.

The Philippine outsourcing industry offers a wide range of services to companies that include not only traditional voice and IT services but also higher value services such as finance, animation, engineering, medical transcription and architectural services.

Favila said the growth of the BPO industry has a multiplier effect since its development also brings business to the real estate and telecommunication industries.

Monday, 19 October 2009

Philippines raises $1B in global bond market

Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

FOR the third time this year, the government tapped the global bond market for $1 billion to help it rein in the year’s budget deficit feared to hit P300 billion.

It will cost Filipino taxpayers 6.375 percent a year to pay interest on the IOUs the next 25 years, or until October 2034.

“The newly issued bonds were priced at 99.382 percent to yield 6.425 percent, or an equivalent of 216.5 basis points over benchmark US Treasuries,” Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said in a statement.

Teves needs the money to build or rehabilitate ruined public infrastructure left by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng, the combined impact of which could widen the budget deficit to more or less P300 billion instead of P250 billion as programmed.

“We are very pleased to have been able to extend the republic’s maturity profile while, at the same time, achieving the lowest yield for a new 25-year benchmark US dollar global offering by the Philippines,” Teves said soon after the deal was completed on Friday.

The bulk, or 37 percent, of creditors were US-based investors and 25 percent were Filipinos and others in the region. The rest were European investors comprising the balance of 13 percent.

“Positive investor reception for this transaction allowed us to resume our long-term borrowing strategy to achieve our funding objective in support of our fiscal program,” Treasury chief Roberto Tan said in reaction.

The transaction was arranged by Deutsche Bank Securities Inc., the British banking giant HSBC and the Swiss-owned UBS AG as joint lead managers and book builders.