Saturday, 14 November 2009

PGMA to speak for ASEAN in dialogue with US

SINGAPORE (PND) – President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo will speak on behalf of the Association of South East Asian Nations (ASEAN) in a dialogue with the Unites States.

As coordinator for ASEAN, Mrs. Arroyo, during the ASEAN-US Summit, will sit beside US President Barack Obama, the first American president to meet all ten ASEAN leaders all at one time in the 32-year history of ASEAN-U.S. relations.

The meeting between Obama and the ASEAN leaders would take about at least an hour.

In an interview with Filipino reporters here, Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Enrique Manalo said the President, in behalf of the other leaders, will reaffirm the ASEAN-US partnership to achieve enduring peace and prosperity in the region.

The Philippines was chosen by other members of ASEAN to voice out their collective concerns to the US. The country will hold that position until 2012.

The Philippines will work closely with the US and other ASEAN member countries to ensure implementation of various programs on trade and investments, disaster management, and climate change adaptation, among others concerns.

Mrs. Arroyo will be the fourth speaker after the welcome remarks of Singapore Prime Minister Lee Hsien Loong, the opening remarks of Thailand Prime Minister Abhisit Vejjajiva, and Obama, respectively.

She will speak specifically on what needs to be done to improve the US-ASEAN Plan of Action that was signed five years ago.

ASEAN will review what has transpired since and prepare for a new five-year partnership.

The ASEAN leaders and Obama will come up with a joint statement at the end of the summit.

Last week, senior ASEAN and US officials held a two-day ASEAN-US Senior Officials’ Meeting (SOM) in Manila to set the stage for the 1st ASEAN-US Leaders’ meeting here.

In the last 19 years, ASEAN and US officials have been holding annual dialogues to promote trade and investments and deepen political, socio-economic and cultural ties.

More companies report earnings (again) -- Ayala Corp, Megaworld,

Ayala Corp. Q3 profits up 13% to P1.7B
Kristine Jane R. Liu

THE IMPROVING business environment during the past two quarters pulled up profits of the country’s oldest conglomerate from July to September.

In a statement on Friday, Ayala Corp. said net income during the third quarter picked up by 13% to P1.7 billion over the same period last year. This puts net income from January to September at P5.8 billion, 26% lower year-on-year.

Excluding gains from the sale of its shares in unit Globe Telecom, Inc., Ayala Corp. said net income during the nine-month period would have grown by 14% compared with the same period last year.

"Our core business units remained resilient despite the difficult operating environment. With positive trends in the third quarter, we are optimistic about the continued growth trajectory of our businesses particularly as they tap new market segments and explore new geographies," Ayala Corp. President Fernando Zobel de Ayala said.

He added that the holding company continues to support its units’ growth initiatives as part of a broader plan to constantly enhance and optimize value from our portfolio.

Combined equity earnings from core business units -- Ayala Land, Inc. (ALI), Bank of the Philippine Islands (BPI), and Globe Telecom (Globe) grew by 16% during the quarter on back of a strong growth during the period. This helped offset the mixed performance of units under AC Capital, whose combined equity earnings during the nine-month period remained stable at P6.8 billion.

Ayala Corp. said trends in the real estate continues to be encouraging with net income during the third quarter increased by 12% year-on-year on back of an improved demand for residential projects.

ALI’s earnings in the nine-month period however was still lower by 24% to P2.9 billion as a result of a slow first quarter.

Meanwhile, an increase in BPI’s average asset base, growth in net interest income and the declining interest rate environment allowed the bank to realize trading gains from the sale of part of its securities inventory.

The bank reported a net income of P7.3 billion in the nine-month period or 38% higher from the same period last year.

Telecom unit Globe’s net income on the other hand rose by 12% to P9.9 billion with core earnings stable at P9.4 billion year-to-date September. Globe’s broadband subscribers nearly tripled versus last year to over 500,000, while its wireless mobile subscriber base contracted to 23.1 million at the end of the period.
The gradual recovery in the electronics sector during the third quarter has also improved the performance of its electronics manufacturing units, Integrated Microelectronics, Inc. which posted a net income of P170 million from January to September, a turnaround from a net loss incurred last year.

Net income of water unit Manila Water Co. also grew by 14% to P2.3 billion from January to September on back of a 6% increase in its core revenues.
Ayala Corp. has recently increased its stake in Manila Water to 43.3% from 31.7% after it bought the 11.6% stake of partner United Utilities, Inc. in the water distributor.

The holding company said the move is viewed value accretive given the growth potential of Manila Water as it looks to expand beyond its concession area.

The holding company also continues to actively invest in the business process outsourcing (BPO), announcing recently the merger of its contact center investment, eTelecare Global Solutions with US based Stream Global Services, Inc., a leading global call center company. This combination creates one of the five largest global call center companies, with approximately 30,000 employees in more than 50 sites in 22 countries worldwide, and revenues of approximately $800 million.

Subsequently, Ayala’s knowledge process outsourcing (KPO) unit, Integreon, announced the acquisition of Grail Research, the strategic research and decision support unit of the Monitor Group, which, in turn is one of the world’s leading management consulting companies.

The holding company said the acquisition accelerates the expansion of Integreon’s business intelligence, research and analytics business into high-end, custom market research, and strengthens Integreon’s position as one of the leading integrated KPO companies globally.

"These transactions are part of Ayala’s strategy to invest in global BPO companies that are in the top five in their respective sectors worldwide, and can leverage the Philippines’ competitive advantages," the holding company said.

In the third quarter, the combined revenues of Ayala’s BPO companies grew by 6% to $93.5 million versus the second quarter. Shares of the company slipped 1.62% or P5 to P302.50.


Megaworld bares P3B Q3 net income
Kristine Jane R. Liu

DEMAND FOR vertical residential projects continue to remain robust during the third quarter, pushing up the profits of real estate firms Andrew Tan-led Megaworld Corp. and Gotianun-led Filinvest Land, Inc.

In a stockmarket disclosure on Friday, Megaworld said it posted a net income of P3 billion from July to September, up by 5% from the same period last year. Megaworld said the growth comes from the continued strength of its real estate sales and rental income.
Revenues during the period meanwhile amounted to P12.92 billion, slightly higher from P12.48 billion in the same period last year. Of which, real estate sales contributed P9.09 billion while rental income from its business process outsourcing office and retail developments hit a high of P1.42 billion, up by 41% from P1 billion year on year basis.

Megaworld is the largest residential condominium developer and BPO office landlord in the Philippines. It pioneered the development of community townships that fit a "live-work-play-learn" mold.

To date, Megaworld has five townships within Metro Manila, as well as stand-alone projects in the Makati central business district and recently entered into a joint-venture agreement with BCDA for an 8.38-hectare North Bonifacio property in the Fort Bonifacio.

Megaworld has committed to invest at least P15.6 billion over the next 20 years to develop the North Bonifacio property, located in the northern district of Fort Bonifacio and extending all the way to Kalayaan Avenue.


Meanwhile, Filinvest increased its profits by 4% to P1.198 billion from January to September, despite revenues being flat at P3.61 billion.

The Gotianun-company said real estate sales hit P2.269 billion while rental income contributed P885 million, 3% more than the P861 million generated last year.
Filinvest is currently offering up to P5 billion in fixed-rate bonds, targeted for issuance on Nov.19. The three-year bonds will yield an interest of 7.52% per annum, while the five-year bonds will yield 8.46%.


TVI rebounds, posts Q3 income


Phoenix Petroleum profits jump 18%

Friday, 13 November 2009

Gov't to launch more programs to empower Pinoy entreps - DOLE

MANILA (PNA) -- The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has introduced Nego-Kart, a special project to assist mobile vendors in enhancing their existing livelihood undertakings become profitable.

DOLE Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that the Nego-Kart or "Negosyo Sa Kariton" is a special project under DOLE's priority deliverable programs and services that offers a "cart of tools and services, such as vending cart and accessories, working capital, training on production skills, entrepreneurship and management and assistance in securing a business permit."

In a simple launching ceremony at the San Andres Gymnasium in Malate on Thursday, Secretary Roque together with Manila Mayor Alfredo S. Lim, Soroptimist International Manila Tourist Belt president Estrellita S. Hizon, and Soroptimist International Philippines governor Carmen Araneta-Flor, turned-over 20 Nego-Kart worth P12,000 each to mobile vendors coming from District 1, (Morga and Balut, Tondo); District II (Dagupan, Tondo), and District V (Paco).

Philippines' capital, Manila, is one of the key cities in the country with heavy concentration of ambulant/mobile vendors or "hawkers" who are mostly in karts, others use bicycles, or simply in ordinary baskets or mats in sidewalks, market places or public areas with their foldable business enterprises.

In times of dire need, they borrow money from people who collects the daily interest of the five-six lending scheme they use as capital.

Most of the time, the income of these informal sector group goes to the interest on five-six leaving them with empty pockets at the end of the day.

DOLE-NCR Regional Director Raymundo G. Agravante announced that for the launch, 20 vendors will receive a custom-made vending cart, one unit stove, and one unit stainless deep cooking pan courtesy of DOLE while the raw materials will be provided by Soroptimist International. The Manila Social Workers Office assisted in identifying the beneficiaries from the City of Manila.

Director Agravante added that there are 450 units of Nego-Karts for distribution in NCR until March 2010 out of the 450,100 beneficiaries expected to be awarded with Nego-Karts by the end of the year. (PNA)

PGMA leads inauguration of NCRPO's hi-tech tactical ops center

MANILA (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo led on Thursday the inauguration rites of the Regional Tactical Operation and Intelligence Center (RTOIC) of the National Capital Region Police Office (NCRPO) in Camp Bagong Diwa, Bicutan, Taguig City.

The RTOIC is the first Operation Center of the Philippine National Police (PNP) that has the capability of a full-scale Command, Control, and Communication Center and shall serve as the main monitoring and dispatch hub of all police operations in Metro Manila.

The center has video wall consisting of 42 40-inch Large Format Display (LFD) monitors that have been configured to show video feeds from all Closed-Circuit Television (CCTV) cameras all over the metropolis. Using state-of-the-art wireless technology, all existing CCTV systems, such as those in the cities of Manila, Taguig, Pasig, Quezon City, and that of the Metro Manila Development Authority (MMDA) are integrated through a digital backhaul facility.

Its data storage capacity can handle six months of video data and two years of backup. This makes the Center not only useful in responding tactical situations but also provides a rich database of information that can be used for strategic planning and other police administration purposes.

The RTOIC has been designed to absorb the traditional functions of the Regional Tactical Operation Center (RTOC). These functions include the reception and transmittal of all communications by fax, e-mail, and through radio. In dispatch or deployment of patrol units, its Global Positioning System (GPS) technology together with digital maps on screen allows accurate tracking of mobile patrol cars. These facilities have been proven to be very useful in monitoring of incidents and in calibrating response of police personnel and units to be deployed.

Rosales showed the direction of future developments of RTOIC. He mentioned the intent to fully utilize the capability of the present system to handle as much as 2,000 CCTV cameras in order to cover all cities and the lone municipality of Pateros. He also aid that NCRPO will later on employ Video Analytics to monitor, without active human intervention, concerns such as one-way streets, left baggage, loitering, carnapping, and perimeter intrusion. The system also provides a platform for thermal cameras to monitor fire and explosion incidents in Metro Manila as well as long-range cameras with zoom capability of up to 30 kilometers.

The integration capability of the center could provide for “stitching” of video frames to have a comprehensive view of an entire area of concern like a major thoroughfare such as EDSA or a large area like Rizal Park, using cameras in different locations. In incidents of crime, such as a shooting incident, sound integration could provide analysis on the type of firearm used.

Rosales said that smaller scale setup of RTOIC will be established at other District Offices similar with what he put up in the Manila Police District (MPD) during his time as its District Director. He assured the District Directors and Chiefs of Police that the whole police force in Metro Manila will be connected through the respective Operations Centers at the soonest possible time. In his courtesy call with the different local chief executives, all have expressed support to his project to setup local CCTV systems before the end of 2009.

The NCRPO chief said that he would continue to implement programs that are directed towards improving both efficiency and effectiveness of the police force in enforcing law, fighting crime, and promoting public safety.

Only last month, Rosales issued Blackberry mobile phones to all District Offices and City/Municipality Police Offices to provide them facility to get online real-time verification of vehicle registration from the Land Transportation Office (LTO), motor vehicle clearance and alarm from the PNP Highway Patrol Group (HPG), and Warrant of Arrest information from the National Bureau of Investigation. NCRPO has solved numerous cases because of timely retrieval of information from LTO and NBI databases.

Efforts are on the way to enable these equipment to have access to other databases of other law enforcement agencies. PDIR Rosales believes such collaboration and coordination would be helpful in the successful conduct of police investigations. (PNA)

MILF role in Sinnott’s release a step to peace – Malacañang

Malacañang today expressed gratitude to the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) for brokering the safe release of Irish priest Father Michael Sinnott.

The MILF turned the priest over to government officials in Barangay Sangali in Zamboanga City early this morning.

In an interview with members of the media, Press Secretary Cerge Remonde described the gesture as a manifestation of the MILF’s sincerity and commitment to the cause of peace.

He added that the palace is now more hopeful than ever that “the GRP (Government of the Republic of the Philippines) and the MILF can resume formal peace talks in December.”

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) made a similar observation, saying “the MILF central leadership played an indispensable role in securing the priest’s release.”

"These circumstances underscore the obligation of both sides to maintain an environment conducive to the conduct of peace talks, which we all hope will bring lasting peace and progress to Mindanao," a DFA statement reads.

The European Union also chimed in, noting that Sinnott's release will make a positive effect on the peace negotiation.

Sinnott was abducted on Oct. 11 in Pagadian City, Zamboanga del Sur. He spent 32 days in captivity. (PND)

Turnover of Deed of Donations & Briefing on New Disaster Mitigation Actions

San Luis Sports Complex, Sta. Cruz, Laguna
12 November 2009

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo witnessed the turnover of two portable toilets given by the Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA) for the Sta. Cruz evacuation center.

In a briefing on disaster mitigation, especially on logging and sewerage, the President issued a directive to the Philippine National Police in Region IV to intensify its campaign against illegal logging and protect forested areas particularly in Mount Banahaw.

Residents and police authorities must also work together on the campaign against illegal logging activities in Mount Banahaw.

Turnover Ceremony for the First Worldwide Inter Operability for Microwave Access WIMAX Internet Connection Under the Smart Schools Program

Paguiran High School, Barangay Paguiran, Floridablanca Pampanga

Courtesy Call by Hon. Hillary Rodham Clinton, Secretary of State of the USA

Bahay Pangarap, PSG Compound
12 November 2009

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo formally welcomed United States of America Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton in a courtesy call at the Bahay Pangarap, PSG Compound in Malacanang.

The call was immediately followed by the conferment of President Arroyo of the Order of Sikatuna with the rank of datu to Secretary Clinton. It was bestowed to the secretary because of her extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples; vision of a global village and her advocay of women's and children's rights; relentless efforts in promoting world peace and a more secure future for all; staunch suppport to Filipino World War II veterans, in recognition of their military service and the grant of their long-due benefits; and exceptional and meritorious efforts in fostering and deepening relations between the Philippines and the United States.

President Arroyo hosted an official dinner for Secretary Clinton and her delegation right after the conferment.

Earlier, the State Secretary had a joint press conference with Department of Foreign Affairs Secretary at the Goldbenberg Mansion in Malacanang. Secretary Clinton entertained questions both from the Filipino and American press. It was followed by her visit to Malanday High School in Marikina where she led the ribbon-cutting of a book fair. In her short message, the secretary announced the additional relief funds to be given by the American government worth US $5 million. She said that the assistance will be used by the typhoon victims to build classrooms, acquire 300,000 books and desks, and avail water and sanitation facilities.(*CTP)

RP IT spending to reach US$580M in 2011

By Alexander Villafania

MANILA, Philippines—The Philippines public sector information technology spending is expected to be worth US$580 million in 2011, according to a report by IT research firm Springboard Research. Public sector IT expenditures also include budgets for government IT projects.

This growth is pegged on the continuation of government IT projects, as well as a robust political environment that prioritizes public necessity and transparency, something that is found wanting among past controversial IT projects, such as the failed ZTE-NBN project and the much-maligned election computerization in 2004.

During a press conference Michael Barnes Springboard Research vice president for Software and Asia Pacific Research cited trends in past expenditures of the Philippine government when it comes to IT infrastructure. In 2007, IT spending was pegged at US$349.2 million, which increased to US$390 million in 2008.

In the next two years, the trend will continue as government agencies, particularly those in the national level, will spend on new IT infrastructure for both internal and public sector purposes. This growth is rated to be about 12 to 13 percent per year.

“If there are points that can be expected to show some stronger presence and spur further IT growth in the Philippines, that would be increased broadband penetration, cloud computing, service-oriented architecture, and the growing offshore outsourcing industry,” Barnes said.

Barnes, however, stressed that as for now the majority of IT spending is on maintenance. He expects this to change as there would be a shift to spending on new projects, especially with the entry of a new Philippine administration in 2010. Barnes ascribed an improving IT public expenditure to a good political environment.

He also said that one positive effect of higher investments in government IT programs is increased transparency, which should minimize under-the-table dealings between government officials and technology suppliers.

“The culture of graft is nothing unique to the Philippines; it is every country's concern. But by implementing these IT infrastructures should expose the reasons why these happen. It also forces accountability among parties involved,” Barnes said.

Past IT government projects in the Philippines have been scrutinized for various reasons, most of which is regarding questionable bidding and implementation. Aside from the failed National Broadband Network fiasco, there is also the Department of Education's “Cyber Education” project, and the current plans for the 2010 poll automation.

One of the companies that is eyeing this huge public IT spending market in the Philippines is the Public Sector division of technology firm HP. Even while it is relatively new in the public IT services deployment business in the Philippines (ostensibly dominated by IBM and its partners), the company is looking at raking in some of the government IT projects.

HP Asia Pacific and Japan Director for Public Sector Poh Chuan Tan noted that cloud computing is one of the new technologies that are being integrated into government projects, partly because of demand for streamlined IT infrastructure management and maximization.

Tan said their public IT service deployments cover a broad range of public sector requirements from healthcare, security, life sciences, social services, emergency management, web services, among others.

On the question of preventing illegal transactions during bidding and implementation of these projects, HP Public Sector Director of Sales Gerry Lim said their company exercises strict business practices when dealing with government projects.

“It is a concern that we make sure does not affect our business,” said Lim.

MPIC raises stake in Citra Tollways to 13%

Also set to infuse $123M in Skyway project
By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

METRO PACIFIC INVESTMENTS CORP. HAS STRUCK a deal with an Indonesian conglomerate to raise its stake in Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. (CMMTC)—operator of the Skyway—to 13 percent from two percent.

Citra Group of Indonesia controls 66 percent of CMMTC, of which 11 percent will be acquired by MPIC.

The company has also committed to invest about $123 million in the Skyway project—a third of which will be infused this year, MPIC president Jose Ma. Lim said in a briefing yesterday.

Lim told reporters after MPIC’s special stockholders meeting that the company would also buy CMMTC shares held by other investors.

CMMTC is a joint venture between Citra and the state-owned Philippine National Construction Corp. Apart from the PNCC, distressed asset manager Avenue Asia also has an 18-percent stake in CMMTC.

The MPIC term sheet with Citra group was scheduled for signing yesterday afternoon, Lim said.

The CMMTC consortium has already invested about $504 million in Skyway, which currently has daily vehicular traffic of about 180,000.

At present, CMMTC cash flow is estimated to range between P3.5 to P4 billion a year. This is expected to increase after the expansion program.

In 2008, CMMTC posted a net income of P1 billion.

The first phase of Skyway is the 9.3-km elevated expressway from Buendia, Makati to Bicutan, Parañaque, and the 13.5-km at-grade South Luzon Expressway from Magallanes to Alabang.

The second phase, currently under construction, is the 6.88-km. elevated expressway from Bicutan to Alabang.

MPIC officials said the acquisition of an economic interest in Skyway is part of its goal of building an efficient network of roads.

Also, MPIC’s unit Manila North Tollways Corp. (MNTC) is planning a P20-billion integrated rail and tollway joint venture with state-owned Philippine National Railways to link the expressways.

More companies report earnings--PNB, Metro Pacific, ABS-CBN

PNB net income rises 134%
2009 a banner year

THE NET PROFIT of the Philippine National Bank (PNB), the country’s fifth largest, more than doubled in the nine months to September, with strong revenue flows coming from loans and securities trading.

In a statement, the bank, controlled by tycoon Lucio Tan, said its net income rose to P2.11 billion as of September, 134% higher year-on-year.

PNB said this bottomline is "unprecedented."

"The year 2009 is proving to be a banner year for PNB," it said. "The bank is expected to close the year with its highest bottomline income performance ever in 12 years, now surpassing the P2 billion mark."

PNB shares closed at P23.25 apiece yesterday, 25 centavos less than on Wednesday.

PNB’s said its net interest income jumped by 30% to P6 billion, after it extended more loans. It also saw wider interest margins.

Loans and receivables totaled P113.9 billion, 24% higher year-on-year. Deposits, on the other hand, summed up to P211.1 billion, around 5% more.

Non-interest income, meanwhile, surged by half to P5.6 billion during the nine-month period, buoyed by a vast improvement in its securities trading gains.

"Net trading and investment securities gains were positive at P1.02 billion," PNB reported, "up 215% from year-ago levels partly due to favorable mark-to-market valuations of securities."

PNB’s securities trading business took a hit last year from mark-to-market valuations amid high interest rates and volatility in the financial markets. It was not the only victim, however, with most big banks reporting lower profits last year due to poor trading gains.

The bank also said it recorded a profit from its share in the net income of Allied Commercial Bank based in Xiamen, China. PNB, together with Allied Bank, also controlled by Mr. Tan, infused an equity investment in Allied Commercial this year, allowing it to gain a foothold in the Chinese market.

PNB and Allied Bank intend to merge but could not do so until Allied Bank sells its stake in a US bank. The merger would result in Allied Bank becoming a subsidiary of PNB, the surviving entity.

The US, however, has imposed strict rules against the entry of foreign banks.


Metro Pacific nets P2B in nine months

PANGILINAN-LED Metro Pacific Investments Corp. remains on track in meeting its year-end targets after its major operations showed strong results from January to September.

Analysts however are optimistic that the company will beat its forecast as it starts to equitize earnings made by Manila Electric Co. (Meralco).

Net income of the holding company from January to September stood at P2.08 billion, significantly higher than the restated P638 million posted over last year. Metro Pacific said the results represent the contribution of its water distribution and toll operations businesses.

“Our nine-month profits underscored the significant progress which Metro Pacific has made in realizing its strategic objective of being the country’s leading infrastructure company,” Metro Pacific President Jose Ma. K. Lim said.

Metro Pacific Chairman Manuel V. Pangilinan, meanwhile, said the strong performance across all its units affirms the company’s previously announced P1.5-billion net income target for the year.

“The additional investments in Meralco and North Harbor to our expanding business portfolio serve to reinforce Metro Pacific’s position as the preeminent infrastructure company in the Philippines,” Mr. Pangilinan said.

An analyst interviewed said there is a high probability that the company will be able to beat its forecast for the year, especially since it will start recognizing profits made by the power distributor now that it holds a 14.7% stake in Meralco.

As of the third quarter however, its water distribution business Maynilad Water Services, Inc., and toll road business Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. (MPTC) still account for the highest chunk of the holding firm’s profits with each unit contributing 48% and 45%, respectively. The health care group made up the balance of 7% or P131 million.

Maynilad registered a net income of P2.33 billion during the period, compared with P1.75 billion last year after its billed volume increased by 11.6% to 257.2 million cubic meters from January to September and nonrevenue water improved by 58% from 63% in the same period last year.

The west zone water conces-sionaire has recently secured the approval of the Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System to extend its concession term extension application for another 15 years.

Meanwhile, Metro Pacific Tollways reported a net income of P1.18 billion from January to September versus the P747 million reported last year, attributable to the higher-than-expected traffic reported by Manila North Tollways Corp. and the higher contribution of Tollways Management Corp. (TMC).

Manila North Tollways holds the concession to operate and maintain the North Luzon Expressway (NLEx), and is 67.1% owned by Metro Pacific Tollways. TMC operates the NLEx for Manila North Tollways, and has an interim agreement to operate and maintain Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway. TMC is owned 46.0% by Metro Pacific Tollways.

MPTC continues to venture in linking the network of toll roads from Alabang to Subic through the expansion of its existing concessions.

The construction of the 2.7-kilometer toll road under Phase 2 Segment 8.1, linking Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to NLEx in Valenzuela City, is on track for completion by May 2010. This will decongest the main Balintawak entry point during peak hours of traffic.

Aside from these two units, Metro Pacific’s other portfolio includes its health care investments in Davao Doctors Hospital, Medical Doctors, Inc., owner and operator of the Makati Medical Center and Colinas Verdes Hospital Managers Corp., operator of Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

Along with sister Pilipino Telephone Corp., Metro Pacific also holds a 14.7% stake in Meralco and has recently secured a deal with Lopez-led First Philippine Holdings Corp. to acquire the latter’s 6.7% stake in the power distributor by March 31, 2010.

Early in October of this year, the Philippine Ports Authority has also awarded to a consortium led by Metro Pacific and Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc. the development, management, operation and maintenance of the Manila North Harbour for a period of 25 years where it plans to spend P14.5 billion for the modernization and rearrangement of the existing ports, and expansion of its operational area from 52 to 70 hectares.

Yesterday, the minority stockholders of the company approved the company’s plan to issue more than six billion common shares to parent Metro Pacific Holdings, Inc. for P3 each and the listing of the said shares in the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Following the approval, Metro Pacific is now the third-largest listed holding company with a free float of 26% from just 2% prior to the approval. It is also among the top 20 largest listed firms in the bourse.


ABS-CBN core net income up to P1.4 B
Manila Bulletin

The country’s largest multimedia conglomerate ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation posted core net income of P1.4 billion for January to September 2009, 16 percent higher than its net income of P1.2 billion for the same period in 2008.

The firm said this figure also exceeds its net income of P1.38 billion for the full year of 2008.

Net of PFRS 3 adjustments relating to the consolidation of Skycable amounting to P50 million, the reported net income of ABS-CBN comes to P1.35 billion, 12 percent more than its P1.2 billion net income for the first nine months of 2008.

For the period January to September 2009, ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corporation generated consolidated revenues of P18.34 billion, an 11 percent year-on-year growth over the first nine months of 2008.

The revenue diversification of the ABS0-CBN continues to improve as direct sales including sales of services from Skycable grew 19 percent year-on-year to P7.67 billion, contributing 42 percent to consolidated revenues.

Airtime revenues of P10.68 billion contributed 58 percent, as it grew 5 percent year-on-year. (ABS-CBN’s comparative financial results include the contributions of Skycable for three quarters of 2009 versus the 2nd and 3rd quarters of 2008).

Direct sales from core businesses in the third quarter amounted to P1.79 billion, a 6 percent year-on-year growth, bringing consolidated direct sales for the January to September period to P5 billion, P305 million or 6 percent more than it was in the same period last year.

ABS-CBN Global continued to deliver double-digit growth as its subscription revenues managed to grow by 15 percent year-on-year despite economic slowdown in most of its major markets, while Star Cinema’s three film releases during the third quarter pulled in a combined P282 million in box office receipts.

Consolidated direct sales for the third quarter including sales of services from Skycable totalled P2.7 billion, for a 6 percent year-on-year growth.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Peso may rise to 44, Phisix to hit 3,600

by Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard
With Bloomberg

The Philippine peso is seen to rise further against the US dollar during the election year of 2010, with political risks becoming less of a factor in foreign exchange and equities in the country.

“Political risk is becoming less and less of a concern,” Paul Raymond Favila, president of the Money Market Association of the Philippines, told reporters in a news briefing at Traders Hotel in Pasay City yesterday.

The Philippine equities index, meanwhile, may rise to a record in 2010 with energy, property and mining stocks gaining the most from low interest rates, a pickup in consumer demand and economic growth, ING Investment Management Ltd. said.

The manager of the three best performing Philippine equities funds this year is holding more energy, property and mining shares than the allocation in the benchmark index, said Paul Joseph Garcia, chief investment officer at ING’s Manila unit. He’s reducing holdings of consumer, banking and telecommunications stocks.

The Philippine Stock Exchange Index may climb to 3,600 in 2010 as economic growth accelerates to 3.2 percent and corporate earnings increase between 15 percent and 20 percent, Garcia said. Macquarie Group Ltd. said last week the benchmark may reach a new high in the second half.

Favila, who is also a director of Citi N.A., said none of the presidential candidates who have the highest likelihood of winning worries the market. “The Philippines has matured economically and politically,” he said.

The trend, he said, began in 2001, when not even the subsequent protest rallies and coup attempts against the administration affected the market as much as during the Marcos or Aquino years.

However, he said the market would still watch the continuity of economic policy and stability under the next administration.

The stock index has rallied 60 percent this year, the third best performer in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Vietnam, on expectation record-low interest rates and a 15-percent increase in government spending will help ease falling exports amid the global recession. The measure closed at a record 3,873.50 on Oct. 8, 2007.

Dalmacio Martin, senior vice president of Banco de Oro Unibank Inc., said there was a general consensus among bankers that the peso would be stronger in 2010, especially against the greenback.

“Most of the [investment] houses we talked to were saying that the peso will appreciate to about 44 to 46 against the dollar next year,” Martin said.

Bangko Sentral: Trying to kill the peso

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

ARE you ready to pay more than P50 a liter for gasoline? When it happens, do not blame the oil companies. Don’t even blame the world price of crude oil. Blame the government and its peso exchange-rate policy.

Since the high in March 2009, the dollar has depreciated against a basket of world currencies by 15 percent. Since its low in March, the peso has appreciated against the dollar by less than 2 percent. In effect, our economic powers-that-be have decided to peg or fix the peso against the dollar at an exchange rate of about 47 to $1.

You may think that this has little impact on your wealth. Wrong. You are now paying about P6 to P7 more for a liter of gasoline than you should.

In March, the price of crude oil was $40 a barrel. Currently, crude is trading at $77 a barrel. In March, at an exchange rate of P48 to $1, one barrel of oil cost P1,920. As of yesterday, with the exchange rate at P47, a barrel of oil cost P3,619. That is an increase in peso terms of 89 percent.

We are told that the reason the price of gasoline is higher today than in March is because of the increase in the world price of crude oil. Yet due to exchange-rate polices, the increase in its price in the Philippines is greater than for our neighbors.

The Thai baht exchanged at 36 to $1 in March. Now the rate is 33 baht to $1. Converting the price of a barrel of oil based on the 10-percent appreciation of the baht, the Philippines is paying at least 10 percent more for oil than the people in Thailand. This is only because of our government’s policy.

Had Philippine financial authorities allowed the peso to appreciate against the dollar and take its natural course, we could be paying about 10 percent to 15 percent less for oil than we are now.

The rationale for keeping the peso in the narrow band of about 3-percent fluctuation is “exchange-rate stability,” according to the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP). This can be a valid strategy. Too much volatility is bad for business planning.

Thai baht volatility was no greater on a daily basis at any time during the March to November 2009 period than the peso. More important, any excess volatility could have been stopped easily and quickly with BSP intervention while still maintaining and allowing market forces to appreciate the peso.

The argument that the BSP has controlled the peso exchange rate to decrease wild price swings is just plain false.

The more logical reason for the BSP to keep the peso pegged at around 47 to the dollar is to give more peso value to remitted money. It is probable that remitted dollars to the Philippines would now only receive P40 to P43 for each dollar rather than the current P47 had the BSP stayed out of the market.

However, the policy fails here also. The amount of pesos received for each remitted dollar means nothing if the purchasing power of those pesos is lower. At the pegged rate of P47, you get P47 that can buy one liter of gasoline, for example. Yet at P43 to the dollar, you could potentially buy 1.10 liters of gasoline, as much as 10 percent more, as shown in the price difference between the Philippines and Thailand.

Under the BSP policy, anyone who currently receives remitted dollars gets more pesos that buy less. And the overall economy suffers because remittances are only a part of the economy. The rest of the nondollar remitted part of the economy suffers because of artificially higher prices for imported goods like oil.

Continuing to peg the peso could have disastrous effects in the future when the dollar moves another 10 percent to 20 percent lower, which is very realistic. The worrisome thing is that the drop could be very quick.

In the last week, the dollar has depreciated by 2.5 percent. The peso has appreciated by about 1.5 percent. The 1.5-percent change in a week is manageable, although some peso-dollar adjustment will have to be made if this trend continues. Eventually the peso must appreciate in comparison to the dollar-value decrease. However, the dollar right now is very fragile.

There is a strong potential for a 2.5-percent movement of the dollar against the world’s major currencies in one day. If that occurred, the Philippines would suddenly have a very much-undervalued currency which would negatively impact countless Philippine international trade and financial transactions.

Yesterday the BSP “urged emerging economies to retain the dollar as the world’s reserve currency.” Are you kidding me? Dear BSP, no one cares the slightest about your opinion. Come on. Tell the truth. Did Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke ask you to say that?

The US dollar is becoming more and more a worthless piece of paper. And it is going to get worse. The BSP reminds us that 77 percent of the Philippines’ $40 billion in foreign reserves is in dollars. Too bad the BSP did not do what India just did and convert $6.7 billion into something valuable: 200 tons of gold.

So you and I are overpaying for crude oil, the BSP is bowing to the US dollar, and the rest of the world is dumping greenback as fast as possible.

On October 7, I wrote: “As of this writing the dollar index is 76.293, the spot gold price is $1,040, the peso is 46.60 and the PSE index is 2,967. Three of these four will be significantly increased in value by the end of the year.”

The dollar index is now 74.923, gold is $1,106, the PSE is 2,995 and the peso is 46.79.

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

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Wanted: 50,000 techies to man poll machines

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—At least 50,000 information technology (IT) people are needed for the automated elections in May, the Commission on Elections (Comelec) announced Tuesday.

Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said in a press briefing that the IT personnel would work for Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM) group, which won the P7.2-billion contract for the country’s first national electronic balloting.

The techies will help in the operation and maintenance of the 82,000 Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines to be used in the polling.

Some of the IT employees will be deployed in the field, others in the company’s call center to respond to technical questions.

The Comelec and the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) are also training 500 IT experts for the Board of Election Inspectors (BEI), Larrazabal said.

To ensure that the operations will be smooth on election day, the poll body has mandated that at least one member of the BEI should have IT knowledge and training on how to handle PCOS machines.

The Comelec has coordinated with the local IT industry for its personnel requirements, Larrazabal said.

The Comelec is planning to field 100 IT experts to various municipalities and cities to supervise the poll proceedings.

Volunteers from the Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting, the Comelec’s citizens’ arm, will also train for the project.

All the IT workers will be accredited by the DOST.

Training in January

Bonifacio Belen, Smartmatic-TIM manager, said the company last week held a workshop to develop methods on hiring and training of personnel. The company will start training the employees in January next year.

“There is no shortage of patriotic and IT-savvy Filipinos who want to be part of history,” Belen said.

Smartmatic-TIM has tapped manpower firms Placewell, Manred and Ventureslink to hire the support staff. Interested applicants are advised to send their resumés to these agencies.

Nonpartisan hires

The Comelec has directed its contractor to implement measures to ensure that employees hired are nonpartisan, Larrazabal said.

He said applicants to key positions would undergo background checks and those hired would not be assigned to their home areas.

Under the Comelec’s rules, only BEI members will handle the election and voting machines. Smartmatic-TIM employees will advise the BEI members should the machines malfunction.

Here comes jeepney’s replacement, the Beep

Roy Pelovello
Manila Standard

ABOUT half of the 400,000 jeepneys in the country may no longer be allowed to ply their routes next year following stricter registration standards, an official said yesterday.

Alberto Suansing, chairman of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board, made the statement at the launching of the Beep, a combination bus and jeep, as an alternative to the jeepney, a modified version of the Jeep used by the US military during World War II.

The Beep was inspired by the European Gruau Microbus and is a project of Almazora Motors Corp. and Mitsubishi Motors Philippines.

“The [Land Transportation Office] has come up with new regulations on the inspection of motor vehicles, and we expect many public utility vehicles will not meet the requirements,” Suansing said.

“I would say almost 50 percent of the jeepney population will be affected.”

The LTO will require public utility vehicles—jeepneys in particular—to have speedometers, hand brakes, headlights and wipers, among other things, according to Joel Donato, head of the agency’s Motor Vehicle Inspection Service.

“We are implementing these requirements with the start of registration in January 2010,” he said.

Suansing said jeepney owners failing to comply with the new rules should start thinking of buying brand-new replacements—including the Beep.

A brand-new jeepney with a surplus engine costs around P450,000, and a new one with a new diesel engine is priced around P600,000.

By comparison, a Beep costs around P1.6 million. The Beep’s body is designed and manufactured by Almazora Motors, while the chassis with its brand-new FUSO Canter light-duty truck engine is supplied by Mitsubishi Motors Philippines. Mitsubishi says the engine complies fully with Philippine emission and safety regulations.

The Beep can carry 26 passengers, with seating for 18 including the driver and standing for eight.

“The first consideration here is safety. Some of [the jeepneys] are accidents waiting to happen, and then you have environmental concerns,” Suansing said, adding the LTO’s new requirements dovetailed with his agency’s goal of reducing the number of jeepneys on the streets and replacing them with the Beeps.

Almazora’s vice president for vehicle sales, Dante Santos, said the Beep could be the answer to Metro Manila’s worsening traffic and pollution problems.

He cited a government report saying jeepneys contribute 50 percent of the pollution in the area, and that the traffic flow there is choked “by oversized jeepneys with an excessive turning radius that usually clog the U-turn slots.”

Around 70,000 of the estimated 400,000 jeepneys in the country ply routes in Metro Manila.


Mitsubishi Philippines, partner launch bus-jeepney crossbreed

Patrick Everett Tadeo

Mitsubishi Motors Philippines (MMPC) and partner Almazora Motors introduced a fresh alternative to jeepney and buses: the BEEP.

The BEEP, inspired by Europe's Gruau Microbus, is a micro bus that is suitable for Metro Manila's crowded streets--making it an ideal replacement for jeepneys and Asian utility vehicle (AUV).

"The auto industry should not only care about selling brand new vehicles but also take a lead role in improving the mass transport system," Mitsubishi Philippnies president and chief executive Masahiko Ueki said. "Since no assembler has really pursued to modernize the public transportation, MMPC as a socially responsible automotive company have collaborated with Almazora to come up with a better solution for mass transportation."

Using a FUSO Canter light duty truck chassis from Mitsubishi Philippines, Almazora Motors designed and manufactured a bus body that can accommodate 18 passengers on bench-type seats and up to eight standing commuters.

The BEEP's Mitsubishi engine complies with Euro emission standards, making it more environment-friendly than surplus Japanese engines used in today's jeepneys. Its high-roof, low-floor, and large wraparound windows make the interior roomier while reducing the driver's blind spots.

The BEEP is also fully-configurable depending on the needs of the client. Almazora executive vice president Conrad Almazora said his company can manufacture as much as 50 standard-configuration BEEPs a month, with a turnaround time of one month from order placement.

The bus-jeepney hybrid of Mitsubishi Philippines and Almazora is priced at P1.6 million, almost twice the price of an AUV. Its revenue potential, however, is more than double due to the larger seating capacity. Acquisition is also easier through bank financing.

Philippine index may rise to record in 2010, ING says

Jun Cruz
Business Mirror

THE Philippine equities index may rise to a record in 2010 with energy, property and mining stocks gaining the most from low interest rates, a pickup in consumer demand and economic growth, ING Investment Management Ltd. said.

The manager of the three best-performing Philippine equities funds this year is holding more energy, property and mining shares than the allocation in the benchmark index, said Paul Joseph Garcia, chief investment officer at ING Manila. He’s reducing holdings of consumer, banking and telecommunications stocks.

The Philippine Stock Exchange index may climb to 3,600 points in 2010 as economic growth accelerates to 3.2 percent and corporate earnings increase between 15 percent and 20 percent, Garcia said. Macquarie Group Ltd. said last week the benchmark may reach a new high in the second half. The measure rose 2.8 percent to 2,996.71 at the noon close yesterday, a 19- month high.

“Anything better than those numbers and we could see the index hitting a new record,” Garcia said, adding that ING prefers “names that will benefit most from low interest rates and the ongoing economic recovery.”

ING forecast a 1.4-percent economic growth and 8-percent earnings growth this year, he said. The government has forecast economic growth to range between 0.8 percent and 1.8 percent this year, after expanding 4.6 percent in 2008.

The Philippine stock index has rallied 60 percent this year, the third best-performer in Southeast Asia after Indonesia and Vietnam, on expectation record-low interest rates and a 15-percent increase in government spending will help ease falling exports amid the global recession. The measure closed at a record 3,873.50 on October 8, 2007.

Energy Development Corp., the largest Philippine producer of geothermal energy, and Philex Mining Corp., the nation’s biggest metals company, are among power and materials-related stocks that ING has been acquiring, Garcia said.

The ING Philippine High Conviction Equity Fund, the nation’s best performer with a 101-percent gain this year, had 22 percent of its portfolio invested in Philex and Energy Development at end-September. Among the nation’s developers, ING owns shares of Ayala Land Inc., Megaworld Corp., Robinsons Land Corp. and SM Prime Holdings Inc., as a new law allowing real estate investment trusts next year will boost these stocks, Garcia said.

Ayala Land and Megaworld, the two biggest Philippine homebuilders, will also gain on expectations demand for homes will increase as economic growth accelerates and the central bank is expected keep interest rates low, he said.

Tuesday, 10 November 2009

RP is world's offshoring destination of the year for second time

Tacloban City (PIA) -- For the second time, the Philippines has been chosen by the 4th National Outsourcing Association Awards in London as the 2009 Offshoring Destination of the Year, besting Egypt, Malaysia, Russia and Sri Lanka, among others. The first time was in 2007.

This is a most welcome recognition that will further boost the morale of the local outsourcing industry. It is a manifestation that the outsourcing sector in the Philippines, with the full support of the government, is world class and has the capacity to compete with the best.

"Time and again, the Philippines has validated its status as a world BPO market leader. We at the Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP) will continue to give our efforts in making the industry achieve bigger and greater milestones," says BPAP Chief Executive Officer Mr. Oscar Sanez.

BPAP submitted the Philippine entry for the NOA category nomination with the help of the Philippine Commercial Attache's office in London. BPAP is the umbrella trade association of the Philippine BPO industry representing the entire spectrum of BPO and IT-enabled services including customer service, back office outsourcing, software development, engineering design, digital animation, and game development.

The Philippine BPO industry generated 6.1 billion US dollars in export revenues in 2008 employing close to 400,000 workers making the Philippines the world's second biggest BPO player next only to India.

On November 16–17, a 15-member business delegation is scheduled to hold a Philippine BPO Networking Forum in London. The delegation will be led by the BPAP and the Commission on Information and Communication Technology, the lead government agency tasked to oversee the development of ICT in the Philippines, including ensuring the growth of the IT-BPO industry.

After the event, the RP delegation is set to participate at NOA's 7th Annual Sourcing Summit on November 18-19 at the Guoman Tower Hotel where both CICT Secretary Ray Anthony Roxas-Chua III and BPAP Executive Officer Oscar Sanez will be speaking before the plenary on the second day of the UK conference.

The National Outsourcing Association, the United Kingdom's only outsourcing trade association, advocates best practices among outsourcing end users, vendors and support groups - legal firms, consultancies and Human Resources firms. It is likewise involved in research, events, education and public affairs. (PIA 8)

The ‘experts’ are bashing RP again

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

Economists are a part of the only profession in the world where forecasts and projections do not have to be accurate as long as they can (or try to) justify the analysis.

Eric LeBornge, senior economist for the World Bank’s Philippine office in Manila, wrote this on April 7, 2009. From the “We have revised our estimate downward for the dollar growth rate of remittances to the Philippines to minus 4 percent.” This is after he writes earlier that, “Empirical research finds that, on the whole, remittances have been countercyclical in the Philippines.” That is economist-speak for “The Philippines does not follow the predictions. But this time, I guarantee, remittances will drop.”

Jump ahead to November 2009, and the WB reports: “The remarkable resiliency of remittance flows to the Philippines has been surprising but welcome.” And these people are the economic “experts.” Imagine if your doctor tells you this past April you have terminal cancer. Then seven months later, “Oops, remember that cancer thing? Surprise! I was wrong. I hope you didn’t make any decisions based on my faulty diagnosis.”

But this is the Philippines we are talking about, and that means even when the experts are wrong, they are still right. There is always something negative you can say about the Philippines.

Yesterday the BusinessMirror headline read “BPO boom masks failure” that quoted more of Mr. Le-Bornge’s fantastic economic analysis and quoted the WB’s latest “East Asia and Pacific Update.”

Of course, absolutely every “analysis” on the Philippines must include comments about how the Philippines lags the rest of the region in building its manufacturing base. “The Philippines was the most developed country in developing Asia in the 1950s, but subpar rates of growth, coupled with policies protecting inefficient manufacturing....” One time I asked one of the experts what goods he thought the Philippines should be manufacturing for export. I am still waiting for the answer.

We tried that manufacturing-for-export thing once: sports shoes. You probably remember the factories in Laguna making “rubber shoes.” That worked well. Within five years the Chinese had taken all that business because they did not have to put up with annoying little things like labor laws and labor unions. China has proven one economic truth in the last decade. If a country does not care about free speech, free assembly, free travel, basic worker rights, minimum-wage laws, they can become an economic miracle.

But back to LeBornge’s put-down of the Philippine outsourcing business. I can say honestly that a good portion of his and the WB’s analysis contains some of the worst, most ignorant and intellectually deficient material I have had the displeasure of reading.

The WB begins by saying, “Business-process outsourcing [BPO] focuses only on employing educated and skilled individuals.” That is typical of the elitist, socialist propaganda that comes from organizations like the WB. Their statement implies there is something wrong with providing employment to the educated. Yet these same people also complain when our best and brightest look abroad for employment.

You cannot have it both ways, and this analysis is dishonest. It serves only to bash the Philippines.

The article continues, “LeBorgne said employees in the BPO sector belong to families who cannot be considered poor or even near-poor.” LeBorgne is an ignorant donkey, to be polite. I challenge him to make and justify that statement to the tens of thousands of employees in this industry whose higher BPO salaries pay for basic necessities and the education of siblings which would otherwise go lacking. Shame on you for your ignorance, Mr. LeBorgne.

It is astounding to me that economists seem to lose reason when speaking of the Philippines. LeBornge also says that “employees of the BPO sector only contribute to poverty reduction indirectly through tax collection.” A basic tenet when examining the economic consequences of employment is to look at the multiplier effect of that employment. LeBornge would have us believe that no other jobs are created by directly employing 500,000 as agents in the outsourcing industry. This is completely false.

Take a call-center site that employs 800 agents. Those 800 are supported by 20 or more security personnel. Likewise 20 or more maintenance people also have jobs. There are also food-service people, drivers and other less-skilled individuals that benefit. And because these call-center agents are more highly educated and skilled, most came from other jobs in banks, hotels, you name it. And when they came to BPO, they left a job opening that could be filled by someone else.

Every job creates positive ripples throughout the economy. And the fact is that higher skills and, therefore, higher-paying jobs have a greater positive impact on the economy than low-skilled employment.

I know that you have heard this same argument from me many times. And I am going to continue to repeat it because someone must counter the foolishness that is constantly said about the Philippines.

There is a real danger listening to the ridiculous analysis of people like LeBornge. It is comparable to the computer axiom of “garbage in; garbage out.” Decisions based on faulty reasoning and analyses are faulty decisions. We see it in many other areas of the economy and in our policymaking.

Rational, reasonable and critical preservation of the environment has been replaced by climate-change hysteria based on false, manipulated and, at times, fraudulent information. Consequently, genuine action to protect the environment is substituted by meaningless, wasteful stupidity.

Is there a conspiracy to keep the Philippines down? Maybe. If the Philippines was not a poorer country, the “experts” might not have a job because perhaps no one else would listen to their nonsense.

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

Scheme boosts quality of labor, averts job mismatch

Anjo C. Alimario
Business Mirror

INDUSTRIES, foreign institutions and academic institutions have joined hands in raising the quality of the labor force in the Philippines and avoiding job mismatch as the country engages in the fast-driven global economy.

The initiative is being spearheaded by the European Information Technology Service Center Foundation Inc. (EITSC), Hanns Seidel Foundation (HSF) Germany, European Union (EU), Rainmaker Asia, University of Makati (UMak), Rizal Technology University (RTU) and UP System Information Technology Foundation (UPSITF).

In the project entitled “Establishment of Market-driven and Technology-based Courses and Further Training for the Information-Technology Sector in the National Capital Region, Philippines,” EITSC, Hanns Seidel and EU came up with a “human-capacity initiative” to develop the Filipino students’ employability and strengthen the curriculum of the academe.

The project is a five-year institutional strengthening of the EITSC that aimed to improve its capability in implementing IT education and training, and in adopting the dualized training system (DTS).

The project developed the dualized training resources, which was launched at the DTS forum on Friday.

The dualized training resources include a competency standard, a competency-based curriculum and 53 learning packages for contact-center servicing (CCS). It is a result of the compilation of knowledge, skills and attitudes identified by Rainmaker Asia and UMak.

The competency standard and competency-based curriculum for CCS are versions of the competency standard and competency-based Curriculum on Contact Center Services used by Technical Education and Skills Development Authority for the information and communication technology sector.

The dualized training resources are currently integrated into the short-term and associate degree courses on CCS of UMak and the contact-center program of RTU.

Rainmaker Asia accommodates the students for industry training, and the EITSC facilitates the implementation of the program. Concurrently, a competency standard and competency-based curriculum for computer-aided design and drafting have been completed.

Dualized training system

DTS is a strategy that aims to “fill the gap” between what is taught in school and the skills required by the industry. A practical approach, DTS is pivotal in developing the country’s “human-resource supply base” which, in turn, aids its position as a trade and investment destination.

It makes use of two training venues—the school and its partner company—to prepare the students with the necessary training in theory and practice.

DTS is also a teaching process that provides a company the opportunity to include relevant content to a partner educational institution. After the training, students are confidently equipped with skills honed to fit the company’s needs.

Given the competency standards, competency-based curricula, self-contained learning modules, competency assessment instruments and training plans, DTS builds students’ theoretical background as well as hands-on knowledge.

Companies that have incorporated DTS found great improvement in the skills of students. They are more qualified for specific jobs and provide employers with their needed “trained and skilled” graduates. Satisfactory results are established once the students undertake the DTS training. They exhibit good work attitude, superior communication skills, clear direction and enhanced decision-making capabilities.

Inauguration of EITSC computer lab at UPITTC

The DTS forum was highlighted by the inauguration of the EITSC computer laboratory at the UPITTC. This is the third off-site training venue of EITSC where UMak and RTU are the two previous recipient institutions.

HSF helped in financially aiding 25 computer units, a projector, a wall-mounted screen and furniture to be used for UPITTC’s general training and computer instruction as well as EITSC’s training programs.

The UPSITF also contributed four computer units, furniture, Internet connection and operations/maintenance.

The computer laboratory is a big help to “EITSC’s outreach capability and enhance industry-academe partnership in improving competencies and increasing employability through the delivery of market-driven and technology-based education and training for students, teachers, graduates, and professionals,” the EITSC said in its press release.

The same opportunity goes to the under-skilled, under-privileged, urban poor, out-of-school youths and other marginalized members of society.

The partnership between EITSC and UPSITF, according to EITSC executive director Dominic Sabado, strengthens human capacity-building initiatives, and promotes industry relevant and responsive training to IT/BPO professionals and teachers.

EITSC training hub

The EITSC training hub currently offers 45 soft-skills and 28 technical-skills courses. A total of 73 courses that plan to develop the competencies of students, graduates, teachers and knowledge workers.

From 2004, there have been 62 workshops conducted for IT/BPO professionals, and to date, 773 professionals were trained from 171 enterprises and 92 educational institutions.

In collaboration with other partners, English and information technology (IT)-training programs have been offered to the urban poor, out-of-school youths, and differently-abled persons. Thirty workshops have been conducted free to 767 trainees.

The project has provided English and IT training to 688 teachers in Metro Manila. To date, four high-school career orientation seminars have been organized and attended by 394 high-school students to cater to them the career opportunities in IT and BPO.

Manila Water profits up in Q3; utility hikes customer base

J. B. F. Santos

Profits of listed utility Manila Water Co. grew by more than a tenth in the third quarter on the back of higher revenues.

In a disclosure to the stock exchange, Manila Water reported that its net income for the third quarter rose by 14% year on year to P2.3 billion, driven by a 6% increase in core revenues and better tax and operating efficiency. The company’s water sales for the third quarter went up by 1% to 294.5 million cubic meters.

“The completion of our expansion projects helped us meet the growing demands as we increased our customer base,” Rene D. Almendras, Manila Water president, said in a statement.

“Likewise, the strong focus on cost management further improved our operating margins,” Mr. Almendras added.

The company said 54,000 new households were added to its customer base, bringing the total to 1.07 million households.

The company’s nonrevenue water, or water lost in the system, dropped to 15.4%, or 4.8% lower than last year’s level.

The company’s operating costs, however, grew by 3%.

The Metropolitan Waterworks and Sewerage System had already extended the Ayala-led Manila Water’s concession to service western Metro Manila by another 15 years to 2037. The company had said the extension would allow it to infuse investments of up to P450 billion, while tempering increases in water tariffs over the next few years.

Monday, 9 November 2009

Iloilo Flood Control Project slides

More resettlement and housing inspections

Take your bike for a ride on the LRT!

LRT allots ‘green zones’ for bikers

By Tessa Salazar
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—Bicycle commuters who wish to cut travel time while getting some relief from the fumes, noise and maddening traffic of Metro Manila now have a lighter, off-road option.

The Light Rail Transit (LRT) Lines 1 (Baclaran-Monumento) and 2 (Recto-Santolan) Sunday began admitting passengers with bikes in tow, allotting the last coach of each train for these pedal-pushing riders.

Regular fares apply in these so-called “green zone” coaches, but the LRT management is imposing certain conditions: The bikes must be of the “foldable” model and a maximum of only four bikes would be allowed per train.

To welcome the LRT’s “Bike-on Bike-off (Bike O2)” project, about 30 enthusiasts from cycling and outdoor clubs took the inaugural ride on Line 2, boarding the train at the Araneta Center station in Cubao, Quezon City, and getting off at the Legarda station in Manila.

The bikers were led by Sen. Pia Cayetano (an avid cyclist) and LRT Administrator Melquiades Robles. Also present during the launch was Environment Secretary Lito Atienza.

The riders also included this Inquirer reporter and members of Firefly Brigade, Padyak Project Foundation, Tiklop Society and UP Mountaineers.

The Araneta-to-Legarda ride took about 15 minutes. On a bike, the 6.5-km stretch would normally take 30 minutes.

‘Hybrid lifestyle’

Upon detraining at the Legarda station, the bikers unfolded their two-wheelers and pedaled their way down the next 5 km going to Luneta Park.

“This is what I call a hybrid lifestyle. ‘Bike 02’ is an invitation for a change in our lifestyles,” said Robles, who considers himself a “newbie” in cycling.

Robles expressed hope that the project would be a hit especially among the youth.

Cayetano, who had led cycling tours to gather public support for various campaigns, said she may soon start taking the “green” coaches herself, with her foldable bike on hand, as part of her everyday commute to the Senate.

Cayetano said she also planned to buy foldable bikes for members of her staff, who are composed of triathletes and competitive cyclists like her.

Bikers’ passion

“I admire the unceasing, relentless passion of bikers. They have always paved the road [for projects like this],” the senator said.

Cayetano said she looked forward to the day when one can just “take a bike going to Baguio” by getting on and off mass transit systems.

Long-distance bikers have long enjoyed such conveniences in countries like Japan, Hong Kong, Singapore, United States and in the European Union.

“The Clean Air Act is a beautiful law but unless enforced, it becomes a useless statement,” Atienza said. “This is a small but very meaningful step [in fulfilling the law’s objectives].”

“The bicycle—one of the most glorious inventions ever—offers one of the most obvious solutions to society’s problems,” said Ricky Pineda, president of the Firefly Brigade, the cycling group behind the colorful “Tour of the Fireflies” that draws up to 8,000 bikers each year in Metro Manila.

For evaluation

The Bike O2 project will undergo an evaluation by the cycling groups and the LRT administration after three weeks, according to Pineda.

Mia Buñag, also of the Firefly Brigade, cited the mounting “pressure on Asian countries to step up on their climate integration measures.”

The complete set of guidelines for bikers taking the LRT can be found at

The two LRT lines service an average of about 700,000 passengers daily. Line 1, which has 18 stations along its 14.5-km stretch, offers a maximum carrying capacity of 1.3 million. Line 2 can move 600,000 people daily through 11 stations along its 13.8-km track.

How do we raise investment?

By Cielito Habito
Philippine Daily Inquirer

ALONG with officials from the World Bank and the International Finance Corp., I spoke in a panel discussion on stable economy and improved investment climate organized by the WB Manila office last week. The discussion was meant to guide WB on how to advise the new administration that is expected to take over next year on the most critical and strategic interventions needed to address the persistent challenges facing the Philippine economy.

I thought it useful to share with readers some key ideas that emerged from that forum, both from the speakers and from the participants, who were mostly composed of mayors and governors from around the country.

Persistent challenges

The challenge we face, as discussed at the outset by WB Philippines country director Bert Hofman, sums up in (1) traditional weakness of our economic growth especially when compared to that of our neighbors, (2) failure of our economic growth to translate into significant poverty reduction and (3) the unusually low level of investment in our economy in recent years. It was acknowledged that overall growth had reportedly improved in recent years, and the country has in fact been spared from recession amid the global downturn. However, our recent experience of rising poverty in spite of record growth brings home the point that growth simply is not enough; the quality of that growth is just as important. A puzzle seemingly unique to the Philippines is why recent growth has not only failed to reduce poverty in the country, but actually even led to worsening poverty. A crucial element in this puzzle is the very low level of investment in the country, whether domestic or foreign, and whether private or public. It was pointed out that total investments account for only about 15 percent of Philippine GDP, whereas it accounts for upwards of 25 percent for most of our neighbors.

Boosting investments

The answers to the seeming puzzle are not really difficult to come by; participants in the forum had a wealth of ideas and experiences to share, both to explain and to address our challenges. Much of the discussion focused on the role of small and medium enterprises (SME), especially those based in the countryside, in boosting our lagging investment. I pointed out that in discussions on low levels of investment in our country, there is a tendency to think too much in terms of large enterprises. But we often forget that investments by SMEs could be an equally important, if not the more important contributor to boosting Philippine investments, especially at this time.

Investments by large numbers of SMEs would actually add up and provide the numbers we need to fill in the glaring investment gap relative to our neighbors. This is not to say that we should think less about attracting foreign investments, wherein we are also being badly left behind by our neighbors. Still, some members of the audience argued that preoccupation with attracting foreign investors could detract us from promoting more domestic investments, especially by rural SMEs whose benefits would be more broad-based. Indeed, it takes much less capital to create one job in an SME than in a large enterprise. If we want more investments to translate into more jobs, it is investments in the former that would be more job-creating—and ultimately more poverty-reducing.

SME hurdles

So why aren’t there still enough SMEs to provide those needed investments and jobs in the countryside? This is a question particularly relevant to the governors and mayors who made up the forum’s audience, as they are uniquely and strategically placed to either attract or deter SME investments in their respective areas.

Financing was pointed out to be the most binding constraint to SME development, and surveys among SMEs have consistently affirmed this. But here, the problem is not so much the cost of financing (translation: interest rates), but the accessibility of formal credit from the banks. The fact that countless small businesses get by with extremely high-cost financing from informal (“five-six”) lenders tells us that cost has not been an impediment. If countless small rural enterprises have been getting by with “5-6” financing, think of what they could do with loans at much lower, but nonetheless market interest rates. What we need is not more subsidized credit schemes, which are ultimately unsustainable, but simply more banks who are willing to devote larger portions of their loanable funds to SMEs, and with less rigorous documentary requirements. Thailand, for one, discovered years ago that funds flowed more freely to SMEs after they removed interest rate caps on SME lending by banks. Sometimes, well-meaning policies end up achieving exactly the opposite of what they intend.

The other key impediment cited was the local governments themselves. The procedures one has to go through to set up a small business is often cumbersome, time-consuming and expensive enough to discourage getting into business at all. Mayors would do well to review the various hoops and ladders that they make business applicants go through, and avoid driving away the very investors they should be attracting to create jobs, and ultimately reduce poverty in their respective localities.

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Oct. car sales up 20% on storm replacement

Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

CAR SALES in October spiked by 20.1% to 12,761 units versus the same month last year, partly buoyed by purchases to replace vehicles damaged by recent storms, industry data released on Monday showed.

The uptick caused the total January to October sales to record a 1.3% growth to 106,146 units over the year ago levels, signaling that the projected 0% growth by year end could be breached.

"Overall, industry players are optimistic that targets can be achieved barring any major negative developments. Banks have continued to support the industry with availability of financing at lower rates, OFW remittances which are seen to increase during the holiday season will continue to support consumption, and players are offering promotions which make acquisition easier, in time for the holidays," Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. President Elizabeth H. Lee said in a statement.

The commercial vehicle segment, up 2.3% in sales, was responsible for the growth in the total year-to-date figure. Passenger car sales, in contrast, fell 0.4%.

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RFM posts 78% jump in 9-month net profit

By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

THE Concepcion family’s RFM Corp. reported a 78-percent growth in net profit in the first nine months as the softening of major raw material prices and improved plant efficiency boosted margins despite some moderation in consumer spending.

RFM posted a net income of P282.2 million from January to September. For the third quarter alone, the net profit amounted to P147.6 million, up 453 percent from a year ago.

The decline in input costs alongside the softening of global commodity prices as well as improvement in plant efficiencies boosted its gross margin to 28 percent from 23 percent during the same period last year.

RFM has now overtaken last year’s sales of P5.4 billion by P380.1 million, coming right off the heels of a 22-percent expansion in sales during the second half of the year.

Despite the reported weakness in the consumer market, RFM expressed confidence that it would continue to gain market share and boost profitability for the remainder of the year alongside its goal of providing higher value-for-money food and beverage alternatives to the consumer.

Fiesta spaghetti has maintained its position as market leader. The Fiesta brand is the company’s second market leader, following the Selecta brand that has continued to dominate the Philippine ice cream market with a market share of more than 50 percent.

RFM is also optimistic in the growth performance of Vitwater, or water with vitamins and benefits, which was recently launched as a first-mover in the vitamin-enriched water category and endorsed by Filipino boxing icon Manny Pacquiao.

The company is also preparing to roll out an array of new products in different market categories that are, in turn, expected to contribute significantly to overall company sales and improved margins.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

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Over 350,000 land jobs under gov't emergency employment plans

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo has created 357,486 jobs under three emergency employment programs meant to cushion the impact on displaced workers of the global financial crisis.

In his report to the President, Secretary Domingo Panganiban of the National Anti-Poverty Commission (NAPC) said that as of Sept. 25, a total of 328,262 people landed jobs under the Comprehensive Livelihood and Emergency Employment Program (CLEEP).

The figure represented 70.45 percent of the targeted 465,945 workers nationwide.

As of Sept. 17 this year, another 15,158 young men and women were recruited under the Youth National Service program. The recruits, aged 18 to 24, work for two years with modest pay.

The Philippine National Police registered the highest recruitment at 5,293, followed by the Department of Public Works and Highways with 4,495, the Department of Environment and Natural Resources with 4,390, and the Department of Social Welfare and Development with 850.

Meanwhile, displaced workers and their dependents, who have availed of temporary jobs in government, totaled 14,066 as of July 30.

"In crisis situations, government intervention to extend relief to the people, particularly those most vulnerable to hostile economic forces, can never be overemphasized," Press Secretary Cerge Remonde said, citing the NAPC report.

Remonde pointed out the three major job generation programs instituted by the President were extremely relevant, considering that a number of multinationals in the country down-sized under the pressure of the global economic meltdown. (PND)