Saturday, 28 November 2009

Subterranean River discovered in Marinduque

The first underground river to have been found in Marinduque was recently discovered by a team led by provincial tourism officers. This find, together with the development of existing sites unique to the island, augurs well for combined LGU efforts under Gov. Bong Carrion to promote the island-province as an eco-tourism destination in the region - the San Isidro Cave and Subterranean River, Sta. Cruz, Marinduque, Philippines. Village leaders in San Isidro now bent on carefully preserving the site.

To the old folks of the village of San Isidro, the cave is referred to as 'Bagungbungan', a place avoided even by the curious, as it has been associated with phantom stories reinforced by actual accounts of persons who have gone to the cave periphery and, without a trace, disappeared.

Two weeks ago, provincial tourism chair Allan Velasco together with the tourism team, revisited San Isidro cave and conferred with the village chief (who hadn't been to the cave, himself), on the importance of community involvement to preserve the state of this natural treasure.

Friday, 27 November 2009

Video: Metro Manila Skyway update

By bestnomads

Update photos: NAIA 3

UP tops international programming tilt

Manila Bulletin

Proving that Filipinos are one of the most talented IT talents in the world, a team from the University of the Philippines-Diliman (UP) topped the regional leg of an international computer programming contest held recently in the country.

UP captured first-place honors at the 2009 ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) Asia-Manila Regional Competition held at the Ateneo de Manila University in Quezon City with tech giant IBM as event sponsor.

According to a media statement issued by the regional contest director, Dr. Rafael Saldaña of Ateneo de Manila University, team “Mga SOGO ni E.T.” solved 10 out of 10 problems to emerge as champion.

The UP team is composed of computer science students Kevin Charles Atienza and Marte Raphael Soliza, and computer engineering student John Eddie Ayson. Their coach is Eric Tambasacan.

First runner-up is team “Passion” from Ho Chi Minh City University of Science, in Vietnam. Members of the team were Pham Tuan Vu, rinh Tran Dang Khoa, and Le Do Hoan Nam. Their coach was Dang Nguyen Tien.

The second runner-up is team “NUSSOC1” from the National University of Singapore. Team members are Victor Loh Bo Huai, Adhiraj Somani, and Doon Hanh Hung. Their coach is Steven Halim.

ACM stands for Association for Computing Machineries, one of the most prestigious IT organizations in the world. Each year, ACM holds the ICPC participated by thousands of teams from hundreds of universities worldwide. From selected regional sites in six continents, winning teams advance to the world finals, which will be held on Feb. 1 to 6, 2010 in Harbin, China.

The ACM ICPC is a team competition consisting of three collegiate students and a coach. Each team is given a set of programming tasks (from 8 to 10 problems) to be solved in 5 hours using a standard computer and programming languages such as C, C++, and Java.

Fifty five teams from four countries and 23 schools participated in the ACM ICPC Manila regional on October 22-23, 2009 at the Ateneo de Manila campus.

This was the first time that a team from the Philippines has won an ACM ICPC Asia Regional competition and the third time that Philippine Team advanced to an ACM ICPC world finals.

Also, this was the third time that Ateneo de Manila University hosted an ACM Asia Regional Competition.

The ACM International Collegiate Programming Contest (ICPC) traces its roots to a competition held at Texas A&M in 1970 hosted by the Alpha Chapter of the UPE Computer Science Honor Society. The idea quickly gained popularity within the United States and Canada as an innovative initiative to assist in the development of top students in the emerging computer science.

The contest evolved into a multi-tier competition with the first finals held at the ACM Computer Science Conference in 1977. Headquartered at Baylor University since the 1980s, the contest has expanded into a global network of universities hosting regional competitions

Opening of The Porac Interchange of The Subic Clark Tarlac Expressway SCTEX

And Inauguration of the Hacienda Dolores PORAC Access Road Leading to The Interchange

GDP grows 0.8% in third quarter


To reiterate the NSCB’s estimates, the country’s Gross Domestic Product or GDP grew by 0.8 percent in the third quarter of 2009. This reflects the Philippine economy’s gradual recovery in the period. There are signals that the global economic rebound is underway, with some Asian neighbors freshly out of recession. We like to stress the point that the Philippines had never entered the recession. Our economic performance though was a deceleration from the strong growth of 4.6 percent in the third quarter of 2008.

Indicators such as those in the July 2009 Labor Force Survey were in phase with GDP growth. Employment growth was modest, at 2.6 percent, and lower compared to July 2008’s 3.8 percent. Employment generation likewise reached 916,000 versus 1.275 million in July 2008, and the unemployment rate inched up to 7.6 percent from 7.4 percent a year ago.

Nevertheless, government and private sector programs, flexible work arrangements, and the frontloading of infrastructure projects under the Economic Resiliency Plan (ERP), kept the economy’s growth and employment afloat during the global recession. In contrast, several other economies are still experiencing massive layoffs and all-time high unemployment rates.

As gleaned from available data, the Philippine economy joined other economies with positive GDP growth in the third quarter. Based on year-on-year calculations, these other countries also posted positive growth rates: China (8.9%), Vietnam (5.8%), Indonesia (4.2%), Singapore (0.6%), and, South Korea (0.6%). The rest still contracted: Japan (-4.4%), Thailand (-2.8%), Hong Kong (-2.4%), and Malaysia (-1.2%). With the latter list getting shorter, the race is indeed on in Asia’s rebound.

Overseas Filipinos (OF) remittances boosted Gross National Product (GNP) growth to 3.5 percent in the third quarter. Total OF remittances in dollar terms grew by 6.9 percent in the same quarter, which mainly caused the 26.0 percent growth in Net Factor Income from Abroad (NFIA).

The economy’s growth was supported by services (4.0 percent) and agriculture (1.6 percent). The industry sector still contracted (-4.4 percent), pulled down by manufacturing (-7.6 percent) and utilities (-2.2 percent). Private consumption was modest at 4.0 percent while government consumption remained healthy, at 7.9 percent. Capital formation slumped by 11.3 percent mainly on account of durable equipment (-5.7 percent) and the further drawing down of inventories. Construction investments remained afloat at 1.7 percent, as the cushioning effect of the stimulus package continued. External trade growth is improving yet still remains negative, at -13.6 percent for total exports.

Indeed the global crisis is not over, but the worst is over. We have reasons to be more confident. The key growth drivers for 2009 are trade, BPOs, construction, mining and quarrying, and private and government services. Prospects remain bouyant for new markets of our agricultural products, for tourism’s adventure travel, for service quality improvements, for campaign spending till 2010, for growing demand for climate-adaptable production, for renewable energy investments, and for biotechnology applications on food production.

Looking at the tasks ahead, we should continue upgrading our national competitiveness (e.g. cheaper power) even as we let the ERP fulfill its remaining work this year. We should expand our SMEs by channeling to them the sufficient liquidity in the financial system. We must actively safeguard the welfare of our overseas workers. We must join in the conference of nations to make climate negotiations supportive of the more vulnerable economies. We should navigate through the crisis through a calculated exit plan. And we should craft an even grander entrance plan for better socio-economic achievement in the coming years. Maraming salamat.

Thursday, 26 November 2009

PGMA statement on the Maguindanao massacre

The gruesome killings in Maguindanao constitute a most heinous crime. What makes it particularly so is the fact that it counts among its victims, lawyers, media reporters, and other defenseless and innocent civilians. Like many others. I am appalled and outraged by it, and I join the rising chorus of indignation against it.
This is not a simple election feud between opposing clans; this is a supreme act of inhumanity that is blight on our nation.

Elections are supposed to be civil and decent contests for political leadership at different levels of government. They are supposed to be avenues for political renewal in a democratic order. But when they are marred by violence, they mutate into occasions for demonstrating brute power, unrestrained by civility.

I deeply commiserate with the kith and kin of the victims. I grieve the irretrievable loss of innocent lives. That loss, unbearable as it is, should now move us to fight those forces that thrive in violence and erode the integrity of elections in our country.

The perpetrators will not escape justice. The law will haunt them until they are caught.

No citizen of our nation should ever have to fear for his or her life in the free expression of political will. That these victims were brutally struck down while merely exercising their right to political freedom must be condemned by people everywhere.

I understand only too well the volatility of the political situation in the area, and for this reason, I reiterate with even greater urgency my personal appeal for calm and restraint.

I am declaring a national day of mourning in honor of the victims. This crime is too outrageous not to prick the conscience of this nation or any other nation for that matter. Let us hope that the outrage is overcome by reason and by our need to live our lives in peace, honor and human dignity.

On my instructions, the Secretaries of the Department of Interior and Local Government and the Department of Justice are now in the area to directly lead in the immediate resolution of this case.

Be assured that our police and military forces are actively restoring normalcy in the area, and the national prosecution offices under the Justice Department are undertaking all the appropriate processes for the expeditious resolution of this crime.

In all this, the rule of law, the guarantee of equal protection under and equal application of the law, and the observance of due process and all legal processes, shall prevail. Let the full force of the law bear upon those who are found to be responsible for this offense and be made accountable for their acts.(PND)

UK fund to invest in Century Peak

Miguel R. Camus
Business Mirror

A FEW weeks after it listed by way of introduction, Century Peak Metals Holdings Corp. has found an investor for its proposed smelting plant in Leyte.

UK-based GEM Global Yield Fund Ltd. is planning to invest up to P2.9 billion in the listed company to fund the miner’s multibillion-peso nickel pig iron smelting facility.

In a filing to the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) on Wednesday, Century Peak said GEM has committed to subscribe to P2 billion worth of shares of the company. In addition, the miner is issuing a warrant to the emerging markets investor granting it a three-year option to subscribe up to 150 million of its shares, worth another P900 million.

This prices the shares at P6 apiece, or at a 10-percent discount based on Century Peak’s closing price of P6.7 per share yesterday. Shares of the miner rose 4 percent following the announcement.

“GEM Global Yield Fund is a welcome addition as an institutional investor into the company, given their global expertise, and proven reputation in capital markets and structured transactions worldwide,” said Century Peak president Wifredo Keng, in a statement.

The miner said funding will be used mainly to complete the Century Hua Guang Smelting Project, a nickel-chromite plant being built through a joint venture with owners of Zheijiang Hua Guang, a top nickel pig iron producer in China.

Century Peak earlier said the smelting plant will cost P7 billion, with the initial phase needing P2 billion. Keng said the company is targeting to produce 5,000 tons to 10,000 tons of pure nickel per year after the first phase of the smelting facility comes online.

Peak operation will double nickel production to about 20,000 tons per year.

At present, the company’s nickel mining subsidiary Century Peak Corp. holds a mineral production sharing agreement covering a 4,000-hectare property in the Dinagat Islands and Albor, Dinagat province in Surigao del Norte.

The miner also remains optimistic in its operations, with nickel imports to China hitting a record high in recent months. Century Peak shipped 52,873 metric tons of nickel to China in October.

Established in 1991, GEM is a $3.4-billion investment group having completed 275 transactions in 55 countries. It is an alternative investment group that manages a diverse set of assets across the world.

Last month, GEM also announced a P1.1-billion investment deal with another PSE-listed firm, AgriNurture Inc.

The climate-change fraud

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

While it may be true that the Philippines is stuck in the middle of the South China Sea, you would think that at least one media outlet would choose to cover one of the biggest stories of the 21st century.

This past week, computer hackers or perhaps a “whistle-blower” insider released thousands of e-mail and other documents obtained from the Climate Research Unit (CRU) at the University of East Anglia in England. The email and internal reports show that data used to support the idea of man-made global warming and climate was falsified, manipulated; and scientific data that went contrary to the climate-change theory was covered up and suppressed.

And while this story is breaking news around the world, certain political leaders in the Philippines are pushing for increased taxpayer funding of the Philippine Climate Change Act, a law based on a fraud. The US Congress is opening investigations about “ClimateGate” and English newspapers are calling it the greatest scandal in modern science.

And not a single newspaper here chooses to cover this story. So I will.

The CRU is widely recognized as a leading institution concerned with the study of climate change. It is the organization that supplied a good portion of the data and analysis used in various UN reports and, of course, Al Gore’s famous movie, An Inconvenient Truth.

In September, a striking revelation was made that the data used to create the “hockey stick” of suddenly increasing global temperatures in the last 20 years was manipulated. The basis of the “hockey stick” of global warming that has made Al Gore a multimillionaire was the growth of trees on the Yamal peninsula in Russia. One of the members of the climate group at CRU, Keith Briffa, is the author of the “hockey stick” data that have been used for 10 years to create the climate-change hysteria. It appears calling him an “author” is appropriate since the “hockey stick” and the hysteria may be based on fiction.

After nearly a decade and hundreds of billions spent on the climate-change panic, the original data were finally released to other scientists. What Briffa did was to use data from a selected sample of tree rings that support the global-warming theory. Tree rings that refuted his claim were ignored. In September, other scientists put all the tree-ring data together and discovered that temperatures have not shown any unusual increase in the last 20 years and there isn’t any hockey stick of temperatures.

In other documents, CRU seems to acknowledge that their climate models are inaccurate, data were falsified or, at the very least, manipulated; scientists have no clue as to future climate trends, and no explanation for the cooling trend since 1998. Further, it also appears that any evidence contrary to the climate-change hysteria was ignored and suppressed.

From an e-mail referring to the fact that temperatures have been dropping since 1998: “I’ve just completed Mike’s nature trick of adding in the real temps to each series for the last 20 years [i.e., from 1981 onward and from 1961 for Keith’s to hide the decline in temperatures].” In other words, data were falsified to fit the climate-change conclusions.

Other e-mail suggest that pro-global warming scientists faked data to get the results they were looking for. Just over a month ago, on September 28, Tom Wigley wrote to Phil Jones of the Hadley Center about his efforts to get the right-sized “blip” in temperatures of the 1940s: “Here are some speculations on correcting SSTs to partly explain the 1940s warming blip. So, if we could reduce the ocean blip by, say, 0.15 deg C, then this would be significant for the global mean. It would be good to remove at least part of the 1940s blip.” Data that did not support global warming and climate change were removed from the studies.

Another problem is that the models just do not work. From an October 2009 e-mail “The fact is that we can’t account for the lack of warming at the moment. Our observing system is inadequate.”

The fact that the models do not accurately work is known to the global-warming scientists, and they will not publicly admit that their theory cannot hold up to investigation. In a 2005 e-mail from Phil Jones, he says, “The scientific community would come down on me in no uncertain terms if I said the world had cooled from 1998. OK it has, but it is only 7 years of data and it isn’t statistically significant.”

Here is the point. The Philippines has limited resources that need to be used wisely. Too often though, local leaders talk and act as if pesos grow on trees. This nation cannot afford to spend money foolishly, and climate-change measures are becoming more foolish with each passing day.

Hopefully, a leader will emerge who has the wisdom and the courage to create a list of priorities that need funding and not just talking for political pogi points. Every centavo spent on the silly climate-change nonsense is money that is not spent on education. Every peso spent on things like nationwide WiFi is money that is not available for improving agricultural production.

Talk is cheap. What we need is a candidate who spells out in black and white what he or she thinks should be the specific spending priorities of government. Not just noble-sounding words, but concrete ideas with numbers to back the ideas up.

This nation is capable of making great strides very quickly if its leaders would only focus resources wisely and specifically, rather than trying to do everything, meet every need, and eventually accomplishing little.

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

First in Asia: P50-million automated system installed in RP airports

Manila Bulletin

The country’s top aviation body has installed a cutting edge communications system, linking the Philippines with other countries to get the latest aeronautical and other relevant information critical to flight safety.

Dubbed as the Automated Aeronautical Information Service (AIS), the new facility has brought the country closer to achieving Category 1 status, two years after the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has moved the country one notch lower to Category 2.

Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP) Director General Ruben F. Ciron said the new system will automatically update information in real time, reaching subscribers without the time lag associated with the old mode.

“The new system brought the CAAP closer to regaining its category 1 status,” said Ciron. “We have now one of the most advanced telecommunication systems and this would hopefully convinced the FAA of our serious concern to bring our aviation body at par with the world.”

The AIS facility, costing P50 million is fully automated and is capable of sending updates and new data to subscribers in a flash. It is housed at the CAAP compound in Pasay City and was put by the Energy Systems and Resources Inc. (ISRI), with the help of Frequentis, a European firm represented by Christian Troemer, Chief Regional Officer of the company.

The new AIS replaced a dated and decrepit system that broke down a few years ago and temporarily disconnected the Philippines with the rest of the International Civil Aviation Community.

In recent past, Air Transportation Office (ATO) (now switched to the CAAP) air communications experts were using typewriters and outmoded teletype in sending Notice-to-airmen (Notam) and other contents of aeronautical publications to all the members of the International Civil Aviation Organization.

Flight plans and the flow of critical data transmitted way ahead of flights leaving the Philippines could not be processed in advance, thus delaying international flights coming and going into the country.

These prompted authorities to facilitate the provision of needed funds to update the system. Consequently, an upgraded AFTN was put up and linked to the internet but still manually operated.

Present during the ribbon cutting ceremony were Ciron of the CAAP; Susan Tecson, Managing Director of ESRI; Consul Florian Brandl of Austria, Isabel Schmiedbauer, Commercial Attache.

For those unable to download them, hard copies of maps, charts and voluminous records of the AIP could also be obtained from the CAAP.

The AIP contains all there is to know about the status of the country’s airports, including maps, charts, route of flights, available navigational aids and their locations, ongoing constructions of airports and facilities and upgrading of other services.

Troemer said the Philippines is the first Asian country to have adopted the new automated system and would soon be followed by New Zealand, Australia, and Japan.

Wednesday, 25 November 2009


Prayer of Saint Francis of Assisi
(baptised as Giovanni di Bernadone)

"O Lord, make me an instrument of Thy Peace!
Where there is hatred, let me sow love.
Where there is injury, pardon.
Where there is discord, harmony.
Where there is doubt, faith.
Where there is despair, hope.
Where there is darkness, light.
Where there is sorrow, joy.

Oh Divine Master, grant that I may not
so much seek to be consoled as to console;
to be understood as to understand;
to be loved as to love;
for it is in giving that we receive;
it is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
and it is in dying that we are born to Eternal Life."

Peso seen rallying to 43 to $1 in 2010

Funds flowing to emerging markets
By Doris Dumlao
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines - British banking giant HSBC sees a long-term bullish trend for the peso against the dollar and a possible avoidance of any interest rate increase by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas through 2010 unless inflation shoots up sharply in the latter part of next year.

In a briefing Tuesday, HSBC country treasurer Wick Veloso said if and when the central bank needs to exit from its accommodative monetary policy alongside its overseas peers, the BSP may first resort to contracting more foreign currency swaps with terms longer than the three- to six-month contracts currently in its books.

Veloso said the BSP would likely not be in a hurry to tighten interest rates given the need to support the growth momentum especially through 2010, a presidential election year. At the same time, he noted that there was no danger of the peso sharpy depreciating against the dollar, which in the past was sufficient reason for the BSP to tighten interest rates.

Based on HSBC’s long-term currency forecasts, the peso is likely to gain against the dollar in the years ahead. The local currency is seen ending this year at 46 against the greenback, strengthening to 43.59 by end-2010 and further to P42.50 by end-2011.

“A weak US dollar would always point toward a stronger peso,” Veloso said, noting that low interest rates in the United States were prompting flows of capital into emerging countries and creating a downward pressure on the greenback.

The upward pressure on emerging market currencies is, in turn, seen prompting some central banks to resist sharp local currency appreciation by building up their foreign exchange reserves.

In the case of the Philippines, he said the country was starting to benefit from a global rebound, with export receipts now recovering. Aside from the government’s domestic pump-priming, he noted that strong remittances from overseas Filipinos as well as election spending would help support growth next year.

HSBC sees Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) growth slowing from 3.8 percent in 2008 to 1.8 percent this year, but Veloso said actual growth for 2009 could end up higher than this forecast. By 2010, the country’s GDP growth is seen to accelerate to 4.2 percent and to 4.7 percent by 2011.

Veloso said the central bank would likely restrain itself from raising interest rates too soon next year given the early stages of economic recovery and after a new administration would have been in place after the 2010 elections, he said such caution would prevail.

“There’s a strong chance that interest rates will be flat next year unless the central bank sees a compelling reason [to raise rates] by November or December,” he said.

Allied Bank net income rises five times from last year to P413.3M for third quarter

Erik de la Cruz
Business Mirror

TYCOON Lucio Tan’s Allied Banking Corp. posted a net income of P413.3 million for the third quarter, more than five times what it earned in the same period last year as interest income improved.

Its financial statement filed with regulators showed net income of P888.5 million in the first nine months, up 81 percent over last year’s P489.7 million.

Allied Bank, the country’s ninth-largest bank in terms of deposits as of end-June, said net interest income in the third quarter swelled by 10.4 percent to P1.56 billion due to the increase in loans and receivables.

The bank’s asset base expanded by 10.4 percent to P182 billion as of end-September from a year ago, reflecting the hike in loans and receivables by over P19 billion. Its nonperforming loans (NPL), however, increased by P507 million to P2.37 billion. Its NPL ratio thus inched up to 2.09 percent, from 1.9 percent a year earlier.

Total liabilities climbed by 8.6 percent to P157.9 billion, with deposit liabilities up 12.1 percent. The bank last month expanded its deposit base by issuing long-term negotiable certificates of time deposit (LTNCD) with a five-year maturity in the amount of P3.5 billion.

In March Philippine National Bank (PNB)—another Tan-owned bank—raised P3.25 billion by offering LTNCD with a five-year maturity. Proceeds were used for general corporate purposes and banking operations.

Allied Bank and PNB are scheduled to merge next year, with PNB as the surviving entity. Their union is expected to catapult PNB toward becoming the fourth-largest local bank in terms of assets and give strong competition to the three biggest—Banco de Oro Unibank, Metropolitan Bank & Trust Co., and Bank of the Philippine Islands.

Remittances, spending in polls expected to drive 2010 growth

L. D. Desiderio

ROBUST REMITTANCES from Filipinos overseas and the impact of spending for national elections will drive growth to accelerate in 2010, HSBC said yesterday.

In a briefing yesterday, HSBC Philippines Treasurer and Head of Global Markets Jose Arnulfo "Wick" A. Veloso told reporters that Philippine gross domestic product (GDP) is expected to expand by 4.2% next year, compared to the government’s own projection of 2.6%-3.6%.

For this year, the government sees GDP growth falling within the 0.8%-1.8% range.

"Next year, we have to consider the elections. A lot of employment is expected to be generated with each candidate who is serious about running to be spending around P5 billion for the campaign," he said.

He added that this factor adds to the fact that remittances from overseas Filipino workers, which have constantly defied expectations they would be weighed by the economic crunch, will remain robust as the global economy starts recovering next year.

GDP growth for the April-June period was 2.4%, against 1.5% the previous quarter.

Inflation, he said, could reach 3.2% this year and 4.8% next year, within the government’s targeted 2.5%-4.5% this year and 3.5%-5.5% next year.

Photo update: LRT North Extension (The Loop)

Tuesday, 24 November 2009

Greatness democratised

Business Mirror

‘EACH person has a hidden hero within.” With these simple words, Efren Peñaflorida, who gave Filipinos reason for pride and joy exactly a week after Manny Pacquiao’s march to history, has democratized greatness, making it clear to all that yes, all of us can be heroes to each other—if we so choose.

Efren, who made it to CNN’s distinguished circle of 10 heroes, was further voted by the global public online as the overall Hero of the Year, a feat made more remarkable by the fact that in all, the jurors tapped by the cable news giant had trawled through 9,000 heroes nominated from around the world by people who believed in them and their causes.

Like Manny Pacquiao, Efren did not for once exude any hint of boastfulness or self-righteousness. All he wanted, when he was asked weeks before Saturday’s glittering ceremony at LA’s Kodak Theater—where Hollywood’s superstars paid tribute to the unsung heroes—was to use his prize money, if he won, to further the “pushcart” brigade that had made him such a colorful hero in his hometown in Cavite province. He hoped, Efren said earlier, to marshal more resources so that more underprivileged children would be given a chance in life, the same chance he got—rather, worked for against all odds—when he was able to finish his education. For in Efren’s world, the “poverty” that derails schooling for many wasn’t just a simple lack of money for tuition and other needs. Being poor also meant growing in a community where there were few jobs and even fewer opportunities for livelihood and training; and plenty of occasions to be waylaid by neighborhood gangs hooked on drugs, alcohol, gambling and all forms of vice—with many of the gangsters themselves once young boys and girls whose dreams of school were shattered, and felt they had “no choice” beyond either joining the gangs or suffering at their hands.

Like most other young boys, Efren could have grown into a teen hoodlum, learning to be mean and cruel so he could survive his oppressors, rationalizing his choice with the defeatist notion that where he grew up, there was no choice. But he didn’t, that’s why he’s a hero.

Now, Efren is a hero for everyone—thanks to CNN—because he showed that choices aren’t all dictated by context, but by something stronger, like character, and a burning desire to rise above the self. He was the irresistible force colliding with the immoveable object called environment, which 99 out of 100 people would have easily used as reason for failure. From that first act of heroism—learning to say no to a bad life and asserting one’s choice—he became an even greater hero because he came back for the others who were once like him. He looked back, and found the means, against all odds, to bring education to underprivileged children, using the iconic poor man’s home: the pushcart or kariton. Even better, he helped others find the “hidden hero” in themselves—tapping ordinary people for donations of pen, paper, crayons, books; and tapping, among others, former istambay or idle youth themselves to join him in his brigade, which later adopted the disarmingly simple name Dynamic Teen Company. Besides reading, writing and arithmetic, he and his young band taught children basic hygiene and good manners. There’s nothing lofty in their name, nothing pretentious in the goal. No homilies from this young man. Just a dream he shared with and asked others to help fulfill.

It is said, of the eternally unfolding circus called Philippine politics, that the liars, cheaters, murderers, thieves and nincompoops can easily fool voters because Filipinos are so hungry for real heroes. Efren—and the nine other CNN Heroes—should teach us that often, the greatest heroes are the “ordinary” ones.

The same old words

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

I will make this prediction about the May 2010 presidential election.

Who are you going to vote for as president?

My prediction is that 30 percent of you who just made a choice will change your minds when it is time to cast your ballot, and you will vote for someone else.

The campaign rhetoric has started and is exactly the same as it always has been. It is really unfortunate. There are some good people, contrary to what the general public opinion is, who want to lead the Philippines. But they all say the same things. There is only one campaign speech and it goes something like this: “My experience gives me the wisdom to make the right decisions. Past elected officials have had similar ideas but never implemented those ideas properly. I will not make that mistake.” That’s it. Nothing more and nothing less.

We conduct a beauty contest every six years where the contestants are asked easy and sometimes silly questions. And as long as the contestant does not say something totally strange like “My hobby is dismembering small, furry animals,” they stay in the running.

The political and economic pundits constantly ask why the Philippines has not advanced as much as it should have/could have. The answer is easy and simple. The last occupant of Malacañang who acted decisively, creatively and with aggressive action was Fidel Ramos. It was not that President Ramos did not make some unwise decisions; it was that he made decisions. Many of those decisions were courageous in the sense that they were different.

The Ramos BOT (build-operate-transfer) scheme was a partnership between the private and public sector that had never been tried before on the scale that the Ramos administration did. The solution to the electricity crisis of private power producers had great flaws accompanied with great criticism until today, but the electricity shortage was solved. The Mining Act has yet to be fully accepted and implemented to bring the wealth to the country that it could have. Yet that same Philippine Mining Act was used as a model for Peru, in Africa and in other countries in Asia, and in those nations, the benefits of exploiting minerals have reduced poverty and created national wealth.

The oil industry was deregulated under Ramos and is still subject to fierce controversy. Yet under Ramos, telecommunications was also deregulated, and without that change, the Philippines today would not be one of the wireless-communication leaders of the world. Note this: without telecoms deregulation, it is very likely that our call-center business would still be a dream. It is possible Estrada or Arroyo might have done the same thing, but the fact is, the Ramos administration did it.

This is not a testimony to Ramos except to point out that it is difficult to find a single example of bold thinking during the last 15 years.

That is not to say that there have not been some good programs. The Strong Republic Nautical Highway (SRNH) has reduced some interisland shipping costs and travel time. However, the SRNH was an upgrade of facilities rather than something new and creative.

Transportation in Metro Manila and Southern Luzon in general might be slightly more efficient today than it was 15 years ago. But again, the finishing of the C-5 highway, the completion of the two Metro Rail projects, and the rehabilitation of the South Luzon and North Luzon Expressways including the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway are not examples of thinking outside the box.

Every one of these major projects could be considered politically safe. They did not require political leadership. They did not require the President saying to the public, here is my new idea and here is why I think it is a beneficial idea.

Efren Peñaflorida, who started the “Kariton Klassroom” to bring education to poor children, has just been named CNN Hero of the Year. You should read about what Peñaflorida has done in the last 10 years, not so much for what he has accomplished but for the creativity he brought to the problem. It is a shame that the government cannot bring one-tenth the innovation to education that this one man did. The only thing the government seems to be creative about is how to add more zeros to their budget requests.

Let me quote from a candidate’s web site and see if this is someone you want as the next president. “To avoid a state of progress plateau, the country needs more innovative ideas to fuel the industry and the economy. Creating productive jobs across the country requires transparent governance, expanding the rural economy and basic infrastructure, and support to small and medium enterprises. Not following the laws are what made us lag behind other countries. It is time for something new in order for the country to become more globally competitive. The country needs to generate more ideas.”

Doesn’t that sound wonderful and full of wisdom? Just the right person for the job. Except, those are quotes from several different candidates. You see, they all sound the same.

But more important, they all talk about fresh, new, creative ideas. Yet not one offers any new, fresh, creative ideas. 

It is not that these candidates do not have “solutions.” It is that their solutions are stale. Corruption? “Punish the offenders.” Armed insurrection? “Push harder for a viable peace process.” Poverty? “We must work to uplift the lives of all Filipinos.” Those are actual quotes from the candidates.

These are not solutions, creative or otherwise. These are the same old tired words that put the Philippines where it is today.

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

Monday, 23 November 2009

Business Sentiment Continues to Improve in Q4 2009

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Businesses continue to have an optimistic outlook in Q4 2009 and Q1 2010

Business optimism continues to improve in Q4 2009. Optimists outnumbered pessimists by a larger margin in Q4 2009 than in previous surveys. This is the third consecutive quarter since Q1 2009 that business sentiment has shown an improvement after the broadly cautious outlook that prevailed in 2008.

The current quarter business confidence index (CI) rose to 22.0 percent compared to 18.4 percent in Q3 2009 and -6.8 percent in Q4 2008. Similarly, the business confidence index for the next quarter (Q1 2010) also improved to 34.0 percent compared to 33.7 percent in Q3 2009 and -0.5 percent in Q4 2008. The confidence index is computed as the percentage of firms that answered in the affirmative less the percentage of firms that answered in the negative with respect to their views on a given indicator. 1

The more buoyant business sentiment reflected expectations of better economic performance in the current and next quarters, with clearer indications of improving conditions in the global economy. It was also in tandem with improving business confidence in countries such as the United States, Japan, Europe, Australia, India, Singapore, Malaysia, and Hongkong. The survey results also suggested that businesses do not anticipate that typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng would have a long-lasting and significant impact on the overall positive direction of economic activity.

Businesses attributed their more favorable outlook to the following factors: 1) supportive macroeconomic conditions such as low inflation and interest rates, relatively stable peso, and sustained foreign exchange inflows from foreign investments and overseas Filipinos’ (OFs) remittances; 2) expected increase in consumer spending due to the holiday season and the forthcoming election; and 3) introduction of new and enhanced business strategies.

By geographic location, respondents from both the National Capital Region (NCR) and the Areas Outside the NCR (AONCR) reported a more positive outlook for Q4 2009 relative to Q3 2009. However, NCR respondents were more upbeat in their outlook on the economy than those from AONCR. This indicated firms’ expectations that economic conditions would be more favorable in NCR than in AONCR.

All types of businesses involved in international commodity trading (i.e., importers, exporters and those engaged in dual activities) anticipated better economic conditions in Q4 2009 with firms engaged in both importing and exporting activities being the most optimistic. Meanwhile, exporters were the least bullish as they continue to face tepid—although slightly improving—global demand.

By employment size, large firms (relative to other sizes of firms) continued to be the most optimistic in their outlook for both Q4 2009 and Q1 2010.

Positive sentiments are observed across all sectors

Favorable business sentiment was noted across all sectors in Q4 2009, partly due to expectations of improved global economic prospects. The services sector had the most favorable business outlook due largely to improved optimism of the financial intermediation and hotels and restaurants sub-sectors. The more buoyant outlook of the financial intermediation sub-sector reflected the resilience of the domestic banking system. Meanwhile, the improvement in the business outlook of hotels and restaurants sub-sector signaled expectations of higher spending of holiday revellers during the Yuletide season.

The sentiment of the wholesale and retail trade sector was also more favorable quarter-on-quarter and year-on-year, due to expectations of stronger business opportunities as a result of heightened consumer demand during the Christmas season.

All sectors, particularly the construction sector, remained optimistic for Q1 2010. Respondents attributed their improved optimism to the expected reconstruction and rehabilitation activities arising from the damages caused by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng as well as the continuing government infrastructure spending to help lift economic growth.

Firms are optimistic about their own business operations

Respondents are generally enthusiastic that their own business operations would improve in Q4 2009. Firms in the services sector were the most bullish, followed by those in the industry sector. Reflecting the improved outlook of firms in the industry sector regarding their own operations, the average capacity utilization in Q4 2009 rose slightly to 69.8 percent compared to last quarter’s 68.8 percent.

Credit access and financial conditions further improve

Credit access continued to improve in Q4 2009, with more firms experiencing some modest improvement in their access to credit. Financial conditions remained tight but showed signs of easing as fewer respondents expected liquidity problems in Q4 2009 compared to the previous quarter and a year ago.

Employment outlook remains positive while expansion plans increase

The employment outlook for Q1 2010 remained positive. The employment outlook continued to be favorable for all sectors, with the construction and services sectors being the most optimistic.

Consistent with the improvement in the outlook on business operations of the industry sector, more industrial firms compared to the last quarter’s survey indicated expansion plans for Q1 2010.

Competition, weak demand and financial problems are seen as major risks

Competition, weak demand (leading to low sales volume), and financial problems were considered by the respondents as the key challenges to business activity in Q4 2009. The top three business constraints were the same risks identified by respondents in Q3 2009.

Higher inflation, stable interest rates and a stronger peso are expected in Q4 2009

More firms anticipated inflation to accelerate in Q4 2009. This expectation could be attributed to the increases in the prices of basic commodities caused by the damages to crops and infrastructure during the recent typhoons as well as the anticipated increases in oil prices once the current oil price controls imposed by the government are lifted. Despite rising expectations of higher inflation, firms anticipated interest rates to remain stable.

The peso is expected to strengthen against the US dollar in Q4 2009 given the seasonal surge in remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) during the holiday season and expectations of increase in foreign investments.

For Q1 2010, business firms anticipate inflation and interest rates to rise and the exchange rate to remain stable.

The survey response rate is 75.8 percent

The Q4 2009 BES was conducted during the period 1 October - 6 November 2009. There were 1,380 firms surveyed nationwide. Respondents were drawn from the Securities and Exchange Commission 2008 Top 7,000 Corporations as follows: 509 companies in NCR (37.0 percent) and 871 firms in AONCR (63.0 percent), covering all 17 regions nationwide. The survey response rate for this quarter was 75.8 percent, with the response rates for NCR and AONCR at 74.7 percent and 76.5 percent, respectively.

A breakdown of responses received by type of business showed that 10.0 percent were importers, 7.7 percent were exporters, and 15.2 percent were both importers and exporters. Sixty-seven percent of the respondents were neither importers nor exporters or did not specify their firm type.


1 A positive CI indicates a favorable view.


Associated Press
Business Mirror

LOS ANGELES—Kate Hudson, Pierce Brosnan, Neil Patrick Harris and other stars who are used to getting applause were giving it gladly at a ceremony honoring people who make a difference in the lives of others.

“I’ve cried twice and we’re on hero three,” Harris said backstage after introducing one of the 10 “CNN Heroes” celebrated on Saturday by the TV news network for their efforts to fight poverty, disease and other problems.

“There are so many awards shows every year for the Hollywood community that participating in something as effective as this makes those others feel inconsequential” and provides perspective, said Harris, star of CBS’s How I Met Your Mother and recent Emmy Awards host.

The top CNN Hero of the Year and a grant of $100,000 went to a young man who embraced education for himself and other Filipinos as an escape from poverty. He and the other honorees received $25,000 each. As a child, Efren Peñaflorida picked school over gang life in Cavite City and vowed to create a way for other children to make the same choice. He created a program that brings books to children in slums and on the streets, and the 10,000 members of his Dynamic Teen Co. have brought reading, writing and hygiene to 1,500 youngsters.

“My message to children of all races, please, to embrace learning and love it for it will embrace and love you back and enable you to change your world,” said Peñaflorida, now a 21-year-old college graduate.


The awards show, which is unusual for a TV news network, was created in 2007 after CNN producers and correspondents talked about meeting many unsung heroes, said Jim Walton, president of CNN Worldwide.

“We do something that’s not done—shine a light on everyday people that do extraordinary work,” Walton said before the event.

The 10 finalists were selected from more than 9,000 submissions by a panel that included former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Whoopi Goldberg and Ted Turner. The winner was chosen online by the public, with nearly 3 million votes cast. --AP

PhilHealth allots P1.2B for unified ID

Gerard S. dela Pena

STATE HEALTH insurer Philippine Health Insurance Co. (PhilHealth) will allocate P1.2 billion next year to enable its members to hook up into the government's latest project, the unified multipurpose ID (UMID) system.

The amount will initially cover 5 million PhilHealth members, said Dr. Rey B. Aquino, PhilHealth president and chief executive officer.

He said the plan is to allocate approximately the same amount each year for five years to cover the entire 80 million-strong membership base of PhilHealth.

“We are planning to have it next year. It will be included in our budget,” Mr. Aquino told reporters at the sidelines of the ceremonies in connection to the 80 millionth beneficiary of PhilHealth at the Rizal Medical Center in Pasig City on Monday.

“It could be a five-year plan because we are talking about 80 million members. The budget is massive that it cannot be covered in just one year,” he added.

Executive Order (EO) 420 issued in 2005 has mandated all government agencies to adopt the UMID. The project would entail the use of just one card when transacting with government agencies such as the Social Security System (SSS), Government Service Insurance System (GSIS), Pag-IBIG Home Development Mutual Fund, National Statistics Office (NSO), among others.

The move was aimed at saving costs on part of the government and the public as this removes the need to produce multiple ID cards as well as maintain redundant databases.

Later on, the government issued EO 700 which directed the SSS to lead the project given its efficient ID system.

The task of maintaining and operating the new ID system will eventually be transferred to the NSO, SSS President and Chief Executive Officer Romulo L. Neri said in an earlier interview.

Mr. Neri also said in an interview last month that the SSS was looking at releasing new cards in December.