Saturday, 19 December 2009

Economic managers project positive economic growth in 2010

DAVAO CITY, Dec. 18 (PNA) -- Economic managers are projecting the gross domestic product (GDP) to inch up by 4.3 percent next year from the current 4.1 percent.

Speaking at a press conference Thursday at The Marco Polo, Davao, Department of Finance (DOF) Undersecretary Gil Beltran said government is expected to pour in more money to achieve next year’s GDP target.

He said the interconnectivity project at the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) aimed at improving its operational system will help government meet its targets.

With the positive growth of the country’s economic indicators this year, the economic managers are optimistic the country’s economy will surge by 2016, Beltran said.

He said they had forecast the country to experience a balanced economy by 2010, but the global financial crisis forced government to change all its strategies to neutralize the impact of the crisis moving further the forecast balanced economy by 2012.

Document of the country’s economic highlights showed that GDP posted positive growth of 0.8 percent in the third quarter of 2009 from 4.6 percent in the same period last year.

The growth is driven by the continued expansion of the services and agriculture sectors.

On the supply side, growth is attributed to the benefits derived from finance, private services, government services and trade sub-sectors.

On the expenditure side, growth drivers included government consumption and public construction.

Gross National Product (GNP) on the other hand, grew by 3.5 percent in the third quarter, buoyed by the 26.0 percent increase in net factor income from abroad.

The document further showed that GNP expanded by 3.3 percent and GDP by 0.7 percent.

Inflation posted 3.2 percent during the first 10 months was well within the target range of 2.5-4.5 percent for 2009.

Remittances from overseas Filipinos grew 8.6 percent in September valued at $ 1.4 billion. For the first nine months this year, remittance grew to almost $ 12.8 billion to 4.2 percent which is well within the 4.0 percent revised growth forecast of the government for this year. (PNA)

Gov’t: 13th month pay is mandatory, Christmas bonus discretionary

MANILA (PNA) -- The government on Friday reiterated that all wage and salary workers in the country are entitled to the 13th month pay as mandated by law.

Labor and Employment Secretary Marianito D. Roque said that based on the time-honored Presidential Decree No. 851 issued on December 16, 1976, all employers in the country are required to pay their employees a 13th month pay not later than December 24 of every year.

Roque, emphasized, however, that the 13th month pay should not be confused by workers with the Christmas bonus,

The Labor and Employment Chief said that while the law definitely requires employers to pay their rank-and file employees the 13th month pay, the generous granting of a Christmas bonus, on the other hand, remains, basically, a management prerogative.

Roque reiterated that the Christmas bonus is not a part of such benefit as mandated by the law, though employers may also grant their workers bonuses on top of the 13th month pay, depending on their discretion, or Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) and other agreements.

The workers can only ask the management to grant them Christmas bonus which is discretionary on the part of the employer, adding that all wage and salary workers should report to the nearest DOLE office any employers who are unable to pay them the 13th month pay on or before December 24.

As this developed, the Labor Chief appreciated the generous effort being made by members of the country’s employers sector to ensure that their employees are granted, aside from the 13th month pay mandated by the law, a Christmas bonus on top of the law-required 13th month pay.

Media had earlier quoted the assurance of the more than 500-corporation strong Employers Confederation of the Philippines (ECOP) that employees will be receiving their Christmas bonuses this year.

Amidst the recent typhoons that hit the country, ECOP president Sergio Ortiz-Luiz, Jr. was also quoted by the media that the endeavor will help to make a happy Christmas for employees, adding that some member firms under the umbrella have already distributed bonuses to their respective personnel.

Meanwhile, the DOLE’s Bureau of Working Conditions (BWC), has clarified the salient provisions of PD 851 requiring all employers to pay their employees a 13th month pay.

The BWC, which is the DOLE’s agency administering the country’s laws on working conditions, said that the 13th month pay which all employers are required to pay their employees, must not be less than one-twelfth (1/12) of the total basic salary earned by an employee in a calendar year.

While all employers are required to pay their employees the 13th month pay not later than December 24 of every year, an employer may, however, give to his or her employees one-half (1/2) of it before the opening of the school year, and the remaining half on or before December 24.

For this purpose, the frequency of payment of the monetary benefit may be the subject of an agreement between the employer and the recognized collective bargaining agent of the employees, the BWC emphasized. (PNA)

DSWD pre-positions P98-M worth of food for Legazpi

The Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) will move P98 million worth of food and non-food items at the DSWD National Resource Operations Center to the areas affected by Mayon Volcano’s continued seismic activities.

DSWD Secretary Esperanza Cabral, in a memorandum to Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, said the pre-positioned items augment DSWD’s standby calamity fund amounting to P22 million.

Cabral’s report was relayed to Palace reporters by Deputy Presidential Spokesperson for Economic Affairs Gary Olivar, in the absence of Remonde who is with President Gloria-Macapagal Arroyo in Copenhagen, Denmark attending the Climate Change Leaders Summit.

Mayon’s imminent eruption has forced the evacuation of 6,559 families or 30,761 persons in 17 evacuation centers in Camalig, Daraga, Legazpi City, Tabaco City, Malilipot, and Sto. Domingo, all in Albay.

Cabral said DSWD-Field Office V Quick Response and Social Welfare and Development (SWAD) teams have been activated to assist local government units in disaster operations like management of evacuation centers and relief distribution.

Around P442,446 worth of relief support/augmentation assistance for the displaced families were released through the Provincial Social Welfare and Development Office of Albay consisting of 2,400 one-liter bottles of mineral water (P52,800); 88 boxes of biscuits (P47,520); 413 boxes of noodles (P158,592); 1,000 family food packs (P153,534) and 3,000 face masks (P30,000).

Cabral said she has also released P500,000 to DSWD-FO V in addition to its P300,000 standby funds and P1.65 million worth of pre-positioned food supplies (P450,251) and non-food items (P1.2 million) for release to the affected population. (PND)

BPO firm to expand to 1,000 seats in a year

Emilia Narni J. David

A BUSINESS process outsourcing company specializing in travel services has opened its first center in the Philippines and is expecting to have a total capacity of 1,000 seats in a year.

In a press conference Friday, InterGlobal Technologies Chief Executive Officer Vipul Doshi said the company would pour in an intial investment of $3 million for the facility at McKinley Hill in Taguig.

"In the next three months, we will be moving to a 24-hour shift that would mean 500 seats and we expect in the next six to 12 months to meet our full capacity of 1,000 seats," said Mr. Doshi.

InterGlobal provides voice and non-voice services to companies like United Airlines, KLM, Virgin Airlines, and Expedia.

Agents in InterGlobal are expected to be "universal agents," or agents that do both voice and non-voice outsourcing services.

"There is specialized training involved not only because of the nature of the business which is travel but also because it is very difficult to train universal agents. But we see that agents have idle time if there are no calls so we want to maximize their work day," said Mr. Doshi.

Mr. Doshi said the choice to set up shop in the Philippines was due to the quality of infrastructure, government support, quality of workforce, and the demand of clients.

Congress ratifies 2010 budget


CONGRESS on Friday ratified a P1.540-trillion national budget for next year, with legislators raising the prospect of President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo signing the measure into law before the year ends.

Senate Majority Leader Juan Miguel F. Zubiri said Mrs. Arroyo could ink the bill when she comes back next week from Copenhagen, Denmark where she is currently attending a global conference on climate change.

Malacanang, however, was noncommittal.

"We don't know the protocol yet. We have to wait for the President because there are certain procedures," Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary B. Olivar said.

By department, Education received the highest allocation at P185.48 billion, followed by Public Works, P126.93 billion; Health, P30.40 billion; Agrarian Reform, P20.77 billion, and Transportation and Communications, P16.61 billion.

"We intend to make this spending for 2010 designed to grow the economy," Senator Edgardo J. Angara told reporters.

Debt service payments were reduced to P276.21 billion from P340.82, with the funds realigned to infrastructure, education, and an environmental cleanup.

But Mr. Olivar said this would likely to be vetoed by Mrs. Arroyo.

"The President vetoes something like this every time Congress tries it.

This is because debt service is automatically appropriated, and any unbudgeted portion of debt service would simply increase our indebtedness by the same amount," he said in a text message.

Tourist arrivals up to watch Mayon ‘fireworks’

By Alcuin Papa
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – Military troops evacuated on Friday about 12,000 people from villages at the base of the country’s most active volcano as a smoldering Mayon showed signs of a major eruption after days of shooting ash plumes and spilling lava.

Albay provincial authorities declared a round-the-clock ban on anyone being within the 8-kilometer danger zone around the 2,460-meter mountain.

But tourists are flocking to watch the volcano’s stunning fireworks.


Since Mayon’s heightened activity was reported on Monday, tourists have been drawn to the area but the provincial government is not keen on encouraging them to come, said Salceda.

“Disaster tourism is certainly not within the contemplation of the provincial development strategy even if disaster risk reduction and tourism are integral components,” he said.

Salceda said the sudden surge of tourists is an unintended consequence of a volcanic eruption.

Panoramic view

Tourists have been drawn to the Ligñon Hill Observatory in Legazpi City, where the Phivolcs offices are, which offers a full view of Mayon and a 360-degree view of the city and neighboring Daraga town.

There have also been increased visits by nongovernment organizations and socio-civic organizations to evacuation centers as well as heightened media coverage of Albay.

Salceda said there have been spillover effects for other provincial destinations like Misibis, Embarcadero, and the Tiwi and Manito geothermal sites.

However, the estimated revenues of P800,000 from around 2,500 tourists who spend P1,000 daily cannot match the P1.5 million spent daily for 9,946 families housed in temporary shelters, he said. [Hey, but that covers more than half of the cost--shouldn't we be thankful instead? --WUIP]

Beauty and fury

Mayon has captivated tourists with its irony of combined beauty and fury, said Amy Detera of the Department of Tourism in Bicol.

“The tourist influx was so great in the 1993 volcanic eruption, which killed 79 people, that there was a shortage of hotel rooms and tourists had to be accommodated even in hospitals,” she said.

Gail Narramore, founder of the Tiwala Kids and Communities, a charity organization based in Albay, said Mayon looked stunning at night.

“It looks like a Christmas tree,” said the British-South African missionary.

But several travel agencies were wary of pushing their packaged tours to Albay and Sorsogon because of the reported threats of a major eruption.

Bicol tourism director Nini Ravanilla said that while it is necessary to report disasters, projecting a safe environment for tourists would also reap much benefit.

Most active of 22 volcanoes

The Philippines lies on the “Ring of Fire,” a belt of volcanoes circling the Pacific Ocean that is also prone to earthquakes.

Mayon is the most active of 22 volcanoes in the country, having erupted more than 50 times in the last four centuries.

The most destructive eruption came in February 1841 when lava flows buried a town and killed 1,200 people. The last time Mayon erupted was in 2006.

With reports from Rey Nasol and Ephraim Aguilar, Inquirer Southern Luzon; AFP and Reuters

RP athletes slay ghost of Thailand debacle

Mamiit caps 38-gold haul in Vientiane
By Roy Luarca
Philippine Daily Inquirer

VIENTIANE, Laos — Ceciil Mamiit gave Team Philippines' campaign in the 25th Southeast Asian Games a familiar and fitting ending Friday.

Just like in the 2007 Thailand edition, the California-based Mamiit copped the last gold medal staked—the men’s tennis singles.

There’s a slight twist, though. Mamiit’s final opponent wasn’t Thai ace Danai Udomchoke but compatriot Treat Huey, who yielded a 4-6, 6-2, 6-3 decision, capping the Filipinos’ roller-coaster ride to fifth-place overall, a notch better than their worst-ever sixth place finish in Nakhon Ratchasima.

In achieving their modest target, the Filipinos amassed a total of 38 gold, 35 silver and 51 bronze medals in 21 of 25 events the Filipinos took part in in the 10-day event held in this laid-back, landlocked country which hosted the biennial Games for the first time.

Thailand retained overall supremacy with a haul of 86-83-97, with Vietnam settling for second with 83-75-57. Indonesia placed third (43-53-74) followed by Malaysia (40-40-59).

The tracksters turned out to be the best performers with seven gold medals, spiked by the meet-record efforts of hammer thrower Arniel Ferrera and long jumper Marestella Torres.

Also basking in the limelight were the boxers who atoned for their embarrassing one gold output in Thailand with five this time, three coming from female fighters Annie Albania (flyweight), Alice Kate Apari (lightweight) and Josie Gabuco (pinweight).

Again powered by double-gold medalist Miguel Molina, the 2007 Most Outstanding Athlete who won four golds then, the swimmers contributed four victories, spiced up by SEA Games record-breaking performances by US-based Daniel Coakley and Ryan Arabejo.

The taekwondo jins also chipped in four golds, courtesy of the comely women’s poomsae team of Janie Lagman, Rani Ann Ortega and Camille Alarilla, Olympians Mary Antoinette Rivero and Tshomlee Go and Alexander Briones.

Wrestlers big surprise

It was the wrestlers, however, who provided the big surprise with three golds, through brothers Margarito and Jimmy Angana and Jason Balabal.

The touted billiards players had to settle for three golds, courtesy of double-gold winner Rubilen Amit and Ronnie Alcano, following the stunning first round exit of world doubles champions Efren “Bata” Reyes and Francisco “Django” Bustamante and the third-place finish of former world No. 1 Dennis Orcollo.

With Mamiit and Huey at the helm, tennis chipped in two, so did wushu and judo, with John Baylon clinching his ninth straight SEA Games crown.

The female golfers also struck with Chihiro Ikeda copping the individual plum and powering the team to the title.

Nathaniel “Tac” Padilla averted a medal shutout for shooting in his pet 25m rapid fire pistol by winning the gold. Completing the champions’ list were muay fighter Zaidi Laruan, karateka Marna Pabillore and archer Jennifer Chan.

Contributing at least a bronze each were diving, weightlifting, pencak silat, water polo, sepak takraw, table tennis and petanque.

Deprived of any medal were beach volleyball and badminton.

The gold hoard could have been bigger.

But ugly incidents, nasty fallout of the raging dispute between the country’s top sports officials, seemingly affected the morale of the athletes, who were flown in via separate batches, depending on “affiliation.”

The 251-strong RP athletes arrived here in two chartered planes, with the first batch composed of those who were funded by the Philippine Sports Commission. The second group was made up those who did not meet the criteria set by the government sports agency but were sent here, nevertheless, by the Philippine Olympic Committee.

Quarreling officials

The ill-effects of quarreling officials was felt most in cycling, where Maritess Bitbit, who was a cinch for at least two gold medals here, was ordered to pull out of the competition by the POC officials.

The Olympic body was said to have forced Amit to show her support to her 11 teammates who did not get the green light to compete because they did not have UCI licenses.

“Overall, it was a great experience for everyone who competed in Laos,” said PSC chair Harry Angping, who predicted the Filipinos would haul in 32 golds, half of the POC’s promise.

“In retrospect, I am overwhelmed by the accomplishments of our athletes,” he added. “They performed beyond expectations. They showed that the Filipino won’t back down in any fight.”

There were others who tried to give the country’s last-day drive in the Games, which drew over 4,000 athletes from 11 nations, a final push, but came up short.

Mamiit and Huey were beaten by the Thai twins Sanchai and Sonchat Ratiwatana, 2-6, 7-5, 8-10, for the men’s doubles gold.

Metodio Suico Jr. and Aleta Junmar lost to the Vietnamese pair, 17-21, 17-21, and settled for the bronze in sepak takraw.

Padilla landed 10th in the 25m center fire with 555 points. Worse off were teammates Ronald Hejastro (540) and Robert Donalvo (536) as the squad wound up fourth with a 1631 total.

Host Laos showed a dramatic improvement with a 33-25-52 tally to finish behind sixth-placed Singapore (33-30-35).

The 2011 SEA Games will be held in Indonesia with Bandung and Semarang serving as main hosts. The other venues are Jakarta and Palembang, the capital of South Sumatra.

Meanwhile, a chartered plane carrying some of the athletes, left here Friday and arrived on the same day in Manila at 7 p.m.


Angping happy to be ‘wrong

Manila Bulletin

VIENTIANE, Laos — Swimmer Miguel Molina stands to receive P750,000 cash reward from the Philippine Sports Commission (PSC) for bagging two gold medals and a silver in the just-ended 25th Southeast Asian Games.

Molina heads more than 100 medalists who will receive cash rewards amounting to over P17 million, according to PSC chairman Harry Angping who closely monitored the Games at home.

In a text message Thursday, Angping congratulated the athletes for a job well done.

"I congratulate them for proving me wrong on my projections. The resiliency and fighting spirit of the Filipino athletes have been shown once again," said Angping.

Before the RP delegation left for this Laotian capital, Angping predicted a 20-gold medal performance, but a strong showing in athletics, boxing and taekwondo helped propel the team to 38 gold medals, nearly double the PSC projection.

Molina, who swept the 200-meter and 400-meter individual medley events and placed second in the 200-meter freestyle, will receive P250,000 as provided by law and additional P500,000 from the PSC.

Republic Act 9064 provides a cash incentive of P100,000 for gold, P50,000 for silver and P10,000 for bronze medalists in the SEA Games.

But prior to the Games, Angping announced additional incentives of P200,000 for gold, P100,000 for each SEA Games record broken and P50,000 for each Philippine mark set.

Aside from P650,000 for winning three medals, Molina will receive P100,000 for breaking the Games record in the 200-meter individual medley.

Rubilen Amit, who won the 9-ball and 8-ball pool singles titles, will receive P600,000 while golfer Chihiro Ikeda will get P400,000, P300,000 for winning the women’s individual golf and P100,000 for sharing the team gold.

Friday, 18 December 2009

Vietnam to export more rice to the Philippines in 2010

HANOI (PNA/Bernama) -- Vietnam has won additional contracts to export rice to the Philippines at higher prices, following the latest auction on Tuesday, bringing the total of rice auction volume over the last four bids to 1.3 million tons of rice, Vietnam News Agency (VNA) reported.

At the Philippine government rice auction on Tuesday, the Southern Food Corporation (Vinafood 2) won export contracts for 600,000 tons of rice at an average export price of US$ 665 per ton.

Cao Thi Ngoc Hoa, the corporation's deputy general director, said the winning bid was the largest export rice volume the corporation has won over the four auctions that the Philippine government recently held.

Enterprises from Thailand, Germany, France and the Republic of Korea failed in their bids because they offered export prices at more than US$ 700 per ton, said Hoa.

At the auction on December 8, the corporation also won contracts to export a total of 300,000 tons of rice at an average export price of US$ 650 per ton.

While at the auction on December 1, the Vietnamese rice exporter won contracts to export a total of 300,000 tons of 25 percent broken rice to the Philippines to be delivered from February to May 2010 at an average price of US$ 625 per ton, higher than US$ 480 at the auction on November 4.

The corporation currently has contracts to export 1.3 million tons of rice to the Philippines in 2010 as a result of the four auctions.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development said Vietnam exported 5.7 million tons of rice in the first 11 months of this year, earning US$ 2.3 billion. The figures jumped by 31.9 percent in volume but fell 7.12 percent in value compared with the same period last year.

Vietnam is expected to export a record 6-6.2 million tons of rice this year.

The ministry estimates it will have a total unhusked rice output of 38.9 million tons for this year, higher than the output of 38.6 million tons in 2008. (PNA/Bernama)

Woman judge to try Ampatuans

QC judge refuses PNP offer of security
By Julie M. Aurelio
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines — Just an ordinary day.

Judge Jocelyn Solis-Reyes is treating the trial of Andal Ampatuan Jr. for the massacre of 57 people as an ordinary case that would not require any special police security.

The case was raffled off to the presiding judge of Quezon City Regional Trial Court Branch 221 after Judge Luisito Cortez of RTC Branch 84 on Tuesday declined to try the alleged brains behind the worst political violence in the nation’s history.

Citing a potential security threat to his staff and his household, the 49-year-old Cortez, who survived an ambush as a trial judge, told reporters: “What is glory without a family?”

Reyes declined to meet with reporters after getting the assignment following a second raffle Thursday at the Quezon City court.

The election-related massacre in Maguindanao on Nov. 23 prompted the imposition of martial law in the province for eight days to allow for the arrest of Ampatuan’s father, three-term provincial governor, and three of his brothers and the investigation of over 600 armed supporters for rebellion.

Deputy Director General Jefferson Soriano of the Philippine National Police told reporters after a meeting with Reyes that the judge did not feel any immediate need for a bodyguard.

“If she does need one, she said she will call us,” Soriano said. “She said she will treat this as an ordinary case. She was very composed, very confident when I talked to her. I don’t think she was surprised, she is prepared to handle this.”

Not taking any chances

Ampatuan is detained at the National Bureau of Investigation jail. NBI officials said they were not taking any chances for the appearance of Ampatuan at Friday’s preliminary investigation of multiple charges against him at the Department of Justice, a stone’s throw away.

NBI spokesperson Ric Diaz said the mayor of Datu Unsay town in Maguindanao province would be bundled in a bullet-proof van for the short drive, escorted by dozens of NBI agents.

A member of the court staff said that the result of the raffle dampened the office Christmas party which was coincidentally held at the same time.

“She felt sad. Of course, anyone who gets the case will feel sad,” said the staff member.

Soriano said that while Cortez had had death threats, Reyes had no such experience. “She has not handled any controversial cases before,” he said.

The police officer, however, said that he assured the judge and her staff that the PNP was prepared to allot a “sizable number” of security escorts for the duration of the trial.


A University of Santo Tomas law graduate, Reyes was a public attorney for three years before she began serving as a public prosecutor in 1995. In 2001, she became Municipal Trial Court judge in Angeles City and started her stint in the Quezon City court in 2004.

A lawyer described Reyes as the “silent type” who did things by the book.

“She is lenient and considerate,” the lawyer told the Inquirer in a text message. “She is poker mannered. You can hardly read what’s her inclinations which is good so you won’t leave anything to chance in getting things done before her court.”

The Supreme Court has directed the Quezon City court to hold hearings at Camp Crame, general headquarters of the PNP.

But Soriano said the PNP might request the high tribunal to transfer the venue to Camp Bagong Diwa in Bicutan, Taguig City, or at a police camp in Sta. Rosa, Laguna.

“Camp Crame is too open, so we want to transfer the venue to a smaller, more secure camp,” he added.

Cry for justice

In Tacurong City, some families of the massacre victims called on the government to ensure that justice is served.

“We don’t want to grieve anew over the slow justice system in the country. Prosecute the Ampatuans fast,” said Allan Cachuela, whose brother Hannibal, a reporter of Punto News, was one of the 30 journalists killed in the massacre.

“I feel uneasy and depressed each time I think of the preliminary hearing. Will the prosecutors deliver in our favor? I doubt it because the government has not even fulfilled its promise of supporting the family of the victims,” he said.

Eden, widow of Anthony Ridao, also expressed disappointment over the perceived fear of judges and lawyers handling the case.

“I am just heartbroken because there is no clear support from the higher officials. I am afraid that the case will end up nowhere,” Eden said.

Eden’s husband, a son of a Cotabato City councilor, was en route to Cotabato City when his Tamaraw FX was seized by Ampatuan’s men.

Ridao ended up one of the massacre victims, although he was not part of the convoy of journalists and relatives and supporters of Buluan Vice Mayor Esmael Mangudadato, which was on its way to file his certificate of candidacy for governor.

At the Maguindanao capitol, government employees complained that several offices were “ransacked” and valuables were taken while it was under military control.

Lt. Col. Jonathan Ponce, 6th Infantry Division spokesperson, denied the allegation. With reports from Nancy C. Carvajal, Dona Z. Pazzibugan, Jeannette I. Andrade in Manila; and Rosa May de Guzman and Edwin Fernandez, Inquirer Mindanao

Mindanao Railway System seen to boost tourism and business

Bong D. Fabe
Business Mirror

CAGAYAN DE ORO CITY—The Mindanao Railway System (MRS), now being pushed forward by Mindanao lawmakers, is seen to boost tourism in the island, and also help get the needed business investment that will subsequently spell development of the Philippines’ “land of promise.”

Rep. Rufus Rodriguez said he, together with Speaker Prospero Nograles, who is from Davao City, is working for the release of another P5 million for the project to push it from the drawing board to the implementation stage.

Rodriguez, who filed House Bill 1855 in 2008 which created the Mindanao Railways Corp. (MRC), said the government had already earmarked P10 million for the office of the MRC.

“When this becomes a reality, the Mindanao Railway System will not only solve traffic congestion in the city, especially with the opening of the Laguindingan International Airport, and other urban centers of Mindanao, but will also boost tourism and business along its route. This will be a more efficient, cost-effective and fast mode of transportation linking all major cities and towns of Mindanao,” Rodriguez said.

The MRS has a budget of P2 billion. Its feasibility study is nearing completion, said Department of Transportation and Communications Undersecretary for Rails Guiling Mamondiong.
Mamondiong said they are just awaiting the approval of the study by the Regional Development Council before it will be submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority in Manila.

Rodriguez said he is crossing his fingers that the MRS will come off the drawing boards for the benefit of the people of Mindanao.
He also promised to find ways to make it a reality and a success, especially since “it will be a very good complement to the about-to-be- completed Laguindingan International Airport.”

$96-M Filipino investments outpace FDI in Subic

Henry Empeño
Business Mirror

SUBIC BAY FREE PORT—Investment commitments put up by Filipino-owned locator-companies in this free port have so far eclipsed foreign direct investment (FDI) recorded here this year, marking the first time in recent years that locals outshone imports.

According to the Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA), Filipino firms made it to the top of the chart by drowning out the competition with sheer numbers: a total of 139 investment projects that, taken all together, were worth about $96.22 million.

This translates to 57.74 percent of the $166.64 million total for investment projects approved by the SBMA board from January to November this year.

Korean firms, which held sway here since 2006 when shipbuilder Hanjin Heavy Industries Corp. plunked its initial $1-billion investment, slipped to the No. 2 position with only 26 investment projects worth a total of $55.86 million, or 33.52 percent.

This was less than a third of the $198.84 million (85.48 percent) committed by 46 Korean companies in 2008, the same year that 67 Filipino firms invested $10.09 million (4.33 percent).

The third slot among the biggest investors this year went to a Swiss-owned company, which put up a project worth $7 million or 4.2 percent; followed by six Taiwanese projects with a total worth of $2.86 million; and four Japanese projects with a total of $1.27 million.

SBMA Administrator Armand Arreza said that FDI generated in the Subic Bay Free Port in the last 11 months actually fell by more than 67 percent, when compared with the total posted in the same period last year.

Arreza said that FDI in the January-November 2008 period totaled $224.82 million. For the same period this year, it was only $73.82 million.

However, even as foreign investment dropped this year, Arreza noted that Filipino companies “more than made up for the slump” and carried the day for Subic’s investment performance.

“This is an encouraging sign,” Arreza said. “As far as we can tell, Subic is fast regaining its footing in terms of investment generation.”

For the last two months alone, investment pledges in Subic reached a total of $44.42 million, with a total of $23.1 million committed by 12 investor-companies in October, and a total of $21.32 million pledged by 22 other firms in November.

Arezza said that among the biggest investors in the two-month period is Filipino real-estate giant Ayala Land Inc., which pledged $21.4 million for the construction, development and operation of a retail and commercial center.

Seven other Filipino companies made it to the list of top 10 biggest investors this year. These are Tountzis Shipping Inc. with $20.23 million; Jadelink Subic Inc., $16.85 million; Pure Petroleum Corp., $6.22 million; Subic Business and Technology College, $4.29 million; Bonsure Evergreen International Corp., $2.21 million; Chifil International Import-Export Manufacturing Co. Inc., $1.41 million; and Eastern Subic Fuel Depot Corp., with $1.05 million.

The only foreign companies in the same list are Korean casino-resort developer Ocean Nine Philkor Inc., which pledged $52.38 million; and Swiss-owned Philip Morris Philippines Manufacturing Inc., with $7 million for its warehousing operation here.

The SBMA also said that the 163 projects it has approved this year are expected to create a total of 6,340 new jobs. The Subic free port has an active work force of 86,631 as of October 2009.

The agency added that as of November this year, there are a total of 1,310 approved investment projects in the Subic Bay Free-port Zone. These projects are worth a total of $5.918 billion in committed funds.

RP-made wheels make it big abroad

Manila Bulletin

Rota Wheels, a locally manufactured automotive alloy wheels, is now exported to 17 countries making it the most successful auto component export of the Philippines.

Rota Wheels is brand of industry leader Philippine Aluminum Wheels Inc. (PAWI) for the last 28 years. It is an automotive alloy wheels that come in various painted or chromed finish.

PAWI president Romy Roxas said that export sales of Rota Wheels now constitute about 70% of their total sales.

Depending on the month of the year, the domestic original equipment market (OEM) accounts for some 20% to 25% and the local after-market 5% to 10% of total sales.

“Rota Wheels is now a world-class product that is at par with Japanese and European brands. As a matter of fact, in terms of product quality, it is considered more superior to some Chinese and Indonesian brands,” Roxas said.

He added that PAWI has successfully broken into the export market by providing value for money in the alloy wheel products they supply the customers, ensuring product quality that is at par or even surpasses international standards and pricing their products at a level that is very competitive yet affordable to a wider range of individual customers.

Roxas was also proud that Rota Wheels as now being an international brand that is proudly Pinoy-made.

PAWI is the only local alloy wheel manufacturer that is 100% Filipino-owned and more importantly for us, operated by a 100% Filipino workforce of experienced workers, engineers and managers.

It is also the only local company with an in-house crash-testing facility that complies with international testing requirements for wheel manufacturing.

As a result, it is the only Philippine wheel brand that complies with, and even surpasses, international testing standards. We are also proud of the fact that we are the only Filipino wheel brand that is able to sell to automotive manufacturers both locally and internationally.

RP now with 37 golds

Jun Lomibao
Business Mirror

VIENTIANE—Seven gold medals were added to the Philippine coffers on Thursday, a day before the 25th Southeast Asian Games comes to a close in this landlocked state of 6 million who have revealed their country’s laid-back yet simple and calm beauty that could potentially become one of the region’s most-sought-after destinations.

Those glittering seven golds thus gave all 256 athletes on Team Philippines more than enough reasons to return home in two batches on Friday and Saturday beaming with pride and honor.

Their cry when they hit Manila? Mission accomplished!

First, the modest goal of finishing better than sixth was achieved.

And, second, expectations in terms of the number of gold medals hauled were surpassed.

Boxers Charly Suarez and Bill Vicera made up for the loss of two-time Olympian Harry Tañamor and wrestlers Jimmy Angana—a veteran—and Jason Balabal—a Games first-timer—highlighted the penultimate-day sparkling performance that put the Philippines in fifth place overall at sundown here on Thursday with 37 gold medals, only one less than fourth-running Malaysia.

Wushu delivered a second gold courtesy of Mark Eddiva in men’s sanshou 65-kg class, billiards had a second from world champion Rubilen Amit in women’s individual of 8-ball and a seventh in athletics from 37-year-old Daniel Fresnido in men’s javelin.

With a 37-32-47 gold-silver-bronze harvest, the Philippines hounded Malaysia for third place. The Malaysians provisionally stood at third with 38-38-58.

Thailand also found a pesky challenger for the overall crown. The Thais and the Vietnamese each had 80 of the 350 golds staked—out of the 370—but the former, the defending champions, had 79 silvers and 92 bronzes to the latter’s 66 and 55.

Indonesia was at third, but remained unsure whether it will remain there. It also has 38 gold medals like the Malaysians, but has more silvers with 51 and bronzes with 69 to the 38 and 58 of their closest pursuer.

Singapore, with 33 gold medals, appeared safe of finishing sixth over Laos, which has overachieved with 30 gold medals. Myanmar had 10 golds, Cambodia three and Brunei one. East Timor has yet to win its first gold in the Games.

Philippine Sports Commission chairman Harry Angping admitted he was wrong with his prediction on the gold-medal haul and praised the athletes for their achievement.

“I congratulate them for proving me wrong on my projections,” said Angping, who had said he would be happy if the RP bets wind up with 32 golds, half of what the POC promised. “The resiliency and fighting spirit of the Filipino athletes have been shown once again.”

Vicera, Suarez sparkle
BILL VICERA beat the host’s Sikham, 6-3, in the 46-kg final, while Charley Suarez, only 21, knocked out Cambodian Phal Sophat in the second round of the 57-kg final to underscore the Philippines’ boxing campaign that was significantly tainted by the loss of veteran Harry Tañamor.

With Tañamor’s loss, the men failed to match the three-of-three performance booked by the women in the gold-medal rounds.

Tañamor, 31, who the Thais said “could no longer pull the trigger,” indeed couldn’t and lost to a quicker and rapid-punching Thai Kaeo Prongprayoon, 3-1, in the 48-kg class.

The Philippines garnered a total five golds, one silver and three bronzes, far better than the 1-12-2 tally it booked in the controversial edition in Thailand two years ago.

The Filipinos finished second anew to the Thais, who clinched six gold medals.

“Despite some setbacks, we’re definitely happy with the way our boxers performed here,” admitted Amateur Boxing Association of the Philippines executive director Ed Picson, noting that nine of the 10 boxers sent here won a medal each.

Another Angana wins gold
JIMMY ANGANA did just what his younger brother Margarito pulled off in these Games—win a wrestling gold medal in his event, freestyle’s 66-kg class for men.

Angana, whose brother Margarito topped the 55-kg category on Tuesday, beat Vietnam’s Bui Tuan Anh, Singapore’s Aloysius Chua, Indonesia’s Ardiyansah Darmawa and Thailand’s Pitchaipusit Taprad (via retirement) to finish better than the silver he snatched in Thailand in 2007.

The 23-year-old Jason Balabal, on the other hand, bagged the 85-kg title also in freestyle, beating everyone in the event, including Cambodia’s Dorn Saov, Thailand’s Surachet Kwannai and Singapore’s Gabriel Yang.

However, a third Angana on the team, Jerry, could only finish third in the 55-kg class.

Fresnido, Amit and Eddiva also shine
Danilo Fresnido improved on the silver he clinched in 2007 by hurling the javelin to 72.93 meters, numbers that shattered the 70.70 RP national record set by Benjamin Cawicaan in the 1999 National Open. Thais Nontach Panalupat (67.68) took the silver and Sanya Buathong (67.43) bagged the bronze.

Fresnido’s gold was the seventh from athletics, exactly what track and field association head Go Teng Kok had predicted.

Rubilen Amit added a second gold from billiards by beating Angeline Ticoal of Indonesia, 5-1, in women’s 8-ball individual. Billiards was a disappointment in these Games as it contributed only two gold medals, the other from Ronnie Alcano.

Mark Eddiva made it a two-gold output in wushu when he beat Tin Lin Aung of Myanmar in the 65-kg class of women’s sanshou.

Restive Mayon a tourist draw

Manila Bulletin

Local and foreign tourists have started flocking to Albay to take a glimpse of the glowing lava flow from rumbling Mayon Volcano, while police and military personnel were told to seal off danger zones from tourists and hardheaded residents who have been evacuated but who continuously try to return to their homes.

The additional troops were on top of the teams of soldiers and policemen who were tasked to conduct mandatory evacuation of the remaining 3,000 families, numbering approximately 20,000 persons, living within the six-kilometer and eight-kilometer permanent and extended danger zones, said Senior Supt. William Macavinta, Albay provincial police director.

Macavinta said they are also conducting dialogues with residents who refuse to vacate their homes, convincing them that it is safer in evacuation centers.

“Our target is for a zero-casualty in case of any major eruption. The instruction from Governor (Joey) Salceda is that there should be no human activity within the danger zones; we will implement it,” said Macavinta in a phone interview.

He said they were forced to make some security adjustments after they received reports that some of those who have been evacuated were returning to their homes within the danger zones.

When security forces confronted them, Macavinta said the residents reasoned out that eruption is not yet imminent and that they still have time to go back to earn some money from their farms.

“We understand them because it is indeed harvest time for their vegetables, that’s why our local officials here are initiating dialogues to explain to them the danger of going back,” he said.

“What we want to point out is that their lives are more valuable than their harvests. The forced evacuation is for their safety and we are optimistic that they would listen,” he added.

While they have not received reports of intrusion into the danger zones from local and foreign tourists, Macavinta said the deployment of troops in critical areas is important to ensure that no one gets near the restive Mayon.

He advised tourists to stay in safer grounds while taking pictures of the crater glow and lava flow from Mayon Volcano which started over the weekend, prompting the Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology to hoist alert level 3 for the active volcano on Monday.

Macavinta explained that it is in the southeast portion of the volcano where lava flow is highly visible. It is also in that area where mandatory evacuation is being effected.

Among the areas in the southeast portion are villages in the towns of Camalig, Daraga and Sto. Domingo and in Legazpi City.

Aside from the danger zones, policemen and soldiers were also dispatched to secure the 21 evacuation centers identified so far by local disaster officials.

“We have enough personnel but I believe other units from other provinces are ready to augment our forces once a major eruption occurs,” said Macavinta.

Officials estimate that there are nearly 10,000 families, more or less 50,000 persons, who have to be forcibly evacuated from the southeast portion of the volcano which experts said are the areas where lava and other volcanic materials would fall in case of a major eruption.

As of 9 a.m. Thursday, a total of 6,993 families or 32,442 individuals have already been relocated, with local authorities expecting to finish the mandatory evacuation either today or tomorrow.

The Makati City government, meanwhile, is readying relief assistance to its sister localities in Albay.

Mayor Jejomar Binay has asked the city’s Social Welfare Department to prepare relief goods for delivery to evacuation centers in Daraga and Sto. Domingo as he ordered the city’s disaster response and rescue units to be on standby for rescue and retrieval operations in the province.

The mayor also called on other local government units and private individuals to follow Makati’s example, saying affected residents in Albay need all the help they could get even before Mayon erupts.

“Makati will be ready to provide help needed in Albay. These events seem to serve as a reminder to all of us what the holiday season is about—reaching out and helping one another. With all of us working together, we will be able to survive any challenge,” he said.

More than 20,000 evacuees would likely spend their Christmas and New Year holidays away from their homes as authorities predicted Mayon’s eruption to take months.

“There are only a few days left until Christmas. We will do all that we can to help bring cheer to our brothers and sisters in Albay,” Binay added. (With a report from Kris Bayos)

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Departure Statement & Honors for the President's Participation @ the COP 15

PGMA promises Palace reporters: I’ll be an easier subject to cover

President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo last night (Tuesday, Dec. 15) hosted a Christmas dinner party for the Malacañang reporters at Malacañang’s Heroes Hall and vowed “to be an easier subject next time as I know I had not been an easy subject for you to cover.” The party was held on the eve of her departure for Copenhagen, Denmark to attend the Leaders Summit on Climate Change.

The President’s comment drew chuckles from the reporters—from print and broadcast—who came with their families and showed their other talents like dancing and singing.

“Every year, I make my New Year’s wishes and this year, my wish would be to make myself an easier subject for you to cover,” she said.

The President’s remarks apparently stemmed from an invocation by Radyo ng Bayan’s Marie Pena Ruiz, where she mentioned about surviving each day the “race from one event venue to the next in a presidential convoy and the difficulty of getting an ambush interview with the President.”

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde, who was present during the occasion, said Christmas is a time for love, peace and goodwill citing the biblical passage: For God so loved the world that He gave his only Son” to bring salvation to the world. “Christmas is all about love, peace and goodwill,” he said.

There were invited singers but for the most part, the press corps surprised the audience, principally Remonde and his officials at the OPS, with their song interpretations of Christmas and a dance number by the male reporters clad in black—a.k.a. Men in Black—with an equally surprising ballroom dance exhibition with them by Assistant Secretary Maribel Dario.

Since reporters considered it their last Christmas with President Arroyo in Malacañang, they and their families and friends, grabbed the chance to pose for photos with the President which she obliged from one table to the next. A good 20 or 30 minutes of her time was spent posing with reporters and their invited guests. (PND)

UK firm to spend $1B for biomass projects

Paul Anthony A. Isla
Business Mirror

SAN LEONARDO, Nueva Ecija—UK-based renewable energy company Global Green Power Plc. is (GGPPC) looking at spending $1.035 billion to put up biomass power plants in 12 sites in the country, David de Montaigne, GGPPC president, said on Wednesday.

“We plan to put up a total of 420 megawatts [MW] of biomass power plants in 12 sites in the country,” the GGPPC top honcho said at the sidelines of the groundbreaking ceremony for a 17.5-MW biomass power in Nueva Ecija.

The sites, said De Montaigne, are located in Panay, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Cagayan Valley, Bicol, Samar, Bukidnon, Negros, Agusan, Ilocos, Mindoro and Davao.

To meet the target, De Montaigne said his company will initially put up a 17.5-MW plant in each site, which can be expanded to produce 35 MW.

The GGPPC executive said all the feasibility studies for the entire project have been completed.

Three of the first-phase projects, De Montaigne said, have already secured the needed endorsements from the Department of Energy, the environmental compliance certificate from the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and even an incentives package from the Board of Investments.

De Montaigne added that the first phase covers sites in Panay, Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan and Cagayan Valley are expected to be completed within three to three-and-a-half years.

“What we do is we build 17.5 MW in each site, and at the appropriate time, we will expand the plants by another 17.5 MW,” he said.

The GGPPC official expressed confidence targets will be met as the company is already operating 400 MW of biomass power plant in China and is to be expanded to about 800 MW by the end of next year or in middle of 2010.

De Montaigne also revealed that they will also decide on whether they will go beyond the 420-MW total target once the implementing rules and regulations of the Renewable Energy Act become clearer and the feed-in tariffs are in place. “We need to see the feed-in tariff in place before we make our financial planning on the other technologies,” he said.

For the Nueva Ecija facility, De Montaigne said, they expect to the plant to be complated 18 months after financial closing. “And we’ve done all the preliminary bidding for all of the equipment,” he added.

De Montaigne said several local lenders have offered funding and they are just negotiating the best terms. “We’re very close to financial closing. We’re just negotiating the final terms,” he revealed.

In June, GGPPC earlier said it signed three 25-year biomass supply contracts that will generate P9 billion in direct and indirect economic benefits to the host communities.

GGPPC said it signed supply contracts with Green Power Panay Philippines Inc., Green Power Nueva Ecija Philippines Inc. and Green Power Pangasinan Philippine Inc.

Each of the companies who have signed with GGPPC is developing a 15-MW biomass power plant in their respective locations.

The supply contracts will provide biomass derived from farm wastes such as corn and rice straw, sugar cane waste and other agricultural residue.

“The injection of cash into the local community over the 25-year life of each biomass supply contract can be as much as or even exceed P9 billion through biomass and ancillary services supply such as transport, storage and biomass fuel preparation,” Gordon Thomson, GGPPC chief financial officer, said.

He added that the injection of cash is what will exactly happen at the Municipality of Mina in Iloilo, Panay where Green Power Panay Philippines Inc., have based their 15-megawatt biomass power plant.

The biomass plant has signed 25-year electricity supply contracts with two electric cooperatives owned by Iloilo Electric Cooperative.

Thomson said the local communities will benefit from this project as it will receive income from GGPC’s purchase of biomass fuel while receiving clean, renewable, cost-efficient energy from the power plant’s operation.

“It is very encouraging that the Philippine government, and especially the Department of Energy and Department of Agriculture are reacting quickly and positively to support renewable energy projects that address climate change whilst helping our farming communities,” Maribeth de Montaigne, GGPC director for social programs and poverty alleviation, said.

Predictions for 2010–maybe later

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

When all is said and done, this has been a disappointing year. There are a few bright spots though. The stock market was very strong. There were some very big financial deals made by the large companies. With the exception of the export sector, few industries experienced any substantial contraction. Interest rates stayed low. Inflation was quiet. The peso was stable.

A tremendous amount of money flowed into the country through remittances, direct investments and funds marked for portfolio investments.

But there was limited wealth creation.

Bank lending was down. Small and medium-size businesses held on to profits instead of expanding. Property sales and construction were relatively flat. Very few entrepreneurial ideas ever got off the drawing board. Nothing really moved.

And the most frustrating thing is that there was no great and substantial reason this economy did not grow larger in 2009.

The problems of the West and its economic destruction never really touched the Philippines. No banks here had wasted money over the years investing in garbage financial instruments. Private and public companies were not caught up in these financial schemes and the subsequent problems as in 1997. Yes, the export sector was significantly affected. But in truth, net exporting profits are a small part of the total economic picture. At the end, you could say that the economy was stable and boring, almost in a financial coma.

But businesses and individuals were continuously bombarded with negative propaganda throughout most of 2009. The economy was frightened into idleness and lack of action. Nearly every part of the economy stood still, waiting for all the bad predictions of bank failures, falling remittances, no foreign investment and massive unemployment to hit. We waited and waited and waited, doing little or nothing.

Just about the time that we realized that perhaps all those gloom-and-doom predictions were not going to come true, the rains came and did not stop. Billions of pesos that should and could have been used for new enterprises and wealth creation suddenly were needed to repair the damage. And so the year ends.

Individually and collectively, the Philippines took few risks in 2009. Fear of loss kept the country from winning. You can never triumph unless you are willing to take a chance.

In the late 1980s to early 1990s, two diverse schools of thought emerged during the run-up to the 21st century, the “boomers” and the “gloomers.” With the explosion of global debt in the 1990s, the boomer forecasts became the reality.

In 1999, a book was published, World Boom Ahead, by Knight Kiplinger. World Boom Ahead became the godfather of the “boom” books. Kiplinger, as president, is the third generation of the family that owns and runs the Kiplinger financial-publishing group, with its most widely recognized periodical, The Kiplinger Letter. I faithfully read the Letter more than 40 years ago as it was basic reading material in my house as I was growing up. The Kiplinger Letter is considered the most widely read business-forecasting periodical in the world.

Kiplinger accurately predicted the boom years of the 1990s and in World Boom Ahead, he wrote, “Over the next few decades, the technology-driven boom will bring several billion more people—now toiling in marginal local economies—into a fully integrated world marketplace.” That is at least partially true. He said, “They will constitute an immense new global middle class with vast purchasing power, and they will be both tough competitors and avid customers of the advanced nations.” Perhaps very true.

However, he also wrote, “There will be periods of slow or negative growth but no big crash; globalization will help to ensure shorter and milder recessions; although Asian growth will be strongest, the United States will remain the world’s economic, technological and political leader throughout most of the next century; and the American model will be emulated and adapted by more nations.” The first part of that thought was not true; the last part about the US being emulated was dead right, and it has brought the world economy to its knees.

Ironically, it was the policies of the debt-boom 1990s and financial globalization that created much of this current world financial disaster.

But Kiplinger was not the only one that espoused this belief. From the New York Times, February 19, 1999; “His [Kiplinger] forecasts are not pie in the sky. Looking beyond today’s problems, they are matched by long-term World Bank projections and the predictions of other influential economists. They may look much better than those of the merchants of doom when 2010 rolls around. A doubling or a tripling of 20th-century growth is ‘eminently doable’ in the 21st century, Mr. Kiplinger writes.” Ouch!

I know that I am not being fair with Kiplinger’s book. There is much more to it than I am mentioning. But I just want to remember how wrong other people can be with their predictions when you remind me how wrong I was with my predictions for the Philippine economy for 2009.

I have no intentions of making specific forecasts for 2010, at least at this point. However, this is what I do see. There is a large amount of private liquid capital available for productive growth that is waiting to be committed and utilized. There is built-up consumer demand that can break loose at any time once the fear factor is overcome. There are productive business ideas that were shelved in 2009 that could be implemented at any time.

All of these factors can make 2010 a boom year for the nation’s economy.

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 .

Record feats spark RP's 7-gold run

by Gerry Carpio
The Philippine Star

VIENTIANE – Marestella Torres leapt to the record books in a rare show of class, while ageless judoka John Baylon won his eighth straight Southeast Asian Games (SEAG) medal in a couple of heart-warming golden performances at the forefront of the country’s 7-gold haul for fifth place Wednesday.

Torres ripped the 20-year-old mark in the long jump with a leap of 6.68 meters and in the judo hall at the Chao Inouvoung stadium in downtown Vientiane, Baylon won the gold in the over-78 kg class to win a record eighth straight gold. He has won in all his SEAG stints except in the Brunei Games where judo was not included in the calendar.

Equally spectacular were the golden efforts of women boxers Josie Gabuco, Alice Kate Apparri and Annie Albania, who all won the gold in convincing style at the boxing gym of the National University.

Wushu, a top performing sport during the last 10 years, finally scored and Tac Padilla, the first Filipino to compete in the SEA Games for 16 straight times, saved the day for the shooting team by winning the gold in the 25m rapid fire pistol at the National Sports Complex.

Sanshou entry Mariane Mariano (56 kgs) took a while to heat up but the 2008 Asian Cup bronze medal winner eventually dominated Nguyan Thi Oanh of Vietnam to nail wushu’s first gold after a three-fight shutout that affected the RP drive.

Mariano’s teammate Daniel Parantac settled for a bronze in the taiquijian and taijijian with 19.22 behind the 19.39 of Malaysian Jack Chang and Vietnam’s Nguyen Thanh Tung (19.29). In the female side of the event Stephanie Agbay was fifth.

Non-winners for RP on Wednesday were the men’s compound team in archery, which lost to Indonesia 224-231, the mixed triple in petanque that did not score against Vietnam 0-13, and 110m hurdles entry Sheila Atilano, who had a time of 14.37 behind winner Dedeh Erawati of Indonesia (13.34).

Jennifer Chan earlier won the gold in the women’s compound, while Earl Benjie Yap took the bronze in the men’s side over Thanonglityh Siriponh of Laos, 118-107.

With barely two days left in the biennial meet, the race for the overall supremacy took on interesting subplots with Thailand (61-68-79) slugging it out with Vietnam (61-55-47) for the overall championship. Indonesia (32-55-47) and Singapore (32-73-33) were in the heat of battle for third place, while the Philippines (30-24-41) surged ahead of Malaysia (29-36-51) in their battle for fifth.

“The goal is there and it’s a matter of keeping up the pressure on our opponents,” said PSC chair Harry Angping in a text message. He has a separate P300,000 cash reward for each RP victor here.

In tennis, Cecil Mamiit and Treat Huey made sure the singles gold will not slip through by hurdling their respective semis foes.

Mamiit beat Cambodia’s Tan Nysan, 6-1, 6-2, after 23- year-old Huey ousted Thailand’s Danai Udomchoke, 7-5, 7-6, 8-6.

“I think it’s the first time ever that two Filipinos will meet in the singles finals, so we can say we are the best at least in Southeast Asia,” said team manager Randy Villanueva.

“Sana magtuloy-tuloy pa tayo,” added the man whose charges are also on track for the golds in mixed doubles and men’s and women’s doubles.

From some other fronts came sad stories.

Also at the National University petanque court, the mixed triples team (one woman, two men) of Mary Grace Munar, Aristides Samia and Arnulfo Masumbol could only come up with a bronze, while Lloyd Catiphon bowed out right in the quarterfinals of the 66kg-and-under.

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

Mayon Volcano December 15, 2009 8:47AM

By asuseroako

On my way to a Medical and Dental Mission in one of the barangays of Malilipot, I stopped by to see how Majestic Mayon Volcano is doing...

She is now gray-tinged as opposed to her blue-green resting aura back in March 2009 as you can see on this link:

This particular video was filmed using a Panasonic Lumix DMC-TZ5 compact digital camera on December 15, 2009 8:47AM (Philippine time) at barangay Padang, Legazpi City, province of Albay, Republic of the Philippines; after lava flow and ash spewing early morning December 14th. This location is ~20km away from the foot of the volcano.

Imminent Mayon eruption prompts evacuation

OFWs deliver again

Dr. Bernardo Villegas

MANILA, Philippines — The Philippines is one of the three East Asian countries (excepting China) that avoided a recession in 2009. The other two are Indonesia and Vietnam.

Registering a positive growth in GDP of at least 1.5 percent (it could been higher had it not been for the devastation caused by super typhoons), the Philippine economy has grown mostly due to private consumption expenditures and government pump priming. Exports dropped precipitously and investments were anemic.

The consumption-led growth, in turn, can be attributed to the more than P800 billion received by the relatives of the overseas Filipino workers whose remittances increased by more than 4 percent for the whole year against all odds. The Philippines would have surely gone into a recession if the OFW remittances had dropped by 6 percent or more, as forecasted by the World Bank and IMF at the beginning of this year.

Thanks to the superior quality of OFWs (the first to be hired and the last to be fired), remittances kept on increasing throughout the year. The only fly in the ointment is the strengthening of the peso at the end of the year, due mostly to the depreciation of the dollar. Many OFWs were expecting an exchange rate closer to P50 to $1 at the end of the year. They would be lucky to get P47.

Be that as it may, the purchasing power of the relatives of the OFWs is a formidable P800 billion or more. Since the government is already reaching its limit of deficit spending of 4 percent of GDP, the Philippine economy will have to be propelled by consumption spending for at least the first half of 2010 for the GDP growth target of 3 to 4 percent for the whole of next year to be attained.

That is why I reiterate my suggestion that OFWs and their relatives take an upbeat mood beyond the traditional Christmas period. I got a lot of feedback about my suggestion that at least for this year, Christmas be extended to at least to the middle of January to coincide with the Sto. Nino celebrations in cities like Cebu.

Let me respond to some of the criticisms to my suggestion. I was not in the least suggesting the adoption of a consumerist outlook. Consumerism is evil. It is a lifestyle that equates human happiness with an unlimited accumulation of goods, of making "having" as the end all and be all of human existence.

In fact, what I suggested was for the OFWs to help their relatives who suffered from the ravages of Ondoy and Pepeng to rebuild their houses, replace their damaged clothes, furniture, and appliances, and in general restore their standards of living to where they were before the tragedies struck. These expenditures are the farthest from a consumerist lifestyle. They are for basic necessities and do not imply an insatiable desire for material goods.
It is not true that all OFWs are limited to only two or three weeks of vacation. For one, there are the 380,000 seafarers who normally get anywhere for one month to three months of home leave. I am very familiar with this category of OFWs because I do a lot of research on Filipino seamen who will be our perpetual OFWs.

Even if we are able to eradicate poverty completely in the Philippines, there will always be hundreds of thousands of Filipinos in international shipping lines because they are highly appreciated by their respective employers and many Filipino males have a natural inclination to working in this industry. Even during the current crisis, when numerous ships were mothballed in places like Singapore and Hong Kong, the demand for Filipino seafarers continued unabated. These OFWs can be among those helping to boost consumption spending on basic necessities, including some amount of domestic tourism.

In addition to seafarers, those who can afford to stay more than two weeks for home leave are numerous OFWs who are service-oriented workers, such as caregivers and nurses in developed countries in Europe and North America. From my experiences in Spain, where I spent two years teaching in a business school in Barcelona, Filipino immigrant workers are so especially appreciated that they can normally ask for a month or more of vacation. Their talents, skills, and personal traits stand out in comparison with other foreign workers from Asia, Africa, and Eastern Europe.

It is true, as some of the bloggers commented, that those who are home for the Christmas vacation should spend as much time staying with the family. Bonding with the children is especially necessary. But I would like to remind the married OFWs that one of the important suggestions of marriage counselors is for husband and wife to regularly spend time alone with one another, i.e. taking frequent second honeymoons. I would like to suggest to vacationing OFWs to consider spending time alone with their respective husband or wife to get to know places like Panglao, Dumaguete, Camiguin, Coron, Sorsogon, and numerous places to which they have not yet traveled. There are very cheap fares that the local airlines are offering.

The Philippine Nautical Highway is a much improved infrastructure connecting the major islands. A couple can drive from Manila to Batangas, then to Calapan, then to Panay and finally to Zamboanga using the ROROs and enjoying the good weather of January and February. Again, this has nothing to do with a consumerist lifestyle. I consider it as a basic need of married couples who need to spend time with one another, away from their daily worries and concerns.

Some of the bloggers misunderstood my reference to pasalubongs. I was not suggesting that you bring a lot of goodies from abroad to give to your relatives. In fact, you can buy practically anything you want to give to your relatives in local stores. And I do agree with some of the comments that your love for your family is not measured by the amount of goods you bring back home.

When I was talking about pasalubongs, I was referring to what you would bring back as gifts to your employers and other friends you have in the foreign places in which you work. There are already very well processed and packaged Filipino delicacies (such as those produced in Cebu, Bulacan, Pampanga, Ilocos Norte, Iloilo, the Bicol region) that can compete with Godiva, Nestle, or Cadbury chocolates. They can pass even the most stringent customs regulations of countries like Australia.

I would like our millions of OFWs to be the first promoters of our local food processing industry which is already reaching world-class level, thanks among others to the efforts of the Department of Science and Technology to modernize the processing and packaging of our traditional delicacies like the chicharon, pastillas de leche, pili nuts, dried mangoes, etc. The Philippine food manufacturing industry will go from strength to strength and will not go the way of other manufacturing sectors that have collapsed because of the Chinese competition. An example of a world-class Filipino brand is Oishi that has a very strong presence in China and some Southeast Asian countries.

The first quarter of 2010 will see faster growth in GDP also because of the expected election-related spending. Together with the continuing strong remittances from abroad, these expenditures will boost private consumption spending which will remain to be the main engine of growth for at least the first half of 2010. If we are able to elect a very credible set of leaders in May 2010, the second semester of 2010 can also be boosted by strong inflows of foreign direct investments, especially in such sectors as mining, infrastructure and energy, tourism and business process outsourcing.

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Occupancy rates of luxury hotels rise

by Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard

The best luxury hotels in the country are enjoying higher occupancy rates than the more affordable accommodation facilities during the Christmas season.

“I am afraid we are full for Christmas and New Year,” the reservation desk of Friday’s Boracay Hotel said, when asked whether they have available rooms for the holidays.

The 40-room Friday’s Boracay, one of the most expensive resorts on the island, offers a room for P12,000 a night, although it has a two-night package of P47,500, inclusive of round-trip tickets from Manila, boat and land transfer, daily breakfast, lunch and dinner. The rate is higher by P6,000 than the low season fee.

Boracay, which is emerging as a favorite destination for foreign and local tourists during the holidays, has three peak seasons: Christmas and New Year (Dec. 25 to Jan. 9), Chinese New Year (Feb. 13 to 20), and Holy Week.

Rooms, however, are still available on the island at more affordable resorts such as the 285-room Boracay Regency. For a deluxe room, a couple can stay at Boracay Regency for P3,824 a night, according to the hotel’s front desk.

In Metro Manila, the 699-room Makati Shangri-La Hotel is enjoying nearly full occupancy rates this month despite higher rates, compared with other deluxe hotels.

The reservation desk of the country’s largest hotel offers a nightly rate of P9,563 for weeknight and close to P8,000 on weekends during the Christmas season. “We have a high occupancy rate this month,” she confirmed.

These rates apply only to local residents, with foreign tourists and balikbayans paying much higher rates. The hotel in its Web site offers a price of at least P12,000 for a nightly stay in its guestroom.

Other hotels in Metro Manila have launched promo packages to lure guests for the holidays. Crowne Plaza Galleria in Ortigas offers a promo rate of P10,750 for a three-night stay, with breakfast for two, during the period Dec. 1 to Feb. 1 (except Dec. 31).

Guests are expected to pay at least P7,000 for a one-night stay outside the package.

Oakwood Premier Joy~Nostalg Center Manila, the newest serviced apartment and hotel in Ortigas, offers a weekend getaway rate that was half its usual rates.

For a two-night stay for the weekend, guests can stay at Oakwood’s 41-sq. m. studio room for only P7,975, without breakfast. All the units in the hotel are equipped with kitchen.

The rate is about P9,000 for a two-night stay for the weekend at one-bedroom superior suite, with living room and kitchen.

RP boosts medal tally with marathon double but Thailand still leads

Buenavista, Banayag hit gold

VIENTIANE -- The Philippines won the men’s and women’s marathons at the Southeast Asian Games yesterday to boost its medal haul but Thailand remained well clear of the chasing pack.

Eduardo Buenavista took the men’s race in two hours, 21 minutes and 10 seconds, finishing 46 seconds ahead of 2007 winner, Indonesia’s Yahuza, with Cambodia’s Hem Bunting taking the bronze.

In the women’s race, Jho-An Banayag took gold in 2hrs 46mins 34secs, edging out defending champion Sunisa Sailomyen of Thailand by 13 seconds with Myanmar’s Ni Lar San in third place.

The Philippines has 20 golds but Thailand, who topped the medals table in 2007, is on 42 golds, including seven in athletics and eight in shooting, eight clear of Vietnam in second place, with Singapore on 28.

Elsewhere yesterday, the men’s and women’s singles table tennis finals were due to take place. Powerhouse Singapore has won four of the five golds up for grabs so far.

Meanwhile, Malaysia’s football coach K. Rajagobal said his players had earned their place in the final of the under-23 competition after overcoming the host nation 3-1 in a fanatically partisan stadium on Monday.

"The players did a good job and we deserved to be in the final," he said, according to the New Straits Times.

"In the second half, I knew Laos would come at us but we began to lose a bit of organization.

"The game was drifting away from us when they equalized but the players showed character, believed in themselves and got the second goal before the third goal followed."

Malaysia will meet Vietnam in the final, who defeated Singapore 4-1.

SEA Games organizing committee chairman Somsavat Lengsavad said the games would boost sport in Laos, who, with 17 golds so far, are closing in on their pre-Games target of 25.

"SEA Games fever has shown that people want to cheer for and support their athletes in popular sports so this leads me to believe Laos sport will improve," he said, according to the Vientiane Times.

He added that the Games were an important milestone for the country.

"Our athletes have done well, winning many gold, silver and bronze medals even though the games are still not over. Laos has never had such medal success. But this time we are the hosts so our athletes trained hard for this victory."

Athletes from 11 nations are competing at the 10-day biennial SEA Games in sports ranging from athletics and swimming to sepak takraw and wushu. They close on Dec. 18.

October registers highest monthly OFW remittance

OF Remittances Hit US$1.5 Billion in October; Year-to-date at US$14.3 Billion
Bangko Sentral
Media Release

Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks rose by 6.7 percent in October 2009 to reach US$1.5 billion, the highest monthly remittance level recorded thus far, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. announced today. This brought the cumulative level of remittances for the first ten months of the year to US$14.3 billion, representing a year-on-year growth of 4.5 percent. Higher transfers of funds were made by both land- and sea-based workers.

The continued deployment of Filipino workers abroad, particularly skilled and higher-paid workers, has provided support to the steady flow of remittances over the ten-month period. Remittances in October were buoyed up by the seasonal pick-up in inflows during the fourth quarter to pay for semestral education expenses of OF families. In addition, higher transfers to families whose properties were damaged by typhoons Ondoy and Pepeng that hit the country in late September and early October contributed to the rise in remittances. The country's long-term deployment outlook has remained favorable in the Middle East countries, specifically in Saudi Arabia's construction and health sectors. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) has also adopted measures to assist OFWs who may be displaced as a result of Dubai's financial difficulties to find alternative work in Qatar, Oman, and other areas in the United Arab Emirates (Abu Dhabi, Ajman, Sharja,Umm al-Quwain, Ras al-Khaiman and Fujairah). Furthermore, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) together with member banks of the Association of Bank Remittance Officers, Inc. (ABROI) recently signed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to utilize the BSP's real-time gross settlement system linking remittances of overseas workers to the beneficiaries' accounts in other banks, thus allowing for faster and cheaper delivery of remittances to beneficiaries. The MOA also included an agreement among participating banks to lower the back-end processing fee from P100 - P550 per remittance transaction to P50 per remittance transaction, translating into lower overall remittance costs. These developments and initiatives are expected to further help promote a steady stream of foreign exchange inflows from overseas Filipinos' remittances.

For the period January-October 2009, the major sources of remittances were the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, U.K., Japan, Singapore, United Arab Emirates, Italy, and Germany.

During crisis year: GMA-7 tops year’s P2.8-billion profit target

Manila Bulletin

The country’s biggest broadcast firm, GMA Network Inc., has already reached its entire 2009 target of P2.8 billion net income as of the end of last month and expects to do “much better” in the coming election year 2010, Chairman and CEO Felipe L. Gozon told reporters Monday night.

GMA is likewise confident that it will achieve its P11- to P12-billion target revenues for 2009. Already, the company has benefitted from some P400-million airtime sales from political advertisements ahead of the presidential elections and kept ahead of competition though it does not plan to increase its advertising rates until February, next year.

Its two international channels GMA Pinoy TV (GPTV) and GMA Life TV (GLTV) have also boosted revenues. Both channels are now available in the US, Canada, Europe, Middle East, North Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, Guam, Papua New Guinea, Singapore, Hong Kong and other countries.
Subscribers totalled 266,000 as of end-November, according to Gozon.

For its 2010 capital expenditure, the network has allocated P400 million, or less, he disclosed. The bulk of the amount will go to upgrading facilities.

GMA is continuing its regional expansion to strengthen signal coverage in key provinces. It has activated its new five-kilowatt TV relay in Mt. Amuyao, Mt. Province which airs in Channel 5 last Oct. It has also upgraded transmitters and antenna systems for TV-10 Sto. Tomas, Benguet, TV-12 Cagayan de Oro, TV-7 Naga City and TV-12 Mt. Banoy, Batangas.

Taiwan’s investments in RP double in 2009

Manila Bulletin

TAIPEI – Investments from Taiwan to the Philippines in 2009 have reached $113 million or more than double than that of the 2008 actual inflow of $45.7 million.

The target for next year is to double the investments haul in 2009 to $226 million with investment leads coming mainly from the power sector, especially in biofuels production.

Philippine trade attaché Dita Angara-Mathay of the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) told visiting journalists that Taiwanese investments are looking at the Visayas and Mindanao areas doing their due diligence.

"There are biofuels projects expected to come in next year," Angara-Mathay said. The interest in the power generation sector has become attractive for Taiwanese investors. Of the total investments in 2009, the power sector accounts for 50 percent.
The Philippines is also hoping to host some big ticket investors in the ICT sector, which may relocate or expand in the Philippines from Vietnam.

"So, we are very optimistic in our prospects for next year," she said.

Angara-Mathay also said they have not given up yet on the Taiwanese footwear manufacturers saying that the plans are going to be firmed up in the first half of next year to relocate some of their production to the Philippines.

The Taiwanese footwear producers are also going to relocate in Bataan rather than in Marikina, which can no longer provide enough space for their facilities.

Palace defends AFP, PNP officials in Senate inquiry

MANILA, Dec. 15 (PNA) -— Malacanang warded off attacks against top police and military officials who were not able to attend a hearing called by the Senate on Tuesday.

Press Secretary Cerge Remonde took exceptions to insinuations that top officials of the Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) and the Philippine National Police (PNP) deliberately snubbed Tuesday's hearing called by the Senate committee on national defense and security chaired by Senator Rodolfo Biazon.

”We appeal most humbly, we beg for the understanding of our legislators in this time. We appeal to the senators to please understand the situation of our generals if ever they cannot show up immediately in the hearings since our generals, while engaged in a battle, still have to fight another battle in Congress instead of being able to direct the troops in the field,” the press secretary pointed out.

In a Malacanang press briefing, Remonde said Philippine National Police (PNP) director-general Jesus Versoza and Armed Forces of the Philippines (AFP) chief of staff General Victor Ibrado called him last night to inform him that they would likely be unable to attend the Senate inquiry since they are still in Maguindanao.

He stressed that Versoza and Ibrado's absence to show up in the hearing was not intentional since both have to oversee the troops in Maguindanao while the province is still in the state of emergency along with the province of Sultan Kudarat and Cotobato City.

Remonde appealed to the senators to "understand the situation of our working generals" who are ensuring the law and order in Maguindanao and the safety of the residents notwithstanding the lifting by President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo of Proclamation 1959 which placed the area under martial law for a week.

He reminded the senators that the province, however, remain under a state of emergency.

Remonde, however, was quick to assure the senators that top security officers will show up at the right time after ensuring that peace and order in Maguindanao is back to normal and the threat to the safety of civilians in that part of Mindanao has been neutralized.

Remonde also said Palace officials are willing to cooperate with Senate inquiries in aid of legislation as long as such summons conforms to a precedent ruling by the Supreme Court on SC vs. Ermita case.

"... So please help us assure our highly respected senators that we are ready and willing to cooperate," he said.

A visibly irked Sen. Biazon earlier invited Versoza, Ibrado, Interior and Local Government Secretary Ronaldo Puno, Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and the officers from the 6th Infantry Division detailed in Maguindanao but all of them did not make it to attend the Senate inquiry.

Only Director Luiso Ticman, Director Raul Bacalso, Chief Superintendent Fred Cabales and Criminal Investigation and Detection Group (CIDG) director Raul Castaneda managed to show up in the Senate investigation. (PNA)

Lecture Series for Quezon City Public School Teachers

Heroes Hall, Malacanan Palace
15 December 2009

Around 300 public school teachers and 100 school administrators from Quezon City were invited to attend the first of a lecture series for public school teachers in Malacanan Palace hosted by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo.

The topic of the lecture is entitled "Managing Foreign Debt for Economic Development" and includes the following resource speakers -- Albay Governor Joey Salceda, Presidential Assistant for Education Undersecretary Mona Valisno and Presidential Spokesperson on Economic Affairs Undersecretary Gary Olivar.

In her speech, President Arroyo stressed that the imposition of Proclamation 1959 in Maguindanao was "based on sound information, a clear reading of the Constitution, and a deep desire to quell rebellion and restore order. The results vindicate the choice we made. We make no apologies for acting where others fear to tread," the President said.

The President emphasized that "the objective of our government from the moment martial law was imposed was to maintain it only as long as required and to work to lift it once crucial objectives had been met."

Among the results mentioned by the President after the comprehensive investigation conducted by justice officials, the police and military into the tragic crimes of November 23 and the rebellion that followed included the arrest of more than 600 individuals composed of the alleged masterminds and triggermen, seizure of over a thousand high-powered weapons and armaments, and over 500,000 rounds of ammunition that posed a security threat to the nation.

The Chief Executive reiterated that justice shall be served to the families of the gruesome massacre in Maguindanao and that peace will be achieved in the province. "As President, I have a constitutional obligation to defend this nation from internal rebellion, just as I do external aggression," she emphasized.

The lecture series aims to keep public school teachers abreast with current issues that affect the nation and provide high-level inputs that will contribute to the improvement of the quality of teaching in the country.

Various topics including climate change and national security will be discussed in the lecture series in the next 3 to 4 months for public school teachers in the cities of Manila, Caloocan, Pasig, Mandaluyong and Makati. (*NFB)

Tuesday, 15 December 2009

PGMA inspects construction of Laguindingan Airport

LAGUINDINGAN, Misamis Oriental (PND) ---President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo today checked on the progress of the ongoing construction of the Laguindingan International Airport here.

The Chief Executive, together with Misamis Oriental Governor Oscar Moreno and other local officials, boarded a coaster and passed through the Laguindingan Airport access road reroute to the airport site.

“The access road is beautiful,” the President said, obviously impressed with the more than four-kilometer, four-lane access road.

The P187.76-million access road leads to the Iligan (Lanao Del Norte)-Cagayan de Oro City (Misamis Oriental)-Butuan City (Agusan Del Norte) national highway.

The President, upon reaching the airport site, walked through the terminal building still under construction. She then inspected the runway.

The International airport sits on a 4.17 square kilometer site in Barangay Moog, Laguindingan and is located 46 kilometers from the existing Lumbia Airport.

Upon its completion, it will be the fourth International airport in Mindanao, after the Francisco Bangoy International Airport in Davao City, Zamboanga International Airport in Zamboanga City and General Santos International Airport. It will also be the first International airport in Northern Mindanao or Region 10.

Construction of the International airport will be completed by 2011, as the project is now 54 percent accomplished.
The President broke ground on the project on January 11, 2006.

The DoTC said civil works are being done by Korean contractor Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Co.

The President has expressed hope that the runway of the airport as well as the apron could be completed by April next year, before her term ends.

Presentation of the Signed Memorandum of Agreement of Set 2 and 3 Covering 19 Municipalities of the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program

Top American footwear chain to open in RP

Payless ShoeSource, the United States leading footwear store will open 7 shops in the Philippines next year.

The chain of stores is owned by Kansas based Collective Brands Inc. Chief Executive Officer Matthew Rubel said the expansion in the Philippines marks the next stage of the group’s international growth, which will also expand the number of stores it operates in the Middle East and open in Russia next year.

Shoes are a category on which consumers in emerging markets tend to spend as their incomes increase, and Filipino consumers already have “high footwear consumption,” he said.

“When we look at the consumer in that marketplace, and we look at the competitive set, we don’t believe that anybody is delivering style, price and quality, and so we believe that there’s a unique opportunity for this to be a material business,” Rubel said.
He estimated that the Philippine market might support as many as 80 stores. The shoe retailer is also looking at other emerging countries in Asia, Rubel said.
The US group will be supported in the Philippines by Store Specialists which manages 72 brands and 340 stores in the country, including Gucci Group NV and Zara.
Payless has more than 4,500 stores in North and South America and the Middle East.

4Ps expands to cover all Mimaropa provinces

Puerto Princesa City (11 December) -- All the five island provinces of Mindoro Oriental, Mindoro Occidental, Marinduque, Romblon and Palawan will benefit from the country’s poverty reduction strategy program: Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program or 4Ps.

On top of the P272,339,613 million released so far for 4Ps in Mindoro provinces and Palawan covering about 50,906 beneficiaries as of December 1, 2009, the program expands to cover more beneficiaries in municipalities and cities with pockets of poverty. The 4 Pswill now help a total of 31 municipalities and one city in the region.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program in MIMAROPA will now include an additional 11 municipalities and one city in Marinduque, Palawan and Romblon. These are the towns of Araceli, Coron, Puerto Princesa City, Rizal, Roxas and Sofronio Espanola in Palawan. The program has also added the towns of Sta. Fe, San Agustin,and Corcuera in Romblon; and, Sta. Cruz, Buenavista, and Torrijos in Marinduque.

The Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program is poised to achieve the Millenium Davelopment Goals such as eradicate extreme poverty and hunger, achieve universal primary education, promote gender equality, reduce child mortality and improve maternal health through its conditional cash transfer scheme by providing cash grants to beneficiaries in exchange for their compliance to the program conditionalities. (PIA)

Inauguration of the Jolo Airport Runway Improvement Project, Ceremonial Inauguration of the Upgrading of Jolo Water Supple System Project