Saturday, 20 March 2010

RP to buy 18 SF trainer jets

MANILA (PNA) - Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales pushes for the revival of the Armed Forces of the Philippines' US$ 13.1-million project that calls for the purchase of 18 new SF 260 trainer aircraft for the Philippine Air Force military pilot training.

Gonzales said he approved an amended contract for the supply and delivery of the aircraft by Italian company Alenia Aermacchi and its local partner, the Aerotech Industries Philippines, which is based in Clarkfield, Pampanga.

The amended contract was earlier endorsed by new AFP Chief of Staff Gen. Delfin Bangit and by PAF Commanding General Oscar Rabena.

Gonzales made the announcement in his visit to the Aerotech Philippines’ aircraft parts manufacturing and assembly facility in Clarfield Freeport Zone to check on the implementation of the project under the AFP modernization program.

SF 260 aircraft parts supplied by Aermacchi will be assembled by Aerotech Philippines in Clarfield. Some parts of the aircraft will also be manufactured by the local company.

The project is expected to boost not only the AFP modernization program but also the country’s aviation industry because of its technology transfer aspect.

Aermacchi is transferring its aircraft assembly and some parts manufacturing to its local partner. This means that succeeding orders that the Italian company will henceforth receive will be coming from the Philippine facility, according to Aerotech Philippines.

The contract with the Italian company also involves integrated logistics package such as pilot, technical and maintenance training and after-sales support, including provision of initial equipment and spare parts.

The SF 260 trainer aircraft is in service with 27 different military customers, civil professional flying schools and private operations worldwide with almost 1,000 units in flight operations, said Aerotech Philippines.

Aside from the PAF, Aermacchi’s other latest customer is the Italian Airforce which acquired 30 SF 260 jets to upgrade its own fleet.

In his message after the project visit, Gonzales underscored the importance of upgrading and modernizing the country’s armed forces.

He said it was not only about building the country’s defense capability, but also about “triggering national pride by making the people proud of their armed forces, which are the ultimate symbol of their love for their country.”

“Making our people proud of the armed forces and of our country is essential in mobilizing them for national transformation. We need to make the transformation from Third World to First World,” Gonzales said.

PGMA calls for immediate repair, improvement of San Jose de Buan road

Tacloban City (March 20) -- President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo ordered the immediate repair and improvement of the 39.5 kilometers Lokilokom-San Jose de Buan dirt road.

President Arroyo made the directive during her March 19 visit to the hinterland town of San Jose de Buan in the province of Samar, the second poorest municipality and the most nutritionally poor municipality in Region 8.

Presidential Assistant for Eastern Visayas Cynthia Nierras informed the Philippine Information Agency that the President has directed Defense Secretary Norberto Gonzales and 8th Infantry Division Commander Arthur Tabaquero, the Army Engineer Brigade and Samar Governor Mila Tan to coordinate with one another in order to fast track the rehabilitation and the improvement of the dirt road into an all-weather road.

Samar Governor Mila Tan, PA Nierras said, told the President that the project would be finished in fifteen days. For her part, Second District of Samar Congresswoman Sharee Ann Tan said that she will facilitate the release of P5 million for the project. The President, however, ordered the reassessment of the road situation.

"So it's really the road that is hampering peace and development in this municipality," the President was quoted to have said.

PA Nierras informed that the project is estimated to have a total cost of P44.5 Million.

When interviewed after the Presidential visit, Mayor Melania Rebato of San Jose de Buan expressed her gratitude for the President's visit. She said she has always believed that President Arroyo will not turn down the LGU's request for the repair and rehabilitation of the one lane dirt road.

The President's visit has inspired the people and gave them a brand new hope that at last their road problem would soon be solved, Mayor Rebato said.

Mayor Rebato said that she will prepare as soon as possible a letter requesting the DND to help the municipality solve its problem. The letter will be personally handed to Secretary Gonzales by PA Nierras.

When the road is improved, the travel time to San Jose de Buan will only take more than 35 minutes, a far cry from today's travel time of nearly three hours, from the Lokilokom Junction to the town proper of San Jose de Buan. (PIA 8)

The Working President (444)

The Working President (443)

Manila now UK’s largest visa hub in Asia-Pacific

Manila Bulletin\

Manila is now the United Kingdom’s largest visa hub in the Asia-Pacific.

United Kingdom’s Border Agency International Group Director Barbara Woodward bared this as she said the British government is targeting 80,000 visa applications in Manila this year.

“I am delighted to be visiting the Philippines and seeing in detail the important work carried out in the British Embassy’s visa section. Our visa hub in Manila is now the largest in the Asia-Pacific region taking in applications from five different areas as well as Filipino applications,” said Woodward, who was in Manila Friday for her Asia-Pacific regional tour.

“We expect to process upwards of 80,000 applications in total this year in Manila. These present a range of interesting migration challenges for us – from dealing with those wishing to join ships to those wanting to visit, study, or settle in the UK,” she added

Woodward is the most senior migration official to visit the Philippines in recent years. She is responsible for overseeing the work of the United Kingdom Border Agency in 135 locations throughout the world.

For his part, British Ambassador to the Philippines Stephen Lillie said: “People-to-people links are a vital part of the UK-RP relationship. We pride ourselves on running an efficient and customer-friendly visa operation in Manila – now Asia Pacific’s largest visa hub.”

The UK’s visa section in Manila takes in visa applications not only from the Philippines but also from South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, and Taiwan, making it the largest visa hub in the Asia-Pacific region.

The British embassy in Manila recently opened its new Visa Application Centre (VAC), located at Unit 606, 6th Floor, 2305 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati City.

New applications for a British passport from the Philippines, however, is being handled by the British Consulate in Hong Kong to ensure efficiency and security from fraudulence and tampering.

The British embassy had warned that those who will be caught submitting fake documents will be arrested and banned from making further applications for a period of 10 years.

The UK is the first European Union member country to adopt biometrics and has so far rolled out the procedure at its visa issuing centers in many countries worldwide. Its system has been adopted by other countries, including the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

Visa applicants are required to submit their biometric details such as fingerprint scans and digital photo to ensure that future applications from individuals who have used false or fraudulent documents are refused without question.

The UK Boarder Agency has intercepted increasing fraudulent applications, from 584 in 2007 to 657 in 2008 alone.

The British government is likewise planning to change its migration policies that would allow individuals applying for a citizenship in the UK to go back to their home country for a period of time while waiting for their naturalized citizenship. This “circular migration” is expected to benefit developing countries like the Philippines.

There are currently about 200,000 to 300,000 Filipinos based in the UK, most of whom are in the health sector.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

How presidential candidates stand on population


MANILA, Philippines—Talk of the Town is running the stand of presidential candidates on a number of issues, starting with the country’s fast-growing population, now estimated at more than 92 million.

We asked the candidates the following questions:

* Under your administration, what would be your population policy?

* Are you in favor of artificial family planning methods like pills, condoms and IUDs?

* Do you support proposals to teach sex education in all schools, public and private, starting Grade 5?

* Do you think the country’s population growth stunts socioeconomic development and aggravates poverty?

* What is your stand on the reproductive health bill? Has your position changed? Why? (House Bill No. 5043 calls for sex education in all schools starting Grade 5 and the promotion of contraceptives, among other things.)

Except for Benigno Aquino III and Manuel Villar, whose staff submitted their respective answers, the candidates were interviewed by Inquirer reporters covering the presidential campaign.


Benigno Aquino III
Liberal Party

My administration will fully support the crafting of a firm policy that will address the serious problem on population. It will be based on the idea of responsible parenthood: imposing on parents that they should play a key role in ensuring that each and every child they bring into this world has the opportunity to lead a good life, and educating them about the means with which to plan their families so they can create families based on their ability to sustain their needs.
In the process of providing a range of options and information to couples, both natural family planning and modern methods shall be presented.

Children’s access to media, especially the Internet, necessitates an earlier (sex) education for them to be able to act as responsible adults. The sex education curriculum should be morally sound, has to be derived from reliable sources and delivered by responsible educators.

If we intend to maximize our resources and ensure that the basic needs of every citizen are met, the population issue has to be addressed. For instance, even now, we sorely lack textbooks and classrooms to accommodate our current student population. While this is also a problem because of corruption, it will be more difficult to fix the situation if we have to keep up with a soaring population.

I believe the reproductive health bill must be examined. One of the points I wish to interpellate is the bill’s provision of a hospital budget for contraceptives. If government hospitals will have it, that means there’s a budget for it. There is a truism that if you have a budget and you don’t spend it you’ll lose it. This might lead to hospital staff pushing people into using contraceptives instead of presenting them as a choice. There has to be penalties against that. Submitted by Aquino’s staff


JC de los Reyes
Ang Kapatiran

Platform No. 8, under Moral Dimension, of Ang Kapatiran Party’s political platform states: “Actively promote responsible parenthood and natural family planning.” This is my population policy.

Our Declaration of a Consistent Ethic of Life reads: “Every human person is created in the image and likeness of God. We believe that every human life is sacred from conception to death; that people are more important than things; and that the measure of every institution is whether or not it enhances the life and dignity of the human person.

“Henceforth, our Declaration of a Consistent Ethic of Life. Ang Kapatiran Party upholds human life in all its forms and stages. All are important. One aspect of human life affects another.

“The precondition for sustaining a consistent ethic of life is a ‘respect-life’ attitude or atmosphere in society.

“A consistent ethic of life means being prolife across the board—opposing abortion, artificial contraception, the death penalty, euthanasia, sports whose main aim is to inflict physical violence or harm on the opponent, torture to extract confession from an accused or a suspect, hazing, maltreatment of prisoners, pornography, prostitution, fraternity violence, the culture of guns, death and violence, vendettas, the arms race, poverty, corruption and unsafe working conditions.”

The party and I are therefore firm on our stand to reject RH Bill 5043. Interview by Jerome Aning


Joseph Estrada
Pwersa ng Masa

One of our major problems is (a fast-growing) population. During my time as President, the population growth rate was more than two percent. That means more than a million children were born every year.

We built classrooms but we still lacked classrooms. Hundreds of thousands of children are undernourished. The problem is (lack of) family planning. I am against abortion. With the many problems that we have, I believe that women should be given the freedom to plan the family that they can afford.

Prevention (of pregnancy) is not a crime. Abortion is a crime. Perhaps we can use condoms or other forms of contraception. Do we want our children to become criminals? It would be much more of a burden. Do we want them to become prostitutes? We have to weigh these things.
Interview by Norman Bordadora


Richard Gordon

My population policy is simple: no abortion. I will not make the population as an excuse—95 million people are going to be there when I sit as President. I have been brought up believing that man, if he is properly educated, has a free choice.

Responsible parenthood should be inculcated in our people. But I will not force them. Neither will I spend government funds to curb population. I want a quality population.

A huge population under poor leadership will stunt our development. But good leadership will uplift the capability of our people and use the population as an edge later on.

You will not graduate under my administration in high school without learning a skill that you can work with. The size of our population right now is a disadvantage, but it can be an advantage under the right leader.

It is up to the people to use contraceptives. But I will say: “These are the healthy ones. These are the safe ones.” To me, health and education are No. 1. They go side by side. So I want to pay the teachers well. I want to pay the doctors in the countryside P50,000 each. If I can raise the money the way I want to, I can pay them P70,000 so they can stay in the country.

I am also in favor of sex education in schools, rather than have our children learn it on the street. Sex is a good thing. It should be taught properly. This is important because of the explosion of mass media and the Internet. I would rather have children learn it from their parents or from the school.

I don’t think the RH bill will be approved. I cannot say yes or no to the bill because it will still permutate when it is discussed in Congress. But I am for the responsible use of population and responsible parenthood. If push comes to shove, I would say “if you have more than two children, then you will pay” for the third child’s public education and health services. Interview by Edson Tandoc


Maria Ana Consuelo Madrigal

Choices by spouses on family planning should be respected. The people should decide, not the government. However, abortion as a means of either population control or attempts at escaping poverty should be discredited and prevented.

I am for education or information dissemination on the advantages and disadvantages of birth control. Many of our people still don’t know about this issue. Many women know they become pregnant, but they don’t know their cycle—when they could get pregnant or not.

It is unfortunate that only the rich are given adequate information regarding family planning. The poor should also be given the same information.

I am against using government funds in buying condoms and other contraceptives because it will be another source of corruption. Interview by Jerry Esplanada


Nicanor Perlas

My position is between right to life and choice. I am fine with vasectomy and ligation. There should be free choice but it should not be coercive and result in abortion.

Pills, as long as they’re not abortifacient. Condoms are OK. IUDs, no, because they can damage the health of users.

Sex education must be done after puberty. But I would make it optional.

Population density is only one factor [that affects socioeconomic development]. The other is technology. Be concerned by population, but also be concerned about technology, whether it destroys or enhances the carrying capacity of the nation.

This (RH bill) requires a thorough and sensitive and respectful process with key stakeholders. There are really very few on the prochoice side who are supporting abortion. Interview by DJ Yap


Gilberto Teodoro Jr.

My population policy will [be based on] freedom of moral choice. The government should support a moral choice made by the people. We will encourage private sector participation, through NGOs, to inform the people.

I will respect the sanctity of a decision to plan the family based on a moral choice. But once a moral choice is made, the government must support that choice, except for abortion.

If a person makes that moral choice [on artificial family planning methods], based on his conscience, and ask the government for help, then the government must help him.

As a policy, it’s freedom of choice. And that choice should be secret and sacred. The privacy of that choice is important.

I think we were taught reproduction and other elements of sex education in Grade 7 in a Catholic school. So, I think it depends on the school. Let’s make it not a policy but dependent on the school.

It (the country’s population growth) does (stunt socioeconomic development and aggravate poverty) at this stage. We can only provide so much for how many people. But equally important to the economic impact of population is the fact that the Philippines has finite territory and the population is increasing. We have a limited number of resources and many areas are getting more vulnerable because of the effects of climate change.

I originally wanted to support it (RH bill). But I saw the acrimony over the bill and it was not getting anywhere. So, what does that do? Population is still growing. We might have to find another way. And that balance I see is to support a moral choice.

(My position changed) when the debate became heated . As a public figure, you get a sense of the balance and you have to make a judgment call. Is this policy workable or practicable? If it’s not you have to find a way to solve the problem.

When I was a congressman, I never supported any RH bill. Officially I did not support it. But personally, “baka puwede (it might be possible).” Only in this Congress has there been an almost serious attempt to do it, and it has created a lot of acrimony. Interview by TJ Burgonio


Eduardo Villanueva
Bangon Pilipinas

We are against all forms of abortion. However, we welcome some (methods of) family planning and responsible parenthood as long as moral values are not violated and the health of the mother and child is not compromised.

Once elected I’ll order a comprehensive review of the RH bill to take out the contentious issues without sacrificing the sound programs for responsible parenthood and family planning.

But it is more important to address poverty. Once we have addressed poverty there will be no more controversy.

Yes [I’m in favor of artificial family planning methods], as long as there is no violation of medical laws and of the health of the mother and child. And there is no violation of moral laws.

Grade 5 [for sex education] is too young. Congress should study carefully what’s the best age for young people to receive sex education.

In the short run, if the poverty problem is malignant because of misgovernance and shocking massive corruption, it’s common sense that population growth affects the economic condition of our country. Like when you’re just renting an apartment and you produce 12 children. However, if the shocking corruption could be averted, we have much money to stir an economic revolution in the country.

I agree with some provisions (of the RH bill). If elected President I’ll make a marching order for a comprehensive review of the bill. I’m consistent. I’m against abortion because that is murder. But it’s a wise decision to favor sound family planning and responsible parenthood. It must be in the hands of the couple. I’m against intrusion of interference in the basic democratic human rights of families. Interview by Dona Pazzibugan


Manuel Villar
Nacionalista Party

I am basically prolife. I think the teaching of proper values of how to nurture children and parents’ responsibilities to them should be hammered constantly.

Those (artificial family planning methods) are personal choices and should remain as such. I do respect the people’s independence, freedom of choice with regard to family matters.

It (sex education in all schools) might result in more serious problems if we expose children to the matter of sex at the Grade 5 level.

Our current population should be viewed as an asset and ways should be discovered on how economic growth can be helped by population size. India and China are growing fast and they are the most populated countries in the world.

I’m against it (the RH bill). We should let parents decide. The government should just guide them. Submitted by Villar’s staff

San Miguel turns down Kirin bid to control beer operation

Ian Sayson and Cecilia Yap
Manila Standard

SAN Miguel Corp. has ruled out selling a controlling stake in its beer operations to Kirin Holdings Co. of Japan, even as it prepares to unload its food and packaging businesses to raise $1 billion to finance expansion and acquisitions.

The brewery was “not available” for sale, said Ramon Ang, San Miguel president, after Kirin, which owns 48 percent of San Miguel Brewery, said it was interested in taking majority control.

Ang said the sale of San Miguel’s other assets would be used to accelerate its expansion into infrastructure, energy, telecommunications and mining.

San Miguel might spend $2 billion on expansion and acquisitions within a year, Ang said.

Ang and company chairman Eduardo Cojuangco have raised more than $5 billion selling assets since 2007 and had P153 billion in cash at their disposal as of September.

The country’s second-biggest listed company, which started brewing San Miguel Beer more than a century ago, is expanding into industries that Ang has said have return on equity about triple that of its “traditional” businesses.

“We are interested in anything that will add value,” Ang said. “Our focus is infrastructure, energy and mining.”

San Miguel had offers for and planned to sell 49 percent each of canned-meat and hotdog maker San Miguel Pure Foods Co. and its packaging business, he said.

It also planned to sell Ginebra San Miguel Inc. to San Miguel Brewery, he said.

Last week, Senji Miyake, incoming president of Kirin, said his company would like to take a majority in San Miguel Brewery if its parent were willing to sell.

“We’re not in a hurry,” he said, declining to say whether they were in talks.

Kirin last year bought its stake in San Miguel Brewery, which controls 95 percent of the Philippine beer market. The venture bought the international beer operations from San Miguel Corp. for $300 million in January to gain access to China and other parts of Southeast Asia.

“There is no way we can’t make use of San Miguel’s strong brand in Southeast Asia,” said Miyake. “Our priority is Southeast Asia, as its potential is a big as China.”

San Miguel is accelerating its expansion as Top Frontier Investment Holdings Inc., owned by the food maker itself and two of its directors, has control of the voting rights to 86 percent of its shares. Top Frontier, whose shareholders include San Miguel directors Roberto Ongpin and Inigo Zobel, has initiated a tender for the rest of the food maker at P75 a share.

Top Frontier bought 28 percent of San Miguel in November and earlier this month completed the purchase of Q-Tech Alliance Holdings Inc.’s shares in the company. San Miguel, which owns 49 percent of Top Frontier, said in January the consolidation of ownership would ensure continuity and stability for the company’s strategic plan.

Ang said Top Frontier, after the conclusion of the tender offer, would sell down its stake in San Miguel within a year.

San Miguel, which opened its brewery in 1890, eight years before the Philippines declared independence from Spain, has raised $2.44 billion from the sale of beer assets in the last year.

Military buys P400m night vision goggles

by Florante S. Solmerin
Manila Standard

THE Army has bought over 2,000 units of night vision goggles worth P400 million to enhance its combat operations against militants in Mindanao.

Lt. Col. Arnulfo Marcelo Burgos Jr., the Armed Forces spokesman, said Tuesday 920 pieces of the gadget were so far delivered.

“Each night vision goggle costs more or less P200,000. Our chief of staff, Gen. Delfin Bandit, directed our capability upgrade officers to hasten the delivery of the equipment that would be used by our soldiers in the field for combat operations,” he said.

Lt. Col. Ernesto Torres Jr., the Army spokesman, said the 2,351 units of M914A monocular goggles were supplied by Nightline Inc., a US defense contractor.

Nightline said in its website that it is owned, and staffed by former military members schooled in night operations and counter insurgency.

While the first delivery was made on March 7, the rest of the goggles would arrive in May, Torres said. The Army would get the bulk of the shipment and the Air Force would get 186 units.

The night vision goggles could enhance the combat operations of at least three infantry divisions in Mindanao. Bangit said Monday he is now focusing on modernizing the operational capability of the three divisions as one of his top priorities.

Burgos declined to specify which infantry divisions, but hinted the recipients would be the regiments of the Special Forces and the Scout Rangers that operate at night.

Investors swarm P8.5b worth of Treasury bonds

Elaine R. Alanguilan
Manila Standard

The Philippines sold P8.5 billion in five-year Treasury bonds Tuesday as investors swarmed the auction.

“The market is very liquid,” said National Treasurer Roberto Tan following the auction. Banks tendered P27.01 billion, or more than three times the P8.5-billion bond offering.

Tan said there were no maturities this week, adding there could be a spillover of freed-up liquidity when P40 billion worth of three- and five-year bonds matured three weeks ago.

The government sold the debt at an average of 6.09 percent, down 14.3 basis points from the previous average of 6.233 percent for sovereign bonds with similar tenor issued earlier.

The Treasury re-issued bonds it originally sold in October 2007 to extend the maturity to Oct. 4, 2014.

“This is a good time for issuers [in the bond market]. We should be seeing some government-owned and -controlled corporations and public corporate tapping the bond market in the second quarter to take advantage of the favorable market,” said Tan.

The government is lining up the issuance of at least $500 million worth of so-called OFW or workers’ bonds next month. The bonds are considered part of the government’s domestic borrowing program for the year.

“We have authority from the President to issue enough,” said Tan when asked to confirm whether or not Malacañang had already given the green light for the proposed fund-raising exercise.

He said the terms of the issuance, including the volume of the offering, was not finalized pending approval from Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas and the Bureau of Internal Revenue on the tax treatment of the debt.

Tan said the government might also consider issuing retail treasury bonds in the latter part of the year amid heavy maturities. The government raised about P104 billion from the issuance of RTBs in October last year.

John Chua
Manila Standard

Traffic relief. Work on the Skyway extension to Sucat has been non-stop in an effort to open the segment to traffic by June. Project contractor DMCI has promised to finish the extension all the way to Alabang by the end of the year, four months ahead of schedule.

Japan electronics firm investing P13B

Gerard S. dela Peña

JAPAN-BASED electronics firm Nidec Corp. plans to infuse P13 billion in additional investments into the country this year, a move that government officials said would generate thousands of jobs.

The firm is expanding its manufacturing operations in the country, Nidec Corp. Chairman and Chief Executive Officer Shigenobu Nagamori said.

“It is very easy to hire outstanding engineers and workers in this country. They stay with the company for a very long time and they are very good in English. We should have invested more because of the potentials that this country has,” Mr. Nagamori told Palace reporters Tuesday night after company officials made a courtesy call to President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo.

The company, known worldwide for its technology that allowed for the reduction of the size of hard disk drives, has manufacturing plants and research and development centers in six Asian countries, and a sales office in Germany.

Locally, it has four subsidiaries operating in Laguna and Subic Bay free port.

These are Nidec Philippines Corp. (manufacturing of spindle motors for hard disk drives); Nidec Precision Philippines Corp. (manufacturing of components for precision motors); Nidec Subic Philippines Corp. (manufacturing of spindle motors); and Nidec Copal Philippines Corp. (production of precision mini-motors).

The company’s investments through its four subsidiaries in the country have reached P14.9 billion as of end-2009. Additional funds will put the company’s investments to a total of P27.9 billion or roughly $652 million, Mr. Nagamori said.

He said the company could increase total investments to up to $1 billion this year as long as the government is willing to throw in support.

“If the next president will support us, then we will increase our investments,” he said.

“We were able to form a very good relationship between the government heads, that’s why it was very much easier for us to expand our investments. Investing will be very risky if we don’t have very good relationship with your government,” he added.

Lilia B. de Lima, director-general of the Philippine Economic Zone Authority, who accompanied Nidec officials, said the company’s investments could generate more than 10,000 jobs.

The local units of Nidec currently have a total work force of 14,564.

“This will create directly at least 10,000 jobs. If you’re in the electronics sector, if you create one job, you indirectly create another seven. The multiplier effect is very big because normally they are able to bring in their own suppliers from Japan,” Ms. de Lima said.

Electronic products are the country’s top exports, contributing 56.8% or $2.03 billion to aggregate export revenues as of January.

Nidec said its exports reached P14.38 billion as of end-2009.

Mall tycoon’s son buys stake in firm running RP power grid
Mmain report by Reuters

ONETAIPAN Holdings, controlled by the son of mall tycoon Henry Sy, yesterday said it would pay approximately $350 million to acquire a 30% interest in the National Grid Corporation of the Philippines.

OneTaipan said it would buy Monte Oro Grid Resources, which holds the National Grid stake, using equity and debt arranged by a foreign financial institution which it did not identify.

"The investment represents our commitment to be a part of the power sector which is a critical engine to the country’s development and growth," Henry Sy Jr. said in a statement, of his first foray in the power industry.

National Grid Corp. was formed after the government sold a 25-year license to a consortium led by China’s State Grid Corp to run the country’s power grid for $3.95 billion, the country’s biggest privatization deal.

The consortium paid 25% of its winning bid, or about $1 billion, in Jan. 2009, with the remainder to be paid over the next 15 years. The Chinese firm holds 40% of National Grid and local firm Calaca High Power Corp owns 30%.

Last year Mr. Sy Jr.’s group, Triratna Holdings Corp., made a surprise offer to buy a 13.4% stake in top power distributor Manila Electric Co. (Meralco) at a premium of nearly 60%. But his offer was matched by the PLDT group, a key shareholder that had priority rights over the shares.

Triratna had also qualified to bid for National Grid but did not submit an offer.

Mr. Sy Jr.’s father is one of the country’ richest men. He controls SM Investments Corp. which has interests in retail, property development, mall operations and banking.

PSALM starts bidding process for BacMan geothermal power plant

Paul Anthony A. Isla
Business Mirror

GOVERNMENT-RUN Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. (PSALM) has started the bid process for the Bacon-Manito (BacMan) geothermal power plants.

In its invitation to bid, PSALM said it will bid the BacMan geothermal power plants consisting of the 100-megawatt (MW) BacMan I Geothermal Power Plant in Manito, Albay, and the 40-MW BacMan II Geothermal Power Plants (Cawayan and Botong) in Sorsogon City, Sorsogon.

PSALM said the asset is being disposed of on an “as is, where is” basis.

PSALM said due diligence for the power plants started on March 17 up to May 5.

PSALM has set the prebid conference on April 6 and the submission of bid documents on May 5 at the PSALM office.

PSALM said it will require interested parties to submit a letter of interest stating the full name, address, telephone and fax numbers of the interested party, name of the principal contact and signed by an authorized representative.

As a prerequisite to the receipt of the bidding package, PSALM said the interested parties will execute a confidentiality agreement and an undertaking pursuant to Section 78 of Republic Act 9136, both in the forms provided by PSALM, and pay a nonrefundable fee in the amount of $2,000.

In December, PSALM said it was looking at bidding out the 246-MW Angat hydropower plant in Bulacan and 150-MW Bacon-Manito geothermal power complex within the first half of 2010.

PSALM earlier said it is on track with respect to their privatization plans. “We’re hoping to sell more assets in the first quarter of 2010,” said Conrad Tolentino, PSALM vice president for asset management and electricity trading.

Tolentino said PSALM also plans to bid out the contracted capacities of 1,200-MW Ilijan power plant and the unified Leyte geothermal complex.

Considering that PSALM’s privatization efforts continue to draw strong interest from foreign and local investors, Tolentino said PSALM might issue the invitation to bid for the Angat hydropower plant in the third week of January next year.

“We target to achieve the privatization of 70 percent of the independent power producer contracts of Napocor [National Power Corp.] in the first half of next year,” said Tolentino.

First Gen, Ayala, Pangilinan team up for Angat hydropower plant bid

Miguel R. Camus
Business Mirror

A LOPEZ-owned company is teaming up with the Ayala Group and the conglomerate led by Manuel V. Pangilinan to bid the government-owned 246-megawatt (MW) Angat hydroelectric power plant in Norzagaray, Bulacan.

In a filing to stock exchange on Wednesday, Lopez-led First Gen Corp., through subsidiary First Gen Northern Energy Corp., signed on to be partners with Ayala Corp. and Pangilinan-led Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) for the said auction.

The three companies will each own a third of First Gen Northern Energy.

Ayala Corp and MPIC, which jointly announced their bid for the Angat power plant two months ago, withdrew their original proposal through Michigan Power Inc. yesterday before joining the Lopezes.

This latest move is seen to strengthen the bid of both Ayala Corp. and MPIC, which have deep pockets but “lacking in expertise” when it comes to the power generation sector, an analyst said.

First Gen, considered the country’s largest power generation firm, operates that 1,000-MW Santa Rita power plant, the 500-MW San Lorenzo power plant, the 112-MW Pantabangan-Masiway hydroelectric plant, among others.

It is also the parent company of listed Energy Development Corp., the Philippines’ largest producer of geothermal energy.

If successful, the Angat hydropower plant will mark MPIC and Ayala Corp.’s debut into power generation.

As this developed, the three companies have already subscribed to 250,000 common shares of First Gen Northern Energy, giving each partner 33.3-percent ownership.

Commissioned between 1967 and 1968 the Angat hydroelectric power plant consists of four main units, with a 50-MW capacity each. The plant draws its water from Angat Dam, which supplies up to 97 percent of Metro Manila’s water supply.

The state-run Power Sector Assets and Liabilities Management Corp. or Psalm has set the pre-bid conference on  February 17, while the bid submission deadline has been scheduled on April 28.

Analysts earlier said both Ayala Corp. and MPIC are interested to bid for Angat to safeguard interests in water distribution in the National Capital Region.  

Ayala Corp., through subsidiary Manila Water Co Inc., supplies the capital’s east zone, while west zone concessionaire Maynilad Water Services Inc. is controlled by MPIC and DMCI Holdings Inc.

Other large groups which have signified interest in bidding for the Angat facility include San Miguel Corp. and Aboitiz Power Corp.

Attention HRM of BPO enterprises

Manila Bulletin

While the Philippine economy almost came to a grinding halt, growing at less than 1 percent in 2009, the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector grew by 25 percent and employed some 400,000 highly-skilled professionals. Industry leaders are already projecting a 40 percent increase in 2010 as the US and other major trading partners recover from the Great Recession of 2009. It is estimated that in the next ten years, the employment generated by this sector can exceed one million. Without doubt, it will surpass the electronics industry in net exports and in the number of people employed. It will be employing our highly educated young Filipinos and Filipinas.

There is, however, a major fly in the ointment. Because many BPO companies are repeating the mistakes of the first industrialists of the nineteenth century--treating workers as mere tools or instruments--the industry may self-destruct. Because of negligence or lack of interest on the part of the management (especially of Human Resource executives), sexual promiscuity among the employees of call centers and other BPO companies is increasing the risk of HIV-AIDS and of unwanted pregnancy and abortion. Although there is no hard data about an epidemic, the problem could threaten the very viability of this industry if nothing is done to mitigate these risks. Human resource managers of BPO companies must rack their brains to find solutions to this problem if they want the industry to continue to prosper in the next ten years or so. Of course, the main motivation should be a sincere interest in the welfare and happiness of their work force.

Certain lessons about the right kind of sex education from the US may be learned by the management of a BPO company in order to reduce sexual promiscuity. Since many of these young professionals, especially the females, are still unmarried and live with their parents, parental guide can also help immensely. Fortunately in Philippine culture, young people in their twenties often live with their parents. Their parents still have a strong moral authority over their children. These are cultural assets on which we can capitalize in making future managers ready to assume enlightened and principled leadership.

The first area where there should be both vigilance and concern on the part of the employers and parents has to do with the dangers of pornography that is almost inevitable among computer-literate youth who constitute the majority of BPO workers. We may get some insights from a recent report on pornography by Patrick Fagan, Senior Fellow and Director of the Center for Research on Marriage and Religion at the Family Research Center in Washington. I remember having met Dr. Fagan in an international conference on sex education held in Manila in November 2007. In a 30-page report, "The Effects of Pornography on Individuals, Marriage, Family and Community," Dr. Fagan wrote: "Social scientists, clinical psychologists, and biologists have begun to clarify some of the social and psychological effects, and neurologists are beginning to delineate the biological mechanisms through which pornography produces its powerful negative effects."

Although the focus of the study was on American teenagers, much of the findings can be applied to young Filipino adults who are about at the same level in knowledge about sex as teenagers in advanced countries where there is greater sexual promiscuity at a very early age. The following finding of the study of Dr. Fagan, therefore, could be a guide to both employers and parents of young Filipino adults: "Pornography viewing among teenagers disorients them during that development phase when they have to learn how to handle their sexuality and when they are most vulnerable to uncertainty about their sexual beliefs and moral values. A study of 2,343 adolescents found that sexually explicit Internet material significantly increased uncertainties about sexuality. The study also showed that increased exposure to sexually explicit Internet material increased favorable attitudes toward sexual exploration with others outside of marriage and decreased marital commitment to the other spouse."

A sincere concern for the psychological and moral health of their employees should motivate the employers of BPO businesses to take special care to limit access to pornographic materials by their employees in their respective places of work. There are sundry ways of filtering out pornographic websites and other harmful sources of texts and images in the Internet. It should be made an explicit company policy that viewing pornographic materials, using the computers of the company--whether or not during work hours--is a serious infraction and can lead to the offending employee being laid off. To help the workers make productive use of their rest period and leisure time, the company should make available to them cultural and educational programs (such as family-oriented films and documentaries) as well as sports facilities and gyms for physical exercise. Because of the pressure-cooker and boring nature of the repetitive tasks usually associated with BPO work, careful thought must be given to company-sponsored culturally and intellectually stimulating programs that can serve as an antidote to the stifling impact of the work.

Another guide to what can be done by Human Resource Managers in BPO enterprises can be found in a study published recently in the Archives of Pediatrics and Adolescent Medicine. The study came out with the finding that there is solid evidence from a federally funded United States study that a program limited to an abstinence message can significantly reduce the onset of sexual activity among young adolescents. This finding can be validly applied to young Filipino adults for the reason cited above. As the Washington Post reported, "The abstinence-only portion involved a series of sessions in which instructors talked to students in small groups about their views about abstinence and their knowledge of HIV and other sexually transmitted diseases. They also conducted role-playing exercises and brainstorming sessions designed to correct misconceptions about sex and sexually transmitted diseases, encourage abstinence and offer ways to resist pressure to have sex."

It is not too late in the human formation of the young adults working for BPO enterprises to be exposed to seminars and coaching sessions about the dangers of pornographic materials and the desirability of abstinence from sex until marriage. These seminars can include for those who are Catholics a big dose of the Theology of the Body as authoritatively taught in the books of the Venerable Pope John Paul II. They can also incorporate findings from the social sciences about the dangers of pornography and premarital sex as described in the studies cited above. Human Resource Managers interested in these studies may go to the website of A concern about the right attitude to human sexuality should be a major part of the human development program designed by the Human Resource Department of BPO enterprises, if they want the industry to be sustainable and not to be threatened by HIV-AIDS and abortion in epidemic proportions. For comments, my email address is

70,000 free seats up for grabs on PAL’s 70th year
Manila Bulletin

The Philippine Airlines was founded by a group of Filipino industrialists on February 16, 1941. But it was on March 15, 1941, that the carrier took its first flight: a Beech Model 18 aircraft carrying five passengers from Nielson airfield in Makati to Baguio. This flight earned for PAL the distinction of being Asia’s first airline.

In a year-long celebration that leads to its 70th anniversary in March 2011, Philippine Airlines (PAL) is launching a series of promotional events where up to 70,000 free seats on various flights will be given away throughout the year.

The flag carrier announced the introduction of a grand seat raffle, a major discounted-fare promo, a “Philippines Free” international campaign, and a new loyalty program targeting the youth market.

The grand seat raffle covers all customers who purchase PAL revenue tickets in the Philippines and via PAL’s website and who travel between March 16 and December 31, 2010.

A total of 16,000 winners will be chosen during nine monthly raffle draws. Prizes include free tickets for routes equivalent to those in tickets bought and flown. On March 15, 2011, PAL’s 70th anniversary, up to 3,000 lucky passengers will get to travel for free.

The fares promo, known as the “Anniversary Fare Special,” features generously discounted rates on all domestic PAL routes. A flat rate of P700 on one-way flights between Manila and points in Luzon or the Visayas, and P1,700 to/from Mindanao destinations are offered. International flights are also covered by the promo; fares vary according to route.

Meanwhile, a campaign from 18 international destinations called “Philippines Free” features free travel within the Philippines. It will be offered to passengers who travel on PAL’s international services during selected periods of the year. The sale period is between March 15 and April 7, 2010.

Another promo benefits passengers celebrating their 70th birthday between March 15 and April 15, 2010. These senior celebrants receive a free domestic ticket when a companion’s ticket is purchased for travel on the same date and route. This promo is valid for travel from May 15 to August 20, 2010.

Finally, an innovative program called the Mabuhay Miles “Y Flyer,” which was developed by PAL for the youth comprising an increasingly active segment of the flying public.

More exciting promotional activities will be announced in the coming weeks and months as PAL gears up for its 70th anniversary next year. For more details, visit or call PAL reservations at (02) 855-8888.

Cruise ship calls to spur RP tourism—DoT

Manila Bulletin

The Department of Tourism (DoT) looks forward to a hike in the country’s volume of tourists with the arrivals of international cruise ships to the Philippines.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano shared that the cruise influx will boost local tourism and subsequently bring benefits to the local economy, such as tourism-led business ventures and employment.

“In addition to our chartered flights, the cruise ship tours would help drive tourism growth by providing a competitive opportunity for affluent travelers from the US, Europe, and Asia to visit the country, see our attractions, and recognize our economic potentials,” hailed Durano.

“More cruise companies venturing to the Philippines for the first time continue to boost our country’s position as a viable destination for cruise holidays, affirming that we are already ‘in the radar’ of the cruising industry,” he added.

Among the cruise lines expected to bring guests to the country is Costa Cruises, Italy’s largest tourism group and Europe’s number one cruise company. As much as 22,000 tourists are expected to visit the country until November this year as the cruise company expands its local cruise program and begins regular calls to Manila with its three ships, Costa Allegra, Costa Classica, and Costa Romantica, through its ground handler Travel People.

Costa Classica will call on the port of Manila a total of 11 times for the year, and it recently brought 1,300 guests to Manila when it docked at South Harbor for the first time.

Another cruise company, England’s Acromas Shipping Limited, also recently included the country in its Asian tour itinerary. Its vessel, MS Spirit of Adventure, through its ground handler Blue Horizons Travel and Tours, Inc., recently brought over 300 British and French nationals to the country, in a 16-day tour of Asia. The country had the longest itinerary in the tour, as the ship docked on four different ports of call that included Cebu, Boracay, Manila, and La Union.

“The cruise industry’s growing recognition of the country’s numerous island experiences and shore excursions translated to a greater number of cruise ships and an even greater number of international tourists in the coming days,” said Durano.

Over 700 passengers of various nationalities also joined the first Asian tour of MV Voyages of Discovery, also of Acromas Shipping Limited, and were engaged in the local trip itinerary that included, among other s, tours in Old Manila, Pagsanjan Falls, Tagaytay, and Corregidor Island.

Luxury passenger cruise ship MS Amadea will also be calling on the port of Manila this March, with 700 German passengers; the Silversea Whisper, with 384 guests; and Regent Seven Seas Voyager, carrying more than 600 guests of various nationalities.

According to Tourism Undersecretary Eduardo Jarque Jr., “the Philippines could soon become the choice cruise destination in Asia among travelers, owing to our natural island attractions and the continued efforts in accommodating the local cruise expansion.”

Marketing head for DoT Team Europe Verna Buensuceso shared, “We always get positive feedback from the cruises we welcome. They remember the Philippines for our warm reception and our unique culture.”

Long-time cruise passengers also note that their experience was made more meaningful and memorable because of the hospitable and excellent crew; majority of which are Filipinos.

At the recent port of call in Manila of MV Discovery, a UK-based ship carrying almost 600 passengers from different countries in Europe and Asia, 237 Filipinos (of the 300 crew members) are happily employed, from nurses, café and restaurant managers, musical performers, to technical staff.

Judi Helsby, a retired teacher from England who decided to go on a cruise vacation, shared, “This cruise won’t be successful without the Filipinos. They all make us feel like family, and now we can’t wait to explore their home, the Philippines’ many islands.”

Buensuceso said, “Excellent service rendered by the Filipino crew members truly [makes] the experience more worthwhile for the guests, which in turn kindles tourists’ curiosity about the Philippines. We commend them for the quality of work that they put in, and regard them as partners in telling the world about our country.”

In this industry, the marketing aspect is an important factor, and Jarque said, “We continue our efforts to promote the Philippines to become part of more cruise ships’ itineraries. In close coordination with our tourism offices abroad, travel activity generated from cruise holidays [remains] among our areas of priority.”

He disclosed that the country will participate in upcoming key maritime events this year, namely, the Seatrade Cruise Shipping in Miami, Florida; and the Tanker Industry Conference in Singapore—two of the definitive business exhibitions in the seafaring industry.

The Department is also closely coordinating with travel groups and the private sector to work on projects that will complement these cruise tours such as the development of port infrastructure, support facilities and services, and potential shore excursions.

A professional goes farming

Manila Bulletin

Expect something great when a professional who is a management expert goes into farming. The farm project would be something that is well studied and focused. She will have a well defined roadmap towards her particular goal.

That’s what we had expected when we first met Rowena Unas in late 2008. We did not have any doubt that she was serious in getting into farming. We were pretty sure she had a lucrative job abroad as management consultant to business firms in China and elsewhere, but then she wanted to slow down on that consulting job and do something different.

It happens that she got a seven-hectare property left by her father who was a long time mayor of the town, and that’s exactly what she wanted to develop. It’s a big challenge but despite comments from some quarters that the farm could not be transformed into something productive, she was sure of her decision to go into farming.

From the very beginning, she had wanted to grow organic vegetables not just as a hobby but as an honest-to-goodness business. We advised her to meet people who are key players in the vegetable industry. We told her to visit the experimental farm of East-West Seed Company, which she did. We also connected her to Harbest Agribusiness where she and brother Eric attended a short course on off-season vegetable production. They also attended a similar course at East-West Seed.

Advised that water is very important in farming, she did not just have somebody build a deepwell. She had an expert to conduct a hydrological study of her farm. The study was so revealing, she had a lot of water underneath because the water from Silang and Tagaytay flows towards her place. Now, she has a submersible pump that could provide her the water she needs El Niño or no El Niño.

She has constructed not just a farm house but a farm mansion complete with amenities. She wants to make sure that her husband who is doing big dredging business in the Philippines will not miss the comforts of a hotel. She also wanted to make sure that her brother Eric will be comfortable as her assistant in running the farm.

She stays on the farm so she has a daily presence there together with Eric and his wife. They are still in the experimental stage in their farming. They want to find out which crops have money-making potentials. Rowena is convinced that Diamante Max tomato is one winner. From a 1,000 square meter, they had grossed P40,000 so far and they still have some more harvests to come. Although the price in the market was low (average P15 per kilo), they still managed to get that amount. If the crop was during off-season, that would have been much bigger. Anyway, they plan to grow tomatoes year-round.

Another potential money maker is squash. Their Gracia squash yielded a lot of fruits and the cost of production was low. What disappointed Rowena was the eggplant which was damaged by pests.

Rowena knows very well that one does not expect to make a bonanza from farming right away. But with proper management in production and marketing, she is convinced there is future in her new-found project. She sees other future possibilities. The farm could someday become a tourist destination. Bottled water could be another source of income. But for the meantime they have to discover the different crops they could rotate throughout the year.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Visit to San Vicente, Camarines Norte

Maguindanao gets a freeport

D. T. Wee

ZAMBOANGA CITY -- Polloc Port in Maguindanao has been declared a freeport and special economic zone by the government of the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM).

Ali G. Macabalang, the region’s Bureau of Public Information chief, said the declaration was made last Monday by ARMM Acting Governor Ansaruddin A. Adiong.

Mr. Macabalang said ARMM will initially spend P15 million to rehabilitate port facilities.

"We are returning back the lost glory of Polloc Port. Being a freeport, there will be no taxes to be imposed on shipping companies [servicing the ports] and would-be investors," he said in a phone interview. "Tax holidays, capital equipment incentives, exemption from real property and local taxes, and an attractive build-operate and transfer scheme await investors."

He said top ARMM officials and heads of over a dozen foreign donor-institutions, including the World Bank, met at the EDSA Shangri-La Manila in Madaluyong City on Monday morning to discuss possible grants and loans for the port and the operation of the special economic zone.

In a statement, Ishak Mastura, chairman of the ARMM Board of Investment, said the long-awaited proclamation of Polloc as a freeport should help spur economic activity. Mr. Mastura, who was then the ARMM’s Trade and Industry regional secretary, started the move to declare Polloc Port as a regional economic zone and a freeport during the first ARMM Business Congress in 2003.

Polloc Port manager Harry Mohammad had said that Polloc Port used to get an average of 15 ship calls a month, but that the number has dwindled to about five a month due to frequent reports of hostilities in the province.

Built by the Korean Nam Kwang Construction, Ltd., Polloc Port started to operate under the Marcos administration with P150-million funding from the Asian Development Bank.

Mr. Macabalang said the port has roughly 1,500 linear meters that can accommodate all types of inter-island ferries, huge cargo vessels, and international cruise ships, as well as more than 5,000 hectares of land for industrial facilities.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

PGMA to DBM: Ensure funds for next round of salary hike for teachers, other civil servants

MANILA (PNA) -- President Gloria Macapagal- Arroyo has ordered the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to undertake the necessary preparations for the continuing implementation of the government's Salary Standardization Law (SSL).

"I told DBM to ensure funds for the next round of salary increase for teachers and other civil servants," she announced during her school inspection activity in Camarines Norte province on Monday.

She noted that the SSL is part of the government's support for teachers and other government employees to help improve their lives.

The government earlier increased from P9,000 to P14,000 the monthly salary of public school teachers holding Teacher 1 position, she said.

President Arroyo said she approved the SSL so the government can rationalize salaries of some 1.5 million civil servants nationwide.

Such rationalization aims to bring the civil servants' salaries closer to compensation levels in the private sector.

The national government is implementing SSL in four tranches over a four-year period beginning July 2009.

The Civil Service Commission (CSC) has lauded the Arroyo administration for the SSL implementation, noting authorities allocated in the 2009 General Appropriations Act (GAA) nearly P19 billion for the salary increase's maiden tranche.

CSC said SSL's initial implementation across local government units is scheduled beginning January 2010.

Aside from helping improve the lives of civil servants, the government is optimistic SSL will help enhance their work performance and generate consumer spending amid the global financial crunch.

To help boost teachers' capability, President Arroyo said the government already released P2 billion for their training, particularly in improving their English language skills.

Such training is needed as government adapted English to be the medium of instruction in schools nationwide.

English is the main language for international transactions.

"I also earlier formed the Presidential Task Force on Education to look into our education system," President Arroyo said.

She noted this aims to identify the education system's gaps and weaknesses so authorities can make recommendations to address these.

The President said authorities will endorse these recommendations to the next administration.

Visit to Froilan D. Lopez Technical Vocational High School

Launching of Saver Generics Mascot

January 2010 OF Remittances Grow 8.5%

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

Remittances from overseas Filipinos (OFs) coursed through banks amounted to US$1.4 billion in January 2010, posting a year-on-year growth of 8.5 percent, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. announced today. Remittances from sea-based and land-based workers rose by 18.1 percent and 6.3 percent, respectively.

The bulk of inflows came from the U.S., Canada, Saudi Arabia, Japan, Singapore, the U.K., Italy, and United Arab Emirates. Remittances from these countries accounted for the bulk (81.1 percent) of the total inflows reported by local banks. In particular, remittances from the U.S. grew by 5.1 percent after posting consecutive declines since January 2009, buoyed by signs of U.S. economic recovery. 1

The steady remittance flows at the start of the year were supported by the continued strong demand for professional and skilled Filipino overseas workers, particularly in the healthcare, education and services sectors. The Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE) anticipates that work prospects for Filipino overseas workers will continue to be favorable, given the expected opening of new job markets and more opportunities for better-paying work in the next five to ten years. The Philippine Overseas Employment Administration (POEA) reported that nearly 19 percent (or 18,539) of the total approved job orders of 98,845 for the period 1 January – 28 February 2010 have been processed. Processed job orders were particularly strong for the manpower requirements of Saudi Arabia, UAE, Taiwan, and Qatar for service, production, and professional, technical and related occupations.

Meanwhile, the expanding global network of remittance service providers through tie-ups with foreign financial institutions, establishment of remittance centers and marketing offices abroad also helped shore up the flow of remittances into the country.


1 Remittance data from the U.S. include remittances sent from remittance centers in various cities abroad that are coursed through correspondent banks mostly located in the U.S. Since banks attribute the origin of funds to the most immediate source, U.S., therefore appears to be the main source of OF remittances.

Doomsday dollar scenarios

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

The policymakers and politicians lie about it because they are either too stupid to understand it or they fully comprehend and realize that the truth would cause rioting from Amsterdam to Zamboanga.

The media sugarcoat and camouflage it because their existence depends on a world of outward stability.

The people ignore it because, although they are convinced something is wrong, they do not know what to do about it.

Last week I wrote “The US is broke” because the debt obligations of the United States are so great the ultimate options are that the US default on its debt or print dollars to pay it. The first option has the potential of bringing down the global financial system and the second will destroy the value of the dollar and likewise destroy the concept of valueless paper currency.

A year ago it did not have to turn out this way. On July 16, 2009, US Vice President Joe Biden said, “We’re going to go bankrupt as a nation. Now, people, when I say that, look at me and say, ‘You’re telling me we have to go spend money to keep from going bankrupt?’ The answer is yes, that’s what I’m telling you.” Biden was thought a fool and made fun of for that statement. But he was absolutely correct.

Governments have the ability to spend themselves out of bankruptcy. The common term is “pump-priming.” Government can print money or borrow to stimulate the economy, creating enough economic growth to overcome the slowdown and also to pay for the “pump-priming.”

President Obama’s economic advisers knew this and Obama is intelligent enough to have followed that advice. But unfortunately, Obama is also incompetent.

The US government spent some $2 trillion and wasted it, creating nothing; no jobs, no economic growth, no stimulus. The money was wasted on temporary and overpriced government projects, not true stimulus for the economy.

Proper stimulus would have been setting up a large, quickly funded lending facility for small businesses. Obama bought and “saved” a dead car company, General Motors. Economic growth could have come from direct tax benefits to the people with jobs; Obama gave it to the failing banks and Wall Street brokers. The US needed a national infrastructure plan. The money instead went to the states for “green jobs.”

In 2010 the situation has deteriorated to nearly the point of no return.

Several large countries have defaulted on the debt obligations, notably Mexico in 1982 and Argentina in 2001. In these cases, there was somebody more financially stable to help them out. The World Bank, backed by the US, provided bridge funding until these countries could get their economies going again.

Imagine a Philippine megacompany like the Shoemart group becoming insolvent. That is not going to happen because SM is properly managed. But SM is so large there might not be enough local financing capacity to save it. The ripple effects through the economy would be a disaster. On the other hand, the Uniwide group has finally gone under. The losers with Uniwide are those companies and banks that extended Uniwide credit, but the effect to the economy is negligible.

If the US defaults on its debt, it would be a catastrophe to the global financial and economic system. Governments and financial institutions would, in turn, go bankrupt as the value of their assets denominated in US debt would be worthless. The Philippine government held approximately $11 billion of US treasury debt at the end of 2009. China holds nearly $1 trillion. It could happen if the time comes when the rest of the world cannot or no longer desires to fund the US debt.

An alternative to debt default is to monetize the US debt. That is a fancy term for printing enough dollars to pay the obligations. The potential for hyper-inflation in the US is real if people begin to perceive the dollar as worthless.

Hyperinflation happens when there is a loss of confidence in the future purchasing value of the currency, which leads to immediate purchases, creating instant inflation. It works something like this.

Suppose it was announced that the price of rice would be P200 a kilo tomorrow. Everyone would rush out today and buy rice, creating a shortage. Rice dealers would jack the price up, probably over P200. All other prices—pork, chicken, fish—would jump also because the price of these commodities in relation to rice would be too cheap.

If the US suddenly begins paying off its debt with newly printed currency, in the hundreds of billions, crude-oil prices will skyrocket, as also will gold and all other commodities. It can happen. It has happened.

There is an alternative to these two scenarios. The US could choose to revalue the dollar based on backing the currency with true value: gold.

The US is holding at today’s market price some $290 billion worth of gold. That is a drop in the ocean compared to the $2 trillion of actual currency and the $10 trillion in “public debt,” defined as all debt issued by the US Treasury held by institutions outside the US government itself.

If, and the likelihood is almost none, the US decided to back the dollar with gold, the price of gold would have to be somewhere between $5,000 and $10,000 per ounce. But it could happen as the other alternatives are really doomsday scenarios.

Countries that depend on shipping goods to the US could be wiped out as the prices they receive in local currency would be almost nothing. Countries holding vast mineral reserves like the Philippines would become wealthy overnight. All raw material commodities, not just minerals, would be similarly affected.

There is an interesting “karma” about all this. The wealth of the industrial nations in the 18th and 19th centuries was built on exploiting cheap raw materials from the now “Third World” countries. Maybe in the 21st century, those nations are finally going to get the price they deserve for their resources.

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Cebu Pacific plans to increase fleet to 47 planes in 5 years

Manila Bulletin

Cebu Air, the airline unit of JG Summit Holdings Inc. under the brand Cebu Pacific, intends to increase its fleet size to 47 planes by 2014 from the current 29 and has firm orders for 15 Airbus A320 aircraft, options for five Airbus A320, operating lease for two Airbus A320, and plan to acquire two more Airbus A320 through lease or purchase.

The firm said the additional planes will support its plans to increase frequency on current routes and to add new city pairs and destinations. Over the next two years, the airline plans to add new international destinations such as Brunei, Beijing, Denpasar, Fukuoka, and Nagoya, and new domestic destinations such as Pagadian and Marinduque.

Cebu Air Inc. is planning an initial public offering of new and secondary shares worth about P25.74 billion to help finance the acquisition of new Airbus 320s.

Proceeds from the primary portion of the IPO, estimated at P11.9 billion will be used for pre-delivery or down payments for new aircraft, working capital and general corporate purposes including fuel and flying operations-related expenses, maintenance, passenger services, staff expenses and other related items.

Based on the firm’s registration statement filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), Cebu Air said it is selling 125.25 million new shares while CPAir Holdings is selling 110.31 million shares plus 35.33 million optional shares. The firm has given an indicative price of P95 per share although JG Summit corporate planning director Bach Johann Sebastian said “that’s only an indicative price that we placed in our filing.”

He noted that “it is required by the SEC that we indicate any price. But in offerings like this, we’ll determine the price from a formal book building exercise which can only start after our filing is approved by both the SEC and the PSE (Philippine Stock Exchange).”

Cebu Air said 164.89 million shares will be sold overseas outside of the United States, 47.11 million shares are being sold through brokers of the PSE while 25.56 million shares have been allocated for local small investors.

The airline has tapped Deutsche Bank AG, Hong Kong Branch and J.P. Morgan (S.E.A) Limited to be the international lead underwriters for the issue while ATR KimEng Capital Partners is the domestic lead underwriter.

Monday, 15 March 2010

Arnel Pineda Philippine National Anthem Live @ Dallas Cowboys Stadium

SM group allots record capex of P30B

Neil Jerome C. Morales

THE SM Group of mall and banking magnate Henry Sy has allotted a record capital budget of P30 billion this year to ensure continuous growth, an executive said last week.
Despite the huge budget, the SM group is not looking at borrowing from banks this year, pointing to a strong balance sheet that includes $1 billion in cash.

“As a group, our capital expenditure in SM is almost P32 billion [this year],” Jose T. Sio, chief finance officer of SM Investments Corp., told BusinessWorld in an interview. “We see the opportunity, we have the resources and we believe in [the growth prospects of the] Philippines,” Mr. Sio said.

An analyst said the SM group’s higher capital allotment was in line with strategies other companies are implementing to allow rapid expansion.

The SM group last year committed to spend P211 billion from 2010 to 2014 to double yearly profits to P30 billion.

Last year, the SM Group disbursed almost P24 billion in capital, Mr. Sio said. It was higher than the P19 billion spent in 2008.

Listed SM Investments, the holding firm of the SM Group, has five core businesses -- retail (SM Retail, Inc.), malls (SM Prime Holdings, Inc.), banking (Banco de Oro Unibank, Inc. and China Banking Corp.), property (SM Development Corp.) and hotel and entertainment.

Bulk of earnings of the SM Group came from the retail group, which accounted for more than a third of profits, followed by the banking group at 27.6% and property segment at 11%.

“Two-thirds of the P30-billion [spending this year] will be internally funded. The [remaining] one-third, P10 billion, is only about $250 million. We can proceed without the need to borrow,” Mr. Sio said.

Mr. Sio said the budget would be “spread out to malls, retail, property and banking.”

“[But the budget for] banking is not that much. They can take care [of their needs].”

Last year, Banco de Oro posted a 173% increase in net income to P6.1 billion given growth in operating income and a slower increase in operating costs.

SM Prime, the country’s largest mall operator, earlier announced a P12-billion investment this year to put up 11 new malls until 2011. At the end of this year, SM Prime will have 41 local malls totalling 4.5 million square meters, and four malls in China.

Property arm SM Development meanwhile is into preselling to secure funds, Mr. Sio said.

“We are more opportunistic at the right price, right time and right terms because we have strong cash flow. We are not pressured [to borrow],” he added.

Net income of SM Investments went up by 14% last year to P16 billion. Profit growth for 2009 was faster than the previous year, when net income went up by a tenth to P14 billion.

Sought for comment, Grace C. Cerdenia, chief operating officer of online brokerage firm, said the record capital expenditure was “in line with industry expectations.”

“Consumer spending is expected to remain brisk for this year. Filipinos are really accustomed to malling,” Ms. Cerdenia said.

Shares in SM Investments were unchanged on Friday at P365.00 each.

Outstanding performances of Filipino seamen

By Dr. Bernardo Villegas

MANILA, Philippines—I want to especially single out Filipino seafarers among the OFWs.

Filipino seafarers stood out in 2009 as the most successful among OFWs in overcoming the challenges of the global economic crisis. Given what they did in a difficult year, I can only expect them to do even better as large parts of the world economy recover from the Great Recession.

Forever may be too ambitious a word. But I can say that as long as there are Filipinos, there will be Filipino seafarers, especially officers, manning the international ships. Even if in the next 20 years, endowed with more enlightened and honest leaders, we can succeed in eradicating poverty in the Philippines, there will continue to be hundreds of thousand of Filipinos working aboard ships all over the world.

There is no question that Filipinos are preferred over other nationalities by international shipping companies, whether they be Japanese, Norwegian, or American. Filipinos take to the sea as fish in water. It will not be poverty that will drive them to become maritime professionals but their innate talents and their competitiveness.

Seafaring is a permanent professional choice for many Filipinos, especially those coming from regions like Iloilo, Cebu, and island economies where there is a long-time tradition for males to choose working abroad ships as a profession. Furthermore, our maritime schools—already among the best in the world with the help of Japanese and Norwegian companies—will get even better.

We shall be turning out more maritime personnel who can become officers. This prediction of mine is based on an extraordinary happening in 2009, a year when hundreds of international shipping vessels were mothballed in the international ports of Singapore Hong Kong, and even Subic.

Despite the precipitous drop in the volume of trade, the amazing thing is that remittances from Filipino sailors aboard foreign ocean-going vessels sent to their relatives a whopping $3.4 billion, an increase of 12.06 percent from $3.034 in 2008. This increase was more than twice that of the total OFW remittances in 2009 which was 5.1 percent. These figures were contained in a report of former Senator Ernesto Herrera, Secretary General of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines (TUCP).

Something even more impressive is the 78.82-percent increase of the remittances from Filipino sailors based in Europe which totaled $1.156 billion compared to $509.594 million in 2008. According to industry sources, this sterling performance was due to the retirement of aging European officers who were being replaced by equally competent young Filipino officers. This trend will intensify as Europe continues to suffer from rapid aging (the so-called demographic winter), especially in the Scandinavian countries which host the headquarters of the major international shipping lines.

On the side of the Philippines, there is an increasing number of world-class training programs for officers like the one recently established by the Japanese enterprise NYK in tandem with the Transnational Diversified Group headed by Roberto Delgado. There is also the University of Cebu which has a partnership with the International Maritime Employers Committee (Imec), an organization based in London representing 125 shipping companies worldwide. According to Imec, there could be a shortage of 200,000 trained and competent marine officers in the next two years.

In an article in the Manila Bulletin, Malou Mozo recently reported that Odd Magne Skei, director for the Norwegian Training Center (NTC), the operational arm of the Norwegian Maritime Foundation of the Philippines Inc. said that high priority is given to Filipino seafarers by NTC on board Norwegian-owned, controlled, managed, or operated vessels.

Mr. Skei had high praises for Filipino maritime professionals: "Filipinos are known in the industry to be highly skilled professionals and for their loyalty, which is why they deserve the good pay they get for their services. The world's shipping business needs Filipino seafarers."

These complimentary words explain why 25 percent of seafarers all over the world are Filipinos. International passenger and cargo ships would be paralyzed if Filipinos were to stop working as maritime professionals. As Senator Herrera reported, Filipino sailors now contribute 20 cents out of every US dollar sent home by all OFWs. As poverty is reduced in the Philippines and fewer workers have to go abroad because of dire economic necessity, this percentage will increase even more.

Because this profession will be a permanent one in the Philippines, leaders of this industry will have to be very conscientious in searching for solutions to the social problems that result from an otherwise lucrative profession (officers can receive as much as $6,000 to $10,000 monthly). I am referring to the necessary absence of many fathers from their respective families for several months in a given year. Especially for growing children, this absence can cause psychological problems.

Employers of these seafarers must be proactive in helping to minimize the social and psychological costs of the absent father. The families must be provided with modern communications technology (e.g. Skype) so that there can be frequent (even daily) conversations between the parents and their children.

The number of months of home leave must be lengthened as much as possible. The children (especially teenage boys) must be helped by psychologists or guidance counselors to minimize the trauma of long separations. The period of having to work abroad a ship could be shortened by preparing the maritime professionals for alternative income-generating occupations back in the Philippines through entrepreneurial training or the acquisition of other professional skills such as management or information technology.

I am glad to observe that a good number of Philippine manning companies are already implementing some if not all of these interventions to address the social problems faced by families of maritime professionals.

For comments, my email address is

Sunday, 14 March 2010

Semana Santa sa Marinduque 2010


"The island-province of Marinduque has always been known for its many unique cultural practices and traditions, foremost of which is our over-a-century old Moriones Festival. It is the earliest known street pageant in the Philippines that utilized masks on account of folk culture, matched by colorful costumes replicating the garb of Roman soldiers.

"These ever-present Holy Week morions have inspired many towns, provinces and cities to develop similar home-grown festivals as tourist attractions. We, thus remain truly proud of this tradition.

"The Moriones continues to draw tourist interest, serves as a force for unity as Marinduquenos come home during Lent for reunions. It also makes for an important study on how events of modern times, particularly political influences have inevitably impacted on this tradition, originally anchored on faith, penance and vows.

"In a serious effort to underline the true meaning of Moriones in the spirit of Lent, seemingly lost now in the confusion of commerce and exploitation, we take time to pause and reflect on this tradition that has brought us closer to Our Savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

"This year’s observance of Holy Week in Marinduque will be marked with greater respect for the deep solemnity of the occasion, especially that of time-honored Church rituals and traditions, also in keeping with the Moriones’ ancient discipline and panata. We will continue to uphold the Marinduqueno’s well-entrenched religious character made more manifest in this season of prayer, meditation and sacrifice.

"We bid welcome to all who would come to Marinduque for that unique experiential journey into the Passion of Jesus Christ through the many Lenten rituals celebrated here; for that glimpse into the legend of Longinus - he who was the first Christian convert; and for an understanding of the fervor with which our people have nurtured this inspiring story to keep steadfast their faith in God and in themselves.

"Marinduque joins all of Christendom through "Semana Santa sa Marinduque 2010" from March 28 (Palm Sunday) to April 4 (Easter Sunday) with colorful daily or nightly activities and rituals, not forgetting certain time-honored traditions and practices that must be upheld and observed.

"Welcome to Marinduque!"


The Moriones Festival of Marinduque has been the subject of studies on how commerce and trade, modernization and political intervention have, over the years, variously impacted on the colorful folk tradition originally associated with spirituality, penance and vows.

In this video, the Most Reverend Bishop of Boac, Reynaldo G. Evangelista expresses his thoughts and recollections on the moriones tradition and the need for adjustments, keeping in context whatever new components may be introduced, among them, the challenge particularly in Boac to truly make Easter Sunday a day of rejoicing. The focus on things spiritual must be kept, he said, that could even lead to Marinduque making a name for itself as a Spiritual Renewal Destination in the future.

His message was conveyed during the opening program of the Moriones Festival last year (2009), with local government officials and private sector in attendance. This year's Lenten celebration in the Philippine's central island-province, dubbed as "Semana Santa sa Marinduque" thus, strikes a balance between, commerce and spirituality, politics and religion, in keeping with the Bishop's spiritual message.

Palace sets aside $100m for generators in Mindanao

Joyce Pangco Pañares
Manila Standard

MACTAN—President Gloria Arroyo said Friday government banks could make $100 million available to Mindanao firms who will lease generators to produce more electricity and ease the power shortage on the island.

The Development Bank of the Philippines and Land Bank of the Philippines would make the money available to companies who would produce an extra 160 megawatts in Mindanao, she said.

“We will allow the private sector to connect to the national grid so we can use their embedded generating capacity,” Mrs. Arroyo said.

Mindanao has been suffering daily power outages because most of its hydroelectric plants have been made idle by a drought brought by El Niño.

But with Mindanao under a state of calamity, local government units may now tap their calamity fund, equivalent to 5 percent of their share of taxes, to give cash and food subsidies to farmers affected by the dry spell, Mrs. Arroyo said.

She has also ordered the National Disaster Coordinating Council and the Energy Department to implement emergency measure—including rolling blackouts—to ease the power deficiency in Mindanao, which reached 748 megawatts on Wednesday.

Manufacturing activity should be restricted to the off-peak hours of 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., and mothballed diesel-fired power plants should be reactivated to produce extra power, Mrs. Arroyo said.

Meanwhile, Metro Manila suffered another round of rolling blackouts Friday as a result of a power deficiency in Luzon.

The power interruptions were the third for the week, although by comparison Mindanao has been hit harder and for more than a month.

Manila Electric Co., the country’s biggest power retailer, said a power shortage was to blame for the blackouts.

“We have a supply deficiency, and that’s why we resorted to [blackouts] for an hour to balance the system and ensure there will be power for the other areas,” Meralco spokesman Joe Zaldarriaga said.

The rolling blackouts started north of Metro Manila in the morning and then spread to other areas.

National Grid Corp. said Luzon was short by 440 megawatts Friday, and the shutdown of a 250-megawatt plant contributed to the outages.

January remittances climbed 6% — Tetangco

Roderick T. dela Cruz
Manila Standard

Remittances sent by migrant Filipinos rose over 6 percent in January to at least $1.34 billion from a year ago amid the continuous deployment of skilled workers abroad.

Bangko Sentral Gov. Amando Tetangco Jr., citing preliminary data, said the growth in remittances in January exceeded the bank’s full-year growth target of 6 percent.

“This year, we are projecting 6 percent for the whole year, but for the initial data I have seen, it looks like the figure for January could be in excess of the projection for the year,” Tetangco told reporters at the sidelines of the Chamber of Thrift Banks convention held at Dusit Thani Hotel in Makati City Friday.

Remittances in January last year stood at $1.266 billion. The official remittance data for January this year will be released next week.

Remittances in 2009 rose 5.6 percent to $17.3 billion, supported by an 11.4-percent increase in December.

Tetangco said the outlook for remittances was anchored on the continuous demand for Filipino workers in other countries. He said the recruitment of highly skilled workers such as engineers, medical practitioners and teachers also translate into higher income.

“They are able to remit more and banks have been quite aggressive in putting up remittance centers abroad and tying up with partners abroad,” he said.

Tetangco said thrift banks have also become active in the remittance business.

“The amount remitted through them [thrift banks] have also gone up in 2009 and it is another market that thrifts can tap not only for remittance businesses but for also ancilliary businesses such as bank lending,” he added.

Bangko Sentral said remittances remained resilient amid the recent global financial crisis, providing strong support to domestic demand.

Remittances in 2009 accounted for 10.8 percent of the country’s gross domestic product and has bolstered the peso against the US dollar.

The peso completed its best week in more than two months, rising 0.9 percent to 45.66 per dollar Friday from 45.72 Thursday. The currency touched 45.56 Thursday, the strongest level since Jan. 12.

The central bank is prepared to use “necessary monetary tools” and foreign-exchange regulations to smoothen exchange rate volatility, Tetangco said Thursday.

Capital inflows “have not yet been at levels that could be considered alarming,” he said.