Saturday, 15 May 2010

PGMA Legacy


Video: Inspection of Siargao Airport, etc.

The Working President (451)

The Myth of Overpopulation (Episode 3)

Filipinos carry on love affair with PCOS machines

By Randy David
Philippine Daily Inquire

MANILA, Philippines—The precinct count optical scanner (PCOS) did what it was supposed to do—read the votes from the precincts and rapidly transmit the results to computers that automatically add them up at both local and national levels.

With only about 15 percent of the results [as of Thursday] waiting to be transmitted due to mechanical malfunctioning, the country’s first nationwide automated election may be judged a success. Sheer speed wiped out the space for wholesale cheating.

Without realizing it, the nation had taken a big risk. The machines had not been adequately tested. Major glitches marked their deployment and final testing. The furor over the defective memory cards fanned rumors of a coup or martial law declaration.

In the morning of Election Day, long lines of irate voters clogged the precincts, indicating that the non-mechanical aspects of the process had been overlooked. The clustering of precincts created complications. But, in the end, patience and creative improvisation won the day for the nation.

Toward the close of voting, nearly every voter had been served, except those who went home, deterred by the endless lines of people slowly wilting in the ovens we call voting centers.

The Comelec put the voter turnout at 75 percent. It could have been at least 80, if the voter flow had been smoother. Five percent is about 2.5 million disenfranchised voters. Still, to be fair, a 75-percent turnout is high in the modern world.

Unsung heroes

The true heroes are the public school teachers who bravely managed a process that appeared familiar but contained new sequences. Every clustered precinct had its own distinct ecology, and the almost obsessive focus on the PCOS machine created its own blind spots. The teachers had to make small but significant adjustments to ease the flow of restless voters.

It was crucial that the teachers overcame their initial trepidation over the PCOS black box. This new-fangled piece of technology promised to relieve them of the tedious chore of reading and tabulating the ballots. They were soon charmed by this inscrutable gadget. It appeared to have moods and needs of its own.

Like a precious child

They carried it like a precious child, laid it down gently on its crib, prayed over it, guarded it, fanned it when it seemed to overheat and coaxed it when it stalled.

In a remote precinct in Mindanao, a woman inspector instinctively scooped the machine from its crib and shielded it with her own body when gunmen dispatched by a losing candidate came to destroy it. Images like this will long stand as metaphors for a nation valiantly embracing modern technology in the face of all odds.

When the results for national officials started to stream in as digital flashes of data signifying the will of the nation, not even the hard-core skeptics would dare raise the question: But how reliable are the numbers being reported? A nation in awe of modern technology simply decided to repose its total trust in the PCOS machine.

In an instant, all the apprehensions and dire scenarios that attended the widespread failure of the machines at final testing vanished in the air.

Even the confusion and the long lines in the first hours of voting were forgotten and forgiven the moment the PCOS accepted the ballot and flashed a congratulatory message to the voter. The subtext is that the one on trial here was not the machine but the Filipino voter himself.

Trusting the results

The public had no problem accepting the results because they were consistent with the pre-election surveys. One would have to assume a conspiracy of the grandest proportions, involving both Smartmatic and the Comelec, and the collusion of the survey firms, to seriously entertain the thought of an electronically rigged election under these circumstances.

Of course, there is no guarantee that, operating with the same machines, future automated elections will not be subjected to attack by computer hackers hired by dirty politicians.

For now, the system seems so impermeable to hacking that the only way to attack it is to physically destroy the machine, the memory cards and the ballots themselves.

Untransmitted results

This is what is feared in those outlying precincts that have not been able to transmit results. The unreported votes could spell the difference in close contests like the current vice presidential race.

Where the PCOS machines are unable to read or transmit, the first line of defense is to call for replacements, or have the ballots read and transmitted by other machines in neighboring precincts.

This, we understand, is being resisted by the teachers and by the residents themselves, fearing a doctoring of the results.

The PCOS they trust. And so, up to this time, they await replacement machines or memory cards. The final contingency measure is to manually read all the ballots and prepare the usual precinct statement of votes. Yet, our people seem not predisposed to do that.

This is remarkable. One wonders if it signifies a total trust in the machine, or a tacit lack of trust in our capacity as human beings to render an honest count.

Interpreting the results

A successfully conducted election is one thing. The quality of the leadership it puts in power is another. The election campaign was framed by an unprecedented level of disapproval and distrust of the Arroyo administration. This was a burden that Gilbert Teodoro and almost everyone tarred by close association with Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo, had to bear.

Except in Pampanga, which became the largest recipient of presidential largesse just before the election, the repudiation of the Arroyo people has been nearly total.

Ms Arroyo’s triumph in the province’s 2nd congressional district means little unless she gets to be Speaker of the House. Given the results, this is not going to be a walk in the park for her.

Between moralism and populism

The election clearly belonged to the opposition, but a fragmented opposition courting the people’s vote. The Arroyo government was a convenient target.

Instead of offering alternative programs, the various groups took the easy path of attacking a lame duck regime, differing only in the way they framed their attacks. The Aquino-Roxas group highlighted the regime’s corruption and abuse of power as the principal cause of mass poverty. It projected itself as the moral alternative.

As expected, the camp of Joseph Estrada assailed the neglect of the poor under Arroyo’s elitist presidency, repeating the same populist line that brought it to power in 1998.

Estrada tried to tap the dormant class resentments that lie beneath the surface of Philippine politics. This time, however, the beneficiary of the rich-versus-poor rhetoric was not him but his running mate, Jejomar Binay.

Mayor Binay, who has dominated Makati politics since 1986, astutely projected a plebeian persona as an antithesis to the patrician background of Mar Roxas.

Manny Villar’s party also tried to ride the populist wave, with the senator asserting his credentials as a poor boy growing up in the slums of Tondo. These claims were exposed as a gross exaggeration. His is a fascinating case of populism caught in its own paradox. It is not possible to sustain the folk image of someone who has known the privations of being poor while thoughtlessly spending billions in campaign advertising.

The landslide victory of Noynoy Aquino, the legatee of Cory Aquino’s iconic integrity, represents the nation’s unconditional rejection of corruption in government. The voters chose Aquino because in him they saw a good man. He will not steal.

That is a winning message—for as long as we are in a campaign. But, as an approach to corruption, it naively underestimates the complex demands of governance. The country needs more than moral crusades based on good-versus-evil narratives; it needs strong, modern institutions.

The tight race between Roxas and Binay invites interpretation. Binay leads by a few hundred thousands. What could the Filipino voter be thinking? This is not merely the Cory effect at work. I believe the Filipino voter chose a man of integrity for president but, having done that, wants to make sure someone who belongs to their ranks speaks for them. We have two paradigms woven into one here—the moral and the populist.

In contrast, in both the senatorial and local races, our voters seem not as obsessed with the need for change. For the Senate, they went for the reelectionists and the old familiar names. One of the freshest faces in the political stage, Risa Hontiveros, was stalled in 13th place, way behind the movie actors and the veterans of traditional politics.

The Marcoses

A fascinating footnote to the senatorial race is the successful run of Bongbong Marcos. This is his second bid; he was rejected the first time. Perhaps the Filipino voter thinks the family has been punished enough. Noynoy himself has said he has no issue with the Marcos children.

Evidently, the sins of the Marcoses, viewed alongside those of the Arroyos, have considerably dimmed. The family is clearly back, but it would be premature to regard their grand return to public positions as the product of a revaluation of the Marcos years.

While the Senate has long been regarded as a nursery for future presidents, and a Senator Marcos may well be in quest of redemption in the name of an unburied patriarch, it is foolish to think that the nation at this point can imagine returning the Marcoses to Malacañang.

Friday, 14 May 2010

San Miguel eyeing energy firm to complement its oil business; deal worth $2B

By Doris Dumlao, Amy R. Remo
Philippine Daily Inquirer

SAN MIGUEL CORP. IS finalizing a major deal worth $2 billion to acquire an energy company that will complement the conglomerate’s oil refining business.

San Miguel also plans to sell an additional 14-percent stake in its packaging business to Japanese partner Nihon Yamamura Glass (NYG). That deal may be worth $100 million.

SMC president Ramon Ang on Thursday told reporters at the sidelines of the stockholders meeting of Ginebra San Miguel Inc. that the company would also consolidate its hard liquor and beer brewery line and pare down its stake in other core business like food to boost funds for expansion.

In terms of business mix, Ang said he would like to grow the share of energy and power investments to over 60 percent in the years ahead.

On new acquisitions, Ang said San Miguel was currently looking to acquire at least a 60 percent stake in a “very good” energy company with a “very strong cash flow” and whose business was related to that of Petron.

“We are in the final stage of negotiation,” Ang said, noting that the potential acquisition could be worth at least $2 billion in equity value.

As part of its expansion into heavy industries, San Miguel plans to buy additional shares in oil refiner Petron Corp. to gain majority control. SMC may also bid for upstream oil and gas firm PNOC-Exploration Corp., if the new administration would consider privatizing its controlling stake in the firm.

But PNOC-Exploration Corp. has again asked the government to spare the company from privatization, stressing that its sale without public bidding is illegal and may be tantamount to a “midnight deal.”

The existing board had refused to approve the sale of its 10-percent participating interest for P16 billion because “no public bidding was contemplated.”

ABS-CBN rakes in P1 billion from election advertisements

A. M. P. Dagcutan

LOPEZ-LED ABS-CBN Broadcasting Corp. said yesterday profits went up nearly sixfold to P1.08 billion in the first quarter due to political advertisements during the election campaign period.

“The nonrecurring election-related advertising revenues amounted to P1.04 billion. Altogether, total advertising revenues across all platforms and subsidiaries reached P5.06 billion in the first three months of the year,” said Charles Gamo, ABS-CBN head for Investor Relations and Corporate Planning.

Mr. Gamo said that due to strong national ratings and audience share, total advertising minutes sold grew by 41%. This was driven by a 23% year-on-year increase in advertising minutes sold to regular advertisers.

“ABS-CBN has maintained its national audience share and ratings leadership with total-day audience share averaging 47% in the first quarter. For the period January to March 2010, the first 16 programs and a total of 18 of the Top 20 programs were from us according to the Taylor Nelson Sofres National Philippines Television Audience Measurement service,” said Mr. Gamo.

ABS-CBN maintained its regular advertisers despite accommodating political advertisements during the election period, he said.

The public has also been receptive to new shows specifically on prime time, he said.

Rolando Valdueza, the company’s chief finance officer, said personnel expenses like talent fees for contract artists went up.

“We have to be more competitive [as there is a] third force in market sharing,” he said, referring to emerging rival TV5 which has been aggressively recruiting talents to beef up programming.

“Aside from the talent fees of our artists, we also implemented salary increases on our employees,” he added.

The listed company’s total expenses grew by P996 million or 22% year on year to P5.44 billion due to higher production costs, general, and administrative expenses.

Consolidated revenues went up by 47% to P7.75 billion from P2.46 billion in the first three months of 2009.

Mr. Gamo said cable unit the SkyCable Corp.’s low-priced postpaid cable television offerings have been well-received by the market, as revenue from cable TV and broadband services grew by 14% year on year.

RH Bill a dead issue

Manila Bulletin

Whoever gets elected as the next President of the Philippines, he would be well advised to assign the lowest priority to population management or population control among his immediate concerns during the first 100 days of his mandate. In fact, I would even say he should dismiss it as a dead issue. There are more positive, direct and effective solutions to mass poverty and unemployment that are free from controversy. Although I respect economists and other experts who strongly support population management as a means of combatting mass poverty, the truth is that there is absolutely no consensus among leading economists both here and abroad about the correlation between population growth and poverty. There are Nobel laureates and other leading international and national economists on both sides of the debate. The jury is still out about whether or not promoting the use of artificial contraceptives could be a major solution to mass poverty.

As a long-standing critic of population control, let me summarize here why a legislation like the RH Bill could be economically counterproductive.

The most recent evidence that a large population is an asset and not a liability to a developing country like the Philippines is what I call the "VIP phenomenon." During the Great Recession we have just experienced, only three countries in East Asia (with the exception of China) avoided a recession.

These are Vietnam, Indonesia and the Philippines (the VIP countries of the ASEAN). A key explanation for the resilience of these three countries is their large domestic markets that partly insulated them from the depressive impact of a shrinking world economy. Even if they also experienced large declines in their exports like the tiger economies such as Singapore, Hong Kong, South Korea and Taiwan (which all suffered a recession), their large populations served as strong domestic markets for their business enterprises, both large and small. In the next ten to twenty years, the countries with large populations such as China, India, Brazil, Indonesia and others will be the engines of growth, eclipsing the aging OECD countries who, with the exception of the United States, are all suffering from the devastating effects of the demographic winter.

Another strong argument against population control is the peculiar case of Thailand. Even prescinding from the ongoing political unrest, Thailand's still relatively large population of over 60 million did not enable it to get into the list of the Next Eleven emerging markets that will dominate the global economy. Because of a very aggressive population control program in the last century, Thailand is in serious danger of growing old before becoming rich. Despite its extraordinary success in improving the productivity of its agricultural sector by investing wisely in countryside infrastructure, Thailand is still far from being a developed country. But its aging population is now growing faster than its labor force, threatening to engulf the country in a demographic winter too prematurely. To make matters worse, the aggressive distribution of condoms in the last century has made Thailand the worst victim of HIV-AIDS in East Asia, with some one million people infected with this dreaded disease. Being once considered our non-identical twin, Thailand should be a model for us in the area of agricultural development. But we should avoid literally like the plague its population control experience.

The next President knows very well that the most serious challenge to his Administration will be to raise government revenues in order to reduce the fiscal deficit, while still spending large amounts in infrastructures and in improving the quality of public education. Time and again, we have been told by international agencies, both public and private, that 400 billion pesos are being lost to corruption every year. About half of this is due to those who cheat the Government by not paying their taxes. This is private sector corruption, with the connivance of BIR officials. The other half is due to corrupt government officials in the Department of Education, Department of Public Works and Highways, Department of Agriculture and others who channel public funds to private pockets. By aggressively going after these corrupt people, as President SBY of Indonesia has done in his first five years, the next Administration will be able to significantly reduce the fiscal deficit while still having enough revenues to continue improving our physical infrastructure and the quality of education.

It would really be foolish for the next President to assign any importance to the RH Bill which can only divide the country needlessly and not even promise an immediate solution to the pressing problems of the national economy. As I have written so often, there are dozens of tried and tested solutions to mass poverty in the Philippines, solutions that can easily generate consensus. Among them are building farm-to-market roads, irrigation systems and post-harvest facilities; providing microcredit to the poor; developing small and medium-scale enterprises; putting up vocational and technical schools for the out-of-school youth; financing social housing for the poor; and teaming up with the private sector to assist returning OFWs in starting sustainable small businesses in which they can invest their savings. Let us ignore the voices of those in the new Congress who will try to resuscitate a dead horse, the very controversial RH Bill. For comment, my e-mail address is

Empowering women entrepreneurs

Bernardo M Villegas
Manila Bulletin

Among international organizations like the World Bank, Asian Development Bank and the United Nations, the Philippines ranks high in the measure of women's participation in the crucial sectors of society such as business, politics and the professions. It is often said that as a matriarchal society, the Philippines has few lessons to learn from many developed countries on how to give women the dignity they deserve in society. Filipino women's role in entrepreneurship is especially pronounced. A very large number of small businesses, especially in such sunrise sectors as food, fashion, education, tourism, and personal services are started by women who usually are wives looking for ways to augment the meager income of husbands who are practicing professionals (lawyer, doctors, engineers) or corporate employees.

The majority of these women entrepreneurs have had no formal business training. Although they generally come from middle class families, they do not have the financial capability of obtaining a formal business degree and are too busy growing their small businesses to attain any formal business education. Their potentials of generating employment among the lower-income households are quite high. They can be distinguished from the numerous other women coming from the poorer households who are the beneficiaries of micro-credit and micro-enterprise initiatives such as the Grameen Bank and ASA that have been adapted to Philippine conditions by a good number of NGOs. These micro-credit borrowers can effectively help their respective families overcome dehumanizing poverty by engaging in such traditional activities as market vending, food processing, sari-sari store operation, waste recycling, etc. These activities are very important for short-term poverty alleviation but are generally temporary occupations that will be abandoned once the entrepreneurs concerned are able to obtain other means of livelihood which can include being employed in other more sustainable businesses. Very few of these micro-enterprises are able to graduate to sustainable small and medium-size businesses that can be permanent sources of employment for the lower-income households.

To help women entrepreneurs attain long-term sustainability in the businesses they have established, Goldman Sachs started two years ago the 10,000 Women Initiative, a $100 million five-year program that is meant to improve business education in developing countries in Africa, Latin America and Asia, with a special emphasis on increasing the number of women who receive management training. As reported by Rebecca Knight in the Financial Times (March 8, 2010), more than 1,000 female entrepreneurs have already taken part in the program and many are already channeling what they learned into higher profits for their companies and new jobs in their communities.

As Ms. Knight reported: "The project was borne out of research conducted by the investment bank that indicated increasing the level of business education for women in developing countries could have a significant impact on driving economic growth as well as overall health rates. Educating women is also associated with greater political participation and the promotion of democracy...As part of Goldman's effort, more than 70 universities and non-profit groups in Europe and the US work with business schools in developing countries to train faculty and create local, culturally relevant certificate programs. The programs range from five weeks to six months and usually involve a combination of classroom learning and practical application. The courses cover everything from basic accounting and marketing to how to secure venture capital funding and creating a website."

Fortunately for the Philippines, it was chosen as the first country in the whole of Southeast Asia to participate in the 10,000 Women Initiative. In August 2009, the IESE Business School (one of the top MBA schools in the world) partnered with the University of Asia and the Pacific to offer a 150-hour certificate course on entrepreneurship and business management for women entrepreneurs in the Philippines. By February 12, 2010, two batches of women scholars had graduated from this program and another batch will start this month. Over the next four years, 400 scholarships will be awarded to qualified women entrepreneurs from all over the Philippines. Applicants must be Filipino citizens, with at least five years of experience managing their own businesses with potential of scaling up, with at least two years of tertiary education or equivalent training and a need for financial support to attend the training program.

One of the graduates from the first batch is Joy Ann Dimbuyu, who owns and manages an organic medicinal supplement manufacturing and trading business. She had been in business for five years before joining the program. The following is her testimonial: "Even if we came from different backgrounds, the training was the answer to what we were looking for. Personally, before I joined this program I wanted financial literacy and I learned it through the program. All of us who joined the program were empowered." Another graduate Felicitas Pantoja runs a coffee shop and restaurant in Davao City. The feedback the Program Director got from her is summarized in these words: "My ideas were outdated so it is refreshing to learn about the different technologies used in systematizing business operation such as reviewing employees' performances by using a grade system or behavioral question evaluation forms, etc. I learned how to systematize our inventory system, the laws on exporting products, online sales, Intellectual Property Right, and other matters dealing with the government." Perlita Abiog, who had been retailing computers for over 17 years, also had much to learn from the Program: "The program is very useful to entrepreneurs like us who ventured into business ill equipped with the skills needed to manage an enterprise. The knowledge that we have learned will definitely have a great impact on how we plan, manage and solve problems in our businesses."

Women entrepreneurs who meet the qualifications mentioned above should take advantage of this offer by Goldman Sachs. I am sure that women in business can be strongly motivated to help the country expand employment opportunities, especially for the underprivileged. They can personally contribute to this important social objective of business by improving their management skills through this program being offered in the Philippines by the University of Asia and the Pacific in close partnership with the IESE Business School. For the next batches, applications can be sent to or call (62) 637-0912 loc. 207 or (62) 334-3526. More detailed information may be found in the website: For comments, my email address is

More companies report Q1 profit: Security Bank, PNB, Megaworld

Security Bank reports P930-million net profit, 20% RoE in first quarter
Manila Bulletin

Security Bank Corporation recently disclosed a first quarter net income attributable to equity holders of P930.5 million, a 24 percent increase over the figure reported for the 1st quarter of 2009. The performance equates to an annualized return on equity (RoE) of 20.1 percent, underscoring its consistency in achieving superior returns to shareholder in the banking industry.

The bank’s asset base stood at P143.6 billion, a P3.5 billion growth from end of March 2009 numbers. Loans were reported at P65.2 billion and comprised 45.4 percent of total assets notwithstanding a slight dip from the P66.6 billion reported a year earlier.

Revenues recorded for the quarter were at P2.2 billion, driven by P1.5 billion in net interest income which was 7.0 percent or P98.4 million higher than the same period last year. Non-interest income stood at P725.1 million for the period, an improvement of P107.5 million or 17.4 percent driven by healthy growth in securities and foreign exchange gains which were up 19.8 percent.

Operating expenses, excluding provision for credit and impairment losses, amounted to P1.1 billion representing an increase of P49.7 million or 4.9 percent from the previous year. The modest increase in expenses coupled with the revenue performance translated to an exceptional cost to income ratio of 47.6 percent Security Bank President and Chief Executive Office Alberto S. Villarosa explained: “We have worked hard to build a sustainable revenue base from which we intend to continue leveraging on our strengths and increasing our relevance to our customers. With the strength of the additional capital we had put into the business last year, we are well positioned to seize further growth opportunities.”

Security Bank’s non-performing loans ratio of 1.5% for the period remains among the best in the industry.

The Bank had likewise set aside provisions of 303 percent cover for these non-performing loans.

In view of the earnings registered for the quarter coupled with the additional equity raised in 2009, the bank boasts of a fundamentally solid balance sheet as its Capital Adequacy Ratio was at 18.1% as of the first quarter of 2010.


PNB reports P889-million net income in Q1, up by 22%
Manila Bulletin

Philippine National Bank (PNB) reported a 22.1 percent growth in net income for the first quarter of 2010 to P889 million from the P728 million posted in the same period last year.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, the bank said “a confluence of factors contributed to the growth in profitability” including lower cost of funds in tandem with a year-on-year increase in low-cost deposits.

Also contributing to profits were gains on trading and investment securities; and reduction in operating costs with efficiencies being realized out of investments in technology, reengineering of processes, and prudent risk management.

During the period, PNB was able to substantially reduce its operating expenses by 15.9 percent notwithstanding the incremental investments in branch rationalization and renovations, technology and staff development.

This was realized even as the bank continued to provide for impairment and credit losses amounting to P256 million consistent with its prudent risk management policies. Its cost efficiency ratio thus improved to 64.5 percent from 69.9 percent in the same period last year.

A more favorable funding mix also contributed to the profit growth in the first three months of 2010. The increased share of low cost deposits to total deposits and redemption in February 2009 of P3-billion Lower Tier 2 Notes issued in February 2004 reduced funding costs.

PNB’s consolidated resources based on financial statements consistent with Regulatory Accounting Policies closed at a solid level of P283.3 billion as of end March 2010, slightly lower than P284.5 billion as of year-end 2009.

This was mainly due to the slight dip in outstanding loans and receivables by 1.2 percent following the scheduled paydowns by large borrowers during the first quarter of 2010.

Total deposits reached P209.1 billion with low cost deposits growing by P1.5 billion during the first quarter of the year as a result of intensified marketing efforts.


Megaworld profit rises 9% to P1.1 billion in Q1
Manila Bulletin

Property developer Megaworld Corporation reported a 9.2 percent improvement in consolidated net income during the first quarter of 2010 to P1.11 billion from P1.02 billion in the same period last year.

The firm said in a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange that consolidated total revenues gained 6.15 percent from P4.38 billion to P4.65 billion due to strong property sales and increased leasing income.

Revenues are composed of real estate sales, rental income, hotel income, interest income, dividend income and other revenues.

The bulk of generated consolidated revenues came from the sale of residential lots and condominium units at 66.82 percent of the total, amounting to P3.11 billion for the first quarter of 2010 compared to P3.01 billion for the same quarter of 2009, an increase of 3.3 percent.

Rental income contributed 12.82 percent to the consolidated revenue and rose 27.19 percent to P596.34 million compared to P468.86 million reflected in the same period last year. Contributing to the growth are the escalation and completion of additional leasing properties.

The Group’s hotel operations posted an amount of P55.27 million for the first quarter of 2010, an increase of 2.85 percent, from P53.74 million for the first quarter of 2009.

In general, the increase in cost and expenses by 5.23 percent from P3.36 billion for the first quarter of 2009 to P3.54 billion for the first quarter of 2010, was due mainly to increase in recognized real estate sales, as well as marketing and selling expenses particularly commission expenses resulting from aggressive marketing activities.

Income tax expense increased by 55.92 percent from P288.68 million to P450.09 billion for the first quarter of 2010 due to higher taxable income and tax effects of deductible temporary differences.

Operating expenses as a percentage of consolidated total revenues were 9.31 percent for the first quarter of 2010 and 8.22 percent for the first quarter of 2009, respectively. (JAL)

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The $1-trillion misunderstanding

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

In the early 1960s, a rather bold book was published titled The $100 Misunderstanding. It tells the story of a college student who meets and spends an extended weekend with a teenage, barely literate prostitute. During the course of their time together, and between the sexual encounters that they both enjoy, he takes her to museums that she has never seen, puts her on the path to finding the father who abandoned her, and builds her confidence by showing her how she can learn to read.

The young man does all that he thinks he can and should, to change the relationship to something different. Yet when the next week comes, it is all about the $100 he owes her for her sexual favors. And he catches an STD.

Even as we have been focusing on the elections, the most amazing events have been unfolding on the global financial scene. After weeks of talk and negotiation, the European Union (EU)—with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), which is funded in large part by the US—agreed to put up $1 trillion to support the euro currency.

While the talk is all about a bailout of Greece and other bankrupt national governments in Europe, it is really about the currency.

To give you an idea of how much money $1 trillion is, the annual gross domestic product of the Philippines is about $170 billion. $1 trillion is equal to almost six years worth of the total economic activity of more than 90 million Filipinos. If that $1 trillion was distributed to everyone in the country, no one would have to work, all businesses could close, and we could all go on vacation for six years.

Currency only works as a medium of exchange and store of wealth if people believe that the currency will have value to someone else in the future. If a particular currency loses its credibility, people will change from that currency to another that they believe will continue to hold future value. Perhaps the most important factor of credibility is that the government will not print too much of a particular currency because an oversupply of “money” reduces its value in relation to goods and services.

A friend once told a worker who was on strike for higher wages that he would be glad to triple basic salaries. But then again, he would have to triple the price of the goods that he sold. The worker thought about it for a moment and decided that was not a good deal since he, too, purchased the company’s products. There was not any net gain if there was too much money for wages.

It works the same way in an economy.

One local economist is suggesting that the Philippines peg the peso at 55 to $1 to help exports, those who use remittances, and foreign investors. Yet would there be any net gain if that overseas Filipino worker’s family gained more pesos and then had to pay 20 percent more for gasoline, imported milk products, and electricity? Of course not!

The purpose of the $1-trillion European “loan package” was to support and strengthen the euro. The idea was that confidence and credibility would be gained if the financial markets knew that the EU was ready to buy the euro in exchange for other currencies, primarily the dollar, thereby strengthening the value of the euro against other currencies. But the financial markets are not foolish. More euros in circulation mean less future euro value. The euro fell from 1.30 to the dollar, before the $1 trillion was allocated, to 1.26 to the dollar afterward.

Because there is no intrinsic value to any modern currency, printing more paper money actually weakens, not strengthens, its future value.

A silly analogy might be that the poor man reaches down to pick up a P1 coin while the rich man, who has many pesos, ignores the coin, although they can both buy the same amount of goods with that coin.

The EU leaders, the IMF and the US all acted like the young man in the story I mentioned above, trying to convince the “wolf pack” of the financial markets that good intentions and a good heart could change the relationship. But like the young prostitute, the wolf pack is only interested in money, the profits. They sold the euro and bought dollars. And knowing that the dollar is losing future value, they also bought yen and the British pound. But the currency that they know is not going to lose value is gold. Gold broke through to historic highs against both the euro and the US dollar.

The pound may be next, and soon the yen and eventually the dollar will be eaten by the wolf pack. The last two currencies that will fall will be the Canadian dollar and the Swiss franc, but they will all fall as people turn to gold and currencies like the Philippine peso in countries that are more financially stable and where there is confidence in the long-term value of the currency.

Major stock markets will fall also as stock prices will not be able to keep up with currency depreciation. China has already entered a bear market as inflation hits another 18-month high and their property/stock-market bubble begins to burst.

Major governments are running a massive pyramid scheme trying to convince the markets, to pretend, that if 5 kilos of carabao manure has little value, maybe 20 kilos will have more value.

Also, do not listen to any nonsense about a bad Philippine economy or the nation’s financial stability. Unless the Aquino administration makes some very foolish monetary- and fiscal-policy mistakes, foreign capital inflows will rise dramatically in the next 12 months as foreign money leaves its own burning financial houses.

The major countries’ financial systems are so incredibly weak that countries like the Philippines are financial giants in comparison. Buy the peso. Buy the PSE. Buy Philippine government debt. You will not lose.

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Wednesday, 12 May 2010

FACTBOX: Noynoy Aquino's policy plans


MANILA, Philippines - Senator Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III is set for a strong victory in the Philippines' presidential election, and now faces the daunting task of reinvigorating the economy and tackling the country's parlous fiscal position.

A first-time senator, Aquino, armed with an economics degree from the Jesuit-run Ateneo de Manila University but with very little administrative experience, ran on an investor-friendly platform of honest and transparent government, with a focus on raising educational standards and improving tax collection.

Below are some of the policy pronouncements Aquino, son of democracy icon Corazon "Cory" Aquino, had made during his campaign to succeed President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, based on Reuters' stories and information on his Web site:

-- Target tax evaders and big smugglers, aiming to collect 150 billion pesos ($3.3 billion) and raise the tax efficiency rate -- a key measurement of tax collection -- by 2 percentage points from around 13 percent currently.

-- Strengthen an existing carrot-and-stick mechanism at the two main tax agencies to raise perennially weak revenues, and push for higher salaries to cut down on corruption.

-- May consider raising taxes if it was clear the budget shortfall was unlikely to be cut quickly by anti-evasion and anti-smuggling measures.

-- Streamline fiscal incentives offered to investors, such as tax holidays, to bring in more revenues.

-- Impose a "zero budgeting" measure, in which all major ticket items under the 1.54-trillion-pesos 2010 budget will be re-examined, aiming to get back some of the 280 billion pesos lost to corruption in 2009.

-- Reduce red tape and simplify procedures in doing business.

-- Improve transportation and housing infrastructure, invest in early childhood education, and achieve 100 percent health care protection in three years or less from 38 percent now.

-- Promote industries with the greatest potential for growth and where the Philippines has a competitive advantage, such as agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, infrastructure, manufacturing and logistics, socially responsible mining, and tourism and retirement.

-- Form a group to review possible changes to economic provisions in the constitution, one of the most important legacies of Aquino's mother during her term in office from 1986 to 1992, in his first 100 days as president.

There are some strongly nationalist economic provisions in the constitution, including restrictions on foreign investment in some sectors and on foreigners owning land.

-- Require department secretaries, heads of agencies, and senior officials to have their statement of assets, liabilities and net worth (SALN) available and accessible to the public.

-- Strengthen the Justice Department and the Office of the Ombudsman. Implement fully the Prosecution Service Act to strengthen the national prosecution service, attract qualified lawyers, and institutionalise a more effective witness protection programme.

-- Upgrade the army and increase defence spending to 2 percent of GDP, or more than 100 billion pesos, from 1 percent or 57 billion pesos now, the lowest among the six major Southeast Asian states. He has also vowed to end corruption in military procurement and dismantle private armies.

-- Review the security treaty with the United States and pursue peace talks with Maoist-led rebels and Muslim separatists.

Reporting by Rosemarie Francisco; Editing by John Mair & Kazunori Takada

A salute to the statesmanship of those who lost

Jojo Robles
Manila Standard

Here we must also note with pride the display of statesmanship of those presidential candidates who conceded defeat to Noynoy Aquino hours after it became clear that the latter had emerged the winner. One by one, Manny Villar, JC delos Reyes, Gibo Teodoro, Dick Gordon and Eddie Villanueva showed uncommon grace that all other politicians hereabouts should emulate when they accepted Noynoy’s victory.

Unlike most Pinoy office-seekers, all these gentlemen graciously declared that Noynoy had beaten them in a fair fight and that it was now time for the entire nation to move on after one of the most bitter—and probably the most expensive—electoral battles we have ever witnessed. Of course, the default setting, as it were, of Philippine pols is to claim they had been cheated out of victory and that they were demanding a recount.

The supporters of these exemplary candidates—and there are millions of them, too—should take solace in the fact that they backed men of character who can accept defeat unequivocally and who hold the people’s will sacred. As one of these millions of Filipinos, I assure you that I am convinced more than ever that I made the right choice, even if more of us believed otherwise.

The only major candidate who has also lost and who refuses to concede is the guy in the number-two spot after Noynoy, Joseph Estrada. As this is being written, Da Erap has not yet conceded defeat, still believing that he is the victim of Harry Truman-style “trending” and that he will eventually emerge victorious.

If you ask me, Erap is merely sulking not only because it’s the first time in his long and colorful political career that he’s been number two but also because his own number-two guy is number one. Yes, this election’s true literal and figurative dark horse, Estrada running mate Jejomar Binay, holds the lead in the tightly contested vice presidential race over Mar Roxas and looks like he’s getting the post of second-in-command of Noynoy.

The much-rumored friction between Estrada and Binay erupted yesterday after television cameras caught Erap voting and deliberately not shading a circle in the vice presidential category. Estrada’s spokesmen may deny that the former president didn’t even vote for his running mate, but anyone with a pair of eyes and YouTube knows that they’re not telling the truth.

Understandably, Estrada seems unable to accept that Binay benefited from being associated with the two leading candidates, thus giving the Makati mayor the momentum to pull off a come-from-behind victory over survey leader Roxas, Aquino’s running mate. And the junking of Roxas came to pass all because of the machinations of Chiz Escudero and the Yellow faction that never cottoned to Roxas in the first place.

Someone must advise Erap that because of automated canvassing, he can no longer hide behind the fig leaf of trending. And that his old-school posturing simply makes him look out of touch with a reality where PCOS machines rule and where raw video footage goes viral.

Me, I’m just happy that I don’t have to explain why we Filipinos chose as president someone we’d already elected to that office—and someone that we’ve sent to jail for crimes he committed while he was there. Even if, for a while there, I got really, really scared that I would have to do just that.

* * *

Speaking of PCOS machines, here’s a non-machine generated “Congratulations!” to our election officials on every level and to Filipino voters all over the country. Despite the glitches, the rumors and the chaos, we seem to have pulled off the first automated elections in this country.

While some PCOS machines conked out inexplicably in some polling centers (including my own), they did what they were supposed to do overall, which was to eliminate the thriving business of “dagdag-bawas” at the municipal and provincial canvassing levels by directly transmitting the votes to servers at the Commission on Elections. Comelec and its much-criticized technology provider Smartmatic also did a good job of posting the results as they came in from all over at the Iba na Ngayon Web site, giving everyone with a computer access to actual returns (with percentages and color-coded pie charts, as well) down to the clustered-precinct level.

All the voters who sweated it out at the schoolhouses and patiently waited to vote should congratulate themselves, too. Everyone who voted showed the best qualities of the Filipino by choosing active involvement over the usual apathy.

Here’s hoping that the next-generation PCOS machines won’t have as many bugs —and that the masters of election fraud don’t find a way to get around this new, unhacked system in elections to come.

Biz to Aquino: Appoint competent Cabinet

Written by Max V. de Leon / Reporter
WEDNESDAY, 12 MAY 2010 06:30
BUSINESS groups have already acknowledged the victory of Sen. Benigno Aquino III in the presidential polls, and they heaved a sigh of relief that their fears over the possibility of a widespread election rigging due to glitches in the automation did not happen.

And now business groups will be keenly watching the appointments to Cabinet posts, as they said this will indicate the direction of the new administration, and if they will get the key reforms that they are seeking to really spice up the appetite of the business sector to continue investing.

“The results are acceptable and credible. There is no doubt that Senator Aquino won. The results also jibe with the surveys,” Lim said.

He recognized that the vigilance of the business groups and other sectors prevented any grand scheme to sabotage the conduct of the elections.

With this positive development, Lim said they are now hoping that the new president will appoint “sincere and competent” officials to the Cabinet, and for sure, investments will start pouring in again.

Jesus Arranza, chairman of the Federation of Philippine Industries (FPI), said while it is understandable that those who helped in the election will be given the priority for appointments, they are still hoping that Aquino will give more weight to “qualification rather than connection.”

“Qualification is more important than help extended. As an unsolicited advice, we hope that he will not appoint somebody with a track record of failure in handling an office or a business,” Arranza said.

He said the FPI is looking forward to helping Aquino in the campaign against smuggling, which has been the perennial biggest headache of the domestic industries.

Francis Chua, president of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said there is no doubt that Aquino won in the polls, so everybody should work with the new president, “and give him the flexibility and benefit of the doubt before we start criticizing him.”

He said the conduct of the automated polls speaks well about the maturity of the Filipino people and will certainly improve the image of the Philippines.

The way we conducted the elections reflects efficiency in government, and shows that the Filipinos are already matured and can do something as big as this in an orderly way. So the investors in other countries will now say that, finally, the Philippines is a good place to invest in,” Chua said.

Arranza said the new administration should not be too vindictive so as not to create more animosity and tension among the different political camps.

Philippine exports jump 43.7% in March

Daniel Anne B. Nepomuceno

PHILIPPINE MERCHANDISE exports grew 43.7% in March, fueled mainly by continued strong demand from major destinations.

The growth was the strongest annual jump recorded since 1981 with $4.18 billion worth of goods shipped for the month.

Monthly export figures further bolstered signs of global recovery, with outward shipments rising by 17% month-on-month in March, reversing the 0.3% month-on-month contraction recorded in February.

Shipments of electronic products, which accounted for more than 57.9% of the total export revenue for the month, jumped 49.1% in March to $2.42 billion, a rebound from the -33.8% recorded during the same period last year.

Last week, the government upgraded its full-year forecast for merchandise exports to 18%, give or take one percentage point, from a previous range of 10% to 14%.

The US was the top export market for the month, with receipts amounting to $703.32 million, 39.8% higher year-on-year.

Completing the top three were Japan and China, with export earnings growing by 52.8% and 58.2%, respectively.

Business groups ready to work with Aquino administration

Jessica Anne D. Hermosa

BUSINESS GROUPS have begun to rally around presidential candidate Sen. Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" C. Aquino III and other frontrunners in the partial count, expressing yesterday their eagerness to work with the incoming administration.

Implementation of much needed economic reforms will now be largely dependent on the quality of the Cabinet appointees and whether the new leaders in Malacañang and Congress can work together, industry group leaders said in telephone interviews.

"The business community welcomes who the people have chosen. We will work with whomever the people chose. We have to rally behind [Mr. Aquino]," Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Francis C. Chua said.

Mr. Aquino’s wide margin is boosting market sentiment as "takes a lot of uncertainty away", Makati Business Club Executive Director Alberto A. Lim said.

While Mr. Aquino has been painted as inexperienced by his critics, business leaders brushed this off and are instead watching out for his appointments.

"We are waiting to see who is on his team. That will set the tone for his government," American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines Executive Director Robert M. Sears said, a sentiment echoed by the other business leaders.

Sergio R. Ortiz-Luis, Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation, for his part said a strong mandate could prove to be more valuable than experience for Mr. Aquino.
The new administration will anyway be inheriting a relatively healthier economy at least for its first year, Mr. Ortiz-Luis said.

Mr. Chua concurred, saying: "We should not have too much [of a] problem as far as the economy is concerned. The new adminstration will just have to sustain the momentum."

Business groups were more concerned about how the executive and legislative branches would interact.

"It is mixed right now. There is no clear showing that [Mr. Aquino] will have control over Congress. It will be a problem that will have to be faced by the new president, how to get cooperation," Mr. Ortiz-Luis said.

"What’s important is they work as a team," Employers Confederation of the Philippines President Edgardo G. Lacson said.

Reforms long-requested by the business community will have to be championed by "a strong executive" in the meantime, Mr. Lim said.

The wish list includes the lowering of power costs, continued support for the Arroyo administration’s infrastructure program, and strong initiatives to balance the budget -- at least according to PCCI’s draft agenda for the president’s first 100 days in office shared by Mr. Chua.

Several groups noted that they were generally satisfied with the candidates poised to take Congress seats.

"We have people with experience there," Mr. Sears said.

The new batch of congressmen is looking to be "fine," said Mr. Schumacher.

Mr. Chua echoed this: "We should not have any problem working with the new leaders."

Arroyo asks Filipinos to support new leader


PRESIDENT GLORIA Macapagal-Arroyo has called on Filipinos to support the next president regardless of his political affiliation.

This, after she signed a directive that would ensure a smooth transition of power even before she steps down on June 30.

"As we wait for Comelec (Commission on Elections) and Congress to officially determine the election winners, let us all respect the work that the dedicated men and women of Comelec are carrying out. No matter which candidates emerge victorious, we must all respect the outcome and work with these newly elected officials to take our country forward," Mrs. Arroyo said at the 112th anniversary celebration of the Navy where she was keynote speaker.

"I call on you, the men and women of the Philippine Navy, and all other sectors of our armed forces to give our new commander in chief the same support and cooperation you have given me during my tenure as president of the Republic of the Philippines. I thank you for that support. You have honored our country with you commitment to our Constitution," she added.

Presidential Management Staff Director-General Ma. Elena H. Bautista confirmed in a phone interview yesterday that the President has signed on May 9 an administrative order that would establish the Presidential Transition Coordination Team (PCTC).

The number of the administrative order has yet to be determined, she said.

Comelec proves critics wrong

Manila Bulletin

They were criticized, they were under extreme pressure, and they were almost ostracized.

But in the end, the Commission on Elections (Comelec), its officials and staff had the last laugh.

Doomsayers and critics were silent – at least for now – as their worst predictions that there would be massive cheating and failure of elections in the May 10 polls did not come to pass.

“I’m smiling again. The automation is a success,” a visibly relieved and more relaxed Comelec Chairman Jose Melo said a few hours after the voting period closed and results started pouring in.

“This only shows that we can pull this through. The conduct of the poll automation proves our critics wrong,” Comelec Commissioner Gregorio Larrazabal said Monday night as he assessed the conduct of the polls. Larrazabal heads the poll body’s steering committee for the Automated Election System (AES).

While there were reports of frustrated voters not finding their names due to the clustering of the precincts, and irate people opting not to vote anymore because of the long queues in polling precincts, such complaints far outweigh the benefit of automation.

For the first time since the country exercised its first democratic elections, winners – and losers for that matter – are known and proclaimed in record time this time around.

Overcoming obstacles
The road to automation was not an easy task. Delays, concerns on the preparations and logistics and questions of the system bugged the project. A week before the elections, tension rose following the glitches in the configuration of the memory cards for the Precinct Count Optical Scan (PCOS) machines.

To critics, the AES was a disaster waiting to happen.

They were wrong.

Pulling what some may describe a miracle, Comelec and the winning consortium, Smartmatic-Total Information Management (TIM), proved that clean, honest, and orderly elections can be pulled off.

On election day, some 465 PCOS defective machines were reported by the poll body but Larrazabal said it was relatively small compared to the 75,882 number of machines that did not malfunction.

“It's not a bad number,” said Larrazabal on the 0.6 percent malfunction rate of the PCOS machines.

Just a few hours after the last precinct has closed at 7 p.m., tabulated election results in the national level – something unheard of and impossible to happen – were being transmitted to the consolidated canvassing system of the Comelec.

At around 10 p.m., the Comelec has been reporting millions of counted votes in the presidential, vice presidential and senatorial races, marking a new page in the country’s electoral history.

For the time, Filipinos have a clear idea on who are leading in the race just before they call it a night.

Winners and losers

Nacionalista Party (NP) bet Senator Manuel “Manny” Villar has accepted defeat Tuesday morning, as more than half of the votes are transmitted to the poll body, easing tension and providing relief.

Smartmatic-Asia President Cesar Flores attributed the huge voter turnout to the introduction of the voting machines.

“It contributed to the higher turnout of voters. Many people were satisfied with the system. It showed the democratic sentiment of the Filipino people,” said Flores.

Winning candidates in the senatorial race, which the Comelec will proclaim, are also being announced.

Although results are being announced by the Comelec in the presidential and vice presidential race, only Congress, convening as the National Board of Canvassers, can officially proclaim the winners in the top two posts.

The biggest winner in the first automated elections are the Filipino people who reposed their trust to a new system, after years of enduring the slow and torturous manual count.

The inconvenience they had to endure in Monday's elections – from searching their names to the long lines, not to mention the punishing humidity and heat, was all worth it to many voters.

For instance, at the precinct for Barangay Almanza Dos in Las Pinas City, Rolando Velarde, a landscaper, said he was more than satisfied with the holding of the first automated elections as it marks a new beginning to ensure a clean and honest elections.

“The automated elections has given us a new hope for a cleaner elections in the future as long as we remain vigilant in safeguarding the sanctity of this exercise,” he said.

At least this time, the country is not the laughing stock of the rest of the world. Filipinos have something new to be proud of.



Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Business Mirror Editorial: 3 hours to be part of history

THE usual problems associated with the age-old manual voting had an ample presence, as expected, in Monday’s first nationwide automated polls, proving that technology can only do so much, and that much of the reforms in the way we do things will rest on human conduct—or folly.

There were reports of vote-buying, of partisans disguised as watchdog volunteers, of some watchers actively cajoling voters inside precincts. There were the expected reports of poll-related violence, such as indiscriminate firing of guns, encounters between soldiers and policemen, or of bodyguards of candidates coming to blows.

Those are the deliberate acts of sabotage. There were also many disruptions in the otherwise-smooth automated polls that arose because of human failure or incompetence, plain shortsightedness, or the failure of the Commission on Elections (Comelec) and the education department to orient well enough the teachers serving as election tellers. In many precincts in Metro Manila, people complained of having to take nearly three hours on average just to cast their vote—of which two-thirds is spent standing in long, snake-like lines outside the precincts.

And yet, just when they thought there were problems with the Precinct Count Optical Scan or PCOS machine, it turned out some of the Boards of Election Inspectors (BEIs) were simply too slow in processing the voters—imposing different procedures depending on the BEI chairman’s whim, including many overlapping or unnecessary steps that caused the crowds to pile up.

To be fair to teachers, the clustering of precincts caused the number of voters they handle to swell, from just 300 to 400 in previous polls, to 1,000 in this one. Ironically, in some places where the lines were long, voters took just a few minutes to fill out ballots, using their precious codigo, and took much less time to feed their ballots into machines that smoothly scanned and counted their shaded ovals, clapping their hands when shown the PCOS’s “Congratulations, your vote has been registered.”

Yet, it turned out in some places, the lines grew long outside because teachers had a hard time flipping through those massive, antiquated voters’ books, or set aside just a few chairs for the actual voting, or did not manage the lines well.

Some voters were also aghast—after having been told to write their full names and precinct number twice on blank sheets of paper—to find their personal details and photos, the ones they recalled having given Comelec years ago, neatly filed in a separate folder manned by the person getting their right thumb marks and applying indelible ink on their right index finger. Why, they asked, hasn’t Comelec used this folder right at the start of the process, so teachers can quickly check the photos against the faces? And what happened to the expensive (billions of pesos) voter biometrics project, which compelled voters several years ago to line up for half a day, with the promise of a high-tech ID card that never materialized?

When the postscript for this historic exercise is written, authorities should devote as much attention not just to the PCOS machines and compact-flash-cards fiasco, but also the more basic—truly cleaning up the voter’s registry and giving decent ID cards to voters who took the trouble of providing their biometrics.

As this is being written, it’s too early to make a final verdict on the May 10 polls. But if genuine public interest were a gauge, as seen from the huge turnout despite the angry remarks over the long lines—on a hot day at that—then maybe this exercise could be declared a winner in the sense of affirming the Filipinos’ sense of sacrifice for elections.

For all their cynicism about politicians and their broken vows, the people came out in droves—and stayed on despite the heat, hunger and discomfort—just for keeping the privilege of freely choosing their leaders. Three hours to be part of history? It’s obvious citizens traded time for the freedom, ending their long day with a prayer that the next leaders will reward that effort with genuine service.

Metrobank unit mulls over 82-MW coal plant in Bohol

by Alena Mae S. Flores
Manila Standarad

Cebu Energy Development Corp., a consortium led by the Metrobank Group, plans to build an 82-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Bohol to help augment supply in the island, an official said.

Carlos Itable, Bohol Electric Cooperative Inc. I general manager, said Cebu Energy met with representatives of the electric cooperative to discuss the possibility of putting up a coal plant on the island.

“I told them they should put up a plant here because we still have a shortage of 60 MW,” Itable told reporters. He said Cebu Energy might start constructing the coal plant next year.

Boheco I is currently experiencing a power shortage as a result of the El Niño’s weather phenomenon, which has dried up most hydroelectric facilities.

Itable said Bohol’s power demand was expected to go up with the entry of a Korean ship repair facility and more establishments and industrial plants start to pour in investments in the island.

He said the board of Boheco I had already approved plans to source electricity from Cebu Energy.

“The board approved that we get 14 MW for baseload from Cebu Energy,” he said.

Cebu Energy is a joint venture among Global Business Power Corp. of the Metrobank Group, Aboitiz Power Corp., Vivant Corp., and Formosa Heavy Industries of Taiwan.

Arroyo assures smooth transition

By Christine Avendaño
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines—With Senator Benigno "Noynoy'' Aquino all but being declared as the next leader of the nation, President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said Tuesday that her government was now preparing to ensure the smooth transfer of power to her successor.

In her first public speech after the May 10 polls, Arroyo spoke during the 112th anniversary of the Philippine Navy to thank the Commission on Elections, the military and the police for a job well done to make the first automated elections a success.

"Yesterday was a great day for our nation,'' Arroyo said, noting that the votes continue to come in as she declared Monday’s polls to be "fair, free and open.''

"The new electronic voting was a great leap forward for ensuring a smooth and protected vote,'' she also said.

Arroyo called on everyone in government to ensure that the new government "has the benefit from Day One of a strong stable government ready to continue work on behalf of the people who elected them.''

She also sought for cooperation with the incoming government.

"No matter which candidate emerges victorious, we must all respect the outcome and work with this newly elected officials to take our country forward,'' she said.

And in preparation for her successor, Arroyo said she has instructed Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza to lead the "presidential transition cooperation team'' which will work closely with the representatives of the next President "to ensure peaceful, orderly and [efficient] transition on the 30th of June.''

She said she had signed the administrative order creating the transition team and that she and the Cabinet were set to discuss the transition "blueprint'' prepared by Mendoza.


Palace happy with the way automated elections went

Philippine Daily Inquirer

EVEN BEFORE THE VOTING had concluded Monday, Malacañang expressed confidence the country’s first fully automated elections—and the last balloting under the Arroyo administration’s watch—would be successful.

In a statement, Malacañang commended the voters and the “hardworking election officials, workers and volunteers … for bearing the heat, the crowds, the threats and the occasional glitches for the cause of fair, free and credible elections under the direct control of the independent Comelec.”

After voting in her Pampanga hometown, President Macapagal-Arroyo spent the rest of the day in Malacañang, attending to her regular duties and “checking from time to time” the progress of the voting in the Palace war room.

The President was to preside over a national security meeting Monday night, according to presidential spokesperson Ricardo Saludo.

“It will be an assessment of the overall support activities of the government to the Comelec. For instance, we’re handling energy and peace and order,” Saludo said in a phone interview.

Deputy presidential spokesperson Gary Olivar said Ms Arroyo will also push through with the regular Cabinet meeting Tuesday.

“The Cabinet meeting is pushing through and it goes to show how confident we are about the outcome of the elections and that it will be as everyone expects it to be—highly successful,” Olivar told a Palace briefing.

“After this election, the balance of the President’s agenda will revolve around three main themes: Transition, stability and legacy,” he said.

Saludo said the Palace was saddened by the sporadic violence reported in some areas and reminded authorities to protect the people and “neutralize the threats.”

“We are hopeful that the generally fair, free and peaceful conduct of the elections, as well as the transition to a new administration on June 30 shall show the world and our investor friends how strong, stable and vibrant our democracy is, where global enterprises can take root and flourish, as we have seen in over nine years of uninterrupted economic growth under President Gloria Arroyo,” he said.

Olivar said the success of the elections would be a “feather in the cap” of the Comelec, Smartmatic-TIM, the police and military. Christine O. Avendaño

Comelec lauds Villar ‘statesmanship’

By Kristine L. Alave
Philippine Daily Inquirer

MANILA, Philippines – Commission on Elections chairman Jose Melo has expressed "deep appreciation" to Nacionalista Party standard-bearer Senator Manuel Villar for conceding the presidential race.

Melo said it was "an act of statesmanship."

President Arroyo calls for full Cabinet meeting for transition

Reports from Ruby Tayag, radio dzmm and Timi Nubla, ABS-CBN News

MANILA, Philippines - President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo has advised her executive secretary to prepare for the transfer of important documents to the new president.

President Arroyo announced during celebrations of the Philippine Navy's 112th anniversary at the Philippine Coast Guard headquarters in Manila that she has already called for a full Cabinet meeting.

She said the tasks of the presidential transition coordinating team headed by Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza will be the main subject of the meeting.

Mrs. Arroyo said she has asked Mendoza to prepare to contact representatives of this year's presidential race winner.

Liberal Party's Sen. Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III, who has vowed to support possible moves to prosecute Mrs. Arroyo if he wins the presidential race, has been leading by a wide margin in the Commission on Elections (Comelec) partial and official count.

As of Tuesday morning, Aquino was leading by at least 4.5 million from his closest rival, former president Joseph Estrada.

Nacionalista Party's Sen. Manuel "Manny" Villar Jr. and Ang Kapatiran's JC delos Reyes have already conceded to Aquino.

Mrs. Arroyo asked the military to support the next commander-in-chief.

How the Comelec made it despite glitches

MANILA, Philippines - Just when things were about to fall apart—2 days prior to the historic May 10 elections—the Commission on Elections (Comelec) decided to call in the guys with the guns to help deliver the reconfigured Compact Flash cards in hard to reach areas.

Col. Ricardo Nepomuceno, spokesman of the Armed Forces of the Philippine’s Task Force HOPE (Honest Orderly and Peaceful Elections), confirmed to that military choppers helped deliver the CF cards to remote areas such as the mountainous regions and the island provinces.

Under Comelec rules, the military’s sole task is to help secure the holding of the elections. This includes providing security escorts in the transport of election materials.

The rules only allow the Commission to use the military’s assets to transport the election materials as a last resort, but this has to be upon a formal request by the Comelec, Nepumuceno said.

When defects in the data loaded on the CF cards were discovered during testing and sealing on Monday, May 3, the Comelec and supplier Smartmatic was faced with the situation of having to retrieve, reconfigure, and redeploy over 76,000 CF cards to various locations nationwide only days prior to the elections.

'Last resort' option

A couple of days after the CF cards snafu was discovered, and with time running out, the military, through Task Force Hope, offered to help deliver the CF cards.

“There were requests from Comelec regional election directors particularly Davao to get the military to help,” Nepumuceno explained.

He said, however, that Comelec Chairman Jose Melo initially said no, reasoning that there is still time and it is not yet time to employ the “last resort.” Melo wanted to exhaust all other means first, said Nepumuceno.

Only Melo can lift restriction, Nepumuceno explained. “We asked the Comelec for a written request.”

Melo eventually sent the AFP a request 2 days prior to the elections, according to Nepumuceno. “The AFP took it as a directive.”

The areas where the military delivered CF cards were Nueva Viscaya, Palawan, Some areas in Davao, remote areas in Quezon province (such as the towns of Umiray and Aurora), Abra and some provinces within the Cordillera Autonomous Region. –

Manila Water-led consortium buys Aussie water firm for 225-M Australian dollars

MANILA, Philippines - A consortium led by Manila Water Co. and Mitsubishi Corp. has acquired United Utilities Australia Pty. (UUA), a wholly-owned unit of United Utilities Group Plc for 225 million Australian dollars.

Manila Water said on Tuesday its acquisition of UUA is part of the company's strategic move to enhance its presence in the region as a major water and wastewater services provider.

"This transaction will improve the company's competitiveness and visibility in the region as it focuses to expand operations in emerging countries with significant water scarcity problems," Manila Water said in a statement to the Philippine Stock Exchange.

Manila Water said it will have a 12.7% interest in the consortium that also includes Innovation Network of Japan and JGC Corp.

The water utility's participation in the acquisition of UUA, will help shore up its revenue base. UUA currently owns and operates 35 water treatment plants, 22 wastewater treatment plants, nine reuse schemes and four desalination plants across Australia.

Manila Water, a unit of listed conglomerate Ayala Corp. has been eyeing opportunities outside of the Philippines in its bid to boost its stock as a regional player in the water and wastewater business.

The company holds the concession to manage and distribute water in the eastern zone of Metro Manila, servicing about 6.1 million customers.

Recently, the company inked a deal with REE Corp. and Mitsubishi Corp. to develop water and wastewater projects in Vietnam.

It also completed the incorporation of Jindal Manila Water Development Co., a joint venture with Jindal Water Infrastructure Ltd., which will provide water and wastewater services in Rajasthan, Gujarat and Maharashtra states in India.

Manila Water, whose shares are listed at the stock exchange, closed 1.6% higher at P15.50.

Villar, 2 others admit defeat, congratulate Noynoy Aquino


(Updated 3:16 p.m.) As the picture of a Noynoy Aquino administration becomes clearer, three of his rivals for the presidency on Tuesday threw in the towel as they congratulated him for what seems like his impending victory.

First to admit defeat was Aquino’s colleague in the Senate, Nacionalista Party’s Manny Villar Jr.

"Humaharap ako sa inyo ngayon upang tanggapin ang pasyang ito. Upang igalang ang boses ng sambayanang Pilipino (I now face you all to admit my defeat). I congratulate Senator Noynoy Aquino on his victory. The challenges he and our country faces are enormous and we should all work together," he said, reading a prepared statement during a press conference in Mandaluyong City.

Sen. Richard Gordon of Bagumbayan and Ang Kapatiran’s JC de los Reyes followed suit. In a statement posted on his Facebook account, Gordon congratulated Aquino for his "spectacular victory" and called upon the nation to unite and support the new administration.

"We accept the will of the people. Today, we have a victory for democracy with the successful exercise of our first nationwide automated election despite naysayers and doubters," said Gordon.

In a text message to reporters, De los Reyes said that although Aquino’s platforms differ from his, “I will support his government in other reform efforts we have in common."

According to GMA Network's partial and unofficial tally as of 3:09 p.m. on Tuesday, Aquino remained at the top spot with 12,789,741 votes. Villar ranked third with 4,571,874 votes while Gordon was at sixth place with 442,144. De los Reyes, meanwhile, was at the 9th place with 36,913 votes.

Thank you’s

Villar thanked his party mates at the Nacionalista Party and supporters who supported his presidential bid, and said he would continue working for the welfare of the poor.

"Bagama’t ako ay hindi pinalad, ang aking pangarap na tapusin ang kahirapan ay hindi pa nagwawakas. Ito ay aking ipagpapatuloy bagama’t sa ibang paraan (Although I didn’t win, my efforts to end poverty in this country will continue)," he said in a sober tone.

Villar, a self-made billionaire, also thanked his supporters and volunteers who helped him through the campaign. He, however, expressed sadness about the allegations and negative propaganda that have hounded him throughout his campaign.

"Ako ay naniniwala na sa darating na mga araw ako ay mabibigyan ng pagkakataon na linisin ang aking pangalan upang maliwanagan ang ating mga kababayan. Yan ay mahalaga sa akin higit sa anupamang bagay," he said.

(I believe that soon I’ll be given a chance to clear my name before the public. That’s the most important thing to me.)

Villar smiled but declined to take questions from the reporters, leaving the Nacionalista Party headquarters immediately after the press briefing.

Candid campaign

Gordon likewise thanked his supporters, especially his volunteers particularly "those who gave up their limited resources as a manifestation of trust in his brand of leadership and track record."

"I ran a very truthful, straightforward and candid campaign and thought we could run on the basis of our platform, track record and volunteerism," he said.

In 2016: a second Marcos?

We have seen a second Macapagal.
We will now see a second Aquino.
Will there be a second Marcos?

Mabuhay ang Pilipino!

Congratulations to all Filipinos for a successful conduct of elections. May the next one be smoother and even more peaceful and orderly.

Arroyo team all set for transition

by Joyce Pañares
Manila Standard

President Gloria Arroyo is moving heaven and earth to ensure success of the first automated elections and the smooth turnover of power to her successor, which constitute her “final major acts of governance” before she steps down on June 30.

Mrs. Arroyo renewed her commitment to an orderly transition after a meeting with leaders from the religious, business and labor sectors who all brushed aside scenarios of civil unrest amid alleged plans to sabotage the national elections.

Among those who attended the expanded National Security Council-Cabinet cluster meeting are Bayombong Bishop Ramon Villena representing Catholic Bishops Conference of the Philippines president Bishop Nereo Odchimar; El Shaddai founder Mariano “Bro. Mike” Velarde; Bishop Epharim Tendero, president of the Philippine Council of Evangelical Churches; Cebu Archbishop Cardinal Vidal; Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry chairman emeritus Miguel Varela; and Democrito Mendoza of the Trade Union Congress of the Philippines.

“The participants manifested their trust in the commitment of the Armed Forces and the National Police to abide by the Constitution and safeguard our democratic processes, “ presidential spokesman Ricardo Saludo said.

Deputy Palace spokesman Gary Olivar, for his part, said the President has committed to “put all of the resources of this administration behind a successful transition of power and preserving the stability and continuity of our republican institutions and processes.”

“Hopefully, it will be the standard bearer of Lakas-Kampi CMD (Gilberto Teodoro Jr.) who will prevail but as president of the republic, Mrs. Arroyo is prepared to welcome whoever wins and ensure a smooth transition,” Olivar said.

“Once the electoral noise settles, we should unite behind whoever is chosen by the majority, and give him our full and whole-hearted support,” the Palace official added.

President Arroyo, who is attending an early mass in Lubao today before casting her vote in her hometown where she is running for a congressional seat in the second district, has repeatedly said that ensuring a smooth transition of power is her most important legacy.

“There is no more important legacy than to leave the nation with a free and fair elections and a smooth transition to a new government. Our people deserve to have confidence that their vote counts and that our democracy works,” President Arroyo said.

“Let us do everything to make sure the new president and his team hit the ground running when they assume office,” Mrs. Arroyo added.

Mrs. Arroyo has already formed a transition committee, headed by Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza, that will usher in the assumption to power of the new president and his official family.

Presidential Management Staff director general Elena Bautista has been designated as vice-chairman while National Economic Development Authority director general Augusto Santos, Budget chief Joaquin Lagonera, and Press Secretary Crispulo Icban Jr. were appointed as members of the transition committee.

Citra revives C-6 project

by Jeremiah F. de Guzman
Mania Standard

Skyway operator Citra Metro Manila Tollways Corp. has renewed its interest to build the ambitious C-6 road project costing an estimated $1 billion.

Chito Borromeo, president of Skyway O and M Corp., a unit of Citra, said the Indonesian company planned to revive the C-6 road project that was deferred due to the financial crisis.

“[C-6] right now is under discussion,” Borromeo said, adding that Citra was open to venturing with other investors to carry out the road project and take a majority control in it.

The planned 50-kilometer C-6 will be constructed from the North Luzon Expressway toll gate in Marilao, Bulacan to Bicutan entrance at the South Luzon Expressway via San Jose del Monte City, Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), San Mateo, Marikina City, Antipolo City, Angono, Taytay, and Taguig.

“It’s going to be quite a large investment [and] requires a large chunk of property,” Borromeo said, adding that the project might have a real estate component to maximize investments.

Borromeo said the firm has not yet estimated the cost of building the project but another official from SomCO said it could be more than $1 billion.

Borromeo said portions of the planned project would require right-of-way on several private properties. “So one has to be more innovative in order to do the project,” Borromeo said.

C-6 was envisioned to be the final and longest of the six semi-circle roads in Metro Manila. The first five circumferential roads (C-1 to C-5), which are linked by 10 radial roads, (R-1 to R-10), and convey traffic from the northern to southern parts of Manila, have already been built.

The C-6 project will be composed of the $600-million Metro Manila Tollway, the 23-km Laguna de Bay Coastal Road and the southern segment of C-6.

C-6 will extend southward along the proposed Laguna de Bay Coastal Road up to Muntinlupa City. It will continue up to the Manila-Cavite Expressway in Cavite province.

If completed, vehicles coming from Bulacan to Laguna or Cavite and vice versa would not have to pass Metro Manila through the highly congested Edsa. This would halve the travel time of those vehicles and ease traffic jams in the metropolis.

Citra, the joint venture between the Citra group of Indonesia and Philippine National Construction Corp., earlier said it was in the lookout for business opportunities in the Philippines to strengthen its presence in the country through the construction and operation of tollway projects.

The Indonesian company currently managing the first phase of the South Metro Manila Tollway that consists of an elevated expressway to Buendia from Bicutan and completing the extension of the first stage.

Arroyo assures smooth transition

Arroyo casts vote in home province; remaining work set

PRESIDENT GLORIA Macapagal-Arroyo yesterday voted in her hometown of Lubao, in Pampanga province where she is running for congressman in the second congressional district.

After hearing mass at the San Agustin Church, the President, clad in aquamarine top and dark grey pants, arrived at precinct 0001-A of Lubao Central Elementary School a little past 7:00 a.m.

The President was listed as voter 64 out of a total of 160 voters in the precinct cluster.

It took her four minutes to complete her vote, after which she proceeded to the precinct count optical scan (PCOS) machine to feed her ballot under the guidance of an election inspector.

Feeling nervous that her ballot would not be accepted, she left out a sigh of relief after the machine read "Congratulations" at first attempt.

Mrs. Arroyo earlier assured that she will step down from her post on June 30, and started the process of creating a team that would allow for smooth transition of power to the next president.

The second congressional district is currently occupied by Mrs. Arroyo’s son, Juan Miguel M. Arroyo, who is gunning for a congressional seat as a nominee of party-list group Ang Galing Pinoy, which represents security guards, tricycle drivers and vendors.

President’s agenda

Meanwhile, Malacañang said "the results of the May 10 elections notwithstanding, there will be no change in the direction and pace of [the President’s] agenda of transition, stability and legacy during the remaining 50 days of her term."

In a statement, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Gary B. Olivar said the President’s agenda would revolve around three themes, namely, transition, stability and legacy.
"Whoever our people may elect to succeed the President, that person can be assured that the full weight and might of the [Arroyo] administration’s resources will be brought to bear to ensure an orderly transfer of power to the president-elect, and the maintenance of stability and continuity of our essential republican institutions," he said.

Mrs. Arroyo and all national officials elected in 2004 with a six-year term, and local officials elected in 2007 would step down from office on June 30.

The country’s next set of leaders would hold office starting at noon of June 30.

The Philippines is not like Greece at all

John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

All eyes are on the election and its outcome. The past week saw cash pulled out of the Philippine Stock Exchange and the peso, in anticipation of the election and continued gibberish from some local “experts” about the situation in Europe, particularly Greece, and how it may relate to the Philippines.

Going into cash because of the election may make some sense, although the majority of the people have more faith in the Philippines being able to overcome a computer glitch than the financial elite. But there is some justification based on the movement of the peso.

The euro was hammered severely as Europe rushed to save itself from financial destruction. As a result, two other currencies benefited—gold and the US dollar. At last count, the bailout of the European Union starting with Greece is going to cost $645 billion. For that kind of money, the EU could simply buy Greece, bring in the Disney people to turn it into an amusement park, and keep all the underworked and overpaid Greeks on the payroll. Of course, there really isn’t $645 billion in cash available until the EU printing presses go on overtime to print the money.

Comments you have read lately about similarities between Greece and the Philippines are absolute nonsense born out of complete ignorance or simple stupidity. If you reacted because of these false comparisons between the Philippines and Greece, you have been made a fool of.

One comment was that Greece and the Philippines both have problems getting their citizens to pay taxes. True. But that has nothing—repeat, nothing—to do with the financial collapse of Greece. If all the Greeks gave everything they have to the Greek government to pay its debts, their country would still be bankrupt and financially dead.

The other most recent comment I read was that we are going the way of Greece because our debt-to-gross domestic product (GDP) ratio is about 60-plus percent versus our Asean neighbors who have a ratio more in the 40-percent range. Yes, that is true. But it means nothing for two reasons.

One, the debt ratio in Greece is 130 percent. That is a long way from 60 percent. Second, the real problem for these financially genius countries in the West is that most of their debt is being held by foreigners. One falls, they all fall. Italy owes France an amount equivalent to 20 percent of France’s GDP. Combined debt from all the PIGS (Portugal, Italy, Greece, Spain), France has loaned over 40 percent of its annual GDP to bankrupt countries, By comparison, (from Standard & Poor’s), “The large share of Manila’s foreign-currency-denominated bonds is in the hands of local investors, and the small share of peso-denominated bonds in the hands of nonresidents.” In other words, the Philippines has not sold its financial soul to the foreign financial institutions like Greece.

Want some other comparisons that the “experts” have not mentioned?

The gross international reserves or GIR of Greece is about $5 billion. The Philippines GIR is $47 billion.

Greece has a current-account deficit of 9.7 percent of its GDP. The Philippines has a current-account surplus of 5 percent of its GDP.

Greece has a debt-to-GDP ratio of 130 percent; the Philippines has around 60 percent.

Greece has a budget deficit-to-GDP ratio of over 13 percent; the Philippines has less than 5 percent. The ideal would be about 3 percent.

Since the financial numbers between Greece and the Philippines do not show any comparison, next the “experts” will be telling us that we are headed down the same path because Greece has a lot of islands and so do we. And the Greeks enjoy singing and dancing as much as Filipinos do. Obviously because of these close similarities, our financial situation is the same as in Greece.

However, for all the talk about “debt,” the real issue is paying the debt. For 20 years, the Philippines has not come close to defaulting, no matter how serious the international and domestic situation ever became. That puts us apart from others that defaulted or were bailed out, such as Russia, Mexico and Argentina, for example. Countries on the current default list, aside from the PIGS, include Argentina, Venezuela, Iceland, Vietnam, Bulgaria, Britain and, to a lesser extent Japan, because its debt is held domestically.

The serious issue, though, is how these national debts are going to be paid. If someone owes you money and does not have the cash, you can be paid off by taking the TV set or other hard assets. Countries cannot do that, although one German legislator suggested Greece sell an island or two to pay some of its obligations.

What governments do is print money. That is why the euro virtually crashed last week with funds moving into the dollar and gold. Note that gold is another currency, not a commodity. Commodities, by definition, are those goods that are intended for direct use or consumption. Gold, just like other currencies, is not eaten, turned into clothes, used to build a house or otherwise consumed. It is a currency, and gold has been reaching historic highs against the euro and near-highs against the yen as funds flee from those other currencies. And the dollar will suffer the same fate soon. But not the peso.

Soon we will see a disconnect of the peso from the dollar, and the peso will trade and be priced on its own merits and value. When that happens, the stock market as well as foreign-currency inflows will resume skyward. Yes, we need a good, successful election also.

Ultimately, what the “experts” do not understand is that the world has changed in the last two years, and that now, the underlying financial value of a nation is found in its currency.

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