Saturday, 12 June 2010

Comelec, PPCRV, SC receive presidential citations for role in automated polls


President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo on Saturday handed out citations to the Commission on Elections (Comelec), Parish Pastoral Council for Responsible Voting (PPCRV) and the Supreme Court for their contributions to the country’s first-ever nationwide automated polls.

In time with the celebration of the country’s 112th Independence Day, Arroyo lauded the three institutions for their “invaluable contribution" to the May 10 automated elections, which she dubbed as a “historical milestone" and “an outstanding exercise of popular democracy."

Comelec Commissioner Rene Sarmiento, PPCRV chairperson Henrietta de Villa and Chief Justice Renato Corona accepted the awards for their respective organizations.

De Villa and former Chief Justice Reynato Puno, meanwhile, were conferred the Order of Lakandula—a political and civic award given to Filipinos “whose life is worthy of emulation by the Filipino people."

De Villa, former Philippine ambassador to the Holy See, was given the award with the fourth highest rank of Komandante (Commandant), for her “untiring efforts, sacrificial service and exemplary leadership in ensuring that the PPCRV remains a highly respected, credible and non-partisan citizen’s arm of the commission on elections which contributed significantly to the conduct of the first-ever automated elections in the Philippines."

Puno, meanwhile, was conferred the award with the second highest rank of Bayani (Hero), for ensuring “the broadest possible representation of party, sectoral and group interests in Congress and gave a significant number of first-time voters mainly from the youth sector the opportunity to participate" in the May 10 automated polls.

Aside from giving out citations and awards, the outgoing President likewise led the flag-raising ceremonies and laid a wreath at the monument of Philippine national hero Dr. Jose Rizal at the Rizal Park in Manila on Saturday to commemorate Independence Day.

Arroyo is set to relinquish her post to President-elect Benigno “Noynoy" Aquino III on June 30.


The Working President (455)

Saksi: All set for 112th Independence Day celebrations at the Quirino grandstand tomorrow

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

Free Independence Day rides in MRT and LRT

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

How to renew your Philippine passport in 30 minutes


ADVICE TO EVERYONE: Apply for your renewal or new passport months in advance. There are 90+ million other people trying to get one.

Medical City steps up provincial expansion
Manila Bulletin

After spending an initial P600 million, The Medical City (TMC) is investing an additional P300 million to P400 million for its expansion into underserved areas in the provinces.

In a press conference, TMC president Dr. Alfredo Bengzon said their expansion will be guided by the “logic and desirability of the location, situation of the area, and the disposition of the public.”

He said these areas must have existing facilities and practitioners that TMC can upgrade and help improve so that the standard can be raised to be worth of the TMC brand.

TMC Strategic services head Margaret Bengzon said their focus is to build the TMC brand and not to build a portfolio of hospitals.

Thus, they may either form partnerships or invest in existing facilities in the provinces without having to be the majority shareholder in these hospitals.

Dr. Bengzon said they need to upgrade the facilities of their hospitals with new technology so patients will not have to go abroad to avail of these services. It will also help boost their capacity for medical tourism.

“New acquisitions add value to the type of value we give to our patients,” he said.

Ms. Bengzon said they will fund their expansion program with internally generated funds as well as some loans, noting that “we are very under-leveraged.”

Dr. Bengzon said the new technology they are acquiring will also help TMC boost its earnings in the coming years.

TMC reported a 10.6 percent growth in net income to P480.4 million last year from P434.4 million in 2008 as revenues grew 5 percent to P3.38 billion from P3.22 billion.

However, Bengzon said revenues were lower in the first quarter of 2010 although they expect the second half to be better and enough to compensate for the softer first quarter performance.

TMC spent had spent P150 million to acquire new technology and hospitals and invested an additional P450 million to upgrade these facilities.

Bengzon said a big portion of the amount was spent in bringing into Great Savior International Hospital (GSIH) new machineries that will introduce the hospital’s trademark service.

BDO plans to put up 40 more branches

Manila Bulletin

Banco de Oro Unibank (BDO), the country's largest, will spend P1 billion to open 40 more branches and has asked the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) more time to re-deploy the branches it acquired when it bought thrift bank GE Money Bank last year.

BDO has 710 branches as of end-May and an additional 40 branches are expected to be operational in the next months. Industry sources said the estimated cost for the additional branches is P1 billion.

The Sy-controlled BDO requested for a six-month extension of the merger incentive to re-deploy the temporarily closed GE Money branches.

The BSP, in granting merger incentives such as additional branches, has required the opening or utilization of the branches within three months after a specified time.

BDO acquired GE Money and its 31 branches in mid-2009. It also acquired its 30,000 customers and a loan portfolio worth P6.88 billion and deposits of P8.5 billion.

The bank, with total resources of P847.7 billion, is also negotiating for the buyout of mid-size bank, Export and Industry Bank (Exportbank).

Arroyo, Aquino camps laying down the groundwork for transition

Smooth transfer of power seen
Manila Bulletin

The camp of President-elect Benigno Simeon Aquino III expects a “very smooth” transition of power, noting that the Arroyo administration has been “very cooperative and cordial.”

Speaking to newsmen for the first time, lawyer Paquito “Jojo” Ochoa Jr., Aquino's personal choice to be his Executive Secretary, said they have been working with Arroyo's own transition team for the transfer of power at the end of the month.

"The way we are being treated by Malacañang, they are very cooperative and cordial. I think even PGMA (President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo) called the President-elect already. I don’t see any problem in the transition. It’s going to be very smooth,” Ochoa said at a press briefing Thursday afternoon at the Aquino residence on Times St., Quezon City.

Ochoa said he himself would soon meet Presidential Management Staff chief Ma. Elena Bautista Horn to talk about the matter.

He has been in touch with Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza, Ochoa said.

“I’ve been talking to Secretary Mendoza… (I think) twice. We have a line of communication. I sent some representatives to talk about inauguration for lack of time. Before, it’s difficult to move around, since he (Aquino) was not proclaimed yet. Propriety dictates we remain backdoor muna. At least now he has some degree of authority and somehow official ang ginagawa namin representing the President-elect,” Ochoa said.

It was Aquino himself who forced the media-shy Ochoa to be interviewed by newsmen.

Ochoa, Aquino's long-time friend and legal counsel, effectively protected the votes of the President-elect. He is touted to be “the moving spirit of PiNoy lawyers,” the legal arm of the Liberal Party in the country’s first automated elections.

Ochoa said he would like to maintain a low-profile status even when he is already the Executive Secretary, a position otherwise known as the “Little President.”

“Nobody knew about me for nine years when I was city administrator of Quezon City and I think I can do best to protect my boss (that way). In the case of QC it was Mayor Feliciano Belmonte. I believe people around the boss should maintain a low-profile so the real boss gets to be in the limelight and not the guys behind him. For all we know, it’s very difficult to be going public and suddenly contradicting your own boss,” explained Ochoa who has been on leave as QC administrator since January this year.

Ochoa said he would let the presidential spokesperson, lawyer Edwin Lacierda, to do all the talking.

“I’d rather be careful on those things and if there will be future major announcements maybe that will be the time I have to go out if that’s really necessary. We have a spokesperson. My theory is, the spokesperson should be the one doing the talking, not the Executive Secretary,” he said.

“I just reviewed functions of the Office of the Executive Secretary and I almost ran away. It’s (a) huge (responsibility). There are many times he asked me and (I thought) it was a joke. But no, we’ve been friends for so long, we’ve been too familiar with each other. Sometimes it’s very difficult to take each other too seriously at times,” Ochoa said.

Being Executive Secretary, Ochoa said, is “basically assisting the President and making decisions.”

“There’s a portion that says make decisions that would not be included in those matters where personal decision of the President is not required. Who determines that? I wonder who. Maybe we have to sit down together later and inquire his personal decisions and mine. I hope he takes most of it,” he said.

He clarified reports that he is also being eyed by Aquino as his Justice secretary.

“Actually, I think what he meant there is he really is serious about putting closure to many legal issues that have been besetting our country, especially in regard to his campaign promise of ‘kung walang corrupt, walang mahirap.’ It’s all about corruption because he’s really serious tending to these things. I was and I still am his lawyer-friend, so he probably thought I can maybe recommend somebody or can perhaps supervise it at some future time,” he explained.

For now, Ochoa is busy preparing for his boss' proclamation as well as the search for the people who would compose Aquino's Cabinet.

PGMA Speech during the AFP Testimonial Review

Thursday, 10 June 2010

2nd Palawan oil well tops forecast at 18,000 barrels

Alena Mae S. Flores
Manila Standard

THE Tindalo-1 oil well in northwest Palawan is flowing at the rate of 18,689 barrels a day, surpassing pre-test expectations, the Australian firm Nido Petroleum said Tuesday.

The company was expecting the oil field to produce 7,000 to 15,000 barrels a day, but starting June 6 the field had been producing 15,000 barrels and was now gushing at varying rates, it said.

“The results from the stimulation and drill-stem testing program have exceeded my expectations,” Nido deputy managing director Joanne Williams said.

Nido, operator of service contract 54A covering the project, started the drill-stem testing on June 5. It has a 42.4-percent stake in the project, and its joint-venture partners are Kairiki Energy (30.1 percent), Trafigura Ventures III B.V. (15.1 percent), and TG World Energy Corp. (12.5 percent).

The Tindalo well flowed for 27 hours during testing, and it achieved a maximum flow rate of 18,689 barrels unassisted, the company said.

The oil produced during testing was processed on top of the drill rig and stored for later sale aboard the Tove Knutsen, rather than being flared or burned as was the usual practice, Nido said.

Several fluid and crude oil assay samples were taken from the well, which will be analyzed over the coming weeks.

“Preliminary analysis of oil quality indicates 27-degree API with no wax,” the company said.

“Extensive sampling of the oil is being undertaken for reservoir fluid characterization and crude marketing purposes.”

Nido discovered the oil field in October 2008, and the joint-venture partners then decided to proceed with well development in December 2009.

The company had previously estimated Tindalo’s recoverable volume at 1.5 million to 9.1 million barrels, and an average of 5.1 million barrels.

Nido president Emmanuel De Dios said the company would be using the money earned from the well to drill in Palawan’s other areas over the next 18 to 24 months. The company said it had identified over 20 prospects in shallow waters with an estimated potential for 200 million barrels.

“Tindalo is only one of several discoveries in Nido’s shallow water acreage, which have the potential to become significant cash generators,” De Dios said.

The Tindalo field is the second Filipino oil field to start production since the early 1990s—the other being the Galoc oil field that started producing in October 2008.

It was not immediately clear if Nido’s shares are now being traded in Australia. The company asked for a trading halt starting Friday last week until it had made an announcement on its well-testing.

OFW remittances, reserves to help insulate RP -- S&P

J. B. F. Santos

THE ONGOING euro zone crisis is not likely to affect the Philippines substantially given the country’s robust remittances and foreign exchange reserves, global credit watchdog Standard & Poor’s said.

Elena Okorotchenko, Standard & Poor’s managing director and analytical manager of Asia’s sovereign and public finance ratings, said in a May 28 commentary that the country’s external liquidity, supported by $15 billion in annual remittance inflows and foreign exchange reserves of about $46 billion, would serve as buffers to renewed global turbulence.

"This makes the Philippines somewhat less vulnerable to shifts in external sentiment," the S&P report states.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas show that remittances from Europe amounted to $777 million in the first quarter, about 18% of the $4.3-billion total.

Monetary authorities expect the amount of money sent home by migrant workers to grow by 8% this year from 2009’s $17.348 billion.

The debt watcher also noted that domestic investors hold a large share of foreign currency-denominated government bonds, adding a further cushion to external shocks.

"Moreover, many investors view emerging Asia (including Indonesia and the Philippines) as attractive investment destinations relative to many developed markets," it said.

"This is due to their stronger growth prospects, better demo-graphics, lower government debt burdens, and adequate external liquidity.

"We believe the combination of these factors is likely to maintain capital inflows into Asia," S&P said.

Colonial mentality and the Philippine future

Written by John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

Three countries became independent from their colony rulers at about the same time. The Philippines was released from the United States in 1946. India/Pakistan became independent countries in 1948. Indonesia cast off 350 years of Dutch colonial rule in 1949.

Many of these nations’ citizens had to fight and die for independence. They built a government, a society and an economy facing either neglect or outright hostility from the “mother country.” And all these countries have struggled and suffered as a result of being colonies of the West.

Yet, it is only in the Philippines that anyone would think of describing the people, at least some of the people, as having a “colonial mentality.”

The Philippines has operated for a half-a-century almost as an orphan still looking toward its foster parent, the same parent that exploited and abused it, for guidance and nurturing. Every president has been criticized, some more than others, of being a tool of the US. Even average Filipinos have felt without question that the hand of the US influenced elections, economic progress and social stability.

The other side of that perception is that the Philippines depends economically on the US. That was true 20 years ago and it was true by the choice, from Philippine government policy to average Filipino economic behavior. We bought American goods because they were “better.” Local manufacturers were afraid to compete with American imported goods. Filipinos laughed at products carrying the “Buy Filipino” slogan. What other nation on the face of the earth would carry as common wisdom the idea that “When America sneezes, the country catches cold?” And the sad fact is that far too many Filipinos still believe that to be true.

The common thought is that the Philippines has a love-hate relation with the US, and that may be true. The problem is that we need to have a non-emotional relationship as we do with the other 190 other global nations.

Maybe we need to look at the reality of the US to understand how great the Philippines is, and why the US should only be one of many players for the Philippines and not a role model.

The “land of milk and honey” does not have the crime problem that the Philippines has. Oh? The US has the largest percentage of its citizens in prison than any other country in the world. US law-enforcement authorities claim there are now over 1 million members of criminal gangs, responsible for up to 80 percent of the crimes committed each year. Phoenix, Arizona, features an astounding annual car-theft rate of 57,000 vehicles, and has become the new “car-theft capital of the world”

We are told constantly that the Philippines has a great inequality of wealth that shows how economically bad we are. For the US in 1950, the ratio of the average executive’s paycheck to the average worker’s salary was about 30 to 1. Since 2000, that ratio has exploded to between 300 and 500 to one. Inequality? Approximately 40 percent of all retail spending currently comes from the 20 percent of American households that have the highest incomes. The bottom 40 percent of income earners in the US now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth.

Employment is so bad in the Philippines, why would anyone want to stay here? More than 40 percent of those employed in the US are now working in low-wage service jobs. In February there were 5.5 million unemployed Americans for every job opening. This recession has erased 8 million private-sector jobs in the United States.

Are you sure that migrating to the US makes economic sense?

One argument I always hear from balikbayan and the want-to-be-Americans is that it is so easy to buy things in the US because of credit. Well, because things have been so easy to buy, for the first time in US history, banks own a greater share of residential-housing net worth in the US than all individual Americans combined.

Perhaps, the most amazing thing is how well our government under successive presidents has managed the national budget in comparison to the US. In 2010 the US government is projected to issue almost as much new debt as the rest of the governments of the world put together. And the people have not done any better. Total debt in the US, including government, corporate and personal debt, has reached 360 percent of gross domestic product.

But, at least, we should take some direction from the US stock market when making local investment decisions. Right? Only if you are an investment dummy, local or foreign.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average experienced the worst May it has seen since 1940. On the other hand, the combined net earnings of companies listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) rose an astounding 79.6 percent last year from 2008. The 30 companies that make up the PSE index, the PSEi, reported a 54.9-percent jump in their combined net profits last year. And do not tell me that a portion of those profits were companies selling assets because the assets that were sold were bought by someone else, such as in the case of Meralco ownership.

The US does not have a chest cold; it has terminal lung cancer. The Philippines is not the one who is getting sick.

Why is this all so important? Because when 90 million Filipinos start having faith in the Philippines and in its future, attitude and behavior changes will happen. Corruption is not a consequence of greed, as much as it is the belief that the future does not hold anything more positive than a short-term dishonored gain. Political leaders, unlike our business leaders, must rarely think and never talk about their legacy 20 years in the future when they are permanently retired. It is only until the next election.

It is about time Filipinos realized that the Philippines can and must be the master of its own destiny. Shedding the last remnants of colonial mentality is one part of taking control of the future of this nation and making that future a positive experience.

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

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Arroyo to personally congratulate Aquino


MANILA, Philippines - President Arroyo is set to personally congratulate President-elect Benigno "Noynoy" Aquino III after the latter was proclaimed winner of the May 2010 presidential election.

Executive Secretary Leandro Mendoza said Mrs. Arroyo is still deciding whether to call Aquino on the phone or send an official letter to congratulate her successor.

"She is going to deliver the message on her own. She will have a separate congratulatory message," Mendoza said at a press briefing.

Before the briefing, Mendoza congratulated the new President and Vice-President who are both set to be proclaimed by Congress later Wednesday.

"We congratulate our new President and Vice-President who, I understand, will be formally proclaimed today by Congress. In the last election, we demonstrated the political maturity and stability leading to this smooth transition and changing of the guards. We wish the new government all the best, as we leave in their hands an economy in better shape than when we found it 9 years ago," he said.

Asked why he did not name both Aquino and Vice-President elect Jejomar Binay, Mendoza replied: "It's just like repeating the redundancy of the obvious."

He also thanked all institutions responsible for the success of the country's first every automated elections.

Bank lending grows 6.7% to P2.12 trillion

Written by Jun Vallecera
Business Mirror

BANK lending consistent with an accelerating economy quickened in April, having grown at an annual rate of 6.7 percent to P2.12 trillion from growth of only 5 percent, or only P1.98 trillion, in March, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said on Tuesday.

This was validated by a similarly accelerating growth in money supply averaging 12.4 percent during the period from 10.3 percent.

Money-supply growth, or M3 among economists, was earlier seen accelerating safely to 12 percent this year without the monetary authorities worrying over its inflationary impact.

“The demand for money strengthened further in April as domestic liquidity, or M3 growth, accelerated to 12.4 percent year-on-year from 10.3 percent in the previous month. On a monthly basis, seasonally adjusted M3 growth, likewise, rose to 1.8 percent in April compared with the revised 1.1 percent in April,” BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said in a statement.

According to him, bank-lending growth which excludes loans the banks obtain from the BSP accelerated in April.

Bank-lending growth on gross basis also accelerated to 6.2 percent in April.

Production loans accounting for nearly 85 percent of aggregate loan portfolio grew by 6.4 percent during the month, from 4.9 percent in March. Loans to the transportation, storage and communication sector grew the most at 20 percent; to real estate, renting and business services, 19 percent; and to wholesale and retail trade sector, 17.2 percent.

“Likewise, loans for household consumption continued to rise, particularly those extended to credit card and auto loans,” Tetangco said.

Lending to the construction sector also grew for the second month in a row after 11 months of contraction that started in April 2009.

“Lending for manufacturing activity continued to decline but at a slower rate of 0.9 percent, mirroring the recovery in global trade.

“Other sectors that reflected negative growth were financial intermediation at negative 0.8 percent and other community, social and personal services at negative 32.8 percent,” Tetangco said.

Given the strong first-quarter output, Tetangco said bank lending was likely to continue to grow at a fast pace the rest of the year.

Philippine Volcanoes explode in Asian rugby

By Jaime Augusto Zobel De Ayala
The Philippine Star

Yes, the Philippines has a national rugby team, and they are on a three-year winning streak.

MANILA, Philippines - Something great happened this weekend, an event that would make Filipinos very proud... if they only knew about it. The Philippines, the newest addition and lowest-ranked team in Division 2 of the Asian 5 Nations (A5N) Rugby, destroyed powerhouse Thailand in the semis and home favorite India in the final to win the Division 2 Championship.

Our team, nicknamed the Philippine Volcanoes, is unbeaten in three years in the Asian Rugby Football Union (ARFU), having seized the Division 4 Championship in 2008, the Division 3 Championship in 2009, and now Division 2. With this win, they charge into Division 1 of the A5N in 2011, making this the longest promotion streak in ARFU history.

Amazing, given that until last year the Philippines wasn’t even a full member of the International Rugby Board. More amazing when you consider that few people (most of them expats) follow or care about the sport locally.

The Philippine Volcanoes dominated their larger opponents in the final, restricting the Indian team to scoring at the beginning and at the end of the match. “It was a physical game with India,” says team captain Michael Letts. “The boys stepped up to the plate and did what they were told. Our forwards laid the platform for the team.”

“Coach Expo Mejia taught us discipline,” adds Oliver Saunders, who with his brothers Ben and Matt had scored a combined 38 points in the Filipinos’ 55-33 victory over Thailand in the semifinals. “The team stuck to the game plan and structure. And we never gave up.”

“The team showed aggressiveness,” coach Mejia notes. “A lot of our players play overseas, and their experience showed. There was unity among the team. Tactically they got it right and did everything that was asked of them. Another factor is that they are very fit.”

Phil Abraham was named Man of the Match in the semifinal against Thailand, and Chris Hitch in the final against India. All 24 players on the roster were able to play.

I learned of the existence of the Philippine Rugby Football Union (PRFU) when I was contacted by their secretary-general Alvin San Diego. When Jessica Zafra interviewed me for The Philippine STAR I had mentioned my passion for rugby, which I played in school in England from the age of 9 to my late teens. I was impressed by what the PRFU had achieved with the most modest of resources, and their determination to put together an effective Philippine rugby program and team.

It turns out that there is plenty of Filipino talent playing rugby abroad - both Filipinos of mixed ethnicity and those whose parents had migrated. The PRFU has a formal process for identifying and recruiting Filipino talent throughout the world, among them Expo Mejia, a first-class Filipino coach who had worked with the Waratahs in Australia. The Waratahs are a household word in Australia; many of their players have played for the Australian national team.

It was clear that the PRFU board, which includes committed expats like team manager Matt Cullen, were serious in their efforts. Globe CEO Ernest Cu and I committed to watch the national team and help them with sponsorships. As an enabler of communication across national borders, the support of a telecom company like Globe had resonance and relevance.

The newly formed Philippine Volcanoes played an exhibition match last week against the Parañaque-based team Nomads. They had not yet played together as a team, but they were physically imposing, well-trained athletes who obviously played at the competitive level. It was fascinating to see Filipinos from different countries come together to play at home. I have always believed in the Global Filipino, and this is an extraordinary example of the Pinoy talent that resides all over the world.

According to coach Mejia, there are many other nationally ranked Filipino heritage players he could not get hold of for personal and professional reasons, from a massive prop forward in the national league in Italy to players in Japan.

I was also impressed by the commitment of the players. I asked one of the players, Justin Coveney, what he did and he said he was a lawyer in Sydney. When I asked him how he got time off to come and play in the Philippines with no pay or professional commitments he said, “When my firm heard that I was coming here to play rugby and represent my country of origin, they let me go without a moment’s hesitation, with full pay. Representing your country in a rugby match is the highest honor anyone can achieve.”

This weekend I was glued to two different rugby tournaments on two continents at the same time. I was physically present for the inaugural US Collegiate Sevens in Columbus, Ohio, where my son Jaime Alfonso was playing on the Harvard team. Meanwhile, I followed the Asian Division 2 championship half a world away, in New Delhi, India, through text updates from my sister Bea. She was in Delhi to cheer on her son Jaime Urquijo Zobel, captain of the Notre Dame University rugby team until he graduated this year, and now a member of the Philippine men’s 15’s rugby national team.

Family ties are the real glue of Philippine society. Some will question just how Filipino the national rugby team is, with players named Saunders, Morris, Letts, Zappia on board. This is a Filipino heritage team in accordance with International Rugby Board standards, composed of players with a Filipino parent or grandparents. Any doubts as to whether they are Pinoy are erased when one sees the team’s entourage: Filipino mothers and fathers, traveling at their own expense to support a Philippine team few of us know about. There are four sets of brothers on the RP team (the names listed earlier), surely a record in any sport.

I relayed the ongoing match scores by text to Jessica in Manila, who posted them on her blog while waiting for the A5N Twitter feeds. Incredible what technology now allows us to do. It was particularly engaging because a small group of spectators around me in the stands in Columbus wanted to be kept informed about the results of the Philippine Rugby team on the other side of the world. Every time our Philippine team scored in Delhi, a small group of spectators would cheer in Columbus, Ohio for no reason that was obvious to the rest of the crowd. It happened quite a bit as the Philippine team scored regularly - it was quite surreal.

Rugby is a highly physical and demanding sport that has moved from its “amateur” roots to a global sport at both the 15s and Sevens level. You now regularly see small Pacific countries like Samoa and Fiji play alongside traditional powerhouses like England and New Zealand, and win! Not only is it exciting to watch, but this is a game that is bringing together the diverse Filipino talent across the globe. To watch a team come together from all over the world, and to see the players so excited and proud to represent their mother country, has been moving and fulfilling. I look forward to seeing them hoist a medal at the Asian Games. - With Jessica Zafra

Cebu Pacific flies 2.5M passengers in 1st quarter

Written by Lenie Lectura
Business Mirror

CEBU Pacific carried more domestic and international passengers than rival Philippine Airlines (PAL) in the first quarter of the year, the Gokongwei-owned airline said on Tuesday.

Based on Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) data, the airline flew 2,448,990 domestic and international passengers from January to March this year, almost 110,000 more than PAL’s system wide figures of 2,339,788.

Cebu Pacific claimed the No. 1 domestic carrier last year when it captured 50 percent of the domestic market share. It remains the No. 1 carrier in 2010, with 51-percent market share. It started operations in 1996.

“Our consistent focus and commitment to offering the lowest fares for value service continue to pay off. We expect to grow even more in the coming years as we take delivery of more brand-new planes which we will use to expand our capacity, increase frequencies, and fly to more local and foreign destinations,” said vice president for marketing and distribution Candice Iyog.

Pacific is buying 22 more 180-seat Airbus A320 aircraft for delivery starting in October this year till 2014 which, by then, would make the airline’s Airbus fleet the largest in the country as well.

The airline currently operates the youngest aircraft fleet in the country, composed of 21 Airbus and 8 ATR 72-500 aircraft.

Last year, Cebu Pacific flew 8.8 million domestic and international passengers, with a 31-percent year-on-year growth. This year, it expects the number to rise to 10 million. By 2013, it expects to carry a total of 15 million passengers, exceeding the capacity of the Naia Terminal 3, its home base.

From the last quarter of 2010 onwards, Cebu Pacific expects to strengthen its network of 33 domestic and 15 international destinations with more routes and increased frequencies. It just recently announced its newest Brunei route, slated to start this August 21.

“We have driven down the cost of flying to allow more people to fly. In every new destination we fly to, we always offer the lowest fares, forcing other airlines to match our travel product. With every new route, we promote travel, trade and tourism at the same time,” she added.

The third-largest low-cost carrier in Asia, Cebu Pacific flies to the most number of destinations and routes in the Philippines, to the most Asean destinations and routes from the Philippines, and is the only low-cost carrier flying to all three major North Asian countries of Japan, China and South Korea.

Meanwhile, PAL announced separately that will offer a one-day-only seat sale to selected destinations to celebrate Independence day. PAL said the selected destinations included are linked historically to some of the national and modern-day heroes.

For June 9, the featured destination is Saigon. The $152 roundtrip, economy fare to Saigon is available only on June 9 at all PAL ticket offices, PAL website and accredited travel agents. The all-in fare is inclusive of surcharges but excludes government taxes and ticketing service fee.

Travel period is from June 15 to September 30.

Congress to proclaim RP’s next president, vice-president today


THE COUNTRY’S next president and vice-president are set to be proclaimed today, as the congressional canvassing committee yesterday finished its work and plans to submit its report, endorsing such proclamation, to the joint session of Congress.

The final tallies showed Liberal Party (LP) standard bearer Senator Benigno Simeon "Noynoy" C. Aquino III sealing a lead of 5.7 million votes over Pwersa ng Masang Pilipino (PMP) contender former president Joseph E. Estrada, and Makati Mayor Jejomar "Jojo" C. Binay, the PMP’s vice-presidential bet, garnering 727,084 votes over Senator Manuel "Mar" A. Roxas II of LP.

Combined profits of listed firms up 79.6%

Manila Bulletin

The combined net earnings of firms listed at the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) surged by 79.6 percent to P357.84 billion in 2009 from P199.24 billion in 2008, with the improvement in the financial performances of nearly all sectors.

“The remarkable growth in net profits was driven by huge one-time gains from asset sales by some listed companies, better performances by nearly all sectors, and a low-base effect when profits declined in 2008,” PSE chairman Hans Sicat said.

He added that the asset sales reinforced the view that valuations were too low to ignore and that stocks were worth picking up after the market hit bottom.

The PSE index (PSEi) ended 2009 with a spectacular gain of 63 percent to finished at 3,052.68 points, a jump not seen in 15 years. Prior to this, the benchmark index hit bottom at 1,759.33 points on March 17.

To date, the PSEi has gained a total of 7.3 percent or 221.58 points to 3,274.26.

“The surge in combined corporate earnings moved in the opposite direction of the macro-economy in 2009. This is a reflection of investor optimism that discounted signals from the real economy in 2008 which was quite a challenging year,” Sicat said.

The Philippine economy slowed to a growth of 0.9 percent in 2009, compared with 3.8 percent in the previous year. During the first quarter, gross domestic product (GDP) grew 7.3 percent.

Car sales gain 36.6% in first 5 months

Manila Bulletin

Despite a slight decline in sales in May, total car sales grew 36.6 percent in the January-May period this year further firming up industry's robust recovery since the start of the year.

Data from the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines Inc. (CAMPI) showed auto sales in the first five months this year reached 66,958 units or 36.6 more versus 49,001 units registered in the same period last year.

Sales in May dropped by 1.8 percent as sales hit 13,995 units versus April sales of 14,254 units.

“The slight decline in May sales over April sales of negative 1.8 percent fro the singular month of May hardly made a dent on the strong momentum of vehicles sales seen for the year 2010,” said CAMPI president Elizabeth H. Lee.

Of the total industry sales, the passenger car segment posted 29.8 percent to 22,746 units from 17,528 units.

The commercial vehicle segment contributed a bigger portion with 44,212 units sold or 40.5 percent higher than the 31,473 units in the same five months last year.

Among the commercial vehicle categories, light commercial vehicles, which are mostly sports utility vehicles, have the biggest improvement of 52.2 percent to 28,848 units from 18,951 units last year.

The Asian utility vehicle category also improved by 26.7 percent to 14,438 units from 11,396 units in the January-April period last year.

The two other commercial vehicle categories – light trucks and trucks and buses both posted negative growths.

Sales of light trucks in the first five months went down by 17.1 percent to 646 units from 779 units in the same period last year while trucks and buses declined by 19.8 percent to 279 units from 347 units in the same period last year.

Lee said the decline in sales in light trucks was due to low market demand delayed arrivals of units. The decrease in trucks and buses was attributed to unavailability of stocks.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Proposed expressway link approved by gov’t

A. M. P. Dagcutan

THE PUBLIC WORKS department has accepted an unsolicited proposal, submitted by the local unit of Hong Kong’s First Pacific Co. Ltd., to build a 13.2-kilometer elevated road connecting Luzon’s two main expressways.

In a statement, Metro Pacific Tollways Corp. -- a unit of listed Metro Pacific Investments Corp. (MPTC) -- said the formal acceptance was signed last Saturday by Public Works Secretary Victor A. Domingo in ceremonies opening a new road going to the North Luzon Expressway.

This means the "connector road" project is already at step one of the approval process for build-operate-transfer contracts, Undersecretary Romeo S. Momo yesterday said.

It, however, "has to be discussed further by the DPWH (Department of Public Works and Highways) and MPTC," he added.

The project, which will link the North Luzon and South Luzon expressways (NLEx and SLEx) using the right of way owned by Philippine National Railways in Manila, will cost P17 billion. Metro Pacific Tollways Development Corp., the vehicle for the project, expects construction to start by 2012.

The 13.2-kilometer elevated road will be built over railway tracks within the Manila central business district, starting at the end of the NLEx at the C-3 interchange in Caloocan, to the Metro Manila Skyway Stage 1 at Senator Gil Puyat Ave. in Makati.

"The connector road is a much-awaited urban expressway project that will solve the traffic congestion and change the landscape of Metro Manila. It is planned to be a legacy infrastructure in the heart of the city that will utilize the hollow core technology -- a new construction system for elevated structures which are proven to be the safe and efficient methods of construction," Metro Pacific Tollways President and CEO Ramon S. Fernandez said in the statement.

Mr. Fernandez later told reporters the project still had to be approved by the National Economic and Development Authority under a process that will be taken over by the next administration.

The NLEx-SLEx connector road will have ramps at España Boulevard, Quirino Ave., and San Andres, all in Manila. There will be elevated roads and a bridge over the Pasig River. Eventually, both tollways will be connected to Manila’s North Harbor, which is being run by a joint venture between Metro Pacific and Harbour Centre Port Terminal, Inc.

Metro Pacific Tollways said the project would start in 2012 after Segments 9 and 10 of the NLEx are completed.

Segment 9 is a four-lane, three-kilometer expressway connecting the NLEx to MacArthur Highway in Valenzuela while Segment 10 will connect the NLEx to Manila’s Port Area through a four-lane, five-kilometer elevated road from MacArthur Highway.

Metro Pacific, the local unit of First Pacific which also partly owns Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. (PLDT), is implementing P38 billion worth of tollway projects, starting with Segment 8.1, a six-lane expressway from Mindanao Avenue to the NLEx.

It is also investing in the Skyway Stage 2 project, a P10-billion, seven-kilometer expressway extending the elevated road to Alabang from Bicutan.

Mediaquest Holdings, Inc., a unit of the Beneficial Trust Fund of PLDT, has a minority stake in BusinessWorld.

Megaworld, GSIS ink P3.5-B project

Written by Miguel R. Camus
Business Mirror

MEGAWORLD Corp., the listed property developer of tycoon Andrew Tan, is teaming up with state-led pension fund Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) to develop a P3.5-billion mixed-use condominium project in Pasay City.

Under the agreement, the GSIS will contribute a 7,741-square-meter property within the Cultural Center of the Philippines (CCP) Complex while Megaworld has agreed to shoulder the cost of the development. Turnover to buyers is scheduled in 2014.

“Our joint project with Megaworld will have a 60,000-square meter salable area. It is a very exciting project for us. This is the kind of residential condo project that the reclamation area needs,” GSIS president and general manager Winston F. Garcia said in a statement on Monday.

The GSIS and Megaworld agreed to a sharing ratio in the net salable area. The project is also the first joint venture between the real-estate company and government pension fund.

The joint venture forms part of the GSIS’s acquired assets disposition program where it forms strategic partnerships to develop its properties.

Two years ago, GSIS inked a joint-venture agreement with San Miguel Properties Inc. (SMPI) for the development of a P1.7-billion serviced apartment in Makati City.

GSIS closed another deal with SM Development Corp., the listed middle-income builder of retail tycoon Henry Sy  for the development of a property near the Baguio Convention Center.

Megaworld, which saw first-quarter net income rise 9 percent to P1.1 billion, recently bagged the 34.5-hectare Jusmag property in the Fort Bonifacio area.

Megaworld’s residential condominium projects include the Once Central, Greenbelt Madissons, One Lafayette Square, Paseo Parkview Tower, Forbeswood Heights, Woodridge Residences, Mckinley Hill and the Garden Villas.

The company is also into township developments, which include the Eastwood City in Libis, Quezon City; Mckinley Hill in Fort Bonifacio, Taguig; City Place in Manila, New Port City in Pasay; Forbes Town Center, also in Taguig; and the Manhattan Garden City in Araneta Center, Quezon City.

End-May 2010 GIR Climbs to US$47.7 Billion

Bangko Sentral
Media Releases

The country’s gross international reserves (GIR) as of end-May 2010 rose to US$47.7 billion, or about US$0.8 billion higher than the end-April 2010 level of US$46.9 billion, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. announced today.

Foreign exchange inflows in May that contributed largely to the sustained increase in the preliminary GIR level included the deposits by the National Government (NG) of loan proceeds from the government of France, foreign exchange operations of the BSP and income from its investments abroad, and revaluation gains on the BSP’s gold holdings on account of the continued increase in gold prices in the international market. These receipts were partly offset, however, by the payments of maturing foreign exchange obligations of the NG and the BSP.

The current GIR level could cover 9.4 months of imports of goods and payments of services and income. It is also equivalent to 11.9 times the country’s short-term external debt based on original maturity and 5.3 times based on residual maturity.1

Net international reserves (NIR), which include revaluation of reserve assets and reserve-related liabilities, likewise climbed to US$47.6 billion as of end-May 2010, higher by US$0.7 billion than the previous month’s level of US$46.9 billion. NIR refers to the difference between the BSP’s GIR and total short-term liabilities.


1 Short-term debt based on residual maturity refers to outstanding external debt with original maturity of one year or less, plus principal payments on medium- and long-term loans of the public and private sectors falling due within the next 12 months.

What is the future for the economy?

Written by John Mangun
Outside the Box
Business Mirror

Being positive about the future of the Philippine economy puts you in a lonely place, does not make you any friends and gets you nasty e-mail, particularly from some balikbayan in the US. But someone has to do it.

Newspapers yesterday carried many stories about various favorable developments happening all around us. A representative from the Bank of Tokyo told Trade Undersecretary Elmer C. Hernandez that investors are bullish about the Philippines. Semiconductor and Electronics Industry in the Philippines Inc. president Ernie Santiago said their industry is ready and can drive into sustained high growth with an aggressive marketing campaign. That is the first good word from this industry in a year or so. Another overseas company is opening a new call center, the first Australian collection company to come to the Philippines. Philippine Savings Bank, the country’s biggest thrift bank in terms of capital, expects to pay record cash dividends totaling P804.85 million this year. The US is facing a nursing shortage of over 100,000 that is expected to climb to 1,000,000 in 10 years.

And, of course, the Philippine Stock Exchange dropped significantly as local traders looked to the New York stock market for guidance on what is happening in the Philippines. Interestingly, the biggest up day the Dow Jones has had in a month was after the Philippines announced a 7.3-percent jump in first- quarter economic activity.

One story that was almost ignored was the release by the National Statistical Coordination Board of the composite Leading Economic Indicator (LEI). The indicators (from the Philippine Star) “posted a second consecutive increase for the quarter, improving to negative 0.348 in the second quarter from a revised negative 0.533 in the first quarter of 2010. This marks the second steepest ascent of the composite LEI series since the third quarter of 1986.”

While leading indicators are not that accurate in the Philippines, it is interesting to note that the positive indicators posted a very sharp and steep incline. The indicators are composed of such data as total merchandise imports, consumer price index, wholesale price index, tourist arrivals, stock price index, electric-energy consumption, hotel occupancy rate, and money supply. The positives gave us a look at the future but the negative indicators may be even more important. These are number of new businesses, terms of trade index, and foreign-exchange rate.

While the number of new businesses being set up may not be as high as in the past, I do not think this is that important in comparison to the expansion of the existing businesses. It is hard to pick up a newspaper and not see story after story of some of the household names in the Philippines expanding their operations.

The “terms of trade index” tell us how much we are exporting in comparison to the amount of our imports. There is little that can or even needs to be done about this. The Philippines will always, in the foreseeable future, be a net importer of goods. That is the problem of being a nation of 7,000
islands in the middle of the ocean with limited natural industrial resources. A more important consideration would be the balance of payments, which shows if money is flowing into the country or out to foreign shores. Here we know that the Philippines is positive because of $16 billion in remittances and nearly $8 billion to support domestic outsourcing operations.

The “foreign-exchange rate” being categorized as a negative leading indicator is both interesting and surprising to me.

Of all the areas of the economy that has a direct influence on our daily lives, none is more controversial than the value of the peso. Exporters and remitters want a “cheap” peso because it adds value to their finances. Importers and most end-users want a “strong” peso because it reduces prices such as for imported raw materials as well as finished goods.

It is a darned-if-you-do, darned-if-you-don’t situation. Sort of like the old joke: “Why did you marry such an ugly woman?” “Because if she leaves me for someone else, who cares?” “But what if she doesn’t leave you?” “She’s a great cook!”

In comparison to other similar currencies, the peso is trading virtually unchanged. The peso-baht (Thailand) rate is almost the same as in 2007. Yet in comparison to the dollar, the peso is probably too “cheap”

Since early 2008, the peso has depreciated against the dollar by about 15 percent. At the same time, the euro has depreciated against the dollar by 25 percent. The peso has also appreciated against the euro by 22 percent. Against the yen, the peso has appreciated by 35 percent in the same time, while the dollar is up 25 percent against the yen.

The point of all these numbers is this. Against major currencies other than the dollar, the peso is showing strength, almost the same amount of strength as the dollar. It is unlikely that the dollar will show weakness in the future against the major currencies as they are all about the same; intrinsically worthless currencies issued by bankrupt countries. The only currencies of value right now are gold and those currencies issued by financially sound nations like the Philippines.

Once gold breaks and holds the $1,250 price on its way to $1,650, there will be a strong movement into countries like the Philippines and Thailand because of higher interest rates and greater investment profit opportunity.

If I am correct about an appreciating peso (and baht, among other currencies), foreign capital will begin to rush into the Philippines to buy the peso, the stock market, property, and make investments to take advantage of the “cheap” peso.

The Western press can spin the news to seem positive all they want. Reality is still real. As of this week, the total US government debt will reach 100 percent of the US gross domestic product. Now, tell me again about the future of the Philippine economy.

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

Monday, 7 June 2010

A Testimonial Program for Pres Gloria Macapagal Arroyo at St Paul's University, Quezon City

Filipino astronomer takes amazing photo of Jupiter impact

For the latest Philippine news stories and videos, visit GMANews.TV

The Working President (454)

Inaugural Drive thru of the Manila North Tollways Corporation MNTC Project Segment B 1

Hitting the ground running

Manila Bulletin

It is very important that President-elect Noynoy Aquino is able to hit the ground running on June 30, 2010. He is fortunate that he is facing a more favorable economic environment than his two immediate predecessors in 1998 and 2001, respectively. As I correctly forecasted early this year, a GDP growth of 7.3% in the first quarter was achieved. The prospects for April to June 2010 are even brighter since these months coincided with the peak of election-related spending and the summer months.

The world is recovering from the Great Recession of the last two years. The recovery is especially robust among the emerging markets to which the Philippines belongs. In both the advanced economies and the emerging markets, economic indicators are generally improving. Countries like China, India and Indonesia with which the Philippines is increasing trade and investment relations are experiencing a V-shaped recovery, i.e. they are already growing at GDP rates that are close to or even higher than their pre-crisis levels. As reported by the Economist Intelligence Unit, China's economy expanded by almost 12% year on year in the first quarter of 2010, and Singapore's by a whopping 12%. World trade, which is recovering rapidly as GDP and manufacturing growth pick up, rose by an unprecedented 5.3% in the three months to January 2010 compared with the previous three-month period. It is no wonder that Philippine exports have expanded at 43% in the first quarter of this year.

Thanks to the ongoing global economic recovery, the new Administration can follow the double-track strategy to attaining the 7% to 9% growth in GDP that the country needs to effectively combat mass poverty, which is one of the worst in East Asia. The first track--which is a strong domestic market--is what enabled the Philippines to avoid a recession in 2009, together with its two giant neighbors, Indonesia and Vietnam. Despite exports declining by more than 30% in 2009, GDP managed to grow because of domestic consumption, fueled especially by the remittances of overseas Filipino workers and government pump priming. Growth in the first semester of 2010 can be as high as 7% because in addition to these two sources of mass purchasing power, there was the added stimulus from the billions of pesos spent by the candidates for the May 10 elections.

The domestic market alone, however, cannot sustain high growth of 7% or more. The export sector must be the second track. In fact, among the policy pronouncements of Aquino during the campaign trail, there was the emphasis on promoting industries with the greatest potential for growth and where the Philippines has a competitive advantage. Among these are sectors that can grow rapidly only if the global economy is expanding robustly: agribusiness, business process outsourcing, creative industries, socially responsible mining, tourism and retirement. Most forecasters expect the world economy to grow at 4.0 % or more in 2010 from a decline of -0.9% in 2009. In 2011, global growth can continue at more or less the same level under the most optimistic assumptions about the advanced economies like the United States. There are a few economists, however, who disagree with Larry Summers, the senior economic adviser of President Obama, who recently asserted that the US was approaching "escape velocity". The Economist Intelligence Unit points out that there is still the possibility of a slowdown in 2011 in the US economy because inventory re-building and fiscal and monetary stimulus continue to be the main drivers of growth. None of these are sustainable over the medium term.

It would be wise for the economic managers of the next Aquino Administration to be ready with contingency measures should 2011 prove to be more challenging, with double-dip recessions inflicting advanced economies like the US, Germany, Japan and other members of the European Union (especially the troubled economies of Greece, Spain, Italy, Portugal and Ireland). These countries together still account for more than 50% of our international trade. Any major slowdown in 2011 of these OECD countries can once again dampen Philippine exports. Although the World Bank and other private forecasters present more optimistic scenarios for the US and the advanced countries, I prefer to be on the conservative side (for a change) and assign greater credibility to the pessimists. Among these is the Economist Intelligence Unit which expects the US to slowdown from 2.8% growth in 2010 to 1.6% in 2011. Reasons cited include consumers continuing to feel the pinch from high unemployment and the loss of wealth associated with the financial crisis. The recent uptick in consumer spending in the US may be temporary. There are greater pressures for US consumers to continue increasing their savings rate to double-digit levels. We cannot expect to see a sustained recovery in housing prices in the immediate future. To avoid a "Greek tragedy", the US authorities will have to put a stop to the pump priming, with fiscal policy turning neutral in mid-2010 and becoming contractionary some time in 2011.

The EIU is even more pessimistic about the Japanese economy. Despite continuing fiscal stimulus, deflation will discourage consumption and investment. There will be some relief in exports because of the strong growth of China but a very sluggish domestic market will keep GDP growth in 2010 at a low of 1.5%, then slowing to 1.1% in 2011. Over the long-term, continuing slow growth will lead to what is known as the L-curve, mainly due to the depressing impact of an aging population on local demand. Japan's reluctance to accept significant numbers of foreign workers combined with a very low fertility rate may lead to another lost decade similar to what happened in the 1990s. With Japanese investors very bearish about the Philippines and its economy growing at a low pace, the new Administration cannot expect Japan to be an engine of growth for the Asia Pacific region. This gives us more reason to intensify our efforts to capitalize on the opportunities presented by the AFTA plus China free trade agreements.

The outlook in the Euro area is no brighter, according to EIU. Growth prospects remain weak and unemployment has reached an average of 10% for the region, with Spain reaching 20%. The so-called PIIGS countries will experience close to zero growth as they are forced to significantly reduce expenditures on social security and infrastructure. Investment climate will deteriorate further as tensions rise with the mass protests against the austerity measures. In Greece, some deaths have already resulted from these mass protests. The Greek debt crisis now overshadows the entire euro zone, creating a great deal of uncertainty about the creditworthiness of other European countries and the stability of the euro which is rapidly depreciating.

Given this rather pessimistic scenario for the OECD countries, our traditional engines of growth in the last twenty years, the leaders in the next government should assign a very high priority to intensify our trade and investment relations with the so-called emerging markets. The leading emerging markets are China, India, Indonesia, Brazil and Mexico. They and developing countries in general are expected to grow at an average of 6.0% in 2010 and 6.1 in 2011, with China registering 10% and 9%, respectively in 2010 and 2011. There is no doubt that Asia is spearheading the dynamic recovery of the emerging markets, thanks to timely and targeted stimulus programs and to the fact that most of these economies were caught by the global crisis in relatively good shape. Exports are surging, albeit from low bases. The problem of China contrasts with that of the advanced countries: there is fear that its economy is already overheating.

For these reasons, I suggest that the first foreign trips that President-Elect Aquino should make should be to the emerging markets of East Asia: China, Indonesia, Vietnam and South Korea. These are the countries with whom we can intensify with immediate results our trade and investment relations. A lot more capital and technology can flow from China and South Korea to the Philippines. There can be more rapid growth of trade with Indonesia and Vietnam. So, there is no time to lose. Hit the ground running. For comments, my email address is

Sunday, 6 June 2010

P2.1-b tollway extension opens

Manila Standard

The Manila North Tollways Corporation, developer and concessionaire of the North Luzon Expressway will open today the the NLEX Mindanao Avenue Link, a 2.7-kilometer toll road that provides motorists with additional entry and exit ramps to the NLEX—well ahead of the opening of the school year when traffic volume on the expressway traditionally surges.

President Arroyo, Public Works Secretary Victor Domingo and Manuel V. Pangilinan, Chairman of the Metro Pacific Tollways, parent company of MNTC—will lead the inaugural drive-through that will signal the start of commercial operations of the new segment.

The NLEX Mindanao Avenue Link connects the NLEX, at its Valenzuela City junction, to Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City. Built at P2.1 billion and expected to serve 30,000 vehicles daily during the initial year, the new segment kicks off NLEX’s multibillion-peso road network expansion program known as NLEX Phase 2.

“Once this expansion program is completed, motorists from any part of Metro Manila and neighboring areas can get to the NLEX without going through the heavy traffic in Balintawak, the main entrance to the expressway, and other choke points in the metropolis,” Rodrigo E. Franco, MNTC president and CEO, said. “This will dramatically speed up the transport of people and goods via the NLEX and thereby, help further spur the economic development of Central and Northern Luzon.”

Under NLEX Phase 2 are three other road projects: Segment 8.2 which will link Mindanao Avenue to Katipunan Avenue and to C5, Segment 9 which will connect McArthur Highway in Valenzuela to the NLEX, and Segment 10 which will link McArthur Highway to Manila’s Port Area. Segment 9 will ease access to McArthur Highway, the old route to Central and Northern Luzon. Segment 10, also called “The Port Connector,” will dramatically speed up the transport of goods to and from Manila’s North Harbor.

By providing motorists from Metro Manila and its environs with another entry point to the NLEX, the NLEX Mindanao Avenue Link is expected to help significantly decongest Edsa, particularly in and around the high-traffic Balintawak area.

The construction of the segment began on April 21, 2009 and was finished earlier than the contractual completion date of June 6, 2010 —concrete proof of MNTC’s road-building expertise.

“With all the major works on the NLEX Mindanao Avenue Link completed on time we are now looking forward to the construction of the three remaining segments of NLEX Phase 2 that will start either late this year or early next year,” Franco added.

“Work on Segment 9 has, in fact, already started with the ongoing construction of the NLEX cloverleaf interchange in Valenzuela that, once completed, will also ease traffic to and from Segment 8.1,” he said.

The distinctive feature of this segment is a full cloverleaf interchange, three times larger in area than the Balintawak Cloverleaf, and is designed to allow motorists to enter or leave the main tollway from whatever direction without making a full stop.

Japanese investors prefer RP and Indonesia

Over China, Vietnam as investment destinations
Manila Bulletin

The Philippines has become an attractive investment destination in southeast Asia for Japanese companies after they encountered difficulties in finding qualified manpower in China and Vietnam that made their cost of doing business in those countries already at more with the more expensive Philippines, but with readily available qualified personnel, officials from the Bank of Tokyo said.

This was relayed by Bank of Tokyo-Mitsubishi UFG officials led by executive director Takashi Muraoka during a recent visit to Trade and Industry undersecretary and Board of Investments managing head Elmer C. Hernandez.

Muraoka, however, said that the Philippines has to slug it out with another Asean country Indonesia, which has also become an attractive investment destination in the region.

Hernandez said that Japanese businessmen are now training their eyes on the Philippines and Indonesia because although labor cost in China and Vietnam are lower than the Philippines, they have a big problem finding qualified manpower in these countries that they end up with higher cost that are already at par with the salary cost in the Philippines and Indonesia.

The biggest advantage of the Philippines is its huge pool of qualified manpower, Hernandez quoted Muraoka.

The Bank of Tokyo, which has been a partner of the BoI in its investment promotion together with the ASEAN-Japan Center, also said there are two ways to enhance the Philippines attractiveness as an investment destination. These are recognition by the government of the issues that have been raised by Japanese investors and what the government is doing about those concerns.

“Japan is watching closely, they are assessing if there is recognition and what the government is doing to address these issues,” Hernandez said. The Bank of Tokyo has recognized there are issues that are unique only in a particular country, Hernandez said, but what is important to them is that the government is addressing those issues.