Friday, 21 January 2011

Through the Eyes of a Filipino

By Hazelyne M. Elgar

Listen to me!
You might think we are a poor nation,
but when I look around me I do not see just poverty.
Instead, I see farmers, back bent from sun up till sun down
nurturing the land.
I hear fisherfolks heaving, as they gamble with their lives
amidst angry winds and rough water just to nourish their families.
I feel the weary legs of children from far-flung barrios,
as they cross rivers and mountains and walk for miles,
just to get to school because they still dream.
I see determination in the eyes of street children playing tag
with cars flying past on a ruthless highway
in order to augment their parent’s meager earnings.
In the face of destitution the Filipinos are steadfast. That is courage.

You rebuke us for the graft and corruption plaguing our government,
but when my eyes skim the front pages of broadsheets I do not see hopelessness.
Instead, I am inspired by stories about pushcart classes
and strangers swimming in deep murky flood waters to save nameless individuals.
I immerse myself in news about how my countrymen unceasingly believe in the spirit of unity.
I revel because millions of Filipinos still voted for change.
At times when we are at the receiving end of the world’s censure,
I choose to see the noble intentions of fallible men to help.
In tumultuous situations, when the urge to hold others culpable is difficult to resist
I hear a leader embracing the liability just like a leader should.
In the face of adversity, the Filipinos are united. That is courage.

You chastise millions of my countrymen for leaving our motherland to seek greener pastures.
Answer me this: have you ever listened to how they whimper at night because they long for home?
When Filipinas, forced to work away from their dear ones,
shed silent tears as they lull to sleep infants not their own
I begin to understand what unconditional love is.
You lure away our engineers, artists and teachers with a promise of a good life.
The loving hands of our nurses tend the health of your people.
Do no dare ask why we need to fill the void in your labor force!
The Overseas Filipino Worker is intelligent, ingenious, hard working and resilient.
I see that, and in my eyes they are heroes.
In the face of obligation, the Filipinos are self-sacrificing. That is courage.

You are at liberty to express your opinion about my country,
but you can never take away my pride, for I belong to a people united in faith and love.
I am Filipino, and no matter where I go I will always be one.
I do not doubt that the time for change will one day come for the Philippines.
Our flag, cast in the sun’s glorious light, will be waving high.
My countrymen’s sacrifices will not be in vain. We will face the future with courage.
As one, we will reach out to the world and the world will embrace us.
Believe me, because I will take the lead.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

Cebu eyes full use of Naia T3

Business Mirror

FLAG carrier Cebu Pacific Air intends to fill up the entire Terminal 3 of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) by late 2012 or early 2013.

In his speech delivered before yesterday’s aviation summit, the airline’s vice president for commercial planning Alex Reyes said this bold statement of Cebu Pacific is anchored on an expansion and upgrade plan for the terminal.

The new terminal has a rated capacity of more than 13 million passengers a year. But the new facility is already starting to look inadequate, hence the need to begin discussions on an annex to Naia T3, or an add-on.

“First, we wish for infrastructure that stays ahead of the curve. In other words, terminals, runways and navigation systems to run our highways in the skies that are more than adequate for the next five years. Having the infrastructure in place means companies will have the confidence to invest billions to further grow their business.

Too often, we all play catch-up. And more often than we would like, by the time an airport or terminal opens, it can no longer cope with the surge in demand,” said Reyes.

The airline already opened discussions with Manila International Airport Authority on how to expand the capacity of Naia T3. Ideally, Reyes said, the capacity should be expanded to 20 million passengers a year, in parallel with efforts to build up Clark as an alternative gateway into the Philippines. “That way, T3 can accommodate not just Cebu Pacific’s growth but the entry of additional foreign carriers. If foreign carriers operate at T3, we will benefit as the long-haul carriers will provide feed to our domestic network into the country’s tourist spots,” added Reyes.

President Aquino has identified tourism and infrastructure as the target driver for economic growth in the coming years—with an aim to double Philippine tourists to 6 million by 2016. Three million additional tourists a year, or double the amount from 2010, means 6 million more passengers transiting through various airports. “This is a welcome development for commercial airlines, but it will be an added strain on our airport infrastructure,” said Reyes.

The Cebu Pacific official pointed out that an expanded facility need not be fancy. “We do look for simple terminals requiring little maintenance—warehouse-type, single-story structures such as the Budget Terminal in Singapore—that can comfortably move thousands of passengers in a day. These are the types suited for Philippine conditions. We are also in need of airports with night-landing capabilities, especially for the fast-growing tourist spots such as Naga, Butuan and Legazpi. More night-capable airports will mean airlines can schedule flights beyond sunset, helping to decongest Manila’s runways during the noon to early-afternoon peaks.”

Aside from physical structures, Cebu Pacific stressed the need for soft infrastructure. These are rules, procedures, and most especially the trained and skilled aviation personnel who manage the airways, develop and implement safety rules, and check that everyone is operating up to international safety standards.

“By soft infrastructure, we also mean the air rights or entitlements between our country and our major trading partners. Today, there are no more air rights available between Manila and the major capital cities such as Tokyo, Singapore, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, as well as Hong Kong. This means no new international services can be started between Manila and those cities, which are a major source of tourists for the country. Removing constraints such as the lack of air rights will boost the growth rate of the industry,” added Reyes.

Cebu Pacific also wishes for basics rights. “We have about 85 airports around the country. Often, what we find is that the basics just don’t get done. We find perimeter fences unfinished. We find safety markings incomplete. We find x-ray machines that breakdown more often than they should. When our perimeter fences are not completed, when airport security is compromised because of budget constraints—these are unacceptable for an industry that prides itself in putting the safety of the riding public above all else.”

Between 2012 and 2014, Cebu Pacific will take an additional 16 Airbus A320 aircraft.

Reyes said other airlines are also growing and beefing up their fleet. Air Philippines, Zest and Seair have publicly announced that they are expanding their narrow body fleets. If everyone takes delivery of the aircraft they have announced, there will be 67 narrow body jets plying the Philippine skies by the end of 2011, a jump up from 56 at the end of 2009 and a mere 47 in 2008.

“We are going to see much busier skies around the country. If we don’t act quickly, we will see gridlock on our ramps, on our airways, in our terminals,” Reyes said.

Meanwhile, the company said it will offer a Legazpi, Hong Kong and Macau seat sale from January 20 to 23, 2011 or until seats last.

For travel from February 1 to March 31, passengers can avail of P499 seats from Manila and Cebu to Legazpi. For travel from March 1 to April 30, they can also avail of P999 seats from Clark to Hong Kong or Macau, and from Cebu to Hong Kong., Seats priced for P1,499 are also up for grabs from Manila to Hong Kong or Macau, and from Clark to Bangkok or Singapore. Those with check-in luggage will just add P100 upon booking.

“These seat sale fares are 57-percent less for those traveling to Bangkok, as much as 40-percent less for Hong Kong, and 40-percent less for Macau,” said vice president for marketing and distribution, Candice Iyog, in a statement.

“The demand for more Cebu Pacific trademark low fares to these destinations is very strong, especially to Hong Kong, and we want to encourage even more travelers to book for their business and leisure travel,” she added.

Cebu Pacific flies to Legazpi from Manila thrice daily, and from Cebu thrice weekly. It operates a Hong Kong service from Manila five times daily, and from Cebu and Clark daily. Its Macau service from Manila is daily as well.

The airline ended 2010 with a fleet composed of 10 Airbus A319, 14 Airbus A320 and eight ATR-72 500. It operates to 33 domestic and 16 international destinations from Manila, Cebu, Clark and Davao.

BOP surplus more than double last year's

BOP surplus 125% higher in 2010
Business Mirror

THE economy posted a $14.4-billion balance-of-payments (BOP) surplus in 2010 that was more than twice the level posted a year earlier, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said on Wednesday.

The surplus indicated an economy that generated far more foreign-exchange earnings than it spent and bodes well for regulators who are expecting yet another surplus this year.

Officials said the surplus also validates the country’s status as a major recipient of foreign capital from the risk-averse economies in the euro area and the United States looking for income opportunities in emerging markets like the Philippines.

Data show the BOP stood as a surplus of only $6.4 billion last year.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. earlier had to recast the target surplus twice last year as the volume of foreign funds entering the country accelerated at a rate far more than the monetary authorities had expected.

From target surplus of $3.2 billion, this was raised to $3.7 billion and finally to $8.2 billion around September, when the appetite of foreign fund managers for optimum returns escalated with the increased flow.

“The BOP surplus turned up higher than earlier projected, mainly due to a lower-than-anticipated merchandise trade deficit [as actual exports grew larger than forecast] and higher-than-projected overseas Filipino remittances,” Tetangco said via mobile-phone message on Wednesday.

This pertained to export growth averaging more or less 34 percent as of November last year, when some of the country’s trade partners reported either a deceleration or outright contraction in output.

The foreign-currency earnings of millions of overseas Filipinos during the period also helped boost the BOP as these aggregated $17.1 billion in only 11 months.

According to Tetangco, the BSP reviewed its forecast model just this year and concluded the surplus state of the BOPs was likely to persist this year.

“We continue to be watchful of developments to see if there is any need to refine our foreign-exchange regulatory environment further or if any adjustments to other policy levels need to be made,” he said.

The BSP is already on its fourth set of easing the rules on foreign- currency transactions to soften the impact of the net inflow of foreign funds and its impact on the local currency the peso.

Tetangco’s deputy, Diwa C. Guinigundo, acknowledged more could be done in this respect should such additional adjustments prove necessary.

Right now any more tweaking of the rules on government foreign- currency transactions, such as the level of forex purchases in the market without having to show documents, is not considered imperative, however, Guinigundo said.

Officials at the British-owned lender HSBC said the peso was bound to strengthen in the months going forward because the net flow of foreign funds from the developed economies to emerging markets in Asia were to persist this year as well.

HSBC assistant vice president Junie Veloso, who heads the bank’s corporate banking, declined to cite a specific number at which the local currency was likely to strengthen this year, but pointed skyward to indicate the net direction.

Such aggregates as foreign direct investments, portfolio or hot money flows, overseas Filipino remittances, earnings generated by the business- process outsourcing sector, export and tourism receipts and others, were all seen moving higher.

“There is a strong bias for the local currency to gain strength this year because export receipts, BPO income, portfolio investment and others are all flowing inward,” Veloso said, without citing the anticipated rate of the peso relative the US dollar.

Earlier, HSBC released the results of a survey on emerging markets, which indicated nine Asian countries as among those economies leading the developed countries in moving the global economy further ahead.

In any case, the BOPs were in surplus half the time last year, beginning with a surplus of $1.23 billion in January, then $2.29 billion in April and the string of surpluses in September, October, November and December of $3.06 billion, $2.73 billion, $3.9 billion and finally $1.22 billion, respectively.

Wednesday, 19 January 2011

Philippines posts $1.225B BoP surplus in Dec.

Louella D. Desiderio

THE Philippines continued to post a balance of payments surplus up to the last month of 2010, data released today by the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) showed.
The surplus totaled $1.225 billion in December, higher than the $1.215 billion surplus in the same month in 2009.

It was lower though than the all-time high surplus of $3.902 billion in November.

For the full-year of 2010, the data showed the BoP surplus amounted to $14.403 billion, more than twice the $6.421 billion in the previous year.

The 2010 BoP surplus was also well-above the $8.2 billion the BSP had forecast.

The BoP provides a summary of the economic dealings of the country's residents with the rest of the world for a specific time period.

A higher BoP surplus means more money entered the country and so its ability to repay its external obligations improves.

Tetangco upbeat 2011 GDP goal will be achieved


THE ECONOMY likely grew above target last year and could also outperform analysts’ expectations for 2011, the central bank chief yesterday said.

"We believe that 7% growth for 2010 is attainable given the Q1-Q3 (first to third quarter) ... actual growth rate and given the likely outcome of fourth-quarter performance," Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Governor Amando M. Tetangco, Jr. said in an e-mail to reporters.

Gross domestic product (GDP) growth averaged 7.5% as of September and both the government and analysts expect the official 5-6% target for the year to be exceeded given surprisingly strong first half results.

The outlooks for 2011, however, diverge. The government has a 7-8% target but analysts expect growth to be well below that given continued global uncertainty.

Yesterday, HSBC Senior Vice-President Roland Gerard R. Veloso, Jr. told reporters he expected 2010 growth to have averaged 6.8%, easing to 5% this year.

A United Nations report released yesterday forecast an even slower 4.8% for this year.

Mr. Tetangco, however, said the right factors would allow this year’s goal to be achieved.

"We also believe that the 7-8% GDP growth target for 2011 is attainable, should consumption remain solid and investment gain further traction with the infrastructure programs of the government," he said.

Trade is expected to recover as the economies of the country’s trading partners improve, although much depends on how the global economy performs.

"A key risk to Philippine economic growth continues to be the uncertainty in the shape and speed of the global economic recovery, including whether it will continue to be multi-speed and therefore a fragile one," he said.

The government assumed a lower 5% GDP growth in its P1.645-trillion budget for this year. Officials have qualified that the higher 7-8% target would be due to the public-private partnership (PPP) scheme.

The government wants to bridge the country’s infrastructure gaps through PPP contracts that are expected to be bid out this year.

Mr. Veloso, however, expects the impact of PPP projects to "start to kick in and fuel the economy’s growth in 2012."

HSBC is helping the government by conducting road shows to pitch the PPP scheme to possible investors abroad.

"We... conducted a road show in London [last November] and we are having the next one in February in the Middle East," Mr. Veloso said.

The HSBC official also expects slower exports growth of 8% this year -- they were up 37% as of October last year -- with a pickup in the United States seen as a factor.

Unemployment was seen hitting 7.1% this year while the remittance growth forecast was set at 8.5%.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

The Little Picture of the PSE

Business Mirror

It is always important to look at the big picture. But the little picture can often give a better insight.

There are many parts to the big picture of the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE).

One idea is that the PSE is an “Old-Boys’ Club.” What is behind the closed doors of the board meetings is actually of little significance to the average trader. It is all ego and power and with the Securities and Exchange Commission exercising some control, who really cares.

The one true aspect of the “club” is that trading in any particular issue can be dominated by a few brokers. It is not uncommon to see a single stockbroker be on the selling side of an issue and account for 10 or 20 percent of the total daily volume. Yesterday, five brokers (out of 88 who traded the stock) accounted for 25 percent of the volume, all selling in one issue. On the other hand, one stockbroker accounted for 10 percent of the total volume of that same issue, all buying. And this is a stock that traded over P200 million worth of shares.

The significance of this is that often there are very opposite views of the direction a certain company’s stock may go in the future. Understand also that there is nothing particularly sinister or wrong about this kind of activity. It is important though that you understand that this is one of the reasons we experience large and sometimes seemingly irrational price swings. One broker with a couple of large clients who wants to sell out, dumps shares on the market, driving the price down. Another broker sees an opportunity to buy at a lower price, and suddenly the share price goes up dramatically. You just need to be aware and adjust to this type of trading action.

Another perception about the market is that it is controlled by foreign trading. When the market is up, the foreigners are buying and vice versa; at least that is what you read in the newspapers. To a certain extent, this is correct.

Foreign trading is dominated by the investment funds. The funds are traded by managers who get paid on their trading performance. For the most part, trading bonuses are based against what the broad index does. This means if a fund manager shows better results than the Philippine Stock Exchange Composite Index, the bigger the bonus.

No fund manager wants to get caught underperforming the index. So what is the smart strategy? Trade the index shares and overweight your buying on the few issues that are doing better than the rest. So these guys trade the index stocks. When you are told that the market is down and it is because of foreigner selling, that is not true. What is down are those issues that the foreigners trade, which are the index issues.

Yesterday the composite index was up 0.39 percent; the all-share index was up 0.87 percent. The industrial index rose 1.37 percent. What did the PSE do yesterday; up, down, sideways? It all depends on whether you were holding the stock on the most active list that went up 20 percent or the one that went down 3 percent. That is the little picture that counts.

The composite-index traders are down 1.26 percent for the month of January. However, those that trade the little stocks on the mining index are up 2.61 percent. The industrial index is doing better at up 2.76 percent. Exclusively trade the big banks and you are down 3.44 percent.

It is all a matter of whether you are looking at the big picture or the little picture.

Have you heard on television or read in the newspapers that there are several issues up 50 percent and more, with two particular stocks up over 100 percent since January 1st. These are stocks that have traded large-enough volumes that you could have easily bought and just as easily sold P1 million worth of shares for a double-your-money trade. That, too, is the little picture.

The people who complain about the trading and profit potential of the PSE are ignorant. They have never watched the market and are completely unqualified to comment. Forget the stock market. Well, not the stock market but the PSE Index. The PSE Index issues, heavily influenced by foreign trading, are neutral with a downward bias. The other market, the so-called second liners that are mostly traded by locals, is fantastic.

You do not have to be a stock-market genius to make good money trading the PSE. All you have to do is understand how and why our market works. For golfers, it is called the local rules.

There is an abundance of cash in the Philippine economic system right now, available for investing and much of it is going into the stock market. This is an expanding stock market where prices go higher and you can profit from that rise. You do not need inside hot tips. You do need to find someone who can give you advice based on their experience as to which issues are a part of the expansion.

There are going to be many new millionaires created over the next several months from investing in the PSE. I hope you are one of them.

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

11-month remittances up 8.2% at $17 B

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — Remittances from overseas Filipinos amounted to $17.068 billion as of end-November 2010, up 8.2 percent compared to the same period in 2009, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) yesterday announced.

For the month of November alone, remittances reached $1.612 billion which was 10.5 percent higher than last year’s $1.459 billion. The November remittances were lower compared to October’s $1.673 billion.

The central bank forecasts remittances to grow by eight percent this year to $20.2 billion as host economies show stronger recovery in 2011.

BSP said the sustained improvement in most host economies, as well as increased demand for Filipino workers overseas would ensure fund transfers continue to expand.

Other factors that would contribute to higher remittances are efforts of local banks to tie-up with remittance centers overseas, improvement in bank services in terms of more attractive deals for overseas Filipino workers, increased number of employment contracts as a result of bilateral talks with host countries and higher demand for skilled workers, the report said.

For 2010, the BSP forecast remittances expected to reach $18.7 billion from $17.3 billion in 2009.

Remittances boost the country’s dollar reserves and support the balance of payments, which remain in surplus.

In a BSP statement, remittances mostly came from the US, Canada. Saudi Arabia, Japan, the United Kingdom, the United Arab Emirates, Singapore, Italy, Germany and Norway.

BSP Governor Amando M. Tetangco Jr. said that demand for Filipino workers abroad remain strong. According to data from the labor department and the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, as the end of 2010, approved job orders totaled 624,045 and 40.8 percent of which were for service-related work and production.

A good number of Filipinos were also hired last year for professional services such as technical work. BSP said remittances were boosted by the steady stream of remittance flows from both sea-based and land-based workers, however data for these are not yet updated as of press time. (LCC)