Saturday, 29 October 2011

Passport unit branches out to shopping malls

by John Concepcion
Manila Standard

The Department of Foreign Affairs will soon be issuing and renewing passports in major shopping malls all over the country, a move that it envisions to not only improve the delivery of passport services, but also save millions of pesos for the government.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario said the DFA will soon start transferring its Regional Consular Offices to shopping malls around the country and save the government some P250 million in the next 10 years.

The Foreign Affairs expects to begin the first of nine regional and extension offices to some of the country’s leading mall operators that are covered under Private-Public Partnership arrangements before the end of the year.

“With this move, the DFA is taking a big leap forward as it can now more effectively deliver consular services to the public in modern, more applicant-friendly settings at very little cost to the government,” Del Rosario said.

“This is a prime example of the Private-Public Partnership that the President wants us to pursue.”

He said the DFA has entered into Memorandums of Agreement with the Gokongwei-owned Robinsons Land Corporation and the Gaisano-owned Pacific Mall Corporation for the transfer and hosting of an initial six of the 18 existing DFA regional consular and extension offices and two new regional offices.

He said the arrangements will help the government realize savings of more than P25 million annually in rent and other operating expenses.

The Foreign Affairs Secretary added negotiations are also ongoing with other mall developers for the transfer and hosting of the remaining regional consular offices as well as the opening of new passport extension offices in Metro Manila.

Just the other day, the DFA entered into a Memorandum of Agreement with Robinsons Land for the transfer and long-term hosting of the RCO in Pampanga, the biggest and busiest among DFA offices nationwide, to a P23-million facility at the Robinsons Starmills in San Fernando.

The agreement with Robinsons Land also covers the RCOs in Bacolod, Batangas, General Santos, Iloilo, and Tacloban and the extension office at the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration in Quezon City. It also includes arrangements for the hosting of new consular offices in Laoag and Dumaguete.

Pagcor Remits P8.2B To NG

Manila Bulletin

MANILA, Philippines — State-owned Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corporation (Pagcor) turned over P8.217 billion to the government as part of its share in the gaming agency’s earning in the first nine-months of the year.

Data from the Bureau of Treasury showed yesterday that Pagcor’s remittance from January to September increased by 7 percent compared with P7.713 billion that the agency remitted in the same period last year.

Meanwhile, Pagcor’s September remittance to the government also increased by 17 percent to P973 million from P834 million in the same month last year.

The gaming agency remitted about P10.343 billion last year, lower by 6 percent compared with P11.05 billion it turned over as part of the government’s share in the previous year.

This year, the Department of Finance expects Pagcor to contribute some P10.94 billion to government coffers.

Pagcor’s first three-quarters contribution to state coffers was above by P133 million compared with the target P8.084-billion target.

As a government-owned and controlled corporation, Pagcor is required by Republic Act 7656 or the Dividend Law to remit at least 50 percent of its annual gross earnings to the government.

Pagcor operates 13 agency-run Casino Filipino facilities and has four licensed casinos – Fontana Casino in Pampanga, East Bay Casino in Rizal, Poro Point Casino in La Union and Fort Stotsenberg also in Pampanga.

Earlier, Pagcor said that it posted a P3.34-billion gross income in September, higher by 31.18 percent compared to the same month last year.

Cristino Naguiat Jr., Pagcor chairman and chief executive said the September earning brought its first nine-month total income to P26.78 billion, higher by 14 percent compared with the same period last year.

Naguiat said the agency’s robust income performance was brought about by complementing factors such as the upbeat operations of Pagcor’s casinos and its other regulated gaming activities, and the prudent management of funds.

“Total winnings from our own gaming operations reached P18.04 billion during the first three quarters of 2011. This exceeded Pagcor’s P16.51-billion winnings for the same period last year by more than P1.52 billion,” Naguiat noted. (CSL)

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Philippine-designed e-sports car to 'soothe range anxiety'

Tessa R Salazar

Not all sports cars are created equal. Now, with recent developments in alternative fuels, the inequality widens some more.

A prototype all-electric sports grand touring car has been designed and engineered here in the Philippines by a team of Filipinos and is hoped to create quite a stir when it unveils at the Specialty Equipment Market Association (SEMA) at the Las Vegas Convention Center in Nevada in November 1-4.

Named GT111, its electric power is estimated to give it a top speed of 250 kph and an acceleration of 0 to 100 kph in 5 seconds. Its 250 horses can go as high as 800 hp, depending on the owner’s preference. And being an electric car, it has lots and lots of torque, up to 320 lb/ft available from zero rpm. How’s that for an electrifying ride?

Jan Kierulf, president of Michel Motorsport, the local team responsible for the electric sports car, confirmed to Inquirer Motoring that the project has been a cross-continental effort involving various developments from different countries.

“The conceptual objective, design, pre-engineering through manufacturability project management, and business planning is Filipino. The chassis and suspension and vehicle standards collaboration is with a British partner. The electric power train development is United States,” he said.

Kierulf added that though the initial market penetration has been set for continental Europe, “we thought it best that we join SEMA to get a feel of the US market and also to hook up with potential industry partners at the same time. We joined SEMA for whatever exposure it can generate. It is an exercise in immersion, we dive right there and swim with the industry players and somehow see where the niche is for the car and for our company Michel Motorsport.”
He added that the car his team will be featuring at SEMA will be powered by a liquid-cooled electric AC motor.

“The car is manufactured to be light and promises to deliver the much-sought-after performance and driving range. The power is scalable, and can go as high as 800 hp, depending on what the customer orders. It can be configured to have two inboard direct drive rear mounted motors or can be configured to be powered in all four wheels. The objective of the car project is to establish three things: exceptional design, performance, and robustness/reliability. We want the car and the brand to be equated to this attributes early on at the onset,” Kierulf said.

Christopher Lacson, the designer at Michel Motorsport, said that the pre-production electric prototype car has an impressive estimated 5-second bracket if run from 0 to 100 kph.

Lacson added that the GT111 will be equipped with a range extender device to soothe the “range anxiety” (of sports car aficionados). The liquid cooled e-motor, he explained, is one of the most powerful of its kind, and waterproof.

Retro-modern design

Its design parameter is both recognizable and completely new. Lacson, who graduated from the prestigious Art Center College of Design in Pasadena, California, said that it includes making the outline of the car familiar and retro modern with retro flourishes and feel.

Lacson said that the GT111 has a “wide stance with an attitude, fierce but not mad, and purposeful.” He added that it has the styling cues of Maserati, Ferrari and other retro GT cars.

Lacson elaborates on the design and layout of the drivetrain, which is similar with the typical drivetrain layout of sports GT cars with the 5-speed gearbox. Its engine is situated in front.

Purposefully on the map

Kierulf, who despite the name clarified that he was Filipino, said, “At the onset we decided that the company, Michel Motorsport, should take on a project that would strive to put the Philippines on the world automotive scene but in a careful and logical way. The electric car has been primarily a program that by definition is high risk and we knew full well that it might not give us any immediate returns on investment. So each facet of a vehicle business program should be assessed and carefully planned.”

“The car is a positive contribution to the Philippine automotive industry, for whatever it is worth, whether to make our country known for design competency or for innovative and cost effective prototyping abilities, or for project management skills in vehicle development or simply to make us known for our passion for cars as a country or as a nationality. The car is commercially viable. The greatest compliment is if the car gets bought and cherished enough by its owners that they form car clubs of it,” he added.

Managing investment risk-taking

Business Mirror

YOU cannot acquire financial security today through earned income; the only way you do it is by owning an appreciating asset.

That seems reasonable enough. So why do most people work and earn and spend but never become wealthy or fully financially secure. One word: risk.

To say it simply, without risk there can be no reward. Most of us experience through life that often, the greater the probable reward, the greater the potential risk. The Greek historian Herodotus wrote 2,500 years ago that, “Great deeds are usually wrought at great risks.”

Very often though, we prefer to take the easier way out, because we do not want to face the challenge of risk taking.

However, not taking risks is not the best or even a sensible course of action. The Cuban marathon runner, Alberto Salazar said, “If you want to achieve a high goal, you’re going to have to take some chances.” And German philosopher Friedrich Schiller wrote, “He that is over-cautious will accomplish little.”

The questions we must answer are, how do we psychologically handle risk taking before we invest and then, how do we manage the risks involved in our venture. It is really only one question that requires a two-part process.

The Greek philosopher Plato laid the foundation for the first question: “Courage is knowing what not to fear.”

Some people believe that investing in the stock market is something they could never do because of the high risk. However, those same people know that others have made fortunes in the market. The first step is knowing what not to fear.

While we intellectually know that the stock you buy is not going to go to zero five minutes after you buy it, emotionally, we believe it could happen and our investment would be wiped out. It is tough to tell your emotions that they are wrong, so let’s assume “zero” could happen.

The first way to overcome the fear of “zero” is to invest an amount that even if you lose it all, your lifestyle would not be damaged. Why do we buy lotto tickets knowing that the chances of losing are very, very high? Because the P10 or P20 that we spend for a ticket would not financially affect us. So then it only makes sense to put at risk what we can afford to lose even if we know that we will not lose it all.

Megaworld (MEG), a large blue-chip stock, was up a net 12 percent last week. A 12- percent weekly return is more than your bank deposit pays in a year and this is not some rumor-driven speculative issue.

How much risk are you willing to accept for a 10- percent weekly return? Let’s make it a 50/50 proposition; you are willing to lose 10 percent to gain 10 percent.

You could have bought MEG at the close on October 16th for P1.71 per share. You could have sold it at the close one week later for P1.92. If you only wanted to risk 10 percent, then you would have made sure of cutting your position if the price dropped to P1.55. The lowest price MEG hit last week was P1.73.

The way to psychologically handle the risk is to decide before you place the investment specifically and exactly what your cut-loss point will be and stick to it without wavering. That way, we know the risk involved and we know how to manage the risk.

It is not real life. Looking back a week ago and seeing MEG go up is not the way things work. Sorry, but it does work that way.

It is important to remember that two factors go into an investment and that we usually only look at one. The American writer Elbert Hubbard said, “The man who knows it can’t be done counts the only risk, not the reward.”

On October 16th I wrote to my web-site subscribers that the potential risk of buying MEG at P1.71 per share was 6 percent or a drop to P1.60. The probable profit was at P1.84 or a 6-percent risk and an 8-percent profit. The weekly trend of the price was “Buying.”

Another issue with a “Neutral/Buying” trend had less than 1-percent risk because any decline was a cut-loss point and a 20-percent reward potential. The stock went up 24 percent and never traded lower than the opening buying price.

Managing stock-market investment risk is simple if you know going in what both the downside and upside potential is.

Managing risk and reward is about minimizing risk and maximizing profits. If you avoid potential risk, you avoid potential reward.

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

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

How to lose foreign investment

John Mangun
Business Mirror

TWO international reports about the Philippines appeared last week. The World Bank reported in its annual “Doing Business 2012” that the Philippines dropped two places to 136 in the world for “ease of doing business.”

A web site started by a woman who wrote “The Budget Traveler’s Guide to Sleeping in Airports” and the “Cheap Like Me Travel Society” voted Naia as the worst airport in the world.

Now, which one do you think got the most coverage and the most response from the Philippines’s political leaders?

One congressman urged “an emergency makeover of the Ninoy Aquino International Airport [Naia] complex.” A party-list representative “filed a resolution urging the House Committee on Transportation to look into the managerial problems besetting Naia.” A presidential spokesman stressed that the government’s priority was to rehabilitate the 30-year-old terminal.

The Philippines ranks behind Syria and Sudan and ahead of Madagascar and Cambodia. Nice global company we keep. I read the 212-page report. There was no mention if Rwanda (No. 50) and Botswana (No. 52) ranked higher because their airports are nicer to sleep in.

The Philippines has a great problem attracting investment, both foreign and domestic. Everyone knows that foreign investment could be the goose that lays the golden egg. The emphasis then has been to understand the problems with getting foreign investment in the country.

Recently, the talk has been about changes to the Constitution that would allow more foreign ownership of companies doing business in the Philippines. The country has a “Foreign Investment Negative List” regarding the percentage of foreign ownership of businesses in the Philippines. For example, the Negative List does not allow foreigners to engage in the “ownership, operation and management of cockpits” or the “manufacture, repair, stockpiling and/or distribution of nuclear weapons.” Those are probably sensible provisions.

There is one group that believes that if foreigners were allowed to own more of local companies, say 80 percent, they will be more inclined to do business in the country.

Singapore has a good economy and has good foreign investment. Singapore allows 100-percent foreign ownership. So that is the way the Philippines should go, right? Except Thailand has a good economy, good foreign investment, and the Alien Business Law, which is similar to the Philippines’s Negative List but in some ways is even more restrictive. So what is the difference between these two and the Philippines?

Singapore ranks No.1 in the world for “ease of doing business.” Thailand ranks No. 16. Again, the Philippines ranks 136.

Investment goes where it can make a profit. The second consideration is how difficult that profit is to make.

I will grant that both India (132) and Indonesia (129) are not high in the rankings but these are both countries with huge populations and, therefore, more profit to be made. Business money also has to balance the amount of profit with the difficulty of getting it.

In addition, Indonesia has a very effective and functioning (unlike the Philippines) Public-Private Partnership Program that brought in $1 trillion in foreign money in 2010 for 23 specific projects and an additional $700 million for 12 specific mining projects. I will not make any comment.

So why is it so hard to do business in this country? Setting up a business requires 15 separate steps (read government approvals) and takes 35 days. In Thailand there are only five steps requiring 29 days. Singapore has three steps and it’s over in three days. Indonesia takes longer, 45 days, but there are only eight procedures to go through.

But even in the Philippines, not all places are equal. The World Bank did an in-depth study of the Philippines this year. If you want to start a business, go to Mindanao. GenSan and Davao rank No. 1 and No. 2 for ease. Cebu was 7th. Don’t try to start in San Juan (25), Las Piñas (24), or Pasig (23). Instead, if you have to be in Metro Manila, set up shop in Taguig (3), Valenzuela (4), or Marikina (8).

The World Bank suggests the “losers” learn best practices from the “winners.”

When we spend or invest, we look also for time and money-saving convenience and efficiency. Convenience and efficiency does not describe the Philippines bureaucracy.

Karl Marx said, “For the bureaucrat, the world is a mere object to be manipulated by him” not to be served.

The saddest thing is that the Philippines has not made any substantial improvement since the reports started in 2004. But maybe by next year, Naia will be a better place to sleep at. Unfortunately, that may not exactly be the silver bullet that attracts more foreign or domestic investment.