PHILIPPINE REAL ESTATE and RELATED NEWS in and around the country . . .

Gawad Kalinga spreads vision to more Fil-Ams

By Patricia Esteves
Sunday, June 1, 2008 [ ]

KANSAS CITY – On a road that never seems to end and with only the big sky and the vast open fields around them, Gawad Kalinga (GK) missionaries Dylan Wilk and Nathan Mari patiently take turns driving into the heart of America for hours, inspired by a mission to spread GK to many Filipino-Americans who are still not aware of the movement and encourage them to join the GK1mb or GK 1 million builders in the United States.

The GK1mb is a massive call to volunteerism and advocacy, through the growing work of Ancop USA and in GK villages in the Philippines.

Dylan, accompanied by his wife Ana and their children, eight-month-old Chloe and two-year-old Ariel in the 75-city road trip across the US for 81 days, said their aim is to bring GK to the 4.5 million Filipinos living in the US.

A growing number of Filipino-Americans are now supporting GK and have built their villages in various GK sites all over the Philippines.

To date, there are more than 300 Fil-Am-funded GK villages in different provinces in the country.

To be able to touch and inspire more Fil-Ams to help rebuild their motherland, wipe out the slums and empower the poor, Dylan and Nathan decided to set out on this trip to personally bring the good news of GK and invite Fil-Ams to join GK’s army of volunteers.

The journey, which began in February, ended in May and Dylan said they felt they have accomplished their mission.

Dylan is the British-born millionaire who sold his BMW and donated the proceeds to GK. But GK champion Tony Meloto refused his money, saying that if he really wanted to help the poor, he should stay and spread the mission of GK.

He decided to stay and has since championed the cause of building houses for the poor through GK and has built his own villages in Bulacan, Tarlac, Isabela, Leyte, Negros Occidental and in several towns in Mindanao.

Sowing the seed

After the 75-city road trip, Dylan said they have accomplished the mission of asking people to become builders of the GK movement.

“It will take time for people to fully appreciate and act on it. I think we’ve sown the seed in every place we’ve been to. I see good leaders who were willing to give their lives to GK in the same way caretakers have done for the residents in GK sites. They’ve become our inspiration now. People here in the US are also asked to be caretakers, not caretakers of the poor, but caretakers of Filipino-Americans to bring them back home and help their poor kababayan. This is only the first, and it will take time to grow and change direction,” said Dylan.

Dylan and Nathan’s focus was clear that when they set out on this trip, they were not going to ask for money or donations but would ask their kababayan to be their partners in GK.

“We want partners, we’re not looking for people just to get their money, but we want them to be involved in their village, to love their village, to care about their village, because the work we’re doing is difficult. And it’s only when you love that village that you learn to love the people, you will never give up on them, despite many of the challenges we have in the Philippines in transforming every single GK site,” Dylan explained.

This was the same approach that Meloto used when Dylan was donating his money. Meloto said he wanted Dylan’s involvement in GK more than his money.

Dylan said they want their GK partners in the US to share the good news of GK with other people.

He said “becoming a big mouth to spread GK” was more important than giving or asking for donations.

The trip enabled them talk to volunteers who wanted to do more than just donate.

“And as we’ve come around, that has become very clear, that many people have heard about GK already but didn’t know what to do, didn’t know how to get involved. They would just hop to big events, donate, bring a little something then after that, wouldn’t hear from us for a few months. That is why we went to them and explained how they can be a big mouth for GK,” said Dylan.

He said one of their important goals is to be able to make GK a sustained movement in the US, with volunteers and partners meeting every month to discuss ways on how to bring GK to more people.

Joining Dylan on this trip is Nathan Mari, a Filipino who was born and raised in Australia, one of the many second-generation Filipino-Americans raised in foreign lands who did not feel connected to the Philippines. Nathan said that for a long time, he was in denial that he was a Filipino.

Dylan said Nathan has played an important role in changing the mindset of many second-generation Fil-Ams about their Filipino heritage.

He would explain how GK has transformed him and made him love his Filipino heritage.

Small sacrifices

Dylan shrugged off the sacrifices they made during the three-month, saying that their sacrifices on the road were nothing compared to the sacrifices of the caretakers of GK villages in the Philippines.

“Their sacrifices are our reason and inspiration to continue with this. We have had difficulties as we’ve come along, packing our belongings, sitting in the car for several hours, with two small children, finding ways to entertain them, unpacking things again, but it’s simply an inconvenience. We realize that the sacrifices of the caretakers in the Philippines are far greater,” Dylan said.


GMA to certify as urgent bill on CARP extension

By Marvin Sy
Sunday, June 1, 2008 [ ]

President Arroyo is expected to certify as urgent the bill extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program which is set to end on June 10.

According to Presidential Management Staff director general Cerge Remonde, the extension of the CARP was one of the issues the President discussed with him yesterday.

Since the House committee on agrarian reform has already come up with a committee report on the extension of the CARP, Remonde said that the President can now certify the bill as urgent.

Both the House and the Senate are looking at a five-year extension of the CARP until 2013.

The Department of Agrarian Reform initially proposed a 10-year extension so that the government could complete its conversion of around two million hectares of land placed under the CARP.

“I think the President will certify (the bill) as urgent because the House version has already passed the committee level. Only when it is passed at the committee level can the President certify it as urgent,” Remonde said in an interview over dzRB.

Remonde said the President reiterated her desire to include a provision in the bill that would allow farmers to use their lands as collateral for loans.

He said Mrs. Arroyo wants to see the farmers become agri-scientists or businessmen and this could be accomplished if they have access to formal credit.

“Because the CARP would be toothless if these provisions that would give power to the farmers are left out,” Remonde said.

“We will work to make the Agrarian Reform Law more comprehensive. In order to work, it should not be limited to the redistribution of lands,” he added.

In a related development, Senate minority leader Aquilino Pimentel Jr. yesterday called for an inventory of CARP lands and an accounting of the program’s funds.

Pimentel said with only a few days before the expiration of the CARP, DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman has not yet submitted a report on how the program was implemented and how funds were spent.

“We cannot allow CARP to be used as a plaything of people in power. We are forgetting that the objective of CARP is to help those who have no land to acquire lands, the tenant farmers,” Pimentel told reporters during the Weekly Kapihan sa Sulo Hotel forum in Quezon City.

Pimentel added that the list of the Certificate of Land Ownership Awards (CLOA) granted to farmer-beneficiaries all over the country must also be checked to determine whether these are still in their possession. – With Perseus Echeminada


Where’s moratorium on land-use conversion, farmers ask

By Jerome Aning
Philippine Daily Inquirer
First Posted 20:41:00 05/31/2008

MANILA, Philippines -- Whatever happened to President Gloria Macagapal-Arroyo's repeated pronouncements that she wanted a moratorium on the conversion of farmlands to other uses in view of the tight food supply in the country?

Farmers from San Juan, Batangas, asked the question on Saturday as they denounced Executive Secretary Eduardo Ermita for issuing an order allowing the conversion to ecotourism of a 124-hectare agricultural property in Barangay (village0 Laiya-Ibabao.

In a statement, farmers belonging to Laiya-Ibabao Samahang Magsasaka (Lisamag), who are petitioning for distribution of the property, said Ermita’s order “betrays Malacañang’s hypocrisy and lack of seriousness” about the land conversion moratorium.

“To call for a moratorium while approving land conversion is patently hypocritical,” said Lisamag president Vicente Ayap. He claimed a conversion order was granted to Hennessy Development Corp. even though the company's registration had been revoked by the Securities and Exchange Commission in 2003.

The militant farmers group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas said Administrative Order No. 226, or the two-year land use conversion ban by President Arroyo, was useless if the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) was extended.

“It should be noted that it was under CARP that massive land use conversions and crop conversions occurred, with its extension, then more of the same can be expected,” KMP chair Rafael Mariano told the Inquirer.

The KMP supports a radical agrarian reform bill that would entail, among other things, the free and automatic distribution of big lands to farmers.

Mariano said the plan of Congress to extend CARP would result in more lands being converted to commercial use and biofuel plantations, adding: “If CARP is not junked, then definitely the rice crisis will continue to worsen.”

Lisamag members have been encamped in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform in Quezon City since late April to demand that the Hennessy property be placed under coverage of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program.

Two weeks ago, the provincial agrarian reform officer of DAR in Batangas, Cynthia Lapid, issued a notice of coverage (NOC) for the property after DAR legal officials decided that there was no more legal impediment to placing the property under CARP.

According to Lisamag, Ermita’s conversion order issued last May 20 effectively nullified the NOC by setting aside a DAR decision dated December 21, 2006 denying Hennessy's petition for extension of the conversion period and another DAR decision dated August 31, 2007 denying the firm's motion for reconsideration of the December decision.

The Hennessy property was covered by a land conversion order dated June 17, 1998, but during the five-year conversion period that ended in 2003 the corporation failed to develop the property, the protesting farmers claimed.

They said Hennessy’s two main reasons for failure to develop the property were the long time it took for the environmental compliance certificate to be issued, which took place only in February 2003, and threats of a coup in 2001-2002 that caused investors and partners to shy away from the project.

Ayap said Hennessy applied for extension of the conversion period in 2005 and DAR, despite the late filing, asked the firm to submit the necessary documents so that the application could be processed.

Hennessy failed to submit some requirements, which included, among others, a performance bond and certification showing that its contractor had the financial capability to develop the property, Ayap added.

He said DAR in 2006 dismissed Hennessy’s application for extension since it had gone beyond the allowable period, aside from its failure to submit requirements and findings by a DAR team that no substantial development had taken place on the property.

The corporation then appealed to the Office of the President.

In granting Hennessy’s appeal, Ermita found merit in the firm’s claim that its request for extension was not filled out of time because DAR allegedly told it to “wait until the expiration of the five-year conversion,” that the land was no longer agricultural since the surrounding areas had been converted for eco-tourism, and that distribution of the property to new farmer-beneficiaries was no longer feasible because previous tenants had been paid disturbance compensation.

Lawyer Jae dela Cruz, counsel for the Lisamag farmers, said Ermita committed some errors of fact and judgment in granting Hennessy’s appeal.

“According to the conversion order, the SEC registration of Hennessy is in force. But we have a certified true copy of a certificate from SEC stating that the registration of Hennessy had been revoked,” she explained.

Pagcor eyes dev’t of tourist destinations in Aurora

By Manny Galvez
Sunday, June 1, 2008 [ ]

BALER, Aurora – The Philippine Amusement and Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) is eyeing to harness the tourism potentials of this province through the development of infrastructures expected to perk up the local tourism industry and create jobs for local folks.

Pagcor chairman Efraim Genuino told newsmen here yesterday that the province is one of the possible areas where the gaming firm may set up tourism facilities in support of the program being initiated by the Angaras.

“Aurora holds a lot of promise, it has vast potentials and we at Pagcor are willing to provide all the help we can give the province,” he said, citing the province’s sceneries and clean water systems.

The Pagcor chairman met with Sen. Edgardo Angara and his younger sister, Gov. Bellaflor Angara-Castillo at the Bahia de Baler here to discuss possible projects that the state gaming firm could possibly extend to the province. Genuino noted that the province would also benefit from the development of the Tourism City being pushed by Pagcor in terms of employment generation. He said that for every job generated in the proposed Tourism City, it will have a multiplier effect of between seven to eight additional benefits. “That’s easily 400,000 jobs that will be generated in the Tourism City alone which have several multiplier effects,” he said.

Genuino also visited the Aurora Training Institute (ATI) and Aurora State College of Technology (ASCOT). He promised to augment the training phase for students and vowed to have them hired in the proposed Tourism City.

Angara-Castillo said one of the main thrusts of the provincial government is to turn the province into a tourism mecca catering to both foreign and domestic tourists.

The Provincial Tourism Office said that the tourist spots of the province are waiting to be discovered by tourists such as beaches, waterfalls, caves and surfing sites and historical sites.


Shang Properties buys land in Fort Bonifacio

Saturday, May 31, 2008 [ ]

THE developer of the Shangri-La Plaza mall told the Philippine Stock Exchange (PSE) that a subsidiary purchased a lot from the Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. (FBDC).

Shang Properties Inc. disclosed that unit Shang Global City Holdings Inc. completed the purchase of a 15,120-square-meter lot in the West Super Block, a prime location within the Bonifacio Global City. The area is the future site of the unified PSE trading floor to be built in partnership with Ayala Land Inc. The unified bourse is up for completion in three years.

The Manila Times failed to reach Federico Noel, Shang Properties corporate secretary, for further details.

At end-March, the company’s consolidated net income rose 9 percent to P188.4 million year- on-year as the sale of condominium units at The St. Francis Shangri-La Place grew by 28 percent to P385 million from a year ago. Revenue was recognized based on the percentage of completion at 67.5 percent.

Rental income from Shangri-La Plaza Mall tenants rose 8 percent to P 195 million from last year due to the continuous improvement in sales of percentage-based tenants. Other income increased by P 51.5 million from last year. This growth was due to the recognition of interest of P53 million from discounting of long term receivables from sales of condominium units.

Last year, San Miguel Properties Inc. sold its entire stake of 354,386 common shares, or 29.38 percent in KSA Realty Corp. to Shang Properties for P1.812 billion. The rental income from KSA’s tenants amounting to P165 million is now folded in Shang Properties’ gross revenue for the year whereas last year the property firm just recorded its share in net income of KSA, which was under other income amounting to P15 million. -- Likha C. Cuevas-Miel


Japanese BPO to expand here, eyes wider English-speaking market

Vol. XXI, No. 213-A [ Business World Online ]
Saturday, May 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

A Japanese business process outsourcing (BPO) firm is investing P120 million in the country to finance the expansion of its local partner, Logicall, Inc.

Transcosmos, Inc., one of the biggest call centers in Japan with 22 offices and over 20,000 employees, merged with the mid-sized call center last month to reach a wider English-speaking market.

Kenji Obata, who now sits as vice-president of the Transcosmos-Logicall merger, said the Japanese firm had spoken with more than 20 companies and even considered taking the business to India before deciding to partner with LogiCall.

"We needed a partner who has an identical sense of values and mentality to be aggressive in entering the English-speaking market. Second, the equipment and facility that Transcosmos has is almost identical to the equipment and facility that Logicall is using," Mr. Obata said.

Logicall is a three-year old BPO with 300 seats at its lone office along Chino Roces Ave. in Makati City.

Logicall Executive Director Archie C. Rodriguez said the company hopes to double capacity by yearend and keep the organization growing.

The company hopes to have 3,000 seats by 2011. "We’re looking at having as many as 6,000 to 8,000 employees," he said.

He added that the merged BPO should start reaping $20 million in revenues annually by then.

Logicall is looking for new locations where it can expand in Metro Manila, while key cities like Cebu, Davao and Bacolod will be explored two years from now.

Like other BPO companies, Transcosmos-Logicall expects the local industry to continue growing.

The government earlier said the sector expects to yield $13 billion worth of revenues by 2010.

"The Philippines has a bright future in the BPO industry. There are also BPOs in Australia and India, but the trend now is that they come to the Philippines," Mr. Obata said. —Anna Barbara L. Lorenzo


Online services to further ease investing in Taguig

Vol. XXI, No. 213-A [ Business World Online ]
Saturday, May 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

Taguig is planning to make its services available online to help ease business processes for would-be investors and improve the city’s competitiveness.

In a statement, Taguig Mayor Sigfrido R. Tinga vowed to institute more reforms after the International Finance Corp., the World Bank’s private sector arm, cited his city as one of most business-friendly cities in the country in its 2008 Doing Business in the Philippines report.

In particular, he said Taguig is laying the groundwork for its Integrated Systems Information Software or ISIS that will make all government services available online.

The city government is also working to link Taguig to the Trade department’s Philippine Business Registry, an online system aimed at streamlining business procedures in the country.

The 2008 Doing Business in the Philippines report, which identified challenges to doing business in 21 Philippine cities, cited Taguig, Makati, and Mandaluyong as among the country’s most business-friendly cities, requiring the least number of procedures to open a new business, secure permits, and transfer property titles.

Opening a business is the easiest in Taguig, where 15 procedures take only 27 days to complete, followed by the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Marikina, Cebu, and Mandaluyong.

San Juan, Pasig, and Davao require the most procedures for start-ups — up to 23 — taking anywhere from 35 to 42 days to complete.

On the average, it takes 18 steps and 35 days to start a business in a Philippine city, about the same as in China.

Taguig ranks the same as Mexico and Chile, but still "far from the top performer, Australia, where a start-up takes only two days." — Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo


DOTC gives new timeline for NAIA-3 opening

By Rainier Allan Ronda
Saturday, May 31, 2008 [ ]

Transportation and Communications Secretary Leandro Mendoza confirmed the government’s plan to open the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) Terminal III within the year.

According to Mendoza, NAIA Terminal III is among several airports that they plan to open until 2010.

“By 2010, the Philippines will have airports of international standards to ease traffic and reduce business cost,” Mendoza said during the opening of the two-day Expo on International Transportation and Logistics held at the World Trade Center in Pasay City.

Based on their plan, Mendoza said the NAIA Terminal III, a renovated Diosdado Macapagal International Airport, and the Busuanga airport in Palawan will be opened this year.

In 2009, Mendoza said they are looking at opening the Silay-Bacolod airport, the Laguindingan airport and Panglaw airport in Bohol.

Efforts are also being pursued for the opening of the Zamboanga airport, he said.

Mendoza had earlier shunned setting a time frame for government to finally activate NAIA Terminal III.

Government shelved plans to open the terminal for full commercial operations in 2007 when two foreign engineering firms, Ove Arup and TCGI, recommended the postponement of the terminal’s opening, warning of danger to the safety of the people who will use the facility.

The Manila International Airport Authority (MIAA), for its part, said that structural works had already been conducted on the airport facilities in the past months.

Mendoza said that government has to open more airports with the increasing tourist arrivals in the country.


'Ban on land conversion useless if CARP is extended'

[ ] May 31,2008

THE militant farmers' group Kilusang Magbubukid ng Pilipinas (KMP) said the two-year suspension on the conversion of rice lands ordered by President Arroyo through Administrative Order 226 will be useless if the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program is extended.

"Gloria's AO is practically useless because it is done in the context of the dubious act of extending a fake land reform program that will be inimical not just to the welfare of farmers but the whole Filipino people," the group said.

KMP noted that it was under CARP that massive land use conversions and crop conversions occurred, with its extension then more of the same can be expected. "It is the CARP itself and Department of Justice Opinion No. 44 that are primarily responsible for massive and rampant land use conversions," KMP chairman Rafael Mariano noted in a statement.

KMP said that in Southern Tagalog alone 1,302, 375.37 hectares are already under land use conversion and 172,967.30 hectares have already been converted. It said Sentro para sa Tunay na Repormang Agraryo (SENTRA), a volunteer lawyers group for farmers, is handling many cases of irrigated rice lands that are exempted from CARP and are being converted.

KMP said agro-transnational giants Dole and Del Monte are now in control of at least 220,000 hectares of land in Mindanao and under CARP they are going to expand this to 300,000 hectares more. The group claimed 1.2 million more hectares are planned to be leased for use as jatropha plantations under the RP-China agricultural deals.

"With these in store under the extension of CARP, only 2.5 million hectares of rice lands will be left," Mariano said.

KMP has consistently opposed the extension of the present CARP past its expiration on June 10 and supports the passage of the Genuine Agrarian Reform Bill (House Bill 3059), claiming that CARP's extension is equivalent to the extension of the rice crisis.

But other farmers' groups like the Task Force Mapalad (TFM) and Ugnayan ng mga Lokal na Nagsasariling Organisasyon ng mga Mamamayan sa Kanayunan (Unorka) are pushing for the extension of CARP under the Reform CARP Movement. The members have been camping out in front of the Department of Agrarian Reform office in Quezon City to press for the passage of the law that would extend the program that still has to distribute 1.1 milion hectares to farmer-beneficiaries.

Yesterday, TFM unveiled effigies of what it called CARP "executioners" like Representatives Ignacio Arroyo and Alfredo Maranon III both of Negros Occidental, Pablo Garcia of Cebu, and Senators Juan Miguel Zubiri, Juan Ponce Enrile and Joker Arroyo whom they accused of sabotaging or blocking the passage of the extension law.

TFM cited thousands of pending land cases throughout the country which include the landholdings of the Zubiris in Mindanao and of the Arroyos in Negros Occidental and said this could trigger renewed social unrest if left unresolved because of the non-extension of CARP. "Ano na lang ang mangyayari sa libo-libong mga kaso na ito kung kung hindi madu-dugtungan ang CARP?" TFM president Jose Rodito Angeles said. - Randy Nobleza


NGOs, Church probe land feud in S. Kudarat

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] May 31, 2008

Slaying of farmer seen to trigger escalation of violence


SULTAN KUDARAT — Four non-government organizations and a Church mission conducted yesterday a fact-finding inquiry on a brewing land feud in Senator Ninoy Aquino town that claimed the life of a farmer.

Also, the mission looked into the plight of the tribal communities in the area, some portions of which are ancestral lands but which are also being claimed by private persons.

Led by the Tri-People Concern for Peace, Progress and Development of Mindanao Inc. (Tricom), other NGOs are the HESED Foundation, Partners for First People Foundation, Rural Development Institute-PhilNet Sultan Kudarat, and the Social Action Center of the Diocese of Marbel.

Mayor Rafael Flauta of Senator Ninoy Aquino, the National Commission on Indigenous Peoples’ (NCIP) Kulaman Community Service Center, the League of Indigenous Peoples for Ancestral Domain in Mindanao, and the Kulaman Manobo Dulangan Organization also supported the fact-finding mission.

Flauta had earlier called for a deep probe on the incident in an effort to resolve the crisis gripping the natives and other persons claiming ownership of the supposed ancestral land.

The mayor and the municipal council are likely to pass a resolution calling for the temporary suspension of the case on the land claimed by Dela Peña. It will be sent to the DAR and DENR pending resolution of the conflict.

Jun Benitez, a Tricom volunteer, said the members of his group are seeking the assistance of the Commission on Human Rights (CHR) in Region XII in the effort to seek justice for the relatives of the slain farmer and to protect the rights of lumads against those who are encroaching on their ancestral lands.

"We have decided to conduct a fact-finding mission to determine the circumstances that triggered a brewing escalation of violence at Sitio Blangas, Barangay Midtungok in Senator Ninoy Aquino where Robert Rodriguez was gunned down last May 16," Benitez said.

The 32-year-old Rodriguez was reportedly killed when armed escorts of Filipino-American land claimant Florence Case-dela Peña allegedly fired at a group of residents.

Reports reaching Tricom alleged that Dela Peña was escorted by heavily armed men clad in fatigue uniforms without name plates.

She went to Sitio Blangas together with personnel of the Department of Agrarian Reform and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources’ Land Management Services (Region XII) to conduct a perimeter survey of the 374-hectare land she is claiming.

"The mission will also focus on finding ways to help resolve the case and prevent an escalation of violence in the ancestral domain of the Manobo-Dulangan tribe, being claimed by Dela Peña," Benitez said.

A resident of General Santos City, Dela Peña is claiming ownership of land in at least seven Sitios of Barangay Midtungok.

Arroyo orders halt to land conversions

Vol. XXI, No. 213 [ Business World Online ]
Friday, May 30, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

A TWO-YEAR moratorium on the conversion of rice lands has been ordered by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo, given a global food crisis and the Philippines’ continued inability to become self-sufficient with respect to the staple.

Not producing enough. — AFP

Administrative Order 226, signed by Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita last May 16, states that "To meet the needs of the increasing number of Filipinos, there is a need for the production of rice to be optimized to meet our local needs and consumption."

"To ensure sufficient rice supply, there is a need for all lands utilized and intended for rice production to be protected from any other land use conversion."

An economist, however, said the government should consider the order’s impact on job-generating investments.

AO 226 suspends the processing and approval of all land conversion applications affecting rice lands and lands declared under the Agriculture and Fisheries Modernization Act of 1997 as a network of protected areas for agricultural and agro-industrial development (NPAAD).

The NPAAD covers, among others, all irrigated areas, irrigable lands, alluvial land highly suitable for agriculture, areas located at an elevation of 500 meters or above, and those that have the potential for growing crops, mangrove areas and fish sanctuaries.

The Department of Agrarian Reform was tasked to implement the order.

"We are only 90% rice sufficient, we still import 10% [of our rice needs]. Given what happened to the global market, this (the suspension of land conversion) is the best thing to do," Press Secretary Ignacio R. Bunye said.

Growing populations, the biofuels boom, and climate change have been blamed for soaring food prices worldwide. Locally, some sectors claim that the conversion of farm lands to golf courses and subdivisions have contributed to the rice price increases.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman last month ordered the indefinite suspension of farm land conversions for real estate development.

The suspension, he said, would allow for a review of land conversion guidelines and address what he called "the unabated conversion of prime agricultural lands for real estate development."

Rolando T. Dy, executive director of the University of Asia and the Pacific’s Center for Food and Agribusiness, said the moratorium could delay employment-generating investments.

"The order is commendable but what if the conversion is meant to create jobs? Paano kung nakaabante na yung investment sa real estate o sa resorts (What if the investments, say on real estate and resorts, have been advanced)?," he told BusinessWorld.

"Huwag tayo pabugso-bugso. Kung may investor, maghahanap na lang ba sila ng iba? (Let us not be too hasty. If there are investors, are we going to let them go somewhere else?)"

Mr. Dy said the government should conduct studies on the need to ensure enough food supply while at the same time attracting investments.

"We should also empower the local governments and look at these things on a per project basis," he added.

Mr. Dy recommended the rehabilitation and repair of existing irrigation systems, improvement of irrigation efficiency, and the tapping of all irrigable lands.

"Let us look at the viable irrigation areas. We have 3.1 million hectares of irrigable lands. Only 1.4 million are irrigated. That is around 45% only," he said.


Property developers warn of economic backlash of ban on land conversions

By Mary Ann Ll. Reyes
Friday, May 30, 2008 [ ]

The Chamber of Real Estate and Builders Association (CREBA) has warned of an imminent economic disaster within the next two years following a ban on land conversions imposed by the Department of Agrarian Reform and virtually upheld by President Arroyo through Administrative Order 226.

Asking for an immediate lifting of the ban, CREBA president Reghis Romero II pointed out that the land conversion ban may seem to be a harmless piece of government policy, but it can be the last straw that will break the camel’s back.

He said the ban would neither solve the food shortage nor the energy crunch as being suggested by the government, but could turn the country’s housing backlog into another crisis.

“With food, housing and energy crises, you definitely have a perfect recipe for an economic disaster within the next two years,” Romero stressed, as he recounted the 1997 East Asian currency squeeze and the ongoing US subprime mortgage debacle that all emanated from a mishandling of the real estate sector. “You cannot just tinker carelessly with the real estate industry without facing grave economic consequences.”

The land conversion ban, he said, could eventually lead to a halt in all construction activities, crippling the entire supply chain – from land developers and housing contractors to all the industry suppliers and service providers, including manufacturing, tourism, and retail sectors.

Stock market prices of all listed property firms will plunge and pull down all other related businesses while unemployment will rise enormously since construction accounts for a big chunk of the country’s labor force, Romero said.

He added that within two years, the country’s housing backlog of 1.5 million will rise to 2.1 million based on government’s own conservative estimate. “Poverty will thus widen and deepen, leaving our poor people with only two choices – go abroad to become OFWs or go to the boondocks to become NPAs – depending on their qualifications,” he said.

This grim scenario, however, is not confined to the private sector. Romero emphasized that government itself will be badly affected, with many state agencies failing to meet their respective goals that are tied up or linked to land development.

“Obviously, the land conversion ban is being used by DAR as a smokescreen for its dismal failures. Yet, DAR’s self-assumed power to convert lands is just one of its many questionable, if not anomalous, practices,” Romero said.

To avert an impending economic disaster, he proposed for a review, revision and implementation of the National Urban Development and Housing Framework prepared by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB), so as to guide the formulation of location-specific land use plans that will consider the reclassification criteria of the Local Government Code.

On agriculture, CREBA suggested that lands have to be identified and mapped according to crop suitability and susceptibility to typhoon, floods and other natural calamities. Meanwhile, EP and CLOA (land reform awardees) holders should be encouraged to band together in cooperatives, contribute their small parcels thereto, which shall be managed professionally so that with the resulting economies of scale, the utilization of improved technologies and machineries may be optimized.


8 airports set to be opened

Friday, May 30, 2008 [ ]

TRANSPORTATION Secretary Leandro Mendoza said eight airports would be completed in the next two years.

"By 2010 the Philippines will have airports of international standards to ease traffic and reduce business cost," Mendoza said during the opening of the two-day Expo on International Transportation and Logistics held at the World Trade Center.

He said this year alone, three airports, namely, the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (Naia) Terminal 3, the Clark or Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) and the Buswanga airport will be opened in November.

Mendoza said they likewise consider opening the Davao-Iloilo Terminal, the Silay-Bacolod airport, the Laguindingan airport and the Panglaw airport in Bohol.

Negotiation for the opening of the Zamboanga airport is also ongoing, he added.

"We expect traffic to double in particular the tourists' arrivals" Mendoza said, adding that this will help decongest the growing passenger traffic in the country.

Records of the Civil Aeronautics Board (CAB) showed that 11.24 million passengers were recorded last year or an increase of 11 percent from the 10.13 million posted in 2006.

Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) cornered the bulk with 2.38 million, of which 1.8 million were overseas.

Of the 11.24 million, about 5.8 million were outbound and 5.43 million inbound, higher than the 2006 arriving passengers with 4.56 million and around 5.26 million outbound.

Aside from PAL, Cebu Pacific carried 1.02 million passengers. Cebu Pacific has 12 international destinations while PAL has 25 destinations.

Asian Spirit had 8,052 international passengers as compared to the 5,810 recorded last year.

Meanwhile, foreign carriers Cathay Pacific Airways transported 1.33 million passengers last year; Singapore Airlines, 537,362; Northwest Airlines, 497,916; Japan Airlines, 435,429; Emirates Air, 448,482; and Korean Air, 414,319.

Likewise, CAB reported that domestic passenger traffic last year also increased by 22.7 percent to 10.39 million from 8.47 million in 2006 due to budget fares introduced by several airlines.

Cebu Pacific carried 4.45 million domestic passengers and PAL transported 4.03 million. Air Philippines had 1.17 million domestic passengers; Asian Spirit, 484,482; and Seair, 245,020.

For 2007, the country's domestic load factor was placed at 78 percent up by 73 percent in 2006. (MSN/Sunnex)


Finance and accounting outsourcing

Friday, May 30, 2008 [ ]

By Ricardo Y. Danlag Jr., CPA
Vice Dean, Chair
Accountancy Department, University of Southern Philippines Foundation

THE Philippine Institute of Certified Public Accountants (Picpa) recognize the importance of business process outsourcing (BPO) to the country’s economy.

The BPO industry, which is now considered the sunrise industry of the Philippines, has provided our economy steady and solid growth for the last five years.

Outsourcing has stretched beyond call centers and information technology into almost every plausible business process. Nowadays, outsourcing companies operating in the Philippines are involved in voice and non-voice various activities, including finance and accounting.

Last May 1, Picpa, during its 62nd Annual National Convention, initiated a very informative presentation on the BPO industry. The presentation acquainted participants with the role of the Philippines in the global outsourcing industry, the fertile BPO environment in the country, the challenges and concerns, as well as requirements, of the industry.

Speakers of the convention included lawyer Ma. Jamea Assumpta S. Garcia, executive director for Talent Development, Business Processing Association of the Philippines (BPAP), and Ester R. Punongbayan, partner and head of business support services of Punongbayan & Araullo. They expounded on the BPO services and the players that present the talents of finance and accounting professionals as frontliners in back-office outsourcing, the substantial experience and knowledge required to take part in this segment of outsourcing, and the prospects of accounting and finance as the fastest-growing niche in the BPO industry.

Garcia informed delegates that in the finance and accounting area, the country has a robust labor pool which industry players can continue to leverage on.

There are approximately 140,000 finance and accounting students who graduate every year. There are about 100,000 certified public accountants (CPAs) and 3,000 new CPAs every year in the country.

Based on the BPAP inventory, there are about 95 companies engaged in finance and accounting BPO, 36 of which are voice and 60 non-voice services.

Finance and accounting BPO encompasses a wide range of services that include simple collection to claims processing, comprehensive accounting and bookkeeping, payroll support, back office financial systems and risk management, financial research and analytics, among others. Various multinational companies are now engaged in finance and accounting BPO in the country.


Manila Water to manage Boracay water system

Vol. XXI, No. 213 [ Business World Online ]
Friday, May 30, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

AYALA-LED Manila Water Co. has been hired by the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) to improve Boracay Island’s water and sewerage system.

In a disclosure to the stock exchange, the water company said it had signed a consultancy deal with the government agency to operate and maintain facilities of the Boracay Water and Sewerage System (BWSS), a PTA unit.

Under the contract, Manila Water will devise, enforce and monitor management plans for BWSS facilities, as well as provide technical assistance for the expansion of the water system.

BWSS operates a water treatment plant in mainland Caticlan and a sewage treatment plant on Boracay island.

Boracay, one of the country’s top tourist destinations, has encountered environmental problems due to the influx of tourists and increasing commercial establishments.

"We will basically device, implement and monitor the operations of BWSS and after two months, we will assess what needs to be done," Manila Water Corporate Communications Manager Nestor Jeric T. Sevilla said.

"Since wastewater disposal and treatment have become a major concern, we would like to help... preserve Boracay as one of the country’s major tourist destinations," Manila Water President Antonino T. Aquino said.

"This private-public partnership also provides us the opportunity to support the government’s thrusts in tourism as a major vehicle for economic development," he added.

Manila Water provides water and wastewater services to nearly six million people in 23 cities and municipalities of the east zone concession of Metro Manila.

It operates and manages the country’s biggest sewage treatment facility in Makati, and the largest and most modern septage treatment facility in Southeast Asia, located in Taguig City.

Manila Water also operates and manages a water supply and sewerage project in Tirupur, India.

Earlier, the company said it would spend P37 billion over the next five years as it intensifies efforts to expand and improve the water and wastewater networks in the east zone.

It also has announced plans to form two subsidiary companies to cater to the company’s international and environmental business initiatives.

Manila Water earlier reported P2.42 billion in earnings for 2007, better than the previous year despite the full year provision for income tax worth P892 million. The company’s income tax holiday expired at the end of 2006.

This year, Manila Water is spending P7.7 billion. Among its major projects is a P1.5-billion water treatment plant that seeks to increase water capacity by at least 100 million liters daily. — A.K.K. Austria


Cebu promoted by group for being tourist-friendly

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] May 30, 2008

CEBU CITY — The Cebu Visitors Convention Bureau (CVCB) is set to conduct a more extensive information dissemination campaign to effectively promote Cebu as a "tourist-friendly" destination in the country.

"There is now a concerted effort to disseminate information about Cebu’s hotel rates, bookings, etc. from among the front liners from the industry, which is a basic requirement as a tourism destination," CVCB Chairman Jay Aldeguer said in an interview with reporters recently.

This is why he said CVCB, with the help from the Department of Tourism (DoT), will be putting up information kiosks in shopping malls around the City, where there is heavy traffic of foreign and domestic visitors.

Aldeguer said CVCB’s short term plan includes tapping the Cebu Association of Tour Operators (CATO) and players in the transport industry like taxi and rent-a-car operators for plans to put up audiovisual monitors in their vehicles.

The monitors will display a welcome message from Tourism Secretary Joseph "Ace" Durano, as well as hotel rates, and images of key destinations in Cebu and its neighboring provinces.

Aldeguer said that while DoT and tourism players have been extensively investing in promotional campaigns for the country, he finds it more important to orient the industry’s front liners — such as taxi cab drivers — for them to better understand their roles and responsibilities.

He said CVCB is now currently in talks with DoT, CATO and the Hotel, Resort and Restaurant Association of Cebu for the immediate implementation of the plan. (Malou Mozo)

More int’l investments

Friday, May 30, 2008 [ ]

THE House committee on economic affairs believes that Cebu is a promising area for future global investments, especially since the province is the “hub” of three major potential products in the country.

Committee members, however, admitted having apprehensions about the effects of the US economic slowdown, wage hike and oil price increases on local businesses.

The committee, which convened yesterday to conduct an ocular inspection and consultative meeting with locators of Cebu Mistumi Industries Inc. in Danao City to learn more about special economic zones, identified Cebu’s three major potential products as the gun industry (in Danao), shipbuilding (in Balamban) and information technology (IT) infrastructure.

Rep. Roilo Golez of Parañaque City explained that Danao’s “home-grown and growing” gun industry is one of Cebu’s advantages since other areas cannot easily replicate it.

He also lauded Tsuneishi Heavy Industries that can build a bulk carrier in about 45 days and the Aboitiz-owned FBMA Marine Inc., which produces world-class boats for international clients, including the British Navy.

“If Tsuneishi and (South Korea’s) Hanjin (Heavy Industries and Construction) in Subic will work together, the Philippines will become the fourth largest shipbuilding (industry) in the world, (next to) China, Japan and Korea. It used to be Norway, Poland, US and England. Now, we are very much in the picture,” he said.


“Cebu is contributing to the Philippines (becoming) a major shipbuilder.”

Having a good IT infrastructure, Golez said, enables hundreds of workers to work in call centers and animation development. He noted that Cebu “has a very good connection” with the foreign movie industry with the presence of Bigfoot Entertainment facilities here.

“I think the committee is not the only one eyeing Cebu as a priority area (for development), but also future investments of companies,” he said.

Committee Chairman Ramon “Red” Durano VI (Cebu, 5th district) admitted that the body is aware of the apprehensions of the business sector to invest, expand or hire more workers with the looming US recession and the increases in oil prices and wages.

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) reported that Philippine companies are shelving plans to expand and hire more due to these factors.

This was based on a survey of 1,258 firms among the country’s top 7,000 companies. The results showed fierce competition and weak demand as “key risks to business activity” from March to May.

“We are trying to come up with resolutions to tackle these. We will be having hearings to discuss how we can deal with these (factors),” Durano said in a news conference.

The House committee on economic affairs asked the management of Cebu Mitsumi Industries Inc. for recommendations on how the government can help industries.

Initially, Cebu Mitsumi director and corporate secretary Januario Seno asked the government to bring back the incentives that used to be extended to companies that put up facilities in the countryside, as well as to lower power rates. (NRC)


IPRA law, not anti-IPs - NCIP

PIA Press Release

By Rose B. Palacio

Davao City (30 May) -- Contrary to some reports, the government's implementation of the "Indigenous People's Rights Act (IPRA) or Republic Act number 8371, is not anti-lumads.

The law provides the rights of the lumads or Indigenous Peoples (IPs), to protect their ancestral lands and ancestral domain as the government recognizes and promote the rights of Indigenous Cultural Communities and Indigenous Peoples within the framework of national unity and development, said National Commission for the Indigenous Peoples (NCIP) XI Director Roque N. Agton, Jr. during a media forum on RA 8371 held last week at the Yellowfin Resto, Ecoland, Davao City.

Director Agton urged tribal leaders to initiate constant dialogue to unite tribal cultural communities and let them understand government's programs which are geared for their own benefit.

It was learned that other tribal leaders are seeking support and justice to the deceptive manipulation of other outside elements that affected indigenous people, even outside region eleven.

Outside elements and rebel groups have manipulated the "lumads" just to get what they want from government or sometimes make use of the IPs as patibong to get what they (outside elements/groups)want.

Director Agton said that NCIP are looking into the complaints of cultural communities. Hindi naman kami nagpapabaya at inaasikaso naminang kanilang mga reklamo sapagka't tungkulin naming ang pakinggan at aksyunan ang kanilang mga pangangailangan, he said.

Under the law, NCIP is here to promote and enlighten the cultural communities on IPRA because the government ensures their protection and ensure their economic, social and cultural well being, Director Agton said. Other speakers during the forum include: Lilibeth Malabanan, MD, TMSD chief; Atty. Ariel Montaña, regional legal officer; Atty. Geroncio Aguio, Chief Administrative Officer; and Engr. Elvie Jabines, Engineer 111, NCIP XI. (PIA)


Loren: Stop foreclosure of low-cost houses

[ journal ] May 29, 2008

Senator Loren Legarda yesterday urged the Senate to conduct an investigation into the “massive foreclosure of low cost and socialized real estate mortgages sold by the government housing finance agencies to a private corporation” which threatened to throw out thousands of families from their homes.

In Philippine Senate Resolution (PSR) 419, Loren disclosed that thousands of affected families have expressed fears of losing their low-cost housing units through massive foreclosures resulting from the “stringent repayment terms” imposed by the Balikatan Housing Finance Corporation (BHFC), the private firm.

Among those affected are residents in five subdivisions in Davao City, namely, San Lorenzo Village, El Rio, Rosalina, Kadayawan and Country. They complained that the firm was demanding the payment of the full amount of their arrears within three months or face reappraisal of their outstanding loans to as much as three hundred percent (300%) of the original amount.

Since most of these low-cost housing residents cannot afford the terms imposed by the private firm, they expressed fear that they might be evicted from their homes for which they have already paid substantial sums. Loren said that this is contrary to the state policy of providing socialized housing.

Loren explained that between 1988 and 1996, approximately 220,000 housing loans were extended by the National Home Mortgage Finance Corporation (NHMFC) through its Unified Home Lending Program or UHLP, which was established to meet the housing finance needs of members of public pension fund systems, namely, the GSIS, SSS and Pag-IBIG.

“In 1996, the NHMFC’s collection levels dropped below 65% of scheduled payments. In the succeeding years, collections continued to decline, and by 2002, NHMFC’s accrued loans reached 53 billion pesos,” she noted.

Because of the low repayment rates and huge amounts of uncollected loans, the state-controlled housing finance agencies were prompted to dispose and restructure their loan portfolio with the cooperation of the private sector, Loren stated.


House adopts Senate version of tax relief bill

Vol. XXI, No. 212 [ Business World Online ]
Thursday, May 29, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

LAWMAKERS have decided to speed up the passage of a tax relief bill for workers, with the House of Representatives yesterday agreeing to have the Senate version of the priority measure sent straight to the President for signature.

The House — which had wanted to squeeze more taxes from professionals and self-employed individuals to offset revenue losses from a provision reducing the income of salaried workers subject to the income tax — recalled the bill it approved early this month.

It instead adopted a Senate version passed just this Tuesday to avoid bicameral conference committee wrangling.

There is no need for a reconciled bill and customary ratification in both houses, said Senator Francis Joseph G. Escudero, chairman of the Senate ways and means committee.

Once Senate President Manuel B. Villar, Jr. and House Speaker Prospero C. Nograles sign the "enrolled bill," it will be sent immediately to Malacañang.

Confirming the House move, Antique Rep. Exequiel B. Javier — Mr. Escudero’s counterpart in the chamber — told BusinessWorld the Senate version would also offset losses from the tax relief.

The Senate version dropped the House’s Simplified Net Income Taxation Scheme or SNITS — which would have limited the types of expenses that can be deducted by professionals such as doctors, lawyers, and athletes from their taxable income, a loophole that has allowed many wealthy taxpayers to pay lower income tax.

Under the scheme, professionals have the option of doing away with the tedious process of itemizing deductions supported by receipts by simply deducting a standard 40% from gross earnings.

The current tax code allows only a 10% Optional Standard Deduction (OSD) with practically no limits, which encouraged taxpayers to file itemized returns to lower tax payments.

The Senate-approved OSD was also extended to corporations.

The Finance department had backed the SNITS, saying it was way of making the tax burden equal across taxpayers considering wage earners have no escape from taxes with withholding taxes deducted from salaries every pay day.

Finance department research director Ma. Lourdes B. Recente last night said the Senate version was also acceptable.

Mr. Escudero has said revenues from the OSD could reach P15.03 billion, which would offset the P14.25 billion in revenue loss from higher individual tax exemptions.

The individual exemption will be raised to P50,000, compared to current exemption levels of P20,000 for single workers, P25,000 for a head of family, and P32,000 for married individuals.

The additional exemption for up to four dependents was also raised to P25,000 for each dependent, from the current P8,000.

"Our main objective is to give a tax relief to individual earners," Mr. Javier said. "It’s better to pass the Senate version than be stuck in long debates and let our wage earners suffer in the rising costs of basic commodities," he added.

Ms. Recente said: "The Senate’s version has its own way of mitigating the impact of increasing the tax exemptions — the 40% OSD for the self-employed and for corporations, which for us is also a sound provision in place of SNITS."


Solons admonish SBMA on move to deport investors

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] May 29, 2008

Members of the Oversight Committee in the House of Representatives gave Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) officials a dressing down after it was discovered that they pressed for the deportation of a Taiwanese businesswoman and her son who sued SBMA for the illegal takeover of their golf course business.

Even the usually unflappable neophyte Rep. Liwayway Vinzons-Chato (LP, Camarines Norte) likewise lost her composure by scolding SBMA Chairman Feliciano Salonga for accusing solons of "not paying attention" to what he had to say.

Makati City Rep. Teodoro Locsin Jr. aired disgust over SBMA’s tactic of informing the Bureau of Immigration (BI) that Taiwanese investor Susan Ho and her son, Jack Hu, no longer have business staying in the Philippines because they are no longer operating the golf course.

"It is really a cheap shot to deport foreign investors just to take him away from the court in order not to meet them face to face. That is not the proper way to deal with the investors," Locsin said. "That is really a low blow."

Northern Samar Rep. Emil Ong sought an investigation on the alleged unfair treatment of the Taiwanese investors by the SBMA after learning that they were booted out of their business despite being able to get a court order against their ejection.

Ho and Hu are the principal stockholders of the United International Group (UIG) of Taiwan that entered into a 50-year lease agreement with the SBMA for the development of the Subic golf course.

They reportedly poured into the project at least R1 billion but later incurred R14 million in rental arrears when business went sour.

UIG lawyer Wilfred Pangan said his clients were forcibly driven away from their business without due notice as required under the law.

Both lawyers, Ong and Locsin said it was wrong for SBMA not to observe due process in its bid to recover the arrears, saying that it is its duty to show investors how the justice system in the country works.

SBMA lawyer Ramon Agregado admitted the eviction was made even without the SBMA exerting any legal effort to collect by filing a collection case against the UIG for its debt totaling R47 million.

He reasoned out that the SBMA was avoiding payment of a big amount of court filing fee.

Study finds cost of doing business varies widely among Philippine cities

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] May 29, 2008

The ease of doing business varies greatly among cities in the country, according to "Doing Business in the Philippines 2008," a new report launched by the International Finance Corp. (IFC).

The report addresses how cities can improve their business environments by sharing and adopting best practices.

It is the first subnational report of the "Doing Business" series to study the Philippines and was produced in partnership with the National Competitiveness Council and the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center.

The report covers 21 cities and three areas of regulation — starting a business, dealing with licenses, and registering property. It finds that city regulations and the interpretation and implementation of national laws vary greatly, thereby constraining or promoting local business activity.

For example, it takes 21 days in Mandaluyong to transfer a property title, compared to six weeks in Mandaue. To build a warehouse and connect basic utilities requires 23 procedures in Taguig and 33 in Mandaue and Pasig.

The report also finds that both national and subnational governments are responsible for creating a positive business environment.

Starting a business in the 21 cities takes an average of 18 procedures, 11 of which are required nationally and seven by local governments.

"Doing Business in the Philippines is a diagnostic tool that provides actionable information for designing and implementing reforms to guide local officials in creating competitive environments to attract new investments," said Federico M. Macaranas, Executive Director of the Asian Institute of Management Policy Center and a core member of the National Competitiveness Council.

"The new report can help cities identify opportunities for reform. IFC will help implement follow-up initiatives for simplifying business processes that will accelerate private sector development and improve people’s lives," said Jesse Ang, IFC Resident Representative for the Philippines.

"The report also provides important insights for local governments and aims to catalyze reforms. Cities that do well in creating a good business climate are also likely to do well in poverty alleviation. The World Bank and IFC are therefore keen to support reform-minded local governments around the country," added Bert Hofman, World Bank Country Director.

Payoffs from reform can be huge. Higher rankings on the ease of doing business are associated with growth, more jobs, and a smaller informal sector.

Doing Business in the Philippines 2008 was also supported by the Australian Agency for International Development and the Canadian International Development Agency. It is based on the efforts of more than 218 lawyers, accountants, architects, contractors, engineers, property specialists, and national and local public officials.

Smart taps Intel Philippines in ‘Internet for All’ program

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] May 29, 2008

Smart Telecom is strengthening its "Internet for All" initiatives by collaborating with Intel Technology Philippines Inc. to make the Internet available to all through low-cost, easy-to-use and widely accessible products, services, solutions and devices.

"Since ‘Internet for All’ is not just about connectivity, but also about affordable and reliable devices, we are delighted to team up with Intel, whose technology innovations have resulted in the production of low-cost PC devices that will bring the World Wide Web closer to more people," said Smart Chief Wireless Adviser Orlando B. Vea.

"Just as we democratized the mobile phone, Smart hopes to bring Internet connectivity down to the grassroots – a vision that we share with Intel," he added.

Ricky Banaag, Intel Technology Philippines country manager, said the collaboration with Smart is aligned with Intel’s World Ahead program, where the giant chipmaker works with governments, development organizations, community groups, and other technology leaders to empower billions of people worldwide through access to technologies best suited for local needs, connections to the world via high-speed technologies, education that prepares them for the future, content and services that improve their lives and healthcare improvements via technology.

"Intel is proud to be a partner in this endeavor to fast-track technology adoption. For the past years, we’ve focused on developing low-cost platforms to lower the cost of PCs, knowing fully well that price has been a major obstacle to our vision to bring connectivity to millions of users," he said.

Smart, the country’s leading wireless services provider, and Intel, a semiconductor giant with main offices in the US, are combining strengths to make ‘Internet for All’ a reality in the Philippines. The country continues to have one of the lowest Internet penetration among its peer countries in the region – with un-served demand for Internet access estimated at 15 million connections.

Smart, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Smart Broadband, Inc. (SBI), has started putting the Internet in the hands of a broader segment of the population with Smart Bro, a revolutionary high-speed broadband Internet service that uses the nationwide network of Smart to wirelessly connect computers to the World Wide Web.

Through its Smart Schools Program, Smart is also providing Internet access, content and training to faculty and students of 150 public high school and 30 public elementary school partners nationwide.

Clark boom creates big demand for housing projects

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] May 29, 2008

SAN FERNANDO CITY, Pampanga — The employment of at least 54,000 people in the Clark Freeport and Economic Zone has created a big demand for more housing units here and nearby communities.

This prompted realty companies and land developers to undertake housing projects that cater to the shelter needs of the executives, young professionals, and workers of the many companies in Clark.

A real estate executive said he is expecting a housing boom in areas around the Freeport.

He said, however, that the specific market consists of middle-income families who are looking for flexible, low-payment schemes.

Several realty firms are now on the drawing boards preparing housing projects for middle-income families.

The Lakeshore subdivsion project, located alongside the North Luzon Expressway in Mexico, Pampanga, was initially developed as a residential-commercial community for well-to do families, but it was redesigned to cater to the needs of the junior and senior executives in Clark and nearby areas.

Architect Nestor Mangio, owner-developer of the Lakeshore, said that the new ommunity is the most ideal choice for young professionals as well small- and middle-income families.

He described the units as "dream houses" for the newly weds.

Emily Serrano, Central Country Estate’s vice president for marketing, said that the payment scheme for the Lakeshore houses and lots does not require deposit for the lot purchase and only five percent deposit is needed for the houses. (Fred Roxas)

Robinsons to build Ilocos mall

Vol. XXI, No. 212 [ Business World Online ]
Thursday, May 29, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

ROBINSONS LAND Corp. will build its first shopping mall in Ilocos Norte, one of the 15 that it seeks to set up in the next five years.

The listed firm said it had signed a joint venture deal with Venvi Development Corp., a property developer in the northern province.

Under the agreement, Robinsons Land will develop a two-level shopping mall along the National Highway, in the village of San Francisco in San Nicolas, Ilocos Norte.

The shopping mall will be part of a 20-hectare mixed-use development that will include residential and office buildings, hotels and call centers that will rise adjacent to the mall.

Robinsons Ilocos Norte is expected to be completed by 2009. It will be its fourth mall in Northern Luzon aside from Robinsons Starmills and Robinsons Place Angeles in Pampanga, and Luisita Mall in Tarlac.

The mall developer is expected to complete Robinsons Tacloban, Cybergate Davao and Robinsons Dumaguete soon.

Robinsons Land is a major real estate player with a growing portfolio of shopping centers, high-rise residential condominiums and town houses, mid- and low-cost subdivisions, office buildings and hotels.

It has 23 shopping malls, 26 residential condominiums, six office buildings, 31 residential subdivisions and four hotels. — LNPL


TeleTech Pampanga to hire 1,700 agents

Thursday, May 29, 2008 [ ]
By Raymond C. Garcia

MEXICO -- TeleTech, one of the largest and fastest growing business process outsourcing (BPO) companies in the Philippines, is providing employment opportunities to Kabalens in Pampanga.

The company is set to open its facility in the province this August, located at SM Mall in this town. It aims to hire at least 1,700 agents for this facility.

Maulik Parekh, senior vice president and general manager for Asia, said with the opening of the Pampanga facility, TeleTech continues to pursue its mission of providing more jobs in more cities nationwide.

Last November, TeleTech announced that it has reached its target of 15,000 workers in the Philippines. The company operates 12 delivery centers nationwide.

"We still continue to expand and hire. Our next target is to increase our headcount to 25,000 within the next two years," Parekh said.

Parekh added that recruitment for the Pampanga delivery center is already ongoing. He is confident of getting quality agents from different universities and colleges in Pampanga and nearby provinces.

"We chose Pampanga because we saw that the worker supply is very good plus we have a good chance of attracting people from other places like Bulacan, Olongapo and Bataan," he said.

Since it began operating in the Philippines in 2002, TeleTech has consistently increased its investments in the country. Unlike other BPO companies that flock to Metro Manila, TeleTech has chosen to invest in the countryside, into second-tier cities such as Bacoor in Cavite, Lipa in Batangas, Bacolod in Negros Occidental and Cainta in Rizal.

Parekh noted that TeleTech's strategy is in line with the government's goal of growing BPO, dubbed the country's sunshine industry, into more areas and provide employment opportunities that benefit many Filipinos.

Globally, TeleTech operates over 80 customer management centers in 17 countries.

According to Parekh, the Philippine operation is one of the fastest growing among the TeleTech network.


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