PHILIPPINE REAL ESTATE and RELATED NEWS in and around the country . . .
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Lucio Co consolidates Puregold retail chain under single firm

Vol. XXI, No. 170 [ Business World Online ]
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

HYPERMARKET CHAIN Puregold Price Club, Inc. has absorbed Puregold stores in Parañaque, Valenzuela, Tayuman in Manila and Dau in Pampanga, which had been separate corporations, in a bid to unify operations.

The merger plan, which saw Puregold Price Club absorbing the assets and liabilities of the four outlets, was approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission last February.

Customers at a Puregold launch last year
JONATHAN L. CELLONA

As the surviving entity, Puregold Price Club also sought approval to increase its authorized capital stock to P3 billion from only P50 million.

Out of the P2.95-billion increase, stockholders have subscribed to P761.72 million worth of shares, with P500 million already paid in cash.

All five corporations are owned by businessman Lucio Co, and run by one person, Leonardo B. Dayao, as president.

In a telephone interview, Mr. Dayao said the merger made sense as the companies have a common owner. "We deemed it important to consolidate and unify the operations," he told BusinessWorld.

"We are increasing our capital to pursue our business program to reach more customers and bring Puregold Price Club closer to the market. It is a continuing program on our part," he added.

Mr. Dayao also said opening new Puregold Price Club branches this year is "no exception."

"However, we don’t have a firm number yet," he said.

Asked whether the company has plans to go public, Mr. Dayao said an initial public offering is a "long-term objective" but the company has no immediate plans to list on the stock exchange.

The Puregold Price Club has 22 retail stores across Metro Manila and nearby provinces. The first Puregold store at Shaw Boulevard in Mandaluyong was established in 1998.

Mr. Co’s Puregold Price Club opened its doors to consumers without membership require-ments even with the emergence of exclusive supermarket chains such as S&R Price and Makro.

Stockholders of the absorbed corporations who were also stockholders of Puregold Price Club will be allowed to use the net assets of the absorbed corpo-rations as partial payment for their unpaid subscriptions in the planned increase in authorized capital stock, the company said.

Stockholders of the absorbed corporations who are not Puregold Price Club stockholders will receive "fully paid and non-assessable" shares, it added.

For non-assessable shares, Puregold Price Club as an issuer is not allowed to impose levies on shareholders for additional funds for further investment. — Ruby Anne M. Rubio

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GMA allots P 3 B for upgrading of power facility in Clark

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] April 1, 2008
By FRED ROXAS


CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga -- President Arroyo has allocated R3 billion for the upgrading of the power-supply facility in anticipation of the increased electricity requirements of locators and entry of big investors in this freeport.

Levy P. Laus, president and CEO of Clark Development Corp. (CDC), said yesterday that upon President Arroyo’s instruction, the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) released the Statement of Allocation and Release Order (SARO) to the CDC and the Bases Conversion and Development Authority.

The power-upgrading project in this freeport will have three phases intended to meet the power requirements of the more than 400 locators and to address the increase in demand by incoming investors.

The current peak load demand in this freeport is 43 megawatts, and this is expected to increase to 100 megawatts in the next five years, Laus said.

In accordance with government rules, Laus said that the critical component of project is the submission and acceptance of bids set on April 4, this year.

He said that the target completion of the project is nine months from the time the contract is awarded.

CDC authorities said that upon completion of the power-upgrading project, the locators in this 4,400-hectare freeport would enjoy uninterrupted power supply.

Central Luzon government officials have expressed gratitude to President Arroyo for approving the upgrading of power infrastructure in this freeport.

Among those who expressed their gratitude to the President were Governors Vic Yap of Tarlac and Eddie Panlilio of Pampanga, and Mayor Boking Morales, co-chairman of the Metro Clark Advisory Council.
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Rockwell Land hikes capital to P9 B

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] April 1, 2008
By ANA MARIE MACUJA


Rockwell Land Corporation is increasing its authorized capital stock from P6 billion to P9 billion to accommodate the infusion of additional capital from the shareholders of the company.

A petition for capital increase filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) showed Rockwell Land will create an additional 2.89 billion common shares with a par value of P1 each and some 11 billion preferred shares with a par value of P0.01 apiece to reflect the capital hike.

Rockwell Land told the SEC that shareholders Manila Electric Company (Meralco), First Philippine Holdings, Inc. (FPHI), and Benpres Holdings Corporation will subscribe to P750 million of the enlarged capital.

Meralco’s additional subscription consists of P368.47-million worth of common shares and P14.02-million worth of preferred shares. The utility firm owns 51 percent of Rockwell Land.

FPHI and Benpres Holdings Corp., which both hold a 24.5 percent stake in Rockwell Land, meanwhile, will subscribe to P177.02-million worth of common shares and P6.73-million worth of preferred shares.
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Robinsons Land enters Ortigas high-end

Vol. XXI, No. 170 [ Business World Online ]
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

LISTED PROPERTY developer Robinsons Land Corp. is set to convert the one-hectare former site of the Medical City in Ortigas into a mixed-use residential complex.

In a media launch yesterday, company President Frederick D. Go said the project would consist of two residential towers, a hotel, and an office building.

"This is a strong opportunity for us to build a prime project in the Ortigas Central Business District (CBD)," he said.

Mr. Go noted that Robinsons Land is already known for developing the Cybergate Complex in Mandaluyong and Pasig cities aimed at business process out-sourcing companies.

While declining to disclose the project cost, Mr. Go said the company would first construct a 29-storey residential tower which would be marketed to rich buyers.

"We dedicated a sales team committed to the higher end of the market, from our usual mid-income market. This is our first upscale project from a pool of three and this will be our high-end project in the Ortigas CBD," the Robinsons Land chief told reporters.

The two residential towers, named Sonata Private Residences, would be offering one- to three-bedroom units at a minimum price of P2.9 million.

Mybelle V. Aragon-Gobio, vice-president for business development, said the number of units per floor decreases as one goes up, based on a principle of "privacy."

"Here you cannot expand horizontally or vertically. What’s unique with this project is that there are certain floors wherein units contain one bedroom. Other floors have two bedrooms and succeeding floors, as you go up, have three bedrooms," she said.

Unit sizes, which will vary from 36 square meters to 155 square meters, will have their own balconies.

The two residential towers will be connected through the second floor, which will also serve as an area for amenities such as a private theater, a music room, a lounge reading area, and a gym.

The Sonata Private Residences will be completed by 2012, Mr. Go said. The design for the hotel and office components has yet to be finalized.

"The office building would be launched in the latter part of the year and as far as the hotel is concerned, we’re still in the process of choosing which hotel operator we’ll go with. There’s no timetable yet," he said.

The Sonata Private Residences is the first of the three residential condominiums scheduled to be launched by Robinsons Land this year.

"The other high-end residential project will be in Fort Bonifacio Global City, and the other in the Cybergate Complex in Ortigas but [the latter is] for the middle-income market," he said.

Robinsons Land would be spending P13.9 billion for the development of three malls, two hotels in Metro Manila, and three residential subdivisions in the provinces.

From October to December, the first quarter of its fiscal year, the company posted a net profit of P681.9 million as revenues grew to P2.35 billion.

Robinsons Land is the property arm of the Gokongwei group of companies. Its shares yesterday fell by 2.38% or 25 centavos to P10.25. — Lovely Nica P. Lee

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Taiwan investments hit $782M in 2007

Vol. XXI, No. 170 [ Business World Online ]
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

TAIWANESE COMPANIES poured in close to $800 million in investments here last year, with manufacturing and mining companies comprising the bulk, the Manila Economic and Cultural Office (MECO) said yesterday.

It said the Philippines benefited from big-ticket investments totaling $782.3 million or P32.633 billion in 2007.

MECO did not provide figures for 2006 but previous reports said Taiwanese investments reached about $1.3 billion in 2005.

"These investments further boost our economy and help generate more jobs locally," MECO Managing Director and Resident Representative Antonio Basilio said.

Topping the list of investors was Formosa Heavy Industries in Cebu, which committed to pour in $700 million for the 246-megawatt coal-fired plant in Toledo, Cebu and the 140-MW coal-fired plant in La Paz, Iloilo under a joint venture agreement with Global Business Power Corp.

Other major investors include Multi-Tek Fasteners & Parts Manufacturer Corp., which poured in $5 million in initial investments and created about 300 jobs at the Clark Free Port Zone.

The company plans to invest a total of $30 million and generate 800-1,000 jobs over the next five years.

Mega-Tsung Mining Corp., for its part, committed to invest about $6 million to $12 million in Paracale, Camarines Sur, followed by Fwu Kuang Enterprises Co., Ltd. at the Clark Free Port Zone with commitments of about $5 million to $10 million.

Rounding up the list are Tong Lung Metal Industry Corp., which expanded its existing manufacturing plant in Subic with fresh investments of $12 million; Mei Tail Luggage, Inc. with $3.55 million; Taiwan Resibon Abrasive Products Co. Ltd. with fresh investments of $2 million; health care firm Eva Care Group, which set up a $2 million, 100-seat call center in the country to handle hospital administration, customer service and human resource management; RayShine Photonics Co. with $2 million; Medtecs International Corp. Ltd. with $2 million; and South Forest Co. Ltd. with another $2 million.

Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry Vice-President George Siy earlier said the Philippines can get a bigger slice of the yearly $100 billion in foreign direct investments from Taiwan to Southeast Asia. The Philippines normally gets Taiwanese investments of only about $1 billion a year, he noted, in contrast to $7 billion for Vietnam.

Government data showed total Taiwanese investments in the Subic Freeport Zone reached $225 million in 2006.

Taiwan is the country’s fifth largest trading partner, with two-way trade amounting to $7.2 billion in 2006. It is also the Philippines’ seventh largest source of foreign investors and fifth largest source of tourists.

Taiwanese businessmen late last year expressed interest in investing in the information and communications technology, energy, construction and tourism industries. Taiwan Economic Affairs Minister Steve Ruey-Long Chen said investors are particularly considering the free ports in Subic and Clark. — Bernardette S. Sto. Domingo

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Quezon solon tells LGUs to go slow on land conversion

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] April 1, 2008
By MIKE GUIMBATAN JR.


BAGUIO CITY — Local government units (LGUs) were asked to go slow on the conversion of farmlands into residential and/or industrial areas.

It was feared that the unregulated land conversion could result in shortage of rice supply.

House oversight committee chairman Rep. Danilo Suarez (Quezon) said here he will file a resolution to regulate the conversion of agricultural lands into housing projects which have diminished areas for rice farms.

Suarez said LGUs should have a clear-cut policy on conversion such as strengthening their zoning ordinance.

Before conversion, he said, there should be a thorough analysis and study on the need for such conversion.

He said he is prepared to call for a congressional hearing on policies for land conversion and call for LGUs to participate in the hearings.

Suarez said that rice lands specially those on national highways are the first targets of real state developers. These areas include unirrigated lands that are idle during dry season.

The Quezon lawmaker said one way of mitigating the rice-shortage problem is to grow rice in arable lands which remain idle.

Suarez said there is an alarming upsurge of prices of rice in the world market. It used to be 0 per ton, but this has ncreased to 0 per ton, which is why there is a need to increase the production area, he said.
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Manila Water plans P187-B capital outlay for next 15 years

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] April 1, 2008
By JAMES A. LOYOLA


Manila Water Company plans to spend P187 billion over the next 15 years to expand water and wastewater services as well as to ensure the continued long-term reliability of its service in its Metro Manila East Zone Concession.

During the firm’s annual stockholders’ meeting yesterday, MWC president Antonino Aquino said P37 billion of the new P187-billion business plan will be spent in the next five years while capital expenditures for this year alone will amount to P7.7 billion.

He said the P187 billion consists of P100 million in capital expenditures while P87 billion represents the operating component of MWC’s business. This will also include the possibility of expansion to new areas like Bulacan and the development of new water sources.

"Our goal is to add at least one million new customers to our base as we increase wasterwater coverage, particularly the sewerage connections, from 12 percent to 30 percent," said MWC chairman Fernando Zobel de Ayala. The firm currently serves more than 5 million customers.

MWC chief finance officer Sherisa Nuesa said the bulk of the business plan will be financed by the firm’s strong cash flow although they will also be tapping various facilities from local lenders as well multilateral lending agencies.

She noted that MWC will be raising $ 150 million over the next two years to help finance its P37 billion expenditures for the next five years. She added that this may be in several tranches and using various instruments.

Meanwhile, Aquino said MWC is putting up two new subsidiaries which will pursue its investments overseas as well as its entry into domestic environment-related business to ensure the integrity of its East Zone operations.

"Our earnings from the East Zone should also be spent on the East Zone," he said.

Aquino said one subsidiary will focus on environment-related businesses including the recycling of wastewater, the sale fertilizer made of bio-solids derived from wastewater, and energy from methane gas released by wastewater.

On the other hand, the other subsidiary will pursue MWC’s goal of becoming a regional player over time, "given our unique experiences in an Asian setting," said Aquino noting that they are pursuing opportunities in countries like Vietnam, China, Hong Kong and India.

"Our work in the East Zone inspires us to replicate our business model in other service areas within the Philippine and in neighboring Asian countries," Zobel said adding that "we are certain that our strong fundamentals will provide us the competitive advantage to be a major player in the industry."
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Palace Eyes Stopping Land Conversion To Avert Crisis

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

Malacañang wants to stop the conversion of prime farmlands for uses other than agricultural and to repeal the truck ban to avert a possible rice shortage, the National Economic and Development Authority said Monday.

Augusto Santos, the agency’s director general, said President Gloria Arroyo during last week’s Cabinet meeting told them to adopt the measures to prevent the possible crisis in the staple.

“The government will be vigorous in stopping the conversion of farmlands for commercial development,” Santos told reporters.

Modernization of Philippine agriculture will also help arrest rice scarcity, President Arroyo told international financial and business leaders in Hong Kong also on Monday.

“We have recognized that farming, not just in the Philippines, but in many parts of Asia, needs to be modernized,” the President told an annual investors forum organized by Credit Suisse.

“We have been spending unprecedented amounts in our agricultural sector—irrigation, seed support, research and development,” she said. As such, Mrs. Arroyo added, the country is expecting this year a 7-percent increase in rice production. The bigger harvest, she said, could help the Philippines protect itself against spiraling global food prices.

Rice is a political commodity in the Philippines, and any fluctuations in prices and shortages in supply could potentially rouse unrest, analysts have warned.

Last week, Manila signed a deal with Vietnam to supply 1.5 million metric tons of rice this year to avoid a shortage, and crack down on illegal rice trading, and has also bought stocks from Thailand and Pakistan.

A combination of bad weather in Bangladesh, pests and disease in Vietnam, and political problems in Myanmar—until the 1950s the world’s top rice exporter —has pushed the price close to $1,000 per metric ton.

The level has not been seen since scientific breakthroughs of the “Green Revolution” in the early 1980s boosted yields and has since helped keep prices below $400 per metric ton.

The recent rises had been matched across a range of agricultural commodities, as increased global demand along with a boom in growing crops for fuel instead of food has pushed up prices.

A small demonstration was held near where Mrs. Arroyo was speaking on Monday, the second during her three-day visit to Hong Kong that began Sunday.

Around a thousand overseas Filipinos, mainly domestic workers, on Sunday called on the President to resign over allegations of corruption, economic failures, and extra-judicial killings.

Mrs. Arroyo welcomed a proposal from local government units for them to help distribute and sell government rice, the job of the National Food Authority (NFA).

Eastern Samar Gov. Ben Evar­done, the spokesman for the Union of Local Authorities of the Philippines, said the details of the proposal are being threshed out.

“Basically, the objective of the proposal is to prevent diversion of commercial rice and to ensure access of consumers to NFA supply,” added Evardone, who is with the President in Hong Kong.

The idea also caught on with the country’s Roman Catholic bishops.

Caloocan Bishop Deogracias Iñiguez said he is open to another proposal that the Church help the government distribute rice. He suggested that Malacañang also ask the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of the Philippines itself to join in.

Iñiguez said he sees a need for critical collaboration between the Church and the government in programs intended for the poor.

At present, the Philippines has been losing its farmlands to residential-subdivision and golf-course developers, particularly in areas outside key urban centers, causing the government’s food self-reliance programs to suffer.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics showed that farmlands in 2002 stood at 9.7 million hectares, or 3 percent lower than nearly 10 million a decade before.

The data also showed that agricultural-crop areas in 2005 stood at 4.07 million hectares, down by 1.4 percent, or 56,200 hectares, from 4.126 million the previous year. Areas planted to palay also fell to 4.07 million hectares in 2005, from 4.13 million in 2004, with 50 percent of the total of the agricultural-crop areas declining in the same period.

Santos said President Arroyo will also order the Metro Manila Development Authority to lift the truck ban for those delivering basic commodities.

“Lifting the truck ban will help lower the prices of basic commodities,” he added.--Darwin G. Amojelar, Angelo S. Samonte, Anthony Vargas, Sammy Martin And Afp

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Empire East launches transit-oriented projects

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

Middle-income residential condominium developer Empire East Land Holdings Inc. announced Monday the simultaneous launching of its three “transit-oriented” projects within Metro Manila.

In a statement, the Alliance Global Group Inc. unit said its new projects that include San Lazaro Place in Makati City, Pioneer Woodlands in Mandaluyong City and Little Baguio Terraces in San Juan City are all connected to mass transit systems.

The four-tower San Lazaro Place has a direct connection to the Magallanes MRT. It will also have a retail component at the ground floor and is being marketed under the Empire East Elite brand.

Pioneer Woodlands, on the other hand, has a concourse level that connects residents directly to the Boni MRT station. Little Baguio Terraces is a six-tower residential condominium project that is accessible to Gilmore and Ruiz stations of LRT2 through a private road that will link Aurora Boulevard to N. Domingo St.

ELI was mum on the development costs of these projects and said in an e-mail “the management declined to give an estimate.” -- Likha C. Cuevas-Miel

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DA targets 2M hectares of new lands until 2010

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 [ sunstar.com.ph ]

A TOTAL of 2,047,400 hectares of new lands are being targeted for agribusiness by the Department of Agriculture (DA) from 2005 to 2010, the DA reported.

DA reported that the hectares of new lands for agribusiness are expected to generate at least 2,810,710 new jobs by 2010.

The target, DA said, is in line with President Gloria-Macapagal-Arroyo's Ten Point Agenda under the Medium Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP) 2005-2010, which is also known as Goal 1.

It was learned that aside from the DA, the Departments of Land Reform (DLR) and Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) are also tasked to spearhead the development of the new lands.

The MTPDP, meanwhile, defines "new lands" as "idle or underutilized lands with potential for agricultural and fishery production (e.g. public lands, government owned properties, military reservations, alienable and disposable lands, private individual and corporate lands, CARP areas); new and existing agricultural areas which will be developed for intercropping of high value crops and diversification of livestock and fisheries (e.g., coconut areas and mango orchards); and off-shore and inland bodies of water for aquaculture and mariculture development (including areas for fish cages and seaweeds)."

Agribusiness, on the other hand, is defined as "the sum of all activities that occurs in a farming system that includes farm inputs/supply, production, processing and manufacturing, warehousing and storage, distribution, wholesale and retailing of plants, animals, fishery and forest products." It embodies the concept of "seed to shelf" which involves the complete supply chain.

DA also said that the country has a total land area of 29,936,400. Of this, existing area or land with planted crops reached 9,337,598 hectares.

Meanwhile, idle lands in the country are recorded to be at 8,811,240 hectares, while other lands are recorded to be at 11,787,562 hectares.

Lands with planted crops and idle lands are the available lands in the country for agribusiness. (JGRS)

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Subic chief cites $250-M Korean leisure project

Vol. XXI, No. 170 [ Business World Online ]
Tuesday, April 01, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

A KOREAN FIRM has committed to spend $250 million in initial investments to develop a property in Subic Bay Freeport into a leisure facility.

Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) Administrator Armand C. Arreza said the company, which he did not name, is acquiring a 400-hectare property in Half Moon Bay in Olongapo and will start construction within the year. "This project will include a beach, golf course, retirement facilities, among others. It’s going to be integrated. The company is now finalizing the acquisition of the land for $25 million," he said in an interview.

The company is expected to beef up its initial investment over the next four to five years, Mr. Arreza said.

Another site that is up for development is Minanga Bay. "We are in the process of attracting investors for this. We are eyeing to have two 72-hole golf courses here."

Taiwanese companies, meanwhile, plan two hospitals — one with 120 beds and another with 100 beds — that are expected to boost medical tourism.

SBMA data showed that investments in the free port increased by about 17.6% to $1.67 billion last year from $1.42 billion in 2006.

For the first two months of the year, the agency approved 30 new projects with combined investments of $12.3 million, 7% higher than the same period in 2007.

"Given this growing investment trend that started two years ago, when Subic breached the $1-billion year-end total, chances are we’d get a higher investment output for the third succeeding year," Mr. Arreza said in a statement.

Ten new projects worth $6.2 million were approved in January while 20 other commitments worth $6.1 million were recorded in February.

SBMA data showed Korea-based Hanafil Golf & Tour, Inc. pledged $3 million in new investments to put up and operate various recreational facilities. This was followed by Malaysian firm Palmgold Int’l Ltd. with investments of $1.9 million for a gaming project, while Grand Pillar International Development, Inc. committed $1.9 million to acquire and develop real estate properties in Subic. — B. S. Sto. Domingo

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Bacoor applies 4-day workweek summer

Tuesday, April 01, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

BACOOR, Cavite: The local government announced the implementation of a four-day work week up to May 30, with business transactions at the municipal hall starting at 8 a.m. up to 7 p.m. from Mondays until Thursdays.

However, critical services like health and police work will remain on an on-going or 24-hour basis.

“We are implementing this scheme this summer in order to save on energy,” explained Mayor Strike Revilla. “We try to come up with various creative and practical ways to save some money for the local government while helping conserve on the utilization of non-renewable energy resources,” added the maverick mayor.

Employees of the local government who also wish to take advantage of the longer daylight hours this summer while getting an extra day off on Fridays support the move.

Revilla also announced a new set of telephone trunk lines for the municipal hall of Bacoor. The first two numbers to call, said the mayor, are: (046) 5711971 and (046) 5711891. Callers may then ask for the local number of the department they wish to contact with.

Two additional numbers for the trunk lines will be announced later after the full completion of the PABX system recently installed in the municipal hall.

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Total SCTEx project cost is P27.2B

[ journal.com.ph ] April 1, 2008

The state-owned Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said that the project cost of the Subic-Clark-Tarlac Expressway (SCT Expressway) is P27.2 billion. This includes the costs of three additional interchanges and access roads, right-of-way, consultancy and project management and financing expenses.

BCDA vice president for finance Victor Zablan made the announcement to correct misimpressions on the 93.7-kilometer toll road triggered by erroneous and persistent reports that bloated the project cost to P60.5 billion.

The BCDA official also clarified that out of the P27.2 billion total project cost, P22.63 billion is the direct cost, meaning expenses incurred for civil construction works on the country’s longest tollway. The SCT Expressway connects two major economic zones in Central Luzon,”the Subic Bay Freeport Zone in Zambales and the Clark Freeport Zone in Pampanga. From Clark, the tollroad stretches up to La Paz, Tarlac.

The indirect costs of P3.34 billion include land acquisition, consultancy services, project management expenses and taxes and duties. Financing costs of P1.23 billion include the Department of Finance (DOF) guarantee fee and Japan Bank for International Cooperation (JBIC) loan interest charges during the construction period.

President Arroyo ordered the construction of the three additional interchanges in response to the clamor of various groups for direct access to the SCT Expressway, bringing the total number of interchanges from 8 to 11.

Effective project management and supervision by BCDA officials, including the BCDA Board, has made possible the completion of the project within the target schedule and within budget, including expected cost savings of not less than P500 million,” Zablan said.

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Alternative dispute resolution urged for land conflicts

Vol. XXI, No. 169 [ Business World Online ]
Monday, March 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

CALATAGAN, BATANGAS — A day after the Sumilao farmers and San Miguel Corp. (SMC) inked a deal on a 144-hectare land in Bukidnon, Malacañang is encouraging parties with land conversion disputes to resort to alternative modes of conflict resolution.

Calling the Sumilao agreement a "model" case in dispute resolution, Executive Secretary Eduardo R. Ermita said contending parties under a similar situation should try their best to settle their differences among themselves.

"There is such thing as an exhaustion of all legal remedies and that is with the courts. There is also an exhaustion of administrative remedies and that is when [the case reached] the Office of the President. Indeed, [the compromise involving the Sumilao farm land] should be a model so that other similar cases could very well result in the same manner," he said in a press conference.

On Saturday, the Sumilao farmers and SMC signed a memorandum of agreement that ended the decade-old quest of displaced Sumilao farmers to regain their land.

Under the agreement, SMC agreed to release to qualified farmers by a deed of donation 50 hectares within the original 144 hectares.

SMC will then acquire 94 additional hectares outside the original property.

The government will buy the 94 hectares from SMC and will, in turn, sell these to the farmers who would pay the land in 30 years. — ADBR

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Clark wins ‘Airport of the Year’ award

By Ding Cervantes
Monday, March 31, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga – The Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here bagged the “Airport of the Year” award together with Singapore’s world-class Changi International Airport during the 2008 Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Aerospace and Defense Awards held last March 14 in Singapore, the Clark International Airport Corp. (CIAC) said yesterday.

“In recognition of its past year performance and expansion efforts, Frost & Sullivan awards the 2008 Frost & Sullivan Asia Pacific Airport of the Year Award for the airport serving below 15 million annual passengers category to DiosdadoMacapagal International Airport,” the citation given to the DMIA said.

Two years ago, the DMIA also won the “Low Cost Airport of the Year 2006 Award” from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA).

This, developed as the CIAC announced yesteray that “two multi-billion peso logistics projects comprising a logistics park and a maintenance, repair and overhaul facilities” will soon rise at the DMIA.

CIAC president Victor Jose Luciano will sign the agreements on these projects with the Singapore Airlines Engineering Co. (SIAEC) and the Kuwait Gulf and Link (KGL) of Kuwait during the inauguration of the expanded passenger terminal of the DMIA in time for the President Arroyo’s birthday on April 4.

Luciano said KGL will establish a “global gateway logistics park located at Industrial Estate Five initially costing $25 million, while SIAEC of Singapore will set up a $100-million, 10-hectare maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) facility at the aviation complex here.

CIAC said the DMIA got the “Airport of the Year” award in the category of airports that could serve less than 15 million passengers a year, while Singapore’s Changi got it in the category of those capable of serving over 15 million passengers annually. Luciano received the award during the ceremonies in Singapore.

Luciano said “the citation came at a time when the DMIA has been experiencing an unprecedented growth in aviation-related projects and passenger volume.”

Frost & Sullivan is a leading research company in the world with over 26 global offices with more than 1,500 industry consultants, market research analysts, technology analysts and economists. The company was founded in 1961 and has done research in aerospace and defense, automotive and transportation, chemicals, materials and food, energy and power systems, environmental and building technologies, health care, industrial automation and electronics, and information and communication technologies.

The Chhatrapati Shivaji International Airport in Mumbai, India was chosen the “Aeronautical Excellence Airport of the Year” award while Changi Airports International was chosen “Airport Investment Company of the Year.”

The other awardess were Japan Airlines for “Widest Route Coverage of the Year,” Air Asia for “Airline Market Penetration Leadership of the Year” and Singapore Airlines as “Airline of the Year.”

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Warring BF Homes groups hold separate polls

By Michael Punongbayan
Monday, March 31, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

Two supposedly successful homeowners’ elections by warring United BF Homeowners Association Inc. (UBFHAI) officials and members were held in BF Homes Parañaque over the weekend.

Both camps claim to have had the support of residents, who remain confused on which group to support.

UBFHAI president Celso Reyes said their group was able to successfully hold general elections supervised by the organization’s election committee (Elecom) last Saturday.

He said he was re-elected while Alfred de Leon was elected vice president, Al Lopez as secretary, Vangie Yuboco as auditor, and Tudy Yotoko as public relations officer.

Reyes said newly-elected officials of their UBFHAI faction were duly proclaimed by elecom members and will officially assume their posts tomorrow.

“I was re-elected by 36 association presidents,” he said noting that the organization currently has 68 smaller homeowner’s group heads.

On the other hand, former UBFHAI president Rolando Navarro said sectoral elections conducted by members of the management committee (mancom) created by the Housing and Land Use Regulatory Board (HLURB) were also successful.

According to him, 11 out of the 15 sectors of the UBFHAI participated in the process while only a handful joined that of Reyes.

“Our elections was supervised and witnessed by the HLURB. Majority of the 15 sectors participated,” Navarro told The STAR.

He said the mancom’s general election of officers will be held on April 12, adding that “for delicadeza,” he will not run for president.

He dubbed the other group’s act of calling and conducting their own elections as another move that directly violates orders of the HLURB.

“Stubborn,” Navarro described Reyes and the latter’s supporters, whom he has accused of engaging in allegedly questionable financial transactions that suggest misuse of funds.

Antonio Antonio, one of the members of the mancom, said the issue is all about who has the authority to call and conduct UBFHAI elections.

“We will use that against them. That is a complete violation of the commissioner’s directive,” he said, referring to HLURB Commissioner Romulo Fabul’s Feb. 29 order reaffirming earlier resolutions naming the mancom as the only authorized body tasked to call and conduct UBFHAI polls.

“All illegal. They do not have authority. They say that their case is on appeal, appeal does not give them authority,” Antonio stressed.

Reyes, in reaction, said “they are supervised by HLURB, we are supervised by the elecom,” stressing that the graft case against them before the HLURB – which was the basis for the creation of the mancom last year – has been brought before the attention of the Office of the President and is under appeal.

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GMA cites need to extend CARP

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] March 31, 2008
By DAVID CAGAHASTIAN


President Arroyo yesterday reiterated the need to extend the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP) to distribute over one million hectares of agricultural lands yet to be covered by the land reform program.

Mrs. Arroyo made the endorsement for the extension of CARP at the presentation in Malacañang of the memorandum of agreement between San Miguel Foods Inc. and the Sumilao farmers to resolve a dispute over the 144 hectares of land in Sumilao, Bukidnon.

"Nakikita ng mga mamamayan na gumagana ang land reform kaya kailangang ma-extend ang land reform," she said after her meeting with representatives of the Sumilao farmers in Malacañang.

Mrs. Arroyo had certified as urgent the bill extending the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law (CARL) for 10 years after it expires on June 10, 2008.

The Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) said almost seven million hectares of agricultural lands have been distributed to over four million farmer-beneficiaries under CARP, but over a million more hectares have yet to be distributed to another two million beneficiaries.

San Miguel and the Sumilao farmers signed a compromise agreement to resolve a dispute over 144 hectares of land in Sumilao, Bukidnon, now owned and being developed into a multi-million peso hog farm by San Miguel.

Under the agreement, San Miguel would give 50 hectares of the original disputed land, and acquire 94 hectares outside but adjacent to the disputed land to give to the Sumilao farmers the complete 144 hectares of land they demand.

The farmers are now identifying their preferred parcels of land outside the original disputed property from a list provided by San Miguel.

The agreement was signed by Ramon Ang and Francisco Alejo for San Miguel; Antonio Medina, representative of original owner Norberto Quisumbing; Samuel Merida, Larry Carjo, Mercy Serona, and Napoleon Merida Jr. for the Sumilao farmers; DAR Secretary Nasser Pangandaman, and Secretary Conrado Limcaoco of the Office of the President.

The Sumilao farmers asked for Mrs. Arroyo’s intervention to regain ownership of the disputed 144 hectare land, and Mrs. Arroyo ordered to revoke a conversion order to revert the land’s classification from agro-industrial to agricultural use.

The revocation was expected to effect the return of ownership of the land to the Sumilao farmers after all legal remedies are exhausted, but the compromise agreement with San Miguel preempts a possible drawn-out legal battle for ownership of the disputed territory.
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Banks face risks in home loans

Vol. XXI, No. 169 [ Business World Online ]
Monday, March 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

WHILE PHILIPPINE banks are not likely to suffer from subprime-related problems in the US, they may be prone to risks in residential lending because of the market’s high volatility, analysts said.

Victor A. Abola, an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said that while Philippine financial institutions have very little exposure to subprime-related instruments, they are prone to risks in residential lending.

"There’s very little exposure to subprime-related instruments. Were very insulated," he said.

"However, financial institutions all over the world have become risk averse. Local banks are risk averse to corporate lending. Everybody’s into consumer lending. There are not a lot of avenues where they can put their money, so profits will not be so big this year."

"They might be prone to risks in residential lending. This market is highly volatile," he added.

Claro Cordero, a property consultant at Leechiu & Associates, noted a higher level of risk aversion among banks.

"I think the level of risk aversion has gone up. Real estate firms are studying their options, banks have been issuing stricter requirements," he said.

Ryan Isip, a property consultant at CB Richard Ellis, said that banks are facing a slew of bad loans owing to more loan takeouts and longer payment terms.

He noted that average lending rates have gone down from an average of 11% in 2006-2007 to only 6% to 9% in this year, spurring more borrowings, while loan terms have become lenient, extending beyond 10 years.

"We see an increase in banks’ bad loans because of increased lending and availablity of finance. We see this happening for the next three years," he said.

Data from the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas showed that the outstanding loans of commercial banks, thrift banks, and rural banks In January expanded by 9.3% compared to the 5.8% growth registered in the same month a year ago.

Emilio Antonio Jr., also an economist at the University of Asia and the Pacific, said that the risk in real estate lending this year may also be caused by the strengthening of the peso and its impact on overseas Filipino workers.

"If there is any risk in real estate lending, it is the strengthening of the peso because after all, OFWs mostly pay for it (residential loans). But then, these risks are still manageable," he said.

BSP data showed that banks’ real estate exposure widened last year. — Czeriza S. S. Valencia

Real estate exposure in form of loans and investments in equities rose to P225.8 billion as of end-December, up P5.8 billion from the previous quarter, and from P220 billion in 2006.

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Call centers merge

Vol. XXI, No. 169 [ Business World Online ]
Monday, March 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

THE SECURITIES and Exchange Commission has approved the merger of The Resource Group (TRG) Philippines, Inc. and wholly owned subsidiary Callworx Philippines, Inc., documents from the corporate regulator showed.

In a plan of merger executed last December, the board of directors of the two business process outsourcing (BPO) companies said the merger would result in economy of scale and efficiency of operations. TRG Philippines will be the surviving entity.

"The companies have determined that it is to their best interest to merge into one corporation and that such merger will be mutually advantageous and will redound to the benefit and welfare of TRG Philippines and Callworx and their respective shareholders Considering Callworx is a wholly owned subsidiary of TRG and both corporations are engaged in the same line of business, a duplication of functions and activities of the constituent corporation will be eliminated," it said.

Capitalized at P150 million, TRG Philippines has negative shareholders equity of P56.72 million since liabilities exceeded assets, at P146.72 million and P90 million, respectively, as of September.

Callworx has lower capitalization of P5 million. It also has negative shareholders equity of P84.78 million as a result of a P95.64-million liability and only P15.86 million in assets.

"Since on the effective date of merger, Callworx is wholly owned by TRG, no TRG shares will be issued to TRG as stockholder of the absorbed corporation pursuant to sound corporate practice," the merger plan said.

In 2006, TRG, a Washington-based business process outsourcing firm, inaugurated a 36,000-square feet and four-floor facility at the Hanston Building in Ortigas Center, with 850 seats and 700 workers. Callworx had 220 seats. — Ruby Anne M. Rubio

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FDIs in Mindanao rise 7% in ’07

Vol. XXI, No. 169 [ Business World Online ]
Monday, March 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

DAVAO CITY — Despite adverse advisories from foreign governments, Mindanao cornered about P1.833 billion in foreign direct investment (FDIs) commitments last year, about seven percent more than the P1.712 billion recorded in 2006, the Mindanao Economic Development Council (MEDCo) reported last week.

Virgilio L. Leyretana, MEDCo chairman, in a forum late last week at the SM City Davao, attributed this to a "relatively peaceful environment" on the island which countered the formerly wide-spread impression of the entire Mindanao beset by violence. "Where there is peace, there is development," he said.

This, even as the seven percent growth last year paled in comparison to the 29.7% nationwide growth to P215.2 billion last year from 165.9 billion in 2006.

Mr. Leyretana said MEDCo tracking, based on data from the Board of Investments, showed a rise in FDI commitments since three years ago. He said that China has emerged as an increasingly key investor in Mindanao’s development. Most of these Chinese investments involved metal exploration, specifically projects in Zamboanga Peninsula, Davao and Caraga regions.

In previous years, Japanese firms involved in agribusiness were among the biggest investors, supporting expansion of banana plantations here. Last week, Sheik Adnan A. Zainy of the Saudi firm Abbar and Zainy Group said his firm is looking at putting in up to $60 million into the Philippines, including investments in banana plantations all over Davao Region and Central Mindanao, which has been the base of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front that is now in peace talks with the government.

Mindanao leaders have previously expressed concerns that foreign investors will continue to shy away from Mindanao because of travel advisories issued by several foreign governments. The Davao City Chamber of Commerce and Industry last year passed a resolution asking embassies to be specific in their travel advisories. — CQF

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Palawan to get P2.6 billion in royalties from Malampaya yield

Vol. XXI, No. 169 [ Business World Online ]
Monday, March 31, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

PALAWAN, host of the country’s largest oil and gas find, soon stands to get P2.6 billion in royalties from Malampaya revenues, notwithstanding a court case on local and national government shares.

Two years after forging an interim agreement with the national government, Palawan Governor Mario Joel T. Reyes said the Budget department has started issuing special allotment release orders (SARO) equivalent to about 20% of Malampaya royalties last year. The 2.6 billion is being released in two tranches, with the second tranche of SAROs to be handed by June at the latest, he told reporters last week.

President Gloria M. Arroyo affirmed the agreement via Executive Order (EO) 386, and paved the way for a "pork barrel" arrangement by which officials are allowed to identify projects per district.

"Without prejudice to the pending case in the Supreme Court, both parties have agreed to split the 40%," said Mr. Reyes. "This is a win-win situation for the meantime while the case is dragging."

Palawan, arguing it "houses" the offshore gas and oil field, wants 40% of the government’s revenues from the Malampaya project in a case now pending at the Supreme Court.

But the national government, represented by the Energy department, maintains the natural gas field’s site is beyond the 15-kilometer municipal line.

The Malampaya service contract (SC) earns for the government about $500 million-$600 million annually, representing nearly two-thirds of revenues from the gas field’s operations. The SC, which covers 2002-2022, is operated by Shell Philippines Exploration BV.

Mr. Reyes said the interim agreement and the EO signify the national government’s commitment to the province. In fact, he added, the government plans to use its own share of the disputed 40% to boost the province’s Annual Investment Plan, geared towards firming up the tourism business and specifically focused on airport and road projects.

The Palawan government will divide the money as: P900 million for the provincial government, P816 million for the first congressional district, about P600 million for the second district, and P270 million for the capital Puerto Princesa City.

With the SARO on hand, the Palawan government may already commence bidding processes for any of its projects.

Mr. Reyes added that the provincial government plans to securitize revenues claimed from past and future operations. It aims to convert the Malampaya revenues into collateral which will be used to back up state borrowings via the sale of bonds or debt papers.

The securitization scheme met stiff opposition from the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund and the Asian Development Bank when first announced in 2001. The multilateral lending agencies said it may violate the government’s loan agreements with the two institutions, and perhaps "adversely affect" the government’s capacity to repay loans from these funds.

Energy Secretary Angelo T. Reyes reserved his comment when asked about the proposal recently.

Some P12 billion, the past royalty share that Palawan claims, is currently held in escrow.

"Palawan’s resources are being used, so why shouldn’t we have a share from [revenues]?" asked Mr. Reyes, who also plans to develop the province as a center for alternative fuels.

It is already home to traditional petroleum exploration and production, with a number of oil and gas fields.

The Philippine National Oil Co., via subsidiaries Exploration Corp. and Alternative Fuels Corp., is represented in various projects in the area. — Maria Kristina C. Conti

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German bank to fund MRT-3 expansion

Monday, March 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]
By Chino S. Leyco Reporter

A EUROPEAN commercial bank is willing to finance the capacity expansion of the congested Metro Rail Transit Line 3 (MRT-3), the Department of Finance said Friday.

Finance Undersecretary Roberto Tan told reporters that WestLB AG will offer financing for the winning bidder of the project, adding access to this loan would depend on the fate of the plan.

“They [WestLB] are just saying that they are willing to finance it. [But] we will give this to [the] best offer. I’m sure there will be other offers,” Tan said, without providing details of the financial package.

“DOTC [Department of Transportation and Communication] wants it as soon as possible, hopefully at the end of the year,” he added.

Almost eight years after the MRT-3 started running, the government is set to buy out its assets from a group of investors led by the Metro Rail Transit Corp. (MRTC) ahead of the contract termination date, purportedly to save on hundred millions of dollars in state subsidies a year.

The idea of buying out the rail transit was raised after the government expressed difficulties financing the P48 per passenger subsidy for the train’s operations. With a daily ridership ranging from 420,000 to 430,000, the government pays at least P20.46 million a day given the minimum fare of P10 per passenger.

Despite the government’s plan, MRTC will pursue the capacity expansion.

Robert John Sobrepeña, MRTC chairman, had said that within the next two years, 30 new train cars would be added, while another 48 cars would be purchased five years thereafter.

Last year, the government already signed the $865-million deal to acquire the operation of MRT 3, which would yield it $380 million in savings. If the government failed to buy back MRT 3, it will have to pay $10 million a month by 2010.

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Caticlan -Manila route to Boracay now open

Monday, March 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

BORACAY ISLAND: With the surge of tourists in this island resort, shipping company Negros Navigation (Nenaco) revived its Caticlan-Manila trips using the newly refurbished M/S Saint Joseph the Worker vessel, reported Panay News.

The ship’s recent blessing was attended by Nenaco Chief Executive Officer (CEO) Sulficio Tagud Jr. at Pier 2 in Metro Manila.

Nenaco Corporate Communications Head Gian Galvez said M/S Saint Joseph the Worker is a “fun ship” that would suit budget-conscious tourists. There will be comedy acts, concerts, parties, games and other entertainment features on board.

“We expect to serve more local and foreign tourists in the Visayas and Mindanao at very affordable rates,” Galvez said.

The ship had its maiden voyage to Caticlan on Friday.

“An alternate vessel, M/S San Paolo, already made its maiden voyage to Caticlan on March 20 (Holy Thursday). It will sail every Thursday, while M/S Saint Joseph sails every Friday” Galvez said.

In Manila, free shuttle service will be provided passengers from Alabang, Cubao and Baclaran going to Pier 2, likewise to passengers from Kalibo going to Caticlan.

Nenaco also serves Bacolod, Iloilo, Roxas, Coron, Cagayan de Oro, Dipolog, Iligan, Ozamis and other key destinations in Visayas and Mindanao.

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Solon urges end to conversion of farmlands to subdivisions

[ journal.com.ph ] March 30, 2008

BUTIL party-list Rep. Leonila Chavez has appealed to the government to stop the conversion of premier irrigated farmlands into subdivisions and factory sites, saying that this is one way to ensure rice and food production.

“The Philippines is better at producing rice than most countries in Asia. The problem is the recklessness of the conversion of irrigated rice lands into housing; commercial and factory sites. This has decimated the premier lands devoted to rice,” Chavez said.

To date, the Philippines has barely 2 million hectares of fully irrigated rice areas left.

According to Chavez, the unabated conversion of A-1 rice lands into housing, factory and commercial sites is most felt in Central Luzon, which was considered as the “rice granary of the Philippines.”

She lamented that shopping malls and housing developments have been built in former rice fields in Central Luzon and major developers.

Meanwhile, Chavez has proposed the implementation of a crash rice production program patterned after the Green Revolution.

This program will enable the country to produce 20 million metric tons a year, which is enough to supply the domestic needs and the remaining to be put in a buffer stock, Chavez added.

She then expressed opposition to rice importation, which she described as “flawed policy” because it is costly and palliative.

The solon said that with adequate credit, irrigation, hybrid seeds and extension support, the country’s remaining 2million hectares of prime rice lands can be used to produce three crops per year. Jester P. Manalastas

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Manila launches street light project

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] March 30, 2008
By ROY C. MABASA


In line with the city’s beautification drive, Manila is set to light up more streets on main thoroughfares, including bridges spanning the Pasig River, and the stretch of Roxas Boulevard from the United States Embassy to the Manila Yacht Club, where local and foreign tourists witness the famed Manila Bay sunset.

Last Wednesday, Manila Mayor Alfredo Lim switched on the new lights on Jones Bridge as he launched the city’s lighting project which aims to brighten Manila with more lamp posts on streets and other bridges.

Next on schedule are MacArthur Bridge connecting Liwasang Bonifacio to Sta. Cruz, Del Pan Bridge from Port Area to Del Pan, Ayala Bridge going towards Legarda and Malacañang and Lambingan Bridge moving to Sta. Mesa.

Lim has challenged barangay officials to initiate efforts in beautifying their areas of responsibility.

He stressed the need to clean up their places and help the city in maintaining and ensuring that the street lights that have been installed are operational.

Reports said that most of the lights were often non-functional or at times the electrical wirings had been stolen by some unscrupulous individuals who sell them for profit.

"Mayroon kasing ibang mga tao na walang pakialam sa kapwa at ang tanging nasa isip ay iyong makinabang sila sa pamamagitan ng pagnanakaw," a barangay official said.

Earlier this month, the mayor launched the Rizal Avenue-Claro M. Recto Beautification Project with District III Representative Zaida Angping, barangay officials led by Chairman William Changco Lising and some businessmen, including the Federation of Filipino-Chinese Chambers of Commerce Incorporated.

Columns supporting the buildings in Sta. Cruz and Escolta were repainted with bright colors while the streets were swept and watered to clean the stench.

Aside from repainting and the cleaning drive, Lim has also initiated the reopening of several streets which had been ‘pedestrianized,’ among them Rizal Avenue, Muelle Del Rio behind the Bureau of Immigration andNational Press Club, R. Hidalgo and P. Villanueva streets in Quiapo and several others.
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Corporate income tax cut to mean big revenue loss

By Iris C. Gonzales
Sunday, March 30, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

The reduction in corporate income tax from 35 percent to 30 percent next year will mean a revenue loss of P15 billion for the government, Finance Secretary Margarito Teves said.

Teves said that to compensate for the expected dent in revenues, the government will continue to work closely with Congress on legislative tax measures.

“We will continue to work closely with Congress on legislative measures particularly to compensate for the reduction in corporate income tax from 35 percent to 30 percent next year which will result in a P15 billion revenue loss,” Teves said.

The legislative measures include the rationalization of fiscal incentives which hopes to harmonize tax incentives given to investors.

The government will also push for the passage of the measure that would exempt the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR) and the Bureau of Customs (BOC) from the Salary Standardization Law.

The government, through Republic Act 9337 or the Expanded Value Added Tax Act of 2005 jacked up the corporate income tax to 35 percent from 32 percent effective Nov. 2005.

Under the law, the corporate income tax rate would go down to 30 percent starting 2009.

The government hopes to balance the budget this year after decades of posting deficits.

Last year, the government was able to trim the deficit to P12.4 billion or way below the programmed ceiling of P63 billion.

For 2008, the BIR has a revenue target of P845 billion while the BOC has a collection goal of P254 billion.

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Oriental Mindoro starts anti-flood plan

By Juancho Mahusay
Sunday, March 30, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

CALAPAN CITY – Rep. Rodolfo Valencia of Oriental Mindoro’s 1st District had allocate P160 million for the dredging and rehabilitation of major rivers and waterways in the province to prevent floods during rainy season.

Two dredging machines have been ordered from Finland while a secondhand dredging equipment had arrived recently.

Valencia, Governor Arnan Panaligan and the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) have coordinated efforts to get the secondhand dredging machine which was leased from a private contractor in Cavite.

A memorandum of agreement was forged by Valencia, Panaligan and DPWH officials in Oriental Mindoro to lease the dredging machine for P10 million.

Under the program dubbed as the “Desiltation and Rehabilitation of Major Rivers and River Outlets Using Two Dredging Machines From Finland,” Valencia has allotted P160 million for the rehabilitation and repair of local rivers to prevent floods.

Oriental Mindoro will acquire a “hydro dredgers” which will cost at least P17 million.

Based on research conducted by the provincial engineering office on previous calamities that hit the province, the worst disaster was the flood in Naujan where 24 barangays were submerged. Continued rains that lasted for one month caused the overflowing of the Mag-Asawang Tubig, the biggest river in the area, and flooded Naujan communities.

The Oriental Mindoro Sangguniang Panlalawigan a “state of calamity in many barangays in Calapan City, and the towns of Naujan, Victoria and Baco.

One of the engineering interventions to be implemented here is the dredging of the Mag-Asawang Tubig River and rechanneling of its tributaries.

The mouth of the Mag-Asawang Tubig River in Barangay San Antonio in Naujan is already silted and shallow which resulted in the flooding of many low-lying barangays.

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Sumilao farmers ink deal with SMFI


By Marvin Sy and Evelyn Macairan
Sunday, March 30, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

The long march of the farmers of Sumilao, Bukidnon has finally come to an end after they signed an agreement with San Miguel Foods Inc. (SMFI) yesterday over the disputed 144 hectares of agricultural land that they have been claiming.

After weeks of negotiations, the farmers will receive 50 hectares within the contested 144-hectare property through a deed of donation from the SMFI.

The remaining 94 hectares will be taken from other properties in the vicinity of the contested area and will be distributed to the farmers through a Voluntary Offer to Sale under the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The signing of the agreement took place at the San Carlos Seminary in Makati City and was witnessed by Church leaders led by Gaudencio Cardinal Rosales and Auxiliary Archbishop Broderick Pabillo.

The SMFI, represented by San Miguel Corp. (SMC) president and chief operating officer Ramon Ang, signed the agreement with the 144 officials and members of the three farmer-groups from Sumilao, namely Mapadayonong Panaghuisa sa Lumad alang sa Damlag (Mapalad), San Vicente Landless Farmers Association (SALFA) and Panaghiusa sa mga Mag-uumang Nakibisog alang sa Yuta sa Sumilao (PANAW-Sumilao).

Both sides called it a “win-win situation,” with the farmers getting the same size of land while SMFI, a subsidiary of food and beverage giant San Miguel Corp., will continue its hog farm operations on the land it had purchased.

Ang said it was “a happy ending” for both parties.

Ang said the 50-hectare share of the farmers inside the 144-hectare land would be turned over for free and could be occupied immediately.

“All we ask is that we would not be blamed for the problems associated with the property in the past,” Ang said.

He said the remaining 94 hectares would be taken from an adjacent property which would be purchased by SMC on behalf of the farmers.

Rene Penas, one of the Sumilao farmers, said they have already identified 64 hectares of the adjacent property suitable for planting rice.

Penas said the 64-hectare land is irrigated but they would still have to look for another 30 hectares that would suit their needs.

Agrarian Reform Secretary Nasser Pangandaman explained that the 94-hectare property would fall under the CARP and as such would be paid by the farmers over a period of 50 years.

President Arroyo, who met with the farmers at Malacañang yesterday, tasked Pangandaman to identify the beneficiaries of the 50-hectare property within the SMFI land.

DAR has already conducted a technical survey of the land and delineated the parts that would be given to the farmers.

Pangandaman said the process would only take a few weeks since the farmers have a cooperative.

“What we want to avoid is infiltration,” he said.

Pangandaman said the farmers’ group would be able to easily identify their members to facilitate the distribution process.

There are reportedly around 170 families that comprise the Sumilao farmers.

A joint statement released yesterday noted that other qualified beneficiaries from MAPALAD and SALFA would be included in the succeeding processes.

“This will finally vindicate their years of sacrifice and relentless efforts,” the statement said.

Gratitude

All the parties in the negotiations expressed their gratitude to Cardinal Rosales, who had served in Bukidnon for 10 years.

They thanked Rosales for his continued support and for helping the farmers and SMFI reach a compromise over the claims.

Rosales, for his part, told the farmers to thank the Lord for enlightening all those involved in the problem.

He also thanked the farmers for believing that there are people who would always be there to help them.

“This (agreement) is the solution – trust and goodwill. Thank you also for not allowing people to use and tempt you to resort to violence. This is precisely why the Lord continues to bless you,” Rosales told the farmers.

Rosales also extended his gratitude to Ang and SMC for being sincere in their commitment to help the Sumilao farmers find a solution to the land problem.

“He (Ang) wanted to respond and help the farmers. If every problem would be resolved in such a manner then people would not have enemies,” he said.

Rosales also mentioned the help given by Caritas Manila and the Catholic schools that opened their doors to the farmers during their two-month trek from Bukidnon to Manila.

“We celebrate the victory of thousands of pairs of feet that joined us in our journey,” the farmers said. “The thousands of pairs of hands that fed us throughout our Exodus. We celebrate the thousand and one consoling and encouraging words that melted the frustrations and desperations gnawing our hearts and soothed our aching and tired bodies... This day, we celebrate the triumph of solidarity and peaceful communal action,” the farmers said in a statement.

The agreement that embodied the settlement was signed by Ang and Francisco Alejo for SMC and SMFI; Antonio Medina for the Norberto Quisumbing Sr. Management Development Corp (NQSRMD); and Samuel Merida, Larry Carejo, Mercy Serona and Napoleon Merida Jr. for the Sumilao farmers.

The government was represented by Pangandaman and Philippine Information Agency (PIA) chief Conrado Limcaoco, who represented the Office of the President.

Other witnesses to the agreement included former elections chief Christian Monsod, who acted as legal consultant of the Sumilao farmers, along with Arlene Bag-ao and SMFI legal counsel Wilfredo Penaflor.

The memorandum of agreement (MOA) spelled out the implementing guidelines for the basic agreement forged by the parties last March 3 that laid the parameters of the final settlement.

Fr. Anton Pascual of Caritas Manila said a thanksgiving Mass would be held on the disputed farm site in Sumilao when the farmers finally return home.

The long way home

The farmers are scheduled to return to Bukidnon today with President Arroyo offering an Air Force C-130 plane for their trip home.

The farmers had marched all the way from Bukidnon to Manila to dramatize their struggle to win back the land they have tilled for decades.

The property claimed by NQSRMD was placed under CARP in 1995 and was awarded to the MAPALAD farm workers.

It was in 1996 that the land was converted into agro-industrial use by Malacañang, which reverted the property to the Quisumbings.

SMFI came into the picture in 2002 when it bought the disputed property from NQSRMD for purposes of establishing a hog farm.

Since then, the Sumilao farmers have been fighting for the return of the land and started their 1,700-kilometer trek to Manila last October.

The farmers eventually reached Malacañang on Dec. 7 but President Arroyo was out of the country at the time.

It was only on Dec. 17 that the farmers got to meet with the President.

A day after the meeting, the Office of the President revoked a previous order that placed the land under CARP.

The new order reverted the land back to purely agricultural use but this was not immediately implemented after SMFI made an appeal.

Malacañang urged the two parties to come up with a compromise agreement and after almost three months of negotiations, a compromise was finally reached with the help of the Catholic Church.

With the signing of the MOA yesterday, all of the cases related to the land dispute would be dropped as part of the agreement.

In addition, the presidential order on the land would no longer be in effect.

“All protagonists have won. SMC will be able to continue with their project and has also clearly demonstrated that it is a corporation with social responsibility,” according to the statement.

“The farmers will get the land they have sacrificed and worked for through many years with a promise of a better life for their families,” it added.

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