PHILIPPINE REAL ESTATE and RELATED NEWS in and around the country . . .
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Single land agency endorsed

Vol. XXII, No. 5 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Friday, August 1, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

THREE HOUSE committees have approved early this week the creation of a single agency for land administration.

In a joint hearing on Tuesday, the committees on government reorganization, natural resources, and justice approved the consolidated version of 10 bills seeking to merge the Land Registration Authority and Registry of Deeds under the Department of Justice, Land Management Bureau and Land Management Service under the Department of Environment and Natural Resources, and the National Mapping and Resources Information Authority and Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program secretariat. They will all be under the proposed Land Administration Authority (LAA).

The LAA will ensure the equitable distribution and full development of alienable or disposable lands, and rationalize land administration.

The LAA will be under the Office of the President.

The bill vests to LAA the sole authority to prepare, issue and register all land titles pursuant to Commonwealth Act 141, and future land registrations, including all types of tenure instruments under Republic Act (RA) 6657 or the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Law and RA 8371 or the Indigenous People’s Rights Act.

It was agreed upon during a hearing early this week that all officials and employees of affected agencies will continue to hold office until such time that the regular LAA staff shall have been appointed. Officials and employees who will be integrated in the LAA will not be increased and no new hiring will be allowed until the transition is complete. — ETM

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Credit crunch hits realty brokers

NEW YORK — Tight capital markets that are restricting lending helped dramatically drive down earnings of two of the biggest real estate service companies, CB Richard Ellis Group, Inc. and Jones Lang LaSalle, Inc., the companies said on Tuesday.

Shares of CB Richard Ellis, the world’s largest commercial real estate brokerage, fell by 12% in after-hours trading.

Tighter lending standards have made borrowing for commercial real estate purchases either difficult and expensive or downright impossible. In the United States, commercial real estate sales have dropped by around 70%.

Most of the deals getting done are either seller-financed or already have assumable mortgage debt. More often, unless they are financially strapped, owners are refusing to sell at the prices that the higher financing costs demand.

The lower volume of sales has crimped property brokers’ fees and commissions.

After the market close, Jones Lang said its quarterly profits had tumbled by more than two-thirds to $24.5 million, or 73 cents a share, from $77.9 million, or $2.23 per share a year earlier.

At CB Richard Ellis Group, second-quarter net income plunged by 88% to $16.6 million, or 8 cents per share, from $141.1 million, or 59 cents per share.

Excluding one-time charges, Los Angeles-based CB Richard Ellis would have earned $33.2 million, or 16 cents per share, compared with $157.3 million, or 66 cents last year, still far from the 44 cents analysts on average had expected, according to Reuters Estimates.

Jones Lang LaSalle trailed estimates of 99 cents a share.

However, Jones Lang LaSalle saw more pluses than minuses during the quarter, and its shares were flat at $56.73 in after-hours activity. CB Richard Ellis shares dropped to $16.36 in after-hours trading from its earlier New York close of $18.65.

In addition to the stifled sales market, CB Richard Ellis traced the dismal second-quarter performance to less leasing activity, especially in the United States and Britain.

Its overall second-quarter revenue fell by 13% to $1.3 billion, below the $1.42 billion analysts had predicted, according to Reuters Estimates.

"As we had anticipated, the leasing business turned down from the strong first quarter, especially in the Americas and the UK, reflecting weak economic activity and decreasing business confidence," CB Richard Ellis Chief Executive Brett White said in a statement.

"Investment sales activity remained quite soft due to a broadening of the credit market turmoil and a continuing gap between buyer and seller expectations of property values," he said.

"Decreased investment volumes have now become evident in all parts of the world," he added.

But Chicago-based Jones Lang LaSalle said leasing had supported its results. It reported overall revenue that fell just by 2% to $660 million, beating Wall Street’s forecast of $646.7 million. Revenue from leasing activity rose by almost a quarter to $163 million.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s results were hurt more by operating expenses that rose by 8%, chiefly because of costs associated with 13 acquisitions it had completed in 2007.

"We are focused on driving our expenses to appropriately reflect current operating conditions, while maintaining leadership positions in capital markets and hotels to respond to the anticipated needs of the market place," Chief Executive Colin Dyer said in a statement.

CB Richard Ellis saw revenue fall in the Americas, Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia, while Jones Lang LaSalle saw the reverse: revenue in the Americas and Europe, the Middle East and Africa rose.

Revenue from Asia fell from a year earlier, when the company received a significant advisory fee for hotel sales there.

Jones Lang LaSalle’s LaSalle Investment Management, which advises and manages investments of institutional investors, generated 34% more fees in the second quarter, principally due to an 18% increase in assets under management to $54.1 billion.

But CB Richard Ellis’s Global Investment Management segment saw revenue fall by half, including a write-down of $11.9 million for two investments whose market value had declined.

Both companies said a bright spot was their management business, in which they manage the property needs for large global companies.

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Consortium backs out of LRT loop part

Vol. XXII, No. 5 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Friday, August 1, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

THE CONSORTIUM formed by Lopez-led First Balfour, Inc. and the Consunjis’ DMCI Holdings, Inc. has abandoned its bid for the computer and electronic component of the Light Rail Transit (LRT) loop project, citing the project’s constrictive budget.

In an interview, First Balfour Senior Vice-President Rey G. Villar said the company would not bid for the project anymore since it had ceased to become a profitable investment.

Construction of packages A1, A2 and B covering the main structures of the project worth P5.9 billion — awarded to the DMCI-First Balfour consortium — started on July 9. Bidding for package C of the project, which involves installation of signal and wiring equipment, failed in April after DMCI-First Balfour, the only party qualified to join the bidding then, did not submit documents.

Light Rail Transit Authority (LRTA) Administrator Melquidades A. Robles told BusinessWorld there were challenges in the pricing of the final phase of the project, having been quoted two years ago.

He said prices of copper and steel — two main components of package C — had gone up to unexpected levels. But the fact that there are still bidders means that there is no need to revise the project’s budget, he added. Mr. Robles said the whole LRT loop project is "still on schedule." LRT officials expect the link to be completed in time for the next presidential elections in May 2010.

Meanwhile, a unit of the country’s largest power distributor, the Meralco (Manila Electric Co.) Industrial Engineering Services Corp. (MIESCOR), plans to bid for the project.

"We can do [the project] 100%... We have the capability and track record," said a MIESCOR official who did not want to be identified.

He said the firm was still estimating the costs, adding that they have until Aug. 19 to submit an offer to the LRTA. The decision to bid for the project would still depend on the potential profit, the official said, adding that they would not compromise the quality of construction to cut costs.

He declined to comment on whether the company would ask the government to revise the budget. Several firms have also expressed interest in the project, Mr. Robles said.

The LRT loop will connect the LRT-1, which runs from Baclaran to Monumento, with the Metro Rail Transit (MRT-3), which traverses EDSA from Pasay City to North Avenue in Quezon City. The P6.4-billion project that will connect the two lines through the LRT-1’s Monumento station in Caloocan and the MRT-3’s North Avenue station is meant to alleviate traffic in the metropolis. — Paolo Luis G. Montecillo

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MPIC to operate Cardinal Santos Medical Center

Friday, August 01, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

METRO Pacific Investments Corp. (MPIC) secured a temporary contract to manage and operate the Cardinal Santos Medical Center.

In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, MPIC said it would assume the operation and management of the hospital for six months.

Cardinal Santos is a 212-bed tertiary hospital situated in a three-hectare property along Wilson Street, San Juan City. The land as well as the hospital is owned by the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Manila.

MPIC said the Manila Archbishop’s office asked the company and its affiliate Medical Doctors Inc. (MDI) to handle the interim operation in preparation for the next long-term operator. MDI owns the Makati Medical Center.

At present, MPIC owns 33 percent of Makati Medical Center, which has around 600 beds.

In August 1988, the Manila Archbishop’s office, then represented by the late Jaime Cardinal Sin, entered into a Joint Apostolate Agreement with Hospital Managers Inc. (HMI) to operate Cardinal Santos for an initial 10 years, and later renewed for an additional 10 years. The agreement expired on July 31, 2008.-- Katrina Mennen A. Vadez

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Land reform goes on giving lands to tenants

PIA Press Release
2008/08/01

Tagum City, Davao del Norte (1 August) -- Lands are now being owned by many small farmers, no longer by the few rich through the agrarian reform program.

The agrarian reform program implementation in Davao del Norte and in Compostela have so far benefited almost 80,000 small farmers who were once tenants of the more than 106,000 hectare-lands which have been distributed to them.

Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR) Provincial Information Officer Dolly Amaut in an interview said a total of 54,827 hectares of lands in Davao del Norte have been given to 39,010 beneficiaries as of December 2007.

In Compostela Valley, a total of 37,191 farmers have become land owners with the distribution of 52,486 hectares of land as of December 2007.

For this year, DAR Davao del Norte is eyeing to give out 1,992 hectares of lands to a total of 1,328 beneficiaries while the same office in Compostela Valley targets to turn over 1,563 hectares to a total of 1,045 beneficiaries.

Amaut said DAR provincial offices in Davao del Norte and Compostela Valley will work out to the fullest to hit the set target of land distribution this year.

In her 8th State-of-the-Nation Address (SONA) President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo said the government has distributed 854,000 hectares of private lands, 797,000 of public lands and that Certificates of Ancestral Domain were given for 525,000 hectares of ancestral lands.

"Sa SONA noong 2001, sinabi ko, bawat taon, mamamahagi tayo ng dalawang daang libong ektaryang sa reporma sa lupa. Di hamak mahigit sa target ang naipamahagi natin sa nakaraang pitong taon," she said.

Arroyo vowed to do what she could to help raise the standard of living of the urban and the rural poor and that she would not allow farmers to be under the manipulation of usurers.

"Agrarian reform should not merely subdivide misery, it must raise living standards," The President said in her speech. (PIA/JMDA)

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Firm offers Calatagan farmers 100 hectares of disputed land

By Katherine Adraneda
Friday, August 1, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

A private company planning to put up a cement factory on a 2,000-hectare property in Calatagan, Batangas is reportedly offering farmers 100 hectares of the disputed land.

Environment and Natural Resources Secretary Lito Atienza said Asturias Chemicals Industries Inc. is amenable to setting aside a 100-hectare portion of the disputed property as relocation site for 98 farmers who still refuse to sell their emancipation patents to the company.

In a press conference yesterday, Atienza said the contested property remains classified as “mineralized” to this day and that his department can no longer do anything to change the classification since the Supreme Court (SC) has already ruled on the issue.

Atienza said the issue surrounding the Calatagan property is no longer legal, as the SC’s ruling on the matter has become final and executory.

“What we are working on right now is to help the affected settlers assert their rights… to avail themselves of the maximum benefits that they could have, including possibly just compensation for those who have decided to sell their piece of land,” he said.

“We are threshing out benefits and possibilities to uplift their lives there because I have been there several times and witnessed how hard life is for the people there… they have very poor roads and lack many basic amenities,” he added.

Atienza said the government is eyeing to improve the road system and put up schools and health services, among others, for the affected residents of Barangays Baha and Talibayog, with the help of Asturias.

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Council appeals for freeze on land use conversion in Puerto Princesa

Friday, August 01, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

PUERTO PRINCESA: Fearing approval of a huge number of applications to convert valuable forest and timberland which they had nurtured and protected from destruction for decades to alienable and disposable land, the Puerto Princesa City Council has asked the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) to order a moratorium in processing of these land applications and the issuance of special land use permits.

Now a highly-urbanized city, Puerto Princesa has a land area of 254,000 hectares making it the biggest city in the country in terms of land area. However, most of its land area is comprised of lush tropical forests rich in wildlife and natural resources. “These tropical forests and our other natural resources are being seriously threatened for take-over by land speculators and predatory big business interests with strong political ties who now want to reclassify, alienate and declare these priceless forest lands free for commercial exploitation and abuse,” Vice Mayor Lucilo Bayron said as he expressed the united stand of the city council.

The Puerto Princesa City Council unanimously approved resolution No. 303-2008v “strongly urging the DENR, Provincial Environment Office and the city environment and natural resources office to declare a moratorium in the processing of applications for the reclassification of land from forest and timberland to alienable and disposable land, including the issuance of socialized industrial forest management agreements and other special land use permits and agreements in the city.

The council resolution explained that “the moratorium is required and it is urgent and necessary to have a total inventory and evaluation of land under the political boundaries of the city to obtain a complete picture of where to conserve land for future use and those that could be utilized today to develop and promote growth areas for socio-economic activities that are “environment-friendly, sustainable and conform to the long term or strategic development plan of the city.”

The city environment officer is in the process of conducting a general survey of all types of lands in the city—private or government-owned, lands under special use agreements, lands under the Securities Industry and Financial Markets Association—in order to fix monuments to identify, establish or set the boundaries of the different land uses from one another.

“It is indeed ironic, the city does not know the exact boundaries and status of all the land under its jurisdiction yet there are already various attempts to alienate and declare these forest areas free for exploitation and ownership by greedy land speculators and predatory business groups,” Mayor Edward Hagedorn said.

In its resolution, the council said the city government is in the process of finally deploying landmarks though the Global Positioning System coordinates that will help identify and mark boundaries and which shall finally help resolve the numerous barangay boundary disputes in the city.

For his part, Hagedorn said the city’s leadership is proud of the honor and distinction received by Puerto Princesa for “being named the last environmental frontier of the Philippines”.

Hagedorn said it is incumbent on the present leaders of the city and country to help ensure that the city’ s and the country’s timberlands as a whole remain as timberlands in order to minimize the encroachment of people that often lead to the denudation and eventual decimation of our forests. In the case of Puerto Princesa, we are economically dependent on eco-tourism, agriculture, fishing and aqua-culture. Any widespread destruction of our natural resources will adversely affect the well-being and future of the city and its residents,” Hagedorn said.

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Maynilad to boost water supply by year-end

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

MAYNILAD Water Services Inc. is eyeing to improve service by year-end on the back of billions of pesos worth of capital expenditures this year.

On the sidelines of the stockholders meeting of DMCI Holdings Inc., Herbert Con­sunji, Maynilad chief operating officer, said the utility company expects to boost water supply by increasing pipe pressure to attain 24-hour service for 65 percent of the conces­sionaire’s market.

Consunji said the company is spending about P8 billion this year out of its P41 billion allocation for operations and capital expenditures.

“At present, about 54 percent, or three million of [our] customers are already enjoying 24-hour water supply and improved services such as high water pressure and potable water,” he said.

The executive said Maynilad still incurs 35 percent non-revenue water, which represents non-earning assets due to system leakages or illegal taps. The 35 percent non-revenue water amounts to a P23-million loss a day.

But with the ongoing improvements, the water firm expects to bring this down to P12 million a day, Consunji said.

“[We] are targeting to complete all the improvements in the next five years, instead of the original eight years,” he added.

Consunji also said DMCI has yet to increase its stake in Maynilad since it is no longer prudent to raise funds for the purpose. -- Katrina Mennen A. Valdez

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GMA’s push for CARP extension backed

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] July 31, 2008

President Arroyo was hailed yesterday by the 200,000-strong federation of agrarian reform beneficiaries (ARBs) in the Ilocos region for calling on Congress to "act with dispatch" on the pending bill seeking the extension of the Comprehensive Agrarian Reform Program (CARP).

The farm leaders who sit in the 13-sectoral entities of the Provincial Agrarian Reform Coordinating Committees (PARCCOM) in Ilocos Norte and Sur, La Union and Pangasinan, said Mrs. Arroyo’s endorsement of the CARP measure "brightened up hopes of the country’s farming communities to continue availing of services under the post-land distribution scheme of agrarian reform."

In her State of the Nation Address last Monday, the President outlined her administration’s policy on land reform, calling it one of the government’s top priorities to fight poverty.

The Chief Executive recalled how her father, President Diosdado Macapagal, worked passionately to advance land reform in the country, citing Japan as the model of success.

In a separate interview, Pangasinan Rep. Conrad Estrella III echoed the President’s sentiment on the program, stressing that the expiration of the CARP law last June diminished the financial exposure of international lending institutions, particularly the World Bank, to help accelerate the growth of the country’s rural economy.

The Pangasinan solon, a grandson of former Agrarian Reform Minister Conrado F. Estrella, is a member of the bicameral committee that worked on the salient provisions of the proposed new agrarian reform law.

The CARP has been extended twice, each for a 10- year period, since its implementation during the term of President Corazon Aquino.

Estrella expressed confidence the approval of the bill, certified as "urgent" by Malacañang, will go on "smooth sail" in the plenary deliberations of the House.

Even before CARP’s expiration, various farmers cooperatives nationwide urged lawmakers to shun politics and "work harmoniously for the extension of the program."

The leaders of the cooperatives, which now are into agricultural trading, said the failure of the legislature to act on the pending measure could "dash off the gains of agrarian reform over the last three decades and shut off prospects for aggressive rural urbanization."

"There ought to be a law that guarantees investments to turn idle lands productive," said Celio Catayna, chief operating officer of the biggest farmers cooperative in Pangasinan, even as he noted the active participation of landowners in the program. (Orly Guirao)
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RP’s first Mind Museum to rise in Global City

By Rhodina Villanueva
Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

The first world-class science museum in the country dubbed “The Mind Museum” will soon rise in Bonifacio Global City (BGC) in Taguig.

The Mind Museum, a P1-billion project of the Bonifacio Art Foundation Inc. (BAFI), aims to contribute to the country’s science education as well as inspire students to specialize in science and technology.

Manny Blas II, managing director of the project, said the museum aims to provide locators and visitors a civic and cultural place to complement the existing residential, commercial, institutional and retail establishments at BGC.

“The galleries in the museum will feature science facts, the process of discovery and their applications in technology. It is to be a place where visitors can learn science principles in a fascinating and interactive way, where teachers can find new and exciting ways of teaching science, and where students can satisfy their curiosity about how the world works. The Mind Museum is to be a venue where visitors will be fascinated with science. Fascination results from learning something in an entertaining and engaging way,” Blas explained.

The museum will be located across the future luxury Shangri-La Hotel and the unified Philippine Stock Exchange building. The Fort Bonifacio Development Corp. is donating the land for the project.

The museum will include various galleries that will be sponsored by major donors, including The Life Gallery (donor: Ajinomoto Phils.), The Theater (Ayala Land Inc. which is also providing consultancy services for the design and construction management of the museum), The Awesome Laboratory (BPI Foundation and the Bank of Philippine Islands), Earth Gallery (Del Monte Phils.), Universe Gallery (Globe Telecoms Inc., IMI Group of Companies, Manila Water Co., and Nutri Asia).

The initial donations have reached P175 million and BAFI expects to attract more donors.

BAFI’s Board of Trustees includes Joselito Campos Jr., chairman; Fernando Zobel de Ayala, vice-chairman; Jaime Ayala, president; Anna Margarita Dy, treasurer; Mariano John Tan Jr., auditor; Edgardo Cruz Jr., corporate secretary; Aileen An. Zosa, Carlos Rufino, and Vicky Garchitorena, trustees.

The project was formally launched with the contract signing of initial major donors Tuesday at the BGC’s Community Facility Center.

Present at the contract signing were Katuaki Ogawa, president of Ajinomoto Philippines; Luis Juan Oreta, chief finance office of IMI Group of Companies; Luisito Alejandro, general manager of Del Monte Philippines; Reynaldo Mojica III of R. A. Mojica and Partners; Antonino Aquino, president of Manila Water Corp.; Vince Tan, executive vice president of Ayala Land Inc.; Jaime Ysmael, chief finance officer of ALI; Gerardo Ablaza, president of Globe Telecom; and Emmanuel Nisperos, president of NutriAsia Inc.

Assigned museum curator is Maria Isabel Garcia, a science writer and author of “Ecologia Filipina, An Almanac (1996)” and “Science Solitaire (2006),” a science book which won the National Book Award last year. Garcia is also a science columnist for The STAR.

The Mind Museum building is planned to be environmentally friendly and will reflect the principles of nature conservation.

BAFI wants visitors to learn some practical applications of nature conservation as part of their museum experience.

“The proposed building for The Mind Museum is already a science exhibit in itself which will feature a passive design for sustainability. The building will make use of a light colored exterior for solar heat reflectivity, sweeping curved roof for natural rainwater flow drainage, large glazed opening for natural wind ventilation and tilted façade for minimal solar reflection and heat gain are just a few of the exciting teaser features of the institution,” said Blas.

Science will be presented by the museum according to five main stories. Each story that will be concretized in the galleries will be an experiential discovery of the world around us: The Story of the Universe, The Story of Life, The Story of Nature, The Story of the Atom and The Story of Technology. Each of these stories will correspond to a gallery or a sphere of experience. The conceptual model is the buckey ball, where one sees a node-synapse-node pattern.

The museum project will also offer facilities and services that include science-in-the-park galleries to be located within the park around the museum structure. These covered galleries will feature science exhibits or sculptures (similar to The Pipes in High Street) which children can use as a playground while learning scientific principles.

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Housing official in extort case kicked out of govt

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

Nestor Favila, the former special projects head of the National Home and Mortgage Finance Corp., who was found guilty for grave misconduct in April, will finally pay the price for his acts after the Office of the Ombudsman on Wednesday sought his expulsion from government service.

Acting Ombudsman Orlando Casimiro ordered Favila’s expulsion from government service since the former housing official was found to have extorted money from Nais Homeowners Association Inc. members Jovita Sobrevilla, Leonila Betacora, Florante Padua and Ernesto Jimenez.

Further investigations revealed that Favila also asked for P500,000 that he claimed will be given to the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), of which the mortgage agency is under, to fast-track the approval of the association’s P10-million loan application.

Favila served the mortgage agency under the chairmanship of Vice President Noli de Castro’s good friend, Celso Angeles. Angeles, however, didn’t last a year in office.

De Castro, also the housing body’s chairman, cited Favila’s case as a stern warning against government employees engaging in graft practices.

“Unscrupulous individuals do not belong in the government service. I will not allow anybody to defeat the noble objectives of the housing sector,” de Castro said.

Operatives from the housing agency and the National Bureau of Investigations caught Favila in an entrapment operation on June 24, 2005, while accepting P85,000 worth of marked money.

“I will never tolerate corruption in the housing sector for as long as I am at the helm of HUDCC,” de Castro said during Favila’s arrest. -- Llanesca T. Panti

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More French, Russian tourists eyed

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

The Department of Tourism has called on travel-related establishments and businesses such as hotels, resorts, tour operators, and transport services to promote the country’s adventure tourism destinations, as the department is eyeing participation in three major travel events in France and Russia in September.

“Europe is one of our growth areas. While we maintain strong presence in several countries such as the United Kingdom, Germany and France, we are seeing an overwhelming increase in Russian arrivals [to the country],” Tourism Secretary Ace Durano said.

The Tourism department announced that from September 16 to 19, the country would take part in the annual TopResa International Travel Market in France. The event, which celebrates its 30th anniversary this year, is considered the leading business-to-business venue for the French tourism industry with the rest of the world. It will be held for the first time in Paris.

The Tourism department said it has reserved a 63-square-meter space in the event where it can showcase the country’s latest adventure and eco-tourism activities to over 20,000 travel wholesalers and industry decision-makers expected to attend.

“What makes this year’s participation exciting is the awareness gained through the latest season of the Koh Lanta reality TV show, which was shot entirely in Caramoan, Camarines Sur,” Tourism Undersecretary for Planning and Promotions Eduardo Jarque Jr. said.

Closely following TopResa is the department’s first-ever selling mission to St. Petersburg, Russia, from September 19 to 21.

The Tourism department said it has invited over 70 leading tour operators based in the Russian city to participate and meet with their Filipino counterparts. It also plans to update the attendees on the latest trends in Philippine tourism, and promote the islands through a special press conference with the Russian media.

The promotional activity will help expand the country’s reach into the Russian market.

After the St. Petersburg event is the Otdykh Leisure Moscow and Luxury Leisure Fairs at the Crocus Expo in Moscow scheduled from September 23 to 26.

According to Tourism officials, these are Russia’s premier venues for travelers planning their winter holidays and trade players in search of new packages.

Arrivals from Europe in May grew by 15 percent as compared to figures in the same month in 2007. Tourist traffic from France showed a 28.3-percent increase, while Russian arrivals posted a 70.5-percent increase. -- Rommel C. Lontayao

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GMA wants NorthRail Project completed in two years’ time

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]
By Mark Louie P. Roxas, Correspondent

Pamintuan starts discussions with concerned government agencies

CLARK FREEPORT, Pampanga: Newly designated chairman of North Luzon Railways Corp. (NLRC) Edgardo Pamintuan has started discussing with concerned government agencies the completion of the $1.008-billion railway from Metro Manila to this free port by the end of 2010.

Secretary Pamintuan, also chairman of the Subic-Clark Advisory Development Council (SCADC) bared here last week that the President has given him full authority to work on the north railway project and the fate of the government’s deal with China.

The President has ordered the construction of the NorthRail Project (NRP) from Caloocan City to Clark Freeport to continue after the Chinese contractor begged off from pushing through with it due to the increase of necessary rail construction materials and delay in the relocation of squatters along the rail-right-of-way.

Pamintuan, former Angeles City Mayor, said in an interview that the President wants the said railway project repackaged immediately, and also refinanced. The project was originally started in 2003 with a loan of $400 million from China’s Import-Export Bank and $100 million from the Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA).

This amount is for the first phase of the project, consisting of the 32-kilometer segment from Caloocan City to Malolos City in Bulacan.

The Chinese government without the benefit of a public bidding chose the contractor of the NRP, China’s National Machinery and Equipment Group (CNMEG).

However, CNMEG begged off from pushing through with the project due to the escalation of prices of steel and other rail construction materials, according to Pamintuan.

The Chinese contractor also complained that there was a delay in the clearing of the railway right-of-way with informal residents or squatters, as well as their relocation to resettlement areas.

Pamintuan said that following the President’s 2010 timetable for the railway, he would likewise work to extend the project to Cabanatuan City.

Some big-time and professional squatters have been blocking the construction of the rail project by constructing permanent commercial establishments on the former Philippine National Railway (PNR) tracks in Malolos City and other Bulacan towns, with some establishment owners claiming that they were granted permits by a son of former President Estrada.

There are big commercial establishments in Malolos City and Calumpit, Bulacan that extend to portions of MacArthur Highway, thus preventing the widening of the highway.

Department of Public Works and Highways authorities have been urging squatters in the MacArthur Highway pavements in Bulacan to transfer to relocation sites that the government has prepared for them.

Arsenio Bartolome, the predecessor of Pamintuan at the NorthRail Project, earlier recommended the termination of the contract with the Chinese firm as it was reportedly demanding some $300 million in additional cost to continue the project.

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Atienza cites big push given to reforestation

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] July 31, 2008

Secretary Lito Atienza of the Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) yesterday said the country’s forest and other areas will be covered with several millions of trees following the big push given by President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo for reforestation to mitigate the impact of climate change.

"The P2-billion allocation for reforestation given by the President is a very timely and welcome development. It will contribute greatly in slowing down the devastating effects of global warming and climate change," he said.

President Arroyo has likewise allotted P500 million in 2008 and P1.5 billion in 2009 for clean water projects that "will give a great boost in our rehabilitation efforts in Manila Bay, Laguna de Bay, and Pasig River. The polluted waters of these areas also aggravate global warming," the secretary said.

Atienza called President Arroyo a "green President" for her concern on environmental issues which "inspires environmental advocates to strive harder to make the Philippines clean and green." Under President Arroyo’s administration, Atienza said, over a hundred marine and fish sanctuaries have been set up since 2001.

The latest data show that the country’s forest cover has increased in the past years and is now estimated at 7.2 million hectares, Atienza said. The President wants to further increase the country’s forest cover and has given a bigger budgetary allocation for forest development, he added.

"There is no longer any doubt about the destructive effects of climate change and global warming," he said. "The abnormal weather pattern being experienced all over the world indicates the gravity of the environmental problem."
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DOT includes Balanga City among bird-watching sites in the country

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

FEATURE

BALANGA City, Bataan: Balanga City was approved and included as one of the bird watching sites in the country that will be promoted worldwide, City Mayor Jose Enrique Garcia 3rd announced Monday.

The mayor said that an inspection team arrived in Balanga City recently and visited the seaside villages of Tortugas, Puerto Rivas Ibaba and Sibacan. The team was composed of officials from the Department of Tourism, tour operators and the Wild Birds Club of the Philippines.

Garcia said DOT is packaging a 22-day bird watching activity for tourists in 12 sites in the Philippines for $10,000 per person, inclusive of airfare and board and lodging. The sites are divided into clusters with Balanga City in the group composed of Subic and Candaba Swamp in Pampanga.

Stanie Soriano, manager of DOT’s Corporate Relations Department, said that Balanga City would be in the first volume of their Bird watching Guidebook that will be ready in time for advertising in London by November this year.

“It will be a worldwide promotion that DOT will undertake and it will begin with the production of the guidebook to be out by September this year to show foreign tourists various bird watching destinations in the country, Balanga City included,” she said.

Other bird watching sites are the Paranaque Critical Habitat in Las Piñas, Mount Palay-Palay National Park in Ternate, Cavite; Villa Escudero in Laguna, Nug-As Forest in Alcoy and Olango Island Wildlife Sanctuary, both in Cebu; Philippine Eagle Center in Davao, Candaba Swamp in Pampanga, Subic Bay in Olongapo City, Hundred Islands National Park in Alaminos and Mangrove Marine Protected Area I in Bani, both in Pangasinan; and Rasa Island and Puerto Princesa Subteranean River National Park, in Palawan.

Soriano said that DOT is focusing on bird watching this year under its Adventure Philippines Campaign.

Dr. Joey Soriano, a member of the Wild Birds Club, said the proposed bird sanctuary in Balanga City will have an area of about 100 hectares consisting of mad flat (exposed portions of the seashore where birds feed), viewing deck, heights and picnic huts.

“Bird watching in the Philippines has a bright prospect because there are birds here that are endemic in given areas that will attract tourists from England, Germany, United States, Scotland and South East Asian countries like Singapore, Thailand and Japan,” the psychiatrist said.

He said that foreign tourists in groups of five to ten spend from $5,000 to $7,000 each in bird watching activities. The doctor said small groups are preferred so as not to drive away the birds.

Rudy de Mesa, administrator of the Balanga City government, said the bird sanctuary is under the Bay Park project of City Mayor Joet Garcia. “Like President Arroyo, our mayor has a 10-point agenda, the Bay Park included,” he said.

Elsa Ilagan, city-planning officer, said initial funding for the Bay Park is P30 million with P15 million coming from the city government and P15 million to be sourced from the Philippine Tourism Authority or the DOT itself.

The planning officer said the construction of a viewing deck that plays an important role in bird watching was budgeted for P5 million. -- Ernie B. Esconde

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P10-M aid for Burnham Park scrapped

[ Manila Bulletin Online ] July 31, 2008

Baguio officials hit DoT order stopping fund assistance

BAGUIO CITY – The Department of Tourism (DoT) has scrapped the P10-million annual aid it is giving to the city government for the maintenance and operation of the historic Burnham Park here, a premier tourist destination.

The reason for the scrapping of the fund assistance is that by now the park should be self-sustaining.

Tourism Secretary Joseph Ace Durano informed city officials of his office’s decision to stop the financial assistance, saying that the maintenance and operation of the park have been devolved to the city government.

Earlier, President Arroyo issued an executive order turning over the management and operation of Burnham Park from the Philippine Tourism Authority (PTA) to the city government, granting a request of city officials who had complained about the failure of PTA to maintain the park well.

City officials said the scrapping of the P10-million annual aid being given by the PTA to the city is not included in the President’s order. They questioned Durano’s "unilateral act" of scrapping the fund, which is appropriated for the salaries of some 100 workers.

City officials said Durano could not just stop the grant of the fund aid for Burnham Park because this requires a PTA board resolution, adding that the city is still entitled to get its annual share from the PTA this year.

The President had reportedly assured city officials that the fund assistance for the park will continue until 2010.

City officials branded the act of Durano as "in defiance of the order of the President," saying that the DoT secretary has deprived the park employees of their salaries and benefits.

In 1995, former President Fidel V. Ramos issued Executive Order (EO) No. 224 creating the Burnham Park management committee, composed of representatives of the national and city governments. The committee is in charge of the administration, operation, and management of the park.

Initially, the PTA had been giving P18 million to the city as its annual aid, but this was reduced to P10 million in 2000.

In case Durano insists in scrapping the aid for the park, city officials said they are willing to enter into a compromise in which the fund assistance would be removed only if a bill in Congress seeking for the conversion of Burnham Park into a national park is approved.

At present, the city government is implementing a P12-million facelift project at the children’s park to ensure that it will conform with standards.
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Marco Polo Davao named 2007 top hotel

PIA Press Release
2008/07/31

by Prix D Banzon

Davao City (31 July) -- The Marco Polo Davao has been rated as 2007 Hotel of the Year and the Guest Satisfaction Award for three consecutive years, which they attributed to a good team and their exemplary performance here in Davao.

Hotel General Manager Stanley Lau said Marco Polo Davao rose above other contending Marco Polo hotels namely Marco Polo Hongkong Hotel, Marco Polo Gateway Hongkong, Marco Polo Parkside Beijing, Marco Polo Shenzhen, Marco Polo Xiamen, Marco Polo Plaza Cebu and Marco Polo Wuhan.

"Good teams make it perfect and getting such award has given Davao City something to be proud of," he said.

He said true service and genuine hospitality reflects an admirable note to the residents of the city.

He said they were rated among others on customer service, food and beverage, restaurant, human resource development and sales and marketing.

Lau said given such achievement Marco Polo Davao also inspires them to improve on its facilities as their way of providing new concepts to the Dabawenyos and their guests.

He said there will be new restaurant coming up even as he said that their existing restaurants will be upgraded to international standards.

Meanwhile Lau said foreign and domestic visitors already made booking confirmation at the Marco Polo Davao in time for the Kadayawan Festival.

He said they have regular visitors some of them foreigners and those balikbayans who timed their coming during the Festival.

"We are fully booked during this event and we expect the same occupancy during Kadayawan this August," he said.

He said their average occupancy rate is at 80 percent but events like the Kadayawan normally runs to over 90 percent.

On the other hand, Lau formally announced that the hotel's business and tourism forum, Club 888, will have Antonio M. Ajero as its regular host effective July 30, 2008. Ajero is also the editor-in-chief of the weekly Davao-based newspaper Edge Davao. (PIA)

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DMIA gets 14 daily flights to Thailand

Thursday, July 31, 2008 [ sunstar.com.ph ]
By Reynaldo G. Navales

CLARK FREEPORT -- Air Traffic at the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA) here is expected to grow after the success of the recently concluded RP-Thailand Air Talks where Clark got 8,600 seats.

Clark International Airport Corporation (Ciac) president Victor Jose Luciano, who is a member of the RP Air Panel that attended the RP-Thailand Air Talks in Bangkok last July 24 and 25, said DMIA in Clark Freeport got the biggest air deal with 8,600 seats.

Thailand will get reciprocal seat entitlements of 8,600 for the Clark route, bringing the total number of seat entitlements to 17,200 seats weekly or 14 flights daily.

"This is a great step for DMIA in bringing more tourists in the Northern and Central Luzon as the airport is on its way of becoming the country's premier gateway," Luciano said.

He also said that part of the air deal, cargo capacity at DMIA will be boosted from zero to 700 tons weekly, adding that there was no limitation on airline designation.

This means even non-flag carriers can fly there from multiple designations.

The air agreement also allowed other carriers not limited to Clark. Manila airports got 5,400 seats from 2,930 with cargo allocation of 300 tons from more than 200 previously.

Other airports outside Clark and Metro Manila were given allocations of 2,110 seats from their previous 850 seats.

Air Traffic at DMIA is also expected to boost further after Cebu Pacific Airways had revealed plans to operate at the 2,500 hectare Civil Aviation Complex via Clark-Bangkok and Clark-Hong Kong routes.

Cebu Pacific is also planning to operate other destinations in Clark, which includes Macau, Singapore, and Taiwan making the former US facility as their hub in the Northern Luzon area.

Korea's Asiana Airlines last July 22 started their Clark-US routes every Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays at 1:10 p.m. and will arrive in Incheon in South Korea at 5:05 pm.

These will connect with Asiana's international flights to Los Angeles and New York every Tuesdays and Thursdays and to Chicago every Saturdays.

Asiana's flights have increased to 10 flights per week from their previous seven flights per week. Asiana's flights at DMIA use an AirBus 320 with a capacity of 142.

Other airlines operating at the airport include Tiger Airways of Singapore via Clark-Singapore-Macau routes, Air Asia of Malaysia via Clark-Kuala Lumpur and Clark-Kota Kinabalu.

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Fiscal break for housing loans approved

Vol. XXII, No. 3 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

New corporate body to manage provident fund

THE HOUSE committee on ways and means yesterday approved a consolidated bill that will exempt from taxes contributions to the Pag-IBIG housing loan program.

The committee will propose for plenary approval the creation of Pag-IBIG Fund as a corporate body that will replace the Home Development Mutual Fund (HDMF) that manages the program. HDMF was created by Presidential Decree 1752.

Pag-IBIG Fund will supervise a mutual provident savings system for private and government employees and other earning groups, and matched by mandatory contributions of employers with housing as primary investment.

The coverage will be mandatory for all employees covered by the Social Security System, Government Service Insurance System, members of the Armed Forces of the Philippines and the Philippine National Police, as well as overseas Filipino workers.

Coverage may also be extended to other working groups with or without employer contributors, the bill states.

Provident fund membership will be for period of 20 years, provided that the member has contributed a total of 240 monthly contributions upon maturity.

Covered employees and employers will contribute to the fund based on the monthly compensation as follows: employees earning not more than P1,500 per month, 1%; and earning more than P1,500 per month, 2%. All employers will contribute 2% of the monthly compensation. The maximum monthly compensation shall not be more than P5,000.

The bill further states that the funds and all its assets and properties, all contributions collected and all accruals and income or investment earnings, will be exempt from any tax, assessment, fee, charge, customs or import duties.

All benefit payments will be exempt from taxes, fees or charges and will not be liable to attachments, garnishments, levy or seizure by or under any legal or equitable process, either before or after receipt of the beneficiary.

The committee report is a consolidated version of House Bills 410, 1097, 2922, filed by Parañaque Rep. Eduardo C. Zialcita (1st district), Northern Samar Rep. Emil L. Ong (2nd district) and Oriental Mindoro Rep. Rodolfo G. Valencia (1st district), respectively.

Meanwhile, over 2,000 urban poor families in Calbayog City, Leyte province have been relocated and provided their own homes under the local government’s urban planning program.

For as low as P1.50 per day, Calbayog City Mayor Mel Senen Sarmiento said the informal urban settlers in the city can acquire a house and lot.

He said the number of informal settlers in the city went down to 4,000 this year from 6,265 in 2002.

Since 2006, he said the city government has awarded 2,000 security of tenure certificates to families who once lived at the risk of being swept out to sea or being washed away by floods. — ETM and SQM

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Pag-IBIG to raise P8 B in revenues this year

By Iris C. Gonzales
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

The Home Mutual Development Fund (HMDF) or Pag-ibig Fund is eyeing to raise P8 billion in revenues this year on expectations that more members will avail of home loans, its top official yesterday said.

The 2008 revenue projection is slightly higher than the P7.4 billion recorded last year and the P7.9 billion recorded in 2006, Pag-Ibig Fund chief executive officer Romero Quimbo said.

Quimbo said the 2008 projection took into account expectations of higher home lending. He said that home lending is expected to grow 84 percent this year from the previous year’s P23 billion.

For 2009, Quimbo said revenues are expected to hit double digit or P10.5 billion to P11 billion if Pag-Ibig Fund’s exemption from payment of corporate income tax is implemented.

This as pending measures in Congress seek to strengthen the Pag-Ibig Fund by exempting it from the payment of corporate income tax and the Salary Standardization Law.

The pending measures seek to further strengthen the Pag-Ibig Fund to make it more effective in generating savings and mobilizing provident funds for housing and shelter purposes.

Proposals also include the expansion of the Board of Trustees of the Pag-Ibig Fund to enable it to effectively manage and administer the Fund and the strengthening of the Fund’s enforcement power to enable it to pursue and give appropriate sanctions to delinquent employers, borrowers and debtors.

Quimbo said that in the last five years, the agency paid P10 billion in taxes and has utilized less than P5 billion in government subsidies.

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Land developers form group for Villar

By Zinnia B. Dela Peña
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

With still one year and nine months to go before the May 2010 elections, Filipino-owned property developers, led by businessman Reghis Romero II have banded together to form an organization that will support Sen. Manuel “Manny” Villar’s presidential bid.

Joining Romero in putting up the Manny Villar for President Movement Inc. (MVPMI) are Noel Carino, a former congressman and a member of the Fil-Estate Group triumvirate; Sta. Lucia Realty & Development Inc. top honcho Exequiel Robles, Victorio V. Soliven who heads the V.V. Soliven Group of Companies, Vazbuilt owner Edgardo Vazquez, and Polar Property Holdings Corp. chairman and chief executive officer Jerry Navarrete,

Completing the group are Fernando Caguiñgin (president of Professional Estate Ventures Corp. and a consultant to a member of the House of Representatives in the field of housing and urban development), Arsenio De Guzman Jr. of realty and marketing firm Asian Pacific Group of Companies and father of Quezon City Councilor Dante De Guzman, Wonder Island Resort owner Rodolfo Pua, real estate broker and developer Florentino S. Dulalia of F.S. Dulalia Realty Inc., Pedro Tario (former president of the Chamber of Real Estate& Builders Association) and Angel Vivas Jr. (vice-president for chapter affairs of CREBA), architect Enrique Olonan (former head of the United Architects of the Philippines) and Eugene Yu.

Polar Holdings is part of the Villar Group of Companies, whose main business is real estate development. Vista Land & Lifescapes Inc. serves as the holding firm for most of the real estate assets of the Villar family including Communities Philippines Inc., which markets the brands and products of three other sister companies Brittany, Crown Asia and Camella Homes in areas outside Mega Manila.

The SEC has already approved the incorporation of MVPMI, which has been initially capitalized at P500,000, of which P80,000 was contributed by Romero, owner of R-II Builders. The other incorporator-directors chipped in P30,000 each.

Listed as MVPMI’s primary purpose is “to identify, enlist and mobilize leaders in private business, professionals and other individuals and encourage, motivate and organize them to consistently and regularly cooperate, fund and provide other resources and support to the organization.”

Its foremost objective is provide wide private sector voluntary involvement in getting full participation for the development of all individuals in the organization without acting as a political party. In an interview, Romero said MVPMI is an organization of businessmen who have pledged support for Villar should he decide to run for the highest political position in the land. “We formed the organization because we share a common concern. And that is for the country to be run like a business. We feel that Villar is highly qualified to run the Philippines. We need someone who understands the fundamentals of business,” he said.

Villar and Sen. Manuel Roxas II were the earliest candidates to signify their intentions to run for President in 2010. Villar is both Senate President and head of the country’s oldest party Nacionalista Party while Roxas is president of the Liberal Party.

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Local construction firms eye Vietnam

By Ma. Elisa P. Osorio
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 [ philstar.com ]

Two Filipino construction firms are looking at setting up production facilities in Vietnam in order to support the country’s growing demand for construction materials.

Icoast Manufacturing and GT Stoneworks said they are considering investing in Vietnam in order to take advantage of the booming real estate market in that country.

The two companies said they realized the potential after they participated in the Vietnam International Construction and Building Materials Exhibition (VICB).

Icoast Manufacturing is a company engaged in the manufacture of misting systems. It said it is contemplating on building an assembly plant in Vietnam for parts and components that will come from the Philippines .

Meanwhile, GT Stoneworks makes stone veneers for wall cladding.

“In order for GT Stoneworks to determine an effective marketing strategy and to be able to have a better price offer to the Vietnam market, we believe that expanding our manufacturing activities in that country is a competitive option,” Kirdwin Cu, export manager of GT Stoneworks said.

Other companies who participated in the VICB were successful in sealing deals with Vietnamese firms.

The Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) estimated that during the VICT, Filipino firms were able to sell $1.152 million worth of construction materials and recorded 500 trade inquiries.

DTI said buyers expressed strong interest on Chemrez Inc. maker of exterior insulation and finish system (EIFS), polymer binder, active additives, and concrete colorants, primarily because of its insulating properties and easy application on existing structures.

JEA Steel Industries Inc. likewise received numerous inquiries, since light steel frames for ceiling are widely used in multi-story building construction in Vietnam while the manufactured stone veneers for wall cladding EZ Rocks Co., Inc. received a number of inquiries because the concept of wall cladding is new in Vietnam.

“It’s a good thing that we joined the VICB. We learned the market requirements in Vietnam and we are considering future export expansion there,” said Glenn Chan, Sanyo’s Seiki’s vice president for Operations.

The Philippine delegation also met with the Saigon Construction and Building Materials Association (SACA). The 75-member organization found Philippine products attractive but suggested to design a different price scheme for Vietnam. Possible collaboration and business ventures may be forged as some of the SACA members are already importing affordable products from overseas.

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MIMAROPA growth tops other regions in 2007

Vol. XXII, No. 3 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

THE DOMESTIC ECONOMY of MIMAROPA (Marinduque-Occidental Mindoro-Oriental Mindoro-Romblon-Palawan) grew 9.4% last year, topping the other 16 regions of the country, a statement yesterday of the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) read.

MIMAROPA’s growth in 2007 was a big improvement from its modest 1.6% performance in 2006, driven by hefty gains in the industry sector which accounted for 41.4% of the region’s output.

Other fast-growing regional economies included Central Visayas with 8.7% growth, Caraga with 8.6%, Northern Mindanao with 7.9%, and the National Capital Region (NCR) with 7.8%.

On the other hand, Eastern Visayas posted the slowest growth at 3.2%.

Fourteen out of the country’s 17 regions registered accelerated growths in 2007, with MIMAROPA also posting the biggest jump in growth with 7.8 percentage points.

It was followed by Zamboanga Peninsula (5.3 percentage points), Bicol (5.1%), Central Visayas (3.9%), and the Cordillera Administrative Region (3.6%).

Growths in the economies of three regions decelerated, with Eastern Visayas recording the biggest drop at 2.0 percentage points.

NCR remained as the biggest contributor to the country’s economy with a 32.6% share, followed by CALABARZON (Cavite-Laguna-Batangas-Rizal-Quezon) with 12.1% and Central Luzon with 8.3%.

NCR likewise had the biggest share to the growth of the country’s GDP at 2.5 percentage points, followed by CALABARZON with 0.7 percentage point and Central and Western Visayas, each with a 0.6 percentage-point contribution.

The three Visayas regions collectively grew by 7.6%, a 2.6 percentage-point acceleration from the 2006 performance.

Their share to the total gross domestic product (GDP) was maintained at 16.5%, while their contribution to growth increased from 0.8 percentage point to 1.2 percentage points.

The Mindanao island group, composed of six regions, had an aggregate growth of 7.2%, an improvement from the 5.2% expansion in 2006. Its contribution to the country’s GDP growth increased from 0.9 to 1.3 percentage points while maintaining its 17.7% share to total GDP.

On the other hand, the Luzon island group, composed of seven regions (excluding NCR), aggregately grew by 6.4%, accounting for 2.1 percentage points of total GDP growth. Its share to the total domestic economy, however, decreased slightly from 33.4% in 2006 to 33.2% in 2007.

Per capita gross regional domestic product (GRDP) was highest in NCR at P40,252, an increase of 6.3% from the 2006 level. It was followed by Cordillera with P19,120 and Northern Mindanao with P16,537.

Per capita GRDP was lowest in the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) at P3,582.

MIMAROPA, Central Visayas, and Caraga, the three fastest growing regions in 2007, also registered the best improvements in per capita GRDP, posting a uniform growth of 6.6%.

The GRDP measures the goods and services produced in each of the geopolitical regions of the country.

It provides basis for analysis of the regional distribution of the country’s gross domestic product, the industries and factors that contribute to the regional economies, and the pace at which these economies are moving.

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Davao paves way for Ayala mall project

Vol. XXII, No. 3 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

DAVAO CITY — The city council has reclassified a portion of a 9.5-hectare property as a major commercial zone, paving the way for the construction of a P2.3-billion Ayala mall and business park here.

Voting unanimously, councilors approved the application of Anflocor Management and Investment Corp., the local partner of Ayala Land, Inc., to reclassify a portion of the land identified as a residential zone after a two-hour debate in plenary. A zoning application is the first and easiest process in the approval of a project, Councilor Victorio S. Advincula said.

The next process is the application for a clearance from the City Engineer’s Office, a development permit and, finally, an authority to serve. "We can ask them to come back here and ask for their development plan," he said.

Specifically, the developers will have to inform the city about their drainage plan and whether they have consulted the Public Works department. Mr. Advincula said it would be unfair to grill the representatives of Ayala Land’s local partner about the project’s drainage and traffic management plans when what they have presented so far is purely conceptual.

Celso Gempesaw, Traffic Management Center chief, said their apprehensions about worsening traffic had been answered by the project proponents. He said Anflocor officials had assured them of full cooperation, including shouldering the cost of the traffic signs to ease traffic.

Based on the presentation of the Innovation and Design Group, the architect of the project, Ayala’s mixed-use center includes a 55,000-square meter Ayala Center and a business process outsourcing building within a 20,000-square meter property. Construction will be done in four phases starting next year and will be completed by 2012. The centerpiece of the project, Ayala Center Davao — the 11th Ayala mall in the country — is expected to be finished by 2010. — Joel B. Escovilla

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Taiwanese firm opens posh Subic Freeport village

Vol. XXII, No. 3 [ BusinessWorld Online ]
Wednesday, July 30, 2008 | MANILA, PHILIPPINES

SUBIC BAY FREEPORT — A Taiwanese property developer has opened a high-class subdivision here to meet real estate demand from a growing number of foreign investors, retirees and expatriates.

Grand Pillar International Development, Inc.’s subdivision will consist of 100 Mediterranean-styled housing units.

Grand Pillar Chief Executive Officer Josephine Chua said the housing project would address the housing shortage inside the freeport zone.

REY GARCIA

"Our company is committed to supply the growing demand in the freeport for housing units for new investors and their families," she said in an interview.

Located along the former Greyback community at the East Kalayaan Housing area inside the former US military base, Grandville Estate is an exclusive community with 24-hour security.

Johnson Yang, Grandville chief business development officer, said the company had committed $5 million worth of initial investments to renovate 100 dilapidated houses in the area and build a high-class community.

The Subic Bay Metropolitan Authority (SBMA) approved Grand Pillar’s business proposal to renovate 100 dilapidated housing units left by the Americans.

He said the Taiwanese are attracted to the Subic Freeport, which is just two hours away by plane.

Subic Bay Development and Management Corp. (SBDMC), which is managing the 300-hectare Subic Bay Industrial Park, is promoting Grandville to existing and new investors.

SBDMC is host to several Taiwanese manufacturing firms like computer giant Acer, air-con maker Hitachi, home appliance manufacturer TECO and about 100 more Taiwanese firms.

Grandville is also banking on the Philippine-Taiwan economic corridor agreed upon by both governments to promote trade and business between the two countries.

Grandville will have its separate sentry and guard house, three playgrounds, a multipurpose covered court, a swimming pool and tennis court.

Grandville offers two-storey five-bedroom housing units with a total floor area of about 220 square meters. Other models have three and four bedrooms, with prices ranging from $180,000 to $230,000.

Ms. Chua noted that since the housing project is covered by Republic Act 7727 or the Bases Conversion Act, Grandville is offering 50-year leasehold rights to prospective buyers.

She said the law prohibits ownership or sole proprietorship of government-owned real estate properties inside the freeport zone.

But freeport residents will enjoy tax and duty-free incentives given to investors.

Ms. Chua said among their early clients were Caucasians and American retirees who wanted to retire in Subic. — Reynaldo M. Garcia

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Negros leaders, militants reject CARP extension

Wednesday, July 30, 2008 [ manilatimes.net ]

By Ma. Ester L. Espina, Correspondent

Many agree that government should stop land distribution while a review of the program is ongoing

BACOLOD CITY: It isn’t often that local businessmen, sugar planters and militants agree on one issue.But the recent pronouncements of President Gloria Arroyo at her state of the Nation address, calling for the extension of the comprehensive agrarian reform program (CARP) was met with great dissent in Negros Occidental.

Provincial leaders have earlier called for a review of CARP implementation after a study conducted by the provincial government and submitted to Congress showed that majority of CARP beneficiaries have reverted back to farm labor and sold or leased out their rights to the land they acquired through the program.
Metro Bacolod Chamber of Commerce and Industry President Roberto Montelibano said that if government pushes for land distribution without looking into the productivity effect, “it will only worsen the situation.”

For another reason altogether, but still disagreeing with extending the CARP, militant group Anakpawis accused Arroyo of pushing for agrarian reform not to uplift the lives of the peasants but to allow big landlords and foreign companies to benefit from the distributed land.
Bacolod Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce and Industry President James Chua, also disagrees with the call to extend CARP saying, “Further land distribution at this time when the country is faced with a global food crisis is not wise.”
This was the same argument made by sugar industry leaders who stressed that land distribution without addressing the issue of productivity will just worsen our agriculture sector.

Most, if not all, agree that government should halt land distribution while a review of the program is ongoing and focus on providing support services to those who have been provided land.

Negros solons have been one in calling for a review of the program and support a land reform extension bill pending in Congress that will focus more on support services rather than on land distribution.
Even Arroyo’s brother-in-law, Rep. Ignacio Arroyo of the Fifth District has been pushing for a comprehensive review of the program’s implementation and an accounting of CARP funds before any land distribution will even be discussed.
Enrique Rojas, president of the National Federation of Sugarcane Planters said CARP has been inutile and agricultural production has suffered because of it.

Anakpawis Rep. Rafael Mariano on the other hand said, “There’s nothing to extend. The bogus CARP no longer exists.”

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