Sunday, February 05, 2006

GOOD NEWS ABOUT THE PHILIPPINES

This E-Bulletin: Good News About The Philippines will henceforth be issued
by the Press and Information Section of the Philippine Embassy in
Washington, DC once every two weeks to update its electronic subscribers on
the positive developments in the country.

Campaign Against Graft and Corruption

Tony Kwok, government anti-graft adviser, said the conviction rate of the
Office of Ombudsman grew from 6% in 2002 to 13% in 2003, 24% in 2004, and to
40% in 2005.

Kwok said that there were 55 convictions in 2005, including 22 very senior
officials who can rightfully be called "big fish," and who were meted with
maximum penalties ranging from 10 to 20 years to life imprisonment.

Philippine Economy

Reuters poll showed the Philippine economy grew by 5.0 percent in the fourth
quarter from a year before due to better-than-expected farm output and
healthy consumer spending supported by remittances from overseas workers.

Balance of Payments

The Philippines posted a balance of payments (BoP) surplus of $2.407 billion
last year, topping expectations in a reversal of the previous year's $280
million deficit.

Higher foreign investments, remittances by overseas Filipino workers, and
government borrowing helped boost the country's dollar surplus last year to
its highest since 2000.

Addressing The Budget Deficit

The Finance Department reported that the 2005 budget deficit was almost 20
percent lower than target and that it represented about 2.8 percent of the
estimated Gross Domestic Product, a big improvement from 3.9 percent of GDP
the previous year.

Higher revenues and cost-cutting measures allowed the government to trim its
2005 budget deficit to P146.5 billion, which is lower than 2004 gap of P187
billion.

Bank Lending

Commercial bank lending improved in November due to better business
sentiment and economic conditions, with the banks' outstanding loans growing
2.1 percent year on year to P1.6 trillon as of end November, from a 1.3
percent rise in October.

Domestic Employment

The National Government is confident the unemployment rate in the
Philippines will decline in 2006, its optimism is hinged upon the bullish
outlook for the agriculture sector.

NEDA Director General Augusto Santos said this year will not be an El Nino
year, so farm output should be back to normal.

Likewise, call center jobs are expected to grow by 60 percent this year,
while the property sector is also experiencing a boom fueled by strong
inflow from overseas Filipino workers and call centers demanding more office
space.

Overseas Filipino Workers (OFW)


Labor Secretary Patricia Sto. Tomas said the European Union's expansion is
not going to affect the growing demand for overseas Filipino workers there,
reiterating that despite EU's expansion plan which now include Turkey,
Croatia, Romania, and Bulgaria, DOLE statistics shows clearly that the
deployment of skilled, documented land-based OFWs in the continent rose to
55,116 in 2004 from only 3,683 in 1984.

Mariner's Home

President Arroyo inaugurated the newly completed six-story Mariner's Home
in Malate, Manila, a joint project of the all Japan Seamen's Union (JSU) and
the Associated Marine Officers and Seamen's Union of the Philippines
(AMOSUP), which will cater to thousands of Filipino seafarers working on
Japanese-owned, operated and managed vessels.

Foreign Direct Investments (FDI)


Net Inflows of foreign direct investments (FDI) in the first 10 months of
2005 totaled 863 million dollars, up 64.4 percent from the year-ago level of
525 million. In October alone, net FDIs amounted to 102 million dollars,
double the level recorded in the same month in 2004.

The Philippine Economic Zone Authority (PEZA) approved the registration of
11 projects totaling P307 million in the first 10 days of the year. Biggest
projects were those of economic zone developer Jovima Management and
Development to operate a P115-million seven-story building and, a
P79.7-million four-story building.

Business/Investment

Nestle Philippines, Inc. is investing this year another P2.5 billion in its
facilities in the country, following its export sales which hit a record of
$100 million last year.
· United States-based Lane Archive Technologies Corp., an
international movement storage provider, would operate a business process
out-sourcing business in the Philippines this year as part of its expansion
program. The company is now finalizing its plans and would start operations
before the end of this year.


· ePLDT, the premier information communication technology (ICT)
company in the country, has partnered with Japan-based Nippon Telegraph and
Telephone Corp in implementing security solution for businesses now using
instant messaging (IM). Ray C. Espinosa, ePLDT president and CEO, said "This
partnership allows us to work side by side with a global leader in
strengthening the Philippines' ICT industries."


· Universal Robina Corporation is budgeting $60 million (P5.3
billion) to expand its Philippine and Vietnamese plants following the
outselling of coke by its C2 tea drink.


Tourism

The Department of Tourism is off to a good start for 2006 as the biggest
delegation of Russian tourists arrived as early as the first week of January
to spend a half-month long vacation in the Philippines.

Officials have launched a campaign to promote so-called medical tourism in
the Philippines in an effort to grab a slice of the multibillion-dollar
industry and make the Philippines the "new hub of wellness and medical care
in Asia."

The country's taipans are at the forefront of a business aimed at hitting
the private sector's "singko-singko" goal or "5-5-5-5" target which means to
invest $5 billion to bring in 5 million tourists that would generate $5
billion in revenues and 5 million jobs in 5 years. Marketing whiz Samie Lim
said the country's billionaires were buying new planes and ships, erecting
new malls and hotels, and building world-class resorts and casinos,
confident that tourism would be the next big thing in the Philippine
economy.

Tourism Secretary Ace Durano and Korean Assistant Minister Byoung-soo Lim
signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) on tourism cooperation to
strengthen friendly relations and establish greater cooperation between the
Philippines and South Korea.

Call Center/Business Process Outsourcing (BPO)


President Arroyo inaugurated The Resource Group (TRG) Philippines, a new
global business process outsourcing (BPO) player at the Ortigas Center in
Pasig City that offers new employment opportunities for Filipino jobseekers.
TRG has 850 workstations and is set to hire 2,500 new employees in the first
quarter of 2006 for its Ortigas offices, and another 8,000 workers by April
this year when its main facility in Makati City starts operations.

· German industrial group Siemens Inc. launched its first customer
call center in the Philippines, which would cater primarily to
English-speaking global customers, investing 250 million pesos in the
450-seat call center which is expected to employ 700 people by the year's
end.


Cyber City Teleservices Limited (CCTL), the country's largest call center
and outsourcing company, has gone to Zamboanga City in search of call center
agents to complement its expansion program in the Philippines.

· India, the world's top provider of business process outsourcing
(BPO) offered to assist the Philippines in boosting its chances of landing
more outsourced jobs.


RP Internet

· The cost of dial-up and broadband Internet services is going down
fast in the Philippines, with the cost of an unlimited Internet dial-up
account bundled with phone service only P840 a month and the cheapest dial
up access only P160 monthly.


Agriculture

Some 30,000 tobacco farmers in the Ilocos region are expected to benefit
from a multi-line joint agribusiness project that will use village factories
to process locally grown hog, poultry, dried mangoes, banana chips/crackers
and vegetables and which will be funded with P300 million by the National
Tobacco Administration (NTA) who will put up a plant to produce line quality
products that are competitive and affordable and already have sure local and
foreign markets.

Fisheries

Fishery posted the highest growth of 6.47 percent last year among all the
sub-sectors of agriculture, leading the crops sub-sector which had an
increase of only 0.48 percent, livestock with 2.04 percent; and poultry with
a growth of 1.41 percent.
Botica ng Bayan (BnB)


The Health Department disclosed there are now 5,800 Botika ng Barangay (BnB)
operating in various parts of the country and 1,600 more are to be opened by
March or April as the government steps up its program to ensure the
availability of low-priced, quality drugs to the people.

Physicians For Peace (PFP)


Filipino-American physicians under a group called Physicians For Peace
(PFP), a United States-based nonprofit organization, came home to the
Philippines to bring free medical services to far-flung provinces. Using the
Coast Guard's BRP Pampanga, the group, composed of 10 foreign and 25
Filipino doctors, sailed to Palawan to provide medical services and health
education which include conducting general surgery and eye operation.

Food For School Program

President Arroyo directed the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) to
immediately release P500 million to the Department of Education to fund the
"food for school" program.

PNP Modernization Program

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo ordered the release of P1 billion to the
Philippine National Police (PNP) to fund the hiring of 15,000 additional
policemen and the purchase of 1,500 patrol cars and 5,000 brand new handguns
to give a new push to the PNP modernization program. She also vowed to raise
PNP salaries as well as provide 1,000 scholarships to PNP children who died
or were wounded in the line of duty.

Military Housing

President Arroyo vowed to release P1.5 billion for the construction of more
low-cost housing units for soldiers.

Speaker Jose de Venecia launched a major housing program for 2,200 members
of the elite Scout Rangers at their camp in San Miguel, Bulacan, a first key
housing project for members of the Armed Forces, which will occupy a
50-hectare property with all the amenities, including schools, churches, and
markets.

Infrastructure Development

· President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo approved the proposal to expand
the Diosdado Macapagal International Airport terminal in Angeles City since,
at present, it could not accommodate the influx of passengers going to
various destinations in Asia.


· People's Republic of China Ambassador to the Philippines Li Jin-jun
said he will encourage commercial airlines, including low-cost carriers
(LCCs), in Mainland China to look into the possibility of flying to the
Diosdado Macapagal International Airport (DMIA).


North Rail Project


· Chinese Ambassador to the Philippines Li Jin-jun said the
construction of the China-funded North Rail project, which will provide
efficient transport service for passengers and goods between Metro Manila
and Central and Northern Luzon, particularly between Clark, Fort Bonifacio,
Subic Naval Base and Poro Point, will start last week of February this year,
adding that immediately after clearing operation and resettlement of
squatter families, the Chinese firm will build Phase I of the $503 million
North rail project.


Defense Cooperation

The Philippines and Korea agreed to widen their defense cooperation through
informal exchanges between their Armed Forces, which will include exchanges
in intelligence and logistics. Expanding the exchange of officers as well as
skills and expertise in terms of national disaster management is also
considered.

The Philippines will host next month a high level defense and security
meeting with South Korea to explore ways to enhance exchanges of military
personnel and cooperation in times of natural disasters or calamities.

China's security cooperation with the Philippines poses no threat to the
Asia-Pacific region, said Li Jinjun, Beijing's ambassador to Manila, after
giving equipment to the Philippines to help fight communist rebels. He said
China was not expecting any extra political or diplomatic concessions from
the Philippines in exchange for some US$1.2 million worth of bulldozers and
graders, and that more heavy equipments would be arriving soon as China
tries to raise the level of defense and military cooperation with the
Philippines.



Foreign Relations

· Philippine Ambassador to Brasilia Teresita V.G. Barsana reported to
the Department of Foreign Affairs that President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva
has informed her of Brazil's strong interest in Asia and the need for
increased official exchanges between Brazil and the Philippines particularly
in the field of trade and investment. President Lula was "happy to note
that the volume of trade between the Philippines and Brazil is increasing,
with each country accounting for half the share of the US$500 million
bilateral trade in 2005."


Interfaith Dialogue

Top political leaders of the Centrist Democrat International (CDI) formally
established in Manila the CDI Asia-Pacific organization that could be a
catalyst for regional economic and political integration. President Arroyo,
main guest of honor during the meeting, said she took the lead in holding
the interfaith dialogue in the country with the quest for permanent peace in
Mindanao uppermost in her mind.

MILF

The Moro Islamic Liberation Front renewed efforts to help authorities
capture the leader of the al-Qaeda-linked Abu Sayyaf group and the Jemaah
Islamiah network in Mindanao, coinciding with the start of anti-terror
training between US and Filipino troops. The MILF said it is helping the
government track down Khadafy Janjalani, whose group is blamed for the spate
of kidnappings and bombings in Mindanao and Manila in the past years.

Peace Talks With MILF

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo and Datuk Othman Abd. Razak, newly
appointed adviser of Malaysian Prime Minister Dato Seri Abdullah Ahmad
Badawi, underscored the need to fast track the government-Moro Islamic
Liberation Front (MILF) peace talks. During their meeting, the resumption
of the peace talks in Kuala Lumpur was discussed in some details taking note
that both the GRP and the MILF have given full commitment to the peace
process. Both sides are very optimistic that an agreement on the issue of
ancestral domain can be achieved sooner than expected and this may well lead
to the Final Peace Agreement.

Mohaqher Iqbal, a member of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) central
committee, said peace talks with the Philippine government are largely a
done deal, adding his group is confident that an agreement on an ancestral
homeland for four million Muslims in the south may be signed within the
first six months of this year.

No comments: