Boracay named as Fifth Most Romantic Island in the World


Crowded beaches don’t exactly make for a lover’s paradise, and yet Boracay, with its congested shores, has recently been named the fifth most romantic island in the world by the readers of high-end travel magazine, Travel + Leisure. Lovers continue to pepper Boracay’s shores, Valentine’s season or not.

Featured in the magazine’s February 2013 issue, Boracay was noted for its powder-fine sand, which Travel + Leisure’s Christine Ciarmello said “may just be the softest in the world.” Earlier in the month, the island was also featured in a sweet Department of Tourism ad that showed a man proposing to his girlfriend, though the beach is not quite as empty in real life as it is in the ad. The romance is obviously not lost on the tourists. According to Cara Lim, a Boracay resident and chef at a high-end resort on the island, many couples populate the island during Valentine’s season. “We even prepare set menus for the couples,” she said. Of course, there are those who prefer quieter, less-commercialized shores like Palawan or Bohol over cosmopolitan Boracay, which has long lost its backpacker charm to the various establishments that have mushroomed all over the bone-shaped island. Also, recurring reports of algal bloom along White Beach as well as travelers’ stories of catching E.coli infections from the water deter some tourists from heading to Boracay. Still, lovers continue to pepper Boracay’s shores, Valentine’s season or not. Many of them can be seen walking the length of the island’s White Beach hand in hand, kissing against the sunset, or sharing a candlelit meal at one of the beachfront restaurants. On one occassion, a newlywed couple posed for photographs in the water—in full wedding garb!

Donaire hailed as 2012 BWAA Fighter of the Year

Nonito “The Filipino Flash” Donaire will receive the coveted “Fighter of the Year” award otherwise known as the Sugar Ray Robinson Trophy from the Boxing Writers Association of America (BWAA).

Donaire, the reigning WBO superbantamweight champion, is the second Filipino to receive the prestigious award after Manny Pacquiao who bagged the BWAA Fighter of the Year award thrice in 2006, 2008 and 2009.

Donaire’s rivals for this award include Danny Garcia and Robert Guerrero of the U.S., Juan Manuel Marquez of Mexico and another Pinoy, Brian Viloria.

The 30-year-old Donaire (31W-1L, 20 KOs) had four notable wins in 2012 against Wilfredo Vasquez Jr. of Puerto Rico(SD12), Jeffrey Mathebula of South Africa (UD12), Toshiaki Nishioka of Japan (TKO 9) and Jorge Arce of Mexico ( KO 3).

The BWAA Fighter of the Year Awards started in 1938 and was renamed after boxing great Sugar Ray Robinson, who won Fighter of the Year in 1950.

This marks the fourth time in the last seven years that a Filipino boxer has been honored by boxing journalists in the United States.

Way to go Donaire!!!

Filipino consumers more brand loyal than global peers, Nielsen study finds

An estimated 80 percent of Net-savvy Filipino consumers would buy new products from familiar brands rather than switch to a new brand, according to a study recently released by market research firm Nielsen.

The trend reveals a higher level of brand loyalty among locals compared to the global trend which shows 60 percent of consumers around the world with Internet access prefer to buy new products from familiar brands.

“Introducing innovations on established brands that are already trusted by consumers can be a powerful strategy,” Nielsen Philippines managing director Stuart Jamieson says in a statement.

“Millions of dollars are being spent on new product innovation by manufacturers, yet two out of every three new products will not be on the market within three years,” he adds.

The results of the Nielsen Global Survey of New Product Purchase Sentiment were obtained from over 29,000 Internet respondents in 58 countries. It shows that brand familiarity is one of several key characteristics that resonate strongly with consumers worldwide.

“To deliver successful new products, marketers and retailers should ensure that they uncover unmet consumer needs, communicate with clarity, deliver distinct product innovations, and execute an optimal marketing strategy,” the local Nielsen chief says.

While 77 percent of Filipino respondents welcome new product options, Nielsen’s survey reveals that 74 percent of consumers prefer to wait until a new innovation has proven itself before making a purchase.

Another 70 percent of respondents say that they would consider store-brand options and 64 percent of respondents say they were “enthusiastic” about such brands.

The survey also shows that 74 percent of Filipino respondents like to tell others about new products that they purchased.

“Consumers are enthusiastic about adopting new product innovations but somewhat there’s trepidation about embracing new brands,” Jamieson says. “In order for consumers to adopt new brands, marketers need to launch very strong awareness and trial-building campaigns, supported by a positive product experience. It is vital that marketers generate positive word-of-mouth endorsements because negative experiences can significantly diminish the likelihood of new product success.”

Economic factors also play a role in purchase decisions with 60 percent of Filipino respondents reporting that challenging economic conditions make them less likely to try a new product.

However, when given a choice, 52 percent express willingness to pay a premium price for a new product.

Nielsen’s survey shows 53 percent of Filipino respondents say they are partial toward local options over global brands, compared to 26 percent of Asia-Pacific respondents who say they do not favor local brands.

Nielsen’s review of 21 methods to reach consumers across various media and advertising platforms shows that a mix of word-of-mouth communication, traditional advertising, and Internet activity are the most persuasive ways to drive awareness. However, potential reach and ease of execution varies substantially.

While 83 percent of Filipino respondents say word-of-mouth advice from family and friends and 82 percent advice from a professional or expert are the most persuasive source of new product information, receiving a free sample (75 percent), traditional television advertising (72 percent) and active Internet searching (69 percent) remain influential.

Philippines can be RE leader in Southeast Asia

The Philippines is sitting on vast renewable energy potential of more than 250,000 megawatts of power that can save money, generate jobs and make electricity available and affordable to more Filipinos, Greenpeace said in a report yesterday.

The economy stands to benefit from massive renewable energy investments and does not need to rely on outdated and destructive fossil fuels, according to the report titled “Green Is Gold: How renewable energy can save us money and generate jobs”.

At a press conference in Quezon City, Greenpeace launched the report, in which the group sought to debunk notions that renewable energy technology was expensive and not economically viable.

“It will make the cost of electricity more economical, generate growth for the country while posing fewer risks to the environment and people, and contribute to energy independence,” said Von Hernandez, executive director of Greenpeace Southeast Asia.

Greenpeace said the country’s RE potential was estimated at 261,000 megawatts, which “remains untapped, with investors now moving to other markets in the region, having been locked out by coal projects in the pipeline”.

Anna Abad, the group’s climate and energy campaigner, pushed for what she called an energy revolution by turning its back on coal and capitalising on RE technologies, such as geothermal and solar panel production.
“This report shows clearly how renewable energy is the win-win solution for sustained economic growth in the Philippines,” she said.
Abad said the Department of Energy should not miss out on the opportunity to realise the full potential of the five-year-old Renewable Energy Act of 2008.

Hernandez noted how the RE law had been hailed as a landmark law that was seen to usher in the new era of renewable energy in the country by generating billions of dollars in investment and creating new opportunities.

“However, after five years, implementation has yet to bear the fruits that were envisioned when the law was crafted. We have yet to see major implementation, which has been hobbled by foot-dragging, the inability of government agencies to enact corresponding rules and regulations, and willful sabotage,” he said.

Hernandez blamed what he described as the “conflicting policy direction being pursued by the DOE and by the Aquino administration”.

Compared to previous administrations, he said, it was only now that the government was supporting more than 20 proposals for coal-fired power plants, “which goes against the spirit and intention of the RE law”.

“It is unthinkable that we’re investing in our own suffering,” he said, pointing out the environmental costs of coal and other conventional fuels.

The Greenpeace report said RE technology was typically labour-intensive, “which means they spend more on hiring people, have a higher domestic content than conventional fossil fuel sectors, and often produce higher-end, better-paying, cleaner, healthier jobs”.

For example, it said, a 10-megawatt solar plant employs 1,000 people during the construction phase and another 100 people in permanent full-time jobs.

In terms of revenues, Greenpeace said geothermal energy, a “mature industry in the Philippines”, had saved the government more than $7 billion since 1977.
“Other RE technologies suggest more savings to the economy—or biomass: US$96.9 million per year; for hydro: $65.9 million per year; for solar: $8.5 million per year; and for wind: $29.5 million per year.

The report said the Philippines possessed the natural resources that could propel itself as an RE leader in Southeast Asia.


USS Guardian Minesweeper still stuck at Tubbataha Reef

The minesweeper Guardian remains stuck on the Tubbataha Reefs in the western Philippines, but salvage teams have managed to board the ship several times to determine the vessel’s condition, U.S. Navy officials said Jan. 22.

“Salvage teams have been on and off the ship,” a Navy official in Washington said. “They’re not getting long windows when the weather breaks, but they’ve gotten some people on board to assess the situation.”

The ship, which is stuck on a reef at the Tubbataha natural marine park, a UNESCO World Heritage site, had just completed a port call at Subic Bay in the western Philippines when the grounding occurred last Thursday.

While the assessments continue, Navy salvors are working to figure how to remove the ship from the reef. It will be at least another week and maybe longer, the official said, before that decision is made.

The Navy still hopes to get the Guardian off the reef and return her to service.

“There are no plans to abandon the ship right now,” the official said.

Fruits of good governance

The year 2012 was a year when we began to see the fruits of good governance and its impact on the Philippine economy.

At the start of 2012, the platform of good governance was criticized for having delivered a paltry performance the year before, 3.9%. It did not matter that the period coincided with global supply disruptions brought about by the tsunami in Japan, the crisis in MENA and the floods in Thailand; what the critics saw was the very minute contribution of government consumption expenditure to total GDP, a clear indication of governance reforms.  As it turned out, the reforms were investments to an improved climate for business and society, as a whole.

The President initiated the moves to promote transparency and accountability by announcing his “Social Contract with the Filipino People” at the start of his term in 2010.  This became the basis for the Philippine Development Plan 2011-2016, which translated the Social Contract into tangible policies and programs. The Plan preparation, while spearheaded by the NEDA, involved all agencies of government, the business sector and civil society.  The overarching goal articulated in the Plan was to achieve rapid, sustained and inclusive growth anchored on the principles of good governance.

One of the first reforms implemented was intended to expunge what was termed as the “culture of impunity” and this meant going after the “wang-wang”of Philippine society- the tax evaders, smugglers, corrupt officials, usurpers of authority, etc. Bureaucratic reforms to reduce the cost of doing business, such as the procedures for applying for a business permit and registering a business name, are further being addressed to improve the country’s business environment. Strategies to increase participation in the budgetary process were also piloted and will perhaps be expanded in 2013.

Beyond these reforms, the notion of “matuwid na daan” resonated in all agencies of government.  As a result, savings were being realized from many quarters of public service provision.

Towards the latter part of 2011 and all through 2012, government has accelerated its disbursement both in MOOE and capital outlay.  The former included the government counterpart in administering the conditional cash transfer (CCT) program, whose coverage was increased to some 3 million families.  The latter, together with projects under public-private partnership (PPP), was intended to address the neglected state of infrastructure that was eroding the country’s competitiveness.

The business sector, both here and abroad, have likewise appreciated these reforms. As a result, there have been eight positive rating actions earned since the Aquino Administration assumed office, from Fitch, S&P, and Moody’s. We have also moved up in various competitiveness and governance rankings.

Gross domestic product for the first three quarters of 2012 grew by 6.5 percent, and it is highly likely that growth will surpass the targets set by the Development Budget Coordinating Council (DBCC), which was 5-6 percent.  This growth occurred while deepening macroeconomic stability and fiscal discipline.  Inflation was low and stable, 3.2%; fiscal deficit was kept at about 2%; debt stock to GDP was reduced to about 50%, down from about 74% in 2004.  It must also be noted that elsewhere in the world, countries were going through economic crises (US, Japan, Euro Area) or political crises (Egypt, Libya, Syria).

The primary driver of growth on the demand side was household consumption, which grew by 5.7%, although the increase in fixed capital (7.9%) was also substantial.  In particular, investments in construction posted a major turnaround, growing by 12.6% in the first three quarters of 2012, from a contraction (-9.4%) the year before.  This development is expected to sustain the growth even in the medium term, for instance, public investments were channelled to addressing infrastructure bottlenecks.

The export sector continued to be weighed down by external events.  Nevertheless, it increased by 8.6%, contributed largely by exports in services that included the IT-BPO sector.  Apart from signs of a recovery, the portfolio of goods and markets has also diversified. This makes the Philippines less vulnerable to shocks coming from a single country or region.

The present challenge is to sustain the growth and make it more inclusive. It has been observed that employment has not responded quite well to the growth. Improvements in the country’s competitiveness are expected to bring in investments, perhaps in the short term; this will then create jobs, which can be expected in the medium term.  Public policies and programs will continue to address infrastructure bottlenecks and reduce the cost of doing business to encourage investments.  Programs for human capital development will also be in place to ensure that when these investments demand the labour, there will be an appropriate supply. Likewise, social protection and safety nets have been set in place for the marginalized and most vulnerable sectors of society, as well as providing for assistance to victims of disasters, natural or man-made.

One potentially huge source of investments is the remittance from Overseas Filipinos (OFs), which are expected to increase by about 5% for the full year of 2012.  In the first nine months of 2012, remittances from OFs have already amounted to US$ 15.6B, much higher than FDI inflows. What is needed is a deliberate program to encourage investments from OFs and their families, effectively involving them in the economic development of the country and create jobs in the process.

There is a lot of scope for public policy and programs to promote inclusive growth.  NEDA is in the process of completing its assessment of the first two years of implementation of the PDP wherein the gaps to achieving the Plan targets have already been identified.  Going forward, the strategies of government will be deliberate; they will be directed to address the gaps, and they will take stock of what has been done and what can be expected in the future. The principles of good governance will continue to be the anchor on which these strategies will be designed.  As before, these strategies will be articulated in a document, the Updated PDP, against which we will commit, once again, our due accountability as an institution.

(COPYRIGHT: Malaya Business Insight)

Japan Commits Stronger Ties with PH


Japan vowed to develop stronger ties as Fumio Kishida, Japanese Foreign Minister, began his first foreign trip to Manila on Thursday since his country’s election last month.

These include improving infrastructure in the Philippines through official development assistance (ODA), expanding trade and investment by improvement of business environment and cooperation as dictated by big changes in the region’s security equation.

“I am pleased to come to the Philippines as my first country to visit after assuming the post of Foreign Minister. I am grateful to Secretary Del Rosario for his warm hospitality,” Kishida said.

For his part, Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) Secretary Albert Del Rosario noted that Japan is the Philippines’ number one trade partner with total trade exceeding US$13 billion last year.

He said that Japan also remains as the Philippines’ top export market for 2012.

The DFA Secretary said the Philippines is also looking into possible collaboration in the promotion of investments with Japanese small and medium scale enterprises (SMEs).

“Japan remains the number one source of development assistance in terms of loans,” said Del Rosario. “Thus, the Philippines looks forward to stronger cooperation with Japan in developing our country’s infrastructure particularly in the transportation sector.”

He also noted that Japan ranks third in tourist arrivals, as there were 375,248 Japanese tourist arrivals between January to November 2012.

Meanwhile, The Philippines and Japan are locked in separate territorial disputes with China which have simmered for decades but intensified recently amid what the two nations perceive as increasingly aggressive Chinese tactics.

Kishida said this also made it necessary to “enhance the strategic partnership between the two countries and cooperate in shaping (a) peaceful and prosperous Asia-Pacific region. In today’s meeting we agreed on this point.”

“As the strategic environment in the region is greatly changing, it is necessary for us foreign ministers to share recognition of the situation,” Kishida said after meeting del Rosario.

He also added: “On the political and security front we agreed on strengthening policy dialogue and enhancing maritime cooperation and other measures.”

“We talked about the challenges that we appear to be facing in view of the assertions being made by China,” del Rosario said.

“I think we all understand that the assertions being made by China, in terms of their nine-dash line claim for example, they do pose threats to the stability of the region.”

“I think the president [Aquino] is of the view that a stronger Japan, acting as a counter-balance in the region, would help promote stability for the Asia-Pacific,” del Rosario said.

PSEi Breaks 6,000-Point Mark

The Philippine Stock Exchange index (PSEi) continued its bull run yesterday, reaching and breaking the  6,000-point mark for the first time in 86 years of stock trading. Investors locally and abroad were elevated by the  positive economic news.

The PSEi rallied by 1.23 percent, or 73.46 points, to post another record close at 6,044.91, which is also the new intraday high.

 “We are very proud to have reached and breached the 6,000 level, which affirms that market liquidity continues to be strong and investor sentiment remains positive over good news both locally and abroad,” said Hans B. Sicat, PSE president and CEO.“We also believe that corporate earnings will remain strong for the full year of 2012, which should support the market’s phenomenal performance,” he added.

“Indeed it is more fun at 6,000 and we look forward to setting new records this year.”

Traders flashed the “More Fun at 6,000″ and the number seven (7) signs on the trading floor yesterday (in the photo above) indicating the next crucial index ceiling.

This only means a stronger and more progressive economy for Asia’s Roaring Tiger for 2013.

Philippines, Hailed as One of the World’s Best Destinations in 2013

MANILA, Philippines — Looks like all of our hidden beaches will no longer be oblivious to foreigners as Condé Nast Traveller, an American travel magazine, ranked Philippines as second among the top 10 destinations to watch out for in 2013.

On its magazine online site, author Laura Fowler believes that it is the undiscovered beaches and the incredible underwater life that makes the Philippines particularly popular among serious divers. She also mentioned some of the country’s finest destination sites such as Bicol, Siargao, Palawan and Amanpulo.

Among the ”Top 10 hot destinations that will be big news for travelers in 2013″, Brazil ranked 1st. The Netherlands’ city of Amsterdam was ranked 3rd; 4th is Africa; Galapagos Islands, 5th; Kashmir, 6th; Mayan Riviera, 7th; New Zealand, 8th; Panama, 9th; while Oman placed the 10th spot.

As the author put it,  ”Sorry, Maldives… We love you, but we’ve got a new flame.”

With the country’s unexplored beaches and vast underwater wildlife, looks like Philippines already has the edge among its tropical neighbors.

Navy Monitors 79 Chinese Boats Near Shoal

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) said yesterday that China has already positioned close to a hundred numbers of vessels within the Philippine territorial waters for about 124 nautical miles from our mainland Zambales, to further heightening the territorial row in the area.

Reports coming from the Philippine Coast Guard (PCG) were forwarded to Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showing that in the present times, there are already 5 Chinese vessels within the vicinity of Panatag (Scarborough) Shoal on top of 16 Chinese fishing boats that have been situated 56 utility boats for their ongoing fishing operations.

In addition, it has already added 2 additional Fishery Law Enforcement Command (FLEC) vessels in Panatag, harmonizing the first fishery vessels.

Nevertheless, China’s foreign department refused such number of vessels in the area. It was said that it was only 20 fishing boats that were present in Panatag, the usual; number during May in past years.

Raul Hernandez, DFA spokesman, stated that China has sent the vessels while conversing with the Philippines on how to resolve tensions in the area.

At around 7 p.m. of May 21 the 5 Chinese vessels were monitored near the shoal which corresponding names, namely Chinese Maritime Ships (CMS-71) CMS-84, and FLEC 301, FLEC 303 and FLEC 310.

2 of the Chinese vessels were considered as the most advanced Chinese vessels, FLEC 301 and FLEC 303 respectively, it’s the latest addition in the disputed shoal against the 2 Philippine civilian vessels positioned in the area just to symbolize the country’s territorial ownership.

Last Tuesday, Hernandez mentioned that there were still 16 Chinese fishing vessels and that the number of utility boats rises up to 76.

“It is regrettable that these actions occurred at a time when China has been articulating for a de-escalation of tensions and while the two sides have been discussing how to defuse the situation in the area,” Hernandez said in a press briefing.

He added that the Philippines even objected for these actions of China as clear misruling of Philippine sovereignty and authority over the shoal and sovereign rights over the Philippine exclusive economic zone (EEZ) that covers the waters around Panatag Shoal or also known as Bajo de Masinloc

The Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA) showed it sincere concern over these continuous actions by China that worsen the tension in Panatag Shoal in a note verbale dated May 21, 2012  that was sent to the Chinese government through the Chinese embassy in Manila.

Hernandez cited that the actions of China are also in violation of the ASEAN-China Declaration of Conduct on the South China Sea, specifically paragraph 5, which calls the Parties “to exercise self-restraint in the conduct of activities that would complicate or escalate disputes and affect peace and stability.”

Phl demands pullout of Chinese vessels

Despite China’s self-imposed fishing ban it was said by the FCG reports that reached the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFA), that Chinese fishermen have still been running fishing in the area aside from reaping giant clams and other endangered species inside the shoal.

Moreover, the PCG report to the DFA also highlighted the 16 Chinese fishing boats in which 10 of them were inside the lagoon fishing while the 6 others were outside. It was monitored that it arrived last Monday evening escorted by a Chinese vessel.

“The increase in the number of China’s vessels in the area imperils marine biodiversity in the shoal and threatens the marine ecosystem in the whole of the West Philippine Sea,” Hernandez said.

He as well said that the Chinese fishermen have unlawfully scoured the area and dishonestly garnered giant clams and corals.

He said the recent actions of China are also in violation of the United Nations Charter, specifically Article 2.4, which provides that “All Members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the Purposes of the United Nations.”

“The Philippines, therefore, demands that China’s vessels immediately pull out from Bajo de Masinloc and the Philippines’ EEZ and for China to refrain from taking further actions that exacerbate the situation in the West Philippine Sea (South China Sea),” Hernandez said.

China: Only 20 vessels

Hong Lei, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman, said yesterday that the Philippines have taken some offensive actions in the Huangyan Island waters which in is required “China to adopt corresponding measures to strengthen management and control.”

“To our knowledge, now there are about 20 Chinese fishing boats working in that area. This number is roughly the same with that in the same period of the previous years. The way these fishing boats are working complies with the related Chinese laws and the fishing moratorium issued by the Chinese government,” Hong said.

On Tuesday, China said that the involvement of countries in the standoff will meet steadfast opposition from the Chinese government.   Beijing was alarmed that some countries would help the Philippines establish a minimum credible defense posture by providing the country with patrol boats and military aircraft, so as to complement the Philippines’ diplomatic initiative in dealing with territorial disputes with China.