MMDA opens bike lane in Makati-EDSA

The Metropolitan Manila Development Authority (MMDA) opened a one-kilometer bike lane from Magallanes to Ayala Avenue along the Epifanio delos Santos Avenue (EDSA) on Thursday.

“We wanted to have bike lanes on the roads of Makati to further promote the healthy practice of using bicycles as everyday means of transportation,” MMDA Chairman Francis Tolentino told reporters.

“These dedicated lanes are intended to ensure the safety of the bicycle riders who traverse Metro Manila’s major roads”, he added.

Users of the MMDA bikes should present a valid identification card to be issued a plastic card indicating the bike number. The issued card will then be surrendered at the control area where they will exit.

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)

Philippines ascends 10 places in ‘Economic Freedom’ list

The Philippines jumped 10 notches in a global survey of countries rated on economic freedom.

Among 177 countries tracked, the Philippines ranked in 97th place from 107th previously and its score of 58.2 points was 1.1 points higher than last year.

“The Philippines makes important strides this year in improving competitiveness—albeit often from a very low base—especially with respect to its public institutions,” The World Economic Forum (WEF) said in its 2012-2013 Global Competitiveness Report, which was released Wednesday worldwide.

The WEF said the Philippines was one of the few countries that registered a double-digit improvement in ranking this year.

The Philippines’ economic freedom ranking in 2013 is the highest since 2006 when the country ranked 96th. In the Asia-Pacific region, the Philippines ranked 17th out of 41 countries even as its overall score was slightly below the world average.

The report noted the country’s improvements in investment freedom and freedom from corruption, outweighing a decline in business freedom, labor freedom and monetary freedom.

“The government has pursued a series of legislative reforms to enhance the entrepreneurial environment and develop a stronger private sector to generate broader-based job growth,” Heritage Foundation said.

According to the foundation’s index, the top 10 freest economies are Hong Kong, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand,
Switzerland, Canada, Chile, Mauritius, Denmark and the United States.

In Southeast Asia, the Philippines trailed Malaysia (56th) and Thailand (61st), but was ahead of Indonesia (108th) and Vietnam (140th).

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.

Typhoon Pablo, 2nd Deadliest Typhoon

There’s a total of 1,500 feared dead due to typhoon Pablo which considered as the second worst storm to lash the Philippines.

According to the National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council head Ramos, at last count yesterday was in 1,067 that confirmed dead in the disaster while over 800 are still missing after nearly three weeks ago.

Ramos believes that Typhoon Pablo could surpass the number of killed people by typhoon Sendong December last year that reached 1,268.

If it happens, typhoon Pablo will be the second deadliest typhoon.

Recall that Typhoon Thelma killed 5,101 people in 1991.

Meanwhile, thousands of residents are still homeless after flash floods sweep.

The officials hope that there will be no major health problems to the affected residents.

“Paskong Pinoy” in Rizal Park, Winner!

The “Paskong Pinoy” by the National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) launched successfully in Rizal Park after 3 million people visited the celebration of Christmas and welcoming the year 2013.

National Parks Development Committee (NPDC) Executive Director Juliet Villegas said that the visit and continued patronage of millions of Filipinos in the Philippines famed park sets to history record this month of December in particular day of December 24, 25, and 31, 2012 until January 1, 2013. It only shows that Rizal Park or former Luneta is reviving its beauty and energy.

Villegas added that the celebration of Christmas and New Year under the theme “Paskong Pinoy 2012” was successful due to the effort of NPDC with Department of Toursim, City of Manila, and corporate sponsors such as Asia Brewery Inc., Uni-Silver TIME and Mario de Boro, as well as the support of media such as TV, radio and print.

Meanwhile, except for a few incidents of lost children they were immediately turned back to their parents or companions. The celebration was peaceful despite the large amount of people in the park.

413 Fireworks Victim

The victims who welcome 2013 in the country have reached to 413 people according to the Department of Health (DOH).

At a press conference conducted at the East Avenue Medical Center in Quezon City, said Health Secretary Enrique Ona to the recorded 413 victims here are 404 fireworks-related injuries, 8 cases of Stray bullet and another of the ingestion or edible fireworks.

Ona said that such number is lower by 17% compared to cases recorded last year.

For the past 5 years, the cases of fireworks-related injuries are lowering down in DOH records and the active campaign of DOH against firecrackers is said to be a great help.

Many fireworks are also reportedly high quality and safe to use, knowing that prohibited fireworks are strictly monitored therefore the fireworks being sold in the market are not becoming very dangerous.

Ona admits that their monitoring is still on-going since it is expected to have more record of cases within the next day because some are still using their leftover firecrackers. DOH reminds again not to glean un-exploded fireworks because it is more dangerous.

“Ito ang ating nagi­ging problema na may mga paputok na itinapon na pinupulot naman lalo ng mga bata kaya dapat bantayan ng mga magulang ang kanilang mga anak,” Ona added.

Our Miss Universe


She may not get the crown as Miss Universe, But our countrymen is proud of Ms. Janine Tugonon winning as the first runner-up of such beauty pageant because she just proved the best qualities of Filipina and being ‘world-class’ of the Filipino.

“Ms. Janine Tugonon, by winning 1st runner-up in the Miss Universe pageant, held up the country’s banner and showed the world, once again, the grace, sophistication and beauty that Filipinas possess,” said deputy presidential spokesperson Abigail Valte.

“From her winning as Binibining Pilipinas to representing our proud nation on the stage of Miss Universe, the Filipino people have supported Ms. Tugonon throughout her journey and in the hearts of our countrymen; she is our winner, our Miss Philippines. With the victory of Ms. Tugonon, we find even more proof of the exceptional characteristics of Filipinas and Filipinos to be truly world-class,” Valte added.

Many Filipinos alleged that Tugonon should have be the Miss Universe since her answer is great in the Q&A portion compared to the winner, Olivia Culpo of USA.

The Filipina beauty was given a Twitter question from Judge Nigel Barker, “As an international ambassador, do you believe that speaking English should be a prerequisite to being Miss Universe? Why or why not?”

Tugonon responds, “For me, being Miss Universe is not just about knowing how to speak a specific language. It’s being able to influence and inspire other people. As long as your heart wants to serve and you have a strong mind to show people, then you can be Miss Universe.”

“Janine’s win in the Miss Universe pageant is a triumph for the Filipino people and the perfect way to end the year,” statement of Vice President Jejomar Binay.Tugonon’s triumph as the 1st runner-up is also considered as every Filipinos achievement.

According to Binay, the attainment of Tugonon proves that Filipino women stand out in beauty pageants.


Stormy Christmas

The supervised low pressure area (LPA) is expected to become a storm in the Pacific Ocean and expected to enter the Philippine Area of Responsibility (PAR) four days before Christmas.

Because of this, the weather in the east of Visayas and Mindanao is constantly monitored by the weather forecaster of the Philippine Atmospheric, Geophysical and Astronomical Services Administration (PAGASA).

According to PAGASA weather forecaster Chris Perez, such bad weather is expected to enter PAR’s this coming Friday, December 21.

It is possible that the upcoming storm will pass through the provinces that were greatly affected by the typhoon “Pablo” in the first part of the month, December.

If the expected storm enters the country’s territory, it will be called typhoon “Quinta”.