Metro Manila firms ordered to pay P46 million in benefits

The Department of Labor and Employment has ordered various firms in Metro Manila to pay P46.2 million in benefits to some 1,007 workers following the settlement of  325 labor cases under Phase 2 of Speedy and Expeditious Delivery of Labor Cases (SpEED 2).

Project SPEED is a DOLE-initiated reform measure aimed at disposing expeditiously and efficiently all labor cases pending as of April 30, 2009 by April 2011.

The reform is in support of the 22-point labor and employment agenda of Pres. Benigno S. Aquino III of institutionalizing fast-working and efficient labor arbitration and adjudication system that ensures quality decisions, eliminates red tape, and restores integrity and fairness in the service.

The DOLE award of benefits covers orders of payment to correct violations on general labor standards (GLS) and occupational health and safety standards (OSHS) filed from May 2009 up to March 2010.

Most of the violations included underpayment of wages, unpaid SSS, PhilHealth, and Pag-Ibig contributions; non-payment of holiday pay, overtime pay, ECOLA; and denial of access to workers’ and employees’ records.

The OSHS violations included non-registration under Rule 1020, non-submission of first aide certificate, non-organization of plant-level safety committees, and non-filing of annual medical and accident reports.

The disposition accounts to 83.97 percent out of the 387 cases enrolled under SPEED 2, leaving the DOLE-NCR with only 62 pending cases to be disposed of until September 30, 2010.  

“We are confident of hitting our target.  Our intention is to keep our dockets current.  It does not mean though that we will no longer have case backlogs, but we are working double-time to dispose cases expeditiously and efficiently,” said DOLE-NCR regional director Raymundo G. Agravante.

To prevent cases from maturing into labor standard cases, the DOLE-NCR had also institutionalized the 30-day mandatory conciliation and mediation of all labor and employment cases, another DOLE-initiated reform measure, as a means of settling issues or concerns between management and labor at the DOLE-level.

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Education needs P43 billion in five years

The national government needs to raise at least P43.2 billion in the next five years if it hopes to build enough classrooms and other school facilities and hire more teachers for the country to achieve its 2015 goal of achieving universal primary education.

This was revealed by the Department of Education following the UN-assessment report that it was in this critical area where the Philippines has been lagging in its commitment.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) has estimated that the government needs P180 billion in support facilities.

The DepEd said the biggest ticket will be in the hiring of 103,000 school teachers which will entail additional budget of P17 billion.

These are needed for the DepEd to accommodate a maximum of 45 pupils per class without class shift of two to three a day as in the case in the most congested schools in Metro Manila.

The second biggest ticket will cost the government another P12 billion which is the total cost of 13 new seats.

 The seats will be housed in 152,000 additional classrooms which will cost another P4.2 billion. Those classrooms will also need their own toilets which will cost another P10 billion for a total of P43.2 billion in investments for basic educational infrastructure beginning next year.

The DepEd has not included in the proposed budget what will be needed should it decide to meet global standards of providing 12 years of basic education in the Philippines which is above the present system of only ten years of elementary and high school education.

No decision has yet been made if the government will opt for adding additional years in the elementary grades and high school as demanded by most business groups and the National Competitive Council.

 The new policy at upgrading basic and tertiary education, it was revealed, is being reviewed together with a review of the curricula in higher education to match courses with the requirements of economic growth in succeeding years.

Philippines to promote privately-financed infra projects

The Philippine government will promote more privately-financed infrastructure projects to upgrade the country’s national road network comparable to Malaysia by 2016.

DPWH Sec. Rogelio Singson told members of the Rotary Clubs that project investors and civil work constructors need not worry as the DPWH undertakes open competitive public bidding and further simplify bids and award process in doing business with the Department.

Singson said that by October 2010, the government will roll-out several high standard highway projects under public-private partnership designed to address traffic congestion in urban centers and improve access to strategic tourism destination, two of the priority programs of the administration of Pres.Benigno S. Aquino III to attract investors in the country.

In terms of public investments for national roads and bridges and major flood control systems, the DPWH will be more strategic in terms of infrastructure allocation.

Project identification and selection is key to making our budget more prudent, added Secretary Singson. The DPWH is also formulating rules and guidelines for a longer maintenance period between 5 to 10 years in road and bridge contract provisions.

As part of his program to curb perceived corruption and in line with the program to engage the public/civil society in governance, monitoring and feedback, Sec. Singson openly welcome the assistance of Rotary Watch to watch over national roads and bridges considering its memberships scattered all over the nation as the eyes and ears of DPWH.

Of the proposed P100.826 Billion CY 2011 budget of the DPWH, P67.010 Billion will be utilized for the paving and rehabilitation of national arterial and secondary roads including construction of bridges and farm-to-market roads, P13.473 Billion for flood control projects, and the remaining amount intended to financed payment of right-of-way, Public-Private Partnership project, water supply and sewerage projects, undertake feasibility studies, preliminary detailed engineering, and payments of operating expenses.

Philippine employment rate reaches 93%

The Philippine employment rate of reached 93.1 percent with an estimated the number of employed persons at 36.3 million.in July 2010, according to the National Statistics Office (NSO).

The employment rate in July 2009 was recorded at 92.4 percent. Among the regions, Cagayan Valley, Zamboanga Peninsula, Northern Mindanao and Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) posted the highest employment rate at 96 percent. The National Capital Region (NCR) had the lowest employment rate at 89.1 percent.

The July 2010 labor survey also revealed that the size of the labor force was approximately 39.0 million out of the estimated 60.9 million population 15 years old and over. Correspondingly, these numbers translate to a labor force participation rate (LFPR) of 64.0 percent. The labor survey in July 2009 was 64.6 percent.

Of the estimated 36.3 million employed persons in July 2010, the services sector was the largest group comprising more than half (51.2%) of the total employed population. The highest employed workforce in the services sector were in wholesale and retail trade, repair of motor vehicles, motorcycles and personal and household goods.

Workers in the agriculture sector accounted for 33.9 percent of the total employed, with those engaged in the agriculture, hunting and forestry sub-sector making up the largest sub-sector.

Only 14.9 percent of the total employed were in the industry sector, with the manufacturing sub-sector making up the largest percentage.

Among the various occupation groups, the laborers and unskilled workers comprised the largest group posting 31.8 percent of the total employed population.

Farmers, forestry workers and fishermen were the second largest group, accounting for 16.8 percent of the total employed.

Philippines to meet most of millennium development targets

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is confident that the Philippines would  likely meet the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) on food poverty; gender equality in education; child mortality; malaria morbidity; detection, and treatment success and cure rates of tuberculosis cases; and access to sanitary toilet facilities.

“We need to double or triple our efforts to meet the targets on income poverty; nutrition; dietary energy requirement; access to safe drinking water; participation, cohort survival and completion rates in elementary education; maternal mortality; access to reproductive health services; and prevalence of HIV and AIDS,” said Socio-economic Planning Sec. and NEDA director-general Cayetano Paderanga, Jr.

With only 5 years to meet the MDGs, Paderanga stressed the need to accelerate progress in  three major areas — poverty, education and maternal health.

“Efforts have to be focused on boys to achieve gender equality in basic education, as well as on reducing the prevalence of HIV/AIDS, which are are also needed.”

“To ensure that we move forward towards the achievement of the MDGs, we need to attract local and foreign investments to spur economic growth.  Physical infrastructure has to be improved, water and power have to be made available at competitive rates, and more transparent systems in doing business need to be established.”

While the annual population growth has been reduced from 2.3% to 2.04%, the growth rate remains high. There is a need to support informed familychoices for couples to freely determine the number and spacing of their children, said Paderanga.

He noted that the national figures mask considerable disparities across regions, provinces, municipalities and barangays.

In general, regions in Luzon tend to fare better than those in Visayas and Mindanao. Regions, such as ARMM, Region 8 in Eastern Visayas, and 4-B in MIMAROPA, are lagging behind in many indicators and would need greater attention to catch up with the other regions.

With decentralization and the way that the Internal Revenue Allotment (IRA) is allocated, Sec. Paderanga said the poorer municipalities tend to have lesser resources to address the needs of their constituents. Greater resources need to be channeled to poorer and underserved areas.

“We also note that economic growth is not enough to reduce poverty. Measures to ensure more equitable distribution of the benefits of growth have to be put in place. Many programs intended to benefit the poor suffer from significant leakage and exclusion.”

Improved governance, greater transparency and accountability will ensure that the available resources are directed towards priority areas and used more efficiently, said Paderanga.

Regular monitoring and evaluation of government programs will ensure that the expected outcomes are achieved, he added.

PAL hopes to settle dispute with union

The Philippine Airlines (PAL) management has expressed confidence of seeking a workable settlement on pending issues with the Flight Attendants and Stewards Association of the Philippines (FASAP) following an initial conciliation conference under the auspices of the Department of Labor and Employment (DOLE).

Both sides were given the opportunity to discuss their respective positions at length in a cordial atmosphere. “The end goal is to find an amicable solution to the issues being raised by our cabin crew union,” said PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna.

PAL President Jaime J. Bautista led the panel of airline officials who again met with FASAP officers, five days after FASAP filed a notice of strike at the Labor Department over alleged unfair labor practice.

A second conciliation conference, while PAL and FASAP are under a cooling-off period, has been set on Friday, Sept. 17.

Cebu Pacific Airways offers seat sale

Cebu Pacific (CEB) is offering a seat sale until Friday for travel on November 1, 2010 to January 31, 2011.

For the ‘Go Lite’ seat sale fare of P1,499, passengers can avail of seats from Manila to Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, and seats from Clark to Bangkok.

The same sale and travel periods apply to P999 ‘Go Lite’ Manila-Taipei seats, as well as P1,999 Manila-Bangkok seats.

Meanwhile, for travel from November 1 until December 31, 2010, P699 ‘Go Lite’ seats are available from Manila and Cebu to Tacloban, and from Manila to Calbayog and Catarman.

Passengers with check-in luggage will just add P100 upon booking. “This is part of CEB’s efforts to further promote our mainland China routes, especially since Manila-Beijing is a newly launched service. We hope guests can take advantage of this P1,499 seat sale to visit Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

“Likewise, travelers from China can book their flights on CEB’s trademark low fares and visit any of CEB’s 33 domestic and 15 other international destinations. This includes Boracay, Coron, Laoag, Cebu, Singapore, Jakarta, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur.”

Iyog added that CEB is also offering Shanghai World Expo 10+1 Special Fares for those traveling to Shanghai in a group until October 31, 2010.

World Bank approves US$150,000 grant to NSCB

The World Bank has approved a US$150,000 grant to support the formulation of the next Philippine Statistical Development Program (PSDP) for 2011-2017.

The grant will be implemented by the National Statistical Coordination Board (NSCB) on behalf of the Philippine Statistical System (PSS).

 The PSDP defines the priority statistical programs and activities in the medium term designed to provide vital information and support to the Medium-Term Philippine Development Plan (MTPDP), as well as to promote efficiency of statistical operations through optimum use of available resources and adoption of cost effective measures.

The new PSDP will contain a medium-term expenditure and human resource plan to help sustain the production, dissemination, communication, and utilization of quality statistics in the country. NSCB secretary general Romulo

Virola said the grant will provide complementary funding to support aspects of the PSDP that are in need of improvement, such as advocacy, budgeting, and resource mobilization, thus helping the PSS improve the coverage and quality of its statistical products.

“Good statistics are important for development, and the new and improved PSDP will help make a better case for putting statistics high in the policy agenda,” Dr. Virola said.

“Generating relevant and useful statistics will strengthen evidence-based decision making and contribute to improving economic and social outcomes.”

“Investing in statistics, as an underpinning of other investments, is necessary so that social protection programs, such as conditional cash transfers, benefit those who are eligible, and that roads are built where they are needed. This will improve growth prospects that would reach the poor,” Dr. Virola added.

NSCB will closely coordinate with the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) to ensure that the PSDP is aligned with the priority programs and policies of the Administration and that statistics will be given importance in the MTPDP.

World Bank Country Director Bert Hofman said this new grant is part of the World Bank’s continuing support to the Government’s efforts to improve the quality of statistics in the country.

“The bank’s three-year Country Assistance Strategy (CAS) has committed to support the Government’s program to improve the country’s statistical system, starting with the national accounts, then poverty and household statistics,” Mr. Hofman said.

“Good statistics are crucial to accomplishing our mission of supporting the country’s goal of achieving inclusive growth.”

In addition, Mr. Hofman said that statistics can prevent corruption, since it helps to ensure transparency and accountability, especially in public expenditure. Mr. Karl Kendrick Chua, Task Team Leader for the World Bank’s statistical capacity building projects, said that the approval of the grant is timely and highly significant, given NSCB’s mandate to produce the PSDP at every start of a new administration.

“The grant complements the government’s resources and ensures that the formulation of the new PSDP will benefit from international good practices on statistical development,” Mr. Chua said.

NEDA bares development strategy for Mindanao

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) is supporting a development strategy for Mindanao that could spur economic growth in the area for the next 10 years.

The Mindanao Strategic Development Framework outlines the directions and strategies that maximize the resources and potentials of the region for 2010 to 2020.

Socioeconomic Planning Sec. and NEDA Director-General Cayetano  Paderanga, Jr. have already endorsed the framework to Malacañang.

The framework pushes for the development of sustainable resource-based industrialization, improvement of employment generation, and establishment of efficient logistics support. 

Potential markets for the region includes agro-industry, halal industry, eco-tourism, renewable energy, mineral resources, and information and communication technologies.

Moreover, it stresses the need to have effective peace building strategies, and strong governance and partnership with the private sector.  This involves multilevel participation of different stakeholders for an
inclusive peace process, which is one of the priority concerns of the new administration

NEDA envisions Mindanao to be strong, sustainable, competitive, and a resource-based economy that is responsive to local and global opportunities by 2020 even as it  recognizes the challenges on poverty, conflict, economic and physical linkages and governance.

The Mindanao NEDA Regional Offices and the ARMM-Regional Planning and Development Office led the creation of the framework. It was endorsed by all the Regional Development Councils of Mindanao and the Regional Economic Development and Planning Board of the Autonomous Region of Muslim Mindanao
or ARMM.

Philippine stock market posts record gains

Investors are likely to cash in for profits after the Philippine stock market posted a record high last week as the volume of trading hit the P6 billion mark.

BPI Securities noted that trading on Friday closed to its highest level as the growing numbers in fundamental and persistent positive bias on economic outlook continued to dominate the local market.

The market advanced 97 points on Friday led by the property and financial sectors. Net foreign buying eased down to P684 million.

Week on week the bourse gained 168 points, up 4.3%.  The market is expecting to test the 4,000 level though profit taking along the way is inevitable, says BPI.

The most active stocks were PLDT, Metrobank, Banco de Oro, AGI, EDC, Ayala Corp., SM Prime Holding and AP.

The Asian markets also rallied on optimism that world economy will continue to grow.

Analyst Arlysa Narciso of AB Capital Securites noted that a strong rally last week despite the lack of convincing factors to back up such move.

“Although positive economic news were abound, there was nothing new and exciting about it. The advance was undoubtedly due to foreign leads and the gains garnered by a few companies,” says Narciso.

“So far, all indicators are optimistic and pointing to an advance. The support is at 3,550 or the lower band of the PSEi’s channel line while a probable resistance is at 3,870.”

Narciso said that investors feasted on developments overseas and tracked the gains in Wall Street.

The local market recorded successive gains to end the week with 176 points from its previous level. It reached a new year to date high with its sharp advance last week. Daily volume average reached 1.38 billion with an average value of P5.11 billion.

Aside from the economic forecasts provided by the government, other rating agencies and organizations have likewise given their projected growth of the economy, says Narciso.

“The strong growth recorded in the previous quarter called for a review in forecasts. This fuelled the optimism of investors and confidence in the economy. Other than such news, there was nothing else significant to catch investors’ attention. This led them to seek leads in foreign developments,” Narciso added.