Labor policies undermine Philippine competitiveness

Philippine businessmen have voiced their concerns on existing labor policies which are undermining efforts to improve the global competitiveness of local business and the country as an investment destination.

The prevailing policy environment is already very restrictive as the low level of foreign direct investment and the dire employment situation of the country suggest, said AMCHAM Committee Chairman for Industrial Relations Ernie Cecilia.

The Philippines has the highest minimum wage in Asia and the fifth largest number of holidays in the world.

Minimum wage in the Philippines is set at $9 a day compared to over $6 for Thailand, while the number of paid holidays in the country is 23 against seven and 15 for Vietnam and Thailand, respectively.

“We are protesting House Bill No. 303 authored by Walden Bello, not because it is pro-labor but because it is anti-development”, said Cecilia.

He also noted that once the proposed measure is in place, the country will no longer have contractual workers but unemployed workers.

Meanwhile, Congress is reconsidering proposed labor laws that may have adverse effects in employment generation.

Even the authors of the bills that seek to advance the interest of workers are no longer keen on calendaring the bills for plenary debates, said Congress Committee on Labor Chairman Emil Ong during a meeting organized by the American Chamber of Commerce.

While the consolidated bill on strengthening the security of tenure has been approved at the Committee level, the Labor Committee opted not to declare it as officially approved owing to the request by lawmakers who failed to attend the Committee hearing, said Ong.

Also, the bill was approved even in the absence of a quorum with only four Congressmen in attendance during the deliberation, Ong added.

These lawmakers are no longer comfortable defending these bills on the floor after having perceived the negative impact of these bills on the very sector that they aim to protect, said Ong.

Philippine imports up 24% in January

Philippine imports rose by 23.9 percent in January 2011 to $5.31 billion from $4.28 billion in January 2010.

 The National Statistics Office (NSO) reported an 11.8 percent growth in exports to $4 billion from $3.5 billion in January 2010 with a trade deficit of $1.31 billion.

Total external trade in January 2011 reached $9.31 billion, up by 18.4 percent from $7.86 billion recorded during the same month in 2010.

Accounting for 34.6 percent of the aggregate import bill, payments for electronic products in January 2011 amounted to $1.83, up by 37.6 percent over last year’s $1.33 billion. 

Among the major groups of electronic products, semiconductors increased by 56.1 percent to $1.53 billion from $980.72 million.

Imports of mineral fuels in January 2011 ranked second with 17.3 percent share and posted an 11 percent growth to $919.26 million over the previous year’s level of $828.55 million.

Transport equipment was the country’s third top import for the month with 5.2 percent share to total imports valued at $273.37 million, down by 28.1 percent from previous year level of $380.17 million.

Industrial machinery and equipment, contributing 5.1 percent to the total import bill, was the  fourth top import for the month with payments placed at $270.29 million from last year’s $174.52 million, up by 54.9 percent.

Fifth in rank and with 2.8 percent share to the total imports, ores and metal scrap recorded $149.36 million worth of imports, higher by 66.2 percent from its year ago level of $89.89 million.

Imports of plastics registered $146.57 million, up by 69.4 percent from its year-ago level of $86.53 million.

Other top imports in January 2011 included chemicals, $137.14 million; iron and steel, $120.51 million; telecommunication equipment and electrical machinery, $109.72 million; and medicinal and pharmaceutical products, $81.38 million.

ADB assures Philippines of support

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) has assured the Philippine government of its support in tapping the country’s development potential.

ADB president Haruhiko Kuroda said: “We support your focus on infrastructure development using public private partnerships, social sector development, fiscal consolidation and governance reforms.”

To illustrate its commitment, ADB has extended a $400 million loan for a conditional cash transfer program to assist the country’s poorest households.

The bank has also shared know-how and experiences in developing public private partnerships with the government’s economic team.

Kuroda thanked the Philippines for its support in piloting electric tricycles and other projects which ADB plans to replicate in other member countries.

“With the environment becoming an increasing concern, I am also happy to note that we are also working closely with the Philippines in developing unique approaches to mitigating the impact of climate change,” he said.

ADB was established in Manila over 44 years ago and since then it has provided assistance of about $12 billion to the Philippines. The current portfolio includes robust private sector operations which have helped improve infrastructure and the financial sector.

Cebu Pacific offers seat sale

Cebu Pacific is offering a seat sale for China and Vietnam routes for travel from May 1 to July 31, 2011.

The airline said that passengers can avail of P1,399 ‘Go Lite’ seats from Manila to Ho Chi Minh.

The China seat sale fares are also up for grabs, for travel from July 1-August 31, 2011. P1,399 ‘Go Lite’ seats are available for those traveling from Manila to Guangzhou, while P1,899 ‘Go Lite’ seats are available for those going from Manila to Beijing and Shanghai.

Passengers with check-in luggage will just add P100 upon booking.  Meanwhile, passengers can also avail of the following ‘Go Lite’ seat sale fares, for travel from July 1-August 31, 2011: P399 from Cebu to Cagayan de Oro, P699 from Cebu to Butuan and P999 from Manila to Butuan or Cagayan de Oro.

“We are lowering our fares to China by as much as 62%, and our fares to Vietnam by as much as 53% to further promote trade and tourism. CEB encourages guests to avail of this seat sale for their business and leisure travel,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

CEB flies thrice weekly to Beijing and Guangzhou, and daily to Shanghai, using the youngest aircraft fleet in the country.