Orange Telecom outsources call center to Philippines

by Charles Kelly, Immigration Matters

The future’s not ‘Orange , but ‘Manila’ for the mobile phone company’s British staff working in a UK call centre who were told that they could keep their jobs, but only if they move to the Philippines!

Telecom giant, Orange, announced that their jobs were being outsourced to The Philippines this week, as more British jobs are exported by a company which made it’s fortune from British people.

UK staff were informed in a bungled memo that they would also a get ‘rice allowance’ as part of the relocation package.

According to reports, one employee stated that ‘it’s a complete joke’. When staff asked for details of the transfer package they were handed a sheet of paper with what the Manila employees receive. It’s less than US$326.34 a month with a rice and laundry allowance, which shows exactly why they are exporting the jobs.

Orange stated all 40 Darlington staff had been offered other work in the UK and should never have been given a relocation option.

A spokesman added that this was an HR error, for which they apologize. They are in contact with the 40 employees involved and will be making it clear that they are not asking or expecting people to move to Manila.

BitDefender partners with retail giants

BitDefender antivirus software is expanding its business in the country by partnering with retail giants Octagon Computer Superstore, Accent Micro, PC Express, PC Live, and National Book Store branches all over Metro Manila. 

 “After successfully gaining entrance in the enterprise market with BitDefender Business Solutions, we are now ready to target the retail market with BitDefender’s consumer products,” said Patricia Celis, business development manager of IPSystems Inc., Philippine distributor of BitDefender.

“A lot of customers have been inquiring about this for some time now, and partnering with these giant retail chains was the next natural step,” Celis added.  

BitDefender has been garnering attention from industry reviewers such as AV Comparatives and Virus Bulletin due to the high detection rates that BitDefender engines have continuously achieved in several independent comparative tests.

“BitDefender high detection rate prevents the most dangerous viruses and malicious activities, such as online fraud, spyware, and online identity theft, while adding more flexibility and increased usability,” said Diana Stoleru, BitDefender channel manager for South East Asia.

“The new retail distribution channels will make the BitDefender products very easy to obtain in Manila, at a highly competitive pricing policy,” Stoleru added.

Aside from the high detection rates, BitDefender also distinguishes itself from competitors by providing personalized profiles for different Internet users.

Whether users are PC novices or experts, parents or gamers, BitDefender’s customized user profile feature will allow easy set up and management of the PC security in a way that best fits individual needs.

Chile offers huge business for Filipino exporters

The Chilean market offers huge business opportunities for Filipino exporters, particularly those manufacturing food and hand-made products.  

Alejandro Yarad, one of the founders of a Chilean-Filipino Council in Santiago, stressed that Chile is a country full of opportunities not only for the Chileans but for Filipinos as well.

Yarad said the main Philippine exports to Chile include sulfuric acid, computer and communication equipments, clothing, pineapple juice, dried coconut, and fishing nets.

Other products that could hit the Chilean market are furniture, textile, finished goods and those unique to the Philippines like handicraft and handmade goods.

“The idea is to get products with the best competitive advantage manufactured in countries we exchange. If we are good in wines, you are good in handicraft, clothing. We need to get the best of each country,” he added.

Yarad said the Santiago-based council will determine other goods the Philippines could offer to Chile.

“Chilean people are not aware how rich and capable the Filipino people. The Philippines don’t know much about the Chileans other than the earthquake and the miners,” he noted.

Yarad stressed that Chile is a huge market with its economy growing by five to seven percent every year.

“Chile is an open economy with no regulation. There is a lot of transparency for doing business with Chile,” he added.

Mining firms invest millions of dollars

A mining company in early stages of developing its mine site in Mindanao, is pouring in an average of $3 million a month, while another firm is cashing in $20 million each month.

A foreign mining executive revealed his company alone is ready to sink in up to $5 billion in cash to put on full operation a gold mine in Surigao.

These were just a few sample cases presented by the mining group to prove they are out to play a major role not only at becoming again a force to reckon with in the export sector, but as a main creator of jobs and wealth for the country.

Their recommendations were put forward in a recent workshop at the Asian Institute of Management to strengthen the “Arangkada Reform Package” submitted by the Joint Foreign Chambers of the Philippines last year to the Aquino government and Congress.

The mining committee of Arangkada listed 33 issues that need to be hurdled before the domestic mining industry would fly.

The Philippines is known to be one of five most mineralized countries in the world with huge deposits of gold, silver, copper, nickel, chrome, manganese and other precious and industrial metals that remain largely untapped.

The group is seeking a clear statement on the government’s policy and programs for the mining industry’s development.

On the level of decision-making, it recommended the streamlining of the system of issuing exploration permits, purging the list of claims those that have long been inactive and give those claims to exploration companies that have the money and the guts to stake on finding out if the prospects contain metals worth extracting.

Another high priority is for the government to speed up the processing of environment clearance certificates, known to take years in the past and a major temptation to corruption at the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.

Another recommendation was for the framing of a policy that will increase the percentage of direct mining and milling costs for community development from 1 to 1.5 percent.

Self-certification to increase free trade benefits

Singapore, Brunei and Malaysia have signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) to adopt a self-certification system to facilitate increased utilization of free trade agreements (FTA) benefits. 

The MOU provides that authorities be given access to records of the exporters for the purposes of monitoring the use of the authorization and verification of the correctness of declaration.

Exporters must maintain records and accounts to allow for the identification and verification of the originating status of goods by the competent authorities of the importing country during at least three years from the date of the declaration.

Based on the MOU, exporters whose shipments are valued above $200 are required to apply to the designated competent authorities for authorization as a “Certified Exporter” before they can self-certify.

Shipments equal or below the threshold value are not required to submit an invoice declaration in claiming preferential treatment.
The ASEAN Self Certification scheme will be adopted in parallel with the current certification system.

Under the dual scheme, if an exporter is authorized by the competent authorities in the exporting country to act as a Certified Exporter, the Customs authorities in the importing country will have to accept that and will not be able to insist on a conventional certificate to be submitted.

The Philippines needs to start reviewing existing legislations if there is a need to revise existing laws or to issue a new law for self-certification. 

The adoption of the self-certification system will serve to address the weaknesses of the current certification system adopted by ASEAN member countries.

The system is reliable, simpler and more cost-effective and will thus serve to enhance FTA utilization.

Cebu Pacific Air offers seat sale

Cebu Pacific is offering a summer seat sale of P777 fare to all its 33 domestic destinations for travel from June 1 to July 31, 2011.

For the Lite Fare of P777, passengers can travel to CEB’s most extensive route network in the Philippines.

These destinations are Bacolod, Boracay (Caticlan), Busuanga (Coron), Butuan, Calbayog, Cagayan de Oro, Catarman, Cauayan (Isabela), Cebu, Clark, Cotabato, Davao, Dipolog, Dumaguete, General Santos, Iloilo, Kalibo, Legaspi, Laoag, Manila, Naga, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Puerto Princesa, Roxas, San Jose (Mindoro), Siargao, Surigao, Tacloban, Tagbilaran, Tuguegarao, Virac and Zamboanga.

Aside from the domestic destinations, CEB also holds a P1,399 Lite Fare seat sale from Manila to Kota Kinabalu, for travel from May 1 to June 30, 2011.

“Our Lite Fares are perfect for the summer, when people pack light and plan multiple vacations. We remind everyone to avail of their Prepaid Baggage Allowances for their travel convenience. They can also do web check-in for a faster and hassle-free airport experience, especially with the peak travel period,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

More small businesses to benefit from design center’s services

The Product Development and Design Center of the Philippines (PDDCP) is expecting more small and medium enterprises (SMEs) to benefit from its design services and technical assistance this year.

PDDCP executive director Myrna Sunico said these product development services include regular client servicing, raw materials development and graphics design.

The center offers both the merchandise development and new product development. Sunico said the raw materials development services they are providing are in-house prototyping of design and research works of PDDCP’s designers and researchers for licensing and mobile design services.    
The center would also introduce the technology licensing office and set-up a raw materials showroom as part of its technical assistance to MSMEs.

“We are going to conduct an apprenticeship program in partnership with some exporters association to train new graduates of industrial design and be assigned to the factories of the exporters,” Sunico added. 

Last year, some 1,093 SMEs from 17 regions availed of these design services and technical assistance to improve the quality and competitiveness of Philippine products.

Most of these SMES were from Region II (Cagayan Valley), Region V (Bicol Region) and National Capital Region (NCR).
Sunico expects the number of beneficiaries would increase this year as the design center would be reaching out to more small businesses.

Manufacturing sector posts 21% growth in January

The manufacturing sector recorded a two-digit annual growth in January 2011 as indicated by the 21.8 percent increase in the value of production index (VaPI) from a single-digit increase of 8.5 percent in December 2010.

The National Statistics Office (NSO) in its monthly survey of selected industries attributed the growth to 15 major sectors, and the two-digit increase in production values observed in food manufacturing, fabricated metal products, miscellaneous manufactures, petroleum products, leather products, chemical products, electrical machinery, textiles, and footwear and wearing apparel.

On the other hand, VaPI on a monthly basis, slid 4.5 percent in January 2011 compared with previous month’s gain of 3.5 percent.

This was mainly due to the two-digit reduction in production values reported by four major sectors —  basic metals, publishing and printing, footwear and wearing apparel and beverages.

The volume of production index (VoPI) continued to accelerate as it posted a year-on-year growth of 25.8 percent in January 2011.

This was accounted by 16 major sectors reporting increases in production output, and with two-digit increases observed in food manufacturing, miscellaneous manufactures, electrical machinery, fabricated metal products, chemical products, furniture and fixtures, and petroleum products.

 On a monthly basis, the VoPI, however, decelerated 6.2 percent in January 2011. Significant reductions in factory output were noted in basic metals, publishing and printing, footwear and wearing apparel, food manufacturing and beverages.

BOC bans imports of poppy seeds, products

Customs Commissioner Angelito Alvarez has ordered the seizure of all imported poppy seeds and poppy seeds-containing products.

Alvarez warned the public that anyone who would import dangerous drugs and controlled precursors and essential chemicals including any and all species of opium poppy could be penalized with life imprisonment to death and a fine ranging from P500,000 to P10 million.

The ban on the entry of poppy seeds and poppy-seeds containing   products was one of the positive consequences of a recent privilege speech of Senator Vicente Sotto III who called attention on the growing demand for opium poppy seeds being used as culinary ingredients.

The Philippine Drug Enforcement Agency’s (PDEA) response to Sotto’s expose came in the form of a warning on poppy seeds use directed at establishments that serve and dispense the dangerous drug.

The PDEA action was followed by an order issued by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoking the Certificate of Product Registration of all poppy seeds-containing products it had issued to concerned companies. The latter were also directed to stop the importation of poppy seeds and to surrender whatever supply they still have to PDEA.

Sotto warned that since opium seeds contain alkaloids of morphine, codeine and thebaine which are classified as dangerous drugs, the person regularly taking these products would most likely test positive for dangerous drugs when examined.

Alvarez disclosed that close coordination between PDEA, DDB, FDA and BOC had resulted in the confiscation at the Port of Manila of a container van containing culinary products,  75 bags of B. Orange and Poppy Seed Muffin Mix.

Cebu Pacific ups flights to select routes

Cebu Pacific Air will increase its turbo-prop flights to select destinations beginning April 8, 2011, strengthening its position further as the largest turbo-prop operator in the country.

The airline will increase flights from Manila to Boracay (Caticlan), making it 14 times daily from April 8-June 8, 2011. Its Manila-Coron (Busuanga) flights will become twice daily, while Manila-Naga flights will become thrice daily during the same period.

These routes utilize 100% brand-new ATR 72-500 aircraft from Toulouse, France, of which CEB has eight in its aircraft fleet.

“With the new flight frequencies, CEB will operate an average of 82 turbo-prop flights a day, as compared to Philippine Airlines and Airphil Express’ combined 64 flights. We also utilize our ATR aircraft for 22 destinations and 25 routes, more than PAL and Airphil Express combined,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

“Cebu Pacific continues to play a big role in Philippine tourism, by opening destinations such as Siargao, Pagadian and Cauayan (Isabela) to air travel, and by consistently forcing competition to lower fares whenever it enters the market such as what happened in Coron (Busuanga) and Boracay (Caticlan),” she added.

“These inter-island flights serviced by our ATR turbo-prop aircraft allow passengers to connect from different provinces to main cities such as Davao, Cebu and Manila. The movement of travelers from one city to another within the country greatly stimulates the tourism and economy,” Iyog said.

CEB operates 12 turbo-prop routes from Manila including those to Catarman, Tuguegarao and Virac. It also flies from Davao to Cagayan de Oro using an ATR aircraft.

From Cebu, CEB operates the most number of turbo-prop flights to the most number of routes and destinations. These are flights to Bacolod, Cagayan de Oro, Boracay, Dipolog, Dumaguete, Iloilo, Legazpi, Ozamiz, Pagadian, Siargao, Surigao and Tacloban.