Ambitious Metro Manila subway project bared

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An ambitious Metro Manila Subway project could be a long way to go but the Secretary of the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is optimistic that his agency could do it under the Duterte government.

Is a subway project the answer to the horrendous traffic in Metro Manila? It could be a possibility.  At a  recent steering committee meeting presided by Secretary Arthur P. Tugade, partners from the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) presented updates on the feasibility study for the Metro Manila Subway project

Among the issues tackled were timelines, alignment and organizational arrangements. Sec. Tugade reiterated his directive that he wants the project to be operational before the end of President Rodrigo Duterte’s term.  “I want this project finished,” Tugade stressed.

Apart from fast-tracking the project, Secretary Tugade also proposed for the subway to extend all the way to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

“I need to have that connectivity. I have a big problem with NAIA because of the projected increase in volume of passengers,” he said.

The subway alignment originally has 13 stations, starting from Mindanao Avenue and ending at FTI Taguig. This is seen to cut travel time from Quezon City to Taguig to just 31 minutes.

Sec. Tugade wants a training facility for railway operators to which JICA responded positively. JICA also presented possible organizational arrangements to ensure that the subway will be constructed, operated, and maintained by a competent and dedicated team of certified operators and experts.

Aside from a world-class design, the proposed subway system will have water-stop panels, doors, and high-level entrance for flood prevention, earthquake detection, and a train stop system just like the subways in Tokyo.

President Duterte and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe are expected to sign a loan agreement for the Mega Manila Subway Project during the latter’s visit to the Philippines in November.

 

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Disruptive technologies drive growth of IT consulting and systems integration

Analyst Photo The growing adoption of disruptive technologies in the Philippines has driven the growth of professional services, particularly IT consulting and systems integration services.

The same is true with other growth countries such as Malaysia and Vietnam. “Digital transformation initiatives continue to be a major trend influencing the market over the past year. There has been an increasing demand for digital technologies such as analytics, cloud, and internet of things (IoT),” said Aubrey Lim, Senior Market Analyst, Services, IDC Asia/Pacific.

Lim noted that although the size of some of the deals was still relatively small, more organizations are setting aside budgets for 3rd Platform technologies and that IT services and business processes have begun to transform from a labor-centric model into a technology-centric model of service delivery.

IDC expects IT services spending across the Asia Pacific excluding Japan (APeJ) region to exceed US$95 billion by 2021. Overall APeJ Services spending, which includes IT and Business services, is anticipated to reach almost US$140 billion in 2021, from an estimated US$105 billion in 2017.

Vendors such as IBM and Accenture are some of the leading vendors in the cloud, analytics, mobility and security (CAMS) services space tracked by IDC, whose strength is backed up by their robust digital capabilities. They have also continued to bolster their capabilities in the digital space through acquisitions of digital agencies.

Meanwhile in 2017, DXC Technology – the merged entity of CSC and HPE’s Enterprise division – will be a strong contender, banking on the expertise from both of its predecessors, expansive global partner network and strong technology offerings.

China and Australia, the two largest markets in Asia Pacific region except Japan which accounts for half of the region’s services market size, have also seen similar developments.

IDC said the Chinese government has been actively promoting the development of the high-tech industry, and continues to implement its Internet+ strategy and encourage the construction of new smart cities. This is expected to drive the growth of the IT services market and other areas such as analytics and cloud.

Meanwhile, traditional outsourcing managed services are being substituted for cloud services at an accelerating pace in Australia. Enterprises now prefer to bundle cloud services with traditional capabilities as part of a single outsourced managed services engagement.

2 Cloud-related services spending in the APeJ region is expected to reach more than $10 billion by the end of 2017, with a compounded annual growth rate of 18.2% for the 2017-2021 period.

Brother Philippines-PBSP partnership benefits Inigan school children

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Brother International Philippines Corporation and the Philippine Business for Social Progress’ (PBSP) have forged a partnership to support the education of school children in a remote village at the Iñigan Elementary School (ES).

For the past five years, Brother Philippines has been going to Iñigan to bring joy to the children of the school through PBSP’s Ready for School Campaign (RFS), a volunteerism campaign of PBSP in support to the Department of Education’s Brigada Eskwela, aimed to prepare schools for the opening of classes.

“Our very first project in Iñigan happened in 2012. We gave gifts to the students but we thought that to make more impact to the pupils, it should not only be a one-time activity, which is why we looked at it from a five-year plan perspective,” Brother Philippines’ President Glenn Hocson said.

The employee-volunteers conducted interactive learning sessions with their assigned grade level. Some volunteers played games with the pupils, others were taught tips and tricks on mathematics while a group of volunteers told folklores to entertain the students such as the story of the Alamat ng Makahiya (Legend of the Pudica or Touch-Me-Not Plant).

The company’s employees get to choose how many students they want to adopt. The associate will then give a portion of his or her earnings to buy the much-needed school supplies of their adopted student.  The volunteers will then distribute the bags with school supplies such as notebooks, pencils, and crayons.

“That’s the beauty of this activity because we don’t just get to donate, but we get to go here and personally see the improvement of the school and the students we adopt. It’s really heartwarming to see them grow. Actually, the first batch of students I adopted has already graduated, they’re already in high school,” Hocson said.

Being a consistent donor to the school, Brother Philippines provided a grant this year for additional solar panel lighting systems, transparent fiberglass roofing sheets, painting of galvanized iron sheets roofing and indoor and outdoor walls, and completion of the school’s perimeter fence.

In the past, the company donated a generator set, a portable audio system, three laptop units and a hundred chairs including solar electrification and six new blackboards. Last year, the company funded the refurbishment of its learning resource center through the provision of at least 300 story and reading books and other reference materials, 6 kiddie tables, 24 chairs and mats, 20 storage boxes, and repainting of walls and bookshelves.

The assistance proved to be a big help to the school, not only for its physical appearance but also in contributing to the overall performance of its students. For the past two years, Iñigan elementary school grabbed the top spot in the National Achievement Test in the Municipality of Montalban. In the school year 2013-2014, the school also topped in the Division of Rizal and belongs to the top three in the province up till now.

 

 

Private sector’s role cited in economic growth

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The National Economic and Development Authority has urged the private sector to boost its activities, especially in the provinces to promote the government’s agenda of inclusive growth.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia said that the private sector is able to help the government by bringing in their innovation and expertise in carrying out public-private partnership projects.

“Our partners in the private sector play a big role in the development process and thus in realizing our vision for the country, the AmBisyon Natin 2040. We need to start working outside of urban centers, however, and tap the potential of fringe regions,” Pernia said.

AmBisyon Natin 2040 envisions Filipinos as enjoying a strongly rooted, comfortable, and secure life.

Secretary Pernia also encouraged private partners to continue contributing to economic growth by creating jobs, promoting innovation, providing skills training, delivering quality health services, and providing additional infrastructure financing through public-private partnerships.

He stressed that the hallmark of the administration’s socioeconomic agenda is a rural and regional development that will reduce poverty and inequality across the regions.

The new Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022 employs a National Spatial Strategy (NSS) that describes geographic challenges as well as opportunities for economic growth.

The main strategies of the NSS are maximizing the benefits of scale and agglomeration economies, connecting settlements to form efficient networks, and making vulnerability reduction an integral part of development.

 

 

PHP 255-billion railway project to connect Manila and Central Luzon

 

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The Philippine Department of Transportation (DOTr) will build a new railway that would connect Manila to Central Luzon at a cost of PHP 255 billion.

The 106-km railway project that will run from Tutuban, Manila to Clark, Pampanga is among the high-impact projects of President Rodrigo Duterte under the government’s ‘Build Build Build’ infrastructure program.

DOTr Secretary Arthur Tugade said: “For the first time, a rail project will connect Manila to Central Luzon and it will be completed under the Duterte administration.”

With this rail project, the two-hour travel time from Manila to Clark will be cut down to just 55 minutes. The rail system stands to benefit 350,000 passengers daily on its first year of operations.

There will be 17 train stations – Marilao and Meycauayan in Bulacan, Valenzuela, Caloocan, and Tutuban in Metro Manila; Solis, Bocaue, Balagtas, Guiguinto, Malolos, Calumpit, Apalit, San Fernando, Angeles, Clark, Clark International Airport, and the proposed New Clark City in Pampanga.

Philippine National Railways (PNR) General Manager Jun Magno said the project is seen to decongest Metro Manila and spread economic gains throughout the country.

“This project will ease traffic congestion and help thousands of commuters coming from Bulacan and Pampanga who travel daily to their workplaces or schools in Metro Manila,” Magno said.

Construction of the railway project will start in the last quarter of 2017 and will be completed by the last quarter of 2021. The project will be funded through Official Development Assistance (ODA) from Japan. The whole line will have 13 train sets with eight cars or coaches per train set. Each train can reach a maximum speed of 120 km per hour.

YouGov reveals 3 most annoying traits in fellow travellers

Passengers sneezing or coughing without covering their mouth, poor personal hygiene and putting feet on the seats are the three most annoying traits in fellow travellers, according to a new YouGov survey.

YouGov, the world’s leading online market research firm, asked over 9,000 public transport users in Asia Pacific what they hoped to avoid on their journey.

Older travellers are more likely to be annoyed by passengers talking loudly on their phones – 42% of those aged 55+ cited this as one of their top three most irritating experiences while just 33% of 16-24-year-olds felt the same way.

There are also some regional variations in what annoys public transport users. Those in the Philippines are most concerned with poor personal hygiene (69%), whereas Thais are the least concerned (35%).

Using bad language is a particular problem in Vietnam, where the number of those annoyed by bad language (47%) is almost double the regional average (25%).

Residents of Hong Kong are nearly twice as likely to be annoyed by hearing loud music coming from fellow travellers’ mobiles than others; 21% find it annoying, compared to 11% regionally.

PIDS warns negative effect of inaccurate data on poverty reduction

State think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS) has warned that inaccurate data on family income and household expenditure in the country can negatively affect policies on poverty reduction such as the proposed tax reform. 

Authored by Senior Research Fellow Jose Ramon Albert, Senior Research Specialist Ronina Azis, and Research Assistant Jana Vizmanos, the paper specifically mentioned two sources of data on household income and expenditures in the Philippines — national accounts and the Family Income and Expenditure Survey (FIES).

Based on the study, the authors revealed that discrepancies in the two estimates are causing poverty to be “overestimated” and income inequality to be “underestimated”, “witmuch-neededed resources for poverty reduction going to those who do not need the resources”.

The economic performance of a country is measured through the national accounts data using the household final consumption expenditure (HFCE). Its variables include the growth and trends in gross domestic product (GDP) and gross national income (GNI)—“an increase in GDP or GNI is interpreted as a sign that the economy is doing well.”  To get this, data collected are adjusted based on FIES and other factors.

The FIES, on the other hand, is used to describe poverty conditions using household data based on income or expenditure. Households are considered poor if “their per capita income falls below the official poverty threshold.”

Discrepancies lie on the differences in the definition, coverage, and methodology. In broader terms, the FIES covers a wider range of expenditure items than the HFCE.

One of the major culprits for the discrepancy between the two estimates is the inability to capture the expenditures of the wealthy, which ironically, is the target of the new tax reform package.

Under the FIES, households are given a lengthy questionnaire, which can take up to five hours to finish. This, according to the authors, makes it hard to encourage wealthy households to participate.

“People tend to forget their actual income or expenditures. While more questions in a survey may help people jog their memory, having an extremely lengthy questionnaire can be counterproductive since there are many opportunity costs for survey participation to respondents especially from affluent households,” the authors explained.

Meanwhile, national accounts-based data focuses on large transactions, which are harder to accurately capture because households with large transactions are least likely to participate. In the study, restaurants and hotels, for example, would underreport their expenditures, resulting in differences in the “consumption patterns of goods and services from reality,” thus “distorting the ability of survey data to represent the national conditions”.

These conditions led the authors to conclude that income inequality in the country may be underestimated and “the lack of accurate information may have serious implications on studies regarding tax reform that are meant to make the extremely wealthy pay a fairer share of taxes.”

The authors emphasized the need to address these inaccuracies so that efforts to reduce poverty are not wasted. Among their recommendations is to triangulate the estimates or to develop ways to reduce the discrepancies.

They also suggested simplifying the FIES to encourage wealthy households to participate in the survey.

To increase participation rate, it may also help if the FIES is split into family income survey and household expenditure survey to minimize the burden of answering the surveys.

UK expresses concerns on business risks in the Philippines

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The UK’s Department for International Trade has expressed concern on the current business risks in the Philippines.

The areas of economic risks are linked to the political and security conditions in the country. Restrictive economic provisions on foreign ownership, corruption and the high cost of utilities continue to keep foreign investments significantly lower than regional peers. Country competitiveness is also undermined by a high regulatory burden and red tape.

One of the main concerns among investors and business groups is peace and order, particularly in the Mindanao region. The 2014 Comprehensive Agreement on the Bangsamoro (CAB) signed between the Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF) provides some hope for peace in the region that could unlock the potential for long-term economic opportunities in Mindanao.

The Philippines has high incidence of violent crime, including gun crime. While British Nationals have been recent victims, there is no evidence that they are specifically targeted. Gun ownership, legal and illegal, is extremely widespread but foreign nationals are not permitted to carry firearms. Street ‘crime’ and robberies, such as bag snatching or pickpocketing are prevalent, even in well-lit and busy city areas. Visitors should also be wary of drugged drinks. Public transport is also subject to distraction theft and armed robberies from time to time.

Although mostly assumed to be wealthy, foreigners are not normally singled out as targets. The majority of crimes against foreigners involve petty thefts and robberies. British visitors to the Philippines should not feel particularly exposed, provided certain common sense precautions are taken, particularly when travelling with large amounts of currency, jewellery or other high-value items such as PCs, laptops, mobile phones and other electronics, etc. Visitors should also be aware that strict limits on bringing in or taking out currencies are in place.

Counterfeiting is large-scale and organised. Nothing is immune from abuse either in counterfeiting or pirating: computer games, business software, DVDs, clothing, high-value consumer goods, pharmaceuticals, industrial products, among others, are all readily available in both legitimate and illegitimate outlets.

UK Ambassador shares his vision on Philippine-UK ties in future

British Ambassador to the Philippines Asif Ahmed has shared his vision on how the Philippines and UK can work together to shape the future.

In my imagination, I see us arriving in a transformed Manila airport. We will use a new runway, based on the ingenious British idea. This is a single extended runway that planes use for both landing and takeoff. Our electric powered taxi will take the Laguna lakeshore highway. We will be home under an hour after leaving the airport. The jeepneys I will see on the road will still be as colourful as they are now but they will be safer and they won’t be smoke belchers. The Philippines will be a pioneer for pollution control with a visible shift to a green agenda.

We will want to connect with family and friends all over the world. We will choose whether to sign up to a British internet service provider based in the Philippines or a Filipino one. Both delivering the fastest broadband speed in the world. Perhaps, the one I will choose will have 3 dimensional virtual reality too. My favourite sports will be broadcast live through a reliable British satellite hovering over Philippine air space. The same satellite that will connect rural Philippines to the rest of the world.

In my local market, we will be overwhelmed with choice. Fresh fruits and seafood delivered in a seamless cold chain from Bicol. British beef and lamb will be available once again. In my local bar, alongside Scotch whisky, I will see British draught ale. Served at the right temperature with no ice in the glass.

From the time of the first steam locomotive, we have taken railway mania to all parts of the world. In fact, we built the first railways in the Philippines. I look forward to taking the subway from Makati to Quezon City. The new trains, supported by British technology, will be reliable. The journey will take no more than 20 minutes. I might even hear the familiar message on the platform-Mind the Gap-ingat ka.

The Ambassador’s speech underscored the strong bilateral relations of the UK and the Philippines, a partnership that is expected to flourish for many years to come. As the UK remains to be a global and outward looking nation, it commits to be open for business and a staunch partner of the Philippines in its road towards further development and prosperity.

The Ambassador closed his speech by saying:

I have set out a vision for the future. This is not a flight of fantasy. Everything I have said is reachable. All you need is belief and determination. Remember the words of John Lennon’s song Imagine. You may say that I’m a dreamer but I am not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.

PAL ranked 67th in Skytrax top 100 airlines in 2017

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The Philippine Airlines ((PAL) has improved its ranking in Skytrax world’s top airlines in 2017 from 83 to 2016 to 67th place this year.

Voted by airline customers around the world, Qatar Airways was voted the best airline in 2017 as the airline has grown to more than 140 destinations worldwide, offering levels of service excellence that helped the award-winning carrier to become best in the world. Qatar Airways network spans business and leisure destinations across Europe, Middle East, Africa, Asia Pacific, North America and South America. Qatar Airways is a member of oneworld global airline alliance.

Included in the best top 10 airlines for 2017 are

2 Singapore Airlines
3 ANA All Nippon Airways
4 Emirates
5 Cathay Pacific
6 EVA Air
7 Lufthansa
8 Etihad Airways
9 Hainan Airlines
10 Garuda Indonesia