Japan is top develop assistance provider to the Philippines

Japan remained the top provider of official development assistance (ODA) to the Philippines with total loans and grants amounting to US$5.98 billion accounting for 41.2 percent of the country’s active ODA portfolio.

World Bank followed with US$3.13 billion (21.56%) and the Asian Development Bank with US$2.24 billion (15.44%).

The United States is fifth with total active ODA amounting to US$807 million (5.56 percent) followed by Korea with US$660 million in loans and grants (4.55 percent).

Other ODA providers are Australia, United Nations System, Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB), France, EU, China, Germany, OPEC Fund for International Development (OFID), Italy, Canada, Spain, and New Zealand.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) says the total net commitment of the country’s active ODA portfolio as of September 2018, based on the data generated in December 2018, reached US$14.5 billion, with total grants amounting to US$2.22 billion and total loans amounting to UU$12.28 billion.

One of the notable projects financed by Japan is the first phase of the Metro Manila Subway Project which comprises the construction of a 25.3-kilometer subway. The subway will run from Mindanao Avenue in Quezon City to FTI in Taguig, with an extension to the Ninoy Aquino International Airport.

In March 2018, the Philippines and Japan signed the P50-billion loan agreement for the Metro Manila subway project which is expected to break ground in January 2019.

“As we assess 2018, we look at our development partners full of appreciation and gratitude. They have been constantly beside us in our efforts to pursue much-needed reforms, and both social and physical infrastructures to reach our goals,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

Pernia noted that the government, for its part, must take the lead in ensuring that these projects will create lasting change in the lives of Filipino people.

Philippine exporters urge gov’t to address port congestion

Philippine exporters are urging the government to work together with the private sector in finding short- to long-term solutions to address the issue on empty containers which is causing delivery problems.

Sergio Ortiz-Luis Jr., president of the Philippine Exporters Confederation of the Philippines (Philexport) says the problem needs to be solved first in the short term and eventually with institutionalized long-term measures.

“The government should accept that this is a real problem that is causing very serious cash flow and delivery problems on micro, small and medium enterprises (MSMEs), especially exporters,” said  Ortiz-Luis Jr.

Nicolas de Lange, president of Designs Ligna, a furniture exporter said that his company experienced delays at an average of two weeks on their imports. “For us who rely on imported raw materials, it heavily affects our schedule and cash flow,” said de Lange, chairman of the Chamber of Furniture Industries of the Philippines (CFIP).

The government, particularly the Bureau of Customs, has earlier repeatedly denied that there is a port congestion. However, in meetings at the Export Development Council (EDC), private sector stakeholders, including truckers and container yard operators, have confirmed the problem.

“They cited the need for shipping lines, owners of these empty containers, to build their own yards to park these empties. In the meantime, these lines will have to send sweepers to remove these empties to decongest the ports and container yards that are already in their full capacity. However, shipping lines have not made any such move so far, presumably due to cost issues, according to the container yard operators.”

De Lange said that his company is already being charged by shipping lines of about $275 for container imbalance fees. “This should be enough for them to move their empty containers out,” he noted.

Container imbalance charge is defined as a cost charged for relocating large quantities of empty containers between countries where there is an imbalance of trade.

PIDS urges small enterprises to keep pace with competition

The Philippine Institute of Development Studies (PIDS) has urged Philippine small and medium enterprises to improve their internal processes and systems to keep pace with the competition brought about by the integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN).

This is part of the supply chain integration, which according to a study published by PIDS, leads to better organizational performance. According to the study, firms undergo supply chain integration “by coordinating their production or service demands with their suppliers” or by coordinating with consumers to know their product preferences.

“Currently, SMEs that are exporting commodities are already experiencing obstacles related to trading,” PIDS consultants Elaine Borazon and Vivien Supangco, authors of the study, said.

“These barriers could be addressed by focusing on enhancing the organizational resources and integrating the whole supply chain,” they added.

The study focused on three factors to identify how supply chain integration impacts SMEs’ performance and competitiveness —  internal integration, customer integration, and supplier integration.

Results of the study showed that “internal integration strongly influences both business performance and competitiveness” of Philippine SMEs.

The study refers to internal integration as “joint decision making, collaboration, and information sharing across internal functions of the firm” to ensure streamlined workflows, collaborative decisions, and efficient communication. An example of this is by linking a company’s various departments through an information technology system, the authors explained.

The study concluded that firms should “structure their internal organizational process and strategies to meet their customer requirements”. The authors added that firms should encourage “collaboration across their various internal processes to achieve better business performance and competitiveness”.

Moreover, the study said that adopting internal integration will “decrease functional barriers and allow cooperation among internal departments”. It will also help ensure the efficient use of internal resources in firms. It also stressed the importance of internal integration for the success of both customer and supplier integration.

To help SMEs strengthen their internal integration, the authors recommended to the government to support and provide education and training to enhance SME’s management skills, particularly in the “generation of effective operational and production plans and functional coordination”.

The use of information systems within SMEs is also encouraged. The study urged the government to invest in various technologies and help SMEs adopt to advances in technology.  One example of this is the Department of Trade and Industry’s MSME Development Plan 2017-2022, which aims to extend technological improvements to micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs).PIDS logo

EU to provide clean energy to 40,000 Philippine households

The European Union (EU) has forged seven new contracts with Philippine civil society organisations, cooperatives, regional and local authorities, corporate social responsibility institutions and universities that would provide clean energy to 40,000 households.

These energy projects will contribute to the implementation of the Department of Energy’s objective of reaching out 100% of electrification in 2020 in the Philippines.

European Union Ambassador Franz Jessen  stressed that EU’s contribution to these projects amounts to € 21 million and is part of the broader Access to Sustainable Energy Programme (EU-ASEP) that aims to support the electrification of 100,000 households in the Philippines.

ASEP will be implemented until 2021 that would increase the share of renewable energy mix to expand access to clean electricity and pursue new energy efficiency strategies.

Jessen said the seven projects will contribute to electrify remote places and provide income-generating activities to the beneficiary communities, like the improvement of the quality and the value of local crops and boost community- based tourism.

The seven projects awarded are:

1.Strengthening Off-grid Lighting with Appropriate Renewable Energy Solutions (SOLARES): € 5 million grant to MAHINTANA – Solar Home Systems (SHS) coupled with livelihood activities will be provided to 5,000 households of poor areas of North Cotabato, Sarangani, South Cotabato, Sultan Kudarat and Maguindanao

2.Improving the Lives of People in Off-Grid Communities in Mindanao through the Provision of Sustainable Energy: € 4.5 million grant to YAMOG – A total of 5,000 households are targeted in North and South Cohabit as well as in Davao Oriental. 3,800 households will be provided Solar Home Systems while 1,200 will gain access to energy through pico-hydropower

3.SolarBnB Microhotel & Island Livelihood Energizer Platform (SMILE): € 3.9 million grant to KABANG KALIKASAN (WWF) – This action brings 24-hour energy access to 4 poor, remote island communities by integrating proven components of successful electrification and livelihood projects into a comprehensive small island electrification model while serving growing demand for eco-tourism & adventure travel. Local stakeholders include island communities, EC’s Siargao Electric Cooperative (SIARELCO) and Dinagat Electric Cooperative (DIELCO), the Dinagat and Siargao Tourism Councils, and the Municipality of Carmen

4.Renewable energy technology for seaweed value added in Tawi-Tawi (RETS): € 4.2 million grant to UNIDO – This action aims to increase electricity access in the island of Tawi-Tawi, particularly in seaweed producing municipalities; improvement of the delivery of community services such as health and nutrition, education, sanitation through the availability of electricity services in off-grid and rural seaweed farming communities and increase the value added of seaweed farming its income generation potential

5.Renewable Energy Access for off-grid Communities and Households (REACH): € 3.7 million grant to CLOVEK (PEOPLE IN NEED) –  The action aims to enhance social welfare, disaster-resilience and economic growth of vulnerable off-grid communities in remote areas of Northern Samar through innovative, scalable, and sustainable renewable energy technologies and systems

6.Renewable Energy for Livelihood and Youth (RELY): € 2.2 million grant to SEQUA – The action promotes the use of renewable energy to improve livelihoods and climate resilience in off-grid, poor and remote communities in the Philippines, specifically in Region VII and IV-B.

7.Clean Energy Living Laboratories (CELLs): The development of centres of excellence on energy access, renewable energy, and energy efficiency € 3.8 million grant to Ateneo de Manila University – A Centre of Excellence, based in a University with regional antennas in Davao and Cebu, will be the national reference for renewable energy and correspondent of Energy4ALL initiative.




Philippines to host Routes Asia 2019

The Philippines will host Routes Asia 2019 with Cebu as the host city

Erwin Balane, head of route development for the Philippine Department of Tourism said:Hosting Routes Asia gives us the opportunity to encourage carriers to consider the international gateways of the Philippines.”

Interviewed by Ellie Wells, Balanae said: “We will be able to raise our profile in the Asian aviation community and demonstrate that the Philippines is a multi-gateway destination, where aviation infrastructures are in place and international airports are compliant with international aviation standards,” said Balane.

“By promoting the Philippines to leading carriers in Asia, we will continue to improve air connectivity from major tourist source markets to the Philippines.”

Balance recalled that when Manila hosted Routes Asia 2016, the Philippines recorded a huge spike in terms of international air seats to the Philippines from new international air routes.

In 2017, the total new international air seats to the Philippines reached 1.049 million, a growth of 18.15% over the previous year.

“What is more interesting is that, 85.46% of these new international air seats where mounted by foreign and local carriers outside of Manila. This means that we were able to utilise our secondary gateways in terms of passenger traffic and decongest Manila of aircraft and passenger traffic.”

As of November 2018, total new international air seats to the Philippines already reached 1.527 million, a huge increase of 45.57% over the previous year.

Balane said he was delighted to hear positive comments from delegates who experienced the Filipino brand of hospitality.

“This warm welcome will, of course, be something will be felt by all delegates who will attend Routes Asia 2019. Delegates will see the new terminal which has been dubbed the only “Resort Airport in Asia.” They can also experience Cebu brand of dishes and delicacies which are popular in Asia.  Truly, their participation will make them feel that “It’s More Fun In The Philippines”.

PAL adds new destination with the opening of Clark-Antique route


Philippine flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has expanded its network with the opening of  Clark-San Jose de Buenavista route.

The province of Antique welcomed its first commercial flight on December 16, with the inaugural flight from Clark to San Jose de Buenavista, the provincial capital of Antique in central Visayas.

Antique is the latest domestic destination added to the award-winning flag carrier’s extensive domestic network.  The new twice weekly PAL service between Clark and Antique is operated with brand-new 86-seater Bombardier Next Generation Q400 aircraft.

“This new route empowers Antiqueños to fly straight to the heart of Central Luzon,” said PAL’s Vice President for Corporate Communications Josen Perez de Tagle during the send-off ceremony at Antique. “More convenient air access helps keep the economy humming in Antique.”

Senior government officials led by Senator Loren Legarda, Antique Governor Rhodora Cadiao, Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade, and Environment & Natural Resources Secretary Roy Cimatu gathered for a festive ceremony at Antique’s Evelio B. Javier airport to launch the inaugural PAL service.

Also witnessing the historic flight were Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines Director General Capt. Jim Sydiongco, DOTr Undersecretary for Aviation & Airports Capt. Manuel Antonio Tamayo; and mayors and councilors from Antique’s 18 municipalities.

CAAP DG Sydiongco welcomed the pioneer route: “With PAL flights coming to Antique, more Antiqueños would be able to fly home more often and experience the efficiency of air travel. We witness another milestone for Philippine aviation.”

PR2205 leaves Clark at 6:00 AM every Sunday and Tuesday, arriving in San Jose de Buenavista at 7:20 AM. The return flight, PR2206, departs Antique 20 minutes later at 7:40 AM, arriving in Clark at 9:00 AM.

Through the new route, PAL hopes to promote Antique’s tourist attractions, including the Binirayan festival, scuba diving, medical hot springs at Sira-an, Sibalom Natural Park, the making of muscovado sugar in Patnongon and Laua-an, Bugtong Bato Falls and many more.

The PAL Next-Generation Q400 aircraft – fitted with six Economy Plus premium seats and 80 regular Economy seats – has the quietest and most spacious cabin of its kind. Produced by Canadian aircraft maker Bombardier, the Q400 NG flies faster and more comfortably than other island-hopping airplanes, with a baggage hold big enough to accommodate surfboards.

In 2018, PAL gained global recognition when it was voted the “World’s Most Improved Airline” and certified as a 4-Star Global Airline by international rating associations.

PAL previously operated a Manila-Antique service from 1956 to 1970 using Douglas DC-3 aircraft, and from 1974 to 1977 using the Hawker Siddeley 748.

San Jose de Buenavista becomes PAL’s 20th destination linked from Clark International Airport, where the flag carrier is the biggest airline operator. PAL flights also link Clark with Siargao, Basco, Coron, Caticlan (Boracay), San Vicente (Palawan), Bacolod and Seoul (Korea).



MARINA opens online exam application for merchant marine officers

Filipino seafarers can now apply online for the theoretical examination for merchant marine officers as part of the Maritime Industry Authority’s (MARINA) intensified modernization initiatives.

The implementation of the online evaluation and appointment system is in line with the computerization and automation of all MARINA processes, which is on top of the MARINA’s 14 Point Agenda for 2018.

MARINA has urged seafarers to upload their required documents to MARINA Online Appointment System for the purposes of online verification through the web address:  https://online-appointment.marina.gov.ph/

After the online verification, applicants will pay the corresponding fees though an authorized payment partner prior to setting an appointment schedule for their physical appearance at the MARINA-STCW Office on their preferred date and time.

As one of the various systems that will comprise the MARINA’s Integrated Management System, the online application will ensure that the agency exercises strict and uncompromising quality procedures in the delivery of public service.

The online evaluation and appointment system, which is also part of of the MARINA Integrated Seafarers Management Online (MISMO) system, includes the theoretical examination for Global Maritime Distress and Safety System (GMDSS) Radio Operator.

On top of the testing centers in Cebu and Davao, MARINA plans to open another testing center in Iloilo next year.

With the help of online evaluation and appointment system, the MARINA ensured that all the seafarers can apply from anywhere either while onboard or from the comforts of their home.

Aside from online evaluation and appointment system for the application of Theoretical Examination for Merchant Marine, the MARINA also targeted to launch online evaluation and appointment system for Certificate of Competency (COC) and Certificate of Proficiency (COP).


SMHC-DOTr tieup to build international airport in Bulacan, north of Manila

The Department of Transportation (DOTr) has forged a partnership agreement with San Miguel Holdings Corporation (SMHC) to build an international airport in Bulacan, north of Manila.

The Bulacan International Airport project—an unsolicited public-private partnership (PPP) proposal—involves the construction, operation, and maintenance of the airport on a 2,500-hectare land in Bulakan, Bulacan, north of Manila Bay.

The proposal entails a total project cost of PhP735.63 billion. The original proponent, through an unsolicited build-operate-transfer arrangement, will assume the total project cost.

Key features of the Bulacan International Airport CA include no government guarantee or any form of subsidy.

“These are substantial features, proving the project is adequately advantageous to the government.  They certainly raise the bar on unsolicited PPP projects,” said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

Following the NEDA board meeting, the DOTr will proceed with finalizing the concession agreement and convey the NEDA board approval of the report to the proponent, SMHC.

The revised concession agreement will go through a final review of the Solicitor-General and the Department of Finance before it is advertised to parties.

Achieving demographic dividend is a challenge

downloadOne of the challenges facing the Philippines is reaching the demographic dividend which Economic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia described it as not an easy task.

Demographic dividend is the economic growth experienced by a country as a result of the change in the country’s population structure.

It is the product of the demographic transition, which is characterized by markedly declining mortality and fertility rates, resulting in the shrinking of the dependent age (0-14) group and expanding of the workforce (ages 15-64). This transition leads to steadily rising savings and investment rates and, hence, faster economic growth and improved living standards.

Demographic transition has three phases. An initial decline in infant mortality with fertility rate remaining high, marks the first phase of the demographic transition.  The second phase happens when the share of working-age population becomes large relative to the young dependent ages and the older population (65 years and above).

Pernia said the road to demographic dividend is marked by challenges such as high fertility rate, particularly among poor households, and high unemployment rate among the youth.

Indicator results of the recently released 2017 National Demographic and Health Survey conducted by the Philippine Statistics Authority (PSA) showed the country’s average total fertility rate slightly declined to 2.7 births per woman in 2017, from 3 in 2013.

Slow increase in the use of modern contraceptives was also recorded from 37.6 percent in 2013 to 40.4 percent in 2017.

Another concern is the high unemployment rate among the youth. Results of the latest Labor Force Survey conducted by PSA in October 2018 showed that unemployment remains high among young people.

Youth unemployment, at 13.3 percent, is worse than the 5.1 percent national unemployment rate and the 3.7 percent unemployment rate for the 25 to 54 age group.

The Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017- 2022 targets youth unemployment rate to decline to about 8 percent by 2022.

The government is likewise concerned about the youth “not in employment, in education, or in training” or NEET.

According to the data from PSA’s Labor Force Survey from 2012 to 2016, percentage of youth “not in employment, in education, or in training” declined from 24.8 percent to 22.1 percent.

Based on these figures, some 4.4 million young Filipinos are still underutilized with skills not being enhanced by education, training, or employment.

The government continues to take active measures to steer the country through a demographic transition and reap its dividend. It boils down to an effective population management to ensure a highly productive workforce.

“It is to the country’s advantage to make the best of the increasing labor force in order to boost economic output. But the government must invest in human capital through family health and educational interventions,” Pernia said.

NEDA, with other government agencies, identified the gaps to be addressed and strategies to accelerate the demographic transition. These are detailed in the PDP 2017-2022, which emphasizes the need for a sustained universal health care program and reproductive health policies to reduce mortality and fertility rates.

The Responsible Parenthood & Reproductive Health (RPRH) Law that is already in place is very much in line with the PDP. However, the law passed in December 2012 –- after being stalled for five years with court TROs — must be fully implemented, along with adequate investment in human capital, particularly health and education for children and the youth.

The Philippines is expected to be the last major Asian economy to benefit from the demographic dividend between the years 2025-2070. If not properly addressed, the country would need to wait until at least 2050 to benefit from the demographic dividend, or possibly miss it all together.

“We need to fully implement the RPRH Law to speed up the demographic transition. If fully implemented now, we should get there by 2025. When people are able to care for their reproductive health and plan for their families, they can save more and invest in their children better. This will lead to a population that is healthier and well educated,” Pernia said.

Other reform agenda set by the government include Executive Order No. 12, series 2017, on “Zero Unmet Need for Modern Family Planning.”

For reproductive health and family planning interventions, the promotion of birth spacing of three to five years will be integrated to help couples and individuals achieve their desired family size. With low birth rates and small family sizes, it is more likely for women to be employed and to invest more time in personal development activities such as education and training.

On the education front, the current K to 12 curriculum integrates lessons on sexuality education aimed at helping students make informed choices about issues that affect their well-being. This will help address population issues by improving the education of the younger population, especially girls, to delay marriage and prevent early pregnancy.

Also, the Pantawid Pamilyang Pilipino Program (4Ps), which has been implemented since 2008, upholds children’s rights and aims to ensure that their basic needs concerning education, healthcare, and responsible parenting are met.

“The time is ripe to lay down the foundation for the Philippines to harness its demographic dividend. It is imperative for both the public and private sectors to work together toward this goal today,” Pernia said.



World Bank sees 6.5% growth in Philippine economy next year

The World Bank has revised its growth projections for the Philippines to 6.4 percent in 2018 and 6.5 percent in 2019, to reflect the recent economic trends.

These new forecast numbers are slight revisions of the World Bank’s growth projections of 6.5 percent for 2018 and 6.7 percent for 2019.

“A strong, consistent delivery of the infrastructure investment agenda while sustaining improvements in health, education and social protection will be key to maintaining the robust and inclusive growth outlook of the Philippines,” said Rong Qian, World Bank Senior Economist.

While persistent high inflation may temper private consumption growth in the fourth quarter of 2018, a moderation in inflation in following quarters is expected to boost consumer confidence and raise private consumption in 2019.

The mid-term Philippine election in May is also expected to strengthen consumption by temporarily raising employment and disposable incomes in early 2019.

World Bank said the investment growth however maybe be tempered in the first half of 2019 due to the possible reenactment of the first-quarter 2019 budget following a delay in the budget approval process. Moreover, global trade is expected to remain weak, thus dampening exports.

The World Bank believes the Philippines remains one of the fast-growing economies in the East Asia and the Pacific Region.