Mexican vessel makes historic Manila visit

The Mexican vessel Cuauhtémoc “Ambassador and Knight of the Seas” will
be arriving in Manila on August 4, 2017 to mark its first journey to Manila, commemorating the historic voyage by the Manila-Acapulco Galleon in almost 250 years.

Captain Rafael Lagunes and the crew of vessel will welcome visitors to enjoy a bit of Mexico, its traditions, craftsmanship, folklore, flavors and legacy.

The Mexican vessel Cuauhtémoc will anchor at Pier 15, Manila South Harbor, Port Area, Manila. Access will be granted through shuttles operated by Doña Virginia Maritima Corp, the shipping agent.

Captain Lagunes says: “We have sailed the seas and oceans around the world, proudly raising our national flag, sailed more than 700,000 nautical miles and forged 34 generations of cadets from the naval military school of Mexico.”

The Embassy of Mexico in Manila is proud to contribute to the successful visit of the vessel Cuauhtémoc in conjunction with the Philippine Navy which will further strengthen the bilateral relations between Mexico and the Philippines.

“We invite you to discover the hospitality and the love for the maritime traditions that are reflected in the perfection of its decks, bulkheads, maneuvers and rigging. The crew, integrated by 9 senior officers, 44 officers, 43 cadets and 122 enlisted men and women, is a genuine sample of more than 120 million Mexicans in the world, presenting itself as an ambassador of our country, carrying a message of peace and good will,” says Captain Lagunes.

“May this historical visit attest the renewed long-standing ties that join Mexico and the Philippines together, not only as partners but as sister-nations.”

PAL adds new Bombardier turboprop

1st Q400 NG delivery flight at Malta stop over 2

Philippine flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has added a new aircraft to its fleet – the world’s first dual-class turboprop aircraft and the next-generation Bombardier Q400 with registry RP-C5901.

The aircraft arrived in Manila after a refuelling stop at Malta in the Mediterranean, one of nine stop-overs – Canada, Iceland, France, Malta, Egypt, United Arab Emirates, Pakistan, India, Thailand – during its 11,398-nautical mile delivery flight from Toronto to Manila.

The aircraft – manned by three pilots, three mechanics and one aircraft inspector from PAL Express – touched down in Manila on July 26, 2017 after a five-day journey. (Photo by Keith Pisani)

Philippine inflation eases to 2.8%

The Philippine inflation rate has eased to 2.8 percent in June 2017 from 3.1 percent in May, lower than market expectations of 3 percent.

The National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) says core inflation, which excludes select volatile food and energy prices, also eased to 2.6 percent in June 2017 from 2.9 percent, reflecting the general price stability across goods and services.

Slower price adjustments in both food and non-food commodities contributed to the easing of inflation in June 2017.

For food and non-alcoholic beverages, inflation slowed to 3.5 percent in June from 3.8 percent the previous month.

Non-food inflation slowed to 2 percent in June 2017 from 2.5 percent in May.  This follows the significantly slower year-on-year increase in domestic petrol prices during the period, particularly unleaded gasoline (5.1 percent from 9.9 percent), diesel (5.3 percent from 13.6 percent), and kerosene (3.0 percent from 9.6 percent).

NEDA Officer-in-Charge (OIC) and Undersecretary for Policy and Planning Rosemarie Edillon said that keeping inflation stable strengthens prospects of stronger domestic economic activity in the near-term.

“The significant decline in the probability of extreme weather disturbances due to El Niňo and La Niňa until the end of 2017 bodes well for agricultural production and commodity prices moving forward,” Edillon said.

“Government should take advantage of good weather conditions to accelerate the implementation of climate change adaptation measures. Among the crucial ones are investing in infrastructure like catchment basins, advance atmospheric moisture extraction, and promoting water-saving technology. Rehabilitation of damaged irrigation systems and periodic maintenance will also ensure disaster and climate resiliency of the agriculture sector.”

“On the external front, domestic prices may be affected as global financial market conditions adjust in response to the faster monetary policy normalization in the United States,” Edillon said.


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.


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



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.