PAL aims to keep Skytrax 4-star rating



Flag carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) has lined up major initiatives this year 2018 to sustain the Skytrax certification 4-Star rating.

PAL will introduce a new line of aircraft tailored for mid-size markets on medium-range routes.  The new Airbus A321neo is scheduled delivery in March, to be deployed on the new Manila-Brisbane nonstop route by May.

With the A321neo, PAL becomes the first Asian airline to utilize a narrow-bodied aircraft equipped with 12 full-flat Business Class seats.

All 168 seats (Business Class and Economy) on the A321neo have in-seat video monitors – another first for PAL’s single-aisle aircraft fleet – loaded with more than 300 hours of inflight entertainment. Economy seats are more spacious with wider legroom.

The eco-friendly and powerful A321neo engines generate less noise and can fly up to a maximum of eight hours. The whole cabin also offers free Wi-Fi connectivity.

A total of six A321neo and four Airbus A350-900s will be delivered in 2018. The A350-900s – equipped with exciting cabin features in PAL’s most luxurious Business Class, Premium Economy and Economy Class cabins to date – will be delivered in June, allowing PAL to deploy non-stop flights to the US East Coast through the polar region, along with more routes to European cities.

First up is nonstop service from Manila to New York J.F. Kennedy Airport by October, with services to Seattle, Chicago and a point in Western Europe in the pipeline afterwards.

PAL will continue to beef up its flight networks originating from Clark, Cebu and Davao, as part of its “multi-hub” network strategy.

A new Davao-Siargao route will open in March 2018, even as PAL hikes Cebu-Bangkok services from thrice weekly to daily for the upcoming April to October summer schedule period.

In line with its evolving global airline status providing vital international links, PAL will continue to offer the only direct airline services between the Philippines and Canada, the United Kingdom, New Zealand, the U.S. East and West Coasts, Hawaii, Brisbane and Melbourne, as well as the only flights between Bohol and Korea, and between Cebu and the Japanese cities of Tokyo and Nagoya.

The A321neos will be utilized on the non-stop flights to Brisbane as well as from Manila to Sapporo, New Delhi and Mumbai.

Another major initiative is the ongoing construction of a 900-square-meter, two-story Mabuhay Lounge to rise adjacent to the North Wing of PAL’s Terminal 2 hub at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA).

The new lounge will have luxurious facilities: a wide dining area, private showers, massage area, meeting rooms, bar lounge, children’s play area, speedy Wi-Fi connection and the signature PAL buffet area constantly stocked with mouth-watering dishes.

The lounge – ideal for departing passengers as well as those with connecting PAL flights – will accommodate Business Class passengers as well as Premier Elite and Million Milers members of PAL’s Mabuhay Miles frequent flyer program.


91% of digital ad campaigns achieved high on-target success in the Philippines

More than 91% of digital ad campaigns in the Philippines had achieved higher on-target success than total digital and desktop benchmarks for all reported age benchmarks in the country.

A new report by Nielsen revealed that mobile advertising dominated digital the ad campaigns while on-target mobile ad performance outpaced digital ads served via desktop and total digital in 2017 in the Philippines.

Digital ads targeting 18 to 49 year-old age bracket reached their intended audience 81% of the time for mobile, while 77% and 59% for total digital and desktop respectively.

For digital advertising campaigns intended for consumers aged 21-34, those which were served via mobile devices hit the mark 81% of the time, surpassing desktop and total digital performance which only reached audiences with 41% and 73% accuracy.

Tin Amper, Nielsen’s head of media client service in the Philippines said: “The increase in mobile advertising reflects the growing penetration of mobile and the mobile-first habits of consumers in the Philippines.

“While historically, ads served on desktops have had great success in reaching intended audiences than mobile, marketers have made considerable progress in rapidly increasing mobile’s on-target performance in the past year, Amper added.

A closer look at categories also revealed that advertisers in the consumer packaged goods, business and consumer services and computers and electronics sectors had the easiest time reaching their desired audience via mobile devices, achieving an on-target success of 83%, 82%, and 81% respectively.

“Mobile is winning today but tomorrow is a different scenario. As consumers’ media habits evolve, marketers need to consider all the screens when trying to reach their target audience. These benchmarks can help media planners, buyers and sellers better evaluate and optimize their reach online,” Amper said.

Nielsen Digital Ad Ratings Benchmarks and Findings report serves as guidance for individual campaign effectiveness compared to marketplace averages across total digital, desktop-only, and mobile-only for age and gender demographics, age spans, advertiser categories, and site-type publishers, platforms and ad networks.

Indonesia has the highest share of mobile e-commerce traffic in Southeast Asia

Indonesia has the highest share of mobile e-commerce traffic in Southeast Asia in 2017 followed by Vietnam at 26% with the Philippines at 15%.

Online  aggregator iPrice revealed in its new report, “State of e-Commerce in Southeast Asia 2017,” highlights the similarities and differences in online buying patterns in Southeast Asia’s e-commerce market, tracking mobile usage, conversion rate, basket size, and preferred payment method in six countries.

According to the paper, e-commerce in Southeast Asia in 2017 achieved a gross merchandise value of over $10 billion, up from $5.5 billion in 2015, with a stunning 41% compound annual growth rate over the past couple of years.

“SEA e-Commerce is a mobile-first economy, leapfrogging all the Western economies when it comes to the importance of Mobile commerce in the traffic generated by each eCommerce operator,” said the paper.

The report also revealed that improving the conversion rate-the percentage of website visits that turn into a product purchase-can have a dramatic effect on the profitability of a business.

Vietnam merchants are leading the way with a conversion rate 30% higher than the average. Singapore displays the second highest conversion rate, closely tied with Indonesia. The Philippines and Thailand are tied in last place.

Despite the meteoric rise of mobile traffic in the region, desktop still trumps mobile in conversion rate.

The report noted that Vietnam and Indonesia are above the average mobile conversion rate. Conversion rate for desktop is on average 1.7x times higher than the average mobile conversion rate.

In terms of basket size-the metric that measures the average total amount spent per order by customer over a defined period of time, Singapore’s merchants scored highest with a basket size of US$91 or 3.7 times higher than their Vietnamese counterparts, with an average basket size of $23.

The report indicated the correlation between gross domestic product (GDP) as Singapore has the highest GDP per capita in the region, while Vietnam has the lowest among the six.

Another finding is that basket size is consistently higher on desktop vs. mobile, indicating that consumers prefer to finalize larger purchases on desktop.

As to what time Southeast Asian consumers shop the most, the number of orders is highest between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m., when people are traditionally at work or school, with the exception of Singaporeans, whose shopping peaks at 10 p.m.

Another consistent trend is the peak conversion rate occurring on Wednesday, making this the best time for merchants to push their offers.

On payment solutions, merchants have had to offer a more diverse range of payment methods as low credit card penetration except for Singapore.

Cash on delivery is offered by more than 80% of the players in both Vietnam and Philippines.

Bank transfer is very popular in Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand, with 94%, 86%, and 79% of merchants in these countries offering it.

In Thailand and Vietnam, almost half of merchants offer offline point of sales, while paying by instalment proves to be very popular in both Vietnam (47% of merchants) and Indonesia (42%).


Bombardier inks agreement with Philippine transportation department


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Canadian-based Bombardier Transportation has forged a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the Philippine Department of Transportation (DOTr) for the procurement of original equipment manufacturing (OEM) signalling spare parts and maintenance as part of the rehabilitation program of MRT-3.

Bombardier is the company that designed, supplied, commissioned, and maintained the MRT-3 signaling system for its first 12 years of operation. It is the Original Equipment Manufacturer (OEM) and proprietary rights owner of the Cityflo 250 Light Rail and Metro Signaling Solution, which is the signalling system used in the MRT-3 system.

Under the MOU, the DOTr will procure an OEM signalling spare parts and a two-year signalling maintenance contract from Bombardier via direct contracting and emergency procurement under the Philippine Government Procurement Reform Act.

The MOU comes after the system’s previous maintenance service providers failed to purchase and maintain a sufficient inventory of OEM signalling spare parts; purchased and installed non-OEM parts; and failed to adequately maintain, renew, and upgrade MRT-3’s signalling system.

Transportation Secretary Arthur Tugade said: “We want to be sure that we get the right spare parts and maintain the system right. Bombardier‘s track record is exceptional and we are directly dealing with them.”

Secretary Tugade noted that the most frequent causes of MRT-3 breakdowns are signalling-related issues. MRT-3’s signaling system was not upgraded and maintained properly, he added.


Philippine food products attract foreign buers

food products

Banana chips, canned tuna, spices, coconut, dried mango and seasonings are some of the Philippine food products that had attracted foreign buyers during the recent Anuga international food and beverage fair in Germany.

The Center for International Trade Expositions and Missions (CITEM) reported that most of the foreign buyers prefer Philippine foods because of their good quality, taste, texture and natural color.

CITEM said price was not really an issue as the quality of the products was what important to them. However, Philippine food products were a little bit expensive compared to other Asian food products.

Foreign buyers were also interested in other Philippine food products such as fresh fruits like mango, banana and pineapple, pangasius, tilapia and avocado powder.

“The packaging design should not be so colorful because it makes them look cheap, while the materials of the packaging should be eco-friendly, the most acceptable packaging in Europe and in other countries as well since most countries prefer natural, organic, and healthy products,” says CITEM.

MRT-3 needs rehabilitation


We have to walk along the rail after the train stopped in between GMA and Cubao stations due to some electrical problem that almost caught fire one of the coaches.

The most that the Department of Transportation (DOTr) is to issue an apology to the passengers for the inconvenience.

The DOTr said that more than 50 railway engineers and experts from Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) have started due diligence and system audit of the MRT-3.

According to the DOTr the system audit is a necessary step to determine all the rehabilitation and restoration works needed on the MRT-3 system, which will be done by a JICA-nominated rehabilitation and maintenance provider.

A Japanese company designed and built the MRT-3 system from 1998 to 2000, and maintained it from 2000 to 2012.

“We obviously need all the help we can get and we are very grateful that the Japanese Government answered our call for assistance to rehabilitate and restore the MRT-3 system.,” said OIC Undersecretary for Railways TJ Batan.

The system audit is separate from the ongoing Independent Audit and Assessment (IAA) by TUV Rheinland, an ISO 17020 and ISO 17065 certified and IFIA member certifier (International Federation of Inspection Agencies) for the entire MRT-3 system, including the 48 train cars from CRRC Dalian.

Batan added that additional trains on the MRT-3 may be expected since the first batch of spare parts that were ordered last December are scheduled to be delivered and installed this month. The spare parts that were already ordered have a delivery lead time of 30 days to 6 months.

“We created a Special Bids and Awards Committee for MRT-3 to address the urgent need to restore the service which requires the expedited procurement of spare parts, among others,” added Batan.

The DOTr is currently implementing a four-point strategy to rehabilitate and restore the MRT-3 system which involves promoting accountability, ensuring continued service delivery, contracting a qualified maintenance and rehabilitation service provider and putting in place a long-term, single-point-of-responsibility, operator, and maintenance provider for MRT-3.

Kelly Bird is the new ADB country director for the Philippines

24501-kelly-bird-finalKelly Bird is the new Country Director for the Philippines at the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB).

Mr. Bird will lead ADB operations in the Philippines and supervise the effective implementation of ADB’s Country Operations Business Plan 2018-2020 and the Country Partnership Strategy 2018-2022, currently being prepared, which aims to help the country achieve sustainable infrastructure development, human capital development and better access to jobs, and improved regional development and finance.

“ADB has a special relationship with the Philippines, its host country,” said Mr. Bird. “I feel both privileged and excited with my appointment to the Philippines Country Office (PhCO). We have a dedicated team and we are committed to working closely with Filipinos and the government to support the country in sustaining its impressive growth momentum and creating a caring society.”

ADB’s operations in the Philippines have increased resources for more project-based lending, with strong support provided to the government’s “Build, Build, Build” infrastructure development program. Apart from infrastructure support, ADB’s priorities in the Philippines include inclusive growth as well as addressing income and regional disparities in line with the government’s development strategy under the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.

Prior to Mr. Bird’s appointment to PhCO, he was Director of Public Management, Financial Sector, and Trade Division at ADB’s Southeast Asia Department since 2014 and was also Principal Economist for the department with almost 12 years of experience working in the Philippines.

Before joining ADB in 2006, Mr. Bird served as a policy adviser to the Indonesian government for USAID and World Bank projects for 8 years. He also worked on projects for the World Bank and USAID in trade, investment, employment, and competition policy in numerous countries including Cambodia, Indonesia, Nepal, and several southern African economies.

He holds a doctorate in Economics from the Australian National University, where he also earned his master’s degree in economics. He took his undergraduate degrees in laws and commerce from the University of Otago in New Zealand.

Mr. Bird replaces the outgoing Country Director Richard Bolt, who served in the Philippines from 2014.

The Philippines is a founding member of ADB and is host to the bank’s headquarters since it was set up in 1966. ADB has provided $18.3 billion in total loan assistance to the Philippines, comprising $17.2 billion for the public sector and $1.1 billion for the private sector. ADB has also been supporting the country through knowledge work, with $357.1 million in total approved technical assistance and grants.


Fitch Ratings raises Philippine credit rating to stable


Fitch Ratings, one of the big three credit rating agencies, has raised the Philippine credit rating to stable or good quality and forecasts a 6.8 percent economic growth for 2017.

Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia says the rating is a welcome development especially at a time of a sustained improvement in government spending.

Fitch’s rating indicates that expectations of default risk are currently low and capacity for payment of financial commitments is considered adequate but adverse business or economic conditions are more likely to impair this capacity.

“The upgraded rating reflects the steady and strong economic performance of the Philippines and the firm confidence of investors,” says Secretary Pernia.

“This positive outlook and ratings from global credit watchers encourage the whole of government to be more efficient and swift in executing the needed policy reforms, programs and projects laid out in the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022.”

Secretary Pernia has urged everyone to support the critical tax and regulatory reforms needed to sustain and even ramp up economic growth.

The Duterte administration is expecting that the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act will be implemented as soon as it is enacted into law before year-end.

“This tax reform package will boost the country’s revenue-to-GDP ratio, fund the Build, Build, Build program, and also increase the spending capacity of the poor and the working Filipino,” says Pernia.

The government’s “Build, Build, Build”  program is expected to accelerate public construction spending in line with the government’s target to raise infrastructure spending to reach up to 7.4% of GDP by 2022.

“This will intensify investments on public infrastructure to improve connectivity and ease the cost of doing business in the country.  We are pushing to ease of the entry of foreign investments to take advantage of foreigners’ interest in our country,” says Pernia.

The Economic Development Cluster (EDC) has recently approved the recommendations of the 11th Regular Foreign Investment Negative List (RFINL) which cover easing of restrictions on the practice of professions, mass media, communications, educational institutions and health-related sector.

Secretary Pernia says the Fitch forecast of Philippine GDP growth of 6.8 percent affirms that the country’s economic performance will be consistent, as the economy is poised to be one of the fastest- growing in Asia.


Philippines vows to improve e-commerce


The Philippines could further improve its world ranking in terms of readiness to support online shopping and business-to-consumer electronic commerce, according to Socio-economic, Planning Secretary Ernesto Pernia.

Socio-economic Planning Sec. Ernesto Pernia told the Asia Pacific Forum 2017 on Thursday that faster and strategic roll-out of information, communication and technology (ICT) infrastructure in order to create more economic opportunities and meet the growing demand for structures and services, particularly in underserved areas.

The 2016 Philippine data from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) indicate that 47.8 percent of respondents use the internet while 32 percent of households have internet access.

According to the 2016 data of the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development, the Philippines ranked 89th out of 137 countries worldwide in terms of readiness to support online shopping and other business-to-consumer electronic commerce.

The Philippines ranked 71st globally in the 2016 United Nations e-government development index with a 38.81 percent increase in the online service index and 54.67 percent increase in the Telecommunications Infrastructure Index, according to the Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT).

“ICT plays an important role in the everyday lives of Filipinos, an effective tool for nation-building and the power to foster inclusivity, enable security and efficiency, as well as strengthen connections between individuals, communities, and sectors,” says Sec. Pernia.

Sec. Pernia noted that in a recent discussion on digital economy of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS), massive open online courses on both website and mobile platform were introduced to strengthen the

framework for the digital economy, capacitate consumers and improve the digital literacy and empowerment of individuals particularly in the fields of financial literacy, economic empowerment, education, and health.

“The use of technology to support financial services also known as Fintech is seen to bridge the gap between banks and the unbanked and underserved markets. The 2017-2018 Fintech report of Voyager and FINTQ by PLDT shows that majority of borrowers who access FINTQ’s digital platforms are from the provinces despite the concentration of financial services in Metro Manila.”

Sec. Pernia stressed that digital technology has the greatest potential in transforming the financial landscape in the Philippines. “The growth of the internet and increased mobile penetration increase access to financial institutions especially for those who live in rural areas,” he added.

He cited a good example the collaboration of FINTQ with Camalig Bank in Catanduanes where digital lending was introduced to teachers and personnel of local government units (LGUs) via the online platform Lendr.

“FINTQ and Camalig Bank were able to disburse a loan amount of at least P15 million to qualified individuals in several towns of Catanduanes through online transactions, eliminating the need to physically appear in the bank.”

Sec. Pernia says Fintech revolution reforms the finance world in terms of helping not only the financial and non-financial institutions but more significantly customers and the large economy.

“Fintech services in the Philippines enable traditional banks to bring efficient and affordable financial services to the unbanked and underserved through mobile money, digital lending, regulatory technology, insurance technology, digital payments, micro savings, micro investments, digital remittance, and other mobile-based technologies.”

Under the Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the Internet of Things (IoT) envisions a hyper-connected, digitally responsive society with the largest impact in healthcare, manufacturing, network industries including banking and financial institutions, and local governments.

“While IoT has great potential to support human, societal, and environmental development, several safeguards need to be put in place to ensure data protection and security,” Sec. Pernia added.




Half of all Filipinos use online dating apps – YouGov

Half of all Filipinos have used the internet and online dating apps, while 41 percent of millennials say they would be embarrassed to admit that they had met their partner through online dating apps.

A new survey by YouGov showed that the use of internet and online dating apps among Filipino millennials rose by 56 percent, while 24 percent of Filipino baby boomers say the same. However, two-thirds of all respondents say they would not think of a couple that met online any differently.

About 71% know at least one couple who have met this way, while three-quarters of millennials know at least one couple who met online, six in ten baby boomers do.

YouGov said that online dating is now mainstream in the Philippines and online dating is an increasingly competitive marketplace.

Tinder and Filipino Cupid are the clear favorites in the Philippines, both scoring among the highest for both fame and respectability. Overall, more than six in ten respondents have heard of these services.

Tinder has the best reputation among those who have ever used online dating services, with 53% saying that it is considered respectable. Just 15% consider being not respectable, giving it a net score of +38 – the highest among all apps featured in the survey.

The services that are least well recognized among all respondents are also seen as the least respectable among those who have used online dating services, suggesting that popularity is key to success in the Filipino market.

Online dating is worth $2.2 billion in America alone, and Tinder boasts 26 million matches a day.

With half of all Filipinos that have used online dating services willing to pay for premium features, internet dating has done more in recent years than just shake off its stigma.