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.

UK expresses concerns on business risks in the Philippines

Image result for Photos on business risks

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


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

Long overdue LTO IT modernization

driver's license

Filipinos have to cue and wait for long hours before they could apply or renew their driver’s license at the Land Transportation Office (LTO).

It is only now that the LTO has thought of modernizing its IT system to make online transactions possible and more efficient.  This has long been overdue and why now when the agency should have done it before.

 LTO chief Edgar Galvante said that part of their strategy is to enhance the agency’s Information Technology (IT) system, expected to improve services, promote transparency, prevent corruption and allow drivers and car owners to transact in comfort and convenience.

The LTO head explained that the idea has been around for some time now and his agency is now working to turn this idea into a reality.

“We are gearing towards online registration of driver’s license application and car registration. We need a credible IT to be able to enforce that,” said Galvante.

 The five-year license with 5 years validity will be available by the end of the year.

 Transport Secretary Arthur P. Tugade has expressed his support for online driver’s license application.

Metro Manila commuters face delays in train service


Metro Manila commuters who depend on trains in Metro Manila for their daily commute face another nightmare with the reduced number of trains on service and slow speed during peak hours.

The reason given by the Department of Transportation is the importance of conducting safety inspection in all MRT-3 trains.

According to DOTr Undersecretary for Railways Cesar B. Chavez, safety of the riding public is the priority.

The MRT3 maintenance team is working double time to ensure the fast completion of the safety inspection in order to deploy additional trains so as to minimize the impact of speed reduction.

To assist passengers, DOTr has sought the help of MMDA and LTFRB to deploy additional buses in all MRT3 stations to give MRT-3 passengers an alternative mode of transportation.

 MRT-3 Director for Operations Deo Leo Manalo has reassured passengers that the MRT3 maintenance team is focused in completing the safety inspection at the soonest possible time for the rail line to be able to deploy additional trains.

 The MRT 3 management has mandated a thorough inspection of wheel axles of all its trains following an incident when the train driver of Car 64 observed an abnormal noise and strong lateral movements on the train.

Philippines has one of highest electricity rates in Asia

transmission tower

The Philippines has one of the highest electricity rates in Asia today and the Philippine government has urged private companies to help bring down the cost of electricity and in meeting the growing demand for energy.

Socio-economic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia has stressed the role of power companies, in partnering with the government, is crucial to economic growth.

“Noting that energy security is a critical input to stimulating and sustaining socioeconomic development, the private sector can participate in the generation of additional power to meet the growing demands of the country,” Pernia said.

Chapter 19 of the Philippine Development Plan 2017-2022 states that, despite efforts to pursue nationwide distribution of electricity, many rural and off-grid areas still have no access to stable power.

The household electrification level of the country is at 89.6 percent with Luzon and Visayas at 94.8 and 92.4 percent. Mindanao, however, is still at 72.4 percent.

Pernia identified power and electrification as vital to the growth of the agriculture, fishery, and forestry sectors.

Power companies can participate through the Qualified Third Party (QTP) program, which is designed to attract alternative service providers and private investments in rural electrification.

“Participating in energy development projects will promote competition, increase power generation, and ultimately drive down electricity rates.”

Secretary Pernia explained that this is consistent with the administration’s plan to prioritize the provision of electricity services to the remaining not electrified off-grid, island, remote, and last-mile communities to achieve total household electrification by 2022.



Philippine exports up 12% in April 2017


Philippine exports posted a 12.1 percent growth toUS$11.7 billion in April 2017, offsetting the 0.1 percent decline in imports.

“For exports, East Asia and the EU remain the top destinations of our products, accounting for 62.3 percent of total export receipts,” 
said Socioeconomic Planning Secretary Ernesto M. Pernia.

Secretary Pernia is optimistic of the country’s trade performance for the rest of the year considering thriving exports and trade linkages, especially to Europe and East Asia.

Exports to EU and East Asia grew by 36 percent and 10 percent in April 2017, respectively.

“Despite global uncertainties, we remain upbeat that the country will sustain the 
strong performance of export and trade growth recorded in the first quarter,” said Pernia.

Meanwhile, sales of exports to 
Hong Kong (36.8%), China (26.4%), South Korea (18.9%), and Taiwan (26.4%) posted double-digit growth while exports to Japan fell (-16.6%).

“We aim to deepen our engagement with our neighbors in the Asia-Pacific region to enhance trade and investment links,” said Pernia.

 noted the positive contributions of trade connections and cited China as an example, where merchandise exports increased by 27.7 percent from October 2016 to April 2017 compared with the 7.1 percent decline from January to September 2016.

“Also w
orth noting is the tripling of exports to the UAE and India in April. This was the third month that receipts to UAE tripled, and the second month for India.” 
Exports to UAE and India 
grew by 286.4 percent and 204.1 percent, respectively.

“We see an opportunity to strengthen 
bilateral ties with India as it becomes a major player in the global economy. Their large consumer base can be an important market for Philippine products,” Secretary Pernia added.