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

DOTC-on-MRT

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

design-for-exports-cover-photo

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.

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.

PAL promo ticket sale ends June 15

PAL promo An ongoing ticket sale promo by Philippine Airlines (PAL) intends to give bargain-hunters reason to celebrate the country’s 119th independence.

Manila to Guangzhou (Canton) roundtrip tickets can go as low as $115 or Cebu-Singapore tickets at $124 or Manila-Vancouver at only $596.

The PAL Independence Day Seat Sale runs from June 8 to 15, 2017.

It covers all domestic, regional and international flights, including domestic flights originating from Manila (to 22 destinations), Cebu (12 destinations) and Clark (8 destinations), as well as international fares for Business Class, Premium Economy and Regular Economy for flights coming from and to Manila and Cebu. It also covers flights to and from the US, Canada and London.

The low fares will still get passengers ample legroom, free baggage allowance, wifi connection and in-flight snacks for domestic flights and hot meals on international flights.

The promo tickets are available at all PAL ticket offices, PAL website (philippineairlines.com), PAL Reservations (855-8888) or any accredited travel agent.

Travel period is from July 1, 2017 to March 15, 2018. For details of applicable travel periods of particular routes, refer to the PAL website, PAL’s Facebook account (facebook.com/flyPAL/) or print ads.

PAL will soon offer a new Premium Economy service on flights from Manila to Haneda, Narita, Osaka, Melbourne, Sydney, Hong Kong, Honolulu, Shanghai andSingapore; and Business Class on flights to Doha, Dammam, Riyadh, Jeddah, Kuwait and Dubai.

World Bank okays US$99-M financing to Philippine agrarian reform program

Agrarian reform

The World Bank (WB) has approved US$99.3 million in financing for the  Philippine agrarian reform program that would benefit 300,000 farmers and farm workers under a new government project designed to enhance the competitiveness of agrarian reform communities.

To be implemented over five years by the Department of Agrarian Reform (DAR), the Inclusive Partnerships for Agricultural Competitiveness (IPAC) Project will support the efforts of farmer organizations to improve productivity and the quality of products, as well as find more markets in order to raise farmers’ incomes. World Bank financing will comprise $99.3 million of the $231 million project, as approved today by the World Bank’s Board of Executive Directors, while the government and beneficiaries contribute $131 million and $28 million, respectively.

The Philippine government would contribute US$131 million to the project to be implemented among agrarian reform community clusters across 44 provinces. The objective of the project is to help strengthen the capacity of farmer organizations to engage in commercial agriculture, provide extension services, develop enterprises, secure individual land titles for their members, and improve rural infrastructure.

“The country’s agrarian reform program gives lands to landless farmers, but we don’t stop there,” said Agrarian Reform Secretary Rafael Mariano“The government also provides support services. Through the farmer-driven matching grants, IPAC will strengthen our efforts to help small-holder farmers and their organizations engage in sustainable agri-enterprise projects. This will raise their incomes and help them become self-reliant.”

The matching grants, which are channeled through farmers’ organizations, support a number of initiatives, including production facilities such as nurseries and green-houses; processing and marketing facilities; production of high-value agricultural products; promotion and investments in food safety; and product development.

“Through the project, farmers and other beneficiaries will be able to directly identify and implement activities that will empower them to improve their lives,” said World Bank Country Director for the Philippines Mara K. Warwick. “As a long-term partner of the Philippines, the World Bank supports the country’s efforts to develop a competitive farming sector that may bring down poverty and vulnerability in rural areas.”

The project builds on previous community-driven development projects supported by the Bank which provided farmers and rural communities with basic infrastructure, including irrigation systems, roads and bridges. These initiatives also helped farmers improved their ability to manage their enterprises.

At least 30% of the beneficiaries are women, and 20% suffer from poverty. The targeted provinces include:

  • Abra and Benguet in the Cordillera Administrative Region;
  • La Union, Pangasinan, Ilocos Sur and Ilocos Norte in Region 1;
  • Cagayan, Isabela, and Nueva Vizcaya in Region 2;
  • Bulacan, Bataan, Nueva Ecija, Pampanga, Tarlac and Zambales in Region 3;
  • Batangas and Quezon in Region 4-A;
  • Marinduque, Oriental Mindoro, Occidental Mindoro and Palawan in Region 4-B;
  • Albay, Camarines Sur, Masbate, Sorsogon and Camarines Norte in Region 5;
  • Aklan, Capiz, Iloilo and Negros Occidental in Region 6;
  • Bohol, Cebu and Negros Oriental in Region 7;
  • Eastern Samar, Leyte, Northern Samar and Western Samar in Region 8;
  • Misamis Occidental in Region 10;
  • Davao del Norte and Davao Oriental in Region 11;
  • Sarangani in Region 12; and
  • Maguindanao, Lanao del Sur and Basilan in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao.

Cebu Pacific ties up with Visa

visacebu-pacific logo

Visa cardholders can now avail of an all-inclusive seat sale to some of the most popular international destinations within Cebu Pacific’s (CEB) extensive flight network.

Beginning today until June 16, 2017, Visa cardholders will be able to avail of special fares to nine of CEB’s 26 international destinations. Flights will be for travel from July 1 to November 30, 2017, perfect for those who want to catch up on their travels during the upcoming four long weekends.

Flights to Hong Kong from Cebu, Clark, Iloilo or Manila are for sale at only Php1, 099, as well as flights to Singapore from Cebu, Clark, Davao or Iloilo. Cardholders may also opt to visit Taipei either from Cebu or Manila for the same affordable fare.

Those interested to visit Singapore, Busan, Guangzhou, Xiamen from Manila will be able to do so for as low as Php2, 099; passengers from Cebu, Kalibo, or Manila may also fly to Incheon for the same low fare. Also included in this sale are flights to Beijing and Shanghai from Manila sold at only Php3, 099.

“For five years now, we have been working hand-in-hand with leading financial services organization Visa in providing great travel deals, which in turn, allows us to ensure we remain committed to fulfilling our promise to make travel accessible for everyJuan, not only within our archipelago but to the rest of the world as well. We encourage all our valued guests to grab this opportunity and book flights to these wonderful destinations right away,” said Candice Iyog, CEB Vice President for Marketing and Distribution.

All fares quoted are for one-way flights and are inclusive of country-specific taxes, web admin fee and terminal fee. Baggage allowance, meals, travel insurance and other ancillaries may be added to the fare upon the preference of passengers.

Cebgo adds new routes in Mindanao-visayas

The Philippines’ leading airline, Cebu Pacific is adding five new routes to its inter-regional network, connecting more islands from Mindanao to Visayas to the rest of the archipelago.  The new routes stem from requests from stakeholders, particularly in Mindanao, to improve connectivity of key cities.

The new routes stem from requests from stakeholders, particularly in Mindanao, to improve connectivity of key cities.

Starting July 26, 2017, CEB wholly-owned subsidiary Cebgo will fly three times weekly  between Cebu and Masbate, Davao and Dumaguete, and Zamboanga and Cotabato. Cebgo will also begin flying four times a week between Cagayan de Oro and Zamboanga, and Davao and Tacloban on July 27, 2017. The new routes will be serviced by the Cebgo fleet of ATR aircraft.

“Cebu Pacific is very pleased to continue to help promote domestic and international tourism and a logistics enabler to move goods across the country. As we expand into new routes and destinations across the Philippine archipelago, we are committed to being a partner in spurring trade and tourism, helping pump-prime the local economy and providing everyJuan with more travel options with year-round affordable fares,” said Alexander Lao, President and CEO of Cebgo.

CEB offers its lowest all-in one way year-round fare from Cebu to Masbate at Php1,758; from Cagayan de Oro to Zamboanga at Php1,906; from Davao to Dumaguete at Php2,590 and Davao to Tacloban at Php 2,142; and Zamboanga to Cotabato at Php1,806.

“Travelling across the Philippines is easier and more convenient for everyJuan. To get from the Visayas to Mindanao and back, travellers now have more choices and need not pass through larger airports in Metro Manila or even Cebu.”

Cebu Pacific has launched eight new routes: Manila-Masbate; Manila and Tablas, Romblon; between Cagayan de Oro and Tagbilaran; to and from Cagayan de Oro and Bacolod; Cebu-Cotabato; Cebu-Busuanga (Coron); Clark-Busuanga (Coron); and Clark-Caticlan (Boracay).

Aside from its Cebu and Davao hubs, CEB also operates flights out of four other strategically placed hubs in the country: Manila, Clark, Kalibo, and Iloilo. CEB enhances inter-island connectivity within the country and across the globe with its 66 destinations with over 100 routes, spanning Asia, Australia, the Middle East, and USA.

 

Philippines bares 5-year development plan

imagesThe Philippines bares the five-year Philippine Development Plan (PDP) 2017-2022, the blueprint for the country’s development under the Duterte Administration.

The PDP 2017–2022 largely stems from the 0-10 point Socioeconomic Agenda. It is the first of four medium-term plans that will work towards realizing “AmBisyon Natin 2040,” the collective vision of Filipinos over the next 25 years.

The PDP has 21 chapters aimed at laying a strong foundation for inclusive growth, a high-trust and resilient society, and a globally competitive economy—all of which will enable Filipinos to achieve their aspiration of a “matatag, maginhawa, at panatag na buhay.”

The plan is structured along the pillars of malasakit (enhancing the social fabric), pagbabago (inequality-reducing transformation), and patuloy na pag-unlad (increasing growth potential).

The PDP has set targets that the government aims to achieve.

By 2022, the Philippines will be an upper-middle income country.  The growth rate of GDP is set at 7 to 8 percent in the medium term.

Overall poverty rate is targeted to decline from 21.6 percent in 2015 to 14 percent by 2022. Poverty incidence in rural areas is intended to decrease from 30 percent to 20 percent for the same period.

The unemployment rate will also go down to 3-5 percent by 2022 from 5.5 percent in 2016.

Other targets are higher trust in government and society, more resilient individuals and communities, and a greater drive for innovation.

Embedded in the PDP are bedrock strategies that provide the necessary environment for the plan to work. These include achieving peace and security, accelerating infrastructure development, building resilient communities, and ensuring ecological integrity.

“We already have the goal. Now here’s the plan to turn ‘AmBisyon Natin 2040’ into reality,” Secretary of Socioeconomic Planning Ernesto M. Pernia said.

 

 

Philippine telecom regulations below international standards – PIDS

Related imageThe quality of the Philippine telecommunication regulatory environment is significantly below international standards, according to a recent study of state think tank Philippine Institute for Development Studies (PIDS).

PIDS explained that the Philippines has an overall rating of 52.50, which is midway of the ideal level in the scoring system set by the International Telecommunications Union.

This makes the Philippines the second lowest among seven Southeast Asian countries assessed. The other six are Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

The seven countries were assessed in four clusters: regulatory authority, regulatory mandate, regulatory regime, and the competition framework.

Of the four clusters, the Philippines scored lowest in the regulatory regime with only 7 out of 30 points (23%).  Regulatory regime reviews specific regulatory interventions and covers the kind of targeted regulation needed to promote a healthy competitive environment.

For one, the Philippines does not issue global licenses, which is considered optimal and reflects increased market liberalization in the global market.

Like Myanmar, it does not compel operators to make publicly available information about interconnection.  Myanmar, however, requires quality of service monitoring but not the Philippines.

The absence of number portability, or the ability of mobile phone users to retain their mobile number when changing from one mobile network carrier to another, is also considered a weakness of Philippine telcos.

“Policies that will reduce customer switching and search costs, as well as the promotion of the efficient use of facilities, embedding adequate monitoring and data reporting, and clearly specifying obligations or rules of conduct of various market players are seen as possible interventions to improve telcos in the country,” the authors pointed out.

Another flaw of Philippine telcos is on regulatory mandate, which evaluates the various regulatory functions of the regulator based on its thrusts.

In this cluster, the Philippines ranks second lowest with 10.5 next to Myanmar with 7.5 out of a possible 22 points.

The low score of the Philippines can be attributed to a number of factors such as the lack of regulatory mandate over interconnection rates and universal access/service.

In the Philippines, acquiring the necessary authorization to provide telecommunications services is done in two levels. One is a license obtained from Congress and the other is a certificate from the National Telecommunications Commission (NTC).

“Based on international standards, the first step is no longer necessary,” the authors explained, arguing that “Congress should no longer be involved in granting franchises as the regulator should have the sole authority for licensing.”

The authors also noted that while the NTC can revoke licenses and impose fines, still, it implements weak penalties.  “On the one end, revocation of a license will only happen in extreme cases, and the decision can be challenged in [the] courts since the NTC is a quasi-judicial body,” they posited.

Ortiz and her co-authors also took note of the NTC’s implementation of ‘unrealistically low fines’ prescribed by old laws like the Public Services Act of 1936 (Commonwealth Act 146) that sets a fine of not more than PHP 200 per day.

To improve the efficiency of Philippine telcos, the authors proposed the restructuring of the NTC to ensure its independence, diversifying its sources of funding, and allowing the NTC to set higher, more appropriate fines to deter bad behavior.