Tuesday, November 29, 2011

SKorea and Argentina to have huge investment in Cebu Philippines

Argentinean transnational firm eyes making hefty investments in Central Philippine project

An Argentinean multinational pharmaceutical company is eyeing to build a manufacturing plant in the Philippines, a move which, if realized, should further boost trade relations between both countries.

Martin Lo Coco, executive director of the Argentine Chamber of Commerce for Asia and the Pacific, revealed that Bagó Laboratorios, a multinational company based in Argentina is now considering the possibility of putting up a manufacturing plant in the Philippines, in addition to existing plants established by the company in Vietnam and Taiwan.

Bagó Laboratories is owned by the Bagó Group, a major Argentine business firm with a strong presence in several Latin American countries. The group comprises of different companies focused on health care and on improving quality of life as well as providing high-tech services in strategic areas.

Lo Coco, who led Argentinean businessmen in a business matching session with the delegation from the Cebu Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) in Buenos Aires, said the investment could further revitalize trade relations between the Philippines and Argentina.

“Our trade relation for now is still not that strong but the future will be great especially with the plan of Bago to open a big plant in the Philippines,” Lo Coco told Manila Bulletin before the official start of the business matching session.

Melanie Ng, CCCI’s head of trade mission, said the first day of the business matching session proved to be very successful even as Argentina was on a national holiday. She said local businessmen met with their

Argentine counterparts and discussed ways to build viable partnerships in business.

Arvin de Leon, minister and consul general of the Philippine embassy in Argentina, said now is a good time for both countries to strengthen business relations and stressed that the trade mission being conducted by the Cebu provincial government and the CCCI is a “great start.”

Korean Firm Mulls $400-M Underwater Visayas-Mindanao Power Connection

Korea’s Advanced Management Development Association (AMDA) mulls a $400-million underwater cable that would link the Visayas and Mindanao power grid with supply coming from the Leyte geothermal power plant.

Cristino L. Panlilio, trade and industry undersecretary for trade and investments promotion said the potential investment was facilitated by business and consulting firm ZMG Ward Howell.

There is also the potential of another underwater cable that would connect power from Batangas to Mindanao.

The company is expected to consult with National Grid Corp. of the Philippines if it decides to proceed with its plan, he said.

Panlilio has met with AMDA managing director Hyung soo Kim during the recently concluded Korean investment mission accompanying the visit of Korean president Lee Myung-Bak..

In addition, Panlilio said that water filtration company ANT (Advanced New Technology) 21 of Korea is also looking at working with water concessionaires in the country for the provision of clean water and sewerage treatment technology.

The company is eyeing for partnerships with Maynilad and other water concessionaires in other parts of the country.

With its in-depth experience in research and on-site consulting, ANT21has accumulated know-how in environmental technologies, especially in water treatment technology.

ANT21's goal is to solve environmental problems using its accumulated know-how and to provide economic profits for businesses and agreeable environment for people.

ANT21 is exerting its best efforts to achieve these goals with service oriented mind set and unflinching determination.

Bilateral relations between the Philippines and Korea have never been this dynamic with both countries enjoying robust growth in trade, investments and tourism.

In terms of bilateral trade, both countries posted total trade of $9.3 billion in 2010 almost doubling the $5.2 billion level five years ago.

Annual trade of Korean firms also jumped more than five folds to $390 million in 2010.

In terms of investments, Korea has become the Philippines third largest country investor since 2009.

Hanjin Heavy Industries is the country’s biggest Korean investor with $1.9 billion for a shipyard facility in Subic freeport that is now employing over 20,000 people. Hanjin is now exporting ocean-going vessels to various firms.

Hanjin’s huge investment has catapulted the Philippines as the world’s fourth largest ship maker. Other Hanjin investments include Phoenix Semiconductor Philippines Corp., a local unit of Samsung Electronics.

In terms of tourist arrivals into the country, Koreans topped the list. There have been 610,000 Korean tourists in the country as of August this year. There are also huge Korean communities in the country numbering 120,000.

From the Philippine side, there are 350,000 Filipinos working in South Korea.

China's first aircraft carrier starts second trial in West Philippines Sea

BEIJING — China's first aircraft carrier began its second sea trial on Tuesday (November 29, 2011) after undergoing refurbishments and testing, the government said, as tensions over maritime territorial disputes in the region ran high.

The 300-metre (990-foot) ship, a refitted former Soviet carrier called the Varyag, underwent five days of trials in August that sparked international concern about China's widening naval reach.

"China's aircraft carrier platform, after successfully completing its first sea trial in August, returned to the shipyard as planned for further refitting and testing," the defense ministry said in a brief statement.

"The work has been carried out and it set sail again on November 29 to carry out relevant scientific and research experiments."

Beijing only confirmed this year that it was revamping the old Soviet ship and has repeatedly insisted that the carrier poses no threat to its neighbors and will be used mainly for training and research purposes.

But the August sea trials were met with concern from regional powers including Japan and the United States, which called on Beijing to explain why it needs an aircraft carrier.

Tuesday's announcement comes against a background of heightened tensions over maritime disputes in the Asia-Pacific region, where China's growing assertiveness has put it on collision course with the United States.

President Barack Obama this month irritated Beijing with a drive to enhance the US role as a regional power, positioning Marines in northern Australia and pushing for a potentially transformational trans-Pacific trade pact.

Beijing sees the initiatives as intruding into its own sphere of influence, with the dispute over the South China Sea putting the two major world powers' differences into stark focus.

China claims all of the strategic area, as does Taiwan, while four Southeast Asian countries declare ownership of parts of it, with Vietnam and the Philippines accusing Beijing's forces of increasing aggression there.

The region is a conduit for more than one-third of the world's seaborne trade and half its traffic in oil and gas, and major petroleum deposits are believed to lie below the seabed.

The announcement of the carrier's second sea trial comes after Beijing said last week it would conduct "routine" naval exercises in the Pacific Ocean before the end of November.

China reportedly bought the carrier's immense armored hull -- with no engine, electrics or propeller -- from Ukraine in 1998.

The PLA -- the world's largest active military -- is extremely secretive about its defense programs, which benefit from a huge and expanding military budget boosted by the nation's runaway economic growth.

Earlier this year, China announced military spending would rise 12.7 percent to 601.1 billion yuan ($91.7 billion) in 2011.

ASEAN - China to start talks South China Sea – Myanmar close tie to china

THE ASSOCIATION of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and China will start talks as early as January preparatory to drafting a binding document governing activities in the South China Sea, an official said yesterday.

"A meeting between ASEAN and China will be held by January to identify the main elements in crafting the Code of Conduct (COC)," Foreign Affairs Undersecretary Erlinda F. Basilio said in a hearing of the Senate foreign relations committee.

"The meeting is scheduled by the first week or second week of January," she added.

Foreign Affairs Secretary Albert F. del Rosario earlier said that ASEAN members have agreed to draft a more binding document to guide activities in the contested area that will be presented to senior ministers in July 2012.

The Philippines, China, Vietnam, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan have conflicting claims over the resource-rich Spratly Group of Islands.

The COC will serve as the implementing guideline of a declaration forged between ASEAN and China in 2002 on activities in the area, renamed by the government as West Philippine Sea.

Ms. Basilio said the Philippines will continue to call for a multilateral approach to settle the disputes, a move introduced at the recent ASEAN Summit and Related Summits in Bali, Indonesia but was referred for further study.

"Despite China wanting bilateral approach, ASEAN claimant states want to push through with the multilateral approach," she said.

China has rejected multilateral negotiations on the issue, preferring instead to talk individually with tiny claimants.

The situation has prompted the United State to reinforce its presence in Asia-Pacific through a series of meetings with treaty partners, including the Philippines, prior to attending the Bali forum.

ASEAN members Myanmar and Cambodia, however, have expressed disagreement with the multilateral approach reportedly due to the influence of China.

The Senate committee on foreign relations was also briefed on other issues raised in the ASEAN Summit and the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum in Honolulu, Hawaii, both held this month.

China, Burma Strengthen Military Cooperation

China's vice president says his country and Burma should strengthen their military ties.  Vice President Xi Jinping hailed China's friendship with Burma in a meeting in Beijing Monday with Burmese armed forces commander Min Aung Hlaing. The meeting comes days before Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is to make an historic trip to Burma.

China's official Xinhua news agency quotes Vice President Xi Jinping as proposing that the militaries of the two nations "enhance, exchange and deepen cooperation." Xinhua also quotes the Chinese leader as saying the friendship that was forged by leaders of older generations has endured changes in the international arena."

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei was asked whether the China-Burma meeting was in any way related to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's historic trip to Burma later this week.

Hong says China and Burma maintain exchange and cooperation in various fields, but would not say more about the meeting than what was in the official statement.

Ren Yue is a Chinese foreign policy researcher and visiting professor at Hong Kong University. "I think that China is definitely having a very close watch about the recent moves, that Secretary of State Clinton visited Burma, or Myanmar. That definitely is something the Chinese government is watching closely and with concern," he said.

Ren says China has had problems with other southeast Asian nations - especially over territorial disputes in the South China Sea - but has seen Burma as one of its staunchest friends in the region. He adds that both Burma and China have been criticized for their closed political systems, but now Burma is starting to reform.

"The Chinese government also wants to start political reform, but it is not fast enough. I think that Clinton's visit could force Chinese leaders to think about something along those lines, democratization, political reform, in Chinese words," Ren stated.

Since last year, Burma has held elections and freed democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi from house arrest. Burma also recently risked angering China by shutting down a large and unpopular hydroelectric dam project.

Secretary Clinton's trip to Burma follows President Barack Obama's tour of Asian nations.  Researchers have said these trips are aimed at reinforcing U.S. influence in the region amid growing concerns about the rise of China.

Ren says he thinks, at this point, China is watching closely, but does not yet feel threatened.

COMMENTARY: Is a Nuclear War with China Possible?

BY LAWRENCE S. WITTNER

While nuclear weapons exist, there remains a danger that they will be used.  After all, for centuries national conflicts have led to wars, with nations employing their deadliest weapons.  The current deterioration of U.S. relations with China might end up providing us with yet another example of this phenomenon.

The gathering tension between the United States and China is clear enough.  Disturbed by China's growing economic and military strength, the U.S. government recently challenged China's claims in the South China Sea, increased the U.S. military presence in Australia, and deepened U.S. military ties with other nations in the Pacific region.  According to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States was "asserting our own position as a Pacific power."

But need this lead to nuclear war?

Not necessarily.  And yet, there are signs that it could.  After all, both the United States and China possess large numbers of nuclear weapons.  The U.S. government threatened to attack China with nuclear weapons during the Korean War and, later, during the conflict over the future of China's offshore islands, Quemoy and Matsu.  In the midst of the latter confrontation, President Dwight Eisenhower declared publicly, and chillingly, that U.S. nuclear weapons would "be used just exactly as you would use a bullet or anything else."

Of course, China didn't have nuclear weapons then.  Now that it does, perhaps the behavior of national leaders will be more temperate.  But the loose nuclear threats of U.S. and Soviet government officials during the Cold War, when both nations had vast nuclear arsenals, should convince us that, even as the military ante is raised, nuclear saber-rattling persists.

Some pundits argue that nuclear weapons prevent wars between nuclear-armed nations; and, admittedly, there haven't been very many—at least not yet.  But the Kargil War of 1999, between nuclear-armed India and nuclear-armed Pakistan, should convince us that such wars can occur.  Indeed, in that case, the conflict almost slipped into a nuclear war.  Pakistan's foreign secretary threatened that, if the war escalated, his country felt free to use "any weapon" in its arsenal.  During the conflict, Pakistan did move nuclear weapons toward its border, while India, it is claimed, readied its own nuclear missiles for an attack on Pakistan.

At the least, though, don't nuclear weapons deter a nuclear attack?  Do they?  Obviously, NATO leaders didn't feel deterred, for, throughout the Cold War, NATO's strategy was to respond to a Soviet conventional military attack on Western Europe by launching a Western nuclear attack on the nuclear-armed Soviet Union.  Furthermore, if U.S. government officials really believed that nuclear deterrence worked, they would not have resorted to championing "Star Wars" and its modern variant, national missile defense.  Why are these vastly expensive—and probably unworkable—military defense systems needed if other nuclear powers are deterred from attacking by U.S. nuclear might?

Of course, the bottom line for those Americans convinced that nuclear weapons safeguard them from a Chinese nuclear attack might be that the U.S. nuclear arsenal is far greater than its Chinese counterpart.  Today, it is estimated that the U.S. government possesses over five thousand nuclear warheads, while the Chinese government has a total inventory of roughly three hundred.  Moreover, only about forty of these Chinese nuclear weapons can reach the United States.  Surely the United States would "win" any nuclear war with China.

But what would that "victory" entail?  A nuclear attack by China would immediately slaughter at least 10 million Americans in a great storm of blast and fire, while leaving many more dying horribly of sickness and radiation poisoning.  The Chinese death toll in a nuclear war would be far higher.  Both nations would be reduced to smoldering, radioactive wastelands.  Also, radioactive debris sent aloft by the nuclear explosions would blot out the sun and bring on a "nuclear winter" around the globe—destroying agriculture, creating worldwide famine, and generating chaos and destruction.

Moreover, in another decade the extent of this catastrophe would be far worse.  The Chinese government is currently expanding its nuclear arsenal, and by the year 2020 it is expected to more than double its number of nuclear weapons that can hit the United States.  The U.S. government, in turn, has plans to spend hundreds of billions of dollars "modernizing" its nuclear weapons and nuclear production facilities over the next decade.

To avert the enormous disaster of a U.S.-China nuclear war, there are two obvious actions that can be taken.  The first is to get rid of nuclear weapons, as the nuclear powers have agreed to do but thus far have resisted doing.  The second, conducted while the nuclear disarmament process is occurring, is to improve U.S.-China relations.  If the American and Chinese people are interested in ensuring their survival and that of the world, they should be working to encourage these policies.

* * *

Wittner is Emeritus Professor of History at the State University of New York/Albany. His latest book is "Confronting the Bomb: A Short History of the World Nuclear Disarmament Movement" (Stanford University Press). This commentary was distributed by PeaceVoice a program of the Oregon Peace Institute, Portland, OR.

http://www.peacevoice.info/

Monday, November 28, 2011

WikiLeaks wins Australian journalism award 2011

WikiLeaks wins Australian journalism award 2011

SYDNEY, Nov 28, 2011 (AFP) - WikiLeaks has been recognized in Australia for its "outstanding contribution to journalism", with founder Julian Assange lashing out at "cowardly" Prime Minister Julia Gillard in an acceptance speech.

The global community recognized the independent journalism and heroic contribution of the Wikileaks that leaked thousands of confidential information involving the politics and US cables.

In the Philippines; Wikileaks leaked tons of information from the US cables related to the Philippines political issues and including the information that lauded by the locals regarding the tons of gold and oil and gas deposits in Agusan Marsh Mindanao which is estimated to a $Trillion US dollars.

Wikileaks leaked also the confidential comment of former US Ambassador to the Philippines Kristie Kenney describing the Philippines President Benigno Aquino III as unassertive.

The anti-secrecy website was lauded at the annual Walkley Awards, where winners are chosen by an independent panel of journalists and photographers, for its courageous reporting of secret US cables.

"WikiLeaks applied new technology to penetrate the inner workings of government to reveal an avalanche of inconvenient truths in a global publishing coup," the Walkley trustees said in bestowing the award Sunday evening.

"Its revelations, from the way the war on terror was being waged, to diplomatic bastardry, high-level horse-trading and the interference in the domestic affairs of nations, have had an undeniable impact."

The whistleblowing website has published thousands of cables in which US diplomats give their often candid views on world leaders, to Washington's acute embarrassment.

Assange, an Australian citizen who has previously blasted Canberra for not doing enough to protect him in the fallout from the leaks, was scathing of the government in accepting the accolade in a pre-recorded video message.

"The Gillard government has shown its true colors in relation to how it's handled US pressure on WikiLeaks," he said in footage shown on SBS television which broadcast the awards.

"Australian journalists are courageous, the Australian population is supportive, but Julia Gillard is a cowardly Australian prime minister.

"As Australians we shall not despair, as long as we can speak out, as long as we can publish, and as long as the Internet remains free, we will continue to fight back, armed with the truth," he added.

Assange has spent much of the last year under virtual house arrest in Britain since he was detained in December 2010 over claims of rape and sexual assault made by two women in Sweden.

He has strongly denied the allegations against him, claiming they are politically motivated and linked to the activities of WikiLeaks.

The former computer hacker is currently appealing a decision against his extradition to Sweden to face the charges.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Australian BHP chases hopeful petroleum prospect in Palawan Philippines

A joint venture with Otto Energy in the Palawan Basin may be worth every cent.

DESPITE its $US20 billion ($A20.6 billion) push into the ''unconventional'' shale gas business in the US, BHP Billiton remains committed as ever to the conventional world of oil and gas exploration in offshore fairways.

It is spending a record amount around the world looking for the sort of big oil and gasfields that you would expect a company of BHP's size to focus on. But today's interest is its work in the Palawan Basin offshore from the Philippines/Malaysia.

More particularly, its farm-in on a Palawan permit (SC55) offshore from the Philippines held by Perth's Otto Energy (ASX: OEL).

Otto is no stranger to the offshore oil and gas potential of the Palawan as it is operator of the producing Galoc oilfield, which produced 595,423 barrels of oil in the September quarter (196,490 barrels net to Otto based on its increased interest of 33 per cent).

Take a look at any analyst reports on Otto and you will see that the Galoc interest pretty much covers Otto's current market capitalisation of $92 million at Friday's closing price of 8¢ a share. It is also holding some $28 million in cash, much of which will be applied to a second-phase development of the Galoc field.

So anything else Otto has comes for free, including the joint venture with BHP in SC55. BHP's involvement tells you that success in SC55 could be a game-changer for Otto. The targets in the permit are meaningful for BHP, let alone for a company of Otto's size.

SC55 sits in the south-west region of the Palawan and has proven oil and gas finds sitting to the north and south along what is considered to be an emerging 1000-kilometre long deepwater oil and gas trend. Total (unrisked) potential means recoverable resources across a number of prospects in SC55 have been estimated at 19 trillion cubic feet of gas and 670 million barrels of condensate (light oil).

BHP can earn a 60 per cent interest in the permit by carrying the cost of drilling two wells, with a commitment to drilling at least one. Otto's interest in the permit gets reduced to 33.18 per cent (the remainder is held by Trans-Asia Oil).

More to the point is that Otto reckons the first target - the curiously named Cinco - is good to go in April 2012. The estimated recoverable resource there alone is 74 million barrels of condensate and 2.1 trillion cubic feet of gas.

We're talking about a significant commitment here by BHP. The cost of the first well could be as much as $US60 million. Worth every cent if it comes in and not the end of the story if it does not, given the other targets in SC55.

The broker Hartleys reckons Cinco has a risked value of $89 million (15 per cent probability of success) and an unrisked value of $594 million. Again, that's all very interesting when stacked up against Otto's current market value. Little wonder then that Hartleys rates Otto as a ''conviction buy'' with a share price target of 18¢ a share.

''We consider the ideal to buy in the oil and gas sector is six months before the drilling of a high impact well,'' Hartleys said in a recent note. Cinco certainly has high impact potential for Otto.

As an aside, it is worth noting that Otto has a new chief executive officer - Gregor McNab.

Funny thing is that McNab comes to Otto after 22 years with BHP's now Houston-based oil and gas division, most recently as its vice-president external affairs.

Before that he had stints in Perth as the division's general manager of negotiations and general manager of its North West Shelf interests. As enthusiastic about Otto's interests in the Philippines as he is, McNab is looking to expand Otto's footprint elsewhere in south-east Asia and (onshore) east Africa.

GARY Fietz is another BHP veteran that jumped ship to do his own thing, as mentioned by Garimpeiro in July when his new endeavour New Age Exploration (ASX: NAE) was trading at all of 9.5¢ a share.

Fietz has been kicking some goals too, as is reflected in NAE moving up to the 11¢ a share level seen on Friday for a (fully diluted) market capitalisation of about $19 million. His Colombian coal ambitions for NAE are taking shape.

NAE's starter project in Colombia is the Terranova mine where NAE has announced a maiden resource of 3.6 million tonnes of coking coal. It is not the biggest resource ever announced but it does not have to be.

Because of its location in an environmentally constrained part of Colombia, NAE has to be in and out of the planned development by October 2014, assuming the environmental constraints remain, which they might not.

But the in-and-out beauty of Terranova at a peak annualised mining rate of 550,000 tonnes of raw coal is that its ease of development (a small-scale operation run by others is already there) sets up NAE to employ its mining equipment, wash plant and other infrastructure to the development of regional deposits.

To that end, it is stepping up work on an adjacent but not environmentally constrained concession area, the plan being that a stage-two development there will give it the longer-life presence in the Colombian coking coal industry that Fietz wants to see.

While NAE works towards possible first production at Terranova from January 2013, investors who took up stock in the group's recent $4 million placement at 12¢ a share are also banking on the big-time potential of NAE's ground position in Colombia's Cesar Basin.

The Cesar is where the privately owned US group, Drummond Company, struck a deal earlier this year for the sale of 20 per cent of its operations to Japan's Itochu for $US1.52 billion. It is also where Vale, Glencore and others have major expansions in mind.

If NAE's ground position in the Cesar were in any of Australia's coal basins, you could bet that its market capitalisation would be a multiple of where it is today. Current Cesar production for export markets is 40 million tonnes, rising to an estimated 70 million tonnes from 2015.

Fietz has an exploration target of up to 1 billion tonnes of coal across NAE's two concessions in the Cesar and an adjacent sub-basin. It could be worth watching NAE confirm that potential with the drill bit.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/business/bhp-chases-hopeful-petroleum-prospect-20111127-1o1hl.html

What Australia discovered outsourcing from the Philippines?

GONE are the days when a personal assistant had to be stationed next to the boss's desk.

Brisbane small businesses and sole traders have discovered "virtual PAs" - personal assistants based in the Philippines, India and all over the world - who do the work remotely, for a third of the price and at twice the speed.

Business owners say they are saving mountains of money by outsourcing time-consuming administration work.

Rod Westerhuis, a local real-estate agent, said he knows agents already using virtual PAs from the Philippines and is planning on hiring one himself in the new year. He said it's a "no-brainer".

"I can hire three of these assistants for the same price I'd get someone locally here in Brisbane," he said.

"It might cost me $700 a month for a full-time assistant and that's inclusive of everything; there's no extra super, sick pay or holiday pay on top of that.''

He said businesses were often reluctant to admit they used virtual workers because of the stigma attached to outsourcing.

"Some people get really offended by it, they think it's unethical. And while it might not be much money to us, it's a lot of money in the Philippines. And it's also about running a business efficiently and effectively," Mr Westerhuis said.

Brett Elvish, who runs his own finance consultancy business, regularly outsources administration and marketing work to other countries.

He prefers workers in the Philippines because of the small difference in time zones (two hours) and because they are tertiary qualified - but he has also outsourced work to the US.

"One woman, I gave her 10 hours of time to do some research for me and said that, once the 10 hours was up, we'd discuss how she was going,'' Mr Elvish said.

"I got an email saying the work had been done in 5.5 hours. At $6.60 an hour, the honesty and integrity was incredible. Why wouldn't I go back to that?"

A former director of a large finance company said he "shudders" to think about how much money was wasted on tasks that could have been outsourced.

"I've run much bigger companies than what I'm doing now and I think about the amount of money we would have wasted on all sorts of tasks … and how much money we would have saved by using these services," he said.

He agreed there was a stigma to outsourcing jobs. "I think there is that element there for some people. I've been asked by people if it is sweatshop-type stuff but it's simply not true," the ex-director said.

"People are very precious about Australian jobs and while I think that's fair enough, we need to accept that the world is now a smaller place.

"There's an enormous range of things that businesses are not taking advantage of. Bigger businesses are often lazy and reluctant to change, rather than having a strong moral aversion to something like this. It's laziness."

Paul Ellison, director of recruitment company People Plus, said the impact on the administration and personal-assistant job market would be "incredibly minimal".

"Maybe, in the more transactional or lower skill set part of the market, it could be useful, but some skills sets can never be done remotely or virtually. A lot of these jobs require an understanding of communication and a compatibility with their employer," he said.

Read more: http://www.brisbanetimes.com.au/executive-style/manila-folders-going-to-manila-20111126-1o0nf.html

Thursday, November 24, 2011

Outsourcing stems Philippines labor exodus

Malaysia-based computer whiz Arlene Teodoro packed his bags and flew home to the Philippines this year, going against the tide in an impoverished country that sends millions of workers abroad.

Forced to leave his family and friends in 2008 in search of a decent job overseas, the 35-year-old bachelor says she is back for good because her skills are suddenly in big demand amid a business process outsourcing boom.

"Nothing compares to being back in the Philippines," said Teodoro, part of a 30-strong computer science class at a Manila university in the early 1990s, most of whose members also went overseas to find work.

"When I was working abroad I'd use up all my vacation leaves to attend family events and reconnect with my family."

Teodoro now earns about $3,000 a month as a business intelligence analyst for a US data mining firm, which uses powerful software to predict such key measures as future sales and trends for clients.

Big multinationals from aircraft manufacturers to retail chains are increasingly using these sophisticated tools, and the Philippines and India offer the most cost-efficient locales for such labor-intensive tasks, he said.

They also, crucially, have large English-speaking populations.

Data mining is one small part of the outsourcing phenomenon in the Philippines that has emerged from virtually nothing 10 years ago to become one of the country's most important economic planks and sources of jobs.

The Philippines has for decades suffered an exodus of people who have headed overseas to escape dire economic conditions, with one quarter of the population currently living on a dollar a day or less.

Nine million, or 10 percent of all Filipinos, now live and work overseas as OFW (Overseas Filipino Workers / Expatriates) in some world famous and Fortune 200 firms like Toyota Motors & Hyundai Motor Group as Engineers, Accountants and other top global firm like Chevron, Carrefour,  Honda, and in other industries for seaman, doctors, office workers, nurses, IT specialist, programmers and even for low-skilled performing jobs such as maids, drivers, construction workers and caretakers.

They sent $18.17 billion back to the Philippines last year, equivalent to 10 percent of the country's GDP, and their importance to the nation is such that they have earned the nickname: "Mga Bagong Bayani," or "Modern Day Heroes".

However the exodus has also led to a massive "brain drain" and caused social disruption as families are torn apart, with one or both parents going overseas and leaving their children at home with relatives.

But now the rise of outsourcing is giving many Filipinos a chance to stay at home.

The outsourcing workforce grew about 10 percent this year to 600,000, and is expected to expand to 900,000 employees by 2016, according to the Business Processing Association of the Philippines.

More than 60 percent of the outsourcing jobs are in call centers with Filipinos fielding telephone inquiries from, or selling products to, customers across the globe.

Although they are the lowest-paid in the sector, an entry-level call centre job still pays between 14,000-20,000 pesos ($325-$465) a month.

This is roughly equivalent to what a Filipino maid would typically earn in a wealthier Asian country such as Singapore, or a seaman's starting salary in the global merchant fleet.

The local industry is also increasingly attracting work for higher-paying skills such as data warehousing, accounting and medical transcription, as well as creative work ranging from webpage design to animation and video games.

"Before, it was the call centre boom in the Philippines, but now it's more of really specialized skills," said Teodoro.

The Philippines has risen to have the world's largest outsourcing sector an overtaken India in 2010 according to the IBM report. Continues boom of outsourcing the Philippines  is because of huge English-language workforce.

Filipino workers are also particularly prized in the United States and other Western nations because of their familiarity with their culture, a legacy of the Philippines' history as a former US colony.

"We have had expats telling us that working with Filipino teams is a very pleasantly unique experience, which they have not had elsewhere in the world," industry association senior executive director Gillian Joyce Virata told AFP.

The government has also sought to amplify the country's natural advantages by offering significant tax breaks for outsourcing firms and easing labour laws, such as one that used to bar women from working past midnight.

The industry association said outsourcing would generate revenues of $11 billion this year, up from $8.9 billion in 2010, and continue to grow by at least 15 percent annually to hit $20 billion by 2016.

This would place the outsourcing industry's revenues almost on a level with the money sent home by overseas workers.

"This industry has provided a very big support to the economic environment of the Philippines in the past decade," Trade Secretary Gregory Domingo told an outsourcing forum recently.

Aside from the direct benefits of employing people, Domingo credited the industry with a wide range of other knock-on effects such as increased car sales and the explosion of 24-hour convenience stores.

Outsourcing has also begun to transform Manila's skyline, with skyscrapers rising to cater to big foreign banks and technology companies that have set up shop with workforces that run into the tens of thousands.

"The contribution of this industry cannot be overstated," Domingo said.

ASEAN economies; Philippines are safe from risk in global slump, others NOT: Fitch

Thailand and Malaysia would be the most at risk among Asia's developing countries if there were a sharp deterioration in the global economy, Fitch ratings agency said Tuesday (November 22, 2011).

Indonesia is the least exposed and has a larger capacity to bring in stimulus measures should the world economy tumble sharply, analysts from the credit ratings firm said.

"Both Malaysia and Thailand look highly exposed and have constrained room for policy stimulus," said Fitch analyst Philip McNicholas, citing high debt levels relative to gross domestic product (GDP).

Due to its large domestic economy and its low debt-to-GDP ratio, Indonesia "is relatively the least exposed in the region," he said.

Southeast Asia's biggest economy was on track for a ratings upgrade within the next 12 to 18 months, McNicholas added, but a key test will be how well Jakarta weathers an economic slowdown.

Fitch currently rates it BB+ with a positive outlook.

"The ability to withstand the shocks would be very favorable for Indonesia's case," he said in a teleconference with journalists.

McNicholas said China and India also "do appear somewhat insulated" from external shocks, but have limited scope for policy stimulus now compared with the last global meltdown that started in late 2008 and lasted well into 2009.

Asian economies had rolled out massive spending packages that helped them weather that downturn better than other regions of the world, Fitch said.

Fitch analysts had looked at several indicators to assess the potential exposure of emerging Asian economies in the event of another steep global economic downturn or shock in the world financial system.

Should a severe credit crunch take place, "we see Malaysia, (South) Korea and Indonesia as some of the most exposed to a liquidity shock while China, Taiwan and the Philippines are the least exposed," McNicholas said.

But on the whole, emerging Asia "is relatively less exposed or has minimum exposure to" a severe pullback in global liquidity than other regions, he said.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Philippines Sinag Basketball’s gold shows talent gap in SEA Games is still wide

Sinag Pilipinas' romp to the gold medal in the 26th Southeast Asian Games, which culminated in an 85-57 dismissal of Thailand in the championship last night, only showed that the rest of Southeast Asia still has a ways to go before anyone can mount a serious challenge to the Philippines in men's basketball.

The team, composed mostly of collegiate players, won all its five games by an average of 39.4 points, and was only seriously challenged for a while by Malaysia, which managed to stay within three points at halftime of their semifinal encounter.

What's more, this wasn't even the best amateur team that we could send. Several college stars like Far Eastern University's Aldrech Ramos, naturalized center Marcus Douthit, and the San Sebastian trio of Calvin Abueva, Ian Sangalang and Ronald Pascual all declined their invitations, although Sangalang and Pascual were still practicing with team as recently as a month before the SEA Games.

'A very young team'

Sinag Pilipinas coach Norman Black said all five were on his wish list, but from the looks of things, they really weren't needed. In fact, adding the six-foot-eleven Douthit would have been overkill. This team still got the job done, and Black noted that the gold medal triumph, the country's 13th in the biennial games, was a good training ground for the future.

"The good thing about this win for the Philippines is the fact that it's a very young team," Black noted. "We've got two 18-year-olds (Kiefer Ravena and Bobby Ray Parks), and they're going up against the 29-, 30-year-olds of the other teams. So it probably tells the story that Philippine basketball is in good hands. These guys are very, very young. Fortunately for us, we can use this as a training ground to get experience internationally and hopefully to represent the country again as they get older."

Among the 12 Sinag players, skipper Chris Tiu, still a young 26 years old, is already the elder statesman. Four players — Chris Ellis, Cliff Hodge, Greg Slaughter, and Jake Pascual — are 23. The rest are 22 and below. In contrast, 10 of Thailand's 12 players are 26 or older, and most of them play professionally in the ASEAN Basketball League (ABL).

The core of Sinag is being eyed to form part of Smart Gilas II, where they will join forces with a pool of professionals from the Philippine Basketball Association in a new national team that hopes to build on the progress of the original Gilas, which finished fourth in the recent FIBA-Asia Championships.

Even though the SEAG tournament was reduced to a battle for the silver medal among the rest of the eight-team field, Black noted that some countries are showing signs of improvement. A couple of them, namely Thailand and Cambodia, have started tapping their own foreign-bred players in an effort to improve their talent level.

"I was really impressed with Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia," Black said. "I think that they have made great strides in basketball. They may not have the skill level of the Filipino players, but I think they're getting there."

This may sound a little hard to believe, but some teams had more height overall. Actually, remove the seven-foot Slaughter and Sinag has one of the shorter line-ups in the tournament. Other teams like Thailand, Malaysia and even Cambodia all fielded taller players at the point guard, shooting guard and small forward positions. They just didn't have good ballhandlers or talented wingmen to match the firepower of a Ravena-RR Garcia backcourt or the explosiveness of Parks, Ellis and Hodge.

Defense and running game won it

Even though the gold medal was widely expected — Samahang Basketball ng Pilipinas president Manny V. Pangilinan reportedly told Black in jest to not bother coming home if they didn't win the gold medal — the coach still felt proud of the feat.

"It feels good," he said. "I mean, whenever you can win a gold medal for the country, it's a good feeling. That was the purpose of us coming here to the SEA Games, representing the basketball team. As a coach, you just feel very proud and happy for the players, particularly under the circumstances, just really coming together only a couple of weeks to go before the tournament."

The pool of players — which also included Jeric Teng and Jeric Fortuna of the University of Sto. Tomas, Justin Chua and Frank Golla of Ateneo, Rome De la Rosa of San Beda, and Fil-Am Karl Matthew Dehesa, started practicing once a week last February.

"It really helped us a lot because it made it easier for us to play once the tournament came around," Black noted. "The defense was pretty solid. We were able to get out and run the entire tournament. Actually, we ran the teams off the court. That's the way we won the championship. The most important thing is we displayed a lot of teamwork. I think they all played well. I think everybody stepped up and played well in this tournament. That was really the key to this team."

With a line-up full of players who are stars on their own teams, Black's biggest challenge was juggling the minutes of everyone, and he addressed this by rotating them several times each game.

"I told them right from the very start that I would sub out every five to six minutes and I would give everybody a chance to shine," he revealed. "I also told them I didn't really want them to pace themselves. We were so talented, I wanted them to go hard for the five or six minutes they were on the floor. Then I would just get the next guy in. And of course, as a coach, the thing you hope for is that everybody will contribute and step up, and I think they did."

Individual scores of gold-medal match vs. Thailand:

Sinag Pilipinas (85) — Slaughter 16, Parks 15, Garcia 12, Ravena 10, Monfort 8, Tiu 6, Marcelo 6, Pascual 5, Hodge 5, Salva 2, Ellis 0.

Quarterscores: 21-17, 44-25, 61-42, 85-57

Monday, November 21, 2011

Philippines Guinness 70 Kms 25 cent coins for longest line of coins to build Class rooms

On Nov. 30, Andres Bonifacio Day, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas Officers Club and the BSP Employees Association will lay down a 70-km line of 25-centavo coins in the open space fronting the Manila Grandstand in Manila's Rival Park.

The feat — "Maharaja Ado - Barry ng mega Banyan: The Power of Small Change Campaign" — is in cooperation with the KaBayanihan Foundation.

The Guinness World Record on the longest line of coins currently at 64.8 kms is held by the US.

The organizers intend to raise at least 3.5 million pieces of 25-centavo coins to cover at least 70 kilometers to break the existing US record, said BSP Officers' Club president Dr. Greg Suarez II said in a press conference.

Suarez said 1 km is equivalent to 12,500 worth of 25-centavo coins.

"The present world record holder is USA who laid the longest line of coins of 64.8 kilometers. The project seeks to break this record by reaching at least 70 kilometers or even up to 100 kilometers using 25 centavo coins to be carefully laid over at least 6,000 square meters of space fronting the Manila Grandstand," he stressed.

At least 1,200 Kabayanihan volunteers will take turns in shifts to lay the coins one after another starting at 2 p.m. on Nov. 30 to 8 a.m., Dec. 1.

The project aims to unify Filipinos through the "bayanihan" concept and to unleash the power of small change by enlisting and involving as many Filipinos as possible to do small acts of heroism in the collection and donation of barya as their contribution to nation building, Suarez noted.

To address classroom shortage

It also aims to address the country's acute shortage of public classroom using the small coins collected and donated for the world record-breaking attempt, Suarez said.

"This is a manifestation of the rising spirit of Filipinos wanting to beat the best in the world," said Kabayanihan Foundation chairman emeritus Alex Lacson.

The organizers have already exceeded 70 kms in terms of commitments from sponsors and with more Filipino families expected to join the project and generate more funds for building more classrooms in the country, Lacson noted.

"In addition to creating a world history, this project will also raise funds for the building of classrooms for public elementary schools and will promote the importance of coin recirculation," Lacson explained.

From the proceeds of the 75 kms of 25-centavo coins, three classrooms could be constructed.

The organizers expect the coins to come from Metro Manila and Luzon, contributed by partners — schools, companies, media, local government units, cooperatives and non-government organizations (NGOs), communities — and Filipinos willing to contribute at least a single 25-centavo coin.

According to the Bangko Sentral, video game and karaoke machines, vending machines, church contributions, and jueteng numbers game are the main causes of coin shortage in the country.

It said only 10 percent of 18.9 billion pieces of coins in circulation are being recirculated in the financial system.

There are 18.9 billion pieces of coins (10, P5, P1, 25 centavos, 10 centavos, 5 centavos ) worth 18.9 billion in circulation, or 198 coins for each Filipino, according to BSP data.

As of May 31, currency in circulation consisted of 1.959 billion pieces of banknotes worth 520.739 billion and 16.796 billion pieces of coins worth 18.678 billion, BSP data showed.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

South Korea – the Philippines Strengthen ties – SKorean President State Visit to the Philippines

The Philippines and South Korea will sign on Monday agreements envisioned to further strengthen overall ties between the two countries.

South Korean President Lee Myung-bak, who arrived in Manila on Sunday afternoon, will officially begin his state visit with a wreath-laying ceremony at the Rizal Shrine in Luneta before proceeding to Malacañang for a meeting with President Aquino.

The two leaders are expected to discuss, among other things, trade and investment opportunities, and tourism, Deputy Presidential Spokesman Abigail Valte said in an interview over dzRB, the government radio, on Sunday.

"There are many tourists from South Korea who come to the Philippines. We also have common interests in trade and investment. We know that the Republic of Korea is our development partner, particularly in agriculture and infrastructure, so we expect the flow of discussions to go around the topics that were mentioned," Valte said.

Filipino businessmen are hoping the state visit would result in a joint communiqué with South Korea in the form of an accelerated version of an economic partnership agreement (EPA).

The joint communiqué should outline initiatives that will further the exchange of trade, investments and people between the two countries, said Donald Dee, vice chairman and treasurer of the Philippine Chamber of Commerce and Industry (PCCI).

"We don't need to negotiate an EPA with Korea because we are already linked in several areas and we already have the Asean-Korea Free Trade Area [AKFTA]. We no longer have barriers when it comes to tariffs and manufacturing. We only need to have a joint communiqué," Dee told the BusinessMirror.

The document, Dee said, should focus on non-tariff barriers, investments, services and a mutual recognition agreement.

Currently, the country's EPA is with Japan. On a regional basis as part of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean), however, the Philippines has free-trade agreements with Japan, South Korea, China, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Based on the study of the Universal Access to Competitiveness and Trade, which serves as the PCCI think-tank, Dee said merchandise trade between the two countries increased rapidly since the forging of the AKFTA in 2007. Exports to South Korea are up 23 percent and it is now the eighth-largest trading partner of the Philippines.

South Korean investments, on the other hand, went up from less than $100 million in 2007 to $600 million in 2010. Among the top South Korean investors in the Philippines are Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction, Samsung Electronics Philippines Manufacturing Corp., and Daelim Industrial Co. Ltd.

On the tourism side, Dee said Koreans make up 22 percent of the total foreign visitors to the Philippines.

With the existing complementarities economically and socially, Dee said the Philippines and South Korea could skip the tedious part of negotiating an EPA and proceed to the forging of a joint communiqué.

"We only need to list down all our matching industries and then reconcile our ambitions and expectations," Dee said.

The joint communiqué, he said, should state that South Korea and the Philippines will work together to enhance the economies of both countries.

The two countries will then separately outline their respective commitments on how their ambitions will be achieved in the areas of trade, investments, services and mutual recognition for the practice of professions.

Coinciding with the visit of Mr. Lee, a former CEO of Hyundai Engineering and Construction, the government has arranged a meeting between the PCCI and the South Korean business delegation at the Manila Hotel on Monday, which the South Korean leader will keynote. President Lee flew in at 1:30 p.m. on Sunday accompanied by his wife, Kim Myun-Ok.

Apart from his Palace engagements, Mr. Lee will also attend a town hall meeting at the Ateneo de Manila University before returning to Malacañang for a state dinner in his honor.

He will depart Manila on Tuesday morning.

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