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Last week, the Department of Tourism (DoT) announced that foreign arrivals breached the 4.1 million mark in the first semester of the year, an 11.43% increase from last year. It expressed confidence that it would meet its whole year target of 8.2 million visitors.
Last year, my wife and I went on a trip to Spain, specifically to visit the wine vineyards of Bodegas Frutos Villar. Situated in the city Valladolid in Castilla y León, the city is where the Pisuerga, Duero, and Esgueva rivers converge. These bodies of water are what help irrigate five famed wine regions -- Ribiera del Duero, Rueda, Toro, Tierra de Leon, and Cigales. Valladolid was the capital of Spain during the era of King Philip III in the early 1600s and the center of Spanish political life. The city is teeming with historical sites and old world splendor.
Filipinos are known the world over for being meticulous, diligent workers. Unfortunately, the lack of education prevents many of our countrymen from realizing their full potential. Studies from the Commission on Higher Education and Technical Education and Skills Development Authority show that for every three Filipinos, one is unable to complete their college education primarily due to financial reasons.
The high cost of building bank branches, coupled with the scarcity and ever increasing salaries of skilled banking professionals, are factors that discourage banks from expanding in far flung areas of the country. As a result, banks have concentrated their branch networks in central business districts and areas where corporate offices and mid- to high-net-worth customers are located. This has made banking inaccessible to millions of Filipinos as well as scores of micro, small- and medium-sized enterprises (MSMEs) in the countryside.
I had my reservations when Mark Villar was named Secretary of the Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) back in 2016. While I have known the young Villar to be smart, diligent, and good natured, I thought that he lacked the political experience and engineering savvy required of a DPWH Secretary. Sure, he was raised to be an entrepreneur and trained in the family business, but this was not enough for him to take on one of the most difficult jobs in the cabinet. Worse, he was coming on the heels of Babes Singson, a highly respected engineer and technocrat.
On July 22, President Rodrigo R. Duterte will deliver his state of the nation address (SONA) before a joint session of congress and before the Filipino people. Last week, however, the economic cluster of the President’s cabinet gave a comprehensive report on the state of the economy in a pre-SONA conference. In attendance were the diplomatic corps, members of the business community, and select members of media.
The world’s leading climate scientists agree that the planet’s greenhouse situation has reached crisis levels. This is mainly due to the uncontrolled amount of waste generated by our cities and from the hazardous contaminants resulting from overusing fossil fuels.
A part from being an economist and columnist for this paper, I am also a business owner of a medium-sized food group and a country head of an American multi-national firm. Like many involved in the food business and investments, 2017 and 2018 were good years for us. The favorable business conditions in our industries is something we are grateful for and do not take for granted.
The latest survey conducted by the Social Weather Station showed that support for President Rodrigo Duterte and his administration have progressed from “very good” to “excellent.” This is unusual, especially midway in a presidential term.
The Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) was declared the worst airport in the world from 2011 to 2013, according to a survey conducted by the travel website, the Guide to Sleeping in Airports. In 2014, it was adjudged the 4th worst. In 2015 and 2016, it was ranked the 8th and 5th worst airport in Asia, respectively. In 2016, it regained its crown as the worst airport all over again.
Last week, the Spanish Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines celebrated its 120th anniversary. La Camara, as the organization is fondly called, predates all other business groups in the country including the Filipino-Chinese Chamber of Commerce, the American Chamber of Commerce and even the Rotary Club. It was the first Spanish chamber to be established in Asia.
In two weeks, the Philippine electorate will cast its vote for 12 senators, the entire cast of the House of Representatives as well as all provincial, city and municipal officials. For those unhappy with the status quo, this is your chance to elect better leaders. After all, the laws and policies put in motion in the next three years will have a ripple effect that will traverse generations. This is why we all need to be circumspect about our selection.
Many Filipinos may not know Florin “Pilo” Hilbay yet -- but they should. Hilbay is among our rare public servants with the courage to speak out against the Duterte administration’s policies towards China. For Hilbay, what belongs to the Philippines should remain for the Philippines and he is willing to risk life and liberty to protect our interest.
We’ve been worn down by a lot of bad news lately. The long drawn-out impasse between the Senate and the House over the General Appropriations Act is the most worrisome of all. Unresolved, it could mean a deceleration of the economy from 6.5% growth to just 4.2% this year. Add to this the water crisis, the country’s withdrawal from the International Criminal Court and the inclusion of two convicted plunderers in the senate’s magic 12. For those who don’t know any better, it’s easy to assume that the country is rowing in the wrong direction, economically and politically.
In a Facebook post two weeks ago, I said that while the Philippine economy continues to grow in good pace on the back of government spending and consumption, its fundamentals are inferior to that of Vietnam whose economy is driven by investments and exports. I further urged the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI) to review its industrial policy and begin developing new export winners.
I am a frequent visitor to trade fairs organized by the Department of Trade & Industry, particularly the GoLokal fairs and the Manila Fame, a trade fair targeted towards foreign buyers. Each visit, I am amazed at the creativity and craftsmanship of Filipino-made products. While they are hard-pressed to compete with their equivalents from China on a price perspective, locally made goods are undoubtedly superior in terms of design and innovation. This is what keeps foreign buyers coming back year after year.
With the Supreme Court under pressure to grant the wishes of Malacañang and a House of Representatives acting as its virtual rubber stamping, the Senate is the lone body that mitigates and provides checks and balances on the executive branch. Hence, having a strong Senate composed of competent lawmakers is vital to setting the nation on the right course.
2018 should have been a banner year for the Philippines. If President Duterte’s campaign promises are anything to go by, drug cartels should have been obliterated by now, peace and order should be firmly entrenched across the country, the flaws of the 1987 Constitution should have been amended, Metro Manila’s traffic woes should be solved and the economy should be soaring at a 7.5% growth rate.
The last of the triad of Senators accused of receiving hundreds of millions in kickbacks from the pork barrel scam walked away a free man on Dec. 7. Former Senator Ramon “Bong” Revilla, Jr. was acquitted for plunder and was released by the Sandiganbayan from Camp Crame.
Business and politics can be superficial, even judgmental. Studies show that those with youthful, symmetrical faces are three times more likely to bag an interview or close a deal as compared to those with lopsided, aging faces. A survey conducted by Forbes magazine confirmed that attractive people enjoy a five percent earnings advantage over those deemed unattractive. Making matters worse for unattractive people is that their earning capacity diminishes at an accelerated rate over time while that of attractive people diminishes at a remarkably slower pace.
When does a political family become a political dynasty? A political dynasty is established in two instances. First, when an elected government official is succeeded by a member of his household up to the first degree of consanguinity or affinity. Second, when several members of a family occupy various positions in government simultaneously.
Secretary Ramon Lopez of the Department of Trade and Industry is among the hardest working Cabinet members we have today. Under his purview is the unenviable task of attracting foreign investments, shepherding local industries to global competitiveness, creating international trade opportunities and protecting local consumers from unfair trade practices, among many others.
We were in the town of Furano in the prefecture of Hokkaido. It was 3:08 in the morning and my wife and I were deep in sleep after a day of touring. Suddenly, our cellphones (which were on silent) began to sound an alarm similar to that of a fire truck siren. The alarm was blaring and it permeated throughout the city through the town’s loud speakers. Along with the alarm came a notice in Japanese saying “Emergency Earthquake Warning!”
From a modest base in 2010, tourism has blossomed into a $38.5-billion industry comprising 12.2% of GDP in 2017. Foreign visitors topped the 6.62 million mark while domestic travelers reached 96.7 million. Curious to note that the number of domestic tourists have already surpassed the 2022 target of 86.2 million four years ahead of schedule. The industry has so far created 5.3 million jobs, most of which are in the countryside.
Expectations could not be higher for newly confirmed Secretary of the Department of Tourism, Bernadette “Berna” Romulo-Puyat. Following Wanda Teo who used her position as a piggy bank for the entire Tulfo clan, the public now demands a sensible, no nonsense tourism program.
In overall competitiveness, the Philippines is only better than Cambodia, Laos, and Myanmar today. We have been overtaken by Vietnam and Indonesia in most competitive indicators in the last two years. This is not to say that the Philippines did not improve. We did, especially between the years 2010 to 2015. In the last two years, however, the rest of the region accelerated their reforms while the Philippines remained static given the disruption of the national elections and the period of adjustment of the new administration.
In this time of uncertainty resulting from the unnecessary provocation of our Christian community, political killings, and rumors of martial law, its important that we put perspective on things by taking into consideration the true state of the economy.
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