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Last week, the Sandiganbayan convicted Al Vitangcol III, former general manager of the Metro Rail Transit (MRT) 3, of graft and for violating government procurement laws. Among the incorporators of PH Trams was Arturo Soriano, Vitangol’s uncle-in-law.
After decades of lethargic growth, the Philippine tourism industry is finally riding on strong tailwinds. From January to November last year, foreign tourist arrivals topped 7.46 million, which translates to 15.58% year-on-year growth. This is nearly four times the average global growth rate and 2.5 times more than the Asian average. Although whole year statistics have not yet been consolidated, it is almost certain that the country surpassed its 8.2 million foreign visitor target.
Following the Philippines’ successful hosting of the 30th Southeast Asian Games, the Philippine Olympic Committee announced its intention to bid for the 2030 Asian Games. Other countries vying for the hosting rights are Qatar, India, Thailand, Taiwan, and Uzbekistan. If successful, this would be the second time the Philippines would host the Asiad -- the first time being in 1954.
On Aug. 15, 1945, Emperor Hirohito announced Japan’s surrender following its invasions of countries in the Asia Pacific region. Its colony in Korea was divided into two spheres, with the south administered by the United States and the north by Russia. The two Koreas existed with tension between them and this culminated in June 1950 when the North invaded the South. The two Koreas have been at war ever since.
The year 2019 will be a banner year for Philippine tourism. If we are to go by the trends from January to September, the Philippines is poised to surpass its 8.2 million visitor target, clocking in a growth rate of 14.37%. At this pace, we are likely to supersede the 12.5 million arrival target by 2022.
Last week, we received the unwelcome news that the Philippines fell eight notches in the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Global Competitiveness Report for 2019. From being among the most improved countries in 2018 with a 12-notch leap to 56th position, we slid to 64th place out of 141 countries this year. We are at the same level we were in 2012. While utterly disappointing, it serves as a wake up call to our policy makers.
Pending final clearance from the Department of Agriculture (DA), Spanish beef will soon be available for Filipino consumers to enjoy. It will compete head to head with beef imported from the US, Australia, New Zealand, Canada, and Japan, all of whom have dominated the premium segment of the market. Spanish beef promises superior quality across its entire range of cuts and grades at more competitive prices. With more options and greater value, this development is a win for the Filipino consumer.
Following the enactment of the Clean Water Act (CWA) of 2007, the two water and wastewater services providers of Metro Manila, Maynilad and Manila Water Company (MWC), were given five years to connect the existing sewer lines of homes and commercial establishments to the main sewerage system of the city. Both companies failed to meet the deadline due to various reasons which I will explain later. Suffice it to say, the Supreme Court ruled against the two companies and slapped each of them with a P921.5 million fine, plus rolling penalties until the interconnection is completed.
In my hands is a copy of the “Roadmap for Transport Infrastructure Development for Metro Manila and its Surrounding Areas.” Formulated by the Philippine government in cooperation with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), this roadmap outlines the ways in which Metro Manila traffic can be properly addressed today, all the way to the year 2030.
At 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 16, 1810 in Dolores, Mexico, Father Miguel Hidalgo ordered the church bells rung as he gathered his congregation. There, he cried out against the abuses of the Spaniards and the many Criollos (wealthy Mexican mestizos) who oppressed the Mexican masses. He urged the faithful to revolt against Spain. That event, known today as “Grito de Dolores” (“Cry of Dolores”), marked the start of Mexico’s 11 year struggle to be a self-governing republic. On Aug. 24, 1821, Mexico’s fight for independence came to a victorious end with the signing of the Treaty of Cordoba. Mexico considers Grito de Dolores as its spiritual day of Independence.
An amendment to the excise tax structure for alcohol and tobacco products recently passed the third reading in the lower house. It will now be deliberated upon at the Senate and nursed to passage by Senator Sonny Angara who heads the committee of ways and means.
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.