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The sociology of EDSA traffic

Of course you can call or text on your phone while driving. You can even read your e-mail and reply quickly on your iPad. You might want to catch some quick news on Yahoo, or get your daily fix of cute dog antics on YouTube.

People of the Philippines vs. the GCTA

When a case is titled “People of the Philippines vs. Juan Santos,” it is a criminal case, or a crime against society. When a case is titled “Pedro Reyes vs. Juan Santos,” it is a civil case between two persons.

What, no homework?

The “holistic approach” to child development was the reason for this jack-in-the-box treat for school children: House Bill (HB) No. 3611 filed by House Deputy Speaker Evelina Escudero proposes to remove homework as a requirement for Kinder to Grade 12 students and prohibit students from taking textbooks home in order to “lighten their physical burden” and to do academic activities solely within school premises; and HB No. 3883 filed by Quezon City Representative Alfred Vargas, which seeks to “promote and protect the physical, moral, spiritual, intellectual, and social well-being of the youth” and prohibits elementary and high school teachers from assigning take-home assignments to students for the weekend. Senator Grace Poe filed Senate Bill No. 966 to establish a no-homework policy for all primary and secondary schools in the country, according to a GMA News report on Aug. 30.

Gifts or bribes: What’s in a name?

President Rodrigo R. Duterte started the cauldron bubbling when on Aug. 9, during the celebration of the 118th police service anniversary at Camp Crame, he said that he believes police officers should accept gifts if these are given out of gratitude or generosity. “Well, if you’re given a gift, accept it. It cannot be bribery because it is allowed by law. What I mean if there is generosity in them, the anti-graft law says you cannot accept gifts. (Kalokohan ’yan) That’s nonsense,” he was quoted by The Philippine Star as saying in its Aug. 11 issue.

Mandating public ownership

Last week Commissioner Ephyro Luis B. Amatong announced that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) is now looking at mandating a 20-25% Minimum Public Offering (MPO) range for listed companies, against the November 2017 order for these public companies to hit 15% MPO within three years, then another two years for the final 20% MPO.

How goes the economy?

On Monday last week, 15 economists polled by BusinessWorld -- 11 from banks and financial institutions and four from the academe -- were sure gross domestic product (GDP) growth in the second quarter (April to June) would have leaped to 5.9% from the nasty fall in the first quarter to 5.6% (the lowest in four years) after the hopeful 6.3% quarter-growth at year end 2018. Perhaps they were encouraged by Secretary of Socio-Economic Planning Ernesto M. Pernia’s assurance last June that though the second-quarter growth will “not be as strong as the third quarter would be,” a 6.5% GDP growth for the year would be “attainable.”

Face-off with cryptocurrency

Call it an in-your-face taunt that Facebook, the social media platform for some 2.38 billion worldwide users -- while beleaguered by seemingly never-ending privacy issues with the US Federal Trade Commission in its 15 years of existence -- has launched its own cryptocurrency, much to the Federal Reserve Bank’s dismay. It is probably the ultimate face-off between today’s 10-year-old high-tech cryptocurrency and traditional money as first recorded in Sumerian cuneiform tablets of 4,000 BCE.

Possession and position in militaryspeak

“You know, I cannot go there even to bring the Coast Guard to drive them away. China also claims the property and he is in possession. ’Yan ang problema. Sila ’yung (That is the problem. They are the ones) in possession and claiming all the resources there as an owner.” -- President Rodrigo R. Duterte said that quite clearly in his fourth State of the Nation Address (SONA) on Monday, July 22, at the opening of the 18th Congress.

Tapos na ang boksing

“I get to punch a senator in the face,” Keith Thurman said of Manny Pacquiao days before their welterweight championship boxing match on Saturday in Las Vegas. It was a TKO, even before the undefeated 30-year-old American WBA (Super) Welterweight World Champion climbed into the ring to exchange fisticuffs with Filipino boxing icon and reigning WBA (Regular) Welterweight World Champion, boxing’s only eight-division world champion, 40-year-old Senator Emmanuel “Manny/Pacman” Pacquiao.

Collision, allision; collusion, coalition

“It was not a collision, but an ‘allision’,” Foreign Affairs Secretary Teodoro Locsin told Karen Davila on her morning talk show, Headstart, on July 3. And to his TV audience, he challenged, “I bet nobody knows that word but me.”

The Death Penalty and Divorce Bills: Till death do us part

“Marriage is the death penalty.” This is a statement that might be heard at a bachelor’s party. Perverted comic relief, of course, because here in the Philippines, marriage is “till death do us part” -- there is no divorce. But things will change; macho guys are in charge in government now, and the Divorce Law will probably be finally passed in this 18th Congress. Ironically, the Death Penalty Bill will also probably be filed on the opening day of Congress.

The pyramiding of Faith, Hope and Trust

In the sustained anxiety of society from three years of relentless fault-finding and finger pointing on the past mistakes and sins of previous political administrations (plural), fate has taunted all with still more alleged anomalies, scams, even possible crimes -- recidivist, it would seem, to “past” wrong doing. Alas, Philippine politics is like that.

The REIT thing at the right time

A REIT -- or Real Estate Investment Trust -- is a 33%-publicly owned listed company which uses pooled funds of investors to purchase, lease, re-sell, and manage income-generating real estate assets such as malls, offices, condominiums, warehouses, and other infrastructure. The REIT Law of 2009 that formally established the REITs is meant to help develop and democratize the capital markets, with prospects for even the small investors to earn regular income and long-term capital appreciation, much like participating in mutual funds.

Hong Kong’s rights and freedoms

Hong Kong might be called the unwanted love child of the British and the Chinese, from an ill-fated port romance, when Western merchant sailors crossed vast oceans for half a year to see what could be had from the beautiful East.

Sin no more

“Republic Act 10351, or the Sin Tax Reform Law, is one of the landmark legislations under the Aquino Administration. It is primarily a health measure with revenue implications, but more fundamentally, it is a good governance measure. The Sin Tax Law helps finance the Universal Health Care program of the government, simplified the current excise tax system on alcohol and tobacco products and fixed long standing structural weaknesses, and addresses public health issues relating to alcohol and tobacco consumption” (www.dof.gov.ph/index.php/advocacies/sin-tax-reform).

Innovation: The only way

At the BusinessWorld Economic Forum 2019 last week, keynote speaker Jaime Augusto Zobel de Ayala, “JAZA”, chairman and chief executive officer (CEO) of Ayala Corporation made it clear: “Businesses should realize that what brought us success in the past will not be the same issues or factors that will bring us success in the future” (BusinessWorld May 31, 2019). He shared how the Ayala group has consistently embraced innovation, enabling it to remain in business for the last 185 years.

Gen Z: Lakas ng amatz

Amatz/amats = “tama” which in Filipino is the root of “tinamaan,” meaning “it hit me straight away” like the “kick” from drinking lambanog (Filipino “coconut vodka” which 80 to 90 proof, or as high as 166 proof after second distillation, they say).

A steamy ‘Meet-me-room’

It may summon lurid thoughts of a clandestine tryst at some secluded nest, where forbidden lovers unleash steamy passion. It must be very secret -- imagine if the wronged wife (or husband) discovered and witnessed the unfaithfulness. “In flagrante delicto,” meaning seeing the crime in flagrant commission, would justify killing of the illicit lovers by the betrayed. Possibly a lugubrious picture of a “meet-me-room,” in some prurient minds, for want of any connectivity of the word with some staid common usage.

Mother: Not just an input of GDP

The unpaid household chores and care work rendered by women is valued at 20% of the Philippines’ gross domestic product (GDP), according to Research Fellow Michael M. Abrigo of the Philippine Institute for Development Studies (BusinessWorld April 2, 2019). This is quantified at nearly P2 trillion. According to 2015 data, only 2% of males help out with the house and care work of their spouses and mothers (Ibid.).

This human settlements thing

Just for nostalgia: what was done on May 1, Labor Day, in Martial Law? From the National Library archives, “The President’s Week in Review: April 27 – May 3, 1981,” President Ferdinand Marcos in his Labor Day speech said he “will ask the Batasang Pambansa for early approval of a bill restoring the right of workers to strike.” (officialgazette.gov.ph/1981/05/04). Marcos had just “lifted” martial law in January, and was unraveling what had gone on for nine years as what he called a “benevolent dictatorship.”

Earthquake!

But we are already talking about it -- what we all can do for the environment. At the Asian Institute of Management (AIM), April 22, the day after Easter Sunday, was a whole-day focus on Mother Nature, in communion with the celebration of World Earth Day.

A rite of passage

A solo bassoon moans a prolonged melancholy cry, as of a dull pain inside the soul. Its plaintive aching and hurting seems from some broken heart whose fears are magnified in the steady thumping of the basses -- bows thrust over strings stayed by numbed fingers on the bridge -- in repetitive pulses like anxiety gripping the throat. The drums could have pounded the insistent rhythm, but they only offer muffled sympathy.

Poverty and taxes

Today, April 15, is the deadline for payment of 2018 income taxes. There is no extension -- better file your income tax returns (ITR) or else, for even one day later, you suffer the one-time 25% penalty/surcharge plus 20% interest per annum until payment. You must pay income taxes through a BIR-accredited agent bank (AAB) who will credit BIR with your payment. Mind that whether you have taxable income or none, or if you have a computer or access to a computer or not, you have to separately file an electronic ITR, to immediately and officially register your filing with the Bureau of Internal Revenue (BIR). You can go to any BIR “E-lounge” for assistance and guidance on the filing of your ITR, but you will still have to pay first (if you have any tax to pay) through an AAB before electronic filing. No escape except death (though your heirs cannot escape inheritance taxes either).

For universal health care: No pork

A colonoscopy cum endoscopy at a private hospital cost a total of P67,500: P5,000 for the ultrasound, P25,000 for the hospital procedures, P25,000 for the doctor and P12,500 for the anesthesiologist. The self-employed young professional with no special health insurance (only PhilHealth) could hardly afford this. PhilHealth stepped in for P5,400 deductible from the patient’s bill, 8% of total, but that did not go to her. The 30% of P5,400 is for refund to the doctor of Professional Fees (PF) over what was billed to the patient and 70% is refunded to the hospital on top of what was charged to the patient. For surgical cases, it would be 40% for PF and 60% for hospital costs. Crazy, but it feels like PhilHealth is for doctors and hospitals, and not for patients, because patients don’t see, feel and touch the PhilHealth “refund.” It is like a flat “commission” paid for services rendered by doctors and hospitals -- while they would still have the freedom to charge higher than the PhilHealth maximum base rates per the immutable chart of coverable diseases and procedures. Since September 2011, PhilHealth started implementing its policy of paying fixed rates or fixed amounts to accredited hospitals and clinics for 11 medical cases and 11 surgical cases charted under its reimbursement scheme called Case Rates Payment (workingpinoy.com June 2, 2014). Refunds have been cut down drastically from 2003, since deductibles (purportedly for the patient, but actually a “bonus” to doctors and hospitals) have been whittled down. Poor patient!

The Phoenix on the Nile

Egypt is an old soul in an old body that would not die. The idea of mummification is 3,100 years old, Egyptologist-archeologist Mohammed Abdel Aziz (not Arabian, not African, but proudly Egyptian) says, as he points up to the heavens to emphasize Eternity. In Saqqara, north of Memphis, there are 118 pyramids to house the sarcophagi of mummified pharaohs and noblemen. The Djoser pyramid capped with luminescent limestone to mimic the rays of the morning sun towers 62 meters (203 feet) but still the Khufu pyramid of Giza, the largest Egyptian pyramid and one of the seven Wonders of the Ancient World, reaches up an awesome 146.7 meters (481 feet). A narrow shaft that comes from the pinnacle to the burial chamber directs the sunlight to the deceased pharaoh’s mummified body and lifts his soul to the heavens and to the gods. It is the story of Resurrection and Eternal Life.

The banks always win

Big banks posted another banner year in 2018, with profits growing by a tenth at a time of higher borrowing costs and a weaker peso. Total operating income grew by 14.9% to P564.202 billion from P491.227 billion the past year, central bank data showed (BusinessWorld Feb. 11, 2019).

Who’s to blame for the Metro Manila water crisis?

“Many areas in the metro have experienced weak to no water supply, with some areas having people line up for hours to get water from tankers,” BusinessWorld reported, as all other media did, in the anxiety of worse to come. The people are angry.

Changes at the Bangko Sentral

Department of Budget and Management (DBM) Secretary Benjamin Diokno is the new Governor of the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) effective March 4, 2019.

Learning to trust fintech

“Here’s your credit card, Ma’am, no need to sign the charge slip for payments below P2,000,” the waiter at her favorite Italian restaurant says to the lady-lawyer, a regular diner. “But I want to sign the charge slip,” she insists. “See here, there is a blank space for the tip to be given, if the customer wanted the tip to be included in the credit card charge -- how would I know if an outrageous tip amount was added by someone without my knowledge? How can I prove, should I question my credit card statement, that I did not write in a tip on the charge slip?”

EDSA is not colored yellow

Today is the 33rd anniversary of the EDSA People Power Revolution (EDSA I). “It commemorates the peaceful demonstrations that occurred in 1986 and led to the overthrow of the corrupt rule of President Ferdinand Marcos....In previous years, 25 February was a work holiday, but today, the Monday nearest that date is a holiday only for school,” a travel service website informs interested tourists (https://publicholidays.ph).

Talk about something else

Let’s not talk about Maria Ressa. What if she was arrested for “cyber libel” at the Rappler office by the National Bureau of Investigation day before Valentine’s Day, just before 5 p.m., the cutoff time for courts to process bail payments? Harassment? What’s “cyber libel,” anyway? We are becoming inured to all sorts of fake news and bad language on social media, as we are numbed to virulent cursing and swearing, public shaming and outright accusations on national mass media.

Primogeniture in family business

Primogeniture: the state of being firstborn of the same parents. In common practice since time immemorial in most cultures, the eldest child, most often specified to be the oldest male offspring, inherits real property and the family business. Is that still so in our culture?

‘Pork’ in the Year of the Pig

O, ano, let me see if you know, the priest says in his homily at Mass. What is 2019 the Year of? His audience triumphantly chorused: “The Year of the Pig!” Shame on you, the good father admonished. It is always “The Year of the Lord.” And all laughed heartily at themselves.

Don’t throw the baby out with the bath water

The House of Representatives has reconsidered. Instead of lowering the age of criminality for children down to nine years old as originally proposed by then-Speaker of the House Pantaleon Alvarez in November 2016, the lawmakers approved on second reading last week the substitute bill lowering the minimum age of social responsibility of child offenders to 12 years old from the current 15 years old under Republic Act 9344 as amended by RA 10630 (CNN Philippines, Jan. 24, 2019).

The mysterious death of Hanjin

In January last year, Hanjin Heavy Industries and Construction Philippines (HHIC) delivered to the French Maritime Freighting Company, CMA CGM S.A., fourth-largest container company in the world, its flagship Antoine de Saint Exupery, its largest container ship (with a deck of three football fields combined) and the largest Europe-based ship in the world (World Maritime News, Jan. 5, 2018). Made in the Philippines, at the 326-hectare HHIC shipyard in Redondo peninsula, north of Subic Bay, Zambales.

Shut out, shut in; shut down, shut up

Shut out Mexico, US President Donald Trump insists. It had been his campaign promise from back in 2016 to “Build that wall” along the 1,954 miles (3,145 km) US border with Mexico to keep out illegal entrants into the US. We’ll make Mexico pay for it, Trump boasted then (BBC, Jan. 26, 2016). How could he have ever expected Mexican President Enrique Peña Nieto to happily say “Si!” to a wall pre-paid by Mexico to shut out Mexico from the US? “Mexico doesn’t believe in walls,” Nieto expectedly said on national television, and of course he would not spend up to $25 billion to shut Mexico out (BBC, Jan. 26, 2017).

May 2019 be a good year

Happy New Year, Manay! May 2019 be a good year. What’s a good year, she says?

For whom the bells toll

When after 117 years, the three Balangiga bells taken as war booty by the US Army in 1901 were returned to Samar Island, there was victorious jubilation on the Philippine side. In the crack of the Balangiga clash in the midst of the Philippine American War, bolo-wielding Filipino insurgents won over the superiorly equipped American infantry. It is said that in rabid retaliation for the 48 of 74 men of Company C who were ambushed and killed while at breakfast, the US reportedly massacred more than 2,500 of the village people. Historians cannot agree on the numbers. But of course history is written by the victors and rewritten by the losers if given a chance.

The OPC dons the corporate veil

The bicameral conference committee in Congress has approved the reconciled version amending the 38-year-old Corporation Code of the Philippines to improve the country’s business climate for large and small businesses and to make it easier for investors to set up businesses (The Philippine Star, Nov. 28, 2018).

A divorce settlement for Brexit

When the no-frills, no-nonsense British Prime Minister Theresa May crossed to center-stage dancing, raised hands swaying to the languid swing of ABBA’s “Dancing Queen,” it all said something was terribly amiss. It was in October, at the Conservative Party’s conference. Despite the standing ovation (the only polite and “veddy-British” response expected) to the somewhat awkward dancing, the matter to be discussed by May at the conference was not as forgivably acceptable. She was standing for approval of her planned UK transition deal with the European Union (EU) through to the end of 2020, after the March 29, 2019 effectivity of the British withdrawal (Brexit) from the EU, as signified by the UK in June 2016.

The rainbow after the rain

“At the end of the rainbow, you’ll find a pot of gold,” the old song goes. The rainbow points to where, in folklore, the leprechauns buried their riches.

Doi Mòi in Viet Nam

A larger-than-life concrete statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary stands on the rotunda just beyond the Thành pho? Ho Chí Minh, the City Hall, more formally called the People’s Committee Building. It is as if the Holy Mother had stepped out of the Basilique-Cathédrale Notre-Dame de Saigon behind her, the twin-belfry cathedral built by the French colonizers between 1863 and 1880. Noisy vehicles and pedestrians swirled around her to the main artery road Nguyen Thi Minh Kai and its tree-lined tributary roads. But there are only about six million Catholics in communist Vietnam, representing just 7% of the total population.

Rankings, ratings and rantings

“We demand that the World Bank (WB) review the Philippines’ rating, and make a correction immediately given our country’s increases in the Ease of Doing Business (EODB) scores, which was, unfortunately, offset by the grossly inaccurate and understated findings in the Getting Credit indicator of the Report.

Sic transit gloria mundi

At the Libingan on All Saints Day, a widow and her daughter prayed before the plain white cross that marked the grave of a young officer, who more than four decades ago was killed in action in Jolo, at the height of the Mindanao war over the dictator Marcos’s inconsistent strategies for peace. There are few officers like him, the widow’s best friend, a general’s wife, once told her. Surely without malice, she added: it might as well be that your husband died early; who knows what he might have become, had he lived some years more?

Let the third telco come naturally

There was already a third telecommunications company “telco” to the Globe Telecom and Smart Telecom “duopoly.” In August 2010, San Miguel Corp. (SMC) bought Bell Telecommunications Philippines, Inc. (BellTel) and set up Vega Telecoms, to challenge the emerging duopoly of Globe and Smart (philstar.com, Aug. 17, 2010).