Web philippinetourism.blogspot.com

Saturday, December 30, 2006

Philamlife premiums hit P1.58B in November

The Philippine American Life and General Insurance Corp. (Philamlife) has reported a 54-percent growth in new premiums in November.

Total premiums for the same month reached P1.58 billion, propelled by the phenomenal success of its new AIG Money Tree products, variable or unit-linked insurance products with investment features.

Premiums from these products alone soared to P473.22 million in a single month. Philamlife also registered strong growth in its group life and personal accident lines, up 29 percent and 15 percent, respectively.

It reported total premium income of P12.3 billion in 2005, and a networth of P36 billion. Total premium income of the industry was recorded at P46.9 billion.

Philamlife president and chief executive officer Jose Cuisia Jr. vowed to keep on introducing more products based on the need of the times.

"We will strive to be even worthier of your trust, and we will continue to provide financial security to even more Filipinos in 2007," Cuisia said.

The success of the Philamlife’s variable life products can be attributed to the excellent yields offered by Philamlife’s different investment funds.

One year returns as of Dec. 15 reached 18.7 percent for the fixed income fund, 36.91 percent for the equity fund, 19.74 percent for the dollar bond fund, and 12.36 percent for the global bond fund.

The company is bullish about prospects in 2007, which marks its 60th year in operation.

Philamlife introduced four new generation insurance products recently, namely Brilliance for education, Longevity for savings and protection, Abundance for investments, and Leisure for retirement.

Philamlife Brilliance provides guaranteed education benefits and dividend potential for higher returns while Philamlife Longevity offers guaranteed lifetime cash benefits every three years, guaranteed increasing insurance coverage plus potential returns from dividends.

Philamlife Abundance combines investment and insurance in an easy-to-understand package that lets one participate in high-yielding investment funds. Philamlife Leisure provides a continuous monthly pension that lets one enjoy his retirement in comfort and security.

The country’s leading life insurer also broke new ground when it launched AKSITEXT, the country’s first prepaid accident insurance card activated through SMS or text messaging, and available in convenience and sari-sari stores.

For only P10 in premiums, AKSITEXT provides P10,000 accidental death insurance for a period of 15 days.

Philamlife is the largest and most diversified life insurance company in the Philippines, and the undisputed market leader for over half a century. It offers the most comprehensive range of life and general insurance products that provide protection, savings and investments, education, and accident and health coverage.

Philamlife has the most number of products in the market with 20 active and a total of 70.

The company has more than a million individual and corporate policyholders, and maintains the most extensive network of offices and sales agencies nationwide. It is a member of American International Group (AIG), world leaders in insurance and financial services. LINK is here.

HUDCC, Pag-IBIG cited for lowering interest rates

Vice President Noli de Castro, chairman of the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC), Atty. Romero F.S. Quimbo, president/CEO of Home Development Mutual Fund (Pag-IBIG Fund), and the entire HDMF board of trustees, have been cited by the Organization of Social Housing Developers of the Philippines (OSHDP) for their "historical and precedent-setting" reduction of interest rates in housing loans, extension of payment terms, and lowering of monthly amortizations of borrowers. It is, OSHDP said, "a truly meaningful Christmas gift to Filipinos, particularly the minimum wage earners and government workers."

OSHDP chairman Giovanni Olivares and president Wilfredo Tan cited the interest rates lowering from nine to six percent for loans of up to P300,000; from 10 to only seven percent for above P300,000 to P500,000 loans; from 11 to 10.5 percent for above P500,000 to P1 million loans; and from 12 to 11.5 percent for above P1 million to P2 million loans.

They also praised De Castro and Quimbo for increasing the maximum payment term to 30 years and reducing the monthly amortizations from P2,413.87 to P1,798.65 for P300,000 loan; and from P4,387.86 to only P3,326 for P500,000 loan.

These positive measures have long been awaited by the housing industry, Olivares and Tan said. "These rates are the most competitive in the market, serving to propel the industry to an upbeat outlook for the next five to 10 years. Indeed, the low-end Pag-IBIG Fund borrowers now have greater access to the Fund without being constrained by the issue of affordability."

OSHDP recalled its lobbying for reduced interest rates for socialized, economic and low-cost housing packages and for a review of price ceilings. Government’s affirmative reception through HUDCC and Pag-IBIG Fund, Olivares and Tan said, is instrumental in increasing production and delivery of low-cost housing units. "This shows that collaboration and partnership among the government, financial institutions and the private sector can do a lot to help and uplift the country’s underprivileged and homeless people by making available decent housing at an affordable cost, basic services and employment." LINK is here.

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Dates fixed: twin summits to be held Jan. 10 to 15

CEBU CITY -- With all member-countries and dialogue partners confirming their attendance, the National Organizing Committee has finalized the dates for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) Summit next month in Cebu.

Foreign ministers will meet on Jan. 10 and 11, while the Southeast Asian Leaders' and the East Asia Summits and other related meetings will take place from Jan. 12 to 15, said Ambassador Marciano Paynor Jr., National Organizing Committee secretary-general.

The dates are exactly a month after the original schedule, abandoned on account of typhoon Seniang.

India confirmed its attendance last Thursday, the last country to do so. It is one of the dialogue partners that Asean leaders will be meeting to discuss regional arrangements on trade, counter-terrorism and other matters.

As to the holidays, Paynor said it will be up to Governor Gwendolyn Garcia and Mayors Tomas Osmeña of Cebu City and Thadeo Ouano of Mandaue City to make their recommendations, for President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to act on.

Paynor said there is no need for a new presidential proclamation for the holidays but only an amendment based on the recommendation of the local chief executives.

The ambassador added that there will be more than 40 meetings in Cebu, whose venues are still being finalized. He reiterated that more events will be held in the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC).

All the 16 heads of state-10 from the Asean countries and six from the dialogue partners-have officially confirmed they will attend next month's summit. The dialogue partners are China, Japan, Korea, Australia, New Zealand and India.

In an ABS-CBN interview, Ambassador Victoria-no Lecaros, 12th Asean Summit spokesman, said they want the delegates to see some of the activities of the Sinulog celebration, but they also do not want the meetings to overlap with the grand celebration on January 21.

He revealed that they did not have difficulty in adjusting the schedules of the leaders, which was one of the concerns when this month's events were postponed.

The summit was originally slated for December 10 to 14 but the organizers announced a last-minute postponement because Seniang was forecast to hit Cebu on the day the leaders were expected to arrive.

But there were speculations that a terrorist threat as well as the political instability because of opposition to Charter change maneuvers may be the real reasons for the postponement.

The US, Britain, Australia, New Zealand and Japan had warned their citizens shortly before the December summit that terrorists might be "in the final stages" of planning an attack in Cebu. Philippine authorities said no specific information had been received.

Before the postponement, however, several meetings were concluded, such as that of the Asean economic ministers and the Asean Business and Investment Summit. Thanks to Sunstar Daily.

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Entry of China-made vehicles seen boosting RP mart growth

By Ronnel Domingo
Inquirer

Last updated 00:49am (Mla time) 12/23/2006

MAKERS of vehicle parts have expressed optimism that the entry into the country of vehicles from China would help expand the local automotive market in the same way that an influx of Chinese bikes helped boost local motorcycle sales.

Eddie Jose, president of the Motor Vehicle Parts Manufacturers Association of the Philippines, said the so-called "China effect" opened wide the local market for motorcycles, widened its client base and brought down the prices of motorcycles.

Earlier this year, a distributor launched Chinese-made vehicles under the brand Nexus.

Jose said MVPMAP was confident this same phenomenon would happen in the local automotive industry as the group pushes for the implementation of a Philippine Utility Vehicle (PhUV) Program.

"We are hoping that the (proposed) PhUV program would give local car assemblers and parts manufacturers the much-needed critical mass of new automobile users that would result in economies of scale and, consequently, lower vehicle prices," he said.

Jose added that MVPMAP was in talks with government financial institutions for the provision of retail financing that would help make the PhUV affordable.

"We realize that retail financing is a key success factor in the PhUV Program as it was in the motorcycle industry," he explained. "It will result in a broader spectrum of potential client base, increase demand and effectively jump start the program."

Chinese motorcycles first came into the country in the late 1990s and retail financing--mostly through in-house programs--threw the doors open for people who wanted to buy bikes but could not afford to pay in cash.

Financing packages allowed for a down payment of as little as P3,000 and a monthly installment of P1,000, which came out cheaper than commuting by the usual modes of public transportation.

Consequently, demand for bikes increased in levels that pushed industry growth at a range of 30 percent to 40 percent yearly in the past several years.

Starting with Chinese-made entry-level bikes, customers eventually moved to better, higher quality bikes of the relatively more expensive Japanese brands.

"This also provided local manufacturers and their parts manufacturers with the economies of scale that they needed, thus enabling them to expand their operations, lower their prices and even invite foreign investors," Jose said.

Monday, December 18, 2006

GMO brings back good insects in Philippine farms

Many of the "good guys" in the insect world are back in Philippine farms.

In corn fields, particularly.

Credit for this encouraging development goes mainly to genetically modified organisms (GMO), specifically the so-called Bt corn.

Bt stands for Bacillus thuringiensis, a bacterium that naturally occurs in soil.

Through biotechnology (genetic engineering) technique, a specific gene of Bt has been introduced or inserted in a corn variety. The Bt corn produces its natural pesticide against the Asian corn borer, one of the most destructive pests attacking corn in the Philippines and in other Asian countries.

Considering that a GM crop has a built-in defense mechanism against crop pests, it needs less pesticide.

Before the Bt corn’s introduction in Philippine farms about half a decade ago, farmers excessively used chemicals in controlling destructive insects that attacked their corn fields.

Distressingly, in the process, it was the "good guys" or beneficial insects that considerably succumbed to the toxic chemicals sprayed on them. The "bad guys" had often been the more resilient ones or survivors.

But now comes Bt corn and there is now less or minimal use of pesticides or insecticides to protect the corn plants from their attackers.

This has been confirmed by actual farmers themselves, among them Rosalie Ellasus, president of the Philippine Maize Federation (PhilMaize), which is composed of multipurpose cooperatives in the country’s corn-producing regions.

Ellasus, a successful corn farmer from San Jacinto, Pangasinan, detailed her encouraging and productive experiences with Bt corn at an international conference on biotechnology held recently at the InterContinental Manila Hotel in Makati City.

Billed "Biotech Issues and Communication Workshop Enhancing Communication Skills of Southeast Asian Decision Makers on Biotechnology," the conference was sponsored by the International Service for the Acquisition of Agri-biotech Applications (ISAAA) and the Los Baños-based, government-hosted Southeast Asian Regional Center for Graduate Study and Research in Agriculture (SEARCA) through the SEARCA Biotechnolgy Information Center (BIC).

Supported by the United States Grains Council (USGC), the science forum was attended by about 60 scientists, researchers, and communicators from the Philippines, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thailand, Vietnam, Singapore, the United States and Kenya.

In her report, Ellasus noted the increase in population of beneficial insects, notably spiders, on her farm.

Even dragonflies and fireflies can now be observed in Bt corn-planted fields, she said.

Ellasus echoed the similar observations of members of PhilMaize, a good number of whom are now planting genetically modified corn.

A gentleman-farmer from Pililia, Rizal, Edgardo Reyes, also told the conference participants of the proliferation of beneficial insects on his Bt corn farm.

The corn field of Reyes, an engineer, was among the farms and research and academic institutions visited by the participants in the biotechnology forum.

The testimonials of Ellasus, Reyes and members of PhilMaize boosted results of earlier studies conducted on the benefits of GM crops.

"More beneficial insects are found in Bt corn fields than in non-Bt corn fields sprayed with chemical insecticides," stressed Dr. Stephen Reyes of the University of the Philippines Los Baños-College of Agriculture (UPLB-CA).

Dr. Reyes studied the impact of Bt corn MON810-Yieldgard corn hybrid, DK818YG, on the variety and community of insects in farmers’ fields in Barangay Villaluna in Cauayan, Isabela and Panagan in Tigaon, Camarines Sur during the 2001-2002 wet cropping season.

"A corn field is a dynamic community where different groups of insects live together," the UPLB scientist explained.

The phytophagous (those that feed on the different parts of the corn plant) had the most number. This group includes Asian corn borer, cutworms, corn silk beetles, earworms, mired bugs, locusts, aphids, leafhoppers and planthoppers.

"Corn silk beetles were very abundant at the Tigaon site during silking (flowering), while the migratory locusts were numerous at the Villaluna site," Dr. Reyes reported.

The Bt corn fields were least infested with corn silk bettles, he added.

The next abundant group were the neutrals, followed by the predatory and parasitoid species.

The neutral species include midges, mosquitoes, and Sarcophaga species.

The predatory insects found were the green lacewing, brown lacewing, and coccinellid beetles.

Parasitoids are insects that eat or parasitize the eggs of other insects. The dominant species of egg parasitoid is Trichogramma evanescens Westwood noted in Isabela.

"Natural enemies like the predatory insects and parasitoids are important because they reduce the population of insect pest species," Dr. Reyes said. "Presently, Yieldgard (Bt corn) does not appear to have a harmful effects on insect diversity, guild structure, and abundance of natural enemies."

Another study done by UPLB researchers Dr. Jose Yorobe Jr., Cesar Quicoy, Edwin Alcantara, and Blanda Sumayao detailed the experiences of farmers attesting benefits of using Bt corn such as resistance to corn borer and high yield.

The study, titled "Impact Assessment of Bt Corn in the Philippines," was done during the wet and dry seasons of crop year 2003-2004 in four major corn-producing provinces: Isabela, Camarines Sur, Bukidnon, and South Cotabato.

Other advantages of Bt corn cited by the farmers were low expenditure on pesticides and high premium price of Bt corn in the market owing to better quality and less impurities.

Another report authored by four scientists – Dr. Reynaldo Ebora, Amparo Ampil, Merle Palacpac, and Carlo Custodio Jr. – concluded:

"Farmers reported that Bt corn technology gave them higher yield with high quality grains. They also reported needing less pesticide or none at all, as expected since Bt corn is resistant to corn borers. In general, Bt corn farmers were able to reap good quality crop during harvest." LINK to Original Post.

China Bank registers highest CAR at 31.16%

By the end October, the China Banking Corp. (China Bank) has a capital adequacy ratio (CAR) of 31.16 percent, the highest among all the commercial banks in the Philippines.

In fact, the high capital merited an "AA-" national long-term rating from Fitch Ratings, one of the highest ratings under its national ratings system.

Total resources reached P145.49 billion, while total capital funds hit P22.07 billion.

Net loans stood at P61.65 billion while total deposits hit P113.34 billion, driven by continued record growth in low-cost deposits.

Even as the banking industry experienced declining margins, China Bank’s cost-to-income ratio of 49.16 percent remains among the best in industry measures of cost efficiency.

China Bank executive vice president and chief operating officer Ricardo Chua in an earlier interview said that they were confident of hitting, if not surpassing, its projected net income of P3.2 billion for the whole of 2006.

After nine months, net income edged closer to the P3-bllion mark reaching P2.52 billion, or nine percent better than the P2.31 billion recorded in the first nine months of 2005 representing a nine-month earnings per share (EPS) of P40.79 compared to P37.43 of the previous year.

This income performance also translates to a 15.26 percent return on equity and a 2.4 percent return on assets, sustaining its track record of above-average profitability. The revenue gains was driven by higher corporate and consumer loans volume, improved trading gains, and trust operations.

Last year’s net profits was recorded at P3.04 billion from the P2.71 billion in 2004. In 2003, profits reached P2.62 billion, after breaking the P2-billion barrier to P2.59 billion in 2002.

In the third quarter alone, profits rose to P1.09 billion, 55.8 percent higher than the P699 million posted for the same period last year.

Total revenues for three quarters increased 4.8 percent to P9.87 billion, while operating expenses also inched up by 4.9 percent.

China Bank reduced its provision for probable losses to P290 million from P651 million of the same period last year resulting in a loan loss coverage ratio of 90.68 percent.

It recently embarked on its three-year expansion plan translated into opening 60 new branches. The SM-led commercial bank presently has 146 branches and 223 ATMs nationwide.

Already it had opened branches in SM Clark, SM Lipa, J.P. Rizal St in Iloilo City, Cauayan in Isabela, and Kidapawan City in Cotabato.

In the pipeline are new branches in Puerto Princesa, San Jose City in Nueva Ecija, Antipolo City, Subangdaku in Mandaue City, and Balanga City in Bataan.

China Bank also beefed up its network of partners in the US, Singapore, Qatar and UAE for its fast-growing remittance business. It also partnered with M. Lhuiller with close to 1,000 outlets nationwide to strengthen its distribution network domestically. Negotiations are underway to include more remittance partners in Europe, Middle East and other Asian countries. Link to article.

Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Overseas workers to benefit from summit agreements

MANY benefits will be brought to Cebu and the Philippines with the holding of the 12th Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) summit here.

Philippine Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano Lecaros, who is also the official spokesman for the summit, said the migrant workers agreement is among the more important issues to be discussed during gathering.

He said the agreement seeks to provide migrant workers free access to the courts of the country where they are working.

Lecaros said the agreement further seeks to provide protection to overseas Filipino workers (OFWs), particularly in their salary level, work hours and work schedule, medical benefits and repatriation of the bodies of dead OFWs.

“It’s difficult to tell a daughter that your father died and he was buried somewhere by his employer,” Lecaros said during the 888 News Forum at the Port Seafood Restaurant.

“These are things that you can’t quantify in pesos but are equally important,” Lecaros said.

No worry

Lecaros said people should not worry about the money spent for the summit because this can be recovered, although not immediately.

As for Cebu, its improved infrastructure triggered by the holding of the summit in the province is beneficial to the Cebuanos.

Cebu City Information Officer Nagiel Bañacia said it is a challenge for Cebua-nos and the local government units to maintain the infrastructure and beautification projects.

He said the City Government has decided to extend its beautification efforts to Osmeña Blvd. after the summit.

He challenged all Cebuanos not to steal or destroy the streetlights, lamps, plants and others that had been put in place.

“The attitude should be ‘that is mine, that is ours, not theirs,’” said Lecaros, a Cebuano.

He said Cebu and the Philippines will certainly be publicized in the 18 different countries that will participate in the summit.

He said it is a privilege for Cebu to be chosen as a venue for the summit because it would catch the world’s attention, especially investors, and this opportunity should not be wasted.

The Philippines has no choice but to integrate with the regional economies. It has to be competitive in order to attract investments, said Lecaros. LINK

Showcasing Cebu thru Cebu International Convention Center

PRESIDENT Arroyo’s room at the Cebu International Convention Center (CICC) and the meeting rooms of heads of state are now furnished with “millions of worth” of items that the Cebu Furniture Industries Foundation (CFIF) is lending the Capitol for two weeks.

For Eric Ng, vice president of the CFIF and president of the Mandaue Chamber of Commerce and Industry, what they are doing for the CICC is “the best showcase” for their industry as they are already “like having a show for the highest dignitaries.”

The pieces of furniture, mostly made of indigenous materials and showcasing Cebu’s craftsmanship, are ready for shipment but 19 selected companies agreed to let the Provincial Government borrow these for the Asean summit.

Ng expects to finish their “final touches” in all rooms by Dec. 7, the day before Cebu Archbishop Ricardo Cardinal Vidal will bless the CICC.

The Capitol is preparing a glass marker to dedicate the structure to the Cebuanos who “rose to a difficult challenge, defied seemingly insurmountable odds, exceeded all common expectations and seized the opportunity of a century that presented itself.”

Tribute

“This structure stands as a tribute to the Cebuanos’ ingenuity, industry, enduring faith and indomitable spirit to serve as an inspiration for the world,” the glass marker will read.

Preparation for the Philippine hosting of the Asean summit is shortest in Asean history, Asean spokesman and Ambassador to Malaysia Victoriano Lecaros had said.

This is because Myanmar was supposed to be this year’s host but it begged off because of internal problems, cutting one year of Philippine preparations.

The opening ceremony of the Asean summit will be held at the CICC, which will have a light-up ceremony tonight, when delegations from the cities of Lapu-lapu, Mandaue and Cebu will converge.

‘Jewel’

The CFIF is also handling the furnishings of the eight suites and the dining room at the Shagri-la’s Mactan Island Resort & Spa, where the meeting of leaders will be held.

Ng said they have longed for a space for their exhibits and called the CICC a “jewel” in Cebu where they will have international expos.

Organizers forego having country rooms where each Asean member-country is assigned at the CICC.

What the CICC will have are: (first floor, right wing) the leaders’ lounge, the room for the chief of protocol, the dining room for the leaders, and the rooms for senior officials and senior executive officials.

At the left wing of the first floor is a room for Arroyo and two others for her bilateral meetings. Also in the same area are the conference room and office of the media affairs.

Flags

Placed at the lobby of the second floor, near the escalators, are flags of the Asean member-countries.

The 74-booth International Broadcast Center and its control room, as well as the main briefing room where at least 60 computers are already in place, is also on the second floor.

Some members of the foreign media already arrived, such as that of Malaysia and Japan.

In response to some militant groups who continue to criticize the CICC yesterday, with one reportedly having “exorcism” rites, Garcia enumerated the different projects of her administration and asked, “You self-anointed protectors of the poor, what have you done for the poor?” LINK