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Travellers’ profit hits P5.4b

By Jenniffer B. Austria | Mar. 20, 2015 at 11:10pm
Travellers International Hotel Group Inc., the owner and operator of integrated gaming and entertainment complex Resorts World Manila, said net income in 2014 doubled to P5.45 billion from P2.73 billion in 2013, despite the 5.4-percent decline in revenues.

Travellers said in a financial report with the stock exchange net revenues declined 5.8 percent to P29 billion in 2014 from P30.84 billion a year ago, as a result of lower gaming revenues and reduced contribution from hotel and food and beverage business.

Gross gaming revenues in 2014 reached P28.376. billion, down 5.4 percent from P30 billion  it booked in 2013.

“The decline in gaming revenue is a function of the decline in volume, particularly in the VIP segment as there was a deliberate move in holding less tournaments and focus on growing the core customer base,” Travellers said.

Revenues from hotel, food, beverage business fell 9.5 percent in 2014 to P2.26 billion from P2.502 billion in 2013.

All hotels in the Resort World complex registered higher occupancy rates in 2014.  Maxims posted an occupancy rate of 89 percent; Remington, 91 percent and Marriott, 83 percent.

“Creating shareholder value was our main objective for 2014 which we achieved through quality earnings and operating efficiencies,” Travellers president Kingson Sian said in a statement.

The company’s financial condition, however, remained strong with total assets rising to P63.9 billion from P61.2 billion a year earlier while total liabilities declined to P24.8 billion from P27.8 billion.

The company said it remained on a net cash position at P4.4 billion as of end-2014.

Travellers’ spent P5.9 billion in 2014 for the phase 2 and phase 3 of Resorts World Manila.

The Marriott Grand Ballroom is set to formally open in July this year, while the Marriott west wing, which will add 227 room keys, is due for delivery by the end of 2015.

Phase 3 is slated for turnover by the end of 2017.

Travellers also subscribed to 95 percent of the increased authorized capital stock of Resorts World Bayshore City Inc., the company that will build and operate the Bayshore City Resorts World in Entertainment City in Parañaque.
Anya offers investors 5-year annual yield

By Manila Standard Today | Mar. 20, 2015 at 05:40pm
Real estate developer Roxaco Land Corporation recently offered a guaranteed annual yield for 5 years to all resort unit buyers of Anya Resort and Residences its latest project in Tagaytay, Cavite.

“Investors usually buy into the traditional vacation home mindset, not realizing the hidden costs that come with the purchase, such as periodic maintenance costs,” said Santiago R. Elizalde, executive vice president of Roxaco. “With Roxaco’s business model, the unit is basically paying for its own upkeep.”

Each Anya unit comes with a Certified Condominium Title and earnings are paid out according to square meter ownership. Since the units are considered included in the resort hotel inventory, any additional earnings made are divided in a 45-55 split between the investor and the hotel owner, respectively.

The guaranteed yield program is spread across five years, with the payout pegged at 6% for the first year, 7% for the second year, and 8% each for the remaining three years. Roxaco also sees capital appreciation to reach 10%, compared to the regular rate of 5% to 7% per annum due to future cash inflows. One can buy into this unique investment program for as low as P7.85 million.
How Robinsons Galleria Cebu got its design
Posted at 03/21/2015 7:30 AM
MANILA – Vernacular or native architecture was used as inspiration for Robinsons Galleria Cebu, which is Robinsons Land Corp.'s (RLC) biggest mall outside Metro Manila.

RLC said Robinsons Galleria Cebu incorporates aspects of the local culture in its building design.

“Vernacular architecture is the inspiration for the front retail paseo albeit with a modern interpretation…This is a modern take on the ‘village feel’ that prevails throughout Cebu’s landscape,” said Robinsons Malls general manager Arlene Magtibay.

Magtibay said the layout and architecture of the Cebu mall was suited to match the relaxed, congenial and sociable nature of the Cebuanos.

“Robinsons Galleria Cebu’s design is in keeping with Robinsons’ vision to elevate and create a new shopping experience,” Magtibay said.

“Angular shapes were employed throughout the development to create dynamic spaces and interesting zones. The paseos have indoor and outdoor components. The outdoor component offers an al fresco experience where pedestrians can meander, as well as lounge, dine, appreciate the sights, and breathe in fresh air while under the shade created by the terraces and balconies above,” she added.

Its 4-floor commercial building will house Robinsons Supermarket, Department Store, Food Court, Cinema, True Value hardware, Robinsons Appliance Center, as well as outlet stores of key local and international brands.

RLC said the vernacular design of the mall will be enhanced by stores that carry distinctive Cebu brands and restaurants serving popular local or homegrown favorites.

Robinsons Galleria Cebu is located on a 4.7 hectare lot along General Maxilom Avenue in the North Reclamation Area.

RLC envisions the mall to reinvent, revitalize and increase property values in an area of Cebu City that was previously underutilized.
Shades of gray: Haze in Metro Manila
What's behind the haze episodes in Metro Manila?

Shaira Panela
Published 8:00 AM, Mar 21, 2015
Updated 8:00 AM, Mar 21, 2015
MANILA, Philippines – Almost every morning, Metro Manila looks like it's under the curse of dementors from the Harry Potter series: a thick blanket of gray haze – sometimes in darker shades – envelops the cityscape, threatening to swallow the metropolis.

While the government's air quality monitoring sites have been reporting "Good" to "Fair" status from its 12 stations, an experimental station at the University of the Philippines (UP) Diliman recorded at least two haze events since the start of 2015.

The Atmospheric Physics Laboratory of the UP Institute for Environmental Science and Meteorology (UP-IESM) headed by Dr Gerry Bagtasa recorded haze episodes at noon of January 29, and in the morning of March 14.
Post by WeatherManila.
The science of air pollution

Haze episodes happen when fine particles suspended in the air obscure light. Scientists said that the haze seen enveloping Metro Manila can also be called smog, or the combination of smoke and fog, indicating the presence of pollution in the air.

Dr Ronald Macatangay, head of the Climate and Atmospheric Radiation (CARBON) laboratory at UP-IESM, explained in an interview that air pollution is a combination of various gases such as sulfur oxides, nitrogen oxides, carbon monoxide, surface ozone (which is also the main component of smog), as well as particulates and volatile organic compounds (VOCs), among others.

Sulfur oxides, especially sulfur dioxide, come from burning coal and petroleum. Nitrogen oxides are produced during high-temperature combustion. Carbon monoxide comes mainly from the exhaust of vehicles, and from burning coal, wood, and natural gas.

Meanwhile, ozone could be either good or bad, depending on its location in the atmosphere, said Macatangay. The ozone layer that we know is the "good" ozone, as it traps ultraviolet radiation from the sun; on the other hand, surface ozone, or the ones produced by VOCs and nitrogen oxides and is found in the much lower portion of the atmosphere, is "bad."
Measuring air quality

Air quality is usually measured using Particulate Matter (PM) and Total Suspended Particulates (TSP) as indicators.

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) monitors PM2.5, PM10 and TSP.

PM2.5, particles smaller than 2 micrometers, are the most dangerous type of pollutant particles. They are small enough to enter the bronchial tubes of the lungs which could lead to severe respiratory diseases, said Tess Peralta, an engineer at the Environmental Management Bureau of DENR, in an earlier report.

PM10, are smaller than 10 micrometers and slightly larger than PM2.5, and can also be inhaled. It is small enough to settle in the bronchial tubes and the lungs, and could also lead to respiratory infections.

Meanwhile, TSP are bigger than 10 micrometers and could also be inhaled. These are the dirt that usually settles in the nostrils.
Haze episodes

The UP-IESM Atmospheric Laboratory recorded a surge in PM2.5 in UP Diliman around noon January 29, while its CARBON Laboratory saw a sudden increase in local carbon dioxide levels.

Their reports said sea breeze pushed the air along coasts inland and produced a westerly wind over Metro Manila. This wind opposed the prevailing amihan (northeast monsoon) at the same time, which led to the stagnation of air; this helped accumulate local emissions in the area.

Another haze episode was recorded Saturday morning, March 14. Bagtasa said on the Weather Manila page on Facebook that it was due to a phenomenon called "inversion," where a layer of warm air overlaps an area of cold air. This causes the temperature to increase in the higher elevations and causes the accumulation of vehicular emissions brought by Friday night traffic.

Inversion usually happens early in the morning, said Bagtasa in an interview.

However, their data deviated from that of DENR-EMB's mainly because of two factors: the IESM laboratories compute the air quality based on an hourly averaging system, while the DENR-EMB computes the average for every 24 hours.

In addition, the DENR-EMB's equipment are very high-precision types, while Bagtasa's equipment was assembled out of low-cost materials and was established for experimentation purposes.

Manila Observatory Air Quality Division head Dr James Simpas said in a separate interview that depending on the location where the monitoring equipment is located, measurements could also differ. When the equipment is on the roadside, the measurement is higher, Simpas said.
Effects of air pollution

Yet, while government data show that the air quality within Metro Manila remains safe, prolonged exposure even to smaller quantities of pollution could still harm people's health. Among the adverse effects of air pollution are cardiovascular and respiratory diseases, and even cancer.

Other than health implications, air pollution also affects the weather, said Macatangay.

"Pollution in the atmosphere can delay rain, affect rainfall amount, and atmospheric stability," said Macatangay.

Bagtasa explained further, "Nade-delay ang ulan to later in the afternoon, nagiging mas malakas." (Rain gets delayed to later in the afternoon, and becomes stronger.)

In some areas, the type of precipitation, such as snow or hail, could also be affected.

Haze is more common during the dry season (December to May) as the land has lower moisture content which could lead to more dust present in the atmosphere.

Simpas said that during the dry season, the lowest possible emissions and therefore highest air quality could be measured during Good Friday and during Manny Pacquaio's fights. Records from these days could be used as the baseline data on air quality in Metro Manila.
MACE 2015

Bagtasa also said that Filipinos have a quite low "perception of threat" of air pollution and that the correlation of air quality to weather forecasting is not explored as much.

Simpas and Bagtasa are among the scientists who are part of the Manila Aerosol Characterization Experiment (MACE 2015), a collaborative study to be conducted by the Leibniz Institute for Tropospheric Research (TROPOS) based in Leipzig, Germany, UP-IESM, the Manila Observatory, De La Salle University, and the Philippine Nuclear Research Institute.

The study, which is set to run from March to May 2015, intends to measure vehicular emissions and find how it contributes to air pollution. Measurements will be done along Katipunan and Taft avenues.

In an earlier report, DENR-EMB said that around 80% of the dirty air in Metro Manila comes from motor vehicle emissions while the remaining 20% comes from stationary sources like construction sites and industries. –
Can $300 billion buy Egypt a new capital?

By Shadi Bushra and Yara Bayoumy, Reuters
Posted at 03/22/2015 8:32 AM | Updated as of 03/22/2015 9:58 AM
CAIRO - It is a project as ambitious as Egypt's ancient pyramids.

Built from scratch to escape Cairo's choking pollution, a planned new capital will feature an airport larger than London's Heathrow, a building taller than Paris's Eiffel Tower and more than 10,000 km (6,200 miles) of boulevards, avenues and streets.

The city, meant to be built within just seven years, was unveiled last week at the Sharm El-Sheikh economic summit, where President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi urged foreign investors to help Egypt recover from the turmoil triggered by the 2011 uprising.

But the plan was not universally welcomed, with residents of Cairo questioning the need to replace their 1,000-year-old capital with a shiny new city that, if it ever rises from the nearby desert, will rely heavily on Gulf Arab financing.

"If we need to move some buildings and some government employees, that's fine. But buildings don't make a capital, history does," said Amr Karim, a doorman at one of Cairo's art deco buildings in the Agouza district.

A number of countries conjured up new capitals in the last century, such as Brasilia in Brazil, which was founded in 1960, Canberra in Australia, founded in 1913, and Astana, which became the administrative centre of Kazakhstan in 1997.

Egypt's ambitions are on an even larger scale.

Its new capital is eventually designed to cover some 700 sq km (435 sq miles), roughly the size of Singapore, contain 1.1 million homes and create 1.75 million jobs, according to its promotional website.

It will also cost some $300 billion to complete, according to Mohamed Alabbar, the United Arab Emirates real estate tycoon who helped develop the Burj Khalifa skyscraper in Dubai and who is leading the mega Egyptian venture.

To put that in perspective, the CIA handbook says Egypt's total gross domestic product in 2013 was $262 billion.

After removing Islamists from power in 2013 and becoming president a year later, Sisi has announced a raft of proposals, including an expansion of the Suez Canal, promising to usher in a new era of prosperity for Egypt's 90-million strong population -- some nine million of whom are estimated to live in Cairo.

With Cairo's roads permanently clogged by bumper-to-bumper traffic and its housing crisis so acute that tens of thousands of people live among the tombs of the city's necropolis, the possibility of starting with a clean slate seems appealing.

But it is not a new idea, and the precedents are worrying.

Ill-conceived 'new cities' have sprung up on the outskirts of Cairo before, only for many to end up largely empty or just housing the super-rich, with a lack of infrastructure and transport deterring ordinary people from relocating.

"This will only be for the wealthy," said electrician Mohamed Hassan, 27, sitting at a cafe in a run-down Cairo neighbourhood. "For us, we will just continue eating fava bean and falafel sandwiches," he added referring to the staple diet for most of Egypt's myriad poor.

Some Cairenes say the cash would be better spent on improving basic infrastructure in a country where more than one in four people live in poverty, according to U.N. data.

"I haven't heard about the new capital. How can we afford a brand new city when we can't afford new roads or schools?" said Mosaab Mansour, a student at a gym in a trendy Cairo district.

"Who's going to pay for it? The Gulf? If they pay for it, then it's their capital. We'll just be renting it."

The glossy images on the project website bear a much closer resemblance to wealthy Dubai than they do to chaotic Cairo, with lots of green spaces promised and a theme park planned that will be more than six times the size of Disneyland in California.

Egyptian officials say the city will be built to the east of Cairo, away from the Nile river and on the road leading to the Suez Canal. An initial phase, costed at some $45 billion, is set to cover 135 sq km.

The authorities have promised to start work within weeks and Sisi, aware that street protests have helped bring down two presidents in just four years, is anxious for swift results in a country renown for its sluggish bureaucracy.

"Not 10 years, or even seven years," the president told Alabbar last week in comments captured on video.

Urban planners say for now the project is fuzzy about what kind of infrastructure will tie the new capital to Cairo -- a major flaw that has doomed other 'new cities' -- and question how many people will actually relocate.

Yahia Shawkat, an urban policy researcher with an independent thinktank, said Egypt had already spent $8 billion on 21 new city projects in the last 30 years with mixed results.

"There has not been any meaningful population movement ... and the average occupancy rate is about 20 percent," he said.

But investment banker Ahmed El-Houssieny, CEO of Planet Investments, disagreed with the many naysayers, arguing that it was "a great cause to rally people around", especially because it was meant to create a large number of jobs in a country where unemployment stands at about 13 percent.

Responding to criticism that moving the capital will take away from the historical significance of Cairo, with its ancient Islamic architecture, mosques, Citadel and bazaars, he said:

"You have lots of great cities that have been able to drive traffic away from the centre and still maintain the capital's glory," he told Reuters, stressing that the new city would be an administrative centre that would not detract from Cairo.

Clothing store owner Rami al-Rafie was also optimistic.

"This is a great idea, it's been a great idea since it was proposed years and years ago," he said, referring to past plans to shift major ministries away from downtown Cairo.

"The Gulf, the Europeans, the Chinese all know that Egypt is a good place to invest... I hope they use some of that investment to make this new capital as beautiful as Dubai, God willing."

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Thursday, March 26, 2015
Investors told: Better days ahead for economy

By Sandy Araneta | Mar. 25, 2015 at 12:01am
“YOU ain’t seen nothing yet.”
With these words, President Benigno Aquino III told participants in the 4th Euromoney Philippines Investment Forum that better days are ahead for the Philippine economy.

“Every year, without fail, I receive an invitation to speak at this forum, and every year, without fail, I accept. The first Philippines Investment Forum took place about a year and a half into my presidency. Since then, this has become a valuable opportunity for me to share the progress our country has made. Here, we have been able to trace the success story that is the Philippine economy,” Aquino said.

He again complained that the good news about the economy was often “relegated to the back pages” of newspapers, and said the administration was still trying to change the mindset that “negativism sells.”

The President said 2014 was a banner year for net foreign direct investments, which reached a all-time high of $6.2 billion, 65.9 percent higher than 2013.

From 2010 to 2013, he said, the Philippines averaged a 6.3 percent growth in gross domestic product (GDP), compared to the previous three-year period under his predecessor, at 4.3 percent.

Despite the lingering effects of typhoon Yolanda and the uncertainty in the global economy the country still posted a 6.1 percent growth in GDP last year, Aquino added.

The Philippines was also upgraded to investment grade by all three major international credit ratings agencies in 2013, and has continued to receive upgrades since, Aquino said.

“We are indeed making history. All these, and many other factors, have led to even greater optimism for our country’s prospects. Just to give you one example: Bloomberg recently reported, I’m told, that the Philippines is forecasted to be the world’s second fastest growing economy in 2015,” the President said.

He said the tremendous amount of confidence the global community has developed for the Philippines was gratifying, considering that not too long ago, the country was regarded as the “Sick Man of Asia.”

Aquino said his administration continues to work hard to maximize every opportunity available.

“I think many of you will agree with me when I say: You ain’t seen nothing yet,” the President said.

Infrastructure, he said, greatly benefited from the government drive to become more competitive.

Through the efforts of the Department of Public Works and Highways, corruption has been “vastly minimized, if not eradicated,” and projects are now regularly completed ahead of time and under budget, he said.

The department’s budget had tripled, from P165 billion in 2010 to almost P570 billion in 2015, the President said.

“We can expect this to grow even more, as our goal is to have infrastructure spending comprise 5 percent of GDP by 2016,” he said.

The President also highlighted the government’s efforts to spur infrastructure through its public-private partnership (PPP) program, with nine awarded projects, 16 in the process of being bid out, and 30 more in various stages of development.

In contrast, he said, the last three administrations had only completed six PPP projects.

The President also assured investors that his government was persuing ways to address a projected shortfall in power this summer.

He said the government was expediting the rehabilitation of the 300 MW Malaya Thermal Power Plant Unit 1 to help augment power supply in Luzon.

He also said partnerships with the private sector under the Interruptible Load Program would produce an extra 688.67 megawatts during times when power supply is tight.

Aquino said 48 committed power projects would produce 4,693.6 megawatts of power between now and 2018. Out of these, 21 will be from renewable energy, in line with the goal of diversifying the country’s energy mix.

Aquino said these efforts were even more crucial with the expected ASEAN integration later this year. The ASEAN Economic Community, he added, would be a formidable economic force.

In closing, Aquino told potential investors: “I invite you: Bet on the Filipino people, and discover for yourself how it’s more fun and more profitable to do business in the Philippines.”
BSP sees March inflation at 2.1 to 2.9 percent

Posted at 03/25/2015 6:01 PM
MANILA - The Philippine central bank expects annual inflation in March to be between 2.1-2.9 percent, reflecting lower transport, electricity, food and fuel costs, its governor said on Thursday.

"The BSP (central bank) will continue to monitor developments that could affect inflation in line with the BSP's commitment to price stability, conducive to a balanced and sustained economic growth," Governor Amando Tetangco said in a mobile text message.

Annual inflation was 2.5 percent in February.

The central bank meets on March 26 to review policy. It is widely expected to leave interest rates on hold with inflation forecast to fall within its 2-4 percent target this year.
PHL banks, BSP, LRA assure housing lenders and borrowers are protected

By DANESSA O. RIVERA, GMA NewsMarch 25, 2015 3:48pm
Housing credit continues to rise, prompting the Philippine banking industry and the Land Registration Authority (LRA) to create a system streamlining loans and mortgages documentation to protect both borrowers and financial institutions.
The final version of the uniform loan and mortgage agreement (ULAMA) is coming up this week, Chamber of Thrift Banks (CTB) president  Rommel Latinazo told reporters in a briefing in Makati City.
The agreement was developed in collaboration with banking groups, including the Bankers' Association of the Philippines, CTB, and Rural Bankers Association of the Philippines, together with Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) and the LRA.
"The purpose... is we want to streamline the documentation, taking into account the interests of all the parties concerned in real estate mortgage transactions – the financial institution, the borrower, and the government," Latinazo said.
"We want to make sure that the documents we develop are acceptable to the agencies involved," he added.
Eliminate controversies
Latest BSP data show consumer loans rose 20.94 percent P849.6 billion as of end-September 2014, from P702.6 billion a year earlier, mainly driven by an increase in residential real estate lending.
In October, the BSP announced more relaxed rules on bank lending, noting that the ability of the borrower to pay, and not collateral, should be the basis for loan approvals.
The central bank also intends to cap the value of real estate mortgage as collateral at 60 percent for securing loans.
While there are no foreseen risks in bank lending, BSP Deputy Governor Diwa Guinigundo had said the central bank sees the need for circumspect in monitoring personal credit amid brisk activity in a growing economy.
Latinazo said real estate loan transactions, especially pertaining to housing, are indeed increasing and the ULAMA aims to protect borrowers and also the financial institutions.
"Having a uniform agreement should eliminate most, if not all, controversies or legal questions arising from home mortgage transactions," he said. – VS, GMA News
Firms urge gov’t to maintain PPP momentum as 2016 looms
The private sector is gaining confidence in public-private partnership projects as the government mulls joining a China-led development bank to help narrow the infrastructure gap

Chris Schnabel
Published 1:24 PM, Mar 25, 2015
Updated 1:24 PM, Mar 25, 2015
MANILA, Philippines – The new administration in 2016 would have to learn a lot of the lessons from how the current administration handled public-private partnerships (PPPs), and this would take a few years, said Ramon Ang, president of San Miguel Corporation (SMC).

“To maintain momentum, I hope we bid out as many of the additional PPP projects planned as we can before the current administration ends,” Ang said in an infrastructure discussion at the Euromoney Investment Forum on March 24.

Ang said on March 23 during the SLEX-TR4 project briefing that the conglomerate is setting aside billions to put the country’s toll roads on a par with those in neighboring countries in Asia.

“We look at infrastructure as an opportunity to participate in the growth of our country. Quality infrastructure will change and impact lives,” Ang said.

The Aquino administration was initially slow but the sizes of the projects that are being bid out are growing – 9 are underway with 16 to be rolled out, said Jorge Consunji, president of DM Consunji.

“We welcome this and we hope it will continue,” Consunji said.

Consunji's DMCI was awarded the civil works contract to complete within 18 months the elevated guideway or viaduct for the Light Rail Transit line 2 project.
Vote of confidence

The private sector’s increasing confidence in the PPPs played a significant part in the momentum.

But there are generally no power projects among the PPPs, said Eduardo Francisco, president and chief executive officer of BDO Capital and Investment Corporation.

This is because private firms can do power projects by themselves, supported by merchant banks, Francisco explained.

“Transitioning power projects to PPPs is the same – proponents are bidding without any government guarantees for profit. So the banks have gotten themselves comfortable supporting these projects,” Francisco said.

Banks are also coming up with a “staple financing,” which pre-analyzes a project and finances whoever the winning bidder is as long as it is pre-qualified, he explained.

BDO has done it for some projects and is looking at doing the same for the many projects that are coming along, Francisco confirmed.

The growing confidence the private sector has in the PPP projects was reiterated by Department of Public Works and Highways (DPWH) Secretary Rogelio Singson.

“We offered viability gap funding for all the toll roads we bid out, but no private firm took it so it’s an indication of the confidence the private sector has in these projects,” Singson said.

He also acknowledged that initially, the unsolicited mode as a method of getting PPPs bid out caused some delays, like that experienced in the North Luzon and South Luzon expressways (NLEX-SLEX) connector road project.

The government still needs to address right-of-way issues. But success would be evident if all of the PPP projects that DPWH initially lined up are bid out.

“We hope to have the remainder bid out by the middle of this year. If we close them all, we’re done as far as DPWH is concerned,” Singson confirmed.

To date, DPWH set July 7 for the issue of notice of award to the winning bidder for the controversial Cavite-Laguna expressway project.
Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank

The current administration is also mulling joining the China-led Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AAIB) to help bridge the infrastructure gap in the country.

The government is gathering information on the AIIB before it makes its final decision by June, Finance Secretary Cesar Purisima said at the sidelines of the forum.

"We are part of several meetings, but the President (Benigno S. Aquino III) has not yet made a decision whether we will join or not," Purisima said.

The Philippines, along with other countries, signed in October a non-binding agreement to become a founding member of the $50-billion multilateral institution that would finance infrastructure projects in the Asia-Pacific region.

Switzerland and Luxembourg were the latest nations to declare their intention to join the institution that is viewed by some to be a rival to the Manila-based Asian Development Bank (ADB), as well as the World Bank.

Japanese officials had previously expressed concern about the new bank's transparency standards, while the United States is reportedly fiercely opposed to the AIIB.

Despite such, Purisima believes that the AIIB is “financial and economic in nature," and has no relation with the territorial conflict between China and the Philippines over the West Philippine Sea. –
BCDA readies Clark rail bidding terms

By Othel V. Campos | Mar. 25, 2015 at 10:45pm
State-run Bases Conversion and Development Authority said Wednesday it is preparing the terms of reference for the bidding of the 82-kilometer Clark Rail Transit System that will run from Malolos City in Bulacan to Tarlac City.

BCDA president and chief executive Arnel Paciano Casanova said the joint venture project would link with the North-South Commuter Railway project of the Transportation Department.

“Offhand, BCDA will provide the land needed including substantial areas for commercial development at every station. The private JV partner will plan, design, finance, build, operate and maintain the Clark Rail,” Casanova said.

He said Clark Rail was envisioned be an electric-powered transit system in an 82-kilometer double-back track between Malolos and Tarlac City, with 13 stations. The JV partner will conduct the final alignment study.

“We are considering to put Clark Rail on a new alignment that would allow us to provide the area needed for the commercial development at every station. The Clark Rail will serve as the backbone for the movement of goods, services and people to and from Manila, Clark Green City, Clark International Airport, Clark Special Economic Zone and Tarlac City,” Casanova said.

BCDA will provide 100 hectares of Clark Green City land for use as transport hub and to house the Clark Rail depot.  The bidding is expected to be conducted before the end of the year.

The National Economic and Development Authority board approved in February two projects under the North-South Railway masterplan - phase 1 of the North-South Commuter Railway Project and the North-South Railway Project – South Line.
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Thursday, March 26, 2015

Ayala Land launches P8-B mixed-use development in Cebu
Posted at 03/25/2015 1:21 PM | Updated as of 03/25/2015 1:25 PM
MANILA, Philippines - Ayala Land Inc. is building a new P8-billion integrated mixed-use development in Cebu City.

ALI recently broke ground for Central Bloc, a 2.2 hectare development in Cebu IT Park. Central Bloc will have office, retail, and hotel components.

Bobby Dy, Ayala Land President and CEO, said Cebu City was the first area outside of Metro Manila where ALI started developing mixed-use projects.

"It highlights our commitment to support Cebu City. We envision Central Bloc to be a refreshing hub where business and leisure converge," he said.

Ayala Malls Central Bloc will have approximately 43,000 sqm. of gross leasable area, and is scheduled to open in the first quarter of 2018.

Central Bloc will connect to The Walk with a landscaped open area with dining and retail spaces.

ALI is also opening a Seda Hotel in Central Bloc. The 12-storey hotel, which will have 214 rooms, is expected to open by the third quarter of 2018.

It will also be the first Seda hotel to cater to long-staying guests with its 58 apartment suites.

ALI said it will also build two BPO office towers. Upon completion in 2019, the two buildings are expected to generate about 14,000 jobs in the BPO sector.
Megaworld posts P22-b profit

By Jenniffer B. Austria | Mar. 25, 2015 at 11:10pm
Megaworld Corp., the biggest lessor of office spaces in the Philippines, booked a net income of P21.6 billion in 2014, up 139 percent from a year ago, boosted by a one-time gain from the consolidation of the group’s property units.

Megaworld said in a disclosure to the stock exchange Wednesday the profit included P12.1 billion in non-recurring gain from the consolidation of Global Estate Resources Inc., Empire East Land Holdings Inc. and Suntrust Properties Inc. into the parent firm.

Without the non-recurring gain, Megaworld’s income rose 14 percent to P9.4 billion last year.

Consolidated revenues, excluding non-recurring gain, climbed 15 percent to P41 billion with real estate sales increasing 16 percent to P24.6 billion from a year ago while rental income grew 17 percent to P7 billion.

“Our income growth last year was driven by both real estate sales and rental income. We have a more diversified real estate sales mix that is propelled by our integrated urban township developments in Metro Manila, Cebu and Iloilo as well as tourism-related projects in Tagaytay and Boracay,” said Megaworld chairman and chief executive Andrew Tan.

“In the meantime, our rental income is growing in line with our expectations. Continued growth in our office and mall leasable space will provide the catalyst for exceeding P10 billion in rental income in 2016. Last year also saw the consolidation of Global-Estate Resorts, Inc., Empire East Land Holdings, Inc., and Suntrust Properties, Inc. under Megaworld. This enabled us to strengthen our land bank nationwide,” he added.

Tan expects the company to maintain a double-digit net income growth every year starting in 2015 on the back of a stronger and bigger township portfolio.

Megaworld plans to launch five new township projects in 2015. Two are located in Bacolod, namely the 34-hectare property that used to be Bacolod-Murcia Milling Co,. and the 50-hectare property along the new Circumferential Road on the boundary of Talisay City and Bacolod City.

Megaworld in 2014 launched five townships, namely the Woodside City in Pasig City (12.3 hectares); Southwoods City in the boundaries of Cavite and Laguna (561 hectares); Davao Park District in Lanang, Davao City (11 hectares); Alabang West in Las Piñas City (62 hectares); and Suntrust Ecotown in Tanza, Cavite (350 hectares).

The company is launching at least 20 new malls and commercial centers in its existing and new townships over the next five to eight years to boost rental income.
DoubleDragon books over fourfold rise in 2014 net income

March 25, 2015 6:01pm
DoubleDragon Properties Corp., the property firm jointly owned by Jollibee Foods Corp. chairman Tony Tan Caktiong and business partner Edgar “Injap” Sia II, registered more than a fourfold rise in net income last year.
In a disclosure to the Philippine Stock Exchange, DoubleDragon said net income surged by 360 percent to P560.8 million from P122.1 million a year earlier.
Revenues from real estate sales doubled to P1.2 billion from P511 million.
"2014 has indeed been a significant year for DD both financially and through the partnerships that we have formed and through the various property projects that we have recently embarked on," chairman and CEO Edgar 'Injap' Sia II said.
So far, the company has secured 33 hectares of prime land across the country, with approximately 480,000 square meters of leasable space.
DoubleDragon said it is on track to meet its goal of completing 25 CityMalls by the end of 2015 and 100 CityMalls by 2020.
DoubleDragon is the second business venture of Sia and Tan Caktiong after Jollibee Foods bought a 70 percent stake in Mang Inasal for P3 billion in 2010. Sia kept a 30-percent interest in the grilled chicken restaurant chain which he founded.
The company was incorporated as Injap Land Corp. in 2009. It changed its name to DoubleDragon after Sia and Tan Caktiong turned it into joint venture in 2013. It was listed on the Philippine Stock Exchange on April 7, 2014. – Danessa O. Rivera/VS, GMA News
JG Summit spending P35b in ’15

By Jenniffer B. Austria | Mar. 25, 2015 at 11:25pm
JG Summit Holdings Inc., the holding company of tycoon John Gokongwei, said Wednesday it plans to spend P35 billion this year to fund the expansion of its airline, real estate, food manufacturing and banking businesses.

JG Summit chief finance officer Bach Johann Sebastian said in an interview the 2015 capital spending was lower than the P50 billion earmarked in 2014, as the conglomerate had already completed the construction of the naphtha cracker facility in Batangas province.

“Its going to be around P35 billion this year, mainly for airline, property and Universal Robina Corp.,” Sebastian said.

The naphtha cracker facility recently started operations and is expected to start contributing around $800 million to $1 billion in annual revenues to JG Summit next year.

URC, the food manufacturing unit of JG Summit, earlier said it planned to spend P9 billion this year primarily to expand its domestic and international businesses.

The group’s property firm, Robinsons Land Corp. earmarked P17 billion for 2015 capital expenditures, as it plans to build new malls as well as office and residential projects.

JG Summit raised P8.8 billion through overnight placement of shares in January.  It raised the amount from the sale of 145.65 million common shares via top-up offering at a price of P61 apiece.

Proceeds from the fund raising activity will be used to finance various projects, as the company plans to actively bid for the bundled airports the government may bid out under the public-private partnership scheme this year.

JG Summit has substantial business interests in food, agro-industrial and commodities, real estate and hotel, air transportation, banking and petrochemicals.

Its airline unit, Cebu Pacific Air, reported an P853-million profit in 2014, up from P511.95 million in 2013.

The conglomerate also holds an 8-percent interest in Philippine Long Distance Telephone Co. and 27.1-percent stake in power retailer Manila Electric Co.
The business of transforming ordinary to extraordinary space
Hospitality Innovators

March 25, 2015
A hotel and property management company with a vision to break new ground in the industry –Hospitality Innovators, Inc. (HII) – puts character into ordinary space.  Founded 15 years ago, the company is already a leading figure in the field.

HII transforms ordinary properties into concept spaces that distinguish them in the market. With its expertise, HII recognizes a property’s potential to create exciting destinations for guests.

“The big property players are now getting into hospitality space and the reality is that there are smaller guys who also want in. What HII does is partner with these small independents and equip them with our ‘innovision’ to help create distinct concepts to make guests want to come back,” said HII founder and CEO Luis C. Monserrat. “The one-of-kind appeal and first-rate services that we develop for them lead to a property’s unique brand of experience which will allow them to compete.”

According to Monserrat, creating a distinct personality for a property would allow them to face the industry “Goliaths.”

“This is what we offer hotel and property developers who want to get into the lodging space – the impressive combination of a unique concept and great service, which can enhance the value of assets and create attractive returns,” he said.

Leading the successful properties managed by HII is The Picasso Boutique Serviced Residences in Salcedo Village, Makati. According to Monserrat, Picasso was transformed into the spacious and stylish serviced residence that it is now after he “re-imagined” the property concept with architect Dom Galicia.

“We got Picasso after it was entrusted to us by a partner who liked what we did with their first property. Picasso was initially an apartment building but we re-conceptualized it to become a serviced residence with walls and rooms that speak of art. When it was time to think of a name for the property, we went back to its core, what it was about – which is transformation. Dom suggested that no other artist better embodies transformation than Pablo Picasso,” Monserrat said.

HII also manages both branches of The Henry Hotel: The Henry Cebu, which features 38 rooms filled with art collected from around the world; and The Henry Manila, which exhibits a nostalgic appeal with its five post-war style houses with rooms adorned with vintage furnishings.

Also in HII’s portfolio are two new properties in Makati: the Y2 Residence Hotel which offers a Zen-like feel with its Oriental design, and the KL Tower Serviced Residences, characterized by clean architectural lines that exude modern and sophisticated style.

HII also takes pride in the exceptional service it extends to guests, which Monserrat believes is crucial to their properties’ success.

“Having attractive and interesting properties is one thing, but what really marks the HII brand is the bespoke hospitality we give each of our guests. We go beyond the standard by making all guests feel that they are truly looked after, so they feel right at home every time,” he stressed.

This approach has allowed HII properties to generate higher occupancy rates than the industry average.  It is also the recipe behind all the awards that its properties have received from major travel websites.
Please visit to learn about our company and how we can serve you.

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Thursday, March 26, 2015
Construction of Clark airport terminal eyed in 2016
Posted at 03/10/2015 2:47 PM
MANILA – The Department of Transportation and Communications (DOTC) will be splitting the construction of the Clark international airport passenger terminal building into three phases, with the construction of the first phase targeted to start in the second quarter of 2016.

The first phase of the P7.2 billion project will be submitted to the National Economic and Development Authority (NEDA) Board chaired by President Aquino in May for approval, according to Transportation Secretary Jun Abaya.

“The direction of the DOTC is very clear to develop Clark international airport…[For] the Clark terminal, the initial phase of P1.2 billion has been submitted to NEDA, hopefully we get it up to the NEDA board chaired by the President by May of this year,” he said.

Upon getting approval from the NEDA Board, the project will then be auctioned to prospective bidders by the third quarter of this year.

Abaya said construction is expected to start by the second quarter of 2016. Completion of the first phase is being targeted in 2018.

The first phase aims to increase the capacity of the Clark airport to 8 million from the current 5 million passengers per year.

The second phase, meanwhile, is expected to increase the capacity to 46 million passengers by 2025 and to 80 million by 2032.

“There is not much of an issue except that plans drawn up by the Aeroport De Paris is quite aggressive and on a larger side, but we are sticking to their plans and we will defend the plan before the NEDA board,” Abaya said.

Aeroport De Paris is a French firm that was hired by the DOTC to conduct the feasibility study on design.

Government is expecting the development of both the Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) and the Clark international airport to attract more airlines to fly out of Pampanga.

Clark International Airport Corp. president and chief executive officer Emigdio Tanjuatco III earlier said passengers at the Clark airport is seen to grow 150 percent to 3 million over the next two years from the current 1.2 million passengers per year.
Gokongwei's JG Summit on the lookout for acquisitions

By Neil Jerome Morales, Reuters
Posted at 03/10/2015 2:10 PM | Updated as of 03/11/2015 11:05 AM
MANILA (UPDATE) - JG Summit Holdings Inc, the Philippines' second-largest conglomerate by market value, remains on the lookout for acquisitions following its food subsidiary's $609 million takeover of a New Zealand snacks maker, its president said.

"I know our balance sheet and cash flows would support further acquisitions if necessary or if a reasonable one appears," JG Summit President Lance Gokongwei told Reuters in an interview at his office in Manila on Tuesday.

The conglomerate is biased toward business it is familiar with, he said. JG Summit subsidiary Universal Robina Corp bought New Zealand Snack Food Holdings, the parent of Griffin's Foods Ltd in July.

JG Summit, which started as a corn starch producer in 1957, is also involved in the snacks and beverage, property development, airline, banking and petrochemicals businesses.

Gokongwei said the company would focus on consumption-related businesses that are boosted by low oil prices and higher consumer spending, even as it expanded into power generation and petrochemicals.

"Clearly, we are a very big beneficiary of oil prices going down because oil is 50 percent of my raw material," Gokongwei said.

JG Summit plans to build an up to 600 megawatts coal-fired power facility south of the capital while its almost $1 billion naphtha cracker plant will reach full capacity in the coming months, with the project contributing $800 million to $1 billion in annual revenues.

For its part, property unit Robinsons Land Corp will open three new malls this year while the office segment's gross leasable area will climb to more than 400,000 square metres (sqm) in two years from the current 275,000 sqm, Gokongwei said.

Cebu Air Inc, operator of the country's largest budget carrier Cebu Pacific, is taking delivery of 37 new Airbus aircraft until 2021 while selling old and gas-guzzling models, he said.

On financial services, commercial lender Robinsons Bank will double its capital to P12 billion as it prepares for a long-term expansion program, Gokongwei said.

JG Summit founder John Gokongwei is ranked by Forbes as the Philippines' second richest person with a net worth of $5.8 billion, jumping from fifth place last year.
Ayala Corp's net income surges 46 pct in 2014
Posted at 03/10/2015 2:40 PM
MANILA, Philippines - Ayala Corp., one of the country's leading conglomerates, reported its net income surged 46 percent to P18.6 billion in 2014.

The company attributed the strong profit growth to its real estate, telecom and electronics manufacturing units, as well as a net gain from the sale of its business process outsourcing asset.

Excluding the impact of accelerated depreciation from Globe's network transformation initiative, Ayala's core net income actually went up 25 percent in 2014.

Ayala said its profits have been growing above 20 percent in the last three years.

Equity contributions from its business units jumped 42 percent to P24.9 billion in 2014. Ayala Land's equity earnings rose 28 percent, while Globe's contribution more than doubled and Integrated Micro-Electronics' contribution expanded threefold.

This managed to offset the flat contribution from the Bank of the Philippine Islands, which registered lower trading income during the year.

"We are very pleased with the performance of our business units as they continue to benefit from the aggressive growth strategy they executed a few years ago.... As our business units sustain their growth momentum and the overall business environment continues to be encouraging, we are optimistic we can achieve our net income target of P20 billion this year, a year ahead of the plan," Ayala President and Chief Operating Officer Fernando Zobel de Ayala said.

Ayala Land's net income jumped 26 percent to P14.8 billion year-on-year, driven by its property development and commercial leasing operations.

Globe Telecom posted a record net income of P13.4 billion in 2014, on the back of continued growth of its mobile, broadband, and fixed line data businesses.

Meanwhile, Manila Water's consolidated net income inched up one percent at P5.8 billion, on improved billed volume and higher contribution from new businesses.

IMI's net income soared nearly threefold to $29.1 million from its year-ago level.

However, BPI's profit fell 4 percent to P18 billion in 2014, due to a 5 percent decline in non-interest income as a result of a sharp contraction in trading gains compared to the previous year.

Ayala parent company ended the year with a gross debt of P101 billion and cash of P48.3 billion.

This year, Ayala has set aside P21 billion in capital expenditures at the parent level. The funds will go to its power generation and transport infrastructure projects.

The Ayala group has earmarked P185 billion in combined capital expenditures this year mainly for Ayala Land and Globe's expansion.
Is PHL equipped to build the next generation of cities?

by Amor Maclang - March 10, 2015
I couldn’t contain my excitement the moment I received an invitation to speak at the 17th Worldbex Conference, which will be kicking off next week.

I’m so thrilled and honored to be joining a stellar cast of resource speakers, and I look forward to gaining a lot of fresh ideas from individuals who remain very passionate with their respective crafts.

As the Worldbex celebrates a thriving building and construction industry, I’d like to point out that there seems to be a great number of buildings racing to dot the Metro Manila skyline, as we speak. Interestingly, it’s starting to look like we’re seeing a new generation of high-rise buildings and infrastructure—the elaborately designed ones—that are emerging as icons in various parts of the metropolis.

We know for a fact that these edifices require some specialized, advanced machinery and the adoption of modern architecture ideologies, which prompt me to pose this question: “Is the Philippines on the cusp of building the next wave of modern cities?”

I spoke to a few industry players about their take on the future of modern architecture and how today’s real-estate developers are adapting to global standards of infrastructure and property development.

Matimco Inc. Marketing Director Billy Arrienda: “We observed that with the awakening consciousness for sustainability and lower waste contribution, technology for wood nowadays is geared toward engineering.”
Adaptation is key to innovation

With the rapid pace of urbanization, the technologies and methodologies involved in the design and building of today’s cities are also becoming more complex to adapt to the needs of the modern times.

“In real-estate development, the construction of high-rise buildings in cities and mixed land use, among a few others, have provided developers a cost-efficient way to utilize parcels of land,” said Enrico Micu, national sales manager of Allgemeine Bau-Chemie Philippines. “With the onset of high-rise developments, cities have become more capable of accommodating its expanding population, while lowering infrastructure costs. Mixed-use developments, meanwhile, help enhance the quality of living. As offices, leisure and commercial areas have now become more accessible within the neighborhood, travel time in between places are decreased, thus ensuring a more efficient lifestyle for the inhabitants within the area.”

Another key initiative developers and industry players have championed is the move toward the use of energy-efficient building designs and materials. “Notice that major infrastructure nowadays appreciate and incorporate the use of organic and sustainable materials, all the while actively seeking LEED-certifications or in some cases, the local version, Berde,” shared Billy Arrienda, marketing director of Matimco Inc., one of the Philippines’s leading providers of architectural wood products.

“With the opening of world markets, a rise in number of developments with foreign designer alliances can also be seen, thus, raising demand for complementing building products with understated aesthetics—minimalist designs that effectively combine different materials and efficient use of space contributing to the overall impact of the design.”

Despite this kind of dynamism, the industry has also become used to a certain level of cost and efficiency, as well as market practices that potentially undermine quality. “Here lies the opportunity for willing industry players to infuse innovation into these traditional construction practices by bringing in technologies and expertise that provide advantages to the current systems in cost, efficiency and quality,” Cemex Asia Director for Business Development Arturo Rodriguez added. “The good thing is that some are already being employed in other developing and more developed countries worldwide.”
Global to local

Building the next generation of cities here in the Philippines is no easy task; it requires a great deal of commitment to innovation and embracing a more sustainable approach to enhancing the landscape—a vision that translates to concrete solutions for the needs of the modern world.

“Here in the Philippines, we have already embraced the use of better materials, like concrete for roads, and now taking the next step by adopting the use of roller-compacted concrete [RCC] pavements,”   Rodriguez explained. “This entails the laying of a dry concrete mix placed using an asphalt paver and compacted using a static or vibratory roller. The road is built without forms, dowels or reinforcing steel, while being strong, dense and durable. The RCC pavement is used for select highways with moderate speeds, local streets, parking lots, industrial yards, bus lanes, rural roads and sometimes, as a base for top layers.” The advantage, he adds, includes better cost and a shorter construction time than asphalt and concrete pavements, higher durability than asphalt, and a smoother and more reliable surface than other solutions.

For Matimco, meanwhile, planning for new products goes beyond just coming up with new designs. “We consider factors like the current market demand, anticipated future aspirations, wood supply and sources—whether they are sustainable in supply or sourced responsibly—and whether they reinforce our commitment to delivering superior quality and maximum value to our market,” Arrienda added.
Becoming ‘game changers’

For companies to really champion the idea of innovation, one must be able to  understand the opportunities that are readily present and come up with strategies to maximize their resources toward this objective.

“The key to becoming game changers is by understanding the challenges and needs that the country is facing and the need to respond to them,” Rodriguez explained. “Companies should also be able to promote local research and development, while importing successfully proven products and systems coming from similar markets. Understand that investing in the country and shaking things out of the comfort zone, even though others will eventually adopt the same technologies, will result the growth of the pie for your business and put you in a better position in terms of agility and innovation against our peers.”

Agility and flexibility has also been one of the pillars of success of Matimco. “We strive to constantly listen to our customers, keep an eye on local or global trends, and be highly responsive to change because one cannot afford to be stagnant,” Arrienda said. We, likewise, place a premium on integrity and strive to be a trustworthy name in how we conduct business to our market, our stakeholders and the environment.  We firmly believe it is a prerequisite for business sustainability.”

For the Philippines to really sustain its momentum of building a solid foundation toward the future, industry players must adopt the same mindset that propelled the world’s most successful businesses to the top. As I’ve said in the past, making constant progress, no matter how small or seemingly insignificant it is, will still take you one step closer to reaching your goal. And I’m confident to say that, with industry players committed to shaking up things, it seems like we’re on our way toward achieving sustainable progress.
Experience urban resort living at the heart of Newport City

by BusinessMirror - March 10, 2015
NEWPORT City is one of the best world-class tourist and entertainment destinations in the country that offers a perfect “live, work, play, and learn” lifestyle. It offers an indulgence of “all feel-good” activities, such as do nonstop shopping, dine at favorite restaurants, pampering at various leisure and entertainment offerings, or stay at home with family or friends while enjoying freshly brewed coffee over the cool breeze of fresh air.

To experience all these and more, you no longer have to wait for a holiday, as Megaworld, the country’s leading real-estate developer which pioneered the “live-work-play-learn” lifestyle township concept, will bring this kind of lifestyle everyday at 81 Newport Boulevard.

The six-clustered mid-rise residential enclave is designed with unique amenities that will let out the resort fantasies of pleasure-loving people.

Its variety of outdoor amenities include a lap pool, children’s pool, in-water pool lounge, pool deck, sun deck, function areas, green trellis, state-of-the-art gym, day care center, pocket gardens and courtyards.

Another option at 81 Newport Boulevard is the direct access to the township’s very own world-class entertainment complex where future residents can just take a leisurely walk going to the famous Resorts World Manila, home of an upscale shopping mall; international-themed restaurants; a state-of-the-art performing arts theater featuring world-renowned musicals and other productions; and a first-class gaming center.

Aside from living in a tourist destination designed to fully integrate luxury residences, prime office spaces and an entertainment complex, the 81 Newport Boulevard is also right across the Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 3 and 15 minutes away from central business districts of Fort Bonifacio and Makati City.  It also has a direct link to South Luzon Expressway, Edsa and Naia road.

81 Newport Boulevard is a prime address in Newport City where everything you need is within easy reach. Visit the Newport grand showroom at Montecito, the Residential Resort, Newport City (beside Marriott Hotel Manila).

Please visit to learn about our company and how we can serve you.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2015
DOT downscales foreign arrival target to 5.5M in 2015

By Ted P. Torres, The Philippine Star
Posted at 03/11/2015 8:07 AM
MANILA, Philippines - The Department of Tourism (DOT) has downscaled its foreign arrivals target this year from the original six million to the “more practical” 5-5.5 million.

In 2014, the number of inbound visitors reached 4,833,368 or 3.25 percent higher than the 4,681, 307 arrivals in 2013. However, it fell short of the target of five million.

Tourism Undersecretary Benito Bengzon Jr. revealed one of the challenges that impacted on the full-year target was the negative travel advisories by a number of countries.

“We could have done better but there were some challenges particularly in terms of the advisories issued by some countries,” Bengzon said during the formal launching of Island Philippines Fun Caravan, an aggressive tourism campaign spearheaded by the Philippines Tour Operators Association (PHILTOA) and the DOT.

Bengzon said on a positive note, visitors were extending their stay and spending more in the past two to three years.

“Foreign tourists continue to stay longer, and they continue to spend more,” he pointed out.

Total earnings last year from inbound tourism amounted to $4.84 billion, higher by 10 percent against the previous year’s earnings of $4.4 billion. In peso value, inbound revenues totaled P214.88 billion, higher by 15 percent compared to P186.15 billion in 2013.

The month of December also recorded the highest visitor receipts at $597.76 million.

Last year, average daily expenditure (ADE) of international visitors during the year was recorded at $103.55, which is 2.4-percent higher compared to the previous year ADE of $ 101.12.

In peso terms, ADE grew 7.11 percent from P4,292.16 in 2013 to P4,597.12 last year. Again, December pegged the highest at $96.36 (P4,306.12).

Visitors from the Asian region remained the biggest market for the Philippines during the year with 2.83 million visitors or 59 percent of total arrivals. Americas followed with 875,200 for a market share of 18 percent; Europe at 10 percent, Australasia/Pacific (six percent) and overseas Filipinos (four percent).

Tourism officials said that it was significant in lieu of the Asean regional integration, which is making it cheaper to travel in the 10-nation region.

In fact, PHILTOA president Cesar Cruz said they have been holding talks with their counterparts in exchange promotional tours.

“We were in Myanmar recently to promote the Fun Caravan,” Cruz said in the same press briefing.

The Fun Caravan is a year-round activity that will take domestic and foreign tourists in several destinations all over the Philippines.

For this year, it focuses on five major destinations: the Cordillera region, the Southern Tagalog region, the Visayan region, the Bicol region, and Central Luzon. The caravans or tours will run between four to six days.

There will also be minor destinations focused on Palawan, Batanes, the Calamianes Group of Islands and Zamboanga.
BCDA in talks with IFC over Clark Green City plans
Posted at 03/11/2015 11:41 AM | Updated as of 03/11/2015 11:50 AM
MANILA, Philippines - The Bases Conversion and Development Authority (BCDA) said it is talking with the World Bank's investment arm for possible assistance in developing plans for Clark Green City.

In a statement, the BCDA said it is in discussions with the International Finance Corporation (IFC) over the Clark Green City project.

The Clark Green City project covers some 9,450 hectares in Tarlac and Pampanga, and is envisioned to be the country’s first smart, disaster-resilient and green city.

The BCDA said the IFC is looking at helping the BCDA in determining the business case for key utility services such as power generation, power distribution, water supply distribution and sewerage services and solid waste management.

IFC recently worked on the Clark Water project with the Clark Development Corporation and the Department of Agriculture and Land Bank of the Philippines for the Grains Central project.

Earlier, the BCDA said it is looking for a local or foreign partner to develop a portion of Clark Green City.

The partnership will be in the form of a joint-venture (JV) corporation to be owned 45 percent by the BCDA and 55 percent by the winning bidder.

The winning bidder will infuse the total initial paid-up capital of the corporation in the amount of P2.5 billion.
Shell to review options after SC ruling on Pandacan depot transfer
The High Court denies the oil firm’s motion for reconsideration, but Shell says it will observe the law as it reviews its options
Published 5:16 PM, Mar 11, 2015
Updated 5:46 PM, Mar 11, 2015
MANILA, Philippines – Pilipinas Shell will seek all legal remedies available after the Supreme Court (SC) denied its motion for reconsideration over the transfer of the Pandacan oil depot.

"We shall study the implications of the Supreme Court decision and shall review the options available to Shell. Rest assured that Shell will observe the rule of law,” a company statement read Wednesday, March 11.

The High Court denied the motions filed by Pilipinas Shell and Chevron Philippines on Tuesday, March 10, upholding its November 2014 decision that the oil firms must relocate and cease their operations in the populated Pandacan, Manila district.

The oil firms, including Petron, were given 6 months to relocate based on their submitted and updated comprehensive plan and relocation schedule.

Shell filed a motion for reconsideration also in November before the SC, saying that their own pool of experts is willing to attest that the Pandacan oil depot is safe.
Denied motion

The SC denied Shell’s motion because the reasons given by the oil firm had already been decided and there is no need to rule upon them anew. The SC also stressed it would no longer entertain any pleadings or they will be cited for contempt.

In its November 2014 decision, the SC has given the oil companies 6 months to remove their Pandacan oil terminals after submission of an updated comprehensive plan and relocation schedule. It also gave the oil firms 45 days to submit the relocation plan.

Chevron, meanwhile, said it filed a motion for clarification and not a motion for reconsideration.

“We have yet to receive a copy of the decision hence cannot fully comment on the matter. Finally, we will comply with the final ruling of the Supreme Court on this issue,” Chevron said.

Chevron has already moved out of Pandacan.
No place in populated areas

Petron Corporation did not comment but previously said the company has been preparing to move out of the contested depot since 2010, following its commitment to cease operations in the depot by 2016.

“We made a commitment to stop our operations and we are ready. We have identified several alternative sites in Luzon to absorb our volumes in Pandacan,” Petron President Ramon Ang earlier said.

The SC pointed out that there are overwhelming reasons stated in its previous decision to support its pronouncement that given their nature, depots have no place in a densely populated area.

It cited the history of the Pandacan terminals, where flames spread over the entire city of Manila when fuel-storage dumps were set on fire in December 1942, and another incident involving an explosion – both of which were discussed in an earlier challenge to the oil depots.

The SC added that its decision is clear and that it was City Ordinance 8187 that had been declared unconstitutional and invalid as far as the continued stay of the Pandacan oil terminals is concerned. –
Aboitiz Equity Ventures says 2014 earnings down 13%
March 11, 2015 11:25am
Listed holding firm Aboitiz Equity Ventures Inc. (AEV) saw a 13 percent decline in 2014 net income to P18.4 billion from P21 billion a year earlier on lower contributions from its power and banking businesses.
The power business accounted for 71 percent of the total income contributions followed by banking at 18 percent, AEV said in an e-mailed statement Wednesday.
The food and land development units contributed 7 percent and 4 percent, respectively, to the total income, it added.

Power business
Aboitiz Power Corp. experienced a 10 percent profit decline to P16.7 billion from P18.6 billion, cutting its income contribution to AEV to P12.7 billion from P14.2 billion.
AboitizPower is spending P52 billion this year to expand its generating capacity by over 2,000 megawatts (MW) in five years.
"In the next five years we intend to increase our beneficial capacity by approximately 2,000 [megawatts], providing reliable and competitive power meeting the economy’s increasing energy demands," AboitizPower CEO Erramon Aboitiz said.

In a briefing Wednesday, AEV CFO Stephen Paradies said this includes the 420 MW Pagbilao baseload plant in Quezon which began construction late last year and the 340 MW Therma Visayas baseload plant in Cebu which will break ground within the year.
Paradies said another 300 MW will come from Therma South which will start operations in the first half of this year, while its unit three expansion of 170 MW will also begin within construction within the year.
The 68 MW Manolo Fortich hydropower plant in Bukidnon will start construction within the year, while the 600 MW Subic baseload plant has already recently overcome its Writ of Kalikasan case, according to Paradies.
He said the company has identified roughly 200 MW of potential run of river power projects located across the archipelago for the next five years.

Banking, food and real estate
Earnings of Union Bank of the Philippines decreased by 21 percent to P3.2 billion from P4.1 billion due to lower trading gains earned in the previous year.
Non-listed Pilmico Foods Corp. grew its income by 4 percent to P1.3 billion on the back of a remarkable performance by its feeds and farm inputs production.
“Our food group is leading the pack to integrate into ASEAN with its investment in Vietnam. It is also exploring opportunities for cross-border trade in the region,” he added.

"We should be exporting in the next month or two our first batch of flour to Indonesia," Pilmico Foods Corp. president and CEO Sabin Aboitiz said at a briefing.
He said offices are being set up around the Association of Southeast Asian Nations "to be able to export our flour."
AboitizLand Inc.’s income increased  by 132 percent to P633 million from P273 million due to growth across all its business units.
AEV will continue to seize growth opportunities from infrastructure investments, which the company made as the fifth leg of its business concerns.
“Our strategic growth plans remain intact as we pursue to further strengthen and expand our businesses, keeping pace with the country’s economic growth,” the company president said.
The group has recently formed  the consortium Trident Infrastructure and Development Corp. with Ayala Land Inc., SM Prime Holdings Inc. and Megaworld  Corp. for the P123.8-billion Laguna Lakeshore Expressway and Dike  Project, the government’s biggest PPP project to date.
It is also working on a 300 million liter per day bulk water supply project, through a joint venture with JV Angeles Construction Corp., to support Davao City's growing needs. – Danessa O. Rivera/VS, GMA News
Japan's FamilyMart, UNY to merge in 2016

Posted at 03/11/2015 8:52 AM
TOKYO - FamilyMart Co Ltd and UNY Group Holdings Co on Tuesday said they have agreed to merge in 2016, a move that would create Japan's second-biggest convenience store operator by sales.

Third-placed FamilyMart will be the surviving entity when it merges with the owner of fourth-ranked Circle K Sunkus in September next year, the companies said in a statement.

The pair said it will consider integrating the two convenience store chains under a single brand, though details including the merger ratio have yet to be decided.

FamilyMart and UNY on Friday said they were considering a merger to increase their competitiveness in a saturated market, grappling with a slump in consumer spending since a rise in the national sales tax last April.

Data from the Japan Franchise Association showed same-store sales at convenience stores fell 0.7 percent in January from the same period a year earlier, the 10th straight month of decline.

The merger would see the combined annual revenue of FamilyMart and UNY's convenience stores eclipse that of second-ranked Lawson Inc and close in on leader Seven-Eleven Japan, owned by Seven & i Holdings Co Ltd.

Shares of UNY have gained about 10 percent whereas those of FamilyMart have fallen 3.5 percent since the companies said they were studying a merger.

FamilyMart has a market value of about $4.3 billion, about three times UNY's $1.4 billion.
Experts hike risk of big California quake in next 30 years
While seismic activity in California has stayed mild in the last century, experts expect a big one to strike some time in the future – they just don't know when

Agence France-Presse
Published 9:46 AM, Mar 11, 2015
Updated 9:46 AM, Mar 11, 2015
LOS ANGELES, USA – The risk of a major earthquake hitting California in the next 30 years has risen dramatically, US scientists said Tuesday, March 10, using improved forecasting techniques.

Earthquakes are notoriously hard to predict and while seismic activity in California has stayed mild in the last century, experts expect a big one to strike some time in the future – they just don't know when.

"The likelihood that California will experience a magnitude 8 or larger earthquake in the next 30 years has increased from about 4.7%... to about 7.0%," said the US Geological Survey.

A report, known as the Third Uniform California Earthquake Rupture Forecast, acknowledges the complex nature of fault lines and uses new methods to account for future risk.

"The new likelihoods are due to the inclusion of possible multi-fault ruptures, where earthquakes are no longer confined to separate, individual faults, but can occasionally rupture multiple faults simultaneously," said lead author and USGS scientist Ned Field.

"This is a significant advancement in terms of representing a broader range of earthquakes throughout California's complex fault system."

While the risk of a big quake went up, that of a more moderate one actually declined since the last assessment in 2008.

"The estimated rate of earthquakes around magnitude 6.7, the size of the destructive 1994 Northridge earthquake, has gone down by about 30 percent. The expected frequency of such events statewide has dropped from an average of one per 4.8 years to about one per 6.3 years," said the report.

Tom Jordan, director of the Southern California Earthquake Center and a co-author of the study, added: "We know that tectonic forces are continually tightening the springs of the San Andreas fault system, making big quakes inevitable.

"The UCERF3 model provides our leaders and the public with improved information about what to expect so that we can better prepare." –
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