Boracay rehab masterplan to include other islands — DENR

By Anna Gabriela A. Mogato
BusinessWorld / 06:26 PM April 24, 2018

Boracay rehab masterplan to include other islands — DENR

The Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) will be updating the master plan for Boracay to include the neighboring islands in the Northern Aklan region.

In a statement on Tuesday, April 24, Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu said that the revision of the masterplan, which will be undertaken during the six month-long closure, will be done to boost tourism revenues.

“Within that period, we intend to put in place what we might call the ‘First aid’ solution to Boracay’s problems: […] putting the sewage and solid waste systems in place; demolish illegal structures, whether big or small – in the foreshore, on wetlands, in forest lands or even within road easements,” he added.

The masterplan, which initially only covered Boracay island, will now cover Carabao, Caticlan, Malay and possibly Romblon.

The Boracay island will be closed to tourists starting April 26, Thursday, to allow uninhibited rehabilitation and demolition of illegally-built establishments.

Aside from this, Mr. Cimatu said that the inter-agency task force set up will also cover the tourism program of the island and the welfare of the Atis.
SM Prime sets P80-billion 2018 capital expenditure for provincial businesses

ABS-CBN News / 07:34 PM April 24, 2018

MANILA – SM Prime Holdings Inc on Tuesday said it has set an P80-billion capital expenditure for 2018 to support the growth and expansion of its businesses in the provinces.

The capex will be allocated to key provincial cities, SM Prime, integrated property and SM malls operator, told the stock exchange.

“We want to take advantage of the fast growing provincial areas in the Philippines with increasing urbanization and commercialization stemming not only from robust domestic demand but also from increasing investments in the country,” SM Prime president Jeffrey Lim said.

SM Prime recently opened SM Center Imus and is set to open SM City Urdaneta Central in Pangasinan and SM City Telabastagan in Pampanga this year.

SM Prime also said it is targeting to launch at least 15,000 residential units this year through SM Development Corp (SMDC) and open its third office building at the Mall of Asia Complex as well as the expansion of Park Inn Hotel in Clark, Pampanga.

Bloomberg earlier quoted SM Prime’s vice president Alex Pomento as saying that the company would also build the first Philippine outlet of Swedish furniture brand Ikea within the Mall of Asia complex.
Chinese businessmen see ‘no limits’ to infra investments in PH

By Jessica Fenol
ABS-CBN News / 06:34 PM April 24, 2018

MANILA – There is “no limit” to investments that businessmen based in Hong Kong and Shanghai are willing to bring to the Philippines as China moves forward with its Belt and Road Initiative, a Hong Kong business leader said Tuesday.

A delegation composed of 40 business leaders from Hong Kong and Shanghai visited the country from April 22 to 24 in a joint investment mission led by the Hong Kong Trade Department Council (HKTDC) together with the Shanghai Federation of Industry and Commerce.

Top Philippine officials, including Trade Secretary Ramon Lopez, presented to the delegates infrastructure projects up for investment.

“In terms of amount, there’s no limit, especially if the opportunity is there and if the projects are good,” said Jonathan KS Choi, chairman of the Hong Kong Chinese General Chamber of Commerce.

“China has invested quite a bit but it’s simply not enough. We come in with the vision of bringing substantial investors with us,” HKTDC chairman Vincent HS Lo told reporters.

Choi said Chinese businessmen are particularly interested in aviation, railways and expressways where they have the “capital, expertise and technologies.”

He said investments could come in different forms such as capital, financing, consultancy and engineering.

Choi cited Hong Kong’s MTR public transport maintenance and operations, which he said could be applied in the country. In Hong Kong, income-generating stores were built around the railways to subsidize government spending, he said.

“This is the most successful model, because we use the income from the property to subsidize. We build something on top of the infrastructure to compensate,” Choi said.

With the South China Sea dispute taking a backseat and given good relations between President Rodrigo Duterte and Chinese President Xi Jinping, investors from China are more open to doing business in the country, according to the delegates.

“Business people are still cautious but we can see the relations warming and moving to the right direction. That’s why we are here,” Lo said.

Still, Lo said that in terms of ease in doing business, the Philippines still needs to work on clarifying some of its rules and regulations.
Airport proposals still under review, transport dept clarifies

By Vivienne Gulla
ABS-CBN News / 04:47 PM April 24, 2018

MANILA – The Department of Transportation said Tuesday it had not rejected unsolicited proposals to upgrade the Ninoy Aquino International Airport or build an alternate terminal at Sangley point.

At least 4 proposals are being evaluated, Transportation Usec. Ruben Reinoso said, clarifying reports that the proposals have been rejected.

The evaluation of a proposal from the Filipino-Indian consortium GMR-Megawide was put on hold to give way to a study on the bid by a “super consortium” of 7 conglomerates, Reinoso said.

The law requires that the first submitted proposal should be evaluated first before the government can study other plans, he said.

The “super consortium” may shorten its proposed concession period to 15 years after the government found the 35 years that it suggested as too long, the DOTr said.

Shorting the concession period could result in dropping plans to build an additional runway, said super consortium spokesman Jose Emmanuel Reverente, who is also vice president of one of the partners, Aboitiz Infracapital.
Peso seen at 50-53 vs $1 in next 4 years

ABS-CBN News / 04:01 PM April 24, 2018

MANILA – The Philippines said on Tuesday it expects the peso-dollar rate to average 50 at 53 in the next 4 years, weaker than previously forecast.

The revised projection, which was released after a review of the government’s medium-term and fiscal targets by the cabinet-level Development Budget Coordination Committee (DBCC), compares with an estimate of 49 to 52 pesos to the dollar in December.

The country’s economic managers kept other medium-term and fiscal targets unchanged, including GDP growth and inflation rates.

The peso has fallen more than 4 percent against the dollar so far this year, making it Asia’s worst-performing currency. -Reuters
Pernia: 6-month Boracay closure to cost economy P1.96 billion

By Ben O. de Vera
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 04:38 PM April 24, 2018

Pernia: 6-month Boracay closure to cost economy P1.96 billion

The six-month closure from tourists of Boracay Island starting Thursday, April 26, would cost the economy about P1.96 billion, which the country’s chief economist said Tuesday would be compensated for by an increase in arrivals in other domestic tourist spots.

Citing an earlier estimate of the state planning agency National Economic and Development Authority, Socioeconomic Planning Secretary and Neda chief Ernesto M. Pernia told reporters during a press conference that the temporary closure of the popular tourist destination, which will be rehabilitated from environmental degradation, would shed only 0.1 percent from the gross domestic product this year.

Noting that the economy is about P14-trillion worth and was expected to grow by at least 7 percent this year, about P980 million per quarter would be lost, especially in the affected local government units.

“Boracay [island], Malay [town], Aklan [province] and Region 6 will suffer-—their growth rates will be trimmed,” Pernia said.

For Western Visayas, its gross regional domestic product growth would be cut by 5.7 percentage points, Pernia added.

The Neda chief nonetheless said “there will be other areas in the Visayas earning some increase in growth rates; also, Luzon and Mindanao will have some increase” as tourists are instead expected to flock to other destinations in the country.

“We are only assuming that 50 percent of the volume of tourists going to Boracay will be going to the other [local] destinations … I would assume that closer to 70-75 percent of those who used to go to Boracay will go to the other tourist destinations, especially domestic tourists,” Pernia said.

“It’s going to be a temporary shortfall in terms of tourism income and tourist arrivals,” Pernia added.

“Regarding the possible shortfall in tourist arrivals due to the Boracay closure, the Department of Tourism will have to step up its efforts at advertising and marketing our several other tourist destinations, so the same volume of tourists, if not more, will be diverted to these other beautiful locations,” the Neda chief said in a separate statement.
BSP says ‘only a question of time’ before it hikes rates to fight inflation

By Daxim L. Lucas
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 05:09 PM April 24, 2018

BSP says ‘only a question of time’ before it hikes rates to fight inflation

Amid criticism that it failed to act preemptively to keep price hikes in check, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas on Tuesday gave the strongest indication yet that it is ready to increase its key interest rate in a bid to rein in inflation which currently stands at its highest level in three years.

At the same time, BSP Governor Nestor Espenilla Jr. pointed out that it has, in fact, already been implementing a de facto tightening of monetary policy by allowing yields at of its main anti-inflation tools to rise every week.

In an interview, the central bank chief said that yields for the BSP’s term deposit facility — a scheme used for taking idle funds out of circulation by enticing financial institutions to deposit them with the regulator — have been rising steadily since mid-February.

“The longer-dated [interest rates] rates have already moved up,” he said in an interview in Makati City on Tuesday. “The overnight rate hasn’t adjusted yet. But it’s just a question of time.”

The BSP’s policy making Monetary Board will convene on May 10 to decide whether or not to raise interest rates after disappointing market watchers during their last two meetings in February and March by opting to keep them unchanged.

Espenilla said that while the term deposit facility, in which banks can deposit their unused cash for 7, 14 or 28 days, is not a proxy for the closely followed overnight rates, it is one of the instruments available to the BSP in its arsenal.

“And we have allowed interest rates to move up in line with market condition,” he said, noting that average yields on the three instruments have risen by about 50 basis points in recent weeks.

Similarly, he pointed out that the yield on the government’s benchmark 91-day Treasury bill has risen by over 100 basis points since the start of the year.

“At the end of the day, we want to influence economic activity, expectations and the exchange rate,” Espenilla said, parrying criticism about the central bank’s supposed inaction on inflation. “And all of these are susceptible to the movement of interest rates by different magnitudes.”

In a separate speech delivered to the American Chamber of Commerce of the Philippines on Tuesday, the BSP chief acknowledged that rising prices represent “clouds on the horizon” that require economic managers to be “especially vigilant.”

In particular, Espenilla said the challenges revolve around dealing with inflation and potential overheating of the economy.

“Our latest readings do show that the risks to inflation remain weighted toward the upside,” he said, while noting that inflation expectations among the general public have started to rise.

“These could contribute to potential second-round price effects,” he admitted. “Nevertheless, non-monetary measures such as targeted subsidies are expected to mitigate these second round inflationary pressures. We shall see. And we shall act accordingly.”
ABS-CBN, Cebu Pacific, SM among ‘platinum trusted brands’: Reader’s Digest

ABS-CBN News / 06:19 PM April 24, 2018

MANILA – ABS-CBN Corp, the country’ largest media and entertainment company, again emerged as one of the Philippines’ most trusted brands based on a survey by Reader’s Digest.

The survey gave ABS-CBN a “Platinum Trusted Brand Award” in the TV Network category for the second year in a row.

The platinum award is given to brands that performed exceptionally, winning their category with a score that outpaced its nearest competitor, Reader’s Digest said.

Other platinum awardees were Cebu Pacific for the budget airline category, PLDT for broadband services, SM for malls, 7-Eleven for convenience store and Ayala Land for property developer.

Despite its looming closure for a cleanup, Boracay was also given the platinum rating in the tourist destination category by survey respondents.

Both BDO and BPI received the gold award, which was a rung lower than platinum, in the Finance category.

Rivals PLDT and Globe also received gold in the mobile phone services category, while Apple and Samsung were also awarded gold in the smartphone category.

Reader’s Digest said each survey respondent was required to complete an online questionnaire and rate brands based on 6 attributes: 1) trustworthiness and credibility; 2) quality; 3) value; 4) understanding of customer needs; 5) innovation; and 6) Social Responsibility

“While brands come in and out of vogue, those that capture our attention, maintain our confidence and win over our trust do so by holding fast to their core principles,” Reader’s Digest said.
Grab to hide passengers’ destinations, implement auto-accept feature

By Rosette Adel / 06:03 PM April 24, 2018

MANILA, Philippines — After receiving user complaints on ride cancellations and booking difficulties, ride-hailing service Grab Philippines on Tuesday said it would no longer show drivers the passenger’s destination starting Friday.

Grab Philippines country head Brian Cu said it would also employ an auto-accept feature that allocates jobs automatically to drivers.

“We hear what our riders want and we will continue to improve our services while making bookings more efficient for our drivers. We will implement non-showing of passenger information before ride acceptance as it is a major source of complaints,” Cu said in a statement.

Both destination-masking and auto-accept featured will be rolled out on Friday. The destination-masking will initially be implemented to 25 percent of Grab drivers with historically low acceptance rate.

To ensure protection of drivers, they will be given an option to see the passenger destination during wee hours of the night.

The Transport Network Company Grab made the decision after seeking advice from Transport Under Secretary Tim Orbos and Assistant Secretary Mark De Leon.

“Grab reached out to DOT for proper guidance and to express our commitment to continue working with the government to improve and strenghten the TNVS sector We are thankful that they are supportive of the measure,” Cu said.

On Monday, Cu also announced that close to 500 drivers were suspended for cancelling passengers’ bookings. Those drivers sanctioned had a rate of ten percent and above cancelation of booking in the past week.

Cu said these drivers may either be suspended or banned. He said drivers are only allowed to cancel five percent of their total bookings per week.

Those who complied with the latter would receive incentives.

Due to the measure, passengers would also be required to provide correct and complete account information. They would also be allowed to link their account to social media platform to ensure the driver’s safety.

He is hopeful that the passengers would do their part and verify their accounts for the safety and proper identification.

“We will never compromise safety and we will always put the welfare of our drivers and passengers first. We thank our drivers for understanding the masking of destination feature,” Cu said.

“The drivers must keep earning to keep driving and serving the riders. Each of the three cogs is important for the whole wheel to keep running efficiently,” he added..

Despite the measure adjustment, Grab said the main reason for difficulty in booking is the lack of drivers.
Quezon City traffic enforcers undergo training on updated road rules

By Minde Nyl R. Dela Cruz
BusinessWorld / 03:20 PM April 24, 2018

Quezon City traffic enforcers undergo training on updated road rules

The Quezon City Department of Public Order and Safety (DPOS) held a two-day training of its 30 traffic enforcers last April 23 and 24 to update their information on traffic management and improve attitude while on duty.

“Ang situation natin on the ground paiba-iba, hindi siya static. So, kailangan i-update namin yung mga bagong memo, mga bagong rules, bagong regulations. Kailangan up-to-date yung aming mga traffic officers (The situation on the ground is not yet static, we need to update the new memo, new rules, new regulations. Our traffic enforcers need to be re-trained),” DPOS head General Elmo D.G. San Diego said.

Moreover, the department reminded the traffic enforcers that just because they are equipped with booklets does not mean they have to issue tickets every time.

“Kailangan mag-render sila ng traffic control para ma-maintain ang batas trapiko sa area kung saan sila naka-assign (They need to do maintain traffic control and follow traffic rules in areas where they were assigned),” DPOS education and training section head Corazon B. Medes said.
City of Dreams Manila expansion planned

By Doris Dumlao-Abadilla
Philippine Daily Inquirer / 08:39 AM April 24, 2018

City of Dreams Manila expansion planned

Leisure estate and gaming group Belle Corp. has submitted a proposal to the Melco group to expand the existing City of Dreams Manila (CoD Manila) integrated gaming resort using a one-hectare land adjacent to the property.

In a press chat after the company’s stockholders meeting on Monday, Belle president Manuel Gana said the 6.2-hectare CoD Manila, which has over 900 hotel rooms, would need to build more rooms and amenities as it was now running at close to full capacity at over 90 percent occupancy rate.

Based on Belle’s proposal, the additional one-hectare lot long-held by the group beside the CoD Manila site would be used mainly to create new non-gaming facilities. Aside from hotel rooms, Gana noted that the existing resort only had one ballroom and one swimming pool at present.

Asked on the prospective timing for CoD Manila’s expansion, Gana said: “The ball is in Melco’s court. They have a lot of things on their plate.”

Recently, Melco has been doing the groundwork in Japan, a territory where the mass market in gaming is seen to have the potential to eclipse Macau’s.

In case Melco declines to invest on CoD Manila expansion, Gana said Belle would be “free to do something else.” “We can build our own hotel and capitalize on City of Dreams clientele but we prefer Melco to get involved so it can be consolidated into City of Dreams,” he added.

Over the long term, Gana said Belle would consider other expansion opportunities. If the state-run Philippine Amusement & Gaming Corp. (Pagcor) were to privatize some of its operating assets, Gana said Belle would be interested. He noted that Pagcor’s casinos in places like Davao and Laoag were attractive.

Pagcor has also imposed a moratorium on the building of new casinos. But when the time comes for Pagcor to consider issuing new licenses, he said Belle would be interested to build on a second site.

Meanwhile, Belle still has 800 hectares of landbank in Southern Luzon, including the areas within Tagaytay Highlands, which would allow the company to develop new projects within the next five to 10 years.

In the first quarter, Belle reported that consolidated net profit grew by 10 percent year-on-year to P857 million on higher gaming and real estate revenues. Excluding one-off items, recurring net income for the quarter rose by 17 percent year-on-year to P888 million.

Through its 78.7-percent owned subsidiary, Premium Leisure Corporation (PLC), the company’s cash flow as measured by earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) from its share of gaming operations of CoD Manila increased by 8 percent to P474 million for the first quarter.

Belle also booked higher operating income from its real estate businesses of P571 million for the quarter, a 27-percent increase year-on-year mostly as landlord of CoDManila as well as the sale of real estate products and property management activities at its Tagaytay Highlands and Midlands residential and leisure complexes south of Metro Manila.