business

Converge to bring fixed broadband to the Visayas, Mindanao by 2021

July 10, 2019

CONVERGE ICT Solutions, Inc. said its fixed broadband service may arrive in the Visayas and Mindanao regions by 2021 as it aims to start within the year the buildout of its fiber backbone outside Luzon.      In a media roundtable interview in Pasig City Thursday, the fiber broadband provider said it is currently evaluating bid submissions from submarine cable companies to expand its fiber reach in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.      “Siguro ’yung VisMin is not going to happen in the next 24 months. Kasi it takes about 24 months to build eh (Maybe going to VisMin won’t happen in the next 24 months because it takes about 24 months to build),” Converge Chief Operating Officer Jesus C. Romero said.      “We’ll start that hopefully soon. Then after that, we can operate,” he added.      Mr. Romero said the company is now waiting for the “best and final offer” of about three foreign bidders that will build its interisland fiber network in the Visayas and Mindanao regions.      “The bidders have to give their best and final offer. After those are submitted, we will have to choose which one. After we choose, then we award, then we start to mobilize,” he said, adding the completion of this process “has to be” within the year.      Converge currently has its fiber laid out in most of Luzon, covering almost all of Metro Manila and continuously expanding to Bicol and Benguet.      Earlier reports revealed that the company, owned by Pampanga-based businessman Dennis Anthony H. Uy, has secured a $250.4-million equity funding from United States-based private equity firm Warburg Pincus.      While Mr. Romero did not confirm the deal, he said Converge is always seeking to find funding for its expansion plans. These include the backbone rollout and acquisition of transmission and last mile equipment to make its services available to more areas across the country.      “The company has always said we’re looking for ways to fund expansion,” he said. “When you look at (the company’s) potential spending to fuel growth, you have cash flow, you can avail of debt, or you can try to raise money from equity infusion.”      Mr. Romero said the company is continually focusing on its fixed fiber broadband and doesn’t plan to tap the mobile telecommunications market as it sees a huge potential in the “underserved market” of the broadband segment.      “I think ’yang mobile, pagdating ng third mobile player, market share grab na lang ’yan eh (I think for mobile, when the third player arrives, it will all be market share grabbing)… Maganda rin na doon ka na lang sa (It’s better to be in the business of) something that’s growing, something that’s underserved, rather than trying to kill each other on a mature market,” he said.      Converge said last year it is pricing its expansion at $1.8 billion in the next five years, which will cover extending its broadband network to Luzon, Visayas and Mindanao.

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Allianz Sees Continuous Growth in Insurance Market in PH, Rest of Asia

July 6, 2019

While insurance penetration (premiums as a percentage of GDP) fell by 5.4% in Asia (ex-cluding Japan), the Philippines along with Vietnam, Laos, Sri Lanka, and India registered double-digit growths. This is according to the Allianz Global Insurance Report prepared by Allianz Research. Allianz Research is projecting a 9.4% growth per annum over the next decade in Asia, ex-cluding Japan. Around 60% additional premiums are expected to be generated in the re-gion. In the Philippines, a market growth of 12.3% is foreseen (13.5 in life and 8.3 in p&c).  “Allianz’ strong performance in the Philippines reflects the country’s economic growth and strong macroeconomic fundamentals, and we are looking to leverage on the continuous ex-pansion of economic activity in the country,” said Alexander Grenz, newly appointed presi-dent and chief executive officer of Allianz PNB Life. Premiums in the Philippines grew by 17.7% in 2018, way above the regional average. In fact, 2018 marked the best year since 2013. Life insurance, which accounts for more than 70% of the premium pool (without health), had a growth rate of 20.4%. It grew almost twice as fast as property-casualty (+11.1%).  For 2019, Allianz Research foresees a slowdown to around 10% premium growth, still well above regional or global averages. It noted that the Philippines’ insurance market has still plenty of room to grow: Premiums per capita stood at Php3,000.00 in 2018 (at par with neighboring Indonesia), penetration at 1.9%; it is, for example, already 3.7% in China. In-surance premiums in property-casualty and life are expected to grow by 14% this year and 12.3% over the next decade. Allianz PNB Life is still the fastest-growing life insurance company in the Philippines, ac-cording to the report of the Insurance Commission. Its premium income grew by 69% in 2018 and its annualized premium income for 2018 stood at a historic high. Grenz, who previously served as the chief operating officer of Allianz PNB Life, said that as today’s business environment goes through rapid changes, the company is hands-on to build a more diverse business model. “We all know how fast-paced the insurance industry is; the pressure and expectations are high from all sides ‐ our customers, our investors, our regulators, and among ourselves. Late last year, for instance, we have seen changes in reserve requirements for banks to ad-dress the spike in inflation. This resulted in liquidity shortage in the Bancassurance indus-try. Even though we are still performing better compared to our competitors, we definitely need to catch up in the second half of the year,” Grenz said. Grenz has more than 15 years of experience in global Insurance and Asset Management. He has a multinational track record in the areas of Finance, Insurance and Asset Manage-ment and has held various executive positions for Allianz in different countries. As he heads Allianz PNB Life, Grenz said he plans to focus on simplifying insurance for the customers. “Simplification of insurance will be our priority. We will simplify the language of insurance to make it understandable to more customers and make it easy to access with the superior technology Allianz can provide,” he explained.  Grenz is, likewise, moving to tap Allianz’s global investment fund managers from PIMCO and Allianz Global Investments (AGI) to provide superior technical solutions and investment strategies.  “Our goal is to have a well-defined output that should create value for our customers. It’s the customers’ perception, which counts and defines our success. With PIMCO and AGI, cus-tomers are assured they have access to superior product solutions and technical advise,” he said. Furthermore, Grenz is steering the company toward a digital future. Recently, the company opened its Allianz Digital Studio, which will pioneer the next-generation of innovation and solutions and make the delivery of insurance products and services faster and more effi-cient for both its internal and external customers.  “Our digital and customer-centric initiatives in the pipeline are geared toward enhancing the Allianz customer experience and differentiate us in the market,” he concluded. # About Allianz in Asia Asia is one of the core growth regions for Allianz, characterized by a rich diversity of cul-tures, languages and customs. Allianz has been present in the region since 1910, when it first provided fire and marine insurance in the coastal cities of China. Today, Allianz is ac-tive in 14 markets in the region, offering its core businesses of property and casualty insur-ance, life, protection and health solutions, as well as asset management. With its more than 32,000 staff, Allianz serves the needs of over 18 million customers in the region across mul-tiple distribution channels and digital platforms.   About Allianz The Allianz Group is one of the world's leading insurers and asset managers with more than 92 million retail and corporate customers. Allianz customers benefit from a broad range of personal and corporate insurance services, ranging from property, life and health insurance to assistance services to credit insurance and global business insurance. Allianz is one of the world’s largest investors, managing around 673 billion euros on behalf of its insurance customers. Furthermore our asset managers PIMCO and Allianz Global Investors manage more than 1.4 trillion euros of third-party assets.  Thanks to our systematic integration of ecological and social criteria in our business pro-cesses and investment decisions, we hold the leading position for insurers in the Dow Jones Sustainability Index. In 2018, over 142,000 employees in more than 80 countries achieved total revenues of 131 billion euros and an operating profit of 11.5 billion euros for the group. These assessments are, as always, subject to the disclaimer provided below.   Cautionary note regarding forward-looking statements The statements contained herein may include prospects, statements of future expectations and other forward-looking statements that are based on management's current views and assumptions and involve known and unknown risks and uncertainties. Actual results, per-formance or events may differ materially from those expressed or implied in such forward-looking statements. Such deviations may arise due to, without limitation, (i) changes of the general economic conditions and competitive situation, particularly in the Allianz Group's core business and core markets, (ii) performance of financial markets (particularly market volatility, liquidity and credit events), (iii) frequency and severity of insured loss events, including from nat-ural catastrophes, and the development of loss expenses, (iv) mortality and morbidity levels and trends, (v) persistency levels, (vi) particularly in the banking business, the ex-tent of credit defaults, (vii) interest rate levels, (viii) currency exchange rates including the EUR/USD  exchange rate, (ix) changes in laws and regulations, including tax regula-tions, (x) the impact of acquisitions, including related integration issues, and reorganiza-tion measures, and (xi) general competitive factors, in each case on a local, regional, na-tional and/or global basis. Many of these factors may be more likely to occur, or more pronounced, as a result of terrorist activities and their consequences.   No duty to update The company assumes no obligation to update any information or forward-looking state-ment contained herein, save for any information required to be disclosed by law.   Privacy Note Allianz SE is committed to protecting your personal data. Find out more in our Privacy Statement.  

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DICT to issue permits for new cell sites within 3 mos

July 1, 2019

THE Department of Information and Communications Technology (DICT) targets to issue permits to tower building companies in three months or less to green light the construction of new cell sites.      "Our target is that we will have all the permits by two months or three months. We will really be more efficient in coming up with towers faster,” DICT Acting Secretary Eliseo Rio Jr. said in a press conference on Thursday.      Rio said a task force was created to establish a one-stop shop that will process the issuance of permits to the tower providers.      The task force is composed of agencies related with the release of the permits such as the Department of the Interior and Local Government, Department of Environment and Natural Resources, Department of Health, Civil Aviation Authority of the Philippines (CAAP), among others.      The DICT has signed a memorandum of agreement with ISOC Infrastructures Inc. and Malaysia-based edotco Group Sdn Bhd to expedite the process of securing permits for the common towers that will be shared to telcos to further improve the delivery of communication services in the country.      "The MOA binds the DICT to facilitate getting of permits for the common tower to set up," Rio said.      Globe Telecom recently signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with ISOC and edotco to build 150 cell sites in the Calabarzon Region.      According to the MOU, ISOC and edotco will build and co-own the towers, which will be leased by Globe. These may eventually be leased out to other telcos such as PLDT Inc. and Mislatel.      The DICT expects the initial set of common towers to be constructed within the next five months.      “Maybe, the initial timeline for the first 150 towers, is from today to maybe two to three months for permits, then another two months for construction, maybe five months,”      A total of 2,500 sites were identified by the DICT as the location for the cell towers.      The department aims to build at least 50,000 cell towers within the next seven to 10 years through partnerships among the telcos and the tower providers. (PNA)

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GSIS bent on selling Manila North Harbor property

July 1, 2019

The Government Service Insurance System (GSIS) has reiterated its plan to sell its 672,645-square meter property at the Manila North Harbor, which the International Container Terminal Services, Inc. (ICTSI) is currently occupying.      “As a government entity that exists to ensure the integrity of the funds of its members, GSIS is determined to sell it through public bidding upon the approval of the Board,” GSIS President and General Manager (PGM) Jesus Clint Aranas said.      According to him, the market value of the property is approximately Php33.632 billion based on the zonal valuation as of 9 May 2019 and as reflected in the GSIS books as of 20 May 2019.      Enrique Razon, president and chairman of ICTSI, reportedly said earlier that GSIS has only a “naked title” with no right to use the property.      “That does not preclude GSIS from disposing of the property,” Aranas asserted.      Meanwhile, the Philippine Ports Authority (PPA) has committed to donate a five-hectare resettlement site under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the National Housing Authority (NHA), LGU Manila, ICTSI, and Manila North Harbor Port, Inc. However, the ocular inspection report of NHA reveals that the proposed relocation site infringes on another GSIS property occupied by informal settlers and allocated for socialized housing pursuant to E.O. 108, series of 2002 with an area of 1.2 hectares of which belongs to GSIS.      For its part, GSIS emphasized that “no entity can commit, offer, or convey any property which it does not own.”      GSIS was never consulted and neither did it approve or consent to such donation or commitment on the overlapping portion which is registered and owned by GSIS.      GSIS likewise demanded that the MOU be rescinded, modified, or revised to exclude the overlapping portion of GSIS-owned property from the five hectares that is committed by PPA under the MOU.      The PPA (under its present General Manager Jay Daniel Santiago) and through its Legal Department, in a reply to GSIS’s demand to PPA to rescind, modify, or revise the MOU last 4 March 2019, did not directly address GSIS’s demand but instead questioned the validity of the 43-year-old title and asserted that PPA owns the North Harbor Property, despite the property being registered under the name of GSIS.      PGM Aranas cited, however, the Office of the Government Corporate Counsel, which ruled in 2015 that the validity of the title registered under the name of GSIS may only be questioned in a direct attack filed before a regular court.      Meanwhile, GSIS has invited ICTSI to discuss the use and rental of the disputed property.  But ICTSI referred GSIS’s letter to PPA and deemed that “it may not be useful to sit down with GSIS without the participation of PPA.”      As to the issue of the overlapping GSIS property under the MOU, despite efforts to obtain a certified true copy of the proposed MOU and the 26 February 2019 Minutes of the Congressional Hearing and signing ceremony of the MOU, GSIS has not received such copy to this day.      PPA has also begged off from attending a meeting called by the Inter-Agency Committee for the Disposition of the Parola Estate and instead requested the Committee that a separate meeting be scheduled with PPA, NHA, LGU Manila, and the Housing and Urban Development Coordinating Council (HUDCC) only to discuss the MOU, without any mention of GSIS.       The GSIS was also informed by the Inter-Agency Committee that it will now be excluded from subsequent committee meetings since the Inter-Agency Committee no longer has jurisdiction over the disposition of lands owned by GSIS and other Government-Owned and -Controlled Corporations (GOCCs) citing Section 5 II (d) of R.A. 11201 (Department of Human Settlements and Urban Development Act).       Notwithstanding, PGM Aranas maintains that the state pension fund will take appropriate legal measures to protect the interest of GSIS and its members.

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PPI at 55: Building Better Communities

July 1, 2019

This year marks the 55th anniversary of the Philippine Press Institute (PPI), also known as the national association of newspapers. This milestone serves as a testament to the enduring two-pronged vision of PPI: 1) To defend press freedom; and 2) to promote ethical standards within the ranks of its member-publications. “We do not only celebrate its longevity but remind ourselves of its relevance and mandate,” said Alfonso Pedroche, outgoing PPI chairman-president and retired former editor-in-chief of Pilipino Star Ngayon.   As in previous years, PPI is holding yet another edition of the  National Press Forum on July 4 and 5 in Manila, not only in celebration of its founding but, more importantly, to bring together the members in a once-a-year opportunity to engage in meaningful discussion on an issue that matters to the public and all of the Philippine media.  The publishers and editors from the member-newspapers will be joined by guests from the academe, government, embassies, and civil society organizations. The theme for this year is “Governance, Media, and Democracy: Building Better Communities”, around which the PPI aims to have a discussion that, among others, will highlight the role of media in both local and national affairs as the fourth estate and watchdog.  “Building Better Communities” is the slogan for PPI’s flagship program which is civic journalism. “We couldn’t stress enough the role of the print media.  PPI in fact has been a witness and participant in the evolving media landscapes which also saw the growth of community press since the inception of the organization fifty-five years ago,” said PPI executive director Ariel Sebellino.  He also attested that newspapers have survived the tests of time. Alex Pal, a publisher of a Dumaguete-based community newspaper and PPI vice-chairman said that it is even more challenging for a small paper to sustain its operations despite difficult times.  “The last time they said print was dying, we’re still here, active in our role as catalysts for change and a platform for civic engagement.”  His weekly newspaper MetroPost is a finalist in this year’s Civic Journalism Community Press Awards. The PPI Board took note of this year’s conference theme as timely and relevant “as we also try to have an insightful look at a new system of government that has been a subject of discourse for the longest time”. Senator Aquilino ‘Nene’ Pimentel, Jr., considered as the father of local government code and a staunch advocate of federalism will share his take on it.  Atty. Christian Monsod will discuss the (proposed) Puno Federalism in relation to preserving democracy and promoting press freedom.  “Social justice and economy are just two of the major shortcomings of the Puno Constitution,” said Monsod in response to the PPI invitation.  Atty. Erwin Caliba will talk about autonomy as a mechanism to address exclusion of minorities.  Atty. Cheryl Daytec-Yañgot, a staunch advocate of IP issues, will react to all three presentations.   This year’s event is being supported again by Nickel Asia Corporation as its principal partner for the conference and awards, and in part by Kusog Bikolandia and Hanns Seidel Foundation as major sponsors, SM Investments Corporation as minor sponsor, Smart Communications, PAGCOR, Ayala Corporation, Land Bank of the Philippines, San Miguel Corporation, PAGLAS Group, McDonald’s, PCSO, and Hotel Jen. PPI’s current program partners, led by Nickel Asia Corporation will take center stage in the Industry Forum as they talk about “engaging communities” in relation to their programs and advocacies in the communities they serve. The Civic Journalism Community Press Awards, now on its 23nd season will highlight the two-day event.  There are six dailies and 7 weeklies vying for five major categories, namely: best in photojournalism, best in environmental reporting, best in business and economic reporting, best editorial page, and best edited paper. The finalists are: Baguio Chronicle, MetroPost, The Mindanao Cross, The Bohol Chronicle, BusinessWeek Mindanao, Herald Express, and Northern Forum for the weekly category; and  Sun.Star Baguio, Cebu Daily News, Sun.Star Davao, Sun.Star Pampanga, Sun.Star Cebu, and Edge Davao for the daily category. The awards program, the only one of its kind by far, is being managed by the Asian Institute of Journalism and Communication (AIJC) and supported by Nickel Asia Corporation (NAC).

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Bayer partners with Department of Agriculture to accelerate hybrid rice production in Mindanao

June 28, 2019

In a Memorandum of Agreement signing ceremony held at DA-RFO XII in Koronadal City, South Cotabato, both parties agreed to implement a pilot project to boost the hybrid rice production of farmers in North Cotabato, South Cotabato, Saranggani, and Sultan Kudarat. These provinces will soon ground Arize Hybrid Rice seeds with the guidance of field technicians from both parties. The farmers will undergo Bayer Agri-Academy training on rice production to ensure the successful knowledge transfer of hybrid technology. This will allow farmers to become independent and highly productive in growing hybrid rice. The average yield of inbred rice farmers is approximately four (4) metric tons while hybrid rice seeds can potentially increase yield by six to eight (6 to 8) metric tons. While some farmers in the region are already existing hybrid rice users, adoption rate remains low. “This is the first-of-its-kind among our projects with the Department of Agriculture. By formalizing our partnership, we convey our commitment to join hands with the government to improve the region’s rice productivity,” said Iiinas Ivan Lao, Country Commercial Lead, Bayer Crop Science.      “More than ever, we need to collaborate with the Department of Agriculture to ensure the project’s success. The support of DA-RFO XII and the local government units of the provinces involved will create a significant impact to the farming communities in the region,” shared Recher Ondap, Head of Seeds Bayer Crop Science. He also added that, through this project, not only will farmers increase their yield by 20%, but also they will be better equipped to run their business in the highly competitive rice market.      The planting season will start in May or June and will end by September. At the end of the season, farmers who to have harvested more than five metric tons of hybrid rice will be honored as top yielders in their respective areas. This recognition will help farmers qualify in the Department of Agriculture’s annual Gawad Saka Awards, which recognizes farmers, fisherfolk, as well as distinguished groups and individuals, who have excelled and made significant contributions in the development of agriculture and fishery sector in their regions and in the country.      “I’m grateful for this partnership with Bayer. We recognize the importance of this collaboration to further strengthen our local initiatives to accelerate hybridization in the region and most importantly, equip our rice farmers with the knowledge and skills to boost our rice productivity,” said Milagros Casis, DA-RFO XII Regional Executive Director.

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