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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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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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CDA probes Sarangani coop over investment operations

June 24, 2019

GENERAL Santos City -- The Cooperative Development Authority (CDA) is set to issue a "show cause order" against a credit cooperative based in Sarangani province over questions on its investment operations. Aminoden Elias, CDA-Soccsksargen regional director, said Thursday they are currently processing the issuance of the order to Alabel Maasim Credit Cooperative (Alamcco) for violating its own Articles of Cooperation and Bylaws (ACBL) and Republic Act 9520 or the Philippine Cooperative Code. He said the move was in line with the ongoing investigation by the CDA central office into Alamcco's solicitation and acceptance of deposits or investments from non-members at a monthly interest rate of 35 percent.  "This is to let them (Alamcco officials) explain, as a matter of due process, why (the cooperative) should not be dissolved," Elias said in an interview with a local television station. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) had issued an advisory, warning the public against Alamcco's investment operations at "a promised interest rate that is too high to sustain their claims that every member will receive as long as the cooperative operates". SEC said the cooperative is "not allowed to offer, solicit, sell or distribute any investment/securities from the public as the same requires a secondary license for such activity". Agents from the National Bureau of Investigation "visited" last week the offices of Alamcco here, in Koronadal City and Alabel, Sarangani in line with the crackdown ordered by President Rodrigo Duterte against the rampant "pyramiding" investment activities. Citing their investigation, Elias said Alamcco violated the provisions of its ACBL for soliciting and accepting investments in the form of deposits from non-members. He said the cooperative, which was registered in December 2018, was only allowed to recruit members from this city and Sarangani province based on its specified area of operations. But Alamcco has opened various offices in Soccsksargen that it uses to recruit members for its investment scheme, he said. Under Alamcco's ACBL, he said its recruits should undergo pre-membership education seminars before they are admitted as regular members. Elias said the new members should subscribe by paying a minimum required shared capital based on the authorized capital of the cooperative. As a credit cooperative, he said it is only allowed to promote and undertake savings and credit services to its regular members. He said Alamcco officers were aware of such provisions since they were the ones who crafted its ACBL and these were discussed to them by the agency during the pre-registration seminar. The official said the cooperative was previously informed of such violation through an advisory issued by its central office last May 31 and the cease and desist order (CDO) dated June 7. "The CDO mainly stops Alamcco from receiving deposits and investments from non-members but its other authorized activities may still continue," Elias said. Lawyer Umar Genita, Alamcco legal counsel, said the cooperative is currently complying with the CDO issued by CDA. He said their officers have also considered lowering the interest rate of its investment scheme to 20 percent to ensure that it will be sustainable. In the wake of the controversy, some of members of the cooperative have already signified to withdraw their deposits but the processing remains pending. "We are not running away from our obligations. We will comply with what is agreed and return whatever amount deposited by the members," Genita assured. (PNA)

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Qatar Airways starts direct Doha-Davao-Doha flights

June 21, 2019

QATAR Airways has touched down for the first time in Davao on Wednesday, making Mindanao’s largest city its third gateway in the country and serving direct weekly return services (Doha-Davao-Doha) for the growing number of passengers in this region. The first Qatar Airways flight from Doha to Davao, Philippines, touched down at Davao International Airport, where it was welcomed with a celebratory water cannon salute. Qatar Airways flight QR936 departed Hamad International Airport (HIA) on Tuesday, 18 June at 02.45 and landed in Davao at 17:20 local time. The Ambassador of the Philippines to the State of Qatar, H.E. Alan Timbayan, was joined by Qatar Airways Senior Vice President Asia Pacific, Marwan Koleilat on board Qatar Airways’ inaugural flight to Davao. Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, H.E. Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways is very proud to extend its reach into the Philippines by launching our third gateway into this beautiful country. The inclusion of Davao into our global network further demonstrates our commitment to the Far East region, a highly important market for Qatar Airways. With 50 weekly passenger flights to and from the Philippines, we take great pride in our role of enabling trade and connecting international businesses.” At present, Qatar Airways flies to Ninoy Aquino International Airport and Clark International Airport. The national carrier of the state of Qatar was also looking at resuming its Doha-Cebu-Doha direct service, which was suspended in 2012 after 7 years of serving the country’s second largest city. Commenting on the new route launch, Davao International Airport Manager, Engr. Rex A. Obcena, said: “Davao International Airport is the main airport serving Davao City and Davao Region in the Philippines. It is the busiest airport on the island of Mindanao and one of the busiest in the Philippines. We look forward to welcoming all passengers on Qatar Airways’ weekly return flights.” With numerous beaches and resorts, Davao City, on the southern Philippine island of Mindanao, is a coastal commercial center near Mount Apo, the country’s highest peak. Davao City is the largest city outside of Manila and the fourth largest in the Philippines in terms of population, with over 1.4 million residents. The airline will operate its Davao service once a week with a Boeing 787-8 aircraft, featuring 22 seats in Business Class and 232 seats in Economy Class. Passengers will be able to enjoy the airline’s superior entertainment system, Oryx One, offering a wide variety of entertainment options. Qatar Airways flight QR936 departs Doha 02:45hrs and arrives Davao 20.50hrs. The Davao-Doha QR936 return flight departs Davao 22:20hrs and arrives Doha 03:15hrs. The Philippines is an important air freight market for Qatar Airways, with the carrier’s cargo arm offering a weekly capacity of 350 tons each way on the Doha-Manila-Doha route and 70 tons on the Doha-Clark-Doha route. With the introduction of flights from Doha to Davao on the Doha-Clark-Davao-Doha route effective 18 June, exporters in Davao will be offered direct connection to destinations in Europe, the Middle East and the Americas via Doha. A multiple-award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Business Class’ by the 2018 World Airline Awards, managed by international air transport rating organization Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Business Class Seat’, ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, and ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge’. Qatar Airways currently operates a modern fleet of more than 250 aircraft via its hub, Hamad International Airport (HIA) to more than 160 destinations worldwide. In addition to its service to Davao, Qatar Airways has launched an array of exciting new destinations recently, including Mombasa, Kenya; Izmir, Turkey and Malta to name just a few. The airline will add a number of new destinations to its extensive route network in the second half of 2019, including Lisbon, Portugal; Mogadishu, Somalia and Langkawi, Malaysia. Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar, is also celebrating more than 20 years of Going Places Together with travellers across its more than 160 business and leisure destinations on board a modern fleet of more than 250 aircraft. The world’s fastest-growing airline will add a number of exciting new destinations to its growing network this year, including Lisbon, Portugal; Malta; Rabat, Morocco; Langkawi, Malaysia; Davao, Philippines; Izmir, Turkey; and Mogadishu, Somalia. A multiple award-winning airline, Qatar Airways was named ‘World’s Best Business Class’ by the 2018 World Airline Awards, managed by international air transport rating organization Skytrax. It was also named ‘Best Airline in the Middle East’, ‘World’s Best First Class Airline Lounge’ and ‘Best Business Class Seat’, in recognition of its ground-breaking Business Class experience, Qsuite. Qatar Airways has been awarded the coveted “Skytrax Airline of the Year” title, which is recognized as the pinnacle of excellence in the airline industry, four times.

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