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PAL issues travel advisory this Holy Week

April 17, 2019

DUE to a huge volume of passengers and heavy traffic around Ninony Aquino International Airport (NAIA)’s four terminals this Holy Week, Philippine Airlines (PAL) yesterday advised travelers to the provinces and out of the country between April 15-21, 2019 to allocate more time in going to the airport.     Passengers bound for domestic destinations should arrive at the airport at least 2.5 hours before their flight while those bound for international destinations must be at the airport at least 3.5 hours before their flight, according to the PAL advisory.     They should also check their updated flight status and terminal assignment before heading to the airport.     For this, they could visit www.philippineairlines.com/#PALflightstatus, or they could click the Flight Status Tab in the PAL website. They can also call (02) 855-8888 then press 2 for Arrival and Departure Information.     The flight information from Flight Status Tab is available two days before and until two days after the flight departure.     Passengers can also check-in via the PAL website, www.philippineairlines.com, or through myPALapp within 24 hours to one hour before your flight.     Those going abroad should ensure that their passports are at least 6 months valid from date of travel and that they have the required visa and other travel documents. Those traveling within the country should bring a valid government IDs, company, or school IDs.

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DOF cites efficiency rise in gov't projects

April 17, 2019

THE overall efficiency of Philippine government projects has increased due to stringent evaluation, transparent procurement and implementation-ready requirement.     In an economic bulletin penned by Finance Undersecretary Gil Beltran, the Department of Finance (DOF) said rise of the government's investments came with improved rates of return.     Citing Department of Budget and Management (DBM) data, Beltran said share of government investments on gross domestic product (GDP) has risen from 2.58 percent in 2011 to 5.40 percent in 2018.     In 2018, investments of the national government amounted to P940.4 billion, nearly four times the P250.1 billion in 2011.     Using regression analysis on 2010 to 2018 data, Beltran said "NG investment has been very efficient, with rates of return exceeding borrowing costs, currently at 5.9 percent p.a. based on the 25-year Treasury bond rate."     He attributed this improvement to stringent evaluation of projects by the 7-man Investment Coordination Committee (ICC) that include representatives from the DOF, DBM, Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP), National Economic Development Authority (NEDA), office of the Executive Secretary, Department of Agriculture (DA), and the Department of Trade and Industry (DTI).     Other factors are the transparent bidding process wherein terms of reference are published in the Philippine Government E-Procurement System (Philgeps), requirements that projects are implementation-ready before the DBM provides an allocation and includes it in the proposed national budget and that these projects should have been implemented in the past.     "Investment expansion has been the driving force of the economy in recent years---pushing up the country’s competitiveness and making up for previous decades of underinvestment," the bulletin said. (PNA)

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Remittances grow 3% to $4.78 B in 2 months

April 17, 2019

CASH remittances sent by overseas Filipinos amounted to $4.78 billion in the first two months of 2019, up by three percent year-on-year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said.     Cash remittances, which are remittances transferred via formal banking channels and easily captured by the BSP, for the month of February alone rose by 1.5 percent year-on-year to $2.30 billion.     According to the BSP, the increase in remittances from both land-based and sea-based workers, which rose by one percent and 10.5 percent, respectively, stood at $3.73 billion and $1.06 billion.     “By country source, the US registered the highest share of overall remittances for the period at 35.5 percent,” said the BSP. Saudi Arabia, Singapore, United Kingdom, United Arab Emirates, Japan, Canada, Qatar, Hong Kong, and Germany were also top sources of remittances. The combined remittances from these countries accounted for 77.3 percent of total cash remittances for January to February, the BSP noted.     As for personal remittances, for the first two months, this reached $5.30 billion, up 2.3 percent year-on-year.     For February only, personal remittances went up by 1.2 percent to $2.56 billion.     Personal remittances from sea-based and land-based workers with work contracts of less than one year rose by 8.5 percent to $570 million in February, said the BSP.     “This compensated for the 0.43 percent decline in the personal remittances from land-based workers with work contracts of one year or more, to $1.93 billion from $1.94 billion,” it added. Personal remittances was first reported in 2012 and are the sum of net compensation of employees, personal transfers and capital transfers between households.     Last year, cash remittances rose by 3.1 percent to $28.94 billion from 2017, while personal remittances went up by three percent to $32.21 billion.

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BPI says services back to normal

April 17, 2019

BANK of the Philippine Islands (BPI) said all its banking services are now available after several channels were rendered inaccessible following a systems upgrade.     In a Facebook post Friday, the Ayala-controlled bank announced that all financial transactions are available as normal.     However, it warned its customers of slower access to its online and mobile platforms due to the surge of users.     “We expect usage traffic and access to normalize within the course of the day.”     On Thursday, BPI said its banking platforms “encountered some issues,” making them “temporarily unavailable or (with) limited services.” On the other hand, BPI branches operated yesterday in “a limited capacity.”     The accessibility issues stemmed from a three-day systems upgrade conducted by the bank from April 5-7.     During the downtime, banking services like automated teller machines, deposit machines as well as debit and prepaid card services, among others were unavailable.     Various BPI branches were opened during the weekend to accommodate the transaction backlog.     On Thursday, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) said it is aware of the post-migration challenges encountered by BPI after the recent upgrade of its core banking system.     “The BSP team has been closely coordinating with BPI to ensure that their remediation efforts are on track to restore service levels to their clients,” the central bank said in a tweet.     BPI posted a net profit of P23.08 billion in 2018, up 3% from a year earlier.

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Cimatu hails BOC for seizure of tarantula shipment

April 17, 2019

Environment Secretary Roy A. Cimatu has commended the Bureau of Customs (BOC)on the successful interception of over 700 live venomous tarantulas at the Ninoy Aquino International Airport earlier this week.     “The BOC agents and personnel who discovered the shipment should give themselves a pat on the back for stopping the illegal trade of these wildlife species,” Cimatu said.     The tarantulas, with a combined estimated value of P310,000, were concealed in gift-wrapped boxes for oatmeal, cookies and tea shipped from Poland. The interception also led to the arrest of two suspects, one of them is the consignee of the shipment.     Cimatu hailed the seizure of 757 tarantulas and apprehension of the suspects as “another victory in the fight against illegal wildlife trade.”     He also vowed that there will be no letup in the crackdown against poachers and wildlife traffickers.     “We will never get tired of rescuing wildlife and put their tormentors before the bar of justice so as to teach people a lesson that wildlife species are not commodities for trade,” Cimatu said.     The suspects and the tarantula shipment were turned over to the Philippine Operations Group on Ivory and Illegal Wildlife Trade, or simply Task Force POGI, which is composed of wildlife enforcers from various agencies, including the DENR’s Biodiversity Management Bureau (BMB), the National Bureau of Investigation and the Philippine National Police.     BMB senior ecosystems management specialist Rogelio Demellentes Jr. said the two suspects who claimed the shipment at NAIA’s Central Mail Exchange Center have already been charged for violating Republic Act 9147 or the Wildlife Resources and Protection Act, which defines and penalizes illegal wildlife trade.     Under the law, unlawful trading, possession and transport of wildlife species are punishable by a jail term of up two years and a fine of not more than P200,000.     Demellentes said the task force will coordinate with the Polish government for the possible return of the trantula shipment to its country of origin.     In the meantime, the tarantulas are placed under quarantine and observation, and will be under the custody of the BMB pending resolution of the case.

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More Minahang Bayan to boost small-scale mining watch

April 17, 2019

MANILA – The environment department’s Mines and Geosciences Bureau (MGB) targets to intensify the regulation of small-scale mining in the country.     “We’re working to fast-track the approval of applications for Minahang Bayan areas nationwide,” MGB Acting Director Wilfredo Moncano said in Quezon City on Thursday during the Philippine launch of the Global Environment Facility-funded USD11.70-million project to help eliminate the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sectors in the country and Mongolia.     He said the MGB already recognized and declared as Minahang Bayan, areas cited in 26 of the 141 applications the bureau has received so far.     Minahang Bayan areas are where small-scale miners can operate legally, enabling the government to better monitor and regulate their extractive activities while helping promote the safety of these workers, protect the environment, and generate revenues for government.     Declaring more Minahang Bayan areas nationwide increases the opportunity for government to track small-scale mining.     “It’s difficult to monitor small-scale miners if they’re operating outside Minahang Bayan areas,” MGB Small-Scale Mining Development Section chief Joel Natividad said.     According to Republic Act 7076 or the People's Small-Scale Mining Act of 1991, small-scale mining “refers to mining activities which rely heavily on manual labor using simple implement(s) and methods and do not use explosives or heavy mining equipment.”     “Small-scale mining is applicable to gold, silver and chromite only,” Department of Environment and Natural Resources (DENR) Assistant Secretary Nonita Caguioa clarified during the launch. She, however, cited a restriction on extracting metallic minerals.     Executive Order 79 series of 2012 prohibits the use of mercury in small-scale mining, she also said.     RA 7076 established the people's small-scale mining program, saying this aims “to achieve an orderly, systematic and rational scheme for the small-scale development and utilization of mineral resources in certain mineral areas in order to address the social, economic, technical, and environmental connected with small-scale mining activities.”     The program features identification, segregation, and reservation of certain mineral land as people's small-scale mining areas or Minahang Bayan, notes RA 7076.     Minahang Bayan “refers to the entire area declared as people’s small-scale mining area pursuant to RA 7076,” reads the law's Revised Implementing Rules and Regulations (IRR).     “No small-scale mining shall be undertaken outside a Minahang Bayan and that no entity shall engage in small-scale mining without a small-scale mining contract,” the revised IRR states.     RA 7076's revised IRR cites the DENR Secretary, through this person’s representative, as having direct supervision and control over programs and activities of small-scale miners within Minahang Bayan areas.     Since MGB knows where declared Minahang Bayan areas are, Natividad said it is easier for the bureau to provide small-scale miners some technical assistance.     He said among such assistance is teaching them how to mine without using mercury. (PNA)

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