business

Landbank okays P60-B to UCT beneficiaries

May 3, 2021

THE Land Bank of the Philippines (Landbank) has released P60.36 billion in unconditional cash transfers (UCTs) as of December 2020 to beneficiary-households of the Duterte administration's social mitigation program under the Tax Reform for Acceleration and Inclusion Act (TRAIN).      These disbursements were from the program funds for the UCT program released from March 2018 up to December last year, Landbank president-chief executive officer Cecilia Borromeo said in a statement Thursday.       From March 2018 to December 2020, a total of P22.53 billion was disbursed by the Landbank to UCT beneficiaries from the UCT program funds under the 2018 General Appropriations Act (GAA)      Another P23.71 billion under the FY 2019 UCT program funds was released from July 2019 to December 2020, and P14.12 billion from the 2020 UCT program fund in December last year.       Borromeo submitted her report on the usage of the UCT funds transferred by the Department of Budget and Management (DBM) and the Bureau of the Treasury (BTr) to Landbank to Senate President Vicente Sotto III.       Finance Secretary and Landbank chairman Carlos Dominguez III was furnished a copy of the report.       Under the TRAIN, up to 30 percent of the incremental revenues from the law is earmarked for social mitigation measures, such as the UCTs, while 70 percent is earmarked for President Duterte's centerpiece program “Build, Build, Build."      Republic Act (RA) No. 10963 or the TRAIN Law, which also slashed personal income tax (PIT) rates for 99 percent of salary earners, was implemented starting January 2018.       RA 10963 benefits salary earners because the hefty cuts in their PIT tax payments translates into extra income for these taxpayers equivalent to about a one-month take-home pay.      This law also adjusted the excise taxes on fuel, which prompted the inclusion of the social mitigation program to ease the initial impact of the adjustments on the poorest 50 percent of the population.       For 2018, the law provided a UCT of P2,400 each for some 10 million targeted households.        For the succeeding years of 2019 and 2020, each beneficiary-household received P3,600.       The UCT fund for 2018 of P24.488 billion covered the P24 billion in cash grants for 10 million beneficiaries.       While P22.53 billion in UCT funds were disbursed, around P1.47 billion has yet to be distributed because the Landbank is still waiting for the submission by the Department of Social Welfare and Development (DSWD) of the remaining payroll files of beneficiaries under the UCT program.      Under the 2019 national budget, the UCT fund amounted to P36.488 billion, of which P6 billion have yet to be downloaded by the BTr to Landbank, leaving it with P30.488 billion for the implementation of the program.        Of the P30.488 billion, P23.71 billion was released to UCT beneficiaries.       About P6.29 billion in funds have yet to be disbursed, pending the DSWD submission of the beneficiaries’ payroll files.        A total of P5.5 billion of this UCT fund was transferred to the BTr on April 1, 2020, to help fund the government’s coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) response programs, and was returned to the fund on December 29, 2020.      For 2020, the total UCT fund under the GAAs was P36.488 billion, of which P13.19 billion have yet to be downloaded to the Landbank.       The downloaded sum of P23.3 billion covered the P14.12 billion disbursed so far to UCT beneficiaries in December last year, while PHP8.9 billion have yet to be released pending the submission by the DSWD of the beneficiaries’ payroll files. (PR)

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PAL eyes non-stop flights to Israel

May 3, 2021

FLAG carrier Philippine Airlines (PAL) is planning to mount non-stop flights between Manila and Tel Aviv, Israel by October.      The company is eyeing twice weekly nonstop flights to Tel Aviv’s Gurion international Airport using its Airbus A350 aircraft.      PAL President and Chief Operating Officer Gilbert F. Santa Maria has been in talks with Israel Ministry of Tourism Director General Amir Halevi on the possible Manila-Tel Aviv-Mania flights, the company said in a statement on Friday. Philippine passport holders can travel to Israel visa-free for up to 90-day visits.      “The Philippines is a strong source of potential travelers to Israel, which welcomes Filipinos without requiring a visa. Our countrymen have been longing for a direct flight to the Holy Land for spiritual pilgrimages or for a Mediterranean getaway when the travel climate allows,” PAL Chief Strategy and Planning Officer Dexter Lee said.      “We also look forward to inviting Israelis to visit the Philippines, so our direct flights will help us restart tourism here in our country.”      The Philippines on May 1 will lift its travel ban on foreign nationals, except for those travelling from India, where coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) cases have surged. Metro Manila and nearby regions are still under a strict lockdown where tourism attractions are not allowed to open.      Israel, which has fully vaccinated more than half its population, is slowly opening up its borders to international tourists, starting with vaccinated tour groups next month.      “‘Once the global travel climate improves and restrictions are eased, the planned PAL service will enable Israeli tourists to fly nonstop to Manila and connect to the flag carrier’s domestic route network,” PAL said.      The company last week announced that it would test run an international travel pass mobile application that allows passengers to manage travel documents and share COVID-19 test results and vaccination status.

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Aboitiz unit, Swiss firm to build local telco towers

May 3, 2021

ABOITIZ InfraCapital, Inc. said it is working with Switzerland-based global private markets investment management firm Partners Group Holding AG to build and operate telecommunication towers in the Philippines.      Aboitiz InfraCapital and Partners Group intend to “build and operate telecommunication towers and support infrastructure across the country” through a telecommunications infrastructure platform called Unity Digital Infrastructure, Inc., the listed company told the local bourse on Thursday.      In February, Unity Digital Infrastructure secured a certificate of registration as an independent tower company from the Department of Information and Communications Technology.      “It is now working on the rollout of its pilot batch of towers with the mobile network operators,” Aboitiz InfraCapital said.      The company said the partnership aims to support the government’s goal to improve the country’s internet connectivity in local communities by increasing the number of cell sites.      Existing mobile network operators may co-locate on Unity Digital Infrastructure’s tower assets, Aboitiz InfraCapital said.      Co-location and sharing of telecom infrastructure should help fast-track expansion, increase service reliability, reduce costs, and lessen redundant sites, it noted.      “The urgent need to expand the country’s infrastructure is creating opportunities for new providers to quickly capture market share,” said Grace del Rosario-Castaño, operating director of Unity Digital Infrastructure and member of Board of Directors of Partners Group.

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2GO Group buys new Japan vessel

May 3, 2021

2GO Group, Inc. on Wednesday announced the purchase of a new vessel from Japan, which will make its maiden voyage in the Philippines in May.      “The newly purchased ship will be part of 2GO’s fleet of 10 ROPAX (roll-on/roll-off passenger) and freighter vessels, sailing to 20 major ports of call, linking Manila to Visayas and Mindanao,” the company said in an e-mailed statement.      The acquisition, the company noted, is part of its continuing modernization program, which includes upgrading of its fleet and modernizing its operations.      With its discounted tickets, the company said it is ready for the resumption of domestic tourism.      The company is banking on its modernization projects to return to profitability.      It recently reported an attributable net loss of P1.84 billion for 2020, significantly wider compared with the previous year’s loss of P890.35 million.      But the company said it has no plans to raise additional capital for its modernization efforts.      “At this time, the management is able to fund these investments internally; thus, [we] have no current plans to raise additional capital,” William Charles Howell, 2GO chief financial officer, said at the company’s annual stockholders’ meeting on April 23.

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Holcim Philippines jumps 81% after focus on efficiency, cost

April 26, 2021

HOLCIM Philippines, Inc. has generated P908.92 million in net attributable profit for the first quarter, 81% higher than the P501.31-million posted in the same period last year due to “operational efficiency and cost discipline.”      “We delivered an excellent performance in the first quarter due to our sustained focus on health, cost, and cash,” Holcim Philippines President and Chief Executive Officer Horia Ciprian Adrian said in a statement on Friday.      Sales declined by six percent year-on-year to P6.81 billion from P7.27 billion due to the slow recovery of construction activity.      Around 80% of cement orders in the first quarter are said to be done through its online facility, Easybuild.      “Payments over the platform have also ballooned more than three times from the previous year,” Holcim Philippines said.      The company also launched additions to its product line, such as multipurpose mortar Holcim Multifix and water repellent cement Holcim Aqua X.      Improvements on operational costs caused the company’s earnings before interest and taxes for the period to improve by 69% to P1.31 billion from P693.78 million in 2019.      Holcim Philippines said it also participated in discussions on sustainability to highlight the company’s efforts on climate action and plastic waste management, joining the forums of the Department of Trade and Industry and the Department of Environment and Natural Resources.      Its Bulacan plant earned an ISO 45001:2018 certification for Occupational Health and Safety Management System and was recertified for ISO 9001:2015 Quality Management System and ISO 14001:2015 Environmental Management System.      Meanwhile, the company said it will have a coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) vaccination program for its employees and dependents by the third quarter of the year.      “This will further bolster our resilience and help us sustain robust performance,” Mr. Adrian said.

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Discovery Hospitality to launch Kip & Kin brand in Palawan, Siargao

April 26, 2021

DISCOVERY World Corp.’s property management firm Discovery Hospitality Corp. (DHC) announced developments of lifestyle and “millennial-focused” brand, Kip & Kin, and other properties.      “With these properties in our plans, we are getting more excited to cater to a lot of travelers, whether the traditional ones or the more adventurous type,” Discovery Hospitality Senior Vice-President and Head of Sales and Operations Cathy Nepomuceno said in a statement on Thursday.      The concept of the Kip & Kin brand combines a hotel and hostel business in a single property. Discovery Hospitality named Palawan’s El Nido and San Vicente, and Siargao as some of the project locations.      Hotel rooms will be tailored for families, while the hostel located at the lower levels of the establishment will be designed for travelers “who wish to gather and meet new friends.”      Kip & Kin El Nido will be located at Vanilla Beach. It will face shopping center The Shoppes right in front, a full view of El Nido’s hillside, the seas, a rooftop pool, bar, and lounge area.      The El Nido resort is expected to open in June 2022, with 117 hotel rooms and 84 hostel beds.      Meanwhile, the San Vicente resort will be an “integrated tourism destination project” with 42 hotel rooms, 136 hostel beds, and two signature restaurants.      “The 165,000-hectare area is populated by local and indigenous people, embraces responsible and sustainable development standards, and will be open to private initiatives for the construction of resorts, hotels, and nature-focused amenities,” Discovery Hospitality said.      Kip & Kin Siargao will be located along General Luna near Cloud 9. The project aims to host “avid surfers and thrill-seekers” in its 34 hotel rooms, 48 hostel beds, and beverage outlets.      Discovery Hospitality said talks with resort developers regarding management contracts are ongoing with third-party resort owners for the Manami Resort in Visayas and a Mindanao project to be named Discovery Small.      “These projects are part of the pipeline to reach different types of markets and unique experiences in unique destinations,” Discovery Hospitality said.

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