business

Ample power supply assured in Maguindanao during Ramadan

April 19, 2021

COTABATO City - Officials of the Maguindanao Electric Cooperative (Magelco) on Friday assured constituents of the province of a steady power supply for Ramadan.      “No power outages will be experienced as Muslims need it most as they perform Ramadan fasting-related activities,” said Ashary Maongco, Magelco general manager.      Fasting for the annual observance of Ramadan started April 13 and is expected to end on May 11.      Maongco made the assurance after the completion of a major project that improved energy distribution to three adjoining towns of Datu Odin Sinsuat, Upi, and Datu Blah Sinsuat, all in Maguindanao.      On Thursday, the power firm switched on the Capiton-Nuro, Upi 13.2-kilovolt (kV) distribution lines that will stabilize power supplies to the three municipalities.      On the same day, Magelco has started the construction of the 5-megavolt amperes (MVA) power substation dedicated to Upi and Datu Blah towns to prevent recurring power outages.      “This will further improve power supply connections in these areas,” Maongco said, adding power distribution will only be hampered if there are disruptions beyond the cooperative’s control.      He noted that the new distribution lines were an undertaking of Magelco and the Japan International Cooperation Agency.      “Magelco replaced the existing undersized cable wires constructed in the 1970s,” Maongco said.      He said the increasing demand for energy in Datu Blah Sinsuat town prompted Magelco to install three-phase lines to supply power to its business establishments, especially ice plants.      “The conversion needs huge amount from the self-funded rehabilitation of the coop through its good materials management program,” he said.      Magelco is also fast-tracking another milestone project that will be energized this month involving the 50-footer concrete pole 13.2 kV distribution lines from Sultan Kudarat town’s 10MVA power substation in Barangay Simuay to Barangay Sarmiento and Polloc Port, both in Parang town. (PNA)

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Cebu Pacific accelerates digital transformation

April 17, 2021

Set to discontinue CEB PH call center by May 01, 2021 The Philippines' leading carrier, Cebu Pacific (PSE: CEB), continues to speed up its digital transformation in line with its commitment to keep improving its overall customer experience. With all the great strides the airline has taken in online booking, check-in, manage booking, and Charlie the chatbot, it will discontinue its Philippine hotline numbers by May 01, 2021.       CEB began ramping-up its customer-first initiatives through digital innovation in 2017 when it was among the first airlines in Asia to invest in an integrated facility and technology for social intelligence and customer engagement. This head start has equipped the carrier to adjust quickly to address everyJuan’s needs amid COVID, mainly through its social media channels manned by the CEB Customer Care Agents.        In the first quarter of 2021, the airline noted a total of 87% of its passengers maximize its website to book flights directly in the platform. Along with this, 67% of CEB passengers conveniently managed their bookings online, specifically during flight disruptions.        In 2018, CEB’s very own Charlie the chatbot was introduced in order to enable passengers to receive real-time answers to common queries and transactions such as flight schedule and status, check-in process, itinerary and boarding pass retrieval, and the like; or lead them to the right steps to address their concerns. Since then, Charlie has been continuously improved and is now able to respond to more queries, without having to talk to an agent.        “We are glad to have started our digital transformation journey even before the pandemic, because we have come to rely on it in this new normal environment. We continue to prioritize the safety and convenience of our passengers, that is why we have accelerated our digital efforts to support contactless and self-service processes,” said Candice Iyog, CEB Vice President for Marketing and Customer Experience.        In the past year, the carrier has further improved its self-service options, now allowing everyJuan to not only choose their preferred flexibility options easily through https://bit.ly/CEBmanageflight, but even to correct and update information as needed, manage group bookings online, and receive notifications via email or SMS, among others. The carrier also recently waived change fees permanently, enabling passengers to rebook as many times as they need.       “Rest assured Charlie, along with our Customer Care team, are online 24/7 to assist everyJuan. We continue to enhance existing processes as we remain committed to empowering customers and ensuring access to the information they need anytime, anywhere, without having to call the hotline or go to a ticketing office,” added Iyog.       Passengers can simply message Charlie via the Cebu Pacific website or the official CEB Facebook page. Its official Twitter page also remains active during this time.        Meanwhile, for more information on Contactless Flight Guidelines, flexibility options, updated network, travel document requirements, FAQs and the like, passengers may visit https://bit.ly/CEBFlightReminders.

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2021 ECQ to hit GDP target: Dominguez

April 17, 2021

THE latest surge in coronavirus disease (Covid-19) infections is expected to result to below-target growth for the Philippine economy this year, Finance Secretary Carlos G. Dominguez III. “Well, I think it’s going to be lower than what we expected. This surge in the contagion, which is incidentally happening in Brazil, Canada, France, and Turkey, and other places is certainly not good for the economy,” he said in an interview over Bloomberg TV on Tuesday.      He estimates the latest lockdown to cost the economy “one half of 1 percent.”      Economic managers have set a growth target, as measured by gross domestic product (GDP), of between 6.5 and 7.5 percent this year.      The country is registering a surge in new cases since March this year, with the new record-high registered last April 2 at 15,310 infections.      The government has initially set a week-long enhanced community quarantine (ECQ) for the National Capital Region (NCR) and four nearby provinces-- Bulacan, Rizal, Cavite, and Laguna-- collectively called NCR Plus from March 29-April 4 but extended this for another week, or until April 11, to address the rising infections.      Dominguez pointed out that despite this development, the death rate in the country remains below those of Western countries at 12 deaths per 100,000 individuals compared to over 150 deaths per 100,000 individuals in other countries.      “We are coping with this surge and the best way we thought to do it was to have a curtailment of activities especially in the Metro Manila area for at least two weeks,” he said.      The country has imposed movement restrictions since mid-March 2020 but these have been eased following the drop in the number of infections to allow a recovery in domestic activity.      Last year, the whole of Luzon, which accounts for around 70 percent of GDP, was placed under ECQ from March 17 until end-April, with the movement restriction in NCR extended until end-May.      Other areas around the country were also placed in various levels of movement restrictions to contain the spread of the virus.      Because of the quarantine measures, domestic output registered a -9.5 percent print last year, with the second quarter figure posting a decades-long contraction of -16.9 percent.      Meanwhile, Dominguez said the government continues to have fiscal leeway despite the financing for Covid-related programs since last year.      Last year, the government extended P5,000 to P8,000 cash aid to around 18 million low-income households and to workers belonging to sectors greatly affected by the quarantine measures.      For this year’s ECQ, the government is using the P23 billion untapped allocation under the Bayanihan 2 law as subsidy for around 80 percent of the population in the NCR Plus.      To provide a boost in domestic economic activity last year, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) injected an equivalent of nearly P2 trillion in the financial system through, among others, the total of 200 basis points cut in the central bank’s key policy rates and up to 200 basis points reduction in banks’ reserve requirement ratio.      BSP also extended P840 billion worth of liquidity boost to the national government last year through a P300 billion short-term repurchase deal and a P540-billion cash advance. Both of which have been redeemed and repaid last year.      Last December, BSP’s policy-making Monetary Board (MB) approved another P540 billion provisional advance to the national government to help in the government’s recovery programs.      Dominguez discounted another move to further tap the central bank for liquidity boost this year.      “We will probably look to wind it down sometime late this year or early next year, depending on the situation,” he added. (PNA)

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DBP extends P6.13-B loan to Covid-hit businesses

April 17, 2021

THE Development Bank of the Philippines (DBP) has extended P6.13 billion in loans to enterprises badly hit by the economic shock of the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) pandemic and earmarked interest subsidies amounting to P27.13 million to local government units (LGUs) last year in line with its goal to help keep the productive sectors of the economy afloat during this global crisis.      DBP president and chief executive officer Emmanuel Herbosa said that to provide the bank with additional resources to help fund these efforts and the country’s economic recovery program starting this year, it plans to issue a $300-million bond by mid-2021, along with the second tranche of its sustainability bonds sometime in November.      “These will not only provide the bank with the necessary liquidity to fuel the country’s economic recovery efforts but will also aid in the development of the Philippine capital markets moving forward,” Herbosa said in his presentation of DBP’s 2021 plans to Finance Secretary Carlos Dominguez III.      As part of DBP’s innovative financing solutions, Herbosa said it is also planning to develop an LGU credit rating system together with the Department of Finance (DOF)-attached Bureau of Local Government Finance (BLGF) and the International Finance Corporation (IFC) in support of the development of a bond market for LGUs.      “Agri-Agra compliant bonds are also on the horizon as this will be timely upon the passage of the amendments to the Agri-Agra Law in support of the development of agriculture and agrarian reform,” he said.      Herbosa said DBP is also eyeing the development of an alternative trading system “in the near future” to anticipate the growth of the Philippine finance market.      “Our finance market is maturing and more financial solutions are needed. The bank is in a good position to pioneer a system of exchange for new market securities,” he added.      Herbosa said that last year, the P6.13 billion in loans under the bank’s Rehabilitation Support Program on Severe Events (RESPONSE) program were approved for 25 private and public institutions to help sustain their operations during the pandemic and disbursement is already at P701.4 billion.      Five LGUs with a total loan amount of P450 million were the beneficiaries in 2020 of the bank’s Assistance for Economic and Social Development (ASENSO) program and seven LGUs were provided financing assistance in the form of interest subsidies earmarked amounting to P27.13 million, he said.      Herbosa said DBP also granted a 60-day moratorium period for 627 of its loan accounts amounting to P130 billion in compliance with the provisions of Republic Act 11494, or the Bayanihan To Recover As One Act (Bayanihan 2).      On top of assisting cash-strapped local governments during the pandemic, Herbosa said DBP is also supporting climate-crisis adaptation initiatives at the local level, which include the waste-to-energy projects that it expects to develop with LGU partners starting this year. Herbosa said this project will be financed by funds raised by the DBP, through its highly successful Asean (Association of Southeast Asian Nations) Sustainability Bond issuance, which surpassed its P5-billion target and accumulated a total of P21 billion in 2020.      This was preceded in 2019 by a similar issuance of P18 billion in sustainability bonds, which was only the second of its kind in the Philippines at the time, he added.      This year, DBP will step up implementation of its RESPONSE and ASENSO programs to continue supporting industries and enterprises that have been gravely affected by the pandemic, Herbosa said.      “We have adopted this year a revised theme of ‘Strengthen Organizational Resilience’ to put stress on strengthening our internal capability to continue the development and rehabilitation initiatives for the country, post-pandemic,” he said.      To assist in this effort, DBP will fully operationalize this year its six new Provincial Lending Centers in support of the targeted 7-percent growth on its loan portfolio to reach P451.06 billion by year-end, Herbosa said.      “This growth duly considers DBP’s commitment under Bayanihan 2 to actively assist borrowers from micro, small, and medium enterprises (MSMEs) even as we keep our focus on supporting the infrastructure needs of the country,” he said. (PR)

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PAL warns travelers vs. use of fake Covid-19 test results

April 15, 2021

PHILIPPINE Airlines (PAL) on Monday warned passengers against using fake coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19) test results at the airports.      In an advisory posted on its Facebook page, PAL said at least 15 individuals were recently prevented from boarding their flights since they presented fraudulent Covid-19 test results at the airport check-in counters.      They were caught in Manila and were bound for Cotabato, Dipolog and Zamboanga. They were turned over to the Philippine National Police (PNP).      According to PAL, most of these passengers were referred for inquest at the city prosecutor's office, while others have been isolated at quarantine facilities pending their real swab test results.      "We continue to work with government authorities against these fraudulent acts. We warn violators that falsification of public documents is punishable by law. We thank the PNP for their assistance on this matter," PAL spokesperson Cielo Villaluna told the Philippine News Agency.      PAL has advised passengers to secure Covid-19 test results only from legitimate medical providers.      The carrier added that passengers may be charged with falsification of public documents and violation of RA 11332 or the Mandatory Reporting of Notifiable Diseases and Health Events of Public Health Concern Act.      If found guilty, they may each face penalties of up to P50,000, or imprisonment for one to six months, PAL said. (PNA)

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Vehicle sales recover in Q1

April 15, 2021

AUTOMOTIVE vehicle sales recovered in the first quarter of the year amid the global health and economic crisis, the joint report of the Chamber of Automotive Manufacturers of the Philippines, Inc. (CAMPI) and the Truck Manufacturers Association (TMA) said Tuesday.      CAMPI and TMA reported that vehicle sales from January to March this year was higher by 8.9 percent compared to January and February 2020 despite being pre-pandemic months.      Vehicle sales during the three-month period reached 70,312 units from 64,542 units in the same period last year.      Sales of passenger cars grew double-digit by 22.9 percent to 21,855 units in the first three months of the year from 17,786 in the same period in 2020.      Commercial vehicle sales increased by 3.6 percent to 48,457 units in the January to March period this year from 46,756 units sold in the same months last year.      This is also the first time that the industry registered a growth in both year-to-date and year-on-year sales since the onset of the pandemic.      Vehicle sales last month pegged at 20,702 units, a surge of 87.7 percent from 11,029 units in March 2020 when the lockdown was first imposed.      Year-on-year, sales of passenger cars and commercial vehicles improved by 111.5 percent and 78.2 percent, respectively.      However, CAMPI and TMA reported a drop in vehicle sales month-on-month.      The 20,702 sales in March this year was 21.1 percent lower than the 26,230 unit sales in February.      “The auto industry felt the slowdown in sales due to the reluctance of buyers with the additional deposit for some imported vehicles because of the provisional safeguard duty. The lockdown also forced dealers to close operations that badly hit the already struggling auto industry,” CAMPI president Rommel Gutierrez said in a statement.      Meanwhile, top car brands in the country in the first quarter of the year were Toyota, Mitsubishi, Nissan, Ford, and Suzuki. (PNA)

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