Asia, Philippines ‘safe havens’ amid U.S. debt concerns

MANILA – Philippine and other Asian assets may rise if investors shift funds from the U.S. amid debt concerns in the world’s biggest economy, a local bank treasurer said.

“There’s going to be safety that’s going to be seen in Asian debt and the Philippines is going to be part of it,” East West Bank Treasurer Manuel Goseco said.

“So I don’t think there’s going to be any negative repercussions that are going to happen here in Asia.”

The U.S. Congress needs to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt limit to allow the government to continue to borrow money on August 2. If not, the government may have to stop some payments, including debt payments, resulting in a default. Some legislators are pushing for a bill that would make the government prioritize debt payments (as well as Social Security payments and soldiers’ pay) in order to delay or avoid default.

Goseco said global investors will think “the money has been printed, we own the money, we have to deploy it somewhere, we have to earn somewhere. Asian debt — especially the Philippines, with probably a budget surplus coming out next week — honestly it is probably a safe haven now”.

CEB puts half a million seats on 50% system-wide seat sale

THE Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific (CEB) allots 500,000 seats in the 50% off seat sale to all international and domestic destinations from July 30-August 1, 2011 or until seats last. This is for travel from September 1 to December 14, 2011.

“CEB flew the most number of passengers in 2010 and 1st quarter of 2011 for a reason. We offer the most flight options and the lowest fares to our guests. This is one of our biggest seat sales, with half a million seats available on CEB’s extensive network in the Philippines and ASEAN,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

Low-fare pioneer CEB offers its 16 international destinations on sale: Bangkok, Beijing, Brunei, Busan, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh, Hong Kong, Incheon, Jakarta, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Osaka, Singapore, Shanghai and Taipei.

Pinoy urbanites none the richer but the wiser 10 years hence

FILIPINO city-dwellers may not have gotten any richer in the past decade, but rather much more than a penny (or centavo) smarter.

The socio-economic status of majority of Filipino consumers in urban areas may not have improved much over the past 10 years, but Filipinos are exhibiting wiser purchasing habits in the more recent past, Kantar Worldpanel showed in a household purchase tracking study it released on Thursday.

Kantar Worldpanel — a consultancy network’s syndicated consumer panel that does research on purchase and usage behavior — revealed that majority of Filipino households in cities still belong to socio-economic classes D (64 percent) and E (23 percent).

For 2nd straight time, BSP keeps interest rates unchanged

FOR the second straight policy rate-setting meeting, the Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) on Thursday left interest rates unchanged but decided to raise the reserve requirement anew on deposits and deposit substitutes of banks and non-banks with quasi-banking functions in a “forward-looking move to better manage liquidity.”

At a news conference, BSP officer-in-charge Juan de Zuniga Jr. said the BSP Monetary Board kept interest rates at 4.5 percent for the overnight borrowing rate and 6.5 percent for the overnight lending rate. The board, however, increased the reserve requirement ratio for banks to 21 percent from 20 percent effective August 5.

De Zuniga said the Monetary Board made the decision to put in check the additional pressure brought about by strong foreign exchange inflows on inflation.

Manufacturers face cost dilemma in going green

MANUFACTURERS wanting to make their products more environment-friendly are slowly coming to terms with the high cost of recycled materials and its patent inflexibility, leaving them no choice but to pass on the burden to consumers.

Such is the case for appliance manufacturer Electrolux, which launched late Tuesday a campaign that aims to raise awareness about plastic debris ending up in the world’s oceans.

Terry Sales, Electrolux Philippines Inc. marketing manager, told GMA News Online that one challenge that besets the company in its green efforts is the difficulty of sourcing recycled plastic.

“As a manufacturer [of appliances], we use a lot of plastics,” Sales said. “But right now, there are not enough supply of recycled plastic available to manufacturers like us.”

Sales explained that despite the huge volume of plastic being produced, used and disposed around the world — 300 million metric tons in 2010, according to a report by the Royal Society in UK — plastic that can be used for manufactured products are still a scarce resource.

CEB now top airline in Davao, gains 44% market share in Q2

THE Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific carried the most number of passengers to and from Davao in the 2nd quarter of 2011 (Q2), gaining 44.4% of the local market share in the Philippines’ main southern hub.

CEB already flies the most passengers and operates the most number of flights, routes and seats to and from Cebu, the country’s 2nd largest city. From Manila, it flies to the most extensive network in the Philippines with 30 domestic destinations.

In Q2 this year, CEB flew 318,694 passengers, at least 130,000 more than three other airlines operating to and from Davao. From April to June 2011, CEB operated with an 85% load factor.

The airline operates the most number of flights to and from Davao, with up to 45x weekly flights to and from Manila, and 24x weekly flights to and from Cebu.

DOE urged to raise targets for solar energy projects

THE local solar power alliance on Wednesday called on the Department of Energy (DOE) to raise its installation targets for solar energy projects from 50 megawatts (MW) to 269 MW.

In a statement, the Philippine Solar Power Alliance (PSPA) said its proposed targets would translate to as much as P33.6 billion in investments, compared to only P6.33 billion for the DOE’s target.

The agency’s allocation, the group added, is a significant reduction from the proposal of the National Renewable Energy Board (NREB) of 100 MW over the course of three years.

“We strongly appeal [to] the good office of Sec. [Jose] Almendras to reconsider and amend the installation target presented to President Aquino in the National Renewable Energy Program,” the group said.

PHL expects demand for abaca to push export earnings

INDUSTRIALIZED countries importing abaca pulp and cordage for use in biodegradable coffee cups is expected to lift the country’s export earnings from abaca by P5 billion this year, up 13.6-percent from last year’s figures.

Biodegradable cups have been gaining popularity in the US, Russia and Germany, enhancing the demand for raw material, the Fiber Industry Development Authority (FIDA) said on Tuesday.

“The trend now is to go natural,” said FIDA administrator Cecilia Gloria Soriano. “The hazard of using non-biodegradable products has prompted developed countries to seek alternatives. Germany, for instance, will gain much in their carbon footprint swapping if they declare the use of natural fibers in their products.”

Soriano added that inquiries from Brazil and other European countries have already reached FIDA. Those countries plan to use abaca for automobile composites, the FIDA administrator said.

Abaca fiber sells for $1,200 per metric ton on average, but unlike other fibers used in car production — such as sisal and kenaf which are 40 percent cheaper than abaca — it is stronger and more resilient.

CEB holds seat sale to ASEAN

THE Philippines’ largest national flag carrier, Cebu Pacific slashes fares from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, Jakarta, and Saigon from July 27 to July 29, 2011 or until seats last, for travel from September 1 to October 31, 2011.

Passengers can buy seats from Manila to Saigon (Ho Chi Minh) for the Lite Fare of P1,288. Discounted fares from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, Brunei, and Jakarta are also available for as low as P1,488.

Lite Fares are CEB’s trademark low fares which allow travel savings of as much as 72% on international flights, and 63% on domestic flights. Guests can enjoy travel savings when they avail of Prepaid Baggage Allowance upon booking.

“This seat sale will be most enjoyed by our guests who want to discover the unique sights and sounds distinct to ASEAN. We encourage everyone to book their travels within the off-peak season so they can enjoy our trademark low fares and grab the best deals in accommodations and tours in our most popular ASEAN destinations,” said CEB VP for Marketing and Distribution Candice Iyog.

CEB flies ten times weekly from Manila to Kuala Lumpur, daily from Manila to Saigon, four times weekly from Manila to Jakarta, and thrice weekly from Manila to Brunei.

This seat sale also covers discounted fares from Manila to Guangzhou as low as P1,488, and from Manila to Osaka as low as P2,088.

Banks have until Oct. 11 to apply for NCR branches

The Bangko Sentral ng Pilipinas (BSP) has lifted its moratorium on new bank branches in eight cities of Metro Manila, giving banks until Oct. 11 to apply for licenses.

All the restrictions on new branches in Manila, San Juan, Quezon City, Mandaluyong, Makati, Pasay, and Parañaque will only be completely removed in 2014, according to the decision of the BSP Monetary Board reached last month.

“Under Phase 2 of the liberalization, branching in said areas will be open to all banks except rural banks and cooperative banks which are generally not allowed to establish branches in Metro Manila,” the BSP said in Circular No. 728 issued on June 23. The Bangko Sentral released is circular on Tuesday.

The BSP policy allows second-tier universal, commercial banks and thrift banks with fewer than 200 branches as of December 2010 to establish new branches until June 30, 2014.

Combined capital accounts of at least P10 billion is the required minimum for universal and commercial banks applying for a branch. For thrift banks, the minimum capital account is P3 billion.

Energy firms explore commercial biomass production in PHL

Australia-based Geopower Energy Ltd. and two local energy firms made commitments to assess the opportunities in a biomass fuel facility in the Philippines.

Philippine Stock Exchange listed Trans-Asia Oil and Energy Development Corp. said the trio has identified sites for possible “commercialization of energy generated by waste heat resources” in the country. Thor Energy Ph Inc. is the third peg in the venture.

Prospective locations include industrial smelters, cement plants, glass factories, power stations and geothermal fields.

On its website, Geopower said it targets “projects that use biogas or recovered waste heat from industry, two forms of energy generation that are deemed low-risk, yet have the ability to generate superior returns.”

Geopower also said its “Organic Rankine Cycle technology permits renewable energy generation from recovered waste heat resources… and has been developed and fully commercialized in the United States.”